Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Apprentice watch

I’ve done some things in my life I’m not proud of but I find myself powerless against the insidious lure of The Apprentice, Donald Trump’s tribute and shrine to megalomania. This show features eighteen power hungry personalities vying for a prestigious position along side the Donald and his nasty ass hair. So as my contribution to the mind numbing world of reality television I bring you a weekly feature known as The Apprentice watch.

Let’s briefly recap the first three weeks. Episode number one featured the dismissal of a lifeless lump known as Rob. He contributed as much to his team as Tanya Harding has to sportsmanship. In week two, Bradford, an early season favorite to win the whole thing, gave up his immunity in a foolish act of macho bravado. Bradford stuck out his neck and Trump summarily lopped it off with almost perverse pleasure. Week three saw the two teams charged with marketing toothpaste. The girls lost and Elizabeth, Maria, and Stacie J were subjected to the dreaded weekly board room carnage. At this point it was revealed that Stacie J was a complete whack job and she was shown the door. Three down and fourteen to go until Trump finds his new lackey.

Let me make a couple quick observations before we recap this week’s festivities. Caroline, Trump’s left hand, is ruthless. Her stare is cold enough to freeze molten lava. I normally am not one to shrink from confrontation but if I were face to face with Caroline I would whimper and soil myself. Also, if Donald Trump commands a multi billion dollar empire why can he not find a single decent hair stylist? Is he invested in Aquanet? His hair looks like he spilled lacquer on his head. The Donald possesses the worst comb over in human history. Go bald with dignity man!

Week four featured both teams squaring off in a culinary duel. Team Apex and Team Mosaic were given the daunting task of starting a restaurant and had to earn the best reviews. Apex had Jennifer C. as project leader while Mosaic was headed up by Raj. Jenn C. immediately took control and chose a cuisine, theme, and delegated duties. Raj absorbed the suggestions of his team and went with an Italian style bistro (Italian food in New York…shocker). Decked out in their finest, Apex plastered their establishment in post modern uppity d├ęcor yet churned out excellent food. Mosaic went for a more low key approach with top of the line cuisine. At one point Apex was confronted with a table with two ladies who said the restaurant was stark. Jenn C. took issue and voiced her frustration about the two “old Jewish bat ladies” who dared impugn the atmosphere of her establishment. Stacy R., who just happens to be Jewish, overheard and let Jenn C. have it. Meanwhile, Mosaic kicked booty and got rave reviews thus sending Apex to the dreaded board room. Jennifer, as project leader selected, surprise, Stacy R. and the mousey Elizabeth to accompany her to television’s version of the French guillotine. Jennifer acted belligerent and constantly interrupted Bill, Caroline, and the Don himself. Off came Jennifer’s head and week four drew to an end.

Is outsourcing good or bad?

As my mother sat on the phone for what seemed like an eternity for the seemingly simple process of trouble shooting an uncooperative computer a revelation became clear…whomever she was speaking to had not the foggiest idea of how to fix her ailing PC. Hours passed by as she attempted to explain that her computer was not booting up correctly and that she had no Internet access. In the final coup de gras of this exercise in futility the technical support expert on the other end of the telephone informed my mother that they could not address the problem without an Internet connection. Mustering up every ounce of self control she possessed my mom responded incredulously, “Exactly! My PC will not connect to the Internet! That’s the problem.” My dear sweet mother, who is normally exceedingly patient, was beside herself with exasperation at having dealt with tech support personnel that spoke broken English, were not technically proficient, and could not grasp simple concepts. Such is the world of outsourcing.

During the 1990’s the American landscape witnessed an unprecedented explosion of the information technology industry. Along with the ever expanding world of IT came another, more ominous proliferation of what’s come to be known as “outsourcing”. This is the practice of American companies moving jobs offshore to countries such as India, China, and The Philippines in an effort to lower costs and spur domestic job growth. Companies such as IBM, Hewlett Packard, Dell, Cisco, have shipped hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas and, according to an article in the March 30, 2004 issue of Forbes Magazine, over the last three years over 400,000 service and 1 million manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to other countries. Forrester Research estimates that over 3.3 million jobs will moved offshore. According to Stephan Roach, the chief economist at Morgan Stanley, “The U.S. service sector is 6.2 million jobs shy of the hiring that typically accompanies an economic recovery at this stage, in part because of the move overseas.”[1] Researchers at Cal Berkley also estimate the potentially 14 million jobs are vulnerable to outsourcing.

In the beginning, the vast majority of outsourced jobs were fairly mundane tech support and customer service positions. This has changed dramatically. Information technology companies continue to ship vital programming and software development jobs overseas. Silicon Valley, the one-time Mecca of the world-wide IT industry, has been the hardest hit. 200,000 Silicon Valley workers have lost their jobs since 2001. In fact, Bangalor, India now employs more computer engineers than Silicon Valley, a gap of about 20,000 and growing fast. An increasing number of credit card companies are also moving their call centers offshore. The U.S. Department of Labor speculates that in 2005, 587,592 jobs will be outsourced and that number could climb to 1.5 million in 2010 and 3.2 million by 2015.

The debate about the merits of outsourcing rages on. A new report from the bipartisan Government Accounting Office (GAO) states that outsourcing constituted barely four percent of American corporate foreign investment. GAO estimates vary from 100,000 to 500,000 IT jobs could be lost to offshore companies in the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that only 2.5 percent, or about 4,600 positions, of layoffs in the first quarter were directly attributable to outsourcing. At this point the GAO says that a myriad of factors effect the economic impact of outsourcing and that accurately determining said impact is extremely difficult.

Another facet of this controversy is outsourcing of state and federal government services. Currently, 31 states outsource various projects and the federal government has increased its reliance on foreign labor for vital defense, technology, and accounting needs. Some states are toying with the idea of legislation that would prevent any outsourcing of state contracts and services and Washington, D.C. could be moving in the same direction. Colorado senatorial candidate Ken Salazar has proposed offering tax incentives to companies who produce goods and services with domestic labor. Salazar has also suggested taxing corporate profits from their foreign subsidiaries. Some in Washington agree. A failed ballot proposal in Colorado gained national attention for limiting work on state contracts to U.S. citizens or legal resident immigrants.

There are hidden costs to outsourcing jobs to offshore companies. In Bangalor the cost of living and real estate has sky rocketed to record levels as thousands are earning more than ever before. Consequently the increasing cost of living in these areas could backfire as worker lifestyles improve and companies demand more money to keep up with the upward spiral in essentials of daily living. When faced with the specter of escalating employee demands some companies will simply fold up their tent flaps and move elsewhere leaving employees stranded and areas strapped.

In this stagnant economy we can ill afford the loss of one job to overseas providers. Not only have the levels of confidence in customer service declined the reputations of HP, Dell, IBM, AT & T, etc. have taken a beating in the court of public opinion. While the economic impact of outsourcing is still largely indecipherable opinion has a way of becoming reality.
[1] Forbes Magazine, March 30, 2004, “The outsourcing debate: A tail of two cities” by Kerry A. Dolan and Robyn Meredith.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Martha Stewart

Just for your information Martha Stewart now has a new identity...federal inmate No. 55170-054. I thought you should know.

The Apocalypse draweth near?

The Bible says, “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass” Revelations 1:1. Scholars and theologians disagree as to whether or not there truly are seven signs that will precede the end of the Earth as we know it. Saint John wrote in Revelations that occurrences such as ugly and painful sores, lifeless seas, the shedding of blood, scorching by the sun, darkness, deserts, and an earthquake like none other will foreshadow the riding of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse thus bringing the end of days.

As the end of the world supposedly draws near I have come up with seven new signs of Armageddon, the final battle between good and evil, and the modern-day Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The new Seven Signs:

1. He opened the first seal and Jennifer Lopez stayed married longer than two months.
2. He opened the second seal and Sylvester Stallone starred in Hamlet.
3. He opened the third seal and Roseanne Barr developed anorexia.
4. He opened the fourth seal and Koby Bryant & Shaq sat down, broke bread, and shared a pitcher of Fat Tire.
5. He opened the fifth seal and behold, Anna Nicole Smith could do linear algebra.
6. He opened the sixth seal and Donald Trump’s hair was meticulously styled in modern fashion.
7. He opened the seventh seal and the L.A. Clippers won the NBA Championship, the Arizona Cardinals won the Super Bowl, and the Chicago Cubs played the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

The new Four Horsemen:

1. Behold a rider on a white horse for his name is Andy Gibb and he wields an 8-track tape player bringing a plague upon the world of bad disco…again.
2. Behold a rider on a red horse for his name is George Bush Jr. wielding a dictionary with blank pages and he bringeth a pestilence of bad grammar and poor speaking skills.
3. Behold a rider on a black horse for his name is Martha Stewart and HE wieldeth a lace doily ushering in a famine of tasteful decorating, except in federal prisons.
4. Behold a rider on a pale and sickly horse for his name is Bob Sagget and he bringeth about the death of comedy.

If any of these prophetic sings should come to fruition you had better gather your women and children and head for the hills for the end of the world is nigh.

Athletes and entertainers as political voices

There are some who would vilify entertainers and professional athletes for speaking about politics and criticizing the powers that be. While many in the sports and entertainment industry are inherently illogical (Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Michael Moore immediately come to mind) some are exceedingly intelligent and well versed people. Mohamed Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title because of his refusal to enter the draft during the Vietnam war but this does not belie the fact that he was one of the most visible and eloquent figures of the civil rights struggle of the 1960’s. Others such as Jim Brown and Bill Russell also were dignified voices in the most tumultuous period of the twentieth century. At a time when this country was searching for an identity and dealing with the most divisive military action since the Civil War these renowned athletes along with musicians like Arlo Guthrie and actors like Sidney Poitier gave face to a ground swell of public outrage at an unjustifiable war and support for the black civil rights movement.

Some of the most influential political figures of the last quarter century have backgrounds in the sorts and entertainment field.

Republican Jack Kemp played football with the Buffalo Bills for thirteen years, winning back-to-back AFL championships in ’64 & ’65 earning league MVP honors and went on to a distinguished career in Congress. Kemp narrowly lost the 1988 republican presidential nomination to George Bush Sr. and was Bob Dole’s running mate in 1996.

Congressman J.C. Watts was one of the best option quarterbacks in college football history (for my money though the two best option QB’s I ever saw were Jamail Halloway, also a Sooner, and Colorado’s Darian Hagan), earning Orange Bowl MVP honors twice and served as one of the only high profile African-American Republicans from 1994 until 2003.

Former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley, who just happens to be a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was one of the most influential politicians of his time. The Princeton grad and Rhodes Scholar lost the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination to former VP Al Gore after serving as senator for nearly two decades.

Byron “Whizzer” White who starred at the University of Colorado was one of the most prominent Supreme Court justices in U.S. history. White, who finished second in the very first Heisman Trophy balloting, led 400 U.S. Marshals into Selma, Alabama at the bequest of then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in May of 1961 to protect against violence during the civil rights movement.

Ronald Reagan was one of the most famous actors of his generation and is generally regarded as one of the four best presidents in American history. Elected governor of California in 1966, Reagan parlayed his fame into one of the most storied political careers in U.S. history, soundly beating incumbent Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election. Reagan’s influence is undeniable as he will be remembered along side John F. Kennedy as the most beloved presidents of the twentieth century.

The list goes on: Sonny Bono, Fred Grandy, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gerald Ford, Jesse Ventura, Clint Eastwood, Mario Cuomo, Steve Largent, etc.

Before we dismiss the opinions and actions of those from the sports and entertainment industry let’s step back and realize we might be missing bits of real wisdom.

Former Boston Celtic legend and Hall of Famer Bill Russell said it best. “You're not going to reduce me to an entertainer. I'm a man who stands up for what I believe in and you're going to respect me for it…I speak my mind because biting my tongue would make my pride bleed.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Week 3 recap

It was a good week for yours truly in the pick department. I went 9-4 bringing my season total to 28-17. And my college picks were all correct but it was a week of lackluster games so there's really nothing to brag about. It was fun seeing USC get pushed to the brink by Stanford.

Fantasy football is a whole other story. In a week where my opponent had half his starters on bye weeks I still lost. My futility was compounded by the fact I left Rod Gardner and Brett Favre on the bench. I’m now 1-2 and sinking fast. I hate fantasy football.

Monday, September 27, 2004

George Bush: The Education President?

President George Bush has stated repeatedly and has made a hallmark of his administration that he wants to be known as the education president. His “No Child Left Behind Act” promised to increase federal commitment towards education and has been a cornerstone of his tenure. However, Bush continues to cut spending on education. The 2004 fiscal year budget which has already been enacted allocates $55.7 billion for education. The submitted 2005 budget cuts education spending to $57.3 billion and the 2006 proposal is for $55.9 billion. While this does not seem like a dramatic roll back of funding essential educational services and programs could be dramatically effected. The White House has continued to deny that education budget cutbacks are in place but a memorandum of May 19 unequivocally states that decreases are being mandated. The Department of Education (DOE) will suffer some of the deepest cuts in funding of any governmental agency.

The Office of Manage and Budget (OMB) has outlined some of the proposed cuts of Bush’s February budget. Title I, which provides funding for state education grants, could take a $340 million hit. Title I specifically funds academically at risk students and poverty stricken districts. The “No Child Left Behind Act” imposes rigorous academic standards that will be increasingly difficult to reach for many Title I schools.

According to the American Counsel on Education’s (ACE) Center and Policy Analysis 2003 report Pell Grants provided 4.6 million college students with about $11 billion in funding for secondary education. The DOE estimates that a quarter of all college students receive Pell grants and that since the economic downturn in 2000 the number of applicants has grown by an average of fifteen percent each of the last three academic years. Further, since the 1980’s Pell grants cover an increasingly smaller percentage of overall college expenses. With the cost of a college education spiraling upwards the cap on maximum Pell grant awards has been frozen at around $4,000 since 2002. The President’s budget proposals would cut the average Pell award by $75 making it increasingly difficult for millions of high school grads to go to college.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Bush’s education budget is the effect on special education. At $10.1 billion the federal government’s contribution to special ed programs represents barely forty percent of the authorized level of full funding set out in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The current budget would freez special education funding at around $11 billion through 2009.

Over the last four years over 1.1 million jobs have been lost, the longest sustained period of job loss since the Great Depression, yet Bush wants to gut vocational spending as well. In 2004 the current administration slashed vocational spending by over $300 million and proposes the same for 2005. This represents a roll back of nearly one quarter of the amount requested by Congress for vocational training for 2004 and 2005.

In these times of decreased faith in public education, secondary ed, and vocational ed, you don’t fix the problem by gutting essential programs and services. George Bush claims to value education, so much so that his “No Child Left Behind Act” is and will be a major part of his legacy. Unfortunately, Junior continues to poor billions (over $200 billion so far) into a war in Iraq that some in his own administration feel at this point is not winnable. The so called “Education President” needs to put his money where his mouth is.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Prince: the man, the myth, the legend

As we walked through the doors of the Pepsi Center in Denver Colorado, what awaited us was a live performance by one of the true giants of music history. The artist formally as Prince and yet again known as Prince roared on stage. This entrance dropped the jaws and panties of nearly every woman in the arena. Suffice to say by the time the concert was over, nearly half the men were ready to drop trow also and pay homage to one of the most charismatic performers of our or any other time. As a friend of mine noted, for a man all of 5’4’’, Prince has a unique ability to hold thousands in the palm of his hand. And held us, he did as the performance was peppered with Prince classics along with old school funk reminiscent of such luminaries as the Commodores, Parliament with George Clinton, and the Ohio Players. The show reached a fever pitch but was later ratcheted down by some unbelievable jazz. After the mellow interlude the crowd was a buzz as Prince ascended the stage for an acoustic set featuring some of his greatest songs. Dressed in a purple crushed velvet suit that only he could pull off Prince took the audience down an acoustic path of hits such as “Cream”, “Sign o’ the Times”, and “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night”. Another intermission was followed by funkified renditions of “Raspberry Beret”, “1999”, and “Take Me With U”. The lights dimmed as a single solitary curtain of purple glowed slightly signaling that the master would be back momentarily. The show ended with a crescendo as Prince busted out with his best and most famous song, “Purple Rain”. All stood mesmerized, as Prince dazzled with stunning guitar play. As the show drew to an end, and the crowd exited the Pepsi Center every one was still amazed at having seen and experienced a true living legend at his finest. The fact that this was probably Prince’s last concert tour made the experience all the more memorable and a once in a life time occurrence. Although the tickets were $75 a pop the show was worth every penny. In passing, I would like to thank Prince for being one of the most ground breaking and influential artists of the last twenty five years. Michael Jackson may have received more fame and notoriety but no one compares to Prince for shear charisma, talent, and musical virtuosity. The debate will rage on about who was the best musical artist of our generation…my vote goes to Prince.

Friday, September 24, 2004

An open letter to John Kerry

Dear Senator Kerry,

I’m a proud registered Democrat who desperately wants George Bush Jr. run out of Washington, D.C. as soon as possible. His systematic assault on civil liberties along with his commitment to an unjustifiable war are reason enough to have the man tarred & feathered. Vice President Dick Cheaney and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft are two of the scariest Republicans since Nixon & Goldwater and also need the boot. Rarely do you find a Yale graduate who can barely complete a sentence but that is what we have got with Jr.

However, I am beside myself with dismay at the DNC and their apparent lack of a tangible platform. All that we the voting public has heard from your campaign and the Democratic leadership is that you hate Bush Jr. Enough already! We get it, you do not like Bush and that suits me just fine. The problem lies in the fact that your campaign has yet to forward a concrete position on such vital issues as the war in Iraq, education, the economy, gay marriage, etc.

Quite frankly the voting public is growing weary of the constant negativity and laser like focus on telling everyone what a schmuck you think Bush is. In case you have not noticed your poll numbers are lagging and you are on the verge of being the first presidential candidate in history to lose an election after holding double-digit leads in the polls in April & May.

It is not too late to salvage the campaign but you need to act fast. You’re running against Dumb & Dumber so we’re not talking about a monumental task. But watching your current effort is like watching a moth at a light bulb. I’ve seen corks in bath tubs with more direction. Please don’t let this opportunity pass. We can’t afford four more years of Jr. and his henchmen.

Sincerely,

Thine Holy Hand Granade

Week 3 NFL Picks

A Friday feature will be my NFL picks and a few college picks. Enjoy.

New Orleans over St. Louis
Miami over Pittsburgh
Minnesota over Chicago
Giants over Cleveland
Atlanta BIG over Arizona
Cincinnati over Baltimore
Philly over Detroit
Tennessee over Jaguars
KC over Houston
Indy over Green Bay
Seattle BIG over San Fran
Tampa over Oakland
Washington over Dallas
And my beloved Broncos over San Diego

So far on the season I'm a respectable 19-13.

Some college picks...
LSU over Miss. St.
Florida St. over Clemson
Michigan over Iowa

I don't pick against the spread and I'd encourage ANYONE to rail me should I screw the pooch on my prognostication.

The Internment Debate

Recently a semi-famous conservative pundit, Michelle Malkin, penned a book wherein she attempted to justify FDR’s internment of 112,000 Japanese-Americans. She claimed in her book that there was a demonstrable threat of spot raids, espionage, sabotage, and invasion that would be facilitated by approximately 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living near west coast military installations, ship yards, and aircraft manufacturers. In her book she sites memos, anecdotal evidence, and interviews with several so-called military experts to bolster her cause. Her support of Japanese internment is ominous in that it flies in the face of fundamental constitutional protections and is based on the false premise that internment was a military necessity.

As we all know, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. This galvanized American support for a declaration of war on the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, & Japan. The outrage ran deep, the tension was palpable, and FDR capitalized on growing feelings of apprehension and fear. FDR would later deem that this date would, “Live in infamy.” Stirring words from a great orator. His words were prophetic but his policies would gain infamy as well.

In examining the policy of internment past and present we must answer a few questions: Was/is internment militarily justifiable? Is internment constitutional? Will there be a clarion call for future internment of Muslims, suspected terrorists, and those of Middle-Eastern descent?

Was internment justified? According to production figures barely one quarter of our industrial capacity was located within shouting distance of Japanese population concentrations on the west coast. For a country that produced hundreds of war ships and troop transports along with thousands of plains, tanks, artillery pieces, and millions of tons of munitions the loss of one quarter of our manufacturing infrastructure would have barely slowed let alone crippling the war effort. The Japanese didn’t even produce a tenth of what the US did during WWII. Also, keep in mind more than a third of our naval capacity sat idle along the west coast between 1942 and 1945. Not to mention the roughly quarter of a million troops stationed along the coast that could have responded to any threat fairly quickly. In order to carry out an invasion the Japanese would have had to cross nearly 6,000 miles of open Pacific waters. The Japanese Imperial Navy had capacity to transport only 42,000 troops. Such a force would have barely made it through our surveillance grid and would have been slaughtered almost instantly. Had they been able to land they wouldn’t have made past Encino. Even if all 120,000 of the Japanese-Americans would have banded together in organized insurgency the damage they could have done to the overall war effort was minimal. At the time our military command structure knew ALL of this. This is not hindsight. The best the Japanese could muster was to send dozens of weather balloons with incendiary devices attached that burned down a few houses and killed a few people.

Is internment constitutional? In 1942 and 1943 the Supreme Court tackled this question and without delving too far into the decisions the crux of their judicial edict was an unequivocal yes. Here are a couple of quotes: "There is support for the view that social, economic and political conditions which have prevailed since the close of the last century, when the Japanese began to come to this country in substantial numbers, have intensified their solidarity and have in large measure prevented their assimilation as an integral part of the white population." Hirabayashi v US, 320 U.S. 81 (1943). "We cannot say that the war- making branches of the Government did not have ground for believing that in a critical hour such persons could not readily be isolated and separately dealt with, and constituted a menace to the national defense and safety, which demanded that prompt and adequate measures be taken to guard against it." Id.
This case augments the power bestowed upon FDR by the Act of April 20, 1918, 40 Stat. 533, as amended by the Act of November 30, 1940, 54 Stat. 1220, and the Act of August 21, 1941, 55 Stat. 655 (50 U.S.C.A. 104) which gave FDR the authority to enact Executive Order 9066. 7 Federal Register 1407. The order stated, "The successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities."
In order to find that internment was justifiable the policy must meet a strict standard of review. Strict scrutiny requires a compelling governmental interest and that said policy was an absolutely necessary means to achieve the desired end. The compelling interest is obvious and irrefutable…national security during time of war. Duh. Where Executive order 9066 and subsequent case law run afoul of the Constitution is that there were other options at FDR’s disposal to ensure the safety of the west coast. He could have increased troop concentrations on the coast and around endangered facilities. There were other ways to provide security. 112,000 people were rounded up and put in pens because of race baiting and that it was the path of least resistance. I usually defer to the Court but they screwed the pooch on this issue.

Will there be an outcry for interning Arabs and Muslims? So far no but storm clouds are forming in the distance; Malkin’s book makes passing inferences towards a justification of detaining potentially millions of ethnic Arabs and Muslims. Some conservatives are defending WWII internment policies and Malkin’s book. With the current administration anything is possible. If Ashcroft is willing to suspend attorney/client privilege in the case of suspected terrorists, thus compromising their right to a fair trial, then he’d definitely set the ball rolling for internment.

I find it scary that ANYONE would make a case for internment in WWII and somehow use such an abhorrent policy to draw even a passing inference that modern-day internment would be justified in the global war against terrorism. Ms. Malkin seems to be, as some have pointed out, laying the ground work for a justification to detain suspected terrorists, Muslims, or those of Middle-Eastern ethnicity. Such a policy should be resisted with every ounce of breath in our bodies.