Mormons “just more modern, not more crazy”

I totally endorse this rant by Penn Jillette. Sure, what Mormons (and Scientologists) believe sounds batshit crazy to most of us. But is it really any crazier than what mainstream Christians, Jews or Muslims believe? Hell no. “Just more modern, not more crazy”, as Penn says.

I’m as confused as Penn is about how otherwise intelligent-sounding people can just spout crazy stuff and act like it’s totally normal. It’s especially scary when you hear it from politicians, the people who are supposedly running the country. Surely there should be a sanity test that you have to pass before you can be elected to public office.

How To Embezzle $100 Million

Step 1. Start a financial services firm.

Step 2. Make sure you are the only person in the company who sees the bank statements.

Step 3. “Using a combination of Photo Shop, Excel, scanners and both laser and ink jet printers… make very convincing forgeries of nearly every document that came from the Bank.”

At least, that’s how Peregrine CEO Russell Wasendorf Sr. did it – for over 20 years.

He wrote a suicide note explaining the whole scam before attempting suicide. He failed at that and has now pleaded guilty to fraud and embezzlement.

What about the Regulators? Why didn’t they catch him?

“It was relatively simple to deceive the Regulators” according to Russ. Good to know.

He ended his suicide note with “I am ready to die. I guess this is the only way out of a business I hate so much.”

It’s a far cry from his most recent “Chairman’s Letter”, where he wrote

“At PFGBEST, our consistent hallmarks remain: respectful and conscientious care of customers and their accounts; a keen sense of their evolving needs; and, the talent and resources to provide analytical, flexible and customized solutions.”

Guys like Wasendorf are fascinating to me. How high would he score on a test for psychopathy? Surely he would score highly on many of those factors.

You have to wonder how many CEOs, politicians and entrepreneurs are psychopaths? And what is it about capitalism that allows them to prosper?

Of course, the history of socialism and communism has it’s fair share of psychopaths as well. Why is it so hard for us to design a socio-economic system that weeds out psychopaths?

 

Does Deprivation Fire Ambition?

In the NYT today, David Brooks makes some interesting points about motivation, reflecting on Romney’s latest gaff:

The final thing the comment suggests is that Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation. The formula he sketches is this: People who are forced to make it on their own have drive. People who receive benefits have dependency.

But, of course, no middle-class parent acts as if this is true. Middle-class parents don’t deprive their children of benefits so they can learn to struggle on their own. They shower benefits on their children to give them more opportunities — so they can play travel sports, go on foreign trips and develop more skills.

People are motivated when they feel competent. They are motivated when they have more opportunities. Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour through the world’s poorest regions makes clear.

If rich people really think benefits don’t help you, then they wouldn’t send their kids to private schools and elite universities. They wouldn’t use their personal networks to land their kids high-paying jobs in friends’ companies. They wouldn’t buy them a car, or give them a credit card or a mobile phone.

And we know this isn’t how it works.

So the next time one of your wealthy right-leaning friends tells you that the welfare system destroys ambition, you might want to point our their hypocrisy. If they really believed it, they would send their own kids to live by themselves in Kabul for a few years.

I grew up on the poverty line (by Australian standards) and I’m grateful that we had healthcare and education made available to us. If we hadn’t, I’d probably still be living in Bundaberg, either unemployed or doing some kind of manual labour. I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with those things, but it was only because I had a decent education that I could explore other opportunities.

Yes – growing up poor made me hungry. And in my 20s that was a hunger to be rich. In my 30s and 40s that turned into a hunger to improve the system.

What people like Romney don’t understand is that altruism is about enlightened self-interest. If you build a strong society of people with a decent education and decent healthcare, you will get rewarded a thousand-fold. These people will become the next generation of doctors, inventors, engineers, artists, authors, journalists, film-makers, musicians, scientists and historians that improve society for all of us.

(HT to @NikolasKozloff for the NYT link)

The Irony Of Australia

I’m re-reading The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes and thinking about the great irony that King George III punished thieves by sending them out to Australia while simultaneously stealing the entire country off of its traditional owners.

Steal a loaf of bread = five years hard labour in Australia.

Steal an entire country with incalculable wealth = it’s good to be the King.

Of course, he did go mad, have to deal with the American revolution and Napoleon. Karma is a bitch.

 

Arctic sea ice shrinks to smallest extent ever recorded

Arctic sea ice shrinks to smallest extent ever recorded.

Scientists think within 20 years there may be no ice left at all at certain times of the year. The ice acts as a giant mirror to deflect heat, so less/no ice means the earth gets hotter.

And still governments prevaricate over whether or it to act and the media perpetuate the debate. We are like the citizens of Pompeii, with scientists trying to tell us that Vesuvius is going to blow and we are all telling them they are crazy. Or we are like the citizens of Kypton, not listening to Jor-el. You decide.

The obituary of the human race will read “well it's not like they weren't warned, but they were too stupid to listen.”

 

 

CEO of ExxonMobil admits burning fossil fuels warms the planet.

CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, in an on-the-record speech to the Council of Foreign Relations that is publicly available online, has now said that it is clear that burning fossil fuels warms the planet.

CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, in an on-the-record speech to the Council of Foreign Relations that is publicly available online, has now said that it is clear that burning fossil fuels warms the planet.

His actual words are:

“So I’m not disputing that increasing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere is going to have an impact. It’ll have a warming impact. The — how large it is is what is very hard for anyone to predict. And depending on how large it is, then projects how dire the consequences are.”

I discovered this video in an article by Bill Blackmore on the US ABC News about how American news directors just aren’t covering the latest stories on climate change – possibly because of political and corporate agendas but also possibly because it’s TOO BIG TO HANDLE. It’s worth a read but I think it’s letting news directors off the hook. The real reasons they aren’t talking about the new data is due to corporate agendas. Yes, the story is huge. Of course it is. But that’s only MORE reason to give it the coverage it deserves.

Where’s Will McAvoy when you need him?

CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, in an on-the-record speech to the Council of Foreign Relations that is publicly available online, has now said that it is clear that burning fossil fuels warms the planet.

No Illusions Podcast #53 – Peter Honig on The Wire

If you haven’t watched THE WIRE yet – what are you waiting for? After all, it’s ten years old this year and it has been roundly acclaimed as the greatest TV show ever made.

I’ve watched the entire series three times and it gets better with each viewing. Chrissy and I are constantly quoting from it… “Imma get dressed. We go see Bodie.”

Anyway, my guest today is Peter Honig, a high school teacher from New Jersey who actually teaches The Wire to his English literature students as well as writing The Wire Blog and tweeting from @thewireblog.