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 poets.org


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



The wisdom of the old farmer

Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
(Learned from an old farmer)














The wisdom of Daniel Pink

The wisdom of Malcolm Forbes

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 Amazon.com
 
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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

O, patient sea

O, patient sea,
        wait for me.
I will always return.
I cannot forget the sea.
The familiar sea will wait for me,
        I will always return.

The breaking sea o'erflows my view,

        it tumbles and splashes and glides to me,
                I will return to gaze anew.
I will return to face the sea.
O, patient sea,
        you need not wait for long for me.

Richard Carl Subber
Bethany Beach, DE
Sept 16, 2008

 
Bethany Beach town web site
Live cam at Bethany Beach

Click to read more of my poems:
The boy with a red hat
Chanson de mer

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:

http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2011/12/elections-for-sale.html
http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2011/12/teddy-roosevelt-no-kidding-progressive.html
http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2011/12/blagojevich-there-are-more-where-he.html
http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2011/12/iowa-caucuses-spoofing-democracy.html
http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2011/08/ames-straw-pollthe-partys-over.html


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 http://www.newsmax.com/. 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"
 
newsmax.com 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 www.brainyquote.com
 
Wikipedia on Will Rogers
 
Photos are from http://www.bing.com/

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 wisdom of Jonathan Kozol

"Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win."















Jonathan Kozol's web site:
More about Jonathan Kozol, educator and activist:

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 Newsmax.com-sponsored 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 Newsmax.com 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...
 
Newsmax.com is puffed up about it:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The wisdom of Annie Dillard

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

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……..how 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: