Sunday, December 31, 2006


1. Tom and SirSaunders quit their jobs at the end of 2007 to manage successful "Junto Boys" Fine Wine and Spirits store.
2. Dude, finally fed up with California, lays down the law to wife Marci. Dude soon moves into guest room at SirSaunders house on weekdays, then Tom's on weekends. Kids delighted by sudden change in routine.
3. E is given a "Genius Grant" by the Carnegie Foundation and takes dream job at Heritage Foundation think tank.
4. Swish wakes up and realizes it is 2007. Decides to devote more time to slots and eating.
5. Dick Cheney dies of sudden heart attack. Rush Limbaugh ascends to Vice-Presidency. Suddenly Bush is educated on what a conservative is.
6. Hillary throws hat into the ring officially to make a run for president. Names Monica as running mate.
7. Iraq becomes even more intensely chaotic after sudden US troop build up. Dem's cut funding to military. US forces withdraw. Iran invades both Iraq and Kuwait, creating "United Republic of Islam" now holding 78% of worlds oil reserves. Dem's blame Bush for "not doing more."
8. First Earth like planet revolving around another star is discovered.
9. Sirsaunders becomes governor of the first lunar colony.
10. Junto Boys becomes powerful political Action Committee after Tom wins lotto and funds Junto Boys aspirations.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


That's what I heard a guy say at the table next to ours at Steak and Ale Friday Night. We were out shopping for Christmas dinner and stopped by to let someone else cook. Next to us was the 25ish everypundit who was holding court next to a guy and a girl his age and a man that could have been a tagalong father. Our pundit was talking at a level that he obviously wanted others to hear. You see, Bush mislead the American people and now we're losing this war in Iraq. If more people were informed about this then Bush would surely be impeached. Nobody is watching CNN.

I said, "Trish, are you listening to that guy? This is why Bush's approval numbers hover around 20%."

Now I showed great restraint in not saying anything. Decorum means letting blowhards be blowhards and that's probably why so few people have confronted my bombastic public opinions. Speaking up won't change anyone's mind, but the urge to do so is still deep within me. The audacity of public confrontation is fun because you can feel the adrenaline the moment you decide to speak the first word. The mystery of what someone might say if confronted makes it all worth it.

In this case, he probably had a little speech prepared for a direct confrontation. But what might he have said if I commented, "I voted for Bush. But I thought the war would be over by now." He'd probably reiterate much of what he said prior. If I followed up by saying, "What's it like over there now?"

Would he fall into the trap of telling me how it is or would he say he doesn't know? If he presumed to tell me how it is, I could simply point out that he doesn't know anything but what some newsman told him. CNN, the same news organization that admitted that it failed to report the whole truth during Saddam's reign for fear of losing their credentials? Al Qaeda has openly admitted beating the Republicans in the 2006 election through their use of the media. E's recent post about Santorum sums it up. If we had the current casualty-focused media during World War II we would have been forced into a settled peace with Hitler instead of unconditional surrender.

But the real question is whether or not to speak up in these situations. The answer lies in the ratio between how much fun it is as the time and how many frowns it will produce from the wife the rest of the evening. Just that look in my eyes brought a begging Trish that I say nothing. After all, it is Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Now it's easy for me to bemoan America's lack of resolve to lose 3,001 lives in the war on terror. I won't be called to fight and neither will my kids. But that does not mean I forfeit my right to an opinion.

I saw a young man in the airport recently who had lost both arms and both legs in combat, and any problem I may have is pathetically puny by comparison. But that does not forfeit my right to an opinion, and my opinion is that our lack of will to wage war, our lack of will to sacrifice American lives for the good of the nation and the world, to sacrifice x actual lives to prevent or stave off x+y potential deaths, is going to have grave consequences here and abroad--consequences that will ultimately mandate war at a far greater cost in terms of lives, dollars and anxiety.

Let's say we've lost 3,000 soldiers in combat. In just the 10 most deadly battles of the US Civil War, 288,776 troops were killed, so at present we have lost about 1/100th of that subtotal, or a cent on the dollar. Yes, every life is precious, and yes, all the rest, but that does not shut down the discussion. In war some of your own get killed, and there is no other way to win a war, shock and awe notwithstanding.

Having a foothold in the region, and having influence over who receives the massive wealth from those oil reserves, is vitally important to our national interests and to global security. Absent our will/resolve/testosterone to assert our will on the ground, the world is about to become an extremely dangerous place.

War is hell. Fine, true. Every life is a treasure, yes. But war does not increase death. Each is appointed once to die, whether in bed or on the battlefield, and some deaths are more noble than others. I would still like to see some overwhelming military force, and let the political chips fall where they may. It is not too late to kill as many bad guys as possible before beginning the pullout, and the day after Christmas is not too soon to deploy.

Santorum took positions on the issues, fought the popular consensus the media helped create, and lost big, but he is still one of the only politicians talking about the real issues and making any sense. Now, heading out of office, he becomes Newt with opinions on foreign policy.

Following are excerpts from his recent interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Pittsburgh’s conservative answer to the Post-Gazette).

Trib: In an earlier interview, you were very confident when you said you would rather lose your seat than give up your convictions about Iran and the overall situation in the Middle East. On some level do you think that people do not get the potential gravity of the situation that is rapidly developing there?

We have faced the great secular threats of fascism and militarism on the part of the Japanese and the Germans in the Second World War, and the Germans in the First World War. Those wars were wars of secular powers. The Soviet Union, that was a secular power that wanted to dominate the world and impose either a fascist or Marxist society.

Here, you have an enemy that is indifferent whether they live or die. Their purpose is not necessarily to control the world, but to conquer the world and if they do die, well that is perfectly fine with them. Death is a desired aim, not a tragic consequence.

... (If) you do not understand the spiritual realm, then you don't have any understanding of what motivates and drives these people, and you have no idea on how to confront them and defeat them.

Trib: Do you think that, as a country, we are too detached from the war and that plays in with our disconnect and discontent with it?

I have thought about this a lot. How do you connect the war to the people without artificially imposing burdens upon people that are not necessary?

I have said this in a lot of my speeches: The enemy understands us better than we understand them. They understand that if that if they continue to do this, the American people will grow weary of it and want to stop.

And that is exactly what they want -- they want us to get out, they want us to stop, and they want an opportunity to gain resources and power around the Middle East and around the world. So that, in turn, they can become an even greater threat to us.

Trib: Explain the issue of energy security, why it is so critical.

The Left always says that we went to war for oil, and everybody on the Right always gets upset about that. But in many respects, it is true. It is not that we went to war to get their oil, but we went to war to make sure that oil and the energy markets were stable and available for the world.

These folks use oil as a weapon. Chavez, Ahmadinejad -- both have been very clear that oil is a weapon. And the fact is that we are sending over 60 percent of our money out to foreign nations, many of whom -- although not most -- are hostile to the United States.

That is not a good security posture to be in -- we finance your enemy either directly or indirectly. We don't buy directly from Iran, but the price of oil is greatly influenced by the consumption of Americans.

And the lack of production in this country has an impact on world supply and therefore on world price. Our lack of using alternative resource has the same impact. So I have gone from being a sort of traditional Republican on the issue of energy to somewhat more of a radical in terms of what we should be producing.

Trib: Are there any immediate, short-term solutions that we could apply?

... I mentioned during the campaign, just in Western Pennsylvania alone we drilled over 3,500 gas and oil wells last year. Thirty-five hundred! We go through floor debates to stop us from drilling less than 1,000 wells in all of Alaska for the next 25 years.

I just don't figure that: We have ten gas wells at Oakmont Country Club, and they are right there on the course. I mean, they are playing the U.S. Open there and we are drilling gas wells right there, and we can't drill them in Alaska? Where nobody lives? How does this make any sense to anybody?

Trib: Do you think that history will eventually be kinder to Rumsfeld than the media was?

... I did not see the Clinton administration doing the things that were necessary to transform the military to a force that can respond to these threats of terrorism, these asymmetric threats. The reason is because people make careers out of "fighting the last war." We are not going to have any of the "last wars" -- we are going to have wars like this, right now.

Rumsfeld understood that. I think Bush understood that. They came in there and they really started banging heads in the Defense Department, and he made a lot of enemies.

Did he consult everybody that he should have consulted? No. But did he have, in my opinion, the right idea? Yes. He had a lot of people disagree with him, and they were very public with their disagreements. I think that he did what he needed to do. I think that our military is going to be much better off for it.

Trib: The media -- how do you think they have played a role in the public's perception of the threat of Islamic fascism, the effects of the war in Iraq?

By [reporting the way our media reports,] all you do is accomplish exactly what the terrorists want you to do, which is to weary the American public of this war -- and eventually cause us to stop fighting it. That is the end result of what we are doing.

I have always said that if World War II was covered like this war, I really, very seriously doubt that we would have ever won that war. Certainly, we might have been willing, when the losses got so high, to negotiate a compromise or negotiate some sort of surrender. The death that went on -- I always remind people that we lost more people in a couple of hours on D-Day that we have in the entire war (in Iraq).

The amount of death and destruction that occurred in the previous wars, under the current media coverage, would not have tolerated by the American public.

The bottom line is, the media -- and I am not saying that they are intending to do this -- but simply by what they are doing, without question, it is aiding the terrorists and their objective.

Covering the bad things that are going on Iraq, and not covering the greater complexities that I have talked about in my speeches and highlighting the threat, is a disservice to the American public, and, I think, will have far-reaching consequences.

Trib: So is that what is next for you -- a book or an action plan based on your speeches about terrorism?

Well, I am working on that. No one has agreed to publish it, and I have just started putting my thoughts together. I feel compelled to sort of make the case.

It is not going to be a scholarly piece, it is not going to be 400 pages. It will be a book that will hopefully be around 200 pages, that will explain to the people of this country the situation that we are in, how we got there, and what we can do to extricate ourselves from this problem.

Trib: What is the next wave of reform for the Republican Party? Do they need to retake the reform mantle to win again?

I wrote a book about this, laying out an agenda for the Republican Party, and I worked very hard to try to be an idea guy. The alternative for us is to be a party that keeps our traditional bases -- fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, a strong national defense -- as well as a party that believes in life and the sanctity of marriage ... there are people on the margins of our society and that we have a responsibility to deal with them from a public-policy perspective, not just focus on the top-line economy --

Look, we have to be engaged in the culture, engaged in building a stronger society and building a stronger family. And if we are not, and if that is not what we as public officials feel is important to us, well, then the American public is not going to connect with us anymore.

Trib: Why do you think you lost?

(Laughter) I spoke up too boldly, too often and too loudly, on some of the things that my employer, the voters of Pennsylvania, didn't agree with me on.


I decline the award as Person of the Year and do not plan to attend the ceremony. Buchanan argues this week for Ahmadinejad as the obvious newsmaker of 2006, and he is right. Ahmadinejad has shown us for what we are, and we fail to impress even ourselves. Our lack of resolve is a problem not just for us but for nations and peoples everywhere.

Eighteen months ago, Ahmadinejad was the unknown mayor of Tehran. Today, he is the visible face of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism, both a cause of and the personification of our failures. He has defied Bush's demand that he give up the enrichment of uranium, split the Security Council, mocked the Holocaust, called for the end of the Zionist state and the expulsion of America from the Mideast, terrified the Sunni monarchs, and united the Arab and Islamic masses behind his defiance.

His trip to the United Nations, where he ran circles around U.S. journalists, was a diplomatic triumph. And he has done it all not with military power – Iran would not last a week in an all-out war with the United States and has no defense against Israel's nuclear weapons – but with theatrics and rhetoric.

He inspires all who hate Israel and Bush's America. And, according to the Zogby polling yesterday, that is a majority which, in some once-friendly nations, is approaching near unanimity.

Ahmadinejad, a man of words without real power, is the big winner of 2006, because Bush, America and Israel were the big losers.

Why do a billion Muslims prefer Ahmadinejad to America? That is the question that needs to be addressed.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How I crawled through 2 miles of S%$@# and came out clean on the flip-side

After stewing about this for months now, I've finally decided to come out and give you the full skinny on something most of you knew nothing about. Here's the full story.

Last year I was asked by a company that I contract for (we'll call the company Corp X). To apply for credentials at HEALTH CENTRAL HOSPITAL of Ocoee, FL. Health Central, like many hospitals in Florida, has a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF, i.e. Nursing Home) attached to them to help care for the elderly and chronically infirm. Their nursing home is called HEALTH CENTRAL PARK. Their Nursing Home is a very large and nice, 200 bed facility that would have kept me very busy. Busy means work and work means I can feed my family, etc. etc. Work is good. Additionally, you see, most hospitals are JCAHO accredited. Which means that all health care workers that practice there must meet a minimum standard of care in order to practice. A good policy. You don't want incompetent knuckleheads practicing on you or your family. I am credentialed at five other SNF's, 2 Assisted Living Facilities (a step down in need for care from a SNF) and one JCAHO accredited hospital, which I also have admission priviledges. So I had been through the credentialing process before. Now mind you priviledges is not employment. All it gives me is the right to see the patients at the hospital but only on the order of the attending physician. I bill the patient myself and it costs the hospital nothing. But none of my prior experience prepared me for what was to come.

So the Owner and President of Corp X. had spoken to the Hospital administrator at Health Central and was satisfied that I was an experienced and competent person. The social worker and Chief of nursing at Health Central Park had called me and given me a nice tour and even bought me lunch. The administrator stated, "Dr. Saunders has to go through our credentialing process. It's really just a formality as there is nothing I can see that would prohibit him from coming." Given this positive welcome and strong desire on their part to have me, I decided to go ahead with the process.

JULY 2005
I called the credentialing administrative assistant (part of Human resources) introduced myself and asked for the application. A very pleasant sounding older woman answered the phone and my questions, "Well you can't get the application right away, firstly you have to fill out the PRE-application. Then we review that and decide if you meet the standard to fill out the regular application." Chuckling to myself I agreed and gave my address. "Can't I just tell you that I'm already a Licensed Psychologist and recognized by the National Register of Health Care Providers? Isn't that enough to start? It was at every other place I've applied." I very firmly but lovingly stated. "No, I'm so sorry. That's not how we do it here. You'll have to fill out the PRE-application." Feeling I was slipping back into my old job with the Feds and getting caught in a bureaucratic nightmare, I knew to let it go. Little people who handle your paperwork are not to be pissed. They can really screw you. "Well thank you so much for your help, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it." I said as I hung up.

The PRE-application arrives. I look at it. It's about 10 pages. Sighing, I toss it into my "to do" pile at my office and forget about it.

MARCH 2006

At this point I've gone through an office move, I've quit the FEDS, and am now unpacking the office after my move. I find the application but put it aside. My practice is booming and I'm making more money than I need and have more work than I want. I'm busy hiring other therapists and psychologists to help with the work load. Preferring to work for myself before anyone else. I decide to put my energy in my business.

MAY 2006
I start getting calls from the good folks at Health Central Park begging me to come. "We really need these mental health services. We think your company and Corp X is what we need for our long term plans. We're getting slammed on our State of Florida audits for not attending to our mental health needs enough so you're what we really need." says the kindly Social Worker. "Well honestly, I don't know how I will fit you all into my schedule, your facility is really big and I'll have to pair down my other work to fit you in." I retort, firmly but diplomatically. "I tell you that it will be so worth it. We are a good facility and can really keep you busy. I will work on things from my end and then you do your necessary paperwork." The man is so nice that I decide to comply and move forward. My original tour and talk with them was great too, so I was excited about another positive move. Change is good in my book and I'm always up for a new adventure. I spend about 2 days on the PRE-Application and compiling together the necessary paperwork.

JUNE 2006
The PRE-Application is approved and I get the actual application in the mail. It's even bigger with more outside verification needed. So I start making phone calls and sending emails. I submit the following:
1. Copies of my diploma's
2. Copies of my Psych License
3. Copies of my resume and vita
4. The complete application that includes an essay portion on why I want credentials and what I have to offer the hospital.
5. A letter of recommendation from a physician
6. A letter of recommendation from a psychiatrist
7. A letter of recommendation form a psychologist.
8. A letter of recommendation and verification of employment from my previous job with the Federal Government from my old boss (also a psychologist).
9. Verification of my private practice status
10. A couple of other documents.

I combine this huge package together and send it off to human resources.

JULY 2006
"We're waiting on your final verification of your residency from the Feds." Reports the kindly Admin Assistant. "But You already have verification of employment and a letter of recommendation from them." I reply confused. "Yes but we need a verification of your licensing year you spent with them separately."

I spend these months off and on attempting to beg and plead with my old boss to write this for me. She's as confused as I am. Finally she understands and writes the verification of my licensing year. It's bureacracy within bureacracy.

"Good news! Your application is complete and has been preliminarily approved. We now have to send it the credentialing committee for their approval. Can you come in for some final paperwork?" says the kindly Admin. "Sure!" I say with a sigh of relief, thinking it's all about to be over. I go over to the hospital and meet with the voice on the phone. She has a kind face and sweet demeanor. The admin had been working for the hospital for over 20 years and knew everything about everybody. She takes my picture for the hospital badge and has me sign a few documents. She shows me the Doctor's lounge and gives me a tour of the hospital. Everyone is very friendly and kind and are interested in helping me. I feel pretty good about my future here.

I receive a letter that there are "areas of concern" with my application and the credentialing Committee wants to see me in person. Confused I pick up the phone and call the author of the letter, the Chairman of the Credentialing committee and a physician. I get his secretary and she assures me he will return my call. In about 2 hours he does call back. "Hi, I'm the psychologist you wrote to recently regarding my credentials. You say their are areas of concern, can you tell me more? What does that mean?" There is a moment of silence and he begins to stutter over his words. "Well, the committee did have some concerns and wants to ask you some questions. We'd prefer if you'd appear in person and answer the questions before all of us." He said. "I'd feel more comfortable if you'd tell me now what you are concerned about so I can be prepared for what you might need to know. That way I can bring documents to help answer your question." He chuckles a bit, "Yes, Dr. Saunders I know this sounds like it will be an inquisition (his exact words) but I assure you it's all very friendly and supported by peer review." I pause myself to take in his words and then, feeling I will get no where with him, say, "Ok, I'll see you in a few weeks."

That was my first big mistake.


I have to wait 2 solid weeks to find out what this is all about. I first appear at the door of the Admin. The Chairman is there. He shakes my hand, tells me the meeting is not for another 12 minutes on the 3rd floor up. He offers a chair but my throat is dry and I'm a little hungry. Not wanting to endure a 12 minute PRE-interview, I go have a snack at the cafe to calm my nerves. I wait in the lobby of the 3rd floor conference area. The Chairman exits the elevator and spies me. "We'll be right with you." I wait about 20 minutes. The admin comes down the hall and invites me into the conference room. There are about 11 men sitting around a huge series of rectangular tables, set end to end in a large horseshoe pattern that fills the room. I sit down. I note that the admin is behind the chair taking the minutes of the meeting. I look for other exits. There is one other across the hall. Everyone is eating and having a drink. No one offers me anything. Bad hospitality is always a bad sign. There is an older gentleman (about 60) sitting to my right in med scrubs. Most everybody else is in suits or just shirt and tie. I'm in my best navy blue conservative, red-tie, republican with a flag pin on the lapel suit that I can find. I feel pretty good. "Thank you Dr. Saunders for appearing before us and taking the time out of your busy schedule. We just have a few questions." He takes out a piece of paper. It has a long, page length series of questions. I spy my name at the top with my near superhuman 20-15 vision. It's all about me and my anxiety goes up. "Tell us a little about yourself." I recite by heart my standard interview monologue about growing up in a small town, my work history, my academic history, etc. They all seem bored and impatient with my monologue. So I cut it short. "Did you have any problems with your work with the Feds, why did you quit after only 7 years?" I smile and look at him puzzled then answer. "Well because it's always been my dream to be my own boss, I had learned all I could there I felt and it was time to move on." He asked again and again if I'd had problems and why I quit. I calmly gave the same answer and challenged him to call my old boss. I pointed to my National Award received by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (a prestigious award) only months before I left as evidence of my good standing. Finally he let this go. He then dove into the heart of the matter. "Tell us about your websites." He said almost painfully, like he couldn't bring himself to even ask. "Well is my professional website about my practice." I said. "Yes, yes Dr. Saunders, but what about the other one, the one that is linked to it." "Well that's my Wedding Officiant and for fun website." (He was referring to formally the "Hallelujah Jamboree") The silence was very tense at this point. "Yes but what is it all about." I was very anxious by now not sure what he was trying to get at. "I'm not sure I understand the question." "What is it all about?" He said incredulously. At this point my full manic, fun, party persona came to full force.

You see, when I get very anxious, especially in a crowd, I tend to get loud and funny. It's an old coping mechanism that has served me well in the past but in these circumstance was probably the last thing I needed. Professional Dr. Saunders persona should have remained in control. He was tired that day and not at all in the mood for these questions about his professional credentials. But he's just not as strong as SirSaunders, super fun party dude.Dr. Saunders sighed and took a back seat.

"Well, hey man we all have to blow off some steam and have some fun once in awhile, am I right?! If you think that website is wild, you should see me at a poker game, (I laugh in my famous high-pitched crazed maniacal way). Ain't that right old-timer" (I slap the back of the man in scrubs beside me only to find out much later that he is the Director of Surgery for the Hospital). "I just want to know why you linked those two sites together" says Oldtimer. I then ease into a cool surfer dude voice trying desperately to regain my composure. "Hey man, you know, we all do things at 3am that we might regret. Let's just let it go..." (more high-pitched laughter from me). They all look around at each other with stone cold faces. There are moments of painfully, shocked silence.........

"Again, thank you for coming out today Dr. Saunders, it's been quite informative." The Chairman shakes my hand and escorts me out. My head spinning, I walk out. "I think that went well", I say trying to soothe and console myself.

OCTOBER 26th, 2006

Letter from Health Central, "Dear Dr. Saunders, Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with our committee. At this time we wish to ask for two additional pieces of information: Please submit a letter of reference from each administrator or Director of Nursing where you have credentials and secondly, we strongly encourage you to have a Psychiatric Evaluation. We've enclosed 3 referrals of Board certified psychiatrists that we urge you to see. Thank you again and we look forward to getting the rest of your application. If you wish to withdraw your application we certainly understand. Sincerely, Dr. Chairman of the Crendentialing Committee.

For the next few weeks I undergo a rather painful self examination. Never before had my personality or creative side or sense of who I am come under such question and attack. I knew I had blew the interview, but it seemed as if their questions and distaste for me was based, not on my professional qualifications, but rather based on my personal website and perhaps even my spiritual beliefs? I was both humiliated and angry. "How dare they!" I spoke to my attorney and the President of Corp. X. which both told me I would have to have direct evidence that it was religious discrimination. Not having that, the hospital could ask for anything they wanted or deny me for any reason. Hospitals are run like mini-kingdoms with the Administrator as king and the physicians as his faithful knights. The psychologists are the knaves or at best, squires of the kingdom. I felt powerless and helpless...

A few days later, I went on our quarterly meeting with buddy Tom who did a good job of cheering me up. "You can't ever stop being you, Steve, it's really the best qualities of who you are that they rejected. If you give up little parts of yourself to satisfy this person or that organization, pretty soon, you're 55 or 65 years old and don't even recognize yourself. That's a recipe for disaster and a denial of the best core of who you are. The very qualities and parts they reject, is what makes you so successful in life."

Tom always has a great way of very succinctly putting everything into a great little package that makes it all clear. Yes, he was right. I didn't need to and certainly didn't want to change myself. I liked my website with it's Star Trek ramblings, fake news releases, creative writing, and art. In the end, I really liked myself. It was heart breaking to go through all that. To be doubted by professionals and thought of as crazy for just being me. Ironically, Health Central has one of the strangest and oddest architectural designs in the world for any hospital. It looks like Cirque Du Solei belongs there not a hospital. I realized later that I unconsciously mistook their wacky building for housing wacky people like me. No, rather the people that worked there were the same judgmental, concrete in-the-box thinkers who had always judged me. I had spent a life-time laughing at those types. I had, in my efforts to conform to a slavish system, almost become one of them.

Now that I've finally got all this down in print. I realize, that is what needs to happen here. Just move forward and embrace what I and others love about me. Thanks Junto Boys for your support. As I have begun the process of letting it all go and moving forward, I've felt more like myself than I have in years. SirSaunders is back in the saddle. Stronger than ever. But perhaps wiser, more integrated, more my complete self...

Letter to Health Central Chairman.

Dear Dr. Chairman:
Regarding your letter Dated October 26th, 2006, No thanks. Have a Merry Chirstmas and very happy new year.
Dr. Saunders

Saturday, December 09, 2006


A few weeks ago I ordered an Up-converter DVD player from

While Blue Ray and HD DVD compete to win the format war, Samsung and some others are producing Up-Converter DVD players that take the normal DVD resolution and boost them to HD quality. A few weeks ago I purchased the Samsung DVD-HD-960 that boosts the signal to 1080p, a standard that my television supports, but broadcast hasn’t reached. Due to some circumstances that I will get to in a minute, I had to settle for the 860 model they sell at Best Buy instead. That version raises the picture to 1080i or 720p.

The first movies I tried were old favorites Rio Bravo and The Maltese Falcon. They both looked great, especially Rio Bravo shot in widescreen. You could really tell a difference. I would highly recommend Samsung’s up converter to anyone with a HD ready TV. It looks so good that I don’t really know if buying the new formats is really worth it.

The 960 that I originally wanted wasn’t easy to get at any of the local stores. Best Buy carries the item on their website but even there it is listed as sold out. I was lucky to find it at $30 less than Best Buy with free shipping, but I had to wait ten days for delivery, which I decided was reasonable.

The item was delivered to my door at 4:32pm on Thursday November 30, and although I was home by 5:30 it was nowhere to be seen. My neighbors on either side were gone, but the suspicious construction workers across the street had a clear view to my house. Only a few weeks ago, workers from that very site were "suspected" of breaking into a house whose alley faces the pool they were working on. My neighbor on the Architectural committee for the Association said that there has been a rash of thefts, especially appliances after installation.

I emailed the warranty lady at Transeastern (The builder) asking who I should contact. She said she would get back to me with the answer. A phone call to the main office and then to the builder gave me the name of the construction manager. And I left a message asking what contractors were working across the street at 4:32pm that day. I’m still waiting for an answer. The other lady didn’t get back to me either.

The property manager for the Homeowner’s Association suggested I write a letter that he would pass on to the board. I wrote one on Monday and when I received no answer I followed up by writing a second one on Thursday. The gist of the two letters was that Transeastern isn’t policing the people who work here. The second letter brought on a call by Gale from the builder’s office transcribed here paraphrased a little but the essence in tact.

GALE: Mr. Stamper, there have been an awful lot of emails going back and forth and I thought I should call so we could clear this up.

TOM: Back and forth? I still haven’t had an answer to any of them.

GALE: I’m here to answer. Unfortunately, thefts are common during this time of year. I live in a real nice section of Metro West and I have had packages stolen from my front door. You need to let the police handle this.

TOM: There was a break in here recently attributed back to the same construction site. And my neighbor on the Arc committee tells me that numerous things have been stolen from houses during the construction process. And that the chandelier in that very house was stolen last week.

GALE: Sir, thefts at construction sites are common occurrence.

TOM: I’d like to have copies of all the police reports you filed for thefts here.

TOM: I’m not going to gather those up for you, sir.

TOM: How many there have been then?

GALE: This is not our responsibility. We can’t just go accusing our contractors without evidence. You need to file a police report and they can do an investigation.

TOM: Let’s say that the contractors are perfectly innocent. Why not ask them if they saw anything? Tell me who they are and I will ask them.

GALE: Listen, sir, that’s entirely inappropriate. You can’t just call the contractor. You need to file a report with the police.

TOM: How many convictions have you had for the all reports you’ve filed?

GALE: It’s very difficult to get convictions for theft because you have to catch them in the act.

TOM: So you people consider theft just a part of doing business. It may be for you, but for me it’s a matter of personal safety.

GALE: Call the police, sir.

TOM: What do you know about the people working here? If I went across the street and shot photos of them, could you identify them?

GALE: We hire contractors and they hire their own people.

TOM: So how do you know if the people working here have criminal records and are in this country legally.

GALE: House construction is the last handmade product in America and we build houses the same way every builder in town, the same way yours was built. ( I can tell that I’ve been put on speaker phone)

TOM: So you are not interested if the people working here have criminal records or are in the country legally?

GALE: We do not hire anyone that we know to be illegal.

TOM: (using the wise knowing voice) But you don’t ask because you don’t want to know.

GALE: Don’t put words in my mouth. I’m going to have to hang up on you if you continue talking to me this way.

TOM: Put words in your own mouth then. How would you describe the process in which people are screened to work here?

GALE: Be careful, you’re on speakerphone and I have a whole group of people here listening to this.

TOM: Fantasic. Any one you sitting there tell me whether you ask the contractors if their people have clean records and are in this country legally.

(CLICK—She hangs up)

She began in a very condescending tone referring to me as “sir” in that way that people do when they’re trying to gloss their superiority. She would have loved me to use one curse word so that she could hang up on me. I just clung to the Socratic method and she was so flustered in her voice that she hung up not wanting to directly admit what the accidentally admitted indirectly.

I wrote another letter yesterday summarizing the phone call and pointing out that making contractors sign affidavits saying that their people have clean records and are in the country legally would be of minimal cost, pass the liability to contractors, and ensure that far fewer criminals would have the legal right to stand around in this neighborhood gawking at the residents and their property.

I hit two political issues in the letter pointing out that John Lindsay, Ed Koch and David Dinkins all said that crime in NYC was a way of life and nothing could be done and then Rudy Guliuani proved them all to be fools. As citizens we have the obligation of preventing crime before the fact.

I also said that business is always complaining about over-regulation and taxation and yet here you are punting your problems to the overworked police when your own policies are causing the problem.

Then I did the Rush Limbaugh being absurd to demonstrate absurdity. I asked the board if they would be comfortable with the current policy if the people working here knew when their houses were vacant during the day. If so, then please send the names and addresses of all the board members and Transeastern Employees with their work hours and I will gladly deliver it every morning to the construction site.


Thursday, December 07, 2006


There is an interesting psychological study that needs to be done on how the affluent in the best of times economically get worried about scarcity, overpopulation and phantom curses. Al Gore's movie could just simply be a political platform for his public comeback. He could hardly do better shoring up the collectivist base with his warning and solutions. But to see the Prince of Wales embrace both the green chic and the radical sheik certainly seems like an identity crisis.
'We are consuming the resources of our planet at such a rate that we are, in effect, living off credit and living on borrowed time.

'It is our children and grandchildren who will have to pay off this debt and we owe it to them and ourselves to do something about it before it is too late.'

How can an educated man like Charles forget the lessons of history? Economic growth all throughout history has led to innovations which has unleashed new resources. It's just in the last 100 years or so that we've put fossil fuel to use. Before that's gone we'll find our power somewhere else.

It's the regulations and calls to action that these chicken littles employ that hurt economic growth that lead to scarcity. How much of Charles move to the Left is really in reaction to Diana and her overwhelming popularity due to her causes? It wasn't like he was this big activist in his fox hunting days.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Since Mr. Gibson’s drunken tirade against Jews last summer, many people in Hollywood swore — both publicly and privately — that they would not work with him again or see his movies.

Powerful players like Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Ari Emanuel, of the Endeavor talent agency have publicly disavowed Mr. Gibson, with Mr. Emanuel writing online last summer that “people in the entertainment community, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him.”

Mr. Gibson has disavowed his own statements instead of hiding behind the 5th Amendment like so many of the Hollywood Ten. Ah, but look how it's framed:
The problem posed by Mr. Gibson touches on an age-old question of whether an artist’s personal behavior ought to be a factor in judging his or her work.

The question is not a new one even in the brief history of cinema, which includes people like D. W. Griffith, the visionary feature director whose work fed racist stereotypes; Leni Riefenstahl, whose ground-breaking talent served Nazi Germany; or Roman Polanski, who in 1977 pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor and then fled the country, which did not prevent him from winning the Oscar for best director in 2003 for “The Pianist.”

Sure Polanski's problem was behavior. What he did was illegal.

What does Gibson's behavior have to do with the blacklist? Drunken rants are a Hollywood favorite pastime. Maybe he hates Jews and maybe he doesn't, but even asking him the question is against the 1st Amendment, remember? He's allowed to believe anything without question. Dalton Trumbo wrote for the Daily Worker did that make the poor man a Communist? We were cowards for even letting Congress ask.

Hollywood's real problem with the 1950s blacklist was that they sympathized with communist positions. Not one of the Hollywood Ten was ever acquitted or absolved dead or alive of being a communist, although the issue is always presented as a frame up. No one even says they were innocent only that making them name the names of other communists was worse than the gulag.

I wish Elia Kazan would have lived long enough to get his Oscar post-Gibson so that they could sit on their hands like a bunch of heroes and then explain why Mel is intolerable.