Sunday, June 30, 2013

The wisdom of the Cherokees (part 17)

"The sweetness of a child can cause a tenderness to come in the hardest heart."
The wisdom of the Sequichie of the Cherokees

Let it be.

See the world as the child sees it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The wisdom of the Cherokees (part 16)

"Gentleness has amazing strength."
The wisdom of the Sequichie of the Cherokees

Oh yeah, I almost forgot:  Speak softly.

If you're blustering, odds are you're not leading, and you're probably not convincing anyone, either.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The wisdom of Leo Tolstoy (part 2)

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time."

Take your time, think about it.

Sometimes saying "I'm gonna live longer than this problem will exist" can set up a good frame of reference for you….


Try chewing each bite 100 times…..

I think if a fast food menu item weighs more than your shoes, there's a good chance you shouldn't put it in your mouth.

You keep hearing the bad news about obesity.

At Kentucky Fried Chicken, the 10-piece bag of Original Recipe Chicken Bites -- 1,300 calories. 

At McDonald's , the Big Breakfast with syrup and margarine -- 1,350 calories.

At Wendy's, try Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy, the  3/4 lb. triple patty with cheese -- 1,120 calories.

Roughly speaking, the USDA says the average sedentary American in his or her 40s needs about 1,800 calories (ladies) per day, or 2,300 calories (gents) per day.

And about 80% of Americans don't get the minimum recommended exercise, so "sedentary" describes most folks.

So it's not too hard to figure out that getting more than half of your daily recommended calories from one menu item at your favorite fast food joint is an easy way keep the pounds on.

Mayor Bloomberg was on the right track when he tried to outlaw the 128-ounce Big Super Mega Giant Gulp drinks….

I think if a menu item weighs more than your shoes, there's a good chance you shouldn't put it in your mouth.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Social networking: old as the hills

A piece in the June 23 Sunday New York Times Review section caught my eye, but it turned out to be superficial, mostly a waste of time.

Tom Standage, the digital editor at The Economist, unloaded some of the points he makes in his new book, Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years.

I beg to suggest that social media as we know them now just aren't that old.

I'm no Luddite, and I'm not an early adopter of current social media, I have a Facebook page but only 11 Facebook friends and I'm not looking for more. I have a cell phone and I send a text message now and then.

I happen to like social networking, but I do it the old-fashioned way: face to face, with spoken words and facial expressions and hand gestures. You know, like they did before the Great War….

Frankly, I don't think we've had social media for the last 2,000 years. Standage used up his column inches in the Times with three cheers for the English coffee houses which sprang up in Oxford and London in the 1650s. I'm happy to agree that the gentlemen who patronized the coffee houses were doing socializing and social networking, but a coffee house is not a good example of social media.

I go so far as to suggest that each and every aspect of the use of social media is not necessarily social networking, at least not in the human biological sense. I go so far as to suggest that each and every aspect of communication is not necessarily social networking.

Let's stop blandly and blindly labeling all use of electronic media and iconic gear like iPads and iPhones as social networking. For instance, posting a Facebook picture of your cat eating ice cream is not the highest form of social networking.

I'd like to argue the point that personal human contact is essential for social networking that has traditional meaning in the context of the dynamic human communication that's been going on for a lot longer than the last 2,000 years.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Don't give 'til it hurts.

"Don't give 'til it hurts."
It seems like that's what wealthy Americans—let's say your average wealthy Americans—tend to say to themselves when they haul out the checkbook to do the charity thing.

The poorest Americans are almost 3 times more generous than the wealthiest Americans in their donations to charitable causes and organizations.

Here's an excerpt from a recent report on

"One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns."

And the folks who write the very biggest checks, the ones with six zeroes, generally aren't helping the poor.

The Atlantic says: "Last year, not one of the top 50 individual charitable gifts went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed."

Everyone is entitled to be generous as much, or as little, and how, he chooses. Absolutely.

But let's just be harshly candid: writing a big check and putting your name on the new wing of the art museum isn't the moral equivalent of feeding hungry orphans or buying books for poor kids or sponsoring a sports league for disadvantaged youths.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Memo to Congress: What?

Memo to Congress: What?

As in:

What are you thinking?
What are you doing?
What is stopping you from doing your real job?

Members of both parties in both houses are endlessly skewering each other and just about everybody else from President Obama on down, focused on the politically-charged subjects of NSA "snooping," immigration and citizenship for immigrants, abortion, the hopelessly boondoggled  special-interest nightmare loosely called the "farm bill," you can add to the list….

What Congress isn't doing is working on the two primary national concerns: boosting growth in our national economy and helping to create jobs for millions of Americans who want to work.

I think more or less everybody knows that economic growth and jobs are what's on the minds of Americans.

Too many people keep voting to re-elect the pols who are playing their political games and pandering to special interests, while the rest of us twist slowly in the wind….

Friday, June 21, 2013

The wisdom of Abraham Lincoln (part 8)

"The things I want to know are in books;
      my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read."

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
16th President of the United States

Now, I ain't got any doubts that this here is pure Lincoln, Old Abe weren't no stickler fer grammer when he was a young man….

Books was a summat scant commoditee then, in those parts where the Railsplitter was livin' in his early years.

So I ain't feeling like there's any reason to think this is anythin' but the whole truth, as a youngish country lawyer in Illinois might have spoken it.

So, you go on, do like me, do honor to Mr. President Lincoln's memory, be a friend and give a friend a book.

Some of the things your friend wants to know are in books.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Enjoy yourself, you're going to live a while longer….

The Center for Disease Control estimates that average life expectancy of Americans has increased by more than 10 years in the last two generations.

That's a stunning gain in longevity, in less than a blink of an eye in geologic time. It's definitely a man-made phenomenon. It's all due to rapid, worldwide improvements in health care, sanitation and nutrition.

The average American born in 1950 had a life expectancy of about 68 years. Folks born in 2010 had a life expectancy of almost 79 years—on average, they'll live a decade longer than their grandparents.

They're probably going to work longer than their grandparents did.

And they're going to use a lot more health care.

And, regrettably, they might save a lot less for their retirement than Grandma and Gramps did.

This is a huge public policy issue….and hardly anybody is talking about it.

Take care of the ones you love….

Be serious, be the Nurse, be gentle….

Put your hand on his neck, so he knows it's OK


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The wisdom of the Cherokees (part 15)

"We don't have to tell everything we think…Subtlety makes someone else think, and that is more important.
           Our tendency is to think that no one understands
                         unless we spell things out for them."

The wisdom of the Sequichie of the Cherokees

I try to avoid being the person who has no unexpressed thoughts.

That's all I'll say.

Over to you.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Don't ask for a reading….

Hey look, stuff happens, right?, I mean, who knew?, y'know?, everything was going along and then, suddenly, it was, like, I don't know….

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The wisdom of Jonathan Safran Foer

"I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts."
American writer

Foer's opinion piece in the June 9 Sunday New York Times really struck some resonant chords for me. He riffed, with feeling, on the theme "How Not To Be Alone." Indeed.

He pointed a finger at "diminished substitutes" in our everyday communication with each other: "Leaving a message on someone's machine is easier than having a phone conversation—you can say what you need to say without a response; hard news is easier to leave; it's easier to check in without becoming entangled. So we began calling when we knew no one would pick up."

More: "Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life."

There are many needs and aspirations that are the work of life, and your own may often take perfectly natural precedence over those of others somewhere….

….but I embrace attention to the needs of those I love and those around me, so I can share in their fulfillment and share in the pleasures of their aspirations….that is good work….

Sweet dreams.

Just one of the ways to get visions of sugar plums dancing in her head….

….or the lion, the witch and the wardrobe….

The camel bookmobile

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sometimes you really need somebody….

Sometimes you really need somebody to listen.

And sometimes you really need somebody to be there for you.

Dogs aren't people.

But, in a pinch, it can be a little hard to tell the difference.

Friday, June 14, 2013

We're cooking the planet (part 10)

Global climate change and planetary warming are real and dangerous.

The folks who choose to disbelieve are going to sweat just as much as the rest of us.

Mayor Bloomberg in New York City just rolled out a $20 billion plan to "prepare for the impacts of a changing climate," and that's just for starters:

“By mid-century, up to a quarter of all New York City’s land area, where 800,000 residents live today, will be in the flood plain,” he said, and “40 miles of our waterfront could see flooding on a regular basis just during normal high tides.” We no longer have the luxury of ideological debate, he said. “The bottom line is we can’t run the risk.”

Folks, we're cooking the planet. The entirety of  believable science says so.

It's the only planet our grandchildren are going to have to live on.

We need to do more, now, to mediate the worsening effects of global climate change.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

We think Congress, well, y'know, sucks….

The Gallup polling organization reports that public confidence in Congress has sunk to an all-time low: in the latest annual survey, only 10% of Americans gave Congress a thumbs up.

This new low doesn't surprise me. Does it surprise you?

The surprise—the great mystery—is that we keep re-electing the folks who are doing such a rotten job, and that so many citizens don't even bother to vote to change the charade that passes for government in 
Washington. Way more than 90% of incumbents get re-elected time after time.

Do you think your Senators and Representative are doing what's right for America and for Americans?

Think again.

[Reminder: 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.]

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The wisdom of Groucho Marx

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."
A boy singer before he was a comedian

Groucho claimed he was born in a room above a butcher shop on 78th Street in New York. Like much of his life, that may have been an exaggeration…

If you never had a chance to watch "You Bet Your Life" when Groucho's show was on TV, here's your chance.

Groucho's celebrity persona allowed him to say whatever he felt like saying, just about all the time, he could really hit the nail on the head….

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Save more for retirement

The Motley Fool carried a shocking report the other day: more than 40% of Americans aren't saving anything for their retirement.

If you're a youngish person still working, there are two warning signs here for you.

If you're not already saving a whole lot more than six bits a week for your retirement, start now—you might live a long time after you stop working, you don't want to be poor.

If you're a youngish person still working, start beating the political bushes for government action to require higher Social Security tax payments from everyone who's working, because all those folks who aren't voluntarily saving for their retirement are going to want some kind of help when they do stop working.

Motley Fool notes that Americans are living longer, and they're not working as long as they did only a generation or two ago:

"The entire concept of retirement is unique to the late-20th century. Before World War II, most Americans worked until they died."

The widespread failure to put aside meaningful personal savings for retirement is a ticking time bomb. It's going to explode in our lifetimes.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fizzle? Don't mention it….

I love words. Can't get enough of 'em. Etymology is a hobby for me.

So here's a lurker for you:  "fizzle"

The editors of the good old Oxford English Dictionary—bless them and all their generations—took the trouble to figure out that "fizzle" originally meant what we now euphemistically describe as flatulence of the SBD variety.

That's "Silent But Deadly" for those of you who may not have spent too much time in the boys' bathroom in junior high….

As early as 1601, "fizzle" was used in a translation of Pliny's Natural History, in the sense of "to break wind without noise," as our relentlessly candid OED editors tell us.

Just sayin'……

Sunday, June 9, 2013

That thing about corporate profits and taxes….

American businesses should pay taxes in America, regardless of their international hiding places for reported profits.

James Surowiecki at recently shed a little more light on the continuing muddle of half-truths that passes for news reporting on U.S. business taxes. Y'all know about that top marginal rate of 35%, right?

Well, here's the scoop, again, for the zillionth time: more or less no American company pays a 35% tax rate, except for the unfortunate owner here and there who never heard of "lawyers."

In the news right now is the report that after-tax corporate profits in the U.S. are a good deal higher than they normally have been, and taxes are getting lower and lower. My buddy Jim says: "In 1951, corporations had to pay almost half of reported profits in taxes. In 1965, they had to pay more than thirty per cent. Today, they pay only around twenty per cent."

In fact, the effective average U.S. corporate tax rate in 2011 was 12.1%, the lowest since World War I—in other words, the lowest real rate in almost 100 years!

So, on average, businesses are paying much less than half of the nominal business tax rate. And, some, notoriously, like Apple Inc., pay hardly any tax on billions of dollars of profits, much of it from foreign operations ("foreign," that's the euphemism for the places where many American jobs have gone).

In fact, Surowiecki notes that a "a study of two hundred and sixty-two [S&P multinational firms] found that, on average, they got forty-six per cent of their earnings from abroad. This is a relatively new phenomenon. As late as 1990, foreign earnings accounted for only a small fraction of corporate profits in the U.S. Today, they account for almost a third of corporate earnings, and they’ve nearly tripled since 2000."

Seems to me that American businesses with operations in the U.S. are using and consuming the domestic services that we all pay for: roadways, water and sewer and electricity, airports, fire and police protection, environmental cleanups, you can add to the list….and don't forget the unfunded pension liabilities that many American corporations have foisted off on the federal government, i.e. you and me.

Business taxes in America should be based on revenues related to their physical operations in America, and the scope of their impact on the environment and their consumption of goods and services.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Movie review: "She" (1935)

She (1935)
Helen Gahagan, Randolph Scott
Directors: Lansing Holden, Irving Pichel
1936 Oscar nomination for Best Dance Direction

If you've read H. Rider Haggard's novel it's hard to like this movie version of "She" with much enthusiasm. The movie venue is a polar wasteland, not Africa. Ayesha (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed) has somewhat mysteriously been alive for only 500 years or so, not for 2,000 years after first stepping into the Flame of Life.

Many of Haggard's plot details are casually bowdlerized in this film, and the film characters are cardboard cutout versions of those in the book. Ayesha is a somewhat pallid control freak, not stunningly imperious. Leo Vincey is a mawkish, comic-book style hero who's turned on by the hot queen, not a sensitive, heroic figure who is overwhelmed by Ayesha's irresistible beauty and power. Horace Holly is just a Hollywood supporting actor, with none of the moral power of Haggard's Holly. And finally, the girl ("Tanya" in the film, "Ustane" in the book) is a dime-novel sweetie in the film, naturally she's in love with Leo -- in the movie she stands up for her man with an outthrust chin once or twice, in the book she faces down the dreaded Ayesha and dies for her loyalty to Leo.

Mostly the movie is disappointing because the director and the writers abandoned any effort to capture the spell-binding mystery of Ayesha's immortality, and the book's pulsing action and sensual seduction of Leo.

For my taste there's just too much 1930s cinematography here: almost every word of dialog is a speech, the scene cuts are clumsy and abrupt, it's much too dark, there's way too much relentless, breathlessly beseeching conversation, too much striding, too much of "take two steps away then stop turn and look back" kind of stuff. And as for the Oscar-nominated "Dance Direction"…..c'mon, you seen one kinky, much too artfully pagan and over-costumed 1930s dance scene with throbbing drums, you seen 'em all….

Ayesha declares "my kingdom is of the imagination" both in the film and in the book. Too bad you need too much imagination to make the film worth watching.