The Null Device

2003/12/30

Two things I ended up taking back from Byron Bay: a bag of Byron Chai mix (which is quite good; one of the better chai mixes I've tried), and a small jar of lemon aspen jelly (which tastes like lemons, only perhaps slightly more sour). Apparently lemon aspen jelly is made from lemon aspens (a native plant that only grows in Australian rainforests), and not lemons aspen (though it sounds like it should be).

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FBI urges police to look out for people carrying almanacs, as they may be terrorists looking for targets to attack. There appear to be no plans for a national registry of almanac owners, or embedded RFID chips in all almanacs, though borrowing one from your local library could result in your name being secretly reported to the authorities. (via kmusser)

Meanwhile, an Israeli firm that is importing Chinese workers (presumably to replace those troublesome Palestinians) is requiring them to sign contracts prohibiting them from having sex with Israelis or trying to convert them; those violating the contracts, which also ban any religious or political activity, will be sent back to China at their own expense. (via jwz)

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Former Swedish anarchist leftist Johan Norberg has penned a progressive defense of global capitalism titled, appropriately, "In Defense of Global Capitalism"; he outlines his arguments here. Norberg's thesis is that globalisation and free trade are precisely the solution the third world needs to escape poverty, and bring with them things like increased wages, reduced pollution (through technological improvements) and greater civil liberties; meanwhile, most opposition to globalisation comes from Westerners, and is founded in protectionist self-interest (i.e., by unions), naïvéte about historical trends, or even an objection to the modern condition and an Arcadian romanticisation of a remote agrarian past.

That's why in a typical developing nation, if you're able to work for an American multinational, you make eight times the average wage. That's why people are lining up to get these jobs. When I was in Vietnam, I interviewed workers about their dreams and aspirations. The most common wish was that Nike, one of the major targets of the anti-globalization movement, would expand so that a workers relatives could get a job with the company.
The best thing that could happen to the Arab world would be for them to run out of oil. Then theyd have to open up to trade, and a small number of people wouldnt be in control all of the wealth, as is the case in Saudi Arabia.
The further you get from the West, the more positive people are toward globalization, toward more business and trade ties with the rest of the world. The most vocal opponents of globalization in poor countries are often funded by critics from wealthier countries. For instance, Vandana Shiva [director of the New Delhi-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology] is a very vocal opponent of economic liberalization and biotechnology, and shes funded by a lot of different Western groups.

So, is Norberg's thesis just a rebadged Lexus and the Olive Tree in Starbucks-progressive garb, or is the "anti-globalisation" movement really full of it, or both?

(I wonder what he'd say to Greg Palast's accusations that the World Bank/IMF assistance programmes are designed not to help third-world economies but to starve them into bankrupcy, allowing assets to be bought up cheaply by multinationals and reducing the locals and their descendants to sharecroppers. I suppose that's just an unfortunate implementation detail, and not an indictment on the phenomenon of globalisation as such.)

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Quintessentially American invention of the day: a car that warns you when you've gained weight. The car weighs the driver regularly, keeps track of their weight and warns them when they need to lose weight, so they can stop driving and walk the pounds off drive to the gym and get some exercise. (via Techdirt)

(I'm sure there are potential Homeland Security applications too; imagine a car that remembers what its driver weighs, and refuses to move if the driver is obviously a different person. That'd certainly cut down on hijackings by suicide bombers.)

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