Sunday, June 17, 2018

Think it Through: The Critical Analysis of a Meme


Think Before We Believe                
            Take a look at the above photo and read the text carefully. Does it make you swell with pride? Does it make you proud to be an American? Why?
            Perhaps at first glance it does. However, let’s break this down.
            One of the early lines reads; “It fed a lot of families in Kentucky who built it.” It is true that a Corvette assembly facility operates within Bowling Green, Kentucky. Although, it is also important to note that the average GM assembly line worker reportedly makes $41,365 per year (Glassdoor, 2018).
            The next point made is regarding the tires: “it fed the people who made the tires”. Also true, and according to “Tire Business” one of GM’s top tire manufacturers is Bridgestone (Tire Business, 2017). Where the average salary of a technician responsible for the actual manufacturing/and warehousing work makes an average of $47,716 (Payscale, 2018)*.
            Let me pause to state both of these positions offer respectable, if not downright great compensation. But bear with as we continue to examine this text…
            The next two lines reference the wiring aspects including the hauling of said materials; “it fed the people who made the copper for the wires, it fed the people who make the trucks that haul the copper ore.” These positions bring in roughly $62,620 (John, 2018) and $43, 464 (Glassdoor, 2018) on average, respectfully.

How the Other Half Lives
            Now before we get to the final section of the text let me mention a fact. Of all the salaries quoted within this pece the mean is approximately $48,791- to reiterate, still a nice amount for a year’s work.  
            On the other hand, when compared to GM’s CEO, Mary Barra made a whopping $28.6 million in 2015(Rueters , 2018). How do you feel about that $48,000 now? Doesn’t seem so impressive does it? Also worth mentioning that the CEO’s total compensation is +/- 596 times that of the workers that came together in order to the get the Corvette on the sales floor to begin with.  

Welfare Mentality and the Concept of Dignity
            The short text wraps up with this tidbit: “That’s the difference between capitalism and welfare mentality. When you buy something, you put money in people’s pockets and give them dignity for their skills.” There is some truth to this. Conversely, an item that also needs considered is that a new Corvette carries a price tag of $84,445 (Chevrolet, 2018). This makes this vehicle prohibitively expensive to most that had a physical hand in its creation.
            Moreover, the notion that dignity is tied to “the money in people’s pockets” is irrational. If that were true the CEO’s self worth or level of respect would grossly outweigh that of the workers in this example.
            Finally, there is no such thing as “welfare mentality”. Virtually no one in society feels compelled to take handouts when there are other options available. Handouts are taken in order to make ends meet (Couch, 2014).

Thinking Critically About Success 
            As with anything else there is a spectrum for success and likewise the path to succeeding. On one end, there are those that have connections and advantages that enable them to almost effortlessly rise to the higher tiers of society. In contrast there are those who have disadvantages due to developmental issues, racism, classism, childhood upbringing, and many other factors. In the middle there are those that lack the drive to apply themselves, and much the same there are those in the middle that will give that extra effort in order to advance to a place better than what they were born into. Don’t be surprised if you can’t fit every person neatly into your box of assumptions.

Closing: Capitalism vs. Corporatism          
            Recall that there is a distinct difference between the merits of capitalism and corporatism.  
            The point of this piece is not to belittle the entrepreneurial spirit or to tell people how to spend their money. Nor is this a knock against GM, or Ms. Barra. Lastly, it needs stating that money (and the things that come with it) is not the end all be all of life satisfaction.        
            The point is to remind people that all of these social issues that seem so black and white upon first glance are in actuality complex concerns with many layers.



-- Oh, and I didn't even touch on this aspect ;)


*Note, this figure is an aggregate of the engineering and logistical staff positions responsible for typical tire creation and transport. $67,348 (Engineer) + 28, 083 (Warehouse Tire Technician) = $95,431 / 2 = $47,716.
These calculations are generalized salaries/positions for simplicity in order to match the examples given in the picture/text.
           

Works Cited

Chevrolet. (2018). Corvette Z06 Pricing. Retrieved June 16, 2018, from Chevrolet: www.chevrolet.com/byo-vc/client/en/US/chevrolet/corvette/2017/corvette-z0

Couch, R. (2014, May 09). Think Welfare Recipients Abuse The System? You Should See This Chart. Retrieved June 17, 2018, from Huffington Post: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/09/welfare-abuse-america_n_5289997.html

Glassdoor. (2018, May 10). General Motors Assembly Line Worker Hourly Pay. Retrieved June 2018, 2018, from Glassdoor: https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/General-Motors-Assembly-Line-Worker-Salaries

Glassdoor. (2018, June 15). Salary: Truck Driver. Retrieved June 16, 2018, from Glassdoor: https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/truck-driver-salary-SRCH_KO0,12.htm

John, C. (2018). Miner Salaries. Retrieved June 16, 2018, from Chron: work.chron.com/miner-salaries-1463.html

Payscale. (2018, June 10). Bridgestone Tire Salary. Retrieved June 16, 2018, from Payscale: https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Employer=Bridgestone_Tire/Salary

Rueters . (2018, April 26). GM CEO Mary Barra Got a Huge Pay Raise. Retrieved June 16, 2018, from Fortune: http://fortune.com/2016/04/22/mary-barra-gm-pay-general-motors/

Tire Business. (2017, April 27). 4 tire firms among GM's top suppliers. Retrieved June 16, 2018, from Tire Business: http://www.tirebusiness.com/article/20170425/NEWS/170429969/4-tire-firms-among-gms-top-suppliers


Friday, June 15, 2018

An (American) Idiot Abroad

For the first time in my life I had the privilege of being able to travel to various parts of the United Kingdom / Northern Europe with my lovely new wife. What you might expect following that would be descriptions of various excursions we took during the trip, recounting the breathtaking sites seen, and an endless supply of anecdotes and pictures.  
However, that is not what I will be sharing today. So ha!
That's not to say it wasn't a marvelous trip- unlike any other I've ever taken in my life. I'll never forget it. What I will be sharing though is how eye opening my interactions with citizens of other countries turned out to be during this vacation.  
You might say I don't get out much- of the country that is- and during this trip I was finally exposed in person to folks from other places and their opinions regarding all things United States. You see, I've learned that the limited people that I had exposure to had a few key thoughts about the land of the good ole' red, white and blue. Some positive, some negative, as well as some with validation, and some without.  
Without further ado, I wanted to touch on a few...
TRUMP
Perhaps the most obvious would be the statements and general reactions that were made about President Trump. These were always colorful. For instance one gentleman from Denmark began giggling when he broached the topic, stating, "I want to thank your country for the endless entertainment you have provided us lately." To which a Canadian couple agreed, but also added, "Yes he's highly entertaining, as long as he doesn't start World War III."
Now of course this was merely casual jokes at the dinner table. However, it does make one recall the old adage, "a lot of truth is said in jest".
Throughout the cruise I was reminded that many individuals from other countries seem not to consider Trump dangerous as much as they seem to accept him as a side show act mixed with a dash of pity.  
AMERICAN EDUCATION / HEALTHCARE
We often found ourselves discussing the state of education in our respective countries. This forced us to review things like teacher wages, charter schools, as well as the rising cost of college. Several of the couples we met were from places that had the entirety of their schooling paid for, up to and including their doctorate degrees.  
Obviously this involved some level of chatting about taxation and the large role government plays in most of European society. A fellow from Holland summed it up quite nicely by saying, "Is our tax too high? Perhaps, I thought so as a young man just starting out. As you get older, have a family and life sort of happens around you, you begin to see that the cost is worth it when it comes to the bigger things. It ends up being one of the main benefits of the socialist’s mindset.”
“Oh wait a second now,” I joked, “You can’t say ‘socialist’ to an American, it’s like a swear word, we get angry for no reason, and start to break out in cold sweats.”



THE AMERICAN DREAM
The conversation that stands out to me the most during my time outside the U.S. is one I had with a cruise ship photographer from Argentina. With a mind full of these bits and pieces of foreigner’s thoughts on America, I felt overwhelmed by everything I had heard, and needed to ask a direct question in order to receive a direct answer.
I asked of him, “What is your opinion on America?”
He chuckled at my ignorance and perhaps my boldness all at the same time. He began in a languid accent, “I think for me most people hold America in high regard. Though not because the strength of its government. It is because of the strength of its people.”
He went on to explain to me that America still holds value as a place where anyone is capable of achieving. He added that statement does not hold true for many around the world.    
It was this conversation that resonated most with me as it made me think about the reputation we have amongst other countries in the world, and what a tremendous responsibility that can be. Going forward, I hope to remember that I carry a small part of that responsibility on my shoulders.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Little Less Snark and a Lot More Action


I’ve never been to an airport that wasn’t busy. Leaving CPH in order to fly back to the States recently was no exception.

My wife and I were flying out of the country via SAS and as we entered our terminal we could both see and hear the hum and hustle all around us. Determined travelers in a hurry to start or end their journey. Airport employees deftly waving in and out of the crowds. The high electronic  drone of endless announcements. All of these things and more cast upon a backdrop of gleaming tile, steel, glass, an a rainbow of instructional signage.
Full disclosure, I will admit that I hate waiting. I despise it. I have no patience for lines (note that patience and respect are two different things). I have no tolerance for crowds. No room for wasted time. This feeling becomes compounded when traveling as there is always that rush of “hurry up and wait” associated with nearly every aspect of air travel.
My wife and I scanned our passports, printed our baggage slips and proceeded to the agent-assisted bag check.
As you might imagine the line was long, but was moving efficiently- at first anyway. Once the line snaked towards the counter a clerk began separating the many travelers into different chutes that then fed into a standalone bag check station with an individual assigned agent.
Patiently, my wife and I negotiated the line and were directed towards a station.
Abruptly, and agent overseeing the station to our right powered down her machinery. A “Closed” indicator lit up on the screen above her as she walked away. There were 5 un-served people still in her line. Most of who looked around in disbelief and annoyance.
As another assisting agent began to get those folks reassigned to an open station, my wife and I finally approached our agent’s station. Bags at the ready, we handed over our travel documents.
The clerk, looking a bit flustered, glanced over the paperwork and then did something surprising; she handed it back. “I’m sorry I cannot check your bags,” she explained, “Anyone traveling to the U.S. has to be asked specific security questions, and I am not trained to do that.”
I looked at my wife, my eyes widened. As I looked around me still, I saw most of the 5 people that had lost their place in line still looking for assistance to no avail.
The word crawled out of my mouth before I could stop it. It was vile, it was elitist, and I felt guilty even as I heard myself say it, “Supervisor.” I looked up at the young agent.
“Pardon me sir?”
“Call me a supervisor,” I repeated slowly. My wife looked at me; also not believing that word came from my mouth. She tried to stop me, but I was already angry at the situation. “I am not waiting in this line all over again.”
My wife and I again scanned the immediate area for a place to go that didn’t mean starting at the back of the line. After a minute or two we spotted another clerk that was directing human traffic. “Hey she can’t help us, where do we need to go?”
He silently pointed us to another, longer, line.
It was at this moment the supervisor finally showed up. As we were walking towards the other line he called out to us, but my frustration had faded. It didn’t really matter to me anymore; I just wanted to be able to get on my way.
“Sir is there a problem?” he called out.
Turning to face him he was already launching into his prepared speech, “You see sir your president has deemed it necessary that we ask all U.S. travelers a direct set of security questions…”. The way the words “your president” dripped past his lips was venomous. It was clearly a subversive way to attempt an insult, or at least get a rise.

Source: NerdPeeps, Amazon

The rest of what he said was a white noise. I simply stared, waited for him to finish and said, “Yes your clerk already explained that. What I don’t understand is why we are standing in a section specifically reserved for people who are traveling to the U.S. to check their luggage and we get all the way to the front of the line, only to be told we can’t be helped. Who’s fault is that?”
The supervisor’s voice changed, it lowered, and the confidence of the canned diatribe faded. “It’s ours.” he admitted.
“Exactly.” I turned my attention away from him to indicate my desire to take the conversation further had waned. He strode away, hollering at another employee in the distance.
I’m sure some will see my response as overreacting, I would perhaps grant you that. I would also point out, however, if no one said anything there would’ve been many more upset customers who would’ve gone through the same experience.
This calls to mind some things I picked up when a great deal of my job was customer service-based. What is key for the supervisor (or anyone in customer service) to understand is as follows:
1.     Upset customers are typically not seeking an explanation for what led up to a problem.
This is usually the time where customer service personnel quote policy and procedure ad nauseam amounting to the ”Why” of the issue at hand. Our time has already been wasted, or we’ve already been inconvenienced, don’t add to that.
2.     When a customer points out a problem, that should be used as a place to start an examination to fix said problem (or in some cases evaluate whether or not a problem exists).
Is the raised issue a valid one? Could a process be done better, more efficiently etc?
3.     Customers don’t want excuses.
Customers want it fixed along with an acknowledgement or maybe even an apology. With the purchase of a service, the expectation is that part of the fee is there to guarantee a smooth process.
4.     Most importantly, customers don’t want your attitude.
We are not your enemy!

Source: TeeSpring






Monday, May 14, 2018

Calling Out America

Originally Written 05/14/2013

This isn’t about being treasonous. This is about honesty. Let’s face it America needs someone to sit it down, tell it what it’s done wrong, and then put it into time out. The list of wrongs isn’t all that excessive. However, they have become interwoven into our psyche as individuals and its going to take a stern spanking to get them out. As citizens OUR transgressions are bold, in so far as they have become unconsciously routine.

This didn’t happen when we were standing together at the helm of the country, guiding it to a better tomorrow. This happened because we were doing something else entirely. We were in line getting our grande caramel mocha. This happened because we were busy keeping up with the Kardashians. We were distracted by the lights of the city…the depthlessness of the internet…the lure of self-gratification.
           
The first is a slap in the face of the strength this country was founded upon, for America has lost its will. At one time we were a nation of hardened people willing to traverse an unforgiving frontier in covered wagons. This was done without any guarantee of prosperity or profit. No one complained. When men went overseas to fight during World War II, women took up the mantles of the dingy and dangerous jobs they left behind. No one complained. Democrat and Republican alike held each other in mourning when John Kennedy was murdered. No one paused.
            Now we refuse to stand together on whether or not homosexuals can marry. The country complains about shit jobs being done by immigrants, which they themselves wouldn’t perform for 10 times the minimum wage. Today, our grease slathered rotund faces can’t find the energy to go to the gym for twenty minutes a day. We’ve lost our will. Our hunger to produce by need has been replaced with gluttony to consume by greed.

            Some would point the finger at religion for all of this. Claiming that belief in varying Gods, or no belief in God at all, has led us to this point. In a certain light that’s true, but not in the way that spending Sunday morning in a church pew is going to cure. Money is God and credit is His savior son. Therefore the truth is a growing number of people (survey says: all of them) worship every day, all day. But make no mistake; their focus isn’t a typical deity. No, America hasn’t lost its belief, merely shifted it. Once upon a time we believed in ourselves, now we believe in self.
            Americans serve themselves. We delude ourselves into satisfying our every whim. It’s just too damn easy. For several generations, we haven’t had to work hard, and those that do invest their time and money into the greatest commodity; themselves.

Finally, in a time where every side has an agenda, one can’t even tell who the bad guy is anymore. Worst of all is no one is even trying. Arguments made up of inaction of political rants fill our space; everyone that once cared or has the power and means to take action has lost interest.
For the past fifty years, America has claimed the Easy Street of the Earth as its residence. We do so as the rest of the world- a world that hasn’t had much of a view (let alone access) to the high and rolling hills on Easy Street- work harder and more efficiently with less.

            But don’t worry we’re Americans - someone else will pick up the slack.
           



Friday, May 11, 2018

Infinitely Entertained


                “In time, you will know what it's like to lose. To feel so desperately that you're right. Yet to fail all the same.” – Thanos

Rights to Disney/Marvel

The Review           

            To be a proper hero you need a great villain. Someone who is powerful, intelligent, persuasive, maybe some can even be sympathetic to the cause. To sum it up; heroes need a substantial threat, especially the super-powered kind. The viewer (see also reader or player) needs to feel as though there is some sense of danger and suspense surrounding the protagonist for which they are rooting. Avengers: Infinity War accomplishes that in this writer’s view.
            So it’s here I want to write about my experience with Avengers: Infinity War. Now that I have completed enough therapy sessions after watching it to feel that I can discuss it and not need a safe space.
            I won’t go into spoilers here, even though I imagine if you are interested in the MCU you’ve likely already ventured to the theater or at least uncovered details of the plot elsewhere. It’s safe to say,  it was full every emotion;  action on many different fronts, touches of great humor between the characters (Bucky and Rocket to name just one), love, respect, and much, much more.
            You may have guessed by now overall, I loved the movie. I grew up with these heroes in nothing but comic book form and the imagination of a teenager to power them. There is something deeply appealing to me about seeing these heroes literally come to life. It is even greater to see them come together in order to overcome the impossible. It motivates me to press on in the face of adversity. That quite simply is the highest compliment you can pay to any art form (Yes I just referred to a genre where the main characters wear tights as an “art form”), is that it pushes you to be a better human being.

The Haters


            What’s odd to me is I continue to see people on social media express their disdain for the super hero genre as overdone, childish or predictable. And to those people, I would say it is. It’s based on fictional characters that have incredible otherworldly powers, also there’s a guy that shoots arrows. All of them are equally interesting to me because of what they stand for, even the villains. So if you don’t like super hero films I have two pieces of advice: 1) Go back to watching Downton Abbey, and 2) Fuck right off because no one asked for your opinion (Somewhat ironic coming from a blogger, no?).

Where I’d Like to See the Next Movie Go

      I enjoy the Avengers (and many DC characters as well). However, my favorite team is the X-Men, specifically Wolverine. As such, it is my hope that at least in the post credit scene of Avengers 4 we get a sneak peek of the X-Men and/or the Fantastic Four. Although, if Disney/Marvel really wants this writer (and many other fanboys and girls) to completely geek out, a full crossover and meeting of these teams fighting side-by-side with the Avengers would be epic (And trust me I’m not the type of guy to throw around the word epic very often)!

            For now, the opening day for the yet untitled Avengers 4 is slated for May 3, 2019. In the meantime, I’ll keep snapping my fingers in anticipation.

Rights to Disney/Marvel


Sunday, May 6, 2018

DeVos Doesn’t Want Educated Citizenry


Before I begin I will make one thing clear; it is my belief that corruption and politics go together like senators and sex scandals. Further, I do not think that monetary (or other) influence(s) is unique to one party or the other. If political sell outs were baby names nearly every elected official could be called “Aiden”, “Kayden” or “Brayden”.
            Which brings me to the elected official that this piece will highlight; Betsy DeVos.

by AntarcticSpring on DeviantArt

               No wait a second...

 That's better, or at least more accurate.


            The Secretary of Education has over thirty years of teaching experience and has been known throughout her career as a champion of the disenfranchised. She has built her altruistic legacy through her work with non-profit education foundations. In addition, she has given most of her meager earnings to those within our country that are most in need.
            No wait scratch all that, our current Sec of Ed has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Political Science (Emery, 2017). Her own children never attended public schools (Emery, 2017). DeVos is also a bona fide billionaire. However, rest assured she does contribute philanthropically, and although it is hard to pin down, it seems she and her husband Dick are particularly fond of supporting Christian education (Emery, 2017). Finally, she is a proponent of what DeVos herself labels as “school choice” – going as far as saying that the federal government has a monopoly-like grip on education (Weller, 2018). She also has taken steps to eliminate student loan forgiveness. Not coincidentally, she holds an interest in a debt collection agency that focuses on repayment of past due student loans.
            There are of course, concerns with all of these things. Although, what bothers folks (but doesn’t surprise them) is what she’s done since being in office.
            DeVos, someone with little experience in public education, but seemingly at least some business experience continues to support an educational for-profit business model that yields little in the way of results. Many sources have shown that the charter schools that DeVos is so fond of fall behind statistically when it comes to their main goal, educating the nation’s youth. In fact, some studies have indicated that some of these charter schools have amassed a sad graduation rate of only 48% (Hefling, 2017). Further, many of these schools have been labeled as a contemporary form of segregation, reporting that 70% of African-American students attend schools that are nearly all minority students (Weller, 2018).
            These results are part of what makes DeVos’s unwavering support of charter schools all the more mystifying. Typically, those in business look at the benefits of what their product produces- what make the product worthwhile to consumers. In a competitive market (a market with the choices DeVos often touts) this matters because the opposition will be quick to deliver on that which is lacking in order to gain an advantage in the marketplace.
            With education, everything is different. There isn’t truly any competition, there are contracts. There isn’t really value of the DeVos brand over another, instead there are vouchers.  
            DeVos’ maiming of the country’s educational system doesn’t just stop at curling her boney fingers around another crumpled dollar at the expense of an entire generation. She has also repealed no less than 72 federal statutes that serve students with various types of disabilities (Hammerschlag, 2018).  This action is as transparent as it is repulsive. Clearly, accommodating students with disabilities is cancer to the bottom line, DeVos’ bottom line.  
            Beyond the almighty dollar, is there anything else that motivates DeVos? That becomes harder to say. As mentioned earlier she seems to support the idea of religion in schools, and this writer would state that there’s nothing wrong with that, she only needs to make sure those same religious morals accompany her own decision making.
            When it comes to DeVos we have 2 things we can use with which to form opinions on her intent; her history and her actions in office. Each of these has thus far demonstrated her intent is not to educate, but merely profit off of the idea of education.
           


References

Emery, D. (2017, February 7). Meet Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education Nominee.     Retrieved May 6, 2018, from Snopes: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/betsy-devos-education-   secretary/

Hammerschlag, A. (2018, May 5). Betsy DeVos gets standing ovation from Florida graduates after   religious speech. Retrieved May 6, 2018, from Arizona Republic:   https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/05/05/betsy-devos-religious-   commencement-speech-earns-standing-ovation-fla-college/583868002/

Hefling, K. (2017, October 8). DeVos champions online charter schools, but the results are poor.   Retrieved May 6, 2018, from Politico: https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/08/education-betsy-   devos-online-charter-schools-poor-results-243556

Weller, C. (2018, February 7). New education secretary Betsy DeVos champions vouchers and   charter  schools — here's what that means. Retrieved May 6, 2018, from Business Insider:   http://www.businessinsider.com/what-are-charter-schools-2017-2



Wednesday, May 2, 2018

When it Matters Most


You don’t get to pick your finest hour. However, you do get to chose how you live in moment-to-moment.

            I don’t know who said that, oh wait yes I do it was me! Just now when I wrote that line that said; “You don’t get to pick your finest hour. However, you do get to chose how you live moment-to- moment.” Quote, credit due to me! Ha!
            Anyway, so the social worker in me would love to sit and tell you how you are better served to surround yourself with people that are conducive to your goals and can help you facilitate the positive change in your life that you want to see. In tandem with this effort you are tasked to drop those from your life that seek to deter, distract or are generally unhelpful in your goals.
            But of course, much like the phrase uttered in the Count of Monte Cristo (film) “It’s complicated.” Because what if those that do not hold your best interests at heart are close to you? A wise person (pretty wise at least) once told me “We could play the ‘what if’ game all day.” Meaning, if you are holding on to someone based on the 0.0007% chance they will do the right thing in regards to your welfare, well sir or madam you are sorely mistaken. Statistically you are a fool. Therefore, in real life you are going to be proven a fool.
            Saying you have to get rid of a family member, close friend or confidant can be an anxiety-inducing decision. All that being said, at the end of the day no one is going to watch out for you like you watch out for you.
            “But, but DavidIWriteStuff? Surely, this topic didn’t come to pass by accident?”  - a fan asks (I mean assuming my ‘fans” both exist and can form a decent question).
            No, no it did not. However, my goal is not to call out anyone, but to merely help others who’s bullshit meter may not be as highly refined as mine.
            Of course because I believe in the value of helping people I’ve included this handy chart outlining ways you can sniff out bullshit.
            


            And as far as all the bullshitters out there: If you truly care about someone, you not only care about being there, you make an active effort to care about what is important to them.  If someone can’t do that for you, they simply don’t care.