Thursday, December 29, 2011

Now Synchronize Your Calendars

Set your calendars ahead one day - at least, if you live in Samoa (capital, Apia).

Samoa will have no Friday this month. At midnight tonight, Samoa will leap forward to Saturday, December 31, 2011, skipping Friday, December 30.

This decision reverses the change made July 4, 1892, when Samoa changed its date to conform to the Western hemisphere and have the same date as American Samoa, capital Pango Pango.

This isn't the only recent change intended to conform to practices in New Zealand and Australia, Samoa's closest trading partners. In 2009, Samoa switched to driving on the left side of the country's roads. Among other things, this made it easier for Samoans living in Australia and New Zealand to ship used cars to relatives living in Samoa.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ghost Of Christmas Past

Today was a lovely Christmas Day. Good friends visited for coffee ( The Bean was closed) and for Christmas Dinner.

It caused me to recollect the first Christmas I remember. It was 1940. My parents divorced in 1938. Mother remarried in August of 1940 to a young soldier in the United States Army Air Corps. We moved from Tulsa to Tampa to begin a new life.

Here I am on the porch of our upstairs apartment with all the Christmas gifts spread out to admire. It appears that two sets of grandparents had a Christmas present competition.

I'm not sure who won the competition, since I don't remember who gave me what gift. But I remember my favorite present. It was the Erector Set leaning against the wall. I spent countless hours building different structures and machines from designs that came with the set.

This was the last prewar Christmas. Never again would there be so many toys.

But I didn't mind. The best thing about Christmas was always the family get-togethers.

By Christmas of 1941, I had a little brother. Oh, yes, and by then we were at war.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hungary - Back To The Future?

Disturbing post today on Hungary's authoritarian revolution.  It sounds like a more extreme version of what has been happening in Wisconsin, Michigan and other states in the United States.

The post appears on Paul Krugman's web site, but it is written by Kim Lane Scheppele, Director of the Law and Public Policy program at Princeton University.

It sounds like what is happening in Hungary is a reappearance of the kind of authoritarian regime that has characterized Hungary in the past, including the notorious period of Admiral Horthy's dominance from 1920 to 1946. The forms of governance may resemble those of democracy, but the content is increasingly that of authoritarianism.

By the way, Newt Gingrich's recent diatribes against judges would fit right in with the new Hungarian system.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vaclav Havel, 1936-2011

A great man died today.

Vaclav [pronounced "Vatslav"] Havel had been a literary figure and dissident under the Czechoslovak communist regime. He spent four years in communist prisons, but managed to inspire a large following through his plays and other writings. He was an eloquent advocate of democracy.

Havel was one of the first spokesmen for the Charter 77 human rights movement (after the abortive "Prague Spring" of 1968), a leading figure in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, the last president of the state of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic. He died Sunday night  at the age of 75 at his country place in North Bohemia. He was one of the greatest Czechs of modern history.

Despite his international prominence and popularity, Havel had become something of a controversial figure in  his own country. Radio Prague has published a detailed obituary, describing Havel's accomplishments and related controversies.

The New York Times has a slightly different take.

A curious feature of most biographies of Havel is that while mentioning that the Havel family was wealthy, that Havel's father founded the Barrandov subdivision and movie studio near Prague, and that the family's property was confiscated in 1948 by the communists, no mention is made of the Havels' activities during the Nazi occupation. In fact, the elder Havel collaborated with the Nazi regime, including producing Nazi propaganda films at Barrandov. Here is one account of that period.

It would be unfair to brand the younger Havel with his family's collaboration (he was only three years old when the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939), and it is hard to imagine Havel himself as a collaborator. Still, it is curious that Czechs still avert their eyes from some details of that period.

Havel himself, during the communist period, referred to Czechoslovakia as "Absurdistan."

Havel's grandfather developed a Prague landmark, the Lucerna ballroom and theater, near Wenceslas square. One hall is decorated with an ironic sculpture of Wenceslas astride a dead horse dangling from the ceiling.

It's a Czech thing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Mug's Game

Starting a war is a mug's game.

This has been true in almost all cases in international wars over the past two centuries. Just think of the examples:

British invasion of the American Colonies after having earlier withdrawn all forces (1776);

Napoleon's invasion of Russia (1812);

Santa Ana's attack on American forces along the Nueces River in 1846 (President Polk provoked the Mexican attack and then took full advantage);

Confederate States of America attack on Ft. Sumter (1861);

Austrian declaration of war against Prussia (1866);

French declaration of war against Prussia (1870);

Austrian attack on Serbia (1914);

Russian attack on Germany (1914);

German attack on Belgium and France (1914);

Italy's attack on Ethiopia (1935);

Germany's attack on Poland (1939);

Germany's attack on the Soviet Union (1941);

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor (1941);

North Korea's attack on South Korea (1950);

US intervention in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos (1964).

There are other examples. There are also a few examples of apparent successful aggressive wars, but the more normal outcome is temporary advantage, followed by stalemate or back-sliding.

It is too early to say what the long term effects of our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan will be.

By the way, soldiers don't start wars. Civilians do that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mission Accomplished?

Tonight's TV news showed joyous scenes of our military members returning from Iraq to be united with their families.

Those who answer their country's call have every right to be proud of what they did.

Those who sent them into Iraq with the flimsiest of excuses and a bodyguard of lies have nothing to be proud of.

I have not forgotten the air of triumph exuded by the neocons who pushed this policy. From their standpoint, getting the United States to go to war against Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with 9/11, was a great accomplishment.

There was no wisdom here.

It is well to turn the future of Iraq back over to the Iraqis. Where will this lead? No one knows. There are those who believe our presence has accomplished little in the long run other than to strengthen the political and military influnce of Iran in the region.

I'm not prepared to accept this view, either. We shall see.

For a cautionary tale, one might read the triumphant celebration of victory penned by the leading neo-conservative, Richard Perle, in USA Today in the spring of 2003:

Posted 5/1/2003 5:44 PM

Relax, celebrate victory

"By Richard Perle
From start to finish, President Bush has led the United States and its coalition partners to the most important military victory since World War II. And like the allied victory over the axis powers, the liberation of Iraq is more than the end of a brutal dictatorship: It is the foundation for a decent, humane government that will represent all the people of Iraq.
This was a war worth fighting. It ended quickly with few civilian casualties and with little damage to Iraq's cities, towns or infrastructure. It ended without the Arab world rising up against us, as the war's critics feared, without the quagmire they predicted, without the heavy losses in house-to-house fighting they warned us to expect. It was conducted with immense skill and selfless courage by men and women who will remain until Iraqis are safe, and who will return home as heroes."

How long is a quagmire? How many lives is a quagmire? How much blood and treasure  is a quagmire?

Election Protest Grantsboro

Yesterday morning the Pamlico County Board of Elections met to complete the hearing on the protest of the Grantsboro election. We sustained the protest and forwarded it to the State Board of Elections for action. The State Board plans to hear the protest on December 22.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wealth Comparisons

Here is an interesting graph by Sylvia Alegretto, labor economist. I finally managed to edit the graph down to size. By the way, the Waltons got their money the old fashioned way - they inherited it. Read the article here.

Democracy: What Is The Recipe?

I have spent my adult life in defense of democracy.

Even so, I sometimes find democracy puzzling. What is it, exactly? How do you get it? How do you keep it?

I have some ideas on the subject, which I hope to share from time to time.

The first question to examine is, what is the relationship of democracy to elections?

Can you have democracy without elections? Possibly. There may be other methods of popular choice of leaders than elections. Offhand, I can't think of any historical examples, though.

Can you have elections without democracy? We have seen all too many examples of that.

Tentative conclusion: "popular choice of leaders is a necessary but not necessarily sufficient condition for democracy."

Give it some thought.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Above Politics

“I don’t want politicians who are ‘above politics,’ any more then I want a plumber who’s ‘above toilets.’”

(Ta-Nahesi Coates)

Future Politics (Not Necessarily Imaginary)

“Young men and women, educated very carefully to be apolitical, to be technicians who thought they disliked politics, making them putty in the hands of their rulers, like always.”

(Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Aristocratic Anarchists

“The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.”

(G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday)

Isn't Thanksgiving Over?

Another post from Making Light that I feel compelled to share. I think the insights can be recycled for those who have turkey for Christmas, also. This from November 24:

November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:38 AM * 42 comments Q. Why do turkeys go “gobble gobble”?
A. Because they have terrible table manners.
Q, What’s big and green and goes “gobble gobble”?
A. Turkeysaurus Rex
Q. What’s inside a genie’s turkey?
A. Three wishbones.
Q. How many cranberries grow on a bush?
A. All of them.
Q. Why did the turkey cross the road?
A. The chicken gets major holidays off.
Q. What happened when the turkey got into a fight?
A. He got the stuffing knocked out of him.
Q. What does Godzilla eat on Thanksgiving?
A. Squash.
Q. What do mathematicians do on Thanksgiving?
A. Count their blessings.
Q. What always comes at the end of Thanksgiving?
A. The letter G.

Twisted Blogs

One of the delights of reading other people's blogs is the occasional encounter with a telling, humorous phrase. This may even happen in blogs devoted to the dismal science or, worse, to literature.

One such blog is "Making Light." I especially like the column of bon mots at the left hand column of the home page.

The blog's readers contribute some of the most interesting comments I have seen on blogs.

Today's winner (in response to a blog post about Newt Gingrich, Aasimov's Foundation trilogy and Paul Krugman):

"Ein Volk, ein Reich, Ayn Rand."
- Antonia T. Tiger

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 7, 2005

We got a late start from Patuxent River Naval Air Station Marina on December 7, 2005.

We had sold our apartment and moved aboard our boat, a Pearson 390. Destination: Caribbean. First stop: Norfolk.

The weather was ok, but not as fine as we had hoped, and a cold front was on the way. Ice storm cold.

We left after one o'clock (1300), first refueling across the river at Solomons. By sunset, the wind picked up and the temperature was dropping. We kept on under power. The waves grew, and steering was a bit of a challenge with the sea directly astern. By midnight, we were surfing down the leeward side of ever-growing waves.

We could see the lights of Norfolk in the distance. The closer we got to Norfolk, the more confusing the lights became. By 0200 we were in Norfolk ship channel, dodging container ships, barges under tow and Navy warships. We kept on down the channel, entering the Elizabeth River about 0245. Finally, about 0330 we spotted the Navy hospital at Portsmouth, Virginia and worked our way in to an anchorage.

Woke up about 0900, had breakfast and got ready to weigh anchor. The engine started up and ran smoothly. I put it in gear and nothing happened. I finally thought to open the hatch over the engine and watch what happened when I put the boat in gear. No shaft rotation. Shot transmission.

Had the boat towed to a nearby marina and spent the rest of that day and much of the next locating a rebuilt transmission. Wouldn't arrive until the following week. Boat was cold (though we did avoid the ice storm). We decided to rent a car and tour coastal North Carolina while waiting for the transmission.

Just at dusk the evening of December 9th, we reached the edge of Oriental. Saw flashing blue lights ahead. Cautious, we asked a passerby what it was. "Oh, the Spirit of Christmas Parade."

We parked near Hodges and Midyette and watched the parade from the corner of Hodges and Broad. later sampled hot cider, cookies and such like as we strolled around town. Decided to spend the night. Got up on the 10th and were directed to The Bean for coffee and bagels. Met some colorful locals. Liked what we saw.

Went back to Portsmouth to finish having the boat repaired. Sea trials along the way. Finally reached Oriental by boat December 22. By December 27 we were looking at real estate.

We have not yet sailed any further south.

Infamy: December 7, 1941

Seventy years ago today, I was playing with toy cars in the living room of our upstairs apartment in Tallahassee, Florida. just two days earlier, my stepfather, a staff sergeant in the US Army Air Corps, had returned from several weeks at the Carolina Maneuvers. Earlier in the summer, he had been away at the Louisiana maneuvers. My little brother, born in Yazoo City, Mississippi during that absence, was in his play pen.

Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door and landlord announced: "the Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor."

The only thing I didn't understand about his announcement was, what was Pearl Harbor.

The other part of the landlord's announcement was that all military personnel were recalled to their bases. My stepfather put on his uniform and left. We didn't see him for a couple of days. When he returned, it was to pack his foot locker and take it to the barracks.

Not long afterward, we moved into base housing and stayed there until my stepfather received orders to a unit in Mobile, Alabama, to prepare for overseas movement.

None of this was a great surprise. Those who write about the period often emphasize that America was unprepared for war. Not exactly.

Even at the age of four and a half, I understood that we were getting ready for a war. I had seen the evidence with my own eyes. And heard it with my own ears, as we lived next to newly constructed airbases. On our way to Tallahassee from Mississippi, we had traveled along two-lane highways through small towns filled with the moving vehicles of vast convoys. Maybe people in the interior of the country didn't understand what was going on, but it was obvious to those of us in the South.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fourteen Part Message, Dec. 6, 1941

At 7:20 a.m. Saturday, December 6, 1941, a Navy intercept station near Seattle intercepted a message from Tokyo to the Japanese Embassy in Washington, announcing that the situation had become very delicate and that Japan would shortly send a fourteen-part message in reply to Secretary of State Cordell Hull's memorandum of November 26.

Soon afterward, beginning at 8:05 Seattle time, the message began arriving, in Japan's diplomatic code, known to American cryptographers as "purple." The intercept station had received the first thirteen parts by 11:52 a.m. By midafternoon, the thirteen parts had been sent to Washington, where Navy cryptographers (OP-20G) began breaking the message.

The fourteenth and final part was intercepted at 2:38 a.m. Sunday, December 7, decrypted and delivered to the White House about 9:45. At 4:37 another intercept directed Nomura to deliver the message to Hull precisely at 1:00 p.m. Washington time, and an intercept at 5:07 directed the embassy to destroy all remaining codes, ciphers and secret documents in the Japanese embassy.

The embassy had already discharged all of its locally hired typists. While frantically trying to destroy classified material, inexperienced foreign service officers had to type the documents into proper diplomatic form.

They missed the delivery deadline.

Unsuspected by the Japanese, President Roosevelt and Cordell Hull had already read the Japanese response well before Nomura called on Hull to deliver it. Apparently the "time of delivery" and code destruction intercepts were not delivered to the president until after news of the attack had reached Washington, though General Marshall attempted to warn General Short and Admiral Kimmel in Pearl Harbor about the two messages. That communication didn't reach its destination until after the attack.

Pacific Ocean, 6 December, 1941 Heating Up

From: Tokyo To: Honolulu Date: 6 Dec. 41 (Tokyo Date - Honolulu date 5 Dec.)

Please wire immediately movements of the fleet subsequent to the fourth."

From: PEARL HARBOR: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal, Vice Admiral Homner N. Wallin USN(Ret), Naval History Division, Washington, 1968

From: Honolulu To: Tokyo Date: 6 Dec. 41

1. On the American Continent in October the Army began training barrage balloon troops at Camp Davis, North Carolina. Not only have they ordered four of five hundred balloons, but it is understood that they are considering the use of these balloons in the defense of Hawaii and Panama. In so far as Hawaii is concerned, though investigations have been made in the neighborhood of Pearl Harbor, they have not set up mooring equipment, nor have they selected the troops to man them. Furthermore, there is no indication that any training for the maintenance of balloons is being undertaken. At present time there are no signs of barrage balloon equipment. In addition, it is difficult to imagine that they have actually any. However, even though they have actually made preparations, because they must control the air over the water and land runways of the airports in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor, Hickham, Ford, and Ewa, there are limits to the balloon defense of Pearl Harbor. I imagine that in all probability there is considerable opportunity left to take advantage for a surprise attack against these places. " 2. In my opinion the battleships do not have torpedo nets..."

From: PEARL HARBOR: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal, Vice Admiral Homner N. Wallin USN(Ret), Naval History Division, Washington, 1968

From: Honolulu To: Tokyo Date: 6 Dec. 41

The following ships were observed at anchor on the 6th: 9 battleships, 3 light cruisers, 3 submarine tenders, 17 destroyers, and in addition there were 4 light cruisers, 2 destroyers lying at docks (the heavy cruisers and airplane carriers have all left). " 2. It appears that no air reconnaissance is being conducted by the fleet air arm."

From: PEARL HARBOR: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal, Vice Admiral Homner N. Wallin USN(Ret), Naval History Division, Washington, 1968

From: Tokyo To: Washington Date: 7 Dec. 1941 (6 Dec. Washington Time)

Will the Ambassador please submit to the United States Government (if possible to the Secretary of State) our reply to the United States at 1:00 p.m. on the 7th, your time.

From: THE CODEBREAKERS; The Story of Secret Writing, David Kahn, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London,1967

USS Jenkins (DD-447)

The ship John Bond served in during WWII was USS Jenkins (DD-447), a Fletcher Class destroyer. This was a brand new class, first built in 1941. Jenkins was the third ship of the class, but the first to see wartime service.

Here is a link to a brief summary of USS Jenkins' career.

I have always admired the Fletcher class destroyers, though I never served in one. They were heavily armed, with a main battery of five 5"/38 caliber guns, two five-tube torpedo launchers, depth charge racks and radar-controlled anti aircraft fire control. They were fast and beautiful. Here is a link to a more complete account of USS Jenkins' career.

Isn't she a beauty?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Congressional Christmas

This lunatic [Cratchit], in letting Scrooge's nephew out, had let two other people in.  They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge's office.  They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

"Scrooge and Marley's, I believe," said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list.  "Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?"

"Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years," Scrooge replied.  "He died seven years ago, this very night."

"We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner," said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.

It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits.  At the ominous word "liberality," Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.  Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.

"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

"And the Union workhouses?"  demanded Scrooge.  "Are they still in operation?"

"They are.  Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."

"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?"  said Scrooge.

"Both very busy, sir."

"Oh!  I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge.  "I'm very glad to hear it."

"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth.  We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.  What shall I put you down for?"

"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.

"You wish to be anonymous?"

"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge.  "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.  I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry.  I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."

"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.  Besides -- excuse me -- I don't know that."

"But you might know it," observed the gentleman.

"It's not my business," Scrooge returned.  "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's.  Mine occupies me constantly.  Good afternoon, gentlemen!"

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew.  Scrooge returned his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.

John Bond, 1922-2011

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
-- Psalm 107

I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not go fast; for I intend to go in harm's way.
— John Paul Jones 

We all remember John Bond as a golf cart driver and companion of Goldie, the (mostly) golden retriever.

Seventy years ago, John Bond answered his country's call and went down to the sea in ships. Fast ships (destroyers) that went in harm's way.

Once one has been in peril on the sea, there is little in later life that will seem intimidating. And the experience prepares a person to meet life with calm determination. John Bond was such a person.

I admired John's engagement with the community; his determination to keep up with what was going on and to offer his wisdom to anyone who would listen. He would often stop me as I bicycled around the village. He would talk about what was going on at town hall. Sometimes he would relate a bit of local history, always something pertinent to current issues. He was always up to date and full of wisdom.

It seems just a few days ago, but it must have been a couple of months - John drove his golf cart down Academy Street and beckoned for me to come have a chat. We must have talked for an hour, covering the gamut of local affairs. I don't remember the specifics of our conversation, just that I was impressed yet again with his wisdom. Finally, Goldie became bored and John took his leave.

I will always treasure my conversations with John Bond, model citizen. I will miss him.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Class Differences

One of the delights and frustrations of the internet is that one often receives compelling information or thoughts passed on from some unknown source. It makes footnotes problematic.

Here is one such comment that came my way today. I don't know where it originated. Maybe it is a new apocrypha.


"In the US we are all expected to work. Here is how the system is set up:
"If we are in the moneyed class, we can create toxic assets, sell them to unsuspecting marks, short the market with these same assets, and win billions, while getting tax-payer money from the government to pull our institutions out of disaster. We end up with even more money than before and collect handsome, even obscene, bonuses, while the country gets shafted, the economy takes a dive and millions lose jobs, 401(k)s and homes. It’s called capitalism, the best system in the world for building wealth for the “job creators”. But it might also be called socialism for the corporate caste.
"If we are in the not-so-moneyed class, middle-class people and working-class stiffs, especially the 33% who are poor, should begin to work at the age of nine (or earlier) and start with mopping the floor, checking books into libraries, and various other menial and non-menial tasks. They have no role models who work nor do they know what work means (Gingrich knows that this is a fact, although he won’t reveal his sources). This is called introducing the poor to the work ethic. But it sounds like the 19th century all over again. It’s actually capitalism for the rest of us.
"The Newtster, meanwhile, works hard at influence-peddling and collects his own share of the pie, parlaying his hard-worn insider’s knowledge about government into a method for making his clients rich. But that might be called legalized corruption."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Why Study Economics?

"The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists."

-- Joan Robinson, Economist (1903-1983)

Has Robert Reich Been Reading My Blog?

A recent article by Robert Reich, former President Clinton's Secretary of Labor, calls attention to the history of Republican adherence to Social Darwinism in the nineteenth century. He ties the current policies of the party to that history.

Last April, I mentioned the same phenomenon in my post on altruism and politics. Robert Reich adds some useful detail.

A German's View Of America

Speaking of Germany; here is a link to an article in Spiegel on line magazine analyzing the US presidential election to date The title says it all :

The Republicans' Farcical Candidates

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Europe In Perspective

Lord Ismay, the first Secretary General of NATO, once observed that the purpose of the alliance was to "keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down."

That worked for about twenty-five years, but the dynamics of Europe began to change about halfway through the decade of the seventies. Germany began flexing her economic, political and military muscle about that time. General Alexander Haig, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) from 1974 to 1979, embraced that change by supporting the appointment of a German general as Deputy SACEUR, filling a position vacated by France when they withdrew from the NATO integrated military structure in 1967.

The truth is, Europeans were never as concerned about the Soviet Union as they were about Germany. Admitting Germany into NATO worried the Soviet Union, but in fact it was aimed more at controlling Germany by embracing them than it was aimed at defending against Moscow.

At the same time, Ismay's goal of "keep[ing]...the Americans in..." was to a great extent for the same purpose. Only America could serve as a counterweight to Germany. In addition, persistent animosities among European nations were so strong that only an outside, neutral power (the US) could moderate these ancient passions.

Reading today's headlines, it seems that nothing much has changed in the past three decades. (I served on the staff of the Supreme Allied Powers, Europe (SHAPE) from 1978 to 1981.) Even in the Euro zone, it appears that the United States continues to be a necessary counterweight to Germany.

Is Taxing The Rich A Good Idea? Yes!

The most interesting thing about our current political debate on fiscal policy is that not only Warren Buffet, but the most successful stock market investors (speculators, if you will) all say that the best way to insure the prosperity of the rich is to insure the prosperity of the middle class.

Don't believe me? Check out this article by Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist who has started more than twenty companies, including He says, "I’ve never been a “job creator,”  going on to explain: "I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate."

Actually, that sounds a lot like Henry Ford, who recognized that if his workers couldn't afford to buy his cars, his enterprise would be in trouble. Accordingly, he paid his workers more than the prevailing wage.

Hanauer drives the point home: "That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be."

In case you still don't agree, he amplifies the point: "When businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it is like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it’s the other way around.

"It is unquestionably true that without entrepreneurs and investors, you can’t have a dynamic and growing capitalist economy. But it’s equally true that without consumers, you can’t have entrepreneurs and investors. And the more we have happy customers with lots of disposable income, the better our businesses will do.
That’s why our current policies are so upside down. When the American middle class defends a tax system in which the lion’s share of benefits accrues to the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer."

"And that’s what has been happening in the U.S. for the last 30 years."

The Occupy Wall Street movement has finally figured it out.