Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 2011

What is “Human Ecology”? An anthropological dilemma? Maintaining and sustaining human dignity

Do you have an idea what anthropological tendency means? I am coining the term “Human Ecology” to refer to anthropological sustenance of human dignity.

Mankind is at the top of the food chain.

Lately, a new breed or species has displaced mankind at the top of the food chain:  This species or class of “people” has nothing related to humanity but the external look.

If you ever meet one member of this exclusive tribe, you might not know that he is one of the 1% richest class in every single country.

You might not know that he is a member of the 1% richest in the G20 States, but they can reach for their greedy needs thousands of miles away, without even stepping their feet there, ever in their lifetime.

The entire earth, all its resources, mineral, fowl, animal, food, and people are part of their backyard scenery.

All products and services converge toward the destinations they decide should arrive to.  The 1% richest classes in the food chain do not see our planet as overpopulated.  Simply because: the more numerous the poorest species, the cheaper the labor, and the more abundant the production…Sweat shop factories, coal miners in China…

The 1% richest classes are on the “toppest” of the food chain and they need to make only 1% profit on whatever they trade and still remain the 1% richest.

Actually, they can afford to earn one dollar profit on one thousand dollars in prices, as long as the turn over is high (supermarket example…)

The 1% richest classes think that a billion men may vanish in a single year without destabilizing their system of production: A region is devastated and immigrants can simply be shipped there to survive precariously: They won’t lack a night sleep…

As if when one billion deaths in mankind is not a symptom that mankind is on the verge of disappearance!

Did you realize that even the least politicized individual is able to communicate on the ecological disasters facing earth and are educated enough to expound on varieties of ecological resolutions and alternatives?

However, the most educated and engaged people on the “Green” issues are basically sort of ignorant on how mankind can survive in a deteriorating environment, much less on the importance of maintaining and sustaining human dignity, not just to survive but to be an effective living being…

Liberal capitalist systems, and the worst kind of neo-liberal species, represented by financial multinationals, have reached a state of “having no meaning of why money is accumulated: the goal is to expand and enslave more people…”

No short-term projects can save humanity or improve standard of living in a decent normal life…

It is being revealed that the mentality of consumerism can be taught to be transformed, and many people have been working on learning to live with what is basic and rejecting the superfluous…

The main problem is:  “Can capitalism be transformed by reforming the production mentality of abusing and treating human beings as chattel on the production chains?  Can workers and employees enjoy a level of dignity in this machinery of human production?...”

How many have discussed the state of affair of the survival of mankind, even if ecological natural problems are resolved to the bare standards of a livable planet to mankind?

You must Know that insects and smaller animals can easily survive mankind for many centuries after man has vanished from earth…

Can mankind continue to suffer famine, indignities, and humiliation with the advent of Internet and fast communication means?

Do you think that when the poorest on earth see visuals on how other human species live in developed countries that they will submit to their lot?

We have been witnessing a new awareness of what “reclaiming human dignity” means:

Dignity is no longer an abstract notion

Dignity has acquired flesh and blood and determination…

The question is: “has a newborn, anywhere on earth, the same rights to survive to be a normal human being?

The irony of liberal capitalism is disseminating the hubris that there are no alternatives for progress and development without their brand of capitalism…

Before people revolted lately, the current ideology was a classless society without history and dominated by “One rich class, in one global market, one model of financial transactions…One Nazi Reich for the 21st century

Note: Post inspired by the piece published in the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatic (November).  Lucien Seve wrote under the title “Save human kind: Not only planet earth

Where are your lifeboats? Google’s Knol, Squidoo, Wikipedia…

Frankly, I am not that interested in Google’s Knol, Squidoo, Wikipedia…I still mostly use my hard copy dictionaries, thesaurus…Or maybe I am missing a whole lot on these facilities?

And Seth Godin posted “When Google comes calling…”, something to the effect that Squidoo focused on individuals and their passions…and delighting user base…and focusing on internal reports…

I don’t mind sharing a good post that smacks revenge on a 800-pound gorilla (Google’s Knol). Seth wrote:

“In June of 2008, Google launched Knol, a monetize Wikipedia, a Squidoo killer as some people saw it. Not the same as what we were doing at Squidoo, not focused on individuals and their passions, but close enough for discomfort.  Our tiny team was in the headlights of a very big company.

One of the first things investors and advisors will say to someone launching a business, particularly a tech one, is, “sure, but what happens if Google/AT&T/Starbucks/Apple decides to get into your business? You’ll be dead.”

While the intent behind this question is generous, it’s usually wrong. That’s because it misses several fundamental elements of what allows a business to thrive, and how entrepreneurs often have a significant advantage over incumbents when they are building something new.

  • It’s almost never about technology. Many companies that are built on tech believe that it’s the tech that enabled them to succeed. This is almost never true (I know, I’m biased). It’s marketing and stories and connection and tribes and commitment and structure that build businesses. The technology is essential, but it’s not nearly enough.
  • First movers can become obsessed with external customers, not internal reports. We paid attention to Knol for about a week (who wouldn’t?) but then ignored it. It wasn’t relevant to our users, so it wasn’t relevant to us. Our little team focused 100% of its energy on delighting our user base (which, while small at the time, was far bigger than Knol’s). If you can give your users an experience that they want to tell their friends about, you’ll grow.
  • There are no lifeboats. One of the reasons Google was so extraordinarily successful with search was that it was all they had. Sink or swim, those were the only options. Google’s competitors a decade ago had tons of things to work on, plenty of sources of traffic and revenue. Google had only one. At the beginning, the founding team at Google came to work every day focused on just one problem. We were in the same position in 2008, and that’s the case of most small companies facing down a big competitor. We focused because we had no plan B.

The most disruptive thing about the entrant of a huge player is the impact it has on partners. It’s easy to get skittish when the 800 pound gorilla arrives. I’m not sure there’s an obvious way to deal with this problem… we resigned ourselves to doing whatever we had to on our own, figuring the partners would figure it out eventually.

This week, three years after the launch, Google threw in the towel and closed down Knol. Our pageviews and our user base have grown by many multiples since 2008. I’m not sure you should wish for (or even plan for) a showdown with the big player, but it should give you solace to know that a focus on your tribe of customers gives you a fighting chance.” End of post.

The real problem with 800-pound gorilla is that they can easily buy you out, and then kill your hard labor at will.  What would all these hard working rank and file do, after investing so many hours and energy on building a company that they felt belong to them?  Could they elect a leader among them to create another company with fresh vision?

A Scandal in the Making? At American Univ. of Beirut, an AUB-Gate?

Nabil Chartouni, a wealthy businessman and a member of American Univ. of Beirut (AUB) Board of trustees between May 2001 and March 2011, has blown the whistle on AUB alleged multi-million dollar cases of corruption and malpractice. Chartouni’s 500-page report says that the irregularities occurred when he was a member of the board.

After a decade of raising alarm bells inside the administration’s hallways, Chartouni decided to compiled a long list of allegations of corruption and mismanagement last June and is demanding a proper investigation. Chartouni said to the Lebanese daily Al Akhbar: “I expects the board to take decisive measures against those involved in the corruption, in order to clean up the prestigious academic institution and build a promising future for its students. I am waiting to see if the culprits will in fact be exposed. I refuse, however, any attempt to bury the issue, if the investigation reveals that what I had documented in my report is true.”

The allegations include:

1.  Shady drug supply practices at the university’s renowned Medical Center. Drug companies often give 30 percent of any sale for free, but these free drugs are unaccounted for in hospital records. In 2000, the vice president of administration at the time, George Tomey, concealed a 300-page report by a consulting firm exposing mismanagement and lack of transparency at the hospital administration, the summary claimed. The university failed to take any measures against Tomey, even after Chartouni told the board of trustees about the concealed report. When Chartouni exposed this violation, Tom Morris, head of the board of trustees at that time, responded: “That is the university’s biggest secret. How did you find out about it?”

Among the related issues raised in Chartouni’s report is the absence of transparency at the hospital’s critical purchasing department. Moreover, certain companies appear to monopolize the selling of drugs to the university.

My question to hospital administrators: What are the various methods adopted to distributing 30% additional profit on drugs? For example, what could be the normal proportions allocated to distributing this bounty among the medical, administration, pharmacy, and nursing staffs?

2. The university has been providing electricity to off-campus residences in the adjacent neighbourhood of Ain el Mreisseh for the last 30 years, at an estimated loss of 1.5 million dollars. The practice was stopped after Chartouni raised the matter: The audit committee looking into the matter feared external intervention. (I personally don’t see this practice bad if electricity is provided to the common residents in the neighborhood, knowing that Lebanon is suffering huge shortage in energy…)

3. The university’s endowment fund has lost over 200 million dollars in the past 10 years, due to mismanagement by the board of trustees.

4. Inflated retirement compensation packages. For example, the university paid one of its lawyers $616,000 upon his retirement. Based on the trustees’ estimates, the pay out should not have exceeded $300,000 dollars. George Tomey remained in his position, and two years later, retired with a pension that amounted to three million dollars

5. A lack of transparency in designating the university’s financial share when providing residence for professors, particularly off campus.

Student elections took place in AUB this week. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

This prompted the board of trustees to meet in June 2011 and decided to launch an investigation under the supervision of a committee. Chartouni’s lawyer requested that the New York state attorney general not take any decisions pending the result of the investigation.

The committee is said to have conducted an investigation into a number of accusations related to lack of transparency and mismanagement, including theft. According to a former trustee, the resulting financial loss to the university amounts to tens of millions of dollars per year.

AUB’s public relations office in Beirut declined to comment on the case.

Note 1: The report is now under examination by an AUB ad hoc committee and has caught the attention of New York’s attorney general. (AUB operates under a NY State license.)

Note 2: Chartouni’s name was withdrawn from the board’s elections in March 2011 after he wrote a 500-page report in which he detailed the scale of corruption at the university. In the report’s summary, Chartouni claims that the head of board of trustees, Philip Khoury, called him out of a meeting and informed him of the decision in a corridor without further explanation.  Ever since his dismissal last March, Chartouni has written several open letters toKhoury, but has yet to receive a response.

Note 3: The board of trustees committee consists of the president Ayman Asfari, Marwan Mausher, former Foreign Minister of Jordan, Abdulsalam Haykal, Yusef Rabah Abu Khadra, and Carol Bellamy.

Note 4: Faten Elhajj published an edited translation from the Arabic Edition on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011

Am I working hard? What is “work” to qualify it in first place?

There are several types of “working”, or feeling that we have been working, or thinking that what we are doing can be perceived as working by the community…For example:

First, many people exclusively work to get paid in currencies, on the assumption that if work is not compensated by money, another term should be invented to confound language

Second, many more people, billion of them, are practicing the bartering method: They produce product and services and exchange them with other types of products and services…If I inherited an olive tree-field, I’d rather barter my olive or olive oil (added-value process) with a pair of shoes and save my profit from a middleman…Actually, we are bartering skills and talents (acquired with hard work, time, and patience) for another set of skills and talents…

Third, many more people, mostly men, are discovering the mysteries of daily survival skills through maintaining house and family demands (housekeeping chores)…

Fourth, many more people are taking more seriously types of hard work, camouflaged as leisure time, which bed rid you for a week in pain and suffering and ruin your “currency paid job”: You should not go hiking for 8 hours before prior exercising for this arduous task.  As any work, prior hard work, efforts, time, and patience are required to doing a stupid work such as hiking, gliding, ocean treasure hunting…

Fifth, many more people are starting to appreciate truly “leisure work” that bring laughter, smiles and contentment into the life of family members…Like what?

Sixth, with the advent of Internet social platforms and easy and quick publishing, life is getting more complicated: How could you define publishing posts and articles on social platforms, working 8 hours a day, including holidays, and not earning a dime from this hard work?  Not only you are working hard, but publishing carries huge responsibilities when you disseminate ideas, concepts, and express your thoughts to thousands of readers… Writing for the benefit of the “demonizing” process of your troubled life should be a different category from publishing your “soiled” life…?

Suppose you get paid for reading and publishing on Internet, would your work be perceived by your community as true work, and that you are indeed a “normal” person…?

I stumbled on this post from emmatzeng (see link in note) published on Sept. 21 under “Has hard work become an exotic concept?” referring to “work culture” in Western and Eastern countries (I edited slightly the post):

“A few weeks back, I came across an NY Times piece “Reaping the Rewards of Risk-Taking” (written by Steve Lohr) that basically expounds the innovation-driven, creativity-centric values that encapsulate Steve Jobs’ life and career and brands America as the all-encompassing hub for such risk-taking pioneers. I already wrote an entire post about Jobs’ ideologies, but I have to comment on them again, perhaps because they strike such a deep, personal chord in me.

Before I delve into personal technicalities, the article classifies Jobs as “the vanguard of innovative thought, experimentation, and so-called “recombinant mash-ups,” or disruptive products that blend perspectives from different disciplines.  At the core of all this creating and revolutionizing are the tried and true American values of pioneering, innovating, and risk-taking; and it is, in fact, these very principles that put our nation at a competitive advantage to other countries, even despite the latter’s heavy government financing for scientific research and educational achievements in science and technology….”

Going along those lines, businesses like Apple, who are credited with revolutionizing the computing and electronics sectors, generally trade at higher valuations on the stock market because they enjoy what is called an “innovation premium.” Sort of it’s the truly innovative businesses that are the game-changers which brings in serious dough–and power.

Now, you’re probably wondering why this all matters to me as an individual aside from the knowledge that 1) I’m a huge admirer of Jobs, and 2) I’m all about creativity and risk-taking. 

Well, two weeks ago, I lived and worked in Asia. It was a unique, eye-opening experience that I’ll never quite be able to put into words and all that other jazz that you hear from everyone else who’s lived abroad: I’ve seen firsthand the cultural disparities that underlie Western and Eastern societies.

The West culture champions its free-spirited, individualistic culture, while the East generally values discipline, respect for authority, and academic excellence. In this respect, a Westerner might look at an Asian and label him as rigid and self-deprecating, and an Asian may view his Western counterparts as undisciplined and disrespectful.

I won’t take sides.  As a born and raised American, my time in Asia has allowed me to better understand how the Eastern side of the world thinks and operates. Thus, speaking solely from sheer observation alone, I believe that Lohr’s article, though compelling, presents a one-sided, ethnocentric perspective that completely ignores the strengths of other cultures, particularly those of the East.

I have seen a handful of Americans in my age group with lofty, elaborate dreams of pursuing their passions eventually settle into dry, unfulfilling jobs. Off the top of my head, I can cite a number of reasons for this phenomenon like lack of drive, personal insecurities…, but I believe that, at the root of it all, is an unwillingness to work hard, to exercise discipline, and to suffer a bit in order to reap the future rewards.

And while I advocate strongly for the mantras of our generation that egg us on to pursue our passions, I believe that these adages need to come with a forewarning–something along the lines of, “Go hard after your dreams–but be dang well prepared to work your butt off for them and encounter some setbacks along the way. THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.

The truth of the matter is, taking risks is exponentially tougher than simply going after what’s safe and socially accepted. In this respect, taking risks requires hard work and discipline, virtues that Eastern societies hone in on.

Sure, Jobs dropped out of college after his first semester and spent some time traveling India, which is awesome and all, but he also slept on the floors of his friends’ dorm rooms and went to a local temple every week to partake in a free meal. Oh, not to mention that he started Apple in his parents’ garage and spent ten years building it into a multi-million dollar business. If that doesn’t sound arduous and even a bit unsexy, then I don’t know what is.

I have encountered and worked alongside multitudes of bright, hardworking individuals during my time in Asia. The work ethic is so strong there that it almost puts our good ol’ American working middle-class values to shame.  What I also witnessed in Asia was an unquestioning and borderline passive stance towards societal norms. Nearly every time I thought to challenge authority in some way shape or form, my remarks were almost always met with an all-too-accepting “that’s just the way things are.”

On the flip side, Americans are great at questioning the status quo, engineering new ideas, and standing up for their opinions and beliefs. It is, essentially, this flourishing spirit of creativity and outside-the-box thinking that attracted me back home. Nonetheless, aside from our dedication to individualism and appetite for creativity, I worry that a good number of my fellow Gen Y-ers simply cower in fear at the prospect of being challenged and stretched beyond their perceived means. It is this distaste towards discomfort that paralyzes us and puts us as a competitive disadvantage on the global scoreboard.

I’d like to expand on Lohr’s points and argue that, while America is a unique and vibrant nation with a strong knack for creativity, we should never allow ourselves to get away with believing that our school of thought is superior to any other culture’s.

Instead, we should be utilizing our resources to continuously seek out new ways to grow, to adapt to our increasingly globally connected world, and to broaden our perspectives. Like Jobs instructs, it is our duty as a nation that fosters innovation to cultivate an environment that rewards curiosity and open-mindedness. That takes some hard, unadulterated work.

What do you think? Do you agree that our current and future generations would be better off finding and achieving a delicate balance between Western ideals of personal freedom and creativity and Eastern morals of discipline and respect, or am I way over my head with this one?” End of post

Note 1: You may read my book review of Amelie Nothomb on her experience working with a Japanese company (Trembling and stupor)

Note 2: http://emmatzeng.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/has-hard-work-an-exotic-concept/

An entire Decade Lost? Opportunities, Peace…

“The scary part is the political class inability to think about the economy in a realistic way” Walter Russell Mead. The world economy has many rigidity, and the worst ones are in people’s heads.

Before I express what the world community missed in the last decade and what problems have not been exposed for serious resolution, it might be relevant to post what DAVID BROOKS published in Sept. 26, 2011 under “The Lost Decade?”  on the missed opportunity to reform the financial crisis (I edited slightly the article)

“If you want a big swig of despair, listen to the people who know something about the global economy. Roger Altman, a former deputy Treasury secretary, is arguing that America and Europe are on the verge of a disastrous double-dip recession. Various economists say it will be at least another three years before we see serious job growth. Others say European banks are teetering, probably early next year.
 
Walter Russell Mead, who teaches foreign policy at Bard College, recently laid out some worst-case scenarios: “It is about whether the international financial system will survive the next six months in the form we now know it. It is about whether the foundations of the postwar order are cracking in Europe. It is about whether a global financial crash will further destabilize the Middle East. …
 
It is about whether the incipient signs of a bubble burst in China signal the start of an extended economic and perhaps even political crisis there. It is about whether the American middle class is about to be knocked off its feet once again.”

The prognosis for the next few years is bad with a chance of worse. And the economic conditions are not even the scary part. The scary part is the political class’s inability to think about the economy in a realistic way.”

This crisis has many currents, which merge and feed off each other. There is the lack of consumer demand, the credit crunch, the continuing slide in housing prices, the freeze in business investment, the still hefty consumer debt levels and the skills mismatch, regulatory burdens, the business class utter lack of confidence in the White House, the looming explosion of entitlement costs, the public’s lack of confidence in institutions across the board…

No single one of these “currents” prolongs the crisis: It is the product of the complex interplay between them. The crisis is an emergent condition, even more terrible than the sum of its parts.

The “ideologues” who dominate the political conversation are unable to think in holistic, emergent ways: They pick out the one factor that best conforms to their preformed prejudices and, like blind men grabbing a piece of the elephant, they persuade themselves they understand the entire problem.

Many Democrats are predisposed to want more government spending. So they pick up on the low consumer demand factor: Increase government spending and that will pump up consumer spending.  When President Obama’s stimulus package produced insufficient results, they didn’t concede that maybe there are other factors at play, which mitigated the effects. They just called for more government spending. To a man in love with his hammer, every problem requires a nail.

Many Republicans, meanwhile, are predisposed to want lower taxes and less regulation. So they pick up on the low business investment factor:  Cut taxes and Reduce regulation… (but don’t touch the military budget)…And All will be well.

Both orthodoxies take a constricted, mechanistic view of the situation. If we’re stuck with these two mentalities, we will be forever presented with proposals that are incommensurate with the problem at hand. Look at the recent Obama stimulus proposal. You may like it or not, but it’s trivial. It’s simply not significant enough to make a difference, given the size of the global mess.

We need an approach that is both grander and more modest. When you are confronted by a complex, emergent problem, don’t try to pick out the one lever that (you think) is the key to the whole thing. There is no one lever. You wouldn’t be smart enough to find it even if there was one.

Instead, try to reform whole institutions and hope that by getting the long-term fundamentals right, you’ll set off a positive cascade to reverse the negative ones.  (How about we endeavor to) simplify the tax code; end corporate taxes, and create a consumption tax?

Reshape the European Union to make it (either more unified or less), but not halfway as it is now. Reduce the barriers to business formation. Reform Medicare so it is fiscally sustainable. Break up the banks and increase capital requirements. Lighten debt burdens even if it means hitting the institutional creditors.

There are six or seven big institutions that are fundamentally diseased, from government to banking to housing to entitlements and the tax code.

The Simpson-Bowles report on the deficit was an opportunity to begin a wave of institutional reform. But that proposal died because our political leaders are too ideologically rigid to take on big subjects like tax reform, which involve combining Republican and Democratic ideas. The failure to seize that moment was one of the Obama administration’s gravest errors.” End of article

The article approached the financial missed opportunities for serious reforms, and this crisis didn’t emerge in the last decades, but at least three decades ago.  The developed States knew the seriousness of the fast arriving economic and financial crises, and all they did was launching preemptive wars to throw dense smokescreens on the real monster trouble facing world community, and mainly to taking the lower middle class people off the unemployment streets and into the military… 

What was supposed to be “fighting terrorism” turned out something different altogether: Instead of eradicating the basic factors that initiated and encouraged “terrorist activities”, mainly illiteracy, poor economic development, lack of investing in human development indicators of infantile mortality…and cleaning up the growing environmental degradation, water pollution, and nuclear disasters…, endemic famine plaguing many regions in the worlds, focusing on taming curable deseases…the US went on a “quick preemptive war” in Iraq that dragged on for a decade, leaving behind it over one million of Iraqis dead and severely injured and plaguing the “Greater Middle East” in greater instability…

Instead of focusing on the factors that hurt world community, the US wanted to blackmail China by physically occupying the oil fields in Iraq…

The European Union had to hastily agree on the common Euro currency because it knew that the timing for declaring the world financial crisis was in the hand of the US, and it wanted not to be harassed one individual State at a time when the US blow the cover…

Europe is taking things seriously and agreeing on difficult medicines to taking: Nuclear power plants are being phased out, environmental problems are tackled in earnest, and frequent meetings among their leaders are common events…, but what the US and China have been doing?

China and India are polluting the environment, water sources, and ocean bays, consumer cars… to unprecedented levels, and still claiming to be treated as developing countries in order to catching up with the developed nations in pollution conditions…

The US is trying hard to throwing more smokescreens in order to avoid dealing with its “liberal capitalist” system: Occupy Wall Street protest came to dismiss focusing on further creation of smokescreens and tackling the main problems for serious resolutions…

Are you sure that paying taxes is an American civic duty?

Surveys would show that over 90% of US citizens claim that paying taxes is a civic duty, and that they do pay taxes out of civic duty…Is that claim true in reality?

Beside the salaried and wage workers who have no choice in paying taxes according to Congress tax laws, since their taxes are automatically withheld from every pay check, almost all “non-farm proprietor income”, meaning the self-employed in liberal jobs, small owners of enterprises, owner of restaurants… under report their real income by 60%, an amount estimated to generate over $70 billion in unpaid taxes.

The tax gap (difference between tax owed and tax actually paid) is about $350 billion, or one-fifth of all taxes collected by the IRS, or $1,000 for every man, woman, and child…

The IRS job is executing Congress tax laws, requiring tax payers to comply.  The IRS role is to “help the large majority of compliant taxpayers with tax law, while ensuring that the minority who are not unwilling to comply, pay their fair share…”

The IRS barely audit 20 out of 1,000 taxpayers per year: Congress is not about to fund this institution in order to investigate and target the big fishes. Consequently, chances is that you may not be audited in decades if the tax gap is not outrageously obvious or your business is not classified as Red for potentially prone to tax cheating and evasion.

The IRS should be investing most of its efforts on the big fishes that can afford to hire teams of tax lawyers and “tax experts” in locating loopholes as large as Oregon.  However, the IRS claim not to have the means to confront legal and protracted tax battle with the big fishes, who are generally backed by powerful politicians….

Actually, the big fishes are the ones sustaining the budgets allocated to State and Federal institutions, meant to be squandered for self-interest and self-serving objectives… For example, in 1986, Congress passed the tax law, which was instigated and suggested by tax employee John Szilagyi six years earlier, that required to list children’s Social Security numbers.  In that year, 7 million children vanished from the tax rolls, saving $3 billion a year in tax revenue.

The gist of the matter is that any government, if it will to be serious in considering citizens at equal footing in rights and responsibility, can collect every dime it owes and block any loopholes for cheating opportunities. For example, forcing the employed people to automatically pay every month…Tax laws are political in nature, and if you think that not every one is paying his fair share in taxes, how national civic duty stand?

Conversely, educated and engaged citizens who reclaim fair and equitable election laws and tax laws, can defeat any powerful governmental institution.

Note: Inspired from Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner

For Xmas season: Use imagination on wasteful gift cards presents

Every year, companies like Gap, Toys for US, Best Buy, all these health spas and gym facilities…cash in about $8 billion in services not rendered: 20% of recipient of gift cards never use them.  Consequently, companies retain the cash received in exchange of plastic gift cards that were not used by disgruntled recipients.

In 2006, the financial-service research firm TowerGroup estimated that $80 billion were spent on gift cards. The monetary amount of unused gift cards has a bigger impact on consumers than the combined total of both debit and credit-cards fraud.

Companies welcome Xmas season for making huge cash profit: First, consumers are readier to spend money to coincide with the “Xmas spirit” of giving and buying jacked up consumer’s prices on products and services because they cannot retain their zeal until the sales period immediately after the holiday season; second, for unused gift cards, and third, because returned gift cards shoot for more expensive alternative products…

If you won’t consider giving cash as 42% of grandparents do, you must start using better imagination strategy for understanding the psychology of the recipients, such as discovering the guilty-pleasure gift that people won’t buy on their own volition or delay on these tricky decisions.  You have got to know better than the recipient what he actually wants but didn’t know, like having a thorough pedicure (cutting feet nails), and be personally accompanied to these taboo parlor facilities…

With an equal amount of cash, holiday gift-giving destroys a third of the value of gifts:  Recipients lack bargaining power leverage and their choices are limited… Receivers of gift cards think they are easy and readily available to purchase and consequently are not that valuable: Gift card presents didn’t require any effort or time invested in the transaction…

If you intend on purchasing gift card, you had better understand the “wild-self” in recipients, like bungee jumping, gliding, kite surfing, joining team for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, treasury hunting in deep oceans, boarding civilian shuttles to the moon… Something to the effect of getting rid of another name on the list for next year gift round

I mentioned pedicure as priority gift card because many elderly and obese people cannot bend to trim their feet nails, even if they intend to.  Feet nails grow in length and in hardness that specialized saws are needed and specialized experts for doing a proper job.

Note: Inspired by a chapter in Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner

German city wiped out in one night: Dresden 1945

It is Feb. 13, 1945.  In the night, 773 British Avro Lancaster bombers dropped their loads on Dresden.  Dresden had no military installation or headquarter or even prisons: Dresden “The Venice of River Elbe” was welcoming hundred of thousands of refugees fleeing the Soviet advance of the Red Army.  Dresden was one of the cultural center in Europe since the 17th century. The war was almost over, but the Allied decided to wipe out several German cities in revenge.

By the end of the night, 2,500 tons of ultra explosive bombs, two-third of the burning kinds of phosphorous and magnesium bombs, have been dropped.  Over 25,ooo houses of the 28,000 were demolished, and over 150,000 civilians out of one million perished in one night. The casualty was three folds what British civilians suffered in three months of the Luftwaff aerial raids in 1942.

The fire storm generated temperature of 5,000 degrees Celsius.  The nightmare was not over. In the next two days and nights, hundreds of US bombers resumed the demolishing task. In addition to the 650, 000 of the city, hundred of thousands refugees were flocking to Dresden, fleeing the Soviet advances.

The story would like you to believe that General Arthur Harris, chief commander of the British air-force, was behind the decision. Harris said that the decision came from far above: Winston Churchill let the bombing on Hamburg, Lubeck, Berlin, and Cologne resume for another two months.  Why? It was a “strong message of intimidation for the Soviet troops to abide by the limit of their advances!…”

General Arthur Harris spent the remaining of his life in apartheid south Africa and was never tried for crimes against humanity and for violating Geneva Convention…

The city port of Hamburg was so badly burned by phosphorous bombs that the police had to achieve the citizens burned by the bombs because they knew not what to do with these burning alive bodies that kept re-igniting for ever…

The 20th century was the deadliest for the western world. The 21st is turning out to be the deadliest for the “Greater Middle East” with western weapon and for the western greed…

Note: Information extracted from the book “365 dates that changed history” by March and Garrick.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

November 2011
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