Archive for August, 2009

“If a householder moulds himself according to the circumstances just like nature moulds Herself according to seasons and performs his Karma then only shall he acquire happiness. One who does this successfully gains in all walks of life.”  

~ Rig Veda


“He who would be useful, strong, and happy must cease to be a passive receptacle for the negative, beggarly, and impure streams of thought; and as a wise householder commands his servants and invites his guests, so must he learn to command his desires and to say, with authority, what thoughts he shall admit into the mansion of his soul.”  

~ James Allen


Neutrality, is there such a thing? 



To read more of this article, please click here:  http://sandrasorayaalzona.wordpress.com/

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Narrated by David Harper, these excellent videos from Bionic Turtle illustrate the concepts and principles behind asset-backed securities (ABS) and securitization. ABS include Mortgaged-backed securities, Collateralized Debt Obligations, and many others–and are the prominent “star” of the recent financial crisis.

Although the videos are technical, they are presented in lay-man language enough for everyone to learn the basic principles behind securitization and perhaps help shed insights on how and why the financial crisis started, and can be averted in the future.

What Is Securitization?

Key Players In Securitization

Securitization Using Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) — Corporations vs. Trust

ABCs of CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligations)

Subordination and Overcollateralization

Credit Enhancements In Securitization

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Intelligence = How To Make The Rules, Wisdom = When To Break The Rules

Barry Schwartz calls for a return to practical reasoning or wisdom using the example of hospital janitors. Quoting Aristotle: practical wisdom is the combination of moral will and moral skill. Wisdom is experiential, not inborn–it is a manifestation of behaviour shaped by experience and the environment.

He makes the important distinction between raw intelligence and wisdom: it doesn’t take brilliance to be wise, but without wisdom brilliance isn’t enough.

Using the tragic story of a kid and spiked lemonade, Schwartz makes a devastating critique of our rules and procedure-based society. He lashes out at our world made mad by bureaucracy where rules do not help us think, incentives end up backfiring and only wisdom–practical wisdom–will help us out of our crises.

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Musician, author, and prominent activist until his untimely death in the 80s, John Winston Ono Lennon, and his thoughts,

On reality:

I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

Surrealism had a great effect on me because then I realised that the imagery in my mind wasn’t insanity. Surrealism to me is reality.

The more I see the less I know for sure.

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known.

On religion:

I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock and roll or Christianity.

God is a concept by which we measure our pain.

Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.

On being different:

I’m not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I’ve always been a freak. So I’ve been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I’m one of those people.

On peace:

If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.

If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.

On expression:

My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.

If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it.

On society:

Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.

On possessions:

Possession isn’t nine-tenths of the law. It’s nine-tenths of the problem.

Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.

On escaping:

The basic thing nobody asks is why do people take drugs of any sort? Why do we have these accessories to normal living to live? I mean, is there something wrong with society that’s making us so pressurized, that we cannot live without guarding ourselves against it?

When you’re drowning, you don’t say ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,’ you just scream.

On love:

We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.

On action:

You’re just left with yourself all the time, whatever you do anyway. You’ve got to get down to your own God in your own temple. It’s all down to you, mate.

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I heard a cover of this song recently on the radio and it suddenly made me think about the world’s issues today.

Considered one of the greatest songs of all time–and one of John Lennon’s greatest works, Imagine‘s poetic lyrics written more than 30 years ago eerily still echo the same sentiments we encounter from activists in the world today, especially in the wake of financial crises, wars, and world poverty.

Lennon himself called the song anti-nationalistic, anti-religious, anti-coventional, and anti-capitalistic, but despite its anarchist tone it garnered such a popularity not just in the U.S. and U.K. but all over the world. The fact that I still hear it played nowadays is an indicator of its lasting relevance in the world today.

The question I’d like to ask is: do we agree with Lennon now?

John Lennon

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

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Prominent skeptic, logician, mathematician, and historian, Betrand Russell and his thoughts on:


A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.


Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.

I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine.

I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.

If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.

In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.


In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.

Critical thinking:

It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so.

Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin — more even than death…. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favour of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes man to seek and to accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position.

The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.


If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have paradise in a few years.

The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy – I mean that if you are happy you will be good.

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William Hare of Mount Saint Vincent University wrote a brilliant essay relating Bertrand Russell’s philosophy and ideas with critical thinking.

His abstract:

The ideal of critical thinking is a central one in Russell’s philosophy, though this is not yet generally recognized in the literature on critical thinking. For Russell, the ideal is embedded in the fabric of philosophy, science, liberalism and rationality, and this paper reconstructs Russell’s account, which is scattered throughout numerous papers and books. It appears that he has developed a rich conception, involving a complex set of skills, dispositions and attitudes, which together delineate a virtue which has both intellectual and moral aspects. It is a view which is rooted in Russell’s epistemological conviction that knowledge is difficult but not impossible to attain, and in his ethical conviction that freedom and independence in inquiry are vital. Russell’s account anticipates many of the insights to be found in the recent critical thinking literature, and his views on critical thinking are of enormous importance in understanding the nature of educational aims. Moreover, it is argued that Russell manages to avoid many of the objections which have been raised against recent accounts. With respect to impartiality, thinking for oneself, the importance of feelings and relational skills, the connection with action, and the problem of generalizability, Russell shows a deep understanding of problems and issues which have been at the forefront of recent debate.

Find the rest of Hare’s essay here.

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Peter Joseph, author of the controversial Zeitgeist films, has recently released an orientation documentary containing the principles, concepts, and tenets that characterize the activist movement he has started. The Zeitgeist Movement is the activist arm of The Venus Project of Jacque Fresco which promotes a resource based economy as an alternative to the monetary system in use today.

The video is 1.5 hours in length and a brief list of the concepts introduced in the video are as follows (also taken from the orientation guide in the Zeitgeist Movement website):

Part 1: Monetary Economics

The video demonstrates the concepts behind the current use of a monetary system and its flaws, mainly the use of cyclical consumption, scarcity, and the profit motive which results in a distortion of values and rampant crime. This section ends with the growing trend towards automation and outsourcing which ultimately undermines the reliance of a monetary economy on consumption.

Part 2: What is Relevant?

The video then elucidates the benefits of the scientific method and the concept of dynamic equilibrium. Then it furthers the general means to achieve the solutions to the current societal problems.

Part 3: A Resource-Based Economy

This part describes in detail the concepts behind a resource-based economy as championed by the Venus Project.

Part 4: Overcoming Mythology

The video then challenges the current misconceptions in place in society today that have held it back from development, namely the concept of human nature, legal systems, and religion.

Part 5: Taking Action

Finally the video is a call to action to join their movement and concrete steps to undertake.


The video is a lucid and thought-provoking thesis of society’s problems and a possible solution. Zeitgeist touches on some ideas we have put forth here in the past–especially regarding the financial system. Like all calls for panaceas, we will tackle Zeitgeist’s concepts critically in posts to come.

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