My take on the ‘Religious Freedom’ law in Indiana

I’m gonna use a bakery owner as an example:

Refusing to bake a damn cake for someone due to their sexual orientation is stupid… Aren’t you a businessperson? Don’t you want to make a damn profit?  You don’t agree with homosexuality?  Well, that is your own thought and you are entitled to it, but keep it to yourself.  You’re a twice divorced baker? If that is the case, on the same accord you should be refusing service to yourself… What do you think about that? Bake the damn cake… It doesn’t affect you in any negative way. You may be a bigot, but you’re making money.

“American dream” is now a myth: How bad Republican-born policies and worse ideology ruined us

Over the past few years of economic torpor and social despair there’s been a lot of discussion about the death of the American dream. This shouldn’t be surprising. In a time when people feel they can’t keep up or are falling behind, it’s hard to have faith in the idea that everyone can achieve a base level of security and provide for their kids to do better than they did. That was always the deal for working-class Americans, immigrants and middle-class alike.

Generally, people agree that the lack of social and economic mobility we see today — necessities for the achievement of the American dream — is a result of the dramatic income inequality that’s grown dramatically over the last couple of decades. There’s even a name for this phenomenon called the Great Gatsby Curve, which simply shows that the more income inequality there is, the less social mobility there is. As Tim Noah of the New Republic explained:

Economists have long suspected that you can’t really experience ever-growing income inequality without experiencing a decline in Horatio Alger-style upward mobility because (to use a frequently-employed metaphor) it’s harder to climb a ladder when the rungs are farther apart. [Economist Alan] Krueger calculates based on the Gatsby curve (admittedly, somewhat speculatively) that “the persistence in the advantages and disadvantages of income passed from parents to the children” will “rise by about a quarter for the next generation as a result of the rise in inequality that the U.S. has seen in the last 25 years

It’s doubtful that more than a handful of average Americans have heard of the Great Gatsby Curve but they do know that they aren’t getting ahead at the same pace as their parents did. Earlier generations started out with much less (there was less to have!), but the level of advancement over the course of a lifetime for average working people, whether factory workers or teachers or small business owners, was measurable and real. People who never thought of going to college had all their children graduate from university. Couples whose parents always lived in small urban dwellings bought big houses in the suburbs and retired from their jobs knowing they could live comfortably in their old age. Each generation did a bit better than the last, gaining more opportunity and living with more financial security. It wasn’t sexy but it was solid.

According to polling, including this latest one by the Public Religion Research Institute, the bottom has fallen out of the American dream for a whole lot of people. Only 42 percent of Americans still believe in it today and it’s not getting better:

Other polling has shown similar results.  That’s a sad comment on our country.

Oddly, that same poll shows that far more Republicans than Democrats believe the American dream is still operative, 55 percent to 32 percent. If you wonder why that is, perhaps it’s because many Republicans have a completely different definition of the American dream.  They don’t see it as a middle-class goal at all, much of it made possible by the promise of a decent education and secure retirement, guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.  No, they believe that the American dream is getting filthy rich. It’s not much different than winning the lottery or getting a slot on the Real Housewives of Galt’s Gulch.

Here’s a good example of how Republicans explain it to the rubes, in a piece called “In Defense of the Wealthy and the American Dream”:

The United States has 422 billionaires, nearly four times that of 2nd place China. We have a 15.3 trillion dollar economy. We have a standard of living that is the envy of the world. Why?

We have the American Dream and other countries don’t. This American Dream exists because we are free to pursue unlimited prosperity. What fuels the desire to pursue the American Dream is the right to keep the wealth you produce. Property rights are fundamental to the existence of the American Dream and to the continued success of our nation. It was intentional. Our founding fathers built a nation around individual liberty and individual property rights. Without these rights, there would be no 422 billionaires, no 15.3 trillion dollar economy, no high standard of living. These rights are the very foundation of America. Liberty and the right to keep your property (wealth) have, for generations, separated America from the rest of the world. It is the reason America has been considered by so many around the world as “the land of opportunity”.

He calls these 422 billionaires the “American Dream Achievers.” And if you too want to be an American Dream Achiever you must agree not to tax them or regulate their businesses or in any other way try to reduce the wealth inequality we know is causing virtually everyone else to stagnate economically. But have no fear, you can totally do it! Why, if you just work hard you can be the 423rd billionaire — out of 313 million Americans!

A few months ago David Leonhardt of the New York Times published a story that showed exactly where the real American dream — enough opportunity and security to live a decent life and make it possible for your kids to succeed — is in the most trouble. And ironically, it turns out that one specific group of people is being scammed by this absurd con game more than any other: Southern Republicans.

The results of this week’s poll on Americans’ pessimism about the American dream doesn’t break the data out by region. It does break it out by race and class, however, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that the most pessimistic, by a long shot, are the white working class and African-Americans. It’s fair to guess that an awful lot of those working-class whites and African-Americans hail from that red area on the map where their futures and their children’s futures really are grim.

And that’s largely thanks to the policies put in place by GOP politicians who are intent upon delivering for those rare “American Dream Achievers” — and nobody else. You can’t blame the African-Americans.  They know the score and don’t vote for these dream killers. The Southern white working class is another story. They’re participating in their own demise.

Associated Bank Express launches in 12 Days

Rendering of the new Express branch concept opening at 640 University Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin

Associated Bank is launching a new “Express Branch” on December 2nd at 640 University Ave in Madison, Wisconsin.  Updates and more information for those that are interested can be found by following the District Manager of the Madison West  district of Associated Bank on Twitter @StevenEspo78

Location of Associated Bank's first Express Branch.  Opening December 2, 2013

Location of Associated Bank’s first Express Branch. Opening December 2, 2013

Associated Bank launching “Express Branch” concept

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By the beginning of December, Associated Bank is going to be launching a new “Express” concept branch after converting an existing branch to this new concept at 640 University Ave in Madison, WI.  Above is a rendering of this new branch.

The front half of the branch will have 24 hour ATM access.

Coming Soon: Worm Burner Golf

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Worm Burner Golf is launching a full site soon. This is the Google AdWords ad floating around Google now.

A new website is launching soon that will be THE place for average golfers to visit and see the latest golf clubs and equipment get reviewed.  Reviews in plain English for the average golfer.

For now, visit the landing page, follow them on Twitter, and get excited.

This is why no one follows you on Twitter

Twitter users often make the decision of whether or not to follow someone in seconds, meaning that you have very little time to impress.

It’s a good idea to take a look at how most people will see your Twitter profile. If someone finds you in his or her Home stream, or clicks on a “Who to follow” suggestion, the Profile Summary pop-up below shows what your potential audience sees of your Twitter presence.

While some people may click “Go to full profile” to find out more before making a decision to follow or not, it’s safe to assume that most will make up their minds from your Profile Summary screen.

This means that you need to make the most of the screen real estate available to you, maximize the potential of your images, make sure your bio reads well and ensure that your tweets are attractive to potential followers.

Here are 10 important things you need to change in order to gain more Twitter followers.

1. You’re a ‘social media guru.’
The only people who call themselves “social media gurus” almost certainly aren’t, so don’t use this awful expression. The same goes for “maven,” “expert” or “ninja.”

You may work in the social media realm, but it’s such a fascinating and ever-changing communications landscape that there is always more to learn.

This came up time and time again in our research as a phrase that puts people off, so find a more creative way to describe yourself and you’ll find more followers.

2. You look like an egg.
The egg look really isn’t in vogue. You only have a few chances to engage people visually on Twitter, so don’t waste them.

Users are seriously dissuaded to follow an account if they can’t “see” the personality behind it. Don’t leave your avatar as the default egg, an image of a celebrity or someone who isn’t you, or anything too risqué. We’d also advise steering clear of GIFs as profile images, which don’t always display correctly across platforms.

The best Twitter avatar is a genuine pic of you and, considering how small the image is often displayed, preferably a head and shoulders shot. Remember: You can get more creative with your Twitter header photo and background.

3. You’re on #TeamFollowBack.
Begging people to follow you in your bio, and promising that you always follow back, is not an attractive premise.

Twitter isn’t about following blindly without good reason — it’s about curating your own stream of content that’s interesting and ultimately tailored to you. It’s perfectly acceptable not to follow people that choose to follow you.

If you’re making promises to follow everyone for the sole reason that they chose to follow you, you’re diluting your Twitter stream with content that may not be of interest, and ultimately cheapening the value of your own attention span.

4. Your following ratio is disproportionate.
A lopsided ratio of users you follow to users who follow you is often a red flag that an account is spam.

It’s understandable — and expected — that you’ll follow more accounts than are following you, but a large disparity in these numbers makes your profile look suspicious.

Try to gather some followers before you go crazy with the “Follow” button, or people won’t want to join your strangely small list of followers.

5. You wrote your bio in third person.
There is dubious advice out there that writing a bio in the third person, as if it’s been written by someone else, will make it sound more professional and objective.

This is bad advice. A third person bio makes you look pompous. It’s obvious you haven’t asked anyone else to write it — who would you ask, your mom? “Bob is very good at social media and always sets the table for dinner.”

Even if you’re using it for professional reasons, Twitter is a personal, social platform and your bio should reflect that. A simple, modest bio — or even a lighthearted, funny version — will attract more followers than a grandiose one.

6. You tweet too much.
Twitter went live mid-2006. If you joined the microblogging site at launch and tweeted three times a day every day since then, you would have penned around 8,000 tweets.

This helps put the number of tweets shown on your account in perspective. If you have tweeted over that 8,000 benchmark, then you’re obviously an above-average tweeter. If you’ve tweeted significantly over that number, it may give people pause when considering whether to follow you.

7. You humblebrag.
In addition to your bio basics and account stats, most people will read your last two tweets when they are checking out your Twitter profile.

One of the things that came up in our research was hatred of the “humblebrag,” and self-aggrandizement in general.

If one of your two most recent tweets contains even a hint of a humblebrag, that potential follower is going to think twice. If you retweet an entire compliment or flattering @ mention, that’s even worse.

8. Robots craft your tweets.
Do you schedule tweets? Or are you signed up to services that auto tweet on your behalf? If your recent tweets look like they were automatically generated, people aren’t going to follow you.

What people want on Twitter is to hear your genuine voice, in real time. They don’t want lofty quotes that you’ve scheduled to go live at strategic periods, stats from your latest workout or what your “top stories” are via a third-party curation service.

Twitter is about engagement, not just broadcasting meaningless words. If you don’t reply to other Twitter users, or otherwise react to tweets and trending topics you see in your stream, you’re doing it wrong.

9. You’re selling something.
If you work in a sales or marketing role, then by all means mention it in your bio. Do not, however, turn your bio into a sales pitch.

It’s bad enough if you use your bio to push a product or service, but if your recent tweets show that you’re all about the hard sell, too, no one is going to be interested in your profile.

Put simply, if you’re using Twitter to sell something in a crude manner, people will not follow you. We all see enough unwelcome advertising on a daily basis without it invading our Twitter streams.

10. You send DM spam.
Finally, if someone has made the decision to follow you, and you automatically DM them a self-promotional or sales message, chances are you can kiss that new follower goodbye.

Direct messages that thank the person for following and urge them to check out a link, such as a page on Facebook or a blog for “more amazing content,” are crass and impersonal.

Don’t be tempted by this ultra-lazy form of marketing, or you’ll deservedly lose followers as soon as you manage to gain them.