As we have reported, Wood Industry was asked to cover recent trade events in China. A Chinese government translator posed an interesting question during a casual conversation: “Do all North Americans get divorced?”
Of course not. Silly question. Et cetera. However, on stopping to think, we do hear a lot about divorce in the media, so I decided to look up the facts. For example, according to the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. had 4.95 divorces per 1,000 population, Canada had 2.2 and China had 1.3. As a percentage, China has only 59 percent of Canada’s divorce rate, and 26 percent that of the U.S. Since this fact was known, or inferred, by a relatively low-level Chinese employee, it has to be assumed it is part of the popular conversation. For the Chinese, it must appear that North Americans should stop talking so much about solemn vows and loyalty, and work on the “walk.”
The same is true for criticisms they hear about central control of the economy. According to the IMF, the U.S. government spends 41 percent of its country’s GDP, Canada spends 19.9 percent and China spends 16.8 percent, begging the question, “which form of government leaves more money in the pockets of its citizens?”
Obviously, there is much more to the issue. However, it is easy to see how the general population in China might question the fairness of some of our claims. We will cover more on this in the May/June issue of Wood Industry.
It seems the specter of plagiarism is becoming both more common and more disgusting. Plagiarism is one of my pet peeves, but the most recent offender put even me over the top. I’m talking about an ad for Belvedere Vodka, featuring a stolen image of an actress named Alicyn Packard. It was bad enough the image was stolen, but to top it off, the “fun” shot stolen from a sitcom was placed in the most sinister context imaginable, presenting Packard trying to escape from a man with obvious and evil sexual intentions. I don’t really recommend looking, but you can see it here. Packard has filed a lawsuit, and this time I hope a judge can see fit to make an example. This practice is so serious that Packard should own Belvedere and all its assets – the “commercial speech” equivalent of capital punishment.
The reason I say plagiarism is becoming more common is largely the internet and public attitudes. The internet allows non-creative dolts to “search” for “content” they could not come up with in a million years, copy it, paste it and sell it as their own. Worse, because it falls under the legal category of speech, which the law protects viciously, the perpetrators can find extra protection. If somebody steals a truckload of your products, rebrands them as his own and sells them in your market, you have a number of civil and criminal complaints to raise. But if he steals an idea, an image or a creative work, he can find more holes than a rat in a catacomb.
The effect has been a wholesale increase in stealing, combined with confusion over what can be done. This leaves the public not knowing whether stealing is actually right or wrong, since if it was wrong, wouldn’t somebody do something about it?
To keep things thoroughly confused, now celebrities are trying to keep people, not from using their picture without authorization, but a picture that looks like their picture. For example, last year actress Kim Kardashian filed a $20 million lawsuit against clothing company Old Navy for using a look-a-like model in a campaign, alleging the company used her persona without authorization.
Anyway, I hope Packard becomes the boss of the “creative department” that came up with that plan. It is no wonder the Chinese claim they can’t understand our intellectual property laws and think we apply them unequally.
The odyssey of the American election is continuing. And continuing. Only seven months to go. It is clear to me the only reason the Canadian news doesn’t report the equivalent of what one ex-vice-presidential candidate thinks about who the current presidential hopefuls might choose for potential running mates is that we don’t have time. To unscramble that, Sarah Palin apparently thinks Representative Allen West would make a good, next vice president. Interesting thought, but news? Anyway, in Canada we could go through three administrations, including elections, in seven months.
The Statistics Canada report for February building permits is in. The total value of permits issued in February increased 7.5 percent over January to $6.5 billion. The increase was in the Institutional, Industrial and Commercial areas, so be alert for commercial opportunities while the Residential sector takes a breather.
Importantly, the February 2011 report essentially mirrors the recent report. Last year, $5.8 billion in permits were issued, largely in the non-residential sector, and were up 9.9 percent from the previous month. That means this year’s February report shows increases of 11 percent over last February, with a corresponding (probably regular) emphasis on non-residential.
In addition, the U.S. Commerce Department reports economic recovery gaining strength on the biggest rise in construction spending in nearly a decade and the 10th straight month of expansion for the manufacturing sector. To be fair, temporary government incentives fuelled most of the construction spending increases in April, but that would not diminish the need for secondary wood products into the new buildings.
Back to China: one of the things that really hit me was the investment the European machinery manufacturers made in the show at Guangzhou. Many of the names that made news in North America over the past three years by boycotting shows and cutting ads are in China with bells on. I have attached a few shots of the show at Guangzhou (click to enlarge) to give a sense of the atmosphere.