Forty years later after high school

Last weekend, I attended my 40th high school reunion. We have been holding them religiously every five years, with a 55th birthday celebration thrown in. I have attended five of the reunions over the years. Let me give credit to Karen and Tanya as our stellar reunion coordinators, who have made it all happen.

At the Saturday dinner and dance, the alumni wore tags with our senior picture and names. The married females who changed their names had maiden names highlighted for our memory banks. The guy in my picture had far more and darker hair and a thinner face. The unseen torso was thinner as well.

Frank and Glenn, two of my three best friends, were there and made it more special. John is not a reunion afficionado. Yet, seeing other good friends, acquaintances and classmates was fun. We learned of children, grandchildren, illnesses and recoveries, and some who are struggling. There are several of us who can trace our histories back to the same elementary school, which adds more seasoning to our collective stew.

The music was vintage 1970s with a little 1980s thrown in. We graduated in the disco age, which may not be the greatest lyrical music, but does lend itself to dancing. Even us oldies can move if the inspiration is supplied. That inspiration  would include The Commodores, The Spinners, KC and the Sunshine Band, Earth Wind and Fire, Donna Summer and The Bee Gees to name a few.

The stories were plentiful. Here are a few remembrances from years past:

  • Cheryl  could never keep a rear view mirror on her car, as it kept breaking off as she and her friend kept shifting it to put on lipstick and make-up.
  • Jimmy could shoot a basketball from such long-range, he once made one from downtown, but the referee waived it off because he stepped out of bounds.
  • Randy would be seen running when we went to the beach and we would see him still running when we came back.
  • Our biology teacher called everyone Professor, so we would refer to each other in the halls and in class in that manner.
  • Returning from a baseball games still in uniform, we came up to a toll bridge. We realized our money was in the trunk, so a quick run was needed to get the quarter (yes, a quarter).
  • We used to wear these ugly leisure suits with wide collared floral patterns. The first time I wore mine, my girlfriend burned a hole in it with her cigarette while dancing.
  • Our German teacher looked like Mr. Clean. When we perplexed him, he would pull at his bushy eyebrows. Alternatively, he would rub his eyes with the palms of his hands.
  • My best basketball game was when I had to borrow Frank’s shoes. Frank, of course, attributes my new scoring touch with his shoes.
  • The older bully who tormented our class is now a high school principal. Our class life of the party is now a minister. You just never know where your journey will take you.
  • Becky, one of our talented gymnastics and dancers, just retired from teaching arts and dance.
  • Frank became the sports reporter he planned to be and now has a sports talk show. Sherri, Glenn’s wife, laughs and teases Frank about being paid to talk the way he always talks.
  • Speaking of Glenn and Sherri, they met at our high school and remain married to this day. Jimmy and Rhonda are as well. That is unusual in this day and age.

I could go on, but suffice it to say, it is nice to have this foundation of people and memories. I hope we will continue.

The AR-15: the weapon of choice for mass murderers

According to a report on PBS Newshour this week, the weapon used by the Orlando shooter is the AR-15. Apparently, it is the weapon of choice of mass murderers and was even used in the Sandy Hook school shooting. See the link below to the news report.

This weapon is designed to kill efficiently and brutally. It fires 30 rounds of ammo at a time, in bursts of three. Its bullets are powered by hardware that flops around in its target to increase the size of the wound. The doctors in Orlando said they normally don’t see this many or this large of wounds in their victims.

The 49 victims on early Sunday morning were killed with multiple wounds from this military style weapon. The only difference is the military weapon can fire all 30 bullets in one stream, instead of bursts of three. But, the killer need not worry about this limitation, as he can easily reload a cartridge.

Now, let’s go back in time to the Sandy Hook shooting. Picture the mostly young kids who were killed that day. This military style weapon was used to do lethal damage to their little fragile bodies. I do not mean to insult the memories of the deceased with these comments, but want parents and non-parents to visualize the brutality of this weapon and those like it.

With this in mind, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why should any American need to have a weapon that kills so many with so much efficiency and brutality?
  • Why have we placed people of interest on a no-fly list, yet think it is alright for them to purchase this weapon? Why have legislators in power not allowed a vote on this bill?
  • Why have we not extended background checks on all weapon purchases? This is not a fishing license. It is a weapon to kill.
  • Why have we not elongated waiting periods since 2/3 of gun deaths are suicide?
  • Why would we not want all guns to have fingerprint triggers to prevent a child from murdering his sibling, parent, grandparent, etc. by accidentally discovering a weapon?

Since the assault rifle ban expired in 2005, more than half of mass shootings in America have occurred. With over 1,000 hate groups in America plus other lone wolf radicals, unless we make some of the above changes, mass shootings will continue to occur in our country irrespective of tough talk by politicians on Islamic Radicals. It should be noted the Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Charleston killers were not Muslims, nor was the Indiana man arrested who was on his way to a Gay Pride event in California this past week, with several assault weapons in his vehicle and intent to wreak havoc.

We all must be diligent to watch out for folks, but we could make it easier with some of these changes. We should not hand the killer his weapon without doing some checking.

Please join me in reaching out for change with our elected officials. There is a movement by several Senators to bring some of these issues to a vote.

Bigotry in our Leaders is not the answer

My heart goes out to the victims and their families in Orlando. Let’s keep them in our thoughts and prayers. And, as Frank Langella said at The Tony Awards last night, let us not let this tragedy define or diminish us. Let it strengthen us, as the reaction to Charleston’s terrible church shooting did last year.

Even before the horrific tragedy which claimed the lives of at least 50 Americans, we have allowed bigotry, racism and xenophobia to have too pervasive a place in our dialogue from so-called leaders. Whether they are political, business, governmental or religious so-called leaders or wanna-be leaders, we cannot allow bigotry to go without shining a spotlight on it. Political incorrectness does not mean we can be bigoted.

Conservative columnist Michael Gerson wrote last week about the toxic racism of one of our presidential candidates, saying loudly we cannot have our leaders being and saying racist things. Gerson has been a consistent voice for reason. He notes, historically over the last forty years, that being a racist is a non-starter for a national candidate. We need our leaders to be exemplars of treating folks fairly, not condemning folks for being different.

Yet, it goes well beyond that. One of my pet peeves is when I see bigotry from the pulpit regardless of the religion. Religious leaders should not be using their persuasive powers to divide. To me that is a significant dereliction of duty and is certainly not WWJD, at least in the bible I was taught from. There are no caveats to treating others like you want to be treated. People are listening to these comments and, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, bigotry has to be carefully taught.

Further, we have too much attention paid to discriminating and even demonizing folks who are diverse. In our country, all freedoms are important, whether they be LGBT, Black, Hispanic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, etc. citizens. No one’s freedoms should be more important or infringe on the rights of another’s. Our LGBT friends now have rights like other citizens in America, but there are efforts to restrict those rights, even taking away rights that are older than same-sex marriage. That is unconstitutional.

Our best defense against violence is to celebrate and promote our freedoms. The new Muslim mayor of London noted he is the best kind of argument against Islamic terrorists groups. He shows a Muslim visibly succeeding in the western world. This success counters the divisive narrative of groups like ISIS.

The same holds true in our country, with our elected officials and military members from diverse groups. Muslims are part of our fabric and that community has every right to be an American as any other. LGBT folks have every right as well. We defeat hate by being inclusive and standing up for each other. We defeat hate by all of our citizens being watchdogs for those who may want to perpetuate hate. We also defeat hate by not ostracizing groups of people such as those in the LGBT community.

There are over 1,000 hate groups in the United States that have nothing to do with Islam. These hate groups include folks who are disenfranchised. Yet, we also have Muslim folks who are disenfranchised and are being recruited on line. The Muslim and non-Muslim communities must be vigilant to watch for folks who may be so inclined. The enemy is those who would do violence, not broad groups of people who are trying to live their lives like all Americans.

What I don’t care for his posturing by folks, who say they are going to be tough, but who have made comments to demonize folks and make the world a less safe place before they take office – these are the concerns of our allied leaders and retired US military generals, not just mine. I don’t support the argument of those who do not see the freedom of gun acquisition as not playing a role in mass shooting deaths. With our gun access in the US, there is very little that can be done to stop a evil minded SOB from killing people.  I am tired of tough talk from folks who do not realize their words and resistance to change are part of the problem.

We must involve all Americans in the due diligence looking out for violent extremists, whether they are Muslim, Christian, or merely a hate group unrelated to religion. We must have serious conversations about better governance around guns. And, we must stand tall with our LGBT community and say demonizing this group is not right. And, in my bible, it is not the answer to WWJD. It certainly is not electing bigoted leaders.

Let’s sandpaper the edges

Life is tough at times, but we do not need to make it harder than it is. More than we should, we scrape someone with our unsanded edges and create splinters. Some expose more unsanded edges than others, but we all have them.

Continuing the thought, we should each carry our mental sandpaper with us to smooth our edges or help someone smooth theirs. This sandpaper can take many forms – it could be a smile or nod at a fellow shopper. It could be a good morning to an elevator rider or cashier. It could be pleasantries to a customer service representative or maybe a calm demeanor or extra dose of patience as they try to serve you.

In my forty years as an adult, I have witnessed that I receive better service the nicer I am to the associate. The calmer and more diplomatic I am with CSRs, the solution or answer can be found.

I chat with folks I don’t know quite often. Far more often than not, it is reciprocated and appreciated. Occasionally, I will find that unsanded edge. Depending on the splinter size, I may cease and desist or try another tack.

We need more civility toward each other. We need to observe what one of our presidential candidates does and not do that. Civil would not be the first word I use to describe that man.

So, let’s keep that sandpaper ready and smooth out our rough edges. We might even learn something.

I was wrong

The above title represents the three words you may never hear Donald Trump utter in public. And, yet based on his prolific pace of lying and continual bashing of anyone or anything that gets in his way, I can think of no other celebrity who should say these three words more than him. I was wrong.

Let’s help him practice.

When DT derides Senator John McCain, a war hero, for not being such as heroes are not captured – I was wrong.

When DT sells his name to a development that he has nothing to do with for them to con folks into thinking this development has higher quality – I was wrong.

When DT says Carly Fiorina is not attractive enough to be president saying looking “look at that face” – I was wrong.

When DT imitates a reporter who has a noticeable disability with his arms and then denies he was so doing when it was obvious after saying “you should see this guy” – I was wrong.

When DT accuses reporter Meghan Kelly of unfairness implying she was on her period because she asked him legitimate, but tough questions – I was wrong.

When DT uses every means possible to evict people from their homes, saying it is just business – I was wrong.

When he says America is the most taxed country in the world, when it is not even close to being accurate – I was wrong.

When he derides a judge for being unfair to Trump because he is Mexican, when the judge was born in Indiana – I was wrong.

When he tells seminar goers and students he will personally interview and select teachers at Trump University when he did not and when he has a sales playbook to strong-arm people into spending their money – I was wrong.

When he not only condones, but encourages violence at his speeches – I was wrong.

When he says whites are killed by blacks 80% of the time at a rally to rile up the crowd, when the truth per the FBI is it is only 15% of the time – I was wrong.

When he derides Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, women, etc. indicting them as a group or as individuals – I was wrong.

When he consistently says the President was not born in America when the proof has been exhibited time and again – I was wrong.

When he says global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese, when there is written documentation revealing his request to the Irish government to build a sea wall to hold back the rising seas due to climate change – I was wrong.

When he berates reporters for asking him legitimate questions and refuses to participate in a debate because a female reporter hurt his feelings – I was wrong.

When he  brought up unsubstantiated or denounced stories about his competitors from sources like the National Enquirer or from past Republican smear campaigns – I was wrong.

When he said unemployment was 30%, 40% or even high as 42%, revising it down to 20% later, while the Bureau of Labor statistics had it between 4.9% and 5% when he said these statements – I was wrong.

When he pretended to be a public relations person for his organization as he called into talk shows and bragged as a fictitious employee about how great, rich, successful, sexy, etc. his boss Trump is – I was wrong.

The dilemma is I could go on and on. Plus, rather than confess a wrongdoing, he will sometimes double and triple down on the bad statement as he did with berating John McCain or the judge from Indiana. I was wrong. Three simple words. But, they are not in the narcissist playbook. Yet, there are four definitive examples of when he was wrong that he cannot hide from – he has filed for bankruptcy four times. On those failed investments, let’s hear him say it – I was wrong.




While US ponders bathrooms, we are missing a larger picture

David Smick, the author of “The World is Curved” and former economic advisor to Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Bill Clinton, notes that “innovation is portable.” His attention getting comment is if we don’t grease the skids like we have in the past, innovation will occur elsewhere. And, where innovation occurs, the initial manufacturing will be there as well.

On this D-Day anniversary, an interesting article appears which should make our leaders stand up and take notice around this concept of innovation. In essence, this article called “7 Reasons why European Cities are going to beat US Cities as Hubs for Innovation,” says America needs to not forget what made us great and start improving what we do in cities to attract, retain and reward innovators.

To be frank, we also need to stop spending our time debating issues that matter little in day-to-day matters and start focusing on major initiatives that will move this country forward such as addressing the new technologies, investing in hubs of growth, retraining workers and training students, and investing in our infrastructure and environment. Debating where folks go to the bathroom and discriminating against people is not where we should be spending our time. This is small minded and unconstitutional. It also hamstrings financial growth and innovation.

Rather than repeat this article, let me merely list the seven reasons and encourage you to click on the link below. Relative to the US:

  1. Europe has better designed cities
  2. Europe has more smart cities
  3. Europe has more rapid adoption of soft infrastructure for entrepreneurship
  4. Europe has better safety nets and less inequality
  5. US has lost its leadership in key benchmarks of innovation
  6. US has more venture capital, but it matters less with other sources
  7. Europe makes it easier to be an entrepreneur

The US has a tremendous university system which draws people from all over, but access to those systems may not require people to move here as much as they did with online learning. Also, when they do come, we need to make sure we keep talented people here and not build actual and figurative walls around our country – I worry more about the figurative ones than actual ones.

We have pockets of success, but unless we focus more on this and less on issues of little import, we will miss an opportunity to invest in keeping America competitive. In our favor is a freer, more mixed society which provides all genders, races, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc. opportunity. Leaders of companies should know that you never know where innovation will come from, so you better make the communication avenues available to all people.

Let me close with an easy example. Before he died, Steve Jobs designed Apple’s new headquarters. He purposefully placed small meeting rooms with white boards and technology access along the paths to the restrooms and breakrooms. Why? So, that when people bumped into each other and discovered what each was working on, they could easily pop in a room to share ideas. That is precisely how we should design our hubs of innovation. If we do not, we will fall behind.


Odds and ends for a Friday

Mother Nature is wreaking havoc with flooding in France and Texas. Our expatriate friend Lisa from Ecuador is living in a community that has experienced devastating earthquakes which have taken many lives and will cost over $3 Billion to repair. And, this is on top of the encroaching seas which continue to wreak havoc in her seaside community causing folks to move inland. So I feel guilty about the beautiful day we are having here and wish for others to experience the sunshine.

Here are a few odds and ends on this Friday.

Violent protesting is not the answer – in response to maybe the most divisive, bigoted and narcissistic candidate we have ever had in the US in The Donald, protestors have become more physically demonstrative outside of his rallies. This needs to stop. Civil protest is more than OK, but violent protest has no place in our country. I recognize fully this leader-wanna-be has used his false bravado to encourage forcible put downs of protestors which is as far from presidential as you can get, but doing the same in protest is not the answer. The answer is don’t vote for this globally disastrous candidate.

That climate change thing is real – I  mention above about the encroaching seas on Ecuador and have talked before about the impact already occurring on Miami, Norfolk, Bangladesh and the Cartaret Islands, but my favorite lie of the above candidate is “global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs.” I have said before The Donald, who is on record as lying over 75% of the time by nonpartisan fact checkers, knows he is lying, but in this example we have proof. It turns out the Trump golf course in Ireland has formally petitioned the Irish government to permit him to build a sea wall to prevent the rising seas due to climate change from encroaching on his golf property. But, you said….

With friends like these, who needs enemies – Why this is not talked about more is amazing, but our allies have come out strongly against Trump given his statements and lack of awareness of global issues. Yet, The Donald does have the support of Vladimir Putin and now Kim Jong Un of North Korea. Putin is very adamant against Clinton and wants The Donald in charge. People need to ask themselves why? Here is a KGB trained man who knows how to manipulate and is in favor of Trump. Here is a man who makes sure Russian TV programs have purposeful light criticism and heavy support of Putin, as a means of propaganda. Don’t you think he is salivating at an egomaniacal, thin-skinned, and bombastic leader like Trump who will tick of our allies and make Putin look more statesmanlike?

Brazil and Venezuela have made governing a farce – There are known problems around the world with poor and corrupt governance, but it seems to have been heightened in these two countries. Brazil is about to host the biggest athletic show in the world, yet its leader, Dilma Rousseff  was suspended and is about to be impeached for cooking the books to make things look better than they are. Not to be out done, the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ticked off everyone by seizing control of businesses who have had to shut the doors because of cash flow problems. The country has relied too much on oil and with the downturn in oil prices, their economy has been devastated. Plus, he has ordered military exercises, which cost money, but basically are for showmanship. Dialogue is non-existent at this point and that needs to change, as oil prices are not soaring back anytime soon.

That is all I have for now. I think if there is a theme above, we must have reasonable and accountable leaders to run our governments. Our problems are real and we deserve leaders who will govern, govern with facts and not step on folks.