Saturday, December 17, 2005

Why I Won’t Be Watching “Brokeback Mountain”

. pew .

The Liberal Glitterati, which is to say Hollywood, is all a-twitter over the Golden Globe nominations for the gay cowboy film “Brokeback Mountain”. And as required in Liberal World bylaws, anyone who is not automatically impressed with a gay film/artwork/business/whatever must ergo be a Neocon fascist. Whatever.

It is true that I have not seen “Brokeback Mountain”, nor do I plan to, but it’s not because the film is about two cowboys who happen to be homosexual. It’s because the film is presented as a gay experience, in essence. It is not so much a story told on-screen, but more a lecture on how we should appreciate gays, an agenda on film, which is to say the director and producer have no idea what the audience wants, or worse, they presume to demand that we abandon entertainment for the purpose of the lesson. I never saw “Showgirls” for the same reason I am giving “Brokeback Mountain” a miss – I want a movie, not an insult to my intelligence. I want a plot, some action, or at the very least a reason to think I will enjoy the film.

Remember Ellen Degeneres? Leave off some of her statements for a minute, and focus on two points, please. The “Ellen” show, her sit-com on television, was funny for a while, enjoyable. Then someone decided it was time for Ellen’s character to “come out” on her show, and suddenly, the show became a critique on the producer’s perception of normative American values. Leaving aside the gross inability of the writers to understand the complexities inherent in a cosmopolitan nation of over three hundred million people, the show stopped being funny. And guess what? When a comedy stops being funny, people stop watching. After “Ellen” became 'Gay Ellen’, it tanked, and naturally the producers blamed conservatives and closed-minded Americans. It never once occurred to them, that we don’t watch sitcoms for social commentary or to be told what to think, we watch sitcoms to laugh. I don’t want to hear a comedian lecture me as if I were uneducated or intolerant, any more than I want that from my deli counter guy when I order a sandwich, or my mechanic when I need to get the brakes fixed. Just do your job, OK?

Well, when I go to the movies, I generally don’t care about politics or the moral outrage of this actor or that director. I want to see romance, comedy, action, whatever I feel is worth my money. I don’t agree much with Ellen Degeneres’ lifestyle choices, but you know what? I liked the job she did in “Finding Nemo”. George Clooney is a raving moron when he tries to lecture people on things he obviously knows nothing about, but I will admit he’s OK in some of his films. I have made an exception for Sean Penn – he’s a great actor, but he’s become so totally demented that I cannot in good conscience spend money which might encourage the man. So no, thank you, I do not feel the need to pay the money I worked for, just to be lectured instead of entertained. The only lectures I feel like paying for, come from academic professionals who really know what they’re talking about, and sorry Mr. McMurtry, you do not meet that standard. I will be happy to pay for a movie which actually offers me an intriguing plot and characters which act more in composition with each other, and who do not seem to be trying to insult the audience. But “Brokeback Mountain” does not meet that standard, and I do not owe you a penny of my money or a moment of my time for something you have not begun to earn.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Generation Geezer And Business School


I admit it; I made a mistake by not pursuing a Business degree at Baylor. But I was turned off by the attitude of so many of the B-School students. Nothing was good enough for them, unless it reflected money. For this attitude to be so prevalent at a Baptist University, was something I found more than slightly annoying.

Now, a couple decades later and here I am, trying to get in the door of a respectable Business School for my MBA. Of course, I could claim that I am not doing this so much for the money, or at least not out of any impulse of greed. It seems so much more palatable to remind myself that my intention is to acquire the tools and knowledge to do my job, to make myself attractive for the positions I should already be in line to receive, and yes, to provide for my family’s material needs in the most effective way possible. Still, I also want to avoid arrogance and foolhardy decisions.

I am going to make the people at the University of Phoenix unhappy with me, but there’s no avoiding that now. By this point in my school search, I have discovered that UoP carries a distinctly bad reputation in business circles, and while this may be unfair to the school, I cannot ignore that factor in choosing a school. In fact, while the for-profit schools boast valid accreditation, at least regionally, and their actual coursework may be everything they claim, there is a real stigma attached to the for-profit schools at the executive level. Anyone with a degree from a for-profit school is going to be labeled as having had to “settle” for a mass-production degree. At my age and with my commitments, that is a liability I cannot accept.

So where to go, then? Fortunately, there are a large number of “traditional” schools which offer an Online MBA, with little or no actual residency requirement, and some of them are even AACSB accredited. Also, there are a number of “traditional” schools in the Houston area, which offer a part-time MBA with schedules I might be able to keep.

I want to stop here and explain why I am writing this article, as well as the ones to come. There are many useful and interesting sites about how to pursue post-graduate education, but most of them are either too biased in favor of one school or type, while many other sites seem to cater to the very young, top-stratosphere students who want to be CEOs before they turn 30. As I am already forty-five years old, with some success in my career but not what the Strato class would call an impressive ‘portfolio’, I have not found much to suggest that people in my position have a great deal of support or even notice. We will fail or succeed on our own, unless we look after each other. These other sites are very useful in terms of information, so I am by no means slamming them, but I think it could be useful to present my experience for other people like me – Generation Geezer, if you will. I cannot help but believe there are other people like myself out there, and if I can succeed, I want to share what I learn with anyone interested.

At this point, I am studying for the GMAT, the requisite test which score will largely decide what schools I can think about for my degree. I also need to seriously decide whether I want to pursue my MBA with a concentration in Accounting, Finance, or whether I should pursue an Executive MBA.

More to come...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

WARNING: Blogger May Be Less Sane Than He Appears

* ^ *

I am, and this sure feels more and more like a risky venture, finally going after my MBA starting in 2006, and I've gotten a lot of good intellectual information, and more than a few intimidating lessons in how far behind the cut I am likely to be, unless I can plan my course very carefully.

I have been to, where I have discovered that being 45 years old with a Liberal Arts degree and a less-than-sparkling GPA, is a distinct liability.

** sigh **

Of course, those guys are all trying to get into the "Elite" schools, while I'm just trying to find the balance between one I can get into and afford, but which degree will be worth everything I will be putting into its attainment.

Lets see. First off, no scholarship. Those are mostly for full-time students, which is not an option for me. I'm going to be either part-time or Online.

Next up, why I'm going for a degree. Like most males, I spent a part of my life making stupid decisions, and three of mine were doozies:

Bad Idea #1: My dad was an engineer, so I had a vague idea at 18, that I would be one too. I figured I would get my B.S. in Chemistry from Baylor, snag a Fellowship and get my M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M. That plan fell apart when, as an "Honors" student, I took advanced courses in both Calculus and Chemistry, and failed both of them. Twice each, too.

Bad Idea #2: When it dawned on me that my only way to get through school with any kind of degree was to get away from the Chemistry major (after a 0.4 first-semester GPA, Baylor took care of me and the whole 'Honors Program' thing as any chance of a distraction, and put me instead into another program they called "Academic Probation"), I made a horrible mistake and listened to my Guidance Counselor, who assured me that an English degree was the way to go. It never occurred to me, that someone who had never been in the actual workforce could not speak for actual priorities and conditions in the workforce. As a result, my total number of job interviews my Senior year at Baylor, was zero.

Bad Idea #3: They say when you find yourself in a hole, job one is to stop digging. I did not manage to find a position with a major corporation until 2000, so that while I can honestly say that I have succeeded in my positions, the companies I have worked for are unlikely to open any eyes, much less any doors.

So here I am, having done fairly well for someone with a Liberal Arts BA, but to move up in my present company, or to seriously contend for a position with significantly better career prospects, I need the MBA. I've actually already done the work, I just need to prove the academic documentation.

The University of Phoenix has been relentless in pursuing me, but to be honest I worry about the reputation of a school which does not seem to measure the chance of success before accepting students; they don't even want a GMAT score, for example!

And the people I spoke with at left no doubt that they consider getting an MBA from one of the for-profit schools to be like wearing a duck costume to an interview; sure you can do it, and theoretically it's not supposed to hurt your chances, but they are convinced in reality it won't get me where I need to be. Of course, these are the same people who fully expect to be working for six-figure salaries right after they get their MBA's, so I really need to hear from real-world people.

So here I am, sorting out which schools to apply to, how to pay for the thing, and to make sure I don't get in over my head (or is it too late already?).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Lunch With Lyndon


I was sitting at my desk late this morning, trying to decide when to take lunch, when an unexpected visitor sat down and peered at me with a look of consternation.

May I help you?” I asked him. He leaned forward and extended a long arm to shake my hand.

Johnson,” he said. “Lyndon Baines Johnson.”

Well, your parents must have had a different sense of humor,” I began, then I stopped. Johnson was staring back at me with a perfectly straight face. A very familiar face…

Hey, you look just like him.” I muttered, less than brilliantly.

Ah ought to” muttered the man, “even after being dead for a few years.”

Yeah”, was all I could think to say at first. “So, why are you here?”

Lunch, mostly”, replied LBJ, “and to set the record straight on you lambasting mah poor party like you are. And any chance to come back to Texas is as close to Heaven as a poor bastard like me is like to see.

By the way, you got some purple ink all over your finger there. You might want to wash up before we eat.”

Oh, that’s to celebrate the Iraqi voter and show solidarity,” I explained. “And your “poor party” is doing itself no favors, I’m sure you know.”

Huh,” snorted Johnson, “In mah day we didn’t go painting ourselves up to show we’d voted, we picked our man and made sure we got him elected. Ah must’ve voted five, six times myself in some elections.

But yeah, that Dean fella is some kind of freak, yah got me there. And his crowd is no better. Harry S. says he’s got some choice words waiting for them.”

Harry Truman’s in hell?” I asked.

Naw, but he comes by to visit us time and again. Also, he likes to make sure Tojo is getting the full trip he earned.

But enough gab for now, let’s go eat!”

So we set out for Luther’s to get some barbeque.

After we’d eaten a fair portion of flank steak and sausage, I asked LBJ what he was doing, walking around topside.

Well,” he shrugged, “to be honest Ah’ve been roasting in hell, but they let me out every so often for a number of reasons. First off and mainly, Ah’m good to dogs –“

Wait a minute,” I interrupted, “I remember you used to pull your old hound up by her ears-“

Yes, and she liked it,” retorted Johnson. “Now stop interrupting me, it’s not polite.”

Sorry,” I said, and LBJ continued.

Ah also had to get out of there for a little bit, because Tookie’s arriving today, and all the gang-bangers are going absolutely crazy. The Crips and the Al Qaeda are having a big cookout to celebrate.”

Say, that reminds me.” I said. “You seen Osama bin Laden down there? Folks up here would like to know if he’s dead yet.”

Sorry,” replied Johnson. “Ah’m not supposed to let you know things you haven’t already figured out for yourself, but Ah will say that it is not wise to hide in caves when the Yew-Essay has bombs that collapse caverns.

But listen heah,” continued Johnson, as he stuffed more beef and sauce into his mouth, “Ah’m a reasonable man and I know ya’ll gots to have your hobbies, but what do ya’ll blahggers mean by tearing up my beloved Democratic Party?”

Well, we didn’t start it,” I explained. “You ever hear of Dan Rather?”

Fine man, fine man,” nodded Johnson.

Debatable claim,” I retorted, “You may have heard that Rather and CBS tried to sway the last Presidential election? We caught them, and proved they were liars and frauds.”

You ever heah of Waltah Cronkite?” countered Johnson. “Damn, we were winning in Viet Nam, until Unka Waltah said we couldn’t win. No way I could win re-election after that.”

Uhhh, and Senator McCarthy?” I ventured.

Shaddup” muttered LBJ.

We ate in silence for a little while, then Johnson spoke again.

Ya’ll know you have it easy with your boy Dubya in the Oval Office. Ah’d be careful about assuming it will be that easy later on.”

I agree we’ll have a harder time with someone else after Bush,” I agreed, “but you have to admit the Left has not cooperated with him at all.”

Johnson chuckled.

Take a look at History son, and you’ll see the Left wasn’t all too kind to me, or the Rehpublicans either. Ah’ll tell yah son, it’s a breeze being a Righty President with a Righty Congress, not near the same thing being a Democrat President with a so-called Democrat Congress.”

Curious, I asked LBJ to elaborate.

Well hell son, I took a landslide into 1965, got damn near everyone in Congress to sign onto the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and by 1967 I still couldn’t get those bastards to keep their word. At least over on the Right, you have a few straight shooters you can trust.”

And the 'Great Society'?” I asked.

Johnson stopped, and put down his fork.

Look son, I screwed up there, I know that now. But I was trying to do the right thing, and don’t yew doubt for a minute it was an easy job.

“By the way, I’ve been watching your little blogging articles, and Ah’ve read what yew think of me as President. Screw yew! Until yew’ve been in mah shoes for a month, yew don’t have the first idea what kind of slahmballs and con artists you have to get past to make anything happen. It was a different time, and if Ah have to speak on mah own behalf, Ah will insist on pointing out Ah didn’t make any deals with Communists or Preverts

Except Hoover”, I couldn’t resist adding.

Johnson made a face.

Ah swear I nevah knew he was into that stuff!”

Just then, a tall man in a FUBU sweatsuit, with a familiar face and an unruly pile of hair stepped in, looked around, and approached us.

Lyndon? It’s time to go back,” he said, ignoring me. Johnson stared at the man with clear disdain.

Andy, where in the hell did you get the idea this was a good look for you?” demanded Johnson. The face clicked in my mind.

Andrew Jackson?” I asked the tall man standing by us.

Fer Shizzle” quipped President Jackson. Johnson groaned.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Big Dog

** wuf **

Some people just don’t like big dogs. There have been new mini-breeds of yap-yap dogs created to suit those for whom serious size is just too much. Some folks are plain intimidated by big dogs, no matter how well-trained or behaved they are; simply being big, as in powerful and capable, is enough. And that brings me to the United States.

A few days ago, I compared a few select people to various breeds of dog. And disqualified certain other people from claiming any right to be a dog at all. But that comparison is even more obvious, when we apply the measurement to militaries. The Russians still have a respectable military, and Japan does well for its size and budget. Nobody comes in and messes with the Israeli Defense Force on equal terms. And China has imposing numbers for size and growth of capability. But make no mistake, the US is still the biggest freaking dog on the planet, big enough to eat any other dog out there, and big enough to make a joke out of the yap-yap military outfits currently on parade in Europe, Britain excepted.

In 1991, a somber Chairman Gorbachev showed a classified presentation to the Politburo, of US forces in action during the Gulf War. After the end of the film, Gorbachev solemnly informed the stunned room that “we cannot possibly defeat a force such as this”. At about the same time, whatever the Mandarin equivalent of “oh crap” was making the rounds in Beijing, as so many of the cutting-edge weapons Saddam bought from China failed to even slow down American tanks and infantry. In 2003, just to reinforce the message, even newer Chinese weapons proved equally ineffective in combat conditions against the US. It’s not just that American material is still superior, but that US battle doctrine and training was immeasurably superior to anything even guessed at in other countries. Other countries grow and improve, but US doctrine and training leaps. This is in part due to the all-volunteer character of American military, but also the career perspective many US soldiers take towards their work, and the commitment by the majority of one major political party to supply, train, and prepare for necessary actions.

The military is not everything, of course, which brings me to American business. Left for dead by so many in the MSM, American business has re-created its success over and over again in many places and ways. A key example is the loss of VCR technology to Japan in the 1980s; while the Japanese celebrated their victory in cornering the market of VCR players, which hold they eventually lost to competition from South Korea and other rising contenders, the US continued to dominate in the far more lucrative domain of videotape recordings. Even today, the United States is the majority shareholder of the Video and DVD market, especially in profits. Almost every major city on the planet has several chains of American fast-food and franchise merchandise; you can get a pair of GAP jeans in Shanghai or Dubai as easily as you can in Big Sky, after all.

And then there is that little matter of the Purple Finger. Kerry’s Purple Hearts, however he got them, are no match for free elections, especially for millions of women who voted for the first time, not just in their lives, but women voting for the first time in their country, ever. That counts as a big bark, folks.

So let the French have their poodles, let Germany have little dogs to match their little wieners, let the Left whine and yap about the big bad Army, big bad Business, big bad “Ownership Society”. In the end, everyone knows who is the Big Dog, and who is just bitching about it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

History In Context


Morton Keller wrote an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “None Dare Call It Conspiracy”. What I found particularly interesting, is that while he and I agree in the general theme that Presidents are often blamed for making the hard calls in military decisions, in at least one major case he and I differ on the evidence and what it meant.

Historian John Toland, whom Keller dismisses as “eccentric”, wrote a book in 1982 entitled "Infamy", which detailed the evidence concerning whether President Roosevelt knew about Japan’s plans to attack Pearl Harbor in advance of the raid, and whether he meant to use the attack as the flashpoint to bring the United States into the Second World War. Keller dismissed, unfairly I think, a great deal of testimony and evidence which indicated there was intelligence indicating that Japan was on its way to attack Pearl Harbor, especially the “Winds” intercept as testified by Laurence Safford, a naval officer of quite literally unimpeachable character and veracity. The reason I find this rejection unreasonable, is not because I believe that FDR or his Administration did indeed comprehend that an attack by Japan was imminent, but that the nature of the command structure, the political discussions between the United States and Japan, the communication process of the day, and other salient factors which influenced the decisions and statements made by the Roosevelt Administration in late 1941. People who are familiar with the documents and testimony were therefore left even further convinced of FDR’s complicity, because historians like Keller rejected them without proper inspection, and historians like Toland applied them without considering the appropriate context. As an example, Toland also noted the creation and demise of the “modus vivendi” which could have completely prevented a Japan-America war, or at least delayed its inception by a year or more, which demonstrates that the Roosevelt Administration, while hopeful of finding a reason for the United States to enter the war against Germany, was not inclined to seek a reason to also fight Japan. Indeed, the allocation of resources and planning is sufficient to indicate that Rosoevelt did not seriously anticipate war with Japan, and so could not fairly be accused of trying to bring it about.

The relevance between Toland’s contentions and evidence, Keller’s article, and my opinion as regards the Iraq War, is that same crucial need to understand context. As of 2002, It was well-known that Saddam Hussein had not only developed Weapons of Mass Destruction, but had used them, both in war and against his own citizens. The discovery in 1991 of further-than-anticipated progress in WMD research further alarmed Coalition nations, and the Cease-Fire included specific mandatory requirements as a condition to prevent resumption of hostilities. The fact that Hussein’s Baath government had, by 1998, fired on Coalition aircraft, attempted to assassinate George H.W. Bush, and had not only obstructed but physically threatened them, all constituted violations of the Cease-Fire, which led to the 1998 Act of Congress declaring Regime Change in Iraq the official policy of the United States government, which President Bill Clinton signed into law. The 2002 votes in Congress gave clear authorization for the war, based on information which both the President and leaders in both major political parties saw and evaluated. These are the facts which formed the context and consensus of the 2002 decision to go to war.

The reason Conservatives find the Democrats’ wailing on Iraq hypocritical, is because the Democrats saw the same information, in the same context, as the Administration, and their own statements bear out that they reached the same conclusions as to the threat posed by Saddam and the Baath regime in Iraq. But now that they perceive a possible political benefit to lying, the leadership of the Democratic Party sees no problem in putting a trick ahead of the national interest. If the Mainstream Media were not complicit, this could not work for the Democrats, but the sort of people willing to try to sway a Presidential election with forged documents are hardly going to object on moral grounds to lying about the facts of a major military decision. Fortunately, in the age of Information the facts are retrievable, and prove the matter in both point and context. The decision to invade Iraq was the most legitimate and fully-informed decision made by the Congress and President in cooperation in the last 60 years, and nothing the Democrats claim now can change that.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

PFL Week Fourteen

* grunt *

Week Fourteen Scoreboard

Eisenhower (13-0), idle
Teddy Roosevelt (14-0) 43, JQ Adams (7-6) 3
Washington (14-0) 28, Monroe (10-3) 20
George W. Bush (13-0) 72, W Harrison (2-11) 0
Reagan (13-0) 70, Harding (2-11) 6
Jefferson (12-2) 36, Cleveland (7-6) 6
FDR (12-2) 43, LBJ (1-12) 9
Grant (11-2) 52, Clinton (0-13) 7
JFK (10-3), idle
Polk (10-3), idle
Truman (10-30), idle
Lincoln (9-5) 30, John Adams (7-6) 15
Taft (8-5) 37, Pierce (2-11) 6
Madison (7-6), idle
McKinley (7-6) 22, Wilson (7-7) 15
Nixon (7-6) 28, Hoover (2-12) 18
Carter (4-10) 24, Taylor (6-7) 12
Arthur (7-7) 21, Tyler (4-9) 12
GHW Bush (7-7) 30, Coolidge (3-10) 3
Jackson (6-7), idle
Hayes (6-7) 38, Buchanan (0-13) 6
Ford (6-8) 24, Fillmore (2-11) 9
B Harrison (5-9) 21, Garfield (2-11) 15
Van Buren (4-9) 46, A Johnson (0-13) 9

Division A
[02] Washington (14-0) division clinched
[10] Monroe (10-3)
[11] Polk (10-3)

Division B
[04] Eisenhower (13-0)
[06] Jefferson (12-2)

Division C
[05] Reagan (13-0) division clinched

Division D
[07] FDR (12-2)
[09] JFK (10-3)

Division E
[01] T Roosevelt (14-0) division tie clinched
[08] Grant (11-2)

Division F
[03] George W Bush (13-0) division tie clinched
[12] Truman (10-3)