Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Language Matters—Now as Never Before



You have to be pretty old to remember “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s what we were told as kids when the taunts of schoolmates on the playground upset us.

That was then, this is now.

Tell that to a parent who just buried a child who ended their life after being bullied on Facebook or Twitter. Words do hurt and sometimes they kill.
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Monday, December 30, 2019

‘Settling’ Criminal Activity Comes in Two Flavors



The first is chocolate and it’s relegated to the poor—if you want to make a racial connection to that, be my guest, the metaphor stands up to scrutiny. The second is (unsurprisingly) vanilla and yes, that is the choice of the rich and predominantly white although legally, wealth can occasionally be colorblind.

Let’s dispose of chocolate first, as it’s far less complicated.
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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Stock-Market Optimism



Breathtaking news, Wall Street investors are breathless with optimism. The world is going to hell in a breathlessly accelerated hand-basket, but, according to Bloomberg, U.S. equities climbed to new highs after “China said it agreed with America to roll back tariffs on each other’s goods in phases as they work toward a trade deal.”

Rolling back, are they? Renegotiating who gets summers with the kids, before the divorce becomes final? And what does it mean that China agreed with America? Have they checked Donald’s Twitter stream? And not to put to sharp a point on it, but what’s the Prez’s batting-average on keeping agreements?

There is a saying that “a 2nd marriage is the victory of optimism over experience.” One can make the case that current market optimism mirrors Wall Street’s 2007 marital disaster.
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Monday, October 21, 2019

No Fear at the Top Over the Next Recession



Recessions are simply a short intake-of-breath for the rich and there’s a reason why.

They invented a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose economic environment when we weren’t looking. It’s the nearest we ever came to alchemy—the turning of base metals into gold.

Let me explain.
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Friday, October 11, 2019

Personal and Corporate Debt—When Will We Learn the Lessons of History?



Judging from current financial opinion, perhaps never. Debt is the driving force of America’s consumer society. But at what price to human values?

Values? What would possibly be the human values connected to excessive debt?

For starters, wage growth, a rebirth of the middle class, the ability in these troubled times to save for a home, educate our children, buy a new sofa and escape the slavery of a credit-card lifestyle.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Honoring Excellence



I’m a subscriber to Word a Day and one of the clever things it does, beyond expanding my vocabulary, is to present a quote every day. Here’s one that particularly struck me:

We must learn to honor excellence in every socially accepted human activity, however humble the activity, and to scorn shoddiness, however exalted the activity. An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society that scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.

-John W. Gardner, author and leader (1912-2002)

In our current favor for immediacy and controversy over humble excellence, Gardner’s words set me to thinking. Perhaps we have made price, status and availability too low a bar.
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Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Yellowstone Volcano—What I Don’t Get



So it comes up on the news from time to time, from one scientist or another. The Yellowstone volcano is past due to erupt. I get that.

Under Yellowstone Park is a layer of magma that, if it gets loose, has enough molten lava to fill the Grand Canyon. I guess I get that as well, although one has to define past due.

(VOX) The Yellowstone supervolcano — thousands of times more powerful than a regular volcano — has only had three truly enormous eruptions in history. One occurred 2.1 million years ago, one 1.3 million years ago, and one 664,000 years ago.

I get that as well. But when dealing with numbers that huge, I’m not all that likely to cancel a summer trip with the kids to see Old Faithful. But there’s lots more interesting stuff on the subject at VOX and you might find it interesting to check out—take your mind off politics for the moment.

Now, for what I don’t get.

We all know now that fracking (the use of pressurized fluid to fracture a rock layer) is followed by clusters of small earthquakes. Earthquakes are triggers for volcanic action--Oklahoma went from 2 earthquakes a year in 2008 to 3 a day.

Yet we’re currently fracking in a cluster of sites in Wyoming near the southern base of Yellowstone.

What I don’t get is tickling the sleeping bear of the Yellowstone volcano.

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