Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Apocalypse Now?"

                      Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Apocalypse Now?”
Jul 30, 2015

“Death to America!” scream Iranians who have just negotiated an agreement that has won them invaluable concessions from Americans, which includes the releasing of over $100 billion in assets that had been frozen. That deal assures that in fifteen years or less – a long time for an ADHD country such as ours, but a short time for a patient Islamist – the Mullahs who govern Iran will be able to get the “bomb.” Keep in mind, these are the people who besides wishing us dead have called for the annihilation of Israel.

At home, debt and future entitlements, which have been kicked down the road for decades, are forecast to impoverish future generations. The Democrat front runner warned against the “gig economy” and the “erosion of work-place protections.” Is her interest protecting consumers, or is it cronyism designed to safeguard existing businesses and regulators? We have been warned that man-caused global warming will cause the planet’s destruction…unless we purchase Tesla’s, Prius’ and solar panels, with the support of tax payers – effectively a regressive tax, with the wealthy benefitting at the expense of the middle class. Technology has made life easier, but it has also given government and others the ability to monitor our daily lives. Our politics are characterized by division, polarization and cronyism. Racism and class warfare negate any attempts at community outreach.

The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates at essentially zero for six and a half years. There will be a price to pay for that decision, but no one knows what it will be. As a planet, we face dangerous problems, and I don’t mean climate change attributable to man, but the risk of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. We show concern for gays and transgenders, which is a good, but we ignore failing inner-city schools and the decline of two-parent households in lower-income areas? Wealth and income gaps have widened, ironic victims of redistribution policies. Our economy sputters along on three cylinders? One presidential candidate proposes raising capital gains taxes, despite a lack of sufficient savings on the part of retirees and our underinvestment as a nation. It is an argument not designed to address a problem. It is populist, political-speak meant to show concern about “inequality.” Is an Apocalypse our future?

We do face problems, many of them serious, as people have since the beginning of time. But despite the “tsk-tsking” from scolds like me and others, our nation has faced more perilous times. At no point in our history were we as divided as we were in 1861. Four years later 700,000 Americans were dead, many dying for a cause barely understood – just doing what their superiors ordered them to do. To put those deaths in perspective, the population of the United States was roughly one tenth the size it is today. Can anyone imagine seven million of our youths dying violently over the next four years? The Great Depression, which began with the stock market crash in 1929, saw unemployment rise to 25%. It was the War that ended the hard times, not government relief programs. Germany and Japan, as enemies in common, served to unify our nation, but it also meant that 19 million men and women served in uniform, and 416,000 died.

In the post-War years, another common enemy – Communism (and a welcome relief from a decade and a half of Depression and War) – kept the nation unified in the 1950s. “We need someone to hate,” wrote John Steinbeck in Travels with Charley. The Eisenhower years spelled a welcome respite. The ‘60s changed things. Vietnam, Watergate and marches for Civil Rights destroyed any sense of common purpose. Stagflation in the ‘70s added to the despair and the disjointedness that characterized that era.  

But we survived those difficult years. Part of the reason was leadership. Great Presidents have an indelible optimism. They use humor and charm. Their confidence is innate and it is catching. It comes from the soul and the heart, not the mind. Only two Presidents in my lifetime have had it – Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. (JFK may have had it, but he died too early.) FDR inherited a Depression begun three years earlier. He kept hope alive and then led the Country to victory in World War II. Reagan followed the dislocations of the 1960s and the economic malaise of the 1970s. He left the Country stronger, spiritually and financially. He restored dignity to the people. No matter how one felt about the politics of either man, no one can deny the positive nature of their character.

The angst of the current period does reflect the existential threats we face. But more importantly, it echoes a consequence of government impinging on people’s ability to succeed and to fail. Regulations are used to advance political agendas. They are no longer predictable or even commonsensical. The paternalistic nature of the Administration can be seen in the “life of Julia” video and the “pajama boy” ad. Such political sensitivities provide comfort to some, but they damage the dignity that comes with work, personal responsibility and accountability. That dread reflects a public school system that is more concerned with adults (union members) than with students. Safety nets are important, but the tendency of bureaucrats, who thrive on expanding government, is to make entitlements ubiquitous. Work, when performed by those who have little or no education, is not given the respect it deserves. As Arthur Brooks wrote in The Conservative Heart: “All honest work is a sanctified pursuit.” What right do elites have to demean the work of those they see as beneath them? Nowhere are the differences between the statists and free marketers so prominent as in the battle in New York over Uber. The De Blasio Administration would manage the number of taxis. Uber would let markets determine both price and availability.

Every era has its challenges. Ours is no different. What bothers me is the lack of concern regarding slipping moral standards. Poverty is accompanied by broken families, yet government dismisses that as a problem. While I am not a regular church-goer, faith deserves more respect than it gets. It helps people. In 2000, Robert Putnam, in a book entitled Bowling Alone, wrote about the “strange disappearance of social capital and civic engagement in America.”


Nevertheless, I suspect we will get through this period. It will take a leader who will speak plainly and honestly about the good this nation has done, without ignoring or white-washing its faults. It will take an optimist who recognizes that government is necessary to secure our safety, adjudicate our laws and build and maintain our infrastructure, but also one that acknowledges the intelligence and inherent wisdom of the people. If such people appear on the scene, any apocalypse can be postponed – perhaps forever.

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Minimum Wage Wars"

                    Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Minimum Wage Wars”
July 27, 2015

A crescendo is building for raising the federal minimum wage by 107%, from $7.25 an hour to $15.00. To be against it, according to those who support such a move, is to favor inequality and unfairness – it is to show one’s Simon Legree side. The $7.25 wage has been in place for six years; so it is understandable why this tidal wave has been developing. But its implementation will have negative consequences that are surely unintentional. Some perspective is needed.

The income gap has widened during the six years since the recession ended in mid 2009. That fact has little to do with the minimum wage and a lot to do with government policies regarding taxes, regulation and interest rates. A front-page article in Saturday’s New York Times detailed the gloomy news. While employers have added 200,000 jobs a month and the official jobless rate is at a post-recession low of 5.3%, the labor participation rate (62.6%) is at the lowest level since the Carter years. Six years into economic recovery there are fifteen million Americans on Social Security disability insurance, more than when the recession ended. Forty percent more people are on food stamps than six years ago. Work requirements, which were part of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, were waived in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And for the first time in the nation’s history, or at least during a time of economic recovery, more small businesses are closing than opening. And now government wants to fuel this fire by mandating a doubling of the minimum wage?

Unlike government, businesses face competition. Globalization and technology force them to adapt. In 1970, more than a quarter of U.S. employees worked in manufacturing. Today, it is less than ten percent. The slide began well before the rise of China in the 1990s. The decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs is not simply a consequence of businesses looking overseas for cheap labor. The real reason has been technology. Supporting that conclusion, a study last year by the Boston Consulting Group showed manufacturing jobs, as a percent of total employment, are declining in developing countries like Brazil, China and India.

The technology impact on manufacturing is now affecting the service industries – the segment of the economy where most of the minimum wage jobs lie. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that nonfarm payrolls in the U.S. at the end of 2014 amounted to 140,592,000, with 77,207,000 (54.9%) being hourly workers. (Keep in mind, the number of Americans between the ages of 16 and 65 is about 225,000,000.) Among hourly workers, 2,992,000 (or 3.9%) were employed at the minimum wage or lower. That works out to 2.1% of all workers. (Those who work for less than minimum wage are employees who rely on tips, certain part-time workers and special-needs cases).

The BLS report noted: “The percentage of hourly workers paid wages at or below the federal minimum wage was little different among major race and ethnicity groups.” Blacks and Whites had slightly higher percentages than Hispanic or Asian workers. Age was the biggest difference. Seventy percent of those making the minimum wage or less are between the ages of 16 and 24.

The numbers suggest that a large percentage of minimum wage jobs are the teen-age children of middle class and upper-income families. Many of the rest are starter jobs – the kind we all remember when first we went to work. Estimates are that an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour will cost 500,000 jobs. I suspect it may be more.

Technology has already replaced many service-sector jobs. In some restaurants, one can order on I-Pads. Technology has replaced many secretarial jobs. The internet has made it easier to form a corporation and it has reduced the time for research. Travel agents have become an endangered species. The President has suggested that the servicing of smaller 401K and IRA accounts should be automated. Three weeks ago, when my wife was recovering from a fall, robots delivered medicines to her hospital floor. Technology will continue to replace jobs. It is one reason why STEM jobs have been the best paying for recent college graduates. David Brooks wrote recently in the New York Times: “If you raise the price on a worker, employers will hire fewer and you’ll end up hurting the people you meant to help.”

When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signaled his support for the higher minimum wage, he disingenuously said: “You cannot live and support a family of four on $18,000 a year in the state of New York.” (The State of New York’s minimum wage is $8.75 per hour.) His statement was purely political, as were similar endorsements from Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. There are few families of four dependent on a sole provider making the minimum wage. Those jobs, as I wrote, are mostly held by the young – teenagers or young people starting a career. It is jobs, not raising the minimum wage that will help the poor. Raising the minimum wage will not narrow the income gap. It will cost jobs and force some businesses to close. It is not the panacea it is claimed and it detracts from the real task – job creation.

No one wants anyone to be subjected to a life of substandard compensation. But we should all want everyone to work. The problem with government establishing wages, rather than markets, is that they cannot anticipate the consequences of their action – businesses closing, technology replacing labor, or the shipping of jobs overseas.

Government should concentrate on job growth. Policies should encourage business formations and economic growth. A job brings pride and happiness. Do you remember your first job – the first time some person actually paid you for work performed? I remember mine. I was hired to drive half a dozen cows every evening from the pasture across from our house to the barn of the farmer that owned them a mile down the road. It took a little over an hour and I was paid $.25. Interestingly, this was about thirteen years after the first minimum wage bill was passed in 1938 which set the hourly rate at $.25. The minimum rate never played a role. I was just happy to think Mr. Nagle valued my work enough to pay me hard cash!





Thursday, July 23, 2015

"The Right Needs Better Messaging"

                      Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“The Right Needs Better Messaging”
July 23, 2015

Words have meanings, which is why those who read newspapers and op-eds and listen to pundits must approach declarations and arguments with a dose of caveat emptor. The Left claims that the goal of the Right is “unfettered” capitalism, while smugly speaking of “progressive” capitalism. To be unfettered means to be totally free from restraint, to be unleashed. The definition of the word “progressive,” when used as an adjective refers to something that is changing gradually, that is progressing in stages. The adjectives may or may not accurately reflect the intent of the speaker or writer, so it is necessary to place the words in context. The Left is clever: “progressive” has a soft and approachable feel, while “unfettered” has a harsh and uncompromising tone.

Conservatives are not looking for an economy swaddled in anarchy. They believe in safety nets. They recognize that many regulations serve society well by protecting consumers from damaged or spoiled goods and from unscrupulous manufacturers and marketers. On the other hand, they also know that bureaucracies are self-perpetuating – that job security for a bureaucrat is building a bigger department, adding more rules and regulations. (The 2012 Federal Register added 78,961 pages to the 1.4 million pages that had been added over the previous twenty years! As of this April, the federal tax code comprised 74,608 pages!) The Right also knows that cronyism serves both politicians and favored industries, and that it does so without regard to competition and consumers.  The Right is not asking for unfettered capitalism; they are asking for relief from regulation that stifles innovation, hinders competition and hampers economic growth.

The Left does not want “progressive” or gradual change in capitalism. Coming out of the 2008-2009 recession, Democrats raised taxes, expanded entitlements and increased regulation. They have supported public unions, at the expense of students and entrepreneurs; they increased the national debt. The result has been subpar economic growth. They disparage the Reagan economy by using terms like “trickle-down” economics, knowing that any phrase that has the word “trickle” conjures something insignificant. (“Trickle-down” does, however, describe the consequence of redistribution.) The Left talks about “equality” and “fairness,” which have vague and amorphous meanings – like Humpty Dumpty, they mean what they want them to mean.

What started me on this issue was a recent book by Arthur Brooks entitled The Conservative Heart. Mr. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute. His voice has been the principal one in explaining the virtue of conservativism. Conservativism, especially free market capitalism, has taken a beating since the credit crisis of 2007-2008. Yet it has been the policies of conservativism – family, faith, community, work and free markets – that are responsible for the significant decline in global poverty over the past twenty years. Like Rodney Dangerfield, conservatives get little respect. In its stead have risen progressives, like President Obama, Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio.

Mr. Brooks makes the moral case for conservativism and capitalism. He points out that the number of people living in poverty – adjusted for inflation – has declined 80% since 1970. He cites five reasons for the decline: free trade, globalization, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship. Mr. Brooks credits the role played by the United States in the aftermath of World War II. He also notes that poverty rates in the U.S. have not declined since the mid 1960s when the “war on poverty” was launched by President Lyndon Johnson. While American-style free-enterprise was helping people in Asia and Eastern Europe, our domestic social-welfare system stymied similar efforts at home. (He does acknowledge that what we call poverty today is not as dire as what it was fifty years ago. Nevertheless, government statistics show no improvement in poverty numbers.)

In 2008, then candidate Obama ran on the slogan “change you can believe in.” He said he wanted to “roll back the Bush years” and “to fundamentally transform America.” He accelerated our march toward a welfare state. Our relations with allies worsened; our enemies view us as weaker. Dodd-Frank added over 2,000 pages to the federal register, as did the Affordable Care Act. Big banks have become even bigger and the number of small banks has decreased. For the first time in our history, more small businesses have closed than have opened While birth control is now required for Sisters of the Poor, healthcare has become spottier for seniors. We hail Caitlyn (aka Bruce) Jenner as a hero, but make it more difficult for innovators like Uber. Charter schools have expanded, but over the objections of teacher’s unions and politicians who would rather regulate than educate. Despite Barack Obama being America’s first African-American President, racism has intensified. Unemployment has declined, but the work-force participation remains at forty-year lows. While the economy has recovered, millions of people have been added to food stamp programs and disability rolls. Income and wealth gaps have widened. Has all this been good for our pursuit of happiness?

The Right needs to do a better job in getting out their message. Their emphasis on meaningful work, family, faith and community do help people in their pursuit of happiness, as Arthur Brooks describes so well in his book. Who is happier – the welfare recipient who depends on government for his basic needs, or the individual who has a job, with the possibilities it offers?

One reason conservatives find it hard to show compassion is that, in confronting reality, they emphasize the risks of too much debt, the coming bankruptcy of entitlement programs and the importance of moral character. All are important, but consequently they come across as martinets, not as compassionate persons. Conservatives promise opportunity – a good education and equality before the law – but not results. They know that outcomes are dependent on more than just opportunity – that aspiration, ability, a willingness to work hard, effort and discipline are integral to success. The Left shies away from demanding personal responsibility. They require equality of opportunity, but also in outcomes. Theirs is a process, which when taken to extremes, leads to the world Kurt Vonnegut portrayed in his short story, “Harrison Bergeron.”

Words do have meanings and it is important that conservatives explain simply and understandably the role free-market capitalism played in eradicating much of the globe’s poverty. They see individuals as assets that can help themselves, while bettering their communities. It is an optimistic vision, but also realistic. It is not the message that needs fixing; it is the messaging.




Monday, July 20, 2015

"Sanctuary Cities"

                     Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Sanctuary Cities”
July 20, 2015

Places of sanctuary date to Biblical times. When the twelve tribes of Israel were sent to the Promised Land, the Levites were the one tribe not given a specific area. Instead their people were distributed throughout the land, in forty-eight cities that would become part of their heritage. Six of those cities were designated as places of refuge – principally for those who had committed murder unintentionally. That concept of forgiveness and protection in the Jewish faith descended to Christianity, where sinners are told they can find refuge in Christ. Consequently, churches and synagogues have long provided sanctuary.

In the United States, sanctuary cities (formed in the 1980s) were to shelter illegal immigrants from federal immigration laws. Like so many ideas coming from the Left, this one, while well intentioned, has in practice served to protect criminals as well as hapless illegal immigrants who are otherwise innocent.

What caused the phrase “sanctuary cities” to be on the lips of millions of Americans this week was the shooting death three weeks ago in San Francisco of Kathryn Steinle. While walking on Pier 14 in the Embarcadero with her father, she was struck by a bullet in the back, dying two hours later. The weapon was allegedly fired by convicted felon, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. Ms. Steinle was a 32-year old resident of San Francisco when she was wantonly killed. Mr. Lopez-Sanchez is a Mexican national, living as an illegal alien in San Francisco. He had been deported five times for a variety of crimes. It has been reported, but not confirmed, that the gun used was stolen from a federal law-enforcement agent. San Francisco, as will come as no surprise, is a sanctuary city. Responsibility for his persistent resurfacing will be passed from the city to the state to the federals like a hot potato. History suggests no one will fess up.

This murder has further divided a partisan country. Bill O’Reilly spoke of proposing a “Kate’s Law,” which would set up mandatory penalties for deported felons who return illegally to the United States. On the other side, Raven-SymonĂ©, co-host of CNN’s The View, suggested Ms. Steinle’s death was “part of a vast conspiracy theory to increase [Donald] Trump’s popularity.” (Donald Trump, in my opinion, is a world-class jerk, which was seen in his insulting comments about John McCain.) Nevertheless, Ms. Raven-SymonĂ© and Mr. Trump seem cast from the same mold. Regardless, someone should remind the President that White women’s lives matter too.

The reason sanctuary cities in the U.S. came into being in the early 1980s reflected a complexity that was different from Biblical times. The offering of refuge to an immigrant today, whose only crime was crossing the border illegally, might be seen as humanitarian. But when the same offer is made to a convicted felon it becomes foolhardy and, as the Steinle family discovered, deadly dangerous. Communication technology today is such that there should be no excuse for intelligence to fall victim to a false sense of mercy. Mr. Lopez-Sanchez was a seven-time felon and five-time deportee. He was obviously not the sort of individual who would add to the quality that distinguishes America. He had his chance, and he blew it. Sanctuary city or not, the City of San Francisco, working with state and federal officials should never have allowed him back.

Los Angeles became the first city in the United States to designate itself a sanctuary city. They did so in 1979; so the concept in U.S. officialdom is relatively new, for an idea that dates back more than 2000 years. The policy was adopted to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees. Since that time, 276 U.S. cities have so designated themselves, including Baltimore, Cambridge, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, New Haven, New York, San Francisco and Washington. Through his Priority Enforcement Program, the President abetted the situation. That program allows local officials to disregard ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) notifications of deportable aliens in their custody. Protecting the privacy of citizens is important in a democratic society, but so is protecting the innocent from the criminally inclined. The authorities in San Francisco saw fit to protect the privacy of Mr. Lopez-Sanchez, but not the life of Ms. Steinle. That was, obviously, wrong.

The hoopla over sanctuary cities cannot be divorced from the debate regarding immigration. As Donald Trump discovered, immigration is an issue not only sensitive, but galvanizing. In my opinion, Mr. Trump is akin to a Nova; he will fall in the polls as fast as he has risen. Nevertheless, it is an issue that he has brought to the surface. The subject of immigration has confounded every President from Reagan to Obama and will not go away. Personally, I am a fan of relatively open borders, as I believe the infusion of new blood prevents our nation from stagnating. But I would also suggest we have too many of the illegal variety and not enough of the legal. Illegal felons and convicted felons are allowed to take refuge in some of our great cities. At the same time, foreign graduates of our colleges and universities are not so easily granted citizenship, even when required to submit to rigorous background checks. To coin a phrase, there’s something wrong with this picture.

Comprehensive immigration reform is needed. While borders should be tightened, we must also be more open to those who legally want to come to our shores and who have the qualifications to better our country. Doors through which legal immigrants can enter should be wider and the process more efficient. Sanctuary cities should be allowed, but local laws and protocols should be superseded by federal immigration laws.

In Exodus Chapter 21, verses 13-15 cover the subject: “…if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he might die.” “And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand, then I shall appoint a place whither he shall flee.” Thrashing one’s way through ‘thous,’ ‘shalts’ and ‘withers’ a reader can comprehend that a harsh God, a few thousand years ago, offered sanctuary.

Sanctuaries have not always lived up to their names, as Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket discovered when one of Henry II’s men killed him on his altar in 1170. Today, the victims are too often the innocent, while too often the perpetrators are those with past convictions. Harboring refugees is one thing, allowing criminals, including killers, to roam free is quite another. Common sense should dictate laws governing sanctuary cities.





Thursday, July 16, 2015

"The Pope v. Capitalism"

                       Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“The Pope v. Capitalism”
July 16, 2015

By all accounts, the Pope is a man who cares deeply for the world’s poor. But he is less sound when it comes to matters of history and economics.

Like any vocation, capitalism is a pyramid, with a few successful people at the top. It is like an  army or a ship, where there is one commander. It is similar to sports and entertainment. Just as there is only one CEO at a company, there is only one Kobe Bryant and one Taylor Swift. There is only one Pope. By definition, success reflects inequality – in aspiration, talent, effort and luck. Equality of opportunity is a worthy goal. Equality in outcomes is not possible. It cannot be otherwise. Those on the left who scream loudest about inequality are themselves often at the pinnacle of a career – a success they would not have had in a flat society.

“Inequality” is a political “hot-button” word. It plays well in societies addicted to sound-bites and with people who lack perspective. What exactly do the words “inequality” and “redistribution,” and the phrase “fairness economy” really mean? Humpty Dumpty provided an answer when he said to Alice, “When I use a word it means exactly what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” Humpty Dumpty was referring to “glory,” but one may substitute any number of words whose definitions, in their ambiguity, are convenient for hedging politicians and moral relativists.

We must remember democratic capitalism has, over time, done more to reduce poverty than any other economic system, form of government, religion or church, including the Catholic Church. Two years ago, “The Economist” estimated that one billion people had been removed from the ranks of extreme poverty over the previous twenty years because of trade and free-market capitalism. (Extreme poverty, as measured by the World Bank, refers to those living on less than $1.25 per day.) In 2011, researchers at the Brookings Institute concluded that “…the world – even Sub-Saharan Africa – is in the midst of rapid poverty reduction.” They credited economic growth brought on by globalization. The collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in better standards of living for millions of East Europeans. China’s incorporation of capitalist ideas into Communism has, according to researchers at Yale, recorded “great feats in poverty reduction.”

The pursuit of profit is critical to a world that demands economic growth – a necessity to accommodate the natural growth in population and to allow for the eradication of poverty. Without profits, what incentives do people have to invest time, labor and capital? Without profits, businesses cannot expand and hire. Without profits, economies would grind to a halt, people would starve and disease would run rampant.

Why, then, did the Pope refer to profits as “the dung of the devil?” His remark was that of a man combating 19th Century robber barons or tilting at colonialism. The Western world depicted by Charles Dickens and Edith Wharton was one that did take advantage of labor. Their novels starkly showed societies’ inequalities. But today that world exists mainly in novels and history books. European colonialism did take advantage of third world nations, but it, too, died in the wake of World War II.

It is government, not capitalism that abets inequality. Complexity in the tax code works to the advantage of big corporations and the wealthy. Regulation is supposed to aid the consumer, when in fact it too often is used to bar competition. Challengers to the status quo like Uber run afoul of the Left. So-called liberals claim their interest is to represent (in the case of Uber) “contract workers,” when in truth they support unions and wealthy owners of cab companies. European exploiters of labor and natural resources have been replaced by governments run by totalitarian regimes, like we see in places like Cuba and Venezuela, and countries recently visited by the Pope – Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay.

Free market capitalism is not the issue. It is rules in developed economies that serve the wealthy and regulations designed to protect existing businesses. And it is regimes that ignore the rule of law and that do not honor property rights. Profits are not evil; they are necessary for the elimination of poverty, but they only work in societies where citizens have the rights of a free people. To blindly demean capitalism is to destroy the goose that laid the golden egg.

Where capitalism has failed is in extolling its virtues. Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, has done more than anyone to lay out the case for moral capitalism. In a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal, he spoke of the paradox between socialism and capitalism: the former has higher ideals, but fails in practice, while capitalism succeeds in practice, even though it is based on greed. But it succeeds, he noted, not because it is based on greed, “but because the freedom to trade and do business with others is in harmony with our God-given nature.” Mr. Brooks concluded: “In the capitalist view, poor people aren’t liabilities to be managed by government; they are human beings with untapped potential.”

Every system needs critics, including free-market capitalism. It is why capitalism works best within a framework of democracy. In this instance, the freedom to criticize provides Left-wing populists like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren the opportunity to disagree. A pluralistic society, voting in self-interest, tends to rein in excess. But none of that should detract from the overwhelming evidence that free market capitalism has done more to eliminate poverty than anything else, including, as I wrote, the Church.

If the Pope truly wanted to focus on raising the well-being of the four or five hundred million of the earth’s population who still live on less than $1.25 per day, he should focus on those governments who deprive their citizens of their basic rights, including the right to succeed. He should call out those governments that do not abide by the rule of law and that do not protect private property. He should expound the moral case for democratic, free-market capitalism.



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Osprey"


                                                                                                                                 Sydney M. Williams
Note from Old Lyme

“Osprey”

“Within the slightest moment’s breath,
Two mighty wings released,
Two claws full-stretched, two legs reach out
The sinews, strained, unleashed.”
                                                                                                                The Osprey, 2008
Steve Hagget


Nature is filled with wonder: The changing of the seasons; the life-cycles of plants and animals; the symbiotic way in which all life co-exists. I am in awe when considering that from single-celled, microscopic bits have emerged millions of different forms of life. The Osprey, with its fierce yellow eyes, graceful flight and sharp talons, is one of nature’s most beautiful creations.

They are not uncommon, though the pesticide DDT and the then Coast Guard policy of removing Osprey nests from channel markers came close to killing them off in the 1950s-1960s. The banning of DDT in 1972 and a change in Coast Guard policies permitted their survival. The recent return of Menhaden have allowed them to thrive, at least in our part of Connecticut – the tidal marshes that compose the estuary where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound. From my dock I count 22 nests, most are located on Great Island, a marsh island that separates the Back River from the Connecticut. A nest was recently erected on the marsh in front of our house; another is in a large tree three hundred yards to the north.

The Osprey, like Hawks and Eagles are Raptors – birds of prey. The word raptor derives from the Latin word, rapere, meaning to seize or take by force. In ornithology, birds of prey have four characteristics: excellent vision; strong, curved talons for catching and killing fish; strong legs for holding what they have caught as they return to the nest; and a strong, curved beak for tearing flesh. The Osprey is unique among raptors in that its two outer toes are reversible. It is sometimes known as a “Sea Hawk,” as it is the only raptor that dines exclusively on fish.

Ospreys can reach two feet in length, with a six-foot wing span and weigh three to four pounds. They soar high above the water. When a fish is spotted they dive at high speed, hitting the water feet first, often fully submerging to bring up their catch. Their barbed pads allow them to hold their victim, which they then carry back aerodynamically, the head leading. The female is heavier than the male, with stockier legs. She guards the nest; her mass providing coverage for unhatched eggs and newly-hatched young. The smaller male is better suited to be the hunter, diving for a fish, eluding Sea Gulls and carrying his catch back to the nest.

Nests are built high to avoid predators like raccoons. In our area, they are usually built on man-made platforms. The bed typically consists of sticks, sod and grasses. Ospreys tend to mate for life and have one brood a year. Eggs, of which there are generally two to four, are hatched in sequence, usually three to five days apart. In times of food shortages, the weakest will be sacrificed for the strongest, usually the first born. Chicks fledge in eight weeks – around the beginning of August, but it takes about three years to reach maturity. Life expectancy is anywhere from ten to twenty years.

Migratory habits are, as they are with all birds, fascinating. Alan Poole, author of the 1989 book, Ospreys, wrote of their migration from Martha’s Vineyard. He strapped a 0.75 ounce, solar-powered satellite transmitter to the back of a few. Cuba and Hispaniola (the island containing Haiti and Dominican Republic) were the preferred destination of most, though some stopped in the Florida Everglades and others flew on as far as South America. One female flew the 2700 miles from the Vineyard to the rain-forest rivers in French Guiana in 13 days. The trip included layovers in Maryland, North Carolina and the Bahamas.

The name Osprey first appeared around 1460, according to researchers at Cornell, presumably derived from the Medieval Latin phrase for birds of prey – avis prede. The scientific name for the bird is Pandion haliaetus, and is of the order Accipitriformes, which includes most of the diurnal birds of prey. Pandion comes from the mythical Greek king of Athens. While man can be traced back about 1.8 million years, Accipitriformes date back 44 million years.

With a rap sheet like that, one would expect grace, majesty and beauty. And one would not be disappointed. There is nobility in the way they patiently wait, either perched on a pole, or in the way they soar effortlessly through the skies. Observers note that on average it takes about twelve minutes for an Osprey to catch a fish – a shorter time than it takes most fishermen.

Paul Spitzer, a conservation biologist who grew up in Old Lyme, was a neighbor and friend of Roger Tory Peterson who made his home here for almost fifty years. After graduating from Wesleyan, he received his PhD from Cornell the year of the first Earth Day in 1970. Conservation became both his avocation and vocation. For forty-five years he has observed and studied Ospreys. While he spends most of the year on the Eastern Shore, he often returns to Old Lyme in summers.

It is Paul Spitzer to whom I owe thanks for the nest erected in the marsh in front of our house – a nest that was occupied within less than a day of its being erected. As he once said, “…I think of us on a voyage of understanding.” On the first of June he wrote us of the nests he had been watching, and of the Osprey and their love affair with the Connecticut River estuary: “I find spiritual freedom out here in the tideland. I have entered a separate world: Sky so blue and crisscrossed with Osprey. A succession of males arrive with freshly caught Menhaden hanging below in their talons: Held parallel to the Osprey’s flight, thus streamlined. The lowering evening sun illuminates yellow forked Menhaden tails, and blood streaming bright from talon wounds. Arriving males hover, scream and display – which reports the direction and species of fresh prey to others.” His words evoke the beauty and the purpose of this estuary.

It is that completeness – the interdependency of nature, with its necessary cruelties, the success of evolution, man’s role in correcting past faults, so now playing a positive role – that can be observed by those of us lucky to be living in this place. Dr. Spitzer told me that man-made nests were put up not only so that we could be witness to this wonder of nature, but also so that the Osprey will know man as a non-threatening co-inhabitant.



Monday, July 13, 2015

"Politics and Money"

                      Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Politics and Money”
July 13, 2015

Politics and money go together, as the old song says, like “love and marriage.” “You can’t have one without the other.” Cronyism, corruption and extravagance are consequences.

The cost of a Presidential campaign has risen ten fold over the past sixteen years. In 2000, George Bush spent about $180 million. It has been estimated by CNN that Hillary Clinton will spend $1.7 billion on her 2016 campaign. That suggests the cost of running a Presidential campaign has compounded annually at 15%, while the annual inflation rate has risen by 2.1 percent. Another way of looking at the same picture is that the Bush campaign spent roughly $3.50 for every vote received in 2000; Mr. Obama spent about $20.00 for every vote he received in 2012; and Mrs. Clinton, should she win in 2016, will have spent $30.00 for every vote. The value received (unless one is in the media business) does not warrant the moneys expended.

What prompted these thoughts was a piece by Gary Hart in “Time.” The article was entitled “America’s Founding Principles are in Danger of Corruption,” a dubious title for a system that already is corrupted. The report itself was disappointing, as it was mainly a seductive way to segue into a diatribe against Citizen’s United.

I agree with Mr. Hart’s iteration of the four qualities that distinguish republican governments: sovereignty of the people; a sense of the common good; government dedicated to the commonwealth, and resistance to corruption. I would add the sanctity of the rule of law, property rights of individuals, majority rule, the protection of the rights of minorities and the rights embedded in the Bill of Rights are critical to a civil, democratic and successful society.

Also vital to our form of government (and what is missing in today’s polarized world) is a free and independent press. Such a press should act as a government watchdog. It is why it was once called the “Fourth Estate.” Not so today. It once served truth, not favorites. Eighty to ninety percent of the media leans left. But no matter their politics, they have become advocates.  The press should report news in an unbiased way and expose corruption, regardless of where it is found.

It is corruption that concerns Mr. Hart, and I share that concern. Corruption and cronyism throughout our political system threaten to undue what our founders worked so hard to create. But Citizen’s United is not the root cause of this evil. Political corruption goes back almost to the start of our republic. From the very beginning money and gifts were used to purchase influence. Even Boss Tweed and Huey Long existed long before anyone dreamed up the concept of a PAC.

Attempts to influence decision makers are natural. Politicians wield influence and access is valued. It is unrealistic to expect politicians to either arrive in office pure or remain so for long. No matter what good intentions an aspiring Congress man or woman might have, the siren songs of lobbyists are impossible to ignore. Money will go wherever it can be effective. Every Bill that passes through Congress has an affect on someone, some industry, or some union. Lobbying is natural and has been around as long as our republic. It is not going away, and it should not. Legislators do not (and cannot) operate in a vacuum.

Every well-intended law that has been passed to limit campaign contributions has been undermined by clever lawyers who find exemptions and exceptions. In fact, most have worsened the situation. McCain-Feingold may have been benignant in terms of intent, but the consequence has been more money in politics than ever. Direct contributions to a candidate and PACs limit the dollar amount that any individual or entity can make. On the other hand, Leadership PACs (set up by elected officials and Parties) and Super PACs (as long as the spending is “independent” of the campaign) have no limits.  Those groups are required to disclose the names of all contributors above $200.00. In contrast, 501(c)(4)s do not limit donations and worse have no disclosure rules.

There are four simple steps that could be taken. First, no contribution to any political campaign should be tax advantaged. There should be no reason why a person who chooses not to contribute to a campaign should subsidize those that do. Tax write offs for 501(c)(4) and 527 organizations (which include PACs, Super PACs and political parties) should be disallowed. For example, neither the Sierra Club nor the NRA should be allowed to contribute tax exempt dollars to a political campaign. If they chose to contribute, it would have to come from donations that were not tax deductible. Second, the names of all contributors should be disclosed. If a contribution is made in the name of an entity, information on that entity should be disclosed, including its principals. Voters should know who is buying influence and with whom. Third, there should be no limits on contributions. Attempts to do so in the past have failed miserably. And, fourth, there should be no public financing of political campaigns. “Public financing” is an innocuous sounding term, but it means that we, as taxpayers, are paying for the campaigns of people with whom we disagree. 

There is one point on which everyone agrees, and that is there is too much money in political campaigns. But everyone seems to have different ideas as to how to correct the problem. In general, the Left feels that regulation should limit spending, while the Right feels any such limits would violate one’s right to speak.

It is not Citizen’s United that is the problem, nor is it Wall Street, rich individuals or public sector unions. The elemental problems are the tax exempt status of so much of the money and the secrecy that enshrouds so many of its sources.

The elimination of the tax advantage given to donors and forcing disclosure of all campaign gifts I suspect will do more to limit money spent than any set of regulations. But even if it does not, it would be more honest, open and fairer. Lawyers would be unhappy, for there would be fewer rules for them to bend in a way favorable to their clients, but the rest of us should be happier. There is no good answer. Money and politics cannot be separated. What we need is the least bad answer to a problem that will never go away.






Thursday, July 9, 2015

"A Greek Tragedy"


                 Sydney M. Williams
Thought of the Day
“A Greek Tragedy”
July 9, 2015

In the end, it would have made no difference which way Greece voted. The country is bankrupt, not only financially, but morally and politically. They are proof that you cannot go on spending more money than you take in. Greece is a manifestation that redistribution policies, whether from Socialism or an overly generous welfare state, do not work. No matter the form of government, its costs fall on the backs of the people. In a democracy, the people can vote for change, but when the majority receives more than they give, the end game heaves into sight.

The problem for the West with Greece is less the economic consequences, or even the ideological ones, than the geo-political changes that could evolve. Of particular concerns are the possibility of a return to authoritarianism – either from the right or the left – and, second, the relationship of Greece to Russia. Keep in mind; crises are not wasted by opportunists, and Putin is an opportunist.

Greece’s economy is less than 2% of Europe’s, so the effect on other nations will be limited. In severing ties with the Euro, though, many Greeks will suffer. The economy will persist in deep recession. But already 27% of the working population is unemployed. And 75% of those out of work have been so for more than a year. A new currency (the old Drachma?) will be subject to market forces that will determine its value. Nevertheless, a Greek exit from the Euro should happen, both from the perspective of the integrity of the Euro, but also because depreciated Greek assets will, in time, become attractive to outside investors.

Current investors in Greek bonds will suffer, but that is a risk all bond buyers assume. Caveat emptor is not limited to real estate. Bond markets work most efficiently when the threat of bankruptcy is real. German investors bought Greek debt seemingly ignorant of the risks involved. Consequently, Greece was able to borrow money at what proved to be below “real” market rates. Had they had to pay fair market rates, they might have been more circumspect. As for devaluation, Greek assets and vacations will become increasingly attractive to non-Greeks. The Greek people will suffer, but that is already happening. The important thing is to set the country on a course for future economic growth.

A risk is that from the rubble a “strong man” emerges. Restoring a culture of work and responsibility may be impossible until the final nail is driven into the coffin of Socialism. While those of us in capitalist countries can see opportunity when policy decisions emasculate an economy, it will be more difficult for those born and bred into a culture of paternalism. Greece was governed by a military junta in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. A return to such a government is an unfortunate possibility. Also possible is that the left-leaning Alexis Tsipras will exercise firmer control over the government and economy.

Russia will watch developments with interest. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the simultaneous break-up of Yugoslavia, The former Soviet Union has no close allies with access to either the Adriatic or the Mediterranean. They will be quick to seek ties with any government that may emerge. So, while exit from the Euro is all but inevitable, Europe should maintain close political ties to whatever government emerges. Greece, it should be remembered, has a long history with the East, since the days when it was governed from Constantinople. It would be a mistake to let Greece fall out of the European Union and NATO.

It was the accumulation of debt and unfunded liabilities that brought Greece to its knees. Its debt alone now equals two times its production capability – its GDP. While Greece is on the leading edge of this tide, Spain, Portugal and Italy are not far behind. Detroit, Puerto Rico and Illinois remind us that debt contagion is not limited to Europe. Central bankers created a “catch-22” situation. In keeping interest rates too low for too long, they encouraged debt accumulation on the part of governments and speculators, to a point where they now cannot afford to raise rates.

Western Europe promoted social welfare governments in the post-War years. Rebuilding an infrastructure that had been destroyed (with the help of the U.S.) allowed for sustained economic prosperity in the early years. Some nations built successful welfare states, but most adhered to a hedonistic philosophy of living for the day, with little concern for the future. Some were more successful in finding the proper balance, but most placed emphasis on pleasure rather than on effort. And, of course, ancient Athens was the home to Epicureanism. As money began to run out, the instinct of governments with controlling interests in the economy was to implement “austerity.” By austerity they mean continued high taxes and starved government programs – a policy that cannot work in the real world. What they needed to have done was cut taxes, reduce regulation and let free markets work, but, of course, that would mean giving up control – an anathema to bureaucrats.

The human instinct, however, is to survive and a devalued currency will create values – not without pain. But attractive prices, in an environment where the rule of law prevails and investors can be assured their property will not be nationalized, will attract investors. Tourism and vacation homes are among Greece’s special attractions. The mainland and its islands should become more of a destination than they now are. A Greek exit from the Euro should happen, in my opinion, but not so from the European Union. The problem will be that the country – like a company that has assets, but has been mismanaged – will be “in play.” Any vacuum created by an absentee Europe or the U.S. will be filled by Russia, who will be – if not already doing so – whispering sweet words of comfort into the ears of a receptive Greece. In the end, democratic capitalism is the best answer, but it is my guess that won’t happen anytime soon. Greece has become a Greek tragedy – in this case, a self-immolation.







Monday, July 6, 2015

"The Month That Was - June 2015"

                        Sydney M. Williams
                                                                                                                                    July 1, 2015
                                                                                                             
The Month That Was
June 2015

“Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.”
                                                                                                                                Al Bernstein
                                                                                                                                American sportscaster

June is the month – at least in the Northern Hemisphere – of the summer solstice, the day when the sun reaches its highest point. Subsequently, the sun retreats south. Days shorten, until six months later we experience the longest night of the year, the winter solstice. The calendar is a reminder of the ever-changing world in which we live.

For Greece, of course, the sky turned darker as the month wore on, culminating in a decision to close banks for a week. For years, it has seemed that, ultimately, the only answer is for Greece to abandon the Euro and then enter detoxification. (As of early this morning, it appears that Greece has, with conditions, accepted the terms of its creditors.) Nevertheless, Greece is addicted to spending what they do not have. Much of the rest of Europe is in a similar boat, but farther upstream. So is the United States, and we are gaining. The problem is cultural: too much dependency on the state. Its manifestations are more debt and little or no economic growth. The example that should be followed is the one set by Canada in the early 1990s. Finance Minister Paul Martin laid out three principles: 1) Focus on spending cuts, not tax increases; 2) Focus on realizable short term goals; 3) Assume the low end of all economic forecasts. Like an alcoholic who needs his next drink, the Greeks (like many of us) are dependent on a welfare state – one that has run out of money.

Red lines are drawn in shifting sand. In the case of Greece, it appears that any decision will be deferred until after Sunday’s referendum, but default and exit from the Euro seem likely. The ephemeral nature of red lines can also be seen in the Iran-nuclear agreement that has been put off until next week. While the peripatetic John Kerry scrambles hither and yon in search of the illusive grail that is a nuclear deal, the Mullahs keep their centrifuges spinning. Iran has also been successful at incorporating Iraq into their orbit. ISIS was busy during the month. Three attacks on a single day marked the first anniversary of their announced caliphate (June 29, 2014). Sixty-seven people died in those attacks. In France, the man killed at an American owned chemical company had his severed head impaled on a post outside the factory gates. In a bit of good news, Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan’s party lost its majority in Parliament. During the month, the Kurds, who were principally responsible for Mr. Erdogan’s defeat, also proved to be the best fighters against ISIS. They took back two Syrian towns, Tai Abyad on June 16 and Ain Issa on June 23. While the U.S. has stepped up support for the Kurds, it is doing too little.

In early June, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) acknowledged that Chinese hackers got into the personal files of “at least” four million current and former federal employees. That number was later revised to eighteen million. In Congressional testimony, it was disclosed that the number could reach thirty-two million. Back in November, according to an article in the New York Times, the inspector general at the OPM described the agency’s computer security system as “a Chinese hackers dream.” It was. (More on this in a later Thought of the Day.)

The Supreme Court was busy announcing decisions they had made in the session just ended. In a 6-3 decision, the Affordable Care Act will continue. While I believe ObamaCare is a white elephant that will result in less medical care at higher costs, change to the law should come through the legislative process, not the courts. In the matter of gay marriage, the decision was 5-4 in allowing gay marriage throughout the United States. If there has been, as Edward Luce of the Financial Times put it, “a vertiginous shift in U.S. society” toward gay marriage why not let such laws be decided in legislatures, as the Constitution demands, rather than accepting the judgment of nine people? It is ironic that many on the Left feel that traditional marriage – that is a union between a man and a woman – is too confining, but that marriage between two people of the same sex is necessary! Marriage, it seems to me, is almost always a good thing, no matter the participants, but especially when children are involved – both natural and adopted. In both instances, the Court, it seems to this non-lawyer, assumed the mantle of legislator, rather than adjudicator. On the penultimate day of the month, the Court voted 5-4 against the EPA, in a decision we should celebrate, at least those of us who care about the cost of energy.

The President did get two bills passed, both with the help of Republicans: the re-authorization of the Patriot Act and fast-track authority that should allow passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Speaking of Republicans, there are now fourteen announced candidates, and two likely, but unannounced – Scott Walker and John Kasich. Of the sixteen, eight are current or former governors; five are current or former Senators; there is one doctor, one business woman and one clown. Indicative of the reach of the Republican brand, the candidates include two Hispanic-Americans, one woman, one African-American and one Indian-American. As a group, they are much younger than their Democrat counterparts. This is not your father’s Republican Party. Democrats seem intent on nominating Hillary Clinton, despite her dubious character and propensity to lie. Nevertheless, and perhaps just for kicks, three other Democrats have announced: Bernie Sanders, Lincoln Chaffee and Michael O’Malley. Should Joe Biden toss his hat into the ring, he and Bernie Sanders will be among the oldest men ever to run for President.

Nine African-Americans were killed in a horrific shooting in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. They were slain by a deranged, 21-year-old White racist. The most remarkable aftermath were the unrehearsed words of forgiveness from the family members of those slain, in an electrifying display of Christian charity. While the President gave a moving eulogy for the pastor, Clementa Pinckney, he should have let someone with a better voice lead the congregation in singing “Amazing Grace.”

The media had a field day (or rather ‘three weeks’) with the escape of two murderers from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. Thirteen hundred officers, many with dogs, in hundreds of cars, jeeps, ATVs and even helicopters pursued them through the Adirondack woods. The cost of stopping them was the price of a few bullets. But tracking them cost millions of dollars. Listening to myriad excuses every evening on the news was almost comedic. I am glad that one is dead and the other has been caught. But the real question: Why were they allowed to live the lives they did in what is supposed to be a high-security prison?

The problems with Greece reverberated across financial markets, with stocks falling as the month ended. It is not so much the importance of Greece to economic growth. Their economy represents about 1.3% of the Eurozone’s economy. It is the unknowns associated with default and what exiting the Euro would mean. The yield on the U.S. Ten-year had been rising during the month, but fears brought buyers in as the month ended and the yield fell 140 basis points between the Friday the 26th and Monday the 29th. Gold, refusing to play its role as a “safe haven,” was up six dollars on Monday, but still below where it had been a week earlier. The Shanghai Index had a tough couple of weeks. The index is up 25% year-to-date, but has declined 20% since mid June.

Union defenders of the status quo are doing their best to disrupt disruptive technologies. Organized labor got their allies in the New York City Council to pass legislation that would force non-unionized car wash owners to obtain $150,000 indemnity bonds in order to operate. If the legislation sticks, it would effectively shut them down. The California Labor Commission ruled that an Uber driver is an employee, not an independent contractor. If that ruling sticks, it would be a fatal blow to companies like Uber and Lyft, as well as a defeat for consumers. Creative destruction may have some unpleasant consequences, but competition benefits consumers, and it is the way technologies advance and economies grow.

A year ago California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. At the Belmont, in June, he lost. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978. There had been a dry spell before – between Citation in 1948 and Secretariat in 1973 – but that was only twenty-five years. American Pharaoh was not the fastest Triple Crown winner, but he won the Belmont going away. The Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in the past six years, and the Golden State Warriors defeated LeBron James and the Cavaliers for the NBA championship. Serena Williams and Stan Wawrinka were winners at the French Open. Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Open. He has now won two of the four major golf tournaments to be played this year. He won the Masters in April and will try for a “grand slam” at the British Open and the PGA Championship. The last player to have won all championships in one year was Bobby Jones in 1930.

Like most months, June had its quirky moments. Indicative as to how far we have traveled as a society, Rachel Dolezal, the head of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington, was outed by her parents for being White. In a front page article, the scornful New York Times made much of the fact that anti-government, white racists have killed more Americans than Islamic terrorists – 48 versus 26 – in the fourteen years since 9/11. The article was conveniently posted after the Charleston shootings. No mention was made of the number of terrorist plots that have been stopped. But most egregious was their not putting those deaths into perspective. In the same fourteen years, approximately 180,000 people were murdered in the U.S., of which about 50,000 were Black-on-Black killings. Our focus should be on families and schools. Cultural dislocations breed despair, distrust, envy and hatred. Despite college men being guilty until proven innocent in campus rapes, women applauded the possible FDA approval for a female “Viagra.” In Japan, a judge ruled that having an affair with someone who is married cannot be considered adultery if it involves the exchange of money.

June is a month of anniversaries. Two of our children celebrated their wedding anniversaries this month. Eight hundred years ago, the Magna Carta was signed. Two hundred years ago Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. One hundred and fifty years ago, “Alice in Wonderland” was published. Seventy-one years ago allied forces landed in France. Seventy years ago, the United States Marines, after a two-month battle, captured the island of Okinawa. On June 3, 1965, Edward Higgins White became the first American to walk in space.


We move on to July!