Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why Republicans Continue to Win, and Obama is Likely to Lose

By Tom Kando

We have 10% unemployment. Therefore 90% are NOT unemployed. Of course, there is a lot more than 10% hidden unemployment. Still, no-one could argue that an absolute majority of the labor force is unemployed. So by this measure, a majority of the people are more or less “okay,” even though, there is more and more inequality.

Same with having a roof over your head, be it owned or rented. Most Americans are not homeless. By this criterion, too, a vast majority of Americans are “okay.”

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Case against Libertarianism

by Madeleine Kando

As part of an on-going series on economic inequality in America, PBS NewsHour's economics correspondent Paul Solman asked Libertarian Lawyer Richard Epstein: 'Does U.S. Economic Inequality Have a Good Side?'

According to Epstein, a clear advantage is that it creates an incentive to produce wealth and innovation. He gives Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as examples of people who have created products whose value to society far outweighs the compensation they have received. Read more...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The One Percent War *

By Madeleine Kando

We’ve finally done it. Our troops are coming home. Does that mean we have declared peace? You would call it ‘peace’ if this had been a ‘traditional’ war. A war where two opposing armies fight each other. When you declare peace, you usually stop fighting and the warriors lay down their arms, go home and pick up their interrupted lives. There is a peace treaty. The vanquished have to pay, the conquerors reap the bounty.

Unfortunately, this time there is no one to sign a peace treaty with. The enemy is remote. The enemy explodes bombs in a far away place. It kills randomly to ‘prove a point’. Even though it is a lethal enemy, to most Americans it is abstract, an enemy you read about in the papers and hear about on the news. Some people even go as far as to say that the enemy was invented by the conquering army. Read more...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Was the Gilad Shalit Exchange too Expensive?

By Tom Kando

On October 18, the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released by Hamas, after more than 5 years of captivity, in exchange for 477 and eventually 1027 Palestinian prisoners. The young man’s return home was accompanied by great national celebration. There is much rejoicing. I share the joy, and I want to see this in a positive light.

The government of Israel has pledged to its people, whose children must ALL serve in the military, that it will do “EVERYTHING” to secure their freedom in such cases.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

That Used to Be US

How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We can Come Back

Reviewed by Madeleine Kando

Although it is one of the most depressing books I've read in a long time, as a historical document, 'That Used to be Us' co-authored by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, is very informative. The first half explains in concise, well-written prose how America, since the end of the Cold War, has made mistake after mistake by misreading global events and reacting to them in the wrong way. This is partly a result of America's tendency to believe that it is the center of the world and that it is better than other countries. This breeds complacency and creates a skewed view of reality. Read more...

Monday, October 17, 2011


By Tom Kando

It is October 17, 2301: I am commuting to work across the Oakland Bay Bridge, driving on the temporary structure used for traffic while the real Oakland Bay Bridge is being fixed. It was damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. Repairs are approaching completion.

A short while later, I come by the site where they are planning to start America’s first high-speed rail. They haven’t begun building it yet, but the news said recently that a commission is studying the proposal. The first line will be experimental. It will run from San Francisco to Concord, at a cost of $30 billion. It is predicted to be completed by 2353.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

An Ode to Vermont

by Madeleine Kando

We are in beautiful Vermont for Columbus Day weekend. It's that time of year again, when all of New England explodes in an orgy of colors. Indian Summer has come late this year and we have to chase it up the mountain slopes, driving on curvy rural roads, flanked by red barns, black cows and tall silos. The beauty of Vermont is that it is a blend of manicured pastures and majestic hills covered with dense vegetation that is now ablaze with reddish colors in the warm autumn sun. Read more...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


By Tom Kando

We often visit friends overseas, and sometimes they visit us in the US. There is no end to the misunderstandings, disagreements and nonsense between us. A few examples:

Recently, our European friend Rob and his wife Trinette came to see us. Since we live on the West Coast, they had to fly not just over the Atlantic, but also over the U.S. During dinner, Rob observed:

“I noticed when flying over your Midwest that American fields are all square and rectangular, not like European farm fields, which are all crooked and come in all irregular shapes.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fixing America

By Tom Kando

There is a new book by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum titled “That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come back.” (Reviewed by Trudy Rubin, Sacramento Bee, October 5, 2011).

Unfortunately, “the book doesn’t deliver on the last part of the title.” So let me tell America how to solve its problems:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Harrowing Road to Sarlat

By Tom Kando

My wife and I go to Europe a lot. This time we decided to visit the Dordogne for a week, and finish with a week in Rome. We checked out this beautiful region, including its prodigious prehistorical paintings. Replicas at Lascaux, but originals elsewhere, for example in the caves of Ruffignac.

We flew from Amsterdam to Bordeaux, where we landed at 7:00 PM. I had reserved a hotel room in Sarlat. I figured that this town was about a two-hour ride from Bordeaux. So I expected to reach our hotel by 9:30 PM. Not great, but do-able.