Monday, October 30, 2006

Bean Counters (Lancet numbers vs Estimates of those killed by Saddam)

I found myself thinking about the furor over the Lancet study over the last few weeks. There was something vaguely troubling me about the criticism. Then it sort of hit me. A sample of my thoughts follow.

It used to be common to fill a jar with different colored beans and turn it into a contest by asking who could figure out the ratio of the different kinds of beans or determine the total number of beans in the jar. Most people estimate the ratio of beans in the jar through a method called “sampling.” You take a random handful of beans and determine the ratio. Assuming you have a representative sample, you’re projection is likely to be surprisingly accurate. Recently the Lancet, one of the world's oldest public health journals used a similar method to estimate the number of deaths in Iraq. They did this once before in 2003 and came back with a shockingly high number in the hundreds of thousands. The 2006 followup (note registration required) estimated some 650,000 deaths in Iraq since the war started. Iraq has only 27 million people, so the number is more than a little eye opening.

The President himself rejected the study and a number of right wing sources jumped forward to suggest that the Lancet’s estimates were impossible. There were even a number of skeptical left-wing voices, among them the iraq body count an anti-war site that has tracked the number of dead including civilians by using reports of deaths in western media. Their figure as of today was a maximum of 49,760 or about 8 percent of the Lancet study’s number, a huge discrepancy.

By the way, they point to a UN sponsored report called the Iraq Living Conditions Survey ILCS, to argue that another sampled survey came up with a much lower number of dead in 2004. The right wing groups like to point to the Iraq Body Count refutation as proof that even the left is uncomfortable with Lancet. For those who are into unintentional humor, the ILCS was a project of the United Nations Development Programme. This may be one of the first times the right has cited, albeit indirectly, a UN program approvingly.

I realized fairly quickly that my last statistics class was the basic introductory class that all liberal arts majors took as breadth requirement for a bachelor’s degree. I can’t and shouldn’t argue confidence intervals, variances, etc. It’s clear to me that a number of individuals who know less than I are doing so anyway. I would mention that the 95% confidence interval cited by the Lancet is a pretty standard number for studies that use samples of random respondents of roughly 1,000. You have to go to something like 10,000 repsondents to get to 96% so most pollsters stop with a sample of 1,000.

Beyond saying that Lancet is peer reviewed and generally well respected, I have to say that I’m simply not qualified to attack the methodology. I would point out a couple things though. We routinely rely on a very similar methodology and sample size in a number of areas. Billions of dollars a year in ad revenues depend on the Nielsen survey which for years has used a sample of Nielsen families. More to the point, the political polls that everyone seems to take so seriously depend on the same basic methodology as the Lancet study. Every now and then, you’ll hear someone complain that 3 Nielsen families played a joke and cost someone millions of dollars or that say an “Exit poll” in 2004 oversampled female voters, but for the most part our culture is more than comfortable with “sampling” as a way to tell us how many, how much, etc.

In fact, the pollsters themselves like to point out that we routinely depend on another kind of sample to make critical health decisions. Blood tests are a random sample.

This is my peeve though about the furor over the Lancet study. The same right wing sources insisting that the Lancet finding must be a gross exaggeration even an impossibility are the same folk who estimate the number of people killed by Saddam in the hundreds of thousands. Do they ever ask where that number came from. If you used Iraq Body Count’s method to do the estimate, that number might be in the hundreds not the hundreds of thousands. Few if any of those killed by Saddam were reported to mainstream western media at the time. The actual number of bodies recovered in mass graves remains relatively low, it’s just that the number turns scarier when one asks how many more “undiscovered” graves of this sort are out there. If one tracks down the figure of hundreds of thousands of dead during Saddam’s reign, one finds that it’s often boosted with estimates of the number killed during the Iran-Iraq war or those who may have starved to death during the Western embargo during the 90’s. Both figures obviously raise some issues if you’re trying to directly attribute the number to Saddam.

When you break it all down, the right has been using methods not at all far removed from Lancet’s in its attempt to estimate the number killed by Saddam. The bottom line answer turns out to be that the higher estimates of the Saddam number comes from a projection of some kind. Does the media ever question the number so casually thrown out by some who justify the American invasion?

I don’t know if the Lancet number is right. I do see surprisingly few attacks on the actual methodology. Most of the attacks simply say “the number itself violates logic,” which is somewhat similar to what happened when geologists in the 19th century started estimating the age of the earth in billions instead of thousands of years. Those who believed in the traditional religious view didn’t question the methodology, they simply declared that the scientists’ number was somehow illogical or impossible.

I also know that death certificates and news reports tend to grossly underestimate the number of dead in a war. Chaos prevents people from documenting each and every death. Not only is it hard to find the bodies, but it’s nearly impossible to keep records because the records themselves get destroyed. Even some of the numbers for the holocaust, which the Germans documented perversely well, might be on the low side because not all the killings took place inside the camps.

Yes, it’s a horrifying number, but even if it’s off by a factor of six, it’s a horrifying number. Even if the sample is flawed and only represents areas of Iraq that have relatively higher casualties, the finding is horrifying.

The problem is that the Administration will attack the Lancet study then out of the other side of its mouth talk about the significance of positive poll results. They know most of us won’t put the two together. In fact, they’re counting on it.

11/21 note: It's worth mentioning that after the US midterm elections, the Iraqi government queitly upped its own estimate of civilian deaths to 150,000. I need to check the Iraq bodycount site to get their reaction...since they insisted that their method was not a drastic undercount. Obviously, this helps the credibility of the Lancet study even though it's still more than 4 times the official count.


Read more!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Bachelor 9 Episode 4 I Get Hot for Pilots (tv review)

(Pope Paul, the Borghese Pope's bones watched Lorenzo's date with Jennifer from below)

I was having dinner with my wife the other night when I passed her a card.  
“What’s this?” she asked.
“I’ve had a wonderful time this evening and this card entitles you to spend the night in the fantasy suite with me.”
She started to kiss me but our sixteen year old daughter interrupted us.
“TMI  TMI- I’m not going to videotape my own parents in the fantasy suite.”
“You videotaped our one on one dinner.  Besides, the camera goes off once we go to the fantasy suite.  You know that by now.”
In our household, we take the “reality” in reality tv very seriously.

When we go to see my mother and stepdad, we refer to it as a “hometown date.”  The first couple times our daughter went out with boys, she’d come home dejected because the boy didn’t offer her a rose at the end.  The second time she blamed it on me, “He wasn’t happy when you turned up in the back seat of the car with a video camera on the way to the movie theater.”

Last week, the producers of Wife Swap came to recruit us for the show because they were convinced that we’d make the perfect lead in for the real Bachelor.  Unfortunately, my wife and daughter refused to swap with a family in Oklahoma that structured their domestic life around Fear Factor.  Personally, I thought it would be cool to live in a house with an eighty foot high zip line and a shark tank in the backyard.  

Every now and then, people do politely ask us something like “What the hell are you doing and why?”  

We tell them “We want to be part of the reality-based community.”

I could also point them to the Bachelor Rome and last week’s opening sequence with Lisa from Portland, the winner of Prince Lorenzo’s first impression rose.  This outwardly sweet-natured young woman who supposedly has studied the show’s eight previous incarnations (should it be  inrosenations?)  tells the video camera that Jennifer from Florida not only isn’t suitable for his royal dog spa owner, but that without makeup Jennifer doesn’t look so hot.  

Okay, how stupid is that?  We’re going to interview you on videotape on a show that well takes hundreds of hours of videotape and edits it the thirty eight most embarrassing minutes a week it can find.  You actually think that there won’t be a scene of you saying this while Jennifer from Florida, all the other bachelorettes, and Lorenzo watch the tape?  

Of course, the show throws in a return visit by Erica, the pride of Emory College, to judge the tapes.  We quickly learn that the other ladies have unanimously identified Lisa as the least sincere Bachelorette in this installment of "video camera video camera on the wall, who's the craziest bachelorette of them all?"

One small point, we actually only get to see Erica on camera for about two seconds as she walks in says “Hello Bitches” then melts into a voice over.  The producers must have told her she was auditioning for Desperate Housewives, because I could swear the whole scene of her regreeting the berosed ones was CGI enhanced.

The video camera exercise confirms that Lisa and not Erica is this season’s designated villain, the unworthy one trying to fool the Prince into believing that she’s the one who lost the glass slipper or was it the wedding dress?  We are to understand that Lisa said “Jennifer” not because Jennifer really is not so hot looking or insincere, but because Lisa believed that Jennifer was her most serious competition.  Finally, we see the virtuous maiden Sadie who as mean as Lisa really is finds it tear-jerkingly painful to say that about anyone.  

My answer to those nosy friends and neighbors about why we’ve become a Bachelocentric household, “We have learned that the constant presence of a video camera combined with judicious editing is the test of character, the ultimate reality.  It’s the way we choose our president now, so why not do all other important things this way?”

A little bit later in the show, we see the seemingly demure Lisa go streaking in front of the camera with “I would have taken good care of you baby” Desiree while Lorenzo is out throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain.  Btw, am I the only person in America who doesn’t think having dinner overlooking the place where Pope Benedict sleeps isn’t exactly romantic?  There is this minor matter of celibacy, several centuries of castrati, etc.  

On the other hand, there was the witty repartee at the dinner table.

“So you want to be a counselor, counsel me.”

“Dump the rest of those hos and just date me.”

“So you can solve all my problems.”

“Well, maybe. Oh thanks for the rose and by the way my dad the football coach is a little weird.”

Football coach and beauty pageants are Bachelorese for full blown nutcase.  In the artsy world, they call this sort of thing foreshadowing, on the Bachelor they call it “Coming next week…”

Okay here’s where it stands:

Sadie:  How many more times are they going to talk about her being a virgin?  Along with that, she’s like the easiest virgin in reality show history. “Hey, you’re a pilot.  That gets me so hot.”  
           Then she tells the guy to kiss her in the hot tub.  Is this going to be the first fantasy suite date where they hang the bedsheet out the window in the morning?

Lisa:  Two other highlights. They show her talking about doing it on a floatie in the lake with her parents nearby, clearly to set up the contrast with Sadie.  Second, the whole wedding dress preview was the best moment of the show.  Talk about the meanest edit in Bachelor history.

Desiree:  Am I missing something here? How good are your chances of being royalty if you’re having a conversation with his highness that goes, “You did it in the girls’ locker room?  Was that with a boy or a girl?”

Desiree was my favorite this year.  I’m sad to see her go.  She seemed naturally entertaining without the need for an edit.  I’m not sure about the “I’m still here, so I must have deep feelings for you,” bit but other than that she really appeared to be just enjoying the show without being delusional, manipulative, etc.

Agnese:  The whole language barrier thing is getting a bit old.  About the only things that make this storyline interesting would be if Agnese is also a princess, Mussolini’s granddaughter, or if she’s a  Borgia with a generations old grudge against the Borgheses and she poisons the guy in the fantasy suite. (Manon of the Spring does reality tv)  

Jeanette: Won three chariot races and decided to make a zen wish, “I just want you to enjoy the moment.”
      She reasoned  “Why put more pressure on him?”  He responded, “I like being fawned over. It’s part of being a prince.”
     Basically he chose wedding psycho, Doris Day meets Erica Jong, and a woman he can’t talk to over a woman who merely seemed “thoughtful and nice.”

Jennifer:  I’m looking forward to meeting her dad, Charlton Heston.  It would be truly good tv if he actually shot Prince Lorenzo and then Michael Moore took over the Bachelor franchise.  

I’d love to chat a little longer, but my wife is yelling at Chris Harrison.  It seems he left the toilet seat up in our guest bathroom again and she didn’t look.

Sirlinksalot bachelor stories

other Chancelucky reviews


Read more!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

South Park and Fighting Words (when kids watch adult cartoons)

I happened to be talking to a group of middle school kids the other day about racial slurs at school.  The students all acknowledged that slurs were used on a regular basis particularly on the bus to and from school.  The slurs themselves ran the gamut of racial, ethnic, and sexual categories and apparently were used most every day though almost always “jokingly”.  The kids themselves drew some fairly sophisticated lines.  They understood that one would never use this kind of language with a younger student, an adult, or anyone who seemed to have other problems or “issues.”  They mentioned that the “joke” line would get crossed from time to time.

Perhaps the oddest thing was that one of the more common slurs was to call other kids “Jews”.   It’s odd because in this particular school there are very few Jewish families and there is no synagogue.  When asked “Why?”, one of the kids responded that it came from South Park.  

I rather like South Park because it’s both funny and edgy.  There is a recurring motif on the show about Kyle’s family who happen to be Jewish.  The mom is a conservative  political and cultural activist and the dad dresses Hasidic style.  The show actually has done send ups of many religions including Scientology and Mormonism (South Park is probably most famous for its Jesus (a recurring character on the show) spoofs along with a Passion of the Christ parody that became Passion of the Jews where one of the characters demands his money back from Mel Gibson), but for whatever reason the “Jewish” jokes appear to have the most staying power at least in this community.

As an adult watching South Park, I’ve mostly thought of the religious humor as “funny.”  The kids see it as “funny” as well, enough so that they try to imitate it.  At the same time, they don’t necessarily have the context for the jokes that an adult might bring to them.  In addition, the show happens to be animated, so it looks like it’s for kids and doesn’t need parents to mediate the South Park experience.  One result is a place that doesn’t really have a history of anti-semitism with kids running around making “Jew” jokes without many of them knowing much of anything about the history of anti-semitism.  

When I was a kid, there were a number of cartoons that had humor that was likely aimed more at adults than children.  These included Jay Ward’s Rocky and Bullwinkle , Crusader Rabbit, and George of the Jungle which were favorites of mine growing up.  In fact, the tradition of adult comics/cartoons goes back pretty far to Krazy Kat, L’il Abner (when Al Capp was bit more political), Pogo, forward to Doonsebury etc.  Even things like Mighty Mouse (an opera parody), Loony Toons, and Felix the Cat had very sophisticated elements.  Loony Toons in particular often dropped in literary allusions, used progressive music  that explored ideas that Stravinsky, Bartok, and Cage were only beginning to experiment with at the time and sometimes played with twists to conventional morality.  Often the humor was borderline subliminal as in was Bullwinkle male or female and why did George seem to have two wives, but for the most part adult humor in the earlier generation of cartoons and comics still observed certain explicit lines.  It should also be mentioned that the Flintstones were shown in primetime at least partially because even their mild-mannered jokes were really written for an adult audience.

One of the controversies of the seventies wasn’t about the dangers of adult-oriented content in Saturday Morning cartoons.  It was about the danger of cartoons like the Roadrunner which made extreme violence seem more or less normal and harmless.  In fact, some of the evidence iirc was pretty damning.  There were very young kids who couldn’t tell the difference between what a cartoon character might do and what you might try in real life.  

In that tradition, I used to try to watch the Simpsons with my daughter, but my wife objected because it had so much clearly adult content. ( I think the episode had something to do with Smithers crush on Mr. Burns)  She also pointed out that my daughter didn’t get most of the humor anyway.  South Park tends to be even edgier than the Simpsons.  

I don’t necessarily have an answer for this one.  But when your characters are all line drawings, where and how do you draw the line?

Read more!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bachelor 9 Episode 3 -Dancing With Your Sister (tv review)

Early in the third episode of the Bachelor Rome, I found myself wondering why not just go all the way?  No, I’m not talking about Sadie, who waited all of three shows to tell Prince Lorenzo that if he chose her she could gift him with the kind of seignurial privilege his family hadn’t seen in a good two or three centuries.  I’m thinking they should stop rearranging the deck chairs of ABC’s foundering reality flagship and really take a chance.  Why not the first reality television opera?  Come to think of it, it was the Marriage of Figaro that messed up that whole deal for noble males wanting to hit on their maidenly subjects without having to ask them out first.

They had it teed up.  There was Jami, the event planner from a small town in Texas winning a singing contest, a la American Idol.  Where Idol had Prince perform on its final show of the season, the Bachelor has  Prince Lorenzo.  I have to say though that Prince would make a more interesting Bachelor though I guess MTV covered that one in Flavor of Love.  I also have to say that none of the ladies sounded like candidates to cross over to Idol, now the much more popular reality show.  They stuffed Jami into Julia Roberts’s gown from the movie Pretty Woman, you know the red dress that signalled the shift from streetwalker to romantic.  On top of that, they even reenacted the jewelry scene from said movie.  The promos had asked “Which one of the ladies gets the two million dollar necklace and earrings?”  

I had imagined all this cool stuff a la Love or Money like do you want Prince Lorenzo or the rocks?  It would have been fun to see six women playing tug of war with the necklace while Erica assured the prince that she wasn’t there for a necklace.  But…No!!!!!

When they aired the actual episode, it became “Jami, it’s yours to wear until the end of the evening.”

It should have been poor Jami’s big clue. Pretty Woman was a take on  Cinderf’ingrella, as Laura San Giacomo’s character put it in that movie about how a prostitute can win the heart of a corporate raider.  Actually if you know anything about corporate raiders, they’re a step down for prostitutes even the ones who don’t happen to have a heart of gold.  For the most romantic evening of her life, Jami gets a dog spa magnate from the home shopping network, an opera house with no actual opera just a Vittorio Grigolo concert, and her date who makes faces at her for mentioning that her parents are divorced.


There was one other clue, as Vittorio’s tenor soared over an onstage string quartet.  A saxophone riff appeared in the background which suggests that Jami got the Ashlee Simpson version of a Vittorio Grigolo concert. Andrea Boccelli had a lot more fun when they did the original version of this on American Idol.  

Anyway, Jami’s American Idol Rome princess audition would have been a whole lot better as full blown opera.   Picture Jami singing a solo as she sashays in front of the other ladies in dress, gesturing with both hands to the necklace-Chris Harrison serving as all knowing narrator-a bassoon solo to mark Erica’s comic 4 bar interludes about the value of a college degree-Prince Lorenzo appearing on stage each time to a brass overture singing “I’m such a lucky man and you’re all so beautiful.”  After each sings over the dance scene about their differing experience of the evening,  the strings go atonal for a moment, and the Prince sings “It’s like dancing with my sister, but you’re so lovely.”

Jami then collapses hand over heart and the lyrics to her aria playing through the super-titles, the surviving bachelorettes appear around her to sing their chorus  “One more down. Don’t let me be next. We liked her. She was so nice.” A stagehand then drags Jami and suitcase offstage to end the scene.    

John Adams did Nixon in China as 20th century opera.  The documentarySpell bound at least inspired the Broadway musical, Putnam County Spelling Bee, why not really go Italian and make this the first great 21st century reality tv opera fusion, Il Bachelore?  

Can you imagine how much better Sadie’s wine tasting speech would have been had it been sung?  

“I’m saving myself for the right man.  I’m so serious about it I answered this casting call for a show with fantasy suites.”

Jeanette’s mysterious one on one time could have benefited from the right lighting with Lorenzo singing, “She’s so deep.  This was the perfect conversation. What did she say?”

And imagine Erica’s exit in the hands of the right stage director. “People of my station always want to marry peasants.  They want to be prince charming.”

So who’s left:

Lisa: Getting the bad edit which means that she’ll be around for several shows.  They had her mention the plan yet again then complain that a date with 5 other women wasn’t very romantic, and they had Desiree meta-commenting about Lisa’s sense of entitlement getting on her nerves.

Jeanette:  Jumped into the “good girl” role with her even if you’re a Prince, I’m not going to throw myself at any man bit.  

Desiree: Actually my favorite as she auditions for a place on late night ad rotations for the DVD, Bachelorettes Gone Wild.  Order now and you get a free can of rose-scented spray.

Agnessi:  She open-mouth kisses the guy with fireworks going on all around them. This show is really subtle.  

Jennifer:  “Why’d you become a teacher?  I really love kids.  Wow, that was such a great conversation.  I really feel like I know you know you now.  Here’s your rose.  

Sadie:  “Wow, there must have been a bunch of guys who wanted to hit that.  She must have real character.”  I think this means that if Sadie were homely, being a virgin would have been her fault, but I’m not sure.

I checked with a friend whose daughter just started at Emory in Atlanta.  As far as I can tell there were no Bachelor viewing parties in Erica’s honor there.  You know the bit in Average Joe where the babe puts on a fat suit to check out what the guys are really like?  The whole Erica thing’s got to be something like that.  She’s a spy for Doctor Phil or maybe Lorenzo’s sister.

Okay, I’ll write it in English but say it really slowly with an Italian accent so the producers of the Bachelor will understand me, “You want tv people will talk about again? Instead of a Rose, why not do the French Revolution thing instead, depose the bachelor, declare the bachelorette republic, seize the palace, and jam roses down Chris Harrison’s throat while telling him “Chris we have one rose left where do you want it?” then go out and find some guy who’s actually worth all this trouble.”

Sirlinksalot bachelor stories

other Chancelucky reviews

Read more!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Chancelucky Live and Offline now Online (update)

Okay, the technical lessons continue as I went from blogpost, to live performance with powerpoint, back to online flash presentation based on powerpoint. It's now much more viewable and understandable and no one has to download anything or click on funny buttons to read the text.

One day, it may even be funny. Feel free to comment.

The Karl Rove stories that served as the basis for the slideshow


Read more!

NCVA update Separate Website (volleyball)

(photo courtesy of Arctic Ferret who has nothing to do with Norcal volleyball)

I just wanted to mention that with the help of several members of the group, the NCVA saga now has its own website.

The NCVA posts that appeared here, remain here in the meantime. This should free me up to simply discuss the matter here as someone expressing a personal rather than a group opinion. More important, I'm hoping it lets me get back to writing about volleyball matches and my experience as a parent.

The new site is on my links list and here

I'll say once again that it's been very inspiring to see parents take an interest in this and truly become a team. I couldn't have produced a website with anywhere near the level of sophistication, attention to detail, etc. as If you need a site done for your business, self, etc., I now know where to refer people (it's not me). One of the interesting things is that NCVA spent 200kplus , per their 990,on its own site. The group's site was essentially free.

Part of the parenting process is letting go. The group now includes parents, coaches, club directors, referees, former employees of NCVA, etc. It now has a central point of contact that's not part of a blog that contains posts about reality tv, Defense department briefings, Theobertarianism, etc. There's a part of me as a blogger that's sad to see it go as part of this blog (though I'll keep posting about volleyball from time to time and even sometimes NCVA), but it's a sign that it's also taken on a life of its own.

Some day soon, players and parents in Northern California will get the region they deserve and that they've paid for.

Link to my other volleyball articles


Read more!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Grameen Bank (Investing in Peace)

I want to congratulate Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank for being honored with the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.  While I don’t follow the Nobel prize all that carefully, this one caught my interest because Dr. Yunus is not getting the award for brokering a peace treaty, opposing the proliferation of weapons, or creating a fledgling international peace-keeping body.  All of these are worthy activities btw, but Yunus’s work is something of a departure as far as the committee is concerned.  Rather than deal at the national or international level, Yunus’s bank creates peace at the most fundamental unit imaginable through what is known as “micro-enterprise”.  The idea is simple.  If regular people have their basic needs met, they have less reason to go to war.  

The American-educated Yunus (a PHD from Vanderbilt) created a bank that specializes in lending money to aspiring business owners in his native Bangladesh whom traditional banks considered too high risk because they lack collateral beyond their own skills and will to succeed.  Yunus made a somewhat controversial decision to target women borrowers because research showed that they are far more likely to reinvest any profits they might make in their families.  The first loan recipients were a small group of women who were making furniture out of bamboo.   They turned a small profit, more loans were made, and the Grameen Bank even got into the cell phone business, bringing service to isolated areas of Bangladesh. This has been replicated by the cell phone company Grameen Foundation and expanded to other developing countries.  

I found the committee’s choice fascinating because several years ago I worked on a grant for the Macarthur Foundation that looked at micro-enterprise as an alternative or supplement to welfare in the United States.  The rhetoric was simple enough.  Instead of giving people handouts or even giving them jobs, the notion was that you would encourage them to create jobs and businesses themselves.  Micro-enterprise is one of those odd concepts where progressive and conservative principles came together rather suddenly.  My particular end of it was to marry entrepreneurship for adults to an idea that was at the time in Federal Vocational Education law, all aspects of the industry (AAI), a notion that to teach career skills well all students should learn not just the physical tasks of the job, but the underlying finance, science, management, labor rights, etc. Where traditional vocational education trained workers, AAI sought to foster potential entrepreneurs.  

I still believe very strongly in micro-enterprise, but it appeared to have its limitations.  The two most serious limitations were that it’s not a universal solution for bootstrapping low income communities into the economic mainstream.  First, it depends on a certain level of human resources.  A number of individuals on “welfare” face what they call “multiple barriers to entry”.  Thse range from learning disabilities, addiction problems, family obligations, to language issues, etc.  Although there are many examples of individuals who dealt with all these barriers to start micro-businesses catering parties, selling cleaning services, doing repair, making deliveries, and setting up computers, there are a certain number of individuals who aren’t necessarily capable of developing their own business.  

Second, the average businesses that were developed even when successful tended to be supplemental to existing work rather than so profitable they formed the basis of a career.  I wound up arguing that the flexibility was actually an important feature for young mothers, students, or those who had limited capacity to travel or work regular hours.  I also noted that micro-enterprise had the potential to allow individuals to learn “career skills” by doing and this would likely be more effective and ultimately less expensive than traditional career development activities.  At least in America, the solution to poverty needed more of an infrastructure than just a few thousand well-placed small business loans.  There was still plenty of call for traditional career development counseling, job development, and various social supports.

The Gareem Bank has been more successful than the American attempts at micro-enterprise, but it nonetheless has a mixed history.  I do honestly believe that it is nonetheless a powerful strategy for economic development around the world, but it’s just one of  many strategies needed.

I suspect that the Nobel Peace Prize committee decided to cite Yunus to draw the world’s attention to the fact that there is another path to peace between the Moslem and Western world.  This is a case where American education and in some cases money (though the ideas go back at least to Gandhi on the Indian sub-continent) got applied to creation rather than destruction in the Moslem world.  The committee wanted the world to know that it was endorsing this saner approach to peace.  Imagine if half the money spent on war were spent on giving poor Moslems the means to start their own businesses and support their families.  I suspect far fewer of them would be attracted to jihadist ideas.

The funny thing to me is that I have a hard time imagining a more deeply conservative, pro market, pro capitalist, approach to peace and spreading what many think of as traditional Amercan values than Yunus’s.  It reminds me of one of the great successes in peace-making of the last century, the Marshall Plan, the decision after World War 2 to use US money to help rebuild Europe in general and Germany in particular.  At the time, it brought American prestige and power to a high point.  Just a thought. Compare Yunus's words after being awarded the Nobel Prize to those of our current administration,

"The one message that we are trying to promote all the time, that poverty in the world is an artificial creation. It doesn't belong to human civilization, and we can change that, we can make people come out of poverty and have the real state of affairs. So the only thing we have to do is to redesign our institutions and policies, and there will be no people who will be suffering from poverty. So I would hope that this award will make this message heard many times, and in a kind of forceful way, so that people start believing that we can create a poverty-free world. That's what I would like to do."

Ask yourself which one sounds enlightened?

Read more!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kissing Toads (tv review) the Bachelor 9 episode 2

Once upon a time, in classic fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, a prince came across the sleeping heroine and awoke her with a kiss. So with an Italian-American Prince (no not Michael Corleone) in Lorenzo Borghese on board for the Bachelor Rome, reality-master Mike Fleiss delivered one of the great Bachelor moments in installment two. Our Reality Prince, who has a royal profile oddly similar to Prince Charles (may be a bit of truth to this inbreeding stuff), has a beach date with six lovely young bachelorettes. One bachelorette, Kim has too much vodka makes several on camera attractive noises, then falls asleep while waiting for the Prince to select her for one on one time.

The Prince comes upon our bikini clad Sleeping One Off Beauty and instead of sweetly kissing her back to consciousness in the style of the fairy tale, he chooses to tickle her face with the tip of his index finger. Our heroine awakes and she begins using language that I’ve never heard in any fairy tale. Midway through her tirade about “What the #$# wrong with taking a nap. Who the #$#* are you to &&#$ laugh at me instead of with me….” Kim, the aspiring princess from Southern California, who like Snow White has a day job in interior design, then realizes that she’s swearing in front of his highness, double takes, and rather impressively improvises with “Oh wow, I thought you were the waiter.”

The noble Prince, who in these modern times spends his working time serving his people by promoting a line of royally-endorsed pet spa products (I’m going to have to retire from reviewing reality tv if just reading the promo copy is going to keep being this much better than the things I come up with) exhibits admirably royal charm and politesse by telling her “It’s no big deal, same thing happened last week when I was at Buckingham Palace. I took a cocktail waitress from Paramus as my date. Nice girl, don’t remember her name, but nice girl just had a little too much champagne and threw up all over Prince Harry’s shoes.”

CL: “Wow, the queen invited you to the palace?”

LB: “ She has a lot of dogs and I sent her a year’s supply.”

CL: “I didn’t know she’s fond of dogs.”

LB: “Well she did ask me to ship it all to Prince Charles, something about it being Lady Camilla’s birthday.”

Sorry, back again. The political correctness police brought me in for questioning for some reason.
Speaking of PC, it’s a shame about modern times, if ever I’d seen an “Off with her head” moment, this was it. These days, all that happens is they don’t get an invitation to the ball in the form of a rose. If Lorenzo were an old-fashioned prince he’d have had prospective princess Kim taken to Guantanomo, water-boarded, denied a right to trial, then disappeared until she was ready for a show like “Marry My Dad”.

Okay, let’s be honest, the Bachelor’s been struggling ever since Oprah got involved with casting. At the Bachelor’s peak, America was choosing which shades of pink went best with Trista and Ryan’s wedding and people were ordering cases of Firestone wine by the truckload. After that, it’s been Bob Guiney conning Mary Delgado into the fantasy suite, Jesse Palmer connecting with Trish (the Terrell Owens of Bachelorettes) on the fly pattern then having to put her on waivers, going to bars with Jerry O’Connell’s brother as he discovered he really wanted to settle down, a recycled Jenn choosing herself instead of Dylan or Brandon (whoops wrong show), and the diplomatic but McDonald’s craving Doctor Travis Stork. The Bachelor franchise has been notably erratic for the last few years when it comes to delivering Fairy Tale endings. With a brief detour to Byron hooking Mary Delgado, the lack of actual romance on the show has been dealing it a lingering Nielsen death.

There were still great moments in those shows which may account for the fact that they keep rolling out new installments.

1) Meredith taking Bob to the cemetery to visit her recently deceased grandmother. My theory is she did this to prevent Bob from trying to stick his tongue down her throat again, but who knows.
2) Lanny’s mom explaining Christian family values to Meredith.
3) Meredith telling Matthew she wanted a ring.
4) Meredith discovering on her home visit that one of her choices happened to be unemployed and hadn’t mentioned it. (wow come to think of it Meredith was like a magnet for this stuff)
5) Tara’s dad doing an impromptu review of Bowling for Colombine with Jesse Palmer
6) Jesse telling a group dinner date that he was ready for romance on a reality show now that he’d had all like a thousand one night stands.
7) Sarah not B speculating that people discriminate against her because she’s too beautiful after being rejected by the less famous brother of the guy who played the fat kid in Stand By Me.
8) Susan informing Travis Stork on their first date that she’s a “Smitten Kitten”
9) Jenn dumping a shocked Jerry on a very special extra episode of the Bachelorette.
10) Learning that Krisily Kennedy’s grandmother is Rhode Island’s raunchier version of Doctor Ruth.

Fleiss going literal with the fairy tale part is a stroke of genius. Of course, the last time America got excited about a Prince getting married, Charles was marrying Diana, and we know too well what happened. With villa, helicopters, evening gowns, and the promise of romance an actual prince, Mike Fleiss alternates seamlessly between the sentimental and the sleazy. Lorenzo Borghese appears to be the perfectly cast for the Bachelor 9’s magical question, “Is this a fairy tale prince or is the one from Macchiavelli?”

One moment he’s telling Erica, the Paris Hilton DD wannabe, “I don’t prejudge people, it’s what’s in someone’s heart that matters,” and it makes you start seeing Lorenzo on the cover of one of those romance novels that usually have Fabio on them (whoops wrong show again, but that was the single best moment in Average Joe). Personally, I wonder if Erica is just some sort of plant rather than a real contestant. Later in the show, two of the ladies sneak into the prince’s bedroom, examine his underwear then jump into his bed. The noble prince discovers them, jumps onto the bed between them, and well I don’t remember any lap dances in those fairy tales. Of course, the damsels of choice in fairy tales haven’t generally spent their alone time with said prince letting him know that “she’s prepared to do it any time anywhere once they’re a couple” or inviting his highness to compare tattoos, “See your highness, I had your royal coat of arms tattooed on my left breast as a symbol of my devotion to the crown.”

The rest of the time, he wanders the show with a set speech that’s somewhere between Chauncey Gardiner and the current president, “Wow, I’m out with all these beautiful women. I’m a lucky guy.”

It’s not a bad speech, it’s just not all that princely, though keep in mind that this is a prince who makes his living on the home shopping network. If you happen to know the Borghese history, one of them became pope some five hundred years ago then appointed all of his relatives to positions of power within the church. As royal families go, the Borghese custom isn’t necessarily that they got where they got because they earned it. Of course, this guy is having a good time. If he hadn’t gotten cast by Mike Fleiss, he’d be out hawking dog booties with his sister. Come to think of it, if the prince were a dog, he’d look something like a greyhound.

Okay so there are 9 left:

Lisa, has gotten 2 roses and has already done the my marital clock is ticking in solo interview when the Prince says “you know I think it’s weird when people have a timeline for their personal lives,” she goes into the “Don’t you just hate people like that.”

Definite final 4 material.

Aghnese, I love the bilingual subplot. She kisses him on the lips after the guy says in their earlier meeting. “Tell me how to say in Italian -You’re a handsome dude even though you have no upper lip. I want to kiss you.”
She’s very pretty, but he acts like she’s the toad and he’s the princess. Great reality tv. She needs to stay to the final 4.

Erica, and you wonder how 60% of America still thinks Saddam had something to do with 9/11?
I’m pretty sure this is Trish in a blonde wig etc. “Hey, I’m a socialite, we always hop on the back of scooters and tell strange guys about everyone we’ve ever slept with.”
Do you think her Dad’s in practice with that doctor lady who told Travis that her eggs were rotting?

Jennifer, I think they’re selling her as the token normal one. Almost certain final 4 material as the nice girl.

Sadie, I like the whole virgin plotline. I think the show might go Da Vinci Code with this one. Perhaps they’ll have a date in the Vatican and be accosted by agents of Opus Dei.

Desiree, Now appearing at a gentleman’s club near you, the former almost Princess Desiree

Gina, Has he even spoken to this one?

Jami, she’ll hang in just so the show can dramatize the “Jami didn’t go to college thing." Fleiss can turn the story into a modern Cinderella with her, "Pretty Woman" was a huge hit.

Also I figure Lorenzo wants the ultimate fantasy date with Jami, Desiree, and a can of whipped cream all at the same time.

Jeanette, they could have slipped in a total stranger when she got her rose and I wouldn’t have noticed.

Btw, has any black or Asian person ever made it into the third week or gotten kissed on this show?

Somehow, happily ever after seems just as far away on this show as when we left everyone in Nashville.

Sirlinksalot bachelor stories

other Chancelucky reviews

Read more!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Chancelucky Live and Offline 2 (what I learned)

Okay after considerable work, I converted my completely revamped version of Promoting Patriot Minutes to a Powerpoint slide show and delivered it in a live comedy reading last Friday.  No, I didn’t bring down the house, but I’m still alive and learned a lot from the experience.  Here's the version that got delivered. (a friend was nice enough to Convert Power Point to Flash for me and it looks great, it’s almost worth a post of its own to talk about learning to move Powerpoint online).  If you look at it, be sure to turn on the notes option, otherwise you’ll just see a bunch of funny looking pictures without text. Should you look at the slideshow, please let me know if you can open it, read text, etc.

  Also the text needs to be scrolled for some of the longer slides.  

The nine performances ranged from simply reading a funny written essay aloud to a full on play with sets, lines, and actors.  I  had the good fortune of sharing the stage with some very talented writers/performers.  I’m not that certain that they felt the same way though :}.  I won’t name them because it’s possible they’d rather not be tied to me in any way.   

Some things I learned.  

  1. I’m very compulsive, so I kept editing and adding material all the way up to performance time.  Actually, the newer material felt fresher when I did it, but I needed to spend much more time cutting than I did adding.  For example, I threw in a bit about using Reagan’s list ( a right wing site)  instead of Craig’s list to find a job.  Reagan’s list isn’t very well known because people confuse it with Meagan’s list which is understable because so many of the names on the two lists are the same.  

  1. A blog audience is very different from a live audience in more than the obvious ways.  A live audience is both somewhat captive while blog readers can click for a fraction of a second decide they don’t like you and leave.  Live audience members have more varied tastes and you’re sort of stuck with one another.  

I had the misfortune of heading off stage right after my performance and walking straight into a lady who had walked out on me who began telling me that I had smeared Dick Cheney and Anne Coulter and that it wasn’t fair because they couldn’t fight back (when I blog, I don’t really have captive audience members, if you don’t like something I say you comment or more generally just click to someone else’s page).  This was compounded by the fact that I was complimenting the guy who’d gone immediately before me on his performance and he rather pointedly didn’t reciprocate in any way.  

I was the only person in the show who chose to do political material and either I really really sucked or that’s one of the risks of doing satire with a strong point of view.

  1. I’m virtually certain that I was right to go much more visual.  I underestimated how much pictures do, however, speak for themselves and generally overpower words.  The least successful bits were the more text heavy slides.  When in doubt when you go live, shorter is better.  In addition, I think when we write it helps to go harder –edged and even a bit more shrill to evoke a reader reaction.  Live, may be the exact opposite.  

  1. I needed to work out the physical mechanics better than I did.  I chose to set up the LCD projector, operate the slide changer, and read from written notes all at once.  This required three hands instead of two.  I also had a bit at the end that called for a cell phone.  I forgot to bring the cell phone on stage with me so had to improvise.  When you’re live, all of this matters.

  1. Really good comedy folk I suspect know how to shape their performance to the room.  They can be ruthless about cutting material, riffing when something’s going well, shortening, lengthening as needed to build an audience response.  I was way too dependent on the “writing” process rather than the performance side of things which always involves adjusting for the “acoustic” of the room.  I needed to be much quicker about just abandoning stuff.  

  1. I’m not sure if I’d go live again.  Well, I’d do it if asked, but I don’t know that I’d pursue it.  Nonetheless, it was really helpful to me in my middle-age to try to stretch.

  1. One of the interesting things, I’ve always suspected that much of my blog audience is a good bit younger than I am (who isn’t younger than I am?).  The one person who came to me afterwards to mention anything he actually specifically found funny was 18.  Otherwise, the entire audience was middle-aged or older.  I’m remain generally immature in many ways, so I suspect my “blog” self is much younger than my physical self.  Perhaps there’s some html code locked in some virtual attic somewhere that ages while my blog-self stays younger than it’s supposed to be.  Fwiw…by young I mean not baby boomers.  I don’t think I’d go over well at all among the generation.

8)  The big thing I learned was that I needed to trust my own ability to improvise and fill a whole lot more than “writing” per se.  Live needs to feel live.  

The Karl Rove stories that served as the basis for the slideshow

Read more!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Foley and School Shootings

(I tried to get through Mark Foley's e-mails, but the pages were stuck together)

      Three school shootings in the United States in a week and congressman Mark Foley ( R) Florida resigns after he got himself outed for trying to write a page turner online.  How does this fit with “They hate us for our freedom?”
     Am I the only one who wonders, if we can’t keep our own children safe either in school or from their congressman, what the heck are we doing?  Was it No Child Left Behind or No Child Left Unmolested?

     I know I’m supposed to blame this on the various troubled souls who wandered into schools in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Pennsylvania over the last several days.  Fwiw, when I used to visit inner-city schools around the country, a lot of them had metal detectors and secure entrances.  All these current school shootings though took place in rural and suburban areas.  In general, the perpetrators in school shootings tend to be male and more than likely white, but for the most part the real connecting thread is that the three killers this month had easy access to guns.  

“Miller said Roberts was apparently preparing for a long siege, arming himself with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol, a 12-gauge shotgun and a rifle, along with a bag of about 600 rounds of ammunition, two cans of smokeless powder, two knives and a stun gun on his belt. He also had rolls of tape, various tools and a change of clothes.”

Ten years ago, I wrote a column about school violence that argued that people accept the idea that occasionally individuals “go postal” because the post office itself is dreary, insane, and inhumane, but no one was looking at public schools and asking whether there was something causing the kids to go “postal” or “standardized testal”.  This latest run though has little to nothing to do with what’s going inside our schools.  In one case, a milk truck driver picked a public school filled with Amish kids as an easy target.  In the Colorado case, it was a similar thing.  Only the Wisconsin case had a student or staff member actually shooting people.  Whatever criticisms I might have about schools, these had nothing to do with schools dehumanizing kids and staff alike.  

It’s simpler than that.  We’re letting crazy people get guns easily, lots of guns.  On the other end, we’re cutting mental health funding.  It’s not the kind of national security that involves terrorists blowing up buildings.  In this case, the bombs are inside people’s minds and souls and these potential terror-makers are literally everywhere in America with especially high concentrations between Virginia and Maryland.  

It’s tempting to exaggerate here, but I won’t.  I’ll just ask this question, “How committed are we really to protecting our children or anyone else’s for that matter?”

Read more!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Chancelucky Live and Direct (but maybe not so funny)

(Actual Comedian Steven Wright is on the left. He won't be there, but he's manic compared to me.)
     My basketball friend, Guy Biederman, who is a longtime writer and writing teacher, decided to stage a small comedy reading in our town.  I sent him an e-mail that said “Would you consider letting me take part?”

Guy wrote back, “I didn’t know that you wrote humor? I would have asked you had I known. ”

     I don’t think he meant it that way, but one of the toughest things about posting online is that when you write something meant to be funny there’s usually no way to know if anyone found it funny or if anyone actually read it at all.

After I think another couple of Guy’s readers backed out, he let me in.  I first thought it would be a simple matter of taking one of my Karl Rove Adventures and reading it aloud, but it occurred to me that what reads funny online sometimes doesn’t read funny out loud especially in front of sixty strangers who are expecting to laugh.  It makes me curious about the Chicago comedy readings that Bellarossa has mentioned from time to time on her blog.  Like me, she thinks of herself more as a “writer” than a performer.  Unlike her, I don’t generally consider myself a comedy writer, but I frequently try to be funny.  

My wife and kids usually don’t find anything I write funny, so they’re not a good gauge.  I know that violates many people’s notions of healthy relationships. It’s generally considered easier if you share a sense of humor, but we do find things to laugh at together.  It just doesn’t tend to be things I happen to write. Actually, my wife does laugh when I write about American Idol or volleyball.  She’s just not big on the political satire.  
The kids are too horrified by the fact that I keep a blog at all to find any of it funny.

Hardly anyone I know offline knows that I keep a blog.  Every now and then I drop a line or a full on riff from one of my posts  into lunch conversation, but no one laughs.  I started thinking about this over the weekend and it scared the heck out of me.  Especially since, the one planned performance is this Friday.  The room has a max occupancy of fifty-five people so I figure how badly can I bomb?  Besides, there will be seven other performances.  I’m pretty sure no one I know will show up.  

While I’ve often tried to be funny in my posts, most of what I write isn’t solely meant to be funny.  As I culled through the sixty or so posts that I’d labeled "humor", it occurred to me that most of them were too tied to old news stories, some weren’t all that funny  even to me, and some  like my movie scripts wouldn’t come across in a solo reading.  

I settled on something called "Promoting Patriot Minutes" which is tied to last year’s FISA revelations, but thanks to W and company has become topical (The Military Commissions Act) once again.  For the last several days, I’ve been translating the original blog post into a Powerpoint slide show, Daily Show style.  The first thing I noticed that my blogging has a tendency to jump from subject to subject.  The second thing I noticed is that many of my jokes depend on listener’s being able to pick up references that are pretty commonplace in the blogosphere, but relatively obscure offline.  For example, I assumed that people knew who the Kos  is a reference to Markos Moulitsas Zuniga not a misspelled reference to Heathcliff Huxtable and that it’s a common tactic for Republicans to blame things on Bill Clinton.  

One of the trickier aspects of all this is that I’ve had to convert a lot of verbal jokes into visual jokes about “red screens”, the terrors of cell phones, etc.  Of course, there’s the whole bit about my not screwing up the delivery itself.  Yikes….I have three days to figure out how to be funny in person.

Read more!

NCVA4All (parent group faq) volleyball

(photo courtesy of the arctic ferret, who has nothing to do with Norcal volleyball)

Here at last is the Faq that tries to explain where things are with the NCVA and what we're seeking. Again, to be clear, I didn't write this myself. Several members of the group did the heavy lifting. We are also in the process of opening up a dedicated website for the NCVA4all group so it'll be easier to follow the issues, developments, etc. without having to sort through my other posts.

Once that happens, I'll continue to link new postings here, but will also have a referrer to the NCVA4all site. These next few weeks should be interesting.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:     Are all coaches and adults who have NCVA-sanctioned contact with our kids screened?

A:     Who knows? We are told this is a private matter for the Board and that our kids are safe. If you'd like to see how other regions deal with this issue, look at this web page: and click on "2006 Background Check Cleared List".

Q:     Who is the NCVA? I thought we were all members through club participation.

A:     You are not a member of the NCVA, and neither are any of the volleyball players! Only the Board of Directors are members; currently 5 people. This includes the Commissioner, who theoretically answers to the Board -- but she is also on the Board. USAV avoids  this potential conflict of interest by stating in its by-laws that no paid staff person may serve on the BOD. NCVA does not follow this practice.

Q:     I thought the NCVA was a non-profit 501(c).3 public-benefit organization.

A:     They are. We are making an effort to determine if they comply with the accompanying requirements.

Q.  Aren’t board meetings supposed to be open except for special closed sessions?

A:      The NCVA Board states they are always open to communication, that there are empty seats at NCVA board meetings, and that anyone can come see one for them. However, the last board meeting was not publicized in advance. The meeting before that, in June, included a presentation by our group. The rest of the meeting was closed.

Q:     Have you actually tried to attend a board meeting?

A:     Yes. We approached the NCVA in the spring of 2006 to ask to observe a board meeting. The Commissioner (who screens all calls and communications for the Board) asked us why we wanted to do that, and suggested that we meet with her instead. We did, on two occasions, and it was useful. However, we felt that it was important to speak directly with the Board in order to have our concerns communicated clearly.

Q:     What if every crackpot disgruntled parent went to every meeting of the Board to complain about lack of toilet paper in the bathrooms? Nothing would ever get done!

A:     Those of us concerned with the chronic safety and security issues affecting players at NCVA-sanctioned events and facilities feel that their repeated requests for info and clarification about these issues from the commissioner have gone unanswered. We firmly believe in open and constructive communications with the NCVA, which would include a way to communicate with the Board without being screened by the Commissioner.

Q:     Has any interested party who is not an NCVA Board member observed any board discussions or deliberations about these issues yet?

A:     No one knows, except the Board. When this group was finally granted permission to attend a board meeting, after multiple communications and two face-to-face meetings with the Commissioner, they were limited to 4 attendees, given 30 minutes to present, and then asked to leave. To see the content of our presentation to the NCVA Board, click on this link:

Q:     So, what happened?

A:     The group who presented their concerns and recommendations to the board did not hear anything from the board for over three months. After a couple of months went by with no response, three individual members of the group each sent a short, polite email to the Chairperson of the Board, Diane Mazzei, requesting information.

Q:     And then what happened?

A:     After another month we received a letter from her which largely stated that all our questions had already been answered multiple times by other people, including USAV staff, or were addressed in the newly-revised 2006/2007 Junior Handbook.

Q:     Well, have your questions actually been answered by the Board or the Commissioner?

A:     No, not the important ones. Some specific yes-or-no questions have been answered in a general manner. There is a complete chronological accounting of all communications back and forth between the group of concerned parents and the NCVA at this link:

Q:     Who are you guys?

A:     NCVA 4 ALL started as a group of parents of players from a number of clubs throughout the NorCal region who share a common concern about the safety and security of our kids. We were galvanized into action by the conditions at the 17/18’s qualifier in San Jose for the 2006 season (the notorious "tent"). Our ranks have expanded beyond parents to include other stakeholders in northern California volleyball.

Q:     Whatever happened with the San Jose fiasco? Did the NCVA get their money back?

A:     The Commissioner indicated that she was vigorously pursuing the San Jose Convention Center (SJCC) to force them to give back to the NCVA a substantial refund of the rental fee for the substandard conditions which the Commissioner claims was the fault of the SJCC.

Q:     Was there ever a refund, and did it go back to the clubs and players who were actually inconvenienced in some form or suffered ankle sprains while landing in a pothole?

A: No one in the group of concerned constituents who asked about it has heard anything further.  

Q:     Did anyone ask how this allegedly unsafe and inadequate facility (20+ sport-courts on a wavy, unpaved pothole-filled parking lot under a giant tent) could have been reviewed and approved by NCVA staff prior to the tournament?

A:     Yes, and there has never been an answer to that question, other than, "We are all doing the best that we can."

Q:     So what does "NCVA 4 ALL" really want?  How are your efforts going to go beyond complaining and whining?

A:  We want the NCVA to thrive, and the following actions are necessary to this end:
*Enforcement of USAV Health and safety standards and procedures as outlined in USAV documents.
*Published NCVA Board agendas, meeting times, and minutes.
*A representative board system where members are nominated and voted on by the constituents.
*Financial accountability.
*Improved communication.

Q: So, where do we stand?

A:     The NCVA has made no commitment to adopt or enforce specific health and safety standards and procedures. They have clarified some matters in their handbooks and have once again changed the tryout system (perhaps in response to our requests, but not in any way we recommended). They have said they will continue to address and consider suggestions and input from all stakeholders within the region.

Thus far, nothing prevents the repeat of some of the most egregious incidents of the last few years. The board informed this constituent group that there has been no use of the due process procedures with respect to background checks. USAV minutes (right there on the USAV website) reflect a concern raised in the NorCal region about an individual who was involved with a club who is a convicted sex offender. It’s quite likely that the person in question never asked for “due process” with NCVA, however.

The Board is on record as saying it does not share meeting minutes, agendas, or meeting times and locations. It has not clarified whether the public may attend board meetings, but as a practical matter they discourage it. The Chair's only letter to us did indicate that they might consider the possibility in the future, but it is current policy not to share these basic records of what the NCVA, a non-profit corporation, does. The USAV and many large regional volleyball associations post all of this information on their websites for the world to see, but NCVA has not chosen to follow that example.

Under the current system, only existing board members may nominate new board members. NCVA has confirmed that it has a non-representative Board and that the only legal members of NCVA are the 5 Board members. The 10,000+ people who pay for "membership" in NCVA each year have no rights or standing as members within the organization itself.

The Board now says that it plans to add a "parent board member." In fact, they met in August, unannounced, and had an individual unknown to us (presumably their chosen candidate "parent") attend their unannounced meeting.  

The constituent group had already identified several candidate parents for nomination to the Board and made known its desire to process these nominations. In her September letter to us, Ms. Mazzei declined to nominate any of these parents and said she had passed the request on to other members of the Board. We have received no further indications of action.

Our recommendation for independent financial audits has been completely ignored to date.

The NCVA has promised an “open letter” to the NorCal region about communications. Other than that and the slightly revised tryout policy, there have been no publicly-acknowledged measures to explain any specific incidents, respond to itemized recommendations we have made, or make any other changes to the way NCVA operates.  

Link to my other volleyball articles

Read more!