Monday, November 23, 2015

"Jihadists and Newton's Third Law of Motion"

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day

“Jihadists and Newton’s Third Law of Motion”

November 23, 2015

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Islamic extremism, as it kills “infidels” and destroys Western culture, needs to be countered by a concerted and concentrated effort to remove what is a scourge on the civilized world. Despite Mr. Obama’s protestations, destroying ISIS will mean troops on the ground. Unfortunately, we cannot rid this evil from 30,000 feet, with a Drone operated by a soldier in Nevada. But first it necessitates the West abandon the notion that the terrorism we have experienced over the past two and more decades is somehow divorced from its Islamic roots. The terrorists are not Christians; they are not Jews. They are radicalized Muslims. Most Muslims are peaceful, but those that have embarked on terror use Islamism as justification. Peaceful Muslims must rise up against those who have perverted their religion.

Nor are politics immune from Newton’s Law. Mr. Obama’s unbending ideology refuses to acknowledge the risks we face. This is a man genetically opposed to compromise. He is adamant, prideful and, consequently, invidious. His “political correctness” – in this case, a fear of offending Muslims – has meant not calling the enemy by name. We should not abandon the principle of accepting refugees, but we should vet them, especially against the use of Trojan horses to sneak Jihadists into the country. A pendulum that swings to the left will arc back an equal distance to the right – and the further it swings in one direction the greater will be the distance of its return.

In the seventh year of the Presidency, Mr. Obama must take responsibility for his actions.  Keep in mind, it was from the bowels of a radicalized Islam that came the terrorists that ignited 9/11, that enslaved and murdered young girls in Nigeria, that incite knife-wielding Palestinian youth, that wreaked havoc in Lebanon, that blew up a Russian passenger jet, that killed 130 people in Paris, and who took and slew dozens of hostages in Mali. In makes little difference to the victims whether their killers were ISIS, al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, Hezbollah, Haqqani, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds, or any of a dozen or more Islamic terrorist organizations.  In 2014, Islamic terrorists killed 17,958 Muslims, Jews and Christians, a 61% increase over the year before. Yet, Mr. Obama has never acknowledged the role Islam has played. Additionally, he removed our troops prematurely from Iraq and has threatened to do the same in Afghanistan. He overthrew Omar Gadhafi in Libya, a despotic leader, but one who had renounced his weapons of mass destruction; and he never planned for the hellish aftermath he had created. In Syria, he rejected a redline he had drawn. With Iran, he ignored the Senate and unilaterally negotiated a nuclear agreement with a country committed to the annihilation of Israel and the destruction of the West. The day after the Paris massacres, Mr. Obama released another five Islamic terrorists from Guantanamo and he spoke of “universal values.” He said Paris was a “setback” to a strategy that was “working!” Earlier, he declared al Qaeda decimated and called ISIS “jayvee.” Ten days ago he said ISIS had been “contained.” Is it any surprise that his political opponents have responded in an equal and opposite way?

In fairness, Mr. Obama has not been alone in this naïve desire to apply the golden rule. Many on the left have reacted the same way. What was John Kerry thinking when he suggested that the motives of those who carried out the attacks in Paris were similar to those who killed the twelve people at Charlie Hebdo’s offices in January – that there was some rationale for what they had done? Why is Edward Snowden seen as a hero, when his disclosures have helped what Boris Johnson has said are “some of the nastiest people on the planet?” Philistines do not respond to Moses teaching: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Such sentiments carry no weight with radical Islamists whose system of justice is an “eye for an eye.”

Mr. Obama is right when he says that we should not abrogate our values, but he is wrong when he fails to communicate that those values, when threatened, need defending. And he fails to heed Freud’s assertion that there is but a thin veneer between the civilized and primitive within us. Could we have defeated Hitler or Tojo, without compromising our values? Would turning the other cheek have worked against Chinese Communists in Korea? Did the Golden Rule mean anything to Mao or Stalin? Do you believe that Jihadist savages who shout Allahu Akbar as they murder innocents care about Queensbury rules of warfare?

No civilized people want war. While some of the most poignant poetry ever written has been about war, there is nothing beautiful about it. The land is destroyed and its fields and streams are filled with torn and twisted bodies. Wounded soldiers cry out in agony. Parents lose the child they had raised. The young grow up fatherless. Loved ones are left alone. But neither can we hide from war when it is thrust upon us. The West cannot be the Eloi to radical Islam’s Morlocks. If we give in, we will disappear – we will die just as surely as a November wind sweeps away autumn leaves – and so will the spirit of America. Our cemeteries are filled with men and women who sacrificed their lives that the idea of America would live on. When threatened, American values need defending. Multiculturalism is only worthwhile when it advances civilization. When its consequence is to drag it backwards toward darkness and fear, it should be shunned.

Mr. Obama came to the Presidency with great expectations. He was a youthful, black American. He had spent some of his formative years in Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population. By dint of intelligence, aspiration and diligence he received degrees from two of America’s most prestigious universities. More than any previous President, he was a man of the world. He wished to be seen as a friend to Muslims, as demonstrated in his Cairo speech in June 2009. Based on faith and hope, the Norwegian Nobel Committee selected him for their 2009 Peace Prize. Yet he was also a disciple of radicalized individuals, like Frank Marshall Davis and Charles Ogletree, who questioned America’s values and its cultural traditions. We cannot forget that for twenty years he attended Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, presided over by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright who once proclaimed “God, damn America!” Like all of us, Mr. Obama was molded by his environment, as well as his genes.

The Jihadists will ultimately be defeated. But the longer it takes to firm our resolve, the less principled will be our response, as Newton’s Third Law of Motion tells us. That Law could mean Marine Le Pen becomes President of France, or Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister of Great Britain. Or it might mean Donald Trump will be our next President. The world needs a leader, an optimist and visionary, one that understands the enemy we face and has the moral courage to confront him. It needs a leader unabashed of our Western democratic, capitalist culture – a culture, while not perfect, but one that has lifted millions out of poverty and given freedom to millions more. That culture is now at risk. At this point, the enemy is from without. But the longer we hesitate and act capriciously, the greater the risk that the enemy will be from within.


Monday, November 16, 2015

"Fibbing & Lying - Carson & Hillary"

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day

“Fibbing & Lying – Carson & Hillary”

November 16, 2015

Ben Carson is the Left’s nightmare. He is smart, articulate, accomplished, humble and respectful. Growing up in a broken home and in deep poverty in inner-city Detroit, he broke the constraints of race and environment to become a world-renowned surgeon. He is religious. Politically, he is conservative. But the reason the Left detests him is because he is African-American. In their condescension toward Dr. Carson, the Left shows their racist side. The man does not adhere to the narrative the Left sells – that an African-American can only be successful with the aid and sponsorship of the state.

As Carson’s poll numbers have grown, so have the attempts to belittle his character.  Supercilious soundbites by TV commentators on CNN and CNBC, and off-the-cuff statements from his competitors, especially the voluble Donald Trump who uses pugnacity when knowledge is called for, have attempted to marginalize this exceptional man. The media has denigrated his character and questioned his judgment. A patronizing Richard Cohen compared his candidacy to that of Pat Paulsen, the comedian who ran for President in 1968. On Sunday, November 7th The New York Times ran an article by Michael Barbaro titled “Candidates Stick to Script, if Not the Truth.”  The article devoted five times as much space to Republicans as to Democrats. And, of the space devoted to Democrats, only 15% was devoted to Hillary Clinton, with most of the rest spent on her errant husband. Presumably this is why Mr. Cohen found the article “useful.” It did no damage to his team.

What prompted this essay has been the shrill silliness of the charges lodged against Ben Carson, and the display of schadenfreude that accompany the Left’s accusations. For those who watch, listen to and read only the liberal media, Dr. Carson is a man who is a tad slow about history, was angry as a youth and has lied about his past. It is claimed he believed the pyramids were built to store grain, that he tried to knife another youngster and that he had been offered a “scholarship” to West Point, an academy free to those chosen to attend. What is not noted is that when he commented about the pyramids a smile crossed his face. Was he angry as a pre or early teen? That doesn’t seem improbable given the circumstances of his youth. And it is ignored that when a senior at Detroit’s Southwestern High School, Ben Carson was the cadet colonel of the school’s junior ROTC program and a straight A student. It is also known that he never applied to West Point, but had he there is every reason to believe that a young black man who received a full scholarship to Yale would likely have been accepted at the USMA.

All politicians lie, as do we all. Sir Malcolm Bruce, former deputy leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, once said: “If every MP who lied had to leave politics the Commons would now be empty.” What is true in England is so in the U.S. It is said that politicians lie because the public doesn’t want to hear the truth. Certainly, there is some validity to that allegation. But, there are fibs and there are lies. We have all lied at one time or another. Most of the time it is to avoid the unpleasantness that truth can reveal, not to inflict pain, manipulate or defraud. I can understand Bill Clinton lying about his sexual adventures in the White House. ‘White’ lies may be wrong, but they do little harm. They are trivial. However, not to be outdone by Ben Carson’s story of West Point, on Veteran’s Day Hillary Clinton repeated her story about being rejected by the Marine Corps in 1975. Does that seem likely? Hillary was infamous as an anti-War demonstrator and she was married in October of that year. The Washington Post gave the story two Pinocchio’s! Hillary’s fib about being under sniper fire when she landed at Tuzla in Bosnia in 1996 was obviously told to make her appear more dashing in the 2008 primaries. By itself, the comment was silly and was easily shown as a fabrication. But, in apologizing for her misstatement she showed her distain and her arrogance: “So, I made a mistake. It shows I am human.”

We can understand why all politicians feel it necessary to embellish their biographies, and most stories fall under the category of fibs, not lies. In contrast, outright lies are meant to deceive. Mrs. Clinton has told many tall tales, many harmless, but taken together they show a flawed character: Chelsea was not jogging around the World Trade Center on 9/11, as Hillary once told first responders. She was born six years before Sir Edmund Hillary became the first person to climb Everest; so she would not have been named for him, as she once said. She and Bill were not “dead broke” when they left the White House after trashing it in January 2001. While all of these fabrications speak to the individual, none would qualify as calumny. But her lies about Benghazi and her e-mails are another matter.

She deliberately lied, in a televised speech at Andrews Airbase, when she told the families of those killed in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 that the cause of death was a YouTube video offensive to Islam. It was slanderous and, in my opinion, makes her unqualified to serve anywhere in government, let alone as President. (Her lies and deceptions, and those of the Administration of which she was a part, about the proliferation of theocratic Islamism came sharply into focus last week with the attacks in Paris that left 129 dead.) Mrs. Clinton’s e-mails show that immediately after the Benghazi attack she privately told Egypt’s Prime Minister and her daughter that the attack was premeditated and carried out by Islamic terrorists; yet in public she blamed the attack on a video. We have never been told why she lied, or why U.S. UN Ambassador Susan Rice was told to go on the Sunday talk shows to perpetuate that story. The Administration allowed that lie to persist for the next couple of weeks. It makes no difference whether the reason to lie originated at the White House or within her own mind, it was wrong and speaks volumes about the type of person she is. What we do know is that President Obama was in a tight re-election race and that part of his narrative was that Osama bin Laden was dead, Iraq was liberated, that the war in Afghanistan was winding down and that al Qaeda had been decimated. Connecting the dots is not rocket science.

Running for public office inevitably includes exaggerations, distortions, innuendos and misstatements. As partisans, we hear what we want to hear. As voters, we are skeptical of promises and listen to life stories with a grain of salt. We read candidates’ autobiographies with an understanding they are a white-washed, fictionalized version of their real story. Unfortunately, too much of the media have become advocates, rather than disinterested observers, analysts and reporters. And, keep in mind, polarization breeds polarization. The more you, unequivocally, defend your favorite, the more I defend mine. But, as citizens with a stake in this nation, we must slice through the murk that enshrouds each candidate and try to understand what principals drive them.

Dr. Carson may not be the best candidate. (My preference, at this point, is Marco Rubio.) Does his (Carson’s) experience qualify him for the job of President? Does he have the right policy prescriptions to address the needs of the country? Will he keep us safe? Is his network of experts sufficient to effectively manage the executive branch of government? I don’t know. But his character and integrity are not an issue. On the other hand, Mrs. Clinton may be qualified for the Presidency if one bases the decision solely on experience. But her judgment, noted in her willingness to go along with Mr. Obama’s appeasement strategy toward theocratic Islamism, her character, reflected in the lies she has repeatedly told, and the contempt in which she holds those whose opinions differ from hers suggest she is not deserving of the office.

I, for one, would always rather bet on judgment and character than experience.


Monday, November 9, 2015


Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day


November 9, 2015

“When our student societies decide they want to put on events, they ask ‘do you think there is any particular risk, or do you think that there is any reason to think that any student would feel threatened or unsafe at inviting a particular speaker’?” Those Orwellian words were spoken by the president of Students Union at Leeds University in England to David Aaronovitch of the London Times. They could, however, have been spoken by campus leaders, administrators or professors at any U.S. university or college.

We should all subscribe to the concept of diversity. Typically, we think of it in terms of race, religion, place of national origin, sexual preference, socio-economic backgrounds and/or the physically and mentally challenged. We ignore, however, diversity of opinion. The word implies tolerance for those different from ourselves. There is no question that diversity strengthens us as individuals and as a nation. Arthur Brooks wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed, “Scholarly studies have piled up showing that race and gender diversity in the workplace can increase creative thinking and improve performance.”

This has been ground that the Left has tilled and sown with government programs like Affirmative Action and the Welfare State. They have reaped the harvest in elections, as they appeal to those who rely on government programs – a growing body of people. The United States had long been a “melting pot,” but for decades limited to those who made it into the pot. It was not until after World War II that the armed services were racially integrated. It took Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement to bring some semblance of racial equality to schools and the workplace. The first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, six decades after the Constitution was signed, and seven decades before the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. Another forty-four years would pass before the Civil Rights Act was enacted, which barred discrimination in employment on the basis of race or sex. But equality, while not perfect, is far more prevalent today than it was in the 1950s.

When I was growing up there were no handicapped parking spots. There were no special schools for children with Autism and other similar conditions. Segregation was prevalent throughout the South. In high school, boys took shop and girls, home economics. Anti-Semitism was rife, including in higher reaches of government. Homosexuality was considered a sin. Class distinctions were more obvious. Even in small towns, the rich lived separately from the rest of us. Nonetheless, the reaction to Senator Joseph McCarthy showed that the American people would not stand for bullying. Speech and beliefs were rights.

Great strides have been made in the past half century. America is a fairer and more diverse place. But in our rush to find diversity in all areas of our external differences, colleges and universities have become homogenous in terms of ideas, especially ideologies of a political nature. It is McCarthyism in reverse. That sense is common within government bureaucracies. It risks infecting our work places. It finds expression in multiculturalism, which has substituted for national or regional cultures based on traditions and history, and which encouraged myriad opinions. When conservatives like Condoleezza Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali were denied the right to speak at campuses it reflected bigotry and intolerance, as much as when African-Americans were denied equal school or job opportunities. No one denies the leftward tilt of our colleges and universities. Michael Bloomberg, speaking at Harvard’s commencement in 2014, noted that 96% of campaign contributions from faculty at Ivy League institutions went to Mr. Obama. Such bias is antithetical to the concept of openness.

It is ironic that it has been the Left, those who consider themselves to be the messengers of tolerance – those who now welcome transsexuals and transgenders, those who would let men dressed as women use women’s bathrooms in Houston – that have become intolerant when it comes to political speech. They have erected “trigger warnings” to protect constituents from hearing or seeing something not part of their narrative.

Words matter and labels can create opacity where clarity belongs. The word “liberal” implies the willingness to hear and read all sides – to be fair and impartial. Yet today it is “liberals” that have become illiberal in the matter of free expression. “Conservative” means a valuing of tradition and an understanding of history, but in today’s “liberal” world it connotes one clinging to the past – guns and God, an unwillingness to see both sides of a debate. I disagree. I am a conservative. I value history, honor traditions and rank the individual above the state. I believe in a government of laws, not men. I believe in a moral sense that transcends cultural, religious and racial barriers. I welcome diversity, especially of thought, including those who disagree with my opinions in these essays. I read the New York Times, a paper I find blasphemously liberal. I do so because it allows me to understand how others think. How can our youth make choices when they have heard only one side? How can our young learn to reason and debate when they are told that contrary opinions may make them feel threatened or unsafe?

If an Islamic radical is invited to speak of the benefits of a caliphate should we not hear from Ayaan Ali Hirsi who suffered mutilation from Islamic fundamentalists? Can we make clear-headed decisions about abortion without hearing from the right-to-life folks? Is the Left fearful that the Right’s recommendation for ending poverty – of using self-determination and free-market capitalism – may prove more compelling than simply relying on the state? The state needs to be the enabler, not the ‘doer,’ the teacher of fishing, not solely the provider of fish.

In the September issue of The Atlantic, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathon Haidt wrote of this coddling of the American mind – of avoiding what are termed microaggressions. Examples: telling an Asian student that she (or he) is “supposed to be good at math;” or saying to an overseas student: “America is a land of opportunity;” or to another: “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” This fear of offending, according to the authors, is “vindictive protectiveness;” for it shields alleged victims from the real world.

The concept of fomenting sameness in terms of thought generation reminds one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s memorable admonition: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” The lemming-like attitudes of those universities who deny challenge bring to mind Frank Baum’s Oz. The Wizard’s wisdom was accepted, and his pronouncements considered just and absolute; until, at the end of the story, Dorothy and her friends exposed him as a fraud.  Our elite universities have done a good job in most aspects of diversification, but not in the realm that is most important – the freedom to hear, discuss and debate all ideas. The student leader at Leeds felt comfortable in his reasoning for not allowing contrary voices to be heard. He claimed his view was “consensus,” which is the same argument put forth by Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler and Mao Tse Tung, men who denied their people the right to think, speak and write freely. It is not the institutions, or even those of us who are older, that are the losers; it is today’s students, our youth who are denied the opportunity to test their ideas against someone who believes differently. It is our children and grandchildren who risk becoming victims of ignorance.


Monday, November 2, 2015

The Monnth , 2015That Was - October

Sydney M. Williams
The Month That Was

October 2015


                                                                                                                                  November 2, 2015

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

                                                                                                                        Lucy Maud Montgomery

                                                                                                                        “Anne of Green Gables” 1908

Columbus Day and Halloween are in the past; Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving are in our future. October is the subject at hand. While the month is renowned for financial debacles, it was human tragedies that took center stage this past month. October began with nine students shot at a community college in Oregon. Two other campuses, one in Texas and the other in Arizona, were the venues for two students being shot and killed. A car plowed into a homecoming parade in Stillwater, Oklahoma, killing four and injuring forty-seven. Nineteen people were killed when a doctors-without-borders hospital in Afghanistan was mistakenly hit by U.S. forces. Two suicide bombers at a peace rally in the Turkish capital of Ankara killed at least a hundred. The month ended with a Russian passenger airliner, an Airbus 221, crashing in the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people aboard.

Mother nature, not wanting to be out-done, did her own damage. Hurricane Joaquin, an Atlantic storm that missed mainland USA, sank the U.S. based cargo ship El Faro, drowning all 33 aboard, including 28 Americans. At least 17 people died in South Carolina, as drenching rains temporarily wiped out 75 miles of I-95. A mudslide in Guatemala killed at least 240, with dozens missing. Hurricane Patricia, the largest storm to ever hit the Western Hemisphere with winds of over 200 miles per hour, slammed into Southwestern Mexico with sustained winds of over 165 miles per hour. Luck and prior evacuation plans limited deaths and damage. Remnants caused intense flooding in Houston and Galveston a day or so later, with rainfalls of over an inch per hour. At least 340 people were known dead from a 7.5 earthquake that hit remote sections of Afghanistan and Pakistan. No matter hand-wringing claims of those on the Left, man has limited ability to prevent natural disasters. Nature heeds her own drummer.

At home, politics grabbed the headlines. Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton’s performance at the first Democrat debate was enhanced when, unexpectedly, she was given a boost by Bernie Sanders who blurted out that the American people were tired of hearing about e-mails. Of course it is not e-mails per se that are the question, it is the fact that they prove she lied about the cause of the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. She publically blamed the riots on a anti-Islamic video, while privately acknowledging that the cause was a “planned Al Qaeda-like terrorist attack.” But at the time, President Obama was in a close race for re-election and the attack refuted his campaign claim that “Al Qaeda is on the run.” (Incidentally, no terrorist has been apprehended, while the maker of the video still languishes in prison.) Ms. Clinton came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal she, as Secretary of State, helped negotiate. However, it is inconvenient to the narrative she is now spinning. Regardless, mainstream media has little interest in disclosing anything that could derail the coronation of their favorite. It is advocacy, not news, that has become their raison d’etre. Also helping Ms. Clinton – at least over the near term – was Vice President Joe Biden’s decision not to run. When Jim Webb and Lincoln Chaffee departed the Democrat race, nary a ripple could be seen in the polls.

Chaos among Republicans persisted, especially early in the month when House Speaker John Boehner announced his intent to resign. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader who was expected to move up to Speaker, idiotically (and wrongly) suggested the Benghazi hearings were politically motivated. While there is no doubt that Republicans are interested in embarrassing Ms. Clinton, there is also no question that the facts have never been fully exposed. Denial, stonewalling, followed by claims that accusations are old news is standard operating procedure for the Clintons. It has worked in the past. We shall see if it works this time.  By the time the month ended, Paul Ryan had become Speaker. He is respected and knowledgeable about fiscal matters, as anyone who read his 2010 Contract with America knows. He was approved by a majority, including a majority of the Conservative Caucus.

In the race for the nomination, latest national polls showed Dr. Ben Carson, a neuro-surgeon of enormous talent, nosing out Donald Trump, best known for his celebrity and his attacks on those who threaten his standings. Neither man appears to have much knowledge about world affairs or the policies necessary to jump-start the economy. In the third Republican debate, questions asked by an obviously biased CNBC news team created a theater of the absurd. Contestants were asked, for example: Should fantasy football be regulated?  What is your greatest weakness? Nevertheless, Marco Rubio did well, as did Chris Christie and Ted Cruz. That Christie did well could be seen in the lead editorial of The New York Times the next day: Christie “go home.”  CNN did their best to prop up what appears to be a flailing Trump by declaring him the winner. Trump, as Kimberly Strassel noted in The Wall Street Journal, “can talk (and talk and talk), just not on one subject for more than 37 seconds.” Citing a “bad faith” performance by CNBC, the RNC (Republican National Committee) canceled their partnership with NBC for a February 26 debate at the University of Houston.

Elsewhere overseas, China dropped its one-child law, allowing married couples to have two children. According to China’s 2010 census, the national fertility rate is 1.16, while 2.1 is the replacement rate. Justin Trudeau, son of the late Pierre Trudeau, became Canada’s Prime Minister-designate when he defeated incumbent Stephen Harper. Angela Merkel, who has been Europe’s strongest and longest serving leader, saw her poll numbers drop precipitously, a consequence of the refuge crisis. President Obama reversed an earlier decision when he sent a small number of Special Forces into Syria. Russia continued to provide military assistance to Assad and the United States invited Iran to talks regarding ISIS in Vienna. The United States did send a destroyer, the USS Lassen, to within twelve miles of the Subi Reef in the Spratly islands where China looks to be constructing an artificial island in the South China Sea for the possible deployment of naval forces. China’s construction of these islands is disputed by Vietnam and the Philippines. Safe passage through the South China Sea is critical to the global economy. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, 20% of world seaborne trade ($5.3 trillion) passes through those waters, as do 50% of global oil tankers. For seven decades, the United States has guaranteed freedom of the seas. Would (or will) China be as benevolent?

The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, not a surprise, but likely only prolonging the inevitable. Normalization will, at some point, return to credit markets. While zero interest rates have aided financial assets, they have masked the true costs of government borrowing and have done little to help the real economy. In the quarter just ended, corporate earnings decline – the first time that has happened since 2009. Preliminary numbers show that GDP limped along at 1.5 percent. But volatility was absent from equity markets, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s moving up or down more than 1.5% on only two days. Demonstrating that markets can be humbling and predictions often wrong, the DJIA put in its best monthly performance in four years, rising 8.3 percent.

Two hundred and ten years ago, on October 21,1805 at the battle of Trafalgar, Lord Nelson was killed aboard his flagship, the HMS Victory. Despite his death, the British defeated a combined French and Spanish armada, thereby giving Britain control of the seas for the next hundred and thirty years. Following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo ten years later, the consequence was a century of peace for Europe. With the gradual spread of political freedom and rapid economic growth, the Continent enjoyed a golden century. One hundred and thirty-four years ago P.G. Wodehouse was born on October 15, 1881. Incredibly, a hundred and thirteen years after his first novel The Pothunters was published Wodehouse is still read and adored. Seventy years ago this month, with the defeat of the Axis, the largest display of naval power ever assembled was celebrated in New York’s harbor with Navy Day. The U.S. was master of the seas.

 October is also a reminder of less pleasant times. Over Monday and Tuesday, October 28 and 29, 1929 the Dow Jones lost 24% of its value. Speculators, fueled by low margin requirements, had driven stocks to risky valuations. The market’s sharp decline, compounded by some foolish policy decisions like Smoot-Hawley, increased taxes and attempts to balance the budget, precipitated further market declines and birthed a Depression that only ended when the U.S. began to arm for World War II. Fifty-eight years later, on October 19, 1987, the market fell 508 points, or a little more than 22 percent. The market had been on a tear since the summer of 1982. In the past year, stocks had risen over 40 percent. High valuations were compounded by a Wall Street-devised product called portfolio insurance, which gave false promise to portfolio managers. Unfortunately, like so many ideas that work in the laboratory or in text books, this one did not in the marketplace. While government helped stem the panic, it was the natural forces of free market capitalism that allowed confidence to be restored and economic growth to persist. It would be another thirteen years before the market suffered a major bear market.

October saw two baseball teams go to the World Series that had not been there in three decades. The Kansas City Royals won the American League pennant and the New York Mets the National League. As the month ended, Kansas City was up three games to one[1].

Playboy decided to stop publishing photographs of nude women. Does this signal a shift toward modesty? I suspect not. The internet has meant that provocative pictures have become pervasive. Cultural attitudes have meant that young men are less likely to sneak looks at titillating photographs when the real thing, or its proximation, can be easily found. Reflecting the electronic distribution of media, Playboy’s circulation has declined, according to The New York Times, from 5.6 million in 1975 to 800,000 today. With pornography ubiquitous, will feminists who once found the magazine offensive wish for her return?

The world is ever-changing. Like a snake that sheds its skin, the complexion of the earth changes and so do its constituents. Politicians will come and go. Markets will fluctuate, but should move inexorably higher, as long as policies don’t impede economic growth. Nature provides change, and so does the natural continuum of life. In our part of the Northeast, the month begins with trees looking as they had all summer. By month’s end, most of the deciduous trees are bare. Each month approximately eleven million babies are born and about five million people die. October, in that regard, I am sure, was no different than other months, nor will be November. No matter disasters encountered, it is the miracle of life that remains.

[1] On Sunday, November 1 Kansas City beat the New York Mets 7-2 to win the series in five games.