Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Put back right good postpones
and you will hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful voyage
which started starting from this tropical port
on board this tiny boat.
The companion was a powerful man of navigation;
the courageous and sure captain.
Five passengers placed the veil this day
for a three hours excursion.
a three hours excursion.

To obtain started in rough weather.
The tiny boat was thrown in the air.
If not for the courage of the courageous crew,
Minnow would be destroyed.
Minnow would be destroyed.

The boat failed on the shore of this
uncharted the island of desert
with Gilligan, the captain, therefore,
the millionaire, and his wife.
The star of cinema,
the professor and Mary Ann
are here on the island of Gilligan.

translation courtesy of Matthew White

The Bush administration seems to be following an axiom that guided many of its predecessors: To keep negative headlines to a minimum, release bad news on a Friday.

On a Friday last November, the Environmental Protection Administration said it would relax enforcement of the Clean Air Act so older coal-fired power plants could renovate without having to install anti-pollution equipment.

On a Friday in January, the administration said it would consider removing Clean Water Act protections from up to one-fifth of the nation's streams, ponds, lakes, mudflats and wetlands.

The resignations of Army Secretary Thomas White and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill were announced on Fridays.

Last December, Census officials admitted on a Friday that the 2000 Census undercounted the nation by 3.3 million people.
Busy, busy, busy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Starbucks Imperialism, the economics of

The ubiquity of American movies, brands and franchises around the world tends to make people draw certain conclusions about America and American power. These range from fanciful myths like "no two nations with McDonalds outlets will ever fight a war" to America as a voracious "cultural imperialist" that is determined to impose its trashy and decadent culture on the rest of the world.

All of these views seek to draw inferences either positive or negative about American cultural "values", either for 'em: they want "our way of life" or their envious of "our way of life" or agin 'em: America and American multi-national corporations are engaged in a war of aggression against "our culture".

There is, however, another interpretation which takes no account of the cultural significance of exporting American "values" and instead looks at the economics of the chains and franchises themselves. Australian economist, John Quiggin blogs that chains require a certain degree of cultural homogeneity in order get established and, to put it simply, the largest and most homogenous market in the world is the United States.

One of the traps for writers on 'soft power' is that, observing the proliferation of McDonalds, Starbucks and so on, they imagine that everyone in the countries they visit is a customer of these enterprises. This is, roughly speaking, true in the US, but the market share for these chains is smaller everywhere else.

Monday, September 22, 2003

On Doing Your Job

As the winds from Hurricane Isabel swept over Arlington National Cemetery, the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns were given — for the first time in history — permission to abandon their posts and seek shelter. “They told us that. But that’s not what’s going to happen,” said Sgt. Christopher Holmes, standing vigil on overnight duty.

When I was in 10th grade, I went with my father to DC. He went for a conference, and I went to visit museums, ride the subway, listen to soapbox shouters on the Mall, and so on. It was great. Perfect Fall weather every day, amazing stuff around every corner, and the freedom to wander. No school for a week! I loved it.

One of the last places I visited was Arlington. I wasn't looking forward to it much; I wanted more time to hang out in museums, and a trip to Arlington would take up a good part of the day. I was working up a sulk.

It turned out differently. The sentinels pacing their rounds, the changing of the guard, the near-silence--it got to me in ways my high school mind hadn't expected. I remember trying not to imagine who was in the tomb, what life he had led before going to war, how he had met his end. The people who missed him.

Of all the incredible things I saw on that trip--lunar modules, dinosaurs, Picassos--nothing has stayed with me like the hours I spent at Arlington.
I'm really fuzzy as to what exactly this guy's crime was. Are we moving toward prosecuting people for what they think?

(It's a guy who was prosecuted on child-pornography laws for journals he wrote which basically detailed fictional accounts of...well, ugly stuff he thought about.)

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Via MeFi: It's Banned Books Week. As always, many of the titles on the Most Challenged 100 Books List are surprising: How To Eat Fried Worms? Well, I recall not liking it in fourth grade, but banning it? Yeesh....anyway, the Judy Blume quote at the top of the page laments books that won't get written because they might end up on this list. Maybe I'm warped, but I'm the type to try to write books that are likely to get on this list.

Anyway, read a challenged book sometime!