Saturday, September 29, 2012


Vanity Fair carries a fawning profile of President Barack Obama. Among the many vignettes it contains, one immediately caught my attention. Obama found in the Oval Office some bookshelves filled with china. Apparently, his predecessor wanted to illustrate his  faux self-depricating point that you don’t need to be an enthusiastic (or even competent) reader in order to become President of the United States. Obama was mildly shocked, so he ordered his staff to throw the plates and dishes out. What did he put on display as a replacement?

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Flynn Delusion

Der Speigel carries yet another article which revisits the lame debate: “”Is the Internet Really Making Us Dumber?” The article refers to a new book by James Flynn, of “Flynn effect” fame. The way I read him, it seems kids' abilities at some very peculiar forms of abstraction have indeed been improving; but their verbal prowess has been slipping. Which change is more significant?

Monday, September 17, 2012

A rich man’s world

A leak to the press a few days ago indicated that Bernard Arnault, the French ultrabillionaire (or “job creator,” depending on your ideological leanings), had applied for Belgian citizenship. This widely publicized move was his apparent counterpunch to President Francois Hollande’s plans to slap a 75 percent emergency tax on any French citizen earning over 1.1 million euro a year. Back in the 1980s, Arnault had temporarily fled to the US, the land of Reaganomics, when Francois Mitterand had launched a similar quasi-socialist experiment. This time, though, Arnault plans to remain in France as this will decrease his Belgian tax liability. And he claims – wink-wink – that he is not jumping jurisdictions in order to decrease his tax exposure.