Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh-oo-oh, you think you're special

I once joked that when my blood pressure is too low I go and buy the Time Magazine. It works better than medication and with less side-effects. Now that I live in Sweden however, the Time Magazine doesn't stare at me on the register in every supermarket. Since Stefan cares about my well-being, he now has a subscription, special offer, EUR 20 for one year. And thus, on our road trip from Frankfurt back to Stockholm I browsed through one of the recent issues. So I can now offer you a particularly nice example for American arrogance self-confidence.

In the March 11 issue, Andres Martinez suggests one of "the most important trends of the new decade" in his article
The "important trend" is, in a nutshell, that the world will become a Global America:
"The fact that the rest of the world is becoming more like us — in ways good and bad — underscores the extent to which we are living in an American century, even as it erodes, by definition, the notion of American exceptionalism."

He derives this development towards The Global America from a thought experiment:
"If you bring together teenagers from Nigeria, Sweden, South Korea and Argentina — to pick a random foursome — what binds these kids together in some kind of community is ..."

Let's see, what could it be that binds these teenagers together? They like Pizza? They have skin problems? They think their parents are embarrassing? No, it's actually...
"... American culture: the music, the Hollywood fare, the electronic games, Google, American consumer brands."

Well, to be honest I don't know very much about the Nigerian music scene, but I'm not sure what this is supposed to say except that some countries can't really afford to invest millions in "producing" stars. So let's for a better comparison have a look at this week's German top 10 single charts. The singer's nationalities are in order from 1 to 10: German, German, Belgian, German, American, British, French, American, Virgin Island (I guess that's still British?), American. 3 out of 10 is not bad, but maybe Martinez should take a trip to Germany or France and turn on a radio to get a realistic perspective on the international music scene.

Sure, I am willing to admit that he is right to a large extend, American music and movies are wide spread. And yes, we all use Google and it's an American company. But that's the past. How is that predictive for what the next century will look like?

Well, Martinez isn't done with his insightful analysis. He further lets the reader know:
"As anyone raised in a different country will tell you, two of the strongest impressions someone has on arriving in the U.S. are 1) what a great country this seems to be, and 2) what a mess it must be, judging by the tenor of news coverage and political discourse."

rotfl, the strongest impression that I had after moving to the USA was 1) what a mess this country is and 2) how ridiculous it is that the news coverage desperately tries to protect the American "exceptionalism." Martinez' article is an excellent example of 2).

As you can guess I know a lot of people who are European (mostly German) who spent a postdoc in the USA. They generally share my impression. Let's face it: American food either sucks or is overpriced. American highways are countrywide in a pity state. Americans seem to have no clue how to do a decent plumbing work or how to achieve a functioning canalization. They will instead always tell you there's something specifically weird with their weather. For example, it might rain. Or the sun might shine. Windows in America either don't open or, if you managed to open them, they won't close. Since the windows and doors don't really close, naturally there always has to be a heating or air conditioning running. And let's not even start with issues like education, poverty or health insurance. I think you get the point. The only thing that's really exceptional about Americans is how they still manage to believe they are exceptional.

But you know what? This lifestyle based on low quality standards and constant maintenance has one big advantage: it increases the GDP that Martinez is so proud about. Yes, that's right, every time you wreck a wheel in a pothole, every time your child gets sick, every time you call the plumber, every time you call customer service, every time something breaks and has to be fixed, every time something can't be fixed and has to be replaced, the GDP goes up.

Luckily, unlike what Martinez writes, Europe is not turning into a second America. We actually have working public transportation over here. According to the World Economic Forum the most tech-friendly country is Sweden. Past 2001 the "Top Intelligent Community" has not been in the USA (and in 2001 it was NYC, hardly representative for the nation). If you go to the dentist next time, look at the label of the instruments because chances are the equipment is made in Germany. In the biggest part of Europe same-sex-partnerships are legal. In Germany, prostitution is legal, so is abortion. How long will it take for Americans to crawl out of the 20th century? And Shania Twain, who wrote the line that is the title to this blogpost, well, she's Canadian.

Okay. Now that I'm done with Martinez' ridiculous essay let me get this straight. I'm not a nationalist. There are indeed many things about America that I like very much. Ahead of all, there's the entrepreneurial spirit which is taken on in the, infinitely better, article "In Defense of Failure" by Megan McArdle in the same issue of Time Magazine. If you have a start-up idea, if you want to try something new, if you want to be crazy: America is the place to go, not Europe. There are many things Europe could learn from America, ahead of all maybe how to establish a proper "union," and there are things America could learn from Europe, ahead of all maybe how to build proper highways. The same probably holds for other parts of the world. We can all learn from each other, and this exchange is not a one-way process.

I don't think we'll globally converge on the same values and tastes any time soon, and I don't think this would be desirable either. There are some issues we have to converge on in an increasingly interconnected planet, and we have to work on that. But it is extremely unlikely that the outcome will be The Global America.
    "You're Tarzan!
    Captain Kirk maybe.
    John Wayne.
    That don't impress me much!"


  1. With regards to your chart analysis, it should be "3 to 7" or "3 out of 10", take your pick.

  2. Eh...

    Well, I've never been in the USA, so I cannot judge. But somehow my "external" impressions seem to coincide with your "experienced" impressions.

    Notably, I have the very strong impression that Americans must eat too much junk food and have a pretty bad idea of what is to eat fresh (real) fruits and vegetables every day, something to be seen as not extraordinary. E.g., traditionally, food in Brazil is very healthy, with plenty of vegetables, beans, fruits, etc. But there has been a tendency in the last few years for children to acquire bad habits like eating more junk food than usual, staying too much in front of games instead of playing outside (Brazil has a great climate for that throughout the year), so children here are starting to get fat! This is not as bad as the situation in the USA, but it is already worrisome, a phenomenon that didn't exist before. Influence of American "culture"??

    Ah, I'd like to say that the best pens are produced by Germany, the only ones I really like. :) I also certainly prefer classical music, which has been mostly produced in Europe. American films (at least the ones that arrive here) are horribly violent and action-paced. The end of most stories are quite easy to anticipate.

    These are negative things that I see, from a indirect point of view. There are good and bad things in every country of the world. Not sure about the "dominance" of American culture (it certainly exists at different levels in any country) -- whether it will increase or not in the next decades.


  3. Hi Christine,

    Funny that you say that about the pens! I also noticed at some point that it's really hard to get decent pens overseas. They typically leak or smear or dry out really fast. But thing is, if you've grown up with that, that's just the way things are. And if you're constantly told that's the best there is, why doubt it?

    The trend to overweight might have started in the USA, but I think it's unsurprising and would have happened sooner or later anyway. We just were not meant to live in an over-abundance of food, and that over-abundance is only fairly recently. It will take time for us to adapt, maybe a generation or two. While overweight can be a serious issue I don't think this is the end of the world. There are much more serious problems that we have.


  4. While overweight can be a serious issue I don't think this is the end of the world. There are much more serious problems that we have.

    Certainly there are! But the most important ones do not seem to come from the USA, or from rich countries, but elsewhere. And just the opposite: to have no decent food at all to eat. Poverty and ignorance which dominates the undeveloped world. Etc.


  5. We just were not meant to live in an over-abundance of food, and that over-abundance is only fairly recently.

    Over-abundance... for those who can purchase it.

    But it is more a question of quality of nutrients, as well as a question of too much processed food as contrasted to natural, unprocessed food. So an over-abundance of food would not be a problem per se if the quality was adequate and people were educated enough to know how to have a balanced diet.

    (Cheeseburgers are difficult not to resist, specially children. What I do with my son, for instance, is not to forbid them (or similar high-calories, fat or junk food), but to limit them and offer "good" food most of the time. Well, fortunately my family do not have overweight issues... But in any case...)


  6. America's singular contribution to the world was individual freedom - freedom from religion, freedom from government, freedom from caste; a neutral judicial system, a constrained police force, a meritocracy in which personal endeavor and money were blind forces of achievement. Prosper or starve by your own hand. All that is finally ended with a vengeance.

    America imported the smartest, best educated, most achieving people. The average Los Angeles Unified School District IQ over a 700,000 student population (California Academic Performance Index normalized to Caucasion = 100), is 80.

    21st century America has but one enviable attribute remaining: potable tap water.

  7. I wrote:

    Cheeseburgers are difficult not to resist

    read, of course

    Cheeseburgers are difficult to resist

    Uncle Al wrote:

    Prosper or starve by your own hand.

    Indeed, that was not a bad idea.

  8. Uncle: As little as I know about American history, it was to my best knowledge not meant to be the place to go to be free from religion, otherwise most of the pilgrims would have been atheists. And it is today in fact one of the most religious developed nations. Rifkin in his book "The European Dream" goes so far to claim that these deeply religious roots are the actual reason why America doesn't get out of the middle age and Americans continue to believe they are exceptional. Rifkin's book isn't particularly good (lacking evidence, lots of storytelling) but there's some grain of truth to most of what he writes. Best,


  9. free from religion

    Was Uncle Al referring to free oneself from religious intolerance? Even if that was the case, it still does not make any sense from what I know.

    BTW, if you really want to free yourself from whatever intolerance, go to Brazil, where even intolerable things end up being tolerable.

  10. When you mix this feeling of being exceptional with our strong anti-intellectualism ("We must stand up to the experts!"), all sorts of mischief happens - our two current wars as an example.

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  13. Hi Bee,

    Thanks for the insight on what has your blood come to a boil. as prompting your pressure rise. Then I think more than anything you and many are most ticked by is the sheer audacity of what is perceived as the stereotypical American attitude. I can recall such discussion before on your blog and what I pointed out as what has many to have trouble with American culture and attitude, is exactly what has had them to succeed in the past and that is their unapologetic boldness.

    Now being Canadian I have what I would call a deeper insight into this then many, resultant of being a member pf that other North American culture and if were to allow ourselves to be stereotypically defined it would be those mostly humble Americans. That is until the last thirty years or so, if one was in urban or rural North America the founding cultural base was pretty much indistinguishable, except perhaps for a larger number of French confined mostly to one region. However, if one was to scratch an American you’d reveal first a patriot, while when your scratched a Canadian you would still find a proud citizen, yet one being a little wary to take things to the extremes that our southern cousins do and prefer not to wear pur allegiance on our sleeves or shout it from the tallest buildings. Also we don’t have any real envy of them and our economies are not so different that there is much migration in either direction, which unfortunately isn’t the same on the southern border of our neighbours.

    However, besides all this the thing that will most likely thwart the prediction of your scorned author is something that I have'nt yet shared with you as being a major deep difference between us, which is one that within the years since 911 has us to be even more aware of it than most. So what is this difference I speak of? Well if you if you scratched that American one more time, you would find an isolationist, with this becoming even more pronounced when they feel threatened or perceive they are under attack as to be in danger.

    On the contrary the average Canadian feels a closer and broader association with the rest of the world, as to have come to believe that mutual understanding and cooperation to be our greatest means of protection and security. So in many respects I have a great empathy for our American cousins, as having so much in common, yet can only manage sympathy in respect to how they regard and then react to the rest of the world, as I never have understood it despite as much as I’ve tried. So all you others have nothing to fear, because what is called American culture is the part that is for sale and what it truly is they are still unwilling to have it be shared.



    P.S. Oh by the way, the one that plays Captain Kirk, although depicted as an American in real life is William Shatner, a proud Canadian from Montreal and although Tarzan was played by and American, his character was British and although even though Superman lived in the fictional US city of Metropolis, his creator also was born in Canada; and then so much for myths and stereotypes.:-)

  14. Ah, so Bee, you are saying that America is exceptionally unexceptional :)

    Nigeria has a huge film industry of its own. It also watches Bollywood - movies from India. e.g.,


    I think what will be true is that the world will increasingly be closer to each other in technology but use it in different ways.

    Nice post, and I'm going to cite it.


  15. "The only thing that's really exceptional about Americans is how they still manage to believe they are exceptional."

    couldn't resist mentioning that the frontier of Science still lies in American soil, and no one can deny that. Europe is dragging so far behind that I cannot even start the comparison... Take theoretical physics as a working case, there isn't much coming out of Europe these days, although to be fair, there isn't much coming out, period. :p

    Moreover, the academic environment is SO MUCH BETTER in the USA compared, to say GERMANY, that
    you'd have to be out of your mind to chose the latter... (let alone talk about getting *actual* jobs rather than 5 year postdocs with teaching.)

    Bottom line, these bastards are still on top of the world, whether we like it or not... :D

  16. Where did Einstein chose to spend the last 22 years of his life again? And Dirac? Where did Weyl wind up. Godel? Help me out here. Who else?

  17. That was the previous century... The article claims to be about the next...

  18. Garbarge:

    the frontier of Science still lies in American soil, and no one can deny that. Europe is dragging so far behind that I cannot even start the comparison...

    Look at this and think again. See China on the rise? And note that Germany and France are but one country each in the EU (the EU is not in the graph). I would agree with you for what theoretical high energy physics is concerned (not so sure about nuclear physics or condensed matter, where's your data?). In other areas, well, I don't know. I once sat in a plane next to a guy who turned out to be a prof for public health in Canada (in Waterloo, actually). He said he spends a significant amount of his time in Europe (Denmark mostly) because in his area the research there is significantly ahead of America. But the frontier of Science certainly lies in American soil?

    Moreover, the academic environment is SO MUCH BETTER in the USA compared, to say GERMANY, that you'd have to be out of your mind to chose the latter... (let alone talk about getting *actual* jobs rather than 5 year postdocs with teaching.)

    That's simply not true. The academic environment, both in the USA as well as in Germany vastly depends on the institution/university. It is true that the German system is far less flexible than the American one, which is one of the reasons why it's so unappealing. But the point of my post wasn't to say that Germany is totally great and America isn't. In fact, when it comes to complaining about the research perspectives of theoretical physicists in Germany, I'm the first in line... The point of my post was to say that it's hopelessly naive to believe at the end of the next century the world will be a global America. Best,


  19. Hi Phil,

    Ha, I didn't know that Captain Kirk is Canadian! It's so funny how many American singers/scientists/writers/actors upon closer look actually turn out to be Canadian.

    In any case, the Americans being what you call "isolationist" is I think related to their exeptionalism. They believe they muse protect themselves, they are afraid to lose their exceptional status. This is abundantly clear when you apply for a visa, they always seem to imply that clearly when you don't hold an American passport, your only dream must be to get one. Just look at that quote from Martinez article, it genuinely doesn't seem to occur to him that people might prefer to live elsewhere. But to be fair, Martinez in his article doesn't come off as an isolationist. He seems instead to say that a consequence of American success is that its culture spreads and thus becomes less exceptional. It just didn't occur to him that it's less a spreading and more an exchange. Basically, he's arguing against isolationism and for global Americanization ;-)

    Well, yes, I have some sympathy for boldness. But my sympathy has a limit where boldness implies you insist the whole world has to agree with you. What I find so disturbing about America is not that they do their thing, but that they believe everybody must agree their way is the only right way. And the Europeans, they are all socialists and everybody knows socialism is bad. When you look at Europe in comparison, the sense is more like: okay that's the Americans, and they have slightly other values, and they do some things differently, and some things they do better, and some things not. And they are always good for a laugh...

    As to the Canadians, I found them way more open-minded and advanced than the Americans. As I said at an earlier occasion, my impressions are mostly from Western Ontario though, so maybe not really representative.

    Either way, I think Obama is doing pretty good so far. Better actually then I thought, I was afraid he would turn out to be a populist. I sense some real change is on the way there, so it will be interesting to see what the next decade will bring.



  20. I do not like the US as a place to visit or live, and I *really* do not like the way that Americans are willing to tolerate hideous levels of crime and then lecture other countries about how they should run their affairs. I hope never to have to visit the US any more.

    Having said all that, I must reluctantly say the following.

    First, I don't agree that the asymmetry between attitudes to each other works the way Bee claims. I see a lot more really vicious hatred of the US among Europeans than the reverse.

    Second, for some time now the US has been the dominant country politically/militarily. That may not be good, *but* consider the alternative. Imagine that Russia were in that position. Or China. Or --- sorry --- Germany. Not a nice thought. Not at all. For all their failings, if we must have a dominant country, the US is the least bad choice.

  21. Well, we don't need any country dominating the world. Nobody asked for that.

    But tell me where do you see the hatred you speak of?

  22. Bee,

    You should have specifically taken issue with the writer of the article instead of negatively stereotyping an entire nation. Each time I see generalizations about a whole nation,whether positive or negative,I realize how ignorant that person is.I never judged all of Germany based on what one person or another might have brought about in my ethnic group and that might have started with a negative and broad generalization.


  23. Hi Ervin,

    Well, my post is directly a critique of Martinez article and not of a whole nation. When it comes to the comments, sorry, point taken. However, this isn't the first and probably not the last "exeptional" article Time Magazine publishes. I wonder what would happen if a German went out to write an article claiming that at the end of the century the world will be German... Best,


  24. Bee,

    You say:

    "Well, my post is directly a critique of Martinez article and not of a whole nation"

    To be clear, my comment referred to your statement:

    "The only thing that's really exceptional about Americans is how they still manage to believe they are exceptional."


  25. Hi Ervin,

    I see. Well, I already apologized. It is of course true that there are always exceptions to everything and every stereotypical clichee is unfair on some people. But you know what, Germans do indeed drink a lot of beer and they do like Soccer and Lufthansa does really serve Pumpernickel sandwiches.

    Thus, instead of calling me ignorant for a single sentence I wrote, why don't you just say what you want to say. Is it a) You believe most Americans don't think they are exceptional and Martinez is not representing them very well? or b) Martinez in in particular not representing you very well. Or c) Most Americans do think they are exceptional, but they don't like others raining on their parade?



  26. Hi Bee,

    Yes I follow what you are saying here with considering US isolationism as a consequence of their exceptualism, which in truth is how they would like to have it perceived. However, I would consider it what has them exposed as being more ordinary as this isolation revealing this boldness in part as bravado which is betrayed in having this isolationism revealing the fearful part of their collective conscious.

    I think it at least in part has to do with their very foundations, being rooted in revolution, rather than evolution, where they gained their freedom by collective decent and war, as opposed the eventuality of a mutual understanding leading to reasoned agreement. Thus I feel in some respect that although they are proud as to feel that they have fought to earn their freedoms and privilege, it is also thought as the only mechanism by which it may be maintained as to be so jealously guarded.

    This is exemplified as they maintain as a right to act as they see fit to protect the national interest, even if those targeted in the process make no direct attack or even the suggestion of one. This has the mere perception of danger have them feel justified in taking any action they find as necessary regardless of how those outside may feel.

    The bottom line is this isolationism is that it is something rooted in their geatest of fears, rather than their boldness, which although at times is real, often simply isn’t and thus totally irrational. There is a name given to this if a individual is so inflicted being called paranoia, yet when its inflicts a nation it exhibits itself as to be known as isolationism. To be perfectly honest, although I find that the US has been unable to propogate there spirit reflective of their boldness, they have as of late been few successful in both sharing and having accepted as to recognized as true their most deepest of fears.



  27. Captain Kirk (the character) is from Iowa; William Shatner (the actor) is from Canada.

  28. Sure, is what I meant. Phil was very clear on that.

  29. Hi Phil,

    I think the US paranoia is not completely unjustified. Not only have they made themselves a prime-target via that same boldness that they now feel endangered. But maybe more importantly, who (or rather: what institution) do they have to rely on if not themselves? I should probably add I'm not a pacifist, and I do think war is sometimes a necessary evil. There's ways to do it and ways not to, but these are very involved questions that often have to be answered under time pressure. What we have on global (multinational) political institutions works very poorly (if at all) for complex questions and under time pressure. In that situation, I am afraid that to some extend the rest of the world has come to rely on America to be the global asshole, and they've come to like their role and, not surprising, they use it first and foremost for their own needs. Best,


  30. Hi Phil,

    You can have Shatner back anytime. :-)

    Hi Bee,

    Ah, the last century, so long ago.

    "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
    ... Neil Armstrong


    "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
    ... Neil Armstrong

    Note: he said mankind, not Old Glory.

    From another century:

    "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy."
    ... John Adams, 2nd US president

    And what did his son, also US Prez say?

    "You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you make good use of it."
    ... 6th US president John Quincy Adams

    5 years ago only 51 Nations were ranked in the Top 100 entities in terms of power on Planet Earth. Most of the rest were Global Corporations, not all of which were American-based. Just most of them. Nations are becoming increasingly marginalized.

    I agree the author was a bit too over-zealous. The next (current) century clearly belongs to China and India, and Brazil, if socioeconomic inertia means anything, and it does.

  31. "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

    Yeah, difficult not to be proud if one belongs to the nation responsible for *the* greatest achievement of mankind (up to now).

    The next (current) century clearly belongs to China and India, and Brazil

    Ha ha ha... Brazil is so much "in fashion" these days.

  32. To me, Hubble is worth a dozen moon landings... In any case, the future is in global collaboration, not in the nation state. There's a science fiction novel, Neal Stephenson I believe, in which nation states are being replaced with global corporations. It's one of the more enlightened political visions I've come across. It's not hard to believe it's going to happen. Just that there still need to be local administrative systems below that. Best,


  33. Bee, You say that nobody asked the US to become a superpower, but you are ignoring a lot of history. It was the two attempts by crazy Germans to conquer the world that drew the US into Europe and made us a super power. It was keeping Europe (and especially Germany) from being conquered by Russia that cemented our superpower status and created lots of our modern attitudes toward the world. After the crimes of WW II were revealed many serious people said "level the cities and sow the soil with salt," but instead the allies, under the leadership of the US nurtured democracy in West Germany and helped it become an economic powerhouse. Americans remember these things even if Germans would prefer to forget.
    For what it's worth, I don't think that the 21st is especially likely to be an "American Century," but you were hardly honest when you said you weren't criticising Americans, just an article in Time. You also turned your vituperation on our food, roads, plumbing, mess, press and attitude. I don't think American's are the only ones with attitude.

  34. To me, Hubble is worth a dozen moon landings...

    There was a huge development in terms of engineering (all subfields), physics, mathematics, medicine and computation in order to put the man on the moon. This achievement was the synthesis of practically all knowledge of mankind.

    In a sense, to put the HST in orbit is a spin-off from the space program.

    It is undoubtedly true, however, that the HST opened our view of the Universe in an unprecedented manner, and increased our knowledge of the the cosmos.

    The former program (put the man on the moon) involved the biggest synthesis of knowledge up to that date by the mankind in order to be successful, and brought numerous practical achievements in several areas. The latter had its own technical challenges, and gave more scientific output.

    As being an astrophysics myself, of course the HST is more interesting and valuable, but I still think the landing of the moon was the greatest achievement of all up to now given its pioneering character and remarkable application of the synthesis of human knowledge.


  35. Hi CIP,

    I have just stated my experience with American food, insulation of housing, plumbing, canalization and road conditions. The bottomline is: I'm not impressed. That's to provide a counter example to Martinez claim that "As anyone raised in a different country will tell you" what a great country the USA is. My opinion on the country is somewhat more differentiated, as I was trying to convey in my post. I know many people who have made similar experiences. You don't have to believe that, and you don't have to like it either. Please regard it as a sharing my experience, I was thinking it might be of interest to one or the other reader.

    I said above to Phil that sometimes war is indeed a necessary evil, and for lack of adequate global institutions, the USA has taken on a special role, for better or for worse. That is the status, what I was trying to say is that it doesn't seem to me like the optimal solution. And we don't live in the 1940s anymore.

    If you think Germans "would like to forget" the role of Americans in WWII or after this, you don't know anything about Germany. If any nation is excelling in WW II history-preservation, it's the Germans. But isn't it funny how the Americans insist that Germans have to be grateful to them?

    Yes, actually, I do have a lot of attitudes. Despite being German.



  36. Hi Christine,

    I think the moon landing was so successful with the great achievements you mention because it was a goal that has literally been hanging above us for million of years. It was a goal that motivated all these scientists to work together. If you had told them we'll build this Hubble-thing and put it in orbit, it probably wouldn't have had the same impact. In that I totally agree with you on the achievement. It's just that from the scientific side, I'm not too interested in moon-dust. Best,


  37. PS: Oh, and the greatest achievement of mankind is clearly aero-chocolate ;-)

  38. No, Bee, it is not. It is the bread.

    The bread started it all and culminated with the man on the moon.

  39. The world isn't becoming increasingly Americanized, it's becoming increasingly globalized. These two concept aren't the same. If they were, American corporations wouldn't be outsourcing their jobs overseas, which is the main reasons why the US has such an enormous jobless problem on its hands. So if Obama really wants to do something to correct this problem, he shouldn't just demand that American corporations no longer be given tax breaks for outsourcing jobs overseas, as he said in his State of the Union Address back in January, he should go much further by demanding that American corporations be slapped with huge taxes for shipping jobs overseas. But because the White House and Congress are both bought and paid for by Wall Street, the headquarters for all American corporations, nothing will be done about this, I'm afraid.

    But I do think that if the American people would wake up to the fact that thanks to Wall Street, American corporations have become so integrated into the global economy that they should no longer be thought of as American corporations, then they'll quickly realize that American corporations couldn't care less if America's jobless rate shoots through the roof. The American people need to realize that American corporations no longer have any loyalties to the American economy, their loyalties now only lie with the global economy. So if American corporations continue to push American workers in the great global race to the bottom, then American workers should push to have their CEOs join this race, too!

  40. Which leads me to say that despite what Tom Friedman says in his joke-of-a-book entitled "The World Is Flat," the global economy isn't playing on a flat playing field until top-executive jobs across America also are shipped to low-wage countries. I find this to be particularly appealing not only because it would enable top executives to get a taste of their own medicine, as they join their underlings in the great global race to the bottom, but it would also enable our corporations to save hundreds of millions of dollars by not having to pay their top executives more than what the global market demands. But because top executives are in cahoots with their boards of directors to keep their wages and benefits uncompetitively high, and because shareholders are powerless to do anything about this, I doubt that top executives will be joining their underlings anytime soon in the great global race to the bottom.

    Ratios, just like pictures, speak a thousand words...

    Ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay by country:

    South Africa
    Hong Kong
    United States


  41. Ervin Goldfain said... "You should have specifically taken issue with the writer of the article instead of negatively stereotyping an entire nation. Each time I see generalizations about a whole nation,whether positive or negative,I realize how ignorant that person is.I never judged all of Germany based on what one person or another might have brought about in my ethnic group and that might have started with a negative and broad generalization."

    Generalizations are perfectly fine as long as the person interpreting them is not ignorant enough to assume they are meant to be 100% accurate.

    Let's look again at the one in question:
    Bee: "The only thing that's really exceptional about Americans is how they still manage to believe they are exceptional."

    Now do you really think the author actually believes that *every single one* of American people considers himself exceptional?

    That would be a really stupid thing to say, as it is manifestly wrong (newborns), so of course everyone who doesn't have an axe to grind understands that the statement (as is almost always the case with human language) is only meant to be approximately true.

    If you made a good faith effort to understand it you would realize that the phrase actually means:

    "The only thing that's really exceptional about (many Americans who believe they are exceptional) is how they still manage to believe they are exceptional."

    Which is a perfectly valid opinion to express.

  42. What is special, and is special in democratic countries, is the "idea of the constitutions" in which expressions of the culture shall predominate given the basis beyond the ideas of separation, such as gender, race or status of income.

    Once you go back, what ever century, you move back to our current day. You must see how these things have born out from the minds of the drafters who had written the words and instilled them in the constitutions for future generations.

    How were they carefully crafted?

    Societies who lead on democratic principles must bear out the words by consensus on direction for that society. If the country falters then, it has faltered on those democratic principles?


  43. Love this! And there are plenty of Americans (myself included) that agree that our country could learn a thing or two from Europe. Not all of us are rabid social conservatives that insist upon cramming that particular lifestyle - and all its problems - down others' throats.

    As to the food/obesity epidemic, yes, there is one. While much of it has a lot to do with overall food choice, just as much has to do with what the government get away with stuffing into food here. This goes for anything from hormone-injected, corn-fed meat, to high fructose corn syrup in crackers, cookies, etc. If you have not watched these films already, I would strongly recommend the following:

    Food, Inc.
    King Corn

    I'm sure there are other films/books I could suggest, but these two sum it up quite nicely.

    As for myself, I'm considering getting out as soon as my partner and I finish our studies and can find respectable work. Of course, there's always the 'stay and fight' option, but when you're progressive, atheist, vegan lesbians living in Alaska - which is a perfectly acceptable piece of territory, save for the fact that it produced Sarah Palin - there are few chances of success.

    Sorry this country has a habit of torquing you with its arrogance. I sincerely hope the attitude changes at some point in the future, for the sake of everyone involved.


  44. Bee asks: "But tell me where do you see the hatred you speak of?"

    In France and the UK, and you will find plenty of it too in congenitally miserable places like Greece -- though admittedly Greece isn't really in Europe... Germany is a bit different; not so much hatred, more contempt for the American barbarians.

    Being neither American nor European, I have to say that I don't see much difference with regard to attitudes to places where things are done differently. For every American lecturing about the joys of American-style democracy, there is some equally obnoxious [insert European nationality HERE] telling us that we are savages for having capital punishment. "Our way is the only way" is certainly not a uniquely American disease.

  45. I must say based only from experience in grad school, that I found European grad students (French, British, Belgian, Greek, Yugoslav were represented) to be champion whiners.

  46. CIP,

    When I went for jury duty, the whole pool of jurors was treated to a video presentation, the main point of which was that the US system of justice is the best in the world.

    Well, it may be. But no matter how good it is, I think it can be better.

    Likewise, knowing doctors from India who have visited here, even though things may be very good, they see ways in which it can be better.

    In most cases I can think of and the above two are no exceptions, the belief that "we are the best" is a strong barrier to "we can be better".

    I think a case of that very disease hit the US car industry and let the Japanese overtake it.

    If a people are exceptional it should be in their modesty and their sense of humor. Any other type of exceptionality risks reverting to the mean. Well, maybe not exceptionally stupid :)


  47. One area where the US is definitely not exceptional is in broadband connectivity. As Lawrence Lessig pointed out, the US started out at the top in internet connectivity and has fallen to the 15th or 16th place. This he attributes entirely to government policy. In most of the world, an "open access" policy was adopted, where telcos have to allow other vendors access to the cable (copper or optical) to the home; while in the US, the market was left unregulated.

    In effect, telco regulation can increase competition and the unregulated market (in telcom) reduces competition, because of the natural monopoly that exists.


    PS: with regard to being the best - Toyota's troubles came about as it became the #1 auto company. Fact is that even if you're number one, you have to keep the attitude of number two wanting to displace the reigning champion.

  48. Hi Rastus,

    Yes, the French and English are very patriotic. The issue of capital punishment is one that sparks a lot of fears and emotions, it's unsurprising the discussion is very heated and partly irrational. The underlying question in this case is whether capital punishment is an issue that all countries should agree upon, or whether it falls in the national authority. I don't know how this will finally turn out. I keep reading that death row candidates are terribly expensive, thus maybe financial considerations will eventually settle the issue... (As a curios side-note, the German state Hesse where I've grown up still has a death penalty. It's just that it's inactive because the federal law prohibits it. They just never bothered to change the law.) In any case, there are of course anti-American sentiments in Europe. As I said in my post, that's unfortunate, because Europe could learn something from America. Best,


  49. Hi Drakona,

    I actually meant to see Food Inc, the trailer looked interesting. Is it worth the time?

    As anybody who has ever been on a diet can tell you the food choice is a matter of habit. If you've grown up with American food, you get used to it. That's childhood, that's family, that's how it's supposed to be. Since I haven't grown up in America, I tend to find all bakeries, cereals, candy, etc incredibly sweet, fatty and generally artificially tasting. Americans I've met on conferences in Germany on the other hand tend to find German bakeries dry and not sweet enough. Unsurprisingly so. Similar things go for sauces, cereals, soft drinks, fast food etc. And let's not even start on the bread. By and large it's a mystery to me how people can like the stuff. Of course there's things I've come to like too. Starbucks for example :-) On the other hand, good food in America is hard to get or terribly expensive. Take cheese as an example. In any case, as I said to Christine above, these are things that can dramatically change within a generation or two and maybe we're just seeing the begin of that change. Best,


  50. Bee: "I keep reading that death row candidates are terribly expensive, thus maybe financial considerations will eventually settle the issue..."

    Maybe in the USA where you have to feed a horde of lawyers, normally it's a much cheaper solution then supporting and policing a criminal for life.

    And if you factor in the crimes those who escape/are released commit it's actually a crime to be against capital punishment - those against it share some of the responsibility.

    There is nothing inhumane about quick death on the contrary it's a very humane way to leave this world, much more humane then what many of us will have to face. The biggest joke is that we couldn't even get such humane end if we wanted.

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  52. As a curious side-note, the German state Hesse where I've grown up still has a death penalty.

    I imagine you're aware of the important role of Hessians in setting up America, and the many who immigrated here after our Revolution?

    Indeed, the makeup of America, by heritage and according to the World Almanac, is German, first, English, a close second, Irish, a distinct third, and Italian (go Snooki!), a distinct fourth. So the more people understand about these countries and their histories ...

    - Germany
    - England
    - Ireland (Eire, whatever)
    - Italy

    ... the more you'll understand our culture.

    But in the beginning it was primarily English, French, German, Dutch (NYC! If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere! A place so nice they named it twice!), and Swedish.

    The European ties are strong. Yes, Europe can learn a lot from America. Vice versa, too.

    For example, I'm reading about the Knights Templar at the moment. How they ended, with King Philip IV of France slowly having De Molay & company burned at the stake, etc., is an important cautionary tale with multiple implications for these our modern times.

    And what of Athens! A city-state that started The Peloponnesian War after coming to the defense of a colony of a colony of Corinth, with Corinth getting Sparta to join up with it on the other side. Athens could kick either's arse, but not both. They didn't hear about the Medes and Chaldeans teaming up to kick and destroy the Assyrians at Ninevah, I guess. Or they did and hubris won. And Athens was lost. Democracy died, until Adams and Jefferson and Franklin brought it back, millennia later, with big assists by Voltaire and John Locke.

    Two good books for non-Americans to read to understand our volatile and very young country are : "Mayflower," and "1776". If fact I wish more Americans would read them. Truth is stranger than fiction. History doubly so.

  53. Hi Steven,

    ”You can have Shatner back anytime. :-)”?

    It looks like we might do just that, as to have him become our next head of state :-), Then again why would you say that as Shatner expressed the greatest quality of Americans with having his character not believing in the no win scenario. Actually I can understand your frustration as the last seed Montreal Canadians have eliminated the first seed Washington Capitals from the playoffs. Then again that’s what you get when you hire the top Russian to do your bidding instead of the top Canadian:-)



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  55. Hi Bee,

    I guess you were also aware that the person’s lyrics that you had sum things up is also another of those from the Great White North. Although we would both have to admit that the one who helped bring her to fame and fortune was some top dog from England :-)



  56. why would you say that as Shatner expressed the greatest quality of Americans with having his character not believing in the no win scenario.

    Because Shatner's the hammiest actor in existence now that Robert Culp is gone, an egomaniac without peer, Director of the worst Star Trek movie ever, and a sex addict that makes Tiger Woods look like a amateur. Michael J. Fox and Celene Dion and you are The Pride of Canada, Phil, not Bill.

    "Bill was very passionate about his work. Unfortunately, Bill was passionate about everything."
    ... Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), director of the BEST Star Trek films, especially Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home, generally considered the best of them, with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a close second.

    Bill is an obvious massively insecure idiot, who embodies the very worst of Ayn Randian "Objectivism", and that horrible non-religion made-up-for-profit "religion", Scientology.

    Like I said, you can have him back anytime.

    Having said that, he not only nailed the role of Captain James Tiberias Kirk perfectly by Gene Roddenberry's high standards, in doing so excellently defined the very role of "Starship Captain", an actual job that will come to pass in a few hundred years once we settle the Solar System and the Alcubierre drive or somesuch comes to pass, and so his influence in that regard I'm sure will not only not be forgotten, but copied. For that is notable and very much appreciated.

    Other than that though, he's a putz. He's hoping he wises up in his senior years. We haven't heard the last of him. Damn.

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  58. Hi Steven,

    Yes it’s true that Shatner is not the best of actors or perhaps has not the greatest of intellects and yet we have more to offer to the effort, as although we might not portray as the best of heroes, we certainly can as the best of foes:-)



  59. This is my message to Plato and others of you who have mentioned democracy as it relates to American exceptionalism:

    No country can have a viable democracy without also having a thriving middle class. And now that America's middle class is heading towards extinction, thanks to neoliberal policies first adopted by Reagan, then by Clinton, and now by Obama, American democracy as we know it is also heading towards extinction. To make matters worse, Obama and his fascist enablers in the White House, led by Cass Sunstein and Rahm Emanuel, are doing their damnedest to tighten a noose around our Bill of Rights, essentially cutting off the entire oxygen supply to our already beaten-down democracy. So if this is what American exceptionalism is all about, no one -- right, left or center -- should want it!

    Read some of Glenn Grennwald's posts and you'll know what the hell I'm talking about. And as you read them, keep in mind that Obama is a knuckle dragger compared to Greenwald when it comes to constitutional law. His understanding of our constitution and his respect for it outshine Obama's by several solar masses!




  60. Nooo! Not Starbucks! ;-)

    In all seriousness, yes, dietary habits are very much a learned thing. I was raised in a household where, if one wanted junk food, one bought it. Kinda hard to do when you're five. Sweets were a rarity, and then they were homemade, most of the time.

    As for the sweet stuff - even when it shouldn't be - on the shelves in American grocery stores, again, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is in just about everything, largely because corn is subsidized by the government, and therefore cheap; it is thus subsidized because of the cattle industry, which in turn supports Big Pharma. But I digress.

    Anyway, yes, if American parents took more care in regulating what their children could get their hands on, there probably wouldn't be such a big (pun not intended) obesity problem. However, that would also require Americans, on the whole, to be more active and informed voters. This could change, but more and more, it seems to me that voters here just don't care enough to be informed, and would rather be driven by 'hot-button' issues.

    And yes, the bread here might as well be cake :-P Which is why I make my own.

  61. You must know I am Canadian and not all Canadians think alike.:)

    For myself it has always been to try and understand the "foundational issues" that arise, how ever abstract it can appear, can explode on the much larger screen.

    Attempts at economic reform from a mathematical perspective or some other means in which to interpret that process in society.

    Some algorithm, that would define from "first principle," issues that speak from the diverse populations as those ideals in society arrive at from where?

    So group minds/global societies gather to advance the mission statement, and/or direction these foundational principles can/will, become part of society.

    Can we gauge then, the failures of our democracies based on the principle by which this society stands? So yes, it is large pallet with which to paint experience that it covers all of our daily experience across the globe.

    How are we to be satisfied that we are living true to these values? A "foundational basis then" which supports our distinction about the larger agenda with which we have engaged our groups/societies?

    Each group/country democratically creates the constitutions.

    As I told one before, such a draft for the global community had been attempted by myself but I hesitate, as the sight of the UN by principle could stand as such a case, as the principle by which such countries gather, yet, it's distinction had to arrive out of the decency of he individual on the larger scale you see?

    As we would treat another, shall we so be treated?


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  63. Hi Bee and Christine,

    Yes going to the moon was more of a goal then a means to an end, much as climbing a mountain such as Everest is, yet one that required a huge technical advance and commitment of resource to accomplish. Unfortunately also like Everest it is even more uninhabitable and is for the most part why we haven’t returned.

    When you think about it objectively, we haven’t yet terra formed much that is more readily accessible then the moon and should be more appropriately called homo forming, rather than terra forming to begin with, as a fish, penguin or a snake can easily thrive in environments which we still find as nearly impossible.

    So I would say it’s more of how we might be able to have bread where we would like to go, more than anything else. I would contend then as a entire species we have a tendency to think we are more special then we actually are and then in this sense perhaps we are all Americans, for better or worse.



  64. Hi Phil,

    Well, although one clear possible motivation for landing the man on the moon was to open the possibility for a "future human colony" on it, I still think this misses the point of the program, from the point of view of its pioneering implications.

    Landing the man on the moon is the synthesis of the following statement: that we, as a species, evolved to the point of

    (i) understanding that we live on a planet, that is has gravity, a force that, at least classically, is understood.

    (ii) the umbilical chord that attaches man to its home by gravity can be cut by artificial (ie., man-made) mechanism (rocket), an incredible instance of engineering advancement of our species. Also, it is possible to visit another completely alien body, which we have never stepped on -- in this case, the nearest cosmic body - the moon - and get back safely, from deadly environment for our species.

    The primitive man cognitively saw the moon in the sky for the first time thousands of years back and could not understand it. Go to the moon, land on it, and see the earth back is the synthesis of our current evolution.

    I don't know what the future brings in terms of placing mankind in another planets, we are very far from this. The main problem is the survival in lower gravity conditions in the very long term; perhaps our species would have to change in order to accomplish that.


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  66. Hi Christine,

    Wise words. To add to those, we should stop thinking of "the Moon" or "Luna" or "Cynthia" as "a satellite" of Earth. The Hubble Observatory is a satellite.

    The moon is part of the double planet, Earth-Moon. To think of it otherwise is dishonest in my opinion. And without Moon, and the tides our double creates, does life evolve?

    There is another double planet in our Solar System, and much more so than Earth-Luna, and that is:

    Pluto-Charon. What wonders will we see in 2015?

    And yes Christine, Brazil is very much a player in the next century. Your country doesn't depend on Oil. That is an amazing accomplishment, and South America in general is very much ignored on the international stage. That is a strength.

    Wait and see. ;-)

  67. Phil and Christine,

    Both of your comments about sending men to the Moon reminds me of Obama's recent remark about sending men to Mars. I don't know about you, but I think that Obama is being more than a little contradictory in preferring to send astronauts over robots to Mars when he prefers using robots over pilots to drop bombs on Muslim populations from Baghdad to Islamabad. Perhaps he doesn't know that robots have evolved to the point where they are better than surgeons at performing most types of operations. But if he did know this, I'm sure that, more often than not, he'd prefer robots over surgeons to perform operations on him.

    So it does make me wonder why Obama doesn't want to replace astronauts with robots, too. I imagine that astronauts are no different from most of us working stiffs in that they lack the deep pockets to bait Obama into protecting their jobs from being replaced by robots. I suppose it's possible that aerospace contractors like Lockheed Martin have deep enough pockets to bait Obama into not scrapping manned spaceflights. But I don't know enough about the aerospace industry to know for sure what's motivating Obama to do this. But what I do know is that Lockheed made a bundle off the backs of us taxpayers by putting on a shock-and-awe airshow for us at the start of the Iraq War. So I suspect that the likes of Lockheed have a lot to gain by keeping spaceflights manned by men. Read Richard Cummings' "Lockheed Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and you'll know what I'm talking about:



    As they say, following the money is the best way to get to the bottom of most anything. So for those of you interested in getting to the bottom of what's motivating Obama to push for manned spaceflights, I'd suggest that you first see if Buzz Aldrin is being paid by aerospace companies that stand to gain by keeping spaceflights manned by men. But I'd also suggest that you not dig too deep into this, otherwise Obama may very well have you charged with violating "State Secrets" and have you put behind bars, just like he did to NSA whistle-blower Thomas Dale:


    Just more evidence that the glory days of American exceptionalism are well behind us.

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  71. Hi Christine, Cynthia & Steven,

    I think you take me wrong if you feel I believe that the moon missions were a waste of effort and or resource as I actually feel that the space program culminating with the Apollo missions were the high water mark for all humanity, especially as it concerns American science and technology. Yet I agree with Bee that was the past and it seems like America has now slipped behind as a result of not having a plan to continue and yet most due to the fact that the American people have been totally disinterested in it now for several decades.

    That’s mainly because the public during the early years were not so much concerned with the high ideals that you speak of and I can assure you I share, yet rather it being a race for space supremacy between themselves and the former Soviet Union. The landing of Apollo 11 to most Americans at the time then simply confirmed for most they had truly won the race and then ever since their interest has steadily declined to the point that it has vanished from the collective conscious of their nation.

    So once again I find America as a nation as of late being one more motivated by fear (in this case being the fear of failure and to be second best) then any positive and or higher ideals that would give me reason to trust this as being the blueprint for the betterment of our future progress. Also if I could be so bold, although admittedly far from perfect, the Canadian concept of `Multi-Culturalism``, as opposed to the American ``Melting Pot`` I would suggest provides a better foundation from which to build such higher ideals and subsequent actions to be taken as to have what you and I envision to have this eventually realized.



    P.S. Sorry for all the many erasers, yet this only serve to point out that things are better when they are evolved rather then revolutionized.-)

  72. I think given the understanding that not all the information is available to all, some the perceptions will be based on insufficient data?

    Now, just for the hell of it look at the links for examination and understand that the science has been going on while there has been this perception at a lull, has in fact been working with a science and space program.

    LCROSS Observes Water on Moon

    Plato's Nightlight Mining Company is claiming Aristarchus Crater and Surrounding Region

    Let's for a minute think about the subject of property and the divisions on earth? As a global community how will such ventures look as a subject of that global community if the idea of such properties are the subject on earth as too the division of those countries can exist on the moon?

    Plato:In order to consider mining pursuits on the moon I needed to understand the makeup. My company has laid claim:)

  73. Hi Plato,

    You more than any should understand as your namesake was first to have made clear, that for most it is what they perceive to be real, as what stands as being reality as to be important as to be true. So I would agree that since Apollo much has been accomplished, yet for most it goes unrecognized as they have and for perhaps always will remain as to see only the shadows. In as it is those whom are needed in support have it required for it to continue, how then can it be expected that it will? I would also make note that Plato`s prisoner`s were as much as they were resultant of their fears as they were of their ignorance.



  74. Hi Phil,

    I raise the issue of "property" as a thought about the global community and our move to space colonization.

    Taken from

    Plato:Russia and United States must stop sovereignty challenge to Canada's North in order to move forward with global initiative to colonization of the moon.

    Phil, as to the idea of foundation, you must understand how it is "I see" in order to understand what the shadows "are" from the perceptive of some central core or idea manifesting as some "object of materiality." The planet.

    How all our thoughts "gather around" as if some higgs field that perpetuates the understanding that all will gather around it in thought too.

  75. Hi Plato,

    In as much as I respect as to admire your seeking and kind nature, I find that your answer fails to address my question relating to ignorance and fear. In general I would respond to your concern about property and subsequent issues of ownership, that if such things exist at all they are in themselves restricted by the very nature of time and as being fundamental are not in of themselves as best not only shadows yet more importantly at best fleeting ones.



  76. I think you take me wrong if you feel I believe that the moon missions were a waste of effort

    Hi Phil,

    No, I didn't feel that way, sorry for any misunderstandings.

    Hi Cynthia,

    Well, my pure opinion, for what is worth, is that it makes no sense at all, at the present time and given the state of affairs in several issues (which I do not intend to elaborate), to have a program to send a man to Mars.


  77. Hi Christine,

    I’m gladdened that you didn’t have me pegged for being a ‘flat earther’ :-) I must also agree with Cynthia that if we are ever to find ourselves to be able to homoform other worlds that the initial phases would need to be carried out by intelligent robotic means. This opinion I found best expressed by Gerard t’Hooft at a public lecture I attended a few years ago.

    However, he as I find it hard to imagine such a program could ever be supported by the general public if at it centre it having no Buck Rogers. It appears that in at least this case Science Fiction has a negative effect when it fosters such misconceptions and unreasonable expectation.



  78. Hi Phil,

    If there is ever a "conclusion drawn" it is by nature the property of the owner and is a determinate of their future.

    Can't say I haven't tried to be clear as well.

    Phil:So once again I find America as a nation as of late being one more motivated by fear (in this case being the fear of failure and to be second best) then any positive and or higher ideals that would give me reason to trust this as being the blueprint for the betterment of our future progress.

    I see you did make reference to the melting pot versus multiculturalism. :)

    I do not think for one minute that the 305 million people of United States did not have their roots as immigrants to America in one form or another.

    The constitution, as they were drawn up had to deal with the rights of "all people" and this is the fairness to which a democratic country can speak righteously to all that inhibit it's boundaries.

    Yet, I would say that on a global scale, these rights should form the rights of individuals in that global community.

    Betrayal of Images" by Rene Magritte. 1929 painting on which is written "This is not a Pipe"

    Plato:The jest here recognizes, that a picture of, and the real pipe are very different indeed. How is "form" perceived from perspective. The picture of the pipe and the real pipe are different things? And yet in this comparison, there is a third aspect as the idea?

    So from the notion of the fire of things(creation)there is a progression towards reality?

    An entropic idealization one might say?:)Yet reductionism has been reached to define the expression of the reality and there is this space in between?

    Ideas are in that space. It's disposition is far from the ideal. Ideals are a solidification of the idea. Ideals, are the hard statements that come from solidifying those ideas.

    Fear, is a shock to the boundaries of the system. Can be sent into disarray, when the system is felt to be failing.

    Whose boundary? The individual, the society, the global community?

    It is highly predictable to know that if one's resources are becoming scarcer, one tends to re-evaluate and prioritizes.

    On a larger scale, that may mean society slows down on it's spending. The enormous debt, coming home to roost.

    IN that global community it may mean some are doing better then others. It may mean within some of those countries that are doing better, there will be some who are not doing as well.


  79. Hi Phil,

    I never said that manned-missions to the Moon were a waste of time and money. Quite the contrary. At the time, that's what it took for the US to become the world's leader in science and technology. But today, things are far different. The way to get ahead in the world is by leading the world in robotics. China is well aware of this. And because rare earths are the necessary ingredients for the manufacturing of robotics, this explain why China is doing everything in its power to prevent other countries from get their hands on its own rare-earth mine in Inner Mongolia, which is the largest and most productive of its kind in the world. Believe me, China takes great pride in the fact that it has become the Saudi Arabia of rare earths.


  80. "Let's face it: American food either sucks or is overpriced. American highways are countrywide in a pity state. Americans seem to have no clue how to do a decent plumbing work or how to achieve a functioning canalization. They will instead always tell you there's something specifically weird with their weather. For example, it might rain. Or the sun might shine. Windows in America either don't open or, if you managed to open them, they won't close. Since the windows and doors don't really close, naturally there always has to be a heating or air conditioning running. And let's not even start with issues like education, poverty or health insurance. I think you get the point. The only thing that's really exceptional about Americans is how they still manage to believe they are exceptional."

    Well, I'm glad, as you repeatedly state, that you're not generalizing about America.
    Lousy plumbing? My God, I didn't realize what a dump we all live in over here. Why are virtually all the foreign graduate students in math and physics, in the three universities I know of, trying to stay? (Of course, I wouldn't want to generalize form just three universities). Didn't anyone tell them about the plumbing? And why is your blog in (an error-prone version of) English? Should you not consider a language spoken by a better class of plumbers?

  81. Hi FD,

    Thanks for your valuable comment. You too seem to not be able to understand that I have simply stated my experience as a counterexample to Martinez claim. Evidently, my English must be far worse than I thought. And clearly my blog is in English because the next century will be American, hahaha. Thanks for the entertainment,


    PS: As to the students, pick the German, French and English ones and go and ask them.

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  83. Hi Bee,

    I agree the American diet is atrocious. Sugar, salt, and fat make tons of money for those who produce them, and you know how good we are at Marketing. We are grossly obese. Huntington, West Virginia, is the most obese city on Earth. Jamie "The Naked Chef" Oliver of England has a popular show on our television currently, in which he lives there and it trying to change that with education, beginning in the school cafeterias. It's hilarious.

    The plumbing and windows thing I didn't get, though. Here in new Jersey they are fine. You lived where, Santa Barbara in California and Arizona, right? Anywhere else?

    Those are hot places, with great temperature extremes between night and day (something to keep in mind when we build houses on Luna and Mars and Mercury someday). The northeast USA is more like Europe. Toronto is a bit cold, and so while it's close, it's not the same.

    Come to New York City! John Lennon called it "the New Rome." Come and see why he's right. One word of caution and for the time being, I would caution against visiting Times Square on a Saturday night. Or swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. ;-)

    P.S. You write English very well IMO. You write "extend" when you mean "extent", but other than that, no worries.

  84. Bee,

    Although a single counterexample is enough to sink a theorem, the experiences of a few people do not say much worth saying about a large and diverse country. You were not, I presume, countering Martinez' silly claims by displaying your experiences as disproof. So if you have "simply stated my experience as a counterexample" you are being, at the least, disingenuous. Either that or I am not "able to understand".
    Sorry for turning serious; the subject actually doesn't lend itself to that emotion.


    PS: And, anyway, do you really believe Americans think they're exceptional? Have you met anyone from France recently?

  85. Hi FD,

    No, of course my experience doesn't say much about a large and diverse country. It is simply my experience. Sorry if you'd rather not have heard it, but feel free to leave anytime. Best,


  86. PS: I don't know. The subsample of Americans I know definitely doesn't think so, but then these are all people with a PhD who in addition travel very frequently, thus not exactly a representative sample. The media clearly leaves you with the impression though, and the article I commented on here is an excellent example for this.

  87. Bee,

    Ah, my first and last experience replying to a blog. How does anyone stand this seemingly willful misunderstanding game? I will take your advice and leave.

  88. Hi Steven,

    Thanks. Really, it is Huntington now? Last thing I heard it was Rahleigh/Durham. I've been visiting NYC once. It's an interesting place. Best,


  89. I'm reading "The History of White People" by Nell Irvin Painter. Interesting fact is that Alexis de Tocqueville's paean to America, "Democracy in America" minimizes his discussion of race in America by "sending readers along to the novel of his friend Beaumont...Although as much an aristocrat as Tocqueville, Beaumont deeply disagrees with his friend over the nature of US society. Tocqueville, it seems, can only see a virtuous democracy where Beaumont focuses on barriers as impassable as Europe's....

    ...These two seminal books...experienced contrasting fates in translation. "Democracy in America" was translated into English immediately upon publication in 1835, but "Marie" had to wait 123 years, until 1958, for its first English translation. ...One fact, a title change says much about the elevation of Tocqueville at the expense of Beaumont: in 1938 George Wilson Pierson published "Tocqueville and Beaumont in America", a scholarly analysis based on their notebooks and letters. When John Hopkins University Press republished Pierson's book in 1996, its contents unaltered, Beaumont had disappeared from the title, now simply "Tocqueville in America". Thus quietly but definitely, Beaumont and his troubled multiracial United Statees ceded place to Tocqueville's egalitarian, democratic, white male America."

    Unfortunately for Americans, unlike Beaumont and Tocqueville, Bee can write in English :)

  90. Unfortunately for Americans, unlike Beaumont and Tocqueville, Bee can write in English :)

    Do you mean, like, using "like", "ya know", like, uh, Americans, like, spelling "moron" as "moran"?

    Yes, you're quite correct, old bean. Bee doesn't do that. Stefan neither.

    Well, like, whatever, dude. American English and British English parted ways a long time ago, and the change keeps a comin', goldangit, and dagnabbit. What can you do?

    Now, which country, England/UK, or USA, has the most English-speakers?

    Soon China will have the most English-speakers of any nation on Earth. Then India, which will soon have (2015?) the most people of any nation of Earth.

    Then England will be number 4 on its own language hit parade.

    Quite odd, wot? No worries, mate. England prevails!

    de Tocqueville, eh? Hmm. Well, the differences between 1835, when we were mostly English-German with traces of Dutch, Swedish and French, and America today, are like 2 different countries.

    Heck, the difference in the US of A between 1835 and 1865 are significant.

    Enter Ireland then.

    Enter Italy and Eastern Europe in 1895-1910.

    There is no comparison.

    But throughout it all, England and Germany prevail! We are a hard-working lot. We bounce back from adversity, even when it is self-imposed.

    Some things never change. ;-)


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