Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mitt the Dumbster

OK, now he has gone from being a buffoon in Britain, to a potentially dangerous idiot, every bit worthy of our past President Stupidhead.  Pronouncing to the world that we will support fully Israel, should Netanyahu decide to bomb, invade, or otherwise commit organized mayhem in/to Iran, seems both dangerous and terminally stupid.  Aren’t our leaders supposed to do things like consult with other national leaders, and even perhaps our allies before deciding to engage in war with someone with whom we are not already at war??? And committing us to support Netanyahu??? The world’s loosest loose cannon?  Wow, Mr. Romney, you give us new evidence that those who make their money in the loosey-goosey world of high finance are not the brightest lights on the planet . . . as though we needed more evidence.

So, if this trip is Mr. Romney’s big advance plan to convince the American voting public that he is better prepared for international diplomacy than our current Prez, guess what? You get a failing grade Mitt. You have placed yourself firmly within the group with whom you were running earlier—ya know, Crazy Michelle, and Sarah Bimbo.
Maybe had you ever actually worked for a living, instead of riding on the coattails of your rich daddy, you might have picked up some awareness of the world around you. And perhaps, had you ever engaged in manual labor for an hourly wage, you wouldn’t have turned out to be such a dickhead.
So, why don’t you go home to one of your seventeen houses, or houseboats and suck up a dozen vodka martini’s and get your ass off the world’s stage. Leave the business of international diplomacy to people who actually know whereof they speak.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I wonder when business ethics became an oxymoron? Every day now, we are treated to some fresh piece of information pointing to scoundrels engaged in business, acting badly. We went into the F&M bank yesterday, a local bank, headquartered in Salisbury, NC. When they inquired how they might help us, I said, “Well, we would like to open a new account with you. We have been thinking that we would prefer to have a bank that is not part of a criminal enterprise. “ See, we have been banking with HSBC and generally, we were quite happy with our banking relationship. I was especially pleased when its name did not appear in the growing US banking scandals, and again at first did not appear in the LIBOR scandals. But then it hit. HSBC has been laundering money for the Mexican drug families, including setting up accounts in offshore locations. Nice. Our bank is acting as the mob bag man.  So, we decided to switch banks. We tried to avoid any connection with the global guys—BofA, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, since we know they have no ethics.  We are only mildly familiar with the F&M Bank, but our hope is that they still maintain something of the old community-minded banking ethic.  We don’t shop at Wal-Mart because they are huge and seem predatory, much like the global banks. Increasingly, we try to spend our money on local institutions—our food, as many of our other purchases as possible in this increasingly global world (including always looking for something actually made in the USofA, rather than China), and our services. Think small has become our mantra. Small is good. Big is bad. “Too Big to Fail” means too big to exist.

But is bigness per se really to blame for the absence of ethics among our senior executives of businesses? Somehow, commercial entities have grown apart from their customer base. When they seem to care, it almost always is a charade.  But why, I keep asking? Was it always like that? Maybe I am just getting really old. I think that businessmen used to have actual ethics and practiced it.  I know that the Rupert Murdoch’s of the world—total sociopaths—have always existed, but they represented aberrant behavior. The old “rotten fish in the barrel” seemed more accurate. Now, it just seems a joke (on us).  The Penn State mess seems typical of the problem. Protecting the Franchise was viewed as simply more important than protecting the kids—the Catholic Church line of thinking.
On the other hand, maybe bigness is a major contributor. Perhaps, the more distant executives get from their customers and from the people whose lives they touch, the easier it is to rationalize away their criminal behavior.  When bankers joke about manipulating interest rates in order to increase their pocket change, and their own internal systems either fail or are simply missing in action, perhaps those entities should be shut down. Whenever I hear some business entity whining about some regulation, I think, “maybe you need to get a real job. Shut up and quit whining, or you will need to go out of business.” Perhaps had the Catholic Church forced its pedophilic priests to enter jail cells, they might have been able to hang on to some of their moral standing.  Perhaps if Joe Paterno had arranged to send his buddy to prison ten years ago, a lot of kids would have been spared a lifetime of grief.
And perhaps somewhere pigs are flying, hell is freezing over, and the moon really is made of green cheese . . .

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Good Woman

Another good woman has passed from us. She was known mostly to her friends and family, a good woman by any definition. Her name, Edythe Schmidt. She was born into a large Italian-American family, living in Long Island, New York. She was the youngest of her siblings.  She and my brother married, oh so many years ago, over 60.  Just when we begin to believe it can go on forever, she was taken from us. She died in the loving arms of her daughters, much as we all might wish for our final exit from the stage called life.

Edythe loved and cared for her family all of her life, first as a loving daughter and sister, then as a mom.  Often we celebrate the famous people. But it is the ordinary people we need to celebrate—the folks who get up in the morning, and do what needs to be done for the children.  That was Edythe.
When Edythe and her hubby, my dear brother, were married 50 years, we penned an homage to them both. Now they are both gone, but our memories of them are intact. The words below still capture the wonder of this couple and their relationship with this world we call life.

Tribute to Bill & Edythe
On Attaining the Age of the Married Superstars

You must know by now that you are a special couple.

Because you are perfect?????

Nah . . .

Because you somehow learned how to transcend all of the big and little events, annoyances, and outrages that life serves up to married couples.

Just think.

When you were married Dwight D. Eisenhower was poised to take over the Presidency.

You’ve stayed married long enough to observe

The lunacy of this young century.

When you were first married,

You had to work and become educated 18 hours a day.

Edythe had to wash dishes by hand

Change real diapers for baby Claudia

And nurse baby Diane through some trying times.

You’ve graduated from an old beat-up Chevrolet

Which you used to drive your baby brother and his girl friend

To her home, so they could neck in the back seat.

Now you worry about the possibility of your grandchildren driving in the near future.

You cared for your children, your parents and even some grandparents

You even survived Long Island.

 We Love you both.

You’re an inspiration to your family

Your friends

And even, I imagine, to yourselves.

When you scratch your heads, and silently ask,

How did we do that? 

You already know the answer.

Because you wanted to

Needed to

Demanded to

Experience a long and wonderful marriage. 

May the next 50 be even happier than the first 50. 

Much Love

Richard & Carol 

 They didn’t make 50 more years, only some ten.  But their life was full, because they extracted the juices of goodness from each morsel served up to them.  Our memories remain full of their life. We loved them then. We love them now. Perhaps they know it, perhaps not. But they both knew the full measure of love given by a grateful family, grateful for all the goodness they delivered to us all.
May you rest in peace, dear Edythe. Your life was full and good.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


I’m trying to decide when “bigger” becomes “badder.” An article in the newspaper recently referred to larger entities –commercial entities—trying to climb on board the organic bandwagon. And as usual, the larger entities were beginning to absorb (swallow) some of the smaller entities, as large entities are wont to do. The article was all about one of the smaller entities, EdenFoods , and how they are working hard to avoid being swallowed.  See, we all know what happens when large, in this case food companies, take over smaller ones. All of the standards by which the smaller entity maintained its essential goodness, are eventually discarded because they conflict with-- guess what-- making profits (see Wal-Mart).

And if it isn’t some corner of the food industry, it’s banking. And if it isn’t banking, it’s clothing. If not clothing, then I don’t know, housing. It doesn’t seem to matter much. Whenever a business entity gets beyond some size, the rules of behavior seem to change automatically, like some evolutionary rule.
In days of yore, just after dinosaurs had ceased roaming freely, banks used to be limited to a single state. And there used to be rules which prevented those single-state banks from engaging in, say, on-line gambling. Then something changed and banks were allowed to open in any state, gobble up local banks at will, and engage in on-line gambling. And what happened? Well, the banking industry collapsed, and we the people were forced by our government to rescue them by borrowing money from China to prop up these indecent entities.
Now was that implosion caused by size? In my mind, size was the driving factor, because beyond some size, intelligence seems to fail. At some stage, the Peter Principle (remember that ironclad principle??) seems to engage firmly and the very large entities begin operating as if on autopilot (you know . . . the way republicans want the world to operate). And, while autopilot works in limited situations in things like airplanes, it rarely works in complex situations.  For example, you really cannot fight a war successfully using the autopilot mode (see the Charge of the Light Brigade, Vietnam, the unnecessary war in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan). And apparently, you cannot operate the world’s financial systems while on autopilot (see Citibank, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, et al).  Instead, you evidently require actual human intelligence, which is capable of detecting particularly stupid forms of greed and that other problem that seems to affect banking, LBS—the little boy syndrome. The little boy syndrome is a state of being in which we decide to give all of our money to greedy little boys, while telling them to go play nice on the street. Then, when they inevitably lose all the money because they are greedy and stupid, we pretend to be shocked at their behavior.  So, we need actual human intelligence to detect that the LBS has kicked in, requiring adults to intercede, assuming always that some adults actually exist within the banking industry (I wonder whether that is a scientifically testable hypothesis).
So, maybe we need protections against size, or against Big.  Maybe, for a start, we need to go back to some first principles. For example, maybe banks should be limited to single states again. Breaking up banks might even be fun. I’ll bet we could devise some kind of video game based on breaking up banks, and Apple could devise an App for the I-Phone, letting us all play “Break the Banks”.  Oh, and let’s not forget gambling. Yeah, assuming we all still think that on-line gambling is generally a bad thing, morality-wise, why would we let our banks engage in activities we know to be amoral at best? So, no on-line gambling for banks.
And then we can return to those wonderful days of yesteryear, when too big to fail meant too big to exist, and we can begin again operating our anti-trust regulations, preventing all commercial entities from getting “too big to fail”.  And the little companies that produce organic food stuffs can continue to produce according to their organic quality standards, without fear of being swallowed.
Yeah, that would be nice.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th

So a Happy 4th of July to one and all. In years past, we would drive into DC to observe the spectacular fireworks display on the Mall. Our last viewing of those grand lighting up of the sky was in 1976, the 200th celebratory event. As always, the fireworks were amazing and the crowds horrendous. Getting back home was always a special treat. I always thought that the only ones who were really enjoying themselves were those fortunate few who were sitting in the middle of the Potomac in their boats, watching from their watery vantage point.  The rest of us poor schlunks had to schlep back home in our cars.

But of recent times, we have moved back to nature so to speak.

This . . .

 and this . . .

Has been replaced with this . . .

Sitting by our pond with a glass of wine, watching our koi’s and our family of birds, dragons and other assorted critters cavort, feed and otherwise entertain us.

We still think fondly of the good old days, but now the fireworks are mostly in our memory banks.

But we do hope that you all have a grand time and that, if you are watching fireworks, that they fulfill your every desire.

Monday, July 2, 2012

On 57 Years

Ahhh, Tom Cruise is divorcing . . . again. Wow, Dog bites man . . . real news. Next they’ll be telling me that Newt Gingrich is divorcing Plasticwoman. Such tales are evidence that we have way too much news media pursuing way too little news. Perhaps we need to move to a system where we get one hour per day of news coverage, which is probably more than we need, but give the newsies their due. They need to earn their megabucks salaries.

And on that same front, I understand that Rupert the Magnificent is breaking up his empire into two entities: News, and Entertainment. Now, if we assume that the Times of London and the Wall Street Journal still pretend to news, I wonder how the rest break up? We know that the Faux News Network is definitively not news, but what exactly is it? Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert are our very own fake news shows, but they are comedians, and they are in fact funny. The Faux News Network is not funny—ever. They cast delusional psychopaths, and blond bimbos, all of whom read from a script written for them by Rupert’s hidden staff. No fun there. Faux News is in fact the PR arm of the republican party—remember them?? The Grand Old Party. Ah yes, definitely the party of the 19th century.  So, maybe Faux News goes into Rupert's Faux entertainment group, not because they’re entertaining, but because they’re just not news, by any definition.
Now if we can just get the various entertainment divisions to shut up about Cruise, Gingrich et al, whenever they get divorced, we’ll be happier.  We don’t care people, unless you attempt in your pathetic little ways to speak about the sanctity of marriage. Please, refrain guys.
But on that subject, good marriages, happy marriages, marriages that demonstrate the worthiness of the institution, we must give thanks to that grand old day, July 2nd, 1955. That was the day my wife of 57 years agreed to marry me and said, “I do” And I repeated the vow to our minister, Mr. Zeltner—now he was a grand old man. We dearly loved Mr. Z. And unlike priests today, say of the Catholic Order, Mr. Z, a good man of that non-Catholic world called Episcopalians, pronounced us Husband and Wife . . . in sickness and health, til death us do part.
We took those vows seriously. And we have lived a good life together. Life is not always easy, but somehow ours has always seemed, well, just very, very good.  We have little rituals each day that we follow. We have a morning cappuccinos, and toast, “To us,” just before we go to sit beside our koi pond and feed the koi’s, watching them cavort, and admiring our birds, our dragons, our hummers, as they feed within our little outdoor garden room. We look each other in the eyes, when we toast one another, with a glass of wine as the sun begins its descent.
And we kiss good night as we head off to the land of wink and nod.
All good.
So, to my wife of 57 years, I toast you my dear, for making my life the wonder it is. Love is good, and I do so love you.