Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sensing Sanctions

Arizona’s employer sanctions law takes effect this Tuesday, and people are nervous. I speculate that the strong have nothing to fear, although the law seems to implement a system where a written complaint compels investigation. We are invoking the squeal on thy foe dynamic. If you think an employer has workers without papers, fill out these forms and provide the details.


The resources for enforcement are very limited. The law is 90% bark and 10% bite, but don’t underestimate the power of the bark. The reader has probably seen the articles regarding those leaving the state as a result of this law. The Tucson Citizen has a piece about the county reviewing its records to make sure it has proper documentation for its employees.

The actual consequences of this legislation will prove interesting. The large organizations (think field workers) will find a way to subvert the intent, probably involving the procurement of false documents for their most valued workers.

The first individual I know impacted by this law is a 20 year old kid who lost her job at an ice cream store. Although born in New York and Caucasian, she comes from a broken family and does not know her mother. She doesn’t have her birth certificate.

They fired her.

People pass laws in ignorance of the actual impact. They go after illegal immigrants and throw a white, challenged, marginally educated kid from New York without a car, without a mother, and barely able to feed herself into the street. She had a job. She paid taxes.

Not anymore.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Game

Very soon your humble blogger's football team will attempt to make history. Just for fun, I chose to watch the original Rollerball released in 1975. Thirty years later, what a film. Trailer.

The story features a world where corporations have taken over the planet. Humanity chose comfort over freedom, and corporate executives rule everything. All books have been transcribed and edited into corporate approved computer files. All information is controlled. The game of Rollerball exists to show that an individual is of no significance and that only as part of a group/team can a person make a difference. A world completely run by corporations serving their own agenda? That could never happen.

The hero gets too good, so they want him to quit. Particularly exquisite was a scene I'd forgotten where party guests using a futuristic gun blow up some beautiful trees.

The New England Patriots play the New York Giants. Speculation abounds. Can New York defeat the best team in the history of the game? Of course. Will they? We learn soon enough.

What is the second strongest team in the history of the NFL?

Your humble blogger consulted his, well, consultants, about as close to ultimate truth as a person can get. The answer?

The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers with Bradshaw, Lynn Swan, and some other guys.

Wouldn't that be a game?

UPDATE:New England 38 New York 35. What a game. Here's to the Giants for forcing NE to earn their record. The Giants may have played their best game of the season trying to stop the Patriots.

Liza: I acknowledge the 78 Steelers were AWESOME. Comparing across decades is in some respects ridiculous, but impossible to resist. I stand by my assertion. The 2007 Patriots rule. The 1978 Steelers are right behind them.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Another Light Lost

Thousands of years ago Plato wrote The Republic, one of the most famous and widely studied works in western civilization. He tells the tale of the trial of Socrates who was condemned to death and executed by poison. A few hundred years later in Calvary the Romans crucified someone. We can now add Benazir Bhutto to the list of leaders murdered.

To what extent she and her husband stole money or committed corruption exceeds my blogger budget. Bhutto lived in a reality surrounded by death. Her father was hanged and her brothers were both killed. She lived a life on thin ice and knew it.

I remember feeling physically sick when I heard of the assassination of Anwar Sadat. I felt even sicker when I heard of the assassination of Yitzak Rabin and will never forget waking up that fall 1980 morning to the news that John Lennon had been murdered. For what?

No language can capture the magnitude of the violence that occurs on this planet, but the deaths of the nameless and faceless don’t deliver the blow and sense of loss that occurs when someone “known” is murdered. When someone I respect (and flaws noted, I respected Bhutto) is killed, I feel ill. It hurts, and I want to hurt back. If I wish, I can permit rage to flow through my veins, the cool sensation of hatred towards a demonized foe I would like to tear apart. Forget compassion and seethe with the lust for blood.

During the movie days about fifteen years ago I wrote a script for a feature length science fiction film and had some Hollywood people read it. I went all out and produced a treatment, synopsis, even a detailed budget. I could have produced it for $15 M (1992 dollars). They complained, "How can you have a movie about people on a space ship and never see space or the ship? How can you film aliens that don’t have bodies?"

I explained Tarkovkey’s Solaris to no avail. Alas, no film, the typical result for a screenplay. Biological themes and pandemics are thick in the story. The aliens ultimately take us out, all of us, regarding humanity as a disease, bacteria of the cosmos to be eradicated to preserve universal well being.

I also wrote a short story once, a take off on Childhood’s End where aliens land on the planet and deliver a tough love speech. Bottom line of the speech: You people are completely messed up and need to get your act together. Here’s what you need to do and here are the guidelines for getting it done. Handle it or else.

To any superior, benevolent extra-terrestrial aliens that might be reading, forget the nonsense about non-intervention and every species determining its own fate. Really, it’s okay.

When our leaders try to do good, we kill them. It's time for the Overlords to kick some ass.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Tis The Season

The celebration of the Winter Solstice dates back over 4000 years. December 21, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, occurred just before the new year, a time for rebirth and renewal. The ancient Mesopotamians believed in many gods. The alpha god, Marduk, would battle monsters of chaos each winter. To assist Marduk in his struggle the Mesopotamians held a festival for the New Year. This was Zagmuk, the New Year's festival that lasted for 12 days.

By tradition, the Mesopotamian king was to die at the end of the year and to return with Marduk to battle at his side. Killing the king every year had issues, so the Mesopotamians selected a criminal as "mock" king, dressed him like royalty and treated him with respect for the celebration. Then they stripped and killed him, allowing the real king to remain in power.

In a similar festival called the Sacaea, Persians and Babylonians had masters and slaves trade places for a period of time, where slaves could order their masters about, naturally understanding that the festivities would end. Early Europeans believed in evil spirits, witches, ghosts and trolls. As the Winter Solstice approached, with its long cold nights and short days, many people feared the sun would not return. Special rituals and celebrations were held to welcome back the sun.

Far enough North, the sun disappears for weeks or months during the winter. In Scandinavia after thirty-five days scouts entered the mountains to look for the return of the sun. When it appeared the scouts would return and a festival called the Yuletide was held where a special feast was served around a fire burning with the Yule log. Great bonfires would also be lit to celebrate the return of the sun. In some areas people would tie apples to branches of trees to remind themselves that spring and summer would return.

The Greeks had their version with festivals to assist their god Kronos who would battle the god Zeus and his Titans, and the Romans celebrated their god Saturn with a festival called Saturnalia which began the middle of December and ended January 1st. With cries of "Jo Saturnalia!" the celebration would include masquerades in the streets, big festive meals, visiting friends, and the exchange of good-luck gifts called Strenae (lucky fruits).

The Romans decked their halls with garlands of laurel and green trees lit with candles. Again the masters and slaves would exchange places.

Early Christians didn’t like the merriment or celebration of the pagan Saturnalia. They tried to ban the customs without success, so it was decided that the celebration would be made into one for the birth of Jesus Christ. The 25th was not only sacred to the Romans but also the Persians whose religion Mithraism was one of Christianity's main rivals at that time. The Church eventually was successful in taking the merriment, lights, and gifts from the Saturanilia festival and bringing them to the celebration of Christmas.

In 350 AD Julius I, a Bishop of Rome, chose December 25th as the observance of Christmas. Fast forwarding a millennia to the Reformation, the protestants disapproved of the whole idea as Catholic nonsense, but the roots were buried too deep, and the festivities persisted, with the giving of gifts, special meals, and decorations. The Puritans in the newly discovered America banned the celebration in Boston from 1659 to 1681. To the south in Maryland and Virginia they observed the holiday freely.

As society progressed, the practice actually started to drift towards oblivion and might have vanished. For reasons unknown, Britain chose to revive it. Whether the holiday would have disappeared without this effort will remain conjecture, but Charles Dickens 1843 A Christmas Carol featuring "Ba Hum Bug" miser Ebenezer Scrooge and the melting of his heart via visits from ghosts of past, present, and future tapped into powerful spiritual sentiments of good will, giving, family, and the well being of others.

The story ripped through the network like wild fire and caught on in America. Although written decades earlier, Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, quickly known by its first line, Twas the Night Before Christmas, became popular, and the rest, shall we say, is history.

In 1870, the United States formally declared Christmas a federal holiday, signed into law by Ulysses S. Grant. The first two national holidays, Thanksgiving and Independence Day, were proclaimed a century earlier.

Where do we get our visual image of Santa? A famous author? An influential painting? The Coca-Cola company? Nope.

Happy Holidays, all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Requiem for a Murdered Dream

Tucson, Arizona. The Southern Arizona Institute of Advanced Training has officially dissolved. The terrible TREO of Stench Roach, Major Player, and Wesley Mouch can raise a glass of bubbly and toast their successful elimination of a workforce training institute and their usurpation of its public funding.

TREO cemented SAIAT's demise last year by keeping $132,500 of SAIAT's support for itself, intentionally bleeding the tiny organization to death. Roach's November 7, 2006 letter to county administrator Huckelberry states the following, "With the approval of the SAIAT Board of Directors, SAIAT's funding was reduced from $242,500 to $110,000, but I am happy to report we anticipate improved performance."

Well, either withholding 55% of a non-profit's funding improves performance, or more likely,

JOE SNELL IS A LIAR
.

Not content with torpedoing the company's finances, in January 2007 TREO met and contracted with a company run by two SAIAT board members (no disclosure). One month later the two tried to fire me. The proposed replacement? One of them.

Their resignations handled, I resigned in May. In June, TREO slashed SAIAT's support from $110,000 to zero.

Economic development comes from gay bohemians, not a skilled workforce. When the CEO of Caterpillar hears of our bohemian community, he will build a transmission plant on 22nd street. Why hire unskilled labor 150 miles to the south when you can hire unskilled Tucson workers at five times the price?

SAIAT - Tens of thousands of workers trained. To those on the board and staff, and especially to all of those companies and employees SAIAT helped, best wishes and good luck.



The Southern Arizona Institute of Advanced Training
Stabbed by TREO 2006 and 2007
Died 2007



R.I.P.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Econometrics Complete

(To properly appreciate, recognize that each rjt (can't do subscripts) is merely one element in a T x J matrix.) Your humble blogger is delighted to report success in obtaining the sacred "B" in the horrid Econometrics course, the last math course I will ever take. The next time I walk into a class and see that the students are 80 percent Asian, I high tail it out of there. Said "B" is the second sweetest I have ever tasted.

The sweetest "B" occurred over fifteen years ago in second semester complex analysis. Some may know of what I speak, the brain breaking, comprehension defying, elucidation eluding creation of cerebrally sadistic mental terrorists. Yes, I refer to the sheaf.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Very Rotten Eggplant

The reader might remember that during the 2004 election Dan Rather of CBS broke a story about documents suggesting Eggplant received favorable treatment from the Texas National Guard including not having to serve his duties or fulfill his obligation. Like mobsters who get put on a company payroll and paid with paychecks from a place they've never even seen, once he didn't feel like serving anymore, Bush got to play pilot without having to actually be anywhere or do anything

What is beyond dispute is that prior to just flat out quitting, Bush had problems landing his F-102 and started flying the cakewalk T-33 (a training plane). Then he started logging time just co-piloting the T-33 as described in this solid document. Near the end, he logged time in a flight simulator. Regarding these assignments, I call the reader's attention to the first sentence of last paragraph:

The logs have a code indicating the assignments were eventually deleted from his records.

Eggplant seems to be followed by a lot of record deletions, destroyed emails and interrogation tapes, visitation records (are those destroyed yet?). That the Killian documents are legitimate remains in dispute but given everything else that has been going on, I smell a rotten Eggplant. Bush's 8/1/72 grounding for failure to complete a physical is solid fact. What kind of a National Guard pilot having sworn an oath of duty gets himself grounded over the failure to take a physical?

After the story broke, powerful people in high places kicked into high gear to discredit it, and CBS got caught up in forces over its head, literally, its owner, Viacom. The White House has pals at Viacom, and from above not only did Dan Rather, but Mary Mapes and others were handed their heads over the story. I've not read Mapes' book and don't know all of what she presents, but in light of the way this administration has behaved and continues to behave, I consider it likely that in a few years we'll get to watch a movie starring Al Pacino as Dan Rather, only instead of messing with big tobacco's lie about the addictive qualities of nicotine, they messed with a corrupt incumbent president and an administration that will stop at nothing to destroy its critics and remain in power.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Border Image

On occasion a photographer manages to capture an image on film that speaks not a thousand words, but a truth that transcends language or any articulate expression other than that captured in the image itself.

The image above fits the exclusive collection of visual experiences representing that which comes from another place.

You think this post is about the Clintons?

Addressing Immigration

Tucson, Arizona. Many political blogs just bitch and never suggest solutions or recommendations. Apologies for the long post, but solutions take longer. I am going to start articulating solutions on a variety of topics. I start not with something easy (our currency) but with something difficult: Immigration.

The Center for Immigration Studies asserts that 12% of the Arizona workforce are illegal aliens according to this piece at Inside Tucson Business.

So we’re about to implement a law that can revoke the business license of a business found with illegal workers when 12 % of the state’s workers fit that description? If correct (I find it hard to believe), that's one out of eight workers.

Arizona passed the law, which is probably going to produce a fiasco, but the issue involves the entire country. Miami's population is 65 percent Hispanic (El Paso, 76 percent). Flushing, N.Y., is 60 percent immigrant (mainly Chinese). We have had Chinatowns, Hell’s Kitchens, and Little Italys dating back hundreds of years.

Bill O'Reilly, one of the stupidest mouthpieces to have a wide audience, shrieks in terror that the influx of immigrants will replace the "white Christian male power structure."

If indeed that were the outcome of immigration, I’d argue for accelerating the phenomenon as much as possible. O’Reilly’s stupidity aside, we face intelligent and difficult questions that must be addressed. We’re all descendents of immigrations. Rewind my clock and you arrive in Scotland. You have your clock, and unless you’re Native American, it rewinds to a place that’s not local.

We have Michael Savage fuming about "language, border, culture" and the terror that America will lose its identity. Savage, Buchanan, O’Reilly, Arizona’s Russell Pearce, may be kooks, but underneath their venom lies a legitimate concern about the decay of national identity, a very real threat that can and has destroyed an empire.

If the center does not hold, everything falls apart. Consider the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Immigration played a critical role. The "barbarians" did not attack in one day. They immigrated over hundreds of years and boiled the frog, slowly but inevitably fragmenting the empire to where it toppled. Could this happen to the United States? Absolutely.

Consider Europe’s mess where lax immigration has fermented hotbeds of alienated enclaves that do not integrate into society. Immigrants remain separate and alienated, loyal to their own, failing to learn the language or participate in the economy or education system. Then they decide their plight is the nation’s fault. Talk about a recipe for nothing very cheerful. Look at Iraq minus Saddam. You think that’s one country? It’s three trying to become one.

The national identity of the United States remains strong, but not properly managing our immigration policy can indeed put us on the road to ruin.

Does Rome’s fall suggest Savage is correct? Of course not. The xenophobes have no grasp of the economic impact and value of the immigrants. Minus immigrants, we would not have the country we have, the economy we have, and just halting appropriate immigration, or worse, the mass exportation of those here would inflict incalculable economic damage beyond the pale of anything the country could accept.

Not all of those wishing to become citizens, but some of them, are far too valuable to turn away. Those familiar with this blog know that I recently took an advanced mathematics course where most of the students came from China and India. Sorry, but the world's best high-tech scientists and engineers, in general, are not white, nor are they Christian. While at Sun Microsystems for training, I noticed over half the employees came from Asia. Unable to get enough visas for foreign engineers, Microsoft opened a large new software development center in Canada.

We arrive at the X4MR PLAN plan for addressing our immigration situation.

Intelligence calls for a managed flow of immigrants according to criteria. The xenophobes howl correctly that we cannot open the floodgates. We must process admissions with regard for a) assimilation, b) national unity c) labor market factors, and d) national security. The blog is not an academic document and I’ll spare the reader various citations. I was probably most influenced by Dr. Amy Chua, the daughter of a Chinese immigrant. Dr Chua is now a professor at Yale University. Her father's no idiot either.

STEP ONE - ADMISSION:. Craft intelligent admission priorities. We need to be less generous about the family thing, uniting third cousins and grandfathers of the husband of the sister of the wife. We’re not in the business of building families. The grandfather can visit. He doesn’t have to become a citizen. Far more important (and critical) are workforce skills and our labor market. Those possessing skills most needed in our economy should be supported and fast-tracked.

STEP TWO - INTEGRATION: We have to develop a program that promotes and insures assimilation of those admitted. A vital first step to this assimilation is language. 2A. Make English the official language and require it for citizenship. The folks to my left can have their cow. I said I was an Independent. We must have a common language to maintain a healthy common identity. Those who refuse to learn English can become citizens somewhere else. They can speak their own language at home and various gatherings, but our laws, court proceedings, traffic signage, political debates, city councils, legal contracts, and the machinery of public discourse should be English, period. I don’t care if there are Spanish or Chinese or Swahili entertainment stations on radio or TV, but we govern this nation in English, and our citizens should be able to participate in English conversation. I assert without a common language we cripple the central core, politically correct or not. If we allow language fragmentation we repeat past mistakes. I’m not saying they need to read Goethe. A practical and pragmatic standard should not be difficult to implement.

2B. In addition to language we require a program developed to educate and socialize immigrants into society that insures integration and not isolation. Said most simply, to become a citizen requires the completion of a program that involves learning English, a body of material TBD, employment, etc. as determined in a managed fashion that provides freedom of choice within parameters. They can choose what to do but cannot choose nothing. They can choose how to integrate but not whether to integrate. Integrate means become part of the country. If they don’t want to become part of the country, de facto they do not belong here and are not citizens. The objective is to insure successful participation and contribution to society and eliminate the development of alienated hotbeds some of Western Europe now faces.

STEP THREE – INTEGRITY: The system has to have integrity. If we allow illegal employment at slave wages or don’t enforce the systems stated above, the whole thing becomes a farce anyway. We must truly enforce the system we agree to implement. That includes real border security. What the folks to my right apparently fail to see is that we kid ourselves if we assert we can accomplish step three without handling step four.

STEP FOUR: LEGITIMIZATION: We have got to realize that we cannot deport the 15 million or so illegal immigrants that are already here. We must provide a mechanism for legitimizing and legalizing the productive and law abiding (other than being here) immigrants that are working here, and that legitimization must include the English language and the assimilation steps above as appropriate. Now, those who refuse to participate in the process should be deported.

All of the above requires sound management to succeed, and the devil is in the details. The solution will not be free, but it will cost less than the failure to address immigration and continuing with the status quo.

Key take-away points:
1. We cannot halt all immigration and lock the gate.
2. We must provide a means to legitimize those here that we need for economic reasons. We cannot deport 15 million people.
3. We need smarter admissions policies less concerned with family ties and more concerned with labor market conditions.
4. We must enforce what we implement and do what we say.
5. The solution will cost less than continuing the status quo.

The DREAM and STRIVE Acts are primarily consistent with the principles of this post.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

So Who's John Galt?

Where's Ragnar Danneskjold? I want to smoke a cigar with Francisco D'Anconia and have a drink with Hank Rearden.

He was holding her half-stretched across the bed. He was tearing her clothes off, while her face was pressed against him, her mouth moving down the line of his neck, down his shoulder. She knew that every gesture of her desire for him struck him like a blow, that there was some shudder of incredulous anger within him - yet that no gesture would satisfy his greed for every evidence of her desire.

She knew that what she felt with the skin of her arms was the cloth of his shirt, she knew that the lips she felt on her mouth were his, but in the rest of her there was no distinction between his being and her own, as there was no division between body and spirit. Through of the steps of the years behind them, the steps down a course chosen in the courage of a single loyalty: their love of existence - chosen in the knowledge that nothing will be given, that one must make one's own desire and every shape of its fulfillment - through the steps of shaping metal, rails, and motors - they had moved by the power of the thought that one remakes the world for one's enjoyment, that man's spirit gives meaning to insentient matter by molding it to serve one's chosen goal. The course led them to the moment when, in answer to the highest of one's values, in an admiration not to be expressed by any other form of tribute, one's spirit makes one's body become the tribute, recasting it - as proof, as sanction, as reward - into a single sensation of such intensity of joy that no other sanction of one's existence is necessary. He heard the moan of her breath, she felt the shudder of his body, in the same instant.


Ahhh. It doesn't get much better than reading Ayn Rand at the age of eighteen.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Daughter & The Golden Compass


The semester complete, the daughter returned from Stanford Thursday evening. We wasted no time getting to the theater to see the film based on the first book of Phillip Pullman's delightful His Dark Materials Trilogy, The Golden Compass. Think Harry Potter plus three grade levels and 25-30 IQ points. Harry Potter with its witches, magic, and total disregard for organized religion put some sand in the panties of the conservative Christian crowd as children flocked in unprecedented droves to devour the books and films.

The collective psyche of humanity continues to evolve, and the dignity of the human spirit makes it unstoppable. We evolve or perish. The evolution is easy to see in the advance of scientific knowledge and mathematics, computer science, and Web 2.0. On the chopping block as we progress are religious intolerance, racism, and misogyny. They are already dead except for the idiots still around that have yet to get it. Unfortunately, there's a lot of them and odds suggest they'll perish with their ignorance intact.

Philip Pullman in some respects represents a backlash to the C.S. Lewis series The Chronicles of Narnia, which Pullman regards as both racist and sexist in its efforts to promote a Christian perspective. The perceptive can see the underlying motifs and themes regarding God, authority, sexuality, good vs. evil, and the concept of self in the cosmos. Lewis reveres authority and ultimate wisdom in a world where children have no concept of sex or physical attraction. Pullman portrays authority as oppressive and malevolent, and in his work, as in Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and reality, boys start looking at girls with a particular longing and vice versa. I had a crush on a girl named Lori in first grade, although I had no idea what to do with it. I sent her note in awkward first grade printing, "I like you."

She replied in equally awkward first grade printing, "I do not like you."

Not surprisingly, some of the religious crowd object to the film. Pullman has acknowledged that he is an atheist.

I won't read the Lewis Chronicles and can't do the Potter books either. At the daughter's request I read the first one. Whatever. The movies provide sufficient awareness for me of all things Potter. I loved reading The Lord of the Rings and also enjoyed the films. At the daughter's request I read Pullman's trilogy and considered it thought provoking and terrific. In terms of box office, the film will probably pay for itself worldwide including DVD, but it's not going to be a cash cow like the Rowling or Tolkien material.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tracing Torture

New York University historian Greg Grandin knows a lot about Latin America, and the events in Iraq have led him to write a book, Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. The book details the United States development of systematic terrorism via a triad of 1) death squads, 2) disappearances, and 3) torture. Here terrorism is not some extremist group setting off a bomb. Here it refers to the carefully crafted system for repressing the entire populations of a dozen Latin American countries.

The first successful CIA coup (Operation Ajax) overthrowing democratically elected leadership occurred in Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah. The next year, the CIA overthrew Guatamala's democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz (operation PBSUCCESS) after the government tried to expropriate large tracts of land owned by the United Fruit Company, a U.S.-based banana merchant (Chiquita Banana).

Citing the fear of communism, the US played a heavy hand in Latin America, the CIA training and establishing death squads that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of civilians. The continent created a term, desaparecido - "disappeared" to refer to those who simply vanished. US helicopters flown by US operatives transported bodies off the coast and dumped them into the Pacific. According to Grandin, the real US sponsorship of death squads started in 1962 in Colombia. US General William Yarborough advised the Colombian government to set up an irregular unit to "execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents."

Yarborough left behind a "virtual blueprint" for creating military-directed death squads. The use of death squads would become part of the effort to "counter-terror."

The irony.

Turning to Vietnam, death-squad executions (the Phoenix Program) "neutralized" more than 80,000 Vietnamese between 1968 and 1972. The idea was to terrorize the population into submission. The U.S. Information Service in Saigon provided thousands of copies of a flyer printed with a ghostly looking eye. The "terror squads" then deposited that eye on the corpses of those they murdered. The technique was called "phrasing the threat."

During late 60s early 70s in both Vietnam and Latin America, Washington wanted to professionalize the security infrastructure into a network capable of gathering, analyzing, sharing, and acting on information in a quick and efficient manner, supplying phones, teletype machines, radios, cars, guns, ammunition, surveillance equipment, explosives, cattle prods, cameras, typewriters, carbon paper, and filing cabinets, while instructing its apprentices in the latest riot control, record keeping, surveillance, and mass-arrest techniques.

The US backed coups in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, institutionalizing death squads across the continent. The CIA backed Chilean Dictator Pinochet (Operation Condor) to orchestrate an international campaign of terror and murder.

Consider the possibility that we are the terrorists. A Pentagon "torture manual" describes at length "coercive" procedures using information gathered from CIA-commissioned mind control and electric-shock experiments. In today's war on terror, "torture memos" parse the difference between "pain" and "severe pain," "psychological harm" and "lasting psychological harm," these manuals went to great lengths to regulate the application of suffering. "The threat to inflict pain can trigger fears more damaging than the immediate sensation of pain," one handbook read.

US police advisor Dan Mitrione states, "You must cause only the damage that is strictly necessary, not a bit more."

In Latin American, Mitrione taught by demonstration, reportedly torturing to death a number of homeless people kidnapped off the streets of Montevideo. "We must control our tempers in any case," he said. "You have to act with the efficiency and cleanliness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist."

The United States of America has cancer.

For this post the links are extremely important, especially the one about Mitrione.

Bill O'Reilly is a complete moron, as is the Congressman from Missouri who described the experience of waterboarding as comparable to learning the back stroke. Torture is an inherent lie and not about obtaining information. As John McCain, someone familiar with the subject has stated, it does not work for extracting reliable information. Torture me enough, and I'll tell you I'm Santa Claus. Torture is about terror. Torture is about destroying people and spreading the fear of being destroyed.

Update: Thanks to John for providing a link to a Huffington Post piece reminding us that some of the information Colin Powell used to link Iraq to terrorism was obtained by torture.

Of course the CIA destroyed those tapes. Not to worry, Eggplant assures us that we don't torture.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

To My Predecessor

Tucson, Arizona. Apparently my predecessor has read Something Else (or some of it) for he sent me an email. He states that he will never forget the expression on my face as I handed him a box to pack up his things.

A board member handed him the boxes. Whose face is he remembering? Then he suggested I wrote Something Else for financial gain. It’s posted for free at a Web site with no advertising. The blog has no advertising. The Web site costs money. The blog requires a great deal of time. He has no idea why I blog and never will.

I don’t know how he can believe I was responsible for his demise, but he does. That board had over a dozen individuals far too intelligent for me to manipulate. All I wanted to do was teach. I’d never run a company in my life. I did NOT want his job.

He claims to have designated me as a successor. I will spare the reader the proof, but that is false.

SAIAT closes this month according to word on the street. If he wishes to believe I caused the funding reductions and vilify me as the cause of the carnage, fine, but it’s not reality. He claims to have been hurt, and that he has suffered. Well, join the long list. Perhaps I’m arrogant in believing no one suffered more or put in more effort than I did struggling to please what could not be pleased, to succeed when success was not an option. I speculate that my suffering exceeds his. As for comparisons of character, he may wish to consider his letter to the board in the fall of 2003.

I have openly requested anyone wishing to refute any facts I have ever posted here or anywhere to submit the refutation. I will correct any erroneous content. I have made errors (usually as significant as a name spelling) and corrected them when notified.

Something Else required hundreds of hours of research over seven months. The documents supporting its assertions occupy a shelf. Something Else is not about my predecessor, not about SAIAT, and certainly not about me. If it were about any of these, certain chapters would not exist. The astute reader sees that Something Else is about something else.

Economic Development II

Tucson, Arizona. I posted yesterday about the announcement that Stanley Inc. would over the next year and a half or so hire 150 people at about $11/hour to make passports, stating that it would happen anyway. Let me peel the onion a little on that assertion.

I invite the reader to consider that all vacant commercial property is a vacuum agents work hard to fill. Commercial real estate agents, most notably Picor, Bourne Partners, Richard Ellis, Daimond Ventures, and many others spend every day trying to recruit tenants to move into vacant commercial property or new property.

Sharp people work hard to find tenants for these developments. Real professionals with real jobs produce results, and guess what happens when they succeed?

The economic development crowd takes credit. Prior to TREO we had GTEC, and its director Steve Weathers infuriated a set of people when the UA Tech Park, per the efforts of Bruce Wright and John Grabo (and I am sure some others) brought Citi-Group (Citi-Card?) to the Tech Park, a huge tenant that I think has gone triple digit in employment. GTEC took credit for the development.

Same behavior, different acronym. Word is that Bourne Partners brought Stanley to town for the purposes of having a tenant pay rent. Bourne is doing its job for the landlord. Find a tenant. If they pay their workers $8/hr or $80/hr, a tenant paying market rent is a tenant paying rent.

TREO didn't have jack to do with jack. They are far too busy meeting to work on a Gantt chart for the production of a plan to develop a strategy for developing action items required to produce committees and schedules to discuss the procedures for the development of networks and relationships that foster communication for the development of initiatives that promote action towards the fulfillment of weaving the community fabric into a cohesive cloth that eliminates duplication of effort and consolidates effective action in creating the appearance that someone somewhere is actually doing something. Let's distribute another questionnaire, but this time let's partner with the chamber.

Maybe they'll hire Bablove Ridgewood Workgroup to create a logo promoting creative spirit we can post on a billboard in DC. We can plaster Roach's snout next to a diode and an effeminate tattooed guy playing a flute.

I could run SAIAT for an entire year and support the real training of over 10,000 Tucsonans for the price TREO paid Ohio consultants to produce a blueprint that has resulted in what? I could run SAIAT on Roach's and Mouch's salaries alone. Instead, this town pumps $1/4 M + to two people, dishonorable do nothings, and shuts down an entire training institute. TREO knowingly and willfully destroyed an organization that helped real people earn real promotions and raises. It helped local companies become more competitive so they could expand and hire more workers.

Why did TREO shut SAIAT down? For the money.

They took all of it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gold Bee Pins

Tucson, Arizona. Tim Bee, Republican Arizona Senate President who is "soon deciding" whether to run for Congressional District 8 next year, has selected a potent campaign finance co-chair, Sandy Froman, the former President of the National Rifle Association.

Daniel Scarpinato has a brief post informing us that Sandy sent out a recent fund raising email blast soliciting donations. Apparently:

According to the alert, if you get five or more friends to donate to Bee’s campaign you’ll receive a "limited edition" gold Bee pin.

UPDATE:Per comment by Kris below, the email does not use the word "campaign" as in the above, but "exploratory committee." To guys like me, who cares? But for some the difference could be a big deal.

I already have a pin, shown above, my official x4mr blogger badge (note dimensions, Nav). I am still planning to attend the Republican cigar event up at the NW Anthony's. I will wear my pin. Tomorrow I finish Econometrics, my last course for the PhD. That warrants a bottle of Laphroaig, the Rolls Royce of your humble blogger's favorite drink.

I'll behave. I promise not to call the Eggplant an Eggplant. I will refrain from calling them a bunch of corporate whores.

At least through the third drink.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Libertarians Want Ron Paul

FROM THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY:
Libertarian National Committee Urges Congressman Ron Paul to Seek Libertarian Nomination

Charleston, SC – In a meeting of the Libertarian National Committee held today in Charleston, South Carolina, former Congressman Bob Barr proposed a resolution urging Congressman Ron Paul to seek the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination.

The resolution passed unanimously and is included below:

WHEREAS, the Libertarian Party and Congressman Ron Paul share many common principles for liberty and prosperity in America, and

WHEREAS, Congressman Ron Paul is a member of the Libertarian Party in good standing, and

WHEREAS, Congressman Ron Paul was previously nominated by the delegates of the Libertarian National Convention to serve as the Libertarian Party’s 1988 presidential candidate, and

WHEREAS, Congressman Ron Paul, through the efforts of his current presidential campaign, has ignited a renewed passion for liberty across America, and

WHEREAS, for over 35 years, the members of the Libertarian Party have continually fought for liberty through activism, education and the political process, and

WHEREAS, the Libertarian Party and its members have remained respectful, and in many cases, supportive of Congressman Ron Paul’s campaign seeking the Republican presidential nomination, and

WHEREAS, the Libertarian National Committee encourages competition in the race for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination and is appreciative of all candidates who make the commitment to run;

NOW THEREFORE, in the event that Republican primary voters select a candidate other than Congressman Paul in February of 2008, the Libertarian National Committee urges Congressman Ron Paul to seek the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party to be decided in Denver, Colorado during Memorial Day weekend of 2008.

FURTHERMORE, The Libertarian National Committee congratulates Congressman Paul for his success in spreading a message of peace, prosperity and freedom and also thanks the thousands of activists and supporters across the United States who have made this unprecedented success possible.

RESOLUTION ADOPTED unanimously by vote of the Libertarian National Committee, the 9th day of December 2007, in the city of Charleston, State of South Carolina, United States of America.

Cyber Violence is Real

The technology of cyberspace and Web 2.0 has produced developments so rapidly that events are occurring before we have time to anticipate or plan for the consequences. No joke, the Internet has produced real casualties in many ways. One example involves two 13-year old girls who were having a spat. The parents of one (the parents!) advised their daughter to connect with her foe using mySpace as a fictitious boy. Treat her well and befriend her online, then rip her to shreds, including "The world would be better if you weren't in it."

The victim hung herself.

What happens to the parents who initiated this disaster? Nothing. No laws exist to prosecute such behavior.

Some girls harassed a thirteen year old boy with text messages. He committed suicide. Repercussions? Not legally, but I wonder what those girls think now.

Your computer taps into material that can inflict real damage. The concept of virtual rape is growing. ABC's 20/20 tells of a real estate agent whose daughter decapitated herself driving his Porsche into concrete at 100+ m.p.h. Police dutifully took pictures of the scene for their records. One policeman, no malice intended, sent the images to his home computer not clear of the implications that others had access to it. Someone posted the photos online.

The father, four months after the accident, thinking it is a link to real estate images, encounters the photos of his decapitated daughter. He is suing the police department.

I hurt myself a couple years ago and worse than you think. I watched the original video of the beheading of Eugene Armstrong (the link here is a safe wikipedia link about Armstrong). I don't think the original footage is posted anymore (I'm not looking). Search at your own risk. The original took several minutes. That's a long time to be conscious as your head is cut off.

I was shaking, traumatized, eyes welled up, sick to my stomach, and psychologically wounded in a way that took time to recover. It stuck with me for days, like ingesting a cerebral poison that started streams of thought I could not control or stop, wondering what it must have been like for him, for the killers, the camera operator, as Armstrong screamed in terror beyond language. I have seen a fair amount of intense footage including other violence and murder. The Eugene Armstrong video slammed my psyche hard enough to scar the mind, a permanent blemish from damage that cannot be undone.

Twenty years ago, a snuff film sounded like a huge deal. The semantics get entangled as motivations eliminate murders or deaths caught on camera by chance, but an intentionally produced video of a real murder where someone is deliberately killed before the camera as depicted in the film 8MM is now just a search away. Most of us probably saw the hanging of Saddam Hussein. I posted the thing. The footage showed a real execution, and it occurred as tame. I don't think I like what that means.

I would speculate that YouTube has boundaries, but few resources are required to obtain a server and a connection to post anything. Anything. Yes, we have the story of the man posting live footage of his raping/molesting a child and the police investigator who managed to get officers on the scene in time to shorten the act and arrest the man. That was a miracle and the exception.

Omnivores have a dark side. They videotape sex, fights, outrageous party developments, and staged / partially staged confrontations for shock value. One operates the camera while the other(s) commit the extreme, whether it is tearing the clothes off of a screaming woman in a public place, beating up the homeless (seen one of those? I have not), or verbally assaulting some stranger in public to collect footage of the reaction. All of the above is then posted online, completely eclipsing the farce of reality television.

The originally intriguing (when it started) "Survivor" having devolved to the ridiculous "Kid Nation" can't hold a candle to the usually unedited or barely edited and very real footage of real people whose consent or prior knowledge of the event does not exist. The amusing "You're on Candid Camera" involved carefully staged situations designed for humor and cautious of potential outcomes.

The young omnivores exercise no such caution, and this is dangerous. Some naughty teenagers messing with a camera are going to point it in the wrong direction. Police will not find the recording device around the bodies. Our K-12 schools seem to move too slowly, but if I were running the show, cyber safety would become a class for all children literally as they start to learn to read. Learning to read and learning to surf have merged. I can't get it into the schools, but if you're a parent with young children, consider that cyber safety involves a lot more than keeping a child from seeing pornography. Pornography didn't lead a thirteen year old girl to hang herself.

We have dropped a spark on a pile of flammable stuff, and I don't know how this unfolds. I remain a staunch proponent of Web 2.0, Internet technology, and the explosion of human connectedness and communication. Without it, I fear a tyrannical dystopia too horrible to imagine.

Even with the great information explosion and the ability to spin circles around mainstream media, we face extraordinary challenges.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Derek Tidball Independent for CD 8

Tucson, Arizona. The Independent candidate Derek Tidball, a military veteran, is ratcheting up his machine for the pursuit of Arizona's Congressional District 8, an opponent of both incumbent Congresswoman Giffords and Republican candidate Tim Bee.

Derek's campaign Web site has upgraded and he recently appeared on radio to present an overview of his background and positions.

Word on the street is that the Republicans are far more nervous about his entry into the race, and listening to the radio program confirms this interpretation. Derek is in some respects a disgruntled Republican who believes in limited government, fiscal responsibility, integrity, and individual freedom. Integrity? Derek is everything the corrupt and "deficits don't matter" habeas corpus suspending, lying, torturing, stealing, corporate whore GOP vehemently opposes.

From Independent to Independent, I salute Derek's courage for stepping up to the plate and I hope he becomes a factor in the race that results in the most qualified and effective individual winning the election and becoming our next representative in Washington.

Based on what I have heard, Derek does not appear to be particularly concerned with the GOP's unhappiness with his entry into the race. I surprise no one stating my vote remains in the Giffords column for now, but I am an Independent, and I like to listen.

Derek Tidball sees lack of leadership in Washington and its inability to help those in this nation who need it. A veteran, Derek is very attuned to returning veterans and the well documented atrocity they face as they try to productively integrate into society. I have posted profusely on PTSD, drug addiction, and suicide. Veterans are going to like this candidate.

Derek states he is a Republican at heart. He joins many in believing the GOP has drifted from its core values of fiscal responsibility, low taxes, and keeping the government out of people's lives. He claims he spoke with the GOP, expressed his views, and using other words he related that he was told to tow the line or pound salt. A Republican renegade, he uses the term "tow the line" with respect to both parties.

I smell an Independent.

Good Game Coming

Your humble blogger grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, so one might anticipate a certain animosity towards a particular arrogant football team located an easy day's drive to the east in what was once the steel capital of the world, Pittsburgh. The Bengals have a rivalry with the Steelers equal to if not exceeding that with the Browns.

On Sunday the Steelers square off against my favorite team, already established as the Patriots. Everyone wants to beat the still undefeated Patriots (12-0), who are so good that some have suggested watching them play is boring. Not true, as last Monday amply demonstrated. Baltimore poured their hearts into it and gave the Pats one tough game.

The Steelers (9-3) have a reputation for over-fondness of themselves and like to mouth off. Sure enough, they've gone and done it again. Safety Anthony Smith just couldn't keep his mouth shut and guaranteed a Pittsburgh victory this coming Sunday in New England. Good going, Anthony. You just bought yourself an ass-whooping I am going to enjoy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stoned in the Sandbox

Anyone that knows any Vietnam veterans knows that drug abuse among the troops reached epidemic levels as soldiers turned to a variety of cheap and easy to obtain narcotics to cope with the horrible conditions of combat. Hash, heroin, marijuana, and alcohol flowed into the military biomass as soldiers faced day after miserable day in a hopeless war that had lost its purpose. Surviving minute to minute became the task at hand.

Fast forward 40 years to Iraq and Afghanistan, and we have a story you’re not going to read on CNN.com or see on the evening news. The US military has banned even alcohol consumption in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the cultures of those countries. As a result, no soldiers drink alcohol, right?

The full story is suppressed as hell, so good sources are not easily found. ABC News took a glance (by restricting the story to veterans, not active troops) pointing in the right direction. Readers are invited to provide additional links.

This New York Times piece just barely scratches the surface of the surface restricting its focus to alcohol. Alcohol is just the first pit stop down this ugly rabbit hole that the mainstream media won’t go near. If you don’t think the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are making it through each day via a widespread epidemic of substance abuse, you’re in la la land.

Further, how are the soldiers supplied the alcohol and narcotics condemned and banned by the military? Where does it come from? Who is supplying drugs to US soldiers? It’s right in the link above. Read the second line of the article. In case you can’t access NYT, I’ll furnish the sentence:

In May 2004, Specialist Justin J. Lillis got drunk on what he called "hajji juice," a clear Iraqi moonshine smuggled onto an Army base in Balad, Iraq, by civilian contractors, and began taking potshots with his M-16 service rifle.

What civilian contractors operate in Iraq under the cloak of darkness possible to establish an entire distribution network for narcotics and alcohol to our troops? What type of profit oriented "black operatives" might be able accomplish this lucrative business without oversight?

Afghanistan might be a little different from Iraq. They make what in Afghanistan? What is happening?

The epidemic permeates throughout the network just like gossip. This British article dates back a year and a half as does this piece from Scotland. Think things have improved?

I’ve posted repeatedly about PTSD. One in six of the 589,000 veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, a rate expected to climb higher since it can take months and sometimes years for the condition to manifest.

I have an idea. Let’s incarcerate the returning addicted and mentally ill soldiers on drug charges so they can turn a healthy profit for our prison industrial complex.

God Bless America.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Maxxiage and Divorxe

Tucson, Arizona. Occasionally the guys over at Sonoran Alliance call attention to a story here, so I thought I'd return the favor. They are currently having some fun with Arizona's possible recognition of domestic partners in the sense of legal rights, insurance, and other matters typically provided for married couples.

My blood pressure doesn't move much on this one, but if it were my call, I'd resolve the whole thing by saying that if you want all of the legal entanglements and advantages now implied by all of the family law on the books, then get flipping married. I would then say it's perfectly fine for same sex couples to do it.

Shoot, I'd even let the gay folks join the straight ones in the ability to enjoy the pleasure of divorce and crucifying each other over the house, 401(k), dogs, and family photos, and why not grant them the privilege of the same legal fees our divorcing heterosexuals are permitted to incur?

Problem solved.

Wait. Some have a major issue with my solution. They turn color, twitch in their panties, and get very excited because my plan destroys the "sanctity" of marriage as we know it. Even though every aspect of the arrangement is identical, somehow the inclusion of a same sex couple creates Armageddon for a legal contract about as institutionalized as any can be. What's the threat?

Whatever. So to politically coat the pill equal rights proponents have to create "domestic partner" language that basically mirrors everything in the institution of marriage, except that it allows the paranoid "defenders of marriage" to keep their sacred word away from same gender couples while giving said couples equal legal protections and privileges.

I have a better idea. Take every single piece of law written for marriage, every single one, and everywhere the word occurs, replace the r's with x's.

Opposite sex couples get married.
Same sex couples get maxxied.

All laws across the board are identical. In case we have folks all bent out of shape about the sanctity of divorce, we could call it divorxe for same sex couples, and all the same rules apply.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Liars, Reality, and the 21st Century

Richard Roberts told the student body he did not want to resign as president of Oral Roberts University after being shown to be corrupt. Mrs. Roberts (or should it be Robinson?), known as OSU's "first lady" and a member of the board of regents faces charges regarding young boys at the school. She was given a white Lexus SUV and a red Mercedes convertible by "ministry donors."

Mrs. Roberts had $800 cell-phone bills with hundreds of text messages sent between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. to "underage males who had been provided phones at university expense."

Both Mr. and Mrs. Robert deny the allegations. According to Roberts, God ordered him to resign. How does he know it was God? I have navigated to some extraordinary turf and encountered some pretty crazy stuff, but how do I know what it was? Years ago I heard the voice of something that occurred as top of the top. How am I supposed to know if she was God? What data can a human being process that grants license to say it was "God"?

Our relationship with reality is one of my peeves. People don't speak their minds. They profess knowledge they do not have and worst of all, they deliberately lie. Okay, I acknowledge Blanton's Radical Honesty goes too far. I've been on the other end of "Do you like my hair?" Those situations noted, I fail to grasp clinging to a known lie when the gig is up.

Eight men have now come forward alleging sexual encounters or advances with "I am not gay" Senator Larry Craig. In fact, the same gay prostitute Mike Haggard liked to fondle is one of those Craig has enjoyed. Of course, Haggard has also asserted he is not gay. None of these men are gay. They just like to have sex with each other.

The "I cannot recall" administration recalls just fine. They lie. Far worse than Craig's lie about a matter of minimal consequence, we have the far more malignant deliberate invention of lies with malicious intent. Darth Rove has chosen to fabricate sheer nonsense that the Democrats rushed us into the Iraq War. The Bush Administration wanted go slower and wait for more world consensus. Uh, what?!

Rove declared and then repeated his assertion that Tom Daschle was the hawk with a bee in his bonnet. I thought I would throw up and complained to my good political friend Bob (named Bill in a prior post for anonymity - he has told me to use his real name). Bob said, "Rove is not talking to you."

I flamed my venom towards the outrageous revision of history, and Bob calmly noted that Rove was speaking to an audience that would eat his remarks like spiced rice, the Fox Noise and Rush Limbaugh crowd. Rove knows how to talk to this audience, and they believe everything he says.

Scott McClelland now openly acknowledges he lied to the press about the administration's leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame, an act of treason.

Cheney asserts "I never said that" and within hours we see Jon Stewart on the Daily Show playing the videotape showing the demon saying exactly what he said he never said. It doesn't matter. Only people like me watch Jon Stewart.

Can it be true that in the face of the 21st century's news videos, taped speeches, blogs, YouTube content, and pdf files, that we can keep people clueless by controlling which content they consume? Can the preachers really keep the full attentions of their choirs?

Machiavelli gained an extraordinary place in history by telling the truth and speaking to the reality of the human condition. We may use his name in a negative context for certain behavior, but the astute and well educated respect the man as brilliant.

Rove is entirely clear that he is lying and lies by design. He deliberately injects crafted assertions just like drugs into a body, content calculated to produce a desired result.

I dispute his calculus, having concluded over considerable cigars, espresso, diet coke, and scotch, that Karl, Dick, W, and the rest of the crotchety old liars have outdated methods not in touch with blogs and Web 2.0, kept out of date by arrogance and hubris. W speaks of "the internets" and "the google" because he has no clue.

On many fronts, the Bush administration represents the catastrophic failure of obsolete thinking in a new world. They remain unwilling to listen or learn as a new reality introduces distinctions and concepts they will not consider. Entering Iraq resulted from cold war thinking as does the current rhetoric about Iran. Craig and Haggard fool no one save perhaps themselves. As for Rove, my friend Bob is very sharp and admittedly accurate to a degree.

I stand for a world where that degree changes, and leaders lead by educating people, not fooling them.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Do You Want To See?

Some who find the esoteric content here worth reading have already seen David Lynch's extraordinary film Inland Empire. Note the first quote of Lynch at these less than trivial remarks.

The following harmless clips run less than two minutes a piece and come from different angles. They just barely dip the tip of the toe in the water to for a brief whiff of the pie momma's cooked while you're playing in the back yard.

Now quit playing around and go have some pie.

ALONE.




Do you want to see?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

So Excellence is Boring?

The New England Patriots are currently the best football team in the history of the game. But now Michael Ventre at MSNBC has written a piece complaining that your humble blogger's team is boring because it always wins. What? Oh, they're supposed to win, but they need to sloppy about it.

He moans that the Super Bowl will be like "watching a drive way being paved." Does he not appreciate seeing sheer excellence in operation, watching the best quarterback in the history of the game throw with flawless precision into the perfect hands of receivers like Moss snatching the ball through a maze of triple coverage?

This is BORING? Is perfection during a gymnastics performance boring? Is the form of a runner setting a world record boring? Is the perfect quadruple flip twisty backward inverted pscyho 50 foot dive boring?

The New England Patriots are anything but boring.

You want boring? Watch a parade or the ice capades.
You want painful? Watch Pat Robertson or Nancy Grace.
You want nauseating? Watch Fox Noise or Cage Fighting.

You to go beyond the beyond and discover an agony beyond language? Take econometrics.

Forget water-boarding. Put these terrorists in an econometrics class, and they'll be singing whatever we want in less than a month.

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.


SOMETHING ELSE