Saturday, October 31, 2015

Stop promoting kids who aren’t ready

Let’s stop promoting students who can’t do work at their grade level.

The latest bad news on education in America is that 4th graders and 8th graders aren’t making the grade in national math testing.

Recent results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that 8th graders got lower math scores than their counterparts did two years ago, and 4th graders showed no improvement.

It’s the first time since 1990 that elementary students didn’t show improvement in the math portion of the test.

Of course we all know that teachers, educators, academics and government officials are furiously squabbling about standardized testing, “teaching to the test” and so on. The federal government recently announced it is backing off in its push to use standard tests as markers of achievement and competency.

I think we can state the problem this way:
We’re promoting 3rd graders who aren’t prepared to do 4th grade math, and likewise for 7th graders.

It’s been a long time since I was in elementary school. I’m pretty sure I remember that it was S.O.P. every year for some kids to be “left behind,” that is, they weren’t promoted to the next grade level because they needed to repeat the grade level they were in. I don’t think that happens nearly often enough today.

Of course I recognize that each student's circumstances should be evaluated individually, and exceptional consideration and assistance should be available as appropriate. A one-size-fits-all approach would be callous and, in some cases, destructive.

As a general policy approach, let’s agree to keep 1st graders in 1st grade until they’re ready and prepared to do 2nd grade work….and, you know, and so on….

I know, I know, some Mommies and Daddies are going to scream and spit that little Johnny can’t be “held back” because he’ll be traumatized and everything.

How do Mommy and Daddy think Johnny feels when he doesn’t understand what Miss Jeppers is talking about, and really can’t do the homework or pass the tests?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Congress isn’t normal

Congress isn’t normal.

Go ahead, follow your own heart in your take on that statement.

Here’s one version:
Just about half of the members of Congress are millionaires.

Most members of Congress are a lot richer than you and me, a lot richer than their constituents, a lot richer than most folks.

Most members of Congress aren’t doing much to represent or improve the best interests of most of the folks who vote for them.

About 95% of incumbents get re-elected.

Go figure.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Friends hold on

It’s OK if your friend weighs 300 pounds and hasn’t learned to talk yet.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The first “Indian” treaty

White Europeans signed the first peace treaty with Native Americans more than 394 years ago, less than six months after the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth harbor.

It was honored for more than 50 years.

The rest, sadly, is American history.

The good ship Mayflower arrived in Cape Cod Bay in November 1620, carrying 101 English settlers. Most of them were Puritan Separatists who had left the Church of England behind when they embarked for North America. (They intended to land at the mouth of the Hudson River in what is now New York, but ocean storms blew them off course).

A few months later Captain Myles Standish and his men made first contact with some of the estimated 5,000 Wampanoag people who inhabited the region. A short time later, their leader, Massasoit, visited the English settlement.

On April 1, 1621, the Pilgrims made a defensive alliance with Massasoit, signing an agreement that neither group would “doe hurt” to the other. This first treaty had a remarkable enforcement provision: if a Wampanoag violated its terms, he would be sent to Plymouth for judgment and punishment by the colonists; if a European broke the law, his case would be handled by the Wampanoags.

I couldn’t readily find any details on any breaches of the treaty and how enforcement was handled in fact.

We can take note that such even-handed, cross-cultural enforcement of treaty provisions was not the norm, and, in fact, our colonial history is filled with examples of treaties that were honored in the breach but not otherwise.

Massasoit and his sachems didn’t know what they were getting into.

Less than 60 years later, disease and warfare had killed most of the Wampanoags.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The art of Jack Myers

Jack Elliott Myers (1941-2009) was a prolific writer who had been Poet Laureate of Texas in 2003.

I knew nothing of his work before I read “Fragment” recently on the A Year Of Being Here website.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Remember when you were little
  …you weren't afraid of anything in life
  because there wasn't any difference
  between everything in life and you?
  Remember how large you felt?”

This offers electrifying clarity of imagination and an invitation to think, suddenly, in focus, about your innermost awareness of self.

That’s a fabulous outcome bubbling out of a few words.

Wish I’d said that.

Note: The curator of A Year of Being Here mentions that the provenance of the poem and the identity of the poet are not explicitly known, but that Myers is the likely author.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

“Mr. Jeppers, send a telegram to San Francisco.”

Before October 1861, it would have been possible for a banker in Salt Lake City to say that, but anybody farther east would have been out of luck.

Just before the start of the Civil War,  telegraph lines connected the East Coast to as far west as western Missouri, and the West Coast could send messages by wire as far east as Salt Lake City. The central plains, essentially what is now Kansas and Colorado, had no poles (no trees!) and no wire.

Congress in 1860 offered a bounty of $40,000 a year to the first company that could connect the East Coast and West Coast telegraph networks. Wire, glass insulators and poles would have to be shipped by horse-drawn wagon from San Francisco to the construction zone.

The Western Union Telegraph Co. took up the challenge and completed the line to create the coast-to-coast communications channel which we have largely taken for granted for the last 154 years. The transcontinental railroad wouldn’t be complete until 1869.

Imagine the reality of 1860. Imagine that your text message to your sweetie on the other side of the country had to be copied out and carried by stagecoach or a horseman through Kansas and Colorado, weather permitting.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Women have the right to vote

As you know, it wasn’t always true in the United States that women were “permitted” to vote.

In 1889, legislators in the Wyoming territory approved a constitution establishing the right of women to vote. Wyoming became the national pioneer in legalizing women’s suffrage in 1890 when it was admitted to the union as the 44th state. (As territories, Wyoming and a couple others allowed women to vote as early as 1869).

The Isle of Man in the Irish Sea gave women who owned property the right to vote in 1881. In 1893 New Zealand became the first country to establish national women’s suffrage.

In America, women were unable to vote in most eastern states until August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified.

So, when you’re thinking about U. S. history, keep in mind that men get all the credit—and all the blame—for the actions of the colonies and the national government for the first three hundred years or so.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Job security at Apple?

Apple is a hugely successful company, but that doesn't necessarily translate to job security for most of its workers.

Here are a couple eye openers:

Apple's annual revenue is about $225 billion, that’s $225,000,000,000.

Apple has about 115,000 full-time employees

That works out to roughly $1.9 million per employee. The company has fantastically leveraged its productivity per employee in becoming a dominant technology leader and maintaining a large share of market.

Of course most Apple employees get a rather small share of that revenue in their paychecks, as is true for almost every company.

Here’s another way to look at it: in most cases, Apple could terminate any single employee without creating any material risk to its gigantic revenue stream. De facto, for most Apple employees, their skills and experience don’t really create any job security.


Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

It’s official and I’m here to help you

Don’t put yourself or your family at risk.

Send your Reese’s cups to me and get some peace of mind.

You can trust me on this one.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Trick-or-Treat for Boomers….


It’s Halloween time.

You’re a Baby Boomer, you like candy, and you still feel young at heart.

Take note.

It's no problem.

If you need to go back to the house for a nap after a while, no problem.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The art of Mary Oliver (part 3)

Mary Oliver (b1935)
American poet—her poetry rings all the little bells

Mary Oliver’s poetry is expansive. She’s in touch with a lot of geography, and she invites readers to think all the way to their horizons.

I’ve taken the time to re-read “The summer day” recently, here’s an excerpt:

“Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
  Tell me, what is it you plan to do
  With your one wild and precious life?”

That, as they say, is a very good question. Just for starters, it’s a marvelous provocation to think deeply about my “wild and precious life,” and to dedicate myself to making sure that it’s at least a little bit of each.

I’m a grandfather….I think I can still do wild.

I’ll ask the kids for a little help.

"The summer day" from Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems 1992.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Working for tips….

Did you know?

The federal minimum wage for restaurant workers and others who receive tips is $2.13 per hour—it’s been stuck at $2.13 for almost 25 years.

The waitress who’s topping off your coffee at 4 am in the nearly empty diner is getting a $17.04 paycheck for her eight-hour shift, guaranteed.

The New York Times says almost 70 percent of tipped workers are women, a very large percentage of them are minorities, and 40 percent of the female workers are mothers.

American restaurants employ about seven percent of American women. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that almost 40 percent of all sexual harassment claims come from restaurant workers.

You knew that waitressing is a tough job.

Bet you didn’t know exactly how tough it is.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Wrong stuff in the world

Sure, I know, I KNOW, the list of wrong stuff in the world is too long to print, too long to deal with in one lifetime.

Here’s one that is second-tier compared to the really horrible stuff, but, so vividly and in such a wacky way, it clarifies the depressing reality that elements of unchanging human nature are what cause much of the wrong stuff in the world.

Since 1977 it’s been illegal to buy or sell rhinoceros horn in the international market. The buying and selling of rhino horn takes place routinely every day in national and international black markets. Poachers who kill rhinos to get the horns make a lot of money.

At more than $27,000 a pound, rhino horn is more valuable than gold or cocaine in the black market.

In mostly Asian cultures—mainly China and Vietnam—rhino horn is a luxury item and it has imputed, nearly magical value in some traditional medicines and some nutjob cure-alls.

Rhino horn is made of keratin—basically, it’s a big ugly toenail on a rhino’s nose. Toenails don’t cure cancer and they don’t boost bedroom performance, have you heard?

Rhetorical question: what are those rhino horn buyers thinking?

Roughly, there are 24,000 rhinos still alive on the planet, mostly in South Africa.

This isn’t going to turn out well for them.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Friday, October 16, 2015

No, no, it's the interview....

OK, guys, remember when you used to hide your purloined copy of Playboy magazine in the trash can behind the garage? And you assumed your parents never found it there….

Keeping in mind that the good old days never were as good as they used to be, it does seem to be true that it was different times and marginally more wholesome times and more civilized sinful pleasures back in 1975 when Playboy sold 5.6 million copies every month.

Now the big news is that Playboy editors and Hugh Hefner Himself have decided to clean up their act a bit and stop plastering fully nude women in the centerfold. Partially nude is going to have to do, lads and lassies, that’s what the reality is. Anyway, you were reading Playboy for the high-class interview, right?

Too much internet porn competition, I presume, is the main reason that Playboy’s current circulation is down around 800,000.

I think I’m tired of talking about this.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ford’s assembly line, 1913 style

Henry Ford didn’t invent the assembly line—it had been used for decades in the meatpacking industry and elsewhere before he made it famous.

Ford did create a first when he converted his entire Model T Ford manufacturing process to the moving, mechanized assembly line in October 1913. Actual production time for a single car was cut from 12.5 hours to six hours in short order, and ultimately was reduced to 93 minutes. Ford’s men working on a single line could build 15 cars every day. More than 15 million were built between 1908 and 1927.

Roughly, the introduction of the assembly line boosted production efficiency by a little more than 700 percent.

Henry Ford got a lot of press (good and bad) in 1914 when he started paying his assembly workers $5 a day, about twice the going rate. He gets a lot of good press now for this “enlightened” move. (p.s. he didn’t do it because he was a nice guy, he did it to reduce staff turnover).

Of course, Ford never passed on most of the cost savings from that huge jump in productivity. I wonder if he ever dreamed for a moment about bumping his workers’ pay to $20 a day?

Another point of interest: one could argue that the advent of the assembly line finally did away with any remaining vestige of handmade craftsmanship that went into the construction of the Model T.

I wonder if the Model Ts that rolled off the line in 1927 were made to the same quality standards that were evident in the 1908 models?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rich people in the hunt for a president

You won’t be shocked—thanks to the Citizens United ruling—to know that 158 families have ponied up half of all the money contributed so far in the presidential primary races.

Most of the 115,226,842 other families in the country haven’t given much of anything yet.

The New York Times says that these 158 families, and the companies they own or control, have written checks for $178 million so far.

These are folks who are trying to buy the next president. Almost 90 percent of them have given money to Republican candidates.

Most of them live in one of nine cities in the U. S., like New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Miami.

I don’t think these folks have a lot of my interests, personal or civic, in mind when they’re boosting the candidate of their choice.

What do you think?

Here’s the potential great equalizer: you and I get one vote in early November next year, just like they do.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sit down before you read this….

Saturday Night Live premiered 40 years ago in October 1975.


Perhaps you were in bliss before you read that, forgetting all the years that piled up since you laughed your ass off watching the newly-hatched antics of Chevy and Belushi and Gilda and Garrett and Jane and Laraine.

They hid nothing from the camera or the viewer. George Carlin was the guest host on the first night. That takes you back, right? Steve Martin hosted the show 14 times. Not enough.

For my taste, no cast and no crew of writers have ever, ever come close to matching the delicately balanced chaos of fun and needlepoint roasting that the original gang cooked up week after week.

Sure, Doug and Wendy Whiner were good, and Church Lady was a snootful, and The Ambiguously Gay Duo broke a few hearts….and the 1975 lineup didn’t have Sarah Palin to fool around with….

But all else fades to black when you savor these words:
"Roseanne Roseannadanna"

Gimme Chevy and Jane and John B. and Gilda and the bunch anytime, even if I’m too old to fall off the couch laughing….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Gotta say it

Yesterday people were killed and wounded on two college campuses.

A freshman at Northern Arizona University killed one fellow student and wounded three others.

One student was killed and another person was wounded at Texas Southern University (THIRD SHOOTING at TSU this week!)

Count ‘em up: 144 school shootings since the disaster at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

That’s just about one shooting on a school campus every week for almost three years.

Nearly all of our state and federal legislators aren’t doing anything to stop it.

We don’t have a Second Amendment problem in America.

We have a gun problem.

We have a killing problem.

We have an apathy problem.

Why aren’t we having an outrage-let’s-really-do-something-about-it problem?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Friday, October 9, 2015

First robbery of a moving train

The Reno Brothers gang

Trains started running in the United States in the 1830s, but it wasn’t until October 6, 1866, that some bad guys named John and Simeon Reno stopped a moving train in Jackson County, Indiana, and grabbed $13,000 before making their getaway. notes that parked trains in depots or rail yards had been robbed before the Reno brothers started “the great train robbery” escapades. Grabbing the cash boxes from moving trains in the middle of nowhere in the American West was profitable for a while, and the robbers piled up a lot of loot.

The railroad companies reacted and put armed guards (and sometimes saddled horses in special box cars) on the trains to squelch the Reno brothers and Jesse James and Butch Cassidy and their ilk. The thrill of shooting up a moving train pretty much wore off after a few decades.

The last attempt to rob a train was carried out on November 24, 1937, by Henry Loftus and Harry Donaldson, who bungled their plan to rob passengers on the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Apache Limited out of El Paso, TX. The youthful desperadoes pulled six-shooters and grabbed some passengers’ watches, and then about 20 passengers attacked them, “punching and kicking them in a frenzy,” and finally tying them in two seats.

No one has made a movie about that robbery yet.


Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The card catalog, so many drawers….

I do remember the first time I figured out how to use the sprawling card catalog in the Woodbury (NJ) Public Library, late 1950s.

Don’t remember how old I was, I guess I was in 7th or 8th grade….the light bulb went on for me, I was creating knowledge with the card catalog on my own, researching references for some homework project.

I felt empowered and I felt liberated, I was questing with my hands and with my mind, with a pencil in my mouth and a wad of index cards….

The memory is high contrast in the gallery of my hodgepodge of recollections, it feels like it was lots better than it is today, but of course it wasn’t.

I get a surge every time I Google search for something and get more interesting hits than I could ever pursue in my remaining span of years.

Verily, the card catalog is ancient history. The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) announced recently that it has stopped printing hard-copy catalog cards for worldwide distribution after a run of more than 100 years. They’re not going to make ‘em like that anymore.

The card catalog wasn’t better than Google, but once upon a time I owned that baby in the Woodbury Public Library.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

First drunk driving arrest

It’s been 118 years since the first arrest for drunk driving.

On September 10, 1897, a young London cab driver named George Smith was driving tipsy when he slammed his taxi into a building. He was fined 25 shillings.

We’ve had a long time to try to deal with the too often fatal consequences of drunk driving. We haven’t made a lot of progress.

Think about in these terms: everybody knows it’s illegal and dangerous to drive drunk, but the structure of enforcement is that cops have to try to catch the offender while he’s actually doing it so the intoxication test can be administered in a timely way that will hold up in court.

Penalties are too light to significantly prevent repeat offenses. More than half of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive with suspended licenses.

I guess it’s true that people have been driving drunk ever since we learned how to ride animals.

I guess it’s a comfort to think that folks who were riding horses drunk never killed anybody else.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Monday, October 5, 2015


The crazy man in Oregon shot and killed nine people at Umpqua Community College, and wounded nine more.

He had 13 guns—pistols, rifles, a shotgun—all purchased legally.

We don’t have a Second Amendment problem in America.

We have a gun problem.

The problem is: if a guy is crazy and he owns  13 guns, he might decide some Thursday morning to take six of them to a community college.

And he might decide to take lots of bullets.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book review: A Thousand Mornings

Book review: A Thousand Mornings
The Penguin Press, New York, 2012
82 pages

Mary Oliver does it again with A Thousand Mornings, a short collection of poetry that offers her signature realism and wholesome, literal evocation of her tasteful and spectacularly insightful reactions to the world around her, and around us.

The reader is never in doubt about what she’s saying—obscurity is not her thing, and disjointed word play and annoying sentence fragments are not her thing. I take instruction from Mary Oliver every time I read her work.

There is calm, quiet joy in her words. She invites the reader to respect stillness. Here’s an excerpt from “Today”

“…But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.”

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"That's not my job."

My long-considered view of “job security” is this:

The purpose of an organization (business or nonprofit) is to do something of value to someone and to persist in doing that. I like the CEO whose notion of “corporate mission” was “We aim to stay in business forever.”

I think a company’s mission should be to successfully (profitably or within non-profit budget) produce something of value, provide it to the customer/patron/beneficiary and do the same thing tomorrow and tomorrow…..thus, for both owners and workers, a meaningful job is going to be there tomorrow, too.

Every member of the organization should know that his/her job is to make the organization successful, first and foremost.

During my career, I always hated it when someone said “That’s not my job.”  The scope of every worker’s responsibilities should be simple and quite broad, including stuff that coworkers do. 

Everyone should understand that the universal task is to make the organization successful in the long run and provide job security for all who want it.

The righteous goal of an organization isn’t to “get bigger” or “make more profit in the next quarter.” 

That’s an unattainable goal, de facto, for all organizations in their collective operations. Moreover, it’s in violation of all the right stuff.

p.s. I frankly admit that the foregoing is my fantasy world. Reality really sucks.

Thanks to my trusted personal advisor for helping me to clarify my views.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Friday, October 2, 2015

There are givers, and keepers

Remember when you were a kid, and you told your mom “When I grow up, I’m going to buy you a great big house!” or something like that?

Or think about the times you’ve said “If I could afford it, I’d donate to the (your favorite charity)”….

Some people have these impulses, and some don’t.

Take Bill Gates. He’s worth more than $81 billion, and during 2008-2013 he gave $7.5 billion to his charitable foundations.

Or Warren Buffett. He’s worth over $68 billion, and during that six-year period he donated more than $8 billion to his personal foundations.

Or take the Waltons—Christy, Jim, Alice and Rob—who are incredibly rich because Sam Walton built Wal-Mart. Each one of the four is worth more than $35 billion, for a combined total of about $145 billion. During 2008-2013, they gave a combined total of $17.5 million (million, not billion) to the Walton family foundation.

The four Waltons gave their favorite charity about twelve-thousandths of one percent of their net worth over a six-year period. The says they use the foundation to minimize their future estate taxes.

What’s your net worth? Not your income, your net worth. Try this: add up the equity in your house and the value of your car, your bank account, your 401k….if your net worth is, say, $200,000, and you give more than $4 a year to your favorite charities, you’re being more generous than the Waltons.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.