Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Secret about Santa's Elves

Like most children, I believed in Santa while I was growing up. Although I was born in Hungary, we soon moved to France, where Santa goes by the name of 'Pere Noel'. Pere Noel wasn't very generous in those days, especially when he came down a poor refugee family's chimney, in the suburbs of Paris. But I was a kid and children are happy with what they get. They only become greedy when they grow up. I often wondered how Pere Noel would react if I caught him in the act. Would he wink at me, say 'ho, ho, ho' and leave me my one present? Or would he frown, do an about face as soon as he saw me staring at him in the middle of the living room?

When my family moved to Holland, I was introduced to the Dutch version of Santa. Over there, Santa plays second fiddle to a far less benevolent character named Sinterklaas. He is a bishop-like figure with a big pointy mitre and a staff. Every 5th of December, he arrives from Spain on a steam boat, accompanied by his 'helpers', all named Zwarte Piet. These are not your run of the mill elves, they are boys with dark skin, unmistakably of the Negroid race. One of these Black Peters is saddled with the difficult choice of selecting which children have been good and which ones have been bad. Candy for the goodie-two shoes and the rod for the baddies. If a child has been particularly bad, he gets stuffed in a canvas bag and shipped back to Spain. No wonder the Dutch are so stoic. Early on they are taught to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Read more...

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Right to Arm Bears

A lot of hunters these days are missing a much needed challenge in their sport, so I have taken the liberty of offering some suggestions to achieve greater equality and add some sorely needed leveling in the playing field of both the hunter and the hunted.

Not only would the following suggestions create more satisfaction amongst hunters, it would have the added benefit of creating a demand for new jobs.

Let’s face it: hunting is not what it used to be, when the hunter only had access to a bow and arrow or a knife. What’s so fun about shooting a deer or a bear from a long distance away? These days rifle technology has advanced to such a degree that I have heard of some hunters recline and smoke a cigarette while their fully automatic guns spotted a target, and boom! All they have to do is stroll over to the felled animal and hoist it onto their hummer. Read more...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Bad Drives out the Good

The basic difference between my conservative friends and myself is that they all subscribe to maximum economic freedom, that is: classical liberalism. Here is a quick list of the chief “markers” of classical liberalism and American-style capitalism:

● The foundation of classical free-market economic theory was laid by Adam Smith (1723-1790).

● One metaphor used by Smith was that of the “invisible hand:” He used this image to describe the self-regulating behavior of the marketplace.

● According to classical liberal theory, the economy that works best is the economy that is left unregulated. To express this, classical liberals such as Adam Smith adopted the expression “laissez-faire” from earlier French economists with similar views.

● By the early and mid 20th century, classical liberal economics were mostly associated with the so-called Austrian school, notably Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) and Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992). The baton was then transferred to American economist Milton Friedman (1912-2006) and his disciple Alan Greenspan (1926- ), who served as chair of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What's So Great About Money?

 There is a new craze: Bitcoin. It’s a new online “currency.” You use it to pay for goods and services. You can buy bitcoins online, with real money, or you can create bitcoins through “mining.” Recently, one bitcoin was worth about $850 (Sacramento Bee, Jan. 17, 2014), but it is very volatile and insecure. While bitcoins are used for some regular transactions, this market is dominated by speculators and it is associated with criminal activity ( Early users have reaped great rewards, reminiscent of Ponzi. In sum, Bitcoin is a new form of gambling, and it is therefore bad and immoral, as all gambling is. Why is gambling bad and immoral?

In the first place, when you gamble, you generally LOSE. After you are done gambling, you have less money than when you started. Secondly, you have nothing to show for your losses - no new clothes, no new car, no fine vacation.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What's in a Face? The Power of Facial Expressions

The human face has about fifty muscles and can generate thousands of facial expressions. How do all these muscles know what to do? Compared to the human arm, the face in motion is like a congested traffic circle with just one traffic cop, the facial nerve, telling the nerve impulses which muscles to contract, to create a smile, a frown or a yawn.

The face has the hardest job of all our body parts. It has to keep us alive and maintain us in good social and emotional health. Without a face we couldn't eat, see, smell or hear, but we have also entrusted our face with the task of expressing our emotions, our desires and needs. It is the most important part of our body for communication.

Living creatures didn't always have a face. At first, it was just a mouth, when we were still happily swimming around in the primordial seas. Our current features took shape after we crawled on land and decided to stand upright instead of walk on all fours. We could now see a lot further and didn't have to rely on our nose so much. Ever since then, our face has become the primary focus of our attention. When we are introduced to someone at a party, we don’t bend down and scrutinize their knees to see what kind of person they are. Read more...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Where is all the Money?

I just looked up (again) per capita GDP in various countries.  This is  well-known stuff. Everyone knows that most of the rich countries are in Europe and North America, and that the  poorest countries are  in Africa. I don’t want to retread this familiar ground.

I want to show you the fallacy of measuring national well-being through this indicator - per capita GDP. First, here is a table that ranks some of the world’s 197 countries by mean/average per capita annual GDP