Tag Archives: America

I thought it was the USA…

…or just another country?

Damn lies? Or statistics?

I’m not sure what’s more depressing — the amount of ‘worst’ categories that my adopted country is in, or the amount of ‘worst of the worst’ categories that my native country is in. But something about the data seems off to me — was this chart assembled by the paper of record or actually by the IMF? I don’t doubt that other industrialized nations routinely outperform us; some of these categories are quite well-documented (healthcare availability, life expectancy, income disparities) but all the same, this reeks of a certain school of woe-is-me-American declinism that’s of limited use, if not simply tiresome. But: statistics are interesting, as long as one understand their uses and abuses.

Intuitively, I’m not sure what to make of Italian food security being at the same level of Israel (who, incidentally, did not get the dark red ‘worst of worst’ mark that the belpaese did).  Unscientifically, it’s hard to believe that anyone starves in Italy — but much easier to believe that many families find it hard to ‘make it to the end of the month,’ to translate the Italian phrase.  Rising food prices play a role in that, but according to a recently-unveiled Euripes report (quoted here on MSN),  public debt and the cost of energy and housing are the main culprits.

Mortgages and rents are not affordable for two out of five Italian families, and 40% of households have difficulties in paying rates and fees. A worrying picture emerges when you compare the data of 2011 with the previous year: 40% of Italian families has trouble paying their mortgage, compared to 23.2% in 2010, and 38.1% have trouble paying rent, versus 18.1% in 2010.

It Felt Like a Kiss

As I said last weekend, I’ve been on a heavy Adam Curtis kick recently.  Century of the Self is quite a worthwhile flick, but his latest, It Felt Like a Kiss, really pushes the boundaries.  An experimental film commissioned initially by the BBC, Curtis collobarated with the Punchdrunk production company on it.  It certainly has the feel of installation art in terms of disturbing images and disturbing music (special pieces by the Kronos Quartet jumped out at me, as did the frequent use of early Velvet Underground), but it has at bottom messages about politics, power, individualism and consumption that are sometimes ambiguous, often unsettling and always trenchant.  Beware of the super-quick montages.

My one gripe is that Curtis can tend towards the paranoid.  By his own admission, a lot of today’s politics is driven by paranoia.  Fair enough, but I’m not sure about a couple of his assertions, like that the ‘computers that controlled the Cold War and guided the rockets to the moon’ were put to use analyzing the credit data of all Americans, or that the unnamed ‘founder’ of the CIA’s Clandestine Services (formerly the Directorate of Operations) went mad and committed suicide, but as film montage with a message about the politics of consumerism and desire, the film stands on its own.

Italy note: thanked alongside the AP, New York Daily News and ITN archives is Italy’s own Mediaset.

The Death Penalty in Virginia and Iran

Sakineh: pollice verso?

Discussing study opportunities in the US with my wife’s cousin’s 15 year old, he suddenly interrupted his excited line of questioning about the Hard Rock Cafe and eggs for breakfast to ask something more serious: “Is it true that they execute women there, too?” Teresa Lewis’ execution in Virginia (a state that I’m not exactly from but that I have many associations with) was big news here, and as if to put it in counterpoint, I was reminded of the huge banner stating solidarity with Sakineh that was draped over Verona’s Roman arena.

Whereas certain European attitudes towards modernity might seem backwards to us — see Twitter for the Gallic sniff on Chinese work habits — we must realize that to them, lethal injection in Old Dominion is not much different than a stoning in Iran. I think we lose of sight of this sometimes as a consequence of our exceptionalism.