Saturday, December 31, 2011

The wisdom of Rainer Maria Rilke

"Now let us welcome the new year,
 full of things that have never been."

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

I like Rilke's open-ended invitation to greet the new year with willingness to experience new paths in life….perhaps this is, somewhat paradoxically, the actual process of rejuvenation….

The celebrated Austrian poet is widely viewed as the master of his art in the German language.

Rilke's oeuvre is dark, his style of lyrical poetry has been called "haunting." He wrote "Letters To A Young Poet."

Oskar Werner reads Rilke's "The Stranger" ("Der Fremde")

Rainer Maria Rilke, per Wikipedia

Rilke biography on

A sample of my poetry:
O, Patient Sea
Chanson de mer
The boy with a red hat

Sample of a friend's poetry

Friday, December 30, 2011

The wisdom of Herbert Henry Asquith

"Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life."

Herbert Henry Asquith (1852 - 1928)

Herb, also known as the 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, had some career path issues that transform this otherwise good-natured epigram into a truly poignant observation: as the Liberal Prime Minister of Britain he led his country into World War I.

Wikipedia profile of Herbert H. Asquith

I think Asquith may have intended to express much the same thing as this more tart offering:

"No wise man ever wished to be younger."

This is the wisdom of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).

Swift, the 18th century Irish satirist and political pamphleteer, is perhaps best known as the author of "Gulliver's Travels."

More on Swift at Wikipedia

Another take on the game plan of life, for young and old:

The few, the partisan, the Iowa caucuses

It's the same old Iowa story in U.S. politics: a very small minority of very engaged, partisan folks from the full political spectrum, acting in our unrestrained media spotlight, are doing their very distinctive, narrowly regional thing and making unwarranted national waves. You want representative democracy? Forget it.

You want polemics, hype and sound bite journalism? You got it, it's called the Iowa caucuses. Humdrum politics, you say? Aside from their much-publicized role as the "first" head count in the presidential primary race, why should we pay attention to the Iowa caucuses?

The stuff and nonsense of this mid-West media monstrosity is in many ways a repeat of the goofy Ames Straw Poll in Iowa last August, only larger…and by the way, Michelle Bachmann won that one…
A critical look at the Ames Poll
Results of the 2011 Ames Poll

My previous post on "spoofing democracy" in Iowa

Although they're billed as a high profile reading on the state of the Republican presidential primary, the caucuses aren't the very model of predictive truth.

Try to forget about the fact that Mike Huckabee won the Republican Iowa caucus in 2008, getting nearly three times as much support as John McCain, who was the eventual GOP nominee in the presidential race.
 It's just a caucus, the first step of a multi-stage process by which Republicans in Iowa will choose their delegates to the Republican National Convention next year. At the 2012 caucus next week, the Republican party faithful (and maybe some ringers) won't even be voting directly for their preferred candidates. There's no guarantee that the nominal winner of the GOP caucus on January 3 will be Iowa's choice at the convention, and no guarantee that he or she will be the one to challenge President Obama in the November election. Commentary from Lisa Desjardins at CNN

So what good are the Iowa caucuses? I'm ignoring the Democratic caucus, President Obama is the shoo-in winner.

What's this Republican caucus in Iowa all about? On January 3 any registered Republican in Iowa, and any 17-year-old Iowan who will turn 18 before the November 2012 election and wants to pre-register as a Republican, and anybody else who shows up at a GOP caucus in any of Iowa's 1,784 voting precincts and registers as a Republican on-the-spot, will be eligible to vote for delegates who support one of the GOP primary contenders.
    These delegates will go to one of 99 county conventions in the state, and the county conventions will choose delegates to the state conventions that will choose Iowa's official delegation to the Republican National Convention. Nobody is directly voting for Mitt Romney or Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich or anybody else in the January 3 Iowa caucuses.

I mentioned possible ringers. It is possible that crafty non-Republicans could show up at any GOP caucus, register right then and there as a Republican and cast a shifty vote in support of a candidate who might not be viewed by some genuine Republicans as an ideal contender against President Obama. Yes, this would be dirty tricks stuff. Just sayin'…..

Of more concern to me is the number of Iowa voters who are NOT involved in the caucuses.

There are approximately 2.3 million Iowa residents of legal voting age.
In 2008, about 359,000 people participated in both parties' caucuses, according to the Houston
Chronicle the Chronicle story , and only about 120,000 of them were Republicans.

Iowa politics is jumping this year, let's guess that 150,000 Republicans may show up this time. Suppose that 25% of them vote for delegates who support Mitt Romney—a current poll reported by Newsday shows Mitt with that estimated level of support poll results from Newsday . Suppose Mitt is the "winner" of the Iowa Republican caucus. In this very plausible scenario, about 1.6% of Iowans who can vote will determine the big headlines and cable news political trash talk we'll be able to enjoy on January 4. Whoever ends up ranked No. 2 will have the support of even fewer Iowa Republicans…

Will any of the TV talking heads and party spokespersons offer any comment on the point that 98% of voting age Iowans DON'T support the candidate who "won"?

Wikipedia stuff on Iowa caucuses

Another site with info on Iowa caucuses

A Washington Post take on "5 myths" about the caucuses

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The wisdom of Winston Churchill

"However beautiful the strategy,
         you should occasionally look at the results."

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Winston's matter-of-fact reminder should be standard on every page of your Day-Minder.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The wisdom of Barnabas Suebu

"Think big, start small, act now
—before everything becomes too late."
Barnabas Suebu (b. 1946)
Governor of the Indonesian province of Papua

'Nuff said. Can there be anyone who doesn't need to hear this advice?

The wisdom of Malcolm Forbes

The wisdom of the old farmer, revisited

"If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try tellin' somebody else's dog what to do."
Overheard in the old farmer's barn

Yup, you heard right. If you're thinkin' about tryin' it, well, see, that's a problem right there.

A bit more wisdom from the old farmer

The wisdom of Alan Jay Lerner

"You write a hit the same way you write a flop."

Alan Jay Lerner (1918-1986)

Lerner, the celebrated lyricist and librettist, collaborated in the creation of beloved musicals including Brigadoon, An American in Paris, My Fair Lady and Gigi.

His wry comment about hits and flops is a reminder that striving for success---regardless of the outcome---is a hallmark of the successful.

PBS web site on Lerner

Wikipedia on Alan Jay Lerner

The wisdom of Thomas Edison

The wisdom of Jonathan Kozol

The wisdom of Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
From his collection "In Country Sleep"

A Dylan Thomas web site endorsed by his son

Wikipedia on Dylan Thomas

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Job creators: Step forward, sound off!

I'm sick of hearing about all the tax cuts and perks and respect we should give to "the job creators" so they don't feel "uncertain" which apparently puts them in a bad mood, and then that hinders them from getting to work on their job creating duties…...

Sen. Harry Reid thoughtfully offered the speculation that "millionaire job creators…are like unicorns…they don't exist."

Harry Reid on job creators and unicorns

Nick Hanauer, entrepreneur and venture capitalist, says consumers create jobs when they buy things, and "when businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it is like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution."

Nick Hanauer on Bloomberg, talking about jobs and squirrels

There's a new group called the Job Creators Alliance—Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, and folks like him—that is dedicated to refurbishing the image of the, you know, job creators.

American Prospect's Balance Sheet piece on "The One Percent Strikes Back"

Well, fine, I wish the Alliance would announce the number of jobs that job creators have created recently, say, in the last three years. In fact, what I really wish is that rich job creators all over the country would stand up right now, identify themselves, tell us how much money they made last year, tell us how much the Bush tax cuts and the current payroll tax cuts are worth to them personally, and talk about how many jobs they've created in the last few years while we've extended tax cuts and increased tax cuts.

Right now, taxes on businesses---including the elusively-defined small businesses---are the lowest they've been in decades.

We all know business taxes haven't been raised since the financial collapse three years ago.

Memo to all job creators: What's stopping you? Create some of those jobs today! Let everybody know about it!

Job creators: Get to work (Part 1)

Job creators: Get to work (Part 2)

Nick Hanauer's web site

Monday, December 19, 2011

The wisdom of Daniel Pink

"People are not smaller, slower, better smelling horses."
Daniel Pink

He's a best-selling author who writes about work, as in "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us."

I just like his blunt, gritty rebuke to the captains of industry and unenlightened bosses everywhere who think of their employees as "resources" instead of treating them like fellow human beings who want respect and who want work that means something.

Dan Pink's web site

Pink's book "Drive" on
Review of "Drive" on CBS News Money Watch

The wisdom of Thomas Edison

The wisdom of Malcolm Forbes

Some Children Left Behind

It seems to me, for instance, that the algebra curriculum should be the same in every school district. I don't think of any immutable regional/cultural/developmental factors that would differentiate it in any particular place or state.

We all know that's not happening now. Indeed, it's an impossible goal when you consider that we have roughly 15,000 independent or semi-independent school districts of widely differing sizes, wealth and governance across the 50 states that incidentally aren't in agreement on common standards. For the moment, let's tilt the discussion in favor of sanity by not mentioning the districts with school directors who think the history teacher should be telling students that the Earth is 6,000 years old…

It also seems to me that algebra tests should be the same in every school district. Algebra in Minnesota = algebra in Alabama = algebra in California.

Of course, schooling isn't just about algebra, and educational achievement isn't fully and neatly measured in standardized tests. We’ve had No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for 10 years. We have the chaotic disputes about "teaching to the test." In general, NCLB is a sadly unfulfilled dream. We have some high school graduates who aren't, well…literate.

And the two commentaries cited below make a further point: there are frightening, persistent and wide gaps between the educational achievement of our poorer, less healthy, less socio-economically advantaged children and our wealthier, healthier, more socio-economically advantaged children. The same children are still being left behind.

We should focus less on aggressive standardized testing, teacher bashing, vouchers and charter schools (overall, charters are neither better nor worse than public schools).

We should focus more on providing decent, equitable resources (classrooms, teachers, training, supplies) for every school district. Our government and our society must work harder to minimize the poor kid-rich kid gaps. We must stop cutting our school budgets, and, indeed, start raising our school taxes.

"The goal of our education system should not be competition but equality of educational opportunity," says Diane Ravitch (see below).

"Today some 22 percent of American children live in poverty. Are we going to pretend forever that it is acceptable to ignore the needs of children outside the schoolhouse and blame teachers and principals for everything that happens inside?," says John Kuhn, a Texas school superintendent (see below).

The free market system that embraces competition and the profit motive will never produce good, universal education for every rich, poor, white or minority kid. Only enlightened government and an enlightened citizenry can provide a good, universal education. The dream is distant, but real.

Diane Ravitch says, "What we need is a vision of a good education for every child. We should start now. Today."

Amen to that.

"Many children are still left behind. We know who they are." – Diane Ravitch
"Well, I'm calling their bluff." -- John Kuhn

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Perry double dipping in Texas…who thought that one up?

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been collecting a completely legal state pension of $7,698 each month since January, while he continues on the state payroll as governor at a $150,000 salary.

Washington Post on Perry pension

Huffington Post weighs in

Seems Perry "retired" at the beginning of the year and started collecting his very legal pension benefit based on his age, his years of service in Texas state government since 1984 and his five years of Air Force service.

Perry continues to pay into the state pension fund. His pension will be re-calculated (increased) when he leaves the state payroll.

The Texas Tribune says that the aspiring Republican presidential candidate also will be eligible for Social Security benefits and lifetime, state-provided health care.

Texas Tribune gives more details on Perry pension

This is outrageous—but I take pains to say that I don't put a personal knock on Perry, who is 61, for collecting this totally legal pension. It's there. It's legal. In 1991 Texas amended its retirement law to allow pension payments to anyone whose age, years of service in state government and years of military service total 80 or more.

Pension isn't mentioned yet on Perry's campaign website

Why does the state of Texas think this is a good law? Who thought that one up? Why is it a good idea to pay a $92,376 pension to a healthy 61-year-old millionaire who is still working? I wonder how many people currently on the Texas state payroll are already collecting pensions? I wonder what their net worth is? This is the kind of thing that the 99% are protesting.

I'm happy to celebrate the good things we have to say about our democratic form of government and, from time to time, about the responsible actions of our elected representatives...

But then we encounter the bad things and the ugly things…makes me mad as hell. How about you?

Wikipedia entry for Rick Perry

Some of my previous posts on U.S. politics:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Elections for sale?

The Sunlight Foundation reported recently that in the 2010 national election campaign, 26,783 persons gave $10,000 or more to candidates and issues of their choice. That's the American way, right? You're free to speak your mind, spend your money in the campaign as you wish, and vote for your personal choice on the second Tuesday in November.

Well, if you care about freely determined election outcomes, and if you care about openness and accessibility in the political process, and if you care about the implication of our commitment to "one man, one vote," then you should take a moment to think about the impact of the huge spending of this very small minority of political active Americans.

These 26,783 big spenders have very deep pockets. They actually spent an average of about $29,000 each in the federal election campaigns of 2010. That's a total of $774 million, ABOUT ONE-QUARTER of the total election spending that year. For each one of these big spenders, there are roughly 8,580 other Americans of voting age. That's a pretty lopsided comparison.

The Sunlight Foundation report

These big spenders do more than cast their votes. They can and do move the needle in individual campaigns, and in the public debate on general campaign issues. They have huge public and private influence on the candidates and the interest groups that support them. They have personal access to the candidates, before and after elections.

A very large majority of these people are corporate executives, investors, lawyers or lobbyists. They tend to be notably concentrated in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. They don't simply give to "their local candidate," they give to multiple candidates. The Sunlight Foundation reports that "a good number appear to be highly ideological"—these people are not average Joes and Janes, they tend to be sharply partisan rather than calmly reflective voters. And when they "put their money where their mouths are," they do it in a big way, much bigger than almost everyone else can manage.

That's the problem with unlimited personal and organization and corporate spending on political campaigns. It distorts and destroys the American ideal of "one man, one vote" because it greases the campaigns and facilitates the success of ideologically driven and ideologically enthralled candidates. It greases the campaigns and contributes to the success of candidates who are willing to take a lot of money from a few people—is their motive hard to figure out? Is it hard to understand the voting records of such elected representatives? Is it hard to figure out who they represent?

The flood of cash from the few and the furious doesn't take away your vote. It swamps your vote and drowns out your voice and puts in office too many politicians who aren't prepared to listen to you after they take office.

They hear the sound of money. It's not a tune I like to hear. How about you?

The wisdom of Malcolm Forbes

"Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one."
Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990)

This Forbes is the elder motorcycle Forbes, not to be confused with his son, Steve Forbes, the erstwhile presidential candidate.

And, OK, OK, this Forbes isn't the likeliest candidate to be a fount of wisdom on education…..nevertheless, his pithy reminder above is an elevating admonition to anyone who hasn't recently mused in solitude or among friends, about the urgency of promoting the benefits of a liberal arts education. I like it. Pass it on.

A brief Wikipedia item on Malcolm Forbes

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trump as moderator?....not to worry

Well, the good news bear came through!

Donald Trump has archly announced that he will not moderate a Dec. 27 debate of GOP presidential candidates.

See my Dec. 4 post on this farcical excess of GOP primary madness

Good riddance. Anyway, almost all of the Republican candidates had more or less respectfully announced that they would not participate in the debate to be sponsored by the conservative website For some reason the GOP hopefuls in general have been toadying to Trump, I guess they're hoping to get his endorsement—the presumption of prestige escapes me here…..

Anyway, looks like this goofy debate is toast or is gonna be toast. Let's put it behind us.

Something else is going to qualify as the low point of this revoltingly degraded campaign. Stay tuned. Keep the sickness bags close by.

Washington Post says "Trump Fires Himself As Debate Moderator" sees Trump as "fair and tough moderator"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Moravian College Christmas Vespers

Many folks, like me, think of the Moravian College Christmas Vespers as an annual pilgrimage to a place where the music is all.

Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem, PA,  is a serene setting for Vespers. It's all about heart-stoppingly beautiful music that makes you hold your breath as the choir fills the space and fills your mind. It's all about the precious talent and energy of amateurs who rise to the occasion each year, and create the best you can imagine at the moment, and each moment brings new wonder, and each year automatically starts to feel like it's "the best it's ever been," except that we remember we felt the same excess of delight last year…

The Vespers performance in 2011 was no exception to the marvelous tradition of seasonal choral music that proclaims glad tidings of great joy. My wife and I usually agree immediately on the "best" piece in the program, and the friends who accompany us usually chime in with their approbation. Over the years we haven't squabbled much as we savor the premier offering.

This year, hands down, it was "I See" from "Three Spirituals" by Robert S. Cohen, text by Maria Seigenthaler. I say "hands down" with some poignancy: it is Vespers tradition that there is no applause during the program, I honor the code but I yearn often to stand and flout it noisily.

Cohen's "I See" is a tender retrospective by a newborn babe who recalls first moments with plain, earnest, delicate awe…and a barely awakened vocabulary of love.

As a grandfather, I can't resist urging you to read it and listen (see below).

Listen to " I See "

Text of  "I See" from "Three Spirituals" --

I saw the light before I knew to call it light.
I saw the light at the moment I was born
And I cried for the soft smooth darkness,
The darkness that had been my only home.

Then I felt the cold before I knew to call it cold
I felt the cold and I wailed out for the warm.
The warm and the closeness of the soft, smooth darkness,
And the rhythm of the comfort I had known.

Then I felt the love before I knew to call it love.
I felt the love as she touched and held and fed me.
Then I welcomed in the light for the love was in the light
Where I came to see that I am not alone.
In the light I saw that I am not alone.

Text from December 11, 2011, program for Moravian College Christmas Vespers.

About Robert Cohen

Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, PA

Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA

The wisdom of Will Rogers

"We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress."

Will Rogers (1879-1935)

Y'know, I think Will Rogers never coined an aphorism I don't like. So here are a couple more:

"Liberty doesn't work as well in practice as it does in speeches."

"You've got to go out on a limb sometimes because that's where the fruit is."

More Will Rogers quotes from
Wikipedia on Will Rogers
Photos are from

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The wisdom of Thomas Edison

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

Thomas Edison (1847-1931)

Tom as a lad
Wikipedia's biography of Thomas Edison
Stuff about Edison
He called it "Menlo Park," not "Silicon Valley"  

Images are from Wikipedia

Friday, December 9, 2011

New York income tax cut….ummm, pants on fire!

"New NY tax bill hits
 millionaires, helps middle"  blared the New York Post on Dec. 7.

On the other hand, what if there is a tax cut, but only the wealthiest households actually got the big benefits? Think New York, and you're on the right track.

This week New York state politicos re-structured the state income tax, changing the previous flat rate tax of 6.85%. Yeah, if you're not a New Yorker, resume reading as soon as you stop coughing and gagging….

Now, the headline reporting described the revision as benefiting lower and middle classes, while the wealthiest New Yorkers would get "hit." Turns out the opposite is true.

ProPublica says tax change benefits the rich

See, for the last three years, New York has had a "temporary" surcharge of 1% on state income tax paid by households with income of $300,00-$500,00 (they paid 7.85% total), and a surcharge of 2.12% on households making $500,00 or more (they paid 8.97% total).

The new tax code does cut everybody's current tax rate. However, it ALMOST COMPLETELY ELIMINATES the surcharges.

So, here's how the "tax cut" benefits stack up for New Yorkers:
Household with $    149,999 income: actual tax cut of $      600
Household with $    299,999 income: actual tax cut of $      600
Household with $    499,999 income: actual tax cut of $   5,000
Household with $ 1,999,999 income: actual tax cut of $  42,400 (yeah, that's right!)

Households with income over $2 million would see a relatively small tax cut of $1,500 for every $1 million of income.

A New York family making just under $2 million will keep $42,400 in their pockets--that's more than 5 times the percentage reduction offered to households making less than $150,000, and, outrageously, 265 times the absolute $160 tax reduction enjoyed by a household reporting income of $40,000.

I'd take that kind of "hit" any day. Bring it on. C'mon, hurt me.

New York Post headline is confused

The wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

Gandhi's outlook on Western civilization:  "I think it would be a good idea."

Mahandas K. Gandhi (1869 - 1948)

A Gandhi website
More on Gandhi
Some quotations

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Teddy Roosevelt: No kidding, a progressive Republican

President Theodore Roosevelt, our notoriously progressive Republican prez, delivered his call to action, his "New Nationalism" speech, in Osawatomie, Kansas, on August 31, 1910.

Teddy's "New Nationalism" speech

I presume his shade was clapping on Tuesday as President Obama spoke to the nation in Osawatomie, declaring " I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules."

President Obama's Osawatomie speech

I know, I know, being a Republican in 1910 doesn't translate in any simple way to being a Republican in 2011. Likewise, Teddy's brand of "progressive" political theory was framed in the political/economic/commercial/cultural context of his time—for instance, it was pre-Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed was created in 1913) and pre-women's suffrage (19th Amendment, 1920). Mainly, I'm mentioning that he was a progressive Republican mostly to be politely provocative.

If you're of the progressive persuasion (and even if you're not), Teddy's "New Nationalism" speech is deeply resonant with the angst of our times. So skip Rachel Maddow or Charles Krauthammer tonight and read it.

One of Roosevelt's arguments concerned government protection of property rights and human welfare. Here are a couple excerpts (not a summary of his speech) on points that are still relevant today:

"The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation."

"The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being. There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done."

"We must have complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs, so that the people may know beyond peradventure whether the corporations obey the law and whether their management entitles them to the confidence of the public. It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced. Corporate expenditures for political purposes, and especially such expenditures by public-service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs."

"I believe in shaping the ends of government to protect property as well as human welfare."

"Those who oppose reform will do well to remember that ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both politics and business of a sordid and selfish materialism."

The Bull Moose has spoken.

Teddy's Progressive Party

The Bull Moose himself

Blagojevich: There are more where he came from…

Nice to hear that ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich is going to jail for 14 years. There should be a long line of the perps in politics right behind him. I'd be happy to help pay for construction of new prisons to provide a roof and three squares a day for all those wrong-doers……and I don't think they'd need "country club jail" facilities, y'know?

Huffington Post says "Big Hair To The Big House"

Washington Post announces Blagojevich jail term

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Iowa Caucuses: Spoofing Democracy

Here we go again. The state that brought you the Ames Poll in August now offers the next Punch-and-Judy show of the U.S. presidential campaign: the Iowa caucuses.

Merely 4,823 Iowans—that's two-tenths of 1 per cent of the statewide electorate, or 1 out of every 476 adults—decided that Michelle Bachmann was the GOP frontrunner in the Ames flim-flam that was more BBQ-in-action than democracy-in-action. Remember her?

See my previous post on Ames poll:

...and this one, too:

On January 3, if history is a guide, about 16% of the voting age population of Iowa will turn out for their respective party caucuses, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans about 2-to-1.

So, more than 8 out of 10 Iowa voters most likely won't bother to participate.

Newt Gingrich is the putative leader in the GOP field as of 30 seconds ago (see link below), with about 25% of presumed Iowa Republican caucus-goers giving him the nod. Suppose that turns out to be a good estimate.

Then we'll know on January 3 that about 1.3% of eligible Iowa voters can take credit for giving Gingrich what the news media will describe as a huge campaign boost in his quest to be President of the United States.

Folks, this ain't the way democracy is supposed to work.

The Iowa caucuses do make for good entertainment as the cable news talking heads do their thing.

But, as political process, the Iowa caucuses are a faulty mash-up of tripe and partisanship and outrageous ad spending, and precious little voter participation. The credulous media coverage trivializes the policy issues we must resolve, and misinforms the American public.

This is de-mock-racy in action. Not a pretty picture. Make sure you vote next November in the real election.

The Washington Post on Iowa caucus outlook:

Gingrich in the lead with 1.3%

The Iowa caucus process:

...more on the Iowa caucus process:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Trump as moderator?....fuggeddaboudit !

I'm not going to bother watching Donald Trump moderating a debate for the Republican presidential candidates, minus Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, who also aren't going to bother watching Donald Trump moderating a…..well, you know….

The Republican debates so far have been long on sound-bites and short on substance, and I guess the debate on December 27 will be more of the same.

I guess the big question is: which part of the debate itself and the ensuing media coverage WON'T be about Donald Trump, his goofy sally into the presidential tourney last spring and ill-defined speculation about the candidates "playing to the conservative (or Tea Party) base"?

I guess it goes without saying that it's a grotesque affront to American democratic ideals to have a reality TV super-celebrity as a debate moderator in the presidential race.

I guess it goes without saying that the candidates almost certainly would NOT have planned a debate two days after Christmas if the self-described "largest online conservative news portal in the nation" hadn't made it a self-serving point to do so.

I guess it means that if you thought the low point of the campaign would be a knuckle-headed celebrity billionaire moderating a Republican debate, you were wrong……there's plenty of time left for this revoltingly degraded campaign to get worse. Stay tuned. Keep the sickness bags close by.

CNN and Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman aren't buyin'...
NPR isn't a Trump fan... is puffed up about it:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Who will watch the watchdogs? (Part 2)

"Aw, heck, senator, we don't actually regulate anything, y'know?"

Here's an update on the sketchy government oversight of MF Global, the financial derivatives broker run by Jon Corzine that went belly-up recently with a billion or so of customer money reported "missing"…..

In a followup Reuters story by Christopher Doering and Sarah Lynch on December 2, 2011, the reporters note (with my emphasis):

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee is investigating "whether regulators could have done more to prevent the failure and protect investors, traders and farmers who may be out hundreds of millions of dollars."

" Before the collapse, MF Global had nearly a half dozen regulators policing various parts of the firm, including the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Securities and Exchange Commission and industry watchdogs such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. But no single regulator was responsible for the whole company."

"…why," a senator asked, did MF Global get "clean bills of health just months before its failure and the revelation of its messy books."

"The regulators said their ability to check the firm was limited because they have few resources and are forced to rely on industry watchdogs."

"In the case of the CFTC, the agency does not examine any of the futures commission merchants itself and instead is 100 percent reliant on self-regulatory organizations to oversee them."

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission was established in 1974 as "an independent agency of the United States government that regulates futures and option markets" (see Wikipedia source below). Seems like it does nothing of the kind.

The CFTC apparently presides over presumed self-regulation by the financial entities that it's charged with regulating.

Do we have to say this out loud? That's not regulation in the public interest—that's insidious protection by our government of powerful and wealthy companies/individuals who have repeatedly demonstrated that they're working both stealthily and openly to increase their wealth and power.

My self-interest, and your self-interest, and the public interest of Americans do not get them started in the morning.

"Aw, heck, senator, we don't actually regulate anything, y'know?"

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I'm one of the 99%. How about you?

The CFTC, as it's supposed to be....

The follow-up Reuters story:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Who will watch the watchdogs? (Part 1)

This is a routine story from the Yahoo Finance website about apparent failure of U.S. government regulatory agencies to police the rogue actions of Jon Corzine and MF Global, a financial derivatives broker. Corzine and company declared bankruptcy, and customer funds are reported "missing."
The full story
Why isn't there more public outrage about this?

From the Reuters story by Christopher Doering and Sarah Lynch (with my emphasis):

"Senators plan to press regulators on Thursday on whether they were asleep at the switch…"

Note: A Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman, Gary Gensler, has recused himself from the agency's investigation because he and Corzine worked together at Goldman Sachs in the 1990s…… many former financial executives are now working at the regulatory commission?

"Investigators have been scouring the company's books, described as messy and unorganized, for the fund shortfall that has been estimated as much as $1.2 billion by the liquidating trustee."

"MF Global had nearly a half dozen regulators, including the CFTC, the SEC, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, policing various parts of the firm. However, there was no one clear watchdog responsible for the whole company."

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

When was the last time you heard a regulator say: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" ?

Background on MF Global, per Wikipedia:
MF Global website:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Forget about Herman Cain!

Let's get back to relevant campaign issues.

I'm no fan of Herman Cain, the erstwhile Republican candidate for the presidency of the United States. He's a one-trick pony, and the "9-9-9" plan, frankly, was a non-starter from the git-go. It's not a "bold" plan, it's a simplistic, unrealistic plan. All headline, no body copy. All sound bite, much too little substance. That is, it's perfect for cable news talking heads, but goofy for a campaign plank.

But this isn't a partisan rant against Herman Cain. It is a fed-up, despairing complaint about the degraded, voyeuristic coverage of Cain's alleged habit of sexual harassment and his alleged long-running affair with a woman not his wife. Is there anyone who's never, ever heard of stories like these? The sexual harassment cases can't be trivialized, but our current embattled national political discourse is not about sexual harassment. Extramarital peccadilloes are pathetically commonplace, and, as a nation, surely, we must be almost completely if not actually completely jaded to the revelation of yet one more, even if it does involve a presidential candidate. I don't care who Herman Cain sleeps with….

I do care about the transfixed media attention to Cain squirming in the unwelcome limelight of accusers and reporter/interrogators. I do care about the waste of unrelenting media speculation about if or when Cain will bow out of the Republican primary race. I do care about the fact that Cain hasn't said one substantial word about domestic or foreign policy issues for days, and still he's the celebrity in media coverage.

Is there any reasonably realistic person anywhere in America, and, indeed, among Cain's remaining adherents, who doesn't know that Cain is washed up as a candidate? Why are the media wasting air time, ink and bandwidth on continuing coverage of Herman Cain? Forget about him! No need to hear any more about Herman Cain. Let's get back to the relevant campaign issues.

A random bit of comment on Cain media coverage:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hot Times---Global Climate Change

The U.N. reported today that 2011 will be the 10th hottest year on record. Every one of the top 10 hottest years on record were recorded during the last 15 years. Like, y'know, global climate change is real. Global warming is real. People—our industries, our energy consumption, our heedless non-green lifestyles, our disregard for degradation of our environment—are causing dangerous changes in the atmosphere which are already guaranteed to come back to bite us real soon. The lifestyles we enjoy today are not sustainable. The world we live in will change within OUR lifetimes. The world our children and grandchildren will live in will be less hospitable than the world we have enjoyed, even as we have been cooking it for the last 200 years. It's time to start making a difference. You owe it to yourself. And your kids. And their kids….do something about it today

Monday, November 28, 2011

We're cooking the planet

The U.N. estimates that human being No. 7,000,000,000 (that's seven BILLION) was born on October 31, 2011. That means that the human population on earth has doubled since 1965…..and this dangerous growth rate continues.

The lifestyles and commerce of affluent Westerners squander energy and generate greenhouse gases that are cooking our planet. Everyone else on the planet wants the goodies we enjoy, and they're moving quickly to get them. Some degree of harsh climatic change and seasonal disruption of agriculture and desperate disruption of life on our seacoasts is already guaranteed, because we and our elected representatives have dithered in our pathetic national and international efforts to come to grips with the very expensive changes we're going to have to make in our lifestyles and commerce if we want to keep the good times even modestly rolling.

The science on global climate change is well-grounded and indisputable….some radio talk show hosts, and a couple presidential candidates, and some doctrinaire political partisans haven't figured it out yet, still, they're going to sweat just like everyone else. Some companies and industries are cravenly and criminally trying to delay implementing costly changes that will protect the environment.

Not so long ago I privately reassured myself that "I'll be dead before worldwide climate change and global warming starts to cause the really bad stuff." I was concerned, but in a rather abstract way. My first grandchild was born 11 months ago. Very sadly, I expect that she'll be alive when the really bad stuff starts to be unavoidably obvious. Abstract concern isn't good enough for me anymore. How about you?

NASA has details:
See Wikipedia for more links on climate change:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Musical Review: "Billy Elliot The Musical"

You had to be there. The Academy of Music in Philadelphia, it happened to be Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, but inside the Academy is another world, no worries, a high comfort level for me sitting in that wonderful historic place………… opened in 1857, it's America's oldest opera house still in use for opera performances, the original architects concentrated their time (and money) on interior decoration, leaving the façade "plain and simple like a Markethouse" (see history link below), the 19th century gilded interior is flamboyantly excessive, one feels a transient time warp………….I have to say that I would buy a ticket just to sit there, all by myself, grandly indulging my imagination……….when I was a youngster, my grandfather several times took my brother and me to Philadelphia Orchestra concerts at the Academy, I was a bit too young to appreciate the orchestra's classical repertoire, the music seemed strange and "grown up" to me, I usually fell asleep during the second half of the concert, but my memory of being in that luscious, luxurious place is vivid and warm.

Anyway, Billy Elliot The Musical. First, I loved it. Masterful staging, the dancing was intriguing and entrancing, the loving bond between Billy and his departed mother was palpable, heart-felt pathos, the cast was exuberant, the singing lusty………I can't avoid the fact that the heavy dose of miner strike polemics was dry and formulaic—except for the Margaret Thatcher-bashing scenes, all of them were a hoot and I won't spoil the fun for you by recalling them in detail. Billy's dance scenes were heroic, that young man didn't disappoint.

Finally, I'm bound to say I like the movie version of "Billy Elliot" better. For my taste, the film is a more personal and more warmly developed story of Billy's inner turmoil as a working class lad who prefers ballet to boxing, who reacts with confusion and tortured faith to the grownups who don't hesitate to influence him, who learns to articulate the electricity he feels and manifests when he dances. The final triumphant scene of the movie is duplicated, not quite sublimely, during the second act of the stage production…..but the film's ending soars, it is so profoundly, almost abstractly powerful that I can understand why the folks who produced the musical might have been assured that they needed to throw in some Elton John music to give it equal horsepower. Good try. Check out the movie. I'm going to watch it again.

Billy Elliot The Musical:

Billy Elliot, movie version:

The Academy of Music in Philadelphia:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Shame of the Super Committee

I am just about terminally sickened by the antics of the Super Committee that's been pretending all these weeks that it's working hard on a deficit-busting proposal that can be supported by both Dems and Repubs in Congress. It has not been working with the public good in mind. Think "charade." Think "folly." Think "doctrinaire play-acting." Think "pandering to the base," whatever "base" may mean. Just don't think that the Super Committee members have been acting with your best interests in mind, and don't bother thinking that they are conscientiously working for the good and the betterment of America.

I say "shame on you" to all twelve committee members, not least for their failure to talk straight to all of us about the problem(s) they were instructed to deal with…….seriously, do you think that what those twelve have been doing, and what they plan to do, has been conceived with your present and future welfare in mind?

Tell me about it!

Super Committee diddles, says CNN

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book review: "1491" by Charles C. Mann

"1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus"

2011, Vintage Books

Everything you never knew about civilized people in the Americas before the Europeans arrived and killed most of them (OK, many died in battle, but it was European diseases, mostly). Maybe close to 100 million "native" people died within 100 years or so of the "discovery" by Columbus…..but hold on, this book is not about Wounded Knee-type criticism or ex post facto self-flagellation.

Mann beautifully describes the marvelous sophistication of cultures, cities, agriculture, arts and science that blossomed in North America, Central America, and South America thousands of years ago, in many cases predating achievements and growth and civilization in Europe. Yes, the Incas never used the wheel except for children's toys. And yes, the Mississippian city of Cahokia was a bustling port and a trading center with population equal to Paris in France---and that was 500 years before Columbus sailed.

                                                  Beautiful downtown Cahokia

And yes, there were grand cities in the Americas before there was pyramid-building in Egypt. And yes, the Olmec culture in what is now Mexico invented the zero whole centuries before mathematicians in India did the same.

My recollection of learning about the history of the Americas is that the dates and events were tied to discovery and conquest and colonization by Europeans. The implication was that, before the white men with guns, germs and steel arrived, nothing much was going on in whole continents characterized more by "virgin land" and "endless wilderness" than by people who had agriculture, city life, art, trade, commerce, religion, science, kings and philosophers.

For me, the joy of reading this book is learning about the multiplicity of cultures that flourished in the Americas, and learning how they tamed and managed and very greenly conserved their environment…and for me, the sad revelation of this book is understanding that the peoples of the Americas were human beings whose achievements were noble and notable, and yet, lamentably, their legacies are largely lost and the losses are barely mourned.

In 1533 Pizarro and his conquistadors at Cuzco precipitated the decline of the 300-year-old Inca empire in Peru. Fifty years later, the Spanish colonial administrators in Peru ordered the burning of all the Incan "khipu" knotted string records because they were "idolatrous objects." Khipu were the Incas' only form of writing. The smoke from the burning of the books gets in your eyes, forever and ever.

                   Khipu knotted string:

Charles Mann's website:

Some other book reviews:

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2011 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fast Times

This is an experimental piece, I'm fasting for 24 hours (except for clear liquids) before a routine medical procedure and I'm curious enough to reflect on how I feel about not eating.

So, it's 8:45 am, I skipped breakfast, now on my second cup of tea and I honestly don't feel hungry. I'm conscious of the fact that I didn't eat my usual bowl of zone-balanced cereal, fruit, cottage cheese, almonds, protein powder and 1% milk. But that's it. That's all. Not hungry, I'm at my desk, working on condo business and plans for an alumni relations roundtable event. I'm also conscious of the fact that hundreds of millions of people woke up this morning and didn't eat breakfast because they don't have anything to eat….and they're not blogging about it.

10:45 am, oops, first hunger pang. I had sort of forgotten what a hunger pang feels like…rather weak, I expect, compared to the average hunger pang…ever wondered what a "pang" is? My old favorite Random House dictionary says: "a sudden feeling of mental distress; a sudden, brief, sharp pain, or a spasm or severe twinge of pain." I'm not really sure I believe that a hunger thingy qualifies as a pang, I am pretty sure it's more mental than physical at this point. Anyway, what does "severe twinge" mean? C'mon already.

12:15 pm, yup, I'm thinking about lunch, I have been thinking about eating off and on for the last hour, but really this isn't bad. I'm doing a steady input of clear fluids. No, Virginia, gin does not qualify here as a "clear fluid" for some reason….

4:30 pm, OK, now I'm sporadically thinking about particular food items instead of just plain old generic "eating," in particular I'd love to go downstairs and eat a date as I do most every afternoon, just one, at my age the old alimentary canal is very completely satisfied with just one…and only one..

7:20 pm, I went to a faculty development meeting around dinner time, so I didn't do any conscious countdown to not eating the evening meal, my stomach knows that I haven't eaten today, but it's pretty much just a dull awareness, haven't had a "hunger pang" for hours, obviously the body fat I'm carrying is taking care of my metabolic needs today without much problem whatsoever….

This whole business of fasting has been greatly less troubling and greatly less interesting than I imagined at the outset. I've been distracted from time to time, but honestly I haven't felt "hungry" with a capital H or anything…

I'm very strongly aware that not eating for one day isn't much of an achievement in a global context. I think I've been trying to feel low key about this, it hasn't required much effort to do so…

8:45 pm, very little sensation of hunger, it's not top of mind….it may be a different story in a few hours, not sure if I will wake up hungry during the night…how important is it, really, to eat three meals a day?

Conclusions right now:

This was too easy. I'm overweight. I need to do this again, soon.

Images of Hunger from Bing:
Hunger in America, think about it......

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I know I'm in the 99%

I'm encouraged to see that more and more Americans are joining public protests against the financial and political clout of "the 1%" and against the disastrous, growing imbalance of wealth and income and concern for the public good in America. Yes, the protesters are a somewhat disorganized, polyglot, motley and perhaps slightly grubby group, but, to their credit, they are mad as hell and they don't want to take it any more.
And, no, they're not the liberal progressive version of the Tea Party.....for starters, no hatred of immigrants, no disdain of the poor, no Bibles, no dogmatic interpretation of the Constitution, and no guns!
And, yes, Virginia, there is a chance that the pilgrims of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement may become a political force in the coming presidential election.....
For me, the important thing right now is that they are expressing righteous outrage about the financial and political stranglehold that "the 1%" are using in our government and in our society, with no obvious intention to do good in ways that benefit all of us.
Here's a thoughtful commentary from The Economist:

We are the 99%  -  Straining for the populist mandate|newe|10-14-2011|new_on_the_economist

And more from The Washington Post:

Occupy Wall Street protests reveal liberal tensions

And more from The

Tea Party Takes Aim at Occupy Wall Street

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The boy with a red hat

Just a little boy playing on the beach?
No. He is a dreamer, making his mark.

Skinny legs pumping as he navigates the sand,

               Dad's big red hat on his head,
                          pinched in behind so it fits,
                                    the big brim points his way,
                          his eyes are hidden…
                                    but he sees his way clear enough.

He announces to his Dad that the task is "building cities."
          He is the Designer,
             he is the Engineer,
                he is the Sand Hauler,
                   he is the Shovel Handler,
                      he is the Bucket Man,
                         he is the Creative Force.

A little boy playing in the sand?
No. He is a city builder.

Richard Carl Subber
Bethany Beach, DE
Sept 17, 2008

This poem appeared in the 2009 issue of The Manuscript, the Moravian College literary magazine.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

To All Job Creators: Get To Work (Part 2)

Some Republican leaders won't stop claiming that the "job creators" will take a big hit if federal income taxes are increased for those whose income puts them in the top two tax brackets. We're talking about the loosely defined "small businesses" that are in the 33% and 35% brackets on their annual Form 1040s.

The real scoop is that the "job creators" generally are NOT the small businesses who pay taxes at those rates.

Raising taxes for the prospering businesses in those tax brackets won't really hamper job creation because these businesses generally aren't the ones doing the job creating.

For starters, less than 4% of small businesses would be affected by tax hikes in those brackets, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service.

          Note: Some of my talking points here are drawn from this CNN Money piece:
          See CNNMoney story by Charles Riley on Oct. 3, 2011

What kind of "small businesses" are we talking about when we talk about the "small businesses" who would pay more taxes if those two marginal rates were raised? Most definitely we're NOT talking about the American classic kinds of small businesses like hard-working entrepreneurs and Mom-and-Pop operations.

In fact, 80% of the increased tax revenue would be paid by "non-business" types of small businesses like doctors, lawyers and members of limited partnerships. Not too many "job creators" in that bunch.

In fact, about 80% of all tax-paying small businesses have no employees other than the owner. Not too many "job creators" in that bunch.

In fact, the American classic "start-up" small businesses are the ones who create most of the new jobs---but they're also responsible for substantial job losses, because start-ups are notoriously prone to fail quickly. Not too many permanent, net new jobs created by that bunch.

"It turns out most of the firms those pols define as small businesses don’t hire or invest very much at all.," according to Howard Gleckman, a resident fellow at the Urban Institute.

          See Gleckman's Sep. 27, 2011, blog "Small Business And Taxes: Not What You Think"

In fact, taxes on businesses---including the elusively-defined small businesses---are the lowest they've been in decades.

We all know business taxes haven't been raised since the financial collapse three years ago.

Memo to all job creators:


Thursday, October 6, 2011

To All Job Creators: Get To Work! (Part 1)

Some Republican leaders won't stop claiming that the "job creators" are willing and able to create all the jobs we need, and all that's required is to cut their taxes and remove "uncertainty" so they can get started.

That would be a load off my mind if it weren't such a load of you-know-what....

Corporations generally are sitting on mountains of cash, which generally is earning an investment return that is insanely close to zero.

What are the "job creators" waiting for?

Note: Some of my talking points here are drawn from this CNN Money piece:
See CNNMoney story by Charles Riley on Oct. 3, 2011

American corporations (excluding financial institutions) essentially have stuffed about $2 trillion under the mattress, the largest percentage of corporate assets held as cash in roughly the last 50 years. This amazing cash hoard does nothing to increase shareholder value, it does nothing to create jobs. This pile of cash creates only a national shame. President Obama and Democrats should call the Republicans on it, loudly, daily. News media and cable news talking heads should be asking every CEO: why are you sitting on that cash?

Wall Street Journal on corporate cash reserves

I propose these $2,000,000,000,000 Questions:

Can we avoid suspecting that the leaders of some or many American corporations are deliberately holding back on investing their cash and hiring workers and re-energizing the economy?

Are they sabotaging our economic recovery with the aim of derailing President Obama's bid for re-election?

Are they screwing you and me and America so the Republican candidate has a better shot in 2012?
Don't you think it's about time for you to do something about it?

Think about doing something--anything--to achieve your sense of what's right.

And, by the way, if you're a job creator, get busy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chanson de mer

I am the rock.

I am the island.

I am the glistening boulder at the waterline.

I am the sharp-edged, flinty fragment,

          tossed by the blue-green surge,

                    scattered by the stinging wind,

          collected once, and dropped, by a child.

I am the ancient stratum exposed to the faintly salty air.

I am the blunt face of the heaved-up, broken stone,

           I am the silent witness to the everlasting crash and song of the sea,
                    I stand against the tumbling, roiling crests that

                              dash to me,

                    break on me,

                              climb my height,

                    die at my foot,

                              and rise, vaulting, surging, crashing, singing,

          to grandly break on me again, again…
                              the lyric, rhythms, chords the same as at the last or next millennial dawn.

I am the rock, the sea endlessly sings to me.

Good, enough.



Sep 15, 2011

Richard Carl Subber

Beavertail State Park in Jamestown
Conanicut Island
Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ames Straw Poll....the party's over

If you don't know Michelle Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll on Aug. 13, well......gimme a call and tell me how you managed to avoid knowing it, just for my future reference...
Let's disregard the maliciously categorical media hype. Consider a few facts: published the first vote totals I could find online after the "polls" closed:

16,892 Iowans turned out (and paid $30) to vote for their favorite Republican presidential candidate.
4,823 of them, led by enthusiastic BBQ-and-Randy Travis fans, voted for Michelle Bachmann to give her the win.
There are approximately 2.3 million Iowa residents of legal voting age, so another way to think about this is: for every Bachmann supporter at the Straw Poll event, there are about 476 Iowans who didn't show up to vote for her.
Merely two-tenths of 1 per cent of the potential statewide Iowa electorate decided that Bachmann was the GOP frontrunner as of Aug. 13. (Don't read this if you have a weak heart: imagine that President Obama had won the White House in 2008 with about 475,000 votes nationwide.....)
The Ames Straw Poll is not democracy in action. It is embarrassingly consequential entertainment at an American heartland event that should be realistically and only trivially regarded as a good old-fashioned political fundraiser with good BBQ and good music......

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Ames Straw Poll...democracy it ain't

Just the facts, m'am, just the facts......the Ames Straw Poll is open to any resident of Iowa (or student at an Iowa college/university) who likes barbecue, is at least 16 and 1/2 years old, can get to Iowa State University on Aug. 13, and can pay the $30 entry fee.  Republican candidates and their campaign organizations can recruit Straw Poll participants throughout the state and pay their expenses. In 2007 there were approximately 2.25 million Iowans of legal voting age. In the 2007 Straw Poll, a total of 14,302 Iowans voted for their Republican presidential pick:  Mitt Romney, the winner, received 4,516 votes.............John McCain, the ultimate GOP presidential candidate, received 101 votes.
The Ames Straw Poll doesn't even remotely resemble an election. The unfastidious and perniciously indiscriminate news media transform the Straw Poll from an all-American political BBQ event in Iowa to a national Punch & Judy show without the redeeming slapstick. It is not a hallmark of democracy.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Everybody's a manager?

Well, no, actually. Most people aren't managers...many by choice, many due to inability. At least this is true if we're talking about managing PEOPLE. Go crazy with "time management" and "managing your own affairs" if you want to. I'm talking about the management of people in an organization that has more than two people in it.

After about 20 seconds of deep reflection, I suggest that an organization of two people probably can't be seriously mismanaged or seriously harmed by a delusional co-worker because, more or less, one of the two people can walk away if the stuff starts to get too deep. Also, one person more or less can't gang up on the other person. One person really can't ignore the other person effectively. One person can't patronize, victimize, offend, de-motivate, undermine or mislead the other person very effectively, considering the above-mentioned "walk away" factor.

So let's talk about organizations in which management in some form is imperative, that is, all organizations with several members and all larger organizations with up to several hundred thousand members (and don't get me started on the fundamental impossibility of effectively managing several hundred thousand people with a coherent central mission and strategy....).

Why is management imperative? You're right, that's a topic for another seminar in a warm place with a friendly bartender nearby. Let's just agree that, in their natural state, a typically average collection of people will not willingly work cooperatively over an extended period of time to achieve a common goal if unavoidably explicit personal sacrifice is required of them in that pursuit, even if the common goal manifestly benefits all of them. If you prefer, I'll say it more precisely and less brutally: they will not be successful in attempting to do so.

I was talking the other day with my sister, Jan, who like me has dabbled in management in the workplace from time to time. She said she had never aspired to be the CEO, the top dog. I never got to the CEO's office either. We reminded ourselves that "managing the boss" or, to say it another way, "managing up," is a talent and a responsibility which I propose as an imperative in the ideally well-functioning organization.

I teach a college Management course, and it occurs to me that I have only tangentially encouraged my students to think about "managing up" as we plow through the textbook topics on top-down management.

Not everyone is or wants to be a manager, but in an organization with at least several members, everyone has an opportunity to be a manager. It's a damn shame too few people can or want to rise to the challenge. There just aren't enough really good managers to fill all the slots. More on this in my next post.