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Eugenics, Gas Chambers and Nazis: America’s Shameful Past

January 25, 2015

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Forget the film, it’s the book you want to read: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s a remarkable and inspiring story about Louie Zamperini, an Olympic runner who survives a series of terrifying ordeals. However, early in the book my attention was drawn to Hillenbrand’s statement, […]

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The Myth of the Robber Barons

December 22, 2014

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Marxist class theory was incoherent from start to finish. For example, Marx predicted that the first proletarian revolution would take place where the proletarian class was most developed, certainly not in 1917 rural Russia. Furthermore, Marx failed to see that the proletariat would increasingly become obsolescent as unionized workers are replaced by the new entrepreneurial […]

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Life is Not a Dream But Much of it is Built on Illusion

January 19, 2014

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Life is not a dream but much of it is built on illusion. Our thoughts like to run in safe, accustomed grooves, without crossing the chasms of paradox and subtlety necessary to understand the real world. For example, although wealth accumulation is not necessarily a zero-sum game it’s still true that the prosperity of one […]

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The Myth of the Dark Ages

September 29, 2013

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I recently watched Agora, the movie about Hypatia, a female mathematician, philosopher and astronomer in late 4th century Roman Egypt. In the film Hypatia struggles to save the Great Library of Alexandria from destruction and is finally murdered by Christian bigots. The film suggests what Stephen Greenblatt clearly states in his book, The Swerve: How the World Became […]

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Land, Labor and the State

March 3, 2013

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I have just finished reading Wolf Hall, a smart historical novel by Hilary Mantel, which portrays the machinations behind Henry VIII’s attempt to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that he could free himself to marry Ann Boleyn. The central figure in this drama is Thomas Cromwell, who engineered the annulment by passing […]

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Whisky’s For Drinking, Water’s For Fighting.

September 17, 2012

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Whenever I do some serious backpacking I’m reminded of the central importance of water to our existence, particularly here in the American West. The earliest articulate description of the problem was made by Colonel John Wesley Powell (1834-1902), the famous ethnologist and geologist who was the first to run the Colorado River through the Grand […]

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The State: Engine of Creation or Engine of Plunder?

August 1, 2012

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While in England recently I visited Buckland Abbey in Yelverton, Devon, the home of Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596).  As every English schoolboy knows Drake is famous for successfully raiding Spanish ships loaded with treasure from the New World, being the first man to circumnavigate the globe, and helping to defeat the Spanish Armada.  Of course, […]

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Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

June 18, 2012

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The daughter of a friend of ours has a leading role in ‘Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’, a rock musical about Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, at the San Jose Stage, so I am looking forward to seeing it in a few days. The review in the San Jose Mercury News quotes the […]

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Platonic Dialogues For Our Times: Part II

June 11, 2012

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Optimistopheles: Pessimisticles, you’re so negative. At the party this evening I’ve told all my tech friends not to talk to you about the economy because you will ruin their festive mood. They all work in Silicon Valley, at cutting edge companies, and are convinced that technology is the solution to most of the world’s problems. […]

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Lessons From The Donner Party

May 26, 2012

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The story of the Donner Party, trapped in the Sierra Nevada during one of the worst winters on record (1846), is too well known to require retelling. However, after reading the latest account of their journey by Ethan Rarick, which includes some new research, I realized that the story of the Donner Party’s ordeal contains some […]

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Planning or Scamming?

May 20, 2012

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As a long-time financial planner I know how hard it is to do good planning work for individuals and couples.  Such planning requires, among other things, meticulous attention to detail, an effective process to elicit the values behind the numbers and a constant review of assumptions and goals over time to make sure the client […]

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Building Character At The Point Of A Gun

May 12, 2012

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Earlier this year I led a small group of twelve and thirteen year olds on a hike to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park.  This hike has been described as Zion’s equivalent of Yosemite’s Half Dome.  Although far less strenuous than Half Dome the last half mile of the Angel’s Landing hike involves walking and […]

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The Fed: Money Wizard Or Wizard Of Oz

April 20, 2012

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In November, 2010, George Selgin, an economist at the University of Georgia, gave a presentation on the Federal Reserve System, in which he concludes that in virtually every conceivable respect, the economy performed as least as well pre-1913 (the year the Fed was created) than post-World War II, and usually better. He also finds that there […]

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Society At The Edge Of Chaos

April 20, 2012

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We tend to assume that history moves slowly and cyclically. For example, it is commonly thought that empires grow old, over extend themselves and finally collapse and that this will eventually happen to the United States just as it has with every other empire. Similarly, most people believe that global warming will eventually have serious […]

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The Rise And Fall Of Empires

April 20, 2012

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In his eminently readable book, Empires of Trust: How Rome Built – and America Is Building – a New World, historian Thomas Madden, compares the United States with the Roman Republic and argues that what is unique about both states is that they acquired their empire, not by conquest but by a series of alliances […]

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The Dishonor Of A Rhodes Scholarship

April 20, 2012

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Rhodes Scholarships are one of the oldest and most prestigious awards worldwide for graduate study at Oxford University. Win a Rhodes Scholarship and you are set for life. The scholarships are funded from the estate of Cecil John Rhodes, who was founder of the De Beers diamond mining company, as well as founder of the […]

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