Sunday, November 23, 2014

The wisdom of William Faulkner

“The past is never dead.
                    It’s not even past.”

William Cuthbert Faulkner (1897-1962)
American writer, winner of Nobel and Pulitzer prizes

Remember “the good old days” and “the bad old days”….?

We’re living in them right now.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

“…the commotions in America…”

A war by any other name....

It seems not everyone in London languished in post-war pain for years and years after the American colonists won the Revolutionary War.

Shortly after the November 20, 1785, death of Sir James Wright, the last British royal governor of the colony of Georgia, a London newspaper commented on his colonial service in his obituary:

“… As he presided in [Georgia] for two and twenty years with distinguished ability and integrity, it seems to be a tribute justly due to his merit as a faithful servant of his king and Country. Before the commotions in America, his example of industry and skill in the cultivation and improvement of Georgia was of eminent advantage…”

We call it the “Revolutionary War.”

The late 18th century obituary writer in the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser called it “the commotions in America.”

I guess there was some small comfort in taking that point of view….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Keystone Pipeline steel – from India

Here are a couple tidbits about the notorious Keystone XL Pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. to bring its Canadian tar sands product to the Texas Gulf Coast for refining.

The CEO of TransCanada said recently that, after completion of the pipeline, it would support about 50 permanent new jobs. Although proponents of the pipeline have been claiming it would massively create new jobs, the sober estimates are that several thousand temporary workers would be hired to build the pipeline, some for as little as two months….

.…and while we’re on the subject of American jobs: TransCanada has already acquired the steel pipe for the project and put in storage—it was purchased from India.

One more point: the Keystone pipeline isn’t going to do much to further American energy independence. Obviously, America doesn’t own the Canadian tar sands, TransCanada owns it and wants to sell it—and TransCanada hasn’t attempted to conceal the prospect that some or a lot of the refined end products at Texas refineries will be put on the world market for sale to the highest bidder.


Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mandate for change? well, not really….

Regardless of what you thought you were voting for on Nov. 4, the usual suspects are still running the show in Congress.

You know, some things just don’t change much. If more people would bother to vote, that might change in the future.

In America today, people have more respect for cockroaches, more or less, than they do for Congress.

Yet, in the U. S. House, with all 435 seats in play, only 18 incumbents were defeated on Nov. 4.

In the Senate, with 36 seats in play, only 4 incumbents were defeated.

Both parties in the House and Senate re-elected the same people for leadership positions, these are people who deserve to have their pictures on the wall in every Post Office: McConnell, Reid, Boehner, Pelosi….

In the House, with women filling almost 20 percent of the elected seats, the Republicans named 20 men to be the new committee chairs from the majority party, and boldly retained Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) as chairwoman of the Administration Committee, which serves the American people by overseeing the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Zoo.

In terms of its membership and leadership and damn near everything else, it’s the same old same old….

We need more people to vote in 2016.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt (part 3)

A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car, 
          but if he has a university education,
                      he may steal the whole railroad.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
26th President of the United States

Certain insights stand the test of time….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

$290 million for coming up short….

I wonder how much Bill Gross would have pulled down if his Total Return Fund had actually outperformed the stock market in 2013?

See, he got a bonus of $290 million last year for his dubious work as Chief Investment Officer for the Pacific Investment Management Co.

The thing is, his flagship Total Return Fund was in the bottom third of its class in terms of total return in 2013. When it had $293 billion under management in April 2013, the Total Return Fund was the largest mutual fund in the world.

So, the investors got screwed, and Gross got $290 million.

Who thinks that’s right?


Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

Just say “No”

Pick a cheaper college....that's the ticket!

A new report says that 70% of college graduates leave the campus with a bachelor’s degree and a big bill to pay.

These students have an average of $28,400 in student debt.

And these are students from public and private non-profit colleges. The for-profit colleges refuse to report the debt burdens of their students, so it’s a good bet the real number for the whole nation is higher.

Monthly student debt repayments are a big problem for new graduates, many of whom are facing serious obstacles to getting a job.

Has anyone thought of this "solution"?

Next year, every student who wants to go to college should choose a college that he/she can attend without borrowing any money....of course, Mom and Dad should help out as usual.

I'll confess my bias: for most students it really doesn't matter much which college they attend. 

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

“Spell backwards, forwards.”

Take a look at this dreadful beauty—it’s a voter “literacy test” from Louisiana in 1964.

This is what faced black and white prospective voters in the Pelican State who couldn’t prove they had at least a 5th grade education.

Except, of course, some election officials (all white) sometimes forgot to administer the test to some white folks who wanted to vote….

This kind of absurd discrimination was outlawed by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. For the moment, let’s not even bring up today’s version, namely, photo IDs….

Folks who wanted to vote had 10 minutes to complete this so-called “literacy test,” and one wrong answer meant failure.

I wonder how many Louisiana election officials could read this document in 1964, or explain each item in clear English….

You’re literate. Give this a try.

Set the timer for 10 minutes.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Waiting is surely

             a time for quiet, a time

 to rest, for thinking.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

The wisdom of General Custer

“There are not enough Indians in the world
          to defeat the Seventh Cavalry.”
General George Armstrong Custer  (1839-1876)

OK, let’s walk that one back a bit…..

Let’s talk about the Lakota and Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors—roughly 1,836 of them—at the Little Bighorn River in Montana on June 25, 1876….

Custer probably skipped a couple lectures at West Point, where he graduated at the bottom of his class in 1861….he amassed 726 demerits, close to the record.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The new “poll tax”….

The new wave of Republican restrictions on voter registration and actual voting may seem like an academic issue to many folks, but for the poor, it’s real and it’s a knockout. reports that even something as seemingly mundane as getting a photo ID can be painfully expensive for folks at the lower end of the socio-economic scale who are least likely to have one already.

A Harvard Law School study estimates the cost of obtaining an ID ranges from $75 to $175, when you add up all fees, travel/parking costs, lost pay from taking time off from the job….

If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, or living with no paycheck at all, that kind of expense can make it effectively impossible to get the ID needed to vote.

By the way, the infamous Jim Crow poll tax that was finally invalidated by the Supreme Court in 1966 was only $1.50 (about $11 in current dollars).

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

“Voter apathy” isn’t quite right….

I’m reading about “voter apathy” in the after-action analysis of  last Tuesday’s midterm elections, a Republican win for sure.

I don’t think that’s the right word for it.

It’s more like “citizen apathy,” because voting is one thing a lot of people didn't do last week.

In fact, the turnout nationwide was the lowest since 1942.

The current estimate is that barely more than 36% of folks eligible to vote actually did so....that's slightly more than half the number of folks who voted in the 2012 presidential election.

In Indiana, only about 28% of those who could have voted actually went to the polls.

When the norm is to skip voting, by what tortured definition can we claim that we live in a democratic republic?

I fear that millions and tens of millions of Americans are going to be hurt by what the new Congress will do and refuse to do in the next two years. I suspect that most of them couldn’t be bothered to vote last week.

It’s a dreadful mystery to me.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank you for your service to our country

You know a veteran. Join me in saying “Thank you” today.

U.S. Marines, Belleau Wood, WWI

Iwo Jima, WWII
US Marines, Danang, Vietnam
US Air Force pilot

US troops in Iraq

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

The wisdom of Harry S. Truman (part 2)

Well, sure, this is a bit dated, and, sure, it’s partisan as all heck, and, gosh, it’s not true that every Republican is like this….

“Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home—but not for housing. They are strong for labor—but they are stronger for restricting labor's rights. They favor the minimum wage—the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all—but they won't spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine—for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing—but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think the American standard of living is a fine thing—so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” 

Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)
33rd President of the United States, straight talker

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

“…inter librorum copias.”

"O quam dulcis vita fuit dum sedebamus in quieti . . . 
                                   inter librorum copias."

Alcuin of York (c735-804)
Advisor to Charlemagne

'Oh, how sweet life was when we sat quietly . . . midst all these books.'

Read it a couple of times, you may see a different image each time…..

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

The wisdom of Audrey Hepburn

“A nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people…”

Audrey Kathleen Ruston (Audrey Hepburn) (1929-1993)

There’s been a lot of bad and worse news filling my mind in the last few days, I’ve yearned for what Edgar Allan Poe sought, namely, “…surcease of sorrow…”

So I turned to that fount of chocolate wisdom, one of my favorite ladies of the cinema, Audrey Hepburn.

Audrey comes through, once again, on the chocolate cake front.

Trust Audrey.

Fall backwards, into her arms….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tuesday voters: older, whiter….

Shame on the folks who didn't vote on Tuesday

I realize I may be yelling at some of my friends and acquaintances.

There are plenty of excuses for not voting, but there aren’t any good excuses except for the ones that start “on my way out to vote I fell down the stairs and broke both legs….”

Here’s a preliminary report from NBC, this has to be a guess based on exit polling, so we’ll look for more accurate figures later….

….but the accurate numbers are likely to be in this ballpark.

I’m trying to understand it, but mostly I don’t get it.

It’s dreadful that so many folks repeatedly decline to vote, when the election outcomes for so many folks are so clearly a threat to their personal self-interests.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Will the Republicans work at governing?

I voted for President Obama the last two times around, so I’m not seeing much good news in the election results this morning.

I’m afraid that the next two years could be a very bad time for Americans, America and our system of government.

Maybe I’ll be surprised.

Maybe the Republicans in Congress will respect the fact that the will of the people put a Democrat in the White House two years ago.

President Obama has already figured out that Republicans control both the Senate and the House.

Maybe the Republicans in Congress will decide to work with the president to start governing the country.

We’re going to need compromise all over the place to start passing legislation to boost growth in our national economy, help create jobs for the millions of Americans who want to work, tackle the rebuilding of our transportation infrastructure, work on smart energy policy that won’t fry our planet, deal with our education problems….

The election is over.

In Washington, let’s stop the yelling, and get to work.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

When is a condo not a home?

Well, for starters, if you own an expensive condo in midtown Manhattan but you don’t live there, then it’s not a home.

There’s some weird stuff going on in the prime big city residential markets all over the globe: folks with a lot of money are buying apartments, co-ops and condos for great big bucks, but they’re not putting any food in the frig in these places….because they don’t live there.

Two weeks ago the Sunday New York Times did a shocking piece on this, read it here.

For example, in a cozy section of Manhattan—between 56th and 63rd streets, between Park and Fifth avenues, at the southeast corner of Central Park—more than half of the high-priced digs are vacant more than 10 months a year.

Their owners use them infrequently, or, as investors, never.

For example, Trump Tower (721 Fifth Avenue) has 237 units, some with price tags north of $25 million—only 108 of them qualify under city property tax rules as primary residences. In 129 of these units, no one's home.

Many of the folks who own this expensive, empty housing are not New Yorkers, and many of them are foreign nationals.

It seems like part of the reason that housing in New York City is so expensive is that a lot of the existing housing stock isn’t being lived in.

I wonder where the Trump Tower doormen live?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

You owe it to yourself to vote

One recent study indicates only 26 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds plan to vote in the midterm elections tomorrow.

Shame on the rest of them.

Shame on everyone who cares about bad government, who cares about what happens to our society, who cares about people with power who aren’t doing the right thing, who consciously cares about her own self-interest….and doesn’t plan to bother to vote tomorrow.

I’m not just saying “It’s your civic duty to vote.”

I’m saying that, if you care about that stuff, then refusing to vote isn’t a good strategy.

Dare to vote for candidates who are better than the ones who got elected last time.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Gull watch

Sassy gulls, squabbling,

   not quite ignoring me, ‘cause

       I might drop a crumb….

Aug 18, 2014
Narragansett, RI

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Memento mori….

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the topic of old soldiers, here are a few pictures (maybe) worth a thousand words….

The Brown University Library offers a collection of mid-19th century photographs of old soldiers, veterans of the Napoleonic Wars in the early years of that century.

Here are a few examples, very likely taken on May 5, 1858, in Paris during a veterans’ celebration:

Quartermaster Fabry of the 1st Hussars

Sergeant Taria,Grenadiere de la Garde, 1809-1815

Monsieur Moret of the 2nd Regiment, 1814-1815

These photos suggest to me a somewhat macabre passivity….these old gents submitted to the photographer after squeezing into their uniforms yet again, they consciously or unconsciously disdained the passage of time, perhaps not even imagining that they were much closer to death than to their days of glory….

I think of the possibly apocryphal words reportedly whispered by slaves in ritual warning to proud Roman generals as they paraded in triumph:

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Memento mori.

[Thus passes the glory of the world.]

[Remember (that you have) to die.]

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Oink, oink, oink….

How’d you like to get hit on, every six minutes, all day long?

So, tell the truth. Do you think a young woman should be able to walk on the streets of New York without getting continuous catcalls and wolf whistles and verbal harassment from the magnificent men of the Big Apple?

Of course you do. Of course you’re in for disappointment when I mention that a lady who tried this recently—with a video cam running—didn’t have any luck. reports that the woman, and a male accomplice who walked in front of her with a camera hidden in his backpack, trod the pavements of New York for 10 hours. See excerpts here.

The young woman was wearing jeans and a crew-neck T-shirt. She walked for 10 hours, staring straight ahead, without uttering a sound.

She recorded about 100 instances of verbal harassment from men of all kinds:
“How you doing, girl?”
“You don’t wanna talk?”
“If I give you my number, will you call me?”
“Damn, I just saw a thousand dollars!”

That is, roughly every six minutes, a man who was a complete stranger made a very public effort to invade her privacy, demean her and offer unwanted advances.

And that’s not counting the innumerable winks, whistles, gestures….

The whole thing stinks.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The wisdom of Oscar Wilde (part 4)

“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

As usual, Mr. Wilde spits out a penetrating insight and a devastating critique….

….but this one isn’t wholly satisfying to me.

Consistency has many virtues, not least of which is steadfastness in the presence of  adversity.

I think the sentiment that friend Oscar meant to isolate is:

Obstinacy is the first refuge of the acrimonious.

Or something like what this guy said:

“Obstinacy is the result of the will forcing itself into the place of the intellect.”
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Too bad some folks don’t seem to have the “can’t we all just get along?” gene….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

First computers built by men and women

It’s pretty easy to recall the name of Charles Babbage when you want to talk about the 19th century’s first mover in the development of the computer.

It’s pretty easy to think of some of the prominent men who were among the pioneers in the successful rush to build computers in the mid-20th century: John Atanasoff, Max Newman, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, Bertrand Russell….

It’s not so easy to remember that Augusta Ada King, the Countess of Lovelace, was the entirely capable mathematical whiz who worked alongside Babbage in their drive to build a working “Analytical Engine” in the 1830s.

It’s not so easy to grasp the role of women in the 20th century’s spectacular creation of powerful, programmable computers, because no one ever mentions their names.

When the ENIAC—the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer—was unveiled in 1946, a very long line of men AND women had contributed to its birth.

In fact, most of the programming of ENIAC was done by six women: Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas and Ruth Lichterman.

It’s not too late to give them credit.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

“To boldly go….”

OK, it’s a start.

Of course, this is the next logical step, and folks in Westminster, MA, are taking it.

The Board of Health in this town of 7,400 in central Massachusetts is considering a ban on all tobacco and tobacco products. Period.

The board isn’t trying to ban smoking. It just wants to prevent everyone from legally buying anything to smoke in Westminster.

In America, about half a million people die prematurely every year because of smoking, and of course smokers drive up health care costs for themselves and for all of us....and 12-year-olds can get cigarettes.

The Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (University of Wisconsin) says about 80% of smokers claim they want to quit, and half of them try it every year.

Maybe the smokers in Westminster are going to get a helping hand.

Here’s hoping.

Why is it still legal to sell tobacco anywhere?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Who pays the price?

“Les conseilleurs ne sont pas les payeurs.”
French proverb

The French aren’t the only ones who’ve figured out that “those who give advice, don’t pay the price.”

It should go without saying, I guess, that if you give advice, you should own the advice.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Singing to the choir….

For too many folks, “singing to the choir” is the music they love best.

A recent Pew Research Center report confirms what we all know: too many folks filter out news and friends that don’t suit their own political convictions.

For instance, among Pew’s category “Consistent Conservatives,” almost half say that Fox News is their “main source for news about government and politics.” Among the “Consistent Liberals,” 15% name CNN and 12% name MSNBC.

About 52% of Consistent Liberals, and 66% of Consistent Conservatives, say most of their friends “share my views on government and politics.”

Pew offers plenty more details about media consumption and news sources for Americans who are at either extreme on the political spectrum, or somewhere in between. Read the report here.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The perp walk, Russian style….

Seems like doing bad things in Russia is different from doing bad things in America.

Last Monday four people died at a Russian airport when a private plane crashed on takeoff into an errant snowplow whose driver was drinking before his shift.

Since then, Moscow police have arrested the Vnukovo International Airport’s service engineer, a trainee air traffic controller and the snowplow driver.

The Director General of the airport and his deputy turned in their resignations, which were promptly accepted.

The airport shift director and the head of the maintenance division have been suspended from their duties.

In Russia, it seems, when something goes badly wrong, if you did it, or if you’re in charge of making sure stuff like that doesn’t happen, or if you sit at the big desk where the buck stops, you take the perp walk….

There are a lot of folks in big companies in America who are due for a perp walk.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014