Social Wellness and e-commerce – Lament for a Local Hero

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“We can do all of this by phone and telex”

 In the 1983 film Local Hero, Mac (Macintyre) was sent to Scotland to buy a village, so that his employer, a global oil and gas company, could build an oil refinery on the ridiculously picturesque Scottish coastline.  Instead, Mac fell in love with the village, the scenery, the people, the northern night skies and the lifestyle of the place.  He couldn’t complete the deal as originally planned, and returned to Houston.  But, the final scene suggests that he hadn’t really left the town of Ferness.

The movie didn’t make much of an impact at the box office, but its warmth, charm, and subtle messages of empathy and understanding make it a continuing favourite of many.  Al Gore apparently named Local Hero as his favourite movie, perhaps because of its fit within a narrative of environmental stewardship (the oil refinery gave way to a marine institute).    The real charm of Local Hero, however, is in its gentle presentation of a narrative whereby Mac realizes that there is much more to life than his Porsche 930, his watch alerting him to conference calls, and an apartment full of high-end quadrophonic audio equipment (the 80s, remember?).  The movie presents a storyline whereby Mac starts mixing directly with the locals, and emerges far better for the experience.  In a time when we seem to be using technology to reduce and even eliminate human contact from our daily lives, it’s a theme worth revisiting.     Continue reading “Social Wellness and e-commerce – Lament for a Local Hero”

Intolerance and Free Speech — Trump, Breitbart, and Milo

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“We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation.”

So said Donald Trump on February 2, 2017 to a public audience at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Mr. Trump, cut the crap. There is already a well-established, well-fortified beachhead of intolerance in your nation — it has been supported, encouraged, and rewarded by you and the people you have hired to develop and implement your agenda. Intolerance? It starts at the White House. Continue reading “Intolerance and Free Speech — Trump, Breitbart, and Milo”

Do business leaders make better political leaders? A look at Kevin O’Leary

Kevin O’Leary has just announced that he is running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada.  His qualifications?  He has built a business, understands business, has negotiated deals, and knows his way around financial statements.   This background, O’Leary argues, makes him uniquely qualified to stabilize the Canadian economy, deal with a newly nationalistic U.S. on trade matters, and address such varied and complex issues as tax policy, international relations, and climate change.  Mr. O’Leary believes that his business acumen, as well as his lack of political experience, would make him the right man at the right time to lead the country.

Since Donald Trump improbably parlayed his business background and his position as a political outsider to occupancy of the White House, many critics have focused on Trump’s temperament, his questionable policies, and his continuing lack of familiarity with facts.  Some have questioned the actual success of the Trump business empire.  Very few, however, have questioned his basic premise – that a business background produces good, effective political leaders.   Now that O’Leary wants to travel the same route as Trump, let’s look at that premise. Continue reading “Do business leaders make better political leaders? A look at Kevin O’Leary”

Media Matters: The Relevance of Walter Cronkite

You know the mainstream media is on the defensive when The Globe and Mail, with a host of issues to comment on, devotes a year-end editorial to defending and praising the media.  Maybe it’s not surprising, when we’ve come through a year full of fake news, outrageously biased opinions masquerading as news, and widespread criticism of reputable news providers for even reporting the news accurately.   When anyone with a laptop can now broadcast “news” to a potential audience of millions without any regard for journalistic integrity or even truthfulness, maybe it’s appropriate to throw a bit of praise to those who do maintain some standards. Continue reading “Media Matters: The Relevance of Walter Cronkite”

If You Want a Better Cup of Coffee, Pay with Cash

During the recent World Series one of the constant interruptions was an ad featuring a group of youngsters marveling about a mysterious stranger who obviously was “greatly respected,” and a man of “considerable power and influence. “  He came into town, received the best in goods and services from merchants, but never seemed to pay for anything.

It turns out that the stranger used a variety of mobile payment methods, including his smartphone and his Apple watch.  All he had to do was turn the appropriate device to the appropriate interface, and presto – payment made.  How wonderful.  How efficient.  How cool.

I wonder if the boys knew that the mysterious stranger likely left town disappointed.  Sure, he had a cup of coffee, a meal in a nice restaurant, a new hat and a book,  all swiftly paid for with a wave the wrist, but something was missing – all of those items didn’t satisfy him as much as they once did.  Why not?  Because it was too easy. Continue reading “If You Want a Better Cup of Coffee, Pay with Cash”

The U.S. Heads Towards a Science-free Science Policy

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that anthropogenic climate change is a very large and growing problem that affects us all.  The scientists reached this conclusion through decades of research, modeling, observation and analysis.  They are the professionals, and the science is settled.

Donald Trump agrees with the scientists.  Maybe. Sort of.  He recently admitted to the New York Times that he thinks “there is some connectivity [between human activity and climate change]. He said that “there is some, something. It depends on how much.”  One can’t read too much into this statement, however.  Over the past 7 years Trump’s position on climate change seems to have (quite literally) changed with the weather.   He signed his name to a public statement supporting “meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today.”   Then he described climate change as “bullshit,” a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.  He called it a “very expensive form of tax.”  But, he also saw fit to build a sea wall at his Irish golf course in order to protect the property from erosion caused by ”a sea level rise as a result of global warming.” Continue reading “The U.S. Heads Towards a Science-free Science Policy”

Donald Trump and the Big Con (Part 1)

As depicted in the 1973 movie The Sting, the big con is successful if the mark, or target, doesn’t realize he’s been taken until well after the con is completed and the con men are long gone.  In the movie, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) “escaped” from the betting saloon oblivious to the fact that the saloon was a facade, and that the pair he just saw “killed” had gotten up, wiped off the fake blood, and divvied up the loot.  Lonnegan was out $500,000, but didn’t know who to blame.

American voters willingly, energetically, have thrown their hopes and trust to a man who offers grand promises of jobs and prosperity, to be delivered by someone who supposedly has unparalleled business acumen and deal-making abilities.  According to Mr. Trump, he will be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”  He will “bring back our jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places.”

Slowly but surely over the following 4 years, America will realize that it has been conned.  By the time reality sets in, however, Americans won’t be able to do much about it. Continue reading “Donald Trump and the Big Con (Part 1)”