Showing posts from October, 2010

ABOUT ART: The Best...My Own!

Yes, sorry about that...I usually don't talk here about what I do, but this time I'm going to make an exception. Because I NEED YOU! Yes, I NEED YOUR VOTE for a portfolio of paintings I have submitted to a competition organized by a couple of (very active) painters, calling on artists to submit their work for the SCOPE space in the Miami Art Fair.

Please click this link and VOTE. And if you like it, please share with friends and get them to vote as well! With my heartfelt thanks!
Are you surprised? Well...You may have noticed my horse paintings that gracefully (hummm!) adorn both my blogs (this one and the one with my "It's cooking!" blog with recipes for the foodies among you - to see it, click on the link in the up right corner...) If you have noticed them, you'll know that I also paint...I've been painting since childhood and I learned the techniques of drawing and oil painting from my mother who was herself taught by Delvaux (…

The Great Hacker Heist, another short story inspired by recent news...

The Great Hacker Heist   A short story by Claude Nougat “When I woke up, everything in the house was stolen!” The woman sobbed. “Everything!” she wailed. The lines around her mouth and on her forehead were so deep that her face looked like a Greek mask of grief. The husband didn’t seem to share in her pain. He just kept patting her hand, like a father might do to calm an excitable daughter, and murmuring “my poor darling…” The policeman squared his shoulders and settled his beer belly in the armchair, reflecting that he was facing a bizarre trio: a hysterical middle-aged wife, a much older, apparently unruffled husband, and a third rather enigmatic person, a young lawyer with close cropped hair and a know-it-all smile. So far the lawyer hadn’t said a word, beyond introducing himself and his clients.  “Ma’am, I need to understand what happened…” said the policeman, his hand raised towards the computer’s touch screen. The morning sunshine hit his eyes, and he got up to pull the curtains.…

Haiti vs. Pakistan: 10 to 1, Haiti Wins in the First Round of Humanitarian Aid

Imagine humanitarian aid as a soccer game. Then, Haiti would beat Pakistan in a BIG way. Really. Pakistan comes out as the loser on every count, both in absolute and relative  terms.

In Haiti, there are a little over one million victims, and ten times as many in Pakistan. Yet the flow of aid going to the latter is NOT ten times as much. On the contrary. It is  ONE TENTH!

Yes, you read that right: the score is 10 to 1.

Why? Has the world a special love for Haiti and a special hatred for Pakistan? Not at all. It's all a matter of politics. Pakistan has suffered from an explosive mix of distrust, corruption, ignorance and indifference.

Let me count the ways.

First, Pakistan is just not as good a story as Haiti. It's in the wrong part of the world, far away in Asia rather than on the back door of the United States and Canada. The religion is different (Moslem, not Christian). The language is incomprehensible (Haiti's form of French is a little bizarre but it has charm). I he…

What's the matter with France? A small tweak to the retirement age has sent them crazy...

Car burning in France notfrancois via Flickr
President Sarkozy tried to add just two years to the retirement age limit - raising it from 60 to 62 - and the French have gone beserk!

Compared to the rest of the world, the limit in France is already quite low: in  most countries (Italy excepted, of course - but Italy in many respects is just like France, its latin sister), people work until they are 65, and in many places, for example the UK, people are happy working well into their seventies.  Retirement age varies from country to country, but the basic idea is to retire people if (a) their work is too dangerous (for example, the military),  (b) it requires unimpaired physical capicities (airline pilots), or (c) it is physically too demanding (miners).

All of this implies that work conditions and a person's health and capacity for it should be reviewed before deciding on retirement. That would be the only fair and logical approach. Instead of establishing measures to allow for an ad…

Is Global Warming a Bubble about to Burst?

Image via Wikipedia
Have you wondered lately about how real Global Warming is? Here in Italy we've had the coolest summer in the last 20 years and the coming winter bodes ill: more rain and bad weather. And that seems to be the case in many parts of the globe: flooding, rains, waves of unusual cold weather.

Is a second Ice Age coming? Of course not.
We've gone through bouts of "unusual" weather before and countless divergences from the "norm" (whatever that "norm" is).

The UN Panel on Climate Change has confirmed the planet is heating up and everyone agrees it's Man's Fault. Glaciers are melting, ice on the poles is collapsing in the sea, white bears are threatened with extinction, whole countries at sea level will find themselves under water, extreme events like floods and tsunami will accelerate, etc etc Politicians are meeting in China to prepare for the next round after the Copenhagen disaster. That meeting collapsed in large part as a…

Is China a Flaming Dragon or a Harmonious Bird Song?

The Trojan Horse procession - Detail from a Domenico Tieopolo (1773) painting
Knowing something more about China is particularly important these days as we are facing a real  invasion of Europe by the Chinese - so far peaceful, since these are mainly tourists, students and businessmen. The latest episode, of course, being the Chinese offer to the Greek to help them out with a €5 billion fund, certainly a welcome breath of fresh air for the battered Greek economy (and, consequently the Euro)...and a Trojan Horse entry into Europe, as the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao also called, inter alia, for dropping the last barriers against their high-tech exports.And the whole thing is threatening to degenerate in a war of words over currency exchange rates, the EU now joining the US in accusing China of keeping the Renmimbi too low. I bet this is a war that is going to last a long time, because the Chinese are not about to give up manipulating their currency, or, more generally, give up their…

Italy, an Example of What Not to Do to Get out of the Recession ?

Is Italy adrift, is it about to drown? Everything seems to conspire against recovery in this once happy, go-lucky country - really the second economic power in Europe after Germany. Yes, the second if one includes the "submerged economy": some 20 to 30 percent of total GNP (those are all the small businesses that don't pay tax and thus escape being counted in the statistics).

The numbers are dire. ISTAT, the Italian statistical bureau, has announced that Italian labour productivity has plunged to minus 2,7 percent in August, while Germany's and France's were both up. Actually labour productivity in Italy has been slipping steadily over the past ten years, at an average of 0,5 percent. Doesn't sound like much, but it is, if you consider that in the same time period Germany's productivity has risen by 16% and France's by 20%.

This growing gap is really worrying  the Italians who count - I mean responsible politicians and businessmen and women, foremost…

Is Structural Unemployment a Bad Joke?

I can't believe it! One of my favourite economists  let me down last week. I'm speaking of Paul Krugman, one of the best columnists on the New York Times, a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2008, someone who's remarkable in every way.

Read the article I attached below. It's unbelievable, I tell you!  He just did himself in - that is, of course, in my humble opinion. He went for every conventional wisdom in the book. What a pity!

Yet I fully support his basic message - it makes a lot of sense: it is URGENT that governments tackle the problem of unemployment. For as I've said before in an earlier post, this is truly the BIGGEST problem we are facing NOW. But to tackle unemployment, we have to know what kind of beast it is. And it's not just a disease linked to the business cycle and a lack of demand, as Krugman (and most economists with him) would have it. Sure, it is that too, but it is ALSO a structural disease - something much deeper, like cancer. And like that dr…