The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Yep, you’re a venture capitalist if you’ve ever paid any taxes.  No, we didn’t know that either, until the other day.  Then, on a very interesting program we’ve discovered, Up with Chris Hayes, on MSNBC, Dr. Bill Black, a very articulate associate professor of economics and law, explained it like this:

Venture capitalists, folks who have a lot of money and want more, look around for struggling businesses, buy them, reorganize them, and then at one point or another, whether the reorganization is successful, they sell them at a profit.  Now, how do they make that profit?  Well!  As we all know, there are always federal and local programs to help blighted areas and businesses with tax subsidies and grants to encourage renewal.  So when the venture capitalists buy a business, they immediately apply for all possible subsidies and grants, and as I understand it, either the business itself becomes more viable because they have a good product and their management gets strengthened and the business prospers, at which time the capitalists sell it at a profit, or the business itself cannot (or never could) become profitable, and its assets including any remaining funds from grants are liquidated, the proceeds of which go to the investors, the capitalists, at which time it is scheduled for bankruptcy.

Now in many ways this is an understandable process, because first of all the targets of venture capitalists are already in trouble and a lot of times the injection of capital (including grants and expertise) make all the difference and the businesses thrive.  And it is not unusual for businesses to fail from time to time.  The question about business failure in businesses acquired this way would be, for me, wouldn’t the so-called experts know that the business and/or its product was not predictably viable, so the answer would seem to be that, yes, they knew that, but pre-designated it as a candidate for liquidation.

The other element that occurs to me is that venture capitalists promote themselves as kind of the “Mighty Mice” of the business world.  You know, “Here we come to save the DAY!”  But the factor of public funding from those grants and tax subsidies creates a whole other aspect of these ‘do-gooders.’  Because the terrible cynicism I have really-o, truly-o compels me to suspect that with all that expertise, they simply take on a certain number of investments they can sell profitably and a certain number of investments they can liquidate profitably. 

So what I want to know is, when are these ‘awesome’ venture capitalists going to thank me and you for our contributions?  And when are we going to get a return on OUR investments?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


We are only moderate political animals.  In fact, we try very hard to practice moderation in just about everything.   But this political season has brought out some of our more intense responses, because it has all been so amazing.

The word that is most frequently used is polarization, because there are indeed two extreme factions, one on the liberal side, and one on the conservative side.  We cannot help, however, believing that between those two polar points, there are lots of people that are either like us, with pretty secure ideas and beliefs, and possibly a goodly number that are wavering.

It must be believed that there are many who are wavering, because between them, both political parties are anticipating spending enough millions in advertisements to seriously improve the well-being of many areas such as Joplin, Missouri, which were so badly damaged in storms, last year and this.  The thing that we cannot comprehend is why on earth would anyone decide who they would vote for, in any election from city council to President, without listening to the words of the candidate themselves and without checking out facts?

To us, Mr. Obama is calm, deliberate and pragmatic, offering conciliation, refusing to vilify but certainly willing to challenge false claims and misstatements.  The accomplishments of his administration have been real and significant and utterly taken for granted when they haven’t been attacked.   We have seen how the stimulus program saved the entire American automotive industry, intense diplomacy has improved America’s reputation significantly (which it needed after initiating two wars, including one entirely unprovoked), a major health care program is benefitting millions of Americans and will benefit many more when fully implemented, finance reforms have been proposed although being fought tooth and nail by opposition, both our terrible wars are winding down, and the President has tried and tried to push through programs to create jobs and create new industries to deal with climate change.  Oh, and did I mention trying to get an immigration policy established?

To us, Mr. Romney is an amazing amalgam of all the political philosophies that dominated the eight years of the Bush administration, and which implementations almost utterly destroyed the U.S. and world economies.  In other words, a Romney administration would be running around the same Bush we had for those eight years, misspeaking, saber-rattling, failing to understand the lives and needs of ordinary  people.  As we say in this part of the country, “be switched if we haven’t been around that Bush enough!”

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Well, let me amend that statement.  I love television sometimes, in some places.  For instance, we have certain television programs that we find very enjoyable and we record those and watch them with  pleasure.  We like The Today Show, at least some of it, we like Up With Chris Hayes to keep us current, and we like shows such as Castle, for a mystery fix,  and Downton Abbey, for a British fix.  And this last TV season, we really enjoyed Smash, which was, well, smashing!   Love, hate, and music, and lots of good actors, and one terrific villain.  That Ellis.  Well, maybe two villains, if you count Eileen’s ex-husband, Jerry.  So you see, we’re into this TV stuff.  We’re just not into it all the time.

Which makes it difficult and frustrating to us when we go to our favorite Mexican  restaurant and there are TVs on every wall.  Or to almost any other restaurant, for that matter.  And then there are the doctors’ offices.  Doctors’ offices are usually not all that large.  One we went to the other day was minuscule, but it had its resident TV.  I know.  I had to sit right beside it.  At least it was on a game show channel.  We don’t watch game shows, just never cared for them, but they are for the most part non-offensive.  But it would be hard to express how much we dislike Fox News and we regard it as a true punishment to have to listen to it, sometimes turned so loud as to be blaring, when we are waiting, perhaps feeling crummy, perhaps also anxious and trying to read either the book we brought along or whatever magazine is at hand. 

Oh, and don’t get me started on the magazines.  I only approve of the waiting rooms that have magazines I like but never buy, such as Architectural Digest and People and Traditional Home.  Either lifestyles of the rich and famous or gossip about the rich and famous.  But magazines about fish and golf and guns and other things doctors like to read about and then stock in their waiting rooms?  Nah.  The one good thing about even those magazines is, at least they’re quiet!  And don’t get louder when the commercials come on.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Well, I hate to admit it took me so long, but a couple of years or so ago, I finally came to understand the real issue about gay marriage.   For my adult life, after I came to an understanding of what being gay meant, or as they now refer to it, the LGBT life style, I thankfully had no problem with people simply living a different lifestyle from myself.  I just didn’t find the images of two men in tuxedos or two women in traditional wedding dresses going through a formal wedding ceremony very appealing.  Of course I also find very unaesthetic the image of a very mature bride all decked out in virginal white, and all that.  None of it made any social sense to me.  Okay, if people want to forge a marital relationship, that’s fine, but why try to emulate young, virginal (if there is such a thing anymore), dewey-eyed brides in flowing lace veils and their grooms dressed for possibly the only time in their lives in a rented tux.  Why try to pretend to be traditional?  I also thought it was pretty weird to get married underwater in scuba gear or while sky-diving from a plane.   I still do.   And I still think the most practical solution would be simply to require all unions to be civil unions, as does much of Europe, with religious celebrations a matter of additional choice.

But … I read a thoughtful article that completely changed my understanding about LGBT weddings.  (I figured out that LGBT is Lesbian/ Gay/Bisexual/Transsexual .)  I refer anyone who wishes to go to “A Conservative Case for Gay Marrige”, by Theodore Olson, published in Newsweek Magazine, on January 8, 2010.  Frankly, this article simply turned me around.   I read it and re-read it, and finally realized that the gay marriage issue is simply not about me.  Not about my aesthetics, not about my preferences, not about anything really, except someone else’s civil rights.  And the article also made me think about the long, long years it took for women in this country to obtain the right to vote.  And about the long, long years it took for African-Americans to obtain full rights of citizenship, even after so many contributions to the war effort during World War II by very brave black men who risked their lives in battle to save a country where they couldn’t go into a diner in most places and get a sandwich.  Much like the gay men and women who have served their country in the military in recent years under fear of punishment for being themselves.

Here is a quote from Mr. Olson’s article, the very last two sentences:
“Americans who believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence, in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, in the 14th Amendment, and in the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and equal dignity before the law cannot sit by while this wrong continues. This is not a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American one, and it is time that we, as Americans, embraced it.”

Monday, May 7, 2012


It all started long ago, when I was young.  The young, particularly those in their twenties and thirties with jobs and families, get so easily distracted by the demands of home and family and work that time simply spins by.  In memory it has spun by in a blur, like one of those tops that spin and then stop, spin and then stop.  But during those years and decades, while I wasn’t looking, I was getting older.  Not old, mind.  We don’t admit to that status yet.  In fact, there was a favorite commercial on television years ago where this lovely mature woman declared that ‘old age is always ten years older than I am!’  But in the mirror was someone definitely more mature, with mature skin and mature bones and joints.  Oh, well, you know.

Then one day I looked up and there I was:  no longer young.  An impossible fact that was fully supported by our having grown children and growing-up grandchildren.  But the worst thing of all, far worse than the silver-haired individual in the mirror, or the sense that every year went by faster than the one before, was that I could no longer do all the things that I used to do.  Things that I used to do until quite recently.  Things like kneeling in the garden or putting in long days of activity, or even just getting things done.

In compensation for these changes is given, at least to me, a renewed awareness of the loveliness of tiny flowering weeds, of the deliciousness of a sweet cooling breeze, of the sheer comfort of cotton sheets, of the changing seasons so that for instance daylilies I have grown for forty years are greeted again when they faithfully bloom, again.  All these, the tiny purple weed flowers, the breeze, the welcoming sheets, the returning daylilies, all these and so many more old friends, both people and places and plants and things, remind me of the old saying you’ve no doubt heard:  “Make new friends and keep the old; one is silver, the other is gold.”