Richer Than Smart

July 20th, 2022 No comments


A few generations ago, a television comedy show was produced entitled The Beverly Hillbillies. The show centered on the lives of a hillbilly family who had struck it rich following an oil discovery and were convinced to move to Beverly Hills.

Only in hindsight do we realize just how original and funny those old sitcoms were.  In one of the episodes, Jed Clampett, the patriarch, wanted to enact a plan to clear away the constant smog that settled around Los Angeles (even at that time).  He proposed to his banker, Milburn Drysdale, that some enormous fans be erected on the hills to blow all the smog away.  Here was a guy who wanted to use his new found wealth to do good for others and he had a simple, if wacky idea to do so.

I’m reminded of this episode because of revelations that Bill Gates, he of erstwhile Microsoft wealth and now a world expert on vaccines, will finance what amounts to be a big sunshade to block out the sun’s harmful rays, because, you know, global warming. While I am of the view that you can’t accomplish great things without taking big chances, many of Gate’s adventures post Microsoft are eccentric at best, crazed at worst.  In the case of the mythical Jed Clampett or the real life magnate Andrew Carnegie, a billionaire before it became trendy, their efforts to improve the condition of mankind didn’t involve harming others…and they did it with their own money.

Bill Gate’s record has not been so benign.  The Microsoft loot allowed him to create the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which ostensibly funds humanitarian issues. The influence of his pool of money is multiplied many times over by roping naïve governments to also throw in their tax dollars to really juice up a venture.  While his intentions are admirable, the actual effects of his initiatives, notably vaccine implementations have resulted in unforeseen setbacks not reported in the mainstream news.  Despite this, governments worldwide still consider Gates an authority on vaccine implementation as observed by 2 years of Covid disarray.

Another quixotic venture is the funding of an experiment to try to block out the sun’s harmful rays.  This sounds like another one of those “well it seemed like a good idea at the time” things which will likely lead to a multitude of unforeseen harmful effects; you don’t need to be a college dropout to figure that out.  In this case the ripple effects will create havoc for hundreds of millions of innocent citizens just minding their own business.

When regular people think of some great hare brained scheme, most will die from underfunding and the progenitors labeled nuts.  When people like Gates has an idea, his money will buy the ears of people with infinite money, ie governments, who will then pronounce him a visionary as if he was Leonardo Da Vinci.   Sort of like the novel, 50 Shades Of Grey; the only reason the man in the novel is attractive is because he’s wealthy… otherwise he would just be a run of the mill sexual predator.

Of course Gates is not alone in foisting his vision upon others. For some reason, when people pass a threshold of unimaginable wealth, their inner Doctor Evil percolates to the surface and they expect to move mankind around like pieces on a chessboard.  Suddenly they are convinced that they have a vision beyond that which the average person can comprehend.  Unlike despots in the past who depended on military might to impose their vision of the world, modern oligarchs use stock options.   Invariably there’s always a financial bonanza to be had by being on the right side of any large scale government program.  Just ask Al Gore. Instead of being threatened by death as in the old world, people are now encouraged to fall in line by something worse; the fear of relative poverty by not participating.

As for useful ideas, why not create means by which you can tow icebergs to the desert to create more arable land? Why not build land bridges to link all the continents? Why not shoot all waste into space? Lots of room out there; and if not doable, let’s just dump it on the moon. Give me a call Bill, I’ve got a ton of great ideas.

Sanctimony Comes To Golf

June 11th, 2022 No comments


With all of the ongoing vexations occurring in the world today, the latest headline grabber comes from the sports world.  As we all know, the world of ‘sports’ has changed dramatically over the last few generations, evolving from earnest competitions among talented participants to become grossly commercial endeavours pitting billionaires vs billionaires and their stables of ponies.  Sports is big business and most everyone in the world is a fan of some kind of sports activity.

Worldwide, but especially in the US, sports is not a pastime of leisure, or of dilettantes.  It is serious business as virtually every college and university in America has a sports program that is the farm system for players hoping to turn professional.  None of these programs would exist if not for the monetization potential of any particular sport.  I suppose the javelin toss and hammer throw could be the exceptions.  They’ve yet to make the televising of throwing spears or iron balls appealing to the masses…. but maybe one day.

There is no question that money is the lifeblood for sports; we’ve become accustomed to eye popping sums offered to professional athletes based on their perceived ability to fill a stadium, draw TV viewership or hawk products.

One of the few sports to have escaped (somewhat) this crass commercialism was golf. Sure, the players wore logo’d shirts and hats, but the players were always portrayed as gentlemen whose goals were loftier than just the prize cheque for winning a tournament.  It was good enough to be recognized as good.  Or it was… until money started to drive the game, which began with Arnold Palmer and ultimately with the monetization of Tiger Woods.  As the game changed from the genteel sentiments of Bobby Jones to the present day “Nascar-ing” of the sport, money has become the dominant influence of the game.  Forget Titleist or Callaway, the number one driver in golf….is money.

The recent uproar in the genteel golf world laid bare this reality as an upstart league, the LIV tour, backed by wealthy Saudis, sought to lure top tier players away from the long established PGA tour by offering eye watering amounts of money to play in their tournaments.  To illustrate the lure, consider that Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest in the history of the game, won 18 major tournaments along with 82 regular victories.  His total earnings for his career amounts to just over 120 million dollars.  Dustin Johnson, with only a fraction of Wood’s success was offered 125 million dollars, just to come over to the new league. I’m not going to judge Johnson’s sense of allegiance or values, but we all know, he isn’t going to win 18 majors and 82 tournaments in his career.  The same is true for all of the other notable names that have elected to forgo the PGA brand for the LIV offering.  In other words, these athletes are doing what every other athlete does in any other sport, they go to the highest bidder.  Money has affected golf; what a shock!

Of course the other criticism levelled against the defecting players is that they are supporting a regime which has an abysmal record on human rights.  Not only that, but the Saudis are the source of nationals responsible for terror attacks on the US.  None of those accusations are unfounded.   But as in most narratives, there is the other side of the coin.  Nike, one of the biggest sponsors of players on the PGA tour, (and in fact all sports) manufacture most of their gear in China, a nation which pays as much attention to human rights as Italian drivers do to stop signs.

You could argue that the big money paid to elite athletes sponsored by Nike are in fact off the backs of suffering worker bees oppressed in China.  It’s somewhat akin to the superiority that drivers of electric cars feel over petrol drivers, even though their electricity is made from burning coal.  If we’re going to demonize nations for their repressive actions, that’s fair.  It’s also fair to then point out the repressions in all nations, including the US and Canada, oft considered paragons of liberty.

It’s fair to say that the past two years have seen the most repressive human rights agendas perpetrated by these very nations that most vocally protest the deeds of the Saudis.  As of this writing, Canada for example, has yet to allow all of its citizens from leaving the country. Certain parts of the US still force people to inject harmful products into their bodies in order to work.  Bank accounts are seized over actions critical to the governments.  I don’t expect PGA players to refuse cheques issued by sponsors in these countries.

Both arguments against the defecting players are hypocritical.  No one amongst us would pass on an offer of significantly higher income for doing the same thing.  That is illogical. If we expect these guys to play for the love of the sport, then people should also be expected to work because they love accounting.  As for the association with human rights thuggery; have a look around; objects are closer than they appear.