Monthly Archives: July 2012

Reflections on Peace

What exactly is peace? For me, peace means different things. It can be part and parcel of one’s vocation, but at the same time a state of mind that can motivate one’s vocation. Let me explain.

I was once in Berlin, attending the Berlinale Film Festival, and was sitting outside of a small café in Potsdamer Platz called ‘Alex.’ While I sat there, an overwhelming peace overcame me. I watched hundreds if not thousands of persons pass in front of me (it was a busy weekend). Having finished my meal, I was still sipping a glass of white wine. I was entranced by an overwhelming peace that transcended the simple pleasure of the meal and drink.

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Living in Cars: Poverty in America

From a recent 60 minutes segment. Heart wrenching but hopeful.

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Tracking down an Exo-Planet

The discovery of Gliese 581g made headlines around the world in September 2010, because the planet was said to orbit in the middle of its star’s “habitable zone” — that just-right range of distances where liquid water, and perhaps life as we know it, could exist.

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TED: Creating a Compassionate World

In 2010, TEDsters gathered at the UN to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Charter for Compassion — Karen Armstrong’s 2008 TED Prize Wish. The event, TEDPrize@UN featured talks on compassion by a number of fascinating speakers.

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Dear Socrates: Are People Innately Good or Bad?

I must admit that sometimes the whole tenor of religious argumentation astonishes me. Let us return to your idea of the importance of immortality for morality. In an interview in a magazine, a prominent religio made the following admission: “If death is the end, shoot, I’m not going to waste another minute being altruistic.” Now, however disarmingly modest that statement may seem to many people, it struck me as an indictment of this person’s virtue, and, in fact, his religiosity. But I don’t believe his self-assessment is even correct. Essentially, the psychology it presumes is false. There are as many good, empirical reasons to believe that human beings are as innately altruistic as that they are innately selfish, both from observation of how we behave and from the theory of how our behavior evolved.

My examples are merely of bad religious arguments. They do not show that religion is of necessity irrational. There can be bad philosophical arguments too. Therefore I recommit myself to truth and reason, and welcome religion to the dialogue.

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Securitize Foreclosures? You Decide

Financial industry to ‘securitize’ foreclosures:

Banks and real-estate investors are working on a new type of security that is tied to the housing market, The Wall Street Journal reported, but instead of having the securities backed by mortgages, the new securities will be backed by the rental payments of residents who live in previously foreclosed homes.

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21 Trillion hidden off-shore by top 1%

(CNN) — The world’s super-rich had between $21 trillion and $32 trillion of wealth hidden in tax havens by the end of 2010, a new study says.

The size of these unreported financial assets is equivalent to, or even larger than, the combined GDPs of the United States and Japan, representing up to $280 billion in lost tax revenues.

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LIBOR Scandal: Arrests Imminent

From Zero Hedge:

For over four years, virtually everyone in the finance industry knew that Libor was manipulated. The stench of manipulation rose to the very top and thanks to a document release of formerly confidential information, we now know for a fact that even the Fed was in on it – recall that as part of production, the Fed provided a transcript of an April 2008 phone call between a Barclays trader in New York and Fed official Fabiola Ravazzolo, in which the unidentified trader said: “So, we know that we’re not posting um, an honest LIBOR.” And yet without any tangible, black on white evidence, there was no catalyst for pursuing legal action. That all changed when in a desperate attempt to protect its ass, Barclays decided to rat out everyone by settling with regulators, and “turn state” producing e-mail based evidence, most of it quite visual (after all what is more tangible to the common man that evil bankers sipping on Bollinger), which essentially threw years of quiet cartel cooperation under the bus. As a result, regulators, enforcers, and legal authorities, many of whom were in on this manipulation from the beginning, no longer had an excuse to not pursue civil and criminal charges against perpetrators, who until recently were footing the tabs at various gentlemen’s venues and ultra expensive restaurants. And while the imminent waterfall of civil prosecution will force bank litigation reserves to go through the roof, here comes, with a very long delay, the criminal charges. As Reuters reports, here come the arrests.

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Co-operative Banking the Wave of the Future?

The Co-operative has pledged to shake up the closed shop of high-street banking after clinching a cut-price deal to take control of 632 Lloyds Banking Group branches in a move that will triple its branch network and bring back the centuries-old TSB brand.

Some 4.8 million Lloyds customers will transfer to the Co-op along with up to 7,000 staff who currently work in the branches that are to be sold. The deal is expected to give the Co-op some muscle in high-street banking. It will create a 974-strong branch network with a 7% share of current accounts – propelling it to become a major competitor to the big four high-street lenders, Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland. The Co-op currently has just 2% of accounts.

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The idea of a Cooperative Central Bank is explored in my article ‘Turn the Fed on its Head‘.

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Jumpstarting High Speed Rail in California

Los Angeles (CNN) — California is poised to become home to the nation’s first truly high-speed rail system with Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing Wednesday of a law authorizing the first leg of construction for a line that will eventually connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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We absolutely need more of this kind of effort. It can be funded by ‘positive’ or ‘non-debt’ money. See how in my article ‘Turn the Fed on its Head’.

Rather than ramping up a war with Iran, why don’t we ramp up a war on outdated infrastructure here in the U.S.?

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