Monday, October 29, 2012

The wisdom of Plutarch

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled."
Plutarch (c. 40-120)

Do you recall watching a child's mind as it grows? Remember the wonder of watching curiosity in motion, as the kid is just soaking up life as it comes? Can you forget the thrill of being there as the youngster learned something funny, or shocking, or wonderful, or just big?

Come on, baby, light your fire.

Richard Dawkins on being open-minded...

Malcolm Forbes on education.....

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The wisdom of Frederick Douglass (part 2)

"Power concedes nothing without a demand.
                                                  It never did and it never will."
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

Folks with power generally want more.
And tomorrow.
And generally, they never want to give it up.

It's human nature.

The "better self" that many of us like to believe in doesn't look the same in all of us.

And another thing: government wasn't invented by the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free….

More from Douglass......

Burke on evil.....

Yeah, but what's your real reason?...

Tolstoy on changing the world.....

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Frankenstorm" ?...ohmygawd….


Now we know what happens when "Storm Of The Century" isn't enough hype.

What the heck ever happened to the good old days? Y'know, when the barber or the mailman or your neighbor would have said, "Hey, did ya hear, there's a bad storm coming in, it's gonna be a lollapalooza!"

Where's Wally Kinnan when we need him? If the former ace Philadelphia area TV weatherman is still alive, I know he's in pain….

A word of caution to cable TV talking heads and weather celebs and meteorologists everywhere:

Step away from the Frankenstorm. It's eating your mind.

Musings of a dog walker....

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Couple comments on the third debate….

I wasn't really looking for a deep lesson in strategic geopolitics, which is a good thing, because President Obama and Romney didn't spend too much time in their last debate on fundamental foreign policy issues.

Yeah, both men put their campaign-tested "positions" up on the white board…that stuff is tactical, historical, pretty much the same old stuff, including some of the you-said-no-I-didn't stuff…

…and for my taste, the president should have called Romney's bluff when the challenger once again went into his silly thespian mode to beat up on China, Romney as president would never do all the aggressive stuff he claims he would do to put the dunce cap on China, we don't want and we can't afford a trade war or any other kind of war with China…

I was hoping there might be some reflection on America's strategic international interests, over and above keeping Iran away from nuclear weapons, like some comment on our alliance with Europe, Middle East oil supplies, global climate change, our strategic naval supremacy throughout the world's oceans, substantial talk instead of bluster on commercial trade issues….

Maybe next time…

Monday, October 22, 2012

The third debate…..Watch it!

Last presidential debate, 9 pm, Monday night, Oct. 22.

I don't think the debates are changing too many minds. Faithful supporters of both candidates are mostly being confirmed by what they see and hear in the debates, and the so-called undecided voters probably aren't paying much attention.

The news media and the cable TV talking heads are more interested in the debates than we are -- they're breathlessly seizing on the sound bite stuff, and they're breathlessly keeping score on who "jabbed a finger" and "won" and who "did better than expected"....

In fact, the media and the talking heads are relentlessly and ambiguously predicting each candidate's debate performance, and the media and talking heads have set themselves up to judge the debate performances and the debate outcomes......

That's not their job.

That's our job.

…and by the way, if you don't watch the whole debate, tomorrow you should just stand up and admit that you don't have a fully informed opinion about it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The wisdom of Tom Waits

"A gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn't."
Thomas Alan Waits (b. 1949)
Singer-songwriter, composer

OK, up front, apologies to accordion players everywhere, but let's face it, some accordion music isn't really music…..

Tom Waits takes a bite out of everything he touches. Listening to him sing is a jolting experience, really, you feel like you should feel sorry for him but you know it's the other way around…

He has a heart, and a soul. He refuses to allow his music to be used in commercials.

Listen to Waits in this rendition of "Waltzing Matilda".....

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The final debate…it's not the end

The final presidential debate is on Monday night, 9 pm, Oct. 22.

It won't be the end of the campaign, unless Romney has an attack of conscience and actually admits that he came to Earth on a starship from the planet Muni-Mula…..

But I'm afraid the news media and the cable TV talking heads won't get this message.

I'm afraid they're hoping to be able to call the winner at 10:30 pm Monday night.

I'm afraid they're going to be straining to grab the sound bite, or the video clip, or the gaffe, or the flub, or the fleeting eye-roll, or the momentary facial expression that they can endlessly cite as the signal that one candidate's race for the presidency is over….

I'm afraid that too much of the "post-debate analysis" will be about some transitory look on a candidate's face, or the curl of a lip, or the all-too-telling arch of an eyebrow.

Unless Romney unquestionably displays some heartless conservative sneer, or President Obama without a doubt shows off a grubby socialist smirk, I think facial expressions should be off-limits in the endless rounds of post-debate critique that we know is coming…

I think, by law, at least 10% of the talking head/pundit/blogosphere analysis should be about campaign issues and what the candidates actually said.

Oh yeah, one other thing: unless Romney is actually prepared to say that the Obama administration deliberately decided not to protect our diplomats in Benghazi, I think he should let that over-hyped issue fade away and talk about other stuff like nukes in Iran and that kind of thing….

Friday, October 19, 2012

The wisdom of Dennis A. Peer

"One measure of leadership is the caliber of the people who choose to follow you."
Dennis A. Peer

Dennis A. Peer is a mysterious fellow, I made a reasonable effort to identify him online but had no luck.

His insight about leadership is unsentimental, pesky, challenging….every "leader" stands the chance of being humbled after looking around and asking "Who looks up to me?"

…and let's be clear on this point, not every manager, not every boss, is a leader……

Drucker on planning.

Managers learn right and wrong?

So, everybody's a manager?

Are you a great manager?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Couple comments on the second presidential debate

There were a few more details put forward in this debate—that's important—almost all of them were from President Obama—that's important.

Full disclosure: I'll vote for President Obama (again) on Nov. 6.

I thought both candidates were forceful and confident. Trouble is, Romney forcefully avoided giving more than a tidbit of his policy details, and he confidently changed several of the policy statements he's made during preceding months. Why is he so sure anyone will buy his policy reversals? Which Romney is running for president? I don't want any of them.

The issues were pretty much the same as in the first debate. It didn't make me happy that no one talked about global climate change, and there was very little talk about making desperately needed improvements to our national transportation infrastructure.

Romney – again, he avoided giving details, his "5 point plan" is long on points but short on specifics, he did a couple repeats of his recent habit of blandly stating tantalizing tidbits of policy specifics—last night he again mentioned a cap on itemized deductions, a week ago it was "$17,000" and last night it was "$25,000," I don't know how he thinks "deductions" are going to be limited if he's offering blanket exemptions like that, and anyway, how many middle class taxpayers are claiming MORE than $25,000 in itemized deductions?—Romney very curiously and frighteningly said he thinks "government regulators" should "encourage" business growth, that's a perverse, wacky view on how to control illegal and dangerous activities in the public sphere—Romney repeatedly banged President Obama for our four years of economic woes without acknowledging the previous factors that caused them….Romney repeatedly made statements that contradicted his public statements in the primaries…

President Obama – he emphasized his liberal philosophical approaches and the differences between him and Romney, you may disagree but you know where he stands—he talked about concern for our future and our environment in terms of clean energy and fossil fuel extraction—he asked viewers to consider how the policies and promises of each candidate would affect them personally, I think this is essential because I suspect that some or many Romney supporters "don't get it" when they applaud his statements without fully realizing how it will affect them—President Obama made it clear that he believes the very wealthy should pay more of their fair share of the costs of government services that we all want…

And, let's be fair, if you didn't watch the whole debate, you should step right up and admit that you don't have a fully informed opinion about it…

Looking forward to Debate No. 3 on foreign policy, set for Oct. 22.

Monday, October 15, 2012

" better..." --- says who?

I'm disturbed by all the media/pundit predictions that President Obama will "do better" in the second debate.

Full disclosure: I'm going to vote (again) for President Obama. I want him to do well in the second debate. In fact I agree that Romney was strong in the first debate, but I thought President Obama did a pretty good job, too.

But my definition of a good debate is a whole lot different from the definition of a lot of folks, like committed Romney supporters, for instance. How would they define a "better" performance by President Obama?

In fact, the same people who are relentlessly and ambiguously predicting a "better" performance are the ones who are going to judge the debate outcome -- the news media and the cable TV talking heads are setting themselves up to decide whether President Obama will "do better."

That's not their job.

And by the way: I think if you don't personally watch the whole debate (live or replay) you should go ahead and admit that you don't really have an opinion about it….

A couple comments on the first presidential debate

Comments on the Veep debate....

Do the debates really matter?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The wisdom of Mortimer Adler

"In the case of good books,
    the point is not how many of them you can get through,
        but rather how many can get through to you."
Mortimer Jerome Adler (1902-2001)
Philosopher, educator, author

Of course. Keep reading.

And by the way, my Great Books list is a work in progress…….I don't know if a book is on my list until after I've read it, here are a couple that come to mind right now, no particular order:

Moby Dick (Herman Melville)

A Distant Mirror (Barbara Tuchman)

1491 (Charles Mann)

The Andromeda Strain (Michael Crichton)

Grooming, Gossip and Language (Robin Dunbar)

The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)

She (H. Rider Haggard)

The Literary Life (Larry McMurtry)

The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Pierre-Ambroise-Francois Choderlos de Laclos)

The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)

The Blank Slate (Steven Pinker)

Mila 18 (Leon Uris)

Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution (Stuart Kauffman)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Will 503 million people please step forward….?

Will 503 million people please step forward to receive the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize?

Got you with that one, right? LMAO.

Wait! I double checked! The Norwegian Nobel Committee DID give this year's Peace Prize to the 27 nations of the European Union, and all 503,497,812 people living there, "for the advancement of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."

I'm in favor of the advancement of peace, reconciliation and that stuff…

I think it's goofy to give the Peace Prize to 27 countries, half of whom would like to tear out the throats of the other half at least some of the time. On the other hand, we didn't have World War III in Europe last year, so maybe those diffidently benevolent Norwegians have some kind of point…

If they had asked me for suggestions, I would have recommended these potential recipients higher on the list than the EU:

All the folks who risked their lives fighting tyranny during the Arab spring.

Every man and woman below the grade of E5 serving in the armed forces of every country in the world.

All elementary school teachers everywhere.

All pets who answer to "Good dog!" and "Nice kitty!"

….feel free to add your favorites to the list.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A couple comments on the Veep debate

Full disclosure: I'm going to vote (again) for President Obama on Nov. 6.

Paul Ryan: about what I expected --- he doubled down on all of the Romney campaign themes, he gave the "Romney" answer on issues, like abortion and social safety nets, for which he and Romney have different convictions, he was prescriptive, he was partisan, he refused many times to give details about Romney's proposed governing policies

Vice President Biden: about what I expected --- he pushed all of the Obama campaign buttons, he called out Ryan and congressional Republicans for their partisan intransigence, he emphasized domestic issues, he was partisan, he pointed out discrepancies in Romney's tax proposals, several times he spoke directly to American voters and urged them to vote with their own self interests clearly in mind

I don't think I learned anything new from either one. You know who I rooted for…

And I'm making a personal pledge to avoid reading or listening to the post-debate "analysis" by the news media and the cable TV talking heads, I've never listened much to chattering magpies and I'm not about to start now….

And by the way: I think if you didn't personally watch the whole debate you should go ahead and admit that you don't really have an opinion about it….

A couple comments on the first presidential debate

Debate watching thoughts....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All political polls are flawed…

Just a word of caution about the political polls: be suspicious, be very suspicious.

Not for the reason that's been in the news recently: the partisan argument that pollsters are surveying "too many Democrats" really doesn't hold any water, and anyway, since Romney got his media-induced "bump" in the polls last week, we haven't heard that particular argument much…

The real concern is the fatal reality that every pollster faces, from Gallup and Pew on down: it's impossible to contact anything even remotely close to a "true random sample" of the adult population by telephone. So it's impossible to get a reliable sample of opinion.

It has been impossible for at least 25 years, and the problem has been getting steadily worse every year.

I was in the market research business for 30 years, I know whereof I speak.

The fact is that many adults refuse to participate in telephone polls, period. No pollster ever has a chance to find out what those people really think.

The fact is that a large and growing number of people never answer their telephones at home, preferring to let the answering machine screen their calls. No pollster ever has a chance to find out what those people really think.

Last night I made calls at my local "Obama for President" campaign headquarters. I dialed 67 numbers, and I actually talked with 10 people. There were a couple disconnected numbers, and two slam-downs. In round numbers, I got "no answer" on 80% of the calls. You know what that meant—most of those people were home but they didn't pick up the phone.

When you do a poll and you miss 80% of the population, you're not getting a "true random sample" and so your results are not representative findings on what the general population is thinking…your results are nothing but worthless numbers.

When was the last time you gave a telephone pollster YOUR opinion?

more on political polls......

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The wisdom of Henry Ward Beecher

"The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is
          that one comes from a strong will,
                 and the other from a strong won't."

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
Abolitionist, social reformer, Congregational minister

When was the last time you thought about Henry Ward Beecher? He was in the headlines during the Civil War, all in all an upright guy. His sister was Harriet Beecher Stowe, think "Uncle Tom's Cabin," she was the "little lady who started this great war!" in Lincoln's timeless estimation.

Anyway, Henry could put together a mean epigram, see above. If you feel any sense of reproach as you read it a second time, then Hank's effort wasn't wasted.

Stick with the "will" stuff, the "won't" stuff not so much….

Drucker on good intentions....

Winona Laduke on thinking big....

Keynes famously sticks up for facts....

Monday, October 8, 2012

CEO salaries: higher than a kite

Too many corporate directors continue to shower pay and perks on their CEOs, so they say, because they have to pay through the nose "to recruit and retain top talent."

Some researchers asked the obvious question: how many CEOs take a walk to another company because they aren't paid enough?

Answer: it's a real small number.

In fact, the merest handful of corporate CEOs ever take new jobs as CEOs at another company, for any reason. Most CEOs who leave their posts just step down and retire or do something else.

The directors' fear that their CEO will take a hike—like, to a competitor—if money isn't thrown at him/her is simply, well, bogus.

An analysis done last year at the University of Delaware shows that of about 1,800 new CEOs chosen during 1993-2005, less than a couple dozen of them had already been the chief executive at another company.

Nearly all CEOs don't ever take their alleged executive abilities and go to another company, for any reason.

So, the notion that directors have to pay 'em boatloads of money to keep 'em is just a convenient lie to deflect criticism of sky-high executive pay packages.

Here's an interesting exercise: what would the average CEO do differently if his/her pay was cut a little, say a 10% cut or something like that? If he's making $10 million a year, will he start doing a crappy job if his pay is reduced to $9 million?

And here's another interesting exercise: think about your own experience in the workplace, and ask yourself if the bosses you've known were worth every penny they got paid.

Case study: Marissa Mayer

Would they work for less?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The wisdom of Rebecca Solnit

"Despair is a black leather jacket that everyone looks good in.
  Hope is a frilly, pink dress that exposes the knees."
Rebecca Solnit (b. 1961)
Writer, journalist

When was the last time you told a friend "Hey, you look good in that pink dress"?

Teddy Roosevelt on doing your best....
Heard this one from Havelock Ellis?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The wisdom of Henry Kissinger

"Moderation is a virtue
         only in those who are thought to have an alternative."
Henry A. Kissinger (b. 1923)

I know, I know, it's a bit hard to get past the lingering "gag me" response when you read the words "wisdom of Henry Kissinger," bear with me here….

His cerebral and very reserved epigram, above, offers a very sound reason to stop and think for a minute.

Some questions you might ask yourself:

Are you one of "those"?

What is the alternative to "moderation"?

What does "moderation" possibly mean to those who are thought to have no alternative?

Anyway, shouldn't "moderation" be self-defined? Isn't "moderation" a personal value, defined by self-reference?

Shouldn't we all do a real thorough job of taking stock of our own capacity for "moderation" before we start prescribing for "those who are thought to have an alternative"?

Sadly, too many folks seem to think that "moderation" is a real good thing for other people to have….

Think big...
on being open-minded....
Letting go, holding on.....

Friday, October 5, 2012

Do presidential debates matter?

Of course they do.

For most voters, the chance to see the candidates live on TV is as close as they're going to come to seeing the candidates face-to-face.

A couple generations ago, when the candidates made "whistle stop" political campaign tours, maybe more people actually got to see them "up close and personal"…..

We're human—we have an innate capability to judge people when we can see them and talk with them in person, too bad everybody can't sit down to dinner with President Obama and Mitt Romney.

OK, the debates can be an interactive human experience.

Do the debates have anything to do with the election outcome?

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein says "No."

Klein cited a Gallup study that examined debates and elections back to 1960, and also mentioned other research, all pointing to this conclusion: the debates don't really move the needle to change who wins the election.

I'm guessing these are some of the reasons:

Debates come too late in the campaign…

There's too much emphasis on who "won" the debate, and not enough coverage and consideration of what the candidates actually said…

Maybe the debaters are just talking, and not really explaining anything…

Maybe the voters watching the debates are mostly gawking, waiting for the zinger…

Maybe most debate watchers have already made up their minds, and don't want to hear the other side…

Maybe the debates, after all, are nothing more than free TV ads for the candidates…

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A couple comments on the presidential debate

Full disclosure: I'm going to vote (again) for President Obama on Nov. 6.

Mitt Romney: the same old song ---- mostly general statements, no details; repeated claims that the marketplace and the private sector "do it better" than the government; repeated references to "small business" without defining the "small business" category (hint: it includes lots of "big" small businesses…); he gave a partisan presentation, with dogmatic, familiar talking points.

President Obama: the same old song ---- a fairly well-reasoned exposition of his position and vision for improving the economy and the marketplace and health care and social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare; he gave a partisan presentation, with backup details.

No secret here, I'm wearing Obama-colored glasses.

I didn't learn much that was new from either one.

Advice for debate watchers

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

132,469 political ads, maybe one too many…

At last, one of the bona fide news stories I've been waiting for…

Seems that voters in Ohio are saying there are way too many political ads on TV and they're not paying attention any more.

Stick that in your pipe, Mr. SuperPAC.

So, now we can say that this is a realistic question: how many hundreds of millions of dollars in political TV advertising gets to be "too much"?

Seems like they've reached "too much" in Ohio: since April, more than $72 million has been spent already on, at last count, 132,469 TV ads boosting President Obama or Romney. If you wanted to watch all of them, consecutively, without a potty break, it would take a month and a half. I guess our friends in Ohio have already decided that's too long….

Is it possible that you don't need hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to try to buy an election? Maybe just a hundred million here, a hundred million there might be enough to give it a shot.

This may give some encouragement to the sort-of-not-really-really-wealthy folks who have been glumly standing aside from the money storm, thinking that with their paltry few millions of dollars they had no chance to crassly try to buy a candidate and get him elected….

On the other hand, for those of us who think the Citizens United ruling was destructive for our democratic republic, this SuperPAC overload story is frightening indeed…..what happens if the very wealthy and the corporations who are funding the SuperPACs figure out that they can shift a coupla hundred million from national elections to state and local contests?.......

Too much money....

Elections for sale (part 3)

Elections for sale (part 2)

Yup, elections for sale.....

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The wisdom of Peter Drucker

"Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately
             degenerate into hard work."

Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005)
Influential management consultant, "knowledge worker"

For a long time Drucker's name was a meaningful buzzword in what I will call "management circles," with full consciousness of the double entendre which Drucker might have enjoyed….

His epigram, above, fatally links "good intentions" with "hard work." I'd like to think that it's a warning to the blithe folks who suggest plans (with good intentions screwed on every which way) as objects of desire for others or for their organizations at large, with little understanding of and no commitment to the hard work required to even get those plans started…..

Good plans do indeed drop from the sky……

One must cultivate and continually dig up that hard work stuff…

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2012 All rights reserved.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Walkin' the dogs....

What you can learn while you're walkin' the dogs:

The next smell is always a new one.

Sometimes straining against the leash is a good thing.

A trail in the woods is never boring.

Anything that grows or stands upright is never boring.

You don't have to look up, necessarily, there's a lot of stuff that's really interesting no more than two feet above the ground.

Other dogs are just amazing, squirrels not so much.

More or less, it never hurts to try to pee one more time.