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About this blog

Long winded ramblings, as ever

Entries in this blog

 

Its Not Safe For Work ...

... this cartoon does a pretty good job of expressing alot of my thoughts about parts of modern life and work.   It involves a strong reaction to it - oh dear NSFW language.   The challenge in life is how to ensure the poetry this world has to offer us outweighs the frustrations life blocks us with ... and an understanding that overcoming those frustrations is partly what creates our poetry. Life aint easy - but that shouldn't surprise us really.  

Chinahand

Chinahand

 

Was Feynman Wrong?

I recently found this talk by Richard Dawkins and was delighted to discover it contained a quote by Ricahrd Feynman who is one of the scientists who has most inspired me.  Feynman in his lecture QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter was discussing just how accurate quantum theory was. He said:     I had known that some scientist had used an analogy of great distance to get some idea of the amazing accuracy of a scientific prediction; I'd read about it years and years ago, but had forgotten the exact details (I thought the distance was between London and New York!). I'm really glad that I now know that the original source was Feynman!   I do think it is trully amazing - just think about that for a second - many hundreds of people have worked together and created simple mathematical abstractions which can be written down in a scientific paper or on a black board and argued about and which describe the real world to such an incredible amount of detail. What a feat!   But after reading this my fact-checking brain wanted to do the calculations to confirm what he'd written - and the results surprised me so I thought I'd post them here to check whether I've made a mistake!   The best guess of Dirac's Number produced from theory is 0.00000000025 units bigger than the best guess from actually measuring it. IE the theoretical number is bigger by about one part in 4,000,000,000.   Now the distance between New York and Los Angeles is about 3932.8 km.   Measuring it to that accuracy is to find the figure to a range of about 982.06 microns. Which is absolutely tiny - but it isn't as small as the thickness of a human hair. 982 microns is about a millimeter - a human hair is roughly one tenth of a millimeter.   It looks like Feynman was out by a factor of ten!!!   I think there is something hugely wonderfully ironic about all this.   Either I'm wrong - more than likely.   Or Feynman is wrong.   But sloppy, mistake making fallible humanity has been able to collaborate and measure a property of the universe (which most of us have no idea about) to a level of detail that is literally mind boggling. We have also been able to come up with a model which explains that part of the universe to a comparable level of detail and we've been able to show they agree to that mindbogglingly accurate extent.   Practically it really doesn't matter if the accuracy is one millimeter in the distance between New York and Los Angeles, or one hair - but science does care and wants to continue to ever refine it down.   There will definitely be mistakes as that refinement continues, but science mercilessly looks for mistakes and corrects them.   So am I correct to correct Feynman's mistake, or is the mistake mine?   I'm not sure - but I'll put my result out there to be queried. Trust but verify said Reagan.   That is what I did to Feynman's quote - can someone do the same for me?!

Chinahand

Chinahand

 

Words Of Belief And Scepticism

Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True had a competition to:     I missed the competition and didn't post an entry, but reading about it later I set my mind to the task of seeing if I could come up with a better word than the winner: faitheist.   Eventually I mangled my fascination with Chinese to produce 3 words which I hope express the issues reasonably well:   For someone who believes in believe how about using the word aixinian pronounced as ai-shin-ian(ai 爱 is the Chinese character for love, while xin 信 which is pronounced approximately as shin is the character for belief, or trust)   For someone who is a “knee jerk” atheist how about henxinian – pronounced hen-shin-ian. In this case hen 恨 is the Chinese character for hate, while xin is as before belief.   Following on again, for a person who is doubtful about the merits of belief you could use yixinian – pronounced yi-shin-ian. Where yi 疑 is the Chinese character for doubt, and xin is as before belief.   I fully admit these words look odd on the page and people may get confused over the pronounciation for xin.   There may be merit in abandoning the exact Chinese pinyin spelling and using aishinian, henshinian and yishinian, but that breaks the explicit link with the Mandarin characters and has an additional problem in people merging the sounds into a single syllable aish, yish and hensh rather than the two strong syllables ai-xin, hen-xin and yi-xin.   But even with these difficulties, I do think they are reasonably simple words which seem to encompass the debate and do not need too much explanation.   Anyway, when you try to coin a new word you just have to hope people will pick it up.   These words are a bit unwieldy in the spelling department, and have to be explained, but then again so does faitheist.   The major advantage, in my opinion, is that you gain three words which can encompass the debate while faitheist only sums up on one extreme.   Critique as you wish! More than likely my suggestion will die a death, but I thought I’d put these words out into the public domain to see what others think!   Are you an aixinian, a henxinian or a yixinian?   I'm to the middle of the spectrum - I'm definitely not an aixinian: theocratic belief is too ridgid and brittle. And I think most of what is good in it comes from the humanitarianism it contains independently of the dogma.   I think I'm at risk of being accused of being more henxinian, but that is I think over harsh - I'm doubtful of the advantages of belief. Definitely I do aspire to a more sceptical, less dogmatic world - but not to the extreme of hating belief. A quiet faith, as my granny had, did her and those around her little harm and added to her humanity, but belief and dogma go hand in hand which gives me my doubt over any of faith's purported advantages. So I am definitely yixinian!   Thoughts anyone?

Chinahand

Chinahand

 

Visualizing Science

I found this and thought I'd share it, but had no idea where to put it on Manx Forums so thought I'd put it up on my blog.   Below is an attempt to visualize how the endevours of science are communicated between the most important scientific journals. I found it at Well-Formed-Eigen-Factor.org!   Lots of science is really only of interest to specialists, and you can see that in the tight loops of citations between journals concentrated in one particular field.   But this detailed work can then explode outward to a much wider audience - often by it being cited in the important journals like Nature or Science. It is these journals which create scientific cross links as ideas and results reinforce or challenge theories across the range of human thought.   Check out here for more info - have a play - for example find the Annual Review of Nutrition - its a tiny journal at almost exactly 9 o'clock on the diagram, and see how its work has been picked up and used by scientists working in other areas.   Ok, its nerdish, but I though it was interesting - nearly every technological object around you will have started off in a link, or a loop, like that. Every time you see a doctor or take a tablet, or download some music off the web originally there was some scientist wondering if their idea worked and telling others about it and its results.   This tries to capture the complexity of that process - amazing innit!  

Chinahand

Chinahand

 

A Nobles' Dilemma

I was sitting in a Nobles day ward having a test done and reading a book. Just a novel, a book whose author I have followed for over twenty years. An author who’s inspired me with his plots and paragraphs and phrases, and given me insights into different points of view. A writer who has created stories fantastically linking the everyday with a magical reality which always lies just under the surface of the mundane.   The nurse bustled in talking fifty to the dozen, reminiscing about Isle of Man childhoods and such like. “Oh that looks an interesting book,” she clucks hardly stopping to hear my reply. “Yes, I’ve enjoyed him a lot, though I know he’s a little controversial.” But then she was gone again, leaving me seated by the bed listening to the nurses chatting in the background.   I had arrived early, a little nervous for the test, and had been seated down as they paged the doctor to come and do the bit with needles, medicines, and blood. And now I could hear the nurse greeting a doctor arriving in the orderly room at the entrance to the ward. An accent from the Sub-continent returned the pleasantries and I was suddenly struck with a thought.   You see the book was by Salman Rushdie and as far as I am aware a reasonable proportion of the doctors from the Sub-continent are Bangladeshi or have names showing a heritage in Islam.   Would my reading matter be taken as offensive, a snub to culture and religion? Luckily I was reading his latest novel, The Enchantress of Florence, and not the Satanic Verses, but still, Rushdie is a polarizing figure and known for his opinions.   I sat and wondered. I was about to have a needle pushed into a vein. Now I am sure that the doctor treating me is a consummate professional, but - ignoring any paranoid worries about the needle going in just slightly deeper than usual, a slip as I finch on that “slight scratch” they warn you about - is reading this book rude?   A part of my brain raised British rights, freedom of speech and all that; and us all muddling along with live-and-let-live give-and-take – it’s a book for Heaven’s sake. Another raised a need to be polite and accept cultural sensitivities - you don’t go pushing things in people’s faces.   But it’s just a book, a story, an exploration of the possible and the improbably to entertain and provoke thought.   I pondered for a moment casting my eye over the Hello magazines or what-not piled on the table close to the bed. Just put it away and read some dross. There is no need to push tolerances early in the morning while undergoing needles and the like.   So I did put it away; secreting Mr Rushdie out of sight in a coat pocket. I sat listening as another voice joined the conversation outside.   In bustled a petite East Asian lady, with the status displaying stethoscope draped about her neck. She briskly washed hands, swabbed my arm, opened various plastic packages and once prepared stabbed down with the needle – and missed.   “Ouch that hurt” I mutter as she pulls it out and stabs in again, this time in-and-through as the catheter slides into the vein.   Job done, she sneezes, apologises for her cold, and is gone.   Well – my arm is slightly throbbing and my pre-conceptions about seeing a Sub-continental doctor proved wrong, but what of my initial dilemma. Should I have hidden my reading away? I’m not ashamed to read Rhusdie, and I’m not really worried about there being any consequences from reading him in public – I definitely think the chances of getting shoddy care too remote to contemplate – but I also just didn’t see the need to risk giving offence.   It’s a complicated world we’ve created - doing the politically correct thing, being sensitive to diverse opinions and all that. Reading a book – what a world we live in where you’ve got to debate the dilemmas of doing that. Oh well.

Chinahand

Chinahand

 

The Right Stuff

I recently watched the movie the Right Stuff exploring how America and NASA launched their first astronauts into space. I really enjoyed it, I think you can tell it was based on Tom Wolfe's book - its well written on lots of levels.   I enjoyed the recurrent motif of Chuck Yeager who's story of breaking the sound barrier starts the film, but who is then left behind apart from continued reprises as the astronauts take centre stage. He bravely headed out time and time again to push his aircraft to the limit. The adoration and press coverage may have left him behind, but the risks and never ending battle between man, technology and failure at height and speed remained.   I also enjoyed the Shakespearian comedy of the incompetent NASA officials, one too tall, one too short, bumbling around looking for suitable astronaut candidates; and the realistic portrayal of the astronauts themselves, flawed and human with their infidelities and arrogances, but also with their comradeship and their support for their wives bugged by press and politicians. The wives themselves were also a major part of the movie, learning to live, with no support, with the dangers that bureaucrats and male drive put their loved ones in.   And then those dangers. The Mercury missions were casualty free, but that underplays the risks. The board of photos each showing a killed test pilot in Chuck Yeager’s regular watering hole reinforces his words that these people were volunteering for a suicide mission; it was only by luck and hard work that they all survived. And what of the hard work? – “Without the bucks they'd be no Buck Rogers.” The work of probably hundreds of thousands of people all converging on to one person strapped into a tin can at the top of hundreds of tonnes of explosive liquid and gas. Isn't it amazing what human ingenuity can do? The engineers were also given a Shakespearian, comedic role with Teutonic minds that ignored that people need to pee. I think that is a little unfair. I wish to take nothing away from the astronauts, but the people who slaved away, with far less head-line grabbing reward, to get the rockets to actually work were also heroic - allowing us to slip the surly bonds of earth.   We definitely do need reminding that some of humanity's achievements really are awe inspiring. The Right Stuff did it for me. I definitely recommend it - as long as you've got 3+ hours to spare.

Chinahand

Chinahand

 

A Rainbow

There is a bright rainbow arcing in the sky outside my window. Its colours touch the green farmland my office looks out onto. When I first saw it I stopped work and stood staring out for a few moments, smiling at its beauty.   ‘Always look for beauty’ has been one of my guiding phrases recently – listen to bird song, enjoy a fleeting glimpse of the sunset while on the commute, feel a sense of awe watching the crescent moon set with Venus and Jupiter shining bright next to it.   I always try and catch these moments and use them to give me some peace during stressful times.   Life can be tough and unremitting at times, and then we just have to be grateful for the small mercies that the world can give us. I find that it is very important to just pause when I feel a touch of happiness and acknowledge that fact – while having a chat with friends, while giving the little ones a hug good night, while listening to some music and tapping feet to the rhythm. These small things lessen the stress and give a feeling that life is worthwhile.   So evening walks and the sound of the waves and the pleasure of reading a well turned piece of prose and most especially the beauty nature gives all provide small specks of happiness to punctuate life. A reminder that even on the darkest night the wonders of the universe are to be seen as long as we remember to lift our heads.

Chinahand

Chinahand

 

We Come From, And Return To, Dust

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem revertis.   Remember man, that dust thou art, and to dust thus shalt return.   Found this on some web site. It made me stop and think. The Latin and King James style English give its succinctness multiple allusions; for me it conjures up images of tombs and catacombs; and Medieval monks berating their flock. It isn't a topic dwelled upon much in this (modern) age; true though it remains.   And there I pause: it is true, we will all rot and be gone to dust, but also I feel that our purpose is to leave something beyond dust behind when we are no more: we have to find meaning in our moment and in the legacy of that moment.   Legacy, that's quite a word, so is purpose. I assume the quote is from the bible or some such text, but then again it is coldly secular, there is no hint of the glorious here after, or even threat of abandonment if creed or Christ are not followed; just a return to dust. That does make me wonder, maybe it’s not biblically inspired, but of another, maybe Roman, tradition. Death, a final event, a return to dust. And if, as I firmly believe, this is true, what of us and our lives?   A long time ago I sat in a shabby Cambridge lecture room and listened to a man saying we all seek recognition, though in multiple different expressions and forms; a few years ago I was given pause by a TV programme discussing status anxiety (I think its a book too, something I should one day look up); and I recently read a book about "What is Good?": it seems there are cross currents in these themes which have, and I hope will, always fascinate me.   What is our purpose? What will be our, my, legacy? I think it was Steven Wiesner (the famous physicist) who said "the more we understand about the universe, the more it seems pointless." I feel that is a strange point of view. Billions of years of happenstance, then followed by further ions of a remorseless selection by, and for, an ever changing, influencing, and influenced, nature and here we are - influencing and influenced by what is around us. On a cosmic scale, in both time and distance, everything seems irrelevant, but my little influence does sum to something; Newton and/or Leibniz have proved that infinitesimals matter.   There are my children, my family and friends; my work, attempting to productively use my time; and lets not be too narrow in what I mean, writing this has taken up a productive hour of my time. Time is often well spent with friends and booze and chat, but it is also satisfying to leave something more. A rye smile appears as I remember a now long lost friend being proud of her temping skills: she knew she could photocopy well.   Now all this seems to be leading towards another word, Service, to add to my list: Purpose, Legacy, Service - ways to give meaning and to escape our coming from, and return, to dust.   "Glad to be of service" - a phrase full of the evocations of Douglas Adams. You do get an intense feeling of satisfaction when you reach out from your self and provide good service to others. We are intensely social animals and through cooperation we improve our lot.   So, in pulverem revertis, we shall return to dist. It’s a fact, it cannot be denied, but it is very doubtful that we won't leave behind some legacy, provide some lasting service, memory, to others that will remain.   That should be humanity's goal; let us aim so that we all can contribute. I would like us all to receive recognition, status if you like, for providing a service to humanity. That should be our purpose and doing so should provide a lasting legacy.   It doesn't have to be high falutin', many a stay-at-home mum has provided far more service to humanity than a tabloid icon or a failed magnate who got the balance between creation and destruction wrong. We live in a diverse world; there are many roles to be played. The difficulty is overcoming our status anxiety and finding our place. I've not done it yet. There is still a nagging desire and dissatisfaction in my heart, but I feel I can leave some worthwhile legacy in my life.   You keep working at it. Sometimes things go wrong and the legacy is recrimination and regret, but I truly thing that over a life we create far more than we destroy or waste; and so humanity advances. We may come from dust and so return, but something more remains.

Chinahand

Chinahand

 

The Revenge Of Gaia

I'm part reading The Revenge of Gaia at the moment. It’s about the 4th book sitting on my bed side table, so if my main book(s) bore me it is possible for me to get down to it to browse.   A quote in the introduction by Sir Crispin Tichell caught my imagination and I've been mulling it round my mind for a bit.     The Revenge of Gaia page xiv.   I totally agree with the second sentence but the first one troubles me: "a single, self regulating system"?   For all the obscure reasons I am what I am I've been trying to re-word that first sentence and doing so expanded my thoughts surrounding the hugely complex issues of humanity's role in altering and sustaining the world's ecology.   So here goes! Obviously I loose a lot of the erudition and pithiness of the original, but that's just me!     After writing that I then sort of carried on inspired by these thoughts:     I enjoyed writing it and the thoughts its stimulated in me, and so thought I’d share them! Hence putting it down in here!   Enjoy!

Chinahand

Chinahand

 

How I Post

I was asked by a fellow forum member how I write my posts.   I found it very difficult to reply and this is a rather boring reply - but I still love the book Straight and Crooked Thinking and so thought I'd blog my reply!!   --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------   How do I post - I'm not really sure - I've been thinking about how to reply and not really getting anywhere other than a rather patronizing sounding laundry list! I've no idea if any of this helps, but its about the best I can do!   I think one of the most important things is that I try as strongly as I can not to be rude or insulting - strong sarcasm is about as bad as I'll get - though Albert Tatlock strains that rule occassionally, and Tameelf is almost beyond the pale!   Emails and forums are not good mediums of communication - there is little opportunity to explain in detail what you meant and if things spiral into a flaming session and "you said this, I said that" vey little works.   I try and qualify my statements - I try not to say "this always happens" I say "this nearly always happens" or "often happens". When I'm reviewing the post it’s these little words that I most often add in. People try and niggle away at over expansive statements and I try hard not to give them that opportunity!   I think I try and keep things simple and on subject - though I do know I'm notorious for long winded posts so that can't be really true! But I think I tend to bang on about a single point and provide evidence that this stance is reasonable until the other side cannot continue to deny it!   I do rely alot on other sources to back up my opinions and link them to show I've a secondary "authority" behind what I'm saying.   I think I have an advantage of being widely read and so can quickly find sources to help me form my arguments - The Economist Magazine, New Scientist, Radio 4 and the BBC are good friends and useful for providing background on alot of the topics that commonly turn up.   One thing I'll recommend to you is a very old, and now slightly dated book! Its called Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert Henry Thouless. The Amazon reviews sum up my feeling towards this book - life changing is a strong word, but I can still clearly remember reading it and suddenly understanding some of the tricks and biases that people were using when arguing and now knowing how to counter them. Its now out of print, so a bit expensive, and the examples it uses are inter war - white Russians and the Communists! But the points it makes are as valid as ever - sacrifice a couple of meals out and use the money and the time to read the book - you'll remember it more than any meal Douglas can give you!   Definitely do dive in and post - if you are worried about ruining your reputation create someone new - but do post! Its an internet forum so there's little risk and its fun! Even if you get shot down in flames you can revel in their heat!   I get alot of pleasure from the Forums - with a young family the pub is a bit of a distant memory and so getting an opportunity to chew the fat and arm chair theorize is great fun - though the missus thinks I waste far to much time doing it!   Regards and Good luck with your posting!   Chinahand

Chinahand

Chinahand

 

From Freedom To Fascism: A Critique!

I’ve just watched a documentary by Aaron Russo.  What to make of it. What fascinates me is how people are using both traditionally left AND traditionally right wing arguments to turn what are basically free market ideas of liberal democracy into an Aunt Sally or whipping boy for the anti-globalization movement.   I have to admit I do wonder if I am using the correct word in describing this movie being as part of the anti-globalization movement – as alluded to above there are themes of anti-capitalism and government totalitarianism in the film, but for me it is the synthesis of these ideas into a major theme about world government and the control of that government by the “Bankers” which are overarching themes – hence I do not think that saying this is an anti-globalization movie is too far from the truth.   The film starts off with an attack on the right of Federal Government of the United States to levy income tax. The main players in this debate are right wing American libertarians who distrust governments and who wish to push a political agenda of decreased government influence. These people want to get rid of government provided health care seeing it as a way for governments to ration Health Services; they do not want government to oversee the quality of education; see welfare and social services as government imposed wealth distribution; and most especially they wish to restrict the way the government taxes its citizens.   A good half of the film is spent building up a distorted and simplified view of the legislation concerning the vires of Federal Income tax. The film states that the 16th amendment did not create any new powers of taxation, and this is then used to thump through a series of claims that there is no authority for the IRS to issue its tax codes and enforce them.   The film uses some early rulings of the Supreme Court to claim that lower court rulings in favour of the tax system are invalid, but this ignores legislative changes and other later rulings of the Supreme Court which now have precedence.   The film omits to mention that the 16th amendment removed the requirement that indirect taxes had to be apportioned. It was this issue that had previously stopped the creation of an income tax system; the constitution already allowed for indirect taxes (no additional powers were required in this respect for an income tax), but how these indirect taxes were apportioned had previously made earlier Supreme Courts reject the right of Congress to introduce an income tax system. After the 16th amendment the Supreme Court has basically refused to accept cases claiming income taxes are unconstitutional.   The film seems to not understand this issue; it is only when the Supreme Court Justices view that a lower court is incorrectly ruling that they take on a case and accept an appeal of a lower court ruling. For all the complaints of the “We the People” lobby, the silence of the Supreme Court in respect of income tax is a sign that lower courts are acting within Supreme Court guidelines and that this is not a controversial area of law.   The film is also surprisingly silent about the 1955 Supreme Court ruling in the “Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Co.” Case and the later “Central Illinois Public Service Co. v. United States” ruling in 1978. These directly dealt with the powers of the Federal Government to tax wages and income. The film makes much play of quoting 18th and 19th century jurists over wages being an exchange and not an income. This is all well and good, but the world has changed and in the 1950s and 70s the Court ruled on the current set up of the US Federal Tax system to tax both income and wages and found it to be valid.   What is interesting in this is that in these cases the Justices discussed the legislative intent of the laws. This goes beyond questioning what the lawmakers actually wrote in a particular statute and asks why they were writing it. This could go to the heart of the movies misconception; there may be no direct sentence in law relating to creating an income tax (I have no idea I’m no expert!), but for all the supposed lack of some vital words, in the Supreme Court it is uncontroversial that the legislators were intending to create a Federal Income tax system, and this has been found to be constitutional. Unless new legislation is passed changing this, or the constitution is altered the “We are the People” lobby is going to be unsuccessful in getting the Supreme Court to change its mind.   The film then concentrates upon the tiny number of cases where juries have ignored the guidance and summing up of the Judge and acquitted people defying the IRS. Great play is made of this, but the simple fact is this: when somebody is acquitted of a crime it does not make the crime legal.   The film makes an issue out of the refusal of the IRS to play along with the lobby groups and the various petitions and class actions taken against the Federal authorities; ignoring the fact that the Courts have consistently agreed the IRS has legal vires.   This refusal of the Courts to take these cases is played up and made out to be in some way sinister and at this point the film opens up into a more general theme of liberty.   The film now links together a series of technological, financial and political changes into a campaign by sinister bankers to rule the world. Great play is made of RFID technology. Part of this is laughable; an earnest woman describes how by using RFID the banks will be able to track when you take money out of a bank machine, and Wal-Mart will be able to track you using this money to buy its goods … guess what; they can already do this: if bank machines didn’t identify who was removing the money from them they would not work very well! Cheques and credit cards also give the banks this power and now make up by far the majority of transactions. RFID will not significantly change this, or produce a revolution in financial affairs.   I find it fascinating how new technology is regularly linked to the number of the beast. In the 1960s and 70s it was the bar code; with its three 6s. We were all going to be tattooed and made to scan ourselves when ever we wanted to buy some soup or get on a bus. Nowadays this technology is ubiquitous; if you were so minded you could make everyone scan themselves and all their belongings when they are getting on a train or a plane; THEY could demand you swipe before going into a bank etc etc. Now similar fears are being raised about RFID.   There is no doubt that it would be technically possible to link up every single RFID reader into a single data base and so when you walked into the bank it would record that you were carrying some soup just bought in Wal-Mart. What use this would be to the bank is left unclear; currently the bank already has a record of all your card purchases at Wal-Mart, will it help it to find that you are bringing these purchases with you to cash a cheque?   The film clearly worries about this and links it into the consumer society paid for via consumer debt. All the T.V.s and video players and meals out paid for by credit are clearly an evil fostered upon us by those sinister banks to control us. Because we decide to use credit to even out the discrepancies between our cash requirements and our cash supply we are being enslaved.   And this enslavement is part of a global plot to create world domination. Here the movie decides to throw in a few bugbears of the globalization movement: the WTO, the IMF and the Bank of International Settlements with the movie claiming that these organizations are out to create world domination and strip countries of their democratic rights.   It isn’t really explained how this is linked to consumer credit apart from via the fact that the Federal Reserve system is “owned” by private banks. Which is portrayed as a major evil and conspiracy.   As ever this is a vast and distorting simplification. Unlike Canada, the UK or New Zealand the US Federal Reserve requires all banks operating in any of the 12 central bank regions to deposit a defined proportion of their deposits with the relevant Federal Reserve bank. These deposits are not interest bearing, but are used to pro-rate the “ownership” of the bank and so the depositing bank becomes an “owner” of the Federal Reserve. The movie doesn’t explain this, but makes out that there it is some sort of conspiracy as it is unclear at any given moment to outsiders exactly who “owns” the Federal Reserve.   The fact that when anyone makes a deposit at any American bank it changes the “ownership” of the Federal Reserve isn’t explained, nor is the fact that ownership has few advantages: by law the Federal Reserve does not make a profit, its shares cannot be traded, or offered as security. The reason banks join and deposit their reserves with the Bank is because they cannot trade in the United States otherwise. The private ownership of the Federal Reserve in no way stops the ability of the Fed to print money and control the money supply, but if you watched this movie you’d think it did.   We are now nearing the end of the film, and here the terror of world domination in all its dread is alluded to: Free trade, and open borders are made out to be plots against us. The plucky Europeans threw out the world government ideas of the EU constitution, but Canada, the US and Mexico are going to overthrow US democracy by cooperating on security and trade agreements.   A late interpolation of an almost tearful Lou Dobbs is used to give right wing cred to this left wing fear.   I have no idea what to make of this. The only part of the film that genuinely worried me concerned the powers provided under the Patriot Act and its kin. The full powers of this act have only been used against about 500 people, but the risks in providing them and the risks of their misuse seem to me unacceptable. They allow vast powers to hold people and restrict their liberty.   Those that asked for this power say they will use it lightly and only in exceptional circumstances; almost nobody really trusts them to do this. Only time will tell.   On the other terrors and fears the film uncovers I see them as unrealistic and overblown and often distorted. Towards the end I was literally amazed when the film maker suddenly threw in a demand for a return to the gold standard. He seemed to be wanting to claim that one of the most successful invention the world has known, fiat money, is some evil monstrosity and to protect us from it we have to link our currencies to what Keynes called a barbarous relic as early as 1944. Mr Russo clearly knows nothing of Keynes or even the Triffin paradox which showed in the 60s and 70s that a gold standard cannot function if the US has a sustained budget deficit; exactly what it has at the moment.   I don’t pretend the world is perfect; the world’s financial and trade systems have serious failures and distortions in them, but when Mr Russo puts up a graph showing how the purchasing power of a dollar has reduced in the 60 years since the end of World War II I cannot help laughing. These 60 years have been some of the most hopeful and economically successful the world has known; especially for Americans. There have been no major world slumps like in the 1930s and growth rates and inflation have been under control for the majority of the period. The 1970s and early 80s are seen by some as the end of the world; I can only assume these people have little sense of what poverty was like in earlier times.   The economic success that Russo ignores is especially true since the late 1980s when the world trade system grew extensively with the opening up of East and South East Asia to world trade. This has brought huge increases in wealth to the poorest people in the world. In 1980 China on a per person basis was poorer than Africa; its embrace of world trade has brought about an absolute transformation   Mr Russo plays on the fears the increasing competition Globalization brings and links them into his anti-tax agenda. He’s a convicted tax evader: he has a direct personal reason for accepting the ideas of the anti-income tax lobby. But he knows few people are going to watch a 2 hour movie on such a narrow issue. So what does he do? He deliberately attempts to link his movie into the general concerns about globalization that exists in the west today.   I don’t think his movie stands up to scrutiny. The image it creates of a world system controlled by evil bankers does not correspond to how the world’s financial and trade system actually works. The image does fit into the common stereotype of the world peddled by anti-globalization activists and the concerns they raise resonate strongly with those disempowered by the changes in the world economy.   What is sad is that the world is massively benefiting from Globalization, but there is a very real risk that concerns about the increased competition it brings to western societies will create protectionism.   These western societies are the best equipped and have the most flexible economies to be able to manage globalization; and they benefit hugely from the massive new markets being created as a result of this process. But perversely that could end if fears are used by politicians to encourage economic nationalism and protectionism.   All I can assume is that Mr Russo does not know or understand how nationalism and protectionism in the late 1920s and 30s destroyed the world’s trade system creating a huge economic slump which helped foster the very fascism Mr Russo claims is now engulfing the world.   I believe that by breaking down barriers, allowing ideas to move freely and by allowing people and companies to invest their money as they see fit economies will flourish and fascism and its ilk will be kept at bay. Mr Russo wishes to remove one of the main ways governments gain funds; he supports people who wish to remove the social security safety nets which allow people to take risks and deal with the problems of flexible employment and job market failures.   Mr Russo wishes to restrict world trade and shackle the world’s financial systems. These types of policies directly created fascism in the 1930s. It is via breaking them down we have the freedoms we currently have.   Our freedoms our under threat, but if we followed Mr Russo’s prescriptions I firmly believe it would make a return to fascism more not less likely. Rather than attempting to explain the complex and difficult issues facing a globalized world where people face more competition and the dangers of extremists using the system for evil, Mr Russo sticks to simplicities and well worn clichés.   I learnt far more in my reading to refute his arguments than from watching this documentary. It was over long, repetitive, over blown and set up false Aunt Sallies for Mr Russo to dramatically knock down.   I am not surprised that this movie is available for download on the internet. I doubt if any major distributor will see it as worthy of distribution or as a money maker.   The movie is a tirade and panders to simplicities. I would ask for people to research the issues Russo raises and think about the implications of doing what he advocates. He warns that we are moving from Freedom to Fascism. If politicians carry out his desires I firmly believe this will be so.   Don’t be fooled, this movie is dross and should be treated as such.

Chinahand

Chinahand

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