Five Leadership Lessons From Obama's First Month

Shaun Rein

The president has done three things that all CEOs should do--and two they should avoid.

It has been a little more than a month since President Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. He's riding a wave of massive popularity and has assembled a team of this generation's best and brightest, but the economy still is lurching, with stock-market indexes hitting decade-old lows. Americans are scared, and senior executives are facing the most challenging business climate of their lifetimes.

As new paradigms for leadership emerge and old strategies go out the door, corporate chiefs need to rethink how they manage. Some companies will come out of the downturn stronger, others in bankruptcy. More than ever, strong, decisive and confident leadership will be the difference between thriving and collapsing.

We can take a page from Obama's playbook and his Feb. 24 speech to Congress for tips on what to do and what not to do. His first month has been marked by some great foresight and a few misguided moves. Here are five key lessons from his first weeks in office.

Lesson 1: Have a Strong Brand and Position in the World
Right away the president started rebranding the nation. America was known as the beacon of freedom and a better way of life until its standing in the world took a hit during the Bush administration. Obama signed legislation to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay on his first day in office. He has taken practical rather than ideological stands on Iran and Cuba. He has reached out to Muslims and people of sometimes unfriendly nations to encourage them to look to America as a benevolent superpower--and a good economic partner.
Senior executives need similarly to use the downturn to hone their corporate brand images to incorporate new realities, as consumers rethink their needs, look for value and cut back on discretionary spending.
Starbucks (nasdaq: SBUX - news - people ) has announced that it will enter the instant coffee market after spending decades positioning itself as a daily luxury treat and distancing itself from the Nestlés and Maxwell Houses of the world. The company realizes the world has changed and it can no longer rely on consumers shelling out $4 for lattes with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Lesson 2: Don't Lose Sight of the Long Term
In her first trip to China as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton pushed the Chinese government to cooperate to lower greenhouse emissions. Getting the Chinese to buy more Treasury bills or ensure human rights played second fiddle to pursuing the long-term goal of reducing the costs of pollution and reliance on oil. It's expensive, but it's a must do. When the economy gets going again, China and the U.S. will need a healthy environment and freedom from the whims of oil barons in South America, the Middle East and Africa.

Corporate leaders likewise need to shed fear and continue to make the investments and decisions for future growth even at a cost to their quarterly numbers. Intel (nasdaq: INTC - news - people ) is using the downturn to invest more than $7 billion in innovation, to distance itself from weakened competitors. Who do you think will be best poised to benefit when the business cycle changes? Intel, or its competitors that are slashing their innovation and sales budgets?

The worst thing to do right now is let fear paralyze you so you can't make the decisions that will keep your company competitive in the long run. You may need to invest more in certain areas and cut back in others; you may even need to cut everywhere. But you need to be guided by thoughtful, careful analysis rather than fear.

Lesson 3: Smart P.R. Means Managing Expectations
President Obama has continually lowered expectations about his ability to right the economy quickly. This has given him time to maneuver and allowed for more upside potential. He has maintained very high approval ratings despite the economy's continued slide. Managing the expectations of investors and employees is critical now. One of the biggest mistakes senior executives make is trying to put too positive a spin on a situation.

When General Motors (nyse: GM - news - people ) took bailout money last fall, its management raised expectations that it could figure out how to right itself by February. Now that the company is running back to Congress for another $12 billion, confidence that it will ever right anything is gone. It is hard to keep going back to the trough. Congress and the American taxpayer do not want to feel duped.

The world's best salesmen know that it is better to break conservative quota numbers than to miss overly optimistic projections. Once companies start announcing numbers that blow past analysts' forecasts, investor confidence will grow. That will be critical to starting the recovery.
One caveat, though: Don't push expectations too far down or you'll run the risk of demoralizing the troops. Obama has to walk a fine line, dampening expectations but not freezing the gears of business. That is why he took a more upbeat position during his speech to Congress than he had in recent weeks. And corporate chieftains can't be overly downcast or investors will hammer their stock and top-performing employees will jump ship.

While Obama has made some great moves, he has also made some errors we can learn from.

Lesson 4: Build Consensus--But Don't Let a Minority Hijack the Majority
Obama made being bipartisan and reaching across the ideological divide a big part of his campaign message. And he has stuck to it once taking office. He has appointed a Republican Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, asked a conservative to be Secretary of Commerce, Judd Gregg, and has regularly stepped across the aisle to Republicans in Congress in a way Bush never did with Democrats.

He has been smart to try to build consensus, but he has gone too far. He has spent too much time trying to placate Republicans. By giving them too much voice, he has re-energized them, and he let his stimulus packaged get delayed just when decisive action was needed.

In China, on the other hand, the government pushed through stimulus measures fast enough to buoy consumer confidence. My firm, China Market Research Group, interviewed several hundred Chinese consumers in six cities in January, and 80% of them said they had full confidence that the government would implement the policies needed to right China's economy and maintain stable growth. Gross domestic product is growing rather than contracting.

Senior executives need to be nimble and move fast to adjust to new business realities. Decisions must not be slowed by endless committees trying to get everyone to buy in.

Lesson 5: Conduct Superior Due Diligence, Repeatedly
Obama has had problems vetting candidates for Cabinet positions. From Bill Richardson to Tom Daschle, nominees have had skeletons in the closet far more problematic than Obama's investigators found. In approving them and then having to retract their nominations, Obama damaged his reputation for careful due diligence.

Companies cannot make this mistake. They have to spend whatever due diligence costs. In an age where Allen Stanford's alleged $8 billion Ponzi scheme pales in comparison wtih Bernard Madoff's much bigger one, no one can take reputations at face value. I have been in far too many meetings where someone said, let's do business with so-and-so--he comes from a good family. The days of trust based on reputation are gone. Companies need to conduct due diligence, repeatedly.

In the Great Depression, superior leaders and minds emerged from the ashes. This crisis, too, will see winning executive teams take their companies further beyond their competitors. The biggest CEO of all, the president of the United States, is sure to continue to provide outsized examples of what and what not to do to accomplish that.

Five Leadership Lessons From Obama's Second Month

Here is the second one of Shaun's texts. I don't know about the competition one and I really question this parallel he makes between public administration and business administration. Companies, for example, are about people, he says. Are government the same?

I believe that few months are too short of a horizon to start getting lessons and drawing conclusions. The world we live in has too much of a short-term vision, we loose patience and we expect too much too fast. I believe the best leadership lesson from Obama is to have accepted to take the lead NOW. Two months after he did, I don't think these lessons, although interesting from a business perspective, are really those we can learn from his leadership.


Shaun Rein, 03.19.09, 06:15 PM EDT

Once again, he has gotten more right than wrong, and we can all learn from his experience.

In the last week or so, we've seen a mini bull run on the stock market, but the U.S. economy is still in bad shape. Another half-million Americans lost their jobs during Barack Obama's second month in office. But the president's approval ratings remain high, despite the rocky economy and the uncertain futures of millions of Americans. Those high ratings reflect the success the president has enjoyed in demonstrating leadership and confidence.
In a follow-up to my Feb. 5 column on lessons corporate leaders could draw from the president's first month in office, here are some lessons to take from his second--from both his best moves and his blunders.

Lesson 1: Localize your Brand
President Obama had Hillary Clinton present different images to different parts of the world on her first tour abroad as Secretary of State, even as she kept to the core American ideals of freedom and democracy. In Asia, she was relaxed and unscripted, answering questions from Korean schoolgirls about her favorite rock 'n' roll bands and how she had first fallen in love with Bill. In the Middle East she presented another image, a more cautious and conservative one that fit better with the ideals of conservative Muslim states.

In presenting those different images, Clinton effectively localized America's brand. Global brands often try to take the exact position that worked in the U.S. to foreign markets. But what works in one country often fails in another. There are all too many business school case studies of companies like eBay (nasdaq: EBAY - news - people ) and Home Depot (nyse: HD - news - people ) that failed to localize their images to fit local tastes and suffered as a result.

For instance, Wal-Mart (nyse: WMT - news - people ) has botched selling to China's emerging middle class, 250 million strong, because its "everyday low price" image doesn't resonate there. In China, people worry constantly about counterfeit baby formula and shoddy products. More affluent consumers, not value-conscious ones, are the patrons of big-box retailers. They go there because they trust they'll be buying genuine products. More price-sensitive shoppers stick to dingy mom-and-pop shops that operate on paper-thin margins and offer everyday low prices--and everyday poor quality.

Pizza Hut, the Yum! Brands (nyse: YUM - news - people ) chain, is hardly upscale in the U.S., but it has enjoyed considerable success in China by branding itself as a place for the upper-middle class to go to on dates or gatherings with colleagues. The restaurants have modern design and fabulous service. They cater to members of China's middle class who aspire to a more comfortable and better life.

As companies look to new growth markets like China during these difficult times, their executives need to determine how to leverage their core brands in those markets. In so doing, they need to adapt to fit local tastes, as both Obama and Pizza Hut have done.

Lesson 2: Embarrass the Competition
In the last month, jiggly, pill-popping Rush Limbaugh emerged as the poster boy for the GOP. When he said on national radio that he hoped Obama would fail, he gave White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel fuel for roasting the Republican leadership. Egged on by Emanuel, Limbaugh won a verbal boxing match with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, exposing the weakness and dividedness of the GOP and disenfranchising a good chunk of more moderate voters.

Business leaders should take heed during these times of changing consumer habits and launch marketing campaigns that will weaken the competition. Procter & Gamble (nyse: PG - news - people ) has done this recently in promotions for its Olay brand, which positions itself as high-end yet inexpensive. This resonates with women who feel they must cut back on their cosmetic purchases.

Olay's advertisements encourage consumers not to waste money on competitors' unnecessarily expensive face creams. The brand's Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream, less than $30 in drug stores, is "more effective than the department store cream costing $350. You just don't get a chic shopping bag." The pitch makes spending money on expensive cosmetics in this economy seem ridiculous.

As consumers look to stretch their shopping dollars, marketers need to differentiate from their competition more than ever and show why they are more worthy, just as Obama's underlings have done regarding the GOP.

Lesson 3: Listen to the Research
Obama's administration uses research methods like polling and focus groups to better understand its constituents' needs. White House polling to get a pulse on trends is not new, but the Obama administration has used it more aggressively than others, not only to gauge the popularity of policies but also to learn how to sell them to the American people and Congress.
Most notably, Obama used polling to help win support for his stimulus package. Based on data from focus groups, his advisers encouraged lawmakers to say investment instead of infrastructure and recovery instead of recession. These words had been found to be more appealing to voters.

The president didn't need sophisticated research to know that the American people were angry about giving hundreds of billions of their tax dollars to the financial institutions that caused the economic mess, and about outlandish executive pay and bonus packages. But he has made sure to react swiftly and surely. He switched this week to a much harder line against AIG (nyse: AIG - news - people ) and other institutions receiving TARP funding, directing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to use all possible legal measures to get back the $165 million in bonuses given to executives at AIG's troubled financial products unit.

Now more than ever, companies must switch from being product-focused to being consumer-focused. Just as knowledge from polls has been key in helping Obama maintain his high approval ratings and pass major policy initiatives, knowledge from consumer research will be key for companies that are going to grow in this challenging market.

Companies like P&G will come out of the downturn stronger than the competition because of their commitment to understanding consumers, just like during the Great Depression. Since 2000, P&G has turned its business around by spending more than $1 billion on consumer research and dedication to innovation to better meet consumer needs. Companies like P&G that focus on what consumers need now will be the ones that emerge ahead when the economy picks up again.

While Obama made some great moves in his second month in office, he again failed in important areas, too.

Lesson 4: Avoid Number Traps
To pass his stimulus package, Obama promised that it would "create or save" 3.5 million new jobs. While it is important to be strong and clear in the face of adversity, to build confidence among the American people, Obama took a risk floating such a precise number--though the "or save" part should make the number harder to hold against him. He leaves himself open to charges that he never reached that number. He gave his critics fodder to lambaste him.
Corporate chieftans outlining future goals should always be confident and transparent but should never get tied down unnecessarily. GE's stock price got hammered when CEO Jeffrey Immelt said on CNBC that the company would absolutely not cut its dividend--only to turn around and do so a few weeks later.

In this downturn you should give specifics on how you plan to reach your goals and on the policies you plan to enact to achieve them, rather than on precise growth targets. A focus on quarterly numbers is shortsighted and can prove very damaging to morale and the stock price if the numbers fall short of expectations.

Lesson 5: Closely Manage Your H.R.
Obama has done well creating a State Department full of talent, led by Hillary Clinton and superstar diplomats George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke. But he has left the Treasury Department understaffed and floundering just when it needs manpower the most. Beneath Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, hardly any top deputies have been named. In the words of former Treasury spokesman Tony Fratto, the secretary is "fighting a war on multiple fronts without generals there to help him."

Geithner's aides are stretched thin, and he has an army of advisers but no one else with any real authority. British government officials have complained that they couldn't reach anyone to talk to, and the insurance giant AIG has floundered without anyone from the Treasury really explaining to it the terms of the bailout.

Companies are always about people--quality people. In these difficult times more than ever, companies need the best people to help steer them. They need to attract talent and distribute it between divisions. It's no good to have all your stars in one department and leave others high and dry.

The strongest, most innovative companies always make sure they acquire talent in all areas, from research and development to marketing to sales. Top talent always wants to go where it is valued, to companies such as Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) or Google (nasdaq: GOOG - news - people ), and that's why, despite getting hit hard, they are still doing better than everyone else.

Companies should continue to watch closely and learn from Obama's leadership initiatives as a key source of insight into what works in this challenging economy. His second month has been rockier than his first. Let's hope that his third is better and that the U.S. economy really does come out of its recession later this year, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke predicted last week.

Refugees Abusing Canada's "Generous" Immigration System

Abuses of the immigration system are becoming an issue on the political agenda. On one hand, a system that is believed to be "generous" but which needs some improvements. On the other hand, migrants ready to do or to say anything to move to Canada and have a "better" life.

As long as the situation is not getting better in their countries -and I think about Haiti, specifically- more and more people each year would want to leave. And when comparing two systems, the less restrictive one will obviously be chosen, the one that offer no jail time and work opportunities. Therefore should this issue only be addressed by one department (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) or by several (including IDRC, CIDA, Foreign Affairs and some of the United Nations' agencies)? Could an issue -and that of immigration in particular- not be treated as a "global" issue today?

Kenney: Refugees Abusing Canada's "Generous" Immigration System
Contributed by blackandred on Fri, 2009-03-27 00:45.

Refugees abuse system, says Kenney By Steven Edwards; March 24, 2009
Vancouver Sun

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney spoke Tuesday of "wide-scale and almost systematic abuse" of Canada's refugee system after a United Nations report showed a 30% increase in the number of people seeking refugee or asylum status in Canada.
Much of the increase comes from a major rise in the numbers of Mexicans, Haitians and Colombians claiming they'll face persecution if Canada sends them back to their respective countries, the UN says.
But the world body also says the United States saw a 3% drop in the number of people asking for asylum in that country last year.
Overall, the percentage increase for Canada is almost three times the average for 51 countries studied in Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries 2008 by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
"This is clearly an abuse of Canada's generosity," Kenney said during an interview. "It is a violation of the integrity of our immigration system."
One difference between the U.S. and Canada is that the States operates a detention system in which applicants can be effectively jailed pending review of their cases, while applicants in Canada are often eligible to work.
"It discourages people from making a claim if they have to stay in jail," said David Matas, a refugee lawyer in Winnipeg.

invitation - Poème

Invite à l'inconnue...

Viens te promener, amoureuse des mots,
Viens, amie des jours de silence
Confidente des nuits sans bruit,
Muette amie,
De paroles et de minuits ;
Inconnue partenaire de promenades solitaires,
D'ébauches gauches
Et de versifications intenses, viens-t-en!

Sous les capes protectrices,
De tes anonymes
Sans frayeur, sans malice,
Viens te rire de mes transes,
Des rêves de mon enfance
De mes faims, de mes danses
Et de mes pseudonymes...


JET rhymes II - Poème

Before you read this, please read the entry at JET Rhymes

-----Original Message-----
From: One
Sent: March 20, 2009 1:47 PM
To: Another

I hope that your day is going great

Maybe this weekend well go on a *date*

I got the movie from Coreen

You know that one we want to see!

The days been great, much less stressed,

And what about you, do you still need some rest?

I wondered if you ate your carrots yet

Since I havent seen the container I was going to take a bet

I met Teresa for some lunch

Since it was too late to have some brunch

The day is winding to an end

Ive work to do, so now Ill hit *send*

---------- Original message ----------
From: Another
Date: 2009/3/20
To: One

Hello Dear One, this is your Another
Who is okay but bored, and a little tired and "under"
Thanks for your rhymes and your nice poem
They look like a bouquet of roses or a big red stem

I checked the fridge, craving for something light
I saw them hiding and could not resist the internal fight

It is a really strange thing you and I have here
An intriguing expression of the bond we share
That thing we call "JET connection", you know
A powerful wave of love, a warm and invisible flow...

I checked the fridge, craving for something light
I saw them hiding and could not resist the internal fight

Few minutes ago I took a little break

Went to the board room, sat down and ate
I savoured them as you're writing to me
I cracked jokes and I cracked carrots to improve how I see

They had to go, no more illusion
Get in my stomach, better my vision

I thought about the rhymes we exchanged before

Back to the office, oh surprise! I had my "encore"
You had sent me nicer words than I could ever dream of
My blues, my lack of energy and my fatigue took off

They had to go, no more illusion
Get in my stomach, better my vision

The container now sits on my desk, empty

It's coming back home to my one-and-only
The rest of the day is definitely going to be great
And since you won your bet, we're going on a date!

Hortefeux béninois

Ékoué de "La Rumeur" a dit en parlant des pays africains lors d'une interview citée sur Comprendre pour agir:

"nos pays ne sont pas souverains, la souveraineté de nos états a été bradée, ils ont mis à la tête de nos pays, des flics. L’administration française ne s’arrête pas de Lille à Perpignan, elle continue de Lomé à Cotonou à Abidjan... Eyadema, Bongo, Wade, sont des préfets pour moi, tout est géré comme des préfectures. Compare le discours de Sarkozy au Congrès Américain à celui qu’il a tenu à Dakar, tu conclueras que nos pays ne sont souverains ni politiquement, ni économiquement, ce sont des dictatures financées et armées par le pouvoir français, parce que les intérêts économiques sont à la mesure de leurs enjeux de croissance et autre, c’est pour cela que l’appellation fils d’immigré veut dire quelque chose. Pour prendre en exemple Eyadema, c'était un agent zélé de l’administration française pendant la guerre d’Algérie, qui a combattu aux côtés des français et qui s’est retrouvé président par un coup d’état appuyé par l’Elysée et par le Quai d’Orsay dans un pays qu’il a ruiné économiquement, où il a liquidé les opposants. Le Togo aujourd’hui est plongé dans la misère la plus noire alors que paradoxalement il a une diaspora extrêmement brillante avec un certain nombre d’intellectuels. Que ferait la France sans ses colonies ? C’est la question qu’il faut se poser, moi la colonisation, je n’en parle pas au passé, on est encore dans un contexte de colonisation, on n’en est pas sorti. "

Aujourd'hui, j'apprends que le Bénin a octroyé un passeport diplomatique à Brice Hortefeux, ministre de l'immigration français. Nos pays sont-ils vraiment des préfectures de la France? Comment cela ce peut-il quand les demandes de citoyenneté française de nombreux africains sont rejetées chaque année et que des milliers y vivent en situation irrégulière? N'est-ce pas déjà assez de recevoir ces ministres comme des pontes? Devons-nous leur offrir un passeport dont ils se moquent éperduement? Est-ce dans un geste de désespoir, histoire de dire "prends tout ce que nous sommes, même notre nationalité. Tout t'appartient Ô homme blanc."

Ma guerre des nerfs contre ce geste de Boni!!

Laisse béton

Parfois quand j'suis au boulot, en fin de journée, j'allume la radio. J'ai syntonisé Radio-Canada et je m'amuse à passer de la chaîne musicale aux nouvelles. Comme cela, j'sais c'qui passe à Mada ou j'entends les vieilles chansons de Renaud. Ah! Renaud... Quel vocabulaire amusant!

Je recommande aussi celle-ci: Dès que le vent soufflera

Laisse Beton

J'étais tranquille j'étais peinard
Accoudé au flipper
Le type est entré dans le bar
A commandé un jambon beurre
Et y s'est approché de moi
Et y m'a regardé comme ça:

« T'as des bottes
Mon pote
Elles me bottent
J'parie qu'c'est des santiags
Viens faire un tour dans l'terrain vague
J'vais t'apprendre un jeu rigolo
A grands coups de chaines de vélo
J'te fais tes bottes à la baston »

Moi j'lui dis: « laisse béton »

Y m'a filé une beigne
J'lui ai filé une torgnolle
Y m'a filé une châtaigne
J'lui ai filé mes groles

J'étais tranquille j'étais pénard
Accoudé au comptoir
Le type est entré dans le bar
A commandé un café noir
Pis y m'a tapé sur l'épaule
Puis y m'a r'gardé d'un air drôle:

« T'as un blouson
L'est pas bidon
Moi j'me les gèle sur mon scooter
Avec ça j's'rai un vrai rocker
Viens faire un tour dans la ruelle
J'te montrerai mon Opinel
J'te chourav'rai ton blouson »

Moi j'lui dis: « Laisse béton »

Y m'a filé une beigne
J'lui ai filé un marron
Y m'a filé une châtaigne
J'ui ai filé mon blouson

J'étais tranquille j'étais pénard
Je réparais ma mobylette
Le type a surgi sur l'boul'vard
Sur sa grosse moto super chouette
S'est arrêté l'long du trottoir
Et m'a regardé d'un air bête:

« T'as l'même blue jean
Que James Dean
T'arrêtes ta frime
J'parie qu'c'est un vrai Lévis Strauss
Il est carrément pas craignos
Viens faire un tour derrière l'église
Histoire que je te dévalise
A grands coups de ceinturon »

Moi j'lui dis: « Laisse béton »

Y m'a filé une beigne
J'lui ai filé une mandale
Y m'a filé une châteigne
J'lui ai filé mon futal

La morale de cette pauvre histoire
C'est qu'quand t'es tranquille et peinard
Faut pas trop traîner dans les bars
A moins d'être fringué en costard
Quand à la fin d'une chanson
Tu t'retrouve à poil sans tes bottes
Faut avoir d'l'imagination
Pour trouver une chute rigolote.

Éric Zemmour

Éric Zemmour attracted my attention after I read the post from the blog Comprendre et agir, and heard Youssoupha's song.

Zemmour's story is interesting because I find some of his ideas intriguing:

- Anti-human rightsism: Zemmour regularly takes positions that he describes as "anti-human rightsism", placing him in opposition to many organizations advocating humanitarian intervention, which Zemmour considers to be a form of neo-colonialism.

I agree with the opposition to these organizations and the impact of humanitarian intervention. I disagree with being against human rights: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

- Anti-feminism: "Zemmour accuses modern feminists of wanting to "castrate" men, and charges their movement with bringing negative consequences upon society (including the loss of the notion of authority)"

This is the more intriguing. Feminism is "the belief that women should have equal political, social, sexual, intellectual and economic rights to men." There are "women's legal rights (rights of contract, property rights, voting rights); for women's right to bodily integrity and autonomy, for abortion rights, and for reproductive rights (including access to contraception and quality prenatal care); for protection from domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape;[1][10] for workplace rights, including maternity leave and equal pay; and against other forms of discrimination." And because of the structure of our society, I agree that it creates an equilibrium. But this balance was part of more traditional societies, wasn't it? I think about Islam and Christianity and Judaism and the role of women. I am seriously confused. I guess I need more of the historical and women perspective...

- Immigration and traditional French assimilationism: "Zemmour is staunchly opposed to "mass" immigration brought on by family reunification (He is in favour of the Thierry Mariani amendment, which would require people wishing to immigrate to France on the basis of family reunification to prove their relationship via DNA testing) and to the current process of integrating immigrants which he considers too lenient towards them. He has frequently declared that he is in favour of assimilation"

Assimilation for me, is a form of nihilism. It is negating the past of migrants when this past has contributed to make who they are and what the place they moved to is now becoming. However, if France decides to go on and chooses assimilation, as in the American model, as the country of adoption it would have to offer a new, strong and bonding feeling: "I am French", like "I am American". But this American dream was built on centuries of history and a belief in a common Constitution. Assimilation is then called a "melting pot": everyone melts in the pot and becomes part of the whole... Is France offering that "better whole"?

Zemmour really surprises me. I forgot to mention his anti-liberalism, bringing ideas such as that " the political right and left are forced to advocate "the same economic policy, social liberalism or liberal socialism", since, in the words of Philippe Séguin, "right and left are outlets of the same wholesaler, Europe."" Is he conservative and traditional as his views on feminism show or he more socialist as his opposition to the alienating Europe demonstrate? However, with such eclectic views (as I don't understand how all these views come from the same person) should the character's voice be shut down as the rapper Youssoupha suggests in his song?

This may be a poor analysis, but I wanted to bring this gentleman to your attention. Please comment...

An evening with Obama...

... as funny and serious as ever. I think we may misunderstand the man's message. He does not pretend to change the world, he is offering a more rational vision of the things we put in place and that lead us to destruction. It seems to be a "look-frankly-and-stop-lying-to-yourself-and-to-others" approach to the main issues.

Buzz Flash on Bush

by Chad Rubel

We have noted that travel will be limited for top Bush luminaries, including Bush himself. Europe is definitely not in the cards, but what about Canada. Would Canada stand up and detain George W. Bush for the purpose of arresting him for war crimes?

Bush is scheduled to give a speech in Calgary on Tuesday, so the opportunity could present itself. However, Calgary is prime territory for the Conservative Party of Canada, and Stephen Harper, the country's Prime Minister.

And there should be the possibility that Bush won't be able to enter the country. There is a serious question as to whether Canada should let him in. As we have noted numerous times before, Bush needs a waiver every time he enters Canada due to his DUI conviction. But this time, Bush also needs a waiver, or perhaps could be denied entry based on Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which notes that foreign nationals (Bush) who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, including torture, are "inadmissible" to Canada.

Canada denied entry to CodePink and Global Exchange cofounder Medea Benjamin and retired Colonel and diplomat Ann Wright simply for being arrested for protesting Bush's Iraq war. Admitting Bush would be a cruel irony.

Assuming Bush will get in, will anything happen to him? Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson thinks Canada should do something.

"The test isn't whether the person's been convicted, but whether there's reasonable grounds to think that they have been involved," says Davidson, who's with Lawyers Against the War (LAW). "...It's now a matter of public record that Bush was in charge of setting up a regime of torture that spanned several parts of the globe and resulted in horrendous injuries and even death. Canada has a duty."

Arresting a sitting president might be a difficult task, regardless of politics. But arresting or detaining a former president, where there are credible allegations, should be easier. After all, Bush isn't going up to Calgary in any official capacity -- he will give a speech, shake a few hands, and make a lot of money.

Does Canada have an obligation to stand up for the rest of the world, and if nothing else, draw attention to the actions of George W. Bush?



L.A.W. in this case stands for Lawyers Against the War. I like it. Sounds good. W.A.R. stands for war, like in Bob Marley's song.

Now Imagine that my name is... Saddam Hussein or Omar Al-Bashir. Imagine that I invade a sovereign country, basing my decision on false evidence provided by my intelligence services. Imagine that my decision results in more than 4,000 casualties , and way more in the country I invaded: almost 100,000 civilians in Iraq have been killed in the last 6 years, 25 per American soldier dead. Do you think Canadians would have opened their door to me and pay me to present a conference?

No. They would not have. But my name is Bush, George Bush. And they have invited me.

Someone once said: "depending on the way a war ends, history will judge you as a hero (churchill) or a war criminal (Hitler)." Well, you'd better win the wars you start. Because like Bob, I think that:

"(...)until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
That hold our brothers in angola,
In mozambique,
South africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed -
Well, everywhere is war -
Me say war."

Sad. For the 104,000 gone. And Peace to their souls.

Lee - Poème

Elle est belle. Je ne sais pas comment la décrire autrement. Elle est simplement gracieuse.

De taille moyenne, elle illumine son entourage de son sourire. Elle sait faire dire à ses yeux plus long qu'ils ne doivent en dire, et quand elle tend ses bras pour se rafraîchir, sous une pluie d'eau douce ou au soleil, c'est pour faire fondre d'envie tous ceux qui l'approchent pour la caresser. Son parfum varie au gré des saisons. Elle a réussi l'incroyable alchimie qui consiste à faire refléter ses humeurs par son odeur. Les effluves sensuelles qui l'enveloppent évoquent tantôt la tristesse d'un soir d'automne, la fraîcheur d'un matin d'hiver, tout l'espoir d'un midi de printemps ou la gaîté des après-midi d'été.

Elle est irrésistible. Quand mes yeux se posent sur elle, en quête de repos, en quête de beauté, quand ma main s'emmêle autour de ses doigts, c'est tout mon univers qui bascule et nous passons, elle et moi, quelques minutes de bonheur indescriptible. Je lui parle et elle me répond avec douceur et tendresse. C'est le nirvana.

Je vous présente Lee, ma plante, ma belle petite plante verte d'appartement.

Global crisis and African économies

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- The global economic downturn, lower commodity prices and tighter credit markets are seriously threatening Africa's economies, the International Monetary Fund said in a new report on Monday. The IMF is projecting that growth in sub-Saharan Africa will slow to about 3.25% in 2009 from just over 5% last year -- that is over 3% less than forecast a year ago. "The gains of the past decade, during which many countries in sub-Saharan Africa saw sustained high rates of economic growth and rising income levels, are at risk," said Antoinette M. Sayeh, the IMF's African department director, in a statement. "While African policymakers are rising to meet this unexpected challenge, donors must also play their part. They must maintain their commitments and scale up, not scale back their support."

When I read information like this, I can't help but think, once again: "what are we measuring and to whom's scale?". If the IMF says Africa will suffer from the crisis, what are the components of the tools used to measure the continent's development?

Cour pénale internationale

L’Afrique représente 14 % de la population mondiale de 6,75 milliards de personnes alors qu’il n’y a que 11% d’européens et 10% d’américains. Cependant, ni l’Afrique ni l’Océanie ne sont représentées au conseil de sécurité de l’ONU avec les États-unis, France, Royaume-Uni, Russie et Chine. L’Europe y est représenté deux fois et demie. Faudra t-il qu'elle prête son territoire à une guerre mondiale pour se voir accorder le droit d'être représentée au sein de ce conseil?

Aujourd’hui et depuis 2002, 10 des 12 mandats de la Cour pénale internationale ont été émis contre des leaders ou des rebelles africains.

Personne ne remet en question l'importance de la justice criminelle internationale, mais que penser quand nous voyons bafouée l’institution de l’état. Un président en exercice peut-il être incriminé, alors qu'il représente plus que sa personne, une institution et un pays?

Pourquoi les rois d’aujourd’hui sont-ils toujours autant respectés? Et les leaders politiques de l’Ouest, malgré leurs mauvaises décisions? Bush a bien provoqué la guerre en Iraq en se basant sur des informations erronnées. Récemment Harper, premier ministre en exercice du Canada a reconnu devant des médias américains que les pays de l'OTAN perdraient la guerre contre les talibans en Afghanistan. Alors pourquoi continuer d'envoyer des soldats au front quand la guerre est perdue? Comment ces leaders peuvent-ils envoyer tant de gens envahir des pays souverains, commettre des crimes ou se faire tuer, sans devoir rendre compte à aucun tribunal international?