Wrong formula: The Hungarian government is sponsoring a Formula One racecar driver to the tune of $4 million. As Ezster at Crooked Timber blogs, "If this happened in a country with adequate social services and few people living in poverty then perhaps one could contemplate its legitimacy. But in a country with as many social problems as Hungary, I find it hard to swallow." The same logic seems to apply at Starbucks: a cup of coffee at the chain's two new cafes in Peru costs two-thirds of the country's daily minimum wage.

Johnny of the Cross: Listening to a drunk buddy extoll the virtues of Johnny Cash's alternately murderous and redemptive music into the wee hours New Year's morning, I found Peter Candler's essay in First Things: The Journal of Religion and Public Life apropos. He wrote of an acquaintance whose "musical tastes tend toward dark, brooding Germanic bands with wicked-sounding names like Einsturzende Neubauten and Godspeed You Black Emperor. He has little use for religion, except as it pertains to Egyptian archaeology. Over a whiskey in the bar at the Hilton Hotel in Wilmington we chatted about music. Eventually the conversation turned to Johnny. At one point he raised his hand, pointed his finger at me for emphasis, and said, 'If I were going to believe in God, I would believe in the God of Johnny Cash.'" (Via Arts & Letters Daily.)

Free Speech 101: Scoring one for the artists, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a lower court's decision that artists using the image of Barbie aren't infringing on the maker's copyright. "Mattel cannot use trademark laws to censor all parodies or satires which use its name," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote.

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