About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dawn and the Journey of Life**

*Chicago Tribune
March 11, 2011
as "Everyone needs a reason to start the day"

*Somerset, PA Daily American
March 12, 2011
as "Everyone needs a reason to start the day"

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

“When you arise in the morning,
think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive
--to breathe, to think, to enjoy…to love.”
--Marcus Aurelius
 
There’s something marvelously clean about the morning. The day is perfect; clear of wrinkles and scribbles, stains and tears. The hours ahead are ruled solely by the power of potential, and after a restful night’s sleep, we have the strength and energy to turn possibility into wondrous reality. Yesterday is done. The mistakes we made, the opportunities we squandered are in the irretrievable past. Before us is a blank canvas, ready and waiting for whatever portrait we choose to paint.
 
“It was morning; through the high window,
I saw the pure, bright blue of the sky.
It, too, seemed full of joy, as if it had special plans,
and had put on its finest clothes for the occasion.”
--Herman Hesse
 
As dawn approaches, the sky changes. The black starry dome lightens to non-committal grey as the night stubbornly gives way. On the eastern horizon, the great beacon edges upward, the glowing rays the harbinger of its pending arrival. Even in these pre-dawn moments, the sun engages in a bit of artistry as the still-hidden star brushes the clouds with strokes of pure gold. In the landscape around, that which was formless and invisible in the dark now becomes familiar and known. Our deepest fears are associated with darkness. We know instinctively that in the light we will find safety from those unknown dangers that lurk in the night

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Economic Sanctions: Predicting Utility

Copyright © 2000 by Ralph F. Couey

ECONOMIC SANCTIONS:

PREDICTING
UTILITY

The Challenge of Effective Foreign Policy
in a Monopolar World


By Ralph F. Couey

ABSTRACT
Can game theory be married with real-world cases to provide a predictive framework for economic sanctions? In this study, the theoretical work of Jonathan Eaton and Maxim Engers is applied to selected case studies from the data base of Gary Hufbauer, Jeffrey Schott, and Kimberly Ann Elliott. This application will demonstrate the utility of game theory in the real world and also provide the ability to predict the appropriateness and effectiveness of economic sanctions.

INTRODUCTION
Throughout human history governments have sought at various times to influence, or coerce, the policy directions of friends and foes alike. In cases where this diplomatic interaction has become hostile, states have resorted to force to settle disputes. In other cases, governments have used a superior economic position as a basis for imposing economic sanctions against other nations as an alternative to open warfare. With the improvements in the technology of warfare the ability of states to inflict increasing amounts of damage upon each other motivated governments to seek less destructive methods to settle disputes.


For most of the 20th century economic sanctions have been used as a leverage tool in disputes. Success in those cases has been mixed, at best. In recent years, as relative prosperity has become more widespread, and due to the fundamental shift from bipolar to monopolar global politics, the effectiveness of economic sanctions has declined. Despite their less than successful track record governments, particularly the United States and the United Nations, continue to resort to this ineffective tool in attempting to solve interstate disputes. To most governments, the resort to armed conflict is an anathema. Novelist John Ball wrote, “Nobody wants war; it’s an unmitigated horror. The only reason a sane nation involves itself in one is because the alternative is even less acceptable.” (Ball, 206) The imposition of economic sanctions has become the alternative of choice in international politics, one that requires a careful examination of costs versus benefits.

Hypothesis: Governments should weigh the cost of imposing economic sanctions against the gain realized by coercing a policy change in a target government.

Pearl Harbor: Conspiracy or Complacency?

USS Arizona -- where the blood first flowed,
and USS Missouri -- where the killing finally ended.
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii


Copyright © 1991 by Ralph F. Couey

"Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy,
the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately
attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan”

With those evocative words, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt committed a deeply shocked and angry America to war with Japan. The surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, coupled with other assaults throughout the western Pacific united a bitterly divided government and galvanized the citizenry. Even with the newfound unity, many pointed questions were raised, not the least of which was “how could this happen?”

Today, over 65 years later it is even more difficult for present generations to comprehend how a military, a government, and a nation of free people could have been the victim of such a terrible surprise attack. It is that still pointed question that leaves some unsure whether the attack was facilitated by a numbing complacency on the part of America towards blatant Japanese aggression, or the result of a dark conspiracy originating within the highest levels of government to involve the United States in global war.

As with any disaster, the inevitable witch hunt to locate the person or persons responsible ensued with nine official investigations by the executive branch, the congress, and the military. In addition, historians have delved deeply into this subject publishing countless books, articles, and essays. It is safe to say that no other event in American history has been subjected to the level of scrutiny as the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yet even after six and a half decades, the search for the smoking gun - and the hand that held it - remains alive.

How Ideal was the "Ideal State?"

Copyright © 1998 by Ralph F. Couey

Throughout human history, philosophers witnessed the worst parts of man's inhumanity to man. In response, they strove to construct, at least in a theoretical sense, an outline for what was perceived at "the ideal state." One of the first of these efforts is embodied in Plato's epic work "The Republic."

This exercise, interestingly enough, grew out of a discussion centering on the nature of justice. Socrates and the elders quickly reached the realization that in order to properly define justice as it relates to the individual it was necessary to consider the larger question of the nature of the state's view of justice. The attitudes of the state shape the attitudes of its citizens, so in order to nail down what constitutes a just man, one must account for the state's definition of justice.

In our modern world, punishment for crime is meted out in accordance with the way the state's laws have been molded by culture. In Singapore, for example, theft is punished by caning; in Somalia, by the amputation of a hand; in America, by a stern lecture from an overburdened Judge and perhaps a few weeks in a climate-controlled corrections facility with satellite TV and three squares per day. In each of the above examples, the punishments reflect the respective culture's highly subjective view of justice.

Today, of course, we can take advantage of the long view not only of history, but through the images and impressions of other contemporary cultures through electronic eyes in order to properly contextualize these very basic questions. In contrast, the view of Classical Civilization was necessarily myopic, there being no GNN (Grecian News Network) to expand their limited view beyond the eastern Mediterranean.

Friday, September 07, 2012

The Center of...Everything*


The famous Hubble deep field image
Photo copyright © NASA/JPL

 
Copyright © 2012 by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only

*Johnstown, PA Tribune-Democrat
October 2, 2012

The universe fascinates me, and has since my formative years during that breathless era known as “The Space Race.” My earliest recognizable memory was following Alan Shepherd’s Mercury suborbital flight on the radio (yes, the radio). It was a wonderful time in history. NASA reigned supreme, and everything seemed possible. We would put men on the moon before 1970, so it seemed logical, even expected that human footprints would decorate the surface of Mars by the 1980’s.
But times and national priorities change. We still explore space with robots, but it is sad that humans haven’t left earth orbit in…well, it will be 40 years this December.
Even today I still remain deeply curious about space. I watch a lot of space-oriented programming on the television, and I’ve learned a lot.
But I still find myself looking into the night sky at distant stars and wondering if there might be someone up there looking back at me, asking the same unanswerable question.
In trying to understand the universe, scientists have probed deeply, achieving amazing discoveries.
Planets range from small and rocky to huge orbs of rotating gasses. The smaller ones contain various layers of progressively denser rock as one gets closer to the center. Some, like ours, contain hot cores of molten metal. As this core rotates, it creates a protective magnetic field that shields the planet’s surface from life-robbing radiation. Earth has such a field. But her close relatives, Venus and Mars, do not.
In our solar system, and also some other systems now being discovered, are the gas giants. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune consist of rotating atmospheres of carbon-based gasses. Some speculate that as the elemental carbon sank into the depths over the millennia that the incredible pressures at the core of such giants may have created planet-sized diamonds.