jeudi, avril 26, 2007

A pseudo-brush with American politics

Or, how I sort-of met Karl Rove's political doppelgänger

So, I had to help the U of C folks film a part of this all-day ceremony to celebrate the signing of a rather substantial sponsorship contract between the Fondation des États-Unis (a dorm / cultural centre in Paris for US students) and the University of Chicago. Part of the ceremonies involved a round-table with a well-known economist giving a 45-minute talk, followed by a string of sychophantic "responses" by former pupils and colleagues, and then some Q&A (which was really just one question, since we ran over on time).

That lecture itself was a bit boring and mostly fiscal-conservative progressivist optimism: the human body has increased in size and health of the last few centuries! This means we'll be 30-storey super-beings with telekenetic powers by next month! OMFG!! Technology is advancing rapidly!!! Soon we will exceed the orbit of natural evolution!!! ZOMG!!!1!!

My favourite part was when he claimed that, since the discrepancy between life expectancy of lower classes and upper classes has narrowed drastically in the last century, clearly we are currently only "fine-tuning" social justice; we don't need to feel any urgent need to devote, you know, resources to fighting inequality. Katrina survivors, for example, are just being difficult and demanding. One of the few trenchant remarks made by one of the respondents sort of adressed this issue: There's a discrepancy of 3 years of life expectancy between Continental Europe (longer) and the USA (shorter). A survey done by Statistics Canada and a parallel organization in the US comes to the conclusion that the discrepancy disappears when you exclude the un- and under-insured from the statistics. This provides a great look into the differences of Canadian and American politics (at the federal level, at least):

Survey says: If you exclude the un- and under-insured, there is no discrepancy in life expectancy between the Americas and Europe. If you do, the US is 3 years shorter.

Canadian response (at least, before this current Prime Minister): Let's offer 3x the salary and billing options to doctors who will work in under-serviced areas.

American response: Fine, let's not count them, then.

Anyway, at some point during the paper, a group of people bustle in, including a man who looks like a slightly less pudgy Karl Rove and a cluster of bodyguards with earpieces. I was almost certain that it was Karl Rove, until later on my co-workers told me that the American ambassador to France had been expected that evening. Nonetheless, the guy does look pretty similar to him (picture here, I'm not posting that thing on my blog); apparently, all Bush appointees look the same.

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