Thursday, December 18, 2014

The wisdom of Mark Strand

"The future is always beginning now."

Mark Strand (1934-2014)
Poet Laureate of the United States

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a paradox, but it is one of the mysterious facts of life:

we don’t know exactly what the future will be, but we know exactly how it all starts….all we have to do is look around….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Would you like to live like a chicken?

Think about it—if you could lay eggs, how would you like it if you would live your entire productive life on your knees, in a square cage measuring two feet on each side and about four feet high?

In other words, you couldn’t turn around and you couldn’t stand up.

That’s pretty much how many chickens live on commercial egg factory farms.

On January 1, California will implement a new regulation forcing egg producers to allow a minimum of 114 square inches of space for each chicken in their flocks, a 70% increase from the current requirement that stipulates a minimum of 67 square inches per bird.

Think about it—a 67-square-inch cage is roughly 8 inches on each side. Get out your ruler and measure that space on the table in front of you.

An adult chicken can be squeezed into that space, but it’s ugly.

Many birds on today’s egg factory farms pump out the eggs, day after day, until they die, surviving in poor health, with open sores, in fetid, cramped squalor.

When you think about it, it makes the cheese omelet taste a bit different….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Let’s spread the blame a bit more….

In a recent column, E. J. Dionne at thrashed President Obama for “bailing out” House Speaker John Boehner in the ugly culmination of the vote on government spending. Dionne said the president is mishandling the interests of his own party—again—in dealing with the fractured partisans and ideologues in the GOP.

I'm completely tired of hearing commentators and politicians bash President Obama for the failure of our government leaders to embrace reasonable negotiations and compromise to get the business of governing back on track.

Certainly, I am disappointed in some of the president's policy and political moves in the past six years. Very disappointed.

But it defies understanding to keep hammering on President Obama's acts and omissions as if he were the cause of the fractious bickering and grandstanding and self-serving malfeasance of the members of Congress. 

Let's be more fastidious about who we blame for what. 

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

The wisdom of Abigail Adams

“I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature, and that power whether vested in many or few is ever grasping…”

Abigail (Smith) Adams (1744-1818)
Wife and counselor of President John Adams

….and here’s more of the letter she wrote to John in 1775:

“The great fish swallow up the small and he who is most strenuous for the rights of the people, when vested with power, is as eager after the prerogatives of government. You tell me of degrees of perfection to which human nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but at the same time lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of the instances.”

David G. McCullough, John Adams (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), 101.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The art of Mark Strand

“Tonight I walked,
lost in my own meditation,
…the labyrinth
that I have made of love and self…”

Mark Strand (1934-2014)
Poet Laureate of the United States

I wrapped my mind around this image of an accessible labyrinth of life, an indelible mixing of the impulses of love and the mandates of self-awareness, with many ways in, and no need for a way out….

The excerpt is from “For Jessica, My Daughter” in his Collected Poems (Knopf, 2014).

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Bipartisanship, the hard way….

We have a bipartisan vote in the U. S. House on a continuing resolution to authorize federal spending and keep the government from shutting down.

The spending bill squeaked through, 219-206, with 67 Republicans voting “No” and 57 Democrats voting “Yes.”

It’s bipartisan, and it’s ugly. There are very bad riders on this spending bill, specifically the Dodd-Frank attacks that will benefit the banking industry and Wall Street, and changes that make it more likely that big money can influence elections.

We have to face reality: the Republicans won in November, they’re in the cat bird seat in Congress.

I don’t understand Nancy Pelosi’s decision to stand in the doorway on this one.  She knows a spending bill is going to pass, and she knows the Republicans are in the driver’s seat in the House. I think she would have done a great public service by negotiating real hard with Boehner, and making a very public case that she would ultimately support a bi-partisan bill, that is, proclaiming that her driving commitment is to govern and not to politick.

We’re going to need negotiators in Congress in the next two years, not self-serving pols who stand in the doorway. Let’s not make it any uglier than it’s probably going to be.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

Republicans for Obamacare

There wasn’t a lot of ballyhoo about it.

Let’s give credit when it’s due: yesterday the GOP Conference in Washington mandated that Republican senators take steps to require their staffers to obtain health insurance through an Obamacare exchange.

The Affordable Care Act, as passed initially by Congress and signed by President Obama, contained loopholes allowing senators and representatives to exempt their congressional staffs from participation in the national health care act. Instead, they were permitted to keep their subsidized Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

Now I’m waiting to hear that the Democratic senators will follow the leaders.

It’ll be nice to hear leaders on both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives taking the same step.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said "Washington should have to live under ObamaCare just like everybody else until we repeal it.”

I agree….except for the “repeal” part.

I don’t really think the Republicans are going to repeal Obamacare. It is helping millions of folks who otherwise couldn’t get decent health insurance.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The art of St. Francis of Assisi

Such love does
the sky now pour,
that whenever I stand in a field,

I have to wring out the light
when I get home.

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, St. Francis of Assisi (1181/1182-1226)

Photo by Ian Iott

I think it would be wonderful to feel so filled with love….
“…wring out the light…” is a very comfortable, very believable, very lustrous image….

St. Francis was the founder of the Franciscan Order. However, he was throughout his life simply a friar and was not ordained as a Catholic priest. He was canonized as a saint in 1228, two years after his death.

You may not know that in 1223 he created our beloved Christmas nativity scene, the crèche.

Lines from St. Francis as posted Dec 8, 2014, on the website: A Year Of Being Here

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It’s really not too disgusting for words….

On December 14, 2012, a crazy man killed 20 first-graders and six adults in the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Since then, the lowest estimate is that we’ve had 95 school shootings in America. That’s real close to an average of one a week.

Do we need more evidence that more strict gun laws are needed in our country?

Our elected leaders at the state level have done damn little to stop the carnage, and our elected leaders in Congress have done nothing.

It’s not too disgusting for words.

Try these words.

Imagine 20 dead kids sprawled on the floor, with bloody bullet holes in their little bodies.

Imagine yourself letting this happen again, and again.

We're going to let this happen unless we start doing something different.

If you're not going to do something about it, you're not going to do anything about it.

Too many guns.

Too many dead people.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Where’s the niddy-noddy when you need one?

In case you were wondering, this is a niddy-noddy:

Not sure if you need one, right?

Well, you might, if you’re a knitter, or if you spin your own yarn, that kind of thing….

Here's a demonstration by folks at The Woolery

The Natick Historical Society in Natick, MA, has one in its museum.

At least as early as the 15th century, the niddy-noddy was used to create and measure a skein of yarn: the spinner would rhythmically wrap the yarn around this eccentric device, and count off pre-determined lengths. The resulting loops of yarn could easily be slipped off the niddy-noddy, and knotted into a handy skein.

An historian of my acquaintance mentions that the niddy-noddy was a conveniently simple tool for grandmas and granddaughters to use in yarn-stuff teamwork in 19th century America; it seems that the young and old ladies paired up often enough to do this work that “Niddy-Noddy” became a grandmother-ish nickname in some regions….

….and btw, a niddy-noddy is featured in an early 16th painting by Leonardo da Vinci, the “Madonna of the Yarnwinder,see it here.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

“You kids go outside and play….”

A prime memory of my childhood is hearing my mother say, to my brother and me, “You kids go outside and play!”

‘Course, “outside” was a nice place, we had a big yard and fields and woods to play in….

Kids living in 19th century tenements in New York had a different perspective on “outside”….

….and for many of them, “play” probably meant “what you do when you’re not working.”

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Red Cross fudges its numbers….

Have you heard that the American Red Cross has only a 9% overhead, and spends 91% of donations on its high-profile charitable services?

That’s what the Red Cross has been sounding off about on its website and in public pronouncements.

Too bad. It’s not true.

NPR and are reporting on their look behind the scenes at the Red Cross, and they aren’t offering a pretty picture.

Turns out this essential charity—no doubt about it, the Red Cross does a lot of good, especially in emergencies and catastrophes—may have actual overhead expenses more in the range of 20% or more.

Turns out that Red Cross officials, so far, have refused requests from NPR and ProPublica to divulge detailed financial information that would reveal the true number.

Too bad.

Btw, the 91% percent figure has been deleted from the Red Cross website.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

The wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt (part 4)

"Seize the moment. Man was never intended to become an oyster."

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

Teddy hits the nail on the head again—don’t let the oyster factor mess up your life.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dress up for Thanksgiving….

There was a time when Thanksgiving wasn’t just about turkey and football.

I know, I know, sounds impossible, but….

As a frame of reference, Macy’s kicked off its Thanksgiving Day parade spectacular in 1924.

Before that, around the turn of the 20th century, each year around the time of the traditional November holiday, not a few youngish New York denizens got into the habit of getting really duded up in any makeshift costume they could put together, and cadging pennies from passers-by on the streets.These kids—they called themselves “maskers”—posed around 1910.

Sure beats today’s store-bought Halloween costumes….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

“Out of the mouths of….”

So, here’s the story:

The 8-year-old asked her father to start recycling in the household.

Indulgent father, chuckling, asked “Why?”

She replied: “So you can help me save the planet.”

Indulgence was extended. “And why do you want me to save the planet” said father.

“Because that's where I keep all my stuff," she said.


It’s the only planet our grandkids will have to live on.

Let’s commit now to the hard work and the expense of cleaning it up.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

“Little red rooster…”

Don't forget about the art of Etta James:

Lots to love on Etta’s “Blues To The Bone” CD, like….

“I have a little red rooster,
too lazy to crow for day.”

or this desperately inviting advice:

“Don’t start me to talking,
I’ll tell everything I know.”

And here’s a bonus, click if you want to hear Big Mama Thornton or Howlin' Wolf doing “Little Red Rooster”….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

The wisdom of Anne Frank

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
           before starting to improve the world."

Anne Frank (1929-1945)

Have you read The Diary of Anne Frank?

Anne received her diary as a birthday gift on her 13th birthday, June 12, 1942.

She made the last entry, in hiding in Amsterdam, in August 1944.

Not yet 16, she died in Bergen-Belsen in early March, 1945, just two months before the Germans surrendered.

Anne Frank’s innocent vitality, and her spirit, have improved the world a little bit....

....and you and I can get to work on that right now.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The new illegals….

Quiet! Keep your head down. No flashlights. Remember “Jo Ann Castle"....


From The Manitoba Herald , Canada
By Clive Runnels

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The recent actions of the Tea Party are prompting an exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and to agree with Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night. "I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota . “The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?”

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through and Rush annoyed the cows so much that they wouldn't give any milk.”

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons and drive them across the border where they are simply left to fend for themselves. "A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a single bottle of imported drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley Cabernet, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about plans being made to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans in blue wig disguises, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were alive in the '50s. "If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we become very suspicious about their age," an official said.
Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and are renting all the Michael Moore movies "I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said. "How many art history majors does one country need?"

OK, OK, your pulse is pounding, I know….here’s the splash of cold water:

The Manitoba Herald was last published in the late 19th century, and it seems that Clive Runnels is a pseudonym. The original source of this droll spoof is unknown.

I offer it as a wry commentary on current events.

And in case this will help you out:  the name of Lawrence Welk’s honky-tonk piano player was Jo Ann Castle.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving without football?

Thanksgiving without football?

Yeah, right.

Except, in 1762, it was a bit of a different story:

Readers of the Providence Gazette on November 13, 1762, would have spotted this good news, namely, a proclamation by Rhode Island Gov. Samuel Ward:

“ALMIGHTY GOD in the Course of His wise and gracious Providence, having vouchsafed many great and signal Favours to the Kingdoms of Great-Britain and Ireland, to the British Plantations, and to this Colony in particular, the General Assembly passed an ACT, appointing THURSDAY the Eighteenth Instant, to be observed as a Day of Public Thanksgiving . . .

“AND that the said Day may be religiously observed, as a Day of public Worship and Thanksgiving, without any Interruption, I do strictly inhibit and forbid any servile Labor to be done thereon, and all Manner of Sports and Pastimes.”

Americans wouldn’t get around to organizing the National Football League until 1920, so that last bit about forbidding “all Manner of Sports and Pastimes” probably wasn’t a great big deal to the Rhode Islanders in the middle of the 18th century….

Y’know, the bigtime sports and pastimes in the colonial era were winners like ninepins, cockfighting and dueling, I guess folks could pass on these for one day without too much pain….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

Never hurts to check the gate again….

See, the whole gate thing….

What’s stopping you from doing what you really want to do?

It never hurts to mosey past the gate again, just to check…. 

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Define “prosecutor”….

Just a few facts about Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor who handled the grand jury on the Ferguson police shooting case.

McCulloch didn't ask the grand jury to consider any specific charge against Darren Wilson, the white cop who shot Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man, on Aug. 9. Although he’s the prosecutor, McCulloch abstained from all prosecutorial leadership of the grand jury’s investigation. Keep in mind that a grand jury isn’t responsible for determining guilt or innocence; a grand jury is only responsible for deciding that there is probable cause for an indictment that will be adjudicated in a trial.

McCulloch has been the county prosecutor since 1991. During his entire career, he has never brought charges against a police officer in a shooting incident.

McCulloch’s father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty by a black man.

You make your own inferences.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Darren Wilson……J’accuse!

The St. Louis County grand jury decided it would not indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, on August 9.

I respect the process of the legal system.

I do not respect this outcome.

There’s no reason for anyone to be proud of that work.

Just for perspective, take one whole minute and imagine that you’re a young black man.

p.s. read Darren Wilson’s grand jury testimony here, decide for yourself if you believe it

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You infer, I infer….

Almost half of the Republicans in Congress represent the southern states that were the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. There are no more white Democrats from southern states in Congress.

Among all Congressional Republicans, 1 out of 10 comes from Texas.

You make your own inferences….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

It’s official: real news is, you know....

The three major TV networks and Fox News didn't carry President Obama’s high-profile address about immigration reform last Thursday night.

So I guess it’s more or less official—in case you were still wondering—the networks and Fox care more about entertaining their prime-time audiences than they do about bringing real news to the American public.

The president’s executive action on minimizing deportations and on other elements of reforming America’s sadly oppressive immigration policies has stirred up a hornet’s nest in Congress and across the land.

The networks and Fox knew this would happen—everybody knew it would happen, we just didn’t know the big fat details until Thursday night.

A presidential address on a subject of immense importance to millions of immigrant Americans, and a subject of immense controversy among our political leadership and tens of millions of Americans, is the kind of thing that should be broadcast as widely as possible.

What were the networks and Fox thinking?

Ooops, I forgot….November is ratings sweeps month for the TV industry….and the ratings racked up during the month-long audience-counting sweeps period are the basis for establishing TV advertising rates.

Entertainment and cash flow. That’s what it’s all about.

p.s. the president’s address was vintage Obama, regardless of your political position, it’s worth watching it here

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014

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