Saturday, September 08, 2012

First 40 Songs on my Song list

1. Time – Pink Floyd
2. Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie or Bauhaus version
3. London Calling – The Clash
4. Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits
5. A Whiter Shade of Pale - Procol Harum
6. Lust for Life – Iggy Pop
7. Electricity – OMD
8. Highway to hell – AC/DC
9. Satisfaction – Rolling Stones
10. Spanish Train – Chris De Burgh
11. Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2
12. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
13. True Faith – New Order
14. Bizzare Love Triangle – New Order
15. Suburbia – Pet Shop Boys
16. Boys Don’t Cry – The Cure
17. Bullet the Blue Sky – U2
18. People are Strange – The Doors
19. Lovecats – The Cure
20. Space Oddity – David Bowie
21. China Girl – David Bowie
22. Riders on the Storm – The Doors
23. We are the Champions – Queen
24. Our House – Madness
25. Goodnight Saigon – Billy Joel
26. Sometimes - Erasure
27. Angie – Rolling Stones
28. All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix
29. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
30. Nena-99Luft Balons – Nina Hagen
31. One Night in Bangkok – Murray Head
32. Rock me Amadeus – Falco
33. Shout – Tears for Fear
34. A Little Respect – Erasure
35. Rebel Yell – Billy Idol
36. Me and the Farmer – Housemartins
37. Break on Through – Doors
38. Hotel California – Eagles
39. Eye in the Sky – Alan Parsons Project
40. White Rabbit– Jefferson Airplane

Friday, August 31, 2012

Recommended Books of Faith

Rick Warren's the Purpose Driven Life was an inspiring read even from the perspective of a non-Christian. It dragged on toward the ends (as do most books of faith) but his exercise-driven practical approach is worth considering for those seeking to renew their connection with G-d and improve their quality of life. Ranking (B+).

Harold Kushner is always a hit with me - I read Who needs God about five months ago and recently completed Living a Life That Matters: Resolving the Conflict between Conscience and Success as a Theistic  Both books provide a needed boost for the reader constantly struggling with an understanding of the working of G-d. The former makes a great case for using G-d as a lens to see the universe while the latter challenges us to think clearly about our notion of success in a world that often seems chaotic.Kushner's prose (which is live with real life examples) adds an added dimension to his analysis in 'Living a Life' by juxtaposing our individual struggle against the challenge faced by the patriarch Jacob in Bereshit (Genesis).
Ranking for Each: (A-)

Canadian David Adams Richards, a past winner of the Governor-General's Award did much to justify his reputation with a wonderful defense of theism in God Is. His first fifty pages where he deconstructs the mocking-of-god cultural meme, that has been for some time in vogue amongst the intelligensia, resonates as one of the best treatments of this topic that I have read for some time.  Ranking: (A-)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

15 Greatest Cricket Batsmen of All-Time

1. Don Bradman- Aus
2. Sachin Tendulker - Ind
3. Viv Richards - West Ind.
4. Brian Lara - West Ind
5. Gary Sobers - West Ind
6. Sunil Gavaskar - Ind
7. Sourav Ganguly - Ind
8. Ricky Ponting - Aus
9. Rahul Dravid - Ind
10. Graham Pollock - SAf
11. Len Hutton - Eng
12. Muhammad Yousuf - Pak
13. Javed Miandad - Pak
14. SteveWaugh - Aus
15. Jacques Kallis - SAf

Honourable Mentions: Graham Gooch, Adam Gilchrist, Muhammad Azaruddin and Yuvraj Singh.

15 Greatest Heavyweight Fighters of All-Time

1. Joe Louis
2. Muhammad Ali
3. Jack Johnson
4. Gene Tunney
5. Jack Dempsey
6. Rocky Marciano
7. George Foreman
8. Joe Frazier
9. Lennox Lewis
10. Mike Tyson
11. Larry Holmes
12. John Sullivan
13. Evander Holyfield
14. Vlad Klitschko
15. Ken Norton

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Home Opener at Anfield

After last week's dreadful performance (a 3-0 loss to West Brom at the Hawthorns) Liverpool got their act together and tied 2-2 with Man City at  Anfield. The Red's passing was crisp (something that was missing last year) and one can clearly see Rodger's Tiki Taki strategy taking hold. Both the Skrtel header and the Suarez free kick goal were first rate and if it weren't for the habit of shipping cheap goals (especially the second one that tied the game finely) Liverpool would have been worthy winners, Nevertheless the match was a definite upper from the season opener and if Liverpool can keep up the style and solidify the lack of concentration weakness then they may indeed challenge for a Champions League Spot (not a title - City, United and Chelsea will fight over that). Still a concern though is the need for a striker to relieve some of the pressure off Suarez. I would suggest that the brass persist with Andy Carroll but somehow he doesn't seem to be part of Rodgers' bigger plan - expect Clint Dempsey to ship in by the trade deadline.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Top 10 Most Evil People

According to Listverse the ranking is as follows

1. Josef Stalin
2. Adolf Hitler
3. Ivan IV of Russia (Ivan the Terrible)
4. Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler)
5. Pol Pot
6. Leopold II of Belgium
7. Idi Amin Dada
8. Ayatollah Khomeini
9. Maxilmilien Robespierre
10. Attila the Hun

My comments: Genghis Khan and Mao Zedong are conspicuously missing. I would place Mao ahead of Stalin (based on the number of people murdered). Genghis Khan would definitely be in the Top Five as well using the number murdered criterion as a reference. Robespierre, who initially started out with promise as a champion of the lower classes did play a major role in the Reign of Terror, but in terms of absolute numbers killed is properly a minor player. Tamerlane and several of the Mughal Emperors ought to be in this list as well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In the News LXX

Obama and Romney are neck and neck
Its too close to call although in situations like this its normally the incumbent that will win out. Romney will pick up a boost with the RNC but he has to become more deliberate in his attack on Obama with respect to the economy. The Akin fiasco has not helped him out either.

Hugo Chavez threatens the UK
It seems as though he has invoked a Monroe Doctrine of his own to establish Venezuela as the guardian of South American interests. I doubt whether the Brits arre quivering in their shoes about this one. Despite Chavez's rhetoric Venezuela is still a marginal force and Chavez the caricature of the proverbial South American despot.

A Christian girl with Down's Syndrome is arrested for blasphemy in Pakistan
The 11 year old could face the death penalty. This is completely insane (as is all religious fundamentalism) but somewhat to be expected in the increasingly intolerant 'islamist' milieu of  the failed Pakistani state.

More bloodshed in Syria
This is one conflict that the US should definitely avoid getting involved in. On one side you have the Assad-Iran-Russia-Hezbollah alliance on the other you have Brotherhood-Al Qaeda- rebel alliance. Its really a no win situation. Assad has lost much credibility amongst his population and would be ousted if it weren't for foreign backing. He has also been hit by some high profile defections. Either way the outcome looks poor from Israel's perspective.  Although the weakening of the supply line to Hezbollah may help the Jewish state temporarily. The 'whining western left' doesn't know who to back either - where is the United Church boycott of Syria when you need it? 

Al Qaeda rears its ugly head
The Al Qaeda serpent is alive and well in Yemen. It blows up oil pipelines but the irony is, is that Al Qaeda has been built up indirectly from oil money. Such is the nature of the political beat in the middle east.

Aftermath of the Miner shootings reverberates throughout South Africa
This does not bode well for the ruling ANC which I have predicted for some time will eventually split.  The individual most likely to gain from this debacle is the former ANC youth leader Julius Malema. His star is on the rise against the falling profile of President Zuma. Interesting side line from the World Bank - South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world - 10% of the country controls 60% of the wealth and 20 million out of a total work force of 38 million are unemployed. The ANC is so riddled with cronyism that its collapse is more likely now than ever.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Last 30 Books on Judaism that I have read

The following is a list of the last 30 books on Judaism that I have read (not including the Garfinkle book - described in an earlier post) and their subsequent ratings.

1. Traces of God – Neil Gillman (B-)
2. Permission to Believe – Keleman (B+)
3. Why Faith Matters – Wolpe (B)
4. Soul Prints – Gafni (B)
5. God is a verb – Cooper (B+)
6. DNA & Tradition – Kleiman (B+)
7. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – Waldman (C+)
8. Nine Questions People Ask about Judaism – Prager/Telushkin (A)
9. Fingerprints on the Universe – Pollack (B+)
10. I Asked for Wonder – Heschel (A-)
11. The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology – Kaplan (A-)
12. Immortality, Resurrection and the Age of the Universe – Kaplan (B+)
13. The Path of G-d – Luzzato (A-)
14. Endless Light Kabbalah – Aaron (B+)
15. Inviting God In – Aaron (B)
16. Discovering the Divine Within You – Aaron (A)
17. Kabbalah Inspirations – Rosen (B+)
18. Life’s Daily Blessings – Olitzky (B+)
19. More Answers to Questions of the Spirit – Bulka (B+)
20. The Hidden Face in God – Schroeder (B)
21. Ten Commandments of Character – Telushkin (B+)
22. Everyday Holiness (Path of Mussar) – Morinis (B-)
23. John Lennon and the Jews - Maghen (B+)
24. The God Upgrade – Korngold (B-)
25. Climbing Jacob’s Ladder – Morinis (B-)
26. Seeing God: Ten Life Changing Lessons of the Kabbalah – Aaron (A)
27. Finding God : Ten Jewish Responses – Sonsino & Syme (A-)
28. Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism – Telushkin & Prager (A)
29. Genesis and the Big Bang – Schroeder (B)
30. We Have Reason to Believe - Jacobs (B+)

On Infinities

Kurt Godel realized that there were limits to Mathematics (as shown by his Incompleteness Theorem) and he was wiling in part to accept these. However at the same time a part of him hoped that he could access intuitive knowledge through logic. His quest to do so eventually caused his life to spiral out of control ending in the unfortunate circumstances of his death. A genius he stretched the limits of rationality but could not access with the same conviction what lay beyond it.
Georg Cantor took Mathematics into regions nobody has dared to venture. However he found a world that surpassed the limits of human logic and like a sailor drawn by the songs of a siren was adversely eventually engulfed by its illusiveness.

All of this makes me wonder: Are there certain truths that we are just not supposed to know?

Friday, August 17, 2012

A praise for the intellectual journey

I have spent a substantial part of my life trying to make sense of the universe. A cynic would claim that such a task is futile, fraught with obstacles and ultimately a bridge to disappoint. Perhaps this is true, but I would not renege on the journey, its path may be convoluted but the serendipity that it invites is overwhelmingly rewarding.

While I have shifted back and forth between worldviews, I have discovered much that has made me a better human being. They say that there is a certain power associated with knowledge, but its not really power that excites me but the gradual unveiling of a complexity to reveal its essence.

A Quick Thought

As a teacher, one must always be prepared to come to terms with our limitations and inadequacies. These are numerous and become more apparent as we reach out to others, only to discover that the worlds that the students inhabit are seemingly so inconsistent with ours.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Religious Struggle

I have struggled for most of my life to qualify my religious belief. I was born and remain proud of my Jewish identity, celebrate many aspects of the culture and relish in the study of its history. Indeed I continue as always to be a strong and passionate supporter of Israel and Jewish Nationalism. While at times I have flirted with benign forms of atheism and deism such indulgence has never held me for too long as the reasonable arguments of theism have been too persuasive. Although I place much credence in science I reject the view espoused by Dawkins, Harris, Russell, Hitchens et al that belief in religion and logic is ultimately inconsistent with faith in a higher power. In fact I have had no problem entertaining both frameworks in my personal psyche.

My struggle though is at a deeper level and involves the step of consolidating my theistic belief with that of Judaism as a revealed religion. My attempts so far have not yielded the progress that I would have liked. Ultimately it seems I cannot accept the idea of revealed religion having any grounding at all. I am not convinced that many of the events described in the Torah (including the critical revelation at Sinai) even occurred and as a person of science I cannot give credence to miracles passed on from ancient times that seem to defy the established well documented Laws of Nature. I realize that there have been numerous arguments made through the ages to substantiate these miracles including a deference to a bygone ‘Age of Miracles’ but such reasoning seems to carry a ‘magic quality suffused with superstition ’ that is more akin to a primitive tribalism than to post-enlightenment reasoning. It is this hurdle that ultimately caused me to reject Orthodox Judaism and its emphasis on the 613 Commandments despite the fact that I have great respect for such organizations as Aish Hatorah and the various Lubavitch groups.

In short I don’t believe that their overall worldview, with its strict emphasis on both the written and Oral Torah as direct instruments from G-d, can be bought into the mix of the science-soft theism maxim that makes sense to me. A part of me wishes that it would as this seems to simplify life but I cannot lie to myself and believe what at the very end I cannot justify.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Olympic Games - Some Observations

The Olympic Games are over and only the most die-hard naysayer would admit that they were unsuccessful. What follows is a list of eight personal observations and my respective opinions for most of them.

1. The Jamaican 100m and 200m running select are the best ever. Usain Bolt is the undisputed king of the sprint and Yohan Blake is clearly one for the future (expect him to regularly pip Bolt in the next 2-3 years) and take over the athletic mantle at Rio. The Americans performed admirably but will have to wait for this tide of Jamaican runners to wash through before they can exert themselves as the primary sprinting power. Both Justin Gaitlin and Tyson Gay are currently grabbing at straws in these events.

2. The US can console themselves with an excellent Olympic performance. The American medal haul of 46 Gold, 29 Silver and 29 Bronze meant that they finished first in all three categories. They won the Lion’s Share of the medals in Athletics (29) and Swimming (31) and continued to show strength across the board (taking medals in Judo, Shooting, Soccer, Volleyball, Water Polo, Rowing, Basketball and Tennis etc). One area of weakness though is boxing where the Americans (who once dominated this sport) are now at the periphery of the discipline. I suspect that the rise of MMA (which seems to have come at the expense of boxing) may have something to do with this outcome.

3. Brazil needs to up their performance if they want to duplicate the British success when they host in 2016 in Rio. Both the Men’s Soccer and Volleyball Teams literally blew Gold Medal opportunities that should have been theirs for the taking. Kudos to the Brazilian Women’s Volleyball for salvaging some pride by taking Gold in their final.

4. Olympic Soccer showed once again why it is a poor relative to both the World Cup and the European Championships. The Asian teams excelled in the Mens tourney and the Mexicans ground their way to the finals defeating a Brazilian team that lacked heart. The Women’s competition was far more enjoyable with Canada being robbed by some awful officiating from a rightful place in the final that might have led to a Gold Medal for my country. In any event the American team should be congratulated for successfully tilting the balance of power in Female Soccer in their favour.

5. The Biggest Winners of this tournament was team GB who put behind them a series of historically inept British Olympic performances to take home 29 Gold and 65 medals altogether. The Brits finished 3rd in the first category and 4th in the secondary well ahead of the Germans and French. Performances in Cycling and Rowing were especially noteworthy but like the US and China for that matter the Brits showed much promise in spreading their medal haul across a variety of disciplines. A special mention must be made of the success of Track and Field Stars Jessica Ennis and Mo Farrah as well as cyclists Victoria Pendelton and Chris Hoy. I doubt whether the British medal success will continue in Rio but its certainly something to aim for.

6. The Kenyans had disappointing running results. The East Africans were hoping for seven or so Gold medals in London 2012 but had to settle for two instead. Nevertheless the 800mk world record set by David Rudisha (somebody finally cracked the 1 minute 41 second mark) was one of the game’s highlights. It was also neat to see a Botswana athlete pick up a silver in this event.

7. Other nations who disappointed in this Olympics included: Turkey (5 Medals), Canada (17 Medals but only 1 Gold), Morocco (1 Bronze), Greece (2 Bronze medals – didn’t they invent the Olympics? Cheez….), Portugal (1 Medal), Egypt (2 Medals), India (6 Medals for 1.2 + billion people – none of the medals were Gold), Indonesia (2 medals for 200 + million people), Belgium (3 medals – none Gold), Bulgaria (2 medals – none Gold – weren’t they once a Weightlifting powerhouse?), Argentina (4 Medals – only 1 Gold), Venezuela (1 Gold), Pakistan and Israel (no medals).

8. Some of countries that performed at a very high level included: South Korea (13 Gold and 28 Medals overall – the South Koreans finished fifth on the Gold Medal count ahead of Germany, France, Italy and most importantly for them – Japan), New Zealand (6 Gold Medals – 13 Medals altogether), Jamaica (12 Medals – four Gold all in the prestigious sprint events), Kazakhstan (13 medals of which 7 were Gold – they tied Japan for Gold) and North Korea (4 Gold).

The US Civil War

The US Civil War was a terrible but fascinating time in American History. Here are some important facts concerning the war.

1. It was the bloodiest war in American history. 620,000 people died or 2% of the population.

2. Eleven states withdrew from the Union to form the confederacy. They were:

South Carolina (first to secede), Mississipi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas - first round - followed by Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina.

3. First Battle of the War - Attack on Fort Sumter (April 1861)

4. Strength of the Union forces: 2.1 million. Strength of the Confederacy troops: 1.1 milion.

5. Number of Union dead: 360,000. Number of Confederacy dead: 260,000. On both sides about a third of these deaths were a direct result of KIA (Killed in Action).

6. Key Union Generals: Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, George Meade, Winfield Scott, Joseph Hooker, George McClellan, John Pope, William Rosecrans and Ambrose Burnside.

7. Length of the War - Almost 4 Years - April 12, 1861 - April 9, 1865.

8. Last battle - Battle of Palmito Ranch was actually fought after the war ended in May 1865.

9. States loyal to the Union: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachussets, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Nevada and West Virginia also joined the Union.

10. Territories on the Union side included: Colorado, Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mesxico, Utah and Washington.

11. Major Confederate Battle Wins: Chickamauga, Chancellorsville, First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), Fredericksburg, Second Battle of Bull Run (Virginia).

12. Inconclusive Battles: Spotsylvania, Antietam and Wilderness.

13. Major Union Battle Wins: Gettysburg, Stones River, Shiloh, Vicksburg and Fort Donelson.

14. Three Battles with the biggest number of casulaties: Gettysburg (51,112), Chickamauga (34,624) and Chancellorsville(30,099).

15. State where the most number of battles were fought: Virginia

16. Place where the South surrended (under Robert E. Lee) - Appomattox Courthouse (1865)

17. Key Generals of the Confederacy: Robert E.Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Braxton Bragg. James Longstreet, John Hood, John Pemberton and Pierre Beauregard.

18. At the Battle of Shiloh - more Americans fell than in all previous wars combined.

19. Over 3500 Native Americans fought in the war for the Union. Just less than a third were killed.

20. Disease killed twice as many men as did actually battle wounds.

21. The US Congress issued the first ever paper currency - Greenbacks.

22. African Americans made up 1% of the northern population but supplied 10% of the Union's troops

Monday, August 13, 2012

In the News LXIX

Romney picks a Running Mate
Paul Ryan is young, vibrant and conservative (paricularly on the Fiscal side of the equation). He is not the more ethnic candidate that Jonah Goldberg was hoping for but he is streets above Sarah Palin and will more than give the former Massachussets governor a boost amongst the core Republican constituency. Needless to say the usual suspects will be out to break the new VP candidate. Meanwhile in taking a leaf from George Bush Senior Obama gets creative with his criticism of the Republican ticket.

Final Curtain for 2012 Olympics
The 2012 Olympics, which in my opinion were the best ever with respect to overall atmosphere, opening and closing ceremonies, doping problems and athlete performance, ended yesterday. Again Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt wooed the crowd but the highlight of the competition were the performances of team GB and the recapture of the #1 medal spot by the USA. This is a wonderful boost for the English speaking nations.

Boris Johnson shines again
As a fan of Boris Johnson I am delighted that the Olympics have helped his rising star. If he can reduce the gaffe count its possible that he may emerge as a future British PM. Only time will far as Londoners are concerned those he is at least an order of magnitude better than uber-leftist and radical Islam appeaser Ken Livingstone.

Gore Vidal and Alexander Cockburn are both dead
I can't say that I am upset by the passing of these two anti-Israel zealots. I never liked Vidal's vitriol (which bordered on the anti-semitic) and his disdain for the great American institutions was loathsome.As a writer he was overrated. Cockburn was less of a name but equally as quick to tarnish the American brand (the country that adopted him - talk about biting the hand that feeds you). He was unapologetic in his support for leftist terror and like Chomsky, Pilger and Cole did much to put a positive spin on the Islamist threat to the West.

A real tragedy - Earthquake in Iran

Evil incarnate Mohammed Ahmadinejad and his gang of thugs that run the exceutive n Iran were criticized for their poor handling of the Iranian earthquake disaster. Maybe if he focused less attention on the Jews (his obvious obsession) Ahmadinejad could actually do something productive like care for the well being of his people.

US Economy still in the doldrums four years later despite the message from liberal spin doctors

Having come close to virtually bankrupting the Treasury Department and saddling futuire generations with the greatest debt in economic history, Barack Obama and his 'brain' trust will have to work overtime to sell the American public on the sucess of his clearly flawed  Neo-Keynesian Economics policies. However with a compliant mainstream media, taking cues from the New York Times and such windbags as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz  he may just pull it off. So much for facts. Romney really needs to go for the jugular here.Some indications are that he already has.

Yes I know that both Stiglitz and Krugman are Nobel Prize winners in Economics but lets face it Economics is not a real science and together with  Literature and Peace the contrived Economics Prize is an overhyped  award that is most ofteb driven by politics than merit.

The real Nobel Prizes are Physics, Chemistry and Medicine (Biology).

Friday, August 10, 2012

Two Books I have just read

I have just finished two books (at any point in time I am always reading three or four books – I can’t stand the tedium of one book unless it is unusually exceptional – which they rarely are).

Jewcentricity by Adam Garfinkle is a worthwhile read as it attempts to answer the question – Why does it appear as those the Jews (for better or for worse) are at the centre of everything? Or to put it another way: Why is the world so obsessed with Jews? He looks at both the antisemitic and philosemitic trends throughout history and provides some useful insight especially into the latter (using a historical chronology that I am always partial to). I found the first part of the book refreshing but the second portion dealing with Jewish centric issues in the US and the Islamic World has been better handled by others. Dennis Prager, Alan Dershowitz and George Jonas to name but three.

Garfinkle is too forgiving of the anti-Judaism of George Soros and says virtually nothing about the way Jewcentricity in the most negative sense has infiltrated the campus dialogue. He also downplays the role of the Jewish gift of ethical monotheism (arguably one of the most critical developments in philosophy) and its tremendous impact on Western Civilization while virtually sidelining the vast Jewish role in the sciences (and academics as a whole) to a cynical and childish swipe at those Jews who too often bring this up. His arrogance (as an armchair intellectual) is both unnecessary and uncalled for.

Jews have a right to be proud of their achievements as they have batted way above average on many fronts – science, education, philosophy and ethics - and we as Jews should not have to apologize for it nor should we forget it. The world is a far better place because of Judaism and the Jewish contribution to the historical narrative. Jews have every right to feel proud of such a success. Garfinkle's tragedy is that he has allowed his internationalism to forget that. One cannot help but notice that his argument (which I don't believe was his intention) is closely linked to the same relativistic cods wobble (and post-modern nihilism) that Obama and co. follow when conveniently dissing American exceptionalism. Garfinkle should have explored in depth the interrelationship between Jewish philosophy and achievement before commenting on this issue. He did not, and clearly leaves the reader disappointed and devoid of a more thoughtful discussion.

While Garfinkle’s conclusion that both Jews and non-Jews need to ‘relax’ and lessen their focus on Jewish importance in the global sphere is appealing it also sparks of a simplicity and indeed a luxury that belies the safe and secure position that Garfinkle enjoys as a very fortunate American Jew. In short Garfinkle fails to emerge from his localized milieu and his book reflects this. While I would urge a read there are clearly far better works on the subject.
Ranking: 6.5/10

Thinking with your Soul by Richard Wolman deals with the fascinating topic of spiritual intelligence (something that has been on radar very much as of late). Wolman has created a test to identify seven aspects of spirituality (Psychomatrix Spirituality Inventory - PSI). The aspects are described below on his website:

· Mindfulness - attention to bodily processes such as conscious eating, regular meditation, and exercises such as Yoga or Tai Chi.

· Intellectuality - a commitment to reading and discussing spiritual material and sacred texts.

· Divinity - a sense of divine source of energy, Higher Being or awesome wonder of natural phenomena.

· Childhood Spirituality - explores the spiritual experiences of youth, including attendance at religious services or being read to by parents from sacred texts.

· Extra Sensory Phenomenon - experiences that pertain to "sixth sense" or the paranormal.

· Community - social activities including PTO or work of a charitable nature.

· Trauma - crisis oriented stimulus to spirituality such as illness in self or others or the death of a loved one.


I personally scored well above average on six of these seven psychometrics (which I expected as spirituality is central to my life however on mindfulness I was only much for more scientific scepticism). Wolman’s breakdown has much promise. I am particularly interested in the nexus around Divinity, Childhood Spirituality and Intellectuality but his follow through when further analyzing how each of these attributes can be more rigorously quantified lacks real rigour. Wolman is full of apologies and seems to realize this truism but does not provide a plan as to how he will attempt to deal with this shortfall. Part of his problem is that Wolman is too wedded to the appealing but empirically poor model of multi-intelligence that  Howard Gardiner advocates (the model is more an exercise in feel good psychology than anything else). He needs to step up and become his own man, unafraid of the niceties of political correctness and solid in his own defence as his ideas are to valuable to be compromised by the wishy-washy anything goes mantra that his book quickly devolves into.
Ranking: 6/10

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Olympic Medals - A Realistic Approach

Ever since I began following the Olympic Games in earnest – the boycotted 1980 Moscow Spectacle – I have always wondered why the games have not adapted a more realistic evaluation criteria to compare the medal performances for the different countries. Comparison by the number of medals won makes no sense as Gold is clearly a higher achievement than silver which of course is greater than Gold. Listing by Gold medals won distorts the table and virtually negates all other medal accomplishments. Clearly a better system is needed. One that is simple apply but at the same time yields data that is worthy of comparison. So here it is: The Worldoreason Medal Analysis

Criteria – 3 Points for a Gold  - 2 Points for a Silver - 1 Point for a Bronze

Based on these parameters here are the scores for the top 10 countries as of August 6th 2012.

1. China – 145 (kudos to the Chinese for continuing their Beijing trend)

2. US – 136 (need to up their haul in Track and Field - and diversify a bit more)

3. GBR – 87 (the true stars of the games...incredible)

4. Russia - 73 (how the mighty have fallen)

5. France – 51 (about where they should be..)

6. S. Korea – 49 (excellent...must love the fact that they are ahead of Japan)

7. Japan - 44 (need more Golds. Strong in silver and bronze)

8. Germany – 42 (Disappointing if you consider historical performances)

9. Australia – 38 (Have crashed down to Earth...Population game has caught up with Aussies)

10. Italy – 37 (Could up it a bit..but are on target)

Where does my home country of Canada fit on this list.- Answer 20th - behind Kazakhstan, Hungary, Belarus and Denmark.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Early thoughts on a political evolution

I have always been a political junkie. Some would say it’s a passion others a misfortune. In retrospect is a combination of many streams that have defined my life so far. However at the very core I believe that it is ultimately an extension of my true intellectual disposition toward history, as politics is in a sense the footprint of history played out in the present.

My early childhood was spent in the South African city of Pretoria – the executive capital of South Africa. Pretoria is a fairly attractive locale that is nestled in a valley. The city is known for its jacaranda trees, its attractive residential areas, parks and laser straight main streets that offer urban area a sense of order that sees it as the Jekyll to the ‘Hyde’like status of Johannesburg (the sister city that resides less than fifty kilometres to the south). Pretoria is also South Africa’s executive capital (the Government offices are located in the Union Buildings) and was during the apartheid years the brain trust for these hideous policies. Today it serves, virtually in the same offices, the ruling elite of the governing African National Congress (ANC).

Not a business city, port or vacationing hot spot (those accolades go to Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town respectively), Pretoria by its very nature has been at the centrality of South African politics. Growing up in the city it was not uncommon to run into diplomats and their families and in my schooling I did so on many occasions. This gave Pretoria a slightly international and highly welcoming flavour that contrasted sharply with the provincial numbness of is bureaucracy that continues to rubber stamp in drone like fashion the agenda of the ‘apparatchiks’ of the relevant statism.

 It was in this contrast that I believe my political consciousness was born. I welcomed the internationalism but in doing so invariably grew to detest the bureaucracy, which seemed to loom as a joy kill over all that was human with Kafkaesque intent. One could argue that my early appreciation for small government emerged from this reality.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ranking of Secretary of States (US)

(In brackets is the President they served under)

I have some reservations about this list but its worth looking at:

1. William Seward(Lincoln)
2. George Marshall(Truman)
3. Thomas Jefferson(Washington)
4. John Q Adams(Monroe)
5. Henry Kissinger(Nixon,Ford)
6. Colin Powell(George W Bush) - seems too high
7. Condi Rice (George W Bush) - way too high
8. James Madison(Jefferson)
9. James Monroe (Madison)
10. Madelaine Albright(Clinton) - too high
11. Daniel Webster(Harrison,Tyler, Filmore)
12. George Shultz(Reagan) - too low
13. Henry Clay (John Q Adams)
14. James Baker (Bush I)
15. John Hay (T Roosevelt)
16. Dean Rusk(Kennedy)
17. John Foster Dulles(Eisenhower)
18. Dean Acheson(Truman)
19. Cordell Hull(FDR)
20. Hilary Clinton (Obama) - yeah right

Great Rivals in History

Joseph Cummins wrote an incredible book on some of the Great Rivalries in History. The work is detailed and easy to read and is available at Amazon. (isn't everything).

Rivalries documented are:

Alexander the Great and Darius III
Hannibal vs Scipio Africanus
Juilius Caesar vs Pompeius
King Henry II vs Thomas Becket
Richard I vs John
Pope Boniface VIII vs Philip IV
Pizarro vs De Almagro (Conquistadors)
Elizabeth I vs Mary Queen of Scots
Charles XII vs Peter the Great
Benedict Arnold vs Horatio Gates
Aaron Burr vs Alexander Hamilton
Napoleon vs Wellington
Earol of Lucan vs Earl of Cardigan (Crimean War)
Disraeli vs Gladstone
Pancho Villa vs Emiliano Zapata (Mexico)
Hitler vs Rohm
Stalin vs Trotsky
Chiang Kai-Shek vs Mao
Chuikov vs Paulus (Battle of Stalingrad)
Patton vs Montgomery
Truman vs Macarthur
Giap vs De Casteries (Battle of Dien Bien Phu)
Kennedy vs Nixon

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mantra of a Classical Liberal

I have over the course of my life studied the role of history and its impact on the human condition. What I present in point like form are some of my insights and realizations. My challenge has always been one of finding clarity and in this regards .

1. I am best described as a classical liberal in that I champion democracy, human rights, private ownership of property, investigative science, free enterprise, meritocracy, high levels of education, the rule of law and a complete openness to discussion and debate within society.
2. I believe that Western Civilization, while not a pinnacle of all that there is, represents an advanced state of the human condition. I will make no apologies for this position as to do so generally invokes the odious philosophy of cultural relativism.
3. I appreciate religion as a system of ethics but believe that it should be divorced from the functioning of the state.
4. It is critical that the leadership of the great Western nations guard themselves against the forces of barbarism that threatens it.
5. While Western Civilization represents an advanced state in the history of our species it is still incumbent on the civilization’s institutions to learn from the other great cultures viz. Sino-Japanese, Latin American, Slavic, Hindu etc.

In summary: When a society loses the essence of what makes it special it loses the essence of what makes it great.

Challenges to Western Civilization

The march toward human betterment in Western Civilization has been opposed by various force-dynamics or barbarisms. Some of these force-dynamics have been products of the outside world others were creations from within. The following is a list of such force-dynamics. (All are problematic, some have been overcome but others remain as an epidemic that future generations will have to deal with.)

· Feudalism – Ended by the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, early urbanization and the birth of the modern economy;
· The Domination of the Totalitarian Church – Eventually Eclipsed by the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the Rise of Reason and Science;
· Powers of the Aristocracy – Ended by both the violent and non-violent bourgeoisie revolution, liberalism and nationalism;
· Fascism – Defeated by the Western Democracies in World War II;
· Communism – Defeated by the Economic Machine of the United States;
· Islamism – A struggle that still continues;
· Post Modernism – A challenge in progress – a consequence of intellectual nihilism and misguided cynicism;
· Greed Capitalism – A dangerous but age old phenomenon that still survives.

On Good Science

Good Science is the pursuit of knowledge derived from questioning. It is science that looks at a phenomenon and attempts to elucidate its workings through rational thought and empirical investigation. It strives to be as objective as possible in its process. Conclusions are eventually drawn following the thorough analysis of evidence but the conclusions must not extend beyond the assumptions that so defined the research.

There is no single scientific method but there are broad procedures that extend from the initial observation, through hypothesis to the investigation, analysis and the subsequent conclusion(s) for any inquiry.

Scientists are not guardians of truth, but agents of clarification that peel away the fog of noise in an attempt to model more accurately the workings of the world. They are of course free to philosophize and speculate about the significance of their findings (something I call the extended objective) but these speculations should not overwrite (or even overextend) the mandate of their original research.

Scientists must understand the limits of their findings which ultimately calls for an appreciation of the boundaries of their respective disciplines. Science is not a religion, nor should it be vaunted a such, however it is the best tool that we humans have of understanding the material world. It is indeed very powerful but it is ultimately confined to the milieu of matter/energy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Norman Finkelstein Lashes out at BDS

Norman Finkelstein is still a detestable anti-zionist who has done his best to drag the Jewish state through the mud. His regular scholarship is poor but at least in this video he rightly calls out the anti-semitic BDS campaign for what they are - a Cult of Fools.


Saturday, February 04, 2012

Eight Reasons Why the US Should Quit Afghanistan

1. It’s a war that cannot be won. The mountainous terrain is perfect for guerrilla warfare and the porous border with Pakistan allows the Taliban to seek refuge beyond the grasp of the American forces.
2. Local Allies cannot be trusted. American soldiers have come under fire from Afghan troops (who are supposed to be on the Allied Side), while the Afghan President Hamid Karzai appears to be talking out of both sides of his mouth (he even suggested at one point that he would team up with the Taliban).
3. American lives are being lost for very little gain in propping up an intolerant Afghan government that still itself does not believe in religious freedom.
4. The War has further destabilized Pakistan. Its time that Pakistan dealt themselves with issues in their backyard.
5. The Afghan population is too tribal in its profile. Bringing Western style democracy to a country that has not gone through a religious reformation and intellectual renaissance – let alone an enlightenment – is ridiculous. If the US wishes to support interventionist nation building, which it really shouldn’t, it ought to make sure that there is a nation to build. Afghanistan fails this litmus test.
6. The cost on the US Treasury (and ultimately the taxpayer) is severe. The money is better spent elsewhere at home.
7. The big winners in this war are the enemies of the US, who can profit by selling weapons to the Taliban, who in turn fund their purchases with the sale of drugs. Once again the evil multiplies.
8. The Canadians have left, the French are on their way out and the British will be quitting soon. American left isolated in a foreign war, miles away from home, with no clear agenda, can only serve to further dampen troop morale and increase losses.

40 Things I would do if I were President of the US

1. Cancel all future corporation bailouts from the Federal Government. Unsuccessful businesses should be allowed to fail.
2. Reduce tax rates on the Middle Class.
3. Decrease the size of the Federal government by 30%.
4. Remove all Affirmative Action Programs in the Federal government.
5. Remove government guarantees for student loans – I believe that this will drop the price of university tuition.
6. Withdraw American forces from Afghanistan
7. Allow the Keystone Pipeline to pass from Alberta through the Central US.
8. Introduce legislation to ban late term abortion (unless the mother’s life is in danger).
9. Increase tariffs on select foreign goods that cannot be manufactured in the US.
10. Place high tariffs on cheap import direct-to-retail products from the Far East
11. Introduce a balance budget amendment.
12. Maintain guarantees for Stem Cell Research.
13. Introduce legislation that universities remove speech codes on the grounds that they contradict the First Amendment.
14. Support an aggressive program for School Vouchers that allow parents a greater choice in school selection.
15. End the War on Drugs. Legalize many of the narcotics but tax them heavily.
16. Build a fence between the US and Mexico to prevent illegal aliens reaching the US.
17. Draft legislation to declare English the only official language of the Republic.
18. Enforce the extradition of illegal aliens currently residing in the US.
19. Reinvigorate the Space Race. Increase Funding for NASA. Encourage Private Enterprise in the Space Arena.
20. Increase vigilance on foreign student visa programs. Reduce Visa approvals for students coming to the US from countries that are ‘soft’ on terrorism.
21. Grant Independence to Puerto Rica.
22. Limit the number of times a convicted felon can appeal a death sentence.
23. Close as many tax loopholes as possible but allow tax rebates for investment in the healthcare sector.
24. Establish a League of Democracies as a counterbalance to the UN.
25. Make foreign aid to various nations contingent on these countries meeting human rights quotas.
26. Re-allocate wasted funding for ‘Fuzzy’ Climate Change research to real funding for the National Parks and Endangered Species Programs.
27. Remove the US from all carbon credit trading agreements.
28. Set aside tax rebate money that individuals have to use to purchase healthcare.
29. Set aside savings in reduction of federal government size for funding of extended Medicare and Medicaid.
30. Introduce stronger regulations for both the Derivatives and Futures Markets.
31. Promote tax rebates for companies investing in poor areas.
32. Close down US bases in Europe. Let the Europeans defend themselves.
33. Place stronger sanctions on Iran. Promote a sporting and cultural ban for Iran (similar to the one faced by South Africa during the Apartheid Era). Give Iran an ultimatum to cease its development of a nuclear bomb or face the consequences.
34. Cut off all aid to Pakistan until it comes clean in its position in the fight against Islamism.
35. Stop funding projects in the Gaza Strip that ultimately produce a windfall for the terror affiliated Hamas administration.
36. Resume relations with Cuba and lift boycott contingent on free elections in the country.
37. Boycott Venezuelan and Saudi oil in favour of Non-OPEC Ethical Oil sources.
38. Consolidate the intelligent gathering agencies NIS, Military Intelligence, Naval Intelligence, CIA into one single unit.
39. Fight to amend the constitution to limit the time that judges can sit on the US Supreme Court.
40. Promote Apprenticeship programs as and alternative to the highly overrated College Degrees.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Ron Paul - A Poor Choice for President

1. He is overly radical in his championing of the free market and seems likely to slash and burn key social programs in the name of a balanced budget (which is a necessity but thebudget must be balanced with care). I myself tend toward the monetarist approach in the great economic debate but I believe and support key Keynesian initiatives in moderation. I do not believe that Paul’s bias allows him to take the same approach. He is too dogmatic in his economics. Libertarianism at its extreme is inherently flawed, in that it defers to the simplistic, as does in all irony its Marxist antithesis.

2. He would follow an isolationist foreign policy, which at a time when the West needs strong leadership in the fight against Islamism would spell disaster. One need not look further than the inter war years and the growth of Fascism and Stalinism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s to see what happens when Good Nations do nothing against an evil.

3. He is weak on illegal immigration an issue which will become more and more pertinent in defining the national character in the 2010s.

4. He often makes historical errors when discussing foreign policy question indicating that his grasp of history is suspect.

5. Paul is supported by some of the most loathsome kooks in American Politics: Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, Conspiracy theorists etc. He has not sufficiently distanced himself from these extremists which is disturbing as such members will no doubt gain more influence within the Paulista realm.

6. Paul is no fan of the US Military and his policies could jeopardize US Security initiatives world wide by a following through with a spate of base closing. America’s enemies will certainly see this as a sign of weakness in the decay of the nation.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Mitt Romney - Possible Dragon Slayer

As it stands right now I am reluctantly endorsing Mitt Romney for President. While the former Massachusetts governor is far cry from the likes of Truman and Reagan he is significantly better than Obama and clearly ahead of Perry, Bachman, Huntsman, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul in both electibility and practicality of policy. As a center-right conservative with East Coast appeal Romney can shake Obama's voter base in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and New Jersey and with an added West Coast draw will likely challenge in California as well. The Dems must be worried about his recent upsurge, as they were clearly licking their chops at facing the lesser choices already named.