Sunday, August 31, 2014

Say goodbye to greedy bastards...

Lessons learned.  Missed opportunities.

In an amazing display of solidarity, Market Basket employees and customers alike stood behind ousted CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas.

As CEO, he always kept the prices affordable for his customers.  Generally speaking, the prices are always lower than Stop & Shop and Shaw's.  On top of their already low prices he committed to taking an additional 4% off all sales until the end of the year.  He decided that his customers needed the savings more than the shareholders needed their bonuses.

'Artie T.' (as he is lovingly referred to) also offered competitive wages and a profit sharing plan for his employees (all of them).

When rival cousin Arthur S. Demoulas convinced the Board of Directors to fire Artie T., the management and other employees knew that their workplace culture was about to change.

When the employees went 'on strike', the customers were supportive of their decision and went 'on strike' too!

Notice I write 'on strike' in quotes.  That's because MB doesn't have any union employees.  This is very unusual in the grocery store business.  It would be like having a trucking business with no union.  The MB employees never felt the need to unionize because they always felt safe and secure with Artie T. at the helm.

So what happened wasn't really a 'strike'.  What happened is that the employees walked off the job in protest.  (Most of them) giving up the only paycheck they receive, to support the man who has always looked out for them.

Arthur S. and the Board of Directors set several return-to-work "or else" deadlines, but they all passed with no consequences because the remaining leadership staff had no 'juice'.  They had nothing going for them.  They had nothing without their employees.  That is because when they lost Artie T. and the other employees, they also lost their customers.  And all their MONEY!

The greed and complete lack of respect displayed by Arthur S. and the Board of Directors completely backfired.

They tried several times to sell the company once they realized their mistake, but it was too late.  By the time they tried to sell, the customer base had already walked away with their money.  The company was worthless without them.  The stock tanked.  Anybody wanting to buy Market Basket, wanted to buy at the Fire Sale Price of practically nothing.  The greedy bastards didn't want to sell for the discount price and decided that their only way out was to sell out to Artie T.

They tried to bring him back in before the deal was sealed in order to recoup some of their money, but he wasn't coming back until they sold their shares to him.  He gave them much more than they deserved because in six short weeks they managed to run a hugely successful grocery chain into the ground.

If Artie T. was a spiteful guy, he could have walked away and opened his own grocery chain.  He would have had a built in staff and a loyal customer base that would have followed him.

But no, he was more concerned with his employees and the fallout for their families.  Some of them were really starting to feel the economic pinch.

So he finally comes to terms with the Board of Directors and his greedy bastard cousin, buys them out and is back in action.  All the employees are back (including the eight management folks who actually got fired with Artie T.).

They are in the process of rebuilding the supply chain.  Teams of drivers will be making non-stop trips to California and back to replenish produce and other supplies.

The employees are happy to be back at work.  And the customers are happy to be shopping at Market Basket again.

This is not the first time that customers have made a stand against corporate greed.  A few years ago, Netflix found a way to make a few extra dollars from their loyal customers.  The company decided to split the business into two separate entities:  the mail order customers and the online customers.

The problem was that many of the customers ordered both online and by mail, so it would have actually  been less convenient and cost them more.  The customer base was outraged and decided to quit the program altogether in protest, canceling their membership subscriptions.

It cost the company a fortune in a very short time.  The management quickly rethought the plan, went back to the original program and apologized to their customers in the hope that the customer base would have mercy on them (and their bank account).  It turns out that the customers really like Netflix so they did come back, but on their original terms.  Mission accomplished.

Lesson learned.

Sadly, not everyone learns these lessons.  Obviously not the Market Basket Board of Directors.  Sometimes it is good to learn from the mistakes of others.

Not only were lessons not learned; opportunities were missed.

Competing grocery chains Stop & Shop and Shaw's missed the perfect opportunity to say, "Welcome Market Basket customers!"

For the first week or so, area grocery stores ran out of supplies and it took all their efforts to keep up.

Once they figured out what was going on, they did a much better job of handling the overflow of new customers.

But were the Shaw's and Stop & Shop employees any 'friendlier' to attract the customers who go to MB for the friendly personable service?


Did they lower their prices (even just a tiny little bit) to attract the customers who go to MB for the low prices (knowing that they would make up the difference in the higher sales traffic)?


They took the opportunity to gouge all of their own customers as well as the MB customers, knowing they had a captive audience.  Very similar to the way that stores in the airport over-price gum and books (and everything else); and the way that stores at the beach charge three times more for a bottle of water, knowing that you don't have anywhere else to go!

This would have been the perfect time to woo the Market Basket customers.  The perfect time to create a positive shopping experience for these displaced buyers.

If Shaw's or Stop & Shop had taken the time to create a positive experience for the MB shoppers, some of them might have said, "This is not so bad.  Why have I been going all the way to MB when this is closer?  The prices aren't that different and the people here are pretty friendly, too."

Even if it was just a small percentage that made the transition, it still would have been worth it for them in the long run.

Instead, their short-sighted profit-oriented management teams just proved that the MB shoppers are doing the right thing by sticking with Market Basket.

I have such respect and admiration for all the people who stood up and did the right thing, even at great personal and economic cost for many of them.

I can't guarantee it, but I would almost bet that somehow, over time, Artie T. will repay each of them what they lost.  That's just what kind of guy he is.  And that is why a bunch of non-union grocery store workers stood up to the greed mongers to bring back their beloved Artie T.

My schedule is packed full today, but I'm going in to MB tomorrow to buy some 'stuff' just to be supportive.  Who knows, I might even hug the employees while I'm there!

Update:  I did indeed go into Market Basket the next day.  I only bought a few things but I was mostly pleased with the experience.

The first thing that you see when you approach the store are all the signs thanking the customers for their support.

Once inside you could see an overflow of smiling employees.  Every one happy to be back at work.  No doubt they are overstaffed in an effort to give them extra hours to make up for six weeks of missed paychecks.

Don't get me wrong, these employees were not standing around goofing off.  There are plenty of empty shelves to restock.

Most people think of grocery shopping as a chore that needs to be done.  I don't know anyone who admits to enjoying grocery shopping.

Personally, I miss the days of 24-hour grocery stores because I was one of those people who would rather shop during the late night hours to avoid the crowd.

Maybe I'm just not a 'people person'.  Certainly I am not overly social.

The reason I mention all of this is because in all my years of grocery shopping (that would be many years), I have never spoken with so many strangers as I did on this one visit to Market Basket.

My fellow shoppers were talking to each other (and me) as if we were old friends.  They were congratulating the employees and each other for doing such a great thing.  Figuratively patting each other on the back as if they just won some sporting event.

As I was next in line to check out, the young lady was changing out the cash drawer and politely asked me to wait 'just a minute'.  I told her I've been waiting for six weeks, I think I can wait just one more minute!  That got me a laugh and got everyone in the line talking about how happy they were to be back and it turned out that this was EVERYBODY'S first time back in six weeks.

Side note:  If you ever happen to be shopping at the same store as me (and are in a hurry), never get in line behind me.  Seriously.  No matter which line I get in, the person in front of me will have some sort of dilemma.  It might be a 'price check' or mis-marked item, something that doesn't scan, a declined credit card, or one of a million other challenges that causes the cashier to flip the switch to make the light blink, calling the manager.  Not sure why this happens.  Maybe it is karmic balance to  make up for the fact that I get a front row parking spot... every time.

Anyway, I am glad the Market Basket fiasco is over.  And I am pleased with the outcome.  I love it when people pull together for a great cause and the 'good guys' win.

I hope that this event encourages people to do the right thing and also DIScourages people from being unnecessarily greedy at the expense of others.

I also hope that this event reminds us all that we really do control the economy with our dollars.  Sadly we forget this.  Too often we let businesses take control and dictate the terms of how our money gets spent.  But the reality is, in most cases, it is our own fault that prices are too high and that the quality of our products has caused us to be a disposable society.  Things wear out, I get it, but with the technology that we have today you would think that we could make things that last more than 3-5 years.  Of course if that happens, businesses lose future income.

It is completely ridiculous and we allow it to happen.  But that is a topic for another post.

Congratulations to Artie T. and his loyal team.  I want to give each of you a big hug, but I won't, because I don't want to get kicked out.  Six weeks away was bad enough!

Shop wisely.

Peace and Love,
--------- Nick  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Newtown, CT 2012...

When I first sat down to write this post, it seemed nearly impossible.  There are no words worthy of describing the feelings that were surging through me (and almost certainly every other human being with a heart).

So I decided to take a different approach...

In this life, there are few things we have control over.

It seems to me that the best way to be happy is to focus on the things we do have control over.

For example, we can't control the rain, but we can choose to stay inside.  If we must go out in the rain, we can choose to carry an umbrella.  Or we can choose to embrace the rain.  Pretend you are Gene Kelly, dance and sing in the rain.  Stomp in every puddle along the way!  Even though we don't have control over the rain, we can choose how we react to the rain.

One of the very few things in this world that we do have control over is our thoughts.  We have control over the choices we make everyday.  All choices.  Large and small.

Some choices are simple.  What will you wear today?  What will you eat for your next meal?

Some choices are more challenging.  What do you want to do with your life?  Who do you want to be?

We can choose to make quick decisions without really thinking about the long term consequences, knowing that our choice will make our life easier right now.  Or we can really put some thought into our decision to make a choice that will be better for us in the long run, even though it may be more challenging for us right now.

When tragedy strikes as it did Friday (December 14, 2012), we find out exactly what kind of chooser we are.

These are the preliminary facts:  27 dead at a school in Newtown, CT.  Twenty young children (ages 5-10), six adults, plus the shooter.  And one more adult found dead at a secondary location.

Armed with only this information, we can make our choices.  We can whine and complain about how crazy our world is becoming and post our proclamations on Facebook.  We can use this limited information to stir up emotions to further a personal agenda like mental health care or gun control laws. We can allow ourselves to become paralyzed and cry uncontrollably thinking about how close this hit to home and that it could have happened to us or those we love.  We can speculate on why this happened and stress ourselves out about when and where tragedy will strike next.

Or... we can choose to focus on something else.  How can we help the families devastated by this incident?  What can we do to help the first responders get through this?  How can we make our schools more safe?  What can we tell our children to comfort them and prepare them for the future?

Don't get me wrong.  It's important to grieve.  I admit I shed tears of my own, but we cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by our grief.  And I also agree that mental health care and gun control laws are both issues that need to be addressed.  But first we need to take care of those in need.  Let's not manipulate someone else's grief for personal gain.

Of course we all want to know why this happened.  We want to know what could cause someone to 'snap' like that.  But wild guesses are not productive and only create more emotional trauma to add to the physical damage.

Rather than fuel the fire of an already over-stimulated media, I suggest we let the professionals do their job and figure out why this happened.

Police investigators have access to the crime scenes and can make intelligent conclusions from the facts.  Unless you are a novel writer, your time (and mental well-being) would be better served focusing on something else, like helping the families of the victims or comforting and helping the survivors in some way.  That includes comforting those who are effected just watching from a distance.

I think we can take a day or two to offer assistance and support where it is needed now.  And then, after we know all the facts... THEN we can start the work of fixing the root problem.

I am a firm believer in fixing the real ROOT of the problems, and fixing them right the first time.  They say 'a problem well defined is half solved'.  Once we really know the facts, then we can find more creative and long lasting solutions.

Let's use an unrelated issue as an example.  The drug problem.

Here are the facts:  People buy, sell and use drugs.  Often, crime is a side-effect of this transaction.  Some people want to perpetuate a 'War On Drugs'.  Sadly this 'war' is a Band Aid and not a solution.  This 'war' sounds great... but no, it's not effective.  Arresting drug users doesn't fix the problem, they are addicts and not thinking rationally.  Arresting drug dealers is not a solution, the money made is worth the risk of getting caught for them.  And once in prison... they just set up a new market.  Plus another dealer will quickly fill the void.

No.  The solution lies in fixing the Root of the Problem.  Think of how much money is spent in trying to prevent drugs from crossing the borders into our country.  The police and military man-hours (and equipment like planes, helicopters, surveillance, etc).  And the money spent tracking down dealers and enforcing the laws.  Think about the money lost due to crime in drug related incidents.  And the money spent on drug rehab for addicts.

That is a lot of money.  What if we spent that much money to educate kids about the dangers of drugs.  What would happen then?  First, kids would be able to make better choices and second (more importantly) the buyer's market would dry up.  If there are no drug buyers, there is no need for drug dealers.  This is simple economics.  Supply and demand!  If there is no demand the sellers will go to where there is a demand.

Just look at what happened to Blockbuster Video.  Netflix found a way to make movie rentals cheaper and easier.  So people started making different choices.  Those choices put a Fortune 500 company out of business.  Supply and demand.  Simple economics.

So how do we educate children to make better choices?  This may seem over-simplistic, but I think the best answer to that is Good Parenting!

Is it just me or does anyone else think that it's weird that we need to take a test to drive a car or need a license to go hunting... but anybody can be a parent?  No questions asked.

There was a time when families sat around the dinner table and talked about their day.  Discussed things that were going on in the world.

There was a time when parents taught their children right from wrong.  How to be a good sport.  How to work hard and be motivated to win, but also to be graceful at losing if you get out-played.  And the most important lesson that parents should teach their children is how to think for themselves so they can make wise choices and be self-sufficient.

At what point did we stop teaching our children to be responsible?  When did we stop keeping score at baseball and soccer games?  Why do we need to hide the fact that you don't always get to win?  That things don't always work out as you hoped?

I understand that parents want the very best for their children, but why would any parent want to enable their child and give them everything without earning it?  That child will grow up to think that is how life works!  Newsflash:  That is NOT how life works.

I've been told that kids get an allowance now.  When I was a kid, we had to do chores.  There were chores that we were expected to do just because that was our job.  It was our contribution to the Family Household Machine.  If we wanted an allowance we needed to do extra chores above and beyond to earn that money.

And if a kid wanted to get more money-- no problem.  Get a paper route.  Earn as much money as you want.  Rustle up some more customers.  The more newspapers you deliver, the more money you make!

The bottom line on parenting is this... you are ultimately responsible for parenting your own child.  If you expect teachers or babysitters or (even worse) TV to raise your child, then chances are good that the police, court system and prison system will eventually be in charge of them.

School teachers teach our kids English and Math and Science.  It's not their job to teach Manners and Morals and Decision Making.

And when we teach our children to think for themselves, they will not grow up with a sense of entitlement and they will likely know better than to watch TV news.  Maybe we should take on that project, too!  Why do we allow our 'news stations' to sensationalize our news?  What happened to the days of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow?  Remember the days when news anchors would tell us the facts without commentary and let us draw our own conclusion?  If there was a commentary it was a separate segment and specifically tagged as Commentary or Opinion.  Not like the Talking Heads of today.

There is a great book by Neil Postman called, "How To Watch TV News".  You can probably find it in the library.  How is it that we have let our 'news' become entertainment?

I also suggest another book by Neil Postman called, "Amusing Ourselves To Death" where he talks about how we are letting our Media control our lives and what we can do to wrestle back that control.

The truth of the matter is that, while we may never know what was the trigger that caused this young man to 'snap' and do something so heartbreaking and horrific, the fact remains that he did make a conscious, premeditated choice.

This brings us back to Good Parenting and educating our children to be self-sufficient so that when things get so out of control, they don't feel that taking their own life is the only option.

Top that off with our sensationalized 'media-on-steroids' (TV, movies, violent video games and yes 'news') and they get the idea to go out in a 'blaze of media glory'.

They start to think of ways to out-do the flight attendant who inflated the water slide to quit the airline or how to be more sensational than Columbine.

If we focus more on the victims and their families, the first responders and the survivors and less on trying to glorify the killer or criminal, then it won't be as tempting for someone to use these tragic events as attention grabbing media opportunities to be famous for 15 minutes (even if it is only post-mortem).

Of course, when I write about Good Parenting and teaching our children to be self-sufficient, that is only the start.  We can't blame our parents forever.  At some point we need to take Personal Responsibility.  Personal Responsibility for our own lives.  We can't blame our parents.  We can't blame society.  We can't even blame our money-hungry sensationalized media.

We all make our own choices.

The bottom line is this:  On Friday December 14th, 2012, one person made a decision to gear up and go to a public school filled with 5-10 year old children and their educators and open fire.  Many facts are still unknown but it doesn't matter if the guns were legal or illegal.  It doesn't matter if he had mental health issues.  He alone made a decision and was responsible for his own actions.

I may have mentioned (in a previous post) that I think it would be a great idea to have a 'news station' that only shares feel-good uplifting stories.

Since that doesn't exist yet, I decided to start a new Blog.  I will keep this one up, of course, so I have a place to rant and share my random thoughts and to continue sharing events in my own life.

The new Blog (Be The Change) will be dedicated to only good news and personal development.  So if you have committed any Random Acts Of Kindness and want to share your experience, let me know.  If you know of someone who did a Good Deed, just because... let me know that as well.  We can post these stories to remind people that, yes, there are regular people doing good things in the world.  Maybe others will be inspired by your Good Deed or Story and they will in turn do a Good Deed of their own.   That would be amazing!

Feel free to check out the new "Be The Change" Blog.  There is only one post so far.  Here is the link:

I will leave you today with another link that you may have seen floating around on Facebook:
 "26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year"

Go hug someone right now.  Do a Good Deed for no reason.

Gandhi once said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Make good choices.

Peace and Love,
----- Nick

Thursday, November 8, 2012

And the winner is...

Now that the election is over... it's time to answer the big question: Who is the big winner of this election?

And the answer is: The TV and Cable stations.

Yes, not only did the media make every effort to dramatize every issue and instigate trouble (likely in an effort to raise their own ratings), but also to drive advertising revenue higher than it has EVER been in the history of televised election seasons (which, sadly and unnecessarily seem to be getting longer and longer).

According to the Wall Street Journal (8/7/12), "Campaigns, political parties and outside groups are expected to spend some $6.5 billion on television and cable ads for federal and state elections this year, up from $4.8 billion in 2008, according to Borrell Associates, Inc., which tracks local TV and online advertising."

That is not a typo. It says BILLION. With a B.

Check out the website for the National Review. They have a chart that shows the breakdown of spending in just the battleground states. They list spending in each state by the 'official campaigns' of each presidential candidate as well as the spending of the DNC and RNC.

You will also find listed in the breakdown, the spending of the Super Pacs like: Crossroads GPS, American Crossroads, Priorities USA Action, Restore Our Future, American Future Fund, Planned Parenthood Action, Concerned Women For America and Americans For Job Security.

The amount of money is obscene.

In the recent 'Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission' case, the Supreme Court ruled (5 to 4) to reverse a decision by the Montana Supreme Court to remove restrictions on corporate donations. If you are not familiar with how this works, essentially we, as citizens are allowed to donate money to the candidate of our choice, but there is a limit on the dollar amount.

This ruling allows corporations to donate money, anonymously I should add, in unlimited amounts to Political Action Committees who then (theoretically without the consent of the candidate) spend that money on advertising. The problem is that without any oversight it is easy for these Super Pacs to (let's call it) 'stretch the truth' a bit too far. Many of these Super Pacs are classified as 'social welfare' organizations and are exempt from the rules and restrictions of the 'official' committees to elect candidates.

Because there is no oversight and there is so much anonymity, it is easy for the Pacs to get away with their shenanigans. Once the Fact Checkers do their checking... it's too late. The damage is done. And who do you blame? Just some anonymously named Super Pac with anonymous donors! Nobody to pay the consequences of the bad behavior.

To read more about this, see the article in the NY Times (10/27/12 Topics/Campaign Finance article on Super Pacs). Not including the Super Pac money, here is an idea of money raised by the official campaign committees just between January 1, 2012-October 17,2012: Obama Campaign- $1.6 Billion dollars, Romney Campaign- $954 Million dollars.

That's a lot of money.

And that's just the presidential election. All around the country there were hundreds of other candidates raising money for their own campaigns.

For example, here in Massachusetts, a very heated and controversial campaign between Senator Scott Brown and his rival Professor Elizabeth Warren netted some serious money. According to the Boston Globe, Warren raised over $36.3 Million since she entered the race last September. And Brown has raised over $27.45 Million since January 2010.

Again, this is just in Massachusetts. Imagine similar races in every state for Senate, Congress, Governor and even some Municipal candidates. I almost can't even begin to tally all of that money.

So if you are like me... you may be asking yourself, "What's the point?"

Why would someone spend Billions or even Millions of dollars to acquire a job that is likely a demotion in pay than what they are currently making? Here is the salary breakdown: 

  U.S. President: $400,000 Plus an elaborate expense account
  U.S. Congress/Senate: $174,000-$193,400 
  (except the Speaker of the House who makes $223,500)

Does this make sense to anyone?

Did you know that 261 current members of Congress are millionaires? Why would a millionaire pay money to get a job that pays under $200,000 per year? Am I missing something here?

When was the last time you saw an ad for a cigarette company? Not lately. Do you know why? We don't allow it. Those ads were filled with poisonous lies. I would like to propose that we do the same with political ads. There should be automatic fact checks before the ads run on TV. They should only be allowed to say what the candidate would do or believes. They should not be allowed to bash or even mention their opponent. When they screen the ads to see how the public reacts... any ad that scares little children or makes them cry should not be allowed to air.

There was a great spot on the radio about the political ads of days past. They all had these catchy little jingles. It would be a lot less stressful to listen to those ads than the ones that most of you had to endure this political season. I say most of you because I was fortunate enough to miss a lot of them by not watching TV. I get most of my news from the radio and online sources.

And while I'm ranting about integrity in advertising, can we also agree that most of our modern day 'newscasters' would make Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow roll over in their graves?

There should be separate designations for different types of broadcast. The 'talking heads' like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity should be listed as some type of 'editorial or opinion' commentators. And guys like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart should be labeled as 'comedian' commentators or something. These are not newscasters. Sadly, many of the network newscasters fall dangerously close to these designations.

News is supposed to be factual and unbiased. I think real news reporters should be thought provoking and report facts so that, we the people, can make our own opinions.

So now that I have just ranted on... I would like to come to the real point.

All of this MONEY. A LOT OF MONEY!

It seems that everyone is talking about how terrible the economy is. But in my daily travels between appointments, I drive by at least two but sometimes three shopping malls. And for the past few weeks the parking lots are all full. I'm not talking about a little full. I'm saying even on the weekdays the cars are all the way out to the end of the lot, with people driving around trying to find parking spots. How can the economy be so terrible if all of these people are obviously spending money. I mean these cars in the parking lot can't all be 'mall walkers'! (These are the folks who go to the mall, usually before it is open to get their exercise walking around the whole loop of the mall. These are serious people-- do not get in their way!)

But really, here is the bottom line.


We spent that much in 'adverting' to elect a bunch of people to 'get the job done'. But in reality those same people are causing the GRIDLOCK that is our current Congress.

Does anybody see the irony here? 

What could we really accomplish with that $6.5 Billion??

We could give teachers a raise!

We could invest in sports and arts programs at public schools that keep getting cut due to lack of funding.

We could buy bullet proof vests for our soldiers who are going to war without them.

We could put money aside for emergency relief instead of using tax dollars that should be used for other things.

We could hire more First Responders (police, fire, EMT, etc.).

We could help re-educate the jobless and help feed and shelter the homeless.

We could be improving the infrastructure and the environment.

We could be investing in science and technology to eliminate cancer and other life threatening diseases.

Any ideas?

What else could we do to improve our country and enhance the lives of our citizens if we had $6.5 Billion dollars?

 Ready... GO!

 Peace and Love,

 ------- Nick

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Decisions, Decisions...

"Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so." -- William Shakespeare

We may not always have control over what happens to us, but we have absolute control over how we react to what happens in our lives.

We decide what things mean and what to do with information, whether it was information we searched for and found, or whether it was thrust upon us without our consent. We can decide to ignore situations, be frustrated or angry by them... or we can decide to learn from any or all situations and then move on. We don't need to let any specific situation define who we are.

No matter what happened in your past, your future can be influenced by one simple decision that you make in this present moment; as long as that decision is followed by action. You MUST take the appropriate steps (actions) to bring that decision into reality.

We control what we think, which leads to how we feel (or our emotions). Almost all decisions are made based on our emotions. And it is our emotions that drive us to action. Actions create the results that can change our lives.

Some people think there are easy decisions and hard decisions. But really all decisions are easy if you truly know what you want. If you have powerful goals and strong values then you only have to ask, "Will this decision bring me closer to my goals and is it congruent to my values?" If it DOES bring you closer and IS congruent, your decision is made. Of course, the action required to implement the decision may be difficult, but the decision itself will be easy. Also, any alternate decision you make (other than the right one) will just frustrate you, disappoint you and make your life miserable later.

Some decisions require difficult actions now but make our lives easier in the long run; and some decisions require much easier actions now but make our lives more difficult in the long run.

Have you ever seen the old classic movie 'Network'? The main character is a News Anchor and you can see the process of decision making in his body language, tone of voice and action. He not only made a decision for himself, but his resolution was so strong that he motivated his viewers into action as well by telling them to open their window and yell out, "I'm as mad as Hell and I'm not going to take this, anymore!"

See the clip here:

These are the emotional outbursts that drive us to ACTION! Nothing will ever change for us until we decide that we are 'fed-up' with the way things are now. Until we decide that we will no longer tolerate (fill in your blank here). When you decide that you are 'sick and tired' of: being poor or living paycheck to paycheck or are 'sick and tired' of being pushed around or 'sick and tired' of being bored, sitting around the house watching TV for hours a day; when you are 'sick and tired' of being 'sick and tired'...only then will you be motivated to take action.

Only then will you decide to take the actions necessary to make, save and invest more money. Only then will you decide to take the actions necessary to become more confident. Only then will you decide to take the actions necessary to be more physically active and adventurous.

All of this because of one simple emotionally charged decision!

You can DECIDE RIGHT NOW to make your life into what ever you want. You can decide to do what ever it takes to make your dreams come true.

But don't just decide it. Make it a goal. Write it down. Set a date by which you intend to achieve that goal. Look back to the two Posts on Goal Setting (see January 3rd and January 13th posts) if you have not already read them, to find out what S.M.A.R.T. Goals are,how to set them and what to do with them once you have them.

I like what Hyrum W. Smith says about decisions, "When you decide to spend one hour watching TV, you have also decided NOT to spend the time on what?... Everything else!"

This is one of my pet peeves. People (especially kids) spend hours watching TV and playing video games. They will never get that time back. I very much doubt that anyone lay on their death bed thinking, "If only I had made it to the next level of Mortal Kombat" or "I really wish I had a few more hours to live so I can catch those three episodes of 'Lost' that I missed."

Live your life in a way that you won't have any regrets. Live your life as if today is your last day on Earth. Cultivate your personal relationships. Do the people in your life that are important to you, know how important they are? If not, I suggest you tell them. And even if they do know... I suggest that you tell them again, just because.

Our destiny is shaped by the decisions we make on a daily basis. Our decisions determine our actions.

"Character is the ability to carry out a worthy decision after the emotion of making that decision has passed." --- Hyrum W. Smith

Right now, go find a quiet spot that inspires you. Someplace to be alone to write down your thoughts. It could be a beach, mountain top, hillside or even your own office or bedroom. Get a notepad and pen. Write down what you REALLY want. Just let the ideas flow at first, without editing or judging. Write down anything that comes to mind.

Then when you have all of these thoughts written down, prioritize them. What is really important to you and what would just be fun, or nice or a bonus.

Now take all of the really top priority goals and decide what you will need to do to make each goal a reality. Set a completion date. Congratulations! You now have a goal. But wait! There is one more thing. Never leave the scene of a goal-setting session without doing at least one thing to make that goal a reality. You must take some action to make this real.

For example, if you are sitting at the ocean and you set a goal to lose 10 pounds in the next 3 months, you might take your first jog along the beach followed by a gentle stretch and a handful of push-ups or sit-ups. You may even decide to reward yourself by eating a healthy salad for lunch on your way home. Or at the VERY least, you should call a close friend or relative. Tell that person about your new goal so that they can help you achieve your goal (even if it's just by not tempting you to go out for ice cream or junk food).

Make great choices.

"Make a decision TODAY, that your future self will thank you for." --- Tony Robbins

Good luck.

Peace and Love,

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Greed: A Common Thread...

If you look at the date of my last Post, you would think that I am slacking off in the Blogging Department. But the reality of it is that I have written at least 3 Posts in my head! Working on the 4th one in my head right now.

Two of the Posts that I've been working out in my head have a bit of an overlap, so I'm going to merge them into this one Post today.

In recent news Events, there are two situations that share a common theme: the NBA basketball lockout and the march to Occupy Wall Street.

Not everyone understands the protesters marching on Wall Street (and now across the country).

Opponents say that the protesters are upset that there is too much of a class difference or that they are upset that rich people are rich. That isn't the problem at all. Nobody has a problem with rich people being rich. This is America! One of the great things about this country is that you can be who ever you want to be and make however much money you want to make.

The real issue here is Greed. When everyone benefits from a good economy...things are good. But if the economy starts to go bad and the people at the 'top' eliminate the jobs of people at the 'bottom' in order to make more of a profit... that is a problem.

Sometimes when companies get too big, there is a disconnect between the CEO's and the front line workers. The CEO's and upper management folks don't know these workers personally and so don't feel as much of a need to protect them, especially if it means a smaller paycheck for themselves personally.

You hear about some of these small and medium sized companies sharing the pain when the economy starts to go bad. The owner of these companies understand that families lives will be disrupted if they have to start laying people off. So rather than deciding to lay of 3 of their 10 workers, then make the other seven do more work to compensate, and then keeping his or her own profit high, the owner will do everything to make the operation more efficient and cost effective and possibly (temporarily) lower all wages (including his/her own) and keep everyone working.

In big companies, if the CEO has never been to your house for dinner with your spouse and kids, he probably doesn't have as much of a personal stake in whether you get to keep your job or you get laid off. All he knows is that he gets to keep his big paycheck.

And what's the deal with these Wall Street Hot Shots making a bunch of money selling products that they know damn well will hurt the economy, but they do it anyway... That is a problem! Bankers selling bad loans that will never be repaid or mortgages that they know will go into default. And selling 'shorts'? Come on, that's just a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I understand that everybody wants to make a buck, but please don't do it at the expense of others.

The reason people have taken to the streets isn't because some people are rich and some aren't. No. The reason people are angry is that these people who got rich didn't do it the old fashioned American way (by offering a quality product or service). They offered a product that was not only faulty, but essentially sent our economy into a downward spiral.

Not only did these people not get punished for doing what they did, they got to keep their personal money and We The People BAILED OUT their businesses! Why? Because they were too big to fail? Really?! This is a very bad precedent to set.

To make matters worse, these banks that we bailed out are now sitting on that money, not making affordable loans to other businesses, not offering great rates on CD's, Money Market accounts or other money products.

They have taken no personal responsibility at all. It is totally unacceptable!

It reminds me of when we bailed out the Auto Industry and in a blatant disregard for the money that we gave them, the Auto Executives flew from Detroit to D.C. in three separate corporate jets!! Luckily, some people were bold enough to make a big deal about that and the situation was corrected next time. And since they knew that they were being watched... they cleaned up their Fiscal Act. As it stands now, the Auto Industry seems to be back on its feet, and I believe that some of that money has actually been paid back.

So let's tie in the other Event in the news: the basketball lockout.

Let me start by saying that I am a firm believer that everyone should be paid what they are worth. The better you are at your job, the better you should be paid.

So here's the thing. Basketball players want more money. They see the owners of the teams getting rich and they feel like they deserve a bigger piece of the pie.

The fact is, people buy tickets to the games to see the players, not the owners. Right? So I understand their thinking on this.

On the other hand, it's the owners who are taking all the risk. Putting up the money, making the deals with networks and advertisers, paying the overhead and dealing with other employees (and all the headaches that go along with that). It's a lot of work! I get it.

This is my thought on the dilemma. Right now these elite athletes are making millions of dollars. And on the one hand I'm OK with that. It does irritate me that teachers, military service folks and first responders (police, fire, EMT, etc.) make so much less for what I think most people would agree are much more important jobs, but it is what it is. That can be a Post for another day! Let me get back to my solution.

I think that these elite athletes should cultivate their Public Personas so they can make however much money they can get through endorsements.

The reality of it is this: ask any kid on any basketball court across the country (indoors or outdoors) if he/she would take on a pro basketball career for $100K. He/she would do it. They would probably do it for $50K (especially knowing that they can make more with endorsements)!!

I bet that not one would say, "No, if I can't make over a million dollars, I wouldn't waste my time..."

Most of them play because they are Passionate about the game. As are all pro athletes. That's what makes them so good.

Really it's the same with any career. That's why it is important to find what it is you are passionate about and find a way to make that your career.

This is the bottom line: we need to look at these types of situations from all angles. When we are so wrapped into a "What's in it for me?" attitude... that's when we start having problems.

Let's look more closely at the lockout.

I'll start with the Team Owners. They want to make a decent living in their careers. That is great. But when they start to get Greedy, then the players decide that they should be making more.

The Players were probably just happy to have a job that they love, but when they see what appears to be unfairness in the 'Distribution of Wealth', they decide to raise a ruckus.

The Players and Owners do this little dance back and forth over the years until the Players are making millions of dollars. At some point it becomes critical and there is a lockout.

Why is that?

Because while the Players and Owners are doing their dance, both sides have forgotten about the most important factor in the equation: the People who buy the tickets. The fuel that runs this whole machine.

At some point the fans decide that the ticket prices are too high and stop attending the games. What used to be a fun Family activity is now unaffordable to the average Family.

The result is fewer tickets sold. Which means that the price per ticket needs to be higher so the Owners can afford to pay the Players.

Higher prices mean even fewer People can afford to attend the games. Fewer attendees mean less beer and popcorn sales. No need now for all those Ticket Takers and Vendors. No need for so many Security People. Since there are fewer People attending, there isn't as much of a mess, so no need for such a big Clean Up Crew and Property Maintenance Folks.

Also, the lower ticket sales means less taxes paid. That's good right? Nope. That is the money that pays for Police Presence and other First Responders!

Net result? If you look at the Big Picture... one little bit of Greed screwed it up for everybody (including the Greedy ones)!

Let's go back to the beginning. If the Team Owner wasn't Greedy, the Players wouldn't have been inspired to be Greedy as well. Ticket prices would have stayed low, so more People could afford to go to the games (and brought the Family). More kids want more popcorn and soda (both large profit items) and more grown ups want more beer and hot dogs. That means more Vendors. That means more mess and wear and tear on property. That means more Custodial and Maintenance jobs. More People means more Security jobs. And that's OK because with all those ticket sales, comes more taxes. And so there can be better Police Presence and other First Responders for safety! And because all these People have jobs there is less crime. And more People will take more pride in their Community!

The New Bottom Line is that even though the owners make less per ticket; they make more in the long run by selling more tickets. Not to mention the 'Good Will' accumulated by customer loyalty.

Just look at Apple. When Apple came out with the iPod, Steve Jobs could have said, "There is nothing else like this product, I could get a small fortune for this."

Instead, he made it cheaper and more convenient for People to store and listen to their music. He made it affordable for Everyone. So much so, that they became a part of daily life. This product became a part of our culture. And then, when he came out with iPhones and iPads, it was a very short leap for them to become necessary tools as well.

The net result of that type of thinking? Apple has more money than the U.S. Government. And Steve Jobs did pretty well personally, too!

We only need to look at Warren Buffet to know that the same holds true in the Financial Markets.

So now, my Dear Faithful Readers... it is time for me to wrap up and get to the point of this whole Rant.

I am all for standing up for what I believe in, and I think it is great that People protest when they think things have gone awry. Freedom of Speech is one of the things that makes America great!

But my question is this: Why do they always have to do it the HARD WAY?

If you want to make a stance against Corporate Greed, why not hit them where it hurts the most? In the Pocket Book!

Don't buy their products... and tell them why!

Look what just happened with Netflix. Here is a company who shot into the spotlight by creating a product that is cheaper and more convenient for the Consumer. So much so that it single handedly took down a giant like Blockbuster Video.

Netflix recently announced that it would split into two separate entities, one mail order and one streaming. Customers went into an uproar. This would make it LESS convenient and MORE expensive.

See what happened there? Netflix saw that they had a corner on the market and found a way to make some extra money...

But when Customers started canceling their monthly subscriptions, Netflix very quickly announced its plan to stay one united company.

This my Friends is how to AFFECT CHANGE!

Do the right thing. Take a stand. But don't just huff and puff, make your stand meaningful. Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."

Peace and Love,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We The People...

An open letter to the President and Congress:

Dear Mr. President and Congress,

It seems that you are all having a hard time with your decision making skills, so I would like to remind you of a few things that you seem to have forgotten.

WE THE PEOPLE have elected you to do a job. That job is to represent US (the People). If you can't handle that, it's OK, we can elect someone else.

And in case you forgot the basics of your job, maybe I can help you remember. Does this sound familiar to you?

"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

That's it. That is your job:

Establish Justice... provide fair and reasonable rule of law.

Insure Domestic Tranquility... provide First Responders to allow for a life free of disturbance. And although you obviously can't make everyone Happy, you should certainly promote an atmosphere where we can create our own Happiness.

Provide For The Common Defense... provide a strong military presence, not to police the world, but rather to provide for our safety here in our own country.

Promote The General Welfare... this does not mean create a Welfare State. This is the General Welfare, meaning to provide assistance (financial, educational, or otherwise) to people in need in order to help them become more self-sufficient. Note: this is a courtesy of the People, not an entitlement.

Secure The Blessings Of Liberty To Ourselves And Our Posterity... this means we will ensure that our Children have the same Freedoms that we enjoy, and that we will leave the Country a better place than how we inherited it. This is not possible to do if we leave our Children saddled with Trillions of Dollars of Debt!!

And as our Forefathers stated so eloquently... it doesn't need to be perfect, but we should strive for a 'more perfect union'.

One of the reasons I am in favor of Term Limits is that you, Mr/Ms Politician, will know that you will be 'fired' in 4 years or 6 years. (8 years or 12 years if you do a good job and achieve your one possible re-election!)

Since you know you have a limited time, you will try to do as much as you can in the limited time that you have. Note: If you do a great job, you will most certainly command a premium salary in the Private Sector when you get 'fired' from Public Service.

That means you will stop thinking with that long-term Politician mentality. That is when people do as much as they have to in order to get re-elected, but not too much that someone might be offended and not vote for them next election day.

Maybe it would be helpful for you to start thinking of the government as a small business. Or maybe you could make decisions the way you would with your Family Budget.

You know in your Family Budget that you have a set amount of expenses: food, shelter (mortgage, rent, utilities), well-being (medical, health club, insurance), travel (gas, tolls, parking, airfare), entertainment (movies, cable TV, museums, books) and on and on...

When times are tough, you have two options: spend less, make more.

Sadly, Congress, you have taken on option #3: go into debt.

No, in real life you need to choose between option 1 and option 2. Either you cut back on frivolous (unnecessary) spending or you need to generate more income.

You need to get your priorities in order. You can decide to go to the movies less often, brown bag your lunch, cancel your Cable (TV is mostly wasted time anyway!) and travel locally rather than fly to some far away exotic location. Or, if you decide that your Premium Cable Package and going out to lunch daily with your fellow Politicians is a priority for you, then you need to generate more income. So maybe you need to get a part time job (temporarily, until you straighten out the economy) as a Wal-Mart greeter, or you could try your hand at waiting on tables or selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door.

Either way you need to choose: spend less--make more.

Do I need to translate that into GovernmentSpeak for you Mr/Ms Congressperson?

That means cut spending or raise taxes (temporarily).

When you cut spending it needs to come from non-essential budgets. You know, the Goofy Stuff. That means all the 'Pork' spending in bills that build bridges that go nowhere, and funding for experiments that determine which ketchup pours faster. And although some of these things may net interesting information (in the long run) they could be put on hold for now until the economy can support extra spending on things like the already over-budget Webb Space Telescope, on which we have already spent $18.4 Billion, but which having gone over budget, now needs an additional $1.6 Billion to complete! Note: this funding for the Webb telescope is to replace the (perfectly good and productive) Hubble Space Telescope.

I am a firm believer in a strong Military. But let's get with the Modern Times, can we please?! Mr/Ms Senator, just because Boeing or Pratt and Whitney (enter your local business here) is in your state, you don't need to fight for more government Military spending.

The future of the Military is Seal Team 6 and similar types of precision Strike Teams. Small, mobile, travel light. Do we need to spend billions on tanks? It is highly unlikely that we will ever fight that type of battle again. And we need to be more selective about the aircraft that we build. No more building just to build. Some of these monstrosities are obsolete before they finish building the final aircraft in the contract! We should be spending money on training and intelligence, not expensive obsolete weapons. And don't even get me started on Independent Contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater Worldwide.

All of this leads me to another beef! What is the deal with the concept of, 'Too Big To Fail'? There is no such thing. Economic Darwinism is the American Way!

WE THE PEOPLE promise to 'fire' (vote out) the next politician who even suggests another Bail Out.

Businesses will continue to grow, change, improve or at least keep up... or face the risk of failing. This is what WE THE PEOPLE call being 'Buggy Whipped'.

Remember when stage coach drivers used whips to encourage the horses? Well, when WE THE PEOPLE transitioned from horse-and-buggy to automobiles-- did we Bail Out the buggy whip makers? No. And the world didn't end. Maybe he got hired by Henry Ford (as did the blacksmiths) to make automobiles. Or maybe he reinvented his image and changed his Target Market to create the Sex Toy Industry.

Remember when a young kid named Bill Gates revolutionized the computer industry out of his garage? IBM and those other computer companies had to keep up or move on to 'explore other opportunities'. For a while, he even ended up in court for having a monopoly. Nobody thought he could be brought down. Enter Steve Jobs with his little company called Apple. He had a few innovations of his own.

Did we Bail Out Wang or Honeywell or Dell? No. And they all either got bought out, changed their focus, or changed marketing strategies to keep up.

WE THE PEOPLE refuse to ever Bail Out anyone EVER again.

By bailing out these companies, we are not only setting a bad precedent, we are setting them up to fail. They won't try hard to succeed if they know that we will reward them for their non-effort.

We need to encourage Personal Responsibility. Yes, WE THE PEOPLE are a caring, compassionate and generous people, but we also ascribe to the "give a man a fish, feed him for a day... teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime" theory.

This is why our welfare system also needs to be overhauled. There should be a time limit on our generosity, otherwise people start to feel entitled to the money and support we offer.

We should continue to offer this help and support while recipients are doing job training to learn new skills to make themselves more marketable. Once they are back on their feet, they should come out of the 'system'.

The thing that bugs me the most about the Bail Out situation is that while WE THE PEOPLE are Bailing Out the oil companies, they are generating record profits while simultaneously spilling record amounts of oil into the environment.

Did you know that while we are Bailing Out General Motors here at home, they have been making record profits in China? I wonder how many tax dollars are being generated here on their profits over in Europe and Asia?

And a final note on spending cuts. Now that you are aware Mr/Ms Congressperson, of a few places to cut (and believe me there are plenty more!) let us (WE THE PEOPLE) suggest a few places that you should refrain from touching.

Stay away from the money we spend on our Essential Employees.

No, you idiot Politician... you are NOT an Essential Employee! In fact, you have in this past year (or two) proven yourself completely Non-Essential. We hear that if you don't decide soon on a budget, that it will shut down government. My question is this: How will anyone know the difference?

No, when I say Essential Employees, I'm talking about Military and Police. This includes all First Responders (Fire, EMS, etc.) who keep us safe, both nationally and locally.

Spending on Teachers/Education should be Tabu. Again, WE THE PEOPLE promise to 'fire' any Politician who even proposes a cut in Education or First Responder Budgets.

You should vote to slash your own pay, Mr/Ms Politician, before considering cuts to our Essential Employees.

In fact, you should make some changes in your benefits package, too. What's the deal with your Perpetual Paycheck? You keep getting paid, even after you are out of office?

Maybe I understand that for the President, since the President has a bunch of seriously classified information in his/her head. This means he can't just walk around in the street and get a real job. He still needs a protection detail for a while. Should we call it 20-25 years? By then all that info is pretty obsolete. And by then he is probably at retirement age anyway.

Another area that is off-limits for your cutting pleasure is Social Security. That isn't your money to cut. WE THE PEOPLE have put that money in to the system. It is your job to invest it and grow that money so it will continue to be there as people need it.

That money is not for you to borrow, cut, steal or otherwise screw around with.

Here's another novel idea. What if we think of Social Security like an investment? We all put money in (as if it was a Rainy Day Fund). Then, if we need it, we use it. If we don't need to use it, then we leave the money in there for the less fortunate. It would be the choice of each individual person if we want to use it or not.

And I have another general rule of thumb: What is good for Congress is good for WE THE PEOPLE! Get it? You can't pass laws that only pertain to Congress (like your sweet Post Office set-up, and your personal loans set-up, and your comprehensive health care program). And you can't pass laws for the rest of us that don't pertain to you.

So as soon as you balance the budget, you can start working on these other things. And while you are making changes, there should be no pork in any bill, EVER. In fact, you should only pass one law at a time. No more mixing laws, no more 'I'll vote for your bill if you vote for mine' by putting them in the same law. If you can't write your bill on 5-10 pages, it's too much. And it should be written in plain English so that WE THE PEOPLE can understand what kinds of laws you are passing on our behalf.

WE THE PEOPLE would also like to remind you that our forefathers came to this country over 200 years ago on some pretty rickety old boats to get away from the tyranny of an inflexible, stubborn, selfish old king who was out of touch with the people.

Your job Mr/Ms Politician is to do what is good for WE THE PEOPLE, not 'I the Person' or 'I the Big Business' or 'I the Re-Election Campaign Contributor'. Maybe sacrifices need to be made. But you need to ask yourself--"Is this beneficial to WE THE PEOPLE?"

And don't forget, Mr/Ms Congressperson, that you are also, WE THE PEOPLE!

Is it worth closing some loopholes in the tax laws so that the wealthiest 1% of the people in this country pay a little more? Maybe just temporarily? Will that be beneficial to WE THE PEOPLE?

That is, after all, the flip-side of the coin. Remember we talked about the Family Budget? You can cut spending or generate income.

In this case, your temporary part-time job, translates to raising taxes. Or at the very least, temporarily eliminating tax cut 'loop holes'. Keep in mind that this is not really raising taxes. These are taxes that they would be paying, but now are not because a previous Congress wrote in a 'loop hole' so that now they are not paying that tax.

And if you are going to tax something, make it something that is optional. If we tax alcohol and cigarettes then people can decide to not buy those things, and by not buying alcohol and cigarettes, WE THE PEOPLE have just given ourselves a tax break! And the money generated by taxing alcohol and cigarettes can go to helping out with health care costs.

The same with automobile tax and gas tax. We can choose to not drive, thereby saving money on taxes. And again, the money generated by these taxes can be used to pay for road and bridge repairs, transportation infrastructure, etc.

And while I'm on the subject of pet peeves and things that irritate me...

Who's idea was it to allow gas companies to charge nine tenths of a cent on gas? Who do they think they are kidding? Call it what it is... it's an extra penny. Was that so hard? What a joke! It's an insult to my intelligence.

Can someone out there fix that? Don't make me have to run for Senate!

And also, Mr/Ms Congressperson, please don't let people screw with my food. All of this genetically modified food and processed food is making us obese and unhealthy.

And food is either organic or it's not. You can't say that food can be called organic 'as long as it meets the criteria' of some obscure law (that nobody ever read or could even find) passed in 1991. Please, don't be ridiculous!!

And can we treat our farmers a little better? Don't you realize that without our farmers we won't have real food and will be dependent on these chemically enhanced, processed foods, and/or foreign growers.

WE THE PEOPLE have one other reminder for you:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes, and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government..."

In my opinion, our Trillions of dollars of National Debt constitutes "a long train of abuses and usurpations"!! It's time to vote some people out and "to provide new Guards for (our) future security".

Congress, your "my way or no way" attitude is Un-American and Unacceptable. You are a disgrace to our Forefathers who braved rough waters in rickety boats to offer us (WE THE PEOPLE), their descendants, a better life.

So it's time to stop trying to legislate LIGHTBULBS and balance the budget!

I am disappointed in you, Congress.

WE THE PEOPLE deserve better.

Signed by a true patriot and one small voice of WE THE PEOPLE,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Think for yourself...

Before I go off on a rant about current events, I would like to say Thanks to our troops for keeping us safe globally and Thanks to our first responders (all levels of law enforcement, fire and EMS) for keeping us safe locally.

Also, I would like to thank the elite troops who did 'what needed to be done' in Pakistan.

Personally, I would have liked to have seen them capture bin Laden rather than kill him, but I also understand that in this type of operation, that is not always possible. The down-side is that now radicals will proclaim him a martyr and fight in his name.

I know that capturing him would not likely net any real 'intelligence' on how to find other radicals. I wouldn't expect bin Laden to 'give anyone up'. But the real intel that could have been acquired is a better understanding of what goes on in the mind of the radicals and why they think what they think.

Obviously they have a misunderstanding of us. (As we likely misunderstand them.) They find our capitalist ways unacceptable. For over two hundred years other cultures have seen our system and those who understand have incorporated it into their own. But those poor radicals have been brainwashed into believing some warped concept of our culture. So warped, that they want to destroy our way of life.

If we could help them to better understand our lifestyle, then even if they are not interested in incorporating it into their own lives... at least they will know we are not evil, and hopefully not feel the need to destroy us.

Understanding differences is the best way to define the problem. And a problem well defined is half solved.

The knee-jerk reaction to the news of Osama bin Laden's death is reminiscent of 'W' Bush's proclamation on September 12, 2001 that "We are at war!" I find it irresponsible and inflammatory.

And even though I don't always agree with President Obama's policies, I appreciate his 'It had to be done and so we did it' approach. He was careful not to gloat and not to indiscriminately blame Muslims or Pakistanis or Afghanis, etc. Just radical extremists. Thank you for that.

But the crowds in the streets making such a 'Big Deal' about it, gives the radicals the satisfaction of thinking that they are making progress in their cause because it is affecting us.

Don't get me wrong. Finding bin Laden is a 'Big Deal'... but dancing in the streets is probably not the best or most effective action for us to take.

I mostly blame the news media for their lame 'sound bite' philosophy. It creates a bit of a 'mob mentality'. People really do feel safety in numbers. People tend to get caught up in the excitement of the mob and do or say things they never would on their own (looting, street fights, etc.). Even in this situation, people say things like, "Kill the bastard" or "Off with his head". Safe things to say in a mob of people.

The reality of it is... most people, gun in hand, would not choose to take the life of another human being. Most people, machete in hand, would find it difficult to hack off the head of another human being.

But imagine that same person surrounded by an angry or enthusiastic crowd yelling, "Do it! Do it!" That might be all the empowerment needed to perform an unspeakable act. There are many examples of mob mentality in our history. This Easter season reminds us of just such a mob two thousand years ago. "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

Earlier in the day on Sunday, before the news of bin Laden's death, I met a man at my local sandwich shop. I saw him get out of his car and complimented him on his bumper sticker.

It read, "Bless the whole world".

He returned to his car, grabbed another bumper sticker and gave it to me. He told me that he bought 1000 of them about a year ago, and was giving them out to anyone who commented on it. When I asked how many he had left he said, "Almost the whole box."

I could hear the disappointment in his voice.

As our sandwiches were being made we had a great discussion about how people with "God bless America" bumper stickers surely mean well, but are unintentionally part of the problem.

One of these days I may write a post on how the words we use can inspire, inflame, degrade. How our words create emotion and how that emotion translates into action. Most people are not aware of the power of their words.

I met another interesting person today. As I was walking down the street I heard a small voice yell, "Hi!" I looked toward the voice and smiled. I waved and said, "Hi!" back.

"What's your name?" asked the small voice.

"Nick" I answered, "What's yours?"


"That's a beautiful name."

"Thank you." (Big smile.)

"It was nice to meet you, Eva" I said as I went on my way.

"It was nice to meet you, too."

It was refreshing to come face to face with five year old innocence (maybe four years old).

Last night's news extravaganza had no affect on young Eva's day to day life activities. Granted, it could be argued that the event made her future world a safer place, but the point I'm making is this:

Young Eva genuinely cared about making that human connection. I think she wanted to be my friend. She didn't care that I was different from her. She didn't see me as a scary old guy with long hair and a beard.

I'm not sure what was going through the mind of Eva's mom. She was parked on the side of the road and Eva was carrying on her side of our conversation from her car seat in the back.

I imagine that Eva's mom felt a mixture of embarrassment that Eva was yelling out the back window at a stranger; and pride that her daughter is so polite and well-spoken; and fear... that Eva is so fearless. (Note: I really am sporting long hair and a beard right now, so I am potentially a little scarier looking than usual.)

At what point do we make that switch from our natural desire to befriend everyone to becoming so fearful of others that we need to 'destroy Them, before They destroy Us'?

For that matter, at what point do we become 'Them' and 'Us'?

I hate to sound like Rodney King, but, "Can't we all just get along?"

I am a firm believer in standing up for my beliefs. But I make it a point to take the intellectual 'high road'. I choose to use words to debate the pro's and con's rather than use a fist or a gun to make 'Them' submit to my way of thinking.

The most important piece of information I want people to take from this post is this:

Think for yourself!

I have said it before and I will very likely say it again. Don't get wrapped up in 'sound bite' news or mob mentality. Really think for yourself.

If you think about the big picture of this situation and the consequences of it, and you still think that dancing in the streets is appropriate and the right thing to do... then dance away. You have my blessing. As long as you yourself have decided that it is right.

And one final thought. This quote was made by a man who stood up for what he believed and knew the fine art of thinking for himself. His quote is still relevant today:

"Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Think well.

Peace and Love,