Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Have you ever worked on the 8th floor?


Here are some Fractured Facts about the bad old days in New York City in 1911:

New York City Fire Chief Edward Croker was very up front about it: the ladders on his turn-of-the-century, horse-drawn firefighting vehicles could reach no higher than the 7th floor of the city’s growing number of high-rise buildings.

There were plenty of buildings with more than seven floors. The Woolworth Building, the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1913, had 60 stories.

In 1911 it’s estimated that half of New York’s office and factory workers—about 500,000 men, women and children—spent their work day at the 8th floor or higher.

I wonder how many of them knew that the city’s firefighters had no chance of rescuing them if they got trapped in a burning building?

On March 25, 1911, a fast-moving late afternoon blaze engulfed the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in lower Manhattan, destroying the 8th, 9th and 10th floor work areas. The company had routinely and illegally locked the exit doors to prevent theft and keep employees at their work stations. When the inferno burned out, horrified firemen counted 146 bodies—mostly young immigrant women—at locked exits or on the sidewalks below windows where the desperate victims had jumped to escape the flames.


Here’s part of the printed account by the New York World:
“ . . . screaming men and women and boys and girls crowded out on the many window ledges and threw themselves into the streets far below. They jumped with their clothing ablaze. The hair of some of the girls streamed up aflame as they leaped. Thud after thud sounded on the pavements . . .”


One battalion chief of Engine Company 72 had to order spectators to clear the sidewalks so they wouldn’t be injured by the jumpers.

Chief Croker retired on May 1 of that year.

The owners of Triangle Shirtwaist Company were tried for manslaughter, but a jury acquitted them in less than two hours.

Later, lawsuits resulted in approximately $75 per victim in settlements by the insurance companies.




Have you ever thought that a fire drill at work was a pain in the ass?


Sources:
Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 1492-Present (1980; repr., New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005), 326-27.








Monday, April 28, 2014

The “democracy” thing ain’t working….


What if we held an election, and almost nobody showed up?

In Florida’s 19th Congressional District, voters last Tuesday nominated a Tea Party-endorsed, very wealthy businessman to be the Republican candidate in a special June election for the now-vacant seat in the U.S. House.

The 19th is considered a “safe” Republican district, so the primary winner, Curt Clawson, is more or less a shoo-in to go to Congress.

Just for the moment, ignore the fact that Clawson loaned his own campaign $2.6 million of his money, and much of that was spent on TV ads that dominated Gulf Coast television in recent weeks. In simplest terms, he and outside PACs bought the election.

An equally gruesome fact is that only 26,857 Florida Republicans voted for Clawson in the 4-way primary race—he got about 38% of the vote.

Now, there are roughly 525,000 voting-age adults in the 19th District.

So, the bad news is: about 5% of the voting-age population has chosen Florida’s newest member of Congress.

As far as I know, at no time in our history have we had sustained, full, informed participation in voting by everyone eligible to vote at the time.



The “democracy” thing ain’t working too well.








Sunday, April 27, 2014

Columbus didn’t “discover” America


Yeah, I know what I learned in school, and you know what you learned….

Fact is, though, Columbus never set  foot on the North American mainland—strictly speaking, he didn’t “discover” America.

He “discovered” Cuba, Haiti/Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, other islands in the Caribbean, Central American and South America during his four voyages from Europe in 1492-1504.


Strictly speaking, as far as we know, Ponce de Leon was the first European to put a footstep in the sand on an North American shore, in what we now call Florida, in 1513.

….and, strictly speaking, none of the Spanish conquistadores discovered America.

The First Peoples of  the American hemisphere got there first.

There were tens of millions of Native Americans in the North, Central and South Americas at the time of the first Spanish contact and conquests. In the Viceroyalty of New Spain—including Florida, the American Southwest, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean—an estimated 25 million indigenous people had already created advanced cultures and civilizations. Perhaps there were a similar number in the South American Empire of the Incas before the advent of the Spaniards. Within 100 years, 95% of these original people of America were dead as a result of war and disease.


The Spanish adventurers did not invade an empty wilderness. They conquered and killed millions of the original inhabitants, and took their riches and their land.

Let’s call it as it was.





Source:
Bernard Bailyn, Robert Dallek, David Brion Davis, David Herbert Donald, John  L. Thomas and Gordon S. Wood, The Great Republic: A History of the American People, 4th ed. (Lexington, MA: D. C.  Heath and Company, 1992), vol. 1, 7-14. 












Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014 All rights reserved.



Columbus didn’t “discover” America


Yeah, I know what I learned in school, and you know what you learned….

Fact is, though, Columbus never set  foot on the North American mainland—strictly speaking, he didn’t “discover” America.

He “discovered” Cuba, Haiti/Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, other islands in the Caribbean, Central American and South America during his four voyages from Europe in 1492-1504.


Strictly speaking, as far as we know, Ponce de Leon was the first European to put a footstep in the sand on an North American shore, in what we now call Florida, in 1513.

….and, strictly speaking, none of the Spanish conquistadores discovered America.

The First Peoples of  the American hemisphere got there first.

There were tens of millions of Native Americans in the North, Central and South Americas at the time of the first Spanish contact and conquests. In the Viceroyalty of New Spain—including Florida, the American Southwest, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean—an estimated 25 million indigenous people had already created advanced cultures and civilizations. Perhaps there were a similar number in the South American Empire of the Incas before the advent of the Spaniards. Within 100 years, 95% of these original people of America were dead as a result of war and disease.


The Spanish adventurers did not invade an empty wilderness. They conquered and killed millions of the original inhabitants, and took their riches and their land.

Let’s call it as it was.





Source:
Bernard Bailyn, Robert Dallek, David Brion Davis, David Herbert Donald, John  L. Thomas and Gordon S. Wood, The Great Republic: A History of the American People, 4th ed. (Lexington, MA: D. C.  Heath and Company, 1992), vol. 1, 7-14. 












Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014 All rights reserved.



Saturday, April 26, 2014

Axiom: Larry Ellison is paid too much


I offer this as a fact that makes sense to me:

Larry Ellison is overpaid as CEO of  Oracle Corp., a computer hardware company.

Last year Ellison’s total compensation was $78.4 million.

And by the way, Oracle based his incentive compensation on "non-GAAP pretax profit," which means it's not based on generally accepted accounting principles.

Let’s assume he puts in the equivalent of 60 hours a week. He’s making $25,128 an hour. And we’re not even talking about the future retirement and stock option benefits that he’s accumulating.




I permit myself to believe that, between 8:00 am and 9:00 am next Tuesday, Mr. Ellison isn’t very likely to do anything that’s going to earn a lot more than $25,000 to Oracle.

Heck, the stockholders are paying him roughly $1,256 to use the executive washroom.




Here’s my challenge to Mr. Ellison and Oracle’s board of directors:

Would the highest-paid CEO in America do the same job for a little bit less money?










Friday, April 25, 2014

Sea, hear….


I can hear the ocean.

I sign “ocean” to the deaf child, he stands facing the immortal sea—his first time—he wanders through the surf, in wonder.

I want to tell him about the sound….
….no, many sounds:
muted roar like distant traffic,
a chaos of splashes, the sea bed murmuring,
sometimes not quite silent,
endless, returning rhythm of a great piston,
the chuffing of the gods’ machine....

From any aspect it surrounds, soothes….
a transfixing sound that starts new thoughts but never finishes them,
a garden of sounds, you stand among them and you feel it, somehow you grow.





My rudimentary signing fails me.
“The sound  is wonderful,” I say.
“I see,” he says.





September 15, 2010
Avon, NC, on the Outer Banks


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Movie review: “Dirty Dancing” (1987)


Movie review:  "Dirty Dancing" (1987)
Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey
Director: Emile Ardolino
100 minutes
Oscar for Best Music, Original Song: “The Time Of My Life”



My focus goes deeper than the “ugly duckling/Prince Charming/red hot final dance” story—for me, a couple highlights of the film are Baby’s naiveté, and Baby’s ingenuous embrace of the very hot Johnny, and her eager awareness of her rising woman’s heat….




In 1987 many moviegoers would have been more than slightly discomfited by the matter-of-fact abortion episode, and perhaps nonplussed by Baby’s casual deception to come up with the $250 to pay for it. Wowee. It’s great to help out a friend of a friend and all, but that seems like an unbelievable and baffling stretch for a timorous young girl of Baby’s obvious unworldliness.

On the other hand, Baby’s hormones are ready to pop.

Alone with Johnny, in the prelude to intimacy scene, Baby suddenly opens up: “I’m scared of everything…I’m scared of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.”

That’s a heartbeat. You felt it, too.

I hope you’ve had a moment, an embrace, a volcanic new feeling of desire that you feared you would never feel the rest of your whole life.

I have.

And now I know I didn’t have to be afraid.






Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rich people control Congress


A majority of U.S. Senators, and a majority of the men and women in the House, are millionaires.

The Center for Responsive Politics says it’s the first time in our nation’s history that this has been true.

Why aren’t the 99% voting more non-millionaires into office?



It’s obvious to everyone that Congress hasn’t been doing much lately to protect and enhance the interests of poor and financially disadvantaged folks.....or, for that matter, the middle class.

Are your members of Congress representing your best interests?




Tuesday, April 22, 2014

.…and not a drop to drink….


Recently a foolish young man in Portland, OR, stood within view of a security camera and peed in a reservoir filled with water on its way to Portland residents.

The city is going to dump the water, all 38 million gallons of it. No initial word about how much that water is worth or how much of a hassle it will be to replace it.

Now, here’s the thing: folks who know about stuff like this say that The Boy Who Couldn’t Wait would have to relieve himself at the reservoir just about 167,000 times before he could produce a dangerous level of nitrates (from urea) in the water.


In other words, by any rational analysis, the water was still safe to drink after TBWCW did his thing.

I wonder if any of Portland’s domestic or wild animal population ever gets close enough to the water to pee 
in it?

I hope the city is making sure that birds don’t fly over the reservoirs, because, you know, ….




Monday, April 21, 2014

American companies are stalling our economy….why?


American companies are deliberately stalling the economy.

There really isn’t any other way to interpret the fact that American companies are holding more than $1.6 TRILLION in cash – and that’s not counting the banks and other firms in the financial industry, the total cash hoard is more than $2 TRILLION.



That’s an historic high—it’s a mountain of money the companies just aren’t putting to any good use.

Companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, as well as large and small firms in all industries, are building up more and more cash reserves, says Moody’s Investors Service, and they’re deliberately not investing it in productive ways or returning the money to stockholders.

You know how low current market interest rates are. Think about the interest you’re earning on your checking/savings account, or in your mutual fund money market accounts, or in short-term CDs or Treasury bills. These companies aren’t doing any better with their cash and their short-term cash equivalents.

They’re just sitting on the money, deliberately not using it, instead of spending the cash to stoke their growth and the growth of our regional and national economies.

Are they waiting for the end of President Obama’s second term?

What are they waiting for?





Sunday, April 20, 2014

Another Chinese proverb (part 3)


“The farther backward you can look,
                     the farther forward you are likely to see.”

We are not condemned to repeat history.

Our history is a unique series of events, there’s no re-do.

Anyway, most of our history we don’t know.

Still, think about where you’ve been in your life.

Were you on the path to where you are now?

Of course you were.




Now you’re ready to think about tomorrow.

Are you on the path to where you want to be?

Are you doing what’s at the top of your list?












The art of John Donne


John Donne (1572-1631)
Of the English literati, one of the “metaphysical poets”


Recently I read some of John Donne’s sonnets, frankly, my first serious exposure to the work of this erudite man who churned language through the domain of his own expansive thought, and left a collection that sears one’s sensibilities on first reading….

In this particular instance, some of his sonnets were selected to amplify the rapture of the Stations of the Cross in an Episcopal service on Good Friday.

Some excerpts:

“What if this present were the worlds last night?”   (Sonnet 13)

“I durst not view heaven yesterday . . .”   (Sonnet 19)

“ ‘Twas much, that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.”  (Sonnet 15)

The words of John Donne are somber, lush, impeccably vital language, relentless rhyme, stinging imagery….

I expect I’ll come back to Donne’s sonnets.


(All citations are from the Westmoreland manuscript.)






Saturday, April 19, 2014

“A prominent Republican economist”….wha?


What exactly is “a prominent Republican economist”?

I noticed this descriptive phrase in an obvious “straight news” story in the New York Times, it wasn’t an opinion column.

If the author had meant “a prominent economist who is a Republican,” or “an economist who is a prominent Republican,” or something like that, I guess I’d understand well enough.

But let’s not blandly pretend that it’s OK to politically compartmentalize what a legitimate professional economist does.



If what we think we have—or what we really have—is “Democratic economics” and “Republican economics,” then we don’t really have economics at all.

We just have another way of spinning doctrinaire, partisan politics.

And we already have more than enough of that….












It’s politics, not faith….


The company that opposed the “Obamacare contraceptive mandate” before the U. S. Supreme Court has routinely provided contraceptive drugs to its employees, and has invested in companies that manufacture contraceptives.

Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., is owned by folks who claimed that their religious faith prevents them from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that their employee health coverage must cover federally-approved contraceptives.

Nevertheless, for years the company’s health care plan did cover two specific contraceptive pills (“Plan B” and “Ella”). These drugs were dropped from the Hobby Lobby health plan in 2012 when the company was starting to prepare the court challenge.

And another thing: three months after the anti-Obamacare suit was started, public filings by Hobby Lobby showed that $73 million of its 401(k) employee retirement funds was invested in mutual funds that included ownership of companies that manufacture contraceptive pills, abortion drugs and intrauterine devices.

So the whole Supreme Court gambit isn’t really based on any long-standing, conscientious application of the Hobby Lobby owners’ religious convictions.

It’s just doctrinaire partisan politics.

I don’t think a company has any business telling its employees that they can go in for gall bladder surgery but they can’t practice safe and effective contraception.






Friday, April 18, 2014

Did you loan money to Uncle Sam last year?


About 80% of taxpayers gave interest-free loans to the federal government last year, averaging about $2,742 per household.

That is to say, 4 out of 5 taxpayers paid too much tax during the year, and were entitled to a refund when they filed this year.

WashingtonPost.com says almost $200 billion was overpaid as excess federal taxes to the government last year. Yikes.


Now, at the current historic low level of interest rates, you only lost a few dollars in interest if you overpaid and got an average refund.

But still, for the nation as a whole, taxpayers gave up close to $100 million in lost interest because they didn’t fine-tune their withholding accurately enough.

If you like giving interest-free loans to the government, you know what to do this year….







Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rick Subber's poetry


Chant de mer

A poem about listening to the sound that needs no ear….

This post has been moved to my website:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Some people have too much money (part 6)



A very wealthy man in Shanghai recently bought this Chinese Ming Dynasty “Chicken Cup” at a Sotheby's auction for a little over $36 million.

OK, I get it, it’s his money, I presume he got rich legally, he has a right to spend it as he chooses. I guess he really, really wanted this piece of 550-year-old Chinese porcelain. It’s 3 inches in diameter.



But, I think it’s fair and it’s important to say that some people have too much money. Some people control too much of the world’s wealth, and that means that too much of the world’s wealth isn’t in circulation to enrich and benefit the people of the world.


What this gent paid for a tiny cup would have bought about 78,800 cows for poor villagers in Africa.

Just as an example.

And, by the way, if you need one of these cups to complete your set, now you know what it’s gonna cost you….
….or maybe you just want to buy some cows….

       






Tuesday, April 15, 2014

At the fault line….


Here’s a troubling and baffling headline:

“Republicans Are Quietly Trying to Kill No-Fault Divorce”

Suppose the headline was:

“Republicans Are Quietly Trying to Force People Who Don’t Love Each Other Anymore to Stay Together In Potentially Risky Marriages”

Aren’t both headlines more or less saying the same thing?

Slate.com reported that some Republican-controlled state legislatures and some prominent Republicans like Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are working to force folks in troubled or dysfunctional or dangerous marriages to do marriage counseling and endure arbitrary waiting periods before heading for divorce court. In some cases existing no-fault divorce laws are being directly attacked.


OK, I get it, these Republicans don’t like divorce. But where do they get off trying to impose their philosophical or religious convictions on other people?

Aren’t these the same Republicans who crowd our cable channels with chatter and ads attacking “big government,” “government intrusion in our lives,” “laws that limit our freedom,”….

Aren’t these the same Republicans who oppose “excessive government control” and “mindless bureaucratic tampering” and ….

Why don’t we call these folks on it?


If what they mean is, “we’re in favor of intrusive government controls on other people that satisfy our personal views on morality and good behavior,” why don’t they just say it that way?

I wonder how many divorced folks voted for those Republican legislators and high profile politicians?










Sunday, April 13, 2014

Don’t make your kid go to college


Don’t assume that the college track is the only life path that makes sense for your high school senior.

Try asking your child if she wants to go to college. Try asking your child what kind of career training he’d like to have.

Maybe the answers will surprise you.

Two recent commentaries are worth your time:

Michael Petrilli on Slate.com   lays it on the line:
“Kid, I’m sorry, but you’re just not college material.”

Valerie Strauss on WashingtonPost.com asks this policy question:
“Who should decide who is college material and who isn’t?
  

Obviously, parents and their almost-high-school-graduate kids are the folks who need to do the heavy lifting on this issue.

For starters, parents need to stop insisting that their kids must go to college.

Robert Samuelson of The Washington Post takes the trouble to point out that about 70% of real life jobs don’t require a college degree….http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2012/05/college-for-everyonenope.html
and yet, way more than half of high school graduates go to college (of course, not all of them actually get a degree).

In general, college costs way too much for what you get. If you want some amplification on this point, talk to a recent graduate who’s still looking for a job.

And here’s the thing: not everybody is qualified to be successful in college. Notice, I’m not arguing against the “right” of every kid to go to college, I’m just saying that a lot of college freshmen don’t have the skills and mental horsepower to get passing grades and graduate. For example, last year only 43% of the high school students who took the SATs scored high enough to be successful in the college classroom. http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2013/09/college-isnt-for-everyone.html

Too many college students end their college careers with no degree and lots of student debt, and too many college graduates leave the campus with lots of student debt.

The whole mantra about “every child should go to college” is based on wishful thinking and ignorance or indifference about the real-life certainty that a lot of kids couldn’t possibly succeed on the college campus. Neither their parents nor you and I (i.e., taxpayers) should spend a pile of money to pay for ultimate failure.





As a matter of national policy, let’s decide that every high school graduate should have the opportunity to go on to get suitable training for a job/career that’s compatible with the student’s capabilities and interests.





So somebody can write a column with this headline:
“Kid, good news, you’re gonna get education/training that’s right for you.”



http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/2012/05/college-for-everyonenope.html



Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014 All rights reserved.