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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Edge of the City

June 25th, 2011 - 12:00 pm

Persons unknown have carried out a suicide bombing — against a hospital in Afghanistan. A suicide bomber “rammed an SUV packed with explosives into a local hospital in the Azra district in Logar just before noon today” according to Bill Roggio. killing 60 patients and doctors, including women and children.

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Back to the Hub

June 24th, 2011 - 10:50 pm

Despite being one the world’s most wanted men, the bearded fugitive hid in plain sight for a long time in a single location. A member of a prominent political family, he was rumored to have ties with a powerful intelligence agency that protected him. When an elite raiding team finally caught up with him, he wasn’t living in a rural hideout but in an upscale residential area of a major city. No, this thread is not about the raid on Osama Bin Laden, it is about the arrest of Whitey Bulger.

On June 22, 2011, he was arrested at the apartment he had lived in for fifteen years in Santa Monica, California, along with his girlfriend Catherine Greig. He was 81 years old at the time of his arrest, and supposedly in poor health. Bulger and Greig were quickly extradited back to Massachusetts and were brought under heavy guard to the waterfront federal courthouse in Boston, necessitating the closing of part of Boston Harbor.

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Pageantry

June 23rd, 2011 - 10:05 pm

Three great 20th century nations at their ceremonial best can be seen after the More. 

Ritual is by nature incomprehensible to outsiders yet deeply meaningful to the insiders; it serves to express the group spiritually, morally or socially. It is a demonstration of belonging “of respect or submission … affiliation … social acceptance or approval for some event.”  At the height of its potency national symbols do not have to be explained. Everybody gets it. But in dying civilizations ceremony finally becomes an quaint entertainment whose origins nobody can quite place.  Even after a nation has died its ceremonies may still be re-enacted to satisfy the curiosity of its successors. But while a country still lives in spirit, ceremonies are a kind of inside baseball, a running commentary that everybody who should understand gets right off the bat.

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“The Way Forward”

June 23rd, 2011 - 11:22 am

President Barack Obama has begun the process of withdrawal from Afghanistan, an undertaking he called the War of Necessity in 2009.  Then the need to win in Afghanistan made it imperative to draw down in Iraq.  President Obama said, “by moving forward in Iraq, we’re able to refocus on the war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Now the need to “focus on nation building at home” makes it necessary to withdraw from Afghanistan.

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The “S” Factor

June 22nd, 2011 - 4:26 pm

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke confessed he was puzzled by the economy’s weakness, “admitting that the recovery was weaker than expected and that beyond temporary factors like supply chain disruptions in Japan and high energy prices, he was at a loss as to what was causing the soft patch.”  The Soft Patch Spring of 2011 follows the Summer Swoon of 2010, according to a Credit Suisse analysis.

Concerns about a soft patch in the economy are intensifying, and with good reason. Payroll growth stumbled badly last month, and the ISM Manufacturing Index fell sharply. First quarter GDP was soft and recent figures raise doubt about a widely forecasted Q2 rebound. The stutter in the economic data is reminiscent of last summer’s “double-dip” scare, which, in hindsight, turned out to be a garden-variety growth slowdown.

… The current slowdown, as of now, appears less dangerous than the one that we experienced in the summer of 2010. Financial conditions are more supportive of growth than they were a year ago. Consumer sentiment is higher. The labor market is on firmer footing, despite last month’s jobs disappointment. Retail demand is trending at a faster clip. Household wealth is higher. An extra year of economic growth, profits, retained earnings, and cash holdings has added a layer of insulation for the corporate sector, which makes it better able to withstand the occasional cooling in final demand.

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The Hierophant in the Living Room

June 20th, 2011 - 1:42 pm

In 2005 “the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations University declared that 50 million people could become environmental refugees by 2010, fleeing the effects of climate change.” Three years later, the President of the General Assembly repeated the warning that disaster was right around the corner.

In 2008, Srgjan Kerim, president of the UN General Assembly, said it had been estimated that there would be between 50 million and 200 million environmental migrants by 2010. A UNEP web page showed a map of regions where people were likely to be displaced by the ravages of global warming. It has recently been taken offline but is still visible in a Google cache.

These are just some of remnants of a whole industry that had grown up around preparing for doomsday.  And what a doomsday it was! With victims in the tens of millions and special new terminology all of its own.

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The Continuing Present

June 19th, 2011 - 5:10 pm

James A. Johnson (born December 24, 1943) is a United States Democratic Party political figure. He was the campaign manager for Walter Mondale’s failed 1984 presidential bid and chaired the vice presidential selection committee for the presidential campaign of John Kerry. He was involved in the vice-presidential selection process for the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama.

He was also the Chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae. Johnson is in the news again because of Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner’s book, Reckless Endangerment. An excerpt from her book says:

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One More Time

June 19th, 2011 - 2:22 pm

Greece will need 110 billion Euros, an amount nearly equal to its bailout package last year, to make it through this one.

The admission, after weeks of speculation over the size of the package, highlighted the parlous state of the country’s economy despite receiving regular cash injections from the €110bn rescue agreed last May, the biggest bailout in western history. Athens’s debt, which stood at €340bn in December, was estimated to have exceeded €355bn, the equivalent of 150% of GDP, in April. By comparison, the government’s annual income is almost one-tenth of that, at around €40bn. …

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The political controversy over whether Boeing illegally built a second 787 Dreamliner assemblyline in South Carolina continues to grow. ABC News says “A U.S. House committee takes to the road today for a politically charged field hearing in North Charleston, S.C., to determine whether the Boeing Co. violated labor laws by moving an assembly operation from Washington State to South Carolina.” It quotes a union spokesman as saying that the Republicans are exploiting the issue for political ends.

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Un Belli Di

June 17th, 2011 - 8:28 pm

Jack Balkin, writing in Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy,  described reality from a legal point of view, which is vital in understanding Libya.

In fact, one of the most interesting features of law as a system of social conventions is its ability to make things true or, to put it another way, to create legal categories that permit characterizations of situations and practices that are true or false. My point, however, is not simply that propositions of law are true in virtue of legal conventions. It is rather that law creates truth– it makes things true as a matter of law. It makes things true in the eyes of the law. And when law makes things true in its own eyes, this has important consequences in the world.

Consider, for example, the common law distinction between trespassers, licensees, and invitees. Landowners have different tort duties toward people who trespass on their property, enter their property for business reasons, or visit as invited social guests. Simply by making these distinctions, the common law makes it possible for it to be true or not true that a person is a trespasser, licensee or invitee.

So what has that got to do with Libya? This: the New York Times reports that President Obama overruled the view of two his top lawyers that the “kinetic military events in Libya” amounted to hostilities. According to the President, there is “no war” in Libya? What they are arguing about is the legal truth.

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