Money and Politics

Comedians Steven Colbert and Bill Maher have made much recently about the Super PACs which are dominating this years presidential elections, Maher going so far as to donate $1-million dollars to President Obama’s PAC for reelection.

And ever since I’ve lived in the US, I’ve been astounded at the amount of time and effort that seems to go into raising money for elections. Especially since a large amount of it seems to be used to support activities which really don’t represent anything that most people would attribute as American values and strengths, optimism, the ability to achieve anything you put your mind to etc. Money in politics seems to generate activities more associated with Mob style tactics, money laundering and extortion.

I listened to this weeks “This American Life” (TAL) while doing laundry and tidying up last night, and it’s shocking. Seriously, Act One covers the amount of time that the elected politicians actually spend fundraising, which seems to be most of it. There is admission that lobbyists are a vital source of information, “they know the most about a subject”. Well perhaps if you didn’t waste so much time fundraising, you’d have time to get educated just enough to be able to grasp the issues and make an intelligent decision about how to support it. Then they wouldn’t feel the need to have all those lobbyists around as a  crutch.

John McCain is interviewed in Act Three. He makes some very interesting points, not least about the Supremem Court hearings that gave us “Citizens United” aka the Super PACs.

John Mccain

At first, I was outraged. The day that Russ and I went over and observed the arguments, the questions that were asked, the naivety of the questions that were asked and the arrogance of some of the questioners, it was just stunning. Particularly Scalia with his sarcasm. Why shouldn’t these people be able to engage in this process? Why do you want to restrict them from their rights of free speech? And the questions they asked showed they had not the slightest clue as to what a political campaign is all about and the role of money that it plays in political campaigns. And I remember when Russ and I walked out of there, I said, Russ, we’re going to lose and it’s because they are clueless

Which is just depressing. I wouldn’t have voted for McCain in the McCain/Obama Presidential campaign, even if I could. I can’t vote even in local elections. I’m wondering though what it is that stops good, principled men and women from speaking out about the men in politics? McCain/Feinberg was a start, America should be going forwards, not backwards.

You can listen to the whole episode of TAL here in their archives.

[Update: 4/6/12 2:50pm] TAL has just released the McCain/Feinberg interview, uncut here. Brilliant, McCain makes another telling point when he says:

It’s, it’s beyond belief. And, you know, and, and to ss,
sum up in one respect, what does it do to the view of young
Americans that Russ is talking to every day out there at Stanford? It makes ’em cynical.
It makes’ em cynical, and therefore demotivating; therefore it’s harder to get highly qualified men and women to seek public office, if they think we’re all a bunch of crooks.

Education needs to change

Colin Powell still gets it. Makes some great points about the shift in needs for education. It reminds me of the work I did, and the long conversations with Miguel Aznar at knowledgecontext.org

Colin Powell accepts Golden Heart Award from Project H.O.M.E. from The Honickman Foundation on Vimeo.

Brians Song, the Big C and “little” Mikey

I can’t really remember when I first became aware of cancer, but the first time it effected my life was in I’d guess 1972, or 1973. I saw Brian’s Song on TV. The original version, obviously. It had a profound effect on me as a 13/14 year old, that I think to this day I can’t forget. I sobbed like the child I was when I saw it, despite all my aspirations to grow up quickly, and all the confusion around me, I learned a lot from the film about friends, racial tolerance and intolerance, as well as cancer.

And so it was with some trepidation I set the DVR the other day to record the original film, which was on some channel or other on Time Warner Cable. It’s sitting there waiting to be watched, I’m guessing I probably won’t watch it until at least the summer is over.

Since then many people I know or love have been touched by cancer including my Mum. Cancer took the life of Wendy, Auntie Ruth, and has effected the lives of many of my Austin friends, including at least three female friends hit by breast cancer; and also “Iron” Mikey Thompson, from Jack and Adams Bicycle Shop in Austin. Mikey is trying to get a place in this years Ironman Hawaii through the Kona Inspired program, he is a 4x cancer survior, but much more than that he is an all round great guy, who is articulate, kind and compassionate. Please vote for Mikey here.

So it’s somewhat ironic then, that this week I got to meet the most well known cancer survivor of them all, Lance Armstrong, at his house. I took Ronnie along so he could get a signature from Lance and catch up after Sundays Galveston 70.3, Lance came out to introduce himself. I’m also heading to see my Doc this afternoon to get that annoying lesion on the back of my left hand, that won’t heal, looked at. Things that go around, come around.

The Bike Through Bank

New tube Sir?So, as I pulled into the drive through ATM at the Amplify Brockton Branch yesterday to deposit two checks, worth combined less than $2, something grabbed my attention out of the corner of my eye. Yep, there was a guy on a bicycle in the drive through bank.

Apparently it’s not all that uncommon, all I know is I laughed hard until I started to try to deposit the checks. Here is a zoomed version.

No Hassle Cash – My foot

I’ve got one of those CapitalOne No Hassle cards, instead of getting worthless points, I get cash back based on how much I spend. I can use that “cash” on the same sort of useless purchases as I could with worthless points, or I can request a credit in my CapitalOne card account, or, yes, a check. I elected to just get the credit, $67.18 as an account credit.

Seemed like a good thing, I clicked, confirmed etc. and then got the message

Order Number: 19330721
Order Date: April 4, 2012
Estimated Posting Date: 5-7 business days

I guess they send themselves a check, after all an electronic transfer couldn’t take 5-7 business days, could it?

Less than a buck, WTF

I continue to be amazed, saddened and I some ways angry about the inefficiencies in the US Banking system and the inability for big financial institutions to see how much this is costing the economy.

I’m sat in line for a drive up teller, coz the bank closed at 4:30 or 5pm, whatever, that’s not the point. The point is I have two checks to deposit, one for $0.07 from an IBM Share account I thought I closed 2-years ago, and the other, as attached my US GOVERNMENT TAX refund.

You’d think the government would save its money and the banks by just carrying this amount as a credit into the next year, or at least do a electronic credit. I could just rip the check up and let the government have the money but it doesn’t work like that in account the money just gets held in a suspense account for nearly ever.

Lets not even get started on how crappy the admin is behind the IBM share system that has been issuing ever decreasing amounts for the last 16-months…

The problem is the paper check. Its like many other things, when you don’t think the the system is broken, you can’t see how things could be. If nothing else, the processing banks, ie where I’m depositing the checks should be able to levy a processing charge from the issuing account, but not from mine. If issuing a check for $0.07 is the best they can do, and processing it costs $4.50, then they should be charged $4.57

Ps. If anyone from Amplify Credit Union is watching, that’s me sat out in the parking lot, your ATM workflow sucks if you are depositing more than one check. Oh yeah tell Sheryl I’m still waiting for a reply…

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Texas A&M Slides – Technical and Professional Careers

Here are the Technical and Professional career slides I used for yesterdays CSCE 481 Seminar at Texas A&M University. Thanks to Prof. Robin R. Murphy, PhD, IEEE Fellow; Raytheon Professor of Computer Science & Engineering; Director, Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue – for inviting me to speak, and to the students for all the great questions afterwards.

If I can be of any help in your future, please get in touch.

Fore music

The great thing about music is it brings people together in so many great ways, the great thing about sharing love of similar music with my kids, is I get recommendations on some great stuff, I’m totally hooked on this Jamie Lidell track after a 3 a.m. skype session with Oli.


Then last night Kathleen organized line dancing lessons at the Broken Spoke, all I can tell you is there was a lot of trepidation in this house before Ronnie and I left. I got to learn the Texas 2-step with Leslie Tom and she was a great partner.

Mentally, exhausted; outlook never more excited

When I posted the “A Man who does nothing” entry, I’d just got one of those corporate emails telling why they couldn’t help me. It went something like that.

Today, I ran 7-miles at my long race pace, approx. 10-minute miles; delt with a load of corporate BS including the man who says “no, I’m too busy”; given a disposition and a trial rehearsal up at the capital building; negotiated mineral rights on a property I’m buying next Tuesday; had a conference call with the first professional athlete for my Sports Management company; had the first board meeting for the new multisports 501.c3 I created; cooked 3x pretty perfect fillet steaks and am now cleaning up after a good dinner with 2x good friends. I’m not a superstar, I’m no different from you, I say yes, and see thing s the way they should be, you say no and can’t see beyond the way things are.

Is it so off to ask you just to do your day job Mr Corporate person? Sh*t happens to you, if you don’t make things happen.