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I have seen what power does, and I have seen what power costs. The one is never equal to the other.

12th September 2013

IT’S THE 340TH ANNIVERSARY OF “HUG A POLE DAY.”

IT’S THE 340TH ANNIVERSARY OF “HUG A POLE DAY.”

Croissant, bagel and coffee on September 12th

Remember 9/12!

26th June 2013

CARREFOUR SHAKE UP: OUT OF MALAYSIA, GREECE, TURKEY, PUSH IN CHINA.

CARREFOUR SHAKE UP: OUT OF MALAYSIA, GREECE, TURKEY, PUSH IN CHINA. Le Monde reports [link in French] that Georges Plassat, in less than one year as Chief Executive of Carrefour, is shaking up the foreign presence of the world’s second biggest retailer after the US WalMart.

The group has pulled out of Greece, Turkey, Singapore, Indonesia and Columbia, in a departure from a trend since 2000 of expanding into new markets. Instead, Carrefour’s strategy is more focused on China, where it trails behind, among others, it’s main French rival Auchan. The latter has forged a local partnership with Ruentex sharing a distribution network: Sun Art Retail Group.

25th June 2013

DID OBAMA SUPPORT “BY-PASSING CONGRESS” WHEN HE WAS A SENATOR?

DID OBAMA SUPPORT THE PRESIDENT “BY-PASSING CONGRESS” TO RATIFY A TREATY WHEN HE WAS A SENATOR? I don’t recall it.

IS THERE ANYTHING WORSE THAN A “NON-PROFIT” CANNABIS GROWER?

IS THERE ANYTHING WORSE THAN A “NON-PROFIT” CANNABIS GROWER? At least proper drug dealers don’t ask for subsidies…

EMMANUEL TODD’S ANALYSIS OF THE USSR FITS ARAB SPRING

EMMANUEL TODD’S ANALYSIS OF THE USSR FITS THE ARAB SPRING. Brian Micklethwait (thanks for the recent plug for this site!) has been interested in the ideas of Emmanuel Todd, a French anthropologist and sociologist, for about as long as I’ve known him. It looks as if his approach may help explain the scope and limits of the “Arab Spring” as well as how European societies will cope (or not) with the collapse of welfare states..

Todd became famous for predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union on the basis of his analysis of Soviet demographic statistics, notably suicide and infant mortality rates (the former was high and the latter stopped being published in 1974). Despite the efforts of Soviet propaganda, Todd accurately saw that however manipulated the data, the “official” suicide rate suggested massive levels of despair among the Soviet population. The rise in infant mortality in the late 1960s and early 1970s that was admitted by the Communist régime was itself unique among industrialised countries, suggesting the collapse of economic and social welfare infrastructure.

Unlike more famous mavens of Soviet collapse, Todd predicted that it would be the more educated, relatively well-off citizens of the Baltic states that would lead the way to change, not the Asiatic regions (which were noted for high birth rates, the influx of Islamic radicalism and the presence of oil).

The Arab Spring fits this analysis: it isn’t the poorest who overthrew Mubarak in Egypt, but the emerging (in numbers if not wealth) middle class. Radical Islam in Egypt and previously in Iran has been the ideology of opposition to plutocratic governments that were seen as corrupt and failing to deliver prosperity and opportunity. Sounds a lot like the causes of the French Revolution, well put by another Emmanuel (Sieyèes).

In fact once one looks at successful “régime change” throughout history, the bourgeoisie tends to be the social class from which the revolutionaries emerge and which tends to benefit, at least in the short term, from change.

24th June 2013

GENERIC VIAGRA HITS EUROPEAN DRUG MARKET

GENERIC VIAGRA HITS EUROPEAN MARKET. Teva Pharmaceuticals, the Israel-based world’s biggest generic drugmaker, has launched generic sildenafil in competition with US-pharma giant Pfizer’s Viagra.

For private prescriptions in the UK this means a likely 50% reduction in the cost of a pill from about £6 from Lloyds Pharmacy to about £3 for the generic version. One likely effect will be to put pressure on counterfeit distributors. Other pharmacy prices may vary considerably with £10 per Viagra tablet being charged in many cases for private patients. [Prices are estimates only!]

Pfizer’s best chance of retaining market share would now be a combination of cutting its price and demanding a switch to over-the-counter or pharmacist-discretion status for the erectile dysfunction medicine. Patients asking for “Viagra” will tend to get the branded version (like Neurofen instead of ibuprofen), whereas the tax-funded National Health Service is likely to massively support the Teva generic sildenafil.

BINGO “MAFIA” ARRESTED IN SPAIN.

BINGO “MAFIA” ARRESTED IN SPAIN. Playing bingo in a bar requires a local government license in Spain, so police spent two weeks undercover before taking down the British expatriate culprits:

All 30 customers – aged between 23 and 76 – were arrested and those who were not playing the game were arrested for “observing a crime”.

NO MORE HALAL MCDONALD’S IN USA

NO MORE HALAL MCDONALD’S IN USA. Weird outcome of litigation here.

I’m sure some of the plaintiffs wanted a different outcome.

SQUARING THE CIRCLE: MULTICULTURALISM VERSUS CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

SQUARING THE CIRCLE: MULTICULTURALISM VERSUS CHILDREN’S RIGHTS. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is launching a helpline for girls in the UK who are threatened with genital mutilation. This of course, goes against the customs of some cultures – mostly in Africa – which consider women who don’t undergo the cutting to be “impure”.

Either the NSPCC is “racist”, for imposing on the world its white middle-class bien-pensant values, or female genital mutilation is “barbaric,” which is impossible if all cultures are equally valid. Watch out for the deafening silence from multiculturalists.

The problem with multiculturalism is that it takes a good idea – the peaceful coexistence of different cultures, ethnic groups, faiths and societal norms – and combines it with both a profound ignorance of history, religion, human nature, as well as an assumption that anything American or Israeli is evil and anything opposite to American or Israeli is good.

The obvious mechanism for achieving a multicultural society is individual voluntary exchange combined with the non-aggression principle. Which would be fine if these two ideas were universal. They’re not.

23rd June 2013

BEIRUT c.1973

BEIRUT c.1973. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

 
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