Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Let's Break A Deal

I was in McDonald's this morning. My Ipod needed a charge, so I left it at home so I brought the issue of Time that I am currently reading, the October 31 issue with the cover story "The Great Retirement Ripoff" which really brings home what is wrong with American society today - the destruction of the American Dream and the climate of corruption and the wholesale selling out of the middle class by the 'For Sale To The Highest Corporate Bidder Congress'.

McDonalds is a senior hangout of sorts and since I didn't have my headphones on, I could hear the conversations of the rather large gathering. They were talking about their finances, medical care and how they were going to make ends meet. These days, the concept of the 'Golden Years' is a concept for only the well-to-do while increasingly it is a source of fear for the majority of us.

The article starts out talking about 'The Broken Promise' made by corporations to their workers: You toil for years, be loyal t your companies and we will take care of you in your retirement years. This was the second leg of the American Dream, the first being homeownership. It talks about how Joy Whitehorse, 69, a retiree now living in Utah lost $1200 in monthly income because her husband's former company reneged on their promise to take care of him in his retirement, (he is now deceased). He worked for a trucking company and in an effort to remain 'competitive' during the de-regulation days of the 90's, the company began cutting back on pensions. Joy, who has cancer, now collects bottles to make ends meet. She has all the paperwork 'guaranteeing' her a fixed income of $942, but if you are a coporation in America, you do not have to honor tour contractual agreements like individuals are reguired to.

She collected checks until her check bounced as a corporate raider drove the company into bankrupcy by ripping of the company's pension plan. Congress has made it easy for company's to renege on their obligations to their workers by simply decalring bankruptcy. Declare bankruptcy, erase debt and obligations. Simple. And while Congress has made it MORE DIFFICULT for you to file bankruptcy (vetoed twice by Clinton) it also made it impossible for workers to sue theor former employers to honor their committments.

All this is happening while the most notorious of corporate corruption cases, the trial of Ken Lay, the former GOP chief fundraiser, secret energy cabal member of Dick Cheney and Bush pal, begins in Houston. In that case, one employee of ENRON saw his portfolio drop from $1.3M to a paltry $3500. And remember, the emplyees were NOT ALLOWED to dump their stock.

The article goes on to say that 'Corporate promises are often not worth the paper they are printed on." That could sum it all up and I could call it quits here, but I won't. It says further - "It's the euivalent of your bank telling you that it needs the money you put into your savings account more than you do - and keeping it. The result: A wholesale downsizing of the American Dream."

Congressional decisions - many of them favoring corporate donors, lobbyists and the corporate friendly bankruptcy lawyers will force millions of elderly and currently working Americans into abject poverty. And none of it would be possible without the collusion of the people you vote for to represent YOU and YOUR interests. They wrote the rules allowing corporations to underfund pensions, made it easy for corporations to file bankrupcty and break any legal deal they may have had with their once loyal employees and of course, they made it easier for companies to use contract workers first, then outsize your job to workers who make $100 a month, but where homes do not cost $1M. And how are you supposed to fund your retirement without ann income? And Congress has steadfastled refused to reform the health care system - the single most costly aspect of workers and senior standard of living. Health care costs as well as housing keep going up exponentially, which wages in America have been spiralling downward since the 1970s.

In February, 2004, Bush's Secretary of the Treasury John Snow claimed "I think we need to be concerned about pensions and the security they have in their pensions." He wants us to save and become part of Bush's 'Ownership Society'.

That would be easy if we had a pension like Snow's. He was employed at CSX for 26 years but his lump sum payment of $33.2M is based on 44 years of service when in fact, he only worked there 26. The 18 years of 'unearned' time is yet another gift given to America's richest. Imagine what s social and fiscal conservative Republican would say, if a low income welfare recipient were to get benefits for 18 'extra' years of 'unearned' time. Laws would be quickly passed, maybe a constitutional amendment of two to put an end to 'welfare queens'.

In fact, most of Bush's economic policy to date has been giving freebies to millionaires via tax cuts on 'unearned' income, while the IRS cracks down harder on YOUR earned income.

During the 1990s, employees, such as the ones at Polaroid, were asked to bail out their companies in the form of Employee Assisted buyouts (ESOPS). After taking pay cuts and other benefit cuts for years, one of the 'employee owners' got a check for (drumroll) for $47 when she turned 60. So much for being a team player. Each employee got stock worth .09 while the execs got stocks valued at over $12 a share.

It was on the news today that Americans last year spent not just everything they've earned but went into debt last year at levels not seen since 1932 and 1933 the opening years of the Great Depression.

So what is the GOP's answer to your retirement. Work till you die, just like it was 100 years ago. They keep pushing IRAs and 401Ks, which was a Reagan/Bush Sr. 1980s vehicle for execs to shelter more of their income from the tax man. But in order to take care of the future, you must have a job TODAY. Today, Kraft announced the layoff of 8000 workers. That'll help fund the CEOs Golden Parachute.

So tonight, when you watch Shrub's State of the Union with the now confirmed Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito (you have no inherent right to anything, including a job, privacy, health care) in tow, I want you to take a shot of really strong liquor whenever he says 'the economy is strong'. By the way, Greenspan's last stand is to raise the prime rate just oen more time to slow down the economy.

All incumbents OUT in 2006. Including the Dems who can't come up with a decent counter argument to the 'you're on your own and its all your own fault' philosophy of the GOP. Remember, its YOUR fault you didn't make yourself valuable enough to your employer, and its YOUR fault you didn't save enough and its YOUR fault, you got paid too much which drove the company to bankruptcy.

Shame on us.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Gong Hoy Fat Toy

To All My Asian Readers:

I hope I spelled the title correctly, but here's to a happy and prosperous New Year (of the Dog). May you find 'loyal' friends this year.

PS. Can't wait for Year Of The Pig

Friday, January 27, 2006

Be careful what you wish for

...you might get it.

So Hamas gets elected to run the Palestinian Authority, a terrorist group dedicated to the destruction of Israel. But at least they were democratically elected. The results from the Iraqi election have not been announced (at least, not what I've heard) so I'm sure radicals and religious fundamentalists will take heed from the elections. What will Bush and Co. do if a Hamas clone takes power in a democratic Iraq? It is good, the Palestinians got rid of the corrupt regime as well as the fact that Fatah accomplished little.

So now what? I guess the democratically elected regime in Isreal doesn have to deal with the new government either. Its all about choice. Choice to continue down the same old bloody path are choose something new. The immediate future does not appear promising, sad to say.

From Letters To The Editor, from our local paper:

"I can't believe our grat country's politicians could create such a mess. If it was their intention to help us, which I assume it was, it should have been constructed with intelligence, time and effort. Who or what have we elected to run our country? I know they are trying to help us, but they should have worked on this longer. Some of the insurance plans are unbelievable. After speaking to Medicare and also the insurance company I was enrolled in, everything was so messed up, I was put in the wrong status. Someone along the line did not do their checking to be sure all sure all was correct."

Local senior commenting on the 40 plus prescription Medicare plans the leaner and meaner GOP has offered. Members of my family are enduring this joke and national disgrace.

That's just today's random observations.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Indian Gaming

A few weeks while cleaning out the front room with my brother-in-law, we came across a bunch of old Time magazines. They have had a subscription to Time magazine that they claimed was for me and they held on to all the issues from the time I returned to Vegas until the subscription expired in March, 2003. I certainly don't have the time or inclination to read all thoose back issues, so I decided to be selective and read just the ones whose cover stories piqued my interest..

One was a two part cover story from December, 2002 on Indian Gaming, which I think is timely and significant in light of the Abramov scandals three years later and just now coming to light. Also, by coicidence, I just visited Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut just two weeks ago.

The articles illustrate what is truly is wrong with the 'way things work' in this country, Consider this:

1) The majority of Indian tribes and populations live in abject poverty and do not receive any benefits from the proceeds from Indian casinos. Who does? The politically connected lobbyists and 'investors' that's who. Folks like Lyle Berman (net worth $69M in 2001), Solomon Kerzner, developer of Sun City resort in Bophuthatswana, an apartheid created enclive in South Africa. (Remember the song from the 70s - "We Won't Play Sun City"?) and Lim Goh Tong who bankrolled the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, primarily because of his experience in competing for government contracts in his native Singapore, where the Muslim government there bans gambling but managed nonetheless to build a casino there. None of the main beneficiaries are native American.

2) Who qualifies as a 'tribe'? The article points out how Maryann Martin presides over America's smallest 'tribe' which consists of herself and two brothers, one who was killed in a gang shootout. But she hired a Vegas consultant and she has her own casino in California. And yet, she still qualifies for government aid. In 1999 and 2000, government audit reports show, she pulled in more than $1M from Washington - $476,000 for housing, $400,000 for tribal government and $146,000 for environmental programs. Since Indian Gamng is a profitable venture, $12.4B, in fact, is it any wonder why the number of 'tribes' has exploded to 337?

3) Who qualifies as a member of a tribe? Since each 'tribe' is considered an autonomous 'country' they can set theor own rules as to who gets to be a 'member'. Some tribes use their casino wealth and then distribute the proceeds evenly among them, but that also means that the more 'members' a tribe has, the less the individual take. Take the case of the Table Mountain Ranchereria in the foothills of Fresno, which has benefited about 100 members of the tribe, but that didn't include the family of Kathy Lewis, who was born on the reservation and whose granfather was the tribe's chief in the 1950s. But her family did not own property in 1983 when the tribe was restored and that is the basis now being used against her by the tribal elders. She tried suing via the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who will have nothing of it, on the grounds that it is a 'soverign nation'. So she will continue to live in poverty while the 'enrolled' members get a stipend of $350,000 a year. So now, she has to legal leg to stand on. Not to mention what would happen to you if you go up against a 'corrupt' tribal council.

4) Not all casinos are created equal. In the real estate world, the mantra is 'location, location, location', so therefore some tribes who erect casinos in remote areas will barely survive, while the tribes who 'negotiate' better locations along major intestates will do quite well thank you. And watch the 'management fees'. The Sioux casino is profitable, but the majority of Sioux in South Dakota live in abject poverty. And those with cash (as is always the case) can put a casino practically anywhere - casinos do NOT have to be located on anything resembling an ancestral location. And they can make bad neighbors - like corporations they can just buly the neighbors into giving up their land on the grounds it was 'stolen' from them centuries ago. And they have enough clout to bring practically any political opposition to its knees.

5) Lopsided returns - the states with almost half of the country's Native American population - Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota, amount for less than 3% of all casino proceeds or $400 per Indian, while just 3 states, California, Connecticut and Florida haul in 44% of all revenue, with Native populations totalling just 3%. This amounts in $900,000 per member.

6) Whose minding the store? Congress created the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to be the Federal Government's principal oversight and enforecement agency for Indian gaming and then guaranteed that it could do neither. With a budget capped at just $8M , the agency has 63 employeees to monitor the $12.6B all cash business in more than 300 casinos and small gaming estblishments nationwide. The New Jersey Gaming Commission, by contrast, has a budget of $59 million and a staff of 720 to monitor 12 casinos in Atlantic City. The agency has yet to convict one case of corruption despite several complaints by tribal members. It also has the power to levy fines, but no power to collect them. Typical for something sanctioned by Congress. No oversight. No accountability.

7) It's still about politics, stupid. Some of the tribes 'certified' in the last hours of the Clinton Administration, were overturned by the incoming Bush Administration. It is even profitable to close down a casino, as in the case of George Bush vs. the Tigua tribe near El Paso, when Bush was Governor. They applied for a state license for a casino, but they contributed too much to Bush's Democratic rivals, so backed by the anti-gambling Southern Baptist Council, they were shut down. The chief beneficiary - the owner of across the norber Sunland PArk, N.M. owner and GOP contributor Stanley E. Fulton and in 2001 was one of the largest single contributors to the GOP to the tune of 800K. But when you complain about the influence of Indian gaming they'll tell you to bang off because they are a 'soverign' nation. But it is also against the law (ask Al Gore and the Chinese) for 'foreign' governments to contribute to a US campaign. Go figger.

By the Numbers:

Source: Bureau of Indian Affairs and Time Magazine, December, 2002.

Tribe Population Casino Revenue per Member Federal Aid per Member

Navajo 260,010 $0 $912
Hopi 11,267 $0 $2,006
Choctaw 8,823 $25.048 $5,717
Seminole 2,817 $87,682 $8,540
Pequot 677 $1,624,815 $2,304
Miccosukee 400 $250,000 $20,560
Santa Ynez 159 $1,257,862 $8,360

As you can see, money begets more money....

According to the Fortune 500, look who are the biggest moeny makers:

2001 Profit Margin

Seminole Tribe 85%
Choctaw Tribe 41%
Mellon Financial 32%
Microsoft 29%
Amgen 28%
Bristol-Myers-Squibb 24%
Pfizer 24%

I support any program that elevates the living conditions of Native Americans, many of whome live in abject poverty, but perhaps a better way to help them would be to not patronize any casino that does not benefit all members of the tribe. In the case of the Navajo, who reject gambling on religious grounds, I suggest buying a Navajo rug or Hopi pottery instead. At least one tribe, however, the Potawatomi Tribe in Topeka, kansas uses most of its money building infrastructure for its members

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Where are the Castles?

I am plowing through (slowly) Hans Holzer's large hardcover tome Ghosts and have gotten as far as page 421 of 750 so far. Its a good book, having explored such notable places as the Whaley House in San Diego, Hollywood, the New York City area and a few other places.

The author also visits his bative Austria, France, England, Scotland and Ireland in his pursuit of ghosts. On a trip to Ireland and Scotland, he visits old castles and buildings that have been standing and are still occupied, either as private residences or as hotels since the Middle Ages.

Which brings me to ask the question - "Where are the American Castles?". It would seem to me that since many of the early Pilgrims and other northern European arrivals to American shores since the Revolution came from Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Germany that someone would have brought the castle as an architectural style with them. Aside from Disney's Magic Kingdom and Las Vegas' Excalibur casino, which were designed as tourist attractions, why hasn't the concept of a 'castle' caught on here? Surely, we had the trees whose trunks could have been used as interior building materials surrounded by rock and concrete, which are building materials we use now, so why not build castles?

As far as I know, there are only two structures in the US that qualify as true castles - the Hearst Castle in California and the Vikingsholm Castle at Lake Tahoe, on the California side. If anyone knows of any other 'offically designated' American castles, please pass them on with a photo and I'll post them.

Interestingly, though, we have an an American saying here that 'a man's home is his castle', but like everything else, even that has come under attack, with the recent rulings supporting eminemt domain by people who have more money than you so therefore can take your property from you, if they have the cash to make improvements to the place. There is a movement to take Justice David Souter's barn in New Hampshire and convert it into the 'Hotel Lost Freedom'. due to his support for the reckless use of eminent domain.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Buy Books Through the Scorched Pig

The Scorched Pig has joined the Amazon.com Affiliate Program. Only reputable firms that have a reputation for quality products and good customer service would the Pig be remotely interested in being affiliated with.

I have utilized Amazon.com primarily for the purchase of books both for my own use and as a gift buying resource for both Christmas and birthday gifts.

As an incorrigible reader of old style media, ie, books, I encourage my readers to utilize Amazon.com.

PS. Get the Festivus book through the link on the right.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Bush Administration and Google; Festivus

It was reported yesterday that the Bush Administration has 'requested' , er 'urged' Google to turn over 1million search results, so that the Administration cane 'prove' how easily searchers can find child pornography on the net. Google, for its part, is resisting, citing privacy concerns. I support Google here as I don't trust the Adminsitration with its snooping. It wants to know what people are searching for. If the Bushies want to know how easy it is to find child pornography on the web, then let some of the White House staffers do a few searches on their own time and hopefully not on the taxpayer's dime.

I think there is more at work here than meets the eye. The administration wants to know what the 'rest of us' is searching for. Why do they need to know this in a free society? Let them do what private industry does in these circumstances - mail out a survey and let people volunteer this information.

Knowing this Administration, and it has shown time and again that it cannot be trusted, the goal is probably to search out and harass critics of both its foreign and domestic policies and then search them out and punish them via the IRS or other means.

Again, let the Bushies find information the way we have to find it. Go look for yourselves. Thank you, Google for standing up for the privacy of American citizens. The Bush Administration is scary. Go read Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here" the rise of an American dictator.

On a more positive note, NASA yesterday launched its latest probe, the New Horizon spacecraft on a journey to our furthest solar neighbor, Pluto. Although considered a race car by earlier spacecraft standards, it will still take 9 years to reach Pluto with a flyby around 2015. Let's hope theat the grand piano sized probe makes it intact. I also read the other day of the discovery of a 10th planet, tentatively called 'Xena" after the TV Warrioress, although the official name will be decided in Paris later. Has anyone else heard this?

For afficiandos of the TV show Seinfeld, I heard from the Red Bar Radio Podcast that there is a book out called Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us by Alan Selkin. In it, he claims that Festivus pre-dates the show and that some of the activities associated with the holiday include an 'airing of grievances' rallying around a tall aluminum pole and 'feats of strength' which usually occurs after the airing of grievances, in which you telll your friends just what you think of them. The feats of strength could include wrestling, arem-wrestling or thumb wrestling. selkin reports that there are a number of Festivus celebrations and his book includes a Foreword by the Santa Claus of Festivus himself, Jerry Stiller and includes comments by the twi extras in the show, the guy who played Krueger and the other one, whose only line was "I'm a man" at the OTB.

Check it out at Festivusbook.com or at Amazon.com.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

An End of an Era (Albeit Brief)

My last day at Radio Shack was last Thursday. Although the company, like many retail outlets, lets go of its 'holiday' help, I was not expecting to be terminated although there was always that possibility.

I was hired in September as a full time employee and I took my job seriously and with a certain amount of passion, having been out of work for the past three years and I figured, if I was to work in retail, I might as well work in consumer electronics figuring it would go well with my computer background. I was told that it was a 'Sales' job, which is fine, but in order to be a good salesman it helps to get to know your product as well as your working environment. And there was a lot to learn, what with cables, electronics, toys, radios, satellite radio, satellite TV, scanners and the like as well as all the other aspects of running a retail operation including getting to know the lay of the land (ie, where things are located in the store), various paperwork and don't forget the customer relations.

Like any business, there was also the backroom politics that I heard about but was not in a position to do anything about. One was that the District Manager (DM) a mid 30s woman had it out for middle-aged older workers. I listened to the stories, how she was rude to older managers and how its 'all about the numbers'.

But I beg to differ. In order for me to sell a product, I need to Know the product. RS has a few certification tests that they want their associates to take, but the tests can only be taken on the backroom computer. I would have gobbled the shit up, if the info and tests were made available voa the net so I could take them at home. It isn't a good learning environment when you have to compete with your manager who has his own work to do as well as trying to learn and take tests in between customers.

But, I also took the job in the hopes of learning ALL aspects of the retail electronics business, a sign of my long term committment to the job. I had no problem performing the mundane tasks as well, such as vacuuming the rug, washing the windows, taking out the trash or stock replenishment. Many of the 'younger' workers were not keen on performing these tasks as well. In fact, I couldn't stand it when the store was empty. I was always walking around with a clipboard, looking for tags to make, batteries to be put out, ANYTHING to make the clock move.

It takes awhile to get accustomed to ANY job, especially when you are new to the type of job as well as the company and I made my share of screwups and 'oh shits' when I first started and from the get go the store that I was at was generally understaffed. But you could always count on me. One day when I was working the day shift, my manager had come down with a bad case of the flu. He was in, of course, despite feeling miserable, sneezing, coughing and the whole nine yards. In my 4 months in the place, I am proud to say I NEVER missed a day of work. This, despite the fact I didn't have a car and relied on my sister and brother-in-law to get me to work. Not so the other employees. One had regular babysitting problems as well as 'calling in sick'. One did call in sick, and others had exams, 'couldn't work Sundays', etc. But they are all still there, I am not.

On this night where Steve was sick, In had already put in a full day shift, when one of the 'night crew' called in (before we hired holiday help). He didn't want to impose on me, but seeing he was in agony, I said 'no problem'.

Over time, things got easier for me about finding things around the store and I began to pick up speed finding things and developing a routine aout daily tasks. The store got audited on a regular basis and one of the things we often we got written up for was not filling out our goal cards. Not me. I always did mine at the beginning of my shift and it makes things easier if you do things like that when you are supposed to as opposed to trying to play catchup after you've been naged about it.

At first, my shifts varied, some days, some nights, some up and down (night followed by a day) which didn't thrill me, but I made it clear that I would work whenever he needed me. Take that, all you elderly curmudgeons and Republicans who often wail that 'people don't want to work anymore' and screw you, all those who say 'we can't find relaible, intelligent help'. It made Steve's job easier knowing that when he made out the shedule, that I would work whatever schedule he could put together, despite 'everyone else's' accommodations.

So, its all about the numbers. But even here, things are not always what they seem. Take 'Hot Friday', the ridiculous concept of having as much as one quarter of a stores sales falling on one day. By then, we had a full complement of employees, some doing double and split shifts. I worked from 2 to 10 pm that day. Along with a full crew when I arrived. On 'hot' Friday, we were told by the DM in her monthly rah rah sessions, that people 'expect' long lines on hot Friday so don't worry about making people wait. Hmmm, that's not exactly good 'salesmanship' when people are lined up at the register to buy stuff anyway. Since it was my first Hot Friday, I wondered how the registers would be handled, since we had about 6 sales people and only 2 POS machines. Wanting me to be 'fresh' since the early shifters would probably be exhausted, I had no problem with 2 to 10. I had no interest in getting up at 3 am for a 5 am store opening anyway.

The idea was supposed to be the fastest cashiers would man the POSs and the 'new' people (which apparently included me) would step back and let them handle it. I hoped to get a few sales in in the hope that it wouldn't be so nuts in the afternoon anyway. Well, some of the 'newbies' got in a few good sales since their 'allies' (ie, the women) would ring up a few sales under the newbies codes. This is, of course, against store policy, but no matter, some of the newies rang up some impressive totals.

Of course, all of the 'hot' deals lasted only from 6am until noon. I, in fact, took advantage of them, by shopping at the Radio Shack behind my house in Massachusetts, where, believe it or not, has a lower sales tax than in RI where I work. I had originally hoped on working at the Harbor Mall store, but the Warren store was full time. Since the manager there knew me, I got my employee discount on a Presidian DVD burner, plus my mail in rebate (still waiting) and my sister funding the difference because the following week was my birthday, I in effect, got it for free.

But of course, once I got to work at 2 PM, the hot Friday sales and the crowds they generate had evaporated. That night, we could have played darts, that's how dead it was. One newbie rang up over $2K that day. I was lucky to ring up $200. Guess who looks bad.

While I admit, the DM's sales talks were prime motivators, they won't work very well if you don't have the product to sell. Where I work, the store is what I would consider a 'backwater' store. You won't find the much ballyhooed Ipods, Cinegos or even much of the stuff you'll find in the sales flyers. We had many clearance items. Phones, cable, toys and many small items like battteries.

Sales in the store can often be a crap shot. Two customers walk in. Two salesmen tackle them. One buys a phone, the other buys a battery. I did a lot of battery sales. I'm sure I could have improved on my sales techniques, but a good chunk of the store's regulars are elderly people looking for watch, calculator or hearing aid batteries. One thing I was good at was selling batteries. One promotion we had constantly going on was the '4-4-10' sale. Four packs of four batteries for $10. I was told on my monthly review that I was the best in the store for that. I like to sell things with a straight face. Just a few days before my surprise dismissal, I was out on the web trying to find a site that did battery comparisons. I would have been even better at it had I prrof, that Radio Shack's batteries were 'better' than the competitions. But I couldn't find such a site. I told customers it was 'a great deal' even though you could get 24 (instead of 16) AA or AAA batteries at Home Depot, and many of my elderly customers kept on asking me if they were better than the Ocean State Job Lot next door, wis is a major discounter. "Lady, you get what you pay for" is what I'd reply when they'd keep challenging me on it. I have no doubt that Radio Shack putsb out a good product (at substantially padded profit margins of course).

I worked whenever they wanted me late on Christmas Eve, to set up for the post Christmas sales, New Year's Day. That's what sucks about retail jobs. If you work in retail, the 'time for being with family and friends' doesn't include you. We closed at 7 on Christmas Eve. It could have been worse, Kmart closed at 9. Even Walmart was closed by then.

Of course, now with the 'Big Day' which all of American capitalism depends behind us, the next question is, who stays and who goes. They keep you on just long enough so that you can hepl them count their inventory.

My manager liked me, however. He'd tell me that he'd keep me over any of the others, because he could count on me. I was reliable, dependale, honest, trustworthy and I should enthusiasm and a willingness to learn things. He even liked the fact that I came to work with a smile on my face (on most days). But, he has no say in who stays and who goes. I was warned that the DM didn't take kindly to older workers and in the end, my numbers (per ticket) were low. Again, I sold a lot of batteries, and even if I sold 10 a day for 'only' $34 in sales, my average was of course, just $3.41 a sale, with an occasional decent hit thrown in. I of course, had some good days as well.

But after the holiday rush, as expected, things died down considerably. Now I was on days nearly everyday of which many of the regular clientele are elderly and techno-phobic. Hard to sell a cell phone to a guy who comes back with his cordless phone claiming 'it doen't work' when he kept on pressing the 'end' button instead of the 'talk' button.

I had an elderly lady come up to me with one of those chrome flashlights with one button and I needed to 'show' her how to turn it on. Some of these people just want a little companionship. We also have fuses, flashlight bulbs, resistors and diodes, and I spent a lot of time with automotive types, inventor types and 'Mr. Fixit' types trying to help them find whatever they were lookingn for. Oftentimes, they had no clue and part of the task was trying to decipher what they wanted in the first place. All that time for $1.99. But that, to me, is what customer service is all about, not about the numbers. I have had a number of customers say to me, "if Radio Shack doesn't have it, no one will, or 'who does?'. Radio Shack used to be an electonics store. Now it seems, they are just another Sprint or Cingular kiosk. I was told that many of the mall Radio Shacks are aloowed to get rid of their parts drawers, but we could not. Our store was like Grandpa's Tool Chest. You could find things there you couldn't find anywhere else. I have had many customers thank me for going the extra mile in an effort to find that 'missing piece' to their puzzle so they could complete their project. I have had little old ladies offer to take me out for coffee after I showed them how to use voicemail on phones that their kids got them and they were frightened of using. I have people give me 'tips' (sometimes more than the battery that they bought) because I'd put it in for them.

I knew on Thursday, that I was the 'chosen' one to be let go. Although my manager did his best to keep me. I kept on chatting away with the customers. When one of the 'newer' associates came in at 2, he saw the schedule and said "Steve, I can't work on Sunday". I said "Steve, I can."

So I've learned that being a store manager means working long hours, doing a lot of paperwork and stock, coming in when sick, working six days a week, often double shifts and yet not having the power tiokeep who you know and trust. Managers don't do that, spreadsheet jockeys make these decisions. On top of that the other 'day' salesman is leaving for another job. So Steve will be very short handed, especially when those who are left can't or won't work days.

On December 28, after 3 years of not having any, I had health care again. It was my 100th day of employment at Radio Shack. On that day, (pure coincidence) I had an appointment with a foot doctor. I had been in pain, which he said was due to the fact that I am on my feet for 8 hours due to my job. I had to have good support shoes ordered. They arrived the day I got laid off. I had health care for all of 3 weeks.

So when I called Christine, the DM, I was told in very cold and impersonal terms that RS has 'criteria' I didn't meet, so I was let go as of the 12th, although, knowing I was already let go, I didn't bother coming in on Friday.

But its not about reliability or dependibility. Not about customer service or selling a product you have confidence it so you can push it. Its not about honesty or making people happy so that they'll remember you and come back. Its about getting rid of older workers who are more conscientious and hard working, but, unfortunately, don't make the right numbers or meet certain 'criteria'.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Trials and Tribulations of Tom Delay; '24'

In a recent article by the Associated Press, a DeLay spokesman said that the ethically challenged Congressman is not influenced by donations. Does he believe that everyone outside of Texas is taht gullible and naive?

During the Eisenhower administration, Ike remarked about the dangers of the 'military-industirla' complex. What he was referring to at the time was when a general exits military service and joins the board of directors of a defense contractor, that defense contractor would have undue influence in contractor selection because the former general would have too many friends in high places. Thus, what Ike was really saying was the corrosive effects of influence peddling and a government by lobbyist.

A spokesman for DeLay says that 'Mr. Delay makes decisions and sets legislative priorities based on good policy and what is best for his constituents and the country'. As the Abranoff influence peddling scandal unfolds, we will find out just HOW MUCH out government goes to the highest bidder. I have heard in more than one instance how this may be the biggest corruption scandal of all time and that this Republican congress is quite possibly the most corrupt in US history. Politicians of both parties are ditching all their Abramoff note pads, pens and book bags in the hopes that the spin the bottle of corruption doesn't stop at them.

Consider just whom was cozying up to Tommy Boy.

$1M in 1998 from a London law firm channeled from two Russian Oil execs.
500K in 1998 qnd 1999 from textile firms in the Mariana Islands
250K from the Mississippi Choctaw and of American Indians. It was the funnelling of Indian casino cash that started this downslide.
$2.5M in donations from the 'US Family Network' an 'organization' which used its 'donation' to attack Democrats. That's the ticket: Avoid the real issue by attacking those who are asking the questions.

The Democrats were overthrown when their hands got dirty after 40 years in power. Gotta hand it to the efficiency of the GOP, it only took them 10 years. Lies about the war, secrecy about energy policy and the struggles of the middle class, so 2006 should be a watershead year for the truth, with both the Abramoff investigations heating up and the Ken 'what did he really know about energy policy' Lay and the Enron scandal trial starting soon, it will probably quite an embrarrassing year for the elite in the US.

I went to see 'Wolf Creek' yesterday. Started off good, thought it might be a UFO movie, but instead it was just another torture fest, which there are getting to be woefully too many of these. All in all it sucked.

I also joined Blockbuster for now so I can beginning watching (or re-watching) the Fox hit suspense thriller '24'. I had started watching this when I was in Vegas, but I need to get all caught up from season 1. Now that I have a recordable DVD, I can record the current season, while playing catchup.

Right now my only resolution for the New Year, having quit smoking on Oct. 1 and sometime in mid-January will be my longest contiuous stretch without a butt, is to save my quarters (I now have two NEW piggy banks to fill) and buy myself an Apple IBook. Time to increase the horse power. Its not the ideal machine, but it will have all the software necessary to start doing Podcasts. (Pig casts).

Of course, I do not know what the new year holds especially in light of the thinning of the retail herd now that the holidays are finally over.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Afghanistan blog; Bring Out Your Dead

The other war: The 2001 attacks led to the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Remember Afghanistan? To ensure that you don't forget the 'other war', I have posted a link to a soldier's blog from Sparks, NV. who is stationed in Afghanistan. It is called All Along the Watchtower. Now that we've begun another orbit around the Sun, let's not forget those who are serving in an area that does not get the same media focus as does the other troubled hotspot, Iraq. Keep up the good work and arrive home safely, warriors!

A tradition in the Unitarian Church at the beginning of the new year is to remember all those who have 'crossed over' during the previous year. It's what I call the Bring Out Your Dead List.

Herewith is the list for 2005:

Beauregard, Terry (Chris' Mom)
Pooler, Anna (Bruce's Mom)
Mollie, the 'You Pet, I Pee' pooch of Bruce and Rozz.

Chisolm, Shirley - First Black Woman elected to Congress
Kennedy, Rosemary - Mentally handicapped sister of President Kennedy
Woods, Rose Mary - Nixon's secretary, famous for erasing part of the Watergate tape in an incredible Yoga Move. Accident? Yeah right.
Carson, Johnny - Therrrre goes Johnny

Davis, Ossie
Miller, Arthur - 'Death of a Salesman'
Dee, Sandra
Thompsron, Hunter S. - gonzo Journalist, inspiration for Doonesbury's 'Duke'

Kennan, George F. Historian, author of "Russia and the West". Yes, I've read it.
Cochran, Johnny - defense attorney of murderer OJ Simpson
Perdue, Frank - Chicken rival of Colonel Sanders. Game of chicken, anyone?
Schiavo, Terry - she fnally finds peace

Pope John Paul II - Biggest death of the Year
Bellow, Saul
Prince Rainier - husband of the late Grace Kelley and head of the 'non-state' of Monaco

Rodino, Peter - NJ Congressman who led Nixon's impeachment
Albert, Eddie - Green Acres

Bancroft, Anne
Kilby, Jack - creator of the integrated circuit (1958)

Vandross, Luther "Dance with My Father", "Here and Now"
Nelson, Gaylord - Wisconsis Senator, founder of Earth Day
Stockdale, James - "Where AM I" Vice President candidate behind Ross Perot
Gray, L. Patrick - FBI Director during Watergate
Westmoreland, General William
Doohan, Doohan - He's been beamed up, Scotty

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia - just one of many princes
Jennings, Peter - surprise lung cancer death
Bel Geddes, BArbara - Miss Ellie on Dallas
Moog, Robert - creator of the synthesizer
van Andel-Schipper, Hendrikje - world's oldest person, 115 years, 2 months amd 1 day

Denver, Bob - "Gilligan"
Chief Justice William Rehnquist
Adams, Don - "Maxwell Smart"
Motley, Constance Baker - first black female Federal Judge

Parks, Rosa - she refused to go to the back of the bus and statred the modern civil rights movement
Edwards, Ralph - "This Is Your Life"
Morita, Pat - wax on. wax off, permanently off now

McCarthy, Eugene - anti-war campaign toppled Johnson
Pryor, Richard - sets himself on fire cooking cocaine
Proxmire, Willaima - Wisconsin Senator known for his 'Golden Fleece' awards about government waste
Spencer, John - "West Wing" and "LA Law"
Anderson, Jack -muckracking journalist
Gigante, Vincent 'The Chin' - Mob boss.

As we remember them...

December totals

I've had a few hits to this blog during the month of December, which is cool considering a haven't written much last month. Here is the roll call:

US States: AL, CA (San Luis Obispo, Mountain View, Encinitas, Pasadena, Corona, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, San Diego), CO (multiple), IL, IA (Welcome!), KY, MD, MA (Franklin, Beverly, No. Carver, Millville, Everett, Weymouth), MI, NJ (2), NY, PA (multiple), RI (multiple), TN (multiple), TX (multiple) and WA.

Foreign: England (multiple), France (multiple), Braxil (2), Spain, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada (Ontario -2) and Hungary.

Its been a piggish Christmas. I got 2 piggy banks, one ceramic and the other heavy plastic (one with antlers - a Christmas Pig) and one was a Ballerina Pig. I also got a lantern and a sleeping bag for the coming camping season.

Happy 2006! Its GOTTA be better than 2005.