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Archive for June, 2012

HOW ARE WE EVOLVING AS A SPECIES?

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 29, 2012

– And what role does morality play?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

We like to believe America is still the greatest society ever devised by man; better than ancient Greece, Persia, Rome, Britannia, or whatever, but if you study the news you have to wonder if we are truly any different than our predecessors. The technology of today allows us to communicate faster, express our creativity, and perform research more rapidly thereby enabling us to feed and heal more people. We are very proud of our technology, just as our ancient forefathers were of theirs. Our socialization skills and sense of ourselves are expressed through our speech, fashion, and customs. Such things always suit the decorum of the times. Impetuous youth has always challenged the wisdom and ways of their elders, while the latter grows impatient for the former to mature and take their rightful place in society. Such things remain constant.

It is our actions which ultimately defines our civilization. The actions of the Occupy Wall Street movement, for example, are essentially no different than those found in the “Hoovervilles” created nearly 100 years ago where people camped out to protest socioeconomic conditions. The Yippies of the 1960’s were also similar in intent. Charlatans still wrong, cheat and defraud others, but now at record levels, such as Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme which fleeced investors of billions of dollars. People are still bludgeoned and defiled without remorse. Throughout the world, we still allow countries to practice genocide and other atrocities even though we thought World War II marked the end of such barbaric behavior. Now, with today’s high tech weapons, we can kill more efficiently and at a higher volume. Corruption is still accepted, both in government and the private sector. No, not too much has really changed over the years.

I honestly do not see how man has progressed over the millenias other than to live longer, propagate more actively, and consume more resources. After thousands of years of development, you would think we would be a little smarter, but I am at a loss as to how to prove it. We long for Utopia, but it doesn’t exist, nor do I believe it ever will at the rate we are going.

I have always been of the opinion that both God and the Devil are very much alive and well, and that mankind is the embodiment of both residing within one home, the human spirit, thereby defining our values and perceptions through our sense of right and wrong (good versus evil). This, in turn, defines the path we follow through life. As much as we would like to believe good always triumphs over evil, there is no evidence to show this to be true, other than we haven’t killed off mankind yet. It is our sense of morality which dictates how we evolve as a species. If we permit evil to get the upper hand, our species will continue to degenerate, but if we keep it in check, we prosper.

I tend to believe morality is learned behavior from our parents and family, friends, school, our places of worship, the media, and the workplace. In the past, these institutions taught such things as being responsible for one’s own actions (accountability), to work hard and strive to prosper, the benefits of cooperation, treating others as you would have others treat you, and cause and effect (the consequences of crime and punishment). Such concepts shape our perceptions and personal belief system. However, if these lessons are being taught inconsistently or erroneously, the individual will misinterpret morality and act accordingly, right or wrong. We may spend considerable time discussing literature, math, and science, but not nearly enough discussing morality, particularly with our offspring who represents our future.

Not surprising, such things as greed, deceit, and laziness have crept into the fabric of our society. Today, abusing government programs for personal gain is considered an acceptable form of behavior, it’s even encouraged, as is undermining our neighbors and colleagues for the purposes of petty power and control, and devising a dependence on others to support ourselves. What is considered moral today, would hardly be considered such not long ago. A bankruptcy was considered scandalous and a disgrace, as was a divorce, or being arrested. Now, failure seems to be openly embraced and admired while success and following principles are lampooned. Interestingly, the country is now divided into two ideological extremes, left and right, both possessing distinctly different interpretations of what is right and what is wrong. Years ago, organized religion was the moral compass of the country. People from all walks of life openly called on Deity especially in perilous times, including the President of the United States. Now, due to political correctness, people tiptoe around the subject and consider the discussion of religion in any form a taboo. No wonder Christianity and Judaism is now in retreat.

Next time you see a barbaric atrocity of some kind on television, be it a mass murder, a child molested, a government releasing hell on its own citizens, or a simple injustice, ask yourself why we tolerate and permit such actions to occur. Better yet, ask yourself, are we really any better than our predecessors?

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
OUR GROWING DEPENDENCY ON MASS MEDIOCRITY – “The state of the art is whatever Microsoft says it is.” – Bryce’s Law

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Posted in Religion, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

NO JOY IN MUDVILLE (OR THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE)

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 28, 2012

– Is there harmony in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO)?

Pinellas County Sheriff deputies have not received a pay raise in quite some time (roughly five years), primarily due to budget cuts. When it was recently rumored a raise was in the works, they became optimistic, but their bubble was burst when they learned the money was to be used elsewhere instead. Not surprising, this news was not greeted with enthusiasm by personnel in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) and makes fodder for discontent.

In the many political forums held around the county over the last few months, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who is seeking election, has been dogged by the question of declining morale in his department. He has tried to answer his critics by quoting a PCSO survey conducted in the Spring of this year, “PCSO Annual Employee Survey, Comparative Analysis 2010-2012” (click to DOWNLOAD a copy; NOTE: survey obtained from the PCSO office). During the forums, the Sheriff claimed morale was as high as 83%. In reality, the survey clearly shows a favorable morale rate of just 63%, much less than what he was quoting. In addition, only 876 people participated in the survey, out of a department of approximately 2700 people (32% responding). Allegedly, the survey was not conducted anonymously either, meaning the administrators would know precisely how each person answered the questions which is somewhat intimidating. As an aside, only 30% felt the salary package was fair and competitive, a drop of 5% since 2010. All of this does not bode well for the Sheriff.

The declining morale rate was recently supported by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Pinellas Lodge #43 who last week endorsed the Sheriff’s principal opponent, Everett Rice, 92% to 8%. Further, the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association (PBA) endorsed Rice over Gualtierri 67% to 24%. These associations consist of local law enforcement personnel, many of whom work in the PCSO and know what is going on internally.

One useful forum to monitor what is on the minds of sheriff deputies in the county is LEOaffairs, an impartial national message board and repository of current information for Law Enforcement Officers. In the section for Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, there is an unscientific poll regarding the department’s “Morale.” Here, PCSO received only an 18% favorable rating. And in another unscientific poll, regarding election preferences, Rice leads Gualtieri 64% to 24%. LEOaffairs may not be scientific, but it does give you an idea of the pulse of the department.

This latest news about pay raises will not help Sheriff Gualtieri to rebuild morale within his department. It will undoubtedly be met with the same enthusiasm as “Mighty Casey” of Mudville fame:

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in PCSO — the Sheriff has struck out.”

(with apologies to Ernest Thayer)

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

CAPITALISTIC CRABS

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 27, 2012

– Even fiddler crabs understand the basics of our economic system.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I went to the beach recently with my wife where we planted our umbrella and chairs in the sand as we usually do. It was low tide so we moved down closer to the edge of the water. Interestingly, we found ourselves situated in the midst of a colony of fiddler crabs who were busy digging holes in the sand and filtering the granules for some sort of nutritious treasure, whatever that might be. Although there were dozens of them around us, they took care to keep their distance from us and quickly buried themselves in the sand if we moved too quickly or stamped our feet.

They appeared to be quite industrious in their work and quite amusing to watch. Each dug a hole and mined balls of sand from it which they patiently picked through for nutrients. I noticed there were physical differences in the various crabs. Some were larger and possessed one rather impressive pincer claw which made it look like it was playing a fiddle (hence the name). Sometimes the claw was on the right side, others were southpaws. My attention focused on a particular crab which I called “Lefty” who seemed to have one of the more prominent holes in the sand. I was genuinely impressed by the amount of sand Lefty excavated from his lair. He seemed to be very concerned with keeping the area around his den neat and tidy. If a neighboring crab came too close, Lefty would ward him off by flashing his pincer. Most of the time though, he would simply push them out of his territory before retreating back to his hole where he would continue in his endeavors. Most of the crabs I saw seemed to follow Lefty’s lead whereby they worked hard and enjoyed the bounty of their efforts. Although they were rather territorial in nature, they allowed neighbors on their property only if they respected his domain.

Lefty became bored with the routine after awhile, and decided to survey the world around him. Unlike others who remained at home, Lefty traveled far and wide looking for new opportunities (at least ten feet away). Inevitably, he would have to cross over the territory of other crabs who quickly rebuffed his advances, regardless of his size. Nonetheless, Lefty continued on his trek until he found himself outside of the colony. He eventually found a new spot on the beach which evidently had a better view of the ocean, not to mention nutrients in the sand, and began to dig a new burrow. Never satisfied, he moved on to another location after he exhausted the nutrients. Interestingly, the other crabs didn’t seem to have his adventurous spirit and stayed home while Lefty saw the world.

After studying the habits of the fiddler crab for a couple of hours, I came to the conclusion they were a perfect example of capitalism in practice. Everyone worked hard for their food; freeloaders were taught to work if they wanted to eat, but some were allowed to graze on private property if the tenant was so inclined. The crabs were also free to roam and explore new endeavors, as exemplified by Lefty who enjoyed the bounties of success after leaving the colony, a very risky proposition. I don’t think Aesop could have made a better analogy.

I found this all rather intriguing and wondered if I could simulate this phenomenon on a larger scale. To do so, I purchased a dozen sand shovels and left them on the beach near a group of children who eagerly used them to dig holes and make sand forts. Each worked merrily to carve up their small piece of the beach which they were all very proud of. At the end of the day, they left their shovels in the sand and watched as the incoming tide reclaimed their creations. Again, this was another fine example of capitalism as each person was allowed to work as hard as they wanted and enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

Next, I obtained a dozen trowels, along with four shovels, and placed them near a group of conservatives on the beach. They eagerly picked up the tools and started to create some rather inspiring structures, including a six foot high sand castle complete with turrets, bridges, a moat with water, and the inside was large enough to hold a small child within its walls. It was pretty impressive. Other participants sculpted some interesting shapes, including a sea serpent, a ship, and what appeared to be a submarine. They took turns using the shovels as there were only four of them. Although a few people worked independently, most paired up into teams to create their structures and some friendly competition ensued. At the end, they congratulated each other on the job they had done. It was so impressive, curiosity seekers stopped by to admire their work and praised them accordingly. All of the tools were cleaned off and returned to the spot where I had brought them.

Finally, I took the same utensils and dropped them near a group of liberals. Frankly, they weren’t too impressed with them. Having watched the conservatives work and the adulation they received, instead of building something new, they complained to the media who filmed them tearing down the work of the conservatives. They complained about the heat and the working conditions and fought each other over territory in the sand. They then sold the tools and pocketed the money, and blamed the conservatives for defacing the beach.

Frankly, I was disappointed with the results of my experiment. I hoped the liberals had been at least as smart and industrious as the tiny fiddler crab, but I guess I was wrong.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:  
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
HOW ARE WE EVOLVING AS A SPECIES? – And what role does morality play?

Posted in Economics, humor, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

GETTING NASTY

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 25, 2012

– Do nice guys always finish last? Well, ah…

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Something I find interesting in our society is our predisposition for being rude and offensive. About a year ago I saw a high school graduation ceremony at a football field where the parents were outright obnoxious. Instead of quietly sitting in the stands and offering polite applause at appropriate moments, it was a ruckus affair where parents pushed and shoved, shouted and whistled at their kids, some even stepped over the lines and on to the field reserved for the students so they could take a picture of their offspring, something they could have done afterwards. When they were asked by the police to step off the field and go back to their seats in the stands, they ignored them and even told them to mind their own business. It was quite ugly. So much so, this year the high school sent forms to the parents stipulating the decorum they must follow. Further, the forms had to be signed by the parents and if they violated the agreement, the student’s diploma would not be presented that day. I found this a bit mind boggling. Usually, it is the students that are asked to behave properly, not the parents, but I guess the times have changed.

It wasn’t always like this of course. People practiced common courtesy, such as holding doors open for others, letting people speak, displaying good manners, dressing for the occasion, etc. Acting obnoxiously was generally frowned upon, but now it seems to be commonplace. In fact, it appears to be the expected form of conduct. Let me give you an example.

Recently, I noticed a problem with the invoice from my Internet Service Provider (ISP). I discovered we were getting double-billed on a couple of items and charged for a particular service we no longer used. When it was first brought to my attention I sent a note to my ISP representative politely asking them to correct the problem. I did this twice as I didn’t receive a reply the first time. After a few weeks, I decided to check my account on-line and lo and behold I discovered nothing had changed. Frankly, I blew a fuse. Instead of exchanging additional pleasantries, I penned a threatening e-mail to the ISP warning them to either fix the problem or we would take our business elsewhere (the actual e-mail was obviously worded more strongly). Basically, I had to lose my cool and get nasty with them. Remarkably, the problem was suddenly rectified within a few scant minutes of threatening the ISP by e-mail. The speed by which this occurred caused me to wonder why. Surely I had articulated the problem clearly in my earlier correspondence to them, a rather professional note, at least so I thought, but they didn’t act on it. Instead, they acted on an obnoxious threat.

It seems odd the only way you get action anymore is by becoming nasty with people as opposed to being courteous. Maybe the problem is that people have all learned “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” that the only way to get action is to push your way on to the field, regardless of who gets in your way. Otherwise, you are ignored and taken for granted.

I am certainly not suggesting we should all become more crass than we already are, but it is important to recognize there will be instances where it will be necessary to become nasty, particularly when you are being ignored. There certainly is still room for civility in society, but I fear there is a general inclination to think and practice “me first” as opposed to patiently cooperating.

Somehow I am reminded of Mark Twain’s observations on how man socializes with others:

“Man is a reasoning animal, such as they claim, though I believe that’s open to dispute. I’ve been studying this ‘reasoning animal’ for years now and I find the results to be humiliating. Well for example I experimented with a cat and a dog. Taught them to be friends and put them in a cage. I introduced a rabbit and in an hour they were friends. Then I added a fox, a goose, a squirrel, some doves, a kangaroo, and finally a monkey. They lived together in peace. Well next I captured an Irish Catholic and put him in a cage and just as soon as he seemed tame I added a Presbyterian, then a Turk from Constantinople, a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas, a Buddhist from China, and finally a Salvation Army colonel. Why when I went back there wasn’t a single specimen alive.”

Maybe society hasn’t actually changed too much since Twain’s time.

As an epilogue, this year’s High School graduation ceremonies at the football field were washed out at the last minute by rain. Instead of waiting for the rain to subside, school administrators decided it would be safer to postpone the ceremony until the following day where it would be held indoors. This didn’t sit well with the parents who blasted the principal with irate e-mails and telephone calls. Instead of a little patience and cooperation for the purpose of safety, the parents became upset simply because they were “inconvenienced.” Maybe we should have taken these parents and put them in a cage as Twain suggests. I wonder if any would survive.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
CAPITALISTIC CRABS – Even fiddler crabs understand the basics of our economic system.

Posted in Life, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

THINNING THE HERD

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 22, 2012

– Are accidents truly accidental or a matter of “natural selection”?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I recently ran into an old friend who began his career as a paramedic and over time evolved into a manager of a city ambulance unit. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time so we sat down at a local watering hole to catch up on our lives. I’ve always found the work of paramedics and firefighters fascinating. It is more than just tending to a fire or simple accident. Actually, they see some rather bizarre accidents which they have to address. So do doctors working in hospital emergency rooms. I have heard some rather strange stories that would curl your hair. Some are hillarious sexual situations, others are gruesome accidents caused by the lack of simple common sense.

My friend referred to such accidents as “thinning the herd” whereby it seems certain people are preordained to face catastrophe. Keep in mind, my friend has over twenty years experience witnessing such accidents and has probably seen it all. Obviously the expression was an analogy to animal management whereby weaker animals are cut from a herd, either by accident or deliberately, so the stronger ones can survive and the herd can prosper.

I asked my friend to give me some typical “thinning the herd” scenarios and he enumerated quite a few accidents involving alcohol and drug abuse. This included habitual users as well as recreational users who went too far and accidentally killed themselves. They either overdosed, hit a telephone pole, or fell into water thereby drowning and causing emergency personnel to fish their bodies out.

He has also seen many motorcycle accidents, some involving older drivers, but most involving younger riders riding on “crotch rockets” weaving through traffic at warp speed. Such people may feel invincible, and often wear helmets, but such head gear is ineffective at high speeds where the body splits in two on impact. Sometimes, motorcycle and automobile accidents are so massive, it is difficult to identify the remains. Some are even scraped up with shovels. In most cases though, people could have survived if they just used a little common sense when they drove.

He claimed most of the “thinning” accidents lately have been those where people are trying to text and drive at the same time. He had no pity for these people as they shouldn’t have been trying to do both. Driving while talking on cell phones is bad enough, but texting and driving is worse. This phenomenon scares him as it is becoming more and more pervasive.

The most heartbreaking accidents he sees are those involving children who are either killed or severely injured due to some stupid accident caused by a parent, such as accidental gun shots, knife wounds, drownings, attacks by dangerous pets, such as snakes and other reptiles, and accidental burns in the kitchen. All of this because of unthinking parents.

When I accused him of becoming heartlessly callous by such accidents, he explained that after you start witnessing the same type of accidents over and over again, it is natural to become jaded. In fact, he preferred to be a little callous in order to properly cope with the accident. If he were to become too emotional, he would have trouble treating the victims.

Ever since he told me this, I’ve looked at accidents in a new light. Most of the local accidents I hear on television or read in the news can be classified as “thinning the herd.” It’s hard to be compassionate when people do not use their heads properly. The only real tragedy to this phenomenon is when innocent people are taken down with the “thinning” victim by accident. They are the real casualties here. Next time you happen to witness an accident, ask yourself if it truly is an accident or is it an act of “natural selection.” It’s hard to feel sympathy for someone who was the cause of their own demise.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
GETTING NASTY – Do nice guys always finish last? Well, ah…

Posted in Life, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , | 14 Comments »

THE PRETRIAL SYSTEM: A TALE OF TWO COUNTIES

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 20, 2012

– How two neighboring Tampa Bay counties offer distinctly different approaches for processing accused criminals.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Whenever there is a controversial government program that could possibly be construed as politically charged, there is a tendency by the powers that be to either camouflage it from view or portray it as an innocuous issue, something having no direct impact on the public. Such is the case with the pretrial system as implemented by law enforcement departments throughout the country. The intent of the system is to reduce the jail population, thereby saving the taxpayer money without creating an adverse effect on the crime rate. The only problem is, it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

In the past, whenever a person was arrested, the accused is either incarcerated in jail or, depending on the situation, released under his own recognizance (aka “ROR”, free) or allowed to post bail. There are essentially two aspects for a judge to consider when setting bail: a person’s flight risk, and whether he/she presents a threat to the community. Bail bondsmen can be contracted by the accused to post bail, monitor their whereabouts, and assure they return to court. Such an arrangement costs the taxpayer virtually nothing. However, under the new pretrial system, government workers evaluate the accused and make arrangements to have them released ROR, thereby saving money by minimizing the jail population. Under this scenario, taxpayers pay for workers who, unlike the bail bondsmen, do not keep tabs on the accused, nor assures they return for their court appearance. Not surprising, under the pretrial system, there is a rise of cases where the accused fails to return to court. As a result, the backlog of warrants is growing at an alarming rate. Not surprising, bail bondsmen have a better success rate in terms of returning the accused to court on time and keeping them out of trouble.

The real test of the pretrial system can probably best be measured by comparing two neighboring counties in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area of Florida, Pinellas and Pasco. Whereas Pinellas has embraced a form of the pretrial system, Pasco created somewhat of a controversy in 2009 when they spurned conventional wisdom and abandoned their program altogether. Pasco may be geographically larger than Pinellas, but Pinellas is more than double its size in terms of population. Not surprising, Pinellas has a budget approximately 2.5 times that of Pasco’s, and twice as many arrests. While Pinellas’ population has plateaued shy of one million people, Pasco’s has increased sharply and is now in excess of 425,000 people.

Pasco supported the pretrial system for over fourteen years before budget cuts forced them to re-examine the program and conclude they could no longer afford it. This allowed them to preserve jobs by re-assigning deputies from the pretrial system to the streets. Without such a program in place, this should have theoretically caused the jail population to grow dramatically. In fact, it didn’t, and it remains flat much to the surprise of pretrial proponents. To illustrate:

Average Daily Pasco County Jail Population(1)
2010 – 1362 inmates
2011 – 1359 inmates
2012 – 1365 inmates

In Florida, 35 county Sheriff offices (out of 67) have accredited pretrial systems. Unfortunately, this does not include Pinellas County. Interestingly, the Police Departments in Clearwater, Largo, and St. Petersburg, all of which reside within Pinellas, are accredited(2). This means the Pinellas program does not follow standard procedures as found elsewhere in the state (and county). With an active pretrial system in place though, the jail population should be in decline. In fact, it isn’t, and is actually growing instead. To illustrate:

Average Daily Pinellas County Jail Population(3+4)
2010 – 3187 inmates
2011 – 3169 inmates
2012 – 3502 inmates

The pretrial system should also not contribute to the crime rate, and although it is difficult to find data pertaining to ROR cases specifically, arrests in Pinellas County dropped from 50.9K to 45.8K (-10.1%) over the last two years. Not to be outdone, Pasco County’s arrests have also declined from 14.8K to 13.5K (-8.8%) over the last couple of years, not bad for a county where the population is growing sharply(5). Further, there are approximately 20,000 outstanding warrants in Pasco County(1), at least three times less than Pinellas (60K-70K).

Although reducing the county jail population may save the taxpayer money, it still costs money to run such programs. A pretrial system for a large county such at Pinellas can cost upwards of two million dollars or more(6). In contrast, since Pasco County cancelled their pretrial system, with no apparent adverse effects, they have saved budget money which has been applied to other endeavors. In terms of Pinellas County though, the taxpayer should question the amount of money being spent on their unaccredited pretrial program. Is the pretrial money in the budget being properly allocated? Again, it costs the taxpayers virtually nothing to use bail bondsmen who assume all of the risk and assure the accused appears in court on time.

Between the Pasco and Pinellas examples, the evidence would suggest the pretrial system doesn’t work. When Pasco dropped their pretrial system, people worried their jail population would mushroom and the crime rate would escalate. The reality is that neither materialized, and they saved money to boot. Pinellas cannot claim the same as they followed a different path.

Critics argue pretrial represents another instance of government invasiveness, creating another layer of bureaucratic red tape at the expense of bail bondsmen who normally perform this function. In addition, the effectiveness of such programs is questionable when you consider those released on their own recognizance are failing to appear to court, and are are getting into additional trouble while awaiting trial.

The reality though is that it is not a matter of choosing one approach over another, pretrial versus bail bondsmen. There is actually room for both if the county is so inclined and can define the parameters properly. Counties could possibly use volunteers to perform pretrial functions, thereby saving additional costs to the taxpayer. If pretrial programs are to continue, they should certainly be accredited in order to bring uniformity to the process thereby opening the door for effective statistical analysis.

The pretrial system is one of those gray areas the public is generally unfamiliar with, which is probably how proponents like it. Ignorance is bliss. But if the public really understood the problem, they would question the motives of the people supporting it, and ask why they cannot implement a program similar to Pasco County’s. Those who ridicule the Pasco decision to abandon the pretrial system either do not understand the facts or are trying a political sleight of hand to divert attention away from their success. Whatever reason, the general public and media would be wise to become conversant in pretrial release.

Keep the Faith!

1-Pasco County Sheriff’s office

2-Florida Accreditation

3-Pinellas Jail stats

4-Pinellas Jail data

5-FDLE – Florida County Profiles

6-There are no budget figures available to substantiate the exact cost of Pinellas’ pretrial system.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
THINNING THE HERD – Are accidents truly accidental or a matter of “natural selection”?

Posted in Government, Politics, Social Issues | 4 Comments »

HOW WELL ARE WE PREPARING THE NEXT GENERATION?

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 18, 2012

– Not as well as we might think.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Today we have got some very bright and ambitious young people joining the work force but they are coming at a very different time in the business world. Thanks to technology, we now live and work in a much faster paced society than what I joined just three short decades ago. It is also a much more competitive environment due to changing economic conditions. True, the Greatest Generation has basically moved along, but the Baby Boomers are still firmly in place and are not inclined to retire any time soon. This means the class of 2012 will be competing not only with people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, but also with people in their 50’s and 60’s who cannot afford to retire.

This got me thinking about how well we are preparing the next generation of workers. Are we really training them to succeed or are we setting them up to fail? Sure, they might be well educated in their professional area of expertise, but I am finding a remarkable number who lack basic street smarts. Somewhere between the safety of home and school, and the bitter realities of the real world, a void exists in preparing our youth for adulthood. In a way its like being a parachutist for the first time, except you are being pushed out the door with no instruction on what to do. This can be very traumatizing to young people who tend to be overwhelmed by the responsibilities of adult life.

In school, students were only concerned with attending class, absorbing the material, eating and their social life. However, in adulthood they suddenly have to face such things as insurance, taxes, housing, transportation, banking, investments, retirement accounts, health care, nutrition, paying bills, corporate cultures, etiquette, dress, career development, business ethics, office politics, networking, employment, management, etc. Oh yea, and Work. They may have been adequately trained for their profession, but nobody is preparing them to make the transition into adulthood.

The parents haven’t prepared them. If anything, they have sheltered their youth from reality for far too long. For example, many kids today have not had to mow a lawn, clean a dish, push a broom, or hold a part-time job. Instead, they were free to concentrate on their homework and video games. In other words, parents have failed to instill the concept of simple responsibility and the value of a dollar. A lot of parents today are “hands-off” meaning they are content to let others raise their children for them, be it a relative, a nanny, a coach, or a teacher, thereby providing them with some free time to rest and relax.

The teachers haven’t prepared them either, but in their defense this shouldn’t be in their job description. Instead, they should be concerned with teaching academic subjects, such as math, literature, languages, science, etc. However, since a lot of mom and dads have dropped the ball, teachers have been forced to become surrogate parents, something they are not necessarily trained in or suited for.

Ultimately, this means today’s corporate managers are inheriting a generation of naive young people with unbridled enthusiasm who are having difficulty adapting to the corporate world. Many of this generation seem to believe they are uniquely different, that the old established rules of today’s corporate culture no longer applies to them; that corporations must adapt to them, not the other way around. Such naivety can be dangerous and lead to their demise as reality sets in.

To overcome this problem, perhaps we can help our youth by devising a new type of curriculum that would teach such things as:

* Personal Organization – e.g., managing finances, insurance, housing, transportation, etc.

* Adapting to the Corporate Culture – how to understand the culture and adapt to it. This would include discussions on business ethics, and studying change.

* Professional Development – teaching concepts of craftsmanship, continuous improvement, and basic business skills.

* Social Skills – how to effectively communicate and socialize in an office environment.

* Do’s and Don’ts in the Workplace – discussing the realities of employment, company policy manuals, and other legal issues.

* Management 101 – teaching basic management concepts and rules to help “newbies” fit into the corporate culture.

Actually, none of this is new. We have all had to learn it through the School of Hard Knocks. However, if the next generation is to ever have a chance in today’s fast paced world, we have to jump-start this process for them. Otherwise they will have difficulty surviving. Basically, what is needed is just some simple parental advice.

Keep the Faith!

NOTE: A lot of this is explained in my book, “Morphing into the Real World – The Handbook for Entering the Work Force”

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
THE PRETRIAL SYSTEM: A TALE OF TWO COUNTIES – How two neighboring Tampa Bay counties offer distinctly different approaches for processing accused criminals.

Posted in Education, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

THE JOYS OF SHAVING

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 15, 2012

– The burden of grooming one’s face repetitively.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I do not believe there are too many men out there who honestly enjoy shaving. It’s not the act itself that bothers us, as much as it is the repetition, day after day, month after month, year after year. Not surprising we relish the occasional day off where we neglect to shave thereby allowing the stubble to grow which may be fine for a day or two, but becomes rather irritating if allowed to persist. I don’t care what Hollywood thinks, wearing stubble makes you look like a bum, which is fine if you’re retired or unemployed, but looks bad in the workplace. Let me be clear, I have no problem with facial hair. I have seen just about every kind of mustache, beard, goatee, and sideburn imaginable, and they can look very professional if properly groomed, but also very haggard if not.

As teenagers, men relish their first set of whiskers which denotes passage into adulthood. Not surprising, we proudly display the sparce facial hair every chance we get, particularly to the opposite sex. It’s like saying, “Hey, I’m masculine, here I am” (like that is the only indicator women notice). After the facial hair has finally grown out though, we discover shaving has gone from being an amusing curiosity to an obnoxious routine.

Over the years, I think I have tried just about every razor imaginable, from blades to electric. I once tried a straight razor (with leather strap) but quickly discovered it was not as convenient as the modern razor blade. I originally started out with a double-edged safety razor, but eventually graduated to the cartridges featuring multiple blades. I always thought the ads for such blades were amusing; originally, they showed a graphic demonstrating how two blades could outperform a single blade by cutting the individual hair down to its roots, but I guess this wasn’t good enough as they next came up with a three blade cartridge outperforming the two blades, then a four blade cartridge outperforming the three. Five over four, and now six over five. That’s right, a six blade cartridge. Does this mean the razor companies were deceiving us about the effectiveness of the two blade cartridge? Or three? Somehow I suspect the old double-edge safety razor is just as effective as today’s multi-blade cartridge. By the way, there is nothing wrong with the inexpensive plastic disposable razors which seemed revolutionary when they were first introduced.

I never had much luck with electric razors; I simply could not get as close a shave as with a blade, but that happens to be my preference. I know plenty of men who are perfectly happy with electric razors, including my father who used them for years. As for me, I’ll typically use an electric only if I need a quick shave at the end of the day before going out for the evening. Surprisingly, the best electric razor I ever used was a small inexpensive portable from Panasonic which I obtained in Japan. I’ve tried the big razors, but this tiny unit simply outperformed them.

I’ve also been known to dry shave now and then, particularly if I’m out in the wilderness when soap and water are not readily available, but I try to avoid it as it feels like you’re ripping the flesh off of your face. Yes, it is very tingling and not for the lighthearted as you are likely to get a nick or cut thereby requiring you to put wads of toilet paper on your face to stop the bleeding; a very attractive feature I might add. Fortunately, somebody thought of shaving soap thereby simplifying the shave and minimizing the scaring of your face. I began with a simple cup with shaving soap which I would whip into a frothy lather using a badger hair brush. I believe I still have that brush buried somewhere in a bathroom closet which is probably now a collector’s item.

Which brings us to the matter of shaving creams versus gels, and I have tried both. Although I prefer shave creams, one seems as good as another to me. For some reason, gels remind me of smearing petroleum jelly on my face. Both the creams and the gels are normally applied cold on your face, which is useful for waking you up in the morning but bothersome otherwise. As an aside, perhaps the best father’s day gift I ever received from my kids was a hot lather dispenser which preheats the shaving cream.

It appears aftershave lotions are also something from a bygone era as few people seem to use them anymore. Somehow, the application of a cold alcohol-based lotion to recently scraped skin can invigorate any of us, not to mention making us smell a little better.

Perhaps the best place to get a shave though is the local barber shop or hair salon. It’s not something I do often, but now and then, a good shave by a trained professional using all of the accoutrements at his disposal is worthwhile. It’s always a pleasure to watch somebody who knows what they are doing regardless of the job. Interestingly, years ago most barber shops used hot towels from a steam table to moisten your beard as opposed to shaving cream, and it worked remarkably well.

Facial hair is not so much about masculinity, as it is about an annoying habit we have to live with, whether we like it or not. We can elect to either pay attention to it and practice good grooming, or neglect it thereby making us look like a bum. Either way, shaving affects our lives both personally and professionally.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
HOW WELL ARE WE PREPARING THE NEXT GENERATION? – Not as well as we might think.

Posted in humor, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

TEN THINGS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DOES WELL

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 13, 2012

– I had trouble thinking of just one.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Quick, name ten things the federal government does well. Let me be clear, not the state or local governments, only our federal government. And I’m not concerned if it is right or wrong, but how proficiently they are able to perform a given task. Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait.

It’s not too easy, is it? I was recently asked this by an old friend from up north and I have to admit it stopped me in my tracks. I had to do some real soul searching to dream up a list, and frankly, it took me some time to do. Nonetheless, here is what I came up with (in no particular order):

1. Pay entitlements – we do not seem to have a problem paying out unemployment, food stamps, or whatever. I suspect we’re probably too efficient in this regard.

2. Collect taxes – beyond income taxes, it’s amazing how the federal government picks our pocket, be it at the gas pump, tobacco, etc. Even business taxes are ultimately passed on to consumers through increased prices.

3. Enforce taxes – The IRS is certainly a force to be reckoned with. I’m told even the smallest IRS agent can rip a telephone book in two with his bare hands.

4. Operate our park system – I don’t think I have been in a federal park that wasn’t well maintained with courteous rangers.

5. Strong military – the smartest, best trained, and best equipped in the world.

6. Strong intelligence services – the NSA, FBI, CIA, et al. may not get it right all of the time, but thank God we’ve got them.

7. Print money – they may not know how to earn it or budget it, but they do a superlative job of printing it.

8. Pay foreign aid – I tend to believe we’re charitable to a fault, including those countries who undermine us.

9. Assemble statistics – just about every department knows how to crunch numbers to justify their existence.

10. Take care of themselves – the salaries and benefits for government workers is probably the best in the world.

The fact we cannot enumerate this list off the top of our heads is indicative of the problem we have with our government; that we perceive it as a bloated inefficient albatross hanging around our necks. In contrast, I’m sure we could quickly name ten things the government does poorly, such as policing themselves over spending, preparing and adhering to budgets, protecting our borders, delivering the mail, utilizing our natural resources, combating drugs, maintaining our infrastructure, performing medical research, etc. There is probably dozens of inefficiencies we could name with ease.

If we honestly believe the federal government is the poster child for inefficiency, no wonder taxpayers think they are being fleeced. It’s one thing to give money to support your government, quite another if it is a system desperately in need of repair. One last question for you; as a taxpayer, do you truly believe you’re getting your money’s worth out of the federal government? I thought so.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
THE JOYS OF SHAVING – The burden of grooming one’s face repetitively.

Posted in Government, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

EULOGY FOR A FRIEND

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 11, 2012

– Writing it is one thing, delivering it is something else.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Writing a eulogy commemorating a family member or close friend can be a daunting task. I have written my fair share of them over the years and they are never easy. You have to look into your heart and try to put into words how you feel about the deceased in a way others can easily comprehend. Your choice of words must be very precise as you want to invoke the proper responses from your audience who is normally in mourning. Consequently, you write it more for the purposes of oratory as opposed to just text narrative. As for me, I do not like to dwell on doom and gloom, but to remember the brighter side of people. Such was the case recently when I wrote a eulogy for a good friend, Frank Verderame, who I met years ago through the Masons. He was an Italian from Brooklyn who retired to Clearwater back in the 90’s. Frank may have been older than me, but we found a kinship that flourished over the years. Here is what I wrote:

“I want to take a few moments and talk about my paisan, Frank Verderame.

I’ve been fortunate to have known Frank for the last ten years. We met when we were both wardens in our respective Masonic Lodges; then as Masters of our Lodges, we worked together on a variety of projects. After our tour of duty, we remained fast friends, and I think this is because Frank was a very down-to-earth type of guy; he was fun loving, very practical, a hard worker, loved his family, was very compassionate, and you could take Frank’s word to the bank. He also made some excellent tomato sauce.

Coming from Brooklyn and the hustle of New York, Frank suffered from an acute case of common sense. He didn’t go to college, but he was a voracious reader with an inquisitive mind, and a student of life. Yes, I knew Frank would frequently say, “Don’t worry about it”, but Frank would. He would worry about his family and friends, his church, and what was going on in this nutty world.

I will miss sitting at his kitchen table with him just talking, about everything it seemed, be it national politics, religion, and the changing world around us. And I guess that is the true litmus test of a friendship: when two people can talk about anything without fear of blushing. I very much valued Frank’s opinion and he would often review my editorials before I published them, and I respected his advice.

Frank loved baseball. He enjoyed spring training down here, not to mention his Tampa Bay Rays. Being from Brooklyn, he made it very clear he was more of a Dodgers fan as opposed to the Yankees. Back in 2003, our Lodges played a softball game for charity. Frank was about 65 at the time, but he dusted off his old mitt and played the infield. And you know what? He wasn’t too bad. He just loved being out on the diamond again with the boys. You see, I don’t think anyone told Frank he was getting old, and he thought of himself as a young kid.

I’m not much of a golfer, but I have to tell you about the last time I played, which was with Frank several years ago at a tournament for charity. We played with my son and his friend who are good golfers, but giving guys like Frank and myself a set of clubs, well, that’s just wrong, and rather dangerous I might add. We killed a lot of snakes that day and made a lot of divots. Getting the ball into the cup, well, that was optional. As Frank would say in his Brooklyn accent, “Forget about it.” We laughed through 18 holes, making it the best round of golf I ever played, and a good way to leave the sport.

Frank’s hobbies included woodworking and he built an amazing shop in his garage. He possessed great attention to detail and found the work very gratifying. I well remember the doll house he built for his grand-daughter. Unbelievable detail and craftsmanship.

He also had an impressive library of books, videos, and records. Boy, did he love those records which he learned to digitize on the computer.

Frank was no stranger to the Internet and he would do a lot of research and correspondence on it. He particularly enjoyed it when I showed him his old house in Brooklyn using Google Earth. I think he has traveled the world since then using Google.

You had to love Frank’s infectious sense of humor. The stories he would tell about working with his father as a longshoreman, in the army, or working in Manhattan were priceless. I still cannot think of pineapple concentrate or elevators without chuckling. He loved to tell a good tale. And that’s how I think he enjoyed life; by building one relationship at a time. In 2003, my Lodge held a roast for me as the outgoing Master. Frank, of course, had to put in his two cents,…several times. So much so, he had me in tears of laughter, as well as everyone else.

I’m going to miss this man. It was a privilege to have known him, not too many like him come along, and it was a sincere honor to call him my friend.”

The eulogy was relatively short and to the point, and I hope I communicated Frank’s spirit adequately. In delivering the speech, I was doing fine until I got to the last line where I unexpectedly choked up. No matter how I tried to clear my head, I just couldn’t form the words. In desperation, I asked a friend to finish it for me. I was somewhat embarrassed I couldn’t complete it, but afterwards I had several people thank me, including Frank’s family, who said they could tell it came from the heart. Actually, I blame Frank who had touched mine. Alas, my Brother, my Paisan.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
TEN THINGS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DOES WELL – I had trouble thinking of just one.

Posted in Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

 
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