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Archive for February, 2007

It would be wrong of me to pretend that I wasn’t having fun with these little sallies between me, Aunt B. and Sarah Moore. Because I am. Even though for some reason (i.e. my own big mouth) I have been turned into the Great Demon Mennonite who favours the random deaths of children and the selling of babies.

About that. Let’s talk about that, shall we? Maybe we could even get Ned or my dad or brother to pitch in, seeing as they’re all attorneys who have handled private adoptions. (Or maybe my brother, Conservative Monkey Boy hasn’t yet handled a p.a. But I thought he had.)

Anyway, here’s what I don’t get. According to a story referenced by Sarah Moore, three Mexican nationals (more on that later) were arrested for trading a baby for $1,500 in cash and prizes.

There is apparently a charge out there called “felony trafficking in children” which means that it’s illegal to sell babies. Yeah, I get that. Selling babies is wrongbad. But let’s imagine for a minute that you’re three poor people who are already here in the country under possibly illegal circumstances. One of you has a baby she doesn’t want. The others have a small amount of cash. Because you are all trying to fly under the radar you can’t seek the services of an adoption attorney for a private adoption. So what do you do? Apparently you trade the baby for a car.

From what I’ve picked up around the dinner table in my childhood, private adoption is a big, hairy expensive deal. It can cost anywhere between $10K and $15K. Now, granted, that money doesn’t go for downpayments on Dodge Intrepids. But it does get filed into neat little piles with names like “medical expenses”, “travel costs” and “related expenses”.

I’ve personally known many families who’ve engaged in private adoption. They NEVER say “I will trade you a car for your baby.” But they do say “fly here from Iowa and I will put you up in a fancy hotel, take you shopping for clothes, buy you an iPod, take you to dinner and stuff while we get to know each other.” Sure, the lawyers call that “…and related expenses.”

I call it the adoption equivalent of Al Gore’s energy shell game. It seems to me from where I sit that this may just be another instance of the haves being different from the have-nots. If you can afford a lawyer who can make it all sound pretty and nice and legal you can buy yourself a baby. If, on the other hand, you’re just flat broke and have no way to care for your child–that child we didn’t want you to kill when it was in your belly–then you are just up the creek, my dear. And you’ll have to find a way to get back down that creek without a new car.

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>> Who decided to make public bathroom stalls out of highly reflective materials? What sick, twisted person thought this up?

I have no desire to watch myself in the act of using the toilet, thank you very much. Talk about your humbling experiences.

>> Parents are supposed to love their children. They are supposed to protect them from harm. They are supposed to nurture them and provide them with self-assurance.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s groovy that my parents will still send my husband birthday gifts. But if you think they didn’t send this one today just to imagine the look of horror on my face (before I fainted), you have another think coming.

Behold. The gift which arrived in the mail today:

Funny. Very funny.

>> Lastly, whoever said that Freudian Selling Tactics were going out of style forgot to inform the Jelly Belly people.

Is that a candy bean with added vitamins or are you just happy to see me?

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A few weeks ago I wrote about Al Gore’s profit motive and it’s connection to his environmentalism. It was a glib post, but one with what I consider to be important facts about Mr. Gore’s business practices.

Today in a far less glib post, Bill Hobbs takes the time to explain those financial operations in greater detail.

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J.L. Kirk & Associates: My Story

Feel free to skip to the end for the juicy stuff…

JL Kirk & Associates found my husband’s resume online. They contacted him a couple of weeks ago and offered their services as an ‘Executive Placement Firm’. As I’m wont to do, I of course Googled them as much as possible and found very little in the way of solid information. So I’ve decided to write up our experiences with them for anyone else who is interested in finding out more about this particular operation.

Anyone who has been searching for a job for any length of time is well aware of the various vulnerabilities that are part of the process. There’s the self-doubt, frustration and impatience, coupled with no small amount of worry. So when a job searcher gets an email that says “maybe we can help!” the relief is almost immediate.

My husband filled out an application and questionnaire, and returned it directly to the company. He then received an appointment with a counselor the following week. During that appointment the representative of JL Kirk & Associates interviewed him just as one would for a position. The afternoon after the interview he received an email that congratulated him on making it through the first step of the process. They wanted to schedule a second interview which required my presence as a Support Person/Spouse/Significant Other. When he scheduled the interview he questioned them directly about their fees and payment arrangements. He was told that if we received approval after the second interview the money would be discussed at that time.

So today was the second interview, and we drove to Maryland Farms for our 2:00 appointment. We sat in a waiting room next to a fake fireplace and a lone man in a suit. At 2:11 a matronly woman came out and announced to the other man–in front of us–that she would not be able to meet with him because he wasn’t able to bring his Support Person. They had a lengthy conversation in front of us about this failed meeting and his disappointment. He asked to speak with her behind closed doors (as would I) and then five minutes later that conversation ended with him leaving dejectedly. She then turned to us (it is now 2:17pm) and greeted us warmly.

We were led into an office that appeared to have been the result of a decorating war between a loan officer and an eccentric grandmother. The prototypical office furniture clashed with a giant print of Raffael’s Cherubs a reproduction oriental rug and a handmade mosaic table with a tilted top. The Husband and I were seated in two chairs across from the interviewer, who sat on a sofa next to a pile of throw pillows.

Here’s where the fun starts. We heard all about how hard it is to find a job, how most jobs aren’t posted online and are only found through networking. We heard about how the really good jobs are available only to those ‘in the know’ and can only be obtained through some wizardy combining Masonic handshakes, good dentistry and whatever pixie dust this particular company stores in the backroom. This interview seemed very carefully designed to exploit every potential vulnerability that any jobseeker feels. After about 10 minutes of conversation subtly designed to push every button we may have, the interviewer handed us a booklet that was said to be a tailored write-up of my husband’s profile as a job-seeker. The interviewer left us alone in the room to digest the booklet on our own terms.

The booklet consisted of three pages of reiteration of the interview’s strong-arm tactics, followed by a regurgitation of information from my husband’s resume, all summarised with a couple of pages essentially saying “the job market is tough but we think you’re really great and so we’ll be here to help you get a job!” We skimmed the booklet and reviewed our game plan, then signaled the interviewer by opening the door.

Our game plan was to ask direct questions about the company’s operation and placement record. In short, ‘what exactly do you do and how well do you do it?’ We had test answers in mind. In short, if we ask a direct question and get a vague answer such as “every case is different so numbers are hard to apply here” that tells us a great deal about the company’s services.

Sure enough, our first question about placement rate was answered with an “every case is different, etc.” style answer. Ultimately she gave us the figure of “90 to 92% placement rate” and then proceeded to tell us a long tale about a ‘failed’ client who showed up 37 minutes late to an interview with a CEO from an out-of-state firm. We all agreed that was indeed very unprofessional of said client and what a shame and how good to not work with him. (I of course was thinking about how we were on time for that interview which she failed to start until 17 minutes after the promised appointment time.)

She then gave us the very good news that they were prepared to accept us as clients. Then the fun began. We were told that Headhunters and Employment Agencies took fees only when a job had been secured for the job seeker, and they took their fees (generally 30-40%) from the hiring firm. But that means the job seeker gets a lower starting salary because all of their good money is going to the headhunter/employment agency. Thankfully, though, JL Kirk & Associates will be able to get my husband a job making a far larger starting salary. All we need to do is put $4,420 on a credit card today. Once we do that the entire weight of the firm of JL Kirk & Associates will begin the task of navigating treacherous shark-infested landmines of the job search on behalf of my husband. And just trust them, because they find jobs for 90% of the people who pay them to.

So that’s how it works. And that’s pretty much how we expected that it would work. But both the spouse and I believe that it’s irrepsonsible to not pursue any lead during this time so we thought we’d go through the process. Especially since they kept so much of it in the dark from the outset.

JUICY STUFF BEGINS HERE
But I’m very angry about it. If you’ve made it this far, I suppose maybe you could tell that I’ve been supressing most of my irritation. However, irritation makes for good blog reading, and so here it is.

I get really ticked off at people trying to use fear to motivate others. I don’t care if you are a fire-and-brimstone preacher, an insurance salesman, a used-car salesman or a cat burglar. Finding someone else’s fear and vulnerability and using that vulnerability to somehow enrich yourself is a cheap and underhanded tactic. It’s wrong and it’s cruel. And I think that’s exactly what this placement firm did to us today. There were times when I felt like I was sitting across from a spider. We were meant to feel at home enough to let down our guard so that the woman could then ply us gently with tales of terror. All of it was designed to make us hand over nearly $5,000 without question and without possibility of a refund.

The husband and I are not always idiots. We both expect to pay for services rendered from any provider. But we generally like to be treated as responsible adults. We had legitimate questions about the fee structure and we raised those at several points in the process. For them to not even discuss that fee structure until they had battered us emotionally for half an hour is what I would consider to be unethical. I’m sure there are other employment agencies and headhunters out there. We’ll continue to look for them.

In the meantime, I would discourage anyone who stumbles across this entry from even going through the JL Kirk & Associates “interview process”.

UPDATE

I should also mention that this company was formerly Bernard Haldane before it was purchased by Mr. Kirk Leipzig. One of the accusations against Bernard Haldane was that they would make an examination of the potential client’s assets and charge accordingly. I find it interesting to note just how close our “fee” was to the tax refund we recently received. Hmmm. Makes you wonder, no?

UPDATE 2, 4/17/06: Attorneys for JL Kirk & Assocs. contacted Media Bloggers Association attorney Ronald Coleman shortly after receiving his letter stating that the MBA was representing me in this dispute on Thursday afternoon.  Both sides expressed their wish to avoid litigation or further aggravation of the situation.  JL Kirk’s main concern at the outset was that we communicate their position – which is different from the information originally told to me by a JL Kirk employee – that JL Kirk is not a continuation of the defunct Bernard Haldane company, either in terms of corporate identity or stock ownership, and that JL Kirk’s principal, Kirk Leipzig, is only a former Bernard Haldane employee but did not buy any assets or stock of Bernard Haldane.  I can’t vouch for the truth of that statement because I have no first-hand knowledge of the facts, but evidently anyone who wants more information can obtain it from JL Kirk.

As you know if you read their cease and desist letter, the company disagrees with what I have said about them here, but they have told the MBA lawyer that they are interested in discussing this with my husband and me personally rather than litigating in court.  I have not decided if I am interested in talking, but I don’t mind the idea of putting this behind me and moving on, and will not write on this topic again.

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Sigh. I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness sometimes.

It’s taken me a long time to morph into a libertarian, primarily because I’m leery of the misconception that all libertarians are Republicans who want to smoke pot. (By the way, if you are one of the people who has said that to me recently please realise that you’re not clever and that’s only the 9000000th time I’ve heard it.)

I started with a libertarian school of thought because of something my mother said to me when I was probably ten or eleven. I told her I thought the government should take away my relative’s child because they smoked around her. My mom countered with “how would you like the government to take you away from me because I’m fat?”

That introduced me to the concept of the dangers of a nanny state. That someone would actually think my parents were unfit just because they were overweight was both annoying and scary to me. Back then, though, I rested comfortably in the notion that my mom was using hyperbole to make her case.

Hyperbole until now, that is. Sarah Moore writes this morning in praise of the British government’s attempts to take custody of a fat 8 year-old from his parents. They’re fat, he’s fat. Clearly they will destroy him with their fatness, so the government must–For The Children–step in. Moore claims the child is abused because his incredible fatness will get him mocked throughout life and possibly lead to diabetes. So clearly the best thing here would be for the British Government to raise the boy.

You know what? I agree. I think mockery and the potential for later disease is a very good reason for the State to intervene in any private family. That’s why I think we should take all children away from single parents. Studies show that children do best with a mother and a father under the same roof. And there are still bullies who mock kids from single-parent households. So let’s have the government step in here.

I also think we should take children away from all bi-racial couples. Clearly they will be mocked, and they are of course subject to various genetic conditions depending on the race of the couple.

Furthermore, I think it is abusive to raise a child in a Muslim or Jewish or athiest household. This is a Christian nation. If you are not a Christian you will be mocked. And you may have a genetic predispostion to Taye-Sachs or alcoholism or whatever. We’ll come up with something. Meanwhile, the State will step in.

Ah, what a brave new world!

If I ever do have a baby, I’ll make sure to have you all at the weekly inspections of his health. After all, I’m fat and can’t be trusted to parent my child.

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I don’t generally post my dreams, because I think they’re often too wierd. But I dreamed a dream (in time gone byyyy… sorry, couldn’t help myself) last night that was both freaky real and freaky wierd.

So I was in this hospital having a baby, and the strangest group of people were there watching. Random stangers from off the street were in the delivery room with me. I had an Indian doctor from India who wanted to screw a wooden device into the back of my spine that would force my shoulders back because he said it would help with the birth.

Then one of the random people in the hospital room with me mentioned that the town where I was presently giving birth was the Hooters Capital Of The World, with 120 Hooters locations in the neighbourhood surrounding the hospital.

All morning I’ve been looking around for the baby and then having to remind myself it was all a dream.

I can’t wait for my spouse to help me interpret this one…

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Lost Schmost

Now, last night’s Heroes was how you do an episode, my friends.

Lots of answers, a few new looming questions and some really great performances. Nothing about tattoos.

I think it’s safe to say that this episode of Heroes, quite frankly, rocked.

UPDATE

Turns out there are spoilers in the comments. Be forewarned and thus forearmed….

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