Sunday, May 25, 2008

euro TV scene

The big event on European televisions last Wednesday was Manchester United's taking of the Champions League league trophy from Chelsea on penalties. England's dominance seems to extend beyond just where soccer clubs are based, however.

The Scandinavians and the Dutch have been universally fluent in English for decades. There is enough material available in German, however, that the rationale for learning English in Germany is more limited. As for the French, well...

But the times, they are a changin. Swiss miss Stefanie Heinzmann shot up pop charts in the German speaking countries with the English "My Man is a Mean Man", an odd occurance given that we have a native German speaker whose primary market is German speaking. There's also the fact that Germany's Eurovision entry was in English.

Most noteworthy, however, is the fact that France's Eurovision song is 90% in English, something that was caused to small amount of hand wringing in Paris.

But if any conclusions could be drawn about last (Saturday) night's Eurovision final, it's the fact that the language is one thing and the style another. The French entry remains distinctly avante garde (by Eurovision standards) while Norway's "Hold On, Be Strong" is typical Scandinavian pop and Ukraine' "Shady Lady" is perfectly at home in the eastern European club scene.

In end the, Russian entry won, apparently due to lingering Soviet nostalgia. The fragmenting of Yugoslavia into a bazillion independent countries greatly assisted, since each country is weighted equally in the voting.

I'm no longer surprised that Westlife and Boyzone emerged out of Ireland, given that country's votes for Poland's ballad "For Life". The astounding number of Poles living in the UK and Ireland may have played a role, however...

Is there a typical American song? For white America, I'd say the analogue is easily Carrie Underwood's "Inside Your Heaven".

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

in Stockholm

Apologies to those looking for more regular posting here, but I've just arrived in Sweden from England, and will be heading to Bulgaria on Saturday. I'll be returning to Stockholm June 10, and expect to be here for the summer. So look for more next month!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

back in Alberta

Apparently Premier Ed objects to "the $2.2 million that the unions spent against me personally" in the last provincial election.

Solution? Restrict advertising by entities that are not registered political parties.

In other news, Ed's banned the CBC from lockups and technical briefings for a full year.

With respect to the campaign finance issue, one might presume that restrictions on third party advertising would help parties like the Wildrose Alliance since third parties who support fiscal conservatism would be less able to advance their agenda independent of the Wildrose Alliance party. I seriously doubt that the restriction would help anyone but the incumbent government, however. Why? Because everyone knows that the opposition has next to no chance of ever forcing Ed into a minority situation, never mind forming a government themselves. The return in terms of legislation that a potential donor can expect from a contribution to an opposition party is negligible. Indeed, while making due allowance for the fact that popularity and financial support are directly correlated, this is the biggest reason why the opposition in this province is perennially cash strapped. Most Tory MLAs are in more danger of being unseated in a P"C" party nomination battle than by the nominee of another party, and a third party advertising campaign could create dissidents within the P"C" party. The message from Ed on this one should be clear: interest groups should be expending their resources on trying to influence the government behind closed doors.

If the government were really interested in electoral reform, it would look at some form of proportional representation or at least fixed election dates. Just looking at campaign finance reform, a start would be to stop restricting full candidate deposit refunds to just the winner and those with more than half of the winners' votes. In my riding of six candidates just the incumbent MLA, who lost, and the incoming MLA who won got their full $500 back. The other four, including myself, donated half of that $500 to Alberta taxpayers. Getting the other $250 wouldn't do anything for me personally. I am forbidden by Alberta law from just spending that $250 on personal expenses. Generally, it has to be forwarded on to my party. Note that I'm not asking for public support for my party, although many other jurisdictions have recognized a role for public financing when candidates and/or parties have unequal resources. I'm just suggesting that my party get back from the public purse the money which it or its candidates originally raised privately. To those who argue that the hurdle to getting a long shot on a ballot should not be lowered, I'd suggest raising the number of required nomination signatures from 25 to 50 or even 100.

Friday, May 2, 2008

globalization = Holocaust

In the overkill of the week, Hillary Clinton applied Martin Niemöller's poem about the Holocaust to jobs lost to trade:
They came for the steel companies and nobody said anything. They came for the auto companies and nobody said anything. They came for the office companies, people who did white-collar service jobs, and no one said anything. And they came for the professional jobs that could be outsourced, and nobody said anything.