Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lines and Walls

Once upon a time a little boy realized one morning that a spoon, the same spoon he had been using forever, was smaller. He looked at the bowl. It was smaller, too.
"You’re growing," his mother smiled.

In his bedroom, the two-year-old boy stared at the wall.
He pushed his nose against it and made a mark.
The next morning, nose and mark still matched.

Mother had the boy stand against the wall and carefully drew a line aligned with the top of his head.
She dated the line.

Dated lines climbed his bedroom wall.
Most of his friends started lines in their rooms.
All marks climbed the walls until they stopped.
They disappeared under the paintbrushes of new owners or parents converting bedrooms to guestrooms.

When he had a daughter, with boyish enthusiasm he stood his little girl against the wall.
Over the years he would look at her dated lines. He liked drawing the lines on the wall.
Her lines too stopped and disappeared under the paintbrushes of new owners.

One night he realized he was still drawing lines on walls.
Everything was so much clearer back then.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Dissent, Disgust, and a Tsunami

Ann Wright's Dissent: Voices of Conscience acknowledges the efforts of numerous courageous individuals speaking out against the atrocities of the current administration in the White House and its dark reach across the globe. She mentions Craig Murray, who leaked documents revealing horrific human rights abuses by coalition ally Uzbekistan. Many officials resigned in the run up to the Iraq war, including Ambassador John Brady Kiesling and Rand Beers who noted the administration's obstinacy before the invasion of Iraq, reinforcing Bob Woodward's State of Denial regarding the sheer arrogance and incompetence of the Bush administration, fortified by Woodward's follow on Broken Government.

Wright mentions Bunnatine Greenhouse, who blew the lid off a massive government contracting scandal, military officials like General Eric Shinseki (ENTIRELY vindicated when the overrule of his judgment produced the current fiasco), and many others who demonstrated the courage to voice their convictions. Wright notes: From desk jockeys to high-ranking diplomats, these patriotic men and women share one common trait: a willingness to stand up and speak truth to power. By exposing policies and actions that run counter to the best interests of the nation and its people, they elucidate why dissent is crucial to a thriving democracy.

We also have sheer incompetence. The Coleen Rowley story briefly grabbed a few headlines, showing the unconscionable inability of the national security apparatus to effectively follow pre 911 leads in a politicized environment. The nitty gritty details of her documents are reinforced by the analysis and interpretation of Richard Clarke in both his 2004 Against All Enemies and as well as the more recent Your Government Failed You.

We also have Rove's politicization of the justice department as described in Rove's gestapo executed New Mexico US Attorney David Iglesias's In Justice: Inside the Scandal That Rocked the Bush Administration which is the tip of the berg.
The administration has hi-jacked the Republican party, and naturally, we have Republicans speaking out, from prior EPA Head Christy Todd-Whitman's It's My Party Too (all but declares the party takeover by du Fuhrer Eggplant and his jack booted thugs) and Lawrence Wilkerson's They Stole My Party to Paul O’Neill's The Price of Loyalty. Dissent of any kind is grounds for any retaliation, as Joe Wilson writes in The Politics of Truth. Bush/Cheney will go as far as the treason of leaking the identities of CIA operatives (a death sentence), an act perpetrated against Wilson's wife, Valeria Plame. Former top Bush political advisor Matthew Dowd discusses why a party once deeply loyal to U.S. President George W. Bush is now coming apart at the seams.

Greg Thielmann, in charge of analyzing the Iraqi weapons threat for Powell's own intelligence bureau, has flat out stated that the administration deliberately misled the world about weapons in Iraq. David Kay reinforced Thielmann's assertions and recently added that the chest thumping about Iran's nuclear threat is equally ludicrous. David Kay was replaced by Charles Duelfer, credited with the The Duelfer Report. Still no weapons.

Jay Garner wanted to quickly hand power over to Iraqis after the overthrow of Saddam, holding elections within a few months. The White House didn't like this, so they replaced him with Paul Bremer, more trained as a chef than anything else, the man blamed for the disastrous dismantling the Iraqi army and the firing of numerous school teachers and other officials (a blunder of untold proportions). Paul has written My Year in Iraq.

Paul D. Eaton, in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004, was calling for Rumsfeld's resignation long before it occurred. Now, General Anthony Zinni, author of The Battle for Peace and A General Speaks Out, considered by some as a possible Obama VP candidate, adds to the growing chorus against the administration's ineptitude and failure to understand anything about anything.

Others speaking out include Sibel Edmonds, an Iranian woman with the courage to note the deliberate cover-up of 911 investigation evidence (to protect Saudis), Karen Kwiatkowski (check that one out for a warm fuzzy), John Batiste, and Andrew Wilkie of Australia.

Turning to the religious charade, David Kuo's Tempting Faith and John Danforth's Faith in Politics each portray deep concerns about the GOP’s manipulation of religion. Fortifying the views expressed by John DiIulio. Danforth expresses dismay at his party for straying from traditional Republican principles to pursue an agenda of "wedge" issues exploiting the religious right.

If the center does not hold, everything falls apart.

Senate GOP Retirements (so far):
Wayne Allard (R) of Colorado
Larry Craig (R) of Idaho
Chuck Hagel (R) of Nebraska
Pete Domenici (R) of New Mexico
John Warner (R) of Virginia

Senate Leader Trent Lott (R) and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert(R) have resigned. Democrats won both special elections to replace them.

Twenty-five House Republicans are retiring in 2008.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Remorse Fuels Confession

The press is currently making a bit of a hullabaloo about former Bush insider Scott Maclellan's new book, What Happened? Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception.
From the book:

The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

There was one problem. It was not true.

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

McClellend elaborates further, and former Bush confidant Dan Bartlett has expressed surprise and tried to cast doubt on MCClelland's book, as has other Eggplant slaves or masters, such as Karl Rove, who compared McClellan to a "left-wing blogger."

Trent Duffy worked as McClellan's deputy for more than two years, said, "Here's a man who owes his whole career to George W. Bush, and here he's stabbing him in the back and no one knows why. He appears to be dancing on his political grave for cash."

Wrong. He is dancing on his political grave for the salvation of his soul as a human being. He is not the first nor will he be the last. In Wiser in Battle, published earlier this month, retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez accuses Bush and his top advisers of "gross incompetence and dereliction of duty" for their handling of the Iraq war. Sanchez also details the cynical use of the Iraq War for political gain in Washington.

Both books, written far later and more with the turning tide than Richard Clarke's courageous 2004 Against All Enemies that shows the woeful bungling from the word go, demonstrate the need of those ranging from the technically involved, like Clarke, to the innermost co-complicitors, caught up in the maelstrom just like those caught up during Nazi Germany and Holocaust, to come clean, to purge themselves of the guilt they feel, or at least the shame and the need to take responsibility for the part they played in the atrocities committed by the most malignant and incompetent administration in US history.

We also have David Kuo's take on the manipulation of the religious for political gain without the slightest authentic commitment to the principles they are supposed to support and represent.

As history ruthlessly turns up the light on a brutal regime that never stopped campaigning and never started governing, we will see common themes that involve the politicization of everything from the justice department to scientific research to federal assistance programs and even the manipulation of the media itself.

Add McClelland's book to a list that will grow of revelations as an increasing number of the guilty find it necessary to acknowledge their roles in the disaster.

TIF for TAT - Rio Never

Oakland, CA. One might imagine how it occurs from a coffee shop in downtown Piedmont (nestled inside Oakland) to read a story about Tucson's yet again delay of a downtown project (Hein Slams Brakes..) that is part of the Rio "Nuevo Gonna Happen" TIF for TAT fiasco already captured at this blog. Yesterday, after spending some time on the Stanford University campus, my daughter, friend, and I walked through downtown Palo Alto, a single block of which (two at most) has the retail horsepower of Park Mall. I won't even mention the smorgasbord of restaurants.

In Tucson, local sentiments regarding Rio Nuevo run about the same as they do for economic development (worse than transportation). At the Citizen, a poll currently shows less than 15% of respondents have confidence in the plan now touted for 2011.

This points to a little more than meets the eye. The days of Hein's putting the brakes on the antics of the Keene/Thoreson/Shelko dance have passed. Now Hein seems to be blaming consultants for somehow misrepresenting reality (nonsense). Remember the Congress Street Stakeholders and the Tucson Downtown Alliance? Both emphasized RETAIL development to generate future TIF revenue. Then the cloth descended. Let's "expand and consolidate" into larger do nothing groups like the Tucson Downtown Partnership and the Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities. Let's pay suits six figure sums to 1) squander millions on gloss and furniture, 2) fly to resorts at other cities, 3) take the funding of other non-profits.

What kind of agency pockets funding intended for another and brags about it as financial performance? (What financial performance? Both DTP and TREO live on handouts.) TREO took money from an agency that improved the skills of the workforce (SAIAT), helped struggling tiny businesses (MAC), and crippled children (Goodwill). What's next, the food bank?

Back to Mission San Agustín. Rio Nuevo was approved in 1999, and we are still mostly talking and planning. Welcome to the world of cloth, where people get paid lots of money to 1) do nothing, 2) create a vacuum so that someone else steps up and accomplishes something, and 3) take full credit for it when something does get accomplished. I don't know names, but I bet there are some frustrated individuals in both the private sector and among those who actually get the phenomenal possibilities for this town being squandered.

Maybe the Arizona Historical Society won't be able to take it any more, raise their own funds, produce their own design, and make something happen. Maybe the University of Arizona will finally sigh and get its own Science Museum built. Perhaps if the cloth can hold enough meetings, conduct enough studies, and create enough gloss, people that actually do something will relieve them of the need to earn their salaries.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Liberal Land

Oakland, CA. A certain blogger is learning that any notion that he is a liberal completely eclipses certain components of the possible elements of the full sense of the distinction. Now in a very different environment, I can share new items some perhaps familiar to the reader and some perhaps not. What follows is not meant to criticize, while some opinions are expressed. The following components of a new way of living have been introduced:

1. Shoes do not belong in the house. They are removed at the porch outdoors.
2. There are no paper towels. Cloth towels are used and washed with detergent meeting biodegradable standards.
3. Recycling consists not of one bin, but four, each for different types of materials.
4. I do not recognize most of the food, while it is quite good. Different colored chunks of tasty items are intermixed with what I think is rice, but sometimes other material that is not rice but similar to rice. I don’t think chickens or cows are involved. Cereal is consumed with yogurt.
5. Speaking of food, the residue left on the plate is not to be placed in the trash. Instead, one scrapes all remnants into a bucket full of a disgusting accumulation of plate residue, items discarded during meal preparation, and god knows what.
6. This bucket is emptied onto a compost pile in the back yard.
7. The toilet is only flushed under certain circumstances. On other circumstances, it is left to “mellow.” (disgusting)
8. One opens and closes the drapes in the living room in accordance with a particular schedule to properly “sun the rug.”
9. There is coffee, but there is more tea, lots of tea, and lots of ways of making tea, and lots of ways of drinking tea.
10. Repeat the above for juice.
11. People hug more often. When I look at people, they look back with actual eye contact that persists. People smile at me. I really like it.
12. There is no big screen tv (oh, the humanity!). The only tv is a very small one in the bedroom that is never watched.
13. People have musical instruments, but what really blew me away is that they actually play them.
14.The plants have names. The cat has a small stuffed pet, which it occasionally likes to bathe in the toilet, which may or may not be flushed, so one tries to kip the lid closed.
15. They have USborne books, Putumayo music, and asked if my coffee was Fair Trade.
16. They refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in normal conversation.

Somehow I don't think Dick Cheney has ever read or even heard of a Universal Bill of Rights.

Liquid to Vapor to Concrete

Spent the weekend at the Land, and the experience at 47 differs from 30, the seventeen years producing a deeper perception and a willingness to permit certain elucidations to penetrate more deeply. The ability to contrast the two (47 vs 30) provided a quality of understanding regarding ego and the nature of what it suppresses to protect itself.

At these events we participate in special dances designed to produce certain results, and on several occasions my eyes and nose became a mess. I could still dance, but I had to move between pieces (instead of remaining still) to manage the embarrassment as well as I could with my sleeve.

After Saturday's lunch, a piano player performed. When she finished, a room of dozens sat in motionless silence for several minutes, digesting both meals. If one were made fully aware of the value of a moment of one's life, the question, "What do you want to do with the next moment?" becomes overwhelming. For some, the idea that we are so automatic and often run on autopilot via countless habits and programmed responses makes the question disturbing. Simply interrupting the cruise control (you can't possibly believe the chatterbox inside your head isn't 99% re-runs and learned reactions to a set of events) and consciously taking the wheel represents the extraordinary, and even further, if you get there, where to drive?

On Saturday, a woman arrived that I had never seen before. I found her very compelling. She has lived in Yugoslavia, India, the Middle East, and traveled to many other places. After dinner, in a place where I could taste the reality of being alive and the value of the next moment, I sat on a balcony overlooking the mountains at twilight, consciously choosing to feed my life with the experience of leaning over the balcony, seeing the trees below and hearing the wind blow through them.

She approached me on the balcony without speaking. I smiled and motioned for her to join me. We sat together unwilling to let the two machines babble their assessments of the right things to say. After about ten minutes, my eyes and nose did it again, and I almost broke the silence to apologize. When I turned to her, she was wiping her face. We stayed until it was dark. That half hour is one of the best experiences of my life.

Then I returned to Oakland for a different appointment.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Tale of Two Regionalisms

I recently met GOP candidate Joe Higgins, who is challenging Pima County Supervisor Ann Day. Joe wanted to discuss various issues, SAIAT, and the notion of the employee development resource center TREO destroyed. His candidacy is no joke to the consternation of some. Joe has Web 2.0 awareness beyond that of his opponent. He has a web site and has posted a series of youtube videos online. One of them posits a favorable view of "regionalism" and mentions TREO as a positive example. Joe speaks favorably of "coming together" and eliminating turf war and duplication.

When we met I told Joe how TREO hijacked over $200 thousand in funding allotted for other agencies to pad its own pockets fully knowing one of them would have to close. While organizing into larger groups to increase efficiency and reduce duplication makes sense in theory, in reality ending turf wars by giving all of the turf to a slab of swine does not serve progress. Forget about SAIAT or MAC and just consider Goodwill. Who takes $30 thousand allotted for Goodwill, puts it in the bank, and brags about the move as improving financial performance? SCUM.

I emailed Joe Higgins, and to his credit he replied quickly. It immediately became apparent that we live in different contexts, his involving fragmented jurisdictions (Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana, Pima County, etc.) while mine applies to non-profit agencies. The TREO (a non-profit) reference confused me. He is calling for the different jurisdictions to get at the same table, not a bad idea. Again we face semantics. What is "regionalism"? Clearly the need for greater communication, collaboration, cooperation, and organization exists. Clearly turf wars erupt. His vision is probably spot on.

However, my frame on non-profits sees clothmeisters commandeer and usurp entirely for personal gain and agenda. Who expanded the perfectly functional Tucson Downtown Alliance to create the larger cloth driven Downtown Tucson Partnership? Why do more when you can do less at twice the price? Who was served by that move?

Consider the non-profit agencies assisting people who find themselves in troubled times. They include Goodwill Industries, The Brewster Center, Chicanos Por La Causa, The Community Food Bank, Tucson Urban League, Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and others. Well, they are all just helping people, right? What a duplication of effort. They all probably have their own accountant. What we would save if we created the Tucson Regional Assistance Authority (TRAA).

Let’s shut down Goodwill, The Brewster Center, Chicano por la Causa, The Community Food Bank. Get rid of all of them and create one "authority" that will spend six figure sums to create a fancy logo, web site, and buy ridiculously expensive furniture for a dozen do nothing VP's that sit in meetings with overpaid consultants to produce pamphlets. Those battered women can just go to Pima Community College.

Think I exaggerate?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pulling a Matthews

I read Chris Matthews book Kennedy and Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America a few years ago and found it to be a fascinating read. The reader may or may not like Matthews performance on news television, but the guy is no idiot. An event flying across the airwaves and blogs (now here) is Chris's fabulous unmasking of the ignorance and bankruptcy lying just under the surface of Eggplant and his associates.

The above video should be mandatory viewing for the country. It exposes the path ahead and beautifully points to strategies and tactics all campaigns should distinguish in their upcoming elections. Kevin James bellows nonsense and asserts Barack Obama would do just what British Prime Minister Chamberlain did in 1938 when confronted with Nazi Germany. Matthews asks, "What did Chamberlain do?"


A bit of a semantics guy, I have already written how those behind the vegetable-in-chief have become masters at shaping the rhetoric and dialog into vague catch phrases and exchanges intentionally designed to obfuscate reality and manipulate the duller minds in the electorate.

Semantics is the study of meaning. One of my favorites on the subject, Stuart Chase's The Tyranny of Words investigated the clever use of semantics in the speeches of Adolf Hitler. Remember Hitler took power in 1933 and WAS ELECTED. The people loved him for years. Nazi Germany crafted the art masterfully. Historiographer John Lukas's work The Hitler of History presents a compelling investigation into how history still hasn't figured out how to process the person. Remember, Hitler was a for real human being. We STILL cannot discuss the individual with academic rigor.

Consider the factual reality contained in the following phrases or words:

-We're making progress
-Soft on Terror
-Cut and Run
-Homeland Security
-The American People
-Some are saying the government should decide your health care
-Some like to think we live in a world where America doesn't have any enemies

The answer? None.

Such language is completely empty if one requires rigorous discourse in reality. A conversation grounded in reality cites facts. As already noted here and elsewhere, 2008 is going to be the butt ugliest primeval political equivalent of a bloodbath, especially at the federal level, and the race for president will go nucular.

I'd like to see the whole country rise to a level where it "pulls a Matthews."

It's time to "pull a Matthews" on these gasbags and ask them WTF they are talking about. What facts support the assertion that Democrats "appease" or Obama is not "patriotic"? Where's the data that supports the assertion that electing Democrats raises the odds of another terrorist attack?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New TUSD Superintendent Welcomed

(Dr. Elizabeth Celenia-Fagan) Tucson, Arizona. On Wednesday, May 14, at the University of Arizona the education community of Tucson formally welcomed the new TUSD Superintendent, Dr. Elizabeth Celenia–Fagin. Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias and Tucson Council Member Karin Uhlich attended, as did Dr. Ron Marx, the UA’s Dean of the College of Education. The elected officials were not addressed and did not speak, which shocked me. (At cloth events, all elected officials are duly recognized and usually, but not always, given the chance to say a few words.) This was not a cloth event. Almost everyone in the room was actively involved in the nuts and bolts hard reality of education and the challenges involved. I had the experience of being in a room with the people that "get it."

The group consisted of individuals with very diverse racial backgrounds, remarkably so and I am not just talking about Hispanic. It looked like an international event with us Anglos in the minority. I put my blogger name under my real name, and one individual approached, "Great job with the blog. Keep it up."

I would place odds quite high that those in the room overwhelmingly endorsed Dr. Celenia-Fagan over a distinguished cloth leader that likes to attend board meetings and never stood at the front of a room of kids for more than an hour, let alone run a school. A school district? Clothmeisters graduate from a different program featuring another expertise:

1. How to sound informed and important while saying nothing
2. Public flattery and ego inflation
3. Cloth Dress Code
4. Taking credit for results produced by others
5. Taking credit for what would happen anyway
6. Avoiding accountability
7. Insuring mishaps (plant closures, losing museums, baseball teams, etc.) reflect on factors beyond one's control
8. Destroying the efforts of others that produce embarrassing comparisons

I must acknowledge the cloth have it down to an art. They make serious money for the above. The cloth actually do have a leadership program designed to polish the above skills. Once you have the distinctions, you can tell who has graduated from the program.

Yesterday was not cloth, and it felt nice to be in a room of individuals committed to effective action that makes a real difference for real people. I had the chance to meet our new superintendent and wish her the best of luck. While I'm not a K-12 person, it all starts in kindergarten or earlier, and K-12 is a critical partner of the higher education community. Students unprepared (not only academically but in many ways) cripple the system. Perhaps less dramatically discussed than health care, our education system is deteriorating. I don't know how to get rid of cloth or solve all of the issues listed at my prior rant, but people do exist that care and understand the need to deliver real results.

I was reminded of Ayn Rand's masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged, which probably offers the finest distinction ever of the beauty of seeing a competent individual with a solid commitment producing solid results. After so much self-serving greed and arrogance, how refreshing it would be to see the country and local community start to shift towards the adept service of everyone.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mississippi Tsunami

(Travis Childers) Mississippi held a special election, and Democrat Travis Childers defeated Republican Greg Davis on solid GOP turf. Most analysts considered the race a leading indicator of events coming in November. Much to a certain blogger's delight:

"No one could have imagined the tsunami that just crashed on Republicans in Mississippi," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in an interview after the victory. "There is no district that is safe for Republican candidates."

The 2008 election will show this country its arse, as West Virginia did yesterday, a bunch of old, uneducated boneheads voted for Hillary Clinton admittedly with racist motivations. McCain is going to lose, but not after some howling and foaming at the mouth that Obama and the Democrats stand for dissolving the military, dismantling our weapons, and surrendering our first born to Al Queda. You think I exaggerate? Wait three months. Allegations attempting to cast doubt on Obama’s patriotism will blend with the fanned flames of racism to place a microphone before the mouths of the most Neanderthal elements of the country.

Regarding Congress, in both chambers the GOP has far more incumbents tossing in the towel, and the DCCC is substantially outperforming the NRCC in fundraising. The GOP and its corporate whores have thrown the country into a tailspin on almost every issue from a disastrous war to unconscionable international arrogance to unprecedented deficit spending for corrupt companies and war profiteers. The White House has implemented dysfunctional incompetence at all levels of federal government and so politicized the Department of Justice that it has become an attack dog for a criminal named Karl Rove who laughs at the country while he commits blatant contempt of Congress. All national infrastructures without exception including transportation (all of it), education (all of it) and workforce skills, finance, health care, military resources, on and on, have deteriorated to conditions worse (in many cases, far worse) than they were when Eggplant took office.

May Mississippi indeed be a taste of upcoming events. The GOP forwarded and supported the most disastrous presidency in the history of the country. November is the time for them to reap the suffering they have inflicted on 99% of the nation, and worse, the debt and suffering they have made inevitable for millions of Americans who have not yet been born.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tippers and Change

(Donna Branch-Gilby) Tucson, Arizona. Last month I wrote The Tipping Point and also discussed The Tippers as the set of individuals starting to find a voice regarding their frustration with community leadership. The Tucson community is growing past the one million mark, and an increasing number of people are starting to question how about fifteen or so people (most not elected) run the place. That's right. Fifteen people. They aren't difficult to identify. They like to sit on boards, chat profusely, feel important, and accomplish surprisingly little.

The distinction "tipper" in this context involves the first step, speaking out. Some, such as GOP Committee Man Bruce Ash, send emails and speak on radio shows. Some post on blogs. That it is easy to sit and pass judgment is duly noted, but as those who have seen "Network" know, step one is yelling.

(Barney Brenner) Some do actually bite the bullet and acknowledge the expression, "If you want something done right.."

They run for office. Just looking at the county board of supervisors for now, from the Democrats we have Donna Branch-Gilby challenging status quo county district 3 incumbent Sharon Bronson. One of the fundamental "tipping points" for Donna involved the ridiculous election integrity fiasco. Blogger Michael Bryan was all over the nonsense where county chieftain Huckelberry, whose administration is strangely accountable for county election machines and vote counts, didn't want to release information despite the inconvenient law that required him to do so. Bronson backed the administration's plan to refuse to release the data. Why? Well, ask Sharon. Donna's doing more than asking.

(Joe Higgins) All tippers with whom I have communicated share the common cry for accountability, integrity, and transparency in government. They don't want the tenth floor administrators just doing whatever they feel like. As Policon and others have pointed out, if you look at who sits on the boards of all these alphabet soup organizations like TREO, SALC, the Downtown Tucson Partnership, MTCVB, and so on, you see the same fifteen people.

For the Republicans in county district 3, we have successful businessman Barney Brenner. Ask Barney about getting permits in the county. Barney will have his work cut out for him in the general election regardless of who wins the primary. Speaking of primaries, causing some GOP consternation is another successful businessman, Joe Higgins, challenging county district 1 incumbent Ann Day in the primary. Some have asserted that Joe's motivation has roots tracing to Al Melvin. I am more inclined to think that Joe's motivation traces back to Joe Higgins, but make no mistake, others encouraged him to run, and not Al. County District 1 will elect the Republican, so Joe's prevailing over Ann Day won't disrupt Ray Carroll's widely acknowledged desire for change in the county administration. He is short one vote. While a Democrat, Branch-Gilby is a change agent and not something to chuckle about.

Good luck all.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lightism to Nihilism

My profile's favorite film list is truncated by a 2000 character limit, forcing the exclusion of Rebel without a Cause and also the more thought provoking Philip Kaufman piece, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Properly viewed, the film distinguishes the experience of life from "light" (Daniel Day Lewis) to "heavy" (Juliette Binoche). His freedom from significance, his embrace of life as joy, is too much for her. She leaves him, declaring, "I'm too heavy."

In the final scene, shown below, her transformation is shown as we see her acheive lightness, breaking free from her chains. Kaufman brilliantly flashes ahead to Sabrina receiving a letter about what will occur, perfectly framing the road ahead. Ahh, the richness of experiencing distinction beyond language, which for me is the essence of art.

Light versus heavy indeed, and those with "heavy industry" experience will find themselves sucked into the screen of There Will Be Blood where the gifted Daniel Day Lewis, so weightless in "Unbearable," becomes tonnage itself. Shifting from the spectrum of "light" to "heavy" we have the lens of importance and significance, the faith that one is part a larger context that makes sense and has meaning, that life is worth living and valuable, that investment leads to reward, that hope is not folly. Some have seen how the experience of a certain opposite, the notion that life is utterly empty and meaningless, is in fact liberating and opens up a "lightness" and extraordinary sense of possibility.

Every stick has two ends.

Choose life.
Choose a job.
Choose a career.
Choose a family.
Choose a f***ing big television.
Choose washing machines, cars, and compact disc players and electrical tin openers.

Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance.
Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments.
Choose a starter home.
Choose your friends.

Choose leisure wear and matching luggage.

. . .

Choose your future. Choose life.
But why would I want to do a thing like that?
I chose not to choose life.
I chose Something Else.

And the reasons?
There are no reasons.

The journey along the road motif is also effectively utilized by the closing scene of the Six Feet Under series.

People think it's all about misery and desperation and death and all that shit which is not to be ignored.

But what they forget is the pleasure of it.
Otherwise we wouldn't do it.

We're not that f***ing stupid.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

TIF for TAT Saga Continues

Tucson, Arizona. Remember, in the world of cloth, it's about absorbing, like the horror movie The Blob. After showing the Congress Street Stakeholders the door, cloth meisters SALC and TREO "took over" the existing non-profit Tucson Downtown Alliance to create the Downtown Tucson Partnership. Why? The cloth are like the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Recalcitrant Executive Directors (an idiot running a training institute comes to mind) get their throats cut if they don’t bow to the cloth. Naturally the "new" group needs a new boss at twice the salary.

June 27, 2007: It’s time for action on Rio Nuevo, new Downtown coalition agrees (Andrea Kelly, AZ Daily Star) The newest group of Downtown problem solvers already seems to be willing to accept a mantra of less talk, more action.

"We want to focus on action, not discussion," said Steve Lynn, Tucson Electric Power VP.

"We need to reinforce the consensus that revitalization of Downtown is essential to all of Southern Arizona," said Larry Hecker, who represents TREO on the partnership board
(cloth distilled).

July 9, 2007: 25 DOWNTOWN PROJECTS show promise for Rio Nuevo (Teya Vitu, Tucson Citizen) Teya’s article lists 25 projects under the above headline, correctly noting what the dismissed stakeholders had insisted, "What’s missing is retail, retail, retail." The semantics must be distinguished. He is talking about 25 downtown projects, not Rio Nuevo projects. Cloth meisters have this credit taking down to an art. If Raytheon gets a missile contract Roach holds a press conference.

COMPLETE: We’ve already noted the four RN projects now complete: 1) The TCC Box Office, 2) The Rialto Theater, 3) The Fox Theater, and 4) El Presidio de Tucson.

Regarding the others, wait a minute. 5-Academy Lofts, 6-Ice House Lofts, and 7-Armory Park Del Sol are housing projects (cannot use TIF) outside the RN district. Projects 8-Pennington St. Garage and 9- The Home Depot restoration were already happening anyway and not RN. Projects 10, 11, and 12 are also housing outside RN district and not TIF funded.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: 13) more homes, but RN sold land and built the Avenida del Convento street, 14) Tucson Origins (later), 15) the Post (oh, God), 16) Depot Plaza MLK Apartments (not RN or TIF).

PENDING: 19) Presidio Terrace (Peggy Noonan is suing the city), 20) The Rialto Block Project (a good project, but not RN managed (one reason it’s good)), 21) the Santa Rita Hotel (project dead), 22) the TCC hotel (oh, God, part II), 23) the arena (oh, Jesus), 24) arena extras (mother of Mary), and 25) the 14.3 acres by Tucson Origins.

September 3, 2007: Pima needs good companies and high paying jobs (AZ Daily Star) Over one out of five Arizonans have no health insurance. TREO comments that good companies are looking to relocate where there are high skilled workers. (Would someone please pass the Dramamine?)

September 3, 2007: Downtown hotel, condo, pub project moves ahead (Teya Vitu – Tucson Citizen) El Mirador will feature 220 rooms, 150 condos, and the Nimbus Brewery.

September 8, 2007: The city gets four hotel proposals (#22) (O’Dell, AZ Star). A Hilton (709 rooms @ $166M), Marriott (450 rooms @ $101M with follow up 300 more @ $110M), Hyatt (700 rooms @ $188M) and a Sheraton (708 rooms @$203M).

September 23, 2007: Five who will pick hotel face big decision (Rob O’Dell – AZ Daily Star) The five distinguished suits to select the hotel are 1) Kendall Bert (Wesley Mouch himself, the genius who thought SAIAT managed property), 2) Randi Dorman, real estate developer with experience branding Crest toothpaste, Charmin toilet paper, and Old Spice cologne. 3) Chris Sheafe, representing the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, and 4) Karen Valdez, representing the Business Development Finance Corp., and 5) Jonathon Walker of the TCC.

November 4, 2007: The Arizona Daily Star’s Rob O’Dell runs the Albuquerque comparison pieces each pointing out all that Albuquerque has done that Tucson has not. The next day O’Dell runs a piece on Albuquerque's many accomplishments.

November 8, 2007: City kills deal for downtown condos (Teya Vitu – Tucson Citizen) RN manager hands Peggy Noonan her hat. She is suing the city.

November 8, 2007: The five select the $203 M 707 room Sheraton to be the downtown hotel to pair with the remodeled TCC. An additional $45 M is thrown in to buy the Hotel Arizona from Humberto Lopez and seven acres of downtown land from Allan Norville.

November 18, 2007: Council expected to ok $300 M hotels deal (Rob O’Dell – AZ Daily Star) The Sheraton ($203M), Buy and renovate Hotel Arizona ($28M+$47M) and buy Norville's seven acres ($17M).

November 26, 2007: Marketing Exec sees a lack of ‘wow’ factor in Rio Neuvo (Teya Vitu – Tucson Citizen) Margaret Pulles, deputy director of the Smithsonian’s Affiliations Program, looks at what is going on and declares, "You’re going to have a ghost town if you don’t change your frame of thinking."

After landing the city contract to brand Rio Nuevo, Margaret declares that she didn’t see much to brand, i.e. where are the clothes on this emperor? (Remember Bablove Ridgewood Workgroup? Lack of clothing didn't stop them from taking a quarter mill or so to make a yellow streak.) Margaret's "Where's the beef?" remark infuriated Rio Neuvo Director Greg Shelko. He declared, "I don’t think she knows what we’ve been doing the past two years."

I've never met Greg or Hecker, but the cloth alarm is screaming. I have met Snell. I speak with confidence that if you asked these three to team up and bake a pizza, they'd drop fifty grand on an oven study, twelve grand to fly to Greece and watch them, $40 grand to consultants to study 1) dough, 2) sauce, 3) ingredients, 4) cheese, 5) baking temps, 6) pizza size, and 7) crust thickness policies. After extensive meetings and interviews, Snell would drop 75 grand for glossy pamphlets no one will read because everyone's already left for Pizza Hut, where it takes 20 minutes and costs about twelve bucks.

January 10, 2008: Glen Lyons, the new director of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, arrives. Salary $100-$120K. Now things will really start to happen.

January 17, 2008: Another downtown Tucson business is shut down (Rob O’Dell, AZ Daily Star). "Simply Convenient" packs it in.

February 13, 2008 New downtown exec ready to prowl at night (Teya Vitu, Tucson Citizen) Lot 175 (the lot across from El Charro) is mentioned as a hot priority. Lyons will change the lack of progress.

February 22, 2008: Developer proposes hotel-condo conversion for Rio Nuevo (Rob O’Dell, AZ Daily Star) Ahh, the Post. Bourn got premium land for $100. Not sure whether to cry foul, given the full picture. They sure tore a bunch of stuff down in a hurry. Suffice to say, what’s there now? Not to worry, construction starts next week.

April 5, 2008: Thank business for progress downtown (Tucson Citizen) We have cause for optimism, all. Thank all the suits for encouraging business to take the lead and forge ahead with downtown development.

April 8, 2008: One more Downtown project teeters on the brink (Arizona Daily Star) Now we hear the arena is going to cost $200M, not $130M. City arena cost projection rises to $166M (Teya Vitu, Tucson Citizen) plus “extra expenses.”

Now, of course, we’re not sure we have the $28M for the purchase of Norville’s seven acres or the purchase ($17M) and upgrade ($47M) of the Hotel Arizona. In fact, do we have the money for the Sheraton?

April 10, 2008: Rio Nuevo panel quietly folds tent (Rob O’Dell – AZ Daily Star) The Citizen’s Advisory panel regarding Rio Nuevo, like the Stakeholders before them, disbands, calling themselves irrelevant. Developer Richard Studwell asserts the group had been rendered irrelevant for more than a year and should be terminated.

May 4, 2008: City likely to scrap tortoise arena plan (Rob O’Dell, AZ Daily Star) Faced with spiraling costs, the City Council is set to abandon the arena's tortoise design and its location along the Interstate 10 frontage road. Not to worry, the development won’t cause delays in the construction of the new 700+ room Sheraton and the purchase and upgrade of the Hotel Arizona.

May 5, 2008: Downtown businesses offered fix up grants to help older buildings to retain some of their historic character. The first phase of the program will give up to eight applicants $7,500. That's right, 75 hundred dollars. Oh, wait. That's not to do anything. That's just to study what they might do.

I swear I am not making this up.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mildred Loving

Mildred Loving died last Friday at the age of 68. Fifty years ago almost to the month (June), she married a white man. They lived in Virginia, but traveled to DC to get married. When they returned to their home in Virginia, they awoke one night to a sheriff and five deputies standing around their bed shining flashlights in their eyes. Richard ran to his dresser to produce the marriage license, "We're married."

The sheriff declared, "Not in this state, you're not."

The two were arrested at once for violating the The Racial Integrity Act against interracial marriages. The knuckle-dragging Neanderthal judge Leon Bazile pronounced:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

The state knew better than to imprison the otherwise law abiding couple, so the one year prison sentence was suspended provided they leave the state. They moved to DC. The reader can easily explore further if interested, but they pushed over dominoes that led to the Supreme Court, which ended the nonsense in a unanimous decision. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote:

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

Mildred Loving did not live to see a man of colored skin win the presidency or even the nomination of his party, but she saw both Obama and Hillary become contenders. I don't know which of the following will happen first:

1. Election of African American to the White House
2. Election of a woman to the White House
3. Equal rights for all sexual preferences

I am very clear which will happen last.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Cognitive Economic Development

Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary Robert Reich coined the term "symbolic analyst" back in the 90s when he published The Work of Nations. By the term he refers to specialized and highly educated individuals that can process abstract information and solve problems / add value in the world of ideas. In terms of economics and economic development, traditional entities like nations and corporations are fragmenting into smaller economic units whose prosperity depends not on location or nationality but on the ability to provide value in the information age. Think Google. What kind of people does Google hire?

A decade later Thomas Friedman published best seller The World is Flat which presents a bold and confronting view that provoked some controversy, in particular from his lack of sympathy about outsourcing jobs and objections that his view exaggerated the speed of the development. The reader can learn about his "ten flatteners" and the "triple convergence." For our purposes here, I want to underscore his emphasizing, like Reich, the importance of a well educated workforce in creating high paying jobs.

David Brooks has a short New York op ed piece, The Cognitive Age noting that worldwide communication can now send information anywhere in seconds. He claims we have moved beyond the globalization paradigm and have entered a Cognitive Age. High paying jobs and economic development follow cognitive skills. He writes, We’re moving into a more demanding cognitive age. In order to thrive, people are compelled to become better at absorbing, processing and combining information. This is happening in localized and globalized sectors, and it would be happening even if you tore up every free trade deal ever inked.

Brooks is making a an important point. The globalization paradigm emphasizes the fact that information can now travel 15,000 miles in an instant. But the most important part of information’s journey is the last few inches - the space between a person’s eyes or ears and the various regions of the brain. Does the individual have the capacity to understand the information?

What is most sorely needed? Not only education and training, but education and training with updated consideration of the distinctions of psychology, culture, and pedagogy, the processes that produce learning.

Google, Microsoft, Facebook, eHarmony, Amazon, eBay, Cisco, Apple, hires what kind of employee? The jobs chase the skills and the skills chase the jobs. To those inside the box, it looks like the chicken and the egg. What if you develop the workers already working? Improve a local company’s productivity? They run a little smarter, succeed a little better. They need to hire more people. No chicken. No egg. Not a huge scale, just 10,000 or so a year in customized venues using the specific components the tailored training requires for their context, distilled employee development straight into the existing economy.

While it does not happen overnight, communities with the capability of providing cost effective, high end, customized training services for local employers have a distinct advantage over those that do not.