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Friday, July 30, 2010

DWI: Driving While Immigrant

About six months after moving to Nashville we traded my trusty commuter Honda for a barely-used Avalon for my wife. We got a great deal; an African American female soldier who had been in Iraq over a year decided to sell the car rather than make payments for it to sit in the parking lot at Ft. Campbell.

One of the things we liked about it was that she had trimmed it out nicely with rims and a smoked license plate cover. Nothing we would ever spend money to do, but sharp looking, especially the rims. We noticed the first few weeks we had it that young guys, especially African American kids, would actually back-up when stopped in traffic to look at the car. They were shocked to find a middle aged, gray-haired white woman behind the wheel.

And one day, so was Metro...

Heading home from meeting me for lunch, my wife was pulled over in Hermitage. She was in a stretch of Lebanon Road known as the "Bonnas" where at the time there was some daytime drug activity. Note the shock on the police woman's face when my wife rolled down the drivers' window and inquired as to what was the problem.

After stumbling and stammering all over herself, the police woman said, "It's that smoked license plate cover: we ask you all not to have those." She let my wife go with a promise to remove it. She did, and when I got home I put it back on where it has been for four years without any similar incident. And why? Because the wheels were cheap, started losing fake chrome, and wouldn't balance anymore. We replaced them with stock Toyota wheels and now the car looks like a middle aged white couple drives it.

Which is why I want to talk to you about Arizona's immigration law and why Tennessee would be foolish to adopt it.

This terrible idea/exercise-in-racism gives law enforcement the duty to run the immigration status of people it encounters in enforcing other laws. It is predicated on the notion that there will always be just and probable cause for any encounter between law enforcement and citizens. While there are fabulous professional law enforcement officers in this nation, there is also a significant number of Bubbas With Badges. For them, our nation's ideas of probable cause in traffic stops is as porous as our borders.

Taking also into consideration that poor people are more likely to drive cars with missing tail lights and non-working turn signals, the Arizona (and possibly Tennessee) law gives Bubba open season on Hispanics.

The other unthinkable aspect of this law is the requirement that citizens carry identification on them at all times to prove their citizenship. If you're old enough to remember the old Soviet Block you should remember being aghast that it required it's citizens in Eastern Europe and Russia to "carry papers" authorizing them to move around the country. Since when did Conservatives want to copy Soviet ideas of freedom?

As long as probable cause is as loose and ill-defined as it is in our country laws like Arizona's are unconstitutional and discriminatory. If you don't believe me, put some cheap wheels on your car and drive through Hermitage.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Being Real

I'm posing a question here. I'm not being critical or making a point, other than to say that I have a question.

I've noticed in our 25 year old daughter and in co-workers of a similar vintage a generational value of authenticity. "Being real" is short-hand for baring your soul or expressing unvarnished, uncensored feelings to others regardless of how they receive that information. Combined with the growing ubiquitous presence of social media, you can now gain and lose friends with lightening speed by saying what you really feel.

At the risk of self-identifying as being old school, I find this noteworthy from both a generational and geographic perspective. I was not only raised in the south, but raised southern. My dad is from Kentucky and my mom is from Mississippi. Dad is from a tiny town in the western part of the state, and mom was raised by a school teacher and a minister. The southern value of that day was propriety and discretion above all else. It is 180 degrees from "being real".

Now here is what I believe to be the open question for the transparent generation. As this group moves through their career life cycles in business, politics, ministry, or whatever how will this impact their careers? Already employers are vetting candidates for both hiring and promotion through a review of available on-line information. This includes self-posted information such as twitters, unprotected Facebook information, and whatever else may show up when you Google an individual. This practice has become so pervasive that it's the new body of law emerging in HR: on-line invasion of privacy, as incredibly contradictory as that term may sound. (Your privacy has been invaded by someone reading something you posted on the Internet for everyone to see?)

By the time current 20-somethings are being considered for positions of greater responsibility, who will be making those decisions and how will this information play into their selection choices? Will the values of authenticity and transparency have been integrated into society as a value, much like tolerance has replaced racism in my lifetime? Or will what you write today come back to haunt you tomorrow?

Again, I don't have the answer. I believe what's relevant is the question and that it should be a topic of conversation among the rising stars of the junior ranks.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

FSA Letters

If you're receiving strange letters from Blue Cross Blue Shield to justify FSA purchases you're not alone. The rules on FSA purchases have tightened, and we informed everyone at Open Enrollment that you might be required to submit receipts or other backup to justify purchases on your FSA card. That's normal.

What's not normal is that some of you are being asked to submit backup for every single swipe of an FSA card, including co-pays for prescription drugs and in-network doctor visits. That's not right and we've addressed it.

But it has been good for a laugh...

Some of you have been asked by BCBS to submit an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) to justify your in-network FSA swipes. Those EOBs come from...BCBS! Their FSA unit has been asking some of you to send back to them forms that they themselves generate. Even better, one lady was told not to send it back in...just read it over the phone!

And my favorite is the 1¢ solution. There was a penny difference between the amount charged and the amount paid, so BCBS sent a letter requiring 33¢ postage to the employee asking for a check for 1¢.

We've spoken to our broker who in turn has spoken to the FSA group at BCBS. We've reminded everyone that you should always take a good opportunity to stop looking foolish. They are doing some staff retraining.

If you've experienced this and thought it strange, you were right! If you continue to experience it please contact me directly. BCBS is an excellent and reliable insurer that is so large that it sometimes operates like the government. When things like this happen just please let us know.