Adventures in Bureaucracy
Sunday, January 30, 2005
 
This sounds like every government conference I've ever attended:

"What happens in many sessions is that you go into a reverie, listening to the burble..., the words utterly incomprehensible but somehow reassuring, tumbling from the mountains of genius. The room is dark, and you remember fondly the days, decades ago, when after lunch you were permitted to lie down on your blanket and take a nap. The PowerPoint presentation shows yet another graph with dots arrayed around a curving line of allegedly tremendous significance. You never quite catch the units being used, or the time scale or the distance, and indeed the whole thing is three or four standard deviations from what you might actually be able to understand, but nonetheless you are pleased to hear that the data match the theory."

Well, except for the "genius" part. I usually hear them described as "piles" of something instead of "mountains".
 
 
One of the things I've learned in my years of government work is that any course of action will have unintended effects that nobody thinks about until they actually happen. Case in point.

It's ironic. Being forced into prostitution has always been "a fate worse than death", and that's recognized by legislation to prevent international trafficking for the sex industry, something I'm sure Germany and the European Union have undertaken. Yet at home the sex industry is now no different from any other? I suppose it could be seen as an attempt to address the demand for imported prostitutes by increasing the domestic supply, but I'm inclined to think that nobody expected this type of thing when prostitution was legalized.
 
Friday, January 28, 2005
 
Slovak ingenuity saves the day.
 
Thursday, January 20, 2005
 
I don't have to go to work today, so maybe I'll just work on improving my mental abilities.
 
 
Isn't this a textbook definition of extortion?

No wonder Boeing's sales are sliding.
 
 
Homeland Security has apparently been doing stuff. Who knew?
 
 
Four Chinese nationals sought in terror probe. When I read that, I was thinking Uighurs or someone else from China's Wild West. But the pictures show what I would be willing to bet are four people from Fujian, and we've had migrants from there coming to the United States illegally practically every day for at least the past ten years. Zheng's picture is definitely from a Chinese ID card, and the other three look like Mexican immigration paperwork of some sort (maybe an FM-3?), since the stamps are in Spanish. There's not much point in scouring Boston to find these people, as odds are they're already working in Chinese restaurants in New York City.

What's this all about? The chances of these four being involved in a dirty bomb plot strike me as pretty remote. My guess is that both they and the two Middle Easterners used the same coyote to help them across the border, so they went at the same time. The mysterious caller may have been a competitor or someone else who felt he lost money on the deal and decided to stir up trouble. Anything with the term "dirty bomb" is going to go all the way up the reporting chain, no matter how far-fetched, although for it to become this big a deal, I'm guessing that no former immigration people (for whom Chinese smuggling is not exactly earth-shaking news) were involved in the vetting process.

It should be interesting to see how this story plays out.
 
Saturday, January 15, 2005
 
Nightmare scenario: Madeleine Albright is President of the United States. Oh, and the other stuff.
 
 
NEWS FLASH: Prague cab drivers are dishonest and untrustworthy! And Italian stereotypes are alive and well in the Czech Republic.
 
 
Perhaps the best line I've read in the Post all year:

"I can't say we're pleased we made Virginia safe for fornication."
 
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
 
Diplomad is one of the most interesting sites out there, and the eyewitness posts on the aftermath of the tsunami have been gripping. Today's post raises some interesting questions about foreign aid and the ability of different places to do something useful with it.

I've had this discussion with some of my less-P.C. colleagues, and it always leads back to the issue of colonialism and who left behind the biggest mess of the Third World. The British always come out on top, since there are some success stories from ex-British colonies. We then usually move on to debate who was worse, the French or the Portuguese, before sadly shaking our heads about the Belgians and moving on to other more pleasant topics. But the big wave of decolonization took place in the 1960's, and a lot of places have become demonstrably worse, losing their infrastructures, their stability and their economies. After forty years, it can't ALL still be blamed on the former colonizers.
 
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
 
Again the Glory of Carniola finds some really great sites, like this list of international tongue twisters. The Czech one had all the favorites with the "r s hackem" sound (and the Poles gets lots of use from the "rz" in theirs), although I'm almost positive that the Hungarian ones are just random phrases pulled out of yesterday's Debrecen newspapers. My favorite English one was in there - Betty Botter bought some butter... I used that one back when I was teaching English to illustrate those pesky short vowel sounds. That was the day I learned all the good swear words in Slovak, I think.

And then there's the quick primer on Slovene-Croat-Bosnian stereotypes. Kind of a catchy tune, really.
 
 
Oh dear. It seems Ashlee Simpson got booed after a recent performance. (And yes, even with all that's going on in the world, this is the kind of thing that catches my attention.) I feel bad for her, since she's not the only pop singer who can't carry a tune without lots of electronic assistance. How many pop tarts have you heard allegedly live whose lips are more out of sync with the words than an old Godzilla movie? I blame MTV for making a singer's look more important than talent.

I miss the good old days, when there were honest-to-God show folk who could actually perform. While flipping through the channels one evening I came across Ann Miller, a great brassy broad in the classic tradition who could belt out a tune and dance AT THE SAME TIME! And this wasn't a unique talent either - ever seen an episode of the Carol Burnett show or any of the other variety hours before that format was consigned to the dustbin? Even now I would bet Lena Horne could outsing the likes of Ashlee and Britnee and Christeena and the rest, all without having to hump any of props onstage.
 
Saturday, January 01, 2005
 
Well, the year is less than three hours old and already off to an inauspicious start. Let's just say that mixing beer, champagne and various red wines seemed like a good idea at the time, but it certainly doesn't now.

Happy New Year!
 
Personal comments, opinions and observations from someone stuck inside the Capital Beltway.

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