Saturday, October 28, 2006

Reproductive Freedom--Closer to Home

Have already suggested that Reproductive Freedom is part of a sane society and included some history on the subject. I've also griped about Graf's position against abortion even in the case of incest or rape. Consider visiting KUAT to watch Randy answer a question on his view of a woman's having to carry a pregnancy to term in a rape situation.

Got an email today pointing out Jon Kyl's record, and although they did not come out and request I post this information, it was clearly implied, and I am compelled to honor at least some of the request.

Kyl is as out there as Graf on this one, if not worse.

Directly from today's email:

Jon Kyl’s anti-choice record:

Jon Kyl has twice cosponsored amendments to the Constitution to outlaw abortion in almost all circumstances – including when a woman’s health is in danger. H.J.Res.104, 100th Congress (1987); H.J.Res.103, 101st Congress (1989).

Jon Kyl voted against a substitute bill for the Federal Abortion Ban that included a health exception. Senate vote #49 (3/12/03).

Who are these guys? Let me get this straight. If I'm a woman, and I get raped and become pregnant, and then something happens where the pregnancy endangers my life, I'm still to be denied the medical care that can save my life?

Or even if I wasn't raped? Say I'm happily married, but some horrible medical condition develops? Instead of addressing the situation, my husband is to watch both mother and child die? This is madness.

This anti-abortion thing is anything but moral, and anything but love of life.

It is about oppressing women, and I'll ratchet it up a notch. Dig deep enough under this rock and you'll find hatred of women.

Kyl's position has attracted NARAL's attention to where they've created an ad. You can see it here.

Jim Pederson and Gabrielle Giffords support reproductive freedom. It's the sane thing to do, and these are the people we should be sending to Washington.

Earth and 21st Century Elected Officials

I know some folks don't like it when I get abstract and deviate from straight scoop about an election, but feel compelled to express my view that part of the problem in this country is that we too often elect poorly educated idiots.

Unfortunately our system tends to render elected office more accessible to the wealthy, well connected, and arrogant than to the talented, meritorious, and good. I know some people of sound mind and intellect who really do espouse the view that no truly decent person will run for office.

The early Greek philosophers recognized this shortcoming of a democracy, and if we're honest, we know our founding fathers didn't intend that just anyone should run for office. They believed in minimal credentials of some kind, I dunno, maybe the equivalent of the cerebral horsepower (and willingness to engage it) to know, as a world leader in 2006, that the internet is not composed of pipes.

Well, if we were to say certain characteristics should be possessed by those running for office, what would they be? For what they're worth, my remarks, and I call this person the "21st Century Elected Official."

The 21st Century Official is an individual who obtains the education and develops the awareness necessary to understand the need for global solutions.

21st Century Elected Officials will have a strong command of world history, political science, and economics, enough to develop a deep understanding of the forces involved on the planet and the ability to anticipate the consequences of certain actions. They will be avid readers and consumers of information, committed to constantly deepening their grasp of world events, and their perspective will be one of lifelong learning and the constant need to expand, the opposite of "I already know and don't need to learn more."

Their commitment to serving the public good will be authentic.

Their spirituality will transcend the right/wrong of particular religious views and recognize the necessity of allowing individuals to pursue their own convictions free of judgment. That cuts both ways. You want yours? Then let your neighbor have hers. Period.

They will serve those they represent, but they will serve the people they represent with the genuine understanding that what is best for those they represent is what is best for those they represent AND everyone else. Win/Lose and Either/Or need to die. We must embrace the AND. The 19th minute of A Beautiful Mind is fabulous.

The "every man for himself, every corporation for itself, every nation for itself, every religion for itself" Adam Smith paradigm will get us all killed. That doesn't mean we expose our throats to those who wish to kill us. The solution will require new thinking.

For example, consider the puzzle of the man with the lettuce, the lamb, and the wolf, who has a boat that can cross the river carrying only one of these at a time. If he takes the lettuce first, the wolf eats the lamb while he crosses. If he takes the wolf, the lamb eats the lettuce. If he takes the lamb first, ok, but oh wait, what does he take next?

There is a solution to this famous problem. The 21st Century Elected Official is the one who can dwell in such challenges with an openness to new ideas and the eagerness to find them, the one who embraces science and the knowledge it uncovers, the one who stands for progress. The 21st Century Elected Official is the opposite of those who impede progress to defend points of view that have become obsolete.

Friday, October 27, 2006

40% Ceiling Above Graf’s Paygrade

Announced last night on Tucson TV and all over the papers and blogs is the latest Zimmerman CD 8 poll (AZ Star Version) that shows Giffords commanding the usual high 40’s against Graf’s mid to high 30’s, replicating numerous earlier polls and all but cementing what many have been saying for months, Randy Graf cannot surpass 40%. He can count on 35% simply by virtue of being republican. His hard work campaigning and the strong feelings of some regarding his one issue, the border and immigration, might boost him to the higher 30's, but not one poll has shown him hitting 40% in a general election environment.

The single issue candidate's horsepower plummets as the conversation extends to other topics, and he cannot win this election barring some wild card "out of F blue" development. Things can and do come out of the blue, so count on the Giffords camp to keep their eyes glued to the ball as if the poll showed a dead heat.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sparks and Zingers at Temple Emanu-El

This photo is from the Sierra Vista Herald's article about Monday evening's debate. They didn't look much different tonight, I promise.

Tucson voters got to watch Gabrielle Giffords, Randy Graf, and David Nolan square off again this evening in number four of the six scheduled debates. The Temple prepared for a crowd of 260 and got it, almost every seat full. Nolan showed up first virtually unnoticed. When Giffords walked to the front of the room at 7:20, her supporters clapped and cheered, but remained seated, and five minutes later as Randy came forward, his folks made sure their ruckus was louder, predictably prompting Rabbi Cohon to admonish the crowd on behavior for "those who wish to remain in the room."

Before getting to the debate, must comment on the Temple’s requirement that folks surrender all buttons and campaign materials upon entering the room. This task required some effort, and must comment on one woman, the one with the bright red GOP cowboy hat, a hat that caused event staff considerable angst, first insisting that it come off, then requesting that the campaign button come off the hat, and I’m telling you, this woman was into her hat. I noticed she had Graf and Kyl stickers stuck to the INSIDE of the hat, so they could press against her head while she had it on.

At one point Rabbi Cohen looked at the hat, now de-buttoned but still adorned with glittering flag pins and a gold pin that I swear looked like the confederate flag, looked at the woman, and decided to choose his battles. The hat stayed on.

When the debate was over and the general mayhem of the crowd’s disbursement began, GOP cowboy hat woman went to the back tables, promptly decked herself out with stickers galore, grabbed a sign for Graf, and trounced right back into the room, holding the sign high.

The Temple had made a simple request, and of course this is not about Randy. I will say, however, that some of the people who support him are, well, different.

Giffords wasted no time cutting into Graf by including in her opening statement the mention of his vote against a bipartisan bill she supported regarding survivors of the holocaust (remember we are in a synagogue). Graf went next and used this as launch point to declare "You are going to hear a lot of false assertions from my opponent tonight" and listed several likely hits (e.g. stem cell research) as if to inoculate himself against the future blows. He then hit back with his list (see his flyer—the stuff about prayer, aliens, amnesty, and a shocker, that she was somehow soft on sex offenders(?)). In a preview of coming attractions, David Nolan then stood, "So those two are going to end partisan bickering in Washington!"

The sparring continued with Iraq and Healthcare. Giffords returned fire to Graf’s earlier hits on her record, reframing that she is pro-choice, supports separation of church and state, and probably provoked by his sex offender language, she played the card on his prior manager, a convicted sex offender. The Graf crowd was not pleased and made the corresponding sounds. I couldn’t catch it, but with his next opportunity to speak, Graf ended with a hit, I believe about the reference to his prior Christian camp teenager molesting manager, as a cheap shot based on a blog.

The sparks continued with Giffords to Graf, clear that he was next to speak, "Please point out in my record where I have supported cutting social security benefits." He nodded and said he would, and when the mike transferred to his control he pointed to the raising of the age as a cut in benefits.

I have no clue about this one in terms of her record or position.

It is around this point that the energy started to shift from the sparks to the zingers, with David Nolan’s fabulous distinction of the "Wonderful X."

Something is wonderful. Call it X. X is wonderful. X is great. Therefore, we should federalize it, in which case we will 1) slow it down, 2) make it expensive, and 3) turn it into a political football.

In the context of Medicare Part D and the football, Nolan wrapped the room around his mike with, "Of course the pharmaceutical companies got their fingers into the pie, why wouldn’t they?"

The distinction "political football" would gain traction for the rest of the evening. Like "cut and run" last week, Nolan ridiculed "No Child Left Behind" as another cute phrase to kick around, "Why don’t we call it, ‘No kid left alone and unmeddled with?’"

Nolan zingered further and captured the Rabbi himself during the discussion of gay marriage, another political football, noting that "if two people, or more than two people want to engage in a committed relationship, what business is this of the federal government?"

More than two people? Even the Rabbi could not resist, "And who said politics was dull?"

The libertarian Nolan had the freedom to operate outside certain constraints, and tonight more than any night I saw him use this freedom, blasting Bush and the republican party as being the most irresponsible spenders in perhaps the history of the country, blasting the war in Iraq, while also having the freedom to assault government support of many programs Giffords favors, including stem cell research, the Department of Education, promoting of alternative energy sources, and others.

Graf’s seemingly blind acceptance of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld view of Iraq and the war on terror, and his utter dismissal of global warming appalled at least half the room. More shocking was Nolan’s dismissal of global warming as the "Easter Bunny."

My jaw damn near broke on the floor. How in the world can a guy as intelligent as David Nolan not get global warming? What does it take? The distinguished scientists and experts, the data in many forms including numbers, countless photos, and what do you call entire chunks of Antarctica melting?

Nolan affirmed the concerns of some of us bloggers that the Bush administration’s suspension of habeas corpus has pushed us dangerously close to a "pascal fascism" and that we are to be afraid, very afraid, as we drift perilously close to a totalitarian regime.

At the end of this thing, I assert not one single vote changed. As Graf spoke, you could feel the Giffords camp tank south of south, appalled and shaking heads. As Giffords spoke, ditto from his team. Nolan got to entertain, but occasionally slipped.

I honestly cannot understand the blindness that continues to exist regarding the need for an energy strategy that addresses globalization and global warming, for education and workforce development programs that understand the knowledge economy and what it is going to take to have prosperity for the majority of Americans.

Graf lacks global awareness. Nolan is smarter, but there is an academic purity that will not translate to pragmatic progress. Giffords is demonstrating a long term and far reaching perspective, and while we may take issue with this particular view or that, she is the only candidate for Arizona Congressional District 8 that appears to be grasping the SCOPE of what Washington really needs to start considering.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Final Four—Arizona CD 8 Candidates

Having watched many debates including Tuesday night in Tucson as well as reading many blogs and the media, including an interesting video posted at the Star's (direct link not available) website this morning, I find myself compelled to take a deeper cut into discussing the CD 8’s Final Four.

And most authentically, folks, disputes and refutations are welcome. If you think what I am about to say is crazy or misinformed, let me have it, both barrels, holding nothing back. Just note that I have the right to return fire, and I am likely to exercise this right. As has been demonstrated, even at considerable embarrassment I will admit when I am wrong. Was married once, have got the being wrong thing down.

Starting with David Nolan, the more I watch this guy, the more I like him and the more intelligent I realize this guy is. This guy isn’t just smart, this guy is really, really smart. When I was in high school, I went through the whole Ayn Rand objectivism thing, touting Atlas Shrugged as the greatest novel ever written.Remember Hank Rearden (my first hero) Dagny, Francisco, and that breathtaking scene where Rearden points a finger at Dagny, his voice grave towards Francisco, "Is this the woman you love?"

Had a "Who is John Galt?" bumper sticker on my car and voted Libertarian in 1980.

Then I got a summer job at an air compressor company—learned they charged the military $55 for an o-ring that cost 84 cents. I was told to dump some stuff in the creek out back, looked at the bottle—sulfuric acid. This was 1981. Reagan was President. Did what I was told. The water bubbled and white smoke hissed and the nearby plants foamed up, and the acrid smell burnt my nose, "This is bad."

Decided to follow the creek, and it led into a subdivision, the backyards of some homes. Three houses down, some little girls were playing near the creek. The flash I experienced was quicker than thought, and when the economics professor introduced externalities the following semester, he didn’t have to elaborate.

Laissez-faire died that instant. Without government protection, corporations will take, rape, pillage, and burn. Corporations may have legal status as individuals, but they have no soul. They will smile as they eat your children.

As sharp as David Nolan is, this notion of gutting the government and thinking the rest of us will do the right thing simply isn’t reality, and frankly, that makes me sad as a human being. If we collectively had the character I believe we should, David Nolan would quite possibly be right. We don’t, and he isn’t.

Jay Quick is fine human being who like many of us is disgusted with the partisanship and mean spirited arrogance that has infested Washington, and I do place more blame on the republicans, who have the House, Senate, and White House, and instead of demonstrating real leadership and the pursuit of what’s best for the country, they are pandering to their friends, bullying both the country and the planet, mortgaging our future, and frankly ignoring any points of view that differ from their own. I’m glad Jay’s running, but frankly, this business owner is over his head the instant he starts to engage in any substantive conversation about the reality of using an Office in the House of Representatives to effect change in Washington.

Let’s face it, any serious analysis of Randy Graf shows that he is a one issue candidate focused on a set of problems that stem from one conversation, people crossing into this country illegally and participating in its affairs, be it as employees, as students, as hospital patients, and, yes, as criminals. He’s obsessed with whatever this might be costing us, not entirely clear of the economic value they provide, and for some reason feels that this issue dwarfs the other issues facing this country. Really?

Randy’s recent remarks and Tuesday’s debate virtually cement the notion that outside of the border and immigration he rapidly loses horsepower, making statements like, "That’s above my paygrade." Listen to him on North Korea. If we send Randy to Washington, we are going to get a representative who will howl draconian measures about the border and immigration that will never be implemented, and he will obey established republicans on those issues "above his pay grade" like some lost puppy dog.

Playing golf and umpiring little league does not prepare an individual for the street smart hardball Washington maneuvering to address the world of globalization, economic development, international relations, nuclear proliferation, the war on terror, building multi-lateral support for addressing serious global issues threatening our future, energy policy not just of this country, but of the world as a whole (important!!!!!). The list is overwhelming, and when it comes to shaping public policy, addressing the needs of not only this country but this planet, Randy has not done his homework. Someone else in this race has.

Now envision Gabrielle Giffords, what you have heard her say in her ads, during the numerous debates and interviews, and imagine this individual saying, "That’s above my pay grade."

During Tuesday’s debate when Friedman’s important globalization work The World is Flat was brought up, neither Graf nor Quick showed the slightest recognition of the title. I assert neither had heard of the book. Perhaps Nolan has heard of it. Giffords could quote from it.

She completed her Fulbright scholar work during a year in southern Mexico, completed a Master's degree in regional planning at Columbia, served on the Governor's 1) Economic Development Hot Team, 2) Council on Innovation and Technology, and 3) Council on Health Status of Women and Families, just as a quick sampling. She serves as President of the Atlantic Association of Young Political Leaders and represents the National Committee on China-US Relations as a Young Leader’s Forum Fellow. CHINA! Come on, folks, what do you need?!

Gabrielle Giffords has organized her life around maximizing her ability to serve in public office. Heard she got engaged. Anyone care to guess on this astronaut’s chances of interfering with her ability to do her job? I will—about the same as her chances of interfering with his ability to do his.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

CD 8 Candidates Meet / Exceed Debate Expectations

Tucson supporters of Gabrielle Giffords and Randy Graf stuffed the PCC auditorium past capacity a full 20 minutes prior to the 6:15 event, forcing the hosts to escort excess folks to another room to listen through a sound system. While polls vary from 8% to 19%, word on the street is that Giffords probably has a good 12% lead on Graf. She is clearly the front runner and faced the higher risk and higher expectations tonight. This takes confidence and courage.

The male candidates trickled in, Graf first, and lastly Giffords entered the room shortly after six. When she did, her supporters broke into applause and stood. Not to be outdone, Graf’s fans started chanting, "Randy! Randy! Randy!" until the hostess, seeing the place turning into a Packers game, grabbed a microphone and stood before all of us, "Calm down, people!! This is important!"

The energy and anticipation in the room were thick, and make no mistake, there were strong minded folk in this room.

This debate was a long way from Willcox, from the Nucleus club, and light years from that early democratic event at the Northwest neighborhood center.

This was not like any of primary debates.

All candidates looked comfortable, confident, prepared, and spoke well. The event was televised and will be rebroadcast, so will not waste reader’s time with the play by play, but will highlight items, well, worth highlighting.

On Iraq, a notable remark goes to David Nolan’s attack of the cute phrase “Cut and Run” used by republicans to attack criticism of the Iraq war, "What are you suggesting we do, Stand and Die?" Nolan, founder of the Libertarian party and a sharp individual, who must be given credit for his Nolan Chart, an interesting way of illustrating his fiscal conservativism and liberal social values.

Quick jumped on this as well with, "Cutting and running is not the same thing as leaving a country that wants you to leave."

The room seemed emblematic of the very bifurcation that exists in the country with the majority on one side or the other, and a smaller number with a different angle.

What was interesting was the clearly audible and rather consistent but controlled laughter and chuckling of the Graf supporters while Giffords spoke. Not sure about this laughter, but I had the sense that they either would not or could not listen to her.

Will spare you the guest worker program, medicare part D, the middle class, where we were treated to different political views each holding their own in terms of a debate. To meet expectations in my opinion, Giffords had to excel over the rest, in particular if the "one issue candidate" concept for Graf is to remain alive.

She succeeded in three areas. First was a question about the economic development of Cochise County. The men stumbled, and Giffords nailed it, noting the importance of the San Pedro river, Ft. Huachuca, the industries and businesses that support the fort, the importance of protecting the fort when the military looks at bases across the country, and drove in an additional point about education in the remaining few seconds.

In the second area, a question deep from the heart of your humble x4mr himself (could the moderator have read this blog Sunday?!--kidding), global competition and in particular China and India. I could barely restrain myself . Nolan made a cute remark, "We all want made in USA wages and made in China prices." Graf mumbled about trade policies, and Quick fumbled about with world labor market cycles that should stabilize (oh yea?).

Globalization is an economic tsunami, and that is no exaggeration. Giffords demonstrated genuine understanding of the concept and told a telling tale about how years ago, children were told to eat everything on their plate because some kid in India is starving. Now we should tell our children to do their homework because some kid in China wants your job! She spoke of the knowledge based economy, a vital component of the tsunami that Washington desperately needs to understand.

The third place where she excelled was her closing statement. Listen to it yourself on television, but her language about a good idea being a good idea, republican or democrat, about reaching across the aisle, about working together to do what it takes to get the job done simply surpassed the other closing remarks.

All performed well, but Giffords has cause for the most satisfaction. This debate devoted significant weight to the border, immigration, illegal aliens and guest worker programs, Randy’s favorite subjects, and she held her own.

Receiving little or no attention (perhaps a one liner from a candidate at most) were crime, the war on drugs and methamphetamines, economic policy, abortion, anything substantive on national health insurance (medicare D was discussed), corruption, and the environment including global warming.

The front runner went in and ran. One could speculate whether she gained ground.

She most certainly did not lose ground.

Tuesday Blues, Debates, & 3 Weeks

Well, not that folks care, but lousy morning this morning. Sometimes the combination of mundane AM events like traffic lights and stupid drivers, annoying occupational antics, last night’s football game, and a general malaise just descends and leaves one, well, wishing to stay home, drink early, and pop in a DVD.

We can start with this morning’s Star Arizona Ranks Dead Last in Ranking of Smartest States.

Hmmm. That could explain some things. Jon Kyl and Russell Pierce come to mind, just for starters, and here in Tucson, Jorgenson. People actually voted for him over Carol Somers?

Then we have David Kuo’s Tempting Faith, a remarkable event where a religious nut distinguishes himself as a religious nut and realizes that the GOP has been exploiting religious nuts for 30 years all the while recognizing them as religious nuts and calling them religious nuts. It made 60 Minutes, and these folks are already irritated by the Foley thing, now calling for a crusade against "Republican Gays."

I think Kuo's book is far more serious than many may suspect. This could point to dynamics of biblical proportions (sorry). The GOP's relationship with the religious right is a big deal.

Then we have Mike Tyson, facing staggering debt, the man who "vowed to eat Lennox Lewis' children and bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear" now saying that he is serious about fighting women, and medical professionals are saying that tongue piercing can be linked to intense pain.

North Korea’s first test has been confirmed, and apparently it was fun, so they want to do it again, despite threats from United Nations Security Council to cut off Kim Jong’s supply of cognac.

Meanwhile, the US Population has hit 300 million (at 7:46 this morning EST mind you!), and the coalition death toll in Iraq has hit 3000.

The first of the AZ CD 8 Congressional Election debates is tonight. Have every intention to be there with pen in hand. Not sure if tonight is televised, but given my current mood, if it is and Jay Quick mutilates the microphone, you might see a flaming blogger lunge from the audience and start beating him over the head with the thing.

Three weeks.

If not tonight, then tomorrow for sure, for what it's worth my take on tonight's debate.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

3.3 Billion--The Big 3 and the Little 3

Folks paying attention and believing in our ability to track with such precision know that this week the population of the United States will reach a particular milestone, 300 million people. CNN informs us that this is to occur at 7:46 AM EST on Tuesday (groan, moan, sigh—aw come on!).

Well, be it this afternoon during the Bengals game, sometime tomorrow or Thursday, it is beyond dispute that the most powerful country in the world, the third most populated, will reach a population of 300 million this week.

Take a good look at the map above, a population density map that shows where humanity lives. See two big blobs of dark red and purple on the other side of the planet? It’s not precise, but rather close to say that those two blobs are about 3 billion people.

"Them and us" make 3.3 billion individuals on this planet, over half of everyone. They are the big 3, the one before the dot. We are the little 3 after the dot.

So what does this have to do with the price of rice?

Well, a lot. Rapid advances in technology, in particular those in transportation and information technology, are dropping the barriers and borders between us all at a mind numbing pace that is producing dynamics we are only beginning to understand.

Globalization has arrived. Isolationism is dead. We can bitch about jobs going to India and China’s entry into the automotive industry (projected US price tag under $10K), and yes, this is mostly about India and China. Anyone following the economic development over there? (Hint: Price of copper—and what does copper do?)

We, the little three, consume something like a third of the world’s energy. Do you have any idea what would happen if the big three started behaving the way we do? (Hint: Global warming.) Consider that they might want to and also consider what would stop them if they made this choice. Some ideas to consider.

Let’s discuss education briefly. How well are we developing our kids? How are they doing over there? (Think computer scientists and programmers, engineers, physicists, folks that say "Wait a minute!" when CNN says the population will hit 300 million at 7:46 AM EST on Tuesday.)

Then there is religion and spirituality. The big three, in general, aren’t into the same religions as the little three. Somehow I doubt our relationship is enhanced by politicians who feel that those who have not embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior are evil sinners destined for damnation in hell.

I am not saying it is the big three against the little three. THAT’S THE POINT!!

Seen the film A Beautiful Mind about mathematician John Nash? There is a fabulous scene in a bar when he has his flash of game theory genius, realizing that the old "do what's best for oneself" paradigm of competition (Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations) did not maximize utility. It was genius of the first order.

The same thing now applies here on a global scale. It is no longer in the best interests of the United States to pursue the best interests of the United States alone.

We really, really need to figure this out, and arrogant "doing what's best for ourselves" policies, if they persist, are going to create grief on a scale not yet seen on this planet.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Stratification of Knowledge and Soul Food

If one considers knowledge as "information possessed" and accepts that this knowledge has different natures and qualities, one can stratify it, i.e. create a spectrum/scale along these qualities.

Education and experience continue to build knowledge. One scale or dimension involves volume. Going from knowing the capitals of 25 states to all 50 moves one along a volume vector, knowing more of the same kind of stuff. Advancing along the volume vector feels like memorization, an expansion of information committed to memory.

Another knowledge dimension, very different from volume/quantity of information, is sophistication. Consider the path of learning mathematics, which starts with literal numbers (1,2,3) and the four operations, then variables and algebraic expressions and equations, functions and properties of functions, linear spaces and linear algebra and stuff like eigenvalues and eigenvectors, analysis (continuity, differentiation, integration), topology, the "real algebra" (groups, rings and fields), complex analysis, differential equations, and so on.

Advancing along the sophistication vector feels like an expansion of understanding. The nature of the growth is different. Sure, we memorize our times table and certain facts, but one cannot walk this path by memorizing. Here, each step is an advancement of understanding, and progress stops until the next step is understood. This path is closed to those who will not persevere to understand each successive idea, the next, then the next, and it keeps going. One understands more and more, and the nature of what is understood, the knowledge, increases in sophistication.

I assert there is another dimension, another stratification of knowledge based on a quality I will call granularity. This is very distinct from sophistication. At one end of the granularity spectrum is “coarse” knowledge, nuts and bolts, meat and potato stuff to know like how to change a tire, add two and two, even balance a chemical equation or a checkbook. The steps are concrete. The "coarser" units of knowledge are easily grasped with thoughts. Fancy computers could probably be programmed to handle a lot of it.

But what does it mean to move to "finer" units of knowledge? Well, what is the knowledge that one gains experiencing a four day backpack in the Grand Canyon? What is the knowledge one gains after 15 years of marriage? What knowledge develops in a person who serves in a hospice, being the one there with that final hand squeeze or hand on the shoulder or arm, so the patient is not alone at the moment of death? What does that person "know"?

Movement along this vector rapidly extinguishes what is available with language, so I will jump to the punch line and say that there is knowledge desired by the soul. It is a finer substance, and moves from solid to liquid to vapor. We start to use words like insight and wisdom, and we get the sense that what we mean by intelligence just does not cut it here. We are talking about Something Else, and those that TRULY advance far down this path become almost "other wordly" in a certain sense, or we at least recognize that something is fundamentally advanced about what they have become as human beings. Anyone reading this think they have what the Dalai Lama has acquired over the years?

What is the finer stuff? The notion of spiritual truths, of insights into the human condition, of a certain hunger we feel for a certain knowledge that seems as elusive as stardust, but we crave it, and we turn to our spiritual leaders for sustenance.

For now, to keep things simple, let's say that our religions deliver spiritual sustenance. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hindu, all provide means for addressing our hunger. When it works, what we take from the church, synagogue, or temple, is an expansion of some divine insight that nourishes the soul. The light is shining and can brighten an onlooking soul through many colors of glasses.

When a group of friends go out to dinner and we’re all hungry and eager to eat, one guy might order a steak, another a salad, another fish and chips, a pasta salad, and everyone enjoys the meal. Everyone eats what they want and gets fed!!. All obtain nourishment and none walk away hungry.

We don’t start killing each other for selecting different items from the menu.

How ironic that our maturity with respect to feeding our stomachs has progressed infinitely beyond our maturity with respect to feeding our souls.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Class With No Cake

There are smart folks, very smart folks, and eFFing smart folks. Robert Reich, University Professor at Berkeley and Clinton’s labor secretary, is of the last kind. The latest post at his blog notes the growing inequality in this country and an earlier post makes the interesting observation on how the concentration of wealth has focused the thousand points of light to a few hundred supernovas.

This blog is not graduate school and I am not eFFing smart, so will skip discussion of welfare economics and overall utilitarianism and say what I have to say this way.

Suppose we assume kids like cake and visit a classroom and pass out pieces, alternating chocolate and vanilla until all have a piece. Life is good. But could it be better? Maybe a kid that got chocolate would rather have vanilla, and his neighbor would rather have chocolate? If we let them trade, we have a happier class, no? Let them all trade, and each time overall well being of entire class improves. Better yet, maybe some kids don’t like cake, and would rather trade their piece for a Randy Johnson (while still a Diamondback!!) baseball card.

But wait, Tom, who has the Johnson card, wants five pieces of cake, and connived with Sue, who has Bill under her thumb, to get his cake for a peck on the cheek, and David knew that Suzie’s mother knows the teacher from another class that was supposed to get cake, but didn’t know it was coming, and how long do I have to do this before you get that four people have all the cake and several classes in the school have none? You think this is a joke? We have a few students in some classes with almost all of the cake. We have classes with no cake.

In physics there is Entropy, and many forces, like my desk drawer, function according to this principle. At first, I have the pens and pencils neatly placed in their slots, the loose change in this bin, the paper clips in that bin, the post-its here, the white-out there, the highlighters here, the erasers, the envelope opener, rubber bands, certain keys to certain locks, and so on. Then life happens. Paper clips fall into the pen bin. Loose change ends up with the white-out. Within a month the whole damned drawer is chaos.

In economics, there is Wealth, and here the dynamic is the exact opposite. Think magnets. Dollars are attracted to dollars. Cake is attracted to cake. In science Robert Merten and in Higher Education Martin Trow (my humble opinion, wikipedia’s failure to include Trow is a slip) refer to the Matthew Effect which quotes the scripture stating "To him that has is given."

In human spirituality and perhaps the most elite higher education institutions, the Matthew Effect may have sound application. Certain spiritual schools probably should only admit those of a certain quality. Perhaps Stanford’s selectivity is appropriate.

But the ability to eat, have a safe place to sleep, obtain an education and skills that can provide for a better life?

Conditions have deteriorated to where those in power are not seeking the overall well being of the rest of us. How could any sane person concerned about all of us ignore global warming?

Conditions have deteriorated to where those in power are not seeking the overall well being of the rest of us.

I really don’t think I am being melodramatic.

Sustainability—we must establish equilibrium with that which supports us
Equity—we cannot allow the few to have all at the expense of our future
Development—we must improve our capacity for attaining genuine wisdom

It is past critical that we send people to Washington who understand the global warming that threatens our future. It is past critical that we send people to Washington that deeply understand the concept of service and seeking the overall well being of everyone. It is past critical that we send people to Washington who can and will speak for the class with no cake.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Arrogance and Control—Systemic Blindness

Word is going around that Russell K. Pierce, R-18, is advocating we implement a modern Operation Wetback and deport somewhere between 12 and 20 million people currently living in the United States illegally. Pierce demonstrated further political acumen by referring to this 1954 effort by its 1954 name.

Does anyone actually believe the 700 mile wall is a good idea?

Then we have our beacon of effective public policy—The War on Drugs.

The rush into Iraq and those responsible are guilty of the same line of thinking, which is having the arrogance to think we can control more than we can.

Smart corporations, under relentless pressure to maximize profits, started figuring out many years ago that command and control is woefully ineffective in all but a few contexts. Early books like The Fifth Discipline pointed to ideas on systems thinking and better ways to obtain results with organizations and large systems. Corporate audiences have made such authors fabulously wealthy.

At risk of stating painfully obvious, one influences a system by finding the levers that actually influence the system. Consider that forceful relocations, walls, the war on drugs, and yes, this Iraq fiasco, are textbook examples of trying to force an outcome without addressing the systems involved.

Rounding up 12 to 20 million people, building a 700 mile wall, denying medical attention to sick or wounded because they lack credentials, imprisoning kids who have a few ounces of whatever, are futile and arrogant efforts to control dynamics that have in fact already slipped from control.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mask Take Two—FoleyGate

Exactly what they knew and when they knew it.

ABC News is reporting that word was on the street about republican Mark Foley, the page fondling pervert from Florida, as early as 2001. Five years ago young boys eager to serve the country as pages to our members of Congress were being warned about Foley with remarks like, "Don’t get too wrapped up into his being nice to you."

Email handle "maf54" sent emails to these kids requesting photographs, dimensions of genitals, and descriptions of specific sexual acts. Bewildered, confused, and understandably terrified 16 year old kids (can you imagine?), wrote fearful responses like, "I’m still young, like under 18, and don’t want to do anything illegal."

Reader Discretion Advised.

Again, this guy chaired the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. The very laws this caucus was involved with enacting may actually now be used against its former chairman.

Why didn’t this guy seek spiritual counseling?

Maybe he did consult his priest, and they ended up sharing photos.