Sunday, December 18, 2005

Common Sense to Common Profits

December 15, 2005

Dear (Anonymous Acadia University Employee),

Relevant analysis is sometimes free, unrequested, not always welcome, but worth taking a look at. So you are getting this letter. Read these themes. Excellence. Innovation. Diversity. Seek to display them. They will come.

Your internet presence is in a critical condition.
It is your first line of customer contact and it is critical.
It is in a hazardous critical condition.

I have to use UOW as my benchmark, because I know what they have been doing online and a lot of it works. International student draws are incredible there and I know the quality of what Acadia has to offer can be higher especially in ESL draws. But website design is the absolute rosetta for this ESL and international student market. That online presence must display:


Prospective students need to easily know why, it needs to be crisp, formatted and targeted. It needs to feel and look international. Look, sweetheart, at the moment it just doesn't. It looks Canadian. Yeah, OK, that is a given. But it needs Canadian with international facets. Beauty. Elegance. Brilliance. Shine. Spit and Polish. Basically it has to look perfect.

Take a Look. What do you see?

Images: Tag markers, context relevant, smiling faces, natural beauty, local features. Simple, small, repetitive.

Hark, where is thine own Blomidon? That inescapable monolithic outcropping of Cape Split? The wonderous folds and ripples of Wolfville Ridge? The bursting of the bounteous Apple Blossoms? These are the natural images, outstanding elements, elements that will sell and associate:

(Even in small frames.)

Associated Content Required: Emotional happiness, technology, faces of typical international students. Relevant targeting of markets on intakes.

Where are your short, easy to understand links?
Your smiling international faces?
For example, ESL false beginners are often telling their parents where they want to study, based on online content and images.
English that even a high-school educated senior who has not studied for twenty years can read and understand.
Short snappy, relevant texts, in soothing colour schemes.
Red is often associated with hazardous critical condition.

Acadia Colours:
This could be a sensitive issue considering the entire website appears to link to these issues, look, I just darn love those Acadia's colours, but there you are internationally selling red, white and blue, and my dear, where is the first relevant (internationally relevant) association at least emotionally with those colours? (Hint, it is not Canada.) Are you out to please the President here? Or international applicants choosing Canada over the USA? It may seem irrelevant, but it is gosh, darn relevant and it is the difference which helps define:


Relevancy: Flags mark languages, for faster recognition of an international landscape, cheap, fast, recognisable, and an added associated perception of fast, non-rural service. Instant international. Cheap. Fast response to inquiries, fast, cheap, there should even perhaps be a 24 hour email service. Fast, cheap, it is unbelievably fast in your global competitors' segments. Fast. How fast?

Contact Features: Initial "high wall" first contact, it is anonymous, cheap, for a reason, it implies exclusivity, priviledge, allure, wealth, not egalitarianism or social democracy, as Canada believes itself to be, but a global perception of higher value, where localized values and familiarity in first contact is often inappropriate, as in many developing countries, and in many of your target markets. It is an illusion and it is cheap.

It is sad but even possible that you could be just scaring them away with your own smiling, sweet, happy faces. The sweet, helpful staff. But true. Scary looking white people to some customers. Where for some customers even smiling can prove embarassing.Think HSBC ads. Think global impact.

A Homey Place: Wong Centre
Wong Centre is probably a very "homey" place, I have no doubt about it, but look, first impression, what is it? It is quaint, Victorian darning needles, and dowdy grandma's retirement facility. Young, hip, energetic, impressionable international students, those surfing in on the first website visit, their first impression is, well, do I need to say it?

Do they want to see grandma's hip replacements? Am I being quite gentle and graceful here? At my best. I am making gentle suggestions here. What is the difference between an Aussie or Valley twang here? The difference is ... website design. Just as Chaucer cheated with a few of his themes, you may liberally steal every good idea about how your website can sell your programs faster, better and cheaper. Selling the image of:

This webpage is as utilitarian as an escriven's lodestone. The photo display of a mere four fingers says it all. Grotesque!
Distant, far too many faces, imposing, scary, strangers, indefinable faces, not a welcoming image. Requires smiling happy face. One. Not intimidating. Happy.
First impression: index cards. Speeches and presentations, associated fear and loathing of public speaking.
Image: Exceedingly close contact for more Puritan markets.
Tag Buttons: Reminders of Montessori or Early Childhood Education, useful for cave people, entirely tired, boring and questionable, perhaps useful for communicating with aliens. Second language learners have some skills, usually highly evolved reading and writing. This format is almost, borderline, intellectual insult to many potential student markets. It appears to give the impression that they are challenged.
***All Constructive Criticism (I hope it is taken as such.)***

Program Alignments
Intakes : A multi-disciplinary aspect here, your little ESL students, yes they come in various forms, yes they require different dynamics as referred to courses, et cetera, but their over-riding interest internationally is in a program of study which improves their language ability specifically for participation and entry into academic qualifications tailored to their needs, as in, every program should be so aligned as to be useful for attaining that designation and TESOL clearances, and all should be easily transferrable into full-time studies arrangements which are designed specifically to accept them. Cheap.

College Certificate Designations for ESL Courses
For example, UOW University College issues ESL Certificates, the whole deal. Further, it underwrites (discounts) for its students in their full-time tuitions in regular programs. It is not exactly a discount, but it is a slightly lower price, something cost- conscious language students cum regular studies transfers are highly tuned to consume. Penny counters. But it is also just the fast track to entry and acceptance into regular programs of study.

UOW Awards:

A Beautiful Bridge to Full Time Entries
These ESL students then require full-time studies programs aligned with regular programs, for example post-graduate business degrees, and information technology options. The "lite" type courses extremely popular globally, even in the great USA.

These are the methods of market leaders. Useful and relevant. Profitable. Many students are simply looking for these types of post-graduate degrees to take home with them. Relevant, modular, economical, international.

From Public U to Private U
An Atlantic Canadian Opportunity

Upselling The Competition
Salesmanship: Competitive, head to head marketing up-selling Acadia as the safer option to Halifax choices. It has to come off as within reach of an urban area, for example even UOW has a few adjunct campuses. I think Acadia could use a few, probably in Halifax, Dubai, and maybe Singapore. Six classrooms, for example, especially ones built for the purpose.

Going cheap. How long before Acadia gets to that point?

Forward to anyone in your organisation who might need to read common sense to common profits. Sleek, cheap web design tactics are only the beginning.

Sincerely, Daniel Costello

What The Chronicle Herald could not print

What The Chronicle Herald could not print
by Dan Costello Friday, Oct. 17, 2003 at 6:14 AM

October 3, 2003

Dear Editor,

Clear cutting in the Baxter's Harbour area highlights a province-wide credibility issue on the part of independent woodlot owners. Common sense should rule. One man among many practicing sustainable and responsible harvesting is awarded, it draws light to the lack of sense of another legally cutting out wide swaths of landscape, biodiversity, and dwindling forest habitat. Upon each others doorsteps. So good is undone.

Geological formations the length of the North Mountain form unique aquifers for the Annapolis Valley. So residents of the valley should have cause for concern that such important water sources, babbling brooks, and Kaiser Creeks are not already legislated buffer zones afforded to them by the counties or province concerned. To ensure future viable supplies for already protected farmlands.

Does our province not need more concerned residents and woodlot owners, and owners associations, province-wide, to take suitable stands to ensure that large, or irresponsible commercial enterprises are not clearing away many bush or dwarf trees, many in excess of hundreds of years of age? Trees that may have been passed over by past generations? Has anyone, studies to indicate that the North Mountain does or does not have significant numbers of such trees? They are in obvious evidence on Blomidon. Are they not indigenous under-story species? How much of the regeneration of past lumber activities in the area could be attributed to their presence?

In these days of sick buildings, scent-free offices, workplaces, and bans on public smoking for the good of our communities, it is hard to believe that while noisy highways require sound barriers, clear cutters do not, even in inhabited areas. Where automobiles are strictly regulated for emissions with catalytic convertors, oil/gasoline chainsaws, two-stroke lawnmowers, out-boat motors, etc., have no such pollution controls. Staggering are such environmental loop-holes. And the levels of pollution generated by such types of equipment.

Nova Scotia as a provincial and cultural community has embraced the common sense of recycling and excelled; produced poets, painters, and fishermen who have immortalized many babbling brooks, and a large number of withered, stunted, or dwarf trees, and laid the seeds and pods for it all. The roots of wise community, left by some, generations ago and in the present. But a free patchwork of visible slashes and clear cuts indicate a patchwork of province wide concern and awareness where there could be seamless unity, an obviously incomplete object.

And which method really allowed The Chronicle Herald a steady ream of paper over these decades? Which method sustains the beauty and industry of small communities, which destroys it? There would be none for all without common sense.

MLAs and associations that want to preserve the rural character of our smaller communities for future generations should be commended for their efforts and the exercise of their right to protest. Even your paper could have presented a more balanced argument, identifying the place and time of the protest. And the defence of the unidentified owner, the unidentified buyer of the cut.

Yes, let us protest the lack of legislation to protect our vision from the blindness of such greed. And also for what is unseen. Has the great inner wild all been done already? Ancient, little trees are sacred in Japan, and would sell there for more than the price of pulp. Citizens of Nova Scotia deserve to lead the country instead of following, enacting the best private woodlot legislations in the land, to willingly maintain profit for all concerned, representing the highest proportion of private woodlands to Crown lands in their little province. In Canada. For some, it is a duty to the land. For others, quick cash in hand. I wrote this because I love Baxters Harbour.


Dan Costello, Abu Dhabi, UAE 971-2-445-0539


"Made In America" No Longer Works For MBAs

"Made In America" No Longer Works For MBAs

Re "The Best Executive MBAs" (Special Report, Oct. 24): Could U.S. standards of educational quality be any further removed from the needs of Asia-based business students? Next time, please inform me of the educational star institutions in Asia rather than trotting out a bunch of overpriced U.S. degrees. Your professionals talk about cross-functionality yet continue to purvey "Made in America."

Daniel Costello
Gangneung, South Korea

International -- Readers Report, Business Week online, November 22, 2005

The Hundred Years War: Good Companion History to Chaucerian English (Part One)

Aside from an apparent surplus of authors with the first name of Desmond here in my scrolls, what purposes does a reading of, "The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453" have to any general reader of English language, student of international relations, or global business strategist?

First, identification with the period is useful as it represented a growth in English language usage, probably unparalleled in scale aside from the last two economic global growth cycles. In addition, a reasonable standardizing effort on the part of English writers was taking place, among them Chaucer, perhaps the most notable early English poet, living in an age in which poetry was a court sponsored endeavour, as any various artists will attest, sponsorship of rich supporters guarantees food, shelter and clothing for artists of every stripe.

Much of the bounty available to any manner of snake charmers and jesters, depending on the snakes and numbers of balls in the air, the featherers of the pen, palette, or mandolin in English Courts at the time came courtesy of kingly and knightly led rape, pillage, and havoc in France. For what reason did these brutish English seek to enrich their entertainment and appreciation of culture other than a desire to match the richness of their conquests and war profits with something uniquely English?

That the wars endured for so many decades only points to the immense successes, service of greed, gains in territories, efficiency of regional taxation strategies, bounty of goods and services, and commodities available in France seemingly for the taking by English mercenaries and allies, among them a number of other currently EU member nations. Codes of chivalry appear merely as brittle as poetic verses often appear to the unappreciative. Such belief systems which may have evolved through readings and imaginings on the benefits of courtly love were merely fragile, superfulous, seemingly crusts of social protocols, similar to the common everyday pleasantries inherent in, "Have a nice day. Have a good time. How are you? Fine." Readings of such histories simply helps define ages-old inter-cultural dualities which continue to serve present day relations in Europe, in English, and in issues of global strategic actions of MNCs.

This history by Seward is not new, copyrighted 1978 and this copy dates from 1999. Which proves that the market for used books is often a good place to discover tracts which do not go out of fashion. Histories rarely do. They are useful for lots of perspectives. However best-sellers do dominate in most publishing houses, annually a short list of books often represent at least 50% of all published works. So it appears most people who really read only read what is hot at the moment. Used books represent the "lucky dip" style of learning, the adage of, "one man's trash is another man's treasure" reads true as is the higher turnover of used texts depending upon availability, price and customer interests. But seeking out of the cheaper text is like a run of shopping at Zara if one defines fashions in literature as in clothing.

Short print runs are often representative of better meeting of particular customer needs rather than general "Cabbage Patch or Garbage Pail" readers. It also implicates faster rates of purchase and sale as "one of a kind" items often disappear from the shelves precluding a second visit or slow decision-making processes. It contributes to faster, deeper reading on subjects of continued interest. In addition it can prove the largesse of major sellers, the loss of royalties gatherers, resale of books has taken on an entirely new segment of modern book reading consciousness. So the fact that the English were stealing bolts of French milled cloth and fancy furs literally off the backs of grand doyennes and French notables to frisk and frop about in the stolen folds back home, merely plants the point that the English saw the exercise of making use of the riches of others, thus second hand, as routine, exemplifies that there was little if any moral dilema in stealing from the weaker but richer French and keeping it. Idealists such as Robin Hood were notably absent from this scamming scene.

But as the introduction of this used text notes, this is a brief accounting, as brevity in reading may be favoured but not in writing about what has been read, especially among those who prefer to write for a purpose and pleasure. As early as 1337 it is granted that the beginning of the Hundred Years War was a result of Philip VI's confiscation of the English held Duchy de Guyenne from Edward III, who reciprocated with a claim on the French throne. Its end is believed to be 1453 when the English lost Bordeaux. Famous battles include Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt. Its most famous characters include: Edward III, the Black Prince, Henry V, John II, Charles V, Charles VII and several supporting casts of English and French stocks, including the wolves entering Paris to feed upon French corpses. Throughout the century many French could not distinguish the English from the wolves anyway. As noted, 'among those who had done best out of the war were the great landed families', and 'needy adventurers of obscure birth and no inherited property; scores of them (making) notable fortunes'.

The first chapter details the parental lineages of two competitive Kings. Their lineage diverged from Philip III (1270-85). But Charles III had control over the Duchy of Aquitaine and since 1259 had maintained fragments of French coastal regions from La Rochelle to Bayonne and the Pyrenees, Saintonge and Gascony with various "bastides" or fortified towns and bastions. This area was a rich source of income as its revenues were richer and provided larger sources of taxation than those available to English Kings in England itself. Its regional capital was Bordeaux, population 30,000 and it was a major wine producing region. The English drank more wine than beer during this period than today. England was the major consumer of wine products from the region which included claret and blended varieties. In exchange, the rich, successful Gascons, who spoke a regional dialect rather than French, depended mostly upon English trade and consumed English wool, leathers, grain, resins, and salt. Even one Gascon, Guyennois Henri le Waleys was concurrent mayor of both London and Bordeaux. In Plantagenet terms, Aquitaine (Guyenne) was more important to the English than Wales or Ireland and its inhabitants were considered "English" by chroniclers such as Froissart.

But French demands had grown along with their military and resource strengths. Seward notes a thirteenth century chronicler, Matthew Paris, as having written, 'The King of France is the King of all earthly Kings' and was more powerful than the Holy Roman Emperor, controlling the papacy from as early as 1309. Agricultural development is also noted as a factor by Seward with rich soils, as were more forests brought under production, influencing rising French birth rates, and a massive population in the 1330s estimated at 21 million whereas England stood at around four million. At that time England is likened to modern Norway by Seward, described as underpopulated, mostly forest, swamp or moorlands, with a single export product in English wool. A fairly one track economy, fairly agrarian, highly undeveloped.

London is listed at a population of 30,000 and was more difficult to rule than the French. An observation that is worthy of reference is the fact that without highly developed industries, English commoners appear to have had more autonomy, fewer resources upon which to be taxed, and shorter limits or thresholds of acceptance of taxation, if only evidenced in the results of the Peasants Revolt which took place half-way through in 1381. The English were resource starved, and the basis of successful pillage throughout history has been the generous reward of allies. In this regard, Edward III appears to have avoided conflict for as long as possible from the 1330s due to his weaknesses, and attempted several agreements and settlements from even going on the Crusades with Philip in 1332. But both Edward and Philip appeared to prize the same Gascons for the same reasons.

French formalisation of monarchy apparently pushed the limits of feudal systems of the time and demanded greater resources and rewards to satisfy all the landlord-ships and holdings which French Barons demanded and royal control of their loyalties demanded. English holdings in France were weak, accessible, and enticing targets for growth and conquest. Seward accounts that Edward allied with Flanders and in 1337 sent sixty knights to Hainault to begin a purchase of allies against France including individual payments made to the likes of the Duke of Brabant, in a sum of 60,000 pounds, which exceeded combined annual revenues of England and Guyenne. Due to issues of French loyalty Edward embargoed the export of wool to Flanders as protest, and he also began to heavily tax wool exports which would explain the redistribution of English tax revenues to European allies against France. His position in borrowing vast sums was highly entreprenurial and he bankrupted famous Lombardi bankers, the Bardi, the Frescobaldi,and the Peruzzi as well as various merchants in the Netherlands and England in his quest to hold Aquitaine. His efforts to mobilize a fighting force were also stymied by difficult elements of English conscription which are estimated to have included an average of 12% deemed condemned murderers although offered 'charters of pardon'. All of these challenges simply illustrated the distinctive advantages the French King Philip could muster in the areas of revenue collections based on highly evolved systems and a much larger population from which to pay his soldiers. He had such an overwhelming advantage it appears incredulous that such a series of wars could last a century.

Even from the outset, Seward easily illustrates how all of these interests eventually pushed the beginnings of the war. Philip made a declaration on 24 May, 1337 that Guyenne was forefeited by Edward as a result of '...disobedient acts...". Edward's response was a formal defiance in a letter addressed to, 'Philip of Valois who calls himself King of France'. A three year campaign by Philip resulted in the taking of the north banks of the Gironde Estuary and Blaye, implicating sea access at Bordeaux and the mouth of the Dordogne and Bourg in 1340, much of Entre-Deux-Mers and Saint Emillion were laid waste and from 1337 Edward had encircled France with allies secured through bribes and treaties including the Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig IV and Counts of the Low Countries in Burgundy and Savoy. French marauders also sacked Portsmouth in 1338 and took a number of Edward's royal cogs while raiding the coastlines between Cornwall and Kent, Dover and Folkestone, with the following occupation of Guernsey, and the firing of the Island of Wight.

Seward relates how French dominance in the English Channel implicated English trade, and a massive fleet of two hundred ships were assembled at Sluys in Zeeland while Edward counterattacked at Boulogne. Edward needed to keep Philip from attempting a landing in England with 60,000 soldiers and began pawning the royal jewels from 1339 with an invasion and advance in France in September of that year. His desperation was revealed in small bands of English armies supplemented by German and Dutch mercenaries. The first battle with Philip's army began at Flamangerie consisting of three lines, English in front, Germans second, and Flemish Counts and Lords third. Following several antics, Philip refused to fight even though he vastly outnumbered his English opponents. These English finally retreated after a mere month traipsing and clinking about the lowlands.

Before leaving Edward went through the pomp and circumstance of assuming the arms of France in a large ceremony in Ghent, February 6, 1340. He made vast promises to French Lords to renew their traditional rights and priviledges, appealing to their sense of profit and also to, 'revive the good laws and customs of...St Louis our ancestor'. His strategy was to localize while Philip's was to centralize power. Such machinations and further inflamatory letters to Philip provided fuel for an already roaring French furnace in terms of Aquitaine. Philip's strategy was to bait and switch, and it appears French strategy in general took up his standard over the ensuing decades. So Seward describes how Edward and his financers managed to keep up the efforts with verve and managerial skills which should be of precedence to any international business take-over interests or understanding of tribal conflicts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Digressio: A Christmas Story - Review of "Viking Age Iceland" by Jesse Byock (Part One)

"Viking Age Iceland" by Jesse Byock (2001)

Digressio: A Christmas Story - Review of "Viking Age Iceland" by Jesse Byock (Part One)

My most poignant memory of the chilling and freezing effects of a North Atlantic winter are from about 1991 or 1992 and quite just the week before Christmas. Seasonal, on-call work was in a 10,000 pound facility called, "Hall's Harbour Lobster Pound", at the time, one of a handful in the Maritimes so small. My starting salary was at four dollars and fifty an hour a meagre chicken feeds compared to regulation forty in Korea or 150 in The UAE, but they bumped me up to seven fifty before I ended there nearly two or three years later. Now to tout the websites for "Buy Nothing Christmas".

My boss, my favourite boss by the way, of all time, was a very Scottish-looking and kind, soft-spoken man named Lewis MacDonald. He worked us there on and off whenever he called, which was pretty regularly, mostly full-time through summer seasons, with he and his wife, and his niece and nephew, Bobby and Wanda Vaughan, as well as the sales boss, Jack Hayward and his wife, and a few other seasonals, like Rene, and Danny Welton, and Norma, whose first reaction to difficult customers was a delicate tongue in cheek and rolling of the eye balls, and whose favourite cow was smart enough to open its gate and take off into the woods between East and West Hall's Harbour Roads for entire spring and summer seasons, and a few other villagers from the area. I even warmly remember the dalliances of a certain gift-shop girl (who is a professor of forestry science now) and a little hike up Cape Split.

That was a comfortable and decent way to earn enough for ancillary expenses while studying at Acadia, and in a unique way learn the basics of good management, retail and wholesale sales and services, and working with a diverse and culturally challenging clientele, like the filling and refilling of "best damn dulse in the world" samples.

Mostly Lewis never yelled at anyone or ordered people around much, if at all, he just laid out what needed to be done, and added gentle error correction when required. The common sense secret to good management technique in my book, and while I never quite kept up with clearing the tanks of the dead like some of the other pickers, I did get a feeling and attachment for the neptune's net, a long handled pole gaffer with a netted cast-iron ring around the end, easily, if only gently used to scoop angry lobsters out of packed tanks without breaking their shells, and gained a skill with a wooden handled claw pike, which might have also been useful for hay-baling, but just as handy for roping unruly wooden packing crates. But only with practice.

The job itself was fairly monotonous, but involved the team lifting of 70-90 pound crates of freshly caught lobsters on and off fully loaded two ton trucks for hours at a time, into and out of tanks on two stories, or three tiers of stacked tanks, with the ever present rushing waterfall sounds of aerated seawater sluicing down through the tanks. In addition, team work included grading lobsters out of those crates for hours at a time, often to entire AC DC albums, for which I have gained high regard as a result, onto electronic scales, and then distributing them through the tanks according to weights and sizes in small batch crates, where they were held for a few days until being styro-packed in cardboard liners with frozen gel packs for destinations such as London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Boston, or Tokyo, etc. One order was even for a load of culled, or one clawed (discounted) "chickens" the one to one and a quarter pound sizes, for the crews messes on board the Queen Elizabeth II.

Summer was a different story, and Hall's Harbour has the distinction of being one of the prettiest, oldest little places to be found on the Bay of Fundy, while Baxter's Harbour has taken my heart on that matter for quite some time (and my alder bushes pruning skills), where the North Mountain of the Annapolis Valley dips itself steeply into the sea, along a funneled peak of the eastern seaboard, which draws great powerful tides up and into the Minas Basin in such strength it actually tips the entire province of Nova Scotia over a little every time, and boasts of the highest and lowest tides in the world.

In the summer, the entire far-side of the North Mountain has an entirely different climate from the valley, and especially is nearly humidity free year-round, but really most appreciated by valley-dwellers in summer.

However a full stock of tourists made their way on in, up and over the brow of North Mountain, sometimes in fleets of buses, or shiny jet-stream towing convoys, or poke-along Sunday drivers in Panama hats, or souped up muscle cars and Indian motorcycle club enthusiasts. Every creep and creature, every happy family reunion, and the bespoken of caned, and the wrinkled-up prune people, mostly from the New England States, all in dribs and drabs on the foggy days, but in heaps on the sunny, muggy days, sometimes from as far away as California or Louisiana, those loping gaits and southern drawls, all races and languages combined, as they hopped, clumped and or rattled their ways in, along and on to the once dangerously leaning piers and rotting docks in and around old Parker's store. It was always a sight to see behemouth land yachts and road cruising motor homes, some as long as regular house trailers, peaking and bounding their wide suspensions up and down along the bumps of the near forty-five degree angled road of descent into the harbour itself, making or braking it straight into one of the tightest hair-pin 180 degree turns I have seen aside from those of the Neghrils to Ooty in Tamil Nadu.

At this point in my little story here, where is the actual connection with Viking Iceland? OK then, it was Christmas Eve, and I had press-ganged one of my buddies, Ken Dekker, into coming along and working a twelve hour night shift. The pound was making some last minute orders for Europe on the overnight KLM from Halifax International, they needed some extra hands to pack, I think they were paying ten bucks an hour that shift. It was as bitterly cold as I can remember. It was the only time I made a quick run for the box shed from a gap next to the truck door and in a period of under a minute in the blistering frigid wind on the way out and on the way back in, the moisture of my breath froze ice into my scruffy unshaved face, maybe a week's worth of stubble, but the hoar froze instantly, and by the time I got back I felt like going home, it was just that cold. It was also the only time I had ever seen lobsters drenched in seawater, and inside out of the windchill quite beginning to freeze instantly just in the air before we could get them into the substantially warmer ice-gel lined styro insulated boxes. It was a dawn I remember having a trucker's breakfast at Irving Big Stop in New Minas at the end of it, and Ken was so done he was quite passing out over his grilled cheeses. I just never forgot how cold it was that night.

So goes a digressio to a multi-part review on this text, "Viking Age Iceland" by Jesse Byock (2001). That these fierce and fearsome Europeans willingly set out to raft across those frigid waters of North Seas and spume, soaked often to their pelted skins, grimly baring their teeth to the gales and gusts to settle upon an unseemingly rocky, appallingly and apparently bald landscape in the middle of some of the world's coldest winds and waters with its share of rogue icebergs, sprouting firey volcanos and rumbling coastlines merely proves the absolute insanity of their resolute, indefatigable characters. Who the hell else would have settled that place but a bunch of Vikings?

Leave it to the Icelandic Vikings. And so their descendants remain there, ensconsed, proud, and rightfully so, until some more serious characters dare to try to take it or want to take it from them, they can keep it. One Canadian who has learned the immediate limitations of human will in the face of cold, and dares not attempt to take on such a task. A mere memory, of one frigid winter night, in the cozy bosom of one of Canada's warmest Atlantic Coasts, a nearly fifteen years old memory here recounted, the cold prevents my desire from joining such a crew of characters from their very beginnings. It does sometimes take as long to thaw such an observation.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Little Lion: How Chaucer Defined The English Language (Part Two)

Chaucer correctly, and firstly, likened his English language to the miracle weapon of the day, the longbowman, able to propel darts and arrows of greater strength further and faster, mostly into ranks of French knights and their mercenary allies, the Venetians, as evidenced by the skirmishes and semi-victories of The Hundred Years Wars on the continental kingdoms of a France not yet resolved as a nation. It is a paradox that he proceeded to steal their cultural themes, as his compatriots raided their lockboxes and material possessions.

But prior to this time, the French language was also the language of Britain. A good accounting is found in, "A History Of The English Language" (Baugh and Cable: 2002), an extremely important little book which by some accident, the wise bookseller in the depths of 'Han Byul Kwan' had seen to stock his shelves with after my earliest visits to his English section back in the late 1990s. These were the days before internet. Chaucer's evidences for striking back at French literature are found from his participation in battle in 1359 at Reims, the results of which influenced other poets to record the trials of never-ending border battles, such as Eustache Deschamps, who wrote this Ballade always from the opposing view:

In Antwerp, Bruges, Ostend and Ghent
I used to order food with flair,
But in every inn to which I went
They always brought me, with my fare,
With every roast and mutton dish,
With boar, with rabbit, pigeon, bustard,
With fresh and with salt-water fish,
Always, never asking, mustard.

I ordered herring, said I'd like
Carp for supper at the bar,
And called for simple boiled pike,
And two large sole, when I ate at Spa.
I ordered green sauce when in Brussels;
The waiter stared and looked disgusted;
The bus boy brought in with my mussels
As always, never asking, mustard.

I couldn't eat or drink without it.
They add it to the water they
Boil the fish in and-don't doubt it-
The drippings from the roast each day
Are tossed into a mustard vat
In which they're mixed, and then entrusted
To those who bring-they're trained at that-
Always, never asking, mustard.

Prince, it's clear a spice like clove
can drop its guard. It won't be busted.
There's just one thing these people serve:
Always, never asking, mustard.

Now Koreans might know what kimchi at every meal might feel like to foreigners? As West recounts in an excerpt from 'Ballade of the Domain of Eustache', 'brule par les Anglais', the French were embattled into becoming a nation by the English:

Outside Vertus stands a gracious house
Where I have lived a long time
And where many others led happy lives
House-of-the-fields it was often called
But full of corn, thanks be to God.
Now the English have put it to the torch
Two thousand francs their war has cost me.
From now on I'm known as Burnt-out of the Fields.

Chaucer carried these battles to the language in words, and fortified English written text as a medium through which the English themselves could bind the times to the words which were written for and about it and them. For the first time. But as the 'bastarde' language that it is, Chaucer reaped from the writings of foreigners as the language itself continues to do, and made great gains by adapting the themes of the 'Roman de la Rose', written by two French authors in the 13th century. A website which briefly explains its significance to European cultural history can be found at The University of Glasgow Library.

This Roman was France's first reknowned pictorial dirty book. It was considered by critics as base, sordid, and as such, took on a titalating quality among the English, telling a tale of graphic seduction, even feminists of the time (yes, proof they are not a new entrant to the world of literary and cultural critics) among them, Christine de Pisan considered the Roman to be, "a handbook for lechers...a cunning trap to deceive a foolish demoiselle". It helps explain why French are considered experts on love-making, but at the same time suggests that they were merely the first in Europe to widely write and read about it.

But here again, literature depicts its themes by prickly methods, in the 'Roman de la Rose' there is much strolling and lollying about and plucking of garden rosebuds and preening of symbolic healthy young rosebushes, all of this was construed with greater intention than horticultural interests or green thumbs would admit. What was being said was quite nakedly being read. In English. For the first time. In some ways, it depicts the several double-standard types of interests illicit lovers are requested to employ, but at the same time requesting obeyance to the admonishing requirements of chivalry and odes to good conduct, as related in the Kama Sutra. But these were the same ruddy, base, but satisfying themes which Chaucer employed in The Canterbury Tales for the general English, lecherous thus, reading public to ogle.

It is The Wife of Bath who arrests so many readers, writers, and critics, in so many apoplexies, but Chaucer borrowed much of the content of his characters' texts and glosses to such an extent that to which he gained the interests of such diverse qualities of symbolic intent in itself should be credited to his travels, and knowledge of the readings and writers available to him. As a disciple of the classics, especially noted by West, in his understanding of Virgil, Ovid, and Boethius, through such insights were the renaissant, flowering visions of the newly Christian European world borne in, naturally having been built upon pagan and classical underpinnings which had tailored before it.

The over-arching accomplishments of Roman Civilisation had been maintained in its legal systems at the city state levels initially since the demise of The Roman Empire. Hence Chaucer employed the characters and themes of Dante's "Inferno" in his own "House of Fame" and "The Legend of Good Women" to some comic effects, such as eagles complaining about the weight of souls. This would lead the reader to wonder to what end Chaucer sought to define the arrival of English Literature. His efforts delivered laughter to his readers and to their language its wholely researched first farces, and tragic-comedies. As such he stands as the first Italianate Englishman.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Short (Flawed) History of Canada

Desmond Morton writes well enough, in very sparing prose, a readable history of a country that begins far earlier than its Confederation of July 1, 1867. He is considered an eminent expert on the topic. Oh well, too bad this book contains glaring inaccuracies. It is a glazed interpretation and compacted details of the facts and should be read with such a perspective. As he has emphasized, compromises are requirements of citizens of one nation, especially in decisions related to what needs to be known about its history. But trust must often be placed in more than one historical accounting, and thankfully opposing views can often be complimentary. But evidence must be fairly weighed and sometimes challenged to be construed as an honourable accident. I am not sure if anyone has ever previously challenged his accounting on the Acadians. I could find no evidence of it online.

Even the name of this country, Canada, is a compromise choice, something characteristic of Canadian history. The country is often more well known internationally as, "that other country", represented by, "that unidentified man" in pictures of world leaders, that place which is, "the same as the USA" according to many travellers (Koreans included) who have made extensive travels, even those on one or two week-deep investigative forays and tour-guided or back-pack hostelling trips reveal to many a basically indistinguishable American cousin. Most of this book comes off with credibility.

But Canada as a country has always been the great, seemingly perpetually unresolved new country of North America. Such a path has never really been determined, though headily the national experiment continues on, thankfully without the common aspects defined by other evolving societies, be they through wide-spread civil wars or velvet separations. It only takes a real cross-country trip in Canada to define its awe inspiring contrasts, in cultural underpinnings, regional differences, and vast un-demarcated widths of veritable open space, to understand its under-lying values in racial, religious, and intercultural tolerances, probably unparalleled in any other nation. Due for change if Americanisation continues as well as declining voter turn-outs. But that is a trip that many have yet to make, as in reality it is such a huge country, it does encompass great pockets and crannies of variations in perspectives, and Canadian resilience in defining culture, even and often in vast unexplored regional libraries. So Morton's best words are his last ones.

"History is another word for experience, not a form of prophecy. The past tells Canadians that they live in a tough old country with a tradition of compromise, an aversion to violence, and a gift for survival. Only the Swiss and the Americans have older federal systems, and Canada's federation has outlived many gloomy prophets. Whatever the temptations, geography makes it hard to live apart. Under a shell of cynicism and self-deprecation, Canadians are as proud of their land as any people on earth. Make no mistake about it."

Does that mean I really have to like "The Trailer Park Boys"? I always though Lucy was a little weird, and as far as I remember, she always dressed like that. But this does not mean Canada's history is in any way...boring. Or as Morton tells it, perhaps not always fully revealed. Morton begins with a review of what is known of First Nations peoples, for this there is no written history, but it is not "time out of mind" as English law used to consider the period. The Iroquois, the Algonquin, the Mic Maw, the Haida, all have a story to tell. Tiny fragments of bone, speech and language patterns, tales of native elders, knowledge of medicinal plants, all of these indicate great intrinsic memories, some of which are preserved, and upon the first meetings with European explorers in the 1500s, as many as a million inhabitants called Canada their home already.

He explores many myths which encompass the founders stories, from an Earth Diver plunging into the muds of an ancient ocean to emerge with a "Turtle Island" which brings to mind similar stories to the Hindu Vedas or even the Birth of Kim Suro Wang. There were various shamanistic characters, "The Raven" on the West Coast, "The Coyote" in the centre of Canada, and "Glooscap the Giant" among the East Coast Mic Maw. All of these peoples, while believed to have crossed an ice or land bridge from Asia anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 years ago, well compromise a theory about migration patterns, and as theories are known as unproven hypotheses, such an interpretation of events is perpetually up for question. To date, none have proven where the First Nations originated. All evidence appears to push back their first dates of arrival, mostly earlier and earlier.

The key dynamics among First Nations were their abilities to adapt and survive in harsh conditions all across the country over millennia. Their approach to nature was also a form of compromise. Only technological advantages have allowed some people to assume mastery over the world of peoples and its lands (or its history books). The original First Nations had the skills and resources to live in harmony with it. That all changed, with the arrival of Europeans.

Morton details somewhat succinctly that Jacques Cartier an explorer on contract with Francis I posted the French bid for North America in 1534. Basque and Breton fishermen had been coming earlier in secrecy, and Vikings had made inroads much earlier, probably in the 12th and 13th centuries. It was all about basketfuls of fish off the banks of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, which existed in such qualities and quantities (before factory freezer trawlers and sonar fish finders) that they stopped ships from sailing through them. So it only took about five hundred years to reduce most of the world's oceans to deserts in this respect. No wonder Cousteau was so bitter in, "Cousteau, My Testament: Man, Octopus and Orchid" (1998). While everyone wanted gold, fish would do, and Samuel de Champlain arrived on the Bay of Fundy, remaining a few winters and losing many to scurvy before moving to the Saint Lawrence River and setting up a new habitation in 1608.

As Morton relates, these first men became coureurs de bois (woods travellers) and began meddling in the affairs of the Iroquois, trading steel knives and copper kettles for furs and animal skins highly prized in Europe. Wars began between Dutch trading and French trading rivals, Iroquois and Huron or Algonquin usually doing the fighting and dying. This went on for a century. Religious conversion also played a role in the fur trade and its purposes, and with the arrival of missionaries, infections and diseases also decimated the First Nations. So too, habitants (dwellers) from France arrived as colonists of the rich alluvial valleys stretching up along the rivers of French Canada.

Morton further notes, after 1700, much immigration had ceased, but populations in New France reached nearly sixty thousand. This was the advent of the Seignurial System, that of settlement agents, somewhat like feudal lords and habitant farmers, with long strips of land leading back from the river fronts to lush forested land hardily converted to farming and pasturage. 1701 saw the beginning of "The Great Peace" a pact signed between French and Indian neighbours. But during the same period, the English had established more northern fur trading posts, managed by The Hudson's Bay Company, a chartered corporation similar in hierarchy and purpose to The East India Company and founded in 1670. The French had no navy, and were in direct expansion competition with The Thirteen Colonies. New France became a distant pawn in European politics.

So as Morton tells it, the French had made provocative moves in settlement of New Orleans and Louisiana as well as attempts to fortify Pittsburgh with Fort Duqesne, George Washington and then British troops were run out of the Ohio Valley, while Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island was defeated in 1758 by superior British and American forces. In the Marquis de Montcalm, victories were had at Ticonderoga in 1758, but defeat under the attacks of General James Wolfe at the seige of Quebec in 1759 have given us the memorial of the Plains of Abraham.

But it is here that Canadian history appears to take a page from the methods by which the Ottomans succeeded, especially in the siege of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed the Conqueror. First of all, uncharacteristically, the British did not force assimilation of New France as might have been expected. Once the fighting died down, neither did Mehmed. There was a Royal Proclamation in 1763 which promised substantial sovereignty under the Crown, the first Britsh Governor, General James Murray, maintained a regard for the ordered, rural, and dutiful society inherited with Catholic Clergy and Seigneurs intact as, "perhaps the bravest and best race on the globe". The Quebec Act of 1774 entrenched their traditional roles. But with the American revolution, Canada became partioned under two sets of official administrations, one, Upper Canada, for a model development based on British society, and the other Lower Canada, where Canadiens could keep language, civil law, and religious institutions. It was obviously an issue of too many to assimilate, and two few to do the assimilating. Not so in Acadie.

The brutalities of British conquest were metted out upon another string of French communities, in the lower provinces, namely Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and parts of Maine. Mostly, French settlers in this region lived between the shore and forest, with few river valleys suitable for farming. Towns and cities had developed around harbours, and the greatest wealth remained the sea. Acadians were mostly those who remained in the area of Port Royal and Acadian lands were transferred to British with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

It is here that Desmond Morton appears to fail to do his homework. He claims merely sixteen hundred Acadians lived in the region at that time who refused to claim allegiance to either French or English prior to and during the French and Indian War. But the University of Maine more carefully details the facts.

"The deportation of the Acadians began in the fall of 1755 and lasted until 1778. The first removals, comprising approximately 7000 people, were from settlements around the Bay of Fundy. After the British captured Île Royale and Île Saint-Jean and raided the Gaspé and the Saint John River in 1758, further Acadians were captured and deported. Those who had sought refuge in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon were also removed. Farms and businesses were destroyed. A British officer arriving at Annapolis Royal in October 1757 observed “ruined habitations, and extensive orchards well planted with apple and pear trees, bending under their weight of fruit.”"

Some Acadians escaped the deportations by running into the forests of the Annapolis Valley and hiding with the Indians. Many starved to death on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. "The Acadians had long intermarried with the Mic Maw people, and became the first people to have a North American name and a political and cultural identity distinct from Europe. There was peace and stability. Families grew, the population increased, the economy thrived, and a distinctive sense of community and culture emerged." (Anonymous)

This is the real reason I think that historians like Morton misrepresent the facts. The French of New France were considered a pure people, European, and thus civilized. The Acadians by contrast, while also of European descent, were considered of inferior quality, due to the question of their mixed race. A question that even my Grandmere Leocade avowed was untrue, and even in her youth, in the 1920s, a small band of Mic Maw lived on the far shore of the Pokemouche River across from her village. Maybe people like Morton noted similar distinctions of the time that led them to believe that only 1500 of the people seperated forever from their families, neighbours, friends, and worldly possessions were actually real Acadians. For whatever reason, it must be easy to dismiss the archives and records the British themselves kept of the entire event, documents which remain in the archives of all Canadian citizens. Acadians themselves appear to maintain a grasp on the details and the facts.

So stands a review of "A Short History of Canada". It would be a lot shorter still if writers were as careless as Morton appears to be. What others have to say obviously offers greater supplement to Canada's history. It just appears, in at least one case, it is not as short as he would make it seem. For even a short idea of the topics available:

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Better Products: The Simple Way For Companies To Compete

MARCH 7, 2005 • Editions: N. America | Europe | Asia | Edition Preference
International -- Readers Report

Better Products: The Simple Way For Companies To Compete

In "The downside of higher productivity" (European Business, Feb. 7), Jack Ewing demonstrates how current global concepts of increased competitiveness are dictated to democratically elected governments by nondemocratic multinationals such as Nestlé (NSRGY ). It seems the entire point of his treatise supports corporate self-regulation. At what cost? In a Harvard University- or Massachusetts Institute of Technology-dominated world -- or a standardized corporate culture of elites -- rewards for average achievement would evaporate.

Productivity measures in a modern, globalized world should include stability and quality of customer/supplier relationships, social corporate responsibility, cross-cultural and union considerations. Should companies not learn how to compete more effectively simply by turning out better products or services? Talk to the workers about it, if there are still any left!

Daniel Costello
Visiting Professor
Kwandong University
Gangwon Province, South Korea

Open Letter: Why Free Trade Might Work in Sandy Point, Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, Canada

August 3, 2005

Open Letter: Why Free Trade Might Work in Sandy Point, Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, Canada

Shelburne may be the third best harbour in the world, but must certainly be ranked as the most under-utilized for that purpose. Most of its first immigrants were drawn to the location due to the understanding that the British would make it a free port, and considering its strategic location nearly touching the transatlantic cargo routes of the past and the present, it remains a diamond of future opportunity in the rough.

Current policies on immigration to Nova Scotia (As of 2005) are not as effective as they could be. First of all the current political environment should readily adapt to a long-term perspective on the future of viable manufacturing or industrial inputs to the local economy which stimulate infrastructural, research and development, and the attraction of semi-skilled workforces willing to relocate families to a place like Shelburne County, Nova Scotia. As in, value-added industries could be a reasonable focus. Main competitors are every developing nation on earth.

To attract business people, in today's global climate, the incentives that work on the borders of the US would appear to be the Mexican free-trade economic zones on their southern border, whose existence were ratified and affirmed through the NAFTA aggreements. Their attractiveness to US mid-sized and other foreign companies have been due to several factors not limited to:

a) Low set up costs.
b) Investments in infrastructure paid for sometimes within three years.
c) Ready supply of cheap labour.
d) No environmental safeguards built into the agreement.
e) Active recruitment by internal agencies of targeted companies.

In reality, many of these companies merely export commodities and part-finishing of products, and re-import for immediate sale. Free trade zones in Asia, in particular, South Korea, have allowed primarily US and European multinationals to engage start-ups to tap:

a) Highly skilled/trained workforce.
b) IMF imposed regulations to maintain fair-trade.
c) Start-up potential for leap-frog to China.
d) Increase international competitiveness of local workforces.

Sandy Point, Shelburne, Nova Scotia is already a well located potential free-trade zone which has gone un-noticed and under-developed for a few centuries. There are many stumbling blocks which would include:

a) Environmental standards which are non-competitive.
b) Union interests and wage concerns which are uncompetitive.
c) Local industry concerns over local trade loss potential.
d) Local populations which might not understand long-term future of global trade.

Nova Scotia immigration policy needs to be fully developed in concert with the attraction of:

a) Large-scale FDI from MNCs.
b) The inclusion of a migrant worker nationalisation program hinged to agreed place of residence.
c) A training program concurrent with migrant labour employment, ideally vetted through employment in a free-trade zone.
d) A form of "green alternative" sold to the same companies which would seek to relocate south of the US border otherwise put-off by environmental concerns.

A recent article in Businessweek illustrates the vast gap between public policy and legislation versus business and economic benefits in the USA. Please read the article and decide where Nova Scotia policies would be able to change or adapt to realize similar results if even on a radically smaller scale:

Consider also the banking benefits based upon remittances of funds to home-countries, local purchases of goods and services, local consumption of foodstuffs and produce, local construction, etc. A Nova Scotian free trade zone which employed significant numbers of migrant workers, from whatever country reasonably open to rotating arrangements (probably Mexico, since they already signed a free-trade agreement with Canada), should provide the kinds of impetus and economic environment which would improve provincial balances of payments.

National standards for production and labour would have to be subverted to international ones. For example, regulation would be understandably more easily implemented, for reference, please read Hernando De Soto. ILO labour standards would be enforcable, but other benefits to migrant workers would also include micro-credit, for reference, please read Mohammed Yunus, "Banker to the Poor". Nova Scotia NGOs operating internationally would then have the opportunity to fully localize some of their efforts and provide greater opportunity for public involvement and scrutiny of their efforts.

There are plenty of global examples of developing nations spurring growth through such free trade zones. Considering that local Nova Scotia business initiatives always appear to focus on the Boston market for some reason, the benefits for such business relocations could include:

a) Regionalized subsidiary source production.
b) Regional relocation minimization.
c) Effective monitoring.
d) Ease of transport of goods.

Please remember that Walmart's imports to the US from China account for approximately 20% of that trade. Revaluations of RMB and potential trade barriers could play in your favour. While the real wages in Mexican free trade zones fall far below Canadian minimum wages, the shorter transport costs from southwest Nova Scotia by barge or freighter might allow those costs to be redeemed in higher local wages for migrant labourers. This would be a double win, for employer, and the ability to skim the highest educational levels from participants.

A 100,000 Canadian dollar minimum investment cap and all the associated restrictions are going to be only the first reason why current NS immigration initiatives as they stand are doomed to failure. Nova Scotia needs more young, willing workers, with a reason and a will to bring their families over in time. The process of a well guided free trade zone, which turned over labour based on skills training, microcredit, and local increases in consumption of goods or services alone could guarantee a migrant labour force and a cheap source of free trade zone labour, and a well located and locally interested immigration pool for generations to come.

And no, that is not unethical. That is business. That is securing supply, and meeting demand. That is exercising Canada's competitive advantage of being next to the world's largest consumer of goods and services, and (not yet) providing any free trade zones to meet that market.

Sandy Point, Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Canada's first free trade port and production zone ! Really as close to the past as was the original idea of the Nova Scotian future, that was one of the very reasons for initial Loyalist and English settlement, and far too good an idea to be simply relegated to the parking lot. Please run with it.

A Friend to Shelburne County and a Friend to the Poor Immigrants of the World.

Retrieved from ""


Finance & Economics
Economics focus

Be my guest
Oct 6th 2005
From The Economist print edition

The economic case for temporary migration is compelling; the historical record less so

LABOUR is globalisation's missing link. The flow of workers across borders is heavily impeded, leaving the global market for labour far more distorted than those for capital and commodities. The world price of capital may be set in America, and that of oil set in Saudi Arabia. But there is no such thing as a world price of labour. Wages can differ by a factor of ten or more depending only on the passport of the wage-earner, according to Dani Rodrik, an economist at Harvard.

Relaxing the movement of labour even a little would thus generate large efficiency gains. Mr Rodrik calculates that letting poor workers into rich countries, in modest numbers (equivalent to 3% of the hosts' labour force) for a limited period, could reap benefits to the developing world worth $200 billion a year. With numbers like that, he and other economists wonder why so much energy is spent freeing trade and capital, and so little expended freeing labour.

As if in answer to that rebuke, Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, set up the Global Commission on International Migration almost two years ago. The commission, 19 members of the great and good from around the world plus a secretariat in Geneva, was charged with inspiring debate and reflection on all aspects of international migration and policy. On October 5th, it published its report.

Of its 33 recommendations, the most consequential is indeed a call for more temporary migration from poor countries to rich ones. Guest-worker programmes would realise some of the efficiency gains identified by Mr Rodrik. Opening up new avenues of legal migration might also help reduce the flow of illegal migrants, the report hopes.

As the commission acknowledges, history lends little support to their optimism. The Gastarbeiter programme in Germany—which invited Turks, Yugoslavs and others needed at the time to fill the factory jobs created by the country's post-war economic miracle—failed, at least on its own terms. Many of Germany's “guests” never left, and their families soon arrived. The bracero programme in America—which, from 1942 to 1964, recruited Mexican field hands to pick cotton and sugar beets in Texas and California—fared no better. The entry of hundreds of thousands of farm workers provided camouflage for a substantial flow of undocumented labour.

Nonetheless, the logic of temporary migration appears irresistible. Rich countries want migrants' labour, but do not want to look after these newcomers when they grow old. Ideally, rich countries would like a constant rotation of workers, arriving while they are young and active, leaving before they grow old and dependent. For its part, the commission argues that “temporary and circular migration” is also better for poor countries. One reason is remittances: the longer an immigrant stays away from home, the smaller the share of his wages he sends back.

If temporary worker programmes make a comeback, how should they be designed? In a paper written for the commission, Martin Ruhs, of Oxford University, explores the options. Some countries set a simple quota, filled on a first-come, first-served basis. The British government is more calculating, allocating visas to specific sectors, such as food processing, that express a need for cheap labour. Singapore is the most ambitious. Its ministry of manpower sets “foreign worker levies” that employers must pay to hire an immigrant. The levies differ by industry and by skill. To hire a skilled foreigner in construction, for example, an employer must pay S$80 ($47) a month. To hire an unskilled migrant, the employer must pay S$470. With these levies, the ministry can fine-tune the demand for immigrant labour.

Governments often claim they want to tailor rules on immigration to the needs of the economy. But the economy's needs also adapt to those rules. Philip Martin, of the University of California, Davis, and Michael Teitelbaum, of the Alfred Sloan Foundation, provide two striking examples. California's ketchup industry relied heavily on Mexican braceros to pick its tomatoes in the 1960s. The industry insisted it could not survive without these cheap hands. But when the bracero scheme was ended in 1964, farmers replaced the migrants with machines. Engineers invented a harvester that could shake tomatoes from plants and distinguish red fruit from green. Crop scientists developed new, ovoid tomatoes that the machines found easier to handle.

In Germany, Mr Martin and Mr Teitelbaum argue, the same phenomenon happened in reverse. The availability of cheap guest-workers in German factories slowed the adoption of new labour-saving technology. As the saying went at the time: Japan is getting robots while Germany gets Turks.

Some economists argue that governments should simply set a quota of visas and auction them. Alternatively, they could set a price for the permits designed to achieve more or less the same number of sales. The principal virtue of both schemes is that they allocate visas according to private perceptions of their worth, not government guesses about need.

Auf Wiedersehen, pet
How can governments ensure that guest workers do not overstay their welcome? In South Korea, temporary workers contribute to a special account that is refunded to them if they leave on time and forfeited if they linger. The British government is thinking of asking some migrants to post a bond, like a defendant on bail, which they will lose if they choose not to return.

If the economic gains to migration were not so great, the huddled masses would not be so reluctant to leave the rich world when they get there. “There is nothing more permanent than temporary migration,” cynics always say. But equally persistent are the market forces and demographic pressures that make temporary migration worth considering anew.

Little Praise for, "In Praise of Nepotism"

Reading this book in March, 2005, I left it a long time until I decided to make my mind up on it. Bellow applies his perceptions on nepotism in the hunter-gather societies of the earliest ages of man, as if to say that since it has prevailed since the dawn of time, that is an easy explanation of how it is useful and necessary for such monkey business in the modern age. Especially Bellow turns his analysis upon U.S. political dynasties, and the Hollywood menagerie to reinforce his essential thesis which appears to be, "A little nepotism is good, a lot can be bad."

Question: "So, how much is bad?"

Unfortunately, I wish Bellow could have shown how meritocracies can succeed as well. I would prefer a book which highlighted the transformations of nepotistic companies and dynasties into meritocracies and how the profit margins can often rise when more minds are put to decision-making than those of mere bloodlines, or common political bents. In Canada there is a good example of how nepotism can be extremely bad for business, that would be detailed in the book, "The Eatons: The Rise and Fall of Canada's Royal Family" by Rod McQueen.

But how many of these now defunct companies have nepotism to blame for it? You may be the judge.

Bellow details how immigrant populations especially in the U.S. helped to guarantee minimum wages and worker rights from the turn of the century onward, and I have to give credit where it is due, as in, regional inequities, racial, or religious bigotries, and discriminations must be opposed in all of their facets in any well-meaning society, one based on human rights and justice. But do remember, these represent a mere fraction of the worlds societies today and as such should be carefully formented, judiciously maintained, and not used to obliterate the will, the interests, or the rights of the majority, however the ends to which, in Canada anyway, perhaps in the interests of equal opportunity, much good will has utterly been lost through lack of caution or argument on the perceived usefulness of such programs. Well intended, but perhaps irreparably flawed in focus, as well documented in one of Canada's rags anyway: "Ottawa rescinds hiring ban on able-bodied white men, Deputy Minister apologizes for Public Works edict."

I think it is fair to say that many special interest groups, with clear intentions to undermine any overt analysis of their lobbyist-groups, intentions, and special interests in any democratic capital in the world today, have been responsible for a kind of political nepotism which has literally overtaken the perceived political networking usually associated with regional representational interests, where as local voters tune-out, lobbyists take their places, and voting powers, in the hearts and minds of political animals. This distorts and polarizes many issues and allows the shades of grey to envelope more and more widely lucrative scandals, such as the ad campaign scandals linked to former P.M. Chretien and his Cabinet.

So I wish Bellow could have turned his analysis on the solutions to such problems as here exemplified. As a white male, living on the benefits of white skin and native English proficiency, which rates a premium, paradoxically, more highly in non-western societies than within them, I know that the boon and benefit of such investigations into the roots of nepotism are worth making.

For example, do I really prefer to live in societies where I am basically paid for my skin and tongue? Not really. It is just another example of objectivization in my opinion, another evident link in some of the dead-ends to which global western society has gone awry of its essentially communitarian, meritocratic values and intrinsic underpinnings. In Bellow's thesis nepotism only appears to matter on its highest pinnacles of power, where it may be observed clearly, but it is pervasive especially in smaller employment markets, where one must comfortably assess, if you live somewhere where virtually everyone is related anyway, as in many villages of the western world, you are observing the prehistoric hunter-gather results in any modern event.

So what is equal opportunity? Reasonably, I would hope it means that there are efforts to globalize unfair, local hiring patterns. May the best candidate win? In all cases I think that is the point, representational hiring practices are well intentioned. But taken too far,it appears as a pogrom-style implementation of the most draconian ideals, the elimination of merit-based metrics, and fair, non-partisan policies, institutionalized value systems are tacitly supported which could be as bad as the nepotistic circumstances which they are originally formulated to prevent.

For generations the evolutions of democratic societies have been compelled to re-evaluate, resist, and reform nepotism, in these days of reduced government oversight, itself a threat to the democratic process, and increasingly self-regulated, or thus non-regulated corporate governance structures, the ills of which are most plainly seen in the developing world and the destruction of traditional cultures and their environments, it all makes it appear that nepotism is alive and well in all aspects of business net-working. Thus it is an ongoing swinging pendulum process? I have some hope in the fair mindedness of people in general, the rare episode anyway, although without reasoned protest, or active, reasoned, educated debate about such inequities, or the perceived solutions, each individual is destined to reconsider the idea of praise in the causes of nepotism with at least the hanging of some talisman or "nazar boncuk" over the entire topic of it.

Overall, Bellow provides a useful text on the topic.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Part One: How Chaucer Defined The English Language

Chaucer 1340-1400: The Life and Times of the First English Poet
Richard West

Ask anyone who reads widely, and I am hoping there will then be agreement for some of my following assertions. English Literature is in struggle for meaning and the writing around and the studious deciphering of its shadows,in that it is more than an esoteric, artistic exercise.

It is a pandemonious search for meaning, spectacular identifications get tracked across the stars, and ruminations upon the significance of collections of words, like constellations, the fittings of frames of reference, the flit or the feather of phraseologies rill about like rifts and ripples of sand, the moulding of contexts, the chiseling of patterns, all these means to meaning and their in-betweens, all these attempting to discern, infinitely incapable fully to define the present from the past, distinguish the past from the present, eclipse the thinking dualities and multiplicities of interpretation, to probe, tether and stir the venerable depth of cultural intrinsic knowledge of the reader as the listener, with one's own burbling wells in quenching of its thirst. Where that self may be as every other self may be. Heard.

To some effort, such aspirations leave their heavy marks upon those who began such an exercise with a love for reading. It remains a bitter irony, the more I read, the more I must read, the less I know for certain, the more certain I am there is more to know. The more certain I am that reading is the path of best pursuit of clear vision, resolution, and strength. What else is love anyway? Certainly more to know yet than those who would encourage me only to tune in or tune out to the media of the day, the medium and its message, and mass musings of and often purposelessly dis-evolving culture, one which rants without let, one which often appears not to discern character from shift, that which we call "The West", "The Democratic", "The Meritocratic", "La Merde".

It appears one may live on the verge of a new Dark Age in any and all ages, not only in what is written but that which in effect goes unread or unwritten. And with me there were many years I believed, but never felt in fact at heart, that I had nothing to write worth reading. It was never at heart that I was told that. I was taught that. So goes my unravelling and unlearning, I see the mummy that lies beneath it and I dredge the depths to which one must often encounter no other merely to find a voice in the silence. One's own voice worth seeking.

In many effects, in my best gloomies and moods, I am engaged in a search for the self. For how else does a man leave a mark on the future than with some eloquent or erudite scribblings, scratches, or ordered passages and letters? Shakespeare himself spoke of only two means by which a person could attain certain immortality. It seeks those who seek it according to Venerable Eagles, one he surmised was by creating a work of Art, one perceived of tenuously and guarded over the ages by those finding it worthy of any rememberance, or the other means, by far the more common, and infinitely easier mark to attain, through the simple act of pro-creation. Thine spawn thus being thine immortality proven. Who needs a pen in that case? Or a book?

It seems then more darker the longer future appears, indefinite, murky, and dim-witted, the more likely one is struck with a desire to defy, to deny, to repel, to write back into the morass of complacency, criticism, outright injustice of the status quo perpetuated even in my own head which does not appear to hold. That within which one most singular a voice almost goes unheard, merely the lowing of the herd does reach the masses in my own mind, the more violent or bitter the reproaches of which I have read I fear the trampling of the herd, the harder the heart grows silent, the smaller the ear of learning becomes and the words which one may write or read from and to grow grow fewer. One does not write as more than one voice. One does not read as more than one listener. One may know a little more than another, or less. One whispers in such remorse. The herd knows no remorse.

So here rides Chaucer, in his pilgrimage. His characters are defining lights in a spectrum of language never unfolded before his time. Each character as a shaft of riven attack upon silence, made plainer by a linguistical debate unending as referencing the Anglos or the Normans and the browbeaten, disheartened dear French. Richard West retells a story that has already been told. Perhaps in words plainer, or thus "dumber" than those who came before. It seems a thinner and thinner accounting, until, at which point then, would there be nothing left to write on Chaucer? Who would remain interested enough to read it? Fossiky crones, marms or old men to boil away in the soup maybe, cheek by jowl out of favour, as they would not pick their lines from any bestseller's list, merely because it was there, hundreds of years ago, that Chaucer built the very rack upon which most pulp rests or retires, as pulp withers away and moulders into mires under the dust and trailings of its own readers bones and brittle beliefs.

There was Chaucer like the longest longbowman on the front lines of English affairs nearly from birth, scraping himself up off of the cobblestones of The Great Hall of Westminster Palace every morning for at least three years. I hope he had some pile of warm trash or yesterday's newspapers to curl up in while he quite did "page" his way up through the system. He was a thief of ideas, a wolf in wolf's clothing in terms of the classical authors and their collective themes, but one creates quite a connundrum these days if one even assumes one's ideas are one's own. One should never assume that has not always been said.

It is apparent that each wants to claim good ideas as one's own, as if some seal of approval guarantees the mark of quality. Perhaps original ideas and works of written literature are indeed sincerely a private and personal draft between one's own brains and the accumulated works of diffusive readings. But the stickiness of thoughts thus remain legitimate only in their connections, and those endearements which they peak in each one's reader. For it is only from readings that a mind may gleam upon such passages, and it is only in attempting to write about what may be found there, namely what can be communed at without being plainly or overly said, what can be thus said without being claimed, what can be first, singular, uniquely untied and at the same time united to the whole yarn of thread? And who said that first? That such passages are bathed in the light of shared insights, only then may they be seen, in plain human nature, is it possible one may say what has always been said but in a completely new, individual, singular way? Or have I merely misled myself into believing I am too bored to write what I think I have said?

So in his way, as in each writer's way, Chaucer stuck to those tested and true scenes, settings like fingers to a strung bow, tauntly drawn upon and plucked upon trysts which so obviously stuck in his mind similarly as in others. It was a time of great human upheavals, not unlike present human times as "The West" carelessly delineates what one should seriously read or not. One might say everything is worth reading at least once. So I think of "Ou-Oueste".

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Innovative definition of capital

The Mystery of Capital:
Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else
Hernando De Soto

Innovative definition of capital

De Soto takes the reader of economics through the alleyways and barrios of the great surging cities of the developing world and easily exemplifies the limitations placed upon the world's poor through bureaucratic malfeasance, legalistic intrigue, or the political relativity of its intralegal master capitalists to their barriers of entry to market capitalism. His tasteful wit peppers the book with a wide pallet of market principles, theories, and real world systematic operations.

His argument regarding the vast differences among intercultural perceptions of capital, dead-capital, extralegal capital and the attendant struggle between stakeholder-oriented consumption maximization versus empire building are timeless and perhaps the shadow-play of universalist versus particularist traits of human nature regarding the perception of capital.

Particulary a relevant read when one seeks to extrapolate projected Chinese growth versus what De Soto has to say about social upheaval, Marxist theology, or the bell-jars and "grubby concrete basements" of the poor of the present...while trying to imagine their hoped for transition to the maximized, productive consumers of the future.

Will Marxists inherit capital of the poor of the third-world? De Soto clearly illustrates how and why capitalism is not their current best option.

Thurow...old but still relevant

Head to Head: The Economic Battle Among Japan, Europe, and America

Thurow...old but still relevant

Actually this book's original publication date is not 2003, and even if it actually is, then it was based on a ten year old manuscript.

Thurow was writing from the perspective of an IMF and World Bank led globalisation effort, even if they refuse to admit it, those hallowed halls (some of which have changed their game plans as often as Greek freighters change names) have made a mockery of economic reform plans, on the backs of the world's poor. Of course Thurow never said that either. For example, he never mentioned how closely US currency exchange rates could quickly devaluate as the ruble did in defiance of IMF dictates to eliminate 70% of American held foreign debts overnight on any day.

What then did he do wrong with this book? Well, for starters his interests and dire warnings regarding US trade deficits and balance of payment deficiencies were being written about approximately a decade too early for his critics to actually visualize what he was talking about. Reviews of his book on tend to pan him for bad modeling. Too bad they were not exacly right. Thurow did a good job of linking massive US debt and federal overruns to the sanctions and tariffs that would be required to boost exports. Productivity is not the only issue in that case. The billions of dollars lost by foreign exporters as a result would dry up foreign export growth, and dry up US treasury bonds purchases.

Then, the Clinton era was not so much good US business management as a root source of American growth from Thurow's point of view. It was the sale and purchase of US assets at home and abroad. Rather, the similar effects of localization of value-added facilities to secondary or third tier production. He and others have often believed that the trade deficits of US global growth have been the engines of globalisation and the prime reason the IMF and World Bank exist? To design and maintain US imports to drive consumption up and up. It would all work except fewer and fewer nations, the US included, are even considering following their own traditional trade patterns.

Another failure of Thurow's perspective was only a passing regard for China as a peripheral battlefield for US, European, and Japanese competition. Clearly, the growth China continues to insist is unstoppable is correspondant to a nervous decline in exports in traditional markets of his examined troika. But Thurow's solutions for what ails the US, might better have been included as a discussion of each chapter on a chapter by chapter basis. By the end of the book, the cumulative decline of all three players is evident in the present, one is able to reflect clearly on what his analysis had wrong, and it continues to be the failure of the western cultural perspective to adapt orthodox methods of sustainable economic growth and learn only from the current innovators.

As Japan illustrates innovation of supply side economics, Europe illustrated union and management cooperation versus America's consumption patterns which everyone insists are at the end of the road, like GM for example. Now if this economic giant might look again at the crystal ball and figure out how the world's economic leaders could have all three dynamics at the same time. That would be an economic show stopper. The question is...does China have all of those fundamentals? In that case, will it represent a cyclical rise and fall of another new entrant to the export growth led game?

Read Thurow for how well he defines the current big three players, and how his silence on a fourth...leaves it up to the reader to imagine who or where that fourth will appear. China could again slide on many thorny issues, such as labour laws, oil supplies, infrastructure, and artificial market stimulations, not to mention a fading but still possible sanction and tariff barrier wall unseen since the Cold War Era. Thurow may have written on China already? He really missed the boat on Chinese income patterns. He failed to evaluate the effect of foreign entry and speculations in the major centres anyway. Somewhere I am sure there are still many more millions living in Thurow's China.