Monday, November 29, 2010

VNV Nation - Further


At the end of days, at the end of time
When the Sun burns out will any of this matter?
Who will be there to remember who we were?
Who will be there to know that any of this had meaning for us?

And in retrospect I'll say we've done no wrong
Who are we to judge what's right and what has purpose for us?
With designs upon ourselves to do no wrong
Running wild unaware of what might come of us

The Sun was born, so it shall die
So only shadows comfort me
I know in darkness I will find you giving up inside like me
Each day shall end as it begins
And though you're far away from me
I know in darkness I will find you giving up inside like me

Without a thought I will see everything eternal
Forget that once we were just dust from heavens far
As we were forged we shall return, perhaps some day
I will remember you and wonder who we were

The Sun was born, so it shall die
So only shadows comfort me
I know in darkness I will find you giving up inside like me
Each day shall end as it begins
And though you're far away from me
I know in darkness I will find you giving up inside like me

Trickle down economics

This recent article just goes to show what I have been saying all this time. The only people who are seeing any trickle are the head honchos at these companies and the people on Wall Street.

Homeland Security, really?

Since when has it been the job of Homeland Security to enforce copyright laws? What does pirated copies of Lady Gaga or some cheesy Hollywood blockbuster have to do with underwear bombers intent on accidentally castrating themselves en route to paradise? Their job is to be touching my junk at the airport and monitoring emails by suicidal Muslim teenagers, not stopping people from downloading music that may or may not be worth the time and coffee at the local Starbucks WIFI hotspot.


The Pogues - White City [Music Video]

Sunday, November 28, 2010

So if you were wondering

What song was in the Subaru car commercial, this is it.

I'm still not sure I'm completely cool with a band I like being in a commercial but I guess it's better than some of the other crap music we usually hear. Perhaps that's the thing of "alternative culture", of being punk rock, that you don't want your musicians to get too popular because then every mainstream retard becomes a fan. Yes it's nice for them to make the money but at the same time, it sucks having to wait for hours in line to see a band you once went to see for $5 bucks as the opening act.

On the flip side, sounding a like a jackass hipster isn't cool either.

The Pogues - If I Should Fall from Grace with God

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I don't need your hate, I decide my fate

This last episode of poorly planned terrorism and the constant squabbling amongst the ranks of progressives about how to approach the issue made me write this today. I guess I'm just a little sick and tired of both the people who want us to accept Islam without question as well as those who are operating under the idea that Islam is the greatest threat since Communism.

First let me point out that I am a Jew. Granted, I'm not a practicing one and certainly I don't qualify for it by the standards by some of my more Orthodox relatives but whatever. Despite the stand I am supposed to take according to my anti-Muslim friends, I think for myself and I'll share that with you here.

Number one, as far as I am concerned, organized religion is a crutch for those who can't think on their own, but that is just my opinion. That being said, I fully respect anyone of any religious or spiritual conviction who practices the good in their religion and doesn't subscribe to the intolerance of fundamentalism. The best way to combat extremism and those who use it to push their own interests is to marginalize them with the support of moderate branches of their own religion. The problem here in the West is that we tend to want to put everyone and everything into neat little compartments or attach it to some other preconceived notion of what something is instead of researching and learning for ourselves. Not all Muslims are radicals just as not all people who oppose abortion endorse illegal means to get their mission accomplished. Just as with Christianity, Islam has different sects and religious practices vary from region to region. Not all Muslims interpret "Jihad" as a commandment to kill Westerners or Muslims who are secular and oppose extremism but as with all religions and politics, the radicals are the loudest and therefore get attention even though they tend to be the minority.

Extremism usually finds it's fertile recruiting grounds amongst the poor, unemployed and disaffected. By opening new possibilities for a better life, we decrease the attraction of violent Jihad. By embracing and getting to moderates of all religions, we neutralize the often true perception that Americans are biased against all Muslims. It's easy to hate a faceless, stereotyped group of people and all that does is further lend credence to the voices of those who would destroy us. It's much harder to practice that same hate when those people have names and faces. We are all human beings after all, regardless of what way we choose to worship, or not worship.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Revelations from the road

I pulled another drag from the rolled up cigarette the British girl gave me and took a long swig of my Miller High Life. Ten dollars in my pocket, last night in a hostel in San Francisco, that and the company of stoned foreign kids was all I had. Scared? Fuck yes I was scared, pretty much alone in a city I had come to with a plan, only to see it all fall apart. 2300 miles back to Louisiana where my mom l lived, 3000 back to Florida where I just come from, probably almost 2500 straight across to Dad’s house in Virginia. Couldn’t go there anyhow, couldn’t even sleep on the couch because of his psycho landlord who wanted any excuse to throw an 85 year old man out on his ass. Florida, the match had already been flicked on the bridge I had spilled the can of gas on. Louisiana, it was my only out.

Wandering down through North Beach, up Russian Hill, I was waiting on a call for money to be wired for a bus ticket. Then it came, picking up cash from the Safeway in Marina District while fighters jets roared overhead. It was the Blue Angels show and I wondered how long it would take one of those to get me where I wanted to be. I actually did the math in my head, I always do. Louisiana, it wasn’t really where I wanted to go but it was what I was gonna have to take.

Sometimes you have to put yourself into a position to see what you’re capable of. Win or lose. Well, there isn’t a win or lose, it’s life. You’re just testing the waters by throwing yourself from the highest diving board that you can find. One way or another, you’re gonna swim or someone is going to hopefully throw you a life preserver before you go under. Either way, you will learn what your boundaries are and what you never thought you could do.

In retrospect, perhaps it was doomed to failure from the beginning but I couldn’t bring myself to wonder what if? What if I never took that chance? What if twenty years from now, I looked back and regretted not doing this? That was the thing that scared me more than anything else. Even with travel as easy as it is today, many people have never really seen the world outside of their little town they grew up in, much like the one I was born in, Lexington, Virginia. We grow up, go to college, get a job, have kids and then one day, die. It’s the usual script in the movie that is everyone’s life. Sure the set is a little different, the clothes are different colors and the players aren’t the same, but the plot is generic 95% of the time. We know how it begins, we know how it ends and the parts in between are usually predictable. That’s not the life I wanted. That’s not how I want the book to go. We are each the authors of the book that is our life. We can’t control the beginning and the end always comes. Life throws us in strange and bizarre paths sometimes but that’s half of the fun once you learn that’s the way it goes and accept it. Take a chance for fuck’s sake. What’s the worst that can happen? If it’s a fate worse than death, then you have an out.

When you're thousands of miles from home, with only a few dollars in your pocket, you learn who your real friends are. They become your real family, blood or not. If you've never been there, you'll never fully grasp that. I learned that lesson and I'm forever grateful for the experience.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Punk rock love songs

There’s just something about the punk rock, hard luck love song. Perhaps it’s the words of desperate alcoholics and hard luck men who have searched a lifetime for the words to fully describe all the lonely years of an equally elusive love. “Fairy Tale of New York” and other songs from The Pogues are a perfect example, finding a way to balance a sense of hope despite an overwhelming reality that makes those odds such a long shot. What is it about the human train wreck that is Shane MacGowan that brings out the bittersweet in an Irish ballad? Maybe just one more drink, maybe one more cigarette, maybe tonight, that’s the eternal hope coupled with the centuries-old angst that is the music of the poster child for bad dental work and extreme alcoholism.

I guess that’s what I have loved about punk rock love songs. Tunes like “Who Would Have Thought” by Rancid, “If You Leave Before Me” by Mike Ness, or “Tuesday Morning by The Pogues are beautiful in a gritty, real world way that you cannot find in the polished, generic songs that are cranked out for the Billboard charts. These are verses that truly mean something, written by someone who has truly loved and lost. This isn’t the product of focus groups and marketing campaigns. This is real and it’s not Prozac-induced bubblegum cheerfulness. Perhaps it resonates better with those of us who can’t identify with MTV-manufactured pop stars, creepy Las Vegas divas and all those others you can hear over and over again on the “soft rock” stations we’ve all had to endure at some job or another. Maybe that it’s lyrics like “I’ll love you ‘til the end” just seem more sincere coming from someone who has actually experienced these emotions first-hand and penned the lyrics themselves. There’s just no desperation, no soul, no trail of broken hearts, no sense that they’ve laid it all out on the table and lost everything time and time again. I just can’t get the same feeling from some 18 year old pop star with a multi-million dollar record deal and I never will.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I don't need you to hold my hand

Survival of the smartest, that's what I say. Why does the government need to protect us from every single little danger, real or imagined? I don't need a warning label on a pack of cigarettes to remind me that they could kill me or a reminder on a can of beer that it could cause pregnancy complications or impair my ability to operate machinery. Unless you just dropped in from outer space, you know these things already.

However, both political parties feel the need to protect us from ourselves and that's not what I believe government should be for. I want infrastructure, defense, some social safety nets and regulations to ensure my food, air and water are safe. It shouldn't be their job to decide who I can marry, do business with, what I can build on my property,what I want to put in my body, what I drive, etc. So long as I what I do does not infringe upon the personal liberties of others, so be it. The agreements between consenting adults are between them and no one else. The job of the government should only be there to intervene when contracts are broken or the rights of others are violated.

I'd like to expound more on this but my time for today is about up. We'll hash it out some more when I get the chance again.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Memento Mori

"Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return." Every religion and culture has it's way of reminding it's followers that they will one day return to the ground from which they came. Whether you believe in reincarnation, eternal life or that oblivion awaits you, the end still looms for every single one of us. It's a fact, no matter how much hard try to ignore it, no matter how many earthly possessions you try to fill your life with.

You are not your sports car, you are not your mansion, you are not the sum of all your material goods. Yes, I am paraphrasing "Fight Club". No, I'm not advocating nihilism. I'm not suggesting that we all give up modern technology, burn everything we own and retreat to some remote compound or anarchist society. I am asking that common sense prevail. Whether you believe in God, Allah, some other religious system or even nothing at all, stop and realize that all of this will be gone one day. We all get so caught up in chasing money, possessions and having the latest and greatest things that we forget that we're not enjoying life. You don't need to believe in a almighty deity to realize that on a long enough time line, everyone's chance of survival hits 0% and that you cannot take your bank account with you. Unless you are a child, chances are very good that in 100 years, you will not be here.

So what will matter? What are you doing right now that actually gives meaning to your existence? Which is more important, the new car or cell phone you want or time with your children? If your life was a book that would be read by everyone in a college class decades from now, would you be proud of it or would it be shown as an example of a wasted existence spent chasing useless crap? Think about it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell.

Anything can trigger it, sometimes it just comes out of nowhere without any factor to set it off. We all deal with stress differently, it's a natural part of life. However, almost 1 in 5 people have some sort of anxiety disorder. Me? I have GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) with panic attacks. Being as that I do not have the insurance or the money to cover the staggering cost of the medication I need, the only way to block it out is to drink, when I do have a little bit of cash. I've used alcohol to cope with my anxiety problems for about a decade now and I'll admit, it does a damn good job. Honestly, I usually like who I am when I drink. I'm not nervous and I don't feel like people are judging me. We all have our own little coping mechanisms, that's mine.

Why am I talking about this here? Because I was inspired to write this after a blog post by my good friend Alexis that made me realize this is something people really don't want to talk about. 1 in 5 people have some type of anxiety disorder, that's 20% of everyone here in the US so why is there such a stigma attached to it? Why don't we give it the same kind of attention that we give to cancer, diabetes and other issues? Having an anxiety disorder doesn't mean you're crazy, it's not something you inflicted upon yourself, it doesn't make you less of a person. We can talk about some of the most intimate moments of our sex lives with others but for some reason, the workings of our brains are somehow taboo?

I still remember a friend of mine who served in Iraq who had PTSD, it was very obvious when he came back. There were alot of them, Army soldiers back from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 through 2005. One used to hole up in his apartment for days on end and always carried a number of weapons when he did go out. Another would randomly switch between crying and trying to attack passersby when he had his episodes. The friend I worked with had panic attacks and drank heavily. I had never seen him violent until he came back from Iraq. The following Thanksgiving, he went home to his mother's house and hung himself in the closet. He would probably still be here today if he had received the proper therapy.

I'm not sure when I had my first panic attack, we all have our moments when we are so completely overwhelmed that we feel like it's impossible to move, think, etc. I do remember the nights after my two car accidents, being unable to sleep and the nightmares that came when I finally managed to catch those elusive moments of shuteye. I still panic when another vehicle gets too close to me or when headlights come up behind me quickly at night. There are days, not nearly as frequent as before, when it is nearly impossible to get out of bed and get going. There are some that will say that you just need to push through it, and to some extent, you can do that but it's no substitute for therapy, medication and a support system.

Get help, talk about it. Remember, this is not something that is somehow your fault. If we can talk about sex as openly as we do, certainly anxiety disorders shouldn't be that big of a leap.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't touch my junk bro

Let me start by saying that I don't care if someone touches my junk as part of the security screening process on my next flight. I'd prefer if it was Kate Winslet or Kari from "Mythbusters" and we had some Barry White to set the mood but that's just my fantasy. After all, I'd rather not have it be the weary, overweight middle aged father of 4 who has been doing this for days on end. I'm sure he's as excited as I am about the whole process of checking to see I'm really that endowed or if I really did stash that much C4 in my Ralph Lauren Polo boxer briefs.

I'd like keep running with the illusion that I'm their first, that I'm special somehow and they chose me because of my ravishing good looks and devilish charm. No, I won't accept that I got randomly chosen for extra screening just so they can have a token, clean cut white guy as a proof they just don't search men who fit the profile we know they're really looking for. After all, I'm not that bad to look at. 6 ft tall, probably could pass for a Marine if it wasn't for that slight beer belly. Sure that's what I'll keep telling myself.

I guess it's the principle of the matter, that's where the concern comes from. I totally agree but don't blame the government. The majority of people who fly do it for the speed and convenience of this method of travel. I'm sure if you told them if there was a 1 in 1 trillion chance that their flight could end up in the 90th story of an office building if they didn't subject to a strip search and cavity probe, they'd probably wipe out the gloves and a nice little tube of lubricant. Under 3 ounces of course. Oh I'm sure there would be some mumbling and grumbling, but if you had to choose between a briefly uncomfortable experience that reminded you of that one time at camp or missing the meeting with the boss on the other side of the country, my money is on you closing your eyes and thinking of England.

I know it's an invasion of privacy and we're giving up our liberties, one at a time, to feel safe from the remote possibility that someone might set their underwear to explode. However, there's more to it than that. Every time we give up a liberty, no matter how trivial it seems, the terrorists win. Every time we allow our government to snoop into our personal affairs without a warrant and reasonable cause, the terrorists win. Every time we turn on each other over partisan politics and question someone's patriotism because of their beliefs, the terrorists win. This is not the first time we or our allies have faced an enemy bent on our destruction but why now are we such a nation of bedwetters about the whole thing? Granted we did some pretty horrible things to the Japanese Americans in WWII because we were afraid of secret alliances and such but we didn't give up civil liberties faster than you can say "jihad", just so we could feel safe.

So, what else are you willing to endure in order to feel safe? There's other places someone could conceal explosives or contraband like under a roll of fat or in one of a number of orifices. Are you willing to undergo random probes in order to feel safe? Where do you draw the line and decide you're no longer going to let some burnt out TSA agent fondle the family jewels just because there's a chance you're a member of sleeper cell comprised of equally burnt out suburban parents? Here's a little something I'll go ahead and clue you in on, unless somehow there's a rapture of some sort in your lifetime, there is a 100% chance that at some point, every single one of us will eventually take a dirt nap. With that being said, do you want to spend your entire life in a safe little cage or will you give a big middle finger to the Bin Laden's of the world and cease being afraid? Because, when you refuse to live in fear, terrorism cannot survive.

Confessions of a former Sprint employee

"You better keep your fucking mouth shut if you know what's good for you!" Those were the words screamed at me by my supervisor's boss after I made a report to the fraud department implicating his top performing supervisor in a fraud ring which was stealing millions of dollars of phones and service monthly. This was not in a closed office or outside, this was on the callcenter floor, in front of my completely flabbergasted supervisor and coworkers.

Yes, this was Sprint. Specifically, this was in their "retention" or "account services" department which was tasked with keeping customers from leaving, probably the most stressful but lucrative job in the company at the time. The year was 2007 and customers were leaving in droves after one of the most ill-conceived mergers in history. Sprint, which had been plagued by a number of issues including a billing system with more flaws and loopholes that you can think of, a customer service reputation that would cause most companies to change their names and fire en masse, and the decline of demand for landline services, had merged with Nextel less than two years prior. The original theory was that if they could somehow combine the rabid brand loyalty and high revenue customers of Nextel with the Sprint home phone service, perhaps this would finally create a super communications giant that could finally compete with the likes of AT&T and Verizon again.

Instead, customers (especially Nextel customers) began climbing into every available lifeboat and leaving as fast as they could, often not deterred by early termination fees. $150 or so per line to leave a company that constantly messed up their bill each month and added costly services without permission was a bargain. The introduction of the Iphone didn't help matters either as Sprint had always been known for having the newest and best phones. Yet, Sprint had it's head in the sand and decided to throw money at the problem, lots and lots of money. We were basically paid to give money away to customers, free phones, free services, we would have probably been forced to show up at customer's houses and wash their cars if it wouldn't have been a legal nightmare.

The thing they didn't realize was that legit customers who didn't have problems were probably not going to call and the people who did have issues had been jerked around so many times that they often didn't bother calling to complain, they'd just port their numbers out without warning. The other problem was that a couple years prior, Sprint felt the need to add customers, no matter how poor their credit was and then keep them on the books, profitable or not. Often, these customers would call constantly to complain and ask for free things, but records would show they had not paid their bill in months. "Keep the customer from canceling, no matter what you have to do." That's what we were told over and over again, and month after month, we continued to throw money at the problem while month after month, we continued to hemorrhage valuable customers.

So where does my story fit in you might ask? Well, it seems that there was a well organized group of cellphone dealers out of the Northeast US, New York specifically, that had found a number of loopholes that basically allowed them to buy for pennies on the dollar Sprint phones and services that they would then resell at a massive profit. In addition to this, they had a number of Sprint corporate employees, including members of management who profited in a variety of ways by making sure these fraudulent accounts stayed on the books. These same dealers would also pose as employees of corporate and government accounts, place large phone orders on accounts such as UPS or the EPA and then have the phones shipped to locations across the country. The phones would then be sold out of kiosks and Ebay or Craigslist, usually to customers who had no idea that the cool new gadget they just bought was stolen.

Management knew about it and there were some that either were aware of the issue and did little or nothing to stop it or they were completely on the take. There were a few honest employees in our department who played by the rules, tried to stop the fraudulent accounts from growing and do what was right for the company. Yet, because of this, we made less commissions and were often passed over for promotion because we refused to cheat. Many of us were railroaded out, harassed or even terminated for bogus offenses for blowing the whistle. Eventually the new CEO realized what was happening and some heads did roll, but the damage was done. Many of the accounts are still there and not all the loopholes are plugged. To this day, phones continue to be fraudulently ordered and shipped. Customers are still charged for services they never authorized. The exodus continues...

Don't save Flipper

Here's my question of the day. What is up with the tree-huggers and supporting things like saving habitat for dolphins and manatees? Sure, maybe they need our protection but there's many other species in far greater danger yet you'll never see those make it onto an Animal Planet special.

So why do manatees and dolphins get all the attention of the people who are so eager to share with us how much they care about the sea creatures? Simple answer. Because they're cute and cuddly and it'll probably get them laid. I'm talking about the same mindset of kids who sit in the bar and order PBR because "it's working class", when they've never worked a job that required sweating in a pair of overalls or asking someone if they "want fries with that". You'll never see the Volvo-driving, tofu eating kids supporting protection for things like the toadfish. Why? Because there's nothing sexy about a toadfish which has all the beauty of childhood nightmare monster.

Now, I'm not saying there's not good and caring people out there that are working daily on conservation, not at all. Those people are in hip waders in a swamp in Louisiana, looking at oil spill samples in a lab in Georgia or building new fish habitats in Florida. You're not likely to see them on some feel good show with cuddly animal, but you will see them on "Dirty Jobs" with Mike Rowe. Those are the real people. Remember, "liking" something like "save the manatees" on Facebook doesn't make you a real conservationist any more than putting a "Support the Troops" sticker on your car makes you a patriot.

Monday, November 15, 2010

These colors don't run...

They sprint, to Walmart twice a week to buy cheap, import goods that were once regional, quality products sold at your local grocery store by owners you knew. Look on the back of your "Support Our Troops" magnetic decal you slapped on the back of your SUV, powered by gasoline from oil drilled in Saudi Arabia, guess where that decal was made? Probably China, Bangladesh or Pakistan. All countries who have little use for us other than to take our money, certainly not our friends. Yet, we keep funneling money to them to keep providing us gas, TVs, DVDs, Barbie dolls and millions of other items made for pennies.

I guess what I'm trying to get at here is the inconsistency of people who wave the flag and claim to be oh so patriotic, yet make little or no effort to support the American worker. We can blame the chain stores of America for pushing the small shops out of business but the fact of the matter is it goes back to supply and demand. If we refuse to buy from them, then they have no choice but to either change their policies and business model or go out of business. Companies like Walmart provide goods that are sometimes much cheaper than your mom and pop local grocery but at what cost to your neighborhood? There are reasons cities like San Francisco or New York will not allow a Walmart in their area, it's because it destroys nearly everything in it's vicinity.

The other thing we should ask ourselves, do we really need a new TV or a new car? Is what we are about to buy necessary and does it really make our lives better. We're a society that has become accustomed to buying the newest gadget and trying to get it at the lowest price when in fact, maybe we should pull back and think about if we actually need it. Does it give meaning to your life or are we buying it just because everyone else has it?

This year, on Black Friday, I'm suggesting that we spend absolutely no money at any of the big box stores. If we buy anything, buy it from a local merchant, spend money with someone you know. Go to a flea market, an antique store, a local fishing tackle store and make your purchases there. That is being patriotic.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Some more new rules

Seeing as how the last set of rules which I reposted from elsewhere was so popular, I decided to make some more of my own.

If you are an actual MMA, UFC or whatever fighter, you go ahead and wear that shirt. For all the other 'roided out gym rats, it's rather funny and pathetic. Sort of makes you the Napoleon Dynamite of cagefighting, doesn't it?

To the patrons at Starbucks, order a coffee, not a fucking birthday cake or some other 5 course caffeine concoction that requires more logistics than a shuttle launch. There's 30 other people in line and you are not a unique or beautiful snowflake so just get regular coffee so we can all get where we're going.

Dear 30 year old ironic hipster dude, no one drinks PBR because it tastes good. In fact, I'd almost rather drink warm Old Milwaukee strained through a true "working class" person's work socks than drink PBR. Yes, it's really that nasty and your sailor tattoos are just as retarded seeing as you don't even know how to find the North Star, let alone operate an actual boat.

This one goes out to all the people who put clothes on their animals, what the hell is your problem? It's an animal, not a child. If you want something to play dress up with, have a kid or adopt one. Dogs were domesticated to guard the cave and the food supply, not to take to a doggy spa and paint it's toenails pink. I can guarantee you right now, if your dog had opposable thumbs, it would have offed itself by now rather than looking like a retard.

"I'm all for sacrifice, as long as it's not me."

So the Debt Commission Report is out and already, the usual suspects have retreated behind their usual lines drawn in the sand with spin machines ready to go. Both parties are screaming bloody murder about provisions in the proposal so I think maybe, we have a winner here. My way of looking at it is if both sides are equally pissed, then it's probably something outstanding.

I started reading around on sites like and The Huffington Post, the outrage was predictable as Redstate lamented tax increases, entitlement programs, etc. Huffington and others cried about Social Security cuts and other trimming of social programs. So while we'll all probably agree that we need to eliminate the deficit, no one will be able to make any compromise on their most cherished programs. Thus, another chance to right the ship will be passed up and we'll take on more and more water.

Have you ever played one of the old Sim City games? That's a microcosm of what running a government is like. Tax the wealthy too much and they move out of your city. Deregulate industry and it'll boom but you'll end up with rampant pollution which ends up driving away your upper bracket tax base. Social programs make your people more happy, education allows your residents to get better paying jobs, yet everything has a price tag on it. You're not going to be able to please everyone, your city won't be perfect, and you'll constantly be forced to juggle the needs of competing interests. Try playing that game and not running a deficit at least 3 out of 5 years.

Everyone wants the government to do something for them, yet no one really wants to pay a penny for it. The deficit reduction plan is going to require cuts across the board and sacrifices from everyone. The problem is no one is going to want to give up their slice of the pie. The people who want to cut Social Security are not the ones who are going to rely on it when they reach retirement age and those who support tax increases are probably not the ones who are going to have to pay them. "I'm all for sacrifice, as long as it's not me."

Government has a responsibility to provide services to those who pay taxes to it but what are those responsibilities? That's what we can't seem to agree on. Personally, I reject the simplistic argument that it should only be what is in the Constitution. At the time it was ratified, the population of the US was about 1% of what it is now. The states only covered the East Coast, travel was done mostly by ship or wagon and electricity wouldn't be discovered until almost a century later. Our needs as a country have changed since then unless you somehow still believe that George Washington is still president and you take your crop of tobacco to the store by horse and wagon.

What we're going to need to do across the board is compromise and realize that unless we do this, eventually we will go the way of past empires which overextended themselves and then crumbled. Everyone is going to have to either pay more or take cuts to the services they have come to depend on, regardless of whether it is Social Security, military contracts or transportation services.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Punk rock at 30

At some point or another, we go from manic, desiring everything all at once, to something perhaps a bit more controlled, focused even. This is what I was trying to get a grasp on the other day, hammering out ideas over a chat session with my friend Jonny. Is it maturity? Is that what we tell ourselves when we stop trying to push our bodies to the limit. You know those nights when you'd stay up until 5am, go to work on little or no sleep, working on a leftover liquor buzz and perhaps last night's lipstick mark still on the shirt you never changed out of. Maybe it's trying to get quality moments now instead of quantity, a more focused approach. Is this how we play off getting old. I like to think I can still hang with college kids but the fact of the matter is I start getting tired around midnight and want to go to bed. Let's call it experience, not maturity. You can only wake up to the sensation of your skull feeling like it's in a vise so many times before you learn to pull back the throttle a bit. All you can drink beer night is no longer a situation to prove your tolerance in and instead, it becomes a chance for you to watch the stupidity of those who are now the same age you once were. "Was I really that bad?" you might ask yourself and then try to explain it away. "No way man, kids these days are much worse" you tell your friends.

We just sit back, take another sip on our import beer. It's quality now man, not quantity. At some point you realize that it's better to try to enjoy the moment and be able to remember it. Catalog it into your brain so you'll look back on it all, as you know you will when you're older. Be here now, in this moment, turn the music up just a little and savor it like a fine stout.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Topless models

These are not the topless models you were probably expecting. These are the topless models that really get me going. These are from when trucks were trucks, not like the SUVs and luxury trucks of today. There was heat, AC (sometimes) and an AM/FM radio. No GPS, no Bluetooth, no heated seats, no leather interiors and they got maybe 12 MPG tops. When gas was 85 cents a gallon, nobody cared about MPGs and we were just coming off of leaded gasoline.

The failure of the progressive agenda

As I have said before, liberals usually suffer from this affliction where at the slightest opposition, they suddenly turn into the political Cowardly Lion and play dead. It's just not that though, the people who lead the party, while well meaning, are often from parts of the country where the constituency is hard to the left. Republican success has been that they can get people from the center all the way to the far right to vote for them almost every single election because they know that they can have more moderate leaders and still get the support of their fringe groups. Democrats are capable of figuring that out every once in awhile but then turn around and blow it because once in control, they run with an agenda that gets torpedoed through a combination of their own amazing incompetence and the inability to effectively counter the resistance and misrepresentation from the opposition.

While Nancy Pelosi is probably a very nice person, she's not the best person to lead Democrats in the House. She comes from a district that could probably be considered one of, if not the most liberal in the country and that just doesn't connect well with with more moderate voters, especially independents, across the rest of the country. (On a side note,go to San Francisco and read some of their alternative paper columnists, they think she's not liberal enough.) As a result, she's managed to become a favorite target for Republicans to use as a representation of the Democrat party, and they've been very successful with this. I suppose the only thing that could make it better for them is if she was a lesbian and/or black.

The other problem is that while well meaning, health care reform, cap and trade and other issues they had on the agenda were bungled and weren't the most pressing things that needed to be done. Say what you will, the bailout of GM saved hundreds of thousands of jobs. While vilified at the time as an example of "socialism taking over private enterprise", it has proved to be a success and the company is now turning a profit instead of massive losses. Health care reform went too far in some areas and not far enough in others but still managed to piss everyone off. Cap and trade was doomed from the start because of the massive opposition from the well financed energy lobbyists and their PR machines. Instead of coming up with a common sense solution to any of these issues, Democrats went with an agenda that was too radical in it's changes, then made concessions to every single naysayer to get the legislation to the floor. These ended up being voted against anyhow by alot of the people who they made concessions to and so, the uncanny ability of Democrats to self destruct once again came through without failure.

That's where the Republicans almost always win, they don't compromise and they sure as hell have no problems squashing the dissent within their own party. Look at the votes in the 111th Congress, almost without fail, only a couple Republicans will cross the aisle while dozens of Democrats will do the same. Progressives are more like a highschool kid who just wants to be popular and gives in to anything, just to make friends, only to find that no one respects them because they end up standing for nothing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


This is a little piece I wrote over 7 years ago about an immigrant who I worked with at a TGI Fridays in Savannah.

"Frederico is one of the dishwashers at work. Frederico never says much and no one talks to him much either. Perhaps it's that they're intimidated by the language barrier or maybe they don't care. I hope it's not the latter. I always make it a point to speak to him every day, in Spanish when possible. It's a language practice thing for me but I'm also curious as to what his story is.

Tonight, as I went to change to go home, cash tucked in my back pocket, (just in case someone wants my wallet) I saw Frederico sitting quietly in the break room. He had his dirty apron rolled up on the tables as he took a drag from his cigarette. "Como estas?" I said as I pulled off my work polo and pulled on my beloved fishing tshirt. "Bien" he replied in a faraway, subdued voice. I sensed something was wrong, but I didn't press him. He started to speak in his halting English and then it poured out in a mix of Spanish and English. Frederico is from Mexico and he is here not to make his new life in the US, all he wants is to make seven thousand dollars so he can go back home and pay for his house. Frederico doesn't want a new TV, a new fancy car, or designer clothes. All he wants is to have a home for his family.

I saw a little tear well up in his eye when he mentioned his two children, one 7 and one 3. People take such things for granted, their families, their children. Yet this is all he wants, to be with his family. Perhaps the "American Dream" doesn't impress him, who knows? I just find him to be such a refreshing alternative to the pettiness and materialistic conversation I am forced to deal with in this restaraunt. There will be more time spent with Frederico from now on. Everyone could learn something from this quiet man."


I perforated the sentiments and memories
While you punched another card
I grasped for another verse
As I waited in the car.

I wasn't ready for your idea
Of the "nearly-perfect" life
Your credit union career
Or starched white reports and clothes
The clack-click-clack of heels
From nine until two
Or the teller statements
And yellowing deposit slips
That replaced the freedom of our youth."

Some new rules

New Rule:
Stop giving me that pop-up ad for! There's a reason you don't talk to people for 25 years.
Because you don't particularly like them! Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing these days: mowing my lawn.

New Rule:
Don't eat anything that's served to you out a window unless you're a seagull.
People are acting all shocked that a human finger was found in a bowl of Wendy's chili.
Hey, it cost less than a dollar. What did you expect it to contain? Trout?

New Rule:
Stop saying that teenage boys who have sex with their hot, blonde teachers are permanently damaged.
I have a better description for these kids: lucky bastards.

New Rule:
If you need to shave and you still collect baseball cards,
you're gay.
If you're a kid, the cards are keepsakes of your idols.
If you're a grown man, they're pictures of men.
(I have to disagree there)

New Rule:
Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone.
Here's how much men care about your eyebrows: do you have two of them? Okay, we're done.

New Rule:
There's no such thing as flavored water. There's a whole aisle of this crap at the supermarket - water, but without that watery taste.
Sorry, but flavored water is called a soft drink. You want flavored water? Pour some scotch over ice and let it melt. That's your flavored water.

New Rule:
Stop f***ing with old people. Target is introducing a
redesigned pill bottle that's square, with a bigger label.
And the top is now the bottom. And by the time grandpa figures out how to open it, his ass will be in the morgue.
Congratulations, Target, you just solved the Social Security crisis.

New Rule:
The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the asshole.
If you walk into a Starbucks and order a "decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n'-Low and one NutraSweet,"
ooooh, you're a huge asshole.

New Rule:
I'm not the cashier! By the time I look up from sliding my card, entering my PIN number, pressing "Enter,"
verifying the amount, deciding, no, I don't want cash back, and pressing "Enter" again,
the kid who is supposed to be ringing me up is standing there eating my Almond Joy.

New Rule:
Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual.
It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to "beef with broccoli."
The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high.

New Rule:
Competitive eating isn't a sport. It's one of the seven deadly sins.
ESPN recently televised the US Open of Competitive Eating, because watching those athletes at the poker table was just too damned exciting.
What's next, competitive farting? Oh wait. They're already doing that. It's called "The Howard Stern Show."

New Rule:
I don't need a bigger mega M&M. If I'm extra hungry for M&Ms, I'll go nuts and eat two.

New Rule:
If you're going to insist on making movies based on crappy, old television shows, then you have to give everyone in the Cineplex a remote so we can see what's playing on the other screens.
Let's remember the reason something was a television show in the first place is that the idea wasn't good enough to be a movie.

I can't remember where I got these but it's over 4 years old, still hilarious.

New Rule:
No more gift registries. You know, it used to be just for
Now it's for babies and new homes and graduations from rehab. Picking out the stuff you want and having other people buy it for you isn't gift giving, it's the white people version of looting.

New Rule:
and this one is long overdue: No more bathroom attendants. After I zip up, some guy is offering me a towel and a mint like I just had sex with George Michael.
I can't even tell if he's supposed to be there, or just some freak with a fetish. Don't want to be on your webcam, dude. I just want to wash my hands.

New Rule:
When I ask how old your toddler is, I don't need to know in months. "27 Months." "He's two," will do just fine.
He's not a cheese. And I didn't really care in the first place.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gag the commentators

We don't listen enough to the little people. You know, those unnoticed, quiet folks who go about their day to day without ramming an opinion or a sound bite down our throats from a cable news program. I'm talking about the bagboy at grocery store, the old man in the barber shop, the woman who cuts your hair or the nurse that changes your IV bag. They don't have the time to pontificate their beliefs for all to analyze because they're too busy living, working and contributing in their own way. Perhaps they don't have the education that the pundits do but it doesn't make what they have to say any less important. In fact, I think the unvarnished, unspun opinions are far more valuable than those of talking heads who are paid to do nothing other than fight with each other. Those of us who work for a living, we don't have the time to engage in meaningless skirmishes over things that will have little, if any effect on our day to day lives.

How about this idea for a TV news talk show? Instead of bringing in supposed experts on a political matter, bring in randomly selected people off the street, skip the sound bites, and engage in a meaningful discussion on how the issue effects them personally. The guest commentators don't have to worry about where their next paycheck is coming from or whether their insurance company is going to cover the cost of cancer treatment.

It's easy to come up with overly sophisticated arguments on an issue and quote obscure references when you get paid to do nothing but that all day long. That's not who I want to hear from. The people who are affected by the issue, that's who needs to be in front of the camera in the guest chair, not some narcissistic professional commentator. I don't want to hear the opinion of some corporate executive who has no other interest other than keeping his board of directors happy and has no idea what is like to work on the bottom rungs of the ladder. Let's hear about it from the people on the front line, not those from the boardroom. If you want to have a legitimate opinion on say, immigrant labor, work for a week in the fields with them before coming on a show and telling everyone what you think. It's hard to comment on the plight of the poor without having ever been there yourself.

I can tell you that there are millions of reasonable voices out there but we can't hear them over the cacophony of the talking heads.

A woman is like a fish

I decided to dig out an old poem I wrote and post it up since I am incapable of writing anything profound or even close to interesting today. Enjoy.

"A woman is like a fish,
because you will always talk,
when the subject comes up
(as you know it will)
about the one that got away,
just like all fishermen and lovers do
and you will always keep trying
to land one greater
and you will always find yourself
straining to see her
in the melancholy eyes
of timid store clerks
and uncertain artists
that stab indecisively
with gazelle-like arms at
canvasses larger than
their diminutive egos.

And you will spend
days and years or
more likely, a lifetime
just like all great fishermen and writers do
in constantly expressing
that feeling of loss while
searching for words and metaphors to
describe that never-ending
need to sleep next to someone
who will remind you of her but
never will never quite be her because
there is only one
catch of a lifetime.”

Copyright 2005

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We're all socialists

Lawrence O'Donnell was right on his show tonight, we're all socialists now. And he was right, there is good socialism and there is bad socialism but don't tell that to those people who haven't even figured out the difference between socialism and communism. To have any type of safety net for those who are old, unemployed, disabled or otherwise unable to afford retirement or basic services on their own qualifies as socialism. To what extent it goes and how it is carried out determines whether or not it is "good" or "bad" socialism, not by the opinion of a tubby cable news pundit who sees a traitor behind every tree and scares his elderly viewers into buying gold.

Excessive nanny state socialism is toxic to business and unbridled, unregulated capitalism is poisonous to society as a whole. The trick is to find a happy medium between the two, to have a population that doesn't fall through the cracks in hard times but at the same time, is motivated to be self reliant, not dependent on handouts for an entire lifetime. Common sense would dictate that this is possible but common sense seems to be lacking any more. At least that's the conclusion one would draw from watching any news program and their politicians who rail on about the evils of socialism while assured of government funded healthcare and a pension most of us could only dream about.

I believe this poster says it all

Monday, November 8, 2010

The failure of outsourcing at Sprint Pt. 2

After 2+ years of legal battles, an attempt to merge incompatible networks and quarter after quarter of customers abandoning ship in every available lifeboat, a certain cell phone company had enough. A CEO was given his $50+ million golden parachute and the layoffs and cost cutting began. Yet, the lesson on outsourcing still had not been learned as the company continued to outsource as many accounts as they could overseas, somehow believing that this would save overhead costs as customers continued to leave in droves. High value customers were identified by the system and were routed to US callcenters, often in their region. Perhaps the company was not as stupid as we would have them believe.

It turns out that indeed, if you spent enough money with the company, you earned the privilege of speaking with someone who was likely within a 1,000 miles of you, got a living wage and a healthcare plan that helped pay for the cost of the anti-anxiety medication and psychiatric sessions many of us needed just to keep us from finally going postal. So, in a way, customers had their own little caste system imposed on them. If you spent less than $69.99 a month per line, unless you planned on canceling your service, you were probably going to spend the next couple of months speaking to 15 different people, all named "Bob" oddly enough, in Manila or New Delhi. Even if you did plan on canceling service, chances were, it would take a couple months and hours on the phone to accomplish that as well.

As mergers went through and customers defected faster than a Cuban baseball team, "retention reps" were tasked with the monumental task of dangling money and free phones in front of customers who couldn't wait to leave. If all else failed, it was common practice to pretend to cancel the line, claim commission credit for "saving" it, then 3 months later "Bob" in Manila would get to speak to an irate customer who needed to be credited back for 3 months of service they should not have been charged for. Meanwhile, managers and reps snapped up thousands of dollars monthly in undeserved bonuses while "Bob" continued to blindly transfer customers across the company in search of someone who would finally end the nightmare for a customer who tried to end it months ago. So in a way, outsourced reps were getting it from both sides, the customers and employees alike. Still, the company that thought it would benefit from snapping up a smaller company that had extremely loyal and high value customers could not grasp the very reason that kept them there was the fact that there was comparatively little outsourcing. A stable billing system, unique product and sports sponsorships also contributed to the brand loyalty that every company craved.

Today, that company with a unique product and brand loyalty is on life support, existing as nothing except a shadow of it's former self. The focus groups and board meetings went on....

The failure of outsourcing at Sprint Pt. 1

Sometime in the last decade or so, as the cellphone and credit card market began attracting people who could not previously afford either, the executives at these companies decided that they could expand the bottom line by moving callcenter operations overseas. Most of the callcenters went to English-speaking countries such as India or the Philippines, Spanish-speaking customers would be routed to Costa Rica or Mexico. It was a fool-proof idea to these executives, people were signing contracts left and right to get subsidized cell phones that were previously status symbols of the business elite. Once these people were signed up for the contracts it was easy to go over on the bill every month, meaning more money for the cell phone companies.

Up until the 2007 recession, the money kept rolling in but customers weren't happy. First of all, overage charges were extremely expensive and an unlimited cell service plan could cost $250 or more monthly for just one line. Second, billing systems were far from being even close to perfect and customers with incorrect bills would be routed into infuriating automated callcenter queues to wait for long periods before speaking with well meaning but poorly trained representatives 12 time zones away. These outsourced reps had no authority to do anything for a customer other than take a payment, change them to a new phone plan or slap a new service on an account which so many times was done without the customer's consent. This would prompt yet another call next month to be handled by yet another powerless rep on a call time limit who would eventually hang up on the customer or transfer them off to another department to tell their story of woe all over again.

Yet, the companies kept making money, executives slapped each other on the back and it seemed that everyone was happy, except for the exasperated front line employees here in the US who had to spend most of their days undoing the errors made by the outsourced reps and dealing with customers who were probably popping Xanax at the thought of calling their cellphone company one more time.

So what was the problem that these companies could not seem to comprehend? Why were customers constantly complaining, why oh why did all the satisfaction surveys state that Company X had the worst customer service? Why were there websites popping up that constantly harped upon how bad the company was? Never mind, we'll just change the survey questions and then make employees jobs and commissions count on them convincing frustrated callers to rate the company 5 stars on random survey calls. Can't solve their issue? Just transfer them to some other department at random, they'll take the hit. Keep drinking the company Kool-Aid and making the inflated goals, however you have to do it.

What they failed to grasp, or did but didn't want to admit, was that cheaper did not equal better. Second, due to high stress and unreasonable sales standards, it was hard to retain quality, ethical reps who actually cared about taking care of customers. Third, it seemed that incompetent and dishonest employees were given entirely too much power and very little supervision. At least this was the case at the major cell phone company where I worked for 5 soul sucking years. I assume it would be the same in many other places considering most outsourcing companies such as ACS, Teletech, Convergys, Teleperformance, IBM and others handle calls for multiple companies. If an employee was found to be unsatisfactory they would just "remove them from the account" which meant they would no longer handle calls for Citigroup or Verizon and just be switched to take calls for Sears or any other account that the company had signed an outsourcing contract for.

In addition to a huge cultural and accent barrier between foreign reps and American clients, companies were often paid not on customer satisfaction but on the number of calls taken. If Teletech for example, did not meet the goal of 50,000 calls taken in a month, they could possibly lose a lucrative contract and therefore, agents would be forced to take as many calls as possible. So, even if they were in a position to help a customer, it was just easier to throw a credit at the error or dump the call off to another department instead of spending the time to actually fix the issue once and for all, especially if there was no way for the agent to make any type of sale. Many times this did not stop reps from "slamming" customers, which is an industry term for placing services on an account that were not requested.

And so, the cycle continued. Customers kept calling each month, reps made money, often fraudulently; and the execs kept patting each other on the back about how many accounts they had. Then, the recession hit.

Don't look behind the curtain

"The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn.  The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it."  ~P.J. O'Rourke

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Both political parties are more concerned with demonizing their opposition and getting out of context sound bites. Create a straw man argument, then a caricature of your opponent, then proceed to run against both as best you can. Republicans are far better than this than Democrats but both manage to bring out the worst in their fringe elements every election cycle. 

It's come to the point where we are a country of people against each other. It's the politicians, the major corporations who donate to them and the media who can't pass up a chance to sell more ad time that have us convinced that our next door neighbor could be unpatriotic for supporting one idea or another. There's no real, productive debates any more, just name calling, posturing and game playing. More than ever, it makes sense to have a 3rd party with no corporate donations and no special interest since neither party comes close to really representing the sane people that vote for them. The fringe elements and special interests of both parties usually end up controlling who is on the ballot, not the reasonable people who compromise and engage in bipartisanship instead of trying to ram their ideas down the throat of an unwilling country.