Putting my History/Poli Sci Degree to Use…Over at HubPages.

http://baizblogger.hubpages.com/hub/Economist-Joseph-Steiglitz-Rent-Seeking

What’s ‘rent-seeking’? It’s quietly creating unearned wealth and widening the economic gap in the USA. Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz explains it to me here…

Joseph Stiglitz

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Ten Good Reasons to Lose the Lottery: Why Bad Luck Might Just be Good

10. My Cat. Winning the lottery would be awful for Beats, my 15-year old mackerel tabby. Our old house is the only home he’s ever known Beats is Lord and Master of his Castle, adorned with human food servers and door attendants, an anti-dog fence, ceremonial outdoor crapping grounds, and–the reason our cellar door is always shut–a spare litter box crawlspace under the kitchen. I could never take him away from the only world he has ever known.

9. Security. I’m thinking armed guards. Imagine a lottery winner living in a diverse neighborhood–that’s what you call a city block where two people have been murdered, and a third was sent away for the deed in the last two decades.The vandals who regularly loot my 1996 minivan would have to upgrade to figuring out the gull-wing doors of a Lamborghini. And the construction noise from building all those gun turrets might send Bud next door over the edge. My neighbors would go from this pleasant state of indifference and suspicion to downright resentment and hatred.

8. Relatives. These people are bad enough if you aren’t rich. I’m sure they are worse if you are.

7.Unearned Bucks are Bad for Babies. I don’t care that they are adults. Once Dad and I began to wiggle our hineys into comfortable excess, the whining would begin. I’m all for giving people a leg up, but putting both my kids’ feet up and hiring someone to mix margaritas and order NetJets: uh, no thanks.

6. Business Schemes. People with all kinds of ideas will want me to finance them. I will tell them they are crazy stupid. They will get mad. I will be lonely.

5. I want to be disliked for who I am. Or liked for the same reason. I am not sure I would even like ME for myself if I had millions and millions of dollars. From my internal dialogue, I can say with certainty that I am not incredibly fond of myself anyway.

4. The Parade of the Curious (or worse). Sometimes people slow down to look at our old house. It’s pretty big, it’s decorated with exceptional cats, and it’s got a funky paint job. It’s hard enough trying to talk my husband into wearing underwear and stop waving to gawkers from the upstairs guest room. I would not want pictures of my buck naked butt-scratching nouveau-riche husband in a tabloid.

3. The Total Loss of Anonymity. In Great Falls I can still go places where I don’t know everyone. Yep, someone I know usually stops by my table at a restaurant or waves at me when I’m walking around downtown. The baristas at Starbucks know my drink by heart. My iced half-caf soy cocoa cappuccino would curdle in my gut if people slowed down just to point at my Day-Glo orange Lamborghini. It would make me so sad to have to build my own personal Starbucks in the backyard.

2. Fear of Kidnapping. See #10, #9, #6, #5 and #1. If kidnapping involves #8 or #7, please note that you have already been written out of my will. If it involves #10, my precious Beats, I will hunt you down and scratch your eyes out, force you to defecate in a sandbox and declaw you: this is no small matter, since declawing is essentially surgical extraction of your digits down to the first joint.

1. The Curse. West Virginia Lottery winner Jack Whitaker’s ex-wife said, after his granddaughter was found dead and over $100 million in winnings was squandered, that she should have torn up the ticket. Jeffrey Dampier, a $25 million lottery winner, was kidnapped and murdered by his sister-in-law. Winners Ken and Connie Parker’s 16-year-old marriage disintegrated within months of cashing the jackpot. Right in Sun Prairie, a stone’s throw from Great Falls, back in 1995, a 77-year old man died only a week after cashing his first Lottery check.

Face it, fellow losers: sometimes it’s more fun to dream about winning than it is to deal with it.

 

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Flipper

The New York Times last week had a feature story on the value of souvenirs, those special mementos that that transport us to special places in our past. Here’s the link (you may have to copy and paste, I’m having a hyperlink issue):

http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/03/monday-reading-theyre-souvenirs-not-stuff/

I brought something special from my childhood travels with me to New York City. Here’s my memento,  ’Flipper’.

Stainless Steel Flipper, Decorated with Dregs of Trader Joe's Vegan Chorizo

I slept in closest to the wall, in a double bunk that had been stitched from unbleached canvas and strung between two six-foot lengths of half-inch lead pipe, just sixteen inches from the ceiling of our travel trailer.

On the outer half of the bunk was my little brother, Roger. Below us, where big sister Cheryl slept, the dining table of our travel trailer seated all seven Reicherts at mealtimes (someone usually pulled up a camp chair).

Mom and Dad had the couch that folded out into the best substitute for a real bed, and from what I remember, my brothers, Greg and Robert, were outside, sleeping in a tent, where, Dad was sure, boys belonged.

If anyone had to pee at night, everyone woke up.

Even if I was about to burst, I wouldn’t even open my eyes until four a.m., when I smelled coffee and Canadian bacon. To this day, the mingled scents of salted flesh and chocolate earth make me wistful. Mom cooked at home, but in the trailer, an hour before the morning rise of his favorite rainbow trout, Dad was chef.

My dad always wanted an Airstream. With five kids and a fireman’s salary, just four years before he died, my dad and Duke Tedford built the best he could afford, a white-paneled job, barely big enough for the whole Reichert clan.

Me? I always wanted my own penthouse apartment in New York City. You know, with a balcony overlooking Central Park, a personal trainer and a guest bedroom. Like Dad, I lowered my expectations. Like Dad, I’m happy with what I got. And it’s a little bigger than Dad’s travel trailer (but not much).

A decade ago, before the trailer bid its final goodbye to the concrete pad in my mom’s backyard, I sat on the hideous brown plaid couch and dug around in the kitchen, eight inches away. Inside a rickety drawer, I found this flipper. I saw it in my Dad’s big mitt; I could almost smell breakfast at four a.m..

I might have asked, but I didn’t. I took it.

It’s not “stuff”. It’s not a souvenir. That flipper is a goddamn icon.

 

 

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Autumn in New York: Bring it On

The alarm for autumn rings in New York City over Labor Day weekend.

The pace of walkers everywhere in Manhattan quickens, the throng of tourists in midtown thins–though it amazes me that in the middle of a harsh winter, international sightseers still abound. In the fall, Fattened tourists give way to fashionistas, college students reduce their radius and buckle down for some serious studying, studding and slugging down their share.

In the last half of August, giant leaves begin to litter the greenery of Bryant Park. One fell right into my lap yesterday, perfectly ochre, the size of a horse’s hoof. A few days ago I stood on the raised terrace and watched the race for space at the final outdoor movie of the season (Raiders of the Lost Ark), blankets waving behind spectators like superhero capes, flying full speed to stake out the best spot on Bryant Park’s famous lawn. Bryant Park is a great place all year, but it sings in the summer: concerts, outdoor reading, ping-pong, chess, the carousel, juggling. The final summer jazz concert by the fountain was so large that fans clogged the sidewalk, annoying and entertaining passers-by at the same time.

The days and evenings are as sultry as they were in late July but in the wee hours,   walking back to my place in Chelsea from a late movie at the Angelica, the thermometer dropped into a temperature that would be exhilarating if it weren’t a harbinger of the cold to come.

The Green Market at Union Square overflows–people are in the mood to buy more than they need, in response to an instinct to stock up: lean pickins’ ahead.

Even the little street-side gardens, wrought iron squares around boulevard trees, are reverting to ivy and bolting coleus, as if they understood the heavy lifting of sprits is done and it’s time to act their age.

The people of Manhattan ready themselves this weekend for the American rite of passage, when some parents usher their children off to elementary school down the street with a tinge of bittersweet pride, others endure the ache and expense of education far from home, and every autumn since 1959, short plaid wool skirts decorate the window at Macy’s.

On Tuesday morning, it will feel as though we New Yorkers have the power: we practically will the weather to change. “Bring it on,” thinks the college kid from Topeka, in the auditorium for his first lecture down at NYU. “Bring it on,” writes the buyer for Holiday decor at Macy’s. “Bring it on,” says the mother of three, who, exhausted and relieved, will nevertheless, look forward to next summer.

Bring it on.

 

 

 

 

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August Fifteenth NYC

The City

soggy with joy

hailed my return by halting everyone

at JFK

 

Better than a ticker-tape parade

I got

a two hour wash-and-wait on the tarmac

a hundred feet short of Gate 8

 

Then, I got

The City

gussied up wet at sunset

 

The shiny grit of Manhattan

pierced, dark, covered

 

After all, she’s an island in a squall

 

Wet leather Gothic

 

New York in late summer

is a woman just the other side of full flower

the moist ache of passing rain

that used to pound and bounce.

In August

the wet parts roll off

too-heavy petals

gathering speed

to Fall

in the City

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Voldemort Rule: Let’s not Create a Mantra for Madmen

 

Hitler. Idi Amin. Osama Bin Laden, Anders Behring Breivik, Jared Lougher, Wade Michael Page.

The names of the damned have a power of their own.

Just saying them aloud sets up a vibration, a vulnerability, the kind of infamy that could tilt the head of an unbalanced Soul…and make him pause at the local gun show or weapons store, smack-dab in front of a semi-automatic weapons display. He might picture his face on Fox, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or on the newswires of AP, Reuters, and of course, the hometown newspaper…complete with a signature expression or unusual hairdo.

A rogue sicko looks in the mirror and imagines being dead and infamous. Alive and anonymous does not create the kind of notoriety these killers feel they deserve.

If a madman makes a horrible choice, I’d rather not hear his name, over and over again, against my will. I’d rather not see him in article after article, along with the details of the senseless act and the plodding due process that we have a right to cherish.

I’m not advocating that we erase Hitler, Idi Amin, or Bin Laden from the history books. We need to guard ourselves against demonic, magnetic individuals who managed to attract followers, profiteers and soldiers. We need not only to remember their names, but we need to repeat them, despite our discomfort, to keep ourselves vigilant of their ilk.

Lone assassins, crazed gunmen, they are a different story. The media should use their names when it’s necessary, not bandy these gruesome monikers about, granting lone killers, alive or dead, the opportunity to inspire more of their kind.

While most of us could point to Wade Michael Page or Jared Loughner in a lineup, we can’t name a single victim of a recent mass shooting, unless it’s Gabrielle Giffords, and that’s because she had the temerity to survive. And she had some fame to begin with. And she’s pretty. And white. And she had a hell of a backstory.

Dear Print Media:

How about naming the assailant ONCE in every story, and not in the first three paragraphs. If the reader wants to know the *******’s name, (s)he’ll have to read below the fold.

Dear Broadcast Media:

Instead of creating a mantra for madmen, how about showing some restraint: limit the mention of the shooter’s name to say, once an hour during the first day, and only when there’s a reason, thereafter.

It’s not just the name: Loughner’s one deeper set eye, Holmes’ blood-orange dyed hair, Page’s round-faced mug shot. Today, the dead Texas A&M cop shooter, is primed for a pirouette and posthumous bow in the media spotlight.

I don’t want to recognize the features of a new shooter’s face. Instead, I want to hear intelligent talk about the underlying causes of mental and emotional illness, to debate access to semi-automatic weapons. I want the names of the victims along with a restrained respect for their families. Explore the factors that shooters have in common without granting them the gift of infamy. Show us the protocols and priorities we can create, as individuals, and as a society, to curb senseless bloodshed.

My friends in the media need to act like grownups with a big, powerful, double-edged power tool. I don’t care if it is a slow news day and a juicy multiple homicide has the potential to entertain millions.

Unless it’s absolutely necessary, He-Who-Should-Not-be-Named doesn’t deserve the coverage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pogo looks at Chris Hedges “Careerist” Editorial

In response to Chris Hedges’ “Careerists” editorial on TruthDig today (07/23/12),  I let out my “inner Pogo” http://www.truthdig.com/report/page3/the_careerists_20120723/

copyright Walt Kelly, The Pogo Papers, first published in 1953

The only humans who are not contributing to the circumstances of economic and social destruction are the people who are already suffering from the consequences of those of us who are. At the risk of sounding like a Republican, I think, given half a chance, those poor souls would become willing consumers and in turn, conscious or unconscious destroyers themselves.

Chris Hedges says, “The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings.”

It’s true, the world’s spin cycle has washed the brightest hues of humanity from most of us.  In real life, we are easily overwhelmed and obviously over-washed.

It’s not just the bureaucrats and cynics–we all “do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality.”

We all contribute, in ways small or large, to a planet hell-bent on hurtling itself toward self-destruction. The complexity of modern life has obscured the cause and effect of simpler times, when losing a crop meant starvation, and when the mistakes could be attributed to a limited population…these days, buying a product that was advertised on TV during a Penn State football game could be considered ‘contributory’ to the culture that supported a monster.

There is incredible danger to finger-pointing, Mr. Hedges, unless one is looking in the mirror while flagging the finger.

Does Hedges have a computer or car or TV made by oppressed workers far offshore?  Did he use fossil fuels on the way to work today or consume a Monsanto-modified food? Is his classy casual shirt crafted by well-paid workers, crafted from unbleached, vegetable-dyed cotton? Did Chris step over a homeless person on the way to work today?

Anyone who consents to paying taxes knowingly feeds the beast. The behemoth has about 20 million government-paid heads in the USA alone. Sharpen your sword, Chris–and break your accountant’s pencil.

Our choices are few: worry, or shrug, or go nuts.

The soulless bureaucrats exist so Chris can opine and I can shine: because I cannot support myself as a writer, I am a jeweler, a purveyor of one of life’s little luxuries. All my diamond cutters and importers signed the anti-blood-diamond Kimberley Accord, every one of them.

I recycle gold, I sell estate diamonds, I donate to charities and walk to work.

I still understand that my actions breed suffering. The Kimberly Accord has huge flaws. The man-made soles on my ergonomic shoes may have destroyed an aquifer in China. The environmentally disastrous proposed Pebble mine in Alaska may be an indirect result of my counseling folks to diversify from paper investments.

I just hope that little acts of kindness and charity mask the moderate evil I abet.

At a time when we need to recognize our own contributions to destruction, to bridge gaps and build coalitions, let’s not make the bureaucrats throw more paper covers over their sins. Instead, pass out Freedom of Information Act forms outside Wall Street firms, raise money and strengthen statutes for whistleblowers, force companies to pay fines, and vote with your dollars. But forgive yourself, at least a little, for not being chased by a despot or starving on the fringes of a desert, or dying from a preventable disease.

All Chris Hedges would have to do for me is a quick re-edit to his TruthDig column today. Just change THEY to WE, and THEM to US.

Just because we’re part of the problem doesn’t mean we can’t mean a little something to the cure.

 

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Check out my HubPage

Why read a bad book? A story doesn’t have to win a Pulitzer to provide a lesson.

Here’s an excerpt from my ‘writer’s review’ of Matthew Reilly’s Seven Deadly Wonders:

…”And there’s a ‘yadda, yadda’ aura around quite a few of the roadblocks, blowholes, etc. There are four or five times in this book that I felt I was caught in a Chutes and Ladders marathon, or Rube Goldberg had a head injury and came out oozing sadism.

The lesson? Don’t write yourself into the same corner over and over again.

Building Blocks

If adverbs were grout, the book would look like one of those brick buildings with the bulging pointing between each clinker.

I am not a big fan of exclamation points. Reilly loves them! His editor loves them! His agent loves them! Me, not so much!”

Read the entire review at http://baizblogger.hubpages.com/hub/What-a-Bad-Book-Can-Teach-an-Aspiring-Writer

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Take Montana to Manhattan…and meet the Naked Cowboy

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and the Naked Cowboy

(Courtesy of  the Great Falls Tribune)

The day before he was a guest on The David Letterman Show, Brian Schweitzer competed for attention with a perennial entertainer in the heart of Times Square: the Naked Cowboy. Schweitzer is not a regular visitor to these here parts; seeing the famous wandering minstrel in thong underwear took this Montana dirt farmer-turned-politician aback. Schweitzer shook his head and said, “He might get arrested back home.”

For a few hours, the fully dressed governor of the Treasure State got more attention than the guy with the barely covered family jewels. It could have been the huge Watkins-Shepard semi truck completely wrapped in a colorful Montana tourism ad, it could be that Schweitzer has undeniable charisma, but I’m betting it was the free T-shirts, Montana huckleberry jam, Big Sky bison jerky and tiny stuffed mountain goats that the governor and his crew handed out to the passing crowd.

There was one moment in Schweitzer’s New York jaunt when he had to hang on. On Wednesday’s Letterman Show, Schweitzer, normally so much at ease he could pick his teeth while riding a rodeo bull, shifted on the saddle when David Letterman brought up Schweitzer’s recent embarrassing remark about “a polygamy commune” in Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s family tree.

Schweitzer, a Democrat, knows he’s got some good ol’ fashioned barn dung on his boots, but he’s a big cowboy who knows he can’t step in the political arena without smelling bad sometimes.

I guess Letterman felt bad for cornerin’ the governor, so he let Schweitzer ramble on for a few minutes about agronomy, eminent domain and education. Not exactly sexy or funny, but the governor might not let Letterman back in to Montana unless he made up for the polygamy jab.

Schweitzer did much better on CNBC, where he defended Montana’s solvent state budget by having a Mike Mansfield ‘say it simple’ moment. Schweitzer said, “Government has three jobs: to educate, medicate and incarcerate.”

When financial reporters intimated that Montana might be in the black only because of oil revenue, Schweitzer replied that only 2 percent of Montana’s state budget comes from oil money (he was mum on coal revenue). When the reporter wondered if states with small budgets might not work the same as big state budgets, he shot that comment down from the hip. “It’s all a matter of percentages.” You may disagree with Schweitzer’s politics, but there’s no denying the man could outtalk a city slicker in ten syllables or less.

The main reason Gov. Schweitzer came to New York City was to promote tourism. There’s a new direct flight from Big Sky Country to the Big Apple this summer. From June 9 through Sept. 1, thanks to contributions from seventeen Bozeman area businesses, a federal grant, and the Bozeman airport’s agreement to temporarily waive landing fees, United Airlines will be flying direct from Yellowstone International to Liberty International Airport in Newark.

Technically, it’s not a direct flight to New York City, it’s a direct flight to Newark. I’m hoping that bypassing New Jersey doesn’t upset governor Chris Christie doesn’t feel snubbed. The man is very unpleasant when he is insulted. Newark’s landing fees are probably lower than JFK or LaGuardia, and it’s very convenient to take the train into Manhattan, but last time I looked, Newark was in New Jersey. If it comes down to fisticuffs between Schweitzer and Christie at the next National Governor’s Conference, my money is on Brian.

Seeing as how Montana tried to sell tourism in Times Square, I asked Schweitzer if New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo would be welcome to set up a tourist kiosk in downtown Bozeman. He could straddle a friendly Democrat donkey and hand out New York City swag to encourage Montanans to fill up the return flight to Newark. “Anytime,” was Schweitzer’s response. But please, Governor Cuomo, buy a permit. And bring a shovel. We Montanans like governors who know how to handle waste.

 

 

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If you’re an aspiring fiction writer, head on over to Hub Pages for the first of fourteen posts about the Crime Fiction Academy.

http://baizblogger.hubpages.com/hub/For-Aspiring-Crime-Fiction-Writers-The-Scene-of-the-Crime-Fiction-Academy-Center-for-Fiction-NYC

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