Monday, March 31, 2008

Travis Comment

Tucson, Arizona. The blogger Travis posted the following remarks eight comments deep at the Framework Bifurcation piece posted here Saturday. Well, I'm impressed.

What bugs me… especially when we’re talking in x4mr’s latest post about the dumbing down of America… is how we collectively tolerate the bad leadership happening around us at the local level.

I don’t perceive that there’s any sort of conspiracy within the "ranks that be" (referring to Tucson leadership, including politicians, appointed jobs, the economic development crew, and even those referred to as "power players"). Also, we have to note that the "ranks that be" is fairly fluid. Some players are more powerful in some areas and not others. The cast of characters changes with elections, job changes, and other horizons. And, though they are influential, they are by no means a single force or all on the same song sheet.

From having followed the blog for a while, I’m able to see that many of x4mr’s readers are quite intelligent… and at least two I’ve been able to identify are actually part of or connected directly to the "ranks that be".

The truth is, anyone here could go be a part of the "ranks that be". It takes a bit to make all the connections… but anyone here could go down and offer to help as a volunteer w/ TREO or any number of projects connected with the city or county… First they ask you to be part of a committee… you work your way up to committee chair. Play your cards right and you can eventually get asked to serve on a board. Might be with the symphony or the zoological society or a downtown development group (does Rio Nuevo exist anymore?). Money certainly lubricates (though proverbially silver-spooned, Glassman still had to build friends/ fans/ supporters), but, by nature, it’s political. You make your connections, do your favors, build a circle of friends/fans/supporters, you show effectiveness, and you get there.

But, the other truth is, anyone here could have a "bowflex body", too. You eat right, exercise (it’s not 20 minutes, but an hour a day), and it just happens. But we get lazy and distracted and it doesn’t happen. It’s not our focus. Easier in theory than actual practice… because we’re human and don’t have the motivation to achieve it. Life gets in the way.

Let’s look at someone who always made the pariah… like a Don Diamond or a Don Bourn or (to a lesser extent) Don Pitt. The Dons. They’re able to work the system NOT because of a conspiracy… but because they’ve had lots of practice and have a body of experience in how to do so. It’s to their advantage. It’s smart business. And they dedicate an army of consultants, lobbyists, attorneys, PR flacks, etc. to get this done. And even THEY get screwed in the process sometimes. But, because they’ve figured out how to make it work, it looks like there’s a conspiracy from the outside. This is especially true when we blanket label a group like this… instead of parsing down to what’s really going on. We give up the ability to make a difference… or work the system to our own advantage… in favor of a label and the ability to not have to think beyond that.

This is part of what makes x4mr’s blog interesting… he’s digging down. Economic development is a mess in Tucson for a number of reasons… and a group like TREO really has little effect on those reasons except to talk about them a lot. What do you need to be effective in this arena?

First, you need sharp, tough, and motivated entrepreneurs (who are also lucky). TREO can’t do anything about that. They are patently NOT entrepreneurs. They’re politicians. Entrepreneurs are weird birds… tend to be antisocial (they’re inventing stuff the rest of the world generally thinks is stupid until they suddenly make a pile of money… then it’s genius). In fact, I would hazard that TREO would pretty much drive off a real entrepreneur. Someone like Bob Breault was an entrepreneur… but he’s on the other side of the success curve where you become a dignitary. TREO has lots of those. Many of them also think that because they made one business go, they're genius about all of them.

Bob also knows how to work the system to his advantage (make no mistake, I admire this and Bob works very hard on Tucson’s behalf). Like many involved with economic development, all the trips he goes on market Tucson AND himself. Smart. Click, Finley, the Dons… they also gain business advantage by working participating in these arenas. This doesn’t at all dismiss what they do for Tucson. I mention these folks in particular because they do a phenomenal amount for our city. But that participation is ALSO why they do so well at business.

Lots of educators participate in this blog… did you know Finley was a teacher and school principal before she took over her husband’s distribution business upon his death? She’s an incredible supporter of anything education. (She was also a huge influence on one of x4mr’s favorite congresswomen deciding to run for that office…)

Click puts a tremendous amount of money and resources into all kinds of causes, especially helping train the disabled for jobs (and employing them). (Though I don’t know for sure whether he puts money into the Goodwill effort x4mr mentioned… he basically created his own foundation to do similar work.)

I’ve already mentioned that some of the Dons are putting money-where-mouth-is in helping get downtown to take off. That’s not just ‘cause they could make some money at it. That money might actually do better somewhere else… but they actually cared about seeing downtown take off. Once cheered, now they’re used as convenient political skeet.

(As a note, I don’t have anything to do with commercial real estate in Tucson. In fact, I’m pretty unpopular with at least one of the Dons. Something to do with his wife.)

Second, to attract business, you need a favorable combination of tax advantages and available workforce. This is where Tucson struggles… and, though the TREO staff, board, and advocates would tell you all about this, they’ve been really ineffective at doing anything about it. I think that has a lot to do with the frustration with the situation. It’s all so mired in politics, bad decisions, and churn that it does nothing… which results in "cloth talk" and glossiness… but not much changes. Look at the TREO board… virtually the same crowd for 20 years (GTEC being TREO’s predecessor). You know the adage about insanity being doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results…

Talk to anyone who develops or brokers commercial property in Tucson… they’re the first line in bringing a company in. (Buildings being are first thing they need.) Some of them sit on TREO’s and other related boards… which is supposed to help them see what might be coming. But nine times out of ten, as a regular part of their business, they see it before TREO does. They bust their asses to gather data and tour properties for the scouts for these businesses. And they hear back all the time… we found a better tax situation elsewhere… and you just don’t have the workforce we need.

BTW, these folks will also be the first to groan and roll their eyes at TREO’s taking credit where they really did nothing. Did you know that TREO has kept the terrorists away since 9/11?

Also BTW, Tucson’s transportation issues are another factor named by company scouts on a regular basis. This includes a dearth of direct flights to major markets… and the Tucson Airport Authority really can’t do all that much about it. It’s chicken-egg. Airlines can’t afford to put flights in until there’s enough traffic to support it (and we have a top-10 airport just 90 minutes up the road). You can’t get the traffic until you have the flights…

As for workforce, another chicken-egg. Look at where graduates go for jobs after finishing at the UofA… undergrads and higher. To one stay in Tucson as other than a restaurant manager is surprising. Some try and tire of the crap that’s expected of them for half the pay of a larger market (where there also happens to be more of a social life, another major factor in their decision). There’s just not that much here for them. (And I’ll counter on the call-center thing… a lot of the reason call centers were based in Tucson was that the area is geologically and weather inert… no earthquakes or hurricanes to knock out your customer service line.) To have a qualified workforce you have to have a qualified company to keep them around. How do we jettison the fops and actually do something here?

So, my question is… how do we develop better leadership in Tucson that can take these issues on with some effectiveness? (And how do we do this without driving out the real leaders we DO have… unfortunately, leaders and fops don’t separate quite as easily as oil and water. The fops attach with leech-like jaws.) And that’s the hard part… some of this change takes a lot of time and sacrifice. A lot of the talk masks this. A lot of the talk is excused because it feels like we’re doing something when progress is glacial.

There’s some smart discussion happening on this blog. There are a number of individuals among those ranks (the good leaders) who will read his post and go, "Yeah, tell me about it..!" Who can we identify and encourage as good leaders? (That’s harder than complaining about things.) A lot of real leadership gets drowned out in the bullshit and drama of politics. A lot of real leaders (The Fox’s Herbie being an example) get tired of public positions. They get torn down, burned out at having to battle so hard to really lead. They can make a lot more money applying the same talents private position… and still have time for life.

Who can we pinpoint as a real leader? Who can we pinpoint as a fop… and run out of town (or at least push out to a job where they’re not in our way)? And an even bigger challenge, who from this discussion is willing to step forward to take action and be counted among those leaders? Who’s already doing that?

3/31/2008 12:44 PM

I won't try to add to this magnificent contribution right now, except to underscore two key points. First, Travis could not be more spot on when he points out that a proper understanding must recognize that overly lumping groups / people together obscures the reality. Yes, I am highly critical of TREO, but as I wrote at the end of Something Else, TREO is not a thing. It has components and parts, as do other organizations and agencies. Second, I could not agree more with Travis that it is easy to criticize and blame. Constructive content and suggesting solutions prove far more challenging.

I am working on a piece that tries to at least start (as Travis has here, in my opinion) productive discourse. For example, why is the press sitting on the boards of institutions they are supposed to be covering as objective journalists?

Special thanks to Travis for taking the time to contribute to the conversation. At least one blogger is most appreciative.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Infotainment and US Anti-Intellectualism

Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times has an excellent opinion piece today called With a Few More Brains. Rather than re-write, I'll just quote directly:

A 34-nation study found Americans less likely to believe in evolution than citizens of any of the countries polled except Turkey.

President Bush is also the only Western leader I know of who doesn’t believe in evolution, saying "the jury is still out." No word on whether he believes in little green men.

Only one American in 10 understands radiation, and only one in three has an idea of what DNA does. One in five does know that the Sun orbits the Earth ...oh, oops.

"America is now ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism, and anti-intellectualism," Susan Jacoby argues in a new book, The Age of American Unreason. She blames a culture of "infotainment," sound bites, fundamentalist religion and ideological rigidity for impairing thoughtful debate about national policies.

He notes how Bill Clinton deliberately disguised his intelligence for fear of alienating the American populace. Politicians who come across as too intelligent suffer at the polls. (WTF!) Susan Jacoby asserts, "Our country is barely smarter than a fifth grader - no wonder it's drowning in religious fundamentalism and political ideologues on both sides."

Jacoby's earlier book, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism was named a notable book of 2004 by The Washington Post and The New York Times. The Times Literary Supplement (London) and The Guardian named it Outstanding International Book of the Year.

The article concludes with:

The dumbing-down of discourse has been particularly striking since the 1970s. Think of the devolution of the emblematic conservative voice from William Buckley to Bill O’Reilly. It’s enough to make one doubt Darwin.

There’s no simple solution, but the complex and incomplete solution is a greater emphasis on education at every level. And maybe, just maybe, this cycle has run its course, for the last seven years perhaps have discredited the anti-intellectualism movement. President Bush, after all, is the movement’s epitome — and its fruit.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Framework Bifurcation

Tucson, Arizona. As I've posted, TREO is having a shin dig on Thursday to take credit for all economic development progress the community has made since "its inception." Jobs created and capital investment figures will be presented. They will skip the layoffs and closures. The University of Arizona, arguably the brightest light in the entire city, recently obtained a significant and substantial Bio 5 Grant. An anonymous commenter assures us TREO will take credit for this achievement.

In conversations regarding economic development, I have encountered two what appear to be completely opposite perspectives.

In one corner we have Economic Development Guy, a confident and knowledgeable professional in town who espouses the view that our lack of genuine progress in economic development (i.e. results that are not already going to happen anyway by virtue of being where we are) is intentional and designed with intent to serve those in influential positions. His perspective is that all is fine if you are in the right circles. The system works and produces the desired results for those who operate the controls. The Larrys and Jims and Dons and the rest enjoying the top of the mountain adeptly manage the affairs of the community for their own interests. I refer to this perspective as the Competent Controllers.

In the other corner, Cigar Man asserts the opposite view. From his perspective, our economic development efforts are run by inept morons. Progress proceeds in spite of, not because of, idiots incapable of producing any measurable results. The incompetent and arrogant buffoons bungle around and talk nonsense to each other as screw up after screw up occurs ad nauseam. I refer to his view as the Cloth Fest.

At some point we must shift from discussing the problem to considering solutions. Until then, who is right?

Competent Controllers:
1. The persistence of the clowns getting away with their antics
2. The lack of any press coverage of the antics and board incest
3. Swine stuffing at the trough with no accountability for results
4. Closure of the only source of subsidized customized training for employers
5. An economic development guru promoting the creative class visits Tucson
6. Economic Development individuals awarded credit for results they did not produce
7. Tucson employers continue to enjoy a cheap labor pool

Cloth Fest:
1. Losing the baseball teams.
2. The downtown building fiasco mentioned by commenter Travis
3. The atrophy of BusinessLINC
4. Closure of the only source of subsidized customized training for employers
5. Flying a con artist to Tucson to promote gay bohemians
6. The clowns brazenly claim credit for results they did not produce
7. Tucson employees continue to suffer in low paying jobs

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Build It and They Will Leave

Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona Daily Star has a Patrick Finley piece today about the departure of the Chicago White Sox to a park in Glendale and the all but inevitable exodus of the remaining baseball teams from Tucson. The Diamondbacks and the Rockies also want out. Why? Ask a different person and get a different answer. Spring training in Tucson was a great idea and a lot of fun. I enjoyed watching Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling pitch from a seat right on the first base line in the third row. So what if the beer was six bucks? Some would assert that those responsible for economic development would recognize spring training as a valuable resource to be supported and managed with a degree of competence and ability to produce results.

Apparently not. An anonymous comment at the thread about the TREO feast next week asserts they are going to take credit for a large University of Arizona Bio 5 National Science Foundation Grant. Liza has suggested that TREO invented the internet, and an email advises they are the masterminds behind post-it notes, bluetooth, and chicken nuggets, "Parts is parts!"

I ran into "economic development guy" again. He and Cigar Man do not see things the same way. Either that, or they see things the same way but have completely different frameworks for explanation. Econ Guy is entirely functionalist, asserting that TREO is performing its mission perfectly, which is to maintain status quo and produce glossy nonsense. Established profiteers in posh positions seek to perpetuate a system that works well for them. Everything is terrific for certain Larrys and Jims and others and no one is to change a thing. Econ Guy confirmed that while not alone, this blog did play a part in influencing the TUSD board to select a superintendent who had experience in education.

I asked him what was so functional about the loss of spring training after spending $37M on a ball park. I asked him what was functional about the imminent failure of the Fox Theater after spending $13 Million to renovate it. That's $50 million dollars. He laughed, "Check your premises," producing a flash back to Atlas Shrugged. I just looked at him, and he cut me a "I thought you were supposed to be smart" expression. Then he sighed, "Who makes money?"

I made a face and he smiled, "The system is about serving the taxpayers."

Then he winked, "Some of them."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Crashing Cloth

Tucson, Arizona. A certain blogger and friends have obtained tickets to the "invitation only" cloth fest TREO will hold at the Westin La Paloma on Thursday, April 3rd, at 4 PM. Roach and his band of do nothing goons will be on parade in suits taking credit for every investment, every job, every lease, every loan, every sale, and every new tenant into any space anywhere. If you bought a burger at In&Out last week, that economic development was the result of TREO's spectacular performance. Nothing in this town economic happens outside of TREO's awesome horsepower.

Supporters are encouraging me to attend and confront the insect right at the podium about his theft of funds allocated to other agencies.

They want a scene like Harrison Ford at the banquet in The Fugitive where I walk to the front of the room during scum's address and confront the SOB about his crimes. Over thirty people currently attending have promised they will stand and cheer as I step on stage and demand an explanation.

Should I do it? You only live once.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Comment #29

Tucson, Arizona. On March 16th I emailed a letter to the Tucson Mayor and Council, copying the county and a few others, and posted it at this blog. As of last night, the thread at the post had 29 comments, and comment #29, which I dismissed as coming from a bottle of scotch (the post occurred at 12:40 AM) apparently has substance behind it.

I received an email today confirming that Comment #29 is not fiction. To spare the reader the effort of paging down (or clicking above), here is the comment:

At this juncture, there are 3 retired private investigators, working on a pro-bono basis, tracking the daily work of the Executive staff of five City of Tucson Org's. MCTVB, TCC, Rio Nuevo, and Ward 6. This is prologue. Chapter One is to follow. The truth may yet prevail in the Valley, just not via TNI, who have violated all protocol of journalism by having their editors sit on local boards. William Buckley and Mary McGrory together, would be on their hind legs and snarling.

The part that sticks out for me is: This is prologue. Chapter One is to follow.

Interesting, indeed. The truth is out there.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Tucson Community Food Bank

Tucson, Arizona. Happy Easter to those of all faiths. For some, today means dressing up an extra notch for church. Some will enjoy child excitement over a bunny, candy, and a search for eggs. For others, it means swearing profusely and tossing a bracket into the trash after Duke's devastating loss to West Virginia. Like other Christian holidays, Easter has its roots in Pagan recognition of the seasons, with Christmas corresponding to the Winter Solstice and Easter corresponding to the Spring Equinox.

The closure of a copper company led me to work at a Pima County One Stop Center helping devastated miners and their families survive the loss of their way of life. At these centers, every afternoon a van would arrive with food. The driver would hoist plastic crates containing loaves of bread, fruit, vegetables, and other perishable items and stock the shelves. Laid off workers could take what they wanted for free home to their families. All was free for the taking. While employed, my salary had fallen by over half, and I occasionally took some bread home to my own. Sometimes cookies or cake were leftover. Why not?

The delivery came from the Tucson Community Food Bank, a non-profit organization committed to making a difference in the local community, and what a difference it makes. Few sights are more moving than hungry children having the opportunity to sit before nourishing plates and end their suffering. Those that have truly faced hunger as a real threat know something deep and profound that the rest of us do not.

Like Goodwill Industries, The Tucson Community Food Bank is an example of an outstanding and superbly run organization that genuinely serves the community and makes a profound difference for those that are struggling. Efficiently and effectively managed, the agency funnels almost every ounce of resources that it receives towards those it serves. The food bank has a productive staff that cost effectively provides the administration necessary to sustain and improve its operation. Check out it's annual report. Their administrative overhead is four percent. That's called commitment to others. Tucson is very fortunate to have such an extraordinary organization committed to fighting hunger. The Tucson Community Food Bank's contribution defies language, putting much needed nourishment into thousands of mouths that would otherwise spend another day in pain and increasing despair.

For those that aren't aware, I encourage readers to become familiar with the program and the easy ways to contribute. Money, food, and volunteer efforts given to this organization contribute a great deal to those who have fallen on hard times.

Hard Times.

There's a lot of that going around.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Race and the Swiftboating of Obama

The following in italics comes directly from Liza, one of this blog's most astute readers. I encourage visitors to consider her remarks and respond. If you have something to say, speak up. What say you?

When Fox and other mainstream television media began running the video clip of the Reverand Jeremiah Wright saying, "God damn America," every African American adult in this country knew what had just happened. Senator Obama’s Swiftboat had finally arrived, and it was going to be all about race. That was always the intention, unless something else might have occurred to discredit the Senator. But nothing did occur, so the right wing political attack on Senator Obama that is intended to decimate his candidacy and elevate John McCain will be focused on the fact that the Senator is African American. No one knows this better than Senator Obama himself.

It is very important to understand, first of all, that Senator Obama being African American is not what concerns his political attackers. Condoleeza Rice is African American and she has faithfully toed the line for George Bush and his neo-conservative administration. Colin Powell was also a team player who sacrificed his own legacy in a fateful speech before the National Security Council to advance the neo-conservative agenda. No, being African American is not necessarily a problem for the Republican elite.

The problem being faced by Republicans in 2008 is losing the presidency and being the minority party in the Senate and the House of Representatives, a situation they may have to endure for many years to come. With the Senate and the House already lost, they still have their long shot at the presidency. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than having nothing. The attack on the Democratic contender is guaranteed to be as brutal as anything we have seen, and last week’s attack on Senator Obama that originated on Fox and spread to the other mainstream networks is only the introduction. The timing of the recent attack on Obama was intended to open the door for the less popular Hillary Clinton to possibly win the Democratic nomination, perhaps through superdelegates, and improve McCain’s chances to prevail in November.

How can any Republican win the presidency in 2008? The contenders for the Republican nomination, with the possible exception of fringe candidate Ron Paul, were as unappealing and unremarkable as any random selection of white, conservative, middle aged and elderly men. John McCain emerges as the winner and this excites no one, but this is what they have to work with.

John McCain has every political disadvantage imaginable as he faces down a Democratic contender. The incumbent Republican president is already being tagged by many as the worst president in American history. The US occupation of Iraq, the major part of the Bush II legacy, is also considered by many to be the worst political mistake made by a US president, and John McCain has been an enthusiastic supporter of this debacle. The remainder of the Bush legacy consists of colossal failures in every aspect of governance and at record breaking financial cost to the American taxpayers of today and tomorrow.

Middle and lower income Americans have nothing to gain from a Republican presidency that would essentially be a continuation of current economic and social policy. And most Americans have come to the conclusion that the US occupation of Iraq is costing money that could be better spent here at home. They might be opposed to "socialized medicine," but they are more than ready for the government to address the health care crisis in some manner that does not exclude 50 million Americans.

Even so, there is still good news for Republicans. Elections are about demographics and voter turnout, and they know that voter opinions are easily created and controlled using fear based politics. Even better, conservatives have an immense amount of support in mainstream media particularly at Fox News, and whatever message they choose to disseminate will reach tens of millions of people. So, all that is needed is a short, controversial video and an inexhaustible supply of pundits and hacks who can run their mouths forever and fan the flames.

So why did the right wing choose a race issue to launch their mainstream media war on Senator Obama? Because the exploitation of racism in the white majority is the easiest, most obvious, and most acceptable attack available to them. Furthermore, it is likely to be the most effective.

If you are in your forties or younger, you have no memory of segregation in America. That is difficult for me to imagine, because I grew up in the Deep South during the civil rights era, and images of Jim Crow are more or less seared into my brain. My parents and relatives were white racists, to be sure, but they were passive. Nonetheless, they were satisfied with segregation, and they did not concern themselves with any problems related to racial inequality. "That’s just the way things are," they would say. The Civil Rights movement only intensified their fear, the systemic fear that is ever present within the members of the "superior" race.

As a historical period, the civil rights era is relatively recent. Many of those who faced down the fire hoses, the dogs, and took the beatings are still in their 60’s. Senator Obama is part of the first generation of African Americans who have become the beneficiaries of the movement. Try to imagine his emotional connection to those people who risked their lives to give hope to the next generation.

I have said several times on this blog that, at this time, the possibility of an African American president is a fragile concept. Many white people who accepted segregation are still alive and they vote. Many younger people who did not grow up with segregation were taught to believe in white superiority and they vote too. But none of these people were going to vote for Obama anyhow, so how can the right wing use race to destroy the candidacy of Barack Obama?

I believe that what the right wing is exploiting is the residual fear of African Americans in the white majority.

Racism is easily defined but it can be subtle in its manifestations. The racism that I grew up with was raw, brutal, and exposed. Towards the end of the civil rights era, it was less exposed, but the hatred and the fear were the same or worse. Even as a child I understood that this form of racism would be part of southern culture until the more racially tolerant younger generation came of age and began raising families, and that is more or less what happened.

Racial equality can be legislated, but the process of social acceptance is evolutionary. We tend to believe there is widespread social acceptance of racial equality in 21st century America. Yet, there is massive evidence of racism that ranges from subtle to overt, the most extreme recent example being the handling of hurricane Katrina. Racism, in its present manifestations, is not diminishing. If anything, the residual fear of racial "others" in the white majority has been extended to other groups, particularly Mideastern people since 9/11.

The right wing conservatives who are trying to derail Senator Obama’s candidacy understand that they can capitalize on residual and new fears by showing the white majority that he is not one of them and he cannot be their leader. And, by repetition, they hope to amplify this fear so that a sufficient number of voters from the white majority discount the obvious deficiencies of the Republican candidate and the Republican party, and choose instead to prevent the ascension to the presidency of an individual who is not one of them.

The fact that the right wing has been able to create this "controversy" about Senator Obama with a video of his pastor and keep it going for several days shows how deep and pervasive this fear really is. Under most circumstances, reasonable people would not condemn a politician because his pastor gives fiery, controversial speeches. But the video is their solid evidence that Reverend Wright is a racial "other" and an adversary of the white majority straight out of the 60’s. By association, Senator Obama must be supportive of his views. Therefore, Senator Obama must not be the president.

The right wing is attempting to legitimize the residual fear of the white majority and assure them that they are not racist. They are decent people who love their country and they must protect it from radicals.

They must vote for the white patriot.

That is all they are trying to sell.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Two Standards and The Nail

The current sequence of events in the presidential election have caused me to consider the existence of a disturbing pathology that makes it virtually impossible for anyone extraordinary to stand a chance in politics or many other endeavors. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.

Unfair standards, scales, and expectations develop that derail and destroy the superior candidate or performer. I assert this occurred in the race between Gore and Bush in 2000. The country knew Gore had a brain, in depth knowledge of the world, an understanding of foreign policy and global respect. If Eggplant managed to get through a debate without wetting himself, he did "pretty good." The contrast in standards was shocking. Gore could provide answers with twice the insight, twice the grasp of the facts, and infinitely more clarity. So what if Eggplant was a moron? The country knew Eggplant wasn't really that good at the word stuff. He was "down to Earth."

We now see the same occurring. Barack Obama is performing at a level superior to the other candidates, but all the country does is raise the bar on him and let others off the hook. McCain can flounder all over the place as the reader has no doubt seen, and no big deal. Obama's preacher takes front and center before the nation. McCain can accept the endorsement of wacko preacher John Hagee advocating immediate war with Iran and barely a peep from anyone. Care to hear some of the sermons this character delivered? Are we getting the best hits of the ministers Hillary heard over the last thirty years? She also enjoys the freedom from the horde of inflamed, obsessed, fanatical pickers in search of nits.

Are we really going to hyper-analyze and blow up every remark, every word, every sentence, seeking to see if we can find an imperfection? If so, then we should apply it equally to every fu**ing candidate and have the most utterly STUPID, ridiculous and unproductive conversations the country has ever had.

When Bill Clinton was running for president while Eggplant Senior was in the White House, unauthorized access to passport records occurred, presumably to try to uncover something useful in alleging Clinton tried to dodge the draft. Now, under Eggplant's administration, three breaches of security have occurred regarding Obama's passport files. Like father, like son.

If Jesus Christ descended on Earth today and ran for office, we'd crucify him a second time. Can you imagine "Turn the other cheek" in the context of the fear mongering fanatics currently in the White House? They would portray the message as suicide. If this hasn't been produced as a film yet, it should. Surely someone has produced a film or written a novel where Christ returns and the Jesus freaks become the most adamant about killing him for heresy. Iris Murdoch has a metaphor for Christ in A Fairly Honourable Defeat but surely a more direct work has been produced.

Events of the past few years have produced a cynicism difficult to resist. The system does not elect the superior candidates. The system elects the candidates that best preserve the system. Change agents are perceived as threats. Our government does not want a President Obama. McCain and Clinton have been sufficiently indoctrinated, absorbed, and assimilated into the machine so as to never operate outside of its boundaries and expectations.

If my theory has merit, expect the following over the next few months. Obama will face incessant nay saying and fault finding of every speech, every statement, every development. He will face relentless, brutal scrutiny and negatively biased spin. McCain could allege that Iran has usurped control of US Catholic High Schools to abduct virgins for sex slave camps in Tehran. We'd forgive him. After all, he's old. We have already shown we don't need a president with any mental faculties.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama Makes History

Barack Obama made history on March 18, 2008 in a speech that will go down in history as one of the most profound and authentic on the issue of the racial harmony so desperately wanting to happen in this country, perhaps the best since Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream." It sets the depth of his character apart from the insiders who run against him. The nation has a clear choice, and those that reject the pearl are swine.

If the country is too stupid to stand for its own health care, to demand an equitable economy that allows the committed and competent to be compensated instead of exploited, then it deserves to be discarded by the corrupt politicians it elects. Perhaps CEO's make $500 M salaries because we vote for politicians who serve CEO's. Obama can speak to the diversity, both racial and economic, of this nation. He understands the economic suppression of the lower classes to benefit the upper classes.

The speech is history, every word riveting and dripping with the soul of an authentic human being committed to a higher reality. Perhaps the most brilliant line involved the distinguishing of the pastor's paradigm of a static reality. Reality is not static.

The country has been granted the rare and golden opportunity of a superior candidate for president, perhaps the best in our lifetime. If we squander this chance, God help us. My enthusiasm for a Hillary Clinton White House matches that of John McCain. Both represent tired, old school thinking, the manipulation of a childish electorate. What most distinguishes Barack Obama and makes him stand out is his willingness and courage to address the country as adults. The courage, dignity, and leadership to address us as functional and capable of unity instead of splitting and manipulating morons paints a contrast so stark against Limbaugh, Rove, and the rest of the demons.

Barack’s speech had the extraordinary courage to regard the American public as articulate and intelligent enough to respond to an address delivered at a level higher than the fourth grade. On March 18, 2008, Barack Obama demonstrated genuine leadership, an authentic voice of commitment towards a future for everyone, not just the insiders. No election has captured my heart more than 2008. If once again the country does dumb, if the swine toss the pearl to elect more of the swine, I am so screwed.

So are you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lake of Fire

Best known for his documentary American History X about white supremacist hate groups, Tony Kaye has produced Lake of Fire, a brutally intelligent and accurate documentary about the abortion debate in the country, the seething rage on both sides, the murders committed, the women involved, the biology of it all, and the extraordinary suffering experienced by everyone.

The film is an excruciating experience that produces outright nausea and the tactile sensation of fear. What SHOAH is to the holocaust, this film is to abortion, and it accurately captures the inherent misogyny of the fanatics as well as the graphic brutality of the procedure. Watching the movie puts a person about as close to the experience of having an abortion as possible without having one, and anyone thinking women make the choice casually have no grasp of the concept. Those who watch will clearly see that the film does not take sides but instead uncovers the deeper constructs of the forces involved.

Extremely thorough, the film includes footage of Flip Benham, Dr. John Britton, Pat Buchanan, Noam Chomsky, Alan M. Dershowitz, Michael Griffin, Paul Hill (the first person executed for murdering a doctor who performed abortions), Emily Lyons, Norma McCorvey (the "Roe" in Roe vs. Wade), John Salvi, Randall Terry, Sarah Weddington, and many others to uncover the deeply unsettling and disturbing psychoses at play.

The film will not change a viewer's position, but it will deepen the distinctions and the awareness of the situation. An incredibly educational production fifteen years in the making, in two and a half hours Lake of Fire puts the ugly right on the table and turns up the lights full blast. It delivers front and center, directly over the plate hard and straight, reality distilled.

Do you want to see?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Solarcon Valley

Tucson, Arizona. A group of extremely intelligent and highly educated scientists from the University of Arizona and certain high technology companies gathered at a home on Fourth Street this morning to listen to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and other members of the Congressional Committee on Science and Technology. Most of the conversation at the house involved education (math and science in particular), funding for research, and energy. Giffords chaired a field hearing of the committee on solar energy immediately afterwards.

Started 50 years ago in response to the launch of Sputnik, this committee is the least partisan in Congress (Ralph Hall (R-TX) flew to Tucson for the hearing) and has close ties to education and a certain blogger’s heart. Sputnik and the cold war played a huge role in the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the explosive growth of higher education capacity. We created NASA and invested in cerebral horsepower that fueled the greatest economic expansion and propelled us into world leadership.

At both the house and the hearing, Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) addressed the audience via speaker phone, his ability to attend impacted by airplane trouble. Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ) spoke, pointing out that Arizona has sunlight over 300 days a year. Committee Vice-Chairman Lipinski (D-IL) spoke to the interest in solar power during the seventies suddenly dying in 1980. (He did not mention why, i.e. the election of Reagan and the reversal of pro-education sentiments, pro-solar sentiments, and the idea that government should do something other than favor friends and kill people in other countries.)

At the house event, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) heaped praise on Giffords, in so many words saying she was the strongest advocate of solar power in the entire Congress and becoming a powerful leader in the committee.

At the hearing they got technical. Mark Mehos taught me a lot, first pointing out that the American southwest has the greatest solar capacity of any location in the world, with enough sunlight to generate ELEVEN TIMES the current electricity production of the entire country. Arizona, Nevada, and more than I thought, south eastern California kick solar butt.

Then Mr. Hansen of TEP discussed the The Solar Grand Plan published in the January 2008 issue of Scientific American. Solar energy uses proven technologies. They work. All of the systems have been developed to virtually bulletproof reliability. The article is quite "the thing" of the solar energy community.

I'll skip the technical details of utility scale solar energy either dispatchable (parabolic trough, power tower, linear fresnel) that use sunlight to create heat to produce steam for turbines vs. the non-dispatchable (dish/engine, concentrating photovoltaic, flat plate) that generate electricity directly.

What happened today was solid cerebral horsepower engaged in intelligent discourse, part of what is desperately needed if this country is to avoid going off the cliff Eggplant has pushed us towards. The hearing was necessarily very structured, but at the house Rep. Giffords fielded intelligent questions from assembled experts. Today confirmed my speculation of four years ago. She is an information and personal development sponge exhibiting extraordinary growth. Tim Bee has no idea what he is up against, and his gripe last week about her denial of Eggplant's surveillance immunity is barking up the wrong tree.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

TUSD Board Makes Right Choice

Tucson, Arizona. I am delighted to report that the TUSD governing board has selected Elizabeth Celania-Fagen to be its next superintendent. The board was split, voting 3-2 in her favor. I have already received an email telling me that the other candidate, Rick Myers, slipped from his slam dunk appointment by suggesting that "certain cultures" (i.e. Hispanics) have families that do not value education. Cigar Man posted that the TUSD board learned of this blog and read the thread posted. The Vote:

YES: Alex Rodriguez (Chair), Adelita Grijalva, Joel T. Ireland
NO: Judy Burns, Bruce Burke

What Cigar Man did not know is that I sent an email to the TUSD board with a link to the blog post. I have no idea if it made any difference, but I am glad to see they chose someone whose commitment to education cannot be disputed. I wish the new superintendent the best and hope the TUSD board and District will give her the support necessary to make a difference in a very demanding position.

Congratulations, Elizabeth, and God Bless.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The TUSD Myers Thread

(Richard Myers) Tucson, Arizona. Tomorrow (Wed) the board of the Tucson Unified School District meets to perhaps decide who will be its next superintendent. I encourage readers to click over to the original story for background, but in a sentence, TUSD is considering putting a corporate executive with no background in education in charge of the school district. The story produced a thread of comments I consider compelling enough to reproduce verbatim as another post. I only corrected spelling, and I think the sentiments capture a lot of what is out there. I have a lot of respect for the individuals who expressed their views. Many are anonymous, coming from TUSD insiders who have good reason to withhold their identities.

You have to go 15 comments deep to reach Casey DeLorme's defense of Myers, and Casey is no idiot. Casey asserts that Myers is an extraordinary individual, and I respect his judgment and will accept that Richard Myers is an admirable man until shown otherwise, but I stand by my assertions. If Mr. Myers' talents are to be applied to the Tucson Unified School District, there's a better way. I specify how in my response to Casey's comments.


Dustin said...
As soon as I saw the list a while back, I knew it would be myers. Our society values achievment, and business executives most of all. It does not matter what he did, only that he was an executive, and that he worked for IBM (denotes intelligance I assume). It's the same platform bush ran on.
3/07/2008 7:30 AM

Cigar Man said...
You do know how to irritate certain well connected people. I love it. Your post is spot on.
3/07/2008 10:49 AM

Anonymous said...
Great post, Matt. You are indeed a good public servant. Or provide a good public service.
3/07/2008 12:00 PM

the doctor said...
Didn't you know that children are just raw materials to be manufactured and processed? Surely we can just bring in some lean manufacturing consultants and squeeze the inefficiencies out of the system.

Running a school is no different from running a business.

Let's hire some fancy consultants for $5M (I hear TREO knows some good ones) to draft a TUSD "Blueprint For the 21st Century!" we can then unveil at a luncheon.
3/07/2008 12:02 PM

ms said...
Doc, can you take the time to make your point on some conservative blogs? Who knows, it might help.
3/07/2008 8:34

Anonymous said...
So much for supporting and encouraging a well-defined career path for students considering teaching and educational administration. Spend years getting advanced degrees and working your way up from teaching to various administrative positions, and then bump up against the glass ceiling placed at the top of TUSD by the Southern Arizona Leadership Council. Thank you very much.

I think there is something to be said for skilled and talented people being able to be effective in most leadership positions, but this situation is ridiculous. He doesn't have a shred of experience or education that prepares him for the unique challenge of running a large school district.

I agree with Myers that there are families who don't value education, and that this is a major obstacle, but he goes too far in suggesting this is a trait of particular cultural groups. There are plenty of white trash families who don't value education any more than the minority families he is obviously referencing.
3/07/2008 9:14 PM

Anonymous said...
Myers is a troubling consideration. He is "a suit" with no classroom experience. He is a "pencil pusher" who’s never been to a faculty meeting. He’s a "yes man" who capitulates to the "bottom line" mentality.

Consider the world of movies. I can’t think of a movie where the corporate leader came in and rescued anything. But look at the list of movies about teachers: "Stand and Deliver", "Mr. Holland’s Opus", "Dead Poets’ Society", and the list goes on. Above I used several clichés for individuals who work in the corporate world. Notice they are all pejorative. Can you think of any negative labels for teachers? Being a teacher is an honorable profession. It is not about seeking money or title. It is about choosing a career that will help create a world where everyone understands and helps each other. An individual who is not trained as a teacher and has not spent time working with others for no reason other than to experience the journey of learning would not understand; because in the classroom, with students and their desire to learn, there is no "bottom line". Just think of all the overtime teachers put into their work without asking for compensation.

Almost 70% of the district is American-Mexican. Many children are from homes where English is not the dominant language. Here is an opportunity to embrace the diversity of our TUSD community and hire a lifelong educator who speaks Spanish; an educator who can articulate to the community the achievement gap in more than one language. Instead we’re considering hiring a man who thinks that some "cultural groups…don’t value education". We can all read between the lines. This is a racist euphemism, and it’s a euphemism that lacks understanding of the equity issues of school districts across the nation.

The challenges facing education are not the same as corporate America. Public schools cannot become the next "Office Space" where spirits are crushed and fresh ideas dismissed. If there is one component in education that is magical it is inspiration. Don’t try to tell me that a former IBM manager is our children’s future. Remember Kubrick’s brilliant "2001: A Space Odyssey"? Kubrick had a reason for naming the evil computer H-A-L…each letter preceded I-B-M.

I have taught in TUSD for nearly 20 years and I can see this mistake coming down the road.
3/08/2008 4:41 PM

x4mr said...
Great comments.

I don't know anything about Myers other than his resume. If his heart is in the right place (something he could demonstrate by stating he'd accept an annual salary of $1), there is still a world of difference between those who wish to make a difference after "getting theirs" and those committed to making a difference their entire lives.

As it stands, for all we know he's another ego in a suit after a fat check and a power trip. That he believes he can run a school district is not a good sign.

Teachers will resent him by default. What credibility does he bring to his interactions with principals?

I smell a fiasco.
3/09/2008 2:53 PM

Anonymous said...
"School officials usually relied upon a combination of pedagogical and popular sociological explanations to the 'Mexican problem'...failure to appreciate education, inherent inferiority, and so on" (Montejano, 1988, p. 192).

Sound familiar ... same old tired deficit racist thinking.
3/09/2008 3:17 PM

Anonymous said...
As an educator for thirty years, I am very concerned that the TUSD school board would consider anyone that does not have experience in Education. Yikes!!! Don't make a mistake and select Rick Myers as the new leader of our school district just because of his business background. You MUST select someone that has passion and cares for the students in our community. We also need to select someone that appreciates the diversity of the student population. I feel that Rick Myers will be very impersonal and that is NOT who we want as the new Superintendent of TUSD.
3/09/2008 6:33 PM

Anonymous said...
Wait a minute,...I thought he was saying that we had a societal problem with education and that certain groups don't value education. Like the Pepsi, Chetos, Cell Phones and iPods brought to us by easy credit that funds the corporate world? That's a true societal problem.

The idea that certain groups, like young people, don't always value education is a no-brainer. We're going to pay $200K for that?!?
3/09/2008 6:45 PM

roger said...
I think your prediction is right on.

It's that leadership council stuff. Will the same kind of stuff that led to past insider hires in Tucson. The old...why go outside when we have someone who knows us?

The problem is that this kind of provincial thinking is what always keeps Tucson a one horse, western town.

We need fresh ideas from outside. The person from Dem Moines (highest literacy rate probably in the WORLD in Iowa) would be best.
3/09/2008 7:05 PM

Anonymous said...
I'm also a teacher in TUSD and am deeply offended by Myers comments which were targeted toward specific ethnic communities. How can the TUSD board hire someone with that type of ideology when a majority of TUSD students are minorities? Is this the same type of innovative pedagogy that inspired classes such as "productive gardening" and "thrift education" for Mexican American students in the 1930's? It was troublesome enough that the man has ZERO experience in a classroom, school, or district, but to reveal such discriminatory and dehumanizing attitudes about our community, well, that is not forgiveable. If the board appoints him, the educator community, and community at large will react.
3/09/2008 7:35 PM

Anonymous said...
We need a leader who is knowledgeable about education and human relations (psychology etc). And one who listens to parents and the people who are responsible for the teaching and welfare of students.

Rick Myers would be a very bad choice. Managing a big for-profit company and leading the RTA transportation proposition require radically different skills than running a school district where students are the most important and education is the goal.

Yes, he is good with public relations and sales. He was instrumental in persuading the politicians to accept the RTA transportation proposition before the plans were made. And he listens to and works well with the “right people” (the leadership style he described) – the growth businesses. This RTA plan may have been a good car-moving one, but it reflected extreme tunnel vision by ignoring the negative impact on the inner-city community (like many destroyed local businesses.)

We need a superintendent who listens to and works well with educators and puts students first.
3/09/2008 8:26 PM

Casey DeLorme, APR said...
Okay, I have to come in on the other side of the Rick Myers issue...

I know Rick. (I want to state up front that he had nothing to do with this comment... in fact, I haven't talked to him since I left for Sand Diego. But I do need to catch up.)

Rick has two particular talents I've noticed.

The first is that he is one of the most impressive readers of character I've ever encountered. He will often meet someone I'd never thought of collaborating or working with, insist I meet them... and he'll be spot-on. He's done it on numerous occasions... and I know many others who've echoed the same. This includes individuals and teams who I clashed with, but we had great chemistry when working on a project.

That leads into his ability as a leader... Not a pencil pusher at ALL! Rick is one of the most amazing consensus-builders Tucson has. And he knows how to bring together powerful (and highly-intelligent) personalities with diverging (and deep-seated) opinions. He was the driving force behind the recently passed (after what, 30+ years of failing) Regional Transportation Plan. Say what you want about the plan itself (politics is messy, messy work that rarely results in anything perfect... which makes it easy to criticize), but getting SOMETHING to move forward on this issue is a monumental achievement.

It's easy to write off the "powers that be" (i.e. Click, Diamond, Finley, Walkup, etc.), but these ARE really smart people with strong personalities and opinions. To get them to come to consensus on ANYTHING, then get a community to vote in that direction. Wow! That's impressive. And, truth be told, anyone at the top of TUSD is going to be considered part of that crowd.

Now, I can't speak to his educational credentials... but running an organization as big and bureaucratic as TUSD requires some serious leadership chops. (And that's one of the sad things about an entity like TUSD... it's inherently a bureaucracy first and an education machine second... as much as we'd like it to be the other way around.)

The other aspect I'll touch on is the "specific ethnic communities" comment by Anonymous. That doesn't sound like Rick. First, he's introduced me to a lot of people in the community... and they covered the spectrum of ethnicities and genders. That includes male/female, straight/gay, Mexican, white, black, Tohono O'odham, and Indian (as in, from India).

Anonymous should be ashamed for jumping to the "race" card. (And if you're going to do it, at least put your name and face on your post.)

You can't choose your parents.

I'm Swedish. Even among white people, I'm white. I went to a TUSD school (Sabino) that was predominantly white. And WE had the culture that didn't value education... anyone who excelled was dubbed a nerd and ridiculed. That's a US cultural norm... hell, it's a b-grade movie staple. And it's a miserable environment for educating our kids.

So I dismiss that any discussion about "cultural groups" is racist or hearkening back to days of racial yore.

But I'll embrace that it IS a discussion of "How do we get kids (and their families)--of any sex, race, or whatever--to become seriously engaged in their education?" And that's something anyone being considered for this post has to take seriously and be willing to debate. You have to include looking at cultural attitudes toward education at all levels (including whites) to accomplish that. There's no racism there.

I don't know the other candidates for this one, so I can't really debate beyond Rick. But I know he makes a great leader in any situation.
3/10/2008 10:24 AM

x4mr said...
All right, Casey, I will not argue with you regarding Myers as a human being or a leader although his remarks in a public venue do not suggest the sensitivities desirable for the superintendent of a large school district that serves a predominantly Hispanic population. Let’s go ahead and say he’s a great guy with extraordinary talent.

Even so, placing an individual with no education credentials into the superintendent slot is inherently problematic for many reasons. He enters the position with a de facto hostile unionized workforce who regards him as a threat who views them as inefficient, incompetent, and ineffective, whether he believes that or not. Almost universally they regard him as someone who thinks the district is broken and needs to be fixed. Fixed with what? Better funding? Providing teachers better tools and educational resources? No.

Teachers and administrators perceive him as a blade wielding samurai in search of necks, a hatchet man with no distinctions regarding the reality of the day to day classrooms and the issues involved. What does he know about what practices produce what results in the context of kids in rooms? On what credibility does he stand when he faces a not for profit committed to children environment starved of funds? When he starts telling them what to do, what context exists in the minds of his audience? True or not, in the minds of the teachers who serve children for peanuts, Myers is a suit who hob knobs with millionaires, a man who amassed a personal fortune and now pads his pension at their place. I’m not talking about whether it is true. Why does he want to run a school district? What can he say to convince them otherwise?

The neon sign, "HE HAS NO CLUE!" flashes before he even gets the job. The resentment and fear are already there. Dr. Delfino Alemán would have been welcomed. The bi-lingual leader could address rooms in either or both languages, has a background with addressing diverse populations, has years of experience running a challenging school district in San Diego, has educational networks and contacts across the country, and could hit the ground running. Myers probably does not know what pedagogy even means.

If the TUSD school board wants to bring the skills of a financial corporate wizard to bear on the district’s financial operations and accounting, fine. If the person is an extraordinary leader and consensus builder, even better. Bring Myers into the district as a Chief Financial Officer or Treasurer or similar position and grant him full access to the budget, forecasts, accounting operations, and the attention of the superintendent. The position can work with the school board and the superintendent to craft policies to improve the district and maximize its financial well being.

Myers may prove me wrong, but if so it is in spite of, not because of, the reasons he got the job.
3/10/2008 2:24 PM

Casey DeLorme, APR said...
Now that's an interesting argument. And I'll leave the debate between the qualifications of the various candidates at that.

Though I'm a regular reader, I always have a problem with slagging of the "powers that be". It's too simple of a view. Though they collectively make some puzzling decisions... there are some amazing people within that circle actually working to make things better for all of us. As you can see, I'm a Rick Myers fan. To me, he fits this category.

I think the most frustrating thing about the educational debate is that our school system is constructed from a century-plus old public bureaucracy that has an impossible time changing at the pace with the rest of the world.

That means that kids and amazing resources (i.e. teachers) get short shrift, while layer upon layer of bureaucrats and constrictive rules prevent the institutions from being as effective as they could be.

Takes some serious leadership to blast through all that... question is, how do you choose? Change agents? Those who appeal to all audiences (nearly impossible)? How do you attract the leaders you need? And once you do, how do you keep the "system" from sucking them into expending all their energy into just maintaining the status quo?

But I believe the Ph.D. you're working on is dedicated to making a difference in this area. To that, I raise a toast.
3/10/2008 6:10 PM

Anonymous said...
Casey, before one starts shaming anyone else, it is important to note that x4mr did a much more accurate job of relaying the comments of Mr. Meyers and the context from which it was said than the newspapers did. It was directly related to communities of color.

I appreciate that you know Mr. Myers much better than most, however, at best the comment was badly timed or insensitive. Perhaps he didn't mean it? Perhaps he regrets it? Those might be your instincts since you know him, but for the rest of us, we have to take what we hear and read at face value. I'm not playing the race card. It was already played and we mustn't ignore it.

I, too, am Swedish and an educator. The comment should bother anyone regardless of their ethnicity. It sounds familiar to stereotypical comments that have been made for years. Since you know him, Casey, you may afford him a "pass" on this one, but for those of us that don't, for those of us that work with students everyday, we must be critical of words and attitudes such as these. I will not shame you for defending your friend, but you must respect the views and histories of others who have been hurt by those from the past with similar ideologies.
3/10/2008 7:26 PM

Anonymous said...
It takes someone with a BIG heart to manage TUSD, and NOT a corporate business man. Our school district is diverse and has a unique student population. We should embrace those programs in our district that are helping meet the needs of those students, families, and the community of Tucson!
3/10/2008 10:26 PM

Kat said...
The appointment of this man who is clearly out of touch with the realities of what exactly "culture" means, is another reprehensible example of TUSD's willingness to yet again sell out our children to corporate interests. I want the members of my child's school board to be educators NOT unqualified members of corporate America, who continue to perpetuate at the highest levels of society racism and ignorance. This has no place in our schools!
3/11/2008 5:13 PM

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Solid Financial Path

Tucson, Arizona. TREO's annual report is available at its web site. The reader can verify the italics from the report here (see page six).

Revenue and expenditures for FY 07 were $4.6 million and $4.2 million, respectively, increasing net assets 51% from the prior year. This was the result of realizing 98% of budgeted revenues and aggressively managing expenses at 82% of budget projections.

City Subsidy: $1.978M
County Subsidy: $1.15M
Corporate Donations (TEP, Raytheon, Click, etc.): $598,000
Company Services: $506,000
Strategic Planning (?): $276,000
Ticket Sales for Luncheons, Dinners: $92,000

The city subsidy included $100,000 for SAIAT and $30,000 for Goodwill Industries. TREO kept every penny of both. The county subsidy included $142,500 for SAIAT. TREO kept $32,500 for itself.

Of the $400,000 positive cash flow reported, $162,500 came from withholding funds allotted for other agencies. Over forty percent of TREO's gain for FY 2007 resulted from taking funds from other organizations. From the report: This was the result of realizing 98% of budgeted revenues and aggressively managing expenses at 82% of budget projections. How to cut a budget 18%: Keep the money you were budgeted to pay to others.

Snell's letter documenting the seizing of SAIAT's funding.

They call it aggressively managing expenses. I call it stealing.

TREO's report asserts: In the second year of operation, TREO’s financial performance continues to be exceptional.

Overall, TREO is on a solid financial path.


Sunday, March 09, 2008


Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables) wrote and directed the experimental film Redacted, an almost unwatchable and deeply disturbing piece about the events surrounding the very factual Mahmudiyah Killings where US soldiers raped a fourteen year old girl, set her on fire, and killed her entire family including her five year old sister. The astute quickly recognize they are watching cinema from the edge with massive doses of meta-content. Quoting filmjack3 at IMDB:

like Godard with his video experiments, Redacted is about its subject but it's also about process.

Like Blair Witch Project, we're seeing things "as-they-happen" by the view-point of a camera that a soldier, Angel, is carrying and using as an in to get into film school someday...De Palma's story indicts the whole process of viewing things through the filter of the lens...there are moments when the characters realize that they're on video, and suddenly they either get irate and continue acting as themselves, or they start to posture for the camera...we get the messiness of raw camera-work from the soldier, the embedded journalists, the news media covering the story, web-casts obviously out of you-tube, and a French documentary crew doing a film on the group of soldiers covering the checkpoint.

The technique is almost a comment on itself, and it's one of the curious ideas behind the experiment of Redacted that makes it interesting. We know that when a security camera or when Angel's camera put on a seat meant to be shut off captures objectively what's going on - like the "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" scene or the plot to go after the family. But there's an inverse to this as well since De Palma is filming this with a script and with actors (who arguably are good at being naturalistic two-dimensional soldiers), since there is a stylization, yet without calling attention to the self-consciousness the audience feels during this.

The film ranks among the most brutal yet about the humanitarian crisis created by the war and the sheer degree of suffering and carnage it has created. Those wanting a taste of Iraq that will not be served on mainstream media as well as a trip into new cinematic terrain may want to take a look.

Those having seen Jarhead or Home of the Brave will find this work cuts far closer to the day-to-day, minute-to-minute gritty experience of reality. You feel like you are there. The film is the first I've seen that shows extended footage of a blog, staying still on the computer for a over a minute while it plays a video. De Palma intentionally gives the viewer time to digest the surrounding blog content, posted by a soldier's wife so he can look at material about his family. Think Web 2.0 meets Blair Witch in Iraq. Prepare to be outraged and disturbed.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

SAIAT Associate

Tucson, Arizona. As I was leaving the cigar shop Friday afternoon, a prior SAIAT associate (will remain unnamed) approached the store, someone for whom I have a great deal of respect. He is one of the sharpest people I've met in this town. He produces results. I had not seen him since resigning from SAIAT last May. We started chatting and he offered to buy me another smoke, "Pick whatever you want."

Oh, twist my arm. I'd already had a cigar, so a Spellbound would have been too much. I chose the VSG Belicoso No. 1. He had a Spellbound. We enjoyed our cigars. He turned to me, "Who's Cigar Man?"

As much I wanted to tell him, I kept my promise that I would tell no one. (I have a thing about my word.) While not as involved with the local shenanigans as Cigar Man, he had some interesting news. He has read most of Something Else, and his opinion of TREO matches mine. He told me that when Roach and his overpaid goon squad found out about Something Else, it caused quite the ruckus at 120 N. Stone. Apparently they entertained the scenario that a certain blogger might go postal and invade their facility armed like Neo and Trinity in The Matrix on a pest control mission.

They either hired or seriously considered hiring armed guards to protect their quivering booties. Haaagh!! Huwaaaaagh!!

That's hilarious and ridiculous. I said that I wouldn't. That means I won't, period. What happened at a certain place and time decades ago will remain there forever, but suffice to say that if I were going to do anything, I would not preface it with a large publication articulating outrage towards my would be victims. I would not link to said publication at what is usually ranked among the top ten most influential political blogs in the state.

The articulate use words, not guns. Those who use guns don't talk let alone write. The Associate and I laughed about it. He suggested they perhaps consider me a psychopath. Everyone knows where everyone lives. With hindsight, I could have had a lot of fun with this. Send them all a copy of The Killer Inside Me at their home addresses. A week later I could have dropped by the homes at 3 AM and dumped cigarette butts around their porch and bedroom windows. Someone must have been standing there all night!

Huh. It NEVER occurred to me that they would feel physically threatened. I guess making a living by screwing others can make a person paranoid.

I told him about "Economic Development Guy" who claims the city council (not TREO and PCC - which is Cigar Man's assertion) instructed TREO to take SAIAT's subsidy. Until shown otherwise, we consider the CM claim more probable.

TREO has slit the throats of quite a few agencies, naturally helping themselves to whatever the agency received in public subsidies. TREO inherited some city and county OED functions that actually (believe it or not) did involve doing something, a problematic notion. City OED wrote job training grants, connected businesses, did Business Link, created some training programs, and some other items. A certified ANUS knows the importance of avoiding accountability. Responsibility has to be unloaded on others. They tried to dump the training grants on SAIAT, telling me I could make $500,000 charging for services city OED did for free (Imagine my enthusiasm.) I agreed to do them so long as they didn't butcher our funding.

They didn't like that.

They are trying to unload work on others as well. The Associate shared with me the frustration of those eager to find falsehoods in the story. They can't. The guy knows a lot, and not just about SAIAT. Several approached him, "Is Something Else true?" His response: "Everything I have read is accurate."

Armed guards. I can just see some potential company visiting Tucson, "What are they for?"

Friday, March 07, 2008

Eggplant Appointments - Tucson Style

(Patricia Lopez) Tucson, Arizona. The board of the Tucson Unified School District is in the process of selecting its next Superintendent. I encourage the reader to consider the following four resumes. The proper understanding occurs when they are read from the lens of "Who are their friends?".

Patricia Lopez, ED.D.
Deputy Superintendent, Tucson Unified School District

Delfino Alemán, Jr., PhD
Area Superintendent, San Diego Unified School District

Elizabeth Celania-Fagan, ED.D.
Associate Superintendent, Des Moines Independent School District

Richard T. Myers
IBM Retiree, Community Volunteer

(Delfino Alemán) If you don't read the resumes, you will not understand this post. Who do the above know? Still, the astute can notice something before reading the resumes. Let's say the community wants fresh blood from outside the system, which eliminates the very qualified Patricia Lopez. The argument for a new, outsider perspective has merit. That leaves an obvious choice, Delfino Alemán, a highly experienced bi-lingual education professional with a proven track record running a huge district in San Diego. The choice is a no-brainer. He will make a huge difference. Next.

Well, not exactly. As Cigar Man has eloquently noted, results and performance have nothing to do with anything. Eggplant appointed no one based on qualifications or experience. He appointed loyal, politically aligned insiders. Both Lopez and Alemán, the most qualified for the slot, have been eliminated. That leaves:

(Elizabeth Celania-Fagan)
Celania-Fagan. Education: Doctorate in educational leadership
Myers. Education: Bachelor's in engineering

Hmmm. Who should run the county's largest school district? While not Lopez or Alemán, Celania-Fagan has a doctorate in educational leadership and a track record in schools at various levels including the front of the classroom. Myers, however, has absolutely nothing regarding education in his background. He has distinguished himself as quite successful in chasing and catching a buck, but the man has never taught a K-12 class or served as a principal (requires commitment to children, not one's personal fortune), never taken a single course in education, and never run a training organization.

The education community has a thing about certification. I would love to teach those kids math, but I can't without certification or concurrent activity to gain certification. To be a principal, one must have the associated certification. State law prohibits someone without superintendent certification from evaluating, disciplining, or other activity regarding certified officers in the system. Myers would have to find certified puppets to implement anything. Sound familiar?

Of course Myers is going to get the job.

(Richard Myers) We are talking about a prescription that fuels rebellion and a union management relationship fiasco. Teachers are unionized. Does IBM or Bourn have unionized workers? Why stop with TUSD? Let's put someone who never entered a hot building or held a hose in charge of the Tucson Fire Department. Let's put an investment banker in charge of Tucson Medical Center. Let's make a heart surgeon our next Attorney General. Let's install Wesley Mouch as Chief of Police.

In its 2/26/08 piece, the Tucson Citizen was kind, quoting Myers as saying student achievement is mostly a "societal problem." They didn't include, "Part of our challenge is that we have 'cultural groups' with families that do not appreciate education."

Qualifications, the welfare of the students, or having the most functional school district possible have nothing to do with it. The $200K+ slot is payback for helping make RTA happen.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Eighth Graders Demand Math

Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona Daily Star had a piece Wednesday about middle school children staging a protest for a permanent math teacher that can teach them the skills they need to pass the AIMS test and move forward into high school math.

They are eighth graders: basic algebra.

The story caused my eyes to well up. Put me in front of these kids for an hour a day, just one hour, and they would sail past their peers in less than three months. I know the space between almost every mental state and a strong command of algebra, and by space I also refer to the self-doubt, fear and anxiety, reaction to initial failure, the struggle before the bulb flashes, and the joy of each insight. Give me an hour a day for a year, and I kid the reader not, every motivated student would sail past twelfth grade equivalence fully prepared for trigonometry and calculus. The reader has my word this is no smoke from a cockroach. I've done it over and over and over with the terrified and broken mathophobes some of whom throw up before the first class and enter the room trembling. I do not exaggerate.

I'm tempted to call the school. I have the Class One Fingerprint Clearance Card, although it's expired. I have community college teacher certification but not the K-12 blessing. A bureaucratic maze stands between me and those kids, and I have serious work to do regarding financial aid for higher education. The photograph of children protesting for decent math instruction just kills me.

I posted about a meeting with my good friend Bill awhile ago. He wants me to join him as a fellow course leader bringing such distinctions into high school classrooms starving for leadership and instructors who have what it takes to transform lives and make a powerful contribution to participants. He gave me permission to use his real name. It's Bob, not Bill. He has a wife named Donna. Some Tucson Democrats may have heard of her. Great people.

Bob was a participant in my LDP Group 7, the "before the bulb" terrain that almost killed me.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Meltdown Scenario Resurfaces

I don't belong to an organized political party. I'm a Democrat.
Will Rogers

Nothing can screw up the Democrats like a Democrat. The White House has been laid at their feet on a silver platter, and the odds that they will blow it just tripled. Occasionally, like the last election in Arizona's CD-8 and LD-26, we see the GOP turn nut job and lose seats they had held for years. Yesterday's results, as the reader knows, are terrible for the Democratic party.

Obama --- 91,829 votes 59% 9 delegates
Clinton - 59,854 votes 39% 6 delegates

Rhode Island
Clinton - 106,471 votes 58% 6 delegates
Obama --- 73,609 votes 40% 6 delegates

Clinton - 1,207,806 votes 54% 74 delegates
Obama --- 979,025 votes 44% 64 delegates

Clinton - 1,453,139 votes 51% 78 delegates
Obama --- 1,354,672 votes 48% 70 delegates

Barack Obama is holding his own in delegate count, and last night's results have bifurcated the party between young/new (Obama) and the old establishment (Clinton). I understand the new wanting the flush the toilet. The old are afraid of change. We have the ancient, ultra-establishment McCain, representing the about to die oldest candidate in the history of the country, against an also lifelong politician with "35 years of experience" as the wife of a politician. In fact Mrs. Experience has only ONE term of elected office over her young, truly fresh thinking opponent.

The Democrats were handed millions of young and excited new entrants rallying around an inspiring candidate. They squander this energy to pay homage to an inferior insider with a smaller chance of winning in the general election. Pathetic.

A race between Obama and McCain is a cakewalk and sets up the blue tsunami scenario that crucifies the GOP. A race between Clinton and McCain is a horse race between ugly horses, two candidates that keep us in the war and do nothing for 350 million Americans and everything for a few fat pigs. McCain openly declares he isn't going to change a thing. Clinton claims she will but it's nonsense. Obama is a change agent intimidating the status quo. Who is the status quo? Exceptions exist, but all you have to do is look at their age. Over 50, Hillary. Under 50, Obama. Rich and established, Hillary. Clueless and gullible, Hillary. Intelligent and educated, Obama.

Eggplant endorsed John McCain today. Wow, that's a real booster shot for the geezer crowd. Let's fire up the draft, bomb Iran, and take over the world.

A Clinton presidency will be no less divisive than Eggplant's. At least she's smarter than Eggplant. Then again, the average garbage disposal and most slices of cheese are smarter than Eggplant. I'm depressed. The idiots will now drag this nomination out at huge cost and bloodletting and forward a wounded survivor against an opponent they could have trounced without breaking a sweat. What a disappointment.