25

Normally I’m not at a loss for words, but as I write this I truly can’t come up with anything that would come close to adequately describe how I feel today about the woman who joined me in saying “I do” 25 years ago today. What I can say is that I’m amazed that 25 years can seem to pass so quickly and yet every one of those years feel like they pack a lifetime of memories. None of those years were easy; all held days, weeks and months of ecstasy; some held weeks or months of challenges and pain; most held a dose of all of that. The result is that we stand together here on the other side of those 25 years and I love her more than I could ever imagine back when we were so young and untested.

Most people spend their lives wondering if they’ll ever experience a miracle. I wake up every morning and look into the eyes of mine. I’m truly a man who’s been blessed beyond measure.

Jon and Celeste's Wedding

I Don’t Wanna Be Anyone’s Wrapping Paper

This piece from Quillette Magazine hit home with me in so many ways, but more than anything it articulated why I’ve never registered with any political party: I simply don’t want to identified by the labels attached to the parties. Here are some excerpts that will, hopefully, outline what I mean:

Labels suck.

Conservative, liberal, progressive, libertarian, green. These words have come to mean nothing about the folk that embody them. In our era of career politicians, it would be like saying a quarterback drafted by the Oakland Raiders is irresistibly  —  unequivocally  —  a “Raider” in his style of play. He’s not; he’s just a guy throwing a ball whilst wearing their black jersey…

As a corollary, political labels seem not just irrelevant but also treacherous. The wrapping paper of your Christmas gift may delight you… it still doesn’t tell you what’s inside the box. And that, matter-of-factly, is the gift with which you’re bequeathed; the wrapping paper soon squeezed and discarded. To think, and vote, using labels grants us a false sense of security and prohibits the unmasking of (most) politicians for what they are: virtue-signalers to their base, peddling false and reductive narratives  —  often devoid of context and policy. It’s a cunning sleight of hand, abetted by the mainstream media, that leaves a great number of us agreeing with people with whom we would otherwise disagree. And the principal reason why this occurs is because of labels.

It’s not only the politicians  —  as a system  —  that are to blame for this upside-down world. It’s us all, callous bearers of that almost archaic duty: citizenship. Too often we favour the collective over the individual, group think over free thought, headlines over trends. We reflexively embrace our fellow [insert your label] without examining how we ever wound up ascribing to their “ideology” or “party.” In the practice of political faith, no matter the denomination, we are either fundamentalists or atheists. We subscribe to all the commandments or none at all. When is the last time you met a Democrat in favor of the Second Amendment or a Republican supporting abortion? Religion was once described by Christopher Hitchens as “a surrender of the mind.” Increasingly, so is political partisanship. Truth and sense, historical perspective and systemic thinking, matter less than jersey colour. We relish the chance to define and affirm our sense of self in proclaiming, say, our liberal credentials or conservative pedigree. Politics shifts from a practice (“what”) to an identity (“who”).

You don’t have to work hard to test this theory. Simply post a hot-button political story on your Facebook timeline and watch your friends react exactly as you’d expect them to based on their labels, i.e. their party affiliations. It’s truly remarkable.

kellyanne-conway-accused-of-disrespecting-the-oval-office-1

Picture linked from Piximus.net. Attributed to Brendan Smailowski/AFP

A silly non-consequential example that appeared on Facebook this week was related to the picture of Kellyanne Conway sitting on a couch in the Oval Office (see above) in what some people thought was an inappropriate way. Of course many “liberal” friends jumped all over it and then many “conservative” friends accused them of overreacting, and in the midst of that came this comment from a “conservative” that to me defined irony: “Why? Because liberals believe every photo/meme that they see on facebook is the gospel truth. That’s why.” This from a member of a group of people that spent eight years gleefully sharing every idiotic anti-Obama (including Michelle) meme you can imagine.

Here’s the thing: I have no idea if that particular “conservative” friend ever shared one of those anti-Obama memes, but she has identified herself as a member of that tribe so by default I’m assuming she did. That’s what happens when you identify yourself closely with a political party – you give people permission to assume that you believe whatever line that party is spouting. You can claim you’re an independent thinker all day long, but by raising your hand and saying “I’m a Republican” or “I’m a Democrat” you’re giving the world permission to assume that you believe everything that party espouses until you can prove otherwise. That’s why you’ll never see me join a party; I’m certain I’ll disagree with at least 25-50% of the policy positions that any party takes so I’m just not going to have my name associated with it.

As for the argument that people turn off their brains and just toe the party line, I’m pretty sure that if you asked anyone whether that’s true they would say, “Absolutely it’s true, especially with members of <insert opposite party name here>. Of course some members of <insert good guy party name here> do that too, but mostly the hard core nutjobs. Me and my friends aren’t like that.” Then they’ll fire up Facebook and start sharing idiotic memes as soon as your conversation is over.

Eugeology #8 – April Wine’s Harder Faster

Apparently Tim and Eugene were flabbergasted by my dislike of last week’s selection. Hell, I thought I was being nice by not even mentioning the ridiculous band name, but whatever Enuff was definitely not enough. Or maybe it was too much.

This week’s selection is the exact opposite of last week’s: great band name and a great album.

What’s not to love? Great vocals throughout – their background vocals are outstanding – and lots of really good guitar play from beginning to end. And there’s no feel to any of them, which is what I described in last week’s review as “gratuitous solos.” Everything just fits. Oh, and I particularly enjoyed the bass on 21st Century Schizoid Man. As the kids say these days, that *&it was tight.

I’m no expert, but to my amateur ears these guys are just a really, well, tight band. The album clocks in at around 32 minutes, so there’s no wasted motion in any of these tracks. Short, full of hooks, and as I mentioned before the vocals and guitars are just fantastic.

Eugene keeps picking albums like this one and I’ll be a very happy man.

Links & Notes

Harder Faster Wikipedia Page

April Wine Wikipedia Page

Eugene’s Take at Wheeler’s Dog

Tim’s Take at Useless Things Need Love Too

Eugeology #6 & 7 – Black Star Rider’s All Hell Breaks Loose, Enuff Z’Nuff’s Strength

Life got in the way last week so I wasn’t able to post #6 on time and now I’m playing catch up, thus the double post today. It’s gonna be short and sweet for both so here goes:

#6 Black Star Rider’s All Hell Breaks Loose

Until Eugene sent us the link to this one I’d never heard Black Star Rider and that’s a damn shame. To put it as simply as possible, these guys are bad-ass. Their style is right in my wheelhouse – guitar solos that aren’t overbearing, great bass, vocals that sound like the result of a life lived and lyrics that actually tell a story. Really, just a lot to love about this album. In fact if you asked me to provide an example of the hard rock “sound” I like I’d point you to this album.

The band is made up of some Thin Lizzy alumni, and you can definitely hear it, but to be honest I like this better than I ever remember liking any Thin Lizzy stuff. It’s been a while so I think I’m going to have to go back and listen to the old stuff to see what my new ears think.

Links & Notes

Wikipedia page for All Hell Breaks Loose

Tim’s take

Eugene’s take

#7 Enuff Z’nuff’s Strength

I think I need to just write a macro that automatically inserts “The selection this week from Eugene is another one I’ve never heard before” at the beginning of these posts because I think it will probably be true 99% of the time. That’s great for me because it means I’m being exposed to all kinds of new stuff, and I think it’s good for the project because Tim and Eugene never know what they’re going to get from me.

For this one what they’re going to get from me is my first true thumbs down. If I’d heard the first track, Heaven or Hell, on its own I’d have seen no reason to listen to another tune from these guys. It’s a pretty good representation of two things I don’t like about some hard rock: gratuitous guitar solos and vocals that seem strained or even a little whiny. As I worked my way through the album I definitely found some tracks I liked better than others, Strength among them, but none really hit home with me.

Honestly I had to work on this one. If Black Star Rider was in my wheelhouse, this one was somewhere below deck, although not in the bilge. Not one of the tracks had me thinking, “Man that was awesome, I can’t wait to hear what’s next.” It might sound simplistic, but I really think it just comes down to not liking their style and that was exemplified by my reaction to their first track. It’s not like they’re bad – I can see why Eugene has them on his list – it’s just their sound/style isn’t for me.

Links & Notes

Enuff Z’nuff – Strength Wikipedia Page

Wheeler’s Dog (Eugene’s Blog)

Useless Things Need Love Too (Tim’s Blog)

Some Thoughts About Immigration

midtownsign

The morning of February 16, 2017 I had a breakfast meeting at a restaurant in Winston-Salem. When I arrived I found a sign on the door (pictured above) announcing that the restaurant was offering a limited menu and open for limited hours due to the “A Day Without Immigrants” protest. While I’d seen something about the protest on the morning news, I hadn’t really paid attention, and to be honest I was a little surprised to discover that the protest had made it’s way to our small North Carolina city.

midtownmenu

When I got to our table I looked at the menu that the restaurant had printed for the day and on the back I found a letter to customers (pictured above, and sorry for the poor quality). After reading it I asked our server about the protest she said that the kitchen staff had talked to management the day before to let them know they were going to participate, and management had hustled to put together the limited operation so they could open their doors. After the meeting was over I headed to my car, and before leaving the parking lot I decided to post these pics and the following post to Facebook:

Had a breakfast meeting at Mid Town. They are working with a limited menu and shorter hours to support their staff who are taking part in the “Day Without Immigrants Protest.” Our server said it was just about their entire kitchen staff. Have to say I admire the folks at Mid Town for taking this route. As far as protests go I think this is a very effective approach – makes crystal clear the impact that our immigrant neighbors have on our community and economy.

Well, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that I got some feedback on the post. Some agreed, some disagreed, and as always I enjoyed the back and forth. The best feedback I received, however, was in a series of private messages from a friend who works for a company that processes chickens. He didn’t want to post his comments on my Facebook post because he didn’t want to “start a big war of words” on my post, but he did give me permission to share his perspective and so I’ve pasted some below. Please take a moment to read it, because I think his experiences and viewpoints are important to keep in mind when we discuss immigration. Here’s the first message he wrote:

Saw your post. And this might get long. Sorry.

We have been planning for this day all week. Honestly about all we have done this week.

We have 1500 workers across 10 states and are directly responsible for supplying about 20% of all the chicken consumed in the US. Our workforce is about 90% Hispanic. We (along with Tyson, Perdue, etc) have been working hard to minimize the impact on the nation’s food supply. There are several plants running at 75% and less capacity today. Some plants not operating at all.

Trust me, without the immigrant workforce, this country does not eat. It is not a matter of just a limited menu, or prices being higher. We do not eat! We have been working on utilizing the EB3 visa program to bring in workers. Long story, but basically it allows someone to come in to the country and bring their immediate family. They must work for us for 1 year. After the year is up, they are free to stay and work anywhere they want. They can stay with us if they want. Or they can go work for you.

Well, we have to prove to US Govt that we cannot get good ol’ red blooded ‘Mericans to work. So we ran a few ads on Monster, etc. We received 250+ responses for Monroe NC. We asked all of them to complete an application.

  • Of the 250, we received 15 applications. We tried to schedule interviews with all 15.
  • Of the 15, 6 replied to scheduling something.
  • Of the 6, 3 actually scheduled an interview.
  • Of the 3 scheduled interviews, 1 showed up.
  • The 1 that showed up brought in a document for us to sign that stated he had an interview so he could get his unemployment benefits. He did not want a job. All he wanted was his form signed so he can keep collecting his benefits.
  • All done we had 0 out of 250. Meanwhile we hire about 40 workers per week. But nobody named Bob, Mike, John, Brian are showing up.

This is unskilled labor. It is hard work, but unskilled. We pay about $17-$20/hour. We are not looking for the cheapest labor we can find. We are not looking to pay under the table. We need workers. These immigrants are NOT taking people’s job. They just want to work and make money and the citizens are too lazy to do these jobs.

I wish we had a pretty open worker visa program. Do a decent background check. Give them a real SSN. Allow them to work. Then we do a mandatory backup withholding of 20% for federal tax and 5% for state. Get it all above board. Tax revenue increases. From a humanitarian side, people are not being taken advantage of.

So there, in a nutshell, is the scope of the issue we’re dealing with when we talk immigration. The current administration likes to focus on building a wall to keep bad, dangerous, illegal immigrants out of our country and by doing so they are scratching the itch of many Americans who feel disenfranchised, but the reality is that we need the immigrants or we don’t eat, plain and simple. But what about the idea that these illegal immigrants are stealing Americans’ jobs? Well, my friend addressed that with the job-posting experience and after a couple of messages back and forth he expanded a bit on why many business owners might not want an effective legal immigration system:

I am adamant about getting things above board. Most of our competitors want the undocumented worker. It means that even if they pay the same net wage we do, they can operate 25% cheaper than we do.

The Hispanic community says you are “baptized” each time you get a new fake ID. Our competitors will make them new identities each year so they can evade the tax system. They will file 1099’s using a SSN for 2015. Give the guy a new name and SSN (baptize) for 2016 and file 1099. Baptize them again for 2017 and file 1099. Rinse repeat. Year after year. Nothing gets in to tax system.

If you are legal, our competitor will “baptize” you anyway because they do not want anyone legal.

Talk about making your blood boil, how does that make you feel? Pissed off, right? Now here’s something he shared that my downright scare you:

One of the things we are worried about is they do this in the late summer/fall and do it for 10+ days. Whole year of harvests of fruits/vegetables are left in fields to rot. That will prove a huge point. Or, they do not show up to harvest turkeys in late October/early November and 1/3 of all US homes do not have turkey on Thanksgiving. That will not go unnoticed. These folks know they have the US by the balls because of the food supply. They will use it in a big way at some point. Today is minor I am sure.

So here’s the deal as I see it. Building a wall and going on a massive immigrant round up might make some of us feel good, perhaps a little safer, but the reality on the ground is that it will solve nothing. In fact it would create a massive problem for our economy and when the roundups are done we’ll be sitting around wondering why we can’t have fresh produce turkeys for Thanksgiving. And if the economic realities dont’ sway you, maybe humanitarian concerns will. Again from my friend:

Women get raped trying to make it here. People are left for dead after a mule steals all their money. They are treated like shit when they get here.

We have competitors that do not pay them. This guy has a compound in eastern NC. Lots of mobile homes. They all live there for free. He feeds them for free. He provides clothes. He transports them everywhere. They are all trapped like slaves.

So what’s the answer? My buddy provided some pretty simple action steps earlier:

  • Establish an effective, open worker visa program.
  • Do a decent background check.
  • Give them a real SSN.
  • Allow them to work.
  • Do a mandatory backup withholding of 20% for federal tax and 5% for state.

The result would be the decriminalization of our immigrant labor (black) market, an increase in tax revenues, a decrease in incentives for illegal border crossings which would eliminate any need for a boondoggle of a wall that wouldn’t work anyway.

Of course this all makes a lot of sense so it doesn’t stand a chance in DC.

POTUS’ Dissembler-de-Campe

If, like me, you’ve spent months yelling at your TV or shaking your head in begrudging admiration as Kellyanne Conway is being interviewed, you will very much enjoy this analysis of how she’s so good at being so bad.

When the inevitable happens and she’s run out of Washington she could make a pile of money in training folks how to befuddle the media. It’s truly stunning to behold.

The Village Idiot

Lewisville, NC doesn’t get a lot of newsworthy action. Occasionally a house will burn down, a serious accident will happen on Highway 421 or some other noteworthy-for-an-hour event will occur. My family lived there for almost 12 years, from July, 2004 to February, 2016, and in that time there were a few actual newsworthy events, like the discovery of bodies or even a couple of murders, but you rarely heard of armed robberies or things of that sort happening.

That’s why it caught my attention when I saw on the news that the Wells Fargo bank in Lewisville had been robbed. There are only a couple of banks in Lewisville, and the Wells Fargo branch is literally next door to the library and one door down from Town Hall, which is where the sheriff has a couple of officers stationed. In other words, it’s in the heart of downtown and not what I’d call the most inviting target for a robbery due to the high likelihood that you could be seen and/or caught in pretty short order.

Well, to confirm that this wasn’t the work of a criminal mastermind, we learned today that a suspect has been arrested and the sheriff didn’t have to look far to find him. From the Winston-Salem Journal:

Jason Brant Henderson of the 6000 block of LaGrande Place Drive in Lewisville faces charges of robbing the bank as well as the robbery of the E-stop convenience store at 130 Lewisville-Clemmons Road and the Four Brothers store at 6351 Shallowford Road in Lewisville.

As you can see from the map below, the guy basically decided to rob the bank closest to his apartment. Maybe he just wanted a day he could walk to work?

lewisvillerobber