Sunday, November 28, 2010
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il is unpredictable -- possibly even crazy. In addition, that country's military leaders may make decisions on their own, and it's hard to say if that is better or worse. It's also relevant to take note that the South Korean military was already engaged in exercises that pressed right up against the border of the two Koreas, which the North has said provoked their shelling. As one web site points out, this fact has been buried by the American media.
However, the key to this entire situation -- and we are hearing this more and more often these days -- is China. North Korea's only ally, the Chinese government could be quite helpful right now, but it's been hesitant to chasten Pyongyang in the past -- at least publicly. If China were to embrace its growing importance on the world stage by stepping up to play key roles in geopolitical disputes, economic crises and environmental concerns, that would seem to make life easier for everyone, but Beijing continues to work at its own pace.
I saw an interesting statistic last week: In 2009 China used twice as much steel as the US, the European Union and Japan COMBINED. Beijing's economic growth is surging at a level the world has never before seen. China recently became the world's second-largest economy, passing Japan, and China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. If the 1900s were the American Century, this is quickly becoming the Chinese Century.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
...our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.
Monday, November 22, 2010
**In Sunday's Globe, Steve wrote that the East Pier project may be ready to come to life again as the housing market starts to rebound.
**In a story in Edible Boston, Steve says that the best mole sauce in Boston can be found at Angela's on Lexington Street. He counts more than 50 ingredients in the recipe.
Friday, November 19, 2010
McLean and Nocero were on the PBS NewsHour last night to talk about the roots of the crisis, and they said that -- to no one's surprise -- both Democrats and Republicans were culpable for the lack of regulation and foresight that led to the housing crash. They also said a number of other interesting things, including that the ratings agencies (Moody's and Standard & Poor's, among others) were at the top of their list of culprits most responsible for the crisis.
McLean also said that she "started this book with a bias toward personal responsibility," but found out the extent to which:
...these loans were sold; they weren't bought. And one of the most telling moments were these internal documents from Washington Mutual, one of the big subprime lenders, around 2003 talking about how to get consumers who really wanted safe 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to take out these dangerous option [adjustable rate mortgages] instead ... how to sell those to people, and how to confront a consumer who said, "But it doesn't feel right to me. I want to pay back my mortgage every month." ... How do you get these people to take out a risky mortgage instead? You told them that home prices could only go up. And the reason Washington Mutual wanted to sell these option ARMs, instead of the 30-year fixed rate mortgages, is that Washington Mutual could turn around and sell these to Wall Street for a lot more money than it could sell the old 30-year fixed-rate loans.Nocero adds, "I was stunned, in the reporting of this book, how much subprime was about predatory lending." He notes, also, that most of these transactions weren't for new homes, but for "cash-out refinancing" -- people remortgaging their homes in order to use the money the could get. "And that," said McLean, "enabled consumer spending through the 1990s and through the early part of -- of this decade."
Maybe the most telling, and most disturbing points, the writers make are at the end of the interview, when McLean says that Wall Street and corporate America saw that cash-out refinancing was a way for them to reap billions:
...in order to keep the U.S. economy going, you had to keep consumer spending strong. In order to keep consumer spending strong, you had to have consumers whose income otherwise wasn't keeping up have a ready source of cash. That was cash-out refinancing, by using their homes as piggy banks, and no one wanted to stop that party.The party may be over for American homeowners and consumers, but big business and the financial sector are still laughing all the way to the money trough.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Today Aung San Suu Kyi was set free, but that is just the first step toward freedom for the people of Burma. Her life is likely in danger and she could be imprisoned again, but she has never backed down and has said that she will resume her political activities. Though she is but one of many people around the world oppressed and imprisoned for expressing their political views, she is a symbol of the struggle against governments that would silence their citizens. Tonight we remember their struggles and admire their strength and selflessness.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Five alarms were eventually sounded, but the conflagrations was knocked off the front pages by the Cocoanut Grove fire, which killed 492 people just two weeks later.
Photo courtesy of cityofboston.gov.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Dulce et Decorum Est
By Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime ...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
***The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center wants to open a facility in Winthrop.
***Former Chicago Cubs shortstop Lennie Merullo, 93, who grew up in Eastie, looks back at his career.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
***The Globe's endorsement of Deval Patrick. The Herald's endorsement of Charlie Baker.
***Most signs indicate that Republicans will take control of the House, while it appears Democrats will keep control of the Senate. The New York Times has cool interactive graphics in its national political coverage section.
***The only House race that is tightly contested is the 10th District, where William Delahunt is retiring. Democrat William Keating leads Republican Jeff Perry by a small margin in the latest polls. It would be a disgrace if Perry, who watched and did nothing as two teenage girls were improperly strip-searched by a police officer under his command when he was on the Wareham force AND THEN lied about it to investigators, were to win the seat.
***It would also be a travesty if Tea Party nut job Sharron Angle were to beat Majority Leader Harry Reid in the battle for his Nevada Senate seat.