Archive for October, 2011

death penalty

The other day, I was wondering why many people who generally reject the death penalty for criminals after a fair trial seem to support it for criminals without a trial at all. Furthermore, it took me apart to see that they do not even care if American citizen were killed or if there was no clear evidence of their guilt.

The same issue was recently discussed by controversial American radio host Michael Savage:

Liberals now support death penalty?

When Obama invades a country, it’s okay. When Obama executes someone, it’s okay. But when Bush did the same thing, it was a violation of the human rights.


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beauty of fall

Fall has finally arrived, casting Switzerland in a beautiful light.

Autumnal treetops


Swiss farmhouse right next to the university


Grassroot-view of the university's soccer pitch


Sunset as seen from the office

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For many years German politicians, parents, and scientists have been discussing whether it should take children eight or nine years to finish the so-called Gymnasium (secondary education). The debate began a few years ago when more and more states (re-)introduced the so-called G8, an eight year Gymnasium. Since 1949, all states of West Germany had 9-year schools that lead to the Abitur (A-levels).

In theory, the reduction by one year was intended to save resources and make students more competitive in a global economy. But many parents (and teachers) have seen their children suffering from the additional workload. Despite the idea that G8 would raise weekly work hours for students only from 30 to 33, many students began to struggle.

From an economic point of view, it is quite difficult to follow the debate. How can there be any doubt about heterogeneous skills among children, in other words about the fact that students need different kinds of schooling to practice their skills. Some students would be able to finish their A-levels after seven years while others might need ten. Why on earth is there no flexibility?

One answer might be straightforward: because there is no competition in the educational system. Public schools do not compete with each other but are forced to follow rules set at state or even national level. They are not free to figure out new ways to better educate our children. Neither can they offer various programs that would suit students with different skills.

It is to some extent astonishing that parents do not raise a hue and cry about this kind of heavy consumer mistreatment. Especially since their children are more and more suffering from the limited variety and poor quality that public schools offer these days.

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Signe Wilkinson has recently presented a brilliant comic:

Who is to blame? Big government or big banks?

This kind of evil, hidden coalition against the ordinary people was already described by Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman some decades ago:

One of the reasons why I am in favor of less government is because when you have more government, industrialists take it over. And the two together form a coalition against the ordinary worker and the ordinary consumer. I think business is a wonderful institution provided it has to face competition in the marketplace and it can’t get away with something except by producing a better product at a lower cost. And I don’t want the government to step in and help the business community.

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veterans’ choice

In about one year from now, the United States will hold the next presidential election. And as we all know, the country does not only face severe economic trouble but it is also engaged in three wars. With thousands of American soldiers stationed abroad, in constant danger of death, it might be a reasonable thought to pay some attention to the following figure:

Military Donation Receipts

By and large, those people who know what war is like, choose Congressman Ron Paul as their candidate for the upcoming presidential election. Recently, two veterans also decided to participate in one of Paul’s TV ads:

It takes a veteran to understand a veteran.

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Dr. Thomas Sowell on ridiculous fines for high-paid athletes:

With professional athletes earning megabucks incomes, it is a farce to punish their violations of rules with fines. When Serena Williams was fined $2,000 for misconduct during a tennis match, that was like fining you or me a nickel or a dime. Suspensions are something that even the highest-paid athletes can feel.

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Having had quite some misty days in East Switzerland – clear evidence of the nascent fall:

Treetops in an enigmatic forest

Some foggy trees

Road to nowhere

Young deer that couldn't care less about passing hikers

Some shelter in a mysterious surrounding

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One of the buzzwords of the upcoming 2012 election campaign in the United States is grassroots. Since President Obama in 2008 (wrongly) touted himself as a candidate to win the presidential election with grassroots support, all new hopefuls try to show off with their grassroots support.

That in mind, it is interesting to watch the documentation For Liberty, which reveals how Republican candidate Ron Paul, a key figure of the Tea Party movement, got enormous grassroots support in 2008. The film offers some unique insights into how political campaigns are actually organized.

In addition, the documentation also emphasizes how mainstream media manipulate reports and images. In this regard, the video is similar to what John Steward highlighted a few weeks ago.

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patriot act

Almost exactly ten years ago, then President George W. Bush signed into law the so-called USA Patriot Act. Interestingly, hardly anyone knows that “USA Patriot” is just an acronym for “Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism”.

If you happen to be confused by that bulky title, you might be interested in how that piece of legislation was passed. In a speech a few years ago, Judge Andrew Napolitano explained the procedure during the legislative process in 2001:

The Patriot Act, which is 315 pages long and which basically amends hundreds and hundreds of other statutes, […] takes about twenty hours to read. It was made accessible to the representatives fifteen minutes before the vote. There was no debate on the floor of the house. And the Patriot Act was enacted.

And although he often criticized the Patriot Act, on May 26, 2011, President Barack Obama signed a four-year extension of three key provisions in the USA Patriot Act. He even introduced something new, called “precrime”:

After watching this astonishing video, you might reconsider the importance of the U.S. Constitution.

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Another great statement by Milton Friedman, here on the often-used phrase of “market failure”:

I accept that there are goods which the private economy is not likely to supply. I accept that there are goods in which it is difficult through a private economic system to charge everybody who gets the benefit from it. In those cases, however, it is also true that it is not easy for the government to supply it.

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