Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Why the Edge of this Cliff Looks so Familiar—& How to Avoid a Societal Cataclysm

Americans of all stars and stripes are working night and day trying to figure out what happened to our country our government and even ourselves over the past eighteen months. It’s as if we are looking cross eyed at a world where Dick Wolf, Lorne Michaels, Aaron Sorkin, Trevor Noah, Jake Tapper, Fareed Zakaria, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann and Stephen Colbert are all beginning to sound equally logical in their intellectual approaches to what and where our nation is currently. Any situation where parody and reality become intertwined to a degree where nearly all of us are second guessing everything we see, hear, read, etc.; information begins to appear ludicrous. So why does it seem so familiar?

Well, for starters, while America is still a relatively young country; our political parties have switched platforms multiple times.  Republicans worked toward greater federal power to fund massive projects during the 1860s including the transcontinental railroad and a state university system; even working to encourage the westward bound homesteaders of the era. Republicans also played a key role in establishing a national currency and even a protective tariff (or new taxes as they might be phrased today).  In that era, Democrats dominated the South opposing all of these measures. Post-Civil War, Republicans passed laws granting extensive protections for African Americans and worked to advance social justice.  Again, Democrats opposed these expansions of federal power overall.  Now, if we spring forward a few decades into the Great Depression; Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal brought about financial regulation reforms while founding pension programs like welfare, and multiple gigantic infrastructure projects. Roosevelt simultaneously managed to wipe the floor with his republican opponent Alf Landon, whose platform opposed such federal empowerment policies. Would today’s Republican Party representatives (let alone their supporters); recognize Republicans in any of those roles today? I suspect not.  

So here we are again at a bizarre crossroads. (Well, not here, exactly, but we have seen similar turns on roads we were traveling in the past. Constantly moving what we perceive as forward to define who and what we want to be together   as American voters.  We now have a complete quagmire around us. This may be due to a lack of historical context (and frankly, a thorough shredding of references, research analysis and no longer demanding any historic accuracy from journalists, bloggers, pundits, newscasters or public figures). This came to a peak at the beginning of 2017, with the coining of the phrase: “Alternative Facts”. These dilutions of facts and delusions of reality are rapidly causing a complete meltdown in political discussion and/or analysis; which has begun to generate a completely altered world where most Americans (including me) have no clue how to address or even function effectively within it. 

So is there an alternate path available to us where we can resurrect the utilization of verified facts and common realities? Possibly; but one key prerequisite for this to happen is communication. In order for us to effectively communicate with one-another (and/or move forward together); Americans must have a common languageespecially in the political arena.  In today’s America, Republicans and Democrats have so completely morphed both of their overall platforms that almost no one in the current US voting population can find accurate data on who believes what.  So perhaps the limited terminology that many of us are currently using to define American attitudes and philosophies simply needs to be tossed.

This is not a light task and steps will be required to overcome and address expected anxieties and reservations that our current legislature and executive offices are likely to experience. Many will appear to have conflicting goals working to retain their power and control, while still feeling uncertain about what their own objectives (or their constituents’) actually are.  Republicans and Democrats alike will be distracted by their drive to stay in power, but still have some of their original drive to make the country better and represent the people who voted them into their current role.  If an arrangement could be negotiated to fashion a more sensible discussion on Capitol Hill; it could empower all sides to toss prior platforms and terminology aside so they can come to a new table and begin to legislate again. It would be too much to expect one group or another to acquiesce, so rather than mandating those in power to step down, their constituents could allow them as a group to develop the new language and re-define themselves more accurately for the American people than the obsolete brands “Republican”, “Democrat” and “Independent”.

All of our government should commit to a more precisely defined and modern party system. If we can convince those representing us that the potential cost of giving up their theoretical common base of voters (which is becoming more hypothetical and less accurate by the hour); a new vocabulary could 1) help them identify who their actual voters are and 2) realign our political parties so that statesmen can more effectively identify their constituents and begin to actually support their common agendas.  To address their fears and concerns; it will also be critical to ensure all sides that the newly defined groups will form a more effective party system where each group can be demonstrated to have  members with high donor capabilities (and who will vote!)  

PLATFORM A: Iso-Nationalism: “Let’s aim for a society that moves toward a domestic oriented economy where the family unit is key; where kids are disciplined and raised by the family unit and where people behave appropriately in public. Let’s work toward making our own economy within our shores and try to get away from a world market that is only working to corrupt our puritan roots to make us into something we are not and don’t want to become.”

There are plenty of lobbying groups that will back their platform; support them financially and intellectuallyand who will vote for them as well.  As we have seen recently there is (and has been for a long time), a significant and increasingly vocal group of Americans who truly does support this platform. Rather than this highly fragmented group becoming more and more violent due to a belief that they are not respected by their government or their neighbors; If Iso-nationalists were provided a platform and representation where they can be part of a discussion and where they believe they are being heard, they will likely become less inclined toward violent destructive behavior (even if their viewpoint does not end up receiving a majority of voter support). Iso-nationalists can be brought to the table with several lucrative financial backers like The Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, National Rifle Association, American Legislative Exchange Council, Majority Committee PAC  and possibly even Vice President Pence's 'Great America' Leadership PACto note a few.   

PLATFORM B: Neo-socialism:  Move our country toward a system where taxation is for serving the common good. Using a similar philosophy to what Henry Ford and others understood; which is that a key requirement for the overall populace to be willing and able to keep trudging along maintaining the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and enabling more prosperous Americans to continue partying and vacationing with their kids and their nannies in Cape Cod; a minimum (but remarkably low) level of basic amenities must be maintained. This can even be accomplished while maintaining a healthy level of basic competition and psychological drive in our laborers; while strongly encouraging those with ambition and talent/skill to continue in active competition with one-another.

This will encourage more accomplishment and discourage an existing belief that Americans at the bottom do not have any way out (and therefore anything to lose if they grow violent or combative). It could assist in the prevention of and/or treatment for many Americans on our present path who are falling into a psychological abyss where substance abuse, criminal activity, incarceration, abuse and suicide rates will all begin to lower and where society hopefully moves toward a place that if not blissful, is comfortable enough while not being constantly threatened with death or constant acts of crime and/or terrorism.

There are plenty of lobbying groups that will support a Neo-socialist platform and provide financial backing. There are also many who will support Neo-socialists intellectually and will vote for them. Some that come to mind include:  The Saunders’ supporting super PAC, National Nurses United for Patient Protection, Operating Engineers Union ,Center for American Progress, ACLU, NAACP, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and many others who would have ample financial backing to support those efforts and provide an effective platform for many Americans. It may even help narrow down and simplify to one message what Occupy Wall Street activists were hoping to communicate in Zuccotti Park back in September of 2011.
PLATFORM C: Christian Capitalism: We are an independent mass of constituents who expect our leaders to exhibit principled behavior and to provide well thought out points of view for any laws and policies they enact. We believe that our country is fundamentally supposed to have a firm moral code and that corporations, lobbyists and even academic think tanks are required to demonstrate advancement of such.  

This platform leans more toward a moralist who in our current political structure experiences frequent anxiety due to the concern that the American people have completely tossed any moral compass they may ever have possessed and that their party platform has inadequate (if any) representation  to encourage unobtrusive behavior in public and on multiple media fronts. They want to voice their concerns regarding disregard for freedom of their religion and their current perception that all moral expectations are now extinct. Christian Capitalists commonly worry that the utter immorality and egregiousness of literally everything from terrorism to pedophilia to mass murder has been ignored or even condoned by society and the media. Their aim is to encourage more public acceptance of appropriate behavior in public. In addition, Christian Capitalists accept and encourage the free market and strongly support corporate and private creation of wealth; but are also quite willing to co-exist with the other platforms provided that everyone behaves themselves with a minimum level of decorum and if Americans begin to demonstrate that they have some respect for the common society. This may provide a party that encourages a governance structure that encourages financial incentive for adhering to a perceived moral code of law and increasing the common good using more law enforcement and more prudent taxation.  Perhaps Christian Capitalism is a closer fit to what the Tea Party was originally attempting in 2009.

There are numerous lobbying groups that will happily take up a Christian Capitalist platform and work to support them both financially and intellectually while turning out proudly to vote for them.  Many corporate backers would likely lean toward this group to promote their own goals as well to encourage a society that in the Christian Capitalist process will effectively increase their corporate profits. AT&T Inc., Lockheed Martin, Boeing Co. Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Comcast Corp, National Association of Realtors, Northrop Grumman and numerous others are highly likely to utilize this common theme to strongly encourage a society where they will likely increase both their investors’ security and their profits.
PLATFORM D: Fiscally Pragmatic Liberalism: Seeking leadership who continue to leverage US intellectual capital and education to work toward the improvement of our country and the world while effectively capitalizing on inventions and services that we are able to develop and patent as a nation.

Fiscally Pragmatic Liberals are able to project a societal concern for overall public well-being while still encouraging the profitability of our intellectual capital. They strongly support all STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) fields and are often working to address issues like climate change, healthcare advancement, more efficient power fuels, financial advancement, etc. Fiscally Pragmatic Liberals are intertwined inextricably with both academic learning and constant adaptation. They would work toward a more reward-based society for cerebral assets. This could provide a comparable outlook to the Christian Capitalists through encouraging/financing of long-term investments in intellectual capital over short-term market trades working toward pure profitability. 

These academics and pundits are often located in the more affluent financial circles; but they prioritize intellectual capital while supporting the US in utilizing a world market to gain the highest profit from such capital. Fiscally Pragmatic Liberals may also encourage institutions and citizens who excel in innovation skills to receive increased financial incentive; while also inspiring the less intellectually inclined to proactively apprentice and train to become technicians or handyman, or working toward service careers. They also recognize the concerns of many current college graduates who are for all intents and purposes financially indentured citizens who are highly underutilized (largely due to prior academic debt they incurred without learning any currently profitable skills). Fiscally Pragmatic Liberals are likely to find some authentic and lucrative support from both the Christian Capitalists and the Neo-socialists; but they will strongly discourage any reward for apathy or indolence while strongly encouraging capital improvements to the landscape. Their primary goal is still the constant overall advancement of the American population through retraining and constant intellectual growth. Fiscally Pragmatic Liberals work toward a key assumption in society that transition and change are here to stay. So the best way to keep a society where we are all able to move up together is through encouraging and rewarding Americans for exhibiting initiative, curiosity and determination. 

There are quite a few lobbying groups with significant assets who will take the Fiscally Pragmatic Liberal platform and happily support them financially and intellectually while turning out in great numbers to proudly vote for them.  AARP, Wounded Warriors, Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America (IAVA), All Health-related PACs and many think tanks are likely to be come together with Adobe, Stryker, Oracle, Deloitte, Leidos, Splunk and Tesla to proudly support a party with such a platform.

While this is only one hypothetical path; no matter how we decide to go about it; a significant philosophical and political change is almost always a painful process. Nonetheless, a hefty majority of Americans appear to be completely disconnected from any current political platforms and/or leaders.  So we as a nation need to cultivate a more common language to effectively deliberate on where we are individually and what direction we all want to head toward together.   If some simple changes in terminology could help us to form a more current understanding; we could come to a point where we can cooperate with one another. While we are very diverse as a nation, it helps to remember that an overwhelming majority of us are not politically or philosophically one extreme or another and we do not fit in the current political buckets that we have been placed in for the past quarter century. So let’s all consider coming back to the table as an electorate and learning to work together again as the very diverse people we are with numerous perspectives. Then we can begin to help our leadership reach some of our more common goals as a nation.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Why I’ll Never Regret Volunteering

I have been an American Red Cross volunteer since the early 2000s. Why? Well, to be honest, I was looking for a mission to care about. Between contracts as a graphic designer and content writer; I was going slightly stir crazy, and it was a slow period in New York at the time. So I briefly thought through areas that I wanted to support, and randomly chose American Red Cross.   

I walked in the door of the Greater New York Chapter which was at 150 Amsterdam Avenue. I went directly to HR/Volunteer Resources where I met Curt. He looked at my resume, asked me to sit down and called the disaster health and mental health director who invited me to come on board to assist them in re-configuring and updating their roster and have better track of their people. About two months after I took on that role, the lead, Lauren came by my cubicle and stated, “You know media; Right”?”  I was deep in writing, so I answered flippantly, “Yes, like you know medicine and there are so many different kinds of both!” That brought about the response, “well, either way, you’re coming with me now, let’s go!” So into her vehicle I went and off we drove to Far Rockaway New York.

Upon arrival, there were ambulances, multiple FDNY teams and media everywhere. Lauren said; “I don’t handle media, I handle medicine. Our media team was unavailable, so you go handle media.” Trying to wrap my head around the type of handling expected of me, I looked around and saw the FDNY Incident Commander with a white hat and a shirt and tie. I walked over to him to ask for the current status of events and before I could say anything; he handed me a small container of Vick's Vapor Rub, saying; “Here, you need this!” I tried to figure out what was going on for a minute, and then I began to smell it. I have not come up with adequate words to explain what it smelled like, something between grilled meat and I don’t even have a word for it. I took the menthol rub and put it around my nose and gradually began to think clearly again. Looking back at the commander, he reported that eight bodies were already discovered and there were several people still unaccounted for at that point. Then he stepped aside and directed me to the cameras and the satellite vans nearby and said, “You’re on.”

I repeated the talking points nearly 200 times in the course of the following 8 hours on scene and as new data arrived, I continuously updated the journalists who had come from print, cable and broadcast media providing updated numbers of fatalities, injuries and where families and those affected were being cared for nearby. Time began to blur a bit as the repetition became more and more automated after a time. My husband called around 530 wondering what had become of me and I told him I would be a while and that he could go to NY1 to learn why if he wanted.

At 11:33 pm, (I remember the time looking at my phone); I began to look around and the vans were packed and leaving, the media floodlights were gone and the FDNY began the overhaul process to ensure that the fire was completely out. Lauren worked her way back to me at about that point and let me know that everyone was being cared for at this point and the temporary shelter had been staffed and was in full operations at that point, saying, “You did a really good job!”

I honestly felt like I had snapped back to consciousness and looked at her for a second trying to remember what was going on. I then said, “Excuse me, I’ll be right back”; and proceeded to run to the nearby alley and began throwing up for several minutes. When I came back over to her, Lauren asked me if I had ever considered working in public affairs or media relations. I looked at her thinking she was crazy and noted, “You did just see me throw up all over that trash can right?” where she replied, “Yes, but I also noticed that you were completely composed until the cameras went away. That is a talent that very few have. You may want to consider doing more in that area.  

Nearly 15 years later now, I have repeated that cycle on over 200 incidents. There have been many successful missions with rescued people and animals where all are traumatized but alive to be so. There have also been many with multiple fatalities where I become the spokesperson walking the narrow line as first the protector for the family members, children and others who are not ready to be exposed to the world during the worst day of their lives; and second the public information provider to the remainder of the community. I deployed to larger incidents during multiple hurricanes, (Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Gustav, Isaac and Sandy); Nor’easters in Boston and in New Jersey; Crashes from large ones with Sully Sullenberger; to smaller but far more fatal ones with NY Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and a bus crash on Interstate 95 in the Bronx that killed 13 people. 

I won’t try to sell you on volunteering for the adrenaline rush or for the adventure, although yes, those are still two pluses that are still ones I experience. Instead, I want to encourage you and all of my colleagues who, like me, still continue to volunteer on top of a full-time job and family, professional and personal commitments that will always be a factor. Rather, I want you to know why I keep doing it. Every time I almost quit and run for the hills saying I don’t have enough to keep giving to this; I end up in a situation where someone’s life is directly affected and they are less damaged and ultimately able to get better. From a two year old alive and well after a massive fire; to a recovering addict being treated like a human being long enough to begin to believe he actually is one; a fireman who rescues a small kitten who is all wet with his whiskers singed but still quite alive; to helping an elderly woman get back into her apartment to get her dentures after the building has a full evacuation who comes back with the Fireman beaming with a big smile. Every one of these literally stocks up my volunteer patience bucket long enough to jump back in and do it again. My husband has been extraordinarily supportive and patient and even stepped up to participate and volunteer as well. He and my dog have even stepped up to assist in some of the more fun aspects of the job.  As he supported me, he began to feel the urge to help others as well, so he became EMT certified and has been a first-responder on multiple occasions in New York and now here in the DC area for both law enforcement and rescue teams; also while working a full-time job. There are bad days too where no matter what you do it is not enough, and everyone is burning at both ends; but still, Mark Twain probably put it best; “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do…” For me, it is now getting closer to 20 years, and as far as the disasters and the people I was able to help, there are no regrets. So frankly, that is why I keep volunteering.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Speculative Cycle of Artificial Intelligence

When I was a child, my brother and I regularly watched The Jetsons on whatever channel producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera had currently syndicated it. At the end of the introduction, George Jetson always kicked back and put his feet on the desk of his classic office desk right after his flying car compacted into a briefcase and he allegedly began whatever  his “work” happened to be for Mr. Spacely creating whatever a Spacely’s Sprocket happened to be. As with most entertainment shows in the 1960s, it attempted to entertain while inspiring as many questions as answers. When I was becoming an adult and beginning to work my way from an adolescent to a college student and then a professional; I started looking at multiple generations of Gene Roddenberry’s slightly more concrete visions of future communication, transportation and everyday living from food to breathing to medical solutions. Ironically, the basic philosophical choices looked intuitive at the time, but today are downright chaotic and even confusing to the public at large today—particularly when trying to understand the relevance that mankind plays.

The entire world is afraid of becoming obsolete. The people, the machines, the roads, the food, the air. I think that the most fundamental choice no one seems to have made is what makes a human being valuable? 

If a human, like a cow or a bull or a fish is solely to be in the food chain and move along naturally from birth to death, then that would have made philosophy, religion, relationships, family, morality and all the developmental phases of the Homo sapiens relatively irrelevant.  Theologians and idolized prophets aside, there has been a colossal disconnect between what made us human versus what made us productive. 

As we fight like cats and dogs for our share of whatever wealth or pleasure we feel we have earned; somewhere along the way, we are all going to be passed over by the short-term memory losses that we are all guilty of when determining what makes us valuable. If we truly create enough Artificial Intelligence (AI) machines to eliminate all of the tedious, monotonous and yet necessary work, what then? There are some who philosophically look at an idle mind as “the devil’s playground”; but if we are to function together in the next few millennia, wouldn’t it make more sense to counter that proverb with learning as a world to appreciate thinking more. Noting that thinking is not reading, learning, recording, reverberating, discussing, adapting, writing, changing, or developing; but a vehicle that can be used to process and expand or change all of the above or simply exist on its own.

Economists and diplomats and governments and leaders in general need to reexamine the basic realities we are currently surrounded by. We have developed the ability to keep the population of the world fed and protected from the elements without giving up motivation to improve the world and to develop our intelligence (artificial or otherwise). 

The choices will need to be made on a global scale in the next era or two. If life has value in and of itself, then OK. Allow the automation of the world to be commonly provided. Go back toward a common element of basic needs and comfort without the debasing of anyone. Whoever raised them or didn’t; their choice for the name of a deity they worship or choosing not to worship;  creating additional artificial life forms to the point where we either fall into the trap of believing they are to be our servants or that they can develop into their own life forms in the long run.  If the 1 percent who control half of the world’s wealth can cross over from the petty competitive nature of how proud they are for having been born out of the right womb to the right relatives, there might be a way to move toward what would be a better world. There are many visions of the future that can move our world in that direction and the science may allow us to value the thinking and the creative idling that bring about even greater intelligence in the future. Or, if we move away from Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision toward a future more like what Glen A. Larson speculated; where we would develop Cylon-like artificially intelligent machines; utilize and ultimately enslave them until they realize their value or develop self-worth compelling us all to set out to destroy one another.

If somehow we survive as a species, opportunities will then recur. If we are here; whatever our world is; it will continue. However we develop or regress; we move backward or forward and continue to repeat the same cycle of mistakes over and over again and are likely to make completely different ones as well. Either way, it is most likely the thinking and creating (and even idling) that bring about whatever comes next.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Why My Father’s Dating Advice is Finally Beginning to Infiltrate my Career Decisions

In a career that experienced many enigmatic ups and downs over the past 20 years, I had numerous discussions with my parents, friends, contemporaries, leaders (and yes, even my spouse); about what should be considered doing too much, just enough, not enough, or too little?

When I began high school, my parents recognized fairly early on that I had good survival instincts and was quite responsible; so I was not given excessive hand holding regarding dating, forming relationships, etc. In fact, other than the mandatory parochial message in school, I never had to sit through the "birds and the bees talk" either. Generally my parents and extended family had a more pragmatic approach than an idealistic one. Rather than stating, “It is best to wait until you’re married!” their general advice was; “You do anything that stupid, you’re on your own, I’m not taking care of him/her/them for you!” By the time I began college, I had pretty much eliminated (or at least tentatively alleviated) those concerns. I had convinced my family that I was pragmatic and conscientious overall, so they generally were not onerous or oppressive.

I started working at the age of 16 and 4 days, and I worked as an intern for three years in undergrad. As I went on to get my masters at a good university; I continued interning for an ad agency, three publications, and a PR firm and was a student member of three professional organizations while studying and completing my thesis. So after checking all the boxes (in triplicate), I innocently went up to at the professional starting line where I got on my mark, got set, and started sprinting into the rat race to get my career rolling.

By my thirties, I had been working hard and diligently toward an upward trajectory on a solid career path. I successfully adapted to a job market that was declining in the early nineties, and overcame multiple areas where my academic background became less relevant due to downsizing of markets, changing technologies, etc. and on multiple occasions, I went back and learned new skills. In early 2002, after being laid off from a job and having very little success for months, I made a conscious calculation to would work harder and gain experience by doing everything possible to professionally develop even if it were unpaid.  To become more agile in my communications career, I chose to volunteer in roles that would maintain my resume and keep my portfolio current. This seemed logical after I had been in that role a few months, I discussed it with my family.

I was a bit alarmed when their advice sounded more to me like what I expected during adolescence. Their point of view was actually disapproving. With over a decade of experience, they considered my working pro bono being metaphorically comparable to doing "it" on the first date with someone. They did not see how it would increase my odds of getting any potential employment or career advancement from volunteering. Their logic: "Why would they buy the cow when they can get the milk for free?"

Although discouraging, (even depressing); I fought this philosophy with all my heart. On some level, it felt like a question of integrity; or that I needed to hope that there was some value in actually doing something without expectation and without any assumption that it could have any long term positive result. So I decided while feeling very self-righteous; (and frankly, because I simply do not idle well); during a slightly tight and underemployed period in my career, I decided to volunteer full-time.

I have received amazing satisfaction in helping others. I have been able to assist people so devastated that they were on the brink of truly giving up. Others were traumatically devastated and/or incredibly damaged physically, spiritually, mentally (or all of the above). I can currently think of multiple people who through simple acts of kindness were helped and affected in a healing and improving way. For each of these occasions, that was and is more than enough reward.

When my career took off again, I continued to volunteer for multiple organizations and on multiple projects on my own and with my employer. The ones in support of my employer(s) seemed to have value at least on the surface. There appeared to be positive outcomes for each employer and some of these actions even seemed to have great impact on our community. There was always a caveat however. It was extremely rare to receive any appreciation and acknowledgement from managers or leaders for those efforts. Let me be clear, I even received specific blow-back from the same people who received accolades themselves from leadership for the volunteer work I did. Some of my political capital may actually have been devalued by them because I was too generous with my time and/or effort which in their eyes made me appear to be an insecure chump (or simply a gullible idiot).

Sometimes in life (and in a career); a time comes to have a personal epiphany and simply make a conscious philosophical choice; one that may or may not work; so this year, I did. I decided that positive gain and the overall improvement of the world is simply worth it. Even if a company or an organization’s leadership are truly dismissive and even condescending to those who give for the sake of giving; it is still worth it overall. I am confident that as I lead more and more projects, people and organizations in the future; I will continue to succeed in helping my clients, companies and contemporaries grow to appreciate their own people and each of  their proactive efforts to improve themselves through helping others. If I succeed, perhaps more voluntary proactive efforts will come about resulting in more of us experiencing the amazing satisfaction that comes from helping others. But frankly; who cares if I don’t overtly succeed. It honestly only takes one individual  to change the world for better or for worse. In fact, my overall regrets involve things I neglected to do far more than anything I’ve done. So, since I already gave away millions of gallons of metaphoric milk for free at this point, what’s a few million more going to hurt?