The Only Way to Stop A Bad Gorilla with a Child is a Good Guy with a Gun.

Isn’t that how it goes? I mean, in America isn’t that how we ultimately resolve every complicated situation. A gun solves everything. So an endangered animal in a cage finds himself confronted not simply by a child who splashed into his prison after parents left him unattended…in a zoo…in public, ya know, with all of the transgendered predators out there, but also with throngs of American reactionary hysterics screaming and shouting from the rails.

And so that evil gorilla drags the child out of sight, because a hundred uber-parents all feel the need to tribally shout and scream, and he is shot for it? It’s not like the gorilla was Denny Hastert.  In fact, there are no recorded assaults by gorillas against fallen white babies. To the contrary. The last time this happened, with a my-baby-is-special parent resting their spawn on a rail, the gorilla protected the child. That was before Americans need a gun to go everywhere.

But I understand the zoo’s impatience. I am glad they didn’t clear the exhibit of the real chattering monkeys in hopes of dialing down any tension. Instead, as if it was the 1930’s remake of King Kong, the zoo cautioned the monstrous size and power of a male gorilla: 3 times bigger than a man, 6 time stronger. Kill. Kill. Kill.

So really what is the difference between some kid thinking he needs to pop a rival gang member, or a guy on the subway wondering if the punk ogling the iPhone he’s been conducting loud egoistic business for all the car to hear, or the guy who lost his job storming into the bank buns ablazing when they foreclose on him and offing a gorilla with the bratty baby of bratty parents? They are all difficult situations. And how do we deal with difficulty in modern America? Reason? Patience? Logic? That’s cute. No, we take the problem out with a gun.

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I love you TSA!

I love you TSA!

Okay, that was a blatant attempt to grab readers. The words love and TSA, I suspect have never seriously been used in the same sentence, at least not unless it was dripping with sarcasm and indignation. Who’s fault is that? More to the issue, while millions of Americans are suffering excruciating wait times in line at TSA checkpoints, who is to blame for that? This week the TSA blamed you.

You are not prepared. You forgot to check the national security threat of a jar of jam your Aunt gave you as you rushed out the door for your flight. You left your belt on. You forgot to install a nightlight in bodily orifices for the TSA. You are the problem. You. YOU! 13c903fc9f2baa6caba72c624e9658149e37b6746bde6d831e651e4e443166aa

This is not an argument for or against the TSA or privatization. I told a TSA supervisor, someone I knew from the airlines and later following the September 2001 attacks as a screener, that ultimately security at airports would be privatized once again. That seems to be the cycle we are in. In 5 years the TSA likely won’t exist, but as a weak governmental oversight body. Private security companies will nickel and dime for profits, and sometime in the future something will occur to cause everyone to scream for a federal screening force again. As regular as the changing seasons.

The headline read “TSA Says Passengers Only Have Themselves to Blame For Long Lines,” A press release from the TSA placed blame on the public “who come to the TSA checkpoint unprepared for a trip can have a negative impact on the time it takes to complete the screening process”. You can read the full press release here.

Oh how the TSA’s bad PR campaign continues. Like throwing oil on the fire. They are not doing themselves any favors and indeed just make matters worse every time they open their mouths. Really! If Banana Republic was having longer wait times at the counter, even if it was due to customers fumbling excessively in their purses and wallets, they would focus on “Customer service” fixes rather than taking shots at their customers.

But this illustrates a corporatized condescension of people they view as cattle or hostages rather than customers, guests or constituents. Like the corporations the federal government and TSA attempt to mimic, they view people as a liability rather than an asset. The flying public is an impediment, not a customer. That is fundamental. An inside joke in the airline biz is that airlines would be so much more efficient if it wasn’t for all those damned customers.

Part of the problem is that the TSA sorely desires to be  a sort of police force like the DEA or ATF. They badly wish they had police powers, and real badges. Let’s face it, if you sew the badge on, its not a real badge. That, and sublime worker stress and dissatisfaction leaves a monumental chip on the TSA’s shoulders.

After nearly 20 years close to and inside the airline business, at all levels, and working closely with TSA for 8 months several years ago, I can tell you that passengers are a part of the problem. People do show up with guns and knives, volatile battery packs, gallon jugs of caustic chemicals from beauty supply stores(handled that personally on a Chicago to Seattle flight once), or show up with 6 large bags and expect to make their flight in 10 minutes. There is all sorts of stupidity I have witnessed in many years of air travel and being in the business.

While its a given that the public is part of the problem, saying that to the people who ultimately pay your salary is idiotic and counterproductive. Fixing the problem is elementary with a bit of imagination, something that the government often eschews and corporations attempt to systematize into bureaucratic banality. But maybe signs with travelling tips might help inform the travelling public of best practices. Maybe working with airlines on ways to communicate best practices for getting through lines via their websites and call centers would help, or maybe PSAs or some pop culture messaging to create a “culture” for making the lines more efficient for everyone would work better.

That all seems rather simple to me, rather than the PR immolation the TSA inflicts upon itself through ridiculous swipes at the public, whether they are guilty or not. Just saying.article-2175667-141E39E0000005DC-850_1024x615_large

(This guy protested in the nude,(though he likely was calling for the TSA in the hysteria after 9-11. He was arrested, went to trial and was found not guilty.)

This Memorial Day: Dan Proft, American Hero.

This Memorial Day: Dan Proft, American Hero.

You may not know the name Kit Cabello, but if you listen to Chicago radio you have likely heard the name Dan Proft. Some might call him a pampered rich boy elitist brat, like the sort I saw in tuxedos throwing job applications at Occupy protesters  a few years ago. I call him a hero and an American patriot who has sacrificed so much for this great country. I’ll get to Kit Cabello in a moment.

This Memorial day weekend, in which we remember the nation’s war dead, is special to Dan Proft. So special, in fact that he, along with rightwing radio contemporaries, will spend the weekend and holiday luxuriating. Proft proudly proclaimed on Thursday that he was even starting the weekend early to play golf! Oh, by the way, did I mention that Proft never served in the military. Handsomely paid as a talk show host for a few hours “work” each day, Proft has never been in harms way or risked anything as an American. But he knows that those young men who died on the beaches of Normandy, or who took the war ever more personally after liberating the death camps in Germany, the young men and women who paid the ultimate price in Vietnam, in Iraq and Afghanistan did so precisely for his luxuriant golf outing at excusive clubs. Four wonderful days of excess, lazy mornings, gold tees and privilege for Dan Proft, and it only cost a few hundred thousand lives. Rock on, Dan!

As for Kit Cabello, well, after serving two tours in Iraq as a Marine combat infantryman, he was lucky to return home to not a cushy radio job. Unlike Dan Proft, Kit put himself through school and wasn’t privileged with a pampered upbringing and a ride to Northwestern University to learn a skill that would prevent him from ever getting dirt under manicured nails. Unlike Proft, Kit doesn’t have the guilt-borne chip on his shoulder to argue against luxuries such as affordable education, healthcare, decent housing and a secure retirement like Proft does. In fact, while Proft was waving a hand in laconic Marie Antoinette-like tokenism to trailer trash dead soldiers as he prepared to tee off Kit Cabello and millions of other veterans who had served and sacrificed were working.

Here is the rub, doubtless some of those veterans would be satisfied that Americans feel secure and content in making the day a bit of a celebration. They would only wish to know that people truly understand the importance of the day. Having been in combat and under fire and faced with imminent death in war I can tell you that most found the ultimate injustice in their “sacrifice.” If asked, in retrospect, I venture those lost veterans, after decrying the waste of war, would talk of unity and community, and that the America they fought and died for was an America free and just for all. Their community is one that includes all, from the poorest and most oppressed to affluent social parasites like Dan Proft and Rush Limbaugh, Mark Stein, Mark Levin, Joe Walsh, Rahm Emmanuel, and others like them who treat wealth and opportunity like the country clubs they once kept exclusive to rich white men.

Those veteran’s country is an America that extolls peace and justice and eschews elitism, hierarchy and greedy opportunism. They would see education as a fundamental necessity rather than treat knowledge and the access to knowledge like a private country club, or worse, a spigot from which some may beg for drips while a few bathe and swim and urinate in excess. They would recognize the value of a dollar not because it might be stuffed into their own personal financial portfolio to one day build a fence against the riff-raff, but because it might buy a cup of coffee for someone in need, and in doing so strengthen the fabric and weave of the ultimate investment in humanity.

Perspective.

Perspective.
What sucks is that I do not lead an unhealthy lifestyle. I don’t drink heavily, never smoked or did drugs. I try to exercise  regularly. Genes and stress. And it all happened suddenly. 3 years ago I was benching 300 pounds and biking up to 150 miles a week-100 average. A bad winter with several months of less activity and an extreme period of stress and my health collapsed. Two years ago this month I ended up in the hospital with blood pressure so I a doctor told me “The last time I saw blood pressure this high, I put a tag on the guy’s toe. Lucky for you, you have the constitution of a rhinoceros!” 
Stress will kill you, and America is constructing a system of stress that is deadly to its people. Work is important, but work for fear is slavery. Value for things is beneficial but can become a trap when the value of things necessary for life exceeds or strains the capacity for many to attain.
Life is ultimately unfair, that is true, but what is not true is that a basic humane quality of life should be a privilege or a reward. A system that structures itself on inhumanity is in human. Funny that science fiction writers fear a day when robots take over and threaten our existence, or worse our capacity to love and care for one another. But a certain type of robot has already made slaves of us all, it is called unrestrained capitalism.
This, however is not a scree against capitalism. This is not another replacement theory, or an argument of one over the other. It is about conscience and humanity. Capitalism is as old as society and economy. Socialism is as old as capitalism. For most of human history they coexisted as coefficients of one another. The industrial age, the rise of money over community, as well as a century of communistic oligarchy versus greed capitalism and nationalism drove a wedge between those two historic coefficients, cleaving our socialist conscience from the marketplace economics socialism once helped temper.
The economy is not  a single raging river, discarding the unlucky in favor of the strong and privileged few. The economy is multiple streams which accounts for and supports the complexity of life, and which protects and upholds the maintenance of society. It is society which gives economy life, value and purpose, not the other way around. Economy is a unit of measure, not a measure of humanity. It should be our tool rather than our religion.
Stress is indeed a component of our lives. I survived a period of extreme stress through love, family and perseverance, and above all perspective. The money, property, the stuff gets thrown away ultimately. When we are gone bits and pieces are parceled off to this person or that, sold off to second hand stores or junk shops and most just gets thrown out. With each year less and less remains until it is all gone-garbage. What remains is exactly what the Beatles said in a song, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love make.” 
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVYjQScC1DY

Economic Stability and Renewable Energy

Economic Stability and Renewable Energy

Wars for oil. The Iraq war, the Congressional Budget Office( CBO) estimates, will cost the United States economy $2.4 trillion, with negligible return- even if the Obama administration had committed even more money, lives and years to the conflict. That does not include nearly a billion dollars in benefits and medical care to veterans.

Those (habitually low CBO) estimates do not include the monumental cost in lives, and the complete decimation of Iraq’s social, political and economic fabric, nor does it include a dime of what is spent in a lassaiz-faire prosecution of the so-called war on ISIS. From Ukraine and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, price fluctuations that drive recessions, unrest in Venezuela, the Fracking controversy, XL Keystone pipeline, Gulf disasters, corruption, the risk of an oil pipeline rupture that could imperil the Great Lakes and a Canadian town nearly incinerated in a massive wildfire, oil has hardly proved itself as a stable commodity much less a partner in the global economic equation.

BP actually made a profit from the Deep Water Horizon spill disaster, offsetting fines and lawsuits. States struggling to meet needs of its citizens or upgrade infrastructure pay hundreds of millions and billions in some instances to oil producers and refiners. Louisiana, facing a &1.6 billion deficit this year awarded ExxonMobil’s upgrades to its Baton Rouge refinery $119 million. ExxonMobil posted a $41 billion profit last year. Taxpayers shelled out $1.6 billion in tax breaks for a Shell petrochemical refinery, despite the state’s own $2 billion budget shortfall. Shell, even with the down turn in oil prices, posted strong profits of roughly $20 billion year over year.

That volatility is not entirely market driven-simple supply and demand- but is effected by political and corporate manipulation and the emotional rollercoaster of speculators and investors. that may be good news for shrewd hedge fund managers and professional investors it is calamitous for working families, fixed incomes and consumer segments of the economy. With oil prices poised and predicted by conservative analysts to more than $70 dollars a barrel, the reciprocal impact to an already fragile domestic economy could produce a further burden on the already struggling job market. That volatility was always there.

In a piece by Byron King, writing for The Daily Reckoning, titled, “Investing In Oil: A History” King noted that, “in the Pennsylvania oil patch during the Civil War… Too many fiat dollars led to too many investment boondoggles, too many oil leases, too many oil wells, and too much production. Drillers produced oil at rates far beyond the ability of the economy to absorb. Oil prices fluctuated from an early $50 per barrel to about 10 cents within one six-month period. And the derrick-floor solution to low prices was, sad to say, more production.”

That sort of volatility is anathema to a stable economy, but indispensable for robber-barons. 

By contrast the only volatility real in the renewables energy sector has been due to interference through government and media surrogates from oil and coal interests. In fact, according to a 2014 Department of Energy report, DOE’s investment in renewable projects significantly outperformed capital investments made by private venture capital groups. While the venture capital record held an average 40% failure rate, the DOE’s failure was only 2.28% from a portfoli0 of more than $34 billion dollars.

In 2004 global renewable energy investments topped out near $40 billion Dollars. In just 4 tears that number more than quadrupled to $171 billion, and peaked in 2011 at $279 billion.  While 2012 and 2013 saw a year over year decline, that decline was driven by innovation and cost reductions. In each year, 80% or more of that cost was borne not by taxpayers, but by private sector investment. Compare that to between $15 and $21 billion in annual oil subsidies by the US government alone.

It is hardly about the Free market. Fossil fuel leaders like The Koch Brothers fund dozens of groups, attacking renewable energy policy and investment through groups like ALEC, 60 Plus Association, Institute for energy research and more. In fact, groups like The Heritage Foundation and Heartland Institute work tirelessly against free market competition when it comes to renewable energy with pretend experts like Stephen Moore and others.

oil prices 2016Courtesy CNN

Between 2003 and 2006 alone Fossil Fuel lobbying groups spent more than $58 million, predominantly to Republican candidates and politicians. Since the 2008 election oil companies spent $761 million on lobbying, and just under 124 million on campaign contributions. While Republicans decry quid pro quo favors to donors for Hillary Clinton’s charitable foundation, Big Oil reaped staggering benefits or some $20 Billion in tax breaks amid  1/2 a trillion in profits. And so much of those domestic profits are sheltered in overseas tax havens that the American taxpayer must shoulder an additional $1300 dollars in state and federal taxes.

But just how stable is the renewable market? A 2015 Goldman Sachs report predicted that by 2030 ” renewable sources could account for as much as half the world’s electricity production-but technology innovation, falling costs and accelerating demand are not the only drivers. Equally important is interest among a growing base of investors who are drawn not only by sustainable growth opportunities but also financial innovations that make investing in renewables easier and more attractive.”

Sachs, hardly a liberal or progressive bastion-ask Ted Cruz’ wife-set a goal that would nearly double their own financing and investment in Renewables, in less than 20 years. Meanwhile oil, which became a catalyst in the Ukrainian and Crimean détente between the US and Russia continued its rollercoaster ride and victimization of the global economic market. The plunge last year decimated the Fracking industry in the United States and helped drive unemployment. It is a reactionary market plagued by a host of variable pressures, from war and terrorism to interest rates and, as we have seen, the propensity for the fossil fuel industry to corrupt the political process, free markets and the media. China has already outpaced Europe in renewable energy investment.

So the question becomes in an increasingly integrated global economic environment whether or not sunset energies like fossil fuels, that is fuels with a finite life expectancy, should continue to be a burden on markets? Wars, terrorism, emotion driven speculation and other factors affecting the price and availability of oil maintain a system of volatility that at some point threatens collapse or catastrophe under a system addicted to oil.

There is no such volatility in the clean renewable energy market. Wind blows everywhere on the planet. The sun shines everywhere more or less equally. In fact, the price has dropped precipitously for green renewables, owing to innovation, greater efficiency in solar and growing demand. Both India and China have set very aggressive emissions reduction standards and renewable energy targets, goals mischaracterized or worse by the Fossil fuel industry via media surrogates such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Stein, Sean Hannity and others. They pretend that the US should do away with emission standards because emerging markets like China and India are not curbing emissions, which is factually and provably false.

The fact is, despite being under-reported or unreported is that green renewable energy is here to stay. In a recent article for The Guardian, Paul Stephens, a fellow at Chatham House think-tank and one of Britain’s most influential energy experts warned that, “International oil companies such as Shell and BP must completely change their business model or face a “nasty, brutish and short” end within 10 years.” But the reality to that short and brutish end portends a global economic catastrophe, or at the very least a period of extraordinary economic chaos, including war and unrest. That means consumers and voters must also be  informed, engaged and empowered to benefit from the unstoppable shift from fossil fuels and coal towards stable green and sustainable sources of energy.

 

In a perfect world…not so fast. McDonald’s and the Fight for 15 reality.

In a perfect world…not so fast. McDonald’s and the Fight for 15 reality.

Fight for $15? What if I said McDonald’s could pay their workers $15-17 an hour, they just don’t want to? Now what if I said they could pay that much-or more-and still maintain their current profits? What would you say? Now what would you say if by doing all that we also reduced taxes, the deficit, hunger, and crime? In a perfect world, right? Not so fast.

Seriously, this isn’t an attack on McDonald’s. I actually liked some of their offerings, that is before I developed severe hypertension. Oops. This is, however, about a better world, and about solving problems. McDonald’s is just an easy illustration. They provided the numbers. I just crunched them. And so, here are the numbers…

First, since McD’s is international, we need to isolate domestic from international, at least for now. Once we win this the next logical and moral target must be for an international minimum wage, pegged to national output and with international legal ramifications for violators. One battle at a time.

So here are the numbers…their numbers. First, there are almost 35,000 McDonald’s restaurants on the planet, or 1 for every 171428 people on the planet. 6500 are company owned, 27880 are franchised out. Don’t worry, the numbers work for Mc-franchisers as well as Mc-Corporate. There are 14137 in the United States, or 1 for every 22600 people. Feeling chunkier yet?

Total 2012 franchise sales were $69.7 billion plus $27.6 billion corporate sales for $97.3 billion total global sales. With US franchises accounting for roughly 40% of the global we can comfortably assume 40% sales from that $69.7 billion, or about $30 billion.

Follow me here. The numbers are simply the foundation. Here is where it gets interesting. McDonald’s total payroll and benefits, by their own numbers are $4.7 billion, with about $1.8 billion US. Simply a 3% increase in prices, or 3 pennies on the dollar, 26 cents on a Big Mac meal increases the hourly wage of workers at McDonald’s to $15-17 an hour, reduces crime, lowers the deficit, decreases poverty, increases the tax base, fixes roads and bridges, and washes your car. Okay, I threw in that last part for kicks. That 3%, bringing in an additional $2.33 billion annually to the company, more than is necessary, would also maintain the company’s current profits or more.

Now you must know at this point that my numbers are not entirely correct. I fully admit to rounding them off…in favor of the company. See, I made no distinction for Managers, executives, the folks in marketing, truck drivers or the counter and drive-thru employees. If I had we might be paying these frontline employees $20/hour. I did not make up the numbers. There are direct from McDonald’s, I just connected the dots.

So, they can’t afford a livable wage? Upon closer scrutiny, it is quite clear that the answer is that perhaps they won’t…

WC Turck is the author of 4 books, including the critically acclaimed Bosnian War Memoir “Everything for Love,” and Broken: One soldier’s unexpected journey home, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” The most dangerous voice on the Left.

Starting Your NonProfit, part 3: What’s in a name?

What is in a name? In the case of your not for profit the name is everything. It is that people, funders and supporters will find you. It is what individualizes you from other nonprofits. To accomplish finding just the right name we are back to marketing again. This time for a bit of research.

You may already have a name in mind. Is it however, the right name? Even more important, remember our Google search for nonprofits in Illinois that brought 50 million hits. Is someone already using that name, or will your name create confusion in searches rather than lead people to your site?

If you are a not-for-profit entity it is about being found, most importantly by those whom you wish to serve. For example, if you were to teach art to a diverse community a name like “Creative Rainbows” might not be as effective as say “Art4Kids.” In the case of my future venture, I discovered that people search for “radio in Chicago,” or “radio, Chicago,” frequently. From that, “Radio in Chicago.org” was born.

People searching for an art program for their child are likely to use keywords like “kids” or “art,” words and phrases that are simple and straightforward. In other words, you want a name that will afford you the greatest visibility and search-ability. These days people will search for you using the internet, most likely. The internet is about Connections and associations. Think like someone trying to find an art program for kids that doesn’t know what they are looking for actually exists. Thinking like your customer is fundamental to any business.

In the digital age we are connected to the entire world. It was once possible that a business could simply hang a shingle up in a town square and they were in business. Now names are brands and brands are domains. Those brand and domains are essentially legally copy written and transcend geographical and global boundaries. If that seems confusing, it is much less confusing and complex then it may at first appear. In fact that daunting new digital Frontier provides simple tools to finding and locking in your brand and domain.

I always begin my search for the basic name, including derivatives, by keeping things simple. Using our example, I might search “art for kids” or art4kids” as well as “art,” “Children”and “kids.” Chances are anything close to your name will appear. That doesn’t necessarily negate the strength of your name, but it will help you define your market, competition and potential networks. If nothing appears in that simple search, add the next level: Your domain. That is, in short, a website such as a dot com or a dot org or dot net. Likely as a not-for-profit you will want to be a dot org. generally speaking. Dot orgs are usually the domain of not-for-profit entities. Dot com are, by-and-large, for-profit.

Finally you must register your domain, just like you would anything else of property or proprietary ownership. There are two ways to do this. The first way is through registry sites like Register and Domain.com, as well as many others. Then there are the DIY website Builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Weebly or Wordpress. For a fee your name and domain are registered and, again for various additional costs, they will guide you through building your website, or build it for you.

Yu’re almost there. Your non profit is closer than ever. The next up is a short step, but one critical to opening the doors to your not for profit. In the next article we will talk about applying locally to becoming not-for-profit. That will be critical once you get your website up and running and also ultimately in applying to the IRS for your 501 c 3 status.