HE SAYS:

Tax the rich.   I don’t agree with it, I voted against it, and I consistently argued that it would not fix our economy or lower the deficit; however, if the recent election showed us anything it is that the majority of the people in this country want just that.

As a citizen and small business owner, I am watching with great interest the current political wrangling and possible impasse regarding a solution to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff”.  As much as I had argued against raising anyone’s taxes, I have to concede the point that the re-election of President Obama clearly indicates that the majority of Americans want to impose a tax increase on those families with incomes over $250,000.   As a person who believes in the democratic process, I also must accept that this tax increase should be implemented as part of the sought after resolution of our fiscal crisis provided that any such resolution also includes significant and appropriate spending cuts.

I do not believe that such a tax increase will help the economy or have any meaningful impact on reducing the national deficit; however, I also believe that the people’s will must be fulfilled such that we have to take that plunge and hope that it has the desired effect.   If they are wrong, time can only tell and in that case there is always another election four years from now.

I am also unsure of the long term effects of “Obamacare”; however, with the Supreme Court affirming its constitutionality and a political reversal no longer a possibility, we must accept it as part of our permanent reality.   Even if there may be some business owners who are unable or unwilling to absorb the additional costs with the inevitable layoffs or reduced hiring, we should still try to make it work.   If the outcome proves to be detrimental to our economy and the business community then we can, at least, say that we gave it a fair chance.   For my part, the insurance coverage mandates of “Obamacare” are a non-issue since USFSB has always considered it an important part of its business practices to provide all of our employees with full health, dental and vision coverage and I would not want to conduct my business in any other way.

The policies and political solutions now being devised are not what I wanted, voted for, or believe are, necessarily, what is best for our country but I also understand that nothing is gained by becoming entrenched in a stalemate.   Life is full of compromises and now is the time to put our differences aside and work towards a solution that recognizes the will of the people.

By the way, I recently stated my intention to refrain from writing and posting any more blogs during my self-imposed hiatus so please do not consider this a blog in contravention of that stated intention but more of a business commentary.    Just as in politics I have learned that we can deny the existence of anything by simply giving it another name, for example, an insurance mandate penalty is not really a penalty if we simply call it a tax.

 Happy Holidays!

HE SAYS:

When I started writing my blogs for the USFSB website in June, 2010, I had no idea that it would last this long or would have covered so many topics.   It has been an adventure that for the most part I enjoyed and from which I learned some valuable lessons.

Prior to this experience, most of my writing efforts were confined to the many court papers that needed to be written on behalf of my clients.   Even though those papers would be critiqued by a Judge and sometimes criticized for not being persuasive enough, I always was able to detach my personal feelings from the critique or criticism.   I took pride in my professionalism but never looked at those writings as personal statements.

Not so with blog writing.  Each effort was from a personal point of view and, as I was prone to say to Annemarie, posting each blog was like giving birth to one of my creations.   I had to learn both to accept challenges to those posts that were personal in nature and to respond in as civil and courteous a manner as I could muster while still meeting the challenge and defending my opinion or belief.   That’s not to suggest that I did not welcome the responses even the negative ones since having an involved and engaging discussion was the point after all.

In any event, I have run out of topics of interest to me and decided to take a hiatus of an indefinite duration from writing blogs.   For those who have enjoyed my efforts I am gratified and for those who did not all I can say is that I believed it was far more important to be true to myself than to try and please everyone.

Goodbye and good luck.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

I once posted a blog entitled “Give Them What They Want” in which I succumbed to the popular interest in all things cute by posting some incredibly cute pictures of my son’s Min Pin, Enzo.  I was reluctant to do so because I do not personally believe that just being cute is enough to inspire, amuse or entertain me or anyone else.   Cute is overrated.

I feel the same way about all of those trite feel good quotes and canned inspirational statements that are plastered all over Facebook and other social network sites and which pass for meaningful observations on life.   They have no validity when it comes to defining what life is all about and it is just as ridiculous to be inspired by them as it would be to rely on a fortune cookie to give you a meaningful look at your future.   They are both just superficial fluff that offer nothing of substance to your spirit or your mind.

I suppose there is no wonder that these things are so popular since we have reduced all of our information and thoughts into short sound bites so why not find our inspiration in the same way.   Real thoughts and true depth of feelings have given way in our fast paced and shallow culture to trite statements of wisdom and inspiration that are simply contrived messages designed to trigger a superficial feeling of well-being.

Life is far too sublime and your spirit much too lofty to be reduced to a few insipid words of fluff just as your future is too mysterious to be described in a fortune cookie.   I believe that our minds are too intelligent to be swayed by cute just as I believe our spirits are too expansive to be satisfied by the vapid purveyors of pre-packaged feel good words of inspiration.   We should understand that the real worth of the world and of our place in that world cannot be summed up in a few words of fluff.   You deserve better than that.

On Monday, Joe says goodbye.   

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

I have heard of people claiming to have had an out of body experience usually in connection with a near death experience.   I have never had an out of body experience even though I have been bored nearly to death many times.

However, I have had what I consider to be an out of mind experience on numerous occasions.  There are times when I am so befuddled or incredulous over some of the ridiculous things that people do that I start to feel that I must be going out of my mind since this can’t really be happening.

I am not talking about the intense or profound kinds of things that can dramatically affect our lives or which are of such great importance that they demand action.   I am talking about those simple yet annoying everyday kinds of things that just drive you up a wall even though there is not much you can do about them except shake your head in bewilderment.   I am sure we all have had an out of mind experience.   Here are some of mine.

I love going to the movies as a way to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life by enjoying a couple of hours of undistracted entertainment.   I usually have an out of mind experience when people can’t organize their lives well enough to even get to a movie on time and then think it is acceptable to rummage around a dark theater looking for a seat or when people feel it necessary to sit in front of me even though the theater is nearly empty or when people decide that a dark quiet theater would be the best place to have a conversation with their friends or when people spend two hours loudly ripping though one bag of treats after another as if no one will notice that they spent two hours eating everything they could get their hands on.

I do a fair amount of both local and highway driving and find that it can, even under the best of circumstances, require a good deal of patience.  I usually have an out of mind experience when people pull their car out of a side street or parking lot right in front of me as if they are in a great hurry and then hold me up as they proceed to go 10 MPH under the speed limit or when people are oblivious to the other traffic around them and won’t give me any room as I’m trying to merge onto a highway or when people rudely cut me off in traffic and then give me the universal salute as if I’m the one at fault or when people in bumper to bumper traffic make matters worse by holding back instead of helping to keep the traffic moving and most of all when people slow down to look at something on the side of the road thus needlessly causing the bumper to bumper traffic in the first place.

I have been on many cruises and in many other situations where I have had to go through a buffet line.   I usually have an out of mind experience when people take forever to work their way through the line as if they never saw food before and have to inspect and analyze every dish or when they act as if each choice is of monumental importance and have to carefully weigh each option before they can decide what to put on their plate or when they feel the need to meticulously fill their plate with some of everything available as if they will never have an opportunity to pass through the buffet line ever again.

I have had to patiently wait in line to buy tickets at one attraction or another just like everyone else.   I usually have an out of mind experience when people hold up the line as they negotiate with the person in the ticket booth so that they can figure out the absolute best combination of ticket options that will save them, maybe, a couple of dollars or when people ask one inane question after another as if they are completely unaware that there is a long line of people behind them or when they do anything other than quickly complete their business and move on.

Luckily, Annemarie can be the voice of reason and a paragon of patience whenever I get agitated by the things people do that seem to drive me out of my mind.

On Wednesday, Joe comments on those contrived words of inspiration we are all asked to share and like in “You Deserve Better Than That”.  

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

I wrote this post well over a month before the election and without regard as to who might win since I believe the sentiment to be valid no matter who, in fact, won. 

As you read this, the Presidential election is over and the people have made their choice.   Now, all of us must accept that choice and hope that our President does a good job and can find a way to fairly and equitably fix the economy as well as keep us safe from those that would seek to harm us.

When I first voted in a Presidential election, I was an idealist and voted for George McGovern who lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon.   I was devastated and felt like the country would never survive such a travesty.   Over the years, sometimes the candidate that I supported has won and sometimes he has lost.   In each case, the person elected was never as good as I had hoped or as bad as I had feared.   The power of the President is limited by the political process and by the checks and balances created by Congress and the Courts.   I also have learned that people who are elevated to such a lofty position usually rise to the occasion and try to do the right thing for the country and not just play favorites with their specific constituency.

Regardless of whether or not my candidate has won, I always try to remain optimistic about the future of our country in the belief that no one person, not even the President, can change who we are as a nation or irrevocably alter the things that make our country great.

Like everything in life, we all must take the good with the bad as nothing and no one will be perfect.  So, when it comes to politics you could say that every bowl of cherries also has some pits or sometimes we have to accept that every bowl of pits will also have some cherries depending on how we feel about who won.

On Monday, Joe comments on the need to make our Constitution more relevant to today’s world in “Is The US Constitution Still Relevant?”.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

Election Day will soon be upon us and we will all have the opportunity to exercise one of the most important rights we have as citizens in a democracy, the right to vote for our elected officials, including our President.

I am not promoting in this post either candidate in this Presidential election.   Both men are intelligent, accomplished, and, hopefully, are well intentioned.   That is not to say that I do not have a preference; however, I also try in good conscience to vote for the candidate that I believe will do the best job for our country.  Of course, as we all do, I tend to follow my own self-interests but I also recognize that the outcome of any Presidential election is about all of us and is bigger than any one of us.

On a day to day basis, the political process is a tug of war by and between such competing forces as lobbyists; private and public interest groups; political pundits, bloggers and media commentators; focus groups; protestors in the streets loudly shouting their point of view; and back room power brokers quietly whispering their point of view.   However, on Election Day, all of that becomes the sideshow and the only thing that matters is our vote, the power of the ballot.   For better or worse, on that day through the collective will and wisdom of the voters we choose the person who will lead all of us for the next four years.

On Election Day, don’t abdicate your rights and duties as a citizen, vote and be heard.

On Wednesday, Joe comments on the election in a post written well over a month before the election and without regard to who might win in “Every Bowl Of Cherries Has Some Pits”. 

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

This is the second part of a two-part story. Click here to read part 1.

HE SAYS:

The credit card companies and the credit bureaus did a good job helping us build a security bubble over ourselves so that the thief was having a hard time being successful in his fraudulent efforts; however, none of them were interested in finding the thief and putting a stop to his criminal activity.  So, we naturally turned to law enforcement to catch and punish our thief in the belief that a crime as pervasive and destructive as identity theft would be taken seriously and pursued with vigor.  Oh, how wrong we were.

We first called the police department in our home town in New York and were advised that they would not take a complaint over the phone which, of course, would have required me to suffer the hardship of traveling over 2,700 miles to make a complaint in person.   This was just one of the many road blocks and inadequacies we encountered with law enforcement’s lack of desire and inability to do anything about identity theft.  We next went to our Sheriff’s Department in Arizona and we were able to make a report and, eventually, obtain an Incident Report; however, other than generating this report they had no interest in pursuing this crime or conducting any investigation on our behalf.   The Sheriff’s Department would not contact any of the credit card companies to obtain the information they had on the thief and took the position that unless the thief was in their jurisdiction they would not take any action.

Despite all of the frustration and lack of any effort by law enforcement to find the thief, we felt like we had things under control until the thief made his next move.   The postman that delivers the mail to our office in Schenectady, New York knows us and was somewhat incredulous when he asked our office manager why I was having my mail forwarded to some address in California.  We learned that our thief had filed in my name an online change of address form with the US Postal Service to have my mail forwarded from my office address to an address in a small town near Los Angeles, California.   This was the most unnerving development since not only was the thief trying to fraudulently use my name but was now trying to steal my mail with all of the privacy issues that entails.   This prompted us to go paperless and exclusively rely on receiving our credit card statements, bank statements, investment statements, and even our bills online.

We immediately called the Schenectady Post Office and we were given the number for the national postal service department that deals with change of address requests.   They were cooperative and cancelled the change of address; however, we were advised that it would take several days for the cancellation to become effective so that some mail would probably get forwarded since our mail could be automatically diverted before it ever reached Schenectady.

We next called the post office in California and they proved to be very helpful.   They agreed to intercept any of my forwarded mail and send it back to Schenectady.   They also advised that they had already been suspicious of the address the thief was using and that the post office would conduct a sting operation to catch our thief.   We were also assured of this by the US Postal Service Fraud Department which considers itself to be a national law enforcement agency.   We were very hopeful that something would finally be done until we came to understand that they are all talk and no action.   To our knowledge, they never pursued the matter and they never kept any of their promises to call us with updated information.

We also contacted the police department in that small town in California and sent them the Incident Report from the Arizona Sheriff’s Department in lieu of going there to personally file a complaint.  Since then, they have never returned any of our calls and apparently have not done anything to pursue this crime or help us.   We have found that law enforcement thinks and acts in very narrow and limited ways and is not prepared or equipped to deal with sophisticated technological crimes that are conducted on a national scale such as identity theft even when the thief is in their own backyard.

We ultimately filed our Police Incident Report with the three credit bureaus in order to extend our “Fraud Alerts” for seven years.   It has been six months since we have had any identity theft activity that we are aware of anyway and we have taken and continue to take remedial steps and precautions to prevent this from happening to us in the future.

What we learned is that it is easy for identity thieves to steal and use your identity and for good reason since no one in the entire process from the companies being defrauded to law enforcement to even agencies having a national reach such as the US Postal Service has the desire to fight identity theft and bring the thief to justice.   If you become the victim of identity theft, good luck, since you will have to fight to protect yourself with little or no chance of actually finding and stopping the thief.

On Monday, Joe encourages everyone to vote in “Bigger Than Any One Of Us”.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?