Oh Say, Can You Hear Me Now?

Sony-makebelievesecuritySeriously, have I got this right?

First Sony’s emails get hacked and the bodies are strewn across America from sea to shining sea.

Then Sony produces a movie about Kim Jong Un and it  is cancelled because North Korea hacked into their system and threatens to pull out all their fingernails and toenails if they don’t.

I saw the interview with Seth Rogen on the Daily Show, and even I’m scared that they will come after me.

But Sony, what in the hell did you do in a previous life that is bringing down all this upon your corporate shoulders? I know the corporation is suffering, since the SCOTUS has explained to me that corporations are people too and can have religious opinions and political ones, so no doubt they can feel pain and fear as well.

Is this just karma?

Or is that blasphemous itself and really the great white beard in the sky getting back at Sony for some perceived failure to bring good Christian movies to the screen? I mean, I suppose THAT movie, The I N T E R V I E W, (that should confound any hacker), could be considered Christian, but then again, maybe not, since I have not seen it. But I must say that Seth Rogen, (who is an awful interview by the way with a horrid giggle that is super annoying) doesn’t strike me as someone you might see at the local Baptist Church, being Jewish first of all. Maybe it’s his Canadianishness that is the problem, though I don’t recall the Good Lord speaking about Canucks in the New Testament at least, though they maybe those Canaanites with just a spelling error.

By the way, why DO you think that God sports a beard? Did Gillette not get the franchise in heaven?

So anyway, let me just say a word or two about all the hoopla.

First, what possessed Sony to think it was a good idea to make a movie about assassinating a living person? I mean that is really the issue of first import here. I’d be the first to tell you I think His Special Imperialness Kimmy is a screw loose and on the run. Giving that man a nuke is probably not on anybody’s wish list. Still and all, he does qualify genetically speaking as a human being and as such has a right to not expect his very life is made sport of. His life may be supercilious to be sure, but still, it’s the only one he’s got (apparently).

I mean seriously folks, we make sport of crazy people all the time, and we make movies about them, but we call then Prince Crazypants of UZ-beki-beki-Uz-stan. We don’t call-em by name and country. Did Sony fear we couldn’t figure it out?

All would not have happened had they just called him “Jim”.

Beyond that, well, opinions are rampant on both issues. Fear reigns supreme at the present. Sony is “corporately speaking” hiding in the closet, George Clooney is asking why everybody is being such a lady part and having no manly parts? And most normal people go about their business and don’t have much of an opinion, unless it has to do with somehow it being Obama’s fault and therefore a nuke delicately placed up Kimmy’s arse is the ONLY proper response.

Which all begs the second issue, personal chit.

Sony’s other issue deals with hackers who exposed a lot of emails between Sony personnel. They were as you might expect, rather unkind to some people and made jokes at others expense.

What’s new?

I mean that seriously.

We live in a time when the government can hack our phones and listen to our conversations. Corporations regularly have their credit card banks violated. Facebook and my computer monitors everywhere I go, and everyone I talk to, and presents me with “other things I might like”.

While it might be fruitful to make some acts criminal, and a lot more actionable as “violations of privacy”, they cannot be termed unexpected by any sane person any more. They are business as usual.

Whether the government should listen in, it will or somebody else will. And like the rung bell, it cannot be unrung now. The same people who work for the government work for themselves and rogue governments and will do it anyway. If there is a means to profit, people will do it. That has always been the case, and will always be the case.

The fact is, that really smart people choose to do criminal things for either more money, or more thrill. You can’t change that, and so you pretty much gotta live accordingly.

Big brother is watching and so is big sister, and big daddy and mommy.

It’s no use lamenting that fact or pining for the good old days (as we have pointed out, they had plenty enough of their own problems whether you remember or not).  Don’t write down what you don’t want published across public domains. Simple as that. Save your salacious remarks for in-person conversations and check your lunch dates for wires (okay that may be too far).  PS: microphones of any kind are a tell-tale sign that what you say may be heard by OTHERS.

If you are like me, I pretty much don’t care what you know about me, though I would rather you didn’t have my credit card numbers. But I gave up information just a week ago and had to cancel a card and change my passwords, because I acted before thinking it through and was taken in by a website that looked perfectly legit yet on second thought, made no sense. It’s part of life, and with each episode you learn a bit more how to protect yourself.

So, let the media rant and rave about all this business of hacking. Some day, people will find it so normal that we won’t talk of it any more. It will undoubtedly spur new technology to develop “zones” of privacy which will then be the subject of new hacking efforts. And we shall survive it, and on to another level we go.

That’s my take on all this stuff. Sony, I know this will embarrass you, but dude, you were just stupid. Do you feel the pain?





Boom We Boomers Went

hippieturnsfatIt’s been a question I’ve pondered for some time, and noted here once or twice (way too lazy too look that up for ya). The question you ask?

Why did my peers from grade school to high school turn out so very differently on how we view the world? I’ve thought a lot about it, and read one book that shed some light on the subject. Not a light that made me very happy I might add.

I posited that to some degree, it had to do with those who ventured from the home base (Genesee County) and those who did not. But that is superficial at best. I know a strong liberal from Ann Arbor and a reactionary teabaggin’ fundamentalist from Traverse City, and a reactionary from the Phoenix area. So go figure.

No attempt to define the divide is perfect for quite obvious reasons, people are individualized too much for such neat and precise division. There will always be not just a significant outlier, but lots and lots of softer outliers. One is always operating on a bell curve and before you start providing me with examples to disprove the theory, it’s best you get that first. Those with some education in statistics assume it but for others, it is not so obvious.

I’m reading a book called Generations, written in the early 90’s by William Strauss and Neil Howe, who posit that it is helpful to examine American history based on generational attributes (strengths and weaknesses) and their reactions to big turning points, like revolution, depression, war, spiritual awakenings and so forth. For Boomers (born 1942-1960), the GI generation (most of our parents) is a prime example.

Fighting the big one was a seminal turning point. The GI generation became the can do generation, taking upon itself to build and build, institutions, infrastructure, and one of the biggest booming economies the world had every seen. They saw failure as not an option. They were also the generation that from start to finish saw the greatest growth in government all designed around them. From child labor laws in their youth to Medicare in their old age, government was their provider against the big bad realities of the world.

Boomers were a nurtured, and largely indulged generation, raised on Dr. Spock, offered everything, the apple of everyone’s eye. We were encouraged to seek the moon, and we became the most self-confident in our own righteousness of any generation in a long time. Fifty-eight percent of us went on to college, the largest percentage before or since by a long shot.

That I think is the key. Education.

Because we are perhaps one of the most fractured of all the generations as well. We may well be the beginning of the great divide between “red” and “blue” in this nation. We gave the biggest votes to Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson in their respective runs for President. If that isn’t a divide I don’t know what it.

While something like only 10-15% of us were “hippies” or like travelers–civil rights workers, feminists, environmentalists, anti-war activists, campus radicals,  we controlled how this generation was perceived and responded to. We adored our mothers, and argued with our dads. We, were not interested in emulating our father’s drive to build things, but we examined the ethical underpinnings of the world and found them largely missing.

The Silent generation which sandwiched between the GI and the Boomer (1925-42), flipped between trying desperately to match the GI productivity with “something big” themselves, and trying to be “young” during the 60’s in their late 30’s and 40’s.

Boomers gave George Wallace more votes than any other generation. Those from Michigan can surely relate where Wallace gained  his third highest greatest electoral count, behind Maryland and Texas outside the South. Surely boomer activists were not voting for Wallace!

Contrary to what right wingers suggest (that all colleges and universities brainwash youngsters into liberal malarkey), education, by exposing youth to the underbelly of a largely white-washed and prim history presented in high school, opens eyes not to some liberal Marxist ideology, but teaches a basic distrust of “traditional” answers to traditional questions.

I learned, (and I have no reason to think I am different than most)  that everything should be questioned, and that books and experts provided the window to an expanded perch from which to reach a conclusion about what was true and what not, or at least what was not quite so true as offered.

This was coupled by the very real truth that people who are college educated simply make more money, live an easier life-style and have less quarrel as a result, with helping others through taxes.

Those from my generation who sought to follow their fathers plan, i.e, get a job, work hard, marry, have children, buy a house, and live contentedly until retirement with a nice pension and social security, ended up in a very different place. For my classmates who took that route, GM, long the “job for a lifetime” turned into plant closings, layoffs, and ultimate blame placed not at the corporate doorstep (where it so perfectly belonged) but rather at the feet of the unions. Unions became some bizarre “bad parent” who fed the unable to think for themselves babies too much cake until they got sick, and corporations threw up their hands in disgust and moved to Bangladesh or similar cheap labor environs.

These folks did work hard, harder certainly than the rest of us and what they got was “barely making it” and instead of what I got (doing better than my parents but by a slimmer margin).  They regressed.

Somebody has to be to blame for that, and of course their were just tons of slimy politicians all pointing the finger at minorities, immigrants, and other lazy-shiftless individuals all the while receiving yet another check from corporate coffers to deflect the blame away from them.

All those classmates who paid next to no attention to politics for 30 years, suddenly woke up in a world that definitely was not what they expected, and listened of course to those who gave them somebody tangible to blame. Business can’t be the problem because “business” built America for God’s sake. But people who don’t have a job? Well, why don’t they? Is it because they are LAZY? Easy answers for people accustomed to being given answers by their betters.

The educated half of us is more liberal because we don’t accept standard answers, we distrust simple, and know that truth is often buried deep in self-serving rhetoric and grey fringes. We are not without blame in all this either. We are the part of a generation that thumbed our noses in our 30’s at our brothers and sisters who were working in factories and raising children as the “not with it” folks. They were the one’s inhibited the transformation we saw as imminent in the Age of Aquarius. We berated the stay-at-home-moms for being part of the problem, by living out all we stood against–being “somebodies wife or mother”.

If Lennon’s Imagine was our utopia, we surely went about it the wrong way. We alienated our own. If there was a resurgence of “spirituality” for our generation, at least half of it went not to “new Age” but rather to fundamentalism. If we brought before the eyes of American the horrors of war in our marching, the largest segment of people supporting the war were from our own as well. Similarly the war over abortion is largely led by the divided boomers, divided not so much by education here, but by birth placement. The early boomers are pro-choice the late boomers like the next generation (13’ers) are decidedly less willing to compromise on the issue.

Our legacy in the end is one fraught by victories on a social scale and disastrous set backs on that same scale. We set out to change the world. And we did, but good God, we never meant for it to go this way.

That’s the way I see it today.

Wish I’d Said That Thursday

I truly wish I had said it.

Reblogged from BrainSpank


I am a woman. I gave birth. It was painful.  Excruciating.  Agony.  No one knows.  I do.

My child knows no one other purview until it gulps air outside of me. Until it leaves my womb it belongs to me and no one else. No other body, governmental or even judicial matters at all to me.

Not as far as I’m concerned anyway.

I really don’t care what you have to say.

I cannot stand five catholic men in black robes who would decide anything for me or the child in my body.  I loathe you for trying.  Your ignorance.  Your arrogance.  Your hubris.  When the day comes I want to relinquish control of my life, my child’s life, to the likes of you, I’ll let you know.  It will have a big fancy seal.  It will be on parchment.  Sheepskin.  You’ll know.  Champagne and caviar.

Until then, shut the fuck up.

We all know you think it’s your religious privilege.  We all know you think you’re somehow entitled to a voice here.  A heavy legislative hand.  A right.  But you are wrong.  You don’t.  You can’t.  You won’t.  You can’t tell me what contraception to use anymore than you can tell me what to do with my womb.  My body.  You stand there, collecting your filthy lucre from the dirtier angels of our filthiest nature and presume to define sin for me.

Fuck you.

You took a stand on the side of a company that wears its hypocrisy on its goddamn face.  They invest in and make money off of the manufacture of contraceptive products.  They willingly paid for the objectionable products for their employees for years.  Decades.  What changed besides Obamacare?  They say their mission is to prevent abortion but the only net gain from this will be more abortion.

By the way, they say the contraceptive products the won’t pay for kill babies.  Wrong.  Completely wrong.  What they do is prevent fertilization.  No beings.  No babies.  How did we get to a place where the Supreme Court is guilty of science denial while listening to and valuing the opinions of clerics and wizards?

Five Roman Catholic men who wear black robes to work.

In this process you would willingly consign me to a coat hanger.

I am a man and I do not accept this jurisprudence.  It is the antithesis of jurisprudence.

But I am a woman too.

It’s like your whole reason is to make sure it’s born.

After that, it’s nobodies business but mine.  Ironic how you grab responsibility before it’s born and surrender it completely the second after.  How do adult white men entertain the notion that they somehow get to champion the fetus and forgo the child?


They are the last people.

Then, some sonafabitching congressman comes along to make my last stand.

To pretend to speak for me and all the unborn.

I am a woman and I have given birth and if I begin to understand that delivery might mean my death, I get to decide what to do.  If that child will be born inside out?  My problem.  If that child is born with whatever disability?  My problem.

Not yours.

Fuck off.

The same goes for my contraception.  Sometimes it’s to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. 56% of the women in this country that avail themselves of contraceptive medication have it prescribed to them by doctors for reasons other than preventing pregnancy.  Sometimes it’s to prevent my spending days in bed writhing in the kind of pain that makes botulism or ebola look Fischer Price.  Sometimes it’s to reduce my risk of certain cancers.  Viruses.  You don’t know.  You can’t you bastards.  I am a woman and you are not.

I can no longer countenance five greasy old academic males deciding any of this shit.  It’s none of their business.

None at all.

I am a woman.

I would make each of you pregnant tomorrow morning if I could.

Or, I would visit the menstrual cycle upon each of you if I could.

Then we would see who the women are.

That would be awesome.


I am a man speaking for women.

Drinks for my friends.

What’s Up With That?

esq-cruz-illo-0314-uzEqTz-xlgNever let it be said that a college education isn’t a good thing.  But it does not mean, gentle folks, that everyone that secures one comes out, well, . . . educated.

Some come out with better talents at manipulating the world they hope to rule one day.

Case in point is Canadian Ted Cruz, that stalwart Haaaavard educated douche from Texas whose daddy is still quite certain that President Obama was born in Kenya, which apparently is something less good than being born in either Canada or Cuba as the case may be.

It would be inappropriate to compare Ted to another well-known demagogue, so we won’t, but gosh Ted could give any of a host of world ogres a run for their money when it comes to using white-hot rhetoric in attempts to raise the blood of the great stupid hoards.

Truth? Not so much. Truth is not the providence of a demagogue; not that truth has no place at all in propagandizing. It does, but a minor part at best. Truth becomes the kernel which is then popped all out of its original proportions in order to reach the goal of making black white and thus creating the “new” rallying cry of the duped.

My very own Senator, Tom Udall recently introduced a constitutional amendment before the Senate which would try to put a stop the abuses that stem from Citizens United. As you recall, the SCOTUS held in that case that corporations were “people” for purposes of the 1st Amendment and that they could spend unlimited money denouncing or supporting various candidates for office.

This led to the creation of “super Pacs” which collected millions of dollars which were funneled to various campaigns supporting various candidates. The one run by Karl Rove controlled over $300 million dollars.

Of course, we all agree (or at least most of us) that such behavior amounts to actually a very few people being able to buy elections for candidates who we must conclude feel rather beholden to their benefactors. Money has become “speech”. Indeed in the McCutcheon case, limits on the total amount an individual could spend on election campaigns were removed. All agree, that the average person, as a result has less and less a voice in these matters, being unable, even collectively to meet these staggering amounts of money, all designed to elect those who will be favorable to one’s desires.

One must remember that Citizens United involved a film, one made about Hillary Clinton, which was in all respects nothing more than a campaign tool used by the Right to smear Mrs. Clinton. That was the argument made, that the film was funded by corporate funds for one reason and one reason only, to affect the election against Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Ted has used this one fact, that it was a film to make the grandiose argument that the Democratic party intends to vote to eliminate the 1st Amendment.

He argues because this was a film (which has nothing to do with the decision at all, but is merely the vehicle for the principle embedded within it), that the very next thing to happen will be that Democrats will decide that you can’t read this particular book, view that particular movie, or go to that particular play.

Watch the video, and listen to the audible gasp by his Family Values audience as he announces this draconian fairytale. He then goes on to tell the audience that government wishes the authority to “muzzle you” if it doesn’t like your speech.

Of course this is not true at all. It is directed solely at the concept that a corporation can be a person with a political agenda, free to spend millions to do exactly what Ted decries as the eventual outcome–muzzling you. In fact it’s to keep your voice valuable, that the amendment is offered.

This all becomes the more sweet when we recognize that indeed Cruz is arguing that corporations are people in his view, a concept he shares with Willard Romney, who found that people were not really happy with his refrain, “corporations are people too, my friends.”

Indeed the irony is delicious here.

Ted is a dominionist by religious flavor, another of those Christianist offshoots that create their own theories about “what the bible means”. Ted’s daddy is a preacher who preaches this stuff through his ministry Purifying Fire International.

This ideology calls on anointed “Christian” leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation “biblical.” It seeks to reduce government to organizing little more than defense, internal security and the protection of property rights. It fuses with the Christian religion the iconography and language of American imperialism and nationalism, along with the cruelest aspects of corporate capitalism.

Note that the ideology calls for “anointed Christian leaders”. Well as you may have guessed, Ted is one of those “anointed“. And if you are at all unsure about that, you need but ask his daddy:

Rafael Cruz indicated that his son was among the evangelical Christians who are anointed as “kings” to take control of all sectors of society, an agenda commonly referred to as the “Seven Mountains” mandate, and “bring the spoils of war to the priests”, thus helping to bring about a prophesied “great transfer of wealth”, from the “wicked” to righteous gentile believers.

So what we have here folks, is a man who is lying and making ridiculous claims about the Democrats being Fahrenheit 451 Democrats, determined to gut the 1st Amendment right to free speech, while at the same time, declaring that he has every intention of gutting the separation of church and state, and the right to freedom of religion, from the very same Amendment!

It pays to know what both hands are doing.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that perhaps the son doesn’t follow his father’s beliefs. He does folks, he certainly does.

Now, I recognize that normal people get Ted Cruz. The see him for what he is, and I have little or no doubt that he will fail miserably in his attempt to gain the GOP presidential nomination. You simply cannot hide all this stuff. It’s too well attested to by video alone.

But the antics of Ted serve to continually stir the pot of the crazy element in this country and that is a dangerous element, and becoming more so. One has only to examine the insane “open carry” nuts in Texas who even looked crazy finally to the NRA. Of course the NRA backed down, and that is even more worrisome. There is a level of crazy in Amerika that is increasingly willing, or so it seems, to use violence to achieve their goals however they articulate them beyond, “we don’t wanna pay for that” and  “we don’t want them people around us”.

Most will mess their pants at the first shot fired. But I’m afraid all too many are just nuts enough to bunker down and begin a “war”, one that will take no prisoners, but will mow down anyone who appears to be “not one of them”.

To the degree that Cruz and his ilk continually rile these folks up with blatant propaganda lies, we must all be very afraid.



It’s Not Left vs Right, It’s Right vs Wrong

MoralMondayA movement is arising.

It began with Occupy Wall  Street.

It arose with Moral Mondays in North Carolina.

It’s spreading.

Throughout the South.

It’s moving to Wisconsin, and there are murmurings in Missouri.

People are getting tired of being tired.

And it’s not Democrats although no doubt most are. It includes Republicans and Independents and people who have little to do with politics. It includes some business folk, but probably not so many as people who are working stiffs. And poor. Lots of the poor.

And they come to state legislatures and stand in silent witness that these bodies of Republican control are unjust and immoral.

Yes immoral.

Republican extremism known by the name of Tea Party, is an immoral wound in America and people are not going to take it any more.

Let us be clear. Like it or not, believe it or not, (and the extremists are very good at refusing to accept reality), big business (aka Koch brothers) organized and funded the Tea Party movement. Their intentions were not made known of course but their intentions are clear: reduce taxes on the rich, reduce corporate taxes, reduce regulation on business, and continue to subsidize business so we can continue to laud “free market economies” (which of course given all this are not even close to being free, but are protected by government itself) as the best thing on earth.

To the Tea Party they formed, the message went: your taxes are going to takers not makers. You have worked hard and deserve that money yourselves. All you need do is fund the military so we can continue to enforce our will of “right” on the world. We can create the jobs if you just do your part and give us a free hand. That’s what democracy is all about, that is capitalism. It’s the government and its incessant socialistic welfare mentality that is destroying this country.

Now some of the Tea Party are well-educated business types. They are tiny business operations for the most part, but they like to think of themselves as “entrepreneurs” which makes them sound like the Kochs, and Trumps and those kind. But most of the Tea Party consists of not very well-educated white aging men and their overly made up and coiffed wives who like that idea that more money should be in their hands and not going to “those” people. You know “those” people, the ones are required to called “black” now, when in the day it was fine to call them “N*****”? And all those Mexicans, which are still just Mexicans, even though plenty of “them” actually come from Guatemala and Nicaragua and other places called Latin America. And then there are those “Orientals” from the “Orient” since Asian is still not de rigueur in this culture, and it’s all one big country isn’t it? After all, Sarah thought Africa might be a country, right?

Then in the ultimate hypocrisy of all hypocrisies, there in a dose of “Christianity” to hide that racism/downright hatred underneath. “See, it’s not me, it’s God who has a problem with fags!” And if that makes them feel vulnerable, well, throw in a dose of the 2nd Amendment was made for you and me, and voila, we have a mess of a human being filled with self-righteous hate, little actual knowledge of the world, but a gun-defended arrogance to do everything but call it publicly what they call it privately.

But ordinary folks are getting tired. Ordinary decent people who don’t have to wave a bible around to know what is right and what is wrong. And they are tired of watching years of work being undone by barely literate Republican senate and house members who pass insane laws one after another, making it safe and right for white America to live in their fantasy of the “good ole days”.

So people are marching. And more of them march every week.


  1. Raised taxes on the lowest 80% of it’s citizens
  2. Removed a tax credit on 900,000 working families
  3. Enforced restrictive voter laws
  4. Blocked increased Medicaid coverage for the poor
  5. Cut Pre-Kindergarten funding
  6. Cut unemployment benefits
  7. Voted itself a right to intervene in abortion lawsuits
  8. Repealed a law that allowed death row inmates to challenge their convictions on racial grounds
  9. Increased the standards at abortion clinics to that of surgical centers and made it illegal to offer abortion coverage if you are a public health insurance company.
  10. Offered no increase in base salary to school teachers even though they are paid at the lowest rate in the country.
  11. Tenure is to be phased out and no salary increases are to be given for master’s degrees. Teachers aides are severely cut.


  1. Refused to grant increase in Medicaid coverage affecting some 600,000 Georgians and made it a crime to assist someone who is seeking ACA coverage.
  2. Cut more than 7.6 BILLION dollars to public education over the last 10 years.
  3. Restricted workers rights and benefits
  4. Promoted more stand your ground and like gun legislation.
  5. Cut unemployment benefits
  6. Promoting enforcement of voter suppression laws.

When you go nation wide, the results are the same. GOP-led legislatures are doing the Koch’s bidding everywhere, often with bills written by the KOCH legislative arm, ALEC. Everywhere the tune is the same–lower taxes on the rich, cut out programs for the poor, all with the promise to Mr. and Mrs. White OLD people–this will all benefit you, we promise. Just wait for it.

Let me repeat. There is nothing Christian in any of this. People who are TEA PARTY adherents and claim they are Christian are lying. They are at best Christianists, people who use the bible and their own personal interpretation of it to hide behind while they endorse and argue for a denial of health care for the poor (they can use the emergency ward if they need to — duh who pays for that stupid?), a denial public education to the poor (let’s have vouchers, and the poor will end up with the poorest of poor systems but they had their “choice”), a denial of food, unemployment insurance (that breeds dependence and doesn’t teach work ethic–yeah hungry babies are eager to work), a denial of voting rights (everybody can get a voter ID–yeah except for the cost and the travel to a distance center, and oh yeah, lots of people can’t get a birth certificate any more because records are lost, but a gun permit is okay, but  student ID is not), a denial of basic rights to undocumented workers (since they steal our jobs–yeah we were wondering where you were in the bean fields yesterday and even the little one’s can pick can’t they?), a denial of fair wage (business can pay whatever it wants to, that’s the American way–along with child labor, and unsafe working conditions right?), and on and on…

They say all this and have the temerity, the audacity, the chutzpah, to suggest that Jesus would approve! Jesus hated government they say, and Jesus hated the minimum wage. Jesus loved guns and self-defense. Jesus is nothing more than a malleable dummy used while these vile gutless wonders shrink in horror at their own diseased and flesh eaten faces staring out from the dead sockets from which they look upon a world they hate as it slips from their nail-torn fingers.

Lord save me from the Christianists and though I don’t believe in Hell, but God, sometimes I wish there was one, for these puke excuses of humanity.

Other than that, I’m having a great Sunday.

Can We Talk on the D/L?

boycotteveryI consider myself about as decent as the next person. No more no less. Some, usually those of the Rightish persuasion suggest that I’m a bleeding-heart, commie sympathizing, swine of a Jesus hater, but hey, I consider myself just as human as the next woman.

The mind is endlessly fascinating and what motivates us will for some time to come dance between nature and nurture and bad drugs I suspect. We all wish (except for the truly a-social among us) to be thought reasonably well of, and we all succeed at least to enough people that we aren’t pariahs.

That being said, I’m fully aware that what I am about to discuss amounts in some minor or major respect a plea for permission to do what I wish to do, rather than the elegant highly flowered philosophical discourse that I am dribbling forth from my fingertips. (Wasn’t it ever so much more grand to say tip of my pen or even quill? Alas we all type now.)

I speak of the issue of boycotting companies. Not just any companies mind you, but all those whose policies for one reason or fifty offend our individual sensibilities. I speak of Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby and Exxon-Mobile, and McDonald’s, and Papa Johns, and Pfizer, and General Mills and Monsanto and well, you can fill in five hundred more at your leisure.

We (collectively or singly) have our “issues” with some or all or and entirely different list of corporate monsters whom we claim our vision or version of human/American/women’s/children’s/animals/status/ethnicity rights. And most, perhaps all are laudable no doubt to those who hold them. I know, since I hold many. Anyone whose eager fingertips tremble in anticipation as they seek out my latest verbage knows I rail regularly about any number of corporate entities for their failures/limited visions/or omissions.

So. What the hell am I talking about?

What are our moral responsibilities in making known our opinions of the practices of businesses we disagree with? What should we be doing?

In other words, is boycotting the answer.

I for a long time avoided Wal-Mart for instance. That was easy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the local Hi-VEE offered up proper food at comparable prices. Not so here in Las Cruces. The local Albertson’s is a great store, but it’s wildly over priced on most everything. I mean seriously so. Such that I can save nearly $300 a month by doing the bulk of my shopping at Wal-Mart. I leave Albertson’s to do what it does best–provide me with the premium foods that Wal-Mart neglects in its one-size fits most everyone most of the time philosophy, or “tough, take it or leave it”.

I’m moreover well aware of the gimmicks Wal-Mart’s uses to get me to buy more of X which ends up costing me similar to what I would pay for the amount I really want. (Whatever you do Wal-Mart, I’m not buying twelve pre-packaged habaneros when I only need one!) Still, as I said, I’m saving a fair piece of change.

Say that I can afford this, which I can, but should I?

What of those who have not the financial luxury to do this? Are they to suffer their need to shop Wal-Mart in shame at betraying the cause?

Can I use the $300 more effectively in actually funding other things that matter in the world? Are my bigger checks to the local mission and to animal welfare, or to help a local family with expenses a better use of the money than wasting it on over-priced cabbage?

Is there some hierarchy of complaint that should guide me? Surely apartheid practices in South Africa was a serious motivation. Surely the use of chemical warfare on one’s own population should deter us singularly and collectively from contributing to the GNP of any country engaging in such things.

But lets take it down a notch.

Let’s speak of living wages and the attempt to impose personal religious beliefs on employees. Let’s speak of creating products that may turn out in decades to come to be hazardous to health. Let us talk of entire industries devoted to death–whether it be innocent animals or humans in large or small quantity. Let us speak of dangers to our planet, which impact the survival of generations long after we have turned to dust.

Is there some hierarchy where boycotting is essential for some, but convenience and finances may dictate a different choice for others?

I fully support the efforts of Wal-Mart employees to unionize. But does my boycott help that? Or is it, in the end, the responsibility of employees to get their act together? Wal-Mart will never give them permission, and like other industries in other times, will be as tough as it can be in order to stop their efforts. But in the end it is only the employees who can do this, the same way I made my decision some years ago and voted as I saw fit, and knew there would be consequences for that decision. Or does my boycott encourage and bolster their efforts? Do I change corporate minds?

We know that boycotting can work in some instances. Some companies have seen their fortunes fall for challenging the ACA, by threatening to up prices and lay-off workers. Hint: you don’t lay off workers if you have customers, and it helps to have a product worth buying. Did the boycotts cause the reversal or was it the lousy pizza?

The Right of course is spared these deeply troubling mental ponderings. They conveniently find all answers in a book and are thereby let off the hook–“hey, I don’t have a problem with gays, God does!” I rather suspect that our spiritual growth is directly tied to how willing we are to wrestle with these “no easy answer” questions.

So, I’m asking you.

What do you think?

Just what’s floating through my head these days.


I Wish I Could Work THERE!

googleNo, I’m not saying I wish I could work at Google.

But plenty of people do.

In fact, Google won the top spot for “best place to work” in Fortune’s annual list just released today.

Now, I don’t know that much about Google, except that I pretty much like their search engine, and I like their Images search engine. I didn’t care so much for Chrome, but hey, you can’t hit the jackpot on everything.

They were interviewing someone from Fortune who announced this years top 10 this morning on Morning Joe. The question was inevitably asked: what do all the companies in the top ten have in common. The interviewee responded immediately: they care about their employees, actually they put employees first.

Now we have all heard that the mantra of any company is supposed to be “the customer is always right” which essentially means that customers come first. We know that this is a lie mostly, unless there is fierce competition. But the first goal of most companies seems to be to destroy the competition so you can force the consumer to take what they are offered because there ain’t no alternative. It was surely Rockefeller’s goal that if you wanted kerosene to light your lamps, it’s was either his or sit in the dark, so pay what he demanded.

Those of us not in the top 1% have long known that the real power and the real value in business is the employee. Ideas are essential to the success of any business, but in the end, it is the employees who make it happen. They produce the “product” whatever that may be, and they interact with the public however that is defined. So it is in the end a no brainer: happy employee = successful business (all other things remaining equal of course).

Fortune and others who study this sort of thing seem to agree. Robin Hartman, who helps companies achieve “a great place to work” gives a list of things a good company does:

  • They treat employees like grown-ups. They share information with employees, listen to their ideas (or better yet, actively seek out and act upon their ideas) and assume they are responsible enough to manage their own time.
  •  They treat people fairly. They pay people decently and give them good benefits, including not only decent healthcare but other even rarer essentials, like paid parental leave. And they use lay-offs as a last resort.
  •  They help employees with their careers and understand that not all careers are built the same. They have strong training programs, reimburse tuition for education outside of work, have active, well-thought out platforms for mentoring–especially for women and minorities–and provide pathways for non-traditional career paths.
  •  They understand that people have lives outside of work, and that these lives might sometimes impinge on (or even take over) their time and attention. They realize that allowing for some work-life give and take means not only that they won’t waste time and money on unnecessary turnover, but that they’ll build loyalty and commitment. They know it’s give and take, not give or take.
  •  They see fun, humor and relaxation not as the enemies of hard work, but as its allies.
  •  They have a purpose — a mission — that everyone understands. Even better, every employee can tell you the role he or she plays in achieving that purpose.
  •  They are good citizens of their communities and of the world. Not just according to their P.R. campaigns, but for real. They think about their carbon footprint, they come up with creative ways to support local projects or small businesses, they actively promote volunteerism among their employees.

Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project has his own list.

  1. Commit to paying every employee a living wage. To see examples of how much that is, depending on where you live, go to this site. Many companies do not meet that standard for many of their jobs. It’s nothing short of obscene to pay a CEO millions of dollars a year while paying any employee a sum for full time work that falls below the poverty line.
  2. Give all employees a stake in the company’s success, in the form of profit sharing, or stock options, or bonuses tied to performance. If the company does well, all employees should share in the success, in meaningful ways.
  3. Design working environments that are safe, comfortable and appealing to work in. In offices, include a range of physical spaces that allow for privacy, collaboration, and simply hanging out.
  4. Provide healthy, high quality food, at the lowest possible prices, including in vending machines.
  5. Create places for employees to rest and renew during the course of the working day and encourage them to take intermittent breaks. Ideally, leaders would permit afternoon naps, which fuel higher productivity in the several hours that follow.
  6. Offer a well equipped gym and other facilities that encourage employees to move physically and stay fit. Provide incentives for employees to use the facilities, including during the work day as a source of renewal.
  7. Define clear and specific expectations for what success looks like in any given job. Then, treat employees as adults by giving them as much autonomy as possible to choose when they work, where they do their work, and how best to get it accomplished.
  8. Institute two-way performance reviews, so that employees not only receive regular feedback about how they’re doing, in ways that support their growth, but are also given the opportunity to provide feedback to their supervisors, anonymously if they so choose, to avoid recrimination.
  9. Hold leaders and managers accountable for treating all employees with respect and care, all of the time, and encourage them to regularly recognize those they supervise for the positive contributions they make.
  10. Create policies that encourage employees to set aside time to focus without interruption on their most important priorities, including long-term projects and more strategic and creative thinking. Ideally, give them a designated amount of time to pursue projects they’re especially passionate about and which have the potential to add value to the company.
  11. Provide employees with ongoing opportunities and incentives to learn, develop and grow, both in establishing new job-specific hard skills, as well as softer skills that serve them well as individuals, and as managers and leaders.
  12. Stand for something beyond simply increasing profits. Create products or provide services or serve causes that clearly add value in the world, making it possible for employees to derive a sense of meaning from their work, and to feel good about the companies for which they work.

Interestingly, Schwartz’s list was compiled in 2012, and he stated that no company can do all of these perfectly, but Google probably does the best job. Hence, Google‘s number one position in the Fortune list appears to be no fluke.

All this is mildly interesting, for in fact, those of us who have been mostly employees rather than employers already know all this stuff.

But in a world where we are told that employers are “job creators” and thus should expect everyone else to cut them all the monetary slack they need to get on with that job, we are reminded anew that we, the worker is what really counts. Make no mistake, business is still in the business to make money, but the surest way to get there is to create a happy work force, not just with “gifts of money and benefits” but to be cherished as part of a team, and valuable for their brains as well as their brawn.

We all know that Wal-Mart and McDonald’s can pay a living wage. We know they can but won’t because nobody has yet forced them to. Jobs are so scarce that people hold on for dear life those puny jobs that force them to apply for food stamps in order to feed their kids. They continue to call these jobs “entry-level” for which there somehow is supposed to be low remuneration in return for the “gift” of a job at all. That is nonsense. There is no greater learning curve to flipping a burger than there is to learning how to integrate into a company’s bookkeeping framework. One is called “entry-level” the other surely not.

Little by little, we are educating the public to what they used to know. Workers matter.