The 47 percent dogs

Now I’m not saying that these three dogs registered to vote and cast ballots, but they clearly are wearing “I voted” stickers*. 🙂

They are also members of the 47% Club. They have never paid rent, are on food stamps and get feee medical care. You get three guesses on who they voted for.

The first two guesses don’t count.

All in jest, of course, but here’s hoping you voted today!

*They did not really register to vote nor did they cast a ballot. That would be illegal. Even in Ohio.

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A distraction

In order to distract you from the fact that I have not written a serious bog post for the past two weeks, please enjoy this video of some dogs wrestling in the park over their lunch break.

Don’t worry, the skinny redhead always comes out on top. Really.

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The vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots

Urban Street

Back several year ago (actually a lot of years ago) I found myself in Philadelphia for the first time ever, in a rental car, in the middle of January, very lost. I just needed to get on the freeway pointing to the airport.

Me and my travel companion got out at a gas station and asked someone how to get to the freeway. The man did not know. After several minutes, I realized this man was not being intentionally unhelpful, he just simply didn’t know. He had never driven a car in his life and had no reason to ever use the freeway. He probably never ventured outside his neighborhood his whole life.

….

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A middle-aged, middle America impression of OccupyWallStreet

I’m a middle-aged mutt in this wasteland between the two coasts commonly known as Middle America. Most of the United States lives here, but we rarely — ok never — get asked about important things like politics and the economy. We are the gun-toting, Bible-banging, slack-jawed, under-educated, corn-fed, polyester-wearing yahoos that the liberal media like to make fun of and Wall Street dismisses.

That is a little harsh. Ok, fair enough. I’ve seen my neighbors in their natural habitat (Kroger during wine and cheese hour) so I get where you’re all coming from. But just because we are out here in your idea of Wastelands doesn’t mean we are any less important and informed as you are.

Try to keep up.

What I know by getting to middle-age
There never was a Middle Class in America. We only ever had two classes; the Rich and Those Who Expected to be Rich (ETBR). It is the American Carrot, that thing that gets dangled in front of us to keep all of us reaching for more. The Middle Class was always a nebulous scale of the lower Rich and the upper ETBR which ebbed and flowed depending on the economy at the time. The indicator of where you were was how much wealth you had relative to what others had.

Equity (or wealth if you want) is a very cold, harsh ledger. There are only two ways you can grow it; invest Liquidity or Time.

For example, if you buy a house, you can add equity only one of two ways: put more cash into the place to quickly reduce the amount of mortgage debt OR accept more mortgage debt and increase equity over time, holding your breath the entire time, hoping the equity will eventually exceed the amount of money you have put in. When the equity teeter-tots over to the asset column, you now have wealth. (Unless others around you get foreclosed on, but we’ll get to that.)

The same thing with those who financed a college degree. They expected that even though the degree cost more than most peoples’ houses, they would get a job and over time, not only pay off the loans but make more than the average salary. (They should have bought a calculator first)

It’s just not that complicated. Most people in the ETBR class have a whole lot more time than liquidity. They trade their time all day long for liquidity with wages, mortgages, three easy monthly payments, etc. The Rich class can choose liquidity or time, depending on the rate of return. A slow rate of return means they can use time. A fast rate of return, they use liquidity. The ETBR class does not really have that choice (or more accurately, the degree of choice is scaled depending on the ratio of liquidity to time one has.)

The lack of choice is mostly what pisses the ETBR off most. This generation thought they had time. They were wrong.

This “law of economics” is about as rock solid as the law of gravity. You can ignore it or deny it, but it is still going to affect you.

People without liquidity tried to accelerate time. People with some liquidity but — not enough — tried to expand the value of each liquid unit too fast. Eventually, the ETBR ran out out time before they had a firm grasp on equity and lost it all. When you are clinging to a rock face on a mountain by your fingertips, when you fall, you don’t just slip; you fall all the way down. It does not matter if you are ten feet up the mountain or ten feet from the summit. (Did you catch that? I equated laws of economics to gravity. Genius. I should be ruling the world by now. Roll your eyes if you got ’em.)

How this all ties into #OccupyWallStreet
I do not support Anonymous or Adbusters. I am not a big fan of the fist-pumping, kill Wall Street bankers rhetoric and other hippy crap like stuffing dollar bills in your mouth and marching like zombies. Sanctimonious hipsters with no life experience annoy me, too. It is unsettling to us out here that the OccupyWallStreet “non-leadership” has connections with these groups if only that they decide unilaterallty who is good and who is bad. I like steak, but the fifth “fact” in their Declaration gives me pause that reads, “PeTA is invited to join us.” All of a sudden, now my support for OccupyWallStreet means I support PeTA? Hell no!

Just because I lean to what this country defines as “left” does not mean I hang with the crazy-left. For the record, people claiming the right of human dignity is not a left-leaning principle. Groups that use terror tactics for good scare the hell out of me just as much as those who use them for evil. In the end game, “there is no good or evil; there is only power.

And she is very, very seductive.

To the middle-class middle America, if a group like Anonymous can target a big bad corporation, what is stopping them from concluding — unilaterally — a mom-and-pop business is supporting a big bad corporation (like Visa) for taking credit cards as payment? I understand how the affiliation is feeding Visa, but the rain nourishes the grass and weeds alike. It is incumbent upon groups like Anonymous to make sure the rain falls on the grass and not the weeds if they choose to pee all over my garden without my consent.

I believe the 1% are and have been exploiting their advantage of liquidity to enhance their fortunes. I also believe the 99% have been exploiting their victimization caused by their unwillingness to learn and adapt to the law of economics stated above.

Money finds the path of least resistance. It is what keeps corporations from innovating, what keeps individuals from having to make changes and politicians from reforming their cheating ways. As we used to say when I worked for The Man; cash hides a lot of sins. The only people entirely unaffected are those who are so rich they could not run out of money if they tried and those so poor they don’t have a hope of becoming a member of the ETBR ever in their lives. The rest are gaming the system in almost every way they know how.

I didn’t buy more house than I could afford nor did I refinance on the house equity I had to finance a non-asset like a college education or vacation. I did not take out or encourage my kids to take out huge student loans so they could attend a swanky out-of-state university. The social contract I had with you, the 99%, was that you would not purchase more than you could afford so that your house would not be foreclosed on or your kids would not be recklessly in debt. We were supposed to be in this together. Without your participation, colleges would not have been able to raise the tuition rates. Banks would not be offering 0% loans if nobody took them.

You broke that social contract by always needing more. I kept my end of the bargain.

I expect the 1% will work tirelessly to extract wealth from me until my last breath. But this much I know also about the 99%: They will not be there to help me guard the gate from the Barbarians. They will be busy guarding their own gates.

What I want
What I want most is my own space that is warm and free from the prying grasp of government tax departments, the whims of landlords, the perils of curable illness and disease or the selfish and short-sighted lust of those in power. Owning my own home is none of these things. Even if I were to get to pay the last payment of my mortgage to the bank, I could still lose my home if I could no longer pay the property tax the county continues to demand. Or lose my freedom due to the ever-increasing criminalization of poverty. Or suffer health problems that deplete the wealth I used a life-time of time to build.

The Barbarians will always be at the gate. This season’s Barbarians are the Wall Street bankers and politicians on the take. Next season, it could be drought and famine. The next could be the City of Englewood deciding that my house sits on a patch of land they want to turn into a park. Or Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield increasing my premiums 38% or denying a treatment they pre-approved. The list of Barbarians are endless.

As I move through middle-age and into old-age, I know that my ability and desire to fend off the Barbarians will become less and less while my desire and need for security and warmth will become more and more. I can already feel the fear and rage creep into my bones when some punk-kid behind me in traffic does that dodge-and-weave thing, trying to pass me as I am not speeding fast enough for him. I feel it in the deep sighs of a younger generation who mistake patience for inaction. I know it in my heart when young women no longer look at me with anything less than pity.

What fears me the most, though, is knowing I will not have enough time to build the wealth needed to construct a gate strong enough to keep the Barbarians at bay. I fear they will destroy me before it is my time to go.

*I don’t think the percentages are split 1%-99% but that is a heck of an effective way to market the movement. My use of the numbers are just a short-hand convenience; no more, no less.

You may find this interesting.
And this.
And this from @Karoli who started me thinking down this path, culminating in this here blog post. Blame her 🙂

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Cheese curds at Kroger

We want Kroger to carry cheese curds. We think you do too. Every cheese counter has a Customer Feedback thingie. My cheeseologists at the Englewood, OH store says the manager looks at these.

So, could you all request cheese curds the next time you stop in at a Kroger? I’ll bet by the time the Packers are in the 2012 Super Bowl, we’ll see cheese curds at Kroger. And the rest of the year, all our Canadian friends can make poutine.

Cheese Curds

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99% does not mean 99 things #OccupyWallStreet

#occupywallstreet

I read the #OccupyWallStreet story in the New York Times this morning and kinda just shook my head slowly. They reported this as if it were a 2011 version of Woodstock, complete with hippy-chicks and guitar-slinging beatniks.

Yay. Or should I say “bully* for them.”

It’s not that the New York Times didn’t get it. I think they do. It may be because the protest is making itself hard to get.

Here is my advice to the #OccupyWallStreet folks. Do with it what you will.

Get simple. Fast.
Know what you want. Demand something short and easy for the media to understand in under nine seconds and something that even Chuck Todd won’t misunderstand and mangle (though I’m not entirely sure how you can do that.) It is really hard to get what you want when you can’t define it in 140 characters or less. Human dignity? Universal health care? Free universal education? Free checking? A specific banking bill that a Congressman wrote? (e.g. SB-5 in Ohio got over a million signatures because we were able to point to a specific bill.) If you can’t answer the question: “What do you want?” quickly, you are just creating a mob, not a group of lawfully-assembing citizens who demand that their grievances be met. (Example powdered wigs worked for the Tea Party!)

Unite
The worst thing you need media to call you is hodge-podge, rag-tag, unorganized and that sort of thing. The easiest way to organize is to get a slogan and have everyone wear the same t-shirt. Green would be delicious irony. Print a big 99% on the front and silk-screen a large block of white on the back where each person can write his/her own story.

Kickstarter
Get a Kickstarter going and start raising money. You are gonna need a lot of it. A Kickstarter helps those of us in Dayton, Ohio who can’t be in NYC to participate. That would also force you to think specifically about how you will spend the funds which will lead you to define your goals.

Website, Social Media
You have a good start at occupywallst.org/, but there is way too much on your site. Photos of people, just like this. And quit with the fist-pumping anger. Us older people still remember the Black Panthers and you are scaring us.

This is not an event
Quit scheduling things. There is no “agenda.” Do-nothing corporations have an agenda for meetings that nobody likes but go to anyway because there is almost always free muffins. The 99% are not corporate offices. And keep celebrities out of your group. Susan Sarandon and Cornell West are not helping your image. They are even less of the 1% those in your group will never be. When they show up, the media focuses their cameras on them and away from the crowd. Who does that serve? The celebrity. Only.

Produce your own media
Have your own reporters and writers. Use studio media techniques to deliver your own stories. Issue media credentials to people at NBC, CBS, Times, etc. Make them come to you. (They won’t and the credentials will mean nothing, but it will send a message to corporate-owned media… who are part of Wall Street… which you knew, right?)

Shut up
Do not chant. Do not talk to the media. Say nothing. Ask everyone there to say nothing to media, the police, hecklers, etc. The medium of silence will be your message. You are the 99% who are not being heard.

Ultimately, I think this movement will die off simply because a mob of hobos and stray dogs is not a group you can negotiate anything with. Sure, there is general unrest and all the ingredients for an uprising and class riots exists in all parts of America, but unless there is something specific (like ending the Vietnam War) to rally around, it is just a mob. If you want this to take hold, you have to simplify.

Quickly. Winter is coming.

*Sorry for the pun. I know this is a serious topic and I knew better, but I couldn’t resist. Part of what I’m protesting is a general lack of humour, in good times and bad.

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First came the rib, then the chicken, then the egg; Waffle House humor

A few weeks ago, I drove by the Bolts Sports Café in Englewood, Ohio (not really a café… more like a local bar with sorta good ribs, wings and no loud music like the BW3 across the street) and saw this sign. I took a picture of it thinking that would make a really good follow-up joke to my earlier Waffle House post about which came first, the chicken or the egg.

As it turns out, I was wrong with my earlier conclusion and Bolts had the answer all along, not Waffle House. The chicken was actually created from a rib. The chicken then created the egg which then started that whole cycle. All the signs are there; Sunday, rib, chicken. It’s in the Bible; just look it up.

That was the joke part. I know, it was a long stretch around to get there, but it was really just an excuse to get you to read the lower part of this post. And to think just a little deeper about some of the more common parts of this country; the bedrock people who are its foundation, who we may find too easy to take for granted.

Today, Paul Anater sent me a tweet about a Waffle House story in the WSJ and how they rush to open their stores after natural disasters. The more cynical capitalist nature would rub that it is to try and make money as quickly as possible. But having spent more time in a Waffle House than I will ever admit to my hoity-toity well-dressed friends, I know that is not the reason.

The reason is exactly what Reggie Smith said at the end of the article.

“They’re displaced from their life,” he said. “This is a brief bit of normal.”

He knows that in his soul. It is exactly why Waffle House has fiercely loyal customers, despite the jokes made at their expense. It is what renews my faith in the American People in spite of the childish, ignorant and stupid behavior we see on tv day after day.

Congress, take a moment, order some coffee and hash browns and listen to Reggie — really, really listen — and you listen to us all.

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The real voting fraud in America

About two months ago, my 20-year old daughter needed to get a replacement driver’s license. I didn’t ask why because she came home, very excited and told me “I registered to vote. Now I can vote against SB-5.”

A few weeks later, she received her voter registration confirmation card letting her know where to vote and her specific precinct. All set, right? That was all she needed.

Not really.

About a week later, she gets this letter in the mail from the Montgomery Country Board of Elections.

This almost went unnoticed by her and me. Apparently, they could not verify her last name by her Ohio BMV records. The same BMV that issued her a driver’s license and maintained her identity for the past six years could not verify her last name which means she would not have been allowed to vote when she showed up at the polls in November unless she returned the “card.”

Seriously?

While I would not go as far as accusing the Montgomery County Board of Elections with purposely stalling adding a young, first-time voter to the rolls because she is likely to vote Democratic in a very Republican county, this sort of thing gives me pause.

A lot of pause.

Add to the fact that the letter was sent in a non-descript, non-official looking envelope, the letter looked like it was run through a copy machine several times and the “card” that needed to be sent back was just printed on the bottom of the letter, without perforation.

They are either trying to frustrate my daughter from voting or the State of Ohio is staffed with some incredibly inept employees. Either way, as a taxpayer of this state, I’ve got some serious questions.

And I need answers.

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Google, hire an English major

Watch this video resume. Then visit his web page.

And here is a comment I sent to Matthew Epstein this morning.

Cool resume, but the correct use of “bad” is the adverbial form.

“I want to join your product marketing team, badly.”

If you are writing copy, you can take some liberties, but should punctuate it differently as such.

“I want to join your product marketing team. Bad.”

My English Major oath would not let me let this slide. Sorry if you are feeling those usual, “who the hell does he think he is” thoughts most people feel when we point out a typo. Really, it’s for your own good. Learn from this. You want the advantage over others who won’t care so much about the details of craftsmanship. As Joseph Conrad writes in The Secret Sharer, “exactitude in some small matters is the very soul of discipline.” Google is an exacting company and will only hire those who subscribe to this life philosophy. Embrace it. (and read the book; it’s only 50 pages.)

And how is it that you have not gotten the “Cease and desist” letter yet from the Google Legal Team for registering a domain with “Google” in it?

Anyhow, I hope Mr. Epstein gets a job with Google and I hope they never regret hiring him because all of his copy is clean, tight and well-crafted.

You’re welcome.

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A rebuttal to the debt ceiling speeches

Sean Francis expressed the mood of the country in a 138 character tweet

I was fidgeting around on what my response was to the speeches last night by the president and the speaker when this tweet by @SeanDFrancis popped into my stream. In 138 characters, Mr. Francis summed up the mood of the country and my response in one collective sigh.

Mr. John Boehner, President Barack Obama and the Tea Party; are you listening? This is your America. This IS the American People you continue to cite. We’re willing, we’re ready to do great things but we are all also so very, very tired. Like spinning our wheels in a pit of mud.

All we ask is that you quit pouring water in the dirt and build us a bridge so we can climb out. Did you understand that “balanced approach” metaphor?

Is this thing on?

P.S. And just in case you are thinking about emailing, calling or writing to Boehner’s office, don’t bother. He counts every contact as support for his cause.

.

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Is it hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk?

We all got ourselves scared silly by the apocalyptic weather reporting around here and after obsessively checking to make sure the water dishes were full and the hammer to bust out a car window was safely stowed in the van, we just plumb ran out of things to do.

And then our minds started to wander.. And wonder.

Being the scientifically inquisitive dogs we are, we decided to test that myth of a sidewalk being hot enough to fry an egg.

The MythBusters Adam and Jamie would be so proud.

Enjoy our experiment.

.

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What I take for granted

dog with writers block

Twelve hours ago, I woke up and stared at the glowing screen of my computer. I had not yet written my #letsblogoff article and since I had a full morning ahead of me, I decided to get this done so it wouldn’t cause me any stress. And I stared at the screen. And stared. And stared.

It seems as if I had taken the ability of my brain to produce #letsblogoff ideas for granted. And it was now teaching me a lesson.

A hard lesson.

There were no ready parables surrounding the theme, no pithy stories bubbling right below the surface, no snarky diatribes flowing from my fingertips. Nothing was happening except the cursor blinking on a white phosphorus screen, mocking my inability to get a story going.

Cruel irony given the theme this week.

I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe otherwise in procrastination and sloth. I believe in distractions and the frailty of the human soul that gives in to those distractions. I believe deadlines and topics are great motivators to write concisely and to schedule. Yet, I find myself staring at the screen as the cursor blinks faster and the mantle clock ticks louder.

So this post is the result of my taking the ability to write a #letsblogoff post easily for granted. For that, I apologize if you have wandered here to read something clever. I feel like I am cheating you.

To make up for it, though, I have some spare change; a short list of stuff I take for granted without explanation.

The air I breathe, the water that comes from the tap, The New York Times on my doorstep by 5:00am, the sun coming out tomorrow and mostly the tomorrow I assume will come.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, What do you take for granted? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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Politics shut down Minnesota, but beer brought it back

Politics may have shut down the State of Minnesota, but the threat of having no beer brought it back pretty quickly. The only thing more dangerous than a drunk Minnesotan camping out in a tent in the wood is a sober Minnesotan who has no place to go.

Oh, settle down folks, I’m not ripping on Minnesotans. I is a proud native so it’s more self-depracating than anything. At least that is the one thing that is still not taxable.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP legislative leaders announced yesterday evening they have reached a budget deal to end a two-week government shutdown. Both sides didn’t get what they wanted, each side will claim the other has caved, the voters have spoken, blah, blah, blah. I read through.. ok, well I skimmed through the majority of the … ok, I skimmed the first line of each comment on the blog post and most talked about the political crap that surrounded the fight.

It was really all about the beer.

But the GOP will use this “success” with other states and shut them down as well to get what they want passed. The voting public will become really fed up with the tactic eventually and the pitchforks will come out. In the meantime, it will be entertaining to watch supposed fully-formed adults run our government like they are negotiating playtime with the brightly-colored alphabet blocks in kindergarten.

The rest of us know government shutdowns don’t work because it is not really shutting the government down. It is a bunch of chickenhawks playing pretend freedom fighter on a fake battlefield. Here is what a real government shutdown would look like.

  • Close all the state highways and freeways
  • Open the doors to the prisons and penitentiaries and let the prisoners go. No guards need show show up for work.
  • Close all the gas pumps and convenience stores as there is no agency with taxation authority to collect taxes on alcohol, fuel or cigarettes.
  • Lay off the highway patrol.
  • Cease salary and benefits to ALL state employees, including the governor, legislators and judges.
  • Close the state courts. Counties and cites are ok, but no state courts.
  • Cease enforcing all state laws.
  • Cease collecting all state taxes. Any taxes owed during the shutdown are automatically forgiven.
  • Close ALL state departments, including the BMV, Attorney General’s Office, etc.
  • Close all the schools.

You get the idea.

If anyone is going to irresponsibly shut down a state, they should be prepared to have ALL state services deemed non-essential, not just the artsy-fartsy ones. By reserving things like law enforcement, roads and penal systems as “essential,” we are admitting we need government by default. By not shutting everything down, we are just faking it. By deeming some services non-essential, we are creating a dual class of citizens; those who matter and those who don’t. (GOP, take notice that the beer-drinking, hard-working, unwashed masses kinda matter here.)

The next governor — Democrat or Republican — who gets threatened by a shutdown should call the bluff. Shut down the roads, open the prisons and suspend lawmakers salaries. We’ll see how far this shutdown strategy takes us.

If you’re going to rattle your saber, you damn well better know how to use it. Or be prepared to die trying.

.

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Dog Days at JD Custard

On July 17, JD Custard is celebrating Dog Days of Summer. Show up, have some great custard and each dog receives a free Dogwich.

Hours are 12:00 noon until 10:00 pm in Englewood. Take a picture of your dog eating his/her favorite JD Custard treat and share it on their Facebook page.

Be sure to follow @jdcustard on twitter too.

Custard makes you cute. It makes your dog even cuter. Really. (ok, not really.. our lawyers made us say that.)

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Jumbo

There is an old joke that goes something like this:

I had a nightmare last night I ate a giant marshmallow. When I woke up, my pillow was gone.

Ok, settle down.

Your nightmare joke is now a reality. Meijers had pallets of these JUMBO marshmallows staged alongside the graham crackers and Hershey chocolate bars. Really, these things were grotesquely huge. I think it might be national S’mores week to coincide with Independence day. Nothing says freedom like… marshmallows?

Happy Fourth of July. How much more American can we get? Oh, about another 100 pounds per person, I would reckon.

Be a patriot and eat up.

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