Monday, February 18, 2002

I think I should answer my mail
..or, at least, draw your attention to some of the marvelous comments I've gotten.

Regarding the World's Fair, Jerry Lawson wrote:

Many years ago I had a 1939 Popular Science magazine, and it showcased the 1939 World's Fair in glowing detail.

That seemed like a marvelous time - and in retrospect, maybe it was. Coming out of the Depression, a message of hope and promise was needed - and that was certainly it.

Nowdays - the future is malleable. It's hard to imagine someplace (like a World's Fair) oriented towards displaying a future - even Disney has a hard time with it. Probably because what looked like 20+ years out is darn near yesterday's fad, and the technological changes are coming so fast that by the time you get a display designed to showcase them the next big thing is already showing up...

Here we are, in the future. Not what we expected, eh?

If I understand the term correctly, it�s what Alvin Toffler called �future shock�: the inability to cope with the ever-increasing speed of change. By the time a new innovation has hit the market, it�s obsolete.

It didn�t used to be that way � though few people now alive can remember living in a house without, say, a refrigerator, the wonder of the age that transformed the way we lived and shopped. Women would not now be concerned with the Glass Ceiling � or jobs at all � if the refrigerator had not come along. Procuring, cooking and serving food before it spoiled was a full-time job in the 1920s.

Computers are neat toys, but we don�t need them the way we need refrigerators.

This passage is from 1939: The Lost World of the Fair, by David Gelernter:

In 1939 technology�was not remote and esoteric. It was down-to-earth. And its achievements were heroic.

��At every turn,� writes a modern historian of the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition, �fairgoers were bombarded with pamphlets urging them to make use of the latest scientific research in industrial laboratories to modernize their kitchens.�

It takes an intellectual to suggest that women had to be brainwashed into wanting electric kitchen appliances.

And this:

�Nowadays technical-minded people over thirty get a certain feeling when they contemplate a computer. They can visualize the vastly weaker machines of the past; when they do they are apt to experience full force, like a faceful of sunshine, the flat-out marvelousness of modern technology. In the fair�s age anyone over thirty might have experienced that same sensation whenever he looked at an electric socket.

I was talking about the campaign finance reform bill when Tom S. asked:

Can you explain why, if Shays-Meehan is nothing but Incumbent Protection, it has taken so long to pass and why it has been so strongly opposed? It seems to me that any bill that is IP would be passed without much effort or passage of time!!!

Well, that�s a good question. (I didn�t say it was �nothing but Incumbent Protection�. The most self-serving clauses are smothered and disguised in other verbage, as with most bills.) My own feeling is that some of our representatives won�t want to be seen to have supported it if it fails.

There�s also the issue that it won't take effect until after the midterm Congressional elections, when the Democrats expect to retake Congress (and they will call in every chit they can to make it happen). If it affected both parties equally, there would be less of a battle over it.

I mean, I�d like to think that some of our representatives are aware of the Constitutional issues involved, and recognize that it is a waste of everyone�s time to pass a law that the Supreme Court will toss out anyway. However, experience tells me that�s entirely too idealistic.

The Wall Street Journal, and John Fund in particular, have been particularly enlightening.

And then there was that flurry of $100 bills over southern Afghanistan. Redsugar wrote:

egads. that's swatting a fly with a hand grenade, isn't it? where is your average afghani going to exchange hundred-freaking-dollar bills? bin laden's the only guy in the country with that much money to trade in one go. "let them eat cake," huh? what happened to 10 fives? in more envelopes?

Oh, I don�t think they�d have any trouble finding anyone to take American money. They probably won�t get a fair exchange rate, but at 4250 Afganis to the dollar, they can afford to get taken by the moneylenders. (That may be why we dropped hundreds and not fives and tens.)

What bothers me is that the people who are confiscating the food we drop and selling it to the people we intended it for, are probably the same people who are going to charge 1000% commission to exchange dollars for Afganis.

I talked about the U.S. flag, and the TV critic who thought its "original meaning" was "I am a conservative Republican, and more American than you". Ron Butler replied:

Why should there be a 'remove by' date on U.S. flag pins if there is no such limit for AIDS ribbons, breast cancer awareness ribbons, violence-against-women ribbons, etc.?
Is love of country less enduring than those other causes?
Or is somebody hoping that -- with its visible symbols removed -- it will just quietly go away?

There do appear to be people in this country who don't love it unless it directly benefits them to do so. A quick world tour might help them learn that it does. Jerry Lawson wrote:

Another thing that saddens me about it, however, are those in the U.S. who insist on seeing the U.S. Flag as a symbol of oppression. I suppose it's how you view things - but if there were some sort of moral balance put on the actions of our country (and somehow symbolized by the flag) I would think that the things we've done wrong (and there's a good number) have been well outweighed by the things we've done right over the years.

There must be a few, the European Union to the contrary. "We really are one country, still, and that which unites us is, as ever, more important than that which divides us." Walkman said:

I couldn't agree with you more.
For me, I'm just glad that now there will be more than just my family saluting the flag when it passes by in a parade. It's about time.

And from the lovely Redsugar:

i was thinking this same thing a few days ago. it seems i'm the only one in my neighborhood with my american flag still up. like it was a pre-christmas decoration. i'm still tickled by the "united we stand" sign on the marquee of the thai restaurant up the street. everywhere else you go in the world, their flags are everywhere. they even have giant billboards with pictures of their leaders. and they have so much less to wave their flags about than we do...

(Emphasis mine.)
Redsugar, you're a girl after my own heart. Now you've made me go all misty-eyed.

Oh, by the way: I'm now a "Commuter blog stop" at Libertarian Samizdata, and proud to be so.

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