:: Thursday, June 30 2005 ::
In Privatizing Gay Rights with
Non-discrimination Promises Instead of
Policies, Ian Ayres and Jennifer Gerarda Brown
propose that businesses put their money where thir mouth is with regard to non-descrimination policy. By creating a logo whose license requires adhering to a set of policies, they effectively create a law, bypassing the legislature by allowing companies to 'opt-in'. As the article notes, it's an interesting experiment, in addition to being an opportunity for companies to do the right thing.
:: David (04:03 in Michigan, 10:03 in Paris) - Comment
I can't believe I managed to get stung by a bee. On the bottom of my foot. In my bedroom! The silly insect had apparently decided there were flowers in our house, and after his tenth visit or so we started ignoring him. Big mistake. I wandered into the bedroom and boom! Pain! My foot is still sore this morning, but I guess I can't complain, because I'm definitely better off than the bee.
:: David (03:48 in Michigan, 09:48 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, June 29 2005 ::
The US State Department has unclassified some documents, including this one: Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, May 26, 1971, 10:38-10:44 a.m., which is causing a disturbance in some circles:
Now, just to remind you, they tried to bring Kissinger back to head the September 11 commission. Nice choice.
Nixon: The Indians need—what they need really is a—
Kissinger: They’re such bastards.
Nixon: A mass famine. But they aren't going to get that. We're going to feed them—a new kind of wheat. But if they're not going to have a famine the last thing they need is another war. Let the goddamn Indians fight a war [unclear].
Kissinger: They are the most aggressive goddamn people around there.
Nixon: The Indians?
:: David (10:21 in Michigan, 16:21 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, June 28 2005 ::
There are two things set to happen at 8 PM EDT (2 AM for me). It's so ironic I almost find it hard to believe it's happening. Item one: Canada will vote to allow same-sex marriage. Item two: Bush will speak on US television to bolster support for the Iraq war.
:: David (11:43 in Michigan, 17:43 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Some random reads on Wal-Mart: Fast Company on Wal-Mart and
Frontline on Wal-Mart. A discussion around the office led to the question 'how many people does Wal-Mart employ', which the Fast Company article answers - 1,200,000 people.
:: David (11:16 in Michigan, 17:16 in Paris) - Comment
In the paper (PDF) Are Productivity Levels Higher in Some European Countries than in the United States? by Gilbert Cette, the author explores the question of whether European workers produce more per hour worked than the United States.
This idea has been around a while, and is somewhat pervasive, in part because people (like myself) tend to enjoy the idea that Americans with their 'work until you drop' and 'Vacation? What's that?' mentality are working longer rather than working smarter. I myself like the idea because, in the end, I want to be able to have my six weeks of holiday.
However, there are also numbers which seem to indicate several European countries are simply more efficient in their production of income than the US. The author examines these numbers, and presents some fairly convincing reasons why they should not be taken at face value. The most interesting point I noted was in the appendix, where he examines how different countries calculate GDP. The author lays out three differences in accounting between the US and the EU, and then notes "The combined effect of these three differences in accounting conventions appears to 'inflate' American GDP by some 2 per cent to 5 per cent compared to European standards."
:: David (11:13 in Michigan, 17:13 in Paris) - Comment
According to the BBC, France has officially been rewarded the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project - the project which hopes to build a fusion reactor.
:: David (04:38 in Michigan, 10:38 in Paris) - Comment
There's a great story on AlterNet which talks about the fact that, 16 years on, Exxon still hasn't paid any money to the people harmed by the Valdez disaster. It's been back and forth in the courts, and doesn't go anywhere. Already, according to the article, some 3,000 of the claimants have died, and the original settlement, 5 billion dollars, could be covered by the interest the money has earned in the intervening time period. A nice little reminder of who has the power....
:: David (04:37 in Michigan, 10:37 in Paris) - Comment
Pity the poor postwoman who just delivered (at 8 AM) our Amazon shipment - I almost feel guilty for living on the fifth floor without an elevator - she climbed all the way up, handed over my package, and with a (only slightly gasping) 'bonne journee' started back down. And it's probably a good 28C/80F in the hallway.
:: David (02:14 in Michigan, 08:14 in Paris) - Comment
You know, Live 8 has been in the news so much, it passed my 'ignore' threshold and became background noise. I hadn't realized that one of the concerts is happening here in Paris (well, Versailles, but same thing). In addition to some fun French music, James Brown and the Cure will be there. Le Monde informs me it will be broadcast live on channel six, but since entry is free I may need to just wander over. There are 20,000 special tickets available by SMS, and I may do that (I assume they take my money whether I get a ticket or not), even though I'm not sure what I think about this kind of charity event (that is, I'm not sure I trust this sort of organization to do a better job than development agencies when it comes to handing out money - and the development agencies don't have all that great a record). We'll see. Either way, it looks to be an interesting weekend.
:: David (01:57 in Michigan, 07:57 in Paris) - Comment
In a sort of cyber equivalent of that time I wandered out of my bedroom at college clad only in my boxers to find the entire marching band had descended on my house for breakfast, I realized this morning that I got linked by one of the more well known bloggers (Rebecca Blood) just in time for me to share with all of you details of my dental woes. Heh.
:: David (01:42 in Michigan, 07:42 in Paris) - Comment
Well, after several hours in a chair, I have a swanky new crown where my tooth used to be. If I had anybody to blame but myself I would be bitter, but in fact, in 2000, I went to the dentist and he said 'you've got a cavity in that tooth'. I took the x-ray back to Japan with me, intending to get it filled, but I never did. By the time I got around to having it looked at, it was gone. In 2003 I had the root canal done and a post put in, along with a temporary filling, and finally, finally, yesterday had the crown done. I still have one more visit to finish the thing, but yesterday was the big drill-fest. It's OK - every time something like this happens, I take better care of my teeth afterwards....
:: David (01:25 in Michigan, 07:25 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, June 27 2005 ::
The supreme court added to the problems of the US today:
At issue in the case, FCC v. Brand X, was whether cable operators should be required under federal law to lease their cable lines to competitors, much the way local phone companies were forced years ago to open up their lines to long-distance phone companies.More monopoly power on high speed internet is exactly what the cable companies didn't need. Treating one piece of copper wire differently from another piece is just silly.
In a somewhat related case, the supreme court ruled against Grokster, saying that if file sharing software was promoted for its illegal uses, the maker of the software could be sued. This is not necessarily the end, depending on how Grokster has been promoted, and what a lower court decides based on the advice of the Supreme Court.
:: David (11:03 in Michigan, 17:03 in Paris) - Comment
Too funny! I just noticed the Money section of Le Monde has a little notice in it this morning - it says "to our readers: please note that during the summer holiday the Money section will not be published." Now that's what I call a summer holiday! Is it any wonder that September is treated as a sort of anti-holiday here?
:: David (02:16 in Michigan, 08:16 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
It's the 200th anniversary of Admiral Nelson's victory at Trafalgar, and the brits have all kinds of celebrations going on. Regarding one of them, Nelson's relatives are not impressed.
:: David (02:14 in Michigan, 08:14 in Paris) - Comment
Le Monde, in the Sunday-Monday edition of the paper, has several articles on the phenomenon of pirating movies. My favourite is a small blurb on the front page, which begins:
A number gives the magnitude of the phenomenon: in France alone, it is estimated that 1.5 million people downloaded illegally and for free onto their computer, Star Wars III - Revenge of the Sith, the latest film in the saga from George Lucas. A number of these pirates even saw the film prior to its arrival in French theatres.Now, according to the CIA World Factbook, there are 60.66 million people living in France. That would imply that fully two and a half percent of the entirety of the French population downloaded the third star wars film. Wow! If that number can be exported, that would be 7.4 million people in the US - but I think that might even be a low estimate.
:: David (01:23 in Michigan, 07:23 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, June 26 2005 ::
There's a website called blo.gs that tracks when blogs have been updated. It also lets you follow ones you like, I believe, but I haven't really tried that part yet. What I have tried is the search engine, which can be something of a laugh riot. I put in 'Life of Dave', and because I haven't made it work yet, mine didn't come back. However, several other 'life of' people did. It's quite fun to randomly hop through other people's lives - I found a retiree and his wife, an army wife, and a teenage girl (teenage girls who post their 'thoughts' are scary. I mean that!) in the course of five minutes or so. Amusing way to kill time.
:: David (17:55 in Michigan, 23:55 in Paris) - Comment
Time once again for the 'what's Dave reading' moment of the week. Same old, same old, still reading The Sholan Alliance, your standard 'girl meets humanoid cat alien, girl falls in love with humanoid cat alien, they link telepathically and have babies' books. They're really quite sizeable, and have been, thus far, enthralling. Well, mostly - they're starting to slow down, and I've plans to start the Amber prequel Betancourt wrote fairly soon. I'll keep you posted!
:: David (17:38 in Michigan, 23:38 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
The BBC has informed me that coverage in the US is all over the story of a teenage girl who disappeared in Aruba. As the article notes, "It is not hard to imagine cynical reasons why", as the young woman is "young, pretty and white." A professor at George Washington University notes "Much of it has to do with the rise of cable networks that have to fill 24/7 schedules, but when such a story reaches a critical mass you find the rest of the media has to cover it." The BBC then quotes a CBS (one of the big US stations) reporter who say "There is criticism that it is only a story because she is a pretty, blonde and white - and it is criticism that journalists are taking to heart and looking elsewhere for other stories. But it is a big story because it is an American girl who went off on an adventure, and didn't come back. It is a huge mystery, it is something people can identify with." But the article notes that much of the coverage is driven by the bottom line, calling the US a "hypercapitalist society". And, in closing, it points out "The public may be saying 'Isn't this terrible' but at the same time the ratings are going up, people are watching it."
By the way, for an idea of how this story is playing where I am, this is the first time I've heard the story. I assume this is not true for those of you in the states?
:: David (15:40 in Michigan, 21:40 in Paris) - Comment
So, in a bit of interesting news from Israel, a judge has set aside a city ban on a gay pride parade, and in addition ordered the city to pay the group's court costs, and ordered them to put up the group's flags along the parade route, as they would for any other march.
:: David (15:30 in Michigan, 21:30 in Paris) - Comment
About three and a half years ago I was wandering through the mall in Battle Creek, Michigan, looking for a new pair of shoes. In a little shop, on the discount rack, I found a pair of Doc Marten's, marked down from $125 to $25. They were the only pair on the rack, and they happened to be in my size. Fate, I thought. Now, three and a half years later, their time is about up. It was some weeks ago that we noticed that the soles had been worn down on the outside of both shoes by perhaps a quarter of an inch. It didn't take that much time to recognize the fact that this was causing me to fall over every time I stepped on an uneven surface. When your shoes become dangerous, they've probably outlived their useful life. But I'll be darned sad to see them go - the shoes that carried me all over Paris more times than you can count, not to mention all the other holiday spots (including Egypt!)
So, with the big sales going on in Paris, I have acquired a new pair of shoes, and we'll see how they do. They were more expensive than my Docs, but that was to be expected. Their first trial will come today, as we make a run in to find a swanky corkscrew, and whatever else catches our eye. The stores are exceptionally open on a Sunday due to the sales, and we're going to explore. It's a wonderful day to do so, as it's been raining most of the day. We'll see how they do.
:: David (07:29 in Michigan, 13:29 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, June 25 2005 ::
There's an article in the New York Times today about a student trying to get into India's most prestigious university system, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). Apparently the acceptance rate for applicants to IIT is two percent. Now, here is why the US and other Western countries are in trouble if they don't get their act together - let's assume this young man, Anupam, gets his degree and goes on to make lots of money. More than likely, he's going to remember how difficult it was for him to get an education, and he'll in some way contribute, either to his own family or to creating more opportunities for others. This will continue, and after some time India will have an amazingly well developed higher educational system (and along the way, probably the lower schools will see quality improvements as well). Meanwhile, for example, in the states we're seeing funding for education falling, and public support for educational infrastructure seems to be evaporating. This is going to lead to some issues in the future (or perhaps in the present - witness recent news on China in automobiles and oil companies).
In a related topic, an article in Foreign Affairs magazine (which, by the way, be careful how you type - I ended up at a porn site by typing "com" instead of "org" after the address) has an article about how far behind the US is in broadband internet and mobile phone technology (something I've complained about for years). As the article notes, a "typical U.S. broadband connection, whether DSL or cable, is still only 1.5 megabits per second or slower", whereas, for example, in France the 20 Mbps is readily available and in Japan 40 Mbps. And for the higher speeds, you guessed it, the price is lower than in the US. A lot lower. And don't even talk about mobile phone technology - the US hasn't even sold the airspace for 3rd generation networks yet (it hopes to do so in 2006), while Europe and Japan have fully functional networks available to the public.
:: David (07:29 in Michigan, 13:29 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
While we were down in the loire, I saw a sign for a company that, while perhaps in their language had a very nice name, in English you would be hard pressed to find a more unlikely name for what I assume was a construction company. Take a look and tell me what you think.
:: David (07:04 in Michigan, 13:04 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Well, I got the photos from the loire valley up, more or less. No text yet, but the photos are there.
The big sales started in Paris today. They happen twice a year, I think, and just about every store suddenly has everything 50 percent off. It's pretty crazy the first few days, so of course Sasha and I went out this evening to experience it. I actually managed to buy some trousers, so the evening was not a frenetic waste of time.
No plans for the weekend, really - maybe catch a train somewhere, maybe just stay at home and do home-like stuff. Go to the market tomorrow morning, get some good breakfast stuff, and generally enjoy life in France, before the madness of July sets in. Packing and shipping and selling and organizing and then going on holiday with Sasha's family.
:: David (19:53 in Michigan, 01:53 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, June 24 2005 ::
About three weeks ago, we ordered three cases of wine from our favourite makers of Muscat, the Vignerons de Baumes de Venise. They sent us a letter less than a week later, stating the wine would be delivered within the week. And we waited. After two more weeks, we called them up, and said "where is our wine?" They responded "What do you mean? It was delivered two weeks ago!"
This is never a good start to a conversation.
She went back and checked the files, and found that someone had signed for it, and the driver had noted they had signed for it at the Hair Salon downstairs. So we called the salon, and of course they knew nothing. But they said that the manager would be in the next day, and they would ask him. So Sasha gave them our phone number.
In the meantime, I called back the Vignerons and said "They don't know anything about it. Could you fax me a copy of the signed slip?" Which they did.
First off, they had gotten my name wrong, Berber instead of Barber. To add to that, they reversed my first and last name. Now, since I had paid by credit card, I was pretty sure the Vignerons knew my name, which meant it was the shipping company.
However, next to the printed copy of my name (ahem!), in the signature box was a signature which matched the printed name. Uh oh.
I spent much of last night wondering why the driver of the truck hadn't asked for ID or anything, and whether my wine was gone forever.
This morning, before eight AM, a man called to tell me he had my wine. I said "Great! I take it it's downstairs in the shop?" He responded "Not exactly, but I'll meet you there when you leave to go to work."
So, I went down at the arranged time, and he was just unlocking the shop. After making sure we were each other, he the person with my wine, me the person looking for my wine, we went over to his car, and he got out the six missing boxes. I carried them up the stairs, said "Thank you" when I picked up the last set of boxes, and headed off to work.
The questions, obviously, are myriad. The name of the hair salon downstairs is Jean-Louis David, so it's possible, by a long stretch, that the delivery man thought that was the destination, despite having a different name and, as it turned out, a different address (I had thought the back entry to the shop was in my building, but in fact it is next door).However, once he had the wine, why the shopkeeper hadn't contacted me, posted notes around, or something, leads us down a darker path. Taking the boxes home is also interesting, though, again, we could note that the shop isn't -so- big, and six boxes of wine take up some space.
In point of fact, I will never know how in the world the whole situation came about. And I don't really want to. It's why I didn't ask the shopkeeper - just took my wine and got the heck out of there. I got my shipment, and a bizarre story out of the deal, and I'll take that and be happy.
:: David (08:03 in Michigan, 14:03 in Paris) - Comment
Oil passed $60 per barrel for the second day running today, amid concerns that demand will remain high for the rest of the summer season, despite the price increases. According to the BBC video report I just watched, the average price of gas in the UK is $5.96 per gallon. Here in France last weekend I paid $5.26 a gallon. If the demand (and the speculation) continues, this could be a very interesting season for the oil guzzling countries of the world.
:: David (05:51 in Michigan, 11:51 in Paris) - Comment
The supreme court website finally got the full text of the ruling in Kelo v. New London onto their website (PDF only)- it's worth a look, if for no other reason than to read the dissent. As Lisa noted in her comment yesterday, some state legislatures (well, one so far) are creating laws to prevent use of eminent domain for such a questionable purpose. I expect/hope we'll see more of them doing so. Time to start gathering signatures!
:: David (02:01 in Michigan, 08:01 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, June 23 2005 ::
I rarely side with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but
Kelo v. City of New London just makes me crazy. I think Sandra Day O'Connor said it best:
"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
Basically, the question was 'when can a city seize property through the use of eminent domain?' The answer, it seems, is any time they want to.
:: David (11:15 in Michigan, 17:15 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
I read a really great article in the CSM on the train this morning, talking about the way Appalachia is hoping to reinvent itself as a tourist getaway for those who like folk music. Given how effective it is in other settings (Western Ireland, Eastern Canada, Bretagne in France, etc.) I think it's a brilliant solution.
For those who don't know, Appalachia, in the Eastern United States, used to be heavily involved with the coal industry. Now that coal is more or less defunct, their fortunes have suffered dramatically. According to the US census, a 2 person family in West Virginia (which is often used as a shorthand for the Appalachian region) would have a median income of $33,454. This is the lowest in the nation, and is $12,000 less than the national median.
My parents used to take me to bluegrass festivals, and although at the time I complained, I have since gained an appreciation for the music, and the culture - one of those things I consider truly 'American'. Although, as the article notes, an influx of tourism might take away some of the genuineness of the music, I don't think it will do too much harm - the people who play are there because of the music, and if the tourists come, they'll be there for the music too.
:: David (04:33 in Michigan, 10:33 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
The Christian Science Monitor has a first person account of the fete de la musique here in Paris - it does a good job, I think, of capturing the spirit of the thing.
:: David (04:02 in Michigan, 10:02 in Paris) - Comment
I can't even imagine it - apparently the entire swiss rail network ground to a halt yesterday. As near as I can work out, the power must be in some way centralized, and when it went away, all the trains just stopped. Amazing.
It's worth knowing why I'm so stunned: the swiss rail network is the only one in the world I've ever seen operate as efficiently as the Japanese rail network. Trains run on the second, not the minute. Either you catch your train or you don't, but you can't blame the trains, because they always leave precisely at the appointed hour. It's simply amazing, and the idea that this amazingly orchestrated machine came to a grinding halt is just incredible.
:: David (03:59 in Michigan, 09:59 in Paris) - Comment
It's supposed to be 34 degrees in Paris today (that'd be close to 90 for those of you in the F-zone). Yuck. It didn't even get cool last night, which just makes the heat of today worse. Of course, my building doesn't have air conditioning (very few buildings do, although there are certainly more after the heat wave of 2003). I shall spend the day in an attempt to work as I slowly melt, and then join the ranks of fainting people on the metro.
Actually, that is one of the worst things about the heat - the people who pass out in the metro. I am not one of those affected by the heat and closeness of the metro, but it's always weird when someone just drops nearby. Hopefully I can avoid the really crowded trains today. I don't know why, but it seems like as the temps get hotter, more people ride the metro. I know that makes no sense, so I assume it must be either my perception, or all the tourists, or some weird statistical thing - since everyone will be taking a month off to go on holiday soon, noone is taking holiday now, which increases the metro saturation, perhaps.
:: David (02:07 in Michigan, 08:07 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, June 22 2005 ::
The BBC has an article on an amusing push by the Poland tourism bureau here in Paris to draw visitors to Poland. During the recent referendum, the spectre of the 'Polish Plumber' was used again and again to represent unregulated cheap labour coming from Eastern Europe to take everyone's job. Now the tourist board has used this in a new way, with pictures of a sexy plumber (presumably Polish) saying "I'm still in Poland - you should all come visit me".
:: David (02:06 in Michigan, 08:06 in Paris) - Comment
We went to the fete de la musique this evening, with a bunch of folks from work and some other random souls. Live jazz, rock, folk, drinking songs, and bongos everywhere you went. At one point, walking beside the river, we decided that every group of young people in Paris had been issued a bongo drum and a guitar. The dancing youths to the bongo beat were actually quite primal, as was an absolutely beautiful young woman twirling fire sticks. But the high point of the evening came late, as we were wandering to the RER to come home. We stopped to hear a cover band, who were actually quite good. We came up as they were starting AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" and they only got older from there. But the point when they did a smooth transition from The Who's Pinball Wizard to Dire Strait's Money for Nothing (I want my, I want my, I want my MTV) was when I knew we had reached the pinnacle, and it was time to go home. It truly had to be heard to be believed.
:: David (19:27 in Michigan, 01:27 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, June 20 2005 ::
Well, four days and 500 kilometres later, we have been to the Loire valley. We managed to average four castles a day over the four days (for those mathematically challenged among you, that would be 16 castles), not counting the ones we drove by, saw from a distance, or stumbled over while walking to get coffee. That is one incredible little location. The really funny thing is that we didn't go to any of the big cities - I hate driving in towns (my abilities with a manual transmission are not quite up to stop-and-go traffic), so we stuck to the back country. Which was fine - maybe we'll do another trip down there to squeeze in some of the towns (Tours, Orleans, Blois). The public transport to the big places is really very well developed, but we were really glad to have a car so we could zip around and just see what we stumbled across (hey - that says 13th century church, next right - wanna see it?) rather than having to plan everything in advance. Of course, since we had a car we had to keep the wine tasting down, which was sad. Another reason to go back! I'll be posting the myriad pics and stories and somesuch eventually, but tomorrow is the fete de la musique here in Paris, so we'll be out tomorrow seeing every person who even thinks they can play an instrument out on the streets giving it a go. Maybe at the weekend....
:: David (17:36 in Michigan, 23:36 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, June 16 2005 ::
Today's tip - if you can find a bottle of wine that looks like this, buy it and drink it now. It is soooooo yummy! If you can't, find another Bordeaux wine from 2000, and drink that. Just because.
:: David (16:07 in Michigan, 22:07 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
A story on the BBC talks about school buses in the US. Apparently they are the safest form of transport around. It's interesting not only for its outsider's view of an American icon, but also because it suggests other countries should adopt similar methods for getting kids to school.
:: David (07:29 in Michigan, 13:29 in Paris) - Comment
There's apparently something of a ruckus happening in Toronto, according to MSNBC, concerning a statue of a town leader named Alexander Wood who lived there until the 1810. Apparently he is famous for two reasons - one, because he owned all the land which has now become a business district, and two, because he was a gay man run out of town for some questionable actions.
So the statue itself does not seem to be in question. Rather, it is the plaque at the base which illustrates (no joke) the actions that got him in trouble:
Wood emigrated from Scotland in the 1790s, becoming a merchant, militiaman and a well-respected magistrate, before running into trouble in 1810.
A woman reported a rape, noting she had scratched the attacker on his genitals. Wood took matters into his own hands, lining up the suspects and demanding that they drop their pants so he could "inspect" them.
After word of the incident got around, Wood was widely branded a "molly," a derogatory term for homosexuals, and he agreed to leave town in exchange for not being prosecuted for abusing his position.
The incident is commemorated on the statue's granite base, with a bronze plaque depicting a man's rear end with his pants around his knees, and Wood's outstretched hand in mid-examination.
It's quite something, and happily there's a picture on the website, which really only adds to my appreciation of this story.
:: David (07:26 in Michigan, 13:26 in Paris) - Comment
According to the Guardian this morning,
This is not exactly the smoothest of moves. Of course, the white house claims his departure was 'unrelated' to the doctoring of environmental documents. Is it any wonder at all that people might suspect the current administration of selling our future to the oil companies?
A senior White House official accused of doctoring government reports on climate change to play down the link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming has taken a job with ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company.
Philip Cooney, who resigned as chief of staff of the White House council on environment quality at the weekend, will begin work at the oil giant in the autumn.
:: David (01:42 in Michigan, 07:42 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, June 15 2005 ::
There's an article over on a blog I read semi-regularly which talks about the French restaurant ticket. It's a cross between a paycheck and food stamps.
:: David (18:04 in Michigan, 00:04 in Paris) - Comment
We watched a BBC special on Genghis Khan this evening. Fun stuff. It was short (one hour) so they skimmed a lot, but it was filmed in Mongolia using Mongolian actors, and it was pretty darned cool. Something to do on a Wednesday night.
:: David (18:00 in Michigan, 00:00 in Paris) - Comment
With a label as cute as this, it has to be good. Even if it is a cheap portugese white wine. Our last experience with a cute label was not really that good, so I don't hold much hope, but we'll see....
:: David (14:08 in Michigan, 20:08 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
The issue of religion and the left has been popping up a lot more lately - those people who recognize that, while they may not agree with everything the left has to say, it certainly makes more sense than the greed and hypocrisy of the right. In an article titled The Revolution Begins in the Pews, Eugene McCarraher explores the current religion of the United States - personal freedom and 'choice':
The article reviews two books, and for tongue-in-cheek reasons I will link them to amazon, so I can get paid if you buy them. They are God's Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, and The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today. The first book, I'm afraid, does not impress our reviewer, as he notes:
As its clerisy, the civil religion features a punditocracy whose job it is to control and patrol the borders of permissible discussion. These ubiquitous commentators do have their quarrels and indeed may be cast as bitter antagonists, conservative versus liberal, religious versus secular. And yet, oddly enough, wherever they take their stand in the culture wars, they never compromise their underlying commitment to the Empire of Expanding Choices.
Think of the wonderful disarray that would ensue if one violated the gravitational principles of this discursive universe and noted that "choice" is an ideological keyword both for defenders of abortion and for corporate elites; asserted that both groups ground their arguments in liberal individualist notions of selfhood at variance with Christian anthropology; and contended that any genuine "culture of life" requires a radical transformation of our political economy. If argued with skill, clarity, and force, these propositions would do more than reveal the profound affinity of factions now seen as enemies unto death, and expose the shabby foundations of contemporary political discourse. They would point to the possibility of a theological politics with its own laws of movement and inertia, a mode of critical and political engagement that uses but does not sacralize the foredoomed institutions of the earthly city.
talking about "values" is a way of not talking about practices, whose discussion mandates attention to the very quotidian and inescapably carnal ways we make love, raise children, and work in the office. "Values" palaver is so appealing because it enables evasion of the politics and pleasures of sexual embodiment; of the pressures placed on children to fight in their bourgeois parents' arms race of status; of the architecture of workplace power, and how our sexual relations and domestic arrangements are swept into the vortex of capital accumulation. So by partaking in the "values" conversation, Wallis ends up complicit in the very obfuscations he should be clarifying.
I find this argument quite convincing, as talking about 'values' has so far been used to attack certain practices, such as abortion, rather that looking at the overall picture - are we treating others as we would want to be treated, for example.
The second book takes the civil rights movement and creates religious parable from it. The author of the review extends the idea, stating "So while Marsh suggests that race must occupy the center of a revitalized movement of 'beloved community,' I suggest, drawing on King, that class must become the fulcrum of a new theological politics, and that, to amend Wallis, capitalism will be our most important political question." He goes on to present some interesting ideas of a christian socialism.
Overall, it's a tremendously interesting review, and while I don't know at first blush how much I wish to agree with the author, his ideas are certainly more provoking than most coming out from other sources.
:: David (12:26 in Michigan, 18:26 in Paris) - Comment
The Christian Science Monitor has a really neat article today on
the upside to increasing property taxes, which notes that
as the housing market goes crazy, taxes paid on houses also go crazy,
and that means a windfall for the people collecting those taxes:
I'm still torn about the idea of property taxes. On the one hand,
they prevent the accumulation of wealth to a landed aristocracy
(or at least make them pay for the honor). On the other hand, more
often than not it isn't them that is put out of the home they have
lived in all their life because they can't pay taxes - it's the
poor people who live in an area that becomes fashionable. And I
don't know that it is fair to ask them to move.
Nationally, property-tax collections rose about 6 percent last year after several years of rising about 5 percent. But for some localities, the numbers are much higher. Montgomery County, Md., for one, estimates its revenue from real estate transfer taxes and a tax on recording deeds is up 80 percent.
States in red-hot real estate territory are also taking part in the boom. In Arizona, for example, property-tax collections were up 13 percent in 2004 compared with 2003, according to census data. Overall, the state reported an increase of 77 percent in individual income-tax collections this April over the prior year.
:: David (12:02 in Michigan, 18:02 in Paris) - Comment
More obfuscation from the administration, courtesy of the BBC:
Well, I guess that's fair. The terrorists haven't split the planet in two with their super-secret neutrino bomb and sent us all hurtling into the sun, for example. There are an awful lot of 'bad things' that can happen - I think what we're all looking for, Mr. Secretary, are some 'good things'. And those seem to be in very short supply.
In an interview for the BBC's Newsnight programme, Mr Rumsfeld said Iraq had passed several milestones, like holding elections and appointing a government.
But asked if the security situation had improved [since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003], he admitted: "Statistically, no."
"But clearly it has been getting better as we've gone along," he added.
"A lot of bad things that could have happened have not happened."
I'm actually having a little difficulty understanding how you can say 'things haven't gotten better', and then in the next sentence 'things have clearly gotten better', and do it all with a straight face. It seems to me that if the statistics are, for example, how many car bombs there were, or how many people killed by insurgents, or just about any other statistic you care to come up with, then it is very difficult to call the situation in any way, shape, or form, 'better'.
:: David (01:54 in Michigan, 07:54 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, June 14 2005 ::
The author of Listening to Prozac revisits the age old question of 'What if (fill in the depressed artist's name here) had taken prozac?' He asks whether we would say the same if they had been afflicted with, for example, TB (a disease which was, for some time, romanticized). I've always been on the fence with this question, because I believe we are ready to medicate far more than is truly necessary, but the author makes a very strong, clear case, drawing the line between the unecessary and the really, honestly needed.
:: David (01:59 in Michigan, 07:59 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, June 13 2005 ::
It finally got dark here, a little after eleven. Now there is only a slight rose tint to the sky, as I turn in. I'm looking forward to seeing just how long the longest day of the year will be - if it carries on like this, I figure the sun will set around 11pm, and it will get dark by midnight. Nice!
:: David (17:13 in Michigan, 23:13 in Paris) - Comment
There's a wonderful comment piece in the Guardian under the title conscription of the past, which argues against a simple-minded use of history as national story. It gives examples of countries which teach in this manner, like in the United States, where:
Citizenship and history are seamlessly meshed into a simple-minded morality play designed to nurture blind patriotism. The textbook titles tend to give the game away: The American Way, Land of Promise, Rise of the American Nation, and The Challenge of Freedom are among the more subtle choices. And, as James W Loewen has pointed out, the consequence of this unerringly patriotic tale of US heroes and epochs is that African-American, Native-American and Latino students all tend to perform exceptionally poorly at high-school history.
The article argues against teaching a similar form of history in the British school system, stating that "it is intellectually deficient as well as culturally damaging to present the history of the British empire as a triumph of nation-building and free markets."
Sasha and I, when we get rolling, can really go on this subject - the 'grand march of history' which leads us ever closer to the perfection of today. Because today is so clearly perfect.
:: David (10:33 in Michigan, 16:33 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, June 12 2005 ::
I finally talked to Tammy, one of the people I should have called like six months ago, but had failed to do so. All is well, and it was great talking to someone from back home, whom I hopefully will get to spend a lot more time with when I get back. It's funny how many little things I am looking forward to when I get back. I suspect I'll burn myself out trying to do them all as soon as I get back, instead of pacing myself. Thankfully, unlike other times, I will have more than a week or two to do them all.
:: David (17:36 in Michigan, 23:36 in Paris) - Comment
I'm posting this a bit late, but I only found it today. Our favourite vicar is at it again, preaching peace. A simple question, really - what does it mean to support the troops?
:: David (14:39 in Michigan, 20:39 in Paris) - Comment
The woman is hard core. Florence Aubenas, who was just released after five months being held hostage, just got off the plane, greeted her family for ten minutes or so, and then came out to talk to the press. It wasn't much, just a 'hello' and 'thank you all', but nevertheless, to come out and face the cameras and the reporters, is quite something. Images were also coming out of Baghdad, where Hussein Hanoun, who was being held with Florence, was reunited with his family.
:: David (13:42 in Michigan, 19:42 in Paris) - Comment
Quite a weekend. We headed to the Pharaoh exhibit in town yesterday, which closes today, and thus it was absolutely packed. After, we went to what was supposed to be a concert, but was instead nothing at all, after we got the time wrong. So we went out for a drink with some friends who were meeting us there, and that was Saturday. Today we went to church, met a friend for lunch, and then headed up to Montmartre to see the stuff up there, which we hadn't done (during the day) before.
:: David (13:16 in Michigan, 19:16 in Paris) - Comment
The plane with Florence and Hussein has landed. Every channel in France has interrupted their programming to show the plane on the ground.
:: David (13:11 in Michigan, 19:11 in Paris) - Comment
They're free! Florence and Hussein made it out of Iraq! I wondered, as it was going on, how long everyone could keep up hope that they would make it out alive. Now I know - as long as it was necessary.
:: David (13:03 in Michigan, 19:03 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, June 11 2005 ::
You know it's a good party when you see two of the people who were at the party making out on a street corner as you walk home from it. That's all the philosophy I can muster at this point and time. Sleepy.
:: David (19:28 in Michigan, 01:28 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, June 9 2005 ::
In the paper
Optimal health insurance contract: Is a deductible useful?, David Bardeya and Romain Lesurb explore the idea that by charging people a deductible when they visit the doctor for preventative medicine, you might encourage them to not visit the doctor until they are ill. They suggest that it might be better for all parties if full coverage is offered on preventitive measures for conditions which are expensive to treat. Self-evident, to some degree, but I'm not sure the insurance companies always get it.
:: David (04:41 in Michigan, 10:41 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, June 8 2005 ::
Also pointed out by Arts and Letters Daily, a nice solid attack on organized religion by Salman Rushdie.
:: David (17:31 in Michigan, 23:31 in Paris) - Comment
A&L Daily pointed me to an article in, of all places, Mechanical Engineering magazine, titled
The End of Mechanical Engineering, which is an interesting description of where cars are headed. According to the article, we are going to lose all mechanical systems in cars (hydraulic steering and brakes, for example) in favour of electrical systems. For the average person this will mean a lighter, more fuel efficient car that has fewer fluids to leave on the garage floor.
:: David (17:30 in Michigan, 23:30 in Paris) - Comment
I walked out of my apartment this morning, and just as I cleared the alcove where our door is hidden, a young businessman sprinted past me. Fearing the worst, I turned to look at the station, and as expected my train was pulling to a stop. Figuring if he could make it I could, I started to sprint. I cleared the ticket control and hopped on the train just as the doors started to close. And then what did I do? I stopped. Stupid. I heard behind me an 'excusez-moi!' just before a young woman slammed into me from behind. She was very apologetic, but when the doors are closing, it's jungle rules.
:: David (04:02 in Michigan, 10:02 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, June 7 2005 ::
We finally saw the season finale of Stargate: Atlantis this evening. It was everything we had hoped for, complete with a cliffhanger ending. The interesting thing about the show is that, by failing to make any characters more likeable, and necessary, they've made me believe that any of them could go, which makes it more cliffhanger-y. Also, because we waited so long to see the end of season one, season two is almost on us, which means we don't have to wait as long to see the end!
:: David (17:55 in Michigan, 23:55 in Paris) - Comment
By the way, if you don't know, according to the wikipedia:
Tapas are essentially snacks. In many regions of Spain they are often included in the price of drinks (beer, wine, not spirits) served in bars. In this case, they amount to as little as a few olives, a piece of cheese, etc. Bigger portions that are ordered to make up a meal are also called tapas. It is customary to share them. In lieu of dinner many Spaniards go out for tapas, the equivalent of "bar hopping" but instead eating tapas and having a copa at each bar.
I'm afraid the next entry doesn't make much sense if you don't have that piece of information.
:: David (14:40 in Michigan, 20:40 in Paris) - Comment
One of the songs we heard at Sunday's concert was a song called "Au Paradis" by Gerald De Palmas. The refrain goes "Tu as gagnĂ© ta place au paradis" - 'you have earned your place in heaven'. While we were listening, though, I had pretty much decided that the words were "Tu as gagnĂ© tapas au paradis" - 'you have earned tapas in heaven' - which sounded like a pretty good deal to me! So that's my Jimi Hendrix "Excuse me, while I kiss this guy" moment in French. You should give a listen to the song (Au Paradis, not Purple Haze, tho that's good too) if you have the chance.
:: David (14:37 in Michigan, 20:37 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, June 6 2005 ::
The Swiss approved an open land border with the EU in a referendum on Sunday. Also approved was a measure granting more rights for same sex couples. Kicking and screaming, Switzerland is becoming part of Europe....
:: David (04:34 in Michigan, 10:34 in Paris) - Comment
Photos I took at the Eiffel Tower Concert are up. It was really weird to be there, because while you were watching the concert you would forget the Eiffel Tower was behind them, and then every now and again you would look up and be like 'oh!'
:: David (02:06 in Michigan, 08:06 in Paris) - Comment
I can't decide what I think of plans by the UK government to change the way they tax cars. Formerly, you paid the tax once a year, based on the condition and type of the car. Cars with lots of emissions and/or crummy mileage paid more. But now they're talking about starting a 'price per mile' tax, with higher rates for driving in the cities during rush hour, for example. The BBC outlines some of the arguments, although they also give weight to lobbyists, so it's necessary to pick through to find the good stuff.
In theory, this is a perfect tax - pay for how much you use, and how much you add to congestion. But the concern is for poor people - people who don't have a lot of options about their job, and more than likely don't have a lot of options about where they live, either. Of course, I don't think the old system was very good for them, either, so maybe this one, while flawed, will still be an improvement....
:: David (01:40 in Michigan, 07:40 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, June 5 2005 ::
Our final visitors (ever in Paris?) left today. Now we can get planning on our own holidays. Oh - and packing, and leaving. Sigh. We had a great weekend - Sasha's friend Jenny came with her friend Tom and we all wandered Paris aimlessly - went up on the Arc de Triomphe, went to the Louvre, the usual. Fun stuff, tho, and good company. Now I can really settle down and get with the packing and moving program!
:: David (17:27 in Michigan, 23:27 in Paris) - Comment
So there was a free concert under the Eiffel Tower today, courtesy of my new favourite media company (for the moment) NRJ. It featured Kyo, Nathalie Imbruglia, Maroon 5, Jenifer, Gérald De Palmas, Nâdiya, Amel Bent, Le Roi Soleil, Marc Lavoine, M Pokora, David Guetta Feat J.D Davis, Eskobar-Emma Daumas, Lemar, Daniel Powter, Marc Lavoine, Papa A.P., and Rupee. Some of those you will recognize, maybe, some you will probably not unless you follow the French music scene. The high point was possibly Daniel Powter, (whose song you can hear if you visit his website). He didn't know a lot of French, but he knew the word for 'sing' (chantez!). His audience, it would seem, didn't know a lot of English (or didn't know his song). So he tried to get them to sing along, and each time got more... emphatic about wanting people to sing along. The first verse didn't work, and he said something like 'ok - next time I really mean it!' The final verse, when it was clear that it wasn't going to happen, he tried by brute force - 'chantez, you mother f...'. Amusing for us, anyway. The concert was broadcast live on TV, and it was a little weird - it was clear everyone French was there for Kyo, and everyone else was there... because it was a free concert in Paris, under the Eiffel Tower. So the energy was a little off. But the music was good, and I got to see a lot of stuff , including Natalie Imbruglia singing 'Torn' (along with her new single), which I didn't get to see the first time around, when I was listening to her CD non-stop. Some crazy wacky hip-hop, and one guy, Lemar, who seemed to combine the look of Snoop Dogg with the sound of Marvin Gaye.
:: David (17:19 in Michigan, 23:19 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, June 2 2005 ::
The question you haven't even been thinking about - is the new prime minister of France Mr Villepin or Mr de Villepin?
:: David (03:48 in Michigan, 09:48 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, June 1 2005 ::
The knights who say 'nee' have spoken - the Netherlands has rejected the European Constitution 62 percent to 38 percent. I saw the folks in the Hague looking like they just wanted to run and hide, saying things like 'europe will continue under the old rules' etc. etc.
:: David (17:25 in Michigan, 23:25 in Paris) - Comment
I'm working on a couple of issues here today - the first, that my blog program isn't perfect, and occasionally tries to eat my blog. The second, and I'm not sure I'm going to do it, involves comments. There's a program called TypeKey that let's you use the same login for lots of website comment stuff. I assume it will be used for things like private entries. Of course, for the most part it's probably just goofy stuff, but I like the idea of tying into the blog software net, which is pretty clubby and excludes those of us who do our own thing.
:: David (13:45 in Michigan, 19:45 in Paris) - Comment
The Economist digs into the dirty little secret of California's wine industry - it's watered down. Or, more precisely, water is added to the wine during the fermentation process. The revelation of this fact makes everyone "a little coy, even a trifle alarmed. Witness the concern of a spokeswoman for California’s Wine Institute. 'How did you hear about this?' she demanded. 'This is a long, long story—it’s kind of a stylistic thing.'"
The article goes on to ask (and answer) the obvious question. "Does all this mean that California’s winemakers are involved in a terrible scandal, collectively short-changing the consumer by watering down their wine? Only if you have a very naive view of an industry that has to cope with the vagaries of the weather and the whims of the market." In fact, most winemakers have all the tools at their disposal (adding sugar, wood chips, or water, for example), although how many use which is another question. I've heard one winemaker disparage another for using one or more of these, and although I think it mostly a matter of pride (our wine is a product of our skill), there's also a real danger the wine will taste doctored.
There's also another player in the California case - the grape grower. According to the article, Grape Growers "are paid according to the weight of their grapes, and the longer the grapes are left hanging on the vine in pursuit of a fuller, richer wine, the more they become dehydrated—and the less they weigh." So to review, the grapes are full of water, they dehydrate, the winemakers buy them, and then add water to make up for the water that went away.
The article closes with a reminder of what's really at stake: "the real danger for California’s wines is one shared by wine-lovers the world over—the standardisation of taste and the loss of individualism. As giant corporations buy up one winemaker after the other [...] the risk is that a wine’s marketing will count more than its terroir."
:: David (08:03 in Michigan, 14:03 in Paris) - Comment
By the way - did you all see that deep throat has been revealed, after thirty years of concealment? He's 91 now, so I guess he doesn't have much need to worry about being tracked down. However, the question is now being raised (well, still being raised)as to whether he could have done it alone, so I guess it's good he came forward rather than allowing his death to reveal the secret, as was originally planned.
:: David (02:11 in Michigan, 08:11 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Today the Dutch vote on the European constitution. Noone is quite sure why, as it ought to have been killed by the French, but there's still quite a lot of denial, and suggestions have been made that it could be brought before the people a second time. I'm fairly certain that would be a bad idea. It doesn't really seem in the spirit of democracy to revote until you get the result you want.
:: David (02:01 in Michigan, 08:01 in Paris) - Comment