Nightmare on Nov 2nd

October 25, 2010

It is imperative that everyone who is registered to vote, votes on Nov 2nd. Ignorance, frustration, and apathy will be dangerous pitfalls on Election Day; but we must VOTE.

Close your eyes.

Imagine now that ‘human caused climate change’ is a “myth.”

Imagine tax cuts going to the top 1% – who are richer now – than they’ve ever been.

Imagine the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” being cancelled.

Imagine the new leaders in Washington: Sharon Angle from Nevada who said, “People ask me, ‘What are you going to do to develop jobs in your state?’ Well, that’s not my job as a U.S. senator;” or Joe Miller from Alaska who believes employees in the U.S. should not be provided a federal guarantee of minimum wage; or Christine O’Donnell of Delaware who couldn’t name a single current serving Democratic Senator she would work with to cross the partisan divide – or even a recent Supreme Court case she takes issue with; or Rand Paul of Kentucky who questioned whether or not the government should really get involved with private business owners who deny service to people – even if service is denied for discriminatory reasons, i.e. you’re black; or Ken Buck of Colorado who recently compared homosexuality to alcoholism on a recent episode of Meet the Press.

These are some of the Republican candidates running for office.

And this is very scary for the future of America.

Imagine Mitch McConnell as Senate majority leader. Or John Boehner as Speaker of the House. If you do not know who these people are, Google them and watch them in a video or two. These are not people we want running our government. They’ve supported obstructionism versus action. They’ve said ‘no,’ on everything, even to appointments to standard positions in government. Their goal? Make the current leadership’s job so difficult that nothing gets accomplished and then sweep up victories by leveraging fear, racism, and misinformation.

We can not let them do this; they are counting on our apathy, on our frustration, and on our low voter turn-out.

What else do they stand for? See their “Pledge to America,” a 45-page booklet that outlines their ideas. I really enjoyed the picture of the Statue of Liberty on Page 2. That’s something I can rally around.

No seriously, their biggest goal is to repeal the health-care bill enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama. As someone who couldn’t afford to buy healthcare – and had a job that did not offer it – I have to say that I am totally for government subsidized healthcare.

In 2000, the World Health Organization listed us #37 in their ranking of world health systems. We are below Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Singapore, and Greece to name a few. I think it’s time to innovate and try something new.  

Their other big issue is spending. Moreover, it is hard to prove that the economy would have been worse off if we had not passed the stimulus. But, if you know anything about Keynes’ economics, in times of crisis, governments should spend more as a replacement to traditional consumerism. In reality, major economists claim not that the stimulus didn’t work – but rather that the American stimulus was actually not large enough.

Think about it—if consumers, the average Joe’s and Jane’s aren’t spending, who can spend? The government. In the short-term this may lead to significant deficits, but the alternative is further economic destruction.

However, this message is not only to share my own personal disdain with the Republican pool of candidates and their leadership and my disagreement with their policies. But more importantly, I hope to rally you, as a member of our citizenry to stand up and fulfill your duty on Nov 2nd.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, it is vital that you stand up and make your voice heard. One person can make a difference. We can’t spend millions of dollars on the candidates we support, but we can go into the voting booth and select their name. And at the end of the day, it’ll be those check marks that will make the difference. And those are check marks you or I can certainly make.

Dear Lord, I love America!

October 20, 2010

Where to begin. A long long time ago, in a land called England, there were people who weren’t being respected because of their beliefs. These people decided, ‘Fuck England, let’s get out of here!” So they packed their shit and got on boats and sailed to a place where terrible things happened including genocide and death, but also a distance from those bastards in England who told them they were wrong for what they believed. After lots of struggling and war, these newbies decided, “let’s create a government for ourselves where that shit that happened to us in England won’t happen here.”

And so they wrote:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The people thought: “Cool…now everyone can believe what they want, but the way we treat them as a public entity won’t be related to those beliefs.” And from that day forward, those who believed in God, Buddah, Satan, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster were all able to go to the same public schools and have the same fire department rescue them and use the same public roads. No one would have to leave their land like had happened in England so long ago.

With that, I give you Christine O’Donnell. Thank you Mid-term Elections!

And because I love it too much

Uncle Sam Needs You!

October 17, 2010

I’m pretty scared about this upcoming election.

President Barack Obama has not done a good enough job repairing the economy and he and his party will pay dearly for this. What’s truly frightening, however, is that the party that put us in this precarious position, is about to win major victories come Election Day.

How quickly some forget……

The ideological debate is not being won, by either party. People do not love the Republicans (see Tea Party excitement regarding fresh faces  and very strict conservative beliefs – i.e. get rid of the Department of Education & the minimum wage, etc.) And right now, people are pretty down on the Democrats – two years in office, and things are only marginally better – regardless of avoiding extreme tough times – proving that something that never happened would have happened otherwise is hard to do. (The unemployment rate could have been 20%!)

With that said- conservatives will have more folks out at the polling places come November; because these folks are angry, these folks are scared, these folks hate the President and his “Marxist, Socialist, Racist, Anti-Business liberal gay spending agenda” – so these folks will be voting. The Democrats and liberals, on the other hand, have been frustrated by the lack of capability of the current administration and Congress. To their defense, the Republican machine has been very good about road-blocking and being uncooperative in getting effective legislation passed. The party of “no,” has made the liberal agenda much harder to achieve and therefore has effectively brought stalemate and inaction.

Yet – the Administration’s handling of the BP oil spill, I believe, points to a scary litmus test of what they say and what they actually do. (I mean, come on, that oil “evaporated” away, right?) Barack Obama was big talk about regulating Wall Street and the banking industry – but when push came to shove – the actual legislation Congress passed was meek at best, and purely cosmetic at worst. Nothing was done about “Too Big to Fail;” if anything, the power, money, and information is now even more centralized among a few MEGA banks than before…..

JPMorgan Chase bought Bear Sterns and Washington Mutual. Wells Fargo bought Wachovia. Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial. When Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, where do you think their business went? To the other investment banks; like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and UBS.

The folks that caused the credit crisis – essentially the bankers who sold pieces of crap and then bet the pieces of crap would fail – walked away with millions, billions of dollars in profits. Everything they did was focused on the short-term benefit of making gigantic bonuses without any concern of the moral hazard of what they were doing.

Republicans talk about extending tax cuts – tax cuts that would benefit many of these powerfully rich folks who profited during the run-up and were able to walk away with their wealth intact. While this has happened, the pain felt on Main Street – has been huge. People want a change to the corruption in Washington. They thought Barack Obama could change that.

But, he is only one man and, more and more, every day, very human. It will take an avalanche of public dissent and protest to restore some order and fairness in our political system. And nothing that is done this election cycle will go to change that – there’s just too much money pumping in the veins of our political democratic system. And after the Supreme Court’s decision, in the Citizens United case; organizations – and especially corporations, can now invest hugely in the political arena, and operate behind closed doors without clear and direct disclosure.

It is a dangerous time right now- as special interest steals our democracy from right in front of our eyes. Until we unite as an electorate, feverishly against these practices, we are doomed to be in this malaise for many more years to come – regardless of who is running our government. Because whoever they are – millions of dollars paid for their elections – and those millions of dollars didn’t come from people like you or me.

Operation Employment

October 15, 2010

by John Durfee

Though I now work in a great office at Airsplat, the nation’s largest retailer of Airsoft guns, it took a strategic search to find this position and I am often dismayed at the struggles of my friends who are on the hunt. Seeing their constant disdain, I reflected on the primary differences between my search and theirs and came to the realization that I instinctively approached the process using war tactics. I have a favorite book, The Art of War in which Sun Tzu said “If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt” and my strategy was relying on this concept. I know you are probably thinking that the employer is not the enemy and you are right – but unemployment is!

The reality is that if you face unemployment as an enemy to be vanquished, then employers are your allies and you must strategically create those alliances.

Recently, I called a couple friends together to give a more tangible explanation of this through an afternoon playing Airsoft. After several hours of shooting at one another, and with adrenaline running high, I presented my solution and suggested they approach their job search with the same uninhibited determination and simply “kill” unemployment. I have to say it was well received and my two closest friends have had more promising interviews in the last month than the three months previous. Here are a few lessons from the battlefield that can be applied to the job field.

Plan the Attack

Sun Tzu said, “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.” You must be prepared, not only in the way you dress and act but in your knowledge of the company you’re applying to. If it’s a public company they should have earnings reports and information online. You should also have a good idea of the “camouflage” of that job. If it’s a construction job, you should look presentable but probably should not show up in suit and tie. You should show up in a crisp white button down, sleeves rolled, timberlands and blue jeans: clean but appropriate. By taking the time to understand the company and how you are most equipped, you can create an executable plan just as any general would before launching an attack.

Know the Battlefield

For my interview with Airsplat, I came clean shaven, wearing a button down shirt with a military style jacket. I also brought some of my custom made airsoft guns to show that I had extensive knowledge of the history and mechanical workings of airsoft guns as well as real guns from my military training. I basically showed the company it made sense to hire me. I was prepared and when I entered the “battlefield” I brought only the useful skills and equipment.

You could say my job is a perfect fit. I’ve been an avid airsoft player for the past 10 years, so when I was invited to interview with an airsoft company, it seemed meant to be. I’m not advocating trying to convince the employer that you’re ‘the chosen one,’ but you should articulate why you make sense for the position and what you provide in terms of skills and value.

Don’t wait for perfection

Some people struggle more than others in finding a job; often they have been offered jobs, but haven’t found exactly what they are looking for. Sun Tzu says, “There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.” In airsoft that means you don’t wait for the target to come to you in order to create the perfect shot. You must be proactive and take action so that a shot will open up. In terms of employment this means not waiting until you find a position that satisfies all your requirements. Know yourself, know your limits, and if it’s acceptable, take the job and work hard at it, “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” By taking an acceptable job instead of waiting for the ‘perfect job’, you are giving yourself more opportunities. You can still search for better jobs, while making money and leveraging your hard work to advance within that company. Action leads only to benefits.

I never thought airsoft could be a means to finding a job, but I think it reminded my friends that if they could find determination and confidence on an airsoft field, they can certainly muster the same measure in searching for employment. It’s also beneficial to take a break from the constant job search, because all the loose ends and failed leads can be disheartening.

John Durfee is a Gulf War veteran and the marketing manager for Airsplat, the nation’s largest retailer of Airsoft Guns including Spring Airsoft Rifles.

No commentary, just numbers

October 7, 2010

According to the Census Bureau, the number of Americans living in poverty in 2009, grew to the largest levels in 15 years. 43.6 million Americans, or 14.3% of the population fell below the poverty line: $10,830 for individuals, $22,050 for a family of four.   

50.7 million Americans go without health insurance.

The top earning 20 percent of Americans – those making more than $100K annually, received 49.4% of all income generated in the U.S. The 14.3% of the population living in poverty received 3.4% of income. This disparity between those at the top and those in poverty is the widest recorded since the Census started tracking household income in 1967.

According to Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal, the 10 year period between 2000 and 2009 was a “lost decade.” In inflation-adjusted dollars, the incomes of white families declined 5%, Hispanic families dropped 8%, and African-American families dropped 11%- a stunning reversal after decades of steady progress. During that time, 12 million people feel into poverty.

An ABC News/Yahoo News poll found last week that more than 40% of Americans no longer think that “if you work harder you’ll get ahead.”

The Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit Washington think tank, reported that there are “4.8 unemployed workers for every job opening in July.” This number doesn’t factor into account those people who want and can work, but have given up on looking.

Larry Mishel, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, noted that around “1970, things changed, and for the next four decades, as productivity skyrocketed 70%, hourly wages hardly budged, rising a mere four percent…..We know that CEOs in large companies make 270 times that of a typical worker,” Mishel said. “It used to be around 20 times, 30 times, back in the ’60s and ’70s.

In a paper titled, “The Evolution of Top Incomes, A Historical and International Perspective,” economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, note the top 1% of income earners take home over 20% of all income.

And lastly, according to an AFL-CIO analysis of 292 companies in the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 index, the Chief Executive officer of a company was paid, on average, $9.25 million in total compensation in 2009.

Interesting numbers for sure.