Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mass layoff notice, Microsoft style

News comes that Microsoft plans on laying off up to 18,000 employees. Microsoft exec Stephen Elop delivers the bad news in an "empathic" internal email: 
Hello there,

Microsoft’s strategy is focused on productivity and our desire to help people “do more.” As the Microsoft Devices Group, our role is to light up this strategy for people. We are the team creating the hardware that showcases the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, and we will be the confluence of the best of Microsoft’s applications, operating systems and cloud services.

To align with Microsoft’s strategy, we plan to focus our efforts. Given the wide range of device experiences, we must concentrate on the areas where we can add the most value. The roots of this company and our future are in productivity and helping people get things done. Our fundamental focus – for phones, Surface, for meetings with devices like PPI, Xbox hardware and new areas of innovation -- is to build on that strength. While our direction in the majority of our teams is largely unchanging, we have had an opportunity to plan carefully about the alignment of phones within Microsoft as the transferring Nokia team continues with its integration process.

It is particularly important to recognize that the role of phones within Microsoft is different than it was within Nokia. Whereas the hardware business of phones within Nokia was an end unto itself, within Microsoft all our devices are intended to embody the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, while accruing value to Microsoft’s overall strategy. Our device strategy must reflect Microsoft’s strategy and must be accomplished within an appropriate financial envelope. Therefore, we plan to make some changes.

We will be particularly focused on making the market for Windows Phone. In the near term, we plan to drive Windows Phone volume by targeting the more affordable smartphone segments, which are the fastest growing segments of the market, with Lumia. In addition to the portfolio already planned, we plan to deliver additional lower-cost Lumia devices by shifting select future Nokia X designs and products to Windows Phone devices. We expect to make this shift immediately while continuing to sell and support existing Nokia X products.

To win in the higher price segments, we will focus on delivering great breakthrough products in alignment with major milestones ahead from both the Windows team and the Applications and Services Group. We will ensure that the very best experiences and scenarios from across the company will be showcased on our products. We plan to take advantage of innovation from the Windows team, like Universal Windows Apps, to continue to enrich the Windows application ecosystem. And in the very lowest price ranges, we plan to run our first phones business for maximum efficiency with a smaller team.

We expect these changes to have an impact to our team structure. With our focus, we plan to consolidate the former Smart Devices and Mobile Phones business units into one phone business unit that is responsible for all of our phone efforts. Under the plan, the phone business unit will be led by Jo Harlow with key members from both the Smart Devices and Mobile Phones teams in the management team. This team will be responsible for the success of our Lumia products, the transition of select future Nokia X products to Lumia and for the ongoing operation of the first phone business.

As part of the effort, we plan to select the appropriate business model approach for our sales markets while continuing to offer our products in all markets with a strong focus on maintaining business continuity. We will determine each market approach based on local market dynamics, our ability to profitably deliver local variants, current Lumia momentum and the strategic importance of the market to Microsoft. This will all be balanced with our overall capability to invest.

Our phone engineering efforts are expected to be concentrated in Salo, Finland (for future, high-end Lumia products) and Tampere, Finland (for more affordable devices). We plan to develop the supporting technologies in both locations. We plan to ramp down engineering work in Oulu. While we plan to reduce the engineering in Beijing and San Diego, both sites will continue to have supporting roles, including affordable devices in Beijing and supporting specific US requirements in San Diego. Espoo and Lund are planned to continue to be focused on application software development.

We plan to right-size our manufacturing operations to align to the new strategy and take advantage of integration opportunities. We expect to focus phone production mainly in Hanoi, with some production to continue in Beijing and Dongguan. We plan to shift other Microsoft manufacturing and repair operations to Manaus and Reynosa respectively, and start a phased exit from Komaron, Hungary.

In short, we will focus on driving Lumia volume in the areas where we are already successful today in order to make the market for Windows Phone. With more speed, we will build on our success in the affordable smartphone space with new products offering more differentiation. We’ll focus on acquiring new customers in the markets where Microsoft’s services and products are most concentrated. And, we’ll continue building momentum around applications.

We plan that this would result in an estimated reduction of 12,500 factory direct and professional employees over the next year. These decisions are difficult for the team, and we plan to support departing team members’ with severance benefits.

More broadly across the Devices team, we will continue our efforts to bring iconic tablets to market in ways that complement our OEM partners, power the next generation of meetings & collaboration devices and thoughtfully expand Windows with new interaction models. With a set of changes already implemented earlier this year in these teams, this means there will be limited change for the Surface, Xbox hardware, PPI/meetings or next generation teams.

We recognize these planned changes are broad and have very difficult implications for many of our team members. We will work to provide as much clarity and information as possible. Today and over the coming weeks leaders across the organization will hold town halls, host information sharing sessions and provide more details on the intranet.

The team transferring from Nokia and the teams that have been part of Microsoft have each experienced a number of remarkable changes these last few years. We operate in a competitive industry that moves rapidly, and change is necessary. As difficult as some of our changes are today, this direction deliberately aligns our work with the cross company efforts that Satya has described in his recent emails. Collectively, the clarity, focus and alignment across the company, and the opportunity to deliver the results of that work into the hands of people, will allow us to increase our success in the future.

Regards,

Stephen
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Friday, December 6, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Clapp Trap

Director of National "Intelligence" 
James Unwittingly Inspector Clouseau Clapp

It was rich to witness Clapp's obligatory melodramatic, derisively Harrumphing Indignation when the Snowdon NSA leak thing surfaced. Inconveniently for Mr. Pants on Fire:
 In a March 12 Senate hearing, Sen. Ron Wyden asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Clapper responded, "No, sir... Not wittingly." Since last week, it's become clear that Clapper's statement was not exactly true. Clapper's given a series of interviews to explain the comment, each time getting closer to admitting that what he said was not true. 
"Not wittingly"? Right.

I feel like I'm stuck in Groundhog Day.


Is the 4th Amendment effectively dead?

JUNE 21st UPDATE

Some things are utterly predictable.
Lawyers eye NSA data as treasure trove for evidence in murder, divorce cases
By Bob Sullivan, Columnist, NBC News

The National Security Agency has spent years demanding that companies turn over their data. Now, the spy agency finds the shoe is on the other foot. A defendant in a Florida murder trial says telephone records collected by the NSA as part of its surveillance programs hold evidence that would help prove his innocence, and his lawyer has demanded that prosecutors produce those records. On Wednesday, the federal government filed a motion saying it would refuse, citing national security. But experts say the novel legal argument could encourage other lawyers to fight for access to the newly disclosed NSA surveillance database...

Mission Creep. Coming to a jurisdiction near you soon.

apropos, as I observed back in 2002 while writing about the Homeland Security Act and the proposed "Total Information Awareness" program:
...While HSA contains privacy and data security language restricting the use of TIA-type data to (ill-defined) Homeland Security purposes, we will likely see relentless pressure by law enforcement for access to the information, on the grounds that more effective overall law enforcement via access to TIA data will free up police resources for Homeland Security duties. One need not read far into the HSA to see blurring of enforcement lines. For example, the new Department is directed to

"...monitor connections between illegal drug trafficking and terrorism, coordinate efforts to sever such connections, and otherwise contribute to efforts to interdict illegal drug trafficking." [TITLE I, Section 101(b)(1)(G), page 14]

Given the federal government's simplistic yet relentless media campaign of the past year arguing that "Drug Use Aids Terrorists," well, you get the point (or should).

More generally, under TITLE I, Section 101(b)2), RESPONSIBILITY FOR INVESTIGATING AND PROSECUTING TERRORISM:

"Except as specifically provided by law with respect to entities transferred to the Department under this Act, primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting acts of terrorism shall be vested not in the Department, but rather in Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over the acts in question." (pp 14-15)

Well, Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies may well -- perhaps quietly -- argue that they cannot perform their duties pursuant to HSA without access to the integrated, panoptic TIA data repositories. Conveniently, HSA is replete with broad language granting this or that Director or Assistant Secretary discretion over what constitute "reasonable" administrative measures under the Act.

It gets worse. HSA is also peppered with language mandating two-way coordination of activities, communications, and data-sharing with "the private sector." HSA officials are charged with "...creating and fostering strategic communications with the private sector to enhance the primary mission of the Department to protect the American homeland" (page 17), "...creating and managing private sector advisory councils composed of representatives of industries and associations designated by the Secretary" (page 18), "...promoting existing public-private partnerships and developing new public-private partnerships to provide for collaboration and mutual support to address homeland security challenges" (pp 18-19), and so forth...
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AUGUST 13 UPDATE


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NOVEMBER 10th UPDATE

Heard this author interviewed on NPR with Bill Moyers last night. Just bought the Kindle edition of the book.



FOREWORD by Lewis Lapham 

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. —Benjamin Franklin 

The evidence gathered by Heidi Boghosian on the following pages attests to the pathology of an American government so frightened by its own citizens that it classifies them as probable enemies. Suspicious of all forms of unlicensed expression, the custodians of the nation’s conscience find the practice of democracy to be both uncivil and unsafe. Entirely too many people in the room or the parking lot who don’t do what they’re told, don’t swallow their prescribed daily dosages of the think-tank swill slopped into their bowls by the wardens of the corporate security state. 

Such people present the risk of having thoughts of their own, and therefore they must be carefully and constantly watched. How constantly and how carefully is the lesson embedded in Spying on Democracy. Before reading the book I knew that over the last fifty years the U.S. government had been stepping up its scrutiny of a populace that it chooses to regard as a mob. I had yet to appreciate the extent to which the computers have been programmed with the mind of a lunatic conspiracy theorist. 

Heidi Boghosian shows the hydra-headed data banks to be targeted at all sectors of American society, at school-children and the mothers of school-children, at church congregations, credit card members, and Facebook friends, at everybody and anybody at work or at play with the tracking device otherwise known as a cell phone. 

So intrusive is the surveillance that nobody leaves home without it. The clothes sold in both upscale and down-market retail outlets come with radio-frequency ID tags sewn into a stitch or a seam. Thousands of cameras installed in the lobbies of apartment and office buildings (also on roofs and in basements, in movie theaters and barbershops, in the eye sockets of the mannequins in department store windows) register and record the comings and goings of a citizenry deemed unfit to mind its own business. The corporate and political gentry distrust democratic government for its being by definition a work in progress, a never-ending argument between the inertia of things as they are and the energy inherent in the hope of things as they might become. 

The country was founded by people willing to engage the argument. The Protestant dissenters arriving in the early seventeenth century on the shores of Massachusetts Bay brought with them little else except a cargo of contraband words. They possessed what they believed to be clear refutations of the lies told by the lords temporal and spiritual in Europe, and they settled the New England wilderness as an act of disobedience rooted in what they recognized as a “quarrel with Providence.” Translated into the eighteenth-century language of secular politics, the quarrel resulted in the Declaration of Independence and a constitution predicated on James Madison’s notion that whereas “in Europe charters of liberty have been granted by power,” America would set the example of “charters of power granted by Liberty.” The government established in Philadelphia in 1787 sought to ally itself with the ongoing discoveries of something new under the sun, with the ceaseless making and remaking not only of fortunes but also of laws. To a woman who had asked what the gentlemen had made of their deliberations, Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.” 

The government enthroned in Washington in 2013 holds the view that the experiment with democracy has gone far enough, the upkeep of a republic more trouble than it’s worth. Let too many freedoms wander around loose in the streets, and who knows when somebody will turn up with a guillotine, or a bomb. The reconfiguration of Madison’s premise took shape during the prolonged Cold War with the Russians. How else to counter the threat of a paranoid offense unless with the fielding of an equally paranoid defense? The once-upon-a-time sons of liberty set to work replacing the antiquated U.S. republic with what President Dwight Eisenhower recognized in 1956 as a “military-industrial complex” arming itself with weapons of every conceivable caliber and size, with a vast armada of naval vessels afloat on eight seas and seven oceans, with guidance systems as “infallible” as those deployed by the seventeenth-century Spanish Inquisition. 

During the years 1947 to 1989, the constant reminder of next week’s day of judgment provided the parties in power in Washington with justification for muffling the voices of dissent. Unpopular during even the happiest of stock market booms, dissent during times of war attracts the attention of the police. The parade marshals regard any breaking through the rope lines of consensus as unpatriotic and disloyal; the voicing of impolitic opinions comes to be confused with treason, civil liberties to be regarded as so much toxic waste. Nor do governments willingly relinquish charters of power seized under the pretext of apocalypse. 

The loss of the Soviet threat in the 1990s brought forth as its replacement the war on drugs, a war waged not to defend the American people but to secure a perimeter around the majesty of the state. The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on the morning of September 11, 2001, upgraded the war on drugs to a war against “all the world’s evil,” and by nightfall what was still left of the notion of a democratic republic framed on the premise of an argument had been suspended until further notice, cancelled because of rain. The barbarian was at the gates, civilization trembled in the balance, and now was not the time for any careless choice of word. 

Nor is such a time anywhere foreseen by the national intelligence agencies that in the years since the fall of the World Trade Center have added to their payrolls 100,000 inquisitors both petty and grand, have appropriated upwards of $ 750 billion for military enhancements, and have enlisted the close collaboration of the data-mining engineers in what was once known as the private sector. The government’s promotional literature describes the objective as “truth maintenance.” To detect and classify each and every one of America’s prospective enemies (terrestrial and extraterrestrial, real and imagined) high-speed computers sift through the electronic droppings of every human movement or expression— bank, medical, and divorce records, bookstore purchases, website visits and traffic violations, blood and urine samples, and so on. Connect the dots (all the names and places to all the dates and times), deploy “market-based techniques for avoiding surprises,” and if all goes well, what comes up on the screen is an American democracy as safely and securely dead as a pheasant under glass. 

Thus, apparently, the fond hope and eager expectation of the risk managers charged with the administration of the Department of Homeland Security, or with the command and control of a bank, an insurance company, a police precinct, or a congressional committee. The mission is the protection of property, not the preservation of the freedoms of the people. Royalist concentrations of wealth remain at liberty to do as they please— to poison rivers, cut down forests, charge cruel rates of interest, deny medical care, repudiate debt, eliminate species. Commonplace human beings, by nature untrustworthy, await instructions about where and how and when they walk the walk or talk the talk. Corporations dismiss employees for trafficking in ambiguous emails; no more than fifty people may assemble on the steps of Manhattan’s City Hall. The FBI searches even small-scale street demonstrations for “anarchists” and “extreme elements,” rounding up at random any participant deemed fit for a lesson in obedience. An arrest record discourages further experiments with the theory of free speech, and complicates the career plans for young and overly idealistic students obliged to meet the character requirements for admission to a prestigious university. Step out of line, my child, and you can say good-bye to the good hands people at Allstate and JPMorgan Chase.

When President Obama travels around the country to mouth the virtues of a government by the people, of the people, and for the people, the Secret Service sends advance scouts to set up “free speech areas” for the people who ask impolitic questions. Quarantined behind chain-link fences at a discreet distance from the presidential motorcade, the voices of protest remain out of earshot, the faces far enough away to avoid notice on the evening news. What is disheartening is the lack of objection on the part of a citizenry all too easily herded into the shelters of harmless speech and heavy law enforcement. Public opinion polls find the bulk of respondents willing to give up a generous percentage of their essential liberty in return for the shopping-mall measures of freedom (small and getting smaller) that they can still beg or borrow enough money to buy. 

It’s a poor trade. The well-being of a democratic republic depends less on the abundance of its cheap entertainment or the expense of its armies than on the capacity of its individual citizens to rely on their own thought. The big money never has much trouble drumming up smiles of prompt agreement, but democracy needs as many questions as its citizens can ask of their own stupidity and fear. We can’t know what we’re about, or whether we are telling ourselves too many lies, unless we can see and hear one another think out loud. Heidi Boghosian’s Spying on Democracy suggests that dissent is what rescues democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors, and preserves for our society the constitutional right to its own name.
Below: I posed this question to the author. We'll see whether she responds.

We speak of "business intelligence," of "confidential" and "proprietary information," of "ePHI" (electronic Protected Health Information) under HIPAA, etc. Is this now a naive and quaint notion? How can you even have actionable "proprietary information" if you cannot communicate it with others having the right and need to know (beyond furtive, paranoid Enemy-of-the-State-Movie midnight face-to-face meetings in some desolate parking lots beyond the reach of telescope microphones and high-powered binocular-aided lip-readers)? Beyond the spectre of government and corporate collection of digital dossiers on individuals, what would there be to stop NSA et al gumshoes from engaging in clandestine insider trading based on sensitive commercial information?
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More to come...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"Freedom"


Author unknown.
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Freedom and I have been together 11 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. Her left wing doesn't open all the way even after surgery, it was broken in 4 places. She's my baby.

When Freedom came in she could not stand and both wings were broken. She was emaciated and covered in lice. We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vet's office. From then on, I was always around her. We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in. I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight; and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes. We also had to tube feed her for weeks.

This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then she still couldn't stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn't stand in a week. You know you don't want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didn't want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn't bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear. I went immediately back to her cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle. She was ready to live. I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day.

We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington. We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV. Miracle Pets even did a show about us.

In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo. Lost the hair - the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again.

Fast forward to November 2000...

The day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant. Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back Monday for the results. I went in Monday, and I was told that all the cancer was gone.

So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn't said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don't know how long. That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird.

On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power course through his body. I have so many stories like that...

I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedom.


Hope you enjoyed this! 

Cancer is a strange cell. You can go along for years in remission and then one day it pops its head up again. If you ever have it you will never be free of it. A small request...93% won't forward, but I'm sure you will. All you are asked to do is keep this circulating. Even if it's only to one more person. In memory of anyone you know who has been struck down by cancer, or is still living with it, or just someone who enjoys a great story.
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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Force Majeure?

I posted a comment about the Newtown Connecticut bloodbath on Facebook tonight.
Was this tragedy a "Force Majeure"? The act of an extremely deranged young man whose mental illness and consequent nihilist and malevolent moral incapacity rendered him essentially the human equivalent of a tornado or meteorite striking that school? And consequently, in viewing it that way, can we simply argue that placing any ostensibly "reasonable" restrictions on the acquisition and use of assault weapons would not have made any inhibitory or preventive difference?

Shit happens?

Are we simply left, then, with dueling antagonistic, frequently epithet-overloaded speculative arguments, many of them based on the weakest (and most cherry-picked) of empirical evidence, buttressed and amplified by the most fevered illogic ? Some of them that hark to a time of a frontier nation comprised of less than 1% of today's U.S. population, a new nation still smoldering from the flames of war on its soil, a nation where the relative "balance of power" expressed via citizen vs government armaments was orders of magnitude smaller compared to that of today?

Are we left to simply argue that the ONLY thing preventing our self-government from devolving into despotism is our putatively prophylactic "Right to Bear Arms"?

I Don't Buy It.
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IED welcome at 2:26

UPDATE, MAY 9th 2013

I really tire of the massive glandular Straw Man thinking around the 2nd Amendment.
The second amendment in effect prevents the national government from destroying the militias of the states and preserves a personal right that is centuries old. Joel Barlow, the Connecticut wit and writer, in 1792 sagely declared that a tyrant disarms his subjects to "degrade and oppress" them, knowing that to be unarmed "palsies the hand and brutalizes the mind," with the result that people "lose the power of protecting themselves." But arms privately held can be dangerous to society. President George Washington once reminded Congress that "a free people ought not only be armed but disciplined." He meant that the militias of his time had to be under military authority or, in the frequently used phrase, should be "a well-regulated" militia. However, we no longer depend on militias, a fact that in some respects makes the right to keep and bear arms anachronistic. An armed public is not the means of keeping a democratic government responsible and sensitive to the needs of the people. As the Supreme Court said in 1951, in Dennis v. United States: "That it is within the power of Congress to protect the government of the United States from armed rebellion is a proposition which requires little discussion." Whatever hypothetical value there might be, the Court said, in the notion that a "right" against revolution exists against dictatorial government "is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change." The Court added, "We reject any principle of government helplessness in the face of preparations for revolution, which principle, carried to its logical conclusion, must lead to anarchy."

The right to keep and bear arms still enables citizens to protect themselves against law breakers, but it is a feckless means of opposing a legitimate government. The so-called militias of today that consist of small private armies of self-styled superpatriots are entitled to their firearms but deceive themselves in thinking they can withstand the United States Army. The Second Amendment as they interpret it feeds their dangerous illusions. Even so, the origins of the amendment show that the right to keep and bear arms has an illustrious history connected with freedom even if it is a right that must be regulated.

Professor Leonard W. Levy. Origins of the Bill of Rights (pp. 148-149). Kindle Edition.
apropos,
Click the image and save. Pay it forward.

Advocating Treason because you don't get your way on every issue of passionate concern to you is the very definition of juvenile idiocy.

Committing Treason will quickly get you justifiably culled from the Herd. Count on it. I will not be holding any Candelight Vigil for you.
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Socioeconomic Drama


There is a long-established, conceptually simple, cogent cognitive psych model of dysfunctional interpersonal behavior known as "Script Theory." It emanated decades ago from Eric Berne's work on "Transactional Analysis." Within this model is the Rescuer-Victim-Persecutor concept:
  • I, the benevolent intervenor, arrogate to myself the right to and imperative of "rescuing" you, the "Victim" from your plight(s);
  • You, the "Victim," irritated by (or just apathetic toward) my putatively altruistic and unsolicited ministrations, react with insufficient gratitude and attitude/behavior change;
  • which then give me the right to demonize and persecute you.
Think about it.

The supportive psych literature is rather voluminous.


I pretty much buy it. Occam's Razor simplicity and all that. Think about the drama you repeatedly witness (or participate in) within your family and social circles. 


Shorter Claude Steiner: to the extent that you live a "scripted" life, you are not free.

Of late I can't help but observe that our society in the aggregate is now in the "Persecutor" phase of socioeconomic dynamics, in the wake of our recent disappointments. Ironic, given all this hyperbolic talk about "freedom" of late.


It's probably cyclical. We tend to oscillate between maxima and minima of concerns over "social justice."


Unless you've been off incommunicado in a cave of late, you've seen it.

  • Presidential Candidate Ron Paul gets loud, angry cheers during a GOP primary "debate" wherein he summarily shrugs off the moral implications of allowing the destitute to die at the ER curbside (and, he's a physician, no less).
  • The fatuous writings of the late Ayn Rand (raging against "Moochers" and "Looters") have risen to new popularity.
  • A nationally known AM radio host loudly demeans a woman as a "slut" and a "prostitute"because of her advocacy for contraceptive rights.
  • The long-term jobless are described as "lazy." It is argued, among other things, that they be subjected to drug testing as a condition of eligibility for unemployment compensation. Ron Paul's senator son Rand claims in late 2013 that extended employment insurance is a "disservice" to the jobless.
I could do a very long bullet list.

But, you get the idea. The "failures of liberalism" give us convenient license to blame the the unfortunate, poor, and inept.

The adversity POV:
Ich, Du, Sie

  • I innocently suffered a misfortune.
  • You should have done more to avoid calamity.
  • He is is a parasite, a Moocher.
We tend to attribute our successes to acumen and initiative, while declaiming responsibility for our misfortunes, which are proffered to be the result of bad luck or the machinations of more powerful adversarial others.
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More to come...


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whitney Houston, 1963-2012

Notwithstanding all of the incessant tabloid drama surrounding her tragic human failings, this woman's voice incontrovertibly made the world a better place. It's really that simple. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On "Envy"

So, tonight, I'm watching the SAG Awards on TV with one eye/ear as I tend to other stuff. I just had this tangentially connective thought as I ruminate on the 2012 presidential campaign.
MITT ROMNEY: "This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We must offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success."


"The bitter politics of envy?"


Well, apropos of Mr Romny's facile assertion, the graphic above pretty much sums up my "religious" beliefs, in addition to the "Thou Shalt Not Covet" admonishment of the Ten Commandments. Not that I'd fully assimilated all of that by age 5 or 10 or so. It took a remorse-precipitating, reflective whack upside the head by Kant and others in Grad School to fully drive the point home.

Well, so, yeah, of course, Mr. Romney's comment is the to-be-expected low-road hyperbole characteristic of much of American politics any more. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum and others have expediently riffed on this same shallow and dishonest anti-Obama theme ad nauseum as well.

to wit:

(Jan 29th, ABC News) House Speaker John Boehner defended calling President Obama’s economic message “almost un-American,” saying that the president is dividing middle income and wealthy Americans.

On Tuesday before the State of the Union address, Boehner criticized the president’s calls for increasing taxes on the wealthy, telling a group of reporters, “This is a president who said I’m not going to be a divider, I’m going to be a uniter, and running on the politics of division and envy is — to me it’s almost un-American.”

In an interview on “This Week,” Boehner told me, “What I’m talking about here is the politics of dividing America, the politics of envy. This is not the American way.”
Right.

As I watch the latest annual tripartite mutual love feast celebration of the Hollywood gliterati (Globes, SAG, and Oscars), I am struck by the extent to which we, in the aggregate, love our cinema stars and those who produce their works, people who mostly live lives of luxury utterly beyond our comprehension. Yeah, we'd all like to experience such comforts and perks. But, we don't begrudge them theirs.

NOTE: I am more in love with the work they do. It never ceases to amaze me that any film every gets made. The technical, logistical, financial, and ego-management requirements make the mind boggle if you are a diligent student of film at all (e.g., Google "Heaven's Gate").
Mr. Romney, we don't resent "success," we resent those who obtain it via slick zero-sum subterfuge that adds nothing to the advancement of a just, sustainable civilization.

People like you.



Friday, November 11, 2011

A generation passes

Above: I shot this in March 2007 at the assisted living place in Palm Bay, FL where I'd moved my Ma to in January 2005 after she could no longer safely stay in the house just a couple of miles away, where they'd retired in 1973. In July I moved her to Vegas (I'd moved my late Dad in May that year; he had serious dementia and was already in nursing home care since the fall of 2001).

Below: she managed to clutter up that apartment pretty quick. That ugly roll-out bed couch was my swell recurrent Delta red-eye bunk 'til I moved her and Pop to Vegas.

My Dad came home from the war in Europe (minus a leg) and married my Mom in August 20th, 1944. I was then born in February 1946. Pop died in May 2008. I will miss them both greatly. They were loyal to each other and loyal to me and my sister and all the grandkids.

I owe everything to them.

Above, circa 1974 or so. Below, Mother on her 88th birthday, January 18th, 2010. We took her to Olive Garden in Henderson, "Awlive Gawdin," as she put it in her finest Long Island accent.

That was her last marginally decent year. Below, Mom and Dad visiting at the nursing home where he resided in Melbourne FL prior to my bringing them both to Vegas.

A good, long run, both of them.

UPDATE

We had a celebratory supper Sunday evening at the Olive Garden in Henderson where we'd last taken Ma, for her 88th birthday. My sister Carole read for us a reflection she'd composed.
Marion Elizabeth (Dittus) Gladd,
January 18, 1922 - November 10, 2011

How do you describe the life of your mother when you don’t pay attention to the details while you are a child and it’s all about yourself and not about the person who chose to bring you into this world? After having 5 children, I realized what my mom must’ve gone through raising two children. And she (and my dad) did a pretty decent job when you read about what goes on in families nowadays. I often think -- how did they manage to raise two children who generally are compassionate and reasoned people? It must’ve been their lifelong concern for us and our families. Selfishness was not part of their character when it came to their kids.

My first recollection of my mom was in Morristown, New Jersey (George Washington’s stomping grounds!). I remember her taking me to a birthday party -- I remember being shy and not wanting to go but I didn’t have a choice. I remember kindergarten and her leaving me there and I remember being scared. Never gave one thought to the fact that she was now alone, both children in school. I wonder what that was like for her.

My next recollection was our “farmhouse” in Hanover, New Jersey. What a wonderful home that was -- a big old home, with a wrap-around front porch and a walk-around attic to die for. Interestingly enough, years later as an adult, I was talking to my mom about that house and she said that she hated that house. Once again, what she must’ve given up so Bobby and I could have this interesting outdoors experience -- I think Bobby even built a log cabin in the woods and I remember scooping up frog eggs in this jellylike glob form from the pond in the woods next to our home. And that was the house where I got my first “cat” addiction—our landlord, Mrs. Weber, gave me a cute little black and white kitten and the same day she ran over it with her car! No pets after that one! That’s why I’ve been making up for it ever since -- in fact, Bobby has a bigger zoo than me.

The next move was to Hillsborough right before I started 4th grade. We moved into a brand new development with the ranch homes and the split-level homes. Already, you knew the people who had split-levels had to have more money -- or that’s how I perceived it. My mom was the typical 50-60’s stay-at-home mom. Little did I know what a gift she gave to me. She made my lunches, she was always there when I got home from school, and I always had a very well balanced meal with the dreaded green vegetables. My mom was a great cook -- and I mean great when I compare it to my paltry cooking skills. And I hated to eat--I didn’t like anything -- I know it’s hard to believe when now there isn’t much I dislike. And both my parents were adamant that we clean our plates. And Bobby always got away with murder at the dinner table—pushing his mashed potatoes out of his mouth to make me laugh -- which I did -- and which I got punished for.

My parents somehow got across to Bobby and I that you don’t get a free ride and you take care of yourself and be kind to others. It was expected that we do well in school. I know I feared both my parents -- but I can’t really remember getting disciplined except for the occasional swat on the behind with the rolled up newspaper -- and that was dad. I don’t remember Mom ever physically disciplining me -- but I knew when I disappointed her and that was enough punishment. Now it’s coming back to me -- mom was not happy when I said “shit” -- which is minor to what I’ve said in front of my kids. And mom never liked me calling her “Ma”. I guess it was considered slang, and not proper.

Growing up, I thought my mom and dad were too strict and too “proper.” I remember having to go to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Somerville, New Jersey; Dad never had to go -- and I used to wonder, why did I have to go and he doesn’t? But I never really questioned or fought the idea -- I just obeyed. And mom made sure I had all the fixings for church--dresses and white gloves. And the dreaded hats at Easter!

I always wished my parents had done more fun things with my friend’s parents. Their houses were the fun houses. They had pools -- I wanted one in our back yard—but, no, couldn’t have one because of liability. Something I didn’t understand until I had children of my own. But I spent a lot of time at my friends’ homes. But here’s the kick -- while I was enjoying my free time at their houses away from my “strict” home, their families were falling apart. Little did I know at that time, that what I perceived as “being too strict” was that they were giving me security -- actually life long security.

And then I went off to Bowling Green, Ohio, for college. Once again, it never occurred to me the loss for my mom -- having both her children, who she devoted her life to, moving so far away. And then Dad retired and made the decision to move the both of them to hot and humid Florida. And then my mom rose up out of her compliant 50’s mode, and started speaking up for herself. A lot of fights ensued between the “happy couple” but they miraculously persevered as a couple to become the most unselfish grandparents on the planet.

Mom never gave me raising children advice. I remember when we had our first child David in 1975. And Tony and I knew nothing about raising babies. And mom was just as puzzled as us -- never made me feel guilty if I used a pacifier or picked David up whenever he cried. That was the first time I felt closer to my mom.

My parents never missed one of my children’s birthdays, Christmases, Easter or the first day of school. There was always a check in the mail or a box filled with gummy worms, little Debbies, and all sorts of treats and clothes -- and it really helped us financially since I too was a stay at home mom. I remember in 1989 when April got so deathly ill and Tony had to drive with 4 kids to Ann Arbor. The brakes went on the car and Mom and Dad stepped up to the plate and gave us $2,000 for the repairs (must’ve been a few other things wrong with the bomb!).

I know my mom was the moving force when it came to helping Tony and I. They came for every event in our lives too -- when Tony graduated, when he got his Master’s, when the kids were born, and finally for high school graduations. They always made the effort even if their visits sometimes drove me crazy.

Regardless of all the pain my mom endured in her life, she somehow managed to carve out good lives for Bobby and I -- we wouldn’t be the people we are and we wouldn’t have the loving families we have if it hadn’t been for her love from the first moment we were born. She did a good job and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for what she gave unselfishly to my family and I.

I will miss her silliness, her friendliness, her jokes and her patience. I will never forget the “digitized” TV, the trips to Patrick Air Force Base, the walks on the Officers Club boardwalk, the endless restaurants such as Friendly’s—you know, the one who banished my mom!!! And I remember my mom’s meatloaf -- a recipe I have from her--that I will make when I get home in her honor. Nathan will wonder what is wrong with his mom -- “she’s cooking a meal—really?”

Well, mom, you obviously gave me the gift of gab, so until I see you again—I love you.

Your daughter, Carole Elaine

Wow.

SUNDAY, NOV 20th

They Married in August 1944. Pop died in May 2008, my Ma ten days ago. Feeling rather sad today. Got my Mother's ashes Friday. I just shot that out on my driveway, on a piece of wood on my sawhorses. Good light today with the overcast.

The little blue and red thing beneath this photo arrangement is my "blankee" -- one of the few surviving physical artifacts from my young childhood.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My heart goes out to Steve Jobs' family and friends

I hope others can step up to fill this void.



Sunday, April 3, 2011

To Nevada Governor Sandoval

Subject: Your proposal to eliminate the UNLV Department of Philosophy
From: Robert Gladd
Date: April 3, 2011 3:11:32 PM PDT
To: president@unlv.edu, neal.smatresk@unlv.edu, regentjamesdean@aol.com, jgeddes@sbcglobal.net, malden@nevada.edu, andrea_anderson@nshe.nevada.edu, william_cobb@nshe.nevada.edu, cedric_crear@nshe.nevada.edu, mark_doubrava@nshe.nevada.edu, ronknecht@aol.com, kevin_melcher@nshe.nevada.edu, jack_schofield@nshe.nevada.edu, michael_wixom@nshe.nevada.edu, michael.bowers@unlv.edu, chris.hudgins@unlv.edu
Cc: dschrade@udel.edu, Jon Ralston , mike.campbell@lasvegassun.com, brian@lasvegassun.com, danny@lasvegassun.com
___

Good day,

I first learned of the Nevada budget reduction proposal advocating the elimination of the UNLV Philosophy Department in the Las Vegas Sun on March 29th in an article by J. Patrick Coolican. I was aghast. I ask that you reconsider, and take this proposition off the table. It could not be more antithetical to the very purpose of an institution otherwise positioning itself as an "Up and Coming Urban Research University" with a goal of attracting excellent faculty and students via whom to help make this state and our world a better place. You have other viable alternatives at your disposal.

Let me first cite a salient excerpt from the March 23rd, 2011 letter from David E. Schrader, Executive Director of the American Philosophical Association:
"The AAC&U has done substantial work surveying the needs of America's businesses. AAC&U data indicate that 81% of employers want universities to place greater emphasis on Critical Thinking and Analytical Reasoning skills. 75% want universities to place greater emphasis on Ethical Decision Making. These are precisely the areas in which philosophy plays the most significant role."
Indeed, and the irony here could not be more acute. That we are now find ourselves in this painful circumstance of acute economic travail, both nationally and in nearly every state, is in large measure the direct result of a political, legal, and economic culture run amuck in Gresham's Law fashion, where -- absent effective and rational regulation driven by ethical acuity -- the Bad inexorably drives out the Good. The examples are by now legion (and dispositive, in my view). I need not cite them, but I do need to emphatically add my voice here for the ongoing -- no, heightened -- importance of critical thinking and ethics coursework offerings at the university level. We have no shortage of trade schools and otherwise career-dollar focused curricula. This is absolutely not the time for retrenchment in the reasoning and ethical arts and sciences.

I am a quantitative analyst and writer of long, broad, and deep experience spanning multiple domains (see www.bgladd.com/papers). I am also a mid-career 1998 graduate of the now-moribund UNLV Institute for Ethics & Policy Studies (comprised of faculty drawn mostly from Philosophy). I count the upshot of my experience there as an invaluable, cherished asset, and simply the best academic dollar value I ever received. It served to appreciably leaven my otherwise native polemical, iconoclastic tendencies with an indelible sensitivity to the continuing challenges posed by the inseparable attributes of both objective analytical reasoning and moral/ethical inquiry. I now try daily to bring these skills to my work in health care information technology as part of the national effort to improve our health care system. I blog about these topics here:

http://regionalextensioncenter.blogspot.com
http://bgladd.blogspot.com (see health care post links in the upper right links column)

I am also a Senior Member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), a 22 year veteran of that organization, and a person long committed to the ideals, strategies, and tactics of continuous improvement. The organizational literature is by now fairly replete with solid evidence of the significant cost-saving opportunities available to organizations of every stripe, public and private. Systematic, carefully implemented process improvements have repeatedly been shown to result in operational cost savings of as much as 30% or more (and I would speculate that academic institutions in general are in the upper range of quantifiable process improvement opportunity). This is wherein lies your opportunity for sustainable improvement and subsequent institutional budgetary viability (and not just at UNLV).

Let me be clear: I am by no means a reflexive apologist for the administrative or curricular status quo at the UNLV Department of Philosophy nor its parent institution. Nonetheless, what you are proposing will achieve little if anything of long-term benefit while introducing much of real short- and long-term harm. Please reconsider, and strike this proposal.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Robert E. (Bobby) Gladd, MA/EPS
www.bgladd.com

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Las Vegas: The next Anasazi Ruin?

Lake Mead, which now supplies the Las Vegas Valley with 90% of its water, has dropped 128 vertical feet since January 2000, and is now at roughtly 43% of capacity (I track these data monthly and drop them into Excel, from which I generate the above graph). It came back up 4 feet in December 2010, owing mainly to severe and sustained west coast and Rocky Mts watershed rains and snows, but, will likely again continue to decline. I shot the photos below in June 2009. The lake has dropped another 9 feet net since then.

When my wife and I relocated to Las Vegas in 1992, 1/3rd of the area's water came from the Spring Mountains watershed to the west of the valley, but the western watershed groundwater levels comprising that resource have declined significantly as well (for the most part owing to our sustained drought and -- until recently -- intense population influx). Below, Lake Mead at Hoover Dam during happier hydrological times.

In response to the dramatic lake level decline, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has proffered a plan to construct a pipeline into Lake Mead via which to obtain water from the northern rural ranching and mountain areas of eastern Nevada along the Utah border. But, the political pushback against this proposal has proved quite formidable. Critics call it another "Owens Valley" debacle, arguing that rural Nevadans (and nearby rural Utah residents). should not be sacrificed for the benefit of even more Las Vegas urban growth just to further enrich developers and the gaming industry.

Clark County, NV (the greater Las Vegas metropolitan area) is now home to some 2 million residents.

It is, long-term, an ecologically unsustainable region, and, absent gaming, would likely be another (perhaps slightly larger) Barstow -- one more dessicated, hardscrabble truck and rail stop of 30 to 40,000 people along the route between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Everything is brought in here by truck, rail, or aircraft. With the exception of water (for now).


AN EXCELLENT SERIES FROM THE LAS VEGAS SUN

[Click above to go to the story]
"Las Vegas was first settled for its springs, springs that made it an oasis in the desert. Although those springs have decades since run dry, water is still the most import resource to Las Vegas and the dry Southwest.

And by all indications the region is only going to get dryer. Scientists predict devastating effects from global warming, conservationists are calling for a halt to growth in Southern Nevada as a way to preserve supplies and water managers are looking to ever more creative ways to reduce reliance on the overburdened Colorado River. A Colorado River reservoir at Lake Mead is the source of 90 percent of the valley's water supply. Water levels there have fallen steadily for nearly a decade..."
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DESALINATION TO THE RESCUE?

Consider some attributes of sea water.


One acre-foot of sea water (325,851.4 gallons) weighs roughly 1,390 tons and contains about 40 tons of salt, and another 7 tons of lesser chemical constituents. The technologies for transforming salt water into potable fresh water are relatively mundane (albeit energy intensive). A net 96,500 acre-feet of potable desal water (100,000 acre-feet less the brine constituents) could serve perhaps 300,000 household per year. But, beyond the KwH energy cost of production, there would remain [1] the considerable expense of transporting it to the destinations of need, and [2] environmentally benign disposition of the 4.76 million tons of the residual chemicals (mainly salt), which are typically simply slurried back into the oceans proximate to the desalination plants.

You can just to a little transport arithmetic starting with a gallon of fresh water (post-desal processing) at 8.35 lbs: equivalently ~1360 tons per acre-foot. Use the rough rail freight shipping estimate of a nickel per ton-mile. Haul it 300 miles. About 20 grand, plus the cost of desal production. Pretty expensive alternative to the natural (and, of late in the west, chronically inadequate) hydro cycle.

Given that pipeline pumping of desalinated water several hundred miles up to higher elevations such as Las Vegas (2,160 ft above sea level) is a non-starter (as would be the use of rail tank cars; we don't have enough for just this singular "rolling pipeline" purpose), trade-off/diversion proposals have been floated in recent years in which Nevada would fund additional desal capacity in California in return for diversion of an equivalent volume of downhill-flow water from the Sierra Nevada range watershed inventory. But, myriad California agricultural, environmental, and energy concerns have thus far sufficed to stifle such initiatives.
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BARCELONA'S DROUGHT

News from May 2008:
Spain's worst drought in decades has forced the city of Barcelona to begin shipping in drinking water in an unprecedented effort to avoid water restrictions.

For the first time ever, tankers began to deliver desperately needed drinking water to the parched region of five million people. Incredibly, Spain has seen almost no rain in the last eighteen months. Water levels have dropped so low in local reservoirs that a long forgotten medieval village has emerged from beneath a rapidly drying lake.

Sixty six tankers are expected to deliver water over the next few months. Meanwhile the Spanish government appears to have given up relying on rainwater. They are now constructing a desalination plant that will supply 60 billion litres of water a year to the parched region.


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More to come...