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Posts Tagged “America”

I have long been a fan of the sport of boxing. My Greatest of All Time is obviously Muhammad Ali. One other champion of note is Mike Tyson. In thinking about them, their careers and their impact on the sport and society, it occurred to me that though they both were Heavyweight champions, they had distinctly different responses after their defeats.

Of the five losses in the Ali career, I never recall him blaming the loss on anyone other than himself…never seeking to blame the opponent or undermine their credibility. Yet, with Mike Tyson, his two most compelling losses, to Buster Douglas and Evander Holyfield will be forever remembered as him blaming the referee and then for losing his composure and biting the ear of Holyfield.

These comparisons are so inspiring to me as we face such challenging circumstances in America and around the world. There is certainly plenty of blame to go around as we become more aware of the disparities in the wealth of the top 1% of Americans and the remaining 99%. Yet, do we really benefit from feeling like victims…or do we now face, like Ali, that we must strengthen our resolve to regain control of our communities, city, state and federal governments?

Both Ali and Tyson were convicted of federal offenses…yet the difference in what they did after they “paid their dues to society” are as far apart as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. One went from villain to folk hero to icon, the other from feared fighter to foolish freakster to reality television clown. One taking responsibility for his actions, the other not.

As many of us rebuild our lives and seek a new sense of direction personally and collectively, it is my belief that we must be like Ali, and take the position that we are going to bounce back and regain our sense of direction and purpose again. This may require going back to school, spending our money with local businesses versus the “big box” conglomerates, and teaching our children that it is possible to wait for that “new” thing that is being marketed as a must-have-today item.

Choosing a Tyson-like response will reap only more of the self-indulgence that brings about certain doom and despair. Since we have had 30 years of this since Ronald Reagan’s voodoo economics, it’s undoubtedly time for a new way to live.

And so in life as in boxing let’s do all we can to insure that at the end of the bout our glove will be raised as the ring announcer says, “And the winner is…”

Peace.

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Fearless in the Face of Failure…

As the world mourns the passing of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, we have an opportunity to review the life and legacy of the man and his contributions to our way of life.

Funny, how those moments come, all too often, only after someone has departed this physical life experience. And it is all too easy to wax on and on about the success and triumphs one has achieved. Steve Jobs had many high moments in his illustrious life and career.

However, it was in his lowest times, when the Apple board of directors had ousted him, and the public embarrassment, which accompanied that…I mean, imagine being ousted from the company that he had co-founded. Ouch.

Yet, it was in the following five years that he truly took stock of his life, determined how unhappy he really had been, and then set out to reinvent himself, and the business he subsequently founded NEXT…which ironically, was bought by Apple Computers five years later.

The moral of this story for me, as I consider how Steve Jobs recovered, renewed and redirected his passion and energy for the next 12 years…is that we all have those seminal moments when life is pressing down on us like the 800 pound gorilla on your back. When we can’t even think about tomorrow, much less about what we will be doing five years from now.

But I ask, even implore, you to consider how the failures that you have sustained…whether in a career, relationship, finances, or all of the above, can actually be the fuel to propel you toward the next great time in your life. And that we, like Steve Jobs, will take what appears to be a failure and face it, flip it and push forward into a higher mindset and success.

I am committed to being one who sees the road behind me not as a path of failures and foibles, but as a map of choices that are leading me toward a brighter and better future. It is my prayer that you will join me on this not-so-yellow-brick road to our new Oz.

R.I.P., Steve. Thanks for your being fearless in the face of your failures…Peace.

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Flip The Script…

One has to wonder these days as we Americans prepare for the looming Christmas holiday season, what level of guilt will be heaped upon us by retailers. In looking back at the past ten years, we have gone from being scolded for being a people who had lost our ability to save money, with our ever-expanding credit lines proof of our need to have it now, to being urged to spend money that many people do not have. The good times had rolled…up and over many of us.

Then the rules, and the game changed.

So much so that today, the home I am seeking to keep out of BK…is worth less than when it was appraised in 2000. My credit score is as upside-down as my mortgage…and cash is once again all that matters. Unless, of course, you had the foresight to buy gold at $400 per ounce. Let me check my jewelry drawer for some hidden treasures that I can send in to Cash-For-Gold.

So, with my tongue firmly in cheek, I have come to the conclusion that we are deep in dog poo…because we have been scolded about our need to save money. Yet, GW Bush, after 9/11, told us to go shopping and show the terrorists that our way of living would not be undermined by a few planes slamming into buildings.

Just last week I heard that the path to economic recovery will be traveled when consumers begin spending money again. And unless that happens the chances are good that we will slip into another recession. When did the first recession end? I ask friends, family members and fellow business owners that question, and most agree that the debt storm, and personal budget crisis, has not yet cleared in their lives.

I have a different thought as to how this never-ending financial crisis can be put to bed. Congress can mandate that the banks, some of whom were given taxpayer money in the form of a bailout…give every household a grant of ten thousand dollars. Imagine what you might use that money for; a remodel project in your house (Home Depot and a contractor will benefit), new furniture (Sears and Macy’s would be happy), and maybe even purchase new equipment in your business.

One truth that we rarely hear from the economic experts, is that corporate America needs to reinvest in her people…they are cash rich and people poor. There must be a few people who can answer a customer service question about your laptop, in plain English, and who would pay taxes on that income. Is there an India-based company that hires Americans?

Let’s make enough noise this week for Wall Street, Main Street and Bourbon Street to recognize that we are awakening from our slumber and will not be tricked into believing that red is blue and that we are to blame for the woes of the world.

We are Americans.

Peace.

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Do You Feel Lucky?

I have taken a little time off from my regular writing…needing to spend some time reflecting on my family, business opportunities and other entrepreneurial endeavors. However, the last few weeks have given me a renewed energy, and focus, as I seek to make sense of the senselessness that is pervasive in our society.

Many of us today wonder what must happen in order to get the elected officials to whom we have given power to make laws to benefit us locally, at the state and national levels, to respond to this continuing financial and jobless crisis gripping our nation. Just today I read an article, where the discussion surrounded the plight of those seeking full-time employment, and it stated that the Great Recession ended in 2009…and my first thought was ended for whom. Warren Buffet? Donald Trump? Mary Smith?

As I mulled over this article and a subsequent conversation with a friend, it dawned on me that maybe someone had truly felt lucky, in a bizarre kind of way…like the criminal whom Clint Eastwood, aka Dirty Harry Callahan, asked while looking up at the barrel of a 44 magnum revolver, “Do you feel lucky?” In that infamous movie scene, the criminal is inches away from a shotgun while Dirty Harry is playing a mind game about whether or not he has one more bullet in the gun pointing at him…and the criminal has a choice to make. Tempt fate and hope that the revolver is empty…or guess wrong and get his head blown off.

As we head into the last four months of this year, I am really beginning to feel as though the middle class citizens of America are looking up at that 44-magnum revolver. We are told one week that jobless claims are down, yet in the next article tomorrow we read that jobless numbers do not include those persons who have stopped looking for work…to whom would that apply? Do they just feel lucky? Did they decide that a job was now going to find them instead of them finding it? Did their numbers come up in Lotto?

No. I believe we are still in the Great Recession…and the government and corporate media mind games are the smoke and mirrors that politicians and economists use to keep the masses confused and hopeless. Pay close attention to the next 10 weeks as the 2012 election cycle gains more attention, as well as the approaching holidays…and make note of whom will be the focus of these who seek to tell us we are really better off today than in 2010. Really? Seriously?

And just like the criminal in the movie…saying “I got’s to know”,when the trigger is pulled, and I flinch in anticipation of the worst, I pray that I, too, can just be a little pissed that I was right all along. And, that I was even luckier than I had imagined…Peace.

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Dumb Down Democracy…

As I reviewed the media coverage from this past weekend’s Iowa County Fair debate, and subsequent straw poll for the Republicans who aspire to run for the United States Presidency in 2012, I found a few things rather amusing. Or amazing…

First, how in the heck can anyone truly have a serious opinion about a potential presidential candidate from a few sound bites and scripted clichés espoused at a county fair…in Iowa. Now, with respect to the state of Iowa, a place which is less than 3 hours drive from my hometown of Peoria, Illinois, I wonder how a few fair goers can accurately discern the real value of a person whose only thought is to get you to like them.

Secondly, and even more disturbing, is the media coverage that was afforded to Sarah Palin, yes, that Sarah Palin. The woman who quit her job as Governor of Alaska, in order to sell her book and make a boatload of money. As I saw Palin signing autographs for people over the weekend in Iowa, it struck me…that many Americans would rather have a person whose intellect is questionable, by her own political party, instead of a brilliant, well educated man of color. And the man of color in the GOP who also spoke over the weekend, had fewer than 10 people surrounding him as he sought to mingle with the fair attendees. Sarah Palin had a hundred people within arms reach of her.

So, the media will play quite an important role in helping to shape, by it’s choice of what to give air time to, and what to allow to just evaporate…and they’re hoping that you won’t be paying attention.

We just went through weeks of Congress’ dare gaming regarding a debt ceiling debate, only to have them go on vacation and leave this country in a worse mess than before. Could you do that at your place of employment? That is presuming that you still have a job…

So, in closing, I ask that each of us truly become better informed now, a year before the election of 2012. Talk with your friends and family…so that we can think rationally and discuss sensibly, the real issues that will impact our lives. How corporate tax breaks are padding the cash coffers for most corporations. How the ability of the wealthy to elude fair taxes is a Congress-led shell game of major proportions. And that more of us will continue to slide farther from the American dream into the new American nightmare.

Just remember that I told you so when the swelling numbers of disenfranchised U.S. citizens decide that the time for talking is over…and the revolution will be more than televised. It will be live and in living color. Make sure you realize that the reset button you are so used to hitting on your favorite video game will not be enough. How dumb can that be?
Peace.

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“We Can Work It Out”

As the hours count down to a possible technical default on it’s debt by the United States government, and the continued posturing and paralysis exhibited by both parties in Congress becomes more polarized, a song by the musical genius Stevie Wonder came to my mind, We Can Work It Out.

As a parent of two adult children, both of whom too often think they know more about how my life should be lived than I do, and that some errors made in navigating this experience we know as life are unforgivable, I also say, “”Try to see things my way…”

So, today I ask you to consider taking the approach that there might be a better way to resolve our personal and political differences. That “new” path will be found when all parties truly listen to the other side in a genuine effort to understand the truth of the other person’s perspective.

I am prayerful that we all can daily find ways to put aside our own biases, hard-line positions and prejudices in an effort to become free to make peace…nothing else really matters.

We Can Work It Out.

Peace.

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We’re All in This Together…

While taking my daughter and her dog, Lovey, out for an evening walk, it became crystal clear to me how to solve some of the challenges that face our cities, country and world. Speak to me…

In my little corner of the world, Hercules, California, we have had our share of less-than-flattering press the past 6 months. The hillside less than 100 yards from my home had slid down again, destroying 6 homes…the then city manager was run out of office after it was learned that he had a number of shady deals with developers…with our city now facing financial meltdown. And the final act was holding a special election this summer to unseat 3 city council members who were all too agreeable with that crooked city manager…Hercules, Hercules, Hercules. Not laughing at that movie moment anymore.

But tonight while we walked for more than 30 minutes, my belief in our city was renewed. For you see, we were not the only ones out for a walk with our canine friends. So were many of our neighbors…and the most beautiful things began to happen. We acknowledged one another and spoke. Hello. Hi. Even just the simple nod of the head to say, I see you. Ah yes…a small but significant throwback to my childhood days, when neighbors knew one another and cared, at least on the surface.

It was good to see the Indian elder dressed in his white garb, the Filipino couple with their frisky dogs, the African American male doing his best to keep his two dogs from running too fast before him, and the Caucasian woman who took time to talk with Meisha and comment how cute her dog is. We really are all in this together.

Maybe, just maybe, we can send this message to Congress. Those elected officials who are sworn to serve in OUR best interests. Not those of corporate America or the lobbyists with millions of dollars to peddle influence. Nope. Just us neighbors who are the backbone of this once proud democracy. We the People…

During the last 10 minutes of our walk I heard this song in my head, and I hope you will listen to the lyrics…and remember that there is so much more about us that is similar than not.

Do me a favor today, make it a point to speak to your neighbor, the person in line at the grocery store, the older man or woman who is looking into your eyes, looking to see if your humanity is alive and willing…

We’re All in This Together.

Peace.

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In God We Trust…

On one of my walls is a plaque that I have had for over 30 years. It has seen me through a few moves and a few wives…and continues to inspire me to be more today than I was the day prior.

Before I share it with you I want to make clear that the topic of this post came out of my thoughts surrounding the current debt crisis facing our nation. And the fact that the politicians are invoking as much fear and gloom as they can muster short of causing a panic and mass hysteria on Wall Street. Yet, they make no mention of the statement that is on each and every paper currency printed by the United States treasury.

“In God We Trust.”

The Republicans want us to trust that their perspective of cutting government waste, but not increasing taxes is the righteous way to solvency. They even invoke the memory of Ronald Reagan, hoping that your memory will be so bad to not remember that Mr. Reagan raised taxes on more than one occasion during his presidency.

And the Democrats believe that most of the entitlement programs are sacred cows, and not to be touched…while polishing off their calculators in anticipation of new revenues from increased tax on the wealthy. That is such a slippery slope to climb, in good times and certainly in the midst of a still-comatose economy.

And so my plaque, which has been by my side through all of my tribulations and triumphs the past three decades, has so profound an answer to our dilemma. The piece you are about to read is the full version from which my plaque has excerpts…maybe I can forward this to President Obama and the fools on the hill to read…Peace.

Please click here for the quote.

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Staying stuck on stupid…

We are living in a truly amazing time. On one hand we have electronic products that even the Jetson’s would envy; smart phones, iPad and iPod, and Goof Off. The last item is a substance that you apply to something that has a backing of glue, and is stuck to a wall, cabinet or other surface. The Kryptonite to Duct tape.

As unbelievable as those items are, what is more unsettling to me is that we are on the brink of the biggest internal “gunfight at high noon” since the civil rights struggles of the early ‘60’s. Can you remember George Wallace, then the Governor of Alabama, blocking the doorway to the University that sought to admit a Black student? Before it was all over, President Kennedy needed to send National Guard troops to protect citizens.

The 800-pound gorilla that is beating its chest and preparing to devour us is the stand off between Republicans and Democrats, and their selfish posturing surrounding the raising of the national debt ceiling. Funny how millionaires in government are now deciding to allow a possible government default…with the President seeking to play the role of Harry Truman with the proverbial “buck stopping here.”

I wonder and ask you to also consider what it will take for Americans on “Main Street” to realize that for 10 plus years the United States has borrowed much more money than it has received. Any businessperson knows that it is a quick road to ruin, when you pay out more than you bring in. And here we are, looking the landlord in the face and seem to be willing to say; “I am not going to pay you today.”

We, the people, hold the largest ticket to this dance, as we hold Treasury bonds, and can force the Government to pay up…now. We need to instruct Congress, who are our employees, that to default on our agreement with our people, is a sure path to destruction. And to them being voted out in the next election. Maybe it will take the Gray Panthers, AARP, and other politically savvy organizations to turn up their collective heat on the elected leaders, who believe that painting our President into a corner in public is patriotic. It is anything but…

Use your voice on Face Book, Twitter, and other means to let people know that we will not allow this great country to be embarrassed by a handful of political zealots.

We can demonstrate that we are not stupid…but are empowered to use the democratic process to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Please excuse me while I go fetch my bottle of Goof Off and prepare to release some frustration on our Congress…

Peace.

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June 11, 2011

Everybody IS A Star…

I was perusing through the song list on some YouTube channels today and came across this song by Sly & The Family Stone. It caused me to take pause and think about those who are trying to be “stars” these days.

I mean we know of all the reality shows, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Voice…ad nauseum. The Star that the Family Stone was alluding to is the person who will shine their God-given light/talent for the world to see and become a better place.

One of the lines from the song goes, “Everybody wants to shine, who’ll come out on a cloudy day? You don’t need darkness, to do what you think is right…”

Simple, yet so profound.

I am ever prayerful in these challenging economic times, where it seems that those who have much desperately want to keep it, and those with little are trying to maintain their faith and dignity. How much more darkness is required for those with obscene wealth to do what is right in order to put our society back on track…it used to be the American way.

Today is the 10th year anniversary of the Geo. W. Bush tax cuts, which effectively gave the top 1% of Americans even more money, supposedly to create jobs. I ask you and, if I could them, is the sky dark enough for you now to come out and shine?

So, I salute Sly Stone and his provocative lyrics. And ask that you consider how you might be a star to someone whose light is blocked by clouds of despair…Peace.

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