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Monday, September 29, 2008

The Economy


Yeah.

By now, you're feeling as nervous as...well, we all are.

The Dow was down more than 300 points in late morning trading Monday but fell more than 700 points in late-afternoon trading after the House failed to pass the bailout bill.

If there is a light in the darkness, we can't see it yet. So obviously there is a lot of danger, no matter which way we sail. And financial institutions like Wachovia aren't out of danger yet.

The good news is that (astonishingly) the dollar rallied and looked a little better than the Euro, which seems to indicate that the market feels the dollar is still a better investment. However, an expert has said that the move into the dollar and bonds Monday isn't as much a flight to quality as it is a "flight to refuge."

I hope this continuing difficulty signals the McCain campaign that the bailout isn't enough: Obviously, the war is a very bad hobby to continue to indulge in. If we want to protect ourselves and our investments, then the protection needs to start at home.

At home, we can shore up our border defense and ferret out the illegal aliens (some of whom are undoubtedly terrorists). At home, we can put our soldiers to work a little closer to their families. At home, the slaughter of our troops will not continue at the same pace that it is now. At home, the defense of American interests becomes a little more plausible.

The government needs to get it's priorities straight. Until people demand accountability and true leadership, that will never happen. And up to this point, the people have not really spoken, or we would not have the two poor candidates that we have now.

We are left with two weak candidates: One is an inexperienced socialist, and the other is too much of an experienced Washington insider. Neither one is equipped to drag our country out of this quagmire.

At this point, even Ron Paul is starting to look good.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Women's Roles in the Workplace

I recently went to a local company and spent three hours lecturing on the topic of workplace etiquette, which includes dress, behavior and sexual harassment.

The company is just starting up but, as with all start-ups, they are growing and people are being introduced daily who will always have the potential to put the company in a liable position if ground rules aren't laid out and abided by.

So, I was asked to do an hour's presentation and provide additional materials which employees would need to sign in order to establish a base level of understanding.

Sadly, the employees who needed the workshop the most were the employees who were noticeably absent. They will not be allowed to return to work until they read and sign the policies.

During the workshop, employees would chime in with various comments and suggestions. Every one had something valuable to contribute, and I considered it to be a huge success as it got everyone talking and more aware of potential problems and difficulties.

But I found it sad when one sweet woman quietly confided that she has eczema and can't wash everyone's dishes. She said it reluctantly, as if admitting a failure. And when trash duty was mentioned, it was determined that everyone would take turns although another woman willingly volunteered to do it for everyone.

Why is it assumed by so many women (and men) that the women in the workforce must act as surrogate mothers or servants?

I quickly put a stop to that, telling everyone that they must be responsible for cleaning their own cups and dishes, and cleaning up for themselves. As for trash duty, everyone needed to take a turn. I also pulled the women aside later and let them know that as the company is being established, the last thing they want to do is to create a role of servitude in the work place.

All the men that were present have excellent reputations, and are very fair-minded, educated and practical. They would not have taken advantage of these women, but others would.

I realize that women are supposed to be equal in the workplace, and firmly believe it can be done. But it cannot be done when women are willing to settle for less.

And they wonder why there still isn't equal pay for equal work.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Job Lingo

In the spirit of my ongoing job search, I have discovered some terms over the last couple of months that I would like to explain to others who may also be searching for that perfect job. (I am looking for a variety of jobs right now, but the sales jobs' patter really stands out).

1. "...you must have a desire and truly believe in yourself."

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "...because we don't know or believe in you. This is straight commission, and frankly we don't even believe in our own product, or we'd pay you a base salary."

2. "Must be an energetic self-starter."

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "...because we aren't here to motivate you. Heck, none of us here are motivated. What? You think you're special?!"
3. "Average Rep makes $150,000 Top Rep makes $300,000."

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "...in our dreams. Boy, you'd better hope that no one else is selling electric juicers from door to door, and with any luck there'll be an electric juicer shortage like no one's ever seen before."
4. "No previous experience needed! Will train!"

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "...because even a trained monkey can do a good enough half-assed job of selling this product, and we don't expect to pay you in anything more than bananas."

5. "Must be able to lift at least 50 lbs."

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "...because the last guy is out on workers comp due to a newly developed hernia."
6. "You CAN work this job from your home. I do. You will need a computer and phone to be effective. And you will need to be self motivated."

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "In fact, you need to be very self motivated and pretty self deceiving as well. We're hoping you'll work for us for very little money until you get burned out and go back to selling Avon again."
7. "We are looking for a hunter..."

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "...because we can't be bothered to pay for any real job leads or lists for you. Good luck out there! Hit the pavement, and start banging on doors."
8. "Professional salespeople wanted to sell a product that everybody wants and needs."

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "Who wouldn't want to keep their bowels cleansed? This fiber additive is a sure-fire seller!"
9. "Find new opportunities through proactive cold-calling of a target list (50-100 calls per day)"

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "We're too cheap to hire any telemarketers, so get used to being chained to your desk."

10. "Smoke & drug FREE work place."

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "Of course we have to say that to keep our worker's comp. After your initial drug test, feel free to party 'till you drop. If you come to work smelling like pot or if we find you sleeping in the broom closet, we might be forced to drug test you. So make sure you shower every morning and drink a pot of coffee on your way to work."

11. "Background check."

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "We will look into your credit report, too. We know your credit history really tells us very little about your job performance, but we want to have something to laugh about in the break room after the interview."

12. "If you have a rockin' attitude we want to talk to you. Have fun, make money..."

HIDDEN ADDENDUM: "We're really hoping that if we seem cool enough, and you get to wear jeans, you'll be willing to settle for less than minum wage as you walk door-to-door selling travel packages to old ladies in mobile home parks."

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Benefits of Taking a Lower Income Job

If you can and do read, listen to the radio, or watch the news, you've heard how much our economy is trembling over the abyss of a depression (at best). To my surprise, not everyone is informed about this, however.

I was at a local JC Penney store this weekend and found some great deals. I mentioned that it was wonderful to find such prices in this economy. The single mom who was ringing me up blithely said she had no time for the news, and didn't know what I was talking about.

She lives shielded behind work, kids, and the latest reality TV shows. She'll only know of the impact when she gets laid off, or the school supplies are ringing up at a higher rate than before, or if Hollywood suddenly goes bankrupt.

She apparently hasn't been fazed by the increased grocery bill yet, but perhaps she's on government assistance. She did say she was voting for Barack Obama, but only because he was cute and he was "a brother". His stance on issues is unimportant, apparently. I believe she is representative of the general mentality of the majority of the electorate. The dumbing down of America has been successfully achieved.

Yet she has a job while those of us who are looking for meaningful work are having a hard time even getting a rejection letter, let alone an interview.

One of the places I use for my job search is The Ladders. Along with that membership comes a regular newsy little email. In today's advisory email, we are told:

"In a typical year, U.S. employers hire about 4 million people at the $100K+ level. In boom times, that can get as high as 4.5 million. In a recession, it drops to 3.2 million or a little more. That certainly is a big swing, but when you realize there are still 3.2 million chances in a bad year, I hope you’ll agree with me that the situation is not completely hopeless."
That sounds enheartening until you realize that if there are 4 to 4.5 million jobs available in that bracket per year during a healthy economy, it's a pretty sure bet that they get filled. I'm certain that Bill Gates doesn't sit around during such times, idly asking his advisors why certain top job spots haven't been filled that year.

So realistically, the competition will be fiercer, and overqualified people will be settling for jobs in which every conversation ends with "Would you like a hot apple pie with that?"

However, there is always a benefit to finding such a job if they'll take you. That is, if you can beat out all the illegal aliens who are willing to take the job for less pay under the table.

Benefits to Getting a Lower Income Job

1. Usually there are less demands on our intellect. This gives us time to work on the books we never wrote, or take up a hobby or foreign language at night. Basket weaving might be a good trade to learn, as baskets and straw hats can be sold on street corners.

2. There is less stress, as there's less responsibility. We can leave the stress to those manic fast food managers who worry about the consistency of every milkshake and the color of every french fry. All we have to do is find out if that rotund fast food junkie wants to Biggie Size it.

3. We can enrich our lives by doing something we've never done before. How many people can say that they've scrubbed out a nightclub bathroom after a long night of debauchery with puddles of puke and streams of urine? Soon we'll have tales to tell that can be passed down to our children's children of Grandma's Interesting Job during the Great Depression Redux.

4. We can learn to value what we have. I remember my grandmother's tales of how she only had one pair of panties and one bra during the Great Depression. She would wash them out every night and wear them again the next morning, even if they weren't fully dried. For the rest of us, some slightly tattered underwear will be a valued object as long as we have more than one pair to rotate through.

5. We will eat healthier. Or we won't eat at all. But since most Americans are overweight, this will fix our growing health crisis. Of course the next health crisis may be scurvy, but we'll deal with that when we come to it.

6. We will get closer to nature by finding it, killing it, and learning to cook it. And roadkill will always be an option as well (there will be the added benefit of our roads being cleaner).

7. There will be less landfill and garbage produced, as we learn to recycle everything that we can use. Juice cartons can be used for tinder in case we can't pay the electric bill. Plastic containers can catch the rainwater if we can't pay our water bill, either.

I'm sure there are many additional benefits, and I would welcome any and all contributions to this list.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Our Local Mortgage Scandal

Meet Lori Polin. Her flashing white smile, chipmunk cheeks, and highschool cheerleader looks are displayed on every bit of sales literature you can find, in typical real estate broker style.

I've never met Lori, as she moves about in the Hillsborough County community, which differs greatly from the Pinellas County one. Even though we're sister counties, we're miles apart. But when you look at her site and read today's St. Pete Times story, you feel like you know her well. In fact, you know her so well that you immediately want to go take a shower to rid yourself of some of that grime that seems to rub off from the newsprint.

Lori's brilliant smile also apparently conceals a scheming mind. She helped some local real estate speculators to cash in on the ebullient mortgage market between 2005 and 2007, by selling them homes that were inflated far above the market price.

The men would approach Lori and offer her a price far above the asking price, and she would happily sell it to them. Again and again and again. No questions asked, according to Lori, of course. She seems to posess a remarkably incurious mind for someone who has been repeatedly named a top ReMax realtor.

Then the men defaulted on the loans, pocketing vast sums of money in the process, and adding their own two cents' worth to the burgeoning mortgage crisis.

Now the Florida Attorney General has slapped a lawsuit on 25 people involved in this scam. Lori "...is not named as a defendant because real estate agents are exempted from the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act under which the others are being sued," reports the Times.

How convenient.

I am a political moderate. I am also very far from perfect, as most of us are. But knowing this, I acknowledge that deep down inside of us is a turgid, seething little Id always more concerned about the state of ourselves than the state of others.

That is why the classic Republican model of Trickle Down Economics and laissez faire business practices is so highly impractical. Ultimately, we are driven by self-interest. Some of us fight against this on a daily basis, and some of us embrace this.

We cannot rely on others to have our best interests at heart. That's why AIG, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have floundered. That's why many more financial institutions are hovering at the precipice.

Once you remove fences, cattle wander. Once you remove imposed boundaries, businesses and people are prone to wander as well. That rule applies both professionally and personally.

We walk a fine line between too much and too little government. There are some areas in which the government is not needed. But without societal rules and laws, people will push the boundaries beyond all decency. That's human nature, and human nature is something that all politicians on both sides like to forget. They pretend it doesn't exist, burying it's distasteful existence as one would bury a putrescent zombie that refuses to lay down and die.

If someone worries about their fellow man, they are a rarity. They also cannot be counted on to continue to do so on a consistent basis.

That's why the government takes care of doling out public assistance, paving the roads, ensuring that we have parks for our children to play in, and beaches to walk on. Because if it were up to Big Business, every park would become a parking lot, every beach a hotel, and the needy in our society would be sitting at every street corner, begging for their next meal.

In my opinion, this extends to healthcare as well. The insurance companies are in business to make money. That means minimal pay-outs, minimal care, and maximum profit. And doesn't that make sense? Of course it does! They have stockholders to answer to.

And that's why we need federal regulations on the healthcare and financial sectors. The reason we are having the problems we are having now are due to the lack of regulations we currently have.

This is the reason that AIG fell. This is the reason that the other financial institutions have fallen or are teetering on the edge. This is the reason why Lori and her cohorts successfully defrauded the system for so long. And this is the reason why the Republicans are sometimes wrong, and the Democrats are sometimes right.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Troopergate Press Release

Here is a very interesting release from the spokesperson for the McCain-Palin Campaign. I think it's worth reading, as I haven't seen it released in the media yet.

OPENING STATEMENT AT MCCAIN-PALIN PRESS CONFERENCE
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA

September 15, 2008

Good afternoon. I'm Meghan Stapleton spokesperson for the McCain Palin Campaign, alongside Spokesman Ed O'Callaghan.

We're here today to reveal compelling evidence that confirms what Governor Palin has stated all along that the reassignment of Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan had absolutely NOTHING to do with Trooper Mike Wooten and EVERYTHING to do with Commissioner Monegan's adamant refusal to join in Governor Palin's fiscal reforms.

After weeks of enduring Senator Hollis French's repeated, reckless statements in the press about a tainted, partisan, legislative investigation, that has been hijacked by Senator French and other Barack Obama operatives here in Alaska, the truth is finally laid bare. Today, we are here to release new information that exonerates Governor Palin, and demonstrates Commissioner Walt Monegan's egregious insubordination led to his early dismissal and nothing else.

We are not here today to rehash all the details of Trooper Wooten. We know his record: He was found guilty by a Trooper review board of tasering his 10-year old stepson; drinking while driving his patrol car; and illegally killing a moose. He also threatened to kill the Governor's father. You know the rest of the details. You know that he continues to threaten the Wasilla community with his poor judgment, and he is a constant threat to this family as the Troopers have continued to ensure that his Trooper post covers Wasilla and is within blocks of the family's homes.

But that's Trooper Wooten. Today is about Commissioner Walt Monegan. And why he was removed from his position as Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.
Today, the Governor's attorney filed a motion before the Personnel Board and included numerous emails which prove the Governor did nothing wrong.

The facts are really quite simple. From the Fall of 2007 through mid-2008, Commissioner Monegan repeatedly tried to undermine the Governor's authority by working against her and the administration over the Department of Public Safety's budget.

As everyone knows, this Governor came into office on a reform platform and one of her principal accomplishments has been to reduce wasteful spending. Commissioner Monegan refused to abide by this fiscal reform policy. One of the governor's top Department of Public Safety priorities was to fill as many as 56 trooper vacancies, but the Commissioner re-routed dollars away from these positions and into his own chosen areas of funding.

Last fall, Commissioner Monegan proposed a 10-year strategic plan that committed state dollars and removed the governor's constitutional budget authority; he also traveled to Washington, DC to lobby Congress for federal earmarks without the Governor's knowledge; and then finished off the year by engineering a press conference that included his friend Senator Hollis French to present the department's own budget, just days ahead of the Governor's reform budget.

Monegan continued his obstructionist conduct through the first half of 2008. Early on he publicly requested reinstatement of budget money the Governor previously vetoed. Think about that: One of the Governor's own cabinet members publicly contradicting her veto decision!? And in repeated emails among the governor's staff and the Commissioner's staff, Commissioner Monegan's brazen refusal to follow the appropriate interdepartmental channels to request more money was obvious.

The final straw came in late June and early July of this year when Commissioner Monegan arranged for yet another unauthorized trip to Washington, DC to request more financial assistance from Congress.

The bottom line is that Commissioner Monegan refused to comply with internal budget approval channels and lodged repeated requests for funding that were out of line with the other appropriation requests for every other commissioner and agency. Those are the facts leading to Walt Monegan's reassignment on July 11th. We have copied for you a set of relevant emails that were submitted to the Personnel Board today.

Make no mistake, as a political appointee, Mr. Monegan served at the pleasure of the Governor and was duty-bound to execute the Governor's policy objectives. After eight months of repeatedly ignoring the Governor's budget priorities, making public statements that directly challenged the Governor's policy agenda, and taking numerous unilateral actions in conflict with the Governor in support of his own policy agenda, his replacement in July 2008 should have come as no surprise and cannot now seriously be questioned. Absolutely no credence should be given to any Ethics Complaint against the Governor for her appropriate exercise of her executive discretion under this set of facts.

It is important to note that Commissioner Monegan and John Cyr, the head of the police union who filed a Complaint against the Governor before the Personnel Board, and who appeared with Trooper Wooten on a recent CNN interview, repeatedly changed their stories as to why Monegan was dismissed. While at first Monegan had no idea, John Cyr actually talked about budget differences.

And they stuck to those lines until Mike Wooten had another child custody battle a few days after Monegan's dismissal and threatened the Governor's sister Molly at that time, saying "You guys are going down. Get ready for the show." Molly called 911 that evening, but no one came to her aid, as Wooten actually predicted.

So the immediate assessments of Monegan and Cyr began to morph into an evolution of excuses and repeated retractions by Monegan, Wooten, and Cyr. And they enlisted blogger Andrew Halcro to launch their smear campaign against Governor Palin.

In fact, Mike Wooten met Andrew Halcro for drinks at a hotel bar for more than 3 hours, and concocted the malicious scheme to fulfill the threats made to Molly. Hours later, Andrew Halcro posted a blog that lodged the first accusation of Wooten's involvement in Monegan's reassignment. Later that day, John Cyr held a press conference, retracting his early insistence that this was budget related and switching to the Wooten story, though it takes Commissioner Monegan at least another day to retract his initial statement and blame Wooten.

The following Tuesday, July 21, 2008: Hollis French and Walt Monegan appeared on a radio show together and talked about getting an aggressive prosecutor to prove the existence of "a complex crime". French stated that he was "angry" that his friend Walt Monegan got fired. Remember, Hollis French was the same Senator who supported the budget proposal that sought to undermine Govenor Palin, and Walt Monegan was the Palin cabinet member who publicly sided with French against the Governor on that important policy decision.

And thus the genesis of what turned into a partisan effort to take down the Governor. The bar room banter turned into a full-blown Legislative investigation spearheaded by Monegan's friend and well-known Obama supporter Hollis French, and overseen by another Obama supporter Chairman Kim Elton, who contributed $2,250 to the Obama campaign.

Time after time, a new excuse, a new statement, more stories about what happened. And it only grew once Senator John McCain asked Governor Sarah Palin to join him on August 29th as his running mate.

That day, former Commissioner Monegan actually told the Anchorage Daily News during an interview. For the record, no one ever said fire Wooten. Not the Governor. Not Todd. Not any of the other staff.

But that same day, the Democrat machine also kicked into gear. This is when Obama and his campaign inserted itself into Alaska politics, and the political circus became even worse. Within no time, one-time supporters of the Governor who worked alongside the Governor to produce reform and accomplishments in Alaska, turned on her, alongside party lines. And Commissioner Monegan prepared to change his story yet again, saying for the first time that he was told his budget would be cut if Wooten retained his job. In early September, CNN reported that the Obama campaign reached out to John Cyr. During that time, Senator Hollis French appeared in the national media pre-judging the outcome of the investigation which had only just begun.

And as many of you heard last Friday, it was revealed that "independent" prosecutor Steven Branchflower allowed Senator French to tamper with the witness subpoena list, even though French pledged to not be involved. Branchflower now says that he will complete his "factfinding" by the end of this week and put out a report by October 10 at the latest. No serious, impartial investigator and no serious prosecutor would ever make such reckless predictions.

Having spoken to the Governor as recently as yesterday, I can personally tell you that Governor Palin is an open book and has absolutely nothing to hide.

This Governor is transparent and honest. I cannot emphasize that enough. This Governor has called for transparency and honesty, and the Democrats are on a smear campaign. The Personnel Board is the ONLY agency charged by law with addressing complaints concerning ethical issues, including hiring and firing matters involving the Governor. The legislature's investigation no longer resembles a fair inquiry and does not have proper jurisdiction. And given all that has developed, the Personnel Board is also the only place to go to ensure the facts are protected from the political circus that has come to Anchorage. And recently, even the Trooper union has acknowledged the role of the personnel board.

Governor Palin has been an open book in this case and has acted with the highest standards of ethics.

Ed O'Callaghan and I are happy to take questions now.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Problems Heating Up for the Candidates

If you haven't seen the Tina Fey impersonation of Sarah Palin, you're missing a treat.



Now that Sarah Palin's been in the running for a couple of weeks, how is she looking?

Well, as the Charlie Gibson interview showed, there are still some questions left unanswered. Before I go any further, I say to all my Republican friends that I do believe that Gibson was very snide and patronizing when he was quizzing her about the Bush Doctrine, and yes - his interview was unfair when you compare it to the fluff piece he did for Barack Obama.

But that doesn't make it wrong.

Gibson should go back and apply these newfound journalistic standards to Obama once more, who deserves to be vetted the same way. Obama has plenty of flaws to be exposed.

However, as Mary Matalin pointed out, Gibson asked many good questions and I think he would have been remiss to omit them.

And some questions remain. Although Palin originally said she'd cooperate with the "Troopergate" investigation going on in her own state, she's apparently applying the brakes now. And I still am not satisfied with some of the answers she gave Gibson. On the other hand, she joins legions of politicians and is no worse than the Clintons or Obama in her ability to justify and backpedal.

As for Barack Obama, he still has the ugliness of Jeremiah Wright to contend with. In my humble opinion, he and his wife have shown themselves to have racist tendencies. Yes, it can be excused away by saying that many black people are naturally prejudiced because they've been subjected to it all their lives. I would disagree with that excuse, but even if it's a valid one, it's hardly acceptable for anyone at the helm to have such prejudice churning away in the back of their mind.

For instance, say this election was after WW2, and a Japanese American who had been imprisoned in an American internment camp was running for President. Suppose he had a natural anger against the government and the leaders who had placed his family there. Say it metamorphosed into outright prejudice against all white people. It would be understandable (more understandable than the current black culture's resentment) but would he be fit to govern our country?

The answer would be "no" then, as it is "no" right now.

I grant you that it is impossible to separate the human from the human experience. But unlike that Japanese American, modern black Americans have not been subject to the same treatment. Therefore, the modern anti-"other race" attitude that so many of them share is a puzzle to the modern non-black American.

I do not deny that prejudice against blacks still exists in the minds of some Americans. However, I do deny that it exists in the proportion that many black extremists claim. And among these black extremists resides Jeremiah Wright, close friend and mentor for Barack Obama.

I have a close friend who is black. Due to spreading cancer and her medications, she has declined from being a close friend to being a friend who is consumed with a growing belief that prejudice exists everywhere.

In the last year, she has reported a former employer for discrimination to the government. She has claimed that every past employer was either racist and/or sexist. In March, she claimed that a couple of white guys in a truck had pursued her, shouting racial slurs and she had an elaborate story of how the police pulled them over as she drove away. I checked with every police department in the county, and every one of them verified that the incident never happened.

In other words, she now sees racism peering out of every eye that looks her way.

Why has she regressed like this? Because it's the way she was raised. Throughout her life she has been surrounded by a black culture that primarily defines itself as merely the opposite of white. She used to decry this negative culture. But, despite common sense and a full life, she has fallen back into the comfort zone. And this will cause problems for her, as she's married to a white man. Her white friends are pulling away and she sits at home, stewing in hate.

I love my friend, but she is not fit to be President of the United States. Perhaps she never was.

And for that same reason, we need to start asking ourselves the tough questions about Barack Obama. Will his covert racism affect his decision making abilities?

And, is he experienced enough? The Democrats initially started screaming that Palin isn't experienced enough. They bit their tongues the moment that people began to point out that Obama is just as (or less) experienced.

Another problem for Obama is that the rest of the world wants him. Americans see themselves as being superior to the rest of the world, just as the rest of the world believes itself to be superior to Americans. National pride is natural. But this is working against Obama, as many Americans feel that he will favor other nations over our own, which will be greatly to our detriment.

I had high hopes for Hillary Clinton. And, before I knew him better, I had high hopes for Obama. But when I weigh out all the candidates, I find them all to be featherweights. And I remain unhappy with our choices.

Americans deserve quality politicians on both sides, so that any choice will be better than the current administration. Until we get some real answers, there is little hope for any of them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Employment Scammers

I recently wrote a piece on The Vanara Scam. Since then, I've had some entertaining brushes with more scammers, and I felt that it might be time to compile a list to perhaps aid other suckers out there who are looking for employment as well. I will continue to write about such scams when I encounter them.

Career Network, Inc.

These guys advertise for a position that might entice you. When you’re gullible enough to sign up with them (as I admit that I was), they write to you the next day to tell you that they think you just might get that job if you’ll simply fill out some additional information.

If you go to their site, you’ll find the additional information they want is five references, with as much information as you can give them about these references, including name, title, company, and email address. If you’re fool enough to give them this information (I wasn’t), I’m sure these people will be targeted for all sorts of scam mail.

The Federal Trade Commission slapped their hands so hard that they’re still sporting bruises. To read more about that, go here.

Additional information can be found about them on Rip Off Report.

Phoenix Promotions

Although they claim in their standardly issued emails and on various job boards that “Phoenix Promotions, Inc. has been working with clients from various Non-Profits and Charities nationwide,” they can only name one, which is a little-known children’s charity.

They also state:

We are looking to fill positions in:

Marketing
Promotional Sales
Product Demonstrator
Team Manager/Coordinator
Public Relations
Management

This is a complete lie.

I went to an interview, and found myself sitting in a dank room sloppily painted in an odd version of royal blue. It was hot, and the greasy young secretary behind the scratched-up desk was blaring rock music at such appalling levels that it was difficult to have a conversation with anyone there. Periodically she’d tire of one of the raucous songs and switch to another equally raucous one.

Most of the applicants that sat there looked vacantly at the various mold spots in the carpeting, as they continued to uncomfortably adjust to the cheap, hard conference room chairs while they waited.

Different ‘employees’ pranced through the waiting room at various times. One chubby girl who was in charge of the enterprise made quite an impression, although I doubt it was the impression she intended to make. She was in her very early twenties and squeezed into an unprofessional outfit of a tight t-shirt and Capri shorts which were at least one size too small for her. She tottered about on heels, giggling with the secretary at one point, and then dramatically disappearing into the inner recesses with a flamboyant wave.

This was a professional marketing group?!

The mature woman next to me looked equally unimpressed. When it was her turn to be led away for the interview, she was gone for no more than five minutes before she returned, looking disgusted, and mouthed “good luck!” to me as she left.

I was the only one left in the waiting room at this point. The man who’d been interviewing her went up to the secretary, retrieved my resume, and said jovially “Now then, would you be SaurKraut?” I looked into the pale, watery eyes of a consummate used car salesman.

He was fat, but it was the kind of hard fat you see on young men who eat well. He was pasty and sweaty, with a buzz cut and painful looking pimples peppered all over his face. His thick neck was stuffed into a tight blue shirt collar. His violently colored tie was atrocious, and he had no suit jacket. I would estimate he was in his late twenties.

I admitted that I was Saur, and reluctantly trailed him to his office, which was painted a hideous mustard yellow. This proves that Phoenix Promotions isn’t a marketing firm, as any self-respecting marketing firm knows that yellow is the most irritating color you could ever paint a room. More fights break out in yellow kitchens than in any other room in the home. You use yellow for warning signs or as an attention grabber, but you use it sparingly.

He proceeded to ask me questions that were destined to lead me down a certain path. They were all obvious questions, such as “Do you want to make money?” and “Do you want the chance to do good?” and “If you could have an opportunity that would lead to a management career, wouldn’t you want to take it?” I answered yes reservedly to all the questions, as I looked for the exit.

Finally I interrupted him and asked “What kind of money are we talking about, here? This is straight commission only, isn’t it?”

“Why yes,” he said. “At first you can only expect to make $200 a week or so. But if you keep your eye on the ball, and you stay focused, and you do what you’re supposed to do, you’ll have an excellent chance at promotion! Why, look at me! I’ve been with this company for three years, and for the last year-and-a-half I’ve been on this side of the cushy desk!”

He patted the desktop with pride.

He also added that there are never any other positions. Everyone has to start at ground zero.

So I’d have to work a year and a half at less than minimum wage outdoors at various events, trying to sell key chains and other small gimmees, for the opportunity to sit in a hot mustard-colored room with spots on the floor, behind a battered desk, suckering others with the same lines in the hopes that they’d be as gullible as I had been.

Wow. What a career opportunity.

I left as quickly as I could, after asking him why he’d bother to invite someone with my credentials to come in for an interview. Even people who sling burgers at McDonald’s make more money!

“Well,” he said patronizingly, “We’ve had people with higher degrees work for us before.”

“Not for long,” I retorted, as I headed out the door.

WH International

WH International is owned by Geoff Coy, who in the past has also owned the Geoff Coy Management Group. This is a group that has or is currently being sued in various states for taking gullible peoples’ money (anywhere from $3K and up) to ‘train’ them to be better interviewers and polish them up. When a candidate fails to get a job and eventually complains, they’re told that they didn’t learn to apply all the valuable lessons that WH International made them privy to.

Currently Dan Stuecher works for WH International locally. Dan has a poor reputation at best, as he’s a defrocked minister who formerly was the flamboyant preacher of Harborside Christian Church in Safety Harbor, FL, until he decided to have a very public affair which ended his career fleecing the flock, and sent him in another direction. He now fleeces business candidates.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pickle Soup

I have discovered a taste treat that sounds absolutely awful: Pickle Soup.

It's a Polish dish served at a local Polish restaurant here in Clearwater called Piramida. The reason a Polish restaurant is sporting an Egyptian name is due to the owner's eccentric obsession with the Egyptian culture. However, he sticks to good old Polish home cooking.

Piramida is an eclectic little restaurant, whose owner used to jump about outside dressed in a hotdog suit until he was repeatedly fined and ticketed by the City of Clearwater, which felt that his antics didn't enhance the resort town image they are trying to encourage.

But despite the odd reputation, Piramida's food is amazing.

They only make Pickle Soup when the cook is so inspired, so the chances of ever getting a taste of it are slim-to-none. This is in spite of the fact that customers are constantly requesting it, according to the waitresses there.

The first time I heard of it was when I walked into the restaurant and saw scrawled on the whiteboard "Pickle Soup Today". I asked about it hesitantly. After all, the concept of turning pickles into soup is far removed from how most Americans think.

I like to try new things, but Pickle Soup sounded about as appealing as Tomato Ice Cream. And yet, one year when I was a very little girl, my mom had a bumper crop of tomatoes.

What to do? What do do...?

Mom made tomato soup, tomato sauce, tomato bread, tomato paste, pickled tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, and casting about for something different, she lit upon the concept of Tomato Ice Cream.

Mom experimented in the privacy of her own home. Although she never repeated her experiment, and I don't have the recipe, Dad still says it was surprisingly good.

So, I decided to try Pickle Soup.

The waitress brought out a vat of the stuff. I'm not kidding, here. It arrived in a small mixing bowl, brimming to the top with broth, with whole potatoes hiding below.

I decided that ordering the pierogies in addition to the soup had been a great mistake.

I ate as much of the soup as I could, omitting the potatoes which seemed to merely be an interruption. And I fell in love. It's a nice light, tangy soup that works well with almost any dish.

Since then, I've gone home to experiment with different versions of Pickle Soup, and I've even called Piramida. One of the waitresses was kind enough to share their recipe with me. And now I will share my final triumph with you.

It's traditionally eaten hot, but I made some for my parents and they ate it cold (like vicchyssoise) and pronounced it divine. Of course these are the people who invented Tomato Ice Cream.

PICKLE SOUP

8 C. clear chicken broth (low salt, low fat)
2/3 to a complete large jar of Claussen Garlic Dills or the freshest dill pickles you can find (to taste)
3 - 4 Tbl. butter
3 - 4 Tbl. flour
1/2 C. or more pickle juice (to taste)
1 tsp. or more fresh dill weed (to taste)
1/2 - 1 C. non-fat sour cream (to taste)

Warm broth in large pot to a simmer. Meanwhile, take the pickles and chop them into a paste in your food processor. Stir them into the broth, and add the pickle juice. You'll have to taste this periodically to see if you find it too weak or if it's reached the point that it seems to be just about right.

In a saucepan, melt the butter, stir in the flour and brown it. Gradually add some of the soup to the mixture until the mixture itself gets soupy and you can add it back into the soup itself. This will thicken the soup nicely without making it too thick. Cook it a little longer until it gets to a thicker consistency, then remove it.

Take 1/2 C. of the sour cream and stir some of the soup mixture into it to make it a little soupier (this keeps you from getting lumps of sour cream floating in the soup), and then add it to the soup itself. Taste. If it seems like it needs some more sour cream, add it.

Serves about 6.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Carnage in Orissa, India

To show that terrorists aren't only bloodthirsty Muslims who kill in the name of their god, we have the current situation in Orissa, India where Hindus are on a bloody rampage, killing Christians in the name of their god, Rama.

A missionary friend of my parents sent us a chilling email. In it, he writes:

A militant Hindu priest and 4 of his attendants, who were zealously going around the villages of Orissa and "reconverting" people back to Hinduism, were gunned down by unknown assailants in Central Orissa last weekend. Immediately the Christians were blamed. The cry rose up..."Kill the Christians!"

And the horror began....In the past 4 days, we have first hand witness to hundreds of churches being blown up or burned and many, many dozens of Christian tribals have been slaughtered. For no other reason than they bear the name of Christ.

Night and day I have been in touch with our Good News India Directors spread across 14 Dream Centers in Orissa... they are right in the middle of all this chaos.

In Tihidi, just after the police came to offer protection, a group of 70 blood-thirsty militants came to kill our staff and destroy the home. They were not allowed to get in, but they did a lot of damage to our Dream Center by throwing rocks and bricks and smashing our gate, etc. They have promised to come back and "finish the job." Our kids and staff are locked inside and have stayed that way with doors and windows shut for the past 3 days. It has been a time of desperately calling on the Lord in prayer.

More police have come to offer protection. In Kalahandi, the police and some local sympathizers got to our dream center and gave our staff and kids about 3 minutes notice to vacate. No one had time to even grab a change of clothes or any personal belonging. As they fled, the blood thirsty mob came to kill everyone in the building. We would have had a mass funeral there, but for His grace.

In Phulbani, the mob came looking for Christian homes and missions. The local Hindu people, our neighbors turned them away by saying that there were no Christians in this area. So they left. We had favor. The same thing happened in Balasore.

All our dream centers are under lock down with the kids and staff huddled inside and police outside. The fanatics are circling outside waiting for a chance to kill. Others were not so fortunate. In a nearby Catholic orphanage, the mob allowed the kids to leave and locked up a Priest and a computer teacher in a house and burned them to death. Many believers have been killed and hacked into pieces and left on the road.... even women and children.

At another orphanage run by another organization, when this began, the Director and his wife jumped on their motorbike and simply fled, leaving all the children and staff behind. Every one of our
GNI directors that I have spoken to said: "We stay with our kids.... we live together or die together, but we will never abandon what God has called us to do."

More than 5000 Christian families have had their homes burned or destroyed. They have fled into the jungles and are living in great fear waiting for the authorities to bring about peace. But so far, no peace is foreseen. This will continue for another 10 days.... supposedly the 14 day mourning period for the slain Hindu priest. Many more Christians will die and their houses destroyed. Many more churches will be smashed down.


P.S. on 9/10/08

There is an excellent analysis of the ongoing carnage written by Prabhu Guptara here. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Federated States of Micronesia

If you live in Florida, you've encountered the Federated States of Micronesia.

How?

Well, if you fill in any online form, and you tab over to the states section and you begin to input Florida's abbreviation (FL), at the moment that you enter the "F" up pops the choice of the Federated States of Micronesia.

If you make the mistake of hitting "enter", you have to go back and hand select the state of Florida.

IT IS SO ANNOYING!!!

Since when did the Federated States of Micronesia become a state, and how come no one informed me of this any sooner?!

I know that for some of you this is the equivalent of griping about your mate leaving the top off a tube of toothpaste. But if you were job hunting and repetitively filling out forms, it might be enough to send you out of your office for a well-deserved 15 minute rant in your backyard as the nearby squirrels run off, chattering, looking backwards over their shoulders at the insane person stomping about in their backyard.

Not that I would ever do such a thing.

So I finally gave up this morning, and googled this Federated States of Micronesia. I figured that if these employers were all considering job applications from residents of this place, maybe I should get to know my competition better.

According to Wikipedia, it's a cluster of micro islands (which explains the first part of the word "Micronesia"). These islands are near Papua New Guinea. In other words, any competitors will need to get into their hand-carved bark canoes and paddle a long ways to get over here and fight me for a job.

Which gives me some relief, since the competition is fierce enough as it is without my having to fight a headhunter to get a break.

They do have pretty spiffy attire, though... So if they become a true threat, I may have to rethink my standard business suit.


Sarah Palin's Acceptance Speech

When I first heard of Sarah Palin about 6 months ago, I was quite impressed. When McCain announced her as his running mate, my friend and I were so excited that you should've seen the emails flying between us! As you know, I've posted some pretty positive thoughts about her nomination.

But let me play Devil's Advocate for a minute.

Palin has some things that may haunt her if she doesn't get spin control on top of it right away:

1. Her televised comments as Governor saying that the Iraq war is a war of God on June 8. This will smack of the Crusades to the Muslim world (this can't look good to other countries), and many conservatives such as myself do not agree with the war, nor believe it's of God.

To see it, go here.

2. Her Bridge to Nowhere claim (that she said "thanks, but no thanks") is somewhat disengenuous, as it turns out that she may not have constructed the bridge, but she sure kept the money.

To see an article on this, go here .

I would very much like it if points 1 & 2 didn't exist, but we have to be fully aware that they do. With any luck, Palin has some excellent spin doctors on her team now, so there will be decent answers that will make this only a hiccup in the campaign.

But to ignore it is dangerous, IMHO.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sarah Palin's Pregnant Daughter

LIBERAL HYPOCRISY

Today I heard the first sneering reference to Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter, Bristol, by a liberal talk show host of all people! Doesn't he realize that his party stands for teenage pregnancy without consequences, and woe betide anyone who would blame such a thing on the parents of that child?

In the liberal world view, parents are hardly responsible for their offspring's failings. In fact, no one is responsible for even their own failings. There is always an excuse, and it is always OK as long as it fits the left-wing agenda.

PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY

It will surprise many to know that I do believe that Sarah Palin has some responsibility here. But then, so does her husband. It is each and every parent's responsibility to know where their children are and what they're doing. Of course, when they reach the age of 16, kids are much harder to keep track of. We all know that.

In addition, I hardly believe that Sarah encouraged Bristol to get pregnant. "We believe in family values, dear," she would say. "Now, go get laid and,while you're at it, let me give you some pointers..."

No. I think that no one can believe that scenario for a moment.

So, we're left with the only other conclusion, which is that Sarah Palin did reasonably well in raising her kids, and Bristol decided on her own that she wanted to have sex with a boy. As a result of that choice, she is now pregnant.

BRISTOL SHOULD NOT MARRY

Many conservative pundits are roundly congratulating Bristol for her choice to marry Levi, the father of her baby.

Big mistake.

Just because a girl makes a bad choice and gets pregnant as a result of it doesn't mean that she needs to compound that choice by getting married in some attempt to justify it.

ADOPTION IS AN OPTION

If Bristol were my own child, I would encourage her to give the child up for adoption. If she were dead-set on keeping it, I would recommend that she have the baby and raise it on her own, with Levi's help. Perhaps, in a couple of years if they still find that they are compatible with each other, they can marry for the right reasons.

LEVI IS NO GREAT CATCH

Although he's very handsome (which can spark a girl's interest for all the wrong reasons), Levi has said of himself "I'm a f---in' redneck," and he has stated on his MySpace page that he doesn't want kids. I don't get the impression that Bristol will find that she has much in common with him five years from now, as she stares at him from across the breakfast table.

Can we realistically expect that Bristol will have a successful future when she is merely one child marrying another? Studies show that the human brain is only fully developed at age 25. Do we really think that two 17 year olds can get married, settle down, raise a family and grow old together?

Let's not kid ourselves. It's been done before, but the likelihood of such success is slim-to-none.

In my opinion, the Palin parents should be discouraging Bristol's marriage. Either Bristol isn't thinking clearly and truly wants this, or she's being encouraged to "become an honest woman."

PUNISHMENT BY MARRIAGE?

Bristol's already made the choice to be sexually promiscuous. Barack Obama once said that he wouldn't want his daughter to ever be "punished by a baby." Instead, are some conservatives punishing her with marriage?

Raising a child lasts for only 18 years. But a conservative marriage ideally lasts a lifetime. Are we all ready to sentence Bristol to a marriage with another child, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, when neither of them have fully developed yet?