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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Shades of 1938?

One watches the world with fascination and foreboding these days.

Putin and the Chinese are poking their imperialist fingers in the eyes of the democracies on their borders. ISIS and Al Qaida, and its many offshoots, are expanding their brutal insistence on a return of a Caliphate and 7th Century Sharia Law to the Muslim world. Amid this growing set of threats, American power has been allowed to wane, leaving us with the smallest navy since 1938, and with a "war-ending" President, whose ideals seem perfectly suited to allowing these ominous changes to proceed, unchallenged by any credible threat of resistance or retaliation.

Meanwhile, our friends in Europe and Asia, most notably the Germans and the Japanese, have only small armed forces, a legacy of the post-WWII restrictions on rearming, and a reflection of the preventive power of the American "Nuclear Umbrella" that the Free World has enjoyed ever since 1945.

Air strikes, and in particular drone strikes, seem unlikely to solve any of the present problems in the Mideast. In fact, they may serve to convince Islamist radicals that we in the West are a cowardly bunch, unwilling to face them in a fair fight. Given their ethos that martyrdom in the name of Allah is their highest honor, our sterile air attacks will only serve to provide propaganda film, and to motivate more to volunteer for the ISIS army.

Shades of 1938

In the 1930s, Hitler took the Sudetenland. Japan took much of China and of the Pacific Rim. Italy invaded Ethiopia. We and the European democracies stood by until Poland fell to the Nazis (and to Stalin!). America stood by until Pearl Harbor was attacked. Then, all Hell broke loose, all over the world.

Our tour last spring of Basil Kimball's wartime path from Utah Beach to Merseburg, Germany, was an emotional eye-opener for me, to the brutal reality of World War II.

I am reminded of an old rhyme:

"Round and 'round the little wheel goes, 
And where it stops, nobody knows. 
Except the Lord, and He won't tell!"

Friday, September 19, 2014

Retiring, and The Beat Goes On!

Craciun în Româniă! Scene seen in the Northern Carpathian Mountains, winter, 2010.
I have announced my retirement from Plymouth State University, as of December, 2014.

But my umpteenth career is just beginning... as an international visiting professor.
First trip is booked, BOS-CLJ in DEC, CLJ-BRL on 2 JAN, BRL-BOS on 24 FEB.

I shall be for seven weeks a visiting professor at XIME, the Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship, in Bangalore, India.
Logistics, as seen on the road from Mysore to Bangalore in 2012.
Where next? Only time will tell!

Friday, September 5, 2014

WU Comes Thru, the Old-Fashioned Way

In fairness to Western Union, I must report that my Romanian travel agent, unable to remember or reset her PayPal password, and stressed out traveling by bus from Pitesti to Bucharest, finally received her payment authorization in Bucharest, with the help of Western Union.  (I think.)

I was never able to use WU's online service, which repeatedly rejected a payment bound for Romania, and I still far prefer PayPal, which would have charged me a mere 68 US cents to transfer 100 Euros ($131.00), vs. Western Union's fees of US$15.00 online, or $10.99 (as I did the transaction) at Rite Aid Pharmacy in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

But, using Western Union, I have apparently gotten the job done for my friend, if she succeeds in collecting her Euros at a WU agency in Bucharest.  At least, she now has the MTCN number for the transaction!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

¡PayPal, Si! WU, Nu! (Also read next post, which favors WU from the Romanian side)

User Unfriendly Department:

Dear Western Union,

I have just wasted 90 minutes attempting to make a 100 Euro transfer to a travel agent in Pitesti, Romania. The money was needed there, today, and the agent asked that I use WU to transfer it. I did so, registering with you online, and making multiple attempts to effect the transfer. Chase Bank, my credit card issuer, blocked the first attempt. I called them and cleared that block. But still, WU failed to allow my next several attempts to go through. I called your service operator, and was told that he could not remove the automated block on the transfer.

I have sent the money by PayPal. This path creates inconvenience for the travel agent, but it is high time that she learn to use the efficient PayPal services. They did for $0.68 what you would have received $15.00 for, had you completed my transfer.

Like most dissatisfied customers, I shall probably tell many of my frustration with your overly expensive and ineffective service.

I shall not trouble you in the future.


Duncan McDougall