01 September 2014

11 May 2014

Charitable giving should be shrouded in mystery ... n'est pas?

Dear Reader, an engrossing article to be found/read over at Bloomberg by one Zachary Mider.  Loved every second of this petite mystery.  To be enjoyed on a wonderfully languid and relaxing "Happy Mother's Day!" day. Worth the read, I promise.  Link to Bloomberg below the tease/fold.  
The $13 Billion Mystery Angels  By Zachary R. Mider May 08, 2014
For many years, a Los Angeles psychoanalyst to the stars named Milton Wexler led the fight against Huntington’s disease, a rare and fatal congenital illness. His Hereditary Disease Foundation didn’t have much money, so he attracted scientists to his cause by inviting them to parties where they could mingle with his celebrity friends.

In 1997 a single donor began charting a new direction for the research effort into Huntington’s. He poured millions and eventually hundreds of millions of dollars into an aggressive search for a cure. At first he worked with Wexler’s organization, then split off and established his own network of nonprofit foundations. He hired a former banker named Robi Blumenstein to run them. In place of Wexler’s salons, where the talk had flowed freely from chromosomes to the arts, Blumenstein offered conferences with PowerPoint presentations on promising therapies and partnerships with major drugmakers such as Pfizer (PFE). “The word on the street was, wow, this is great. There’s this rich guy who’s creating this virtual biotech that’s tackling H.D.,” says Nathan Goodman, a scientist in Seattle. “My God, our prayers have been answered.”

By 2011 the donor was spending more than $100 million a year on Huntington’s, more than the National Institutes of Health was investing in a cure. Like everyone else, Goodman was grateful for the infusion of money—the disease had killed his father-in-law. He nevertheless found it frustrating that he couldn’t talk to the donor about his spending priorities. He says he grew more curious when he noticed Blumenstein at research conferences accompanied by a middle-aged, bearded man. A few years ago in Palm Springs, Calif., Goodman says, Blumenstein introduced the man to a group of attendees as the “donor’s representative.” He gave the man’s name as “Andrew.”

The unknown man’s donations to the fight against Huntington’s, it turns out, were just a small part of his generosity. 

(continue reading at Bloomberg!)

10 April 2014

the 4th Hour in the shade of a tree

April No. 10

just stay, at this hour.  let the light stop where it is.
a moment more, and it is changed.
mood, sentiment, breathless hope exhaled.

pull on the razor sharp hands of the clock.  stop time’s train in its narrow gauge.
for when history’s momentum jerks back clanging against this perfect setting,
a hazard’s worth of future turns its gaze back toward us.
with all of his cousins of hurry-ups and urgents, plying us for

our moment.  here. lovely and never to be again.

04 March 2014

I Know You, A$$hole ... Putin's Russia

In the words of Gene Hackman from The Royal Tenenbaums:  "I know you, asshole!" Rather, we know you, Putin's Russia.  Royal Tenenbaum is having an early morning leisurely smoke, looking out the 3rd story window of his manse, joined by his aide-de -camp "the Pagoda," when he flicks a butt out the window and, looking down, spies Eli Cash (Owen Wilson) defenestrating himself through a lower-level window.  

Just prior to Royal's highly appropriate vituperation toward the unctuous Eli, he asks his pal Pagoda (RIP, Kuman Pallana), "what's that jackass doing?"  And so it is with Putin's Russia.  We first wonder what is this third-world jackass doing?  Then we remember all too well that we know this boorish turd in the punch bowl all too well. We're all too familiar with the current Russian kleptocracy of corrupt oligarchs and former Soviet apparatchiks who have been and will always be happy to keep Russia a third-world coulda-been-a-contender -- albeit one that retains an atavistic and powerful hegemony in the region.  

Statecraft is the expert policy maker's chess game. And, Obama is not a nuanced policy guy; sorry, but he isn't.  And, he doesn't have the best folks around him to fill-in the gaps as most recent presidents have had.  He's got Rice, Clinton and Kerry.  Whilst Hillary and Kerry are terrifically smart, in my opinion they're policy wonks domestique, more comfortable at home carving out a beachhead for their power bases.  And, as much as I admire the career track of Susan Rice, she's not of the same caliber as these cats:

  • Carter had Warren Christopher and Z. Brzezinski;
  • Reagan had Schultz, Powell and Poindexter;
  • Bush 41 had Baker and Scowcroft;
  • Bill Clinton ("Inter-Bush" as Alec Baldwin once observed) had Christopher and Albright;
  • Bush 43 had Powell and Condi Rice.  

Obama 44 remains an activist and a great speechifier, but he's also the first ADHD president the US has ever had -- why hasn't anyone opined on this yet? -- who doesn't have the stamina, nor the attention span to play this foreign policy chess game out to its required long-game length.  Give Obama a few setbacks on his ObamaCare and before you know it, the family is off to a vacation, or, more likely, BHO is off on another record-setting round of golf (not for his low scoring, but for the number of rounds he's gotten in over the last 5 years).

The Bush doctrine, as ably articulated by Sec. Condi Rice around the world, was to support nascent democratic movements in their respective climes and environs.  Especially those trying to shake free the shackles of tyranny and despotism.  However, Bush's foreign policy wasn't a 70's style CIA backed sub rosa, seeking to undermine sovereign governments, but he was in the business of nation building, which ultimately cost taxpayers at home untold billions still to be calculated.  But, Bush was strong and played the long-game to its logical end.

Now, am I advocating US involvement in the Crimea or the region?  Uh, no.  I wasn't in favor of Syria involvement, nor was I really all that keen on Iraq, truth be told.  Afghanistan was a tough call, but a necessary quagmire, and I'm glad we're getting out of Dodge as we speak.  If there is a distinct, limited, and well articulated US interest, with enumerated goals, then let's cowboy up and get the fugly done and done, because in this big, bad world, the grownups have to make tough decisions and move on.

Because Obama has been sized-up by Putin and his cadre of former KGB hacks now "legit" entrepreneurs, as being skittish on US involvement -- especially in light of Syria -- Putin will do whatever he wants in Ukraine and Obama will do little to nothing to reply in-kind.  Obama needs to realize that Ukraine and Poland are similar in their beginnings.  A feel-good ground swell, accompanying street demonstrations, with leaders from within risking life and limb to speak out -- not puppet proxies placed in Soviet Satellites by Russian leaders arrogating for themselves strategic territories.  Putin wants 1989 to go away.  He wants to pretend it never happened, and that the "domino theory" can never work in reverse, with regions and people groups laying claim for the first time a right to representative governments, whatever form they may take.

Note, Dear Reader, if you haven't seen this quaint Wes Anderson mise-en-scène, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.  The Royal Tenenbaums can be found on eBay or Amazon.com for purchase or rent.