Archive for the ‘Food for Thought’ Category

The Nobel Peace Prize Watch

February 24, 2015 Leave a comment

The Nobel Peace Prize Watch.

The Nobel Peace Prize has become tainted over the past 25 years as it is being awarded over and over to people and organizations that have repeatedly acted against the tenets of the will in which Alfred Nobel stated his intention. The will is a legal instrument, with a binding obligation of its stewards. When the stewards act against its stipulations and fail to honor its purpose, then the committee is breaking the law.

This has become a matter being taken up in both the Swedish and Norwegian parliaments. If the challenge is successful, the Nobel Committee may yet be stripped of its authority.

I think this will still take 10 years longer to become a reality. But the people who are demanding a faithful and legal obligation to the Nobel testament will ultimately prevail. It is my hope that it will be before the escalating militarism in the world and the rising destructive powers of the world’s weapons makes life next to impossible in much of the region of eastern Europe, north Africa, and west Asia uninhabitable.


Divide and Prosper: An Asian Model for Successful Business Growth

November 6, 2013 Leave a comment

I recently read Divide and Prosper, by Kuniyasu Sakai and Hiroshi Sekiyama, and posted a review in Goodreads.  My full review is linked here.

The book is, ostensibly, a business book.  It is written as an inspirational management guide.  As such, Divide and Prosper is extremely useful, providing a wealth of practical information for a successful business manager.  But this is only one tiny fraction of the book’s value.  The greatest merits of the book come from its attempt to inspire and motivate younger people to aspire to more than is offered by the status quo.

In my review, I wrote about the author’s detailed description of the subcontractor system in Japan in the section, “Big Business, Small Companies.” In this section, Sakai and Sekiyama describe carefully how the major corporations enslave the majority of the nation’s companies and people.

To Sakai and Sekiyama, the status quo does not provide redeeming lives to the majority of people.  This goes against the conventional “wisdom,” which says that Japan has achieved a higher standard of living than most of the nations of the world.  While it may have severe limitations in space and cost of living, the standard of wealth, safety, and convenience make Japan a mark of success, not failure.  But rather than spreading wealth thinly and evenly across the majority of the nation – as is the “common knowledge” explanation goes – the subcontracting system enslaves the majority of people. The big companies are not much more that a system of installing a small cadre of mediocre administrators to threaten, cajole, and pacify the masses, while pooling the wealth into the hands of a few wealthy and powerful elites, who hide anonymously behind the veils of their organizations.

First, the authors describe how the system is integral to the Japanese economy as a whole.  “The shitauke system is in one sense the very foundation of our modern business and industrial structure, the base upon which our giant commercial structure has been built.”  They continue to say that,”large corporations in a wide variety of fields act merely as “trading companies,” farming out jobs to their affiliates at cut-rate prices while charging their clients for the prestige of dealing with a top-notch Japanese firm.”

This structure is possible because the major, publicly traded, international corporations only comprise a small minority of the Japanese economy.  Sakai and Sekiyama write that, “90% of Japanese economy is minor industry.  Relatively few companies have more than three hundred employees, and more than three-quarters of all Japanese companies are very small, employing only a handful of people.  The real backbone of the Japanese industry is not the Toyotas and Nissans, the Matsushitas and Sonys, the Fujitsus and NECs, but rather, the thousands upon thousands of small firms that allow these behemoths to exist in the first place.”  Here, we start to see that the heart of their story is not just a positive guide to successful business, but a scathing war cry, aiming to defeat the massive corporate giants that cripple Japan and, ultimately, our world.

“In Japan, most small firms (and nearly all small manufacturing firms) exist in the shadow of a few dozen giant corporations which completely control their destinies. The master firm completely controls both its subcontractors’ production levels and unit costs, and this is the reason the giant industrial combines so jealously guard this system.”  Of course.  If a big company can control the production level and unit costs, it can offload most of its risks and take most of the returns from manufacturing.  It automatically inflates the big companies at the expense of the smaller subcontractors.

“What many people, even here in Japan, would find surprising is the astounding quantity of goods the firm purchases rather than manufactures.”  Again, this should not come as a surprise.  Manufacturing themselves would create a large number of “risks”, namely the human resources, facilities, and capital necessary to produce products.  Instead, the big corporations merely farm out the production, waiting “to put its name on the outer case and send the products through its international marketing and distribution system.”

This structure, Sakai and Sekiyama say, is an “industrial shock absorber.”  “The advantages of this system for the parent firm are just as obvious as the disadvantages for the smaller firms.  If the giant corporation falls on hard times, it will take a very long time (as we saw in the 90s) before it needs to lay off employees or radically alter any part of its own corporate structure.  It battens down the hatches and rides out the storm, keeping its own inconvenience to a minimum.”

“Having served as one of these “slave” companies for many years, I believe very strongly that a situation in which one must produce at another’s beck and call is ultimately destructive. ”

Men are not lemmings.  Of course, the “mass suicide” popular story about lemmings is a misconception, but the metaphor that we frequently behave unquestioningly as popular opinion dictates, with potentially fatal or dangerous consequences is, I think, quite valid.  Our fetish with big things – especially BIG business, BIG companies, and BIG data – may, in fact doom us.  I hope not.

Video: Jeremy Scahill & Noam Chomsky on Secret U.S. Dirty Wars From Yemen to Pakistan to Laos | Democracy Now!

May 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Video: Jeremy Scahill & Noam Chomsky on Secret U.S. Dirty Wars From Yemen to Pakistan to Laos | Democracy Now!.

Please take an hour to watch and think about what is discussed in this video.  Secret wars are being fought by the U.S. around the world, with thousands of people dying every day.  There is so much that ordinary people can do to stop these things from happening, yet we mostly just let our ignorance be an excuse to allow it to continue.

In the talk, Chomsky refers to Thomas Jefferson’s quote about fearing God’s ultimate judgement of our actions in life.  His reference is about how the past several Presidents of the U.S. should not only be judged by God, but also by, at least, public perception.  We should know the extent to their criminal activity and their blatant disregard for the health, education, and welfare of so many people around the world.

I have always been fond of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous saying, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” To be silently complacent, because it is the most consistent and benign approach to life, is not only an act of cowardice, but shows, ultimately, the small and insignificant character of a “little mind.”

Categories: Food for Thought, Security

Cicadas and the Mathematical Brilliance of Nature | Endless Innovation | Big Think

Cicadas and the Mathematical Brilliance of Nature | Endless Innovation | Big Think.

This article brilliantly and succinctly discusses how Nature demonstrates the principles we use in mathematics.  While math frequently seems to be disconnected from reality, hopelessly abstract and difficult to comprehend, it is really a discipline that can help us to understand and explain our world.

Reading this short article, I was reminded of a great book that I now plan to introduce to my 12 year old son.  The book is The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure, by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.  In the book, Robert, a boy who hates math, meets the Number Devil, who teaches Robert the beauty and wonder of math in a series of 12 dreams.  Full of wit, wonder, and fiendish charm, Enzensberger creates realistic worlds that make prime numbers, Fibonacci numbers, and infinite numbers real, finite, understandable, and fun.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be doing more of this in our schools than taking the fun out of study and making it all seem so difficult that it just doesn’t seem worth the trouble?

Taking down the Recount on Prop. 37 in California

March 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Proposition 37 in California would have mandated the labeling of all GMO food sold in California.  It was voted down in November 2012 under dubious circumstances, by a very small margin.

Many people lobbied for a recount, leading to a challenge headed by Tom Gourbat, former senior analyst for Los Angeles County.  After 2 county recounts, the viable and legally supported challenge was brought down in Fresno County by one person, Brandi Orth, the county clerk of Fresno. She arbitrarily set the charge for the recount to nearly 7 times the cost of the recount in Orange and Sierra Counties.  (Fresno Counties big employers include Kraft Foods, Del Monte, Sun-Maid and other giant agriculture firms, who profit immensely from GMO foods.)  And who selected Brandi Orth as county clerk?

This story was uncovered by Jon Rappoport, a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe.

Read the full story on: Jon Rappoport’s Blog.

Documentary focuses of WWII Japanese – American internment camps in New Mexico — War History Online

February 11, 2013 Leave a comment

My father’s family were interned at Poston Arizona, after being detained at the Santa Anita Racetrack.  My grandfather was arrested first, leaving his wife and two young sons to take whatever they could with them from their farm in Porterville to their internment.

Grandfather was taken to another camp with many other supposed ringleaders of the Japanese in California.  His crime: sending money back to his family before the war.

We don’t know which camp grandfather was taken to.  I think it was Tule Lake in California, but it could be these camps in New Mexico.  He eventually rejoined his family in Poston, but didn’t speak about his time of separation.  He died before I was born.

Granddad was a guy who boarded a freight ship to head off to America – a stowaway.  He ended up becoming a ranch hand in Arizona before heading back to Japan to marry my grandma.  He was a real pioneer, an adventurer.  Had a farm in Terra Bella before moving to Porterville.

I wish I knew more about him, but I am sure that the first camp he spent time in was not a picnic.  Neither was Poston.

This should not have happened then.  It should never happen again.

Documentary focuses of WWII Japanese – American internment camps in New Mexico — War History Online.

Nursing Your Sweet Tooth | Online Nursing Programs

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment
Categories: Food for Thought
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