Hitler’s Law

I am told this was actually articulated by one of Adolf’s henchmen. The law is about how to convince the public of something that is not true. It goes like this:

Tell a lie. Tell a big lie. Tell it over and over and over. The bigger it is, and the more you tell it, the more people will be convinced that it must be true.

There is a perverse logic to this: something like, he/she wouldn’t say that if it werent’ true, eh?

How do Cuba and the USA compare?

All comparisons unfairly select topics to further a point of view or an ideal.

That said, a comparison of Cuba and the USA might note the following:

They have the same infant mortality rate. This despite the embargo on medicines affecting Cuba. Cuba does have universal health care. See Michael Moore’s DVD, Sicko, for more on that.

Cuba exports doctors (mostly to Venezuela) and imports oil. The USA exports complex financial derivatives and imports oil.

Cuba could be in for a leadership crisis. The Castro’s have no clear successor. The USA is in a leadership crisis: Obama believes in cooperation even when he clearly isn’t going to get any.

Cuba is more or less self-sufficient, with some help from Venezuela. The USA finds itself on the wrong end of debt and trade deficits. If foreign central banks stop buying US paper, the dependency will become glaringly obvious. The USA is not self-sufficient. Some cities, and some states, are effectively bankrupt in their own right.

In some places in the USA democracy has taken over with a vengeance. The state of California cannot now impose additional taxes without a referendum. In some few areas in Cuba traces of free enterprise are now being encouraged. By and large, however, the central government has controlled everything it could reasonably be expected to be able to exert power over.

In the USA, cars are manufactured by domestic and foreign companies, and some are imported, also from domestic and foreign companies. In Cuba very old American cars are still visible. No new cars come from the USA, however. They come from Europe and Asia. The old American cars, and motorcycles, are maintained by ingenious workarounds due to the lack of spare parts.

In America, a major storm created a panic and there was, regrettably, some loss of life. People were told to evacuate, but there was no clear storm shelter. In Cuba, hurricanes can pretty much go over the whole island. However, it is rare to have loss of life during hurricanes: someone might be unlucky and step on a downed live wire, for example. Everyone in Havana knows where the nearest storm shelter is, and they practice getting to them.

Cubans were, the times I was there, rather helpful. We wanted stamps for a collector and they opened the book and let us choose. We wanted coins for a collector, and they swapped for American (it was briefly usable there) and helped us get quite a variety. The owner of an unusual, open-top sports car lifted the hood for my camera, and showed me the owner’s manual, so I could tell folks at home what it was. This without asking.Try any of this in New York, where we actually speak the local language.

Some citizens flee Cuba on makeshift floating lash-ups, trying to get to the United States. Conversely most US citizens cannot get to Cuba legally either. I am not aware of any invasion of the USA by Cuba, but there was of course the Bay of Pigs attempt. Castro’s coup was against a leader installed by the USA. Cuba did give Che to South America.

Cuba does not try to influence Canadian policy much. Enough said.

In the USA, a top lawyer probably makes more than a good doctor who makes more than a teacher. In Cuba they all have similar earning power.

In the USA, high tuition keeps the non-elite out of the top schools, universities, and colleges. In Cuba, everyone can go as far in any course as their ability to learn it will carry them, for free. In the USA, a doctor graduates with a debt and moves to the best practice he can get. In Cuba, a new doctor is given a clinic and a home, but probably in some small village, where he practices for two or three years before being allowed to move, should he (or she) then choose to.

In the USA, the prescriptions are for depression and cholesterol. In Cuba the medicines are often herbal. Remember that the infant mortality rates are very similar.

Americans try to live their lives as best they can, within a regime where the middle class (and below) are relatively powerless. Cubans try to live their lives as best they can, are relatively powerless, and are pretty much all middle class.

Were we fooled?

You will recall that the two auto companies that were significantly bailed out by your tax dollars have triumphantly proclaimed that they have paid back their loans.

Were we fooled? Almost all of the bailout was a gift; a small part of it was a loan. I think we also got some stock, which “we” sold at a loss. Claiming to have paid back in full is a bit much, eh?

You will note that the Obama administration was unwilling to let the Bush tax cuts, mostly for the rich, expire. That seems to be because those cuts included small tax cuts for middle America.

Were we fooled? Did the Bush administration generously put in small cuts for the middle class, or was it a ploy to make the expiration of all the cuts less politically palatable?

The strategy in the two cases is similar.

There are other instances of bundling one thing with another, apparently to mislead the public.

I have a bad memory about the ? 787 billion dollars in the first bailout of the US finance industry. My bad memory is about the number of earmarks that were attached to the legislation enabling the payout. I believe the number of earmarks was some 900, which is more than two per congressman.

Were the American taxpayers fooled? Did every jurisdiction, pretty much, get a bonus supplied by its representative, in the form of a spending project in his electoral district? As part of an emergency bailout of bankers who would, shortly after the recovery, bonus themselves generously again?

Were we fooled?

On Teaching Techniques: Ketchum’s Law

F@#! teaching techniques. That was the answer I got when I asked Richard Ketchum what his theory of teaching techniques was. He was then head of Communication and English at Humber College. He taught an adult class of creative writing. Thus my question.

His answer continued:

When I want someone to understand something, to internalize it, I try to remember how it was I came to understand that thing. Then I try to take the other person through a similar experience.

That could also be the definition of some poetry, written not so much to entertain or amuse, but to communicate.

My debt to Richard is obvious.

Google, and corporate malfeasance

In today’s paper we learn that Google paid some half-billion dollars to settle some advertising misadventures that had been going on since 2003. This according to the Toronto Star.

It appears that, by allowing Canadian pharmaceuticals to advertise, and sell, to American households, prescription drugs whose export or import is illegal, Google broke the law. The amount settled for is said to be the ad revenue generated plus some other dollars Google collected.

Amazing. Suppose a person advertised for those pharmaceuticals. Would a person be allowed to give up illegally gained cash, admit no wrongdoing, pay no other penalty, and continue with the rest of business? Or would a person be taken to trial, and probably jail?

Why are corporations legally persons? They can get away with things real humans can not.


Art in the Subway (Toronto):could it be free?

With the upcoming, or not, transit expansion in Toronto, there have been many interesting claims about funding and cost and waste. Yet incredibly there was a contract for many thousands of dollars to have someone recommend what art should be put up in the new stations. These stations aren’t just not built yet, they aren’t really funded for sure either.

The dumb question is, do we have to pay for subway art?

Subway music is tightly regulated. I know, I have a guitar-playing friend of considerable talent who once did this. Musicians must have some sort of permit from the TTC, must pass a talent test, and line up for the privilege of playing in subway stations for whatever loonies you and I might throw at their instrument cases or hats.

I would think that artists would be delighted to provide simpleĀ  or indicative versions of their masterpieces purely as advertising for themselves and their talents. Acquiring a name, market visibility, moves an artist into a significantly higher price bracket. We could have tasteful self-promotions of local artists. We could require them to get our permission to display their wares in our subway stations. We could allow our artists to promote themselves. Small exhibitions might be possible.

Compare this to our TTC musicians, who create little name recognition for themselves, no matter how well they play for our benefit. Once they move on, we never hear about the vast majority of them, ever again. And the musicians have to be physically present all the time they expect to be noticed.

So the dumb question is, could we get reasonable art in our stations for free? Would the artists consider this to be a reasonable deal?

What do you think?