Archive for March, 2009

The (Blue) Eyes Have It

Is the answer to our economic woes, as The Who famously put it, Behind Blue Eyes?
As we slog through this economy, we search to simplify the causes, to understand why and how we got into this mess. And the answers are not quick in coming, nor easy to articulate.

Along comes Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva with the simple truth we have been seeking. In a press conference yesterday, he attributed the global financial crisis to people who are “white” and “blue-eyed.”

This was a crisis that was fostered and boosted by the irrational behaviour of people who were white and blue-eyed, who before the crisis they looked like they knew everything about economics, but now have demonstrated they know nothing about economics,” he said. Hmm.

Lula de Silva is crying foul that developing nations suffer alongside the wealthier countries. “…The fact is that once again we find that most of the poor who have not even participated in globalization have been the first victims of the crisis,” he said.

First of all, let’s examine Brazil’s role in the global market. According to the CIA World Factbook, Brazil is the ninth-largest economy in the world, with a 5.2% “real” growth rate in 2008, due mostly to the “record trade surpluses” on exports such as coffee, soybeans, wheat, rice, corn, sugarcane, cocoa, citrus; beef. Though the USA’s GDP is nearly seven times that of Brazil’s, our GDP growth for 2008 was but 1.4% in 2008. Brazil has most certainly participated in and benefited from globalization. If you want to share in the globalization of the profits, el presidente, you have to be ready to share in the globalization of the losses. Don’t come to the party, then leave when it’s time to clean up.

Second, let’s look at Lula de Silva’s word choices. Suppose President Obama were to blame Brazilians for some aspect of this crisis, perhaps owed to the trade imbalance, by describing them according to their skin and eye-color. He, and the nation he represents, would be called Racist. Lula de Silva apparently gets a pass. the story didn’t even make the national news, nor did it appear on CNN’s feature links this weekend.

He could have lay blame on the “wealthy,” on the “powerful,” on the “Consuming Americans,” on the “greedy,” on the “CEOS,” on the “bankers,”…but instead, he ridiculously points his finger at people based on race and eye color.

In the Dark: Earth Hour

The World Wildlife Fund is hosting an awareness party from 8:30-9:30 this Saturday night. To attend, just shut out all of your lights for Earth Hour, and you will magically bring instant awareness to the global crisis of climate change.

According to the Earth Hour website, 2500 cities are participating in 82 countries. The Eiffel Tower, the Giza Pyramids, and the Acropolis are all going dark for this “cause.”

The World Wildlife Fund and the Earth Hour celebrity spokespeople/environmental experts–Ed Norton, Cate Blanchett, Sheryl Crowe, and Alainis Morrissette– are already in the dark on this one, and Saturday is a couple days away.

What will an hour without light do to further the cause against climate change?
Will sitting in the living room lit only by the warm glow of the television as I watch Law and Order: Criminal Intent forever reduce my neighbor’s carbon footprint? Wouldn’t I be better off reading The World Is Flat under the glaring light of a compact-fluorescent bulb? I’d always thought illuminating a subject was a way to bring awareness.

Turning off the lights for an hour isn’t a move to reduce electicity usage; if it were we’d be asked to shut off all of our appliances, our computers, our televisions, our XBox 360s. Instead, this is a collective symbolic action. But I am not sure what it is symbolizing…mass ignorance is the best I can come up with.

Anyone giving their lightbulbs a one-hour break would have more effect furthering the cause of climate change by walking to the corner store instead of driving, using “green” toilet paper, and shutting off the spigot when brushing their pearly whites–in other words, DOING something.

What we need right now, when times are tough and the world is in transition, is not LESS light, but more. We are all in a Seasonal Affective Disorder funk, and the one thing that can bring us out of it is light. Transparency, awareness, and illumination.

As Dylan Thomas famously advised, “Rage Rage against the dying light.”

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

WSPD News reported at every half hour yesterday that the Toledo Blade is considering another round of layoffs as it struggles to remain financially viable as an industry undergoing a double-whammy: the reader ship culture is shifting AND the economy is affecting revenue.

Several posters at Swampbubbles made comment that the newspaper is dying.

Just because The Blade is laying people off doesn’t mean that it is “dying.” It is undergoing a change, like any business. You know, kind of like the climate…tee hee hee.

However, this is one business that hasn’t been as innovative as it could have been to head off the turning tide of technology.

It’s not as if those in the newspaper biz didn’t know this was coming–There is a chapter in my 1992 textbook on the History of Mass Media entited “Hopes and Fears; Technology Trancendent.” They just haven’t acted as proactively as they could have.

I recall that the professor in this class (Dr. Ralph Frasca) told us a story about a Civil-war era prognosticator who invented a system for “instant delivery” of the newspaper to hopes via a tube system not unlike the one you use at the bank or pharmacy drive-thru. Duh. That’s the Internet, minus the big tubes linking houses to the newspaper office. Instead, we have DSL cables.

The newspaper can still function–and function well–digitally. Indeed the best writers will always have a job as text transfers from paper to screen, and generations who relied on the paper pass on, and new ones become accustomed to carrying their readers with them.

Newspapers just have to shift their income structure into online formats and face greater competition. Perhaps under this new model, the best writers will be sought after, because they will set a publication apart from others.

The Hit Parade

Just In:
CNN News reports that Rihanna and Chris Brown have recorded a duet together. The couple recently made headlines when Brown assaulted his 21-year-old girlfriend. The photo of her battered and bruised face were leaked to the press.

I wonder what they sang together? Love hurts? Hit me Baby one more time? One Hit to the Body. Break Something?

Over Taxed and Under Water

Out and about early yesterday, regretably without the camera, I had to make detour after detour to avoid driving through high water. Anyone who lives in Toledo knows that this is all too common as of late. This time, however, the water was much deeper and covering many more yards than during past floods.

Yard after yard in the Trilby area had a pond added to the landscaping overnight.
A friend who lives in the area posted as his Facebook status, “Just waiting for the water to go down so I can get my car out of the driveway.” He wasn’t the only one; I drove by a cul de sac near Talmadge that was completely under what appeared to be about 8″ of water, down four side streets where more than ten driveways were underwater.

My husband and I went to a friend’s home near Oakridge and Barstow late yesterday afternoon and found his basement ten inches high with water that backed up from an overloaded sewer system. His guitar cases were strewn in the side yard (the guitars appear to have escaped damage), his computer was waterlogged, as was a semester’s worth of paperwork. More than half the residents of the street were pumping water from a hose snaking to their basements. Their backyards were completely covered with water.

This city has an infrastructure problem–its storm drains/urban drainage system cannot handle a lengthy rain. We’ve known it for some time. The city made some proactive correction when it did some work in the Shanty Creek area. After Tuesday’s deluge, a Crawford Street resident boasted of “only two inches” of water in their basements.

We should not settle for “only two inches” of water and certainly not idly stand by in our waders and blame the flooding on leaves clogging storm drains, and a “monsoon” conditions, as Mayor Carty Finkbeiner did in a press conference today.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur’s list of earmarks for her district includes money for a fish-kill study, the Metroparks, and my favorite: Greater Toledo Arts Commission Creative Industry Development for “marketing and development of local artists and their work… to build web presence and increase e-marketing and sales opportunities for local and regional artists, and to attract and retain arts related businesses.”

And nothing to improve the overtaxed storm water drainage infrastructure? What this city needs is an expanded underground water detention system like the project finished in Dallas, Texas, in 1996. This would have put plenty of people to work and improved the health and happiness of our citizens. Instead, the citizens are over taxed and underwater.