Culpability, or being culpable, is a measure of the degree to which an agent, such as a person, can be held morally or legally responsible for action and inaction. I am struck by the word as well as the definition. It can call to mind pure evil as well as a much milder form in the substance of mediocrity and neglect. If you overlook something or just decide just not to address it are you culpable?

We have been witness here in Denver to a total fiasco during construction of our new Veteran’s Administration Hospital. Conceived in the early 2000’s it was to cost $328 million. It was planned to be an adjunct of a new University of Colorado campus that was started from scratch in 2004. The economies of scale were more than attractive until the VFW intervened and said veterans should have their own site and facilities. The new price tag was estimated to be $650 million.

Blame fingers were pointed everywhere but essentially the project was started without final plans. The VA said the needs were changing and the fact there were design factors that seemed over the top never seemed to be forthcoming. There is an atrium connecting several of the buildings that alone cost $100 million. They wanted vets to have a good experience walking between buildings. There were also curved walls to break down the institutional nature of the place. If you have ever been involved in construction you would know that curved walls are a huge expense. The estimated cost of completion several years from now is now $1.73 billion!

The head of project management retired with full honors after the new budget announcement and receiving several bonuses over the years. Kind of like when “W” said “great job Brownie” after the Katrina fiasco in New Orleans. Benghazi, Rummy’s tutelage of the war effort in Iraq, the $3.7 billion PATH station in lower Manhattan causes one’s eye’s to water not out of respect and nostalgia but the absolute incompetence that has been demonstrated…and rewarded.

Barney Frank who along with Bill Clinton set all the underpinnings in place for our financial disaster in 2008 by wanting everyone to own a home are all lauded as “we thank them for their service.” I wouldn’t mind if all these dudes and dudettes faded off quietly into the sunset but they continue to flaunt their arrogance as lobbyists and leaders of think tanks and foundations.

We just have had an upheaval in our sheriff’s department in Denver. The corruption, malfeasance and mismanagement go beyond the pale and we are wondering seriously if we just blow the whole thing up and start over. I wish these were rare occurrences or limited to one section of the woods or another but you and I know better.
Rigging Libor, currency manipulations, selling securities that are crap and insider don’t exactly create a mantle of virtue for our boys down at Wall and Broad. Bribery, theft, bogus charitable organizations, and pollution from all sources are sending a very bad message.Stop gap bills to keep the country running so Congress can take its break or just never ending investigations and committee hearings perpetuate the lunacy. Then again maybe it is a great message because crime or mediocracy does pay.

If you are good Catholic or Jew or Protestant you know that there is consequence in sinning. I know we have done away with fire and brimstone but there is still the thought that at the end of things we do have to meet our Maker and square things one way or another. There is a consequence to bad acting. I have the feeling the people that stole $80 billion from Medicare last year feel the odds are on their side. A team of investigators last year only recovered $4 billion.

Ethic is a system of moral value. Years ago it was assumed that this was a good one. It is interesting over the years how we have hemmed and hawed about its true definition. Fear of punishment is now paying a billion dollar fine without admitting guilt. Cops hide behind Blue Walls and the blacks can ransack  crying poverty. Corporations will tell you right to your face that the back room dealings are necessary to stay in business because after all everyone is doing it. Black and white has turned to a very vague shade of grey.

People worry non stop about Russia, China and ISIL. I worry about this. I will tell you that we and I include me have become complicit in all this. We are pros at looking the other way and rationalizing. You know TTG you have a point but I just don’t want to get involved. It’s just not my thing. Even worse is you might get a funny feeling when you watch Frontline to 60 Minutes. You become indignant about this or that and then wander off to check your tee time or see what else is on TV. Like the government, Congress and corporate America, just keep your mouth shut and maybe it will just go away.

If I sound pissed, I am. If I sound despondent I am not. There are a bunch of people out there that are decent and worried about someone else’s skin beyond their own. I am in receipt of a tribute from Notre Dame they put out in honor of Fr Ted Hesburgh. I wish I could send it to all of you. Forget the religious part although it was the most important part of his life. It told of a guy who worked to make the Golden Dome great but even moreso the world. His dedication to his fellow man and students was incredible.

Was he culpable? You bet, but in a good way. I sat and had a drink with him in his brother’s den one night in Vail. I asked him what drove him when he was then in his 80’s. He said. “every day of my life I want to to correct injustice.” I gotta stop on that note. He could not have said it better.

As always
Ted The Great

The University of Colorado Campus has been in operation over 7 years now and the VA won’t be open until 2017 at the earliest. The cost per bed for the VA will be triple the cost of the university hospital. It is also assumed the hospital at completion will be 550,000 sq ft short of the necessary disciplines.

A recent article put the final tally for Wall Street from the financial crisis at $100 billion. There was a recent settlement for currency manipulation for $5 billion. The fines for the most part go into the general fund but some may used for reimbursement of injured parties.

On that note I was on a Georgetown trip with the Inspector General of Health and Human Services. I asked why they did not hire more investigators. He said they could prove a 11-12 to 1 return on investment by recouping ill gotten funds. Why don’t you do it then? Congress won’t let me was his reply because they didn’t want look like they were hiring people.

You can get 10 years to life for peddling heroin. You can get 5 years for possession with intent to sell marijuana. I don’t recall any corporate types being put in jail for the BP oil spill, bribery charges or securities violations. I am sure they are out there but few and far between.

Trains, Planes And Automobiles….

There was a terrible train crash in North Philadelphia this week. Three people were killed and many injured. Still derailments and deaths are quite rare when one considers the number of trains that roll throughout the United States and the world every day. Commuter, long hauls, subways etc. have created an exceptionally safe mode of transportation. Yet there are cries from every corner of the spectrum for more stringent measures of all sorts. It is an interesting study of our national psyche.

We want to install Positive Train Control (PCT) on every stretch of rail in the Northeast Corridor and eventually on every dangerous bend in our 60,000 mile national system. Monies had already been earmarked to do that on the fateful link but AMTRAK decided there were more important priorities. I am not arguing against safety but think about the reasoning.

We want to foolproof everything. There is no danger or steep cliff of life that we cannot eliminate or at least ameliorate. The implications are intriguing. That was a human mistake of some sort that created the carnage. Thousands upon thousands of trains have travelled that exact turn for the many decades. To my knowledge there had never been a derailment prior to and so thousands of train engineers knew of the threat and took appropriate action. We now want to be able to override that decision making and put it in a box. Interesting. I guess we are saying we are not as good as machines….and maybe we aren’t.

The broader context has this not only on railways but in so many parts of our everyday lives. There was a rogue pilot who for whatever reason of insanity took a plane to the ground with hundreds aboard. Immediately there was a call to be able to take over a flight from the ground in mid flight. Sounds great except people would be a little wary if Hal was at the wheel. Google has a car that can drive coast to coast without human intervention. Supposedly had four or five fender benders but it was John Doe and not Watson that was at fault.

We have high speed trading on Wall Street. Everything is done by computer. They get a news flash nanoseconds before anyone else and through a series of algorithms decodes key words and puts out buy and sell orders for millions of share before you can even say Dow Jones.Plug in name rank and serial number and goals in life and we will do the investing and balancing of your portfolio for you. Easy peasy. No human intervention.

Relax TTG you are overdoing it. Really? Ok I will play golf. I now have a rangefinder that will tell me the distance to the hole, whether it is downhill or uphill and what club I should use. If I am sneaky I can adjust my driver for loft depending on the hole.Don’t have the latest golf ball? You lose. My computerized scorecard will tell me where I need work and what my choke threshold is. The Royal and Ancient might be me. Then my Fitbit will tell me how many steps I have taken, calories I have burned and whether I beat out Meehan, Yeoman and Farrell for the day, week and year. No sweat.

Enough of that physical exercise I am just going to sit back and enjoy some music….The Denver Symphony. What? You mean that is not a symphony but a computer generated concerto? What about art? Sorry but your painter’s  palette has been replaced by a mosaic of 4 million pixels. Don’t you understand how much clearer you are seeing things? Sorry but we have decided to forego the creativity and spontaneity of human thought for efficiency and expediency. Just check your Apple Watch to see how much better off you are.

I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t tell you I like progress. I went through a four hour operation a few months ago and the doc never laid a hand on me. It was something called DaVinci that did all the work. I love anything with Leonardo’s handle on it. But that was a great example of a tool being used by a very talented surgeon. I just hope we don’t step over the edge in the future and take that wonderful human brain out of it.

For that MD and train engineer and human stock trader there is a thing called culpability. You have some sort of vocation that requires you to take responsibility for your actions. The machine didn’t screw up. You did. As a corollary the wires and diodes didn’t create something beautiful and successful. You did. That is an incredible force of HUMAN nature that I hope we never lose. Robots are cool but they can’t kiss or cry or smile with warmth or hold with tenderness. At least not yet.

We can have drones do our dirty work. We can probably overmedicate, self lubricate and overeat and look to machines and say the devil made me do it. In the long run we are responsible for this world. If we create monsters it is our fault not their’s. No matter what happens for better or worse in our lives it is because we made a decision and therein lies the culprit or hero as the case might be. I am all for progress but let’s not let technology take over completely as we take a back seat. The next complex equation might make us expendable. Is that a far out concept? Maybe not as far as you think.

As always
Ted the Great.

There are 6.8 billion people on the planet and 4 billion of them use a mobile phone. Only 3.5 billion of them use a toothbrush. There are 500 apps added each day to the Windows Phone Store. Android users were able to choose between 1.3 million apps. Apple’s App Store remained the second-largest app store with 1.2 million available apps as of July 2014.

In the computer security context, a hacker is someone who seeks and exploits weaknesses in a computer system or computer network. They can and have taken control of your financial data, automobiles, security systems, as well as infiltrating the Department of Defense computer system. This is probably the largest vulnerability of our technology age. Even if we install PCT on trains there is a good chance there is someone out there that can override it.

A company called Holosonics developed the Audio Spotlight system, which uses tiny speakers to focus sound into a very narrow beam. In a food or department store it may be able to project a message specifically for you. If you do eat that Ben and Jerry Chunky Monkey ice cream then maybe the devil did make you do it.

A very cool thing is the Atmoph Window. A digital window that opens to beautiful scenery from around the world with 4K-shot videos and sound. Place it anywhere, be anywhere. Complete with sound effects you can have anything from tropical beach to a blazing fire hanging on your wall. Should cost about $350 per which is probably what it would cost you to stay per night.

Veering Left and Right…..

I am a little late this week. I had picked a topic, done my due diligence and was ready to roll when I changed course. I was going to delve into one of our problems du jour and make one of my earnest but often unsuccessful attempts to crack the code. Then a random act of random hit me and I was off on a new trail.

I met a fellow for a drink last night in a local tavern. Local in every sense of the word. The building and the decor were at least fifty years old. A simple brightly lit bar had chrome spinning stools a la the soda shop of yesteryear. The dining area was series of tables and booths where I am sure the fare was hearty and simple. A place you could just be yourself whoever you are.

We were talking about how we could make what was an Army Corps of Engineers flood control project of the 50’s into a vibrant amenity for all to enjoy. If you are from Denver you understand the Cherry Creek is more of a marketing scion for a well to do area than the creek itself. People drive and ride bikes past it but never stop to smell the roses so to speak. Bordering its banks are ample swathes of green space named as parks in a city that is looking for development acreage anywhere it can find it. The particular stretch of a mile or so, although unruly and overgrown is truly a diamond in the rough.

The Creek empties into the South Platte River to the west. Enter my friend. His dad and he in succession have turned the Platte from what was beyond a dumping ground for sewers and chemicals as well as a repository for Denver’s junk into a sparkling waterway. Pop is gone but Jeff carries on the love of the river and nature itself. Through the Greenway Foundation they have shaped not only a scenic wonder but an educational resource for kids to learn of nature and how to preserve it.

There is a not a lot of fanfare to this man although his eyes sparkle and these two lunatics got really wound up when we spoke of what could be. Born and raised in South Denver he is I guess to use a term a public servant although that somehow would seem to denigrate him. He has been a teacher, a politician, a conservator but most of all a person of vision and enthusiasm. As the Platte has cleaned up and become more commercially viable for development it is too bad he can’t share the financial fruits of his labors. I wonder if anybody ever says thank you. I do.

As we talked it was like we were on crack instead of beer. The beauty of this man is that he not only talks the talk but walks the walk and is getting things done. He does most of his work with only a smattering of public funds. Ingenious not only because of his contacts but by doing so he can get things done rather than being locked up in waves of bureaucratic pondering. In seeking support and guidance for this new project I was more than content to let him drive the steam engine while I just shoveled the coal.

As time went on we spoke of other things like families,wives, kids, grandkids. More than a business meeting we got to know each other. We spoke of the city and the country and the world not in any ominous but optimistic way. We both agreed that we had to do it for our kids and not our personal improvement. I also met the bartender and and those around me. People of all walks. There were old people who barely shuffled in for an evening meal of whatever. It was a daily event and they knew the menu and specials by heart. It might have been their only contact with their fellow man all day. There were kids meeting mom and dad for a pizza. Rockwellesque and oh so neat.

We derived a game plan and said adieu but the repartee rolled over and over in my mind as I drove home. I threw in a dash of conversations I have had with my kids over the past few weeks and I was on a trip. Megan is running a leg in the Denver Marathon on Sunday. My daughter in law is getting more and more involved in her kids’ school in London as she coaches and cajoles. I have had exchanges on the whole concept of education today with my niece who teaches school in the mountains. I will watch my grandson play lacrosse this afternoon. A thing called life was coursing through my veins and it was exhilarating.

Now I am not avoiding Putin, income inequality, ISIS or Baltimore. Yes we have problems and we must meet them head on. It’s part of the scenery as we go down the highway of life. But so is what I have described above. It’s is the going down of a backroad every now and then. It is finally discovering the beauty of this world and its inhabitants that have been staring us in the face and we have been too blind to see.

This veering left or right goes beyond the office or the country club. It takes you out of you and into the rest of the world. It finds pleasure in small things that don’t cost a lot of money. When we get the Creek project finished as I know we will, you will have to come out and have a beer with us and dangle your feet. Even better maybe you will have found a project to sink your teeth into in your own burgh. We will have to schedule home and aways. Until then.

As always
Ted The Great


Our little stretch of the Cherry Creek is part of a 48 mile wandering from its headwaters in El Paso County to the South. The South Platte is integral to our water supply and provides irrigation to good portions of the farmlands of eastern Colorado.

Access to and views of water throughout the world are probably the single most contributor to commercial and residential property value throughout the world. It can be an ocean, creek, pond or bay.

Since 1974 he Greenway Foundation has partnered with numerous public and private agencies, corporations, and individuals to create over $130 million of environmental, aquatic, recreational, and open space improvements along the South Platte River and tributaries.It has facilitated more than $13 billion in residential and commercial development. That’s a bunch.

At the tavern I met a young man who volunteers in a program called Healing Waters. It is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings. I went to one of these as a observer and believe me you walk away a different person.


Posted from Wimbledon, England

Monday was a Bank Holiday here in England and together with my son and his boys we visited the Hampton Court Palace of Henry VIII. It is a pastoral residence of sorts on the Thames in Richmond. After visiting other monarchical haunts in Russia and France this was somewhat tame.Gaudy Gold is not a primary color in GB and the brick and stone compliment each other beautifully.

Make no mistake it is huge but one gets the feeling of flow and utility. Successive monarchs have added their own touch but you could not help but have the sense they got most things right. The sculpted gardens and hedges were just as they seemed five hundred years ago. But nothing lasts forever. Just ask the Tsars, Marie Antoinette and of course Anne Boleyn.

I got to thinking of life in general and how over the centuries we have gone from one extreme to another. The explosion of the Renaissance must have knocked people off their chairs and out of the Dark Ages. The British Empire? Prognosticators of all sorts lay out the blueprint of life as we will know it. But just when we think we have it figured out, life throws us curveball.

Pendulums can be cultural. Today is emblematic of the evolution or revolution if you will from Victorian puritanism to what some might consider today’s hedonism. I laugh to think of the shock of parents in my adolescence to what is considered childhood entertainment of today. A song called “Short Shorts” was banned from the airwaves because of its suggestive lyrics in the 1950’s. How retro we were and yet we thought we were the cat’s meow.

The world of business has had its array of successes and failures from tulips to Edsels. Companies like Sony and Motorola ruled the tech world for a time and today they struggle for relevance. Railroads and ships lost sight of the fact they were in the transportation business and gave away their dominant position to the airlines. Who knows where we will be 50 years from now?
Some want to retain our way of life just as it is or even better go back to the good old days. Freeze the moment in time but it doesn’t quite work that way. There are two forces at work here, ourselves and the world. We constantly strive to accomplish. We want a better life in the form of money and material things. Look at the houses of just 40-50 years ago. Four bedrooms and two and a half baths were the ultimate. Formica was the counter of choice and bell bottoms or madras made us worthy of any social scene.

Fast forward and now our much larger homes need a bath in every bedroom along with family rooms, home theaters, saunas and hot tubs. Our wardrobes are no longer adequate when they fit into a normal size closet. We need walk in caverns to house the arsenal. Granite counter tops are close to being passe`and who would be seen with a three year old American made car. It’s partially our desire for bigger better faster but also a world that says if you fall behind you are an abject failure.

But as we think we are getting nearer and nearer to Nirvana there is something amiss. Instead of feeling the euphoria on a long gradual climb there seems to be some element of emptiness that the good life can’t fill. Maybe I will build a bigger monument to me? Hmm, I might find that elusive perfect bottle of wine or savor a meal by the world’s most celebrated chef? Perhaps it is my Ford 350 or a week at the Fat Farm at Canyon Ranch or front row seats to Kenny Chesney?

You mean there are other things? I believe there are. The reason the pendulum goes from one extreme to the other is because no matter what we have, life is a struggle. Not always in an onerous sense but more of a pulled muscle that won’t heal. An itch you can’t scratch. An enigma you can’t solve. Not fatal but chronic. As I travel down life’s highway there are certain things I can’t put to rest. I can work on them but it’s downright impossible to get it perfect. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a celebration of our humanity but also our frailty.

I have just read David Brooks’, “The Road to Character”. Probably what I write is at least subliminally what I read in his piece. He does a masterful job of describing the Resume Virtue and the Eulogy Virtue. On the one hand what I have accomplished in life and on the other how I would like to be remembered. Sure I was the CEO of a billion dollar company but will I be regarded as a decent person after I am gone? Was I kind and caring or ruthless and overbearing? How would YOU like to be remembered?

The struggle gets deep at this point. To see the “eulogy you” it is necessary to divorce yourself from everyday life. Scores are kept on a totally different spreadsheet. You start digging down and the floor opens up. Instead of finding the answer another level is revealed and you are forced to dig deeper and deeper. Aha, I have found my soul! Sorry Charlie, you are just getting started.

Enter self improvement books of all sorts. Shrinks, gurus and swamis will show you the way. Travel to buddhist temples burn incense and play funny music. Probably helpful but this is a trip you have to make for yourself. Now some will think I am crazy. So be it. Some will get tired and depressed and say it is not for them. But some will say this is kind of cool.

At least for me I don’t think for a moment I will ever get it figured out. When I get to the point I do, something will happen that will put me back to square one or at least three or four. If one of the books espousing the ultimate answer were true do you think we will still have title after title being published?

Like David Brooks I am writing because I am verbalizing my own part in the puzzle of life. Going back to that whole idea of pendulum I don’t see quandary but energy. The arcing motion gives its share of twists and turns but also new insights. If the weight at the end of the line should come to rest I don’t think it would be triumphant but tragic. It would mean that life, at least intellectually is over. I’m not ready for that yet.

As always
Ted The Great


Hampton Court Palace was considered modern and sophisticated when it was built in Tudor times. It had bowling greens, a 36,000 square foot kitchen and a toilet area that could seat 30 people.

There are thousands of palaces throughout the world in over 90 countries. There 16 in Mexico and over 50 in Italy. Amazingly there are even larger numbers in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil. When a new monarch assumed the throne in various countries predictably the new BMOC had to add onto an existing palace or build a new one that was bigger and better than the old one. Good for employment in the region.

Of the hundreds upon hundreds of self help books of the top ten in 2014, 9 were spiritual in nature and the top one was financial by Tony Robbins.

Google Ngrams measure the usage of certain words in the media. Over the past few decades references to self and I have soared and community, share and united have fallen drastically. Economics and business up and morality and character building down. Bravery, humbleness, and gratitude are down over 50%.