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Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

Enlightenment Now is similar to other books that I reviewed on my blog, in terms of its view of how we live now compared to the past.  There are so many people who think that society has not improved, things have gotten worse, even though factually that is absolute nonsense.  The book goes into great detail as to how society has improved and how, for example, 86% of people when surveyed consider themselves somewhat happy or very happy whereas, if you ask other people how many of the people around them are happy, they estimate that at 44%.  In other words, most people make the mistake of thinking people around us are unhappier than in fact they are.   

I will not go into all the details, because they are covered in this book and in other books, but by way of example, basically 200 years ago only 12% of people could read, the average person lived until the age of 30 and you were not considered poor as long as your family had a loaf of bread!  Nowadays, as he writes, people complain that their aeroplane waited on the runway for 45 minutes and they were delayed.  People are very upset about that, but they don’t stop to think that they no longer walk on the side of the road next to their donkey with pots clanging on the donkey’s side!  We have air travel, high definition TV’s, Internet, we can read, we earn more than human beings ever did before and more leisure time, etc.   People have mystical memories of the “happy and better” times when we ploughed the land and lived on the land forgetting that generally that job was given to women, it was absolutely back-breaking work and the second that jobs became available in factories as many women who could, got off the farms and into the factories rather than to actually do farm labour for a minimal reward. 

Yes, human beings still whine, complain and think that things could be better, and perhaps that is why we progress all the time, but we must never delude ourselves. We are living in the greatest times in history when a small fraction of people die for the same reasons they used to die – whether it is the murder rate, wars, starvation or malnutrition, etc.  More than 90% of the world’s population used to live in poverty.  Today it is 10% and declining and it is really confined to one or two African countries like the Congo.  In that regard we forget about other ways that life is better - for example that young South African men no longer have to go and spend 2 years in the Army doing compulsory military service.  Lets remind ourselves how many people ran away from South Africa to avoid that compulsory military service, including my cousins who left for Australia approximately some 35 years ago rather than have my cousin forced to be conscripted into the apartheid Army.   

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 25-Feb-19   |  Permalink   |  26 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Jacob Zuma to pay his own legal fees

I think it was a fantastic judgment in the North Gauteng High Court that former President, Jacob Zuma, must pay his legal fees.  He has basically run a scorched-earth policy of trying to avoid ever getting to court in most of his cases for almost a decade, using taxpayers’ money, and it is about time he starts paying some of the legal costs himself.  The Democratic Alliance had brought the case to set aside the agreement allowing Zuma’s defence team in the corruption case against him to be paid by the government and they were successful with the case.  Of course, we can expect that Zuma will challenge that, because right now he has to return the money that the State has already paid for his pending cases.  Apparently, the fees already paid by all of us as taxpayers already total between R15 million and R32 million. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 19-Feb-19   |  Permalink   |  29 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
The year ahead

There are a number of important things in the year ahead.  Most importantly
the elections in May.  Before that though there will be the Budget Speech
towards the end of February and the credit rating agencies will decide, once
again, on whether to keep South Africa's rating above junk level.  Those
will all have a huge impact on the Rand and the economy as a whole.

On a less serious note though, there are some great sporting events ahead
for us including the Cricket World Cup which will be held in England and
Wales with the Final in London. That begins on 30 May and ends almost 6
weeks later on 14 July.  Will we finally win a Cricket World Cup?  The Rugby
World Cup, and I have written about Japan and rugby many times, will be held
in Japan this year.  The Japanese are massive rugby fans and absolutely
deserve to hold the World Cup.  The Rugby World Cup kicks off on 20
September with Japan playing Russia and that runs through until the Final on
Saturday, 2 November.  

It will be a tremendously interesting year and those of you who are not
interested in politics or the economy have lots of sport and major events to
focus on!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 14-Feb-19   |  Permalink   |  31 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Lammie at the Johannesburg Zoo

I must say, especially with the Johannesburg Zoo probably less than 1km down the road from us in Jan Smuts Avenue, the story of Lammie caught my eye.  She is a 39 year old female elephant living all alone at Johannesburg Zoo.  Her partner died in September 2018 and her parents died long ago.  What is even more disturbing is that she had a brother that was relocated to a Zoo in France.  I understand the role that Zoos play in promoting a love for animals to people who sometimes cannot afford to see them in their natural environment, such as the Kruger National Park, but I cannot see why you need to split up a family in what is already an unnatural environment.

The EMS Foundation and the Elephant Reintegration Trust are all campaigning for her to now be moved to a sanctuary where she can be together with other elephants.  Let’s hope the Johannesburg City Mayor, Herman Mashaba, gives some consideration to this and taking some action.  Apparently now she spends most of her days just standing lonely outside the gate of the elephant hut.  You can e-mail the Mayor at his e-mail address: executivemayor@joburg.org.za.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 11-Feb-19   |  Permalink   |  32 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
John Bogle dies

The investment world recently lost John Bogle.  Many of you will look at me with wild eyes asking who on earth John Bogle was.  He was a man that pioneered cost-effective investment into unit trusts as they are known in South Africa or ETF’s as they are known elsewhere.  His company, Vanguard, became the number one ETF firm in America and sparked off imitation companies such as SATRIX in South Africa.  They basically do low cost investing in the Stock Exchange generally just mimicking the entire index.  In other words, if the market goes up as a whole, your shares go up as a whole and if the market goes down they go down. 

The biggest problem is that over the last 30 or 40 years, even longer, there are very few professionals, although they always say they can beat the market, who actually consistently beat the market.  With an index fund at a cost of 0,2% a year, a professional at a cost of about 2% a year, is a lot more expensive if they don’t beat the index fund (which they usually don’t).  In other words, “professional investment experts” charge almost 10 times more, even if 0,2% to 2% does not seem like very much more, and in return for that they often don’t even match the index and often do worse than it.  There will come a time when they will probably start doing better than the index – when that is, I don’t know, other than to say that every year they announce that this is the year for active investment compared to the passive investment of just buying an index, and so far, on the whole and for most of them,  they have not been right.  Warren Buffett also had a bet with a famous manager a few years ago where the investor pretty much guaranteed he could beat the index over a 5 or 10 year period and ultimately failed miserably in his bet with Warren Buffett.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 05-Feb-19   |  Permalink   |  24 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
NFL football v rugby

I have watched what we call American football, known by Americans simply as football, compared to what they would call “soccer”, since I was about 21.  In those days it was Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49’ers who was the star quarterback.  In those days I used to naively think that American football was more of a softie sport, compared to rugby and that rugby was far tougher and more violent.

There is no doubt that rugby certainly has its victims with a number of schoolboys paralysed every year, particularly those who play in the scrum, but I have realised over the years that football is far more violent and injury prone than rugby.  The padding really does not help you much, if somebody uses a helmet to dive, almost like a spear into your chest and ram that helmet into you.  At that point you would probably prefer that they were not wearing a helmet and were using their own head to inflict that damage on you! 

In recent years, with the litigation we have all read about, we all know now from the repeated concussions that NFL players suffer, many have committed suicide and suffer from an injury known as CTE, correctly known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.  Of the brains of 111 dead NFL players that were examined, 110 were found to have CTE, which is basically a degenerative disease linked to repeated blows to the head.  It is an extremely dangerous sport, far more dangerous than rugby and that is leaving out all the broken legs, etc that are commonly suffered.  If you ever had the chance to watch the 2015 movie “Concussion” starring Will Smith and see the opening scenes showing NFL tackles then you will never, after seeing that, ever think again that rugby is more dangerous than National Football League (NFL). The Superbowl this weekend stars the Los Angeles Rams against the New England Patriots led, once again, by 41 year old Tom Brady (married to former supermodel Gisele Bundchen), and the halftime show Adam Levine and Maroon 5.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 01-Feb-19   |  Permalink   |  34 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It

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Johannesburg based attorney specializing in personal injury matters including Road Accident Fund claims and medical negligence matters. My interests include golf, reading and the internet and the way it is constantly developing. I have a passion for life and a desire for less stress!
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