Category Archives: Society

About what other people think

Roger and I

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A long time ago I was in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on a layover. I headed to one of those fine airport drinking establishments and took a seat at the bar. Sitting next to me was Roger Ebert.

I blurted out “Hey, aren’t you Roger Ebert?” Before he could respond I came to my senses and introduced myself. I joked to him “Where’s Gene?” He chuckled and said he was flying by himself to a film preview somewhere.

After the bartender bought us our beers, we settled into some chit-chat. We both talked a little bit about our work, joked about the airlines, and yes – we talked about movies. Since I was a disciple of the Siskel & Ebert show, we had a nuanced discussion about film. He had a flight to catch so he took care of our tab over my protestations and left me alone at the bar, pondering what had just transpired.

What struck me wasn’t his passion for film or his great intellect. It was his humbleness, his empathy towards others and his personal viewpoint of the world. He made a dent in the universe by elevating Film as Art and by taking on humanistic causes. And he did it in a very human way, being direct to the point, honest and with love.

I’ll miss him. R.I.P. Roger.

The Problem with Boeing

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The 787 Dreamliner is a breakthrough in commercial airliner technology. It’s use of advanced composites, Quet Technology Demostrator engines and ergonomically-designed interior promise 20% reduced fuel consumption, significantly quieter performance, and greater passenger comfort. I like the plane.

Today Japan’s two biggest airlines grounded their 787 fleets for safety checks after one was forced to make an emergency landing. These problems are not because of the bold design of the airplane. The problem is Boeing’s over-emphasis on profit.

Originally, Boeing intended to construct the Dreamliner in Washington, but only if the state approved a twenty-year, $3.2 billion package of tax credits. Officials ultimately conceded, but Boeing took its toys and went to play elsewhere anyway when South Carolina lured it across state lines with the promise of a whopping $900 million subsidy package aka taxpayer dollars, and a non-union plant to set up shop in. The National Labor Relations Board accused the company of violating federal labor law by moving aircraft producton out of it’s Seattle facilities to non-union plants. The case was dropped recently after Boeing agreed to raise wages and expand production in Washingston.

Instead of building the complete aircraft from the ground up in the traditional manner, final assembly would employ just 800 to 1,200 people to join completed subassemblies and to integrate systems. Boeing assigned its global subcontractors to do more assembly themselves and deliver completed subassemblies to Boeing for final assembly. This approach was intended to result in a leaner and simpler assembly line and lower inventory with pre-installed systems reducing final assembly time by three-quarters to three days. Although intended to shorten the production process, 787 subcontractors initially had difficulty completing the extra work, because they could not procure the needed parts, perform the subassembly on schedule, or both, leaving remaining assembly work for Boeing to complete as “traveled work”.

I have a very good friend that worked for one of these sub-contractors in Rockford, IL. He’s a brilliant engineer. He told me about the enomous pressure Boeing put on them to complete their work by their deadline. Boeing constantly threatened the sub-contractor with fines. My friend tells me of many, many months working 70-80 hours per week. Getting called into 2am meetings. Careers flamed out because of the stress. Substance abuse ran rampant. Families suffered.

I hope no one gets hurt or killed flying on the 787. I hope the shareholders get handed a big bill to remedy the teething issues plaguing what was once a promising breakthrough design.

Specious Reasoning

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“If you make guns illegal, only criminals will have guns!” I hear this every time after a mass shooting. Pundits like to point out that whomever committed the atrocious deed would have obtained their weapons regardless of the legality. It’s so illogical of an argument I do a face-palm every time I hear it.

From the inception of the NICS (National Instant Criminal background check System) on November 30, 1998, to December 31, 2011, a total of 140,882,399 transactions have been processed. The NICS prohibits people from possessing guns if they were convicted of a felony, addicted to drugs, committed domestic violence or were involuntarily sent to a mental institution. Of these, the NICS has denied a total of 899,099 transactions. It’s not nearly enough to stem the illegal flow of weapons.

Prior to the late 1980’s it was very rare for a convicted Felon to be able to petition successfully their right to own a gun. It was then that the NRA began to heavily lobby Congress to permit States to dictate these reinstatements. This gradual pullback of what many Americans have assumed was a blanket prohibition against convicted Felons from owning guns has permitted thousands of Felons to have their gun ownership rights reinstated every year. And it’s gotten scant public notice.

After the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre, President Bush signed a law to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. It incentivized states to submit records of people legally barred under Federal Law from purchasing guns. The 2007 improvement act was supposed to speed development of the system by providing grants to states to help pay for hunting down records and setting up electronic databases. But Congress has handed out just a fraction of the grants allowed. Last year, $125 million was authorized under the law, but just $5 million was appropriated. More than half the states have not yet provided mental health records. The NRA has made it tougher for states to comply — by successfully lobbying for a provision in the 2007 law that requires an appeals process so the mentally ill can seek to have their gun rights restored. States must set that up before they can receive federal grants to help collect records! Federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Defense, also have been slow to submit relevant records. Meanwhile, as many as 2 million mental health records are not in the system.

The ATF published a study citing that straw purchases accounted for almost one-half of all illegal gun trafficking. Corresponding research points that nearly two-thirds of these straw purchases originated at only 1% of licensed firearms dealers. The results of these investigations demonstrate that ATF must vigorously enforce existing federal regulation of FFLs, and of all gun sellers at gun shows. For this to work effectively, ATF will need increased funding from Congress, as the agency currently lacks the resources and organizational structure to succeed in combatting illegal gun trafficking and ensuring that FFLs comply with federal law. The NRA has consistently lobbied Congress against additional funding for the ATF for greater enforcement of existing law.

More than 6 million gun sales are unscreened – those from gun transfers, “private” sellers, and purchases at gun shows or made online do not fall under the requirement. This is the “Gun Show Loophole.” Think about this for a minute. It’s insane.

Saying that gun control won’t stop a criminal from obtaining a gun is an illogical fallacy. You can’t take a sampling of one criminal and extrapolate it against a sampling size of millions of gun transactions.

We’re making it too easy for criminals and the mentally ill to buy a gun. I’m looking forward to the President’s Task Force recommendations tomorrow. This shouldn’t be so hard.

I Have Had Enough of Anonymous Cowards

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Today I was reading a story on the San Luis Obispo Tribune website about the Tour of California maybe coming to SLO next year. Good news I thought. Bike races inject tourist revenue into a town. We could use that here. I love bike racing.

I’m reading the article about the race and there is a post by stoptheinsanity. The post was insulting and derogatory. She is a prolific poster. As of this writing stoptheinsanity has posted 5,023 times! It’s all derogatory and demeaning. She’s narcissistic. Go SEE FOR YOURSELF.

Let’s flash back two years. I got a letter from the “Community Action Partnership”, an auxiliary agency. Someone placed a call as a “concerned citizen” expressing their displeasure with myself acting as a parent to my kids. It prompted an inquiry from Child Welfare Services. They quickly dismiss it and kick it down to CAP. They call me, I tell them to shove it.

Stoptheinsanity and I have a bit of history between us. In a moment of weakness I FED SOME TROLLS. Stoptheinsanity rose to the occasion and posted this about me:

“A word of caution, SLO Kenny. Anyone caught up in the circumstances that you experienced, needs to practice anger management or you’re going to find Child Protective Services on your doorstep.”

Her post was flagged as abusive and taken down by the site moderators. But the fact remains that stoptheinsanity threatened my family in in a public forum. She did it anonymously. She’s a coward.

There is a small group of people that can’t fathom that I would love my children. They are self-centered horrible people who did all things possible to make Janet’s death impossible for me to handle with decency and dignity. I have made peace with the death of my beloved wife. They haven’t.

Stoptheinsanity lives in Paso Robles. That rules out my neighbors Chris Volbrecht and Marianne Orme. Karen Veile supposedly lives in Arroyo Grande. I can’t fathom why someone has this hatred towards the McCarthy family. Who is this person? Contact me if you know about stoptheinsanity.

The Start of 60-hour Workweeks

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May 1994, a pivotal day in my life. Janet had taken this picture of me arriving home after my first day at Dick’s Sporting Goods. I had just gotten out of the car after a 1-½ commute home, with my untied tie. Little did I know what was in store for me. I was about to enter into eight years of personal growth.

Dick’s was a regional player back then, with 12 stores in the Northeast. The company had re-located their headquarters from Binghamton, NY to Pittsburgh, PA. That’s where I started. Ed Stack – CEO, and Bill Columbo – President, had a vision, and it was captivating.

The next seven years was exhilarating. The Company went through two rounds of re-capitalization. We went through many quarters of comp sales decreases. We struggled to keep the vendor community engaged. We learned how to engage and motivate our customers. All of us became better merchants.

I learned a lot at Dick’s. I learned how to build an assortment, how to price & promote, how to launch a label, how to turn goods, how to maximize margin mix. I loved what I was doing. We punched the chain out to 120+ doors. I was managing a $70 million department.

I became disillusioned in my eight year at Dick’s. I got worn down by the three-hour daily commutes, the 10-hour workdays, the weekend travel to stores every month, the trade show/buying trips. The tie & jacket dress code. I was missing a big part of my Girls growing up. Janet wasn’t helping matters, it was then that she started to push my kids away from me.

That year I left the Company, not entirely sure what I was going to do next.

Today I witnessed a spectacular PR event. Apple had a little event to introduce the iPhone. Tim, Phil, Scott, Eddy, and Greg went on stage to introduce the new iPhone and iPods. This is a product line that single-handling out-grosses Microsoft in it’s entirety.

They were dressed in casual shirts and jeans. No ties. Their presentation was world-class. They spoke from passion I hope they are happy. I hope they have the work/life balance that I didn’t achieve. I hope they are as passionate about their families as they are about their work. I hope their children are happy.

Lance Armstrong

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In 1994 Janet and I met Lance Armstrong at the Thrift Drug Classic in Pittsburgh. Janet was six months pregnant with Courtney when this picture was taken. We were very happy to get to talk to him a bit. Lance was a charming gentleman, asking us if we had enjoyed the race, and inquiring about Janet’s due date. Two years later Lance was diagnosed with cancer.

We’re all familiar with the story of his remarkable fight with Cancer. His work with Livestrong has helped many, many people. Janet and I were very inspired after reading his books. Sadly, with today’s news about USDA stripping him of all results since 1998 I’m afraid his legacy won’t be of Livestrong. It will be of doping.

Many of his critic fail to acknowledge his natural gifts. Armstrong has recorded an aerobic capacity of 83.8 mL/kg/min (VO2 max), much higher than the average person (40–50). There is also the fact that Lance has tested negatively in over 500 tests, more than any other athlete in any sport. He advanced scientific training methods, and bought a F-1 type relationship to his team, sponsors and eqiupment suppliers to advance the science. There is no doubt in my mind Lance put in a tremendous amount of training to win his seven tours.

I don’t understand what USDA is doing by stripping away his Tour wins. Who are they going to hand the trophy to? Beloki? Ulrich? Virenque? Basso? ALL of those riders got caught, or admitted to doping. Is Justice served here? Almost everybody that got results from the late 90’s until several years ago blood boosted. Why the witch hunt for Lance? Lance bought it on himself.

Remember Kevin Livingston? He was a promising young rider who was on the early Postal teams. He put in some tremendous rides in the mountains in support of Lance in ‘99, 2000 and 2001. Rumor has it that he didn’t agree to blood dope, thus he wasn’t selected for the next Tour. He abruptly resigned in 2002. He knew his career was basically kaput, because he didn’t acquiesce to Lance’s doping demands.

Who can forget the feud with Filippo Simeoni (who was testifying in a case against Michael Ferrari), chasing him down in a break in the Tour and publicly chastising him. Lance called Simeoni a liar in the press. Or how about his very public spat with Christophe Bassons, another out-spoken anti-doping rider?

I am convinced today that cycling is very clean. Riders are by far the most tested group of athletes on the planet. When you think about football, with 350lb men having a body fat ratio of 2%, I have to laugh when people tell me there are no steroids in football. I do think the UCI needs serious reform. I do think there needs to be a stronger rider’s union. I do think the idea of a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” can exorcise the remaining demons in the sport. I do feel bad for Lance because he’s a target of a witch hunt. But I also do think he bought this upon himself with his arrogant attitude towards his team-mates and any rider who spoke out against doping.

Tattered Ribbon

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A few yeas ago the Susan G Komen Foundation asked for my support for a Race for the Cure event. My Company had been supportive of the event by donating time, money and merchandise. They were expecting us to continue. I told them no, we would not support their cause because my wife was going through breast cancer. I told her that I needed to focus my energy on getting Janet healthy again.

The truth of the matter is that organizations like the Susan G Komen Foundation make me mad. Who cares how cute and pretty their Pink Ribbon campaign is. Breast cancer isn’t cute and pretty. It’s scary and ugly. It’s devastating to the victims and their families. The prostrate cancer that killed my Dad is devastating.

It makes me sick to see so many companies jump on the bandwagon of making things Pink just for the sake of claiming that they’re for “breast cancer”. I am so sick and tired of companies making money off of it without contributing 100% of the proceeds to actual cancer research. Komen is a corporate marketing enterprise allowing big businesses to wrap themselves in the aura of women’s health. The insulting part is how LITTLE of the money made from these Pink Ribbons actually gets donated. The Susan G Komen CEO Nancy Brinker was paid a salary of $417,171 in 2011. Nonprofit my ass.

If you want to make a change, don’t buy advertising. Donate directly to an organization doing cancer research. Or better yet, donate bone marrow and blood. Visit patients in a cancer ward. Best yet, reach out to a family affected by cancer.

The real crime here is how little support most families get when a loved one is stricken by cancer. Cancer is a darkness that can consume the entire family if it isn’t confronted with. I have a front row perspective on this, and it isn’t pretty.

Fighting the Health Insurance companies to get treatment for your wife when she needs it? There were an insane amount of sign-offs needed by various providers to get lab work, MRIs, x-rays, biopsies, medication, chemotherapy, radiation treatments and surgeries in place. Trying to decipher the stack of medical bills coming in and finding nuggets like a $35 charge for a single 200mg Tylenol Tablet. How about $120 for an icepack? All in all, I spent nearly $60,000 over two years in co-pays and deductibles. Can someone explain to me what exactly an Health Insurance Company does? I think I know the answer – they exist to make a profit by playing arbitrage between you and the health care providers. If I was king for a day, I would outlaw Health Insurance companies and institute a single-payer system. Fuck ‘em. Like yesterday.

I remember leaving the office early on Janet’s Chemo days so I could take her in. And getting yelled at by the owner of my Company for leaving work early. I remember bringing Janet home after a particularly nasty chemo session, getting her into the bed, and having to keep the kids out of the bedroom so Janet could get some sleep. And having the kids so confused and not understanding that Doctor’s orders were to get to sleep. I remember having to hold down the Company operations and run the kids around and keep the house running. And how lonely it was.

It was hard having people come up and ask what they could do to help. I wan’t sure how to answer that. Several people came over anyway. They helped me cook and clean. Some bought over dinner for us. I remember Savannah’s extended Soccer Team family gave us a phenomenal gift basket. Courtney’s Girl Scout troop also put together a great care package for us. I’ll never forget that.

My advice is this. If you know of a close one that has been stricken by cancer, go over their house to help. Talk to their spouse, for it is he/she that needs to be strong for their spouse and kids. That person need help getting through this too. Talk to them, listen to their fears. Help them focus on what they need to do to get their family healthy again. Help them understand that they are in the fight of their life. Help them understand that they need to take care of themselves in order to take care of their family. Let them know that you are thinking of them and not just their stricken spouse. Let them know you care about them also.

Every bit helps.

China and Most of the 7 Deadly Sins

Well, this is the world we are living in. … We can’t make these products in the United States. Nobody could afford to buy them if we did. … And, though we talk a good game about how we insist on workers being treated with dignity, blah blah blah, well, I mean, come on. … We know what goes on there. We know how they open your mail, and listen to your phone calls, and let their factories pollute like crazy and exploit workers, all in the name of progress. And we turn a blind eye to it…
We all know that there’s no fucking way in the world we should have microwave ovens and refrigerators and TV sets and everything else at the prices we’re paying for them. There’s no way we get all this stuff and everything is done fair and square and everyone gets treated right. No way. And don’t be confused — what we’re talking about here is our way of life. Our standard of living. You want to “fix things in China,” well, it’s gonna cost you. Because everything you own, it’s all done on the backs of millions of poor people whose lives are so awful you can’t even begin to imagine them, people who will do anything to get a life that is a tiny bit better than the shitty one they were born into, people who get exploited and treated like shit and, in the worst of all cases, pay with their lives.
You know that, and I know that. Okay? Let’s just be honest here. Just for a fucking minute, let’s all be honest.