Sunday, December 02, 2007

It's a Wonderful Life

(Photo-Giffords wedding in the New York Times) Tucson, Arizona. I read the online Sunday New York Times and was frankly quite surprised to see our Congresswoman on the front page. Okay. I am not saying that I seethe in resentment when I encounter individuals born into wealth and privilege. My daughter must deal with the issue at Stanford, where many of the students come from families of considerable wealth.

Born into such opportunities, world travel, a first rate education at a prestigious private college, no fear of scarcity, membership in exclusive clubs, creates a whole new reality. The Kennedy brothers enjoyed such a start as did FDR and Al Gore. Some born into wealth become extraordinary human beings. My sampling tends to find more pathetic, self-absorbed tyrants not particularly happy because although they have everything, they are screaming because the pool guy put in too much chlorine, accelerating the demise of an $850 bathing suit. When Giffords mentions in the article men she met that were "not nice" I know the type.

Surprisingly often lottery winners (and some professional athletes) find their lives ruined by the fortunes bestowed upon them. Borne with it, or suddenly handed it, wealth can and does ruin some. The character in Citizen Kane remarks, "If I were born poor I might have become a good person."

I invite the world to test the quality of my character in the face of great fortune. I would embrace the challenge and do my best.

Three times, my ship has come into the harbor. The most lucrative (the best built and run copper smelter in the world) would have made me a millionaire and rather quickly. We had just rebuilt it to be something extraordinary. In 1999, as the serious money was about to start, BOOM!! BHP shut it down. Then I built a smaller more modest boat, but it did great things and had marvelous karma, a training institute to help local organizations. Just as it was starting to become great in 2006, BOOM!! TREO took its funding. Each time a demon emerged with a surface to ship missile and sank my boat. The scene in the first Pirates of the Caribbean where Johnny Depp rides his sinking ship into the harbor is one of my favorites in all of cinema.

Time to build another boat. I tell myself about the guy that started McDonald’s in his fifties, or Colonel Sanders, who started Kentucky Fried Chicken at 65. If they sink the next boat, my last recourse is "Matt’s Dry Cleaning." I will dress up like Chris Edwards. In a crisp, three piece suit I’ll jump into mud pits, oil pits, wrestle a pig, change filthy tires, get disgusting, and then PRESTO!! I emerge, crisp and clean. The ads would require an incredibly irritating song and annoying slogan, “Matt’s where it’s at to put the sheen in your clean” or maybe something even worse, and really abrasive, eye-grabbing caricature signage featuring my face distorted in a design that deeply embeds itself in the psyche of all who pass by. I’d have a "gay bohemian" discount program.

Back to wealth and privilege. I don't know Congresswoman Giffords well enough to make any direct assertions. Sirocco could say better whether her privileged background has produced the outstanding sophistication, depth of knowledge and education, and quality of character that a refined background can produce. Not surprising anyone, I think it has, and I'll share my reason. I smell growth and a lot of it. Growth is difficult. Examples where growth is absent include Eggplant, Rove, Cheney, Delay, Pearce (AZ), Johnson(AZ). Examples where growth is present include Gore, Obama, Giffords, and Paton.

I have no delusions of being an Abraham Lincoln, but my life has a trajectory more like his (except for the part about becoming president and saving the nation). I mean the part about setbacks, failures, blown up boats, betrayal, and other similarities. When we emerge from battle, we need medical attention, the exact opposite of Eggplant, who has never suffered so much as a scratch.

At a gathering last summer I struck up a conversation with Giffords then fiance, and I really enjoyed speaking with him. We spoke for quite awhile actually about air craft carriers (my father served in the Navy on a carrier) and politics. I totally forgot to ask anything about space.

I am talking to a seasoned astronaut and forgot to ask about space.

Without getting too spiritual, I’ll express the conviction that some kind of karma or purpose to life actually does exist, and those borne into wealth and privilege, the full truth being known, owe something back. Most woefully fail, choose arrogance, and think they had something to do with their good fortune. Look at Eggplant. Others (Al Gore) rise to the occasion. That so many squander such a great beginning and become jerks is an indication that those who become great still have to earn it. One can be handed money. One has to earn character.

I hear our Congresswoman occasionally reads this blog, although I’m not sure I believe it. Well, if true, then Congresswoman Giffords, I have a reasonable request. Use all that you have been given. Earn the wonderful life you have.

Our world is completely screwed up.

FIX IT.

17 Comments:

Blogger Liza said...

It's not clear to me why Giffords and Paton would be mentioned in the same sentence as Gore and Obama.

Please tell me again what the outstanding accomplishments of Ms. Giffords actually are. As I recall, she went to college, she worked somewhere back east for a few months, she got a phone call about her father's health problems, she put on her cowboy boots, she got in her truck, she turned on the ignition, she drove back to Tucson, she worked in the family businesses, she was elected to the state legislature where she didn't do anything particularly noteworthy except fundraising for higher office, and then she was elected to represent CD8 in the House of Representatives.

I respect your first amendment rights, x4mr, but I'll be a son of a bitch if I can figure what someone like you sees in Giffords.

12/02/2007 2:58 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Liza,

Ha! Ha! I just knew this would press one of your buttons. The post should have occurred as slightly humorous, tenuous in its claims, and leaving the jury very much out regarding where she's headed.

Time will tell. Think growth. Until I see different, I smell growth. Of course she is not a Gore or an Obama, and maybe she never will be.

Maybe you are right and I am wrong. I've been wrong many times, even about important things.

I make two assertions ONLY:

1. She works VERY hard. (I know this.)
2. She is growing. (I am confident but not certain.)

As for talent, intellect, effectiveness, character, etc., too early to tell.

As I said, I know growth. I have stood before tasks impossible for the me that I was to do. Words from the technology include "breaking oneself apart and reconstituting one's identity in the context of a commitment."

It's not bullshit, and it is difficult.

Returning to Giffords, time will tell. If in ten years she is nothing but a mediocre part of the machine incumbent with a sugar job and tons of vacation, you were right. If she can't do it, hopefully she'll have the character to step aside.

If you are willing to answer, Sirocco, I am curious. From your perspective do you see significant growth? Am I full of it?

12/02/2007 5:55 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Okay, Liza, I touched your button. Well, you touched mine. I thought my first remark would resolve it for me so I could move on to what's next, but alas, you got me thinking.

A certain objective part of me observes, "It's thinking again" with a certain roll of the eyes and an understanding that until pacified it won't stop.

The inner workings of any official's office are not in the scope of this blog. I don't talk about stuff like that, but will make one exception in this one comment. I normally stay at the conceptual level.

You have my word that the following is a true story.

A few weeks ago, when Lord Cheney and his Eggplant were doing all of that saber rattling about attacking Iran, a collection of Iranian and Middle East scholars, top of the line published experts in their fields, some affiliated with the university, some not, wanted to contact Giffords to express their concerns to Congress.

Giffords and her staff took almost no time off for Thanksgiving. Forget about two weeks.

Giffords herself could not attend, but her Tucson office arranged a meeting with her chief of staff, who then connected the experts via speaker phone to the staff in Washington who then connected them to the House Chair of the Foreign Relations committee.

Scheduled for half an hour, the meeting ran to 1:15 with the House Chair of the Foreign Relations committee hearing all the scholars had to say. Of course detailed notes (for all I know it was recorded) filled Giffords in on the meeting details later.

You can nay say this person, but for real credibility you are going to have to come up with much stronger material.

Multiply stories like that by hundreds and hundreds. If you want direct my support from her to someone else, you are going to need a name not listed on the 2006 roster, (although I do love Francine Shacter).

Francine did not have the resources to win. Gabrielle did and does.

If I sound angry, I'm not. Your criticism is welcome and appreciated. I value it more than you know.

I want a blue tsunami in 2008 to bitch slap the GOP bloody and senseless and swearing on their children's lives they will never nominate a vegetable again. We're now inside of a year. My politics tells me that what Giffords did prior to January 2007 is irrelevant in 2008.

If you want to judge her, please do, but dive in. Go to her office and meet her staff. Go to Democratic HQ and volunteer. Get to know the people who have real information.

I have WAY WAY more information than I post. However, I do NOT know Giffords personally. Sirocco does.

12/02/2007 7:16 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Whoops. I am persnickety about facts.

It might have been the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, not Relations.

12/02/2007 7:19 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

x4mr,
There's no way that I am going to waste my time thinking or writing about Giffords any more than I already have and, thanks to you, it's already been way too much. In other words, "stronger material" is not forthcoming.

As for the Iranian and Middle East scholars who tried to speak to Ms. Giffords, I would advise them that they have barked up the wrong tree. Ms. Giffords will support Israel and that is enough said on that subject.

As for being a hard worker, well, so was Karl Rove and Donald Rumsfeld and a lot of other people you don't like.

If candidates for Congress were required to take a comprehensive test in American history with a strong emphasis on the last 30 years of US foreign policy, most of the people in Congress wouldn't be there including Giffords. Incompetence in Congress seems to be approaching an all time high, in my opinion.

There is nothing remarkable about Giffords, x4mr, and she's not going to "grow" into greatness. She seems to be surrounded by people who tell her that she's destined for some kind of "greatness" but my point is that there is nothing to base it on. What has she done? She works hard? She puts in long hours? That is the basis for her as yet undiscovered greatness?

You know, x4mr, I probably would have let this slide except that your previous post was so good.

12/02/2007 9:25 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Oh, Liza. If you only knew.

There is nothing remarkable about Giffords, x4mr, and she's not going to "grow" into greatness.

I have seen a terrified Mexican teenager with 4th grade math skills climb eight grade levels in 12 weeks, enter electronics training, and get an associate's degree.

I have seen a 50 year old woman so terrified of math she threw up before the first class. In two weeks, she suddenly acquired the material, turned on fire, and went back to college.

At the copper company, I saw crusty old miners so set in their ways they were dismissed as inflexible stone break into levels of authenticity and cry before the participants, becoming people no one could recognize.

I exaggerate not. Human beings are not fixed. If she's what you think , Liza, her days in Congress are numbered or should be. You seem to come from certainty, which baffles me. I hope for the positive knowing I might be wrong. You state the negative with certainty.

The demon of arrogance salivates over those born into wealth and privilege. Eggplant was devoured long ago.

Further, and I do this with love, I don't think you have the slightest idea what Giffords is doing or has done as a member of Congress.

You say you don't want to find out?

If she disappoints me and I am wrong, I've been wrong before. What is the source of your certainty?

12/03/2007 12:39 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

x4mr,
The people who learned math from you had the ability to learn math but had been deprived of the opportunity for various reasons.

You seem to think that this Gabrielle Giffords, a person who has had every opportunity available, and has done absolutely nothing of significance so far, will shed whatever has been holding her back and become a great leader or whatever. Exactly what is it that you think she's going to do, x4mr? You seem to be calling upon her to fix the nation's problems.

I'm not coming from "certainty," x4mr. No one can be absolutely certain about these things because there are a few people who surprise you. It's rare, but it happens.

As for Giffords, she does not represent me and I have no interest in her. I know how she votes and I also know that she is pro-Israel. She has already ejected some of the anti-Iran rhetoric (that is so popular in Congress these days) from the very ordinary piehole in her face that is attached to the very ordinary brain that makes her a very ordinary person.

Most people are, in fact, very ordinary, x4mr. It isn't a bad thing and it does not mean they cannot serve in Congress. However, there must be compensatory attributes for ordinary people to stand out above the rest. Jeff Latas certainly had compensatory attributes associated with his life experience and how it affected him. I felt that could have been a great advantage to him in Congress.

Your girl, on the other hand, impressed me as a self absorbed little squeak box. Go to youtube and listen to her early "speeches" and tell me I'm wrong.

12/03/2007 7:19 AM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

Liza,

Those early speeches you disparage (and with some reason) largely signify an unfamiliarity with public speaking. It's still not something I think she's extremely comfortable with.

Latas is a fine man, was a fine candidate, and would have made a fine Representative had he been elected. He wasn't, and there are some reasons for that too.

x4mr's anecdote of the conference with the scholars is an excellent example of the type of behind-the-scenes work which gets done, garners no credit, and yet can be very effective ... and which she does all the freaking time.

Giffords isn't a paragon of all virtues ... but I believe she's a better example than most ... and yes, in the several decades I've known her she's grown considerably, although even when I first met her in her mid-teens she wasn't the image of a "spoiled rich girl".

***

It was rather odd to see that story in the Times what, three weeks after the actual wedding? I thought it was odd enough to see the coverage the Star gave it when the wedding occurred, but on some level that made sense - it was a big social event in Southern Arizona ... but the Times? Really?

12/03/2007 8:45 AM  
Anonymous The Navigator said...

An interesting little squabble, I mean not to belittle either. Before I start, I have great respect for both of you.

Liza, your opinion is cast. The woman cannot evolve, a precarious assertion. However, x4mr, Liza's point that someone born into wealth and privilege should have more "marks on the board" warrants consideration.

There is a pragmatic reality to all of this. Is Giffords perfect? No. I thought the "fix it" remark totally absurd and intended as a joke. I laughed. I am confident, Liza, that x4mr does not think Giffords is as spectacular as you might be thinking.

I entirely agree, however, with the view that unless you are willing to get involved, roll up the sleeves, and become fully engaged to where you can deliver substance (applies to both of you), you are just expressing opinions.

No offense, Liza, but it occurs to me that x4mr has a little more data behind his speaking. You refer to two year old speeches. x4mr refers to events of last month.

12/03/2007 8:51 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

I have a stack of books on my desk that I would like to read, but never seem to get the time to all of them. And I'm always discovering things that I'm interested in. Forgive me if I do not wish to become "fully engaged" in the "destined to be glorious" reign of Gabrielle Giffords.

I am entitled to my opinion, of course, and I do pay attention to the voting records of my so called "representatives" as well as others who do not technically represent me but who are more aligned with my views.

I feel that this conversation just simply indulges x4mr's desire to write about Giffords, and I do not wish to indulge that any further.

X4mr, I seldom give advice when people do not ask for it, but what I'm going to say now is as sincere as I get.

You like dogs, so get yourself a nice little dog. I would highly recommend a female shetland sheepdog (sheltie.) They are small, smart, beautiful, and non-aggressive. Take her places with you, go for walks, bring her to school, etc... You will meet enough nice women to fill a small auditorium.

12/03/2007 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read this remark yesterday and said to myself, "I'll bet Liza has a cow."

Liza has a cow every time x4mr posts something that could be considered positive about Giffords. Even x4mr seems to have forgotten what he originally wrote. His post, which is a perfectly good post, says (reminding everyone):

1. Holy #$#, her marriage got on the front page of the Sunday NYT?!
2. It sure must be nice to be born into wealth and privilege, but money screws a lot of people up.
3. Please give me that problem.
4. Some born rich become good. Some become assholes.
5. Character has to be earned in either case.
6. I think Giffords is growing.
7. Congresswoman, I request you earn your keep.

That's what I got, and I think he has a perfectly good story. I do think it is bizarre that the wedding became a article in the Sunday New York Times.

Liza, if Giffords hadn't run, your candidate would been trounced by Weiss. I found his self-important angry man thing abrasive. You don't see what x sees in G. I don't see what you see in Latas.

If it stuck to topic, the thread would have been about people born rich as hell.

12/03/2007 12:02 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

anonymous,
I'll admit that you have a point. If x4mr's post were being read by someone who was not aware of the 2006 CD8 election, it would be no more than what you say above. When he asserts, "I smell growth and a lot of it" such a reader would read right over it. I have just simply asked what is there to justify such an assertion and there seems to be no answer except that Giffords works long hours and so does her staff.

In 2006, Giffords was hawked by her supporters as the one Democratic candidate with legislative experience, the one who could hit the ground running, the brilliant mind, and blah blah blah. Now she's the one where some people can smell growth and a lot of it.

I'm at a loss for words to describe how tiresome and meaningless all of this has become.

I can't decide whether to laugh, cry, or throw up when I read these things and yes, I know, I should just skip over them.

And, I also realize now that Jeff Latas could not have won the Democratic nomination in CD8 running against either Giffords or Weiss. But I never saw this "self-important angry man" thing that you refer to. I can certainly understand why he would be angry. So am I. It takes an immense amount of emotional control to conceal that, and I suppose people get better with practice.

12/03/2007 1:27 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

It's crossed my mind x4mr periodically makes posts like this partly (not primarily, but partly) to wind Liza up and watch her go. :)

12/03/2007 3:30 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

Yeah, I've thought about that too, Sirocco. However, I do not think so. He is just really interested in GG for whatever reason and seems to enjoy writing about her.

I honestly thought there would be some relief after all that end of quarter reporting, but he keeps thinking of new angles. Creative guy, huh?

12/03/2007 5:46 PM  
Anonymous The Navigator said...

Do the last two words of the story ring a bell?

They did for me, and I suspect someone else.

Impressive, x4mr. Most impressive.

12/03/2007 7:05 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Sirocco,

C'est moi?

12/04/2007 6:25 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

Mais oui, toi.

12/05/2007 8:27 AM  

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