Movies from across the EU

Ever felt like the only movies playing at your local theater comes mostly from your own country and hollywood ? You want to discover the art and culture from other European Countries ?

If you are looking for a list of movies from other EU countries that are of interest, search no more, here is the annual list of movies shown at the Annual European Union Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Center in Chicago. You can obviously also look at the lists from previous years.

If you know where to see or buy the movies listed there , please share with us, so european culture can spread.

SOTU: Obama does not care for europe

In the last State of the Union speech of his first term, US president B. Obama talked about economy, social justice and healthcare… But did not mention Europe – not even to mention the crisis we are in at the moment and the risk for the world economy.

The only mention of Europe was made in the following statement: «Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever.»

It is not the first time that I point out the lack of interest from Mr Obama for the European continent and the European Union in particular. Even a major crisis cannot get the US president to look at us… One more sign that EU should work out the differences between the member states and give itself the means to be a real, strong, world player.

2012, election year – In the US

Election season is just over the corner in the United States, and it will last all year-long… Along with parliamentary elections, B. Obama’s term is reaching its end and he will obviously try to get a second one. In front of him, the republican candidate will be… That is the question of course.

The Republican party will choose his candidate through the well-known – but not well understood – process of primaries.

Seven candidates are running against each other to get the republican nomination, and the fight is on with the very first primary vote on January 3rd in Iowa, a very small state but with a huge psychological impact for the following votes.

The republican primaries will be the race to follow, because this year, more than the state of the economy (very slowly recovering in the US), it is the personality of B. Obama’s opponent that will decide the outcome of the presidential election. Two possibilities exist:

  • Either Mitt Romney is nominated. In which case it will be a very hard fight for B. Obama. Romney seems to be a very moderate and pragmatic republican. Someone who one can talk with and not a very big difference as far as floating voters are concerned as the outgoing president.
  • Or any other republican candidate get the nomination. In which case, most of the electorate will prefer to vote a second term for Barrack Obama, to avoid a president with extreme republican views.

Follow all the presidential campaign here

OWS, are they the 99% ?

The Occupy Wall Street Movement found a catchy tag line in “We are the 99%“. A reference to the wealth gap between the top 1% of the highest income household and the rest of the tax payers in the US. #

This catchphrase leads to two remarks :

The power of democracy.

If indeed the 99% represent the very large majority of the population, they don’t have to worry a bit about their future. Why ? Because they live in a democratic society and that elections are coming up. Therefore, they just have to go to the voting booth and cast their vote for the candidate that is the closest to their demand. That is what democracy looks like.

It’s easy to be in the 99%

By the sheer power of mathematic, it is very easy to be part of the 99% of a population. In fact, some prominent and rather rich personality of the US politic are part of the 99%#, although  their concerns are very different from the protesters… Therefore, the 99% is a bit misleading. If the OWS protest has a large support among the population, the 99% figure might be a little over estimated.

C’est la faute à l’euro… or is it ?

(Je viens à peine d’annoncer mes vacances que je publie un billet de dernière minute, mais après c’est promis, je vais me coucher).

La crise économique, les agences de notations, l’austérité, tout ça, c’est, nous disent les euro-sceptiques, la faute de l’euro.

Et nous devrions nous méfier, car cette crise est tellement importante que maintenant le spectre d’un dégradation de la note de la dette souveraine et la menace d’une dette insupportable s’abat sur une nouvelle victime: les États-Unis  vivent en ce moment leur crise de la dette…

Mais les USA n’utilisent pas l’euro, comment donc un problème causé par la monnaie unique pour les affecter ? Je vois deux solutions à ce dilemme :

  • soit la monnaie unique a prit tellement d’importance dans l’économie mondial que des troubles dans la zone euro se répandent dans toute l’économie mondiale,
  • soit les crises liées aux dettes souveraines ne trouvent pas tant que cela leur origine dans la monnaie unique, mais simplement dans le politique financière d’un gouvernement.
Qu’en pensent ceux qui accusent l’euro de tous nos maux ?

Debt defaulting: not only in Europe

It is quite well-known all over the world that Greece is on the brink of a default. What is not as publicized is that other states face the same budget shortfall,why do those states get a pass on huge deficit ? Because they are on the other side of the Atlantic.

Illinois is ending its fiscal year with 8 billion dollars of unpaid bills, California budget has a 26 billion deficit, Minnesota might have to go into shutdown

What’s different ? The federal government, a unified monetary policy, … yes. But here are three less obvious factors (*):

  • States don’t have the right to go into bankruptcy. It is just not allowed in the US. That is a legal guarantee that there will be no default, however deep the budget deficit might be.
  • The federal government maintains a guarantee fund for the states to help them get loan at an affordable interest rate.
  • Finally, and not the least, the rating agencies will not be able to downgrade states like they’ve been doing for Greece (and also Ireland, Portugal, …). Congress would have quickly organize hearing on the issue where the agencies would have had to explain their downgrading, a publicity they would not have appreciate.
(*): I am no economist nor a specialist of the US states details. This is just a summary of facts gathered over different (trusted) sources. If you know more, please, by all means, complete or correct me.

20 minutes of suspense… how I learned the death of O Ben Laden

I imagine many in Europe learned of the death of Oussama Ben Laden Monday morning, via internet or on the radio as they woke up. On the other side of the Atlantic, it was different. Late on Sunday evening, news outlets started announcing an imminent statement by US President B. Obama, without any further indication of the topic. Those kind of declaration are extremely rare, as far as I remember the last such statement was just after attacks on Libya begun, and even for this one, the president had to be pressured to get to the podium. More over, the week had been good for Mr Obama : he releases his long form birth certificate during the week (which rebutted all the conspiracy theories about him not being not a natural American citizen) and made quite a show at the white house correspondents dinner over the weekend.

In a word: a late statement meant something being was going on ! There was no way to guess what that would be about, but it was clear that it would be a shocking news; for the simple reason that nothing was expected at all. The president was joking about D Trump’s hair style just the day before, operations in Libya were continuing with minimum US involvement, … nothing in the known news could help us to guess what breaking news could be important to deserve a late weekend statement. Even worse: news outlets did not had any clue neither for a time. It is at least 20 minutes later (a time lapse close to forever in this time of instant news) that the first tentative announcement, based on unnamed sources of course, of Ben Laden death appeared…

Of course, by the time B. Obama took the stand, everybody already knew but there was a time of uncertainty and doubt. A very strong feeling of “what’s-going-on-?” that is hard to describe.

If this is to be – and trust me, it will – a defining moment of Obama’s presidency, let us all remember how he behaved the days before. How nothing appeared on his face as this critical and dangerous operation was already under way. One really need to have a lot of self-control, confidence and a clear head to be able to take such a risk and while waiting anxiously for the operation to take place, go by his usual business in front of the camera. Good job, Mr President.