Lament for a Nation

Fascinating discussion from TVO’s Agenda program about the current state of Canadian nationalism within the framework of political philosopher George Grant’s ideas and particularly his seminal essay Lament for a Nation, written in the wake of the 1963 election that toppled the Diefenbaker government.

Just as an irrelevant aside, I had no idea that David Warren was once editor of The Idler… That was such a wonderful magazine! I must have been one of its (evidently too) few subscribers back in the day.

World Air Traffic

A very cool video showing the global air traffic patterns over the course of a day to the accompaniment of the classic pop tune “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Many thanks to Brad Dillman for highlighting this on Twitter.

p.s. For best effect, be sure to hit the full screen option.

Scalia on Globalization & the Law

Fora TV has picked out one of the most provocative extracts from Justice Antonin Scalia’s lecture to the American Academy in Berlin, here concerning the role of the judiciary vis-à-vis natural law, which is a highly contentious point, but just one of many raised in the somewhat lengthy talk.

Should you have the time, it’s worth listening to the whole thing, if for nothing else than the Q&A at the end which is predictably entertaining (which is where this clip came from). Whatever one thinks of Scalia’s legal opinions, he’s most certainly not dull or unfunny.

Working with the Grain

The unfortunately named Prof. Donald Nutbeam explains that while many oppose the global spread of companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, their widespread logistics and distribution network could actually be leveraged to improve global health.

Complete video of the panel discussion at Fora TV

Striking Against Globalization

This story has appeared on a few left-wing/progressive blogs, but funnily enough it hasn’t seemed to have hit the radar of the Bloggin’ Tories — which is rather odd given their penchant for rabid union-bashing and their fondness for the wonders of neo-liberalism, the virtues of “free market” economics (*cough*), and the super-terrific benefits of globalization — I mean, after all, who wouldn’t want their wages ratcheted down to a “sustainable” level so they’re more on par with workers performing similar tasks in China, Peru and other parts of the developing world?

Or perhaps even they aren’t so blinded by their dysfunctional ideology not to recognize the corporate management of Vale Inco for the greedy rotten douchebags they are in this particular case.

The Commanding Heights

Part One: The Battle of Ideas

Recently, I stumbled across a documentary series that had appeared on PBS about seven years ago called The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy. The film is based on a book by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, first published in 1998 as The Commanding Heights: The Battle Between Government and the Marketplace That Is Remaking the Modern World, which attempts to trace the rise of free markets during the last century, as well as the process of globalization.

The documentary’s website at PBS and Wikipedia entry both provide a wealth of information on the thesis of the book and film, so I won’t bother reinventing the wheel here in that regard. Save to say that it’s very supportive of free-market capitalism, taking the view that “globalization” is generally beneficial on balance in terms of narrowing economic gaps and fostering wider prosperity. Despite being what some might call “neo-liberal” in its stance, the authors of the book somewhat implausibly claimed that there’s no ideological support for capitalism, only the pragmatic fact that the system works better than any other. Much like Churchill’s famous quip about democracy, I guess. Even so, the film expresses some concerns about the possible end of the current era of globalization if inequality in economic growth remains high, and if Third World nations are not offered the proper opportunities and incentives to support capitalism.

I’ve watched this couple of times now and seemed to come away with different impressions each time. Maybe that’s a result of viewing it in a sort of disjointed way. Whether you agree with the largely pro-globalization premise of the authors/filmmakers, it’s very informative (although by no means comprehensive or definitive) as a backgrounder to the subject.

Uh-oh! The World ISN’T Flat!

Allow me to share some of my boring, sleepy-time viewing with you…

Meet Ha-Joon Chang, a Cambridge economics professor who turns Tom (aka “the moustache of wisdom”) Friedman’s now widespread orthodoxy about the miraculous panacea of globalization on its head.

If you can manage to get over Chang’s rather annoying idiomatic verbal tics and the awfully poor audio quality of this presentation, you may well be delighted by his sparkling wit, delightfully irreverent sense of humour and the scholarly insight that he employs to effortlessly dismantle the “conventional wisdom” of neo-liberal thinking when it comes to the issue of free trade and protectionism in particular.

The main thrust of Chang’s thesis as set out in his book Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism largely concerns itself with the iniquitous relationship between so-called first-world nations and developing countries, but it takes on a brilliant new relevance in light of the current economic crisis and the sudden resurgence of protectionism in America. After listening to this presentation, it made the World Economic Forum “debate” on this issue at Davos seem quite absurdly ridiculous (there’s a curious appearance by Howard Dean in the Q+A… no surprise however that his question about labour rights got blown off by the panel)


You may have seen the former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan talking this morning on ABC’s This Week program with George Stephanopoulos in his usual convoluted, maddeningly elliptical fashion about the US economy but observing in a moment of singular clarity that it was by far the worst economic crisis he’s seen in his career.

“There’s no question that this is in the process of outstripping anything I’ve seen, and it still is not resolved and it still has a way to go,” he said.

“Outstripping” — well there’s a lovely new buzzword to describe the way in which the industrial heartland of North America has been raped and left for dead in the name of globalization, corporate efficiency and other free-market rationalizations over the past twenty years.

Asked if we’ll see the failure of more financial institutions, Greenspan affirmed “I suspect we will.” Not to worry… Great things are afoot in small-town America!

As for “the process of oustripping” Greenspan said that “…it will continue to be a corrosive force until the price of homes in the United States stabilizes. That will induce a series of events around the globe which will stabilize the system.”

It reminds us a little of this.