Friday, November 30, 2007

Freedom Is Slavery

Tucson, Arizona. Using prison inmates as a source of labor dates back forever. In the 1800s the US had profit making prisons that made good money literally working their prisoners to death. As society progressed, the practice transformed into government run systems designed to accomplish several desirable outcomes at once. First, research has shown that giving inmates jobs reduces their problems while inside and enhances chances of success after release. At the Federal level, we have the US Government program, Federal Prison Industries, FPI, now called UNICOR.

A perusal of their 2006 Annual Report shows they are a $700 million dollar business serving the US government. Inmates at UNICOR make between twenty-one cents and $1.15 an hour. The company employs over 20,000 prisoners.

I don’t have an issue with UNICOR, a non-profit organization hiring inmates in a program designed to provide training and activity for inmates and products for the US government. Any reasonable taxpayer would likely approve of a non-profit company hiring inmates in a publicly funded prison to generate an additional revenue stream that reduces the prison’s need for public support. Almost every state has a flavor of this, and ours has Arizona Correctional Industries, a division of the Arizona Department of Corrections, which has an online catalog for a variety of products produced by those behind bars.

(Inmates reporting to work on a farm) We are talking about borderline slave labor, lucrative indeed. I'm not complaining about the systems where the state uses inmate labor to recover some of the costs of incarcerating them. If the proceeds return to the state, fine.

I have an issue with developments far more problematic and alarming. As part of our evolution from the USA to the UCA (United Corporations of America), we have created private FOR PROFIT prison systems that negotiate deals with private for profit corporations to force inmates to work real jobs for real companies for almost nothing, creating what is growing to be known as the Prison Industrial Complex, an expanding and malignant machine focused solely on profiting on the backs of an inmate population that has no ability to defend itself against essentially unbridled exploitation of its labor.

Prisoners manufacture clothing, auto parts, electronics, and furniture. Honda has paid inmates $2 an hour for what would cost $20 to $30 an hour on the outside. Konica has used prisoners to repair copiers for less than 50 cents an hour. Toys R Us used prisoners to restock shelves, and Microsoft (has since stopped) used them to pack and ship software. TWA used prisoners to handle reservations. AT&T has used prison labor for telemarketing. Clothing made in California and Oregon prisons is exported to other countries. Other jobs include desktop publishing, digital mapping and computer-aided design work.

Laws now permit the use of convict labor by commercial enterprises, and companies have responded to the availability of a workforce requiring minimal pay, no health or unemployment insurance, vacation time, sick leave, overtime, pension. They can hire, fire, and reassign workers at will.

Prisoners offer the ultimate in a flexible and dependable work force. "If I lay them off for a week," said Pierre Sleiman, owner of the T-shirt company CMT Blues that hires inmates at California's Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, "I don't have to worry about someone else coming and saying, 'Come work for me.'"

Inmates who fail to work as instructed face consequences such as denial of a reduced sentence for otherwise "good behavior." Those who object can be denied prison privileges (recreation, etc.) or even punished. Donovan put two inmates in solitary confinement for making a fuss about working. CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and Wackenhut, for profit corporations running many prisons, commonly cut corners that can border on brutality as the executives minimize food and housing expenses to maximize profit.

It gets worse. Companies have used prison labor to replace real workers, resulting in layoffs. Lockhart Technologies, Inc. closed its plant in Austin, Texas, dismissing its 150 workers, and hired inmates at the state prison in Lockhart. IBM, Compaq and Dell get circuit boards from the same prison, thereby not using outside employees to make them. The companies pay the prison the federal minimum wage. The profit making prisons keep 80 percent for themselves.

Linen service workers have lost their jobs when their employer contracted with the prison laundry to do the work. Recycling plant workers lost their jobs when prisoners were brought in to sort through hazardous waste, often without proper protective gear.

The United States incarcerates more of its population than any nation. China, that beacon of civil rights and due process, has over three times the population of the US, yet it has less than three-fourths the number of inmates. Five percent of the planet, the US incarcerates 25% of those in prison across the world. In the United States, one is six times more likely to be behind bars than in the rest of the world. We spend $62 billion per year on corrections, and we've created a labor gold mine of defenseless cheap labor.

It gets worse. The story is not about the present, but the future. All trends point in the wrong direction. Forecasts not only predict a growth in inmate population, but an increase in the RATE of incarceration (details). What are we doing? The country based on freedom incarcerates its population at six times the rate of the rest of the planet. Attorneys can talk the legal stuff, but I fear we've shifted from a nation of individual freedom where organizations are kept in check to a nation where individuals are kept in check so organizations can be free to exploit them. Oh, wait. I'm just having a nightmare.

I will wake up any minute and find a country with a prosperous middle class, widespread support for well funded education and health care, and a fiscally responsible government that serves the interests of all of its citizens.

Of course our leaders recognize the importance of education. Our executive branch would never lie to invade a country and steal its assets. We would never implement tax cuts for the ultra rich, and suspend habeas corpus? Clearly these concepts are an illusion. I can wake up any time now.

I know it's a dream because the House passed a law to have a bunch of people craft language to identify criminal thinking that leads to domestic terrorism. The first WTC bombing was not domestic terrorism nor was 911. Dig into domestic terrorism actually occurring and you find an abortion fanatic, a screwed up white boy, some high school kids, and a psychopath in college.

Since I'm fantasizing, why not go whole hog including the postage and extend the trends of gutting education, increasing ignorance and poverty, and raising that incarceration rate dramatically by new laws that imprison individuals with a profile suggesting they're about to commit a terrorist act? What does that profile look like? Perhaps it's individuals with little education living in poverty and despair. Let's imprison half the country and force them into slavery for corporations.

We split the world into four segregated classes:

1. The ruling elite that own the planet
2. Sycophant suck ups that want to be class 1 that manage class 3.
3. Non-incarcerated workers (soldiers, prison guards, hotel maids, etc.)
4. The inmates

What a bunch of over dramatic nonsense. Never mind. What I've posted doesn't point to anything of substance. We're fine.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Wee Bit on Higher Education

Tucson, Arizona. I posted Tuition Rising earlier this month. Up in Phoenix, Espresso Pundit’s influential blogger Greg Patterson recently posted a story coming from another angle about the same subject, rising tuition. Greg is less than enthusiastic about the Solutions for Higher Education effort to increase participation in higher education in Arizona, correctly noting the substantial tuition increases and their negative impact on enrollment. As in many situations, the reality requires a deeper cut.

Greg makes an innocent slip when he asserts that the value of a college education has declined relative to its cost. Disaggregated by field it is true for some, but in the aggregate the return on a college education has increased, higher tuition noted, as the country splits between high wage knowledge positions and low wage everything else. The importance of a college education is growing because the value of a high school degree alone is plummeting.

Tuition matters, but higher education involves far more sophisticated dynamics than buying a cheeseburger. "Sticker shock" scares away lower SES populations who do not understand the game. While a little dated, the situation described here has changed little. The reality of financial aid including Pell Grants and institutional support dramatically reduces the net cost of attendance for students with families of modest incomes. Still the poor kids are very loan averse, and as Greg correctly notes, will forgo higher education if it means incurring $40,000 in debt. Is the system turning poor students away? Absolutely, but it is complicated along a stratification of schools from top privates to community colleges.

The fundamental shift towards a higher tuition model reflects cultural changes set in motion by the Reagan administration that framed a college education as a personal benefit for the individual student instead of the societal benefit of a higher educated population. The reality is that both student and society benefit, but the two views offer different perspectives on who should pay. The Reagan view prevailed and has shifted the burden to the student and the student’s family. State appropriations have fallen significantly as a share of university budgets as tuition has increased dramatically to make up the difference. We now have a multi-faceted and complex revenue system and a complex cost system with many pieces of need based aid (Pell), scholarships and non-need institutional aid, federal loans, and now tax breaks.

In the specifics, he slips, but in principle, Greg points to a truth. Higher Education benefits society and we desperately need it. Our elected officials are complete hypocrites when they shift the financial burden dramatically to students and their families via tuition hikes and then hold meetings to discuss why we aren't producing more graduates.

Speaking of higher education, Daniel Scarpinato had a piece in the Arizona Daily Star last Friday indicating the stupidity gets even worse. Our enlightened state legislators are considering tying university funding to performance measures such as the graduation rate. Daniel quotes the Chair of the House Committee on Higher Education, Tucsonan Jennifer Burns-R, as claiming we need to produce more graduates in science and engineering.

How does one produce more graduates in science and engineering? What actions result in more high school graduates enrolling at the University of Arizona (or ASU or NAU) in these fields? Having no idea, our legislature (most lacking college degrees themselves) is considering withholding 25 percent of the state funding for each student (universities receive state support per student) until the student graduates. Holding back funds will graduate more students.

The sheer stupidity of the idea defies comprehension by failing to recognize that universities are already doing virtually all they can to retain and graduate every student that enrolls. Ever run a business? Is it good to lose a customer? Consider how much is invested to put that student into that seat as an incoming freshman, recruited, evaluated, admitted, financial aid package, scheduled, dorm arrangements, oriented, safe, and then have the person drop out? The investment is bi-directional in powerful ways. Universities hate to lose an enrolled student.

I know names and faces of people who pour their hearts into retaining every incoming freshman through a successful graduation and placement, and our legislators think withholding the resources required to support retention efforts is going to improve graduation rates?

Withhold funds and you create pressure to do what? RAISE TUITION, which as Greg points out, is problematic for enrollment and (I will add) for retention as well (but of course I am wrong as students never drop for financial reasons). Rising tuition hurts graduation rates.

What we need to attract and retain graduates in science and engineering fields are science and engineering jobs for those who graduate. For that, you need to have effective economic development programs that can create these kinds of jobs for the graduating seniors.

That’s right. EFFECTIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. We need gay bohemians and a cool coffee shop.

I could run an institute that facilitated the workforce development training of over 10,000 employed Tucsonans per year on less than the public support given to a coffee shop.

I left in May. Gutted, betrayed, and abandoned by dishonest and dishonorable people, SAIAT shuts down next month. I wish staff the best of luck in finding employment.

Perhaps the coffee shop is hiring.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Disturbing Development

The US House passed a disturbing bill, H.R. 1955, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 on October 23. Introduced by Jane Harman, D-CA, the thing shot through the House like greased lightning to a slam passage 404 to 6. Only three Republicans (including Arizona’s Jeff Flake) and three Democrats voted "nay."

Ron Paul did not vote.

The bill has language that occurs to me as problematic at best or worse, downright dangerous.

The key points of the bill essentially consist of:

1. Creates a “National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism” under section 899C.
2. Creates a “Center of Excellence” under section 899D, a research unit based in universities that will research and produce a report in 18 months recommending measures to prevent “dissent” that leads to terrorism, including descriptions and definitions of what exactly this “dissent” is.
3. To protect our civil liberties, Section 899F creates an “Auditing Mechanism” produced by a Department of Homeland Security official. It is required to conduct an annual audit.

Violent Radicalization is defined as the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.

We require definitions within a definition. What is an "extremist belief system"? What is "ideologically based violence"? Per the language of the bill it includes not only physical violence, but also thinking about or threatening to use violence or what can be interpreted as a type of force.

WTF!! Interpreted by whom? George Orwell defined "thought crime" in 1984 and gave rise to the phrase "Orwellian nightmare" to refer to the ultimate tyrannical state.

Summarizing a lot, we are setting up a think tank to tell us what kind of thinking, what kind of ideology, leads to terrorism. Once this university legitimized (or is it university infiltrating?) think tank does its study and produces recommendations, then we have the enchilada, perhaps, and the green light, maybe, for a nightmare I can’t believe I am writing about as a real event.

We are not talking about the Armageddon and don't panic. We are however, looking at the laying of a foundation for what could turn into something Orwellian. The auditors in 899F report to those they audit and only have to produce one report before the 18 month report resets everything to a new world order that appears poised to dismantle the First Amendment as we know it.

The current turn of events, as I've already posted, leave me more disoriented than ever. We have the ACLU and right wing conservatives on the same side. Conservative bloggers reading this story might want to visit my NIN dystopian Year Zero post and watch those videos. It appears to be happening. Seriously, just taste one minute.

The bill sets in motion forces to define certain ideologies as "thought crime" or "pre-crime" so as to prevent a terrorist act like in the film Minority Report. I kid the reader not. We are talking about legislation to distinguish ideologies that represent “pre-criminal” activity including thinking or beliefs. Make no mistake. The intent involves the ability to take preemptive action against identified ideological criminals.

Any belief system can be defined as an "extremist belief system."

Perhaps, and I only speculate, the July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate Report started it by speaking to the need to find links between various forms of thought and terrorism. Remember the London attacks? English citizens conducted them, but they had a "foreign" religion and ideology. How do we identify, find, and eliminate them before they attack?

The concept of "Homegrown Terrorism" has burst on the scene, and now we want to distinguish which groups and which ideologies fit the profile of those likely to become "domestic terrorists." Anything those in power gain consensus regarding the profile is fair game. While the initial language targets Islam, it is so vague that the slightest tip of the scope could steer the cross hairs to right-wing Christians. The machine can turn on anyone at odds with the current regime.

I would expect such a piece from Lord Cheney. It has Lord Cheney all over it, except it doesn’t. Democrats created and passed this bill. I am baffled.

The bill is now S. 1959 in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Perhaps clearer minds will prevail in the Senate. Eggplant would sign the bill in a heartbeat. Perhaps we’ll luck out and The Supreme Court will declare it unconstitutional. Then again, perhaps the Department of Homeland Security has determined that your church, your position against abortion, and your grocery store purchase records fit the profile of someone about commit a terrorist act.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Trip to the Border

Thirty years ago in one of my first trips to the border, I crossed the line and stepped into a basement where a small group of us were playing Jeopardy, a game where the answer is supplied and one must furnish the question. We played awhile, and then that indescribable border sensation occurred, the psychological shift accompanied by self-referencing thought streams and an emotional state one might predict for a person profoundly disoriented.

The experience occurred simultaneously as my friend Jim, hosting the show for the players, looks down and says, "Wait, here’s a stack of different answers."

He picks up a card and flash we are in a richly colored field where we see two dogs peacefully sleeping, one resting its head and paw on the other.

We flash back to Jim, who waits for us to state the question. We are speechless. The buzzer rings, and Jim reads the card, "What is love?"

The two other players and I look at each other with faces saying, "This is really weird."

Jim picks up the next card and flash we are in pitch blackness and silence. Then we hear a loud sound of stone scraping against stone, and about 15 feet in front of us blinding white light so bright we cannot look at it comes from the floor as a massive stone "door" slides very slowly upward. Sheer, screaming terror beyond terror drowns all consciousness and as we fade we’re rescued with a flash back to Jim. We are open mouthed and looking at each other with quizzical and very disturbed faces suggesting, "WTF?!" and now we are frightened. The game is not funny or fun, and we are not amused at all.

Jim looks at us. No one says a thing. Jim does not know what we saw. The buzzer rings and he reads the card, "What is reality?"

Ann says, "I don’t like this game" to which Steve immediately replies, "Yeah, let’s quit."

Those two get the hell out of there, leaving Jim and me alone. He looks at me. He is very serious, "I have one more answer. Do you want to see?"

I am so screwed.

He holds up the card and flash I am in an old attic by myself. Clean, the attic has a shelving unit in the center. At the border, one can know something without having to learn it, and I know all of the items on the shelf belonged to an elderly woman who had died. I approach the shelf and look at the items, an ashtray, a photograph of grandchildren, a very old photograph of her as a child and one of her at her wedding, a cigarette lighter (the shiny metal Zippo), some reading glasses, jewelry including her wedding ring and a watch, all old. Remember those cases women used for their cigarettes?

The shelves had some folded clothes and some shoes, a thermos, and my psyche starts to enter a state of deep seriousness, the kind that shuts people up, and the state darkens as an unspeakable dread floods the emotional space and I sense that these items are all that remain of the woman. Toss these items, and that’s it. The English language has nothing to describe where I went psycho-spiritually at this point, looking at all of the items, but imagine if you could taste, touch, hear, feel, and smell "abyss" and "fragile" at the same time. Then flash I am back with Jim. He looks at me, and from my face he knows I have nothing to say.

He looks down at the card and then at me, "What is death?"

He looks back down at the card and gets very upset, his face starting to cry and his eyes welling up, "I’m so sorry. I’m wrong. What is life?"

Jim starts really falling apart, sobbing, "It keeps changing! What is death?"

He is so frightened he shakes uncontrollably, falls to the ground and starts wretching in complete panic, "What is life?"

The Border. Think I made it up? Could you make that up?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Got the Fever?

Tucson, Arizona. One attractive feature of my house is that the lot to its left is vacant with natural desert vegetation. A few days ago a good sized Ron Paul poster showed up on the lot. Ron Paul is raising powerful questions that point to powerful forces.

The Washington post has an article today that begins with:

n. 1. a person who believes in the doctrine of the freedom of the will
2. a person who believes in full individual freedom of thought, expression and action
3. a freewheeling rebel who hates wiretaps, loves Ron Paul and is redirecting politics

The reader can easily access the article, but it fortifies what I have written before and what has resonated at conservative blogs Arizona Eighth as well as Sonoran Alliance. The astute understand that Ron Paul taps into real sentiments that have deep roots. Nixon declared the War on Drugs. The founding fathers declared the war on tyranny. The former is a lie. The latter speaks to the truth of the dignity of the human spirit.

Why are we still in Korea? Why in Japan? Who cares if Iran gets the bomb? What are they going to do with it? Even what's his face isn't wacko enough to ignore the follow through of that conversation. Frankly, I think Israel knows more about Iran's nuclear technology than Iran and will handle it. Why can't we just leave Iraq? It's going to become three countries anyway, however the language and deal gets constructed.

Consider that we have a government that fails to manage in areas where it is needed (education, health care, environment) and tries to manage where it has no business (sexuality, religion, drugs, lifestyles). I have heard more often than I can say, "Fiscally conservative, socially liberal." Yes, the checkbook needs to balance. We need sound economic and defense policies, but get the F#@$ out of my bedroom, and if I have a consenting adult, who cares? If I want to eat funny mushrooms or smoke a weed it's your business why?

Corporations buy our politicians who then pass legislation to funnel tax dollars directly to the corporations. Hundreds of billions. Why? How much do we spend pretending to have a war on drugs? Cheney and Eggplant warn us about WW III if we aren't aggressive against terror. That's also a lie. Perhaps our aggression IS the terror? Has this nation not cut off an entire arm because someone cut its finger? Compare numbers for loss of life (including injuries) and loss of money for 9/11 and Iraq. Do the math.

Ron Paul is asking questions. Ron Paul wants a government creating a container for freedom. Lord Cheney wants a government that rules and controls. Ron Paul discusses prosperity for everyone for everyone's gain. Lord "deficits don't matter" Cheney promotes the prosperity of a few at the expense of the rest. Seen the debt?

College kids like Ron Paul, who thinks the country should have a future with people in it. Lord Cheney steals from those people. Ron Paul has the nickname "Dr. No" for voting against the war in Iraq, against wiretapping, against massive deficit spending. I don't believe Ron Paul can win the nomination, but he remembers what this country once stood for, concepts like personal liberty, inalienable rights that belong to every human being, separation of church and state.

We squander unspeakable sums to try to manage what we can't and withhold resources from those managing what we should. Hands off does not work for education, health care, the environment, or corporations. Our government needs to hold corporations accountable to the rule of law, not work for them. I respect Ron Paul, and I hope he generates substantial conversation. His discourse is the healthiest coming out of GOP. One could argue that his discourse is what the GOP has forgotten.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Immigration REALITY

Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona Daily Star printed an excellent AP piece regarding the reality of the $1.7 B immigration industry in Arizona. What a shocker that we have an entire set of colluding car rental firms, hotels, and other money makers organized in the smuggling business.

In an interesting inquiry, if we were to rank countries on a scale of self-knowledge, i.e. honest with itself, I don't know who would win. Canada? Sweden? More likely is some primitive tribe on an island no one knows about. Even casual observation quickly concludes the United States is one of the most self-deluded nations on planet, a population numbed senseless by non-news and the stupidest television programming in the history of the species.

In 2000, Steven Soderbergh directed Traffic addressing the utter bankruptcy and farcical nature of the War on drugs. It's a lie. Another lie, simply shifting the product from drugs to people, gives us the immigration question. Naturally, when the smuggled product is a human being, the conversation becomes more complex. Unlike heroin or marijuana, we can hate people.

Both conversations collide politics and economic reality. In a remarkable show of hypocrisy, we cling to the outdated ideas of Adam Smith's invisible hand making the best decisions regarding health care or education yet we abandon those principles regarding immigration or narcotics. Let's trust the good company to charge a fair price for the diabetic needing insulin, but by god, if the SOB wants heroin, we should and can control the situation, a staggering charade applying equally to immigration.

Addressing REALITY, people come here illegally because they get what they seek. If they didn't, they wouldn't. Manuel stays in Zacatecas. Jose moves north illegally. Months pass and they compare notes. Manuel packs his bags.

While a mediocre film, Jurassic Park captures the distinction masterfully: Nature finds a way. Until one grasps the REALITY that companies earn $1.7 BILLION+ providing the infrastructure for AN INDUSTRY, one does not understand immigration or how to address it. Both STRIVE and DREAM made sense and acknowledge the value of those here and absurdity of assembling the resources to oust them.

(These people were WORKING.) The powerful inquiry involves not who earns the $1,700,000,000 each year importing immigrants. The powerful inquiry involves WHO PAYS THEM. Where does the money come from? My parents visited Tucson awhile ago, and over a good cigar with others my father noted that in Cincinnati, Ohio, all of the roofers were Mexicans. Legal?

Cincinnati, Ohio.

The clock is ticking on a bill in Arizona that can shut an entire business down if it can be shown they've hired an illegal immigrant. Jim Click and many other business owners are more than a little upset about this. I doubt Jim has much to fear, but small and medium sized businesses face a possible nightmare. Stupidity is brewing.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero

NIN Year Zero


_1. Hyperpower
_2. The Beginning of the End (Video)
_3. Survivalism (Video)
_4. The Good Soldier (Video)
_5. Vessel
_6. Me, I'm Not (Matrix Video) (Pi Video)
_7. Capital G (Video)
_8. My Violent Heart (Video)
_9. The Warning (Mental Video) (Moral Video)
_10. God Given (Video)
_11. Meet Your Master (Video) (Children of Men Video)
_12. The Greater Good (Video) (Fight Club Video)
_13. The Great Destroyer (Video A) (Video X)
_14. Another Version of the Truth (Chernobyl Video) (Ethnicity Video)
_15. In This Twilight (Video)
_16. Zero Sum (Video)


_Art is Resistance Flyer
_Art is Resistance
_I am Trying to Believe
_Another Version of the Truth
_The Price of Treason
_Open Source Resistance
_Operation Swamp 0000
_Operation Chip Sweep
_Be the Hammer
_Angry Sniper Recording
_Consolidated Mail Systems
_United States Wiretap
_105th Airborne Crusaders
_The Church of Plano
_The Mailstrom
_The Drug Opal


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Early Campus Presence

Tucson, Arizona. I spend a fair amount of time on the University of Arizona campus, and I look around, noticing more than just the Lolitas. Based on the limited sampling of my treks to various buildings and the student union, the very early campus presence of candidates for the 2008 election falls to three candidates and only three.

1. Ron Paul - a very strong first. Stickers all over.
2. Barack Obama - Flyers have been posted to organize meetings with volunteers and local supporters.

The third came as a surprise.

3. Derek Tidball - Independent candidate for AZ Congressional District 8. Derek has posted papers soliciting volunteers and perhaps paid staff, the sheet of paper with the tear off contact information slips at the bottom.

Regarding any other candidate for anything, I have not seen a thing, and no criticism is intended. Bee can't post until he announces. Giffords has higher priorities at this stage, and Grijalva doesn't have to know where the campus is. For state races, it's just too early.

I've not seen any articles, but I wonder what the Hillary machine is doing regarding the college crowd across the country. By no means scientific, my radar smells a strong desire for change.

Change means Ron Paul for the GOP and Barack Obama for the Democrats. In this blogger's opinion, Ron Paul has zero chance of landing the nomination, and Barack has about twice those odds.

My confidence in Giuliani is slipping, but if not him, who? A President Huckabee defies linguistic metaphysics, and it can't be Romney. It just can't. The guy listed Battlefield Earth as a favorite, stated that marriages in France come with seven year exit clauses (France is Catholic), claimed to be a lifelong hunter after shooting some rats, and thinks Jesus is coming to Missouri. Thompson? Please.

Wait a minute. What am I thinking? Look who we have in the White House now!!

Never mind.

The United States could elect an aardvark. GW Bush is the precise embodiment of the Greek criticism of democracy thousands of years ago. Way back then, their intellectuals surmised that the teaming masses could be manipulated into electing whomever the manipulators designated, officials controlled by those who truly control. Renegade President "Let them enforce it!" Jackson was a preview full of interesting historical ironies, a man who won the most votes in 1824 but saw the election handed to his opponent (Adams). Jackson made himself in an early life of considerable hardship and poverty. They are opposites and the same. A good historian could write a book.

Now we have Eggplant, someone who has never bought or prepared his own food, a bravado Texas man who (truth be revealed) is terrified of horses. Doesn't that just capture it?

Perhaps our elections are not really elections. Perhaps we merely witness herds of sheep in competing stampedes steered with money and the media it controls.

Scott McClellan Resignation -The Theme?

Surprise, surprise. Yet another resigning Bush administration operative is fessing up that he's a lying sack of shit. Scott Macelland, having resigned like just about any other self respecting (or not self self-respecting) Bush administration puppets having second thoughts about the carnage they have inflicted on the planet, is speaking out.

He writes: So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

"There was one problem. It was not true.

"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself."

How sad. His 2006 resignation has Rove written all over it.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Art of Mental Warfare

I found a video late last night and posted it along with a rant I chose to delete this morning. Liking the video, Liza tried to post a comment as I was hitting the delete key. Respecting her judgment, after taking an econometrics root canal I explored a little further and discovered The Art of Mental Warfare Web site, which is worth a visit. They recently posted the same video.

I think the piece captures an important dynamic that makes the Lord Cheney regime possible. During WWII in Germany, what do you think the German people heard in the media? I assert the same theme applies to this day, only more sophisticated. We're too busy caring about Britney Spear's crotch to recognize the truly obscene behavior of the current administration. The country is clueless, a collection of minds bled dead by the brain numbing information equivalent of food without calories or nutrition. We're a nation drugged on mental twinkies.

I think NIN's Year Zero concept album is brilliant. The CD changes color after you play it and it "heats up," a comment on global warming. I have already posted Capital G and In This Twilight.

NIN rules.

Eventually all of the Year Zero videos will be posted at this blog.

Liza responded to the video here with the first comment below.

Academic Rant

Tucson, Arizona. Not that anyone cares, but I have an Econometrics midterm in a couple hours. It will be exceedingly difficult. I cannot believe that as someone in his 40's, I did not have the wisdom to know that when you walk into a class and half of the students are from China with the other half from India, that one needs to immediately turn around and haul one's shiny white arse the hell out of there.

I cannot believe I was so stupid. Only idiots take courses this difficult. What the $#$@#$ was I thinking? I could have taken "Introduction to Student Life" or "Appreciation of Undergraduate Adjustment." But NO, not me, nuh-uh. This cocky, arrogant blogger takes Econometrics. Covariance becomes a inverted matrix and we take partial derivatives with respect to vectors of logarithms. We're expected to pick up SAS programming like it's popcorn.

Higher forces must be involved. I said something arrogant while "they" were listening and must be punished proper. Well, if utterly slaughtered today, a distinct possibility, then massive resources must go into the final, like I don't have anything else to do.

Should I be studying right now? Actually, no. It is too late. We've seen the stopped truck in front of us and have slammed on the brakes. All semblance of control has evaporated. The calm before the carnage is worse.

Uh, maybe not.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Two Weeks

Tucson, Arizona. Congress gets two weeks off for Thanksgiving and apparently works four days a week. What do they get for Christmas? A month? They make $160,000+ and get health care and pension for life (or something like that). Their kids don't have to fight in the war and get greased admission into fancy schools offering greased grades for connected kids. Yale's passing the Eggplant clearly shows a vegetable can buy a diploma from one of our finest higher education institutions if it has the right daddy.

While slowly, Congress appears to be developing some spine. Spending legislation is stalling. The GOP Congress got bit doing this with Clinton, but times have changed and seriously. I've written about "crafting a noose" in my other professional endeavors as it became necessary to strangle a particular SOB. Preferable is a clean shot and a gun. When this is not available, you can strangle.

Make the SOB veto what everyone wants. Craft language framing government shutdowns that paint the White House as the demon it is. The instant Eggplant condemns excessive spending point to his request for war funding, tax cuts for millionaires, and oil company subsidies.

Health care (and support in general) for aging relatives is solid blue material. The GOP can't even spell it and has NO SOLUTION. Come on, Nancy and Harry. Figure it out. Kudos to Harry for figuring out how to take a vacation without taking one, keeping the Senate technically in session so Lord Cheney can't cram Dick puppets down our throats.

Not knowing people who "serve" in Congress, I don't know what a vacation means. I can easily envision Grijalva catching a plane to the Bahamas and sipping margaritas on the beach for a couple weeks, but I have an inclination that is not the case with the freshmen. Does anyone know?

If I were Harry Mitchell or Gabrielle Giffords, I wouldn't let off the pedal for an instant and even Thanksgiving dinner would occur in the context of the next election. Two whole weeks of down time in CD 5 and CD 8? Say it ain't so. Let Pastor and Grijalva have the margaritas. Mitchell and Giffords have too much to do, and if they don't know what that is they deserve to lose next year. If they want two weeks off, they can wait until next Thanksgiving.

In case they really don't get it, allow me to contribute:

What and who are they:

1: Reading
2: Writing
3: Speaking
4: Listening
5: Meeting

To both Harry and Gabrielle, I could not be more serious and neither could the GOP cross-hairs on your foreheads.

Dad Loves Kid, Campus Hates Bush

The omnivore kid returned home this weekend for turkey week. She spent the evening with your humble blogger last night and had a friend over to watch a movie. What does this kid do as the movie starts playing?

She fires up her laptop and turns back to me, "What's your access code?"

referring of course to the encryption key necessary to access my wireless Internet.

I give her the ridiculously long string that looks something like


and then she watches the movie, manages cyberspace, and interacts with her friend at the same time. Some readers may consider this rude regarding said friend. Well, an avid gamer (I would be safer trying heroin, I suspect, but then again, I don't know) and omnivore himself, he participated with in said cyberfare as they spoke and enjoyed the film.

Her fella (the significant other at Stanford) is majoring in Public Policy, whatever that means, but it includes knowledge of politics. Dad and daughter discussed politics very briefly, but long enough to establish the following.

The college crowd DESPISES George W. Bush and Lord Cheney. I've not seen research disaggregating political sentiment by age, but the smell is strong. Individuals under 30 that think our president is anything other than an eggplant are few and far between, probably in Kansas and Texas.

The rest of the country, and even more so, the world, regard the current administration with complete contempt.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Best NFL Team in History

The best football team in the history of the sport is easily cruising to an undefeated record for the season. The erroneous assertions of misinformed readers that earlier Dallas or Pittsburgh teams would prevail against today's Pats are well, erroneous, but I blame their folly not.

Any team in history would be nothing but embarrassing pigskin fodder for today's Patriots. Those not seeing this just don't understand the game or its history and the growth of players in the last couple decades.

X4MR predicted scores for the following match-ups:

2007 Patriots against:

1. 1985 Chicago Bears (Pats 42 Bears 21)
2. 1972 Miami Dolphins (Pats 49 Dolphins 28)
3. 1962 Green Bay Packers (Pats 104 Packers 0)
4. 1991 Washington Redskins (Pats 56 Redskins 14)
5. 1999 Los Angeles Rams (Pats 45 Rams 10)
6. 1989 San Francisco 49er's (Pats 63 49er's 28)
7. 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers (Pats 69 Steelers 31)
8. 1994 San Francisco 49er's (Pats 52 49er's 10)
9. 1996 Green Bay Packers (Pats 49 Packers 14)
10. 1971 Dallas Cowboys (Pats 84 Cowboys 7)

The Patriots just rule. Those thinking earlier teams would stand a snowball's chance in a vat of molten steel, salary caps and all, just don't get the reality of the situation.

Good Luck Patty

Tucson, Arizona. This morning's AZ Daily Star has a piece noting that Patty Weiss and her husband are out of here, moving to Madison, Wisconsin. The career move, so to speak, belongs to husband Dr. Alan J. Gelenberg, who resigned from the head of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, which has had some issues in its medical administration, which I won't touch. I hear rumblings that someone over there is horrible, causing massive resignations. I don't know who, and I hope they resolve the situation.

Madison is serious cold, Patty.

From the article:

Political decisions at the local and state level were some heavy factors, Weiss said.

"I'm disappointed in the lack of vision and follow-through, from the UA to the city and county governments into the state," she said. "It's hard for Arizona to compete with states where people have a different attitude for moving forward."

And that makes it hard for Arizona to compete, Weiss said.

"We don't have a Legislature funding education and social infrastructure," she said. "I am jaded. It probably is best to take a look at a new place."

Well said, Patty. We have a community that slits the throat of a work force development institute providing customized training to working Tucsonans and then turns around and hands $280 grand in free rent to a coffee shop. Our economic development gurus think the key is making Tucson "bohemian" so gay sculptors will move to town, drink espresso, and erect erotic art that promotes the entrepreneurial spirit of our youth.

Uh-huh. Like 40,000+ others, I am a student at the University of Arizona. Like virtually every one of them upon graduation, I will do what Patty is doing.

Move somewhere that doesn't pay cockroaches to get fondled by con artists.

Good Luck and Godspeed, Patty. You were part of what contributes to this community, one who actually served and made a difference, and thank you for the difference you made.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Choking Children

Tucson, Arizona. For reasons unimportant I drove to campus yesterday, and on the way there I looked to my left and saw a car filled with smoke and three young children, all under ten.

I enjoy a cigar regularly and while sitting in the shop, I inhale all sorts of second hand smoke. I know it. I am also approaching 50, choosing to take the risk, and if lung cancer takes me a little sooner, so be it.

However, seeing a defenseless four-year-old engulfed in thick, gray smoke in the back seat of a car raised my blood pressure. I drove on, swearing to myself about the incredible lack of consideration even for one's own children, assuming the kids were his.

Apparently I am not alone. Rep. David Schapira, a Tempe Democrat, has sponsored a bill that would ban smoking in cars when children are present. Granted, enforcement and actual impact remain unclear, but the idea is not new and has made it into law in Arkansas, Louisiana, California, and perhaps some other states.

Perhaps if I did not raise a daughter my thoughts would be different, but little can boil my blood more than the harm and suffering of defenseless children who have no means of protecting themselves. I looked at that little girl yesterday in that car, and it really hurt. I'm not kidding.

Maybe such a law stands a chance in Arizona. Perhaps we can get it passed. Barring some problematic issues with implementation or enforcement, Janet would sign it without hesitation. Maybe we can get it through so long as we let the kids keep their guns.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Next Cultural Revolution

(University of Arizona Information Commons) Those familiar with this blog know that I have posted repeatedly of the young generation of individuals now attending college, The Next Generation of omnivores who cannot remember a world without the personal computer, computer games, and for many, the Internet and email. When they hear the word "mouse" the last thing that comes to mind is an animal. They have disconnected any association of a phone with a physical location. When you call someone, you are calling a person, NOT a person’s home or office.

They can communicate silently via new rules that apply to text messaging and email while sitting in class, buying groceries, or (gads) driving down the street. One particularly stupid omnivore walked in front of an oncoming train while sending a text message.

MySpace started but Facebook prevailed in that now the vast majority of this population has their own Web site unified by a protocol (the Facebook infrastructure) that allows unprecedented networking and self-expression including photos (in fact, entire photo albums organized by subject or chapter) and, yes, videos a la YouTube.

I write to make the assertion that these individuals think differently with profound implications for the both the blogosphere and politics. The 2008 election, I allege, will be the first where this population emerges as a force that can indeed alter an election. Ignore this group at your peril, so let’s discuss some of what this population is about.

First, the environment. They have to live on this planet longer than the rest of us, and like us, they don’t want to check out prematurely because we let corporations poison the place or release a super bug that wipes us out. Politicians who fail to craft a message that addresses environmental concerns make a mistake.

Second, sexual and reproductive freedom. This population almost entirely rejects the sexual "taboos" and any restrictions on consensual sex between adults, and when they think adult, you’re there at 18 or even 16. Homophobes are dinosaurs. Who cares? Birth control should be as available as toothpaste, and only the poorest of this group are not fully aware (and quite responsible) about protecting themselves from both unwanted pregnancy and STD’s. If forced by clueless parents, they will smile and nod in abstinence programs and sneak off to have sex.

Third, gender and ethnic tolerance. The group does not buy into male supremacy at all, and a misogynist might as well wear a doggie do collar in terms of social acceptance. Immigration becomes complex quickly for this population which is hostile to policies harming law abiding (other than being here) working “illegals” yet quite quick to support harsh measures for illegal immigrants who commit crimes. They can rally behind a strong border, but don’t expect them to get behind a massive deportation of hard working members of society, and if you want to penalize their own (children of illegal immigrants – think DREAM), you don’t have their support.

Fourth, economic equity and the middle class. The increasing concentration of wealth dramatically exacerbated by obscene tax cuts for millionaires is an issue Democrats can use with this population. Ron Paul has electrified this group in quantities pointing to the irresponsibility of the massive deficit spending of the Bush Administration. The Farm Bill is a little too complicated to capture their attention, but corporate subsidies to oil corporations making record profits, framed effectively, can boil their blood. Who does this government serve, anyway? Dick’s pals?

Fifth, the Iraq War. They HATE it, knowing it is based on lies and was executed with appalling incompetence by corrupt and dishonorable individuals for corrupt and dishonorable reasons. Further, the war is killing THEM. Our soldiers belong to this group. They have class mates, husbands, friends, and brothers killed or maimed in Iraq so Hunt Oil can secure lucrative deals with Kurds. They HATE this war, and Ron Paul’s message to get out TOMORROW provokes squeals and screams of political outcry, “YES! YES! YES!!”

Sixth, health care. Not themselves, but their parents, are starting to get old. They see a government full of officials who don’t pay a thin red cent for health care while many of them and their parents have no access. Know about the 63 day thing? Get tossed out of work, an event happening to many aging boomers as soulless corporations revoke pension commitments. After 63 days, you can’t get insurance even if you can afford the premiums. This nightmare is getting louder. They love their parents and in increasing numbers will start thinking about having to care for them.

Seventh, education. They value and love information, the fruit of the information age. Already having parents, soon this population will have children. Here we must disaggregate by socio-economic status where the poor omnivores work for Walmart, tire shops, and restaurants. The better off value education highly and understand globalization and the importance of intellectual capital. The United States in the 60’s (thank Sputnik and all that it sparked) became the most highly educated country on the planet. We are slipping and badly, bleeding our education infrastructure at all levels and losing stature. Our electing an eggplant into the White House who travels the world and embarrasses world leaders with humiliatingly idiotic and arrogant remarks has dealt major blows to the world leadership position our nation once held.

Eighth, religious tolerance. Want to worship Christ and practice Christian values? Terrific. Have at it and enjoy, but start throwing stones or getting off on some superiority nonsense about knowing the truth while other religions live in ignorance, and you lose almost all of them. In larger numbers than any generational cohort they embrace the different expressions of human spirituality so long as the expressions are not misogynist or racist. The events in Iran are interesting, where old geezer "morale police" are cracking down on Iranian omnivores. I give the Iranian geezers ten years at most (Iran’s average age is like 15) before they reach a tipping point, unless of course, Dick invades the place and creates another fiasco.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

TREO Maintains Low Wage Haven

Tucson, Arizona. A few weeks ago I posted a story about Texas Instruments laying off 300 people. A couple weeks later the Citizen ran a piece noting that a Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc. official said it actually is good news because 300 high-paying jobs will remain at the plant near Tucson International Airport. The lost jobs pay less, the official said.

Now, the lowest paying job at TI, the bottom of the bottom, pays just over $20K / year. The average wage of the lost jobs probably comes close to $26K/year. By TREO's own report, in two years it recruited six companies to town resulting in 1325 jobs. The average wage - a whopping $18.5K.

TREO says that losing 300 jobs paying an average around $26K/year is "good news" while their recruiting efforts result in a pathetic three companies per year with wages under a palty $19K / year. The Cloth Speaketh. Their self-proclaimed top priority - bringing high skilled, high wage jobs into town.

It gets better. Those familiar with this blog know I used to play in the workforce development game. I ran a tiny facility that helped train workers to upgrade their skills. My favorite program, a math class I taught personally, improved the wages of the average participant about $2.50 an hour (just over $5K / year) in only 12 weeks. Free to students, SAIAT charged the community $18,400 for four of the classes over a year. 60 students (about how many we could get) together raised their wages over $300K a year. A good program, no? SAIAT provided a variety of training services that trained close to 10,000 employees each year, making them smarter, better trained, more productive, helping their businesses compete.

In 2007, TREO slashed SAIAT's funding 55%, told County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry that SAIAT approved its own gutting (false), and entered into contracts with SAIAT board members without telling myself or the SAIAT board chairman. Oh, and these same two board members tried to fire me two months later. After tending to some necessary board "business" (removing said two board members) I tendered my resignation in May. For all details, see the "Something Else" link at the left. Months later, TREO cut SAIAT's funding to zero. My replacement, Former State Representative Carol Somers, is doing her best to keep the crippled place alive. Barring some extraordinary development (which is possible), she must be getting pretty close to the ground.

She can feel free to vilify me as she chooses, so long as she doesn't lie.

Paid more in one month than SAIAT 's funding for an entire year, TREO recruited six companies and 1325 jobs paying less than $19K a year, a woefully pathetic performance far beneath that of predecessors Steve Weathers or Robert Gonzales. Perhaps not in a legally rigorous sense, in principle TREO CEO Stench Roach, distilled swine, is a liar and a thief. Arizona is the fastest growing state in the entire country. Businesses and people are going to move here if we do nothing. I invite the reader to consider that TREO is such an abject failure of sheer incompetence that it PREVENTS companies and decent jobs from coming to Tucson. A company thinks about coming to town, and who do they meet, Wesley Mouch, a lifelong bureaucrat that has never run a business in his life? Mouch couldn't read a balance sheet if you tattooed it across his arse and handed him a mirror.

GTEC's performance far exceeded that of the current fiasco that paid close to $50K to fly a con-artist into town to talk for an hour about our need to foster creativity. What a crock. They have no money for SAIAT (we needed about $240,000 almost all of it for the lease and utilities of the state of the art facility), and then the city gives $280,000 in free rent to a downtown coffee shop.

Do you get that? The downtown coffee shop will attract "entrepreneurial spirit" and high paying jobs, not raising the skills of our workers. By the way, can I have $280 grand in free rent to start a fun place downtown? I've run a business. I'd start Matt's Omnivore Oasis featuring 21-inch LCD monitors all over the place and lightning fast wireless for your notebooks, draft Guinnies, drams of your favorite single malt, and an outdoor patio where you can fire up a great stick. Web 2.0 savvies can plug into to multi-port headphone jacks and share Facebook, YouTube, and their favorite iTunes.

TREO snarfs something like $4M of public funds each year.

For less than 1/16 of that, SAIAT helped train almost 10,000 real workers real skills that led to real wage increases. TREO took every penny previously provided to SAIAT.

I have a huge research result due Friday, a damned difficult Econometrics exam next Tuesday, a cutting edge business education partnership literature matrix due the next day. I like to produce and discuss results. TREO's not too keen on the results conversation.

Six companies and 1325 slave wage jobs in two years in a million+ population community in the fastest growing state in the nation. TERRIBLE. Hey, let's be fair. That blueprint sure looks nice.

The high wage jobs TREO produces are their own.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Inland Empire

David Lynch’s latest film, Inland Empire, ranks among his finest cinematic achievements. Lynch made the decision not to compromise his vision at considerable cost to popularity and public appeal. His earlier films such as 1986's Blue Velvet and 1990’s Wild at Heart demonstrated a willingness to entertain, as did his simultaneous television venture Twin Peaks, but then something happened.

A Jungian analyst friend of mine attended a two day (eight hours per day) seminar discussing Blue Velvet. They ran out of time.

As Lynch turned Twin Peaks over to other writers and directors, it deteriorated and ended. Lynch turned around the time he produced the 1992 Twin Peaks prequel, Fire Walk with Me, the last Lynch film a viewer could watch with a regular lens.

By 1997, Lynch had broken from the bonds of established film making and entered new terrain, producing Lost Highway to shed darkness from a new angle of fragmented references and disjointed scenes. His audience dwindled dramatically, and he didn’t care.

Lynch then turned his new instrument on Hollywood itself. Instead of the insects raging beneath the bright green grass and white picket fences of Lumberton in BV, we tear under the glitzy fabric of the film industry in Mulholland Drive, clearly a thematic prequel and appetizer before the masterpiece, Inland Empire.

A seasoned practitioner with decades of transcendental meditation, Lynch has ventured into terrain few traverse. TP featured a forest with a gateway marked by a circle of Sycamore trees leading to a different reality. LH radicalized the fragmentation and MD created a recursive loop, pointing the camera at a mirror, showing a camera looking into a mirror showing a camera looking into a mirror, "Now it’s dark."

Inland Empire raises the bar by factors impossible to express with mathematics, a multi-dimensional leap to the brilliant construct of a film about a film about a woman watching a film about two films about actors in a film where the viewer must distinguish which film is being watched as a psychological onion of an actress is peeled away layer after layer during a descent into blurring boundaries and an eroding concept of self, self-respect, and dignity.

David Lynch knows borders and boundaries, and Inland Empire allows a viewer to literally experience the erasure of borders between competing realities that reminds some of us of a place few people go where high octane psycho-spiritual states produce thoughts, emotions, and sensations that function by different rules. In such a place and state, what answers the question, "Who am I?"

IE is a film about the collapse of private space, the disintegration of the psychological boundary between what is inside of us (thoughts/feelings/personality) that we keep private and what we make available, i.e. observable to others. In a psycho-verse without such boundaries, where all see everything about all, any intentional communication would be utterly meaningless. But all is not black and white, and the transition involves a journey for main character Sue (or is it Nikki?) as her consciousness is de-territorialized.

Too important to leave less than perfectly clear, I risk over-explaining with the notion of sitting in an audience before a stand up comedian. With 100 people in the audience, everyone laughs, and you are invisible. Drop to 10 in the audience. Now imagine yourself as the only watcher. Different for both performer and audience, no? Now, extend this direction to where everything about the comedian, thoughts, feelings, fantasies, secrets, are laid bare before you, and your thoughts, feelings, fantasies are equally bare before the comedian. Now, put the 100 people back, everyone laid just as bare.

The film begins with a Polish woman prostituting herself in a hotel, saying, "Where am I? I’m afraid. I’m afraid."

The man gone, she sits crying in bed, watching a television, the first of many gateways into other realities. Down the rabbit hole she goes to the transcendent Rabbitverse above multiple realities in a 60’s style sit-com stage with a laughing audience.

One of the rabbits hears something, and rises to see Powerful Polish man approached by Polish Filmmaker, seeking "an opening."

We enter the show within a show as famous actress Nikki Grace receives a visit from an interesting and apparently very informed neighbor who tells a tale, A little boy went out to play, when he opened his door he saw the world. As he passed through the doorway, he caused a reflection. Evil was born. Evil was born, and followed the boy.

Another version: A little girl went off to play, lost in the marketplace, as if half born. Then, not through the marketplace you see that don’t you, but through the act behind the marketplace. This is the way to the past.

The market place. Marketing what? What does an actress market? As she acts before the camera, what product is she providing? Tits and ass? Is that all? Not in any cinema worth watching. In a smarter world, Laura Dern would have won an Academy Award for delivering one of the finest performances in the history of cinema. She is that good. Actually, she is better than that good.

I suppose if it was 9:45, I think it was after midnight.

If was tomorrow, you wouldn’t even remember that you owe on an unpaid bill. If it was tomorrow, you would be sitting over there.

The journey begins.

Someone just got a part. Don’t be so sure who.

Jeremy Irons is terrific as the director, "This world we’re about to plunge into."
The film within the film, On High in Blue Tommorrows, written by Lawrence Ashton, stars Nikki Grace as Susan and Devon Burke as Billy, but what we see on the screen blurs dramatically and effectively to where we find ourselves unclear what we are watching.

In Blue Tomorrows, Susan and Billy have a steamy affair. What happens when actors and actresses get into their roles day after day? The feelings emoted for the camera have no residue? What character or integrity keeps the border intact? What is a border, anyway? Most dictionaries will tell you a border is the edge or boundary of something.

Nikki and Devlon meet with the director and sidekick Harry Dean Stanton (marvelous as always, a terrific artist) and read scene 35 (anything but meaningless), "Are you crying?"
"Uh-huh. Yeah."
"Are you sorry about last night?"
"Are you?"
"Why are you crying?"
"I'm sorry, Billy. I'm so sorry. Oh, shit."

After an interruption, "What was that?" we learn On High in Blue Tomorrows has a history. It’s a remake of an earlier film that was started but never finished. Based on a Polish gypsy folk tale with the German title "Vier Sieben" (German for "four seven"), the earlier film encountered trouble. Something happened before the film was finished. The director reveals to the two leads, "Well, they discovered something inside the story."  The two leads were murdered.

They discovered something inside the story?

Lynch takes IE into terrain perhaps new to cinema, a film aware that it is being watched, a film with an inherent grasp of the distinction between being watched in a theatre with many others, at home with a few, or alone. Watching the film with another individual makes one's skin crawl. Out of no where, we watch a short scene where a woman with a screwdriver stabbed under her skin confesses she has been hypnotized to kill someone.

Critics of the film that regard the first 50 minutes as the best see positively nothing. Up until the first real snap, the film (while odd) flows more or less like a regular film until Nikki, while filming a scene, breaks with a disturbing exclamation and smile, "Damn! This sounds like dialog from our script!"

The director yells, "What the bloody hell is going on?" and it's time to fasten the cerebral seat belt, or unfasten it. The adultery occurs, and at this point Lynch kicks in the afterburners and pushes the throttle forward of what is forward of forward.

Look at us and tell us if you’ve known us before.

There was this man I once knew.

Oh, shit, indeed. A prostitute announces, "This is the street."

Now IE rips reality and distills the border before the woman in the hotel in exquisite material that puts Nikki on top of herself looking simultaneously down and up. She has rung the bell that cannot be un-rung, and suddenly we find her with a new accent, pregnant, and poor. Who is this person putting on a watch and burning a cigarette through the space time fabric of reality? Are we watching Nikki, Susan, or someone else, and another border is crossed into the Polish world of 47 where the leads were murdered. What time is it?

Now, the woman in the hotel sees 47, Blue Tomorrows, and the Rabbitverse. Still crying, she sees all except us as we watch her watch.

In 47 the lives of the actors merged with the lives the characters, both paths on screen and off leading to murder. The nature of the script puts two realities on a collision course, and we watch Nikki (or is it Sue, or is it someone else?) spiral down the space inside both circles. Oh, wait. Is Nikki, the rich, famous actress, real? Who is playing whom? Perhaps Nikki is merely an illusion, a famous actress envisioned by the imagination of a not so famous actress with a far less powerful husband, one who is good with animals.

Now the labyrinth begins as a fragmented psyche navigates the psycho-verse beneath the Rabbitverse. We see a Rabbit take a seat at a desk just before Sue enters a red curtained gateway (reminiscent of TP's gateway to the Black Lodge) and emerges as a foul speaking character (who is certainly NOT Nikki, who doesn't like such talk.) who visits AXXONN man (probably the Rabbit). Let's call her "poor Nikki", and whoever she is, she hasn't had the best of luck, "The ambulance guys, they say, 'What the fuck happened here?' I say, 'He come to a reapin' what he been sowin', that's what.' They say, 'Fucker's been sowing some heavy kinda shit.'"

Poor Nikki tells her infertile Polish husband that she is pregnant (oh, great) and continues to live with him while Sue hangs out with prostitutes but from a distance, observing them as the end of the path she finds herself walking, while poor Nikki tells the AXXONN man about her tragic life of losing a son, infidelity, and violence.

Illuminated by candles, an apparently 47 related Polish woman prays, "Cast out this wicked dream that has seized my heart." and we enter the 47 Poland street to hear a scream and see a murdered woman, apparently the actress of that film.

Poor Nikki finds out violently that her husband cannot have children. He beats her and leaves for the circus. Among these circus people is a man called "Crimp," able to hypnotize others against their will.

Through a studio doorway and clearly on a Blue Tomorrows set, a very disoriented Sue confronts Billy, "Something's wrong, bad and wrong!"

The family in the opulent mansion is shocked. Sue asks, "Do you love me?" and we see that screwdriver lady plays Billy's wife in Blue Tomorrows.

A disoriented woman visits poor Nikki asking for the man who "lives here" and talked about an unpaid bill that needs paying. She notes that person living next door is "Crimp." Poor Nikki visits Crimp's trailer. He emerges, a light bulb in his mouth. Intimidated, she picks up a screwdriver and retreats.

Sue passes through yet another portal onto the modern Hollywood streets. She looks at the prostitutes and laughs, "I'm a whore," and then mocking the Polish woman in the very first scene, she ridicules, "Where am I? I'm afraid!!" and laughs before becoming frightened. We jump to 47, the Polish actress approaching Polish whores, "Hey, look at me, and tell me if you've known me before."

The whores ridicule her with laughter.

Poor Nikki continues to crash on the Hollywood streets, "Someone's going to fucking kill me."

She enters through the red curtain portal again to see Axxonn man, "I don't know what happened first, and it's kinda laying a mind fuck on me."

I figured one day I'd just wake up and find out out what the hell yesterday was all about. I'm not too keen on thinking about tomorrow, and today's slipping by."

After my son died, I went into a bad time. When I was watching everything go around me like I was standing in the middle, watching it like in a dark theater before they bring the lights up. I'm sitting there, wondering, how can this be?"

Sue leaves Axxonn and is stabbed in front of the prostitutes, who run screaming. Mortally wounded, she collapses on a Hollywood sidewalk between a homeless black woman and a Chinese woman with her boyfriend. The black lady notes, "You're dying, lady."

The Chinese woman relates the tale of Niko, a movie star wannabe who looks beautiful in her blonde wig, but she ends up on hard drugs and turning tricks until sustaining fatal "female" injuries, dying a penniless prostitute. Sue dies on the street as the homeless people watch. The black lady lights a lighter before Sue's face, "No more blue tomorrows" as she dies. Then the image draws back to reveal cameras, informing us we have been watching not IE, but Blue Tomorrows. The other performers rise quickly, but the "dead" Sue, Nikki Grace, rises very slowly, and something is wrong.

The director chases after her, "You were wonderful."

She exits the studio into the television of the crying watcher and then enters a theater, seeing herself on the screen as the woman in Axxonn. She sees Axxonn man to her right and follows him up the stairs. She does not find him, but she finds a pistol and picks it up. She re-enters the labyrinth to encounter "Crimp" as if seeking, expecting him. She finds herself standing before a wooden door. On it are the numbers, "47" in gold.

Crimp comes at her. She shoots him repeatedly and he falls. She enters door 47 and shuts it behind her, now in the Rabbitverse and able to enter not only the television, but the room of the crying watcher. They hug. Sue evaporates, and the crying watcher leaves room 205 to join her husband and son.

Disheveled, tattered, but psychologically victorious and intact, Sue/Nikki stands on the Rabbit stage as the audience cheers.

Prostituting oneself does not have to involve sex. Both genders commit the act daily, and we have lots to sell besides our bodies.  In the course of each day, many have opportunities to sell out. We back stab a friend. We betray a trust. We take advantage of another's weakness and justify ourselves. Inland Empire cuts to the bone of selling out and the bankruptcy typically involved. Bought and sold politicians may have money and like to think of themselves as powerful, but what are they? Would you want to be Tom Delay? Would you like your son or daughter to have been the one that used the campaign tactics of Karl Rove? When one sells one's soul, the check obtained has a way of bouncing.

Laura Dern's final shot shows her looking at a triumphant version of herself, sitting contently in a blue dress, her dignity intact. Trust me, I would not invest what it took to write this entry if it did not have a lot to say.

The film ends with the one-legged woman who may or may not have killed someone when she was fifteen. She walks through the lobby of a fancy theater, looks around and remarks:



Tuition Rising

Tucson, Arizona. (I won't name him, but I used to work with this math professor at the U of A. Great guy.) University of Arizona President Robert N. Shelton delivered his State of the University address this week. On Thursday he proposed a 9.3% tuition increase for undergraduates. The suggestion does not surprise those involved in higher education and it continues a dynamic that has been in place for some time.

Sparring the reader the long version, prior to WWII, not too many people went to college, and they didn't have to. After WWII, the GI Bill sent unprecedented numbers off to get their bachelor's degrees. Then the Soviet Union put Sputnik in orbit, which put Washington in orbit. President Lyndon Johnson actually paid more than lip service to Civil Rights and then in 1965, we passed the Higher Education Act, and the notion that everyone had the right to attend college was born.

KEY DISTINCTION: We viewed college and the education of the public as a PUBLIC GOOD to be subsidized and supported by the government. We built community colleges faster than cars and no one spoke against the idea that "everyone deserves a good education" and MOST CERTAINLY every talented person, regardless of income, should go to college, hopefully in something technical to help us fight the Russians.

Then something started to change, and while I won't say Reagan caused it, he certainly served as a catalyst. We still love to pay lip service to education, especially K-12, but in terms of higher education, the underlying theme has shifted dramatically. The Cold War is over, and while obtaining a higher education has become more critical than ever, our public sentiment pays it lip service but adopts a different policy underneath.

KEY SHIFT: Underneath, "we" now view education as a private good that benefits the student, not society. Therefore, the student should pay for it, not society, and that is what is happening across the country. The event is not an Arizona event. Every public flagship is increasing tuition at rates exceeding inflation because they have to in order to meet their commitments.

Want low tuition for everybody? Sure? Should Arizona millionaires get to send their kids to the University of Arizona for subsidized education at taxpayer expense, or quite realistically, get to send them almost for free on account of scholarships and merit aid?

I scratch the surface of the surface of the surface. Tuition is rising across the country. On many fronts and in many areas, the notion of a government providing services for its citizens has been butchered in this country. President Shelton is doing his job, and as far as I can tell, doing it very well.

Those upset with rising tuition should direct their protests towards elected officials, not university presidents.