Archive for the 'Money' Category

Allpro sells out to SPS Commerce

Just received notice that the Allpro paint buying group sold out to the SPS Commerce ransom plan. They’ve handed over their vendor base information to the company that sees fit to inject itself into the middle of the customer/vendor relationship for revenue. Personally I’d cut off any and all customers necessary to insure SPS never sees a dime of money. Congratulations to the Allpro buying group for being another in the long list of SPS Commerce sellouts.

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Startup Incubators or Expensive Cliques?

Over the past couple of months I visited a few startup incubators in the Chicago, Cleveland and Raleigh Durham areas.  After the first all the tours were very familiar.  “Free breakfast”, not surprising since most of the marketing for these incubators look like coffee shop ads.    “High speed broadband”.  Not sure how that matters, a commercial circuit to the internet isn’t that expensive in the scheme of things when starting a business.  “Shared conference rooms” and “multiple geographic locations” are all part of the common script too.

If you think that your companies success is going to be achieved by treating life like a social media feed, an incubator membership might be for you.  Should you believe your gateway to sales and revenue is through those in skinny jeans, with man purses man purses, possibly wearing a RomperHim man romper then I’d say it’s time to incubate your startup.  Office walls and privacy are for old men who didn’t know the value of sharing their startup secrets.  There was nothing comfortable about taking a tour with 20 somethings who peered into every glass walled, fishbowl office to try to study what was on the screens of those working in these hipster palaces.

What was truly staggering was the amount of “private” work space offered. 384 sq. feet for $3000 a month!  Fishbowl space you claim can hold seven employees?  My day job office is 192 sq. feet and I’m in it alone.  But oh, you provide the furniture.  The same furniture I can get from a failed startup on Craigslist for a few hundred dollars.  By the way, these work spaces are a damn sight from anything that can be called “private”.

But who needs any quiet, private places to be productive when you can be “collaborating”?  That is, discussing stale technology topics and up and coming video games with trendy hipsters.  Funny truth is my business partners thought I would be the one susceptible to the temptation of day wasting at the coffee counter, discussing the DSL router I put in Evander Holyfield’s house in 1999 with kids half my age.  They may not be wrong.

Truth is I did not see one thing in these incubator offices, including one called Industrious, that would lead us to be the least bit productive or industrious.  In fact you can’t get “industrious” at all.  It would be too distracting for those trying to fill their glass cubicle walls with doodles that will impress the next tour group.  Every incubator came off as a place to showboat.  So I looked into success stories.  All I saw anywhere was the lists of “Funding Achieved”.

So, an incubator is a place to go get people to invest in your startup?  What if I’m not looking for a place to lure investors?  We’ve committed to making sure we have very limited investment and as few loans as possible.  A financial business model derived from a good friend, Scott McClaughlin, who founded Strategic Connections in Raleigh and has never taken on a dime of debt in the companies history.  Scott wrote a personal check a few years ago to buy the Albemarle Yacht company.  Debt driven valuations are not success.  Sales and revenue with solid margin equals success.  I don’t hear about any such thing coming out of incubators.  The only thing I heard or saw in these incubators were sales pitches, pipe dreams and yes, skinny jeans.

Did we totally dismiss the idea of ever being in an incubator?  Sure did.  There is no math that works in their favor and we’ve honestly found many offices that work better for us than these trendy clubhouses for millennials to play pretend entrepreneur.   Give me one story of incubator startup success beyond “funding achieved” and I’ll reconsider the ridiculousness of this new real estate trend.  And that’s all these things are, real estate marketing to those with the unrelenting desire to feel cool through debt, regardless of genuine business success.

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NC Income Tax Offset Inquiries

Here is the NCDOR unit to contact to see if you have an offset that could reduce or delay your NC tax return:

Distribution Unit Employees and Addresses

The Mailing Address for the Unit is:

Distribution Unit
P. O. Box 871
Raleigh, NC 27602
The Distribution Unit is located in the Revenue Building at 501 North Wilmington Street, Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.

Questions about a debt offset – Telephone: 919-814-1119

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Most Americans don’t understand what “healthcare cost” means. Not even our representatives.

I keep hearing talking heads in the media refer to “healthcare cost” as being synonymous with the price of health insurance premiums.  This means only one thing: these professional “analysts” are as out of touch as most Americans about the cost of healthcare.

The price of your insurance premium is not the “cost of healthcare”.  It’s the price of your personal insurance determined by a number of factors, most specifically, where you work.  In order to get this real price you have to factor in deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, premiums payments.  There are many variants based on employer and plan.  That’s your price of being insured.

If you think the price of your insurance is bad, or maybe you don’t if your employer is kind and hasn’t jacked your premiums to absurd levels, the cost of healthcare is an insane number.  Rising annually at 8 times the rate of inflation.  Let’s put that into perspective:

Most people have health insurance and auto insurance.  If you wrecked your new Nissan Sentra in 1997 the cost of a replacement front bumper was about $430 installed.  20 years later the cost to replace the front bumper on a new Nissan Sentra is about $642.64 adjusted for inflation, true cost researched… $612.00 installed.  So the cost of replacing a bumper on this particular car has actually gone down verses the rate of inflation.  But still car insurance premiums have risen.  More drivers, more wrecks, most cars don’t enjoy such affordable parts as a Nissan Sentra.  The overall reason for the rising cost of auto premiums is also…. healthcare!  But the example will work regardless.  Because of the somewhat stable cost of car repairs (labor and parts) and increasing safety mechanisms in cars, auto insurance premiums have managed to stay within a reasonable scope of consumer expectations.  Auto insurers don’t have to charge more to make money because their costs aren’t rising exponentially.

What if I told you that because of an increasing number of car crashes, plus increasing cost of replacement parts from the manufacturers and the workload presented to shops it was now going to cost you $8000 to replace the bumper on your new $19K Nissan Sentra?  Most people would cry foul on the part of all those involved: bad drivers, greedy manufacturers and the body shops.  Now imagine most of this increase comes from the rapid, unexplained, increasing price of the replacement parts.  Does that make it better?

Now lets look at health insurance.  Those evil health insurance companies raising premiums right?  They’re “increasing your healthcare cost”.  WRONG.  The insurance companies are certainly increasing your premiums.  Health insurance companies are not the ones increasing the cost of health care.  Unlike my hypothetical example of a fictitious increase in the price of car parts, the exponentially increasing cost of health care products and services are very real.  Especially in the world of pharmaceutical and medical devices.  I worked for Glaxo Smith Kline.  When pharma companies tell Americans we have to pay up to 20 times more for the same medication as other nations to cover their research and development cost THEY LIE.

I’ve personally witnessed almost $1 million US dollars spent on an IT pharmaceutical initiative to decide not to proceed, scrap it.  I’ve seen millions spent on application development that could have been done at half the price with half the bureaucracy.  Then add the increasing cost at the provider level.  Last month my wife received a bill from an outpatient procedure that lasted under 30 minutes.  There was a $1600 “facility fee” as a line item charge.  We’ve asked but still haven’t received explanation as to what this fee really is.  If the “medical billing specialists” for the hospital cannot tell us, who can?

Billing at most medical facilities has transformed into an open ended contract to gouge patients in the United States.  $20 for a Tylenol, $8 for the paper cup it’s delivered in.  All of it has been joked about like the US governments $3000 toilet seats.  But it’s not funny.  Right now health insurance companies are going out of business due to the ACA.  The math doesn’t work.  Imagine telling the auto insurance industry they can’t increase premiums for bad drivers, all other drivers will have to cover the cost for those who wreck twice a year.  And hypothetically imagine the parts manufacturers raising their costs by 500% in the next 4-6 years and then telling the insurers they can’t increase premiums.  That’s almost exactly what is happening to the health insurers, they’re being told they can’t adjust for special conditions or the rising cost of the bills they receive from hospitals.

We don’t hear our politicians or much of the public yell and scream about the rising cost of health care at the provider level.  The “free market” is supposed to handle it all according to our stalwart, conservative Wall Street pundits.  Free market?  In what “free market” do we sign a contract stating we will pay before any service is rendered without first being presented with the price?  What other “free market” product do we consume that in the middle of life or death situations?

From Injury to Insult

So now we just accept that it must be costing these hospitals a fortune for these services they render.  Who cares… insurance companies pay it right?  Those hospitals are struggling so much that they need a prescription of architecture!  Yep, architecture.  Next time you’re in an ambulance make sure the hospital you’re going to has a large marble foyer and uncomfortable retro furniture.  Not the ER waiting room, the lobby.  Don’t forget to check on how many million dollar water fountains are out front.  I’m told water fountains do miracles for dislocated shoulders.  Make sure you’re in a hospital that sponsors a holiday “festival of lights” around Christmas time.  Make sure it costs them hundreds of thousands to put on as a marketing scam because you know, hospitals need to advertise.  Why do hospitals have marketing departments anyway?  If there’s anything I don’t care about feeling institutional personally, it’s a hospital.

And now for the insult.  Somewhere sitting in a $20,000 recliner there is a person very happy to be making big money off Americas declining health.  The ever loving, business savvy, investment driven shareholder.  Oh yes, don’t think for a minute I’ve left out the reason for the profit motive.  Yes, go on and rant about the health insurance CEO’s ten million dollar salary.  Peanuts compared to the earnings of a Saudi Prince who hold’s a tight position in Healthcare Corporation of America, the nations largest for-profit healthcare provider.  Who was it that founded HCA?  Oh… that’s right.  None other than the father of Republican Bill Frist, three term Senator from Nashville.

While for-profit insurance companies are a problem in the health care equation, having started a price gouging war with providers, they are far from the reason Americans pay more for healthcare with lesser outcomes than any other nation.  Look no further than your next prescription bottle or emergency room bill.  The costs are outrageous and climbing as these entities gouge consumers for returns to shareholders.  Nothing demands stakeholder capitalism more than healthcare.  Before you comment regarding the pay doctors, nurses and providers receive learn the difference between compensation and profit in stakeholder economics.

The concerning part is the silence.  You don’t hear many legislators talking about the real reason behind the rising cost of care because the industry is big money.  One thing any elected official in America will not work against is big money.  It is the nations Achilles heel and it’s going to get cut, we’re going to fall.  The majority of financiers, accountants and mathematicians agree: single payer is the only way to stop the end of the US economy.  It’s the only math that works.  Remove the profit motives from healthcare and we will survive as a nation.

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A reprehensible health care system.

Whether or not one agrees with single payer, it is reprehensible that our employment based health care model is for-profit while both providers and insurers work harder for returns to shareholders and investors than public health.

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Federal Universal Service Fund “Administrative Fees”

It seems commercial customers of major telecommunications companies (that would be most American businesses) are now mostly subject to the carriers collection of the cost of their required contribution to the Federal Universal Service Fund.  This is a fund that is supposed to reimburse or pad the cost of telecommunications expansion into rural areas where service would often not be available due to profitability in the market.  So let’s first define how absurd this fee is to begin with.

Say we have a small rural community area 100 miles from their nearest metropolitan neighbor.  It has a population of less than 800 people and no local ISP’s or broadband providers.  A telco carrier (Time Warner, AT&T, Comcast, Windstream) may not find a return on investment to run fiber lines into this community so many miles from their nearest C.O. (central office).  If there is a close breaking point for profitability, over the course of say 5 years, the carrier may choose to build the infrastructure for service but then seek a subsidy from the Universal Service Fund.  So the money from the fund pads the carrier until a term of profitability can be reached.

All well and good to insure rural areas can get high speed broadband.  If that were actually happening.  Truth is that even with USF subsidies available most carriers are skipping out on rural infrastructure development, leaving most of these areas at the mercy of satellite broadband services that are expensive and still prone to latency.  Then comes the revenue generator created by industry and FCC, i.e. government, collusion: The FUSF Administrative Fee.

This fee is passed on by the carriers to consumers and companies for the “cost of collecting” the carriers required contribution to the fund from their customers.  It ranges by carrier, while not likely arbitrary it is left up to the individual carriers calculations.  A calculation I’d imagine surpasses the actual “cost” of collection which is left to a programmed formula in an ERP or accounting system to be places on invoices.

The FCC’s website titled “Understanding your telephone bill” implies carriers cannot charge more than the percentage cost of their contribution to the USF for interstate customers, typically businesses.

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/understanding-your-telephone-bill

“Companies cannot collect an amount that exceeds the percentage of their contribution to the USF”.

But what about the “Administrative USF Fee” put in place by almost all major carriers now?  Verizon charges .41% of the total bill.  AT&T, the worst offender, charges .88%.  For clarification as to how this could not be considered a cost that “exceeds the percentage of their contribution to the USF” I inquired with the FCC.  Here is my original email and their response.  Notice their response has no way for a consumer to make an inquiry.  This is a pinnacle example of corporate backed government bureaucracy.  It’s also a clear example of why we need to get industry insiders out of regulatory oversight and make sure no one in government can become beholden to later opportunities in industries they are supposed to be regulating.

From: Todd Singleton
Sent: Monday, October 17, 2016 11:51 AM
To: FCC504 <FCC504@fcc.gov>
Subject: USF Collection Fees

On the following FCC web site titled “Understanding Your Telephone Bill” you have a section regarding Universal Service Fund contributions by carriers.  It is widely known many carriers pass this cost on to customers however, I am looking for clarification on the “Administrative Fee” carriers add to the bill for the cost of collecting this fund contribution from customers.  https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/understanding-your-telephone-bill

On the page you have the following comment:

“Companies cannot collect an amount that exceeds the percentage of their contribution to the USF”.

By passing through the administrative cost of collections are they not doing precisely that?  Please clarify the position of the FCC on the matter of this administrative collection cost for USF contributions and since no limit or percentage is defined on this administrative fee how it is not, in fact, “an amount that exceeds the percentage of their [the carriers] contribution to the USF”.

Thanks

Todd Singleton

The bureaucratic response.  Apparently a call is required to make “inquiries”:

To be more responsive to your comment, inquiry , or complaint, we direct your attention to the options below.  Not sure I’ll ever want an answer bad enough to call the FCC.

By following the steps below for comments, complaints, or inquiries, we will begin to act on your communication right away:

If you would like to file a COMMENT in a PROCEEDING, please visit our Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) at http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/hotdocket/list and follow the instructions on the page.

If you would like to file a COMPLAINT about a telecommunications related service, please visit our consumer complaint page at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us .  From this page, you will directed through a series of prompts to a specific complaint form, which you can fill out and submit to the FCC.  Submitting your complaint on one of our complaint forms insures that we have all the information we need to process your complaint, and will also shorten the time you will have to wait to receive a response from the company or entity you have a complaint about.

If you would prefer, you can also submit your complaint over the telephone, by calling our consumer call center at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322).

If you would like to make an INQUIRY into an FCC policy, or have general questions that the FCC might be able to answer, please call our consumer call center directly at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322).

Thank you for contacting the Federal Communications Commission.

Can you smell the fleecing?  It burns!

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How Windstream Business makes sure they are the WORST in customer service.

You hate Comcast customer service?  Think the former Time Warner was evil to do business with?  Ha! Amateurs.  Windstream Business has engineered a way to make sure there is no direct customer service conduit available.  They funnel everything through a single 800 technical support number.  That magical number is 1.800.600.5050.  If you or ever unfortunate enough to dial this number, plan for suicidal tendencies.

This time I dialed and was greeted with “Thank you for calling Windstream Business” then dead air for a total of 2 minutes and 47 seconds according to the call timer on my phone.  Once you finally reach the automated attendant you get four options (verbatim as of the date of this posting):

  1. “If you are experiencing down or bouncing issue on T1 or DS3 services press 1”
  2. “an issue with data services such as Internet, Ethernet, MPLS or other managed services press 2”
  3. “If you are having trouble with POTS or local lines press 3”
  4. “Experiencing voice relate issues with voice services such as Voice over IP press 4”

Notice none of these options are for customer care or billing.  None.  They all transfer to “technical support”.  Once you get one of these technical support representatives they will be very aggravated they have to handle a billing call because apparently the hand off to “customer care” is a painful process for them.   They insist they must stay on the line because the possibility of getting cut off is a good bet.  Then you wait 15-20 minutes.  Once connected to customer care I voiced my complaint about the lack of number straight to them, having to go through technical support.  My customer care representative said “it says for customer care use option 3”.  Odd.  I played the greeting I dialed into again:

3. “If you are having trouble with POTS or local lines press 3”.

I am not having a problem with POTS or local lines.  I have a problem with bills you are sending me for data services that were turned down in April.  This has precisely ZERO to do with POTS and local lines.

Windstream cut off some of our business services that we discontinued in April 2016.  We are still getting bills for these accounts in August.  They are disputing we never formally disconnected the account through our account rep, supposedly a person named Byron Ball.  I was insured by “customer care” that my request for Byron Ball to contact us has been escalated.  Despite several emails, no Byron Ball.  Some at Windstream have told me he doesn’t work their anymore.  Now they are telling me he does and will be giving me his bosses information.

Meanwhile they gave me Byron Balls bosses number, Bryon Waters.  Now I get to call him and see what the excuses are.  Chances I’m going to ever got to speak to Mr. Bryon Waters are damn near zero since all of this is just stonewalling by Windstream.  Their goal is to get legally binding contracts signed to initiate billing and then forgo any semblance of customer care or account management.

If anyone thought Windstream might be better at business services than they are residential services, for which they’ve lost lawsuits, think again.  This company is the worst in telecom.  Do not make the mistake we did and select Windstream or their former Paetec as a carrier.  Pay more to AT&T or Time Warner Telcom.  They suck too but at least you get someone to talk to about the problems.  What Windstream is doing deserves an FCC investigation, except the FCC is padded with government insiders.  Another perk of the marriage between government and business.  It’s not just residential consumers getting screwed, it’s businesses across America too.   These corporations do not discriminate in who they rip off.

 

 

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Can all sides finally admit Obamacare is a complete failure?

To argue otherwise is to claim that math no longer works.  In 2009, the President stated, “We agree on reforms that will finally reduce the costs of health care. Families will save on their premiums; businesses that will see their costs rise if we do nothing will save money now and in the future […] whatever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce costs for families, businesses, and government, those elements are in this bill.”

Let’s examine all elements of this statement:

“We agree on reforms that will finally reduce the costs of health care”

No.  The cost of health care has continued to rise at 8 times the rate of inflation since the ACA was passed 5 years ago.  This was obvious and predicted by almost all economists who noted the ACA did precisely nothing the reduce or control the cost of health care delivery, services and medication.  No shock at all provider costs did not go down.

“Families will save on their premiums”

Families are paying higher premiums now, some exponentially higher than when the insurance companies drafted the ACA for Rham Emanuel.  Were you one of those stupid enough to believe the industry would draft legislation to actually reduce premiums while having to sign up sick people with preexisting conditions?

“businesses that will see their costs rise if we do nothing will save money now and in the future”

Um, nope.  Businesses, especially small businesses have been crippled by the rise in health care expenditures and coverage.  Know what businesses are really taking a hit?  Health insurance companies!

“whatever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce costs for families, businesses, and government, those elements are in this bill.”

Bullshit.  What elements of this corporate sponsored mandate to buy their private market product has done a single thing to reduce the cost for families, businesses and government?  This is a bill written by an industry that still can’t make money off it.  United Healthcare is pulling out of the exchange because even with subsidies they can’t make the accounting work.

There was only ever one solution and the anti-government crowd can’t stand it, single payer.  There’s a reason it’s the solution the rest of the industrialized world has settled on and it’s not because America’s just so much smarter than all other nations and they just don’t get it.  It’s because they had accountants and actuaries do the math then realized for profit healthcare is a farce wrapped in a lie.  An immoral farce.  Instead we coddle obstinate, introverted people afraid of change.  People who still compare single payer to the VA when the two couldn’t be more different.  They never compare it to Medicare, the socialized medical system in the US that is somewhat functional.

It’s time we call Obamacare the failure that it is and call Hillary Clinton a failure for preaching more of the same.  Her love for all things Obama will be her undoing because to put it mildly, the man just got it wrong.  He won’t admit his legacy legislation is a piece of shit.  He’ll be talking about his ACA achievement on his death bed… while millions of Americans sacrifice their tax returns to the IRS because the fines will be less than the extreme cost of coverage with high deductibles in this failing system of mandated, employer based and private market health insurance.

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The greatest threat the United States is facing is our growing, willful ignorance.

The greatest threat the United states faces is our growing level of willful ignorance and anti-intellectualism.  When the majority of those who consider themselves educated in a culture can tell you who won entertainment awards but cannot tell you the names of our representing foreign heads of state are or details about current world affairs such a culture, society or nation will not survive.

This is why our children will not know the United States the nation we remember.  To an extent this has nothing to do with politicians, monied interests or corporations.  It has to do with the dumbing down of society to an ignorant culture valuing entertainment over education and complex thought.  American’s, as a majority are simply lazy and saturate ourselves in misinformation to justify it.

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Sorry to say, Americans lack common courtesy and empathy.

In 1795, an immigrant complained that “civility cannot be purchased from Americans on any terms; they seem to think it is incompatible with freedom”.  – John F. Kasson

Kasson nailed it over 200 years ago and his message applies today more than ever.  In the rampant, ideologically “patriotic” quest for individualism America has really become a nation of “me time”, “all about me” and “what about me”?  Zero courtesy for others.  Worse, this individualism and lack of respect for others is embraced and promoted by certain ideological groups in the United States.  I owe no one anything.  That is the lame, narcissistic position now embraced by many Americans.

Everyone has an example: the lazy, slow moving women in the check out line taking YOUR time, not hers.  The guy who leaves his car at the crowded pumps so he can spend 20 minutes shopping in the convenience store.  Hell, everyone knows the jackass reducing the flow of traffic because of exercising their “right” to be in the wrong lane.  Americans lack of respect for others might be at an all time high.

At one time in history this type of discourteous behavior created embarrassment, scorn from the community and local society.   I’m embarrassed for them.   I won’t even get into the misuse and tangled use of terms like “socialist” when applied to those who point out you can’t infringe upon the rights of others to exercise your own.  I’m also embarrassed by how across the American landscape people have become so self-absorbed in general.  You are not going to be famous.  You are not as special to society as you believe.  You might be reading this blog and I don’t even know your name, never will.  That is how truly insignificant most of us are.  Go jump from the bow of a ship into the open ocean.  Drive into a class 5 tornado.  Get back to us with your delusions of grandeur and let us know how much material wealth and self image did to save you.  Luckily we will be spared such narrative for despite your perceived invincibility, you are human.  In certain circumstances you will be humbled to death without help from others.

Yet in most American’s minds we are special.  People look towards us because we are wonderful.  We’re Americans, the whole world is filled with envy, or so I’m told.  Most Americans current moment and activity is all they are worried about so hell, it’s all the world should be worried about right?  Because it’s your world.  Um, no dipshit, it’s our world.  Many could do themselves some good by traveling outside their own mental cocoon, usually built as a security blanket, and realize they live and move among others.  Other people who don’t want to wait on you.  Other people who’s time you are wasting.  No, do not “take your time”.  Hurry the fuck up.  Be efficient in your public activities.  Politely and courteously get out of the path of others.

Also stop pretending their is no community.  Margret Thatcher lied.  It’s all around you.  Those people waiting behind you at the checkout line while you dick around, consuming their time – they are part of your community.  Yes you have a right to travel 5MPH under the limit in the slow lane.  I have a right to flip you off and call you a discourteous asshole when you earn it.  Indeed I believe the right many Americans now exercise the most is the right to be a self absorbed asshole…. with a selfie stick.

This all comes down to empathy, (n) “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”.  A definition Americans could stand to learn.  Too many now mistakenly think the word empathy is interchangeable with the word pussy.   It is not.  Empathy purveys strength.  If you don’t understand that you have some work to do on your social skills.

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