Monday, December 08, 2008

They're Here!!

In early 2001 an organisation called The Disclosure Project made a presentation to journalists at the National Press Club in Washington, where twenty or so US Air Force pilots, commercial pilots, air traffic controllers, military men, intelligence men, and other men from within the military and intelligence apparatus - who had top-secret security clearances - talked about what they had seen and heard regarding UFOs in the course of their official duties.


These men (and a couple of women) leave little doubt that we on earth are being visited by extra-terrestrials, that some of their craft have crashed on earth, that alien bodies have been recovered, and that the US government in particular, and governments in general, are doing everything to keep this all a secret.

These men all stated that they are prepared to swear under oath to the US Congress that what they saw and heard is true. There are three hundred and eighty more men from within the belly of the beast of the military and intelligence apparatus, whose testimony couldn't be fitted in to this two-hour event. They also are prepared to swear under oath to Congress that what they saw and heard was true.

So far Congress hasn't held hearings, and doesn't seem likely to, because more than seven years has passed since the happening at the National Press Club.

But think of the excitement such hearings, particularly if televised, would cause in the minds of Mr and Mrs Average. It would be as exciting as was Watergate. The hearings would last over a week, and perhaps two or three, because four hundred witnesses is a lot.

That Congress has chosen not to have such hearings is one more strand of proof that governments don't want Mr and Mrs Average to know that extra-terrestrials have visited Earth, and continue to. But keeping all this secret isn't difficult because Mr and Mrs Average seem not interested in finding out, being incurious about anything outside their own bailiwick. I can testify to this, since not one - not a single solitary one - of my own friends to whom I regularly send articles and information about UFOs, and who know of my interest in them, has ever shown any vestige of interest in discussing them on the occasions I see them.

Why this monumental and puzzling incuriosity? Is it because Mr and Mrs Average believe only what Daddy (their government) says? So if Daddy says UFOs are all figments of people's imaginations, then this must be so? This seems the most reasonable explanation for Mr and Mrs Average's incuriosity, since, with the advent of Youtube and Google, there is a cornucopia - nay, a veritable Aladdin's Cave - of information at the press of a laptop key to support the facts of extraterrestrial craft and extraterrestrial beings.

What more evidence do Mr and Mrs Average need, short of extra-terrestrials actually landing on the White House lawn in a flying saucer and announcing via CNN that they're here? That no extra-terrestrials have yet done this is proof that they wish Mr and Mrs Average to continue to be oblivious to their existence, for they (the extra-terrestrials) would surely know that there are none so blind as those who do not wish to see.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Quemoy and Matsu

In 1960, televised presidential debates were held for the first time. There were three of them, and they were regarded as the reason John F Kennedy became president, since he came across better through the medium of television than did Richard Nixon.

Below is a snippet from one of the debates - a snippet showing the two candidates discussing animatedly the Cold War:





This snippet makes us wonder how much has really changed since 1960. Then, as now, the US was seen to be losing its prestige in the world. Then, as now, there was a ubiquitous external enemy which would drain Americans of their precious bodily fluids if given half a chance. Then, these enemies were Communists, now they are Terrorists.

Should the Terrorists ever disappear as completely into the woodwork as did the Communists, will Americans dream up another enemy who would drain them of their precious bodily fluids if given half a chance? It seems new enemies will have to be created, otherwise there'll be no rationale to keep spending as much on the national defense (currently $650 billion a year) as the next 45 countries combined. The military-industrial complex must be maintained whatever the external situation, so if the current enemies disappear, others must be dreamed up to keep the taxpayer monies flowing in to the Pentagon.

One change from 1960, though, is that Quemoy and Matsu are no longer discussed in the American media. Americans today likely won't even have heard of Quemoy or Matsu, and might think them the latest video games should they encounter the names, Quemoy or Matsu.

The facts are that Quemoy and Matsu are two tiny islands (Quemoy is an island chain, actually) a mere handful of kilometers off the coast of mainland China (Fujian Province) but are under the jurisdiction of the government of Taiwan (Formosa). Twice (in 1954-55, and 1958-59) the People's Republic of China (the communists) carried out air and naval bombardments of Quemoy and Matsu to persuade Taiwan to cede them to the People's Republic.

But Taiwan, and its American protectors, were having none of it. In 1954 Taiwan dispatched 58,000 soldiers to Quemoy, and 15,000 to Matsu, as well as American-supplied rockets and other weaponry. All this, plus an American pledge to defend Taiwan, even with nuclear weaponry, persuaded the People's Republic to cease its bombardments in 1955.

But three years later, in 1958, the People's Republic, feeling more confident, again bombarded the two islands, and again, as in 1955, ceased doing so (in 1959) when it became apparent that the Russians (the People's Republic's fellow communists) wouldn't come to the People's Republic's aid, should US (and Taiwan) attack the People's Republic in defense of Quemoy and Matsu.

In the wording in its defense agreement with Taiwan, the US deliberately left vague whether it would defend Quemoy and Matsu should the People's Republic invade. Hence Nixon's and Kennedy's discussion about this issue in their presidential debate.

Although Quemoy and Matsu are today a non-issue, despite being still under the rule of Taiwan, who is to say they won't again become the potential flashpoint which they were in the 1950s?

Perhaps, then, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden might appropriately have been asked during their recent vice-presidential debate, what they would do should they be the president, and China invades Quemoy and Matsu.

How, particularly, would Sarah Palin have answered? Would she have been ambivalent like Kennedy? Or would she have pledged that the Hockey Moms and Joe Sixpacks of America would, you betcha, rush over to Quemoy and Matsu to defend to the death the islands' hapless denizens from the bloodthirsty invaders?

Maybe someone will ask Sarah this at her next campaign rally?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Bail-Out - What's The Problem?

As I write this, there are men, men wearing suits, important men, who, in the corridors of power in Washington D.C, are deciding what to do about all the banks, investment houses, and whatnot, which have become insolvent in recent days and weeks.

If the taxpayers of America don't bail them out, then the entire American economy - and by extension the world economy - will collapse. So say the men in suits, the ones in the corridors of power in Washington D.C.

I - for what it's worth - think these men in suits are right in their evaluation of the potential economic apocalypse arising out of these banks, investment houses, and whatnot, going under, and that something must be done about it.

Not only do I think that something must be done, so do most of those Americans who think, notwithstanding that most Americans don't think. But sufficient numbers of Americans do think, and think enough to see that they will lose their jobs and houses and everything else they hold dear, if they simply allow these banks, investment houses and whatnot, to collapse, and they do nothing to save them.

It seems then, that financial help will be forthcoming, and the amount suggested is $700 billion dollars. This does seem an awful lot of money for America's taxpayers to pay. But is it really, all things considered?

Since the number of Americans, including corporations, who file tax returns, is approximately 100 million, each American taxpayer, on average, would therefore pay an extra $7,000 when next they file their tax return.

This works out to approximately $19 dollars a day on average. But, individually, this would be a lot less for those earning low incomes, and somewhat more for those who earn as much as John McCain or Donald Trump. The important thing is that it would be, like, affordable.

Consider that Americans spend $650 billion dollars a year for their national defense. But defense against whom? since what Americans pay for their national defense is more than what the next 45 countries combined pay for their defense.

By spending $650 billion dollars a year on guns, tanks, aeroplanes, rockets, and missiles, Americans are implicitly saying that the aforesaid next 45 countries pose a dire threat to America, and would invade continental America with their armies if Americans didn't pay $650 billion a year on defense. But is this not carrying paranoia to an extreme?

Were Americans, instead of paying $650 billion a year to defend themselves, to cut this to, say, $100 billion, the chances are extremely good that these next 45 countries would still not invade America, if only because America, being cut off from Europe and Asia by large bodies of water, would be a very difficult country to invade.

I suggest, then, that to cut $550 billion a year from the national defense, would be a risk which Americans can well take, and that these saved monies could be applied to the $700 billion to bail out Wall Street. This would leave a mere $150 billion, which, in view of all I've said, is, relatively speaking, piffling.

So I'm not worried any more, and neither, dear reader, should you be.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Aliens Are Here

That extra-terrestrials have visited Earth on several occasions, but that our governments have been covering this up for over sixty years, is what Dr Edgar Mitchell, who was once an astronaut and walked on the moon, has been saying, according to a recent radio interview he gave, which you may listen to if you click here.

Admittedly, Dr Mitchell is 77, and so could be suffering from dementia. But if you listen to his interview, he doesn't sound out of his mind. Far from it.

Here's an interview with Gordon Cooper, one of the original seven US astronauts, who had his own UFO experience, which you can watch him tell of, if you click here.

While Gordon Cooper, who is now deceased, was also old when he gave his interview, he sounded lucid.

But tens of thousands of other people around the world have, over the last sixty years, seen with their own (as opposed to other people's) eyes, strange-looking, alien-seeming little people, and their spacecraft.

Most of these people (the ones who've seen the aliens and their craft) are the sorts of Solid Citizens whom you wouldn't question the truth of what they say, regardless of topic. Policemen, pilots both military and civilian, army officers, state troopers, football players, you name it - the paragons of virtue who all parents want their children to be like when they grow up - have seen strange little people with large heads, and the funny round craft they fly around in. Many of these funny round craft have been captured on film, which experts have examined and failed to find bogus.

And reports of government cover-ups of evidence of extra-terrestrial beings and their craft, are too many to go into in this posting. So the only question to ask is: What do the aliens want with us?

The Mexican and British Departments of Defense have recently seen the light, and have released to the public, evidence collected over the years of UFOs. And now the Vatican has said it's OK to believe in extra-terrestrial life. Could it be that all this loosening-up of officialdom is to prepare us, the people of Earth, for Contact? Admittedly, the US Department of Defense is as secretive about UFOs as ever. But then, this is the USA. Need I say more?

Several months ago I spoke with someone who, while in a convenience store to buy milk, saw two small people with identical expressionless faces that seemed to her inhuman. They radiated vibes which she experienced as so alien, so evil, which made her so afraid, that she had to move away from them, and to wait until they had left the store, before she paid for her purchase.

While I didn't know my interlocutor that well, she being the friend of a friend, I had little doubt she was telling the truth of what she saw and experienced. And my friend didn't doubt the veracity of her friend, my interlocutor, either.

And why I believed my interlocutor was truthful was that I had read of experiences similar to hers, experiences which my interlocutor - who has no particular interest in aliens and UFOs - said she'd never read or heard about. I had no reason to disbelieve her, and neither did my friend, who knows her much better than do I.

It's likely then, that the two malevolent-exuding, inhuman-looking little people who my interlocutor saw, and the similar beings who others have seen, who I've read about, are extra-terrestrial aliens who are already living among us.

What, then, would be their purpose? Perhaps they are part of a network of extra-terrestrial sleeper cells, which, when given the word by their masters, will disable our strategic centres of Earthly government power, and take over the governance of Earth.

Our governments may already know about this, and so have designated the Mexican and British Departments of Defense, and the Vatican, to be the organs which will emotionally prepare us for this event, and are now doing so.

Which means we may soon be under the thumb of the extra-terrestrials, who, having adjudged that we are about to destroy ourselves, will save us from ourselves.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rumi on Intelligence

Late last year I posted a piece called "What is Intelligence?", in which I dilated upon the IQ test, and what sort of intelligence it measures.

Being not too bright myself, and consequently always having done badly on IQ tests, so that I'm regarded as a half-wit, and am smiled at indulgently whenever I talk about anything outside of the quotidian, I look upon the IQ test not altogether with approbation.

I, like, feel that the IQ test doesn't tell us absolutely everything about the capacities of our minds, that there are sorts of intelligences outside the grasp of the IQ test.

So when someone sent me what the great Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī said about intelligence, I felt vindicated after I'd read it.

Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī is, by the way, known to us English-speakers simply as Rumi. He was a 13th century Persian poet, Islamic jurist, and theologian.

Here is his prose poem about intelligence:

There are two kinds of intelligence: One acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of intelligence, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,
and it doesn’t move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.

Groupthink

Groupthink. I haven't seen this word for some years now, but it used to be on the lips of everyone. "Groupthink" was once a neologism, come to think of it. But so long has it not been used, could it once again become a neologism?

I do realize that for a word once again to become a neologism is a contradiction in terms, is an oxymoron. But why should it not again become a neologism, particularly in the United States of Amnesia?

An example of Groupthink often trotted out in business management courses is the Bay of Pigs debacle - John F Kennedy’s decision to invade Cuba, using Cuban exiles to do this. Everyone in Kennedy’s inner circle agreed with the decision, and it was only afterwards when they were out of government that they admitted it was stupid, and had known this deep down at the time, but had suppressed their considerable doubts.

But they agreed at the time because no-one wanted to be the odd-man out, and thus forfeit the friendship of their esteemed colleagues, or be cast out of the group.

It’s only when we are expelled from the group that we tell the truth, blow the whistle. Think of John Dean in the Nixon administration, or Scott McClellan in the Bush administration. This is just for starters.

Think of other disasters like the decisions to invade Vietnam, or Iraq. Or the possible forthcoming decision to bomb Iran. They are all examples of the dangers of Groupthink.

But, you may ask, if one has to compromise one's thinking to be in a group, why be in it? A higher or necessary purpose perhaps?

Well, we are often part of a group because we have to be, like at work. But once in the group, we form personal attachments to the others in it, and we don’t want to earn their enmity by disagreeing.

But we are sometimes in a group because we choose to be in it. Feeling existentially alone and isolated, we yearn for the comfort of the group, to be in its loving embrace.

To be thrown out is to be rejected, to be deprived of love. And who wants that?

Friday, June 20, 2008

What's The Truth About Global Warming?

I happened recently upon the content of a speech, "Is Global Warming a Canard?", which one John Coleman gave to the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. The core of the speech was that carbon emissions from motor cars, aeroplanes, and all of those, have little or nothing to do with global warming.

Now, I wasn't initially going to waste my time reading what John Coleman said, because, well, he's just a TV weatherman, and what the hell does a TV weatherman know about global warming compared with Al Gore? But, somehow, I did read all of what John Coleman said, and I'm glad I did because what he said made sense. Well, to little me it did.

If you, too, would like to read what John Coleman said, click here.

The following extracts spoke to me:

"...........Here is what the Keeling curve shows: an increase in CO2 from 315 parts per million in 1958 to 385 parts per million today, an increase of 70 parts per million or about 20 percent.
And we humans; we create it. Every time we breathe out, we emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is not a pollutant. It is not smog. It is a naturally occurring invisible gas.........."

"............I estimate that this square in front of my face contains 100,000 molecules of atmosphere. Of those 100,000 only 38 are CO2; 38 out of a hundred thousand. That makes it a trace component. Let me ask a key question: how can this tiny trace upset the entire balance of the climate of Earth? It can’t. That’s all there is to it; it can’t..........".

"............Worldwide there was a significant natural warming trend in the 1980’s and 1990’s as a Solar cycle peaked with lots of sunspots and solar flares. That ended in 1998 and now the Sun has gone quiet with fewer and fewer Sun spots, and the global temperatures have gone into decline. Earth has cooled for almost ten straight years...........".

"............The scientists endorse each other’s papers, they are summarized and voted on, and voila, we are told global warming is going to kill us all unless we stop burning fossil fuels.
That ended in 1998 and now the Sun has gone quiet with fewer and fewer Sun spots, and the global temperatures have gone into decline. Earth has cooled for almost ten straight years. So, I ask Al Gore, where’s the global warming...........?"

"...........The cooling trend is so strong that recently the head of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had to acknowledge it. He speculated that nature has temporarily overwhelmed mankind’s warming and it may be ten years or so before the warming returns............."

I'm no scientist, so I don't know who's right: John Coleman and his ilk, or Al Gore and his ilk. But I've been around long enough to be always suspicious of the Conventional Wisdom about anything.

Why masses of us, or groups of us, agree about anything is that we don't want to be the odd men (people) out by disagreeing, even if we suspect that what we agree about is nonsense. We like to be in with the in-crowd, because not being in with the in-crowd is lonely. So we suppress our doubts.

Only when we leave the in-crowd, either voluntarily or involuntarily, do we tell the truth of what the in-crowd said and did in the smoke-filled rooms behind the closed doors. The most recent example is Scott McClellan, who, when he was George Bush's paid liar, told his lies with insouciance and aplomb, but now that he's left, he's singing a very different tune.

The global warming crusade is a huge industry, and has assumed a life of its own because too many people have a vested interest that the crusade never ends, even if it's shown that the assumptions about global warming are wrong.

The careers and reputations of too many people depend on everyone believing the conventional wisdom about global warming. Too many globe-hopping conferences, banquets, eating and drinking, speeches, books, videos, depend on the conventional wisdom of global warming. Al Gore depends on global warming.


Regarding experts, Bertrand Russell said it best, when he said that whenever the experts are agreed on anything, the opposite of it cannot be held to be certain.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Little Children

I'd so have liked, today, to talk of the results from Supersaturated Tuesday, and what they mean for America and the world. But since everyone is analyzing Supersaturated Tuesday to death, and no-one is sparing a thought for the film, "Little Children", which I've just seen for the first time, and which I think superb, it seems logical for me to talk today of "Little Children", rather than of Hillary, Barack, John, Mitt, or Mike.

"Little Children's" principal character, Sarah (Kate Winslet), is a thirtyish woman, with a three-year old girl, and married to Richard, a corporate marketing man. They live comfortably in a nice big suburban house. You'd think Sarah would be happy, but she isn't, because she's bored staying home playing mother to her daughter, when she'd rather be out in the working world, utilizing her degree in literature. Sarah spends part of each day in a park watching her daughter play there in the company of other children, whose mothers - soccer-moms all - also hang around the park supervising their children, and exchanging local gossip with Sarah.

The interest of Sarah and her fellow soccer-moms is piqued by a handsome athletic-looking man (Patrick Wilson) who each day brings his infant son to play in the park. He would appear to be a stay-at-home dad, because he always comes alone with his son. Sarah one day, under the gaze of the soccer-moms, summons the courage to strike up an acquaintanceship with him. She learns his name is Brad, and that he stays home while his wife, Kathy, works as a documentary film-maker. Brad has been trying for some time to pass his bar exams to practice law, but he keeps failing. As long as this situation lasts, Kathy will be the bread-winner and Brad will look after their child.

Sarah also learns that Brad often takes his son to the community swimming-pool, so she begins taking her little daughter there too, where, away from the gazes of the soccer moms, she hopes she'll encounter Brad accidentally on purpose - and eventually she does. After meeting up this way a few times, Sarah and Brad embark upon a passionate affair.

You may at this point, dear reader, be regarding Sarah and Brad less than charitably, thinking they're not being fair to their respective spouses. However, Sarah has discovered that her husband, Richard, spends his evenings at home looking at internet porn hour after hour, something which for Sarah, is a veritable turn-off. Brad's wife, Kathy, for her part, is becoming cold and distant with Brad, denying him the marital fleshly pleasures. So we shouldn't be surprised that Sarah and Brad enjoy with each other, what they're missing in their marriages.

Brad also regularly spends long periods of time watching a bunch of teenaged skateboarders do their stuff. It seems that Brad's father had suddenly died when Brad was at the age of the skateboarders, and when he himself had skateboarded. So Brad is stuck in his teenaged years - hence his compulsion to watch teenaged skateboarders.



Brad also has a friend, Larry (Noah Emmerich) an ex-policeman, who has talked Brad into playing touch-football a couple of nights a week with a team of Larry's cronies. After these games they all go to a bar to drink and party, and to talk about what to do about a convicted paedophile, Ronnie, who, after being released from a two-year stint in jail, is now living in the community, in the house of his mother. Larry is especially obsessed by Ronnie, and arranges to have Ronnie's picture displayed everywhere, so everyone will know who he is.

And, as you watch Larry, you feel his mind contains secrets which no-one else knows. It turns out that, some years previously, he'd accidentally shot dead a child in the course of his official duties as a policeman. But what about other stuff?

As for Ronnie the paedophile, his reputation is such that on the one occasion when he visits the community swimming-pool and takes an underwater swim while wearing goggles and a snorkel, he causes such panic that everyone abandons the pool, leaving Ronnie to be escorted out by two policemen who'd been summoned. But it later turns out that Ronnie, although an adult, is psychologically a young and pathetic child, who had never done more than reveal his frontal nether regions to unsuspecting children.

"Little Children" has the feel of other films about American suburbia, like "American Beauty" and "Blue Velvet", which try to show that, under under suburbia's tranquil exterior of manicured green lawns, quiet streets, and spacious houses, turbulence bubbles. What's really going on behind the closed doors of the capacious homes you walk by on the street? What's really going on in the minds of the soccer mom's and dads? the ones who, talking out of mouths with perfect fine white teeth, say "hi" to you in the park or in the mall.

As I watched "Little Children", I wondered why it had been titled "Little Children", for although it has some little children in it, it isn't about them. Then inside my head a lightbulb switched on. Of course! It's the adults in the film, particularly the male ones, who are the little children, or at least not quite grown-up. Brad, in his financial dependence on his wife, and his fascination with skateboarding, is a perpetual adolescent. So too is Sarah's husband, Richard, in his obsession with internet porn. And Ronnie, the paedophile, has never psychologically gone beyond the child stage. And Larry and his buddies on the touch-football team, are like small boys who have been given permission by their mommies (wives) to play outside with their little friends on a couple of evenings a week.


***


That so many of "Little Children's" dramatis personae are little children at heart, perhaps reflects that we, most of us, go through our entire lives as little children, or as adolescents? Consider that when in high school we felt compelled to act and dress as our little friends did, lest they ostracize or bully us; and we lived in fear of the punishments which our teachers, or our mothers and fathers would inflict on us if we failed our exams, or were late for school in the mornings, or talked out of turn in class, or were rude to the teacher. We couldn't wait to escape home and school, in which we were confined as fearful children and rebellious adolescents. We thought that when we got a job, and paid our own way, things would be different.

Having finally escaped school, and the tentacles of our mothers and fathers, for whom we were little more than animated possessions to do their bidding, we found that the organizations which employ us, treat us little differently than did our schoolmasters or mothers and fathers. Instead of a school uniform we have a business suit; and if we don't arrive at work on time, we'll be chastised or fired; and we begin and end our coffee-breaks and lunches, not at the sound of a school bell, but of a buzzer; and if we take a day off sick, we must get a note from the doctor; and if we don't do our work exactly as the boss wants, we'll be fired.

So our workplaces are as riddled with fear and loathing, and with boredom, as were our schools. Our bosses infantilize us into behaving as fearful little children, just as our teachers, and mothers and fathers once did.


***


Sarah (Kate Winslet) belongs to a book-club which is discussing Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary". The other members of the book-club are, with one exception, women older than Sarah, who are split in their judgements of Emma Bovary, who, being stuck in a stultifying and oppressive marriage to a bourgeois doctor, chose to break free, and have passionate affairs with many men. Sarah sees in Emma's predicament, her own predicament. So Sarah takes Emma's side, saying, in so many words, that Emma was presented with a simple choice: either conform to society's mores, and be unhappy, but secure and respected; or try for happiness, but at the price of disgrace and ultimate disaster.

Is Emma's predicament that much different for so many of today's women, and also men? This question hovers over the book-club's dissection of "Madame Bovary".

One of the book club's participants is one of Sarah's soccer-mom friends from the playground She condemns Emma vehemently, calling her a disgraceful irresponsible slut. Why would this model of a suburban soccer-mom, take so personally what the fictional Emma Bovary did? one wonders.

Envy?


And Now For Something Completely Different:

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Meaning of Ron Paul (2)

My last posting, about Ron Paul, led to a reader, Bobby, posting a comment saying that should Ron Paul be the Republican candidate in this year's US general election, he, Bobby, will vote for him, since he finds intrinsically appealing, Ron's down-to-earth economic message.

Since whatever Ron Paul says, and what people say about what he says, is usually provocative, Bobby's comment provoked me into writing a reponse longer than is normal in such responses.

Having written it, I considered it suitable for a separate posting, so here it is:


Hi Bobby - You've obviously been taken in by Ron Paul's economic bromides, which sound so simple - too good to be true, you might say, and they certainly are!!!

You should know that Ron is a disciple of the Austrian and Chicago schools of economics, whose high-priests include(d) Friederich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises of the Austrian school; and Milton Friedman of the Chicago school. The philosophies of the Austrian and Chicago schools are, by the way, for all intents and purposes the same, saying, in so many words, that taxes and the size of goverment must be kept to the bare minimum, so that the businessman can throw off his shackles, and unrestrainedly do his stuff in the glorious world of the free marketplace. Thus the economy will grow by leaps and bounds, and we'll all have good jobs, and be prosperous and happy.

If you believe all this, then I'm not surprised you'd vote for Ron. You'd be foolish not to.

Ron would take us all back to the time of the Great Crash of 1929 and before, when public sector spending in most of today's industrialized countries was a mere 10% of GDP, instead of the on-average 35% it now is. If you belonged to the rich elite, you were fine. But if you belonged to the majority who were poor, you weren't so fine. Admittedly you didn't have to pay much in taxes, but you were likely to be poor, and very possibly unemployed because joblessness was at 25% instead of the 7% or 8% it is today.

This state of affairs continued up to World War Two, when unemployment suddenly dropped to almost zero, because there was an immediate huge demand for people to make guns, tanks, and aeroplanes, and to wield them as soldiers, sailors, and airmen. So there was work for everyone, despite the work not being for the most part particularly pleasant, and often downright dangerous. But it was still work, so you never had to worry where your next crust was coming from.

Amazingly, things went on humming after the war's end, when returning soldiers demanded changes from how things were. They wanted the good life as reward for their wartime sacrifices. Goverments could only ensure this by continuing to spend at much higher rates than before the war, so to keep money flowing through the economic system. This created a continuous demand for goods and services, which in turn created a continuous need for workers and consumers.

This is called Keynesian economics - after the economist John Maynard Keynes, who said that in order to ameliorate the sharp fluctuations of business cycles, governments must pump large amounts of money into the public sector to keep up a steady demand for goods and services and maintain full employment.

So to apply Keynesian economics became the accepted practice, and, as a result, the societies of today's "developed world" transformed from being blue-collar working-class societies into white-collar middle-class ones, and brought about the greatest economic expansion in history. This is how things still are. But because people always take things for granted, many took for granted the post-war prosperity, and complained about the taxes to maintain the Keynesian economic order. So they demanded that their taxes be reduced, and governments be shrunk, so the businessman could do his thing.

But most of those who led the demands to go back to the old ways, were academics and business professionals, who were only able to become academics and business professionals because of the huge expansion of public education in the post-war Keynesian world. It's a poor reflection on post-war education, that so many emerged not knowing much of history and economics.Thus they learned no lessons from the Great Depression, among them that Capitalism contains within itself the seeds of its destruction - one of the great observations of Karl Marx. So these glib children of the Baby Boom generation didn't understand that, but for the Second World War and the huge public-sector spending it entailed, the capitalist economic system would likely not have survived, for it just wasn't working. Capitalism had to be saved from itself through goverment intervention.

But fortunately, the likes of Ron Paul and his acolytes - the ones who complain the loudest about Keynesianism - are in the minority, for most of those in charge of governments today are Keynesians. Even that arch Republican, Richard Nixon, once famously said, "We're all Keynesians now". And George Bush is also unwittingly a "Keynesian", although he would probably never admit this, assuming he knows of the word, "Keynesian", which he may not.

But if, Bobby, you've read this far, and you still aren't convinced of the merits of Keynesianism, ask yourself why, after the huge stock market crash of 1987 - a crash proportionately as large as that of 1929 - there wasn't another Great Depression? Well, it was because, thanks to the Keynesian monetary institutions and systems set up after World War Two to prevent another world-wide depression, goverments were able immediately to pump many billions of dollars into the system, to maintain an uninterrupted demand for goods and services. So, after a hiccup, the system went right on ticking, and the stock market soon recovered. Other large stock-market fluctuations have since occurred. But, again, there was no world-wide depression. So the Keynesian system must be doing something right.

So, Bobby, I feel sure you now see that Ron Paul, who rejects Keynesianism, and wants the world to return to what it was before 1929, doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to economics. This isn't to say he isn't a clever man, for he is, since he's a physician, and you must be clever to become a physician. So Ron would know much more about medicine than he would about economics. Well, yes, he's read some books about economics, the ones by Friederich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises of the Austrian school. But Ron's economic utterances are simply another example of a little learning being a dangerous thing.

If Ron would widen his reading to include books by the likes of John Maynard Keynes and John Kenneth Galbraith, he might learn how Keynesianism has saved us from economic disaster. And he might come to understand that the societies of the US and the other industrialized countries would, if they rejected Keynesianism, become as unequal as those of Indonesia, the Phillippines, Brazil, and South Africa, with their 30% unemployment rates. And he might become aware that whenever economic disparities within the industrialized countries have widened, their rate of economic growth has stagnated.

Lest you think I traduce Ron Paul unduly, I recognize that he's a good and public-spirited man who has contributed greatly to humanity by delivering many thousands of babies as an obstetrician, and performing free medical services to the poor. And his demand that the US dismantle its world-wide empire, bring all its soldiers home, and return to being the republic it once was, is wholly admirable. It is his stance on Iraq, and on US foreign entanglements, which has given him a somewhat high profile in the current presidential race. It's not his economics. And he has been a veritable breath of fresh air in the Republican debates, saying things that at least cause people to think.

You shouldn't, Bobby, take Ron Paul seriously when he says that the Department of Education, and the Federal Reserve, and the Income Tax, should be abolished. Ron can say these things, knowing he won't be elected president. If he were, perchance, the Republican front-runner, he'd be talking very differently. You can count on it.

Christopher.


And Now For Something Completely Different


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Meaning of Ron Paul

I recently received an e mail from an acquaintance of mine, Jim, a corporate lawyer of comfortable means, who owns a split-level suburban home, an SUV, has a devoted wife and children, and a dog and a cat.

Jim is a registered Republican and a Ron Paul supporter, since he likes Ron's libertarianism, which advocates shrinking of the size of government to the bare minimum, so that it gets off the backs of Americans, who will once again be free to live their lives exactly as they see fit.

Jim, whose office is downtown in a large city - the name of which is irrelevant for the purposes of this posting - was recently eating lunch in a food-fair, when he was approached by an unkempt unshaven unwashed, and obviously homeless man, who asked him for spare change. Jim gave him fifty cents, and the beggar moved on to another table.

Jim, in his message to me, wondered what should be done about the increasing numbers of homeless beggars of the kind who he gave the fifty cents to.

I replied as follows:


Hi Jim - That homeless man has more freedom than you have, since he doesn't have to get up at 5.30 am every morning to go to work in the dark, and then have to work all day, and only return home again fourteen hours later, again in the dark.

And he lives in less fear than you, because he doesn't have to worry that he'll lose his big suburban house, or lose his SUV, if he gets fired, or his firm goes bankrupt. The bridge he sleeps under at night, will always be there for him to sleep under, come rain or come shine. And he never has to go through the worry of finding spaces in town to park his SUV, because he wouldn't own one. So he's much freer than you to do what he likes.

I'll remind you of what Kris Kristofferson once said, that "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose".

But should you meet this homeless man again, and he complains to you about how poor he is, remind him of how much freer he is than you, and that being as free as he is, he would make Ron Paul proud, for Ron Paul - who would get rid of the Income Tax, the Department of Education, and the Federal Reserve - wants to make Americans as free as they were when the Pilgrim Fathers first landed at Plymouth Rock in 1608.

And you should furthermore tell this man that his plight has come about because the Federal government won't implement the economic policies of Ron Paul. This unfortunate man no doubt doesn't have a job because his potential employers can't afford to pay him the mandatory minimum wage, which Ron Paul would abolish. And he may not have been able to save any money by which, perhaps, to start up his own business, because his savings were eaten up by all the Income Tax he had to pay - the Income Tax which Ron Paul would also abolish.

Point out to him what Ron Paul has said about the Income Tax, that it takes billions of dollars out of the private sector, with many people giving as much as a third of what they earn to the Federal government, which inhibits job growth and penalizes productive behavior. Also, there are unnecessary privacy violations, and power gets consolidated at the federal level. Americans got along just fine without a federal income tax for its first 126 years, with the government raising revenues through tariffs, excise taxes, and property taxes. If Americans got along fine without the Income Tax then, why shouldn't they get along fine without it now?

If this man still isn't convinced, tell him about the Austrian School of economic thought - which so influenced Ron Paul - which says that economics is grounded in human action, that is, in the creative choices made by various individuals cooperating together under the division of labor. The tendency is to view government interference in this process of creative choice as counterproductive, and there’s an emphasis on entrepreneurship as the driving force in economic development.

Ron Paul, who recognizes that this is a huge topic, recommends several books to people, if they’re interested: "The Law" by Frederic Bastiat," Economics in One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt, "What has the Government done with our Money?" by Murray Rothbard, and "The Road to Serfdom" by Friedrich Hayek, to name a few. Also the writings of Ludwig von Mises, particularly the work he did with Friedrich Hayek on what’s known as the “Austrian business cycle theory.”

So, suggest to this man that he go to his nearest public library, and take out these books to read whenever he's enjoying the succour of the bridge which he sleeps under at night. Only when he has read them, will he more completely understand how much his chances of economically advancing himself were thwarted, because the Federal governments, for as far back as we can remember, didn't follow the free market policies of Ron Paul and the Austrian economic thinkers.

I hope we can meet up for golf soon.

Christopher.


And Now For Something Completely Different:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Human Traces

"Human Traces", a novel by Sebastian Faulks, tells the stories of two boys, Thomas Midwinter from England, and Jacques Rebiere from France, both born in the same year, 1860. Thomas's family are bourgeois city folk, and Jacques's are poor farmers.

Add to this that Thomas can speak only a smattering of French, and Jacques no English, and you'd think they'd have nothing in common. But, amazingly, they discover they have lots to talk about when they meet by chance while Thomas is visiting France with his family. Both boys yearn to know how the human mind works. Jacques wants to learn why his older brother, Olivier, hears voices inside his head and otherwise acts crazy, so crazy that Olivier has to be chained up in a stable, sharing his living space with the farm's animals. Thomas is an aficionado of Shakespeare's plays, being so fascinated by Shakespeare's acute insights into the psychology of people, that he wants the study of the human mind to be his life's work.

Thomas and Jacques talk excitedly together, in French, throughout an entire night, at the end of which, Thomas's rudimentary French has improved so much that he can speak it almost as well as his native English - testimony to there being no substitute for total immersion in a language you wish to become the master of.

In the nineteenth century, alienism (as psychiatry was then known as) was the neccessary path to studying the human mind. I believe this path via alienism is still the case today, despite the profession of alienism receiving many a black-eye over the past decades. But to become alienists, Thomas and Jacques had first to qualify as medical doctors, which required diligent study and sacrifice, just as it would nowadays. Despite their geographic separation, they cemented their friendship over those years through letters and visits, and vowed to set up a practice together after qualifying as alienists.

Thomas, as the son of a quite well-off father, had an easier time of it than the impoverished Jacques, who could not have afforded to study over the years, but for an abbe (priest) who befriended him, becoming his mentor, and helping pay Jacques's way through medical school. After qualifying as doctors, the two young men work as interns at institutions for the insane (then quaintly called lunatic asylums), which are dirty, smelly, and noisy places, and often dangerous.

Only when their internships have ended, are Thomas and Jacques able to scrape together the means to establish an alienist practice in Austria - in a castle (schloss). I'll talk no further about the story-line because it would detract from your enjoyment of this novel should you ever read it. Were I to continue on about what Thomas and Jacques got up to after this point, this discussion of "Human Traces" would degenerate into one of those "digested reads" of novels deemed by Guardian (UK) book-reviewers as not worth the time to read.

But I'll reveal that "Human Traces", at more than six-hundred pages, with its locales encompassing England, France, Austria, California, and the plains of Africa, and covering sixty years from 1860 to 1920, is written on an epic scale. It is the very opposite of minimalist, being written as novels were written in the nineteenth century, linearly, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

So "Human Traces" is mercifully devoid of cute literary tricks like alternating between the first and third persons, and between the present and past tenses, and messing around with time, and eschewing punctuation and quotation marks - techniques which narcissistically draw attention to the novelist, and emotionally distance the reader from the words on the page.

Should you read "Human Traces" (and you should) you'll become aware of stuff you either never knew, or had forgotten. I became aware, for instance, of how daughters in English families were regarded by their fathers as little more than property to be auctioned off to potential husbands. With Thomas's older and much beloved sister, Sonia, it was no different, since she was forcefully persuaded by her father to marry a man of promising financial prospects and good family, even though she loved him not at all. But, being a dutiful Victorian-era daughter, she did as she was told, and smilingly made the best of it.

Lest you think Sonia's and Thomas's father an insensitive brute, remember that unless a young woman of that time got married by her middle to late twenties, she would live the rest of her life as a sort of non-person, whom everyone would call, when out of earshot, a spinster or old-maid. Sonia's father didn't want this for her, and he did what he did out of fatherly love.

A quite unrelated fact I'd forgotten about, but which "Human Traces" reminded me of, is that we can re-live our memories of anything we've ever done, or had done to us, or have experienced, going back, arguably, to the moment we were yanked into the world as mewling and puking slime-covered infants. We can re-live anything vividly if an electric charge is applied to the memory area of our brain.

Sebastian Faulks has Thomas attending an operation on a mental patient, involving sawing away part of the skull so the exposed brain can be prodded with an electrical probe to cure the afflicted brain-area. Amazingly the patient is conscious throughout, since the brain is nerveless, and local anaesthetic is sufficient to deal with any pain from the skull. When the electric prod touches the memory area of the patient's brain, she re-experiences an event at the seaside, where, once again she is a child, and is so happy to be with daddy at the beach. When the prod is withdrawn, the patient's vivid experience ends abruptly, and she is angry at the surgeon for taking away such a lovely experience.

When the prod is again applied to that area, the patient doesn't again experience the beach episode because the location of the area in the brain for any particular memory area is precise, as precise as the positioning of a TV satellite dish, which, if moved even a fraction of an inch, will cause the picture on the TV to disappear.

The novel deals with the human predilection to overlook facts which don't support a pet theory. Jacques has a female patient who suffers various physical pains and discomfort, which, according to his pet theory, he diagnoses as being hysterical in origin. He treats her accordingly, but her pain continues. Jacques refers her to Thomas who immediately sees there's something physical the matter, and orders her admitted to hospital where she has an emergency operation which saves her life.

Relations between Jacques and Thomas were never again the same, for Jacques, who had based his professional reputation on hysteria being the cause of almost all female physical ailments, felt permanently humiliated.

Central to "Human Traces" is the notion that psychosis - in the form of the schizophrenia of Jacques older brother, Olivier, who, like all schizophrenics, hears voices inside his head more real than the voices of anyone else - is the price we pay (or the price one-per-cent of us pay) for being human, since we are unique in the animal kingdom in having psychoses.

Given how recently our brains evolved beyond those of the other animals, and that new technology - which is what our newly evolved human brains are, in effect - almost always contains glitches, our uniquely human brains therefore contain the glitch which causes psychosis. It is this glitch which the older and simpler brains of the other animals don't have.

An analogy is the endemic back problems of one kind or another which afflict most of us. This is because we only quite recently began walking upright. A million years hence, we may have evolved to the point that back problems will be as rare as an Eskimo on a street in Timbuktu.

"Human Traces" also speculates that we humans are evolving to a higher consciousness, so that the perennial philosophical questions which so tax us, like whether there's a god, or what the meaning of life is, or how large is the universe, won't even be asked, because the answers will be self-evident to our higher-consciousness descendants of the very distant future. Given that advances in evolution begin with relatively small numbers in any species having more advanced characteristics, perhaps it is the psychics - who we "normals" hold to ridicule, but who seem able to perceive modes of existence which we "normals" can't - who are the precursors of how we'll all be in a million years. So we'll all be as psychic as Sylvia Browne now is, but we'll have to wait a million years.

"Human Traces" as a novel does have its faults, being in many respects a history of the development of psychiatry under the guise of fiction. So it's a didactic and philosophical novel, which, to the literary aesthete, would detract from its artistry.

I, for one, am not a literary aesthete, and neither perhaps, dear reader, are you, which is why you'll savour "Human Traces", and think about it for as long after you finish it, as did I.


And Now For Something Completely Different:


Monday, January 07, 2008

Its Dog Eat Dog, Rat Eat Rat

I will today speak, not about Barack Obama, but about McDonald's, and it's intent to take a leaf from the book of Starbucks, by installing expresso coffee bars in all its US restaurants, which will serve lattes, capuchinos, and the various other upmarket coffees, to its customers.

On learning this, I thought immediately about the very different images associated with downmarket proletarian McDonalds, compared with upmarket professional Starbucks. When you go to McDonald's, you want simply to buy a Big Mac, wolf it down quickly, and, to help it through your esophagus, slurp down some of that warm brown water which passes for coffee at McDonald's.

I realize that in describing McDonald's fare thus, I'm doing so from my memories of when I used quite regularly eat there, when, being much younger, so much younger than today, I gave nary a thought to things like clogged arteries. Then came that day when my doctor informed me my cholesterol level was unhealthily high, and that I'd better make certain lifestyle changes pronto, else I'd be meeting the Grim Reaper earlier than planned.

An ingredient of the aforementioned lifestyle changes was no more McDonald's. So I've refrained from visiting McDonald's for over two decades, excepting perhaps once or twice in moments of weakness, when I couldn't help noticing that salads were now on offer. But I never tried them because, well, the whole purpose of going to McDonald's is not to eat a salad, but to consume a Big Mac, and fries, plus the warm brown water to wash it all down. Going to McDonald's to eat a salad makes as much sense as going to a Chinese restaurant to eat spaghetti Bolognaise.

Being a very cutting-edge Baby Boomer, I belong to that huge demographic which, too, is becoming concerned about clogged arteries, and may consequently have eschewed McDonald's as they become older. Perhaps this is why McDonald's has lost some of its earlier lustre, and now seeks to regain lost ground by offering not only salads, but coffee at least barely potable.

But McDonald's embodies uniquely American values, reflecting that food should be eaten as quickly as possible because time spent eating is time spent not working - not desirable in a society which worships work as fervently as it does God. Ray Kroc, McDonald's founder, knew that Americans go out to eat, not dine, and wish to eat as efficiently and quickly as possible. So he gave Americans what they wanted - a spotlessly clean, simple, casual and identifiable restaurant with friendly service, low prices, no waiting and no reservations.

Before he developed McDonald's, Ray Kroc was an itinerant milkshake-mixer salesman, who travelled the length and breadth of America selling milkshake multimixers. His customers included two brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald who owned a restaurant in San Bernadino, California, which offered very limited fare - hamburgers, cheeseburgers, french-fries, soft-drinks, and milk-shakes. They were offered at very low prices because the restaurant was operated so efficiently, reflected in the simple limited menu, and by eight milkshake multimixers whirring away day and night, yielding a steady stream of cash.

When Ray Kroc saw this, his mind began whirring like the multimixers he sold. He saw how this restaurant could be multiplied into a chain of them, and he pitched his idea to the McDonald brothers, who asked him, "Who could we get to open them for us?", and Kroc replied, "What about me?" This was in 1954.

So the McDonald's restaurant chain was begun, and so successfully that in 1961, Kroc persuaded the McDonald brothers into selling him the entire business for $2.7 million. The rest, as is said, is history.

Today, McDonald's has restaurants in over 114 countries, with annual world-wide sales of more than $41 billion, making it a veritable Gulliver compared to its relatively Lilliputian competitors. McDonald's expects its launch into upmarket Starbuck-style coffee, to yield an extra $1 billion a year in sales - not much, next to $41 billion - but it pays to keep competitors, like Starbucks, nervous.

Ray Kroc is long now dead, having expired in 1984, but McDonald's lives on and keeps growing - as quintessentially American as George Bush, the World Series, Mom, apple pie............and cheeseburgers.





I’m going to San Bernardino ring-a-ding-ding
Milkshake mixers that’s my thing, now
These guys bought a heap of my stuff
And I gotta see a good thing sure enough, now
Or my name’s not Kroc, that’s Kroc with a ‘k’
Like ‘crocodile’, but not spelled that way, now
It’s dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Kroc-style, boom, like that

The folks line up all down the street
And I’m seeing this girl devour her meat, now
And then I get it, wham as clear as day
My pulse begins to hammer and I hear a voice say
These boys have got this down
Oughtta be a one of these in every town
These boys have got the touch
It’s clean as a whistle and it don’t cost much
Wham, bam, you don’t wait long
Shake, fries, patty, you’re gone
And how about that friendly name?
Heck, every little thing oughtta stay the same
Or my name’s not Kroc, that’s Kroc with a ‘k’
Like ‘crocodile’ but not spelt that way, now
It’s dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Oh, it's dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Kroc-style, boom, like that

You gentlemen ought to expand
You’re going to need a helping hand, now
So, gentlemen, well, what about me?
We’ll make a little business history, now
Or my name’s not Kroc, call me Ray
Like ‘crocodile’, but not spelt that way, now
It’s dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Kroc-style, boom, like that

Well we build it up and I buy ‘em out
But, man they made me grind it out, now
They open up a new place flipping meat
So I do, too right across the street
I got the name, I need the town
They sell up in the end, and it all shuts down
Sometimes you gotta be an s.o.b.
You wanna make a dream reality
Competition? send ‘em south
If they’re gonna drown put a hose in their mouth
Do not pass go straight to hell
I smell that meat hook smell
Or my name’s not Kroc, that’s Kroc with a ‘k’
Like ‘crocodile’, but not spelt that way, now
It’s dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Oh, it's dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Kroc-style, boom, like that