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Your Friday reads

Jack Kapica searches the Web and offers a selection of the week's interesting stories: a post-mortem on Hillary; a retort to Ann Coulter's defence of G.W. and lots of stupid Americans

Globe and Mail Update


Despite the belief held by many Hillary Clinton supporters that her campaign for the Democratic nomination for U.S. president was scuttled by sexism in the media, Gil Troy, writing in the History News Network, shifts the blame elsewhere. In Clintonism, not Sexism Defeated Hillary, he agrees that the media were rougher on Clinton than on Barack Obama, but he also argues that "from the start of the campaign, Hillary Clinton's problems had far more to do with the baggage she carried from the 1990s than the baggage she shares with her sisters in arms.

"What really defeated Hillary Clinton was Clintonism. Her arrogant air of presumption, her preference for staffers better known for loyalty than competence, and her and her husband's aggressive tactics backfired this year. Americans, it seems, are not just fed up with George W. Bush, but with politics in general. And the two Clintons represent the polarizing, do-or-die, hyper-partisan, exceedingly personal politics of the baby boomers, both right and left — that both Barack Obama and John McCain repudiate by their respective ages and by the message each generates."


The anorexic right-wing loose canon Ann Coulter's columns are usually best left unanswered, but the Huffington Post's Jeffrey Feldman couldn't resist commenting on her latest syndicated column in the Patriot Post Bush's America: 100 per cent al-Qaeda Free Since 2001. In it, Coulter indulged in her usual over-the-top anti-Democrat rhetoric in her defence of still-President George W. Bush.

"There is not a liberal in this country worthy of kissing Bush's rear end, but the weakest members of the herd run from Bush. Compared to the lickspittles denying and attacking him, Bush is a moral giant — if that's not damning with faint praise. John McCain should be so lucky as to be running for Bush's third term. Then he might have a chance."

Feldman, writing in an article called Coulter: McCain a 'Lickspittle' Unworthy of 'Kissing Bush's Behind' wrung his hands. "Since 2001, right-wing pundits have increasingly used offensive and violent rhetoric to humiliate Democratic Party candidates and politicians and to undermine political debate of important issues," he writes. "Coulter's attack on Sen. McCain confirms a rising trend of right-wing pundits using this tactic of humiliation and violent language to brand Sen. McCain a danger to the safety and well-being of the country.

"Only time will tell if this full scenario is in the cards, but for now Americans can look forward to plenty more 'John-McCain-is-a-Liberal' tirades from the likes of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and all the right-wing pundits trying to emulate them."


American playwright and critic George S. Kaufman once famously said that "satire is what closes on Saturday night." To make sure his screed was regarded as one, Mark Schannon, writing in Blog Critics magazine, was careful to title his rant about the intelligence of the average American Satire: Iraqi-Mania ... And What Do Americans/Iraqis Want?.

"What the hell are we doing to the world, even more importantly, to ourselves — and, most important of all, to me?" he asks querulously. "Ever feel like you were watching the world through one of those fun-house mirrors?"

Although he doesn't quite say it outright, he thinks his fellow Americans are, well, stupid. He offers his own spurious survey of American attitudes to prove it:

  • 73 per cent couldn't identify Iraq on a map of … Iraq.
  • 82 per cent couldn't identify the U.S. on a map of — you guessed it — the ol' U.S. of A.
  • 15 per cent couldn't remember their own names.
  • 71 per cent want the U.S. out of Vietnam.
  • 92 per cent didn't know the U.S. had fought a war in Korea.
  • 12 per cent think Elizabeth II is the Queen of the U.S.

Come to think of it, he's not the only one to think this way. Americans seem to be in an intellectually self-flagellating mood these days, witnessed by a string of books with the word "stupid" in the title.

This week saw the launch of a book by Rick Shenkman called Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter (Basic Books). There are more — Unusually Stupid Americans: A Compendium of All-American Stupidity, by Ross and Kathryn Petras (Random House); The Stupid, Stupid, Stupid American in God's World, by William A. Thomas (Publish America), Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialized by People Who Think You're Stupid, by Joe Klein (Doubleday), and, of course, Stupid White Men and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation by Michael Moore (HarperCollins).

No wonder Mark Schannon had to warn his readers this was satire.


Along the same lines, Jeff Jarvis published an op-ed article in the New York Post on June 9, in which he ended with what he thought was a facile throw-away line: "In fact, why don't we just hand the government over to Google? It's already organizing our knowledge and taking charge of whole industries. It'd likely do a better job of governing than all the bureaucrats in Washington."

On Wednesday, he was startled enough to write in Government under Google that his flippant idea might not have been so far-fetched after all.

He quoted Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt speaking this week to the Economic Club of Washington: "It is possible to build a culture around innovation. It is possible to build a culture around leadership. And it is possible to build a culture around optimism. Google is an example, but by no means the only example, of a culture that can be built based on relatively scalable principles. We could run our country this way. We could run the world this way."


When business schools study the real world to find out what companies do that works and what doesn't, why do they never seem to pick up on the really interesting stuff?

Considering that Google Inc. is so fabulously successful that it can suggest better ways to run a country (see above), Vasanth Sridharan, writing in the Silicon Alley Insider Google's Hiring Binge Continues, found a few job openings at Google that suggest the kind of leadership culture the company stands for.

Among jobs for people who don't have an MBA degree or can't write code, are: executive chefs; a massage therapist, a manager for the Infant Toddler Program and Children's Centre Teacher, and an animal health expert.

When was the last time you worked at a company that had hired such people?


Sega, not to be outdone by any other Japanese company vying to create a more human-like robot, has introduced the E.M.A., and its, um, friendliness has frightened Engadget.

In Sega's E.M.A. robot walks like a lady, offers up smooches, the site reports that "there's something that makes us a bit uncomfortable about a robot that sports a 'glamorous body,' walks like a lady, and offers up some serious snogging. Today, Sega announced the E.M.A. (Eternal, Maiden, Actualization) robot that sings, dances, and — yes — kisses. If you get close enough to E.M.A., she drops into love mode and, well, the rest is up to you, big guy. Set up with infrared sensors to avoid obstacles (and, seemingly, sense your desire for some love nubbins) and movable elbows, shoulders, waist, and knees, E.M.A. will run around $175 and hit store shelves on September 26."

We can't wait.


Meredith Maran, who says she suffers from anxiety attacks, has concluded that "America is the most anxious country on the planet" in When panic attacks!.

Anxiety, a psychologist tells her, "is a good thing to have in a dangerous situation. It's the original caveman fight-or-flight response. When the adrenal gland senses danger, it sets off neurotransmitters in the brain — cortisol, norepinephrine, serotonin — to help the body cope."

Maran concludes: "Turns out, my fellow Americans are high on cortisol. We're nine times more likely to be anxious than the Chinese labourers who assemble our children's toys, whose working and living conditions would make us run screaming for a Xanax IV. And 94.4 per cent of Mexicans — bone-crushing poverty and barbed-wire borders notwithstanding — have never experienced a major episode of anxiety or depression. But move a Mexicano north of the border, according to a study in the December, 2004, National Institutes of Health News, and his mental health will deteriorate faster than you can say 'Campesinos sí, NAFTA no.'"


A significant number of people believe the Internet will kill off television, and with it all the good prime-time shows. Writing in, Sophia Banay soothes the couch-potatoes' greatest fear, reporting that the "upfronts," (the ad sales period for the TV shows for next season, which concluded this week) have bucked the trend.

In Don't Be Too Quick to Bury Network TV, she reports that "advertising sales by the broadcast networks have proved surprisingly strong, despite an economic slump, the writers' strike, and double-digit ratings declines for many shows this year." She goes on to quote Guy Rancourt, of Hill Holliday, a national group that buys advertising on behalf of corporate clients like CVS, Dunkin' Donuts, and Liberty Mutual, that "Broadcast TV is still the only game in town for the mass audience that advertisers want to reach."

She concludes that the overall take for prime-time ad sales "is expected to be $9.23-billion this year, up 1.2 per cent over last year."

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