Archive for November, 2015

New World

Well, maybe not so new. For twelve years Peter Zehan worked for the geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor where he was vice president for analysis. I have subscribed to the services of the firm and continue to be impressed by the the way they tell me that the world is working. He has written a new book, The Accidental Super Power: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder.

The book is in two parts; the first discusses how he sees world economics and politics through history. He starts with the allied nations conference at Breton Woods, Maine in 1944 as World War II was ending. He makes the point that the United States has financed and supplied the armies of the allies that were beating Germany. From this point he moves to move world history through his thesis that world events are at the place where America is the only nation with the available resources to stay powerful and prosperous.

The second part divides nations into groups; state failure, decentralization, degraded, steady state, rising stars and aggressive powers. Given our separation and resources, the United States will continue to exercise power and determine our fate. On the other hand, Japan will not come back as a major economic player.

For the first part of his book, how we got from Breton Woods, I was cheering him on. But, how he transfers this theory to the future development of the world’s nations takes me onto ground about which I have little knowledge.

“Now a new constitutional order is emerging. It is driving, as it is driven, by changes in warfare. This new order will create states that are more centralized and devolved, that privatize and outsource their operations, that are more nationalistic than are more nationalistic than nation-states ever were, and that are globally networked, that are richer but more fragile, and that are more dependent on the transfer and exploitation of information conveyed

Well, you will have to read it and see if you weave from YES to I don’t know about that the way I did. I found it fascinating, but I am still trying to put it together in my mind

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Once again it’s Thanksgiving and we have reason to ask what we have to be thankful for. All over the world people are dying from strange diseases and being killed right and left.

We Americans are not free from homelessness, disease, joblessness and murder.

However, as did the people who assembled in this country early, we have much to be thankful for as well as the hope that in the coming year we will continue to achieve good lives.


John, Marvin, Jim

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Veteran’s Day 2015

Once again, it was Veteran’s Day this past week. When I was young it was Armistice Day with red poppies,  and in Britain it continues to be Remembrance Day, still with red poppies. Since World War I we have had World War II, the Korean War (which almost no one knows about), the Vietnam War and almost constant military struggles somewhere with someone about whom most of us know nothing. Now that the draft has been abolished, very few people keep up with what has become almost a constant part of our lives.

Two men set out to record the stories of marines from the Pacific war of almost 70 years ago. They interviewed 15 veterans and then published their stories interspersed in paragraph form from the beginning to the end of the war. In this manner they covered the marines’ role (invasion after island invasion) through World War II. Their memories contained some good times as well as a lot of death and destruction:

                                                                                Jim Anderson

“My first experience in combat was brief and violent. The creek wasn’t too wide or deep that we could not wade through it – the fire was just so heavy. As we were moving through the jungle along the bank, trying to find a crossing, a machine gun cut loose. The fellow ahead of me stood up, and rat-a-tat-tat, he fell over. I crawled up to where he was lying. I looked at the fellow. He had three or four bullet holes in him. He was dead.

The machine gun was still working. Rifles were still firing. Mortars were falling. It grew heavier and heavier. If I was a little bit smarter about combat, I would have known better than to do this, but I stood up, and of course the same machine gun cut loose, rat-a-tat-tat. It felt like a baseball bat hit me in the left side.”

This is what Veteran’s Day is about; men struggling and giving their lives for the rest of us.

We owe our veterans, both living and dead, a deep debt of gratitude.

Voices of the Pacific, Adam Makos and Marcus Brotherton, 2013

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Starts out in Halloween

Well, Halloween, closely followed by election day, has come and gone. As my wife and I were reminiscing about previous Halloweens, a reminiscence brought on by trying to figure out a way to get rid of all of the excess candy we had bought, our memories went back to the early days of our life together in this house. When we first moved in, there were no dressed up children knocking on your storm door and shouting ‘trick or treat’. We had adolescents running around the neighborhood spraying gook on your front door, doing the same to your auto, knocking over your trash cans and setting off firecrackers half the night. We agreed that dealing with excess candy from trick or treaters was not really a problem.

Then, there was the election, which in our early Virginia consisted of a candidate from the Byrd Organization and maybe an opponent. In Arlington, an anti Byrd group finally became capable of challenging the “Organization” and my wife and I joined in distributing “anti” pamphlets and talking up our candidates. In Tuesday’s election, there were so many candidates for the many more elected positions that we were hard pressed to make choices based on adequate information.

In those early days of my life, national government was still dominated by the Democrats. Elections featured two candidates (sometimes just one as in most of the South), Republican and Democrat There was no air conditioning, so Congressmen left Washington in the early summer and went home until the Fall. The President did different things including taking his time off. When Congress was in town, President Truman took the occasional free late afternoon and went over to join Speaker Rayburn’s social gathering over a glass of spirits. A couple of early mornings in my first summer school, as I sat on the steps of an unairconditioned classroom building with other students, the President strode by with his two secret service escorts. The first time he looked at us and said, “What are you sitting out here for? Get inside and learn something.” We were dumbfounded, but the next time we were ready and he laughed and strode on. Then the Korean War started and he didn’t come our way any more.

When I got out of the Navy, I went to the Veteran’s Administration to sign up for my education benefits. College classes started and still no information. My parents lived next door to the administrative assistant to the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. I finally dropped by her house one evening and explained my problem and anxiety. Shortly, I received a check which I immediately handed over to the finance office of the university. There are advantages to living in Washington.

As I look over what started as a description of the struggle to dispose of Halloween candy and became a reminiscence, I am struck by the things that stick in your mind. I wonder what I no longer remember that is probably more important than these stories.

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A primary interest of parents is intelligence, transformed into “how is my child going to do in school?” There are all sorts of packets and cards and boards, etc that promise to make your child, if not a genius, certainly super successful in school and the rest of life. New ‘research’ is constantly popping up with new ‘findings’ about how your child can master life.

How can you discern what is worthwhile from that which is crap? Well, finding a person who is not selling himself/herself is a start. One of those is Richard Nisbett whose latest book led me back to a previous one, Intelligence and How to Get It, Why Schools and Cultures Count. As the title tells you, this is not a ‘how to do it’ book.

He begins with an examination of intelligence and explains what appear to be different types. He moves through a series of issues about intelligence; social class, money, race, and discusses what we know about their relationship to it. Finally, for those with children, he has a chapter on raising intelligence-both yours and your child’s.

This book is now six years old, but it lays out a framework that anyone interested in knowing more about intelligence and how it shows itself will find very helpful.

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