Friday, September 27, 2013

Goodwill Misses the Meaning of Good Will

When 19-year-old Andrew Anderson started working at the Goodwill store in East Naples, Florida, he thought his job was pretty cool. He was working in a place where poor and low-income people came to buy the things they couldn't afford anywhere else.  

"It makes you feel amazing," he said, "makes you feel you can actually be the person to help them."  

Andrew worked at Goodwill for three weeks and from his place behind the counter he saw people come on bicycles with, as he said, "wearing all the clothes they had, with two, three dollars, max."  It was his job to collect the money for the goods they purchased.  When he saw the poorest of the poor coming through his line he began discounting whatever the item cost. He loved the smiles he got from the folks who saw their bills cut in half.  He thought nothing of it and didn't really want thanks.  He saw it as paying it forward.

His bosses saw it another way.  They fired him for stealing from the company, even though he never took a thing for himself and later offered to make up the difference himself.  They weren't amused.  They had him arrested.
"I wasn't actually stealing. Goodwill is a giving and helping company, so I took it upon to myself to be giving and helping because I feel people deserve it," Anderson said.
But the teenager quickly went from paying it forward to the Collier County jail.
"My heart just dropped into my stomach," Anderson said.
Store officials fired Anderson and reported the incident to deputies. They arrested him Tuesday and charged him with grand theft.
The statute for grand theft reads, "Theft -- Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property." - Per Collier County Sheriff's Office
Anderson says he never knew giving discounts was wrong or even illegal.
"The intent I had was to help people, just like Goodwill says, we help people," Anderson said.
 Well, up to a point, Andrew, and only on their terms:
"Our stores are not around to give a hand out, they're around to give people a hand up by providing funding, said Kirstin O'Donnell, a spokesperson for Goodwill Retail and Donation Center in East Naples.
"In incidents like this, we always prosecute and the reason why is when people steal from Goodwill, they're not stealing from the company, they're stealing from the mission of our organization."
Well, sure, Andrew shouldn't have taken it upon himself to give discounts at the thrift store, but couldn't his bosses have just taken him aside and told him that?  Did they really have to fire him?  Who wouldn't want such a good kid working for them?
And really? They had him arrested??  
I'm trying to picture the scene at the station house, when poor Andrew is hauled in there and made to admit he did what he did.  I'm seeing a "Barney Miller" segment, where Wojo is doing the grilling.  Andrew tells his story and even before he's finished Wojo is wiping away the tears.  Uh oh..  Wojo barricades himself and Andrew in Barney's office, and we know there is no way this kid is going to jail.  
I'm waiting for Goodwill to do a mea culpa.  We were wrong, people!  While we don't condone what Andrew did, we did a poor job of explaining how this thing works.  It was an honest mistake!  Come back!  We're good people!  We're Goodwill!
Andrew says now, "My heart was in the right place, my head was in the wrong place."
Your head and your heart are just fine, Andrew.  And I predict once Wojo springs you and this is over, there will be employers waiting in line, begging you to come to work for them.   Everyone should be so lucky.

A Goodwill store in Naples, Fla., reversed course today and decided to drop grand theft charges against a teen employee who had given discounts to poor customers.
The decision came four days after the store had fired Andrew Anderson, 19, and had him arrested for granting discounts that totaled $4,000. As recently as today, the store defended its actions saying the money could have been better used on Goodwill’s other charitable projects.
Really, Goodwill?  That $4,000 could have been better used on Goodwill's other charitable projects?  Do you know how much the big guys upstairs make?

No?  Well, let's just look:
[Goodwill International CEO Jim] Gibbons' salary and deferred compensation amounted to $729,000 in 2011, the CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southern California got $1.1 million and the Portland, Oregon top executive received more than $500,000, NBC reported.
And don't think I didn't notice in that same article that Goodwill had to 'fess up to paying a disabled worker 3 cents an hour in 2008--all legal, of course.

But Hooray for Andrew Anderson.  That's what good will looks like.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Republicans Vote to Keep Folks Hungry and Sick and Their Base Loves It. The Rest of Civilization is Appalled.

Yesterday the Republicans in the House voted to slash 40 billion dollars in annual food stamp (SNAP) coverage over 10 years, putting some 3.8 million poor people in jeopardy of losing their pitiful but essential pennies-a-day government food support.  (There are some 47 million people at the poverty level here in the United States.  A shameful fact that should point out the absolute need to keep the SNAP program alive rather than killing it.  But apparently in the People's House in Washington facts are sticky things to be ignored or stretched or blasted to smithereens.)

Today, in case the country didn't get how serious they were about enriching their pals by screwing the little people, the majority of the House Republicans made a game of pretending to care about balancing the budget by voting to defund Obamacare, a booby trap they set up to stop the budget bill in its tracks, threatening to shut down much of our central government if their crazy demands weren't met. (Clever fellows.  They chose to defund it this time, saving themselves the embarrassment of having to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act for. . .ready for this?. . . the 42nd time.)

(Oh, wait.  Hold the phone. . .Here's a guy who says the 42nd time will be the charm.  I am not kidding.)

Obamacare will not be perfect.  For every person it helps, there will be those who will find it lacking--or even awful.  But it's a start.  It's the first opportunity we've had to hobble runaway insurance dictates, to slow down medical care costs, to get on the bandwagon leading to health care sanity.  We're doing it large-scale through the government--the only way it can be done effectively and efficiently.  The only way.  And if this is the best we can do because of the obstacles put in place by the high-flyers who will most definitely see a drop in their beyond-the-bright-blue-sky profits, then shame on them.  We'll keep moving forward, they'll keep throwing up obstacles, but eventually we'll catch up with those civilized countries that see so much value in their citizens they've figured out a way to keep the majority of them fed, safe, educated and healthy.

We thought we were heading in that direction.  All these years we thought we were moving toward the kind of democracy Lincoln envisioned when he spoke of a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and now, when the chance is ours to do the right thing, when the need is so acute, we're hounded by a bunch of Republican congressmen so mean even junkyard dogs won't mess with them.

It's panic time now, with only ten more days left to demonize the ACA before the real stuff goes into effect, an action that will show up those Republican Servants of the People for the lying mercenaries they are.  In their panic they've had to align themselves with some pretty nasty bedfellows.  Some of them are hoping, come 2014, we won't notice, but until then they're feeling pretty free to keep on toying with us.   And why not?  Their benevolent benefactors, ALEC and the Koch Brothers, show no signs of either going away or running out of money.  And some of us have very short memories.

But here's what's going to do them in:  We don't like bullies.  We don't like watching bullies hold weaker people down and use them for punching bags.  Sooner or later we'll get up off our asses and do something about it.  And if we're lucky the "watchdog" press will shake themselves loose and do the same.

And how's this for bad timing?  The Republicans voted to eviscerate the food stamp bill in September, the month designated as "Hunger Action Month".

Click here and scroll down for link to invite your congressfolks to take part.  Especially if they're Republicans.

(Obamacare myths debunked at 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Julian Assange Lost Big Time. Look Out, Australia!

WHEN asked to explain why he was running for a seat in the Australian Senate while holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Julian Assange quoted Plato: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” 

Plato was “a bit of a fascist,” he said, but had a point.

Imagine the chagrin Mr. Assange must feel now, given that not only did he fail to win a place in the Senate in the recent election, but he was less successful than Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party. Mr. Muir, who won just 0.5 percent of the vote, is most famous for having posted a video on YouTube of himself having a kangaroo feces fight with friends. 
It's no secret that I'm not a Julian Assange fan, and if I were an Australian I surely would have worked insanely hard to keep him from winning, but given my track record for not voting for people I think are such huge jokes there's no chance of them EVER getting elected, only to see them WIN (See Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Rick Snyder, town council member Buzz (Buzzy) Lightfoot), I wouldn't have been surprised if that big-headed Wikileaks blowhard had actually won.

I don't know Australian politics, of course, but if they're anything like us they have their own Bachmanns and Pauls and the aforementioned Reagans and Bushes.  Nobody is immune from political nutiness.  

But I bring this up here because I really, seriously want to go on record as being able to write the following:

Julian Assange lost a senate race in Victoria, Australia, coming in so embarrassingly low even his most loyal backers at The Guardian will have a hard time coming up with some lame-assed excuse having to do with secret government dealings, or world-wide intervention, or even Swedish prisses--whatever excuse there might be for causing the little mighty-might to fall.

And also. . .I really need to add this "spoof video", courtesy of Assange's lead defender, The Guardian (or, as they like to be known, the guardian), where the serious candidate for senate in Victoria, Australia, dons a mullet wig and lip synchs about why he has to go after those bastards in Australia.

It might be a good time to note here, too,  that Assange, running for office in Australia, is in London (that's in England) where he's being protected by the Ecuadorian government (that's in Central America) from the Swedish government (that's in Sweden), where he's wanted for questioning about some kind of trumped-up sex scandal designed just to embarrass the poor guy and take away his dignity and his livelihood.

Photo here because the guardian will no doubt take down the video, now that their guy Assange LOST.
 But to add insult to injury (is that possible with Julian Assange?) the Ecuadorians didn't quite get how fun this was.  They told Assange to stop making fun of Australian politicians while he's enjoying their hospitality.
Tensions between Assange and his Ecuadorean hosts were heightened during the Snowden affair, with diplomats saying that they felt that the WikiLeaks founder was trying to steal the limelight.
According to Agence France-Presse, Correa said: "The rules of asylum in principle forbid meddling in the politics of the country that grants asylum. But as a matter of courtesy, we are not going to bar Julian Assange from exercising his right to be a candidate. Just so long as he doesn't make fun of Australian politicians or people."
And to make matters even worse, Julian's Wikileaks running mate, Ethicist Leslie Cannold, originally so in touch with Assange she felt she had to write about why she, a feminist, would be running alongside him, resigned, along with six other Wikileaks members.  If Julian, for some reason (Sweden) couldn't fulfill his duties when (not if) he was elected, Leslie would have taken his place.  But it seems there was some secret hanky panky going on at Wikileak party headquarters (yes, I said secret), that went something like this:
In the resignation statement on Wednesday, Ms Cannold hit out at the failure to lodge Senate preference forms in WA and NSW in line with the National Council's instructions.
She said despite resistance, party members who wanted the problem reviewed prevailed.
But those who fought for the review ‘‘felt tired and disillusioned’’ and were then hit with a ‘‘bombshell’’.
‘‘A member of the party rang two key volunteers in succession and requested that they join with him in going outside the party's formal structures,’’ Ms Cannold said.
‘‘In these phone calls, the Council was denigrated and a proposal made to each volunteer in succession that they join with select candidates and Council members in taking direction from other than the National Council.
‘‘The consequence of the proposal was that the National Council and two of the campaign coordinators - also National Council members who have been actively involved in pushing for the preference review - would be bypassed.’’
She said a campaign staffer also received a phone call that contradicted the public statement issued by the WikiLeaks Party on Wednesday that the review of preferences would be immediate and independent.
Instead, the review would be delayed until after the election and would not be independent, Ms Cannold said.
‘‘This is the final straw,’’ she said.
‘‘As long as I believed there was a chance that democracy, transparency and accountability could prevail in the party I was willing to stay on and fight for it. But where a party member makes a bid to subvert the party's own processes, asking others to join in a secret, alternative power centre that subverts the properly constituted one, nothing makes sense anymore.
‘‘This is an unacceptable mode of operation for any organisation but even more so for an organisation explicitly committed to democracy, transparency and accountability.’’
So now Julian Assange has LOST his bid for a senate seat in Victoria.  I predict Australia won't be hearing the last of him.  In fact, if I were Australia I would be locking up the goodies and throwing away the keys.  If you know what I mean.

NOTE:  Selected for MBRU on Crooks and Liars. Thanks!

(Cross-posted at dagblog, as always.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11/2001. It Will Be With Us Forever.

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. (Note: This is adapted from a post I wrote on this anniversary two years ago.)  Twelve years have passed -- more than a decade -- but for those closest to the terror, for those whose loved ones were caught in that unimaginable rage storm, for those who trained for this, who mobilized and fought so hard to try and save the lives already lost to them, we pay tribute by refusing to forget.

The pictures are all that is left.  They stay with us and resonate as terrible, beautiful works of art.

The agony of the men and women who could do nothing but stand by and watch the towers fall reflected and drove home our own agony -- even those of us in the hinterlands who watched the horrific events unfold on our TV screens, helpless to do anything but gasp and moan and rock with a kind of psychic pain most of us had never felt in our entire lifetimes.


As painful as the dredging up of the images of that terrible day is to us, there is no sense of dread as the annual anniversaries approach.  Every year, on September 11, we want to remember.  9/11 has become a watchword.  Nobody in America has to be told what those numbers represent.  

As I write this, they're reciting the names of the men and women lost to us on September 11, 2001 in a ceremony to honor the dead.  The names are being read alphabetically.  For one brief moment the people live again.  We do this for their families and for us.  They're not just numbers or actors in an unimaginable event that became the catalyst for an entire decade that changed all of our lives forever.  We need to keep their memories alive in order to recognize their humanity, and possibly our own.

We remember.  We remember.  We'll always remember.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Three Years ago Julian Assange Lost his Luggage. He Just Now Noticed?

It was a long weekend and I was devilishly busy and exhausted to the point of just plain weary, so you'll have to forgive me if I don't have this right:

I read today that on September 27, 2010--almost three years ago--Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame checked a bag at an airport in Sweden containing three laptops filled with Wikileaks stuff, including some top secret "war crimes" information that, if it hadn't been stolen by some shady government dudes, would have knocked our socks off with revelations of dirty deeds so devastating, if they had ever, ever been revealed, the world as we know it might just stop spinning.  Or heads would roll.  Or Assange would be hailed as the hero he fancied he already was.  Whatever.  Something BIG would happen if ever those revelations saw the light of day.  So, of course, they were stolen by one or more shadowy government dudes who were not about to let that happen.

Well, okay, that's it, then.  But is it just me or does it seem odd that, first of all, Julian Assange would just hand that suitcase over to a Swedish ticket agent who would then send it into the airport bowels to have to fend for itself until it arrived safely at the baggage claim in Germany, where Assange would surely be jostling with his fellow passengers to see who could grab their luggage first and get the hell out of there?

And secondly, isn't it odd that Assange wouldn't notice, right there in the baggage claim line, that this most essential bit of baggage wasn't there?  If he had noticed, wouldn't he put up such a stink right then and there, maybe calling the Russians or The Guardian or Glenn Greenwald, or somebody, to help him find the damned thing?

And third--does it seem as odd to you as it does to me that Assange is only just now, three years later, filing a claim?   Did he wake up the other day and  remember that he once had a suitcase that held three laptops containing whopping war crime secrets and other really important things?  Was he so ashamed of the fact that he actually forgot one of his suitcases and only now remembered, he had to think fast and--yes!--blame it on those shadowy government dudes who were almost surely stalking him at the airport anyway?

I don't know.  I'm confused.  Did you know about this before?  Because I didn't.  Not until today, when I read all over the place that the Swedish police have opened an investigation into Assange's claims.  Three years later they've finally been asked to investigate.

This is how the Washington Post's Europe page reported it today:
In the affidavit, Assange suggested his bag may have been illegally seized “as part of an intelligence operation with the purpose of gathering information about me.” He offered no proof but said all attempts to locate the bag had failed.

The move comes a day before President Barack Obama visits Sweden.

“The suspected seizure or theft occurred at a time of intense attempts by the U.S. to stop WikiLeaks’ publications of 2010,” Assange said and suggested that Swedish authorities “seek explanations” from members of Obama’s delegation during their visit.

The police border control division at Arlanda Airport opened an investigation as a matter of course after receiving the complaint Tuesday, spokeswoman Jessica Fremnell said.  She declined to comment on Assange’s suggestion to interrogate people in Obama’s entourage, saying “we make our own decisions about what we think we need to do.”

No indication if the Post's reporting was done with a straight face, but one can only hope there were a few snorts and guffaws in that newsroom.

If not, there were enough in my room to make up for their lack.

[Note:  Featured on Mike's Blog Round Up at Crooks and Liars.  WooHoo!]

(Cross-posted, as always, at dagblog)