Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mindless media hype

Who watched the TV broadcasts of the Republican and Democratic conventions?

The short answer is: not too many people

More than 85% of adults in America didn’t bother to watch either of the nominees giving the big acceptance speech.

Fox News had the biggest average audience for all eight nights of the Republican and Democratic conventions—but, hold on, only 1.8% of adults were watching Fox on a given night.

Possibly we’re having the most emotionally charged presidential election of all time—Tom Jefferson and Andy Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt didn’t have television to deal with. It’s scarcely credible, but nevertheless, most Americans didn’t give a hoot about watching those big speeches. Obviously, most Americans didn’t learn anything much from them.

For the seeming endless hours of convention coverage by the broadcast and cable channels, much of the time only a tiny minority of Americans was watching, regardless of the pompous blather of Wolf and Rachel and Megyn and all the others.

While I’m on this topic, I’ll give a thumbs down to, which blasted this headline on its website yesterday: “Trump tops Clinton on speech ratings” and to TheHill writer Joe Concha, who started his story with “Donald Trump has defeated Hillary Clinton…” The underlying details tell a much less provocative story.

Here’s the detail: Trump had a reported audience of 34.9 million people, and Clinton’s audience was 33.3 million. The audience ratings are reported from a survey sample of about 5,000 viewers. I have long experience in the design of surveys, and I feel real comfortable guessing that the margin of error in this audience report makes it ludicrous to say one candidate “tops” another, or one candidate “has defeated” another. The viewing audience for Trump and Clinton was close to being the same, probably no significant difference between them.

In their convention coverage, the media generally didn’t take any opportunity to minimize the hype or the preposterous emphasis on discord.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Here’s one for your reading list

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

I just started reading Junger’s new book, and I’m hot to pick it up again.

In his Introduction, the author says:
“Robert Frost famously wrote that home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. The word ‘tribe’ is far harder to define, but a start might be the people you feel compelled to share the last of your food with…
This book is about why [treating someone like a member of your tribe] is such a rare and precious thing in modern society, and how the lack of it has affected us all. It’s about what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty and belonging and the eternal human quest for meaning.”

It doesn’t take Junger long to get right to the point, quoting from a 2012 journal article:
“The economic and marketing forces of modern society have engineered an environment…that maximize[s] consumption at the long-term cost of well-being. In effect, humans have dragged a body with a long hominid history into an overfed, malnourished, sedentary, sunlight-deficient, sleep-deprived, competitive, inequitable, and socially-isolating environment with dire consequences.”

Now, if you read that last sentence without saying some of the words right out loud, maybe twice, with feeling and with some awareness of despair, well, maybe you should go for the CliffsNotes version and save yourself some time.

Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, New York: Twelve/Hachette Book Group, 2016, xvi-xvii, 23.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A few words about the convention coverage

Media coverage of the two political conventions has been:


Hyped beyond recognition

Disdainful of sensible public interest

I’m not getting my hopes up for the campaign coverage.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Another look at some Bernie supporters

Just a reminder to Bernie Sanders supporters:
Your guy didn’t win the nomination.
Get over it.
The only respectable thing to do right now is support Hillary Clinton and make sure that she—and not Donald Trump—is the next president of the United States.

A disputatious few of Bernie’s revolutionary army have repeatedly stoked up the Democratic Convention without any apparent sensible purpose. Their guy has ostentatiously asked his supporters and delegates to get behind Clinton. How come these raucous few delegates aren’t paying any attention to him now?

The Pew Research Center says that 90 percent of Sanders supporters have transferred their political support to Clinton.

Anecdotally, it seems that a couple hundred Sanders delegates, mostly from two states, have been beating the drums at the convention, saying over and over again that they want Sanders to be the nominee. 

What’s the point? Anyway, it isn’t news, so why are the media endlessly and uncritically reporting it?

One wonders if some of these delegates are saying out loud that they feel the Bern, while privately they are simply Hillary haters wearing Sanders hats.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Another outlook on the presidential election

The media continue to make a mockery of campaign coverage by highlighting the outlier events and the most lopsided poll results, as they try to crank up the noise level every day in their reporting.

The New York Times (among others) to the rescue!

Check out this NYT website:  The Upshot

Of course it’s simplistic in reducing the cosmic range of possibilities to a single ratio. On the other hand, it’s a sincere mashup of many polls, so-called expert opinion and the online political betting markets that allow anyone to bet actual money on the election outcome (these betting sites have been more or less accurate predictors in the past).

It’s way better than the outlandish poll result of the moment that gets all the air time in the media.

By the way, The Upshot is pegging the election for Clinton as of today.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have to vote.

If you don’t vote on November 8, you’re going to let everybody else pick the next president of the United States.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Need a barf bag?

Let’s just get this over with.

Last week Fox News fired CEO Roger Ailes because he’s been sued for predatory sexual harassment, and about a dozen women (so far) have revealed that they were victims of his disgusting behavior over a long period of time.

Good for Fox News. Executives said, among other things, that Ailes’ “loutish” behavior would not be tolerated. They could have said “criminal loutish” behavior and I would have been happier, but let’s move on….

Pursuant to the terms of Ailes’ contract (it was due to expire in 2018), he’s going to get a $40 million payoff for cleaning off his desk and taking a hike.

The directors of Fox News screwed the shareholders and insulted almost every Fox News employee when they approved that contract.

Hand me a bag, quick….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, July 22, 2016

…I digress

Language is so endlessly entertaining.

Noises that mean stuff. Sometimes even noises that sound good that mean stuff.

Sometimes slightly wacky noises that mean little stuff.

I know, you’re tapping your fingers and muttering, “Example, already”

Consider the "at-sign." 

In Denmark it’s called the “snabel-a”—the elephant’s trunk-a
In Holland it’s called “apenstaartje”—monkey’s tail
In Russia it’s “sobachka”—little dog
In Germany the word is “klammeraffe”—hanging monkey

Why do we call it the “at-sign” in the English-speaking world?

One story is that medieval monks devised this symbol to represent the word “at” in the days before printing presses, when all books were written and copied by hand. It was just a shortcut.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blame the men!

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 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The downside of being Cinderella

Imagine: for the rest of your life, there will be “…someone in every
room with a lute…”

I pass along this bit of candid whimsy from Ron Koertge:

Cinderella's Diary

I miss my stepmother. What a thing to say,
but it’s true. The prince is so boring: four
hours to dress and then the cheering throngs.
Again. The page who holds the door is cute
enough to eat. Where is he once Mr. Charming
kisses my forehead goodnight?

Every morning I gaze out a casement window
at the hunters, dark men with blood on their
boots who joke and mount, their black trousers
straining, rough beards, calloused hands, selfish,

Oh, dear diary—I am lost in ever after:
those insufferable birds, someone in every
room with a lute, the queen calling me to look
at another painting of her son, this time
holding the transparent slipper I wish
I’d never seen.

"Cinderella's Diary" by Ron Koertge from Vampire Planet. © Red Hen Press, 2016. Reprinted with permission on The Writer’s Almanac website, July 19, 2016,
see it here.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Secret voting wasn’t always the way

The voting booth with a curtain is not an early American icon.

In the earliest post-Revolutionary elections, it was fairly typical for the local sheriff to run the actual voting process: each voter showed up at the local courthouse (or shady tree in town, or whatever), walked up to the table and loudly announced his own name and the names of the candidates he wanted to vote for.

The candidates and their supporters would be standing nearby, cheering or jeering as the votes were declared. Each candidate might have a ready supply of rum and cookies to reward his supporters.
Nothing private about it. For almost 100 years, it was S.O.P. to vote in such a way that your friends and everyone else knew exactly what you were doing.

In the latter part of the 19th century, Australia became the first country to use a printed ballot that could be filled out silently and confidentially by the voter—you could vote without anyone knowing who you voted for.

There was scattered support for this novel election procedure in the United States before Massachusetts became the first state to adopt the so-called “Australian ballot method” in 1888. Most other states followed suit within a few years.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tennis balls are a no-no at the GOP convention…

…but guns are OK.


The Official Event Zone Permit Regulations for the Republican convention in Cleveland explicitly prohibit carrying tennis balls and cans of tuna fish (and lots of other stuff) into the 1.7-square-mile event zone.

Guns? Different story.

Illegal firearms are prohibited. Check.

Legal guns can be carried at will except in the actual convention arena controlled by the Secret Service. So, delegates and protestors will be allowed to pack heat in the areas where public confrontations are likely to occur.

An official of the Cleveland police union is publicly asking Gov. John Kasich to do an executive order to suspend Ohio’s “open carry” law in Cuyahoga County (including Cleveland) for the duration of the convention.

1968 Democratic Convention violence in Chicago

It’s the least thing Kasich should do.

Right now, we need to do everything to keep the Republican Convention from being a “gunfight at the O. K. corral” kind of thing. It’ll be bad enough without violence.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Music to Nikkal’s ears

It’s been about 3,500 years since anyone dusted off a lyre to play this Hurrian hymn (H6) dedicated to the Akkadian goddess Nikkal-wa-Ib, the goddess of orchards whose name means “Great Lady and Fruitful.”

Tablet with Hurrian hymn H6
The words and music were discovered about 60 years ago in the ruins of Ugarit, an ancient Syrian city. It took about 20 years to interpret the inscriptions on the cuneiform tablets.

Michael Levy, a musician/composer whose specialty is ancient musical instruments, has embedded the original melody (listen here) in this composition with several themes, performed on a replica of an ancient lyre.

It’s not “Lay Down Sally” and it’s not “White Christmas” and it’s not “Take Five.”

It is an intriguing offering of what the Akkadians might have listened to when they were in the groove, when they were celebrating the festival of Nikkal.

It’s so easy for this music of the Bronze Age to survive for centuries.

It’s so easy to listen.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The wisdom of Barbara Crafton

Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton is the spirit animating The Geranium Farm, an institute for the promotion of spiritual growth.

The time is right, right now, to share this guidance from her website (click here) of substantial offerings:

“…good people. Ordinary people…anything is possible…any goodness, and any evil. They can allow themselves to be led either way…they are the ones who raise up the leaders, and they are the ones who follow them…It is not enough to bemoan this evil age. I do not control this age. But I do control myself. Start there.”

Her insight was not prompted by the current frenzied political chaos, but it rings the bell.

If for no other reason than simple selfish preservation, get started.

In part, you exercise your control by engaging in the community that surrounds you and has nonstop effects on your life.

Put this on your TO DO list: vote on November 8.

Don’t pretend there’s no difference between Clinton and Trump.

Trump is a menace for America.

Don’t let everybody else decide.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The wisdom of Annie Dillard (part 2)

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

Annie Dillard (b1945)
American author

If Annie Dillard had written this aphorism and nothing else (like Pilgrim at Tinker Creek), I would count her as a wise and glorious writer.

If she had written “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives,” she would have squandered the power of her insight. Of course what she said is true, and of course we often lose sight of that truth, and of course we are surprised to confront it in this collection of ordinary words that has extraordinary importance.

The days of our lives are exactly that. “Seize the day” is easy guidance. It is sobering indeed to acknowledge the reminder that living is sowing and gathering, and the implicit harvest is a life. 
Julien Dupre, Peasant and Hay

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The times they are a-changin’….

The inexorable demographic transformation of America is part of the context for the current dangerous turmoil in our politics.

For instance, points out that less than half of Americans are now classified as white Christians. Less than 30% of the 18-29 age cohort identify themselves as white Christians.

Nevertheless, it’s true that almost three-quarters of all adults claim to be Christian (including Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and other non-Protestant Christian faiths). So, the minority status of white Christians is largely driven by the increasing proportion of persons of color in the U. S. population.

Increasing diversity of the American citizenry is inevitable. Increasingly, ballot boxes will reflect this trend.

I think these changes will make American society richer in so many ways.

I look forward to the election of more folks who will champion the kind of government an increasingly diverse population needs and wants.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

They said you're an INFJ?!?

Or maybe you think you’re an ESTJ?  or an ISFP? or an ENTP? 

Think again.

If those acronyms aren’t familiar, you probably never took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test.

A little news item on is a stunner:  the Myers-Briggs test seems to be a load of what the farmer takes away….

"There's just no evidence behind it," says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who's written about the shortcomings of the Myers-Briggs previously. "The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you'll be in a situation, how you'll perform at your job, or how happy you'll be in your marriage."

I took the test once, way back, I forgot what type it said I was.

Something like two million people do the Myers-Briggs every year, usually in the workplace. On the management retreat, or in the professional development seminar, or whatever....the company that now owns the Myers-Briggs concept makes about $20 million a year from licensing the test.

It was launched in the 1940s, reports, and is based on “untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community. . .the test is totally ineffective at predicting people's success in various jobs, and. . . about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time.”

Here’s a tip: don’t put your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator on your resume.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dead poets talking….

“O Captain! My Captain!...”

Remember the last time you watched “Dead Poets Society”?

It might be 27 years ago, if your only exposure to this Robin Williams starburst was when it was first released in June 1989.

I’ve seen it many times, for me it’s like “The Green Mile,” every time I watch it it’s a slightly different but familiarly compelling experience.

I’d like to have an avuncular chat with anyone who keenly sought a good education and doesn’t wish it pretty much resembled the main plot line of “Dead Poets”—you see, the intellectual awakening part and the overcoming personal challenges part ARE the fundamental good parts of the learning experience. 

“Dead Poets” puts the viewer in a ringside seat to see how it all could happen with the help of a completely decent and completely sympathetic prof who had the guts and the savvy and the human kindness to help make it happen. 

The part of me that strives to be a good teacher and a good person who awakens to the full prospect of being a good person is the part of me that wants to jump up on my desk and join the boys in declaring the very risky and ritualistic and reaffirming and rapturous farewell to a beloved mentor and friend.

“Thank you, boys,” said Mr. Keating.

Thank you, Mr. Keating.

Robin Williams (1951-2014), requiescat in pace

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.