Monday, January 31, 2011

More Winter?

Good Morning,

Here it is the end of January and a lot of us are peeking out from behind the calendar to see how much longer the winter will last. The Ground Hog will do that for us in a couple of days so we have the luxury of choosing which one is shorter; our perceptions or the Ground Hog's shadow.

The history of the Ground Hog and the shadow foretelling of less or more winter is interesting.

Here it is from the folks at:

Copyright © 1996-2011 STORMFAX, Inc.

In 1723, the Delaware Indians settled Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania as a campsite halfway between the Allegheny and the Susquehanna Rivers.  The town is 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, at the intersection of Route 36 and Route 119.  The Delawares considered groundhogs honorable ancestors.  According to the original creation beliefs of the Delaware Indians, their forebears began life as animals in "Mother Earth" and emerged centuries later to hunt and live as men.

The name Punxsutawney comes from the Indian name for the location
"ponksad-uteney" which means "the town of the sandflies."

The name woodchuck comes from the Indian legend of "Wojak, the groundhog" considered by them to be their ancestral grandfather.

When German settlers arrived in the 1700s, they brought a tradition known as Candlemas Day, which has an early origin in the pagan celebration of Imbolc.

It came at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  Superstition held that if the weather was fair, the second half of Winter would be stormy and cold.  For the early Christians in Europe, it was the custom on Candlemas Day for clergy to bless candles and distribute them to the people in the dark of Winter.  A lighted candle was placed in each window of the home.  The day's weather continued to be important.

If the sun came out February 2, halfway between Winter and Spring, it meant six more weeks of wintry weather.

The earliest American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College:

February 4, 1841 - from Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris' diary..."Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."

According to the old English saying:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

From Scotland:
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be two winters in the year.
From Germany:
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.

And from America:
If the sun shines on Groundhog Day;
Half the fuel and half the hay.

If the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, an animal would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of Winter.  Germans watched a badger for the shadow.  In Pennsylvania, the groundhog, upon waking from mid-Winter hibernation, was selected as the replacement.

Pennsylvania's official celebration of Groundhog Day began on February 2nd, 1886 with a proclamation in The Punxsutawney Spirit by the newspaper's editor, Clymer Freas: "Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow."  The groundhog was given the name "Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary'' and his hometown thus called the "Weather Capital of the World.''

 His debut performance: no shadow - early Spring.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Tis interesting:

This year we will experience 4 unusual dates.... 1/1/11, (already gone) 1/11/11, 11/1/11, 11/11/11 .........

Take the last 2 digits of the year you were born plus the age you will be this year and it WILL EQUAL ....

111 .

I believe this will be a very spiritual year for humankind.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Legal "Sewers"

We are such a litigious society that it makes one wonder how we have survived as a nation of laws.

These lawsuits come from a poll conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is the world largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses.

These are abusive litigations that were filed legally.

It makes you wonder about our legal system as well as the intellect of our people.

The top five Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2010 are:

1. Woman sues Oprah and President Bush, declaring they "implanted a camera with wire sensors into her with the intent of reincarnation."
2. Girl sues estate of pregnant woman she killed during suicide attempt.
3. Convicted killer sues to receive electrolysis as part of state-funded sex change
4. Child-molesting teacher countersues boy's parents over negligent supervision
5. Restaurant sued for failing to offer artichoke-eating instructions

Is there any way we can sue the “sewers” for clogging up our courts?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Annual Report to State of the Union

Annual Report or State of the Union.

The latter sounds more regal. It was called the “Annual Report” until 1934 when FDR called it a “State of the Union.”

It was President Lyndon Johnson who took the annual message to Congress into prime time. Before that the constitutional required message to Congress was delivered in the afternoon either by speech or by a written report.

The only way you can judge the length of the Annual Reports or the State of the Union reports is by word count.

Old George, you know who I mean, gave the shortest. In 1790 he spoke only 1,089 words. I guess there wasn’t much state to our new union at that time.

One of the longest in terms of words was Jimmy Carter in 1981. It counted in at 33,667 words. The years of silent peanut farming must have finally exploded into verbiage.

The longest speech in time was Bill Clinton in January of 2000. His address to Congress took an hour and 28 minutes and 49 seconds. And it only contained 7,452 words. I remember taking notes on his speech so I could hi-light it for a late news audience. My hand is still tired.

The “Annual Report” wasn’t always delivered by a speech. Most times it was written. A president has delivered only 76 of the 220 messages to Congress in person.

Washington and Adams spoke before Congress. Jefferson did not and the tradition stopped until Woodrow Wilson restarted it in 1913.

Obama's prepared speech last night was 6,851 words.

Have fun at the water cooler with these facts.

This blog by the way has a word count of 277.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Yesterday I was busy in New York City with some other issues and I was not paying attention to the news and what’s happening in the world, in my country and in my region.

When I got home I looked at the headlines and the lead lines of the major stories.

WOW or whoa!

Moscow has a problem. Someone, probably a terrorists or a clandestine organization indiscriminately, deliberately, murdered 35 people and injured so many others in a bomb at the Moscow International Airport.  The injuries were global. The bomb was placed at the International Arrivals building. When you kill or maim a foreign national you hurt dozens and dozens of others in families, and in the work environments all over the world.

I often ask myself, in the attempt to have a spiritual understanding of this world, where do these disgruntled souls come from and why? How could they believe in such a narrow ideology that dismisses the demise of so many as collateral damage in the pursuit of a religious or territorial cause?

The next headline I read was that the Appellate Court in Illinois rejected Rahm Emanuel’s right to be on the Chicago mayoral ballot. My first thought was Chicago politics. So was my second thought. As I understand it, the court rejected his right to run for mayor because he has spent the last two years in Washington and therefore is not a resident? I believe he is a long time resident of Windy City and should be eligible to run.

Come on…! That’s idiocy. That’s politics as legislated from the court and that is not what the courts are supposed to do. I hope Emanuel's appeal for a stay of the ruling wins.

The third headline I read was about Jared Loughner in court today in Phoenix. The court entered a plea of not guilty in the attempted murder from the Tucson shootings. The six murder charges have yet to be sent down by the grand jury. Why? I can’t imagine.

I know this is treading on sacred judicial territory, but how logically can the courts submit a plea of not guilty when everyone knows he is guilty?

Isn’t there some other plea that makes more sense?

I stopped reading the headlines after that. I’ll resume tomorrow.

Monday, January 24, 2011


It’s morning. Temperature is eleven degrees below zero.

It is a stinging cold with only a window glass to hold it back. It’s double glass, a bulwark of silica that another temperature and time turned into a transparent glazing of clarity and protection.

I grew up in old houses with single panes of flawed glass. Frost would decorate the panes into a translucent crystal of art, but not now. Modern houses are too tight for nature’s cryogenic beauty to seep in and paint the panes with a cameo of cold. Too bad! How many kids today will miss the vision of feathered frost on the inside of a windowpane where they can scratch their own design into the thin sheet of ice crystals?

Just beyond my outer pane is an astringent cold that if you stepped outside without protection it would burn with negative degrees, blister the skin with prolonged exporsure, blink the eyes to tears and tighten the inner nose when breathing. 

But I’m inside and warm and safe. Proximity to potential danger seems to do that. Other dangers will evoke a similar feeling. High winds, flooding, blizzards, and even summer heat can harm, but if we feel safe, protected while near the danger, then the rest of the feeling and fear basks in the comfort of illusion for safety is only as good as the protection that holds back the danger.

The glass in the window keeps me feeling safe and sustains my sense of comfort. The cold on the other side sets a tension for possible attack, but cannot penetrate the timid barrier of wood and glass. It is the knowing fierceness of potential danger that keeps me in the fort of comfort.

Damn it’s cold outside!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Snow Again

Snow Again

© 2011 Rolland G. Smith

Another storm is coming through
It’s not like this is something new.
A day of clear then one of Sun
Anticipates a day of fun.

But then another winter storm
To change what we all think is norm.
Some inches here and inches there
And traveler’s cry, “this is not fair.”

But I am snug within my lair
And cannot change what’s in the air.
It’s snow or sleet or rain and fog
It matters not to do this blog.

So let me say to you my friends
Since weather will not make amends.
Just tough it out and shovel fast.
The kids will always have a blast.

When spring arrives and memory’s gone
You’ll sing the flower’s growing song.
And then you’ll be hard pressed to know
When in the past it all was snow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Joe Henry

Joe Henry. You may not know Joe Henry, but you've heard his words in song for years. He was a lyric collaborator with the late and great John Denver. Joe is an unassuming shy soul whose grace with lyrics is equaled by few.

I once sat with Joe on the lawn outside the music tent in Aspen. We were having lunch. It was a break in the Windstar Symposium; an annual event hosted by John Denver. Joe deflected praises for his lyrics and said John's music and voice is what makes them great. I believe John made them greater, but they were already great, if not profound.

My friend John St. Augustine posted one of John Denver's songs on Facebook the other day. It was “The Wings That Fly Us Home.” The words are Joe Henrys' and they are very spiritual. You should read them before you enjoy the magnificent voice and melody of JD.

There are many ways of being in this circle we call life
A wise man seeks an answer, burns his candle through the night
Is a jewel just a pebble that found a way to shine
Is a hero’s blood more righteous than a hobo’s sip of wine

Did I speak to you one morning on some distant world away
Did you save me from an arrow, did you lay me in a grave
Were we brothers on a journey, did you teach me how to run
Were we broken by the waters, did I lie you in the sun

I dreamed you were a prophet in a meadow
I dreamed I was a mountain in the wind
I dreamed you knelt and touched me with a flower
I awoke with this: a flower in my hand

I know that love is seeing all the infinite in one
In the brotherhood of creatures; who the father, who the son
The vision of your goodness will sustain me through the cold
Take my hand now to remember when you find yourself alone

And the spirit fills the darkness of the heavens
It fills the endless yearning of the soul
It lives within a star too far to dream of
It lives within each part and is the whole
It’s the fire and the wings that fly us home
Fly us home, fly us home

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ice Storm

Ice Storm
© 2011 Rolland G. Smith

The ice has come to coat the trees
In prism’s slice of colored light.
I must await the shaking breeze
To free the bark and buds forthright.

Refraction has its counterpart
Within the sound of crackling ice.
It lets your mind and thought depart
And feel the sound as it clinks thrice.

For some there is no joy in cold
No beauty seen on slippery street.
For others this is coated gold
With greetings to the freezing sleet.

But I am one that sees it all
From when its warm and when it’s not.
In spring the summer and the fall
I also see the winter’s blot.

Tis nature and her craft of art
That decorates a winter’s scene.
Despite our hopes of mind and heart
Ice is the glaze of grace's sheen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I am writing this post with a budding sadness. An old friend sent me an email yesterday that he is in the hospital and diagnosed with bone cancer. He said the morphine helped with the pain and that he was comfortable with what is to come next.

This is a deeply spiritual and active man who has studied the esoteric teachings, from many disciplines, throughout his aging years. He knows there is a beyond. He knows that this life is a short experience compared to eternity. He knows that he loves and that he is loved and perhaps it is time to say goodbye to life, to family and friends and to embrace the true reality of the real life.

The other "perhaps" in this senario is that maybe this is not his time and that he will heal. His family and friends will rejoice that we have him for a longer time in this shared density.

When I read his missive I was surprised and saddened. We had not communicated in recent years even though we had had simpatico visions for a better world and worked to that end on a number of global projects.

I was immediately reminded of a great truth. People come into your lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. 

What I have come to know since embracing that truth is that this is not the only lifetime that I will enjoy with my friend or he me. We are from the same spiritual cluster of souls. We have shared other lives and there may be more to come. I don’t know. He does not know, but we both know that we have each tried to reach our planned level of perfection in the glorification of our God and, if we did not do what we  planned, we may choose to come back to try again.

I also know that this thinking is contrary to accepted dogmas in many beliefs today. My belief does not debase or disembowel my early foundation in Christian thinking. To me it enhances it.

Spirituality is an experience of depth in life. Dogma is different.

Being spiritual is acknowledging a conscious, loving presence as part of our being and knowing it is in harmonic resonance with all things.
Dogma, on the other hand is the process, the belief system , by which we choose to express spirituality or as Neale Donald Walsh says in his book “Home With God”, “Religion was created by human cultures to assist those who are born into those cultures in knowing and understanding that there is an ever-present source of help in times of need, strength in times of challenge, clarity in times of confusion and compassion in times of pain”.

In my view, religions have forgotten their collective spirituality and what they think they do remember of it, they confuse with dogma.

The word Dogma comes from the Greek and its meaning is  "opinion".  Its root word "Dokein" means "to seem good".  So when people say religious dogma, they are really saying, "religious opinion that seems good".  To me, "seeming good" and the knowing awareness derived through a direct revelatory experience of God, is not the same.

In Eckhart Tolle’s book, “Stillness Speaks” he writes:

“Dogmas – religions, political, scientific –arise out of the erroneous belief that thought can encapsulate reality or the truth. Dogmas are collective conceptual prisons. And the strange thing is that people love their prison cells because they give them a sense of security and a false sense of “I know.”

He continues: “ ... It is true that every dogma crumbles sooner or later, because reality will eventually disclose its falseness; however, unless the basic delusion of it is seen for what it is, it will be replaced by others."

Centuries of non-spiritual ritual and adherence to man-made rules have seen religions give credence to doctrines i.e. dogma, not necessarily to Truths.  Even the early Christians were cautioned about dogma in the Gospel of Mark - Chapter 7 - Verse 7.  " vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men".

To some religious authorities, an experiential truth, a mystical truth, a truth that comes from the feeling, the knowing, of the soul is too often discouraged, discounted and dismissed.

Not so with my friend and I salute his choices, his knowing, his passage and his spirituality. Compared to an eternity we all will join him in a few minutes.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King Jr.

I post this every year because I honor the man, his ethic, his vision and his spirit.
Martin Luther King Jr.

© 1995 Rolland G. Smith

I had a dream the other night
   And Martin Luther King was there.
He spoke in tones befit the wise
   And asked me if I’d share,
The news of how his dream came out,
   Since he had been away.

I told him times had changed somewhat
   But the dream was still a dream
And somewhere in these many years
   Was progress, or so it seemed.
Tell me, he said, what has happened,
   Since he had been away.

We’ve legislated out the hate,
   I said, but laws can’t touch the mind,
If bias reeks within the heart
   There cannot be a human - kind.
It’s still not true, he said,
   For he had been away.

And then he said, where he is now,
   There is no ONE color bright,
Not black or white, yellow or brown.
   There is only a loving light.
It’s the truth I lived, and live,
   He said, as he went away.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Outer and Inner Snows

It is cold here in the Northeast. We are digging out from Tuesday's significant snow. It was a fluffy snow so it's not to hard to shovel.

Life is a lot like that. We get some storms that are heavy and hard where the emotional shovels and medical plows have difficulty removing the burden. Then, at times, we get the light stuff that frightens us before we assess the accumulation and ascertain that it wasn't as bad as we thought and we worried for nothing.

I can't tell you how many times the emotion of a "snow" cancer scare has moved through my family's lives and the lives of friends and neighbors. The specifics are not necessary in this post, but tangential to the snow metphor .

Doctors, by training,  must present all sides of potential possibilities or, at least, an educated prognosis of a cancer or illness path. It's never an absolute, but it is a possibility and we the family and the patient must absorb and assimilate the information to the best of our abilities and then the patient must take responsibility for his or her total health and the family must embrace the patient's choice as sacred.

Eventually the warmth of healing melts the fear of the unknown and we all embrace the inevitable and rejoice in the knowledge that each of us, in time, are, and will be, going home. What more could we ask?

Be well and have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tucson Memorial

I watched the tribute ceremony in Tucson last night. I thought it was wonderful, healing, honoring, inspiring and spiritual.

It had its surprises, its tears, and even its subliminal politics, however subdued it was within the words of praise, memory and patriotism.

I liked the beginning where a Mexican American and a tribal American gave thanks to the creator of all things and in so many ways.

I thank CNN for its complete coverage; start to finish, of the University of Arizona event to memorialize the deceased and to pray for the healing of those who were wounded and who grieve in personal loss.

I am disappointed in the traditional networks ABC, CBS, NBC who only saw sanctity in the singular coverage of President Obama’s speech and not covering the whole event. I saw this as a moment of national introspection and healing and a moment of personal reflection of violence far away, but emotionally close.

Within our shared sorrow I am also reminded of the profound spiritual admonition. Everything is as it should be.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti Earthquake Anniversary

I haven’t been to Haiti. I have been to places that are like Haiti after a cataclysmic tragedy. Places hit by an earthquake, a tornado, a hurricane, a volcanic eruption. The devastation is the same. Homeless people, people in need, injured people that need attention before infection sets in, children with no parents or adults to comfort them, hungry people, thirsty people, it is all the same and unless you have witnessed the instant depravation you cannot know it. But you can feel it if you free your mind of the innocuous constrictions of self-need.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the devastating quake in Haiti. So many died and so many still live in pain and loss in that singular moment of an earth contortion.

In this year I have been privilege to witness and to learn about the dedication, the active participation of aid and medicines and the samaritan ethic of an organization called CMMB. Catholic Medical Mission Board.  It is an organization whose mission is to serve those in need throughout the world. They have been active in Haiti for a hundred years. 97.8 of all dollar donations go to those in need. I have not been able to ascertain any other organization whose percentage comes even near that amount.

We still see the pictures of destruction coming out of Haiti and we do so in disbelief.  A year ago we  reported the dead in numbers and now we see the living in great need. We have not yet repaired buildings, and roads. The infrastructure of the country is not yet complete to administer the world's aid and donations.  Sorrow has turned to searching for help, tears have turned to trial and error to live and make a living, and hope for help has turned to the emptiness of being forgotten by a world community and a national government that is struggling to exist and as yet unable to help.    

Grief is such a painful personal hurt. Sorrow is more universal in its heartache for it acknowledges on a higher level the collective loss to humankind. How many of the dead numbers were potential scientists, poets, leaders or potential parents of genius.

Empathy is not only the capacity to understand another’s feelings. It is the willingness to comfort, to cry together and to share the strength of  hope when so many see and feel nothing but despair.

Bravo to CMMB. You do it in so many places and without the accolades you deserve.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


How do we begin to understand the tragedy in Tucson? Some will find solace in irrational anger at another's political beliefs or social mores and ideologies. Others will blame Arizona's permissive gun laws or the parents or the schools for not being attentive enough to catch potentially destructive behavior.

Still others will seek shelter in the fort of fear and demand protection from the misfits, the crazies and the misled of the world by hiding behind barriers, locked doors, new laws and bodyguards. We all know that will not work. If someone cares not for his or her own life then harming another is easy.

So what do we do? It starts with the collective belief that we can do something positive and constructive.

We need to teach our young and ourselves that there are better weapons than guns. We need to acknowledge the emotions of those who feel disenfranchised and show them that words of persuasive discourse are far more powerful weapons than bullets or bombs. We need to be the evidence of compromise and compassion and eliminate the cantankerous outrage in our media outlets and in our religious and bully pulpits. Violence against a person for their political or religious beliefs stifles the dialogue of compromise and the attainment of personal and global peace.

What I'm suggesting is not easy, but it is not impossible.

It starts with compassion and the sharing of abundance. It starts by the genuine listening to the concerns of others. It starts by lessening the rhetoric of passionate certainties. It starts by my beloved, but disappointing media reporting only the facts and not expressing opinion or conjecture or untruths because it gets ratings. It starts by turning off the television when these pundits pander to the baser needs of our voyeurism.

Even the sheriff of Pima County had harsh words for Rush Limbaugh.

"The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh, in my judgment he is irresponsible, uses partial information, sometimes wrong information," Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said today. "[Limbaugh] attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials and that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences."

Contributing to our problem is that we are a lazy lot. Misinformation comes rapidly and once it's said enough times by enough people we believe it as the truth. Just look at the rumors, the innuendo, and the slander circulated by emails on a daily basis.

I believe there is another factor missing from our global conscience. It is the quality of unconditional love and the comfort it engenders.

It is a truth that you cannot feel good while hating another.

If governments spent as much time and money on explaining and promoting the facets and value of loving one's neighbor as they do on weapons and promulgating fear we would have a positive paradigm shift in consciousness.

Religions give it a go upon occasion, but they let it pass when influence, territory or dogma is in question. Unconditional love also needs to be part of our national moral and ethical fabric as well.

If we can start this then maybe the murders and pain in Tucson will not be in vain and just another senseless tragedy. I am only one voice in the blogging neighborhood. It seems to me we have tried so much else then why not unconditional love. We have to start somewhere. It might work.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Potholes and more

Some thoughts on Potholes. I hit four or five the other day and they were big.

Did you know there is a National Pothole Day. It's the 20th of March according to an organization called "The Road Information Program" or "TRIP" out of Washington D.C..

TRIP says they view the millions of potholes across the country with seriousness and a symptom of the overall repair and rehabilitation needs of roads and bridges in the USA, but they also suggest motorists have fun with this thawing and freezing malady.

TRIP suggests potholes are the one truly democratic institution left in this country. They say potholes attack with no prejudice to race, creed or social position. They reach out and touch large cars as well as small cars, buses and bikes and swallow the wallets of all motorists.

There is also a Pothole fact sheet available from the Washington organization. For instance, the average size pothole is 16 inches in diameter and 5 inches deep. There are 50.6 million in the road across America usually popping out like pimples in the spring. The average amount of "patch filler" needed to fill a pothole is 110 pounds. It takes 8 to 12 minutes to fill one pothole. And for you trivia fans: How many potholes per miles in the United States. 38.3 according to the pothole fact sheet.

Finally the strangest catches in a pothole. TRIP says in Maine a pothole captured a snowplow. In Kentucky, a garbage truck. In Boston, a mounted policeman and his horse and in Philadelphia, $1.2 million in cash. Have a great Monday.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Snowbirds Heading South

I'm not heading south this year, but I've traveled Amtrak's auto train to the alleged warmth of Florida before and it is an experience of cross generational observation. You start in Lorton, Virginia in the afternoon and end up in Sanford, Florida the next morning.

The little poetic ditty below gives you some idea of what it is like to ride the auto train.

"Quilted coats, shuffled steps and canes
Are what you find on South bound trains.
The halt, the lame, the elderly,
The ill, the weak, and crotchety
Are Florida bound in cubby holes
With all their flaws and hairy moles.
Snowbirds they’re called without respect.
They flock to Florida’s warmth prospect.
If you are younger and can watch
Count the wrinkles, connect the blotch,
And you will see where you may be
Before they read your eulogy."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Money and Currencies

Here it is in the first week of the 2011 and already the world economists are talking about currencies and evaluations.

New Hampshire is a gentle state. Unassuming and bountifully peaceful. A leisurely ride along U.S. 302 through the White Mountain National Forest underlines that sense of peace and punctuates it with a tiny bit of history.

It is called Bretton Woods. It was there in a rambling summer resort back in July of 1944, that 44-nations met to plan for the post-world War II economic recovery.

The Mount Washington Hotel where the conference took place is still a thriving resort today. It's wraparound veranda frames the magnificent Mount Washington and other peaks in the Presidential Range.

Financial leaders, back then, talked, negotiated discussed and simplified, a way to make international monetary policies fair and workable following the expense of World War Two. The conference lasted 20-days.

The Bretton Woods accord basically created a system of fixed exchange rates. The value of the Dollar was set at $35 per oz of gold. All other currencies were pegged to the dollar and respective countries were obliged to maintain their currency's value.

The agreement maintained an economic stability for over twenty years, but eventually hugh balance of payments deficits shook its foundation and finally in 1971 President Nixon ended it by cutting the link between the dollar and gold.

The arrangement was so successful, 40 years after its collapse many economists and politicians today long for a return to Bretton Woods.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Atom Bomb and the Nobel Peace Prize?

This will be a long post compared to others I present. The first part of this is a blog from my friend, Akio Matsumura. He is a dedicated man of peace and a founder of the Global Forum.

His blog ( posted ) suggests that people lobby the Nobel Peace committee to nominate the victims/survivors of the Atom Bomb destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the Nobel Prize.

My response is what follows his blog.

Here is Akio's blog: www.

The survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki--a group that represents not just Japan but many nations--carry memories invaluable to bridging the gap between violence and peace. Their stories as the sole witnesses and survivors of nuclear weapons used as an act of war are the most powerful deterrent to future nuclear war. There is not much time to carry their message forward; the bombings were many decades ago. The group and its message are fading.

Historically, the Nobel Peace Prize has only been awarded to an institution or an individual, precluding groups from winning the Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Committee should adjust its policies and bring renewed attention to the atrocities of nuclear weapons by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Hiroshima and Nagasaki's global survivors.

The Grave Issue of Nuclear Security

You wouldn’t have to be a betting man to say that nuclear security has been synonymous with international security for the past seven decades. Today, other pressing concerns have crowded the top of the agenda, but nuclear security holds its weight among them. The US Congress just passed the New START agreement to reduce nuclear stockpiles. The international community is concerned with developments of programs and testing in several countries, including Iran and North Korea. And the threat of proliferation among terrorists, especially in Pakistan, has the United States and other governments in panic. Much of the world’s violent conflict directly relates to the perception of nuclear instability in South Asia and the Middle East. While there are many safeguards in place to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation or attack, such an important issue deserves to be viewed from several perspectives.

I am Japanese, and the two atomic bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—on August 6 and 9, 1945—have played a special role in my life. I have spent much time investigating the horrific disaster, from watching documentary films of survivor stories and political movements against the atomic bomb to talking with survivors, politicians, and religious figures.

Piecing the Puzzle Together

Such a polarizing global event has many facets, and to gain a full perspective one must be able to see them all. Because I worked at the UN and other international organizations for three decades, I was able to hear another side—the perspectives of those who suffered Japanese military aggression in China, Korea, the Philippines, and Dutch-Indonesians.

Just as important a perspective came from the Americans who believe that dropping the atom bombs, while tragic, ended the war early and saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

To be sure, the American use of the atom bomb in 1945 against the Japanese was terrible. Tens of thousands died instantly upon explosion, and many more died from radiation in the ensuing years. The cities were razed. But the memory has taken an enormous toll on the survivors, both the victims and the assailants. How does one rebuild a country and life after such devastation?

What about those who were in Hiroshima or Nagasaki in early August 1945 and managed to survive the explosions? Surely those who had lived through such carnage were unforgiving and resentful. Understandably, many are. But I was convinced that there was a different story. I asked Mr. Tadayuki Takeda, a Hiroshima native and a friend from university, to help me find a new story: was there a victim who could transform that violent act into a promotion of peace?

A Fresh Perspective

In December 2006 I flew to Hiroshima to meet with Mr. Yuuki Yoshida, a victim of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. His story is incredible, but his outlook is more so. Mr. Yoshida’s duty as a survivor, in his words, is to share his story and instill the great fear that nuclear weapons deserve. His goal is to make sure the disaster of August 1945, the use of atomic or nuclear weapons, never occurs again. His message, along with those of the other remaining survivors, is invaluable for this purpose.

Mr. Yuuki Yoshida, A-Bomb Survivor in Luzon, Philippines

Mr. Yoshida, who is 79 years old and has been crippled by Polio since birth, miraculously escaped death when the atomic bomb exploded over the city of Hiroshima. His younger brother died two weeks later, and his eldest sister narrowly survived after undergoing more than a dozen operations. She gave birth to a son after fifteen years despite strong worries about radiation. (Her son, Mr. Kazufumi Yamashita, studied in Berlin under the guidance of the famous conductor Mr. Herbert von Karajan and has become one of the most popular conductors in Japan.)

Mr. Yoshida and his family are Japanese but have a surprising background. Mr. Yoshida’s mother was American. Born in Hawaii, she moved to Hiroshima before World War II and gave birth to her children there. In 2008 Mr. Yoshida moved to Luzon, Philippines, to honor those who died there at the hands of the Japanese military.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki's Global Survivors

It had always been my impression that the victims of the atomic bombs were Japanese. But, after hearing of Mr. Yoshida’s American mother, I have since learned that the United States didn’t just bomb the Japanese in August 1945, but also citizens of China, Korea, the United States, the Philippines, the Netherlands, and Brazil—perhaps even many other countries. There were survivors from all of these nations as well. I had completely missed this perspective. Survivors from all countries are carrying forth their story to deter future nuclear disasters. This global memory is a bridge from suffering to peace that we cannot lose.

When I learned of the survivors from across the world, I thought perhaps there were other nuclear cases I should consider. Were there other atomic weapons survivors to be included this message? How do victims of the 1986 Chernobyl accident, and other nuclear energy accidents, fit in with the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims? What about the victims of nuclear bomb tests in Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and other countries?

In 2007 I visited Moscow to attend a conference chaired by my old friend, Dr. Evgeny Velikhov, former vice president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and oversaw the cleanup of the Chernobyl disaster.

He made it very clear to me that Chernobyl was caused by human error. An accident from the use of nuclear energy is tragic, but very different from the malicious and purposeful destruction of two cities. He also told me that, although there were many victims of the bomb tests—especially many indigenous people in Nevada—they were not killed in an act of war, so their situation is not directly comparable to that of the survivors in Japan.

Carrying Their Message Forward with the Nobel Peace Prize

All survivors from so many nations have suffered so much and yet have demonstrated to society that we should provide a peaceful life for our children without hateful attitudes. The survivors are getting old and we could not have learned the valuable lessons they share if they had not continued to live or if they did not make such extraordinary efforts to live longer in order to pass their message on to us. I fear that they have little time left with us to continue sharing their message, and that we should work now to make sure it is known as widely as possible.

How can we recognize their lofty mission and express our gratitude for their efforts to bridge hatred and create a peace that has its foundation in the non-use of nuclear weapons?

Time Magazine named “YOU” as 2006’s Person of the Year. What a powerful message. We each have the power to shape world. If all of the atomic bomb survivors were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a group, the impact of their message would reach new heights and the Committee would establish a new precedent in who—a group, not just an individual or institution—could receive the prize. And what better way to honor Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s global survivors’ great push for peace while bringing a powerful but fading message to the forefront of public consciousness?

A copy of Nobel Peace Prize award and its citation would be presented to each survivor by governors or mayors in countries of Japan, America, China, Korea, Philippines, Netherlands, Brazil and any other countries with survivors. I have no doubt that such an occasion would promote a position that is against nuclear weapons in a non-political manner and do much for reducing violence and the serious nuclear threat we face.

The epitaph carved into the stone coffin at the Hiroshima City Peace Memorial reads:
“Let all souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evils.”
We the world have a moral obligation to pass the torch of positive force on to the next generations so that they may partake in our wisdom, not just our mistakes. The survivors and victims of the atomic bombs have sacrificed much to pass on this torch. By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to all of the atomic bombs’ survivors--a group from many nations--the Nobel Peace Committee would honor a generation devoted to creating peace rather than resenting harm, as well as underscore its commitment to stopping these evils from reoccurring.

My response:

Dear Akio,

Ever since I met you many years ago I have shared your vision of peace through effort, understanding, forgiveness and conversation. I continue to support your efforts and actions in this evolving and prejudicial world, as we know it.

Your latest blog about presenting the Nobel Prize for Peace to the surviving peoples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to others who survived that action of war is one with which I disagree.

I do agree that all sides need to forgive and let go of the lingering nationalistic pain and the atavistic wounds of war.

Regretful actions always take place in war. The choice to harm, to kill, to win through technology and even personal military cruelty comes from many directions, from many cultures, and for many reasons, and they nearly always hurt the innocent.

The innocent of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are no different than the innocent of Pearl Harbor, China, and other areas and actions of Imperial Japanese aggression prior to World War Two.

Even though it is several months before the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I think there is a renewed freshness in the minds of nationalistic Americans because of the wound of 9/11.

Therefore I think support for your cause in America would be minimal and potentially inimical.

Transcendence is an import quality of global peace. Every sensible global citizen wants to live in peace with all the gifts that that entails. I am with you in that cause and admire your dedication and abilities to encourage all of us to think outside the proverbial box.

I am copying your blog and this response into my blog.

Be well my friend,


Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Marriage is one of those ever changing contracts. It’s never the same for it changes every moment that you commit to the well-being of your partner.

Love, as it is perceived through the union of marriage, is ever expanding provided it is nurtured with courtesy, communication and kindness. How many of us, whether we are one day married or 50 years married, remember to say thank you for even the very simple courtesies. Cooking dinner, looking nice, taking out the garbage, struggling to make it better.

Marriage can be, should be, the constant exponential appreciation of the other, if we see our partner through the eyes of wonder.

And wonder becomes radiant and lasting when we give rather than demand and when we appreciate rather than expect.

That is why I say a public thank you to my wife Ann today on our 47th wedding anniversary.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Traditions Continue in 2011

The tradition of New Years Eve celebrations stems from old beliefs and superstitions. Noise making goes back to the ancient custom of using loud noises to drive evil spirits from a house during the times of festive celebration.

Many nationalities and cultures still use noise to celebrate. America has her ratchet rattles and noise makers. Denmark smashes in the New year. People go to friends houses and throw bits of broken pottery that they have collected throughout the year at the houses. They also bang on the doors to make noise.

The Dutch love to celebrate New Years. It was one of their favorite holidays when they settled New Amsterdam in the mid-17th century. When the English took over the city in 1674 and called it New York, British custom at the time called for celebrating the New Year on the Vernal Equinox, March 25th. The dutch populace so loved the holiday on January 1st, they convinced the British to move their New year celebration.

Traditions have to start somewhere. The ball dropping tradition at New York's Times Square began in 1904 when the Times Tower was constructed. At the time it was New York city's second tallest building, rising to a height of 375 feet.

Adolph Ochs, the then young publisher of the New York times, moved his paper into the new building on New Year's weekend and decided to celebrate the event with a New Year's eve rooftop fireworks display.

It was spectacular, but it was dangerous. The following year the fireworks were replaced by the decending brightly-lit ball.

A tradition begun. Have a great 2011!

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