Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Hillary Clinton Campaign did Everything Right

The Hillary Clinton campaign did NOTHING wrong. As usual, the pundits and the media are wrong. Ever since Trump’s victory, it’s been nothing but Monday morning quarter backing. On December 26, it was David Axelrod interviewing Obama. They agreed that if Obama had been the Democratic candidate, he would have won. Since the November 8 disaster, the media have been saying - nearly unanimously - that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party botched it. Hillary and her Party didn’t listen sufficiently to the plight of struggling working-class white guys, they were too cautious, they were too much into identity politics, they were counting their chickens prematurely, etc.

What is so shameless about these so-called “experts” - and I mean pundits such as the York Times’ David Brooks, anchor people like CNN’s Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper, “analysts” such as liberals David Axelrod and David Gergen, and conservative Charles Krauthammer - is that WITHIN HOURS of the election result, they made a 180-degree about face: Read more...

Friday, December 23, 2016

Will there ever be Peace between Israel and Palestine?

My book club just discussed Susan Abulhawa’s book Mornings in Jenin (2006). I found it  gripping and convincing.

Jenin is a Palestinian city in the West Bank. It is also the site of a major refugee camp, and it suffered a brutal war in 2002.

It is important for people like me to read such a book: I have much sympathy for Israel and I am therefore not sufficiently attuned to the plight of the Palestinians. This book is a reminder of that people’s tragic circumstance over the past seventy years.

The narrative begins in 1947, when the UN approved the partition of Palestine. This led immediately to conflict between Jews and Palestinians. The conflict escalated the following year, when Israel declared its independence, was attacked by, and waged war against the surrounding Arab states.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Benefits of Doubting

Doubt has gotten a bad rap over the course of human history. It has become the whipping boy in the arsenal of our emotions. I am not sure why, because doubt has a lot going for it. In a fair fight, it would win over certainty any time. After all, it has to fight on two fronts in an argument. Like an immigrant worker, it toils away; doing the dirty work that certainty feels too superior to take on.

Here comes certainty strolling down the street, briefcase in hand, stuffed with opinions whose ink is barely dry, immune to all the ugly stares from opposing views, so full of itself, so overconfident. That’s what I hate about it, it’s just too damn sure of itself.

In fact, certainty has caused so much suffering in the world, that anyone with an iota of common sense, should avoid it like the plague. It’s like the bully in the schoolyard, justifying all manner of abuse in its name. Religious fanaticism, Nationalism, Terrorism, they all hysterically wave their respective flag emblazoned with these dreadful words ‘We are certain of our cause’.

Some people will argue that the advise of philosophers like Descartes who tell us to ‘doubt everything’, negates itself, since we should also doubt that advise. Actually, the only thing you cannot doubt is doubting, since that would still make you a doubt. Read more...

Friday, December 16, 2016

Hillary: I Told you So!

Nearly two years ago I published the present article. At that time, it was titled: “The Persecution of Hillary Clinton” The gist of it was that Clinton should not run for the presidency, because she would only get hurt badly and there would be no gain in it for her.

Once again, I have been proven prescient. Of course, I could not have predicted the specific mechanisms of her defeat - for example the last-minute Comey letters, Russia’s role, etc. I did note the widespread use of lies and the fabrication of pseudo-issues by her enemies (Benghazi, the private server, the Clinton Foundation, etc.). I’ll admit that the rise of Trump, Trumpism, the post-truth society, fake news and the astounding advent of pure and unvarnished LYING as the new ACCEPTED norm in political discourse has exceeded my wildest imagination. Even so, I did have a sense of the direction which things were taking and, sorry to say, I have been vindicated. That is why I am (partially) republishing this two-year old article:

For Hillary Clinton, all hell has broken loose. Anyone with half a brain could predict that sooner or later, they were going to start her destruction. The only question was the choice of alleged “crime(s).” Read more...

Hooray for War Babies

For the past week, I have been a casualty of the influenza virus, and spent my time in bed, trying to catch my breath between bouts of coughing and wheezing.

I was transformed into a rusty, choking locomotive, and every night the sandman passed me by, realizing the futility of wasting his precious sand on me. So I spent my nights watching Word War 2 documentaries, to fit my somber mood.

I have almost recovered from my illness, but the obsession with the war has not stopped. After all, I am a war baby. I was born and spent the first 4 years of my life in that part of Europe, where the fighting was at its worst - the Eastern Front. Why cannot I remember? What happened to that part of my life? I was there, in the flesh, but now I am searching for myself in National Geographic documentaries and in big, heavy books that describe the insanity, cruelty and waste of it all.

As I write, I look out onto my lush suburban garden, full of chickadees and goldfinches, fluttering to and fro, enjoying the overflowing birdfeeders, the occasional wild turkey family strutting by and digging for seeds with their powerful claws. How did I get from there to here? Why did I survive and millions did not? In terms of risk factors, I was way up there. I am Jewish on my mother's side, which meant a clear stamp of annihilation approval from the Nazis and the Arrow Cross, until the Russians arrived. Read more...

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Is Empathy a Bad Thing?

The title of Paul Bloom's new book 'Against Empathy:The Case for Rational Compassion' is misleading and if you are a cynic, you might think it is a PR ploy to get people to buy the author's book, which I did.

Bloom is making a case against 'emotional empathy', which he says, is not a good tool to make the world a better place, because of empathy‘s 'spotlight’ effect. It only illuminates what it is pointed at and is not good at addressing ‘large’ problems, like homelessness or inequality or public policy in general.

He also argues that it is easier to feel empathy for someone you know or someone who is more like you than a complete stranger (although as an animal activist, I sometimes feel more empathy for animals than people. They don't look like me but it doesn't prevent me from feeling their pain). In other words, Bloom says that emotional empathy is biased and is not very different from prejudice.

Feeling empathy for hundreds of people at a time is not easy. We are just not wired that way. That's where 'cognitive empathy' comes in: 'our more cold blooded ability to assess what other people are thinking, their motivations and their needs, without necessarily feeling what they are feeling'. This type of empathy is useful in negotiations and in dealing with 'groups'. But even here, isn't the empathy component still essential? It's not like a hungry child suddenly has morphed into a number, just because she is part of a group that needs food aid. You give to that charity because you 'feel' she is hungry, you don't just know it. Read more...

Monday, December 5, 2016

Fake news, Post-truth and Lies

 From very early on in life, we are told that lying is bad and telling the truth is good. These values are imprinted in our genes and they are one of the pillars on which any society is founded, since without truth, there can be no trust and without trust we would soon all be at each other’s throat.

But the past year has shown that the truth is no longer what motivates a large segment of Americans to make political, social or even personal decisions. What Donald Trump has shown is that the truth exists to be manipulated. He has taken the idea that the truth is relative and not absolute to a whole new level.

Plato and Aristotle already argued about this a long time ago. Plato pointed out that relative truth is logically unsound, since it refutes itself. If your truth is different from mine, then I can say that my truth is true and yours is false. Equally, you can say that my truth is false and yours is true, which means that neither one is real. (See: Plato's Critique of Cultural Moral Relativism). Sounds familiar? Does Fox News report the true news or is it the New York Times? No wonder we no longer trust the news.

Who would have thought that the 'information age' would morph into a 'misinformation age', where we have to fact-check everything we read or view. An entire ‘truth detective’ industry has emerged comprised of fact checking sites like and, as well as on-line open source investigation organizations such as Bellingcat. For instance, Bellingcat’s investigation showed that a Buk ‘brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation’ launched the missile that shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in 2004 in which 298 people died. Russia tried to cover up the facts of course. (See: Revelations and Confirmations from the MH17 JIT Press Conference).

Another development is the rise of Citizen Journalism or Guerilla Journalism, described by Wikipedia as "When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another.” In other words, because there is so much toxic information out there, we need these new efforts to make up for the loss of truth. Read more...

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trump's Reich - Part Two: The Consequences

This is the second part of my post-mortem of Trump’s presidential victory:

 As I concluded my previous article, things are likely to change for the worse, MUCH worse. Over the past couple of days, Donald Trump, the media and even president Obama have begun the obligatory “normalization” process. We already hear the kumbaya clichés, “we are all Americans, we are all on the same team” (Obama), “we owe gratitude and respect to Hillary Clinton, who put up a valiant fight,” (Trump), etc. Don’t be misled by Trump’s new mask. The people now marching in the streets of America are not buying it, and neither should you. The Donald is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

As to those who are reluctant to forget and forgive (like me), they tend to predict a dark future, big fighting ahead, but they are short on specifics.

So let me help out here, and be a bit more PRECISE about the pain to come.

What are some of the likely specific consequences of Trump’s ill-gotten victory?

Nothing happens immediately at the macro level. It will be a while before things start to change. But you are in for some very major changes, changes very much for the worse:

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trump's Reich - Part One

Mandate schmandate! Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, as has happened five times before to a candidate who was then robbed of the presidency which he earned (e.g. Gore, 2000). And I believe that in every instance the presidency was stolen from the Democrats.

The national polls - now universally loathed - were not far off. As Nate Silver emphasized over and over again, it’s at the state level that polling was problematic. His last overall prediction (Nov. 8) had Clinton at 48.5% of the national total and Trump at 44.9%. After the California votes have been counted, Clinton may have a million more votes than Trump, so the Five ThirtyEight numbers will be well within the typical statistical error range.

Trump is Right: The system is Rigged. America is not a Democracy: Once again the winner was robbed, the presidency was stolen. The electoral college is an 18th century anachronism that should be abolished. Doesn’t democracy mean one (wo)man = one vote? Why does my vote count for a small fraction of that of someone in Nevada just because I live in California? There have been many undemocratic rules throughout history. For example the three-fifths compromise which counted a black man as worth three fifths of a white man, the poll tax, and many other income requirements for voting.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Canvassing for Hillary

I wrote this story right before our country went dark, before Trump won the elections. It seems eons ago, at a time when life still seemed pretty good in the USA. Now, I am in mourning and like millions of Americans, I am afraid for the future of this country. Still, I am grateful for the privilege of having canvassed for one of the most admirable women in American history. This story is a tribute to Hillary Rodham Clinton and the effort, stamina and courage she has shown. I only wish I could have done more.

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Every morning I sleep walk to my computer to check the polls to see where the elections stand. Those red and blue lines on the polling site 'Fivethirtyeight' have become a daily fix, taking precedence over my morning coffee or even taking a leak before I start my day.

It has become a source of enormous stress. Like the prisoner checking off the days on the wall of his cell with a piece of chalk, I have practically stopped thinking about anything else. I am neglecting my cat and my husband, I don't clean the house and cooking dinner seems like such a trivial thing these days. My OCD personality has been given free reign and it is creating havoc in my life. Read more...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Letter to my Daughters

Dear Leah and Dani:

This is in response to Leah’s text about Hillary Clinton’s plummeting polls. It’s too hard to text an elaborate message on the tiny iPhone, so I send this by e-mail:

Like you, Leah, I have become extremely agitated about this election. Maybe more than you. I need to work hard at not going nuts over this.

I have been tracking the numbers, for instance on Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight site. When one is retired, one has time to do such things.

I have extrapolated Hillary’s average daily decline over the past couple of days: by November 8, she will have lost the election.

So we have to seriously consider that America will have elected a severely unbalanced, politically utterly ignorant “fascistoid” aberrant personality, who has already announced an agenda which will be utterly repressive, unjust, militaristic and plutocratic, which will do NOTHING for the suffering blue collar workers who overwhelmingly vote for him.

We will then have to somehow adjust to an America which, for the first time in its history, is governed by someone with clear fascist characteristics.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Should Hillary make an Impassioned Plea?

 This is our twentieth piece about the Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump race - just this year alone! I apologize for this, and obviously our fixation must come to an end in about a week (half of these pieces were about each of the two candidates, and roughly half were written by me and half by Madeleine).

The “Comey letter” has revived the persecution of Hillary Clinton for the way she has handled her e-mail. This is an unbelievable abuse of power by the FBI chief, whose attack is pure innuendo, an attack which says: “You MAY be guilty of something, but I cannot tell you what it is. Good luck defending yourself.” And to do this 11 days before the election is obviously meant to throw the election to the Republicans. It violates several laws and regulations, including the “60 days rule.” The timing is obviously calculated to inflict maximum damage, as Comey could have written the exact same letter six weeks earlier. The election is rigged indeed, although not the way Trump has alleged. This is a variation on what happened in 2000, when Florida’s Republican secretary of state Katherine Harris stole the presidency from Al Gore and gave it to George W. Bush.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Facts about the Newly discovered Emails

The Players

Anthony Weiner, former congressman
Huma Abedin, personal aide to Hillary Clinton
FBI director James Comey.

(Sorry Donald, Hillary Clinton doesn't appear in this play).

The Facts

• On October 28, FBI director James Comey sends a letter to Republican legislators stating that ‘potential new evidence was discovered related to Hillary Clinton’s handling of her personal email when she was Secretary of State.’

• None of these new emails were to or from Clinton and has virtually nothing to do with any actions taken by Clinton. They were not withheld during the investigation, nor suggest she did anything illegal. Read more...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Hail, Hillary

Born on October 26, 1947, Hillary Rodham Clinton is four years younger than I am. That makes her a ‘baby boomer’, whereas technically, I am a member of the silent generation, since I was born in 1943. But I feel that we are of the same generation, since we both experienced the same world events.

Just to put Hillary in a historical perspective, I have put together the following list of world events that happened after Hillary was born:

NATO was created when she was just learning how to talk and walk. The first hydrogen bomb was tested when she was still playing with dolls. When the Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional, she was finishing Kindergarten. The birth control pill became legal when she was 13. She was 17 when John F. Kennedy got assassinated. When she was 18, Johnson created Medicare, Medicaid, the Food Stamp program and dozens of other programs intended to lift Americans out of poverty. She was 21 when Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. When she was 26, Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. When she was 42, the Berlin Wall fell. During the Gulf War, she was 41. She was 45 when NAFTA was signed. She was 44 on 9/11. When she was 47, we invaded Iraq. She was 60 when she ran against Barack Obama. She is 69 years now, running against Trump. Read more...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Evidentiality: A cure for Trump’s Pathological Lying

In about a quarter of the world's languages, every statement one makes must specify whether you personally witnessed it, heard it from someone else, or inferred it. It is called ‘evidentiality’. It is the evidence one has for the truth of a given statement. Unfortunately, the English language relies on extra words to show how valid the source is of what someone proclaims: “I heard that…” and “I saw.”

But some languages have this evidentiality baked into their language, so that you cannot just say ‘the car drove off the road’. You have to specify: ‘I saw the car drive off the road’, or ‘I heard him say the car drove off the road’, or ‘I heard the car drive off the road’, etc.

In such a language, when Trump says ‘Hillary deleted emails’, it means that he actually saw her delete them. If he only heard or read about it, it would be impossible for him to say ‘Hillary deleted emails’. Nobody would believe him, since everyone knows he never lived with Hillary and was able to look over her shoulder while she was deleting them. In other words, they make a difference between direct experience, inference and conjecture, and the truth of a statement is measured according to these markers. Read more...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Truth about Hillary's Emails

Why did Clinton use her own email account?
For convenience.
Her government colleagues knew she was using her private email account to communicate with them.

Was it allowed? 
It was permitted. Copies had to be sent to the National Archives. They were sent.

Did Clinton use her email to send or receive classified information?
Nothing was marked classified. Only after she left office, were some unclassified emails upgraded to classified, prior to public release, to protect national security.

How did Clinton receive and consume classified information?
As hard copy while in the office.
On a separate, closed email system used by the State Department, while traveling.

Is there a criminal inquiry into Clinton’s email use? No

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Trump Victory would be the Equivalent of an Extinction Level Event

 I am worried that Hillary Clinton may lose the election. Although the revelations about Trump’s sex crimes have been helpful, Hillary remains vulnerable to the daily drip-drip of Wikileaks e-mail releases. Who knows what surprises may yet lurk around the bend.

Here is what is so aggravating: There is no conceivable equivalency between the two candidates. Trump is a reincarnation of Mussolini, a fascist, a psychopathic monster, a sexual predator and a criminal. Clinton is a highly competent and decent human being and politician. There is ZERO equivalency between these two individuals’ misdeeds and character flaws. NONE of the “revelations” which have been demanded from her for the past several YEARS has shown one single serious offense. Not “Benghazi,” not the flap over her use of a private server, not the wikileaks about her Wall Street speeches and communications by the National Democratic Party. She released 30,000 of her e-mails, and deleted 30,000 messages. So? I, too, have dozens of thousands of e-mails. I, too, have deleted dozens of thousands of messages. We all have.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Humanity's Future: The Next 25,000 Years

Hi Folks:

About a month ago I let you know about my new book with the above title. At that time, I provided you with a link which enables you to purchase a POD (Print on Demand) copy from Amazon for $9.99. Now, I want you to know that you can also get an electronic version of my book for a mere $2.99 by clicking on the following link: Kindle Store; Humanity’s Future

As I wrote last month, this book is an experiment. Like most people, I grew up on Star Trek in its many generations, Star Wars, and innumerable other science fiction materials, from optimistic classics such as Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 to a variety of apocalyptic prognoses.

What we Can Learn from America: An Optimistic Story about the Promised Land

A book review by Madeleine Kando and Tom Kando

Rick Nieman, a Dutch journalist who has lived and studied in the United States, recently published this charming and well-written book about his impressions and views of America. He comes to the conclusion that Holland can learn a lot from the US.

The most significant point in his book is that America, unlike Holland, is a country of 'dreamers'. Not in the sense that Americans have unrealistic hopes for the future. Americans, in fact, are pragmatists and they believe that starting out with nothing, you still can make your life better. They believe in the future.

It is the idea that many things are possible, which is typical of a young country. Nieman compares America to a teenager and Europe to an older uncle, who could learn from his young nephew. America, he says, is a nation that believes in its own power to change the world and itself in it.

What the Dutch admire the most about America is its freedom, both physical and social. This freedom is a result of a long struggle to kick out the British rulers. The Founding Fathers realized that total anarchy would not be a good idea, so they conceded to have some parts of society controlled by a government: Safety and foreign affairs, but not much else. Compare that to Europe’s history where the opposite took place. Bit by bit, the King or Emperor gave their subjects a few freedoms and kept adding to them. Europeans are used to being governed centrally, whereas Americans want self-governance, and minimal meddling from government in their affairs. Read more...

Friday, October 7, 2016

Thomas Piketty on Trump

This is a translation of Piketty’s latest post on his blog. It is important to listen to the opinion of one of the most important economists in the world and how he views the Trump Phenomenon. You can find the original article here: 

In less than two months, the US will have a new president. If Donald Trump wins, it would be a catastrophe for his country and for the world. Racist, vulgar, in love with himself and his fortune, he embodies what is worst in America. And the fact that Hillary Clinton had so much trouble leaving him behind in the polls concerns us all.

Trump's strategy is classic: it convinces the poor white voters, battered by globalization that their enemy is the poor black, the immigrant, the Mexican, the Muslim, and that everything will be better once the great white billionaire gets rid of them.

His strategy is to exacerbate racial and identity conflict so as to avoid the issue of class conflict, which would require him to explain his wealth. This predominance of ethnic divisions plays a central role in the history of the United States, and explains in large part the weakness of solidarity and of the American welfare state. Trump simply pushes this strategy to its limits, but with several major innovations. Read more...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Real Red Riding Hood

I just spent two weeks in Little Red Riding Hood's house. It is as tiny as you imagined it, reading about her in those children's books. It sits at the end of a country lane, in the middle of the 'polders' in the Northern tip of Holland, since this is where Red Riding Hood has moved to in her golden years. She still wears her red cape, but only when she goes out in the windy Dutch weather. It gives her silvery grey hair, of which she is particularly proud, an extra shiny appearance. She hasn’t grown much since you read about her, but her hips and thighs betray her age; they have settled in a comfortable voluptuousness, which actually gives her a specially endearing appearance.

The bricks on Little Red Riding Hood’s house are painted white with all the window trims a bright shade of red. The tiles on the roof are the color of fresh squeezed oranges, matching the bricks that form a little path around her house.

A large chestnut tree is standing guard, so close to the house, that its large leaves brush against the windows, as if to say 'don't worry Little Red Riding Hood, I'll protect you when the Northern wind comes.’ But sometimes it is the wind that wins the battle, pelting the orange roof with large chestnuts that it has ripped off this beautiful, old tree. Read more...

Monday, September 12, 2016


I am angry. Angry is the perfect description of how I feel about Trump. I remember my high-school days when I was bullied beyond description, but had no recourses to protect myself from the continuous barrage of insults, intimidations, humiliation and abuse.

This is how I feel about the Trump phenomenon. I say ‘phenomenon’ because it is no longer this one disgusting individual that I am angry at. The root of my anger has kept pace with the spread of the disease. Like cancer, you first notice it in one small part of your body, so you can focus your anger on your left breast, but soon it has spread to your lungs and your kidneys.

Now it’s not just your breast that is worthy of your anger, it is the polls, TV, newspapers and the radio. There is so much time spent discussing, analyzing and ‘understanding’ the Trump beast, but I know deep down that these are all feeble attempts at rationalizing something that is pure evil. Like trying to understand what goes on in the mind of a murderer. Does it help? Not an iota. In fact, it is counter-productive.

What does help is ANGER! Anger is the only solution when someone is trying to destroy civil society. Don’t we realize what kind of monster we are facing? Are we too civil to respond with the only effective defense?

If you are faced with evil, the first line of defense is to call it by its name. Then, once you have done that, you have entered a zone where only you and your opponent matter. There are no ‘extenuating circumstances’. That is what Hillary Clinton doesn’t understand. You have to fight dirty and if the dirt smears off on you, so be it.

I’d rather have a dirty Hillary than a Trump as President. What about you? leave comment here Read more...

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Do Polls Shape Public Opinion?

Like many of you, I have been trying to make sense of the Trump phenomenon. How did we get to the point where almost half of the American voting public considers electing a buffoon as our next Commander in Chief?

There are many theories out there trying to explain this: 1. He speaks to the anger of many Americans who are disillusioned politically and suffer economically. 2. He fills a power vacuum in the Republican Party. 3.The sheer volume of media coverage has turned into a self-perpetuating cycle. Etc.

It is also possible that Trump’s incredible power of self-promotion has created the dreaded ‘feedback loop’. Political scientists point to a strong correlation between media coverage and a rise in the polls, especially early on in a campaign. And being chosen to participate in the primary debates also depends on where you stand in the polls. In other words, one step rests on the previous one, which has resulted in Trump’s mystifying success.

It also helps that he talks about every issue in vague terms, leaving room for interpretation of what he says to fit many foot sizes. His BS is an intentional maneuver to disorient and take the sails out of his opponents’ rebukes. He is a master strategist. Maybe it is true that he knows more about the military than the generals.

Unfortunately, the same feedback loop has also caused Hillary to get trapped in a negative spiral. Negative stories about her have been talked about over and over again, ad nauseam. Trump’s response to accusations is to not admit guilt, ignore the accusation and move on to something else.

The real problem with polling is that the results of the polls in one area affect people’s opinion in another part of the country. This is terrible. You get either a self-fulfilling or a self-defeating prophecy. In psychology they call it the ‘bandwagon effect’, when people do something primarily because other people are doing it, especially when they are uninformed.

Is it a coincidence that Trump’s current campaign manager is a pollling expert? Manipulating the ‘will of the people’ is Trump’s middle name, and he is incredibly good at it. He knows that polling not only measures public opinion, but also SHAPES it. leave comment here Read more...

Friday, September 9, 2016


A Travel Journal

After a 6-hour flight from snowy Boston, I land at the airport in Belize City, sweating like a pig in my turtleneck sweater. It is quite a change from the huge hubs in the US; a small building with brightly colored walls where small, old men are having fast food dishes on the benches. I get my boarding pass for the plane that will take me to  Ambergris Caye.

Ambergris Caye is Belize's largest island, known for its scuba diving in the Barrier Reef with its famous 124 meter-deep Great Blue Hole. I have committed myself to a 7-day diving package at a five-star resort, where I will meet up with my daughter Aniko and my favorite niece Leah, both avid divers.

The plane finally arrives, about the size of a large car, I would say. The seats are made for midgets and they squeeze as many of us in as they can. Once the last passenger has wormed her way to the front into the co-pilot’s seat, the tiny wheels on this flying motorcycle start rattling and furiously turning as we gather speed.

Against all odds we are suddenly airborne. The view is magnificent; the ocean is blindingly blue. We fly over lagoons, large patches of algae and in about 20 minutes we approach San Pedro, the main town on the Cayes. Soon the wheels get slammed down with a loud clatter on the runway of a tiny airport, not much bigger than a backyard. Read more...

Accusing Hillary

 As long as this wretched campaign goes on, I have to keep participating in the debate and add my two-bits worth so as to impact the scale and hope to make a contribution to Clinton’s victory over Donald:

On Sept. 7, we saw Matt Lauer’s inept and unfair handling of the Clinton-Trump Commander-in-Chief Forum. He held Clinton’s feet to the fire, spending nearly half the time grilling her about her e-mails. On the other hand, he let Trump get away with major lies, including his denial of having supported the Iraq war.

The “Hillary-is-a-liar” has now become a cultural MEME with a life of its own, embraced by most of the media. It is out of control. It is hardly questioned any longer. When it is, as done for example by Paul Krugman on September 5, (see his “Hillary Clinton Gets Gored”), the questioner himself gets crucified.

But this knee-jerk prejudice is itself the biggest lie. As we showed a few weeks ago (Mirror, mirror on the Wall) Hillary Clinton is among the more truthful and honest politicians around. Read more...

Monday, September 5, 2016

Humanity's Future: the Next 25,000 years

 Dear People: This is to let you know that I have just published a new book, with the above title.

Here is part of the preface:
This book is an experiment. Like most people, I grew up on Star Trek in its many generations, Star Wars, and innumerable other science fiction materials, from optimistic classics such as Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 to a variety of apocalyptic prognoses. All of these are fairly specific.

What I have always wanted to do is write a general, comprehensive (pseudo-)history of the entire future, a total extrapolation of what we, humans, have been doing so far. I also wanted to give the story a positive twist, one that places us, humans, at the center, and which relies on US to be the solution rather than the problem. So this is it. An experiment, an attempt to describe the WHOLE picture. Ambitious, I’m sure. But pretty unique and provocative, I hope.

The story evolves from mundane, early 21st century contemporary politics to a cosmic apotheosis. The first chapters examine the struggles of current nation states, with a special focus on the United States. Presidential successions, immigration, the economy, the energy crisis, the war on terrorism, etc.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why Are Some Countries Good and Some Bad at the Olympics?

No matter how much this is denied, most people probably link Olympic success with some sort of national, moral superiority. Medals equal national pride. Well, this is precisely the idea  which I will NOT touch with a ten-foot poll in the present article. What I DO want to do is offer some OTHER explanations, or at least correlates, of Olympic success and failure. This is pop sociology, speculation meant to draw your interest.

This year, once again, the usual countries dominated the medal count. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has usually been dominant, with China rising as somewhat of a competitor in recent years. During the Cold War, the Soviets and their vassals (particularly East Germany) were in the forefront of the medal count, thanks to massive cheating.

At first, a country’s most obvious advantage seems to be a large population: The top eight countries in the overall medal count - the US, the UK, China, Russia, Germany, France, Japan and Italy - are all among the world’s twenty most populous nations. However, such rankings are unfair, as they do not take population size into account. Is China, with nearly a billion and a half people, not entitled to more medals than Grenada, with a population of 100,000? (There are fourteen thousand times as many Chinese as Grenadians!).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Aetna Leaves Obamacare: A Public Option is the Answer

Aetna, one of the major insurance companies in the country, is pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges in 11 of the 15 states where it currently offers plans.

The reason the company gives, is that it is losing money selling insurance to individuals who are in need of more care than was anticipated. But some experts (including economist Paul Krugman) say that it is vindictiveness after antitrust authorities turned down a proposed merger between Aetna and Humana.

Now, why they are losing money is confusing. They say that there are not enough healthy people to financially offset those with major health problems who require high-cost care.

So, what happened to the ‘Individual Mandate’? Isn’t there a requirement that everybody gets health insurance or pay up to $2000 in penalty? (in 2017). Does it not get enforced? Are there too many exemptions? Wasn’t the whole point of the ACA to make health insurance cheaper and available to more Americans?

Whatever the reason, that means that over 800,000 people on the exchanges will have to look for alternatives and in some areas of the country, there isn’t much to choose from. You wonder how that can possibly be legal, that health insurance companies are allowed to stop providing coverage in the name of profit. Read more...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Mirror, mirror on the Wall, who is the Biggest Liar of them All?


 Trump and his supporters (Giuliani, Hannity, Christie, campaign manager Paul Manafort, campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson, etc.) Do two things: (1) They lie, and (2) They don’t know what they are talking about.

The lies are blatant and repeated over and over until some people, and eventually most people, will start to believe them. We now need to check every fact and statement uttered by the candidates and although Hillary Clinton has acquired the adjective “crooked,” it is Trump who lies the most by far. See Politifact’s Lying Scoreboard. 

Here is but a fraction of the lies that the Trump has disseminated about Hillary:

1. In early August, Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton had a plan to raise the middle class’ taxes. His ads spliced and doctored a speech in which Hillary Clinton announced exactly the OPPOSITE, namely that she will NOT raise the middle class’ taxes. The news clippings used by the Trump campaign simply cut off the word “NOT.”
Rudolph Giuliani has shamelessly used the same falsified footage to lie about Hillary Clinton and to accuse her of saying exactly the OPPOSITE of what she actually said. Read more...

Monday, August 8, 2016

Fractal Geometry and Insomnia: A Heavenly Combination

The famous Mandelbrot Set

Falling asleep is an elaborate process for an insomniac. Your mind starts fighting with your body, like a boxing match. I have tried many things in the past: deep breathing, soothing music, dark curtains, white noise. None of it worked. But recently I have developed a routine, which shows some promise of success.

The very first thing I do, is barricade my bedroom door with a row of cotton balls dabbed with citrus, a smell that my cat hates. That way, she won’t scratch at my door the minute I close it. It’s not like she has a need for space, since the whole house has become cat territory, but she won’t even allow me to time-share my own bedroom at night.

Once I am barricaded, I make sure my head rests comfortably on my favorite pillow, the one with the flower cover. But the piece de resistance in my quest for sleep, is the psychedelic Youtube movies that I have been watching: psychedelic tunnels, mandala movies, and moved on to ‘electric sheep’,

which is a genre of computer animation that is very beautiful and totally psychedelic and finally ended up with the cream of the crop, called ‘fractals’. I was hooked. It became my nightly drug of choice.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Conversation with a Trumpite

The health spa to which I belong is in Republican territory. On most days, most of the TV screens facing the treadmills and life cycles are turned on Fox News - except mine, which is either on MSNBC or on C-SPAN.

I have many friends at this club, some liberal, some conservative. I engage in daily small-talk with them. In this heated election season, it is impossible to avoid politics. We don’t fight, we just engage in friendly banter.

Today, I chatted with my friend Joe, a rabid Trump supporter. Joe is a friendly old-timer who immigrated to America from Eastern Europe over half a century ago. Our conversation started when he informed me how much he liked Trump. I replied that in my view, Trump is insane and that his election will be a great disaster for America and for the world.

Joe of course had to come back at me. He began to enumerate all the reasons why he admired Trump, and he then moved on to saying that Obama is the worst president we have ever had.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The New Order

 The Democratic Convention is supposed to boost Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. However, it seems that neither the mainstream media nor the Sanders die-hards are willing to give her a fair chance. As the election approaches, both of these groups continue to throw up obstructions to the coalescence of a unified progressive campaign, which would be the sine qua non to defeat Trump. They do everything in their power to prevent any surge of unified support for Clinton. Meanwhile, Trump’s chances are getting better every day. Make no mistake about it: He is overtaking Clinton at the polls. At the present rate, he WILL be your next president!

The latest distraction is the Debbie Wasserman-Schultz e-mails allegedly showing a bias for Hillary Clinton. Big deal! If it’s not one thing, it’s another. The mainstream media have long been in a full National-Enquirer mode. Because ratings, sales and readership are their paramount concern, scandal mongering dominates everything they do - at all times, and regardless of the consequences. Political campaign coverage is now 90% about the alleged scandal du jour. At no point will the media allow the electorate to evaluate a candidate on her MERITS and those of her political agenda. Time is running out for Hillary Clinton. The media and the Sanders faction will not permit her to present herself and her agenda to the public, so that it may judge her on substance. Read more...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The 2016 Republican Convention: Several Instances of Mass Hysteria

Mass hysteria happens when there is a group of people who fall into a collective delusion. There have been several cases of mass hysteria throughout history, the most famous of which are the witch-hunts, which lasted more than 200 years. Countless innocent women were executed.

Here is a list of fictitious epidemics that are not such a far cry from what is really happening to the insane crowd that populates the Convention Hall in Cleveland.

The Phantom Pregnancy Panic

An extremely rare form of mass hysteria gripped the attendees of the 2016 Republican National Convention, when 34 year-old Ivanka Trump announced that she was expecting a baby. This is, of course, false. Whatever the case, Ivanka’s incredibly convincing personality was enough to trigger a pregnancy panic. By the third day of the Convention, numerous female attendees said that they too were pregnant and caused a ruckus in the Convention hall. Only the constant reassurance by their supreme leader, Donald Trump, that they were never pregnant in the first place did the women finally calm down.

The Vanishing Genitalia Epidemic

Although their nominee, Donald Trump, had guaranteed them that no matter what the size of his hands, ‘I guarantee you, there’s no problem down there’, an episode of vanishing genitalia caused widespread fear amongst the attendees. These fears were usually triggered by incidental body contact with a Democrat in a public place, after which the “victim” would feel strange scrotum sensations and grab their genitals to confirm that they were still there. Read more...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Donald Trump, the GOP, the Media, and the Public: Plenty of Blame for All

American politics have descended into lunacy. The weird gyrations at the Republican Convention remind me of the Saint Vitus epidemic in 17th century Europe, an earlier attack of mass insanity. No need to rehash things: Melania Trump’s plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s speech was relatively unimportant, but the Trump people’s (e.g. Paul Manafort’s) reaction to the ensuing flap was absolutely “amazing,” to use the Donald’s favorite word. Never have I seen such contortions by people in desperate denial.

The Trumpites’ reaction to ANY accusation boils down to three tactics: (1) deny it; (2) change the subject; (3) blame Hillary Clinton.

Then there was Chris Christie’s witch-hunt: He accused Hillary Clinton of being to blame for the American deaths in Benghazi, the kidnapping of hundreds of young girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria, the deaths of some of the 400,000 Syrians killed by president Assad, protecting Al Qaeda affiliates, and much more. As he recited this litany, the hordes of delegates chanted “guilty!” and “lock her up!” A veritable lynch mob or medieval witch-burning mob.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Is Time Reversible?

I was in the midst of a belated spring-cleaning in my house and suddenly found myself confronted with boxes full of photographs. The past was oozing out of those boxes and I couldn't stop the flow. Being the child of a photographer, this is hardly surprising, but it really felt like a tsunami, to the point where I had to remind myself that these snapshots weren’t real. These moments were gone, flushed away in the stream of the river of time.

Since the birth of photography, the past has had free entrance to the present; no more borders so to speak. Like the Schengen Agreement between the EU countries, the past can go anywhere it pleases, even into the future if it wants. My grandson will be rummaging through these boxes, wondering what happened to this young, beautiful 20-year old woman and how she managed to turn into this old, wrinkled person whom he calls ‘Oma’.

Before the birth of photography, people had to rely on rare and expensive paintings to look into the past, which most of them couldn’t afford. The majority of people relied on their memories to conjure up the past, but otherwise it just stayed conveniently hidden. The past knew its place and didn’t infringe on the present. Read more...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Coming Home

I travel to Europe at least twice a year and have become very familiar with the routine of clearing customs and immigration on my way back to the States. Even though I emigrated to this country eons ago, the butterflies are still fluttering about in my stomach as soon as I enter Immigration Hall, with its red and green line marked on the shiny floor.

I was stateless for the first 18 years of my life, you see, and I have an irrational fear that the boot of the law suddenly would decide to kick me back from whence I flew.

That long red line conjures up a whole smorgasbord of emotions. I feel a tinge of superiority as I walk by the much longer green line packed with aliens. I am no longer an alien, my green card proves it. I am a member of the club now, albeit not an elite member yet. I throw unobtrusive glances at my fellow club members and try to adopt their nonchalant and casual air. Americans are like that, you know, they talk to each other in public places, they don’t put on airs. They feel comfortable in their own shoes, probably the result of a century’s worth of being the top dog in the world. Read more...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

It’s all about the ‘The’

The word ‘the’ is the most commonly used word in the English language. We don’t give it a second thought; it’s there, like the air we breathe or the water we drink. Actually, it’s not really a word like ‘butter’ or ‘table’, since it can not even stand on its own two feet. If a ‘the’ walked through the door, you wouldn’t know what you were dealing with. At least with a table or a chair, you know where you stand, but a ‘the’? You’d be waiting for the rest of the retinue to appear before you could make sense of the visitor.

The 'A'

The ‘the’, together with the ‘a’ and the ‘an’ make up the articles of the English language. Even though they are useless on their own, these little function words pretty much determine what people are talking about. If my husband came in and said ‘A guy just hit a car’, it might elicit a slight shoulder shrug, but if he said: ‘A guy just hit the car’, I would drop the plate I was holding in my hands and run outside to assess the damage. Read more...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Who is the stupidest now?

by Tom Kando

Just a few words about Thursday’s Brexit disaster: As the American comedian Andy Borowitz just wrote, the British have lost the right to claim that Americans are dumber than they are:

“Luxuriating in the superiority of their intellect over Americans” has long been a favorite pastime in Britain... But, according to Alistair Dorrinson, a pub owner in North London, British voters have done irreparable damage to the ‘most enjoyable sport this nation has ever known: namely, treating Americans like idiots’....In the face of this startling display of national idiocy, Dorrinson still mustered some of the resilience for which the British people are known. ‘This is a dark day’ he said. ‘But I hold out hope that, come November, Americans could become dumber than us once more.’ How will America reclaim the title? Obvious: Elect Donald Trump as our 45th president. Read more...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Gun Dilemma

If I was a burglar and I tried to make a living in the Netherlands, I probably would have a real hard time getting a hold of a gun to convince the burglarized to hand over the loot. It would take a lot of effort, money and time, so I probably would burgle without packing iron and hope for the best.

If I was a burglar and I lived in the United States, it would make sense for me to have a gun. It's easy to get, it's cheap and any self-respecting burglar wouldn't think twice about carrying. If you have to invade someone's property anyway, why not make sure that you have the upper hand? Not to mention the unexpected possibility that the victim might himself be walking heavy.

So you see, it all depends on the context. Do I, the burglar, need a gun to accomplish my mission? Were I a burglar with philosophical inclinations, I would try to find the answer before I ventured on my first prowl. Read more...

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Switzerland Votes Against Universal Basic Income

Switzerland recently rejected a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all. This would guarantee that all citizens or families have an income sufficient to live on, provided they meet certain conditions. It was not expected to pass, but the mere fact that it was on the ballot is significant.

Although Switzerland is the first nation to propose such a plan, it has been experimented with on a smaller scale in various locations. In the late 70's, the Mincome Project was run in Canada, to determine whether a guaranteed, unconditional annual income would be preferable to a welfare system and its negative effect on people's willingness to work. The pilot program showed that, contrary to what people feared, guaranteeing a minimum income did not result in people working less. It showed improved health and many other benefits. Another pilot project is underway in Finland, where around 10,000 people could soon be receiving €550 each month. Read more...

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lessons from the June 12 Orlando Massacre

● So far this year, 50 Americans have been murdered by radical Islamists in the US. During the same period, about 7,000 Americans have been murdered by “common,” “regular” criminals, including 161 who died from mass shootings. See:Mass Shootings.

● Omar Mateen was born in the US, so the “Trumpian” proposal to keep Muslim immigrants out wouldn’t have helped. You may say, yes, but his parents came from Afghanistan, so if THEY had been kept out, the Orlando massacre would not have happened. By such reasoning, we need to figure out how many Americans are murdered every year by children of immigrants.

● This massacre will help Trump’s quest for the presidency.

● Radical Islam IS a problem.

● People who, like former UN ambassador John Bolton on Fox News today, say that the fight against terrorism is a WAR are wrong. Terrorism is a CRIME, not a war.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Hillary Clinton and Misogyny

The visceral, irrational hatred for Hillary Clinton shared by millions of men stems from one basic fact: They feel THREATENED.

For the first time, we are on the verge of electing a woman to the most powerful position in the world. This is incredibly threatening to most men, particularly because of the kind of woman Hillary Clinton is.

Misogyny, you see, does not mean hatred for all women. It means hatred for UPPITY women. Submissive women are fine.

Consider this mentality in historical perspective. There was a time when women,  particularly highly competent women, were at great risk: From Cleopatra and  Joan of Arc to Anne Boleyn and the innumerable women who were persecuted, tortured and killed in the past, what many of them had in common was that they were not submissive, and that they were ABOVE average in aptitude, intelligence, strength and courage. This was their unforgivable sin. They were THREATENING  to the rulers of the world, i.e. to MEN. Their tormentors were possessed by a mixture of fear, desire, envy and guilt. They were subconsciously aware that their victims were innocent as well as far better human beings than themselves, and they hoped that destroying the victims would free them from those nagging feelings.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Violence, Racism and Law Enforcement


As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently did a police ride-along, and I observed nothing but stellar professional behavior by the peace officers. And yet, we hear and read a lot about police brutality and racism.

In America, the police kill an inordinate number of people. This is widely known, regardless of the source you use. According to Police in US Kill Citizens at over 70 Times the Rate of Other First-World Nations, the number for 2014 was 1,140. That same year, German cops killed 7 people. The rates for other comparable countries - Canada, the UK, Japan, Australia, etc. - are similar to Germany’s. America’s total number is even higher than China’s, which has four times more people.

The Nordic Model: Should we be more like Scandinavia?

When Mitt Romney was caught bemoaning the 47% of Americans who don't pay income tax, he was actually telling the truth. That is because America, contrary to popular belief, has by far the most progressive income tax system of any developed country. Europe, although it has overall higher taxes, has a less progressive tax system than America.

Progressive taxes means that the more you earn, the higher the percentage of your income goes to paying taxes. In the US, if you are single, under 65 years old and make less than $10,300, you don’t have to pay any income tax. In Sweden, if you make less than $2,400 you are exempt. Both systems are progressive, but in Sweden people start paying taxes at a much lower level of income.

Here are the tax brackets for the US compared to Sweden. As you can see, the burden on the ‘middle class’ is higher in Sweden, which makes it less progressive. The median income is approximately the same, which gives the Swedish government much more revenue from income taxes compared to America. (I will not go into all the deductions that will change these figures. They apply both to Sweden and the United States). Read more...

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Is English a Killer Language?

Every time I visit Holland, the country where I grew up, it takes me a few days to adjust to speaking, hearing and reading in a language that is no longer natural for me. It feels like I have stepped into a pair of shoes that don't quite fit me any more. Lucky for me, it just takes a gentle nudge and most people I meet will switch to English, sparing me the effort to adjust to them. Let them do the work, my reasoning goes. After all, who doesn't speak English in our civilized world, right?

This must sound like nails scraping down a blackboard to you, and of course I don't mean a word of it, but it is true that English has become the lingua franca, the dominant 'inter' language of the world. You meet a nice French gentleman, but you don't speak Francais? Never fear, English is here. Russians communicate with Spaniards, Germans sprechen with Italians, all thanks to English. Read more...

Friday, May 27, 2016

My Ride-along with the Police: A very Positive Experience

I recently went on a police ride-along - again. As a professor of criminal justice, I have done many ride-alongs, as well as taught in the state prison system, and I spent innumerable hours doing field-work in juvenile and other correctional facilities. Just so you know that I am not all academic armchair theory.

For the shift to which I was assigned, it began with roll call in early afternoon at police headquarters. There were about two dozen officers, including three or four women and a few “non-Caucasians.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising - A Terribly Not Funny Movie

 My wife and I made a mistake. We went to see “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” We did this on the second day the movie was out, after reading the rave review it received from Katie Walsh, of the Tribune News Service (Sacramento Bee, May 20), who gave the film the maximum four stars.

I found the movie rarely funny, and always in catastrophically bad taste. The opening sets the tone, when Seth Rogen and his wife Rose Byrne are in bed, attempting to make love, and she barfs all over his face. This is toilet humor, or what the French call pipi-caca humor. I have never found jokes about vomiting, farting, pissing or diarrhea funny, not even when I was eight years old.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Archie Bunker is Alive and Well, and Still Slinging His Ethnic Insults

We have a couple of groups of friends with whom we often get together. One group, in particular, travels overseas a lot, so the conversation is often about various nationalities and foreign countries. What is mind boggling is that this group is also exceptionally ethnocentric.

These people enjoy ridiculing many categories of foreigners, but one ethnicity upon which it is absolutely open season are the Italians. It’s not clear why, and it is very unwelcome, in that one of us is partially Italian-American. Since the group is very aware of this fact, the incessant anti-Italian barbs can only be a form of sadism, a form of bullying. Their “jokes” are the usual racist vulgarities - Italians are dirty, lazy, they are thieves, etc. The more alcohol these people consume, the worse it gets.

You may ask, why do we even bother to BE with such people? The truth is, we have compromised ourselves. We fear that if we are excessively “pure” in our moral judgments, we’ll end up without very many friends... Also, naively, we have thought we could perhaps educate these people, the way schools try to educate bullies. This is probably a lost cause, as bigots are usually set in their ways. Worse yet, when these individuals see that you are upset by their comments, they do not apologize. It’s a very uncomfortable situation for the few in the group who do not engage in such insults.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Century's Worth of Living (Part 4)

copyright: Ata Kando

When I was six, I went on a hunger strike. I don't exactly remember what I was protesting, but it was one of the few weapons I had in my six-year old arsenal to protest the injustices that were done to me. I am a twin and my mother had the habit of always buying two of the same things; two identical dresses, two identical coats, two identical haircuts, so I was probably protesting my mother's decision to give the red one of two new dresses to my sister, which left me with the yellow one.

If you are not a twin, you cannot possibly know how much competition is involved. The thought of my sister in that red dress and me next to her looking like a canary was too much. The only way I could feel somewhat in control of my fate, was to stop eating. My sister’s far more effective strategy to get what she wanted, was to cry. Not just a sad little girly cry but a wolf cub howling kind of cry. Something told me that if we both adopted the howling strategy, it would backfire. Besides, I was the ‘quiet’ one, the ‘shy’ one. I just didn’t have it in me to howl. I preferred the passive aggressive approach. Not eat, give people the silent treatment, get them to guess what was wrong with poor Madeleine. Read more...

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Trump Redux

Time to talk about “the Donald” again. Things are getting ominous!

I am not going to rehash his racism, sexism and xenophobia, which are documented and commented upon by the media on a daily basis.

Nor do I want to reiterate his personality flaws. It’s obvious that he is, in Marco Rubio’s words, about as vulgar a candidate as we have ever had, that he is a narcissist with a mental age and the vocabulary of a thirteen-year old, that he is embarrassingly inarticulate, and that his knowledge of the international world, of history, of society, of science, of political and economic systems is that of a high-school student. All of this is being discussed by the pundits and by others non-stop.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Intruders

I sometimes envy my mother. She is as deaf as a doornail, but what do you expect at her age? She is going to be 103 in a few months. At least she has a permanent acoustic guard on duty, although barring entrance to any sound might be too much of a good thing. It’s different for me. Short of wearing earplugs or buying an expensive noise-cancelling headset, I am exposed to all sorts of unwelcome acoustic intruders.

Noises are part of living, you’ll say and suggest I see a shrink instead of waste your time writing about my predicament. You might conclude that I am suffering from ‘misophonia’**, the hatred of sound. But I am not averse to sounds in general; I forgive sounds that cannot help being sounds, like the sound of traffic, or police sirens. And I couldn’t live without music. Read more...

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Casanova of the Pyrenees

Pyros (Greek for ‘fire’), a.k.a. ‘the Stud’
Species: Ursus Arctos (a.k.a. Grizzly)

Pyros is a 500-pound alpha bear, born in Slovenia. He was relocated to the Pyrenees in 1997 as part of an effort to bring back the bear population. Hunters killed the last remaining native bear, a female called Cinnamon, so two Slovenian bears, Ziva and Mellba, both already pregnant were brought in, followed by the dominant male Pyros.

Pyros saw, came and boy, did he conquer. He sired over 30 little boy and girl Pyros and is still going strong as a geriatric bear at the ripe old age of 29.

Sponsored by French actor Gerard Depardieu (no relation to Pyros, appearances notwithstanding) he has become a symbol of virility. Spanish Pyros fans started a Twitter account under his name identifying him as the “father of all the bears” and the French call him “the stud of the Pyrenees”. Read more...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

On Phobias, Philias and other Etymologies

Like most people, I have some phobias, as well as a number of philias: This means that there are things which I like, and things which I dislike. Duh.

Etymologically, the words we use for people’s (pathological) likes and dislikes (or fears), usually contain the postfixes “-phobia” and “-philia,” or the prefix “mis-.”

These are derived from Greek:
Phobos: Fear
Philia: (Brotherly) Love
Misos: Hatred

For example: Philadelphia: The City of Brotherly Love:
Philos = Friend
Adelphos = Brother

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Did the Democratic Party Forsake the Middle Class?

In his new book ‘Listen, Liberal or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People’, author Thomas Frank (‘What's the Matter with Kansas?) points out that the Democratic Party’s historical role of protecting the working middle class has all but vanished. Since the 80’s, many policies implemented by both Republican and Democratic administrations have hugely benefited the ‘professional class’ as well as the ‘business class’. By ‘professional class’ Frank refers to affluent professionals, lawyers, doctors, investment specialists, etc. This class is very liberal in a cultural sense, but very conservative economically.

The shift in policy in the Democratic Party came after George W. Bush’s victory, when the ‘New Democrats’ tried to be centrist by combining right-wing economic policy with left-wing social policy, which they called the ‘Third Way’.

Frank is especially harsh on Bill Clinton. He was the prototypical New Democrat. He signed the NAFTA agreement, deregulated Wall Street and ‘reformed’ Welfare by putting pressure on the unemployed. Barak Obama continued this trend, trying to fast track the TTP and, although he put the Healthcare Bill into law, Big Pharma and the insurance companies are still in control of health insurance. Read more...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What to do About Terrorism?

Tuesday March 22, 2016: Brussels, Belgium: ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack kills at least thirty four (so far). This is Belgium’s “9/11:” In proportion to the US population, it is the equivalent of 1,100 dead. The bombs contained nails and shards of glass, to inflict maximum suffering.

My first reaction upon hearing this was, “Oh no! Not again!” Coincidentally, I was in Belgium just a couple of weeks ago. I was also there a year ago, in Liege. On that occasion, I was flabbergasted when I saw practically no Belgians downtown Liege. The entire city seemed to have been repopulated by immigrants, primarily from Africa.

I taught Violence and Terrorism at the university for fifteen years. It may be helpful to put things in historical perspective: Back in the 1980s, the groups terrorizing Europe were all named “Red this” and “Red that.” There was the Red Army Faction, (the Baader-Meinhof), the Red Brigades, the Action Directe, etc. They blew up cafés, restaurants and other places with grim regularity, killing dozens of innocent Europeans. But in time, this scourge was defeated. Its foreign base of support collapsed. And that base was a hell of a lot more powerful than ISIS or AlQaida are today. It consisted of the USSR and its satellites in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Which Countries are the Most and the Least Hospitable?

We hear that the number of “displaced persons” in the world is at an all-time high. Today, I want to talk about the number of migrants. According to a recent issue of   The Guardian (see Number of Migrants) there were in 2013, the last year for which comprehensive data are available, 232 million international migrants in the world;  that is, people who have moved permanently from their country of origin to another.

In this article, I do not address any of the innumerable aspects of the topic of international migration. I wish  to show one thing and one thing only: what proportion of the total number of migrants do various countries take in. Facts are important, especially when accusations of racism and xenophobia are flying in all directions, as they currently do. 

It is not clear whether The Guardian’s number - 232 million -   is an all-time record or not. If it is, it would certainly only be so in absolute terms. There have been times in history when a far greater percentage of the world’s population was on the march.  Think  of the vast  migrations aptly named  Völkerwanderung in German, that took place during and after the collapse of the Roman Empire. More recently, millions were forced or chose to migrate, including for example 14 million Germans from Eastern Europe after World War Two.