The Economist editors November 20 advice: Act Unfriendly, Cater to Businessmen, Encourage Usury to the Poor

December 11th, 2010 § 4

The Economist logo

I’m probably just going to let my Economist subscription lapse at the end of January.

While I do having access to the whole world in a single news publication, sorting through the corporate disinformation is awfully tiresome.

Their editorials are particularly poorly thought out.

Let’s take the week of 20 November:

Saving The Euro

The Economist position: The Irish are wrong to fight receiving bailout money and the Germans are wrong to insist they raise the absurd corporate tax rate of 12.5% which got the Irish into this bind in the first place.

Too much of the EU’s motivation seems to be to punish Ireland for its Anglo-Saxon ways—especially its highly competitive 12.5% tax rate on corporate profits, which helps it attract foreign firms. Raising this would be madness….A new generation of firms, including computer-gaming outfits like Activision Blizzard and Zynga, are joining the established operations of Intel and Google. Ireland’s workforce is young, skilled and adaptable. Rents are coming down even faster than wages.

Guys, the Irish have been busy selling the family silver faster than the Germans can replace it. Corporate tax rates of 12.5% in a single member state, only betray the whole Eurozone. Low rents for starving Irish potato farmers is not why we set up the Euro zone.

The Economist editors November 20 advice: Act Unfriendly, Cater to Businessmen, Encourage Usury to the Poor Continues »

Paean to the Oceans: Dark Side of the Lens

October 4th, 2010 § 2

dark side of the lens whales
dark side of the lens whales
dark side of the lens gulls
dark side of the lens gulls
dark side of the lens diver
dark side of the lens diver

This film is supposed to be about surfing and underwater photography.

For me it is about the sea and it is a paeon to this monument of beauty spanning most of the planet.

I see this and I wonder how we continue to relentlessly despoil this unrepairable wonder with oil spills, deslickers, polluted rivers, radioactive waste.

The wickedness of civilisation, at least in its capitalist extant, is to borrow the profit of today against the misery of tomorrow. Man has been at this a long time though. The folk of Easter Island expired when they consumed their entire food chain.

Even archeology has not been enough to sober world leaders apart from that fleeting glimpse of a president Gore.

But back to the film and the ocean. Don’t miss the splendid soundtrack and the free poetry of the voiceover. Here’s a few strong phrases.

i never set out to become anything particular, only to live creatively…

my heart bleeds celtic blood and I’m magnetised to familiar frontiers…

if i only scrape a living it’s a living worth scraping..


Both words and music strongly wrought by subject and filmmaker Mickey Smith. 

A small SEO thanks to energy drink Relentless for making this possible. Via ISO50.

Fracking: America not just destroying Iraqi countryside but destroying its own

August 15th, 2010 § 0

On their website Vanity Fair has published one of the most substantial pieces of reporting which I’ve seen from that (in)famous society journal in many years. Apparently extracting "clean" natural gas, "the bridge to the future" is not a clean process. In fact, fracking (getting at the natural gas) can and does destroy aquifers. Surface vegetation will continue to look okay (fed by rainwater) but animals depending on the aquifer below via wells, i.e. humans may not survive.

natural gas fracking
natural gas fracking

Read and be horrified at the havoc wrought by the 2005 exemptions for oil and gas companies to the Clean Air Act by Dick Cheney cohorts while in governments:

Although fracking was never regulated by the federal government when it was a less prevalently used technique, it was granted explicit exemptions—despite dissent within the E.P.A.—from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the wide-ranging energy bill crafted by Dick Cheney in closed-door meetings with oil-and-gas executives. While the average citizen can receive harsh punishment under federal law for dumping a car battery into a pond, gas companies, thanks to what has become known as the Halliburton Loophole, are allowed to pump millions of gallons of fluid containing toxic chemicals into the ground, right next to our aquifers, without even having to identify them.

One can take some heart at the courage of the activists working to prevent this happening to the Delaware river.

If Americans will pollute Iraq with depleted Iranium, their corporations will not hesitate at poisoning their own countryside and water table with some of the most toxic chemicals known to man. If there was ever an indictment of laissez-faire capitalism, here it is. The men running these oil and gas corporations are as bad as street pimps. They are prepared to destroy the lives of others to enrich themselves.

Strangely this important story didn’t run in the print edition of Vanity Fair. Somebody has their priorities wrong at Vanity Fair, given the fluff which most of the recent issue included (heiress bimbos in the Hamptons). But kudos to whoever commissioned the article, kudos to the writer Christopher Bateman and videographer and kudos to the web team who insisted on running it after the final story was rejected for print.

Vanity Fair may also want to look at how they manage their European subscriptions. A US subscription is $20 for two years. A non-US subscription is $68 for one year. That’s a pricing differential of seven times. I can’t believe that our Eurozone eyes are not worth enough to Vanity Fair’s advertisers to make it worthwhile to set up a printing and distribution center somewhere in Europe. Somewhere inexpensive and central like Slovakia perhaps.

La France: Liberty, Fraternity, Egality or Totalitarianism, Fratricide and Genocide

December 16th, 2009 § 2

French like to make themselves out as the home of liberty, fraternity and egality.

Alas, a short delve into their history indicates more totalitarianism, fratricide and genocide.

Let’s start with the Huguenots. At the wedding of the Huguenot King Henri Navarre (later Henri IV) with the sister of the French king Margaret Valois, the Huguenots were lured into Paris in August 1572. There the queen mother Catherine de Medici set the mob on them after the royal wedding. Several thousands murdered in the streets and drowned in the Seine within days. Twenty thousand protestants murdered in Paris, another fifty thousand in the rest of France within the next two months. Nice way to celebrate a marriage.

Subsequently the Protestantism were outlawed by King Louis XIII in the Edict of Fontaineblue in 1685. Persecution carried on until 1787, by which time there were only 200,000 from an original peak of 2 million Huguenots left in France. In fairness, they weren’t all murdered or forced to convert to Catholicism. Many Huguenots managed to escape into exile.

With hardly a chance to catch their breath, the Parisans organised the French Revolution which resulted in up to 40,000 deaths by guillotine alone. The number of innocents to perish in that number is likely in the range of 90%.

But they weren’t done yet. After the Revolution, the seaboard province of Vendée refused to give up Catholicism and to participate in conscription rose against the Revolution in 1793. (Ironically enough the cities of the Vendée like la Rochelle were Huguenot free cities and strongholds before the Huguenots were all starved and murdered in La Rochelle, a city of 27,000 reduced to 5,000 in 1627 by Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII.)

In the Vendée, the Republican French decided to raze the place. At Nantes, mass drownings took 4000 lives in 1793. Another 200,000 of a population of 800,000 were to die at the hands of the Republicans. General Westermann reported to the National Convention in 1794:

There is no more Vendée, my republican fellow citizens! It died beneath our sabers along with its women and children. I have just buried them in the swamps and woods of Savenay. According to your orders, the children were trampled to death beneath the hoofs of our horses; their women were slaughtered so that they couldn’t bring any more soldiers into the world. The streets are full of corpses; in many places they form entire pyramids. In Savenay we had to make use of massive firing squads because their troops are still surrendering. We take no prisoners. One has to give them the bread of freedom; however, mercy has nothing to do with the spirit of the revolution.

Curiously, the Israelis argue that the measures they are taking against the Palestinians are no different from the French did to one another and the British and Americans and Spanish to the Native Indians.

If the Israelis had gotten back to Jerusalem a hundred years earlier, they would have had a point. But apparently, Israel was created in response to save people from genocide not to advance its cause.

Surely we can do better now. Apartheid in South Africa was dissolved with a minimum of bloodshed.

The Romans were constantly murdering one another’s armies and razing the southern cities of Italy.

Civilisation seems to be another word for mass bloodshed.

It is a blessing to live in decades of relative peace, within secure countries and set borders. We should appreciate it more. It isn’t often this way. Bloody wars, civil and external, appear to make up about half of human history.

Staffordshire Hoard: Not a Mercian Mystery but the Treasure of Treachery

December 15th, 2009 § 2

Amazing what historians can’t figure out. The guys who wrote the Keys to Avalon would like to attribute the construction of Offa’s Wall to Romans despite all evidence to the contrary. Offa was the king of Mercia which has since become Middle England. He built a wall between Wales and his realm.

A more recent discovery from the Mercian period is the magnificent Staffordshire Hoard. Historians can’t figure out why such a rich deposit was buried in the ground and forgotten. In the deposit, there are largely purely martial items. Sword pommels, sword hilt fittings, shield fittings.

The blades and shields themselves are not among the treasure.

staffordshire hoard treasure
staffordshire hoard treasure

It’s pretty clear what happened here. It was a band of soldier assassins, probably sent from a rival duke who wailaid the bodyguard of another thane. Their mission was covert – they could not be seen with items which identified them as the murders. So they immediately removed the fittings, stuck them in some kind of bag of cloth or leather and buried them in the ground. They marked the spot to come back to recuperate the items much later, when their identification as the murderers would cause no grief.

Staffordshire Hoard: Not a Mercian Mystery but the Treasure of Treachery Continues »

Reading Lists for Presidents: From My Pet Goat to The Post American World

February 1st, 2009 § 2

What a nice surprise. The president of the United States can read again. An end to my pet goat (what Bush was reading aloud to school children as the 9/11 Reichstag fire took place). George Bush Jr. was proud that he had managed to read Albert Camus’ The Stranger on summer holiday. Most people with even a little bit of intellectual get and go have read Camus by the time they are through high school.

ex President George Bush reading My Pet Goat
ex-President George Bush reading My Pet Goat on 9/11: Heck of a job, Brownie!

Columnists can go back to recommending books (above grade six level) for the president of the United States and hope that he could read them. The issue is not whether President Obama could read or understand the book but if he would have time. Why the right wing semi-intellectuals ever admired Bush Jr. is beyond me.

Perhaps, the whole man of action meme. They feel like they are the nasty geeks backing the stupid school bully. As long as Goliath is in their corner, they can just do whatever awful thing they like to the rest of their classmates. Well it turns out this colossus has feet of clay and the stones will be falling on their collective shifty heads for a good decade or two – or perhaps until the last syllable of recorded time. The worst presidency in the history of the United States will not be forgotten soon and its crimes will only grow with time. We still haven’t forgotten the psychopathic Nero.

I would hate to think that to be a man of action, one has to be an imbecile – or at best a crafty, slacking bully.

Maybe talk is cheap, but thought is not.

Presdient Barrack Obama reading The Post American World
Presdient Barrack Obama reading The Post American World

Why are we so on fire on the left? For the first time in several decades, leadership in the US seems to be following Plato’s model. Perhaps President Obama is not so reluctantly being dragged out of his philosopher’s cave, but at least he started as a thinker, a teacher (law professor) and a helper of men (community organizer).

Bailouts for whom? Capitalist hypocrisy stumbles

November 15th, 2008 § 0

Rather amazingly the New York Times, David Brooks manages to argue from both sides of his mouth.

He is against the bailout of the big three auto companies, but he is for the bailout of the banks:

Democrats from Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi want to grant immortality to General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. They have decided to follow an earlier $25 billion loan with a $50 billion bailout, which would inevitably be followed by more billions later, because if these companies are not permitted to go bankrupt now, they never will be.

This is a different sort of endeavor than the $750 billion bailout of Wall Street. That money was used to save the financial system itself. It was used to save the capital markets on which the process of creative destruction depends.

This just doesn’t make any sense.

Bailouts for whom? Capitalist hypocrisy stumbles Continues »

Farewell Jörg | Abschiedsbrief Jörg Haider

October 16th, 2008 § 4

Jörg Haider was the first person I met in Austria outside of my girlfriend’s family.

Anna was dancing at the opening of the Carinthian Summer Musical Festival in July 2003. I had been in Austria for about two days before the festival. We’d had time to go swimming once and then it was off to the lake and Anna’s performance there.

We were both thinking about the dance – the choreography was in order, but we were still concerned about her costume and Anna’s hair. Anna had to get her head shaved for the asylum scenes in Lapinthrope just a week before. Wigs, scarves, hats were all proposed to make hide her shaved head. In the end the bare head prevailed (it’s a lot easier to dance modern without something precarious glued to your head). With a woman as beautiful as Anna that summer and a dancer as talented as Anna, the audience is unlikely to pay too much attention to the length of her hair. And so it was.

The dance went very well.

On the way there, I heard Haider would be there, in his role of Landeshauptmann to open the festival.

Of course, I’d heard of Jörg Haider before. Even in Canada we got news of the Austrian politician who was supposed to be a new Hitler, threatening the rise of a fourth Reich.

Based on what I’d read in the press, I expected to find a brute – either foaming at the mouth and shrieking like Hitler or a portly sadist like Goering.

Instead, an elegantly attired fortyish and athletic man in an immaculately tailored Italian suit rose and spoke for over half an hour. If Haider had notes, he didn’t need or use them much. It was the first time I’d heard a long speech in German, outside of the vituperative extracts from Hitler’s rallies.

jorg haider speaks
jorg haider speaks

Haider’s voice was resonant and clear, the structure of his sentences as well tailored as his suit. Little acquainted with the German language at that time, I was only able to follow the phonetic balance of Haider’s rhetoric.

The audience was as rapt as I’d ever seen at the speech of a politician. From Haider’s end there appeared to be little grandstanding – none of the whipping up of the crowd that so cheapens many politician’s public speaking. Just an engaging speech.

Like most young Carinthian women living in Vienna, Anna had an obligatory loathing of Haider. Later I learned why from Astrid. If you didn’t profess anti-Haider sentiment, you would instantly be blackballed back in Vienna. You would be ghettoized as an undesirable Carinthian.