Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The wisdom of Dear Abby

"Don't frighten the horses."
"Dear Abby" Pauline Friedman Phillips (1918-2013)

Good old Abigail relied on her uniquely common-sense approach to partially resolve the gay rights issue a long time ago.

All the way back in 1975, her popular advice column "Dear Abby" took an early, enlightened view of human sexuality, whether hetero- or otherwise……

Abby told an inquiring letter writer that she didn't care what consenting adults do in their own bedroom, "just as long as they didn't frighten the horses."

I think "Don't frighten the horses" is a pretty good criterion for many of the things we do in public, too.

For instance, I have it on good authority that horses are terrified by extremely exposed boxer shorts.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Big banks: Get off your ass(ets)!

98 per cent of U.S. commercial banking institutions are the so-called "community banks," each with less than $10 billion in assets.

Last Sunday's New York Times said these 5,500 community banks have only 12% of total U.S. banking assets, but they have issued more than half of the banking industry's small business loans.

That means that the really, really big banks, like J.P. Morgan, have 88% of total U.S. banking assets, but they've issued less than half of the existing small business loans.

More proof that the big banks—the ones that are "too big to fail," the ones that we bailed out a few years ago—have thanked America for its generosity by disgracefully limiting their loans to get American businesses back in the game and get Americans working again.

If the big banks wanted to, they could go on a lending spree and jump start our national economy and let the small business "job creators" actually do their thing.

Big American businesses have access to equity markets and cheap corporate bonds to finance their operations.

The big banks need to get off their assets and make more loans to small businesses.

Monday, January 28, 2013

"get started shooting something"…..wrong!

The gun industry wants kids to start shooting guns. Children as young as 8 are the marketing targets.

Why? So these "youth shooters" will buy guns when they reach 18.

The Sunday New York Times revealed that gun manufacturers and non-profit gun advocacy groups (financed by the gun industry) have commissioned extensive marketing research.

It calls for urging young shooters to "help introduce wary youngsters to guns slowly…the point should be to get newcomers started shooting something, with the natural next step being a move toward actual firearms.”

That's my emphasis in the quote. Get them started "shooting something."

Obscene. Disgusting. Dangerous.

My very private fear? That among our gun-owning fellow Americans are some who want to get started shooting somebody.

We have too many guns.

Too many dead people.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The wisdom of the Cherokees (part 2)

"When a rule becomes so binding that it will not allow common sense and honest action to help the people to do the right thing, it is time to make a change…
We need the rules, but wisdom as well."

Wise words from the Cherokees.

I think the "binding rule" they mention could be a law approved by the society, or it could be your own rule, from your own set of values.

For either kind, if the rule "…becomes so binding that it will not allow common sense…," if it doesn't require and encourage honest action by you and your neighbors, then something's gotta go.

If "the" rule no longer makes sense to you, or if "your" rule doesn't make sense to your neighbors, you have a problem, you gotta work on that, you're not living on a desert island…

The best thing to do is the right thing. If you can't define the right thing, time to step back and think about it some more…

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The wisdom of Pythagoras

"Learn to be silent.  Let your quiet mind listen and absorb."
Pythagoras (b. about 570-d. about 494 BC)

Silence is very under-rated.

Ummm…. please turn off all electronic devices.

That's better.

The wisdom of Robert Frost

"Don't ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up."
Robert Frost (1874-1963)
American poet

And this from the man who very famously said:

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall...."

Certainly, Frost meant to be prudent with his advice on fences, y'know, a fence is never an invitation….

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Just one quick squirt!

                      Department Of Signs I'd Like To See  

In a "No Smoking" area:

                          If we see smoke,
              we will assume you are on fire
                 and take appropriate action.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hooray for President Obama's inaugural speech!

I liked it. I watched all of it, it's only 19 minutes. You can click here to watch it.

Here's my take on what President Obama said: let's be a country of people who work hard to succeed, work hard to cooperate with each other for the success of all of us, work hard to succor the truly needy, and work hard to do what's right for the common good and for future generations.

I think that's a wonderful TO DO list, and we sure have a lot of work to do. Of course the president explicitly outlined a generally liberal progressive political view—gee whiz, he got a mandate and all last November, I expected him to do nothing less.

I'm puzzled by the breathlessly critical political celebrities and the chattering personalities on cable news shows and the carping folks in the blogosphere who are claiming that President Obama didn't say anything memorable, no zinger of a one-liner, nothing on the order of "Ask not what your country…"

I guess I'll just have to live with my inability to crave a buzzword approach to political leadership.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

We're cooking the planet… (part 8)

Yesterday President Obama became the first president to explicitly mention "climate change"   in his inaugural address. It's about time.

Four years ago the president referred in passing to our "warming planet." This time he said:

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

Hear, hear!

This planet is the only one our grandchildren are going to be able to live on. Let's clean it up, starting now.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Some people have too much money…(part 2)

Just short and not too sweet.

You may remember watching "Batman" on TV when you were in college, if you're old enough…maybe you've watched the reruns with Adam West, the not too mysterious Caped Crusader, tooling around town in his snazzy Batmobile—the Bat Buggy was originally built for $15,000 on a Lincoln Futura chassis—and maybe you've always wanted to have a jalopy like that one…

Well, a car collector from Phoenix, AZ, is living your dream. He just bought the original Batmobile at auction for $4.62 million.

I say that collector has too much money. Of course, I'm certain he got it legally, he's entitled to do with it whatever he pleases.

If I had that much unneeded cash floating around, I'd think of something different to do with it.

Like, maybe, install 154 traffic lights at those intersections where, you know, everybody knows there should be a light controlling the traffic but there isn't….

Or, heck, maybe I'd buy 462,000 books to distribute to poor kids.

Or, yeah, maybe I would donate all the money to establish more shelters for abused women.

I wonder how many abused women I could help with $4.62 million?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The wisdom of Etta James

"…It must be love!"
Jamesetta Hawkins "Etta James" (1938-2012)
Oh yeah, she sang the blues

She changed her name to Etta James and made history, too bad I never had a chance to hear her sing in person.

It's real hard to not like anything she liked to sing, Etta put all of her mojo into every song, Etta makes your feet dance, Etta rings  your bell, she makes you hurt so good…..if you ever think you've found a bad Etta James cut, please let me know, I'll be glad to take it off your hands…

Anyway, I offer here "Somethin's Got A Hold On Me," here's the lyric from this piece with Etta's stamp all over it:

"Oh, sometimes I get a good feelin', yeah
I get a feelin' that I never never never never had before, no, no
I jus' wanna tell you right now, that I believe,
I really do believe that somethin's got a hold on me, yeah..
Oh! It must be love!
Oh! Somethin's got a hold on me right now, child
Oh! It must be love! lemme tell you now,
I got a feeling, I feel so strange,
Everything about me seems to have changed,
If I skip, I got a brand new walk,
I even sound sweeter when I talk,
I said, Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh!
Hey, yeah, Oh! It must be love!"

Yeah, I think I heard your foot tapping…..

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jon Huntsman, sort of up close…

Yesterday I helped celebrate Benjamin Franklin's birthday in Philadelphia. It was a genteelly respectful affair, but if you're the kind of person of wouldn't mind having the opportunity to give a lusty "Huzzah!" for old Ben, in fact three "Huzzahs," mind you, then you can understand that there were thrill-seekers like me lurking in the crowd at his grave site in Christ Church Burial Ground.

The affair involves some pomp at luncheon: we gave the Benjamin Franklin Founder Bowl to former Utah Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr..

Now, full disclosure, I voted for President Obama a second time last November, so thrill-seeking wasn't my motive in being eager to get a look at Huntsman.

Yet, I'm bound to say, the man repeatedly gives the impression of being a decent human being who has informed and reflective thoughts on the mission and values of America on the complex and dangerous world stage….it seems he would not be comfortable wrapping the chains of political dogma around his body, and dragging them around with loud clanking noises…

That is to say, Huntsman obviously was the odd man out in the Republican debates last year, and I think that's a profoundly complimentary description. When it comes to self-serving bluster and being in thrall to blindly destructive partisan aims, Huntsman apparently has much less to offer than most of our current celebrity Republicans….

Let's not forget about him, at least let's remember that Huntsman may have another point of view worth consideration….

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The wisdom of Gandalf

"First, find a suitable Hobbit."
Gandalf the Grey (b. ?? – d. ??)

Thanks to J. R. R. Tolkien, we have the celebrity leadership guru known to some of his contemporaries as Greyhame or Stormcrow, and known to us as Gandalf the Grey.

Gandalf was a wizard, no doubt about it.

One of his fundamental strategic management principles was very simple:

When you have to solve a big problem, first proceed to find a suitable Hobbit.

There you have it.

You know what to do now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Raise taxes for Hurricane Sandy aid

Hurricane Sandy ate our $60 billion deficit reduction tax hike.

Congress approved a $60 billion aid package to help victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey, and to pay for storm cleanup.

Lots of damage from the storm, lots of people homeless and still hurting….

And by the way, the new higher income tax rates approved a couple weeks ago for the very wealthy will bring in about $60 billion in the first year.

Ergo, the tax deal ain't going to do anything for deficit reduction this year.

It would make more sense, in terms of state and national finance and fiscal responsibility, to impose a special tax to pay for massive hurricane cleanup.

And just for clarity, I support state and federal assistance in cleaning up after horribly destructive storms. I do not support allowing homeowners and businesses to re-build in the path of the next storm, unless they purchase storm insurance that will completely bail them out next time.

Translation: I don't want to help pay for re-building your lovely beachfront vacation home, or your rental property "with ocean view."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The first Kindle….

I know, I know, this is sort of goofy and not really relevant if you think about it for a minute….

It's not really a critique of technology or anything…

It's not even much of a "statement," when you come right down to it…

But…we should make sure this message gets out there somehow:

The Kindle way isn't the only way.

When was the last time a nice lady brought you a Kindle to make you feel better?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

734 people killed by guns since Newtown…

In case you were wondering, at least 734 Americans have died from gunshot wounds since Dec. 14, when a crazy shooter killed 20 first-graders and several adults in Newtown, CT.

That's about 25 people per day.

We have too many guns.

Too many dead people.

The average household in America has more guns than balloons.

We need more balloons, fewer guns.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Kids were shot, so I'm buying a gun." Huh?

Did you rush out to buy a gun after the first-graders were killed in Newtown?

The National Rifle Association has signed up more than 100,000 new members since the kids and teachers were shot and killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14.

Mike Allen on reported that the NRA's goal is to top 5,000,000 members "before this (gun control) debate is over."

The New York Times says   that gun sales have exploded since the Newtown massacre, here's an excerpt:

“If I had 1,000 AR-15s I could sell them in a week,” said Jack Smith, an independent gun dealer in Des Moines, referring to the popular style of semiautomatic rifle that drew national attention after Adam Lanza used one to kill 20 children and 6 adults at a Newtown school. “When I close, they beat on the glass to be let in,” Mr. Smith said of his customers. “They’ll wave money at me.”
"Mr. Smith said many people were stocking up on high-capacity magazines in anticipation that they might be banned. Two weeks ago, he said, a 30-round rifle magazine was $12, but it now fetches $60. Popular online retailers were out of many 20- and 30-round rifle magazines."

I do not understand the reactions of these Americans who rush to buy guns after the murders of 20 first-graders in Newtown, CT.

I don't respect what they're doing, but I respect the fact that what they're doing is legal. For now, at least.

My reaction was different.

My reaction included tears, and horror, and desperate fear that it's too easy for the next crazed killer to get big guns and do it again.

It's time to outlaw sales of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and it's time to make high-capacity magazines illegal.

We have too many guns in America.

Too many dead people.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The wisdom of Sam Rayburn

"No one has a finer command of language
            than the person who keeps his mouth shut."

Samuel Taliaferro "Sam" Rayburn (1882-1961)
Democrat from Texas
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for 17 years

Wow. Sublime on so many levels.
I'm going to take Sam's advice and stop here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Color me "hot"!

It's been so hot Down Under during the last four months that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has added a new color to its official weather maps—for temperatures in the 122-129 degree range.

Yup, according to, if you're watching the weather report on TV in Eucla, Western Australia, you might see a purple splotch on the map where you live.

Purple now means "Crikey, it's hot!"

The all-time recorded high temperature in Australia is 123 degrees, set in 1960. Don't bet it's going to stand too much longer….

And by the way, also reports that in the U.S., last July was the hottest month on record, and 2012 was the hottest year since we started keeping records.

We're cooking the planet, folks, we need to start seriously doing something to slow down global warming because it's the only planet our grandchildren are going to have to live on.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Waiting for the perp walk…

Bank of America is going to pay more than $10 billion in fines for criminal shenanigans with mortgage loans that helped to create the financial meltdown that hit our country 5 years ago.

Let's be fair and clear: this particular penalty is for unconscionably bad loans issued by now-defunct Countrywide Financial, before it was acquired by Bank of America in 2008.

But the disgusting miscarriage of justice remains: none of the folks who so profitably did the illegal stuff is going to jail. I'm waiting for the perp walk…

There hasn't been any jail time for nearly all of the folks who made so much money in ways that robbed so much money and so much security and so much peace of mind from so many Americans.

Why aren't the directors and shareholders of Bank of America outraged?

Why is Fannie Mae calmly accepting the $10 billion fine and claiming that justice has been done?




The BP perps?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Gun control…..a new approach

Now, who can object to this idea?

I'll bet quite a few teachers would volunteer to do background checks on folks on want to buy guns.

We love our kids too much....

p.s. a kindred spirit has proposed "a teacher AND a mother in every gun store," now that would be real firepower in defense of the right thing....

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Decadent's killing us

George Will and I are not foxhole buddies.

We're not even political or philosophical buddies.

So when George says something I agree with, it's a wake-up for me.

In his January 2 column in the Washington Post, he says, rightly enough, that our American way of life "cannot be funded [simply] by taxing 'the rich'," and he blames Republicans and Democrats who are "ardent in embracing decadent democracy."

That's an all-too-accurate buzzword: "decadent democracy" refers to the failure -- no, the inability -- of our elected representatives to impose taxes and fees – that covers everything, income taxes, carbon and other energy taxes, environmental taxes --  that will appropriately pay for all the government goods and services and safety that we all want.

We all need to pay more taxes now, we need to impose a carbon tax, we need to force individuals and businesses to pay the full economic cost of the goods and services that they consume and produce...

...another take...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Schools are for kids, not guns

The first graders in Newtown, CT, are back in their classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School, getting started on the new year.

That is, the kids who are still alive are back in their classrooms, getting started on the new year….

What have you done to actively support new gun control legislation?

Send a letter to the kids at Sandy Hook and let them know.

Maybe it will help them to feel a little better about their future.

...just too many guns...

Sandy Hook Elementary School
12 Dickinson Drive
Sandy Hook, CT 06482

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The wisdom of Herbert Hoover

"Wisdom consists not so much
                   in knowing what to do in the ultimate
                                          as knowing what to do next."
Herbert Hoover (1874-1964)
31st President of the United States

You know what to do next.

Do the right thing.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Take 535 monkeys, give 'em enough time and…..

What was that sound?

Was that a House of Representatives I heard voting Tuesday night, actually voting on a bill that's good for America? 

When it comes to high-quality, conscientious, patriotic, intelligent, effective, well-informed and non-partisan work by elected representatives, I guess a little something is better than nothing....

But not much better.

All the members of the House and Senate should be ashamed of what they've done--and not done--in the last few weeks.

Climb every mountain….

Well, let's just stick with Mt. Everest for right now…

I read that roughly 600 people climbed to the peak of Mt. Everest last year.


Scaling Mt. Everest is not on my bucket list.

It's dangerous. Almost 235 climbers have died on Everest since 1922, and somewhat fewer than 200 bodies are still on the mountain. Yowie.

Since Sir Edmund Hillary and others climbed it first in 1953, more than 3,750 people have made it to the top.

Not only is it dangerous, it's expensive. For instance, RMI Expeditions will supply the guides and equipment you need for about $59,000. You supply the guts, and you also have to bring your own teddy bear for comfort when you're sleeping in your hammock, pinned to the side of the mountain at 18,000 feet…..

See, that's one of the parts I just don't get….you wanna tie me in a nylon hammock and stake me to the side of Mt. Everest for the whole night, first you gotta promise me front row seats at an Eric Clapton concert and also come up with about a mile-and-a-half of better reasons than I already thought of…..

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The wisdom of Rainer Maria Rilke (part 2)

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

Bohemian-Austrian poet

It occurs to me that this is not the traditional "Happy New Year" wish…it's an invitation to face the new, the unexperienced, and maybe we should say "face up to" the new, the unexperienced…

If you don't expect new moments and new patterns and new checkpoints and new thresholds and newly opened doors in your life in the year ahead, I think you should think again…

Get going on 2013!