Wisdom, loosely

From a recent e-mail – they must be true. (And the attributions must be accurate)

When the white missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”  Desmond Tutu

America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.” David Letterman

“I’m not a paranoid, deranged millionaire. Dammit, I’m a billionaire.” Howard Hughes

“After the game, the King and the pawn go into the same box.” Italian proverb

“Men are like linoleum floors. Lay ’em right and you can walk all over them for years.”  May West

“The only reason they say ‘Women and children first’ is to test the strength of the lifeboats.” Jean Kerr

“I’ve been married to a communist and a fascist, and neither would take out the garbage!” Zsa Zsa Gabor

“You know you’re a redneck if your home has wheels and your car doesn’t.” Jeff Foxworthy

“When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife.”  Prince Philip

“A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kickboxing.”  Emo Philips.

“Wood burns faster when you have to cut and chop it yourself.” Harrison Ford

“The best cure for sea sickness, is to sit under a tree.” Spike Milligan

“Lawyers believe a man is innocent until proven broke.” Robin Hall

“Kill one man and you’re a murderer, kill a million and you’re a conqueror.”  Jean Rostand.

“Having more money doesn’t make you happier. I have 50 million dollars but I’m just as happy as when I had 48 million.” Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“We are here on earth to do good unto others. What the others are here for, I have no idea.” W.H. Auden

“In hotel rooms I worry. I can’t be the only guy who sits on the furniture naked.” Jonathan Katz

“If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead.” Johnny Carson

“I don’t believe in astrology. I am a Sagittarius and we’re very skeptical.” Arthur C. Clarke

“Hollywood must be the only place on earth where you can be fired by a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a baseball cap.” Steve Martin

“Home cooking. Where many a man thinks his wife is.” Jimmy Durante

“As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind – every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.” John Glenn

“If toast always lands butter-side down, and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap toast on the back of a cat?” Steven Wright

“America is so advanced that even the chairs are electric.” Doug Hamwell

“The first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone who’s there.” George Roberts

“If God had intended us to fly he would have made it easier to get to the airport!”  Jonathan Winters

“I have kleptomania, but when it gets bad, I take something for it.”

A hunger strike ends, but with little to show for it – The Globe and Mail

I might be the only one in Ottawa following this, but for what it’s worth, I think the timing of the end of Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike might have had something to do with the weather.  It would be hard to maintain a liquid diet while living in a teepee on Victoria Island in minus 29 degree C weather.

And what liquids was she taking on this diet?  Maple syrup?  She doesn’t look like she missed too many calories while on strike.

A hunger strike ends, but with little to show for it – The Globe and Mail.

Japan Official: ‘Hurry Up and Die’

This is a little off-beat.  A precursor of things to come for the Boomers around the world, no doubt.

At a government panel to discuss social security reforms, Former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso called the elderly who are unable to feed themselves “tube people,” then proceeded to say the elderly should be allowed to “hurry up and die” to reduce the burden on a country tasked to pay for their medical expenses.

Japan Official: ‘Hurry Up and Die’ | ABC News – Yahoo!.

via Japan Official: ‘Hurry Up and Die’ |.

Looking backward for a guide on how to move forward

Here’s another article commenting on the impact of aging Boomers on the economy without any new insights on how to offset the dislocations of that impact.
I include it here because of the data on Boomer retirement.  Authors Kenneth S. Baer and B. Liberman question the rule of thumb that the economy needs to create 140,000 new jobs every month just to keep up with population growth.  They say that Boomers are retiring faster (200,000/month) than in previous years.  Policy makers, they say, should not think that stimulus spending is ineffective just because new jobs aren’t growing as fast as they used to.  They claim the “new normal” is 100,000 jobs/month and that growth of ‘only’ 150,000/month has been enough to drop the unemployment rate from 9.5% to 7.9 over the last two years.

So bring on more stimulus spending?  When Boomers are leaving the workforce faster than young workers are entering it?  I don’t think so.  I think the problem with the analysis is that it looks at the reduction in the employment rate in isolation.  Better, I think, would be to  estimate what rate of unemployment would be consistent with funding the entitlements of all those retiring Boomers.

via The Baby Boom Bump – NYTimes.com.

How Baby Boomers ruined the world | Canadian Investment Review

This article  by George Athanassakos (Canadian Investment Review) sums things up pretty well. “The children of the Baby Boomers will have to pay the price for their parents’ luck.”

I’m in agreement with the causes and the symptoms he described.  He anticipates that a time of reckoning is at hand, “an economic and political confrontation which may require similar sacrifices to those made by their parents and grandparents.”  He cites two two pressures:

  • Indirect: “The children of the Baby Boomers will have to pay the price for their parents’ luck.”  Well, as a selfish Boomer, that doesn’t sound so bad – ‘I’m alright, son.’
  • Direct: “When Boomers get anxious, uncomfortable and unhappy, monetary authorities around the world bend over backwards to accommodate them.”  Well, that doesn’t sound so bad either.

Like the author, “I don’t expect this to end well”.  Also, like him, my crystal ball isn’t sufficiently well tuned to identify the means of reckoning, but here’s a thought: the low interest bubble triggers inflation, pushing up the cost of financing government debt. Governments print and borrow even more money to pay the interest. Massive inflation wipes out the millions of boomers on fixed incomes, encouraging them to join with the “Occupy” sentiments as they call for a return to “fairness” in the distribution of the national wealth – a Jubilee Year, if you will.

via How Baby Boomers ruined the world | Canadian Investment Review.

Affirmative Action in the 21st Century – Aljazeerah

I didn’t know that this sort of thing – a quota system to address minority hiring – still existed. 

“King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia has appointed 30 women to the previously all-male consultative Shura Council, marking a historic first as he pushes reforms in the kingdom…. The decrees, published by the official SPA news agency on Friday, give women a 20 percent quota in the Shura Council, a body appointed by the king to advise him on policy and legislation.”

Wait till the Tea Party gets a hold of this one.


Collecting slogans is easy. Living by them is the hard part

I was watching a CSPAN lecture http://rap.wustl.edu/event/2012-fall-keynote-george-will/ by George Will last week. He was speaking about the role of religion in American politics.  Here’s the .pdf version   Will quoted Abraham Lincoln at length and I looked up the quote on the internet – finding this amusing article by sports writer Eric Zorn.  Zorn’s article includes Will’s quote of Lincoln’s.  In his speech Will stressed the importance of Lincoln’s conclusion which I have underlined, below, and which did not appear in the original 1993 Zorn article. (Zorn was making a different point)

January 07, 1993By Eric Zorn.

“This, too, shall pass.”

Mike Ditka choked out these words as he began his farewell speech Tuesday and again to conclude his remarks. And later, when fans were woofing for him in the dusk outside Halas Hall, he came to the window and shouted it to them still a third time. “This, too, shall pass.”

He was referring, obviously, not to his own firing, which will not pass-unless Mike McCaskey does a George Steinbrenner turn and rehires Ditka in a year or two-but to his inner pain at the forced end of his tenure.

“This, too, shall pass.”

The words were not meant for the assembled media or the public, both of which had been ambivalent about Ditka’s future for the last several months, but for the coach himself. Four comforting words, a little mantra, a soothing slogan, a saying to try to get the lump out of his throat.

As an aphorism, it is roughly equivalent to “time heals all wounds” or, one of my favorites, “a quid is still a quid,” from the late British novelist P.G. Wodehouse. To me, Wodehouse is saying that no matter how crummy things seem for you at the moment, the world is still more or less unchanged so it pays to keep things in perspective.

The Wodehouse quote, which I’ve intoned to myself at difficult times over the years, may not be exact. But Ditka’s quotation wasn’t exact either.

The former coach wanted to attribute it to the Bible: “Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” he said by way of a lead-in.

Yet the words “all things shall pass” do not appear in the Bible according to several concordances and a computer search conducted by the Moody Bible Institute. The closest is in Matthew 24, where Jesus says “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

He was talking about the apocalypse and not, not even allegorically, about the firings of irascible football coaches.

“This, too, shall pass.”

“Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” attributes a similar expression to Abraham Lincoln, who lost his job in a far worse way than Ditka did, though you’d never know it from the pitch of this week’s lamentations. The Lincoln quote, however, reveals that Lincoln didn’t claim the saying for his own:

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words `And this, too, shall pass away.’ ” Lincoln told the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in a September 1859 speech in Milwaukee, just up the road from Lake Forest and Halas Hall.

“How much it expresses!” Lincoln went on. “How chastening in the hour of pride. How consoling in the depths of affliction!  [Following is the text that Zorn omitted: “And yet,” said Lincoln, “it is not necessarily true.  Let us hope that if we Americans cultivate the moral world within us as assiduously and prodigiously as we have cultivated the physical world around us, that we may endure.”]

Good sayings are like that, heavy with insight, wisdom and uplifting truth. I’ve collected them myself for years in an untitled spiral notebook that now includes the words of everyone from Pliny the Elder to the pithiest of my former girlfriends.

On page 94, for example, I have scrawled, “The most damning epitaph you can compose (is) `He was at his best only when the going was good,’ ” and credited Alistair Cooke.

On page 82: “Nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.” Will Durant.

Ditka and I are far from alone in our fondness for proverbs. An American Booksellers Association spokesman said there has been “an explosion” in recent years of books containing apt quotations and boiled-down wisdom-titles such as “Life’s Little Instruction Book,” a collection of digested and numbered advice that was the No. 1 trade paperback for 42 weeks last year.

John Baker, editorial director of Publisher’s Weekly, said he traces the boom back to Robert Fulghum’s adage-rich 1988 smash, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”

Northwestern University sociologist Bernard Beck added that the current popular fondness for aphorisms also has roots in secular self-help movements such as est, corporate training seminars and 12-step recovery programs-all of which rely on neatly packaged precepts, “the functional equivalent of the rosary,” Beck said.

These philosophical, instructional nuggets “are like fast food,” Beck said, “in that they meet the needs of overworked, harried, hectic people without a lot of time.”

“This, too, shall pass.”

A nifty saying, as Lincoln noted in so many words, with a lot to offer. If Ditka had let it be his watchword somewhat earlier in life, when taunted by fans and beset by common sporting misfortunes, he might have maintained his poise and the confidence of management, and not ended up getting a broom in the butt from the Bears.

I’ve learned this much: Collecting slogans is easy. Living by them is the hard part. And you can quote me.

George F. Will – Religion and Politics in the First Modern Nation | John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics.