“We Argentines are back on the path to greatness.” — Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, announcing private-sector plans to build a $3 billion railway network – which mainly entails building a 23-50 kilometer tunnel – connecting Argentina and Chile.
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- Argentina to Charge Americans an Airport Entry Fee (126)
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You’ve got to hand it to Argentina’s creative community. The country has some of the hippest creatives on the planet. Argentine commercials often win awards at international festivals, and deservedly so. For a look at some of the best vids around, check out www.landia.com.
Kudos to my buddy and fellow journo Luciano Dolber for highlighting the one shown above.
- Visit www.fvap.gov and click “Get Started” to be directed to an online Federal Postcard Application and instructions for your state; or
- Visit www.fvap.gov and click “Use our New Automated Tool to Register/Request a Ballot” under Quick Links in the lower right-hand corner of the home page. You will be redirected to www.fvap.com, a fully automated site that requires you to create a user account and password.
Voter Registration & Requesting an Absentee Ballot
Just over 53% of Argentines want Senator Barack Obama to win the U.S. presidential election, according to a survey released Wednesday by the consulting firm Ibarometro. The survey revealed that only 8.8% want Senator John McCain to win, while 38% said they didn’t know.
Ibarometro released a separate poll showing that Brazilian President Ignacio Lula Da Silva is the the most popular Latin American leader among Argentines. Almost 30% of Argentines said Lula was their favorite leader. Lula’s numbers are up from February, when just 18% of Argentines said he was their favorite.
Another 19% chose Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez while 10% selected Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. Evo Morales got just 6.7% while only 0.5% of Argentines said their favorite regional leader was Peruvian President Alan Garcia. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe barely did better with 1.3%. Support for Chavez is unchanged since February, indicating that about 20% of Argentines firmly support the verbose Venezuelan leader.
Another 37% of Argentines said Chavez was their least favorite Latin leader, while 15.6% said Uruguay’s Tabare Vazquez was their least liked politician.
Link: PDF of the Survey
Some 36% of the population views the president negatively, compared with 34% a month ago. That is down from 46% in June.
The study, which surveyed about 2,400 people, indicates that while the vast bulk of Argentines “believe in God, in Jesus, the Virgin Mary and in the Holy Saints,” they do so without necessarily participating in any kind of institutionalized religious activity. “This shows a strong process of individualization and non-institutionalization,” Dr. Fortunato Mallimaci, the study’s director, said in a statement. The Catholic Church, meanwhile, “has more of a social presense than a religious one in the country,” she added.
*76.5% of those surveyed define themselves as Catholic, but only 24% of these actively participate in religious ceremonies. This first percentage is down 14% from 1960, the last time a similar survey was conducted.
*91.8% believe in Jesus
*84% believe in the Holy Ghost
*80% believe in the Virgin Mary.
*11.3% are Atheists or Agnostics
*11% are “indifferent” about religion
*9% are Evangelical
*1.2% are Jehovas Witnesses
*Less than 1% are Mormon
*More than half of Argentines surveyed said they relate directly to God and do not need any kind of intermediary (such as a priest) to do so.
*70.8% said they will let their children freely choose what to believe about religion
*Oddly, the survey did not seem to mention anything about Jewish beliefs
“We are seeing a complex processes of change, where people are becoming less institutionally religious, where there is more individuation, and where there is a reworking of beliefs,” Mallimaci said.
Most Argentines (59%) have more faith in the Catholic Church than in any other institution, according to the poll. Faith in the church is followed closely by faith in the media, with 58% saying they trust the media. (Surely, they trust The Argentine Post!) About 46% trust the military while just 30% trust labor unions and only 27% trust political parties.
The survey also revealed that 92.4% of Argentines think schools should teach sexual education courses. Meanwhile, some 68.6% support the right to have an abortion.
Link: PDF of Survey Results
It’s not often that you come across someone who is at once fiercely intelligent but also down-to-earth, confident but humble, outspoken and yet soft-spoken, philosophical but practical, gregarious but reserved, giving and yet forgiving. When you meet such a person, you feel fortunate. When you befriend such a person, you feel a sense gratitude.
Such is the feeling I have when I think about Alejandro Rozitchner. Alejandro is a philosopher, writer, blogger, teacher, motivational speaker, radio and TV personality, father, friend, husband and Porteño. In his blog, 100Volando, he has described himself as a “Nutritionist of Ideas.” In one of his many books, he describes himself not as an intellectual, but as a “basketball player of ideas.” If that’s the case, he may be something like the Manuel Ginobili of practical philosophy. He has somehow figured out a way to combine the wisdom of American self-help books with the teachings of great thinkers like Nietzsche and Freud. It’s an unusual approach, but it works.
The Argentine Post owes its existence to Alejandro’s generous spirit. One night after dinner Alejandro forced me to sit down and start a blog. He said he would not let me leave his house until I had uploaded my first post. I had little interest, but conceded that I had nothing to lose. So Alejandro grabbed his laptop, brought it to the table, and guided me to Blogger.com, where I wrote my first post. (It was something about the hideousness of eating blood sausage.)
Alejandro is a controversial figure. On occasion he inspires intense and sometimes vulgar opposition. Scan the Internet and you will find plenty of people attacking him and his work. Many of his detractors fall victim to that contagious disease that leads people to attack each other instead of each others’ ideas. But Alejandro has many great ideas and, agree with them or not, they are often valuable and insightful. His ideas force you to think about life – and life in Argentina – in new ways. He challenges you to question your assumptions and act in ways that bring more value into your life and into the world.
Alejandro is offering a 4-class course on The Development of Enthusiasm and, having taken the course myself, I can highly recommend it. The course, which is offered in Palermo, is in Spanish, so keep that in mind. As with all of Alejandro’s courses, this one will likely cover a broad sweep of subjects, all of which are relevant to the topic at hand. He teaches with passion and humor, often interacting with students in hilarious and challenging ways to stimulate debate and participation.
You can learn more about Alejandro at Bienvenidos A Mi. There you’ll find information about his books, classes and seminars, etc. He often offers classes on Nietzsche and other things at the bar El Taller in Plaza Serrano. As someone who has taken many undergraduate and graduate philosophy courses, I can say that Alejandro’s are atypical. They are fun, unique, involving and more relevant to everyday life than those you find in a typical classroom. The only admission requirement: Fluency in Spanish and a desire to be challenged.
Among other things, the Enthusiasm course will touch upon the work of:
David Allen (“Getting things done” & “Ready for everything”), Brian Eno (“Oblique strategies”), Julia Cameron (“El camino del artista”) & Tom Peters (“El proyecto 50” y “Re imagina”).
Details on the Enthusiasm Course:
Where: El Bar Taller (Serrano 1595, First Floor)
When: Aug. 28, Sept 4, 11, & 18
What Time: 8-9:30pm
Cost: 250 Pesos or $83 (No I don’t get any of this and Alejandro did not ask me to write this post.)
For more info, or to reserve a spot, write to Shona at email@example.com or call 4831-1588.
The iPhone went on sale Friday in 20 more countries, including Argentina, where it is being sold by Movistar and Claro. The miraculous electronic masterpiece is now sold in 47 countries. Surprisingly, Argentina’s northern neighbor and emerging economic powerhouse, Brazil, is not yet among these. But Brazil still has supermodel Gisele Bündchen, so the always cheery Brazilians have no right to complain.
Apple plans to sell 45 million iPhones next year, according to BusinessWeek. That’s about one iPhone for every 148 people on the planet. Prices in Argentina vary:
Claro‘s cheapest option goes for 1,599 pesos ($528) and includes an 8GB iPhone with 160 minutes, 100 text messages and a measly 512MB of Internet/email downloads. This plan also includes an obligatory 119 peso monthly fee. The 16GB phone, with the same package, sells for 2,029 pesos, or $670. With 400 minutes, 200 text messages and unlimited data, the 16GB iPhone sells for 1,479 pesos, or $489.
Claro claims to have the largest 3G network in Argentina, with access in 80 cities.
Movistar‘s cheapest regular 8GB contract goes for 1,079 pesos ($357), and includes 450 minutes, 200 text messages and unlimited data (Internet & email). This packages also includes a monthly fee of 230 pesos, or $76. This option is a bit better than a similar plan offered by Claro because it gives users 450 minutes, compared with just 400 from Claro. More Movistar prices can be found here.
Like all other people on the planet, Argentines are many things, some truly terrific. But cautious, considerate drivers they are not. This is particularly true of Porteños. In general, the farther you get from Buenos Aires, the better the driving seems.
As someone who did not grow up driving down the country’s chaotic streets, it took me a long time to adapt to the traffic. I always found it frustratingly hard to adjust to the driving patterns. Argentine are offensive drivers, which makes it hard for defensive drivers to adjust and feel at home. But Argentines are also remarkably agile drivers, much more so, say, than U.S. drivers. They think and react quickly, and are uncannily good at avoiding accidents.
Nonetheless, they are – and this is obviously a generalization – incredibly impatient and self-centered on the road. This clashes with the nature of the defensive driver, who is constantly on the lookout for possible trouble. The offensive driver tries to get from A to B without first considering the needs of other drivers. In contrast, the defensive driver first weighs his needs against those of others on the road, trying to anticipate any trouble before it arises. If the defensive driver anticipates trouble, he or she cedes the way to avoid a problem. This approach to driving is infinitely safer, but it is not necessarily the perfect prescription for stress-free driving in Argentina.
For years, I failed to adjust successfully to local traffic, demonstrating that my adaptation skills were less than impressive. Driving stressed me out. I found myself getting angry in the car. While sitting behind the wheel, I sometimes found myself cursing out loud at the idiocy and self-absorbed nature of other drivers. Vulgarities would fly forth in a completely uncharacteristic spew of rage. Adrenaline would rush through my body, compromising my ability to think rationally. My stomach would fill with acid, reminding me that I was experiencing unwelcome stress and tension. “I should have taken a taxi,” I would often think.
“Relax,” my wife would say, “You’re making me nervous.” She pleaded with me to realize – to fully internalize – that drivers here are thoughtless. “This is not the U.S.,” she would say, tired of repeating herself.
But then a friend came up with a splendidly helpful thought. “I love driving here,” he said. “It’s just like being at the race track. You can do whatever you want and never get a ticket.” Wow, I thought, what a paradigm shift. It is very much like a race track out there and, if I could just think of it this way, I could probably learn to enjoy driving. To do this, I first needed to ditch the driving rules that had been etched into my neural pathways after so many years of driving outside Argentina.
So I came up with a list of new rules to replace the old ones. Just coming up with the list helped reduce the stress I felt while on the road. Here’s the list:
1) Unless you have to drive, don’t: take a taxi or a bus or the subway.
2) Expect other drivers to violate all the traffic rules you know. Don’t get frustrated when this happens.
3) Expect to get honked at.
4) Expect to get cursed at (¡Pero la puta que te parió!) even if you’re the one who is driving prudently. A few days ago, I saw an elderly woman curse vociferously at another elderly couple for driving slowly. It seemed ridiculously unnecessary to me, but the woman seemed to enjoy cursing at the couple. After she finished her tirade, the woman laughed about the incident, indicating that she was not deeply angry about anything. If you want to, learn to curse back but without taking the exchange too seriously. Argentines have a remarkably interesting capacity to curse and yell without actually taking themselves too seriously. The angry yelling seems to be fleeting and does not – at least in many cases – seem to represent a deep, lingering anger. The same trait seems to be common in Italy which, of course, supplied much of Argentina’s immigration. My experience is that Argentines curse and yell in traffic in part just for show. In part, they enjoy it. The verbal onslaughts are almost part of of an odd cultural ritual. If you saw similar cursing in the U.S., or in Ireland or in the U.K., my bet is that this would reflect a more profound anger, a deeper resentment that is more closely linked to violent thoughts. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. So don’t take it too seriously when you get cursed at. Expect it to happen, because eventually it will.
5) Expect people to cut you off.
6) Don’t stay in your lane if others are not staying in theirs. Reject your inclination to stay within the white lines. Even though they are painted on the ground, you shouldn’t necessarily pay any attention to them. Since nobody else stays in these lanes, it is dangerous to do so yourself. Note: This rule does not apply to the yellow lines, which should not be crossed. There is no need to make yourself a target for oncoming traffic.
7) Go with the flow; if others are weaving in and out, you should weave in and out; if others are speeding, you should probably be speeding; if others are running through the red light, you probably should too, unless you want to get hit from behind.
8) Use your turn signal, even if others don’t.
9) If you do use your turn signal, hoping, say, to move into another lane in front of another driver already in that lane, expect that driver to speed up and block your move. Don’t get angry when this happens. Just expect it in advance. This way, if the person actually let’s you in, you can be pleasantly surprised by his or her act of kindness.
10) Don’t expect anyone else to use a turn signal.
11) Don’t stay in the left lane if you are not speeding; if you are hogging the fast lane, know that soon you will have an angry driver on your trail. It doesn’t matter if you are going the speed limit or even surpassing it. For all practical purposes, there are no speed limits on the highways, so if you are not the fastest car on the road, get out of the way.
12) Stop at most red lights, but not necessarily all of them. This is especially true in dimly lit areas where you feel unsafe. It is standard procedure to cruise cautiously through lights in such areas, particularly if it is late at night.
13) Expect people to weave into your lane if traffic in their lane suddenly slows. Drivers here do not like to slow down and stay in their lane. If they sense traffic suddenly slowing, they will burst into your lane with complete and total disregard for what you might think about it. They will assume that you are as agile as they are and that, because of this, you will react quickly and slow down before causing an accident. This is the way driving is done, so just accept it.
14) If you start to get stressed, take a deep breath and remember that life is too short to get stressed about traffic.
15) Take a taxi.
Basketball greats Argentina and the U.S. will play Friday at 11:15am local time (10:15am ET/14:15 GMT). The winner will play for the gold medal Aug. 24 at 3:30pm local time (2:30pm ET/19:30 GMT) while the loser will play for the bronze medal at 1pm the same day.
The last time Argentina and the U.S. clashed for an Olympic medal was in Athens in 2004, when Argentina clobbered the Dream Team. Before that, in 2002 at the World Championship in Indiana, Argentina, the so-called Dream Team Killers, embarrassed the U.S. on its home turf. Since then the teams have faced off three times, with the U.S. winning each time.
Despite impressive talent, admirable humility and incredible heart, the Argentine team is not that deep this time around. The Argentines are running a bit thin, with key players out, forcing them to rotate through half a dozen tried and true players.
Look for the U.S., led by Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, to play aggressively, trying to force Argentina into committing unnecessary fouls. Argentine legend Manuel Ginobili and star teammate Luis Scola will have to play virtually perfect ball for Argentina pull off another upset against a U.S. team seeking redemption from its Athens defeat.
Ginobili described this year’s U.S squad as “by far the best team” in the Olympics. “We know we’ll have to play a perfect game,” he was quoted as saying. “And that’s probably not enough. They’ll have to play badly.”
Bryant, who speaks Spanish and Italian and is self-described as a huge fan of soccer and Lionel Messi, has described Argentina “as the best team” out there. In addition to his quest for redemption for the U.S. team, he has another incentive to win: He turns 30 on Aug. 23.
The title of this post is nothing if not loaded. It is a value judgment of sorts, an implication that the Kirchners are not to be trusted: He, Nestor, is a liar and she, Cristina, is too. Generally speaking, respected newspapers, magazines and other media outlets do not use the word “lie” to describe a person’s actions or statements. Doing so implies a kind of character judgment that many careful journalists are loathe to associate themselves with. Imprudent use of the term indicates that a reporter has stepped atop a pedestal of public propriety, removed his cloak of objectivity and assumed the role of judge instead of journalist.
This can be dangerous for readers, for reporters and the people they write about, and for the public at large. But reporters also have a duty to describe reality as accurately as possible. And a simple fact of life is that people do lie, often repeatedly. So the question arises: When is it fair for a reporter to say someone has lied? When is it fair to describe someone as a liar?
Former U.S. Senator John Edwards recently admitted to lying about cheating on his wife. Given the blatant nature of his lie, and his public confession to it, reporters should feel no ethical misgivings about saying Edwards lied. But what if the lies, or perceived lies, are not so blatant? What if the lie is subtle or seems relatively harmless? Or what if the “lie” is deeply suspected but hard to prove? Here, journalists have to be much more careful.
By way of example, consider the Argentine government’s recent claims about poverty. In May President Cristina Fernandez said poverty had declined to 20.7% from 54% in early 2003. “These are numbers that make us proud,” she said. The achievement was laudable. Unfortunately, economists said it was implausible. Many economists, including Ernesto Kritz, who runs the Society of Labor Studies, said the government was likely underestimating the number of poor people by about 4 million. Kritz said the real poverty rate at the time was probably around 30%. Other economists offered similar estimates, while charity organizations and Catholic church officials said that poverty likely had increased within the past year.
Adding to this, half way through last year the government stopped publishing poverty data. But Kirchner went even further. He fired national statistics agency specialist Cynthia Pok after she warned that poverty estimates could not be accurately made unless the government also accurately measured inflation data. Instead of praising her for being a patriot and a whistle blower, Pok’s superiors sacked her. Economists said that when Fernandez said poverty had declined, she did so based on a report using discredited inflation data. That data, even according to off-the-record comments by members of Kirchner’s own government, likely underestimates inflation by two or three-fold. But inflation data makes the difference between statistics that show millions of people falling into poverty or being lifted out of it.
Critics attacked the president, calling her a liar. Most journalists, on the other hand, simply reported the discrepancies between the government’s data and that provided by private economists. Did the president lie? Who can say for sure? After all, she may have been given faulty information. Or the private economists may be wrong, or she may really believe that poverty has declined. In this latter case, it is certainly logically possible that she could have been guilty of saying something that was untrue but without doing so intentionally. And intentionality – that is, intended deception – seems to be a key element of lying.
Whatever the case, the point here is not to examine the veracity of the government’s poverty claims. Instead, it is to look at some of the things journalists must consider when writing about the people – in this case, politicians – and their truth claims.
All of which brings us to the point of this post.
The newspaper Perfil has begun posting videos whose goal is to show how Cristina and Nestor Kirchner are dishonest. The title of the series? “The 100 Lies of The Kirchners.” How is that for clarity! The conclusion is forgone, the verdict in, the judgment rendered: The Kirchners are liars. There is nothing subtle about it, no room for interpretation.
In case anyone doubted it, Perfil has taken sides. It has thrown down the gauntlet, and issued a challenge to the Kirchners. The paper will release a new video daily for 100 days that – so says Perfil – will highlight the Kirchners’ disregard for the truth. Perfil says the videos will demonstrate how the Kirchners have failed to keep their word. Will Perfil keep its word to its readers, to you? You be the judge.
Politicians worldwide often are accused of failing to practice what they preach. So it should come as no surprise that Argentine politicians, too, are also sometimes accused of such hypocrisy. On Sunday La Nación, the country’s No. 2 circulating newspaper, published an article indicating that former president Nestor Kirchner and his wife and successor, Cristina Fernandez, are guilty of practicing precisely the opposite of what they preach.
According to the article, which reportedly examines federal documents, Nestor Kirchner last year earned 5,264,105 pesos ($1.7 million). The money came from rent collected on properties owned by the former president. The properties, which include 16 houses, two retail stores, 13 apartments and six pieces of land, are reportedly administered by the ex-president’s son, Máximo Carlos Kirchner. In 2007 Nestor and Máximo paid taxes totaling a combined $4,461 on that $1.7 million of income, according to La Nación.
The Casa Rosada press office did not answer calls by The Argentine Post seeking comment.
As cited by the daily, federal law requires individuals to pay a 6% income tax on property rental income over 1,200 pesos a month. At that rate, if this law is indeed applicable to him, Kirchner should have paid taxes totaling $102,000 last year, or 2,187% more than he and his son combined actually paid. Cristina Fernandez, meanwhile, who was a Senator before becoming president in December of 2007, paid taxes totaling $416 for all of last year.
The combined taxes paid by Nestor, Cristina and Máximo in 2007 amounted to roughly $4,877, or about 0.28% of Nestor Kirchner’s total declared income.
Cristina declared income totaling $3,960 in 2007, according to La Nación. A separate story by the newspaper reported in June of 2007 that Congress had passed a bill raising legislators’ salaries to about $2,970 a month. This was a raise of about 16.5%, meaning that prior to this, the average senator made about $2,550 a month. This is about 750% more than what Fernandez declared.
As noted, The Argentine Post was unable to immediately contact a presidential spokesman to confirm La Nación’s article, so it is hard to know what explanation might exist for the discrepancy between what the Kirchners paid in taxes and what they apparently owed.
The comparatively minor amount of income tax apparently paid by the First Couple sharply contrasts with their declared plans to use the “redistribution of wealth,” implemented through progressive tax policies, to reduce social and economic inequity in Argentina. When farmers recently protested the government’s decision to raise export taxes to as high as 45%, Fernandez justified the move by saying it was necessary to “redistribute wealth from those who have the most to those who have the least.”
Ironically, if La Nación’s article is correct, this philosophy of redistribution does not apply to the Kirchners, who are wealthier than 99% of Argentines.