The Collected Thoughts and Musings of an Aspiring Political Philosopher

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Who the heck is this John guy, anyway? My brief bio.

My full professional resume is located about halfway down. I'd encourage you to go "Like" my Facebook "Fan" page "Elemental Escapes" for more of my political, economic, international and social-issues posts:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Elemental-Escapes/189600221111410

You can also reach me on my personal Facebook at:

http://Facebook.com/lovelifelightlaughter
________________________

About Me:

I have a 'Renaissance' approach to life. Majored in Astrophysics, then English, then ended up with a BA in Political Science with a minor in Economics and emphasis in Public Policy. Started a Masters in Global Affairs with an emphasis in International Business in March 2011 & then I may be off to a PhD in Public Policy or MBA in Sustainable Development someday, or not, who knows?.

Seems reasonable!

I want to know everything there is to know. Kind of frustrating, in that there aren't enough hours in the day.

I'm married. My second, her first; Julie is a beautiful, 4, insightful, and intricate woman... who has an extremely analytical and logical side that all too often is as much a curse as an endearing trait. The former attributes apply to my good friend and former wife, who helped me unleash my creative impulses and poetry coming from the soul... a soul I had given up hope of ever knowing. I give thanks every day for having had both come into my life, for I would be half the man I am today if it were not for them. The other half is made up of my most cherished treasures in this world, for you see, I have three wonderful boys from my first marriage, Jonathan, Brandt and Erich. Whatever else I may create in this world is but mere dust in comparison to the brilliant stars that they are.

I adore cats, and am happy to be the manservant of Perky and Fancy, our two furry feline Queens of the House. I tolerate dogs, and only if they're potty trained and fully understand that cats rule the world.

They're using robotic pigeons... you knew that, right? That's why you can always catch cats chattering commands at them when they see them outside, so they can learn all they can about us so they can litter-ally leap into our dimension from the Highest Perch galaxy. They communicate with their home nebula through the influence of catnip. When humans discovered this, they invented the Internet to distract us,  but I have figured out their nefarious plans... bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!.

>>>Facebook notification popup occurs; video plays<<<

I'm sorry, what was I talking about?

Oh yes... cats are cute, aren't they? Make great videos. Mesmerizing.
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My socio-political philosophy:

1) I support your 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, as long as you support my 1st Amendment right to speak out against the spread of handguns and military-grade weapons

2) Even though the Declaration of Independence got left out of the Constitution, I believe that fundamental rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is implied in the fabric of our country, and thus your attempts to deny me any form of these rights which do not really concern you directly are an abrogation of my Constitutional rights. In other words, stay out of my bedroom and my personal choices in life.

3) Income inequality is inherently destructive to society.

4) Those who advocate the benefits of income inequality to society, including modern economic conservatism, Social Darwinism, and all forms of utilitarianism in general are inherently destructive to society (see #3).

5) If you say you are a Buddhist, act like Buddha. If you say you are a Christian, act like Christ. If you say you are a Muslim, act like Mohammed.  If you say you are Hindu, act like Gandhi. If you claim to be anything, be the essence of that thing, not a mindless follower of dogma and doctrine. If you act contrary to the teachings at the foundation of what you claim to be, you are a hypocrite and should go sit in a corner and think about things for a long time. And that goes for me too.

6) Politics is war, fought on the battlefield of ideas. Its weapons are theories, "common sense", innuendo, emotional appeals, and character destruction. Like any war, there is collateral damage, and occasionally some progress. And also like any war, real people's lives hang in the balance with every maneuver, every aim of a rhetorical gun. Political choices are not theoretical once made; the victors are just as cheerful, and the victims just as dead, as in a war fought with guns and bullets.

7) A society that does not teach its youth more than just enough to succeed in the workplace is doomed to ruin. Every child, and every adult, should at least have a basic understanding of literature, penmanship, history, culture, civics, art, music, science, mathematics, technology, international affairs, economics, logic, public speaking, debate, and foreign languages. This isn't "elitism", THIS IS WHAT WAS TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS WHEN RONALD REAGAN WAS A CHILD!!! We need these classes back in the required minimum curriculum to pass high school nationwide. As Margaret Mead said, people need to be taught TO think, not WHAT to think. For me, this rant is never going to end until I either die or it gets fixed.
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My resume as of April 2016:

OBJECTIVE

For an employer looking for the best in "out-of-the-box" thinkers with a professional outlook, I offer a dedicated, creative and enthusiastic package of skills and experience for your business. I look forward to becoming a member of your team.

WHO I AM PROFESSIONALLY
From the skills and experience gathered over many years I provide:

* A diverse work history and educational background that is both unique and broad, giving me the competence to cross over between many different fields with ease, from technology to management, environmental protection to product development, merchandising to hospitality

* My employer a complete package of executive-level business acumen and skills with experience in operations, personnel management, policy compliance, international business, global and domestic political interaction, and customer retention

* Experience in public relations, public speaking before groups of five to five hundred, and managing up to 15 direct reports, providing personal support for over 125 business owners, and overall responsibility for organizations comprising over 15,000 members

* An Information Technology professional with over 7 years in IT Management and over 16 years in IT Support

* The experience of over 6 years in Retail Management with a total of over 11 years in Retail Sales

* Over 4 years in Property Management with more than 9 years in Hospitality Services

CERTIFICATIONS
CompTIA A+

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

Assistant Store Manager / Sales Associate
Radio Shack - Jacksonville, AR
November 2013 to Present

Responsibilities
▪ Sell consumer electronics as well as specialized hobbyist electronics to consumers of all ages.
▪ Meet customer-specific wishes, becoming a Subject Matter Expert in the areas of consumer electronics, mobile phones, hobbyist needs, and a number of specific areas including robotics, educational products, and computer support.
▪ As Manager-in-Transition, supervise employees, train new hires, arrange schedules, develop training materials and work aids, and provide employee performance input as needed.
▪ Manage store inventory to ensure old merchandise was selling and new merchandise was deployed properly and ready to be promoted. Actively seek to prevent inventory shrinkage using proven loss prevention measures.
▪ Produce weekly/monthly/period-to-date and yearly store operating financial reports. Share sales figures among staff to encourage increases to our bottom line.
▪ Ensure contacts between inter-company and outside resources are kept up to par., including community involvement and membership in local business organizations.
▪ Achieve regular sales and internal requirements, with consistent mention as the Top Five in the District for performance including two months as #1 in sales District-wide.
▪ Arrange shipping and receiving between our store and warehouses, other stores, and customers.
▪ Perform all merchandising and advertising as required under direction of the store manager and upper management.

Private Counselor, Volunteer and IT Consultant
Self - All Locations
1994 to Present

Responsibilities
▪ Provide personalized counseling in various capacities, such as marital, couples, spiritual and financial.
▪ Volunteer for various types of organizations, groups and individuals when the opportunity arises.
▪ Perform both paid and unpaid computer systems consulting involving everything from servers to cell phones.

Wireless Engineering Technician
Intel Corporation - Hillsboro, OR
August 2008 to September 2009

Responsibilities
▪ Provided in-depth lab testing to reproduce connectivity issues of 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and 802.16g Mobile WiMax technologies for Intel customers.
▪ Configured wireless routers and access points, WLAN/WiMax cards and software/OS solutions to replicate reported problems, ran exhaustive testing, collected logs and other pertinent data, and produced reports for Customer Application Engineers and Software Engineers.

 Environment: Mixed Microsoft, Apple and Linux environment; Cisco, Linksys, NetGear, Buffalo and other routers and access points, Windows XP/2003/2008 Server/Vista, Partition Magic, Ghost imaging, Wireless (802.11a/b/g/n) and WiMax (802.16g), Intel WLAN cards, Network Sniffers

Systems Engineer
Microsoft Corporation - Quincy, WA
January 2007 to July 2007

Responsibilities
▪ Performed network and server deployment and break/fix solutions for newly-constructed flagship Microsoft Columbia Datacenter as a member of the Siemens/Microsoft Site Services Team.
▪ Responsible for rack allocation, installation, cabling, configuration and repair of all network and server-related devices in data center (eventually totaling over 100,000 servers, switches, routers and various other equipment).
▪ Performed server imaging using Altiris according to both pre-set SKU’s and custom imaging requirements.
▪ Performed investigations of network downtime and server-alarm issues, and either resolved issue or escalated as required.
▪ Utilized Microsoft-standard cabling techniques, labeling criteria, and Universal Ticketing System (UTS).

 Environment: All-Microsoft Shop; HP DL360-G5, DL365-G1, DL585-G2 servers, HP SLA50/60/70/80 drive bays, Rackable servers, Cisco 4900-series discrete and 6500-series blade switches, Juniper and Cisco routers, SANs, NASs, Clustering and Load Balancing, CAT-6, Single & Multi-Mode Fiber, Windows XP/2003 Server/Vista, Active Directory, UTS Ticketing, Altiris Imaging, VLAN, Wireless (802.11a, g), TCP/IP, MS-IIS, DNS, Network monitoring, Fluke testers

 Manager: Customer Recruitment, Support and Retention
 Manager: Systems and Network Administration
EZRECRUIT.COM - Beaverton, OR
February 2005 to January 2007

Responsibilities
▪ Co-managed (with local Software Development Engineers and remote Team Leaders) the technical support and software development teams both in Oregon and in Bangalore, India.
▪ Direct responsibility for major business strategies, IT infrastructure improvements, SLA acquisition and execution, change management, marketing and PR e-campaigns, legal compliance issues, vendor and customer contract negotiations, and human resources allocations.
▪ Managed technology assets throughout local office and assisted offshore office with technology upgrades and improvements.
▪ Maintained all desktops and servers, set up new users, ensured e-security, and managed hardware and software inventory.
▪ Produced documentation including training manuals, marketing materials and presentations, contracts, RFI/RFP responses, and website content.

 Environment: Multi-server LAN (including multiple Web servers), MS-Office Pro including FrontPage, MS-DOS, Windows Server, SQL Server, Active Directory, Flash, DreamWeaver, TCP/IP, MS-IIS, DNS, HTML (by hand), CSS, Enterprise-level Anti-Virus, Network monitoring, Wireless (802.11a, g), T1, Frame Relay, PBX maintenance & upgrades.

Private Contractor / Technical Consultant and Web Designer
Self - Oregon City, OR
November 2002 to October 2005

Responsibilities
• Independent consultant providing computer services to individuals and small businesses.
• Designed websites and Flash animations for clients.
• Provided on-site and remote tech support as needed.

 Environment: 486 and Pentium PC's, MS-Office, MS-DOS, Windows 3.xx/95/98/NT/2000/XP including Server editions, FrontPage, Macromedia Flash, DreamWeaver, TCP/IP, MS-IIS, DNS, HTML (by hand), various anti-virus and firewall technologies (primarily software), Wireless (802.11a, g)

Night Manager / Night Auditor
Shilo Inns, 401 E 13th Street, Vancouver, WA 98660 -- June 2003 To February 2005

Responsibilities
▪ Ensured all facets of guest stays were comfortable and trouble-free by providing complete care from reservation to check-in to in-house stay to check-out.
▪ Performed individual and group reservations, property sales and marketing, telephone support, and concierge services.

Environment:  Pentium PC's, MS-Office (esp. Word, Excel, Outlook), FoxPro, MS-DOS, Windows 98/NT, ImagInn hospitality software, hardware/software maintenance & upgrades.

Vice President, Member IT Support and Services
CEOSpace (IBI Global, Inc.) - Huntsville, AL
March 2000 to November 2002

Responsibilities
Directed all information technology operations and managed assets for 17,000-member business training organization as Vice President of Information Technology.
Strong political and interpersonal role, including face-to-face interactions with global business leaders, international and domestic political leaders, and development of business training and membership expansion campaigns worldwide.
Extensive on-the-ground support role as representative of company and products nationwide.
Managed technical support team, including creation and implementation of Tier structure and Trouble Ticketing System.
Involved in local business and technical societies, press and vendor relations, marketing strategies and advertising.
Directly involved or indirectly guided hiring and training of new personnel for IT, telephony and member support; three direct reports managing over 70 indirect personnel.
Public speaking and presentation skills before audiences ranging from 5 to 500.
Developed and oversaw new installations, expansion and maintenence of corporate LAN using Windows server base.
Designed and maintained websites and web-based systems including having hands-on input into CRM and member directory development.
Directed integration of SQL, Sybase, QuickBooks, Access and legacy servers and databases; combined infrastructure and servers colocated in multiple physical areas into one room and integrated multiple database systems onto central interface platform for streamlined user access.
Installed and maintained new Lucent PBX, telephony and T1 broadband Internet systems throughout facility.
Personally performed or had hands-on input into graphic design and FLASH development for internal users, web, presentations and company logo.
 Environment: Multi-server LAN (including Web servers), Excel, Word, Access, PowerPoint, Outlook and Publisher, FrontPage, Flash, DreamWeaver, MS-DOS, Windows 3.xx/95/98/NT/2000/XP/2000 Server, Active Directory, Sybase SQL Server, TCP/IP, MS-IIS, DNS, HTML (by hand), CSS, QuickBooks, e-security, MS-SNA, Wireless (802.11a), T1/Frame Relay, PBX, A/V editing, CD-ROM/DVD robotic multi-burner production & printing

EDUCATION

Completed one-half of the degree-work towards a Master of Arts in Global Affairs: International Business
University of Denver - Denver, CO
2012 to 2014

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Minor in Economics, Emphases in International Business and Public Policy  
National University - San Diego, CA
January 2011

Completed one-half of the degree-work towards Major in English , Minor in Astronomy
Completed one-half of the degree-work towards Major in Physics, Minor in Mathematics
University of Alabama in Huntsville - Huntsville, AL
1992 to 1994, 1998 to 2000

Associate of Science in Electronics Technology
Virginia College at Huntsville - Huntsville, AL
June 1996

REFERENCES AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

You're Already a Fascist. Get Over It.

    Fascism. That dirty, ugly word that keeps being tossed around like an epithet, spit out of our mouths in fury at those we believe don't represent American values. It is a Vile and Monstrous Thing, and thus must be reviled by all the people. But besides knowing what it does as far as its effects on basic liberties, does anyone know how Fascism actually works?


     Those who think that "it can never happen here" should look at our own history. The Nazi Party had quite a following here until it became unfashionable when we went to war with Germany, but even then it continued to attract followers as an underground organization and is growing in strength here once again now that those few old geezers who were adults during its heyday are quickly dying off, and the rest of the people have no actual memory of the rise of Fascism. And would be surprised, and perhaps horrified, at how popular it was before Hitler turned it into a mechanism of destruction and hate.
     And why not? As a political theory, Fascism actually works pretty well if you ignore that pesky little bit about having many individual civil rights and avoid going to war too often (a good, modest but not all-consuming Great Cause kind of war is needed from time to time to keep the old "loyalty to the Homeland" [sound familiar?] fires burning) and keep the people sedated with entertainment and the illusion of freedom and prosperity.
     We must not forget fear; the people must always be kept transfixed upon some external threat that is trying to manifest itself insidiously within even People and Institutions You Thought You Knew, so that they are devotedly looking at the leaders... and Homeland Security...to keep them safe.
    If you were to be the creator of your own new country, call it BlankSlateLand, and you had to pick the best system of government to run the place, and the rights of the people was of minimal concern other than to keep them happy and healthy and (more or less) safe, which would YOU pick? Democracy with its constant bickering and economic ups and downs, or a nice stable Fascist form with the trains always running on time and a predictable economic growth pattern?
     So what if you need a Homeland Security to ensure internal and external peace, and a large and highly powerful military-industrial complex to ensure that your economic interests are protected? You and those you choose for your Cabinet will ensure everything is running smoothly for the oligarchy so their profits are stable. Politicians are groomed from upstart idealistic youngsters till they end up being the pragmatic Establishment. The oligarchy will ensure the populace is kept largely inured to the workings of the government and their security apparatus through Mass Media (which by the way is a term we did not employ in this country until the mid-1970's; before then it was simply "the Press" and information traveled through actual Intertubes called "mail boxes" - look it up) and Mass Entertainment.  Even the news carried by the Mass Media is filtered in such a way as to give the illusion of freedom of information.
     All in all a pretty good system for everyone involved. Well, not everyone maybe. You've got the chance of an occasional upstart politician who doesn't hew the Party Line. This is dealt with through the use of ridicule and cutting off of funds, or for the ones who look like wild-eyed crazies you can simply let them be, perhaps even egging them on a bit by giving them a bit of airtime here and there to give those in the population who are of a radical or conspiratorial bent an outlet to blow off steam and have a "Voice" speaking for them in Government.
     Where Fascism breaks down is when it tries to meddle to much in local politics. National level is fine, but start to micromanage things at the state or city level and it gets shaky. You're getting too close to the actual people and cease to be able to hide behind the smokescreen. And you definitely, most assuredly approach with great fear and trepidation stepping into incidences where you directly and dramatically single out and affect the lives of any single group within your society. Terrorism in general or lazy welfare cheats in general, sure, but get into their bedrooms and boy, do you have a lot of backlash. One instance of this can easily be cleaned up but do it over and over again and the people will begin to start to get annoyed with the System. Once that happens, those wild-eyed misfits you allowed to rant will start to gain an audience.
     For you see, the people had been under the spell of capital "D" Democracy, an idealistic hall of mirrors given to the public to give them the illusion that they are the ones in charge. As long as the Government stays behind the scenes everything is going well. Once the Hands of Government are seemingly everywhere, people feel actual fear of it instead of a comforting presence. The mirrors shatter, the apparatus is laid bare, and suddenly those running the Government are now seen as The Problem, not the soylution.
     And thus that insidious thing, Fascism's one true enemy, has taken hold: real lower-case "d" democracy. Nothing the Government has to say, nothing it can do (other than clamp down into a totalitarian dictatorship) will regain the trust of the people. They will demand their individual rights, their freedoms and liberties, and the "return" of power vested in The People.
     That, my friends, is how a Revolution begins. How it progresses from there and ends up looking in the end depends on the victor. And just how bloody the transition is. 1930's Spain. Japan, Germany and Italy in the 1940's. Castro in Cuba in the 1950's. The 1960's through the 1990's in various "Banana Republic" counries. The fall of the Soviet Union, the Orange Revolution and Chechnya in the latter days of the 20th Century. The Arab Spring. Occupy Wall Street. The Green Revolution in Iran. Syria.
     So don't think "it can't happen here." It already is. Fascism is what we have been living under for DECADES. You and I have already been Fascists all of our adult lives. Give it up and get over it. If you want to stay a Fascist, that's fine, just keep believing the Government-sponsored Mass Media and comforted by the Mass Entertainment Reality-TV fantasies. But the smokescreen is clearing, the mirrors are shattering, and democracy is peeking through. The second American Revolution is happening as you read these words. It's up to us to either join in or get left behind.
     It's our turn now, Comrade.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Proposed 28th Amendment (by John Cline)

I. A person shall be defined as an individual living self-aware being or one whom, barring mental or physical disability, would otherwise be considered such; and, only a person can be guaranteed the rights and responsibilities embodied in this Constitution of the United States.

II. Only a person may financially participate in the political process within the United States, including providing political contributions, advertising for or against candidates or causes, or providing either sitting office-holders or candidates for office financial incentives for any political action or inaction. Gifts in any amount or kind, be it financial or physical, to any sitting office-holder or candidate for office which are determined to have been used to exact political action or inaction are strictly prohibited and may result in legal action, up to and including imprisonment.

III. Political campaigns at all levels shall be publicly funded by taxpayer contributions to a general election fund which shall reside in and be managed by the United States Treasury in coordination with the Federal Elections Commission. Persons may voluntarily contribute up to a maximum of twenty-five hundred dollars per candidate of their choice, inflation-adjusted for 2012 dollars. For national office, the maximum general election fund amount per candidate shall be limited by Congress as deemed appropriate to the nature of the campaign, and for each type of office an equal share shall be allocated to each candidate regardless of party affiliation. Each State legislature shall determine state-wide general fund needs and solicit the Treasury for the necessary amounts, to be distributed by the State as needed for state-wide and local elections. Any general election funds left unused must be returned to the Treasury within sixty days after the end of the election; all funds collected by candidates from private donations shall be used only for future campaign needs and shall not be used for personal expenses or investments.

IV. The President of the United States shall be elected by a majority vote. Further, all Congressional Districts shall be drawn by non-partisan public committees within six months of the enactment of this Amendment and within six months of the return of United States Census results each decade.

V. Banks shall be separated according to their types of business, commercial or investment, and no coordination between the two shall occur. Commercial institutions shall have their customer deposits protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or a similar entity. Investment institutions shall be liable for their own losses and the United States government and the taxpayers shall not be responsible for such losses.

VI. Given that the health of the nation is bound to the health of the people, and that inadequate healthcare can seriously endanger the security of the nation, Congress shall enact a universal single-payer taxpayer-funded healthcare system for all. Such a system shall fully cover the costs of any procedure deemed involuntary in nature; voluntary procedures such as cosmetic surgery will not be covered unless it is required to repair damage or improve physical function. Prescription drugs shall be purchased from the safest and least expensive source whether domestic or international.

Monday, October 17, 2011

John's Kick-Butt Lasagna

(Basic recipe borrowed from Barilla lasagna noodle package, the rest is all me)

1 jar Classico Florentine Spinach Spaghetti Sauce
1 jar Ragu or Classico alfredo sauce
1 can S&W Ready-Cut Italian Recipe Garlic, Oregano & Basil tomatoes, do not drain
2 tablespoons California Sun-Dry sun-dried tomato pesto
2 tablespoons Classico traditional basil pesto
1/4 cup Bella Sun Luci Julienne-Cut sun-dried tomatoes & herbs
2 tablespoons The Sauce Factory Mediterranean tomato topping
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup chopped or sauteed fresh garlic
1 lb ground buffalo (substitute turkey or hamburger)
1 lb ground sweet Italian sausage
16 oz cottage or ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon dried or fresh chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 large eggs
6 cups assorted shredded cheeses (recommend Italian blend, mild cheddar, swiss and monterey jack)
2 cups mozarella or Italian blend shredded cheese
1 package lasagna noodles
13x9 glass casserole dish

Boil noodles according to instructions on package in large pot, ensuring they remain firm and not too soft. While noodles are cooking, place meats, garlic and Italian seasoning in frying pan and mix together thoroughly, chopping finely as meat cooks to ensure a smooth filling. Meat and noodles should finish at roughly the same time; drain noodles and allow to cool in collander. Using same large pot, empty in spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, tomatoes, pestos, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato topping along with finished meat mixture. Mix thoroughly and set to medium-low heat, stirring often to avoid burning at the bottom. As noodles will still be quite warm, handle carefully; spread noodles out on waxed paper or large cutting board to avoid sticking together.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In separate bowl, mix 6 cups of shredded assorted cheeses, chives, parsely, eggs, and cottage or ricotta cheese thoroughly until well-blended. Spray glass casserole dish liberally with your favorite cooking oil. After sauce comes to a light boil, remove from heat and spread approximately 1 cup sauce evenly over bottom of casserole dish. Lay 3-4 cooked noodles over bottom, ensuring complete coverage. Apply 1/2 cheese mixture evenly over noodles (some gaps are fine; when the cheese melts it will fill the gaps). Apply enough sauce to cover cheese mixture thoroughly without drowning, then top with another layer of noodles and repeat for another layer. On top of last layer of noodles, spread thin but even layer of sauce and then cover edge-to-edge with shredded mozarella, thick enough so that sauce is no longer visible.
Cover dish loosely with tinfoil, ensuring the top of the tinfoil does not physically touch the cheese topping. Place dish on a large cookie sheet (large enough to capture any boil-overs, or lay tinfoil down on oven rack) and put in pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove tinfoil from dish and return to oven for another 10-15 minutes to brown cheese. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Makes 12 individual servings.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why customer service is so horrible... and likely to get worse

Under the Theory of Competitive Advantage, it is advantageous for companies to encourage the idea that all "customer service" is slow, unresponsive, aggravating, and generally BAD. Why?

Because customer service after the sale is a net loss to the company's profits. The whole profit aspect of producing a widget is in how much you can cut costs to get the raw materials and intermediate goods to make your thingy as cheaply as possible, then selling it at a price that brings in the biggest profit possible.

Customer service drains money away from these profits. Ideally, a company would like to make a product, sell it, and never hear from you again unless you're either buying another product from them or recommending that someone else does. Paying for customer service staff (even the offshore kind making a buck a day) is a complete and total loss, and is generally seen as a "cost of doing business" which would rather be eliminated any way it can to boost those ever-important dividends.

Used to be, companies thought they could get a competitive advantage by offering GREAT customer service. Thus, you had repairmen show up at your home (at no additional cost), gas-station attendants who filled you up, wiped your windshield and checked your tires, and could actually talk to a human being on the phone when you called with a problem. Then some nameless, faceless person with a "bright idea" (as seen from the corporate boardroom) realized that if you made customer service a universally unpleasant experience for people, the very term "customer service" would develop a negative connotation and most people would avoid it... and thus you could cut costs in that very money-sucking area.

So in the last 30 years or so we've seen company after company giving "lousy" customer service. Coincidence? Maybe. But If You Think Like A Corporate Executive it makes perfect sense: if everyone has lousy customer service, customers won't bother using it and we won't have to spend any of our dividend checks paying for it. If it becomes the national (or global) paradigm that customer service is worthless, then corporations get to cut even further back on the quality of that service until they are left with the most limited legal limits of it (essentially, to offer a refund or replacement if the product is not functional upon delivery... everything else is pretty much a "too bad" scenario).

Sure, people will still demand their problems be fixed if something is badly wrong... but this new mindset being imposed on consumers is one of "oh heck, why bother, just go buy another one, it's easier than going through the hassle of customer service". And, of course, unless people buy a different brand (which is often owned by the same company anyway), they end up giving the corporations a double-purchase... a double-win for the company.

And with many retail stores now restricting purchase returns to 30 days... sometimes even 14 or as little as 7... this means that if you buy it and it messes up within a couple weeks, you're screwed. The retail store is no longer the convenient "No problem, we'll take it back if it breaks" solution for consumers. In fact, corporate manufacturers are making this harder on retailers, so it's not even the stores' fault... many stores are changing their returns policy precisely because manufacturers and distributors and tightening them up.

Think this isn't something that goes through the minds of corporate executives daily? Call customer service about your newest electronic gadget and get a wake-up call. Then ask grandma what it was like when the TV technician showed up at her house... for free, always polite and helpful... to fix her console. THEN you will understand how much has changed in the last few decades. And how much we need to develop a sense of "customer SERVICE" back into the corporate world... in other words, if they have crappy service, DON'T BUY THEIR STUFF.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Most important quote of the day and the implications for America

I read this today, and the profundity of it made me realize it needed to be said over and over:
"The standards and quality of live that have been achieved in the United States in general, and in other Western states, didn't come about because because of some mythical invisible hand or because of industry insights into human dignity or the needs of labor. The safety and wage standards that exist today came about because workers in communities across America struggled to change conditions that often pitted a specific industry -- which often had interlocking interests with other industries -- against American labor." "Like the peasants of medieval Europe, [labor] needed work and were forced into conditions which which overlords could dominate virtually all aspects of their lives. Rebellion and the introduction of enlightened leaders paved the way for improvements in [labor's] standard of living ... [j]ust as the progressive ideas of democracy and capitalism were fought by conservative aristocrats in Europe, issues related to social and economic justice in America have always been fought by forces who warn of impending doom if changes are made." -"The Myth of the Free Market: The Role of the State in a Capitalist Economy" by Mark A. Martinez, Kumarian Press, 2009.

Understand this: conservatives, no matter what they SAY in public, abhore the middle class and labor. It goes against everything they believe, which is that there are those who are destined to be priviledged and those who are not. While a few still hew to the belief that "rugged entrepreneurs" have a place at the table, that is an idea that only comes from the middle 16th Century... those who harken back to a more "civilized" day (i.e. when blood-lines meant everything and peasants knew their place) have it engraved in their souls that nobody is entitled to anything unless you belong to the modern-day nobility. Anyone else is an upstart and pretender, and should be treated as such.

Conservatives, in other words, consider YOU inferior, worthless except for the labor you provide, and essentially meaningless in the world at large. Not exactly what you hear them say at election time, eh? But down deep, that's exactly what they are thinking and how they will treat YOU if you are stupid enough to once again elect them into positions of political power. Did I say "stupid"? Sure, because that's exactly how they view YOU if you either vote for them (and don't belong to the top 1% of the wealthy in this country) or stay home and encourage others to stay home to avoid voting for Democrats who have "disappointed" YOU in the past to "send a message". Do you want to know the message you're sending?

"Yes, I want more plutocracy, more corporate control over my life, less freedom and liberty, a militarized police-state, someone to tell me what I can and can't do with my own body, and more income and social inequality, because those lousy Democrats never deliver when I elect THEM into office".

If you're happy with the status quo, then by all means vote any way you want. If you think letting everything we've worked for during the past 100+ years is worth fighting for, then vote Democratic in 2012 and henceforth. Because even if the Dems have been infiltrated by the same corporate interests that busted unions in the 1930s and struggle every day to dismantle the New Deal and Great Society, they're still a damned sight better than the other side that makes no bones whatsoever about destroying every social and political gain the middle class has made in the last century for one and only one purpose: to once again gain the titles and powers of nobility they so desperately miss.

And don't think for a SECOND that they're not drooling at the prospect.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Luscious Crab Cakes

I've been making crab cakes this way for years; it's my own recipe (as far as I know... I kind of made it up as I went along) but you're welcome to share with friends if you like it. There are a lot of variations to this; change the veggie combination, add fresh garlic instead of powdered, use an egg or just substitute the equivalent amount of water, etc. You just can't mess it up too much by switching things around, just don't overcook them because they get tough as a brick if you do.

LUSCIOUS CRAB CAKES

1 pound fresh crab meat, carefully shelled (or 3 6-oz cans of crab)
1 large egg (or approximately 1/4 cup water or milk)
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (substitute 3/4 cup of bread crumbs or for extra richness use 3/4 cup of crumbled Club® Crackers; if you do substitute, you will need both the egg AND the 1/4 cup water or milk)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder (substitute chili powder or your favorite spicy stuff)
1 tablespoon Worstershire sauce
1/4 cup each diced sweet yellow onions, celery, parsley
1/2 cup diced cooked shrimp (salad shrimp work best and don't need chopping)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (substitute 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic or to taste)
Salt, pepper to taste
Lemon juice
Olive oil (about 3 to 5 tablespoons total, use as needed during frying)

Pre-heat olive oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat. Combine cornmeal (or substitutes) with crab, shrimp, diced veggies, egg (or substitutes), butter or margarine, cayenne, Worstershire, garlic powder, salt and pepper in large bowl. Mix thoroughly until all ingredients are fully moist and mixture gets lumpy. Form into fist-sized balls, then flatten to form patties approximately 3/4 inch thick, making sure the edges are smooth (moisten some more if they seem crumbly). Carefully place crabcakes into frying pan to avoid splashing hot oil. Cover and cook approximately 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add oil to pan if necessary and repeat until all crabcakes are complete. Drizzle lightly with lemon juice and serve plain or with your favorite sauce (tartar, teriyaki, oyster and even ketchup all work nicely). Number of crabcakes depends on how big you make the patties, but usually makes between 6 and 10 total.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Palin's Comic Book View of History: Paul Revere's Ride

Apologists for Palin immediately struck against the "lame-stream media" laughing at their darling for getting the history wrong (again) about one of our iconic First Patriots.



There is a tiny bit of merit in their arguments, particularly the chuckles that Revere warned the British. In a sense, he actually did at one point, though it was never his intention to tell the British anything. He was captured (along with his two fellow riders, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, who are often forgotten in retellings of the famous Midnight Ride story) by a British patrol and informed them that he had been raising the alarm and they would be met by "five hundred Americans" ready to fight.

So that part of the account Palin gave had a grain of truth to it. But her word pudding, as incoherent as it was, didn't exactly give us any indication that she was talking about that incident at all (or was even aware of it). To hear her tell it, Revere might as well have been standing on a rooftop waving his fist at the British defiantly, a patriotic glow emanating from his body, as he warned the cowering British army that they were already defeated and might as well slink back to their ships and sail away.

Beyond the comic-book glorification Palin (and so many others who adore her) have of American history, the other details of her brief blizzard of nonsense lack historical basis as well.

She seems to think Revere shot his gun and rang bells. He was both unarmed and had no bells, at least as far as the historical account goes (although some pictorial depictions of him do show him ringing what looks like a teacher's school-bell, so it's hard to tell for sure). But by all written accounts, it was the people he warned from house to house that shot the guns and range the bells, not himself.

While Revere did in fact "warn" the British (while being detained and under threat of having his brains blown out) that's a little different than Palin's embellishing it with him telling the British that "we're going to be free" and "they weren't going to be taking away our arms".

Although he was either a member of or sympathetic to the Sons of Liberty, a group of Americans who (sometimes violently) fought depredations of the British against Americans, few of them wanted independence from Britain; most of them simply wanted fairness and self-determination under British rule. So while I'm no expert on Revere, there's a good chance Revere no more wanted independence from the Crown than most of the rest of the colonists did in 1775. Up until this time, in fact, they were sending delegation after delegation to Britain petitioning to allow the colonies representation in Parliament, hardly the actions of people who hated the Crown so much they wanted complete freedom.

It wasn't until AFTER the battle at Lexington and Concord that most colonists realized that the Brits were going to ruthlessly put their foot on the Americans and thus the first serious discussion of real independence rather than self-determination took shape, leading to the Declaration of Independence a year later.

The best resource for Revere comes of course from his own accounts as well as those of his companions. The website for the Paul Revere House is here: http://www.paulreverehouse.org/index.html

It might do for Sarah Palin, as she visits all of these historic sites, to brush up a little better before spouting more word coleslaw in front of the cameras. While entertaining, we must remember that a good number of Americans consider her a leading light of Patriotic All-Americanness, and the more we encourage her by putting her ridiculous clown-show on the air and Internet the more her fans believe she's the model for their children and their children's-children. Do we really want to embolden future generations of historical know-nothings?

(Hat tip to Douglas Redecopp for pointing me to the apologist's article)