Saturday, May 28, 2016

Consider another point of view….

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, has an unconventional and incisive point of view. He offers startling, lucid guidance on matters spiritual, contemplative, intellectual and personal. See his comments here at The Center For Action and Contemplation.

Recently he discussed “Community as Alternative Consciousness.” I’m not competent to summarize it, read it for yourself here if you wish.

Here’s an excerpt:
“For instance, I've never once heard a sermon about the tenth commandment, "You shall not covet your neighbor's goods," because in our culture that's the only game in town. It is called capitalism. The individual is largely helpless and harmless standing against the system.”

Regarding capitalism, this is more a rhetorical statement than a conclusive definition. Nevertheless, he’s dealing with pith.

Here’s my own rhetorical whack at capitalism: not by its classic philosophical design, but in its inescapable effect, it’s a system that reinforces too many inequities and shields too many wrongdoers from accountability. Too many of us don’t fully understand this reality.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, May 27, 2016

“The horror, the horror.”

Trump has enough delegates to get the Republican nomination as the GOP’s nominee for president.

Only about 5 percent of Americans have voted for him so far.

A horror for the Republican Party.

A horror for us all.

Trump is dangerous for America.

Vote for someone else in November.

Vote in November.

Don’t let everybody else pick the next president of the United States.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Poetical thinking….

Poetry does not defy description.

On the other hand, imagining a full description of poetry would take a lot longer than watching “Gone With The Wind.”

So let’s give due respect to this effort to define poetry by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
“The best words in their best order.”

That one jingles the chimes on my back porch, I can tell you.

Coleridge, by the way, is the Romantic poet, one of the so-called Lake Poets, who wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan (“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan…”).

I think poetry is all about selecting exactly those words that say, as precisely as possible, with fully literate specific meaning, what the poet wants to tell.

I wish I’d said what Sam said.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Teaching moments….

My muse awakened me to these morsels:

Another lesson

La fleur blanche, its scent
a gift, so gently teaching
my heart how to give.

Heart burn

You taught me to yearn,
   I was so ready to learn.
Oh! full of you.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016  All rights reserved

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Four people shot dead or wounded—every day

We have too many guns in America.

Last year, there was a single shooting incident that killed or wounded at least four people, on average EVERY DAY.

The New York Times tallied 358 of these shoot-em-ups, with a total of 462 people dead and 1,330 wounded.
“The typical victim was a man between 18 and 30, but more than 1 in 10 were 17 or younger. Less is known about those who pulled the triggers because nearly half of the cases remain unsolved. But of those arrested or identified as suspects, the average age was 27.”

You and I didn’t hear about most of these shootings. Nearly 3 out of 4 victims were black.

Do you think the news coverage would have been different if three quarters of the victims were white?

We have too many guns in America.

Too many dead people.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Baby Boomers—an update

About 2.5 million Baby Boomers are turning 70 this year. They are the leading edge of the roughly 76 million Baby Boomers who were born during 1946-1964. They’re getting older every day.

Even if you’re not a Boomer, you need to care about this cohort. Folks who are 70+ use lots more health care than younger people, and a great many of them collect Social Security benefits.

In fact, Medicare spending and Social Security benefits account for close to 45 percent of federal spending.

We need to raise the Social Security retirement age, and remove the cap on earned income (now $118,500) that’s subject to the Social Security tax.

That’s plain talk.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Is there anything Trump won’t say?

“We’re getting rid of gun-free zones.”
Donald Trump, May 20.

Trump endorsed by National Rifle Association, May 20.

Think about all the places that should be gun-free zones.

Is there anything Trump won’t say?

Trump is dangerous for America.

Vote in November.

Don’t let everyone else pick the next president.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The new bankruptcy

Too many Republican leaders and conservative movers and shakers are holding their noses and admitting they’re going to support Trump for president.

It’s disgusting.

“It’s a pretty simple calculus: Do you want to win or do you want to lose?’ says one Republican operative.

“The Never Trump moment is over.
“While a small group of Republicans has wrung its hands raw over the choice between the GOP’s nominee and Hillary Clinton, the party’s firmament – social and intellectual conservatives, the lobbyist and donor class, powerful operatives and outside groups – is increasingly getting in line behind Donald Trump.” 

This is the new bankruptcy in America. This is civic bankruptcy, it’s self-government bankruptcy, it’s political bankruptcy, it’s moral bankruptcy.

Trump isn’t your run-of-the-mill terrible candidate. Trump is dangerous for America.

Can these powerful, well-connected, de facto leaders of a national political party really mean that it doesn’t make any difference who their presidential nominee is?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, May 20, 2016

“…ever a child…”

I may think, whimsically, that I would like to be a child again….don't we all have such a thought, in some way, at certain times?

Of course we don't want to relive any of the unhappy or fearful moments. I pass along these penetrating dream thoughts from poet Toyohiko Kagawa:

I want to be ever a child.
I want to feel an eternal friendship
for the raindrops, the flowers,
the insects, the snowflakes.
I want to be keenly interested in everything,
. . . may I never find myself yawning at life.

Think like a child for a time. See new things, talk in rhyme. Sing a song. Let the kindred feelings be strong.

From "A Prayer" in Kagawa's Songs of the Slums, Cokesberry, 1935. Translated from the Japanese by Lois Erickson.
Posted January 10, 2014 on the blog A Year Of Being Here.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sanders should feel this burn….

The plain facts:

Democrats still have to choose 939 convention delegates in their remaining primaries.

Hillary Clinton needs 90 more delegates to wrap up the nomination.

Bernie Sanders needs to win more than 90 percent of the remaining delegates to nail down the nomination.

She knows and he knows and you know and I know how this is going to turn out.

Sanders is deceiving his millions of supporters when he shouts his current version of “We’re in this to the last vote.” He’s encouraging them to think he and they have a chance.

Sanders should be acting on some impulses like these:

Be fair to his supporters: Clinton’s going to be the nominee.

Be square with his supporters: it should be unthinkable for a Sanders fan to say “I’ll never vote for Hillary in November.”

There are going to be two viable choices in November: Clinton and Trump.

I refuse to imagine that any Sanders supporter can reasonably believe that Trump is a better choice than Clinton. Trump is dangerous for America.

Sanders should also be giving this avuncular guidance to his supporters: don’t sit out the November election. Don’t let everybody else decide who the next president is going to be.

p.s. here’s what Roll Call has to say

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Do you cross bridges?

Of course you do.

There’s a real good chance you’ve crossed an unsafe bridge in the last week or so.

Last year it was estimated that 61,000 bridges in the United States are “structurally deficient.” 

There’s a good chance you’ve driven across a few of them.

The thing is, nearly everywhere in America we’re way behind in maintenance and repair of our highway and transportation infrastructure—the roadways, bridges, tunnels, traffic lights, access ramps….

The American Society of Civil Engineers says we need to spend about $3.3 TRILLION in the next 10 years to get back on track.

Only about $1.8 trillion is budgeted, and our feckless legislators can’t be counted on to actually appropriate all that money.

We’re in a hole, and it’s getting deeper. bluntly reported it this way:
“President Obama, speaking at a news conference earlier this month, blamed the nation’s infrastructure woes on Republicans who have ‘been resistant to really taking on this problem in a serious way, and the reason is because of an ideology that says government spending is necessarily bad.’ "

Let’s tell the whole truth: Democrats in Congress and in state legislatures have also been unwilling to raise taxes as needed to make our bridges and tunnels and roads safe, and make improvements and expand capacity where needed.

For starters, we need to boost the federal gas tax—it hasn’t been changed since 1993!—so that the people who use our highways and bridges pay more to maintain them.

Every one of the states should be increasing their state gas taxes to pay for state and local transportation repairs.

And we’ll talk about mass transit expansion another time.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The cod in “Cape Cod”

Some readers may know this, but I didn’t: Cape Cod was named by an English explorer, Bartholomew Gosnold, in 1602. Yup, 18 years before the Mayflower and that Plymouth Rock stuff. His visit is the first recorded European exploration of the Cape Cod area. He also helped settled the Jamestown colony a few years later in Virginia.

Gosnold (1571-1607)
In 1602 Gosnold and his men intended to set up a trading post in what hadn’t yet been named “New England.” After landing on the tip of the peninsula, at what is now Provincetown, the explorers started checking out the bay area. The sailors caught so many codfish in the bay that they reportedly had to throw some back in the water. Gosnold named the place “Cape Cod.”

Later, after scouting down the Atlantic shore of the peninsula, he landed on an island with abundant grapes, raspberries, gooseberries, and huckleberries, and named it “Martha’s Vineyard” in memory of his deceased daughter.

Gosnold and his crew met and did some trading with some Native Americans. Ultimately, they abandoned the plan to build an outpost for trade.

By the way, there’s not much cod fishing in the bay these days. The fish stock is sharply reduced due 
to overfishing and environmental constraints, and the quotas for legal fishing are quite small.

Gosnold’s crewmen wouldn’t recognize the place.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, May 16, 2016

They don’t make movies like this one anymore

Action! Aerial daredevilry! Romance! Intrigue!

You wanna see how the heat builds when two American flyboys head to France to give their all in World War I, and leave behind the gal that both of them ardently desire?

You gotta watch Wings, the $2 million extravaganza that pulled in the crowds and grabbed the first Oscar for Best Picture—in 1929.

Wings also won the first Academy Award for Best Engineering Effects. I imagine that was for the stunningly obvious jerky "dogfighting" of crude model planes dangling around each other in front of a not-too-convincing “sky” backdrop.

You probably want to know these names: Richard Arlen and Charles “Buddy” Rogers played the two air aces, and Clara Bow was the lady in question—she was in love with Arlen, but, sadly, committed to Rogers. These things happen in war.

You have to watch the movie to find out which one of the sky jockeys went down in flames.

So. About 250 people turned out for the awards ceremony. The winners were announced prior to the event (the sealed envelope surprises didn’t start until 1942). Of course, it wasn’t televised, because television hadn’t arrived yet. There was no standup comedian emcee, and I’m just guessing that there was no Beyoncé-style entertainment, and probably not too many daring necklines….

Oh yeah, one other thing: Wings is a silent movie. The Jazz Singer, one of the first “talkies,” had already made its debut, but “talkies” weren’t allowed in the 1929 Oscar competition.

You make your own decision about whether all this was the good old days.

p.s. Gary Cooper appeared in Wings as Cadet White, it was one of his early films

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Movie review: Hard Times

Movie review: Hard Times
1975  PG    94 minutes
Cast: Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Jill Ireland, Strother Martin
Director: Walter Hill

I watch this Bronson movie every few years or so, because it’s a heroic story, because it’s complete unto itself, because it generously invites the viewer to imagine the details that aren't specified, and because it's all about true grit.  (I like that movie, too).

Think you've got what it takes? If you're like me, you've never really had any "hard times." Chaney (Bronson) shows what it's like to be down to your last six bucks with nothing else to lose, and still manage to be courageous, honest, affectionate, high-principled, strong-minded, and in charge of your life. In the final scene Speed (Coburn) looks at Chaney walking away in the darkness and says "He sure was somethin'." He sure was.

They don’t make movies like this anymore. Really.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The good old Dewey Decimal System

Betcha didn’t know that the Dewey Decimal System was invented in 1873 by an Amherst College junior, who was, mostly likely, a neat freak.

“Melvil Dui” was born as Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey. In his youth, the lad was obsessed with frugality, efficiency, and a “passion for order.”  He acquired a lifelong fixation on labor-saving devices and concepts.

There were some weird outcomes. In thrall to brevity and efficiency, he adopted the name “Melvil Dui.” Yeah, you get it.

He also persuaded the faculty at Amherst to adopt his revolutionary system for cataloging, using a numeric coding system which standardized the classification of books, created standard categories and could be expanded as needed to accommodate new titles without disturbing the orderliness of the system. Dewey was a student worker in Amherst’s library, and he was intensely frustrated by the traditional hodgepodge of library book classification and storage: a book could be shelved anywhere in a given library, and would be more or less randomly located in every other library.

By Dewey’s time, libraries had been around for several hundred years. Admittedly, in the early days there weren’t all that many books, but the Dewey Decimal System was long overdue.

I wonder why no one thought of it before the nerdy kid came along.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Rosie by any other name….

Every year I am temporarily fascinated by the Social Security Administration's annual revelation of most popular baby names for the current crop of new Americans.

For 2015:  Noah and Emma (same as 2014!!)

I don't think about baby names much. Noah and Emma seem a bit obscure to me, but of course they're entirely commendable names, bonne chance to all the kids who will take these monikers with them throughout their lives. More than 19,000 brand new baby boys were named Noah last year, and more than 20,000 new baby girls were named Emma--in fact, more than 1 out of every 100 female bundles of joy were given that name. Wow.

In case you’re wondering and your name is Antoine or Alianna, last year there were 999 baby names more popular than yours.

I checked my own name on the Social Security website, see here. It seems Richard dropped out of the top 5 list almost 70 years ago. So be it. What's in a name? Still. I like my name. Hope all those Noahs and Emmas feel the same.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Excesses of love

Dominique Browning wrote a heartwarming tale on “Grandmother Hormones” in the May 8 Sunday New York Times.

It’s a lovely and loving piece, an acutely specific and elaborately grand overview about how endlessly marvelous it is to be a part of your grandchild’s life, a succession of delights until the cows come home, and that, too, would be a great time to be with your granddaughter….for starters, just imagine looking UP at a cow….

Spending time with your grandson is a teaching moment on Repeat Play, and everyone gets in on the learning.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Book review: American Crisis

Book review:
William M. Fowler, Jr., American Crisis: George Washington and the Dangerous Two Years After Yorktown, 1781-1783 (New York: Walker and Company, 2011)
340 pages

American Crisis offers many teaching moments to students of American Revolutionary history.

Washington enters Boston, 1783

The war didn’t end at Yorktown. British troops finally left New York City more than two years later.

Some might speculate that the war effectively ended before that dramatic capitulation at Yorktown in October 1781, because the British never allocated the land and naval forces that were needed to force the colonials to give up. Certainly, the hostilities did not end when Cornwallis threw in the towel. 

Fowler weaves military, political and diplomatic details together in describing “the dangerous two years” between Yorktown and the official signing of the peace treaty in 1783.

Parliament during Revolutionary War
It’s difficult for us in modern times, so accustomed to light-speed communications, to understand the frustration and limitations faced by military commanders, Congress, king and Parliament in the late 18th century. A round trip across the Atlantic could easily take two months or more. Washington could communicate with his officers and Congress only as fast as a horse could travel. British commanders in America were largely on their own in making tactical and strategic decisions. Parliament, the king and American diplomats negotiating peace had to act in perpetual ignorance of recent military actions in North America.

The feckless sloth and impotence of the Second Continental Congress, and (after 1781) the Congress of the Confederation, is a central theme in Fowler’s account. American troops went unfed, unclothed and unpaid for long months and years. The troops committed technically mutinous disobedience about 50 times, and Washington’s officers pushed close indeed to open revolt in their largely unsuccessful efforts to get paid as the end of the war draw closer.

The principal obstacle to forthright action in the congress was its inability to raise money: national taxes needed unanimous consent of the 13 states, which mostly never happened, and the individual states mostly refused to pony up funds from their own resources to support the army. Thus, “the dangerous two years”—if the British had had the military capability to defeat Washington’s army, likely it could have done so. Luckily for us, the king and his ministers never beefed up their army and navy enough to win the war in North America.

In effect, Washington held them off until they gave up.

Fowler says it much better than I can.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.