Grab your ankles

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that it is legal for you to be strip-searched when arrested for any offense, however minor. Moreover, they did not limit the number of times you could be searched and apparently there is no need to even have just cause to conduct the search or searches.

Clearly, the justices have not read the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. For their benefit, I’ve included it below so they don’t have to page through a large law book.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

You may have noticed that “persons” is the first thing listed that we should feel secure about.

A strip search is not conducted to keep the officer safe. It is intended as a humiliation tactic, to make you feel entirely powerless in the company of armed, clothed officers with badges. It is to search what rape is to sex. It is about power — complete, utter, dominating power — over another human being.

I’m not sure why what are supposed to be the best legal minds in the United States can’t see this glaringly obvious fact. I do wonder, though, if people now can be strip-searched, how can we strip-seach a corporation? Where is the anal cavity of a corporation?

The logic appears to be at odds. I’m beginning to think they are making this up as they go.

I can’t imagine what could possibly go wrong.

The naked truth about health insurance

Supreme Court Building

Supreme Court Building

The Supreme Court of the United States of America just listened to three days of argument as to whether or not the recent Affordable Care Act (ACA) is Constitutional. Central to the twenty-six States’ argument is that the Federal government can not compel its citizen to purchase something they they do want to buy.

Like these opponents of the ACA, I have a big problem with the Federal government telling me what I should and should not be buying. But I have an even bigger problem with my fellow citizens who insist on sucking out only the benefits of citizenship without shouldering any of the responsibilities. In short, we should never be at a juncture where the government is forced to make us play nice with each other.

What affects you, affects me. The United States of America is our community and we should never cede control to a government because we can’t figure out how to take care of each other.

Solve that problem and you have a small government.

But I digress.

What we are calling health insurance is not really insurance. It is just a way to pay for health care. Mandating citizens buy health insurance is not at all like forcing them to buy car insurance. Not buying health insurance is an act of denial by some that their bodies will not get sick or injured.

If we want to stick with an automobile metaphor, it is more like being in denial about changing your car’s oil and expecting it to run simply because the oil is healthy today. Ignoring your health care by pretending you will always be healthy only acknowledges you are healthy today but ignores the fact that your body wears over time. Like oil, some bodies break down faster than others. Sometimes, the oil pan gets punctured even when the driver is careful.

In other words, illness and injury are a certitude with a human body. It’s just a matter of when. No business worth a damn capitalizes based on certain loss.

The current health insurance market is unsustainable and the industry knows it. What nobody is saying is that the health insurance companies were unsuccessful at selling insurance to young, healthy people, so they lobbied to get this group covered — and paid for — by their parents. That took care of that group while Medicare takes care of the older group they didn’t want to cover. Now, the only the group left are middle-aged people who are getting fired left and right by employers, thereby getting dropped from coverage.

Individual plans? These are gawd awful expensive for anyone over 45 so most just drop coverage and pray they don’t get cancer or a heart attack. If the ACA is struck down, in ten years there will be nobody left to buy health insurance.

Insurance companies know this.

The ACA gives them 20-30 years to transition their business model. Without it, they probably have fewer than ten years before they will all be frantically merging, trying to pool assets and mitigate losses. The argument against the individual mandate is being driven by the very wealthy, the very healthy and the already Medicare-serviced. Selfish pack of idiots.

You just need to be paying attention halfway with half a brain to figure this out. It just is not that hard. The morality of providing health care or the constitutionality of forcing us to pay for something does not even need to be part of the argument.

The business model is simply unsustainable.

Meet the head of your new HOA; The Bank

Common wisdom was once upon a time that the bank did not ever want to own your home. It would try so hard to not own your home it would fall over backwards to work with you if you ever fell behind on your mortgage.

Until the housing bubble burst in 2007-08.

Everything has now changed. Banks want so badly to own your home that they will literally dodge your phone calls and letters attempting to restructure your loan or even work out terms with you.

Being rather old school, this sort of behavior puzzled me at first. What would a bank do with a house? They are not in the real estate business?

But they are. Getting into the real estate business is their way of turning lemons into lemonade.

When the foreclosure rate was insanely low, the cost to the bank to manage a house that was foreclosed on was too great for the return. But look what has happened since the bubble burst. The foreclosed homes have consolidated. Where there was only one home in a subdivision, there are now 20-40 homes or more. It now makes sense to hire property management companies to flip the house, maintain it and manage the renters*.

The banks are slowly owning large tracts of private property. They are becoming the de facto Home Owners Association. Eventually, they will be the loudest voice at city council meetings and zoning boards.

Are you noticing? Is anyone in Washington?

*We have had one such company rent out an old church and set up shop just right outside of Englewood. Their signs are on almost every distress property in every subdivision for miles. Like watching McDonalds expand.

My #SOPABlackout thoughts

SOPA Blackout

SOPA Blackout

The DogWalkBlog.com is not going dark for the SOPA Blackout today for a few reasons.

Firstly, I am not entirely against SOPA and PIPA (I’d link to the bills, but the ones in Congress are still in flux, the Wikipedia one is skewed and blacked out).

Secondly, the sites that are going black remind me of a small child throwing a tantrum, screaming that he will hold his breath until he turns blue. I want no part of that childishness.

Thirdly, if we just stop talking, how we will convince anyone of our point of view? Instead of going silent, we should become louder.

Many sites are going dark today and I think — as adult human beings — we should grab this as a learning opportunity in human evolution. We did not become the dominant species on Planet Earth because we cowered in the face of adversity. We did not become top of the food chain by hiding in the darkness. We became king of all beasts (except dogs, dogs still rule) because we learned how to adapt and survive in our environment.

Taking that lesson, all the librarians need to herd the students into the libraries and teach them the magic of the Dewey Decimal System. Newspaper journalists should use this as an opportunity to tout their product and process as immune to going dark. Book publishers should launch a campaign that says, “see, we’re still here! You can always read us without the Internet.” Same with music CDs and movie DVDs. Television… ok, you can play too. HAM Radio operators, you are definitely invited to the party.

A blackout should be an opportunity for this generation to teach the next how to truly navigate their world by clock and fist. Because some day, they will have to. Someday, the machines really will go dark.

Forever.

Drug testing our way to a Master Race

Drug testing

Drug testing

In October, Linn State Technical College in Linn, Mo., notified its 1,200 students that they will have to take a drug test to enroll there

Florida requires citizens applying for pubic assistance to submit to a drug test. Supporters of the policies note that public assistance is meant to be transitional and that drug tests are increasingly common requirements for getting jobs. So, the argument goes, people get drug-tested all the time so it must be ok.

Only it isn’t ok.

The question is not if it is ok that we test welfare recipients but that we are testing people at all for drug use. It is not an invasion of their privacy. It’s about assuming they are guilty of using and proving they are not. It assumes that people who test positive (whether or not they really are positive) are unemployable, bad credit risks, stupid or unworthy of basic human assistance

We don’t test for alcohol yet alcohol kills more people and contributes to more workplace accidents than marijuana does.

If we are wondering how to create a “Master Race,” this is how we do it. Only employ people with high FICO Scores, no prison record and a clean drug test. The rest with any human faults and frailties we can leave to the ravages of poverty.

But that is probably ok as we work toward privatizing prisons and then replace public sector employees with prisoners who make less than a $1.00/day. They are already being put to work as highway workers and firefighters.

Maybe we can replace teachers with prisoners one day as well.

Crowdsourcing bridges

In the past week, I’ve stumbled onto two major brands that launched crowdsourcing design projects they probably should not have. The first is the Barack Obama Reelection Campaign (MY poster submission is posted to the right) and the other is Moleskine. For obvious conflicting reasons, Obama should be giving young designers paying gigs instead of trying to steal ideas from the most vulnerably unemployable during this recession, but more unforgivable is Moleskine for poking their core audience in the eye with a disrespectful rusty finger. (You figure out the euphemism.. you’re all smart people)

….

You were carried

Sacajawea dollar

A popular legend about Sacagawea was that she carried a baby throughout her stint with Lewis and Clark as they mapped the Western regions of the United States. That baby grew up, thinking he had discovered America. In truth, he was carried the whole way.

I’m pretty sure this is a stretch, but the point is not lost.

Walmart did not get big because Sam Walton was a retailing genius. Walmart got big because the Interstate highway system enabled him to move massive amounts of freight cheaply within a just-in-time system. While Walmart pays road taxes, those taxes are minuscule compared to the investment the previous generations put into the road system. Sam Walton took advantage of the Interstate system in ways it was never intended.

Walmart was carried.

The 53percent here think they have achieved everything through their own hard work. They did not. They were able to serve in an Army because a previous generation created it. They were able to attend college because previous generations thought it important enough to create, foster and preserve education. They were able to save enough money to buy a house because a previous generation fought for fair wages and working conditions.

The 53percent are being carried.

One of the oddest things I’ve seen recently is Herman Cain talk about his successes as if they were commonplace in a country that does not divide itself by race. In truth, he was able to have those successes only by the sacrifices and courage of those who came before him.

Herman Cain was carried.

You were carried. We were all carried. And as we grow into adulthood, part of our obligation as a member of the human race is to carry the next generation.

Yes it is.

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.

….

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 🙂

Taxes and a disturbing trend

I have never filed a late tax return.

Ever.

It is not uncommon for state, local and federal tax departments to send my corporation a letter, asking for some explanation or asserting that I had not filed correctly or filed and paid on time, etc. I run a very tight ship and these matters usually get cleared up with a prompt letter and excessive documentation proving the date of filing, the date the check cleared and whatever else is needed to satisfy the anomaly.

I hire very good people. They have never been wrong.

It used to be that we would get a random letter every other year or so. It happens. Tax departments are very complicated with a lot of gears and levers and people pushing and pulling those levers. But lately, I’ve noticed that we are receiving letters almost quarterly from every tax department; from Ohio Department of Taxation to Ohio’s Health and Human Services to The City of Vandalia to the Internal Revenue Service. As of today, we have five outstanding tax issues.

FIVE!!!

I have no doubt that all of these will be resolved, but I have to ask: What the hell is going on here? Are these tax departments understaffed? I’d like to think that is the problem because the other alternatives is they are either stupid or malicious. That is not a road I’m willing to go down.

I have noticed, though, that no matter the outcome, the tax department always insists on assessing a late filing fee, even though the return was not late. Yes, we fight that but it is one more step in the process.

Maybe public sector cuts are not the answer. Small government may just mean that critical services gets rushed and too many mistakes happen. Mistakes like this cost private business a lot of money in extra payroll, time away from development, paranoid documentation practices and just needless pain-in-the-ass. All of this is real money.

As a private business, you can’t just ignore a tax letter. Really, not wise. It doesn’t matter how small you are, it has to be attended to right away.

This isn’t a “I hate paying taxes” rant. I get why we pay taxes. Like everyone else (except Warren Buffet) I would like to pay less. But mostly, I would like to not be on the crap end of these letters that seem to come in without rhyme or reason. If that means we should be increasing taxes to hire a few more people to make sure these mistakes don’t happen, I’m for that.

But this random “wheel of fortune” game we seem to now be on ticks me off more than higher taxes. This makes me feel like a sitting duck.

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.

Niggardly

CatDog

Yeah, that’s right. I said niggardly*. Did you gasp?

How about niggling**? Does that also make you squirm?

If you are not gasping, squirming and looking about you nervously, congratulations! Your education has paid off.

If you have no idea these words mean anything other than what they sound like, crack a book.

Recently, Pete Williams used the term Obamacare on air. He was not the first, but he is the first non-FOX News journalist who caught my attention doing it. After years of the right-wing of America hammering that term as a derogatory slam on the president, it is starting to take hold in mainstream media. Eventually they will all give up and start saying it.

The right-wing has warped good words into things that sound bad. Like “compromise.” They use the term compromise as in “we will not give in.”

No!

Any third-grader learns that a democracy only works when both sides compromise — as in working together with mutual respect. If the right really wants to compare government spending to a family budget, it is impossible to do so without compromising.

How about “entitlements” as in “he thinks he is sooooo entitled that he just jumps to the head of the line and takes.” Sounds like someone is getting something for nothing that he doesn’t deserve. The only problem with “entitlements” like Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance is that we have paid for them. We really are entitled to those benefits! The Left should maybe start calling them Citizen-Funded Benefits (CFBs)

What really makes me scratch my head is when groups redefine terms that are mutually exclusive, like “Obama is a Hitler-loving socialist.” That’s like calling me a cat-dog. Physically impossible, linguistically silly.

Some words lend a degree of specificity to language that allows us to communicate a feeling or connotation that their synonyms don’t. I mourn the loss of my ability to use words like niggardly in public simply because it communicates a deeper level of cheap than “cheap.” It has a more visceral feel. It causes me to say the word and clench my fists, further punctuating its meaning (I’m half French.. we talk with our paws.)

I suppose the most effective way to warp the meanings of common words is to keep the masses stupid. Maybe we can do that by vilifying teachers and cutting education budgets. Just a thought. I look forward to the comments I’ll most assuredly will be getting from members of the uneducated masses.

Now quit masticating your breakfast, get off your homo sapien butt and learn some new words. Don’t put off tomorrow what you can castrate today.

In the meantime, Oswald Bates for president, y’all. Or Rick Perry. Same thing.

*niggardly: cheap, mean, miserly, parsimonious, close-fisted, penny-pinching, cheeseparing, grasping, ungenerous, illiberal; informal stingy, tight, tightfisted.

**niggling: a trifling complaint, dispute, or criticism.

The I Could Do it Better Syndrome

InvisiblePeople.tv

You know them.

They’re the people who yell at the television on Monday nights, insisting that they could have caught that pass or avoided that tackle. They’re the ones who can’t attend a conference or event without telling other people how they would have made it more interesting. They’re the people who believe they can do everything better than anyone else, whether it’s blogging, forging a career, making choices, having a relationship, or even serving a charitable cause.

The I Could Do It Better Syndrome seems to affect only a small percentage of the population, but they’re a persistent and vocal minority that demands not only to be heard, but somehow validated. It’s not enough to address their criticisms — they want nothing less than complete capitulation. Yes, you are right and I am wrong. How may I serve you? What can I do to make you happy? Until they get the attention and agreement they want, the I Could Do It Betters won’t let up, at least until they find a new outlet for their hostilities.

There’s a man online who has been doing a remarkable job of bringing light to the issue of homelessness. It was his vision, his idea and his efforts that resulted in a mission that has gathered steam, sponsors and many, many supporters. And while I’ve been neutral in the past about social programs that “raise awareness” — believing that direct, one-on-on support is more critical — Mark Horvath’s InvisiblePeople.tv has gained my respect. His pinpoint focus and tireless travels across the United States and Canada have resulted in more than just awareness and sympathy. His interviews with homeless people have spurred real offers of help and assistance. Further, in giving the homeless a direct opportunity to tell their stories to the world — to look into the camera and in their own words talk about their situations and feelings — Mark has given a powerful voice to those “invisible” people whom society has often ignored or dismissed.

I’ve followed Mark’s journey online for about a year. While it doesn’t surprise me that his mission has been attacked recently by a group of I Could Do It Betters, what I do find disturbing is how far they’ve been willing to go to get other people to jump on their hateful (and I must say, seemingly jealousy-driven, bandwagon). They’ve tweeted his sponsors and threatened to never do business with them. They’ve made YouTube videos questioning his ethics. They’ve accused Mark of exploiting the homeless for his own gain, of being a limelight seeker, of not answering questions to their satisfaction — even of passing out the wrong kind of donated food. Their claims have gotten ridiculous and out of hand — they’ll criticize anything from Pop Tarts to socks — but they seem to delight in any opportunity to assail Mark’s “motives”, his tactics and his character.

Having followed Mark’s mission for over a year, I know that not even one of the accusations are even partially true. This is a simply a bold case of I Could Do It Better by people who, hypocritically, are seeking attention for themselves. They seem to resent the (well-deserved) praise InvisiblePeople.tv has received and believe they could do a better job with the resources Mark has gathered.

My question to the armchair critics would be — if you believe you could do better, why don’t you? Instead of all that energy spent denigrating one person’s efforts, why not build your own mission from scratch? What’s stopping you from rallying support for your own better ideas and solutions?

The answers are, of course, apparent. Lacking their own will, drive and ideas to actually affect change and improve the world around them, the I Could Do It Betters would rather imagine that they could — if only they were Mark. If only they had had the idea and put the work in. If only they had spent the great amount of time and care that Mark has gathering support. If only they were given the opportunity.

However, the I Could Do It Betters have to know that Mark wasn’t given his mission — he created it out of his own vision and ideals and then worked very hard to make it a reality. There’s nothing to stop others from doing the same (or even better) should they ever choose to leave the comfort of their armchairs and take the real-world actions they believe would be an improvement.

You can learn more about Mark Horvath and his mission to help homeless people by visiting InvisiblePeople.tv, or by following @hardlynormal and @invisiblepeople on Twitter.

Today’s post is a guest post by the novelist and essayist, Jane Devin. We’re delighted she stopped by to bark and walk in our back yard and welcome her any time she wants to wander in. If you haven’t already, buy her book, Elephant Girl. It is nothing short of amazing.

Jobs

Barack Obama on Labor Day

I was going to skate past Thursday and not comment on this big jobs speech that President Obama is going to deliver tomorrow, but then @caroljsroth tweeted this morning:

I want to know what #jobs creation efforts/policies you are looking for as a small business owner. What would incentivize smallbiz to hire?

Oh, crap! I took the bait and replied:

Guaranteed customers. Seriously, that’s what I want.

I know, I know, it was flippant and snarky but it was what bubbled up on my brain at that exact moment. And I just blurted it out. I think a lot of other small business people are thinking the same thing. Washington and the media keep asking the wrong damn questions.

Here is the small business reality: Yes, we know that by hiring someone, that person will then spend money into the economy and eventually, when there are lots of other small businesses hiring, that will create more demand for the goods and services we provide. We get that. We really, really get that.

Theoretically.

But on a practical level, we’re all sticking our heads out the store front, not seeing any potential customers and saying, “I’m not gonna try it; you try it.” just like the Life cereal Mikey commercial.

In the back room, the banks — who have nothing to lose because they will get bailed out — are pressuring us for personal guarantees on any loan we sign. If I am the first to stick my neck out and nobody else follows, it is MY house and MY car and MY retirement fund that I will lose. And my government will not give a puppy’s pooch about me. Same with the SBA and other government-backed loan programs. Modern-day natural selection.

But back to the original question.

The president will most likely do some tax policy deal. Ugh. Tax policy tinkering never works for small business because the only thing we hear is the ear-piercing screaming of our CFO who just got back from a workshop learning about all the changes to the tax code from the last time Congress messed with taxes. Yeah, we all hate paying taxes, but taxes are a sign of success. If you make money, you pay taxes. If you spend money, you pay taxes. If you are neither making nor spending money, taxes don’t matter; even if they are set at 100%. 100% of $0.00 is still $0.00! Congress can’t give us a big enough tax incentive to hire anyway, so just quit trying. Please quit trying.

Policy change #1: Quit farting around with the tax code. When you make these “deals” it only sounds like someone is getting screwed somewhere. And that someone be us. Leave it.

Put your money where your mouth is. US government, YOU hire people to do stuff. Start with writers, artists, sculptors, filmmakers and musicians to create works open to the public. If we see that work, chances are people you are paying will start buying our goods and services and we’ll have to hire people to staff up. Pretty soon, the private industry employees every other small business is hiring will start spending money on our stuff and Uncle Sam can quit hiring people. We’ll probably offer better wages and benefits anyway and then those government jobs will just dry up.

Policy change #2: Direct hiring. Do not give money to the states and private contractors to hire people. They will just use the cash to shore up their bottom lines and bloat their stock prices.

That’s pretty much what I want to hear tomorrow. I’m not going to, but that is what it will take.

Otherwise, it will be the same ol’ waiting game we’re all playing right now.