Florida and the US deserve better

Apparently, I missed the announcement of the Florida governor running for president. I have seen a well-polished commercial that masks over all his warts starting this weekend, so I guess he is in. In anticipation of this, I sent the following letter to my hometown Florida newspaper in hopes they would print it. Please feel free to adapt and use.

In my home state of Florida, several major problems go undiscussed and unresolved. Climate change, environmental maltreatment, healthcare costs, better gun governance, job retraining, fresh water shortage, etc. Instead, the governor and legislature focus on contrived or exaggerated issues like wokeness, critical race theory, banning books that dare speak of our ugly history and punishing people and companies who act in an egalitarian manner.

It is quite disappointing to this independent and former Republican to know the Florida governor threw his hat in the presidential campaign ring. We need serious minded leaders who will help all citizens and focus on real issues not contrived wedge issues. What we don’t need are authoritarian bullies who pick on people who don’t agree with them.


The wisdom of Dr. Seuss

With our grown children, we have saved in our attic a few of the books we read to them as kids. The box includes about three dozen Dr. Seuss books. Yesterday, I stumbled upon a Dr. Seuss quote amid my online blog and news reading that resonates.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

While we tend to be sad and even cry when things end, the life of a friend or relative, high school, college, a wonderful family vacation, etc., we should focus on the the better memories of the enjoyment of what transpired before then.

I searched for a few other more Dr. Seuss’ quotes that impart life wisdom.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

“If life were predictable it would cease to be life and be without flavor.”

These quotes don’t seem to come from the likes of “Green Eggs and Ham,” “Hop on Pop” or “The Lorax.” Maybe they came from various interviews. I am not sure. But, I do know there is a lot of good advice in these five quotes that can help even the oldest of us.

What are some of your favorites from the above or from his other works and writings?

Thursday thoughts and theories

As I sit down searching for a topic to which I want to devote a post, I am at a loss. I usually do better when I have started a post or at least recorded a title or pasted a link to an article to use the days before. So, with an eye toward alliteration, here are some random Thursday thoughts and theories.

First, I wonder who got shot last night in America? Someone did as we simply cannot help ourselves. Someone rang the wrong doorbell with a hand of a darker color or they may have just pulled in the driveway. Or, they may have been jogging or walking in a neighborhood wearing the darker color on their skin. Or, they just were at the wrong place at the wrong time when a disgruntled former employee, racist or mentally unstable person came a calling with a weapon that could kill many at one time. Or, maybe two old friends or relatives got into an argument over something stupid and one is now shot dead. Or, maybe a four year-old found daddy’s weapon and shot his older brother, sister, mother or father.

Second, it is truly amazing how an entity who just committed to pay one person it defamed $250 million and another entity it defamed $787.5 million with yet another pending lawsuit of $2.7 billion for defamation, can be non-specific as a news agency for what has transpired. I wish the settlement could have included an on air apology from Fox News. “We are sorry we lied to our viewers about Dominion Voting Systems and to cover for the lies of the former president.”

Third, in a state where tax revenue comes from sales tax built on a large engine of tourism, picking on the company which owns the largest tourist attraction in the state which feeds other tourist attractions is not the wisest of moves. The reason the governor does not like them – they are outspoken about treating all people fairly. Such a shame to actually follow that golden rule thing that some guy named Jesus talked about.

Fourth, speaking of governors, it seems to me the states of Florida and Texas are having a race to see who can restrict the most rights of non-white Americans. Sometimes it is not as clear as to the motivation, but each has embraced contrived or exaggerated issues to use as weapons to divide and limit. They also have embraced The Big Lie of the former president about the election being stolen from him to use as a reason to limit voting. Please read the above about Fox News’ defamation cases and the written evidence they knew they were gaslighting their viewers and public pushing Trump’s BS.

Fifth, we have an immediate crisis facing us with our debt ceiling in the US. If we do not raise this ceiling, we will default on some debt. We need to reduce our debt and deficit, so I do not mind discussions to do so, but what I detest is the gamesmanship. If the debt is such a big deal, why did nothing get done when Republicans ruled both chambers and had the White House, other than make the debt worse by over $2 trillion for the next ten years? Quite simply, dealing with the debt will require revenue increases and spending cuts, but neither side is willing to speak to both sides of this issue. Who says this? – the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and do not let ANY politician tell you we can reduce the debt with one or the other.

That is all folks. Have a great day and weekend.

A musical example of why limitations can hinder development and growth

In too many places, history is being white washed to limit exposure to examples of civil rights and economic censorship that people in authority imposed on minority groups. In too many places the civil, voting and economic rights of minorities are being suppressed. It is not a stretch to say the former is being done to grease the skids of the latter happening again.

Yet, there is a history lesson that may seem inconsequential, but is quite illustrative. With Jim Crow laws in full bore, black musical artists were prevented from being heard on the significant majority of white radio stations. To make matters worse, white artists would cover the black artists songs making more money with the larger white audiences.

So, these black artists went where they were welcome and played overseas. They were so appreciated, they influenced a significant number of young people who would become musicians or were already headed down that path. Many British musicians cited the influence of Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, BB King, Little Richard, Howling Wolf, Hounddog Taylor, Etta James, et al.

Back in the 1960s, a musical British Invasion was occurring. Groups like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cream, Blind Faith, The Who, Deep Purple, The Yardbirds, The Hollies, and individuals like Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Dusty Springfield, among many others were hitting it big in the states. These artists were successful as they introduced white Americans to music spawned in America but purposefully suppressed from many outlets or watered down by other artists. Clapton started in a group called The Bluesbreakers because of his love of the Blues.

Saying it differently, the black music was white washed from many American ears. Further, two white artists who were highly successful emulating black artists – Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis – were having difficulties staying in the musical limelight (one was drafted and the other married his 13-year-old cousin), as record producers went very vanilla and safe with their music highlighting Pat Boone, Bobby Vinton, Connie Francis and other more pop style artists. I remember white teens and young adults craving to hear the black artists. It is a reason Beach Music exists as the northern radio stations could be heard down the coast in the Carolina beaches. The kids could not hear the unplayed music inland. So, when they went to the beach, they would ask what is that sound coming from the radio?

There are two lessons here. One is when leaders limit what children can learn, they limit their education, creativity and innovation. We must learn from our history, the good and the bad. The other is people find a way to circumvent efforts to restrict things. If they hear or see snippets of something interesting, they will want more. Yet, we should not limit them so much, that others benefit more and have to teach us what we are missing. Innovation comes from intersections of creativity like within the cross over parts of a Venn diagram. If we don’t let that happen, the innovation will occur elsewhere. And, where innovation occurs, so will the job creation

Recognizing music is a metaphor, think of how the US had fallen in math and science rankings. The US ranks 23rd and 27th, which does not bode well for American Exceptionalism which is touted more than it should be. Education spawns creativity and innovation. If we limit what kids learn, we limit what they will create.

Wednesday walkabout with John Oliver this early spring day

Armed with generic Flonase spray and a Cetrizine tablet, I am ready to brave the pollen and get outdoors. I am hoping we get the promised spring shower this morning to cleanse the air of that nasty stuff. As I walk, here are few random thoughts I will be thinking about.

-On John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” show this past Sunday, he had two pieces that were quite illuminating. Like Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show,” Oliver’s show is a comedic news show, but one that does its homework. It is actually far more informative than many pseudo-news shows that are on the air and far more accurate than any of the well-known opinion hosts could offer, as he deals in facts amid the humor.

-Oliver first focused on the troubled Silicon Valley Bank, who decided to fail Banking 101 and mismanage risk causing a run on the bank. Yet, what was comical is to see Oliver show how four separate Fox News opinion hosts told their audience that the bank’s failure was due to its “wokeness.” These opinion hosts even referenced it as the “woke bank.” Oliver had a field day making fun of this inanity. One banking analyst responded to these absurd accusations by saying “that is like saying the color blue is the answer to 1+1.”

-Oliver’s larger piece on the show was around the predatory time share industry and its surrounding permutations. This is where you buy a set week of vacation at a resort or a week of points at multiple resorts which last a lifetime and even beyond. One telling thing is time share contracts have a clause which one attorney called a “license for the sales agent to lie clause” where the company says they are not responsible for anything the agent says. The industry is built around not just the initial sale, but the maintenance fees and upgraded contracts that give you more access. And, they focus on a key word in the contract – perpetuity meaning they make it quite difficult to get out of.

-What I found interesting as well, is the number of fly-by-night time share exit companies that are also predatory. These folks sell you on an upfront fee to get you out of your time share or sell it if they cannot. These companies sound convincing, but many close up shop and set up one under a new name. If they are around too long they get sued for malfeasance. Yes, they are too good to be true.

-So, the key take away per Oliver is DON’T BUY A TIME SHARE and warn anyone you know who is considering one. This truly is the best and maybe only defense against this predatory industry. And, if you are willed a time share, you need to move quickly to say in writing you do not want it or you get on the hook. Some states have a time limit on your ability to do this.

Fortunately, my wife and I never did bite on the offers to sell us time shares. I feel for those who have as it sounds like they were running uphill against this industry.

Instant Karma – John Lennon speaking out in song

While still with The Beatles, John Lennon wrote and recorded the song “Instant Karma! (We will all shine on)” and released it under the name John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. The song is truly a breakout song as one of the many Lennon’s anthem like songs. To me, it shows where Lennon was headed – he would write other anthem songs like “All you need is love” and “Give peace a chance” as well as what I think is one of the most elegant songs ever written designed to make us think, “Imagine.”

The lessons are peppered throughout the song, even though the chorus is repeated as a mantra. In short, Lennon is saying it up to us, act before you are dead, get yourself together and treat your brother well.

“Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead

What in the world you thinking of?
Laughing in the face of love
What on earth you tryin’ to do?
It’s up to you, yeah you

Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna look you right in the face
Better get yourself together darlin’
Join the human race

How in the world you gonna see
Laughin’ at fools like me?
Who in the hell’d you think you are?
A superstar?
Well, right you are

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well, we all shine on
Everyone come on

Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you off your feet
Better recognize your brothers
Everyone you meet

Why in the world are we here?
Surely not to live in pain and fear
Why on earth are you there?
When you’re everywhere
Come and get your share

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah, we all shine on
Come on and on and on, on, on
Yeah, yeah, alright, uh huh, ah

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah, we all shine on
On and on and on, on and on

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun.”

John Lennon was an imperfect person. Like all of us, he had an ego and sometimes he would say things for shock effect, often unintended. This would get him in trouble from time to time. When the great song writer Carole King met Lennon for a second time, she commented how rude he was to her the first time. Lennon said in response, I was intimidated by you which is why I probably was less than kind. Here is one fantastic song writer being intimidated by another fantastic songwriter.

Yet, Lennon would go on to say things we often needed to hear. He also knew how to keep the messages brief so that they would be remembered. “Instant Karma” is a good example, as the chorus of “we all shine on” is what people will remember, just as in “all you need is love,” “give peace a chance” or “imagine there is no heaven.”

Lennon was a fascinating interview. If you get a chance, check these songs out, and look for interviews with Dick Cavett and Mike Douglas. You may not have heard of the latter, but Douglas had a TV talk show where he invited a guest host on for a week and spoke to the co-host’s guests. The week Lennon and Yoko Ono co-hosted is very informative and confirmed Lennon’s place on the paranoid President Richard Nixon’s enemies list.

We all shine on. Just act before you are dead and join the human race. Don’t worry about folks like Nixon.

Context and perspective – a reprise that still applies

A few years ago, I felt a great need to write this post with the continuation of white washing of history and gaslighting others to believe a certain narrative. In spite of the ongoing efforts by certain governors in Florida, Texas and elsewhere, true history is not getting discussed and taught like it needs to be. Bad things were done by so-called leaders based on inflamed fears. Fear has been a selling tool as long as people have been in power to get the masses to do what they want. We must know this and learn lessons to avoid it in the future.

I learned yesterday, a former colleague passed away. She was an interesting person whose history was a lesson in and of itself. Her mother escaped Nazi occupied Poland with her on her mother’s back as a toddler, running across a field with machine gun fire over their heads.

I think of this story when I hear of people who dismiss the evil perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II as a hoax or fake news. Over 6 million Jews died horribly and ignobly at the hands of the Nazis.

Context is important. Perspective is important. Dismissing or downplaying things as a hoax or not real does a disservice to those impacted. When I watch “Finding your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates, invariably, when he looks at the history of people with Eastern European descent, the guests’ forebears got out of Europe just ahead of the pending genocide. The relatives of their forebears who remained were not so prescient and suffered greatly.

I have heard more than a few folks say COVID-19 is a hoax or not that big a deal. The outgoing US president has been one who has done both. Yesterday, my local newspaper indicated, by zip code, the rate of COVID-19 cases. In the richer zip codes, the case rate per 100,000 is about 50% to 60% of the rate in the less wealthy zip codes. Why?

The less wealthy zip codes have a greater preponderance of families with two jobs or more. They also include a greater preponderance of people who do not have the luxury of working from home and work more retail, restaurant and service jobs. The exposure is much higher, as a result.

My niece teaches in a private school that is up and running with needed mask, social distancing and hygiene precautions. She noted they have no known cases. Yet, when I made the observation above, she agreed there is that bias toward more healthier families. So, public schools have a greater risk given the cross pollination of exposure from more zip codes.

I mention these two examples as we must try to walk in people’s shoes. We cannot imprint our own experiences without recognizing that perspective bias. As for those who deny the Holocaust, that involves another degree of subterfuge beyond just not knowing. There is an effort in some countries, including the US, to white wash history.*

If we don’t know our history, then we are destined to fall into the same mistakes. I am not a fan of drawing parallels to Nazi Germany, but the rise of authoritarianism is built on leaders denouncing the truth tellers and spreading misinformation. White washing history is not a new thing. Gaslighting is not a new thing.

*Note: I encourage Americans to read “The Soul of America” by well-respected historian Jon Meacham. In short, America has had to overcome the effects of maltreatment of classes of citizens throughout its history.

Estonia is helping Ukraine stave off Russia’s cyberattacks

An interesting article by Maggie Miller of Politico caught my attention this week called “How Estonia is helping Ukraine take on Russian cyber threats.” Why Estonia? As one of the Baltic nations, Estonia is renowned for its country’s ability to identify Russian propaganda and make it known to its people.

In fact, one of the more popular TV shows on Sunday night is one that highlights what Russia is up to this week. The western world could learn a lot from this tiny country about stiff arming Russian disinformation. Here in the US, we have pseudo-news folks parroting Russian propaganda to defeat or downplay successes that would be harmful to the message of their political party. That is not news, if you are keeping score.

Here are a few paragraphs, with the full article accessible below.

“TALLINN, Estonia — Ukraine has surprised the world with its ability to fend off major cyberattacks from Russia. And one small country — Estonia — has played an outsized role in helping them do so.

The nation of just over 1 million, which has fought off cyberattacks inside its borders from Russia for years, is now leading many of the efforts to provide cyber threat intelligence, funding and critical international connections to protect Ukraine from Russian hackers.

In interviews in Tallinn, Estonian officials provided fresh details about how they aid cybersecurity workers in a besieged Ukraine and coordinate with more powerful allies in Europe and the U.S. in the global effort to defend against Russia’s digital attacks.

It’s a partnership that illustrates a unique aspect of modern cyber warfare — some of themost sustained efforts to protect networks are coming from smaller or less-resourced countries that have been the repeated victims of attacks and have learned the hard way about the need to invest in cyber armies.”

It is great to see countries, even smaller ones, lend their expertise to help push back aggressors like Vladimir Putin and Russian armies. In an even more telling example, some Russians are feeling a little more impunity to push back with their concerns within Russia. This would have been unheard of a few years ago.

What a real hero looks like (an encore performance)

Two years ago I wrote about the latest act of heroism from Dolly Parton. Last night, we watched a host of popular, rock and country singers honor her as one of the latest inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From Pink to Brandi Carlisle to Sheryl Crow to Zac Brown to Pat Benatar, we saw a loving and admiring tribute to this talented woman. She also played a new rock and roll song she wrote for the occasion, “Rocking til the cows come home.” It was pretty good. Yet, she might be remembered more for her humanity.

I have written before about this hero primarily for her book gifting program for young kids, which is now an international program called “Imagination Library” (see second link below). Her name is Dolly Parton. I heard she could write songs and sing, as well. Yet, Parton just received some new acclaim for helping fight COVID-19.

In an article in The Hill by Judy Kurtz (see first link below) called “Dolly Parton among donors behind Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine,” her efforts are revealed. Here are a few paragraphs from the article.

“Dolly Parton can add another achievement to her résumé: helping to fund research for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.

The ‘9 to 5’ singer was one of several donors listed Monday as part of the announcement that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate was 94.5 percent effective in an interim analysis. The ‘Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund’ was named as a supporter in the footnotes of a New England Journal of Medicine report.

Parton, 74, announced back in April that she was giving $1 million to researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center toward finding a vaccine to fight against COVID-19.

In an April Instagram post announcing her contribution, the Grammy Award winner said she was donating in honor of her longtime friend, Dr. Naji Abumrad, a researcher at Vanderbilt who informed her ‘that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure.'”

Parton will be remembered many years from now for her Imagination Library where 147 million books have been provided to young children. Currently, there are 1.7 million children signed up for the program. Yet, seeing her do things like the vaccine funding adds to her legacy.

Seeing her interviewed on multiple occasions, the depth of her kindness, integrity, and approachability is heart warming. Her ability to laugh at herself (both the stage personality and at home one) reveals a very smart woman that disarms people. She does not need to solicit attention for her good deeds, it just spreads.

Well done, Ms. Parton. You are a credit to the human race. Thank you for your music and big heart.



Troops To Teachers – an old idea with new legs

NBC News ran a piece last night on a program that has been around awhile but is getting more traction with teacher shortages. It is called Troops To Teachers or TTT for short. Here is a brief overview from a Veterans’ website.

“Troops To Teachers was created in 1993 to help service members, military retirees and other veterans gain education and start new careers as kindergarten through 12th grade teachers in public schools, charter schools, and Bureau of Indian Education schools.

The general idea is for those leaving military service to get assistance to accomplish these goals, but in order to get financial aid from the program the applicant must start before retiring or separating from military service….

The Troops To Teachers official site lists a variety of program benefits, but the one most will initially be interested in is the $5,000 stipend or $10,000 bonus (depending on eligibility). We’ll cover more about that below but other TTT benefits include:

  • Transition assistance
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Assistance with state teacher certification and licensing
  • Connections with hiring officials
  • Mentorship

These services are free to the applicant and there may also be state-level Troops To Teachers programs or resources available depending on the state.”

This idea is terrific. With a shortage of teachers, especially STEM teachers, the program is much needed. Per the NBC News piece, the kids in a high school class with a Navy veteran were sharing lessons learned from their teacher veteran about getting stuff done and done on time. Accountability and responsibility are key tenets of the teaching as well. The teacher also spoke of what it means to him to help out with our most important resources – students.

From the website link (see below), the veteran must apply withing three years of leaving the service. To me, even if the veteran learns teaching is not for them, it puts them on a path to figure out better what they want to do. But, for those who stick it out, the lessons they can give could be dramatic. This is a very cool idea in my view.