Swapping Votes? That’s Really A Thing?

It’s finally here. Let’s just hope the outcome tomorrow doesn’t lead to a civil war.

When it comes to the rules of politics and voting in this country, I’ll admit, you won’t find many more clueless than I am. I don’t argue the 2nd Ammendment all that well, and I definitely can’t tell you how to fix the Affordable Healthcare Act. But this week I learned just how out of touch I am when I started reading about vote swapping and how that’s been going on since 2000. 

The concept is somewhat easy to understand, and now with the proliferation of social media sites like Facebook and the development of apps that can match you with a vote trading partner, it may actually someday, in some battleground state, make a difference. The idea of vote swapping emerged during the Bush-Gore Presidential Election of 2000, in where else, Florida. Democratic leaders in the state pleaded with followers of consumer advocate and third party candidate Ralph Nader to not waste their votes on Nader. As the election day got closer, websites promising Gore support in Florida in exchange for Nader votes in traditionally strong Democrat voting states started to pop up. 

Other than the obvious “make your vote count” argument, another part of these vote swapping agreements is in securing federal funding in future elections for a third party like the Green or Libertarian parties. The major party candidate gets a battleground state vote from a third party voter, and the third party candidate gets a vote in a state in which they wouldn’t have counted on one and which has no effect on the outcome of the election other than to help push the third party vote total to the 5% required nationally for the future funding. I can understand how this whole vote swapping process sounds irksome and a bit smarmy, especially to Donald Trump and his supporters who believe his arguments of a rigged election, the thing to remember is there are no guarantees the swap will be acted upon by both parties once they hit the voting booth. The swap is nothing more than an exchange of ideas and preferences on who and how the country should be run. It is not a contract and there has been no exchange of money or services (supposedly) between the individuals. And the opportunity exists for both candidates to take strategic advantage of the process. I’m guessing dating websites like eHarmony and Match.com might want to avoid offering future vote swapping services however for all of the obvious legal and social pitfalls.

I don’t know how many of these swap contracts were agreed upon for tomorrow’s election, or if they would even have any bearing on the results of the election, but with two candidates who are held in contempt by so many Americans, the potential is there for voters to want to make their vote count more than ever. It’s your choice.

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Irksome

Santa And the e-Commerce Mutants

A Christmas story of endurance, exhaustion, dedication, and the hope that just maybe somebody will appreciate these over-worked mutants enough to share a plate of holiday cookies.

We were never seen as superheroes like Iron Man or Thor or Captain America even. And we weren’t anti-heroes like Magneto and Wolverine, at least not until November and December. Most of the year the public tolerated our existence, a necessary evil in a consumer driven society. But in those final months of the year, when a certain sled driving, long white beard growing, red suit and hat wearing, overweight, elderly gentleman relished us more than the children of the country would ever know, we became the most tracked people on the Internet, even more than the jolly fat man himself. And possibly the most vilified mutants the world would ever know if we failed in our endeavors.

The jolly fat man asks us to do unspeakable things to compensate for his inadequecies, to work longer hours and more days than even that band of miniature, miserable little toy makers he keeps hidden away up north. We are his e-commerce face, his face to the Internet shopping public, his face to people who couldn’t wait until December 24th for their gifts. The face the shopping public would hate the rest of the year if little Jimmy didn’t get the latest, hottest toy available on-line and delivered on-time. We often grew sick and tired of Santa and his persona, his tricked-out sleigh (compensating for something he is), those vile beasts he calls reindeer (actually caribou), and it showed in our public faces, in our contempt for the mutant beings that him and these 2 months would turn us into. There’s a reason why Santa’s always smiling and it’s because we deflected any of the potential criticism about his so-called world class distribution system. 

Did you ever wonder how white beard does it? How he could fit all that stuff into one tiny sleigh? How he could get a pack of flying reindeer (caribou) to circle the world in one night? What happens when there’s no fireplace? Tim Allen aside, I don’t know about the fireplace trick, but the answer to the first three questions is…he doesn’t. He has lots of help from the mutants who cover large land areas such as the continental United States. Sure, he takes a lot of the small boxes and bags and poses for the publicity photos, but the backbone of his Yuletide network begins with those elves and their old-fashioned little toys, ( why he feels compelled to keep them around is a mystery; how many kids really want a little wooden train or airplane?), and ends on the backs of us, his merry-making mutants. Oh, and Amazon. And of course, loving moms and dads everywhere who relish the idea of him to kids not quite ready to do the math on the possibility of his existence.

I’ll bet you’re asking, what could send a mutant into a rage that would scare even Wolverine or Deadpool? It’s not just one thing, it’s everything. An unappreciative pot-bellied boss who gets all the credit, which yes I’ll admit, that’s a pretty common thing; a buying public (say this next part with all the disdain you can muster) who starts buying in early November and doesn’t stop until the last of the after-Christmas sales; drivers who lack the skills to drive in the snow, yet jump in the car at the first sign of snow; homeowners who insist on decorating every inch of their home, especially the house number and mailbox; daylight savings time and the ensuing lack of daylight; those high-beam lights people shine on their front doors to show off a Christmas wreath and are absolutely blinding if you look at them; all the hard to see electric cords and tie downs used to inflate and hold in place those cheesy Christmas yard decorations  that can easily take a mutant down to the ground; and the most asked questions of the season,”What’s this?”, “Who’s it for?”, “Where’s it coming from?”, “Will you hide it in the garage under that green moldy tarp for me?“, and “Can you come back later, I don’t want my kids to see you, or see you bringing it up to the house?”. 

And then there’s the worse insult a mutant endures. The fire truck Santa Clause. For weeks we freaks work tirelessly delivering Santa’s e-commerce packages, and on the Saturday before Christmas these wannabe Santas show up, driving their trucks down neighborhood streets, working their sirens, and tossing those awful candy canes to any kid who comes running. And they do come running, often ignoring the mutant walking up the driveway with a box containing something they really want. It makes a mutant want to climb up on that fire truck and rip that phony…

…thank the pretend Santa for his courage and service…he is a volunteer fireman after all. And when one of his also-phony elves, who by the way is not wearing the requisite green jacket, red stockings, brown shoes, and hat with a feather in it worn by the union boys up north, offers me a candy cane while blowing cigarette smoke in my face, this mutant has had enough,”No, I don’t want one of your candy canes, what I want you to do is move your truck to the side so I can continue with my 14 hour day!”

So this year, as you’re busy spreading your holiday cheer; please give Santa’s e-commerce mutants a happy thought; because we deliver the Christmas you so relish, and all that stuff you bought.

HO-HO-HO! It’s not just his laugh…it’s item number two on Santa’s after Christmas list of things to do.

Relish

An Open Letter to Teamsters President James P. Hoffa

The time is right for The Teamsters to step up their efforts to represent drivers long underpaid and disrespected by FedEx Ground.

Mr. Hoffa,

A great opportunity lays at the door of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. A chance for the Teamsters to possibly add thousands of drivers across the country to its rank and file. Drivers who are currently employed by small businesses who contract with FedEx Ground. That’s right, Federal Express. An opportunity to finally get a foothold in a business whose model you’ve argued against for years. 

I have a long 15+ year relationship with FedEx Ground, both as a contractor in the now debunked Independent Contractor model, and currently as a driver for a company operating in what I believe is an eerie environment filled with just as much double talk and trickery; the Independent Service Provider model. This model, where these small companies negotiate their service contracts with FedEx Ground, which is to say FedEx sets a price in the sand and it will be up to the contractor to decide if he wants to service his area, is nothing more than the Independent Contractor model in different wrapping paper. In a recent meeting held for contractors in my area, it was explained simply that a contractor could hold out and possibly get more money for each delivered stop, but that FedEx might offset that by paying less for any number of other contract line items. I can’t see that being good for anyone other than FedEx, certainly not the contractors or we the drivers.

And who took the bullet from FedEx that made this model possible? The single route driver. The guys who were here from the beginning, the guys who did everything FedEx required. A truck? They bought it. Need a bigger truck? They bought it. Hire, train, and employ a second driver all at their expense if their route became too large? They did that too. And when FedEx introduced the ISP model, (now currently being rolled out in my home state of PA) it caused a wave of consolidations and pseudo-partnerships between drivers fearful of not having a chair when the music stopped. Future contractors in the ISP model would be required to own and service on average 500 stops per day; roughly 4-5 routes. Someone would have to go. And by creating that dynamic, FedEx Ground not only affected the price a distressed driver might receive on a fair and open market; why buy the cow at full price when you can eventually get the milk for free or at a huge discount?; but they also have now opened themselves up to the liability of drivers who are no longer contractually beholden to them; drivers who now can finally organize. Drivers who can stand side by side with our UPS brethren when needed? A seat at the table.

Mr. Hoffa, what I am asking is help from the Teamsters in creating a better working environment at FedEx Ground. As I stated previously, I am employed, as possibly many other drivers from the former IC model are, by one of the small businesses currently contracted with FedEx Ground. The owner, my boss if you will, is a former partner and a close personal friend who has treated me as best he can the past several years. But his ability to pay a more fair wage, including overtime and paid time off and a health benefit and retirement package similar to what FedEx Express employee drivers receive is hampered by the tight-fisted robber barons at FedEx Ground and FedEx Corp. I know he would do more for his employees if he weren’t hamstrung by the archaic system originally created in the Independent Contractor model which included only token pay for truck loading, pay by the stop, and possibly the biggest of all insults, one pay scale no matter the size of the delivery. That’s right. As a driver the rate is the same for an envelope as it is for 13 cases of wine or 8 oversized tires with rims and fully inflated (there’s more behind what you see in the pictures).

It’s up to you and the Teamsters Mr. Hoffa. You always wanted a crack at FedEx, here’s opportunity knocking. Will you and your brotherhood open the door and accept the challenge, or will you allow us to believe what many big businesses now say; the Teamsters no longer have the power they once did. Show us! Let’s all of us put on our big boy pants!
Eerie

Take Down Those Lights and Put That Tree Away!

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

It happens every year and the older I get the worse it gets. It could be a neighbor, maybe a Target or a Kohl’s, or even a grocery store. The Christmas season envelope gets pushed further and advertised earlier than it ever has in the past. Raise your hand if you’ve already seen a TV commercial or department store display aimed at potential Christmas shoppers. Enough already, I haven’t even given out my first fortune cookie for Halloween yet. It is amazing how many of these you can save up after a year of eating take-out Chinese food. If you were a kid which would you choose, the cookie that could explain your future or some nasty old pennies wrapped in Saran Wrap and tied with orange ribbon? The cookie I’ll bet.

The point, which I’ve obviously lost track of, is I’m a kid from the 1960’s and for me, October through December was defined by the celebration of three events, Halloween and the preceding night, Mischief Night,  Thanksgiving and all of the creative ways to cook left-over turkey, and Christmas with all of its toys and the birth of our Savior. I would be a liar if I told you as a kid the birth of Jesus ranked ahead of getting a year’s worth of new toys. Anyway, with each of these three important events, there were TV specials that defined that holiday and triggered a series of events culminating in Christmas and the just as important, Winter Break in the Evesham Township School District. And the birth of our Savior.

Charlie Brown and the other apparently parent-less Peanuts kids had no competition when it came to shows celebrating the joy of Halloween or the feast that was Thanksgiving and the importance of having enough bread to make all of that toast. Or for wandering the neighborhood at all times of the night. A Charlie Brown Christmas had much more competition, but even at my advanced age remains my favorite, sorry Grinch, mostly because we both have Beagles. Maybe if Max were a beagle I would feel differently.

My point is, each of these holidays owned a portion of the calendar, not to be infringed upon by either of the other two. You didn’t make out your Christmas list or mail your Christmas cards at Halloween, you didn’t wear your Halloween costume at the Thanksgiving dinner table (unless you were an Indian or a pilgrim for Halloween, then you could probably pull it off), and your parents didn’t start decorating the house for Christmas until at least after the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing were disposed of during the long 4-day weekend. In my parents house, the end of the Thanksgiving holiday signaled my father to send a kid up in the attic to retrieve the outdoor Christmas lights and to go into the garage and retrieve the 4 x 8 sheet of plywood he used to begin the month long construction of the train platform my family enjoyed every year.

If you’re still wondering the reasons for this semi-incoherent rant; it would be the neighbor who this week I saw has already put out Christmas lights. No, they’re not Halloween lights, these are the red, blue, and green lights of Christmas, not the orange lights one would expect in October.

And the small package Halloween costumes I used to deliver have been replaced by giant artificial Christmas trees. Already. In October. Before Thanksgiving even.

And the oversized Amazon boxes containing the biggest toy a parent can buy. No, not big as in popular, big as in the bigger the toy, the more a parent must really love their child. Whatever happened to love comes in smaller boxes? And nothing says love like a nice 6-pack of tube socks or underwear.

And the endless arguments about stores opening or not on Thanksgiving Day. How about retailers (and FedEx and UPS) give employees Black Friday off as well. Consumers will still spend their hard earned money 24 hours later. You can call it Cafe Noir Saturday which is the color of brewed coffee, but still a shade of black. Think of the impact to the coffee industry from  consumers saying Cafe Noir Saturday instead of just Black Friday.

I’m not trying to dictate how people should enjoy their holidays because not enough people will even read this to make a difference. People should do as they please no matter how over the top it appears. And if you’re the only one in you’re neighborhood who already has their Christmas lights up, I would be willing to bet you’re neighbors are saying the same thing, just behind your back.

It’s not Halloween yet and I’m already pushing burnout from the overselling of Christmas. 

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Giant

Red Rover, Red Rover, Send New Lawyers Over!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the attorneys at Leonard Carder LLP in California. It appears you did a fantastic job getting a fair and equitable settlement for your fellow residents of California. Well done. Unfortunately when it came to We the 12,000 contractors in the multi-state settlement, we were left with whatever scraps you and FedEx decided to which we were entitled. It’s fortunate that they didn’t offer us free cafe lattes at Java World first, otherwise I get the feeling we would all be drinking coffee free for the next year.

If I come off as ungrateful it’s because I am. Please don’t delude yourselves into thinking it’s just me not appreciating your talents and hard work, the woods are filled with more just like me! Some, more than willing to protest this misbegotten settlement; some, the silent majority (?) who hate the deal but need the money more; and some who no longer have a stake in the game, tired of the Purple Promise and after having left long ago are ecstatic to be getting money they never expected to be awarded.

I don’t pretend to be a legal expert, but I’ve watched Suits and Boston Legal often enough, read enough John Grisham, even saw the movie Erin Brockovich, twice! This settlement has nothing to do with the differences between California employment law vs. the rest of the country; it simply represents the sell-out of We the 12,000 non-California contractors who performed all of the same duties, wore all the same clothing, bought and paid for all the same equipment, worked all of the same uncompensated overtime, delivered all of the same packages, and showered and groomed every bit as well as they did. So how in the name of Sam Hill could our west coast brothers be entitled to $150-$200 per week more than the rest of us? It’s outrageous, aggregious, and preposterous! Was anyone actually doing the math? At $41.13 /week, that breaks down to $8/day or 75 cents/hour. That doesn’t even put the half in time and a half. What legal team would agree to such ridiculous amounts? Possibly a legal team whose interest at this point is only the collection of their fees and who are no longer willing to fight the good fight? Convinced in their own minds that these settlements are fair to all involved.

So where does that leave We the 12,000? For now I would say we were, “attached to another object by an inclined plane, wrapped helically around an axis.” But we may surprise ourselves yet. Maybe we can unite and make our objections heard, long and loud enough that the legal system that binds us will see this proposed settlement for what it really is, a pathetic attempt at paying off the masses for their silence. And if the legal system agrees and orders the two sides back to the table with new counsel for We the 12,000, I suggest this should be our own Artificial legal dream team;

  • Lead Chair-Saul Goodman who the other lawyers will hate because of his second-rate education, but won’t hesitate to get in the mud when it’s needed.
  • Second Chair-Daniel Caffey can finally get that set of steak knives he lost on A Few Good Men. 
  • Third Chair-Jake Brigance can say to Fred Smith and his hatchet men, “Now imagine, you’re a contractor.” And the whole courtroom will weep for our pain.
  • Fourth Chair-Harvey Specter who lives by the rule, “The success of the client is a success of yours.” He would never settle for $41.13/week. Why should we?

It’s not over unless we say it’s over.
Artificial

Looking More Presidential Every Day?

Jerry, Jumbo, the Coolidge Effect and a short history of past Presidential carryings-on.

With each and every day comes a new Donald Trump allegation of improper sexual behavior. Since I have a job which allows me plenty of hours to ponder such things, I found myself asking, how could we trust and elect such an alleged, but not yet proven, groper of women? And unfortunately for Trump, so are many in his own party. And while Mr. Trump is more than happy with the size of his hands, his inability to use his best words, words he told us he has, have been unable to stem the tide of party defections. But then again, he was never their candidate, he was the peoples candidate chosen during the Republican Primaries this year. Their stated support of his candidacy was nothing more than a timid attempt at party unity and that some of these supporters, defeated by him after an ugly primary and series of debates, may be getting the last laugh.

But I want to know, how would Donald Trump fit into the mold of a POTUS? Well, if you go back through history you would see he fits right in. Many of our past Presidents have had their own sex scandals and marital affairs. Some you may know, others not so much. It would be easy to bring up the affairs of Bill Clinton or John F. Kennedy, but I went back and tried to find some I wasn’t even aware of-

  • Warren G. Harding is probably one of the worse Presidents in U.S. History for reasons other than his politics. Harding had two notable affairs and fathered at least one child in those relationships, not to mention paid hush money to keep one of the affairs secret. Warren G. also liked to take the action to one of the coat closets in the anteroom…relying on the Secret Service to knock if Mrs. Harding showed up (don’t look for this on the White House tour). Apparently him and Jerry…yes he named his man part…saw plenty of action, but claimed his marriage to Florence was only…”necessary for appearance sake.”
  • Grover Cleveland was a lawyer in Buffalo, NY, when a young woman named Maria Crofts Halpin claimed to have had a son after Cleveland sexually assaulted her. Because of Cleveland’s political maneuvers, her son wound up in a foster home and Halpin was sent to an insane asylum. This story came out when Cleveland ran for President in 1884. Grover’s opponents chanted “Ma, ma, where’s my Pa?” and after Cleveland’s victory, his supporters came up with their own chant: “He’s gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!” I wonder what they said during his campaign.
  • This was never in my school history books, but James Buchanan may have been our first openly gay President. A bachelor, Buchanan lived for 15 years with pro-slavery Alabama Senator William Rufus King. In Washington, Buchanan and King were commonly called “Siamese twins,” which is possibly slang for gay and lesbian couples during this era. The always Ignorant Former President Andrew Jackson referred to King as “Miss Nancy.” In a letter to President James Polk’s wife, Democrat Aaron Brown called King, Buchanan’s “better half,” “his wife,” and “Aunt Fancy”.
  • We all know Lyndon Johnson became President after the assassination of Kennedy. While many marvel at the number of women JFK had affairs with, Johnson had his own affairs. He actually brags about bedding more women than Kennedy. Johnson and “Jumbo”, yes he named his too, also carried on two long term affairs. One of 20 years with a woman named Madeline Brown and another 30 year romp with a woman named Alice Glass. Johnson, always proud of Jumbo, never hesitated to show him off, even if the moment wasn’t quite right. Jumbo is also the answer to the question, “Why are we still in Veitnam?” To that question the President unfurled Jumbo and said, “Here’s why!”
  • Calvin Coolidge and the Coolidge Effect? One day, the President and Mrs. Coolidge were visiting a farm. They were taken off on separate tours and as they passed the chicken pens, Mrs. Coolidge asked the man in charge if the rooster was good for more than once a day. “Dozens of times,” was the reply from the man in charge, to which Mrs. Coolidge is said to have responded, “Please tell that to the President”. When the President passed the pens he was told about the rooster, and asked “Same hen every time?” After he was told it was a different one every time, President Coolidge nodded, saying, “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.” And what is the Coolidge Effect? This idea, the sensation of men becoming rearoused by the idea or presence of a new female, or in laboratory testing- a rat will tire of having sex with the same rat all of the time, but when you put a new rat in front of him, his sex drive becomes reinvigorated.

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Jerry? Jumbo? The Donald? Maybe we’ve misjudged his small hands after all. Maybe he really is ready to become President of the United States. Two questions remain-Do we trust him, and are we going to put him there?
Trust

Donald, Hillary & Just One Positive Thing

At the end of the day, did they make us believe their answers to a truly pointless question?

Anyone who chose not to or was unable to watch the 2nd Presidential Debate last night missed one of the more heartwarming moments of the campaign. It was without question however none of these…

No…Bill didn’t share an I’ve Missed You Hug with the targets of his former dalliances, conveniently seated nearby thanks to some last minute seating arrangements.

No…Grandmom Hillary didn’t invite the grandkids up on stage after the debate to watch their mother, Chelsea, reprise her role of the Favorite Aunt in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

No…Hillary didn’t give a special shout-out to FBI Director James Comey thanking him for all of his years of service…and for looking the other way on all those emails.

No…Hillary didn’t invite all of Donald’s  Deplorables on stage to apologize and then send them lovingly away with a slice of Grandmom Hillary’s Apple Pie.

No…Donald didn’t promise if elected he would pardon away Hillary deleting those emails. In fact, he pledged to hire a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary and throw her in jail if warranted (much to the delight of his supporters I’m sure).

No…Donald didn’t invite all of Mexico over to his place for a Cinco de Mayo festival next year. Not even the good ones as he likes to call them.

No…The former students of Trump U did not come on stage to thank The Donald for the world class education they received at his university. 

And No…New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did not step on stage to tell Donald it was all a big misunderstanding, that the notice to stop fundraising he sent to the Donald J. Trump Foundation was just for laughs.

What you would have seen and heard in this sometimes out-of-control town hall meeting was a question straight out of a marriage encounter retreat…or from my 4th grade school teacher after she broke up a fight between me and my no longer best friend Danny Kelly on the playground.

The final question of the night’s political pillow fight (you know what I mean, everyone swings real hard but nobody really gets hurt) came from Undecided Voter Karl Becker, who asked the two candidates;

“My question to both of you is, regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”

Here is where Donald absolutely outshines Hillary. His answer, no matter how insincere it was, actually was mostly complimentary and somewhat thought out. Hillary on the other hand, refused to compliment Trump himself, choosing the more indirect route of saying he had great kids.

From Hillary:

“Look, I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald. I don’t agree with nearly anything else he says or does, but I do respect that. I think that is something that as a mother and a grandmother is very important to me.” Say what you want about her, but she didn’t fall into the trap of praising her opponent directly.

And then Mr. Trump dove right into the pool without his water wings:

“She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it like it is. She’s a fighter,” Trump said. “I disagree with much of what she’s fighting for. I do disagree with her judgment in many cases. But she does fight hard, and she doesn’t quit, and she doesn’t give up. And I consider that to be a very good trait.”

Trump then politely thanked Clinton for her disingenuous flattery of his children (it was that obvious), and Hillary then silently thanked Trump for supplying the next sound bite in her TV and radio ads.

 Flattery