Thursday, December 27, 2012

‘Go to the Ant, Thou Sluggard; Consider her Ways and Be Wise’’ Proverbs 6:6

illustration by Phyllis Peacock
by Madeleine Kando

One of my favorite stories as a child was 'The Cricket and the Ant', by Jean de la Fontaine. ** I had to recite the fable in school and to this day I remember every single line, in French.

The cricket was singing all summer while the ant was working to save up food. When winter came the cricket found herself dying of hunger and asked the ant if she would share her food, but the ant said: ‘Well, since you sang all summer, why don’t you dance all winter and let me be?’

There were periods in my life when I identified with the happy-go lucky cricket rather than the ant. I considered myself an 'artiste' with a disdain for the bourgeois goodie-two shoes ant. But as I got older, I came to see the cricket for the fraud that she was and began to look at the ant with different eyes. Obviously the moral of the story was not wasted on me, but because of my bohemian background I still had my reservations. Read more...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Should We Have a Constitutional Right to a Bicycle?


By Tom Kando

Even after the Sandy Hook massacre  of twenty children, the ENTIRE debate about gun control is about how to limit SOME sorts of fire arms,  while protecting the 2nd Amendment. I have yet to hear  ANYONE, no matter how liberal,  suggest that we repeal the 2nd amendment altogether. So let me be  the first one to raise this sacrilegious thought. Outrageous? Yes, but wait:

1. Amendments aren’t sacrosanct.   The 18th amendment (prohibition) was a mistake, so it was repealed  by the 21st. Similarly, the 2nd amendment could be repealed through a future amendment, e.g. the 28th.
Read more...

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Meritocracy? My Foot.


By Tom Kando

How often have you heard companies, universities and other organizations justifying their CEOs’ and  administrators’ extravagant salaries on the grounds that this is necessary to compete for,  and to attract,  talent. We live in a  meritocracy, right? The better you are, and the more useful your contribution to society is, the more money you make, right?
Maybe not. George Bernard Shaw (allegedly) said, “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.” To which one could add:  “Those who can’t even teach become administrators.”  (Now don’t you  administrator -friends of mine all get huffy. Remember, I just quoted  the famous dig at teachers by George Bernard Shaw, and I am a teacher. What I added to it was just a variant of the Peter Principle).
Read more...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mass Murder: Again and Again, And Again


By Tom Kando

Less than five months ago, I posted a piece titled “Learning from Colorado Mass Murderer James Holmes?” The occasion was another  recent mass murder. James Holmes  “only” killed 14 people. Today in Newtown, Conn., the count is 27, mostly children!

One of the first commentaries  heard  today, from the White House no less,   is that “now  is not the time to get into a gun control debate.” Wow! If not now, then when? (To his credit, President Obama did emphasize later the imperative need to address the issue).
Read more...

The Dunkin Donuts Affair

by Madeleine Kando

Bedford, Massachusetts is one of those towns that the whole world drives through to get somewhere else. The main road, called the Great Road is really not so great. It is the only artery that connects the highway with the more affluent surrounding communities and it is adorned with fast-food joints, supermarkets and gas stations. People stop, shop or get gas and move on to greener pastures.

Dunkin Donuts is one of the more popular locales of this drive-through town and our house has the misfortune of being one of the ‘abutters’, as they are officially called. I am a veteran Bedford resident and I have the scars to show for it. For the past year, I have battled with the town to try to get a decent night’s sleep.

Dunkin Donuts opens its doors at 6am at which point the drive-through intercom starts blaring ‘may I help you?’ with such deafening force that it could wake up the dead. But the real cause of my year-long battle with the powers that be is that the delivery truck comes rumbling in at the insane hour of 4 am, which obviously is in direct violation of the town bylaws. Read more...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Right to Bear Arms and Other Constitutional Rights


By Tom Kando

I recently made another pro-gun control statement on this blog, and someone accused me of not knowing about the 2nd amendment. This inspired me to write the following:

I do know about the 2nd amendment. It says, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

The Declaration of Independence states that "all people are created equal and are endowed with unalienable rights which include Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

The Constitution, the Bill of Rights and 17 additional Amendments concretize these general ideals. This is where our Founding Fathers and later politicians specified many of our fundamental rights.
Read more...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Simple Answers


By Tom Kando

Today, I thought I’d help you out a little bit, and give some simple answers to some questions which you may have had:

1. Should we abolish the electoral college? YES. Why?
Because Democracy means equality. It means one man/woman = one vote.  The electoral college contradicts this.

2. Should we abolish the Senate? YES. Why?
For the same reason. In the Senate, California’s 38 million people are represented by  the same number of senators (2) as the 660,000 people of Wyoming.

No democracy should have a bi-cameral legislature.  A congress/parliament only requires one legislative chamber. The other one - call it the Senate, the Upper House, the House of Lords, or whatever - is a superfluous vestige of an undemocratic past, going all the way back to ancient Rome. Such institutions are as undemocratic as was the three-fifths compromise, whereby the slave population  counted for three fifths of the white population, or the poll tax, which was a pre-condition for voting. What part of equality don’t you understand?
Read more...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holiday Season: A Time of Giving

By Tom Kando

Sometimes it feels like we have forgotten how to be human.

My soon-to-be hundred year old mother lives  in Holland by herself.  I go see her twice a year. The most burdensome aspect  of these intercontinental trips is not the cost, but the extreme fatigue and discomfort. My  head, joints, muscles and every other part of my body hurt non-stop during travel and for weeks afterwards.  But this is not what I mean to complain about. I love my mother, she is a fantastic person, and I am blessed that I can still spend quality time with her.

What I do want to complain about is the attitude I have encountered around me. Sometimes I get teased about  my bi-annual  trips to my mother.  There is the insinuation  that I am a mama’s boy; that I am  “hung up” on my mother; that a “real man” wouldn’t do all of this. Read more...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Northern Pass, Kiss My ….

by Madeleine Kando

It is Thanksgiving morning and we are driving towards Canada through northern New Hampshire. The road snakes through a landscape dominated by tall pine trees and clean shaven, rolling hay fields which are now covered with a thin sprinkling of snow. This is the North Country, sparsely populated and very poor. It is all land, with a few small towns that seem to have been forgotten by civilization. Houses are few and far between, many of them in need of serious repair. Old barns are left to rot because the cost of demolishing them is too high.

It hasn't changed much since we first started to come here almost 30 years ago to visit our friends the Kaufmans. They own 300 acres which they bought for a song back in their hippie days, got a few horses and after having lived in a tee-pee for years, decided to build a house buried deep inside their property. Our visits to this small corner of the world gives us a sense of security; no matter how tumultuous our lives are back in Boston, the pine trees up here tell us ‘don’t worry, we’ll be here, waiting for you, no matter how long you stay away’. Read more...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Latest Israeli-Palestinian War: You Be the Judge


By Tom Kando

By now, most people are well informed about the latest fight between the Israelis and the Palestinians:

1. The trigger was the assassination by Israel  of Ahmed Jabari, a Hamas military leader. In retaliation, Hamas  started  to lob hundreds of rockets from Gaza onto Israel. In return, Israel began the massive  bombing of Gaza.            

2. As usual, the death toll has been  lopsided:  half a dozen Israelis vs. more than 160 Palestinians. Every Israeli death is avenged by more than 20 Palestinian deaths.

3. Using this criterion leads one to condemn Israel more harshly than Hamas. One moral measure has always been: he who kills the most is the most evil.
Read more...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Power of Exponential Doubling


By Tom Kando

Here is a  parable: An ancient Eastern Emperor, because he was bored,  ordered his court scholars to invent an exciting  game. One of them came up with the game of  checkers. The emperor  was very pleased. He told the inventor that he would reward him with anything the man wanted. The inventor replied  that his desires were modest. He merely asked  to receive some grains of rice, namely one grain placed on the checker board’s first square, 2 on the second square, 4 on the third, and so on,  doubling the number until the last square of the checker board  was reached.
Read more...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Across the Carpathians in the Winter Night


By Tom Kando

A few years ago, I spent a winter sabbatical in Eastern Europe. I stayed there for over three months, mostly in Budapest, Hungary, researching post-communist conditions in the former satellites of the Soviet Union. My research also required me to go to adjacent countries, for example the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. One of my side trips was to the Southern Polish city of Krakow. I knew some faculty members at the Jagiellonian University there, and I had made appointments to interview them. I decided to drive there from Budapest in the little Renault Twingo which I had rented in Vienna. Read more...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Don't Bite the Hand that Feeds You: The Truth about Taxes

by Madeleine Kando

We have all heard the expression ‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’, but even though they are both certain, we don’t spend weeks on end agonizing over death every time April comes around. It is taxes that gives us heart palpitations, high blood pressure and other physical ailments. Death actually has the advantage over taxes of being non-negotiable. We cannot fudge the books or take any deductions on death. You cannot hide in an off-shore account, death will find you, trust me.

But what death mostly has going for it is that it’s a lot less complicated than taxes. I found that out the moment I started doing research for this article. So, rather than pretend that I know what I am talking about, I will admit up front that this essay resembles a piece of Swiss cheese with more holes than cheese.

Let me start with the 47%. Was Romney right about the 47%? Yes. There is a large proportion of Americans that do not owe money to the government because they either don’t earn enough, they have too many expenses or because they have a lot of deductions.

Was Romney wrong about the 47%? Yes. The 47% pays payroll tax, state, local and sales tax, gas and property tax. Not only do they pay all these taxes they pay a larger share of their income towards these taxes than the rich. It’s called a ‘regressive tax’. Read more...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What’s Wrong With You, Europe?

by Madeleine Kando

Why are you not more excited about Obama’s re-election? Are you that self-centered that you only look at what the American presidency means to Euro-American relations? Why are you not as excited as I am about America’s narrow escape from a fall into the abyss of a Romney/Ryan/Ayn Rand world?

Are you taking your own social-democratic privileges that much for granted that you don’t see how huge this victory is for America? Read more...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

CONGRATULATIONS, PRESIDENT OBAMA!


By Tom Kando

CONGRATULATIONS, PRESIDENT OBAMA! NEVER HAS ANYONE WORKED SO HARD AND DONE SO MUCH TO DESERVE RE-ELECTION. YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. YOUR CONTINUED LEADERSHIP IS A BLESSING FOR THE COUNTRY. THIS IS A HISTORICAL MOMENT. AMERICA CAN LOOK FORWARD TO THE FUTURE leave comment here Read more...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Book Review
by Madeleine Kando

Everyone knows that the world is a dangerous place, full of mayhem, murder and calamity. Our instinct tells us to fear strangers, lock our doors at night and not trust anyone outside our immediate circle of friends and relatives. It is also common knowledge that we live in a very dangerous time. Terrorist and extremist groups are sprouting up like mushrooms, waiting for the slightest excuse to blow everyone to smithereens. It's a wonder we still have the guts to lead normal lives: we go to the store, we walk our kids to school and we even go to the movies.

In 'The Better Angels of our Nature', Steven Pinker blows all these pre-conceived ideas with one swell swoop right out of the water. Spanning his arguments across 700 well-documented pages, he shows us that violence in human society has gone down by leaps and bounds and that we now live in the most peaceful time in human history. Read more...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Capitalism: The Party Goes On


By Tom Kando

Today, my wife and I  went shopping for a new refrigerator. We got a miraculous twenty-four  years out of our existing refrigerator, but it’s dying. So we drove to the usual places - stores such as Sears, Lowe’s, Home Depot, RC Willey. These are all massive, nationwide chain stores that sell furniture, appliances and other things. When you enter Lowe’s, the building is so gigantic that you can’t see where it ends. The floor is larger than a football field. Same with RC Willey.What I want to tell you about today is how things looked, while we were out shopping.
Read more...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Tea Party Will Win and America Will Lose


By Tom Kando

 On October 14, Frank Rich wrote a disturbing article which sounds very true, alas: THE TEA PARTY WILL WIN INTHE END (New York Times Oct. 14, 2012).

Here is what Rich says, essentially: America will forever remain a right-wing country. American popular culture is fundamentally anti-government. This ideology is entrenched, and it is being re-enforced forever by the plutocracy’s funding of propaganda - political campaigns, talk radio, the Western “individualistic” cowboy culture allied with old Southern anti-federalism in support of racism.
Read more...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Nobody's Century: Rethinking American Foreign Policy

By Madeleine Kando

According to retired diplomat and former Ambassador Chas Freeman, the way America sees the world and its place in it, is a figment of its own outdated imagination, not the way the world really is today.

One of the reasons for this is that the 20th century was an American century, a century largely dominated by the United States in political, economic and cultural terms. It fought and won over fascism, it promoted the rule of law and democratic ideals throughout the world and after the Second World War, it was the defender of the ‘Free World’, made possible by the Cold War and Communism. That came to an end in 1989 when Communism imploded. There was no longer a common enemy and America was left strong militarily but weak in ideology. Read more...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Don't be Fooled by Affable Romney

By Tom Kando

We have had  four debates, including the vice-presidential one.  The Republican candidates acquitted themselves quite well. Although President Obama did extremely well in two out of his three debates, the end result of the four debates  is a Republican victory because of  the following reason:

 Before the debates, the media had succeeded in convincing a slight majority of the electorate that the Republican ticket was dangerously radical.  Repeated  faux-pas by Romney such as “the 47%”  were  a godsend for the Obama campaign. The widespread  perception was that Romney  was (1) a buffoon, (2) incompetent and (3) “severely” conservative. The latter perception was justified, as he had expressed many severely conservative views as long as he was courting the Republican base during the primaries.
Read more...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

President Obama: We Need Four More Years of the Same

By Tom Kando

And here is another  shibboleth - heard even on the strongly  pro-Obama MSNBC Chanel: that the President’s record of  achievements is weak, and that he is   forced to be  negative  and to focus on criticizing Romney, rather than running on his own record and promising four more years of the same. What hogwash! He should proudly tout his amazing record!  Cute jokes like “Romnesia” aren’t going to be enough to win. Here is just a small sample

1. Obamacare: This President succeeded where a dozen predecessors all the way back to Truman and Nixon failed. With Obamacare, the US finally joins the ranks of other  civilized countries.
2. He inherited two wars, and has already ended one and a half of them.
3. He has promoted women’s equality through such legislature as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Read more...

The Presidential Campaign: A Hobbesian Trap **

by Madeleine Kando

Ok, so now that the presdential campaign is almost over, I can look back on the entire process, which includes the primaries and see a steady, gloomy descent into the abyss of Hobbesian hell called the Hobbesian Trap.

The first Presidential debate on October 3rd, you know, the one in which Obama did so ‘poorly’, was the beginning of an ever accelerating slide into the fire of damnation. Obama was still under the illusion that debates are there to talk about ideas, policies and the like. Ha, how naïve, how childish. Romney set him straight on that one. He came out blazing, sword drawn, went for the jugular as soon as the clock started ticking. Read more...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Benghazi Pseudo-Issue


By Tom Kando        

The Republicans  are desperately  milking the Benghazi pseudo-issue for all its worth. On October 19, ultra-reactionary Charles Krauthammer wrote another column accusing President  Obama of grave malfeasance in this matter, predicting that he will lose grievously  on this issue during his next presidential debate with Mitt Romney (Sacramento  Bee, Oct. 19, 2012).  So the issue can be expected to come up in a big way during the debate. Here is what it’s all about:
Read more...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Eating Crow About Lance Armstrong

By Tom Kando

It is now  inescapable that Lance Armstrong cheated MASSIVELY and consistently during much of his career.  As the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad puts it, “the stench is rising...there is overwhelming proof of systematic doping by the seven-time Tour winner.” (October 10, 2012).  The number of witnesses testifying to this has risen to 26. The accusations include alleged intimidation and threats by Armstrong against his peers, huge suspicious payments to Italian Dr. Michele Ferrari,  and all sorts of  other sleaze. Read more...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama’s Incredible Transformation

by Madeleine Kando

Last night’s second Presidential Debate was so intense and suspenseful, that it made for far better entertainment than my usual dose of ‘Wallander’ Mystery series. Who would have thought that the President of these United States would give Americans a more exciting performance than most of what you could watch on tv that night?

When the whole thing was over, I felt like I had witnessed a prize-fighter contest without the bruises and bloody faces. I knew Obama wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice, Getting knocked out in the first round of the first Presidential debate sure taught him a lesson. But I wasn’t prepared for this kind of fighting spirit, especially from a man who is known to be ‘civil’ and ‘moderate’. Read more...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Olé, Toro!

by Madeleine Kando

I am walking in the forest, enjoying a typical fall afternoon in beautiful New England. It’s the best time of year around here. I am listening to the soft crunch of my steps on the carpet of multicolored leaves. Red, brown, ocher, yellow… Since my friend Mark took me on a nature hike last week, walking in the woods has acquired a multi-dimensionality that I didn’t know existed. Why all these colors? How did a Maple leaf decide to turn red, an oak leaf brown and a chestnut leaf yellow? Even in death these leaves insist on shouting out who they are, just in case you mistake them for something else. I am ruined for life now that I have been initiated in the intricate world of plants. Gone are the days of innocent walks to exercise my dog. Gone are the days of blissful ignorance. Now I can no longer see the forest through the trees. I am now stepping on an Acer Tataricum leaf and on my right I am passing a Quercus Alba. Gone are the days when it used to be a simple oak tree. Read more...

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Vice-Presidential Debate: A Big Win for Biden

By Madeleine Kando

Yesterday’s vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan was heated, confrontational and everything that was lacking in last week’s presidential debate. If you thought that Romney and Obama’s debate lacked specifics, yesterday’s discussion was chock full of facts.

Personally, I thought Biden ‘won’ most of the arguments during the nine segments of the debate. As it progressed, Ryan had to fight harder and harder to defend his stance on the issue at hand. Although both debaters were smart and verbally proficient, at times, Biden was flat out laughing and showing with clear body language that what Ryan was saying was bogus, and his ‘facts’ were promptly and brilliantly corrected by Biden, albeit with a touch of impatience. Read more...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Post-Mortem of Obama's Debate Defeat: Sense and Nonsense

By Tom Kando
The media have saturated the airwaves with their spin on the October 3 Romney-Obama debate, ad nauseam. The verdict is unanimous - Obama lost. The discussions range from sensible to ridiculous:

(1) The President was complacent. Being ahead in the polls, he just wanted to run out the clock.

(2) He was not prepped properly. He was too busy governing. Or he thought that he was so much smarter than Romney that he didn’t need to be prepped (hubris). On the other hand, Romney has been toughened up by a year of debating many other primary candidates (including several imbeciles) Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Perry, Santorum. Read more...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hip People Will Vote for Obama and Squares Will Vote for Romney

By Tom Kando
                       
(Warning: be light-hearted when you read this. It’s not really scientific).

Folks: I got news for you: The REAL choice before us this fall is between Apollo and Dionysus, Square and hip, soul and no soul, love and no love. On the face of it, the upcoming election is about the interests of the rich vs. those of the middle class, individualism and freedom vs. collectivism, free market capitalism vs. welfare state, taxes and public benefits vs. business profits and productivity, in other words, “liberal” vs. “conservative”policies. Read more...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nordic Noir: A Recipe for Addiction

by Madeleine Kando

For the past two months I have been glued to my TV set for most of every evening. I have become addicted to a genre called ‘Nordic Noir’, which takes its name from the literature genre of Scandinavian crime fiction. It has gained traction in the United States and Britain with the famous trilogy ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’.

If you suffer from a short attention span, if you don’t like crime stories to divert into complex character analysis which only on the surface have nothing to do with the crime itself, you won’t like these movies. Nordic Noir movies move at a snail’s pace. In ‘The Killing’ for instance (‘Forbrydelsen’ in Danish), one single murder of a teenage girl spans the entire 20 episodes. Even the BBC’s excellently produced 1990’s ‘Prime Suspect’ (whose main character is played brilliantly by Helen Mirren), doesn’t come close to taking that long to get to the punch line. Read more...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Crime and Punishment: Who is Nuttier, Norway or California?


By Tom Kando

This Fall, Californians will vote on Proposition 36. This would change the state’s 1994 Three-Strikes Law.   Currently, the law stipulates 25–to-life prison terms for offenders who commit any third crime after having already committed two previous serious or violent felonies. The third crime can be ANY minor crime defined as a felony.

The Sacramento Bee (September 24, 2012) provides two examples:
Read more...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Is America Responsible for the World?


By Tom Kando

The moment one dares to criticize Muslim misbehavior, the knee-jerk Left and many intellectuals go haywire: One gets labeled a  McCarthyist, a  racist, a  xenophobe, a bigot, a trigger-happy John Wayne (all things which I have been called  - in print, no less). Then, they proceed to list all the crimes committed by US imperialists over the centuries. Finally, they engage in erudite “explanations” of WHY Middle Easterners and Muslims misbehave, explanations which usually ebb over into JUSTIFICATIONS.  Examples of this abound among the comments made to my two recent posts, “The Time for Pacifism has not yet Arrived,” and “For no Rhyme or Reason.” At the same time, the Right also goes haywire:
Read more...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

For no Rhyme or Reason


By Tom Kando

The (Muslim) world explodes in a frenzy of anti-Americanism. There is much confusion in the media, among some of our readers (see the exchanges following my recent post “The Time for Pacifism has not yet Arrived”), in letters to the editor, and of course in the Muslim world.

What we have is a resurgence of the old and virulent disease of anti-Americanism. This disease is not unlike anti-Semitism. The millions who are again singing that song do so because it’s a knee-jerk habit, ingrained into them by mullahs and other brainwashers, because they don’t know any other songs.
Read more...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lance Armstrong: They all Cheated. Does that Make it Less Bad?

By Tom Kando

It’s a bit late, but I still want to share  my thoughts about one of my great idols - Lance Armstrong:

We have been told by the  Dutch press (Telegraaf, NRC-Handelsblad, etc.) and then the American media that the following people are testifying  that  Lance Armstrong has engaged in doping: Levi Leipheimer,  Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie, George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton  and Jonathan Vaughters. Five of these men did this year’s  Tour de France - the first four  as competitors, Vaughters as a team director. Read more...

Friday, September 14, 2012

9/11: The Time for Pacifism has not yet Arrived


By Tom Kando

Just a few days after the anniversary of 9/11, I join Madeleine in her American patriotism (see her recent The American Way). On September 11th , I watched a lot of  footage on the History channel, documenting the monstrous attack eleven years ago.

So I’m thinking: The enormity of this event inevitably enters it  into world  history, not just US history. Today, the average Dutchman or Senegalese may  not be glued to the TV watching documentaries of what happened on 9/11/01.
Read more...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The American Way

by Madeleine Kando

Europeans like to make fun of Americans, calling them naïve, crude, unsophisticated. They don't have the finesse, the cultural history or the sense of style that Europeans pride themselves on. I know, I was (and maybe still am a little bit) one of those snobs.

True, there are times when the taste for vulgarity of a Jerry Springer show or the glitz and glamour of the current political conventions with the confetti, the blaring music, the thousands of cheering, flag waving fans turns me off. A little less Americana would be fine by me. Read more...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why Obama is Infinitely Preferable to Romney

By Tom Kando

I just returned from Rome, and I have been reading  Roman history. There are many  parallels. 2,000 years ago, the struggle was similar. Patricians and Plebeians fought each other for centuries, the former to preserve the privileges of the few, the latter to expand   the rights, the opportunities and the  lives of the many. Even the political arguments used by the Roman plutocracy are uncannily similar to those used by Republicans today:  affluent Patricians pontificated in the Senate that success should not be punished; that a man only has himself (and the Gods) to thank for his success, and should only blame himself for his failures. Social Darwinism was alive and well then, and it thrives today. Change takes time. Read more...

Friday, September 7, 2012

What's Hollywood in French?


By Tom Kando

Today I thought I’d amuse you instead of riling you up about the presidential election and other nasty stuff. 

Although I grew up in 4 different countries, one thing to which I was exposed no matter where I lived, was Hollywood. In the 20th century, the American century, nothing  was more ubiquitous than American cinema, no matter where you lived.
Read more...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Roman Holiday: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


by Tom Kando

My wife and I were  in Rome recently. A couple of thieves tried to steal my briefcase, but thanks to my heroic behavior they failed. The Good is that an Italian bystander helped me (maybe); the Bad was the mugging, and the Ugly was that I had to dive into a garbage bin to retrieve my briefcase.

We arrived in Rome in the middle of a heat wave in late afternoon, by train from Florence. A taxi dropped  us off in front of the Paba Hotel on the Via Cavour. This is a nice little place which we have frequented many times over the years. The Via Cavour is a very busy major thoroughfare. The hotel is a block from the Forum, which we can see from our window. Read more...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

How Clint Eastwood Didn't Make My Day

by Madeleine Kando

First off, I have to confess that I have always been a Clint Eastwood fan. His spaghetti westerns are my all-time late-night favorites. How can anyone not fall head over heels with his 5'oclock shadow under his broad rimmed cowboy hat? The mix of indifference and concern in his crow-feet lined eyes? His tall frame with a hint of a stoop which makes his masculine body even more attractive? As I was watching my idol deliver his speech at the Republican Convention yesterday, all of this vanished in a puff of smoke. It was replaced with a sense of complete befuddlement. Read more...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Water: An Endangered Species?

by Madeleine Kando

I am visiting Kauai, also known as the Garden island, the oldest and most beautiful of the Hawaiian islands. Like a tiny speck of dirt, it sits in the middle of 64 million square miles of ocean, with the closest land mass 2400 miles away. Looking out the window of my rented condo on the cliffs of northern Kauai, it feels like I am on the bow of a ship. In all directions there is only water, water and more water. Read more...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Defining Paul Ryan

by Madeleine Kando

Everyone is trying to define Paul Ryan, the young, ambitious Republican Congressman that Romney chose as his running mate in the 2012 Presidential elections.

Romney himself has portrayed Ryan as ‘a reluctant budget warrior who went to Washington to change the status quo’ (conveniently forgetting that Ryan is the ultimate insider. He never ‘went’ to Washington, he was always there).

Paul Ryan is the Tea Party’s hero. He is one of the ‘Young Guns’ in the Republican Party. He is also the author of the proposed budget plan ’A Roadmap for America’s Future’, a plan that would essentially do away with most of the social welfare programs in this country. He is a true ideologue who believes in Social Darwinism: ‘Reward the rich, penalize the poor, let everyone else fend for themselves. Dog eat dog,’ as Robert Reich so aptly says in his article ‘The Ryan Choice’. Read more...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Breaking Up with God

By Madeleine Kando

Jane received an early morning phone call from God the day after she arrived. She was still jetlagged and barely knew where she was, but she recognized God's voice right away. A jolt went through her and she was transported back into a distant past, a long forgotten time in her life when she was still naïve and full of expectations. Why call her now, after all these years? Was he trying to correct the rotten way he had broken up with her? Not only did he break up, he gave her no warning of any kind. One day he was there, holding her hand, making her feel accepted and safe, the next day he had disappeared, leaving her to wonder if he had just left or dumped her for someone else? Read more...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Penn State and the NCAA


By Tom Kando

The Penn State child sex abuse scandal has been the top of the news for a year or so.  Because I have some painful memories about Penn State myself, I haven’t written about this.  But I have changed my mind. After all, I taught at Penn State. Not only was I a professor there, I was in the VERY SAME SHOP as Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky. My tenure-track position was in the College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation  - the same unit which houses the athletic program, including varsity football. I regularly bumped into people like Paterno and Sandusky in Rec Hall’s hallways, offices  and locker rooms.
Read more...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I am a Facebook Voyeur

by Madeleine Kando

I admit it, I am a Facebook voyeur. I waste my precious time on Facebook because there are a few faces amongst the millions that matter to me, like my daughter Aniko. She lives far away, you see. She leads her life in the mist of distance, so I like to get a peek every so often, especially now that she gave me a grandson.

But I don’t often post things on Facebook and I am sure I am not the only voyeur out there. Let’s face it, Facebook is a huge sniffing ground. This is how my little chihuahua must feel when she enters the doggy park. Read more...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What Happened to You, America?


By Tom Kando

Throughout its history, America has been the country of the future, a progressive and forward-looking country that planned ahead and had a vision. America was always gung-ho, always ready to go ahead, to show the world how to do it better, how to build  it better.

The current high-speed train mess in California is a prototype of how far we have fallen as a people.  While the governor and the legislature are still keeping the project  (barely) alive, a majority of the public is now against it (aided and abetted by short-sighted  opinion leaders like  Sacramento Bee  columnist Dan Walters).
Read more...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Greatest Generation

Saved from WBR Museum
by Madeleine Kando

I never liked groups very much. I instinctively mistrust them, probably because, in my childhood I was a refugee, fleeing from the persecution of one group by another. I am a loner, at heart and feel quite comfortable being one. But there is one group to which I belong whether I like it or not: I belong to a certain generation. Since I stopped trying to hide my grey hair (a very liberating, economical and time-saving decision), I have become interested in where I fit in, in the grander scheme of things. It’s tempting to try to fit yourself into a certain category, as if belonging to the 'baby boomer generation' means anything more than that one is born between 1944 and 1964. Read more...

Friday, July 13, 2012

POEM


By Gene Avery

After I (Tom Kando) posted the piece about “Growth Forever?” I received an e-mail from Gene Avery with a poem.  Gene is a Sacramento poet who reminds me of people like Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac (I hope it’s okay to say this).  I don’t know much about poetry, but I am  impressed by Gene’s poem, which is related  to my “Growth Forever” post, although much more eloquent. Gene graciously let me reproduce his poem:
Read more...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Which are the Best and the Worst Olympic Countries?


By Tom Kando

With the imminent opening of the Olympic Games in London, I thought I’d entertain you with the following  timely information:

During a previous Olympic Games, Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Bretton bemoaned the fact that Mexico had done so poorly in terms of the medal count - just as badly as “Indo-freakin-nesia.”  This prompted me to compute the various countries’ medals in proportion to their population.
Read more...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Do Some Conservative States Hate the Poor?

by Madeleine Kando

Last week, I was all excited when the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act's Individual Mandate does not violate the U.S. Constitution. But the High Court also found that Congress cannot penalize states that refuse to go along with the law's plan to expand Medicaid to cover adults up to 133 percent of the poverty level.

By that ruling the Supreme Court pulled the rug out from under the most vulnerable part of the population, the poor. Had it been left the way it was intended, they would have benefitted from the Health Care Reform Act the most. Read more...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World - Part Two

by Tom Kando

As I promised, I am sharing with you further details of David Deutsch’s marvelous book -  The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World . Last time, I summarized his main thesis. Today, I want to tell you about his attitude, his background and his love for the Enlightenment.

1. Deutsch's erudition

The author  sometimes reads like  a know-it-all who pontificates ex cathedra. He seems to  say that we should just accept his views; his authority (which is EXACTLY what he preaches against throughout his book). For example, he  tells us several times   that the “Spaceship Earth” metaphor is an error, as are  the concepts of the biosphere and a sustainable planetary environment. He calls these ideas “parochial.” He never equivocates, when telling us which ideas and  philosophers are  right, and what and who is  wrong. For instance, Plato? Somewhat of a dufus who largely misunderstood Socrates.
Read more...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Growth Forever?


By Tom Kando

Things haven’t been going well economically since 2007, particularly in the Western World, i.e. in Europe and in the US.

Meanwhile, “the rest” has been rising (See Alice Amsden’s The Rise of “The Rest”). For example, the huge so-called “BRIC” countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) enjoy  explosive  growth.
Read more...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Tour De France is Starting on June 30: Some Factoids that Might Interest You

By Tom Kando

When my knees became too creaky to run marathons, I switched to road biking. As a child growing up in France, I was  an avid road biker. The Tour de France was the greatest annual sport event, and I not only followed it fervently every year, but I saw it live many times, as the racers approached Paris on their last stage and rode through the small suburban town where we lived.
In the early 21st century, I picked up biking again both as a participant and as a spectator.  I spent some time researching the Tour de France on some websites. http://www.letour.fr/le-tour/2012/us/history/ Read more...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's not a Bird, it's not a Plane, it's a Tax!

by Madeleine Kando

The Supreme Court’s decision today to uphold the Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate took me so by surprise that I still cannot believe it. It looks like the Republicans’ appeal to try to overturn the Reform bit them in the ass big time. Whether the Justices came to their decision because they were trying to protect their own image, to follow the middle road or to try to convince the public that the Supreme Court hasn't been 'politicized', the bottom line is that this is a historic moment, both from a personal perspective and for America in general. Read more...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World

By Tom Kando

I just read David Deutsch’s The Beginning of Infinity (2011). It is  impossible to do justice to this masterpiece  in a brief review.

Deutsch has written a compelling opus  about humanity, our role in the Universe,  our future,  what is true and  what is nonsense among  the things  we believe, and most importantly, the hope that through science we shall continue to create true knowledge and thus progress ad infinitum.
Read more...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Universal Health Care's Struggle Continues

by Madeleine Kando

I have tried to understand why so many Americans are against health care reform. To me, a country without universal health care is not a civilized country, it is a barbaric country. Is America a barbaric country? Maybe one has to go way back in history to understand why America is so reluctant to provide this most basic of human right to its citizens.

Germany was one of the first western European countries to provide compulsory sickness insurance back in 1883. Austria, Hungary, Norway, Britain, Russia, and the Netherlands followed suit. In the early 20th century Sweden, Denmark, France and Switzerland also adopted universal health care. The primary reason for these early programs was protection against wage loss due to sickness rather than payment for medical expenses. Read more...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ypologistophobia (a.k.a. Fear of Computers)


By Tom Kando

Ten years ago, Time Magazine came out with a hilarious list of hundreds of phobias, many listed in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.

I did not see 'computer phobia' in that list, yet I know that this disease exists, because I sometimes suffer from it.

Let me suggest a fine new name for the disease, and some of the symptoms. This will facilitate its inclusion in the APA’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual next year. Name of the Disease: Intermittent Cyberspace Anxiety Syndrome, or Ypologistophobia, which is Greek for “fear of computers”.
Read more...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is Obama One of the Worst or Best Presidents?


By Tom Kando
 
On August 18, 2011, Matt Patterson published a vicious  hit piece against President Obama in the Washington Post.  It continues to be widely circulated on the  Internet, often  misleading the readers  that it’s the Washington Post  which feels this way about Obama. In fact, the paper only printed this  in an attempt to be fair to “the other side.” 

Patterson’s  thesis, based on what Norman Podhoretz had written  earlier, is that  Obama is an incompetent nincompoop, our first affirmative action President, voted into office solely because of his race. The claim is that  Obama may be our  worst President ever,  and that his election was the result of misguided liberal white guilt and  mass hysteria among the electorate.
Read more...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A critique of Haidt's article: ‘Why Working Class People Vote Conservative?’

by Madeleine Kando

In an article in the Guardian of June 5th, Jonathan Haidt gives an alternative answer to the question 'Why Do Working Class People Vote Conservative?’. According to Haidt, the generally accepted ‘duping hypothesis’, which says that the Republican party has duped working class people into voting for them by putting the focus on cultural and moral issues rather than on economic issues, is not the real reason.

He points out that voting on a national level is more about a moral vision than about specific policies. That is true, but out of that moral vision flow the policies that a country adopts, so the usefulness of that statement is a bit doubtful. Read more...

Economic War On Spain


by Philip Kraske

I don't know what it is about history, but it always seems to get made without me.

I was just a boy during May 1968, though I remember it vividly: riots, hippies, protest marches, National Guardsmen with bayonets, Robert Macnamara on top of a car shouting at demonstrators, students burning draft cards. All very dramatic and exciting and scary -- and great TV. But the street outside my house in Kettering, Ohio? Calm as corn flakes. Hank the mailman did his daily rounds. Dad caught the bus into Dayton in the morning and the bus back in the afternoon. A skinned knee in a bike wreck was a far greater tragedy than Vietnam or segregation.
Read more...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

In Politics, Money Is Everything


By Tom Kando

For progressives, the June 5 primaries were disappointing. The most crucial voting took place in Wisconsin. The failure to recall Gov. Walker was a serious defeat for Democrats, for President Obama and - in the end - for America. The only silver lining in that state is that John Lehman’s victory returns control of the State Senate to the Democrats. American politics have now reached a vicious cycle: Because politics are entirely determined by the power of money, progressives’ chances seem to be in irreversible decline.
Read more...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Can Crocheting Make you Blind?

by Madeleine Kando

Ever since someone innocently mentioned the words ‘boobie hat’ to me, I have been obsessed with the idea of crocheting one for my brand new grandson. Contrary to what the words imply, a boobie hat is not a hat for a boob, it is a hat for the baby’s head, so that while the mother nurses, the gawking onlookers don’t see the real boob but the hat instead.

So I crocheted a nice little boobie hat, making sure all the flesh colored tones were incorporated, including the brownish tint for the nipple, which is supposed to sit on top of the baby's crown. I tried it on for size on one of my stuffed teddy bears and it looked quite boobyish. I was very proud of myself. Read more...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Caution: Frog Crossing Ahead

by Madeleine Kando

During my latest visit to the Netherlands, as I was driving on a small but busy road to one of the many beaches, I saw an attention-grabbing sign warning drivers of frogs crossing the road. ‘They must have forgotten to post the ant crossing sign’, I said to my Dutch co-passenger, convinced that the sign was meant as a joke. But he explained to me that this was toad breeding season. I knew he was right because two weeks later, the sign was gone. This led me to wonder why we don’t do a better job protecting our local wildlife back in the US. I know, Americans are used to 'road kill'. This is a BIG country with a lot of space, a lot of roads and a lot more wildlife than in Holland. But wouldn’t that be all the more reason to design, implement and maintain our road infrastructure in a more intelligent way? Read more...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Black and White



By Tom Kando

Patrick Buchanan’s famous/notorious statement about  “The White Side of the Story of Negroes” is a couple of years old, but it is being discussed (and supported, I am afraid) on the Internet a great deal at this time.

I don’t want to rehash too many details of this screed, except to say that we see frequent statements like this, coming from various “white men’s rights” groups, organizations like  the KKK, the John Birch Society, etc.
Read more...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Are Mean Reviewers More Competent?


By Tom Kando

 Here is the research question: Is there a relationship between competence and meanness?  Now you are supposed to laugh. This is called humor, although I have seen a lot more nonsensical sociological projects!

Most of us in the academic world are familiar with the peer review process. We submit a manuscript for a paper or a book for publication, or for conference presentation. It is reviewed and either rejected, or accepted, or accepted provisionally. In any of these three scenarios, the author usually receives feedback from the referees.  During the late1990s, I peddled a manuscript for a new textbook in Social Psychology (a re-write of my Social Interaction, which was first published in 1977, St. Louis: Times-Mosby). The various publishers obtained a total of 17 reviews over three rounds of reviews. Incidentally, I did finally get a contract and a modest advance payment, from Holt-Rinehart.

Read more...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Paris, Mon Amour

by Madeleine Kando

Paris has been waiting for me all these years, keeping herself beautiful till my return. Even on this grey and rainy day the freshly applied gold leaf on the monuments and palaces shines brightly. I take a taxi to my hotel on the Rive Gauche. Fountains zoom by, spouting water from elaborately carved fishlike creatures or from jugs held by half-naked maidens. We pass the Jardin des Tuileries, the royal gardens near the Louvre, where in past centuries the gentlemen took their ladies to meet each other and gossip. This royal garden with perfectly manicured trees and bushes became a public park after the French Revolution. Read more...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

PROGNOSTICATIONS ABOUT THE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

By Tom Kando

We know that (1) Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to vote for Obama, whereas whites are not, (2) women are more likely to vote for Obama whereas men are not, (3) young people are more likely to vote for Obama whereas old people are not and (4) low-income people are more likely to vote for Obama whereas upper-income people are not.

How would the election turn out if the different ethnic, gender, age and economic groups  voted the way we are told that they are likely to vote?   Here are some calculations I did to answer this question. My numbers are very rough, and some may be  off, but the differences are all true.
Read more...

Friday, April 27, 2012

SWIMMING THE DEMOCRATIC WAY

By Madeleine Kando

I come to Holland regularly because my very very old mother lives here. I usually spend the first few days after my arrival in a je-tlagged semi-fog as I try to adjust to the minuscule size of practically everything around me. The car rental has a car ready for me which is the size of a large bumper car. I ask the attendant to help me shove my suitcase in the back and to instruct me on how to use the endless buttons on the dashboard. European cars may be small but they sure make up for it in complexity. The numerous scuff marks on the garage wall tell me that I am not the only one that has difficulty squeezing my bumper car through the narrow exit ramp onto the even tinier main road. I have to get used to the speed at which people drive their vehicles over here. The smallest hesitation elicits angry honking. Don't they know I just stepped off an airplane? That I come from a place where things aren't shrunk to Alice in Wonderland proportions? Read more...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Anders Breivik: A Monster Venerated as Hero

by Madeleine Kando

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian extremist who is currently on trial for the murder of more than seventy-seven people, most of them young men and women has been in the forefront of the news of late. In this video, taken during the initial court proceedings, you can see him perform the far-right salute as soon as his handcuffs are removed. This is followed by an endless procession of polite handshaking with court personnel. If one didn't know that this man is a mass-murderer, one would think that he is some kind of venerated celebrity.

In another clip we see Breivik become teary-eyed as he is shown the anti-Islamic video he aired on You Tube prior to the killings. A 20 minute convoluted rant against the Norwegian government and its policy of 'Multiculturalism'. A mix of critique against Cultural Marxism and admiration for historical figures such as Richard the Lion Heart and Charles Martel. Breivik's list of heroes also includes 'Vlad Tepes' or 'Vlad the Impaler', the real Count Dracula of Transylvania. Read more...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Insanity of the Military-Industrial Complex


By TOM KANDO

I am a numbers freak. Numbers are meaningful to me. The difference between a million and a billion is meaningful to me. But to many people, it’s a meaningless abstraction. That’s why when people read the information which I am about to present, they shrug with indifference. That’s why America is going broke, while no one pays attention.

Take the F-35 fighter jet. This is the new Joint Strike Fighter which is supposed to replace today’s aging fighter fleet. An article by W.J. Hennigan in the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee (April 19) tells us about the new plane’s cost and its many problems:
Read more...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Are Republicans the Vanguard and Democrats the Rearguard?

By Tom Kando

New York Times columnist David Brooks recently published an article titled “Rift Opens Between Two Economies and Two Political Parties,” (Sacramento Bee, April 11).

Some of his points are exciting: In recent years, the US economy has become vastly more productive. These efficiency gains are boosting our exports. “Two years ago, President Obama promised to double exports over the next five years...and the US might actually meet that target.” Our exports are surging in areas like smart machines, robots, shale oil and gas, and the rest of the world’s growing middle class is importing more and more American pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, planes and entertainment - all US fortes. Read more...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Columbia and the Many Little Dwarfs

by Madeleine Kando

Once upon a time in a land far away, there lived a beautiful and wise princess. People called her ‘Columbia the beautiful’. She adopted many little dwarfs whom she loved very much. Most of these little dwarfs liked Columbia too, because they knew that she would take care of them. Being dwarfs and all, they couldn’t very well fend for themselves in the big bad world out there.

They played together nicely but dwarfs aren’t perfect, and as you might guess there was an occasional protest when it was time to do chores, eat breakfast or go to bed. They didn’t like to be individually mandated (to be told what to do). Then Columbia’s mother had to come over. The dwarfs had nicknamed her Mother Supreme and it was she who had to settle the disputes in the family. She was fair and Impartial and things usually worked out well. Read more...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Hunger Games

By Tom Kando

My wife and I went to see The Hunger Games. The movie is both gripping and disappointing.

First, what is this new blockbuster about? Well, it describes the dystopia which our society has become in the not-too-distant future. North America now consists of a dozen districts and a Capitol. The inequities and the contrast between the opulent plutocracy at the center and the decrepit, squalid and starving outlying districts are stark. In its Roman-like games-and-circuses policy aimed at anesthetizing the masses (think Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, here), the government randomly selects each year two young representatives from each district to participate in The Hunger Games.
Read more...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Is The Individual Mandate on the Chopping Block?

by Madeleine Kando

Today the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Individual Mandate, that part of the New Health Care Law that requires everyone to have some type of insurance. If you don't have insurance, you will be fined.

26 states have filed lawsuits against the Government to declare the Individual Mandate unconstitutional. They argue that 'the Commerce Clause' within the constitution, a law that allows Congress to tell the states what to do, can make them adopt the Individual Mandate. The people who are against the Health Care Bill use this as an excuse to overturn the whole law. Read more...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Obamacare is a Must

By Tom Kando

I can’t stand it any longer. I HAVE to jump into the fray about Obamacare. It’s the top of the news again, now that the Supreme Court is about to rule on its constitutionality.

The outlook for Obamacare (officially called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or PPACA) is bleak. For one thing, a majority of the Supremes are conservative Republicans. Also, the suits challenging the act’s constitutionality are being filed by over half of all the states.
Read more...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Layperson’s Understanding of the Economy

by Madeleine Kando

One of the subjects I dreaded the most in school, was economics. I still let my husband balance our checkbook because it takes him only ten minutes compared to my day-long struggle to accomplish even that rudimentary task of our household finances.

Now that the subject of economics is in the forefront of politics, I feel a need to educate myself so that I understand at least the basics, when I listen to the news. Besides, there is a lot of talk about the banking system being the cause of our current fiscal problems and I want to understand how the system works. Read more...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Euthanasia in the Netherlands - Again

By Tom Kando

The other issue I have had in front of me since my arrival in the Netherlands is euthanasia: for the past few weeks, our blog has addressed this issue. It started with presidential candidate Rick Santorum's assertion that the Dutch authorities, who have legalized euthanasia, also murder several thousand elderly/sick patients every year, i.e. euthanize them without their explicit consent, without following due process.

Madeleine and I wrote essays vehemently criticizing Santorum and defending the Dutch. I called Santorum a liar and declared categorically that NOBODY is EVER euthanized against his will in the Netherlands.


Read more...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Dutch and the US Debts: Is the Shoe on the Other Foot?

By Tom Kando

I have been in Holland for a few days. This small town of Bergen is like a little Brigadoon. It never changes. The thatched roofs, the geranium pots in the windows, the happy and well-dressed people in little cafes, everything in its place and within a few yards from each other. Tom Swinkel's First Bergen bookstore, the cheese shop, the market, the bike rental, the post office, all within two blocks from the main intersection. It's less than a mile from my mother's retirement flat to "downtown" Bergen, and I have walked it half a dozen times already to have my morning "koffie verkeerd" at the Terraza sidewalk cafe, to read my daily copy of the Herald Tribune.
Read more...

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Re-unification of Church and State

By Tom Kando

It’s becoming curiouser and curiouser. We now have at least one major presidential candidate who preaches the re-unification of Church and State. Rick Santorum has announced that the absolute separation of Church and State is nonsense (and that President Kennedy was wrong in defending that aspect of the 1st amendment). Presumably, Thomas Jefferson and the Constitution are also wrong. Millions of evangelicals appear to support Santorum’s views.
Read more...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is Euthanasia Murder? The Netherlands and the United States

By Tom Kando

I’d like to piggy-back on Madeleine’s post, Senior Citizens Visiting Holland Beware!! In that post, she discusses Presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s recent allegation that the Dutch euthanize their elderly against their will. This is not new. My conservative friends have made similar accusations for years.
Read more...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Senior Citizens Visiting Holland Beware!!

by Madeleine Kando

If you are sixty-five or older and plan to travel to The Netherlands, it is important that you read the following announcement.

It has come to our attention from a very reliable source in the Rick Santorum for President Campaign, that the Dutch Health Care System is now giving geriatric patients lethal injections, whether they are ready to die or not.

Of the Dutch senior citizens who are brave enough to seek medical treatment, ten percent will be euthanized! Unless they wear a wrist band with the words 'DO NOT EUTHANIZE ME' clearly marked in large red letters, the system will make mincemeat out of anyone sixty-five or older.

Senior citizens no longer seek medical care in The Netherlands. They opt to stay at home and rot away rather than go to these Dutch slaughter houses they call hospitals, where an army of overzealous butchers are at the ready, injection needle in hand. Read more...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Vicious Cycle of Debt

By Tom Kando

On Feb. 13, President Obama presented his 2013 budget plan to Congress, calling for $3.8 billion in expenditures. The plan projects an increase in the federal debt of $1.3 trillion in 2012, and another increase of nearly $1 trillion in 2013.

In 2011, the total fed debt was nearly $15 trillion, or just about 100% of US GDP (which is also about $15 trillion). Currently, 7% of the federal budget (about $250 billion) is spent to finance the debt.
Read more...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Sexual and Reproductive Front: In Reverse


By Tom Kando

Maybe the title of my previous post (“Rightward Ho!”) didn’t quite hit the nail on the head. Maybe we are going in reverse -marche arrière! This certainly seems to be the case on the sex and reproductive front. It’s been clear for a long time that Americans have become sexually more conservative.

The high water mark for sexual liberation was in the sixties. It would be absurd to say that a majority of Americans have returned to Puritan values since then, but it is correct to say that most have pulled back from the extreme sexual permissiveness which characterized the Counterculture. Some of this is reasonable, what with AIDS and other new facts, society matures and understands that promiscuity is neither risk-free nor a panacea.
Read more...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

An Interview with Newt Rontorumney, the 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate

By Tom Kando

By August 2012, the GOP has finally settled on its presidential flag bearer. He is Senator Newt Rontorumney. Here are a few excerpts of a conversation he conducted recently with famous TV interviewer Matt Lauer:

Lauer: “Senator Rontorumney, what do you propose to do about the millions of American homeowners who are under water? That is, people who owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth?”

Rontorumney: “Well Matt, you see, it’s all about individual responsibility. If an individual acts responsibly, he’ll be alright.”
Read more...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rightward Ho! (Again)

By Tom Kando

I never anticipated the country’s unending rightward movement. When I went to school and taught as a professor, from the 1950s until recently, I assumed that progress, by and large, meant that society gradually becomes more just, more rational, more pragmatic, more democratic, and that people hopefully enjoy increasing material comfort, physical health and the other benefits of science. I assumed that this was the long-term trend, despite some major relapses such as Fascism and Communism. Read more...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Do We Really Want a High Priest in the White House?

by Madeleine Kando

A lifetime ago, back when I still lived in Europe, I was already well acquainted with 'Mormons'. These clean cut young men, with their spotless white shirts and black ties, frequently rang our bell in the heart of Amsterdam. They handed us their glossy pamphlets and the only way to make them leave was to shut the door in their face.

I read somewhere that there are fourteen million Mormons worldwide and that Mormonism is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. Their global distribution is extremely wide-spread. Aside from China, some countries in Africa and most of Greenland Mormons are found pretty much everywhere. Read more...

Friday, February 3, 2012

How Should Children be Raised? Should they be Punished?

By Tom Kando

The physical punishment of children is an issue often joined by politicians and social scientists. Most forms of physical punishment of children are already illegal in some countries (e.g. Sweden) and in some states. In California, rep. Mickey Conroy proposed in 1996 to regulate the parental punishment of children, and in 2006, another State representative proposed to outlaw all spanking.

Can the social sciences shed light on this issue? There is no scientific consensus as to the best forms of parenting, but there is some good research. For example, Murray Strauss at the University of New Hampshire has documented the negative effect of just about any form of physical punishment.
Read more...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Battle of The Super Rich

by Madeleine Kando

Romney is rich. He is very rich. He is fifty times richer than Obama, ten times richer than George Washington and 1,800 times richer than me. He also pays less taxes than you or I. How is that possible? Don't we live in a country with a (somewhat) progressive tax code?

I know what you are going to say: it's because he gets his income from dividends rather than from honest, hard work. Thanks to former President George W. Bush, the capital gains tax was lowered to 15%. If paying 15% taxes instead of the usual 30% isn't bad enough, Romney accuses people who are not in his league of suffering from envy. ** Read more...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Racism: The American Variant

By Tom Kando

Madeleine wrote a fine piece about Eugenics. Eugenics and racism are indeed ugly blemishes on America’s past.

Yes, America did participate in the racist Eurocentric oppression of “the other” of the past 300 years. Yes, America was guided by its belief in “Manifest Destiny.” Yes, America committed genocide against the native Americans. However, I think that America differs in significant ways from the other major perpetrators.
Read more...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

If we Reject High-speed Rail, at least Let’s Know the Facts

By Tom Kando

The January 15 issue of the Sacramento Bee contains an excellent article, “Spain’s Trains Hold Lessons for California.”

Clearly public opinion, aided by the likes of Dan Walters (otherwise usually a reasonable man), has turned against the project. Chief Executive Roelof Van Ark has resigned from what increasingly appears to be a losing battle. The handwriting is on the wall.

The main reason for the project’s probable failure is ignorance - among the public and among opinion leaders. The ignorance stems from Americans’ increasing insularity. Most people in this country are unaware of the fact that the rest of the world is moving forward, because they do not visit or give a damn about the rest of the world. Read more...