mardi 15 mai 2012

Memo to Romney: gaming the system does not create jobs or heal economies

According to The Wall Street Journal, of the 77 companies in which Bain invested while Romney headed it from 1984 to 1999, 22 percent filed for bankruptcy or went out of business. In addition, Bain hid its profits in tax havens. And a recent article in Counterpunch quoted William D. Cohan, a Wall Street deal adviser for 17 years, who wrote in the Washington Post: “Seemingly alone among private-equity firms,” Bain Capital under Romney’s leadership “was a master at bait-and-switching Wall Street bankers to get its hands on the companies that provided the raw material for its financial alchemy.” Cohan said Bain “did all that it could to game the system.”

Out and about

Jo Cougan and me at Peter and Rachel's wedding, April 28, 2012.

jeudi 10 mai 2012

mercredi 9 mai 2012

Mitt Romney grabs credit for auto industry turnaround that should go to me!

Since it seems to be up for grabs, I would like to take a lot of credit for the auto industry turnaround. My grandpa and my daddy and my uncle all worked in the car business, so that entitles me. I was doing dealer trades the day I got my driver's license at age 16. I worked the switchboards and made sure the vending machines were working. I ripped up hundreds of Styrofoam coffee cups, just to pass the time, and doodled on hundreds of pages of Westside Ford letterhead. And then I supervised the auto industry turnaround, just like that. I snapped my fingers and it was done. So please ignore Mitt Romney - what kind of name is "Mitt" anyway? - he's just one more opportunistic trust fund baby, taking credit where it is certainly not due. Don't let him take the credit for my accomplishment!

jeudi 3 mai 2012

Monsieur Lazhar at the Egyptian

This Canadian film was the big winner at the recent Cérémonie de Génie, which is the French-Canadian version of the Oscars. I'm not surprised that this touching and magnificently filmed story was selected as the best film or that Mohamed Fellag, the actor who plays the title role, got the nod as best actor. The delightful 11-year old who plays one of the kids in Monsieur Lazhar's class, Alice (played by Sophie Nélisse), was named best actress in a supporting role. All the kids in this movie are fantastic. In fact, I find that the French (by which I mean French, Swiss, Belgian, Canadian, etc.) have mastered the art of realism in bringing children and stories about childhood to the big screen. Etre et Avoir, Entre les Murs, the more recent Tomboy and Le Gamin au Vélo... to name just a few. Basically, Monsieur Lazhar tells the story of an Algerian seeking political asylum in Québec who steps in to take over a primary school class after the teacher, a young woman, commits suicide. Bashir Lazhar is not really a teacher, as he claims, but he manages to connect with and understand the trauma induced by this violent introduction to death, for reasons that emerge in the course of the film. Indeed, the ubiquitous violence of the world outside the classroom is one of the underlying themes of the film. The teacher's suicide inside the classroom makes a strong statement about the futility of pretending the world is otherwise. Well-meaning adults provide assistance (a psychologist is assigned to regular visits with the class), but they are both afraid to let the kids speak their minds and express their real fears and stymied by the excesses of political correctness imported from the US that have seeped into the pedagogical framework they inhabit. Parents expect school to be meaningful but also demand that teachers to teach without educating. In a telling scene with the parents of one of his students, Bashir is explicitly told to enseigner mais pas éduquer. I couldn't help but think - in light of the events that may have provoked the teacher's violent suicide - about the bill being considered for passage in Tennessee, which would prohibit such gestures as hugging at school because these gestures are considered to be "gateway" sexual activity. This is a movie that raises important issues without trying to resolve them or push a point of view. It manages to both teach and educate without ever becoming heavy handed. Seul bémol: the ending.