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To what degree are we different?
November 2, 2003 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Friedman quotes a former Swedish prime minister. "Our defining date is now 1989 and yours is 2001," I find this to be true. For most of the 90's, the US struggled to find a new purpose for its power. A few peace-keeping missions, a skirmish in Iraq (the first time), but for the most part, no real global strategy. Europe, on the other hand, has made significant progress with developing the EU, the euro (which no one believed would ever come about so quickly), and a semi-unified policy concerning the rest of the world (GB being the notable exception). NY Times
posted by BlueTrain (72 comments total)

 
Is the former Prime Minister saying the Berlin Wall is symbolically equal the to the World Trade Center?
posted by stbalbach at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2003


I think he's saying that the two things act as starting points which define how the EU and the US define their foreign and domestic policy. To the extent that he's using symbols, these only define a starting point (more so with the WTC than the wall), the significant thing is what has resulted from the geopolitics relevant to each of those symbols.

I'm pretty certain he isn't making some crass attempt at transatlantic points scoring.
posted by biffa at 8:55 AM on November 2, 2003


This is really a classic of Friedman as Global Simpleton. Clearly, the Saudis (an undemocratic monarchy squandering its vast resources while at the same time producing 15 of the 19 WTC hijackers) are more supportive of democracy in Iraq than the Germans and French (democracies that would rather spend their taxpayer's money on social services for their taxpayers than helping to clean up after our little neocon adventure). What other explanation could there be?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:00 AM on November 2, 2003


I don't think the former prime minister was rating the two, but rather pointing to our differences today. And he is accurate when he states "While we talk of peace, they [US] talk of security." Europe has already dealt with similar security issues and I'm thinking are ecstaic to finally be working towards unity and peace. That doesn't mean they plan to give up on security, but I'm reading they'll do so unified, not unilaterally.
posted by LouReedsSon at 9:06 AM on November 2, 2003


MeTa
posted by jbrjake at 9:48 AM on November 2, 2003


Europe's defining year is 1939. One of the major ideological reasons for the EU is to ensure that it never happens again.
posted by PenDevil at 9:55 AM on November 2, 2003


Or, you could say, Europe is self-absorbed, and doesn't have either the fortitude or honesty to have a horizon more distant than a few hundred kilometers distant. Whatever. The Europe of the EU is now largely irrevelant to the rest of the world.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:55 AM on November 2, 2003


Europe, after 2000-odd years of war, has been reduced to philosophical realism and pessimism. The idealism has been burned out of them as their ideals have all fallen by the wayside. Their pessimistic view of life and history can be summarized as "Things will go on this way for a while and then get worse."
So what does "realism and pessimism" mean in real-world terms? As example, their new constitution. Not like the US constitution, filled with grand statements as to the rights of men, liberty, freedom and very limited government; instead, an amazingly complex and bureaucratic tome, bloated with minutiae and micromanagement, and pointedly *ignoring* the big issues. The "It's sort of nice to be sort of nice, if it's approved by the committee" constitution.

After its completion, will *any* of it be quotable, or will it be as dull and empty as the bureaucrats who wrote it?

But let's give some credit to the US. After the war, the US didn't *want* a strong Europe to compete with it. It wanted pathetic, weak social-democracies that would toe the line of US policy. It didn't want huge standing armies. It wanted amiable conscripts that would follow US commanders against the eastern horde, who were as much vassals as their western kin.

Even there, though, differences became evident. The European mindset is still somewhat nationalistic, or even tribal. But America has been evangelical with its democracy, consistently supporting everyone in "heathen", undemocratic lands, more or less. So while deserted by their western European friends, the US still pulled for eastern Europe, all the years they lived through Soviet slavery.

So look at poor France. A pathetic loser since the time of Bonaparte, yet still craving some sort of international standing. When Poland enters the EU, it shall do so as #2 behind Germany, or perhaps #3, behind England, relegating France to compete with Spain as an agricultural second-rate power. And even with an understanding with Germany that the two of them could rule over all of Europe, times change, and France finds itself more and more a bridesmaid.

And Bonn is starting to realize that owning Europe and managing Europe are two different things. Expensive things, perhaps beyond their ability to pay.
posted by kablam at 10:16 AM on November 2, 2003


One cannot overemphasize the degree to which France has remained, even, the Avis/#2 of Europe based on odious commercial and politcal relationships with the "developing" world. Too bad there's no French word for "schadenfreude." Because having it for the French is not shameful at all! 
posted by ParisParamus at 10:23 AM on November 2, 2003


Bonn is starting to realize that owning Europe and managing Europe are two different things.

I think this sentence nicely sums up how well informed and up-to-date you are about European politics.
posted by biffa at 11:08 AM on November 2, 2003


The Europe of the EU is now largely irrevelant to the rest of the world.

That is a preposterous contention. Let's see if you can repeat it with a straight face in ten years.

Europe, after 2000-odd years of war, has been reduced to philosophical realism and pessimism. The idealism has been burned out of them as their ideals have all fallen by the wayside.

Where "idealism" equates to "starting preemptive wars on the other side of the world."
posted by rushmc at 11:31 AM on November 2, 2003


The European mindset is still somewhat nationalistic, or even tribal.

Uh huh. That must be why they managed to covert to a single currency while the United States couldn't even manage a successful transition to the metric system.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:41 AM on November 2, 2003


That must be why they managed to covert to a single currency

Really? The Swedish voted "No" and they may not be the last...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:31 PM on November 2, 2003


The metric system? No thanks, please. THE US's failure to adopt it has, obviously prevented it from increasing its lead over the rest of the world in science and technology. And Europe gets NO points for the Euro, which has, obviously turned Europe into a low-unemployment, growth engine.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:12 PM on November 2, 2003


Where "idealism" equates to "starting preemptive wars on the other side of the world."

Yes, and may there be a few more on the horizon.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:13 PM on November 2, 2003


I'll take the metric system any day, hosers.
posted by adampsyche at 1:53 PM on November 2, 2003


PP, easy now – one could easily get the impression you have a large chip on your shoulder.
posted by niceness at 2:42 PM on November 2, 2003


>THE US's failure to adopt it has, obviously prevented it from increasing its lead over the rest of the world in science and technology.

You guys crack me up. At the very least we'd have given up an archaic system that isn't even base 10 (how many gallons to a hog's head again?) and saved a few mars probes.
posted by skallas at 3:20 PM on November 2, 2003


France has remained, even, the Avis/#2 of Europe

when i was a strapping young buckaroo, i remember national lampoon (the magazine) doing a parody based on the hertz/avis ads: what if the USA was a second-rate power? "we try harder" as the national slogan. these days i often think of that article. heh.
posted by quonsar at 3:49 PM on November 2, 2003


Most of you have obviously never been to Europe - or at least not as a tourist. Things work much better there because they are realists (the Germans, at least), and have had much more time to work things out than we have.

Would anyone who has had significant experince living in both the EU and the US please raise their hands?
posted by danbeckmann at 3:54 PM on November 2, 2003


I must say, I'm so glad I don't live in ParisParamus' world. It seems a bitter, unpleasant place with a narrow scope of vision and a high intolerance level. Even if he were right (which he isn't), I wouldn't move there.
posted by rushmc at 3:55 PM on November 2, 2003


rushmc: so what exactly *is* intolerable enough for France and Germany to go to war over? If not democracy, what about genocide, slavery, military aggression, WMD terrorism? What? Does Europe have to profit from war, or are they only in favor of somebody else going to war for them if their profits are threatened? Greedy and wimpy, a great combination.

Remember how the protestors accused the US of going to war solely for oil? But see how France and Germany sniveled at the US for canceling their sweet OIL deals with a mad dictator. Oil for guns and bombs and missiles.

I can't trust France and Germany any more. If they were guarding your back in a gunfight, they'd prolly let your enemy shoot you, so they could steal your wallet. If you were drowning, they'd offer to sell you a life preserver. They are so concerned with their own nasty asses that they would let the world go to hell, and just say, "Well, it's a pity, but that's just how life is. Maybe we can make a bargain with the devil for a better deal for us."

2000 years of war have stolen their spirit. They have become slaves without masters. Feral sheep.
posted by kablam at 4:01 PM on November 2, 2003


Uh, kablam, why don't you read up on the history of WWII; specifically, when and why we got into it. Hint: it wasn't to save other people from genocide or military aggression. I think "If you were drowning, they'd offer to sell you a life preserver" applies quite nicely to our policy right up until (horrors!) we ourselves were attacked. Of course, we were selling to the other side as well.

Next, you might want to investigate the recent history of Iraq, and when exactly we decided Saddam Hussein was a bad, bad man and something had to be done about him. Hint: it wasn't when he was practicing genocide against Kurds and waging unprovoked war against Iran. And you might want to ask the Kurds about the trustworthiness of the mighty and moralistic United States.
posted by languagehat at 4:22 PM on November 2, 2003


America has been evangelical with its democracy, consistently supporting everyone in "heathen", undemocratic lands, more or less

Nothing makes me want to say 'you fuckin' eejit' more than americans spouting off on democracy when they know fuck-all about the history of their own recent involvement in western hemispheric events.

Chile, anyone?

Europe =!/Germany+France. The European mindset? Don't make me laugh!! How many nations make up 'The European mindset'?

Feral Wanker.

Get some education before spouting off about 'Europe' in an international forum.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:09 PM on November 2, 2003


Europe equals not divided by Germany plus France?

Can I get some brackets, please?
posted by jon_kill at 5:18 PM on November 2, 2003


And Bonn is starting to realize

hehehe

look, is the Congress still in Philadelphia or what?

thanks for the little lecture by the way


Where "idealism" equates to "starting preemptive wars on the other side of the world."
Yes, and may there be a few more on the horizon.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:13 PM PST on November 2

a few? willing to enlist -- or to be drafted in a not so distant future -- to do a little killing -- or dying -- yourself?
also, do you actually drink Muslim blood or you simply get a funny feeling in your pants looking at disemboweled Iraqi civilians on the AlJazeera site?
posted by matteo at 5:35 PM on November 2, 2003


Matteo: I needn't enlist in the army to advocate pre-emptive wars, just as you need not to be against them (appararently). As for your other comment. you can go to Hell. I am not going to shed tears at the deaths of barbarians who style themselves as Muslims. MAY THE ROACH MOTEL FILL TO CAPACITY!
posted by ParisParamus at 5:46 PM on November 2, 2003


That must be why they managed to covert to a single currency

Really? The Swedish voted "No" and they may not be the last...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:31 PM PST on November 2


they certainly voted no. but please do remember that Sweden didn't join the European Union until 1995 -- so indecision over the country's role in Europe is very typical, and in the end nothing to worry about. also, keep in mind that Scandinavians are usually wary of the common currency for a simple reason -- ie they're afraid they will have to reform (ie cut) their generous Welfare systems -- I'm sure you love those Scandinavian socialists, Steve.
anyway some observers feel that Sweden will end up being even more isolated after saying no to EMU entry -- and that's exactly the reason why, as I'm sure you know, joining the euro is a very hot political topic in the UK right now -- the "wait and see" thing will not last forever as Blair -- and Gordon Brown -- know very well.
There's no UK referendum in the near future, but sooner or later they'll have to decide for good. Of course a typical consequence of EMU membership is the elimination of exchange risk within the zone -- and the euro has proved to be pretty stable against outside currency. The UK's fears are political (dilution of power, unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, bla blah blah) and financial (the dilution of the City's role in Continental finance)
As Eddie George pointed out many times, EMU entry is a "leap of faith" for Britain. Opting out means simply the impossibility to get full partnership in the Union. but, really, it's more about "when, not if"
posted by matteo at 6:06 PM on November 2, 2003


rushmc: so what exactly *is* intolerable enough for France and Germany to go to war over?

Perhaps it is a philosophical difference, a conviction that two wrongs don't make a right, that one does not have the right— much less the obligation—to intercede in the problems of others, that nothing justifies a preemptive attack?

Once you grant yourself (or someone else) the right to make the judgement call of when you can morally invade another country, where do you draw the line? What if you just covet their oil?
posted by rushmc at 6:14 PM on November 2, 2003


Hm. Who would have thought a europe-bashing article post would turn into a flamewar?

And regarding the metric system - it's clear that a system based on universal constants such as the size of the King's feet are much better than one based on ever-changing stuff like the speed of light or the size of the earth.

And it's so much more convenient to remember that there are 1728 cubic inches to a cubic foot, instead of the cumbersome 1000 cubic centimeters to a cubic decimeter.

Besides, what other system of measurement is powerful enough to cause craters on mars?
posted by spazzm at 7:26 PM on November 2, 2003


The US has not adopted the metric system because we do not have institutions coercive enough to impose such on the population. And I'm perfectly happy with that limitation. One-time NASA stupidity notwithstanding, why should we change? Would you prefer that the US be more advanced? Actually, I like that we have feet and cups, etc. Uniformity is overrated. Get a life.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:34 PM on November 2, 2003


The whole Euro thing is more exagerated EU hype. Exchange transaction costs were portrayed as high as they were because the EU wanted them to be so portrayed. How is it that Canada, and Japan, and a number of Pacific Rim countries have done fine without adopting a single currency, or the US$ And, has anyone ever studied how much tourist revenue is lost because a single currency makes the various countries of the EU seem more generic, and less compelling to visit? Again, more subterfuge for corrupt, bloated. inefficient government.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:46 PM on November 2, 2003


Ladies and gentlemen, forty years ago almost to the day an important Presidential emissary was sent abroad by a beleaguered President of the United States. The United States was facing the prospect of nuclear war. These were the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Several emissaries went to our principal allies. One of them was a tough-minded former Secretary of State, Dean Acheson whose mission was to brief President De Gaulle and to solicit French support in what could be a nuclear war involving not just the United States and the Soviet Union but the entire NATO Alliance and the Warsaw Pact.

The former Secretary of State briefed the French President and then said to him at the end of the briefing, I would now like to show you the evidence, the photographs that we have of Soviet missiles armed with nuclear weapons. The French President responded by saying, I do not wish to see the photographs. The word of the President of the United States is good enough for me. Please tell him that France stands with America.

Would any foreign leader today react the same way to an American emissary who would go abroad and say that country X is armed with weapons of mass destruction which threaten the United States? There's food for thought in that question. Fifty-three years ago, almost the same month following the Soviet-sponsored assault by North Korea on South Korea, the Soviet Union boycotted a proposed resolution in the U. N. Security Council for a collective response to that act.

That left the Soviet Union alone in opposition, stamping it as a global pariah. In the last three weeks there were two votes on the subject of the Middle East in the General Assembly of the United Nations. In one of them the vote was 133 to four. In the other one the vote was 141 to 4, and the four included the United States, Israel, Marshall Islands and Micronesia.

All of our NATO allies voted with the majority including Great Britain, including the so-called new allies in Europe — in fact almost all of the EU — and Japan. I cite these events because I think they underline two very disturbing phenomena—the loss of U. S. international credibility, the growing U. S. international isolation.

Both together can be summed up in a troubling paradox regarding the American position and role in the world today. American power worldwide is at its historic zenith. American global political standing is at its nadir. Why? What is the cause of this? These are facts. They're measurable facts. They're also felt facts when one talks to one's friends abroad who like America, who value what we treasure but do not understand our policies, are troubled by our actions and are perplexed by what they perceive to be either demagogy or mendacity.


From the Remarks of Zbigniew Brzezinski
Counselor and Trustee for the Center for Strategic & International Studies
New American Strategies for Security and Peace
Washington, D.C., October 28, 2003
posted by y2karl at 7:52 PM on November 2, 2003


"One-time NASA stupidity notwithstanding, why should we change?"

1. The stupidity was on the part of Lockheed Martin, not NASA.
2. Because.

"Would you prefer that the US be more advanced?"

I really couldn't care less, but the fact remains that the US is surpassed in most scientific fields (except weapons, naturally) by asia anyways.
posted by spazzm at 7:54 PM on November 2, 2003


Also, check out Questions and Answers about the metric system, or why the U.S. is converting to metric.
posted by spazzm at 8:03 PM on November 2, 2003


Exchange transaction costs were portrayed as high as they were because the EU wanted them to be so portrayed. How is it that Canada, and Japan, and a number of Pacific Rim countries have done fine without adopting a single currency, or the US$ And, has anyone ever studied how much tourist revenue is lost because a single currency makes the various countries of the EU seem more generic,

heh. it's fun to read a EMU Economics lecture by the same guy who thought that Iraq Attaq was going to "pay for itself"
a "no brainer" indeed

everything one needs to know about the USA and the metric system can be summed up in the Pulp Fiction "how do you call a Quarter Pounder in Europe" Tarantino dialogue

posted by matteo at 8:06 PM on November 2, 2003


Actually, Iraq will pay for itself, because setting up shop there, and killing the enemy is cheaper than have to do so closer to home. Also, while politically expedient, we should really get reimbursed for our expenses from future Iraqi oil revenues.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:11 PM on November 2, 2003


As for your other comment. you can go to Hell. I am not going to shed tears at the deaths of barbarians who style themselves as Muslims. MAY THE ROACH MOTEL FILL TO CAPACITY!

Iraq will pay for itself, because setting up shop there, and killing the enemy is cheaper than have to do so closer to home.

I asked my friends to lay out some flypaper and they got papercuts doing it. It's not as sticky with blood all over it, but hey, it's not like my hands got damaged.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:17 PM on November 2, 2003


MetaFilter: MAY THE ROACH MOTEL FILL TO CAPACITY!
posted by mcsweetie at 8:20 PM on November 2, 2003


A hogshead down towards the final approach to the martian surface
posted by spazzm at 8:23 PM on November 2, 2003


rushmc: your rhetorical(?) questions fit France and Germany to a 't'. And, as such, there is much to be said for their argument that "I am not my brother's keeper", or the many similes to that expression. It truly is hard to argue for intervention in a rotten situation in your neighbor's house.
But no matter if the neighbor is near or far, while isolationism *used* to be the way of the US, prior to WWII, as was pointed out; it is *now* the feeling of middle-Europe. The US is still irritatingly limited in where it will intervene, even with the blessing of the UN. The Balkans, generally yes, Africa, generally no. But they are willing to intervene somewhere, sometime, if they have to--and at least they are willing to *say* what they find objectionable in otherwise friendly partners (credit: Jimmy Carter.)

And that is a difference between them and France and Germany. Be it in the Balkans, where Europe was willing for far too long to let the slaughter commence, just "deploring" ethnic cleansing, the US wanted to *do* something; or in Iraq, where a certified and proven wacko killer actively tried to acquire James Bond villain-type weapons, which he most likely would have used to attack either a nuclear power (Israel), or try to conquer perhaps Saudi Arabia, to have a majority of the world's oil to blackmail with.

Do you intervene with your neighbor when he threatens to unleash a major war? Do you wait for him to launch, and in the meantime sell him weapons by the hundred-ton? Is having cheap oil important enough to start a major war that kills *millions*, on the *hope* that you will be able to exploit the combatants after the fact?

Look to Canada for responsible non-involvement and neutrality. France and Germany (and Russia) are still playing the realpolitic chess game they played in the 19th Century. They can't seem to help themselves.
posted by kablam at 8:36 PM on November 2, 2003


Who would have thought a europe-bashing article post would turn into a flamewar?

It was 'europe-bashing'? I thought it was pretty fair. Friedman is trying to understand the differences in thinking between the US and Europe, and why we don't understand each other. I've seen similar ideas in The Economist: Europe seems passive or inward-turning to America because they've found peace for the first time in a thousand years, and they desperately don't want to upset the applecart.

Too bad the discussion turned downhill.

And oh, yeah:

Metafilter: feral sheep
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:46 PM on November 2, 2003


Actually, Iraq will pay for itself, because setting up shop there, and killing the enemy is cheaper than have to do so closer to home.

Meanwhile, it's cheaper for the enemy to kill Americans closer to their home. Win-win situation?
posted by romanb at 9:13 PM on November 2, 2003


I asked my friends to lay out some flypaper and they got papercuts

don't worry. the flypaper will pay for itself -- just steal some Iraqi oil
posted by matteo at 9:14 PM on November 2, 2003


spazzm:

Decimal conversions aren't a particularly great reason to switch to metric now, given the utter ubiquity of calculators. And nobody with any sense would ever add X yards, Y feet, Z and A/B inches. You'd just add Y.C feet, since decimal feet (or inches) can quite happily exist. You can convert your decimal back at the end if it's important, which it won't be.

The good reason is plain boring standardization, so that people don't have to have two different sets of tools and all that. Which, to be clear, is a damn good reason.

The catch, as Paris implies, is that if you really want to enforce metrication, you'd have to make it illegal to advertise or otherwise publish in English units, which is freedom-crunching enough to make me think twice (requiring that people list metric cool, but telling people they can't say "12.5 oz" squicks me). It's catching on slowly as it is, as the use of the 2-liter and half-liter soda bottles, and 750ml liquor bottles indicates.

And even in Europe, it seems not to have caught on completely -- I assume there's some reason why, when I see cop-cam footage from Britain, it lists the target speed in mph, not km/h.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:29 PM on November 2, 2003


or in Iraq, where a certified and proven wacko killer actively tried to acquire James Bond villain-type weapons

You do, of course, realize how utterly ridiculous you sound. Saddam had and/or wanted pretty much the same devices every military player on the global scale has and/or wanted, mainly nuclear and chemical weapons.

You make it sound like he was trying to develop some fantastic space-laser that destroyed missiles or something. I mean, what kind of moron would waste money on shit like that.

which he most likely would have used to attack either a nuclear power (Israel), or try to conquer perhaps Saudi Arabia, to have a majority of the world's oil to blackmail with.

Because, as we all know, a move to militarily dominate Saudi Arabia or Israel being the target of a nuclear attack would cause no response from the U.S. or Israel, having absolutely no nuclear program or military whatsoever that they have used to... oh, that's right- militarily dominate other countries with. Wow, it really does sound that absurd when you put both halves of that sentence together.

Do you intervene with your neighbor when he threatens to unleash a major war? Do you wait for him to launch, and in the meantime sell him weapons by the hundred-ton?

Sorry, sorry. Not sure if you mean the Iraq war in 2003, 1991, or 1980. But I'm sure you meant whichever one makes Saddam evil and the U.S. justified, right?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:42 PM on November 2, 2003


"I assume there's some reason why, when I see cop-cam footage from Britain, it lists the target speed in mph, not km/h."

I believe the reason is that GB longs for days of yore, when they where still an empire - it's called imperial or english units after all.

Most of the rest of Northern Europe (Scandinavia, Germany, France) has been metric for over a century.

Since we're on the subject, there's a few things about english units that confuse me:
1. Why is "pound" abbreviated "lb"?
2. Why is there two different ounces - dry ounces and fluid ounces? And which one is it they mean by "oz"? Why not have separate names for them?
3. Is it true that there are two different inches in use in the US?
4. What's all this about troy, avoirdupois and customary units?
5. Why is an US gallon 128 fluid ounces, while a hundredweight is 112 pounds?
posted by spazzm at 12:40 AM on November 3, 2003


And, while I'm at it asking silly questions, is there 3 feet to a yard, 12 inches to a foot (both divisible by 3) but 1760 yards to a mile (not divisible by 3)?
posted by spazzm at 12:49 AM on November 3, 2003


There's supposed to be a "why" in there somewhere. Sorry.
posted by spazzm at 12:59 AM on November 3, 2003


1. Why is "pound" abbreviated "lb"?

From the Latin "libra pondo."

2. Why is there two different ounces - dry ounces and fluid ounces? And which one is it they mean by "oz"? Why not have separate names for them?

Dry ounces are weight/mass, fluid ounces are volume. Oz. is dry. They have the same names because a fluid ounce of water masses (about?) an ounce. Actually, a fluid ounce of any normal kitchen fluid except honey masses an ounce.

3. Is it true that there are two different inches in use in the US?

Not as far as I know.

4. What's all this about troy, avoirdupois and customary units?

Troy ounces are weird measurements that jewelers use, so that carats go evenly into them (1 Troy oz. = 120 carats = 1.09 normal ounces).

avoirdupois = customary, AFAIK. Except for redefinitions, like the pound being a unit of mass now (with the pound-force being the unit of weight).

5. Why is an US gallon 128 fluid ounces, while a hundredweight is 112 pounds?

You mean why is a US gallon smaller than an Imperial gallon? Because the US gallon tries to retain the 16-ounces-to-a-pound relationship in its volume measures, so that a pint's a pound. An Imperial pint, assuming that 2 pints in a quart there too, is 20 oz.

Hundredweights aren't used in the US, at least not outside of some specialist circle I've never heard of.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:18 AM on November 3, 2003


why is there 3 feet to a yard, 12 inches to a foot (both divisible by 3) but 1760 yards to a mile (not divisible by 3)?

No obvious reason that I'm aware of. I suspect the mile simply has a different origin from the foot, yard, and inch and isn't part of that same "scheme."

In real life, the mile doesn't subdivide into feet. It subdivides into fractions-of-a-mile. Nobody (sane) would ever say that the next exit is 1 mile 1320 feet away, or 1 mile 440 yards away. It would always be 1 1/4 or 1.25 miles away. The real answer for how many feet there are in a mile is "That doesn't matter."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:26 AM on November 3, 2003


3. Is it true that there are two different inches in use in the US?

Looking it up, for no particular reason surveyors use a definition of an inch which differs from the normal definition at a rate of 3mm/mile, or one inch per ~8 miles. Both are veeeery slightly different ways of getting inches back from meters.

I'd hesitate to call these actually different inches for the purposes of everyday life, since that degree of precision can't really be reached with rulers and tape measures anyway.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:35 AM on November 3, 2003


Thanks.
But:
'From the Latin "libra pondo."'

Shouldn't it then be "lp", not "lb"?

And why is an US gallon equal to 231.09086 cubic inches?
(Or is that incorrect?)
posted by spazzm at 2:18 AM on November 3, 2003


Oops, I see now that the US gallon is actually 231 cubic inches exactly. My bad.

But I'm still curious about the "lb" thing.

And why is an US fluid ounce equal to 1.8047 cubic inches?
posted by spazzm at 2:30 AM on November 3, 2003


Oh, wait the lb stands for not the first letters of the words "libra pondo" as one might assume but the first and third letters of the word "libra". Simple and straightforward, really.
posted by spazzm at 3:25 AM on November 3, 2003


tHe comments generated by the linked article may be summed up best by the words of sunshine anderson 'I've heard it all before.' aLthough I did like the post, cheers.
posted by johnnyboy at 4:19 AM on November 3, 2003


The US is still irritatingly limited in where it will intervene, even with the blessing of the UN.

The discreet roar of the veteran model airplane builder.
posted by y2karl at 4:38 AM on November 3, 2003


Actually, there might be a second definition of inches when it comes to self-assessments of manhood....

More seriously, anyone know why gasoline is priced in units of 9/10ths of a gallon at the pump?
posted by ParisParamus at 5:20 AM on November 3, 2003


(at this point, our European friends have left us for good...)
posted by ParisParamus at 5:33 AM on November 3, 2003


There was little defining about 9/11/02. It just took the country from a certain standby mode to active mode. We only kick ass when someone tries to kick ours. And then we doing it better than anyone else.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:16 AM on November 3, 2003


There was little defining about 9/11/02. It just took the country from a certain standby mode to active mode.

uh, what happened on 9/11/02? maybe you're thinking of the world trade center attacks, which took place on 9/11/01.
posted by mcsweetie at 6:52 AM on November 3, 2003


Actually, there might be a second definition of inches when it comes to self-assessments of manhood....

We only kick ass when someone tries to kick ours. And then we doing it better than anyone else.


Uh huh. Could you be more latent if you tried?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:56 AM on November 3, 2003


(at this point, our European friends have left us for good...)

...or are just laughing too hard to be able to type. ;-)
posted by i_cola at 8:12 AM on November 3, 2003


We only kick ass when someone tries to kick ours.

Iraq "tried to kick our ass?" Amazing. I'm not sure whether to actually indicate how baseless such an argument is or to just stare in wonder at how a grown person can make such a statement in terms as pathetic and juvenile as that. Jesus, FreedomParamus, why not just insist that we needed to prove Saddam's dick wasn't as mighty and hard as George Bush's?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:16 AM on November 3, 2003


y2karl: But yours is the persecuting meagerness of the passive-aggressive. "Give me your money or I'll drown this bag of kittens."
posted by kablam at 10:14 AM on November 3, 2003


I was thinking yesterday what it would've been like if we had gone to war with Iraq on 9/11/02. I bet the history books would've said something like, "on the one year anniversary of the world trade center attacks, president george bush declared war on a country that had nothing to do with it."
posted by mcsweetie at 5:10 AM on November 4, 2003


"Nice" to see the cult of America is Horrible lives on Mefi. Perhaps I'll go away for another nine months, or so. Or, perhaps long enough to see which conspiracy theory is primary here on the eve of President Bush's landslide victory.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:24 AM on November 4, 2003


Iraq "tried to kick our ass?" Amazing.

No. What's amazing is how political bias blinds you to being able to see more than four feet in front of you. Iraq was a petrie dish for terrorism in Israel; elsewhere in the Middle East, and eventually, beyond. Think also of the "broken window theory" of crime on a regional geopolitical level.

Europeans, timid and passive as they are, cannot imagine being able to influence the future the way Americans can. Thus, Europeans duck and cover, whereas Americans (naively or not) respond with "we're not going to take this."
posted by ParisParamus at 5:44 AM on November 4, 2003


Paris, you are amazing. I won't even bother asking for sources.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:49 AM on November 4, 2003


Europeans, timid and passive as they are

- You are just soo right Paris, barbarity really is the new black.
posted by johnnyboy at 10:07 AM on November 4, 2003


Mentalist.
posted by i_cola at 2:36 PM on November 4, 2003


Europeans duck and cover

Ahem.
posted by moonbiter at 3:47 PM on November 4, 2003


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