TCS Daily


Coming to America

By Meelis Kitsing - July 24, 2006 12:00 AM

For many Eastern Europeans a US tourist visa means more than just sending postcards and visiting tourist destinations in the Land of the Free - indeed, a tourist visa often amounts to a ticket to increased economic well-being. The practice of overstaying the length of time allowed by one's visa and illegally working while visiting the US on a tourist visa became widespread after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it remains common even today.

As a stipulation for visa-free travel to the United States, the US requires the percentage of declined visas to travelers from any given country to be less than 3 percent of the applicants. In addition, less than 2 percent of a country's citizens can be found in violation of US immigration laws. Considering these current criteria for enabling visa-free travel, it is understandable why the citizens of new Eastern European member states of the European Union, with the exception of Slovenia, need visas for entering the United States.

However, US citizens do not need visas for traveling within the European Union. This non-reciprocal treatment of Eastern Europeans has led the EU to push for visa-free travel for the citizens of new member states. In June the EU threatened to start requiring visas from American diplomats if its demands are not met. Of course, this tit-for-tat strategy is a mere rhetorical threat. Surely, the EU would not be interested in shooting herself in the foot. It benefits Europeans to make traveling for Americans easy within Europe - even if America chooses to keep its current visa regime. For example, my native Estonia certainly has benefited from its unilateral decision made in the early 1990s by which American citizens are not required to hold visas. Such positive one-sided liberalization could be compared to Estonia's implementation of a unilateral free trade policy before the country's membership in the EU. Even if the US practices non-reciprocal treatment of Estonians by requiring them to apply for visas, making it easy for wealthy Americans to travel to Estonia has certainly encouraged tourism and economic and political cooperation in the fledgling country.

Nevertheless, the benefits unilaterally easing the visa regime are as abstract as the benefits of unilateral free trade. It's much easier to understand simple political logic: "we don't require a visa for US citizens; the US requires one for ours". No wonder Eastern European leaders sound like cuckoo-clocks raising the visa issue whenever they meet their American counterparts: After all, they are the ones who have to answer to their electorates, who question why despite being more supportive of American policies than their Western European governments, they cannot even solve such basics as visa-free travel to the US. At the same time, Western Europeans and Slovenia, an Eastern European country that has sent only four (yes, 4) soldiers to Iraq, enjoy visa-free travel to the US. Public perception certainly sees a link between Iraq, an issue of "high politics" but also of high emotional voltage, and visas, which affect everybody on the street.

Despite the apparent connection, the solution need not follow the crude logic of horse-trading. One idea floating around Washington links visa-free travel with the number of soldiers a given country commits to the war in Iraq. If a country deploys more than 300 soldiers, say, its citizens can visit the US without visas. Under such a scheme, of the eight new Eastern European member states, only Poland would qualify. Romania, scheduled to join the EU next year, will qualify as well. Although implementation of such an idea is far from certain, bills regarding a visa-waiver for citizens of Poland, introduced in the US Congress last year, explicitly mentioned Poland's contribution to the war effort in Iraq.

Indeed, adoption of such a policy would surely not only reinforce the linkage between visas and the war in Iraq - but it would also create a lot of bad blood. Politicians of the smaller Eastern European countries will face the tricky task of explaining the policy to their public, which is already hostile toward the war effort. Instead of triggering an increase in the absolute number of soldiers deployed for service in Iraq, such a policy is more likely to lead these governments to follow the lead of Hungary, which withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2004. Even the countries that have been staunch American allies to date would certainly experience a rise in anti-Americanism. It also leaves one to wonder how would Poles entering America without a visa feel about the connection between privileged visa-free travel and the sweat and blood of their fellow countrymen in Iraq.

Instead of this horse-trading the US should show goodwill toward the increasingly US-skeptical population of Eastern Europe. Allowing visa-free travel for the citizens of new member states of the EU would prove a good move for strengthening a positive perception of the US while the associated costs would be minimal. Since their countries have entered the EU, citizens of new member states have had less incentive to violate immigration laws in the United States. Many people who overstayed their tourist visas in order to work were engaged in simple manual employment. Now they can find similar jobs in the UK and Ireland legally -- without any need to break visa regulations.

At the same time, in many Central and Eastern European countries a new class of wealthy individuals has emerged, eager to travel around the world. Making it easier for them to travel to the US would increase the probability of their visiting the US and subsequently foster a better understanding of America. Spreading positive information and a show of benevolence are badly needed for improving the US image abroad. The war does not just take place in the streets of Baghdad but, as we have heard so many times, it is largely fought by winning over the hearts and minds of the people. Here's one easy way to do it.

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32 Comments

We'd get overrun with Albanians
Not to mention with Gypsies and Turks. When I was in Bulgaria the place was full of Albanians, who you could tell pretty easily because they wear a white fez and have big red knuckles like they like to punch people out a lot. And it was also full of Gypsies, who don't really enjoy a very good reputation either around those parts. And there were also a lot of Turks, who listened to some really great rembetica music and drank raki a lot, and who had some very weird attitudes toward their women (and those of other people as well) and were said to like to fight with knives when they got drunk enough.

And I don't want to tell a whole bunch of tales, like I was racially prejudiced, but I really don't think we want all those kinds of people coming into this country on waived tourist visas. The trade in underground Bulgarian passports would become instantly one of the biggest sellers on the internet and we'd end up with a whole lot of people it was much easier to invite into this country than it would ever be to round up and invite out again.

The mafias in white slaves, stolen cars, dope and things like the germ and plutonium trade would show up big time, for instance. And they would stick out in the crowd here because they still like to wear those double breasted pinstripe zoot suits and wide brim gangsta hats and the patent leather pointy toed shoes. And they have those red haired babes who wear pattern stockings and short little mini skirts that just barely cover their butt cheeks. And I know for a fact that they like to kill people.

That's my opinion. Let's keep the visas.

LOL
I agree with you on this issue :) of course after a couple raki's you don't know if your fighting or not.

Good article
It would be interesting to see if a lot of incoming Poles and Czechs would evoke the same angst as incoming Mexicans have. They're white, so they wouldn't stand out in your average suburb. Also, since they come from faraway countries which and longtime immigrant source countries, no one could pretend the phenomenon was fundamentally different from the 19th-century immigration, which even immigration opponents now accept as having been a good thing in the long run, even though at the time there was plenty of Know-Nothing resistance to it.

How about making the visa-free regime an expression of gratitude for support in Iraq?
I wonder if Poles might find it less offensive if we passed a visa-free regime, not in connection with ongoing presence in Iraq, but rather "to honor the sacrifices" of Eastern European soldiers, or "in memory of the steadfast friendship" of these countries in America's time of need-- something like that. That way, the message would be sent that America treats its friends well, but the rationale could be framed in terms of the war in Afghanistan, or generally diplomatic support. And countries would not feel their hands were tied looking forward.

Carrot and stick?
Jees! I hope you can kick them out again if their respective government happens to alter its foreign policy - whether they voted for it or not!
Like those Frenchies - they're all the bloody same!

Albanians are trying to escape Albania
At least Albanians want to get on the American band wagon, not retake America for Albania.

Now you're talking
That's a terrific idea. They could be hostages-- to insure a favorable foreign policy on the part of their governments. If Poland, say, refused to support us we could throw all their Poles in preventive detention, or hold them as material witnesses or something. We could come up with some language that would cover it.

Those Frenchies are at it again too. In the economic news we're hearing that the French are actually more productive than we are-- when measured by units of productivity per hour worked. That's because they can get almost as much done in their thirty hour work weeks and seven week vacations each year as we can working sixty or seventy hours a week. How misguided they all are, and how they would benefit from being more like us!

I note the author is Estonian. Now I would certainly be in favor of unlimited immigration from Estonia, particularly the women. It may be a tiny country but they are widely renowned as having the most beautiful women on earth. Each of which would be a magnificent asset for us.

To paraphrase Andrew 'Dice' Clay ...
If we don't like your foreign policy, get the hell outta country!

The French being exceptions to this rule, bien sur! Once a cheese-eating surrender monkey always a ... zzzzzz.

A prize for the swiftest about-turn in national stereotypes is now on ....

I'm afraid I'll have to go with the Croat women on this particular 'debate', Roy. ;-)

Repeating history
Never been there, so I'll have to go with your estimation of Croat women. Sounds like they deserve a lot better than Croat men. Sure, let's open the door to them.

I bow to your foreign policy, as formulated by Andrew "Dice" Clay. If you were the president, I'm sure you'd put in Rob Schneider as Secretary of State.

The surrender monkey line is a golden oldie. But tell me. Was France any more successful in Algeria than we're being in Iraq? Couldn't we learn a bit from their mistakes and stop replaying them over and over again? It used to be that the army was run by generals, not civilians, and they used to have to read military history over at war college. Apparently the requirement has been lifted.

Check this out, if you have the time:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/22/AR2006072201004.html

more insanity
Yes. . Because they let us into their country w/o a hassle, we should do the same?

I'm aghast that an adult would post this nonsense.

Americans don't go abroad to infiltrate and destroy.

Enough Eastern Europeans do, (it only takes a couple) that it becomes nonsense even discussing this
silly article.

Comparisons
Things are a mess in Iraq but one small diff. The French were trying to retain a colony, we're not.

Establishing a colony
Of course we are (tryoing to retain a colony). We would never have gone into Iraq if our intention wasn't to absorb them into our sphere of influence.

Of course the central part of the plan fell apart early on. They were supposed to be a quiescent, defeated people awaiting our privatization of the nation's resources. Only it got so hairy no investors came along to bid on the booty. You might recall that back in late 2003 the US was organizing investor fairs to attract money that might assist in the conversion of Iraq to our political system.

So today, years after the successful invasion, there are still no jobs and no business there. The civil war rages and grows hotter with each passing month.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it?
I'm with you on the Croat men angle. Well, maybe some of them. Wouldn't want to fall into the trap of the standard TCS bloghead, tarring everyone with same brush!

Re: Clay (Andrew rather than Cassius) - I'm not an American but I gather his act was ironic. Correct? I'm more a Bill Hicks fan, myself. God rest his atheistic soul! (I take it you recognise my post was a p*** take?)

As for Algeria, have you seen 'The Battle of Algiers'? IMO, the best war film I've seen, and a true anti-imperialist one. It doesn't pull any punches or avoid any unsettling aspects of the resistance. Neither is it a simplistic good vs evil portrayal but one in which one does have to, ultimately, make a choice as to who one supports.
In two respects the Algerian war of independence was different. Algeria was a department of France so a defeat there would have deeper consequences for the French state than if it was a colony. (It has more parallels with the British control of Northern Ireland.) One of the aims of the French state was to 'stem the infection' i.e. to prevent the unrest in Algeria reaching the streets of France. Fortunately, it failed. a similar 'infection' isn't going to happen in the States. Even in the case of Vietnam, the domestic consequences of defeat for the US could be papered over to some extent.
The second difference is the lack of, as far as I can see, a secular opposition to US domination of Iraq - political or military. It's a true tragedy as it gives the occupiers plenty of ammunition in the propaganda battle. We could do with more of that old national liberation spirit rather than the religious headbangers currently in the field.

I'll check out the Post article when I've got time, Roy. Cheers.
I'm a bit limited with time as I only have access when at work. Unfortunately, by the time I've read a reply to some of my posts the debate has moved on.

Time marches on
"I'm a bit limited with time as I only have access when at work. Unfortunately, by the time I've read a reply to some of my posts the debate has moved on."

Well, brother Cassius, I can only hope that by the time you scan these words the Israelis, Palestinians and Lebanese have all kissed and made up, and are sitting around together on the terrace, looking out at the Mediterranean and telling old war stories.

But if that were the case, I guess your new persona would have to be Rip Van Winkle. An intervening forty year sleep like his might do the trick.

No, I've never seen the Battle of Algiers. I guess I should get the DVD. One you might find arresting is a more recent movie from Mexico, Men With Guns. You can find this one in a good video outlet, like a few of the Hollywoods. It's about the mayhem men commit when they have power over one another, in the form of guns and a commanding officer.

In retrospect, how much more satisfying would the resulting peace had been if the French had told the Algerians they should feel free to secede, only they would be held responsible for the safety of their pieds noir. That way an orderly withdrawal could have taken place, and there would have been no war.

Instead the convulsion ended with France's having an Algerian problem in the home provinces. Naturally all this is just fantasy. Human nature does not permit that the flag, once planted, may be lightly raised again.

That, in a nutshell, is the history of Europe. Just about everyone lives on land that once belonged to someone else, who still wants it back.

But what can we learn from Algeria? I think we can dismiss the differences and focus on the commonalities. A popular revolt doesn't present one with an army as a convenient opponent. And armies are really only good at one thing: opposing other armies. So when they are confronted with an insurrection they have the choice of either adapting to a radically different mission, or failing utterly.

Our approach looks like it has evolved into sending new troops to protect the existing troops, and using the old troops to protect the new troops. It's fairly effective, but if the occupation (one can't call this a war) drags on for another decade or two, we will lose badly by slow attrition. We'll go broke long before we prevail.

All the insurgents have to do is to make sure their natural rate of increase offsets their horrendous military losses. And I think they can manage this.

At any rate we've been eclipsed by events. The insurgency has moved off the front page, and the sectarian civil war is now the big problem. I think our leaders will probably adjust to those shifting sands by denying all evidence that this is the case, and continuing to fight what they can find of the insurgency.

But of course, those are only the events that concerned us back in 2006, Rip. If you open up your paper off there in the future, we'll probably be trying to pacify Indonesia, where an intractable insurgency rages. :)

..And to Iraqis, too
While they are at it, give visa-free opportunities to Iraqis, too? Given the fact that Bush promised them at least 400 billion dollars in aid, this will be a drop in the bucket.

On Poles and Czechs
But given the fact that non-whites, esp. Asians, are now doing very well economically compared to whites, this may soon become an outdated view.

These Are The Same Frenchies
Who supplied arms to the American rebels against the English, right?

As for getting the "hell outta country," I'm sure you are aware that the U.S. is a democracy (it is, right?), which means you don't have to leave. You can challenge and change such policies.

..So Do Incredible Dreams
Given your rosy-colored view of conflict, you should stick to Hollywood movies.

As for Indonesia, I'm sure you've heard of U.S. support for thugs like the Kopassus. So much for "pacification."

No Subject
I suppose what I was trying to say was that when people ask me specifics, I'm not here to reply. A bit frustrating.
However, you seem to be doing a decent job of almost single-handedly offering an alternative view. Just a shame it sometimes descends into Red-baiting or, more accurately, lib-baiting.

Condi is in town so I'm sure she's inviting everyone to the post-war party! ;-)
Seriously though, what do you see as being Israel's exit strategy? Probably the most interesting question of the whole affair is how they extricate themselves without getting themselves into a quagmire like '78 and '82.

Re: Algeria and not being able to roll up the flag and go home - that is one of the points of The Battle of Algiers. The state, from their perspective, couldn't just leave when they realised events weren't going their way. They would have been, and indeed were, compromised in front of the French electorate. Within 6 years of the end of the Algerian war a deeply radicalised Left posed the most profound threat to the old elite since the '30s.
As far as Iraq is concerned, the US has no exit strategy as far as I can see. Their presence can only galvanise the insurgency and contribute to the civil war. However, leaving to let the Iraqis get on with it isn't an option for the elite either. Unless they've given up on their increasingly fluid, post-Cold War version of Pax Americana altogether! About as likely as me adopting the name Rip van Winkle!

paenggoy
Re: Get the hell outta country - you get the fact I was joking, right?
Just taking the p*** out the usual unfortunately not-so-comedic anti-immigration posts.

Capisce?
... and out of the far too common anti-French chauvanism!
An easy mistake to make, granted.

exit strategy
If you can't see an exit strategy, it must because you have your eyes closed and your ears stoppered.

Bush and company have been stating their exit strategy and executing their exit strategy for several years.

It's to build up the Iraqi security forces to the point where they can defend the country on their own.
Given the excellent progress being made by the Iraqi security forces, the exit strategy is working, and working well.

Heck, why not some Ukrainians?
Raleigh NC-- This just in. A marriage for entry ring has just been broken up, where Ukrainians paid to marry American citizens and come here on spousal visas. Local authorities worry that terrorists may have entered the country this way, and have no idea how many people have entered and then vanished.

Hey, if we just left the door unlocked 24-7 this crime would disappear overnight.

The bait is for anyone who snaps at it
I'll bait anyone, it's true. But I have a lot of respect for Jabotinsky, who was a giant in the early Zionist movement. No nation trying to be born could have had a greater patriot. Which is what made him especially dangerous for the disorganized and unprepared Palestinians.

It just happened that this key statement of his appeared on a Marxist web site. It was a historical text about the founding of the Jewish national state, not an example of communist ideology.

Agreed, that America has no exit strategy in Iraq. They may talk about getting out "when the job is done". But meanwhile work on those huge permanent bases continues. Our presence will be required in Iraq forever, lest its government fall into the hands of who knows whom?

Oh, I forgot your question
"Seriously though, what do you see as being Israel's exit strategy?"

This is just an opinion, but I think it'll probably just blow over. Lebanon's too weak to stand up against Israel, and Syria is unprepared. And in any case the Israeli gov't knows their best interests lie in not destabilizing the place too much. Any governments that fall in either country would be replaced with much nastier ones.

So my guess is they'll just show badges, come in and kick the place around a bit. Then when they leave they'll tell the occupants "Now y'all don't want to be doing this any more and make us come back, y'hear?" It's standard police procedure in these situations.

poles and czechs
Probably wouldn't be too much anger over it, no. But at the same time I doubt I would hear "press 1 for English, Press 2 for Polish" every time I dial an 800 number. I also do not believe we would see a National Council Of La Polack organization either.

In other words, today's Poles would be coming here to do the same thing their grandfathers and great-grandfathers came to do...become American, unlike the Mexicans who come here for Reqconquista.

See the difference?

Re: exit strategy
Well, of course, they have an exit strategy in that sense. They haven't claimed Iraq as a colony. It's easier said than done, however. And it certainly hasn't been the success story you make out, Mark.

'Given the excellent progress being made by the Iraqi security forces, the exit strategy is working, and working well.'

And you consider what's going on right now to be progress? The fact is that the US, UK, and whoever else can be co-opted into the alliance, won't happily move onto another 'failed state' until the government (and the people) can be trusted to remain in their orbit.
It may be heart-warming to think that US foreign policy is to 'democratise and quit' but history paints a different picture. A Middle East of democracies, yet which follows policies at odds with the West would be just as unacceptable as the status quo.
This isn't a 'US as the source of all evil' post before you put words in my mouth. Rather, it recognises that states have their own national interest. (Something that a number of people have difficulty comprehending when it comes to France.) If it means supporting democracies, all well and good. If it also means supporting dictatorships, oligarchies etc then so be it. That's the nature of statecraft.
IMO, it is narcissistic, vain and naive to assume that people accept at face value the outwardly democratising, civilising mission of the US. Particularly when it is carried out by an invasion force.
Peoples at the receiving end of US policy are no more likely to be convinced of the merits of 'democracy from the barrel of a gun' than they were when the British proselytised Christianity to the heathen masses with the help of the Gatling gun.
The US will ensure that a presence is retained in the region to 'maintain stability' and keep up the pressure to keep Iraq within its sphere of influence. If that means being 'invited' in by the government of the day to 'restore order' (a la the French in Africa) then they will grab that opportunity with both hands. The longer the 'reconfiguration' of the Middle East goes on the more such opportunities will arise.

Crossed wires
Haha! I think I've made myself misunderstood again, Roy! I should have perhaps said that it's regrettable that the responses you receive are all too often Red-baiting.

Re: Israel's exit strategy - you may be right that this will all blow over. Syria, Iran and Israel, for that matter, have no desire to widen the conflict. Even Hezbollah expressed surprise at Israel's response to their capturing of two soldiers.
Israel clearly wants a demilitarized zone in South Lebanon but their difficulty is persuading, through third parties, the Lebanese government of the virtues of their case after bombarding their country.
The Lebanese gov't has, it seems to me, been exposed as the plaything of Israel, Hezbollah and the rest. They have little authority with anyone and will jump at the chance of outside intervention (some sort of beefed-up UN force) to placate Israel and go some way to neutralise Hezbollah.
It's still to early to say as both Israel and Hezbollah are ostensibly still opposed to any intervention. The only factor that could alter this is a successful breakthrough in the south by Israel. I'd say this was unlikely though. Not due to the nature of Hezbollah's resistance but because of Israel's reluctance to get more involved on the ground. I could be wrong though.

Making friends by blunt force trauma
Some times we have to exchange dozens of rounds that are all off target, before finally getting one off that hits the target.

A common debating tactic here is that if the point someone is making is too difficult to respond to intelligently, the easy route is to call the person a Marxist. Or worse. A common one I get is "jihaddie".

There's no criteria for membership in this club. Just ownership of a computer and two working fingers. So we get all kinds of responses to our little blobs of wisdom, and make what we can from them.

A common error is to just decide who one thinks is "right" and who is "wrong". Thinking stops there, and the devil must then be crushed. I come in from a different angle. Here's a letter I just sent to the local paper this morning:

**

I note certain things left unsaid in news accounts of Condoleezza's recent diplomatic trip to the Middle East, where she assumes the pose of an arbiter for peace.

First, she only speaks with people on one side of the dispute. Israel's Ehud Olmert, naturally. Palestine's President Abbas, but not Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, of Hamas. Likewise she meets briefly with Lebanon's Fuad Saniora, but scarcely exchanges words with Amal's Nabih Berri, who is in a position to serve as mediator between all parties.

Neither is there any intention of opening up diplomatic approaches to either Syria or Iran. Those are nations we only speak about... never directly to. An odd approach to diplomacy indeed.

Most glaringly left unspoken is the fact that prior to her even leaving on this mission, our ships were on their way to Israel, to resupply their military with satellite and laser-guided weaponry, as reported in the New York Times on July 22. So it would appear that our thumb is firmly affixed to one side of the scale in this dispute.

The assessment of many outside the United States is that peace is unlikely to be achieved by such an approach. One has to engage both sides before progress can be achieved. Maybe she never read that part of the manual?

**

What I meant to imply, in my unfailingly polite manner, was that everyone in the Mideast sees our stance against a quick cease fire as being "Sure we want the killing to stop. Just as soon as the right side wins."

Surely this approach is counterproductive to any long term goal the US might have in the area. At this rate it'll be the 22nd century before we can show our faces around there again.

The nature of the beast
I concur, Roy. I've had a few 'jihaddie', 'commissar' and 'mohammed' comments thrown my way. And we all know who the usual suspects are. All fairly tedious stuff. While there are a handful of interesting contributors, I don't think I've come across any right-winger on here who isn't prepared to stoop to baseless insults.
To an extent, I can appreciate the commitment they have to their cause because it's as strongly felt as mine. However, I come from a political background that tried to engage with a particular audience in order to tease out their logic and push it in a certain direction.
That is unlikely to happen here very often. In that sense, it's like banging your head against a brick wall. Ultimately, most bloggers here are always going to be on the other side of the barricades. And I don't mean the barricades in the 'War on Terror' - merely in the battle of ideas.
Having said that, it's good practice to have your ideas tested from people who are absolutely convinced of an extreme right-wing case and don't make any apologies for it. I think the danger is getting drawn into what they want to discuss rather than the matter in hand. The blogs are highly subjective and don't really attempt to examine the dynamics at play. Hence, the almost immediate instinct to categorise people as 'you're either for us or against us'.
I freely admit that it's not always so easy to not react to bluster and provocation. It provides a bit of light relief as well! ;-)

What sort of response would your letter be expected to get in the local press? Not as hardline as that on these pages, I presume.

Inertial thinking
It seems to be a fact of human nature that people adopt their basic positions very early on, and adhere to them throughout life. In maintaining the integrity of these positions they evolve elaborate coping mechanisms to debunk information that undermines their beliefs, while being uncritical of any data that support their beliefs. Typically they are totally unaware they are doing this, and pride themselves on their objectivity and powers of rational thought.

Thus the Jesuits, who for centuries have proudly boasted "Give us the child for seven years, and it will be ours for life."

I think most people either internalize the political position they receive from their fathers, or reject it utterly and adopt the opposite position. And I think this occurs at an early age, when they have very little in the area of knowledge to base anything on. It's a gut feeling that aligns the person in the political spectrum. The data base comes later, and is used to reinforce the narrative.

What I would aspire to is to have a fluid approach, that responds to new data. With that orientation one doesn't have to adopt a rigid position but can evolve in his thinking. Yet this makes of me a moving target. So when an opponent runs out of fresh ideas it's always tempting for him to fall back on the labels: pinko, greenie, Osama lover, etcetera.

It's fun for them, too. It doesn't engage the higher brain centers, which can be tiring and confounding at times. Instead it just pushes the pleasure button in the brain that says "I'm right! I'm right!"

When I write letters to the editor, I write a very different kind of comment than I write here. On one level, I'm writing to the general public, not to a bunch of self-made capitalists, party line libertarians and fossilized anticommunists (sorry, guys, for the crass characterization). And on another, more direct level, I'm writing to the letters editor, so he will find my comment sufficiently interesting to put it into print.

He usually does, too. I'm on a first name basis with him by now.

En fin, have you ever noticed that most people listen to the music they listened to when they were in their teens and early twenties? That's why we have all the golden oldie stations around the country. We are seventies, eighties and nineties people. Plus, of course, the oughts. It's the same kind of allegiance, formed early on in a very basic, ancient part of the brain. (The old reptilian brain, in the tripartite scheme.)

My father, a musician, used to say "I like all kinds of music, as long as it's good music." And I concur. I like new sounds that stimulate, not old ones that reiterate.

So why do I bother?
I almost forgot to respond. I show up here because it's no fun to debate people who are already inclined to agree with you implicitly. Better to hammer it out with the hard heads, to ascertain the truth of the matter. I've learned a lot here, from exploring subjects from a different point of view than anything I'd find over at Alternet.

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