Global Trade Governance Not So Global

This week’s lead story in The Economist addresses what folks have suspected for a while — a lot of the institutions that are supposed to promote all sorts of good things like trade, good economic policy, human rights, and stability are getting more than a little outdated.

CLUBS are all too often full of people prattling on about things they no longer know about. On July 7th the leaders of the group that allegedly runs the world—the G7 democracies plus Russia—gather in Japan to review the world economy. But what is the point of their discussing the oil price without Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest producer? Or waffling about the dollar without China, which holds so many American Treasury bills? Or slapping sanctions on Robert Mugabe, with no African present? Or talking about global warming, AIDS or inflation without anybody from the emerging world? Cigar smoke and ignorance are in the air. Read More >>

Mmmm... delicious hospitality...All that on top of the bad publicity that some leaders like Gordon Brown got for devouring an 8-course dinner after attending G8 meetings on food shortages. Now I have my two cents on this one: the Japanese are among the most gracious hosts in the world, as my wife’s treasure trove of teapots and beautiful stationary from her father’s Japanese colleagues can attest. Should a world leader refuse hospitality fit for a world leader?

Dennis Patterson and Ari Afilalo would have something to say about all this. The G8 and international institutions, not the big, delicious meals.

Turning a big, special meal down would probably be a bit impolite, but the renovations to facilities and infrastructure detailed on the same Independent article are pretty wild, because after all, Japan is in dire need of infrastructure improvement… right?

Oh well. Here I go, shamelessly posting the dinner menu in full, grabbed from The Independent. Whoa. They’re even drinking Latour. And as for the dessert: un-sexiest dessert name ever.

UPDATE: Some blogs have coined this whole affair G-Ate Gate.

Continue reading


Neil Kent’s Swedish History Smorgasboard

This week — Sweden: the Colonial Power

Neil Kent’s Swedish History Smorgasboard brings us tidbits and snippets about a country that many Americans, myself included, sadly know little about. Here in New York, we have Dutch and English street names, and a flag adapted from the Netherlands’. I grew up in Pennsylvania, surrounded by the descendants of Germans and Poles. Neil Kent, author of A Concise History of Sweden informs us of some surprising colonial activity of the Swedish. They colonized “New England,” were heavily involved in the slave trade, and had their hand in the Caribbean, too.

* * *

Sweden was a North American colonial power until the late nineteenth century. In 1637, it established the colony of New Sweden, with its capital at Fort Kristina, named after Sweden’s famous queen, popularised in the world famous Greta Garbo film of the same name. Later captured by the Dutch, it was ceded to the British and was one of the original thirteen colonies which became the United States: Delaware!

Sweden also had an important colony in the Caribbean: St Bartelemy. It acquired the island from France in 1785. During the Napoleonic Wars it was a very important entrepot for ships from the warring nations, trading with one another. It languished in the nineteenth century and was ceded to France in 1878. Today it is a thriving tourist destination for the seriously rich.

Continue reading

Great Post on Wine and Beer

I dig this guy’s (well, assuming gender from the moniker Saucyman) writing.


My bias leans towards beer; wine has always remained a bit of a mystery to me. Beer is easy, heuristic; wine has always seemed like taking an SAT I am ill-prepared for, where I inevitably fail both the analytical (Zinfandel, Merlot or Cabernet? Provenance of Australian, French or Napa fields?) and the verbal section (buttery, vanilla, barnyard).

Ditto. I couldn’t agree more. Some insist that the initiate research their wine. Now they say “Drink what you like.”

Cool, but it’s not that easy. I have decent taste and all that, but a side effect of this taste (developed by drinking and brewing lots of good beer) is that wine-wise, I don’t always end up liking what I drink, or knowing what I like to drink. Do I know what to pair with a peppercorned ribeye? A Peppery Zin? I dunno, many of my wine instincts fall flat, forcing me to consult manuals that are encyclopedic, odd, and not terribly “drink what you like.” And I do drink a fair amount of wine. My “tastes” are such that I always want something better, but find myself feeling much more welcomed by the beer store owner than the wine store people. I should say that a friendly woman at Astor Wines put together a dynamite, inexpensive case of wine for me a while back.

Eric Asimov’s take is one I can relate to, though it is a nuanced one. At the end of the day, the best answer is perhaps “you could always go deeper.” In other words, with modest to great time and expense, anyone can parse the subtleties of great wine. You don’t have to to enjoy wine, but you may find that you like it!

Continue reading

FDLS Arguments Will Not Hold Up

From today’s Fort Worth Star Telegram

Marci Hamilton

When Texas authorities entered the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch, one of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) compounds, on April 3, they did so using a warrant based on calls from a person who alleged that she was an underage girl being subjected to physical and sexual abuse, including rape, at the ranch.

Once the authorities entered, they discovered pregnant underage girls, girls with more than one child, papers indicating that rampant polygamy was occurring at YFZ, and even a document involving cyanide poisoning. The authorities then intelligently decided to remove all of the children from a situation that posed obvious and serious danger to them.

Lawyers for the FLDS members have been arguing in the press that the entry and removal of the children constituted a “massive” violation of due process. Others have argued that the authorities’ actions represent the unfair targeting of one religion.

Each of these arguments is singularly misguided.

Read the rest of the article >>

I’m Sorry. No You’re Not!

A great summary of some of my best argumentative skills.

Nick Smith wants a better dialogue than this. 

Flash Fiction reviews I Was Wrong, and gets right at the issues at hand.

Alfred Kinsey’s work elevated the conversation about sex. Timothy Leary’s work elevated the conversation about drugs. Now, the philosopher Nick Smith gives us his thorough study of apologies, a work that promises to elevate the conversation about what it means to say “I’m sorry.”

I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies exposes how contemporary gestures of contrition demand our critical attention. Smith, who teaches Philosophy at the University of New Hampshire, examines the significance of various forms of regret. From collective apologies for the holocaust to a pet owner’s apology for forgetting to fill his dog’s bowl, all remorse receives scrutiny. Smith writes with the learning and patience of a benevolent professor. His message persuades a reader that today’s public and private apologies are playing fast and loose with morality. 

Read the rest of the article at Flash Fiction >>

Foreign Affairs on Bill Overholt

Were you wondering what to make of a book with a title like Asia, America, and the Transformation of Geopolitics? Foreign Affairs summarizes the book neatly.

This is one of our more daring, and consequently innovative titles this season. Part of all the hubbub and confusion about China and Asia in general, it turns out, stems from our inability to break from our Cold War past. Government officials still use similar terminology, our policies haven’t changed much, and in the end, it only hurts us.

Overholt, of the RAND Corporation, has built his analysis of the relations between the U.S. government and Asian governments around the proposition that officials are slow to change their foreign policy thinking and hence are prone to operate with outdated assumptions. Thus, long after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington continued to act as though the Cold War had not ended.

Read the rest >>

Violent Crime Drops… in Prisons

We all have reason to feel a little safer. However, who would have guessed that despite the huge increase in prison population, prisoners have reason to as well?

Bert Useem and Anne Piehl are authors of Prison State. They analyze the situation in The Weekly Standard.

Crime rates peaked nationally in 1995 and have declined substantially over the last decade. In 1995, there were 684 violent crimes nationally per 100,000 residents; in 2006, there were 473. The much-publicized decline in New York City’s violent crime rate saw it go from 2,384 per 100,000 residents in 1995 to 638 in 2006. Los Angeles’s violent crime rate dropped from 2,405 to 787. Smaller cities show the same trend. Kansas City’s violent crime rate fell from 1,930 to 857. Even Detroit (despite its economic woes and population losses) had a slightly lower rate of violent crime in 2006 than 1995, 2,419 down from 2,699.

One place has topped all of these impressive figures, yet it has received little publicity and no credit. This crime decline was quite unexpected even, indeed especially, by criminologists. The location we have in mind is U.S. prisons. Between 1973 and 2003, the homicide rate in state prisons declined a staggering 94 percent.

Read the rest of the article.