Friday, December 12, 2008

The Fruits of their Labors

from Roll Call (sub. req'd)

Republicans look like the football team dancing in the end zone in the fourth quarter of a game when they’re down by 40 points [...]

Republicans need to come to terms with the fact that over the last four years, Democrats have gained control of every level of government.

In the House, Republicans had a 232-202 majority after the 2004 election. Next year, Democrats will have a 257-178 edge. In the Senate, Republicans had a 55-45 majority after the 2004 election. Next year, Democrats will have 58 or 59 Senate seats.

After the 2004 election, Republicans held 28 governorships compared with 22 for the Democrats. After Nov. 4, Democrats held 29 governorships compared with 21 for the Republicans, although the GOP will gain one back if Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) leaves, as expected, to join Obama’s Cabinet.

After the 2004 election, Republicans controlled the state legislature in 20 states compared with 19 Democratic-controlled states. Now, Democrats control the state legislature in 27 states, with the Republicans holding only 14.

And there are over 800 more Democratic state legislators than Republicans in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures Web site. Four years ago, Democrats had a mere 10-seat edge out of more than 7,000 nationwide.

My comment: No one did it to 'em. They did it to themselves.

Bread crumbs

I woke this morning at three. It's often the case.

Tonight I was thinking of old photographs and how many of them fell along the path of time from my trusty old Pentax Spotmatic - bought with the generosity of Ernie Kent's credit card (repaid over time, I must add).

Like bread crumbs along the path between then and now - did I hope I could follow them and find my way back?

Occasionally one of these bread crumbs surfaces in the seams of my pockets and I'm startled by its clarity of purpose and meaning. I'm a better photographer now but somehow the pictures are not better. They are now more contrived with less emotion and fewer layers of meaning.

A three AM cigarette on the patio, the glow of a full moon shows through the overcast. There are pictures of pictures in my mind, leading silently back along the path of time.


Pinup Model Suffered Heart Attack Last Week


Bettie Page, the 1950s secretary-turned-model whose controversial photographs in skimpy attire or none at all helped set the stage for the 1960s sexual revolution, died Thursday. She was 85.

Page was placed on life support last week after suffering a heart attack in Los Angeles and never regained consciousness, said her agent, Mark Roesler. He said he and Page's family agreed to remove life support. Before the heart attack, Page had been hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia.

"She captured the imagination of a generation of men and women with her free spirit and unabashed sensuality," Roesler said. "She is the embodiment of beauty."

Page, who was also known as Betty, attracted national attention with magazine photographs of her sensuous figure in bikinis and see-through lingerie that were quickly tacked up on walls in military barracks, garages and elsewhere, where they remained for years.

... get the rest after the click.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Driven: Shai Agassi's Audacious Plan to Put Electric Cars on the Road

WIRED Magazine

Shai Agassi looks up and down the massive rectangular table in the Ritz-Carlton ballroom and begins to worry. He knows he's out of his league here. For the last day and a half, he's been listening to an elite corps of Israeli and US politicians, businesspeople, and intellectuals debate the state of the world. Agassi is just one of 60 sequestered in a Washington, DC, hotel for a conference run by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Among the participants: Bill Clinton, former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres, Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer, and two past directors of the CIA.

It's December 2006. Scheduled to speak in a few minutes, Agassi gets nudged by the Israeli minister of education: "Be optimistic," she tells him. "We've got to close with an upbeat tone." Agassi thanks her. Optimism won't be a problem.

At 38, Agassi is the youngest invitee. Just after the dotcom boom, SAP, the world's largest maker of enterprise software, paid $400 million for a small-business software company he started with his father; now he's SAP's head of products and widely presumed to be the next CEO. But he's not here this morning to talk about business software. Instead, his topic will be the world's addiction to fossil fuels. It's a recent passion and the organizers invited him to counterbalance the man speaking now, Daniel Yergin, the famed energy consultant and oil industry analyst. Yergin gives them his latest thinking: Energy independence is unattainable. Oil consumption will continue to rise. Iran will get richer. It's not exactly what this audience wants to hear.

Now it's Agassi's turn. He starts off uncharacteristically nervous, stammering a bit. He's got something different, he says. A new approach. He believes it just might be possible to get the entire world off oil. For good. Point by point, gaining speed as he goes, he shares for the first time in public the ideas that will change his future—and possibly the world's.

... get the rest after the click in WIRED Magazine On-Line.

My comment: I read this earlier this afternoon in one of the examining rooms at the University Medical Center (UMC) in Tucson, waiting for someone to take the stitches out of the scared remainder of my recent ruptured appendix removal. I'd read bits and pieces about Shai Agassi in other places, and when I saw a lengthy piece in WIRED I was happy to have both the time and the opportunity to read something more substantive.

Several commentators have wished that a Steve Jobs would somehow surface to re-wright the auto industry model as a means of weaning us from our oil dependancy and of jump starting manufacturing in this country once again. If there is such a person, I think Shai Agassi could be excellent candidate for that position.

The article is a little on the long side but I think it's worth the read.

Without commnet

CNN’s Prisoner of War

He had been hunted, kidnapped, and told he was filming his own execution. But CNN correspondent Michael Ware had no plans to leave Iraq. Now, it won’t leave him.

by Greg Veis

“I am not the same fucking person,” he tells me. “I am not the same person. I don’t know how to come home.”

It’s October, six months after our first meeting, and Michael Ware, 39, is at his girlfriend’s apartment in New York, trying to tell me why after six years he absolutely must start spending less time in Iraq. He’s crying on the other end of the telephone.

“Will I get any better?” he continues. “I honestly don’t know. I can’t see the — right now, I know no other way to live.”

To begin to understand where he’s coming from, Ware wants you to see a movie. He filmed it. It’s just after midnight during the second battle of Fallujah, November 2004. The marine unit he’s hooked up with has cornered six insurgents inside a house, and with no air support available, the only way to take them out is person-to-person. Staff Sergeant David Bellavia doesn’t like the sound of that — odds are one of his men, or he, will die in the pitch-black of an unfamiliar house — but he knows he can’t just let these guys go. So he asks for volunteers to go with him: Three men raise their hands, followed by Ware, who as a reporter (then for Time, now for CNN) is the only one without a gun or night goggles, and still can’t explain why he went along. He just couldn’t not.

... find the rest on Men's Journal.

Just a thought ...

Will Rogers once stated, "Too many people are spending money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't need, to impress people they don't like."

My comment: Maybe it's time for a little self examination.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Modern Parable.

A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (Ford Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River.

Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat.

A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people paddling and 1 person steering, while the American team had 7 people steering and 2 people paddling.

Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.

They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were paddling.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the paddling team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 2 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 2 people paddling the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program,' with meetings, dinners and free pens for the paddlers.

There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices, and bonuses. The pension program was trimmed to 'equal the competition' and some of the resultant savings were channeled into morale boosting programs and teamwork posters.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid off one paddler, halted development of a new canoe, sold all the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment.

The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses.

The next year, try as he might, the lone designated paddler was unable to even finish the race (having no paddles), so he was laid off for unacceptable performance, all canoe equipment was sold and the next year's racing team was out-sourced to India.

Sadly, the End.

Here's something to think about: Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the US, claiming they can't make money paying American wages.

TOYOTA has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the US. The last quarter's results: TOYOTA makes 4 billion in profits while Ford racks up 9 billion in losses.

Ford folks are still scratching their heads, and collecting bonuses...


The Big Three Advertise ...

Another eBay Bargain

Strategy Page

Yet another submarine has shown up on eBay. This one is a retired Australian Oberon class boat. The city of Hastings, in Victoria state, got this Oberon (the former HMAS Otama) six years ago for use as a museum ship. But not enough money could be raised to carry out this plan. So the charitable group that owns the Otama is auctioning the boat off, in the hope that it will find a good home, and the money obtained will pay off some of the debts incurred in trying to build a museum facility to house the Otama.

The 27 Oberons were built in Britain during the 1960s, The first one of these 2,000 ton diesel-electric boats entered service with Royal Navy, while fourteen were exported (to Australia, Canada, Chile and Brazil). The last of them (the Otama) was retired in 2000.

All weapons and military equipment are removed, but otherwise the boat is afloat and could be restored to a seagoing state. It requires a military crew of 62, but a smaller crew (about 30 qualified submariners) would suffice for civilian use. The boat is 295 feet long and 26.5 feet wide. With the torpedoes and military electronics removed, there would be quite a bit more room available for the owners pleasure. The asking price in the auction is $2.1 million, and the boat is not expected to sell at this price.

... from the Strategy Page.

Monday, December 08, 2008

On knowing where you're REALLY at ...

The Atlas of True Names reveals the etymological roots, or original meanings, of the familiar terms on today's maps of the World and Europe.

For instance, where you would normally expect to see the Sahara indicated, the Atlas gives you "Sea of Sand", derived from Arab. es-sahra "desert, sea of sand".

The 'True Names' of 1500 cities, countries, rivers, oceans and mountain ranges are displayed on these two fascinating maps, each of which includes a comprehensive index of derivations.

... find more about the Atlas of True Names here.

Trouble getting it up lately?

Pollution threatens male gender, says CHEM Trust report

By staff writers / HeraldSun, Australia

POLLUTION is damaging the "basic male tool kit", threatening the future of the male gender, according to new research.

A report released today by the charity CHEM Trust shows that male fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals have been harmed by man-made chemicals in the environment.

"These findings add to mounting worries about the role of hormone-disrupting or so-called ‘gender-bending' chemicals in the environment and the implications for human health," said charity CHEM Trust.

In mammals, genital disruption in males had been widely reported including: intersex features, small penis and testes, undescended testes; abnormal testes; or ambiguous genitals.

The report, which draws on more than 250 scientific studies from around the world, concentrates mainly on wildlife, identifying effects in a range of species.

"Males of species from each of the main classes of vertebrate animals (including bony fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) have been affected by chemicals in the environment.

"Feminisation of the males of numerous vertebrate species is now a widespread occurrence. All vertebrates have similar sex hormone receptors, which have been conserved in evolution. Therefore, observations in one species may serve to highlight pollution issues of concern for other vertebrates, including humans," the report concludes.

... get more after the click.

My comment: Nature has a way of compensating for imbalances in the environment. But the question that leaps to my mind revolves around whether oversize SUVs, muscle cars and pickup trucks with huge wheels is a cause or an effect of the phenomenon.