One morsel, and then the whole world

Ed Raymond

Dr. Mary Elizabeth Brown with her $7 plastic violin that cannot be told apart from a Strad.

“We are swamped in the wake of yachts and chopped up by propeller blades”

In the final episode of the TV series Succession, which is all about the desire for power, the power theme is based on this truism: “Human nature yearns for one morsel, and then one more, and then eventually wants the whole world.” 

Too often the spirit of the common good of Aristotle turns rapidly to excessive greed, egomania, and abuse of political power. Think of Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX fame (a ride to the International Space Station will cost you $60 Million) buying Twitter for $44 billion and firing 11,000 employees, Bill Gates of Microsoft fame buying up millions of acres of good farmland in several states, and several hedge funds buying up hundreds of thousands of single-family homes so they can rent them to poor workers and make billions by failing to fix roofs, black molds, furnaces, air conditioners and cracked basements – and then we have King Donald of Trump University and Atlantic City casino fame.

Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone Hedge Fund, is worth $29 billion, manages close to $1 trillion in assets, and is the chief donor of the Republican Party, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.

Billionaire ken Griffin of Citadel Hedge Funds is reputed to be the richest fund manager. He owns a $590 million yacht and property and homes worth many billions in Florida, New York, London, Chicago, Hawaii, the Hamptons and Aspen. He recently bought a Miami home for $106.875 million, setting a record for Miami real estate. It has 25,000 sq. ft. of living space with Olympic swimming pool and tennis court.  

Meanwhile, Planet Earth has the hottest days ever recorded, rain is falling in record feet from Washington, D.C. to Maine and flooding mountainous Vermont, and El Paso, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona have 20 days in a row more than 100 degrees, with Phoenix reaching 118 degrees two days.

According to medical experts, Homo sapiens cannot survive temperatures more than 125 degrees.

To climate change deniers: What is going to happen when the earth’s Tropical Zone attains more than 125 degrees? Forty percent of the earth’s land mass is in the Tropical Zone and 40% of the earth’s population, or 3.2 billion people, live on that land mass. They might decide to move to the two Temperate Zones.

Chances are slim to none that the earth’s politicians will not reduce the use of fossil fuels enough so that the planet’s temperature will increase only two degrees – and Slim moved to Finland, first in the “World’s Happiest Country” study, several years ago.  

Can a violin made with $7 worth of plastic sound like a $20 million Stradivarius?    

Would it take a miracle to accomplish this task? Well, it has happened, so perhaps there is a remote chance we can solve the problem of climate change quickly.

More than 300 years ago in a tiny workshop in Cremona, Italy, Antonio Stradivari built violins and cellos of the highest quality. The leading violinists in the world of classical music use Strads if they can borrow, steal or buy one.

According to violinists, museum authorities, orchestra conductors and rich collectors, the Messiah model by Stradivari is presently valued at $20 million. It is currently in a museum in Oxford, England. In his constructive life of 70 years, Stradivari created more than 1,200 instruments and 500 violins, 55 cellos, and a dozen violas still survive. The top five violins have been sold for between $10 million and $18 million and are still used by famous violinists, often “loaned” to them by owners or museums.

Dr. Mary Elizabeth Brown is a concert violinist who is director of the AVIVA Young Artists Program in Montreal, Quebec. She has been designing and working with producing instruments with 3-D printing for years. After about five years of tinkering, she has made an all-plastic violin with a 3-D printer that equals the sounds made by million-dollar Strads.

After hundreds of attempts, she has made a white violin out of $7 worth of plastic run through a 3-D printer.

I listened to her challenge the sounds of Strads with her plastic violin by playing the same overtures using talented violinists. After listening to both, the violinists could not tell the difference between the sounds of Strads and her hunk of white plastic. Absolutely amazing. S

he plans on mass-producing them for the use of young children in music classes.

The big question: Will her $7 Brown ruin the million-dollar Strad market?  

Is there any difference between billionaires and the billions of “normal” people?

Yes, they have a lot of money, and most of them spend it on themselves so they can declare themselves winners. The bigger the yacht the bigger the wake created by bigger propeller blades. Are any billionaires thinking their yacht’s engines might tip the temperature in the Tropical Zone above 125 degrees?

A line description from the Succession reveals the major theme: “The hyper-rich now have so much influence their problems affect us all. We are all swamped in the wake of their yachts and chopped up by the propeller blades.”

Nobel Prize winner in economics Paul Krugman in his New York Times article “The Rich are Crazier Than You and Me” has studied tech CEOs and entrepreneurs for years and sums up their power: “Arguably, the craziest faction in U.S. politics right now isn’t red-hatted blue-collar guys (MAGA), it’s Big Tech billionaires living in huge mansions and flying around on private jets. At one level it’s quite funny. Unfortunately, however, these people have enough money to do serious damage.”

Here are some morsels that have become mouthfuls because there is money to be made in buying and selling “stuff”:

• A pair of 1880s Levi jeans excavated from an old New Mexico mineshaft recently sold for $76,000 to a 23-year-old jean collector from San Diego. He has been in the business of selling old jeans for six years. He thinks these jeans are worth $150,000 on the old jean market. On a Levi label is the phrase “The Only Kind Made by White Labor.” Levi used the statement because of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act which prevented Chinese from entering the U.S. because of the number recruited to work on a transcontinental railroad. The jeans are speckled with wax from candles carried by mine workers and had patches covering worn spots, suspender buttons, and a single back pocket, a distinctive sign of the times. The owner has had inquiries but no firm offers, yet.

• An ad in the New York Times advertises a 130 ft. Hatteras yacht for rent for $110,000 a week. It has a crew of seven and acommodations for 10-12 guests. It has jet skis, diving equipment and assorted “toys.”

• Centi-millionaire Bryant Johnson of Tech City spends $2 million annually on longevity treatments and pays for numerous MRIs and colonoscopies to measure the results of his attempts to live way past 100. He also employs two dozen doctors and medical consultants and has built a small hospital in his personal residence. He has done this while a record number of Americans forego medical care because they can’t afford it.

• While the rich are trying to buy all the water from the Fountain of Youth, Americans have had such poor health they have lost three years from the average life span, going from 79 in 2019 to 76 in 2021.

• There are other billionaires who pay handsomely to have blood transfusions from teenagers to extend their years while others go through stem cell treatments costing up to five figures to improve skin appearance.

• What will an anonymous buyer do with a pair of Birkenstock leather sandals worn by Apple founder Steve Jobs for years because they still retain an imprint of his feet? His bid of $218,750 at an auction house was successful. Will he put then in a display case on the wall next to his picture of Jesus Christ?

• Delaware is one of the smallest states with 1,265,925 acres. There are six ultra-rich individuals who each own more acres in America than there are in Delaware.

Ted Turner of CNN fame owns two million acres in New Mexico, Montana and the Midwest. Ted is 84 and has Lewy body dementia, a disease which exhausts you and makes you forgetful. But Ted has had many business interests in television, broadcasting, radio, film, climate change, politics and the general environment. He developed CNN, TNT, TBS, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, New Line Cinema and Castle Rock Entertainment. He also developed Captain Planet and the Planeteers, which is a children’s TV series about teenaged environmental activists. Worth about $10 billion, he established the United Nations Foundation, which works in the arena of environmentalism and conservation, and he promised to donate $1 billion to start it. So far, he has contributed $965 million. I

n 2001 Ted created the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which works on preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction. He also funds other conservation efforts through his Turner Foundation. One of the largest landowners, he has Montana ranches that are involved in ecotourism and the growth of the U.S. bison herd. He developed Ted’s Montana Grill, a restaurant chain that has the largest bison menu in the world.                                                                                                                                             

Besides his numerous business interests and serving on many corporate boards, he piloted his sailboat Courageous to win the America’s Cup 1977. In 1986 he founded the Goodwill Games because he wanted to ease Cold War tensions through friendly athletic competition. He won a Peabody Award in 1977, received the Bower Award for Business Leadership in 2006, and in 2007 was inducted into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame because of his development of Junior Achievement, a nonprofit educational organization concentrating on business training programs for teenagers throughout the world. He has also owned a World Series-winning baseball team, has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, was Time magazine’s “Man of the Year,” and has made the New York Times Best Seller List. During his time of business success, Ted had an alligator as a pet, was known as “The Mouth of the South,” married a leading Hollywood star who showed an interest in Vietnam, compared Rupert Murdoch of Fox News to Adolph Hitler and became a prophet late in life by calling Christianity “a religion for losers.”

If we had had a few more billionaires like Ted Turner in the world working for decades to protect endangered species, grasslands and oceans, developing renewable energy resources and preparing the world to control climate changes on every continent, our planet might have made it to the 22nd century. But most of the 1,750 billionaires in the world who rule it are not like Ted Turner. They are still viewing every morsel in sight as fuel for their search for more. 

The top one percent in the world hold wealth and assets equal to the bottom 90% and are still in the game for “more” morsels. Slim and the reindeer in Finland have little chance of making it.