Sunday, August 31, 2008

Greeks for McCain? Like Iraqis for Bush

Last Saturday, I listened as esteemed Greek-American Charles Kapetanakis dialed into Aktina-FM to rally support for one of the organizations he chairs - Greeks for McCain. During the hour-long conversation, it became painfully clear that although Mr. Kapetanakis approached the broadcast with good intentions, he failed to bring with him little more than a few key messages available on the Arizona senator's website.

When it comes to an organization entitled "Greek for McCain," one would think that the chairperson would know or at least be able to refer to the candidates position on matters of importance to the Greek community. Would a group of Jewish faithful lobbying for a candidate not know his/her position on Israel? No, that would be considered an insult to collective intelligence.

Although given multiple opportunities, including a direct question from me, the chairman could not indicate the candidate's position on:

- Cyprus
- Turkey's treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarch
- Turkey's claim on oil in the Aegean

The only "key message" he repeated was that McCain stood for a strong war on terror (and that he was appreciate of the use of bases in Crete to fight that war) and for a strong NATO. And this is what is supposed to sway my Greek-American vote? Gimme a break!

As it turns out the show's host could shed a little light, which did not reflect well on the "heroic" candidate. It turns out that Senator McCain has not actively supported a single resolution proposed in Congress on behalf of issues important to many Greek-Americans. His only action on was to sign a single letter delivered to the President's cabinet. He's been in Congress since 1982! And before you point to a recent meeting the candidate had with leaders of the Orthodox church, know that days following this meeting McCain failed to lend his support to the same issues that had been discussed.

For any and every time, we've heard or uttered admiration for the Jews for sticking up for issues important to Israel, NOW is the time to show our strength for Greece.

Knowing that U.S. presidential elections can easily be decided by a few hundred votes in a few key states, now is the time to rally and to finally walk the walk we've been talking about for so long.

There are
3 million of us across the States who are able to impact this election in a way that is meaningful for the topics we hold dear.

Fellow Greeks in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Colorado and Connecticut.. are you listening?

Let's get out there and make some noise!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Brits Behaving Badly? or Just Pound Foolish?

While August, the month of European summer holidays, is coming to a close, the topic of British tourists behaving badly in the Mediterranean is openly on the table – and amid the pages of the New York Times and the Sun. Now, after a rash of headline-making incidents, local British consular authorities have launched campaigns to curb this “hedonistic hooliganism,” likely because those very consular authorities are taking on the financial burden for British citizens that have to be tended to after getting themselves in hot water.

But has the Mediterranean not always been a sunny getaway? Why now?

Beyond alcohol, economics and social behaviors are also be fueling this binge.

Economically the Brits have the strongest currency to spend. Combine a strong British Pound with a cheap air travel to sunny climates, and you have a volatile combination of young people in a place with significantly less restrictions than they’re used to and only a week or so to enjoy it. Well, the psychology is simple really. The same gluttony that fuels one to gorge at a buffet applies here.

Ultimately, regardless of how pale your skin might be, we all live in a world of entitlement where we’ve come to assume that money, above all else, talks louder. In this world, if I walk in the door with money in my pockets and you as a country or shop have invited me in, then I suddenly become the boss. It no longer matters if I embarrass myself or my friends, that I endanger lives, that I show little to no respect… because I should be regarded as important – I’m the customer. You need my money; you have to take the good with the bad.

Perhaps up to a point – but all good things in moderation as the Greek would say.

Alongside the British consular campaign to curb drinking, British and Greek governments should continue to crack down on tour organizers and establishments where this type of mayhem occurs frequently.

Bars and clubs can be held financially and even criminally responsible if a guest is over served and causes harm to self, others or property.

Consular authorities should not come to the immediate aid of patrons who find themselves arrested due to bar fights or accidents. Nothing like a hangover in prison to sober you up!

Local communities can consider fines for public intoxication or excessive noise. Proceeds should go to subsidize security personnel or special ‘street teams’ for commercial areas to ensure that rules are enforced.

Before you argue that an island getaway should not be a police state, I agree. But it should also not look or smell like the remnants of college frat party.

If that’s the kind of Greek you want, you should go to the other side of the pond.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What an Obama/Biden Ticket Might Mean for Greece and Greek-Americans

At 3 a.m. this morning I received a text message from Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama announcing that he'd chosen Delaware Congressman Joe Biden as his running mate. While all were sleeping under the olive tree when the news hit, I've spent the last few hours mulling it over to fully form an opinion on how this choice may affect a Greek vote for Obama.

So with some research under my belt and understanding of a few of the players' stance on matters up until now, I am actually supportive of the selection, which was not my first reaction rest assured.

While a pessimist might say that politicians should not be trusted for their words (and I would probably agree), I think that actions are a more appropriate litmus to show where preferences and inclinations exist. That's why, while initially agreeable, I am not casting a vote right now, since I'd prefer to really dig deep and understand how all electable parties have voted during the course of their political careers on matters important to me under this Greek olive tree, including FYROM, Cyprus, Aegean drilling rights and the treatment of the Patriarch in Constantinople.

I hope that as Greek-Americans we've learned not to be brand loyal to any party without a more important understanding of how each candidate and party have historically stood by us or preferred to stand for more mainstream ideals.

This video shows an interestingly range of passion and vocabulary used to sway the "Greek vote" earlier in the process, when Biden and Clinton were still in contention for the presidential nod. Interestingly enough, Biden speaks most passionately and least diplomatically for Greek causes, as does Obama, while Clinton seems to straddle the line of political correctness.

For a dash of entertainment, I also found the following "Macedonian" (please note I use quotes mockingly) reaction to the Biden VP news amusing. Perhaps if "Macedonians" see him as a Greek ally, we are on the right track. More so, something to research about McCain's staff!


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