Big Band Leader Benny Goodman


Entry Date: February 15, 2011

Exactly twenty two years ago yesterday, I worked for the last time out of my headquarters in Royersford, Pennsylvania and departed for my present home town of Oil City, Pennsylvania in 1989. That last day in the eastern section of Pennsylvania was spent finishing up with a client in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania in the Benjamin Fox Pavilion. I was able to arrive at my parents' home in Parker, Pennsylvania prior to searching for my first residence in Oil City. As I settled in to my new town, there was one popular song that year that underscored the feeling of celebration, Donna Summers' This Time I Know It's For Real. The YouTube video was the one seen on the old MTV and VH1 channels in 1989.


Entry Date: February 5, 2011

There is a school of thought that, in the event that there are deaths of noncombatants when using a particular kind of weapon, and the user of the weapon did not intend those deaths ot occur, then there is no moral fault in the use of the weapon. I have given this some thought over the years, including listening to military and civilian experts discuss collateral damage, and have come to the following conclusion using conditional logic.

IF the user of a weapon has reason to know that the use of the weapon will lead to deaths of noncombatants

THEN the user of the weapon is responsible for the deaths of the noncombatants.

It all boils down to whether or not military and civilian leaders know the capability of the weapon, how the weapon is used, and where it is to be used. Of course all military and civilian experts worldwide have to know these things. Now, we can try, to all reasonable extent, to attempt to avoid those noncombatant deaths, and that is commendable; however, if they know that there is a certainty that there will still be some noncombatant casualties, and they use the weapon anyway, then they are responsible just the same. It is the natures of the weapons in question that drive this. As weapons become more and more of an impersonal, mass destruction nature, more noncombatant deaths are inevitable. They cannot be avoided. It is not so much a matter of intent. What is happening is we are confusing wishes with intentions. We might wish a weapon didn't kill civilians when we use it, but if we know that it is almost inevitable that the weapon will kill civilians, and we use it anyway, then we intend those deaths even if we regret them and wish they didn't occur. People can argue for a greater good being served in the use of the weapon, such as fewer casualties of all kinds if we do use it along with a faster end to a war, but calling the casualties "collateral damage" is not valid. The term "acceptable noncombatant casualties" would be a better starting point for determining the morality in the use of a modern weapon. What level, or number, of "acceptable noncombatant casualties," in any given situation, is morally acceptable? In what circumstances can, or should we use those weapons? We cannot argue that the noncombatant casualties are not intentional when we know a given weapon is certain to result in those casualties. "Collateral damage" suggests accidental deaths. They are not accidental. We know they will happen. We have to grapple with the morality with this starting point. Even in the example of the movie version of Memphis Belle, when the lead pilot in the B-17 formation deliberately made his bomber flight fly through flack a second time in order to get a clearer sighting on a legitimate bombing target in order to avoid dropping bombs on a school, the same question applies. Some of those bombs could still have hit the school as bomb sights in World War II were not that accurate. Some civilian casualties could have resulted. The fictional action in the movie would have been heroic in its intent, and probably would have reduced the number of noncombatant casualties, but the casualties are still a likely result.

This is not a call for unilateral disarmament of the United States of America, or a selective criticism of any of its past or present policies. This is an argument for this issue to be addressed by all nations with access to modern weapons of mass destruction. Moral philosophy has to take another look at this without reference to "collateral damage," but starting with the admission that such weapons inevitably will kill and maim noncombatants which means the elderly, the infirm, women, and children. How much of this are we all willing to stomach and for what reasons? Has technology gotten away from us? Have governments worldwide grown beyond the ability of their citizens to restrain them? This subject needs some more careful reflection.


Entry Date: February 3, 2011

Nomi Prins on C-Span Book TV

Nomi Prins, author of It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street, maintains a Web site where she tracks where all the money went for the bailouts of the big money center banks, the mortgage purchasing governmental corporations like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and other big time corporate hand-out recipients. If you want to see where your money went, pay the place a visit. I know the Super Bowl is this week, but maybe some of you could take the time to find out where over FOURTEEN TRILLION DOLLARS went, especially with 1-in-46 homes in America now in foreclosure. Fourteen trillion could have paid off some of those homes.



Being "too big to fail" means never having to say you're sorry.


Entry Date: January 28, 2011

It helps to have a sense of humor when you wake up in a hotel, step outside in the morning and have to groan, "Oh, no, it snowed again!" After a few years of it, I developed a kind of slang in referring to the unpleasant aspects of winter driving. Here are some favorites.




Snow Plow

Blade Runner

Snow Plow Driver

Plow Boy

Incompetent snow plow driver

"Kicking up a stink"

A car or truck spraying dirty road water on your windshield


Windshield washer fluid

Paint cutter

Snow brush for the car with sharp ice scraper on the opposite end

Hillbilly Juice

Pulling the car over to throw snow on the windshield

Snow Bunny

Well dressed woman, usually in a long coat and wearing stilleto snow boots, broke down on the side of the road. "I stop for snow bunnies."


Stilleto snow boots


Unanticipated night snow fall or storm

Crash Dummies

People who try to drive through ice storms

Rain Man

Weather reporter

Glass buster

Anti-skid material with rocks in it that get kicked out by other vehicle's wheels to crack your windshield.

Car rotter/Bridge buster

Road salt

Bumper Car

A moron tailgating on an ice or snow covered road.

Hockey Rink

Freeway ramp untreated by plow boys.

Hair Whipper

A woman approaching a stop sign at the end of a ramp, rapidly turning her head in both directions. If she does this more than twice, and her hair whips around noticeably, get ready. She is going to run the Stop sign.


A State Trooper or County Police in winter gear.

Instant Clown

The McDonald's Drive-Through.



Entry Date: January 27, 2011

The Business Insider Web site has produced satellite imagery of clusters of foreclosed properties throughout the United States as the reproduced map below shows. To access this imagery, click on the link below. This situation is completely intolerable. This could not have happened without some kind of criminal activity being involved. On top of it all, the trillions thrown at bailouts could probably have just paid off a lot of these mortgages, if not all of them. Maybe just paying them off would have been cheaper than the bailouts. Does anyone know where all the bail out money went, or is this another of those "trillions are missing at the Pentagon, and we have no idea where it is" deals? All of these foreclosures are adding downward pressure on real estate prices as described in the posting immediately below this one.


Being "too big to fail" means never having to say you're sorry.



Entry Date: January 21, 2011

First of all, it is important to understand what a bubble is. A bubble occurs when investment is morphed into speculation. Investment becomes speculation when people confuse prices with the true values of things, in this case residential housing. Prices are determined by the demand for a thing as opposed to the supply of the thing, in this case single family dwellings. If there is little supply of something, but high demand, prices will rise. The rising price will cause more of the object in demand to be produced. Prices can fluctuate according to the demand relative to the supply of an object of value. Value is something different than price. We know instinctively when something has value, but value cannot be quantified in money terms as it is only a concept. The value of a thing can cause us to want the thing. The price will determine if we can actually have it. When price gets confused with value investors get confused and fail to recognize when price increases do not reasonably reflect the value of something. Investors tend to start thinking that rising prices will never fall and stampede into a market not considering what might happen if the prices fall. In real estate, this gets reflected by people constantly using the word "value" instead of "price." Appraisers who use "comparative sales prices" of similar homes to determine the value of a particular home are commiting this error. The appraisers are only reviewing sales prices, and investors are making decisions thinking this "value" of the property will either never decline, or might actually increase, generating a profit in the form of real estate equity. The equity is the "value" of the property versus the balance outstanding on any mortgage that finances it, but the "value" figure was the estimated sales price at the time the mortgage was made, not the actual value of the real estate. Prices can rise, but they can also fall, and with 30 and 40 year mortgages, a lot of things can happen to the price of that individual house and land during the life of a mortgage. The price can fall, and if it does, the mortgage balance can become higher than the resale price of the real estate, or become "underwater." Starting in the mid-1990s, housing prices rose an astonishing 70% after adjusting for inflation. Feeding the demand for the housing were low interest rates. Low interest rates on mortgages stimulate demand. High interest rates lower demand. Increases in demand stimulate higher prices for the real estate. The low interest rates encouraged borrowing for real estate as people began to treat real estate equity like stocks. The flood of money into the market kept bidding up the prices, creating rising equity that was just a bunch of hot air. When the good credit risks were borrowed to the hilt to keep the real estate market roaring, the subprime market got tapped as the bubble matured. This kept the game going for about two additional years. Then the bubble popped. Banks holding the mortgage paper found the underlying real estate collateral was not "worth" as much as the balance on the mortgages. This endangered the solvency of those banks. Those who purchased the subprime mortgages in mortgage backed securities, such as pension funds, found the prices of their bonds declining. This is how cheap borrowed money creates a bubble of artificial wealth through investing that morphs into speculation.

 Dean Baker, writing in The Guardian on January 5th warns:

House prices in the United States are again declining and most of the economics profession remains clueless. The Case-Shiller 20-city house price index for October (the data is released with a two-month lag) showed a decline of 1.3% from September. This implied an acceleration from the prior month's decline, which is now reported as 1.0%. In other words, house prices are again declining at double-digit rates. A more careful examination of the data reveals the underlying logic. Prices are declining most rapidly in the bottom third of the market. Prices for this bottom tier of the market were in freefall in recent months in several cities.

The reason is that a first-time buyers' tax credit ended in June. This credit caused many buyers to move their purchase forward. People who might have otherwise bought in the second half of 2010 or in 2011, instead bought in the first half of 2010.

This tax credit had the effect of ending the plunge in house prices in 2009, and even leading to small rise in the second half of the year. But with the credit now expired, the price decline is resuming. It will likely spread from the bottom tier of the market to the middle and higher end, since the sellers of bottom-tier homes are the buyers of higher-end homes. If they must sell for much lower prices than they had anticipated, then they will have less money to buy these higher-end homes.

With any bubble, there is a period in which the price of the commodity involved in the bubble is underpriced. The market has to seek the actual price, but that takes some "trial and error" as the same psychology that led to the commodity being overpriced, a stampede for profits, goes in the opposite direction. As the optimism caused inflated prices for real estate, the new pessimism will deflate real estate to below actual market prices until the realistic market price is finally reached.

The work of "The Bubble Boys" in the big money center banks, and their friends in high places, will take some time to correct. Meanwhile, Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund is sending up flares about Goldman Sachs investing $450 million in the social networking site, Facebook. Johnson estimates that the Goldman Sachs investment implies that Facebook is worth $50 billion. The previous Internet bubble burst in 2001 and exposed a lot of overpriced investments and acquisitions such as Yahoo's purchase of Geocities, which Yahoo finally had to eliminate after Geocities had become a wasteland of mostly abandoned and ignored personal Web sites. The 2001 Internet bubble bursting did not cause a recession as most of it was financed with equity investment rather than through incurring debt. Bubbles created through cheap debt financing are the ones that cause the most financial dislocation, including threatening the "too big to fail" banks, which generated the last panic when the subprime mortgage bubble blew up. That incident caused then New York Federal Reserve boss Timothy Geithner to call Robert Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury with the alarm, "We have to get some foam down on the runway." Both Geithner and Paulson were Goldman Sachs executives in former lives before becoming the heads of bank regulatory agencies and managers of the multi-trillions of dollars bailouts. Maybe it would have been better to just pay off the mortgages? Maybe that would have been cheaper.

Let's hope this move into "Social Networking," which generates no real wealth that I can think of, doesn't result in yet another need for "foam on the runway" in the form of more debt piled on the taxpayers as the big banks have to get bailed out again.

Being "too big to fail" means never having to say you're sorry.


Entry Date: January 17, 2011

People have asked me which of the "clients" did I least enjoy visiting on these consulting gigs all over Pennsylvania. Well, I can't give that away, but can tell you how it felt to have to do one of those jobs. I always tell people who ask the question that visiting those "clients" was a lot like deactivating unexploded bombs. There was always something going on in those places. There might be nine months of unrecorded accounting entries in one place, a faked repossession in another, financial reports that don't add up, and another place with two sets of books. The "repossessed" truck was found abandoned under a bridge. It's owner was murdered months before. You always had to decipher and fix the problems. This trailer provides an apt metaphor for the process.



Entry Date: January 16, 2011

We are changing governors here in Pennsylvania after eight years of Ed Rendell. Yes, the budget is deep in the hole, even more with the economy still flat-lining, but even with the problems, Ed Rendell knows how to show a constituency a good time. As the following quotes and stories of puckish pranks on the part of the governor demonstrate, the last eight years have rarely been boring.

The governor once admitted he wanted to grab an elderly Wilkes-Barre woman around the neck and "throttle her" after she poked him in the chest and complained because he had signed the 2005 pay hike for the State Legislators. Somehow, I don't think the elderly woman understood what Rendell meant by having to "kiss a little butt" with the Legislators to ensure passage of all his programs.

I guess Rendell gave up "kissing a little butt" when he denounced the legislators for refusing a tax increase as "cowards," claiming the legislators wouldn't want a cure for cancer if they had to pass a tax for it.

Rendell sent a severed doll's head to Representative Tim Solobay on the State House floor, claiming the severed head was from a "Tim Solobay bobblehead" doll. It was Rendell's strategy for getting the Washington County Democrat to vote for Rendell's proposed severance tax on natural gas extraction. The strategy failed.

During the 2008 Democratic Primary in Pennsylvania, Rendell insulted the population of his own State by claiming that Pennsylvanians wouldn't vote for an African-American like Barack Obama. Rendell was a Hillary Clinton supporter. Obama won the primary.

When Obama nominated Janet Napolitano for Secretary of Homeland Security, Rendell forgot his microphone was on when he said Napolitano was perfect for the job as "she has no life." Apparently, Ed Rendell hasn't had to go through airport security lately. She has a life now, Governor, just ask anyone who flies.

Citizen activist Eric Epstein was often a thorn in Rendell's side. The Governor retalitated by referring to Epstein as follows: "Epstein is about as mentally stable as that guy who ate all those people." It was a reference to either serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer or Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs. No one knows to which cannibal Rendell was referring.

Rendell recently lost it on 60 Minutes, denouncing Leslie Stahl and the 60 Minutes producers as "simpletons" and "idiots."

Rendell ordered the State Police to step up writing speeding tickets on the major highways as a means to close the state's deficit. Meanwhile, Rendell would have his personal driver whip down the turnpike at 100 miles per hour. The fact that Rendell thought speeding tickets would close a $4 billion deficit speaks for itself.

My personal favorite was Rendell's Goldfinger quote. As usual, Rendell was having trouble getting a budget passed in time for the new fiscal year, and a legislative conference was trying to cobble together a budget agreement. Rendell didn't like the way things were going, so he started daydreaming out loud: "(Goldfinger) was meeting with all these drug dealers, and they were all sitting there, and he just filled the room with poison gas and knocked them all off," Rendell said. "You might have thought after watching those two days that that ought to be a good idea." One legislator countered that the budget was delayed because it was Rendell who was "the poisonous gas" in the process.

The past eight years have been a real blast.


Entry Date: January 15, 2011

Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie Ross) and Matt Damon (Texas Ranger LaBoeuf)

"I felt like Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones."--Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers' version of True Grit

I just received the latest issue of First Things,a Catholic philosophical and cultural journal, which included a review of True Grit by Armond White, chair of the New York Film Critics Circle. Mr. White mines the entire body of work of the Coen Brothers to bring True Grit, which is now the Coens' most successful release, into a spiritual focus, including a brief explanation of the formalized dialogue in the movie in which few people ever use a contraction. White explains this as the Nineteenth Century being an era in which the Bible was "quoted as vernacular" and "defined the ethos" of that era. As with their A Serious Man, the Coens start True Grit with an opening religious quotation. In A Serious Man Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki is quoted, "Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you." True Grit begins with a verse from Proverbs (28:1), "The wicked flees when no one pursues, but the righeous are bold as a lion." Armond White addresses this film making device by describing the Coens' desire to follow "the classic tradition of storytelling that addresses fundamental human concerns."

Armond White wrote an interesting review, particularly for anyone interested in the process of filmmaking or storytelling in general, but left out a very classical device of storytelling that comes from antiquity. What Mattie Ross, the protagonist of the Charles Portis novel on which the movie is based, experiences is a direct confrontation with evil. This is far more the basis of this version of True Grit than the John Wayne vehicle from 1969. The Coens are telling Mattie Ross' story from her point of view, using the adult Mattie as a narrator. The John Wayne version was centered far more on the Rooster Cogburn character which led to a later "sequel" that focused on Cogburn again. When Tom Chaney murders Mattie's father, she becomes entirely focused on seeing to it that Chaney pays for his crime, even after blanching at the sight of a multiple hanging on the gallows in Fort Smith, Arkansas. She recovers her steel almost immediately, instructing her father's farm hand to accompany her father's body to their home in Yell County, Arkansas. Mattie would stay in Fort Smith and pursue revenge, or as the film's posters and trailers refer to it, retribution against Chaney, arranging for Deputy Federal Marshal Cogburn to pursue Chaney while she accompanies him. Mattie's going along on the search for Chaney underscores her singlemindedness in seeing Chaney pay.

Mattie Ross, only fourteen, was a very religious girl, a Presbyterian, who was acting out of revenge to seek her father's killer. The hardships she endures, such as swimming her horse across a river, demonstrates the depth of her resolution. When she finally confronts Chaney, only to be taken hostage by the gang with whom Chaney was now riding, leads to her getting bitten by a rattlesnake. Cogburn and the Texas Ranger, LeBoeuf, save her life, but she loses the stricken arm. The loss of a limb, or a deep scar, inflicted on the protagonist as a result of a confrontation with evil is a classic device in storytelling. The same thing happened to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader severs Luke's hand. There are other examples of this in literature. Mattie, in confronting evil, had to get close to it, and for the first time after fourteen years protected by her family on the farm in Yell County. She confronted the evil out of a desire for revenge for her father's death, which is not the purest of motives. The loss of the arm was symbolic of Mattie's loss of innocence which is a consequence of any direct contact with evil.


Entry Date: January 13, 2011

I stumbled on to this long video after doing some research on-line in an attempt to get a handle on what the tragedy in Arizona really reflects in the greater society. Doctor Levin's take on things is interesting and worth a look.



Entry Date: January 11, 2011

What a tragic way to begin a New Year. A Congresswoman who was well-liked across the partisan aisle is battling for her life after Jared Loughner opened fire with his Glock 19 pistol at an outdoor town meeting in Arizona. The stories are confused about how many shots were fired, but Loughner had the pistol loaded with a high-capacity magazine of at least 30 rounds. Approximately 20 people were hit with six of them killed. The gunman even killed a nine-year-old girl, an act that I find especially repugnant. How anyone can think of even hurting someone who probably sleeps with a stuffed animal and plays with Barbie's Dream House is something I will never wrap my mind around. I won't mention what kind of punishments I think Loughner deserves for that act alone as none of them are pretty. There is something about the wanton murder of a girl that is especially repugnant. I just have no tolerance for girl killers, even though Jared Loughner is obviously suffering from a mental disease or impairment. Then a law has to be passed by the Arizona legislature because some church group wanted to picket the girl's funeral because they are of the opinion that this was punishment from God for the society tolerating homosexuality. I think that falls under the heading of "Non Sequiturs." Partisans in both political parties blamed each other. Baby boomer adults just had to stage a political food fight right in the middle of two parents trying to cope with the violent death of their daughter. The rampant fear of elections just makes some people crazy. These disturbed people think everything revolves around the next election campaign. Some people need to get a grip and try to figure out how James and Mary Carville manage to keep a family together when they are professional political operatives of opposing parties. The fact is that few of the political professionals really hate each other. These campaigns have more in common with WWF wrestling than they do with the Super Bowl.

People who want to picket a little girl's funeral. Political mudslinging. It's enough to make you wonder if Jared Loughner is the only one with a problem.


Entry Date: January 3, 2011

As should be obvious to anyone who has read several of the posts in this blog, and on the FYI page of the main section of this site, my religion is Roman Catholic, but it wasn't always. In my younger days, up to the age of 19, I was a Methodist. I have fond memories of the Methodist Church as many of my school friends attended that church. We had the Methodist Youth Federation (MYF, or "Monkeys, Yokels, and Finks" as we affectionally called it.). Since I thought enough about spiritual matters after my early Methodist training to convert to the Catholic faith later in life, the Methodist Church gave me the right sensibilities about spiritual matters, making them a priority of life. That is no small achievement these days. The foundation was started in the Methodist Church and completed in the Catholic church along with the rest of the structure. There have been renovations since. All of us are works in progress, after all. Along with the times with childhood friends at the Methodist church, such as a hymnal dropped from the balcony by one unfortunate (no, not me) I remember some of the hymns. One of my favorites from those old days was highlighted in the soundtrack of True Grit, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. Actually, a Presbyterian came up with the hymn, but Methodists sing it, too, along with Baptists and other mainline Protestant denominations. It is a fine and uniquely American piece of sacred music which always makes me think of American primitive art work of the nineteenth century.



What a fellowship, what a joy divine,

leaning on the everlasting arms;

what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,

leaning on the everlasting arms.



Leaning, leaning,

safe and secure from all alarms;

leaning, leaning,

leaning on the everlasting arms.


2. O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,

leaning on the everlasting arms;

O how bright the path grows from day to day,

leaning on the everlasting arms.



3. What have I to dread, what have I to fear,

leaning on the everlasting arms?

I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,

leaning on the everlasting arms.



Entry Date: January 2, 2011



Entry Date: December 26, 2010

 Being "too big to fail" means never having to say you're sorry.


Entry Date: December 26, 2010

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and that we all have a better 2011. With the holidays almost over, I thought it might be a good idea to address an issue that is just coming to the forefront, especially over the past year with the bullying in high schools and colleges causing suicides. This is something the psychologists and sociologists are calling Relational Aggression or RA. Another name for RA is "Girl Fighting" or "Girl Bullying," as it is primarily the way girls express hostility toward an individual girl in a group setting. Some of the signs of RA include the following list.

1. Social exclusion or ostracism as when the leader of a group of girls forbids the other members to be friendly to the targeted girl.

2. Gossip or outright lying about the targeted girl.

3. Public ridicule and humiliations of the targeted girl.

4. Constant criticisms of hair, clothing, and other personal affectations.

5. Betrayals.

6. Setting up the targeted girl to look ridiculous or worse to the rest of the group.

7. Using technology to harass the targeted girl.

If anyone has seen the movie Mean Girls, you know what this is all about, and those who lived through it know it even better. Well, it is a good thing that the social experts are getting interested in this subject, even to the point of naming the phenomenon. It is at least a start, but what the experts don't realize is, Relational Aggression isn't just a tool of teenage girls anymore. Men use it, now, too, especially in white collar employment situations. Now, sure the male "Queen Bees" who run these cliques to harass and defame their targets know a good set of strategies and tactics when they see them. Relational aggession, or psychological bullying as I like to call it, can work to help the leader of a bullying clique achieve goals or react to the sudden appearance of threatening competition in the workplace. RA has been "difficult to discern," as employers love to claim, but my guess is most supervisors out there know full well this goes on as they lived through it as bullies, targets, or bystanders with their thumbs in an odd place while some poor shlub was getting worked over. Well, the problem with men using these "girl fighting" tactics against men is the constant presence of something called testosterone. Constantly lying about a man all over a workplace, or setting him up to look like a buffoon in front of a crowd of people, with all that testosterone sloshing around, is about as intelligent as juggling vials of nitroglycerin. Girls aren't likely to go all Rooster Cogburn on anyone ("I mean to kill you in one minute!"--Jeff Bridges in True Grit), but we all know that, with men, this is not at all certain. This should clue some bosses out there that Relational Aggression practiced by males is not something you want going on in the office. Unless you want your business to get some of the kind of free publicity no one wants, such as police and emergency medical buses converging on your place of business, along with the vultures from television news.

The most ridiculous part of this whole thing is the spectacle of so-called "men" behaving like adolescent girls. A lot of the ones I've encountered, and I've seen some pretty extreme ones, like to come off like macho men while acting like cheerleaders fighting over the star quarterback. Oh, yeah, they are homophobes, too. I wonder if this means anything? Come on, guys, hair and fashion insults? Gossiping? Is that what you would expect Chuck Norris to do when some big Asian guy has just ripped a toilet out of the bathroom wall in order to bust it over Chuck's head? Maybe that's why these movies are so popular with these characters. They have to have some kind of vicarious outlet for what little masculinity they have left. It will probably take another decade before Relational Aggression is studied in white collar workplaces, but at least it is getting recognized. It makes one wonder what kept the experts up to now.

While macho posers fighting like teenage girls is the ridiculous part of all this, there is a disheartening side. There are some of these "relational bullies" who like to torment women on the job. They pick the isolated who are forced to face a mob alone, especially those physically smaller, and now women are fair game. America is supposed to be the "home of the brave." What is brave about this kind of faux tough guy posturing by bullying weaker and isolated individuals? Aren't we supposed to defend the weak and helpless and stand up to the powerful and the mob? Have American men become so corrupted by the scramble for scraps from the corporate and bureaucratic tables that we have forgotten how real men are supposed to behave? Maybe that is why those more powerful, as described in the video posted right above this story, are looting us with impunity. The powerful looting and bankrupting our economy waited until American men had no character left before striking at us.



Entry Date: December 19, 2010

DVD Cover for The Night Before Christmas

This fine independent film about a young man in the midst of professional and personal crises on the eve of Christmas is a wonderful holiday experience. I taped it when it was on LIFETIME TELEVISION in 1995 after watching it the year before. The main character takes an impromtu journey through the streets of Chicago after seeing a friend off for a trip home for the holidays at the local tavern after work. He has lost the spirit and meaning of Christmas until spending some time at an all-night showing of It's a Wonderful Life at a local theater, slipping into midnight Mass, and encountering a young girl waiting for Santa Claus despite her father being out of work and no money for presents. One of the best lines in the movie is during the midnight Mass scene when the priest finishes his abbreviated homily with: "Christmas isn't the time when we get what we want. It's when we get what we need."

What he does at the end always hits home for me. Check it out! It is on and on its own Web site.



Entry Date: December 15, 2010

Hilary Duff sings on "Santa Claus Lane." Just one sign of everyone getting into the spirit of Christmas.

With the Christmas season well underway and only nine shopping days left, Santa Claus, or his many helpers, are making the rounds all over. Some people just like to dress up like Jolly Saint Nick while others, like Ms. Duff, sing about him. "Claus" is everywhere. The first time I called the character by his last name was when, in 1988, I noticed that some department store in the Coventry Mall near Pottstown, Pennsylvania had impressed one girl employee into donning the red suit with a huge amount of padding underneath. The padding did no good, as it was possible to discern the "Santa" as a girl even from a distance.

"Hey, Claus! Is that you? Long time, no see! " I shouted a greeting to the girl and her female "elf." She only returned the kind of look that came naturally to a teen girl forced to become a female department store Santa. She had no sense of humor about it, but I kept trying. "The poker game is on for tonight. Park the sleigh in back. The neighbors didn't like Donner and Blitzen butting heads last year!"

Well, the elf laughed, but no one minds a girl elf. A girl Santa? That's another story, but these Korean girls didn't mind trying on the red suit. Of course, no little kids will be sitting on their laps demanding to know why Santa is a girl. With all the Santas around, it is hard to forget about the approaching holiday. A bunch of us took lunch hour at a place in Delaware County, Pennsylvania called Barneys, and The Claus showed up there, going from table to table, getting his picture taken with the patrons, including Jessica and Mike from our group. I told Santa that what Jessica really wanted this Christmas was Brad Pitt. Santa promised he would do his best.


Entry Date: December 10, 2010

Mr. Assange of Wikileaks is in some trouble right now for putting out some documents that were classified by mostly the US government, but some others around the world, too. There are allegations of other improprities as well that could keep his lawyers busy for a long time. What is interesting about Wikileaks is that it is just one manifestation of a movement that has been around since the 1980s, back in the days of dial-up external modems and computer bulletin boards. This is the Cypherpunk movement. These guys are not a bunch of Web surfers. Some are hackers, but they are the more intelligent kind of hackers. Some of them helped to found Sun Microsystems, developed cryptographic algorithms, and exposed the fraud of a "secure" DES encryption algorithm. If you want to get to know the ideas that brought about Wikileaks, check out the Wikipedia page about Cypherpunk. There are a lot of links about the founding members. Assange is not one of them as he didn't get involved until 1995. Cypherpunk is like a bunch of gophers tunnelling around in someone's manicured lawn. Every once in awhile, one gopher sticks its head up for the homeowner to see. All the gophers are Cypherpunk and Assange is the one (presently) sticking his head up. The government is sort of like Bill Murray's greenskeeper in Caddyshack.


Entry Date: December 7, 2010

A Brownie Scout cookie mogul delivering the goods.

I'm only a few blocks from Independence Hall, but I showed that site to everyone this past summer. It is on the Philadelphia page of "Traveling for a Living" here in the Back Office. There are also some lesser known historical sites here, like the one I passed on my way to vigil Mass for Immaculate Conception at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. On Arch Street there is another historical marker for where, in 1932, the first Girl Scout cookie sale was held. Girl Scouts set up their sales stations in the windows of the Philadelphia Gas and Electric Company in November 1932. It was a success, so other Girl Scout Councils followed suit. Everyone knows what happened after that. Girl Scout Cookies became an institution. The first "Green Berets" always had an easy sale whenever they pitched the cookies to me. Nothing like a couple of Thin Mints chopped and sprinkled on vanilla ice cream.


Entry Date: December 5, 2010

Zooey Deschanel: She could channel Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane.

The weather was a little dicey on the way to the Philadelphia area today. I was driving in and out of winter weather fronts starting in Oil City that got hit with about six inches of lake effect snow. On the way, I loaded Spanky and Our Gang's Greatest Hits CD. This one is full of catchy tunes from my early high school days, especially freshman and sophomore year. My favorites are Sunday Will Never be the Same, Lazy Day, and I'd Like to Get to Know You. The great orchestrations and harmonies sound even better in a digital format. You can actually hear what sounds like a slide whistle being used on Lazy Day to sound like a bird singing in the background through the song. These kind of pleasant songs, with an easy beat, make the miles go by with little sense of being in a marathon drive. They also bring back memories of my best time in high school, sophomore year 1967-1968, which was a bonus.

Thinking about why no one has tried to bring back these songs, with maybe a little updating, I wondered just who might be best among the new generation of pop singers to try these old classics. Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane had a unique voice that did the songs right, along with her supporting male singers. While Lazy Day was playing, I could only think of one female vocalist who could bring the song to life the way "Spanky" did: Zooey Deschanel. The playful lyrics just reminded me of something she would enjoy singing. Maybe if she surfs through here sometime, Ms. Deschanel might get an inspiration.

Blue Sky, sunshine, what a day to take a walk in the park.

Ice cream, daydream till the sky becomes a blanket of stars.

What a day for pick-in' daisies and lots of red balloons.

And what a day for hold in' hands and being with you.


(Refrain) Lazy Day, just right for lovin' away

Lazy Day, made for a stroll in the lane;

Baby, you and me (baby, you and me)

And the honey bee ('neath a shady tree)

Lazy Day, Lazy Day, Lazy Day for you and me.