Saturday, July 31, 2010

Boy Scouts a Compelling Metaphor

Membership in the Boy Scouts of America peaked in 1973 when the national discourse was near the pinnacle of its progressive introspection, its foundation shaking inquiries, its experimentation with sexuality and the subsequent liberation of gender stereotypes. Then of course, came the backlash with Reagan and the Moral Majority, angry white men desperate to return to the Mad Men days where the coloreds knew their place and the bitch did what she was told. The struggle continues, but the genie is out of the bottle.

Boy Scout membership has plummeted 42% since 1973 and has dropped 16% in the last ten years. Boy Scouts are white. Boy Scouts are homophobic and ban gay membership. Boy Scouts ban atheists and while no religion is officially preferred, keep the Koran at home. Surprise, the organization was ordered to pay $18.5 million in damages to a man who had been abused by a scout leader as a boy. Sometimes what happens in the woods doesn't stay in woods.

The struggle of the Boy Scouts mirrors that of the Catholic Church and the GOP, clinging to obsolete views in a world that has moved beyond them. New realities and new ideas (the earth revolves around the sun, or in today's versions, global warming, evolution, acceptance of diversity including sexual preference, economic interdependence and importance of oversight) have arrived and will stay. It is painful to watch them resist tooth and nail. Indeed, we have whole segments of society that just scream, “NO!”

The insight so needed and so overdue for all of these groups is that one fights ideas with better ideas, and better ideas must be grounded in facts. If you don't like the health care legislation, offer better legislation that passes muster with reality. The same goes for financial reform, immigration reform, and climate change legislation. Solid fact, not fiction, has now cemented that if you have a problem with the gay or those brown people, there's not much cheese down those tunnels in the workplace or the ballot box.

I am not saying conservatism or the GOP are dead or obsolete. There are Republicans who ask intelligent questions in the context of generating real solutions. Consider the Tucson Choices blog.

I am saying that we require solid thinking and reasoning that reflects this century, that takes into account everyone and everything, and not solely the short term gratification of the interest groups representing the ultra rich.

“HELL NO WE CAN'T!!!” won't work for the Boy Scouts, the Catholics, or the Republicans.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

x4mr Talks SAIAT on WakeUpTucson

This morning I spoke with Joe Higgins and Chris DiSimone on the WakeUpTucson talk radio show, three ten-minute segments from 6:20 to 7 AM, discussing the SAIAT story in some detail. Joe invited me to join them on the show to speak about Raytheon's choice of Huntsville, Alabama over Tucson for an important expansion of its operations. Raytheon cited workforce skills and access to training resources as one of the pivotal reasons it chose Huntsville.

When Joe posts the talk on youtube, I will publish it.

Those who have read “Something Else” (red link at left) know that Raytheon was SAIAT's largest customer, with thousands of its employees visiting the institute each year. When the missile manufacturer transferred its software system to a new platform, SAIAT trained 6300 workers in six weeks. By 2006, the institute was serving over 100 local employers, from Lasertel to Modular Mining to EOS Technologies to Cybernetic Research to Vaisala to Spectraphysics to Catalina Tool to Advanced Ceramics Research to Arizona Capacitors....

In a tragic blow to Tucson's economic development, TREO decided its stash of cash was more important than the customized training of over 10,000 Tucsonans per year. To stuff its own coffers, TREO slashed SAIAT's funding by more than half, inflicting devastating losses that destroyed the institute and created a critical shortage of training capacity for its customers. Raytheon had to spend over a million dollars to build its own training center. Lacking this option, SAIAT's other customers just suffered without. When asked about the loss of SAIAT, Mayor Walkup demonstrated appalling ignorance, “Companies can go to the community college.”

When companies require high powered, fast track, customized training services (room, labs, equipment, catering, corporate grade course leaders) they can call PCC. Seen what PCC adjuncts get paid? Think PCC can fly a renowned subject matter expert from the east coast? Call PCC to rent a classroom with 18 computers running ArcGIS 10 on XP, and cater in a continental breakfast and have lunch set up at noon with beef brisket, mashed potatoes, veggies, a salad, and cheesecake for dessert.

Snell's 11/06 letter to Huckelberry lies, “Although the amount allocated to SAIAT has been reduced, I am pleased to report that the performance measures for SAIAT are expected to exceed last year's.”

SAIAT closed.

Snell's letter also asserts the SAIAT board approved gutting the institute for the sole purpose of padding TREO's cash reserves. Believe that?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Deliberate Deception

(Photo-Charles and Shirley Sherrod with FLAG Executive Director, Susan Stokes.) This story is front page news, so I will be brief regarding what is everywhere. Tea bagger Andrew Breitbart deliberately pieced together an old video of a speech by an employee of a non-profit agency helping distressed farmers in 1986. He posted it at his web site Big Government, suggesting it was current. Fox News then slammed the airwaves, "Obama administration official in the USDA admits racial discrimination, denying assistance to white farmers."

Not wanting to appear sluggish or lacking in chutzpah, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack quickly asked for her resignation.

Shirley Sherrod became a household word yesterday. At first, the NAACP bought the fabrication and denounced her remarks, but naturally it immediately launched an investigation to get the facts.

Fact: she didn't become part of the USDA until 2009.
Fact: the speech message was the exact opposite of what Breitbart manufactured.
Fact: she gave her all for the white farmers and succeeded in saving their farm.
Fact: those farmers came forward immediately, "She saved our farm. She was as nice to us as anyone could have been. Racism? That's ridiculous."

When the NAACP realized it had been completely scammed, it did what big people do. It admitted it had been duped, profusely retracted and apologized, called for the situation to be set right, and posted the FULL video at its website. Tom Vilsack should put her back in her position TODAY or at least initiate an inquiry that will reinstate her if the results vindicate her.

Sherrod got to have that rare experience where the worst day of your life and the best day of your life are the same day. Her entire life just altered.

Breitbart has really stepped in it, because that 43 minute speech is really quite good with some excellent lines, "It's really about those who have and those who don't, whether they are black or white or Hispanic." It is now going to be played and re-played over the next few days, and Shirley Sherrod is now front and center under the big lights as an African American woman doing the right thing who was deliberately slandered by a fat, white, male teabagger slime ball.

Breitbart is the same kook that forwarded the conspiracy that the new Missile Defense Agency logo was blending the Obama logo with Islamic symbols, revealing Obama's actions "fit an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter’s authorities call Shariah."

Problem: The new logo was commissioned and created during the Bush Administration.

Breitbart's site suggested Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is secretly a Muslim, showing images of her wearing a turbin, "Ms. Kagan’s troubling tolerance of Shariah would, of course, have vastly more far-reaching implications should she reach the Supreme Court."

Problem: Kagan is Jewish.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bags Full of Tea

Yes, Mark William's letter has been posted everywhere as has his confusing "banishment" from, uh, whom? First, just in case the reader somehow missed it, here is the letter Williams posted at his blog in response to the NAACP's official call for the tea baggers to renounce racism.

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

In fact we held a big meeting and took a vote in Kansas City this week. We voted to condemn a political revival of that old abolitionist spirit called the ‘tea party movement’.

The tea party position to “end the bailouts” for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bail outs directly to us coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds.

And the ridiculous idea of “reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.” What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!

The racist tea parties also demand that the government "stop the out of control spending." Again, they directly target coloreds. That means we Coloreds would have to compete for jobs like everybody else and that is just not right.

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government "stop raising our taxes." That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?

Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.


Precious Ben Jealous, Tom’s Nephew NAACP Head Colored Person

No racism here. Well, as a result, The National Tea Party Federation, an organization that seeks to represent the Tea Party political movement around the country, expelled Williams and his Tea Party Express organization from, uh, the Federation.

As a result, the Tea Party Express now says:

The Tea Party Express with over 400,000 members is by far larger than the Tea Party Federation’s entire membership. Most rank-and-file tea party activists think we’re talking about Star Trek when we try to explain who the “Federation” is. Given the absurdity of the actions by the "Federation," this is quite fitting, since their conduct is alien to our membership.

Groups trying to say who can or can't be "expelled" from the tea party movement is arrogant and preposterous. Perhaps this explains why so many tea party groups have left the "Federation" during the past few months. Whatever the reason, most tea party activists are focused on taking back their country and the upcoming 2010 elections and not silly power games being played by individuals such as those in the "Federation."

To add to the absurdity of the "Federation" they have also informed us that our members can't participate in something called their "basecamp" communication network, which makes us think that the individuals involved in the "Federation" spend a bit too much time watching science fiction movies and cartoons. We here at the Tea Party Express prefer a focus that is more grounded in the Constitution and electing tea party conservatives to offices of import in these 2010 elections.

The "Federation" has enabled and empowered the NAACP's racist attacks on the tea party movement, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Circular firing squads of groups within the tea party movement attacking one another accomplish nothing, and on this issue the Tea Party Federation is wrong, and has both enabled and empowered the NAACP’s racist attacks on the tea party movement. Which is something they'll realize when they beam themselves back from basecamp.

Unbelievable. Williams published his own book, Taking Back America. It's chapters consist of (my remarks in italics):

1. Why Obama is dangerous and must be stopped
Yes, let's return to an imbecile like GWB.

2. How the media has lined up against the nation
Does he mean Rush Limbaugh or Fox News?

3. Why "Under God" is important
The founding fathers didn't think so.

4. Who is the real enemy of liberty?

5. Liberals really ARE mentally ill
He's in such a position to offer a prognosis.

6. Real racism
Yes, from a seasoned expert leading by example.

7. The Savagry of Islam and how political correctness led to 9/11
So THAT'S why Osama Bin Laden hates us!

8. Are Tea Parties radical?
Are cross burnings?

9. What is the "Tea Party" and who are the "Tea Partiers"?
Uh, this hasn't been slammed on the front pages for months?

10. How the author cured his own liberalism
This can't possibly be serious.

11. Why the Tea Party movement is a Human Rights movement
I think I'm going to throw up.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cloth Infests Regional Transportation Authority

The Cloth cancer extends dramatically farther than economic and downtown development. Sunday's Star has a Rob O'Dell, Andrea Kelly co-written piece about the financial crisis facing the $2.4 billion RTA project. From the article:

The cost overruns the RTA is trying to contain come almost exclusively from the planning and design, or "soft" phases of the projects, even while construction bids are coming in below budget....The pre-construction work usually requires about 15 percent of the total project budget, but lately has been eating 25 to 40 percent, and in one case as much as 70 percent of the initial budget.

Years ago, involved in workforce and economic development, I scratched my head as I watched overpaid suits talk endlessly about strategic plans, blueprints, initiatives, projects, studies, surveys, year after year, while nothing actually happened. "Cloth" refers to the dynamics that enable this to continue indefinitely, a circus where the clowns in the ring, TREO, MTCVB, DTP, and others squander around $10 M/year. Then, I thought it was limited to economic development.

A larger circus emerged, making the Cloth distinction clearer: arrogant suits not held to account, fictitious projections about great things to happen, and false or misleading assertions about both results produced and the financial implications. With Rio Nuevo, the dollars soared into the hundreds of millions. I started blogging about Rio Nuevo in the spring of 2008. Probably for reasons having nothing to do with this blog, Star reporter Rob O'Dell started writing about Rio Nuevo later that year, and he has been covering it to this day.

Now a larger circus still.

The RTA hired a contractor to estimate project costs for all of the proposed transportation projects in October 2005, while creating the plan that was later put to voters. Those estimates were $250 million more than they showed on the May 2006 ballot.

Hayes said the local governments agreed at the time they should — and could — deliver projects at less than those estimates, so the numbers that appeared on the ballot were reduced based on their word. In reality, many projects have cost more, not less.

Oh, god. I guess that about says it all.

Oh, wait.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Confronting Stupidity

George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon, and Peter Ubel, a professor of business and public policy at Duke, have a short but telling piece in the New York Times about the efforts to implement behavioral economics into public policy to address various issues confronting the country.

Econ 101 notes the free market's fatal flaws in addressing society’s needs, from its lack of ethics (put your kidney up as collateral and we’ll reduce your interest rate), externalities (it’s worth it for Dupont to pollute everyone’s river), and what I consider to be its deepest and most fundamental flaw: the assumption of rational behavior.

This assumption has been amply refuted. People don’t behave rationally and are easily manipulated. They succumb to weakness, desire, and short term gratification at great long term expense. They don’t care how much sodium is in their Whopper and fries, or that enslaved children made their shoes, or that pharmaceutical companies influenced the drug they were prescribed for reasons of profit over medicine. They deny what it does to the planet to fill their gas tank.

Behavioral economics seeks to explain why consumers make irrational decisions, why they eat insane amounts of food, buy gas guzzling behemoths, rack up credit cards on unnecessary purchases, and don’t save for retirement. Behavioral economics is an early step in addressing what humanity has been in denial about throughout its history: stupidity. Yes, we know about it, see it everywhere, but it is not addressed seriously. It is not studied with academic rigor as the force on the planet that it is. It should be.

We understand the limited intellect that tries to understand and fails. Far less do we acknowledge let alone grasp the deliberate preference of ignorance, the refusal to learn, the rejection of both intelligence and education, exemplified by George W. Bush and distilled by "common sense" Sarah Palin. In denial, we find this behavior too horrible to face. We deny it, preferring to think that of course sound and informed minds will prevail, failing to recognize the dangers of allowing an evil and malignant few to exploit this sad aspect of reality.

The likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and the Fox News demons have made it easier than ever to see the blatant manipulation and fleecing of the weak minded, serving the political equivalent of fast food: superficially appealing, fostering irresponsibility, and poisonous.

The imbecile always smiles. Tragically, what's hard to accept is that malignant forces have figured out how to manipulate the imbecile and like minded minions in order to get stupid elected. They got stupid into the White House, inflicting eight years of damage that will take decades to repair.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

BlogNetNews Closes Down, which featured blog rankings for every state in the country, closed its web site yesterday after serving the blogger community for over three years. I visited the site almost daily, perusing the blog wire that provided a one page at a glance summary of all the blog posts associated with the key blogs in a given state. I liked the site because it had both right and left leaning blogs. Their blog rankings made the news, and while the secret ranking algorithm was hardly gospel, it more or less tracked with what seasoned bloggers expected. In Arizona, for example, we know that Sonoran Alliance dominates the right and Blog for Arizona (and Tedski when he blogged) leads the left.

More than the rankings, the summaries at the blog wire will be missed. Many blogs (including this one) received visitors who read the BNN headlines and clicked on the article links. That said, the energy at the site was clearly dwindling. As the political blogosphere continues to evolve, it is getting harder. Many sites have descended into choir blogging, utterly unreadable to all but their own unthinking flock. I almost quit at the beginning of this year and still might, refusing to preach to choirs. Choir blogging may not be the only reason, but many of the local blogs are withering on the vine. Just for fun, I would read the news, reflect a minute, and then visit Seeing Red with my prediction on what would be there. My accuracy is staggering. It's as mechanical as an old Westclox. I could write it. Why would anyone read IC Arizona (which, by the way, will lose its sole raison d'etre when McCain wins the primary)? Traffic to that site has tanked.

LeftyBlogs is still operating. If anyone knows a good site where one can scan what the blogs are saying without having to visit each one, I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cloth - The Essence of Fabrication

Star reporter Rob O’Dell has a follow up piece regarding Dr. Heywood Sanders' criticism of the HVS template for greasing the approval of publicly funded construction projects, in this case Tucson’s downtown convention hotel. The HVS report can’t even get basic math straight. For me, this evokes déjà vu all over again, images of obese egos hoisting mountains of nonsense about positioning regional attributes and leveraging community assets. They made a yellow streak. They had a shin dig at the Fox about a blueprint.

I was called into a meeting where highly paid people with serious voices asked me to prepare to train hundreds, perhaps thousands, of technical workers as the TDRI "ramped up" production of products not yet designed. PCC spoke of aggressive recruitment of students to be trained as technicians for "impossible to saturate" positions. Nothing happened, and the Cloth was not so easy to see in the training context. It took awhile for me to get that nothing was ever going to happen.

The current hotel conversation exposes what I have been discussing for years, but not by the numbers or the logic of the arguments per se. What exposes it are the attitudes, in particular the attitude of the Mayor regarding the downtown hotel, the desire to "shorten the presentation," the repulsion towards the facts, the disdain for the reality of the situation. Do you see it?

That’s the Cloth.

The Cloth IS the charade, the circus, the act, the façade where a chosen set of characters gets to wear a tie, draw ludicrous salaries, and pleasure itself. It is TREO’s trip to Austin, Portland, Sweden, Madagascar, Sydney, or their announcement of a local business expansion as if they were involved. It is the ballpark on Kino that will become the spring training center of the southwest. Attend a meeting at the Chamber (seriously, go to one). It is the downtown hotel.

Barring changes, which now might actually happen, here’s how it works. The hotel will be built but changes and mishaps will send the cost to $340M. Sloppy Rio Nuevo accounting will hide this and its continuing losses for awhile. When the $50K/mo taxpayer subsidy is discovered, the suits will present a strategic plan for profitable operations based upon increased revenue projections due to tourism generated by the trolley car. We may not be at 70% occupancy at $165/room, but we will be. In fact, we will be at 90% at $245/room.


Friday, July 09, 2010

Kozachik Exposes Building Fraud

A couple months ago I wrote One Juicy Cloth Thread when the Tucson Choices blog featured videos of Tucson to a conversation with University of Texas Professor Heywood Sanders (Curriculum Vitae), whose research led to the publication of Field of Schemes about a nationwide Cloth racket hardly limited to Tucson. Pay us a fortune to build it. Not to worry, they'll come. Sure they will.

Consultants in bed with builders are well paid to provide shiny documents giving politicians justification to build projects that make a fortune for the builders and their pals, who laugh all the way to the bank while local governments are left with financial sinkholes that not only squandered the funds for construction, but then continue to hemorrhage and require ongoing taxpayer subsidies to operate.

Councilman Steve Kozachik has clearly grasped the distinction Cloth, as has Star reporter Rob O'Dell, perhaps the only reporter in Tucson who writes on the topic with respectable chutzpah. Thursday he launched an article describing how Kozachik had Dr. Sanders address the city council regarding the downtown hotel Mayor Walkup and associated clothophiles (in particular Larry/Dan consulting) desperately want to build. As you can see at O'Dell's piece, the exchange between Professor Sanders and Kozachik was devastating, with Sanders citing solid data regarding occupancy and rates in city after city, project after project.

Mayor Walkup's request to cut the presentation from 40 minutes to 20 minutes occurred as the desperate act of someone interested in avoiding the truth.

Reading about intelligent analysis being applied to the kind of nonsense I endured while a part of the clothiverse is just exquisite. Kudos to Kozachik for lifting the rock over the cockroaches, and kudos to O'Dell for solid reporting and pitching that puppy through the editor's strike zone. You can imagine the comments posted at the piece.

MIT's Don Pickrell's work - A Desire Named Streetcar exposes deliberate fudging of numbers to justify construction.

Systemic Policy Analysis of the same flavor applied to transportation.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Something Else 3rd Anniversary

Today marks the third anniversary of the publication of Something Else, the tragic story of a non-profit training institute that made a huge difference for hundreds if not thousands of working Tucsonans before it was gutted and destroyed by TREO.

More accurately, TREO wished to take over the training institute, and the scheme almost worked. They infiltrated the board of directors and slashed the non-profit's funding to inflict severe financial losses. Then their moles cited the bleeding as a reason to replace the existing director with, naturally, one of them.

Well, no. Said existing director learned of the scheme and had said goons ousted from the board. Liar and thief TREO chief Joe Snell, who stole money from the institute ($132,500), from the Microbusiness Advancement Center ($54,000), and from a Goodwill training program for the handicapped ($30,000), didn't get to snarf the "Business Convergence Center" he touted before the council and board of supervisors. Instead he was treated to a new word, "Cloth" and significantly enhanced awareness that he doesn't do a thing for his salary.

The institute imploded in a matter of months. The following year Raytheon built its own training center. Other businesses that used the institute, numbering over 100, now just go without.