Thursday, March 5, 2015

Let’s play “Government”….

Just a note for the record:

On Tuesday the U. S. House of Representatives voted 257-167 to authorize funding this year for the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate had previously passed the funding bill, so it’s a done deal.

Republicans shouldn't claim much credit for this event, which easily qualifies as a routine act of good government.

Two-thirds of the Republicans in the House voted AGAINST the bill, because it didn’t include a nastily partisan attack on President Obama’s recent moves to limit deportations of immigrants. You know that story.

The bill passed with the “Yes” votes of only 75 Republicans….every Democrat voted for it.

So Speaker Boehner should be stepping up to the microphone and proudly describing his “hands-across-the-aisle” leadership in coordinating the vital support of our Democratic representatives.

Do you know when that press conference is scheduled? I haven’t heard anything….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Armor-piercing bullets?....Why?

Why does the American sportsman—or any private citizen—need armor-piercing bullets that can be fired from handguns?

The federal government has proposed a ban on the manufacture and sale of popular armor-piercing bullets.

The response of many gun owners was to rush to gun shops and buy up the stocks of this ammo still legally on the shelves.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plans to shut off the supply of armor-piercing 5.56 mm “M855 green tip” bullets—previously used only for rifles—because new handguns on the market also can fire these bullets. Millions of these inexpensive cartridges have been purchased annually.

The new handgun threat to law enforcement personnel wearing “bullet-proof” vests was all too obvious.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation—it’s a firearms industry trade association—opposes the proposed ban. The NRA described the restriction as “dismantling of the Second Amendment.”
There are plenty of other kinds of bullets available for use by rifle owners who like hunting and target shooting.

Why does the American sportsman—or any private citizen—need armor-piercing bullets that can be fired from handguns that are aimed at police or aimed at anything else?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Zombies….it’s not all bad news….

The next zombie outbreak won’t necessarily be bad news for the folks who take the trouble now to prepare.

Do the right thing for your family—buy one of these zombie-proof log cabin kits, sure, it costs
$113,000 plus about $30,000 for installation and such, but, hey, aren’t your loved ones worth it? It has Xbox, water cannon, satellite TV, toilet, microwave and it’s guaranteed for 10 years!

And speaking of zombie outbreaks, some grad students at Cornell University have been using statistical mechanics to model how these doggone brain-eating, really ugly creatures get the party started, and the research team has good news:

Figure out your quickest route to Glacier National Park in northern Montana. The zombies have a lot of trouble getting out of the big cities and moving into remote areas where the pickin’s aren’t so good….

Really, your best bet is to get one of those anti-zombie log cabins. Otherwise, get moving to the boonies and travel with a small group of folks, say 5 or 6, so there’s no problem keeping up the rotating guard duty for that 24-hour  zombie watch….

Hey, they’re out there.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

The wisdom of Van Wyck Brooks

No one is fit to judge a book until he has rounded Cape Horn in a sailing vessel,
    until he has bumped into two or three icebergs,
       until he has been lost in the sands of the desert,
           until he has spent a few years in the House of the Dead.

Van Wyck Brooks(1886-1963)
American literary critic, historian

Too bad we don’t get guidance like this any more from leaders who incline to be intellectual.

Too bad there aren’t enough folks like Brooks in today’s marketplace of ideas—imagine what a guy like him could do to your typical TV talk show host.

I feel better now.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Textbooks, over the top….

Here’s another thing we need to consider as we struggle to reduce the godawful high price of a college education:

Textbooks are too expensive and too expendable.

For starters, the National Association of College Stores reports that the average textbook cost $68 in 2012. The College Board recommends that students budget up to $1,328 per year for books and supplies (by the way, for community college students, that could be almost half as much as what they spend on tuition!).

Here’s a kicker: college textbook prices have jumped 812 per cent since 1978.

I’ve been looking at textbooks, as an MBA student and as an adjunct professor, for the last 25 years, and I’m thinking textbooks didn’t get 812 per cent better since 1978.

Here’s another kicker: in my experience, most students don’t really use the textbooks much, and I defy anyone to prove that most students do the required reading. I think a typical student buys the book because the instructor says it’s required in a slightly “Make my day!” kind of voice.

And here’s another kicker: colleges and professors share the blame for the galloping cost of books. College book stores typically are profit centers. Textbook publishers for years have been adding “features” to textbooks that make the instructor’s job easier: a typical instructor’s version of a  text includes a CD or online component with graphic materials, PowerPoint slides, detailed discussion guides with questions and lengthy text responses, and high-tech test materials and question/answer banks. Publishers in general are offering a measurable amount of the materials that professors prepared all by themselves in the old days.

Let’s face it. The folks who benefit most from college textbooks are the folks who sell them and the folks who make them a course requirement.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The good thing is….

The good thing is....

Republicans and Democrats in Congress managed to hold the vomit down late last night, long enough to avoid a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security for a whole week.

You remember what Homeland Security does: mostly it protects America against terrorists, and it also guards our borders to make sure not too many of those pesky illegal immigrants come across to do those hard, nasty jobs that most Americans won’t do.

The bad thing is….

Waiting until there’s only an hour and 45 minutes left before the Homeland Security department has to legally shut down before scrambling to pass a wretched one-week funding extension is really not governing….it’s a pathetic parody of government.

You remember Punch, the puppet who loves to bash everyone with his stick. The folks in post-Shakespeare London called it the “slapstick.” Now, this is a rough approximation….say that the current Congress is a Punch and Judy show, with this difference: “Punch” is certain Republicans in Congress. “Judy” is you. And me.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

There’s no place like home….

Before 1950, most Americans died at home, from what were once familiarly described as “natural causes.”

By the 1980s, only about 1 out of 6 deaths occurred at home—most folks died in hospitals or nursing homes. The practice of medicine had expanded to embrace one’s last moments in an institutional setting, instead of the relative comfort of one’s own bed.

The trend toward dying in a hospital bed has reversed itself. Data from 2010 shows that about 45% of Americans departed this life in hospice care, and more than half of those folks received hospice care at home. These U. S. figures are among the highest in the world.

Dr. Atul Gawande writes in Being Mortal: “…our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and the aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer; that the chance to shape one’s story is essential to sustaining meaning in life; that we have the opportunity to refashion our institutions, our culture, and our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.”

Dr. Gawande explores the often un-mentioned truth that simply “living as long as possible” isn’t the real wish of many people, and probably isn’t what most people really want.
“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.” (1)

Most folks say that “quality of life” is most important at the end.

Read Being Mortal.

Take some time to think about what “quality of life” means to you.

Talk to your doctor and your loved ones about it.

 (1) Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2014), 6, 193, 243, 259.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

“If you had a temple…”

“If you had a temple in the secret spaces of your heart,
 What would you worship there?
 What would you bring to sacrifice?
 What would be behind the curtain in the holy of holies?”

Leave aside, for the moment, any explicit thought of your own faith or creed or diminished vestige thereof….

This quatrain from poet Tom Barrett is an irresistible invitation, I think, for one to think about that which is truly mojo for oneself.

It’s not necessarily about the godhead. It might be.

Barrett says:
“I can't talk about God and make any sense,
 And I can't not talk about God and make any sense.”

I’m not talking about God.

I am moved to linger here, in the rapture of thought about what’s meaningful for me, about the thrill of learning, and about the endless indenture of commitment to the right thing, and about the loves that make me alive, and about how much I would give up to have more of these….

Barrett reveals an utter truth:
“In the quiet spaces of my mind a thought lies still, but ready to spring.
 It begs me to open the door so it can walk about.”

I’m ready for walkabout.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Seven kids?!?

Today’s mini-history lesson:
It was a whole lot harder to cut the pie after dinner 150 years ago.

In the mid-1800s, the average American family had seven children. I guess the youngest never got any new clothes until he or she decided to marry.

About 100 years ago, at the start of the 20th century, the average number of kids per family had dropped to a bit over three—by that time, folks had been moving off the farms and shifting to urban life for quite a few years.(1)

Right now the average family has less than two children. In fact, the fertility rate of American women overall has dropped below the biological “replacement rate” of about 2.1 kids.

Immigration is responsible for net population growth in the United States.

(1) Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2014), 21.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Stuff happens….

We all know it, stuff happens….

Indeed, it’s been going on for a while….

About 600 years ago, Thomas à Kempis said it this way:

"Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit"
(Man proposes, God disposes)

You already got the message.

From The Imitation of Christ  by Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471)

He was a German cleric who wrote The Imitation of Christ, an iconic book on Christian devotion.

Among his many achievements: he copied the Bible four times, in his own hand.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015

The art of Victor Hugo

“Aimons toujours ! Aimons encore !
 Quand l'amour s'en va, l'espoir fuit.
 L'amour, c'est le cri de l'aurore,
 L'amour c'est l'hymne de la nuit.”

Victor Marie Hugo (1802-1885)
French Romantic poet and writer

You know Victor Hugo:  Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Les Travailleurs de la Mer….

You might have forgotten that Hugo was the premier French Romantic poet of the early 19th century.

The lines above are the first quatrain of “Aimons toujours! Aimons encore!,” a wonderfully emotive love poem included in Les Contemplations, published in 1856.

My translation:

We love each other always! We love each other still!
When love is no more, hope flies.
Love, the herald of the dawn,
Love is the hymn of the night.

When was the last time you whispered to your beloved: “Love is the hymn of the night”?

Y’know, get Romantic and all….

Try it tonight.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Why tax breaks for beer brewers?

American beer brewing companies—the big industrial brewers and the micro/craft brewers—are squabbling with each other and with their beholden congressional representatives about proposed corporate tax breaks.

The big brewers and the small brewers are pushing for reductions in the $18-a-barrel federal excise tax on beer, and they’re arguing about who should get the biggest cuts.

Good grief. Why would anyone in Congress even think about giving a gratuitous tax break to beer brewers?

Brewing beer is a fairly stable industry. It’s not a big factor in international trade. It's profitable. Drinking beer is still pretty popular, but it’s not a real growth industry. 

There isn’t any public policy or societal or economic reason to give brewers a tax break.

They just want one.

It’s a bad idea.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The art of Maya Angelou

“…And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be…”

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)
American poet

I confess I’m not a big fan of Maya Angelou, generally I just don’t connect with her cadence, her imagery, her words….

I did feel a rush of resonance with this phrase in her “Love’s Exquisite Freedom,” it’s the flash of insightful emotion that reaches out to thrill you, to open all your senses….

“…Love costs all we are…” is a heartthrob, no, it’s an embrace, the blossom of truth….

Maya’s poem was posted in full on Feb. 14, 2015, on this website

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

“What ISIS Really Wants”….

My first reaction to the new issue of "The Atlantic" was that no typical American who only speaks English could possibly know “What ISIS Really Wants.”

I shut up, and thought about it for a few minutes.

I realized that, in fact, I think I DO know what ISIS wants.

ISIS is no monolithic monster, no monolithic spirit, no monolithic mind.

ISIS is not Islam, ISIS is not uniquely evil, ISIS is nothing new.

ISIS is men and women who want what they cannot have.

They want too many aspects of their world to be different, in ways that are mostly impossible or unachievable.

They want some other people, other faiths, other demands, other hopes, other dreams to stop existing.

They want their ignorance to be confirmed.

They want their hatred to be validated.

They want their violence to be glorified.

They want their ideology to be venerated.

They want their all-powerful God to vanquish all other all-powerful Gods.

They want a past that was never real, a present that comforts only them, and a desperately ill-imagined future that will not be troubled by paradox and reality….

…and, sadly, the men and women of ISIS are not the only ones who insist on wanting what they cannot have.

We see such people in too many places.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Would Brian work for less?

Would Brian Moynihan do the same job for less than $13 million a year?

Seems like the board of directors of Bank of America didn’t like BofA’s 2014 financial results a whole lot, so they cut CEO Moynihan’s total compensation package by $1 million.

Yup, they cut him back $1 million to a comparatively measly $13 million. I think he can still live on it….

Seems like BofA had only about $3.8 billion in total net income last year, down from $10 billion in 2013.

(By the way, BofA received billions of dollars in federal bailout money during the 2008-2009 financial meltdown, and it has paid tens of billions of dollars in fines and penalties connected to its illegal dealings in mortgages and derivatives that helped cause the meltdown).

Back to Moynihan: Let’s guess he was working at least 65 hours a week last year, but not enough to keep the bank’s net income at the lofty 2013 level….the grumpy directors decided to pay him only $3,846 an hour for that relatively crappy job performance.

Would Moynihan have done exactly the same work for only $12.5 million?

I’m thinking the BofA directors should think about this possibility.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Update on inflation….

Generally speaking, inflation is not a good thing....

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the NFL….

Next time it’s your turn to tell a joke, try this one:

The National Football League is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization.

The NFL and its teams pull in close to $10 billion in annual revenue. That Super Bowl ad this year—the one with the lost puppy and the horses—cost Budweiser about $9 million.

The top five executives of the NFL make about $60 million a year.

The state of Louisiana pays Tom Benson (owner of the New Orleans Saints) up to $6 million a year as an “inducement payment”—that’s actually what it’s called—to keep him from moving the team to another state.

I bet the Salvation Army in Louisiana wishes it could get its hands on some of that dough.

The National Football League hasn’t paid any taxes since 1966.

That makes me crazy.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fixing education, another thought….

Suppose we just cut through all the politicking and power plays and blarney of Common Core/standardized testing/No Child Left Behind….

Suppose we just keep kids in the 3rd grade until they can read at the 3rd grade level. You know, like we did 60 years ago.

It drives me crazy when I think about all the kids who are graduating from high school these days without achieving 12th grade proficiency in readin’, ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic.

Our elementary schools are, in large part, creating the problem. They continue to move students through grade levels without making sure they are proficient at each level.

For example, 66% of 4th graders scored "below proficient" in reading on the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test. In other words, they weren’t reading at the 4th grade level. About 64% of 8th graders weren’t reading at the 8th grade level.

It’s dumb, delusional and dangerous to keep graduating elementary students to the next grade when they’re not ready to do the work.

If you’re a parent, insist that your local school keeps your daughter in the 3rd grade until she can read….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cultural authenticity….wha?

Diane Ravitch thinks we’re missing something in America, and I think she’s right.

Ravitch is an historian of education and a high profile expert on education policy.

She’s also an authentic, reflective thinker and commentator on the American scene.

Almost 25 years ago she edited The American Reader: Words That Moved A Nation, showcasing the span of American wordsmiths from Ben Franklin (Poor Richard’s Almanac) to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (“Paul Revere’s Ride”) to Walt Whitman (“O Captain! My Captain!”) to Jacob Riis (The Battle with the Slum) to Margaret Sanger (“The Right to One’s Body”) to Woody Guthrie  (“This Land Is Your Land”) to Bob Dylan (“Blowin’ in the Wind”) to Ronald Reagan (Speech at Moscow State University).

In the first revision of American Reader in 2000, Ravitch confessed that she had cut some original content from the 1970s and 1980s because the pieces didn’t “…match the literary quality of the earlier selections and [didn’t] resonate in the national consciousness…”

She explained:
“It seems to me…that cultural authenticity is harder to find than in the past…songs were once shared by children, parents, grandparents and entire communities…The popular songs of recent years have short lives; they were written mainly for teenagers, with lyrics that are neither important nor memorable...I am unable to identify any contemporary poems that are known and loved by large numbers of ordinary Americans…With few exceptions, the political speeches of the recent past seem to me to be singularly devoid of lasting significance…Our presidents in the closing decades of the twentieth century were known more for their slogans, sound ‘bites,’ and off-the-cuff remarks than for the kinds of speeches that once spoke directly to the American public’s hopes and concerns and resonated in its collective memory.
“In this age of instantaneous mass communications, words do not seem to be as precious as they once were.”(1)

Ouch. The shoe fits…but, let’s be candid, it pinches quite a bit.

(1) Diane Ravitch, The American Reader: Words That Moved A Nation (New York: Perennial/HarperCollinsPublishers, 2000), xviii-xix.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Teach “on a rock” ?

Here’s a pathetic example of what passes for policy debate on education in Congress:

On Feb. 11 Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) offered his view of how to fund education in America.
“Socrates trained Plato in on a rock and then Plato trained in Aristotle roughly speaking on a rock. So, huge funding is not necessary to achieve the greatest minds and the greatest intellects in history…”

He urged that we should “…get private sector folks into every single one of our schools, get the CEOs in the schools and move beyond this just narrow policy debate and really have a revolution.”

Think about the CEOs you know. Think about all the CEOs with excellent track records and keen insights on how to educate our kids. I don’t want CEOs running our schools, do you?

Think about all the successes and failures in the “private sector” in the last half dozen years, starting with the 2008 financial meltdown. I don’t want the private business sector running our schools, do you?

Good education isn’t about rocks.

And, by the way, if the Republicans ever nominate Rep. Brat to be Secretary of Education, you can guess who WILL be moving to New Zealand.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

See Jane run. Run, Jane, run!

Reading to young children is a crucial supportive factor in their intellectual, social and emotional development.

A neuroscientist at the University of California-San Francisco says a crucial factor in the child’s ability to read is providing supportive instruction, at home and in school, in the K-3 elementary years.

Dr. Fumiko Hoeft and her colleagues, in a Feb. 11 piece, have confirmed that neural development in the left temporoparietal region of the brain is the critical determinant in developing successful reading skills.

The word is: this expansion of neural pathways “is surely a function of both nature and nurture”—some kids may be genetically more likely to master reading, and some kids may get more relevant nurture, but all kids can get a boost in both channels with appropriate guidance.

Learning to read is a straightforward and marvelously complex process:
“Typically, children follow a very specific path toward reading. First, there is the fundamental phonological processing—the awareness of sounds themselves. This awareness builds into phonics, or the ability to decode a sound to match a letter. And those, finally, merge into full, automatic reading comprehension.”

Parents and teachers have complementary—and necessary—roles in teaching kids to read. If the job isn’t done right during K-3, it’s real tough for kids to make up for it later.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book review: Address Unknown

Book review: Address Unknown
Washington Square Press, New York, copyright 1938, published 2001

This is a tiny work that delivers gut punches on every other page. Repeatedly, it seems to be overly dramatic and somewhat contrived, except that it’s all too believable and all too horrific.

It’s hard to discuss Address Unknown without including spoiler information, but I’m going to try because I think you should want to take a short time out of your busy day to read this through at one sitting and let the experience overwhelm you.

Max Eisenstein, a Jew in New York, corresponds with his non-Jewish friend, Martin Schulse in Germany, in 1932-34. They have a joint business interest, a New York art gallery. Hitler is setting the stage to become Chancellor of Germany in 1933.

Max and Martin exchange letters. Their correspondence is swiftly transformed from business matters and the chatter of friends, to awkwardly ingenuous, increasingly corrosive and bitterly destructive words that betray Martin’s embrace of the newly-politicized Aryan culture.

Max and Martin cease to be friends. The terrible consequence of their estrangement is no surprise, but not less terrible because we can so easily grasp its nature and implications.

The reader is left to wonder about the dreadful imperatives of human behavior that cannot avoid self-destruction.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

“…You can’t catch her with apples…”

Savor this piece, on several levels, if you are a writer, if you’ve rubbed shoulders with your muse….

You can ride the horse, you don’t have to know how to get on….

“…turn and look at her…”

Are you afraid you can’t write with cold fingers?

Here's a bit of Marjorie Saiser's poem:

“The muse is a little girl, impossibly polite.
She arrives when you’re talking
or walking away from your car.
She’s barefoot…
She will wait one minute…She goes somewhere else
unless you turn and look at her
and write it down. I’m kidding.
She’s a horse you want to ride…
You can’t catch her with apples.
I don’t know how you get on.
I remember my cold fingers in the black mane.”

Read the full text of “The Muse Is A Little Girl” by Marjorie Saiser, on this website:

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

You really don’t have 832 Facebook friends

In fact, nobody really has 832 Facebook friends.

More or less, you might have as many as 150 real friends, in any meaningful sense of the word “friend.”

One researcher puts it this way: a friend is someone “…you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into (her) in a bar.”(1)

Put it another way: a friend is someone you’d miss talking to, at least, if he went out of your life.

Put it another way: having someone’s cell number in your phone doesn’t make her your friend, a friend is someone who is socially and emotionally bonded with you in some memorable way.

Dr. Robin Dunbar has fascinating things to say about human relationships and language in his 1996 book, Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language.

Here’s one that resonates for me:
“The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us.”(2)

Dunbar gives many examples of familial, social and organizational groupings in human culture (and among chimpanzees, our closet primate relatives) that maintain an optimal size of roughly 150 individuals.

Here’s one: farming villages in Indonesia, the Philippines and South America typically have about 150 residents.

Here’s another:
Bill Gore, founder of the company that produces Gore-Tex outdoor gear, established a company with limited managerial hierarchy and minimal management ranks and titles. He wanted folks to be able to talk to each other. “In essence, he organized the company as though it were a bunch of small task forces. To promote this idea, he limited the size of teams — keeping even the manufacturing facilities to 150 to 200 people at most. That's small enough so that people can get to know one another and what everyone is working on, and who has the skills and knowledge they might tap to get something accomplished…”(3)

Think about it: in what meaningful way can the 212,000 employees of General Motors actually collaborate with each other to make the company successful?

How would you feel if you had 212,000 Facebook friends?

Think about how long it would take you to have a “real” conversation with 150 different people.

Roughly speaking, nobody has more than about 150 real friends on Facebook.

(1) Robin Dunbar, Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1997), 77.
(2) Dunbar, Grooming, 77.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Iowa Caucus, fuhgeddaboudit....

You can forget about the Iowa Caucus.

I’ve started to see repeated references to the Iowa Caucus in political commentary, and in analyses of putative 2016 presidential candidates.

The Iowa caucus is about as far as you can get from a realistic poll or survey of voter sentiment that has relevance to the viability of presidential candidates in Iowa or the country.

Think about it: the sample is too small, the sample is self-selected (not random), candidates can effectively "buy" votes by promoting voter participation, the Iowa Caucus itself has nothing to do with the legal way that presidential electors are selected in Iowa....

This particular piece of presidential bamboozlery is set for Feb. 1, 2016, almost a year from now.

In 2012, before the last presidential election, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney “battled” for victory in the Iowa Caucus—Santorum won by 34 votes.

But wait: both of the Republican candidates got about 30,000 votes -- that's about ONE-HUNDREDTH OF ONE PERCENT of the estimated 230 million Americans who were eligible to vote for president that year.

The Iowa Caucus produces no strategic information about who will win the Republican nomination. It does not in any useful way represent the thinking of American voters. I dare to suggest that if the Iowa Caucus didn’t get any national publicity, no candidate would bother trying to win it.

Why are the news media and the cable TV talking heads already starting to blather about the Iowa Caucus? They can say that it’s “news,” but that doesn’t make it “information.”

It’s too soon, too trivial….


Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Words, words, words….

Any parent or grandparent will know what I’m talking about when I say it is downright unbelievably remarkable to talk to a young child who has launched herself on the trajectory of “learning to talk.”

I’m not talking about “first words,” although they are a once-in-a-lifetime treat.

I’m talking about, say, 3 ½ to 4 years old, when the chatterbox gene kicks in, when the kid is talking a blue streak and making sense, omigosh, that’s the time to admit that life is good, it’s time to share the mind of the child, it’s time to realize that she understands everything you say, even if she can’t say everything that’s on her mind, it’s time to be filled with joy as you have a real conversation with that young human being, as you realize that there is delight and reward in listening to what she has to say, in understanding a little bit of her world….

The details of learning to talk are startling. I rely on Dr. Robin Dunbar’s Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language for these milestone numbers:
“A human baby produces its first real words at about eighteen months of age. By the age of two, it has become quite vocal and has a vocabulary of some fifty words. Over the next year it learns new words daily, and by the age of three it can use about 1000 words…Its command of grammar is already nearly as competent as an adult’s…By the age of six, the average child has learned to use and understand around 13,000 words; by eighteen, it will have a working vocabulary of about 60,000 words…This is an extraordinary achievement.”(1)

Indeed, it’s a remarkable story.

Next chance you get, make your day: ask your 4-year-old to tell you a story.

(1) Robin Dunbar, Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1997), 3.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015