Personal Professor Peeve Number ??? …

With any job or career one will experience pros and cons. In any position one will encounter extremely qualified and talented and those who lack even the most rudimentary qualifications and skills to perform the expected task. I’ve never attempted to gather data for a statistical analysis, but I’m confident that if such a study were possible the results would show that the majority of people are between great and bad. If a median could be established, a by-the-book bell curve might be the result. I’ll just take one of my primary teaching mentor’s observations in that 10 percent of professors are very good and 10 percent should not be in a classroom, laboratory, or conducting research. The remaining 80 percent of professors are adequate as a whole but may excel or be abysmal in one or two of the three headed responsibilities of teaching, research, and service.

Whether at the top, bottom, or in the middle, a routine charge is that all or most professors indoctrinate students. Miriam Webster defines indoctrinate in this manner:

“to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs”

Sadly some professors are guilty. I can’t give any tangible numbers or statistics to prove my contention. Once I did not renew the contract of an adjunct because in the opinion of full time professor reviewing that adjunct who brought an issue to my attention and based upon my personal observations with the class in question and conversations with the adjunct felt that the adjunct did promote too many theories and opinions as facts. I have had numerous complaints from students about instructors, and I did find a student’s accusation of indoctrination to have merit. In that case, however, the instructor chose to cover some diametrically opposed scholarship as complete works in separate class sessions instead of interspersing bits and pieces as compare and contrast themes. Each individual class session was in fact extremely one sided, but when taken together the instructor prevented an impressive array of diverse scholarship. With members of my departments, indoctrination has not been a major issue although accusations of such are becoming more common.

What bothers me today is that it seems like fewer and fewer people comprehend what actual indoctrination would be.

In the history and political science courses, some students cry indoctrination at anything that will not fit neatly into their personal feelings. Inside a classroom I love to play the proverbial “Devil’s Advocate” and oppose every position proctored. It really does not matter if I agree or disagree with the position. My responsibility is to highlight both strengths and weaknesses of multiple sides. Honestly I do not know if it is possible to teach in a Socratic style where the teacher simply agreed with everything said by any student.

Admittedly the classroom dynamics can become frustrating at times. That fact, however, is one of the realities of being a teacher. What scares me, however, is the idea that many of these students and observers do not realize that they are being indoctrinated. That indoctrination is coming from the press and society at large. Seriously when any questioning or challenge of a previously conceived notion is taken as a threat or as an attack, what does that imply?

In my opinion it implies that we are not looking at different perspectives and thinking things through. It implies that we are too reliant upon and accepting of “simple” solutions to complex issues. It means that we are not studying to learn but to merely “prove” what we want to believe. It means that others are doing the thinking for us, and we fail to see that our allowance of that “indoctrination” by people who tell us what we want to believe limits ourselves not just today but also our potential as individuals, a nation, and as inhabitants of this world.

‘Redskins’ Team Name ‘Hurtful Reminder’

lablouisianaboy:

Some food for thought in this writing from Sachems Word of the Day:

http://wordsfromsachem.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/redskins-team-name-hurtful-reminder/

Shock of shocks to anyone who reads this blog or who knows me, but I am a New Orleans Saints fan. It’s been that way for me entire life. Now I’m only old enough to have a vague recollection of Hank Stram as head coach, but I definitely recall Dick Nolan and Dick Stanfel before that “once in a lifetime” feeling that Coach Bum would create a winner. Fortunately the “once in a lifetime” actually happened with Jim Mora and Jim Haslett before winning it all with Coach Payton. WWL on 870 AM became a natural for me since for most of my childhood, the blackout rule prevented us from watching home games on TV.

Today I really don’t have an AFC team, but during my childhood I was a Miami Dolphins fan. Once more I wasn’t a bandwagon fan as the perfect season and actually all Super Bowl victories before my memory. The reason I became a fan was Don Shula. I learned of his Hungarian heritage, and my being reared in the Hungarian Settlement sparked an interest. My Dad then brought home a book for me, The Winning Edge, by Don Shula. His approach to things seemed like an extension of the ideas of the people in the area who I admired.

I never thought too much about the Washington Redskins, with the exception of nightmares of that John Riggins run in the Super Bowl, until we decided to move up here to Maryland near DC.

I admit that at first I really did not have much of an opinion on the mascot controversy. That changed, however, the more I thought about the issue simply from hearing it so much. When I did think about it, I asked myself did the term “Redskin” promote a positive or negative image. It’s negative. It’s derogatory. It’s disrespectful to many of Native American Indian ancestry. Different people will have different reasoning, but to me the mascot seems to be this stereotypical comic book style depiction.

Well some could argue that’s true with any mascot. In reality it is true that cowboys in the United States were not as glamorous in the cattle kingdom days of the 19th century as they are portrayed in this era. The modern imagery, however, is a positive depiction. In Minnesota, they have the ancestors and heritage from Northern Europe and Vikings I believe are presented positively as a remembrance of that lineage.

I’m not old enough to remember the team in Baltimore, but I do remember the Washington Bullets of the NBA. “Bullet” to me does not necessary imply something bad as in my opinion bullets are tools, but the name had a negative stereotype that obviously people did not like to have associated with the team. Today that team is the Washington Wizards.

Now my ancestry is not from Northern Europe or Viking culture. From my Dad there is some Native American Indian heritage, Cherokee, on his mother’s side, but I have never been able to trace the linkage as it dates many generations. Therefore I cannot speak as one offended personally.

Even so, I am offended when I hear someone refer to anyone of a different culture or heritage by a demeaning or derogatory name.

How would you like a mascot or emblem which diminished you?  Showing respect and appreciation is one thing, but promoting stereotyping is another.

Originally posted on Sachems word of the day:

Washington ‘Redskins’ Team Name ‘Hurtful Reminder’ To Native Americans.

OK this fight has been going on for far too long and not enough people seem to care?

The only ones writing about change are Native Americans and all that they are doing is shaking the Red Necks out of their trees?

There is only one way to hit this enemy of the first people of this country, hit him where it hurts, by taking away some of the money!

You will never be able to change the mind of a races pig, if you do not believe me come take a ride with me around all of the southern states and even some northern states that never had slaves or slave owners!

Ask your fellow African-Americans if they would join together and not one single person with ancestors of the first people of the land or ancestors of past slaves…

View original 56 more words

The Messenger is More Important Than the Message

“The messenger is more important than the message.”

Personally I find that philosophy absurd, preposterous, ludicrous, and plain ole BS, pig pellets, squirrel squirts, or nutria nuts.

I did not get the memo, text, call, or face-to-face that people are no longer unique. Can anyone tell me when they received their information?

Now I can try, but I doubt if I will be able to make blanket, one-size-fits-all decisions, opinions, or judgments about people based on some broad umbrella grouping. Of course that doesn’t excite or build an audience. It doesn’t make one wealthy or popular.

With people I regard as friends, our friendship is not based on skin color, religious positions, political positions, gender, sexual preferences, or whatever. Sure we probably have similar interests in any number of things (we probably wouldn’t make it a point to communicate on a consistent basis if we did not), but our views aren’t necessarily the same.  The thing that matters is that a degree of mutual respect exists.

Seriously folks, in my opinion you can actually dislike the New Orleans Saints, crawfish, and strawberries and still be a good person. Believe it or not, you can be passionate about all 3 and we still might not be friends or even get along to the point of being able to exist together within the same building.

Today’s obsession with political parties in the United States confounds me. Has it really become do for your Party no matter the cost to the country?

A growing struggle with teaching history has been trying to get students to realize that few groups, if any, are 100 percent perfect. We can take assorted snippets from anything to make it fit our personal agenda. So can the person with a different agenda. That’s not new, but the scary part is that too many people only hear what they want to hear and listen to those with whom they agree. Excuses run rampant if some discrepancy is alleged and then any discussion becomes an emotional tirade.

With its anniversary several outlets have featured the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Personally I’ve been inundated recently with viewpoints from the modern “conservative” side. In years past, many people sent me examples from the “liberal” side, but for simplicity I’m keeping this specific piece on what I’ve seen recently. At some point, I’ll dig through some files to retrieve examples from the other perspective but honestly commenting on those merely requires changing the focal points and casting what doesn’t fit into the shadows.

I’ll let you in on a real secret. The popular prevailing question of today is which political party historically, Republican or Democrat, has done more for Civil Rights?  The Purloined Letter answer which partisan pundits refuse to see is either both or neither.

I’m taking the easy way out. That’s not an answer. Yada, yada, yada…

Well let me digress to the formation of the Republican Party. I won’t even argue with their version of history to what happened in 1854 and in 1856.

A fact left out of the Republican arguments is the Election of 1860.  With childhood we all learned that Abraham Lincoln won that election. What is neglected, however, is that the more telling election actually took place to win the Republican nomination. William Seward of New York was the favorite. Seward was a staunch abolitionist.

On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln would be considered a moderate. Before the Convention, Lincoln meticulously from months of research of Elliot’s Debates and the official proceedings of Congress yet eloquently expressed his views in what is known as the Cooper Union Address.

While Lincoln asserted his belief that the Federal government could exclude slavery from the national territories, he assured the South that the Republican Party would not be a threat to slavery where it already existed. Sensing that his staunch abolitionists’ positions were too extreme, Seward attempted to temper his positions to those of Lincoln during an address before the United States Senate. Printed copies of both speeches reached the public via newspapers at approximately the same time, but Lincoln’s research made his words seem more sincere. (Recommended Sources for information are Allan Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln (1950), Frederic Bancroft, William H. Seward (1967), and Gyldon Van Deusen, William Henry Seward (1967)).

The nomination of Lincoln along with the Republican platform for the 1860 Presidential Election illustrate the moderate position of maintaining slavery where it existed and only prohibiting it in other areas.

Does this mean that Republicans supported slavery as an ideology? Of course it does not. It means that political factors along with economic factors influenced their thinking. It is interesting how even Seward changed his terminology from “free” and “slave” state to “capitol” and “labor” states. As long as slavery continued in the South, the region would never be able to compete industrially with other regions. In essence another colonial economic system had developed, but this time Mother England did not profit. The South provided the raw materials to the industry in the North.

Likewise, the split of the Democratic Party illustrates divisions as well. The Stephan Douglas Democrats supported that position of popular sovereignty which Douglas expounded upon in his victory over Lincoln for the United States Senate in Illinois. In other words, each territory or state had the power to make their own decision concerning the issue. When considering legal interpretations at the time, both Republican and Northern Democrat platforms went against the Dred Scott decision which “prevented” a threat to the “Peculiar Institution.” Also the Emancipation Proclamation made by Lincoln in 1862 did not free a single slave as it applied only to states which had left the Union.

During the Reconstruction Period, the consistent GOP argument has been the formation of white intimidation groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. It is true that origination of the Klan by Nathan Bedford Forrest did terrorize the freedman (former slave) along with the Republican governments which existed in the South.

Left out of narrative is that those Republican governments in the South were occupation governments. Back in 1860 and 61, Northern legal opinion did not acknowledge a right for a state or region to secede. Actually, the Southern states were not the first area to proclaim the right as the New England states argued the same in the Hartford Convention during the War of 1812.  Under both Abraham Lincoln’s plan for reconstructing the country and Andrew Johnson’s plan the former Confederate States had rejoined the country. Two years after the surrender at Appomattox Court House, passage of the Radical Reconstruction Acts divided the former Confederate States into military districts occupied by Federal troops. These troops backed up the Republican occupation governments. Many Southerners referred to these individuals by derogatory terms such as Carpetbaggers and Scalawags.

In retrospect Carpetbag and Scalawag governments were not necessarily evil or bad. Like any they had positives and negatives. They were, however, occupation. Instead of the state having power, the Federal government usurped and controlled everything. This GOP direction of strong government control did not take place immediately following the bloodshed, but 2 years afterwards.

A Civil Rights counter is that during the Reconstruction period, the first black men held elective office. My own Louisiana had a black governor, P.B.S. Pinchback, for a brief period when he moved from Lieutenant Governor to Governor upon the impeachment of the Carpetbag Governor. Mississippi elected two black United States Senators, Hiram Revels and Blanche K. Bruce. Also a number of black men became Members of the House of Representatives such as South Carolina’s Joseph Rainey and Robert De Large, Georgia’s Jefferson Long, Florida’s Josiah Walls, Alabama’s James Rapier and Jeremiah Haralson, Mississippi’s John Lynch, Louisiana’s Charles Nash, and North Carolina’s John Adams Hyman and James E. O’Hara (there were others in addition to these gentlemen).

It is true that all of these men belonged to the Republican Party, but outside the time of the Carpetbag and Scalawag occupation governments, all came from specific Congressional districts. It would not be until 1929 that a Northern state, Illinois, elected a black man to the House of Representatives. Oscar Stanton De Priest was a Republican, but his successor, another black man, Arthur Mitchell belonged to the Democratic Party. It would be approximately 50 years before a black Republican, Gary Franks of Connecticut, served in the House. A few elections later saw J.C. Watts serving for the state of Oklahoma, but with the exception of Watts and reelections, the next black Republican House Member would be in 2011 with Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Over in the Senate, it takes until 1967 to see a black man elected. Edward W. Brooke III was a Republican who served until 1979, but until the appointment of Tim Scott to the Senate in 2013, no other black Republican has served in that Chamber.

Left out of the KKK narrative is that with the end of military occupation, the Klan of Nathan Bedford Forrest ceased to exist. The KKK reformed in 1915 with William Simmons. This new Klan, however, targeted people of color and immigrants. It was not isolated to the South or to one political party. Actually for a brief period in the 1920s, the state of Indiana elected a Republican, who was an open Klan member as governor and many members of the state government who were also Republicans were unabashed members of the KKK. The Indiana State Library houses source material.

In Louisiana it took switching affiliation from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party for former KKK leader David Duke to win elected office in the state during the late 1980s. While not the “official” Republican choice, he ran under the Republican banner for Governor (in LA at the time all candidates, regardless of Party affiliation appeared on the ballot; if no candidate received a majority a runoff election took place between the leading two vote getters) losing to Edwin Edwards. In 1992, Duke even participated in Republican Presidential primaries and according to Duke was sought by many Tea Party activists because of his feelings on immigration. One can visit David Duke’s websites for further information. I will note that a Duke candidacy for Federal office would face legal challenges resulting from provisions within a 2002 guilty plea for tax evasion.

Today there are many factions of the KKK and similar styled organizations. Some establish a linkage to Simmons and others do not. None, however, to my knowledge are political party specific. While more recent scholarship exists, I still recommend Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan by David Chalmers as one of the better cited sources.

Another source preferred by some of my peers is The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America by Wyn Wade.

In 20th century United States politics, the fact that the South remained a “Solid South” for the Democratic Party complicates many of today’s simplistic partisan politics. The legacy of Federal occupation by the GOP assured that the Republicans would not factor into Southern politics for much of the century. If the Peoples Party or Populists of the late 19th century had not formed from the various agrarian movements and Farmers’ Alliances and started expanding into the South, the disenfranchisement state constitutions of the 1890s may not have been written. Regardless of the “what if” those state constitutions also took the franchise right away from many poor whites as it is not feasible to dismiss the power struggle. The difference obviously is that in the 1900s those disenfranchised poor whites regained their right to vote faster than the ancestor of the freedman.

Even with a Solid South, each Southern state had its own two party system or in some cases multiple political parties within the single Democratic umbrella. Every state had a de facto two party system in its electoral process. The primary difference with the remainder of the country is that whoever won the Democratic primary faced on token competition if any in the general election.

Here is where messenger becomes more important than message and the oversimplifications become ridiculous.

One website sent to me had this feature with an excerpt from talk radio personality Mark Levin.

Mr. Levin cites a few of the works by another media personality Ann Coulter.

Ms. Coulter and Mr. Levin bring up events such as the Brown decision, Little Rock, Arkansas, the Southern Manifesto, and the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960. For each event blame is cast upon Democrats for the opposition. True, Members of Congress from the South, all Democrats, signed the Manifesto disagreeing with Brown. True, Orville Faubus, Governor of Arkansas was a Democrat. True, President Dwight Eisenhower was a Republican.

By arguing from a Party perspective and not from one of sectionalism, they fail to acknowledge or justify the racial issues in other regions of the country and not just the South. Following the First World War and the Great Migration, consider some of the areas outside the South where racial riots and upheaval took place. The races were not integrated during the Republican dominated 1920s just as they were not during the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s…. It is correct that Ike “fully” desegregated the military during his presidency, but Truman did begin the process. As leader of the Allied Forces, Ike had not advanced the cause. In 1948, the Democratic Party split three-fold as Truman insisted on having a Civil Rights plank in the Party Platform. Hubert Humphrey, then mayor of Minneapolis authored that plank. (in addition to Dixiecrats, the other faction involved differences in foreign affairs). Neither Party, Democrat or Republican,  can be made to appear 100 percent perfect for any position for or against Civil Rights when looked at in its entirety.

Like I wrote previously, only taking selected events can “prove” or “disprove” most positions.

Would the Republican Party today approve of the President sending Federal troops into a state to enforce the law?  Let’s say the USMC came to your state to make sure that every individual had health insurance.

Can’t happen you say.  That’s what Eisenhower did to enforce the Brown decision.  Why is that acceptable but Obama using troops to support a Supreme Court decision not?

Would the GOP today support a Federal program such as the Interstate Highway System? Here you had a government program designed for military mobility by the Federal government. Toll roads and roads built by the free market system had not proven adequate. So here we have a major public works program where the Federal government foots 90 percent of the bill. Sure Eisenhower insisted that the project be “self liquidating” or in other words paying for itself, but as history has illustrated the cost estimates were not in the same ballpark.

If someone really wants to play the Party partisanship card, have them try to name practically any piece of significant legislation that your personal ideology supports between 1930 and 1980. In the past 100 years, the Republican Party has only controlled both Chambers of Congress and occupied the White House for 16 years. For the Democrats, it is 38 years. Statistically, those numbers mean less when you consider the necessity for a super majority in the Senate whether 67 or 60 since the mid 1970s.

Before someone tries to accuse me of skewing with that 50 year period and pulling their Obamacare card to show the evilness of Democrats, I used 1980 because one starts to see a more evident break in the Solid South at the state and local levels during the Reagan administration. With ACA, count the number of riders that are from the GOP.  The final vote may have been along Party lines, but the bill is not. The entire Congressional staff issue developed from a GOP rider. More importantly check out the previous GOP healthcare legislation, and I’m referring to the Federal level and not merely Romneycare. As one can see concepts such as the individual mandate are parts of those GOP proposals. Once again, it’s that messenger thing and Party trumps country when that card is played.

Actually, feel free to blame one Party or the other for all the “bad” legislation, but on the other hand ask yourself shouldn’t that Party then get credit for the “good” legislation?  If one were to use Mr. Levin’s or Ms. Coulter’s arguments across the board, one might give all credit for winning the Second World War to the Democrats. That’s ridiculous, but how are Civil Rights different? Is it that messenger thing?

Reading the comments on sites such as the one linked make me cringe as a Professor of History. The reason is that history is not always pretty. Regardless of who we are or how we might believe, there are both positive and negative events and many more in between those poles. Many of the rights people cite from the Constitution only became available to the majority of American citizens well after the Constitutional and Federalists periods. Still, when it is convenient many people think that what is was always because it says in the Constitution. Well, it might have those words printed but the interpretations of those men in Philadelphia are not always the same as those of people today.

Les we forget:

George Washington personally led troops to enforce Federal law. Thomas Jefferson pushed for an embargo which nearly crippled this country economically and then tried to force Congress to pass an act giving him totalitarian power.

For the GOP was Abraham Lincoln an advocate of state rights or of a powerful Federal government with the Civil War?

Context matters in the understanding of history but not in partisan rhetoric.

Look at the site’s commenting rules.

Number 1:

“Abusive, Ad Hominem, Overly Mean-Spirited. Attack arguments and ideas, not people. And please refrain from wishing bodily harm, death, or illness on others. Ad hominem arguments (in which one attacks a speaker to try and disqualify an argument’s validity) are not appreciated. A clarification on this point. If you want to comment that “Sean Hannity is an idiot” or “Barack Obama is a moron” that will probably be tolerated — though not particularly appreciated. What will not be tolerated is direct ad hominems toward The Right Scoop’s writers, editors, and commenters.”

That rule must apply to those who agree, as it seems anyone who questions is attacked personally.

I have no clue as to what comments were deleted, but 3 separate site moderators (at least different screen names) took the time to personally attack that individual.

One person wrote the following in response to a deleted comment:

“Adios. That move by the moderator is enough for me to leave for fair ground. I cant stand libs arguments but their right to express them are sacrosanct- so this is wrong. Bye.”

One moderator pulled a 1st Amendment argument with that in support of deleting the comment, and it was backed up by other commenters’ sarcastic remarks.

Perusing earlier articles, this same site, however, went overboard against the A&E Network for the suspension of Phil Robertson. If the site moderators have the right to censor what they deem inappropriate, why doesn’t A&E have the same right? I’m not suggesting one or the other is just, but the double standard is certainly not what many consider as “traditional” or “Christian” or “Conservative” values.

Again, it must be this pesky messenger thing.

Another commenter pulled the “try posting on a “liberal” site and see what happens” card. So I guess the belief is that just because someone else does it that justifies another doing the same thing.

Why does messenger matter more than message to people?

Again, what is the difference between a modern day “conservative” and “liberal?”

I admit that I once posted on this site I cited. Actually my post wasn’t intended to be argumentative. I pointed out that while individuals cannot claim deductions on donations to 501(c)(4) organizations certain businesses can within some limitations. As my readers know, my opposition to those organizations is the ability to funnel monies anonymously along with  my feelings that politics ain’t charity. My IP got banned after I responded to one of the regulars by including a link to the tax code. I guess I broke the law of how do you piss off someone (“liberal” or “conservative” [my addition]), simply rely upon and in my case cite the primary source.

Now my reading the tax code means I have a boring life at times, but I still don’t know how it makes me a troll regardless of political ideology. Admittedly, it makes me feel like I’m hitting myself with a hammer, but not much else.

Again, my point is that I hate that political party has become more important than country.

Republicans can blame Democrats and Democrats can blame Republicans. It really doesn’t matter. We are all living in this country, so regardless of who is to blame we all live with the mess. We also all share in the responsibility for cleaning up the mess. Call that socialist or communist, but I call it united we stand, divided we die. I don’t take credit for making up that statement or “We the People.” I recall seeing those concepts back in the past. Today, though, it seems that they are words and not concepts with some.

I guess it’s that messenger thing again that I just don’t get the importance of.  So I’ll end with that thought and preposition.

 

Voting Fraud

It’s late on Friday night, but I have been hit with a number of statements concerning President Obama’s remarks tonight concerning voter restrictions. This is rougher than normal because I’m merely typing as I think instead of thinking before I type.

If you have no clue why I would type something on this issue so quick, I’m linking a general article from Yahoo for reference.

I’ve done everything involved with elections other than being a candidate for office. I’ve worked every level of various campaigns for candidates running as Republican, Democrat, and having no party affiliations at all. What mattered to me was that I felt each person was the best individual for the position.

I’ve been a precinct worker, and an official observer for my candidates. I’ve participated in the loading and unloading of voting machines. I’ve stood closely by and verified the vote totals being read out after opening the machines.

In my work as a professor, I’ve studied past elections in minute detail. I have conducted hours upon hours of oral history interviews with individuals who know more about the intricacies of the elective process than many people can tell you about their own children or parents.

There are issues with our voting system, but these proposals do not address the primary areas of voting fraud. The corruption takes place before an individual reaches the ballot box or after the votes have been cast in the handling of the ballots or most often in the counting.

I address Voter ID here:

The Texas law controversy from last year here:

And Real ID here:

To friends back home in Louisiana whether you agree with Obama or not on this issue or whether you have a state issued drivers license or state issued ID or not, be prepared if a stricter photo ID requirement is enacted to vote in the state of Louisiana to be waiting in line for just a little bit of time.

Why?

Unless you have a passport, and outside of a few people I know back home the only friends with passports have them because of a past or upcoming vacation, you will have to wait in line and most likely pay for a new ID card.

Why?

Louisiana still hasn’t complied with the REAL ID Act of 2005. You can reread the background in the boarding the plane piece. Therefore, your ID is not a valid form of identification.

Now…

If you want to call me a schmuck or blind about all this fraud and how an ID solves the problems, please read my other two pieces first. I recognize that problems exist, and cite some potential fixes to those problems.

Something from the historical view…

By the way, both major political parties have attempted to limit the franchise right in the history of this country. In reality all of our prominent political parties have. Whether that is right or wrong is up to you, but in the United States of America under the Constitution that procedure dates back to those who signed the document to become our government. I’m not sure if any of my friends would have been eligible to vote based on the qualifications needed back then. Even if someone is wealthier than I think, HIS vote would only be for a Member of the House. HE could not vote for anything else at the Federal level and SHE wouldn’t be allowed to vote for anything. Black or White skin would not even be an issue regarding voting for people like me back in that period of the United States of America.

The Simplicity of Appreciation and not Taking Things for Granted

It’s amazing what we might not necessarily take for granted, but we tend to under appreciate its significance. I admit that I always took physical balance for granted. Once you learn to walk as a toddler it not something you really think about unless you suffer some type of injury. Earlier in life I experienced some typical injuries such as ankle sprains, shin splints with my bare feet to shoes on concrete transitions, ACL, and other assorted foot and knee bumps. It may have been uncomfortable, but I still managed to walk at least with crutches. Never in my imagination, however, did I ever contemplate having to relearn how to walk in my 30s as a result of a vestibular condition. The physical tools never left, but my brain could not send the signals to my legs and all the complimentary muscular, skeletal, and neurological attributes to enable me to balance and walk. It took a lot of effort throughout the course of a year to regain what I had lost.

I probably had to work to learn how to walk initially with assorted bumps and bruises along the way, but I have no recollection of that time. As a teen and adult I just took walking for granted, but other memories from the past have remained appreciated and become more special as time passes.

What I do remember is that joy of being out in the field using the hand to mouth berry picking method that left a trail of strawberry stems and crowns behind as I navigated between rows. I remember snaking my arms through the vines and getting stuck by the thorns to pick the darkest blackberries hidden between the strands of the hogwire through which the plants had been strung. I remember weekends with my Dad on the Tickfaw, Blood, or Natalbany rivers or out on Lake Maurepas watching the Sun rise in the mornings. I remember sitting on my stump in the packing shed listening to the men talk as the Sun slowly sunk beyond and beneath the rear field. I remember in the heat of the day resting back under an oak tree watching the clouds overhead and making up stories based on the shapes. Juggling acorns or pitching them against a root or another trunk and batting those acorns with a small stick.

Have you ever closed your eyes tightly and “watched” the rain as the drops fall upon a piece of tin, on black plastic, a glass bottle, green leaves on a tree, or dry brown leaves on the ground? At that time one can embark on a magical, mystical, spiritual journey as imagination and senses merge.

To me that is joy. That is freedom. It is simple yet complex. It is hard to define, easy to define. It should be easy to discover, but sadly becomes lost or forgotten unless uncovered. It requires work, but we often fail to recall the type of work. The work is to open one’s eyes, heart, and imagination. It is to see, hear, feel, experience from not just one but a multitude of perspectives. It’s past, present, and future all coming together to make your best and to do your best with what you have.

AT&T Service, Tips for Consumer Complaints with any Company

This morning as I glanced over postings on social media I read that a number of friends from high school and undergraduate days were frustrated by repeating issues with their internet and cell service.  Outreaches to the traditional customer service contacts proved fruitless except for additional practice of personal patience with the various waits for the next representative, holds, transfers, and assurances that they were “valued customers.” We have all been there.

These aggravated friends cannot be classified as uninformed consumers. They consist of highly acclaimed educators, successful business owners, people with professional and terminal degrees, and that common sense, problem solving, just “Git-R-Done” ability they learned from parents and grandparents who without opportunity for extended “book learning” taught my friends and me the advantages and work necessary of both book learning and application in uncontrolled environments. I know that they have already attempted to solve their problems through the traditional customer service routes. Therefore, I’m not listing those procedures but offering a broad outline of some potential “next steps.”

I might be mistaken, but I believe the last time I had any services with AT&T was from one of the Ma Bell branches. Anyway, I’m using AT&T for the example because multiple friends who currently reside in different Parishes mentioned that company so my outline may be helpful to more. Also, since I have no personal experience with the company I might be able to highlight how simple it is to find information to take to those next steps.

First, even though I’m not detailing the initial steps, this information remains a necessity.

1) Know the services that you have and be able to convey how you use those services. The package lingo can be found on your bills. Illustrate how these services are important to your life and business and the effect that having to take the time to continuously complain resulting in increasingly negative repercussions.

2) Explain the problem with a broad overview. Then have a detailed list of dates of communications, with whom you communicated, and any results or lack of results from those communications whether in person, over the phone, or via written correspondence in any form. Also, have a detailed list of all the problems you are experiencing in regard to the actual services. Are they intermittent? Do you believe there are any causations or correlations?

OK, you’ve done all that and nothing has been resolved. That info, however, is still needed.

Since AT&T is my example, let’s learn about the company.

From the homepage, I would search for something like “About Us,” “Company Profile,””Who We Are,” or anything along those lines.

After some point and clicking, I found this overview of the company.

In this case, I only found the name and not contact information for the company head, but I also found an interesting “Code of Conduct” document.

Perhaps someone with an AT&T account can find contact information and a physical address for corporate more easily, but I had to take the long way ‘round the barn. If you ever encounter the same obstacle which might inhibit the quickest access, a Press or Media Relations section will often have that information if “Contact Us” does not.

Address found:

Now with the name of the CEO and a physical location, I’m looking for more specific contact information. Here, we have biographies for the various executives.

Unfortunately, we are not given direct contact information for the CEO, Randall L. Stephenson, but we have enough for our initial salvo.

The first volley is a letter.

If you have an email address or fax number, those are good so that you can maintain a copy of your inquiry. Regardless, I still recommend a traditional letter because even in today’s world some still view that form of communication with more sincerity solely by requiring an extra step on the sender’s part.

I would address my envelope in this manner:

 AT&T Inc.

Corporate Communications

Attention:  Randall L. Stephenson, CEO

208 S. Akard St.

Dallas, TX 75202

The letter, I would begin in this manner:

  • Date at the top, skip a couple of lines, Attention: Randall L. Stephenson, CEO, skip a few lines, and begin with a greeting like Dear Mr. Stephenson.
  • The first paragraph should be a brief description of your services and how you use them. Please note, that it should be a BRIEF description.
  • The next paragraph(s) should outline your problems. Here I would introduce the primary issues and then outline the steps you have taken along with the dates, names, and responses.
  • Following a listing of the problems, the next paragraph would have actions you would like to see. For example, if you have been billed additional fees or incurred other charges from the company, you should ask for a waiver. Adjustments for the times of no service, faulty equipment, should be included as well. The primary rule here is to be honest, fair, and reasonable in your requests. At the conclusion of the paragraph, you might decide that the lack of service reached a point where you would discontinue service or take legal action against the company. Do not, however, make statements which you are not ready to complete.
  • Conclude with a statement of appreciation for the attention you hope this matter will now receive and a professional closing.
  • Be sure to sign the letter and have all of your contact information printed as well.

Often this approach will achieve some results. You may choose to CC a number of executives or send multiple copies of the letter. My personal preference is to let all recipients know that they are within a group who you chose to contact. In other words, I do not recommend using a BCC for email, and on typed letters I included a CC list at the end of the page.

If you desire to make a public complaint, my experience has been that complaints made to the Better Business Bureau can result in the company, in this case AT&T, reaching out to you.

The basic BBB page is here which will direct you to your regional office.

Information about what a BBB complaint is and more importantly is not can be found here:

In my example with AT&T, another route of public complaint is through the Federal Communications Commission.

Details on the complaint process with the FCC can be found here.

Be prepared that it may take multiple attempts to resolve any issue. Especially remember that in the preliminary stages which I did not address in this post. Many times I have dealt with an individual which was akin to banging my head against a brick wall. Either ending that call, getting transferred to another representative, or requesting to speak with a supervisor, however, brought resolution. I cannot guess the number of times that I have wasted time trying to deal with a customer representative with nothing happening and the very same matter being handled within minutes without any form of conflict by another representative.

Perhaps it is a sign of aging and not of society expectations changing, but I make it a point to praise customer service representatives who simply conduct their job professionally and courteously.  I’ll ask to speak to their supervisor or jot the supervisor a brief note of appreciation. Before, I would only take that additional step for service that I felt went above and beyond the professionalism I expected.  With service that does not meet my expectations, I’ll continue to press until I find a representative who will at least answer questions and address concerns. Sometimes, I made the mistake and there was nothing a representative could do, but I believe they have an obligation to clarify policy or work to prevent others from making a similar mistake or having a bad experience. It’s only when a customer service representative becomes unprofessional with threats, demands, hanging up, or ending communication abruptly that I’ll complain about the type of service received.

I really don’t know if my hope of consistent service has dropped, or if I have just learned to appreciate the simple fact of doing one’s job the way it should be done more.

Why Can’t Obama Be the Problem? Or Solution…

“Short of reaching a big deal, we can still leverage opportunities before us to make progress toward the goal that proponents of such a deal have long sought. If we’re going to show the world that America is serious about tackling our problems head-on, Congress will have several opportunities this year to work in a bipartisan way to fix structural problems in our budget.”

When other Members of Congress demonize the quote above as partisan grandstanding for the upcoming elections, is there any hope for anything other than status quo?

Harry Reid threatens the Senate with weekend work or cutting time from the scheduled 2 week recess in April unless issues such as a possible aid package for the Ukraine; an extension of federal unemployment benefits; proposals to hike the minimum wage; and the medical doctor issue that would prevent a scheduled cut to physicians for Medicare reimbursements on 1 April are addressed.

GOP Senators, special interests, and conservative media call the Reid threat of holding the Senate until these and other matters are brought to the Floor outrageous and tyrannical.

Is there any hope for anything other than status quo?

Unfortunately a legislative season no longer exists in the Federal government as it remains election season 24/7.  I know why the “conservative” special interests and media oppose Congress actually working as representatives of the people of the United States of America. They could lose more money and attention than someone like you or I can even fathom. I know why the so called liberal special interests and media oppose. They could lose more money and attention than someone like you or I can even fathom.

Why in the heck…oh always forget that Obama is the most powerful authoritarian and totalitarian so he is to blame and that everyone blaming him have been systematically disappearing since 2009.

And for those who have either studied extensively or have been involved in the Federal government process either past or present, the lack of “must pass” legislation upon which to attach such proposals to fix structural problems or address areas of need is not a legitimate excuse.

Listening to these chicken chips, pig puddles, cow cookies, gator giblets, etc., today after having a dream last night where Hale and Lindy Boggs, Jimmy and Chep Morrison (no relation), and Earl and Russell Long are telling Edwin Edwards that Congress is a circus that he needs to avoid is enlightening. When Uncle Earl bellows out to EWE and the other political masters: “And Y’all thunk Ole Earl was CRAZY!” you know that as a group Congress is doing no better than a Nutria on a Stick puttin’ Socks on a Rooster.

 

The beginning quote came from House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer at a budget forum sponsored by Third Way here in DC today.

Do Brick and Mortar Stores Need to Die? Recollections of Past and Present

Image

K&B Drugs or Katz and Besthoff and McLeod’s in the Big Purple Building on the Airline in the days before eCommerce.

Imagine if K&B or McLeod’s still existed in 2104?

Have you ever really pondered about how shopping has changed?  Even the most rudimentary of historical observations can uncover some basic trends. The old time general store began to receive competition from more specialized boutiques. About the beginnings of the 20th century, these boutiques had to compete with department stores. A score or so later, the freedom of travel with the automobile saw “strip malls” pulling traffic from the old “Main Street.” By the 1960s, big box retailers began to emerge. Shortly after these retailers became anchor stores for large shopping centers and shopping malls. Superstores such as the new Walmarts ushered a new era of multiple types of goods sold under a single roof, and the smaller family owned businesses whether on Main Street, a strip mall, or with a small frontage in a shopping center or mall began to dwindle more rapidly in number. Before the 21st Century began, online retailing giants such as Amazon began to not just carve, but to cut out an entire portion of sales. Today, ecommerce is becoming the rule versus the exception. Traditional brick and mortar stores are closing left and right in a rapidity akin to toppling dominoes.

I’ll always have a fondness for the locally owned small business. The benefits from a truly mutual cooperation between proprietor and customer are rewards without price stickers. It’s one thing to ask for advice and a recommendation from a seller, and it is another when you have the utmost confidence in that suggestion offered. Outside of a farmers market, hopefully some automotive mechanic’s shop, and barber shop are there that many types of businesses with that type of reputation?

As an “old timer” born in the 1970s, I can remember being able to receive superior service from some of the brick and mortar chains or local megastores. That shocks many of today’s college students. K&B had that motto of Personally Yours, and the service rated to that standard. Costs on some items were higher than what you could find at a department store. Bread and milk, however, were often loss leaders and of course nothing beat the quality of the K&B ice cream made at their own ice cream plant. Other services such as in house photo processing rivaled that of specialized businesses. More importantly, you could always find a clerk or manager on the floor to provide assistance.

The K&B store manager was also involved in the local community. My Dad as manager had the authority to provide volume discounts and make special orders for community groups. I was in high school when my Dad volunteered me and some friends to deliver cases upon cases of Coke and Pepsi products one day. It was a memorable day for me since one delivery went to Bishop Stanley Joseph Ott and the other to the Reverend T.J. Jemison. Could a teenager meet two more involved men in their community?

K&B will always have a personal place in my heart, but there were similar businesses. How many remember the Big Purple Building on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge? Mr. Lloyd McLeod who stood behind everything he sold because if he stood in front, you couldn’t see it. Honestly, if you were buying a TV or any type of electronics, McLeod’s was the one store to shop. Impeccable service in both sales and repairs, and every customer treated like a friend of the family. My Dad and Mr. Lloyd were friends, but in reality both men treated all customers and salespeople as friends. What you had were two businessmen who strived for repeat customers and relied upon those customers to recommend their stores to friends.

Yep, those were the olden days.

I walked into the local Staples store today. I’m going to purchase some internal hard drives to place in USB 3 enclosures as an additional back up for some photos and video. It’s not an immediate need purchase, and I have been keeping an eye on prices for a few months.  Online I came across two really good deals. One was from B&H Photo which has a retail outlet up in New York and does a lot of online business. The other was from Fry’s, a retailer with the majority of its brick and mortar stores on the West Coast but with its own online sales niche.

Staples, however, has a brick and mortar location within walking distance from where we live. Beautiful weather today here in MD, so my wife and I went out. Staples is a retailer who advertises a “Price Match Guarantee.”

“Staples will price match items sold by any retailer who sells products in both retail stores and online under the same brand; we will also match those that are sold and shipped by Amazon.com.”

The price matches requested were in the $25 range. While I waited for the clerk to bring the drives from the back, my wife found some discounted discontinued supplies we would need in the upcoming weeks along with an item on sale she intended to purchase for an upcoming presentation.

The clerk came out and stated that the manager would not honor the price match. I asked to speak with the manager to see if his decision applied to the B&H or Fry’s request.

It applied to both, and I quote from the manager “they are not my competitors as my competitors are within 5 miles from here like Target or Best Buy.”  I asked about the Staples website information, and he greeted me with a “manager’s discretion” response and walked off.

Truth be told, his decision is no skin off my nose. I can purchase the exact same items for the lesser cost and with free shipping. I just wanted to give a local retailer, even though it is a chain, my business.

Staples as a company has not delivered the best of news as of late with reports being that somewhere in the neighborhood of 225 locations will be closed by the end of 2015.

http://money.cnn.com/2014/03/06/news/companies/staples-store-closing/

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/07/business/citing-online-sales-staples-announces-store-closings.html?_r=0

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/03/06/staples-closings/6114525/

If Staples did not advertise a price match guarantee, today’s events would mean little to me. I would not feel like I wasted time printing out the inventory sheets from the other 2 companies. I would not feel a sense of distrust.

That might seem petty, but because of the store manager’s discretion to not match a $25 discount, he lost the sale of the hard drive. He lost the sale of the sale item we were going to purchase anyway. He lost the sale of those discontinued items my wife picked up.

The reason for not completing the other sales is that without the purchase of the large ticket item, why carry around those other items during our outing. With the hard drive, we would have walked back home. Without, we decided to just enjoy the weather a bit longer and walk a more scenic route back without the hassle of carrying these other items. A different brand of the same sale item is available at Target for the same price. More than likely, it will not necessitate a separate trip to Target as one of us will either be in or driving by that shopping center this week. The discontinued items will be purchased at another time, at another store. As new stock arrives, one can almost always find heavily discounted writing utensils. The hard drive will simply arrive via UPS, Fed EX, or whatever is used for the free shipping.

Financially we did not lose. Staples lost.

When service mattered…

K&B changed dramatically after the sale to Rite Aid. The only way to learn about a TV to purchase is to research it yourself because the sales clerk is unlikely to know anything about it. Mr. Lloyd could tell you about the individual parts of every model and brand he sold.

It saddens me that the brick and mortar stores are fading. Some are making a dynamic shift where the store itself becomes a shopping experience. It is difficult for many to match the prices of online dealers who do not have the same amount of overhead. That shopping experience will work for certain retailers. I wonder, however, if that attention to service and detail that a brick and mortar can provide in a face-to-face environment might be the actual key to survival. Some people may be wowed by an experience, others it is all about price, some convenience, but for many a few additional dollars in price might be worth the extra service.

Service Still Matters…

It’s weird that I bought tires for my truck online and had them installed at a local shop. The shop was an authorized installer, and the shop manager recommended the online purchase since his distributor could not come close to the price. Installation at that shop cost me a few extra dollars than if I had the same tires shipped to a chain just a mile up the road. I liked the Hunter brand mounting and balancing equipment at the local shop which are of superior quality than the equipment used at the chain. The shop manager treated me with courtesy and straight forward honesty about both the tire purchase and mounting prices. In this case, the customer service and being able to inspect the work as it was being performed proved more valuable to me than the $75 to $100 dollars I could have saved at the “get in, get out” dealer before a probable attempt to up sell on unnecessary services.

I suspect that by the end of 2015, the local Staples will be one of the locations being closed. Sad because they are in a prime traffic location and could be winning over customers with quality service and not unobtainable guarantees.

What if History…King George and Olives

Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind

Replica of the Golden Hind, London England. Olive Branch pasted on dock lower right.

Teaching is one of the best learning experiences. Teaching history regardless of whether the course is a survey level broad introductory class or a specifically focused graduate seminar helps put many of one’s own present day issues into a better perspective.

At times, however, you just think wow.

This piece is not intended as one of those strange things that students write on exams styles of lists. Thankfully I was not the instructor of this course. One of my faculty brought the paper to me because he thought the student might complain to me about receiving a failing grade. I merely advised the professor to talk one-on-one with the student to clarify the terms and events for the student.

Still I began to ponder the “what if” historical possibility… 

What if King George III of England had liked the taste of olives?

Actually for all I know, he may have actually been an olive connoisseur. Speaking only for myself, I could appreciate the student’s interpretation because I do not care for the taste of olives.

If only the colonists had shipped some peach trees from Georgia or if a young George Washington had not chopped down those cherry trees, sorry Mr. President but Parson Weems did snitch even though you did not try to hide the ax or hatchet, and the colonists had offered cherry branches? Instead the colonists sent the King a portion of an Olive Branch, a tree and fruit not even native to the Americas. It’s no wonder that King George III sent more Redcoats and hired those Hessians. Perhaps a peach, cherry, or cherry blossom might have altered the course of history.

I will admit that the olive branch piece war theory actually influences me less emotionally than something I thought about taking a survey Western Civilization history course my first semester of undergraduate school.

Francis Drake may have been the second person in the world to be circumcised with a clipper that was 100 feet long, but unlike the first man, Ferdinand Magellan, Drake actually survived the procedure. Of course we never did determine if Magellan passed away from the attempted procedure or if some woman named Victoria simply killed him before she returned to Spain.

We do “know” that Francis Drake received a somewhat unique award as the Queen presented him with a golden trophy in the shape of a horse’s hind quarters.

We also know that Drake’s ability to undergo that procedure with that size of instrument did earn him great respect.  By the Queen’s orders, everybody began to address Drake as Sir.

You may laugh, but just thinking about it brings me chills.

On a side note many years ago, a replica of the Golden Hind docked in Baton Rouge beside the USS Kidd.  My Dad and I toured the vessel, and it was fascinating as to just how small the ship was and the lack of space below deck. Other replicas such as the Nina and HMS Bounty docked in Baton Rouge during my childhood, but for whatever reason I remember touring Drake’s vessel more vividly than the others. If any of the sailing replicas dock near you, I encourage you to at least take a look from the shore because it’s difficult to more fully appreciate some of the affiliated histories without having a visual.