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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

In the “as if we needed to hear any more bullshit from you,” category, Donny Trump tweeted that “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!”

This is just another indication of why Trump is not a leader, just a thin-skinned child who, when he doesn’t get his way, takes his ball and goes crying home…in this case, to his daughter, not his wife…hmm. It was the perfect opportunity to admit that ‘his’ congressional leaders were unable to develop a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act {ACA}. He could have followed it up with, “Now is the ideal time for Republican and Democratic leaders to reach across the aisle and, together, develop a plan that will replace the flaws in ObamaCare and that will ensure that all Americans receive appropriate health coverage.” That is something that a leader would have done.

Consider the number of times that Republicans attempted to repeal the ACA over the eight-year term of Barack Obama. The number, by the way, is sixty. It seems to me that rather than spending all of that time attempting to repeal a law, they could have more productively spent their time developing a plan to replace the Act. If you, as a member of Congress, felt that ObamaCare was such a terrible piece of legislation, wouldn’t you first come up with a better, stronger, more viable plan rather than behaving like a bunch of spoiled children? I’m sorry, am I being too logical here? Was it, perhaps, a case of, “We don’t want anything that the ‘foreign-born,’ n-word, SOB got past us to ever show up as part of his legacy! Oh, naw, that could never be the case…or could it? Was it that this first national health plan, for all its flaws, managed to get enacted by Congress?

You see, I’m rather a cynic when it comes to killing something just for the sake of killing it. I don’t hunt, but I used to enjoy deep sea fishing enormously. We kept the bluefish and stripers that we caught because people would eat them. If we were having a better than average day, it was catch and release. The Republican Party had seven years to put together a better health plan. They-didn’t-do-that. They-wanted-to-kill-a-program-that-had-been-legally-enacted-without-having-the-faintest-fucking-idea-of-what-to-replace-it-with. Now, I don’t know about you, but I might just have wanted to ask my Republican Congress person what he or she was doing to develop a plan to replace ObamaCare during those seven years, and if they didn’t have an answer, I might just have voted his/her ass right out of that Congressional seat. Am I being too harsh for you here?

Now, unable to come up with something to replace the Affordable Care Act, instead of uniting Congress, this idiot at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the “Greatest Deal Maker of All Time,” whines and moans and blames everyone without even considering the tremendous opportunity put before him, starts his surrender talk with, “Well, no Democrats were going to vote for anything the Congress came up with.” Note that please. It wasn’t “…anything we came up with,” it was, “…anything Congress came up with.” In other words, “It wasn’t my fault; it was the fault of those assholes in Congress.” It’s this lack of leadership qualities or even understanding the qualities of leadership that terrifies me about this man. He was a little king in a small village when he had his businesses that were being run by others. He was a television celebrity who could do as he damn well pleased when he was on air. He is now in a position that requires skills and qualities that he has never and probably will never possess, but because of his celebrity status and the bombast with which he conducted his campaign, he was the chosen one.

There is a need for our nation to have a health plan. There is a need for a health plan that covers the rich, middle, poor, and elderly classes. It can be done. Mitt Romney showed that it could be done in Massachusetts. Was his plan perfect? No, it, too, was flawed, but care was taken to correct many of those flaws. No plan, whoever, drafts it, is going to ever be 100 percent guaranteed to work for everyone. We are not a one-size-fits-all nation. Hell, we weren’t even a one-size-fits-all-state. From the hills of Holland to the tip of Provincetown and from Florida to Dracut and beyond, Massachusetts residents have different needs, but by God, Romney tried and did something no other governor had done. Now is the time for Ryan and McConnell, Schumer and Pelosi to sit down, shake hands, look at one another, and simultaneously ask one another, “How do we pull ourselves out of this deep shit,” for that’s what it is. Trump and his hooligans will do everything in their power to ensure that the ACA implodes, just to get back at Obama. It’s time for the adults in the room – those from both sides of the aisle – to come together and determine what is best for the country, for all 326,474,013 members of this country. Forget ‘Hairspray’ and his band of brothers, for he will attempt to sabotage your efforts. While sub rosa may be a term we don’t care to hear, it may be the only way that the nation will be able to make health care for all a reality. Demonstrate that you are true leaders even though we don’t have one sitting in the White House.

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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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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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“In the online age, we live our lives openly and loudly rather than with dignity.” That’s a line, somewhat paraphrased from The Heist by Daniel Silva. It’s one of those novels that the pure academics would call “trash,” but which I chose to call enjoyable reading. I read these books for the very same reason that I write essays for this blog and latch hook rugs. I do these things so that I won’t kill people. Juli, on the other hand, has her knitting, crocheting, jewelry-making, silver-smithing, and reading a variety of books so that she will not join me in killing people.

While killing people may sound rather extreme, there are times when it appears to be the last recourse against stupidity and downright “assholedness” to which we are exposed on a far too regular basis. As one example, I would cite the Netflix series, “Making a Murderer,” which is based on the 2005 Wisconsin case in which Stephen Avery was convicted of killing Teresa Halbeck. The series is presented as a documentary but in such a manner as to paint Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey as the victims rather than as the killers. The result has been a White House petition signed by 300,000 to free the two men and to demand an investigation of the police department which did the legwork and prepared the case against Dassey and Avery. The series has also resulted in the prosecuting attorney receiving over 3,000 e-mails with death threats against him and his family as well as disgusting actions to be taken against his family. Let’s just take a minute to examine this: First, it’s a documentary that has a slant because it did not present all of the evidence used in the trial against the two men. Second, anyone who knows anything about how prosecutors work, particularly in murder cases, there is generally a backlog of evidence that is held back until it’s absolutely needed. This was not the case in the Avery/Dassey trial. It was laid out meticulously at trial, but not in the documentary. Third, DNA evidence, given at trial, was not given in the documentary. In other words, what the unknowing American public has signed as a petition and has used as a basis for threatening the prosecutor is a single, one-sided, prejudiced view of what really happened, Remember the old adage, “Believe nothing of what you read and only half of what you see.” It was coined, as I recall, at a time when newspapers were notorious for slanted journalism (oh, gee, and they’re not today?). In today’s world of instant news because of television and the many satellites circling our planet, we also must be cautious when we watch television news or supposed “in-depth stories” about anything. I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and say that Netflix didn’t do its homework…or if they did due diligence on the story, they elected to sensationalize and glorify two obvious killers, and in the process, have created 303,000 people who actually believe the bullshit they have shoveled. That’s 303,000 sheep who have been told what to believe, accepted it, and have not bothered to do any of their own research; they are also 303,000 sheep who breed and who vote…scary, huh?

There are more of these sheep who believe that Donald Trump should be President because he’s telling them exactly what they want to hear. He tells us that he will keep the Muslims out of America. Does that mean that he will deport the more than 20,000 Muslim doctors in the U.S.? Does it mean that he will close the Muslim charities, including Helping Hand for Relief and Development which, in 2013 was rated as one of the top ten charities in the United States? Yet, the sheep will follow and vote for a bombastic, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, bully who appears to believe that even when he’s wrong, he’s right. The person who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not a dictator who can make and keep such idiotic promises as building a wall to keep the drug smugglers and emigres out of our country…and have the country from which they are coming pay for said wall. People….think. Stop listening to nonsense and begin to think for yourselves.

Donald Trump’s appeal to certain groups is understandable. After all, Congressional politicians have been using his formula for years. If you tell the people in your district what they want to hear; put their needs ahead of the needs of the country; bullshit them into believing that you can get them what they want, they will vote for you without fully knowing the difficulties of meeting their needs. Is this dishonest? Sure, but if the sheep believe what you’re shoveling at them, what the hell, it gets you back into office. Too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads.

Ours is a nation of checks and balances. Surely, everyone knows that from the Constitution. Therefore, any candidate for any office may make any kind of promise to his or her constituents. However, unless they are promises that will be approved by another branch or successfully tested by the third branch, they are just so much hot air blowin’ in the wind.

Sheep are everywhere and easily lead. It’s those of you and those of us who think independently and don’t believe everything we are told or even see, who will determine the future of America.

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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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There is no way to write this piece without sounding like a racist and a hater. Those who really know me, however, will understand that nothing could be further from the truth. Should I use that old cliché that says, “I have a number of black friends,” or some other baloney like that? No, my friends are of almost all colors. I’m not so certain that any of my friends are true Native Americans although my companion maintains that there is some Cherokee blood in her family tree. As a consequence, I won’t apologize to anyone for what I’m about to put down on paper.

For seventeen years I toiled in the vineyards of higher education at Northeastern University in Boston. The school bordered on what was considered at one time to be home to “the blacks.” It was called Roxbury and that’s exactly how a lot of people referred to it. A friend of mine, Reuben Margolin, was attacked one day by four black youths from one of the projects. While Reuby didn’t look like much, the mistake these young men made was in not recognizing that (a) he’d been a Golden Gloves champion, (b) he’d grown up in a rather tough section of New York and was also a street fighter, and (c) that he wouldn’t take shit from anyone, especially four teenage punks who thought they had a chance. He left them all on the ground without suffering any injury to himself…and he was 54 at the time. It was that kind of neighborhood. On another occasion, I watched with a couple of colleagues as a pair of men threw another off the roof of a four-story apartment building. On yet another occasion, I was denied entrance to the “Afro-American Institute” building because of my skin color. I tell you these things because to me, racism is a two-way street.  However, the very second that one cites something that cries black racism, you become labeled as a ‘hater’ or a ‘racist’ or worse; it is just so much bullshit.

When I left Northeastern, things had improved to some degree. Today, the ‘black community’ or what is left of it in Roxbury…gentrification, you know…works closely with faculty and administrators at Northeastern to make community relations as pleasant as possible. There are still pockets of trouble but the real trouble has moved further away and is now more concentrated in another area of Boston known as Mattapan.

My career following Northeastern was spent in what I called a “Lilly-white community with a bunch of white bread kids and colleagues.” That too is a nasty thing to say but the truth of the matter is that there sure weren’t many black students when I arrived. The college later hired a minority student coordinator and Eddie did a wonderful job with the young men and women who sought her guidance. Funny story about that is that I was with her one day when several freshmen came in asking where they could get a good haircut. Stupid me says, “Oh, there’s a great barber right in town.” Eddie or Edwina as most people knew her, gave me a dirty look and told the kids where they should go in Boston. After they left, I expressed further ignorance by asking, “Why not the barber in town?” She then told me that the hair of black people and the hair of white people required different treatment, a fact I have retained to this day…it was humbling to say the least.

“Where is this all going?” you might ask. Welllll, it’s going straight to the University of Missouri and a bunch of stupid white folk, stupid black folk, and stupid folk in general. Let us take it from the very top: It would appear that President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, along with the director of Greek life on campus were walking around with their eyes shut and their ears plugged long before black and white students on campus called for the resignations of all three. Racial epithets and incidents and those relating to anyone of certain religious beliefs don’t occur overnight and turn the institution into a disgruntled campus. One event is too many, but when that single event occurs, it demands that a course of action be instituted and incorporate the education of the entire institution, e.g., the University of Missouri System; not just a main or adjunct campus but the entire system. Whether a residence hall director or monitor, someone in the dean of students office or wherever decided it wasn’t important enough to bring to the attention of the university leadership or whether that leadership pretended it wasn’t all that important is immaterial, I neither know nor care. At some point, somewhere on that campus, something happened and nothing was done to nip it in the bud. As a consequence, a wound, real or imagined, began to fester, ultimately exploding at a homecoming parade, with that particular event being handled clumsily by the president of the university.

If part of the blame for the explosion of problems at the University of Missouri lies with the administration, there is also an element of stupidity among some of the black students. Saying that “…the University remained silent after Mike Brown was killed,” is about as dumb as dumb can be. What the hell did Michael Brown have to do with the University of Missouri in the first place? The fact that this thug was killed in the same state as the University makes no sense. Why should the University administration have had anything to say about the death of Mike Brown? UM is not an all-black school like a Harris-Stowe or Lincoln University or any number of other all-black institutions. Black students make up seven percent of the student population at the University of Missouri, yet they are the ones who screamed the loudest for the ouster of the president and the chancellor. Terribly sorry, chaps, but you get no sympathy from me on that one.

The other stupid people in this situation are the Jewish students who complained that they had also been singled out for insults from others. Don’t they have a Hillel chapter? Where do they worship? Who is their rabbi? Did they complain to him and ask that he speak to either the president or chancellor? Or did they, like the members of the black community allow some insults to fester, turn gangrenous, and blow up when the other situation arose? We will never know.

Is the University of Missouri an unusual situation? No, not at all. I don’t believe there is a college or university campus in the country where there isn’t some form of racial or ethnic injustice being perpetrated or has been perpetrated. It’s what happens when it occurs that is important because what is done at the outset can set the tone for the institution for decades to come. Diversity is not just a word to which we should pay lip service; diversity means understanding that there are people out there who are different from you…different in the food they eat, the clothes they wear; the manner in which they worship, and a ton of other differences. However, they are Americans. You and I may not always agree with them and that’s fine; let’s have a discussion. But this is the 21st Century and everyone, all of us, should be above calling blacks the ‘n’ word or worse. We should be above posting swastikas anywhere; it’s a symbol of absolute terror to many members of the Jewish community, and if we can’t understand that, it’s our problem and our responsibility to learn why.

The University of Missouri turned a deaf ear and is now paying the price. They will continue to pay that price for years to come; in applications; in donations; in faculty disgruntlement, and in a number of other areas. How many other colleges and universities are in similar situations but have not yet faced that one back-breaking incident that will find them paying the same price as Missouri? It’s time to look inward, you collegiate geniuses, before all hell breaks loose and you suffer the consequences.

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“It should be the duty of society to take care of the very young and the very old.” Fella said that some years ago. Can’t recall who he was or even where I first heard it, but it seems like reasonably good advice, should anyone care to ask me. You take care of the very young because you never know which one, if any of them, might grow up to find the ultimate cure for disease or discover another earth-like planet that can be colonized, or perhaps even find a method for eliminating those horrible traffic jams that many, many, too many people face every day they head off to work. As far as the elderly are concerned, it’s something like “they’ve served their time in hell,” and rather than just discarding them, we should reward them, not only for surviving, but for the contributions they may have made and for the ability to tell us what mistakes we made in the past…so we won’t repeat them…which we will anyway.

Awful lot of people out there who don’t agree with any of what I say, and there are too damned many of them who don’t believe we – society, that is – have any responsibility for caring for either group. “Screw ‘em,” they say. “It’s your own damned fault for bringing a kid into this world, and if you can’t raise that kid and take care of it, tough tomatoes; that’s your problem.” As far as the elderly are concerned, there is that group that would just as soon put them on an ice floe and let it drift until it melts. I think you might be a bit surprised at just how uncompassionate – or dispassionate; take your choice – some of our fellow citizens can actually be when any part of their own normalcy is threatened. It’s not unlike those folks they used to show on television; they called them “doomsday preppers” or something like that. They were prepared to take care of their own and would shoot to kill anyone who asked for help…nice folks.

Don’t get me wrong; if someone behaves like Red Skelton’s old hobo, Freddy the Freeloader, and is unwilling to make any contribution to society, I don’t believe society has any responsibility to take care of them. Maybe I’m starting to sound a bit like Rodney King and his, “Why can’t we all just get along,” but in truth, that’s not such a bad idea. In a Utopian society we could do that, but the earth is not populated by Utopians. It’s populated by so much fragmentation, so much anger, so much hate, and yes, so much love that I begin to wonder if the inmates have finally taken over the asylum.

I read a piece recently that said people in the Scandinavian countries are a great deal happier and satisfied than people in the United States. Of course they have fewer people, higher taxes, higher cost of living, and a few more troubles than we have so I don’t really believe that they are a hell of a lot happier. Someone living in San Diego reads that and they’d probably laugh out loud…”How the hell can they be happier with the winters they have to suffer through?” It’s just further proof that surveys don’t mean crap or the while figures don’t lie, liars sure’n hell can figure.

Anyway, back to our situation with young and old. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “In 2014, 15.5 million or approximately 21 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.” That’s an awful lot of children and a lot of poverty for a country that claims to be as rich as ours. In addition, “According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15.3 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life. Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences. Are there federal programs to feed these children under 18? Sure there are…if they’re in school. A lot of these kids aren’t in school because they don’t have shoes to wear or clothing that would be appropriate. In other words, the federal and state programs, while they work for some, aren’t working for all. We do not, as a nation, do a good enough job of identifying and jump-starting the poor in our country. Most of the folks I know don’t wish to be poor; they’re willing to work. All most of them want is what all of us ever want, and that’s a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. If our infrastructure is so fragile, maybe the poor can help to change that; let’s put them to work. I’m not talking about welfare here; there are too many slackers on the welfare rolls already…no work; no welfare. Who is going to pay for it? Damned good question. If we could make some sense of the federal and state budgets, perhaps we could cut some pork and create an infrastructure fund that would damn near cover all costs. Hell, we might even have a bond issue that would help to underwrite a program to help the poor.

So now we have cured all of the ills of the very young and the very poor. What about the elderly? “The number of older adults is projected to increase over the next decade and continue to rise in the following decade. In 2040 there will be 79.7 million older adults, more than twice as many as in 2000.  Additionally, the senior population is becoming increasingly diverse.  Between 2012 and 2030, the white population of 65 and plus is projected to increase by 54 percent compared with 125 percent for older minorities.” This could certainly be called a growing market.  People are living longer because of healthier lifestyles, advances in medicine, and just in general. Do we owe these people something or should we just abandon them? I hope that I hear a resounding, “No” to the last part of that question.

Here are some statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that outline a few of the problems facing society with regard to the elderly:

  • In 2014, 3.0 million (9%) households with seniors age 65 and older experienced food insecurity. 1.2 million (9%) households composed of seniors living alone experienced food insecurity.
  • In 2013, 5.4 million Americans over the age of 60 were food insecure. This constitutes 9 percent of all seniors.
  • Food insecure seniors are at increased risk for chronic health conditions, even when controlling for other factors such as income:
    • 60 percent more likely to experience depression
    • 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack
    • 52 percent more likely to develop asthma
    • 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure

Yes, there are, currently, a number of federal and state services that provide meals and general care for the elderly. It is imperative that we continue to see these programs both expanded and funded to meet what is a growing societal crisis in elder care in this country. It’s predicted that the last of the Baby Boomer generation will reach retirement age by 2025…ten years hence. I cannot help but wonder if it won’t be until that year is upon us that we will decide to take action.

Yes, “It should be the duty of society to take care of the very young and the very old.”

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It’s thirteen months before the next Presidential elections, and I’m already sick and tired of the promises being made by candidates from both sides, promises they have no intention of keeping because they don’t honestly know how. That, my friends, is a 37-word sentence, a fierce violation of the “writers’ code.” Frankly, I don’t give a damn. If the politicians can lie as blatantly as they do, I can violate a few of the inviolable rules of journalism.

What the political hacks seem to conveniently forget is exactly what Barrack Obama forgot when he assumed the Executive Office…you do not work alone in governing the United States of America. The Founding Fathers made this very clear when they proposed a system of checks and balances for each of the three branches of our government; the Legislative, Executive, and the Judicial. While it is the function of the Legislative Branch to propose and enact laws that will benefit a “great majority,” these can either be vetoed by the Executive Branch or ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Branch. The President, while he – no she yet – may bluster and bitch, he can veto what Congress sends to him for signature, ergo, he thinks he’s top gun, but Congress may override his veto. In addition, they control the purse strings, thus limiting his ability to spend monies on projects of which he may approve but which Congress does not. Oh, yes, and if they believe he has done something illegal or immoral, they can also impeach him. The judicial branch, while controlled by a systems of lower courts, is basically exempt from the checks which apply to the other two branches, and the rulings of the Supreme Court will stand until challenged by new justices.

As a result of the checks and balances that our Founding Fathers included in the Constitution, it doesn’t really matter what tripe and braggadocio is uttered by wannabee Presidential candidates. Their key attribute should be the ability to get those from their own and their opposition parties to work alongside them for the common good of the nation. This might just be a novel concept for the Executive leadership branch of government; after all, the Legislative Branch does not know how to work in any kind of harmony for the betterment of the country. I’d like you to think about that for just a moment. We have a chief executive who, when he doesn’t get his own way with the Legislative Branch, attempts to go around them through executive action rather than work with them to determine what they see as the problem with what he is attempting to achieve. (You may have to read that sentence a couple of times, but you understand what I’m saying, don’t you…sure, I thought you did.)  On the other hand, as you may have read in The Selling of America, we have a Legislative Branch that is so torn apart internally that it cannot even decide on the correct time of day or whether or not the sky is blue! Meanwhile, back in Kentucky, a clerk is telling the Supreme Court to go straight to hell, because she doesn’t care about the laws of America; she’s a law unto herself. The Founding Fathers knew that governing wouldn’t be easy, but I’m not so certain they ever envisioned anything quite as tragically comical as what we are seeing in the early part of the 21st Century. Where the hell is common sense when we need it…yep, you’re right; common sense truly is not all that common.

This is why I am already sick and tired of the banalities of these people who believe they are qualified to lead the United States of America. Here is a question that I would like to ask each of the candidates: “how can you be so certain that you are qualified to run the nation?” They would, no doubt, begin to respond immediately and I would interrupt by saying “SHADDUP FOOL!” as loudly as possible. If they continued to speak, I would have them ejected from wherever our meeting was taking place. If you don’t have to stop and think, think, think about the questioning of your own abilities, say nothing until you can speak with genuine authority. I could take each candidate currently in the running and dissect them piece by piece but then this essay would go on forever. Let me just say that governing a state does not qualify you to govern a nation, no matter how successful you were in doing so. Being in Congress most assuredly does not qualify you to be the chief executive of the United States. Having been a business person who achieved a modicum of success hardly qualifies you to the pressures that you will feel when you enter the Oval Office. Let’s see, have I left any area uncovered? Nope, don’t think so. To me, the best person to run the country is the one who has all sorts of reservations about his or her ability to do so, but who is willing to put forth a best effort to keep the nation growing, to reduce the national debt; to keep our country free from attack by foreign powers or individuals who would attempt to destroy us, and who is actually willing to sacrifice his or her life to do these things and so many, many more. Show me that person, the one who is free from bluster and bullcrap, who is willing to work with and/or around the idiots currently occupying the halls of Congress like a goddamned childish sit in, and who can demonstrate openly the ‘how’ of their plan, and that my friends is the person who gets my vote. The saddest thing of all is that that person has yet to come forward. Because of that, I fear greatly for the future of my nation.

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The gym rat is an interesting species and comes in many forms.

While most would consider the gym rat a person who is constantly working out, this is a fallacy. I have been in gyms where, when one opens a locker – generally a bottom locker and one that actually opens without the use of a pry bar –  a genuine, a-number-one gym rat will jump out and slink away, finding some hole in a wall that has either been kicked in or punched out. These particular gym rats are not sociable, have little to say, but they will feast on athletic gear that has been left behind for any period of time…including sweat socks and old jock straps. You might wish to consider moving away from this nominally-named gym rat at a rapid pace or send it on its merry way with a good swing of your gym bag. Do not concern yourself that this particular species will fight fair if it decides to challenge your authority; it does not work out on either cardio nor with free weights. Its only form of protection lies in its mouth…a rather nasty set of incisors which can cause a surfeit of damage.

There are many more species of gym rats, some to be avoided at all costs, and others to be admired from afar…or up close and personal if you have no fear of being torn limb from limb by some crazed martial arts specialist who’s just been dying to try out her newly-acquired-skills on some unsuspecting fool. It’s also necessary that you understand that species of gym rats vary from facility to facility and name to name. For example, at some establishments it is possible to see a species of gym rat known as “Musculature-excessivitis.” The male of the species can usually be found around the free weights rack, admiring both the free weights and the image of himself in the mirrors that abound in this area. If you should espy one at a time when he is using these free weights, you will note that the weight is sufficient to cause each vein in the body to appear that it will soon burst through the skin and send a torrent of blood skyward. In all fairness, it should be noted that all well-muscled members of the species are not steroid users, merely men so in love with their own musculature that they are constantly attempting to improve the way they believe men or women will find them more attractive. The female of this species is exceptionally deceptive for their manner of dress differs markedly. It ranges from the floppy sweatshirts and pants to spandex that appears to have been spray-painted on the body. The former are generally friendly and will offer suggestions if asked. The latter are usually too busy admiring their own bodies to be concerned dealing with yours.

The species or category of gym rat that I have found to be most common in the several gyms I have attended are the “Preservationists.” These are what I might refer to as “my folk.” They or we, whichever floats your boat, are the middle-aged to seniors who attempting to preserve some form of dignity with whatever they have left on their decrepit frames. Most of us have suffered through some life-altering experience that has set us on a long-term plan to not suffer such an experience again in the near, middle, or even distant future. The exercise pattern is not complex by any manner of means. It is a combination of cardiovascular exercise, accomplished by use of a treadmill, elliptical machine, stair stepper, rowing machine, or some other sweat creating torture device, with either free weights – those dumbbell type ‘thingies’ – or machines that, when first viewed, scare the living daylights out of the prospective user. In total, the preservationist may spend as many as two hours in the confines of the gym, a minimum of one hour of which will be spent chatting with others of their type regarding various aches, pains, and lack of sleep. Preservationists are harmless. Their desire is to live a bit longer than others who do not exercise or, as in the case of some, live just to see another sunrise.

Many gym rats are hybrids, the only thing classifying them for what they are being that they are consistent in their use of the gym. Six days a week, generally at the same time, you will find them exercising. For some, it’s a regimen for dropping pounds in order to fit into last year’s shirts and suits; for others, it’s wishing to fit into last year’s bathing suit or skirt. For almost all, it’s an attempt to look and feel better, both physically and mentally. From over 20 years of experience, I can say that on those days when I return from the gym, I feel energized, and I find that my mind is just a wee bit sharper than when I don’t exercise…wisecracks about my state of mind are always accepted!

Are there other pure, non-hybrid gym rats? Of course there are. To classify most of them, however, would be insulting. The “Look-at-me-look-at-me” and the spandex crowd are more pathetic than pure, and those who use the gym merely as a hangout for an hour or so are just comedic. I have been fortunate in my years as a preservationist. I have met men and women from all walks of life; from drug dealers to headmasters; from police officers to doctors; from prosecuting attorneys to those involve with homeland security; from teachers and nurses and everyday housewives just trying to stay in shape; all have been nice to me, and I’ve enjoyed my conversations with each and every one. The heterogeneity of a gym is remarkable, and I love every minute of my time spent there…rats and all!

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