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Your "Common Dreams" are My Nightmares

Wouldn't it be cool if we remade American society so that all 300 million of us began caring for one another, educating each other and sacrificing our own happiness for perfect strangers -- as if they were our nearest kin? If we replaced our day jobs and our petty little personal hobbies with a shared vision for the future?

To make this dream a reality, we'd probably need a know-it-all chief executive with unlimited power, because lots of people would go kicking and screaming. I think I can name a willing volunteer.

"In America, we have this strong bias toward individual action. You know, we idolize the John Wayne hero who comes in to correct things with both guns blazing. But individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations."

. . .

"Now we have to take this same language--these same values that are encouraged within our families--of looking out for one another, of sharing, of sacrificing for each other--and apply them to a larger society. Let's talk about creating a society, not just individual families, based on these values. Right now we have a society that talks about the irresponsibility of teens getting pregnant, not the irresponsibility of a society that fails to educate them to aspire for more."

-- Barack Obama, in an interview with The Chicago Reader, 1995.

In Which the NY Times Ignores Asian Americans

You know how black students who do well in school are accused of "acting white"?  Mary Bucholtz, a linguist at UC Santa Barbara, has devoted her career to promoting that stereotype, and the NY Times thinks she's tops!

By cultivating an identity perceived as white to the point of excess, nerds deny themselves the aura of normality that is usually one of the perks of being white. Bucholtz sees something to admire here. In declining to appropriate African-American youth culture, thereby “refusing to exercise the racial privilege upon which white youth cultures are founded,” she writes, nerds may even be viewed as “traitors to whiteness.” You might say they know that a culture based on theft is a culture not worth having.

So white youth culture is defined by its "theft" of black youth culture?  Those who decline to imitate the latter are actually rejecting the former?  To adopt aspects of a foreign culture is to transgress against it? See, this is why I never really got into linguistics.

We Have Better Convenience Stores, That's Why

Americans work hard. We take fewer vacations than Europeans, and we retire later.  But guess who's happier?

Americans tend to score better than Europeans on most happiness surveys. For example, according to the 2002 International Social Survey Programme across 35 countries, 56% of Americans are "completely happy" or "very happy" with their lives, versus 44% of Danes (often cited in surveys as the happiest Europeans), 35% of the French and 31% of Germans.

 From AEI via Greg Mankiw.

Warning: An Egg is Not a Complete Breakfast

What would the British public do without the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre? The wise men of the BACC screen and censor harmful ads, at no small risk to their own welfare.  If not for these brave bureaucrats, millions of ignorant consumers would suffer from exposure to the poisonous stuff -- like, for example, a TV spot telling viewers to "go to work on an egg" each day.

A BACC spokesman said the issue was not whether a daily egg with your breakfast would be harmful; only that it should be served with fruit juice or toast.

"We are not questioning the effect it would have on your health," Kristoffer Hammer told GMTV this morning. "Our role is to ensure that advertising that goes on television is in compliance with the [Communications] act. It's quite clear from the act that they should be presented as part of a balanced diet."