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The Big 4 Blogging…Well 3?

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

The speed and vastness that is the Internet will never cease to amaze me, especially when it comes to blogs. Obviously, I have one (even though I’m poor at updating it). Blogs are everywhere and for everyone, including the chief executives of nations. I’m sure this is not news to those who live in cyberspace, but who would think that the leaders of 4 major national powers would be blogging (when they probably should be attending to more pressing national issues – poverty, inflation, unemployment, raising taxes, etc.).

Who are these 4 nations – Russia, The United States, Japan and China. You can get to the first 3 of these blogs very easily, just hit the links. Apparently there was a rumor that Hu Jintao, President of China, did some microblogging, but I could not find it (didn’t really put all that much effort into it).

Out of the 3 I could easily find I am not surprised by the look and feel of Obama’s or Medvedev’s. Both really reflect the men, and how I think they see themselves and their nations. Obama’s is sophisticated and polished, and easy to navigate, much like Obama himself. As far as I’m concerned Obama isn’t hard to understand, if you listen to the man, and not the diatribes of the dimwits who roast him. He hasn’t done everything I would like, but he surely hasn’t put the U.S. on a course of disaster any more than Dubya and his cronies did. If the Republicans actually had some ideas and could actually present them in an articulate manner then maybe things would be better. Will the real conservatives please step forward!

President Medvedev’s blog is very clean cut and easy on the eyes. Like the man himself. It looks like it could have been conceived by a well-trained lawyer who also served in the Russian military, like Medvedev. For a nation with all the problems of Russia, the mere appearance of the blog gives me some hope that this nation with great potential will one day come back to full form, but with a more benign and humane profile.

Like I said, the Chinese blog was not found, except for the rumor that President Hu did some blogging somewhere. I gather the blogger Hu Jintao is much like the man himself – brief and to the point, but also elusive from the camera’s eye, or reporters’ questions. The blogs look would of course highlight the very best of China, and be cast in read and yellow. It probably would also be very serious and not send any indication that China is lesser than any other major world player. If the Beijing Olympics was any indication of the grandeur and sophistication of China look for a blog equally as grand, but also very sophisticated and intelligent.

The final blog is the most interesting (I think) because it fully characterizes what I think Prime Minister Kan means to the people of Japan – a bit of a cartoon. Anime and manga might be big in Japan, and a cultural export the Japanese have marketed to perfection, but it doesn’t need to appear on the blog of the Prime Minister. Kan’s header is basically a big caricature of himself. I have been trying to give Kan the benefit of the doubt, and take him seriously in all that he says, but the blog just looks unsophisticated and unintelligent. I’m not talking about the commentary, I’m just talking about the look. Japanese aesthetics might be grounded in minimalism, but the minimalism also has some taste and style to it. This looks like the blog of an elementary school child. Compared to the sophistication of Obama’s and Medvedev’s blogs I can’t really take Kan’s too seriously.

Now, maybe I’m just looking at this with a pessimistic perspective. Kan could very well be taking the piss of himself when it comes to the illustration that heads his blog. If so, more power to him, but after being in Japan for some time now, and knowing Japanese people the way I do, I think these people deserve more and better from their leader. I do like that Kan, apparently, writes comments himself, and posts regularly. That said, Japan has some big issues to deal with. I hope Kan can balance dealing with structural deficit that will collapse the nation, and attending to his blog.

So, what does this all mean? Not much, just that leaders of nations feel they need to connect with people and to do that blogging is great. All the sites are seemingly nationalistic and promote the overwhelming positive aspects of the nation. Why not? What would be the point of posting critically negative stories? Ironically (or not if you think about it), and for what it is worth Medvedev’s blog is set-up to appear in multiple languages (Russian and English).

Peace

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Buy American Clause Not So Bad

March 8, 2009 1 comment

So as I’ve been following the recent downturn in the world economy, and paying a special note to the blame being given to the United States for being the cause of this bleak situation. I guess turnabout is fair play. I mean, U.S. leaders try to dictate to the rest of the world how it should act, and we often play the blame game, so I guess it’s our turn. We took some stupid risks, and now everything is messed up…Sorry. I would like to hear more concrete solutions than blame, but what do you expect it’s human nature, right?

Within this time of note, I’ve been paying particular attention to how this new administration is going about things. President Obama and his team seem to be trying to get the U.S. back in shape, not only for the short term, but for the long term. This brings me to the subject of this post.

In the new stimulus package, that was recently signed into law, there is this little clause headed, “Buy American – Sec. 1605. Use of American Iron, Steel, and Manufactured Goods.” This little clause seems to be getting all the attention, as it apparently rings of protectionism towards U.S. industries. Interestingly enough, since this whole global downturn started many countries seem to implementing “protectionist” policies. From Sarkosy looking to help French automakers by floating them money to Russia raising tariffs on imported cars to India restricting certain ‘made in China’ products from entering its nation, the protectionist swing is going on, and it seems to be the hippest move.

Okay, back to the ‘Buy American’ clause. I don’t know what the problem is? If you read the whole thing, it’s really not that bad. Check it out:

BUY AMERICAN
SEC. 1605. USE OF AMERICAN IRON, STEEL, AND MANUFACTURED
GOODS.
(a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made
available by this Act may be used for a project for the construction,
alteration, maintenance, or repair of a public building or public
work unless all of the iron, steel, and manufactured goods used
in the project are produced in the United States.
(b) Subsection
(a) shall not apply in any case or category
of cases in which the head of the Federal department or agency
involved finds that—
(1) applying subsection
(a) would be inconsistent with the
public interest;
(2) iron, steel, and the relevant manufactured goods are
not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably
available quantities and of a satisfactory quality; or
(3) inclusion of iron, steel, and manufactured goods produced
in the United States will increase the cost of the overall
project by more than 25 percent.
(c) If the head of a Federal department or agency determines
that it is necessary to waive the application of subsection (a) based
on a finding under subsection (b), the head of the department
or agency shall publish in the Federal Register a detailed written
justification as to why the provision is being waived.
(d) This section shall be applied in a manner consistent with
United States obligations under international agreements.

The heading is all tough and protectionista like, but the actual body of the clause sings a different (at least in my opinion). First of all, this clause is referring to PUBLIC BUILDINGS OR PUBLIC WORKS. The private sector can do whatever it wants, and if a project is found to be INCONSISTENT WITH THE PUBLIC INTEREST things can change. Not convinced that this leaves the door open for foreign competition, well how about if the manufactured product you want is in short supply, too expensive, or just downright sucks? You can opt for an alternative. Oh, and to top this all off this clause states that it SHALL BE APPLIED IN A MANNER CONSISTENT WITH UNITED STATES OBLIGATIONS UNDER INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS.

Can I get some relief, and some calm? Of course any project manager that wants to waive this clause so he/she is not in violation of U.S. law, will need to put everything in writing (small price to pay…okay more paperwork – say it…Bigger Government!).

Maybe what the Obama administration is trying to do is motivate U.S. industries to raise their product quality, while making sure things remain fiscally sound. Again, this is pertaining to public projects, so maybe Obama is trying to make the Federal Government fiscally sound?

Personally I think the central government should use homemade products. I would take it as a source of great pride to know that my tax dollars when to the construction of a building that uses quality American goods, produced by my fellow citizenry.

So this doesn’t pertain to fuel, cars (unless built for government use), homes, cotton, food, etc (at least that’s how I interpret it). If China can spend billions upgrading it’s physical infrastructure, and encourage its population to buy Chinese made goods, why can’t we do the same?

In any case, I hope the global community doesn’t get in too much of a huff (I might be too late on that one) over the ‘Buy American’ clause. It’s not as tough as people have been making it out to be.

Peace

Russian Bear Not Hibernating

January 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Aside from the fact that Russian bears at the Moscow Zoo really were not hibernating because of the lack of snowfall in Moscow, Russia seems to be gaining headlines for other “more serious” reasons (at least where the Europeans are concerned). In a show of power, the Russian government shut down natural gas lines running through the Ukraine, which cut off natural gas supplies to much of Eastern and Central Europe. According to Russia the government the Ukraine was “stealing Russian gas destined for Europe.” The BBC has been reporting on this, and says that since Wednesday, when the pipelines were shut down, European countries like Serbia, that run almost exclusively on gas from Russia, had been severely affected.

Apparently though, Russian and the European Union have signed an agreement that will secure the flow of gas to Europe. The only catch is that the Ukraine has to sign the agreement. But since the relationship between Russia and them have deteriorated so, I wonder if they will sign the agreement (a bit of posturing for face saving is in order here). Maybe under the weight of the European Union the Ukraine will come round and sign the agreement, thus opening up the flow of gas from Russia.

This growl by Russia just underscores why we need alternate fuel sources. How can Europe be at the mercy of Russia? It’s like The United States and oil from The Middle East. We are addicted like a junkie to heroin. Use natural gas, but don’t be a slave to it.

This is not the first time Russia has done this, and Prime Minister Vladmir Putin has asserted that the days of cheap natural gas are over. He is obviously laying the rhetoric for more gas wars with the Ukraine, Europe, and the rest of the world; agreement or no agreement.

I wonder when the growl of the Russian bear will be actively heard in the United States? And how will the U.S. government respond to such growls because this Russian bear’s growl comes with a pretty stunting bite…this is no cub we’re dealing with. Beware.

Peace