Saturday, July 06, 2002

TED I'm a Yankees fan, and my Dad wasn't even born when Ted Williams hit .406, but at age 16 I could have recited a couple of hundred statistics about Ted Williams. It makes me feel like I actually saw him play.
MIDDLE AGED HYPOCRITES I was at a fourth of july party bbq yesterday at my aunt's home. Several of her friends were there -- mostly late forties with teenage to preteen children. They were putting away the case of beer I had brought along at a pretty good clip, and the conversation found its way to teenage and college drinking. After regaling me with stories of their beer drinking college days, they proceeded to tell me how different it is now. How kids are drinking so much more, and they're all alcoholics and must be stopped, etc. One guy had been lectured to by some "expert" who told him that "50% of the alcohol sold is consumed by people of college age" which is not remotely close to being true. Now, my child's just 2, so I've got a few years before I'm in danger of becoming a hypocrite, but I had to bite my tongue not to go after these guys. I've gone back to my old college, and it ain't what it used to be in terms of kids drinking. Sure the hard core is still there, but with all of those coffee shops replacing the bars, don't you think there is a little less drinking going on? And if things really are so much worse now, as these guys were saying, then doesn't that mean that the quasi-prohibition of the last 20 years has worked about as well as the full court prohibition did in the 20s?

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

I heard a radio show on NPR while driving home that covered the topic of statistical studies of geneology. It's an issue I first read about in this article in the Atlantic a few months ago. Read the article, Your Royal Highness. It explains how everyone of western descent has a royal ancestor. Going backwards, generations increase exponentially. At the time of the Mayflower, you had about 65,000 ancestors, so who knows, maybe one of those people was on board. In the middle ages, we're talking millions of ancestors. They were kings, slaves, scoundrels, heroes -- you name it, its your lineage. It really points out the silliness of the concept of royalty, doesn't it?

Monday, July 01, 2002

So how do I square that last post with the fact that I generally support unions in the US. Hard to say. I think the answer is that I support any workers right to organize, anywhere. But when you start talking about awful working conditions in the Third World, when in actuality these jobs are a huge improvement for the people taking them, then there's just a logical disconnect to your argument, not mine.
With the G-8 leaders meeting recently in Canada, the "Seattle Kids" made the news again. They were less able to destroy property because the meetings were held deep in the Canadian Rockies, but they nevertheless engaged in a lot of stupid stunts, like protesting the Gap for supposedly oppressing people by giving them jobs. It generally annoys me that people who have no clue about the "sweatshops" are the ones who are the most outspoken about them. My wife owns a small business that makes toys and gift items that are manufactured in China. She personally visits all of the factories that she uses and meets the owners and the workers. Here's the people she meets: The owners: even in communist china, there are many factories that are owned not by the government or multi-national corporations, but by chinese entrepreneurs. They contract work out to foreigners looking for low wage manufacturing. Surprisingly, Tawainese own a lot of factories in China. The workers: young people, often girls, who have come from farm communities to make what is to them an enormous amount of cash. They generally work 80 to 90 hours a week, with time off only for a couple of weeks during the chinese new year. The factories are clean and bright, and dorms are provided for the workers. There's generally no plumbing for anyone (even the visiting americans), but that's life in most of China. The workers don't plan on working 80 hours a week for life. They usually come for 1 to 4 years, save their money, and go back home to their families. It really isn't much different than young people in America working 80 hours a week as doctor-interns, lawyers in big law firms or even as unpaid grad students. It's something you choose to do to get ahead -- the financial payoffs are different, but in relative terms they are similar. At night the dorms crackle like a college campus with young people talking, flirting, etc. Anyone who doesn't like it can just goes back home, and a lot do. Very few choose to make a life out of it. Its certainly not something I'm ashamed to make money based upon. Globalization has been a really cool experience for my wife. She's gotten to understand China in a way that you just couldn't as a tourist, and we now have some good friends on the other side of the world.
Truly horrible news today. The US military accidentally bombed a wedding party, killing dozens of innocents, including children. In terms of effect (as opposed to intention) this is worse than the Seder Massacre in Israel. We can't go on with business as usual after this. The afghans will perceive us as no different than the russians unless we convince them that we care about there lives, and at this point we don't. Accidental bombings of civilians were a lot more acceptable when a hostile army held that territory. In my view, to have treated the Taliban/Al Qeada army any differently than we would have treated a hostile european force made no sense. They declared war on us, and it was ridiculous to insist that we respond by fighting with one hand tied behind our back. But now its very different. We beat the enemy army and we now control the territory. Our hunt for Al Qeada is now a police action, whether its conduced in the US, in Pakistan, or in Afghanistan. Imagine if the NJ police, in seeking to investigate a suspected al qeada cell, blew up a wedding reception in Jersey City. That's what's happened last night in Afghanistan. The defenders of this conduct are sounding a lot like a skit from Monty Python's Holy Grail. After Lancelot charges into a wedding, and based on a mistaken assumption, slaughters several guests, the host tells the gathering, "Let's not argue and bicker about who killed who."

Sunday, June 30, 2002

One last post on these accounting scandals. Bush's SEC Chairman, Harvey Pitt, is an easy target because he represented Arthur Andersen (and others) in his private practice. But his response to those critics ---- now I represent the government -- rings true to me. Let's give this guy a chance. He's a smart, tough lawyer, and his preconceptions about the job have been destroyed by recent events. I think recent events could change his entire worldview on these issues and he could do some great things. Give the guy a chance. Sure he works for W., but do you really think that W. even knows what the SEC does? Pitt's the man on this one.
If there is any out there reading this, be aware that I'm a clueless idiot when it comes to HTML and any other information necessary to put this site together. For example, I killed the only link I had through some stupidity. It was to Atrios, whose blog I really enjoy. He posts often, and makes for an amusing read. He sent a few people this way, so I thank him for that! And I'll get that link back up at some point to when I figure this out. I also don't seem to have the ability to separate paragraphs down, so sorry about those imposingly long posts.