Wednesday Night #1585

Written by  //  July 18, 2012  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

We urge you to read about three Wednesday Nighters’ efforts to help our community as discussed last week.
[Kudos again to Beryl and The Suburban for strong support of Tracey’s work on low-income housing issues.]
Our discussion of the effects of an increasingly segmented society in North America along with the disparities between classes and the impact of these on the art and practice of politics found an immediate segue in Margaret Wente’s column on The long climb from inequality in which she reviews the thinking of Robert Putnam.
“Racial disparities are narrowing, but class disparities are widening dramatically. The prosperous and the poor, regardless of race, are increasingly segregated from each other. They live in different places and have increasingly divergent family structures and values.”
Segmentation of society leads to political strategies that target likely supporters with a particular demographic, rather than a broad group of voters. This strategy tends to increase the massaging of the message to suit the audiences’ prejudices – increasingly often at the cost of nuanced analysis – or even truth.
We are dismayed by the remarks of Romney supporter John Sununu (never one of our favorite political figures) that “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”
Some of our more rabid right-wing conservative, educated young professionals were eager to contribute to the distortions with comments such as “there is absolutely no doubt about the intended message: people succeed because of every factor imaginable (‘government’ help, roads, teachers) other than hard work. To my knowledge no US president has ever made such a statement before and it is a complete outrage.” This is not constructive dialogue, nor does it honour the intelligence of author or audience.  It was  the following passages of Mr. Obama’s speech in Roanoke  to which the critics took exception :
look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. … I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.
It is sad to think this sentiment would offend anyone in the United States or in most societies, but presumably Ayn Rand and Donald Trump applaud those who feel otherwise.

Meanwhile, perhaps we should just ignore the over-the-top commentary and concentrate on who the Republican Veep nominee will be and when the selection will be announced – before or after Mr. Romney goes to the Olympics?

The London Olympics – opening date is not far off and as with any major international event, the world media is carping. There are, however, a couple of items worthy of your attention: Tony Burman (formerly of CBC and Al Jazeera) writes in When all things ‘British’ translate into ‘foreign-owned’
On a visit to London, as the city welcomes the world to the 2012 Olympics, you’ll hear the damnedest things from those talkative tour guides in their red double-decker buses.
To wit, “Welcome to London, the world’s leading global city. As foreigners, please treat our city as if it’s your own. Because, well . . . it actually is. If you look way up, looming over London Bridge, you’ll see the “Shard,” Europe’s newest and tallest skyscraper, owned by the tiny Gulf state of Qatar. Down the street, you’ll find Boots the chemist (owned by Italians), not far from Harrods in Knightsbridge (compliments of the Qataris). Be sure to visit Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason (owned by Canadians). And definitely look east in the direction of the Olympic village (also Qatar-owned).
Concurrently, other brands are better protected as Britain flooded with ‘brand police’ to protect sponsors
Olympic security is in disarray, but organisers are taking no chances with corporate deals…
Olympics organisers have warned businesses that during London 2012 their advertising should not include a list of banned words, including “gold”, “silver” and “bronze”, “summer”, “sponsors” and “London”. You have to read on to fully absorb the lengths these people have gone to.
We are sure that nobody missed the kerfuffle over the made-in-China U.S. team uniforms last week (we won’t even discuss whether anyone actually liked the design), but have you all noted that Mr. Romney failed to comment because the 2002 torchbearer uniforms were outsourced to Burma – a far less acceptable work climate in those days.
Although Ottawa is enjoying recess from pesky parliamentarians, controversy continues over the Foreign Affairs article How Obama Lost Canada — Botching Relations With the United States’ Biggest Trade Partner
by Derek H. Burney and Fen Osler Hampson. But we thought that after the initial negative reactions things would die down in summer stupor. However, Burney & Hampson have charged back and Andrew Cohen could not resist countering in Burney and Hampson prolong the fallout – our favorite Cohen quote: “Why, listening to their broadside, you’d think the War of 1812 was a skirmish”.

On the world scene:
The situations in Syria and Mali continue to trouble the world and in neither case is there a clear-cut solution for intervention. Syria’s uprising has now been labelled a civil war by the International Red Cross. When we first heard the news, we wondered what was newsworthy about something so obvious, but according to Lionel Beehner, it is important. The South China Sea, a pervasive entity in adventure novels of the late 19th and early 20th century, is now a star in a 21st century geopolitical melodrama/docudrama, complete with the search for treasure (in this case rare earths).

And, as always, we have the economy to consider. On the global scale:
IMF Cuts Global Growth Outlook
(WSJ) The International Monetary Fund downgraded its outlook for the world economy and called on policy makers for stronger action to combat multiple risks to the weak global recovery. The fund warned that risks of a sharper slowdown “continue to loom large” due to the threat of delayed or insufficient action by policymakers. The report warned policymakers in Europe and the U.S. of the dangers posed by the status quo.
And in the U.S.:
Bernanke warns US economy could topple into recession if Congress doesn’t end budget impasse
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke sketched a bleak picture of the U.S. economy Tuesday — and warned it will darken further if Congress doesn’t reach agreement soon to avert a budget crisis.
Without an agreement, tax increases and deep spending cuts would take effect at year’s end. Bernanke noted what the Congressional Budget Office has warned: A recession would occur, and 1.25 million fewer jobs would be created in 2013.

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