Do yourself a favor and try this

A few weeks ago I wrote about the need to connect more with people, highlighting the role of dot connectors. I value the effort and talent of those who reach out to people to find common ground. We need more of this in the world.

If you are not inclined to do this, I want you to try something for a few days or even a week. As you pay for services or ask for help in any retail store, coffee shop, or supermarket, make a nice comment to the cashier or associate. It can be very simple such as “I hope you are having a good day,” or it could be something related to that person. Often, I find myself commenting on interesting names, tattoos, or just because the person had an effervescent smile.

Life is too short not to make conversation. And, you just might be making someone’s day who has been on his or her feet for several hours. I am reminded of the true story about the manager of a grocery store rushing out of his office to see all the paying customers in one line. He encouraged them to go to another line, but they wanted to stay in that one.

Why would they do that? The bagger for the line was an autistic teenager, but that is not the whole story. The teen was so moved by a speech the president of the company had made to all store staff when he dropped in the previous week, the teen had taken action. The president said “You are the company. You represent us to our customers. How they are treated is important.”

The young man went home and he worked with his mother to prepared little sayings on cut up index cards. His well wishes ranged from “Thank you for coming here” toHave a great day” to “Your business is important to us.” He would place these little well wishes in each shopper’s bag. So, the shoppers would flock to him each time they and he was in the store. They felt good about receiving his well wishes and wanted him to know it.

It only takes a few words to make a difference. After your trial period, take a pulse and see if this impacted others as well as you. It makes me feel good to touch someone like that. It is not uncommon for me to learn something new through conversation. Thanks for spending some time with me today.

 

The candidate scared of a woman with microphone

I find it amusing that a man running for President, who is touting how tough he will be with our enemies, is running scared. No, Donald Trump is not scared of terrorists, he is scared of Megyn Kelly of Fox News.

He has taken his sand toys out of the sand box and won’t be appearing on the next GOP Debate aired by Fox. The reason is Megyn Kelly who he feels is biased against him. She just might ask him a question he does not like as she did the last time. Or, as reported this morning, he doesn’t want his competition bringing up milestone statements from his history. His previous stances on issues like abortion or healthcare or his several bankruptcies and numerous litigations, might make him uncomfortable.

Truth be told, The Donald does not like anyone asking him questions. His candidacy is built on a foundation of attitude, platitudes and lies, so when someone asks him a legitimate question, he dodges it and then cries foul or calls him or her stupid, disabled, fat or loser. Like he did the other day with one reporter, he may even ask for an apology. Think about that for a second. Or, like he did with Chris Matthews the other evening, he may just continually not answer a specific question on his error of accusing the President of being born non-American.

Everything a voter needs to know about The Donald’s veracity as a candidate is in his history. Coupling that with his very-unpresidential discourse throughout the campaign demeaning most groups and individuals that get in his way, he does not present himself well as a candidate. Plus, he has even taken a shot at his own followers, in essence saying they are so blindly loyal, he could shoot someone and they would still vote for him. I do not care that he wraps himself in a blanket of political incorrectness, yet he has the thinnest of skins and is very litigious. Being political incorrect does not give you license to lie as evidence by a 76% untruthful record per non-partisan fact checkers.

But, back to the debate sand box. If he cannot stand up to questions from anyone, but in particular, a network female reporter who he also insulted for her earlier questions, how will he interact with leaders of other countries, both male and female? How will he react when Angela Merkel or Christine LaGarde disagree with his position? Will he make remarks about their times of the month like he did with Kelly, say how disgusting it is that they go to the bathroom like he did with Hillary Clinton or call them out on their looks like he did with Carly Fiorina.

People are going to vote for whom they see fit. But, this candidate needs to answer a lot more questions. His history and conduct warrant it.

 

What movies disappointed you?

Going to a movie these days requires a microloan. With the price of tickets, the obligatory overfilled popcorn and two huge drinks that you need two hands to hold, a movie date runs US$40 or more. Once you are settled in your seats, you are tempted by movie trailers of future movies, which you and your date will comment on regarding the relative merits of seeing each.

One of the disappointments in going to the movies is seeing one for which you had high expectations, but it falling flat. Some comedies will have their only funny scenes in the trailers. Once you see the movie, you realize that you had already seen its Sunday best and could have saved yourself $40. Or, you may select one based on the cast of stars, only to realize that familiar faces cannot perfume a pig. Or, it may be based on a favorite novel or TV show, and leave you lacking.

At the risk of offending those who liked these movies, a few that come to mind are as follows. If you agree or disagree, please do not hesitate to reiterate or challenge my opinion. Maybe, I need to give some a second look. But, note I prefer plot and dialogue in movies. Action movies are fine, but they need to have a story somewhere within.

August, Osage County – This movie had all the making of a great film, with Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper leading a very good cast. Yet, unless you like dysfunctional families that are not very endearing, screaming at each other for the duration of the movie, you might want to pass.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – The original version starred Audrey Hepburn (who I adore) and George Peppard as two people who made a habit of leeching off other people. So, it was hard to pull for these less than endearing people. Yet, what made this movie voted the second most racist movie of all time is Mickey Rooney playing an over the top Asian-American man who lived in the upstairs apartment. For younger folks, Rooney is not Asian and his portrayal of this character was offensive. The movie highlight is the introduction of the song “Moon River.”

Austin Powers Films – I generally like Mike Myers, but I must confess my wife is not a huge fan. But, at the recommendation of Bob, a good friend, who said we must see this movie, we shelled out our $40. About halfway through the movie, my wife looks at me and says “I am going to kill Bob.” I know many liked this series of movies, but it was way too childish for my tastes. I may get some pushback on this one, but we stopped at one Austin Powers movie.

Tarzan, the Ape Man – I hesitated to put this on the list, as several guys went with me to see Bo Derek (of the movie “Ten”) tell the Tarzan story from Jane’s perspective. We should have known better, so technically it could have been left off this list. After a few minutes you realize that her beauty cannot overcome a very terrible movie. We should have also realized the movie “Ten” was good because of Dudley Moore’s bumbling comedy, not Derek’s ten-like looks.

A Bridge Too Far – This movie was not horrible, but it had one of the largest, most elite casts I have ever seen. It had the makings of a great, blockbuster film. It is a WWII movie about a failed mission, which should have been a clue to the producers. It just meandered through to an unexciting end. If it came up for free access, I may watch it to see if I missed something, but would not spend money to rent it.

The Razor’s Edge – One of the most poorly titled movie’s ever, starring Bill Murray. This movie left you nowhere near the edge of your seat as it plodded along. Even though it is based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham, it left me wanting so much more. Since that was the theme of the book, maybe wanting more from the movie was a goal, which was successfully met.

Please offer up some of your disappointments. I recognize movie disappointments do not compare well to the problems in our world, but please look at this as a diversion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is hard for Cruz to be a solution

Saying people are angry with Washington is sloppy reporting and does a disservice to the problem. There is a large group who is angry for the legislators not collaborating enough to get things done. Then, there is a group who is angry that their representatives are not strident enough in their convictions to only get things done their way. Let’s set aside the veracity or lack thereof of those convictions.

The latter group has been tapped into by the two men leading the GOP race. The problem is they are angry at the wrong people. Senator Ted Cruz is one of those leaders of the strident group and advocates that he is the solution. That is difficult for me to fathom, as Ted Cruz is part of the problem.

Cruz is a grandstander who has made an effort to not work with his colleagues at any level. He has ridiculed the leadership, embarrassing them on occasion. As a result, his senate colleagues will not go to bat for him. It should be noted when Senator John McCain’s birth in the US Panama Canal Zone became a minor issue, the Senate passed a bill that said just to make sure, this is not a problem. With the issue over Cruz’ birth in Canada becoming an issue, he should not expect a hall pass from the Senate. That speaks volumes.

And, he personally shut our government down for 16 days. The President had to cancel his attendance at two important international trade meetings, which is a key role for the position of President. If it were not for ten female Senators, the US would have defaulted on some debt, which would have been a horrible move per other countries and the head of the International Monetary Fund. This is as good an example of why Cruz would be such a disaster as President.

Yet, if we get back to what I set aside, Cruz is also part of the problem based on his positions. His bellicose rhetoric about carpet bombing shows his ignorance of the challenges of the Middle East. While not as blatant as Trump he has demonized more than a few groups of people. And, Cruz tends to overlook facts when he criticizes policies. If it is not his way, then it cannot be working.

Most Americans want Congress and the President to get things done. They want collaboration. Cruz just wants the attention. He wants it to be his way or no way. He is not the solution. Ted Cruz is part of the problem.

Do you know…


Do you know the following facts? They are all true, so feel free to verify them and use them as you deem appropriate.

The famous Chrysler CEO, Lee Iacocca, designed the first Ford Mustang using the underpinnings of a Ford Falcon, fulfilling an idea to have a sports car for the masses.

The auto industry sold more cars and light trucks in the US in 2015 than in any year previously, with 17.5 million total topping the previous high of 17.4 million in 2000, back when Bill Clinton was President.

The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr is left-handed and played drums on a right-handed drum kit giving him a unique sound.

The US has had 71 consecutive months of job growth, one of the longest periods ever and later this year, unless the economy turns as a result of China’s slowing economy, we will have the 4th longest economic growth period in US history.

The words to “A Natural Woman” sung by Aretha Franklin were written by a man, Gerry Goffin, who was married to and a partner of Carole King. They wrote the song in less than 24 hours after a chance meeting with a record producer on a New York City street. The producer rolled his car window down and asked if they could write a song for Aretha by tomorrow.

The President who was in office when the greatest number of jobs were created was Bill Clinton at 22.8 million jobs, even more than during FDR’s presidency. Ronald Reagan oversaw the third most job growth at 16.1 million according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The songwriter of “Crazy” made famous by the late Patsy Cline was none other than Willie Nelson. A great moment in the movie “Doc Hollywood,” with Michael J. Fox, is when this song is played at a dance, showing it remains a great love song many years later and no one could sing Willie’s song like Patsy.

The US stock market, as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, has almost doubled in value since January 23, 2009, just after President Barack Obama was sworn in, even with the fall off the first few weeks of this year. On January 23, 2009, the DJIA was $8,078 and it closed yesterday at $15,883.

The late Glenn Frey of The Eagles had his first professional experience playing acoustic guitar and singing background on Bob Seger’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” Seger encourage Frey to have his own band and they remained friends until he died. Frey will be missed.

According to the US Department of Energy, in 2014 Iowa led the nation by producing 28 percent of its electricity from wind power, followed by South Dakota at 25 percent and Kansas at 22%. Wind energy provided more than 15 percent of electricity in a total of seven states, more than 10 percent in a total of nine states, and more than five percent in a total of 19 states. Texas and California are the largest producers in terms of Megawatts.

David Bowie and Bing Crosby once sang a Christmas carol duet on Crosby’s Christmas show that was stunningly poignant. They blended new lyrics which Bowie sang while Crosby sang “Lil’ Drummer Boy.” Bowie will be missed.

Martin Luther King did not intend to deliver his famous “I Have Dream Speech” as it was delivered. He had a different theme in mind. When MLK ad-libbed a line away from his prepared speech, the famous Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson cried out to him to “Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!” as she had heard him speak of it before. MLK set aside his prepared remarks and gave one of the most famous speeches of our time or any time.

Steve Jobs biological parents immigrated from Syria to the US. Think about that for a while. Would we have Apple today, if he had not been born here?

Keep seeking the truth. We need more of it, especially with so many leaders, politicians and so-called news sources taking liberties with it.

 

 

 

It is not just surplus oil driving prices down

As many know, the price of gas continues to fall. Drivers have been smiling at the gas pump paying US$25 rather than US$50 each fill-up. It is obviously related to the price of a barrel of oil which is beneath US$30.

A key cause for the falling price per barrel is the glut or surplus supply in the market. It was already high, but Saudi Arabia decided to keep producing. Now, we are about to see Iran release more oil when the sanctions are lifted. This may drive the price down even further.

But, is it only related to the glut? There have been three trends that have and will continue to impact the demand side. First, as started by President George W. Bush and ratcheted up by President Obama, new cars must have increasingly higher miles per gallon (mpg) requirements. In 2015, there were more cars sold in America than ever before, which means buyers’ replacement vehicles will likely have better mileage. Even a new truck will have better mpg than the one it replaces.

Second, an increasing number of hybrid cars are being sold. It is no longer rare to see hybrids on the road. And, electric cars are starting to sell, but the pace is where hybrids were a few years back. It should be noted one of the new Teslas is the highest rated car ever. Once battery storage permits longer usage than today, the electric cars may take off.

Third, there has been a noticeable trend toward fewer licensed drivers, with younger people foregoing the license.  People are choosing to live in urban areas where a car is not needed. Plus, with more transactions online, they can reduce the number of trips to the store or for entertainment. Car sharing, ride sharing, mass transit, and cheaper taxi services are creating downward pressure on demand for gas and, as a result, oil.

So, we are embarking down a path of a new normal. The counterbalance is the growing number of drivers in emerging markets, but even that growth may pull back some with obvious congestion and air pollution. Plus, lower gas prices means more car travel.

The times are indeed a changing. And, our fossil fuel industries may need to accelerate their thinking in renewable energy sources for future revenue. The new normal may cause the recovered price of oil to fall short of the old price level, once the glut is used up.

If you want to enter Bill’s history into the race….

Let me state up front that I did not vote for Bill Clinton for President either time he ran, as I was a Republican at the time. Now that I am an Independent and with the advantage of history, I can look back more clinically at his presidency.

I mention this as Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the GOP primary race, wants Former President Bill Clinton’s history as a philanderer to be fair game for the Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s race for the White House. My advice for Mr. Trump is be careful of what you ask for, as all of Bill’s history as a president should then be included. You cannot pick the parts you like.

It is a matter of record that Bill was a philanderer. His wife, in a highly personal decision, has decided to stick by her husband. And, like only 50% of Americans who married, they remain married today. So, it is not our position to judge her decision as it is not hers to judge other married women in a similar situation. But, if The Donald wants to adjudicate Bill’s philandering, he is a big boy and can bring it up all he likes.

Yet, he needs to be mindful that all of Bill’s record now is fair game. His was the presidency that produced the greatest job growth of any president, including FDR’s. While Ronald Reagan had the best numbers as a Republican president, Reagan trails Bill Clinton’s numbers by 6.8 million jobs per the Bureau of Labor statistics (22.9 versus 16.1 million)

Further, when Bill left office, he handed George W. Bush a surplus budget. Clinton worked with Congress to outsource certain government functions and with the economy clicking on all cylinders and with no wars under his watch, the budget was balanced and had a little surplus. Plus, working with Congress significant legislation was passed to help disabled Americans. And, per David Smick, who wrote “The World is Curved,” and was an economic advisor to Reagan, Jack Kemp and Clinton, the latter was big on international trade just like Reagan.

It should be noted, his presidency was not perfect, as none are, so there a few issues that could have been done better. I was not a fan of the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which let banks get into more business. I felt we under-reacted to a small bombing on the USS Cole and should have made a more demonstrable retaliation. But, he did keep us out of war, so that cannot be overlooked.

The interesting tidbit in this equation is if Hillary wins the White House, Bill will be in a very unique role of First Gentleman. Now, with his philandering record, he may not qualify for the term “Gentleman,” but he would be in a position to share his opinions if asked, by his Presidential wife. And, with that successful track record as echoed by a 62% favorability rating when he left office, that would not be a bad thing.

Breaking down barriers

We seemed to have lost our compass these days. We have far too many people looking for ways to divide or differentiate, and are far too few who are having success in breaking down barriers. Or, maybe it is our so-called leaders or “wanna-be leaders,” who are not showing much leadership. While we should value diversity, in many respects, the more we learn about one another, the more we seem to be the same.

At the end of the day, people want opportunity. They want their families to be safe, secure and nourished. They want to find a loved one or a group that can become their family or kinship. They want to be dealt with fairly and want to do the same with others. They expect our leaders to promote social welfare and security, not be the reason it does not exist.

Poor leaders sell fear. They demonize and differentiate. They fall short of the aspirations of their religious texts. Poor leaders take too much credit, patting themselves on the back too much “saying look how great I am.” Better leaders do the opposite or less of the former. They are inclusive and want people to prosper. In the words of FDR, “we do well, when we all do well.”

Yet, this cannot fall to our leaders alone. We need to celebrate our dot connectors. These are the folks who connect people in a variety of ways. These are the folks who seek common ground, not looking to divide. These are the folks who see first hand how similar we are. These informal leaders are as or even more important than our formal ones. They are more trusted and advocate for people. They are our compasses.

As we interact in our daily lives, I want you to recognize the dot connectors you know. They may be someone in your religious group. They may be an ardent volunteer who helps people in need. They may be a colleague who is always creating employee interactions. They may be someone online, who people gravitate toward, as the dot connector can find some good in others or some form of connection. Emulate these compasses. They break down barriers.

As for the fear sellers and mongers, reduce your exposure to these folks. Do not vote for them either, as they are the exact opposite of good leadership. Just because someone has success, does not necessarily make them a good leader. Businesses make this mistake all the time, promoting a successful seller to a leadership role only to see them fail.

Let’s find our compasses and appreciate what they do. And, let’s be like them and not the fear sellers.

 

Some pretty cool things have happened in healthcare

For a few years, a couple of cool things have taken shape in healthcare. Insurers are required to issue coverage and can no longer drop you if you have a health issue like diabetes, depression or chronic leukemia. This is of huge importance.

The insurance companies are limited on the percent of profits off your premiums and must refund excess profit which they have done for the last three years. They also can no longer limit lifetime benefits, which is huge if you have a major problem with ongoing complications.

The insurance companies must provide preventive benefits without deductibles. Plus, kids who are under age 26 can stay on a parent’s plan if needed. Previously, the kids had to be in college.

To top it off, people who make as much as $96,000 with a family of four can get their premiums subsidized, in part or in fall, depending on your income. Like all healthcare insurance it can be confusing, but it is a good deal for many folks. If you do not have coverage, you should look into it. You can learn more at http://www.healthcare.gov.

Three Current Movies worth seeing

I just completed watching a triumvirate of movies that deal with three uphill battles against institutions, where the latter had either harmed or took advantage of others. These movies are based on true stories and are worth our time to learn from what corruption can do and how hard it is to fight and expose it.

The three movies are “Spotlight,” “The Big Short,” and “Concussion.” I will give you a glimpse of each below, without stealing too much thunder. It is hard to avoid being a spoiler, as these stories are more widely known at this point. But, some of the challenges and stories beneath the corruption are not public knowledge.

Spotlight

The more sober of the three movies, but extremely well done, is the pursuit of a series of stories by reporters within a special investigative unit of The Boston Globe called Spotlight. This unit ties together what turns out to be a significant cover up of pedophile priests in the Boston area. This story helped shine a spotlight on a much bigger problem that was not restricted to Boston.

It has an excellent ensemble cast with Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel MacAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Billy Crudup, Jamey Sheridan and Stanley Tucci. Tucci, in particular, is excellent as an attorney who is painted eccentric, but is the stalwart behind the kids who have been abused. And, the young adults who played the abused kids as adults are marvelous.

The movie will have the feel of “All the President’s Men,” as a team with support from the Editor try to get the story right before they go public. It is what good journalism represents and what is missing in so many places today.

The Big Short

This movie was directed by a comedy director, Adam McKay, based on the book by Michael Lewis on four groups of people who saw the housing meltdown in the US coming and tried to warn others. When they were laughed at, they helped the same bankers create an insurance product that would, in essence, allow them to short the market before it fell. They were laughed at in doing this as well and the banks gladly took their premiums.The one problem for the big bankers and investment community is these guys were right.

The movie has an all star cast with Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Marisa Tomei and Finn Wittrock plus several other good performances. Since the topic could be very dry, the director, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Randolph, peppers the film with a few cameos to explain what is going in layperson’s terms. Pitt serves as the conscious of the movie when he tells the guys not to celebrate too much as their gain means people will lose their homes and jobs.

Many parts of the industry are not shown in a favorable light, nor should be. From aggressive mortgage sales people who sold complex mortgages to people who did not fully understand them because they made more money off them to lenders who packaged high risk mortgages together and then sold them to investors to the rating agencies who sold their ratings for market share growth, there are many who are at fault. Of all of these groups, I have always held the rating agencies as the most blameworthy, as we trusted them the most.

Concussion

This is the movie the NFL did not want people to see. Just like the Catholic Church with abused kids, the NFL leadership covered up knowledge about their concussion problem. The also went to great lengths to discredit a Nigerian born pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who had significant other credentials, when he discovered that trauma from football eventually took the life of Mike Webster, a retired Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Will Smith plays Omalu quite convincingly, with key roles played by Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, David Morse, Adewale Akinnuoye, Luke Wilson and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Mbatha-Raw plays Omalu’s wife and you may remember her from “Belle” and “Larry Crown.” Morse does an excellent job as Webster, showing what transpired following his career. But, the movie is about Smith and his excellent portrayal of Omalu.

Each of these movies shows what corruption can lead to. The Catholic Church and NFL were both more interested in protecting their institutions than considering the victims. The Church preyed on its faithful flock to remain silent while they moved pedophile priests around. The NFL was more interested in band aiding its players while they served their game’s interests, then abandoning these men when they needed help. The players were unaware that their brains were being harmed as much as they were.

The financial sector also preyed on people through greed and arrogance. People were selling and trading stuff they did not fully understand and people were being harmed. Countries were being harmed. As a result, their bossed did not fully understand the risk, nor did their shareholders. Nor did the regulators.

Why does it take a Bennet Omalu, team of reporters or savvy investors to uncover the truth. These are the modern day “Erin Brockovich” with different institutional targets. If you have seen these movies, let me know your feedback. If you have not, I would still love your opinions.