Valentine's Day, 2017

Can you tell I'm not a fan of this holiday?

If anyone knows the author of this image I'd love to credit them.
Image first used by me here. A long time ago.


What was your first clue?






J. Geils Band Love Stinks

The Wife and I did our Valentine's outing at 9pm last night. I recommend not doing anything social on the Fourteenth of February unless you like lines, crowds and unpleasantness. Also, don't buy flowers or chocolate until February 15th. Take this advice from someone who has been poor all their life. Take the hit to your romance, not your wallet. If they love you they'll be even happier you saved a few dollars that the two of you can spend on something else.

A word of warning. Do not attempt to economize on Valentine's gifts without getting the buy-in of your significant other. They will slam the door in your face if you fail to mention this plan to them in advance. You might also take the time to plan other activities you can engage in while presenting said love tokens. Just a thought.



TED's idea of a valentine.
What's interesting to me is that all of this happens in a culture that values lifelong monogamy. It seems like we want it both ways: we want love to feel like madness, and we want it to last an entire lifetime. That sounds terrible.

Coping With Dysgraphia

For Gregory

When I was a senior in high school I had a friend who would borrow one of the novels I carried everywhere with me and casually doodle the most amazing cartoons on the flyleaf. His cartoons were better than the things published in MAD or Cracked. My memory of that time may be a bit hazy now, but they were better to me then. Funnier. I marveled at the effortless way the pictures just came out of his hands, at his ability to draw, to write. It struck me as such a wonderful gift, to be able to take a pen and have it just make the lines you wanted to make and to make only those lines in the ways you saw them in your head.  Freehand artwork, freehand writing, is almost magic in my eyes.

They didn't have a word for my disability when I was in school. I was never quite like the other children. Teased frequently, I hid in books and stared at my desk, afraid of catching anyone's eye lest I be subjected to more derision. I didn't know what made me different, but I knew that I was different all the same. The teasing I was subjected to originated with my second grade teacher who thought it would be a good idea to have the other kids torment me to make me write faster.

In my mind the first and second years of elementary school seem to blur together. It's hard to separate one form of abuse from another. One of my teachers thought that teasing me was the ticket to getting me to perform. The other one thought that daily corporal punishment was it. Both were dissuaded from their delusions by my parents. The corporal punishment stopped, but the teasing continued until I moved away from that town. I wasn't to be free of the hangups that this teacher's cruel methods of instruction inflicted on me until well into adulthood. To this day I remain a public school skeptic largely because of my experiences in school at the hands of the children and this particular teacher, evidence of just how much damage one wrong idea can inflict.

My problems in school were bad enough that the school insisted my parents take me to see a specialist. We went to see the same diagnosticians in Denver two times; once in second grade and again in 5th grade. The school insisted that there was something wrong with me; it wasn't the teacher, it wasn't the other children. There was something wrong with me. So my parents paid for the doctors and paid for the travel, and off we went on what was a grand adventure from the perspective of my seven year old self.

I remember the experience because it was such a rare occurrence to be in another place. The Rocky Mountains around Denver were about as different from the grassy plains of Kansas as you can get. It was the first airplane flight I could remember, and it made me love flying. I have a great love of Colorado largely because of the experiences I went through in Denver on those two visits.

The doctors were nice. They gave me various tests. Handwriting tests, drawing tests. Clearly they were looking at motor control in the manner after the time (late 60's early 70's) trying to figure out why I couldn't write well. Writing really hurt. It still hurts. The stupid pencils never went where I wanted them to go. Lines were never straight. Letters were never legible. Cursive? Cursive was a practice in slow torture. Every assignment in school made me suffer in silence; unable to write and yet required to write. Homework went undone. Not because I didn't want to do it, but because I literally would grow tired from the constant pain of writing and simply pass out on my homework.

My mother doesn't remember the word dysgraphia being used at the time, but what I was suffering through was distinctly dysgraphic in nature.

I loved to read. Reading and writing are two completely different exercises in the mind. The words would sometimes get tangled up in my head, but the places I could go while reading were so much better than the reality I was facing that I just soldiered on through the occasional confusion. But writing? I flunked a semester of english my sophomore year in high school because half of my grade would be based on a term paper I would be required to write long-hand. The subject of the paper that was selected for me was of no interest to me. I asked the instructor for a different subject more than once, only to be told I would write the paper and to stop arguing about it. In one of my first acts of rebellion I flunked the class rather than spend a week or more in agony only to have the paper rejected because it couldn't be read.

I have never taken notes in class. When told to take notes I would write a few lines and stop (a trick I learned early. If the page is blank the teacher will notice and scold you) Notes were pointless. By the time I had written down the first sentence I'd have missed the next three sentences. What I learned to do was listen and absorb so that I could repeat what was said almost verbatim, at least briefly. Eventually I learned to synthesize the information internally and was able to rapidly apply it to new problems without ever having to write anything on paper.

I only recently learned that the ability to synthesize data internally is itself a special skill. Most people cannot remember things, cannot apply knowledge, without writing these things down.

Few of my teachers believed that I could do this, that I could absorb and apply knowledge without first committing it to paper. They especially didn't believe it because I failed so frequently to do anything demonstrative in front of the class. I was afraid to write poorly and so would take far too long at the blackboard to be able to demonstrate anything to anybody.

Even though the specialists who tested me in fifth grade issued written instructions, specific to each teacher about the challenges I was facing learning in a classroom environment, the instructions were discarded as lending favoritism to a child that the school teachers and administration frankly thought was the problem in the first place. My mother was livid at the time and still gets angry talking about the subject. Did they know how much all of this testing cost? Paid for twice out of my parent's own pockets? At the insistence of the school? Testing and findings to be discarded as too much trouble to institute, to much trouble to turn into a different teaching model?

What they did instead was slap a label on me. They called me slow.

I carried that label with me from second grade through seventh grade. The label and the torment only stopped at that point because I moved away from my hometown in Western Kansas for a few years; and when I came back to Kansas for my sophomore year of high school it was to a different town, Garden City, and to a different school. I never did spend any significant time in Leoti from that point forward. My nostalgia for the place I long considered home is leavened with ambivalence and rebellion. Rebellion against the label slow.

My sophomore and junior years of rebellion in Kansas and the custody of my father got me sent back to Texas and my mother. The all too familiar plight of children caught up in divorce. Shuttle diplomacy and holidays with the other parent. Custody battles and missed child support payments. From Leoti, Kansas and slow to Stinnett, Texas and rebellion. Garden City, Kansas and missed opportunities to Sweetwater, Texas and make the best of what you have left.

My senior year of high school in the late, hot Texas summer of 1980. My friend and his artwork were also transplants to the town and the school. Since we were both new, we decided to navigate the terrain together. Watch each other's backs. The counselor lined out the required classes we would need to finish the year and graduate. He and I would be in organic chemistry together. A class we both found so boring that I would read and he would doodle on my books. We also had a few other classes together.

This is small town rural Texas, education isn't something they spend a lot of money on. In the Kansas high school I had attended the previous year I had automotive mechanics and welding and a virtual smorgasbord of other classes I could have picked through if I had wanted to test my abilities in other areas. In small town Texas I essentially had two elective choices; metal shop and woodshop. Home economics would not be offered to boys. There was an FFA group, but animal husbandry was not my thing even if we had a farm to raise animals on (we didn't) When we were unimpressed with the first two options, the counselor did admit that they also had a typing class and technical drafting. These were clearly choices she didn't think anyone should be interested in. When we went around to talk to the various instructors to see what we might be interested in, I had an epiphany.

An epiphany in the example drawings from the drafting class. Drawings that illustrated how to build things. I had been a model builder for years by that point, but it had never occurred to me that someone had to draw those assembly instructions. It was the drafting equipment. The drafting machines, boards, lead holders, straight-edges and triangles. The realization dawned on me. I didn't need fine motor control as long as I had an edge to guide the pencil. I could focus on pressure and distance and not worry about direction. Writing? Slow, painful, tedious work; but block lettering gave me the ability to finally be able to communicate what I wanted to say clearly. Leroy lettering guides kept the hands moving, forming the correct shapes.

My mother could not believe I wanted to draw when I came home from school that first day. After everything I had been through, the problems I had writing and communicating all my life. Writing, she told me, was something I always wanted to do. I wanted to tell stories. She would write things down that I asked her to, and then I would meticulously copy each character onto another page. But drawing? She couldn't figure out what the attraction was. If that was what I wanted to do, she wouldn't stop me from doing it.

An appreciation of Kenneth L. Zonge
It was another senior class that finally showed me how to write painlessly. Typing. I knew touch typing would be a useful skill because I had already seen my first computer keyboard.

My uncle, Kenneth Zonge, was a genius. No two ways about it, the guy is hands down the smartest man I've ever met by several orders of magnitude. Smarter than I am by about the same distance. He did early research into electronic mapping of rock strata, using computers to analyze the data and produce results that would tell miners where to dig for various minerals. His company Zonge Engineering and Research still does work in various fields in countries all over the globe. Back in the mid-seventies we went to visit him on a family trip, and he wanted to show off his portable computer.

The only photo I have of the Suburban
I would love to replace it
The computer was built into a suburban; as in, it filled the entire inside of the vehicle aside from the driver and passenger seats. You had to open the side doors to get access to the input and output terminals, sitting outside the vehicle in the Arizona heat. As kids the science went right over our heads, but I do remember that he could type on a keyboard and the computer would print the clearest, most precise letters I had ever seen. It talked back to him. He played a text game for us and we were completely blown away by it.

Presented with the chance to learn how to touch-type as a senior, I took advantage of it. IBM Selectric III's seem clunky and slow now, and error correction was a pain in the ass. But in the 80's, for me, it was like being given access to electric light for the first time. I could type whatever I wanted on the keyboard and it would produce exactly what I wanted it to say almost as fast as I could think it. I had never had access to anything like it before. I asked to be able to do my homework in the typing lab, it was so much easier to just type it than it was to write it. I knew I'd never be able to afford a machine of my own, but if I could just be able to work in an office, there would be machines in the office I could use.

The pieces of my future were falling into place before me, whether I knew it or not. My intense interest in architecture could be accessed through drafting for architecture. My inability to write could be bypassed by access to a typewriter. After a year of drafting in high school, and a twelve month technical course at the local campus of TSTI, I took my label slow and my newfound tools and went out into the land of design and construction. Went out into the business world and was almost immediately flummoxed by the fact you have to sit still in an office. Sitting still drives me absolutely nuts. Give me some decent shoes and rugged clothes, and I'll spend all day for weeks exploring every inch of ground around me for whatever can be found. I never really thought about it; but I imagine being cooped up inside revisited the torment of school, being asked to engage in rituals I found painful and to gauge facial expressions I found confusing at best, incomprehensible at worst.

Maybe I need the physical stimulation to make the mind work.

In any case, the first barrier to office work wasn't actually the writing and drawing. No, the first barrier was getting over my own internal loathing of sitting still. That took years, longer than it took me to learn to type or to draw with precision. Eventually I learned to tap into what is commonly termed as flow now; and I could draw essentially effortlessly for hours at a time, longer and better than my peers. I had to be more dogged, more persistent. I had to be because I was slower than they were. That is an unpleasant, unavoidable fact.

My hand drawing production rate was much slower. However, because I had to take time to make sure the lines were exactly right, my drawings were also generally of better quality. This is not bragging, this is me relating the feedback that I got from dozens of years of work in the field. Yes, Anthony. Your drawings are beautiful. Can you turn them out faster? The same old label of slow coming back to haunt me.

"You are slow, Anthony." Sounds like stupid in my ears, and it is meant to sound that way. Yes, I take longer to get there, but it will be worth the trip unlike some draftsmen I won't mention. That is the line that ran in my head in response. I had to bite that retort back more times than I can count.

I learned to crib graphics as a method of timesaving. I would type or have someone else type notes and affix those transparencies to my drawings. I would draw details in such a way that I could duplicate them easily using a Xerox machine, or wholesale duplication of sheets of work. The whole industry of architecture was undergoing a change as I underwent these changes, but it was the echos  of "you're slow, Anthony" in my own head that made it imperative that I cut every corner I could in order to turn drawings out as quickly as possible.

In the end, I did it.

Not because I got faster at hand drawing than anybody else. No, all of my peers can sketch rings around me. They always have been and probably always will be able to draw rings around me. The few times I've ever had to draw anything by hand in the field I was embarrassed to do so. My contractor friends, men who trusted my drawings implicitly, were always careful to assure me it would be fine; but I know just how childish my scribbles looked.

They were bad, and it was a barrier that kept me from advancing in the field of architecture. More than once I was offered promotion to supervisor or manager and I always balked at it. Why? Because supervisors and managers draw freehand right on the paper, and the draftsman just takes what they draw and cleans it up. I was really good at the clean up part of the process after years of practice. I was never going to be good at the freehand part. That was not something I would be able to do, and deep down in my heart I knew it was a barrier that I could not cross.

What changed things for me was the early exposure to computing at the shoulder of my beloved uncle. The exposure that made me understand the power of computers.

When you draw something in the computer, it can be duplicated endlessly without degrading the copy. The digital world allows you to be able to replicate whatever work you'd done previously by simply copying and pasting. Drawing guides are built in, so shaky handwork is irrelevant. The initial precision was the determining factor of replicability, and I had honed precision to a fine art already. It was just a matter of mastering the new tools.

Since I couldn't get my employers to see the vision of my uncle's suburban filled with computer gear, I took it upon myself to enroll in courses at Austin Community College so that I could gain access to contemporary PC's of the time (386's probably) while the motor control problem makes me a klutz with hardware, software is just a matter of understanding the logic of the system in a way that allows you to utilize shortcuts built into it. Classes in programming were more than I wanted to deal with at the time, and programming itself means little to me still, but breaking security barriers on the simple GUI's the school used at the time was child's play, and I spent a year learning how not to get caught doing things with the computer that weren't allowed, while learning the reasonably simple (for an experienced draftsman like myself) drawing exercises that I had to produce in order to pass the class.

When the classes were done and I felt prepared for what I saw as the inevitable future, my employers threw me a curveball and bought into a CAD program other than the one I had trained for. While I had spent a year learning AutoCAD, other CAD programs had made inroads in the architecture field and my employers purchased a program called CADvance and hired an operator from outside the firm to run the system.

Hoval calculator and measuring stylus
Side note. It's nice to know I was actually behind the times when I started my evangelizing for CAD and computers in the architecture sphere. I found this article over at Reanimation Library on Boyd Auger's 1972 book, The Architect and the Computer quite interesting.  Quite interesting that in 1972 the trend towards digitization was this apparent to anyone, even if they were really only promoting the products they had created to digitize documents.  I really do hate to think that something that I thought was apparent was invisible to everyone else. Clearly, not everyone.

Undaunted, I simply learned the far more straightforward command parameters for CADvance. The process took all of three days and I was already (unbeknownst to me) as fast or faster than the outside help my employers had hired. I mastered his system and improved on it before realizing I wasn't going to be going anywhere in that firm and made the move to another firm. A larger firm that used both systems I already knew.

It was about the time that my new employers adopted a third system Microstation and I mastered that program (with the help of the Wife's student software discounts, her then ongoing pursuit of an MLIS and her still invaluable proofreading skills. Love you too, dear) and then started helping my co-workers become proficient with this new third system that I began to realize that I wasn't the slowest person on the floor. In the middle of a monologue of self-criticism about streamlining some process or other, the co-worker I was talking to stopped me cold to inform me that "you know you are the fastest draftsman on the floor, right?" No, I hadn't known it until he pointed it out.

Liberation from false constraints, from labels you never wanted, never accepted is a feeling that is hard to describe. Hard to fathom. I will be eternally grateful to my friend and coworker who pointed this fact out to me. It was years of additional work understanding just what it meant to not be seen as slow and stupid. To not have to push back against a negative view, a constraint you internalized and never let go of until long after everyone around you had stopped holding the view and instead were puzzled by what continues to drive you to be faster.

A recurring argument that I had with a few of my supervisors and fellow architects (back when I had a license, back when I was one of them) was the common belief that people aren't in nature when they aren't working on a 2D paper surface. The misguided notion that the synthesis of ideas requires a fixed medium (paper) and a writing implement (pencil) to engage the creative brain.

Future architects are explicitly told by some college professors that they "cannot design in a computer environment." This false limitation being taught to so many students appals me to my core. It invalidates everything about me, my experiences, my pain and trials and eventual triumph. Is it a good thing that I never went to college to learn architecture? Had I followed the traditional route, embarked on a master's degree in Architecture, I might have had this additional bad information to wrestle with and put behind me. Computer design is wholly artificial and so it can't be a place to design in.

Hogwash. 

If I accepted this falsehood as truth I would never have embarked on my journey in the first place. I'd be just as disabled and just as hopeless, but with no belief that I could ever be more than that. Paper and pencil are natural to the people who find them natural. If the characters will not flow from you hands using them, find some other medium to express yourself in. All of them are natural. Do what you can do and never apologize for having to take a different road than everybody else. None of them know what experiences you have, what disabilities you will have to cope with. What gifts you might have hiding inside.

This is the end of the story of Coping With Dysgraphia. It only gets me to the middle of my architecture story, a story I still haven't told fully; beginning, middle or end. That story will have to wait for another muse, another time. My parting thought on the subject of dysgraphia is, I wish I could remember what the subject of that term paper was that I refused to write way back when. When I was a sophomore in Garden City in 1978 flunking out of english class. I could write a whole book on the subject now with the tools we have today. I wonder what kind of story that would have been then if I could have simply been able to do what I do now?

Listening to The Hero's Journey TED radio hour inspired me to put this story into words. Specifically it was the story of Ismael Nazario who was convicted of a crime and sent to Rikers as a teen. There but for grace go I. The difference that the color of your skin can make. 

Caveat Emptor

the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made. Google search result

A few days ago it was announced that Hillary Clinton will attend the inauguration of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States. Of the groups I belong to where this was posted, almost no one took the tack that I would think made sense in the kind of weather we are about to be facing. Most people lauded her for being big enough to go to the swearing in for the victor in the election she most wanted to win. I believe the complete opposite. I don't think she should go. I don't think anyone should go. Trump should have to pay attendees to show up. He should have to pay for the judge to swear him in. That is how we should hold him to account for all the bills he's never paid, and for all the bills he's going to make us pay.

We have reached that point in US politics. That precise political instant where it will profit us to understand what the words Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware really mean.  Donald J. Trump is a successful businessman as so many of his supporters insist. He is his own biggest booster. He talks about himself incessantly, Tweets pictures of himself constantly, congratulates himself publicly for things that he thinks he's done whether he has actually done them or not.

But he is a businessman, that much is true.

There are many different kinds of businesses. One might easily argue that there are as many different kinds of business as there are people doing business; however the real estate developer is a special kind of business animal. They ain't quite like any other form of business on the planet, these real estate developers. Their business is selling their delusions. Delusion is an essential part of the psyche of the real estate developer, and it helps if he is a charismatic delusional because he has to infect the people he talks to with his delusion. He has to infect them with his delusion, or they won't give him their money, their property, their effort.

Let's say you want to re-purpose a downtown Washington D.C. post office, just to pull a random location out of thin air. We'll pretend we're going to take this random location and turn it into a hotel. Not just any hotel, but the most fabulous hotel you've ever seen. I mean beautiful, you know? The first thing you need to do to start this project is actually not what you might think. No, the first thing you do, before anything else, is get money for the project. If you have money, then you can influence people to see things your way. You can say "you see my investors over here? They believe in me. They've promised me money, so this is going to happen one way or the other and I know you want to be part of this."

The problem is getting the money for the stake, for the start of the process. People don't give you money for nothing, not even if you are trustworthy and you ask real nice. No, you only get money if you have collateral, something you can promise to the lender in exchange for their capital investment. Now, depending on who has the money and where the money came from, what your collateral can be is very flexible.

It is a dirty little secret in the real estate business, especially development and construction, that a large portion of real estate development is done for the purposes of laundering money. It isn't merely happenstance that some of Donald J. Trump's business partners are a little on the shady side. That is the kind of money that a big developer needs access to. Liquid capital, and lots of it. The people with dirty money know they are going to lose at least half of their money just making it clean anyway, so they really aren't interested in tight accounting practices. They just want their share when the clean money starts coming back in.

In New York City back in Trump's starting days, you didn't do business in real estate without being friends with several of these types of people, and Trump knows and dealt with them for as long as he was active in real estate there. What do I know precisely? Nothing. I don't know anything about his business and the sad part that fact is this; all of us should have demanded we know before electing him to the highest office in the land.

Sign the petition
I can tell you that the reason we never saw his tax returns is he doesn't want anyone to know how much money came in, how much money went out, and who the money went to. How much money he currently has, and how much debt is stacked against it. Those are the things no one can know aside from his bookkeeper, and I guarantee you that person isn't talking to anyone. The one thing bookkeepers are paid for is discretion and they know it.

When Savings & Loans were a thing, I worked for a few different real estate developers. I was the guy who had to make the developer's delusions look real. I was the draftsman/graphic artist and eventually a staff architect in several different firms of architects. But back in the S&L days I was just a flunkie newb draftsman and what I did was what the developer told me to do. If he wanted letterhead for a new company, I made new letterhead. If he wanted art for a cover, I drew or found better artists to draw convincing art to sell his delusions, his dreams. My drawings were my stock in trade and my drawings were masterpieces of illusion, because very few of them were ever built. But damn they did look good when I was finished with them.

I have actually lost count of the number of different proposals I worked on back then. It was one every few months at least for several years. The number of sales pitches I've heard really aren't important for this story. But the charisma? Oh, yeah. They all had it in spades. You'd believe any damn thing they told you while they were talking to you. It was only later that you would kick yourself for agreeing to do whatever stupid thing they asked you to do. But invariably the dream of getting paid would be too much and you'd do the thing on the off-chance that the crazy guy could sell it, and damned if they didn't generally get something for their effort.

When I say they got something for their effort, I mean the real estate developer got something to show for our efforts. They usually made off like bandits. As a paid flunkie draftsman I punched a clock and I got paid, even paid time and a half for time over forty hours a week. You don't work less than forty hours a week if you are drafting for someone who wants drawings ASAP.  So the pay wasn't bad compared to the minimum wage I had been making previous to studying drafting. But what I made was chickenfeed next to what they banked, and you've never heard someone whine so hard about writing you a check until you've had a developer by the balls, him needing his next drawings, and you won't give them up till the check is in your hand.

That is rule number one when dealing with a developer. You don't do jack shit until at least half the money is in your hand. If you do work on contingency for a developer, you are working for free.  You are working for free because he never has to tell you whether he made money or not, which generally means not. Not for you, anyway.

So let's say you've been around the block a few times. You're pretty savvy. You know your contracts and your in's and out's. You know to get money up front and to get signed contracts before doing any work and all that business school stuff they teach you or you learn from hard knocks along the way. None of that means a thing to a developer like Donald J. Trump.

Nope. That's what shell corporations are for. The best (and when I say best, I mean wealthiest) architects in the business also use shell corporations. You create this legal fiction and you make it responsible for all the contracts you sign as a businessman. This is all completely legal and above board even though it is a fiction you are engaged in. You pay all your employees and rent and utilities on your place of business through that corporation; but don't forget the important part of this equation. You also pay yourself a salary.

In fact, you can be paid a salary from all the corporations you own at the same time. All you have to do is justify the expense to the board, and if it is a shell corporation the board is probably you or someone you appoint to say yes to the things you want. So spend a half-hour a month, make a half-million dollars. No one will complain because no one will know except you and your bookkeepers.

I left the best part for last. When you pay yourself too well (and Donald J. Trump does this in spades) you just get to walk away from your contracts. The business you created and hopefully sold beforehand (that is the important part) will go bankrupt, sure. But that really isn't your problem. You paid yourself a salary and that debt comes before paying contracts. Designers and craftsmen, engineers and architects; everyone who signed contracts and aren't working for a wage, they get the scraps. You and the investors walk away smelling like roses with freshly laundered money in your pockets.

It is a neat financial trick, one that Donald J. Trump has repeated 6 times now. He has been sued more than 4,000 times. You don't rack up that many bankruptcies or get sued that many times unless you are doing something bordering on illegal. Bordering on illegal is still legal though, and that is what counts.

Ruthlessness and business acumen only get you so far. You still fall prey to the same failures to predict the future that everyone else does. The crash of the gaming industry nearly did him in. Even he didn't understand just how big the financial bubble we were all sitting on was, and got caught flat-footed just like everyone else as the Wall Street money dried up and Atlantic city's gaming industry cratered. But hey, that is when the charisma that someone like the Donald has really comes in handy.

If you're good at it (and Trump is very good at it. Just ask him, he'll tell you) you can turn yourself into a TV star if you work hard enough at it. He hawked himself onto every media outlet that would have him, spending so much time on radio that he became the butt of several jokes in the New York area radio business. But it paid off in the end, just like he knew it would deep in his delusional heart. The only reason he has any money today is because The Apprentice and its spin-offs have made money, and he made money just like everyone else who works in TV does, successful or not. If you are working you are making money in television. And if your show has ratings you make lots of money. Producers can make more money than anybody and they do less work if they know what they are doing. The Donald talked his way into a producer's percentage, and he still gets paid to this day for producing the show that he no longer works on.

But down deep in his rotten heart, Donald J. Trump is still that delusional little kid that thought a million bucks gifted from his father was a pittance. The same guy who took dirty money from shady characters in NYC to finance his early projects. The same guy who believes every single lie he's ever told just to make the next buck in a nearly endless line of billions of bucks. Believes those lies and every single conspiracy fantasy he's asked to put stock in by people like Alex Jones and Breitbart news. He believes them but knows they are false. It doesn't matter, because the charisma makes him the next buck, and the next buck is what really matters.

That is why we as citizens of the United States need to understand caveat emptor, and we need to understand it now. It would have been better if we had understood it before November 8th, but that deadline passed and we were #MAGA in a big enough percentage in the wrong places. He's going to be sworn in as the leader of our country on January 20th, with a congress willing and able to do his bidding, if actions and trends are to be believed.

h/t @JuddLegum
He will have the keys to the White House soon, and we need to understand that this life-long con artist is about to pull off the biggest con of his life.

...and that he has no idea how to do the job we've given him.

The wealthy believe that they shouldn't be governed by the same laws as the rest of us. The lives they lead are almost unbelievable to those of us who have never had more money than we could spend on a single purchase.  Trump is one of these people. He has always lived that lifestyle.

Trump has no intention of doing any of the things his predecessors in office have done in order to earn our trust while they are in office. He will not be selling off his businesses, he's pretending his children will run them without consulting him. He will be in violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution from the moment that he takes his oath of office; because he will be paid by someone staying in one of his hotels, visitors from foreign governments, on the same day (probably within the same hour) that he swears his false oath.

His contempt for our system goes far beyond simple greed, his need for more money and more fame. He's hired relatives to run parts of the administration in violation of nepotism laws. He's named appointees for cabinet seats that have clear conflicts of interest. He's named appointees who have declared their intention to destroy the department they will be in charge of, pretty much across the board. He's been bought and paid for by billionaires across the country who are counting on him to deliver on the promises he's made to roll back clean energy and approve expanded drilling and pipeline proposals.

Robert Reich asked Facebook What do you think? in the wake of Trump's pick of former Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. What do I think? I find it impossible to take anything about this election seriously; which is weird, because I was one of the people who took Trump seriously from the beginning and discounted his chances with the voting public because he was demonstrably unqualified for the office he was seeking.

Every. Single. Thing. Every Single Thing. Everything that he has done since the election has demonstrated, again and again, just how unqualified he is financially, mentally, temperamentally.

He can't be president.

...and still the media people act like he can be president and "aren't you outraged about this?" I'm well beyond outraged now. The surreality of the approaching cataclysm, surrounded by the same old news organizations parroting the same old garbage news as if there would be a United States for us to live in if this dangerously deranged person were to be allowed to take and hold the office of the president for the next 4 years has me all but convinced I'm the only real person in a video game gone horribly wrong.

He can't be president. If they make him president anyway the US won't be here for long if we don't remove him and may not survive his removal if we do. You may well say "that can't happen" but I guarantee you the average inhabitant of the USSR never thought that they would be reliant upon the truncated government of Russia and the other severed states of the former Soviet Union, either.

But they did all the same; and if you think that isn't Vladimir Putin's favored dream, the end of the USA, then you really don't understand the mind of a former KGB agent turned dictator like Putin.



Caveat Emptor; Buyer Beware

Donald J. Trump is going to step up to take that oath in less than 24 hours now, and you as an American citizen need to understand that you are about to buy into something with no warranty and no guarantees, and you had best inspect each and every proposal put forward by these delusional people as if your very life depended on it because it very well might.

He will come into office with a House of Representatives packed with delusional people who think they can spend money and cut taxes at the same time (it worked for Bush. Temporarily) and there is only so much more of our debt that the Chinese will be willing to buy. Willing to buy from His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump, that is. He has insulted the Chinese more times than I can count now. Apparently no one has told him that the Chinese have been the biggest buyer of American debt for several years now.

That debt load the country has been carrying? That is about to come due. Guess who will have to foot the bill for paying it? We will, the citizens of the United States. That bill and all the money Trump spends or puts in his pocket during his brief term in the White House. We have to pay that. Us, our children, or grand children and their grandchildren. But not Donald J. Trump and his family. No, they don't pay taxes, because they are smart. So they won't be paying the bills, at least not directly and not in a way they would notice. The currency will inflate and those of us with the least will go hungrier than we are now. We'll lose property to foreign investors spending dollars we've convinced them to buy as debt. Federal lands will be privatized and sold. Federal programs will be privatized in the name of cost-cutting.

The latter will go as well as the private prisons did; private prisons that will once again be approved by the Justice Department under its new leadership. Public schools will disappear into voucher programs which won't cover the cost of teaching poor children who won't even be able to feed or cloth themselves properly because there won't be jobs for their parents (automation being the reasons low wage, low skill jobs are disappearing. It isn't outsourcing and immigrants #MAGA once again) and there won't be welfare for them to rely on. There certainly won't be any healthcare unless you are wealthy or lucky enough to qualify under the newly restrictive measures imposed on that program.

Don't believe me? Remember that wall the #MAGA wanted Trump to build, the wall he said he'd make Mexico pay for? We're going to pay for it. But trust Donald J. Trump when he says he'll bill Mexico for the cost of the wall. The wall that there will already be tunnels under when it is built.

Illusions are important when you are trying to sell someone on your dream of pocketing that next dollar.
In reality, Trump’s administration is a rebuke to the very notion that the public interest diverges in any way from private ones. The Labor Department will be run by a man whose interest in the field is dominated by a mania for cheap labor; the Environmental Protection Agency will be run by a virtual pass-through for fossil-fuel interests. Trump’s government will make policy by and for the rich and well-connected. As Politico reports, “the extent to which donors are stocking Trump’s administration is unparalleled in modern presidential history.” As Kudlow makes clear, Trumpism regards the fear that government might favor capital over labor or some other public interest as inherently nonsensical.  
New York Magazine ‘The Wealthy Would Never Steal’ — A Credo for Trump’s Party By Jonathan Chait


with James Kirchick

Since Obama's election in 2008 it has become fashionable amongst the conservative elite to pretend that they never were in favor of anything government might do. Anything a government headed by a black Democratic president might do which equates to not in favor of government, embracing anarchism from behind. Too bashful to look anarchy in the face, but heading down the road to anarchism all the same.

Now they find themselves with the reigns of power, all of the reigns of power, unexpectedly in their hands. These people have clearly voted for what they believe is a strong leader. People who want that leader to ignore the constitutional limitations on the office of president. People who want desperately to pretend that their opponents are the bad guys. The brownshirts. The people who want to destroy America. The truly surprising thing about the current crop of conservative Republicans isn't that they are ignorant; as in, they don't know that fascism was a right-wing ideology. That strong central leadership is one of the defining attributes of dictatorship. No, the surprising thing is that they know what the truth is, but simply deny it because they want the opposite to be true.

Willful ignorance.

I've seen this type of willful ignorance applied to atheism, to evolution, to climate change. But I never thought I'd see the day when they denied their own political ideology, their worship of the strong leader as being anything other than what it truthfully is. This is newspeak/newthink on a really frightening scale. They have to know that they are being false, but they simply lock that knowledge away and blithely pretend that white is black and black is white. I don't know of any way to deal with this level of insincerity (I first noted in conservative pundits like William Kristol and Pat Buchanan) no way to deal with this level of denial of reality short of eradication. Open warfare. I'd love to hear a way to get through to people who have voluntarily shut their brains off. Please let me know if I'm missing something here.

I mean, they can't be reasoned with. They simply redefine everything to mean the opposite of what it is for their own convenience. They not only lie to everyone around them, they lie to themselves and believe the lies. This is why Donald Trump is their current leader. He is the king of liars, leading a host of liars.

After eight tedious years of one wild-assed glassy-eye conspiracy theory after another, after nearly a decade of endless birthers and a parade of truthers and more goddamned lame-ass Benghazi reboots than the Batman franchise, after robot alien reptiles in rubber human suits, after Obama is a Muslim, Obama is gay, Obama went to Mars (no really, there are people who believe the CIA teleported Obama to Mars as a teenager, twice, and those silly sons of bitches write me letters), Obama killed Antonin Scalia, Obama has 39 different Social Security numbers, Obama secretly worships Satan, Obama is going to invade Texas, Obama was adopted, Obama's wife is a man, Obama's kids were stolen from Africa (because Obama's wife is a man), Obama is a commie, Obama is a Nazi, Obama refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance, Obama is a time traveling super-villain here to gayify white Christian babies with his Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo, and etcetera, and etcetera, and etcetera up to the part where conservatives are actually floating the idea Obama is conspiring with Hillary Clinton to kidnap kids for some world-spanning Soros-funded pedophile wholesaler operating out of a pizza joint in Washington D.C (which they've figured out from "clues" they "deciphered" by reading John Podesta's emails which were stolen by Russians and fenced via an international criminal organization run by a guy who actually is  wanted on sexual assault charges), after 8 years of that, let's not resort to the same defective Creation-Science based reasoning here. Please.  
Jim Wright, StonekettleStation - Resolutions

The problem with #MAGA, this indefinable need to take America back to a previous era; is that America was never the place they believe it was. The problem is also deeper than that. America has a near-terminal case of amnesia when it comes to its own history.

America became someplace else after WWII. Before WWI, before the crash in '29; before all of that, the US was mostly farms and light industrial manufacturing focused on delivering products to Americans who needed them. There were no interstates, no giant airports, no Military Industrial Complex. There were just farms and farmers and a few scattered cities that corresponded to centers of government or industrial manufacturing.

After WWII we became aware of our power. More importantly, our leaders became aware of it and used it to throw our weight around the globe, influencing other nations to enter our circle of friends, the people who would get rich off of our prosperity with us. Today we consume most of the production that the world generates, while paying little to nothing for it aside from letters of credit. Demanding what we want at the point of a gun, as we have done since the 80's, is getting old now. The rest of the world is beginning not to care what we whiney Americans want, and they aren't going to keep buying our debt.

The system which worked following WWII has come to it's functional end. It is time for a new system to be born, and I don't think the world is ready to take on that herculean task. I don't think we can afford to wait, either. This change since WWII, this focus on the Military Industrial Complex and it's servants in Washington D.C. are why Philip K. Dick's stories have played so well in the last few decades. There is a madness there in his stories, a madness that the man himself suffered from profoundly. That madness is echoed in the world around us, the disconnection between what is real and what we want to be real. It is almost as if we didn't win WWII. It is almost as if we... lost?


"The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists."
-- Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951)




Don’t be shy. Step right up. And tell me in detail, point by point and line by line, why I have set an impossibly high standard. Tell me why liberals can’t compromise their sacred principles when it comes to abortion or gay rights or the goddamned endangered snail darter or some pipeline in North Dakota, but you just can’t bear the thought of not being able to call Melania Trump an orange cum-guzzling whore on my Facebook page. 
Jim Wright, StonekettleStation - No Middle Ground
If the Democrats had not let the Clintons control the party the way they did, if Hillary had allowed real competition at the top of the party and ticket, not forced an outsider to challenge her, if the people who want justice and equality from their system get up and join their local precinct meetings now, if the Democratic party itself embraces new technology to ramp up inclusion; then we'll get candidates with a broad base of grassroots support rather than the crop of power brokers we currently have to pick through.

But that just deals with the open question of who to vote for in 2018 and 2020. That doesn't get us through the next two years. Doesn't get us through the harrowing times that await us on the other side of January 20th.

With The Art of War firmly in mind; Rather than meeting your enemy on their battlefield, pitch your tents where you want to fight. Make them fight on your battlefield, out in the open where greater numbers (and we have greater numbers than they do) will turn the tide of battle and we will be able to win handily.  That observation relies on the vast majority of Americans to take an interest in their own government. I'm not holding my breath on this occurring since Americans getting off their couches and doing anything proactive in the realm of politics would be an unprecedented act in the history of human governance.

Which is why I repeat the title of this post again, one last time.

Caveat Emptor; Buyer Beware

I have practiced this principle almost by rote for most of my adult life, having pretty much always been poor since leaving my hometown in Kansas. I can't afford to be taken to the cleaners by shady dealers. I prefer to think of caveat emptor more as due diligence; ensuring that what is being promised is reality, making sure that what you are buying is actually what the seller claims it is. When money is tight and purchases are made on promises and shoe strings, you have to know that what you are buying is actually going to do the thing you want it to do.

I say all this, every single word of it that I've written on the subject of Donald J. Trump or his 3am rage tweeting alter-ego The Orange Hate-Monkey over this past year with the personal knowledge I have gained through experience. That we have elected a con-artist to the presidency.  That when you are forced to deal with a con-artist you keep your hands on your wallet and don't agree to anything without seeing it first in writing; and even then, don't let go of those purse-strings. Keep your legal representation on retainer and make a point of running every single thing the con-artist says to you past your counselor before responding in any fashion to him.

Above all, understand that you've already bought whatever it is he does while he has the office of the president in his control. If that knowledge keeps you up at night, then you are just beginning to glimpse the nightmares I've been having since November 8th.

I'll see all of you at the polls in 2018. I hope.

The Fourth Estate

Another question from Robert Reich. I find his posts truly useful for stimulating thought on particularly thorny issues.
According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Trump voters got their news about the election from Fox News (in distant second place was CNN at 8 percent, and the rest mainly from social media).
Clinton voters got 18 percent of their political news from CNN, 9 percent from MSNBC, 5 percent from the New York Times, and only 3 percent from Fox (the rest from an assortment of networks, local news, radio, and social media).
Fox News – especially Trump surrogate Sean Hannity – delivered a steady stream of pro-Trump infomercials. If America still has the “fairness rule” that used to require media to be truly fair and balanced, Fox would be out of business.
What do you think?
I think we need to destroy political machines wherever they are, whatever they are. Political machines are a barrier to democracy because they supplant the will of the people for their agendas, which the leadership of the machine thinks is important.

News reporting should simply be held to a truthful/useful standard (which FOX would also fail) because any other standard introduces a bias that is unnecessary. There are not just two sides to political arguments and this is true across the board.  It is long past time we started dismantling the machines that have grown up around the framework that was established with the constitution; machines that no longer serve the purpose they were established for.  Machines like party primaries. Party-favoriting rules in legislatures. Party-backed campaigns.

There are new ways and new machines that we need to build so that we can introduce the vast majority of the US population to actual governmental involvement. The old machines are only going to get in the way.

Journalism needs to be governed by a professional organization empowered to police their ranks in much the same way that the AMA licenses Doctors, the AIA governs the practice of Architecture. State bars govern the practice of law. This has been my opinion for a very, very long time. There is no organization which can establish truth standards in reporting that organizations can be held to if they want to qualify as legitimate news outlets, and there really needs to be.  This has never been clearer in history than it is right now.

How journalists go about governing themselves is a question I'd like to see journalists discuss. What will work? What won't work? What kind of standards would they be able to establish and enforce? Should be an interesting discussion.

Triskaidekaphilia not Triskaidekaphobia

Written reference to the superstitious fear of the number thirteen dates to the late 1800s. Its origin is conjectural (a matter of guesswork). The term triskaidekaphobia first appeared in the early 1900s. It was derived from treiskaideka, the Greek word for thirteen + phobia, fear of = a fear of thirteen. (Google search result)
I'm a fan of all things thirteen. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this in my news feed;



Thirteen is supposedly a bad number because the twelve disciples plus Jesus equals thirteen, the first reference that she offers for the fear of that day and/or number.  I hadn't heard the cycles (moon, menstrual) argument before. I have never (and I do mean never) heard the triskaidekaphilic women's day argument before.

The thirteenth is my lucky day. I was born on the thirteenth. I got married on the thirteenth because the wife insists I remember things that fall on the thirteenth day of the month. She also scheduled the births of our children (C-sections are like that) for the thirteenth of the month. It isn't her fault the children didn't actually emerge on those days (birth is like that) So when Friday the thirteenth rolls around I enjoy the double-whammy of good luck; my favorite day of the week and my favorite day of the month combined into one great day to celebrate.

What I'm trying to say is I of all people should have heard that one before, and I haven't. So I'm going to say Friday the thirteenth being a women's day is the fiction. Hope that clears it all up for you.

On Flat Earthers

Flat earthers are a outgrowth of modern man's separation from the physical world.

Ancient man spent a lot of time around sea shores and lake shores. Spent hours at a time being forced to contemplate the horizon. They had direct visual confirmation that the surface they were on was curved. Boats sailed (and still sail if you can pay attention long enough) visibly over the horizon. This is probably what motivated Eratosthenes to try to work out what the actual distance around the Earth was, and he did it in the 3rd century BCE.

Modern man, wrongly informed that ancient man thought the world was flat; and especially modern religious zealots already prepared to discard all of science in exchange for heavenly salvation (or at least willing to sacrifice evolution) finds it quite easy to never notice the curvature of the Earth that he still can see if he simply looks.

That is why they call it "wilful ignorance".

Republican, Republican; Democrat, Democratic

I spent the last few hours listening to Maajid Nawaz in conversation with Sam Harris on the Waking Up podcast. This is the first time I've heard him speak and he seems like a honest, earnest person.

...except for this one thing.  This one thing that drives me absolutely nuts.

It is the Democratic party, not the Democrat party. That is how the word is properly used. Pouty Republicans and conservatives who want to discredit the Democrats invented (or reinvented) this little conundrum of wordplay as a dogwhistle to separate themselves from the rest of the liberal press, and anyone who uses this dogwhistle is either a member of the conservative press or is blind to the subtleness of word usage that propagandists rely on to spread their message.

You see, Republicans want to rob Democrats of the subliminal linkage of the Democratic party with with the democratic process; and they are attempting to do this by pretending that words when used as a party name should not be conjugated in the same way. This is false and it sounds forced when spoken.

I have an extremely hard time believing someone is being truthful with me when they take the time to pervert the english language in this way, purposefully use the word wrongly simply to call attention to the difference between a process and a party name.

The Democrats are far more democratic than the Republicans currently are. It is the neoconservatives who used to be Democrats, Democrats who had no problem perverting the democratic process when they were Democrats, who are now perverting the democratic process by denying the vote to larger and larger sections of the population in efforts to keep their Republican conservatives in power for a few more terms before the inevitable shift of power occurs.

The true test of whether the Democrats are democratic will come when, having regained power they return to the undemocratic ways of their past. Will they readopt the same perversions of the process that they previously practiced? That their neoconservative soon to be neoliberal power brokers will want to reimpose but now from the other side? Vote suppression? Gerrymandering? Or will we force them to create systems which are actually unbiased and open for the first time in US history?

Will we pass the test our forebears failed, or will we fail as they have?

As for the rest of the subjects of the podcast? Thought-provoking if not outright wrong on many points. How many times will I have to hear the false conservative talking point "won't say islamic terrorist?" I'm hoping I have heard it for the last time. We'll just have to see how much difference there is now that the conservatives have everything they've ever wanted since 1980. Now's your chance boys. How bad can you fuck it all up? Sadly, we are about to find out.