Friday, February 12, 2016

Massive stock buybacks: it’s a shame


Big companies are squandering their cash reserves to prop up their stock prices.

The stock market dropped almost 9.5% in January, its worst start of any year on record.
Of course, every time a stock is traded, there’s a buyer and a seller. So, who was buying in January when the sellers were pushing prices down?

Goldman Sachs Group says U.S. companies were buying their own shares with corporate cash reserves, accounting for about 20 percent of market volume last month.

That’s stunning. American companies have a couple trillion dollars sitting in their cash accounts, and they can’t think of anything better to do with it. The money could have been used for new product development, expansion and job creation, training and productivity enhancements or other productive purposes.

Yahoo Finance says hundreds of S&P 500 companies have lost $126 billion in the past three years by investing in their own shares and then watching the share price go down. Some of these firms actually borrowed money to cover their share repurchases. By the way, the stock market overall was up 39 percent in the same period.


Why are all these companies using their cash with such awful results? The standard wisdom is that companies buy their own shares when the stock price is “cheap,” below their actual value as determined by the company. This reduces cash outflow for dividends, and makes more shares available for stock grants and options as part of executive compensation plans.

Another result is that earnings per share (EPS) are increased when there are fewer outstanding shares, and this looks good in corporate reports and also may boost executive compensation.

Let’s call the spade a spade, here. Corporate directors and CEOs are spending their hoarded cash to try to prop up share prices—often for their own benefit—instead of using the money for constructive corporate purposes that would preserve and expand jobs.

Shame on them.









Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book review: Shakespeare’s Wife


Book review: Shakespeare’s Wife
By Germaine Greer, HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2007
406 pages

This is scholarly nonfiction that is not to my taste.

I respect Greer’s effort to vivify Ann Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare.
I think she went overboard a bit.

Shakespeare’s Wife is longish, considering that lots of the details of Ann’s life aren’t well documented or remain obscure.

For my taste, too much of this work is carefully contingent or unselfconsciously speculative. The specification of what we don’t really know is perhaps more interesting to a scholar embracing esoterica than it is to a lay reader like me.

Moreover, Greer’s text is chock-a-block with statements and implications that Shakespeare wrote about his wife and his private life in his plays and sonnets. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t.

Finally, much of this tirelessly researched and documented book isn’t really about Ann Hathaway. There is a conspicuous offering of detail about people she knew and didn’t know, in Stratford and elsewhere, and about circumstances of life, commerce and the arts in the 16th century in the middle of England.

So, here’s what I learned: Shakespeare may or may not have loved his wife; ditto for Ann’s relationship with Bill; I don’t need to read this book again.







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The gotchas and the gliblies



Regardless of your pick of the unprecedented crowd of celebrities now running for president, I suspect you’ll agree with me that the news media have failed most dishonorably to report on the relevant public policy issues in this campaign season.

Instead, the media have almost monolithically homed in on the gotcha moments and stayed focused on the gotcha moments.

The media have glibly reported on the most facile stump speeches and the most offensive ad hominem attacks and the most despicably false statements, without injecting any leavening dose of honesty and rebuke.

I have never believed that the news media actually, effectively perform any of the “public watchdog” functions that are so widely claimed by media moguls and their apologists.

The news media certainly aren’t doing America any favors during this campaign.












Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Book review: Classic Writings on Poetry


Book review: Classic Writings on Poetry
William Harmon, ed. (b1938)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Harmon
Columbia University Press, New York, 2003
538 pages

This is a somewhat bountiful book about the history and the nature and the practitioners of poetry. It seems to offer a point of view for every taste. It is an eye-opening primer for a new student of poetry.

In his introduction, Harmon says:
“…In none of [these] documents is poetry as such distinguished very crisply from prose…
Poetry resists absolute definitions…Rhyme, for example, has been an incidental blemish of prose in many literatures, especially those of classical antiquity…in time, however, in the poetry of Europe, rhyme turned into an ornament so important that ‘rhyme’ itself virtually came to mean ‘poem’…”

But before that happened, “…during the Middle Ages…rhymed accentual verse was introduced for certain religious texts set to music, but rhyme was so alien to true poetry, according to many conservatives, that such texts were called ‘proses.’ “

Indeed, poetry resists a commonly accepted definition.

Wordsworth offered this:
“…all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity (sic)…”

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) said:
“The poetical impression of any object is that uneasy, exquisite sense of beauty or power that cannot be contained within itself; that is impatient of all limit…”

If you can read the following quote without quivering, there is no need for you to pick up Harmon’s collection.

From Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586):
“But if…you be born so near the dull-making cataract of Nilus, that you cannot hear the planet-like music of poetry; if you have so earth-creeping a mind that it cannot lift itself up to look to the sky of poetry…”



I trust you will join me in pledging to do everything possible to sing poetry to such of our fellow creatures as suffer the burden of an earth-creeping mind, yea, as we feel their hurt and wish them no ill, but rather the complex rapture of the sunset.








Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Making poetry



“Poem” has its etymological root in a Greek verb meaning “to make,” thus a poem is something made. A more detailed description of poetry has been elusive for more than a couple thousand years.

A somewhat bountiful book on this subject is Classic Writings on Poetry, edited by Dr. William Harmon.

From his Introduction:

“…In none of [these] documents is poetry as such distinguished very crisply from prose…(1)
Poetry resists absolute definitions…Rhyme, for example, has been an incidental blemish of prose in many literatures, especially those of classical antiquity…in time, however, in the poetry of Europe, rhyme turned into an ornament so important that ‘rhyme’ itself virtually came to mean ‘poem’…”

But before that happened, “…during the Middle Ages…rhymed accentual verse was introduced for certain religious texts set to music, but rhyme was so alien to true poetry, according to many conservatives, that such texts were called ‘proses.’ “(2)

Harmon notes that an “old-fashioned” poem, or “verse,” like “Adeste Fideles,” does not rhyme either in Latin or in English.


I am fully intrigued by reflecting on the distinction between prose and poetry. I’m not yet prepared to offer any compelling commentary on that point, except to say that I’m in complete agreement with Edgar Allan Poe in believing that brevity has something to do with it.

In his “The Poetic Principle,” Poe makes his view very clear:

“I hold that a long poem does not exist. I maintain that the phrase, ‘a long poem,’ is simply a flat contradiction in terms.
“I need scarcely observe that a poem deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul. The value of the poem is in the ratio of this elevating excitement…That degree of excitement which would entitle a poem to be so called at all, cannot be sustained throughout a composition of any great length. After the lapse of half an hour, at the very utmost, it flags—fails—a revulsion ensues—and then the poem is, in effect, and in fact, no longer such.”

It takes about a minute to read this post.

‘nuff said.


(1) Harmon, p. xii
(2) Ibid., p. x









Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, February 5, 2016

You already know this






It’s the least expensive cat toy in the world.








Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Yeah, a blanket fort



Did you make one of these when you were a kid?




I did. Many times.

If you didn’t make one when you were a kid, you can make up for that by helping your grandchildren make one.

Today.

Or make one for yourself.









Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ars Poetica, the art of Horace



Thinkers and writers and philosophers have been talking about poetry for thousands of years—notwithstanding, we continue to puzzle and prate and pontificate about the nature of this, perhaps, most classical of the arts.

I’m doing much reading about poetry. I wish I could say that it’s an entirely pleasant learning experience.

Take a moment to reflect on this commentary by Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 B.C.):

“…the poet [should] just now say what ought just now to be said…In the choice of his words, too, the author of the projected poem must be delicate and cautious, he must embrace one and reject another: you will express yourself eminently well, if a dexterous combination should give an air of novelty to a well-known word…”
(From Ars Poetica, c. 15 B.C.)

Exactly so. In my poems, I strive to find the right words to profoundly express what’s in my mind and in my eye and in my ear. I want to offer my sensations most fully to the reader.

Here’s a sample:

Listen

Surf sounds, the singing of the sea,
the breaking rollers,
mellowed crunch of wave on wave,
the boistered drumroll of eternal tides.

There is no silent sea, we think….

….consider a sheltered beach,
in the lee of a baffling sand bar,
sea-spawned shoal,
mediator for sea and shore,
muffler of the surf,
tamper of the borning breakers,
damper of the singing of the sea,
guardian of truth about
the vastly silent blue water.



Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.








Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The few have spoken in Iowa



Just for the record, about 6 out of 7 eligible voters in Iowa didn’t bother to vote Monday night.

For every hardy soul who turned up at the Iowa caucuses, there were 676 adults in America who didn’t vote for Hilary or Ted or any of the others.

In other words, more or less the tiniest fraction of all of us did the voting in Iowa. They did their thing, but they didn’t speak for you or me.

By the way, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named got a tad over 45,000 votes, meaning that on Monday night, less than two-hundredths of one percent of potential U. S. voters wanted a reality TV star to be president.


Wait ‘til you see the teeny-weeny numbers for New Hampshire.

Too many of us don’t bother to vote. It’s the cancer of democracy.











Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Another poet heard from (part 11)



There is a delicate eagerness for the possible in this offering from Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer….there is, at least, a vital hope for the kinder world we long for…

I’m happy to share Rosemerry’s “Inner Eden”


And if I found in me
a spot of land where
anything could grow—
some miraculous soil
that knows only yes—
then what would
I dare sow?
In such tender
territory, even breath
might take root.
A whisper becomes
a seed becomes
an unknowable
flowering. A song,
of course, I’d
plant a love song.
But imagine if,
as I knelt, lips to earth,
a loneliness spilled
from my pockets,
strewing its millions
of tired spores
throughout the plot.
And what if an arrow
from an old wound
chose then to dislodge?
Is it in fear or in joy
I dance at the edge
of inevitable fertility, longing
for the impossible—
to plant only beauty,
its fruits reseeding
all around us growing
only more beauty,
more beauty.





See her website here: A Hundred Falling Veils








Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Book review: America Ascendant


Stanley B. Greenberg, America Ascendant: A Revolutionary Nation’s Path to Addressing Its Deepest Problems and leading the 21st Century
New York: Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2015
406 pages



Doubtless you’ve been wondering what’s going on in American politics, our Congress, our state governments and the Republican Party. Greenberg offers many answers in America Ascendant.

He expects we are witnessing the slow unraveling of what ails our body politic: civil dysfunction, the concentration of greed/power/wealth, the conspicuously parochial Republican/conservative/rightwing points of view, and the blatant bigotry that too often masks itself with dissembling, righteous talk of “traditional” American “values” like self-reliance, commitment to family, Jeffersonian “small government” and religious faith. Greenberg expects that better days are coming, but he cautions that the process will be achingly and devastatingly slow.



His essential message is that America is inexorably becoming a less white and more diverse nation—most abundantly, a nation of immigrants, and a nation undeniably represented by young generations of folks who are tolerant and happy to live their lives with culturally and racially and sexually diverse friends, lovers, marriage partners, neighbors and coworkers—the folks who consciously wish to live their lives unfettered by the domination of a select few with great wealth and great power.

To those of us who have struggled to understand the motivations and fears and dreams of the folks who support the divisive and hurtful and dangerous and self-interested antics of so many politicians, America Ascendant offers much more understanding than I have encountered from any other source.

What Greenberg says is not pretty. His book suggests that a good outcome is possible.

I want to believe his message.







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I didn’t bother on Thursday night


About 225 million grownups in America didn’t watch the Republican debate or He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named last Thursday night. I was one of them.

The audience for the GOP debate on Fox was 12.5 million, about 5% of adults in the U.S. Roughly 2.7 million—about 1%--tuned in to the DJT event benefitting military veterans.

The rest of us were doing other things: hoping the next president will use the full powers of the Oval Office to do good things for America, like improving education, boosting infrastructure investment and creating jobs, reducing carbon emissions to tackle the global climate change horror, increasing taxes on the very wealthy, taking steps to fight the greedy power of corporations and Wall Street….




You fill in the hopes I forgot to mention….














Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The wisdom of Guillaume Apollinaire


"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy."
Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)
French poet


All you need to do with this one is nod your head and say “Yeah, I need to do that more.”




Ring the bell that’s in your hand.

Sing the song that’s in your head.








Thanks to my trusted personal advisor for this one.







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Stones and bones....


“The poet, with the adjustment of a phrase,
        with the contrast of an image,
               with the rhythm of a line,
has fixed a focus which all the talk
        and all the staring of the world
                has been unable to fix before him.”

Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982)
American poet

For me, the pith of this remark is its insistence that poetry is about particulars—the right words—as well as the heroic glosses and the rhyming and the chiming of the bells.

In my work I strive to find the right words to exactly express what’s in my mind and in my eye and in my ear. I want to offer my sensations most fully to the reader.



Here’s a sample:

We share all this space and time with the stones and the creatures
   and the waters of the earth and the cycles of the luminous skies
      and the skittering leaves and the bones of the dead.
These are existences which proceed and persist with us,
   against us and without us.
We indulge our myths that we are the odd lot, the specials, the self-chosen….
....perchance, we understand that we need the very stones
   and the creatures and the waters of the earth
      and the cycles of the luminous skies of the days and the nights,
         and the skittering leaves
            and the very bones of all the dead. 

















Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The wisdom of Mark Twain (part 7)


“There is no distinctly Native American criminal class,
         save Congress.”

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) (1835-1910)



Twain spoke a lot of nonsense, and he threw in some enduring truths along the way.


I don’t think there’s any evidence that Will Rogers had a chance to meet face-to-face with Mark Twain.

Too bad.

That would have been a nonstop you-know-what.


















Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Phase transition



Transition….








My path, my crossings,
   the trails I know, and my friends,
      become memories…




Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014
All rights reserved.





The memories piled up.

The pile got smaller.

I am happily in a new place. I have happy memories of the old place.

And no regrets.







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What it doesn’t say….



I’m pretty sure that a lot of folks thought teaching was a proper job for women in 1915 in Sacramento.

Of course, there weren’t a lot of other career paths open to women who wanted to work, or needed to work.

I wonder what women thought about applying for a teaching job, and, of course, complying with the rules and regulations. At least, judging by this example, teachers had a more or less free rein in deciding what and how they should teach.




Wait a minute. I just noticed it doesn’t say anything about romping naked with wild animals in public. Does that mean….?







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Another poet heard from….(part 10)



Naomi Shihab Nye is a recognized voice among People Predisposed to Prefer Poetry. I don’t claim to be a fan, particularly, but she’s fully capable of deft strokes, and I offer one such here:

“…I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,  
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,  
but because it never forgot what it could do.”


Just so. What one can do, and wants to do, and could do, and will do, are not always one and the same.




I prefer to focus with full energy on the things I want to do, and a vital element of that lifepath is my candid acceptance of what I can do, and what I could do when I put my mind to it. If I succeed, the "will do" takes care of itself.

This is a rich imperative for me—and it’s a zinger of a way to start the day.























From "Famous" in Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995), © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye.








Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.