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Thursday, January 10, 2002
monadic soreness

02 Jan 2002. I sat at the Science and Technology Library, typing on a borrowed laptop, the desire for a cigarette pervading all my humors. By Scott Rahin.

yo, the glow

Their new, reserved demeanor and orchestral feel allow Unwound to open up sides of their music previously only hinted at or altogether hidden from sight. Or to put it another way, if you like tripping on cough syrup, you'll love this album. --Camilo Arturo Leslie

Wednesday, January 9, 2002
i'm not a talentless clown :]

cowlix!

Tuesday, January 8, 2002
F L O W (via blogdex)

animated GIF (update: more! via boing boing :)

Monday, January 7, 2002
janusz kaminski, ASC

Kaminski and his crew shot many feet of film with the camera shutter set at 45 or 90 degrees, a technique that was especially effective in filming explosions. Every particle of blasted sand seems to be visible. The idea, which was born in pre-production testing, helped to create a sense of reality and urgency.

y0bhgu0d!

Okay all you vegan and vegetarian bashers, most of the people who don't eat meat do it not because they think it is bad to eat meat, but because of the horrid way meat products are produced around the world. It truly is nasty.

note: i am not a vegan or a vegetarian, in fact i just finished a nice meal of home-cooked tacos. I can't help it meat just tastes so good :

Sunday, January 6, 2002
But you see I killed a man. I never thought I'd be able to do that. I mean, when you've done something unimaginable, when you've done it before you've ever even thought about it... when you see how easy it is, well then everything is put into this new perspective. Suddenly things you thought were the most important things in the world are no more significant than anything else because you've done the unimaginable. You've done what you thought was impossible, and then you see... well you see you can do anything.

josh hutton, the unbelievable truth

---
Movies are so lifelike. That's why we love them.

Ting-Ting: Then who needs movies? Just stay home and live life!

My uncle says, "We live three times as long since man invented movies."

Ting-Ting: How can that be?

It means movies give us twice what we get from daily life. For example, murder. We never killed anyone, but we all know what it's like to kill. That's what we get from the movies.

fatty, yi yi

---
And the first thing you notice about having a girlfriend, you know like right off the bat when you start staying over at her house and everything, is you start cleaning yourself a lot better.

Josh Hutton: Really?

Yeah, no shit. Like you just start paying more attention to everything. Like, I dunno, cleaning your teeth before you go to bed and worrying about washing your back.

mike, the unbelievable truth

Saturday, January 5, 2002
john maynard keynes

During the course of the war, Keynes was [at] the Treasury and set himself to think about the post-war economic order, in particular the monetary order. In 1938, he had warmed up to Benjamin Graham's proposals for an international "commodity-reserve" currency to replace the Gold Standard. In 1943, Keynes forged his ideas for "Bancor", a proposal for an international clearing union. In consultation with the Americans, Keynes eventually relented on his idea and accepted the American "White Plan" for an international equalization "fund" held in the currencies of the participating nations.

interview with doug henwood

I'm very critical of Hilferding in Wall Street for many reasons, most relevantly to this exchange, for arguing that the German-style model of capitalism, with a handful of big banks owning big industrial concerns, was the future of the system, and that the Anglo-American stock-market system was on the way out. He couldn't have been more wrong; as the gloomy Wall Street economist Henry Kaufmann put it a few years ago, we're seeing the Americanization of global finance. Even development finance for the poor countries is coming more and more from bond and stock markets, with less from commercial banks and official development banks.

Friday, January 4, 2002
"This is the most exciting moment in the history of News."

"The first paternity suit made [me] feel like a man."

Thursday, January 3, 2002
latest from andrew and patrick

pictures via metafilter

yo, it snowed today. hooray!

Wednesday, January 2, 2002
two from the wsj today

***
Madagascar's Textile Sector Draws
Fresh Life From U.S. Trade Move
By HELENE COOPER
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

ANTSIRABE, Madagascar -- Standing at the site of his next factory, Mathias Ismail sees his underwear dreams coming true.

Mr. Ismail lays out his plans to manufacture cotton camisoles for Victoria's Secret and boxer shorts for Gap Inc. "This is our big chance," says the 35-year-old manager of Columbia Clothing Co., a local textile company. "The biggest market in the world -- the United States -- has opened for us."

Thanks to an American trade bill, the textile business has taken off on this impoverished island, firing up the dreams of entrepreneurs and housemaids alike. While Mr. Ismail envisions planeloads of lingerie winging toward Manhattan, 18-year-old Voahirana Ravololonirina stands with 30 other women outside a sweater factory in the hope of a job better than sweeping floors. Textile exports have surged in recent months, and the initial boom has spread to other industries and boosted tax receipts. For many college grads, a business career now looks more attractive than the nation's traditional plum job of civil servant.

Africa's Chance

After decades of watching as Asian countries used textile factories to galvanize their economies, Africa is finally getting a chance to stitch together its own success story. In June 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which gives 23 sub-Saharan countries the opportunity to ship a range of textile products to the U.S. duty-free. This was good news to an industry always seeking the next low-wage country with good market access. Foreign investment has already risen sharply in Madagascar and the 11 other countries that have qualified for the trade benefits by setting up safeguards on customs and child labor.

Whether any of the African countries can turn short-term gains into sustained economic development is unclear. In this region, poverty, war and corruption make it hard for anything to take root and grow. Bad roads alone can hobble export efforts. Local businesses bridle at the competitive threat that free trade brings, and the U.S. retains more than a tinge of protectionism: The trade bill withholds benefits on high-end sweaters, one of the most lucrative textile products. As Madagascar shows, all of this makes for many unanswered questions and much unquestioning optimism.

The Africa trade bill wasn't an easy sell in Congress. For one thing, America's powerful textile lobby fought the bill, fearing it would siphon away textile jobs in North Carolina and South Carolina. Critics said that it wouldn't do much to help a continent as troubled as Africa. They said it would foster only sweatshop jobs. Labor activists pointed to poor wages -- less than 40 cents an hour in Madagascar -- and the prevalence of forced overtime, arguing that such low-paying jobs break up rural families and force young women to live in urban slums so they can work 60 hours a week in dreary, low-paying factory jobs.

Yet in Madagascar, one of the first countries to qualify for benefits under the trade legislation, such jobs and wages beat what many had before. Women worked in rice fields or as maids or selling produce at roadside stands. The pay was less and unpredictable. Women did their marketing with street vendors. Now they plunk down their regular factory paychecks at upscale supermarkets.

On payday, workers head straight for the sparkling Cora Supermarket, in the sole shopping mall of the capital, Antananarivo. Next door, Courts, the British equivalent of Sears, has moved in, offering layaway terms for refrigerators and stoves.

Women take most of the textile-factory jobs, which require slim, nimble fingers to work sewing machines, but other areas are picking up. Building permits have soared, spreading the textile boom to industries such as construction and engineering. Formal employment, under which workers pay taxes, has risen by 10%, an indication of the rise in steady employment and regular paychecks. Shipping companies are adding routes to the once-isolated island. Exports to the U.S. in the first half of this year totaled $132.8 million, up 115% from $62.7 million the year before, according to U.S. trade officials.

The change has given the former French colony a chance to build a broader and sturdier economy. With a few exceptions, the life span of the textile industry in any one country is only 25 to 30 years. During that time, wages rise as workers gain experience and move from making, say, Kmart T-shirts to Banana Republic jackets. By the time the high-end retailers roll in, wages are too steep for the mass-market retailers, who start looking for the next cheap country.

For a country to benefit from the textile industry, it must use the two to three decades to diversify its economy, investing in the kinds of infrastructure and education that will attract higher-tech companies. Indonesia and Malaysia accomplished this economic evolution in the 1970s, as did Madagascar neighbor Mauritius recently. It is what proponents of free trade hold out as the real promise of economic globalization.

Madagascar has more than a few hurdles to negotiate. The road from Antananarivo, where most industry is located, to the port at Tamatave is in such disrepair that a journey of 186 miles takes most cargo trucks 15 hours. Scarce flights -- only two Air France 747s leave Antananarivo's Ivato Airport every week -- cause shipments to back up on the tarmac. Government corruption scares away many foreign investors, and diverts needed money for education and health services from the national budget.

The Sweater Exclusion

In addition, textile exports aren't growing as fast as they should be, owing to the trade bill's exclusion of high-end sweaters. Bush officials say they intend to fix the glitch, but they haven't yet. They're afraid of alienating lawmakers from North Carolina and South Carolina. The result: About 20% of Madagascar's potential textile trade with the U.S. -- amounting to an estimated 5,000 jobs for the island -- is cut off.

"Those sweaters are the most labor-intensive things to make," says John Hargreaves, director general of Floreal Madagascar SA, a sweater manufacturer.

Still, textiles have expanded sharply from a small base in the 18 months since the trade bill was passed. In the 1990s, local companies made clothes for a few U.S. companies such as San Francisco-based Gap, but the American business never really took off. Madagascar's economy was stagnant from the 1970s on, aside from a steady stream of tourists who came to enjoy the island's unique ecosystem. The country's long experimentation with so-called Christian Marxism translated into closed borders, nationalized industries and high tariffs. About 75% of the population lived below the poverty line, 85% of urban children were undernourished, and 55% of the total population was illiterate.

"From 1972 to 1996 were the blackest years," says Hassanein R. Hiridjee, whose construction company, First Immo, builds textile factories in Antananarivo. "We were following our big brother, North Korea."

By contrast, the economy of nearby Mauritius was taking off with textiles. Instead of protectionist walls, it set up an export-processing zone in 1972 to attract foreign textile companies. They came, from Hong Kong, Indonesia and China, to take advantage of privileged access that Mauritius enjoyed both to markets in Europe, as a former European colony, and to the U.S., under the Generalized System of Preferences for poor countries.

By 1998, Mauritius had pulled away from Madagascar in many areas: per-capita income was $3,690 compared with $250 in Madagascar; 22% of the population had phones, compared with 6%; the literacy rate was 100%, compared with 45%.

Now, Mauritius is just about done with textiles, focusing instead on wooing the likes of Microsoft Corp. and AT&T Corp. And the textile industry is almost done with Mauritius. Workers there aren't cheap anymore. "At $1.47 an hour, you can't compete," says Laurent Koenig, administrative director of Aquarelle Clothing Ltd., another local textile factory.

But you can at the 37 cents an hour that Madagascar textile workers averaged last year. And some much-needed government action helped the country prepare the ground for the trade bill.

In the mid-1990s, the Madagascar government took several leaves from the Mauritius book and began opening the country to foreign investors. It set up an export-processing zone, with reduced corporate-tax rates for exporting companies, and it eliminated local-ownership and local-content requirements for international companies. And just as in Mauritius, the government began privatizing state-run industries, adding another form of reassurance for foreign investors.

Now the Africa trade bill brings the chance for a real breakthrough for many of the continent's nations. Officials in tiny Lesotho say the bill has prompted plans for more than $120 million in new investment, mostly from foreign firms, and mostly involving textiles. Kenyan officials say the bill will create 50,000 jobs directly and a further 150,000 jobs indirectly.

In Madagascar, there hasn't been a wholesale conversion to the new order. "Many people here don't see the advantage of trade," says Jocelyn Rafidinarivo, minister of budget and of development of the autonomous provinces. Some local industries, fearing competition, are squeamish about the idea of opening up their borders to foreign commerce. Soft-drinks magnate Marc Ravalomanana fears imports of Coca-Cola and other American products could hurt his own locally made soft drinks and yogurt.

"Most of our businessmen are really scared of the American market and American competition," says Eric Randrasana, general manager of Novel Garments SA, another factory.

Mr. Ismail of Columbia Clothing is one of the less fearful entrepreneurs. Tall and burly, he is the son of a wealthy family that immigrated from India to Madagascar 100 years ago. The family started out farming cotton, and then diversified to shrimp and fish farms. In 1970, they opened a sewing mill, making clothes for the local market. The operation began making garments for foreign companies in the 1990s.

Mr. Ismail and other business people are striving to reshape the way business and development are done in this country. Not content just to sew together piecework, he wants to have a hand in every step of textile production, every layer of value added to the clothing he sends to America. From the cotton he has contracted farmers to grow out in the fields of Mahjunga up north, to the yarn spun on his new state-of-the-art spinning machines in Antsiarabe, to the shirts, lingerie and trousers his workers then sew, Mr. Ismail's vision is simple: "We're going to make that link between [our] countryside guy and the New York City consumer."

Mr. Ismail also has set up training classes for textile workers. His flagship factory includes firetrucks that serve the surrounding suburbs. Perhaps most important for Madagascar's economic growth, he offers the chance for job mobility. Mechanics he hired to repair machines hope to use their experience to get into other industries.

One day at Cotona, one of Mr. Ismail's factories, he spent part of his time bantering with a buyer representing Levi Strauss & Co. of San Francisco. Nearby, Voahangimalala Norina Olga, 33, peered fiercely at a piece of cloth she was cutting. It was her first day on the job, and her first job with a regular paycheck. She was nervous but determined.

"My two sisters both got jobs in factories like this six months ago," she said. "Now they have TV sets and bicycles, and I want that, too."

Mr. Ismail moved on to the spinning room to show off his new looms. Strands of cotton flew through the air, and the looms made such a din that workers were wearing earplugs. "We call this the AGOA room," Mr. Ismail said, referring to the acronym for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.

The textile jobs appear dreary. Hundreds of women sit in the massive factories, side by side, stitching sweaters that they could never afford to buy themselves, or placing labels for stores that they will never visit. In many of the factories, temperature regulation is nonexistent. During Madagascar's cooler months, workers keep their coats on; when it is hot, they fan themselves.

Poor Pay, Little Leverage

Critics argue that the Africa trade bill does little to raise living standards in poor countries. They note that factory workers in countries like Madagascar are poorly paid -- last year's 37 cents an hour compared with $14.24 an hour in the U.S. -- and don't have the heft of U.S.-style labor laws to protect them from management demands such as forced overtime. Much of the improvements in workers' rights in recent years have come because of complaints from the antiglobalization forces, who pressured U.S. buyers like Gap to adopt business codes of conduct.

But in a part of the world where 98% of the population doesn't have a working toilet and 15% will die before their first birthday, the arguments of the free-trade foes who complain about sweatshops don't carry much water. A job in one of these factories, making about $50 a month plus health care, vacation and lunch, is considerably more lucrative than the $20 a month, with no benefits, taken home by the average worker in Madagascar.

"If I wasn't here, I would be in the rice fields," says Fanjanirina Razanadrasoa, 21. Barefoot, as are many others on a line of jobseekers, Ms. Razanadrasoa has been standing outside the Floreal sweater factory, which stitches together sweaters for Limited Inc. of Columbus, Ohio. She says she isn't leaving until she gets a job. She wants to go into business for herself one day, and she reckons that a steady check from a textile job can get her going. First on her list of things to buy when she starts getting paid: "shoes."

Write to Helene Cooper at helene.cooper@wsj.com

***
In a Nation of Strictest Islamic Law,
Female Entrepreneurs Gain Ground
By HUGH POPE
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia -- Siham Abu Rashid isn't allowed to drive a car. Outside her home, she is required to cover her face, head and body in black cloth. When she recently went to register her cellphone, the clerk, in a gesture dating back to when most Saudi women were illiterate, insisted on taking her fingerprint, rather than her signature.

Yet none of this has stopped her from becoming what was once a contradiction in terms: a Saudi businesswoman.

The 30-year-old interior designer is among the thousands of Saudi women who now operate their own businesses, including computing companies, boutiques and other small, mostly retail, outfits. That's no small feat in a desert kingdom where ultraconservative social custom and Islamic religious law prohibit most mingling of the sexes. With the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia is once again the world's strictest Islamic state.

But lately, the Saudi regime has shown just a little more tolerance; women are now being issued their own IDs. Perhaps more important, about 200,000, or 54%, of the country's university students are women today, compared with only 70 female students in 1965. In the past seven years, the number of female students in technical schools has risen tenfold to 63,500.

Education has led to careers. In the capital, Riyadh, the number of women members of the local chamber of commerce has risen fourfold, to about 2,400. Here in Jidda, a busy port city, women own about a quarter of the private businesses.

True, many of these women are merely stand-ins for their civil-servant relatives, who aren't allowed to own or operate private businesses. Or they are heiresses divorced from day-to-day management of their operations. But many others, like Ms. Abu Rashid, are willing to navigate the tortuous paths of Saudi rules and regulations to indulge an entrepreneurial streak.

"There are restrictions, and you work round them," says Mayan Kurdi, who formed a Web-site design company, Netpeople, in 1999. "Discretion," she adds, "is the name of the game."

For example, she explains, women don't advertise for fear of attracting unwanted official attention to their activities. "We get all our business by word of mouth," says the 30-year-old Ms. Kurdi, who attended University College in London and then worked for a management consulting firm in that city for two years before moving back to Saudi Arabia to start her business.

To launch Netpeople, she had to find a company willing to rent her office space and act as her "big brother" by handling interactions with the Saudi bureaucracy. In routine transactions, she says, her male driver fronts for the company, which now has 10 women employees and a busy order book. The voice on the company's answering machine is that of a man.

Nonetheless, Ms. Kurdi dismisses the Western stereotype of the Saudi woman: "It's rubbish that we're oppressed," she says. "I've lived both here and in the West, so I should know."

Ms. Abu Rashid, the interior designer, concurs, though the going hasn't always been easy. After finishing secondary school, she started a women's clothing store in a local mall in 1991. Her mother, a housewife, gave her moral support, but her father, a civil servant-turned-businessman, worried that his daughter would get into trouble.

The shop, called Mona Lisa, failed after four years, partly because it was located in a women-only section of the mall that didn't attract many shoppers. That's when Ms. Abu Rashid, who was by then married and a mother of four children, decided to turn her favorite hobby -- interior decoration -- into a business.

She took a correspondence course in interior design from a company in Florida. In 1996, Ms. Abu Rashid, who goes by the nickname Sam, launched Sam Designs. She won't disclose sales figures, but says she can now live off her earnings. Divorced by her first husband, she remarried this year.

Her Web site, which also serves as her firm's showroom, includes a sultry stamp-size portrait of Ms. Abu Rashid and samples of her designs. She specializes, she says, in the wild and the exotic. "That reflects my personality," she says.

Since her business doesn't require a lot of space, Ms. Abu Rashid is able to work out of her home. Still, she has been forced to find ways to work around the taboos against women doing business with men. "I deal with people in their houses, at restaurants," she says, "or we go together to the shops to choose fabrics."

One client did make her nervous: a member of Saudi Arabia's religious police force, whose public presence helps enforce the country's strict religious rules. She says she didn't know he was a member of the mutawwa until she arrived to meet the man and his wife at their home. Mixed-sex meetings like that are still a bit of a novelty in Saudi Arabia.

"I thought, Mama! I was a bit afraid," she says. In the end, "they didn't give me the commission -- maybe they didn't like the price -- but he was cool about me doing the work."

More typical was a recent trip Ms. Abu Rashid took across town by car to meet a client at the office of one of her furniture suppliers. She is permitted to ride with her family's Sudanese driver, but a man from outside the family isn't allowed to sit beside her. To prepare for the outing, she donned two veils, one that covered her hair and another that covered her mouth and nose. Her eyes, framed in black eyeliner and mascara, were the only parts of her body visible.

The supplier custom-builds furniture for Ms. Abu Rashid and then discreetly pays her a cut of the money it makes from selling the furniture to her customers. "Four or five years ago, we couldn't even conceive of women working," says Ibrahim Takla, chief executive of the supplier. "But for that matter, 10 or 15 years ago in Saudi Arabia, there wasn't even a concept of design."

When the client arrived, Ms. Abu Rashid ushered the woman into a meeting room at the rear of the building. The client, a woman, was clearly embarrassed at the prospect of discussing anything in the company of a man.

"I keep telling my friends, I'm going to do something to liberate us all. There are so many little things. You need a man to do anything -- anything official, that is," Ms. Abu Rashid says. "Don't get me wrong: the way things are going is fine with me. But if God wills, in the future we will get the chance to drive and travel without permission."

Islamic law doesn't forbid women to drive cars. But many Islamists still defend Saudi Arabia's law against women driving. Being able to use a car on her own, they say, might tempt a Saudi woman into sinful contact with -- or abuse by -- a man from outside her family.

Driving aside, getting around is getting easier. Until last month, when the government began giving women identity cards, a woman was lumped together with the rest of her family on a single identity document held and controlled by the male head of household. To hold an individual passport, as Ms. Abu Rashid does, women are required to have a male relative's permission to travel abroad.

Ms. Abu Rashid is eagerly awaiting her identity card, which will give her a fully independent legal identity for the first time. For now, in case she needs to prove her identity at a store or a bank, "I have to go around with a passport, in my own country!"

Write to Hugh Pope at hugh.pope@wsj.com

Tuesday, January 1, 2002
i am thou and thou art i

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