Saturday, September 27, 2008

Palin Cigar Shop Bifurcation

Tucson, Arizona. The underdogs dealt some entertaining whoop ass on some highly ranked college football teams recently. Oregon State served the appetizer Thursday against USC, and now my alma mater is 5-0 for the first time since 1962. While I was a student at Northwestern, they had the college football record for longest losing streak.

When watching said games this afternoon at the cigar shop while multi-tasking talk of politics and other items, the discussion grew quite heated over McCain's selection of Twiddledwat as his running mate and what this foretells for the nation. As noted, Sarah Palin is possibly showing signs of a mental event of an undistinguished nature. One smoker at the shop today voiced the conclusion that under no circumstances can the McCain campaign allow Palin to participate in the debate scheduled to occur this coming Thursday.

According to this intelligent and well informed cigar aficionado, having the Palinesque gibberish proceed in front of a large audience and countless cameras for an extended period would invoke outrage, disgust, and terror that would obliterate the McCain campaign. Accordingly, as soon as Sunday and certainly prior to the debate, the twiddle will issue a statement noting the needs of her family and in particular her special needs child, whose situation has recently taken an unforeseen turn for the worse, requiring her immediate attention. He assured everyone in the room that within the next few days, exit dwat. I would describe his position as adamant and inflexible.

The assertion provoked an equally forceful and adamant response, one firmly rooted in the view that hell would freeze over and Eggplant himself would grow a brain before said VP nominee would withdraw from the election. No way, no how, no withdrawal, and no "will she or won't she?" hanky panky regarding participation on Thursday. Summarizing, several in the room (including two gentlemen well past halfway into a bottle of 18-year Talisker) told our smoking friend that he was out of his mind.

A mixture of fine tobacco, excellent scotch, and political bravado combined to form quite the debate concerning the debate, McCain, and the dwat. The anti-Eggplant regime so aligned on W inanity and the so yesterday mind set of a should be retired candidate, and so aligned on the frightening and embarrassing nature of the (courtesy of Katie) posted footage of a mind on a drug concocted in a Rovian laboratory, had a spicy split on the VP debate. The rapidly escalating temperature sanitized the shop of Republican sentiments, the right wingers fleeing as shouts ensued regarding which of two outcomes would occur:

1. The campaign will let her debate and sustain the humiliation and other consequences of what might become a freak show.
2. The campaign will not let her debate, crafting the best possible spin for her exit.

No physical blows ensued, but we got as serious as it gets aside from the screaming, and the talk turned to the real thing as wagers burst into the space, "I'll put a VSG against your Padron 26 that she not only shows, but manages to put nouns and verbs together well enough for Rush and O'Reilly to spin for the morons."

"Make it a Spellbound! She has shown she cannot combine nouns and verbs into an actual sentence."

Well, your humble blogger got into the fray. I took the bet. I say Palin shows and participates. If so, I get a cigar. If not, I'm buying one for the smoker certain that as great as the debacle involved with her withdrawal, the debacle of her appearance Thursday is worse. If for ANY reason and ANY explanation she bolts or delays, I owe him a smoke.

Care to talk serious money? Imagine the odds and the fortune to be made if one had known McCain's VP choice two weeks in advance. Take yourself back to early August and bet on Sarah Palin as his choice. Those eager to take your folly for all it is worth would be lining up and willing to give odds. You would have raked it in. MILLIONS. Then you could have taken those millions and invested them in our solid financial institutions.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chimerica

Niall Furgusen has a good piece in today’s Washington Post regarding the history making week we just experienced. Deferring the dark economic realities exposed and just considering the election, one might rejoice at the rude and bright jolt of reality crashing the scene and causing quite the ruckus. As one of the talking heads aptly noted, "We’re not talking about lip stick anymore."

Indeed. Nausea and disgust pushed me away from the keyboard (prolificity has yet to recover) as I saw so many know nothings fall hard for the amazingly cynical and (when understood) outrageously insulting nomination of Sarah "Twiddledwat" Palin for Vice-President. Only minutes into her RNC speech many (we now know) experienced the same revulsion I felt as she lied and contemptuously mocked what can now be seen as beyond her grasp in life. Obama has already “been there and done that” in a dozen realities Sarah Palin will never see or consider let alone comprehend. The news sites now have ample information about a creature more befitting a freak show than elected office.

The week dramatically amplified public awareness that neither Twiddledwat nor McCain have the slightest education in modern economics. McCain could not have gone farther with the pooch with his Monday “The economy is strong” declaration as Wall Street made world history. McCain continued to dig with gaffe after slip after mistake, from the senseless "shame and blame" damnation of SEC Chairman Christopher Cox (like it’s this guy’s fault?) to the embarrassing shift from a 30-year assault on regulation to declaring "I am a regulator" (oh, the humanity!) to ludicrous statements calling for the de-regulation of health care (great timing, John).

Fueled by public consternation with the Carter Administration, Reagan successfully shifted the Washington culture to one consistent with the conservative idea that "government is bad" and a burden to its people. We needed to "get the government off the backs of the American people." Reagan broke unions, gutted regulation, trashed funding for the arts, education, and other public service institutions. The mentally ill were tossed into the streets and then (predictably) prisons. Care to calculate the return to the taxpayer on that investment? Government = Bad. Corporations = Good. Oh yes, and deficits don’t matter.

Whoops. Now, instead of adults that operate responsibly given freedom, our corporations occur as four-year-olds with their hands stuck in cookie jars crying for mommy government. Should they be allowed to enjoy windfall profits and amass personal fortunes with the accumulated tab left for the taxpayer? What is the political shelf life of that scenario, now brought to light with a $700 BILLION figure on the front page of almost every paper in the country? It is too early today to witness the impending resentment, and $700B is just a start.

Meanwhile, how does a self-respecting Republican look in the mirror now that Iraq and Afghanistan have bitch slapped the world conquering neo-cons bloody and stupid and now that they’re down, undergraduate economics has kicked them in the nuts to where they sound like kids in grammar school? How is GM faring against Toyota? United States bravado is dead.

The existing paradigm of the corporation has become obsolete. Sooner or later (given this past week, sooner, I think) meaningful numbers of citizens will start to understand some of this, but a full blown perspective requires one to go global and consider Chimerica, a name coined by Ferguson and Moritz Schularick in their 2007 paper that distinguishes the combined economies of the United States and east Asia, most notably China (of course) but also India and some others. Calling America "West Chimerica" and China "East Chimerica" yields a rich discussion of the global economy and the major forces at play regarding recent developments.

The paper is written at the academic level and includes a little math (McCain wouldn’t understand it), but in a sentence it notes the combination of the cheap East Chimerican labor market with the insatiable (and borrowing into oblivion) West Chimerican consumers. The West continues to borrow and buy. The East doesn’t have to borrow to buy, and they’re buying us.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Truth and Illusion II

Tucson, Arizona. The TREO clothmeisters sent out an email blast Wednesday pontificating their satisfaction with the results they've produced over the past several years. Let's consider some of the semantics.

TREO assisted in the attraction and/or expansion of 11 companies

Did they now, or did they happen to sit in on a meeting with a company already moving here when PICOR real estate showed them some commercial site options? Also, who was attracted that actually located here and when? Who expanded, and are we really to believe that the expansions were due to TREO? What did TREO actually DO that altered what would have happened otherwise? Ever expand your business? TREO generated the increase in sales, not satisfied customers or your marketing efforts.

representing 1,739 total new jobs supported, $88,196,901 in new capital investment and $241,813,414 in total economic impact. What jobs where at what wages since when? Solid information is not provided, and should one require such detail, the house of cards falls flat, especially the interpretation regarding capital projects, and most of all the total economic impact, where they use a ridiculously flattering multiplier (like three).

Here's the one I like: For every $1 invested in TREO, $76 is returned to the community in new wealth. This is the assertion that could make certain people retch. The number is so over the top ludicrous it is embarrassing. Seventy-six to one. Think about that.

I have no training in public relations, but even I seem to recall that when one wishes to put out material to tell the world how wonderful one is, protocol calls for the use of a third party, someone who appears to be as objective and trustworthy as possible. Naturally the individual just says whatever the prepared statement tells him to say, but at least the message is coming from someone else.

"TREO has consistently delivered on its promise to the Tucson region," said Joe Snell, president and CEO. "TREO has a razor-sharp focus on its mission of developing higher-wage, primary jobs within a coordinated, regional approach. Our return on investment by public and private partners is significant."

Significant? 76 to 1 is significant? It defies comprehension until one realizes that it simply follows a calculation, not real dollars in a real economy. The more accurate picture shows them sitting in meetings. They rush to meetings where Business A explores a deal with Businesses B and C. They smile and nod and shake hands. They declare themselves Major Players in town. Sometimes something happens, and other times it does not. They keep track. When something happens they take credit for the result. Businesses A, B, and C tolerate them for PR reasons.

Other significant highlights:

Development of the Blueprint Mobilization Plan. Good. We need to DEVELOP a PLAN to mobilize the PLAN we had a consultant make two years ago.

Endorsement of 50+ community partners in advancing strategies. Isn't a strategy a PLAN? Now we have people to endorse the advancement of a PLAN.

Development of a Community Report Card More numbers like the above that don't include specific measurable results with names, companies, dates, times, and places. If they get lucky, perhaps a business has figures solid enough to share, but this is rarely the case.

Development of marketing strategies and programs. A PLAN for promoting the PLAN.

Coordinated International business development strategy. Instead of developing, perhaps they only coordinated (sat in the meeting) the development of the PLAN. Oh, wait. They coordinated the plan to develop the plan.

Launch of Targeted Industry Planning Councils.

Perhaps the email's timing had something to do with the Marana council vote 5-2 Tuesday night to keep its $50,000 and zero its support for TREO. Sometimes the astute reader can see the truth seeping from the text. Directly from the article:

The council also noted that Marana isn't home to any of the 26 businesses in which TREO credits itself with having a role in the relocation to or expansion within Southern Arizona.

Like the kid pointing to the naked emperor, councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler was easy to understand. No plans. No strategies. No fancy language. Sometimes reality feels like a breath of fresh air, "I asked staff what TREO has done for us for the last three years, and they handed me a blank piece of paper."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Giffords Shines at University Debate

Tucson, Arizona. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ CD 8) easily outperformed Arizona Senate President Timothy Bee (R-AZ State Senate) in a one hour televised debate this evening as they square off for the Arizona Congressional District Eight seat. Those who drove west along Speedway towards the university could not miss the extraordinary presence of "Giffords for Congress" campaign signs that only grew as one got closer. After turning into campus on Mountain, one saw a road completely plastered with signs from the Giffords campaign.

I arrived nearly 45 minutes early and the place already had quite a crowd. I approached Jennifer, "Wimpy job with the signs."

She turned, "Go inside and get a good seat."

At 6:30 (the event began at 7 PM) nearly all of the 500 seats were full. My natural inclination to expect the worst anticipated an overcrowding fiasco. Fortunately we were at the University of Arizona at a well managed Student Union event. Some can appreciate what lies under the surface when 4-6 men start wheeling in hand trucks of stacked chairs and add 300 capacity in 15 minutes skillfully enlisting the help of able bodied participants. At showtime the audience easily topped 750 and was aired live to a television audience. TV's in the room allowed us to watch the broadcast as well.

Take my word for nothing. The show will be broadcast again on Thursday at 8 PM.

The reader can find detailed content elsewhere, but the issues included energy, earmarks, the highest "turn country around" priority, the border, the 1872 Mining Law (think Rosemont mine), health care, the budget, education. I was somewhat surprised that terrorism did not come up at all two days after the anniversary of 9/11.

The most dramatic event of the evening took place when Bee praised Arizona Senator John McCain and his nomination for president. At first the pro-Bee crowd cheered, but within seconds the other 75% of the room pounced, forcefully, with boos and hisses. Standing to the side of the audience, one could distinguish the two camps (more or less) with Bee supporters in the front right quarter. The rest supported Giffords.

Giffords consistently and without exception demonstrated a stronger command of the material and how to discuss it in the short time allotted. She made it look easy to craft a response with a beginning, middle, and end in a coherent fashion that wraps with a summary helping one understand her answer. Bee's responses were far less articulate. While he may be a nice guy with a heart in the right place, I don't see how anyone could watch the event and conclude his understanding of the issues surpasses that of Giffords or believe that his positions better represent Southern Arizona.

Giffords deserves to be re-elected and will be.

UPDATE: Your humble blogger was on television Saturday night voicing support for her, and all of those road signs mentioned above were gone by early Sunday morning.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Truth and Illusion

Martha: Truth and Illusion, George. Don't you know the difference?
George: No, but we must carry on as if we did.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

As already written, my hair started to bristle when Sarah Palin got about five minutes into her RNC speech and started mocking Barack Obama with deliberate distortions and in some cases outright lies. She dutifully delivered the fabrications of the speech writers seemingly without a care in the world for their validity. We now know the GOP deliberately compressed the speeches in succession to prevent media commentary between them. Now why wouldn't they want to give anyone the opportunity to comment while the masses were still tuned in?

I found Karl Rove's transformation of what constitutes presidential readiness particularly telling. Starting with his remarks on VA Governor Tim Kaine as a possible Obama VP: He's been a governor for three years. He was Mayor of the 105th largest city in America. With all due respect to Richmond, Virginia it's smaller than Chula Vista, California, Aurora, Colorado, Mesa or Gilbert, Arizona, North Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada. It's not a big town. So if you were to pick Governor Kaine it would be an intensely political choice where he said, "You know what, I'm really not first and foremost concerned with whether he's really ready to be president of the United States."

Got that? Rove argued that Kaine was completely unprepared to become president after three years as governor (VA - pop. 7.7 M), didn't note his years as Lt. Gov but did recall his having been mayor of a "small town" (pop. 200,000). Within weeks we have Rove on Sarah Palin: She's a populist. She's an economic and a social conservative. She's a reformer. She's a a former Mayor. She was the Mayor I think of the second largest city in Alaska before she ran for Governor.

Of course it doesn't particularly matter whether Wasilla (pop. 9,000) is the second largest city in Alaska (of course not). Do you think Rove thinks it is? Uh-huh. McCain repeatedly declares he can work "both sides of the aisle" and falsely asserts Obama has not. Think McCain is just mistaken? Why intentionally lie? Because it works. Some insightful Republicans, in particular those involved with GOP approved faith based initiatives, clap a little uneasily at the McCain and Palin bombasts of a "community organizer" and what Obama did (he worked with many churches). They see their nominees eviscerating efforts little different from their own. But, of course, they don't say anything.

While grabbing a quick bite yesterday I ran into someone from the Tucson economic development days. I recognized him at once but was unsure if he remembered me. After a moment he approached, "We have something in common."

I replied, "So you know about all of that?"
He smiled, "Oh, yeah. I've read about it, heard about it."

The man appeared most eager to speak, so I offered him a seat, and off he went about his disgust with TREO, noting the various lies and distortions. He said, "Whenever I meet with those guys, I feel like I've been slimed and want to take a shower."

Unlike students at a university, TREO not only grades itself but writes the report card. It gets to retroactively make up the whole thing, circles and arrows, multipliers, lists, anything goes that is not immediately recognizable as false (i.e. built the world's largest indoor ski resort at 4th Ave and 9th Street). Since Tucsonans are the poorest of any city in Arizona with a per capita income below $20K, it's safe to say this measure won't be graded. Causing nothing, the Cloth cannot project performance. They must wait to see what happens in order to take credit for it using the most legitimizing voice they can find, a high level cosmopolitan executive entirely too busy with a real job to raise questions or disrupt their petty politicking for handouts at the local trough.

In what I found ironic, the man looked directly at me and asked, "Why doesn't anyone come forward?"
I looked at him for a moment and remarked, "Well, I've been doing my small part."
I paused, "Why don't you say something?"
"I don't want to lose my job."

Knowing his position, I seriously doubt he has cause for fear, but justified or not, the fear stops him dead in his tracks, just as it stops the rest of the herd. We see everyone charging in a certain direction and question our own judgment. We doubt our own perception and understanding. In chapter 1968 of Something Else, a seven-year-old boy finds his way out of a maze designed to trap sheep. As if grasping reality were not difficult enough, we are designed to seek the approval of those around us. Should the herd have a different view, cowardice and self-doubt suggest we muzzle our own instincts. In the maze, the boy did not have to convince others. A deeper than average insight wonders if he would have thought to turn left when surrounded by others pushing forward. Like it or not on Earth we're stuck in the maze together, and the herd is anything but wise. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for decent people to do nothing.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Citizen Scratches TREO

Tucson, Arizona. Tucson Citizen reporter Carli Brosseau has an article today discussing TREO's theft of funding allotted to the Microbusiness Advancement Center, small potatoes compared to TREO's slaughter and destruction of the non-profit Southern Arizona Institute of Advanced Training (SAIAT), a theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in both city and county agency funding. The first comment at the online version of the story provides a link to Something Else, the full story of SAIAT's destruction at the hands of TREO CEO Joe Snell. Snell signed a contract with SAIAT board members (no disclosure to SAIAT). By "sheer coincidence" the next month Solutus tried to fire the SAIAT director and take his place.

The press knows all about SAIAT's demise, but the Cloth effectively muddied the red water by having Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC) indoctrinated former state representative Carol Somers (my successor) steer the bullets in my direction with remarks critical of the chairs on the deck after the torpedoes struck the hull. Chapters 10-14 of Something Else capture the bloody mess. The whole fiasco is receding from my consciousness as we speak, my departure from Tucson now within months, but it is nice to see the awareness slowly spread. Today's piece calling on TREO to explain its usurpation of funding allotted to another agency, yet keeping the money for itself and not returning it, says enough. They're thieves.

To the City Council, I would argue that the contract should specify that TREO return to the city all funding it chooses to withhold from other agencies. We wouldn't want to create the impression that the city is condoning fraud. TREO is dishonest and dishonorable, even bragging about the money they stole as representative of "improved financial performance" in their annual report. Yes, it is as disgusting as it looks and sounds. All involved have cause for shame. One can honestly adjust funding. This was stealing, lying about stealing, and malice.

SAIAT Letter to TREO: Please leave our funding unchanged
Snell Lying to the County that SAIAT approved TREO's taking its funding
Undisclosed TREO/Solutus Contract asking SAIAT Board Members to compete with SAIAT
The same board members, the next month, try to fire the SAIAT Director.
SAIAT Attorney noting Unlawful Conflict of Interest

You know what a hosser is? That's a pig that don't fly straight.
Tony Montoya, Scarface


SOMETHING ELSE