Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The wisdom of Jan K., The Proofer

"Pessimism may be a trait, but it shouldn't be a skill."
Jan K., The Proofer






This is an epigram with a keen edge, I guess pessimism is a refuge for some folks some of the time…..very few flowers grow in that particular sanctuary, it's not really a pretty place….








On failure.....

Consider that you might be wrong....

Monday, July 30, 2012

We're cooking the planet….(part 4)

A recent commentary by Bill McKibben on the CommonDreams.org website offers some analysis and explanation—maybe it's not new, but I haven't seen it before—that gives really stark insight into the worsening global climate change. Take a look. Try out your own convictions about man-made climate change up against McKibben's facts and conclusions.

And after you finish doing that, ask yourself what kind of planet your grandchildren will be living on, 25 or 50 years from now….

Here's an excerpt from McKibben's piece, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math":

"But what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. 'Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,' says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. "But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It's what they do."

More on global climate change and global warming:

http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2012/04/get-real-about-gas-prices.html

http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2012/03/were-cooking-planetpart-3.html

http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2012/02/were-cooking-planetpart-2.html

http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2011/11/hot-times-global-climate-change.html

http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2011/11/were-cooking-planet.html

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The wisdom of Seth Godin

"The largest enemy of change and leadership isn't a 'no.'
"It's a 'not yet.' "

Seth Godin (b. 1960)

Entrepreneur and author


I'm not Seth Godin's biggest fan, some of his popular public pronouncements are a bit too culturally kitschy for me. For example, Godin says that mass marketing is dead, and tribes are back as a de facto social unit. Go with that, or not, your choice….obviously, you should at least try reading his 2008 book: "Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us."






The quote above comes from that book, and here's the whole passage:

"The largest enemy of change and leadership isn't a 'no.'
"It's a 'not yet.'
" 'Not yet' is the safest, easiest way to forestall change. 'Not yet' gives the status quo a chance to regroup and put off the inevitable for just a little while longer. Change almost never fails because it's too early. It almost always fails because it's too late."

Seems to me that "not yet" is almost always a lie unless it's followed by a persuasive "because…", and, when we're talking about real change,  most of the "because…" gambits I've heard are more or less phony.


Gandhi talks about change

Climate change, "not yet" is so wrong.....

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Another take on sensible gun regulation…

Think prudence, not ideology.

My view is that the constitutional "right of the people to keep and bear Arms" is dangerous in the 21st century.

The politicians who framed the 2nd Amendment in the 18th century never heard of nor did they even imagine a Glock pistol, or an AR-15 assault rifle, or a 100-round drum magazine sold in a retail store, or a crazy man killing and wounding 70 people in a movie theater…they might have imagined that most civilians who die of gunshot wounds are killed by people they know in a non-burglary, non-break-in situation, but that's another discussion….

Anyway, Michael Gerson offered a persuasively thoughtful column in the Washington Post the other day (full text here), I think it's worth a read by folks like me and by the folks who are comfortable with the "concealed carry" concept and by everyone else in between….

Gerson says it all a lot better than I can do it. Here's a sample:

"The guarantees of the Second Amendment are no more absolute than the guarantees of the First. The right to keep and bear arms does not mean the right to keep and bear tanks, shoulder-launched missiles or fully automatic machine guns. All gun-control policy — unavoidably, by necessity — is conducted on a slippery slope. The legal treatment of assault weapons, or of high-capacity magazines, is a prudential judgment, not a constitutional one."

And more:

"Reasonable gun laws are not a panacea. But neither are they a threat to the Constitution. They merit a debate — driven not by ideology but by prudential judgments on public safety."

I believe it is not in the essential nature of America and Americans to be all guns, all the time. I have friends and family members who don't completely agree with me. Our elected representatives and our thought leaders—and all of us—urgently need to talk about sensible gun regulation.

Right now, we have too many guns, and too many dead people.

Gun control 100 years ago....

Too many guns...

Friday, July 27, 2012

The wisdom of Henry Ford

"Obstacles are those frightful things you see
                  when you take your eyes off your goal."
Henry Ford (1863-1947)
Founder of Ford Motor Co.

Henry Ford is pretty well known for his key role in developing the assembly line process of industrial manufacturing, and for paying his workers the unimaginable sum of $5 per day in 1914, roughly double the normal pay rate at the time. Ford instituted the $5-a-day pay scale to reduce heavy turnover and high training costs in his factories. A newspaper editorial observed that the pay hike "shot like a blinding rocket through the dark clouds of the present industrial depression."

I wish we had some energetic capitalists and industrialists who could shoot some blinding rockets through the dark clouds of our present economic malaise. Where are those so-called "job creators"? Why aren't they doing their thing?

Anyway, I like Ford's point of view on obstacles and goals. If you find that your planning meetings are peppered with phrases like "The reason we can't do that is…." and "We've never done it that way….", you need to do some brainstorming and stifle the whiners.

Real obstacles can't be ignored, they're unavoidable….and most of the time you can deal with them…….and by the way, check out the wisdom of the Old Farmer below.

The wisdom of the Old Farmer

Daniel Pink says....

...on failure...

....and Malcolm Forbes chimes in.....

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What exactly are the "job creators" doing?

Ahem.

Memo to the so-called "job creators": what the heck are you doing?

The "job creators," whoever and wherever they may be, sure aren’t doing too much job creating...and the tax situation isn't to blame, because taxes haven't been raised for years.

On Yahoo.com, Lorraine Woellert of Bloomberg noted  that about 13 million Americans are actually looking for work, and 8 million more are working in part-time jobs although they'd prefer full-time employment. The U.S. Department of Labor has reported more than 3 million job openings each month for the last 18 months. Woellert says half of American companies claim they can't find suitable applicants to fill the open job slots.


There is, to be sure, a "skills gap" that has some impact on the employment situation. On the other hand, the ManpowerGroup reports that many companies have abandoned their in-house training  programs.

James Surowiecki in The New Yorker (July 9) argues that too many companies have been way too selective in their hiring practices, in effect allowing too many jobs to go unfilled while the hiring managers wait for the "perfect" candidate to apply. He mentions one engineering company that received 25,000 applications for a "standard" engineering job, but didn't hire anyone.

Let's call it like it is. Too many political and corporate leaders have been dragging their feet on jobs and employment, delaying or declining to hire workers, as part of a general disinclination to do anything that would boost the national economy and revive economic growth……it's not too hard to figure out that there are powerful interests that believe that a lagging economy will derail President Obama's re-election bid.

I won't forget to mention that the pay packages of top corporate executives have been rising for the last few years. Too bad they don't get paid for creating jobs.

More advice for "job creators"

...and another thought....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
26th President of the United States

Roosevelt was an exuberant man and an exuberant politician. He was an early leader and a champion of Progressive politics as a Republican, and he founded the Bull Moose Party to run (unsuccessfully) for president on a Progressive platform.

Teddy's exuberant epigram above just makes so much sense for just about every situation. It means:

Do something. Don't do nothing.

Use the resources you have, don't dither and wish for resources you're unlikely to get.

Do it locally. Do it with people you know. Encourage friends and coworkers to join in.



And think for a minute about this complementary wisdom of Barnabas Suebu:

"Think big, start small, act now
—before everything becomes too late."

Roosevelt as Progressive....

The wisdom of Barnabas Suebu












Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The art of Rafael Sabatini

Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950)
Novelist


Sabatini was a more popular writer during his lifetime, when his trademark works of romantic, principled historical fiction were more accessible and more acceptable. If you have not read Scaramouche, you have deprived yourself. You will feel yourself to be a better, more lavishly happy person after you read it for the first time. There is the occasional swordplay in his novels, however, I warn you, most of the time his characters do nothing but talk.


My interest here is to share a sample of his ingenious and engaging prose. This is from Saint Martin's Summer….in fact, these are the first two paragraphs of the first chapter:

"My Lord of Tressan, His Majesty's Seneschal of Dauphiny, sat at his ease, his purple doublet all undone, to yield greater freedom to his vast bulk, a yellow silken undergarment visible through the gap, as is visible the flesh of some fruit that, swollen with over-ripeness, has burst its skin.

"His wig—imposed upon him by necessity, not fashion—lay on the table amid a confusion of dusty papers, and on his little fat nose, round and red as a cherry at its end, rested the bridge of his horn-rimmed spectacles. His bald head—so bald and shining that it conveyed an unpleasant sense of nakedness, suggesting that its uncovering had been an act of indelicacy on the owner's part—rested on the back of his great chair, and hid from sight the gaudy escutcheon wrought upon the crimson leather. His eyes were closed, his mouth open, and whether from that mouth or from his nose—or, perhaps, conflicting for issue between both—there came a snorting, rumbling sound to proclaim that my Lord the Seneschal was hard at work upon the King's business."

Eat your heart out, John Grisham.









Monday, July 23, 2012

The statue's gone…who's satisfied?

No one should take much comfort from the removal of the Joe Paterno statue. It's too simplistic, too media driven. It's a very public, very irrelevant, very evening news-ish kind of thing.

Why does it seem like it's easier for "the authorities" to take down his statue that it was for "the authorities" to stop a child abuser who preyed on young boys in the locker rooms at Penn State? Does anyone think that the politically correct satisfaction of removing the statue is an offset to the grief of Sandusky's victims and their families?

This is media-sponsored morality. It's depressing. It's irrelevant.

If the Penn State leadership and the media moguls want to do something relevant, they should set up national hotlines for reporting child abuse.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How do managers learn "right" and "wrong" ?


It's not a trivial question.

Think about the sad and destructive behavior of business leaders in the past five years, think about the criminal misdeeds of the experienced business leaders at Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, General Motors, Countrywide Financial, Bain Capital, MFGlobal, JPMorgan, the London bankers who cooked LIBOR, I could go on…..but you just take a minute to add your own favorite names….

How did it happen that they didn't think they were doing anything wrong?

My favorite arbiter on management issues, Henry Mintzberg, is a relentless critic of graduate management programs, specifically the "MBA programs that train people essentially to be mercenaries, they don't train them to care about any business at all. All they train them to do is leap from one business to another, and be very analytic, and ultimately, in many, many cases, very destructive."

In a recent piece on Bloomberg.com, Luigi Zingales cited recent scandals at Barclays Bank, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and others, and said "We are dealing with a drop in ethical standards throughout the business world, and our graduate schools are partly to blame."  His commentary is titled: "Do Business Schools Incubate Criminals?"

Zingales also mentioned this: "When the economist Milton Friedman famously said the one and only responsibility of business is to increase its profits, he added 'so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.' That’s a very big caveat, and one that is not stressed nearly enough in our business schools."

His conclusion: "The daily scandals that expose corruption and deception in business are not merely the doing of isolated crooks. They are the result of an amoral culture that we -- business-school professors -- helped foster. The solution should start in our classrooms." Read the full text here.

Think about the managers you've known in your career. How many of them set the example for consciously ethical behavior in the workplace? I mean all the aspects of good behavior in the business world, not just "we adhered to the letter of the law most of the time."

What are the current executive leaders of American business doing to teach and exemplify ethical behavior for the benefit of employees, customers and the society we all live in? Why do they think they aren't doing anything wrong?


Do we need "business" experience in government?



Saturday, July 21, 2012

Would Marissa Mayer do it for less?

Yahoo's board of directors recently named Marissa Mayer as the new chief executive of the iconic company that's a dominant Internet player.

Yahoo will pay Ms. Mayer about $70 million in salary, bonuses, restricted stock and stock options over the next five years.

She comes to Yahoo from Google, where she was that legendary company's first female engineer and one of its earliest employees. She did well at Google—her current net worth is estimated at $300 million.


Now, I cheer Marissa Mayer's personal and professional success. Clearly, she brings a lot to the table as Yahoo's new leader.

But what were Yahoo's board and the compensation committee thinking?

Assume that, on average, she's going to work a 60-hour week, 52 weeks a year, for the next five years. Some weeks she'll work more, some weeks next to nothing if she's smart enough to take a real vacation now and then.

That amounts to 15,600 hours over five years, and for that kind of workload, Yahoo's directors agreed to pay her $4,487 AN HOUR for the next five years.

Assume Ms. Mayer is going to do an unbelievably good job.

Would she do it for $4,000 an hour? Or $3,000 an hour?

What would she do differently, or less well, for, oh, let's say, $2,500 an hour?

And what other competing company was offering her anything close to $70 million?

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Syrian "government"....

Let's be precisely honest about this:

There is no "government" in Syria.

Not in any sense that we can understand within our Western traditions of political thought.

The people of Syria are being killed relentlessly by a cadre of entrenched cultural-financial-military elites, many of whom have goofy, nominal titles like "President" and "Minister of Defense"……

The people who have the top hand in Syria don't qualify as a "government."

One bright spot: these thugs have but one life to give for their country, and I wish they'd get on with it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The wisdom of Robert Nathan


"There is no distance on this earth as far away as yesterday."
Robert Nathan (1894-1985)

American novelist and poet

I have so many cascading reactions to this quotation that it's hard to organize some personal comments……

I think it is fundamentally an exaggeration, and a somewhat dangerous one at that: realistically, "yesterday" is as close as anyone wants it to be, in memory… and way too many "yesterdays" linger as "todays" in hearts and minds that may be energized by love, or by other humors…

Still….for each of us, ultimately, we have no choice but to accept Nathan's dictum. I had my chance at life yesterday, I took my swings, I danced my dance, I tried to say what I meant to say, I wanted it to be a good day, already I've forgotten a lot of it.…the cascade overwhelms me…..Nathan didn't mention that yesterday's joys and regrets can remain very close…..


The wisdom of Dr. Seuss

A thought from Havelock Ellis


...and Mae West chips in two cents....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The 1% rules


That's not an arrogant declaration.

I'm using "rules" as a noun, as a lead-in to brief comments on this piece by Ezra Klein on July 16 in The Washington Post.

Klein is not questioning Mitt Romney's professional and personal success. I'm not questioning that either.

Klein is talking about the circumstances of success in America, and the very, very exclusive and unseemly rewards for the very, very successful among us. I can't say it better than Klein said it, so here's an excerpt:


"There is an increasing sense in the United States that the rich play by different rules than the poor or the middle class — rules that make it easier for them to get even richer. Romney’s problem is that he seems to have taken unusually aggressive advantage of those different rules. Most Americans don’t get to stay on as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president” [as Romney did at Bain] while they try other things. They don’t make money when a firm they invested in goes bankrupt. They don’t get to sell stock their parents gave them to go to college. They don’t get to pay a 13.9 percent tax rate because their money comes from investments rather than wages. They don’t get to shelter cash overseas, or keep between $21 million and $102 million in an IRA.

"When people question these elements of Romney’s history, Romney says they’re attacking his success. They’re not. They’re attacking the fact that once people become successful, they get to play by a set of rules, and fall back on a set of advantages, that make it a lot easier for them to remain successful. They’re questioning whether Romney really understands what the non-rich are going through and the kinds of risks they face. And they’re questioning his policies, which would give more to those who already have so much while cutting spending on the programs that support the neediest Americans."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The wisdom of Henry Brooks Adams


"I always think of a remark of Brooks Adams
     that the philosophers were hired by the comfortable class
        to prove that everything is all right."
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., letter to Frederick Pollock, June 17, 1908

Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918) is generally known as Henry Adams. He is most commonly recognized for his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adamswhich won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919 after his death. The book is an exploration of Adams' lifetime experiences in the tumultuous 19th century and the dawning of the 20th century in America. He was a significant critic of American education.

Adams was a principal figure in the politically celebrated Adams family, that included President John Adams (his great-grandfather) and President John Quincy Adams (his grandfather). The Education of Henry Adams is a challenging read, but it's deeply absorbing and more literate than just about most of the stuff you've already read. Give it a try.

As the attributed quote above testifies, Adams was politically astute although he never sought elective office himself. In fact, as a working journalist he fought political corruption.



Obviously he was a member of the "comfortable class," but he gave no comfort to his peers.

His personal values and candor were weapons he used with broad strokes. After the Civil War ended, he observed:


"I think that Lee should have been hanged. It was all the worse that he was a good man and a fine character and acted conscientiously. It's always the good men who do the most harm in the world."

I think Adams missed the mark. I think it is the presumptively good people in the world, in unmerited positions of power and authority, who may do the most harm.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Do we need a "business" perspective in government?


I'm pretty much getting sick and tired of political candidates claiming they'll bring their "business experience" into play, if they're elected, to fix and improve government and public policy at every level from school board up to the presidency.

Who anointed "business experience" as the solution to our flamingly obvious government woes?

Who believes the average—or even the above average—person with "business experience" can automatically fix our social problems by getting elected to public office, and acting like a business exec in the halls of Congress or in the meeting room of the board of directors of Duckswamp Consolidated School District?

There's no credible evidence that "business experience" is the cure-all for government woes, and our social problems, and our economic problems…..

Let's just stop blandly letting anybody go unchallenged when the "let's bring some business experience to government" riff gets blurted out in public…..

In fact, may it please the Court, I request arrest warrants for the experienced business leaders at Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, General Motors, Countrywide Financial, Bain Capital, MFGlobal, JPMorgan, the London bankers who cooked LIBOR....I could go on…..but you just take a minute to add your own favorite names….

And by the way, think of the business leaders you've been associated with in your life…..as a group, do they inspire you to vote for them for elected office so we can get some "business experience" in government leadership roles?

A perspective on leadership

Are you a great manager?

Everybody's a manager?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The wisdom of Dr. Seuss


"Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened."
Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991)
American writer, poet, cartoonist

You know, he's the "The Cat in the Hat" guy.

So, really, his quote doesn't seem very "Green Eggs and Ham"-ish, but still there's a Seussian feel to it, I'm sure you didn't have any trouble immediately thinking of an example, I sure didn't…

It made me think of some current neuroscience I've been reading about, specifically involving memory and experience….the researcher described this scenario:

The orchestra is just about wrapping up a most entrancing performance of Bernstein's West Side Story  melodies, when a careless booby in the audience struggles for nearly half a minute to dig his loudly ringing cellphone out of an inner pocket….you are tempted to say that this toweringly annoying interruption has "ruined" the concert for you, but the researcher points out that it only ruins your memory of the concert, in fact you thoroughly enjoyed it right up to the very end….

If it was good for you, remember that it was good for you…..smile because it happened.









Saturday, July 14, 2012

The wisdom of Nora Ephron


"When your children are teenagers, it's important to have a dog
           so that someone in the house is happy to see you."


Nora Ephron (1941-2012)
Journalist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and other stuff

Ephron had great talent, for instance, she wrote the screenplays for Sleepless in Seattle, Silkwood, and When Harry Met Sally…you definitely need to watch at least Sleepless in Seattle again, soon…..



Her insight about kids and dogs cuts right to the basics, but I don't totally accept it…. I think she was just a tad harsh on teenagers although it certainly is true that the right dog for you is ALWAYS happy to see you when you walk through the door, even if you already did it about a half hour ago.

Now, of course, kids don't jump up on you when you're wearing clean khakis or the chiffon dress…..

And another thing: many teenagers do not bark and go postal every time someone rings the doorbell….

And another thing: no matter how many dog biscuits you have, you can't motivate the dog to call you on Father's Day or Mother's Day when the pooch gets a bit older and moves out on its own…

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Don't give revolvers to youngsters"


A recent report on guns by STRATFOR, a global intelligence services company, is really depressing.

Nominally, the piece deals with the "Fast and Furious" botch-up  involving guns sold in the U.S. that end up in Mexico.

That is, guns sold legally in the U.S. that end up in Mexico, legally or illegally, to be used for illegal purposes that include killing lots of people.

Let's leave aside for a moment the wacky concerns of the NRA and gun rights advocates about the so-called "chilling effect" of law enforcement activities to control high volume sales of automatic weapons that have nothing to do with personal protection and defense of the American home from intruders.

STRATFOR describes in detail how increased efforts to police the flow of guns across the U.S.-Mexico border will not cut down on gun trafficking. It turns out there are way too many other ways for the Mexican drug lords and gangs to get guns if they can't procure them easily from U.S. dealers along the border.

The drug cartels will buy guns from dealers in Chicago or Atlanta or other cities far from the border.

They will buy gun components—the basic receiver that fires the bullets, the barrel, the trigger, the bolt, etc—easily, anywhere, because the separate components are not regulated, and assemble the guns in Mexico.

They'll buy guns and grenades from the Mexican military, or shady military sources in Central American countries, or from international arms dealers….

….or they'll buy guns from Chinese organized crime syndicates, or from numerous sources for black market assault rifles in Africa, or from Balkan cocaine traffickers who have access to large stockpiles of off-the-books weapons in Eastern Europe…

There's no way to stop the flow of guns to Mexican gangs and drug lords, or to the other gangs and drug lords and terrorists spread out across the planet.

We have a gun problem. At least we should be doing a much better job of controlling it here in America.

And by the way, the quote above about "Don't give revolvers to youngsters" is from a 4th of July newspaper story in Bethlehem, PA, back in 1908. I guess it was easier to understand the gun problem then.

Too many guns....another thought




Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Don't throw firecrackers under horses!"



Hey, everybody knows you shouldn't throw firecrackers under horses….but I bet it's been a while since you thought you really should mention it to the kids…

About a hundred years ago this reminder was top-of-mind on the 4th of July, at least it was in Bethlehem, PA, in 1908.


My local weekly newspaper, the Bethlehem Press, offers "This Week in Bethlehem History" each week in a chatty column that does a retrospective on people and places in the city in days gone by. I read it every week, it's remarkably interesting most of the time, it's instructive and humbling to know how folks used to do things and how hard they worked, and it's stimulating to retrieve some insight into what they thought was important in their lives and important for the life of the city…

Anyway, last week our esteemed columnist, Jason Rehm, dug up microfilm of the Bethlehem Globe newspaper from 1908 to get a quick take on how the denizens of our proud city did their duty on the 4th when Theodore Roosevelt was president.

Lots of community events, church-going, speeches, rattling good excitement for kids and grownups alike, parades, celebratory shooting of cannons and sidearms, the whole works…and, of course, the newspaper's prudent advisories on not throwing the M-80s under horses and, oh yeah, this one:

"Don't give revolvers to youngsters."

That last item still rings true….



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Trust TV news?....yeah, right….


I'm trying to avoid kicking the dead horse here….

The Gallup polling organization interviewed 1,004 Americans in early June, and discovered that "confidence" in TV news is at an all-time low.

Conservatives, moderates and liberals apparently are agreed on at least this point: only about 21% of each group are willing to say that they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in TV news. In other words, most of us don't trust the news on TV. I didn't hear anyone yell "Surprise!"

Ladies and gentlemen, that's 1 out of 5 who rely on TV news….who are these people? What do they think they know about TV news that the other 79% of us don't seem to know?

Here's my view, and, by the way, full disclosure: I stopped watching television completely—network, cable, History Channel, everything—on February 25, 2009.



TV news has become "entertainment" that doesn't require the fullness of truth.

TV news in some cases—I hesitate for reasons of personal decency to mention Fox News as one but not the only example—is deliberately biased to support a partisan point of view that is boosted by powerful and wealthy people who most certainly don't have my best interests in mind…..

TV news feebly ignores substantial topics that have important and dangerous implications, short term and long term, for our personal and collective lives….each of us can readily think of examples.

Bottom line: the most widely accessible news medium in America is mistrusted and disdained by most Americans.

I wish Gallup had also asked: "Why are you still watching news on TV?"

Media and horse races...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The wisdom of Douglas Noel Adams (part 2)


"…and hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,…"
Douglas Noel Adams (1952-2001)
English writer, humorist


I really couldn't resist posting this scrumptious little bit from Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, it really works for just about any occasion, formal or informal, public or private, fully clothed or otherwise….I invite you to think about being drangled, hooptiously or otherwise, you just can't do it without a smile coming into blossom…..



Anyway, Adams' proposed punishment for those who wantonly fail to hooptiously drangle is:
"…or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don't.”

So start drangling, I'll be watching you.
See if I don't...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Political polls…good, bad and ugly….


TheHill.com has released yet another poll with this headline:

"Majority feel Obama has changed country for worse."

For one thing, I wish pollsters would stop doing this kind of thing. To ask "Has President Obama changed America for better or for worse?" of course is technically possibly, and there's nothing wrong, grammatically or logically, with the question. And of course, you will get a result, umpty-ump percent say "better" and bippity-boop percent say "worse."


But here's the rub: the responses are mostly meaningless. The question essentially requires that each respondent, instantaneously, without aforethought, must construct a personally relevant timeframe and a comparative frame of reference for her top-of-mind answer. In other words, every respondent is more or less answering a different question.



When TheHill.com says, based on its July 5 poll, that 56% of "likely voters" think that President Obama has "changed America for the worse," we can agree that 56% of voters actually said that, but we can't agree on what they meant when they said it. To figure out what they meant, you'd have to write a book. These highly generalized "tracking questions" make for dandy headlines, but they don't generate good data.

And by the way, it's more or less standard for pollsters to refuse to disclose how they qualified "likely voters" in their survey. You don't know how TheHill defined "likely voters," and maybe you'd agree with their method, and maybe you wouldn't….in any event, "likely voters" don't vote in November, only actual voters will vote in November.

And also by the way, here's a little gotcha for TheHill.com: I did consumer marketing and opinion polling for 30 years in my profession. Choosing July 5 to do a one-day sample of 1,000 people is goofy -- too many people not in the places they usually are (e.g., on vacation), doing things they don't usually do, with or without phones nearby….in other words, too many people not accessible in the usual circumstances to answer questions from the telephone interviewer. No matter how Pulse Opinion Research weighted the sample for TheHill.com's survey, they didn't get a representative group of Americans for this poll. They got some dandy headlines, but they didn't get good data.

And finally, by the way, I'm very disheartened to read this result from the same poll by TheHill: younger voters, ages 18-39, are less likely than older voters to believe that the choice between Obama and Romney is "very important" for the future of the country. If this truly represents the current mindset of younger voters, it's seriously a disaster for them and for everyone. I'm not a young voter, but I know that young voters are going to be dealing with the consequences of our current political choices for a long time, and long after I'm gone. They should be stepping up to take a much more active role in shaping the future they're going to have to live in.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The wisdom of Douglas Noel Adams


“It's no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase 'As pretty as an airport' appear.”

Douglas Noel Adams (1952-2001)
English writer, humorist

Adams is a guy I never heard of before. Not a first time event for me.
So, if you never heard of him before, now suddenly we both know that the guy has a wit. Pass it on.

Not much more to say.
Have a nice day.



The wit of George Carlin

The wisdom of George Burns









Saturday, July 7, 2012

Did they really think?...(part 5)


Did they really think they were serving the best interests of Duke Energy Corp. and the Duke shareholders?

I'm talking about Duke's board of directors. On July 3 the board announced that William Johnson had resigned as CEO of Duke. Johnson will get a severance package worth an estimated $44 million. You might be tempted to say "that's revolting, but not that unusual, boards and CEOs seem to be piling on tens of millions in the pay packages every day of the week…."


But wait a minute: Johnson signed his three-year contract on June 27, less than a week before his departure. His contract was effective July 1, and he only "worked" one day. Let’s call it as it is: Johnson didn't resign, he was fired.





Formerly Johnson was CEO of Progress Energy Inc., which was acquired by Duke in a deal announced in January 2011. At that time it was announced that Johnson would take over as CEO of the new merged company. So the Duke board has had 18 months to get to know Johnson a little better, and it seems that they finally decided they didn't want him to be CEO.

For Duke shareholders, it’s been a tough week. On Monday July 2, the stock closed at $69.84. After the announcement about the Johnson debacle, the stock price has dropped more than 5 per cent this week, closing after hours on July 6 at $66.23. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said it might cut Duke's credit rating in the wake of the funny business with who's running the show at Duke.

It's really not very funny.

Apparently the Duke directors thought they weren't doing anything wrong…..
Wrong.

Did they really think?.....(part 4)


Did they really think?.....(part 3)










Friday, July 6, 2012

The wisdom of Leonardo da Vinci


"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)






We should remember that elegance is most robust when there is not too much of it.






Thursday, July 5, 2012

The wisdom of Plato

"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics
      is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."

Plato (c. 424-348 BCE)

I wonder how Plato would say it if he were alive today?

I suspect he wouldn't quite understand why so many people don't vote.

Down under, Australians who don't vote pay a $20 penalty. Voter turnout in Australia is usually about 95%. One hopes that Australia is filled with people who vote intelligently.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The wisdom of Donald McGannon

"Leadership is action, not position."

Donald H. McGannon (1920-1984)
Westinghouse television executive


Or, try saying it this way: Leadership is empowered by respect, not authority.

Or, try being a leader who delegates intelligently, and communicates respectfully.

Try your own definition of leadership with some special sauce on it, as long as you don't have to make reference to a corner office somewhere….






Monday, July 2, 2012

The wisdom of Dear Abby

"If you want your children to turn out well,
    spend twice as much time with them and half as much money."
Pauline Phillips (b. 1918)

You probably know Pauline (Friedman) Phillips as Abigail Van Buren, or more likely, as Dear Abby. She started the popular advice column in 1956. Her daughter, Jeanne, continues writing the column today.

I think Dear Abby beats Dr. Spock in the advice-on-how-to-raise-your-children area. I don't presume I could say what she said any better.

I will just add this reminder: put the Xbox controller and the hand held video game and the child cell phone on top of the refrigerator or in the garage or somewhere else where they're out of sight. Try doing it for a while every day. And tell your kids that electronics are turned off at meal times, and are verboten in restaurants.

See how that works out.


Another thought on raising kids

The wisdom of George Bernard Shaw (part 3)


"The liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed,
            but that he cannot believe anyone else."
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature


This may be a distinctly Shavian point of view…it never occurred to me....

I think what makes this comment so remarkably old-fashioned is the assumption that your typical liar gives a rat's bandanna about the personal impact of his mendacity.

Perhaps liars had more character in days gone by…



Shaw speaks again

...and again



Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lay down, Sally...


Eric Clapton (b. 1945)

Rolling Stone called him the 2nd greatest guitarist of all time. And he had a deft touch with lyrics, as in:

    
     Lay down, Sally, and rest you in my arms.
     Don't you think you want someone to talk to?
     Lay down, Sally, no need to leave so soon.
     I've been trying all night long just to talk to you.


Watch this 1988 performance in San Francisco, with Clapton and Mark Knopfler doing the guitar work, groovin', laughing quietly, just from the pleasure of it…



This is a dreamy, luscious version of "Lay Down, Sally." I love it, I've shared it with a few friends. I realize that the reason I don't know much about Eric Clapton is not that I never liked his music, it's just that I never listened to him before. That's going to change now.

In this YouTube world, there are lots of versions of "Lay Down, Sally" out there…

If you can listen to this one without feeling wistful, and without feeling like you wouldn't want to love Sally unless she loved you back, and without actually throbbing with Clapton's lilting mojo, then I can't really talk to you anymore.