Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Want more business execs in elected office? Really????


About 4 out of 5 Americans say we need more people “with business and management experience” in the hallowed halls of government.

What the heck are they thinking?

Now, let’s remember to treat every public opinion poll with great suspicion because pollsters never get it right, but—a recent Gallup poll reports that 81% of  Americans agree that “. . . this country would be governed better . . . if more people with business and management experience were in political office.”

I don’t agree, and I bet you don’t agree if you think about it for a minute.

Think about every boss you’ve ever had—how many of them do you want to send to Washington?

Think about your experience with companies of all kinds—do you automatically think that their CEOs and managers are magically qualified to hold political office and make good decisions for your town and your state and our country?

Think about all the bad news you’ve heard about Wall Street execs and top banking leaders and hedge fund managers and mortgage lenders and auto company leaders and gas company CEOs and the business tycoons who fund SuperPACs and the folks who manage the beef feed lots and the Big Pharma folks who sell high-priced drugs….


Are they the “people with business and management experience” that you want running our local and state and national governments?

Well, if they’re not the ones, then who is?












Monday, July 28, 2014

High U.S. business taxes? Pants on fire!


FACT: American corporate taxes are low, and have been dropping for almost 65 years.

U.S. corporations used to pay about one-third of federal taxes—now they pay less than 10 per cent.

You’ve heard the spectacularly false blather about “high U.S. corporate tax rates”?  Of course you have. “The U.S. business tax rate at 35% is highest among developed nations, highest in the universe and beyond, a chokehold on American businesses….”

The thing is, almost no corporation in America actually pays 35% of its income in federal taxes, what with federal tax breaks, loopholes, subsidies and offshore profit havens. In fact, the average big American company pays less than 23% in federal taxes, and the average PROFITABLE big company pays only about 17% of its income in federal taxes.

Around 1950, says Vox.com, American corporations were paying 32 per cent of all federal taxes.


Now, American corporations pay less than 10 per cent of all taxes collected by the federal government. Individual taxpayers like you and me, combined, pay more than 40 per cent of U.S. tax revenues when we file our federal tax returns, and that’s not counting our additional payroll tax deductions for Social Security and Medicare.

Currently, among the world’s developed nations that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States ranks third from the bottom in corporate tax collections.

That stuff about high corporate tax rates is just a politically-motivated lie.






Sunday, July 27, 2014

Think you’re an ESFJ?


Think you’re an ESTJ?  or an INFJ? or an ENTP?



Think again.

If those acronyms aren’t familiar, you probably never took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test.

A little news item on Vox.com is a stunner:  the Myers-Briggs test seems to be a load of what the farmer takes away….

"There's just no evidence behind it," says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who's written about the shortcomings of the Myers-Briggs previously. "The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you'll be in a situation, how you'll perform at your job, or how happy you'll be in your marriage."

I took the test once, way back, I forgot what type it said I was.

Something like 2 million people do the Myers-Briggs every year, usually in the workplace. On the management retreat, or in the professional development seminar, or whatever....the company that now owns the Myers-Briggs concept makes about $20 million a year from licensing the test.



It was launched in the 1940s, reports Vox.com, and is based on “untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community. . .the test is totally ineffective at predicting people's success in various jobs, and. . . about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time.”

Here’s a tip: don’t put your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator on your resume.







Saturday, July 26, 2014

Newspapers are soaking up customers’ money



Despite their swirling descent into the toilet and the destruction of so many jobs and careers, American newspapers are still unbelievably profitable: the industry had an operating profit margin of 16.3% last year.

How can they do that? It’s easy: sharp increases in subscription and single copy prices, shrinking page count in the news hole, and draconian staff cuts.



Newspapers all over America are going to continue to publish until the remaining subscribers and remaining advertisers finally admit that newspapers aren’t worth the cost…..in other words, the plan is: when newspapers have sucked all the money out of the shrinking customer base, they’ll shut down.

Nice mission statement.












Friday, July 25, 2014

Book review: The Bartender’s Tale


Book review: The Bartender’s Tale
Riverhead Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc., New York, 2012
387 pages


If you’re an Ivan Doig fan, like me, this one will easily endear itself to you. It’s Ivan Doig-ish and it’s about a 12-year-old boy growing up with his father, in a saloon, in Gros Ventre, a likable-enough town with likable-enough people in Two Medicine country, in Montana, where the sheep are. If you’re an Ivan Doig fan, you sort of know this kind of country.

It ain’t This House of Sky. Pause. Repeat, for effect.


On the other hand, 12-year-old Rusty is a magnet for life experiences, he is a perceptive if sometimes innocent observer of what life crams into his young world, he ingenuously feels the first throbs of grown-up sadness, young love, careless aspiration, and fear of life-changing events that he sometimes only clumsily understands. Rusty is the kind of character that Doig understands.


Rusty’s relationship with his dad grows and changes from the first page to the last—for me, this plot thread is at least as compelling as the boy’s fantastic and wonderfully articulate transition from kid to person. Rusty learns from Tom even when Tom isn’t teaching, even when Tom is struggling with mysteries himself. Rusty listens in on Tom’s grown-up and sometimes overwhelming life, especially in the back room of the Medicine Lodge saloon….and the back room is stage center for Rusty and Zoe, his 12-year-old consort in young love and great adventures.

On the other hand, The Bartender’s Tale is about a whole lot more than Rusty, and Tom, and Zoe. Too much more, I dare to say. For my taste, too many secondary characters who have primary roles, too many plot turns jumbled together, too many momentous surprises, and here I’m trying sincerely to avoid using the distasteful word “contrived” but I think I can’t quite help myself….

I realize this sounds a bit like the Emperor telling Mozart that his music has “too many notes.” Forgive me.

I mostly loved The Bartender’s Tale. Really, I couldn’t put it down. Repeat, for effect.







Thursday, July 24, 2014

Just in case….

….you were wondering “What the heck is the real name of the Marquis de Lafayette?” --  here’s the actual moniker of this great friend of America during the American Revolutionary War:

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette, Marquis de La Fayette





OK, carry on.
















Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Companies shouldn’t be able to “escape” U.S. taxes


You’ve heard this story before, here’s another one: 

A big U.S. drug company, AbbVie Inc., has purchased an Irish company and plans to re-incorporate in Great Britain, so it can cut its corporate tax bill by almost 50 percent.

Smart move, right?

Well, how about these apples?

For starters, AbbVie is currently paying an effective tax rate of only about 22 percent—forget the disingenuous squealing blather about the “high” nominal federal tax rate of 35 percent, almost no company pays that rate on its income after corporate tax breaks are factored in.

And this one: Yahoo Finance points out that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called out AbbVie for moving “after using taxpayer-supported medical research to become one of the United States’ most profitable companies.” The federal government provides almost $35 billion a year to subsidize drug research by Big Pharma.

And this one: Durbin also said "It was our government’s patent office which protected their discoveries and guarded their right to make a profit. Now AbbVie is ‘moving’ to an Irish island to escape paying the U.S. taxes it owes.”

Corporations are not people.

Corporations are wholly artificial creations of human beings and society and the governments which protect and regulate them.

For starters, our government should institute a “clawback” policy for the tax breaks and subsidies provided to business: if you legally move your business to a tax haven outside the United States, your company has to pay back all the income-enhancing benefits it enjoyed while under the protection of U.S. laws.

That’s the ticket.










Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Searching for more, settling for less?


Off the beaten track,
   here is all of life, but, aaah….
      you see, there is less….

Wondering how the other half lives?

Same as you.



Well, not really.

Not everyone thinks the beaten track goes to the same place you think it goes….













Monday, July 21, 2014

They’re still doing it….



Remember the sub-prime mortgage fiasco a half dozen years ago? Remember the national financial meltdown of 2008 that created wretched investment and home equity losses for so many millions of Americans, and threw millions of people out of work?

Remember the sleazy wizards of Wall Street and investment professionals who figured out how to make billions in profits while most folks were losing their shirts?

They’re still doing it.

Only this time it’s sub-prime auto loans for used cars. Auto loans to folks who shouldn’t be borrowing money have increased 130% in the past five years, says the New York Times.


As in, carefully marketed auto loans for people who really have a poor credit history (thus, “sub-prime”), loans with annual interest rates approaching 25 percent, with loan amounts that are higher than (sometimes double) the actual value of the used cars these deluded and desperate folks are trying to buy.

As in, packages of these loans, with inadequate collateral, being sold to sophisticated and/or greedy investors (including maybe your mutual fund or pension fund administrator) who are clamoring for the high returns on their investments, who don’t know or don’t care that the risk of non-payment on these loans is very high.

Folks, we’ve seen this movie before, it doesn’t turn out well….

Why are financial and banking regulators allowing this to happen? Who are they working for, anyway?







Saturday, July 19, 2014

Everybody’s gotta be somewhere….


Here's a little picture worth a thousand words.


Forget about wilderness, forget about open prairie, forget about suburban spaces….

There are 3,144 counties in the United States, but half of the population of America lives in the 146 counties colored blue above, mostly concentrated in coastal and lake-front areas, and some widely scattered urban core areas.

In terms of population density, most of America is, more or less, just about empty.





Friday, July 18, 2014

Cost of obesity? $305 billion a year….


America is Fat City.

More than 1 out of 3 adults is obese, and almost 1 out of 5 young people are obese.

More and more Americans are getting fatter every day, and it’s not just their problem.

Researchers at George Washington University estimate that the nation’s cost for obesity—direct medical and non-medical services, lost worker productivity, the impact of disabilities and the social and economic cost of premature deaths—exceeds $305 billion per year.

Why are we still buying and selling sugary drinks and unhealthy snack foods?







Thursday, July 17, 2014

Treasure is cold….


If you’ve never explored a walk in the woods with a small child, read on….

….and be on the lookout for your next chance to dig in the dirt….


“But after three steps into the evergreen shade,
he drops to his knees and begins to furrow.
It’s here, mama, he says. Let’s dig.
I pick up a knobby spruce twig and poke absently at dirt,
 hoping we can start walking again.
 No, mama, like this. With your hands.
I pretend I don’t hear.
He takes my hands in his own, forces them down.
Fine sand runs through my fingers,
old spruce needles swim in it like unstrung commas.
I settle in, sifting and digging up dirt. Making piles.
No mama, deeper than that, he says,
 scratching with his nails into the hardpan.
I dig deeper, past my desire to keep my hands clean.
Past whatever I had set out to do. Treasure is cold
 and filled with crooked things that slip through fingers.”


From "Treasure Hunt in the Woods" by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Published on the poet's blog, November 26, 2007. © Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer.

…and posted July 9, 2014  on the website:   A Year Of Being Here








Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The oldest song in the world


This is unique, and I’m one of the people who takes pains to avoid using the word “unique” whenever it’s not appropriate, which is most of the time….

Here's a link to an audio interpretation of what scholars believe is the oldest song in the world.

OpenCulture.com says it’s a 3,400-year-old Assyrian cult hymn written in the Hurrian language and found on clay tablets discovered in the 1950s in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit, a port on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.


It’s believed the ancients played this tune on a 9-string lyre.

I don’t think Wynton Marsalis or BeyoncĂ© or anyone else is going to be adding this short piece to a concert repertoire any time soon, but you can give it a try….

You can tap your foot, it’s OK….





Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

BP trashed the Gulf, and still doesn’t want to pay


BP still doesn’t want to pay.

BP is still trying to avoid complying with the court settlement it voluntarily signed, in 2012, to compensate individuals and businesses that suffered losses as a result of the massive 2010 oil spill that contaminated the Gulf of Mexico.

This isn’t a brand-new bombshell—BP has consistently tried to avoid paying claims since its Macondo well exploded and burned in April 2010, killing 11 workers and pouring more than 200 million gallons of oil into the waters of the Gulf. Numerous safety violations caused the spill.

BP argues that some claimants have falsified their losses—doubtless this is true.

But BP has fought the claims administrator at every turn, and has gone back to court numerous times in an effort to avoid paying claims in the way it agreed to pay them in the 2012 court settlement.

Now BP is citing technicalities in asking a federal judge to order many claimants to repay their compensation from BP.

BP's website says: We are helping economic and environmental restoration efforts in the Gulf Coast as part of our ongoing commitment to the region following the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010.” This is an example of what Winston Churchill liked to call a “terminological inexactitude”….

It wasn’t an “accident,” and from the gitgo BP has dragged its feet in paying for the damages it caused.

Shame on BP.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Go for it!


Don’t start out thinking the job is too big.



First, take a big bite, and then see what the rest of the job looks like….





Saturday, July 12, 2014

Meat-eaters hurt the environment


It’s official: eating red meat is a cause of global warming.

Step away from those barbecue tongs!

The average meat-eater in America can take the blame for twice as much global warming as the average vegetarian, according to an Oxford University study published in the journal Climatic Change.

The Oxford dons studied the diets of 60,000 people.
The average American meat-eater puts down 4 ounces of meat a day, and that dietary item is responsible for about 16 pounds of carbon dioxide polluting the atmosphere.

Why? The livestock industry—animals and meat processing—is responsible for about 15% of global carbon emissions.

The study concludes:
"National governments that are considering an update of dietary recommendations in order to define a ‘healthy, sustainable diet’ must incorporate the recommendation to lower the consumption of animal-based products."

Grab a carrot, do something good for the environment.






Friday, July 11, 2014

Book review: Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception


Book review: Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception
Crown Publishers, New York, 2014
260 pages

This is a quotable book. It’s a memorable book.


It’s not an easy read, but the detail is accessible and the observations are shockingly clear, and you’ll want to keep reading it right through to the end.

As Hallinan might say, be optimistic—keep at it. You can do it.

From the author’s introduction: “. . . the real reasons behind our human responses often elude us. In their absence, we drum up plausible explanations, which are frequently mere rationalizations, to explain why we’ve done the things we’ve done . . .”



The eye-opener is that much of this process of  “kidding ourselves” occurs in the subconscious—we don’t know we’re doing it.



For example, like the little engine that could, if we think we can do something we are much more likely to be able to do that thing.

For example, people with power are much more likely to think that they can get away with doing whatever they want, and often they succeed.

For example, if we believe something to be true, we are much more likely to accept confirming evidence, and ignore or not even recognize non-confirming evidence.

For example, try this one: if you’re a person who has some power in the public or private sphere, grab a crayon and write the letter “E” on your forehead, and if you’re a person who is or feels powerless, at work or at home, grab a crayon and write the letter “E” on your forehead—see how that works out (p. 148).

Hallinan doesn’t seem to mention it, but his book puts paid to more or less the entire Western notion of human rationality and The Rational Man.

We aren’t logical, rational, objective beings.

Read the book.





Do you know enough to be a U. S. citizen?


Could you score high enough on the U. S. naturalization test that every immigrant must pass in order to become an American citizen?

1 out of 3 American-born citizens couldn’t do it in a survey conducted by USA Today in 2012, and a year before that Newsweek did a poll, with the same results.


As of March this year, the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Department confirms that 91 percent of immigrants who take the test pass it.

To prepare for the exam, immigrants are given a list of 100 possible questions with the satisfactory answers. 



The test actually consists of 10 questions randomly selected from the list—applicants must get at least six of them correct to pass the test.

Some of the questions are easier than others:

Here are a few samples:

12. What is the “rule of law”?

41. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government? 

71. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
How many of the 100 questions can you answer?



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bicycle what?


Sometimes we tend to think the ancients and the so-called savages and sadly disadvantaged foreigners have strange medical practices, but we don’t have to look elsewhere for doctors gone bonkers….

Vox.com recently offered this little gem about a dark corner of late 19th century American medical care that sort of flourished for a while when bicycling was a new fad and all the rage.


Seems that (almost exclusively male) doctors took great pains to warn women that riding a bicycle could cause “bicycle face.” You know, bicycle face….

Here’s a quote from the Literary Digest in 1895: "Over-exertion, the upright position on the wheel, and the unconscious effort to maintain one's balance tend to produce a wearied and exhausted 'bicycle face . . .'"

And more: the “bicycle face” is “usually flushed, but sometimes pale, often with lips more or less drawn, and the beginning of dark shadows under the eyes, and always with an expression of weariness . . .characterized by a hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes."

You know, bicycle face….

I guess maybe you had to be a doctor to recognize the symptoms….

And another thing: you have to wonder where women bought those exercise outfits….







Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We’re not getting what we pay for


The United States has the worst quality of health care among 11 Western industrialized nations.

And we have the most expensive health care, by far.

I know you’re not surprised.


The comparisons are from the 2014 report of the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that promotes improved health care.

Obamacare is a first step toward improving our national health care and lowering costs.

We need to do better, real fast.

We need to stop paying doctors for doing tests, and start paying them for keeping us healthy.


We need to make sure that everyone pays for health insurance, because in America, like it or not, everyone can get health care (at least in an emergency room) without health insurance. That has to stop.

We need to get our government to negotiate prices with drug companies.



Cost per person for health care in the U.S.:   $8,508

Cost per person in Norway:   $5,669

Cost per person in New Zealand:   $3,182






Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What if it’s not a forecast?


The U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in June.

A Bloomberg panel of clueless economists made a collective guess-in-advance that the number would be 215,000. They were 25% off the mark. Way wrong, just like most months.

Notice I said "guess," although Bloomberg called it a "survey" and the (always unnamed) economists called it a "forecast."


These economists on the Bloomberg panel are always wrong. Every month. Their average guess is always wrong. Individually, they're mostly always wrong.

Why do Bloomberg and the news media and the cable TV talking heads keep reporting the useless advance guesses of the 51 guessers who are always wrong?

What's the fascination with trying to know the number one week or one day or one hour before the official report, when we all know that it's impossible to reliably forecast it?

The talking heads and the news media report and analyze flawed survey data every day, without caring that the data is flawed.

We should care more, and trust less.