Monday, 25 October 2010

The nonsense of the Greens being a threat to Labor.

And as for all the publicity that is emerging from the inner suburbs of the big cities about the Greens becoming a threat to the very continuation of the Labor Party as an electoral force, just have a good chuckle. It is a wonder to behold the horror of Labor’s lefties fearing that their planned easy entry to parliamentary life is threatened. As for the Greens picking up a few lower house seats at a state and federal level affecting the Labor Party as a whole — that’s just nonsense. Shedding a few members at the extremist edge will make mainstream Labor candidates electable in more seats than will be lost on the left fringe.

Why would anyone be surprised about the polls?

The media obsession with opinion polls continues (with some of my Crikeycolleagues being just as obsessed as the rest). But why should anyone be surprised that a pollster predicts that an election today would be close just like the last actual one was? After all, nothing of significance has actually happened in Canberra since election day. Even the slight improvement in the support for the Greens found in the Nielsen published this morning is really nothing more than national polls were predicting before people marked their real ballot papers.

ANZ bank goes round for a second try

It was back in 1984 that the ANZ Bank last embarked on a campaign to conquer India. That was the year it purchased Grindlays Bank on the sub-continent. Five years later it changed the Grindlays name to ANZ Grindlays.
Alas, by 2000 the Indian experiment was declared a failure and the subsidiary sold to Standard Chartered Plc which merged it with its existing banking operations.
Today comes the news that the ANZ Banking Group Ltd has been granted approval by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for a foreign banking licence, allowing the firm to open a branch in Mumbai during the first half of 2011. The licence was granted after ANZ confirmed the location of the branch in the city's extended business district of Worli-Prabhadevi.

Don't blame the burger and fries for obesity

The social engineers have become keen on telling us that the number of restaurants and the prevalence of obesity have been rising for a number of decades. The close correspondence between these series has led some researchers to propose that there is a connection between these trends. There appears to be broad consensus, write two academics from the University of California, Berkeley in a recently published paper, among the health policy community that greater availability of restaurants increases body weight.
Don't blame me!

But simple correlations between restaurant visits and overeating may conflate the impact of changes in supply and demand. People choose where and how much to eat, leaving restaurant consumption correlated with other dietary practices associated with weight gain.

A key question say Michael L. Anderson and David A. Matsa in Are Restaurants Really Supersizing America is whether the growth in eating out is contributing to the obesity epidemic, or whether these changes merely reflect consumer preferences.

The interesting causal parameter is how much more an obese person consumes in total because he or she ate at a restaurant. To the extent that changes in preferences are leading consumers to eat out more, regulating restaurants may only lead consumers to shift consumption to other sources rather than to reduce total caloric intake.
In part using data food intake data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Census data, the Berkeley pair found there is selection bias in who eats at restaurants; people who eat at restaurants also consume more calories than other consumers when they eat at home. "Second, when including individual fixed effects," they write, "we find that people who eat large portions in restaurants tend to reduce their calorie consumption at other times during the day. After accounting for these factors, we find that although the average restaurant meal contains approximately 250 calories more than the average meal eaten at home, the existence of restaurants increases BMI by only 0.2 BMI points for the typical obese consumer"
The abstract for the journal article concludes:
While many researchers and policymakers infer from correlations between eating out and body weight that restaurants are a leading cause of obesity, a basic identification problem challenges these conclusions. We exploit the placement of Interstate highways in rural areas to obtain exogenous variation in the effective price of restaurants and examine the impact on body mass. We find no causal link between restaurant consumption and obesity. Analysis of food-intake micro-data suggests that consumers offset calories from restaurant meals by eating less at other times. We conclude that regulation targeting restaurants is unlikely to reduce obesity but could decrease consumer welfare.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Read and despair - Iran and the bags of cash for the Afghan president

Iran Is Said to Give Top Karzai Aide Cash by the Bagful

When you read today's New York Times story about Iran's cash donations to the chief of staff of Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai you wonder what country Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott were talking about in the debate last week about Australian involvement in the war. 

Same war - Different messages

Paul Kelly's report in The Australian on Saturday morning:
In his memoir, John Howard says it was "inconceivable" that Australia would not back the US in Iraq. He accuses former Labor leaders Kevin Rudd, Kim Beazley and Simon Crean of hedging their bets on the war. "I had a contempt for Labor's position," Mr Howard writes in Lazarus Rising. The former Liberal prime minister charges the Labor Party with lacking conviction, hiding behind the UN and outsourcing its foreign policy to the Russians and French on the Security Council.
 Robert Fisk writing in the Sunday Independent:
As usual, the Arabs knew. They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims.
Only we could pretend we did not know. Only we in the West could counter every claim, every allegation against the Americans or British with some worthy general – the ghastly US military spokesman Mark Kimmitt and the awful chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, come to mind – to ring-fence us with lies. Find a man who'd been tortured and you'd be told it was terrorist propaganda; discover a house full of children killed by an American air strike and that, too, would be terrorist propaganda, or "collateral damage", or a simple phrase: "We have nothing on that."

My dog Punch urges more coverage for science

When the kind soul gave me Punch as a pup, after the tragic death of Chunky the bull terrier when he jumped out of the moving car in his eagerness to get to the restaurant for breakfast, he was described as being an American bull terrier. Now that I have Miss Polly, a real American bull dog, I am beginning to think the vet was right when she told me that I now had a very fit and active pit bull that many South Australians wrongly described because of fear that the authorities would declare them illegal.
Punch is a rather strong willed and physically strong fellow so when he told me I should be giving more coverage on my blog to matters of real scientific importance I was inclined to take notice. Hence today's coverage of the research by Andrew Dickerson, a graduate student at Georgia Tech on how fast different animals "oscillate their bodies to shed water droplets."
National Public Radio reports that for his study called "The Wet-Dog Shake," which appeared in the journal Fluid Dynamics, Dickerson and his colleagues slowed down images of animals — dogs, a bear, even a mouse — shaking themselves dry. The footage was shot with a high-speed video camera.

The researchers found that both bears and dogs shake at a similar speed — around 4 Hz and 4-5 Hz, respectively. In this case, hertz refers to the frequency of skin oscillations per second. And it turns out that the smaller the animal, the faster it has to shake to dry. Thus, a cat can get by with shaking around 6 Hz. But its nemesis, the mouse, requires 27 Hz to dry off.
Punch told me he found that far more interesting than what I write about Australian politics.

The UK's social and economic cleansing

From London's The Observer this morning:

Don't mention the war - a mean spirited appeal to envy in the Murdoch tabloid instead

When short of a yarn to fill page one, beating one up about over paid fat cats is always a good stand by. But how remarkable that Sydney's Sunday Telegraph thought it necessary to add up the pension costs to taxpayers of former Governors General to fill its space this morning. There is, after all, that little yarn available exposing the horrors of the Iraq war. But then that is probably a sensitive subject for an organisation whose boss once suggested the Iraq War would result in the great benefit of oil at $20 a barrel.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The yellow peril is moving sideways now not down

Wonderful to see hows xenophobic scare campaigns can survive and adapt to new conditions in new countries. The Chinese yellow peril that used to be the right's fear of choice in Australia is now running strongly in the United States. A few of scenes from a commercial running during this Congressional election campaign:

Winners celebrate with ginger ale

Great to see a variation on those scenes where winning sports teams douse each other with bubbly beer or champagne. The Texas Rangers did things differently after downing the New York Yankees to win baseball's American League Championship Series. The Reuters report says the Rangers rejoiced in the middle of the diamond after winning the American League pennant for a first time and eliminating last year's World Series winners, hugging each other and falling into a massive pileup near the mound. "After more hugs, they sprayed ginger ale in glee and poured the soda over each other's heads in deference to slugger Josh Hamilton, who has overcome drug and alcohol abuse."

Australian housing market the world's most overvalued

A survey by London's The Economist of world housing prices puts Australia's as the most over valued in the world. "Our analysis of 'fair value' in housing, which is based on comparing the current ratio of house prices to rents with its long-run average, suggests," says the report", "that China has less to worry about than the likes of Australia, which is again the most overvalued of the markets we track. That makes it all the more surprising that Australia’s central bank opted not to increase its benchmark interest rate this month."

Things getting cheaper

At least the price of some things is going down. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Import Price Index out on Friday showed this trend for electrical, computer and communications goods:

The Tea Party extreme? No. We're just like the John Birch Society

And you thought the American Tea Party movement was made up of some kind of extremists. Well rest easy. This is from the New York Times this week:
.And for those readers to young to remember the late 1950s and the 1960s and the John Birch Society, here's a little reminder from Bob Dylan:

Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues

Well, I was feelin’ sad and feelin’ blue
I didn’t know what in the world I wus gonna do
Them Communists they wus comin’ around
They wus in the air
They wus on the ground
They wouldn’t gimme no peace . . .
So I run down most hurriedly
And joined up with the John Birch Society
I got me a secret membership card
And started off a-walkin’ down the road
Yee-hoo, I’m a real John Bircher now!
Look out you Commies!
Now we all agree with Hitler’s views
Although he killed six million Jews
It don’t matter too much that he was a Fascist
At least you can’t say he was a Communist!
That’s to say like if you got a cold you take a shot of malaria
Well, I wus lookin’ everywhere for them gol-darned Reds
I got up in the mornin’ ’n’ looked under my bed
Looked in the sink, behind the door
Looked in the glove compartment of my car
Couldn’t find ’em . . .
I wus lookin’ high an’ low for them Reds everywhere
I wus lookin’ in the sink an’ underneath the chair
I looked way up my chimney hole
I even looked deep down inside my toilet bowl
They got away . . .
Well, I wus sittin’ home alone an’ started to sweat
Figured they wus in my T.V. set
Peeked behind the picture frame
Got a shock from my feet, hittin’ right up in the brain
Them Reds caused it!
I know they did . . . them hard-core ones
Well, I quit my job so I could work all alone
Then I changed my name to Sherlock Holmes
Followed some clues from my detective bag
And discovered they wus red stripes on the American flag!
That ol’ Betsy Ross . . .
Well, I investigated all the books in the library
Ninety percent of ’em gotta be burned away
I investigated all the people that I knowed
Ninety-eight percent of them gotta go
The other two percent are fellow Birchers . . . just like me
Now Eisenhower, he’s a Russian spy
Lincoln, Jefferson and that Roosevelt guy
To my knowledge there’s just one man
That’s really a true American: George Lincoln Rockwell
I know for a fact he hates Commies cus he picketed the movie Exodus
Well, I fin’ly started thinkin’ straight
When I run outa things to investigate
Couldn’t imagine doin’ anything else
So now I’m sittin’ home investigatin’ myself!
Hope I don’t find out anything . . . hmm, great God!
Copyright © 1970 by Special Rider Music; renewed 1998 by Special Rider Music

Friday, 22 October 2010

Canada grappling with the same immigration problem.

Australia is not alone in struggling with how to cope with an influx of unwanted migrants. The Conservative Government this week proposed legislation setting out tougher penalties for those caught smuggling illegal migrants into the country.
The BBC World Service reports that the proposed law would sentence individuals illegally bringing more than 50 people into the country to a minimum of 10 years in jail.Migrants could face jail, have reduced health care access and be denied permanent residency under the law.
22-10-2010 canada'srefugees

A refreshing frankness.

The Bank of England’s chief economist Spencer Dale talking overnight about economic conditions in his country:
There are factors of this recession that we have never seen before and we have no idea how they may play out. We must be prepared to change our views as circumstances change.”
And then, for good measure, he warned about listening to anyone who does believe they know what will happen: “I would disregard them.”
I hope that makes you feel confident that the world is in the very best of hands. But never fear, in Australia we have jovial Joe Hockey looking out for our interests.

Prepare for a do-nothing US Congress.

If you thought the current United States political system was of the do-nothing variety despite the President’s party having a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, then get ready for a spectacular couple of years of inactivity from next year.
The indications are that no party will be anywhere near control with the Democrat President Barack Obama saddled with a Republican majority House and his own team hanging on in the upper chamber with a bare majority.
The Iowa Electronic Market assesses the probabilities this way:
22-10-2010 congress2010
Blue line - DH_DS10 - Democratic and Independent House, Democratic and Independent Senate
Black line - DH_RS10 - Democratic and Independent House, Republican
Green line - RH_DS10 - Republican House, Democratic and Independent Senate
Red line - RH_RS10 - Republican House, Republican Senate

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Election news round-up

In India's Bihar State monkeys have emerged as a major election issue in two constituencies. The BBC reports more than 50,000 people in two assembly constituencies of the Saharsha area are affected by marauding monkeys stealing grain from stores and meals off kitchen tables. The villagers are frustrated because the Wildlife Act prohibits them from killing monkeys, while state government officials are unable or unwilling to shoo them away. They are now chanting the slogan "Shoo away monkeys and get our vote… Only he who scares away monkeys gets our vote."

In Brazil presidential candidate Jose Serra was hit on the head by an object while out campaigning in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the 31 October run-off vote. He blamed activists supporting Dilma Rousseff for the attack but officials from her Workers' Party denied any involvement.

A report to the UN General Assembly on elections planned for Myanmar on 7 November has described the election process as remaining "deeply flawed." There has been no release of political prisoners, and the high costs and limited time for registration have hampered political parties that are not backed by the government to organise themselves for the elections.

Power to the Greens - and it is not just in Australia. In Germany the party has a sporting chance, says Der Spiegel, of having the governor in two states after next year's state elections. The opinion polls have the party doing well in the city-state of Berlin and in Baden-W├╝rttemberg.

Surviving in Australian business.

The tough task of making a success in small business is revealed in figures out today from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Less than 74% of businesses survive past their second year.
21-10-2010 survivalinbusiness
Click to enlarge

Now comes the hard part.

In Britain the words are over and now the action begins. The Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne now has to turn his promised £81bn in government spending cuts from promise to reality to honour his vow to restore “sanity to our public finances and stability to our economy”.
The Guardian’s page one budget summary
The £46bn cuts to administrative expenses will be the hardest part. It is so easy for a politician to promise to take 25% or 30% off administrative and general expenses but civil servants have a wonderful way when protecting their patch to make it difficult to achieve in practice. Just watch for the ingenious ways where proposals are put forward that the mandarins know will cause the maximum embarrassment and thus put the maximum pressure on a government to relent.
With implementation depending on the continued support of Liberal Democrats where a substantial proportion of members do not favour such a hard line austerity approach there are bound to be many problems along the way.
Perhaps more important is the concern that shedding 490,000 civil servants, with some consultants predicting another 500,000 to go from the private sector as contracts with government are not renewed, will push Britain into another recession Chancellor Osborne should not be cracking the champagne yet.

Preparing for the Democrat fall.

Before the mid-term Congressional  elections in 1982 the Gallup poll recorded only 24% of Americans saying they were satisfied with the way things were going in the  country.
On polling day 28 members of the President’s party lost their House of Representative seats. In 1994 with 30% in the satisfied column the losses in seats totalled 53. Since July this year satisfaction as measured by Gallup has registered in a narrow range from 19% to 21%, after descending from a 2010 high of 27% in April.
The latest figure is 21% and unless there is a major change before election day in just under a fortnight that would be the lowest level of U.S. satisfaction Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election in more than 30 years of tracking this measure.
21-10-2010 satisfactionwiththewaythingsaregoing

Looking for the half monkey man.

Talk of lunatics taking over the asylum! Rupert Murdoch is helping them take over the United States. Consider this little excerpt from the Fox News personality Glenn Beck’s October 20 edition of Premiere Radio Network’s The Glenn Beck Program.
21-10-2010 glenbeckradioprogram
Beck denies evolution: “I haven’t seen a half-monkey, half-person yet”

Bashing the banks.

Role reversals in politics are always fun to watch and Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey plays the comedian so well with his cherubic looks that I hope he goes on with his new bank bashing stance. Watching the captains of finance turning on the Liberal Party will be even more entertaining than miners savaging Labor.
Alas, the cheap populism of Mr Hockey’s threat to legislate to stop banks from increasing mortgage interest rates outside the limits of increases in the official rate of the Reserve Bank will not last for long.
Re-regulation of bank interest rates is no solution and there are enough level headed people in the Liberal Party who know it to get the would-be Treasurer to back down. What Mr Hockey should be turning his attention to are proposals to strengthen competition within the banking industry.

Out of jail and into print - Black on a Murdoch who save for Ronald Reagan turned on every politician he ever supported in every country where he has operated

As the former controller of several of the world’s best, or best-known, newspapers (the London Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, the Spectator, the Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne’s Age, the Australian Financial Review, the National Post of Canada, the Jerusalem Post, the Chicago Sun-Times and scores of others), Conrad Black is well qualified to write a review of books about the press. He has the advantage, too, of having recently spent time in a federal United States slammer where he should have learned a thing or two about human nature that helps with making a character assessment of those who publish the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the New York Times.
You can make your own assessment by reading the lengthy review of three books - Sarah Ellison's War At the Wall Street Journal; David Kindred's Morning miracle: inside the Washington Post; and Gay Talese's The Kingdom and the power: behind the scenes at the New York Times – published on The National Interest. The following extracts about Rupert Murdoch will give you the flavour of a reviewer who has lost none of his sense of certainty following his financial collapse and the years inside.
Few of the key people from the three newspapers (and Black, when a fellow newspaper baron knew most of them personally) were :unusually interesting people to know, have dinner with or talk to.:
Murdoch, because he is probably the most successful media owner in history (so international, innovative and daring) and has, when he can be loosened up to part with them, a considerable store of astute and mordant aper├žus, should be a bottomless storehouse of interest. But he is generally not overly forthcoming, rather monosyllabic, an enigma whose banter is nondescript bourgeois filler delivered in a mid-Pacific accent. His idea of humor is pretty coarse, in the Australian manner, without being very original, or very funny.
Murdoch has no discernible attachments to anyone or anything except the formidable company he has built. His periodic foraging trips for media attention (the oddly hoped-for story where he’s made to seem human) usually lead to hilarious fiascoes such as the journalist Michael Wolff’s effort at comradely biography combined with sophomoric mind reading, a sort of Charlie Rose approach in The Man Who Owns the News: phrases like “Rupert and I thought . . .” abound. Of course no one could possibly have the least interest in what—or if—Wolff thinks, and Wolff couldn’t have had any idea what was on Rupert’s mind because Rupert never lets anyone know what he’s thinking. Murdoch’s centenarian mother was “okay” (about as affectionate as it gets with Rupert); no business associate lasts long, except perhaps Michael Milken as an exotic financial guru, and economist Irwin Stelzer as a random and chatty, ersatz muse. Save for Ronald Reagan, he turned on every politician he ever supported in every country where he has operated; he discarded every loyal lieutenant, two wives and countless friendly acquaintances, as if he were changing his socks. Murdoch is a great white shark, who mumbles and furrows his brow compulsively, asks questions and listens, and occasionally breaks loose and has pictures taken of himself dressed in groovy black, pushing a baby stroller through Greenwich Village, or has stories written about his supposedly popish-leaning religiosity, published as humanizing touches, much like his orange-dyed hair, in the Sumner Redstone style.
Certainly Murdoch is interesting as a phenomenon if not as a person; a man who is airtight in his ruthlessness, unlimited in his ambition, with the iron nerves to have bet the company again and again. And although he has had some narrow escapes, he always emerges in fighting form. That story is fascinating, but he has the self-confidence never to try to impress people, is monotonous as a public speaker and unfathomable as a personality in regular conversation. Someone who could grasp and present the scope of Murdoch’s talents and ambitions could produce an interesting book, but it would have to be done by acute observation and intuition, and from a bit of altitude, because it is impossible to get anything but a banal smoke screen with occasional ripples of humor out of the man himself. I have long thought that his social philosophy was contained in his cartoon show, The Simpsons: all politicians and public officials are crooks, and the masses are a vast lumpen proletariat of deluded and exploitable blowhards. Almost all studies of Murdoch, including the reflections on him in Sarah Ellison’s book War at the Wall Street Journal on his takeover of the paper, where she was a reporter, are mosquito explorations around his shins, which is all he cares to reveal.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The US banking problems continue to grow.

Bloombergreports this morning that Pacific Investment Management Co, BlackRock Inc and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York are seeking to force Bank of America Corp to repurchase soured mortgages packaged into $47 billion of bonds by its Countrywide Financial Corp unit.
The New York Fed acquired mortgage debt through its 2008 rescues of Bear Stearns and American International Group Inc. The shoddy management of the packaging of so-called “securitised” loans has the potential to disrupt again the American banking industry.
As if that was not enough bad news, commercial real estate prices (as measured by Moody’s/REAL All Property Type Aggregate Index) fell over 10% over the last three months. The index is now down 45.1% from the peak in October 2007 and at a new cycle low — the lowest prices since 2002.
20-10-2010 commercialandhousingprices

Toss a coin and take your pick.

Melbourne Cup Day will be an even money bet according to the Crikey Interest Rate Indicator. The market cannot split a no change decision by the Reserve Bank Board and an increase of 0.25 percentage points in the official rate.
20-10-2010 crikeynovemberinterestrateindicator
I notice that this morning one of the previously interest rate hawkish economists is now moving to the side of the no increase doves.
According to Westpac Chief Economist Bill Evans, the decision by the Board to hold rates steady in October surprised him:
Until the release of the September Board minutes we had expected rates to remain on hold until February next year. However such was the stridently hawkish tone of those minutes we had little choice but to forecast an immediate rate hike. The tone of the October Board minutes is much more dovish.
Recognition is given to the impact of the high Australian dollar to the inflation outlook. A less confident tone is adopted on both business investment and household spending. Overall we assess that despite the ongoing message that at some time rates will be rising they are now likely to be on hold until February.”
Unless there is something quite surprising in the consumer price index figures due out next Wednesday and inflation is unexpectedly shown to be increasing, I expect the newly dovish Mr Evans to be right. I for one am backing the no rise option.

Why just Afghanistan?

If Afghanistan was the only place in the world where militant Muslims could train terrorists the speeches yesterday by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott could be said to have been quite sensible.
Stopping madly religious bombers from causing death and destruction as at the New York Trade Centre or in Bali is a proper function of government. Unfortunately there is nothing special about Afghanistan except that Osama Bin Laden made that country his training camp of choice.
As military action by western nations has meant fighting an actual war has limited the opportunities for training outsiders, the militants have moved their training elsewhere. Yemen, the Horn of Africa, northern Africa, Pakistan and, I read this morning, Kyrgyzstan have replaced Afghanistan as the favoured locations.
There is no evidence I have seen that suggests that fighting the Taliban has lessened the danger. So if we accept the argument of the leaders of Australia’s major political parties that our troops are engaged in a fight to wipe out terrorism why are we not supporting an extension of combat to the places where it is now being fostered?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Homer Simpson: The next Catholic saint?

The Simpsons remain among the few TV programs for children in which the Christian faith, religion and the question of God are recurring themes. Who says so?
18-10-2010 losservatoreromanobanner
18-10-2010 homerthecatholic
Homer and Bart have made this week’s issue of the official Vatican newspaper with quite a glowing review taken from “The Catholic Civilization” - the influential Italian Jesuit magazine.
Italian is not my strong suit so the following automatic Google translation leaves a little to be desired but you will get the point.
Few people know this, and he does everything to hide it. But it’s true: Homer J. Simpson is Catholic. And if it was not a vocation — a blinding accomplice pint of “Duff” — we missed very little. So much so that today the king of donuts in Springfield does not hesitate to exclaim that “Catholicism is legendary.” But then change their minds in a cathartic “D’oh!”.
The joke — - is the episode “Father, Son and Spirit Practical,” in which Homer and Bart are converted through an encounter with the friendly father Sean — is the starting point of the interesting article in The Simpsons and religion of father Francis appeared Occhetta in the latest edition of “The Catholic Civilization.” The influential Italian Jesuit magazine draws a fine ethical and anthropological analysis of the cartoon at the same time seizing the opportunity - this is the most important - to give some practical advice to parents and children.
It is undisputed that the series created by Matt Groening brought into the world of cartoon language and narrative a revolution without precedent. Abandoned the reassuring distinction between good and evil is typical of production “happy ending” of Disney, Homer & Company have opened a Pandora’s box. The result was surreal comedy, satire, sarcasm on the worst taboo of ‘American way of life and distorting an icon of Western idiosyncrasies. But beware, there are other levels of interpretation.
Every episode,”writes Occhetta, “behind the satire and the many jokes that make you smile, open issues related to the anthropological sense and quality of life”. Issues such as the inability to communicate and reconciliation, education and the education system, marriage and family. And do not miss politics.
Bone of contention, religion. What about the presence of the sound of Homer snoring during the sermons of Reverend Lovejoy? And what about the perennial humiliations inflicted on the pathetic Neddy Flanders, the evangelical orthodox? Thin unjustifiable criticism or blasphemy?
The Simpsons,” Occhetta claims, “remain among the few TV programs for children in which the Christian faith, religion and the question of God are recurring themes”.
The family say the prayers before meals and, in its own way, believes in the afterlife ” and she is the means by which the faith is transmitted. The satire, however, “rather than involve the various Christian denominations overwhelms the evidence and the credibility of some church people”.
Let me be clear, the dangers exist, because “the laxity and lack of interest that may arise to educate even more young people to a private law relationship with God”. But a grain of salt is necessary to separate the good from the grass weeds. Parents need not fear for their children to watch the adventures of the little men in yellow. Indeed, the realism of the texts and episodes “could be the opportunity to watch a few episodes together, and to grasp the ideas to talk about family life, school, couple, social and political”.
In the stories of Simpson skeptical realism prevails, so “the younger generation of viewers are educated not to delude themselves”. The moral? None. But you know, a world devoid of easy illusions is a more humane world, and perhaps more Christian.

A g-nital slip of the tongue.

I don’t know what it is about French politicians. Last month it was former justice minister Rachida Dati speaking of of “f-llation” (the French word for “f-llatio”) instead of “inflation” during an interview on foreign investment funds. This week it is France’s interior minister who has become an internet hit after he mistakenly spoke of “g-nital prints”. Brice Hortefeux meant to say fingerprints — empreintes digitales in French — but instead said empreintes genitales.
19-10-2010 HORTFEEUX

Down the Japanese path.

A rather ominous graph accompanies a review of the United States economy this week by Mary Daly, vice-president at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
19-10-2010 deflationrisk
Japan’s experience beginning in the early 1990s, notes Fsly,  underscores the risk of getting into a long period of sustained disinflation. Japan fell into deflation in the mid-1990s and has yet to recover.