Shortly after 9/11, U.S. embassies around the world were instructed to deliver a top-secret briefing to world leaders on the attacks of September 11. The report was a snapshot of everything the U.S. knew about al Qaeda at the time, including highly sensitive and classified intelligence helping prove the case that Al Qaeda had carried out the attack. The briefing also implicated Al Qaeda for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 thwarted Bojinka plot. Embassies were instructed on Oct. 2, 2001, to deliver "oral briefings only and not [repeat] not leave the document" in hard copy form.
Aside from essentially being unable to prove this, it's awfully hard to A) prove a stimulus was needed and B) when and if it can work. This is an incredibly absurd and frivolous comment to make. Then again, Clift is not exactly an objective observer.
If anything, Obama's starting to make people nervous. Independent voters statistics are showing they're slowly moving away from Obama. Obama is called a "centrist". Personally, I can't see how nationalizing and taking over various parts of the economy or expanding the government is "centrist". The irony of course being that while Bush was heavily criticized for going agaisnt the wishes of the America population on a few issues, Obama is starting to do the exact same thing on the economy. People aren't stupid, you know.
And enough with the "we inherited a mess" thing. The Democrats seized control of Congress during Bush's last two years - right about the time the economy began slipping. No one ever says "we inherited a great economy" so they shouldn't say it in the reverse. In politics, governments and their policies overlap with one another. That's life. The blame game is not productive. Isn't Obama supposed to be above partisanship?
Now on the Obama docket is medicare and finding a way to get "45 million people without insurance gain access to insurance". I've been hearing about this 45 million figure for quite some time and tackled it so long ago I can't remember in which post. The number seems high-ish but means nothing on its own. That's why, I turn to factcheck.org to explain and enlighten. Canadian readers of this blog may want to pay close attention since it's my contention our ignorance of American health doesn't prevent us from making outrageous claims about the American system.
"...the makeup of the uninsured, finding that according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, 79 percent are U.S. citizens, more than 80 percent are from families where at least one person holds a job, and two-thirds earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold – i.e., less than $42,406 for a family of four in 2007, the most recent year for which Census has figures for the uninsured. (KFF is a nonpartisan think tank that describes itself as "an evidence-based voice for people in the health system," especially the uninsured and "those most vulnerable and disadvantaged." It does not lobby for or against legislation.)
This does, indisputably, mean that 21 percent are not U.S. citizens (they're both legal and illegal immigrants) and one-third earn more than 200 percent of the poverty level. Does this mean that the "real number" of the uninsured should be lower? Let's look at some of the common claims...""...In short, it's true that many of the 45.7 million "uninsured" could find coverage through existing government programs or pay for their own coverage if they chose. Some, perhaps 6 million, are illegal immigrants who would not receive coverage under any proposal now being considered. Do these amount to half the total, as former Sen. Thompson implied? That's possible, but we judge that the available evidence doesn't support that conclusion."
Read the entire study here.
I don't know if Americans need an overhaul or some tweaking to their system. I'm too ignorant of the details and facts. In the end, that's for Americans to decide.
"...Mr Obama has changed the parameters of American foreign policy, in the Middle East in particular, and the consequences have been immediate. His Cairo address to the Islamic world was a remarkable event in itself; it was followed a few days later by an election in Lebanon that amounted to a defeat for Iran and a victory for pro-Western forces. Well before that, his overtures to Iran had signalled to both the Tehran regime and its opponents that they were not dealing with a President Bush. These overtures, beyond doubt, changed the dynamic of the recent election, and helped set in motion events that have shaken the Islamic Republic to its foundations".
Only time will tell if he can maintain this strategy. Like Bush had to shift his policies post 9/11, Obama may have to do the same if an event spoils his plans.
A few years ago, there was a rookie hot shot broker in the office where I worked. During the peak of the technology bubble, the need for restraint was key. If you positioned yourself as a "conservative" investor you were more likely than not going to close some clients (assets).
The paradox of course was if you were conservative you weren't going to make as much money. Indeed, many investors still insisted on gambling on tech IPO's and stocks with PE multiples that were as logical as North Korea's leader - whatshisnameagain?
Some brokers rode the wave, others didn't. I was partnered up with a seasoned investor who was as true blue conservative and stoic as they come. His turnover (stock activity relative to size account) was well below 1%. To him, none of it made any sense whatsoever. He never recommended high risk stuff unless requested.
Everyone in the office knew, in the long-run, his book of business was going to remain steady. Yet, some couldn't help themselves, others didn't care and simply rebuilt because they had luck, gift of gab and dedication to hit the phones. Not very efficient if you ask me.
Others were paying close attention. Which brings me back to the rookie. He began to sell himself as a "conservative" investor even though, if anyone bothered to observe, he was barely 27 years old and hadn't seen too many business cycles. Being conservative entails, in part, acquiring wisdom over a long period of time. In other words, you had to have been through a few bubbles and busts in your lifetime to really claim being conservative.
Above all, you needed to be disciplined. Getting caught up in the cattle hysteria and public group think is very easy to do. Even I, a deeply introspective individual, was slapped a few times.
My point is that it's easy to claim to be something (liberal, pragmatic, conservative etc.) when not severely challenged. This kid had no track record of any kind. How could he be conservative? And judging by how he ran his book, my suspicions were well-founded. Sure, he went "buy and hold" but he had to make up his loss of income somehow, right? So he resorted to flipping bonds and buying hedge funds.
Last, one day I passed by his office. He had a picture of Lester Young on his wall. I was surprised to see a jazz frame on the wall let alone one of Lester Young. The picture caught my eye because I happened to be a fan of his work with Billie Holiday.
So I stopped and asked him about it. "Who"? he said. "Oh, yeah. I love jazz". He didn't even know how great of a jazzster Young was. I had to add lack of substance to his repertoire. But he was no flash. He's still a broker. Why? Because he knows how to sell himself. Everything else is minor details.
I'll refrain from calling Obama a pragmatist. He's an unproven commodity for now. Moreover, his reputation as a liberal is well documented. His push towards the center is not surprising. But it's when he's faced with a real challenge we'll see which way the wind will take him.
There's no doubt there's something about music that can resonate deep within our soul. Listening to a masterpiece of any kind can shake the very foundation of our being. The question is what is the role of music in humanity? Did music in fact come before language? Or is it merely a derivative of language and somewhat inconsequential as Steven Pinker asserts?
At one point in the show, I wondered if in fact some languages were indeed "created" to be musical. Italian is often regarded as a "musical" language. Why is this? Can language and music overlap?
For all its reputation for being an art form for free spirits, there's also something quite strict and rigid about music. Rules are enforced (although jazz pushes this frontier) to ensure everyone in an orchestra or band work in an efficient way to create harmonic and melodic sounds that can affect us all.
Then there's the lyrics that are added to a piece of music. How can, for example, a person like me living in Quebec connect so well to rock songs by John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen steeped in American folklore? Maybe it's not so difficult given our geographical proximity and shared history but what to make of Springteen's legion of fans around the world? What's in his lyrics that captivates so many?
Since we're on the subject of music, I'll take a second to mention Michael Jackson. I tend to appreciate the music of the Jackson 5 than Michael Jackson's solo career. I don't own any of his albums but I do crack open the Jackson 5 from time to time.
However, there's no doubting the innovative brilliance of Michael Jackson. He is without a doubt, bizarre personal life notwithstanding, an iconic pop culture figure. I do agree he stands next to Elvis and Frank in many ways. You may not have connected to the man or music, but you can't deny the cultural and musical impact and legacy.
As I mentioned earlier, one observer said after the speech, "nice rhetoric but I demand action".
To our eyes and ears, Obama sounded wonderful, measured and statesmanlike. However, it's not necessarily the case from the other side of the pond.
Italy's Corriere della Sera put it this way in discussing Obama's Iran high wire act:
In his speech to Egypt two weeks ago, Obama proposed to the Islamic world to turn the page. A part of the world welcomed the invitation. But another part didn’t. That speech, though innovative, had a weak point. What happens if the “men of good will” of different civilizations and religions are not able to keep the fanatics and proponents of hate under control? The political universe (as the jurist Carl Schmitt wrote) is in reality a pluriverse: which, in addition to the possibility of compromise, also leaves room for differences and irreconcilable hatred. While dialogue is being offered, it is necessary to also have alternative strategies. This is the subject of a discussion that appears rather closed on the inside of the American administration. If the situation precipitates in Iran, if the faction of Ahmadinejad, supported by Khomeini, rids itself even physically of the opponents, Obama will soon have to have a backup plan.
I've always felt this to be simplistic.
For example, VERY LITTLE was made of his rapprochement with India expanding on what Clinton started. Strategically speaking, this was extremely important. Now there are concerns in India that it may take a back-seat with Obama.
India is an important democratic ally in the region. There's no reason for the United States to loosen the recent reconnection between the two countries. If Obama is the strategist they say he is, then the bond between the two should not only remain but get stronger.
It's always fascinated me how Canadians blast Americans for knowing nothing about Canada with a straight face. By all indications, we don't even know ourselves. We should think twice before casting dispersions on countries.
Is this not a form of arrogance?
One of my personal favorites is how the problem of obesity (which by the way is not considered to be a crisis my some scientists) in the United States gets press here, yet Canadians have their own issues of obesity too. So what do legislators and special interest in both countries do? Rather than reintroduce gym as a core class in schools, they want to tax stuff like sodas. That's called missing the point.
I got an idea. Since people are not active enough let's ban all the stuff that allegedly keep us inactive as well as some sugar-based items. Computers, PS3, Fun Dip, ice-cream and maple sugar cones.
Sheesh. Our nannies and their misguided ideas.
An excerpt from the Globe and Mail article I linked to:
"...We (Dominion Institute) believe that all provinces and territories in Canada should change their graduation requirements by insisting on not one but two courses in Canadian history before leaving high school. Currently, only Quebec requires two history courses to graduate."
I'm sure many would be surprised that Quebec would honor its end of the Canadian bargain on this front.
Here's a neat summary of the whole thing:
*Four provinces failed and deserve the F they received;
*No province received an A;
*Only four provinces - Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia - require Canadian history as a mandatory course in high school. The others do not;
*Most provinces simply offer courses in “social studies,” catch-all courses that generally ignore Canadian history (with the notable exception of British Columbia).
As I said in a previous post, if smokers are putting unduly stress on public health, then we have bigger problems than smokers, no? Who's next? People who drink soda?
This line of logic reminds me of people in defending abortion say things like, "oh, you'd rather want an unwanted baby be a drain on the economy?"
I won't even begin to discuss that one.
M'Lord. Where have we lost our ability to critically think?
Judging by how some are star struck like a teenager with President Obama, it won't be coming back anytime soon.
I digress somewhat.
Now, it's come to be known, the Molsons family (well, specifically a trio of brothers anyway) have decided to buy back the team for $500 million. That's $225 higher than what they sold it for. Sure, this may be a profitable investment nonetheless, but it's lame to me.
Talk about selling low and buying high!
- “The battle to feed all of humanity is over ... hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” (1968)
- “By 1985 enough millions will have died to reduce the earth’s population to some acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people.” (1969)
- “By 1980 the United States would see its life expectancy drop to 42 because of pesticides, and by 1999 its population would drop to 22.6 million.” (1969)
- “Smog disasters” in 1973 might kill 200,000 people in New York and Los Angeles. (1969)
- “I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” (1969)
- “In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.” (1970)
- “Actually, the problem in the world is that there is much too many rich people...” (1990)
- “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.” (1992)
Scarier, this guy engages in eugenics with his Zero Population Growth bull shit thingy.
His massive spending spree and expansion of government is unprecedented. Much of it is uncalled for. It's perplexing to think a leader would lay blame for all economic ills on "greed" and "Wall Street". Didn't Godman Sachs contribute to his campaign?
But...he is a good orator.
There's been only one leader who has shown any common sense and that's Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel.
From Reuters on June 3:
"German Chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced skepticism about leading central banks' approach to tackling the economic crisis, suggesting that they may be storing up more trouble for the years ahead.
Merkel's comments come as the European Central Bank has faced criticism from some analysts for not being as aggressive as either the U.S. Federal Reserve or the Bank of England, both in cutting interest rates and in promoting measures such as bond purchases to boost the money supply.
Merkel appeared to defend the ECB's more conservative instincts and raise questions about the Fed and Bank of England actions. "The independence of the European Central Bank must be preserved and the things that the other central banks are doing now must be reversed," Merkel said in a speech Tuesday, the text of which was posted on the government Web site."
Well, they did go through the Weimar Republic. So they may not a thing or two about all this. Anyway, Merkel is proving to be the only true sensible leader among the G8.
Openmarket.org published this piece about Obama's regulatory obsession:
"The President has just announced proposals for a major overhaul of the financial system. The proposals would force banks to make even MORE risky loans to low-income people. Even liberal newspapers like the Village Voice have admitted that “affordable housing” mandates are a key reason for the housing crisis and the massive number of defaulting borrowers. But Obama will not accept this reality. Instead, he wants to create a new “Consumer Financial Protection Agency” to rigorously enforce regulations pressuring banks to make loans to low-income borrowers..."
"...The President also wants to give financial regulators the power to seize key companies to prevent real or imagined “systemic risks” to the financial system. These are the same federal regulators who used the AIG bailout to give billions in unnecessary payments to Goldman Sachs, which neither needed nor expected that much money, and forced Freddie Mac to run up $30 billion in losses to bail out deadbeat mortgage borrowers. This is the same federal government that took over Chrysler and General Motors, and then used them to rip off pension funds and taxpayers and enrich the UAW union...."
"The current mortgage crisis came about in large part because of Clinton-era government pressure on lenders to make risky loans in order to “make homeownership more affordable for lower-income Americans and those with a poor credit history...”
"...The liberal Village Voice previously chronicled how Clinton Administration housing secretary Andrew Cuomo helped spawn the mortgage crisis through his pressure on lenders to promote affordable housing and diversity. “Andrew Cuomo, the youngest Housing and Urban Development secretary in history, made a series of decisions between 1997 and 2001 that gave birth to the country’s current crisis. He took actions that—in combination with many other factors—helped plunge Fannie and Freddie into the subprime markets without putting in place the means to monitor their increasingly risky investments..."
In drafting his financial regulation proposals, Obama has turned to Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, lawmakers who are among those most culpable in spawning the financial crisis. The New York Times reports that “the plan is largely the product of extensive conversations between senior administration officials and top Democratic lawmakers — primarily Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut.”
"...Banks and mortgage companies have long been under pressure from lawmakers and regulators to give loans to people with bad credit, in order to provide “affordable housing” and promote “diversity.” That played a key role in triggering the mortgage crisis, judging from a story last year in the New York Times ..."
For example, “a high-ranking Democrat telephoned executives and screamed at them to purchase more loans from low-income borrowers, according to a Congressional source.” The executives of government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “eventually yielded to those pressures, effectively wagering that if things got too bad, the government would bail them out...”
"...As a Washington Post story shows, the high-risk loans that led to the mortgage crisis were the product of regulatory pressure, not a lack of regulation. In 2004, even after banking officials “warned that subprime lenders were saddling borrowers with mortgages they could not afford, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development helped fuel more of that risky lending..."
"...Lenders also face the risk of being sued for discrimination if they fail to make loans to people with bad credit, which often has a racially-disparate impact (proving that such impact is unintentional is costly and difficult, and not always sufficient to avoid liability under antidiscrimination laws). They also risk possible sanctions under the Community Reinvestment Act.
Banks get sued for discrimination no matter what they do. If they don’t make enough loans in low-income, predominantly minority neighborhoods, they get accused of “redlining,” and are subject to sanctions under politically-correct laws like the Community Reinvestment Act, which contributed to the financial crisis by pressuring lenders to make risky mortgage loans."
I ask: When Obama steps up to the mic and tells Americans he will "fix" the problem (first created by government) by adding layers of government and asking politicians who caused the problem in the first place to draft legislation, is he taking voters for fools?
For a guy who ran on "change", he sure is turning out to be typical.
As a friend told me, "Obama is making Bush look a libertarian".
Too bad it wasn't done as a 100% private entity. At this point, one could only hope GM succeeds, pays back the government and kicks them out. More importantly, they never, ever go back for a hand out again.
By the way, has anyone noticed Air Canada knocked on Ottawa's door for a $2oo million loan? West Jet succeeds on its own (as far as I know) while Air Canada needs the government.
Anyway, here's a great article by Terry O'Reilly (I'm guessing not the former Boston Bruins player) of the Ottawa Citizen using boxing legend Joe Louis as a metaphor for GM's rebirth. I'm a sports junkie so anytime you link anything to sports and you do a good job with it, you'll get a link back.
"But the scene of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing the pass that won the Super Bowl this year, with only 35 seconds to go, hints at the bigger story.
Roethlisberger symbolizes a great come-back-from-behind winner, and the Steelers have always been emblematic of the blue-collar working class".I know the Steelers were used because it's current, but you could have also inserted Vince Lombardi's dynasty Green Bay Packers of the 1960s. Those Packers teams were the epitome of smash mouth, hard working, no-nonsense football. Much like the Steelers period of dominance in the 1970s. Either way, these are two football franchises that have come to symbolize excellence.
One last comment. The commercial also shows two hockey players for a second. Hockey in its humble origins, much like baseball, was a blue collar sport. Rather than use an inconspicuous shot of two unknown players, they could have found a more symbolic example. In the Detroit Red Wings (four Stanley Cups in 14 years and six trips to the finals), you can't ask for a better example. The Red Wings are literally an organization that rose from the dead (remember the Dead Things?) and resurrected itself to become possibly the best franchise in pro North American sports (relax, New England Patriots fans).
Joe Louis was a more poetic and remarkable story but don't discount the Wings/GM connection. GM and Detroit are synonymous.
Oh, and don't forget to use some Motown. Edwin Starr's 'Twenty-Five Miles' for example.
As readers of this blog knows, I've never bought into how Canadians and Europeans view Americans as being, well, inferior. I could never prove or articulate it but my observations and experiences told me a different story than what was being told. Of course, we can use stats to fit what we're trying to convey but even if this is half right, the U.S. is not as bad as we think.
Here are some excerpts:
Society, income and wealth
"It is universally observed that America is an economically more unequal society than Europe, with greater stratification between rich and poor. Much of this is true. Income is more disproportionately distributed in the US than in western Europe. In 1998, for example, the richest 1 per cent of Americans took home 14 per cent of total income, while in Sweden the figure was only about 6 per cent. Wealth concentration is another matter, however. The richest 1 per cent of Americans owned about 21 per cent of all wealth in 2000. Some European nations have higher concentrations than that. In Sweden—despite that nation’s egalitarian reputation—the figure is 21 per cent, exactly the same as for the Americans. And if we take account of the massive moving of wealth offshore and off-book permitted by Sweden’s tax authorities, the richest 1 per cent of Swedes are proportionately twice as well off as their American peers".
"...But absolute poverty rates look different. If we take absolute poverty to be living on the actual cash sum equivalent to half of median income for the original six nations of the EU, we see that many western European countries in 2000 had a higher percentage of poor citizens than the US...Unemployment benefits in the US, often portrayed as derisory in the European media, are actually higher than in many European nations...spend less than the US on unemployment, measured per capita".
Health and Welfare
"Yet despite the too large fraction of those who are not insured, Americans are relatively healthy and well-serviced by their healthcare system...For diabetes, heart and circulatory disease and strokes, the incidence rates and the number of years lost to sickness are firmly in the middle of the European spectrum. And for the four major cancer killers (colorectal, lung, breast and prostate), all European nations have worse survival rates than the US".
"...Public social spending in America—that is, monies channeled through the state—is low compared to many European countries. But other avenues of redistribution are equally important: voluntary efforts, private but statutorily encouraged benefits (like employee health insurance) and taxes. Given all of these, the American welfare state is more extensive than is often realised: the total social policy effort made in the US falls precisely at the centre of the European scale".
"And if we shift our focus to education, the contrasts across the Atlantic are, if anything, reversed. A higher percentage of Americans have graduated from university and from secondary school than in any European nation...The US lavishes more money per child at all levels of education than any western European nation. Europeans often believe that good US schools are private and serve only an elite. Yet American education is, if anything, less privatised than most European systems. Public education was among the first social programmes to receive massive public funding in the US and this has remained the case ever since".
"Simone de Beauvoir was convinced that Americans do not need to read because they do not think. Thinking is hard to quantify; reading less so. And Americans, it turns out, do read. The percentage of illiterate Americans is average by European standards. There are more newspapers per head in the US than anywhere in Europe outside Scandinavia, Switzerland and Luxembourg. The long tradition of well-funded public libraries in the US means that the average American reader is better supplied with library books than his peers in Germany, Britain, France, Holland, Austria and all the Mediterranean nations. They also make better use of these public library books than most Europeans. The average American borrowed more library books in 2001 than their peers (in aforementioned areas)...Not content with borrowing, Americans also buy more books per head than any Europeans for whom we have numbers. And they write more books per capita than most Europeans too".
Violence and Pop Culture
"American popular culture is fascinated by violence, much as Japanese culture is by suicide. ...Most foreigners have been content to accept that analysis at face value. Not that it is entirely untrue. A horrendous number of murders are committed in the US, almost twice the per capita rate of the nearest European competitors, Switzerland, Finland and Sweden. Nor is there any doubt that the US imprisons a far higher percentage of its population than any of its peers. But in other respects, America is a peaceful and quiet place by European standards. US burglary rates are fairly high, but below the Danish and British. The incidence of theft is lower than in six western European countries. Assault is in the middle, on a par with Swedish and Belgian rates. Rape levels are high, but other sexual assault rates are moderate".
"American drug use is quite high too, but still—excepting cannabis where the figures are a smidgen above Britain’s—within the European scale. American white-collar crime is at the middle to low end of the spectrum. The French suffer over six times the American rate of bribery. And the total American crime figures are in the low middle of the pack".
"Although oil use per capita is high in America, measured as a function of economic production (in other words, putting the input in relation to the output) it remains within European norms... Between 1990 and 2002, America’s carbon dioxide output rose, but per unit of GDP it fell by 17 per cent—a greater reduction than in nine western European countries. In its output of renewable energy, the US is middle of the spectrum on all counts, whether biogas, solid biomass energy, geothermal or wind... Despite the myths of a hyper-motorised nation, Americans own fewer passenger cars per head than the French, Austrians, Swiss, Germans, Luxembourgers and Italians. Per capita, Americans rely on their cars more than Europeans. But adjusting for the size of the country, automobile usage is lower only in Finland, Sweden and Greece. Similarly, Americans produce a lot of waste per head, though the Norwegians are worse, and the Irish and Danes are close competitors...Americans’ production of waste has scarcely gone up per capita, while in all European nations for which figures are available, there have been big increases—70 per cent in Spain, almost 60 per cent in Italy and over 30 per cent in Sweden".
"Despite perceived differences in its economy and care for the environment, perhaps the most fundamental assumed gap between the US and Europe is in values. Americans are said to be nationalistic and religious, while Europeans are post-nationalist and secular. But even here there is reason to doubt the stereotypes".
Yes, Americans are patriotic and nationalistic, but according to the World Values Survey, undertaken between 1999 and 2001, not more than some Europeans....Granted, Americans are more likely to think that their country is better than most others. But more Portuguese, Danes and Spaniards feel that the world would be improved if other people were like them, and a larger fraction of Americans admit that there are aspects of their country that shame them than do the Germans, Austrians, Spanish, French, Danes and Finns".
Science and Religion
"This is certainly a conclusion suggested by looking at attitudes to science across the Atlantic. Without question, Americans are more likely to believe in creationism than Europeans. Yet the modern American creationist, interestingly enough, no longer takes scripture as sufficient reason to believe the biblical account of the origins of the world. The debate is instead conducted on the turf of science, with creationists attempting to argue the fine points of the age of the fossil record, suggesting that orthodox evolution has gaps as a seamless explanation, and otherwise indicating their acceptance that the modern world speaks the language of science. The realm of scientific quackery in Europe, on the other hand, is much wider than in the US. Consider the sway of self-evidently daft positions like anti-vaccinationism among the Hampstead Bildungsbürgertum, or the equally irrational rejection of the fruits of scientific reasoning, like the anti-GM movement. Astrology is more widely believed in several European nations than in the US, and homeopathy is relied upon much more often in Europe.
So if Americans are, on the whole, more religious than most Europeans, it does not follow that they have less overall faith in science. Societies with a strong faith in science can also have strong religious beliefs. True, proportionately fewer Americans firmly agree with the Darwinian theory of evolution than any Europeans...But in other respects, Americans believe in the Enlightenment project of human reason’s ability to understand and master nature. They fall in the European middle ground in approving animal testing to save human lives. Perhaps most tellingly, more American pupils agree with the statement that science helps them to understand the world than in any European nations other than Italy and Portugal".
Individualism vs. Collectivity
"They may be scientific...but Americans are also thought of as diehard individualists who live in a society of sharp elbows and an ethos of live and let live. They are imagined to be unusually anti-governmental in their political ideology; practically anarchists by European standards. Yet a Pew Foundation survey in 2007 found that proportionately fewer Americans worried that the government had too much control than did Germans and Italians, with the French at the same level and the British just a percentage point lower. And a higher percentage of Americans trust their government than all Europeans".
"...But talk is cheap, and these findings may indicate desire as much as reality. The trust of Americans in their state apparatus, then, can be measured more concretely by their willingness to pay taxes. Unlike many Europeans, Americans pay the taxes required of them. Only in Austria and Switzerland are the underground economies as small. Tax avoidance is over three times the American level in Greece and Italy. The archetypal Montana survivalist—so beloved of the European media—holed up in his shack, determined to resist the government’s impositions, is as uncharacteristic of America as the Basque or Corsican separatist, ready to kill for his cause, is of Europe".
These are just a few examples of the way in which the presumed chasm dividing the Atlantic is not, in fact, nearly as deep as opinion among the chattering classes and their mouthpieces believes. Why, then, does this notion persist? For one thing, the European press wants the juicy, titillating lowdown. And America certainly dishes that up. Is there any other nation that washes its dirty laundry so publicly? Hence that genre of such fascination to the European chattering classes: the tedious travelogue by the sophisticated European, whether BHL, Baudrillard or Borat, observing American yokels and reporting back with the smug assurance of superiority to other sophisticated Europeans.
Moreover, Europe’s various cultures are ones still steeped in the lore of national stereotypes and quite happy to wring whatever elixir can be had from them. Who can forget Edith Cresson, Mitterrand’s prime minister, convinced that no Frenchman was gay, while the English were all limp-wristed poofs? Or consider the extent to which no Europeans, however otherwise politically correct, can be shaken in their conviction that the Roma really are shifty and thieving. Having a transatlantic whipping boy is convenient and serves politically useful purposes, especially if there is little else that you can agree on. The purveyors of anti-Americanism in Europe appear to have rediscovered the truism that nothing unites like a common enemy. And the Bush administration played into their hands by serving up caricatures by the spadeful. It will be interesting to see how the European pundits deal with Obama once he does something they do not like. While Bush could be portrayed as an ignorant cowboy, which of the available stereotypes will they dare lambast Obama with?
No one is arguing that America is Sweden. But nor is Britain, Italy, or even France. And since when does Sweden represent “Europe”—at least anymore than the ethnically homogenous, socially liberal state of Vermont does America? Europe is not the continent alone, and certainly not just its northern regions. With the entrance of all the new EU nations, it has just become a great deal larger. These new entrants are not just poorer than old Europe. They, like Europe’s many recent immigrants from Asia and Africa, are religious, sceptical of a strong state, unenthusiastic about voting and allergic to high taxes. In other words, from the vantage of old Europe, they are more like Americans. And so as Europe expands, the argument made here for western Europe—that the differences across the Atlantic have been exaggerated—will become irrefutable.
Is Marxism making a revival? Or are we just rehashing old ideas just to try and make sense of what's happening? Whatever it is, I'd tread carefully if we think we've figured it all out.
It's funny how some fail to acknowledge the government's role in all this mess.
Yo go girl!
"What do libertarians believe? Well, we believe that liberty is extremely important, for starters. Economically and socially—in the boardroom and in the bedroom—people have a right to make their own choices, as long as they respect other people's rights to make their own choices. Any action that involves another person or property requires that person's consent. We own ourselves, and the initiation of force is forbidden. In addition, we tend to believe that people who are free, other things being equal, are likely to live happier, more successful lives. When others point to market failures, we libertarians counter that government failures are far more pervasive and harmful. Some libertarians (anarcho-capitalists. E.g. Von Mises, Hayek) believe that government is entirely illegitimate, and that we would be better off with no state whatsoever, while others (minarchists. i.e. limited government. Both branches claim roots in classical liberalism) believe that a minimal state limited to national defence, police protection, and a court system is both justified and beneficial". And zoning laws?
And how do most people see it? I don't know but I suspect many see it this way: How I learned to stop worrying and love the government.
Say what? This guy is an editor? This is what passes as critical thinking in journalism? Save us all.
He should have gone for broke and go all John Lennon and say Obama is bigger than Jesus. I though it's uncool to mention God in public spaces.
If this was a blog it's not so bad. But coming from a major magazine?
Man, people are too easily moved when they want to be.
Wow. I'm still stunned by this.
Obama has already said he will close it down within one-year (from January 2009 I believe). Has he pushed himself into a corner? He has admitted that there remain dangerous people at Gitmo. Would he close it down even if a clear majority of Americans don't want the President to? And what are his alternatives if he closes it? You can't just "shut the bitch" down so to speak.
Instead of making promises that may be too complex to keep (politics is fluid), he may be better off dancing like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
What would you do if you were shrinking? How would you rationalize your existence? Would you go on TLC and have your own show?
Back in 1957 a movie was made called The Incredible Shrinking Man. For that period, I have to admit they were innovative with the shooting of the film. From what I understand, a remake of the film starring Eddie Murphy is set to come out in 2010. I hope it captures the same intensity as the original.
I find movies today tend to rely too much on camera effects and technology to drive a film. Script writing, while back in vogue, take a back seat. Too many clinkers come with such films.
Anyway, some of the scenes in the films were disturbingly hilarious. Like him sitting at a table drinking coffee with an oversized cup. Or the scene where he narrowly escapes the attack of a house cat. After ending up in the basement, the movie ends with him coming to terms with his existence after he kills a spider.
I loved it. I can barely find enough courage to kill a spider as it is. I'm too busy attending to this Incredible Expanding Blog.
If you don't mind...I have to go conquer my fears.
I'm not one of those people who claims Islam is "not a religion" or treat it as one monolithic topic. The perception and image of Islam in the West tends to get a little confused, romantic (Orientalism had a part to play in this) and hostile all at the same time - although I think the reverse can be said too. Many people on the other side of the pond probably view the West in the same light.
Islam is diverse and not restricted to the Arab world. It cuts across many cultures, races and nations. It so happens the extremist elements are to be found mostly among not only Arabs but Iranians as well. Terrorists, and let's not beat around the bust because this is what they are, have a specific political agenda acting as a spoiler in a highly flammable region that run independently of Islamic religious spirituality and traditions.
For most of the 20th century, secular (albeit mismanaged and corrupted) governments were in power in the Middle-East. By the 1970s, religious fanaticism (which began the process of hijacking Islam through Wahabism) began to challenge secular power and have been waging war ever since. I wonder if an "Islamic reformation" is a possible outcome of this.
Either way, the people have not been well-served by either side. Add to the mix American self-interest (with the United States willing to side with religious nuts to serve its purpose) in the region and it makes for one complex political game.
There are two things I've always found interesting about Islam. First, is its slow decadent descent (although some will argue the West is on the decline too), and second its historical tolerant treatment of other creeds and cultures at its height centuries ago. One can think of the aforementioned Lebanon, Iraq in the 1950s, places like Bahrain, Qatar and UAE and long before that Muslim Spain and Sicily.
And so this is the story in a blog nutshell. Some feel President Obama is the person to help assuage hurt feelings and manage competing interests through pragmatic policies. I'm not sure it's that simple.
The mindset is entrenched deeply now. I heard one person say in response to Obama's speech to the Muslim world "nice rhetoric but we need to see action". Perhaps, but wouldn't it be refreshing to see the Middle-East offer some of their own action, no?
Speaking of the U.S., we often hear the Unite States (and Israel) are largely to blame for the problems in the region (quite frankly I don't believe solving the Palestinian question will propel any unblocking of goodwill in the region) but given that most respectable historians have identified the Islamic crisis as having begun centuries ago (since the fall of the Ottoman empire anyway) is it not convenient scapegoating?
Moreover, the United States itself is experiencing a rise in religious fervor and its growing influence in American society, education and even foreign policy. But this too is a complicated development too often simplistically treated just like Islam is often characterized.
Nonetheless, misunderstanding Islam doesn't detract from what many experts and thinkers believe to be a "crisis of Islam". Interestingly, some of us feel Western culture is on the decline as well.
With American self-interest, Islamic radicalization and decadence, sectarian Sunni-Shia violence, anti-semitism, the Israel-Palestine question, Mecca, Jerusalem, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and oil all doing an unholy Tango, it makes me think of a scenario where three kids are sitting at the table squabbling while staring at a loaded gun.
It's a shame really. Canada once upon a time was a pioneering nation. To watch something this nation helped create fall is unfortunate.
For its part, the Harper government argues the shutdown of the Maple reactors made sense fiscally but when one thinks about stimulus packages it makes one wonder. Aren't Maple reactors important? Like, really, really important? Is this a question of priorities? Bad politics? Incompetence?
The care, in our view, has been less than stellar. He feels like he's being poorly treated. Of course he is, with all this talk about needing to "kill" people, tax sodas and whatever, we're now being conditioned to believe we're a burden in an inefficient system.
But hey, at least we have it. So shut up!
We're always told nurses are over worked, over tired. And this is true. But it doesn't excuse not being able to offer basic and respectful care.
Now he's trapped. It's not like we can go to another hospital. So we had to hire a private nurse to watch over him over night.
How ironic! Within the public system, we have to use a private service. Evil!
OECD study after OECD study, we see Canada's public health system ranks at the bottom of the heap. We are not innovators but laggards. Yet, we still see articles by apologists for the system telling us it's all "right-wing Fraser Institute" fear mongering.
You don't need to read about it. You just have to witness the system first hand to know it has major problems.
At least, we're not American.
This is officially my longest drought. I can't think of anything to babble about. Pray for me.
The timing couldn't be more perfect. I went out and submitted this blog on all sorts of social networks and I've got nothing to write! They call this "choking" in sports.
Part of the reason is because I'm too distracted and lazy to sit and thoughtfully write in a lucid manner. Now, if you demand rantings and ravings, that I can deliver on a dime.
I'm also waging a private internal war about what style of writing I want to exude. Do I want to wear a shirt while a type or be naked? I feel like I'm five people in one and it's threatening to pull me apart.
Which reminds me of a story. I remember when I was a kid my brother and I had a Plastic Man doll. That bastard sure could stretch - though he had no penis. It could have made things interesting. Anyway, one day, bored out of our minds, we decided we were going to draw and quarter the doll. Man, I tell ya, it was pretty resistant but we persisted until he was broken and green goo oozed out of his pathetic body. My mother still doesn't think we're all that normal.
Here's a link to James O'Regan's thoughts about selling and marketing Canadian films:
"My short comedy, Edsville - about an innocent young couple that stumbles upon a town of Ed Sullivan impersonators - has a recoupment rate of 20% while the average recoupement rate published in Telefilm's annual report, year after year, hovers at 2%-ish. I've also observed what our Yankee cousins actually do."
Hasn't branding always been a problem and weak point with Canada/Canadians?
"...Why isn't it working now? Why is Telefilm's record so dismal? Public policy has intervened in the movie business only at the level of manufacturing - dolling out wallops of cash to make movies. The new funds maintain that approach. This is simply bad policy and we have bank vaults full of unseen films to prove it."
What is Canadian film anyway? I like this take from Gerald Pratley:
"Except that is, films made in Québec. Yet even here the decline into worthlessness over the past two years has become apparent. It is noticeable that, when the media in the provinces other than Québec talk about Canadian films, they are seldom thinking of those in French. This means that we are forced, when talking about Canadian cinema, into a form of separation because Québec film making is so different from "ours", making it impossible to generalize over Canadian cinema as a whole.
If we are to believe everything the media tells us then David Cronenberg, whose work is morbid, Atom Egoyan, whose dabblings leave much to be desired, Guy Maddin, who is lost in his own dreams, and Patricia Rozema, who seldom seems to know what she is doing, are among the world's leading filmmakers. These directors have become fashionable on the international festival circuit and media darlings at home. In the company of others, they have created a cult following and spend much of their time traveling around explaining their films, returning to obtain more grants from Telefilm to make more films that have little to do with Canada. Denys Arcand, Gilles Carle, André Melancon, Micheline Lanctôt, André Forcier, Robert Lepage, and other talented Québec filmmakers receive occasional mentions. Conversely it must be said that English-speaking directors seldom get mentioned in the Québec media, but given their disappointing record this is understandable."
"...Our producers, who are only in film as a business to make money rather than to put their country on the screen, use our small market as a reason to concentrate on pseudo-American films they are certain will show profits from the US market. They seldom do, but producers never learn. To spend more than these sums on a truly Canadian picture is to invite financial loss unless it finds wide public acceptance in this country"
"Commercial films do not necessarily mean bad films (consider The English Patient, Shine and Big Night -- respectively British, Australian, US) which were not conceived as moneymakers, but as genuinely creative works their makers believed would appeal to an intelligent audience, recover their costs, leaving enough to start their next film. Telefilm is usually silent when films of this nature are proposed here. What are films expected to do other than to entertain their audiences and make money for their producers? It is quite customary these days for films to be recognised as being both an art and a business. Filmmaking is not an industry (Stelco and General Motors are 'industry') although people working in films constantly refer to filming as "our industry". As an art, films are living pictures, true or false, of the countries and the people they represent.""In 'ROC' films, the characters never talk about where they come from or mention where they are going. The very thought of dialogue saying "I'm from Alberta" or "I'm going to Newmarket" never crosses a writer's mind or if it does the producers will probably remove it. No one in our films is seen reading The Globe and Mail or the Toronto Sun (in a recent film, a bundle of newspapers being delivered was turned upside down to avoid revealing its name), no radio announcer is ever heard to say "This is the CBC." -- a recent exception being Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy. The police are seldom identified by their actual uniforms and the cars they use, no politicians are ever mentioned, no hospitals, schools or public buildings are identified, and seldom a maple leaf flag is seen flying. Contrast this with what we see in American and Québec films."
"As the 1998 begins we again hear Sheila Copps indignantly chattering on about what she is going to do to improve the "distribution" of our films to our cinemas. She is appalled that "so few get shown". What she is referring to is exhibition and in this she doesn't know the first thing about the film business. Has she actually seen all the Canadian films she is so anxious to have shown? Overcome by feting Egoyan on Parliament Hill she thinks that we are bursting at the seams with creative filmmaking and being unfairly treated by Hollywood. If she opened every Canadian film made last year in our cinemas, most would be empty. The place for the best of our films to be seen today by the public across the nation is on television -- without being ruined by commercial interruptions. But does the CBC show the way? Hardly, look what it does to its own productions. Through its taxes the public pays to have films made and it pays for the CBC to show them; but our "public service" broadcaster will not find the money to show them to us without breaks. It could if it cared to but it doesn't. It likes to look and behave as the US networks do; it is one of the ultimate symbols of our acceptance of doing things the American way, in this case within the world of film and television."
Copps: This was a woman who believed calling a 1-800 to get a flag was a good way to foster Canadian pride and unity. Such are the ideas from Canada's "natural" governing party: The Liberals and their army of bad scripts, erm, policies.
Personally, as a Canadian, I do find Canadian films to, like the nation as a whole, lack an identity. It's not enough to brag about directors and their "autership". Most people don't care about that. Just because Egoyan is Canadian doesn't make his films "Canadian" or good for that matter.
The public wants to see good movies - whatever that means since no one knows what will work and make money. But one things Canadians suck at, it's script writing. Unless, of course, they're working for American movie companies - or me. Because I've been told. So there.
Therein lies a problem, I think. Our best simply gravitate to the United States. It must have an effect on our films here, no?
Can it be it went off course because critics didn't like the leader? If Obama says Afghanistan is "fair game" is he veering "off course"?
Then intangible concepts like "democracy", "peace", "justice" and "tolerance" comes into the mix. One can assert a problem with America is it gets tongue tied and twisted in its lofty rhetoric and ideals.
At least they have some, no? Which brings me to the path being carved by President Obama.
When I listened and read about Obama's message to Muslims a few things popped into my mind. But I won't bore you with it. I know, it's what I'm "paid" to do but what can you do? Take it up with my union. Here's a link to one perspective in The New Republic.
The only thing I will say is the President should cool it on his "apology crusade". He's the President of the United States of America. Not United Colors of Benetton Nations".
If America apologizes (and quite frankly, American don't need to apologize for defending Western culture in the post-war era. Of course they did nasty things. Who said politics wasn't dirty?) for their indiscretions when do we wait for Russia, China, India, France, Japan, the UK (although they're so lost these days they probably already have) and a bunch of other imperialist nations to do the same? And heaven knows the Middle-East is not without its bull shit, right? Right.
Call me crazy, but Obama's "message" is not that far "off Bush's path" if you ask me. Anyone detect the same thing? Maybe the tone is different but it's the same stuff.
They say Obama is a talented "pragmatist". Which may explain why he exhibits fascist, socialist, liberal, idealist and elitist populist qualities from one day to the next. So it seems.
June 6 1944, is the anniversary of the allied forces (mostly Britain, United States and Canada) of the Normandy Landings (D-Day) in which the largest military force (160 000) ever assembled stormed the beaches of France to defeat Nazi Germany.
Canada's contribution was incredible to the war effort relative to the size of our nation.
Image of Canadians landing on Juno beach.
Let's see. Ah. Louise Harel wants to be Mayor of Montreal. Sweet. Just what this city needs in trying economic times: A uni-lingual separatist who cares little about ethnic communities. She once referred to Ville St. Laurent as an "Arab city".
The strange paradox is despite parochial musings from Quebec nationalists, Montreal is a city with an international and cosmopolitan outlook.
People like Harel don't represent my outlook on life.
And she certainly doesn't reflect what Montreal truly is: A city that lives in bilingual and multi-ethnic peace - except in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district in the east-end. She fits right in over there.
I quiver at the very thought of Harel and her cronies running this podunk town further into the ground.
A judge sided with Chrysler (when do they go on Italian courses?) that it's not liable for future mechanical problems that cause injury or death. Of course, victims are not happy but it looks like they've been frozen out since it's been described as "conventional bankruptcy proceedings".
And so it is.
However, it makes me wonder. What's to stop President Obama from intervening here? Can it be victims don't represent a powerful voting block? After all, he had no problems publically threatening bondholders in the name of "saving a corporation and jobs". That set a dangerous precedent on the investment landscape.
Victims? Bah! This is why I never like government intervention in business of any kind. They pick and choose where they will stick their nose and it's not always for the right reasons.
What can I say? I'm skeptical of the whole bail out thing. There are too many agendas and interests all working at the same time to be remotely beneficial to the economy and taxpayers in the long run.
Alas, I'm no bean counter or tax expert.
Speaking of corporate hand outs and deadbeats, how long before Bombardier asks (and gets) their usual subsisdy- grant (who knows what to call it at this point?) to "preserve" jobs?
More spending nonsense.
I keep hearing how I now "own a part in GM".
Where are my shares? My voting privileges? Do I own common stock? Preferred shares? A bond? Short-term note?
Oh, right. Yes. Through my tax dollars I "own" the company. My "vote" now lives vicariously through a government official. Gotcha. Wink.
This all seems so pathetic.
If I wanted shares in GM I would have purchased the stock on the stock exchange. But this entails a free-enterprise rational decision on my part. Can't have that. No way.
Instead, I'm forced to throw cash at a company that may not survive and worse cover the pensions of its workers! And the reasoning behind why we need to do this is shockingly simplistic and short-sighted.
I hope the idea of "stimulus packages" dies a slow painful death with this experiment.
$13 billion (described as a loan to be paid back by a fixed date...yes, I know...stop laughing) and growing.
Personally, wouldn't it be better served if we gave it all to profitable business owners and emerging entrepreneurs? Or just buy out the pensioners of GM?
Sips celery juice.
I'm on assignment for 'Exceptional Magazine' and in the process of "consolidating" my blogs. What does all this mean? Nothing really when you consider the big picture. Nevertheless, I may be posting less frequently for a couple of weeks or so.
I'm just warning you all.
A link to an article by Bjorn Lomborg in the opinion section of the Wall Street Journal.
The first three paragraphs open:
"Some business leaders are cozying up with politicians and scientists to demand swift, drastic action on global warming. This is a new twist on a very old practice: companies using public policy to line their own pockets.
The tight relationship between the groups echoes the relationship among weapons makers, researchers and the U.S. military during the Cold War. President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned about the might of the "military-industrial complex," cautioning that "the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." He worried that "there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties."
This is certainly true of climate change. We are told that very expensive carbon regulations are the only way to respond to global warming, despite ample evidence that this approach does not pass a basic cost-benefit test. We must ask whether a "climate-industrial complex" is emerging, pressing taxpayers to fork over money to please those who stand to gain."
"...American electricity utility Duke Energy, a member of the Copenhagen Climate Council, has long promoted a U.S. cap-and-trade scheme. Yet the company bitterly opposed the Warner-Lieberman bill in the U.S. Senate that would have created such a scheme because it did not include European-style handouts to coal companies. The Waxman-Markey bill in the House of Representatives promises to bring back the free lunch.
U.S. companies and interest groups involved with climate change hired 2,430 lobbyists just last year, up 300% from five years ago. Fifty of the biggest U.S. electric utilities -- including Duke -- spent $51 million on lobbyists in just six months.
The massive transfer of wealth that many businesses seek is not necessarily good for the rest of the economy. Spain has been proclaimed a global example in providing financial aid to renewable energy companies to create green jobs. But research shows that each new job cost Spain 571,138 euros, with subsidies of more than one million euros required to create each new job in the uncompetitive wind industry. Moreover, the programs resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy, or 2.2 jobs for every job created."
No comment. I'm just a messenger on this one.