Thursday, August 19, 2021

Afghanistan



This week, the crisis is Afghanistan. Last week it was the Haitian earthquake. For a year and a half, it’s been Covid. Things are not going well on planet Earth, or in the US. 
I don’t mean to trivialize what’s going on in Afghanistan. It’s a mess, a tragedy, and it was inevitable. 

First, let’s be clear about one thing: The Taliban are the equivalent of the barbarians that were held at bay for centuries by the ancient Romans. 

There are in the world, always, advanced civilizations that expand their sphere of influence and bring progress (as well as exploitation) to outlying regions. And then there are tribal societies that are several hundred years behind in their historical and moral development. Their treatment of women alone puts the Taliban somewhere at the beginning of Europe’s Middle Ages. 

The 14th century Arab sociologist  Ibn Khaldun  described the relationship and inherent conflict between advanced urban civilizations and more primitive nomadic groups, and the cycle of rise and fall of the former at the hand of the latter. 
>Now don’t misunderstand me: I am not saying that the Taliban is about to take over the White House (although a Taliban-sponsored group did “take over” the New York World Trade Center in 2001). 
What Biden just did is the equivalent of decisions made two thousand years ago by intelligent Roman leaders such as the emperor Hadrian: He abandoned his predecessors’ expansionist policies. Instead, he invested in “defensible borders and the unification of the empire’s disparate peoples. He built Hadrian’s Wall, which marked the northern limit of Britannia.” As Voltaire said, one must cultivate one’s own garden.  Read more...

Monday, August 16, 2021

Worrying

By Madeleine Kando

It’s really hard to be me. I slept for four hours and woke up wondering what came over me when I bought a $100 bathing suit. I am on Maui, and I see all these fancy bathing suits prance about on the beach, so I figured I need one too, instead of looking like a blue sausage in my racing suit.

I saw one on a mannequin at the mall across our condo and I was sure it would make me look like a film star, but when I came home and put it on, I looked more like a flower pot with arms and legs.

So, I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. There is no stopping it, once I get the worrying bug. It’s like a virus, infecting every nook and cranny of my already neurotic mind. I worry about my daughter back home, about spending too much money, about the bags under my eyes from not sleeping because I worry about not sleeping.
 
Why some people don’t worry is a mystery to me. There must be something seriously wrong with them. People like that let the worriers do all the worrying for them. They get a free ride in this valley of tears, going about their business happy as clams, while us worriers do all the heavy lifting, leading us to an early grave.

They will say stupid things, like: ‘worrying does not do anything. It’s a useless, self-destructive habit.’ But they don’t really know, do they? Since they never worry. It’s like saying: ‘I know what it’s like to be poor. My grandfather was poor. He told me all about it’.
Read more...

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Which are the Best and the Worst Olympic Countries?



Halfway through the recent Olympic Games, I came across  an article by a Dan Wetzel, titled

Sorry, America: China’s leading the real Olympic medal count.

Dan complained  that most of our media  rank countries by their TOTAL number of medals, regardless of whether they are gold, silver or bronze. This puts  America on top and China second. However, Wetzel  felt that  countries should be ranked by the number of GOLD medals they win. He claimed that the entire rest of the world agrees with this.

As it turned out, America ended up with BOTH the largest number of total medals AND the largest number of gold medals. So Wetzel’s gripe is moot.

Nevertheless, I want to point out  that Wetzel was wrong. The differences between gold, silver and bronze performances are often in the milliseconds. It’s often absurd to dismiss   silver and bronze  performances as far inferior to  gold performances. The three  are often extremely close. So the total number of medals is more meaningful than just the number of golds.

Furthermore, I have long used a compromise between Wetzel’s position and mine, one which I think is reasonable and could satisfy both sides of the argument: We can WEIGH the three colors by awarding a country 3 points for every gold medal, 2 points for every silver and 1 point for every bronze.  Then, rank countries by their total  number of points.

Read more...

Friday, August 6, 2021

America Needs a Strong Socialist Party



We have been brainwashed to believe that Socialism   is bad. 

You can get a good flavor of this by Googling words such as “Socialism,” “Socialism USA” or “Democratic Socialism.” 

While the search results include some factual definitions such as Wikipedia’s, by far most of what comes up consists of scathing critiques of “Socialism.” You get articles with titles like “Democratic Socialism Failures - Prosperity to Poverty,” “Real Socialism, Real Suffering - Real Socialism Failed,” “Venezuela Socialism” and “The Dishonesty of Real Socialism.” What is so nauseating is that this multitude of anti-Socialist diatribes is not counter-balanced by positive search results. The anti-socialist bias revealed on the Internet is overwhelming. 

I cannot do justice to all the nuances of socialism. Suffice it to say that the kind of socialism which I favor is “democratic socialism” or “social democracy.” By this I mean a robust degree of government involvement and regulation of the economy, albeit not outright government ownership of the means of production. I mean the sort of “mixed” capitalist/socialist system which exists in the rest of the Western world. I mean a society where taxation is progressive, where the government’s policies are redistributive, so as to reduce poverty and inequality, and where the public sector makes up a large segment of the economy, as much as 50%. 

In other words, I favor a higher degree of socialism than what we currently have. Obviously, this country is by no means free of socialism. Income taxes, Social Security, Medicare and innumerable other governmental functions are “socialism.” “Socialism” is a matter of degree.  Read more...