Thursday, October 22, 2009

Supply Chain and Demand: Perspectives on the Future Challenges to Global Resource Distribution

Contrary to popular belief, there really is no such thing as a truly "free market" - all goods and prices need to factor in:

- production time

- transportation time

- cost of raw materials

- cost of packaging

- production and transportation times for raw materials and packaging

- the salaries of people involved in making sure every step of the process runs smoothly

- and most importantly, energy costs

Concerns over the future availability of abundant cheap energy have led to conflicting views on how the current supply chain system and global economy will adapt to these constraints. Some see a challenging, but ultimately positive outcome. Others, less so. And some don't think there's anything to worry about to begin with.

However, energy isn't the only problem supply chain analysts should be worried about. Current socio-political trends - terrorism, piracy, insurgency, civil wars, embargoes - can, have, and will continue to inhibit the flow of goods and energy worldwide. Factoring these types of disruptions in will create a more accurate picture of how supply chain operations will evolve, as well as potential solutions to the growing aforementioned problems.

Worse case scenario, the future of product transportation could look something like a less hilarious and more depressing Road Warrior.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And While We're Talking About the Taliban...

This whole article is worth reading, but following quote speaks volumes:

"My Taliban guards slept beneath bedspreads manufactured by a Pakistani textile company and emblazoned with characters from the American television show “Hannah Montana” and the movie “Spider-Man.” My blanket was a pink Barbie comforter."

Let's hear it for globalization.

Not If You Were The Last Jihadi On Earth

"The perfect storm of drugs and terrorism ... may be heading toward Central Asia," warned Costa. "A big part of the region could be engulfed in large-scale terrorism, endangering its massive energy resources."

I bet a lot of Americans who supported the war in Afghanistan didn't quite anticipate some of the subsequent developments worldwide, as well as back home.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

With allies like these, who needs espionage?

True, this is a case of the FBI posing as Mossad in a sting, rather than an actual Israeli intelligence operation. Then again, the idea not without precedent.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Post-Colonial Popular Music (or "In Defense of the Idea of Vampire Weekend")

These days, it seems fashionable to toss around accusations of "musical neo-colonialism" towards (predominantly white and privileged) American indie rock bands drawing from the indigenous and traditional folk musical styles of other cultures.

Essentailly, the line of thinking goes as follows: because the members of these bands came from a socioeconomic group that has benefited from the economic exploitation of other lands, it is inherently unjust for these musicians to experiment with instruments, scales, beats, and melodies "belonging" to cultures they weren't born and raised in - regardless of their own role or influence (if any) in the current global economic system and subsequent wealth disparities.


However, a brief look at a few musical developments since the fall of Western colonialism shows that the "logic" behind this attitude is, at best, selectively ignorant of the last several decades of popular culture to the point of absurdity:

- Bossa nova emerged from Brazilian samba and American Jazz (both genres themselves evolving out of African slave diasporas in their respective countries).

- British and state-side rock bands affiliated with the term "punk" flirted with Jamaican Reggae and Ska during the 70's and 80's, and in turn, influenced later popular American "rock" bands.

- A cross between Japanese sound synthesis technology and a pre-recorded snippet of experimental 70's German keyboard-driven rock helped launch Hip-Hop and inspire the development of Techno - which are now two of the most popular musical genre families worldwide.

- And even the most beloved and well-dressed example of Western pop dabbled in the centuries-old music of the former "Crown Jewel of the British Empire"...not to mention the more recent "cultural appropriation" of non-Western musical motifs by Jay-Z and 50 Cent (both of whom represent the cultural, historical, and aesthetic antithesis of Vampire Weekend, along with having far more radio and television exposure).

This basic fusion of European, African and occasionally other musical and cultural sensibilities within the landmasses we now refer to as "the Americas" has been covered (in a much better fashion) by numerous people before me - and none of the previous examples even account for the expansive influence of Latino cultures and musical styles on Western popular music as well.

I'm not saying you have to like Vampire Weekend's polo shirts, Ivy League degrees, or use of sub-Sarahan African-influenced guitar riffs to sing about punctuation marks you're not quite sure when to use. Dismiss them as pretentious or patronizing of other cultures if you must. Point is, if your criticism of Vampire Weekend and their ilk has to do more with the perceived connotations of their image, rather than the merits of their music, just shut up, enjoy the songs, and wear a blindfold if you have to.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Race to the Finish: Conceptions of "Blackness" and Interracial Marriage in the United States and Brazil

By now, most Americans have heard the news of Louisiana judge Keith Bardwell's refusal to grant a marriage license to an interracial couple. Dismaying as this is, the interesting part lies in his rationale:

He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," Bardwell said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."


Of course, the most famous mixed-race American happens to be the current president of the United States:"Perhaps he's worried the kids will grow up and be president," said Bill Quigley, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Justice, referring to President Barack Obama, the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas.

Still, children of mixed African and European ancestry - and even interracial courtship - remain a rare, and often taboo, subject in the United States. Even for the open-minded, racial preferences and self-segregation still manifest themselves on the internet in the world of online dating as well as other social networking websites.


However, even in countries such as Brazil, where "Pardo" (brown or mixed-race) is an officially-recognized racial category, the issue of defining race and "blackness" is still a contentious debate:

"And if the United States is a country where black people with light skin used to sometimes “pass,” i.e., pretend to be white, well, in this country “passing is a national institution.”

But perhaps the United States is leaning in this direction, as well.

El Valle de Silicio Nuevo?

Will Chile become the next worldwide information technology hot spot? Through generous entrepreneurial incentives, an active marketing campaign, and ample natural resources, it's possible this long strand of land sandwiched between the Andes and Pacific can become the next global IT center - and perhaps surpass some of its continental neighbors.

Plus, this blogger can tell you first hand that Santiago is not a bad looking city by any means.

(thanks, Reason)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ni hao, world

More and more students in the English-speaking world (including my 17-year old sister) are learning how to speak like 1.3 billion of their fellow humans. Not only have increasing numbers of schools offered Chinese as an elective, but students (or anyone else) can even learn from the comfort of their own internet connections.

Operation Zombieland Freedom

By no means do I mean to diminish the tragedy and pain this young man's family and friends are going through, but maybe he should have reconsidered the film he chose to take his life during before purchasing his ticket.

Call it a hunch, but I don't think watching walking corpses and wanton shooting of humanoid figures is necessarily the best way to ease back into civilian life, particularly after spending a few years making some corpses of your own.

(Thanks, AV Club)

Monday, October 12, 2009

China to Break Up India?

An "unofficially" sanctioned article encouraging the fragmentation of India along ethnic lines for the geopolitical benefit of China has sparked debate on the nature and future of "India" as a whole:

"According to the article, if India today relies on any thing for unity, it is the Hindu religion. The partition of the country was based on religion. Stating that today nation states are the main current in the world, it has said that India could only be termed now as a 'Hindu religious state'. Adding that Hinduism is a decadent religion as it allows caste exploitation and is unhelpful to the country's modernisation, it described the Indian government as one in a dilemma with regard to eradication of the caste system as it realises that the process to do away with castes may shake the foundation of the consciousness of the Indian nation."

While divide and conquer is everyone's favorite classic military strategy, there may be something to the article's contention that fragmented, "post-Indian" ethnically/culturally-based nation-states on the subcontinent could provide greater material and social benefits to their respective peoples, than the larger pan-ethnic, pan-religious state with traditional Hindu beliefs functioning as the religious and cultural hegemon (as is the case with modern India). Then again, as most Indians know, the road to partition is often paved with blood...

(thanks, Naxalite Rage)

The Parallels Between Turn-Of-The Century Anarchists and Modern Islamists

Striking parallels, indeed.

"They justified their attacks to themselves by claiming they were trying to give the wealthy, or the West, a taste of how "their people" felt. Yet in both movements, intriguingly, it was largely middle class intellectuals who turned to violence. Both Emile Henry and Mohammed Atta – the leader of the 9/11 hijackings – were engineers who found in mathematics a sense of purity and order and rationality that soothed them, and seemed like a refuge from a chaotic world. The leading anarchists in Europe – Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin – were both Russian noblemen, just as Osama bin Laden is the son of a Saudi billionaire...They were people who chose to renounce their riches and side with the embattled tribe "beneath" them, and claimed to be fighting for its survival."

Of course, as the article implies towards the end (but does not directly state), many of the demands and issues championed by the anarchists, such as the eight-hour day and injured worker's compensation, were predominantly-based on economic and physical hardship. When governments put reforms into place to address these grievances, the appeal of radical anarchism subsequently dwindled.

However, while fundamentalist Islamic groups draw on the horror of preexisting economic and physical hardships to fuel their growth and legitimacy, the basis of the overall movement lies in a strict, hierarchical interpretation of a religious tradition already espousing the perfection of it's spiritual truths and laws of human conduct. Thus, it's difficult to conceive of concessions a nation-state would need to make in order to satisfy the demands of hardcore Islamists - particularly ones that didn't infringe on groups espousing un-Islamic ideals and lifestyles.

(thanks, Global Guerrillas)

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