Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina's Economic Impact.

As far as the economic impact is concerned, releasing oil from the federal petroleum reserves which is supposed to give refineries a temporary supply of crude oil will not help - the problem being that the refineries themselves our out of work because of power cuts and flooding.
The government's oil ``is not going to be of much help unless we get refineries running again,'' said Adam Sieminski, global oil strategist at Deutsche Bank AG in New York, before the announcement. ``Releasing oil from the SPR right now would be actually inappropriate because there would be no place to put it.''
The only impact of the announcement is that it will 'calm down' the market. It is likely that the price of fuel will rise in the U.S. if there is shortage before winter.


Katrina's Impact.

I'm watching CNN right now and can't believe the scope of the devastation in New-Orleans and Biloxi. When the Hurricane was downgraded to category 4 and then 3, I thought they were off the hook, but that was clearly gross underestimate. The most amazing part is that things are still only getting worse - the flooding, the looting, and the appearant helplessness of the authorities. It is amazing when you think this is more or less a predictible disaster AND this is also the richest country in the world. I'm not sure anything could have been done differently.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Just finished watching the very last episode of "Six feet Under", one of my favorite tv shows, and it was satisfying beyond expectations. The finale was a celebration of both life and death, in a typical bittersweet fashion with time passing in the blink of an eye. It was poignant and silly at the same time, sublime and funny. It was a great concentration of what the show is about: love, hate, family, anger, nostalgia, separation, mourning, independence, becoming whom one should be and .... belonging. It was an optimistic reminder that "Everyone you know is going to die", but peace may come in the end.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Bush's Tan.

Seeing President Bush on TV yesterady, I was literaly dazzled by his glowing tan. Actually, it was more sun burn than tan.
It is a well-known fact that he has set the record for vacationing, breaking Reagan's own record - and that on top of his two-hour midday exercise sessions and his disinclination to work nights or weekends-:
According to an Associated Press count, Reagan spent all or part of 335 days at his Santa Barbara ranch over his eight-year presidency -- a total that Bush will surpass this month in Crawford with 3 1/2 years left in his second term.
but in a naive sort of way I thought he must do a lot of work from his Texas ranch. Well, apparently he has done most of his work... outside in the sun. What kind of work can you do outside? In any case, as for now he looks even more tanned than Berlusconi himself and that in itself must be a record.
This may seem quite trivial but it becomes a bit more telling in the present post-9/11 context of a country supposedly at war with mothers of dead soldiers picketing outside the ranch. All that while Americans get 12 days of vacation on average!
So is there anything wrong in this picture or is it just me?


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Vicious Cycle it is!

Her's a an excerpt from the transcript of Lance Armstrong's interview on CNN:

ARMSTRONG: ARMSTRONG: Our defense when we look at this thing and we say -- and I guess I try to ask people to sit in my seat and say, "OK, you know, a guy in a French -- in a Parisian laboratory opens up your sample, you know, Jean-Francois so and so, and he tests it. Nobody's there to observe. No protocol was followed. And then you get a phone call from a newspaper that says we found you to be positive six times for EPO."

This speaks for itself, doesn't it?


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Might Is Right (again)!

A new Harris Poll:
President Bush’s job approval ratings are at their lowest point of his presidency as only 40 percent of U.S. adults have a favorable opinion of his job performance, while 58 percent have a negative opinion. This is a decline from just two months ago in June when the president’s ratings were 45 percent positive and 55 percent negative. Much of this decline can be tied to the public’s opinion on important issues. The war has climbed to the top of the most important issues list and the economy is now the second most important issue.
As we said before, too bad that the American public opinion starts taking the war in Iraq seriously only once it becomes obvious that it is not going to be an easy win, or may be no win at all.


Friday, August 26, 2005

France and Chicken....

Here's good French-bashing for you - by Subway! ;-)


Vicious or Virtuous Cycle.?

To turn the allegations against Lance Armstrong into some sort of American-bashing on the part of the French is highly unfair, but then again, this hardly comes as a surprise given the jingoism of the media regarding sports news. The truth of the matter is that there will always be suspicions and the allegations will be hard to prove or disprove one way or the other.

On the one hand, the laboratory tests used to detect EPO in Lance’s urine samples are quite reliable, (urine keeps well when frozen!) but on the other hand, at this point, no one can yet rule out that these samples may have been mishandled or that sound procedures may have been violated. It is likely that experts will fight and nothing definite might ever come out.

But having suspicion is perfectly legitimate and reasonable when it comes to a sport where champions have had drugs for breakfast for years. Cycling has been ruled by lies and deception. This is a known fact. And of course there has been a shroud of suspicion surrounding Lance Armstrong himself since the late 90s as you can read here, or here. Suspicion may be unfair but it is a fact of life – once bitten, twice shy. It is also a fact that winning the Tour de France seven times at the age of 31 (and after cancer) looks like a miracle. This, in some ways, also explains why the French and the Americans see the whole story from total different angles.

The French have a more cynical view of life – they would not believe in miracles even if miracles existed. [stories must have some sad ending]. The Americans, on the other hand, have a much more optimistic view of life [stories should end in happiness.] – they would believe in miracles even if miracles did not exist.

In this story Armstrong is a mythical figure. He is our modern superhero. It is all the harder for a lot of people to see that he too may have faulted. That's probably why 71% of Americans believe Armstrong. The French on the other hand are very wary of anything that is too 'nice' and fairy-tale like, anything that could make them look gullible.

Sure, there may be some anti-Americanism on the part of a few French (that newspaper L’Equipe published a picture of Armstrong with G.W. Bush is hardly a coincidence) but you cannot reduce the whole thing to that. There is more to it. Some people may also been a bit upset about the competition itself and the predictability of Lance’s victory. It takes away the fun of the game. The lack of suspense makes some people question the fairness of the competition.

Now of course, the (mostly American) media are playing the American-bashing card – after all there are there to make big bucks out of this controversy and they are delighted of the spin. Fox, for instance has turned the snit between the French newspaper and an individual US citizen into an attack on the United States as a whole. Well that’s Fox all right isn’t it? It also seems that Lance Armstrong himself is playing this card (see CNN’s interview with Larry King) and that’s unfortunate. But I would not blame him so much. It’s got to be emotionally tough, and attacking – even lashing out – may be the best defense. And who knows… he may be innocent or have taken the drugs “à l’insu de son plein gré” [without his own free will] as former French champion Virenque would have put it.

My (French cynical) take is that they may all be doped anyway and maybe it does not matter so much because we’ll probably never know. Too much money is involved for the story to go away. My (American optimistic) view, however, is that it certainly does not take away the courage of those champions and Lance’s lasting impact on the fight against cancer may be more important than petty fights over alleged drug use.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

American Le Pen.

Yes Pat Robertson is an idiot and a bigot full of hate.... So what's new? Is that a surprise?
Believe it or not, calling for the assassination of Chavez is not the worst thing he has even said - however idiotic it is. Sure enough it is definitely NOT in line with anything Christ said, but then again, neither are most things that Pat Robertson is famous for believing or saying, look here, or here or here.
To help our French readers understand, Pat Robertson is a sort of American version of Le Pen with a religious flavor, and he represents American Evangelical Christians probably as much as Le Pen represents French politics.


When Might is Right.

In the Middle-Ages when Might was Right, if you lost a war, it meant that your enemy was more righteous and that you were morally wrong in the eyes of God. In other words, you deserved to lose if not death itself.
Today, a lot of Americans are changing their minds about the war in Iraq:
A comparison of Gallup polls shows a crucial change in opinion. In August 2003, 15 percent of Americans supported sending more troops to Iraq, 36 percent supported keeping troop levels the same, 32 percent wanted to withdraw some troops, and 14 percent wanted total withdrawal. Now, with the same questions posed, 13 percent favor sending more troops, 28 percent want the same levels, 23 percent want some withdrawn, and 33 percent want to withdraw all troops.
But that change is not brought about by the realization that the war was morally dubious at best or that the American people has been lied to [that there has been no weapon of mass destruction - and thus no threat to national security], no, that change is brought about by worries that the peace has not been won yet.
This is typical of the highly American pragmatic perspective that losers are wrong. In other words, people are only ready to question their national leader only once the perception is that the country may by losing (or at least not winning).
Despite the concerns for the future in Iraq, there is very little talk about the moral aspect of engaging a nation into a war on falses premises. There is a few articles here and there in the press or tentative questions on TV (CNN's 'Dead Wrong' is a good example), but the questions are ambivalent at best. They have to do with "intelligence failure" and not with this administration's failure which has taken virtually no responsibility whatsoever for its "mistakes".
In any case, the wake-up call for some Americans seems to come in too late. Pulling out too quickly and too soon might lead to further chaos. The responsible attitude is to secure Iraq before leaving, both physically and politically. It is a huge task but the Bush administration should have thought twice before getting the nation into this mess. It is sad that so many troops have to pay the price and it is one's hope that Cindy Sheehan's opposition will rally people who will at last hold the White House responsible for their actions.