Credit Union Savings Lottery Gains Momentum

On PBS Newshour last weekend, a savings concept was highlighted that takes advantage of people’s interest in playing the lottery. In the state of Washington, a credit union is seeing the benefit of this concept which is called “Save to Win.” Per a Seattle Times article this past March:

The ‘Save to Win’ plan promises monthly and annual drawings for cash prizes, with one entry ticket issued for each $25 deposit made into a 12-month certificate of deposit. ‘The whole idea is to entice people to save,’ says Lee Wajnor, vice president of marketing at O Bee Credit Union in Olympia, who lobbied legislators to get the program approved in 2010. ‘People are creatures of habit,” and the lure of a lottery may be enough to nudge them into saving,’ he says.”

The entire Seattle Times article can be found with the attached link: http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2020671264_sundaybuzz31xml.html

The beauty of the plan is people cannot lose their money. They can only win with small stipends such as $50 awarded monthly or a larger prize at year-end, such as $5,000. Since each $25 increment increases your chance of winning, the monthly winners usually reinvest their small awards into their savings account.

Variations of this model are being done in other states with Michigan credit unions being the first. Michigan’s efforts started in 2009 and the credit unions now have 12,000 participants. Note that credit unions are the only group able to have a savings lottery at this time, as banks are restricted from so doing. Since copying is the sincerest form of flattery, this idea should spread.

The credit unions attest they are losing money on this concept today, but by getting people to not throw their money away on a state lottery, which is in essence a regressive tax with so little chance of winning, the credit unions are helping people help themselves. And, with some critical mass, the credit unions will break even. Yet, by helping people gain more financial stability, the credit unions will likely benefit from other banking services the participant may need.

As I write this, I remember one of our blogging friends telling the story about how she was driving a friend around and the other person asked “Can we stop by the convenience store, so I can buy a $5 lottery ticket?” The author of the story said “Here, give me the $5” and proceeded to throw it out the window. When her friend protested, the author said, “You accomplished the same goal and now you have a better story in throwing your money away.”

I applaud this savings lottery concept. It appeals to the hidden gambler in all of us, but also let’s people save their money and not throw it out the window. The winnings are not headlines worthy, but the chance of winning is much greater than in the state lottery and becomes even more so the more you save. And, winning $5,000 or $10,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Yet, even if you don’t win, you still gain as you have at least a $300 plus interest balance after one year. And, that is better than $300 blowing in the wind.

 

 

Have you noticed food with a geographic name costs more?

In the US, we are about to embark on my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. That is if the retailers who are opening stores early don’t ruin it. Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and food. And, usually lots of it. Another nice feature is we usually honor those not with us anymore by breaking out the recipes of grandmothers, mothers, aunts and sisters (with some uncles and grandfathers thrown in). Since people come to my house for Thanksgiving, I am asked if we are going to make Big Mama’s dressing and no, that is not from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

One of things we don’t serve is the geographically named foods that you see in restaurants or high-end meat or fish markets. Whereas, Thanksgiving food is usually named for a person whose recipe it follows, restaurants and markets tend to name food by geography or style of feeding. Why? So, they can charge you more, of course.

Sir, would you like to try our Chilean Sea Bass or North Atlantic Salmon this evening? How about some Alaskan King Crab, North Carolina Trout or Deep Sea Scallops, instead? If you want some beef, we have some Kobe beef which is delicious or we have free-range chicken. The latter one has always puzzled me, as on the opposite end, you have an un-named chicken producer who gorges his chickens on corn so much, the chicken has a distinctive yellow color – there is nothing free range about it. The free range, is better for the environment, though as more grasslands absorb carbon from the air, but does it do anything for the taste?

Of course, we take it to an extreme in the US, by having restaurants that are marketed as if they are authentic food from another part of the world. Most Americans do not know that Outback is owned by a Florida company with numerous other restaurant brands. Our friend Judy from Australia would likely question some of the menu items. So, we fork over a slight premium to get the perceived Australian version of a steak and blooming onion, one of the most sinfully good and heart-unhealthy dishes around. To Outback’s credit, people are willing wait in line for a long time to get in.

Like Outback, what is interesting about all of these names of food is the lack of verification of authenticity. Chilean Sea Bass has been overfished, so the supply cannot meet the demand. Cod from Cape Cod near Massachusetts is dangerously low in stock. So, what you are eating is probably not what is named. Deep sea scallops is a terrific misnomer as it is likely shark meat. You can usually tell by the uniformity of the cut of the scallops – real scallops are like snow-flakes and have different shapes. And, we could spend a lot of time talking about truffles whose market has been infiltrated by cheap knock-off versions from Asia rather than Europe, where they are sniffed out by specially trained dogs (talk about an asset).

So, the next time you are in a restaurant or market, look at the prices and see if a pattern emerges. If you want to have fun, you could ask is this really Chilean Sea Bass? Or, you could stay home and have some reheated Joe’s turkey, Big Mama’s dressing with Linda’s cranberry relish. They won’t mind a bit. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

A high price for profit making in the legal drug business

I don’t think it will surprise many people that our pharmaceutical companies are out to make a sustainable profit. You can glean this quite easily from the many commercials on TV and the internet around creating a new disease, so that a drug can be prescribed to remedy it. The key catch for them is they want you to take this drug for the rest of your life. As a business person, I understand all of this, but there is a concern beyond this modus operandi, which is highlighted in the attached article. Antibiotics drug development is now being overlooked as it is not profitable. Why? The antibiotic cures what ails you in a reasonable short order.

http://www.streetinsider.com/Press+Releases/Antibiotics+are+a+Financial+Disaster%3B+CBCD+Proposes+a+Governmental+Agency+for+the+Development+of+New+Antibiotic+and+Antiviral+Drugs/8912338.html

From this article, a quote from an earlier study done in 2007 is referenced:

“Antibiotics have a lower relative rate of return on investment than do other drugs. Antibiotics are short course therapies that cure their target disease, and, therefore, are typically taken for no more than 2 weeks. In contrast, chronic diseases are treated with non-curative therapies that suppress symptoms and are required to be taken for the life of the patient. Ironically, antibiotics are victims of their own success; they are less desirable to drug companies and venture capitalists because they are more successful than other drugs.” This is according to a study published in the journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases which was reported on the news recently

The high price we pay, though, is far greater than the recurring costs of drugs we take to placate our real and exaggerated woes. The high price is the bad bacteria that can infest our bodies finds a way to become immune to the current arsenal of antibiotics. Remembering Jeff Goldblum’s character from the movie “Jurassic Park,” he said “nature finds a way.”  So, while we have always been vigilant about developing new strains of antibiotics, we must continue the fight or nature will find a way around our efforts. Yet, that is now challenged because there is more money to be made investing in drugs that customers need to take the rest of their lives.

I cannot think of a better example of a reason why we must have government investing with private industry for a common purpose. US history has been filled with successes of joint government/ private investment. In Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s book “That Used to be Us: How America fell behind in the World it Created and how it can come back,” they note the role government investment has played over time in our success leveraging private and venture capital dollars or where a business or industry could alone not support the infrastructure start-up costs. This lesson has been borrowed by others and yet we have some who are challenging this paradigm here. Those folks need to read Friedman and Mandelbaum’s book regarding how we got here.

For those who say let the markets be unfettered, the drug companies would continue down the path of investing in a greater ROI making drugs to sell recurringly. They make more money selling the various colored pills to a drug-friendly customer base. Yet, we have to co-invest in antibiotic drugs for the greater good. Some might argue, an enterprising company could develop and sell the antibiotics, yet the cost to the public for each dosage would be very high out of necessity. Plus, the process has to continue, as every time a new antibiotic is created, nature fights back. So, the company’s ROI would not stand up by itself for shareholders and needs incentive from a central source.

So, the idea championed in the attached article draws from our history and suggests government investment to make sure we have antibiotics that will keep us alive. This is one area where we do not want to go back in time, as preventable infections would no longer be preventable and many would die. This issue is very real and we need to heed the calls to action.

A journey begins and is made up of small steps

Oftentimes, we look at huge efforts and never start to tackle them because of their enormity. There is an old quote that I often use, “opportunity is missed because it is often dressed up as hard work.” Yet, to accomplish any major task or to embark on an arduous journey, you must take that first step. And, remember the journey is made up of small steps. This is my way of saying break the huge effort down into smaller steps and it won’t seem so overwhelming. But, I would add that you should do each step well, as if you don’t you may need to go back and do it again.

Hopefully, you will also have some semblance of a plan, rather than embark without an idea or goal. But, even without a plan, doing nothing will most likely not get you where you need to go. On this last point, with three children and during some tutoring I have done, I will share with the student on tackling a problem they don’t know how to do – “well let’s start with writing down what you do know.” Once you start, the problem becomes more visual. On old professor called it “thinking with your pencil.” Plus, a teacher wants to see if you have a clue, even if you miss the problem, so they can help you work through the problem.

I have written in earlier posts excerpts from some interesting starts to solving major problems. Each of these three examples were actually ridiculed, yet they paved the way to a successful problem resolution. From the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, I wrote a post about Paul O’Neill, the very successful CEO of Alcoa who went on to serve in President George W. Bush’s administration. The post can be found with the attached link. https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/who-is-paul-oneill-and-why-should-his-opinions-matter/.

O’Neill joined Alcoa and turned the company around by focusing on safety. When he said he wanted to make Alcoa the safest company on the planet at his first CEO public appearance, he was ridiculed and one financial advisor told all of his clients to dump Alcoa stock today. The advisor later said that was the worst piece of financial advice I have ever given. Why safety? O’Neill told people later, “that was only issue I could get management and the unions to agree was important.” With this focus, communication between management and the workers on the manufacturing floor improved and it was a two-way street. Information on how to make things safer and improve processes started being discussed and Alcoa improved safety and productivity. This translated into financial success and the stock took off.

Malcolm Gladwell used an example in his book “The Tipping Point” about how terrible subway crime was stopped in New York City. Although more complicated than this, it started with the subway management painting over the graffiti on the trains and walls every day. If graffiti appeared, they made every effort to make sure it was gone the next day. What happened next is the vandals and robbers starting seeing this and felt if they are going to this much trouble to paint trains and walls, then we better not do any crimes here. This seemingly small step was laughed at, but it made a huge difference.

The final example is another small one, similar to the above two, courtesy of Steve Jobs. When Jobs built his first plant in China, he was involved in the intricate details. When he was asked what color to the paint the walls, he said white. When he was told that was foolish as it would show dirt and grime, he retorted we will just paint it again. His point is white is a cleaner look and if we keep it clean by repainting, this will show we have great attention to detail and the workers will notice. They will extrapolate that to other areas. This attention to detail continued until right before he died as Jobs had a heavy hand in designing the new headquarters for Apple. He was insistent on having small meeting rooms with white boards along the highly trafficked routes in the halls to the rest rooms and break rooms. The reason is the chance encounters and “hey, what are you working on” hall conversations would lead to idea sharing meetings.

Small steps. Harder problems are made easier if broken down into small steps.These three success stories involved safety and buckets of paint, which few thought were the most important or necessary steps to success. If you break large tasks into smaller steps and try to excel at each step, then the journey will be made easier. No matter how small that step may appear to others, that first step has to be taken. And, suppose you make a mistake along the way; remember the lesson of Steve Jobs and the New York subway – you can always paint over it – and move forward.

Abraham, Martin and John

After the horrific assassinations in 1968, which claimed the lives of two great Americans, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, Dick Holler wrote one the most soft-spoken, yet powerful songs – “Abraham, Martin and John.” It was initially recorded and made famous by Dion, who was a pop icon, yet better known for songs of the genre of “Runaround Sue.” The lyrics follow:

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
You know, I just looked around and he’s gone.

Anybody here seen my old friend John?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
I just looked around and he’s gone.

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
I just looked ’round and he’s gone.

Didn’t you love the things that they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free
Some day soon, and it’s a-gonna be one day …

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill,
With Abraham, Martin and John.

On this 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I was reminded of this song as an ideal tribute to people who fought for those with less. Last night, I watched the most poignant of all versions of this song performed by Moms Mabley at the encouragement of Sammy Davis, Jr. on a televised show hosted by Hugh Hefner over forty years ago. In this unlikely setting, Moms had everyone around her in tears, including herself, Hefner and Davis. To see this performance, please check out “Whoopi Goldberg’s Presents Moms Mabley,” a documentary film that aired this week on HBO. The show by itself is worth it, but this song toward the end elevates Mabley even further.

Paraphrasing Mabley, we need more people using their voice to speak out for injustice. Today, we seem to have a “war on the poor” rather than a “war on poverty.” People are struggling and need to have a voice at the table. We have too many political chess games that forget the pawns. Abraham, Martin, John and Bobby knew this. Let’s do justice to the anniversary of John’s death and not only remember this, but lend our voices, hands and feet.

They did not invent families, people made families

The above is a quote from a grade school child who is part of a divorced family. For someone who is about nine years old, I think it speaks volumes. I caught a documentary on HBO that is called “Don’t Divorce Me! Kids’ Rules for Parents on Divorce.” This show is both illuminating as well as heartbreaking. It also shows how kids have to grow up more quickly when divorce occurs.

As one young girl said, “First, you cry a lot and get scared. Then, eventually you learn to live with it.” The point of the quote is divorce requires you to make your family work. The parents and eventually step-parents can make the lives of the children miserable or the best they can be under the circumstances. A few rules came out of the mouths of these children which are helpful to reflect on, even if the parents are not divorced.

Don’t take out your anger with each other on the kids.

– Try to live close enough to one another, so it is easier to be with both.

– Remember to spend time with the kids.

– Treat the other parent as nicely as you can.

There are more rules, but these are the four key takeaways that I gleaned. On the second point, they asked one child where he lived and his response was telling – “I live in the car.” He is constantly being shepherded from one parent’s house to the other’s and to various events in-between.

Yet, let me add that if you erase the discussion about divorce and insert the traveling in the car for the second rule above, these rules can apply equally to parents who are not divorced. Think about it. If we do these things as parents, regardless of whether we are married or divorced, the children will be better served. My wife and I are by no means perfect and have made mistakes as parents. One of the things we insist on is being civil to each other in our house, whether it is among siblings or adults. Another is being on the same page. When an issue arises with one of our children, we parents talk about the best way to approach the child or apprise the other of what we said or did for reinforcement, validation or to ask “did I handle that well?”

The final point above is to spend time with your kids. This is something we all could be better at, the writer included. I would also suggest to not over schedule your children in team sports, plays, music training, etc. If your child is in three things outside of school at one time, that is at least one to many, depending on the amount of practice time. The parents and children get frazzled and are being chauffeured from practice to practice. What suffers is the family meals, which are one of the few areas we try to get right and I would highly recommend to any parents. Plus, frazzled parents make less effective parents as they are stressed and will say or act out in haste.

Being a parent takes an effort. If I could add one rule to the above it is to remember your sense of humor. Parents are not perfect, so we should not expect our kids to be. They will mess up and make mistakes. They will do stuff we did as children or will disagree with our points of view. I shared with our Australian friend Judy (who writes an excellent blog called “Raising the Curtain” at http://raisingthecurtain.net/ ) that my wife and I started sharing our mistakes with our children to show that we are not perfect, survived and learned from our mistakes and can look back on them and laugh. Our kids react well to these anecdotes.

“They did not invent families, people made families.” These words are quite profound. From the mouths of babes…

The Republican Response to Climate Change is “Mindless” per a Former GOP Governor/ EPA Head

The above quoted phrase is from an interview with former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman who was the keynote speaker at the Charlotte Chamber’s annual Energy Summit. Whitman also served as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President George W. Bush. After her discussion which she promoted the use of nuclear power as a part of an all of the above strategy that must include more alternative energy, she was interviewed by Bruce Henderson of The Charlotte Observer. The questions below and responses are from this interview which was reported under the title “Ex-EPA chief Whitman promotes nuclear power” in the November 16, 2013 edition.

“Q. What’s your view of climate change?” A. Climate change is real. If you don’t think that, you haven’t been outside or read the newspaper or watched television for the last couple of years. We are getting more frequent, more severe storms and droughts and floods, all of that. But Earth’s climate has been changing since it was formed. We had an ice age. That went away and we weren’t around to screw that up. However, to think that what we’re putting into the atmosphere is not having an impact on climate change and Earth’s ability to regulate itself I think is being naive. The point is, the climate is changing, the sea level is rising, we’re losing the ice caps, and we need to prepare.

Q. How do you explain the conservative Republican response to climate change? A. The response is mindless. It is absolutely clear now – you can’t find a credible scientist who says that climate change isn’t occurring. You will find a difference as to what degree they believe the human impact is exacerbating a natural trend. It was Ronald Reagan who made climate change a regular part of the National Security Council agenda. (Republicans) should own environment anyway if you go back to the first public lands set aside, Abraham Lincoln and Yosemite, and then you have Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon who established the EPA. It’s our issue. Its more a (current) reaction to, we don’t want government anywhere, anytime, anyhow that the hard-line libertarian streak is fueling.” 

Since her purpose is to shake up her party, I will leave her words to resonate as is. As an Independent voter who left the Republican party in 2006, one reason being its stance on global warming, I find that her attempts to help the GOP join the conversation that is already occurring refreshing and long overdue. Bruce Henderson’s article can be found on www.charlotteobserver.com if interested in reading the full interview.

Obamacare – a few reminders and successful anecdote

As I mentioned in earlier posts, Obamacare, while imperfect, complex and rolled out poorly, moves the ball forward in a major way to address our uninsured problem in the US. The website difficulties are being fixed, but it is important to remember a few things. Early implemented parts of the law have already extended coverage to 3 million young adults, eliminated the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions on children (adults will get this on January 1,2014), eliminated lifetime maximum benefit limits, improved prescription drug benefits for seniors, restricted the profit margin on insurance premiums leading to policyholder rebates the last two summers to name a few key changes thus far. 

This law, which is largely a GOP idea, has been fought every step of the way with some GOP led states like my own in North Carolina not expanding Medicaid and offering state exchanges, both of which have led to increased premiums in the North Carolina version of the federal exchange markets and the former harming our impoverished citizens and state economy. For those who lost coverage like me (this is not news), if you make less than $111,000 as a family of five, e.g. (it varies by family size), you will also benefit from a subsidy on the exchange which will decrease your net premium. Note, a key reason for higher premiums for some is the elimination of the pre-existing limitation on coverage.

Enough about that, let’s use a real example, as this will be where the rubber hits the road. As noted above, my family is losing coverage under the individual market, but this is not a surprise, because my new insurance company told me this would happen when I signed up in May. I should add one of my adult children is losing coverage as well because we had to get a high risk pool policy, as he was denied by the insurance company because of a pre-existing condition. This denial will not happen under the new law, as noted above, which is a huge selling point.

So, I knew that our coverages would cease on December 31 and was waiting for the federal exchange options to be offered. With the new pricing structure to recognize the better benefits, the elimination of the pre-existing condition limitation, health care inflation and the impact of my state not expanding Medicaid which increased the cost in NC, because of my age I was one of the people looking at a premium increase for a slightly worse coverage plan without the subsidy. So, I shopped on the exchanges and here is what I can do, without a subsidy:

Keep slightly worse coverage levels with my current provider and $200 per month higher cost than both plans we have now for my son and everyone else;

-Obtain a similar plan through another insurance company with $55 per month less cost than we pay now;

– Obtain better coverage through another insurance company for about $160 per month more than my current plan, but less than the one offered by them above.

All of our doctors are in both networks, so that is not an issue, but this is very important in people’s decision-making. We will actually be doing the third option due to the better family coverage, although the second choice was tempting.

Now, again this is without the subsidy. So, with the subsidies shoppers will be seeing even lesser premiums than what is indicated above.  So, a few takeaways. If your coverage is ceased, don’t panic and look at the options that are available. If your family income is beneath 4 x the poverty limit ($111,000 for a family of five, $94,000 for a family of four, e.g.) then you will get an additional price break.

But, also note the following. If your state did not expand Medicaid, the cost of plans under the exchanges will be higher. If your state did not push a state based exchange, the competition is likely to be among fewer insurance companies, so the exchange cost options will tend to be higher. Obama deserves all the criticism he is getting on the poor rollout of the website and not being painstakingly thorough on what was going to happen. Yet, the GOP machinations are driving costs up as well with these two issues and not working to make this complex law better since election last fall, choosing to not support the education efforts and voting to repeal it over 40 times. I have been a broken record on this issue even before the election – make it better, not stand in its way.

People need to give the new law a chance and look at the options available. States that did not expand Medicaid need to strongly rethink this, as they are harming people and their state economies, so say the Rand Corporation and Kaiser Foundation. What was less noticed with the numbers announcement on exchange enrolments this week, was that 390,000 people have signed up for the Medicaid expansion in October.

But, all of this will be compromised if Obama’s team does not keep improving the website.

War is old men talking, young men fighting

The above title is a paraphrased line from the movie “Troy” and while I cannot find it among any of the quotes from Homer’s “Iliad” it still resonates with me. Achilles is highly frustrated with Agamemnon and the other kings celebrating the day’s victory in battle, which none of them fought in. He is counseled with these words. You know what war is all about – “war is old men talking and young men fighting.” I use this quote today to honor our men and women who have fought in battles. They are the ones who put their lives in harm’s way and it is they who should be commended.

If you fought for your country, whether the cause was justified or not, you deserve to be honored. When you are lying in the mud or a foxhole and are being shot at, whether we went into a war without good cause is moot. You are there doing your job in the direst of circumstances. Our country learned that lesson from Vietnam where returning veterans did not get treated with the proper respect. This war dragged on and people asked why are we sending our teenagers and young adults to die over there?

We have similar kind of war going on which began in Iraq and has continued into Afghanistan. We have been doing this for over ten years. The reason for being there has now been called into question, yet there we still sit. However, the lesson we learned from Vietnam has at least helped Americans treat our troops better. They did not pick the fight with Iraq or Afghanistan, yet they are there to fight it our battles for us.

And, there is one other similarity to Vietnam and the gulf wars which makes it so tough on our troops and causes even more PTSD. The enemy combatants are hiding among the civilians. Our troops have to be on their guard even more, as they do not want to kill innocent people, yet the innocents don’t have a “red jersey” on like a quarterback in practice which says don’t hit me. This has to create a greater stress level to an already stressed situation.

What I don’t care for is when old men get together to discuss sending young people in harm’s way without doing their due diligence. Let’s just bomb Iran and get it over with you will hear some old men say, such as Asher Edelman at a recent speech. Or, let’s just invade Syria as some members of Congress and Senate have stated. This may be the reason I hold Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove in lesser regard as they sent Americans to die under false pretenses in Iraq. My thesis is before you commit Americans to die, do our country, soldiers and their families the duty of making damn sure we have exhausted every other means. I don’t fault the President at all for wanting to go to Congress rather than just bomb Syria for the chemical weapons. Now, we have a diplomatic solution that may lead to more discussions.

So, let’s honor our Veterans. They have done our country a great service and some have paid the dearest price with their lives, minds and bodies. Let’s honor them by doing our homework to avoid conflict whenever possible and taking care of them when they return. We have too many veterans wandering the streets when they get back and too many waiting in line for disability and medical help. We need to fight less and serve them more. Thanks for your service.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

An age-old problem has only been made worse with the proliferation of technology and social media outlets. Our ability to access information and broadcast such to millions has now made the actual execution of a bad idea even more clinical. In other words, people are so removed from the pain they inflict, the question of whether they should do something becomes prey to situational ethics, if that word is even part of the thought-process. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

An example occurred earlier this week when Jimmy Kimmel interviewed some kids about the government shutdown. When he shared with the kids that we owe China over a trillion dollars in debt payments, he asked what we should do about it? One of the children responded that “we could kill all the Chinese.” When I first saw this online, I winced. There are times when humor oversteps its boundaries and this was one of them. The footage of this video has been aired in China and plays into anti-Chinese rhetoric. Kimmel has apologized profusely on air and to protestors outside his studio. He knows now he and his producers showed poor stewardship and overstepped boundaries. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Also this morning, I saw a political cartoon which has a line of an attack that I find offensive. The cartoon was lampooning Governor Chris Christie over his weight by suggesting he was torn between running for president and eating a dozen doughnuts. I felt this was out of line and have felt similarly when Bill Maher and others have done fat jokes at Christie’s expense. I watch Maher’s show as I like that he has different kinds of guests who discuss the issues of the day that are not discussed as much by other sources. I also enjoy much of his humor, but even Maher crosses lines that he should not cross. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

As I sit here, I don’t know why anyone would want to be in the public eye. With that notoriety comes the exposure of every thing about you online and through friends or confidantes wanting to break a story. Each of us are more exposed than ever, so beware of what you put in the public domain. Just ask the Toronto mayor about the video footage of his indiscretions that keep coming out of the woodwork. Further, it makes it difficult to be candid in public because your words can be taken out of context and used against you. So, even when you try to be good or provocative, your misused words can haunt you.

When John McCain was first running for President against George W. Bush, he was actually ahead of Bush in early polls after a win in New Hampshire. Yet, he was derailed by Bush’s political team in South Carolina. Among other things, it was pushed into the public eye that he had fathered a black child out-of-wedlock, which played right into extreme conservative views. The real story was he and his wife adopted a girl of Bangladeshi descent. From Wikipedia,  “It didn’t take much research to turn up a seemingly innocuous fact about the McCains: John and his wife, Cindy, have an adopted daughter named Bridget. Cindy found Bridget at Mother Theresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh, brought her to the United States for medical treatment, and the family ultimately adopted her.” Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

I am also frustrated when people, who were in lock-step with the beliefs of a public figure working side-by-side to promote a cause, decide to do a tell all book after parting company. In other words, they air dirty laundry to promote sales of their book or create more paid appearances. If they were that aggrieved by the individual, then why did they not resign or try to change the individual’s beliefs? You tried to sell us this person as a candidate or entertainer before and now you want to make money off that exposure to tell us how many problems they had. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Let me close with the following observation. Stephen Colbert invented a word for our times called “truthiness” which implies everyone has a his or her own version of the truth. There are so many distortions of information in the public domain, once aired they are out there for Google searches. It takes a concerted effort to ascertain whether something is a genuine source of data and if the opinion giver is well grounded. Unfortunately, while more truths can now be accessed by the many, more misinformation and disinformation is out there disguised as truth. People in power and running for office know this and many use this power to misinform or disinform you. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.