Conversation Overheard at Breakfast at the Four Seasons in Amman 

“He said I should cover up. That I was showing too much skin or something, and it was like distracting!”

An American teenager, having breakfast with her parents at the table next to ours. Her parents were looking at her – patiently or adoringly or both. I couldn’t tell. She continued…

“I should cover up? Like why don’t they cover up their eyes? I mean, I have the right to wear whatever the fuck I want.”

A moment of silence. Then her father leaned over and patted her hand. “Don’t worry, sweetie. When we get to the Côte d’Azur you can walk around topless if you like.”

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7 Politically Incorrect Questions I’m Afraid to Ask

  1. We know that money doesn’t buy happiness. So why do we assume that increasing the income of poor people will make them happier?
  2. We know that if someone doesn’t want to learn, it’s impossible to teach them anything – and that if someone does want to learn, it’s impossible to stop them. So why do so many believe that we can improve education by improving schools rather than motivating students?
  3. We know that one of the very few ways to enjoy life is to work hard and well on things we value. So why do so many spend their careers at jobs they hate in the hopes of gaining happiness later when they stop working?
  4. We know that it is difficult to get homeless people off the streets. Providing shelters doesn’t seem to help. Neither do incentive systems. Is it possible that they are on the streets because they want to be?
  5. We know that there has never been a Communist state in modern history that has improved the lives of its citizens. In fact, they have all resulted in stagnant or collapsing economies and the abridgment of freedoms. So why do so many (nearly 50%) of our college students believe that Communism is a viable economic and political system?
  6. We know that war is fundamentally reductive. By its very nature, it is designed to reduce populations (particularly of young people), destroy infrastructure, cripple industry, and disrupt political, social, and economic institutions. Whatever its purported goals are, the end result is always less of everything. So why do so many believe it is a smart solution to political, social, and economic problems?
  7. We know that ideology makes sense only in the abstract and that real-life advancements are made by pragmatism. So why would anyone want to be an ideologue?
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flâneur (noun) 

A flâneur (flah-NUR) is an idle man-about-town; a casual wanderer and observer of street life. Example from the Norton Museum of Art website: “From the 19th-century flâneur… to today’s social media networkers, the need to get a glimpse of famous or notorious personalities and the compulsion to be seen within an aura of celebrity and influence has driven – and been driven by – the graphic arts.”

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A Few Financial Facts to Think About 

* After-tax income of the rich: Between 1979 and 2005, the average after-tax income of the top 1% increased by 176%, compared with an increase of only 6% for the bottom 20%.

* Inflation effects on the working class: Between 1990 and 2005, the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage actually declined by 9.3% when adjusted for inflation.

* US Debt is now $22 trillion and mounting at a trillion a year.

* Stocks vs. GDP: Normally, the stock market is worth about 80% of GDP. Now, it is worth 150% of GDP.  That’s equivalent to $14 trillion.

* Corporate pre-tax earnings are the same today as they were in 2012. Yet the market valuation is $14 trillion greater.

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The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken

Bracken made her living as a copywriter. She wrote this, her first book, in 1960 when she was 70 years old. I’m reading it for the maturity of her wit, not the recipes.

Examples:

* “Add flour, salt, paprika, and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.”

* “A mutual dislike can be quite as sound a basis for friendship as a mutual devotion.”

* “What most of us are after, when we have a picture taken, is a good natural-looking picture that doesn’t resemble us.”

* “It is important to remember that these are your Declining Years, in which you can jolly well decline to do what you don’t feel like doing.”

* “It isn’t true… that nothing is as bad as you think it’s going to be. Some things are exactly as bad as you thought they were going to be, and some things are worse.”

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One good thing about social media is that it has made it easier to discover talent and performance outside of the main media. Hillary Klug is one such discovery for me.

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