Friday, June 23, 2006

Jon Stewart Killing Democracy?

The king of political "comedy" may be spreading his disease. A couple political scientist say that people watching Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" catch his cynicism bug, which is bad news for the political system. People who watch his show, according to the academics, tend to be more critical of politicians and the political system and, not surprisingly, are less likely to vote.

That, of course is not surprising for a guy who sells the I'm-too-cool-to-care attitude like candy. I don't take the study too seriously, but it's ironic that Stewart had criticized real political talk shows for their combative approach to politics. Well, at least the viewers of Crossfire (RIP) were also the likely voters, not whiners.

The question, which did not seem to be answered in the Washington Post article, was whether Stewart fans tend to be more cynical than the rest of the populace, or whether they became more cynical through the "Daily effect". I'd guess it's a mix of both.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Polish Foreign Minister to Expats: You Lobby Now

In an Interview with The Chicago Tribune, new Polish foreign minister Anna Fotyga tells the expats to lobby a little harder to help with issue such as dropping a visa requirement for Polish travelers. It's an interesting strategy ahead of meetings with Rice and Cheney. So it won't be her fault if the visas stay in place? I just don't see how the House would back anything that could bring in a bunch of potential workers to the U.S. Keep in mind that about 2 million Poles had left Poland in the recent years to work around Europe.

Europe's Spruce Goose

I have been following the misadventures of the Airbus A380 mega jumbo jet over the recent months and years, amazed that the brainiacs on the Old Continent really thought this gigantic mess would ever make much/any money. In the recent months the jumbo problems with production have made me think of the Spruce Goose, the huge wooden aircraft built by Howard Hughes in the 1940's. The plane missed the war it was supposed to had been built for and flew only once, managing to rise just 70 feet over water for barely a mile (you might remember the climactic scene in the Aviator). Sure, the A380 has already surpassed that feat, but it looks like a much more colossal waste of money and resources. So far Airbus has only 159 orders for the A380 and I wouldn't be surprised to see some cancellations soon. It just shows what a huge pile of public money in the hands of proud "continentalist" politicians can do. Did anybody say Concorde?

So let's recount just a few problems:
- Huge bet on a shrinking segment
- Production problems as different parts are built in different countries
- Delivery of first planes delayed by more than a year
- Wake turbulence issues

No wonder the stock of Airbus's parent company, EADS, lost a quarter of its value just last week (it has recovered some ground). The Boeing folks here in Chicago must be overwhelmed with joy, as they grab more and more orders for the mid-size 787.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

New York Times Notices Polish Government

The New York Times is running a knee-jerk reaction editorial on Poland today, complaining about its "bigoted" government. It goes through a list of complaints which makes me think that the paper has not looked at Poland for quite a while. It's basic premise is that the government is homophobic, but also suggests is anti-Semitic and just all around awful. Close, but this laundry list of problems goes nearly over the top in its bell tolling.

The NYT often helps to set the political tone in the U.S., even if the Bush administration is not exactly full of fans of the paper. So, don't be surprised if politicians start to complain about the situation in Poland any day now.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Poland Through a Train Window

Poland is still gray. That's the one impression that hits hard as I sit on a train to Warsaw after visiting my family by the Czech and German border (It's soooo damn far from Warsaw). The country, at least outside of the main cities, is still depressed (maybe the unseasonably cold weather is contributing to my mood). I am now passing through the mining region, even more depressed than most parts. Many of the buildings have not been painted for decades, it seems. Of course, just as I write this, I look out the window and see a 'makro' wholesale store and plenty of billboards. Of course, in this grayness Poland is moving forward, in many ways by leaps and bounds.

My short time with the relatives here was, as always, eye-opening. One side of my family seems to be stuck in the past, the other seems to be moving with the times. On one side, it seemed like all I heard about is their ailments, their woes, their struggles to survive from small paycheck to the next. I sympathize because they do have it rough. But even as I tried to change the subject, we just circled back to the same refrains. I love them all, but I can't take too much of this in one dose.

Many Polish families, it seems, are stuck in gray, like some of my relatives. In an opinion piece in today's edition of Polish financial daily Parkiet, Jacek Fudowicz calls many of these folks "homo sovieticus", who complain and reminisce about the past, seeming to forget how things really worked, or didn't work, under the old regime. I know some people like that, but I'm sure that my relatives, who had always opposed the communists, are not longing for the past too much. But there is this lethargy in the air among the citizens of small cities. Not only have they been thought to be passive by the pre-1989 rulers, they have also been disappointed by the corrupt and usually ineffective governments since then.

So a couple more days in Poland and then back to the U.S.