Are you Ready to Rumble, Or Not

September 25, 2016

This iconic introduction from the glory days of phony wrestling in a steel cage is what the media paparazzi hope will be how the Clinton-Trump debate tomorrow plays out- two political gladiators needling each other over facts, scandals and past comments they regretted afterwards.

I for one don’t buy into the rumble imagery as both Clinton and Trump will spend the bulk of the evening on Long Island checking each other out, fearing a verbal mistake, and appearing earnest to the millions of viewers. Clinton will be an encyclopedia of policy and Trump will coin a few memorable quips. For those viewers hoping that verbal blood will spill will be disappointed. Debates are carefully planned exercises in playing defense, not going for broke Hail Mary passes that bring the crowd to their feet.

If I am right both Clinton and Trump will “win” the debate with little change in the polls and each camp claiming victory. If there is a noticeable breakthrough for either candidate it will be in the areas of posture, voice inflection, facial distortion and signs of boredom. Many pundits have suggested that viewers should turn off the sound and watch the candidates not listen to them.

For pure entertainment value I do hope that one of the two makes some outlandish comment or gets tripped up with the facts. But my request for entertainment shows how the debates and indeed campaigning in our democracy have sunk into the swamp. I wonder how many disappointed viewers will switch to the New Orleans-Atlanta Monday Night Football game in search of a real rumble.

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

July 28, 2016

We all have sung the national anthem hundreds of times in our lifetime. Most of us don’t need to be reminded of the words by looking at a huge electric board at a sporting event; we hold our hand to our heart and belt out our beloved anthem.

But just as a reminder, I want to zero in on the last two lines of the anthem.  We as citizens of this great country pride ourselves on living in the ” land of the free.”  Then the anthem ends with the most powerful claim, the ” home of the brave.”  Too often we accent the ” land of the free” statement at the expense of the ” home of the brave.”

I get the love of freedom part of the anthem since it defines our core value, and what separates us from so many other countries and peoples. But I do worry that many Americans don’t really respect and appreciate the ” home of the brave” charge made in the anthem.

Being brave is not just for the members of the armed forces, our police and fire officers, EMTs, and those under the radar agents who risk their lives gathering information in foreign lands. No living in the “land of the brave” means that all of us take an oath by singing this anthem to be brave, to stand up to terror, to refuse to be intimidated by those who threaten our domestic tranquility, to stand up for what we believe even in the face of danger.

We have heard a great deal of fear-mongering in the last few weeks that would suggest Americans need to take cover and protect their families and homes from some sort of civil war or internal collapse. Maybe I missed it but I didn’t hear the reminder that we as Americans live in the “land of the brave.”  If we are to believe in the national anthem and sing it with gusto, then we need to show our bravery and not succumb to those who would suggest we cower in the face of violence and external threats.

So next time we sing the national anthem, let’s put the emphasis on ” land of the brave” and more importantly live our lives as brave Americans.


Politics Go

July 14, 2016

If I had any tech savvy or marketing skills I would try and develop an app to mimic the widely popular Pokemon Go, which is getting people out on the streets chasing those odd looking figures down alleyways and into buildings. But my app would be called Politics Go and would take the players on a trip across this country to find real Americans, real Americans who are struggling with serious economic, social and personal challenges that the political system is either ignoring or refuses to face.

The Politics Go app would take players to search for a veteran of our two recent wars who are suffering from post traumatic syndrome and contemplating suicide because there is little help available from the Veterans Administration.

The Politics Go app would take players to find the 43 million people mired in poverty in urban and rural areas in what is claimed to be the richest country in the world.

The Politics Go app would take players to meet those honorable police officers who risk their lives everyday to bring safety and order to a divided society.

The Politics Go app would take players to the mansions of the rich and well born who hide their wealth offshore to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

The Politics Go app would take players to a gun shop to purchase an AR-15 long rifle that has no purpose other than to kill people, a lot of people.

The Politics Go app would take players to Washington D.C., the center of our democracy, to find just one statesman or stateswoman willing to work with those they disagree with in order to fix our decaying country.

Sadly, my Politics Go app would be rejected as not interesting or exciting. The new world of augmented reality is about fun not about finding out about American reality. It would be great to see Americans walking the streets of this country trying to find veterans, poor people, police officers, tax dodgers, gun fanatics and failed politicians but a Politics Go app just wouldn’t sell; it would be too depressing.

Some of My Good Friends Are…..

July 9, 2016

Most white Americans know black Americans from going to a Beyonce, concert, watching Chris Rock on the Comedy Channel, attending a sporting event or perhaps working with them in the office or factory. Most white Americans never see how the vast majority of black Americans live, especially those who live in urban areas, except when a riot ensues. Even middle class blacks often live in largely de facto segregated neighborhoods or towns because they feel more comfortable around those with the same skin color. In large part Americans usually only see the real black Americans at the mall or an occasional visit to the city.

Most public opinion polls show that white Americans often define themselves as not racist and supportive of black people, and that attitude is correct. We do not live in the 1950’s anymore where Jim Crow laws ruled the day and whites both in the North and the South let their prejudice flow openly. But we do live in a time when there is little connection to the black Americans who are part of the growing underclass, victimized by income inequality and poverty.

Sure some black Americans make it out of poverty, and thankfully there are more and more examples of success stories. But not everyone who is black is part of a success story in this country, and even the successful blacks will tell you horror stories of DWB- driving while black- and being stopped by the police for no reason or hailing a cab only to be rejected while the white person a few feet away gets a ride or the subtle barriers to renting an apartment or buying a house. The list of discrimination is a long one, even today.

If we are to move forward to a truly race neutral country it is up to white Americans to take the time to find out how most black Americans live, not just Beyonce or LeBron James, and how they struggle to make ends meet, how they fear the police and how they believe that the American dream applies only to some, and not them. Certainly blacks need to also connect with whites and create a dialogue and a racial partnership, but for too long whites have ignored the lives of blacks in this country and just assumed that all was OK in the urban environments where hope languishes and fear reigns. It is time to admit that racism exists in this country and that all is not well within the black community. Whites need to step up to the plate and do more than say they are not racist.



In the Bunker

June 27, 2016

My wife Carol recently signed up for one of those complete dinner programs from Blue Apron with all the ingredients included in the UPS delivered box.  All the meals were simply delicious and easy to make, if you can follow directions.

The delivery of the latest box of dinners got me thinking about how we have begun to live these days and what the future may hold in terms of contact with the outside world. Just think about it, we can now work from home using our latest tablet or smart phone; we can have our clothes delivered by Amazon Prime; we can have our furniture sent to our door from Wayfair; we of course can have our pizza delivered hot and juicy with the new Domino’s “oven car”; and we can sit in our easy chair and watch the world of politics, sports, movies and music with just the flick of our clicker, or now by just talking into our clicker.

If you take this trend forward into the future we will not have to leave the house and stay protected from the challenges and dangers of the world in our cozy bunker- no need to interact with strangers, no need to drive in traffic, no need to dress for success, no need to go anywhere but the other rooms in the bunker. Add the fact that in perhaps twenty years each bunker will have a robot to do the mundane work of keeping everything ship shape and we are certain to be the definition of couch potatoes.

This bunker mentality likely will not be for everyone, especially those who get a feeling of joy and fulfillment by interacting with another human being, but the foundation is in place to build a better bunker, particularly if evil and violence lurk outside the door. Let the UPS driver deal with the evil and violence as we stay calm in our bunker.

Orwell in 1984 worried about Big Brother watching every move we make, but in the new brave world of the 21st century Big Brother will be joined by the Big Bunker. The sad part of this prediction is that many of us will buy into the Big Bunker mentality as we change our lifestyle from social interaction to social isolation. Got to go now, the UPS driver just pulled up to the door.

The 47%

May 24, 2016

There are a laundry list of reasons why Americans are angry, disillusioned or filled with anxiety these days. For some they feel the country is headed in the wrong direction or is directionless, for others they do not trust President Obama, others are concerned about the impact of diversity on the white population, and others just see Washington as broken and a partisan mess.

Let me add another reason to this laundry list of national depression. In a recent issue of The Atlantic, Neal Gabler, an award winning writer, talked about the travails of the middle class. In his piece he referenced a yearly survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Board that monitors American consumers. One of the questions asked was how the respondents would likely pay for a $ 400 emergency. The answer from 47% was that they would cover the $ 400 by borrowing the money, selling possessions or they would not be able to come up with the cash. Let me say that again, 47% of American consumers polled said that they could not come up with $ 400 for an emergency.

Now these Americans without the $ 400 are likely a cross section of our country – some may be receiving assistance, some are seniors on a fixed income, some are making minimum wage and some are folks from what used to be the solid middle class. (  I suspect a goodly number of the respondents were from what is generally described as the middle class since we are talking about a huge number- 47% of those who answered the questionnaire).

You want to know why people are angry and in a foul mood toward political and economic elites, the lack of $ 400 to cover an emergency is certainly at the top of the list. Income inequality is a fancy term used by economists to describe that in our economy there are winners and losers, but in the last twenty years, especially since the Great Recession, the number of losers has exploded and the middle class is in tatters.

Sadly, there is no short term solution to the $ 400 dilemma of the 47% – a comprehensive minimum wage increase is years away and is a band aid; significant pay jumps  for workers are not in the cards, only incremental cost of living bonuses; corporations are either sitting on trillions in cash and doing little with it or are shipping it offshore to avoid government-sponsored distribution programs; and any talk of freebies, whether college tuition, universal health care, parental leave or day care, are dismissed as socialistic and contributing to a furthering of that gaping hole in the national debt.

So the short and long term condition of the middle class is an acceptance of economic and financial struggle as a fact of life and a continued erosion of the American dream.What’s astounding is that at first glance $ 400 is really not a lot of money, but tell that to the 47% of American consumers.

The Trump Strategy

May 4, 2016

It is abundantly clear that Donald Trump is not a detail guy or policy wonk or fact checker, but he is most effective and politically savvy when it comes to making horrible accusations or cruel declarations against his opponents or those who are not part of his white America voting bloc. He certainly will not change his strategy once he begins to unload against Hillary Clinton. This campaign will be run in the gutter and largely void of serious dialogue on issues that are critical to the future of this country.

So what can we expect from the Donald and what will Hillary have to deal with as this country wades through the muck until this worst campaign ever is finally over? Here’s a snapshot of Trump’s strategy and Hillary’s lament.

He will follow the Republican playbook and claim that the Benghazi deaths were Hillary’s fault and that she was lying to her teeth – lying Hillary

He will state that Hillary didn’t have the human decency to speak to the families of those who died in the Benghazi raid – heartless Hillary

He will claim that Hillary likely divulged state secrets by using a personal email server and that if not for a Democratic Justice Department and weak FBI she would be in handcuffs – criminal Hillary

He will assert that she is a pawn of Wall Street while he is beholden to no one, certainly no one in Washington – money hungry Hillary

He will charge that she knew about all of Bill’s flings and the shady dealings to make his lady friends go away – cover-up Hillary

He will hint that maybe just maybe Hillary always liked women rather than men and was carrying on a secret life – in the closet Hillary

He will of course question her ability as a woman to be tough, decisive, strong-willed and all within the context in which a woman’s biological and anatomical differences creep into the charges – Hillary as Megyn Kelly

I could go on and on but I think you get the gist of the Trump strategy. One can only hope that Hillary has her own strategy to counteract the gutter and that the American people still yearn for a policy debate on the issues and the future of this country rather than a mud fest. One can only hope, but don’t count on it.