Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lead Rules

When the EPA ruled on Lead Paint and in turn turned the industry of paint removal into a hazardous waste one, it was only a matter of time before the lawsuits began.

I just finished an amazing and yes complex book called Lead Wars, The Politics of Science and the Fate of Americans Children.  I do think anyone in the industry of Construction and Environment read it immediately.

The EPA has a brochure out that includes the affects of Lead on the body including:

Lead Gets into the Body in Many Ways

Adults and children can get lead into their bodies if they:

  • Breathe in lead dust (especially during activities such as renovations, repairs, or painting that disturb painted surfaces).
  • Swallow lead dust that has settled on food, food preparation surfaces, and other places.
  • Eat paint chips or soil that contains lead.
  • Lead is especially dangerous to children under the age of 6.
  • At this age, children’s brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
  • Children’s growing bodies absorb more lead.
  • Babies and young children often put their hands
  • and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them.
  • Women of childbearing age should know that lead is dangerous to a developing fetus
  •  Women with a high lead level in their system before or during pregnancy risk exposing the fetus to lead through the placenta during fetal development.

Health Effects of Lead

Lead affects the body in many ways. It is important to know that even exposure to low levels of lead can severely harm children.

In children, exposure to lead can cause:
  • Nervous system and kidney damage
  • Learning disabilities, attention deficit
  • disorder, and decreased intelligence
  • Speech, language, and behavior problems
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Decreased muscle and bone growth
  • Hearing damage
While low-lead exposure is most common, exposure to high amounts of lead can have devastating effects on children, including seizures, unconsciousness, and, in some cases, death.

Although children are especially susceptible to lead exposure, lead can be dangerous for adults, too.
In adults, exposure to lead can cause:
  • Harm to a developing fetus
  •  Increased chance of high blood pressure during pregnancy • Fertility problems (in men and women)
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Nerve disorders
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Muscle and joint pain

The issues surrounding lead should not be placed in the same category as say "global warming" as there is no question about the safety and ultimate danger of exposure to lead. I am aware that the science cretins have issue with all things science to the point of where safety and health of their children is acceptable as many many schools in this country still possess lead paint so there you go Ed reform!

There is currently a Lead Paint trial in California right now towards the manufacturer's of Lead Paint.  I have been waiting to write about this issue until after the verdict but it seems to be taking longer than I expected. 

And the debate among those in the field is as heated as a lead based fire.  I find it interesting that technicians have no interest in their own health, their workers or well the customers they serve. It all resonates down to costs. Sad really that we have to put our health and safety on the line for the almighty dollar.  Now I see why OSHA has no hope in ever really establishing regulations and enforcement.  

This issue I think it predominately is the focus is on the fact that it affects the Poors, the group who live in lower income and often public housing that has not the resources available to remediate the problem. And the fact that the public schools still have this paint should be an issue even if you have no children attending them as you may have friends and family who work within them. But hey that is another great way to break up those Teacher's unions!

The articles about the trial are here.  I think reading them all is worth the energy. The book is highly technical but the author's were on Bill Moyers and Company and they make a case that not a trial in any way. 

Got Lead? Well you may without even realizing it.  This is politics of toxic disinformation.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rank also means smell

We love to rank things in America.  We do it with schools, teams and of course hospitals. Not that any of that actually means anything or would add to the costs right?

My favorite bulwark of bullshit is the annual U.S. News World and Report rankings that come out every year and are so corrupt and full of conflict of interest that anyone with half a mind would know that it is meaningless unless you want to actually spend the time putting some meaning onto something of which you know is not valid nor measurable in any way.

I laughed as a former Attorney of mine was so proud of being named a "Super Lawyer" by Super Lawyer magazine.  Now the basic level of attainment seems to be having placed ads in the same magazine and being nominated by some third party individual who is not named, say one's wife perhaps. This Attorney was so stupid I cannot explain some of the stupidity that actually came from his mouth but even other Attorney's went "that's stupid"  when I shared with them his wisdom(s) - which right there tells you something.  And the fact that he has no permanent office nor staff but his website uses the proverbial "we" while in actuality his "offices" are all of those virtual or shared type which you can pay a monthly or fee rental.  Seriously this guy is as super as it comes just not in any legal way.

And the article below discusses the current ranking of Hospitals.  Well on that note I would go opposite and say anyone on that list would be the first place I WOULD NOT go to.  These ads just don't pay for themselves.   At least it is good for something.

The Hype Over Hospital Rankings

Published: July 27, 2013

LAST week U.S. News and World Report released its annual list of “Best Hospitals.” Web sites are being updated to celebrate victories. (Johns Hopkins ranks No. 1!) Magazines will be plump with advertising. (NewYork-Presbyterian is first in New York and tied for seventh nationally!) And, because I am a reporter covering health care, my in-box is accumulating e-mails from the “Honor Roll” of the Top 18 hospitals.

But what does this annual exercise mean for patients? And what does it say about American health care?

After all, Harvard and Princeton, which tied for No. 1 in the magazine’s 2013 Top 10 national universities list, didn’t take out ads to proclaim their triumph; they will fill their classrooms no matter. 

And as in the college ratings, there are no big surprises in the top hospital group: they are the big academic medical centers — the Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic. More to the point, even though you might well fly across the country for four years of schooling, you are far more likely to stay near your home for medical care.  No one’s flying to Mayo in Minnesota to get inhalers for asthma, even though it ranks No. 1 for pulmonary medicine.

But American hospitals are a bit like restaurants, competing for your business (and donations). As such they go all out to promote their brand, even though hospitals and doctors are not permitted to advertise in many other countries.

For American hospitals large and small, it clearly pays to advertise, particularly in these tough economic times and with the Affordable Care Act poised to throw tens of millions of newly insured patients into the market. But for patients the rankings and, especially, the subsequent promotions generally have limited benefit, experts say. 

 “Nearly every hospital has a banner out front saying they’re a ‘top hospital’ for something in some rating system,” said Dr. Nicholas Osborne, a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan. “Those ratings have become more important for hospital marketing than for actually helping patients find the best care.” What’s more, Dr. Osborne compared the outcomes of two ranking programs — one by U.S. News and World Report and the other by Healthgrades — and found a “large discordance” in their results. “The two biggest rating systems come up with completely different lists,” he said. “What does that tell you?” If such advertising often adds little in the way of useful information, it certainly adds to health care costs. Hospitals with more than 400 beds spent an average of $2.18 million on advertising in 2010, surveys have found. “We’re pushing $3 trillion in health expenditures, and one-third of that is waste,” said Dr. Eric Topol, chief academic officer at Scripps Health in California. “Those TV commercials saying ‘I got my cancer care at X hospital’ are a shame, definitely wasteful.”

To be fair, U.S. News cautions that its national ratings reflect how hospitals perform in treating “technically challenging” cases and that the list is merely a starting point after which “patients have to do their own research.”

But those caveats are lost in the subsequent barrage of advertising. And the magazine encourages hospitals to post its seal of approval. In return, the U.S. News Web site is bursting with hospital advertising.

Some critics decry the glut of hospital self-promotion as not just wasteful and costly, but also potentially dangerous.

“There are general fraud laws, but there is no law specific to hospital advertising, and there should be,” said Robert Steinbuch, a professor of law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, who studies the topic. “I can’t tell you how many hospitals say, ‘We have state-of-the-art CAT scanners’ — there is no such thing! It’s an old technology.”

IN a country where numerous organizations — including Yelp — accredit, rate and rank hospital care, some accolades may indicate excellence and some don’t mean that much at all, he added. And while teams of academics and scores of for-profit companies are developing “quality” metrics to guide health care reform and to help patients shop for their care, it turns out that rating a hospital accurately is extremely complicated. For one thing, hospitals that take on sicker patients might have more complications after surgery.

Yet even smaller hospitals tend to advertise their profit-making departments, like cardiology, even though they may not offer the full range of heart services.

“If they advertise cardiac care and don’t have angioplasty, that’s essentially fraud,” Mr. Steinbuch said, adding that if a patient dies, “that could be considered criminally negligent homicide.”

But health care advertising is probably here to stay. “Hospital advertising sets up an arms war, so that hospitals feel they can’t survive without aggressive marketing,” said Dr. Topol of Scripps Health.

And even skeptics concede that health care ratings, when properly developed and employed, may help hospitals improve their performance and provide patients with valuable information.

If you have a rare lung condition that has flummoxed local doctors, for example, you may want to fly to Mayo since U.S. News has ranked it No. 1 in pulmonary medicine. And if a dozen hospitals in your area offer hip replacements, a search of regional rankings on the magazine’s Web site will yield some useful statistics. But take all those hospital advertisements with a grain of salt.

Indeed, with thousands of good hospitals across the nation, the best selling point for routine medical care may simply be convenience: some studies show that patients prefer nearby hospitals with worse results over ones with better outcomes farther away.

Stale Bread Stale Degree

Apparently degrees are the equivalent to bread, the fresher the better. After a day or two it goes stale and no one likes to eat stale bread right?

As we struggle to find work for all ages the intra class warfare is now among the degreed.  Those with fresh minty degrees are clean and lovely and employable, those with stale breath not so much. Regardless of the cost, the ambition, the desire to work, those with degrees over a couple of years old apparently suffer from what the long term unemployed have - skill set or knowledge set atrophy.

This atrophy is fascinating as I think it is something akin to the acronym NIMBY (not in my backyard) or as I call it UIHTY - "until it happens to you"-  you don't think that there is anything wrong with that.

I will let you read the below article and MYOC.. make your own conclusions.  As I have written about and shared many times, these are more bullshit excuses or justifications to avoid hiring and paying people decent wages. Stockholders are people too my friends.

The New York Times interviewed President Obama who discussed the fraying social fabric of the disintegrating middle class but as before no plans or actions are in place to actually ensure and change that in the near or even distant future. As for Congress they have to repeal Obamacare and work on reproductive rights issues which are far more important that actually putting people to work which is how you build an economy. 

Frayed Prospects Despite a Degree  
Add caption

Published: July 19, 2013

At a time when many job seekers complain that their résumés vanish into a black hole, Charles Wells managed to get a high-level recruiter at Ernst & Young to meet with him in person, twice.

But the end result was disheartening: Mr. Wells was told, he said, that company policy required him to have at least two years of experience in the field before he could be hired.

If Mr. Wells were a newly minted college graduate, he would not have had that problem. Ernst & Young recruits heavily on college campuses for entry-level positions, no experience required.

But Mr. Wells graduated in 2011, during one of the worst job markets in history, and his work record since then — like countless numbers of his peers — doesn’t measure up to what employers like Ernst & Young demand for “experienced” applicants. Even as the jobs picture slowly improves, the disadvantage of bad timing follows those who graduated during the worst years. Applicants like Mr. Wells have neither the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed appeal of the class of 2013, nor the benefit of relevant work experience that might give them an edge.

“I’m competing against people that are graduating now,” said Mr. Wells, 27, who worked in construction and other jobs before starting college in 2007. “It’s easier to grab them up, because they’re fresh.”

His problems stem from the fact that companies typically divide their hiring into two pools: entry-level jobs, which are overwhelmingly filled by campus recruits, and experienced workers. Some allow recent graduates to stay in the first category for a year or two after getting their diploma. But recruiters say those applicants may find themselves at a disadvantage, especially if they have not been bolstering their résumés with classes, internships or volunteer work.

“If you’re a 2011 or a 2012 grad, the competition just got fierce — even more fierce — with the let-out of the 2013 class,” said Alexa Hamill, the United States campus recruiting leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers. “It’s like you’re in overtime, and they brought in the fresh team The impact of this is difficult to measure because government statistics do not allow for a comparison of the fate of this year’s graduates with their immediate predecessors, instead lumping all college graduates under 25 into one group. And certainly college graduates as a whole are doing vastly better than those with only a high school degree (young college graduates have an unemployment rate of just over 8 percent, while the unemployment rate for high school graduates within the same age group is close to 20 percent).

But everything that is known about the job market points to the fact that Mr. Wells and his cohort are feeling the pinch. Many of the country’s largest companies make most of their entry level hires on campus, meaning there are no slots for the hapless person who had the misfortune of graduating in 2011. And historically, those who graduate during a recession earn far less than their peers who do not, and it can take a decade or more for them to catch up. Many have been forced to settle for lower-wage, lower-skill jobs, which has in turn helped increase joblessness among the high school graduates who previously held those jobs.

In 2000, about 60 percent of employed college graduates were working in jobs that required a degree, said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. Now fewer than half are.

Campus recruiters at a variety of institutions said that those who graduated in 2013 have had a relatively easy time finding jobs, in part because the prolonged economic downturn has made them more focused on preparing themselves for the workplace. Alumni who graduated in the previous few years continue to trickle in, asking for help.

“The class of 2009 just got royally screwed, because their first four years in the labor market were this horrible thing,” said Heidi Shierholz, a labor specialist at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning research organization in Washington. “This year’s first four years won’t be that bad.”

Dan Black, the Americas director of recruiting for Ernst & Young, said that young applicants who were not current students needn’t bother sending a résumé without some connection to the firm through a friend, mentor or acquaintance. “You will not find entry-level jobs listed on our Web site,” he said.

For those with a job history marred by the recession, “we want to see that you have made productive use of your time since graduation — the Peace Corps, Teach for America, course-work, a C.P.A. exam,” he said. “I don’t think it’s bad to be a barista at Starbucks, but we need some evidence that you are continuing to move toward that goal of entering the field.”

Another challenge for the recent graduate is that companies have increasingly been hiring workers from their own pool of interns. Williams, an energy company based in Tulsa, Okla., started its internship program in 2005 and now makes 85 percent of its entry-level hires from the intern pool, said Paige Cole, the senior recruiter at Williams. Interns must be current college students.

Such practices mean students’ early choices are increasingly important.

“You actually could be making your first career choice decision when you accept that internship,” Ms. Cole said.

Even as the financial crisis hit, Mr. Wells, who received a degree in geography from Kennesaw State University outside Atlanta and is now teaching English as a second language, remained confident in his prospects, believing that he could set himself apart from his peers. “I figured right away I was going to have a job, but I’m learning a large lesson right now,” he said.

Mr. Wells said his skills had already become outdated. New graduates in his major are required to learn technological skills that he missed out on. He has had no luck applying at smaller companies where he could get the experience he needs for a job at Ernst & Young.

Unlike those who were blindsided by the recession after they started school, the class of 2013 knew even as first-year students that their competitiveness depended on getting internships, studying abroad and choosing their majors carefully. Mr. Wells, who is now heading to business school, said he wished he had chosen a more marketable major.

Karen Andrews, the executive director of career services at Kennesaw State, said that because so many newer alumni were unemployed or working in basic service industry jobs, she formed an alumni job club and ultimately hired a full-time alumni career adviser. “When the economy tanked, their lack of preparation became very obvious,” she said.

Still, many have tried to make the best of their situation, portraying their disappointing experience in the work force as real-world seasoning that might appeal to employers.

Ariana Wharton, 26, graduated from Kennesaw in 2011 with a degree in communications and public relations after switching majors from pre-med. When she did not find a job right away, she volunteered for the Red Cross and started her own business delivering fast food. She joined Ms. Andrews’s job club, where she fine-tuned her résumé. When she went to a job fair earlier this year, armed with a new elevator pitch, she landed a job in customer service for an international phone company, making $35,000 a year.

“I definitely felt like I had an edge over the students,” she said.

Lies and the Liars Who Tell Them

In the entry about the world and in turn ineffectiveness of the real CSI comes this article about why Police lie under oath. Not just police, but anyone linked to the system.  It comes I believe less about the person they are lying about and more about themselves and preserving their jobs and in turn making their jobs easier.

I just was walking home and saw a hideous car accident. The car was singular and the driver also alone, the car flipped over and the bystanders got him out of the car as he was still conscious. It rang a little to close to home for me in more than one way and I filmed the resulting arrival of Police, EMT's and Fire Department to ensure that they were "doing their job". 

The boy will be taken to Harborview and I am sure within days will be released with a Tylenol and in a few more days charged with some type of vehicular felony as he is both a Minority and a Poor.  When you have no advocate here in good positive liberal Seattle don't expect anyone to care.  The crew of moronic Social Workers at Harborview will inundate him or his "next of kin" to ensure that the hospital will do as little as possible and in turn ensure that the hospital is not responsible to do anymore. And he will turned out into the street to try to rebuild his life and solve the mystery of his accident alone.   I know this for certain as I lived it. 

Why is our system corrupt, venal and incompetent? It just is. That is not perjury it is the truth without oath.

Why Police Lie Under Oath


Published: February 2, 2013

THOUSANDS of people plead guilty to crimes every year in the United States because they know that the odds of a jury’s believing their word over a police officer’s are slim to none. As a juror, whom are you likely to believe: the alleged criminal in an orange jumpsuit or two well-groomed police officers in uniforms who just swore to God they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but? As one of my colleagues recently put it, “Everyone knows you have to be crazy to accuse the police of lying.”

But are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie. In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so.

That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly.  Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

The New York City Police Department is not exempt from this critique. In 2011, hundreds of drug cases were dismissed after several police officers were accused of mishandling evidence. That year, Justice Gustin L. Reichbach of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn condemned a widespread culture of lying and corruption in the department’s drug enforcement units. “I thought I was not naïve,” he said when announcing a guilty verdict involving a police detective who had planted crack cocaine on a pair of suspects. “But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.”

Remarkably, New York City officers have been found to engage in patterns of deceit in cases involving charges as minor as trespass. In September it was reported that the Bronx district attorney’s office was so alarmed by police lying that it decided to stop prosecuting people who were stopped and arrested for trespassing at public housing projects, unless prosecutors first interviewed the arresting officer to ensure the arrest was actually warranted. Jeannette Rucker, the chief of arraignments for the Bronx district attorney, explained in a letter that it had become apparent that the police were arresting people even when there was convincing evidence that they were innocent. To justify the arrests, Ms. Rucker claimed, police officers provided false written statements, and in depositions, the arresting officers gave false testimony.

Mr. Keane, in his Chronicle article, offered two major reasons the police lie so much. First, because they can. Police officers “know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.” At worst, the case will be dismissed, but the officer is free to continue business as usual. Second, criminal defendants are typically poor and uneducated, often belong to a racial minority, and often have a criminal record.  “Police know that no one cares about these people,” Mr. Keane explained.

All true, but there is more to the story than that.

Police departments have been rewarded in recent years for the sheer numbers of stops, searches and arrests. In the war on drugs, federal grant programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program have encouraged state and local law enforcement agencies to boost drug arrests in order to compete for millions of dollars in funding. Agencies receive cash rewards for arresting high numbers of people for drug offenses, no matter how minor the offenses or how weak the evidence. Law enforcement has increasingly become a numbers game. And as it has, police officers’ tendency to regard procedural rules as optional and to lie and distort the facts has grown as well. Numerous scandals involving police officers lying or planting drugs — in Tulia, Tex. and Oakland, Calif., for example — have been linked to federally funded drug task forces eager to keep the cash rolling in.

THE pressure to boost arrest numbers is not limited to drug law enforcement. Even where no clear financial incentives exist, the “get tough” movement has warped police culture to such a degree that police chiefs and individual officers feel pressured to meet stop-and-frisk or arrest quotas in order to prove their “productivity.”

For the record, the New York City police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, denies that his department has arrest quotas. Such denials are mandatory, given that quotas are illegal under state law. But as the Urban Justice Center’s Police Reform Organizing Project has documented, numerous officers have contradicted Mr. Kelly. In 2010, a New York City police officer named Adil Polanco told a local ABC News reporter that “our primary job is not to help anybody, our primary job is not to assist anybody, our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them.” He continued: “At the end of the night you have to come back with something.  You have to write somebody, you have to arrest somebody, even if the crime is not committed, the number’s there. So our choice is to come up with the number.”

Exposing police lying is difficult largely because it is rare for the police to admit their own lies or to acknowledge the lies of other officers. This reluctance derives partly from the code of silence that governs police practice and from the ways in which the system of mass incarceration is structured to reward dishonesty. But it’s also because police officers are human.

Research shows that ordinary human beings lie a lot — multiple times a day — even when there’s no clear benefit to lying. Generally, humans lie about relatively minor things like “I lost your phone number; that’s why I didn’t call” or “No, really, you don’t look fat.” But humans can also be persuaded to lie about far more important matters, especially if the lie will enhance or protect their reputation or standing in a group.

The natural tendency to lie makes quota systems and financial incentives that reward the police for the sheer numbers of people stopped, frisked or arrested especially dangerous. One lie can destroy a life, resulting in the loss of employment, a prison term and relegation to permanent second-class status. The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, “get tough” mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us.

And, no, I’m not crazy for thinking so.

Sweet Charity

I found this op ed yesterday and was quite fascinated by the author. The last name should be familiar but what is more interesting is how he addresses his father's famous "giving pledge" signed by many of the Country's Oligarchs to give half their wealth away when they are dead. Unclear on who dies first as frankly in this day and age of Trusts and other methods to secure familial wealth for next generations and in turn who is going to remember when someone in their 50s dies 30 plus years later if they did ensure that this donation is in fact realized? Do we have copies of said Last Wills and Testaments and other legally binding documents that ensure that this occurs? No, its just words and PR and the idea behind it is good, but the actual implementation of it is vague and unverifiable.

I think the young Buffet gets this and in a quiet way makes the point I have long said - we are a HUMANIST country and we are here for each other but in our system of Capitalism when even charity becomes business oriented it somehow loses that element of personhood. Yes corporations are people too and their role in charity is essential. However it is often linked to a business element. I found a recent article online that brought to task another tax break by the social media company, Twitter. Once again Twitter who extorted or manipulated the City of San Francisco into paying for the building renovations to their headquarters it appears they did so with regards to payroll taxes by donating "tweets" to charity. Who audits these to ensure they are parity in equivalent to the taxes being avoided? No one. Moving on.

I live in the shadow of the biggest charitable industrial complex, the Gates Foundation. There have been numerous articles and including this blog about the conflicts of interest, the lack of public disclosure and the sheer bizarre-ness of many of their roles and actions when it comes to charitable donations. Frankly they are no different than many long standing charities and organizations who have had problems in disbursing needed funds and operational costs and conflicts - Red Cross is one or the American Cancer Society - so to hold Gates as an exception to the rule is not the case - it is the rule.

And there still is my favorite, the Facebook "donation" to Newark's schools. A great piece in Mother Jones clearly explains it all for you that the student's saw none of it. 

Charity is a great thing and our current Government had been moving towards most of the non-profit sector taking over aspects of what the Government has provided under some misguided bullshit that was the Bush Administration plan under his "compassionate conservatism". It works in theory like trickle down  but how well that worked out probably means that this concept that the rich take over the government and its roles and responsibilities should be exclusive, exempt from regulation, taxes and in turn oversight. Nor should it be singular.

I am very pro charity and very pro humanism I am not however pro corporatism when it comes to the PUBLIC sector as that is not part of the PRIVATE market.

The Charitable-Industrial Complex   


Published: July 26, 2013

I HAD spent much of my life writing music for commercials, film and television and knew little about the world of philanthropy as practiced by the very wealthy until what I call the big bang happened in 2006. That year, my father, Warren Buffett, made good on his commitment to give nearly all of his accumulated wealth back to society. In addition to making several large donations, he added generously to the three foundations that my parents had created years earlier, one for each of their children to run.

Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to “save the day” in some fashion. People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem. Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms.

Often the results of our decisions had unintended consequences; distributing condoms to stop the spread of AIDS in a brothel area ended up creating a higher price for unprotected sex.

But now I think something even more damaging is going on.

Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.

Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.

Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road.

My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change.

It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.

What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there.

There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff)

Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

It’s an old story; we really need a new one.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

CSI - Corrupt Stupid Inept

I watched a repeat of a Frontline recently about the real CSI. It exposed the truth behind forensic science and how it is basically a hit miss and guessing game of pseudo science and utter bullshit.  Why this does not shock me at this point means if I was actually arrested and tried for a crime, the likelihood of me dying by the electric chair unlikely.

We have a system that is broken, broken beyond repair.  We have this supposed NSA system of surveillance going on (HI GUYS!) that is to protect us from the vague notion of terrorism. Meanwhile any act of violence or threat has been largely been found by normal people doing their jobs and some of it not even crime related exposing the freaks.  I am thinking of the Cleveland maniac at this time but there was the Boston bombers whose identities were discovered by people giving the police their photos and films of the site.  And yet these two men were supposedly known and all for their at risk behavior. Okay what-ever.

If anything Mr. Snowden proved - that a high school dropout knows more of what is going on. So much for all that higher degree/debt that they keep spouting.

The below article discusses the failure of our high tech world - the ones saving it and all as they keep telling us - and the episode of Frontline is here.

I fear for my life everyday dealing with the Court system in America.  It is idiotic, inept and largely ineffectual.  George Zimmerman comes to mind.  And with current financial crisis effecting many cities don't expect law enforcement to be the best and and brightest but they do carry guns, legally. Ah yes here in Seattle we have learned that the hard way.

High-Tech, High-Risk Forensics


SAN FRANCISCO — WHEN the police arrived last November at the ransacked mansion of the millionaire investor Raveesh Kumra, outside of San Jose, Calif., they found Mr. Kumra had been blindfolded, tied and gagged. The robbers took cash, rare coins and ultimately Mr. Kumra’s life; he died at the scene, suffocated by the packaging tape used to stifle his screams.

A forensics team found DNA on his fingernails that belonged to an unknown person, presumably one of the assailants. The sample was put into a DNA database and turned up a “hit” — a local man by the name of Lukis Anderson. Bingo. Mr. Anderson was arrested and charged with murder. There was one small problem: the 26-year-old Mr. Anderson couldn’t have been the culprit. During the night in question, he was at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, suffering from severe intoxication.

Yet he spent more than five months in jail with a possible death sentence hanging over his head. Once presented with Mr. Anderson’s hospital records, prosecutors struggled to figure out how an innocent man’s DNA could have ended up on a murder victim.

Late last month, prosecutors announced what they believe to be the answer: the paramedics who transported Mr. Anderson to the hospital were the very same individuals who responded to the crime scene at the mansion a few hours later. Prosecutors now conclude that at some point, Mr. Anderson’s DNA must have been accidentally transferred to Mr. Kumra’s body — likely by way of the paramedics’ clothing or equipment.

This theory of transference is still under investigation. Nevertheless, the certainty with which prosecutors charged Mr. Anderson with murder highlights the very real injustices that can occur when we place too much faith in DNA forensic technologies. In the end, Mr. Anderson was lucky. His alibi was rock solid; prosecutors were forced to concede that there must have been some other explanation.

It’s hard to believe that, out of the growing number of convictions based largely or exclusively on DNA evidence, there haven’t been any similar mistakes. In one famous case of crime scene contamination, German police searched for around 15 years for a serial killer they called the “Phantom of Heilbronn” — an unknown female linked by traces of DNA to six murders across Germany and Austria.

In 2009, the police found their “suspect”: a worker at a factory that produced the cotton swabs police used in their investigations had been accidentally contaminating them with her own DNA.

Contamination is not the only way DNA forensics can lead to injustice. Consider the frequent claim that it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, for two DNA profiles to match by coincidence. A 2005 audit of Arizona’s DNA database showed that, out of some 65,000 profiles, nearly 150 pairs matched at a level typically considered high enough to identify and prosecute suspects. Yet these profiles were clearly from different people.

There are also problems with the way DNA evidence is interpreted and presented to juries. In 2008, John Puckett — a California man in his 70s with a sexual assault record — was accused of a 1972 killing, after a trawl of the state database partially linked his DNA to crime scene evidence. As in the Anderson case, Mr. Puckett was identified and implicated primarily by this evidence. Jurors — told that there was only a one-in-1.1 million chance that this DNA match was pure coincidence — convicted him. He is now serving a life sentence.

But that one-in-1.1 million figure is misleading, according to two different expert committees, one convened by the F.B.I., the other by the National Research Council. It reflects the chance of a coincidental match in relation to the size of the general population (assuming that the suspect is the only one examined and is not related to the real culprit). Instead of the general population, we should be looking at only the number of profiles in the DNA database. Taking the size of the database into account in Mr. Puckett’s case (and, again, assuming the real culprit’s profile is not in the database) would have led to a dramatic change in the estimate, to one in three.

One juror was asked whether this figure would have affected the jury’s deliberations. “Of course it would have changed things,” he told reporters. “It would have changed a lot of things.”

DNA forensics is an invaluable tool for law enforcement. But it is most useful when it corroborates other evidence pointing to a suspect, or when used to determine whether any two individual samples match, like in the exonerations pursued by the Innocence Project.

But when the government gets into the business of warehousing millions of DNA profiles to seek “cold hits” as the primary basis for prosecutions, much more oversight by and accountability to the public is warranted. For far too long, we have allowed the myth of DNA infallibility to chip away at our skepticism of government’s prosecutorial power, undoubtedly leading to untold injustices.

In the Anderson case, thankfully, prosecutors acknowledged the obvious: their suspect could not have been in two places at once. But he was dangerously close to being on his way to death row because of that speck of DNA. That one piece of evidence — obtained from a technology with known limitations, and susceptible to human error and prosecutorial misuse — might mistakenly lead to execution at the hands of the state should send chills down every one of our spines. The next Lukis Anderson could be you. Better hope your alibi is as well documented as his.

Sun's the Money

What is a turn in irony, some municipalities are now regretting the push for solar energy as it is a money loser - theirs.  What a turn about in green.

Frankly this is not shocking as anyone would realize that many of our municipal energy sources have been running on empty for quite some time.  Most losses in energy are in the transmission and to offset that loss we pay for it in higher rates.  The trade off is that by not upgrading the grid or encouraging further alternative energy, the simple ease of raising rates covers the loss.

As we struggle to develop, encourage and move away from conventional means of energy, there will be trade offs. The trade offs come mean less for more, as in less profit for private energy industries that provide and often run energy companies in many areas.  Well too bad, so sad.

There were two articles today about energy investment. One: the "entitlements" or tax credits encouraging consumers to vest and employ alternative methods of energy sourcing; the other: the role of investment opportunities in finding new sources of energy.

Last week I watched Gasland II and it served to remind me that our work here is not done when it comes to actually EDUCATING people about what this effort of fracking entails. Our quest for energy is in fact energy draining in many ways.  What the documentary discusses is that on one hand we have a Government talking the talk but when it comes to walking it, they walk away from admitting the failures of building a green energy plan for America. I have long realized that a degree from Harvard doesn't make you smarter it just makes you well connected. And to hear the former EPA head discuss on one hand the laws and rules to make our environment greener while actually doing nothing to secure it makes one laugh with all the posturing and posing on the Hill over such "job destroying" regulations.   Talk the talk and then walk off.

Energy is money. Energy is another one of the many last remaining public industries along with education that screams money and the private sector wants it, that is the entitlements they speak of - they are entitled to your money.

On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities

Published: July 26, 2013

For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread.

Alarmed by what they say has become an existential threat to their business, utility companies are moving to roll back government incentives aimed at promoting solar energy and other renewable sources of power. At stake, the companies say, is nothing less than the future of the American electricity industry.

According to the Energy Information Administration, rooftop solar electricity — the economics of which often depend on government incentives and mandates — accounts for less than a quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s power generation.

And yet, to hear executives tell it, such power sources could ultimately threaten traditional utilities’ ability to maintain the nation’s grid.

“We did not get in front of this disruption,” Clark Gellings, a fellow at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit arm of the industry, said during a panel discussion at the annual utility convention last month. “It may be too late.”

Advocates of renewable energy — not least solar industry executives who stand to get rich from the transformation — say such statements are wildly overblown. For now, they say, the government needs to help make the economics of renewable power work for ordinary Americans. Without incentives, the young industry might wither — and with it, their own potential profits.

The battle is playing out among energy executives, lawmakers and regulators across the country.

In Arizona, for example, the country’s second-largest solar market, the state’s largest utility is pressuring the Arizona Corporation Commission, which sets utility rates, to reconsider a generous residential credit and impose new fees on customers, months after the agency eliminated a commercial solar incentive. In North Carolina, Duke Energy is pushing to institute a new set of charges for solar customers as well.

Nowhere, though, is the battle more heated than in California, home to the nation’s largest solar market and some of the most aggressive subsidies. The outcome has the potential to set the course for solar and other renewable energies for decades to come.

At the heart of the fight is a credit system called net metering, which pays residential and commercial customers for excess renewable energy they sell back to utilities. Currently, 43 states, the District of Columbia and 4 territories offer a form of the incentive, according to the Energy Department.

Some keep the credit in line with the wholesale prices that utilities pay large power producers, which can be a few cents a kilowatt-hour. But in California, those payments are among the most generous because they are tied to the daytime retail rates customers pay for electricity, which include utility costs for maintaining the grid.

California’s three major utilities estimate that by the time the subsidy program fills up under its current limits, they could have to make up almost $1.4 billion a year in revenue lost to solar customers, and shift that burden to roughly 7.6 million nonsolar customers — an extra $185 a year if evenly spread. Some studies cited by solar advocates have shown, though, that the credit system can result in a net savings for the utilities.

Utilities in California have appealed to lawmakers and regulators to reduce the credits and limit the number of people who can participate. It has been an uphill fight.

About a year ago, the utilities pushed regulators to keep the amount of rooftop solar that would qualify for the net metering program at a low level; instead, regulators effectively raised it. Still, the utilities won a concession from the Legislature, which ordered the California Public Utilities Commission to conduct a study to determine the costs and benefits of rooftop solar to both customers and the power grid with an eye toward retooling the policy.

Edward Randolph, director of the commission’s energy division, said that the study, due in the fall, was a step toward figuring out how to make the economics work for customers who want to install solar systems as well as for the nonsolar customers and the utilities. The commission wants to ensure, he said, that, “we aren’t creating a system that 15 years from now has the utility going, ‘We don’t have customers anymore but we still have an obligation to provide a distribution system — how do we do that?’ ”

The struggle over the California incentives is only the most recent and visible dust-up as many utilities cling to their established business, and its centralized distribution of energy, until they can figure out a new way to make money. It is a question the Obama administration is grappling with as well as it promotes the integration of more renewable energy into the grid.

Utility executives have watched disruptive technologies cause businesses in other industries to founder — just as cellphones upended the traditional land-based telephone business, producing many a management shake-up — and they want to stay ahead of a fundamental shift in the way electricity is bought, sold and delivered.

“I see an opportunity for us to recreate ourselves, just like the telecommunications industry did,” Michael W. Yackira, chief executive of NV Energy, a Nevada utility, and chairman of the industry group the Edison Electric Institute, said at the group’s convention.

The fight in California has become increasingly public, with the two sides releasing reports and counter-reports. A group of fast-growing young companies that install rooftop systems, including SolarCity, Sungevity, Sunrun and Verengo, recently formed their own lobbying group, the Alliance for Solar Choice, to battle efforts to weaken the subsidies and credit systems.

They have good reason. In California, as intended, net metering has proved a strong draw for customers. From 2010 to 2012, the amount of solar installed each year has increased by 160 percent, almost doubling the amount of electricity that rooftop systems can make, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. With federal tax credits and a rebate program for installation costs under the California Solar Initiative phasing out, determining how much to pay customers has become even more critical.

“Net metering right now is the only way for customers to get value for their rooftop solar systems,” said Adam Browning, executive director of the advocacy group Vote Solar.

Mr. Browning and other proponents say that solar customers deserve fair payment not only for the electricity they transmit but for the value that smaller, more dispersed power generators give to utilities. Making more power closer to where it is used, advocates say, can reduce stress on the grid and make it more reliable, as well as save utilities from having to build and maintain more infrastructure and large, centralized generators.

But utility executives say that when solar customers no longer pay for electricity, they also stop paying for the grid, shifting those costs to other customers. Utilities generally make their profits by making investments in infrastructure and designing customer rates to earn that money back with a guaranteed return, set on average at about 10 percent.

“If the costs to maintain the grid are not being borne by some customers, then other customers have to bear a bigger and bigger portion,” said Steve Malnight, a vice president at Pacific Gas and Electric. “As those costs get shifted, that leads to higher and higher rates for customers who don’t take advantage of solar.”

Utility executives call this a “death spiral.” As utilities put a heavier burden on fewer customers, it increases the appeal for them to turn their roofs over to solar panels.

A handful of utilities have taken a different approach and are instead getting into the business of developing rooftop systems themselves. Dominion, for example, is running a pilot program in Virginia in which it leases roof space from commercial customers and installs its own panels to study the benefits of a decentralized generation.

Last month, Clean Power Finance, a San Francisco-based start-up that provides financial services and software to the rooftop solar industry, announced that it had backing from Duke Energy and other utilities, including Edison International. And in May, NextEra Energy Resources bought Smart Energy Capital, a commercial solar developer. <

But those are exceptions.

“The next six to 12 months are the watershed moment for distributed energy in this country,” said Edward Fenster, a chief executive of Sunrun, adding that if their side prevailed in California and Arizona, it would dissuade utilities with net metering programs elsewhere from undoing them. “If we don’t succeed, the opposite will be the case and in two years we’ll be fighting 41 of these battles.”

Nip, tuck or dye?

That is the real question pondering the Boomer Nation today.  There are some who would prefer to change that to nip it, fuck it and die already but hey we are still alive and kicking and soon becoming a large majority of the new class in society - the underclass.

Thanks to the recession that never receded we have a massive amount of individuals who will unlikely ever work again. The article below discusses the fact that for many over 50 the idea of being fully employed is a dream.  The new American dream is having a job now, any job, just some job will do thanks.

The article HERE discusses how oldster's are perceived and of course the grayer the hair the less respect and in turn acknowledgement of said experience and wisdom was given. I see it all the time and some of it I think is more a reflection of narcissism that this millennial group express.  It is hard to think you don't know everything so it is easier to deflect your stupidity by simply dismissing those who might actually know more and in turn be able to resolve issues that one faces in the course of both work and life.  Nothing changes boomers.. remember you did the same with "trust no one over 30" and then you turned 30.  

So if you expect to re-enter the workforce and be a part of it it means shutting the pie hole, getting botox and coloring your hair.  And learn such essential phrases as "you want fries with that?" or "welcome to Lowe's".   The real fact is that this is now a Service economy and that if that is the case then the same efforts and energy must be made to ensure that jobs that fall into that classification have the same protections that were in place for the manufacturing sector to do the same - rise to the middle class.  That means Unions, legislation that provides worker's protection, living wages and health care in lieu of an organized and represented working class by a third party that acts as a negotiator for said benefits.

Whatcha gonna do? Call Ghostbusters?  Really at this point they are about as potentially effective at resolving this crisis than our current good-for-nothing do-nothing Congress.  They have work to do and it has to do with keeping their jobs and their paychecks from the 1% coming.  We hired them, we pay them but it is not enough to keep them employed and do the job representing the 99%, we are a demanding, whining bunch.  Like the new Royal baby only without that nice cushion of a family legacy on which to fall.

This week also revealed that as we "celebrated" that royal arrival that in America we are not that different.  It does not just matter who you know it matters who you were born to and where.  The article that discusses that issue is HERE.  Read, weep and if you are a still able to give birth and control that element of choice you may want to stay there as many States ironically that have little social and economic mobility are the same ones busy working away to take away reproductive rights. Voting rights just not enough for that group, let us make sure that we keep the white babies coming to compete with those one's of color.  However, we have no intent of funding health care, education or any of that other shit that gets in the way of reducing budgets.  Get a job layabout!

Unemployed and Older, and Facing a Jobless Future

John Moore/Getty Images

Published: July 26, 2013

I WAS recently talking to a friend at a party whose husband — in his 60s — has been unemployed for more than two years. While there are many challenges, she said, one of the hardest things is trying to balance hope with reality.

She wonders how to support him in his continued quest to find a job in his field of marketing and financial services while at the same time encouraging him to think about what his life would be like if he never worked in that field or had a full-time job again.

“I wanted to move to what I thought was a healthier place. I wanted to turn the page,” said my friend, who asked to be identified by her middle name, Shelley, since she didn’t want to publicize her family’s situation. “He saw it as vote of no confidence.”

For those over 50 and unemployed, the statistics are grim. While unemployment rates for Americans nearing retirement are lower than for young people who are recently out of school, once out of a job, older workers have a much harder time finding work. Over the last year, according to the Labor Department, the average duration of unemployment for older people was 53 weeks, compared with 19 weeks for teenagers.

There are numerous reasons — older workers have been hit both by the recession and globalization. They’re more likely to have been laid off from industries that are downsizing, and since their salaries tend to be higher than those of younger workers, they’re attractive targets if layoffs are needed.

Even as they do all the things they’re told to do — network, improve those computer skills, find a new passion and turn it into a job — many struggle with the question of whether their working life as they once knew it is essentially over.

This is something professionals who work with and research the older unemployed say needs to be addressed better than it is now. Helping people figure out how to cope with a future that may not include work, while at the same time encouraging them in their job searches, is a difficult balance, said Nadya Fouad, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Psychologists and others who counsel this cohort need to help them face the grief of losing a job, and also to understand that jobs and job-hunting are far different now from how they used to be.

“The contract used to be, ‘I am a loyal employee and you are a loyal employer. I promise to work for you my entire career and you train, promote, give benefits and a pension when I retire.’ Now you can’t count on any of that,” she said. “The onus is all on the employee to have a portfolio of skills that can be transferable.”

People in their 20s and 30s know that they need to market themselves and always be on the lookout for better opportunities, she said, something that may seem foreign to those in their 50s and 60s.

If a counselor or psychologist “doesn’t understand how the world of work has changed, they’re not helping at all,” she said. “You can’t just talk about how it feels.”

In response to this concern, Professor Fouad and her colleagues have drawn up guidelines for the American Psychological Association to help psychotherapists better assist their clients with workplace issues and unemployment. It is wending its way through the association’s committees.

Of course, not everyone who is unemployed and over 50 is equal. For some, the reality is that they need to find another job — any job — to survive. Others have resources that can allow them to spend more time looking for a job that might have the salary or status of their former position.

In the first case, Professor Fouad said, “You need to decide what is the minimum amount of money you can make and how to go about finding it.” In the second case, she said, it’s necessary to examine what work means to you and how that may have to change.

Is it the high social status? The identity? The relationship with co-workers? It is important to examine these areas, perhaps with the help of a professional counselor, Professor Fouad said, to discover how to find such meaning or relationship

Sometimes simply changing the way you look at your situation can help. My friend Shelley’s husband, Neal, who also asked that I use his middle name, said the best advice he received from a friend was “don’t tell people you’re unemployed. Tell them you’re semiretired. It changed my self-identity. I still look for jobs, but I feel better about myself.”

Is there a moment when people over 50 who don't have jobs should give up looking, accept their fate and find other ways to make life meaningful?

He also has friends facing the same issues, who understand his situation. Such support groups, whether formal or informal, are very helpful, said Jane Goodman, past president of the American Counseling Association and professor emerita of counseling at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.

“Legitimizing the fact that this stinks also helps,” she said. “I find that when I say this, clients are so relieved. They thought I was going to say, ‘buck up.’ ”

And even more, “they should know the problem is not with them but with a system that has treated them like a commodity that can be discarded,” said David L. Blustein, a professor of counseling, developmental and educational psychology at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, who works with the older unemployed in suburb of Boston. “I try to help clients get in touch with their anger about that. They shouldn’t blame themselves.”

Which, of course, is easy to say and hard to do.

“I know not to take it personally,” Neal said, “but sure, I wonder at times, what’s wrong with me? Is there something I should be doing differently?”

It is too easy to sink into endless rumination, to wonder if he is somehow standing in his own way, like a cancer patient who is told that her attitude is her problem, he said.

Susan Sipprelle, producer of the Web site and the documentary “Set for Life” about the older jobless, said she stopped posting articles like “Five Easy Steps to get a New Job.”

“People are so frustrated,” she said. “They don’t want to hear, ‘Get a new wardrobe, get on LinkedIn.’ ”

As one commenter on the Facebook page for Over Fifty and Out of Work said, “I’ve been told to redo my résumé twice now. The first ‘expert’ tells me to do it one way, the next ‘expert’ tells me to put it back the way I had it.”

Some do land a coveted position in their old fields or turn a hobby into a business. Neal, although he believes he’ll never make as much money as in the past, recently has reason to be optimistic about some consulting jobs.

But the reality is that the problem of the older unemployed “was acute during the Great Recession, and is now chronic,” Ms. Sipprelle said. “People’s lives have been upended by the great forces of history in a way that’s never happened before, and there’s no other example for older workers to look at. Some can’t recoup, though not through their own fault. They’re the wrong age at the wrong time. It’s cold comfort, but better than suggesting that if you just dye your hair, you’ll get that job.”

Friday, July 19, 2013

Grade "D" Detroit

Which is also the current situation in Detroit as the city now faces the largest bankruptcy in history. Of course out comes the fingers pointing in multiple directions and blame seeking to all of those who have ever lived, worked or simply passed through Detroit.

Once again the useless need for finding excuses as to why this happened but no actual resolutions, ideas or plans to ensure that the City finds a way to rebuild anew and be a different but still vital part of American culture - economically and socially.

The history of Detroit is a fascinating one. I am not an urban planner but it is clear that like many other cities of industry, this is one most resonant with the American unicorn mythology. The car, the assembly line, Motown and the idea of an integrated city of diversity and prosperity all came to a crashing awakening yesterday.

I read about this ironically first on on online blog site as they were pointing out that the solution to the misery was moving Silicon Alley a little further to the east.  Of course that was not only absurd but naive.  The New York Times over the past year or so also forecast this resurgence in dozens of articles about the cool hip factor that was akin to a new model car.  CBS did a profile on the founder of Quicken loans and his role in the renaissance of Detroit.  Either PR or simply hubris, these did not come to fruition.

I found the comments by readers on an online  site most telling and explanatory as to what has happened and what it was like living and working there.  I have spoken to people who visited of late and said it was akin to a bombed out town post war.  This is not something that then should shock those who found out about this bankruptcy today.

Ok. So here's the deal... unless you've lived and breathed in the city of Detroit for an extended period of time, you really don't have any idea about what this city is up against.
I worked in the city of Detroit as a television news journalist for one of the networks for 7 years. Everyday I would walk out of our building downtown I would think to myself "If they could just level this place with a bomb and start over, that would likely be the ideal situation." A lot of my tech friends in at the World Economic Forum a few years ago started going on and on with this fascination with seems very edgy, downtrodden yet filled with so much opportunity... the opportunity? Being a victim of serious crime and getting in your car and driving 35 minutes to the suburbs to go grocery shopping. One of the top news African American news anchors lives in Indian Village in a beautiful home in Detroit, I remember I was meeting her at her home for the first time and she told me that she had been held at gunpoint more than once when various criminals had broken into her home.... AND... she was everybody's girl.
So you move there and you become a victim of a crime or get in a car accident? Who are you going to call? The Police? Fire Department? My answer? What police and fire department are you going to call who is actually going to pick up their phone and if they pick up...actually show up to help you? Or find someone in one of these departments who is actually going to care that you got in a car accident? They don't care. I've done it and tried it.
Politics, taxes, doing business in the city? Good luck with that too. You're dealing with what I believe is one of the most corrupt cities in the world.
I don't see this city coming back in my lifetime.... and I don't know who would want to live there... even the criminals don't want to be there anymore....
I find these fantasies and fascinations about Detroit are just that... a fantasy... and those who decide to take it...jump in.. try it... invest.... I suspect and predict... most of them are going to be in for a long hard fall...
On the other hand... the suburbs of Detroit... about 35-45 minutes out... FREAKING GORGEOUS & BEAUTIFUL. Lovely life. I spend my summers at my lake house in the burbs where I grew up when I take my annual break from my life in NYC

As some one who was born and grew up in the city, and now lives outside of it but close enough to where I go across my street and I'm in the city limits of Detroit - tech start ups are not going to bring it back from any thing. I have friends who work in Silicon Valley and in the general bay area, and every thing about that world is so obscenely different from how Detroit functions there isn't any way.
I'm not talking about something like "intelligence" or "education", but the simple attitude and mind set of what these tech companies want and expect. Detroit, and Michigan in general is about hard work, the nitty gritty painful hard work. It's what we're known for, it's in our blood, and it's what we're good at. That mentality has created a certain degree of culture which is rooted and embedded deep within not just Detroit its self, but the surrounding area. I suppose it's kind of difficult to describe what it is, but if you were to take some one from Silicon Valley they could not survive in the environment that is Detroit, nor could some one from Detroit survive in the environment of Silicon Valley; they are just two completely different cultures.
What the city needs, first and foremost though, is a complete restructuring at its core. There is more to do with government and politics at the moment than there are jobs. Unfortunately, the one man who really had a chance at fixing Detroit, the one man who had the right plan and right credentials, Mike Duggan, was removed from the printed ballot for the mayoral election. I truly believe he could have had saved the city, but it's unlikely to happen now or any time soon.
His removal from the ballot had nothing to do with his credentials or his plan, but rather his skin color. It's an unpopular topic, but it's the truth, Detroit is a very racist city, and is another one of its core fundamental problems. Detroit is rotten from the core, and I have lost any and all hope for it ever coming back

What is disturbing is the simple lack of response and engagement by the Federal Government. Quick to save the auto makers, which had they not would have expedited this process much sooner, was the simple lack of long range engagement and involvement in planning for the long range.  This is our new course of action in this country, throw money at the free market when they fail and assume that they will pay it forward.  No they pay it in salary and that is about as forward as it goes.  There is too big to fail for a City as well but no one thought of that I guess

I recall when Seattle was in dire straits when Boeing was in trouble. There was a billboard that said "Will the last person in Seattle turn out the lights."  But we had affective and powerful Senators, Magnuson and Jackson, and they worked at resuscitating the ailing company and in turn the city as well.   Urban renewal, now a dirty word was embraced.   Then somewhere along the line "lesser Seattle" was created as more Californians escaping the rising costs relocated here and in turn rebuilt the Seattle. And in turn raising property costs and adding to traffic but the other option was what?  That is never considered when debasing the concept. We never really look beyond the immediate when it comes to our myopia.  If any City seems to be destined to try to reinvent itself every decade it is this one.  But unlike San Francisco or New York the only identity Seattle has is the one that they create to go along with this version, so it is a transient as our culture and that is not a good thing.

To understand a city like Detroit or Seattle you need to have a history and understanding of  the culture and there is something that we share and this a concept of a city at odds with itself.  It cannot be ignored that the divisiveness that this country is largely color based. From the obsession about the Martin shooting, the voting rights act repeal, to the real factor that we also have a black President, Americans have always had a tenuous grasp on race and our relations with it.   Like likes like. We are all guilty of our biases and in turn our prejudices but when they become easily expressed with no repercussions or even guilt we have what we have on the reality show Big Brother, ignorance coupled with arrogance. Two of the most deadly of combinations.

Detroit rest in peace. But like all Phoenix I suspect you will rise above the ashes. All cool cats have 9 lives and this is only one of them.  I recall the race riots of decades ago.  So you still have a few more left.