Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral

It’s Christmas Eve, and my mind’s eye looks back on my many Midnight Masses of years long past.  One church I’ve never seen on Christmas Eve is Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral, home base of the Roman Catholic Archbishop. 

It’s a beauty inside and out, described by Fr. George A. Lane, in his Chicago Churches and Synagogues, as a Victorian Gothic containing the official chair of a bishop, the cathedra.  The building was completed in 1875 of Lemont limestone and has undergone a number of alterations and renovations since.  Most striking to me is the unusual wood ceiling, described by Fr. Lane as “an elegant water-pegged black walnut ceiling, probably unique in the Chicago area.”  The cathedral features five bronze panels celebrating the Holy Name of Jesus by sculptor Attilio Selva, Stations of the Cross in bronze and red marble by Goffredo Verginelli, stained glass windows from Milan, and massive bronze doors designed by Albert Friscia.  Fr. Lane tells us that the wide-brimmed red hats hanging from the ceiling high above the sanctuary area are the galeros belonging to the previous cardinal-archbishops of Chicago, a custom dating to the thirteenth century; old traditions can live on in new places. 

Although this is one more Christmas Eve I’ll miss Midnight Mass at the Cathedral, I hope to once again at least catch it remotely via the annual local TV broadcast.    

From the Cathedral's website:

Holy Name Cathedral's website
Holy Name Cathedral at Wikipedia

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Romney Looks To Be the Last Man Standing

Mark Steyn writes (link) of his concern about the political conservative bona fides of Mitt Romney, and suggests Republican primary voters persist in looking to other more reliably conservative candidates.  He has in the past expressed some enthusiasm for Michele Bachmann.  I have better hopes for Romney, but cannot gainsay Steyn's worries or speculations about him, or about Newt Gingrich for that matter. 

However, however, however, although I would vote for a diseased camel before the incumbent, my conversations with and sense of so-called independents convinces me that a social conservative cannot win.  For some inexplicable reason, in a president many "independents" seem to fear social conservatism more than one who has brought, inter alia, a crushing debt load, accommodation and sympathy towards radical Islam, and a general hostility to Western culture.        

That leaves out Bachmann and Santorum, who aren't strong candidates otherwise in my opinion.  Gingrich is really a big government program guy, too impulsive, inconsistent, and flaky, and carries way too much baggage; moreover, he has massive negatives among those independents and Democrats who could be tempted to vote for Obama's opponent.  Perry's bumblings disqualify him, and he as well appears to be a social conservative unclear about the proper role of government -- note his utter confusion in attempting to explain mandating the HPV vaccine viz-a-viz individual liberty issues.  Paul is a small government guy, yes, but seriously unstable -- just the other day he appeared on the Tonight Show and said to a national audience that Bachmann "hates Muslims"; he's now the John McCain of 2011-2012 -- the Republican who seems to hate Republicans and is always good for a negative quote that liberals love and can use in political ads, playing right into the Democrat media strategy of encouraging lethal internecine fighting among duped and dopey Republican candidates. 

Romney isn't my first choice by a long shot, but at this time there's simply no other electable candidate in this very disappointingly and surprisingly weak field.

John M Greco 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Heisenberg Humor & Football Cheer at the University of Chicago

Today is the 110th anniversary of the birth of Werner Heisenberg (link), the German physicist perhaps best known for his Uncertainty Principle (link), which boiled down to a quark says that we can’t be sure where anything exactly is. 
This brings to mind a graffito not-uncommon in science building washrooms at the University of Chicago in the 1970s, slightly bowdlerized here for public consumption:   

“Newton:  Screw You / Heisenberg: Screw Your Vicinity

It’s pretty clever, and such is popular stuff at the U of C, even whose unofficial football cheer, also from the 1970s, is, after all, a bit on the academic side:

Cosign, secant, tangent, sine,
Three point one four one five nine
Square root, cube root, BTU,
Sequence, series, limits too.  Rah.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Detestable Wages of Liberalism – A 7 Year Old Alleged “Sex Offender” Reported to the State by Boston School Officials; Steyn: Sometimes Societies Become Too Stupid To Survive

From the Boston Globe (link):

A Boston elementary school is investigating a 7-year-old first-grader for sexual harassment after he struck another boy his age in the groin.  But the mother of the accused said her son was fending off the other child, who had choked him in an altercation on a school bus….

Matthew Wilder, spokesman for the Boston public schools, declined to comment on the incident or why it has been classified as a possible case of sexual harassment….  “Any kind of inappropriate touching would fall under that category,’’ Wilder said….   

The interim school principal, Leslie Gant, did not return a phone call seeking comment….  [The accused boy’s mother] spoke with Gant, who told her the school had called the state Department of Children and Families to report the incident.   [The mother] said her older son came home from school with a letter from Gant, telling her that [her son] had been accused of violating codes of discipline related to sexual harassment and endangering the physical safety of another student.   

[The mother] said she does not want her son to ride the bus until school officials assign an adult monitor. She said officials have told her to come in … for a hearing regarding the incident.

Mark Steyn (link):
“… a seven-year old boy is about to have his life destroyed for kicking a schoolmate in the groin – as boys have done to each other throughout human history.  One can understand that a school board might wish to discourage such activity, but not that it is so irredeemably, obtusely perverse as to categorize such an act as “sexual harassment”. The response of the official school board spokesmoron, one Matthew Wilder, is not encouraging….  The mother said she spoke with the principal, Leslie Gant, who supposedly told her: “It doesn’t matter who hit who first… He said he hit him in the testicles. That’s assault. That’s sexual assault.”
If officials of the Boston public schools system genuinely believe that when a seven-year old kicks another seven-year old in the crotch that that is an act of “sexual harassment”, then they are too stupid to be entrusted with the care of the city’s children. If, on the other hand, they retain enough residual humanity to understand that a seven-year-old groin-kick is not a sexual assault but have concluded that regulatory compliance obliges them to investigate it as such, then they are colluding in an act of great evil.
Sometimes societies become too stupid to survive. If you’re wondering how a candidate’s presidential campaign can be derailed by allegations of “gestures” of “a non-sexual nature” that made women “uncomfortable” two decades ago rather than by his total ignorance of foreign policy and national security, well, this stuff starts in kindergarten.  
Such moronic adults are pouring acid on our culture, one no doubt they wish to corrode and reshape toward some utopian vision.  Such behavior must be fought by all means possible, ridicule being one of them.  Steyn offers "spokesmoron  Matthew Wilder" and I raise him "interim idiot Leslie Gant".

Where do such people come from, and specifically who put them in charge of children?

John M Greco

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Obama Lawyers Flesh Out the The Obama Doctrine on Overseas Assassinations & Waterboarding

The Obama Doctrine:  Killing American citizens in the field on the order of the President without any warning and without any due process is perfectly fine, but waterboarding an Islamist suspected-terrorist fighter captured in the field in order to obtain information about an impending terrorist attack is morally reprehensible and a war crime.  We're in the best of hands.

From the Associated Press today (link):
Top national security lawyers in the Obama administration say U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida.  The lawyers were asked … about the CIA killing of Anwar al-Alwaki, a U.S. citizen and leading al-Qaida figure. He died in a Sept. 30 U.S. drone strike in the mountains of Yemen.  The government lawyers … said U.S. citizens don't have immunity when they're at war with the United States.  [One of the lawyers] said only the executive branch, not the courts, are equipped to make decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.

John M Greco

Related Posts:
Obama’s Chief Lawyer: Obama Can Kill an Unarmed Terrorist Just Fine, But Waterboarding Under Bush Is Morally Reprehensible

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Liberal Fraudsters

I sometimes reflect on the hysteria of the Bush years, though not so often as before.  I remember liberals personally expressing to me their anger and dismay over the fierce moral urgency, in their minds, of such needs as addressing global warming, closing the Gitmo detention center, withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and revoking the Patriot Act.  Now, after almost three years into Obama's tenure, the anthropogenic global warming movement has been shown to be a fraud, Gitmo is still open, the Patriot Act remains, and not only are Americans still fighting overseas but Obama actually ordered a troop surge in Afghanistan.

What happened to the outrage?  Where is the anger and angst?  Gone, gone to graveyards every one.  We see now, and I knew then, it wasn't about the specifics, the facts -- it was cynical politics about smearing anything Bush was doing or not doing, no matter how damaging to the social and political fabric of America and its image abroad.  That has changed me, raising up an anger at those who would hurt America to hurt their politcial opponents.

Where are those liberals now, those contemptible liberals, who were shouting lies about American troops at Gitmo?  Where are those liberals now, those contemptible liberals, outraged just a few years ago over our foreign wars and the supposedly fascist Patriot Act?  Where were they when Obama committed American troops to the recent war in Libya?  Where are those liberals now, those contemptible liberals, screaming about the man-made global warming that even they by now, if they can dredge up even the slightest wisp of intellectual honesty, must know is only their unsubstantiated hope?

Victor Davis Hanson today (link) at National Review Online:
Given Climategate II, no noticeable heating of the planet during the last decade, and all sorts of questionable research … the man-made-global-warming movement is about done for now. We sometimes forget that the fad gained its traction during the Bush years …. hysteria attributable to Bush derangement syndrome. I say hysteria because, like global warming, there no longer seems to be much furor over, for example, guidelines on stem-cell research. Iraq has become one of the administration’s “greatest achievements.” Afghanistan is no longer the “good” war that we “took our eye off.” Renditions, Guantanamo, tribunals, preventive detention, Predators, and the Patriot Act are no longer destroying the Constitution. Bombing a Muslim oil-producing country is no longer a war crime.
It is as if all these -isms and -ologies of the early 21st century — and their representatives, from Al Gore to Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, and Sean Penn — were entirely ...valid simply because they were the opposite of what Bush was (or supposedly was) for or against. With Bush removed from the calculus, the progressive community is silent and sometimes even embarrassed about the issues that once inspired them…. and so the hysteria quietly subsided and is now being Trotskyized away.
John M Greco

Related Posts:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Horror in Happy Valley -- And Trustees Opt for Damage Control

After I first posted the other day on the developing Penn State sex abuse scandal, I didn’t anticipate commenting a second time, and when I did I really thought that would be the last.  But Penn State’s continued obliviousness draws me once again to the keyboard. 

Recognizing that we have only allegations at this point, but acknowledging also that we have certain facts like a 1998 investigation of the alleged perpetrator Sandusky by multiple authorities, I have written that “my guess is that when all the facts emerge this will come out as a 15 or so year conspiracy of silence involving Paterno and many others to cover up ongoing homosexual rape and other sexual molestation of young boys at Penn State, practically in plain sight.”

For so many, I suspect the horror of the depth and breadth of the allegations and facts known so far are incomprehensible, and perhaps some resistance to objectivity on the part of some longtime Paterno and Penn State athletic boosters is understandable.  But the University Board of trustees should be above that and past that.  

In the wake of continued University employment of the assistant coach who testified to the grand jury that when finding a boy being raped in a Penn State athletic department shower room he neither rescued the boy nor called the police, in the wake of the trustees’ new interim football coach Tom Bradley just praising Paterno as a man who “will go down in history as one of the greatest men....", in the wake of some oblivious students rioting in support of Paterno, the Board of Trustees met and appointed someone to lead the University’s internal investigation of this whole sordid affair.

Did the Penn State Board select someone independent of the school and its culture, with a background in investigation and law enforcement?  Well, by now we know the answer to expect given what we’re rapidly learning about the Penn State culture.  No it did not.  The Board chose a Penn State grad, an attorney, who’s an executive with a pharmaceutical firm.  No reported investigative experience.      

Is the Board first and foremost interested in the full truth, or some truth with a heavy dose of damage control?  But it doesn’t really matter now, anyway -- the truth will come out in due course, perhaps mostly in tortuous and torturous drips and drabs.    

We already have inconsistencies in the grand jury testimony of Penn State officials Paterno, Curley, and Schultz.  Eventually we will find out who knew what and when they knew it.  We will get answers to many questions, including these:
  • Why were the 1998 investigations of two child sex abuse allegations against Sandusky dropped by the county prosecutor, the local child welfare agency, and the Penn State police department? 
  • Why did Sandusky unexpectedly retire in 1999 as one of Paterno’s chief lieutenants?  Any why was a special retirement deal negotiated with him?   
  • How many people in and around the Penn State athletic department had reasonable suspicions and concerns about Sandusky and his entourage of boys?  
  • Why didn’t officials at the local school, at which Sandusky served as a volunteer football coach as recently as a few years ago, alert authorities when he was found in sexually suggestive situations with boys at the school?  
  • Why did prosecutors wait until November 2011 to arrest Sandusky, the subject of an investigation for years, thus revealing then the explosive charges?  Was it just coincidence that the revelation came just days after Paterno set the record for most football wins as a college coach?  Who was responsible for the decision on the timing? 
In the end, I suspect that the ultimate motivation for what looks like a 15+ year cover up by many adults in many different agencies and departments will be the fear of what exposure would do to their money and glory.  I heard on Fox News yesterday that the CEO of Sandusky’s “charity” for young troubled boys has been paid $1.3 million since 1998, and I’ve heard it said that Penn State’s football program was one of the most lucrative in college sports. 

The truth will all come out eventually, but Penn State’s reactionary Board may not be the source of much of it.    

John M Greco

Prior Posts:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Penn State Still Clueless in Happy Valley

The Penn State Board of Trustees has just replaced football coach Joe Paterno with a guy named Tom Bradley.  He's been a Paterno assistant for over 30 years, and apparently idolizes the old man.  That's the Penn State way of cleaning house.  Faced with what will likely be the biggest scandal in its history, 15+ years of child sexual abuse and its enabling and cover up by university staff and officials, the University remains blinded by the Paterno glow that is no longer seen by anyone else. 

If one reads the grand jury report (link) and then constructs a simple timeline, one quickly sees that the first clear point on the public record is the 1998 investigation of defendant Sandusky by both Penn State police and the county prosecutor for allegations of child sexual abuse.  For reasons as yet unrevealed, the local county prosecutor, in a rural area dominated by the University, declined to files charges against Sandusky, the well-known, prominent football assistant coach and Paterno protege.  Hmmm. 

Shortly after that, Sandusky unexpectedly retired at the very young age of 55.  Hmmm.  He was allowed by Penn State to keep all privilges of a retired coach, including access to athletic facilities.  At that point he also had been for years the head of his own charity for troubled young boys.  Hmmm.  Of course this looks all the world like people at Penn State made a deal with Sandusky -- retire quietly and don't embarrass the school and football program and we'll keep quiet about you and let you keep your perks.  This certainly looks like a cover up began no later than 1998.

Four years went by during which Sandusky continued as head of his charity for young troubled boys and was seen with them around the school.  Then, in 2002, a young assistant coach named McQueary comes upon Sandusky raping a young boy in the Penn State athletic facilities late one evening.  He didn't stop it, he didn't save the boy, he didn't call police.  Instead, he told Paterno the next day, who in turn yet another day later told the athletic director Curley and senior adminsitrator Schultz, who in turn later told university president Spanier.  None of these four called the police.  They all now, of course, deny being told the specific nature of the act, and now assert they thought that the naked Sandusky was engaging in some kind of innocent horseplay with a naked young boy in a Penn State shower.  Just before he was fired the other day, university president Spanier expressed support (link) for Curley and Schultz, who are now under indictment for perjury about this whole matter.  However, not one of them has yet to explain publicly his 2002 inaction in light of the 1998 Penn State university police investigation and report on Sandusky.

It is absolutely unbelievable to think that Paterno did not know, in 2002, of the 1998 child abuse allegations against Sandusky and the report of the investigation by university police.  After all, who if not Paterno would know why his chief assistant coach suddently retired in 1998.  In fact, it seems probable that, given his status at Penn State, Paterno played a central role in a likely cover up deal in 1998. 

Because Sandusky's alleged rape in 2002 of a young boy in a Penn State shower was not reported to police, and because of earlier inaction in 1998, he remained at large with full access to Penn Sate facilities, during which time he allegedly continued to molest young boys for years after that.

Now, with the scandal finally breaking out into the open, Penn State has just fired Paterno and university president Spanier.  Many more departures will follow.

Yet despite all that we now know, thousands of ignorant and misguided Penn State students have just protested Paterno's firing.  And yesterday, new interim football coach Bradley, reportedly a Paterno assistant for 33 years and the man who got Sandusky's specific senior coaching job in 1999, said this (link) about Paterno:  "Coach Paterno will go down in history as one of the greatest men...." 

From the University president, to the coaches, to senior administrators, is there any adult at Penn State not involved in the cover up?  The Board replaces Paterno with one of his acolytes who now praises him as a great man.  If the Penn State Trustees can't find responsible, sensible, and uninvolved adults to take over and clean house, then they should all resign themselves and let the state take over. 

As I said in my first post about this horrific scandal (link), "my guess is that when all the facts emerge this will come out as a 15 or so year conspiracy of silence involving Paterno and many others to cover up ongoing homosexual rape and other sexual molestation of young boys at Penn State, practically in plain sight. This whole scandal looks ugly now, and will likely look many times worse before this is all over."

John M Greco

Other Posts:
Paterno & Penn State Look Like Burnt Toast

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Democrat Universal Solution To All Ills

New Democrat Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, formerly of the Clinton and Obama Administrations, faced with the usual big Democrat city challenges -- rising costs, decreasing revenues, and massive deficits -- stares down a massively bloated city budget, brimming with wasteful patronage jobs and drowning from an inestimable "corruption" tax, a populace still reeling from a recent straight-line Democrat-enacted state income tax hike of 67% on people and almost 50% on businesses (link), businesses feeling and threatening to flee the city and state (link), corruption everywhere with pensions and Democrat unions (link), now figures out what to do:  raise taxes (link).  Now that's real thinking outside the Democrat box.

Well, he could have staged a demonstration, like he's done before (link), except that Democrat-endorsed Occupy protesters are hogging all the media space.

John M Greco

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Paterno & Penn State Look Like Burnt Toast

Much is being written about the incredible, horrific allegations of sexual abuse of minor boys over a more than 15 year period by a prominent assistant football coach at Penn State (link; link).  After reading many reports and comments to the story, the greatest focus with regard to Penn State's culpability is on the events of 2002, at which time an assistant coach alleges to have observed the defendant raping a young boy in a Penn State athletic facility shower and to have reported the observation to his boss, legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who then in turn apparently reported it only internally to his boss, the athletic director, and a senior University administrator.  Police were never called, in violation of the law, reportedly, and certainly of any sense of morality.

However, not much talked about is the fact that in 1998 the defendant was found at Penn State to have engaged in inappropriate behavior with at least one boy and investigations by University police and a prosecutor occurred.  Although no criminal charges were filed, not long after that the defendant retired from Penn State.  He was allowed to keep the perks of a retiree, including an office and access to University facilities, including showers in the athletic department, the site of some later abuse allegations. Notable is the fact that by this time the defendant, besides being a Penn State football coach, was well known to be the director of a youth organization he founded that brought him into daily contact with young, troubled boys, and that such boys were regularly seen in his company.

Joe Paterno, and others at the University, express shock over this whole affair and plead ignorance.  Paterno specifically asserts that when informed of the 2002 allegation he did the right thing by reporting it to senior Penn State officials, and somehow feels his responsibility was limited because his longtime former assistant coach was by then not a University employee. 

However, what's not at all clear is why the defendant suddenly retired in 1998 after the police investigation into abuse allegations at that time, years before the alleged 2002 incident.  If even only some of these allegations are true, then it would appear to me that Paterno and others at Penn State in 1998 realized, if not before then, that the defendant was a child molester, and to avoid embarrassment to the University and the football program they let him retire.  Perhaps in exchange for his silence and perhaps even for a sham promise to stop such behavior they allowed the defendant to keep his access to the facilities. 

If the allegations are verified, it is impossible to believe that the defendant could have had young boys frequently in his company for over 15 years at the Penn State athletic facilities, particularly after the known sex abuse investigation of 1998, without the entire coaching staff and other university officials seeing him and suspecting what he was up to. 

If the allegations are verified, Joe Paterno's name, and that of what may come to scores of other Penn State coaches and university officials, will be mud forever.  My guess is that when all the facts emerge this will come out as a 15 or so year conspiracy of silence involving Paterno and many others to cover up ongoing homosexual rape and other sexual molestation of young boys at Penn State, practically in plain sight.  This whole scandal looks ugly now, and will likely look many times worse before this is all over.

John M Greco

Subsequent Post:
Penn State Still Clueless in Happy Valley
Horror in Happy Valley -- And Trustees Opt for DamageControl

Monday, October 31, 2011

How Apple Killed My iPad 1, and Almost Made Me Pay To Replace It

About 15 months ago I bought an original iPad that worked fine until a few days ago.  Then, I connected the device to iTunes on my computer for a periodic, routine sync and check for software updates.  This time there was a new version of the operating system software, and I began the upgrade and sync process. 

Trouble ensued.  The software upgrade wouldn’t complete, and I was prompted to restore.  After a while into that process, I received an error message:  “The iPad could not be restored.  An unknown error occurred (1).”

I went through all the timely troubleshooting steps to no avail.  Finally, I called Apple support and got a very polite support guy.  After taking many steps on my desktop, we tried the upgrade on my laptop, all without success.  Then he handed me off to a “senior advisor”, who told me that “this is a common problem, a hardware issue that the engineers are looking into.”  I was told Apple would replace my device.

I then went to the Apple store.  No way Apple would let me upgrade, even for a charge, to the current iPad model 2.  Apple insisted on replacing my now obsolete iPad 1 version.  The salesman gave me a replacement iPad 1 out of a plain brown shipping box, wrapped in thin plastic and looking new; however, it was not packaged for sale and there is no indication that this is a brand new, as opposed to refurbished or previously returned, device.  The salesman told me that the store keeps a supply of replacement original iPads for this scenario. 

Worse than not allowing me to buy an upgrade to the newer, current model was the fact that, had I not purchased an extended warranty plan for $99 when I bought the device, Apple would have charged me $419 to replace my now dysfunctional iPad, despite the fact that my device was working fine until it encountered Apple’s new software.  So Apple caused my iPad to die, but would have charged me half the cost of my original to replace it. 

I bought the extended warranty for protection against hardware failure, not against active destruction by an Apple software upgrade.  What if I had not bought it?  Had I not, there would have been a disturbance in the Apple store.  Apple is effectively saying to its customers that they would be smart to buy an extended warranty to protect themselves from Apple’s own future malfeasance.   

Hubris.  Arrogance.  When I next purchase a tablet, I may think different.


Monday, October 24, 2011

John Prine at 65

John Prine, the pride and joy of Maywood Illinois, nearby Chicago western suburbs, and the Proviso East High School gymnastics team, leading light, along with friend and fellow postman the late Steve Goodman, of the Chicago music scene of the 1970s, also of Muhlenberg County and Route 41, poet of loss and remembrance, collector of Souvenirs, balladeer extraordinaire of his Hometown, Old Folks, Grandpa and Grandma, and Angels from Montgomery, inter alia, turned 65 years old this month, and is still going strong.  One far away night in Chicago at the Earl of Old Town Goodman brought him up on the little stage and the two played together until my memory fades; I think they enjoyed jamming with each other more than we enjoyed listening, if that's possible.

Image is the cover of Prine's first album, "John Prine", released in 1971.  I've read an interview in which Prine says the photo was shot in San Francisco (of all places), and that he was surprised that bales of hay were brought in for the shoot.  But it all worked out. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Lost Levant

John Derbyshire has an interesting review (link) of Lawrence Durell’s Alexandria Quartet in the October issue of The New Criterion – particularly interesting to me for the window the novels offer into the tragic decline of Egyptian society.

The novels are set both before and during WWII in Alexandria, one of the exotically multicultural cities with which the English fell in love.  The Alexandria of those years, not so long ago, was “chaotically cosmopolitan,” says Derbyshire; “Five races, five languages, and a dozen creeds,” as Durell describes it in one of the novels. 

Then it all changed.  Durell returned to the city in the late 1970s and found a different place indeed.  No longer palpably multicultural, he found the place, per Derbyshire, “a monochrome shadow” of its former self.  By then, most Westerners had left, Christians were repressed, and non-fundamentalist Muslims had fallen in line. 

Derbyshire  says that “The Levant was rather rich in these commercial, cosmopolitan cities until modern nationalisms purged them.”  But I must quibble with him here.  I think Islamic fundamentalism has done it all in -- not pan-Arab nationalism per se but the intolerant, violent anti-Western religious fervor that has taken hold of the Muslim world.  The multiculturalism that thrived under a benign and guiding British hand, in Egypt and elsewhere, was gone. In the post-war decolonization fervor, people all over the Third World thought they could do better for themselves without the Brits.  History, at least up till now, has proven them quite wrong. 

Photo is of King Farouk (ruled 1936-1952) of Egypt, a Westernized, non-fundamentalist Muslim; like the late Shah of Iran, just the kind of Muslim ruler the West thought everyone could do without.  The West was wrong.  It's been all downhill since American complicity in Farouk's overthrow and its fecklessness during the Suez crisis.

Richard Balsamo

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Annals of Inanities -- 10/20/2011

Well, it's my job to prepare my Texas students for a Mexican future --
A Texas teacher named Reyna Santos, a Mexican native, "required her public high school students... to memorize the Mexican anthem and pledge and stand up and recite them in individually in front of the class.... but the school district maintains there was nothing wrong with the lesson." (link) Recital day took place on Mexico’s Independence Day.  The teacher told a father who called to object that "she loves Mexico."  Why she ever left Mexico is not disclosed in the news article.

Will this hurt our chances as lesbians to adopt more children?
A lesbian couple, in California of course, is giving their adopted pubescent boy medically risky hormone therapy to delay puberty in case he continues to want to become a girl (link), just like his two moms.  "Obviously, when two females adopt a male child, then assert that the child is not actually male, but is, instead, actually a female -- like both of them, everyone in the family should be psychologically evaluated in a comprehensive way before a step like gender reassignment is considered,” said [psychiatrist] Ablow.

As I've said before, only a racist would object to anything I do or say -- 
President Barack Obama gave a partisan-tinged speech to dedicate a new memorial to Martin Luther King Jr., likening the battle for racial equality to his political struggles in a divided Washington.

We don't care much for their culture or their laws, but their welfare is great --
Well-off Muslim residents, most of whom practice polygamy and don't even speak French, on the French colony Mayotte, an island off the coast of Africa near Madagascar, have been rioting (link) to preserve and expand their special colonial status that entitles them to generous French welfare benefits.  The death throes of Western welfare statism, now that it's run out of "other people's money", can be heard and seen everywhere, not just on the streets of lower Manhattan or Chicago's Loop. 

It's the people who have failed me --
Barack Obama has just said "all the choices we’ve made have been the right ones" (link).  Remember when George W Bush was asked whether he had made any mistakes and he was ridiculed as a fool and a jerk by the media for an admission insufficient in quantity and quality? 

Maybe one day its business model won't include actually delivering mail --
The Wall Street Journal reports (link):  Will the U.S. Postal Service start issuing driver's licenses and deer-hunting permits? Selling country-music CDs? How about strapping weather or air-quality monitors on mail trucks?  Plummeting demand for traditional mail delivery, which funds the postal service, has created a looming fiscal crisis that has Congress, postal employees and government officials weighing a venture into non-mail business as a way to stay afloat.

John M Greco

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ryerson Physical Laboratory – “The Most Beautiful University Building in the World”

I previously mentioned (link) the Kent Chemical Laboratory building at the University of Chicago, and now I get around to posting the picture of its next door neighbor and close cousin, Ryerson Physical Laboratory.  I had just one class here as an undergraduate, physics of course, and a tough one it was.  Rambling around inside and peering into the nooks and crannies of the beautiful, old, storied building was I think the most enjoyable part of that particular experience.   

The young University’s main architect Henry Ives Cobb designed the building, which opened in 1894 and was named after Chicago lumber businessman Martin Ryerson.

At its dedication, according to Jay Pridmore’s U of C architectural Campus Guide, then university President William Rainey Harper called Ryerson “the most beautiful university building in the world,” and I’m not here to dispute that.  Pridmore writes that the building “exhibits a dreamy Gothic fantasy: complicated solids and voids on the surface, with balconies, gables, and a crocketed roof line.  As usual in Cobb’s buildings, the main entrance is the most elaborate part…”  An annex was added in 1913, by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, “sympathetic” to Cobb’s design but “with noticeably richer ornamentation.”  

Pridmore tells us that “one of the earliest denizens was physicist Albert Michelson, the first Nobel laureate among many at this university,” who was honored in 1907 for his measurement of the speed of light. 

In the second post card image, the pre-annex building rear is seen from the north, with Botany Pond just to the left foreground and Hull Gate to the right, and the original Law School building in the distance.  

R Balsamo

Friday, October 14, 2011

Annals of Inanities -- 10/14/11 Edition

You mean, people like Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, and Herman Cain?

Maybe if you called them beige potatoes --
Team Obama about to ban white potatoes (link) in school breakfasts in favor of green and orange foods.

But we've got so many more friends and supporters to help --
Even after the Solyndra scandal has broke, some prominent Democrats want (link) a "national infrastructure bank" to "invest" billions of tax dollars with "special interests favored by Democrats".   And, "More solar companies led by Democratic donors received federal loan guarantees."

Maybe if they bombed the Statue of Liberty and declared grievances against white America, Obama would stick up for them --
In Egypt, Obama's Muslim compatriots, whom he addressed so warmly soon after taking office, telling them "you represent the harmony between tradition and progress" (link), continue to slaughter (link) the Christian minority there.

We don't think it's relevant --
Lots of liberal media coverage of scandals omit mentioning that the malfactors are major Democrat donors -- and often major beneficiaries of Democrat corruption or forbearance -- for example, George Kaiser (Solyndra) (link), Warren Buffet (huge fed income tax liabilities; link), Bernie Madoff, Raj Rajaratnam (recent conviction for insider trading; link).

How stupid -- everybody knows only Republicans can be compared to Hitler --
Hank Williams Jr. Compares Obama to Hitler. [Also here.] And for that his music is dropped from NFL football TV shows. Meanwhile, the NFL is considering the singer Madonna for the half-time entertainment show at the next Super Bowl; in one of her videos she compared former President GW Bush to Hitler, but he's a Republican, so it's OK.

John M Greco

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Writer Jan Morris Turns 85

Jan Morris, the great Welsh-English poetic storyteller of our age, celebrates her 85th birthday today.  What a treasure trove she has given us, writings so capturing of time and place, so atmospheric, we can close our eyes and almost feel we’ve been there.

Her works are varied and many, but her masterpiece (writing as James Morris), in the true meaning of that now-trite word, is her trilogy on the history, ethos, and meaning of the British Empire, the “Pax Britannica” trilogy: Heaven’s Command: An Imperial Progress (1973); Pax Britannica: The Climax of Empire (1968); and Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat (1978).  Run don’t walk, to get copies if you have not experienced them yet.

She writes of times and places that recede in memory, but the themes are eternal.  As I wrote before (link), “sensual and rhythmic, her narrative evokes the sounds and smells of empire about you as you drift through the pages”:

"In one of the lonely cemeteries in which, buried where they died, the Anzacs lay lost among the Gallipoli ravines, the parents of one young soldier wrote their own epitaph to their son, killed so far away, so bravely we need not doubt, in so obscure a purpose: 'God Took Our Norman, It Was His Will, Forget Him, No, We Never Will' ... for all too often the sacrifices of the Great War, as its contemporaries called it, were given to a cause that was already receding into history, like those discredited grey battleships, their smoke-pall filling the sky, hull-down on the Aegean horizon."

As I wrote before:  Her narrative has all the stories, the wars (some obscure, like the British invasion of Tibet), the adventures, and of course all the characters (Curzon, once Viceroy of India, "died in 1925 after a career full of irony and vicissitude."). And humour abounds, subtle and dry” -- Writing of the Fashoda Incident and the death of “Chinese” Gordon, the ‘noblest man who ever lived', and of the subsequent invasion of Sudan by Gen. Kitchener and the last cavalry charge of the British Empire (in which Churchill took part), as James Morris she wrote:

For years the Sudan had been in a state of rebellion under a fiery Sufi mystic who called himself the Mahdi, ‘the Leader’, and who formally announced the End of  Time, a conception particularly unwelcome to the British just then.”

And don’t by any means skip the footnotes; describing a salute to Kitchener:

With live shot, there being no blank: the gunners aimed high over the river into the desert beyond, where nobody who mattered was likely to be.”

In her last book, Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, she writes:
“I write of exiles in Trieste, but I have generally felt myself an exile too.  For years I felt myself an exile from normality, and now I feel myself one of those exiles from time.  The past is a foreign country, but so is old age, and as you enter it you feel you are treading an unknown territory, leaving your own land behind….”

The immortal, in her native Welsh, Trefan Morys, born 85 years ago today.

R Balsamo 

Related Link:
Writer Jan Morris is 83 Years Old Today, Author of the Masterpiece Pax Britannica Trilogy
Wikipedia article - link

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dems Dissing Democracy

More entries for the Annals of Inanities:

Well, if you people would just stop voting for Republicans we wouldn't have to do this -- 
North Carolina Democrat governor Bev Perdue proposes to "suspend" Congressional elections until Congress improves the economy (link).  She was serious in tone and doesn't appear to have been joking (link).  The prospect of significant Republican gains in those elections has nothing, nothing to do with her thinking.  Meanwhile, "more criminal charges are expected in the investigation of Gov. Beverly Perdue’s campaign finances" (link).  Perhaps she's running a distraction campaign.

Since those damn Republicans won't go along with our plans, this country really needs "less democracy" and lots of "automatic policies" --  
Former Obama budget director Peter Orzag writes (link) that "To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic."  That's right, we need to rely more on "depoliticized commissions" and "automatic policies" because those benighted voters keep electing Republican politicians who won't go along with our plans.  I'm betting he's not thinking of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, or Rush Limbaugh for those "depoliticized commissions".  Just a guess.  Perhaps he's been talking to NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, who on occasion writes longingly of communist China's ability to get things done without all those distasteful disagreements and roadblocks that come with all this voting and democracy stuff.  Actually, no doubt many Democrat elites feel the way Orzag and Friedman do.  Remember "What's the Matter With Kansas?" -- the false consciousness theory is alive and well.

At least that's not how our system works right now, but we're not through yet --
"The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that's not how our system works. That's not how our democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written," Obama said at the National Council of La Raza's annual conference. (link)

Addendum (10/14/11)
Constitutional limits are for Republicans --
'Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., ... said that congressional opposition to the American Jobs Act is akin to the Confederate “states in rebellion” .... and said that Obama should “declare a national emergency” and take “extra-constitutional” action “administratively” — without the approval of Congress — to tackle unemployment.' (link)

John M Greco

Monday, September 26, 2011

New Look for the Old Colony

Chicago’s Old Colony building is looking better than it has in perhaps almost a century after a cleanup that has washed away layers of build-up soot.  It’s one of my favorites, for its curved corners, interesting design, and appealing height, and I was delighted the other day to see it cleared of scaffolding and looking bright and clean.   

Completed in 1894 by Holabird and Roche, the slender early skyscraper has a classic Chicago tripartite structure, with a distinguishable base, a plain midsection, and a defined top section, which here includes a colonnade and a projecting cornice.  The most striking and unusual feature is its curved corners, and one can also see the “Chicago windows”, characterized by a large fixed pane of glass flanked on either side by narrower windows with sliding sashes that can be raised.  The Old Colony sits at southeast corner of Van Buren and Dearborn streets in the south Loop, and forms with the Fisher, Plymouth, and Manhattan an interesting row of old, preserved classic Chicago skyscrapers running between Dearborn and Plymouth streets.

Judith Paine McBrien, in her Pocket Guide to Chicago Architecture, says that the Old Colony was “built on speculation by Boston lawyer Francis Bartlett” and was “named for the first English colony in America….  The building was a successful venture, offering 600 offices that were occupied by railroad, printing, and lumber interests who sought space here in the thriving printing center of the Midwest.”  

Ira Bach says, in his Chicago’s Famous Buildings, that “the Old Colony is the last remaining Chicago downtown building with rounded projecting corner bays, a device often employed … to create highly desirable corner spaces on the interior and an interesting silhouette on the exterior…. [Also,] It was the first structure to employ a system of portal arches to brace it against wind loads, an innovative solution to a basic problem of tall skeleton-framed buildings.”  In Chicago on Foot, authors Bach and Wolfson tell us that the building has 17 stories, ... the first four [of which] are of light-blue Bedford stone [while] the upper part pressed brick and white terra cotta.”

Finis Farr in Chicago says that “the design as a whole gave an impression of dignity and power.”  Agreed.  Kudos on the rehab. 

The photo is taken from the west side of Dearborn street, northwest of the Old Colony; part of the Fisher Building is visible on the left, and the Chicago El tracks run on Van Buren Street between the two buildings.  The postcard is postmarked November 1907 to a Miss Underwood in Dayton, Ohio.  Click on an image to enlarge.  A brief Wikipedia article is here

R Balsamo

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Annals of Inanities - Sept 20, 2011

>  Eric Holder, Obama's disastrous (link), dangerous (e.g., the Fast and Furious/Gunwalker scandal - link), and reverse-racism-obsessed Attorney General, said the other day (link) that the Obama crew still really, really, really does intend to close the Gitmo terrorist detention camp.  That "fierce moral urgency" to closing Gitmo seems to have left him sometime in early November, 2008.
>  Obama's rampant sexism in the way he's treated his White House staff (link; link) -- doesn't count since he's a Democrat.

>  Obama blows over half a billion dollars of taxpayer money by giving it to a company, Solyndra, run by a big money man of his, despite a mound of evidence that the company was failing and despite internal warnings by members of his own team (link) -- doesn't count since he's a Democrat.  Meanwhile, former Obama assistant at the time Rahm E's memory has failed on this one (link).

>  Obama's urgent, urgent, urgent jobs plan, that he had announced in August that he would deliver in a September speech whenever he returned from vacation, now won't be put forward by Congressional Democrats for another month at least because they have other things to do (link) -- doesn't count since they're all Democrats.   

>  The Obama stimulus gave almost $800 thousand dollars to the "National Science Foundation" to spend on ....... "interpretive dance" (link).  And now comes Obama to demand those remaining Americans not under his Rasputin-like spell join his acolytes in passing his half-billion dollar Son of Stimulus plan.  Fat chance. 

John M Greco

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Federal Reserve Continues Its Redistributionist War on Savers

Today the United States Federal Reserve, according to the Wall Street Journal (link), "signaled it plans to keep its benchmark short-term interest rate close to zero for at least another two years as it sharply downgraded its view of the U.S. economy."

Who continues to benefit from this ultra-low interest rate environment?  Bankers, big net Obama contributors in 2008, who can continue to borrow at near-zero rates and lend at 5-6% or better.  As Larry Kudlow is wont to say on his CNBC show, "even a banker can make money this way." 

Whom does this hurt?  Savers.  Retirees on fixed income who live off the interest on their lifelong savings.  Their dollars are earning a pittance.  But I don't expect AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, to protest, since it has long ago betrayed its ostensible constituents and gotten into bed with Obama and the Democrats to protect its real source of income that supports all those AARP administrative jobs -- selling insurance to seniors, now protected if not well-advantaged by its connection with Obama and the Democrats.  That is, at least for now, while Obama is in.  This may change. 

Who also benefits?  The US federal government, which at the present politically means Obama, which pays lower interest rates on its debt.

Continued ultra-low interest rates is a hidden, sneaky redistributionist tax on wealth – a tax on those who saved all their lives who now get little interest, now accompanied by the inflation which is how the federal government will resolve its big debt.  Both benefit not savers but debtors -- Obama's and his acolytes' core constituency.

John M Greco

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Obama/Democrat Spending Binge Comes Home to Roost

Markets are in turmoil in response to Standard & Poor's slight downgrading of American debt.  For over two years now the Democrat Party has gone on a national spending binge, with borrowed money, unprecedented in peacetime American history, most notably in the gargantuan special "stimulus", the bloated annual spending plans, and Obamacare.  Republicans, after going along, begrudgingly and with occasional moderate resistance, with Democrat spending for a generation, finally said enough, voted in vain almost to a person against this Democrat spending, and have refused to agree to raising taxes to feed the bloated government beast.  In response, elected Democrats, Senators representing all the citizens of their states, are throwing a tantrum -- calling those who disagree with them names like "terrorists" (link), and trying to silence them (link).  Typical fascist tactics from not very nice people.

Kurt Schlichter (link):  "The liberal dream of a perpetual social welfare state... is dying. There’s no doubt about that; the only question left is how long and hard the process will be as the hideous leviathan the utopian liberal establishment has created convulses and dies. It’s going to die hard. And ugly."

To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, American liberalism has just run out of other people's money.

John M Greco 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Not To Miss -- Why We're Headed Back into Recession -- Victor Davis Hanson Explains It All

The inimitable Victor Davis Hanson at The Corner at National Review Online explains it all to us on how Barack Obama is bringing on another recession: How to Turn a Recovery into Another Recession.

Turns out -- it's easy.  Here're excerpts on how:

1.      Ensure uncertainty in the private sector so that it continues to cut back and hoard cash….

2.      Take both real and iconic measures that scare business and question the old rules of free enterprise, perhaps by trying to shut down a new Boeing aircraft plant or reversing the order of the Chrysler creditors or absorbing a private company or two.

3.      Create a psychological climate hostile to business that either scares employers or angers them into sitting out any perceived recovery….

4.      Send a message that subsidized companies, especially in so-called green industry, are noble and need help, while profit-making corporations, especially in energy, are suspect…..

5.      Be selective in targeting capitalist enemies of the people….

6.      Run up historical deficits in ‘gorge the beast’ style that will force at some point either massive new taxes or a Greece-like crack-up [JMG: which for Democrats, per Rahm Emanuel, would be a "crisis too good to waste"] ….

 John M Greco

Related Posts:
The Obama Chrysler Confiscation – One Year Later
Economic End of the Road in the West
The Sad and Tragic End of General Motors

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Endless Run of Liberal Anti-Violence Kabuki Theater

Sitting around talking and reading, my wife turns on the TV to catch the local weather; much too early, unfortunately.  A segment comes on featuring the latest installment of the endless Kabuki theater that is the liberal approach to combating street violence in our "inner cities".

Chicago's new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, wants to "take back the streets", yada, yada, yada.  So will he combat the astounding teen pregnancy rate, which will place yet another generation of very-lightly-reared and poorly-educated young black males on the streets, exactly the demographic causing today's violence?  Will he criticize the "gangsta rap" culture, so pervasive in black neighborhoods, that glorifies and romanticizes criminal behavior and is peddled by rich liberal media executives?  Will he arrest more bad guys and pressure liberal local judges to keep them in jail longer?  Will he lay off the legions of useless extra workers at the core of the Chicago Democrat party patronage system and channel the savings to hire more police to better patrol the streets?  Uhhh ....... Nah.

Emanuel did the only thing Democrats know how to do well, their only trick, other than railing against guns, in their intellectually-exhausted playbook -- he held a street demonstration.  Through a dangerous black neighborhood he led yet one more of the innumerable "take back the streets" marches we've seen over and over again for decades.  That's their solution -- hold a demonstration, as if such will have the remotest effect on violent gang-bangers, and rail against guns, as if city kids aren't also killing each other with knives, bats, and fists, and as if white and east Asian kids across the country are also killing each other with remotely the same frequency with the guns, knives, and baseball bats to which they too have access.

Most major northern American cities have been run for a couple of generations by liberals, and they have made quite a mess of it.  They've earned a fat "F" in social policy, but give them credit where credit is due -- they deserve an "A" in street demonstrations, their cynically-hollow and useless gestures that can sure draw TV cameras and whip up a crowd. 

John M Greco

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Debt Ceiling Fight & Viciousness as a Liberal Tactic

The political fight over whether and how to raise the US debt ceiling has become high drama in Washington, and the supposed deadline of August 2 looms.  After a couple of years of an unprecedented, and, to me, reckless, harmful, and, wasteful Democrat spending orgy, the US federal government, we the people, that is, are in a big fiscal hole (link). 

The Democrat plan, such as it is, is to borrow lots and lots of more money to spend much more, supposedly to reduce the debt, but in reality to perpetuate ongoing and recurring fiscal instability that would create political opportunities to hoodwink more Americans into ceding more control over our lives to liberal elites.  The Republican plan, such as it is, after years of complicity as the junior partner to Democrat profligacy, is to spend less, perhaps even much less, to get us out of debt -- eventually.  I'm with them.

Both political parties are apparently taking hits in the popular polls, for whatever they're worth, especially this far out from an election.  But the inexorable decline in Obama's popularity and his eroding stature have been driving some liberals bonkers.  For years, of course, liberals have oft repeated the tired refrain that conservatives and Republicans are ... racist, selfish, stupid, extremists, etc, etc, etc.  So to keep up with the vicious side of their politics, some ultraliberals aren't missing a beat in the current crisis. 

Ultra-liberal New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, winner of the increasingly left-wing Pulitzer Prize, has just referred (link) to Tea Partiers as the “Hezbollah faction” of the Republican Party; Hezbollah is, of course, a murderous terrorist group.  Another ultraliberal NY Times columnist, Nobel Prize-winning Paul Krugman, just referred (link) to conservatives with different views on the debt crisis as "a cult that has really poisoned our political system."  Comedian and Democrat Senator Al Franken, another vicious ultra-liberal apparently of the Stalinist mode, just debased the United States Senate by displaying (link) on its floor a poster shouting "Welcome Terrorists" in reference to those whose views differ from his.  Demonize, isolate, and other moves right out of the socialist Rules for Radicals standard playbook -- for Friedman, Krugman, and Franken, just another day at the office. 

As Obama sinks further in the polls and as he increasingly looks to more and more people like an incompetent, arrogant jerk, Democrat viciousness will only increase.  It's all they have left.

Addendum:  Jonah Goldberg wraps it all up here at National Review Online.

John M Greco

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Obamism as Peronism

The inimitable and enthusiastic bard of hard-nosed reality John Derbyshire, a polymath whose somewhat recent book "We Are Doomed" (link) I thoroughly enjoyed, has a great post today, arguing that the model for modern liberal politics is actually Peronism.  Derbyshire writes (link):
The more I look at the history of our national debt and federal spending, the more it seems to me that …. [t]he guiding spirit of fiscal management in the advanced world this past half century has in fact been Juan Perón, who ruled Argentina from 1946 to 1955….  From Paul Johnson’s Modern Times:  “As President, Perón gave a classic demonstration, in the name of socialism and nationalism, of how to wreck an economy….  He created Big Government and a welfare state in one bound….  [Eventually,] He fled on a Paraguayan gunboat. But his successors could never get back to the minimum government which had allowed Argentina to become wealthy. Too many vested interests had been created: a huge, parasitical state, over-powerful unions, a vast army of public employees. It is one of the dismal lessons of the twentieth century that, once a state is allowed to expand, it is almost impossible to contract it.”
Now of course the U.S.A. is not Argentina….  We have, though, followed the same trajectory as Perón’s Argentina, albeit more slowly and gently. He got from “the minimum government which had allowed Argentina to become wealthy” to “a huge, parasitical state” with “a vast army of public employees” in just five years; it has taken us five decades. The end result for our respective peoples will be the same.
JM Greco

Friday, July 15, 2011

Investing Solo – Sweet Spot for Closed End Funds

The recent Fed statement that I interpret to mean that it will not be raising the short term interest rate for the foreseeable future, coupled with the futures market projection that the first significant hike will occur in about 18 months, and a mild one at that, has led me to start raising the portion of my portfolio held in leveraged closed end funds, which can borrow at short term low rates and invest the proceeds.  I’m looking to go as high as about 15%, depending on the opportunities as they arise, from a starting point of about half that.

I’m interested mostly in increasing CEFs on the debt side, with the exception of those that hold MLPs. I am skittish about stocks given the poor intermediate term outlook for the economy particularly in light of the massive federal debt and the uncertain business environment created by the Obama administration, the long term lower spending by consumers as they reduce their own debt in the face of uncertainty, and the 10-year Shiller P/E that suggests that stocks are currently overvalued. There have been long periods of time where the return on stocks has been flat or negative, inflation adjusted (e.g., roughly 1965 to 1982 and the last 10-11 years or so), and there seems to be no reason the current price stagnation can’t last for many years to come. I like investing for total return, to be sure, and I think investing for current yield is generally the best way to accomplish that.

My current CEF portfolio follows. I’ve been adding to these positions as opportunities arise – dips in price and discount, and with certain uncommon special exceptions, I'm particularly attracted to those from large, reputable portfolio managers whose trailing net investment income exceeds distribution with positive undistributed net investment income. The specific funds I have, when there are others in the category and fund family, were/are determined by the various relative metrics plus relative discounts on the day of purchase.

>> Municipal Bonds: The sweetest spot of all given the recent default fear in this market segment. Taxable equivalent yields at the 35% rate are above 10% on a slew of issues. Right now I have significant holdings of only Nuveen funds: NPM; NPF; NXZ; NVG; and NEV. I was out of muni CEFs entirely at the beginning of this year when the price drop on the default scare created bargains too good to pass on, and I now have substantial capital appreciation as well as great yield. The share prices may still have room to go if higher taxes are in the offing.

>> Mixed/go anywhere: I hold three CEFs from Pimco, whose CEFs are almost in a class by themselves given the very active portfolio management, high premiums to NAV, and significant monthly under-distribution coupled with year-end specials (link). I have significant holdings of PFN and PFL, currently distributing 7+%, which hold more corporate debt than anything else, and PKO, now at 8+%, which has more of a focus on asset-backed securities. I’m contemplating paring PFL given the large run-up in premium to NAV since Bill Gross, the port manager, mentioned it in Barron’s in June, and swapping for PKO or PFN, depending on the numbers at the time.

>> Preferreds (equity pfds & debt hybrids): Distributions are 7-8%, up to about 9% TEY, and I am holding my positions in JPS and JTP (link). I’m not adding more to this sub-class right now out of concern about the rate of redemptions coupled with the run up in price in the individual securities with which funds must deal.

>> Mortgage-back securities: CEFs vary a lot in the amount of residential agency versus non-agency, and the amount of commercial and other asset-backed debt, and of course in overall credit worthiness. My largest position is FMY, currently distributing over 9%, which is IG and mostly agency. I also hold some HTR (whose management has just also taken over FMY) and a little DMO and JLS, all currently at around 8% or better.

>> Foreign debt: I have modest holdings of GDO (more toward IG) and EHI (more junk), both over 8% right now.

>> Floating rate: This category consists of funds with floating rate senior secured bank loans, plus GFY (link) which I hold as well. I have significant holdings in JFR, BHL, and TLI, distributing now 5.5 to over 6%.

>> MLPs: I like the prospects for this group -- I have a substantial allocation to KMR, the stock version of KMP. I also hold CEFs KYN, KMF, and NTG, all now yielding 6-7%.

>> Stocks: I generally disfavor CEFs as vehicles for stocks, especially since so many follow an options writing or dividend capture strategy. I have one modest holding in this category, one which uses preferred stock for funds for leverage and holds utility stocks – UTG, currently distributing almost 6%.  I also have a nominal starter set in UTF, which holds infrastructure stocks like utilities, pipelines, and toll roads, and currently yields over 8%.

>> Real Estate: I have been out of this asset class for a very long time, but on a recent dip I have just established a small starter position in the CEF IGR, whose holdings are about 45% outside the US and currently distributing about 6.5%.

Mike Parenti

All Investing Solo Posts

I’m an individual investor with no background in finance or securities, writing things down to help organize and clarify my thinking. Of course, nothing I say constitutes investment advice of any kind – merely an account of my personal observations and decisions. My core portfolio is a conservative and diversified mix of equity and debt mutual funds, ETFs, and some closed-end funds (CEFs) across investment styles, management firms, and accounts, and I invest a relatively small amount (about 10%) somewhat more aggressively in the perhaps ultimately futile pursuit of alpha.