Friday, November 26, 2004

The Next Front In The Revolution?

The Old Media is dead. Being ornery, they won't admit it. Now you know where the legend of 'zombies' started; the old town criers didn't like being replaced by the newspapers, and the old witch doctors didn't like finding out they were replaced by men and women who understood the patterns of weather and the cycles in nature. Long after they were useless, they brayed on. The new Media will include reporters and news networks, because the need for reliable sources for news will always be there. But the empires of opinion-makers and trend-setters have been shaken to their foundations by the rise of the new options and alternatives in Information Analysis, best illustrated by the exponential growth of Blogs. I would contend, however, that the Revolution in Information is now ready to show another front.

I first began to suspect this front years ago, long before I had read my first blog. Baylor University, where I earned my degree, was asking me for money. Again. In fact, the heavy majority of Baylor's mail to me has always been asking for money. Money for the Liberal Arts, Money for the Football team, Money for new Scholarships and Endowments. Now, don't misunderstand me; Baylor is a pretty good school, as universities go. But, when I was in a bad way eonomically, Baylor's response was to tell me that my family made too much money to qualify, even though we couldn't afford the three of us in school at that time. Grants which I qualified for, I was not told about, as well as Scholarships. On-campus employment was denied to me, largely because the people deciding the employments had no standards to satisfy; those in particular need or especially qualified were ignored; the epitome of "it's who you know".

I'm not trying to trash Baylor. Like I said, for a university, they're pretty good. But they're badly run and poorly organized. Worse, they won't admit it. And when you get right down to it, unless you decide for yourself what you're going to do with your pricey education, the Guidance Counselors at Baylor won't be much help preparing you for the Real World. Absolutely none of the classmates I knew ever got so much as a single interview from the Counselors, and I would have changed my major and planning at age 18 if I had received proper direction, instead of learning the hard way what does and does not work.

Fast forward to 1988. Having worked hard and received several promotions over 5 years with one Corporation, I opened a facility and hired a staff of sixty employees. While there were very specific skills I looked for and helped my team develop, the simple fact is that in many careers, while a formal degree can help you get a better position and pay, the quality of work you do is not tied to your classwork and grades. It's very important for managers and supervisors to know what skills and talents to look for in employees, but in many companies, the policy is strictly tied to formal education, and it's casually assumed that a degree means a certain level of competency. That myth is finally breaking apart, and the need for a better standard of competency must take its place.

If Bill Gates did nothing else, he helped to revolutionize the Workplace by creating a new class of employee; the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). In companies using the Microsoft platforms, having an MCSE on staff became critical, and the IT guy would often be better-paid than some Senior VP's. It didn't matter if he hadn't spent a day in college, so long as Microsoft had certified him. Alternatives to the standard degree became obvious, even critical.

Now that Information Management has been recognized as a discipline and talent in its own right, corporations and major employers are re-evaluating the criteria they use in selecting employees. And as for college degrees? With the new technology available, remote classwork is possible, along with variable scheduling, so that a new wave of fully-accredited colleges have arrived for the full-time worker to gain the degree proving academic accomplishment. Universities are on notice: Reputations must be confirmed, not used for laurel beds.

When Dan Rather leaves the anchor desk at CBS News next March (and hopefully, sterner measures will preventing him from continuing to collect paychecks from that company), he may be joined by some of the more arrogant professors from elitist universities. Reality has a way of showing up unexpectedly.

And for the record, no, I will not be sending Baylor University any of my money. They haven't earned it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Modern Technology

I used to wonder why people had it so bad in the days without Modern Technology. You know, like the people who founded Houston did it without Air Conditioning, and people couldn't travel more than maybe 20 or 30 miles in a day, because of the limitations of horse and road, etc. But I realize also, that we have some problems today, that are the direct result of Modern Technology.

I walked into the break room a few minutes ago, and saw "Divorce Court" on TV. What in the world would possess a couple going through a painful thing like divorce, to hang out their dirty laundry on national television? For that matter, why is there an audience for that kind of thing. I don't need or want to know about anyone's sex life or personal maturity crises or 4th wife, and that includes "Oprah", "Maury", "PrimeTime", or any of these shows which fixate on the bizarre and the depraved. I do not need to know about Paris Hilton's sex life, or whether Britney Spears thinks Ashley Simpson is a good singer. The fact is, easily 90% of TV's programs are useless, serving no purpose for the common good, and in a number of cases, quite the opposite.

"60 Minutes" tried to trash President Bush with forged papers. Numerous "news" reporters scurried around all year to keep us infomed on the latest Swift Boat or National Guard rumor, but precious few checked into the details of either candidate's plans for Immigration Reform or revisions to the Tax Code. Modern television and the movies are getting to be like letting your kid choose the menu; anything healthy gets rejected early on.

Ironically, the Internet is proving to be a refuge for information. But the Old Media is hard at work there, as well. Did you think it was a coincidence, that so many sites with information and details now expect you to register with them to read the articles? They want to know who's leaving, and why. And the bigger news sites are learning how to play "Pravda" with their mistakes and data they want to go away. For instance, Larry Bord made a few statements defending the unexcusable thuggery of Ron Artest, and sites started to note them. When Mr. Bird expressed his displeasure, these records were wiped clean; you can still find the reference in "Google", but when you click the link, it's been erased. 'All the news, except for the stuff we don't want you to see', seems to be the new motto. Fortunately, many bloggers (though sadly, not me) are savvy enough to snapshot such screens before the incriminating data goes bye-bye.

I also learned that Modern Technology, like Car Salesmen, promises far more than it delivers. Consider Monster.com, for example. The site would have you believe that it has revolutionized job and employee searching, and to a degree, it's good. But neither of the last 2 jobs I found, had anything to do with Monster. In fact, Monster never got me a single interview, and the resume format they use, frankly, is garbage, both from the job-hunter and employer point of view. I've been both, so I know. In the end, networking with people you know at church and from school remains the best way to find the interview and job offer.

Since I've touched on money and politics, the next logical step is sex. What is it with the media? Sure, I like sex, but c'mon! Nicollette Sheridan shows up on Monday Night Football in just a towel. Why? I go to MFN for football, OK, not to have the wife think I'm looking for smut. And speaking of smut, is there one single positive quality to 'Desperate Housewives'? For crying out loud, somebody please insert a plot, some dialogue, maybe just a hint of intelligence? Oh yes, I forgot, this is ABC TV, the guys who thought 'NYPD Blue' wasn't 'blue' enough, so we had to see Dennis Franz' naked butt. Just because someone hypothesized that an infinite number of monkeys would eventually write all the great works, doesn't mean that anything that comes out of a chimpanzee's typewriter should get a show. But I'm being mean; most TV 'celebrities' couldn't survive in the Real World.

Which brings up 'Reality TV'. As if. My idea of 'Reality TV', would be making some of these network execs try to make it as retail managers with direct contact by the public, or some college professors forced to work in a corporation, and learn first-hand that a false story from even a local TV station can and will hurt a company, and cost real people their jobs. I'd like to see Dan Rather have to prove his claims and show his work, at a station where they check the facts before they go on the air. I'd like to see 'models' who have same shape and condition as ordinary people, and never again be leactured on TV by a single actress with no kids, how she thinks I should raise my children. I'd like to see shows where normal people aren't ridiculed, where people who go to church are the good guys, where people who don't use foul language and don't disrepect other groups are the 'cool' crowd, and where community, courtesy, and self-discipline are recognized as not only worthy of praise, but essential.

Use technology then, but don't trust it.

Monday, November 22, 2004

A Large Unpaid Debt

Forty-one years ago today, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot to death in Dallas. That much is agreed upon by almost everyone. Since the assassination of JFK, however, almost no one has been able to establish a stable consensus on just what happened there on that day.

Before I go too far into this article, let me be clear that I do not generally hold conspiracy theories to be viable. It’s simple when you think about it; a secret on this scale, kept for this long by any number of people, would have revealed something of itself by now. If you think Nixon’s White House tapes or the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib was a big deal, killing a sitting President is much more significant, on a level which begs disbelief that all the major participants would keep their secrets all these years. So, the notions of a coup de etat do not sit well with me, nor do I believe that there is a ‘secret government’ controlling things.

But it’s also apparent, from what we know now, that the conventional wisdom is also wrong; all three versions of it. Let’s go through them one by one:

[1] Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy – There are literally dozens of books and films out which completely destroy this notion, yet a large segment of the public still holds on to this myth, including the Mainstream Media, and even more particularly those talking heads who vaulted their reputations and careers ahead of others by toeing the line when the Warren Commission put the heaviest coat of whitewash on the assassination. A detailed debunking can be had with a quick check of any library or comparison between the presented claims and the evidence, but here are some highlights:

* The rifle allegedly used was so poor, that FBI marksmen were unable to repeat the feat using the actual gun; the closest they could manage was to fire the weapon four times without aiming it in the 7.9 seconds allowed; aimed shots never came close to the necessary accuracy or speed. If they could not do it, how are we supposed to believe Oswald did?

* Oswald left no prints on the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. Although a palm print was produced later, this was produced after Oswald’s death, and witnesses saw agents take Oswald’s prints in his casket.

* The view from the alleged “sniper perch” on the 6th floor of the TSBD had only an obstructed view of the motorcade, blocked by several trees. While the Warren Commission claimed that the trees would have lost their leaves in November, films of the day show this was not true (nor uncommon in sunny Texas)

* Oswald was seen on the 2nd floor between 1 and 2 minutes after the assassination by his supervisor and a Dallas policeman. No one in the stairwells at that time saw Oswald, and the elevator was on the ground floor at this time. Therefore, there is no explanation for how Oswald is supposed to have moved from the 6th floor to the 2nd, without so much as breathing heavy.

* Oswald denied shooting anyone, an action clearly different from the pattern of political assassins, who have always boasted of their deed. No motive was ever established, as to why Oswald would have wanted Kennedy dead.

I could go on, but the blunt fact is, Oswald doesn’t fit. When you get to the ballistics and witness testimony, it only becomes more obvious. In 1978, giving in to the overwhelming witness testimony, film and acoustic evidence, the House sub-Committee on Assassinations ruled that the Kennedy assassination was the result of a conspiracy. The official policy of the United States Government has been that a Conspiracy killed a sitting President, yet no action has been taken on that policy in 26 years.

[2] A Secret Government is running the nation, and has been ever since 1963. This is actually a favorite in some parts of Europe. Rather than accept that we really let the average American decide who leads the nation, the notion of a hidden Central government is held and embraced. It’s so strong, that when Viktor Belenko flew a MiG-25 to Japan and defected to the West, he was convinced that Washington D.C. was a fa├žade only, that real decisions were made by some American version of the Politburo. This sort of thinking, which keeps LaRouche politically active and supplies an audience for Oliver Stone, misses the significance of the Watergate Scandal, the Middle East Peace Summit under Carter, the Reagan Revolution and the Victory over the Iron Curtain, the Clinton redirection of Welfare and Education policies, and the Bush Doctrine against Terrorism. It reminds me of the X-files episodes where we see secret committees, dark and nefarious, yet somehow unable to do anything but complain about things getting out of control. In a way, that part might be accurate; I can accept the notion of the Council on Foreign Relations muttering that Dubya is not taking their sage advice, the angry complaints of this U.N. committee or that, that the Americans are not being fair and submitting to the wise oversight of foreign nations, or the complaints by the heads of the Old Media Networks, that Americans are foolishly rejecting the commentary from Rather, Brokaw, and Jennings, in preference of making up their own minds. If a secret cabal killed Kennedy, I don’t think they knew what to do afterwards.

[3] The CIA did it. It always strikes me as strange, to believe how an agency too incompetent to kill Castro in 1961, was somehow able to pull off a much more complex operation against Kennedy. Also, the sieve-like nature of the CIA makes it impossible to believe that the details would not have been made public long ago. Also, the constant feuding between the FBI and CIA in the 1960s, makes it impossible to accept the claim that they would tolerate such a plot by the other, let alone work together.

So, what happened? I have my ideas, but the point here is that we owe it to the citizens of this nation, to fully investigate great crimes against the nation. Like the killing of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, the assassination of John Kennedy is a major offense demanding answers, and the task is worthy of our full effort and candor. So long as something like this is simply ignored or put aside, the people of the United States will have little reason to believe their government is truly accountable to them.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Forcing the Decision

For all the noise, the fact remains that President George W. Bush won re-election, with over 60 million voters placing their votes in trust to him. The fact also remains, than more than 57 milion voters this year preferred John Kerry for the office. The sheer volume of these numbers is staggering, which may explain why no one yet has addressed the peculiar paradox of this election:

America remains sharply divided between the values of the Democratic and Republican parties, yet

President Bush's re-election this year was decisive in all respects.


A look at the demographics helps illustrate this peculiar condition. Younger voters tended to support Kerry, while older voters preferred Bush. Single voters supported Kerry, while married voters preferred Bush. Urban voters preferred Kerry, while Rural voters preferred Bush. And of course, the Coasts (as states) went for Kerry, while the Heartlands went for Bush.

On the other hand, when compared to his 2000 numbers, President Bush in 2004 improved his results in every major demographic sector. Also, Bush did well with Catholics and better in Massachusetts against Kerry than he did against Gore in 2000; additional evidence that Bush was gaining national support, even in his opponent's base.

I don't know, however, that I agree with the assumption that the United States is rejecting the Democrats as a major party. History shows that even an overwhelming win, which 2004 was most definitely not, or a series of wins, may not accurately foretell a dynastic dominance. On the other hand, it would be wise for Democrats to understand and accept that George W. Bush has now exceeded expectations in five consecutive high-profile elections. His two elections as Governor of Texas were upsets in their caliber; the first was a stunning victory of Ann Richards, whom the Democrats not only considered unbeatable in Texas but a rising star with national ambitions. His victory over then Vice President Al Gore in a time of peace and prosperity in 2000 was so unexpected, some Democrats today remain in denial about it. In 2002, Democrats were so sure they would gain in both the House and Senate's elections that they began to leak speculations about changes in Committee leadership, yet when the results were known, it was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who had gained in both the House and Senate, and later examination revealed that it was personal campaigning by President Bush in key contests which made the difference. And of course, this year's campaign included the use of forged documents by CBS in a blatant smear attempt, a major motion picture was produced and distributed for the specific purpose of propaganda, a foreign billionaire personally vowed to try to buy the election out of spite, and Democrat '527' groups outspent Republican '527's by a factor of 12, yet when the votes were counted, George W. Bush withstood everything thrown at him, and won.

Again.

Another way to look at the present balance, is to consult America's Paternity source, the Declaration of Independence, specifically those Rights named from the beginning: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

To Democrats, values which some label as "Liberal" are very important, and one key disappointment many leading Democrats feel from Clinton's Presidency, is that they feel Bill Clinton was forced to water-down his programs and goals, and to compromise his politics to appease the Republican-controlled Congress. In many Democrats' minds, there has not been a truly Democratic Presidency in full power since Johnson. I don't agree with that, nor do all Democrats, but this sense of frustration is what is driving the Liberal wing of the Democratic Party, especially that the lesson has been made again, that only a Moderate Democrat can win the White House in this climate.

As I just mentioned, there are essentially two wings to the Democratic Party, but they both hold the same values, if to differing degrees. The value of "Life" means that most Democrats oppose the Death Penalty or the unilateral use of Military Force. The meaning of "Liberty", to Democrats, means that Social Values outweight individual preferences, that freedom of the group is the essential, but also that special accomodations must be made for any and all declared minority groups, excepting traditional groups, who are presumed to enjoy privilege. The "Pursuit of Happiness" applies to protection of individual preferences, including minority beliefs and protection from the presumed oppression by the majority. Many aspects of these values have virtue in their own right, but it bears noting, that they are generally focused on the minority of every debate, which suggests a political cost.

Republicans, despite the foul imprecations by the Left, represent the heart of America, and have enjoyed a growing base since Reagan declared his candidacy for the 1980 Presidential campaign. Republicans are actually a 3-wing party, which is not understood by most of the Old Media and the Liberals of the Democratic Party.

Republicans are Conservatives, Moderates, and 'Big Tent' Republicans. Like the Democrats, Republicans tend to hold the same values, but again to different degrees. Republicans believe in "Life" in the most essential terms; so precious that a murderer should lose his life for taking one, and the innocent are so precious that their life is inviolate even before their first breath. "Liberty" means that the Rights enumerated specifically in the Bill of Rights must be observed and protected without dilution or compromise. "The Pursuit of Happiness" means that using the powers of government to promote a 'social values' position or opinion is wrong, and does nothing but corrode the trust given by the public to those in office.

Democrats believe in using government to solve social problems; Republicans believe that government must act only where individuals and smaller governments cannot handle the task.

Democrats believe in limiting America's authority outside our borders; Republicans believe in establishing American authority worldwide in the protection of our national interests.

Only extremists hold only to the absolutes in these values, but there is a clear difference between the Left and Right in all of this. One benefit from this last election, is the clarity of position. Everyone is confirming or learning their position, and this will bear results in the coming elections.

The best course for everyone, in my opinion, is to consider your values carefully, and discuss them. You won't win over everyone, but there is a larger audience now, than ever before.