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Bernie Sanders (Earnest, But Oh So Wrong!)

February 9th, 2016

As a self-proclaimed Socialist, Bernie Sanders likes to sound radical, exciting his audience with rhetoric about “need[ing] a political revolution.”However, he has yet to espouse the economic creed of Socialism, which calls for the government to own and control the means of production. I can only assume that he doesn’t support such a radical departure from our economic system, a system that, over its four-hundred-year history, has generated prosperity like few other large countries in the world.

Simply put, Bernie Sanders is not a Socialist; rather he is a progressive Democrat, not unlike a number of others who have toyed with the idea of running for President —namely, Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean (another Vermonter). He is earnest and honest; he believes what he preaches with all his heart, and while that is rare in a politician and may be admirable in itself, it doesn’t legitimize his political theories.

What Bernie Sanders espouses is a social welfare system, in which the government first defines the well-being of its citizens and then takes on the responsibility of ensuring that well-being. His litany of those guarantees has popular appeal and certainly tugs on the heartstrings of many Americans, both Democrats and Republicans. I admit that they are lofty (but impracticable) ideals.

What retiree wouldn’t be happier with a higher monthly Social Security check?

Who can find fault with “free” tuition for all college students, relieving them and their parents of the burden of education loans?

Why can’t we have a single-payer health care system that would give everyone the same options and coverage?

Why shouldn’t the minimum wage be high enough to allow earners an income above the poverty level?

The problem is that Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a realistic plan for funding these objectives. All he has done so far is rail against the billionaires (who buy elections, in his words) and Wall Street (whom he has yet to define), seeming to imply that if the government could simply confiscate the wealth achieved by some, it could make life better for all.

It’s not surprising that his followers are predominantly the young, who have yet to achieve their professional dreams and their earning potential. The throngs of students supporting Bernie Sanders bring to mind the late 1960s, when I was living in Harvard Square as a young twenty something myself. During those years, there were seemingly daily demonstrations that often turned into tear gas confrontations between students and police. The frenzy of emotion expanded beyond the students’ opposition to the war in Vietnam, as they railed against their professors, their parents and any authority figure.

Some of those young rabble rousers of yesteryear are today’s millionaires and, possibly, even billionaires. Through dint of maturity and hard work, they achieved success, paying their taxes along the way. To imply that they are an advantaged class misconstrues how success is achieved in this country.

I would venture to guess that the vast majority of billionaires (or even 1%ers) in this country started their careers with little or no money to their name. They have achieved what we think of as “the American dream” through their own talents. They are hardly relegated to the ranks of “Wall Streeters”; rather they are dominated by a host of entrepreneurs — the founders of technology companies like Apple, Facebook and Google; astoundingly gifted athletes; or superstars in the entertainment industry. We all enjoy a better quality of life because of their achievements.

Bernie Sanders’ theory of redistribution of wealth is dangerous for U.S. economic growth and risks putting a dagger into the entrepreneurial ethic that drives success in this country. What the country needs is more growth and this can best be achieved by providing incentives to small companies and startup entrepreneurs to invest and expand.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of the jobs in the private sector are in small companies. Even more importantly, those small companies account for nearly two thirds of the new jobs created.

Small companies face many obstacles in their endeavors to achieve growth and generate wealth for their owners, not the least of which is onerous government regulation, something which has become increasingly burdensome in recent years. Bernie Sanders would do well to come up with a plan to support the “little guy” (his primary constituent in his endeavor to become the Democrats’ presidential nominee). I’d like to see him talk about incentives (tax and otherwise)that would provide small companies with the opportunity to take greater risks, hire new employees, flourish and, once again, be the engine for strong growth in the U.S. economy.

 

 

 

© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick

Brooklyn (The Movie)

January 23rd, 2016

January 23, 2015
Patricia Chadwick, pchadwick@ravengate.com

 

Sometimes a movie is so poignant, meaningful and beautifully rendered that one feels compelled to share the experience. Brooklyn shines as a glorious example of the best in the art.

Starring the extraordinarily talented Irish actress, twenty-one-year-old Saoirse Ronan (who won plaudits for her subtle brilliance in Wes Anderson’s comedy, The Grand Budapest Hotel, in 2014), the movie tells the story of an ingénue, who emigrates from Ireland to Brooklyn, New York, in 1952.

It would be cruel to spill the story in this missive; rather I encourage you to find a way to see the film before the Academy Awards on February 28. Saoirse Ronan has been nominated for a Best Actress Award, and even though at twenty-one she undoubtedly has decades of opportunity ahead of her, I so hope she gets it. The movie has also been nominated in the Best Picture category.

Suffice it to say that this PG-13 movie, based on a novel by Colm Tóibín, will make you smile, laugh and cry; so bring someone you love with whom to share the experience.

Brooklyn seems particularly prescient in this political silly season, which has featured new levels of pseudo drama and mean spirited opportunism on the issue of immigration.

Part of the beauty of the story in Brooklyn is its fresh revelations about an old story, the emotion-wracking experience of an immigrant — the fortitude to leave one’s family, the anguish of missing those left behind, the resourcefulness required to find a place in one’s new world, and bit by bit, the investment of one’s future in a new life in a new society. And it lays bare the raw hostility that so many immigrants have experienced as newcomers and would-be Americans.

I trust it isn’t a spoiler to add that after vicariously experiencing through this well scripted “fictional report” the grinding angst of an immigrant’s early encounters in the heart of New York City, I left the cinema with a spring in my step, admiring and proud of what immigrants have brought to the robust and ever evolving culture we call American.

Perhaps, after seeing the film, you will even buy the book, as I did.  It’s a beautiful read.

 

© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick

An American Asset – The Immigrants Who Come to Our Shores

January 1st, 2016

December 31, 2015
One of the most gratifying experiences that comes with living in the United States is encountering newcomers to this country — immigrants whose energy, spirit and entrepreneurial drive have overcome the seemingly endless obstacles put before them as they try to build a new life here. Their stories of arrival and survival can evoke tears but are often heartwarming.Perhaps it’s a quintessentially American trait to feel an emotional bond with foreigners who move here, because each of us natural-born Americans has at most a four-hundred-year history in this country, and most have far less than that.I love the stories. My dental hygienist came from Russia with a master’s degree in electrical engineering, but wasn’t allowed to practice here. (Really? A Russian electrical engineer is inferior to an American one?) But that didn’t stop her — she went back to school to learn a new profession.The man who refurbished my kitchen hails from Ireland. For the first few years, he did small jobs; now he is building McMansions, has a wife and three American boys and is on his way to U.S. citizenship. He’ll probably build his own McMansion soon.The Polish aesthetician, whom I met the day after she arrived in this country, could hardly make herself understood in English. Today, she owns her own skincare salon and her own house. She is now an American citizen, as are her husband and her two children.

The Indian friend of mine arrived in New York harbor with a college degree and $125 in his pocket thirty years ago. Today he is a wealthy man, overseeing a firm that invests in biotechnology startups. He told me that every time he sees the Statue of Liberty, he has to wipe away tears.

The stories are legion, but what triggered this blog was a small encounter yesterday.

I returned a lamp to a furniture store because it had fallen apart. There were six sales people sitting together as I entered. When I explained my problem, they quickly advised me that they weren’t responsible for handling any product without a warranty or that had been purchased more than a year ago.

Then one man quietly approached me and taking the lamp in his hands examined it. “The screw is too short; let me see what I can do,” he said in a gentle voice with a hint of a foreign accent. In short order, he found a longer screw and spent the next half hour working on the lamp until it was repaired. (Mind you, he, too was a salesman, not a repairman.) As I thanked him, I couldn’t resist asking where he was from. “I’m Persian,” he said, with a note of pride.

Driving home, I pondered the contrast between the xenophobic, nationalistic rhetoric of Donald Trump and our everyday reality, the substantial benefit to each of us Americans from the influx of immigrants.

The litany of immigrant luminaries in this country is awe-inspiring. They have come to our shores from scores of countries, pursuing a vast array of professions and subscribing to diverse political and religious beliefs. Contrasting them is interesting: Rupert Murdoch and George Soros; Ayn Rand and Emma Goldman; Madelaine Albright and Henry Kissinger.

And in contrast to Trump’s diatribes against generalized “immigrants” and the crimes he declares they commit, the data show clearly that the crime rate among immigrants is markedly lower than among the rest of the population. That’s not surprising; why would they relocate to these shores to improve their lot in life and then set out to destroy it by breaking the law?

The many refugees from the chaos of war in Syria and Iraq are not a threat to us in this country. The vetting system refugees are required to endure is arduous and long. We have much more to fear from those who might arrive on student and tourist visas. This is a process that has little vetting and is the route by which nearly all the 9/11 hijackers arrived. There’s where more effective control is needed.

American exceptionalism is a term that has been debased in recent years by certain loud conservative zealots. American exceptionalism is indeed at the core of our country’s founding ideology; it is based on freedom of religion, speech and ideas, combined with the ability and determination to seek opportunity and to pursue one’s dream under the umbrella of a system of government established on the principle that all are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights that include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That’s what immigrants are seeking when they come to America. Let’s open our doors to them and prove that the American dream that attracted our ancestors still lives in our land today.

Happy New Year!

 

 

© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick

Ravengate Partners LLC Patricia Chadwick, President
31 Hillcrest Park Road Ronnie Snow, Assistant
Old Greenwich, CT  06870
203-698-0676 www.ravengate.com

Keeping Things in Perspective – Campaign Spending vs. Saving Lives

November 17th, 2015

A week in Zimbabwe spent working at several clinics that serve HIV/AIDS patients was enlightening and thought provoking.Admittedly, it was distressing to see how rampant, even now, HIV is in some of the poorest parts of Africa; it’s not an exaggeration to say that in some Zimbabwean villages a large majority of the people are HIV-positive.On the other hand, advances made in the treatment of the disease are truly astounding. A once-a-day pill, taken faithfully, can restore patients to a full and meaningful life. Pregnant women who are HIV-positive are giving birth daily to HIV-negative infants. HIV is no longer a death sentence.Arriving at an outreach clinic 65 miles from Victoria Falls, we (volunteers and medical professionals) were greeted by a throng of nearly three hundred residents, some of whom had walked as far as five miles from their own villages in unforgiving heat. Most were HIV-positive, yet nearly all of them looked healthy and well-nourished, despite the fact that they live from hand to mouth as subsistence farmers in an area that has been plagued with drought.

Patients, ranging in age from three to seventy-five, came to the clinic with their medical records book, and they stood patiently in line to have blood drawn and tested. There was no shoving or pushing; infants and children tagged along with their parents. The fact that most of the children did not need to be tested was a tribute to their mothers for taking their daily dosage of life-saving medication during their pregnancy. It was also evidence of the significant progress among the population in understanding the importance of adhering to the daily therapy prescribed to contain the wracking harm of HIV infection.

At the end of a work schedule that began at seven o’clock in the morning and concluded just before midnight, fatigue and deep satisfaction meant that sleep came fast.

After a few days, it dawned on me that I had been blissfully oblivious to the shenanigans roiling the political silly season back home in the U.S. I didn’t know and I didn’t care about which presidential candidate had inched ahead by a nano-percent in the polls.

I reveled in not feeling hostage to the tedious drone of pundits, from left and right,  whose chief raison d’être seems to be analyzing the latest slip of the tongue by an  addled candidate as a pivotal event worth exhaustive and exhausting chatter.

In the balance of life’s realities, what was consequential came into sharp relief. The HIV initiatives in Zimbabwe are vital to the survival of many members of the human family and being part of that worthy project, though only for a week, brought a sense of balance that even the most compelling punditry cannot provide.

The eye opening truth was the realization that nearly all the funds required to provide medications to the patients at the clinics in Zimbabwe are coming from private donations, while back home more than $1 billion is being raised in the pursuit of a single job, the presidency of the United States. What an irony that the costly pursuit of that office, viewed from the perspective of an HIV clinic, seems suddenly so inconsequential.

Think of the societal good that might be wrought if only a small portion of that money were spent to better the lives of the poorest and most needy around the world.

 

© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick

Ravengate Partners LLC Patricia Chadwick, President
31 Hillcrest Park Road Ronnie Snow, Assistant
Old Greenwich, CT 06870
203-698-0676 www.ravengate.com

 

Caveat Emptor! (If You Buy an Airline Ticket and the Flight is Cancelled)

October 12th, 2015

There’s a moral to this story, so read to the end. It’s short and sweet.It was raining in New York. That meant that LaGuardia Airport was in jeopardy of cancelling innumerable flights. I hoped mine wouldn’t be one of them.

After sitting on the tarmac for three hours in sunny Greensboro, North Carolina, and receiving encouraging words over the intercom regarding the state of our flight, we finally started taxiing down the runway. The stars were aligned; the flight would take off.

And then as the plane was slowly making its way to the front of the line, the speaker phone went into action, and we heard the dreaded announcement. The flight was cancelled because we’d need more fuel if we were to face the long in-air delay on account of flight traffic.

There were no options for getting to New York in time for my event, so I cancelled my plans. Disappointing, annoying, yes exasperating, but not that much out of the ordinary when trying to get to LaGuardia.

But it’s because of what happened afterward that I’m sending this missive.

A few days passed, and I looked online at my credit card statement, anticipating a full refund. None was there. I dreaded calling the Delta customer service number and speaking to a computerized voice, but what choice did I have?

After pressing an endless series of response buttons, a real (and very friendly) human being did come on the line. Getting the refund was complicated by the fact that I had bought a $25 upgrade to a “comfort” seat, with a bit of extra leg room. However, after about ten minutes, I had my credit.

Then I asked the question that was burning inside me.

“Why wasn’t the airfare automatically credited to my account?” I asked.

The verbatim answer was, “They (i.e. Delta) just don’t automatically refund.”

I was floored and, upon further questioning, was told it was because the customer might prefer to get a credit or an exchange. There is some logic to that line of thinking, but it doesn’t absolve the company for putting the onus on its customers to get a refund.

I have no idea whether this is a Delta-only policy or a universal airline policy.

What I find appalling is how any airline, whose only product is one very specified service, namely getting you safely from point A to point B, doesn’t feel an obligation to reach out to its customers when that service is lacking, even if it is not their own fault.

In this era of instant everything, why couldn’t an airline (Delta in this case) have sent an automatic instant message to each and every customer whose flight was cancelled, advising them of the ways in which they might convert their cancelled flight to their advantage.

A simple apology followed by a question: “Would you like to have the entire airfare credited to your charge card?”

With an option for the answer: “Yes,” which would do the trick perfectly.

It would also signal that the company cared about its customers. I’m sure that level of service would build some customer loyalty, as well.

A sinister suggestion as to why such a system doesn’t currently exist might be that the airline is hoping some customers will simply overlook what they assumed would be an automatic refund. It’s no wonder so many of the flying public hate the airlines.

So the moral of this tale is: Don’t count on getting an automatic airfare refund if your flight is cancelled.

Let’s hope that an enlightened public relations department of an enlightened airline with an enlightened CEO will take the lead in getting into the twenty-first century technologically when it comes to communications and customer service.

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick

 

Cracks in the Pedestal (Trump’s Pedestal)

September 8th, 2015

As Peter Vermilye, a sage of Wall Street, used to say to me, “Once you’re on the pedestal, you have no place to go but down.”

 

Crack Number One in Trump’s Pedastal:The kerfuffle on August 28 regarding the signage at a rally for Donald Trump that read:

 

“Please have checks made payable to: Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., or cash ready on entry. Thank you.”

The event was being hosted by Ernie Boch, Jr. (purported to be worth $500 million), although both he and Trump (who says he is worth $10 billion, but has yet to prove it) claimed to be footing the bill. Regardless, either one of them most assuredly could have defrayed the cost of the event with a rich man’s equivalent of pocket change.

So why were attendees being asked for money, even if it was for only $50?

“I’m self-funding”

is how Trump has described the financing of his campaign. Notice his use of the present tense. What he has never said is: “I will self-fund my entire presidential campaign.”

Trump may be rich, but I’ll wager he doesn’t want to spend his personal fortune on what it will take to try to secure the Republican nomination. And when he capitulates, he’ll be just like all the other candidates — an ordinary person doing his best to raise sacks of money from the public, because that’s what it takes to try to become President of the United States.

 

Crack Number Two:

On September 3, Hugh Hewitt, the conservative radio talk show host, exposed Trump’s stunning lack of knowledge regarding the leadership of well-known political and terrorist organizations in the Middle East.

Trump’s later diatribe against Hewitt, asserting he asked a

“gotcha question,”

and his retort that

“I’m a delegator. I find great people…..”

are sad defenses and will serve him ill, as future debates will inevitably focus on each candidate’s personal grip on foreign policy and global affairs.

 

Crack Number Three:

A day later on September 4, Donald Trump “took the pledge,” signing (in ink but not in blood) a piece of paper (not legally binding, mind you) promising  to support the party’s eventual nominee, giving up the option to run as an Independent should another candidate get the Republican nomination.

In response to questions on the matter, he stated that he

“got absolutely nothing in response for signing the pledge.”

But wait a minute. South Carolina was threatening to keep his name off its primary ballot if he didn’t sign such a pledge, and Virginia and North Carolina were considering requiring loyalty pledges, as well.

Trump caved! It’s as simple as that. And the quid pro quo was huge: You take the pledge, and your name is on the ballot; You don’t take the pledge and your name is not on the ballot.

 

Crack Number Four:

Perhaps the lowest blow in Trump’s ad hominem attacks against fellow Republican contenders was his comment on September 2 regarding Doctor Ben Carson, whose genteel demeanor and thoughtful delivery are in sublime contrast to Trump’s own narcissistic style.

In Trump’s own words,

 

“I just think it’s a very difficult situation that he [Carson] puts himself into, to have a doctor who wasn’t creating
jobs and would have a nurse or maybe two nurses…. I’ve
created tens of thousands of jobs over the years.”

So the only criterion for president is how many jobs you have created? That would imply that the only legitimate candidate for president is someone from a very large private sector organization. Unless you are winking past Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose New Deal created millions of government-funded jobs for the unemployed during the Great Depression.

Well, there hasn’t been an elected president who hailed from the private sector in Trump’s lifetime. In fact, I believe George Washington may be the only president who had a long private sector career before becoming president.

Without belaboring the point, Trump’s comment about Carson is both vile and absurd, and the litany of his vitriolic jabs against those in both the Republican and the Democratic race for president is losing its appeal as comic relief.

Bombastic rhetoric may fire up the audience, boost television ratings and steal headlines. But it is at best an edifice built on a suspect foundation.

In summary, the cracks in Trump’s pedestal are the harbingers of his day of reckoning. When grandiloquent edicts regarding issues of national, economic and social importance are not backed up by coherent and viable solutions, it can’t be long before the statue topples.

That day is fast approaching for Donald Trump.

 

 

© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick

Ravengate Partners LLC Patricia Chadwick, President
31 Hillcrest Park Road Ronnie Snow, Assistant
Old Greenwich, CT 06870
203-698-0676 www.ravengate.com

 

There’s Something about Bernie! (Sanders, that is.)

August 13th, 2015

Now don’t get me wrong. I do not support Bernie Sanders’ bid to become the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. Far from it. In fact, I strongly disagree with almost everything he espouses regarding economic policy.

I believe that Bernie’s policies, if put into practice, would do serious damage to the fabric of the American economy. The entrepreneurial spirit that is the bedrock of American economic success would be smothered. And so would the appeal of this country as a melting pot, attracting the best, the brightest and the most ingenious from around the globe. Gone would be the opportunity to start with little or nothing and be able, through dint of hard work and creativity, to achieve a life’s dream.

But I must admit that I find Bernie Sanders refreshing.

That’s because Bernie doesn’t have the proverbial finger in the air to see which way the political wind is blowing. There’s no sense that his minions (if he has minions!) are poring over poll data to detect trends that would be advantageous to embrace.

What you see with Bernie is what you get, and it’s been that way for more than forty years. His principals, his political philosophy, his rhetoric have changed little since the days of protest in the 1960s.

One might argue that therein lies a problem — the fact that part of the process of maturing in life is the ability to change one’s point of view and to recalibrate the naïve assertions of one’s youth. How many radicals of the 1960s are today’s millionaires (and maybe even billionaires)? For myself, I fully admit to having altered my point of view on many issues — both economic and social — over the last forty years.

But not Bernie. He’s been a self-proclaimed bedrock socialist since he had unkempt black hair and carried his young son to a rally in the early 1970s. Today all that’s changed is the color of the unkempt hair. Have you noticed how many young people attend his rallies and speeches? His appeal is not dimmed by the fact that he could be grandfather to them all. Press reports indicate that no Presidential candidate in this season has had as many attendees.

Crowds demonstrate excitement, but polls indicate the breadth of appeal. In, of all places, conservative New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders (as of this morning) is the leading presidential candidate. Maybe it’s just part of the friendly neighbor effect, but in truth there aren’t two more politically diverse states than the Yankee neighbors of Vermont and New Hampshire.

I think Bernie’s appeal over his Democratic opponents derives from his candor, the evidence of his conviction in his long-held beliefs and his total disregard for what the establishment thinks of him.

He’s David — the one without the heft of money and connections. He’s facing Goliath — the powerful, the globally renowned, with armies of sophisticated fundraisers and business people to ensure the necessary conclusion.

We know the outcome of that Biblical story. Wouldn’t it be fun to see it happen again.

© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick

 

Where’s the Service in the Service Sector of the Economy? — Fast Disappearing! Except When It’s Suddenly There!!

July 13th, 2015

Service just “ain’t” what it used to be (almost).

The friendly telephone operator to whom you could speak by dialing 411 (for information) or 0 (for help with a call) has long been extinct. In fact, our millennial children most likely don’t even know what those two words strung together mean.

A more current example of the disappearance of service is the now expected experience in many department stores (with respectable names like Bloomingdales, Lord and Taylor, and on and on) where service seems to have metamorphosed into “self” service.

Gone are what once were ubiquitous salespeople, who cheerfully (or occasionally not) helped to find the dress or blouse or cooking pot you were searching for. Gone, too, are the friendly directions that would be provided if you couldn’t find a product. “Go to the far end, and it’s just there on the right.” And despite the fact that cash registers still dot the floors of fancy department stores, they now seem to sit unattended.

Retail stores seem more like mausoleums — silent tombs, laden with clothing draped on hangers or stacked on shelves, inanimate objects separated by aisles through which unspeaking human beings roam aimlessly, as if in a daze.

Perhaps they really are in a daze, thinking, “Why can’t I find anyone to help me?” Perhaps they’re also thinking, “I might as well buy my stuff online.”

And therein lies the problem. The internet is now the go-to place for shopping, which means that the stores can’t afford the luxury of keeping salespeople, and adequate inventory and perhaps even the rent they must pay. It makes one wonder how long it will be before the mall itself is extinct.

So what a surprise I had a few days ago when, twice in one day, I was the recipient of the most splendid service in a retail store.

The first was Sephora, the French chain of cosmetics stores that first came to this country in 1998, a year after being acquired by LVMH. I was on a mission: to find a particular brand and shade of lipstick, as well as organic mascara. I had barely stepped into the store, when I was approached by a smiling young woman, dressed in a snazzy black tee shirt.

“May I help you?” she asked. I was taken aback, having anticipated roaming around the store searching for two items that would seem like needles in this (beautiful) haystack of a store.

Within moments, I had what I needed. “Let me check you out,” she then said, and lickety-split, I was done. As I headed for the door, I was congratulating myself on my good fortune to have received such lovely service. But then I saw that there was, in fact, a sea of black tee-shirted young men and women, all employees of Sephora. Like cheerful butterflies, they were flitting from one needy customer to another. “Come this way,” and “Of course we can,” were the refrains.

No wonder Sephora has been such a success, I thought as I headed down the street to my next chore.

This was a far more stressful one. The hard drive on my MacBook was failing, and I needed help fast because computers that act up make me panic.

Having been to the Apple store many times, I expected to be greeted with courtesy and professionalism. But I was coming without a scheduled appointment at the Genius Bar, a no-no in the world of high tech. When I described my crisis to the cheerful greeter, she must have sensed my anxiety because, within a few minutes, I was sitting at the Genius Bar.

My “genius” truly was that, as well as thoughtful and solicitous. When it became evident that my morbidly sick hard drive was beyond the scope of Apple’s genius and his tools, he gave me the name of a company that would make things all better. And he was right. I left the Apple store far less stressed than I entered it.

The pleasure of being treated with such care and respect twice in one day was long lasting.

It’s gratifying to see that some companies have found a way to offset the convenience of online shopping with a level of service that makes you want to return.

© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick

 

 

 

 

Marriage — Both a Civil and a Religious Institution

June 22nd, 2015

Perhaps it’s hubris on my part to write a blog about the definition of marriage with the Supreme Court only weeks or perhaps even days away from ruling on the matter (Obergefell v. Hodges), but I have to admit being flummoxed by the state of near hysteria that has been generated in this country over the definition of the word.

It seems to me that, in our culture and under our system of government, marriage has two definitions. It is (a) a civil contract and (b) a religious institution.

This distinction is based on the premise of the separation of church and state as a fundamental tenet underlying the first amendment of the Bill of Rights of our Constitution.

Religions that practice in the U.S. are free to define marriage within the context of their own principles and philosophy. It is not unusual for some religions to deny, or require a special dispensation for, couples seeking to marry if they do not share the same religion. The government (AKA the state) may not ordain what constitutes a valid religious marriage.

To the best of my knowledge, every state in the union accepts as valid the marriages performed by members of religious groups (except for polygamy which was outlawed by the U.S. Congress in the late 19th century).

The other side of that coin is that the state governments have the authority to establish their own criteria for civil marriage. In the past, many states required blood tests to help maintain public health and safety, but over time, nearly every state has abolished that requirement.

Today more than a handful of states (some of them in the heart of Bible Belt America) allow for common law marriage, but most do not. But that does not in any way require a religious organization to sanction common law marriage (and few do).

Most religions condemn adultery; many also condemn common law marriage. But there hardly seems to be a wave of hysteria over the fact that such “sinners” might be customers of religious-minded business owners. The issue has only arisen over the discussion of same sex marriage. It seems a bit hypocritical to me.

If the self-righteous are truly honest in their claim that their religious freedom is threatened by the requirement that they might be “forced” to do business with sinners, they should be willing to post in their place of business a sign that might read something like this:

Please note: We value our customers and want to give you the best service. However, if you have ever engaged in any of the following acts that we consider to be sin, please be advised that we do not wish to have you as a customer.

Following would be a list of everything they deemed to be a sin.

That would be honest and forthright and truly nondiscriminatory, allowing them to bear the commercial impact of choosing to deal only with those they considered to be sinless. It would also put them out of business in about a day.

Nearly forty years ago, a gay friend of mine with a serious heart problem told me of his concern that should he die before his partner, the inheritance taxes would force the sale of their modest weekend cottage in the Hudson River valley. In my mid-twenties at the time, I was haunted by the gross unfairness facing so many Americans. Some fifteen years later, my friend’s heart gave out as he sipped a martini during a Sunday lunchtime in his beloved retreat. His partner never had to face the loss of his home, as he succumbed to cancer three days later. They were spared the heartache they feared.

Much progress has been made since then, which is good. Let’s hope that the impending decision by the Supreme Court will put an end to the chimera that freedom of religion can deny citizens their civil rights.

 

© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick

Memorandum to: Admiral Michael S. Rogers, Director of the NSA

June 2nd, 2015

Dear Admiral Rogers,

Despite the fact that Senator Rand Paul achieved his objective of preventing a renewal of the Patriot Act, I want you to know that I give you authority in your capacity as head of the NSA to gather the data from my various telephones that you deem necessary to protect me (and all Americans) from the growing dangers of terrorism.

And if Congress passes a watered-down version of the Patriot Act, thereby restricting your organization’s ability to collect the data, you have my permission to continue acquiring whatever data you need from my telephones.

And by the way, Admiral, I have spent the last week questioning numerous friends and acquaintances on this issue. The political spectrum of my friends is wide indeed, ranging from the uber right-wing Tea Party to Libertarian to Republican to Democrat and even radical left-wing socialists.

While not all those I contacted feel as I do, the vast majority are in agreement. I was surprised to find that most of those who took issue with me on this matter are in fact Democrats, hardly a group of fans of Senator Paul. They said it was a distrust of government that led them to their point of view.

It’s understandable that many people distrust government, but we know it’s the venality of politics, not our structure of government that is at fault. Back-room deals, pork barreling and too much quid pro quo — all for the purpose of self-perpetuation in government.

Back to the issue at hand, I find it implausible that the NSA has either the interest or the capacity to sit around all day listening to the content of my (notice the emphasis on ‘my’) myriad phone calls — to family, doctors, coworkers, service providers, restaurants and friends here and abroad. It would take armies of government employees to achieve that level of scrutiny, far more than the 35,000 to 40,000 people who work for the NSA. I suppose conspiracy theorists might argue that the listening could be farmed out to “subcontractors.”

I took the time to listen to Senator Rand Paul on Sunday, and there is no doubt that he is earnest in his belief that the gathering of telephone data (note: just the gathering of the data, not eavesdropping) is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which states “The right of the people to be secure … against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ….”

I am no constitutional lawyer. But like most of my friends and acquaintances, I expect the government to do everything in its power to keep us (and in fact the free world) safe from an enemy that is at war with our values, our form of government and our way of life.

I view the gathering of telephone data as one tool in our government’s arsenal. It hardly seems like an “unreasonable seizure.” In fact, I can see no way in which my liberty is curtailed by it; rather, I feel more secure in the knowledge that the government is doing everything in its power to track and destroy those who would wage war on us.

Thank you, Admiral, for your years of service to our country. I hope you will be granted the tools necessary to fight an enemy we know is growing stronger by the day.

© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick