Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Darkness

I couldn't make the commute to attend last Friday's tea party event outside Congresswoman Giffords office at Pima & Swan, so I didn't get to see the "SUV Drivers for Giffords" or meet the lady holding the "Gabby = Death!" sign.

I won't trash Framer's parties, and I'll leave the tea party thing alone for now, but one group emerging from the dark recesses of kookville is the growing xenophobic conspiracy crowd regarding Obama's citizenship. Old news, yes, I am well aware this was resolved well before the election. Perhaps the most rigorous material online is Factcheck's thorough investigation. This should be over.

A non-trivial number of wackjobs have no interest in letting reality get in the way of their hatred of the "unamerakun arab muzlem turrest." Known as "The Birthers" (website), their numbers are growing. I kid the reader not, and ultimately this is problematic for the Republicans who want to be seen as something other than fatigue wearing hate sign waivers with swastikas in their basements. Wikipedia has more than you want about these characters, and what should be disturbing is the enabling of these dangerous elements on the part of Fox News and Talk Radio. Sean Hannity fueled the conspiracy by running a story about a soldier suing to avoid his tour of duty because Obama is not qualified to be president, but didn't bother to mention the allegation had been proven false, or that the whole thing was a scam. From the Wikipedia material:

But Hannity omitted key details that point to a scam by the soldier. ... Maj. Cook filed a request to serve the Commander-in-Chief in Afghanistan on May 8, well after Obama had assumed the presidency, but now, about two months later, is claiming that Obama is not qualified to be president. And instead of going through the administrative process to revoke his orders, which would seem to be a pro forma matter, he sued in federal court.

After the lawsuit was reported in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, the newspaper reported receiving "the highest volume of traffic ever by a single story in the history of ledger-enquirer.com, including written threats against the newspaper", with nearly half a million new readers and hundreds of e-mails. The threats prompted an increase in security around the courthouse where Cook's case was heard, as well as precautions being taken to protect the author of the newspaper's reports on the case. Executive Editor Ben Holden noted: "The chatter had the feel of a righteous cause – almost a religious cause – because some people hate this president."


Assessing a soul involves high altitude terrain. Clearly, some don't know that the first prerequisite is having one.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Life (for some) At All Cost

Australian philosopher Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, wrote an intelligent article published in the NYT last week masterfully articulating the infantile and unsustainable nature of the current American health care system. A brilliant ethicist and utilitarian, Singer points to many of the forces behind the out of control upward spiral in costs. I would summarize with the expression, "Life at all costs."

Our "spare no expense" attitude is simply not tenable. While oversimplified, the following example illustrates one key fundamental problem. Say a man has two months to live. A $60,000 treatment could give 1-2 extra weeks. In the UK, forget it unless he pays. In the USA, if he has premium insurance, the insurer drops $60K, but to cover this, the system denies 200 children health care, dozens of whom suffer untreated illness and three die. America screams "life at all cost" with awareness of the man and blindness to the kids. A major cornerstone of our health care fiasco is the systemic denial of services to the less privileged so the more privileged can enjoy lavish levels of services at obscene expense.

In the USA, 54% reported they chose to do without medical care because of the cost (13% for UK and 7% for the Netherlands). Over half of the USA has gone without care due to cost. Medical expenses are behind over 60% of bankruptcies. Almost 50M have no coverage, and that number climbs rapidly. More than 22,000 Americans die each year for lack of health insurance. Costs have doubled in the last ten years and are expected to double again in the next ten.

The country desperately wants health care reform. They want coverage that can't suddenly be denied when they get sick. They want care that can't be denied because an insurance investigator finds a "pre-existing" condition. Ironically, the Harry and Louise couple used to derail Clinton era reform has come out in favor of it this time around. Also ironically, millions were spent attacking the Clinton plan on television. In the last two months, $40M has been spent advocating Obama's health care reforms on television.

Another significant part of the problem is greed, and the greedmeisters are fighting back. The health care industry has spent nearly a billion dollars on lobbying in the last two years, not to mentions millions in campaign contributions to Congress, which is turning 84 shades of purple. The blue dog democrats look ridiculous compared to the astute Republicans that have stated they in principle agree with Obama's fundamental goals. Of course we always have the Neanderthals who see everything in the context of their obsession with "breaking Obama" (14 second DeMint clip). Who cares what the country wants or what helps America? Anything that could be seen as a victory for the president must be vehemently attacked and opposed.

The country will continue to suffer until it recognizes what the rest of the industrialized world has already accepted. We simply do not have the resources to provide life (for some) at all cost.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Next Civil War

Roger Kralmajales and the folks over at Gila Courier got into quite the kerfuffel this week at a thread regarding the tea party protests being organized around the country. Not surprisingly, Roger had quite the fight on his hands attempting to articulate that services like education and health care don't naturally flow out of the free market in ways that serve society. About as effectively as anything I have seen, the thread illuminates the concept of filters and lenses. A deeper cut shows that these are constructed with distinctions.

The thread shows an exchange between two sides that are both bright and educated, assuming that's the case for GC, and yet they see different planets. Distinctions create the reality we perceive, generating the cerebral space in which the mind operates, the water for the fish. Both sides have the frustrating experience that the other for reasons unknown is blind to what should be easily seen. Quite often in the blogosphere we read, "When will you take your blinders off?!"

At the recent thread, Framer attempted to educate me that his tea party efforts are protesting what is little different from the local “cloth.” This refers to the obscene squandering of precious local funds on corrupt (DTP) and inept (TREO) agencies to maintain a facade. Framer and the GC klan, I surmise, extend the same corruption and incompetence to encompass virtually the entire government. From this perspective, Obama must truly occur as a nightmare, since he oversees the government takeover of our financial institutions, auto companies, and quite possibly the health insurance system of the nation.

The flaw in such reasoning, entirely clear to Roger and myself, is that Obama (and the system in general) is not just pursuing an agenda in accordance with a philosophy. The system is reacting to dysfunction. We didn't take over General Motors because we felt like it. THIS IS CRITICAL. We didn't take over AIG out of desire. We took them over because the alternative was having them fail. THEY BROKE. Roger can say better than me if we should have let them collapse.

Without drowning in the details of derivatives, swaps, Hummers, and drug price gouging, greed and incompetence sank our banks, car companies, and is in the process of grinding our health care system to a halt. The worst presidency in history has inflicted incomprehensible damage to this nation, and on my view screen it is jaw dropping flabbergasting to hear people like Framer and the GC guys talk about Obama as the one drowning their children in debt. The ones who had the party were Bush and Cheney, AIG and Halliburton, GM and Pfizer, Cigna and Merrill Lynch, Enron and Bernie Madoff. They're the ones who threw caution to the wind, bought the hookers, gutted the system, had the orgy, and threw the country off a cliff. Obama showed up in time to be handed the bill, and as we start to address paying the tab, he's the one causing the debt?

Deregulation FAILED. Let the corporate swine play, and those at the top steal everything, destroy their own organizations, and throw the employees in the street. If we cannot trust them, then what? Shifting paradigms produce extraordinary confusion. Ironically Obama has the most challenging presidency since Abraham Lincoln, and we drift towards a Civil War of ideas. The ideas of the past have become obsolete, and the country is slipping. Ultimately solutions will prevail, and no amount of denial can reduce the numbers on the tab left for us by the previous administration's greed and incompetence. One way or another, we'll have to pay for electing Bush. The tea party crowd can bitch all day about the cost, but now that limited governance leads with certainty to corporate orgies and unbridled malfeasance, the only chance they have of living in the system they crave is to find a planet that works the way they think this one does.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dignified Death

The highly respected British conductor Edward Downes has committed suicide with his terminally ill wife at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland. Their son and daughter issued a statement that they "died peacefully, and under circumstances of their own choosing." Downes was 85, almost blind, and well on his way to being deaf. She was 74 and terminally ill with cancer. They were assisted in a comfortable room with beds close together allowing them to hold hands as they peacefully lost consciousness after taking a fatal dose of barbiturates under medical supervision.

Unless violence or a sudden death take us out first, we are all going to fall apart until we cease to function. Some apparently have intense feelings opposing the ability to control how this occurs and in particular, to choose when to check out. Remarkably, these folks are often those who claim to be all about individual freedom and liberty. I'd like to see a world where anyone whose health has declined to where life only prolongs suffering has the choice, and the key word is choice, to enter a clinic where trained professionals can help. Nodding off and not waking up is easier on the kids than eating a Smith & Wesson.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Treason

Most can (and did at the time) understand that the Bush administration had to take strong measures in response to the terrorist attacks of 911. We complained some, but not too much, about what we then had to go through at the nation’s airports. We in general supported the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and few raised any serious objections to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security. While most know that Bush is an arrogant idiot, we gave him the benefit of the doubt, and his approval rating went stratospheric as the US started to kick ass and take names.

Tragically, demonic forces jumped into the fray with both feet and no shortage of enthusiasm. The attack gave the PNAC boys the Pearl Harbor event they wanted as an excuse to take over the world by any and all means necessary. The Bush brain was already planning to invade Iraq and loaded with code:

IF terrorEvent THEN invadeIraq;

The critical distinction is that between the above and the two lines:

IF terrorEvent THEN investigateCause;
IF investigateCause (terrorEvent) = Iraq THEN invadeIraq;

The PNAC boys had no problem generating enthusiastic support among a salivating army of war profiteers. Unfortunately, still hurting from Vietnam, most in America weren’t so enthusiastic about an unjustified, optional war at tremendous expense not to mention loss of American life. PNAC had its event, but it needed to demonstrate that Iraq belonged in the set of responses. Quickly, it was seen as necessary to collect the information sufficient for a case to invade Iraq.

Without listing all of the details, we now stand on the brink of uncovering not only the monster that the administration invoked, but the dark magic and incantations used to summon it from Satan’s empire. The reader likely grasps this monster’s respect for the rule of law, the Constitution, our troops, our economy, our reputation, our safety, our future.

Should any experienced generals (Shinseki) bring up reality in terms of the occupation, fire them. Should any of the finance people (O'Neill) bring up reality about the cost, fire them. Should sources of information fail to provide the desired data, torture them. Should the desired results remain unavailable, fabricate data and lie to everyone. The lead in a New York Times piece today:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

SOLD


Brief self-indulgent post meant solely as a place marker. The ability to vote in Pima County is history via a signed release promptly requested by F. Ann Rodriguez. The state of Kentucky now endorses the driver's license and license plate, and as of this morning, the Tucson house I enjoyed is no longer mine.

Brick and heavy plaster kept it cooler than the newer spit and kleenex nonsense, and not a square inch of carpet in the entire place. Cool, clean tile and hardwood rule, and NO POOL. I had a pool once, along with the spit/kleenex house and the wife and the kids and the van and the garage and the dogs.

I will miss the Tucson house pictured above, the post wife house that provided extraordinary memories for a coming of age daughter and a couple dozen UHS kids. I miss the cigar shop.

It's been over five years, and I'm starting to get that for the rest of my life, a certain part of me will miss those dogs.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Something Else 2nd Anniversary

Two years ago I published an account of my involvement with a non profit training institute formed in the year 2000 by the city and the county to provide customized training services for local employers. After a horrible start, the institute's board ousted dysfunctional management, and yours truly found himself in charge of a sinking ship with a horrible reputation, many enemies, and losses exceeding $30K / month. After 18 months of trauma and turmoil, by late 2004 SAIAT (Southern AZ Inst. of Advanced Training) was operating in the black. By 2006, it was serving over 100 local employers and 10,000 working Tucsonans. Praise from customers and the community grew. Just as I sighed in relief over a cigar, a man warned me that SAIAT was doomed.

By early 2006, SAIAT was universally praised. The Mayor, TREO CEO Snell, Supervisor Bronson and many others voiced support. They invited me to join the economic development contingent visiting Austin. They invited me to the Tucson Town Hall. They said they wanted to promote SAIAT as a "Business Convergence Center" consolidating other support services with the customized training. In June 2006, I told "Cigar Man" he was full of it, "We train over 10,000 people!"

He remained adamant, "You could train ten million!"

In the fall of 2006 TREO deliberately destroyed the institute by taking its funding. As bankruptcy (and my resignation) rapidly approached, I replayed the tape, did some research, and discovered for myself the charade of overpaid suits that justify their salaries by praising each other. Instead of the slightest results, all that's necessary is the facade: plans, studies, blueprints, models, charts and graphs, words like "world class" and "great workforce." The city and county pay millions to play make believe in an act on a stage.

Those who understand Something Else know that it was a journey, a learning experience, a process of discovery. During the writing and research, a distinction clicked when I read a statement about a completely absurd, ridiculously overpriced leadership program I KNEW would NEVER occur, yet the suits were seriously discussing it as if it were reality. An overpaid Pima Community College official asserted, "I happen to believe deeply that this is how you get things done. You weave people together, you weave organizations together, and you come up with a stronger cloth that way."

A stronger cloth? THAT’S IT!!

GTEC paid a consultant $500,000 for a yellow streak, "GTEC's external marketing effort should position regional attributes to interest cluster company suppliers and customers, as well as new technology companies to want to move to the region . . . ultimately helping to strategically grow and sustain our existing business base."

TREO paid a consultant $250,000 for a pamphlet. Rio Nuevo spent $9 M to think about a bridge. Millions in land were given to friends. City staff tell developers who to pay (Hecker, Eckstrom, etc) if they're feeling friendly. The Downtown Tucson Partnership fired a director so it could hire a friend. In such an environment, using the words of Cigar Man, I was "flying blind with a noose around my neck."

Indeed.

Something Else is available at the link to the left.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Cloth Fatigue

Rob O’Dell has an essentially benign Cloth piece in today’s Star discussing the local rise of Clothmeister Glen Lyons, head of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, which is emerging as the epicenter of Tucson’s Clothiverse, the downtown and economic development initiatives that intertwine richly funded agencies, lobbyists, attorneys, developers, business leaders, and outright crooks.

Lyons is thriving among the set of folks raking in massive amounts of money to forward rhetoric inside of a charade wrapped around a zero. Perhaps DTP’s rise is filling a vacuum left by TREO, the economic development agency that hasn’t produced any results in over four years. Lyons has forged a tight allegiance with Council Member Nina Trasoff, firing a director so he could hire the wife of a Trasoff staff member. He is also working city manager Letcher and the council for a sweet "consulting" gig for "assistance" regarding Rio Nuevo projects. In return, the partnership can serve as a means to circumvent nuisances (like the law, public approval, etc.) in terms of granting gigs and giveaways to friends and family.

Speaking of sweet gigs, it will be interesting to see how (if at all) Lyons addresses the current altercation between the Rialto Theater and DTDC developers Martin & Stiteler. Rialto president Michael Crawford has formally asked the DTP board to chime in on the theater’s behalf, while Nina apparently sides with the DTDC (which held a fundraiser for her campaign). The DTDC was poised to get millions in free land from the city, but after a delay has decided hard ball yields a better bottom line. Perhaps Lyons can figure out a way to pay DTP board chair (not kidding) Larry Hecker a quick $50,000 for legal advice on the dispute. Lyons can also advise potential developers how much to pay "lobbyist" Dan Eckstrom in exchange for consideration in land giveaways or other Rio Nuevo payouts.

Ugh. Now out of Tucson a full month, I’m getting Cloth fatigue. The events now occur like re-runs. It’s the same nonsense, again and again. Clothmeisters rake it in as they present a plan, a blueprint, a concept, an idea, a projection, an org chart, and then start over. When something actually does occur, such as a solar energy company moving to town (imagine), or an expansion of a firm that’s doing well, they take credit for it.

The comments following the piece, not subject to editorial opinion or the constraints on the reporter, are more interesting than the article itself.

I always like to see others use the Cloth distinction, as Larry does in the first comment:
Glenn Lyons is a puppet for the cloth. He shines Hecker and Lynns shoes and kisses Nina's ring. The cloth wasn't interested in his redevelopment experience, only his willingness to take orders and hand out the fat.

One has to love Teddy:
RIO NUEVO STYLE-HIRE A CONSULTANT. THEN HIRE A CONSULTANT FOR THE CONSULTANT. THEN HAVE A MEETING TO PLAN TO MAKE PLANS TO HAVE ANOTHER MEETING TO DISCUSS HIRING A CONSULTANT FOR THE CONSULTANT'S CONSULTANT. THEN HAVE A MEETING TO PLAN TO MAKE PLANS TO PLAN A MEETING WITH THE CONSULTANT'S CONSULTANT TO PLAN TO MAKE FURTHER PLANS TO PLAN MORE PLANS. ALL AT 150K A POP. TIF FUNDED.

This captures the other angle:
Lyons is close friends with Trasoff's chief of staff. Trasoff's chief of staff is married to Lyons deputy. Also, the incoming chair of the partnership board (Hecker) is Trasoff's campaign treasurer. As someone said the other day, something smells. Other merchants have told me that Lyons no longer lives in Armory Park because he and his wife did not feel safe living there. Which is ironic and very upsetting to us because we've seen a dramatic decline in security and maintenance downtown ever since Lyons took over. It is clear that security and maintenance have suffered at the cost of these higher salaries.

A certain anniversary rapidly approaches. One of the goals I set for myself some time ago was to fully distinguish the Cloth and the characters that feed at its trough. Various blogs and the comments following O’Dell’s article give me cause to believe the distinction has been delivered. My days of paying attention to the swine snarfing YOUR MONEY (not mine anymore) are drawing to a close.

Friday, July 03, 2009

DTP Likely to Score TIF Trough

Downtown Tucson Partnership’s Clothmeister Glen Lyons has been conniving to get his organization a hefty slice of the TIF kitty for months. The $Kaching! occurs when the corruption lands him a sweet contract to "manage" Rio Nuevo. I speculated in Conniving Cloth last April that some acronym was gunning for the TIF trough. It’s just too much money to resist. A few weeks later at Conniving Cloth II it was clear that the DTP was indeed the front runner in obtaining a most lucrative gig, probably multiple millions per year, to make a few presentations and attend some meetings.

Not long after city manager Mike Hein’s departure and the announcement of Shelko’s ouster from Rio Nuevo, the city dispatched Jaret Barr and Fran Lasala to the DTP, each drawing about $100K salaries although, as in most cloth gigs, they actually don’t have any responsibilities. Lasala is just running out the clock, now within a few years of retirement, or perhaps as is often the case with these characters, the double dipping scam where they retire at almost full salary, but then take back their job and essentially make double pay. Kendall Bert raked in a fortune doing this with TREO.

Framer and the tea party group including Rep. Frank Antenori, the only elected official who appears to see the Cloth for what it is, confronted the Rio Nuevo board when it tried to have a closed door session to give the TIF trough to the DTP, causing the cancellation of the session. Perhaps they have only delayed the inevitable. Trying to keep the Cloth off TIF money is like trying to keep stink off a turd, and sure enough, today Andrea Kelly has a article in the Star telling us about city manager Letcher’s plan for a "new team" that will run Rio Nuevo. Who is the new team?

The Downtown Tucson Partnership, of course. The piece concludes with the sentence: The council is tentatively set to review the contract with the partnership in August.

$Kaching!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Evicting Rialto

Someone closer to the situation can tell you what the Rialto Theater actually does with the small space now making news because developers Don Martin and Scott Stiteler suddenly have their panties in a bunch about the financial urgency of collecting rent for its use.

After demanding the theater pay about $40,000 in back rent, said developers have served a 10 day eviction notice. Apparently Martin and Stiteler have either not read Dale Carnegie or don’t care about making friends or influencing people. I’m not clear these guys come out ahead as one cranks up the scrutiny, but the eviction notice extends the invitation.

While unable to offer the slightest contribution to any negotiations, Clothmeister Glenn Lyons, Director of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, volunteered to entertain those meeting on the subject by fingering his arse while eating a hot dog.


SOMETHING ELSE