Sunday, June 27, 2010

For Your Information

      I had a minor operation on Thursday, and have to take it easy for a few days. Anything I write will be short. I will be back next week some time. Please bear with me.

Thanks.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Recovery or Doubledip?

      If a water pipe bursts inside your house, whom do you call, your plumber or your pastor? As ridiculous as this question sounds, it is a metaphor for the problem facing President Obama at this time. I am afraid he is going to call the pastor.
      We are in the midst of a partial recovery from a reasonably deep recession, and the question for him is from whom to get advice - economists or ideologues. Should he seek advice from men who have devoted a lifetime to studying economics, or from conservative Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers and others who got us into this position during the reign of King George (2001-2009)? Should he trust the guidance of pilots who know the waters, or should he let the ones who steered us unto a sandbar take a second run at the beach?
      In 1929 the economy was bustling along, and the Gross domestic Product value was at an all time high of $103.6 billion. Then the depression hit, and by 1933 GDP had sunk to $56B.
      At that point the New Deal took hold, and the government began spending money on job creation projects: highways, dams, conservation, construction, etc. By 1937 the GDP had climbed back to $102B, and FDR decided it was time to submit a balanced budget. Expenditures were cut back, and over the next 13 months the GDP dropped back to $87B – a decline of 15%. Spending for lend lease and military supplies started at that time; the GDP took off and never looked back.
      From 1942 through 1945 the biggest deficits in the history of the country, ranging from 12% to 28%, were accumulated. How could we ever hope to recover from this period?
      The answer: prosperity. Johnny came marching home to shortages, which led to mass employment. The standard of living rose drastically over the next 35 years.
      In 1981 Ronald Reagan introduced his “trickle down” theory. The years from 1982 through 1985 ran deficits in the top 20 of all time. The reason: tax cuts for his friends, the rich. The only way enough money trickled down to support the working family was if both parents held jobs.
      I do not mean to suggest that indiscriminate government spending automatically leads to prosperity. On the contrary, imagine a president who was handed a budget surplus; by fighting two wars and cutting taxes for his high income friends he could probably change it into the greatest government debt of all time. Oh, wait a minute, that already happened!
      Here is a good rule of thumb for presidents: judicious spending, e.g., highways, technology, education, etc., during a downturn, and judicious cost cutting during good times, lead to a stable, prosperous economy by stimulating jobs, jobs, jobs.
      One more thing: tax cuts have limited job creation value. If I do not have a job, why should I care if the tax rate is zero?
      Rush, Sarah, Sean, Glen, why is that so hard to understand? Let us hope that the President understands it.
******
      From beliefs such as these, it is an easy step to the conviction that certain persons are permanently possessed by a deity, or in some way are able to exercise supernatural power to the extent that they deserve some degree of homage and sacrifice. Sometimes they also have extreme political power, in which case they are kings or queens as well as gods.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book or a free download is available in paperback or on Kindle.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why Do People Disagree With Me?

      My late mother-in-law was a sweet lady, and I loved her. She always gave lip service to the belief that a variety of people was a good thing, but I know that deep down she disapproved, at least slightly, of those whose lifestyle differed from hers. How do I know? The compression of the lips, or a slight shake of the head was a dead giveaway. After much thinking about it, I have concluded that we all have a similar unstated bias.
      Semanticists have long known that we process reality through an unconscious filter: a dynamic pattern of attitudes, habits, internalized values, and modes of thinking. It is through this process that we relate ourselves to the world of things and people, observe and judge them, and express ourselves.
      Some of the contents of this filter we receive at birth - certain talents or handicaps; others from our culture – vocabularies, games, dances, greetings ,etc. As a result, most of the things that “come naturally” to us we have actually absorbed unconsciously from our life experiences.
      Each of us passes through a unique series of events during our lifetime, consequently, no two of us look at a given event in an identical way. For example, imagine a person in a hospital bed when his doctor says, “It is cancer.” The patient undergoes emotions ranging from fear to concern for his family in the event he is no longer able to provide for them. The doctor is thinking about modes of treatment which would be most effective for treating this form of cancer in this particular patient. And the hospital statistician unemotionally checks a box on his form. One event – three reactions.
      Some of us look at such an event through a religious filter, e.g., cancer is God’s/Allah’s will. Others have a scientific filter – cancer is caused by a virus or one’s lifestyle. Again, how one sees a particular event is a result of passing through one’s individual filter.
      Because each of our filters is both unique and unconscious, one’s actions may sometimes be unpredictable even to oneself. They may range from risking one’s life to save a buddy on the battlefield, to shooting a rival lover.
      According to Albert Einstein, “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe - a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”
      He was partly right – there is a spirit loose in the Universe, however, “vastly superior” implies some sort of intelligence which man cannot understand. But the actual spirit is blind. It has no agenda. It just keeps on doing its thing regardless of the consequences. It takes what it finds at a particular instant and uses it to create something new for the next instant. The past becomes the present becomes the future. The Spirit is the act of creating. It does not pass judgment on its result – that is left up to man and his filters.
      Thus we have liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, good and bad, order and chaos – all the “opposites.” Perhaps if we tried to understand each other's filters a little better, we might find they are not opposites, but the ends of a continuum. Maybe we could all edge a little more toward the middle.
      But don’t hold your breath.
******
      But if the gods could not be controlled, perhaps they could be induced to communicate their plans for the group. Under divine inspiration, priests and priestesses could prophesy as to the will of the particular god they served. In most cases the achievement of divine inspiration required the practitioner to become temporarily possessed by the god. This was the beginning of religion.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book or a free download is available in paperback or on Kindle.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Straight From the Horse's Mouth

      Whenever a catastrophe occurs, people in high places are cast into the limelight, some unwillingly, and others because they want to beat everyone else to their fifteen minutes of fame. When that happens, they often come out with pearls of “wisdom,” sometimes speaking with insufficient information; at other times engaging their mouths before their brains are in gear. A classic example, of course, is the well publicized Bushism,…”Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill is no exception. Here are a few examples:


Tony Hayward, BP CEO:
"What the hell have we done to deserve this?"
(Is he kidding?)

“I'd like my life back.”
(So would thousands of Gulf Coast residents who depend on the Gulf for their livelihoods.)

After arguing that safety has always been his top priority, “…that is why I am so devastated with this accident.”
(BP has had 760 safety violations in the past five years, and paid $373 million in fines.)

Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP Chairman:
"We care about the small people,…"
(If you are over three feet tall, are you out of luck?)

Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi:
"…isn't anything like Exxon Valdez."
(He was right, it's much worse.)

"If they take a huge amount of money and put it in an escrow account so they can't use it to drill oil wells and produce revenue, are they going to be able to pay us?”
(On the other hand, if they keep blowing up more wells, how are they going to pay anybody?)

Rush Limbaugh:
“But this bill, the cap-and-trade bill, was strongly criticized by hardcore environmentalist wackos because it supposedly allowed more offshore drilling and nuclear plants, nuclear plant investment. So, since they're sending SWAT teams down there, folks, since they're sending SWAT teams to inspect the other rigs, what better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I'm just noting the timing here.”
(SWAT teams? Blowing up a rig?)

“You do survive these things. I'm not advocating don't care about it hitting the shore or coast and whatever you can do to keep it out of there is fine and dandy, but the ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and was left out there."
(Of course, it might take a few hundred years, but who’s counting?)

Sarah Palin:
"The Dutch and the Norwegians, they are known for dikes and for cleaning up water and for dealing with spills.”
(Maybe they could send us someone to stick his finger in the hole.)

“But handily we can thwart this mysterious cabal of environmentalists by doing... nothing. Because oil is supposed to be in the water.”
(Huh?)


Joe Barton, Texas Congressman:
"…a tragedy of the first proportion, that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, a $20 billion shakedown.".
(Joe Barton, a tragedy of the first proportion.)

Rick Perry, Governor of Texas:
"From time to time there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented."
(Like Tony Hayward said, "What the hell have we done
to deserve this?")
There you have it, folks. Any questions?
******
      Eventually it became apparent that most of the attempts to control nature were not working. This did not erase the idea that nature had powers; it merely showed that they were vastly superior to man’s. Nature was now controlled by gods operating behind the scenes.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book or a free download is available in paperback or on Kindle.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

California's New Election Law

      Those zany California voters have done it again. Back in 1978 they sowed the seeds of their present horrendous budget deficit by passing Proposition 13, the People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation. Among other things, the proposition lowered property taxes by rolling back property values to their 1975 value, and restricted annual increases in assessed value of real property to an inflation factor, not to exceed 2% per year. It also prohibited reassessment of a new base year value except upon (a) change in ownership or (b) completion of new construction.
      Because I had bought my property in 1973, I benefitted immensely from the proposition. When I sold it in 2004 the property taxes were approximately $700; in 2008 they were over $4000. The voters had successfully capped property taxes for long term residents and had made sure that tax revenues were well below the inflation rate. It was not the only factor that put California into its present budget predicament, but it was a major contributor.
      Now the voters have come through with another new idea: Proposition 14, the Top Two Primaries Act. In an effort to shake up the electoral process, which many people think is broken, the proposition will change the way all statewide and national candidates, except for president and vice-president, will be chosen.
      In the primary election, all candidates for a particular office will be listed regardless of party affiliation, if any. All voters will be given the same ballot, and the top two winners will be the candidates in the general election. It will be possible that in the general election, the only two candidates for an office, e.g., US Senator, will both be from the same party.
      Proponents of the idea say that it will give minor party (or no party) candidates a chance to be on the final ballot. Voters will be free to select whomever they consider to be the better candidate, regardless of his party affiliation. Supposedly candidates will be selected who will not be beholden to the fringe element of either major party; elected officials will be those who are willing to reach across the aisle and work for the good of the country. Through cooperation, it will return the country to the political center. Of course, both major parties are against this proposition because they will no longer have control of who will appear on the general election ballot.
      Perhaps this system will work, but I can see several problems with it. Final candidates will be those with the most money to spend, or the greatest name recognition. Minor parties will be able to get their candidates on the primary ballot, but unless they can afford to run two campaigns, a primary as well as a general, they will be shut out of the general election. (Formerly if they qualified for placement on the primary election ballot, they were assured a spot on the general election ballot.) In areas where large concentrations of like minded voters of either party live, candidates from the opposing party will never be on the general election ballot.
      There is one other problem: I have often mentioned that our system relies upon an informed electorate, but I know there are many people who go to the polls without knowing anything about some of the candidates. I believe that as a result, these people vote for the first two names on the list. It would be a shame if a good man’s chances of getting elected were reduced simply because his name began with W instead of A.
      Several other states are considering a similar move. Whatever happens, let us hope it will be interesting, not devastating.
******
      So far in our discussion we have seen primitive man practicing what may be called “private magic,” i.e. magical rites and incantations practiced for the benefit or injury of individuals. But whether it was because of consistently good results from private practice, seeing a cultural advantage, or some other reason, certain individuals soon began practicing as shamans, wizards, or witch doctors. Magic moved from the private to the public sector.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book or a free download is available in paperback or on Kindle.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The USA vs. the UK - Deja Vu All Over Again

      The calamity in the Gulf of Mexico is putting strains on the relationship between the USA and the UK. I can see both sides of the problem, but I think we have the better argument.
      The British object to President Obama’s calling the bad guy in the Gulf “British Petroleum” instead of “BP.” (In 1998 British Petroleum merged with Amoco and became BP Amoco. In 2001 it formally renamed itself BP, and adopted the tag line “Beyond Petroleum”). They claim it is making the whole British Empire look bad.
      I understand the British reluctance to having aspersions cast upon BP; stock price is affected by rumors or bad reputations of any company. Since the explosion of April 20th, BP’s stock price has dropped 50%, or about $90 billion dollars.
      As Britain’s largest corporation, BP stock is held by almost every pension plan in the country; BP pays about 1/7 of all dividends paid in the UK. About 40% of its shares are held in Britain, and 39% are in the hands of US shareholders.
      The danger to the company is three-fold – the threat of bankruptcy, the suspension of dividends, and the rapidly falling stock value as investors dump their shares.
      So it is not surprising that Brits are taking offense at some of the remarks that have been made by our politicians, and President Obama in particular.
      Last week the President stated that one of the reasons he visited the Gulf was to talk to people on the scene in order to determine “whose ass to kick.” He also said that if it were up to him he would have fired Tony Hayward, BP’s CEO. Although his anger is understandable in view of the tragedy, that was rather strong language for a head of state.
      But to be honest, Tony has also made some very insensitive remarks. In April he said, ““What the hell did we do to deserve this?" Well, since 1965 BP has had several accidents and shady deals, ranging from the collapse of the Sea Gem oil rig, which killed 13 workmen, to propane and oil price manipulation, to leaking pipelines in Alaska. And in just the last three years the company has had 760 safety violations.
      There have been others, but probably Tony’s biggest gaffe so far was "the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume." That’s true Tony, but it’s pretty big compared to the shoreline.
      BP has promised to pay all damages, but I would expect that the company will try to use its own definition of “damages” in settlement of claims.
      The President is trying to decide what to do in regard to BP’s guaranteeing to pay damages. One option under consideration is asking the company not to pay dividends until the claims are settled. Whether he has the power to enforce such action is constitutionally suspect. He is also considering requiring BP to put funds in escrow in order to cover damages. That is a good possibility. The company is considering suspending dividend payments, but putting funds to cover them into escrow. That’s my guess as to what will happen.
      Will BP file bankruptcy? The company is in a strong cash position and also has the capability of borrowing substantially more. I think bankruptcy is unlikely.
      As I said, I understand the Brit’s position, but its not their nest that’s being fouled.
******
      Some natives of Melanesia believed that certain stones had magical powers, which corresponded in their nature to the shape of the stone. For example, if a piece of water-worn coral were to be found that looked somewhat like a bread-fruit, the man who found it would lay it at the root of one of his bread-fruit trees in order to make it bear well. If the tree did indeed produce as expected, the owner would, for a fee, allow less endowed stones of other men to be laid near his stone in order that they might pick up some of the magic which resides in it. The power was not in the stone itself, but in the spirit which resided in the stone.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book or a free download is available in paperback or on Kindle.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tradition

      tradition, n. the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, esp. by work of mouth, or by practice. Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary.
      In 1750 the ship Nancy arrived in Philadelphia carrying Henry William Stiegel, a German glassmaker and ironmaster. He was an active lay Lutheran and associate of Henry Muhlenberg, who is considered to be the patriarch of the Lutheran Church in the United States.
      In 1772 Stiegel donated the land on which the Lutheran church in Manheim, Pennsylvania is now built. The deed stipulated that the cost of the land was “five shillings and ‘in the month of June yearly forever hereafter the rent on One Red Rose if the same shall be lawfully demanded.’”
      It is doubtful whether the rose was actually paid to Stiegel, but in 1892, one hundred and twenty years after the deed containing the red rose clause was written, the idea of the annual payment was revived by a local physician, Dr. J. H. Sieling. A Stiegel descendant, John C. Stiegel of Harrisonburg, Virginia, came to Manheim to receive the rent. The tradition has been carried on every year since.
      Although I wrote about the advantages of creativity my last time out, I believe it is important to keep in mind the warning of George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” One of the more important advantages of tradition is to remind us of events in the past. Some of them worked, some did not.
      Today’s media are filled with events that illustrate the baser instincts of our fellow men. We need to be reminded that true generosity, such as Stiegel’s contribution to the church, also exists. The tradition of paying the rent of “One Red Rose” is such a reminder.
      Tradition has a second important function. Albert Einstein wrote, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Creativity is important, and I am certainly in favor of it, but sometimes it needs to be tempered with history and experience. As Stephen Leacock wrote, “Lord Ronald…flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.” We need to avoid playing the role of Lord Ronald.
      On June 13, 2010 the rent of a red rose was paid to Margaret Flannigan-Badger, a 9th generation heir of Henry William Stiegel. May the practice continue for at least another 238 years.
******
      Eventually man concluded that if he could control his own movements, perhaps he could also control the movements of the other entities in his environment. There was no language with which he could directly address the surrounding world — even his ability to address other men was extremely rudimentary — but perhaps he could assert control by his actions. Magic was born!
      Man Takes control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book or a free download is available in paperback or on Kindle.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Creativity

      When I was a working accountant, there was one comment which I heard time after time, not only in the business world, but in other settings as well, e.g., church councils, civic organizations, etc., and it irritated me every time I heard it: “We never did it that way before.” I always thought that if we had some system going for, say, five years, it may not need to be upgraded, but we should certainly consider that possibility.
      Even before discussing any changes, the person who made that remark usually came up with several reasons why a new system would not work.
      Today we often hear the catchphrase “think outside the box,” meaning to be creative. If Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, et. al. had not heeded that advice, I would not be writing this because no one would ever have heard of a blog. Of course, I also need to give credit to the inventor of the internet, Al Gore(?)
      Almost anything can be done in several ways. I wish to thank the editor of The Fishwrapper, a publication of Little Mountain Printing, located in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, for permission to use the following example from an article in the June 4 edition.
      The following concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen. “Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer.
      One student replied: “You tie a string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building.”
      He flunked, but he appealed on the grounds that his answer was correct. It was decided to allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer which showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics.
      After he had not spoken for five minutes, he was advised to hurry. He replied as follows: “First you could take the barometer up to the roof of the building, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g(t2).
      “Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper’s shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper.
      “Or you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the building. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T = 2∏√(l/g).
      “Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up.
      “The orthodox and boring way would be to use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building.
      “But the best way would be to knock on the janitor’s door and say to him, ‘If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper.’”
      He passed. He was Neils Bohr, Denmark’s only winner of the Nobel prize in physics. His description of the atom as consisting of a nucleus surrounded by electrons laid the groundwork for modern quantum physics.
      There is more than one way to skin a cat. Not everyone can be Neils Bohr but everyone can be open to creative ideas.
******
      Because animals were now on equal footing with himself, the primitive hunter also believed that every animal also had ties of kinship, etc. with others of the same species. Thus if he killed an animal, he exposed himself to reprisal, either from the soul of the deceased animal, or at the hands of the victim’s relatives. Accordingly, many tribes made it a rule to spare the life of any animals which they had no pressing motive to kill, particularly dangerous animals from which rather bloody reprisals could be expected. For example:
      Certain natives of Madagascar would kill a crocodile only in revenge for the crocodile’s first killing a man. The natives who lived near the lake made a proclamation every year to the crocodiles, announcing they would kill the same number of crocodiles as the number of men killed by the crocodiles, and warning well-intentioned crocodiles to keep out of their way. If one of the crocodiles killed a man, the natives summoned the family of the offender to deliver up the culprit. A baited hook was cast into the water, and next day the offender or a member of his family was dragged ashore, and after a trial, he was executed.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.


The book or a free download is available in paperbackor on Kindle.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Ump Makes A Bad Call

      On June 2nd, umpire Jim Joyce called Cleveland Indians’ runner Jason Donald safe when almost everyone in the stadium, as well as the entire TV viewing audience, knew he was really out by at least a full step. The exceptions were Joyce and Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga, who was covering first base on the play. Joyce was wrong and Galarraga wasn’t sure. He had been called up from minor league team Toledo only 16 days earlier.
      It was a bad call, but it would probably not have been the object of undo excitement if it had happened in another game; they happen all the time. But this game was special, the call cost Galarraga a perfect game – 27 batters and 27 outs.
      In the entire history of major league baseball, there have been only 20 perfect games. Even Nolan Ryan, who threw seven no hit-no run games, never pitched a perfect game. Unbelievably, two of them occurred earlier this season. And this kid, who had been with the big club just over two weeks, was robbed of one.
      I have been a baseball fan for seventy years, and have probably seen hundreds of bad calls. Definition: a bad call is an umpire’s decision which is not in agreement with one’s own opinion of the play. If it goes against your team, it’s a disaster; if it goes against your team’s opponent – well, that’s baseball.
      Because of the huge audience to this particular play, calls have come from all sides for a wider use of the instant replay. Let me give you a short history of umpiring.
      In 1858 the umpire, sometimes a spectator, or even a player, was chosen by the home team with the consent of the visiting team’s captain. He stood, kneeled or sat on a stool along the first base line, recorded the game in a book, and made note of all the infractions of the Bylaws and Rules.
      He was concerned with guaranteeing fair play. If there was controversy on a particular play, he solicited opinion from the players involved, or even nearby spectators. Later on the umpire stood behind the catcher until someone got on base, at which point he moved behind the pitcher.
      Spectators often threw fruit, bottles, anything they could get their hands on onto the field to protest a “bad” call, and sometimes the umpires threw things back into the stands. Team owners soon realized that this type of activity boosted ticket sales, and resisted the idea of two umpires per game for a long time. It was during this period that fans originated the phrase “kill the umpire”, and they were not kidding.
      Professionalism took hold during the first two decades of the 20th century, with paid umpires getting the princely sum of five dollars per game. Soon the league put them on salary, e.g., 140 dollars per month plus per diem expenses of three dollars per day while traveling.
      Baseball has often been called a game of percentages, and the umpire’s decision adds a touch of human error to the game. Some percentage of any umpire’s calls are going to be bad, and that spices things up. As an earlier well known umpire said, “There are balls and there are strikes, but they are nothing until I call them.”
      And I think it would be taking some of the fun out of the game if electronic decisions were substituted for human ones. Beside, the game is long enough already; having to stop a few times for review would make it boring. Also, a little uproar over an occasional bad call is fun.
      Another hew and cry has arisen over the Jim Joyce decision: calls for commissioner, Bud Selig, to overturn the decision and give Galarraga his perfect game. The rule is that an umpire’s decision may be overturned if the umpire requests a conference with his fellow umpires, then changes the call himself. This didn’t happen – until he saw the replay, Joyce was sure he was right.
      Imagine the calls for review and change that would ensue if Selig were to overturn the rule in this instance. Talk about a slippery slope - he would not have time for anything else.
      Besides, what’s the use of having rules if they can be overturned at will. I know, common sense should be the rule, but this is not a life changing event – it’s about grown men playing a boy’s game. Follow the rules.
      One more thing – Joyce actually cried when he saw the replay. He said, “I blew it.” He apologized to Galarraga, and the next day he received the lineup card from him and they shook hands.
      I must admire Joyce for his willingness to admit his error and to take responsibility. Two thumbs up for him – that sort of response doesn’t happen very often these days.
      And two thumbs up for Galarraga for the way in which he kept his cool at the call, and the grace with which he accepted Joyce’s apology. That is also not that common in sports, or in life, these days.
      Also two thumbs up for the Detroit Tigers and General Motors – they gave Galarraga a new Corvette, not because he lost the perfect game, but for his handling of the situation. It kind of takes some of the sting out of the disappointment he must have felt.
******
      Through the action of the Spirit, man arrived at the next logical step: whatever moved man also moved other entities. In particular, primitive man conceived the concept that animals possessed feelings and intelligence, and like men, they also possessed a soul.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Has Obama Met His Katrina?

      Many people are calling the BP oil spill Obama’s Katrina. The reference, of course, is to the inefficient response of the Federal government to the catastrophe incurred when hurricane Katrina came ashore along the Louisiana coastline in 2005. So how do the two events compare?
      As a result of Katrina, at least 1,836 people lost their lives, and an estimated 1,000,000 people were redistributed from the gulf coast states to other areas. As of July 1, 2006 it was estimated New Orleans had lost almost 220,000 residents. On March 30, 2010, 260 families were still living in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
      The government has been criticized for its slow response to Katrina, but under the National Response Plan, the responsibility for the management of such disasters lies with local authorities until they ask for help. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin had ordered an involuntary evacuation the day before the storm hit, but there were problems arranging for the necessary transportation.
      Although Governor Blanco of Louisiana was sure that her national guard troops could handle the situation, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security decided to take over the relief operations the day after the hurricane came ashore.
      An additional factor was the breaching of the levees which had been built to protect the city from high water. A 1986 study pointed out design flaws that were never addressed by the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of the levees.
      In any event, the government - local, state and national - all had to shoulder some of the blame for the destruction caused by Katrina. Protection and evacuation of the city, temporary shelter, medical and food supplies, and looting control all fall under the mandates of one level or another of government. One of the primary reasons for having a government is to direct resources into these areas when necessary. The problem was a lack of leadership; it was not there when needed. No one took responsibility for coordinating the various agencies involved.
      The BP oil leak is a considerably different situation. The Federal Government is not in the oil business, nor should it be. Petroleum engineers, exploration and drilling equipment, etc. are the responsibility of the private sector; the government payroll does not include any of them.
      At the present time it is fashionable to castigate the government for not doing something to cap the flow of oil. The question is: what? Who has the experts in the field? The oil company - certainly not the government. Who has the most to lose as the incessant leak goes on? The oil company. Would replacing BP as primary contractor serve any purpose? No, but it would certainly waste a lot of time.
      With the exception of the eleven men who were killed in the initial explosion, no lives have been lost. No one has had to be relocated or supplied with housing, food or medical supplies.
      I am not saying the government has no responsibility to respond to the catastrophe. Certainly the government is in a position to supply manpower where needed, e.g., helping stop the spread of the oil slick, cleaning the coastline, rescuing wildlife, etc. Temporary assistance must also be given to people and businesses who have suffered loss of income as a result of the disaster.
      As for the occurrence of the event itself, the long time cozy cuddling up of the oil industry with the regulatory oversight agencies has been exposed. For this, the federal government is to blame.
      But the horse is gone, and the barn door may or may not be locked in the future. For now, the government can do nothing but see that the control attempts continue and manpower is available. It can also determine how to avoid such accidents in the future, and of course, it can correct its lackadaisical attitude toward enforcing safety and environmental regulations.
      I am sure that those who are asking Obama to plug the hole realize they are asking for something he cannot do. Perhaps we all need to get used to the idea that some things are beyond the reach of government control.
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      Eventually man discovered that in addition to naming and classifying objects, he could impart some information about their activity. What was the lion doing? “Lion hunting” or “lion sleeping” conveys substantially more important information to the listener than just pointing the finger while saying “lion.”
      The Growth Of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

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