Monday, April 30, 2012

Ding Dong, bin Laden's dead!

I'm happy that President Obama is taking righteous credit for the elimination of Osama bin Laden, but it shouldn't be a partisan campaign issue. America got lucky, we found out where bin Laden was hiding, and the president authorized the kill. Justice. I think it's wrong for anyone to suggest that Romney wouldn't have ordered the Seals to kill bin Laden.



I also think the media coverage of this "anniversary" and the political blubbering is way over the top. I understand that this "anniversary" thing is out there, but it's not a bona fide campaign issue, it's not about policy or programs or philosophy (unless Romney stands in front of the cameras and says "I'm a wimp, I'd be afraid to order the death of the world's most notorious international terrorist").
The news media and the cable TV talking heads should just stop reporting on it. We don't need to know any more about the fact that bin Laden was killed a year ago.

The wisdom of St. Seraphim of Sarov


"Acquire a peaceful spirit and around you thousands will be saved."

St. Seraphim of Sarov (1759-1833)





St. Seraphim, a renowned monk and mystic in the Russian Orthodox Church, is remembered for his monastic teaching of the contemplative life. He lived as a hermit for 25 years, and was glorified as a saint in 1903.

His admonition about seeking a peaceful spirit is perhaps too optimistic….but achieving a peaceful spirit would be a very good start for us all, and surely thousands can do it, all at the same time…that much is certain.



Sunday, April 29, 2012

The wisdom of Franz Kafka


"A book must be the ax for the frozen sea inside us."
Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

I couldn't begin to offer an informed comment about Kafka and his work. Maybe, like me, you've at least tried to read The Metamorphosis or The Trial or some other of Kafka's numerous works (many of them unfinished at the time of his death). Reading Kafka no doubt is easier than reading Joyce, but…..We all sort of know what "Kafka-esque" means, and for me to try to say more about this author might be, well, you know, Kafka-esque…

Anyway, his rather brutalized endorsement of books is worth a second thought, in a quiet moment…we may admit that we have a frozen sea inside us in some sense, or in some frames of mind, for good or for ill, from time to time….I welcome the thought that book reading gives a bounty of insight that we can apply to enhance our enjoyment of life, or to sharpen the ax as needed…..






Saturday, April 28, 2012

The wisdom of Jerry Seinfeld


"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking."
Jerome Allen Seinfeld (b. 1954)

You might know him as "Jerry." Maybe you saw him on TV or something. He's also done some film and Broadway work. Funny guy, y'know?

Anyway, anybody who says a kind word about bookstores catches my attention. His remark above may be a bit over the top, but I think Jerry's pretty much on the right track. A bookstore is a very comfortable and familiar place for me, so many books, so little time….

Yesterday I moseyed down to the local AAUW book sale for the first time, I've been driving past it every year for about 35 years, just never seemed to have the time before….like, a gazillion or so books arranged very carefully by category in the ladies locker room of the municipal pool building (the AAUW book sale formerly occupied the municipal ice rink building across the big parking lot, not really sure why the switch was made) and, well, the ladies locker room at the municipal pool building isn't the most unbelievably attractive place you'd want to be in when you're browsing the American History section of the book sale, but hey…..

On a Friday afternoon, lots of people at the sale, including kids, very intent folks walking around with their necks bent sideways so they can read the spines, lots of people with small cardboard boxes already half full of new treasures, a faint but distinct musty smell that was mostly locker room but a little bit of heavenly "old book" aroma….

I picked up a very decent hardbound copy of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, a Daniel Boorstin that I haven't read yet (The Democratic Experience), an obscure collection of poetry, and the prize: a hardcover copy of Saint Martin's Summer by Sabatini, close to 100 years old, one of Sabatini's "lesser" novels, maybe not quite up to the standard of Scaramouche, but for me, it's a beauty……and here I am, thinking about it.

Tip of the hat to Jerry.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Who would send money to Zimmerman?


Here's an obscene news flash: too many Americans sent $204,000 to a website that George Zimmerman set up to raise money for his defense. He's accused of second degree murder in the Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.


I say "obscene" because it's the first word that came to my mind, and then it was hard for me to imagine all of the respectable reasons why anyone would contribute cash for Zimmerman's defense.

I can't think of anything more to say.

What I said before:

Zimmerman charged, it's about time...

Too much coverage?....






To all job creators: get to work! (part 6)


The Commerce Department says our economy expanded at a 2.2% annual rate in the first quarter, down from a 3% annual rate in October-December last year.



No economic statistic goes straight up or down in every reporting period….I think the headline should be "Good news, economy is growing!"





And by the way, what the heck are the "job creators" doing, anyway? This latest report on GDP mentions that consumer spending was up in the first quarter, and government spending and business investment were cut back.

My emphasis: BUSINESS INVESTMENT WAS CUT BACK.

Let's see, all of the tax incentives that are supposed to be favorable for "job creators" have been in place and have been very spectacularly renewed for years, before and after the national economic meltdown.

What exactly are the "job creators" waiting for?

Why are we waiting for them?

Let's get on with national tax and fiscal policies that stimulate our economy and create more jobs and more employment.

My previous posts on "The Job Creators," take your pick…..

http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2012/02/job-creators-look-what-ge-is-doing.html
http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2012/02/to-all-job-creators-do-your-thing-part.html
http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2012/02/to-all-job-creators-get-to-work-part-4.html
http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2012/01/to-all-job-creators-get-to-work-part-3.html
http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2011/12/job-creators-step-forward-sound-off.html
http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2011/10/to-all-job-creators-get-to-work-part-2.html
http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2011/10/to-all-job-creators-get-to-work-part-1.html



Thursday, April 26, 2012

The wisdom of Pee Wee Reese


"If you have talent, you don't have to tell people."

Pee Wee Reese (1918-1999)
Shortstop for the Dodgers, 1940-1958

Harold Peter Henry "Pee Wee" Reese didn't have to tell people about his talent --- his play on the field and his bat did the talking for him.



In one notable way, Pee Wee did his own talking. When Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947 as the first black player in professional baseball, Reese showed both his mettle and his humanity when ballpark fans heckled Robinson on the team's first road trip. As the heckling grew during pre-game practice, Reese, the team captain, walked over to Jackie on the field, talked with him and casually put an arm around Jackie's shoulder. That silenced most of the bigots.






Now, another thought on Pee Wee's guidance about what you do and don't have to tell people…..in classical Roman times, a victorious general returned to Rome and received the honor of the "Triumph," an elaborate parade and public acclamation. The Roman people and the Roman Senate wanted to make sure that generals were not dangerously emboldened by their victories. In the parade, a slave rode in the general's chariot and repeatedly whispered in his ear: "sic semper transit gloria mundi."

"All the world's glory is fleeting."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's not a horse race…


It's supposed to be a political campaign, not a horse race, but you wouldn't know that by paying attention to the news media and the cable TV talking heads. Their coverage is all about gotchas and sound bites and who's up (or down) and the perfectly useless poll result du jour. It's really hard work trying to stay informed about the policies, programs and philosophies of the candidates. The media and the talking heads should be making the job easier, not harder.


They're making it harder because they don't give much ink or air time or bandwidth to the issues. A respected study by the Project  for Excellence in Journalism shows that political coverage across all media has been mostly of the "horse race" variety beginning last November.




Almost 65% of media reporting on the primary campaigns has been about polling, advertising, fundraising, campaign strategies and which candidate was up or down on a daily basis. About 12% of the coverage looked at the candidates' personal backgrounds.

How much of the news content was focused on the candidates' stands on issues that affect our country? Only 11%. That's pretty close to zero. Almost 90% of the time, the political news you were reading or watching was about stuff that really has almost nothing to do with deciding which policies and programs are right or wrong for America and for you and me.

Instead of keeping up with the talking heads, try reading the books the candidates have written.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism is a project of the Pew Research Center and is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. I think the Pew Center is about as close as we can get to an honest, unbiased source of information.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Elections for sale (part 4)

I'm beating the drum for more sanity in our democratic elections. So far in the current presidential primary season, many tens of millions of dollars have been spent for political advertising, much of it of the slimy-innuendo-sandwiched-between-half-truths-and-hate variety. The bulk of that colossal disgusting total has been spent by Super PACs that are largely funded by shadowy people and organizations with way too much money.

The Sheldon Adelson family has contributed $26.5 million to super PACS. Adelson more or less single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich in the running for the Republican presidential nomination for quite a long time. Without Adelson, one could argue that Gingrich never would have been a viable candidate. One rich family kept him in the running. That ain't democracy in action, that's something else in action, right out in plain view. Buying candidates and buying elections isn't pretty.

Just take half a minute to think about the impact of this huge, horribly legal spending of very wealthy Americans who are trying to buy acceptance for their point of view.

When they "put their money where their mouths are," they do it in a big way, much bigger than almost everyone else can manage.

The flood of cash from the rich, 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 inclined to listen to you after they take office.

They hear the sound of money and a drum beat that I don't like to hear. How about you?

http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2012/01/elections-for-sale-part-3.html

http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2012/01/elections-for-sale-part-2.html

http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2011/12/elections-for-sale.html

Monday, April 23, 2012

The wisdom of Jonathan Swift


"He was a bold man that first ate an oyster."

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Author of  "Gulliver's Travels," satirist, essayist


If, like me, you will gladly toss down a few prime oysters whenever the occasion permits, then, like me, you would like to know that man's name so you could thank him.

For the rest of my friends, you don't really, really know what you're missing...

Many years ago I watched a young niece work very hard, at a family Christmas party, for about a half hour, to eat an oyster so she could prove she was one of the grownups…and maybe she also wanted to report a triumph to her 7th grade friends…I know she managed to get the oyster past her lips but I'm not sure I remember the ultimate outcome….I'm pretty sure she didn't eat more than one of those big beauties.

But surely, this is an example of a paradigm for life: one faces up to a temptation, a challenge, an adventure….one has the approbation of family and friends….one reaches for the glory but one wonders "What will it taste like?"….ultimately, one chooses: oyster or no oyster…and gets on with life.

If you chose "oyster" long ago, like me, then you know what I'm talking about…spread the word.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Oooops! (part 2)



If you're not sure what to do, just dial 1-866-555-1212 and one of our friendly customer service reps will call you back as soon as possible….

Thanks for choosing Pacific Bell!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The BP perps….who are they?


FLASH!   Apr 24, 2012:  Slate.com reports arrest of BP engineer.

It's been two years since the disastrous BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and  no one from BP has been prosecuted for doing something wrong. That's wrong.

BP didn't spill the oil. Employees of BP spilled the oil. And some of them should be held personally responsible.

BP so far has agreed to pay roughly $30 billion for injury and loss claims, and cleanup, after the largest oil spill in U.S. history that killed 11 workers.

Last year BP posted profits of $26 billion. Revenues were $375 billion.

Get the picture? Sure, $30 billion for claims and cleanup is a lot of money. But for BP, $30 billion in claims and cleanup costs is just a cost of doing business.

BP has a lousy safety record. Toxic waste dumping in Alaska in 1995. Refinery explosion in Texas in 2005, with 15 dead. Huge crude spill in Alaska in 2006. Gulf oil spill in 2010. In all, more than 30 people dead. Uncalculated environmental damages.

The way BP does business is dangerous. And it's illegal. Who at BP is going to be held accountable?




Friday, April 20, 2012

Speculators are driving up oil and gas prices...

It's short and not so sweet. Oil speculators are trying to make a quick buck, buying and selling crude oil futures in the world markets, and they're driving up the price up gasoline and heating oil for all of us.

By as much as 40%.

Let's say, round numbers, at least $1 of what you're paying for every gallon of gasoline is going into the pockets of wealthy high rollers, hedge fund traders and financial speculators who are manipulating the markets…in some cases illegally…....often by betting other people's money while they take a profitable slice on the trading. Here's a recent explanation.


These folks are getting away with it because oil futures trading and other murkier ways to speculate in financial markets are still too poorly regulated to prevent such large scale abuse.

You know the kinds of folks who brought us the housing bubble that ruined millions of homeowners, and the derivatives trading that ruined big banks and brokerage houses, and the financial meltdown and recession that are still hurting all of us? They're still doing it.....


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Puh-leeze, no more sound-bite labels…

I guess it was sort of a slow news day on the campaign trail yesterday, so Politico.com thought up a new target voter category: "The Persuadables." Be the first on your block to think up a new sound-bite label for a voting bloc…

Anyway, the "Persuadables" are just our old friends, the swing voters, you know, the ones who claim, or are believed, to be actually not so committed already to a candidate that no amount of truth or lies can shake their dedication. These folks have been around forever, so calling them "The Persuadables" isn't incisive analysis…let's just call them swing voters, and be done with it.



Anyway, even deeply penetrating analysis of the swing vote is really on the wrong track. The defining do-or-die task for the candidates is going to be getting the allegedly thoughtful swing voters to actually go to the polls. The partisan "base" is mostly going to show up. We need to convince more of our good citizens to actually vote. Like, as if we live in a real democracy....


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is Vikram Pandit worth $14.9 million?



Mr. Pandit is the CEO of Citigroup, Inc., which owns Citibank. The Citigroup board of directors plans to pay him $14.9 million this year.

So far, big whup. Another CEO getting another unbelievably obscene pay package from another board that thinks it has to pay its CEO about $286,538 a week in order to "retain top talent."

But wait. Citigroup shareholders just said "No." About 55% of votes were cast AGAINST approving this pay package for Pandit. It's a non-binding vote, so the board can go ahead and pay the whole $14.9 million if it wants to…..

But the point is, shareholders of Citigroup just proved that it's not a complete waste of your time to vote against excessive executive pay. The next time you get a chance to vote your shares at the annual meeting of a company whose stock you own, do what you think is right.


I wonder what Pandit would have done differently this year if the board had planned to pay him only $7 million, that is, the same as he was paid last year. No pay raise. Only $7 million.

What would he have done differently as top dog at Citigroup? Do you think he would have slacked off? Do you think he would have quit?

CEO pay, another whopper...



The wisdom of Will Rogers (part 2)


"Good judgment comes from experience,
               and a lot of that comes from bad judgment."
Will Rogers (1879-1935)




Yeah, that good judgment thing……there are a lot of good ways to get, too….I guess paying attention and telling yourself the truth are two pretty good ways….







Anyways, Will Rogers told the truth in a lot of ways that are worth paying attention to…

More truth from Will Rogers...

Wikipedia on Will Rogers



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where were the penguins when we needed them?


It's a minor news report, but it caught my eye. Penguin bites Gingrich at St. Louis Zoo.





The story says Gingrich loves animals. Suddenly I realize that I like penguins. Now I don't know if penguins have political interests. I haven't seen any "Penguins For Obama" buttons yet. Maybe this was just a penguin that thinks a presidential candidate who promises $2.50 gasoline needs a bite here and there…..I think a finger counts as "here," if Gingrich ever goes back to that zoo maybe the penguin will bite him "there"….



Monday, April 16, 2012

The wisdom of Fred Brooks

"How does a project get to be a year behind schedule?
  One day at a time."

Fred Brooks (b. 1931)
IBM software engineer and author



Oooops. He nailed that one. You have the same amount of time as everyone else. Make sure the right things are at the top of your TO DO list.





Here's another Brooks zinger, from his book, The Mythical Man-Month: "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Google goggles: I'm agog…


I don't think it was inevitable but I guess the phrase "just around the corner" has to fit in somewhere here….seems that Google is developing "futuristic, internet-connected glasses" that will put your friend's Facebook page or a nearby restaurant's menu on the lens of your eyeware as you're strolling down the street…

Now, I'm not an early adopter of new technology….for a long time I thought of my first mobile phone as "the car phone" because the only reason I could think of for actually using it was in case of actual emergency when I was actually on the road…that's changed now, of course, but still I use my cell phone almost exclusively for making phone calls, I don't text, I don't check my email on my phone, I don't shop or post to Facebook on my phone, but I do take pictures of my granddaughter, and that's a good thing.

Anyhoo, the Google goggles that connect you to the world…

I really don't need to know how far away my friends are as we're converging on our rendezvous, I don't need to do a hands-free check on how tall the Eiffel Tower is while I'm out hiking and I don't need Google snooping on my whereabouts 24/7 by capturing the image flow from my connected-and-logged-in-eyeware-with-on-board camera…I'm pretty sure I will decline to talk face-to-face with anyone who's wearing this kind of thingy.




Linda Holmes at NPR has a great story that mentions many of the reasons that I expect will demotivate me if I ever think seriously about getting a pair of these Google-istic glasses, among other reasons she suspects the contraption would make you "100 percent efficient—and therefore about half as happy."

I love the internet. It took me less than 60 seconds to get complete text of two online stories about this Google rapture and also an image of a happy user…I am merrily blogging on Google's blogspot.com…..I love Skype-ing with my loved ones…I'm hot to get news from online sources and I want Wikipedia and everything else at my fingertips….I just don't think I want it all in the corner of my eye…

Not yet, anyway.




Saturday, April 14, 2012

The wisdom of Charles Dickens

"There is nothing better than a friend,
                unless it is a friend with chocolate."

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)


How natural it seems to say things like: "Hi friend, good to see you, where's the chocolate?"


More chocolate stuff from Charles Schulz....





Oooops! (part 1)



                                                  Not a complete surprise, one hopes….

Friday, April 13, 2012

The wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi (part 2)

"To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act 
            is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer."
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 - 1948)



I'm not wise enough to add to Gandhi's arrow of truth. It sticks in my heart, and I will be sure today that I say "I love you" to the ones I love.








The Mahatma also said "you must be the change you wish to see in the world." Another arrow…

A Gandhi website




Thursday, April 12, 2012

Zimmerman…it's about time



Finally.

The special prosecutor in Florida has charged George Zimmerman with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Now we'll find out, with due process, whether Zimmerman is legally innocent or guilty. It looked like Zimmerman might get away with simply declaring that he is innocent. I fully support our system of justice which presumes "innocent until proven guilty." I want to see this decision made in court, not in the shooter's mind.

And on the bigger issue: I think "stand your ground" legislation is dangerous. I don't want an untrained volunteer like George Zimmerman driving around my neighborhood at night, carrying a loaded gun, and thinking that he has a license to shoot…..
How about you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The wisdom of Berkshire Hathaway

"…think about what counts, not how it will be counted."
Berkshire Hathaway 2011 Annual Report



This seems like a good working prescription for living the good life, and I mean "good life" in a good way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The wisdom of Rosabeth Moss Kanter

"Everything looks like a failure in the middle."
Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kanter (b. 1943)
Professor of Business, Harvard Business School




Prof. Kanter punches right through with this one. Yeah, you can get bogged down on any project or dream, big or small. You can think of reasons to quit.







And you can give yourself a lift by looking past the middle to remind yourself what the end looks like. And you're lookin' good.

Monday, April 9, 2012

$12 per second, you can live on it....

Timothy Cook,  CEO of Apple, was paid $378 million last year.
That works out to $12 every second, of every minute, of every day, of every week....

It's more than $1 million a day.
The average American salary is about $45,00.....that's $123 a day.

Suppose Apple would double Cook's salary. What would he do differently in leading his company?

Suppose Apple had paid Cook only $189 million last year (a 50% pay cut).  What would he have done differently in leading his company?

Do you think he would have quit?

The wisdom of David Samuels

"…much of what we think we know is wrong."

David Samuels (b. 1967)
Journalist, essayist



The doctrinaire scoundrel will give no credence to this nagging insight from David Samuels, a careful and persuasive writer whose work you may have seen in The New Yorker.




Chew on it for a sec…yup, sure enough, think back over your past years, remember when you suddenly realized you were wrong about something? You know it's going to happen again, probably soon, and probably not just once more…

Being open to this prospect is maybe even healthier than eating right and getting regular exercise…

Winston Churchill said "The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes." Maybe that's the second best lesson.

The best lesson may be that it's real smart to be ready to admit "I'm wrong" whenever that turns out to be the right thing to say…..anyway, that frame of mind will sharpen your capacity to understand and defend what you believe is right.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Newt's not it....


So, Gingrich throws in the towel, with the ritual code words: "I'll support Romney if he's the Republican nominee." Newt doesn't want to be on the outside looking in at the convention. I guess he just didn't really mean it when he said all those nasty things about Romney in the past few months...........it's all about power, Gingrich wants some of it, doesn't much care how he gets it.......(just like most of the other pols.....)

Hungry, hungry hearts….

I know, it sounds a little like the kid's game with the plastic hippos that gobble marbles, at least it does if you know about these things….

I'm talking about "hungry hearts" in the same way that Dr. Mark Edmundson of the University of Virginia talks about "hungry hearts":  the species H. heart consists of those folks who have first-class curiosity and energy for learning, and are open to being thrilled by knowledge….

…and I'm not just talking about memorizing all the state capitals or knowing the length of the longest river in the world, I mean learning about stuff that makes the world more profoundly interesting, and accumulating insight about ideas and emotions that make life important, on a very personal level and when you're among friends…

You don't have to be brilliant to have a hungry heart, as Prof. Edmundson says……having a hungry heart helps you to shine a brighter light on the imponderables, and to seek the bright lights on the horizon…..


Malcolm Forbes: the open mind




Saturday, April 7, 2012

GOP Veep Stakes: hot air balloons....

I don't really understand how they did it, but the news media and the cable TV talking heads apparently have decided that reporting on the Republican primary campaign isn't fun anymore, so they've declared that the primary is "over." Romney is it. End of story. Wait—you say that Romney only has 658 delegates so far, about 57% of the total he needs for the nomination? Hush your mouth…

I don't know if Romney will get the nomination for sure….no one else knows, either…(and I may be less interested than average in knowing how it turns out, I'm going to vote for President Obama).

Anyway, the next thing I don't really understand is the obvious swing by the news media and cable TV talking heads over to the endlessly debatable speculation about who Romney (or whoever) will pick for Vice President. Why is it actually important to know right now?

Your humble servant believes that Romney (here I'll stop inserting "or whoever," just to save time) won't actually get around to selecting a veep until he is certain that he has the party's laurel crown. Of course he's thinking about it now….my guess is that most serious contenders for the No. 2 nod wouldn't think of accepting until Romney's nomination is certain.


Anyway, Romney won't know how much of a consolation prize he has to give to the Tea Party folks until he has the nomination wrapped up…..and let's face it, the veep is pretty much the caboose on the campaign train, anyway…..




All of the current veep stakes bloviation that's clogging up the air waves and using up precious bandwidth is just so much hot air right now…

Well, I do feel pretty confident in saying "Sarah P., fuggeddaboudit"

Otherwise, amigos, tune out for a while, go on about your business, let the primary process play out……

Friday, April 6, 2012

The wisdom of Kit Carson

"I just wish I had time for one more bowl of chili."


Kit Carson (1809-1868)
Christopher Houston Carson
American frontiersman

So, in the last five minutes I 've learned more about Kit Carson than I've known all my life, and I guess I don't need to spend any more time on him right now.


By most accounts he was, in context, a temperate, honest gentleman.  He had a storied career. The story wasn't 100% pretty….he married Arapaho and Cheyenne women in his younger years, but was involved in the infamous forced "Long Walk" of Navajo men, women and children in the 1860s that resulted in many deaths. He was a tireless explorer in the Northwest with John Fremont, he commanded a unit in the Civil War, he was a dime novel hero, he rose to the rank of brevet brigadier general…..he couldn't read or write, he retired to ranching in Colorado and died there, somewhat obscurely.


Wikipedia says his last words were "adios compadres"……..an unidentified source claims the fond wish that appears above were his last words….assuming there's some truth in both, I guess if you can think of your friends and a bowl of chili as you're nearing your final moments, you can go with a smile on your face…

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Slowly but surely, health care reform.....

Nine medical specialty boards – American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Cardiology and others – have identified 45 common tests and procedures that should be used less often by doctors, and questioned by patients if their doctors order the tests. The New York Times reports that eight other specialty boards are getting ready to name other procedures that should be done less often.

The NYT piece on April 4 says "The recommendations represent an unusually frank acknowledgement by physicians that many profitable tests and procedures are performed unnecessarily and may harm patients. By some estimates, unnecessary treatment constitutes one-third of medical spending in the United States."

Now, this very healthy move to minimize use of some expensive tests—often tests that aren't vital for the patient—wasn't directly mandated by the health care reform legislation approved by President Obama and mostly Democratic legislators.


On the other hand, let's agree that the passage of the sweeping health care improvements has stimulated health care providers to start looking more seriously about ways to improve health care for Americans and reduce the costs.




Bravo to President Obama, members of congress who supported the health care reforms, and to the health care professionals who are taking positive steps to make high quality health care affordable for all of us.









"Too much" coverage of Trayvon Martin?

Almost 40% of Americans say there's been "too much" coverage of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL about six weeks ago. This is from the respected Pew Research Center, it's not talk show blather…see the troubling details below.

Here is my poll result: 100% of the Americans I interviewed in the last 11 seconds (sample of one, me) believe that it's disgusting and horrible that an untrained, volunteer "community watch coordinator," with a legal license to carry a gun, shot and killed a 17-year-old stranger in his neighborhood in Florida one night, and the initial official reaction of the police is that under Florida law, there's really nothing they can do about it.

I don't want an untrained, volunteer "community watch coordinator" riding around my neighborhood at night, carrying a gun….

How about you?...in your neighborhood, where you and your beloved and your kids and your friends live, not in some other neighborhood where there is rampant gang violence and thugs and break-ins and drug dealing and stuff, how about in your neighborhood? Do you want an untrained, volunteer with a gun riding around in your neighborhood at night, for any reason?



POLL RESULTS FROM PEW RESEARCH CENTER

The Trayvon Martin shooting is the public’s top story for the second consecutive week. But interest in the teenager’s death is deeply divided along partisan, as well as racial, lines. These differences also are apparent in reactions to news coverage of the incident: Far more Republicans (56%) than Democrats (25%) say there has been too much coverage of Martin’s death.


The latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted March 29-April 1 among 1,000 adults, finds that 30% say they followed Martin’s death more closely than any other story, little changed from a week ago (25%).

As was the case last week, African Americans are far more likely than whites to say they are closely tracking news about the Florida teenager’s death. Fully 58% cite news about Trayvon Martin’s killing as their top story, compared with 24% of whites. Moreover, 43% of whites say the story has received too much coverage, compared with just 16% of blacks.

Democrats, regardless of race, are following Martin’s death more closely than are Republicans. Nearly four-in-ten Democrats (38%), including 31% of white Democrats, say the killing of Trayvon Martin is their top story; just 19% of Republicans are following this story most closely. More than half of Republicans (56%) say the story has been overcovered, compared with 25% of Democrats, including 33% of white Democrats.

Overall, 37% of the public say that news organizations are giving too much coverage to Martin’s death; about as many (40%) say the coverage has been about right. Just 14% say the story has gotten too little coverage.









Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The wisdom of George Bernard Shaw (part 2)

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable,
         but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature


Now, my sister rightly points out that this Shavian plan for life  can go off the tracks, mistake-wise, depending on what kind of mistakes one is making. She mentioned, with a bit of an edge, that the sword can be sharp on both sides, be on the careful side when you grab it….



Let's assume we're talking relatively benign mistakes, that don't hurt the ones you love too much too early in the morning, and we get to the intended point: gotta break some eggs to make omelets.

Life is living and learning, one hopes the mistakes are mostly part of the "learning" stuff and not too much part of the "living" stuff…..



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Nobody needs a bullhorn....

The powerful concept of "one person, one vote" is being shredded by our increasingly money-fueled, partisan campaign antics and attack ads that smother debate and intensify ideological standoffs. Politics in a democracy is not supposed to be an endless round of ear-splitting, doctrinaire screams, and it's not supposed to be only about the money.

Kevin Baker said it this way in The New York Times recently:

"Participating in a democracy means more than simply insisting, over and over again, in as loud and arrogant a voice as possible, in as many venues as your money will allow, what it is that you want. It means listening... convincing... compromising — all those skills that political parties and their leaders used to be fairly good at, and that political campaigns taught them to be good at...that doesn't much matter to candidates who owe their first loyalty to one or two wealthy sponsors."




Monday, April 2, 2012

The wisdom of Gabrielle Hamilton

"Be careful what you get good at doin',
           'cuz you'll be doin' it the rest of your life."

Gabrielle Hamilton
Chef, author of "Blood, Bones and Butter"


By all accounts Gabrielle's book is "rhapsodic," I'm pretty sure I'd like to write something that folks would think of as "rhapsodic," most likely I'd pick a different title, and it sure as heck wouldn't be about food, but that's just me….unless it could be a book about coconut macaroons, now we're talking…


Anyway, I liked her epigram, above…..read it once, and maybe you don't feel a special thrill or anything, but read it again and let it sink in, and try pretending that it doesn't matter if you get careless about what you're getting good at…..



Get real about gas prices....

Why are the news media and the cable news talking heads continuing to give credence to the notion that the President has some effective control over gasoline prices at the pump? Why are some Republican candidates bamboozling this line on the campaign trail?

…and, let's be fair, the disingenuous folks who are blaming President Obama now for higher gas prices should have been giving him lots of credit last year when gas prices were dropping from about $4 to about $3.25, but I don't seem to remember any talking points like that….

Anyway, I personally suspect a lot of folks aren't all that hot and bothered about gas prices, only about 4% of average household spending is for gasoline…..



Anyway, the United States consumes about 20% of the world's oil supply and we have about 2% of known oil reserves, soooooooo…….we don't control oil prices, and we never will. We have to pay the piper. No amount of domestic drilling, or tapping our strategic oil reserves, is going to make any permanent dent in the level of world-wide oil prices…

The smartest things we can do are: stop naked speculation by greedy traders in the oil futures markets; increase federal taxes on petroleum and natural gas products to motivate more efficient use of fossil fuels and to provide funds for development of alternative energy sources; mandate more energy-efficient vehicles and machines that use oil and gas; become the world's leading developer and supplier of alternative energy technology.

It's not easy and it's not cheap…..we need political leaders who will explain why we have to do it, and take the lead to make it happen.

See Richard Thaler's April 1 commentary in The New York Times:



Sunday, April 1, 2012

The wisdom of Winston Churchill (part 2)

"The greatest lesson in life
          is to know that even fools are right sometimes."

Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

I'm happy to believe this, and goodness knows I have been a fool at times, it's somewhat comforting to know that I might nevertheless have been right on a few of those occasions….

It is one mark of a decent intellect that, from time to time, the possibility of being wrong is honestly entertained, however briefly….



I'd like to apply Churchill's wisdom in the political sphere, even when the going gets a bit fuddled or bogs down with the refrain "Don't go there"………..I'd like to be generous in the case of the present crew of pols sitting in Congress and cavorting on the campaign trail, but for too many of them, a re-classification to "Fool" would be the necessary first step, and that would necessarily be a step up….