OK, I'm slightly picking a nit
here, but just to make a point:
CNN poll reports that "54% of Americans oppose" the Affordable Care
Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
the poll result is just about the opposite, apparently showing a majority
The ACA expands
health care coverage and will require almost all Americans to pay for health
insurance, you know. Or maybe you don't.
paragraph of the story gives this detail: CNN's pollsters say 35% oppose the
health care program "because it's too liberal," and 16% oppose it
"because it's not liberal enough."
says 43% of Americans support ACA. But see, the 16% who reportedly think
"it's not liberal enough" obviously support the whole concept of the
law because they want its impact to be wider and more effective.
two groups and the poll result is that 59% of Americans like the current law or
want it to have more impact.
CNN and its polling organization, ORC International.
not even get into squabbling about why CNN would ask Americans if the health
care law is "too liberal" or "not liberal enough." What
does that mean? How do you define the "liberal" aspects of health care?
How does the other guy define them?
CNN didn't report how many of its poll participants could give any meaningful
confirmation that they understand the details of the ACA.
Americans couldn't save their lives by describing the basic elements and
policies of the law.
majority like it. CNN says so, even if CNN doesn't say so.
no polling organization in America is capable of reaching a true random sample
of persons for any survey, and all polling organizations "massage" their
data to "improve" the results, so all poll results should be viewed as
rough guesses about the truth.
The Oscar for Best Makeup is
icing on the cake, but let's face it, nobody really knows what your basic early
human Cro-Magnon looked like.
My delight in this film has
nothing to do with makeup. The "moment" in Quest For Fire is Naoh (Everett McGill) watching in epiphanic
amazement as a young boy of the Ivaka tribe makes fire with two sticks.
Imagine that all your life you've
been driving a succession of stolen cars that mysteriously stop running after a
while, and you could never figure it out. One day you see a young fella with
his Hyundai at one of those places that have pairs of big shiny machines, each with
an attached hose and nozzle, and this
kid is sticking the nozzle into the recessed pipe over the left rear fender of
his car and….
Suddenly you feel like a Cro-Magnon.
And the movie is heroic in many
ways: tribesmen sacrificing themselves for their fellow early humans, salvation
as a reward for good deeds, a love interest that makes a baby and keeps Mom and
Dad together, staring at the same moon that you and I see….
And the monosyllabic proto-language
is surprisingly easy to decipher, with body language and facial expressions contributing
just as much to understanding as they do today.
Great low-key adventure film, straight,
Do you hate the hassles of check-ins
and security screening at airports? Have you suffered through a messed-up vacation
with cancelled or delayed flights? Do you get bleary-eyed looking for discount ticket
prices on the Internet?
The good old days of coast-to-coast
flights weren't as good as you think they were.
The first New York to Pasadena flight was in 1911. It took 49 days, and along the way, the plane landed (or crashed) 70
Coast-to-coast passenger flights were
inaugurated in 1933. With stops, it took most of the day to get there. The one-way
ticket price in current dollars was about $6,900.
Non-stop flights didn't get started
The first in-flight meal was served
in 1927 (British Airways offered a "luxury sandwich").
And by the way, take a look at old photos
of passengers in a plane: they got dressed up to fly! Gents: coats and ties! Ladies:
nice dress and hat!
I haven't figured out why most people don't bother to vote in a primary
But I think I can estimate what that apathy is worth to the average
About 25 minutes.
I figure the average Joe or Jane in my town can probably get to the
polling place, pull the levers or push the buttons, and get back home in about
There are a lot of things you can do in 25 minutes.
In my town, this year, last week, choosing the next mayor of the city
was one of them.
Not too many people picked that one….
Roughly, 2,700 Democrats picked Candidate X. Candidate X was conservative
Old Guard. Candidate Y was progressive New Blood. There was no Republican
candidate, so Candidate X is a shoo-in come this November.
It's gonna be same old,
Only 18.5% of registered Democrats turned out to vote, X won by only a couple
hundred votes , so about 11% of the city's Democrats picked the next mayor.
In other words, our mayor was chosen by about 5% of the adults who are old
enough to vote.
This is not democracy at work.
Maybe this is one reason...
Some sizeable number of the non-voters must actually care more or less about
how the city is run, especially as it affects them throughout the year.
But they didn't bother to vote…
A foundational assumption of democracy—motivated, participating citizens—is
I waited a decent interval before writing this, so I could
do it without biting through my lower lip.
Maybe you've heard that J. C. Penney, iconic American
retailer, isn't doing so well. Under Ron Johnson, a new CEO, the company's sales
last year dropped 25%, and sales were
down double-digits in the first quarter of this year. The stock price dropped
50% since Johnson took over in late 2011. Johnson's new sales and marketing
strategies bombed, spectacularly.
Johnson resigned a few weeks ago, after less than 18 months
on the job. The three top execs that he recruited also went out the door.
The directors of J. C. Penney spent at least $170 million
just to get Johnson and his marketing troika in the door. That doesn't count
their salaries or good-bye parachutes. A recent story on Bloomberg.net tells it
all, read it here.
Among other goodies, Johnson received $52.7 million in
"restricted" J. C. Penney stock when he was hired in November 2011.
All of those shares vested last year, so I guess it wasn't too restricted….
I won't even get into details about Johnson's salary and going-away
doggy bag of money, or the tens of millions paid to the other gents.
Apologists for sky-high executive pay packages love to claim
that they have to "pay the going rate for top talent." That might make
some sense if they were actually getting top talent.
"This is a story of how just tossing money at
management doesn't guarantee success," commented Steven Hall, an executive
Would Ron Johnson have taken only $25 million in restricted
stock? We'll never know.
First performance August 25, 1953
at the Edinburgh Festival
Mistaken identity is the nuts in
this post-war period piece. There is no actual rollicking involved, but there
is some very English romping going on. The very business-like Sir Claude
Mulhammer thinks that Colby Simpkins is his long-estranged son, and tries to
sneak him into the house as his "confidential clerk" in hopes that
the very eccentric Lady Mulhammer will decide to "adopt" him. Yes,
and it gets wackier and it gets more sobering as multiple parent-child
identities are revealed or hinted at….
I won't spoil the ending. This is
light stuff, mais un divertissement….one sympathizes with most of the
characters because they're, well, needy, and they try to help each other, and
there's no schlock….
The tornado devastation in Oklahoma
is horrible, we mourn those who died and we reach out a helping hand to those who
suffered and had losses.
But, for most us, the "reach out
a helping hand" part is going to be handled by federal disaster relief funds,
in other words, out of the tax dollars we all pay.
I refuse to enjoy the fact that the
two Republican senators from Oklahoma, Senators Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, are between
a rock and a hard place. Both have gushingly denounced federal disaster aid in other
states in the recent past, with complaints about wasted funds and calls to offset
disaster relief with real budget cuts in current operations. Both of them are now
choking on their political dogma as they refine their talking points on how much
Oklahoma needs federal aid, and how the money should be allocated. I guess they've
figured out that trashing federal disaster aid only works well in states that aren't
Here's my view: I think an important advantage of being
part of a bountiful society is that everyone pitches in to help after natural
calamities. The obvious channel is government assistance, and that means your
tax dollars and mine are being spent to help those who got hurt. I support that.
But just for the record, I think any homeowner
or business owner should be required to have sufficient private insurance to
cover the costs of rebuilding after a devastating storm hits. In Oklahoma, tornado
insurance will cost you a chunk, but hurricane insurance will cost about 13
cents a year in Kansas, and flood insurance will cost about the same in the
And while the rebuilding is going on, I also think that the
folks who are handing out the government checks to those homeowners and
business owners should remember to say, from time to time, "you didn't
All of us are chipping in to do the
rebuilding. And everyone should pay a fair share, so that everyone can reasonably
get the benefit when it's needed.
Americans who aren't retired yet say they're going to keep working for
a while….they say 66 is the average age when they plan to clean out the desk
and head for home.
I think that's optimistic. They're probably going to work a little
longer than that, because a lot of folks are getting the idea that Social
Security benefits aren't going to get a whole lot better in their realistically
attainable future, and, anyway, most
folks who are still working only have about one egg in the old retirement account….
The Gallup poll says* that folks who are already retired hung up their track shoes at the average age of 61. In the early 1990s that number was 57, so
part of the reason that retires are getting older, aside from increasing life
expectancy, is that they're waiting longer to punch out.
The whole notion of "retiring" is a relatively new concept.
You only have to look back to the pre-World War II era to see a world in which
the average person basically expected to work until she died, or became too
sick or frail to work anymore.
American society hasn't completely figured out this retirement thing
If you're in your prime, you
really need to think carefully about the current and long term effects of
government policies on your personal future. Congress isn't doing anything that
makes sense right now.
All of us need to take personal responsibility for retirement, and we
have to make sure the government doesn't screw it up..
Folks with too much money are hiring
handicapped folks to get themselves and their kids to the head of the line at popular
attractions in Disney World.
You can buy your own bona fide handicapped
person, in a motorized scooter labeled "Handicapped," to be your "family
member for-a-day" from Dream Tours Florida, for only $130 an hour. Only about
$1,000 for a full day. Here's a New York Post story on it.
Disney allows families with handicapped
members to scoot around the long waiting lines and do the rides without waiting.
OK, let's get this out of the way right now: of course, the IRS
employees in Ohio should not have targeted the Tea Party folks who submitted
applications for tax-exempt status. Wrong on so many levels. Heads should roll.
But here's the thing: one way they did wrong was that they didn't put
every single application under the microscope. After the horrifying Citizens
United court ruling, partisan and obviously political groups all across the spectrum
actually doubled the incoming applications for tax-exempt status all over the
The carelessly zealous IRS folks in Ohio should have been the model for
IRS application reviewers in every state, for every application.
Ruth Marcus had some serous insight on this point in her Wednesday column
on WashingtonPost.com, read it here.
The news media and the cable TV talking hours have spent approximately
zero minutes on taking a deep look at the applications that were actually sent in,
and approved or disapproved, in Ohio. How many of them were bogus, blatantly outside
I don't think I'm going out on a thin limb here when I suspect that way
too many of those Ohio groups who climbed on the bandwagon, seeking tax-exempt status,
were manifestly unqualified to receive it because they intended from the git-go
to get involved illegally in political electioneering.
The IRS flubbed in Ohio, and literally failed to do its job all over the
It's a breathtaking, tantalizing
love story….tantalizing because Vermeer and the maid, Griet, almost embrace
their passion, each stepping over the line without transgression, but not
Vermeer, the worldly one, the
master, tempted to the edge of the precipice…
Griet, the child innocent, heedless
of her woman's heat, trespassing unaware and ever nearer to the mystery that she
barely understands in the beginning….
She feels the lush weight of the earring,
his fingertip sears her skin, she inclines toward his touch, trembles with a disembodied,
virginal start of pain….
Quickly stilled, she sits for him.
He trembles—a long moment—with the rush
of desire, masters it, and steps back to his easel, granting her a little more time
in the childhood she is leaving behind, giving her a peace that will become a bereavement,
a keening memory….
They look at each other, mute, apart
yet bound, in flagrante delicto, withering, without joy….
The Newtown murders of 20 first-graders didn't suddenly go away, but
the story has sort of gone away in the feckless mass media and the cable TV
news shows….the breathless media and the talking heads are endlessly chasing
the next blowout news sensation.
E. J. Dionne, in the Washington Post, has again sagely offered a calm jolt
to our communal sensibilities: his
column last Sunday simply referred to the routine daily toll of gun deaths in
America as "slow-motion mass murder." Read it here.
These are not E. J.'s words, but
they shout out his convictions.
Other than many craven
representatives in Congress, who are the people who have forgotten
Newtown, and given up their passionate revulsion?
Has victory or defeat ever been
your portion in life?
Teddy put life, and himself, in the
Medal of Honor
"The credit belongs to the man
who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly...and…if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither
know victory nor defeat."
Lots of folks have said this in
different ways, but the Bull Moose President puts his personal courageous stamp
on it, think San Juan Hill and "the divil take the hindmost…" ---
Here's TR's complete statement:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how
the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them
better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face
is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who
comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and
shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great
enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at
the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the
worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place
shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor
And here's a confirming anecdote from my trusted personal advisor:
a recent visit to our local state park, I was on my way to the ladies' room, and
the lady from the state park's cleaning service had just finished swamping
it out (and I use that term with specificity). She was standing at her
truck, resupplying her cart to attack the men's room. I said 'Hi!'
and she returned the greeting.
stuck out my hand, saying 'You know, cleaning public
restrooms is usually a thankless job, so let me thank you for your
effort today, I appreciate it.'
looked at me like she'd been pole-axed. Then she shook my hand, saying 'No
one, not even my boss, has ever thanked me. This means a lot to me. You've made
Seems like some folks are schooled to
meanness, or embittered into a permanently nasty condition….it strikes me that the
old farmer is right, again, a person just doesn't get mean all at once, whatever
the creeping causes may be…
I'm going to try to stop my next potentially
mean thought right in its tracks.
I want to stay off the casual, step-by-step
path to meanness, don't want to go there.
At least let's agree on this: some Americans shouldn't be allowed to buy .40
Florida police recently reported
that a 31-year-old man with a BB gun and,
apparently, a real jones for
squirrel meat, did something you and I could have told him not to do, not now,
not ever, it's a No-No, don't even think about it….
Seems Mr. Squirrel Hunter actually
taped a .40 caliber bullet to the end of his BB gun, and, you know, aimed at that
tasty-looking rodent and squeezed the trigger….
….yup, the BB pellet hit the bullet
cartridge, which exploded, causing shrapnel wounds in the man's arms and legs.
Obviously we need a universal
background check on all ammunition buyers, so we could uncover any latent
tendencies to tape bullets to BB guns in pursuit of a squirrel steak.
Animal lovers should get behind
this proposal, too, and I'm sure they're happy to hear that the squirrel is
still on the loose.
If she isn't the "my favorite teacher" that you
remember, well, I hope your favorite was close to her level of sparkle….
She gives lots of believable advice on motivating young
children, the kind of stuff you'd like to believe that teachers say to each
other in the teacher's lunch room.
She remembers a colleague whose mantra was "they don't
pay me to like the kids." Pierson's rebuttal: "kids don't learn from
people they don’t like."
She recalls, with a smile, a youngster who muffed 18 questions
on a 20-question quiz….Pierson marked "+ 2" on the quiz and handed it
She explains to the TED audience: "you know, a 'minus 18'
sucks the life out of you…a 'plus 2' says you ain't all bad…."
This TED talk is so short you'll feel like you want to watch it
again, right now. It's a rousing summons to educators to believe in their
students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.