Friday, June 26, 2015

Standing or falling is still your choice




"If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything" is a quote possibly going back a couple of hundred years, but is just as true today as when it was initially penned.

Maybe I am just hyper-aware of national and State news, but it appears we are all over the road in our current mission to attack anything and everything as being politically/socially offensive. In short, we are less tolerant than just about anytime in our country’s short history. Geeze, correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t this the land of the free?

I think not. We are becoming a country of bondage. We now have a law protecting preachers so they can preach? Seriously? Why was this right ever encroached upon in the first place? Never mind that pesky 1st Amendment. I was always under the impression that if you disagreed with what was delivered over the pulpit, you just went somewhere else.

The Confederate flag issue is one I understand, but am I going to get all in a rabid state over it? Nope. To be honest, I would rather someone identify themselves as a bigot than try and guess if they are or not. When it comes to flying this historic banner over a state capitol, all I have to say is this: it is the deep south – duh! 

To join in the over-eager PC goose-stepping is Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sears, and eBay. All are stopping the sale of evil and heinous offensive Confederate merchandise. What? It causes me to shake my head, especially when I consider Amazon will sell you Nazi memorabilia with a giddy gladness reminiscent of a street corner vendor. If I shake my head any harder, the agitator ball will break loose.

Opportunist bottom feeding faux social activists like Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has decided the American flag is next on the list of offensive symbols. "Who are we fighting today? It’s the people that carry the American flag,” Farrakhan continued. “What flag do the police have? What flag flies over the non-Justice Department? What flag flies over the White House?” More head shaking and mainly because people actually think this cursing bigot is a man of God.

I believe in the freedom this country set in motion and I do understand that initially we held people as possessions (like many other countries) in direct contradiction to said freedoms, but that changed under Abraham Lincoln. It continues on in other countries to this very day. Each of us has the moral and ethical responsibility to express our freedoms inside our laws – and to not walk around looking for a fight or a cause to get upset over.

On top of that statement, I resent anyone trying to coerce me into getting upset over an issue I would rather ignore.

If this current trend toward hostility over the failed Confederacy escalates, mark my words, it won’t be long before we rename Robert E. Lee high school to something more Pablumy.  Nothing offensive mind you. Wait?  Everything is offensive to someone.  Maybe we could just paint our school buildings solid white and in big black letters stencil the words “High School” on the side? Wait!  Why do the colors have to be black and white?  I am outraged!

The word on the street is because Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner; we need to tear down the Jefferson Memorial. George Washington, Andrew Jackson and James Madison also owned slaves, so we had better buy a bunch of bulldozers (on credit from the Chinese so we can afford Michelle’s travel money) and get busy knocking them down.

Surely I jest about Michelle’s $100,000 a day for her Italy/England trip.  It’s only 6 days honey. Don’t be jealous because you can’t afford a weekend trip to the riverwalk and you make 6 figures. She’s special and so are her kids. That $600,000 was worth it, but wait, what does this have to do with real issues, like than danged offensive piece of fabric you can no longer buy on Amazon? No, not the Nazi flag; the offensive one.
.



Sunday, June 21, 2015

Passion versus Reality



Most of us early on in life believe we are going to grow up and go into a career field that is going to bring us massive amounts of satisfaction. Simply stated, we want to do what our passions dictate and this is perfectly normal. Many professional athletes, singers, and entertainers enjoy this for a spell, but unless they keep employed, sooner or later they are going to have to find a real job. That job will pay the bills, but most likely will just be a job.

I guess my first understanding that I wasn’t going to have a passionate job was when I didn’t get an opening into photography school in the Air Force. After I got out of Basic Training I just knew I was going to be a photographer.  In my immature mind it was a done deal and I survived the vigorous training and adjustment into military life knowing it was simply so.

When the day came when the job offerings were displayed, I was like so many other young men in my flight, totally clueless what the militarized names of the job openings meant. The military uses the word “nomenclature” to describe their words. I had never heard the word nomenclature, let alone understood that the job I ended up choosing (Material facilities specialist) was nothing more than a warehouseman.

Talk about unglamorous! I wasn’t the only one in my flight either. Almost none of the 60 of them knew what they had picked either. In our 18 year old un-military nomenclature understanding minds, we just chose something. This is absolutely bizarre now that I reflect on it. You go in believing in all your heart that you are going to get exactly what you want and on that great day you find out you are going to be a box stacker. There is a correlation here to most all of us at that same age. I can imagine how many of have similar experiences.

After four years of stacking boxes and 2 tours in Southeast Asia, I left the Air Force and moved to Baytown to join my family. It was as if I exited Basic Training all over again in the fact that I was at the point where I would choose a career path. Looking back to every time in my life I came there, I realize I could have made a better choice except when it came to choosing my mate. As my dad was wont to say, “You did good, Bubba.”

What I should have done is took a side job and used the G.I. Bill to get a 4 year degree. Pretty much all of my family except my Mom were working at Mobay for Brown  & Root (wasn’t everyone?). What I did was join them as a pipefitter’s helper making an astound lavish $4.25 per hour. It doesn’t sound like much but when I left the Air Force in late November, 1974 I had made a total of just over $2000 for the year and I had 3 stripes.

My plan became to go to college, but did I follow through? A little bit. That’s all. Later on I took more classes, but never got a degree except in martial arts. Sure, I’ve had many successes along the way with accomplishments, but for 37 years I worked shift work in a chemical plant and although it paid the bills, it never was a passion for me.

I suspect you can relate to where this is all going in your own life. Rarely does passion and reality align in a career.  If it did, then you are most blessed. My Dad surprised me a few years back. He had an incredible understanding of math and was a tool and die maker by trade and very good at what he did. He told me all the years he worked in those shops, he hated every second of it. I guess that’s why he always dreamed of finding sunken treasure, or a gold nugget in a mountain stream.

I didn’t hate every second I was a warehouseman, pipefitter’s helper, or process operator, but I sure as the Dickens didn’t want to be there. You see folks; passion is for off the job. You find it with your family, your church, and your hobbies. You work your job and strive for an excellent work ethic, but you get your kicks on Route 66.


Friday, June 12, 2015

People need to be informed, challenged


For many years now I’ve had a mantra which goes something like this: “Anyone who challenges you to define what you believe is your friend.” As my brother in law is wont to say, “in other words”, they have done you a favor by making you think about what you believe and possibly learn a thing or two in the process.

In 2015 most all of us are bombarded with catchphrases, slogans, politically correct goose steps, and stultifying quotes by the likes of Kanye West and his new mother-in-law Lola Jenner.  Along that same vein, Jerry Seinfeld was recently quoted as saying he doesn’t do college campus gigs because he believes college kids simply repeat politically correct nonsense their liberal instructors teach instead of actually deducing the facts for themselves.

I don’t claim my slogan is totally original, but I’ve made it my own because I believe it.  It sometimes comes back on me too. Like you, it is important for me to be right and I attempt to research a subject (sometimes too much) so I can give an educated reply. I am not ashamed to say I don’t know (sometimes a little to energetically).

When some well-meaning friend sends me a news item, I like to read up on it before I offer an opinion, but more times than not, I already know a good deal about a lot of things, especially if it involves freedom or ethics. Like you I categorize subjects by how they relate to me and sort of triage whether a reply is worth the energy it takes to research it. Other news like which MMA fighter will win, or how the Houston Aeros are doing goes in one ear and doesn’t leave a trail as it exits the other.

There is a website www.snopes.com which is very good for researching whether Bill Clinton has asked Lola for a date or not and I suggest you become a regular reader of the site before you forward that juicy email to 250 other friends and further pollute the Internet.

Back 10 years or so, the Baytown Sun hosted an online forum titled Baytown Talks. After it Mike Kercher ran www.hotpursuit.cc. Both online forums were notorious rumor mills and I say that kindly and in no way slander Mike or the Sun. It was the Wild West and that is why when Mike shutdown hotpursuit.cc, I was remiss to take over the job. I don’t like the drama or the proliferation of speculation, cyber fighting, trolling posts, and hyperbole.

Most of all I was very weary of self-appointed experts arguing or pushing agendas. Fortunately the newest iteration is www.baytowntalks.net and is running as smooth as baby feet. We have real experts, such as BPD assistant chief David Alford, Public Affairs Coordinator Patti Jett, Tourism Director Anna Enderli, Judge Don Coffey and many others to dispel rumors and dispel them they do.
Patti Jett
Many of us post ideas which we believe to be fact and different opinions are offered and it is all done cordially, as true debate allows. Facebook is my favorite place to post controversial subjects and I invite friends to comment. There is an occasional virtual fist fight and I delete the thread, maybe to start it again the next day after folks have calmed down.  I use civil discussion to help write this column and along the way either teach or learn.

Back in Abraham Lincoln’s political days people talked about issues, sometimes punching each other, but along the way they defined their beliefs. Now we just listen to Jon Stewart, or The View to find out what we believe. It’s a danged shame too.  Believe it or not Louis L’aMour, the famed writer of Western novelettes helped me define a sort of code to live by many years ago. His hero, often times operating very close to the edge, lived by a defined sense of justice.

The trouble with our current way of learning is many people do not read. I would wager to say most people on my Facebook friends list do not take the time to read my usual 8-900 word column.  It’s just too long.  Anything more than three sentences taxes modern readers.  The old 100 must read books before college entry is a thing of the past. Young people used to have a pretty good idea of how it is supposed to go before they left high school because of this list.

The only hope may just be what these days is “conversating”, a term I avoid.  People need to be informed and challenged in a civil manner and dared to define what they truly believe.  Otherwise, we all need to line up and run and jump off a cliff into the ocean. I blame the state-regulated school testing for a lot of this. Everyone learns the same thing. Beware the clones my friends.  Study different sources. Make up your own mind. Learn.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Free Enterprise? No such animal!



 

Here we go again!  Our freedoms are being thrown out the window again and this time it is potentially disastrous to small and large business.  The repercussions will roll forward like a rogue wave out of the Gulf coming up the Houston ship channel.

On June 1st, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled in favor of a Muslim woman in suit against Abercrombie and Fitch when the store failed to hire her because she wore a head scarf in observance of her religion.  That is the assertion anyway.

This is a blatant attack on Free Enterprise, which incidentally is easily defined as the freedom of private businesses to operate competitively for profit with minimal governmental regulation.

Now here me out before you think this is about attacking this woman because she follows Mohammed.  It’s not.  It’s because this particular free enterprise has a dress code and this woman’s head scarf violates it. 

This ruling by SCOTUS basically opens the door for anyone claiming a religious practice to force a company to hire and accommodate them.  It is Socialistic in nature and anti-Capitalistic in the extreme.  It is blatant government interference.  I wonder what their ruling would be if she had applied at a hog butchering facility.  Yes, they would force the facility to hire her and then shut the place down.

That may be levity, but I’ll wait and see.  Nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to law makers or my disappointment in the erosion of what our founding fathers set up.

Let’s hypothesize a bit to express my point.  A person who follows one of the numerous religions around the world who eschew working Saturdays applies at Exxon-Mobil as a Process Technician and will be required to work shift work.  Exxon-Mobil will not hire them, but under this ruling, they have to accommodate them.  So they do, but this person does not have to work Saturdays and everyone else does.

Not only that, but they have to accommodate their dietary laws also and allow them to pray 6 times a shift, etc, etc.  Another scenario is those who believe smoking marijuana is part of their religion, so they get hired too.  What?  Yes, the IRS has incorporated an Indianapolis marijuana-smoking church as a tax-exempt religious organization on June 1st.  Now you have to hire them too and let them observe their holy use of the devil weed.

Am I against freedom of religion or smoking pot?  No I am not.  What I am against is our government eroding free enterprise and many other basic freedoms which were put in place many years ago to protect us against the government herding us like lemmings.

I was against banning smoking in private businesses for this very reason.  I felt a private enterprise should have the final say on whether they wanted to risk running off non-smoking customers to accommodate those who did – especially after the government forced them to install expensive air cleaning equipment.  I didn’t want to smell the smoke, but I hated to see freedoms disappear “for the good of the people”.

What’s next?  Mandatory hearing protection at rock concerts?  Should the government force you, the small business owner to hire someone even though they won’t wear an American flag patch on the shoulder of their uniform due to religious reasons?  It’s your company’s dress code.  Sorry, but they won’t have to.  They’ll be protected by the very government our forefathers warned us about.

Back on SCOTUS’s decision, David Lopez, EEOC General Counsel issued a statement saying, "Monday's case is the latest effort to ensure all persons protected by Title VII are not placed in the difficult position of choosing between adherence to one's faith and a job."  In Court lawyers for the government argued that it was not Elauf's  (Muslim lady) obligation to give direct notice that she needed an accommodation.

Here is the reality of that stupid argument.  Oh thank you for hiring me.  “Here is a list of my accommodations which the government will say you must give me.”  The business owner was just blind-sided and would probably try to fire the person and opening themselves up to a very expensive law suit which they would lose.

What I see in this decision is an employer stereotyping anyone they think will try to use their religion to gain access to the locker room. That person, who may or may not use religious beliefs for an advantage, will have no chance whatsoever of getting a job.  They won’t get a second interview, or another phone call.  Religious discrimination at its best.

Businesses are already operating in a stunted mode without adding this new caveat.  Many large companies have put a certificate or diploma above actual experience, resulting in people on the job who have no proclivity to actually doing the job.  Add in people claiming privilege and the standards of the company are vastly eroded.

Chemical Plants are hiring Process Techs with a 2 year certificate, many of which have never changed a flat tire or checked their own oil.  They have no work history, want to make top money in 3 years, and sit on their back-sides in the control room waiting for shift change.  They are protected though in most cases and the employer has to build a file on them 4 inches thick before they can get rid of them.

Business is doomed in America unless it allows everything from anyone.  Thank you US law makers.  You have successfully eroded 200+ years of common sense.

Free enterprise?  That’s an oxymoron.
.

Customer service is not what it used to be

I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. ...