Context is important with news

Context is key to understanding. It enables one to understand why a change or news item is important and when people are masking over a problem or blowing smoke.

Here are a few examples of why context matters:

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook testified to Congress of his concerns of privacy of data. He may say he is concerned, but his business model is to sell access to your data to marketers. Unless that model changes, our data will be exposed. Facebook was told to address these privacy issues five years ago and failed to act. It may be a new company, but it has learned to feign concern like an old one.

Football helmets are very high tech these days to soften the impact of blows to the head during this violent game. Yet, no matter how much cushion is offered, the problem is they cannot stop the fact the brain rattles around inside the head when it is struck. Unless football outlaws head hits, the game may have to require players to sign a waiver acknowledging the potential damage before they play and youth tackle football may be banned.

The changes needed in governments are obvious to many, including the legislators. But, they won’t happen. Why? Change will not occur if the people who need to make it are too aligned with what needs to be changed. Politicians are too enamored with keeping their job to actually do their job. Money matters too much in these equations.

Let me close with a final example. There is a difference between someone who does the right thing 19 times out of 20, but screws up one time versus someone where the opposite is more true. The one error for the first person may be similar to one of the second person, but they deserve a closer look. I have seen good people fired because managers ignored this kind of math. Context is key.

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Words parents like to hear

Our youngest son graduated college on Saturday. After a couple of transfers, he found himself at this college and flourished. He did well academically, but he also grew into being an adult.

As we talked to his professors at a breakfast for his department, we heard what a fine young man our son is and how attentive and kind he was in class and community involvement functions. As we heard these words, I saw him hand to select professors handwritten thank you notes.

Later, we spoke to his friends, roommates and their parents, even going to lunch with some. We heard from the parents what a good friend he had been to their daughter or son. We made sure to get many pictures of him with these friends.

Our son deserves kudos for what he has accomplished academically. But, to hear that he has been a good friend and community steward means a great deal. This will stay with him long after some of the learnings fade.

Well done son. We are very proud of you always, but also your being a good person. That makes all the difference.

Media please focus on the big issues

With a man occupying the White House who has hard time with truth, civility, history and criticism, there is a bounty of things the media could focus on. And, that is part of the problem. I look at various news feeds and sources and see too many pedestrian foibles that get discussed. Yet, the countless criticisms dull our focus on the more important issues.

My concerns are several, so let me highlight those areas:

– we are borrowing from our future to make a long performing economy a little better, doing the opposite of what is needed to limit our debt from increasing from $21 to $33 trillion by 2027.
– we have ignored our allies and reasonable voices in the US to pull out of various multiparty agreements hurting trade, environment and security.
– we have pulled back several regulations making it easier for industries to pollute and ignoring the federal government’s role in fighting climate change.
– we have blamed immigration for a host of problems and focus on remedies that won’t help people or solve problems.
– we have held up the constitution as sacrosanct, while ignoring the sections on protecting the rights of all citizens, protecting the right and importance of the media and ignoring the clearly defined roles of the three branches of government. It is of vital importance to respect the judiciary’s pursuit of truth, even if the President does not like it.
– we have continued down a path which ignores truths and facts tolerating a man who makes more than a few decisions off misinformation and even disinformation. Governing well is hard enough when we use real facts, it is nigh impossible when we make things up.

Of course, there are other issues, but I attempted to group several concerns into larger categories. In closing, please remember these three cautions – we cannot shrink to greatness, we cannot continue to pee in our global swimming pool, and we must respect the rights and opinions of all people, not just people who agree with you or compliment you.

This zero-sum discourse needs to stop

What does zero-sum discourse mean? It means framing topics in terms of who wins and who loses. I fault politicians, pundits and reporters for this mindset. This mindset preceded the current White House incumbent, but he views most everything through a very short-term transactional lens. Did I win?

The dilemma in discussing who wins and loses on actions, speeches or tweets is it takes the focus away from the issues. Does this decision help or hurt the people, environment or region?

I heard a news discussion on whether the US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal helps or hurts Trump’s image? That is the wrong question among many better questions. Does it make the US safer? Does it make the world safer? Are we harming our relationships with our allies? Are we making a fact based decision as other leaders are questioning the veracity of this decision? And, so on.

Whether it is healthcare, debt, taxes, environment, financial protection, etc., I do not care who wins or loses politically. When people care too much about winning or losing, I can tell you who gets screwed – it is the people they represent.

Americans want Congress to address healthcare, with the majority saying to fix Obamacare. Instead, the President and leaders in Congress have sabotaged it over the past three years making premiums even higher. They want to see it politically fail while screwing American people.

I am tired of the lack of collaboration. I am tired of the abuse of factual information. And, I am tired of this zero-sum discourse. To be frank, our leaders need to stop trying to keep their job and start doing their job.

Knife wielding suspect subdued (and lives)

The title gives the climax away, but that is not the whole story. A man wielding two knives was threatening people in the halls of his apartment complex.

Three police officers showed up and told the man they had a taser and asked him to put down the knives. After a lengthy discussion and pleas, one officer moved toward the man who lunged at the officer and was tased. Remarkably, the man kept trying to knife the officer, who was able to avoid getting stabbed. The man was taking away to face a court date and jail time.

There are two other keys to this story. It was in Australia, not the US. In Charlotte last year, a man wielding a knife was shot dead by police with nine shots. I understand police have a difficult job, but the eagerness and frequency in which assailants are shot seems much higher here on the US. Plus, the number of shots stymies me – nine, eleven, sixteen shots are too representative.

The other issue worth noting is the man was white. I often use the story of how a 65 year old white man was disarmed by Detroit police after an hour conversation. Tamir Rice, an adolescent black boy, was killed within two seconds due to the toy gun he was carrying. Why? Why is there such haste to unload a weapon when the alleged perpetrator is black?

We must do better at addressing these issues. The police are doing a hard job, made harder as they don’t know who is packing heat and what firepower such heat has. I believe this adds even more tension to any police encounter where there is uncertainty. And, race plays a huge factor. Another black man was gunned down at a Walmart by police yesterday.

We cannot overtrain police at identifying threats and de-escalating tense situations. And, we must treat every shooting like the pilots investigate crashes. We must be transparent and learn how to avoid poor or hasty decisions. Other western countries do not have our overall and police gun death rates. We must do better.

A little Bread goes a long way

Those who follow my post know that I do like my rock-n-roll. Yet, what I find most fulfilling is good music paired with great lyrics. While I love Eric Clapton, Styx, Heart, Stevie Ray Vaughan, et al,  I am equally thrilled to listen to Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, etc.

On the softer side of all of this is a band called “Bread,” whose lead singer and songwriter, David Gates wrote some terrific lyrics. He mostly sang of love lost, so his music will take you down a melancholy path.

My favorite of Bread’s is simply called “If.” Here is a sample of the lyrics from memory.

“If a man could be two places at one time, I’d be with you

Tomorrow and today, beside you all the way

If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die,

I’d spend the end with you and when the world was through

Then, one by one the stars would all go out

Then you and I would gently fly away.”

One of his more painful songs is called “Diary,” about a boy who feels his love is unrequited until he finds his girlfriend’s diary. He is surprised by the intensity of her feelings and then he reads on.

“I found your diary underneath a tree, and started reading about me,

The words you’d written took me by surprise, you’d never read them in your eyes.

They said the love you’d found was someone else, not me.

Wouldn’t you know it, she wouldn’t show it.”

A little more upbeat song is called “The Guitar Man.” Here is a sample of the lyrics:

“Who draws a crowd and plays so loud,

Baby, it’s the guitar man.

Who’s on the radio, who steals the show,

Baby, it’s the guitar man.”

A few other favorites include “It don’t matter to me,” “Everything I own,” “Make it with you” and “Baby I’m a want you.” Later Gates had a solo hit when he wrote “The Goodbye Girl” for the Neil Simon movie with Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfus.

If you are not familiar with their music and like the softer side, check them out. If you want to rehash some old memories, break out the CDs, albums or add to your playlist. A little Bread goes a long way.

That pledge thing

We Americans know how it goes as we did it every day in school. I pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…It is more important than the national anthem, as its words have greater meaning and depth than the song.

I want to call attention to what is not included. It does not say I pledge allegiance to the Democratic Party, the Republican Party or one of the other parties. Nor do we pledge our oath to a splinter group or specific individual. And, while many are faithful, our pledge honors a commitment to allow people to worship how they see fit.

Our tribe are the citizens of the United States of America. We pledge to a republic  which is indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Those last two words are not caveated. It also does not say my freedoms are more important than yours. And, the converse is not true.

When our leaders do not honor this pledge like we do or turn their heads when other leaders are not upholding their end of the bargain, we need to be critical of these shortcomings. As an Independent voter who has been a member of both parties, neither party has all the good ideas and both have some bad ones.

What I have less tolerance for is American citizens ignoring the obvious. We have an elected President who daily is attacking our democracy. Very few people would want to work for a person like this. Do not tell me he is telling the truth as his lying is routine. Do not tell me the mainstream media is unfairly criticizing him as I don’t see that. Do not tell me this is not impacting us when our allies think we are less trustworthy and civil discourse continues its decline with this man at the helm.

We have serious problems in our country and it is hard enough to solve them when we consider the truth and consider each other’s opinions. When we do not, we stand little chance In hell to do so.