Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Porter Goss's CIA.

Harper's blog discusses what is wrong with the agency.


Here's a good profile of Paul Krugman in Finance & Development, a quarterly put out by the International Monetary Fund. Krugman is better known for his punditry at the New York Times, but this piece describes his contributions to economics.

People unclear on the concept.

Mother's Day turns into a nightmare, courtesy of a restaurant manager unclear on the concept of working in a service business.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Would any other generation have found Tom Friedman persuasive?

For most of the nation's history, America was guided by deeply realistic thinking, and idealistic rhetoric was trotted out mainly to clothe cold strategic aims. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in that moment of self-congratulatory euphoria, much of the US's ruling elite came to believe the rhetoric itself. The result was a uniquely American, fin-de-siecle paganism -- absolute faith in the ability of an all-determining market mechanism to deliver universal prosperity and peace, in perpetuity -- which was then hawked abroad with evangelical zeal.
Barry Lynn, "Globalisation must be saved from the radical global utopians," Financial Times 15 (May 30, 2006).

Monday, May 29, 2006

Evolution of dance.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Unintended consequences.

Two good posts today about the side effects of women's entry in the workforce: Harry Brighouse uses a piece by Alison Wolf as the launching pad to propose that "restrictions on women’s participation in the labour market constituted a massive subsidy to public education," while Brad DeLong finds Ruth Marcus discussing how working parents risk losing their jobs when family members become sick or child-care arrangements fall through.

In the dark, to be sure.

The New Republic's Keelin McDonell writes in the May 29 issue about Mike McCurry's rude introduction to modern communications technology. If you haven't been in Left Blogistan lately, McCurry did some flacking for the telecom interests opposed to network neutrality and won a hostile reception at places like MyDD, TPM, and others.

Remarkably, McDonell manages to cover this dispute without devoting more than a sentence to the policy issue at the heart of it:
(Bloggers, whose own Web presence would be threatened if unregulated telecom companies decided to charge to prioritize websites, largely want legislated oversight of the Internet.)
McDonell uses parentheses to stress that he's not interested in the issue, and apparently he hasn't bothered to learn anything about the issue other than it involves government regulation of the Internet. Which doesn't exactly narrow things down, unless the Internet is a strange and foreign place to you.

No, the whole article is about nasty words between McCurry and the bloggers. If you care about network neutrality, don't bother with The New Republic. For serious coverage of that sort of policy, you're better off on the internet. Armed with Google, McDonell could have spent about ten minutes educating himself to the point of being about to write a couple of coherent sentences about network neutrality. Instead, he sounds like he just asked Mike McCurry.

On the other hand, if you're uncomfortable with new-fangled stuff like "blogging" and open debate, then McDonell and The New Republic are writing for you. He's happy to give McCurry the last word:
McCurry, for his part, has finally realized that blogging is less like a witty exchange with Sam Donaldson and more, as he now puts it, like "a primal scream in the darkness." He checks out Daily Kos and other blogs "occasionally," and he admits he should, maybe, have known better. "I knew when I went into the blogosphere and took the argument on that I'd be asking for trouble," McCurry says. "I just didn't know how much trouble."
Who does The New Republic think its audience is? The blogosphere sounds like "a primal scream in the darkness" only to those -- like McDonell -- who would rather sit in the dark than turn on the lights.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Beans on toast?

An update from the world of business innovation:

Whether Bill Johnson, Heinz chief executive, is about to enter the innovation hall of fame is not quite so clear. At least he is trying. As he told this paper last week, he believes his company needs to give people "new ways to use beans." Heinz has developed a ready-made version of beans on toast, along the lines of Kellogg's jam-filled Pop Tarts. "If people take the time to cook beans and put it on toast, why shouldn't we cut the process for them and give them beans on toast?" Mr Johnson asks. The market should give him an answer soon enough.
Stefan Stern, "In need of a buzz, managers search for 'the next coffee,'" Financial Times 8 (May 23, 2006).

Who takes the time to cook beans and put it (them) on toast?

Monday, May 22, 2006

That new Charlton Heston pic.

Brilliant. Via Randy Barnett.

Annals of Cultural Criticism.

To the many, many things that 9/11 changed, you can add car commercials. Writing in Flak Magazine about the new Jetta ads featuring car crashes -- if you haven't seen them, think Adaptation, but happier -- Stephen Bracco says:
For all its nicey-nice, the Jetta commercials are basically recruitment ads for the contemporary state of war. Can you buy what it takes?

These ads would never have come into their violent existence without September 11. Just as the event itself was practically a living, breathing ad for cell phones, so too does the new age of international insecurity bring the front lines right to your driveway.
Um, right. Heck, let's blame 9/11 for SUVs, too.

A "smooth panderer to the business culture."

Lee Siegel really loathes Malcolm Gladwell for reasons that seem to transcend the rational.

Pamplona by the Bay.

If you were visiting San Francisco on Sunday morning and couldn't figure out why so many people were out in the streets, know that it is a local tradition in which people tempt death by running with stampeding giant burritos. The locals do their best to welcome visitors by confirming stereotypes of the city, although the whole tortilla thing baffles everyone. You also get running Jeannies, stormtroopers, Elvi (Elves? Elvises?), and penguins.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Geographer's Library.

A new post up at Words, Words, Words about a novel, Jon Fasman's The Geographer's Library. I didn't love it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Not yet truckin'.

I know girls mature faster and all, but the little boys I know are nowhere near as hip as Zoe is.

R.I.P., Naked Guy.

Andrew Martinez, 33.

It wasn't news.

The reports that Iran's legislature was going to require religious minorities, including Jews, to wear identification on their clothing was disturbing, so it's good to learn that "[t]he whole thing is a steaming crock."

Friday, May 19, 2006

A ruthless efficiency.

Either the Financial Times has a translation problem, or German manufacturers have found disturbing new ways to compete:

Another factor in German companies' success is their regained competitiveness. Thanks to wage moderation, longer working hours and the selective offshoring of low value-added tasks, unit labour costs in Germany have stagnated since 2000. In the eurozone as a whole, they rose by almost 6 per cent.

This has allowed German companies to expand their market shares in spite of the euro's relative strength. The federal statistical office's export performance index, which shows the share of German goods in other countries' imports, fell from 1995 to 2000 but has risen every year since. "I meet Italian and French colleagues and they tell me we have become so competitive that we are literally killing them," says a senior German government official.

I'm guessing that the trick is in killing Italian and French manufacturers without diminishing consumer demand.

Hydro gases.

You probably think of hydroelectric power as fairly benign from an environmental perspective. If so, you're wrong, at least with regard to greenhouse gases. "Drifting vegetation gets caught in dam reservoirs and produces massive amounts of methane when it rots." Apparently it's a big problem.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Don't let the door hit you . . . .

Is this a great country or what?
The widow of a man who drowned while trying to rescue two boys off San Francisco's Ocean Beach on Sunday afternoon now faces a second sorrow: She may be deported to Kenya because her husband died before the couple had a chance to apply for her U.S. residency. . . .

Four days before he died, Coats had signed immigration papers stating that he had married his girlfriend of two years, 26-year-old Jacqueline Muhoro, on April 17 and was seeking permanent residency for her.

But the application is incomplete and now can't be finished, putting Jacqueline Coats at risk of being deported, said her attorney, Thip Ark of San Francisco.

Making the Rubble Bounce Dept.

This e-mail exchange between Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita and journalist Joe Galloway almost leaves you feeling sorry for Donald Rumsfeld. Or as The Plank puts it, it is "the greatest and most succinct takedown of the Rumsfeld Pentagon ever committed to words."

Cox's Modern Usage.



Art imitating itself, the first time as farce?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Medic! Man down!

Ramesh Ponnuru probably wishes he hadn't appeared on The Daily Show today. Oy.

Not great, though hardly dismal.

I just posted about Charles Royster's The Fabulous History of the Great Dismal Swamp Company over at Words, Words, Words.


Here are some good tips about using -- or not using -- PowerPoint. Of course, PowerPoint is evil. Much more from Tufte, if you like that sort of thing, and who doesn't? Less useful PowerPoint tips from the PowerPoint Lifeguard. David Byrne turns PowerPoint into an art form. And then there's PowerPoint for Christians. (Speaking of which . . . .)

Technology leaves us disenchanted.

Seth Stevenson watches the Clio Awards:
A spot called "Balls," for the Sony BRAVIA television set, won Gold. The spot shows what appear to be thousands of superballs bounding down a San Francisco street. The colorful balls are meant to dramatize the sharp colors captured by the TV set. I felt the ad dragged on a little too long, given that it was a single, simple idea. Then I learned that there were no computer effects involved. They actually unleashed 250,000 superballs on San Francisco and filmed the result. This made me far more impressed.

New-skool wiretapping.

Even before the recent revelations that the NSA has been collecting information about telephone calls, Ed Felten points out that technology has changed -- and will keep changing -- in ways that should be reframing the debate:

Two technology changes are important. The first is the dramatic drop in the cost of storage, making it economical to record vast amounts of communications traffic. The second technology change is the use of computer algorithms to analyze intercepted communications. Traditionally, a wiretap would be heard (or read) immediately by a person, or recorded for later listening by a person. Today computer algorithms can sift through intercepted communications, looking for sophisticated patterns, and can select certain items to be recorded or heard by a person.

Both changes are driven by Moore’s Law, the rule of thumb that the capability of digital technologies doubles every eighteen months or, equivalently, improves by a factor of 100 every ten years. This means that in 2016 government will be able to store 100 times more intercepted messages, and will be able to devote 100 times more computing capability to its analysis algorithms, compared to today. If the new world of wiretapping has not entirely arrived, it will be here before long.
In the same way that the debate about searches and seizures is sometimes crippled by the difficulties in translating the Fourth Amendment's language from a world in which searches involved the Queen's soldiers rummaging through a house to a world in which many of means of intrusion -- think of thermal imaging, for example -- are now possible, the public conversation about wiretapping is premised on technologies that are now dated. There is something intrusive about the government's monitoring and collecting of when and where telephone calls are placed, but the character of the intrusion is different from that when a government agent listens to a particular call.

Felten has additional thoughts about these changes here, and suggests there are more to come.

Correction of the day.

The following appears at the bottom on Ryan Lizza's take on this week's Bush immigration speech:

Correction: This article originally stated a character played by John Cleese clubs the corpse during Monty Python and the Holy Grail's "Bring out your dead" scene. In fact, it was the Dead Collector, played by Eric Idle. We regret the error.

Once you know the subject and read the correction, you don't even need to read the article.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Living the Dream

A letter to the editor of the Financial Times:
Sir, I have been living in the US for eight years now . . . .

[M]any of us [immigrants] are in high and well-paid positions, with green card applications pending or completed, wind in our sails and cheerfully cruising towards the American Dream.

Not me. The more I am achieving, the more I feel something is not right. My wife and I . . . have been holding back on the big purchases expected to be made by us at this point of our lives (early 30s) reflecting the material wellbeing we are revelling in. Maybe it was the uncertainty of our visa situation (my green card is still pending) or maybe it was something more, but we were taken aback by the fact that we need to invest $400,000 in a house or even $20,000 in a new car. I know these purchases are considered a right of passage in this country but doesn't anybody think of the opportunity cost? I mean - hello! -- you start a new job and the first thing you do is buy a new car and, a month later, a new house? What if the job does not go right? What if your boss hates you or you hate him/her? What if there are other things that drive you crazy at the job (you fill in the blanks)? Given your $400,000 mortgage and $20,000 car financing, will you have the guts to tell your boss to go where the sun does not shine and just leave? Or will you just put up with it, remain in a state of miserable hibernation at work and look for joy and satisfaction outside of work, usually piling up on your material possessions and partying hard to forget?

Unfortunately, from what I see, 90 per cent of the people choose option two. Because it is hard to make a free decision when you are loaded with so much burden. Yes, you can divest of this burden, sell the house, get a smaller car or (God forbid!) no car at all. But then you will be considered a loser. The peer pressure will destroy you. You think high-school was peer pressure? Try the young white-collar business professionals in a booming market (of your choice)! Divesting is out of question. Going back is not an option. Your goals becomes finding a company to sustain your lifestyle. You do not think of the opportunity cost. The grudges you have towards your job are normal and everybody has them. You strive towards a bigger house, better car and a corner office. When you retire, then you will "live" (meaning: do what you like and not what you have to).

Not me. I am not getting into this "affluent person" mentality. I would rather think poor but preserve my freedom of choice. No, I am not selling everything and becoming a shepherd back home. That would be too dramatic and stereotypical. But I am done with the office job. I am using the money I saved living below my means to do something I like NOW. Whether that would be travelling around the country or starting my own business is irrelevant. The important thing is I have the choice to do it and the means to achieve it. And that is what I consider my real American Dream.

Vassil Nikolov,
Washington, DC 20007, US

Well done, Mr. Nikolov. But no car at all? Clearly you have not been in America long enough.


The committee at the University of Colorado charged with looking at allegations of academic misconduct by Professor Ward Churchill has released a rather lengthy report, and a brief summary for those in the media who can't be bothered to read. Here's my favorite sentence thus far:

Getting the general point correct but virtually all of the historical details wrong is certainly not the level of careful professional work one would expect of an ethnic studies scholar writing on important historical events in Indian studies.
One would hope not.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A meme stronger than its sources.

I get angry with Democrats who keep feeding the press stories about intra-Democratic wrangling. But if the Adam Nagourneys of the world are going to keep writing intra-Democratic-wrangling stories on the basis of sources like Tony Coelho and Mickey Kaus' blogging brother, what can you do?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Those "wildly speculative rumors."

Tune out for a little while and all of a sudden you're not in touch with the zeitgeist.

"Chez Panisse for Kids" -- not as popular as McD's, it turns out.

Reviewing Eric Schlosser's Chew On This, Jeremy Grant says:
[Schlosser] could have expanded his discussion of nutritional education efforts by Alice Waters, the California-based chef who had pioneered a school lunch programme called the "Edible Schoolyard", where students grow and eat their own vegetables.
I think Alice Waters is great, and Chez Pannisse is a landmark. I would eat there every day if I could. But my understanding is that problem with Alice Waters' efforts at Berkeley High School is that the kids would not eat her food. Without absolving the fast food industry, at least part of the problem that Eric Schlosser is writing about has to do with people's appetites.

Maria Bartiromo and Joey Ramone.

The Financial Times' David Wighton has lunch with Maria Bartiromo.

Bartiromo started receiving e-mails from someone calling himself Joey Ramone in 1998. Unsurprisingly, she was at first sceptical that it was the Joey Ramone. The e-mails would say things like: "Maria, I saw you on CNBC today, and you were talking about Intel. I own Intel but I feel they're losing market share to AMD. Call me. Joey Ramone." Could this really be the man responsible for such classics as "Sheena is a Punk Rocker", "Teenage Lobotomy" and "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue"?

"I finally e-mailed him back, and it was him, and we started having this great friendship about the markets. He was so informed and so intelligent about the markets. A really good investor."

But, for Ramone, there was clearly more than the markets to the friendship because when his solo album appeared shortly after his death from cancer in 2001, it included a love song entitled "Maria Bartiromo". The uncharacteristically lyrical number's chorus goes: "I watch you on the TV every single day./Those eyes make everything okay./I watch her every day./I watch her every night./She's really outta sight."

"After he passed away, so many of the band members and friends called me and said: 'Joey loved you.'"

By the way, she had the Dover sole and he had the veal ravioli.

Fighting for our country in their own special way.

I wouldn't say that Belle Waring is embedded with the 101st Fighting Keyboardists as they defend the country, but she certainly is getting closer to them than I would.

Friday, May 12, 2006


One of Laura Rozen's readers speculates that "Luttig . . . has been given a hint that he's in line for the next opening. By resigning now, he can put away some serious cash for the family and avoid any controversial cases that could come up in a future confirmation hearing." That doesn't sound right to me at all, for at least three reasons. First, Luttig had his chances -- Bush met him in person, and didn't pick him, twice. He may be the first choice of movement conservatives in DOJ or the White House, but the final choice was Bush's, and Bush did not pick him. He had his chance, and he's not getting another with this President. Second, he broke with the administration with his decision in the Padilla case. Having left the reservation, he won't be trusted again. Third, the WSJ article makes pretty clear that someone took his story of disillusionment to the media, and with the Bushies that really places you off the reservation. If Luttig is named to the Supreme Court, it'll be by another Republican, but not Bush.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Academic freedom, or lack thereof.

You just have to hope that this isn't true:
[The] department chair [told me] to change my World Religions curriculum to exclude certain opinions and facts:
  • Students should not be allowed to ask whatever questions they want in class
  • Nothing should be mentioned in class, textbooks, or examinations that could possibly open up Judaism to criticism, especially any mention of Zionism
  • Nothing related to Palestinians or Islamic beliefs about Jerusalem should be mentioned
  • Discussion of Zionism or the Palestinian issue was "disrespectful to any Jews in the class"

A blast from the past.

Marilynne Robinson reviewed Raymond Carver's collection of short stories, Where I'm Calling From, in the New York Times in 1988. Reading this review reminds me of what it was like to read these stories for the first time.


Are you hearing phantom cell-phone rings? Via Rebecca Skloot.

She sounded better when she wasn't talking.

C.W. Nevius reads Mary Cheney's new book and finds "a typical Washington opportunist." When she wasn't making public statements, everyone could imagine the best about her, but with her parents, how can this be a surprise?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fresh fish and a cool bus.

Via YouTube, a visit to the Madridejos wet market in the Philippines:


Kevin Drum, making no sense at all:
As I was scanning the newspaper this morning, I came across a brief piece recapping the surprising Republican opposition to General Michael Hayden's nomination to head the CIA . . . . [W]hat's the deal? Do we really think that all these Republicans are truly concerned about the possibility of a military officer running the CIA? That hardly seems likely, does it? Here's my alternative guess: they're just completely spooked (no pun intended). After Harriet Miers and Katrina and the Dubai port deal, Republicans in Congress now have an almost Pavlovian response to any George Bush nominee with even a hint of controversy: oppose him!
That would be nice, but I don't think so.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Wait until they read Vineland.

The New York Observer's Chris Lehmann reports from an after-party somewhere in D.C. following the (now-infamous) White House Correspondents Association gala. Like Lehmann, I don't know what any of this means, except that Gravity's Rainbow appears to be the secret key to understand the Bush Administration in its baroque phase:

A VERY, VERY DRUNK G.O.P. CONSULTANT—swaying as he stood, his bowtie unclasped and draped around his neck and his vest askew, pointed toward some spot overhead with a bottle of Amstel Light. “It’s all in that Thomas Pynchon novel,” he said.

Which Thomas Pynchon novel? The Crying of Lot 49? V?

“No, no,” he said. “That other one.”

Ah. Gravity’s Rainbow.

“Yes! That’s the one 500,000-page novel I read—and Thomas Pynchon is the best living American writer!”

The consultant, now well afield from his original point, then whipped out a jewelry box that contained a set of cufflinks from some long-ago Senate campaign—for a guy named Rawlings, near as could be made out in the dim light of the tent abutting the Macedonian Embassy.

Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman happened along then. The swaying consultant thrust the cufflinks at him. Mr. Mehlman volunteered a story about President Bush, who honored some work Mr. Mehlman had done on the President’s re-election campaign with a gift of cufflinks.

“And I told him, ‘I paid for those cufflinks seven times,’” Mr. Mehlman said, in a tone just shy of belligerent. “And he looked at me and said, ‘That’s good.’”

This was the shank end of a long day’s drinking—about 2:30 a.m.—and making sense was not at a premium.

Speaking power to truth.

Rupert Murdoch, the conservative media mogul whose New York Post tabloid savaged Hillary Clinton’s initial aspirations to become a US senator for New York, has agreed to host a political fundraiser for her re-election campaign.
Financial Times.

Write on.

Eugene Volokh is an odd duck.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lee Kuan Yew channels Oswald Mosley.

The Financial Times' John Burton finds an odd little echo of British Fascism in contemporary Singaporean politics:

The [People's Action] party symbol of a lightning flash in a circle points up one of the city-state's little political oddities. It bears a close resemblance to that of Oswald Mosley's 1930s-era British Union of Fascists.

As does the PAP party slogan, "Action within social/racial unity", with the BUF's more snappy "Action within unity".

Observer once asked Lee [Kuan Yew], who took a law degree at Cambridge University in the late 1940s, about the similarity.

He acknowledged a design influence from the BUF symbol but added that the colour scheme had been changed for the PAP logo.

Lee never explained why the PAP adopted such a symbol and slogan at its founding in 1954, when the party's leadership professed to be Fabian socialists.

But the PAP has drawn one stylistic distinction with the BUF, whose uniform gave them the name "Blackshirts". PAP candidates dress in white to denote incorruptibility.
The PAP is Singapore's ruling party and -- in Burton's words -- "regularly romps home with large parliamentary majorities." Lee was the PAP's founder and the prime minister. Mosley modeled himself on Benito Mussolini.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

200 Years Later, Reality TV Filled The Void.

In London, in the summer of 1785, the Amazing Learned Pig was star:
In a building just off Whitehall near Charing Cross, gentlemen and "women of the first Fashion waited four hours for their turn" to enter and pay five shillings, later reduced to one shilling, for a thirty-minute exhibition. Using its mouth, a large trained pig arranged cards bearing letters and numbers to give the date and the time, to add and subtract, to tell people their names and their thoughts, and to answer questions. It enjoyed so much success in "the polite end of town" that its owner took it on the stage in the summer of 1785. The Learned Pig became the headline act at Sadler's Wells Theatre. Skilled acrobats and tightrope dancers performing there "made great objections" to being reduced to a warm-up act for a pig. The manager did not try to keep them from leaving. He could readily find other tumblers; the Learned Pig was a star.
Charles Royster, The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company 308 (Knopf, 1999).

That must have been some perch.

This puts the whole liberation-of-Iraq-and-pulling-down-the-statues-of-Hussein thing in perspective:
U.S. President George W. Bush told a German newspaper his best moment in more than five years in office was catching a big perch in his own lake.

"You know, I've experienced many great moments and it's hard to name the best," Bush told weekly Bild am Sonntag when asked about his high point since becoming president in January 2001.

"I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound (3.402 kilos) perch in my lake," he told the newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

Via Hullabaloo.

That dilemma.

Ian Ayres offers a testable hypothesis:
[A] disproportionate number of false confessions will occur when the confessing defendant is alleged to have a codefendant.
The logic for this derives directly from the game we all know:
The prisoner's dilema is at core a story of how prisoner's may be induced to confess -- irrespective of whether or not they are guilty. If you face a high enough prospect of conviction if an alleged codefendant finks, and if you will be given a lower sentence if you confess first, it can be entirely rational to falsely confess.
Ayres further suggests that the hypothesis finds some empirical support.

One you haven't heard.

Jonathan Sale reviews The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes, in yesterday's Financial Times:
Editor John Gross has produced a fascinating book but it has far too many pages -- as Dickens remarked to Tolstoy while hitting him over the head with a copy of War and Peace (or perhaps not).

Friday, May 05, 2006

Castles of sand.

M. points me to these pictures of some pretty amazing sand sculpture.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Stalking Warren Buffet.

James Altucher gets a feel for the cult of Buffet:
In 2003, I went over to Warren Buffett's house. Well, I was in a cab in Omaha and the cab driver asked me if I wanted to drive by Warren Buffett's house. We drove up to an ordinary suburban block. There was a big guy standing in the driveway of the house on the corner. He was looking at us. "That's Buffett's house," the cab driver told me. "He doesn't usually have a bodyguard there but all the crazies come out of the woodwork this weekend, know what I'm saying?"

Yes. I do. The next morning at 5:30am I went to wait outside the convention centre. There were about 3,000 people there ahead of me. Somebody was serving Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The man in front of me finished his doughnut, took his napkin and started scribbling numbers on it. "When you do your sum of the parts analysis of Berkshire Hathaway," he asked me out of the blue, as if I carried that particular analysis around with me everywhere, "what do you come up with?"

Kenyans on ice.

The Financial Times reports from Kenya's first ice-skating rink:

The skating rink opened late last year. It is the first in the region, and the only functioning rink in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa.

Part of a hotel and shopping complex that includes a Brazilian restaurant, casino and Moroccan coffee shop, the rink, which cost 50m shillings ($704,000, €585,575, £40,500), was intended to be a unique marketing tool in an increasingly competitive market.

"Cinemas are plenty in Nairobi, malls are plenty, restaurants are plenty, so we were thinking, 'what do we use as a unique selling point'," says Sigi Loeper, managing director of the complex, the Panari Sky Centre. "We said 'okay lets do something crazy . . . let's build an ice skating rink'."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

No small salary.

Gregg Easterbrook:

Jacqueline Trescott of the Washington Post recently reported that Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small is paying himself $813,000 per year. The Smithsonian's secretary has virtually no responsibilities, other than deciding what to order for lunch, since the location and use of Smithsonian facilities is determined by Congress. The Smithsonian boss experiences none of the business risk that may justify high pay to public-company CEOs, since the Smithsonian holds a government-granted monopoly and exists on federal subsidies. Here is the Smithsonian's fiscal 2007 budget request to Congress; in it the Smithsonian asks federal taxpayers for $644 million in subsidies, including $537 million for salaries. So federal taxpayers with a median family income of $53,692 are having their pockets picked to give Lawrence Small $813,000 a year, 15 times the median income of the taxpayers. Why isn't this viewed as white-collar crime?
As the cool bloggers say, indeed.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Push back.

Matthew Yglesias:
I find it disheartening to read Iran commentary . . . that we're
engaged in a good-faith national conversation about how to deal with the Iranian nuclear program and so all good-hearted people should be putting notions on the table about diplomacy, pressure, etc., etc., etc. That's simply not what's happening here. Instead, we're watching a neoconservative push for war, and if you don't want a war, you need to push back.

The joys of conferences.

Dan Drezner has been at the Brussels Forum ("Transatlantic Challenges in a Global Era").
The Federal government of Belgium gave all of the participants an enormous coffee table book, written in Flemish and French, about Belgian horticulture. I regret to report that I may have left my copy in my hotel room.

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