Monday, May 2, 2016

Over 7,000 people of color…

More than 7,000 people of color are added to the population of America every day.

Ditto for about 1,000 white folks.

The U. S. population is about 322 million right now—about 63 percent white and 37 percent persons of color. In 1965, the ratio was 88 percent white and 12 percent persons of color.

Today, the majority of all births are babies of color—that is, not of Caucasian heritage.

Some people in politics are hatefully flailing at this profound and accelerating demographic shift.

Let’s be honest: skin color and heritage are two of the least useful ways to differentiate people, and two of the most disgusting ways to exploit and fire up the prejudices of folks who are motivated by ill-informed fears.

Let’s commit ourselves to friendly humanity, to engaging civilly with our new neighbors. Let’s remind ourselves that in less than 30 years white folks may cease to be the majority in America.

Let’s welcome all new Americans, and let’s get on with living.

See Brown Is The New White, a newly published book by Steve Phillips.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Redefining “comfortable”….

See, there’s “comfortable,” and then you can step up to “aaaaahhh”……

At first glance this may seem a bit creepy, however, keep in mind that the built-in book light is not visible....

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Truth on the campaign trail

Objectivity isn’t what we get too much of in the stump speeches or in the news coverage about this year’s almost unfathomably foreboding politicking in the presidential campaign.

Here’s a clear note from Nicholas Kristof of The New York times about PolitiFact, the Tampa Bay Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking enterprise:

Hillary Clinton is telling the truth in her campaign statements, and the other principal candidates aren’t. Plain and simple.

PolitiFact says 95 percent of the Clinton statements it has reviewed are true or mostly true.

For Bernie Sanders, the number is 46 percent. Half of what he says really isn’t true.

On the GOP side, the numbers are: Kasich, 33 percent; Cruz, 23 percent, and Trump, 12 percent.

Put it in round numbers: 9 out of 10 times, what Trump says isn’t true.

If this were the main lineup in another country’s election, what would you be thinking?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The “Bill of Rights” wasn’t

The “Bill of Rights” wasn’t “The Bill of Rights” in the 1790s when it was first proposed.

Simply, no one called it “The Bill of Rights” then, not officially, not in print, not in the often contentious debate that preceded its adoption in 1791, three years after the Constitution was ratified.
Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, described “certain articles in addition and amendment of the Constitution of the United States” when he sent out to the states the list of 10 amendments that had been approved.

The first 10 Amendments

In fact, 12 amendments had been drafted to satisfy the concerns of the Anti-Federalists, who had opposed the ratification of the Constitution itself because they resisted the creation of a federal government with centralized power.

It’s not well known that the original Article 12 of the first batch was finally ratified as the 27th Amendment in 1992. It states: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

The original Article 1 has never been ratified. It proposed that members of the U. S. House of Representatives should not represent more than 50,000 persons per congressional district. In the first Congress formed after the Constitution was adopted, each congressman represented about 30,000 people. Today, U. S. representatives are elected from districts containing roughly 730,000 people—if the 50,000 limit were in effect, there would be almost 6,400 seats in the House.

Don’t even think about it.

See Pauline Maier’s books on the U. S. Constitution

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Another poet heard from….(part 15)

“When despair for the world grows in me...
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty…
I come into the peace of wild things…
I come into the presence of still water…”

From Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things” Counterpoint Press, 1998

American poet, farmer, lover of Earth

The presence of still water is an offering to turn away, for moments at least, from the dark forces that stretch too far toward my horizons….

….and to share a patience with living, complete, in a corner of the pond, with things of beauty, and to savor what is good in life, what I can draw closer now….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The wisdom of E. L. Doctorow (part 2)

“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—                        not the feeling that it is raining,
                       but the feeling of being rained upon.”

Edgar Lawrence “E. L.” Doctorow (1931-2015)
American author

When you feel the almost rain, you can imagine almost anything—getting wet is merely a matter of time, not a matter of importance….

Thanks to my trusted personal advisor for this one.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 25, 2016

This dog don’t hunt

The Republicans in Congress are still flogging away at the Affordable Care Act (OK, OK, “Obamacare”), but that dog don’t hunt no more.

Republicans in the House have voted—what? 163 times or something like that--to repeal Obamacare….campaign talking points, and nothing else.
The New York Times talked straight a few days ago in an editorial that diced up “…the big myths they are peddling…”

Here’s the short version:

According to the Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Americans dropped by 10 million between 2010, when the law passed, and 2014. While critics said employers might stop offer­ing health insurance because of the law, three million people gained coverage through their employers between 2010 and 2014.

A 2015 study using data from the Current Population Survey found that the law “had virtually no adverse ef­fect on labor force participation, employment or usual hours worked per week through 2014.

…the biggest obstacle stopping insurers from setting up in more states is not regula­tion; it’s the difficulty of establishing a net­work of providers in a new market. And such a structure would destroy the longstanding ability of states to regulate health insurance for their populations.”

The Republicans have proposed nothing to replace Obamacare.

Obamacare has done a lot of good so far, and we have a long way to go in making our American health care system more effective and less costly.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Who did it?

The latest news about the Volkswagen emissions violations is that the German carmaker will take a $18.2 billion charge against its 2015 financial accounts to cover payments to aggrieved Volkswagen owners. That’s BILLION--$18,200,000,000.

The company will post a 2015 loss of about $6 billion.

You know this story: unscrupulous lawbreakers on the Volkswagen payroll deliberately rigged their diesel cars to conform with emissions requirements while the tests were being conducted, and then run fast and dirty when they were on the road.

The disgraced CEO of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, stepped down last year. There was talk that he would get a severance package of almost $70 million.

Millions and billions worth of wrongdoing here. VW owners got the short end of the stick, and VW shareholders are paying for it.

I did a sincere internet search, and I couldn’t find any story about any other Volkswagen employee who has been fired or prosecuted or sent to jail.

There are quite a few people who did wrong stuff here—are any of them going to be held responsible?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Worlds, whirling, waiting….

It was one of those moments when you have all the time you need, and can’t get enough….


Mingled mist, mind.

Loosed vision, an impulse of the eye
strains to see the lifting dawn,
the shimmering dance of sunrise.

Surrounding sound peals the senses,
I whirl and stretch to the horizon, a stroke in air,
the great broad sky beyond my reach,
I dip one toe and the ocean swallows me entire.

Undeniable, ineffable world outside my world.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Friday, April 22, 2016

It’s official, again.

The arrival of European explorers and colonists in the Americas in the 16th century caused the devastating collapse of the indigenous populations—tens of millions of people died within a generation or two.

A comparison of ancient and modern DNA starkly shows that “none of the genetic lineages we found in almost 100 ancient humans were present, or showed evidence of descendants, in today’s Indigenous populations,” according to the lead author of the study published recently.

Basically, the ancient lineages in North and South America “went extinct with the arrival of Spanish [and other] colonists.”

The study of DNA from 92 pre-Columbian skeletons and from living residents of both continents was conducted by the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.

No one knows for sure how many indigenous peoples were alive in North and South America in 1492, but the estimates run up to 100 million. Almost all of those people died—mostly as a result of disease—during the decades following the first voyage of Columbus.

Cahokia c. 1250

p.s. The DNA study also confirmed that the first Americans arrived on the North Pacific coast about 16,000 years ago. They quickly spread and prospered throughout both continents in less than 1,500 years. These First Peoples created several sophisticated civilizations. For example, in the 13th century, a Mississippi River “mound” culture had its center at Cahokia, a city that was bigger than Paris at the time.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The history of spoiler alerts

The whole notion of “spoiler alert” is less than 175 years old.

That’s because there really wasn’t much to spoil before 1841. That’s when Edgar Allan Poe published “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” a short story generally acknowledged as the first modern detective story.

It has many familiar elements of the thriller whodunit: murder scene is a room locked from the inside, two women dead, spectacularly eccentric evidence, no obvious suspect, no obvious motive.

The ace detective is an unassuming cop named C. Auguste Dupin, who soldiers on through dead end after dead end to finally thresh the truth from a harvest of confusing evidence. There is innocence and brutality and propriety and wantonness and rectitude and adventure enough to satisfy just about any reader who isn’t looking for a cheap thrill or a zombie or a torn bodice.

Oh yeah, one other plus: no bad language. Popular literature in the early 19th century was no place for (expletive deleted) with bad language. In fact, Poe described “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” as one of his “tales of ratiocination.” You can get down with that.

By the way, Sherlock Holmes didn’t come onto the scene until 1887, and Miss Marple was a heroine of the 1920s.

p.s. Dupin finally figured out that the orangutan did it.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

World domination, circa 1914

“World domination” is a concept we don’t mention too often in casual conversation these days, but 100 years ago it was an ordinary frame of reference.

In 1800, at the beginning of the 19th century, European powers controlled about one-third of the world’s land mass. By 1914—before the start of World War I—those Western powers could claim domination of about 84 percent of the planet.

It wasn’t a stretch to acknowledge that “the sun never sets on the British Empire.”

Margaret Macmillan, in The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, says
"Europe's countries dominated much of the earth's surface whether through their formal empires or by informal control of much of the rest through their economic, financial and technological strength. Railways, ports, telegraph cables, steamship lines, factories around the world were built using European know-how and money and were usually run by European companies.”

"The march of knowledge throughout the nineteenth century, in so many fields from geology to politics, had, it was widely assumed, brought much greater rationality in human affairs. The more humans knew, whether about themselves, society, or the natural world, the more they would make decisions based on the facts rather than on emotion.”

As we sadly know now, such self-serving and blithely ignorant claptrap was brutally exposed when the “guns of August” commenced firing in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I did the Boston Marathon again!

OK, well, technically, I didn’t run the race. Those people are technically nuts, but on race day it’s a good kind of crazy, obviously they’re brave and strong, and I didn’t see any runner who looked unhappy.

I was one of the half million people who watched some of the 30,000 runners heading east to Boston. I was about at the halfway marker, so the runners had already floated down about 300 feet from the starting line in Hopkinton (the highest point, about 490 feet above sea level), and some of them probably were starting to think about the killer climb at Chestnut Hill, at Mile 21.

So we were all in the level sweet spot approaching Wellesley, the multitudes cheering and clapping more or less continuously as all those fluorescent green and orange sneakers strode by attached to very fit-looking people of all ages….somewhat strangely, I didn’t see anyone who looked like a teenager (minimum qualifying age is 18), and there were plenty of geezer-ish folks who could run circles around yours truly.

The best moments for me were watching the youngsters in the families thronging the marathon route. Lots of action, lots of colors, lots of noise, lots of chummy policemen and fascinating helicopters….a hectic wonderland for the wee ones….

….and a few of the bolder kids were stretching an arm out into the street, offering a bottle of water to the needy, the kids’ smiling eyes happily sharing brief communion with the heroic eyes of the fabulous grownups who dashed toward them at dangerous speed and leaned down to grab the water and invariably elevated the moment with a “Thank you!” and the regal brushing of fingertips….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hateful people having fun

Now, here’s a picture you might be able to get out of your mind pretty quickly….

Reportedly it’s a photo of Ku Klux Klan members at a carnival in Canon City, CO, in 1928. Just goes to show that Klansmen are human beings, just like you and I….and horribly different….

It’s an obscene photograph.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The drollery of William F. Buckley Jr.

“It’s very hard to stand up carrying the weight of what I know.”

William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008)

If you’re at all familiar with Buckley’s potent command of language, you won’t have any trouble believing he said that.

Certainly, the man was literate and learned.

Too bad he wasted all that talent on being a champion of the rigidly righteous and repeatedly wrong Right Wing of just about everything in American culture and politics in the 1950s and the ‘60s and the ‘70s.

In my youth I was an ardent Buckley acolyte. I had dinner with him once in my college daze.

As I have learned more and more in my life since then, I have come to understand that it wasn’t his knowledge that was a burden to him—it was his blindness to many realities of the human condition.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Whining isn’t a campaign strategy

The Trump and Sanders campaigns recently have started singing a whiner’s song about the byzantine delegate selection process which hasn’t delivered an easy victory to either candidate so far.

The primary slog for delegates has been frustratingly inconclusive so far. All of us, of all political persuasions, can agree on that.

The simple fact is that the surprisingly murky process—almost virtually and remarkably different in every state—is or should be completely transparent to the political operatives staffing all of the presidential campaigns. In brief, there are no surprises here for the pols.

So, nasty public complaints about how the delegates are awarded are so much bellywash. Trump, in particular, should be hooted away from the microphone when he complains that the nomination may be “stolen” from him if he fails to secure a majority of delegates. If you don’t get a majority, you don’t win. It’s not rocket science.

On the point that the delegate selection process is obfuscated beyond all human understanding, I have more sympathy with the whiners.

As explained more fully in the April 10 Sunday New York Times, it’s more or less true that no state permits voters to vote in a primary and literally, directly choose party convention delegates who are committed to vote for their preferred candidate. (Read it here).

Typically, the folks who get the primary votes are the first group of candidate advocates who take part in a multi-stage, state-by-state process for selecting convention delegates. The process is more or less unique in every state.

In plain terms: the typical voter really has no idea who he or she is sending to the party convention to choose a presidential nominee. In some states, it’s distinctly possible that your primary vote helps to select a convention delegate who really doesn’t want your candidate to get the nod.

Is this “fair”?  Make your own call.

Admit this: the process is the 21st century incarnation of the way party insiders have always used the smoke-filled rooms in the back of the hall to keep their political power intact.

See if you can figure out who represents your primary vote at your party’s convention this summer.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, April 15, 2016

It started out as a “bachelor’s” degree….

There’s a plain Jane reason why that four-year sheepskin is called a “bachelor’s degree.”

In the 11th century, the men who went to college for their first degree attained a respectable mastery of knowledge, but it wasn’t enough to set them up for good jobs.

Hence, they were generally unable to support a family, and thus remained bachelors until they went further in their studies.

In common parlance, they earned the “bachelor’s” degree.

Seal of University of Bologna
The first Western university was the University of Bologna in Italy, established in 1088. The University of Paris opened its doors about 60 years later, and the University of Oxford was created in 1167.

1644 sketch of Harvard's first seal

There is some high-toned dispute about the founding date of the first American “university.” Harvard, without a doubt, was established in 1636 as the first “institution of higher learning” in the English colonies. cites Kevin Madigan’s Medieval Christianity in explaining the impact of universities on the development of Western civilization, starting about the mid-point of the Middle Ages.

By the way, the academic powerhouse we think of as a “university” was originally an outgrowth of the medieval guilds, and the name “university” is shorthand for universitas magistrorum et scholarium, that is, a "community of teachers and scholars.”

Sometimes a university is more than that, and sometimes, less. That’s a story for another time.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.