Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Noam Comes to Chico

One of my most interesting experiences in Chico was the opportunity to shepherd Noam Chomsky around.  We exploited him not stop.  He gave 3 consecutive 1 1/2 hour lectures on foreign affairs, journalism, and politics, besides meeting with students and faculty for meals, and attending a late night reception.  The next morning he was telling me what he read afterwords.

I just learned that he has published his own short recollection.

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Goats on the Roof

This is rich.  The government grants a patent for goats grazing on a roof of a business operation.  That he sues others is understandable; that he has the right to sue is inexcusable.

Scheck, Justin and Stu Woo. 2010. “Lars Johnson Has Goats on His Roof and a Stable of Lawyers to Prove It: Having Trademarked the Ungulate Look, Restaurateur Butts Heads With Imitators.” Wall Street Journal (17 September): p. A 1.

“Lars Johnson is proud of his restaurant’s Swedish-meatball sandwich and pickled herring. But the signature offering at his Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant isn’t on the menu; it’s the goats grazing on the grass-covered roof.”

“Some patrons drive from afar to eat at the restaurant and see the goats that have been going up on Al Johnson’s roof since 1973. The restaurant 14 years ago trademarked the right to put goats on a roof to attract customers to a business.”

“So when a tourist spot 750 miles away decided to deploy a rooftop-caprine population, Mr. Johnson made a federal case of it. Last year, he discovered that Tiger Mountain Market in Rabun County, Ga., had been grazing goats on its grass roof since 2007. Putting goats on the roof wasn’t illegal. The violation, Al Johnson’s alleged in a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, was that Tiger Mountain used the animals to woo business. The suit declared:

“Notwithstanding Al Johnson’s Restaurant’s prior, continuous and extensive use of the Goats on the Roof Trade Dress” — a type of trademark — “defendant Tiger Mountain Market opened a grocery store and gift shop in buildings with grass on the roofs and allows goats to climb on the roofs of its buildings.”

“Al Johnson’s is on constant lookout for other cloven-hooved intellectual-property violations.”

Economics Detox Program

Cassidy, John. 2009. How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

105: “In 1996, when I set out to research an article for The New Yorker about the state of economics, I came across a lot of unhappiness and criticism. The economics department at Morgan Stanley, for example, was refusing to hire any economics Ph.D.s unless they had experience outside of academe.  “We insist on at least a three-to-four-year cleansing experience to neutralize the brainwashing that takes place in these graduate programs,” Stephen S. Roach, the firm’s chief economist, told me. “Academic economics has taken a very bad turn in the road,” Mark Dadd, who was then the top economist at AT&T and the chairman or the National Association for Business Economics, said. “It’s very academic, very mathematical, and it really doesn’t — I want to choose my words carefully here: it is nothing like as useful to the business community as it could be.”

Insightful Note from my Palestinian Student

One of the joys of teaching is interacting with remarkable young people.  I have an outstanding Palestinian student, who just returned from his country.  He sent me this note about an incident that reflected the subtle changes over and above the more obvious hardships and degradation associated with occupation.

It was at about 12:30pm during a busy day in Ramallah when I accompanied a father’s friend in a trip to the Islamic Palestinian Bank.  Sounds of horns are buzzing everywhere under a glazing sun.  Standing fifteen or twenty feet away from the ATM machine, a reversing Peugeot slammed a relatively new vehicle parked behind it, causing considerable damage.  The seemingly careless driver hurried to escape the scene under great pressure from the traffic he interrupted for moments.

I was frustrated.  I felt angry, and I felt lonely.  Where is common courtesy?  Where is integrity and honesty?  Two years have passed since I have set foot in these lands, when did this change come about?  My sense of helplessness made me more anxious, and I was growing more furious than earlier.

A minute or two later, the driver of the victim vehicle arrived and sat behind the wheel without noticing his car’s front.  He was perhaps fifty or fifty five years old.  Short, and completely bald if it wasn’t for the few trickles of white hair that surround the bottom back of his head.  With a sense of righteousness, I rushed to the car and knuckled on his window.  Before the electric-powered glass finished sliding down, I reported to him that a white Peugeot slammed his car and immediately escaped.  He leaned a few inches to my side as if to give me a secret, flashed a gentle yet pompous smile, and then said: “The Land is gone, and you’re talking about a car?”  Before uttering the last words of his sentence, the car was already moving.  I was more humbled than ever.

Progress in Handling of Bank Bailouts

The New York Times reports that the emerging democracy of Afghanistan is taking a strong stand against bank bailouts, that was an interesting twist. Yes the government is calling upon others to bailout the bank, but that doesn’t mean that the government is not willing to do is its part.  It sent soldiers to prevent workers from entering the bank to claim their back wages.  At least, the new government, for all its faults, clearly understands the priorities of a modern capitalist system.