Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Government Mandate Puts Profitable Post Office In The Red

Every single day, except for Sundays, we can go out to our mailbox and receive just about any form of correspondence or package that anyone in the world has chosen to send us. All they need is our address. Let’s think about that for a second. Someone on the opposite side of the world can go to their local post office and, with just our address, have that postal agency send a letter or parcel to our country and that object arrives in our mailbox.

This very same system also provides the ability for anyone in America to send us a parcel or letter, directly to our mailbox, from anywhere in the United States for less than the cost of pretty much any private or third party shipper. In fact, when it comes to letters, it costs the same to send a letter across town as it does across the country. How amazing is that?!

This is called the flat rate U.S. Postal Service, and it lost $5,100,000,000 (that’s $5.1 billion) over the course of its last fiscal year. But the postal service’s losses are not the result of the discrepancy in the cost of service whether your letter travels 3,000 miles or 10 feet, nor are the losses the result of the lack of profitability of it’s service offerings. These huge losses are caused by a congressional mandate that forces the U.S. Postal Service to pre-fund 75 years' worth of retirement benefits for its employees.

Come again? Yes, there is only one entity in the entire country that is required by an act of congress to pre-fund 75 years worth of retirement benefits for its employees…our postal service. What effect has this had on the independent, U.S. government agency? Well, before the congressional mandate, it was profitable and in the black every year, but today, it has lost money the last nine years in a row and is $15 billion in debt.

Once again, government has taken a profitable business and regulated it into the red.

Want proof? Take away the retirement pre-funding requirement and the post office would have turned a $623 million profit last year instead of a $5.1 billion loss. While the good news is that this pre-funding requirement actually will end with this fiscal year, our U.S. Postal Service will start 2017 over $15 billion in debt as opposed to beginning the year debt free, as would have been the case for the past nine years without this restricting congressional mandate.

Government’s job should be to regulate trade, not force organizations to take on vast amounts of debt just to exist.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

That's Not Much Of A Revolution At All...

Every few months or so for a little over a year now, the latest edition of some random magazine has shown up in my mailbox. These magazines show up unannounced, and at first I think someone else’s mail was accidentally delivered to me, but upon further inspection, I see that my name and address are on the label. These magazines vary in subject matter, and they usually arrive for about three to six months and then are followed up with an “if you enjoyed the magazine why not keep it coming for x amount of dollars” envelope. Needless to say, Old Man Savastano just tosses those and never subscribes.

And while I toss those subscription solicitations, in my endless quest to keep my mind occupied and pass the time while I am riding my stationary bike, I have started looking through these random free magazines while peddling away on the seat of my infernal chore.

I was once a pretty big sports guy, back when I actually played a multitude of sports which my parents felt would keep me occupied enough to keep me out of trouble, so the Sports Illustrated magazine, which has shown up weekly for about the past three months now, is usually an interesting skim. While I don’t follow sports like I used to, I do inherently catch enough sports news floating on the wind for the content of the magazine to be none too surprising. But other than S.I., magazine stalwart TIME, and a few other random titles, every single other magazine has been some type of fashion or fitness magazine.

And I noticed something interesting when going through these fashion and fitness magazines. Apparently, there are the beginnings of somewhat of a self-proclaimed revolution in the fashion industry these days – people are at least talking about the fact that while all of the depictions of women in these magazines are of rail thin teenage girls, most women in America are neither teenagers, rail thin, or fashion models. I, for one, applaud this dialog and am happy to see this change. While I do not have a daughter of my own, I completely agree with the notion that our media and advertising definitely have a very narrow minded view of what they believe women are ‘supposed’ to look like, and I would hate to see any young girl growing up with the notion that the women in these magazines are what she is ‘supposed’ to look like. Especially since we all know there is a lot of Photoshopping that goes on behind the scenes, right? Talk about creating something impossible to achieve in real life.

So, good job fashion least you are trying. But, in the end, to quote an umpire who you might find in S.I., I call ‘em like I see ‘em, and when going through these magazines, I really feel like not much has changed despite the industry buzz about this so-called size revolution. If you thumb through one of these magazines, you will definitely find a page in there with a highly cropped picture of Ashley Graham in a very covering one-piece bathing suit that shows her from her waist to the top of her head with a headline that reads “Great Style Has No Size”, but the entire rest of the 198-page magazine is nothing but size zeros, ones and maybe…maybe some twos.

If you are the size of the girls in the magazine, then hey, more power to you, I am definitely not trying to knock you, but I feel that if fashion is going to conduct what it is calling a ‘revolution’ and then pat itself on the back for including women of all ages, shapes and sizes, these fashion magazines that have been forced into my mailbox definitely did not get the message. I think this so-called ‘revolution’ is comprised of that typical American fabrication that if we do something 0.005% of the time, we are creating real change.

So, sorry, fashion industry, I’m not ready to pat you on the back yet…You still have some work to do.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Remember Morning...15 Years Later

To commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11, I wanted to share with you something I wrote on the morning of September 12, 2001, after having been up for about 24 hours, watching the news. It is so hard to believe that it has been 15 years since the morning we were awaken early by my grandmother who called us to make sure my dad was not flying out of New York the morning she saw reports of an airplane accidentally flying into one of the Twin Towers. Luckily my dad had actually flown out of New York for Mexico City and then on to Honduras the morning before.
To give you a little background, at the time, I was still living at home with my parents, saving up to purchase a home and had just started a new business. My mom was working part-time at a local restaurant supply company and my brother was in high school. My dad was making his living working for a hanger company and spent almost 50% of his time away from home, a good portion of it in New York and New Jersey, but also in places all over the globe.
My mother and my brother traveled to New York and New Jersey quite frequently with my dad, tagging along on business trips so they could spend time with him. Being in my mid-20’s, I preferred to stay home. Over the course of his years of working in and around “The City”, my dad was fortunate enough to meet a lot of great people. In early September, my father, brother, and mother made a trip to New York together. They came back with the usual stories of good times and travel nightmares, telling me of their friends and friends of friends that they would love for me to someday meet. On this particular trip, my family had dinner with Joe Allen, a close family friend of my dad’s good friend Joey who was also engaged to one of Joey’s cousins. Upon their return my parents commented on how much Joe, Joey and I had in common, Joe and I because he worked in finance and Joey and I because he loved cars, and in particular, a certain German flavor.
What follows is a good chunk of something I wrote the morning after 9/11. Today, I believe I wrote this as a release of the strong emotions I was feeling at the time, though when I wrote it, I figured it was more to document the event as a moment in time. I share it with you in the hopes that we will remember that morning and continue to share everything that was wrong, but also what as very right and admirable about the actions of some of America’s bravest souls on the morning of September 11, 2001.
Please be forgiving of how little we knew of what actually transpired that day in the short 24 hours after the attack occurred. It’s almost a little embarrassing now, but I also feel it is important to remember the chaos, the lack of understanding, as well as the danger so many of us felt that morning. I truly hope we will never experience anything like this again:

My grandmother has always been an early riser. For as long as I can remember, she woke early, got my grandfather on his way to work, then turned on the news or an exercise program until it was time for her to start her day. I hadn’t been asleep for more than a few hours, when the knock on the door woke me. I opened it to find no one there, but then heard my mother calling from the kitchen. I wonder how long I’ll remember it this vividly. When I walked towards the kitchen, she said, “Grandma just called. A plane hit one of the towers.” Though we don’t live in New York, there’s enough time spent over there that it could have only meant the World Trade Center.
My grandmother’s reaction was the same as mine and that was why she had called. My first thought was of my dad and where he was in the world that morning. My grandmother called to make sure he wasn’t in New York, but luckily, he had flown out of New York City for Mexico City, then on to Honduras the morning of the 10th...When my mom first told me, I figured it was a small private plane or something of the sorts that had been in an accident, but once I saw the damage that strike had made, I knew there was no way that was a small plane. That in itself gave me some relief since all of my friends who are pilots still fly nothing larger than a private corporate jet.
Once I knew my dad and my friends were safe, it began to really sink in what had happened. A plane had hit one of the towers...I moved to our living room, turned on the big TV and watched, waiting to hear how an accident like this could have happened. As I sat there in the first few minutes, my mom came in and asked me if I remembered them talking about Joe Allen. I told her that I did and she then told me that he works in one of the towers, but she wasn’t sure which one. I commented that it looked like the plane had hit pretty high and I was sure that people were able to get down out of the building, despite the strike. Maybe Joe didn’t work in that tower. Maybe he hadn’t gotten to work yet this morning.
As soon as we finished our conversation, I remembered that when I got home from high school on the day the Gulf War began, I recorded the news footage so that I could one day show my little brother who was five at the time, the coverage of the Gulf War. This time, I didn’t think about the VCR, but instead hurried down the hall to wake my brother up so he could see such a newsworthy event as an accident of this magnitude. Vinny was slow waking up, but finally made his way to the living room where we watched the news coverage for what seemed some time. We took in the speculation from the newscasters, making a few speculations ourselves. It was then, for the first time that we began to wonder. An inexperienced pilot in a small plane ending up in a once-in-a-lifetime accident of this magnitude was one thing, but a commercial pilot, even a small commercial plane pilot, hitting that building on accident on a clear morning began to seem nearly impossible.
Speculation ran wild from the newscasters and they tried to report every little detail that they could get their hands on. I don’t remember what a lot of it was, looking back, but I do remember one thing. There were two reports. One from someone watching radar via the internet, and another from a person on the ground that there was a plane heading north almost literally up the Hudson River, right that second, as we were watching. I remember the thought crossing my mind how odd that seemed, but of course, it had to be regular traffic and people were just noticing it today because of the accident.
The next thing I remember was when my mom called out from the kitchen, “Oh my God, did you see that?!” At first we thought it was an explosion, maybe the fuel in the crashed plane igniting finally from the heat, but as the newscast instant replay would show, that was the second plane hitting the other tower. Though we had speculated it, this was when it hit home. We were under attack. It wasn’t an army marching up the beach, or paratroopers launched from off-shore. They weren’t blazing across the border like we were used to. My Lord, they were actually flying planes into buildings. I thought of the old plane lots in the desert out here, and even the used jumbo jet dealership in Las Vegas at the airport. Though it truly did not matter to the people who I knew had just lost their lives in that tower, I hoped that those were stolen planes and not hijacked ones. Vinny and I talked on it as we watched the replay over and over. Together we hoped that the buildings were mostly empty. That people had slept in because it was Tuesday and not Monday, that they didn’t need to get an early start on their work. Sadly, though, we knew, it was the finance district, the World Trade Center, and it was more than likely that so many people were already working when those planes hit the towers. I thought of my old job that I started each morning at 7:30. I would have been sitting at my desk. We didn’t want to believe it, but they were sitting at their desks. It was then that I called my girlfriend, Teresa. She had been at the gym early in the morning and had seen the newscast, but without sound, was unsure of what was going on. I found myself in disbelief in telling her that we were under attack. I told her to make sure she stayed out of populated areas and to stay close to home in case I needed to come get her. It was then that I began to call all of people I could think of that I knew that would probably not have put a TV or a radio on this early in the morning to tell them the same.
By now, my mom had spoken to my dad. He was on a plane from Honduras, heading back to Mexico City when the first plane hit, but we breathed another sigh of relief as he was now safe on the ground, and being in Mexico, we figured, even safer than us. My dad was calling New York to check on everyone and my mom was calling him to learn of the news. While this was going on, Vinny and I had slowed our conversation a bit. There wasn’t really much else to say at this point. The images of the towers in flame were intense, and we hoped that the worst was over. It was then that we learned that there were planes unaccounted for and that all traffic was being told to land. I remember the sheer fright of learning that though most of them were confirmed as OK, the FAA was reporting nearly a thousand planes in the air. How many of them were there? What’s around us? Is there anything here in Huntington Beach that would be worth hitting? We immediately came up with contingency plans. Where we would go and what we would do. We figured if the nuclear plant at San Onofre were hit, we’d have enough time to get in the car and drive north before the radiation reached us. Though we griped and moaned when they closed the Air Base at El Toro and the Navy Yard in Long Beach, I think at that moment, I was secretly glad that they were not operating anymore because they were two less targets. I was reminded at that time of the fear I had as a little kid, of course, only when I thought of it, that my grandmother’s house where I spent so much time was only a couple miles from the Naval Weapons Station in Huntington Harbor that of course buzz had labeled as a primary target during the cold war that was on at the time.
As we were contemplating this all, I’ll never forget how unbelievable it was to hear the street-cleaner going by outside. It was Tuesday morning as always, but I could not fathom that here we sat watching God-knows how many people die, watching in my lifetime, this nation come under attack on its own soil, all the while thinking, when was the last time…1812?...Did the battles of the civil war count?...Hawaii wasn’t a state in 1941, so they don’t count that, do they?...What in the hell does this count as? For some reason, while all of this is going through my head, I come to realize that my mom’s car is still in front of the house. Looking back, it seems so very weird that while watching this horror unfold, thinking of all of the possibilities of what could be next, that my instinct at the time was to run outside and move the car before we got a measly parking ticket.
So, my mom beats me out the door. While I pondered how amazing it was that we both still prioritized moving the car before getting a ticket above all else at the time, my mom ran to the car and started it. It was then that I noticed a good deal of our neighbors were also standing outside, literally in disbelief as well at what was going on. Between the guy in the street cleaner and the three parking control officers that followed him in their trucks, had they gotten to work so early that morning that they did not know? Had they not had a radio station tuned in, or even been told by dispatch what was going on? I do not know if they gave out tickets that morning because it appeared that everyone on my block had gotten out there the same time that we did and moved their cars. Either way, I made it a point before going back in to the house to yell at each passing parking control officer, “Don’t you know that the country is under attack?! And you are out here writing people tickets for not moving their cars?!” By the dumfounded look I got, I truly believe they had no clue what was going on.
Once back in the house, I settled on the floor in front of the TV, my nerves still shuddering from all that was going on this morning. As my mom walked down the hall to her room, calling my dad, Vinny and I took a close look at the towers. Vinny then told me that he remembered Joe saying that he worked on the 107th floor. As we studied the scene before us, it became apparent. No matter which tower Joe had worked in, if he had been in the office when either of the planes hit either of the buildings, he would be above the collision point. We still hoped, though we knew, watching helplessly, there were so many people in those buildings that were not going to find a way down through the fires. We threw out scenarios…Maybe the fire crews could eventually get up there with water and put the fires out. There had to have been places in the buildings that were not engulfed in flames. Places where people could have crouched, maybe near a broken window so they could breathe. Maybe they could bring in water-dropping planes and helicopters. Maybe if they got the fires under control, they could land helicopters on the roof and start pulling people off.
That was when it happened. We were talking out scenarios, studying as detailed as we could the image of the burning buildings on the screen. The camera angle that was being shown just showed the top portion of the buildings. It literally looked as if the top of one of the buildings had vanished. I said to Vinny, “Is it gone?” Vinny and I both looked at the screen as closely as we could. There was a lot of smoke there, but it really looked like it had vanished. After we had spent about thirty seconds going back and forth, the newscaster noticed the same thing. He asked that they run the tape back because it looked like something else had happened. Sure enough, when they showed the playback in slow motion from the same angle, you could see the top of the building fall down and off the bottom of the screen. As soon as we made the realization, Vinny went running to the back of the house to tell my mom to come and see. By now, they had a few different angles that were confirming that it looked like the entire building, not just the top portion, had fallen.
I honestly do not remember when I first saw the Pentagon. I do not recall if it was before or after the first tower collapsed...To the best of recollection, it was after the first tower fell that the newscasters broke into their own commentary of the towers to report that they were receiving word of a large, billowing smoke cloud in Washington, D.C. Again, we hoped for the best. We hoped that it was a brush fire, or maybe an accidental building fire, or something, but as you know, we were proven wrong again. A few minutes later, the newscasters were reporting that it was the Pentagon. There wasn’t a close enough image to show the damage to the Pentagon yet, just a long-shot from somewhere in the city of the smoke cloud. We then figured the worst…that like the tower, the entire building was gone.
So, this was it. At this point, we figured it was an all-out attack. The FAA was reporting that there were still some one hundred planes in the air, some of which were still not confirmed as in the hands of their pilots. The FAA was grounding everything they could land and not letting anything else take off, but there were still one-hundred flying bombs in the air, each loaded with passengers. Then, there were the international flights. If they had gotten passenger planes here in the U.S., which still hadn’t been confirmed yet, then why wouldn’t it be conceivable that there were planes from Canada, Mexico, Europe, Japan?
If I recall correctly, it was about the same time the newscasters were reporting a small plane crash in Pennsylvania that they announced they were getting word that American Airlines had confirmed that two of their flights were missing. It wasn’t set in stone, but we knew it. As soon as that report came in, it was enough for us to know that there were at least four planes…the two in New York, the one in Washington and the one in Pennsylvania. If they had gotten two passenger jets, then they had gotten four, and if they had gotten four, Lord knows how many of them they had.
It seemed that about every few minutes, the newscasters were reporting how many planes were still left in the air. They had concluded the same. We knew of four, but how many of them were there? It was then that I noticed that my mom had walked back to her room and had been in there for some time. Vinny and I had been trying to keep her informed while she was getting ready for work, but had not seen her for a while. When I called back to her, she emerged from her room, on the phone, holding her hand up to quiet me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how she told me, and I definitely know that I will never forget the incident itself. My mom just said, “Oh my God,” over and over again into the phone as she started to tear up. We knew at that minute that it was news about Joe.
My mom got off the phone and walked down the hall to tell us. She said that Joey had just gotten a call from the place where Joe Allens’s fiancée worked, asking him to come and be with her because she was, as they said, hysterical with grief. Joe had, in fact, been at work when the plane hit his building. He had tried to get out, but when he realized that he was not going to be able to get down, he took out his cell phone and called his fiancée to tell her good-bye. He told her that he loved her, asked her to please tell his family that he loved them, that he didn’t think he was going to make it, and then, the phone went dead. As far as we know, that was the last that anyone heard from Joe. I don’t recall exactly at what point I called my girlfriend Teresa to tell her what I learned of Joe and his fiancée, but I do definitely recall that I was so choked up that I could barely tell her. Just the thought of what it was like for Joe, the thought of what it would have been like to get that last phone call from him.

With Joe’s fate still fresh in our minds, we watched in inevitable disbelief, yet at the same time, with frightening expectation, as the second tower came down. There were still planes in the air, but for New York, it was done. They were “marching” on Washington, D.C.. We figured that the plane that crashed was on its way there as well. It was a westward movement that appeared to be timed very precisely. With planes in the air, our thoughts were turned to a fear that one-by-one, the planes in their control were going to make their way westward to the major cities. Were there planes in their control that were going to circle and wait for the time they were supposed to hit? Were there planes over the Pacific that were heading for our populous areas in California? Were they done with Washington, D.C.? Was the attack sophisticated enough to divert another plane to Washington in place of the one that had crashed?

As it grew time for Vinny to go to school, I reasoned that we did not even know if it was over. It had appeared it was over after the two planes, but then Washington was hit, so who was to say that it was done, especially with planes still in the air. How many of the planes already on the ground had hijackers on them still? My business for the morning was an appointment at South Coast Plaza, our local mall which was in fact quite a tourist attraction. I wondered if such a high-profile civilian target was on this list and called to cancel my appointment. I figured it would be best for us to stay close to home today.

As the morning wore on, it became apparent that there were no other planes in the air. There were reports already of suspicious-acting people on some of the flights that were on the ground. Reports of fighter jets over New York and Washington were coming in. The newscasts began to show the footage obtained from near the World Trade Center. New footage of the first plane hitting, new footage of the second plane hitting, footage from right near the towers when the first tower came down. It was like watching a scene out of a movie. It was so far away, yet so close to home. News reports throughout the day would show more and more footage - different angles, different views, different areas of what they were starting to call “Ground Zero.” Reports of the buildings around the towers beginning to collapse. Estimates of over 6,000 dead were flashing across the screens by the end of the night.

It is now the early morning hours of September 12th, and as I write this, we have no further word about Joe Allen. My dad is planning on flying as close as he can to the US/Mexico border, but with all flights grounded, we are going to have to go pick him up by car wherever he can get through. The planes have stopped, the attack is apparently over, and the news reports are now starting to speculate the why. The death toll is complete speculation and the news coverage is mostly of the tattered metal remains of the Twin Towers and some fires that are still persisting in the area as fire crews are looking for survivors. It is not actually completely confirmed, but it is highly speculated that it was most likely four commercial airliners that were hijacked. It is hard to grasp what has happened – four separate planes hijacked, three flown into buildings and one flown into the ground.

It is difficult to put into words what we were all feeling as we went to bed last night. I have not been able to sleep at all and I am still up, watching the news. There is an aura of disbelief. I keep reading what I wrote this morning over and over again and I’m not really sure how to end it. I’m honestly at a loss for words. I can only frame it in the context of history and say that it feels like this is going to by my generation’s Pearl Harbor and just as then, only time will tell where this leads us.
I tend to feel that yesterday’s events will be one of the things that we will all remember for the rest of our lives. I know that gets said quite a bit about quite a lot, but yesterday is definitely going to stand out in our memories.

I guess this will serve as a record of the minutes of early morning on September 11, 2001, and will be the bitter-sweet property of myself and my family for the rest of our lives. These are the minutes that I am honored and feel compelled to share to serve as a record for those who will come after us, for those who will wonder what it was like for most of us on that morning that for us, right now, was just yesterday.

Friday, September 2, 2016

"Can't Someone Else Do It?"

I walk for an hour early in the morning before work everyday in a big, sprawling parking structure. It gives me a chance to counteract all of the snacks I am going to eat that night, provides me with an hour of quiet reading and reflection, and inadvertently, also gives me the chance to witness something very few people who work in a business complex actual person picking up all of the trash that gets left on the concrete floor of the parking structure.

I've been walking in that parking structure every weekday morning for about a year now, and I have seen everything from a rotting banana to a single Cheez-It, to more than a few used Band-Aids, and items that have ranged in size from a paperclip to a stack of empty boxes and packaging material six feet high. One morning, there was even a discarded and obviously used condom. And what amazes me, yet fails to surprise me each time I walk past discarded items like these, is that a member of the human collective - someone who most likely is educated, has enough of a work ethic to hold down a job, and perhaps, like me, began their career in a service job - made the very deliberate and at least somewhat conscious effort to leave that item on the concrete floor of the parking structure and then drive or walk away.

I’m often also amazed at how close some of these items are left to one of the two trashcans that are on every level of the parking structure. While I don’t accept the excuse, I do at least slightly understand the frustration one might have at walking a couple hundred feet to a trashcan, but you’d be surprised at how many of these discarded items are literally within a toss-length of those trashcans.

Seeing these discarded items oft reminds me of that venerable episode of The Simpsons where the haphazard and lovingly ever-clueless embodiment of the stereotypical American, Homer Simpson, runs for Springfield Trash Service Commissioner under the slogan, "Can't someone else do it?" Homer runs on a whim, driven by completely controllable circumstances that spiraled out of control due to his own laziness, driving him to seek revenge by dethroning the sitting Trash Service Commissioner instead of holding himself accountable for his own actions. Homer’s slogan and promise that everyone in the town will no longer be responsible for picking up their own trash thanks to his garbage men naturally get him elected in a landslide victory.

In fact, just about every time I have walked past one of those discarded items on the parking structure floor, I have laughed a bit to myself and asked in my best Homer voice in my head, “Can’t someone else do it?”

I sometimes find myself wondering if the people that leave these items lying there on the floor, whether dropped out of their car while sitting, or dropped before or after getting out of the car, realize that at some point, another person is going to have to come along and pick up their garbage for them. I wonder if they think, perhaps, that the garbage is not picked up by a person at all – that maybe there is one of those magic parking-lot-cleaning vacuum trucks that does all the work. And then, of course, I wonder if perhaps they don’t even think about it at all. It’s just trash, and trash goes on the ground, and they don’t care one bit what happens to it or who it might effect.

Maybe it’s the fact that I spent my formative teenage years working thankless service jobs that ranged from bagging groceries to making cookie dough, to selling children’s clothes, to loading delivery trucks by hand, or the fact that at some point in each of those jobs, I was the one picking up the trash, but I can’t say that I have ever simply tossed trash on the ground and just walked away. I definitely have never thought there wasn’t someone that was going to have to come along and pick up that trash at some point. I’ll spare you the environmentalist lecture on the side effects all that trash has on our environment, but will still lightly touch on the fact that the people that discard these items have to at least realize all the trash lining our roads and highways most likely came from folks like them.

The bottom line is that I have always been aware that whether being picked up by hand or picked up by a vacuum truck or other machine operated by a person, there was in fact, a person out there that would be the one who had to pick up my trash if I just left it lying there on the ground. And I simply cannot figure out why it seems there are so many people out there that do not share this understanding.

I really wish each and every one of the people who toss their garbage on the floor of that parking structure could be there early in the morning when I watch a living, breathing human being have to bend down, take other people’s trash into his own hand and repeat this over and over again. I wish they could see this person who still somehow manages to greet me with a smile each morning being the “someone else” in “Can’t someone else do it?”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What If This Is What Happened...

Overheard on Jefffrey Epstein’s Lolita Express somewhere over the Southern Atlantic in 2002:

“I’ll tell you, Bill, here’s what we do – It’ll be yuge! – So what I’ll do, if Hillary ever decides to run for president – it’ll be great – I’ll run as a Republican – I’m a billionaire so everyone will think I must be Republican – They’ll all believe it – I’ll go crazy – I’ll go nuts – I’ll whip them into a frenzy over immigration, over China, over Mexico, over the economy – I’ll play the middle – fight both parties – No one will suspect a thing! I’ll scare the hard core Republicans and get them out to vote - win the nomination – Get this! – Then, I’ll get even crazier – Say even crazier things – Practically throw the election – Everyone will believe it! – They’ll think I’m just being me – my crazy self – And that I just couldn’t control myself – couldn’t keep my mouth shut! – They’ll totally believe it! – People will get scared – They’ll be really afraid of me starting nuclear war or something – Like I’m going to start nuclear war when I have a bad day! – They’ll totally think it! – They will be scared that no matter what Hillary’s done in the past – no matter how crazy liberal anti-American she was growing up – no matter how many laws she brakes or lies she tells coming up – she will win! – She’ll win because I will scare them all so much – And they’ll have to vote for her – I mean, they’ll have no choice – It’s either me or her – No one else will stand a chance – It’ a two-party system! – What are they gonna do? – With the supporters you guys already have and the people so scared of me being crazy – She will win no matter what – I’m telling you, it’ll be yuge! First woman President – you’ll be her First Lady! – I’ll loose – say the election was rigged – bitch for a bit, then go back to making money – Doing what I do - I’ll be more famous than ever – Maybe even get a TV show or something – Amazing shit! – I am telling you, it will work – People will believe it – No one will suspect a thing – It’ll do wonders for my business – You guys will be back in the White House! I guarantee you it will work!”

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"If You're Not First, You're Last..."

“If you’re not first, you’re last…”

These immortal words, handed down from his estranged father to race car driver extraordinaire Ricky Bobby instilled in him a drive to win because they embody a stark truth about competition – if you are first, you have won, and if you are anything but first, no matter where you place in the field, you have lost.

So, in that context of stark contrast, I have a message for every conservative out there, be you a social conservative, fiscal conservative, or whatever brand of conservative you may label yourself – as it stands right now, if you are not voting for Donald Trump this November, then you are voting for Hillary Clinton.

Sorry, folks! I know you might not want to hear it, and I know you are doing everything you possibly can to justify in your heart and in your mind that this is not the case. Believe me, I am not faulting you for that at all, but whatever your reason for not voting for Trump, when you cast that ballot for the presidential election in November, no matter what box you check instead of Donald Trump, like it or not, you might as well just be checking the box next to Hillary Clinton.

No matter your reason for not physically checking Hillary Clinton on your ballot – the fact that she will never be held accountable for the deaths of four of her operators as Secretary of State during the attack in Benghazi – the fact that she flat out lied to the American people about the reason for that attack – the fact that she lied right to the faces of the families of those four men about the circumstances surrounding their deaths – the fact that she lied to the American people and to the FBI about her email server – the fact that she maintained that personal email server so she could delete and remove from public record any emails she desired – the fact that she lied to us that one time about her landing while her official government plane was taking gunfire. Or, if you want to go with some of the historical facts – the fact that she paid off woman after woman that her husband had either accosted or mistreated with his sexual advances while in office – the fact that her ultra-liberal operations long before her husband ever took office helped to advance the ultra-liberal agenda that has helped lead to so many of the issues that you, as a conservative, probably take issue with today – ALL those backroom deals like Whitewater – and let us not forget about the time that she told us that her and Willy Jeff left the White House poor and penniless, though now they are quite admittedly flush with cash after starting that crooked foundation that has taken in billions of dollars from governments that treat anyone that is not a straight male horribly, even flat out killing them for existing, and taken in millions from pay to play deals that exchanged foundation donations for State Department sitdowns, deals, jobs, and favors.

Geez, that is such a long list! I don’t see how any American could see that list, completely dismiss every single one of those things as being some conspiracy theory or orchestrated attack, then still somehow walk into that voting booth and vote for someone with that kind of track record. I do not see how someone could not see that every single move this woman has made in her life has been an orchestrated effort to end up exactly where she is today – all of the lies and all of the cover-ups, and all of the silence while her husband took blowjobs from interns and other women he manipulated through his positions of power – just so she could end up exactly where she is today – standing a real chance of becoming the first female president of the United States – the most powerful person in the world, most likely for eight years.

Make no mistake, my conservative friends, Hillar-ious losing the election in November becomes more impossible with each passing day. While third party candidates are going to abound by the time November rolls around, unless Donald Trump ultimately drops out of the race, every vote that is not cast for Trump is going to be a vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m not saying you should vote for Trump if you are not. Vote your conscience, but don’t kid yourself about what your vote means to Hillary Clinton when it is not cast for Donald Trump. No matter how much you tell yourself and everyone around you that you didn’t actually check that box, endorsing the track record of our soon-to-be queen, that it wasn’t your fault, that you had nothing to do with it, you and I both know deep down that it is just not the case.

So, please, keep doing what you are doing, working hard to promote your third party candidate and trying to convince Donald Trump to drop out of the race, but if Trump’s still in the race on election day, just remember who you will be helping win the election when you don’t vote for Trump.

As those immortal words, “If you’re not first, your last,” capture so well, all that is going to matter in November is who comes in first – who wins. Let’s hope you are not among those who will have helped elect our new queen.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Opportunity In Being Let Go

It is a sound that I will always remember - the wheels of my big desk chair as it rolled noisily along the concrete floor of the big, open office space. The sound echoed off of the concrete walls and rows of glass desks. It was funny watching the little heads pop up from their desks and monitors, almost like gophers popping their heads up out of the ground for a look as everyone in the room sought to discover what was making that annoying sound.

It was just me, wheeling my big office chair out of the office for the last time. I’d boxed up the few things I kept at work and all that was left was to wheel my chair, my box and my printer to the car and drive away for the last time.

In American corporate culture, we’re supposed to walk out quietly, move on, and then never speak of these final walks out of a place of employment again, even pretend they never happened. We have all experienced them at some point, though, and if I accomplish one thing by continually writing about them, I hope it will be to assure each and every one of you that experiences something like this that the ending of a job truly offers amazing potential when it comes to taking your career and life to the next level.

One such opportunity that is presented to us when a job ends is the chance to expand our personal network. We meet a lot of amazing people at each job, so each time we leave one and start another, we stand the chance of meeting an entirely new set of amazing folks while still being able to stay in contact with the people from the job we have just left. Add in the fact that you will also secure  some valuable contacts while conducting your job search, and there’s some extra icing on that cake.

So, the next time you are walking out of a place of employment for the last time, just remember to hold your head high and smile, knowing that great things are about to happen for you. The potential to improve so many things you have wanted to improve is the greatest at that point in time. To be cliché, the world is yours to shape and mold as you wish on that day. Don’t forget to enjoy the feeling of freedom, then get right to work finding that next opportunity and ensuring it is your best opportunity yet.

As for me, one of the most amazing things about the day I wheeled that big office chair out of that echoing, big concrete and glass office and down to my car was the fact that I did not wheel that chair out alone. I was flanked by people who were now not only former co-workers, but life-long acquaintances that will always share the memories of our time there together, and the memory of that funny time William noisily wheeled his big office chair out of the place on his last day.

On that last day, when that window closes, just remember that the biggest door in the world has been opened for you – a door that leads to limitless potential.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

3 Things We Need To Eliminate From Political Discourse Immediately

As we look back on history, there have always been conflicts and at least two sides to every story. If we all agreed on everything every time, there would be no conflict. Therefore, the fact that there has been so much conflict in human history serves to demonstrate our lack of agreement on just about everything over the centuries.

And while conflict can sometimes be deadly, it is our diversity in opinion that is what proves we are alive and have our own free will. And what makes humans human is the ability to disagree and maintain civility and society through those disagreements, though on many occasions, being human has also resulted in the exact opposite.

But there is a constant throughout the history of human conflict and it is that conflict has remained civil as long as one side has respected the other side’s right to disagree with them, and once that respect to disagree disappears, conflicts spiral out of hand, civility goes out the window, and things get very, very messy until that respect to disagree returns.

Far too often political content published in America today immediately marginalizes the emotions and beliefs of detractors to the author’s point of view. While the author may not agree with the opposing view, and obviously has a right to disagree, to simply come back and say that those emotions and beliefs should not exist, regardless of how misguided the author may feel they are, is, at best, impractical, because those emotions and beliefs do exist, otherwise, there would be no need for the article to have been written in the first place. Right or wrong in one person’s view, someone’s emotions and beliefs exist – despite how much the opposing side may wish to marginalize them.

American political content also far too often is written with the notion that somehow a person who believes things the author opposes is somehow responsible for actions other than their own. A case in point is when someone asks why there is no white history month and is immediately classified as racist and held accountable for the sins of an entire race of people, even though he himself may never have actually done anything other than have a simple curiosity about the fairness of a race not having a history month.

Thirdly, there is a very disturbing trend in political content in which content creators are assuming certain individuals have enjoyed a much easier life because of their present circumstances, or worse, because of the color of their skin or their heritage. Case in point is this line I pulled directly from an article: “Certain people have the social and economic world constantly working in their favor.” This would mean that this group of people have to work less hard in school, have to work less hard to get ahead in the world, and have some sort of minimum safety net guaranteed by their race. This notion of privilege that is becoming more prominent in America with each passing day promotes the belief that a person of a particular race who continually messes up at work, doesn’t have the skills to hold down a job, or simply stands on a street corner and puts their hand out, will automatically have more than a person of another race who is dedicated to their career and works hard everyday.

While I understand that America’s struggle with racism and fair treatment regardless of skin color may be far from over, and while I also believe that continual race baiting by politicians and activists is actually prolonging racism is this country, I also believe that this notion that the lighter your skin, the more people hand you things – the less that you have to work for what you have – is completely and totally ridiculous. This notion of privilege and forcing people to feel guilty for the color of their skin is as completely ridiculous as the view that someone is less of a person or somehow inadequate because of the color of their skin. These two concepts go hand in hand and are equally as incorrect and wrong.

Rather then finger pointing and declaring that some people simply have things handed to them while others have an entire system of government and society stacked against them, we should take to heart the notion that we were all created equal and that we are all equally abled regardless of the color of our skin. Instead of this notion of privilege, we should return to promoting self-reliance, self-worth, opportunity, personal responsibility and personal accountability.

I, for one, believe whole-heartedly that the color of one’s skin truly has no bearing on their ability to accomplish goals, no bearing on the limit of their imagination, or on the success that they can have in this country. I believe our own self-doubts and the acceptance of victimization by society is a far bigger culprit. Once society starts expecting less of some than others, we see this horrible pattern where those who are expected to do less start to fulfill that prophecy.

I believe we should teach every child in America that their opportunities are limitless and that they can achieve any goal they set out accomplish, not that these kids over here are going to breeze through life, and these kids over here are never going to amount to anything because of the color of their skin. We can do better than this, America.

I grew up in one of the poorer neighborhoods in our town and I went to a public school in that neighborhood. I struggled with authority in high school and I struggled with paying for college. I have been pulled over by the police for fitting a profile and I can show you the tickets I received from those police officers that during the same month cited my race as Hispanic when I was driving my Volkswagen Jetta and cited my race as White when I was driving my Mercedes-Benz 190E. But one thing remained constant throughout all of this time during my upbringing, and that was the fact that the people around me continually told me that I could accomplish anything, and that the limits of my American dream were only up to one person – that only one person controlled my destiny – me. No one told me because of the neighborhood I grew up in, or because of my appearance, or regardless of how poorly I was doing in school at the time that the cards were stacked against me, that I was unprivileged, and that I had to accept anything other than a destiny I created for myself.

I was taught to be respectful. I was taught right from wrong. I was taught the importance of education. I was taught that if I wanted something, I needed to work for it. I was taught that there were no handouts and that life is what you make of it. When we teach kids that these things are all predetermined and out of their control, we are teaching them a horrible lesson.

We need to do better as a society and a people in the lessons we are teaching and the realities we accept. We need to no longer marginalize the beliefs of others that may not align with our beliefs. We need to stop blaming an entire race or group of people for the actions of a few. And most importantly, we need to stop channeling these two horrible habits into teaching our kids that some of them are inherently better than others – that some are more privileged than others – and go back to teaching them that each and every one of them can accomplish anything they set their minds to – that they are equally worthy to every other single person out there – and that they can accomplish anything that any other person can accomplish.