Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hero Worship

My wife believes that one should not look up to anyone, that bar none, these people we identify as out heroes will without exception let us down. How can I argue with her on that? Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Barry Bonds, Newt Gingrich, heck even Mr. Virtue himself Bill Bennett all showed themselves to be weak and then deceitful as they proclaimed their innocence to the world.

It isn't flaws in their day-to-day nor is it their hanky-panky that disappoints me. It is their adherence to an image of "I don't do such things" while they are actually doing such things that makes me sigh.

So knowing this to be the case, that all of us are flawed, can anyone be called a hero or looked at as a person of integrity and value? The optimist in me says "yes" - and so begins my quest to identify five people that are worth looking up to, maybe even emulating.

First on my list is James Edwin Horton Jr. You can read about him @ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/scottsboro/peopleevents/p_horton.html

Why do I admire him.......?

When it was suggested that if Horton dared annul the jury's verdict, his re-election in 1934 would be in doubt, Judge Horton replied with a smile: "What does that have to do with the case?" Horton lost his bid for re-election the following year. He retired to his land, a villain to some, a hero to many.

To do the right thing - what you feel or know to be right - when it will no doubt come at your own expense - that is why I think he should be admired. Would I, faced with the inevitable outcome, do the right thing? I would like to think so. But then again how many times have I taken the coward’s way out and remained silent? OK, so maybe a man's life was not on the line - but still, how many times have I failed to step up and say "stop!" Too many if I am to be totally honest with myself.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wall Street & Government Intervention

There is a debate currently being fought between those that want government intervention and those that do not. Within these two opposing positions, each has two distinct and opposing views as to why.

For those that think intervention is critical it is for reasons that benefit their pocket book directly (those that took a risk with these “toxic-radioactive” assets) and those that buy into the notion that the economy will suffer greatly (and hence so will their pocketbook) if something is not done soon, the notion of these institutions “are too big to fail.”

On the other side of the fence are those that believe government intervention is the wrong course of action, and here it gets a little bit more crowded as to the reasons why. One set, and here is where I am falling, believes that true capitalism requires reward and punishment for taking risk. Other believe that allowing any government intervention just puts the government closer to calling the shots which stifles creativity and innovation – keep them out at all cost – camel’s nose under the tent sort of thing. The third does not want taxpayer monies being spent to bail out these people who for the past decade have cut themselves nice hefty paychecks while they gambled, or worse yet, looked the other way knowing full well the shoe would drop and here we would be (we will worry about that later - right now the troff is full! - eat piggies eat!.

Not worth mentioning is the third group that is for it because they want to protect Bush and their parties legacy and those that oppose it because they want to see Bush fail regardless of the cost.
So how can government intervene without creating a mess?
As I see it, a bailout, as in let’s give the Fed 750 billion dollars to do what he thinks is needed only rewards the risky behavior that got them into this mess. By using the argument that these institutions are “too big to let fail” you encourage them to get bigger since there will be no consequences should they make poorly thought out – hence risky – investments. Let me be clear that there is a difference between taking a calculated risk and gambling risk. To bail them out means there were no repercussions for this behavior – and since they are in fact the only institutions that power our economy, they can go about business in the future with little lesson learned.

I say either do nothing and let the market sort it out – it will – there are strong players in every downturn that will rise up – or - loan them the money at the type of interest rate our credit card companies charge us when we appear to them to be risky, you know, 29.5%.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Task from God

(Note: - This Blog is not an "I hate Sara Palin" blog. I am trying to grapple with a bigger issue for which she is directly associated - rightly or wrongly - with)

From the Bryan/College Station Eagle – Letters to the Editor:
http://www.theeagle.com/letters/Letters-for-September-19 from Johnnie Griffin

America needs leaders willing to call on God:

Corbet Perkins' letter (Eagle, Sept. 17) is another example how people are grabbing at anything to smear Sarah Palin. He took a statement and twisted it to make the talking points of the liberals.

He wrote, "According to the Associated Press, Palin said the Iraq was is 'a task that is from God.'" What Sarah Palin said was "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God's plan."

Twisted people making twisted statements need to be questioned and not accepted as face value.

Our country needs leaders like Sarah Palin who are not ashamed to call on guidance from the Almighty.

What she said – word for word…..

“That our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That is what we have to make sure we are praying for that that plan is God’s plan.”

OK so neither the “talking points of the liberals” or the outlet that Mr. Griffin used provided the correct quote. Interesting how both of them take her words and use them to imply what each side wants them to emphatically represent.

What I understand her to be saying, and really only she can substantiate or rebut my take, is that we need to pray that this path is truly the path God wants us to be on. If it is, like she and Mr. Griffin hope is the case, then all is good in the eyes of God. If it is not the correct path, then God will show us the error in our ways. By continuing to pray under the contention that they want to follow God’s plan only when God tells them that it is not his plan will they change course.

Because they pray to follow God’s path they are absolved of responsibility if the path they chose is wrong. After all why would God send them down a wrong path if they prayed to follow his plan? If it is indeed the wrong path surely God would tell them. So this must be the right path and all of the others who believe God is telling them it is the wrong path must not be as connected to God as they are.

And therein lies the problem with waiting for God to send you some sign emphatically telling you to change course. This brings up a great joke I remember hearing a long time ago that illustrates my point.

A man fell overboard from his little boat and was thrashing around in the water when another boat pulled up.

"Jump in," shouted the boater. "We'll save you."

"No", cried the drowning man, "God will save me."

The scene was repeated twice more, before a helicopter finally arrived and hovered over him. Once again, the man refused help on the same grounds ... God would save him.

The man finally drowned and as he crossed the Pearly Gates he gazed into God's eyes with obvious confusion.

"I placed my faith in you and you let me drown," he complained.

"Let you drown?" exclaimed God. "I sent three boats and a helicopter."

So the question I would like to pose is how do you know when it is a task that is from God or a task that fits with what you think God would want? How would you know, and, would you be receptive to the message telling you it was not if it came not from the mouth of God directly to your ear but from some other subtle less conspicuous way, say, from the death of a child – as so called “collateral damage” - resulting from carrying out the task you pray is from God?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not qualified to run a major comapany...

Carly Fiorina, a McCain adviser and the former Hewlett-Packard CEO was asked about Palin by a host of the McGraw-Hill Show on St. Louis KTRS Radio:

"Do you think she has the experience to run a major company, like Hewlett Packard?"

"No, I don't," Fiorina responded.


Why not Ms. Fiorina? What is she- as well as McCain, Obama, and Biden as you later stated - lacking that you apparently have in spades? Do you think any of the four would be more likely to make a similar bonehead decision like you did when you had HP buy Compaq?

So what skill set is needed to be the leader of a company as big as HP? Apparently her qualifications, hands down better then any of these four, makes her vastly superior to them in terms of vision, leadership, and managerial skills. In fact she was so good at being a CEO at HP that she was dismissed in 2005 "after the merger with Compaq floundered, stock prices plunged 50 percent, and 20,000 people were layed off."

But apparently that is what is considered as being successful since HP handed her a $21.4 million severance package.

What I have found to be true - and y'all can disagree, but the CEO, as well as all the VPs and their inner circle are worth no more to a company than anyone else unless they posses three qualities:

  • Must have a vision
  • Must be able to get people to follow that vision
  • Must be able to bring something to the business that is useful/needed.

Anyone can be a successful CEO if luck and timing are on their side. Very few can be called a legitimate asset to their company. Steve Jobs comes to mind - would Apple be where they are today without him? Is HP where it is today because of Fiorina? I mean really how good was Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling for Enron? They were perceived as successful but were they better than anyone else at what they did. Heck I could have bankrupted Enron too.

So how important is the CEO to a company and would Palin, McCain, Obama, or Biden do any worse then she did at HP? Would they be worse than any of the knucklehead CEOs at Fannie and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, or Merrill Lynch who though it was prudent and wise to bet the farm on sub-prime home loans?

What an Arrogant woman Fiorina is, but then that seems to be par for the course for these captains of industry in which we depend for our jobs, support with our purchases, and rely on with our investments.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Book Banning


Apparently Mayor Palin in 96 asked the city librian if she would be all right with censoring library books, should she be asked to. Librarian Mary Ellen Emmons told Mayor Palin she would definitely not be all right with it.

A few months later the Librarian was fired.

According to Palin she was not fired over the censorship but because Ms Emmons did not fully support her.

Public support (woot for us!) for the Librarian was so great that Palin relented.

What makes Palin a wolf in sheep's clothing is her lying to the press about what really took place. Her take was that this transaction was simply a policy discussion with a department head about "understanding and following administrative agendas" and that the firing letter was "just a test of loyalty."

Sound like a familiar tone (think Bush's Justice Department and the EPA)? What you are allowed to do as a public servant is only what our agenda allows comrade!

Let me be clear on this. McCain is not the problem. I honestly feel that he would put country first. But, as her as the VP, his death gives the religious right and neo-cons everything they need to further their agenda.

It's not about higher taxes, victory or retreat, or midnight basketball. It is about a group wanting the United States to be a theocracy - in the way they see God's wants and needs being implemented and the other no holds access to do what ever they want.


Consilient: the concurrence of multiple inductions drawn from different data sets.

Induction: the process of deriving general principles from particular facts or instances.

Concurrence: agreement.

OK reader (assuming that someone is reading this). you must be thinking "wow this guy must be pretty smart to use these big words in such a seemingly meaningful and profound way. Truth is, and it is always about truth is it not, that this blog's name came from a book I am reading "The Ghost Map" by Steven Johnson. I wanted to call it "boiling frogs" but that was taken, so, I settled on this name.

I am in Minneapolis this week at a CHMM conference. I just paid $9.95 to use the internet which is free in hotels half the price of this one. Go figure. I did not pay $19.95 for breakfast opting to walk downtown to find a coffee shop. It is Sunday - so sitting outside in high 60's with my "robust" coffee and the big ol' paper seemed a fun thing to occupy some time. You got to love big cities with their unique mixture of people like me and people who have nothing better to do than hang out downtown. Right across the street two of them got in a fight - lots of "F" bombs and bravado - then it started to look like it was getting ugly. Let me tell you that by the time the police got there one could have murdered half the block.

So while reading the Minneapolis Star Tribune I come across a story called " The Evangelicals' New Crusader" about Sarah Palin, McCain's choice for his VP.

Yikes! Scary stuff.

So it got me to thinking about how good things, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are slowly taken away from us. Slowly enough so that we don't notice it, slowly enough so that we don't feel uncomfortable while it take place, slowly enough that when we finally understand what is going on we are too far into it to get out. Just like the adage about boiling frogs.

It is not about Sarah Palin, Evangelicals, Republicans, Conservatives, or the Right. It is all about what this religious ideology can lead them to do, has the propensity to do, and has shown itself more than willing to do, once it achieves power.

If we, as a Nation, "hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." then why would we ever willingly give anyone the power to take them away? We do it not so much through apathy but by not paying attention to the message they convey through their words and deeds.

We need to pay attention to the facts......

"The consilience of inductions takes place when one class of facts coincides with an induction obtained from another different class." Cambridge Philosopher William Whewell circa 1840s.