Saturday, April 30, 2016

Truth on the campaign trail

Objectivity isn’t what we get too much of in the stump speeches or in the news coverage about this year’s almost unfathomably foreboding politicking in the presidential campaign.

Here’s a clear note from Nicholas Kristof of The New York times about PolitiFact, the Tampa Bay Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking enterprise:

Hillary Clinton is telling the truth in her campaign statements, and the other principal candidates aren’t. Plain and simple.

PolitiFact says 95 percent of the Clinton statements it has reviewed are true or mostly true.

For Bernie Sanders, the number is 46 percent. Half of what he says really isn’t true.

On the GOP side, the numbers are: Kasich, 33 percent; Cruz, 23 percent, and Trump, 12 percent.

Put it in round numbers: 9 out of 10 times, what Trump says isn’t true.

If this were the main lineup in another country’s election, what would you be thinking?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The “Bill of Rights” wasn’t

The “Bill of Rights” wasn’t “The Bill of Rights” in the 1790s when it was first proposed.

Simply, no one called it “The Bill of Rights” then, not officially, not in print, not in the often contentious debate that preceded its adoption in 1791, three years after the Constitution was ratified.
Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, described “certain articles in addition and amendment of the Constitution of the United States” when he sent out to the states the list of 10 amendments that had been approved.

The first 10 Amendments

In fact, 12 amendments had been drafted to satisfy the concerns of the Anti-Federalists, who had opposed the ratification of the Constitution itself because they resisted the creation of a federal government with centralized power.

It’s not well known that the original Article 12 of the first batch was finally ratified as the 27th Amendment in 1992. It states: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

The original Article 1 has never been ratified. It proposed that members of the U. S. House of Representatives should not represent more than 50,000 persons per congressional district. In the first Congress formed after the Constitution was adopted, each congressman represented about 30,000 people. Today, U. S. representatives are elected from districts containing roughly 730,000 people—if the 50,000 limit were in effect, there would be almost 6,400 seats in the House.

Don’t even think about it.

See Pauline Maier’s books on the U. S. Constitution

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 25, 2016

This dog don’t hunt

The Republicans in Congress are still flogging away at the Affordable Care Act (OK, OK, “Obamacare”), but that dog don’t hunt no more.

Republicans in the House have voted—what? 163 times or something like that--to repeal Obamacare….campaign talking points, and nothing else.
The New York Times talked straight a few days ago in an editorial that diced up “…the big myths they are peddling…”

Here’s the short version:

According to the Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Americans dropped by 10 million between 2010, when the law passed, and 2014. While critics said employers might stop offer­ing health insurance because of the law, three million people gained coverage through their employers between 2010 and 2014.

A 2015 study using data from the Current Population Survey found that the law “had virtually no adverse ef­fect on labor force participation, employment or usual hours worked per week through 2014.

…the biggest obstacle stopping insurers from setting up in more states is not regula­tion; it’s the difficulty of establishing a net­work of providers in a new market. And such a structure would destroy the longstanding ability of states to regulate health insurance for their populations.”

The Republicans have proposed nothing to replace Obamacare.

Obamacare has done a lot of good so far, and we have a long way to go in making our American health care system more effective and less costly.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Who did it?

The latest news about the Volkswagen emissions violations is that the German carmaker will take a $18.2 billion charge against its 2015 financial accounts to cover payments to aggrieved Volkswagen owners. That’s BILLION--$18,200,000,000.

The company will post a 2015 loss of about $6 billion.

You know this story: unscrupulous lawbreakers on the Volkswagen payroll deliberately rigged their diesel cars to conform with emissions requirements while the tests were being conducted, and then run fast and dirty when they were on the road.

The disgraced CEO of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, stepped down last year. There was talk that he would get a severance package of almost $70 million.

Millions and billions worth of wrongdoing here. VW owners got the short end of the stick, and VW shareholders are paying for it.

I did a sincere internet search, and I couldn’t find any story about any other Volkswagen employee who has been fired or prosecuted or sent to jail.

There are quite a few people who did wrong stuff here—are any of them going to be held responsible?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

I dip one toe....

Worlds, whirling, waiting….

I whirl and stretch to the horizon….

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Friday, April 22, 2016

It’s official, again.

The arrival of European explorers and colonists in the Americas in the 16th century caused the devastating collapse of the indigenous populations—tens of millions of people died within a generation or two.

A comparison of ancient and modern DNA starkly shows that “none of the genetic lineages we found in almost 100 ancient humans were present, or showed evidence of descendants, in today’s Indigenous populations,” according to the lead author of the study published recently.

Basically, the ancient lineages in North and South America “went extinct with the arrival of Spanish [and other] colonists.”

The study of DNA from 92 pre-Columbian skeletons and from living residents of both continents was conducted by the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.

No one knows for sure how many indigenous peoples were alive in North and South America in 1492, but the estimates run up to 100 million. Almost all of those people died—mostly as a result of disease—during the decades following the first voyage of Columbus.

Cahokia c. 1250

p.s. The DNA study also confirmed that the first Americans arrived on the North Pacific coast about 16,000 years ago. They quickly spread and prospered throughout both continents in less than 1,500 years. These First Peoples created several sophisticated civilizations. For example, in the 13th century, a Mississippi River “mound” culture had its center at Cahokia, a city that was bigger than Paris at the time.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

World domination, circa 1914

“World domination” is a concept we don’t mention too often in casual conversation these days, but 100 years ago it was an ordinary frame of reference.

In 1800, at the beginning of the 19th century, European powers controlled about one-third of the world’s land mass. By 1914—before the start of World War I—those Western powers could claim domination of about 84 percent of the planet.

It wasn’t a stretch to acknowledge that “the sun never sets on the British Empire.”

Margaret Macmillan, in The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, says
"Europe's countries dominated much of the earth's surface whether through their formal empires or by informal control of much of the rest through their economic, financial and technological strength. Railways, ports, telegraph cables, steamship lines, factories around the world were built using European know-how and money and were usually run by European companies.”

"The march of knowledge throughout the nineteenth century, in so many fields from geology to politics, had, it was widely assumed, brought much greater rationality in human affairs. The more humans knew, whether about themselves, society, or the natural world, the more they would make decisions based on the facts rather than on emotion.”

As we sadly know now, such self-serving and blithely ignorant claptrap was brutally exposed when the “guns of August” commenced firing in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I did the Boston Marathon again!

OK, well, technically, I didn’t run the race. Those people are technically nuts, but on race day it’s a good kind of crazy, obviously they’re brave and strong, and I didn’t see any runner who looked unhappy.

I was one of the half million people who watched some of the 30,000 runners heading east to Boston. I was about at the halfway marker, so the runners had already floated down about 300 feet from the starting line in Hopkinton (the highest point, about 490 feet above sea level), and some of them probably were starting to think about the killer climb at Chestnut Hill, at Mile 21.

So we were all in the level sweet spot approaching Wellesley, the multitudes cheering and clapping more or less continuously as all those fluorescent green and orange sneakers strode by attached to very fit-looking people of all ages….somewhat strangely, I didn’t see anyone who looked like a teenager (minimum qualifying age is 18), and there were plenty of geezer-ish folks who could run circles around yours truly.

The best moments for me were watching the youngsters in the families thronging the marathon route. Lots of action, lots of colors, lots of noise, lots of chummy policemen and fascinating helicopters….a hectic wonderland for the wee ones….

….and a few of the bolder kids were stretching an arm out into the street, offering a bottle of water to the needy, the kids’ smiling eyes happily sharing brief communion with the heroic eyes of the fabulous grownups who dashed toward them at dangerous speed and leaned down to grab the water and invariably elevated the moment with a “Thank you!” and the regal brushing of fingertips….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hateful people having fun

Now, here’s a picture you might be able to get out of your mind pretty quickly….

Reportedly it’s a photo of Ku Klux Klan members at a carnival in Canon City, CO, in 1928. Just goes to show that Klansmen are human beings, just like you and I….and horribly different….

It’s an obscene photograph.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The drollery of William F. Buckley Jr.

“It’s very hard to stand up carrying the weight of what I know.”

William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008)

If you’re at all familiar with Buckley’s potent command of language, you won’t have any trouble believing he said that.

Certainly, the man was literate and learned.

Too bad he wasted all that talent on being a champion of the rigidly righteous and repeatedly wrong Right Wing of just about everything in American culture and politics in the 1950s and the ‘60s and the ‘70s.

In my youth I was an ardent Buckley acolyte. I had dinner with him once in my college daze.

As I have learned more and more in my life since then, I have come to understand that it wasn’t his knowledge that was a burden to him—it was his blindness to many realities of the human condition.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Whining isn’t a campaign strategy

The Trump and Sanders campaigns recently have started singing a whiner’s song about the byzantine delegate selection process which hasn’t delivered an easy victory to either candidate so far.

The primary slog for delegates has been frustratingly inconclusive so far. All of us, of all political persuasions, can agree on that.

The simple fact is that the surprisingly murky process—almost virtually and remarkably different in every state—is or should be completely transparent to the political operatives staffing all of the presidential campaigns. In brief, there are no surprises here for the pols.

So, nasty public complaints about how the delegates are awarded are so much bellywash. Trump, in particular, should be hooted away from the microphone when he complains that the nomination may be “stolen” from him if he fails to secure a majority of delegates. If you don’t get a majority, you don’t win. It’s not rocket science.

On the point that the delegate selection process is obfuscated beyond all human understanding, I have more sympathy with the whiners.

As explained more fully in the April 10 Sunday New York Times, it’s more or less true that no state permits voters to vote in a primary and literally, directly choose party convention delegates who are committed to vote for their preferred candidate. (Read it here).

Typically, the folks who get the primary votes are the first group of candidate advocates who take part in a multi-stage, state-by-state process for selecting convention delegates. The process is more or less unique in every state.

In plain terms: the typical voter really has no idea who he or she is sending to the party convention to choose a presidential nominee. In some states, it’s distinctly possible that your primary vote helps to select a convention delegate who really doesn’t want your candidate to get the nod.

Is this “fair”?  Make your own call.

Admit this: the process is the 21st century incarnation of the way party insiders have always used the smoke-filled rooms in the back of the hall to keep their political power intact.

See if you can figure out who represents your primary vote at your party’s convention this summer.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, April 15, 2016

It started out as a “bachelor’s” degree….

There’s a plain Jane reason why that four-year sheepskin is called a “bachelor’s degree.”

In the 11th century, the men who went to college for their first degree attained a respectable mastery of knowledge, but it wasn’t enough to set them up for good jobs.

Hence, they were generally unable to support a family, and thus remained bachelors until they went further in their studies.

In common parlance, they earned the “bachelor’s” degree.

Seal of University of Bologna
The first Western university was the University of Bologna in Italy, established in 1088. The University of Paris opened its doors about 60 years later, and the University of Oxford was created in 1167.

1644 sketch of Harvard's first seal

There is some high-toned dispute about the founding date of the first American “university.” Harvard, without a doubt, was established in 1636 as the first “institution of higher learning” in the English colonies. cites Kevin Madigan’s Medieval Christianity in explaining the impact of universities on the development of Western civilization, starting about the mid-point of the Middle Ages.

By the way, the academic powerhouse we think of as a “university” was originally an outgrowth of the medieval guilds, and the name “university” is shorthand for universitas magistrorum et scholarium, that is, a "community of teachers and scholars.”

Sometimes a university is more than that, and sometimes, less. That’s a story for another time.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hatred is now legal in North Carolina

You must have heard about the new North Carolina “bathroom law.”

The law makes hatred legal in North Carolina.

In plain language, it says that transgender people can’t use the public bathroom of their choice. In fact, it says that everyone must use the labeled bathroom that matches their physical sexual organs at birth.

The law can’t be enforced, unless the state assigns 24/7 guards with authority to require all users to drop their pants or lift their skirts for inspection before entering the bathroom.

Enforcement wasn’t the point, of course.

The point was to officially hate transgender people.

I wonder how many transgender people are in the families of North Carolina legislators? I wonder how many folks in North Carolina are playing pickup basketball or having lunch or sharing a carpool with transgender people every day?

Why isn’t every public watchdog news media organization in America pointing at the North Carolina Republicans and laughing?

I think the answer is:  it’s not a laughing matter.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Trump’s charitable giving? Umm, wait a minute….

Donald Trump claims he has given more than $102 million to charity in the past five years. He forgot to mention that none of that money came out of his own pocket. analyzed a 93-page document released by the Trump campaign last year, and noted items like:
 -    Almost $64 million in “conservation easements” on various properties he owns—in other words, “the public” gets a benefit but nobody in particular is being helped
-  About $26 million in “land donated to New York State”
-  $7 million in gifts from the Donald J. Trump Foundation
-  About $6 million from Trump’s golf courses, hotels and clubs—much of this is the value of “free” rounds of golf, think of all the single moms and poor kids who play golf at Trump venues….

Oh yeah, one more thing: WaPo points out that Trump hasn’t contributed a dime to the Trump Foundation since 2008, so none of that $7 million foundation item was Trump money.

In fact, none of the $102 million represents any cash gifts by Trump.

An official of the Trump Organization said Trump has “given generously” from his own pocket, but declined to provide any details.

How much did you give to charity in the last five years?

"Republican establishment"??....definition please

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 11, 2016

It was a joy to see....

“…make no unsettling sound…”

A poem: it was a joy to see what I always see, in a new way….

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Take the next step

A new life beckons, time after time….

I have learned to walk through the open door.

Movin’ on….

I dream a new life….
   my living here is not done,
      but I am going.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

“Mannish Boy”….hold that thought

When McKinley Morganfield was born 103 years ago, nobody knew that he would become “the father of modern Chicago blues.”

That’s because nobody knew he was Muddy Waters. That didn’t come out right away.

Lucky for us, folklorist Alan Lomax “discovered” Muddy Waters in 1941 and made the first recordings of the unshackled voice of the blues that would make such an enduring, personal statement in the fully dimensioned classics like “Rollin’ Stone,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Got My Mojo Workin’” and “Mannish Boy.”

If you’ve never heard Muddy’s voice, listen to him here, singing:
“…I spell mmm, aaa child, nnn
That represents man
No B, O child, Y…”

Waters can make you a believer about the good qualities of a mannish boy, in a Delta blues kind of way.

He was one of the genuine musicians who seriously influenced the likes of Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones—who took their name from the classic Muddy Waters song.

Waters didn’t have to wrap his lips around the microphone to sing his full-throated songs that invoke zest, and longing, and desperately earnest immersion in life, always up to the hilt….

His mojo never stopped working. 

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 4, 2016


The Florence Nightingale story is well known, at least in broad strokes, and her reputation as a doer of good is well deserved.

It seems she also was a poet, perhaps despite herself.

You may know of her path-breaking work in nursing during the Crimean War (1853-56). She was a notable champion of high-quality nursing and medical care. Almost three-quarters of eight British regiments died from disease during a six-month period during the war. Nightingale learned that in peacetime British soldiers had a mortality rate 100 percent higher than that of civilians. Hygiene and sanitation wasn’t the best part of being a Tommy in the 19th century. Some folks in high places didn’t want to hear that particular story.

Nightingale was a prodigious writer, and she broke new ground by working closely with a statistician to prepare an 830-page report on the Army Medical Department for Queen Victoria. She created some graphic representation of data to heighten its clarity and impact for the queen.

Nightingale wrote that her resort to graphic “visualization” was intended to affect “thro’ the Eyes what we fail to convey to the public through their word-proof ears.”

“…word-proof ears” is a deliciously poetic way to describe the tendency of some folks to not hear what is new or not entirely welcome.

I suspect that those who enjoy poetry tend not to have “word-proof ears.”

Sadly, such ears are all too familiar among the attributes of the human condition.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Soda consumption is still dropping

Americans’ consumption of traditional carbonated soft drinks—soda—has dropped about 25 percent in the last 18 years.

That’s good news on the national obesity problem front.

Don’t pop the champagne—average per capita consumption of soda is down to about 41 gallons per person annually. Obviously, that number is a bit higher for all the folks who aren’t babies or toddlers. The average American is drinking 14 ounces of soda per day.

The slide in soda sales is an ongoing concern for the big beverage companies. They’re pushing bottled water and energy drinks to boost their sales revenue.

By the way, sales of energy drinks have risen more than 110 percent in the last 10 years, but consumption of the heavily-caffeinated stuff like Red Bull is less than one gallon per person per year. (An 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull has about 80 milligrams of caffeine, roughly the same as a cup of coffee).

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.