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Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

We all know that there are inequities and inequalities in this world. Well, at least anyone with half a brain knows these things. I’m a big believer in this funny little thing called equal pay for equal work, which makes me just a wee bit pissed that women, on average, receive only eighty-two cents for every dollar that a man makes for doing the same job. When Mary Barra took over as head of General Motors, I’m told, she received a compensation package one million dollars lower than that of her predecessor. Her compensation package last year consisted of a $1,750,000 salary and other compensation that brought her package up to $28,576,651. Admittedly, this is probably one of the few cases where a CEO has earned every penny. Even within the male population, there is inequality. Tell me, if you can, why the head football coach at the Air Force Academy is making eight times more money than the Secretary of Defense of the United States? When one considers the international considerations of each position, it would appear reasonable to assume that the roles really ought to be reversed. Additionally, if the president of the University of Michigan is making $750,000, and the head football coach is making $9 million, how does one justify that inequality…and please, don’t tell me that old saw about the alumni fund depending on a winning season. It may be true in part but is it really true to the extent of such imbalance?

What does one have to do to earn millions of dollar each year? It certainly helps to have a history of achievement and demonstrated leadership qualities. According to Chief Executive Research, executive compensation is a “strategic tool.” “…having the right senior executives on the team and aligned are key drivers of business success, yet far too many companies don’t approach executive compensation strategically.” It seems to me that far too many companies hire more based on ‘old boy networks, school ties, or religious affiliations. After that the 300 multiple appears to take effect, that is, the CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker in his/her company earns. Is this fair and equitable? The answer is complex.

If you hire the very best person for the job as CEO, everyone benefits. The new ‘boss’ plans strategically for a five, ten, or longer period – one Japanese executive created a strategic plan 150 years out. If the plan works, the chief executive should certainly be compensated appropriately. Should the compensation be 300 times what the worker in the factory, on the floor, in the sales office or the secretarial pool? My answer to that is an unqualified, “No!” What if the chief executive increases the profits of the company by 300 percent of his/her strategic plan? The answer is still, “No.” We have allowed executive compensation to get out of control, according to Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, but, “Corporate apologists say CEOs and other top executives are worth these amounts because their corporations have performed so well over the last three decades that CEOs are like star baseball players or movie stars.” This is nonsense. The economy has grown. The stock market has grown. People have either amped up their spending or gone into greater debt just to “keep up with the Joneses.” CEO’s aren’t any brighter today than they were in 1965 when that multiple we talked about earlier was 27:1. In addition, legislation – until Trump came along, but it still will – favored big companies that wished to outsource, either to other states with more favorable tax rulings and lower labor costs, or overseas where labor costs were markedly lower.

In 2015, “The SEC passed a new rule for large corporations: Starting in fiscal year 2017, they must disclose their “pay ratio,” the multiple by which the CEO’s pay exceeds that of the median worker’s.” In his article in Politico, Michael Dorff states, “The point of the rule is to both bring down CEO pay and to improve the compensation of rank-and-file workers. The theory is that CEOs and boards of directors will be so embarrassed when they have to admit just how much more they pay their chief executives than a normal worker—300 times is typical, though some companies’ ratios may stretch into the thousands—that, in their shame, they will simultaneously lower the CEO’s paycheck and grant their workers a raise.” Personally, I have strong doubts that CEOs and boards of directors that are currently paying outlandish compensation packages give two hoots in hell about their workers, are too narcissistic and self-centered, and it will not become effective until labor unions and workers themselves take action against those same CEO’s and boards of directors.

The idea that a CEO and his/her top four or five executives bear a responsibility only to their boards of directors is ludicrous, although it appears that many of the S&P 500 still adhere to such a belief. You figure it out. If the CEO reports to the board of directors, it figures that he/she also has some input regarding who sits on that board. In an article in The Atlantic, they cite, “…Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried, [who] in their 2004 book Pay Without Performance, argued that this procedure is a comforting fiction. They wrote that skyrocketing executive pay is the blatant result of CEOs’ power over decisions within U.S. firms, including compensation. Being on a corporate board is a great gig. It offers personal and professional connections, prestige, company perks, and, of course, money. In 2013, the average compensation for a board member at an S&P 500 company—usually a part-time position—was $251,000. It only stands to reason that board members don’t want to rock the CEO’s boat. While directors are elected by shareholders, the key is to be nominated to a directorship, because nominees to directorships are almost never voted down. Bebchuk and Fried showed that CEOs typically have considerable influence over the nominating process and can exert their power to block or put forward nominations, so directors have a sense that they were brought in by the CEO. Beyond elections, CEOs can use their control over the company’s resources to legally (and sometimes illegally) bribe board members with company perks, such as air travel, as well as monetary payment.

In other words, get your foot in the door as CEO of a major corporation via the old boy network, make the shareholders and your board of directors your primary concern, and you could well be set for life. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but I believe you get the general idea.

Truth to tell, CEOs and their organizations owe a far greater debt to a larger audience than their shareholders and boards. These stakeholders, as they are known, can also exercise some control over the pay of the CEO. Stakeholders include workers, product consumers if a product is involved, suppliers, creditors, and many others. R. Edward Freeman introduced the concept of stakeholders in business in 1984 in his book, Strategic Management. “The book proposed that effective management consists of balancing the interests of all [of] the corporation’s stakeholders – any individual or group who can affect, or is affected by, the achievement of a corporation’s purpose. The stakeholder concept provides a new way of thinking about strategic management – that is, how a corporation can and should set and implement direction.” Only by involving, completely involving, all stakeholders in the decision making processes, will CEO compensation, a major component of directing the organization be brought back into line. It seems to me that as long as CEO’s have any ability to influence who is on their board of directors or that the boards’ only interest is in lining their own pockets, this idea of multi-million dollar compensation will not be curbed, but will, in fact, flourish. The losers in this situation are too many to mention, and it only further grows the gap between the one percenters and the rest of the nation.

In the second part of this two-part series, I will take a look at the health care industry and the compensation of those in it.

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Our President-elect is now, formally, our President of these…, even though the transfer of power will not take place for about another month. Despite his nearly three million popular vote loss to Hillary Clinton, Trump says that his is a landslide victory…interesting, scary, but interesting. His “victory tour” of the United States once again highlighted his narcissistic tendencies, in that the way things are going would lead one to believe that he did the entire thing all by himself, even though, as he said, “The election was rigged.” Oh, wait a minute, that’s what he said before the election. I guess that means he was in close touch with James Comey and his buddy, Vlad, the Impaler.

What has really caused me some concern has been Trump’s choices for Cabinet positions. While I was somewhat irked by his choice of white supremacist, Steve Bannon. His “win at all costs” attitude is frightening and that’s being very mild about it. As the former head of Breitbart News, Bannon has not been above planting phony stories about ‘leftist’ Democrats and any others with whom he has a grievance. This is in keeping with the manner in which Mr. Trump tweets out half-truths and outright lies, as he did about the recent “swamping” of The Apprentice hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He failed to mention that the show was up against some pretty stiff competition in bowl games, nor did he mention that people are probably so fed up with him that anything to which his name is even vaguely attached – he’s still listed as an executive producer – is a turnoff for the majority of Americans.

Naming Rex Tillerson to be the next Secretary of State is dangerous on at least two fronts. The first is that Tillerson has absolutely nothing to bring to the table. Granted, he has been at Exxon for 41 years and risen to the top of his company by effectively making deals which have given the company a notable position of achievement in the U.S. business world. I’m sorry, but the rest of the world (a) doesn’t give a damn about the manner in which U.S. companies are recognized on their own turf; (b) plays by an entirely different set of rules peculiar to their own country; and, (c) will be perfectly willing to lead this unwitting lamb to slaughter by deceit, lies, and unfulfillable promises. It’s just another example of letting one more of Mr. Trump’s millionaire buddies into the big boy’s playground.

Jeff Sessions is a wonderful choice for Attorney General. He’s been denied a federal judgeship because of his racist comments. He has twice voted against laws that would include sexual orientation as a hate crime, and he was a proponent of a Constitutional Amendment and would define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The Senate, in response to the outrage of the VA treatment of servicemen and women, voted on a bill to allocate resources for 26 new VA facilities in 18 states and $500 million to hire additional doctors and nurses. Sessions was one of only three senators to vote against the bill, citing excessive government spending as his reason. Sorry, Senator, that’s a wimp-out!

It seems to me that in any confirmation hearing any candidate can say anything that he or she wishes. Words are just that, words. Billionaire Tillerson, can ‘say’ that he has no greater interest in Russia than anyone else. He can ‘say’ whatever he has to say to be confirmed. The same is true of Jeff Sessions when it comes to his record on Civil Rights, Immigration, and LGBT issues. Betsy DeVos can deny that she is in favor of Common Core, but that doesn’t mean a damned thing if she is confirmed.

I look at Steven Mnuchin’s confirmation as putting the fox in the henhouse. Anyone who believes that he will do anything to straighten out Wall Street is a dreamer. He appears to me to be one of these multi-millionaire idlers who is supportive of whomever gets the top dog sea, and he has given money to both Republicans and Democrats alike. His trustworthiness meter registers just above zero for this writer. In addition, my only other experience with a former Goldman Sachs executive led me to take an early retirement rather than try to work with the son-of-a-bitch!

Wilbur Ross, the candidate for Secretary of Commerce, was quoted as saying, “I think the reason why the Trump phenomenon has become so important … is because middle-class and lower-middle-class America has not really benefited by the last 10 to 15 years of economic activity and they’re sick and tired of it and they want something different,” Excuse me, but I don’t believe billionaire Ross gives two hoots in hell about the American middle- or lower-middle classes. Keep a close eye on this one, folks, and see how he benefits those who are ‘below’ him in this economic class.

When it comes time to talk about General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, you have but to listen to one of his quotes: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway,” said Mattis. “So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you — I like brawling.” Those are the words of our proposed next Secretary of Defense. While he later admitted that he should have chosen his words more carefully, the remarks give you some insight into the mind of a true militant who, I fear, would have no compunction about sending military wherever he thought that might “have some fun shooting some bad guys!” While he might stand on the tarmac at Andrews and salute, it wouldn’t do a hell of lot of good for those people in the caskets.

Granted, I have only touched on a few potential Trump Cabinet nominees. Hopefully, we’ll get around to more as the confirmation hearings move along. Just remember one thing…what is said in the hearings and what will actually take place if these people are confirmed and very well be two different things. After all, that’s the Washington way.

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Choices…What an interesting word. Are you aware that the average adult makes 35,000 choices in a single day? That’s right; you read that correctly…35,000. Heck, we make 226.7 choices just about the food we’re going to eat in a single day. By contrast, children make only about 3,000 choices in a day. Much of the research, particularly about the food, was done at Cornell University, which is appropriate considering they have one of the best schools of hotel management in the country.

But…once more I digress, only to be pulled back to the subject at hand; in this case, “choices.” I’m willing to bet that without half trying, you could list 1,000 choices you make in a day. Consider your clothing, your mode of transportation, your job, your career, the television you may or may not watch, and of course let us not forget about the food you choose…or not. I suppose we could add the choices you make about what to do on the computer or, if you use a smart phone…oy, let’s not get started on those choices

I’d like to consider myself as a pretty average adult. Stop laughing right now! Okay, so I’m a bit older than average. Maybe I’m a bit taller than average even with my age-diminished-height. I could also be thought of as a bit heavier than average – although I have just lost 25 pounds, with 25 more to go. But here are some of the choices I have to make first thing in the morning: Gym clothing or street clothes; water or fruit juice; a protein bar or some fruit; go to the gym or not; if not, what will we be doing today and how do I dress for it; if going to the gym, is the battery charged on my I-pod or should I charge it while I’m getting ready to go. I could go on and on and on and I haven’t even been to the gym yet! Geez, all these choices, most of which we make without even considering that we are doing so. Are you getting my drift here?

If you remember Newton’s Third Law…”For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” then you will, perhaps, understand why we make those 35,000 choices each and every day. Making a single choice influences so many other choices that they quickly add up, and the number doesn’t appear quite as large as it initially did.

Along the line we may make some choices that don’t affect us at the time but that have a huge impact on us later. My decision to smoke for 51 years of my life has now resulted in emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a result, my choices of exercise are quite limited. On the other hand, my choice not to get involved in any criminal activities – yes, it was a choice – means that I didn’t have any kind of a record that would have prevented me from getting a security clearance or pursuing any number of professions.

Are there choices that I made that perhaps I should not have? Absolutely. Let me cite college as an example. In my undergraduate years, I never took the classroom all that seriously. That was a choice that, in hindsight, was about as dumb as I had to have been. Don’t get me wrong, I had wonderful collegiate experiences. They just weren’t in the classroom. By the time I got to graduate school I was married, had a full-time job, and truly recognized the value of higher education. To this day, however, I look back at my undergraduate days with some regret.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you for a few moments. What choices did you make today? Were they choices that affected only you or were the effects felt by others? Were the effects on others positive or negative? Did your choices affect the choices made by others? The choices you make as an individual, ie, breakfast, clothing, etcetera, these only affect you. Supposing, however, that you are the head of a small or even large organization. Every choice you make may affect the lives of hundreds or even thousands of others. The choices you make compound over a lifetime and lead to who, what, and where you are. Your choices define you, and they define how others view you. This latter may not concern you at all, but you’d be wise to consider it. Let us return to you as leader, president, CEO, or whatever title you wish to hold. Your choices now become decisions and those decisions always affect the choices and actions of others. So how do you make those decisions? Do you go with the first choice that is offered and to hell with the consequences? Do you make the choice to go with what will please the majority, even though it may have long-term negative consequences? Or do you carefully weigh what is good for the organization, the employees, the community, and a host of others that will be affected by this one decision that is made up of complex choices?

It’s at this point that you begin to think, “Damn, I never looked at my choices this way,” or words to that effect. Our simple choices that only affect us are one thing, but when your choice has a ripple effect (damn, there’s that word again), well, that’s when things become complicated. If you’re on the top rung of the ladder, the choices you make cannot be made impulsively. Every single factor must be weighed. It doesn’t become a breakfast choice or a clothing choice, or the choice of a television program to be watched. Your choice becomes your decision. Can you live with it?

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I must be going blind. This is not a literal statement, but in a figurative sense, there is no question that my vision has taken a bad turn somewhere. I cannot see why anyone in their right mind or with corrected vision would ever consider Donald J. Trump to be Presidential. Custodial perhaps, but Presidential? It’s not difficult to see why many Americans believe Trump to be a Messiah of some ilk. He boasts; he brags; he puts forth plans that, on the surface, appeal to those with little or no knowledge of how the plans would actually work. He’s a showman; a carnie man, a television personality, a failed businessman who bends the truth to meet his personal requirements.

Trump states that he inherited one million dollars from his family. History shows and Forbes Magazine confirms that the amount was closer to $40 million. With that money, he has amassed an enormous net worth of, according to him, $10 billion. Again, going back to Forbes, that net worth is closer to $4.7 billion. It’s still a lot of money but how it’s been garnered is open to question. In the 1980s, when Trump Plaza was being constructed, a sub-contract when to S&A Concrete, a company partially owned by the mafia. “Trump World Tower, supported by the Quadrozzi Concrete Company, is also tangentially related to La Cosa Nostra. The head of the company, John Quadrozzi Sr., was tied to the Lucchese crime family and indicted for making illegal payoffs to the mob in 1992.”1 The list goes on and on about Trump’s nefarious dealings with the mob. If one of the qualities of a President is assumed to be “A person of strong character,” Trump fails to meet the standard.

Let’s take a moment to look at some of Trump’s business failures: The Eastern Airlines Shuttle from Boston to New York and Washington ran for 27 years. Many was the time that I would hop a 6:30 am shuttle to head to either destination. It was a great convenience (plus free parking). In 1988, Trump purchased the service for a reported $365 million. He improved the look of the service by adding maple-wood veneer to the floors, chrome-plated seat belt clasps and gold bathroom fixtures. It didn’t work and the Trump Shuttle never turned a profit. The high debt accrued forced Trump to default on his loans, and the shuttle ceased to exist in 1992. In 2006, Trump introduced Trump Vodka, designed to compete with Grey Goose. If you happen to own a bottle of Trump’s vodka, hold onto it because it’s highly doubtful you’ll find it on liquor store shelves today…but you will find Grey Goose.

Claire Sudduth of Time Magazine noted in an article about Trump’s bankruptcies, “”I don’t like the B word,” Donald Trump said in 2010 while testifying in a New Jersey bankruptcy courtroom about his gambling company, Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., which had filed for bankruptcy for the third time. Given the number of times Trump has flirted with bankruptcy, you’d think he’d be used to that word by now.

“In 1990, the banking institutions that backed his real estate investments had to bail him out with a $65 million “rescue package” that contained new loans and credit. But it wasn’t enough, and nine months later the famous developer was nearly $4 billion in debt. He didn’t declare personal bankruptcy, although his famous Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, N.J., did have to file for it  Trump’s economic troubles continued through the early ’90s, while he was personally leveraged to nearly $1 billion. In 2004, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts also filed for bankruptcy. The company was only a small portion of Trump’s real estate empire, but he did still have to personally cough up $72 million to keep it afloat. In 2009, the same company filed for bankruptcy again. Yet during all of this, no one ever told Trump, “You’re fired!” Probably because no one could.2 In case you weren’t counting, Trump has gone bankrupt four times. He later claimed that those were not his failures as a businessman but strategic decisions to help him make more money. In other words, he manipulated the system for personal gain. Gee, isn’t Bernie Madoff doing time for that, along with several other sleazebags?

Much more could be said about Mr. Trump and his potential candidacy for President of the United States. In truth, he’s a bully, a bigot, a racist, a sexist, a liar, and perhaps the worst individual ever to be considered for the highest office in the land. I never cared much for Mitt Romney when he was Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but you can bet your boots that should he run as a third party candidate, I will be checking his name off in the voting booth.

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  1. Politifact…a division of the Tampa Bay Times
  2. Claire Sudduth, Time Magazine, April 29, 2011

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It’s difficult to understand why law enforcement, city, state, and federal, as well as the President of the United States, took so long to state the obvious about San Bernadino. I just don’t comprehend what is so difficult about seeing this couple, dressed as they were, not being immediately identified as ‘terrorists.’ However you wish to slice it, this was a terrorist act. It certainly terrified the crap out of the people who were being shot and those ducking for cover. With the discovery of the ammunition and pipe bombs in the house occupied by that couple and their baby would indicate preparation for a ‘terrorist’ attack. So we’re at war. Is there anyone in the USA who doesn’t understand that? Are there actually people whose heads are stuck so far up…in the sand that they aren’t aware that Americans are considered by some people who actually live and work here, as the enemy. Take a look at Dylan Roof who thought that blacks were taking over America. Can you understand why an ignoramus like that would think such a thing? Who does he see on television when the President speaks? Who does he see when the Director of Homeland Security speaks? Granted, the kid is probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s probably just a wee bit prejudiced against black folks in the first place. Someone said to me the other day, “I saw a family of Muslims in traditional dress coming in the store and I didn’t panic,” as though that was a major friggin’ achievement. It’s clue time…this country is filled with all sorts of people; some came here to escape terrorism and want to live peaceful lives. Others are here but are nothing but crazy fucking assholes who are influenced by other crazy fucking assholes and who will go out and kill anybody they see who is not dressed or look exactly as they do. They do have sufficient smarts to make certain they kill at a gathering…just walking up and down the street is not going to give one maximum exposure nor maximize your kill rate…riiiight!

To top off our understanding that we are at war, we have public panic purveyors like Donald “I-can-fix-everything-but-I-won’t-tell-you-how-because-I don’t-really-know-what-to-do” Trump. I find it truly difficult to understand how this man became a billionaire. The only thing I can think of is that he bullied his way to riches; he was the loudest shouter in the room; his face got so red, his opponents thought he was going to literally explode and shit would be flying everywhere since he was so full of it, so they gave in. It’s all I can think of. He speaks such ridiculous bullshit that no one in their right minds could possibly believe what he says. And yet, what is he doing? He’s appealing to the frightened, the uninformed, people who don’t know, or care to know, understand or care to understand other cultures. These are the folks who believe that blacks eat only fried chicken and watermelon; they may see hummus in the store so that’s what “they’ eat; Asians eat only fish and seaweed or some other shit like that. They don’t know, and one who preys on their fears such as Trump becomes their hero. The media is proving to be just as gullible. Trump speaks; it’s a sound byte they have to get on the air before the competition. Don’t react; don’t cover, and see how long Trump stays in this race. The media are “feeding Seymour” and he continues to grow. If the media ignore him, Trump will be within his rights to demand an equal amount of time as is given to other candidates; that is his right. However, the minute his talk becomes inflammatory, as it has been through most of his campaign, cut off the microphone; he has overstepped his bounds.

On November 8, 2016, America will go to the polls to elect a new President. That is eleven months from this very day. Should this country, in its ultimate stupidity, elect Donald Trump, I will make every effort to move to Nova Scotia and to renounce my American citizenship. I have little doubt that the world will become a nuclear wasteland before his term of office has ended.

Lone wolf terrorists on American streets will become more identifiable and stopped as we move along in our war. At some point, they will be identified before they enter the country. ISIS or some offspring of it will continue to function in the Middle East. It is only when America says, “Enough, solve your own problems,” that we will be able to breathe easily again. If “secure the homeland” is a dirty turn of phrase, forgive me. However, I don’t want to see more gold star flags hanging in more windows than are already there. We can “preserve, protect, and defend” the United States of America by putting our own nation first and let other nations solve their own problems.

The United Nations appears to be a useless group of foreign representatives suckling at the American teat and little else. Let us move their headquarters to someplace like Belgium, Luxemburg, or Lichtenstein, and see how quickly they dissolve or get their collective acts together to solve the world’s problems. America is too rich and too developed a nation to be playing host to a bunch of spies and neer-do-wells. Is this laissez-faire attitude going to work? No, because it will never receive bi-partisan support, nor will Wall Street allow it to happen. It would be nice to give it an honest try; to attempt to make other nations wholly responsible for their actions. We can’t; we’re America. We’re the supposed 800-pound gorilla in the room. That’s why poor families raise cannon fodder and we cry crocodile tears when they’re blown to pieces. If we really cared about our young men and women, we’d be expanding our efforts to keep them out of harm’s way rather than putting them directly in its path.

We have a great many problems in our own country that are in dire need of solutions. We need solutions to our problem of poverty. We need solutions to our problem of racial injustice and profiling. We need a unified, national police force that is fully trained and fairly paid. We need to stop teaching our children to pass some damned standardized test and teach them what it means to be a citizen of this country. We need more, better trained, and again, fairly paid, teachers. We need term limits for members of Congress to weed out the do-nothings, hangers-on, and radical assholes who somehow find their way into Congressional seats every now and then. We don’t need equalization of wealth, because if you’ve got the brains and ideas, God Bless You for making the money you’ve made, but we do need workers who are paid above a poverty level to build what you’ve designed or to sell what you have made. We need equal pay for equal work. We need to stop treating women like second-class citizens by telling them what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Our problems are tremendous; they’re hard to solve and they will continue to get harder until and unless we take some positive steps to address them. However, remember this: Over half of the Pilgrims who made the voyage on the Mayflower died before a year had passed – OVER HALF – yet the rest didn’t just lay down and die. Seventy-five thousand colonists died in the Revolutionary War; that’s 1 in 20 what we now call Americans. Yet, the men who signed the Constitution didn’t give up and say, “Screw this; take it back England.” No, the problems of their day were no more or less complex than the problems we face today. Sure, the world’s a smaller place, and the problems are terrifying. Problems of the magnitude facing the Pilgrims and the colonials and that guy who lives down the street from you today are daunting, but they can be solved. That’s our job – yours and mine – to chip in and ask what we can do to help solve those problems. No, I won’t give you the Jack Kennedy tag line; you can do that for yourself. I will say a couple of things: “If you see something, say something,” and “Don’t listen to fear-mongers and loud mouthed know-nothings like Donald Trump, because he’s not worth your time.”

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Why is it so difficult to think of the world 200 years from now? Hell, you, your children, and your great-great-grandchildren will all be dead. Therefore, why should we even care? Why recycle, for example; why worry about the rain forest, species extinction, overfishing, or global warming or any of that stuff? After all, we’re just going to be a pile of dust by that time. Screw the future; there are already enough people who don’t give a damn about it anyway, so why should we care? But…we do recycle; we do attempt to do our bit to keep the earth as pure and pristine as our little efforts can do so. For some strange reason, whether it’s perpetuation of our species or what, we attempt to prevent the world from destroying itself through some combined effort.

When I say “we,” I don’t necessarily mean the United States of America. Shucks, we’re way down the list when it comes to ecological friendliness, or as I like to put it, “Preserving the planet for Cap’n Kirk and his Enterprise buddies in the 25rd Century.”  According to one article that I read, “You’d think with all of the smarts and resources this country has, it would rank a bit better than Number 2–afraid not. Although it did rank a respectable 211 for natural habitat conversion–that honor is pretty much negated by the country’s abysmal ratings in other areas. Ringing in at 1st place for fertilizer use, this country’s excessive application of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) fertilizers can result in the leaching of these chemicals into water bodies and remove, alter or destroy natural habitats. The USA also ranks in 1st place for CO2 emissions, 2nd place for water pollution, 3rd place for marine captures, and 9th place for threatened species.” Sometimes, our braggadocio isn’t so warranted after all.

I suppose that by the time the big blue marble becomes inhospitable to human life, somebody, somewhere will have discovered a place where all human life can be transported. It may even be a possibility that those people, with the species of animals they wish to take with them, will also have found a way of keeping the new planet somewhat cleaner than the manner in which we’ve treated this one…but I rather doubt it. You see, I don’t think that man, as a species, evolves as rapidly as we’d all like to believe he does. We may have banned DDT, creosote, and a few other dangerous things, but as it says up above, we surely have a long way to go. To digress for just a moment, I should tell you that I am now wearing the plastic bottles that only a few months or years ago I was drinking from. That is, I now have sweat pants that are made from recycled plastic bottles…and they’re great!

When I look at all of these ‘studies,’ reports,’ ‘analyses,’ etcetera, about countries and even cities that are good or bad in terms of this statistic or that, I find that the criteria, rather than clarifying the situation, only serve to confuse it.  Smaller countries, on the whole, seem to do much better than larger ones. Russia, China, and the United States have such vast areas as to make some judgments more harshly than they necessarily have to be. As another aside, my son was credentialed to attend the Olympics in Beijing but opted to stay back at Olympic headquarters in Colorado Springs. “I’d been there once,” he told me, “and I wasn’t certain my lungs would every clear up!”

Who are the clean, green, ecologically-conscious countries throughout the world? Yes, you’re right; the Scandinavian countries lead the way. Why is impossible to say, but they were the first ones that came to my mind, and they, along with Germany, Costa Rica and Spain round out the top ten.  These are countries that make a genuine effort to lower their carbon footprint and work at maintaining a partnership with the planet’s resources.

It puzzles me that our commuting problems in the United States are as bad as they appear to be. Some time ago we were caught in the rush hour between Hartford, Connecticut as far south as the New Jersey Turnpike. Between the amount of traffic and the word that was going on to expand the highways, it was rather obvious that by the time the new, widened highways are complete, the traffic will have expanded to keep pace and to keep the traffic jams just as they are today. A mathematician might say that the highway system is expanding arithmetically while the number of vehicles attempting to use those highways is expanding exponentially. The thing is that I’m not certain newer and wider highways are the answer. However, as long as the automotive industry controls Congress, along with a few other industrial giants, we will continue to view automobiles as our major source of transportation.

I’m fully aware that there are people from other parts of the country who believe that those of us who live in New England are as soft as a newly-minted cow flap, and to some extent that might just be true. However, I see industrial park after industrial park with ‘For Lease’ signs on better than half of the buildings, and it leads me to wonder why some companies insist on keeping their businesses in downtown Boston. This is the age of technology. You can be connected to anyone, anywhere in the world in less time than it takes to snap your fingers. Parking in cities such as Boston is a hassle that no one wants or needs. These industrial parks have tons of parking. Why do some of these huge operations insist that the ‘city’ is the only place to be? Years ago, a friend of mine had a consulting business in the heart of New York City. One day, he announced to his staff of 10 or 12 that he was moving his operation to Keene, New Hampshire. He had been commuting from Greenwich, Connecticut into the City, and had enough. How many people did he lose to this move? One…one person could not make the transition, not because she thought it was too “country-bumpkin-esh, but because of her spouses commitments in NYC. He has long since retired, but the business is still in Keene.

We ask that those who lead our businesses have vision. Perhaps part of that vision should include where the company can most efficiently be located. At least here, in the Northeast, visionary leaders should be looking at the suburbs with their unused and probably one hell of a lot cheaper-per-square—foot rental rates as places for their employees. The buildings are already there, in anticipation of a boom that never seemed to take place. Let’s use the space we have and stop destroying more of our land. Who knows, some employees might begin cycling to work or begin to feel better about their commute. After that, more companies might begin recycling programs. Lord only knows what innovative and planet-saving things may happen after that.

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There was a time that a troubled youth over the age of 17 had two choices…you either went to jail or you went into the armed services. If the military couldn’t straighten you out, there was something wrong with your head and you deserved to be locked up and have the key dropped in the Marianas Trench. Today, we have a professional military so the option of sending them troubled kids appears to have gone the way of the Do-Do bird so we just give them a slap on the wrist and send them on their merry way.

I don’t know if you saw the most recent example of kids out of control but it happened on a subway in New York. A man was reading his paper. Two kids walked up to him and asked him what he thought about the Michael Brown killing. He must have said something because these two black kids started beating the shit out of him. Then they stuck their faces right up in the camera. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see those two young men put into a prison with a group of skinheads. Had they been white, I would just as soon they be sent to live with a group of brothers. Either way, they would become “bitches” for men much tougher than they ever thought of being, and their thoughts of being able to get away with whatever they wanted would soon be dispelled. Harsh? Unfair? Cruel and unusual punishment? How would you compare that to what they did to a man minding his own business on a subway?

When Boston Police were firing at a man who had just shot a Boston cop in the face this past weekend, people were booing the police. This guy was still shooting at the police and the cops fired back killing the son-of-a-bitch…but the cops were booed. It really makes me wonder what the hell is going on. Had the guy gotten away, would the crowd have cheered? Had he managed to hide in an apartment and eventually killed a mother and her four kids, would the crowd have then roared, “There’s never a cop around when you need one?” What in the hell is wrong with people?

One of my dearest friends was Muriel Snowden a black activist and social worker, who, along with her husband, Otto, founded Freedom House in Boston “as a catalyst for promoting equality and access to quality education for people residing in lower-income communities of color throughout Boston.” We would sit together at meetings and dinners just to laugh at each others’ jokes and kid each other about this, that, or the other thing. I loved Muriel and I think the feeling was mutual. Thank God she has passed on because it would absolutely break her heart to see the way that many of today’s black teens are behaving. I wasn’t a racist then nor am I one today, but why is it that when I turn on the television, the people I see appearing in Boston courts are largely Black? The answer to that question, I guess, is because a large part of Boston is black. If we were living in California, I’m told that we would see white meth-heads appearing on the television screen. If we were in Arizona, New Mexico, or the southern part of Texas, it would be Mexicans, and if we were in San Francisco’s Chinese section…guess what? You get the picture;

There is, however, a problem with the picture we think we see. How many of the police officers of the same ethnic backgrounds are serving in the areas where there is a large percentage of the same ethnic group? In Boston, we’re fortunate. We have a number of officers from a variety of ethnic families, and they are the ones who patrol the neighborhoods where there is a concentration of the same ethnicity. It really shouldn’t have to be that way, but…that’s the way of the world. The unfortunate part is that when the shooting took place, it was a white cop who had pulled over a car driven by a black man, and it was in a “black neighborhood.” The police officer was doing his job. Had he stopped the man in East Boston, South Boston, or another ethnic neighborhood, the shooting still might have taken place, but the booing certainly would not have.

Ferguson, Missouri was a powder keg just waiting to happen. The police force is 97 percent white and the population is 67 percent black. Combine that with St. Louis’ history of being segregationist and discriminatory – the city still ranks as the sixth most segregated in the country – and you have a formula that makes other minority neighborhoods look peaceful and serene.

Where, then, is the problem? A good part of it seems to be that there is a dearth of police officers that represent minority groups. Who wants to be a cop these days? The job is frightening and often underpaid. It’s not a particularly new problem; it’s been going on for years until now it has almost reached what we might call “critical mass.”

After WWII, the military discharged huge numbers of its own police from all branches of the service. Many of them became police men and women. But that was a long, long time ago. They have all retired and most are in the ground. When Korea rolled around, something similar happened, but the numbers weren’t quite as great. The numbers from Vietnam were even lower, and while Iraq and Afghanistan have supplied more officers, there is still a lack of qualified people to fill the quotas of too many cities and towns in the United States.

I don’t believe that anyone takes this problem seriously except the police hierarchies in some of the major cities. My question is what comes next?

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