Thursday, September 11, 2003

Protecting farmers while starving people abroad
Reason: Just how desperate the situation is in sub-Saharan Africa is made clear by British demographer Angus Maddison's calculation that the average annual gross domestic product in the region is just $450 per person. Maddison points out that that was the average income of a citizen of the Roman Empire. In other words, sub-Saharan Africa has made essentially no economic progress in the past 2000 years.

One of the reasons for this is due to countries like the US, UK, etc. subsidising local farming. We subsidise our farmers, thus shutting the third world countries out of our market. Then we nail the little guy again by dumping our subsidised product on their shores at prices the local farmer can't match. Globalization is messy. Far messier than anyone probably ever thought. If you fix this particular problem, then you're going to see farmers in the US go ballistic (and possibly out of business.) It's not unlike what is happening in many other industries where jobs are being shipped to countries where the rates are much lower and the quality is as high, if not higher.

The irony in all of this is that you have environmentalist and other protestors (who seem to have a fondness for protesting with gigantic puppets on sticks) making all sorts of noise. They see the problem and come to the conclusion that farmers need to go old school and cut back on production — no lie. Then you have President George W. Bush raising subsidies for farmers, which only puts fuel on the fire of the problem. In this case, neither side of the political aisle wants to make the hard decision and cut out subsidies for local farmers.

We need third world countries to be able to sustain their own growth, their own survival. One important step for doing this is ensuring that those countries' governments are not abusing efforts to relieve third world debt and other programs setup to help the poorer nations get out of the hole. The other important step is to remove crutches like farming subsidies that protect local interests while literally starving people abroad. Neither step is easy. Each has its own set of problems. But, if we want third world countries to make progress, then these tough decisions need to be made.

[Note: Edited post 9-13-03 to change title (“and” to “while” and to add the link to the puppet protestors.]
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Thoughts on September 11th
9/11 will always be a significant event in my life even though I wasn’t anywhere close to any of the cities that were attacked. I guess this is not unlike people who were around during JFK’s assassination and other historical events – the impact is huge.

I don’t think I learned much about the politics of it all. Politics are what they are. We live in a sinful world, run by sinful people. Chances are pretty good that life on Earth isn't going to be so grand when you take that formula into account. It's sad and tragic, but nonetheless true. I think everyone went soul searching after 9/11. Unfortunately, I think most of us have stopped the soul searching and gotten back to the daily grind. God had our attention for a moment, but we all seem to have attention deficit disorder and only a short-term memory. We're back to obsessing over things like Ben and J-Lo, reality TV shows and a bunch of other pop culture crap. Either people have found their peace and moving on, or they've simply given up to the inane.

Today is the two year anniversary of 9/11, yet it was on 9/9 of this year that I got chills from the haunting memories of 9/11 left us with. The chills came from watching Jay Leno of all places. I caught Wilco on Leno that night and they played their song, Jesus Etc. The words were written many months prior to 9/11 but you'd have a hard time convincing someone of that. References to tall buildings shaking, voices escaping and singing sad songs, last cigarettes, skyscrapers scraping together... It's eerie to say the least and to hear it a couple of days before the anniversary of 9/11 stopped me cold. I couldn't help but question whether I even remember 9/11 all that well. Did I remember the sense of panic? The anger? The confusion? Anything at all? I'm still wrestling with those questions.

God got my attention on 9/11, but now I have to wonder if he's lost it. There's work to be done, houses to buy and sell, places to go, people to see, etc. And yet, I'm left here wondering, on the two year anniversary of the worst tragedy my eyes have witnessed on live television, if I've learned anything at all from it all. Did God change me or was it just a passing emotional experience? That's an extremely hard question to answer. The hardest part is coming to terms with an answer I won't like.
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Scoble and his 1,000 days of Longhorn
Scoble: Maybe I should do something like that for Longhorn. Problem is, there's probably more than 1000 new Longhorn features. How about “the 1000 days of Longhorn?”

Hey Scoble, if you start now you'd probably still have time to spare before the official release of Longhorn.
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Linus talking some smack
ComputerWorld: However, we have to sadly decline taking business model advice from a company that seems to have squandered all its money (that it made off a Linux IPO, I might add, since there's a nice bit of irony there), and now seems to play the US legal system as a lottery. - Linus Torvalds addressing SCO CEO, Darl McBride's letter to the Open Source community

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The Colonel