Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sleuths: European and American

We just saw the movie “Murder on the Orient Express.” I found it quite entertaining. The cast included Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer and other luminaries. It received curiously mediocre reviews, both by the audience (IMDb) and by “experts” So be it. To me, it was lovely. Maybe I am prejudiced because I remember fondly taking the Orient Express as a child.

So then, I began to think about the whole genre - crime-fiction, the whodunit, and its central character, the sleuth, the detective, the private eye, the guy who solves crimes and chases down criminals.

I grew up devouring detective novels in Europe. One of my favorites was Commissaire Maigret. He was the quintessentially European detective, created by Belgian author Georges Simenon, who published over one hundred novels featuring this character. Maigret was with the Paris Sureté, the French national police. Read more...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Me and my Computer: Inseparable Forever

Yesterday, like every other morning, I turn on my desktop PC to start my daily routines - some requiring logging in, some not. For example, I have some bills to pay, and for that, I need to log in to “Pay Online.” Also, I have to write a short piece for a local magazine, so for that I need to open “Word.” So first, I click on “Pay Online.”

However, surprise: This morning, my computer reacts differently: Instead of opening “Pay Online,” I get a pop-up message saying: “You don’t have permission to access this folder.”

What’s going on? I’m not sure how to proceed, but since I also have an article to write, I decide to switch tasks. I’ll try online payments again later. Must be some glitch. So next, I click on “Word.” Same result, only worse: I get another pop-up message. It now says: “I just told you! You don’t have permission to access this folder!” Read more...

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Insanity of the Republican Party and the Individual Mandate


Republican lawmakers are now adding a ‘repeal of the individual mandate’ clause to their proposed tax bill. For those of you who don’t know what that is, the individual mandate says that every American taxpayer is required to have health insurance. Just like everyone has to have car insurance. If you don’t have health insurance you get a fine.

It is one of the legs of the so-called ‘three legged stool’ of Obamacare. It is ‘unpopular’ because healthy people are forced to spend money on insurance they think they don’t need.

By including the repeal clause in their tax bill, the republicans tell us that it can reduce the deficit by $318 billion. How can NOT paying a tax penalty reduce the deficit? Because if people are not mandated to buy insurance, less of them will apply for subsidies and special government funded programs. 13 million people will be without insurance, a big saving for the government. Read more...

Friday, November 10, 2017

Hurrah for Barbarians!

A fictional interview with James C. Scott, author of 'Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States' *

Madeleine Kando: Your book Against the Grain: a Deep History of the Earliest States’ contradicts everything that we take for granted about the ‘progress’ humankind has made, by moving from our ‘barbaric’ past as bands of  ‘hunters and gatherers’ to an agrarian society, which in turn resulted in the birth of ‘the State’.

James C. Scott: Yes, for most of our species’ history, we lived as hunter-gatherers. There were no farms, no fields to plow, no cows to milk or sheep to sheer, only small groups of humans that went out to hunt for the occasional boar or antelope and mostly gather berries and edible plants. Around 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens appeared on the planet and only 5,000 years ago did farming communities develop. Think about it: if you lived to be a hundred years old, only the last 3 months of your life would be spent as an ‘agriculturalist’. The rest of your long long life, you would have spent in a loincloth, holding a bow and arrow, living with your extended relatives in a small village.** Read more...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Should we Worry about Terrorism?

It’s happening weekly: On October 31, a terrorist killed eight people in New York. He used a truck to mow down his victims. Five days later, another one killed twenty-six innocents in a Texas church.

Having taught the Violence and Terrorism course at the university for many years, I feel compelled to write about this subject. Hopefully this article will be useful.

20th and 21st century man has become inured to news of violence because such news has become so frequent. Only a month earlier, Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured 546 in Las Vegas. Throughout this year, as in previous years, there have been attacks in various cities of the world - half a dozen in London and other British cities, several in Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, and so forth. Attacks on the Western World are covered most prominently, because we live in the West. We are most concerned about attacks against our world. This is selfish and totally natural. Read more...