Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Northern Pass, Kiss My ….

by Madeleine Kando

It is Thanksgiving morning and we are driving towards Canada through northern New Hampshire. The road snakes through a landscape dominated by tall pine trees and clean shaven, rolling hay fields which are now covered with a thin sprinkling of snow. This is the North Country, sparsely populated and very poor. It is all land, with a few small towns that seem to have been forgotten by civilization. Houses are few and far between, many of them in need of serious repair. Old barns are left to rot because the cost of demolishing them is too high.

It hasn't changed much since we first started to come here almost 30 years ago to visit our friends the Kaufmans. They own 300 acres which they bought for a song back in their hippie days, got a few horses and after having lived in a tee-pee for years, decided to build a house buried deep inside their property. Our visits to this small corner of the world gives us a sense of security; no matter how tumultuous our lives are back in Boston, the pine trees up here tell us ‘don’t worry, we’ll be here, waiting for you, no matter how long you stay away’. Read more...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Latest Israeli-Palestinian War: You Be the Judge

By Tom Kando

By now, most people are well informed about the latest fight between the Israelis and the Palestinians:

1. The trigger was the assassination by Israel  of Ahmed Jabari, a Hamas military leader. In retaliation, Hamas  started  to lob hundreds of rockets from Gaza onto Israel. In return, Israel began the massive  bombing of Gaza.            

2. As usual, the death toll has been  lopsided:  half a dozen Israelis vs. more than 160 Palestinians. Every Israeli death is avenged by more than 20 Palestinian deaths.

3. Using this criterion leads one to condemn Israel more harshly than Hamas. One moral measure has always been: he who kills the most is the most evil.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Power of Exponential Doubling

By Tom Kando

Here is a  parable: An ancient Eastern Emperor, because he was bored,  ordered his court scholars to invent an exciting  game. One of them came up with the game of  checkers. The emperor  was very pleased. He told the inventor that he would reward him with anything the man wanted. The inventor replied  that his desires were modest. He merely asked  to receive some grains of rice, namely one grain placed on the checker board’s first square, 2 on the second square, 4 on the third, and so on,  doubling the number until the last square of the checker board  was reached.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Across the Carpathians in the Winter Night

By Tom Kando

A few years ago, I spent a winter sabbatical in Eastern Europe. I stayed there for over three months, mostly in Budapest, Hungary, researching post-communist conditions in the former satellites of the Soviet Union. My research also required me to go to adjacent countries, for example the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. One of my side trips was to the Southern Polish city of Krakow. I knew some faculty members at the Jagiellonian University there, and I had made appointments to interview them. I decided to drive there from Budapest in the little Renault Twingo which I had rented in Vienna. Read more...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Don't Bite the Hand that Feeds You: The Truth about Taxes

by Madeleine Kando

We have all heard the expression ‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’, but even though they are both certain, we don’t spend weeks on end agonizing over death every time April comes around. It is taxes that gives us heart palpitations, high blood pressure and other physical ailments. Death actually has the advantage over taxes of being non-negotiable. We cannot fudge the books or take any deductions on death. You cannot hide in an off-shore account, death will find you, trust me.

But what death mostly has going for it is that it’s a lot less complicated than taxes. I found that out the moment I started doing research for this article. So, rather than pretend that I know what I am talking about, I will admit up front that this essay resembles a piece of Swiss cheese with more holes than cheese.

Let me start with the 47%. Was Romney right about the 47%? Yes. There is a large proportion of Americans that do not owe money to the government because they either don’t earn enough, they have too many expenses or because they have a lot of deductions.

Was Romney wrong about the 47%? Yes. The 47% pays payroll tax, state, local and sales tax, gas and property tax. Not only do they pay all these taxes they pay a larger share of their income towards these taxes than the rich. It’s called a ‘regressive tax’. Read more...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What’s Wrong With You, Europe?

by Madeleine Kando

Why are you not more excited about Obama’s re-election? Are you that self-centered that you only look at what the American presidency means to Euro-American relations? Why are you not as excited as I am about America’s narrow escape from a fall into the abyss of a Romney/Ryan/Ayn Rand world?

Are you taking your own social-democratic privileges that much for granted that you don’t see how huge this victory is for America? Read more...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


By Tom Kando


Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Book Review
by Madeleine Kando

Everyone knows that the world is a dangerous place, full of mayhem, murder and calamity. Our instinct tells us to fear strangers, lock our doors at night and not trust anyone outside our immediate circle of friends and relatives. It is also common knowledge that we live in a very dangerous time. Terrorist and extremist groups are sprouting up like mushrooms, waiting for the slightest excuse to blow everyone to smithereens. It's a wonder we still have the guts to lead normal lives: we go to the store, we walk our kids to school and we even go to the movies.

In 'The Better Angels of our Nature', Steven Pinker blows all these pre-conceived ideas with one swell swoop right out of the water. Spanning his arguments across 700 well-documented pages, he shows us that violence in human society has gone down by leaps and bounds and that we now live in the most peaceful time in human history. Read more...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Capitalism: The Party Goes On

By Tom Kando

Today, my wife and I  went shopping for a new refrigerator. We got a miraculous twenty-four  years out of our existing refrigerator, but it’s dying. So we drove to the usual places - stores such as Sears, Lowe’s, Home Depot, RC Willey. These are all massive, nationwide chain stores that sell furniture, appliances and other things. When you enter Lowe’s, the building is so gigantic that you can’t see where it ends. The floor is larger than a football field. Same with RC Willey.What I want to tell you about today is how things looked, while we were out shopping.