Oh, To Be A British Alpine Goat (my anecdotal apology for disappearance)

To the stakeholders (followers), curiously cautious pundits of search engines (visitors), and serendipitous Internet bumblebee’s (alighting upon blossoming websites) please accept my apology for my absence from this blog and, consequently, the lack of freshly baked posts.

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I know that my apology may be a bit unusual and absolutely unnecessary; however, I favor civility and honest contrition when one, quite benignly, overlooks a deadline for regrets.  Dignity and grace insist that a personal note (posted that day) asking for benevolence regarding the delinquency of my response; I regretfully decline their gracious invitation to which they respond (for themselves and the blogosphere-at-large) their disappointment and a standing invitation to return to the blogosphere lest I find myself hopelessly self-sequestered from the rest of the world.

As a rule rarely discussed, Writer’s digest life like British Alpine goats level a pasture.  But goats aren’t expected to till and reseed the pasture they’d recently leveled.  Goats have no relation to the past.  It’s “full speed ahead!” As they mow their way about the emerald green pastures of the lowlands!  Goats are enlightened as they don’t drag hundreds of yesterdays when they move from pasture to pasture.  Contented goats just chew and chew and chew.agrazinggoat2

Writers, on the other hand, focus on the recollection of their past, harvest the past of others, or imagine the past of a fictional character whose past is a combination of the amalgamation of the writers past, the “blood draw” of recalled confessing invitees to dinner parties or the stealthy concern of other’s problems.  Writers live in the past because it is a plump menagerie of recollection; an account from which to draw and deposit; a cistern which never falls beneath the water line of suffering.  To hell with future!  The suffered past of unaware donors is where the writer lives.  Suffering attracts readers like moths to a light.

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Hu-mil-i-a-tion, Noun, 1. To Disgrace or Ridicule the Dignity of Another

Humiliation comes in many flavors: decline, disgrace, resignation, ridicule, shame, stigma, and upset.

HUMILIATION BY DISGRACE OR RIDICULE:

ahancockDuring nine years of my corporate career I was employed by a prestigious and globally recognized design firm where I held the esteemed position of Director of Executive Service.  One of my fundamental responsibilities was to manage the execution of, or, if requested, provide service personally to guarantee the success, without fail, of any kind of celebration that a partner requested or attended. For example, one client favored Scotch Whisky so I was asked to produce a Scotch Whisky tasting of adagobabar35-year old Scotches: Bowmore, Tamnavalin, Berriach, The Macallan, and Laphroaig and pairing them with: smoked salmon, black bread, Roquefort cheese, venison, smoked duck, and Dagoba organic dark chocolates.  Another wanted me to hire handsome male and beautiful female models clothed in Hugo Boss black suits and Adrianna Papell  cocktail dresses so that his guests were surrounded by classic beauty and modern design.  Yet another wanted a nine foot by nine foot parcel of the reception area to display five hundred forced Paper Whites in full bloom during one of the harshest winters on record, so he could capitalize on his design theme, Fresh Air, and subtly reinforce his theme and that we’re capable of just about anything, including any ideas they may entertain. Paper Whites naturally bloom in spring, so we had to force them to bloom (by apaperwhitereplicating a spring-like environment) early.  But there are no guarantees when forcing bulbs to bloom.  But lo’ and behold all five hundred bulbs bloomed creating an intoxicating fragrance throughout the hot house, or so I was told by the gardener downstate moments after he informed me that their truck carrying my Paper Whites was caught in a white out, spun off the road, and landed chassis deep in fresh snow where my lovely Paper Whites shivered as they slowly froze.  But as luck would have it, the potential client canceled their appointment.  Rumor has it that they’d all ready selected a firm, and we were just a curiosity.  But my all-time favorite: Four hundred and ten Shamrock Shakes delivered precisely at 12:00 noon on St. Patrick’s day.

The occasion at which I was disgraced and ridiculed by friends and colleagues was a simple party thrown by a partner who wished to celebrate the winning of a new commission in China with his design and marketing team.  The celebration started after work hours which required me to stay late as my supervision was requested by the partner.  As team members began to leave and the last partner to depart for the day was the host of this party.  On his way out he bellowed, “give them anything they want!  Anything!”   A senior designer approached me to ask if I might open acocktailpartythe partner’s private stash.  (When I was promoted the Managing Partner said to me, “Your job is quite simple: First, make all the partners happy; Second, never question or deny a partner’s request no matter how preposterous it may seem.)”  So began my study of each partner from alcohol to zany; I interrogated their assistants to drill down to expectations, tolerance for substitution, and the senior assistant’s castigation should he/she book an airline ticket in the unbearable and reprehensible middle seat in coach.  I stockpiled their favorite liquors, pop, snacks, and wine as a precaution.  Most employees and partners were aware of the liquor cabinet but didn’t know its location, yet knew that I possessed the only key.  I followed my instructions and wheeled out a trolley cart filled with the nonpareil of spirits and wines that ever passed their lips.

And then the fateful question: “Hey, I hear you’ve got top-shelf snacks!  Like those thumb-sized cashews for Adriel,” (at $28.00 per pound, you acashewbet they’re for the senior partner I thought to myself.)  We want some of those to go with the liquor.  By now it was close to eight o’clock and I was beginning to tire as I unlocked the file drawer directly beneath the partner’s private fax machine.  I removed a two pound sack of cashews, opened it, and delivered it to Lacy, the marketing rep for the project.  Lacy and I had always been friends, the tit-for-tat type of friend.  She, like several others, based their success and traded in information.  My success was based on character, trust, and top-level confidentiality.  She failed to pluck any morsel of intel from me.

By the time Lacy stuck her petite paw into the bag of cashews, a small crowd gathered round.  At almost the same moment they all realized that the cashews were very warm (from sitting in a file drawer directly beneath the partner’s private fax machine.  And then Lacy said it first followed by taunting laughter; then another said it; then a small group in unison; and the wave of ridicule and disgrace rose higher and higher then tumbled, crushing me with its demeaning vitriol.  I grabbed my briefcase and left the office quickly hearing slowed apologies backed by more laughter.  The firm boasts about a zero-tolerance policy for harassment so when I filed my formal complaint against Lacy I was told by the HR manager that she’d already heard about the incident and that Lacy will face her comeuppance.  Oh yes, and that I should forget she said:

Hey everyone!  Hey look!  Warm nuts!  He serves them warm nuts.  He warms the Partner’s nuts!  You get that?  He warms the Partner’s nuts!

 

My Letter To The President of the United States, Barack Obama

LETTER SENT VIA EMAIL: Tuesday, December 18, 2012

 

Dear President Obama:presidentseal

I’d like to propose four ideas in the wake of the Newtown slayings:

  1. Dispense Ammunition like Rx Medicine: Our Bill of Rights protects ownership of firearms. It doesn’t include ammunition.  Using the pharmacy model dispensing Rx, apply similar laws to dispensing ammunition. If you wanted bullets, you’d go to the police station where you’d be screened and hand you a “dispense order” for thirty rounds monthly. “Munitions Depots” watched by the ATF like the DEA watches pharmacists and pharmacies.  Also added is the “Dangerous Possession Tax,” levy a hefty “Deadly Weapon Permit,” require high annual licensing fees for all gun owners.

    veteran
  2. Protecting All Freedoms: Redeploy returning veterans to patrol “gathering places” i.e. schools, churches, movie theatres.  These veterans are highly trained and experienced gorilla/urban conflicts. Two or three armed soldiers in combat fatigues is a significant visual deterrent. Local police could put cops back on the street. How many conflict prepared and experienced veterans are coming home jobless? Highly trained, disciplined, and responsible veterans provide visible safety at gathering locations and employing them to secure gathering places provides professional safety. What if one armed veteran had been at Newtown?
  3. Get Tough on the Supply Chain: Levy high taxes on manufacturers of deadly weapons, munitions manufacturers, suppliers to the making of deadly weapons and hold them accountable for the inventory and retail sa
    glockles of objects designed to kill. If they sell both military-grade and street-grade weapons, insist they cease the manufacture and sale of street-grade weaponry. And if they resist, terminate all military contracts.
  4. Implicate the Supply Chain as Accessory:  Any gun store operator, salesman, vendor, supplier, manufacturer, gun show producer, gun show exhibitor, enthusiast, or owner are subject to the following: Any firearm used in a capital crime traced back to you, you (and others in the retail supply chain will be held proportionately responsible for the weapon’s retail availability and will face prosecution resulting in fines, civil action, and may include prison terms.gunstore

Mr. President, the Bill of Rights protects ownership of firearms meant to kill or massacre. But what about my right to safety free from deadly harm? It appears that owners of firearms enjoy a greater degree of Constitutional Rights than us sitting ducks.

Thank You!

Thank you for contacting the White House.

President Obama is committed to creating the most open and accessible Administration in history.  That begins with taking comments and questions from you, the American people, through our website.

Our office receives thousands of messages from Americans each day.  We do our best to reply to as many as we can, but please be aware that you may find more information and answers to your questions online.  To follow news and learn more about President Obama’s plan for an America built to last, you can sign up for updates from the White House, read the White House Blog, or visit WhiteHouse.gov/Engage.

For an easy-to-navigate source of information on Federal government services, please visit: www.USA.gov.

Thank you again for your message.

The Office of Presidential Correspondence

“Defend The Rich: Attack The Poor!” That’s America?

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ENTITLEMENT PROGRAMS: (noun), 1) A government program guaranteeing certain benefits to a segment of the population; 2) The right to benefits offered by a government.

QUESTION:  Why does the Republican leadership denounce raising taxes on the wealthy unless the Democratic leadership reduces its spending on ENTITLEMENT programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid?

In this post I will argue that Republican bias against the middle-class and their enrollment in Entitlement Programs is peanuts when compared to the wealthy’s routine use of their own Entitlement Programs.  Let’s get started:

Can you name the congressman or senator that represents the millions of disenfranchised Americans whose voice is never heard in Washington?

When will the top 1% step from behind Republican stonewalling and admit their greed is immoral and burdens the other 99% who can ill afford additional taxation?

Is Social Security Disability Income really an entitlement when over 70% of initial applications are denied; the application and subsequent supporting medical records takes an applicant months to collect; the process is so convoluted that it’s sired a cottage industry of attorneys that charge 30% or more of the applicants back-pay (back-pay is the aggregate monthly benefit beginning on the date of disability to the present day, minus the 6 month waiting period; e.g. number of months of disability benefits = 24, multiplied by the monthly benefit of $1,500 = $36,000 tax-free); so an attorney representing a client who’s approved for benefits would earn $12,000.  What kind of entitlement takes two years to process and costs the disabled 1/3 of their rightful benefit?  Why not streamline the application process and return the 30% to the SSA as a one-time contribution “To Bolster Solvency.”

ENTITLEMENT PROGRAMS FOR THE WEALTHY (AND APPROVED BY THE IRS)

The wealthiest Americans most likely have a financial firm like Atlanta Trust that manages a total of $17.6 billion for 2,200 families to develop a customized “capital-preservation” strategy.  In other words Atlanta Trust’s responsibility is to grow wealth or limit lost wealth by appropriating investments to historically safer instruments.  Wealthy American‘s treat their money like a business and receive categorized spending reports to keep their eye on what’s coming in and what’s going out.  Further, many wealthy American’s hire accounting firms or tax attorneys to prepare their income taxes by ferreting out every possible deduction (from more than 200 Federally approved deductions) and to advise of off-shore wealth and its tax liabilities (if any).  A team of financial professionals, tax attorneys, and their own consistent oversight reinforces the adage: The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Poorer.

Let’s look at Mitt Romney‘s tax situation in 2011 (as a readily available tax return and as an example of Entitlements reserved for the wealthiest American’s).

1) NET WORTH: $300 million +/-;
2) Money invested in American companies who’ve established their headquarters off-shore to avoid standard taxation;
3) Wealthy enough to hire firms to manage his assets and to uncover as many deductions as possible, which will in turn reduce his gross income tax liability to an adjusted gross income tax liability.  Remember, income tax is based on your annual income and not your net worth.

Mr. Romney didn’t disclose his gross income for 2011.  However, this is what he did disclose:

  1. His 2011 tax return was 379 pages long (a ream of paper is 500 pages);cash
  2. $13,696,951.00 (His adjusted gross income (taxable income minus allowable deductions)
  3. $1,950,000.00 (tax liability)
  4. 13.9% (final tax bracket)

If we look at the graph below, we’ll see that a person in the 13.9% tax bracket earns approximately $25,000 annually.  How on earth can someone whose gross income likely exceeded $20 million annually wind up in the same tax bracket as someone earning $25,000? (Put away your calculators, I’ve already done the math: $25,000 is 0.18252% of Romney’s adjusted gross income).

Tax Year:  2012
Filing Status:   Single
If your taxable income is between… your tax bracket is:
 $0  and  $8,750  10%
$8,700  and  $35,350  15%
 $35,350  and  $85,650  25%
 $85,650  and  $178,650  28%
 $178,650  and  $388,350  33%
 $388,350  and  ABOVE  35%

Yet, they’re in the same tax bracket?  Wondering how Mr. Romney achieves it?

  1. Great Tax Attorney’s;
  2. Preferential taxation (15% tax rate) return on investments in company’s headquartered off-shore as capital gains rather than income (35% tax rate);
  3. Crazy loophole called carried interest allowing financial managers like those working at Bain Capital (equity, hedge funds, venture capitalists) to declare their fees as capital gains (15%) rather than income (35%);
  4. Savvy and sickening at the same time.

So, back to my initial question:  Why does the Republican leadership denounce raising taxes on the wealthy unless the Democratic leadership reduces its spending on ENTITLEMENT programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid?

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It would appear that this vitriolic soap-box-posturing about middle-class abuse of Entitlement Programs (which every employee contributes by way of a federal mandate requiring employers to withhold a specific percentage from every paycheck) which allegedly will be insolvent within a decade, should also include the Wealthy American’s Entitlement Programs which are routinely used in order to reduce their adjusted gross income and subsequently lower their tax liability by millions, if not billions of dollars every year.  The Federal Government loses an enormous amount of money which might be used to rescue Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from collapse.  But that would require closing loopholes, limiting deductions, taxing ALL income at their current tax bracket (35%); in other words forcing the wealthiest 1% to pay an income tax based on income, rather than a greatly reduced income tax based on adjusting their income by as many as 200 deductions and loop holes.  Or, simply be an American and pay your fair share.

Our current situation It’s disgraceful, embarrassing for all American’s on the world stage, and further separates the bourgeoise from the proletariat (which, historically speaking, has never been a sustainable advantage for the ruling party).  The direction we’re headed, best illustrated by the stalemate in Washington, historically ends when a few have most of the wealth and the most have the fewest.  It’s not a divide, it’s a gorge, or maybe a cliff which stubbornness or back-room politics causes a financial implosion which could have been avoided if the good of the American people was paramount, not some school yard tough-guy bullying and double-dares.

I’m embarrassed to admit I’m an American.

Personal Assistant Career Application: Word Problems

So you’ve always wanted to be a personal assistant to the wealthy, the famous, the powerful!  Oh, the perks you tell yourself; the glamourthe benefits; the cocktail conversations!

To be a successful personal assistant you’ve got to produce, produce, produce anything asked of you, since you are an extension of them (but one they keep hidden like a blemish or disfigurement – which you’ll quickly discover).

But here’s an excerpt from a “PA Application” specifically asking how you would handle odd situations in order to avoid adding further stress to your boss’s life.  A PA is, after all, the gasket between their boss’s expectations and the reality which most of us endure.

In this section you will be presented with a series of actual situations which faced top-level Personal Assistants.  Please select TWO and in a brief essay,
describe how you would handle the situation.  Your answers will help us assess your creativity, dedication to service, and results orientation.  When you are finished, put down your pencil, remind yourself that every working day as a PA will resemble this test, oh, and you’re top salary will be $10/hour.

1.  Your charge, an adept 14-year old boy has recently been expunged from AOL and his mother (your boss) insists that the charge did nothing wrong, and insists that his privileges be reinstated immediately (including a formal letter of apology and one-month free service).  When you discuss the situation with the charge he insists he did nothing wrong.  You contact AOL as the family representative and discover 2 issues: A) The charge was kicked-off because he was downloading reels of porn videos; B) Only the Mrs. could reinstate the account (given it was her account).

2.  Your boss owns 3 dogs, all of which move to Fisher’s Island for the winter via the family jet (as was explained to you during your interview).

Dog 1:    Silky Terrier (size: Toy: 7″ tall x 9″ long (excluding tongue), 5 pounds),
and is a constant traveling companion via a shoulder-bag carry-on.


Dog 2 & Dog 3:     Bullmastiff (size: Gargantuan: 27″ tall, 135 pounds),
guards country property in neighboring state; aloof; maintain a distance.

You are summoned into your boss’s office and told that the next weekend is when the “pets” should travel to Fisher Island.  Wonderful, you’re thinking, strolling across the tarmac, the toy terrier in a Louis Vuitton doggie bag, and the 2 Mastiff’s flanking you on both sides.  You climb the small stairs into the Bombardier Global Express and make yourself comfortable while attended to by handsome staff.  “The Gary hanger?” you ask.


“Gary?  Oh no. . .impossible; we’re taking that to Valencia for the Ryder’s Cup. . .”  Well, you think, should I ask about the Citation or the Astra (normally on a 24-hour hold for Nanna); “Waukegan then, the Astra or. . .”  She stops you with a flip of the hand; “I thought you’d figure it out, but I guess have to spell it out. . .O-H-A-R-E.”  “Commercial?” I gasp.  “American.  And the Mastiff’s are in the country so you’ll have to get them there, then drive them to the vet for papers or something. . . American has cargo limits of which I’m certain you’re apprised. . .”   Now what?

3.  As powerful as she is in corporate America, she’s able to master only one recipe: spaghetti.  And she uses only one brand and only one size of the very specific brand: Decca No. 12 (not No. 11 or No. 13).  She plans on making New Year’s Day dinner for 25 Fisher Island friends and expects Decca No. 12 to be amply stocked when she opens the pantry door.

It’s December 29 at 3:30 pm when you discover that no grocery store of any size or affiliation in the state of Florida carries Decca No. 12.  You call the family’s local grocer here who will immediately send a case to Fisher Island.  On December 31 at 1:30 pm Immelda calls from Fisher Island inquiring about the spaghetti; she assures you that it hasn’t arrived and the Mrs. will not want to start the New Year (furthermore, hasn’t ever started a New Year without Decca No. 12 since 1968) without the ingredient which assures culinary success!  What do you tell Immelda?  What do you do next?

Good luck and we’ll score your test and post the results!

Time To Grow Up (Part 1 of “Career, What Career?”)

Even though I hold an advanced degree from a prestigious university known for its performing arts alumni, when I arrived in Chicago in 1987 my one skill which could be directly applied to working was typing.  Aside from the awards, the accolades, and the New York literary agent, I was essentially unskilled labor with a penchant for writing.

So what happens when serendipity is redefined, from inevitability to dumb luck; what happens when destiny becomes balls that bounce, cookies that crumble, and no matter how long or how hard I stare, there’s nothing in those damned cards!  On top of which the two of us (that beat the odds (especially “gay odds”) and weathered the turbulent tests of fidelity and loneliness to survive a three-year, trans-atlantic, long-distance relationship) will finally step to the front of the line and impart on one small corner of our American Dream.  We’ll rent our first apartment, gladly accept hand-me-down furniture from in-laws, establish bank accounts so that the perfunctory bi-weekly paychecks will magically appear, one after another ad infinitum  all building to an orchestral crescendo heralding every couple’s ultimate goal: a future of happily-ever-afters!

After a dozen interviews I heard the same inane reasoning:  “I can’t hire someone as educated as you for a job like that!”  So I rewrote (and removed) my post-graduate degree and within two weeks I was hired by a local messenger company answering telephones for $5.29 per hour (1987).  It took four months to develop into a caged maniac; promoted to A/R to photocopy microfiche eight hours a day – it took two months before the facial tics started; traded to Customer Service (at a messenger company, Customer Service is akin to W.C. Field’s dog: we got kicked a lot) where I survived thirteen days shy of one year until a brutal and prematurely cold and sleet-slickened Friday afternoon in early November hammered bike messengers and my phone lines were blinking “Mayday!  Mayday!” when, from the other side of dispatch, some moron kept calling my name like an impatient car horn stuck in gridlock. I actually can recall hearing that last straw snap as I bellowed to the moron a string of expletives which crackled loudly like firecrackers.  Problem was, the moron happened to be Mrs. Moron Owners-Young Second Wife.  Precariously riding the subway while holding a wet box filled with desk items, a pink slip and final check was crappy enough: I was an easy target for the pick-pocket whose style was anything but subtle.

There’s got to be a better way than this, I thought as I walked home from the subway station.  There’s got to be something or somewhere I can apply my skills as a playwright.  Within four months Serendipity and her cousin Veracity knocked on our apartment door with an idea. . .

The Run For President Is A Bully’s Pulpit

Me?  I deplore competition.  I have hated competition since I was very young because, I assert, I was a fat child (that was before it was sassy, vogue and fattering – my modern form of flattering, as in “are these jeans fattering?”) and competition was synonymous with failure and embarrassment and yet another reminder that I was one of the periphery boys.

Although I joined seasonal teams through high school, I was never competitive, i.e. an athletic threat, to any opponent.  I weathered all those losses because it was smarter to belong to and be a loser, than to be a loner and a loser.  Loner losers were to high school what a duck that clangs is to a shooting gallery: irresistable to insecure men that accumulate trophies as proof of their asserted dominion.

Haven’t we witnessed too many examples of the tragic consequences when potent, tightly-wound, explosive or obstinate pack leaders torment the dissimilar, solitary and contradictory by exhaustive humiliation, unyielding fear, and physical harassment to an exasperated degree of hatred and revenge expressed externally as murder or the lowest depths of hopelessness that the victim’s acrimony and contempt is so great and that their thirst for retribution will never be quenched, so they turn inward to find their self-inflicted exoneration and release from misery.  When did we, as a nation, agree that in order to succeed we’ve got to hit the disenfranchised with such a degree of “shock and awe” that they’ll eventually submit to extinction?  When did we, as a nation, adopt bullying as our de facto reaction to threats and danger?  It’s the exact moment that the practice of instilling fear into the minds of the voting public by egregious negative attack campaigning accusing the opposing party or candidate of misfortunes, errors in judgement, or personal infractions so dubious or diabolical, that if the opponent won the election America would resemble the wasteland once known as Cherynobl.

When bullying is permitted, incited, or rewarded as a rite of passage or a strategy in a competition, it reinforces a recent and troubling change in our idea of sportsmanship.  Competition used to be the identification of “winner” as one that was better at <whatever> than his/her opponent(s) and was able to prove his/her superiority by way of fair, impartial, and equal sportsmanship.  Competition has become the identification of “winner” as one that was better at pointing out weaknesses, instilling doubt through repetitive and escalating degrees of fear, taking advantage of the recent breakdown in civility and propriety by deliberate and calculated unearthing, followed by wanton pillaging and inference, leading up to the zenith: a quiet, little leak to cable news outlets which, within a few pre-dawn hours hits all the major wires and airs as the lead story on every morning news program and goes viral in time for most voters coffee break.