Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Long ago I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States and during all my years in uniform I, like the hundreds of thousands of others who served with me, did our best to do so.  Unlike many of the sheep in this country I never really needed anyone to interpret the meaning of it for me.  I always felt that it was written in pretty plain language and it was done so in order to protect the rights of us citizens from the tyranny of government, and that we as citizens would have a foundation for which to fall back on when citizens have felt that they have had enough of intrusion, mismanagement, and people who rule with the sole intent of amassing power and money rather than honoring their solemn oaths to represent the people of this country and their ideals and needs.

I am a firm believer that the Constitution does not need a whole lot of clarification or additional laws added to the books to fill in any perceived gaps that out Founders conveniently left out way back in the day.  We have given up their plain language for interpretations heavily influenced by which side of the aisle you sit on from a political perspective and whether or not said politicians are influenced from lobbyists, who in my mind operate in direct contradiction to what the Founders intended when writing the Constitution.

The issue I take with Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act is less that it is heavily influenced by the evangelical misconception that America is a Christian nation (see the snippet of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution above, i.e., The Bill of RIghts) than it codifies in law the inability of the people to determine how they deal with things such as: what is a marriage; how do you deal with a business owner who denies a transaction based on their own prejudice; or, in general, takes away the ability of the people to determine what they think is either moral or ethical.

I have had this argument before with many people and it is not very popular.  My contention however is that it is not up to me, or the government to determine right and wrong (I do not mean in regards to violence or anything of a true criminal nature).  I find it hard to believe that our two parties who seem to work under their own agendas rather than that of those they are elected to represent, could actually make a coherent argument on moral or ethical grounds.

What I find wrong with RFRA is not that (using the same tired example as everyone else) a baker can refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, in all honesty that is the right of the business owner, because, if that is their opinion and how they choose to run their business, then it should be up to the people to determine how long they stay in business.  What RFRA does, in my mind, is it takes the ability of the people to determine how that business is affected and allows by the the ability for that business to run and profit via discriminatory practice, as is their right as a business owner, without the ability of the people to influence that, as is their right under the Constitution.

The purpose of the Constitution is to give everyone an equal shot on the playing field.  It is not however, contrary to popular belief, not there to guarantee that everyone will actually get an equal share of the pie, just that they have the opportunity guarantee to the to try.  The Preamble, to paraphrase a little, goes on about Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happyness, it never says that you are guaranteed to get it.

Using the example of the baker again: if said baker refuses service to a same-sex couple, as a business owner they should make that decision understanding that the will of the people will determine their future profitability rather than hide behind protections, codified in law, that are in direct contradiction to the Constitution.  Don’t believe that can be the case?  Take a counting daily of the number of apologies issued by businesses, reporters, public servants, etc. as a result of hurting someones’s feelings.  You cannot go a day without hearing about an apology being issued for someone saying or doing something, most of the time in a hypocritical fashion, because the apology is done without conviction or remorse, but simply as a a matter of doing business, so they can get back to business.  Laws like RFRA give cowards with a little money, influence or power something to hide behind when they allow their true natures to come forward and affect their decisions.  They are better worded, carefully crafted restructurings of Jim Crow laws from the 50’s brought into our supposedly enlightened time in the 21st century.  Despite all the means we have available to us to communicate and educate ourselves, we constantly use them to further ignorance as a country and bury our heads in the sand even further.

I am no Constitutional scholar, nor am I some talking head with a platform available to me to influence the world. ,Maybe we need less of that in our country and more people speaking up directly.  People who, regardless of their belief structure, are concerned with betterment, betterment without affecting the liberties of others.  Our Founding Father’s, even with all the flaws they may have had were not Constitutional scholars either.  They wrote the first one, the only one we have ever had.  They were prescient enough to provide a means to alter the document as well, because even they knew that they could not foretell where this experiment of a country would end up.  I am not into the big Fed, stepping in to State’s rights and attacking the laws they create.  I am in favor of the people of this country exercising their rights guaranteed by the Constitution to say they think something is totally fucked at any level of the government.  Acts like the RFRA take away the ability to do that because it makes the erroneous assumption that when people speak out against a perceived discrimination or institutional prejudice that it is somehow infringing upon the religious freedoms of those perpetrating them, when in fact it is more about people sticking up for the rights of others against people who are hiding their shitty natures behind words from a book originally intended to provide a framework for goodness, but rewritten through the millennium by leaders who used it as a means to instill fear and rule absolutely because of it.

This is not an attack on religion or religious belief.  I honestly could care less about that.  What it is an attack on is the ability to hide behind law because you are a shitty person with shitty prejudice, and do so in the name of your professed morality and righteousness, based upon how you choose to worship.  Laws like RFRA in Indiana are the reason behind the erosion of the moral fiber of this country because they allow prejudice to foster rather than die at the time and choosing of the people.  It is a violation of the Constitution of this country because it takes away the ability of the people to say what they feel.  Debate should be vigorous and passionate and like it or not for either side of it, the outcome should be decided by the majority and the effect, not the politicians looking to maintain distance between the masses, further empowering them and those who lobby them.

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SSDJ – Same Sh!t Different Job

Posted: January 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

I was fortunate in my 21 year career in the Army that I was part of an organization that was in a constant state of transition: it was not always easy or made sense, but the Army I came in to was radically different than the one that I left.  The Army I came into was prepared to fight a war that was a few years dead already.  The Cold War was over and we were a heavy, cumbersome creature prepared to fight state sponsored land wars, meaning the Russians, or as they were know at the time, the Soviets.  While we were not ready to transform with technology and capabilities, we were doing it from a human capital perspective.  I came into an Army where Reductions in Force and Qualitative Management Programs were the norm along with slow promotion rates, stagnant pay, limited supplies and opportunities for growth were minimal; similar but not exactly like the Army I recently departed.

As we moved to a more agile and flexible force, opportunities opened up for many.  Use of troops in non-traditional combat roles forced  myriad changes across the training spectrum and as a result it helped to shape the retention, promotion and pay systems.  Basically, we were learning too much and becoming more educated at the hands of the tax-payer and we were now able to take those skills  and use them in the private sector.  No longer was an Infantryman just a killer at the end of the gun, he became a leader, a manager of resources, a trainer, a peace keeper and sundry other skill sets were developed as the technology advanced as well.

As the 20th century closed out we were forced to change how we do business as terrorism became the new buzzword and terrorists became the new enemy.  9/11 closed out a period of reactivity and ushered us into a more proactive approach to terrorism.  Along with that came even further transformation.  We needed to rethink at what levels what types of decisions are made, we needed empower people at lower levels to be the leaders that the Army preached we were and allow them to make decisions based on the ground truth, rather than from afar.  We created networks, human and technological to help us gather and pass information.  The Army as a whole became flatter and this was especially true in the Special Operations community.  I was fortunate enough to work with some true visionaries when it came to Command and Control strategies and tactics and as a result was able to spend the latter half of my career with more influence in the bubble I was responsible for than at any other time.  As a Senior NCO I had more freedom and authority than my mentors did.

Any organization that grows and develops rapidly will eventually need to cut out the deadwood or face it infecting the rest of the organism.  Sometimes you have to cut away a little bit of the live, healthy wood along with the dead to make sure it has a chance to continue on.  While the Army I left is wildly transformed from the one I came in to, it has reached a certain plateau and unfortunately it is time to do some housekeeping.  The growth, promotion and other personnel issues have been allowed to go unchecked and we were beginning to see “forced” reduction through promotion requirement changes, retention of promotion and pay requirement, bringing back Qualitative Management Programs and other shenanigans.  It was a fairly easy, if bittersweet, decision for my wife and I to retire while I had a positive attitude and could walk away with the respect and love for the institution I put so many years into.  Basically, unlike many I have seen go before me, I knew it was my time and needed to punch out.

After just a few months in the private sector, I wonder where some of the leadership visionaries I used to work for actually took their ideas from, surely it cannot be from the business world like they claimed because the flat, bottom up organization I came from are a far cry from the top-down, stove piped examples I am seeing in the private sector.  We had officers who majored in and studied business and were able to dissect those lessons and apply them effectively and efficiently in an organization that was designed to operate at a 100% plus loss annually.  The USG is the ultimate 1% organization, billions in revenue annually and it all has to be spent as programmed or you will not only loss what you saved this year, you will not get your increase for annual operational costs for the next and subsequent years.  Even given that we had mostly effective processes for programming our needs and correcting them as needed.  In the private sector, if the retail industry is any indicator, there is a distinct lack of application of this type of knowledge.

Stove-piped and cumbersome processes are the norm.  Lack of strategic implementation as people protect their own internal empires rather than contribute to the cohesiveness and vision does not allow for sharing across the continuum.  Top driven policy masquerades as collaboration, and, for the first time ever I see the benefit of the Army having Warrant Officers in between the Commissioned and Non-Commissioned ranks.  Private industry suffers because it has only leaders and minions.  I have been trying to read as much as possible and ask as many questions as I can of my new mentors in my new career field as if possible.  So far, with my new eyes, I see the retail industry as really good at rapid growth but wholly unable to sustain it, while the Army has the mechanisms in place to maintain rapid growth but is unable to due to outside policy and regulated manpower requirements.

I am truly enjoying learning and growing in my new career field and I do not mean to make uneducated commentary on the business world.  These are just some observations of someone who spent a long time learning the intricacies of one behemoth organization and now I am doing the same thing in another sector.  So far it has been an interesting and sometimes perplexing ride.

The two best units in the Army are the one you are going to and the one you just left.  For my brothers and sisters out there looking to make the change, either through retirement, desire to leave, or because they say you must a few words of advise.

1. As cumbersome as it may seem and no matter how much you question it, the military chain of command is pretty efficient.  Do not expect the same, so when you are privileged enough to have one a a management team that actually supports you like I do, it is a pleasant surprise, especially, when you do not see it outside your sphere of influence.

2.  Remember the leadership principal that no one is irreplaceable.  It is the truth out here just as it was while serving.  Even if degraded somewhat a team should still be able to function somewhat efficiently without any one person being present.

3. I am approaching the team I have working for me the same way I did when I had one in the Army.  They should have the skills to take my job at any time and move beyond me.  Basically, the “child should surpass the parent” philosophy.  While that is in all the literature it is found less in practice out here than you would think.  See the stove piping and fiefdom protecting above.  But just like anywhere else you will never affect any change if you do not live it, so do it, train it and live it.

4.  I did not know what to expect anymore the first time I stepped off a plane into a war zone any more than I did stepping into my first interview.  Just like everything in my military career it was a challenge and I needed to embrace it.  There is a level of fear and trepidation associated with anything new, but I was able to walk down the street shopping in a bazaar in downtown Jalalabad bad in 2002 when I knew absolutely nothing about war, then I can tackle anything the private sector can throw at me.  I may have to beat some things into my head over and over again, but I was a master of “fake it till you make it” once I can do it again, just like then I have to keep the career-enders to a minimum in the interim.

I have spent all my adult life adapting to challenges, so has most everyone in the military today.  Moving on to the private sector is just another one.  Just like most things it is best to do it with at least a modicum of a plan, but sometimes you have just have to say “fuck it” and react accordingly.

More observations in the future as I continue on this journey.

Our country used to have a set of big brass balls that it hauled around the world, clanging with the sounds of freedom and democracy.  Whether this benefited any besides us is irrelevant.  We cast our stones in the biggest mold we could find back in 1776 when we told old George III to stuff the Monarchy and declared our independence (fortunately we share a great relationship with our cousins across the pond today).  This week however, our brass ones quit clanging and for all intents and purposes were “hacked” off with threats from a nameless, faceless enemy believed to be the third member of a despotic family who rules their country through fear, intimidation, death and a complete brainwashing of the population.  Today, Uncle Sam stands, swollen like a eunuch with a tame eagle on his shoulder, not staring out with the look of pride and defiance that we all know, but one of shame and humiliation.

Admittedly, until today I had not paid too much attention to the Sony email issue and the follow on threats that have ensued over the course of the last week or so.  Today, as a veteran, I am pissed and disgusted at how our country has handled the situation.  This is not something I actually blame on the government, even though it has allowed the environment to foster and grow for the last 50 years or so, no this is solely to lay at the feet of us citizens and the control we have allowed corporations to maintain over us thanks to fear of our litigiousness and politically correct and misguided mindset.  Essentially, corporations allowed themselves to be held hostage to an indeterminate threat due to fear of being sued should something, possibly, maybe happen if they allowed a movie, a comedy at that, open to the public on Christmas Day.  That paints us as pathetic creatures, because no matter what they say, this was not about what could happen, it was about what it would cost in the aftermath, not in human capital, but in hard currency and stock prices.

We the people of this once proud nation, who thumbed our noses not once, but twice, at our former Masters of the Empire, have allowed ourselves to be subjugated by a tinpot dictator who uses the knowledge of nuclear physics that his country possesses not to provide power and comfort to his people, but to periodically demonstrate to the world that he can create a destructive mushroom cloud.  I am ashamed, not for my country and the ideals that I and my comrades in arms fought and continue to for, but for the representation we have now allowed the world to see.  It is pathetic and disappointing.

Whatever our faults have been through the years, both our successes and failures were done with fearlessness and the desire to not be limited or deterred by what lay in front of us.  Now, we have become the prison bitch of a pudgy little fucker who would not last 15 minutes in one of his many prison camps.

The Interview would have done pretty well, it has the right people in it and was hyped up enough that the Rogen/Franco COMEDY would have been another hit for the duo, and for Sony pictures.  That is really pretty inconsequential when you get down to it.  What is, in my mind, is the fact that we let a country which lives like Europe of the Dark Ages influence corporate economic decisions, because our own people have set the precedent for personal economic gain by suing for everything and anything rather than taking it out on the actual perpetrators, not to mention that there is no specified threat, just the implication that there is one.  To a certain extant I do not even have much in the way of anger for Sony, it is hard to blame them for yanking what would have been a money-maker when the theaters were refusing to show it.  I can only hope they pull a U2 and freely put it on everyone’s playlist on every streaming service available, for free.  The best thing that could happen is that it shows up on Kim Jung Un’s I-Tunes playlist and he cannot get rid of it without his hackers creating a patch to remove it.

At the end of the day North Korea made a power play and it was not our government that took the loss.  It was our nation.  We as a people let corporate America’s profit and loss statements dictate what we are able to view because to them it is a much more acceptable loss to simply not show the movie than to make payouts for something that may or may not happen, great environment we have set up for ourselves America.  Let’s see what happens if they hack NASCAR or the NFL’s emails.  It is time we refill our sack with some new, improved titanium balls, and set the old brass set that was clipped of up on a shelf as a reminder of where we have gotten ourselves to and where we need to go from here.  We all to often excuse big business for their decisions simply for business sake.  Just like the multitude of other ways they have screwed us over the last few years, too big to fail, etc.  Business, like the government needs to be held accountable to the people.

Time to nut back up America, look out for the common good rather than how you can gain personally and make corporations live or die by what they provide you, not fear of litigation.

I have just under three weeks left of my transition leave before I wake up a civilian for the first time in over 20 years.  So far, the transition from soldier to civilian has been pretty easy; I have been so busy that I have not had a whole lot of time to wallow in what is soon to be my past life.  I was very fortunate to land not one, but two jobs and have been putting in the hours ever since.

There are many detractors and naysayers about what the Army provides transitioning service members, but I am not one of them.  I thought that all along the way, there were things that I needed to do, that I was provided a rough outline to accomplish.  Other than a few mandatory checkpoints along the way, I was able to pick and choose when and what I would follow.  Even if there was something I chose not to do, I at least gave it a once over in case I needed to take advantage of it later.  The one experience I will have to wait on is my VA compensation, that will be a few months into the new year before I get even the tiniest insight as to how that will go.

I managed to pick up a ton of skills over the years and the key to landing my positions was putting it together coherently in my resumes and tailoring them to the positions I was looking at.  There may be a similar thread throughout any one of the resumes I sent out, but they were all organized with the language of the position I was applying for.  I am not so naive as to think that I have found my dream job, with a dream company, but I have entered the field I want to pursue, even though prior to I had no idea that was what I was looking for.  I am enjoying learning the Loss Prevention/Asset Protection discipline and I am coming to realize that it has as many possibilities available as my career in the Army did.  There are so many areas of interest within it that just like my prior career, you get trained for one thing and the next thing you know it is time to look at the next area.  I look forward to moving from novice to journeyman.

A few bits of advice for those looking to start or are in the transition process:

1.  Outside of rare instances, your resume alone will not get you hired.  It will open the door, but it is up to you to walk through it and let them know you  are who they are looking for.

2.  Organize your job searches.  Keep track of who you applied to and when.  Make sure you know which resume you sent to them.  Windows computers provide this neat thing called a file structure, use it to your advantage.

3.  Follow-up any interview with a Thank You letter.  It pays dividends.

4.  A good cover letter attached to your resume will fill in the blanks and add a personal (not too personal) touch.  A resume is a statement of fact, cold, possibly a little embellished, but it is a dry read.  A cover letter adds a sense of YOU to it.

5.  Do not be afraid to ask for a critique or explanation if you are not hired for a job.  Some companies are kind enough to send you a rejection letter without being called in for an interview.  Use this as another opportunity and ask to speak with the HR department.  Explain you are just transitioning, ask for what you could have done differently, then make those adjustments and re-apply; this lets them know you are serious and it answers a few of the questions for them they may have when you score that interview.

6. Do your research before the interview.  Make sure you understand who you are applying to and frame your answers to their questions based on their culture and philosophy.

7.  Dress the part.  Wear a suit and tie.  The right image from the get-go lets them know that you may be coming in low, but you intend to rise to the top.

8.  When applying do not put in salary requirements on the application, especially if they are not advertising a range in the announcement.  Let it work itself out in the interview/hiring process.  I received a couple quick rejections on applications because I was putting salary in, as soon as I stopped putting it in, I received more call-backs.

9.  Do not under-value yourself, but do not value yourself out of a field you want to work in either.  It is a fine line for us service members.  We have tons more management experience than most professional managers in the civilian world, but we are breaking in to fields that are new to us.  Even good managers and interviewers can feel threatened by a potential new hire.  Use your savvy, be aware of your surroundings and who you are taking to, and most importantly how you are talking to them.

10.  Assume the interview began the moment you parked your car and that it does not end until you are well out of sight of the building.  Always present yourself in a professional manner.  To paraphrase my last job “assessment is an everyday event”.  Be relaxed, just not too relaxed, be sure but not cocky, if you do not know an answer, at least make them think you will find it out.  The biggest thing is to leave a great impression and make them wonder where else in the company could your bad-ass self do wonders for them.  Don’t be a one trick pony.

These are just a few things to pass along while my mind is still fresh, and keep in mind these apply to someone who is actively seeking on their own, it is a whole different ballgame if you are being actively recruited for a position.  There are no universal rules for landing a job, but there are a few constants.  The biggest one to remember is that it is all up to you, no one owes you anything and no matter how irreplaceable you were in you last job, you are going to be the FNG in the new one.

I figured out a long time ago that no matter what facet of the job force you belong to, there are certain times throughout the year in which those careers demand more of you than at others.  Occasionally, you do not get to enjoy certain days that other folks do, because the field you are working in supplies something worthwhile to the majority.  Holidays or not, somethings need to be done, they are vital to maintaining our infrastructure, and other things the market demands that they be open and provide specials and sales in honor of said special days.

For many years, I sat eating a holiday meal off of one of those paper trays that looks like a weaker version of a T.V. dinner tray.  Horrible pressed versions of turkey, powdered mash potatoes, lab created gravy, powdered cider made in a canteen cup, dry lemon pound cake, or, if luck would have it poppy seed pound cake.  Yep, many a holiday spent away from home eating some version of a pre- packaged meal with my brothers and sisters.  Maybe it is too many years of brainwashing and camaraderie while scarfing down those meals, but I cannot figure out what the uproar is over retailers being open this evening and requiring their people to work (I did just join the retail world), after all, they would not do it if there were not lines of people stacked up ready to wreak havoc upon the carefully laid out establishments in order to get a once per year deal.

Six P.M. this evening I will get my introduction to the mind of the consumer as the Loss Prevention Manager for a major retailer’s store.  As I try to maintain safe shopping and working conditions, while trying to catch the sticky fingered acts of someone who just cannot keep their hands off of costume jewelry and the other impulse items laid out throughout the store.  You know what I mean, all those little items you would never think of buying 364 days per year, but just cannot resist getting three of because of their uber-low pricing and “buy 2 get 1 free” stickers.

Don’t get mad at these retail corporations for providing what the consumers demand.  Quit talking shit about stores that you are going to visit the Saturday after Black-Friday anyway.  If you want to get mad about these stores being open, get mad at the masses of people, in long lines surrounding stores and malls everywhere, waiting for the gates to lift and the locks to click open so they can storm the gates of retail like they are the beaches of Normandy and then it turns into a Call of Duty “free for all” session with one against the other in competition for a Keurig 2.0, the Door-Buster savings on a T.V. model that will be the same price in three months as it is today when it is no longer the latest and greatest.  No, do not get mad at my bosses and CEOs of the multitude of retail establishments that will be opening this evening, get mad at the everyday people who will demonstrate their demons that lurk inside of them in pursuit of the ultimate deal.

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision that essentially, corporations are people too, they really are not.  Unlike living, breathing people, you cannot shame them, they know no embarrassment for the activities they do.  The consumer however, that is where you can lay down the shame.  You see, if the consumers do not show up, the doors will not open, and there will be no reason for employees to come to work.

Do not cry out in support of us poor employees being forced to work by the man, I personally could care less.  Let’s break down what this is really about, because it is not about people working on Thanksgiving: it is not a religious holiday; we spent most of the subsequent years after the supposed combined dinner of Pilgrims and Indians trying to eradicate the savage anyway; only in the last 100 years or so have turkeys become a commercially viable poultry product; and no-one besides my mother likes cranberry sauce.  What this is really about is people not wanting to give up on their excuse to stuff their already bloated carcasses to the point of immobility while they sit around burping and farting during the Thanksgiving Day football game.  The only effort being put forth from their corpulent meat sacks is the amount of thought it takes to figure out how they can choke down one more piece of pumpkin pie and if they have finally moved their personal health and well being to the point that they now qualify for a free Rascal scooter, all while waxing in white trash eloquence about the poor state of affairs of the world and how the country has truly gone to shit, meanwhile they have just sucked down enough calories to embarrass Gilbert Grape’s mother.

I hope that I end up with some interesting stories from this evening and the store has a great night, after all the majority of yearly retail receipts are taken in over the course of the next six weeks.  Just like my last career, there are certain days of the year that I am going to have to consider not my own, this is just one of them, after all, the market and the consumers that drive it, demand it.