Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thanks for voting

I really mean it -- thanks for voting --  regardless of how you voted. Even if you voted for a revoltingly doctrinaire, really ridiculously unqualified candidate because you're angry. It's legitimate to be angry, and I understand that you may be moved to vote on that basis. It's self-defeating, and you should feel at least slightly embarassed, if you failed to vote because you're angry, or sick to death of politicians and their shenanigans, or for any other reason.  

I won't even mention that in some countries people risk their lives to vote, and all we have to do in America to exercise the greatest of our freedoms is jump in the car and drive down to the conveniently located polling place and spend a few minutes voting for the candidates of our choice. You don't even have to dip your finger in purple indelible ink. It's a lot more fun than getting a vaccination. You can take your kids if you need to. If you have to take your dog, you can ask one of the campaign workers outside to hold on to the leash for a few minutes, otherwise they're not doing anything useful.

If you voted, you set a good example for your family, your neighbors, your friends and your co-workers, and for the people of Texas, who may have posted the lowest election turnout rate in the Nov. 2 election:   it seems that barely 1 out of 3 Texans who were eligible to vote actually went to the polls.  And Gov. Perry's victory?....he got votes from less than 18% of Texan voters...

See  election results:

See this data set created by Prof. Michael McDonald at George Mason University:

Nationwide, it looks like barely 42% of eligible voters went to the polls. This means that in any tight races, less than 25% of eligible voters decided the winner.

This is not the way democracy is supposed to work. And, to tell the truth, democracy isn't really working when the voter turnout reveals that less than half of us are voting. Next spring, urge your family, friends and associates to vote in the primary election. As an American, do the right thing. You owe it to yourself.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

71% -- but it's no landslide

Media hype: there's less to it than meets the eye. When is 669,033 not that much of a big deal?  What if we had a landslide victory but not too many voters showed up? Yup, the media cut loose on August 4..........."Proposition C Passes Overwhelmingly" in Missouri!  Missouri voters, 71% to 29%, made a splash as they approved a primary ballot initiative aimed at amending Missouri law to prevent the federal government from mandating the purchase of health insurance and also shield Missourians from punishment if they don't buy health insurance. Perhaps a quixotic crowd-pleaser.....the fate of this initiative in any court challenge is unknown.  See this coverage:

So. Missouri speaks. Missouri hates the federal health care legislation. The people have spoken. It's the big Mo for opponents of health care reforms. More evidence that America doesn't want the feds taking over health care. It's obvious, right?
Well, hold on a sec. The voice of democracy, yes, yes, but who's talking?  About 669,000 Missourians voted for Proposition C, and about 272,000 voted against it. Pretty lopsided. See these results:

But wait:  the adult population of Missouri is over 4.5 million, so only about 15% of Missouri adults voted for Proposition C. Hardly a landslide when you look at it that way.....and keep in mind that almost 80% of voting age adults in the state didn't bother to vote on Prop C one way or the other....

How about another frame of reference?  Missouri voted (by a razor-thin margin) for McCain in the 2008 election. In Missouri's August 3 primary election, Republican voters outnumbered Democratic voters almost 2-to-1, whereas across the U.S. registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans.
With the lopsided GOP turnout in Missouri, it would have been real news if Prop C had been defeated, and so the 71% "landslide" is just a yawner.....and it surely isn't a compelling proxy for the overall views of the American electorate.

So, Missouri Republicans did their thing with Prop C..........what's the big ____ deal?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Latest score: The People 1, Goldman Sachs 0

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Goldman Sachs with civil fraud, alleging that GS cheated investors who bought securities linked with subprime mortgages. It's about time. Is there anyone who seriously thinks that Goldman Sachs didn't do it? I'm waiting for the SEC to file more charges against the many criminal participants in the subprime mortgage meltdown that caused worldwide financial terror. Let justice prevail.
Here are a couple current links to the breaking news on CNN:

[ UPDATE: As of April 21, 2010,  here's a ProPublica link that mentions Merrill Lynch and "failing to disclose" and "risky CDO" in the same sentence:  ]

Why isn't there more public anger about the bankers and mortgage lenders and the backroom quants who recklessly gambled with other people's money and ended up causing so much heartbreak to hundreds of millions of people around the globe? Why isn't this the top headline day after day? Why are so many people apparently willing to quietly tolerate the fact that most of the bad guys who committed this horror have held onto their millions and billions in profit and have stayed out of jail?
Do you know somebody who had a hand in this unethical, destructive binge of risk-taking? Have you made a point of telling someone that you are not well pleased?

[UPDATE: As of June 9, 2010, here's a contribution from a friend, the author of this only slightly wacky piece is known only as Nurse Noose:


In the land of Maglop, just south of Canack

A rich man named Goldman McSachy-McGlack

Arrived into town with a large golden sack

It was stuffed full of whatzits and slung on his back

The foos that inhabit the land of Maglop

Watched as McSachy-McGlack set up shop

The new shop was chic, it was shiny, compelling

"What are you selling?" the foos started yelling

McSachy-McGlack smiled and answered the foos:

"Come see for yourself, you've got nothing to lose."

Inside the shop, there was box upon box

And each box was locked up with five golden locks

"What is it?" they asked, their eyes bright with greed

"It's a whatzit, that's what, and it's just what you need"

"What does it do?" asked young Cindy-lu Foo

"Well" said McSachy-McGlack "I'll tell you"

"It makes the poor rich, and it makes the rich richer

And the richest more richester, now get the picture?

Just buy one or two, put them under your bed

And leave them alone, get them out of your head

And then sell them back, and worse comes to worst

They will be worth ten times what they cost you at first"

"But" he continued "there's one caveat"

The impatient foos said in unison "what?"

"The whatzit will work only if it stays locked"

"What's in a whatzit?" the older foos mocked

"It doesn't concern you, just don't open the box

Keep it under your bed, and don't unlock the locks"

"I'll take one" said one foo "I'll take three or four"

"I'll take a dozen" "put me down for a score!"

Each foo soon had his own whatzit stash

And each knew that soon they'd be rolling in cash

So they bought foo-mobiles and they mortgaged their huts

They had foo boob jobs and foo liposucked butts

What happened next? Well, what do you think?

The whatzits, one-by-one, started to stink

They reeked to high heaven, all icky and rank

Like bungle-beast farts, that's how much they stank

The foos plugged their noses, they cursed and they swore

Til Cindy-lu Foo couldn't take anymore

She took out her whatzit and unlocked the locks

She took a deep breath and she opened the box

What was inside? Well I've got the scoop:

Each whatzit was stuffed full of snorgle-pig poop

When word got around, every foo would lament

"My whatzit portfolio aint' worth a cent!"

They soon lost their jobs, and then lost their houses

They started to drink, they were beating their spouses

By the time they were left with no foo-pot to piss in

Goldman McSachy-McGlack turned up missin'

What happened then? It just keeps getting better

Taped to his boarded up shop was a letter

"I'm sorry you're left with nary a cent

But look on the bright side! I've made a mint!

See, to tell you the truth (and I know the truth hurts)

I placed a side bet that the Foos lose their shirts."

"The moral" it said "you should know now by heart:

A foo and his money are destined to part"

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Are You A Great Manager?

This started out as another one of those "Top 10 Ideas For...." but I whittled it down to three, for your delectation.

This was distributed by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), see their website:
and originally appeared on  Edutopia    as "Ten Big Ideas of School Leadership" by middle school principal Mike McCarthy.

I'm pretty sure Mike is pretty much on track, and his take on leadership is motivational and instructive for leaders or wannabe leaders in any organization. A few samples:

6) Take Responsibility for the Good and the Bad
If the problems in your school or organization lie below you and the solutions lie above you, then you have rendered yourself irrelevant. The genius of school lies within the school. The solutions to problems are almost always right in front of you.

I think of it this way: If you think only the folks below you are causing all the problems, and you also think only the guys above you can fix ‘em, what does the boss or your subordinates need you for?

7) You Have the Ultimate Responsibility
Have very clear expectations. Make sure people have the knowledge, resources, and time to accomplish what you expect. This shows respect. As much as possible, give people the autonomy to manage their own work, budget, time, and curriculum. Autonomy is the goal, though you still have to inspect.

I think of it this way: Be the boss, mostly by setting the tone, setting the example, sometimes setting the boundaries, setting the aiming stake in the right place, setting the time for the next team meeting, setting the “But We’ve Always Done It This Way” rule book on fire, etc………..and every so often check to make sure that nobody has set the factory on fire….

9) Consensus is Overrated
Twenty percent of people will be against anything. When you realize this, you avoid compromising what really should be done because you stop watering things down. If you always try to reach consensus, you are being led by the 20 percent.

I've found that most students--and most folks--usually think that “consensus” means that everyone has to agree. No, no, no. I embrace the idea that “consensus” means that every member of the group either stout-heartedly endorses the idea or at least acknowledges that she can live with it and support it as a reasonable alternative to her own favored decision/plan/concept. And yes, it’s true that sometimes the group or the boss must say to the high-principled or defiant holdout: “we respect your view and your input, but we’ve talked it through, we’re gonna do it a different way, and you need to support that.”

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2010 All rights reserved.

The Only Good GPA Is A Higher GPA....

Loyola Law School in Los Angeles will raise previously posted final grades for current students and for alumni going back to 2004. A grade of B will be raised to B+,   A- will be raised to A and so on.

See this Apr 1, 2010, post by The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Loyola's Dean, Victor Gold, said the old grades didn't reflect Loyola's "academic rigor," he put it this way: "We concluded that the grading curve was sending incorrect information about our students, and, frankly, it was putting them at an unfair competitive disadvantage in a pretty tough job market."
I read the dean's rationale for what he's doing, here are a few possible inferences:

“We concluded that the grading curve was sending incorrect information about our students.”
Perhaps he meant this: Our students weren’t smart enough to pick other schools that give higher grades.

“Mr. Gold announced the faculty's approval of the new grading system.”
Perhaps he meant this: Our faculty suddenly realized they’ve been doing the grading all wrong.

“We're not trying to make them look better than other comparable students at other schools. We just want them to be on an even playing field."
Perhaps he meant this: We’re pretty sure that no prospective employers will find out that we have done this.

Now, I’m very sympathetic to the great difficulty of finding a job these days………so what’s Loyola Law School gonna do if some of the other 19 California law schools decide to bump their grades up a bit?

...and by the way, as of June 17, 2010, check my web page at:        

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Liberal or Conservative? That's too simple....

Woe is us. Sound-bite media, sound-bite politics. It's too easy and it's a deadening distraction to ask or answer the question: are you a Liberal or a Conservative? For those of us who suspect that we are very much too discriminating to be "lumped in" with one motley crowd or the other, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press comes to the rescue.

The Pew folks have used their extensive and time-tested research to identify 9 "typologies" in the political spectrum (if you're a country boy like me, think "mutually exclusive categories" and you're in like Flynn).

Use the link above to answer a few questions (really, it takes a minute or two) and get Pew researchers'  feedback on where you stand in the lineup:    Liberal, Conservative Democrat, Social Conservative, you get the picture. There's considerable, easy to understand detail about what makes each group different from the others...probably you won't be too surprised.

You may be surprised AFTER you understand more fully why you belong to one of Pew's may be surprised when you realize that you understand more intuitively and in more empirical detail why it's downright dumb for the news media and our elected political representatives to talk blithely and belligerently about "Liberals" and "Conservatives." These two popularly named, deeply misunderstood and more or less undefined groups of people too often act out their fantasy that vilifying the other group is a downright satisfying way to express their beliefs and advance their cause....let's stop pretending that "Liberal" and "Conservative" are useful categories.

Go to the Pew Research Center site (link is above) and clarify your understanding of where you really stand, and find out who you're NOT in bed with, politically speaking...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

No Child Left Behind redux...

I care very much about improving education, and I mean the whole spectrum:  elementary, secondary and college level. I tend to support the notion of national standards for the public education system, but I hasten to mention that I feel strong ambivalence about it as I read more of the pros and cons:  see this Washington Post piece

So I'm gonna stay tuned as closely as I can in tracking the new education proposal:   see this item from The Slate

I assume in some astral plane it’s just dandy to hope that every HS grad will be “college ready” but here on the planet we love I think that’s a goal that is a really deadly distraction……… just ain’t possible that every single 18-yr-old 1) wants to go to college 2) is capable of doing college work 3) has parents who can foot the bill 4) etc etc……………with the possible exception of all the kids at Lake Wobegon

Ain’t enough colleges to handle our annual high school output, many or most colleges most likely wouldn’t offer admission to the bottom half of your local high school senior class, ain’t enough Pell grants, etc etc

Why do we need to confuse the issue by suggesting that the purpose of public education is making everybody ready for college? I’m in favor of reaching an actionable consensus that the purpose of public education is to produce high school graduates.   See this item from USA Today

Friday, March 5, 2010

Any Health Care Reform Will Do.....

See the piece below by Diane Jones at The Chronicle of Higher Education,

certainly a comprehensive commentary without most of the media-hyped "sound bite" fact, I support the current push to pass the health reform legislation, most certainly not because I believe it's the best or even a well-rounded step to address the very huge, very expensive health care problems, but almost exclusively (and desperately) because I strongly agree with Diane Jones' last sentence:

"And let's be honest about the fact that we might not be able to tackle all of these problems in a single piece of legislation, or within a single presidential term ... or even two."

I'm sickened by the grotesque, self-serving posturing on both sides of the aisle in Congress on this health care reform legislation, we have a rapidly growing monster that's going to eat Chicago and then every other city in the country if we don't tame the beast, and there seems to be little enlightened concept of serving the long-term overall public interest in the hallowed halls of Congress................

Oooops, I think I let a doctrinaire edge show through there, I'm flogging myself back into the cage........I'll try softly humming The Battle Hymn of the Republic....thanks for listening, I feel better now...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Those Millennials: Leaders of tomorrow?

Regardless of your political persuasion, check out this Feb. 25 piece by E. J. Dionne in The Washington Post:  "Under-30 Americans: The Next New Dealers"

Bless those young Millennials, they're doing their own thing on the political scene and in the workplace.

They are not the leaders of tomorrow. The people who are in charge now are the leaders of tomorrow, because those with power do not willingly give it up.

If you desperately want to change something, almost certainly you don't have the power to do so.

Start connecting with people who share your desires and your vision, and build a networked base of power to do something about it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dear Charlie Munger, Thanks but no thanks...

Charlie, thanks but no thanks for a rather pedestrian piece [ Charlie's remarks on ] with oh-so-thinly-veiled references to current real-world events and people, it's not particularly helpful to lecture us on the disastrous results of allowing ignorant CEOs to allow their ethically-challenged backroom quants to gamble in the nether world of derivatives with everyone else's money......

Why did you plug the date "2012" in there? You give no specific prediction, and I would have been surprised if you had.........

If you meant this piece to sway the opinions of folks who don't already know what you're talking about and who don't already agree with you, you wasted your time.

Your commentary is not particularly droll nor is it particularly enlightening nor is it particularly memorable...

Please stick to helping Warren run Berkshire Hathaway....

Your friend