Sunday, August 28, 2011

Are There Too Many People?

By Tom Kando

Today, I am traveling to the Netherlands again. Every time I arrive, what strikes me most forcefully is how crowded this place is compared to the US:

By some measures, the Netherlands are still one of the most, if not THE most densely populated place on earth: The Netherlands have 1,100 people per square mile. That’s 13 times more than the US density of 83 per square mile. (The world as a whole, incidentally, has 35 people per square mile)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Europe's Growing Pains

by Madeleine Kando

There is a lot of talk lately warning about the impending downfall of 'Europe'. Forbes Magazine has an article: The End Of Europe: A Civilization Built On Sand, basically saying that, since there is no unifying force to hold Europe together, it has no army, no common language and no common religion, Europe is bound to end soon.

But how can a continent disappear? Short of the earth's crust splitting open and swallowing it whole, Europe is here to stay. What they are really talking about is the European Union, of course. Read more...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Which are the World’s Best Universities?

By Tom Kando

I just came across a fascinating article about the University of Shanghai’s annual ranking of the world’s 500 best universities (It’s actually 1,000, but the readily available data only cover 500). The research and the methodology have good credibility. The criteria are the usual ones - the quality of education, research output, Nobel laureates, etc. Here are some of the results:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Israel and Palestine: Whose Turf is it?

By Tom Kando

The Jewish-Palestinian conflict is interminable. It has raged since before I was born, and it will not be solved by the time my grand-children are gone. It is what it is. It almost seems mystical. One of the world’s sine qua nons. Fate, or God, or something, has decreed that this problem must not be solved.

Many of the arguments on both sides hinge on who should own the turf, i.e. who was there first. So how far back do we go? Do we just look at 1948, when Israel became independent, or do we go back to Moses, 5,000 years ago?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Anglo-Saxon Chauvinism and its Rebuttal.

By Tom Kando

Living in the US, I often have to put up with Anglo-Saxon chauvinism. During the Tour de France, some newspaper columnists, thinking that they were funny, wrote that the Tour de France sets a bad example by showing men dressed in skintight colorful clothes, who shave their legs. Over the past ten years, we heard about “freedom fries.” Comedians such as Jay Leno and Dennis Miller often have a great time ridiculing the French for their alleged cowardice and failure to wash themselves. Italians, too, are often ridiculed and seen as corrupt, lazy, cowardly and overall inferior to the Americans and the Brits (although Leno doesn’t go there, because he is of Italian descent).

We Need a Scapegoat

by Madeleine Kando

There is an article in the Sunday New York Times by Drew Western entitled ‘What Happened to Obama?’, in which he accuses the President of being weak and too compromising. He blames him for not having provided the public with a narrative and leadership that they expected from someone they had such high hopes for.

All the things that Obama did: stimulus package, health care reform, credit card reform, bailing out the banks and more, was never explained to the voters. The stimulus package, which was too small to be effective, was perceived as the government, yet again, spending money we didn't have. The Health Care Bill was attacked so viciously by the opposition, including the fabricated 'Death Panels', that no one really understood the benefits of it. Read more...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Backyard Therapy

by Madeleine Kando

I am reading the latest earth shattering news on my computer screen: the US has been downgraded from its triple-A status, the stock market has crashed and the economy is heading towards a double-dip recession. I should know better than starting my day by reading the news.

My eye catches some commotion outside my large bay window. Squirrels, jackrabbits, cardinals, pigeons and yellow finches have gathered here in this New England backyard to feast on our generously scattered birdseeds. Suddenly, for some reason only known to these creatures, they all disperse in every imaginable direction, like the rays of a shooting star. Read more...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Let’s Eliminate All Taxes

By Tom Kando

I am listening to Chris Matthews and his guests on MSNBC. This is THE left-liberal network, right? Fox’s counterpoint. I expect it to differ from the standard anti-tax, free market ideology which has taken over most of public opinion.

Today, they are discussing the recent stock market decline, including the Dow’s 513 point drop on August 4. And of course, bemoaning America’s economic troubles.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

by Madeleine Kando

While I was cleaning out my basement I found some old, musty boxes stuffed with hundreds of letters. Most of them were written on thin blue Air Mail paper with one edge pre-glued, so that you didn't have to stuff it in an envelope.

I started reading these old old letters. They were from my sister, my mother, my lovers.. Many of them written by people I don't even remember: Ilse, Gerry, Lisa.. Who were they? Was I a good friend to them? Did they also find letters in their basement and tried to remember who this 'Madeleine' was? Read more...