Sunday, July 05, 2015

Defending the Free Market

The following is my reply to a critic of capitalism..

What made the US great was a belief in its own exceptionalism, its flexible labour market, high degree of innovation and its emphasis on individual freedom. It is also was motivated by a culture of self-reliance that eschewed the class structure of Europe. The country is a capitalist nation and although there has been a need at time to regulate some of the excesses of the laissez-faire model (which is only one of several models of capitalism) it is the adherence to free markets that have generated the wealth that underpins the success of the nation. The same is true of Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Chicago model has its pros and cons but countries that have adapted many of its solutions generally show enhanced economic growth (the US included). Chile is a classic example. It is ranked as a high-income economy by the World Bank and has the strongest GDP per capita for all South American countries. In global competiveness supersedes Brazil and Argentina who have erred on the side of big government with the predictable failures. Chile also has a robust privatized national pension, is ahead of the curve in income equality and nurses an unemployment rate of 6% that is lower than the socialist luminaries of Sweden, Spain, France and Belgium (to name a few).

Anti-Capitalist social justice warriors such as Naomi Klein (whom I suspect frames your opinions of neo-liberalism) and the ever irrelevant Michael Moore offer much criticism but very little in concrete alternatives (although they have probably moved into the 1% by pandering to the faithful with the required rhetoric that bashes the very philosophy that has enriched them). Socialist based economies have consistently failed. One can point to the obvious examples of Venezuela and Greece but there are a myriad of other cases from Tanzania, to Nicaragua to the population rich nation of India.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Graphic Novel Odyssey

I am a late entrant but have become a strong admirer of the medium of the Graphic Novel. Like regular novels they are largely driven by the quality of writing and story depth but the art work adds an extra dimension that can make the reading a thoroughly worthwhile experience.

Here are a few that I would recommend

1. Watchmen – Along with Frank Miller, Alan Moore is easily the best writer in the comic book world. Watchmen, is an in depth view into the psychology of being a superhero (a topic alluded to by Stan Lee and Miller as well). It is a truly spectacular work (far superior to V for Vendetta - another Moore work) and indicative of Moore’s real genius that I first acquainted myself with, during my teens, when he wrote the Future Shock Series for 2000 AD. Most people are familiar with the movie but the universe that Moore creates which brings us Ozymandias, the second Silk Spectre, Doctor Manhattan, the Comedian, the second Nite Owl and Rorschach is unparalled in its brilliance.

2. Contract with God – Will Eisner is another writer of immense distinction and his examination of Frimme Hersh in A Contract with God is a much needed work of philosophical significance. Eisner writes about tragedy, love and life struggle as seen through the eyes of a Jewish New Yorker trying to make sense of the never ending curveballs that the universe throws at him.

3. 300 – Frank Miller’s 300 is a gripping read from beginning to end. The story recreates, with significant artistic license, the events of the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC). While it shouldn’t be taken as real history the excitement value of this story is incredible. Miller has a legacy of pushing the envelope with his writing and 300 is no exception. Fans of Miller should also read his crime thriller series, Sin City as well as his four-issue resurrection of Batman in the Dark Night Returns. The latter is a must for all-lovers of the caped crusader who is easily the most complex and dynamic of the DC characters.

4. The Stand – This Graphic adaptation of the Stephen King that carries the same name is not that easy to find but does exist in libraries in the GTA. Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sarcasa and illustrated by Mike Perkins (published in 2008) the Stand is divided into six books. It tells the story of the aftermath of a deadly plague that has wiped out most of humanity. The world is divided into camps of good and evil who battle for the spoils of what remains. The story arcs of its many characters (one of which is the demon Randall Flagg – a regular King villain) are filled with twists and turns that weld into a powerful plot devoid of oversight.

Friday, July 03, 2015

American Tennis..Whatever happened?

Wasn't there a time when Sam Querry was touted as the Great American hope on the Tour? Roger Federer defeated him 6-4 6-2 6-2. With the fall of John Isner in five sets there are officially no American men left at the All-England Championship. I can't think of a time in American tennis history when the nation was at such a low point on the court. Whatever happened to the tennis tradition that gave the world Tilden, Budge, Gonzalez, Trabert, Smith, Ashe, Connors, McEnroe, Sampras, Courier, Agassi and Roddick? Players who could win let alone compete in Slams.





Taming another socialist

Just shot down another socialist wannabee with this reply. It was too easy. He chucked in the towel and went running.

Here is my reply to his assertion that socialism leads to a higher standard of living.

To Alex....The most widely used measure for Standard of Living is the Human Development Index (HDI). The index tracks life expectancy, education and per capita income. In the 2011 numbers (which I believe are the latest stats) the US is tied for third with the Netherlands and falls behind Norway and Australia in the listings. Norway’s economy is given a severe boost by its oil revenue that is spread out over a population smaller in number than Massachusetts. This can easily skew the analysis. Australia has more of a free market economy than the US as per the 2015 Index of Economic freedom and is hardly a socialist state (Neither is Norway for that matter contrary to popular belief). New Zealand, Canada, Ireland which placed 5,6 and 7 all have very free economies. To the contrary the most Socialist of all Western European States: Greece, Portugal, Spain and Poland have HDI rankings of 29, 41, 23 and 39.
Of interest is Spain whose unemployment rate has been consistently high and now sits at a staggering 26%.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

History Hour #5 - The First Empire Builders - The Akkadians

The Akkadians Empire was the first of its kind to emerge within the fledgling Mesopotamian civilization and covered an area about the size of modern day Turkey. The founder of the Empire was king Sargon (name means true king) the Great who ruled between 2334 to 2279 BCE. The Akkadians were a semitic people and the Empire bought together the Semites and the various Sumerian groups. Sargon imposed the Akkadian language on a number of groups including the rival Elam and although the Empire lasted for two centuries (it collapsed around 2154 BCE) it appears to have been provided the foundation for both the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires that followed.
The Akkadian Empire was centred on the city state of Akkad and followed the Sumarian religion with its deities: Anu (heaven), Enlil (air), Enki (freshwater and male fertility) and Ninhursag (goddess of the Earth).

Bringing down a behemoth

Rafa Nadal goes down at Wimbledon to Ziggy Marlee lookalike Dustin Brown. Congrats to the qualifier. Maybe he can repeat Johnny Mac's 1977 run?

Women's Movement spins off the rails

The Women’s rights movement has played an important role in the democratic history of the west by championing the struggle for voting rights, access to education, judicial equality and better opportunity of employment for women There is no doubt that society is better for these achievements. While it draws from a philosophical basis that include the bright lights of Wollstonecraft, Mills and de Beauvoir. It has gained some strength as well through the more modern although less sophisticated work of Friedan, Sontag and Greer. However the movement’s real success was its pragmatism that used the geopolitical/economic disturbances of the time such as the World Wars to bolster a real and meaningful struggle. Rosie the Riveter, the archetype symbol of the immense contribution of women to the war effort is in many a way the greatest feminist of the modern era.

However like so many other movements – such as those that fought for racial equality and worker’s rights – today’s heirs to the women’s right struggle have fallen far short of their past greatness. In fact just as the NAACP, with all its infighting and continuous whining, as well as the self serving Rainbow Coalition (founded by the charlatan Jesse Jackson who has done more than perhaps anybody other than the chronic mischief-maker Al Sharpton to soil the tremendous legacy of Martin Luther King) modern feminism is beset by a rot that now only serves to hinder the credibility of its predecessors.

Take the year 2014 for example, that was highlighted by seemingly endless accounts of the brutal ill-treatment of women (especially non-Muslim women) by Islamic fundamentalists within and often beyond the ISIS umbrella.

If it weren’t for the more conservative media outlets (those that are often attacked by the Orwellian keepers of the discourse as Islamophobic) one would rarely hear of such barbarisms (the real inconvenient truth). The sanitized mass media play down such events for fear of a backlash (although they have no qualms about going full ‘retard’ if the religion is not Islam) and feminist organizations, who should see this as a primary concern, have adapted what appears to be the mantra of hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.

Instead what one finds is the ever irrelevant National Organization of Women (known as NOW although this should perhaps be changed to LATER or NEVER) and its horde of sycophants in the increasingly academically poor cultural studies programs rallying about such diabolical manifestations as Manspreading, Ban Bossy, scientists with ‘sexist’ shirts, Gamergate and the manufacturing through false statistics and equally appalling analysis of a rape culture that simply doesn’t exist.

Each one of these memes can be ripped to pieces, mulched and then tossed to the waste bin of bad ideas, along with the rest of the nefarious bile that is Cultural Marxism, by a simple application of reason, logic and that biggest of distracters….FACTS. It already has.

Yet this nonsense persists, driven by the keepers of a Third Wave Feminism, who have pulled the rug away from sanity, jumped a line up of half a dozen sharks and have taken - what could have been a movement that extended the notion of the women’s struggle to regions of the world (where it is most needed) - into a laughable and living caricature of itself.

This is not only a real shame but an insult to women worldwide.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Greece and a financial system gone to hell

It still seems incomprehensible to me that a small economy such as that of Greece (representing 0.4% of the World’s GDP) can have such an impact on global finance. Yet somehow this minnow economy has the international markets in a tizz as the world waits with bated breath on the outcome of an austerity pact referendum that should for all intent of purpose be meaningless. The truth is that Greece is more than just that. It is the financial equivalent of a cardiac enzyme that provides insight into a circulatory system that is on the verge of or has just undergone some type of heart failure.

The financial system is broken and has been so for some time. Too much wealth or at least apparent wealth is backed up by nothing. Take the derivative market – at present it is valued at around 750 Trillion dollars – yes that’s trillions of greenbacks – making it ten times larger than our best value of real wealth – international GDP which sits at the 75 Trillion mark. But what are derivatives? A future that hedges us against contingencies – the promise of a promise with money itself being the original IOU. In reality it is another instrument to generate wealth for those eager to stay at least one step ahead of a giant pyramid built on clay. In short to cheat the system.

And so it is with much of finance – its very structure is built on an illusion in that it multiplies the real to produce a virtual wealth that in turn forms the ‘new clothes’ of an emperor class (at whose apex sits the Davos elite). It is fairy dust, as insincere as the kiss from a prostitute, but as hyped beyond intrinsic value as perhaps nothing else in human history.

Enter stage left Greece, a dying remnant of a once great civilization reduced to pathos by demographic suicide, historical turmoil, poor leadership and the entitlement culture of a stifling contemporary socialism. To survive it had to glean and scoop, borrow and beg, taking what it could from the bloated beast of the European financial appendage to keep abreast an economy so mismanaged and revenue poor (thanks to tax cheating and a lack of innovation) that it could barely stay afloat.

Until it no longer can. The buck had to stop and it did. The Northern Europeans called in the loans and the Greeks as predicted have been found wanting. But bad decisions have consequences and bad consequences (such as giving Greece the loans in the first place or better still allowing them to join the eurozone) multiply with a zeal especially when the system is geared by its very nature to do so. A butterfly flaps its wings and sends tremors through the financial Babel Tower and so it is with this blowback from the Greeks.

The clay must shift only time will tell us how far. But it will eventually reset. Some of the gnomes will cash in on their profits, others will crumple afoot. This should serve as a warning but it will soon be forgotten. One can count on that. We are experts at camouflaging our weaknesses and the financial system of nebulous wealth is defined by such a paradigm. This is its essence. Expect another crisis, perhaps Portugal or Spain or one of the former East Bloc countries in five or six years from now.
The clay may have shifted but at the end of the day its nature has not changed.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Failure to Launch - Falcon 9

This is an unfortunate turn of events. I was really hoping that Messr. Musk and co. would succeed with this attempt. Despite the setback I believe that he still will. For more go to
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-33305083

Saturday, June 27, 2015

History Hour #4 - City States of Mesopotamia

City States evolved to protect the Agricultural domains. Most were controlled by kings or ruling elites but were highly influenced by a priestly class who legitimized their existence by claiming direct (or feigning) contact with the gods.
Mesopotamia (the land between the rivers ie. The Tigris and the Euphrates) was the earliest one of these city state civilizations to flourish and together with the Egyptian Nile based culture most impacted the Western World.
The earliest Mesopotamian city was Ur that appeared to have been founded as early as 6500 BC and abandoned about 500 BC. It was located in the flood rich South Mesopotamian. Like the other cities of the time it was surrounded by a wall, had roads and streets and a sewer system. It prospered greatly during a time when all sea traffic entering Mesopotamia had to pass through this port city.
Ur’s greatest ruler was the king Ur-Nammu who ruled between 2047 and 2030 BC. He built the famous ziggarut (massive raised structure that resembles a step pyramid with its terrace like form), many temples and improved on the region’s irrigation system.
At the height of its power Ur’s population was estimated to be around 65,000. However this dropped substantially following periods of droughts and sacking by nomad groups.
By 500 BC it was abandoned as power in the region shifted to the Northern Mesopotamian city of Babylonia. Nevertheless Ur features prominently in Biblical history. In the Book of Genesis Ur Kadashim is identified as the birthplace of Abraham and it is mentioned in Nehemiah as well. Ur was not the only Mesopotamian city of note. Eridu, Lagash, Nippur, Sippar and Uruk also played key roles in the regional history.


History Hour #3 - Epic of Gilgamesh

Dating back to the 21st century BC the Epic of Gilgamesh is regarded as the first great work of literature. The poem is a product of Ancient Mesopotamia and consists of two halves that span twelve tablets. The first half tells the story of the wild beast Enkidu and his adventures with Gilgamesh. Part two details Gilgamesh’s jouney to find the secret of eternal life following the death of Enkidu. Included in the second part is the tale of Utnapishtim and the Great Flood which is believed to have served as the inspiration for the flood narrative in Genesis.

The Gilgamesh epic has made its way into popular fiction and has clearly influenced both biblical and classic literature as well. It tells a similar story to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, has parallel advice similar to that of the Book of Ecclesiastes, eludes to a Nebuchadnezzar-type Babylonian king and has an uncanny similarity to the works of the Greek bard Homer.

The Five Set Tennis Match

While I support pay equity in tennis I still take issue with the fact that the Women’s Grand Slam Events (Australia, French, Wimbledon, US Open) have not shifted to a best-of-five set format as opposed to the best-of-three scenario that currently prevails. If the sexes are to earn the same amount in prize money (even though the women’s game is markedly inferior on almost all measurable yardsticks of technical proficiency) then surely players should at least be expected to pla...y to the same level of competitive rigour especially in the big events. The Grand Slams represent the pinnacle of tennis achievement and those that succeed need to earn their spurs by being subjected to more stringent criteria than those of the regular tennis tournaments (which are generally best-of-three for both men and women). This issue has been brought up before, most recently by Andy Murray in 2013, but after the predictable shout downs by the feminist griping class is quickly swept under the table. Top female competitors are very much capable at playing to the five set format (in fact the season ending WTA tournament adapted the structure between 1983 and 1998) and rightfully should be made to do so to earn the multi-million dollar pay cheques that await the winners of these monumental tournaments. Lets stop with the excuses and get on with it. If you want the big money then work to earn it

Gay Marriage Decision

With the 5-4 US Supreme Court Decision Social Conservatives have lost yet another battle in the cultural war. The most recent defeat follows on losses that SoCons have suffered in the arenas of school prayer, intelligent design, divorce, birth control, sex education and if you want to go back far enough...Rock and Roll. Social Conservatism is clearly on the wrong side of what appears to be tsunami of changes that have engulfed the West from World War Two. Not being a social ...conservative (I am a Classic Liberal who emphasizes individual freedom) I do not take fault with the SCOTUS decision. Indeed I applaud it as a way of bringing into the fold those previously marginalized and enhancing the dynamics of marriage (a remarkable idea) as an important unit of stability in society. While SoCons may react with horror and indeed disbelief at the turn of events better questions to ask are: What defines Western Civilization in the first place? Is it our insistence on clinging to notions that splinter and thereby weaken society or is it the cultivation of a framework that guarantees freedom of being (the source of much of our innovation), non-hurtful action and extended cohesion across a broader platform?