The Enlightened Feminist OR You Mean Men Aren’t the Worst Thing to Happen to Society?

BOOK REVIEW –  Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism  by Camille Paglia

Having been born in 1963, my life has closely paralleled the second wave of feminism along with its daughter, today’s third wave.

Throughout its five decades, the second wave of feminism achieved its goals of opening up opportunities to women in society and in the workplace.  It did so admirably in its early days but something happened along the way.  Since then, it has forged ahead in a monolithic and increasingly hostile and exclusive manner.  In contrast to its early years when women fought to let it be known that they deserve an equal shot at economic success to go along with the rights the first wave had won in the early 1900’s, the movement became more about what’s wrong with men.

The popular brand of feminism — the one that drew the attention and the ears of Washington DC — made a wrong turn.  In its quest for more power, it made its demands not by extolling the virtues and value of women as much as it became a tearing down of men and all things male. I watched as popular culture, shaped greatly by Hollywood, went from “Father Knows Best” to fathers know nothing.\

My shell-shocked brothers and I were suddenly the sole reason for all things that were wrong in the world.  And everything was wrong.  We’ve endured the public floggings, both overt and subtle, while doubting everything about ourselves along the way.  It left us wondering, “We’re busting our butts for this?”  At some point, it became less about equality and more about power.  The movement became its own stumbling block.

Imagine how refreshing it would be to read a work by a feminist that is not only free of the mindless denigration of all things male but one that proclaims an actual appreciation for men and their history of accomplishments for the greater good and for women specifically.

Enter Camille Paglia (PAH-lia).  Actually, that is not completely accurate.  Paglia was there at the beginning, a vociferous champion of equal opportunity for women in all areas of life before the feminist movement was co-opted by the Gloria Steinem cabal of man-hating flamethrowers.

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve only come to know Paglia’s work in the last several years through her columns on Salon.com.  That is also testimony to feminism’s internal struggles and her exile from the feminist movement for speaking truth to power.

The first two chapters of Free Women Free Men are an anthropologist’s wet dream.  Paglia leaves no room for doubt in the reader’s mind that she is an intellectual powerhouse who has clearly earned her many impressive credentials.  Keep a dictionary and thesaurus close by as she guides you through history, ancient cultures, and their relevance to modern feminism.

Those chapters serve as the foundation for the rest of the book, which is a collection of selected essays, lectures, and interviews.  At the core of Paglia’s brand of feminism is a railing against anti-science womens/gender studies which ignore basic biology and are offered by a university system that she describes as ‘an absolute wreck.’  Another common thread running through each of them is the radical thought that men aren’t to blame for everything wrong with the world and society and that biology and sexuality play the primary role in differentiating the genders.  To label those as radical seems odd, but in the upside-down world of political correctness, the truth and statements of the obvious become revolutionary.

As for her writing style, reading Paglia is akin to watching a world champion fencer — quick, elegant and deadly.  Her parry to an opponent’s attacks and misguided vitriol are brutal and are followed by the swift riposting of a counter-point before laying to waste said opponent with a deadly lunge and thrust. The cadence and structure are crisp and straightforward as she drives home superbly-researched and winning points.  She deftly lays to waste not only her opponents and their arguments, she also slays current wave feminism’s sacred cows — from Title IX, to Rosseau-based gender-fluidity, to safe spaces and the general infantilizing of women that comes with them.

While there are disagreements with the author one will find on many topics along the way, Paglia is someone with whom you can walk alongside in the preservation of the political, economic, and social gains that women have won without the obligation to hurl self-loathing insults at men or the mythical patriarchy.  She is an intellectual companion to all and, unlike her feminist counterparts, consciously shows respect for those with whom she disagrees.  She is an atheist with profound respect for people of faith; an abortion-rights advocate who is authentic enough to admit flaws its reasoning and refuses to denigrate those in the pro-life camp.  Paglia seems to save her harshest criticisms for her fellow feminists and liberals.

Despite the camaraderie one might enjoy with Paglia in stating the obvious about feminism, the conservative would be mistaken if he/she believes a political ally has been found in Paglia.  Make no mistake, Paglia is hard left, politically.  She was a vociferous supporter of crazy uncle Bernie Sanders and voted for Jill Stein in the general election. That’s ok, too.  Even here she demonstrates respect and deference toward her opponents.

Paglia is a true feminist, someone who genuinely believes in the abilities of all women and refuses to tear down in order to build up.  Free Women, Free Men is a book which men, particularly, will enjoy as it doesn’t ask the reader to rage against the all-too-convenient feminist boogeyman called the patriarchy in order to recognize the abilities, contributions, and needs of women.

Free Women, Free Men, like Paglia’s breakthrough book, Sexual Personae, is a tome that deserves a space in the great works of modern feminism.

 

Get Free Women, Free Men HERE

 

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CAN WE PUT THE ‘HUMAN’ BACK IN HUMAN RESOURCES?

Let me begin with a disclaimer: I haven’t worked a single day in the field of Human Resources, nor have I ever played a human resource executive on television or in a blog. I am speaking as the father of young man trying to find work, as well as someone who, himself, has been through the hiring process a time or ten.

I work for an organization that helps manufacturers streamline processes, improve soft skills like leadership and innovation, and grow their top line with growth services. Our meetings and consultations with these firms cover a wide range of topics and they vary from company to company. One common thread, though, is the lament from nearly every one of them that they are having a difficult time filling open positions. It’s not just skilled positions that are going unfilled, but general labor positions, as well. On any given journey through the region, numerous billboards advertising job openings from various companies can be seen on roadsides. On the same road trip one will hear radio ads from the same manufacturers or distribution centers letting you know that they are hiring.

Likewise, while shopping around town one can’t walk through the door of any retail outlet or restaurant without seeing a sign reading ‘Now Hiring’ or ‘Help Wanted’. At every stop, I pull out my phone, snap a photo of the sign, and text it to my son, a recent high school graduate with past work experience who has been looking for a job all summer.

Given the plethora of signs and the desperate pleading from manufacturing firms’ human resources departments, one would think that anyone searching for a job could simply express just a modicum of interest and he/she would be welcome with open arms.

Unfortunately, every one of those manufacturers, retailers, and restaurants offered just one option for job applicants: go to a website and fill out an application. For the job-seeker like my son, it’s another website. Another impersonal, time-draining, patience-testing, soul-crushing website. There isn’t even an option to fill out an application onsite. It seems that human resource departments have removed humans from the early stages of the hiring process.

So, my son has filled out dozens if not a hundred online applications, just like his older brother and sisters before him. The response? Crickets. Nothing. Not even an acknowledgment via email that an application was successfully submitted from the vast majority of employers to which he applied. It has been remarkably discouraging and frustrating. And I feel his pain as I have been through this new, depressing process, as well. It also makes me question just how hard companies that claim to be challenged in finding the right people are trying to reach those people.

Look, I get the convenience of online applications for HR personnel. I’m sure it’s much easier and less overwhelming to simply point to a website and retrieve applications and resumes when the need arises. I have to ask, though, is it really that much better to use such an impersonal method of gathering applications? Wouldn’t it be just as easy to hand someone a physical application and interact with them even for a moment or two in order to get a feel for who they are as a person? Would that not go a long way in weeding out those who wouldn’t be a fit for the position or your company, thereby saving time in calls and interviews with people with whom your sole interaction up to that point was a few lines of copy on a computer screen?

In 1983, I had just finished my sophomore year in college and planned to kick off the summer by getting tickets to a concert. In those days, concert tickets were dispensed from a computer terminal tied to a dot matrix printer housed at a location somewhere. That location for us in northeastern Pennsylvania at the time was Joe Nardone’s Gallery of Sound, a record store located in the Wyoming Valley Mall. On the fateful Saturday morning when I stood in line waiting to purchase tickets, Nardone himself, the owner of the five-store chain, was at the helm of the Ticketmaster terminal. I made my purchase, paid with cash, and Nardone placed the tickets and my change into an envelope and I was on my way.

When I arrived home, I removed the tickets and cash from the envelope and discovered that he had given me $10 too much change. I immediately got back into my car, drove back to the store, and returned the $10 to Nardone himself. He was stunned and impressed enough to offer me a job on the spot. I started working for him the following Monday.

The point is that without that personal interaction, Nardone would have had no idea who I was as a person or how I could benefit his business. The same is true for my son. With his personality and the care and courtesy for those around him he has demonstrated all his life, he would be great in customer-facing work environments, while his discipline and compliance would serve him and his employer well in other positions. But how would potential employers know that if their only interaction with him is a cold, faceless online application?  Pixels on a computer screen have no personality and offer little insight into the person who may very well be the perfect fit for an organization. With online applications, candidates are homogenized and commoditized leaving HR personnel no way to get a feel for any one of them.

Allow me to take it one step further. There are so many people out there who are still searching for jobs and careers similar to the ones they’d lost as a result of the Great Recession. Many of them are primary or sole providers for families. They are stressed and possibly desperate. Do you know what it’s like to click ‘submit’ on a website’s application page and then be treated to radio silence forever more? And don’t get me started on those companies which demand that applicants attach a resume and then fill in an online application that asks for the exact same information that is on said resume. Further, I am convinced that not even Dante could dream of a lower circle of hell for those who demand applicants go through attaching the resume, filling in the online application, AND completing a personality survey, only to receive not even an acknowledgment that someone somewhere in the organization has at least seen the submission. Do you know that the unemployed who are in desperate situations have started the clock on waiting for a positive response (or any response) from a potential employer the very second they click ‘finish’ or ‘submit’? Do you know what it’s like to be stuck in that silent separation not knowing what is going on with the hiring process and have only a computer screen onto which to express your frustration?

Any communication would be welcome, even if it’s negative. At least the person wouldn’t be spending weeks thinking a phone call is coming. Couldn’t HR offer more than silence? Imagine a human being from a company’s HR department calling another human being and saying something like, “Hi, we received your resume and while your experience and qualifications aren’t the best match for this position, I know ABC Company is hiring and you might be a fit there. I can forward your information to my friend there if you’d like.” Or, perhaps, “Other applicants for this position have more experience or qualifications that are a better match, but we’d love to talk to you about another position with us.” Do you have any idea how much that would mean to someone?

I will end where I started. I don’t know what it’s like on the other side of the human resources door. You surely have great challenges before you. I am only offering insight into what it’s like on this side of your website. We just want you to know that we are real and we are more than the pixels on your screen…and that we have sons who need to earn some money so they can pay their share of the monthly car insurance premium. Just sayin’.

CHARLOTTESVILLE: WHY ECONOMIC POLICY MATTERS

A man with a gun is not dangerous, nor is a man with a flag.
The dangerous man is the one with no job, no purpose, and little or no hope.

I have bad news for everyone who promises to stamp out racism. It has been here for millennia and it will be here long after everyone reading this is gone. It didn’t start with black vs. white and won’t end with those colors, either. As it exists today, the racist strain is small, with the number of those practicing it dwarfed by the 320 million Americans that do not. Consider that the march in Charlottesville was a national call for people of that ilk to join and the final number who showed up was in the hundreds. They couldn’t even fill the streets. Still, racism will never die.

I do not hate either side that engaged in the violence that day — the bigoted neo Nazis nor the masked and violent vandals of Antifa. I can only pity them. The truth is that they are all lost souls who at some point in their lives lost purpose, lost hope, and lost affection, then sought replacements from the worst possible sources, oftentimes, the only one made available to them.

As I watched clips of the march and counter-protest, it occurred to me that if both sides engaged in real communication, rather than meeting hate with hate, they would have discovered that many of them had one thing in common. They would have noticed that a great number of the members of each group are among the economically disenfranchised.

One thing women will never understand fully about men is the sense of self-worth that work provides them. In the absence of work, or in the performing of work that offers little opportunity or a worthwhile share in society, a man never feels whole. Without the ability to provide for himself or his family, a man will eventually believe he has no purpose. He will also begin to assign blame for his plight. The longer a man is in this state, the more susceptible he will be to distorted thoughts, ugly philosophies, and the welcoming arms of sympathetic hate-mongers who offer easy two-tone answers and the blood money of professional protesting. This is not only true in America but on the streets in countries where Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terror organizations flourish. Idle hands are truly the devil’s workshop.

When American companies began closing their American mills and factories and stopped providing American workers with jobs in the late 1980’s, they created another type of factory, one that began churning out displaced men. In 1993, Congress ratified and President Clinton signed into law the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and that unemployment factory went into full production mode. In addition to the 700,000 existing manufacturing jobs that almost instantly disappeared, an estimated 5 to 10 million jobs that would have been created for an eager and hungry workforce in America’s heartland were handed to people south of the border when American firms built their new factories in places like Chihuahua instead of Charlottesville. Non-college graduates who could once count on a place in America’s middle class with the help of their manufacturing jobs were cast into the socioeconomic pit of service jobs, leaving them forever pressing their noses up against the window of that middle class.

NAFTA became the most socially destabilizing policy ever put forth by America’s leaders. It has nearly hollowed out the middle class and is one of the chief causes of income inequality.

On its current course, the outlook for the American worker only gets worse.

Right now, there are a handful of billionaires paying armies of software engineers to develop artificial intelligence beings, advanced robotics, and autonomous (self-driving) vehicles. Combined, these creations will put tens of millions of Americans out of work and leave only the best and brightest of their children with middle- and upper-middle class jobs. They will dwarf NAFTA in terms of job destruction. Granted, we are probably at least two decades away from most of this to hit critical mass, but what is the plan for workers and their families? NAFTA was implemented without a single thought as to how we would deal with the displaced workers of its first generation and an equal amount of thought for its second. In the movie Jurassic Park, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) challenges Hammond, the park’s creator with the movie’s best and most poignant line. “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Hammond manipulated life to create a self-enriching paradise. Elon Musk, et al are attempting to do the same with artificial life, potentially destroying real lives in the process just like Hammond. I do not fault their desire to proceed, but we can only label ourselves criminally negligent if we again fail the American worker with a lack of foresight and planning as we did with NAFTA.

A man with a good, family-sustaining middle-class job has something to protect. He has something to defend and he has self-worth. He has little time or patience for hate, marches, and counter-protests.

Yes, there is a lot more that goes into preventing one from slipping into the pit of racism and its new violent counter — education, empathy, and communication to name a few. However, with smarter growth-focused economic policies and more foresight and planning, we can choke off the supply of men (and women) who are vulnerable to their sick allure.

Five Course Comedy

Another book that shouldn’t have taken so long to get through but for the fact that I had to stop to laugh. Constantly.

My daughter bought this book for me after reading it because she knows that the author, comedian Jim Gaffigan, and I must be related somehow. Six degrees of pizza or something. Having seen his comedy routines and especially after reading this book, I’m confident she is right. It would not surprise me that should either of us ever need an organ transplant, we would each be a match for the other.

Gaffigan is an unapologetic lover of food and the consumption thereof (my people!). The book is his thorough assessment of all things food from everything he likes, such as bacon — “the candy of meat”– and cheeseburgers — “there should be way more poetry written about cheeseburgers” — to the much smaller number of foods he finds repulsive, such as “seabugs” (lobster, shrimp, clams, etc) and health foods like kale — “tastes like bug spray.”

What sets this book head and shoulders above others in the humor genre is Gaffigan’s remarkably prolific comedic mind. With humor books you hope for a laugh on each page. In this book, you’re getting one in almost every sentence. Many of those will cause you to close the book to spend a good amount of time laughing or if you are really in the spirit of reading “Food: A Love Story” by eating while reading, you will find yourself expelling your taco or bacon from your mouth or your nose. You’ve been warned.

You’re not going deep here. From a literary point of view, you’re not getting steak (“the tuxedo of meat”). Enjoy it for what it is — a damn good (and hilarious) cheeseburger.

An Open Letter to Young Fathers

“If you’re lucky enough to have done well, then it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.”

–Kevin Spacey

This is an unusual Father’s Day for me.  Last Monday, the youngest of my four children graduated from high school.  In the eyes of the state, I’m officially, technically done as a father.  I can hop aboard a plane destined for the island of St. Croix with a wave and a ‘Good luck in life’ wish for my kids.

We fathers know that isn’t how it works.  We are among the very small handful of people on planet earth that knew our children when they were babies, toddlers, tweens, teens, and young adults.  Our greatest wish is to continue to know, be with, and watch them grow for the rest of our lives; to see the adults and parents they will become.

No, I’m not done – not even close.  My role now changes from teacher to advisor.  Their lives are their own; their decisions, too, and the consequences and rewards that come with them.  There is no more “You will do this.”  From now on, it can only be “Well, my experience has been…”  That’s really what parenting comes down to – passing on knowledge in the hope that your children will avoid the same mistakes you made.

While it would be arrogant to assume that I have been a successful father – that’s something for my children and my children alone to decide – I have successfully guided four human beings from birth to adulthood.  I’ve learned much along the way so per Mr. Spacey’s exhortation above, I’m sending the elevator back down.

First and foremost, get their hearts right.  As fathers, our role is dominated by teaching and pushing for achievement.  That’s important, of course.  Ultimately, though, we will all be judged on our hearts and how we interacted with the world around us.  Intellect and achievements are wonderful, but they make for cold eulogies.  Teach them how they fit in to the grand scheme of things and how the rest of the world fits around them.  Teach them how each of their actions can make the world a better place or a worse place. Teach them to empathize – to walk in another’s shoes, to understand, to feel compassion.

Don’t get divorced.  Just don’t.  I don’t care how bad you think their mother is, there is nothing worse or more damaging to your children than divorce (you can close your email app.  I know abusive relationships are an exception. I get it.)  My children may read this, so I’m not going to get into my ex-wife’s behavior and faults.  Suffice it to say that whatever you are going through with yours, I’ve been there with a multiplier of ten.  Through all of it, I was willing to stay, to keep the marriage together to maintain stability for my children.  You can and you should work it out.  If you’re thinking life is going to be so much better with someone else, you are mistaken.  From a very selfish perspective, it may be.  Your second spouse may be kinder, less selfish, etc.  But you are simply trading one set of problems for another, some you can’t anticipate.  Divorce and remarriage are no panacea. Divorce is horrible and puts terrible strains on you and your children.  Worse, it causes untold and unseen damage to your children – damage that you may not even know exists until your children are grown.  Whatever is going on in your marriage to your children’s mother, work it out.  The reason the divorce rate is so high is that people have no idea what marriage is.  There is always so much talk about sex education.  I say forget sex education.  There should be marriage education.  Don’t get divorced.  Just don’t.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. You are not perfect, so don’t expect your kids to be.  Discipline is good.  Control is not.  Don’t freak out over habits and messy rooms.  I don’t know about you, but my bedroom was a disaster area when I was a kid.  When I get got my first apartment, though, I was suddenly a neat freak.  Not OCD level, but I took care of it and nothing was out of place.  Why?  Because it was truly mine and I was a grown-up (sort of).  Yes, try to get them on the right path, but don’t let your time with them be overrun with constant nagging. Your children are human beings with their own unique life and future.  They are in your care for a period of time, but they are not your property.

Don’t fall for the ‘quality time’ lie.  This goes along with my exhortation about divorce.  I was born in 1963. Technically, that puts me on the tail end of the baby boom generation – easily the most self-centered generation in the history of civilization.  I’ve never felt any connection to this generation, but the anthropologists want to lump me in with them.  If so, then I’m part of the generation that has made its primary objective to force the natural order of things to work around individuals’ selfish desires.  It didn’t invent divorce, but it brought it into the mainstream.  It not only made divorce acceptable and seems to be working on making it a rite of passage.  To make divorce more acceptable and palpable, they came up with the lie of ‘quality time,’ which dictates that it doesn’t matter if you only see your children two weekends per month, as long as you have a good time with them, it’s ok.  It’s one of the biggest lies of all time.  Don’t fall for it.  Your children need you every day.  Every.  Day.  Your children will learn FAR more from you by your example than by your words.  Your example seeps into their subconscious and influences them more than any words you pelt them with.  They can’t get that from ‘visitations’ a few days a month.

Furthering the previous point, it’s not enough to be present in your children’s lives.  You need to be in the present while you are with them.  Turn your full attention to them in those times.  Make that time sacred.  Do not think about your checking account, or your job, or anything else except your children and what they are enjoying or learning during that time.  If your mind is elsewhere, they will know it and feel it.  If you do not focus on them in these times, you may find yourself one day – perhaps during the week that your youngest child graduates high school – struggling to summon a memory and when you do only to find that it is cloudy or paled over because at the moment it was happening your mind was elsewhere.  Finally on this point, my children’s first ten years or so occurred before cell phones and long before smartphones.  Today, they are ubiquitous and dangerously addicting for everyone.  So, for the love of God and all that is sacred and pure, put away the smartphone when you are with them.

One of your most important jobs is to cultivate, to nurture their natural strengths and abilities and recognize their interests.  Do they have natural athletic ability or a creative flair?  Explore it and cultivate it.  The trick is to walk that delicate line between cultivating/encouraging and forcing it upon them to the point that they no longer enjoy it or they grow resentful.  Good luck with that.  While you try to walk that tightrope, there are two major pitfalls to avoid:  1) don’t make idols of your children.  Celebrate their achievements, etc, of course, but do not overpraise or over-expose them on social media, and 2) if your child is blessed with athletic ability, don’t be that father at all of their games.  You know the father (or mother many times) to whom I am referring – the one who is always arguing with the umpires, referees, and coaches and insists that it is his child that is a superstar and can do no wrong.  I’ve spent many years coaching Little League and youth football.  Here’s what I can tell you about what’s happening in the dugout and on the sidelines while you are acting like an idiot in the stands.  Your son/daughter is reacting in one of three ways: 1) being profoundly embarrassed and wishing you would shut up, 2) laughing at you with teammates or being picked on by those teammates because of you, or 3) worst of all becoming conditioned to think that everyone else is wrong, that authority should not be respected, and that they are somehow better than everyone else.  Also, stop yelling instructions or constant praise while they’re on the field.  Here’s another news flash: when they are on the field they don’t hear or understand what you’re saying and it’s nothing but a distraction for them. Finally, they will survive striking out and bad calls.  It’s part of life.  Sit down.  Shut up. Enjoy the game.  More importantly, let them enjoy the game.

Don’t over-protect them.  You may think you’re helping, but you may very well be causing more damage than you realize.  You may be conditioning them to be afraid of everything when they are adults.  Mistakes and experience can often be the best way to learn and for some like one of my sons, the only way a lesson gets learned.

They do not need things.  They need you.  No matter how wealthy or poor you are doesn’t matter a single bit to your kids.  Sure, they will cry and put up a fuss when you tell them ‘no’ when they ask to buy something.  I’ll let you in on a little secret: within an hour or so, they will have completely forgotten about whatever it is that they ‘had to have.’  Also, if you’re thinking that your house isn’t as nice as your neighbors, again, they don’t care.  It’s their home and the place where they are creating memories.  It will always be home to them.  Besides, they won’t have a clue as to the difference between houses until they are older.

Make sure they know where you stand on the big questions.  I came to faith late in life when my children were already well on their way to forming their opinions on such matters.  Regardless, there can be no doubt in their minds where I am on that journey and that I am here whenever they have questions.

There is no harder work than being a father.  Likewise, there are no greater rewards. It can be scary at times while you’re on that elevator, feeling every bit of pain they feel and praying to God that He transfer the pain from your children to you.  It will all be worth it and the elevator ride will be over before you know it.  When you arrive, you will regret your mistakes and smile at what you got right.  It will be with bittersweet satisfaction that you will press the button to send it back down.

‘Free’ Community College Is A Bad Idea

One state finally pulled the trigger.  Tennessee will make community college free to all of its residents.  Earlier this year, New York state made a four-year college degree free for its residents, albeit with some serious caveats.

Naturally, the instant reaction is that such moves are simply wonderful.  I tell you, though, it’s a really bad idea.  Sorry, I know that makes me a horrible person, but allow me to explain.

First, let’s start with a quick visual economics lesson. Imagine you’re holding a water balloon in one hand. Now, take the thumb and middle finger from your free hand and wrap it around the balloon and squeeze. You moved the water from the middle of the balloon, right? Did the water disappear or was it just moved to the top and bottom of the balloon, distorting its shape? Congratulations, you just learned how government intervention wreaks havoc upon and distorts the free market.

Now, let’s look at how this program will affect the higher education industry and cause far more problems than it cures (like just about every government intervention into the marketplace). First, what always happens when something of value is suddenly given away for ‘free’? Demand skyrockets, yes? In my home county, Luzerne County in Pennsylvania, our local community college has an enrollment of just over 6,000 students and the yearly tuition is about $3,500 for an in-county resident. When something with a value of $3,500 is suddenly offered for ‘free’, do you think demand will go up? One cannot even use the traditional marketing/economics formula of price elasticity to measure such a proposition. Can we agree that enrollment would double, especially when you throw in a segment of the population who would say, “Nothing else to do, so what the heck? Let’s go to college. It’s free, after all.” Let’s be conservative, though, and say the 6,000 students would turn into 10,000.

Since our local community college campus — currently 15 buildings — isn’t built or staffed to handle 10,000 students, what has to happen? The college will have to build and staff to accommodate. That means that county officials will have to raise taxes to build the new buildings and parking lots and hire additional faculty and staff. That means more than just paying for one-time construction costs (which will run over budget by millions, guaranteed). It would also need to fund ongoing maintenance of the buildings and grounds, as well as salaries, benefits and sweetheart pensions for the additional faculty and staff.

‘Free’ community college would also be a menace to four-year colleges and universities. Currently, most four-year colleges will accept most if not all credits earned at community colleges. Who wouldn’t then get those credits for ‘free’ and then transfer to a four-year college, rather than paying $40,000 for the first two years at a university? Therefore, four-year colleges in the future will do one of two things: stop accepting community college credits or raise tuition exponentially to compensate for the lost revenue from their ever-shrinking freshman and sophomore classes. Competition will most likely force them to continue to accept the credits, which means they will simply raise tuition. They will have no fear of doing so because they know the federal government will simply increase funding through grants and loans because it is political suicide not to give the education establishment whatever it wants. Anyone objecting to blindly increasing education spending year after year is always labeled as ‘anti-education’.

Let’s take a look at how else the free market gets distorted by this proposal. Today, there are roughly 7,000 trade and technical schools in the United States. While less expensive than colleges and universities, on average, trade and technical schools still generally cost more than your typical community college and will certainly cost much more when community colleges are ‘free’. So, what do you think will happen to all of the trade and technical schools when the ‘free’ community colleges begin offering the same courses and certifications? If you guessed they will go out of business, give yourself a gold star. And when all of those schools are gone and all of the education is being done by one institution — the ‘free’ community college — what will happen to the quality of the programs? The quality will inevitably suffer from the lack of competition.

The annual operating budget for Luzerne County Community College is $42 million. With future student enrollment ever increasing, that budget would easily swell to $70 million. Suddenly, the hottest job in every county is the presidency of the local community college. With all that new money flowing through a government agency, waste, corruption, nepotism and cronyism will inevitably follow. Do you think a good chunk of that new money might just end up in the pockets of the board members and administrators? Nah.

Former President Obama spoke of free community college in one of his state of the union speeches.  His plan would have covered it nationwide.  It had some dangerous fine print, though. The federal government, according to this proposal, would only kick in 75% of the cost of this program and demanded that states pick up the rest. State legislatures and governors would have been handed an unfunded mandate (classic political tactic) and be forced to raise taxes through no fault of their own in order to pay for the federal giveaway.

‘Free’ government programs are never free and they are never without consequences. Besides, reaching into taxpayers’ pockets to provide ‘free’ community college is a classic example of fixing something that isn’t broken. Is there a community college crisis out there that only the government can solve?

Things That Go Bump In The Morning

I know what you’re thinking: that’s an odd place for a chandelier. Either that or you’re probably thinking that lamp is too big for that coffee table.

You’d be wrong with either.

Our day started just before 6:00 am with a thunderous, house-shaking boom coming from our first floor right below our bedroom. My first thought, obviously, was a terrorist attack. They found me — the infidel, the great Satan. Our dachshund puppy immediately sounded his barking alarm and that comforted me. The jihadi son-of-a-slug that got into our home is in for it now, I thought. Suffer dachshund rage, you scum.

When I got downstairs, though, there was no smell of bomb residue — not that I would know what that smells like, anyway. There was no sinister, smiling terrorist, either. What we found was our chandelier resting comfortably on the floor. It seemed stunned but perhaps relieved, too, after spending all of those years being dangled above the table and floor as if it was rushing a fraternity and having to endure a decade-long prank before being accepted into the frat house.

Looking up, we saw the apathetic links that had held the chandelier all those years. They were defiant, just hanging there knowing that it wasn’t their fault. No, the fault was in their weak friend — the one link they always made fun of and made carry the heaviest load. “Don’t look at us,” they quipped. “We’re right where we are supposed to be. Check the floor. You’ll find the culprit,” they said. “Watch out for all the tiny shards of glass, though.” At least they were somewhat thoughtful, if not remorseful. We searched the floor and found the lowest link — the weakest one. “I tried, man, I tried. Just couldn’t hold it anymore,” it said with its final breath while looking at his other half a few inches away.

The dangling electrical wire, snapped and stripped, was afraid of blame. “There’s no way I was going to be able to hold that beast. You can’t think I could be responsible for that can you? I have to deal with lighting the thing.  There are still people I have to deal with who think what I do is witchcraft.  ” I paused and realized he was right. “I know,” I said. “It’s ok.”

The electrician who came to install a new one this afternoon said that he never heard of a chandelier just falling down like that, especially after only ten years. He suggested taking it back to Lowe’s. My wife was way ahead of him.

Your prayers for whoever is working the Lowe’s customer service desk tomorrow when my wife and I take the chandelier back would be appreciated.

This Is How I’ve Nearly Eliminated Stress, Tension, and Anxiety

I am loathe to give advice.  That’s not what this is about.  This is not a ‘revolutionary three-step plan’ for a better life.  The best I can do is say that this worked for me.

One trend I’ve noticed over the past few years is the growth in tension, anxiety, and worry in our society.  Whether it’s a true growth or if it’s simply being vocalized and brought to the surface more, I don’t know.  Perhaps social media is giving it a higher, more visible platform.  Regardless, it is evident that we complain a lot.  We worry a lot.  We get tense way too often.

I noticed it in myself, though it wasn’t a recent phenomenon.  Stress and tension, as well as non-clinical anxiety, were dependable companions for most of my life.  Raising four kids, dealing with an ex-spouse, working in marketing which always up being first in line for the chopping block when the economy or business turns sour, and trying to balance a new life can certainly be labeled as contributing factors.

All of that is still present for me.  The kids will be an ever-present worry, no matter how old they either of us get.  I’m still more than a decade from retirement, so I go to work every day hoping that day isn’t the last.  I still need to balance my past life with my wife, while trying to help her do the same.

What has changed is my re-ordered thinking and the shift in my prayer life.  I stopped focusing on what I wanted and started focusing on, and appreciating, what I have.  Simplistic, I know, but sometimes the answer is truly right in front of us and can be that obvious.  Concentrating on gratitude has made a big difference.

The gratitude is not for things.  That will never last for when a time comes when those things are no longer present, no longer will be the gratitude.  It is not a comparative gratitude, either.  To be thankful that I’m not a starving child or homeless, because that will still focus one on material things.  The gratitude is much more basic and granular than that.  If a person can get the gratitude to the level of the basics — waking up, air in the lungs, freedom — the rest naturally fall far down the list of what can infest a person’s mind and attitude.

In my prayer life, as well, I made a conscious shift from requests and supplications to simple gratitude.  I’ve nearly stopped sending requests and demands to God for what I desire and instead send my gratitude for what I have.  I have no calculator on my prayers, but I can confidently say that 90% of my prayers are those of simple gratitude — for my eyes opening each day, for the air in my lungs, and for another opportunity to enjoy my wife and family, music, art, literature, and the whole of creation.  There will be a day when that won’t happen.  Perhaps it would be best to keep that more to the forefront of our minds.

The problems I thought I had became far less significant and their status as problems has even become questionable.  There is no magic, here.  The conflicts and challenges of life do not suddenly disappear.  A mind re-ordered by gratitude have minimized their effect on me.

10 Songs That Prove the 90’s Was the Golden Decade for Female Songwriters

As a writer, one spends a great deal of time in front of a computer.  And since computers are perpetually connected to the Internet, it means one’s most addictive distractions are ever-present.  For me, that’s YouTube.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I told myself that I was just taking a three-and-a-half minute break to listen to a song.  One song.  It will serve me well to re-charge my creativity battery and give me that push I need to finish the next chapter.  Three hours later, I find myself in the middle of a documentary on The Partridge Family (kids, ask your parents).  Well done, cyber pied piper.

It happened again recently. I made the innocent mistake of watching the video for Shawn Colvin’s Sunny Came Home.  With YouTube set to ‘autoplay’ another song started as soon as one song ended.  I went for a long ride through 90’s music, mostly songs written and performed by women.  As I listened, it struck me that some of the best songs written and performed by women were created in the 90’s.  It was a golden decade of female creativity.

Sure, the 60’s gave us Carole King, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell and in no way do I mean any disrespect to these legends.  Examining the work of female songwriters of the 90’s though gives us a glimpse into a time when it all seemed to come together for them.  The writing was taken to a new level, a higher one on which female creativity came into its own and flourished.

Women were reaching into themselves and our collective psyches to find places we hadn’t before explored, at least not so well nor with such honesty and emotion.  Not only did the decade produce some of the best songs of the rock era, it became the soundtrack for young songwriters hoping to follow in the footsteps of their childhood idols.  Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne, Amy Lee, and more all spent their formative years listening to the songs and artists below.  While they certainly learned and honed their craft since then, there just doesn’t seem to be a collection of songs in a short amount of time since the 90’s that can be considered comparable.

With that said, here are the top ten songs from the 90’s borne of women.  They are in no particular order with the exception of numbers 1 and 2, which I believe represented the zenith of the collected works.

10.  Natalie Merchant – Wonder

Exploring not the struggles of special needs individuals but their beauty, Merchant delivers a beautiful take on life and avoids trashing the subject with political pleas and demands.  She decided to zig while others zagged.  I ‘wonder’ if this song could even be written today without an industry exec or even the artist demanding some sort of political dig at someone or something.

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9.  Tracy Chapman – Fast Car

Has there ever been a better, more descriptive portrait of life, love, hope, and disappointment in urban America than this song?  Chapman packed a novel’s worth of emotion and story into this simple yet powerful song.

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8.  Sarah Mclachlan – Angel

Just a nod to its haunting, emotive power

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7.  Suzanne Vega – Luka

Go ahead and try to make an insightful, heartfelt song about child abuse while at the same time crafting a catchy melody.  Again, we see a woman’s ability to get around the obvious and explore a topic from another more emotionally charged point of view.

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6.  Paula Cole – Where Have All the Cowboys Gone

A creative, yet simple plea for a return of the traditional male while at the same time lamenting his failures.  Out-of-the-box and unique.

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5.  Meredith Brooks – B*tch

Sorry.  I can’t change the title.  A song which may very well have enraged hardcore feminists is a welcome one by not only women who, if they can’t see empowerment in the lyrics, at least some sense of relief from its honesty, and men who are just happy to say, “Finally.  All we wanted was acknowledgment.”

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4.  Shawn Colvin – Sunny Came Home

Colvin’s ability to remain vague in the lyrics while still tossing out enough red meat for those feeling victimized by something is quite a feat.  Everything about this song is great — lyrics, instrumentation, production, and even the video.  Powerful song.

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3.  Lisa Loeb – Stay

I probably could have filled the entire list with Loeb’s songs.  A graduate of Brown University with a degree in comparative literature, it’s no surprise that she has a unique ability to squeeze every bit of meaning out of every word and lyric, while being a master of weaving words into a Rembrandt-level work of art while nearly every other writer is content with paint-by-numbers.  Her other songs, such as I Do and Do You Sleep? could easily be substituted here.

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2.  Jewel – You Were Meant For Me

Here, too, this artist’s work could fill this list.  Jewel is a brilliant, creative songwriter that elevated not only women but the art form itself.  The loss or ending of a relationship is often paralleled by the process of the loss of someone through death.  The same stages exist, denial being one of them.  There has never been a better song about the denial stage than this masterpiece.

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1. Alanis Morissette – You Oughta Know

Ask any writer how hard it is to capture raw emotion and they will tell you of the hand-wringing and the sleepless nights of trying over and over again to get it right.  As Jewel captured the denial phase of loss above, Morissette explores the anger phase and takes it to level: expert.  The only other song that comes close to capturing raw emotion is U2’s Like A Song and even that favorite of mine plays second fiddle to Morissette’s masterpiece. What makes the writing of this song so incredible is that Alanis was only 19 years-old when she penned it.  Artists in their 60’s would have difficulty exploring their life experience to find such honest emotion.  Quite a feat.

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So, what do you think?  Did I get it right or are you shaking your head thinking I’ve lost my mind?  Any songs that you think should be here?

THE CHIVALROUS MAN IN A POST-CHIVALRY WORLD

There was a time that I was all in on chivalry. It went way beyond simply opening doors and pulling out chairs. I stood when a woman entered a room, approached a table, or rose to excuse herself from a table. I gave up my seat whenever a woman was standing, whether it be in a public meeting, at a children’s sporting event, or those rare times I’ve been on public transportation. I held a coat for a woman to aid her in putting it on and picked up anything a woman had dropped. I still cannot rest if I see a woman carrying something, just about anything, especially if the item seems heavy or if she is toting a child in her other arm.

That has faded over the years. It’s not that I don’t believe in doing all of those things. I do. Rather, the gestures have made me an anomaly; a quasi-time traveler hopelessly out of sync with a 2016 world. In rare circumstances, I will stand when a woman approaches a table, but, if it happens in a room full of people, it is a half-hearted stand in both posture and conviction and is tempered by an aversion to drawing unnecessary attention to myself. Today, these chivalrous gestures generate little more than suspicious glances from both the women for whom they are intended, as well as the onlooking men present.

The first incarnation of chivalry in the late middle ages actually had little to do with interactions between men and women. It was focused far more on men as warriors and citizens than as gentlemen in affairs of the heart and as defenders of a woman’s honor. The latter seems to have been more of an add-on. It was a “fusion of Christian and military concepts of morality” according to encyclopedia.com.

Since the end of the Middle Ages, chivalry has undergone revivals followed quickly by movements to bury it. Ironically, each time a revival was beaten back – from the Renaissance, to the Civil War, to the turn of the century — the reasoning was the same: it was outdated.

(Here comes the part where women throw sharp objects at me in their heads)

Even as the remnants of chivalry have attempted to survive within the cloak of Victorian/Emily-Post-ian codes of gentlemanly behavior, they’ve withered under a brutal beating from a wing of the feminist movement. The Gloria Steinem brand of feminism has aimed to advance its cause by erasing the differences between men and women under the guise of empowerment. It encouraged women to be one of the guys.

The inherent irony of such a misguided pursuit is that it is a woman’s femininity that is one of the essential keys to that very empowerment that was sought. The fatal oversight in that drive toward sameness is this: women are the most powerful civilizing force on the planet.

It is unfortunate that much of the resistance to chivalrous behavior from such women is based on the false notion that chivalrous behavior somehow invalidates the advances that women have made. Too many would have women believe that chivalry is an insult, the residue of an oppressive patriarchal system

Meanwhile, shell-shocked men are on the sidelines seeing nothing more than this in their gentlemanly behavior: one group of people (men) showing respect for another group of people (women) and nothing more.

Very early in life women are asked to take on a daily routine, not for their own benefit or other women, but for men and ultimately for the survival of the human race. They apply makeup, shave their legs and underarms, walk in heels, and stress over their hair, clothes, and weight. Early in their lives, they begin enduring a monthly cycle. Women then agree to have our children and voluntarily subject their bodies to more changes — some permanent – than we care to know. They then give from their bodies sustenance essential to the child’s survival. Women literally give of their bodies to ensure that the human race perpetuates and survives. As if all of that isn’t enough, they have another great change to which they must accept in the form of menopause. Every step of the way, they must contend with the inherently visual nature of men and a culture that feeds and intensifies it.

I cannot speak to the motivations of those who first devised the concept of chivalry centuries ago. I can only speak to my own desire to do what I do. For me, chivalrous acts have nothing to do with a perceived weakness in women. In fact, it is quite the opposite. They are a recognition of a woman’s strength, what she is asked to endure, and the honored role that women play in society. Men are well aware that a woman can open a door, carry a box, etc. That is obvious. Opening that door or carrying that box for a woman shouldn’t be seen as an insult.

Every gesture from a chivalrous man is an act of gratitude and honor. It is a silent acknowledgment and ‘thank you’ for everything that a woman goes through, much of it for men and children.

So, what is such a man to do in a society that increasingly rejects such behavior? To continue would be to accept life as a pariah. It is to endure the wary looks from onlookers. To stop is to go against instinct.

In a world that is quickly losing its graces and turning from civilized behavior, it’s troublesome that attempts to keep them alive are seen as outdated (again) and are failing to take hold.

The 3 Questions That Determine How You Live Your Life

There are many questions we as humans have about many things, including life itself. When it is all boiled down to the bare minimum, there are really three basic questions that every human being answers from which we draw our conclusions about life. Some people answer these questions consciously, with much thought and introspection. Others kind of back into the answers and deliver them subconsciously. Make no mistake, though.Every human answers these questions and their responses are manifest in their life, thoughts, motivations, and actions.

1. IS THERE A GOD AND / OR AFTERLIFE?
There is a very large subset of questions if you answer in the affirmative to the above question (what kind of God? etc.). All of those, however, come after this very big one. No other question holds the power that this does, especially in how one conducts his/her life.

For those answering ‘yes,’ then it naturally follows that you need to know who God is and what that means for us.

Answer ‘no’ to this question and life gets a little simpler. You have one shot at life and it only makes sense to get as much as you can. Gather as much as you can in any way you can.

2. ARE WE, AS A SPECIES, EVOLVING TOWARD SOMETHING BETTER OR DEVOLVING AWAY FROM SOMETHING GOOD?

This question isn’t about physical evolution, nor is about advancement and achievements in the physical sense. It is about the shifting moral landscape.

Was it better long ago? Was there a standard to which we adhered then slowly let go of over time, whether it be because we became bored, selfish, etc.?

Or, are we rightfully moving away from something that was oppressive and bad, and by doing so we are becoming a better people? Morally, are we becoming a better species than we were?

3. IS THERE A PURPOSE OR MEANING TO LIFE?

Are we just marking time, waiting to die or does each life have a purpose which may not be evident at all times? Is it for us to determine, for others to determine, or is that in the hands of a higher power?

How a person answers these questions — consciously and deliberately, or otherwise — plays a leading role in how that person conducts themselves, makes decisions, and interacts with others.

END WELFARE FOR THE NFL & ITS FRANCHISES

Full Disclosure: I’m a big fan of football and look forward to each season.

While the rest of the country was watching one billionaire businessman be elected president, the people of San Diego were rejecting the thought of a handout to another. In surprising numbers, San Diegans told Alex Spanos and his NFL Chargers ‘no more’ to taxpayer-funded football stadiums.

We can only hope that San Diego is the tipping point in the drive to de-couple taxpayers from the building of workplaces for the country’s 31 billionaire football team owners.

There is no question that hosting an NFL franchise is a boon for a city’s economy. That boon, though, is almost always less than promised and given the high price taxpayers have been asked to pay for the questionable increase in economic activity, the break-even point is too high. Taxpayers are not only fronting the millions to build the stadium but in almost every case, the local government is financing the project through the issuance of municipal bonds on which taxpayers must pay the interest on top of the principal.

In 1994, Jeff Lurie bought the Philadelphia Eagles for $195 million. In the early 2000’s, the Eagles were provided with a brand new stadium – Lincoln Financial Field – at a total cost of $512 million, half of which ($256 million) came from Pennsylvania taxpayers. Lurie and the Eagles put up a paltry $50 million toward the construction costs, and the NFL, which raked in more than $13 billion in 2015, contributed zero. Nothing.

By the time taxpayers are done paying for the Lincoln Financial Field, to include interest on the financing, their total cost will be north of $600 million. Meanwhile, the value of the Philadelphia Eagles franchise has grown to $2.85 billion. That comical $50 million the franchise paid for their workplace barely registers as an asterisk on Jeff Lurie’s balance sheet. The taxpayers of Philadelphia and all of Pennsylvania have made Lurie a very wealthy man, indeed.

It gets worse, though. For their $50 million pittance, Lurie and the Eagles get to dictate terms for the field’s use. They’ve used that authority to charge Temple University’s football team $1.8 million per year in rent for use of the stadium for its home games. Oh, the NFL’s greed doesn’t stop there. The Eagles also keep all proceeds from all concession sales during Temple’s home games. Temple is a publicly-funded school, which means even more taxpayer dollars are finding a home in Lurie’s pocket.

So, what will happen when Lincoln Financial Field becomes obsolete? It will probably occur not long after taxpayers are finally done paying for it. Given the past modus operandi of the NFL and its franchises, including Spanos and the Chargers last year, Lurie will pout and threaten to leave Philadelphia, while NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, will sit silently by and watch it play out, knowing that some city will be dumb enough to put up the money so he could keep the NFL’s billions safe and secure. No NFL franchise has any incentive to stay put other than the established fan base. The small amount they have invested in a stadium is hardly a reason for them to stay anywhere. It is easier for them to leave the old stadium as a problem and eyesore for the city it leaves behind. It has no skin in the game.

Spanos and the Chargers weren’t prepared for the relative ease with which the San Diego community bid them farewell. Equally satisfying for taxpayers is that his team has hardly received a hero’s welcome in their new home city of Los Angeles, a city that had already lost two NFL teams and barely registered an increase in its collective heartbeat when the Rams returned this year. It’s time for taxpayers to get beyond the allure of hosting NFL teams and stand up and let them know that their team loyalty comes at a price, one which demands that multi-billion dollar businesses build their own workplaces.

Good Night, Mr. Warmth

What may shock people is that Don Rickles was actually one of the nicest, classiest people I’ve met. His sarcastic nickname, “Mr. Warmth,” was really very appropriate for him as a private person.

This photo was taken 20 years and 400 pounds ago. I met him in my role as Director of Marketing and Entertainment for Caesars Pocono Resorts. His first words to me were, “Who the hell are you? Are you someone important?” We laughed, then talked about Johnny Carson, CPO Sharkey and life in general.

RIP Don

Book Review: Get This Book

A quick read that would be even quicker if you didn’t have to stop so often to laugh out loud.

This book is a collection of great stories told against the backdrop of his rise in the entertainment industry — from doing shows in questionable clubs at 4am to headlining in Vegas and roles in Hollywood films. It also reveals the warm and truly sensitive person he was offstage.

Perhaps the best thing about this book is the way it is written. It is a conversation. It is told as if Don Rickles is sitting across the table from you in the back corner of a Vegas lounge with a vodka-based cocktail regaling you with stories about his experiences and some of entertainment’s biggest names — Sinatra, Martin, Carson, etc.

Complete the experience with a cocktail and some Rat Pack music playing in the background while you devour the book.

Money for Education? It’s Been There All Along

The projected budget for the federal Department of Education for fiscal year 2017-18 includes $2.1 BILLION just for salaries and expenses for its 4,500 employees, all of whom are related to a Senator or Representative or somehow connected to a campaign donor or other such DC power broker.

Two billion, one hundred million dollars just for salaries for people to run an organization that adds zero value to education. Think about that the next time someone cries about a school not having enough textbooks or computers or whatever is lacking. If we shut down the department of education and distributed that $2.1 billion in salaries and expenses among the fifty states, each state would receive more than $46,000,000.. Do you think that might buy a few textbooks and computers?

Let’s not stop there, though. Let’s think deeper. Who benefits the most from the youth market? To what and whom do kids give their and their parents’ money? Let’s start with Apple, Inc, which currently sits on over $100 BILLION in cash and liquid securities, much of which was brought to them by teens, tweens, and college students buying iPhones, iPads, iMacs, and downloading music from iTunes. It doesn’t stop there. How many schools and colleges have purchased dozens or even hundreds of computers from Apple? Perhaps Apple can help fund education.

That same market segment has purchased billions in overpriced sneakers and athletic wear from Nike, making founder Phil Knight a multi-billionaire — $28 billion in net worth to be exact. Bill Gates has done well from kids buying X-Boxes, pc’s, MS Office suites, etc. He’s been at it long enough to sit on $84 billion in net worth. Perhaps these two can give back to the kids that have given them so much.

You’re reading this on Facebook, which has swollen Mark Zuckerberg’s balance sheet to a net positive figure of $54 Billion — all from just getting kids to like and share each other’s memes. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is a prime example of someone who has profited handsomely from the youth market. How many college textbooks and millions of other items purchased by kids and young adults are included in Bezos’ $73 billion of net worth?

Who has profited more from children who need those textbooks than the Disney Corporation? Perhaps that company can stick a crowbar into its $91Billion of net worth to give back to the market that has made it — and will continue to make it — an entertainment powerhouse. While we’re at it, perhaps George Lucas will allow the force to be with him enough to move him to part with a bit of his $5.3 billion to help those computer-less schools, the students of which purchased billions in all Star Wars movies and gear.

Let’s not forget the rest of that entertainment industry, which benefits mostly from kids. There is Kim Kardashian, who became a household name because of porn and whose sole talent is converting oxygen into carbon dioxide. With her equally talentless and classless husband, Kanye West, there lies a net worth of $212 million. Clearly, all of that came from the undeveloped minds of youth. There’s Jay-Z and Beyonce, too, who pilfered the pockets of kids with no taste and amassed a fortune of $875 million along the way, as well as the embarrassing wishing-to-be-forever-young Madonna who sits on $560 million that could buy a textbook or two for the kids she has punished with her music. Perhaps they’re not interested in helping to educate kids, since their minds may develop enough sense and taste to realize they’d been listening to garbage all those years. Sir Paul and Sir Elton? $1.1 Billion between the two, although in recent decades it has come from the middle aged and older market. Still, their careers were built on kids.

Finally, who more than any of the above directly benefit from educating kids? Colleges and universities. This group will financially rape and plunder kids and their parents for roughly $100,000 per student. But, surely, colleges and universities are just poor-as-church-mice non-profits who barely scrape by, aren’t they? Hardly. Every college and university has an endowment. The top ones are counted in the billions. In fact, if we added together the endowments of just the top ten universities, the total would be $169 BILLION. That’s just the cash being hoarded by the top ten colleges. There are 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. As the cherry-on-the-sundae to this mis-allocation of funds, that $169 billion grows every year based on investment returns, which, if estimated at a conservative growth rate of 3%, would mean that a little over $5 Billion is being added annually.

The answer from Washington DC is the same as it has always been: we aren’t taxing enough. To the politicians, it’s not enough that Joe & Mary Sixpack and Biff & Buffy Chardonnay are buying the iPhones and X-boxes, and taking the kids to the Disney movies and paying for all those bad music downloads to line the pockets and build up someone’s balance sheet. These great unwashed need to pay more in taxes, as well. And if Harold & Martha Denture lose the home they’ve lived in for fifty years because they can’t afford the ever-increasing property taxes extracted from them to fund ‘education,’ then so be it.

We have neither a budget crisis nor a funding crisis in this country. We have a society-wide mis-allocation of funds and assets fueled by a refusal to accept the responsibilities that accompany the benefits of capitalism. And it has nothing to do with taxes. It’s time to stop playing the political game — which is nothing but a hamster wheel — and start applying social pressure on those companies and individuals who have benefited the most directly from the people who need the most. The kids have been and always will be there for them. It’s time for them to be there for the kids.

40 Years of Music That Almost Never Happened

In the fall of 1951, at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, three babies were born with spina bifida — a birth defect that features an incomplete closure of the spine and the membranes surrounding it. In most cases, the spinal cord protrudes from the baby’s lower back, but in its rarest form the protrusion occurs at the neck.

In those days, such babies were simply left to die. One of the hospital’s surgeons, Dr Robert Heimburger, was ready to end that practice and decided to operate on all three infants in an attempt to correct the problem and give those three human beings a chance to live. Tragically, one infant died during the operation. The second operation was successful and the girl lived 14 years, albeit in a wheelchair.

The third infant had the rarer form of the defect. Heimburger and his team had to slice open the baby’s neck from the back of one ear to the other, repair the spine, and put the baby back together. The operation was successful.

The boy spent the first ten years of his life having no idea what he had been through or that he had undergone surgery. It wasn’t until a friend asked about the scar on the back of his head that he was even aware of the scar. He asked his parents about it. They told him nothing more than that he had an operation when he was a baby and everything was fine.

He grew up like any other child and wanted to be a painter like his mother. There was no money for art school, so he fell back on music, playing in cover bands and writing “awful” songs.

Music turned out to be his career, though he spent most of his time touring plagued by anxiety attacks and agoraphobia. He described his daily routine while on tour as “throwing up and then having to walk for two to three hours to work off the anxiety.” Only then was he able to walk on stage.

He was 62 years-old when he finally met the doctor who saved his life. Heimburger was 97 years-old at the time. He showed his patient the photos of him as a baby with what looked to be a man’s fist sticking out of his infant body’s neck. The photos shocked the man and caused him to nearly vomit. The man said that he wished someone had told him earlier so he could have known how incredibly fortunate he was to have lived such a long life and have had the success he has had throughout his career. When the doctor and patient sat down to talk, the doctor simply told the man that he had to have faith.

The baby’s name was John Mellencamp.

Do We Even Need News Media Anymore?

Last Tuesday (January 24th), I watched Sean Spicer’s entire press conference, unfiltered, on Periscope.tv. It lasted forty-four minutes and thirty seconds. There were 37 questions asked that covered nearly as many topics. A sampling of those topics includes the ACA, NAFTA, the Keystone pipeline, Israel, a shield law for journalists, race relations, NATO, potential supreme court nominee, and planned meetings with Congressional caucuses.

If, instead of watching the press conference, you watched the news that afternoon or evening, or if you watched your Facebook newsfeed that day, all you heard about was President Trump’s comment made during the presidential campaign regarding voter fraud. Forty-four minutes, thirty-seven questions, and more than twenty topics, yet all the media pushed was ‘voter fraud.’ This is how the media ever so subtly begins to divide people and pushes an agenda – their agenda.

Those of us who watched that press conference also noticed that an agenda was being pushed by the reporters themselves. Of the 37 questions asked, six concerned the voter fraud comment. Even though Spicer answered the first question about it, reporters weren’t satisfied. Five more insisted on asking the same question—and I do mean the same question. Spicer calmly and professionally answered the question all six times the question was asked, giving all the information a person could have possibly given each time. Clearly, it wasn’t just the news organizations that wanted the press conference filtered down to one topic. The reporters present decided that they wanted the story to be ‘voter fraud.’ The reporters decided that rather than tell the whole story of the press conference, they would push one topic – and it would be one of their choosing.

Likewise, I watched the inauguration on C-Span. There was no commentary from hosts, just the raw footage of all the events of that day. There was no one with a camera and microphone telling viewers what or how to think or view the events. C-Span simply let the events unfold. What made it even better was the viewer’s ability to hear the chatter among the people present on the stage – political friends and rivals greeting each other and sharing some small talk. C-Span respected its viewers enough to allow them to make their own judgments about the events unfolding before them. To fill some air time, a host aired calls from viewers, but never interfered or challenged them. The question was simply, “Do you support President Trump or not?” Callers gave their view and the host simply said, ‘thank you’ and took the next call.

In this golden age of access to information – at its source, organic, and unfiltered – why do we still rely on news organizations that are biased (present on each side of the political aisle) and determined to jam a day’s worth of information into one-minute sound bites? Why have it edited and packaged by someone or group that will infuse it with his/her/their own bias and agenda? We can all go right to the source and we can all have a common starting point rather than coming to discussions on events and policy with prepackaged information that includes a bias?

Don’t get me wrong. I am in no way advocating for the elimination of the fourth estate. We need investigative journalists. We need those watchmen and women to keep those in power in check. For the most part, though, in recent decades, they have failed us. They no longer report the news. They make the news, determining an outcome before getting the full story or putting their own political views and leanings above the objective truth. Worse, even those stories get further diluted and distorted in order to fit them into sound bites for the attention-deficit population at large and in between the commercial breaks. It does not serve us well and we no longer need the news programs of ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. Their time has passed.

Perhaps it’s time to finally confront the 800 pound gorilla in the room and admit the ‘objective journalist’ is and always has been nothing but a mythical creature, no more real than the tooth fairy and unicorns. No human being is without bias, no matter how much one protests to the contrary. Each of us take with us into each of our daily encounters, discussions, jobs, and education the sum of all of our learning, experiences, and opinions up to that point. Unfortunately, we also take our pride with us, as well. That may be the worst of all companions, for it is that one that is the obstinate guardian at the gates of learning. Pride is the end of learning and if allowed to rule the roost of our emotions, will prevent us from reading or learning from the research, thoughts, and ideas from those from the opposite side of the argument. That’s bad enough for us as consumers of information. It is a disqualifying trait for a journalist.

We also can no longer accept factually wrong stories or fake news to be swept under the rug with unapologetic and half-hearted retraction. The average person pays little attention to the retraction and, to keep feeding their pride and hope in the initial fake/factually incorrect story, burn into their minds the original story, cementing it into their subconscious as fact the next time they’re in the voting booth. I still have ill-informed people puking debunked stories into my Facebook newsfeed – the seven countries chosen by Trump are because of business ties, the cabinet wasn’t briefed on the immigration executive order, etc. The originators of the fake story accomplished its goal of planting the seed in the gullible minds. Pay no attention to that retraction behind the curtain.

If, then, we are ready to admit that objective journalism is an impossibility, it is incumbent upon each of us to be more vigilant in pursuit of knowledge, the truth, and the best possible solutions. To accept that truth means we will need to seek information beyond our favorite places. In effect, we are committing to becoming our own investigative journalist. Are you ready to look at situations from different angles? Are you humble enough to accept that you just might learn something from the other side?

You will not be alone or without resources in your pursuit of the whole truth. When it comes to bigger policy discussions, there are great resources available that provide excellent research and white papers – in other words, they’ve done all the Googling and so much more for you. Granted, they will have a bias, but the thoughtful person will go to multiple resources and gather information from the liberal, conservative, and libertarian perspectives before offering an argument. Plus, each will provide a far more in-depth analysis of the subject matter.

Here are the most popular think tanks:

Liberal:
Center for American Progress: www.americanprogress.org
Center for Budget & Policy: www.cbpp.org
Human Rights Watch: www.hrw.org

Conservative:
The Heritage Foundation: www.heritage.org
The Hoover Institution: www.hoover.org
American Enterprise Institute: www.aei.org

Libertarian:
The Cato Institute: www.cato.org
The Reason Foundation: www.reason.org

Each of the above has its own YouTube channel, as well, if you prefer viewing to reading.

If we all just cocoon ourselves in our own politically comfortable echo chambers, we will never grow beyond our own self-imposed intellectual limitations, nor will we ever develop empathy for those who disagree with us or their positions. We will also limit ourselves as a society to nothing more than an endless series of building up and tearing down as political winds and majorities shift, never really advancing along the way. Rather than say to yourself, ‘How could they possibly think that way?’ read what their best researchers are putting forth and find out the ‘how’ and the ‘why.’ If you are too afraid to do that – too afraid that what you see may cause you to doubt your own position – that may very well be a good thing. Perhaps your position isn’t as well founded as you believe.

Though since debunked, I believe the basic tenets of the theory of right-brain, left-brain driving personality and problem-solving are true. There are those of us that lead with cold logic and facts and those that lead with the heart and compassion. We must realize that the best answers and solutions come from a melding of the two. Just as in marriage between a man and woman, each bringing to the table their own qualities, it is the sum total that becomes more powerful than the parts. The joint decisions, the joint planning, the joint desires are better, more powerful and more capable of moving the marriage and its participants to a better place. We need to demand that of ourselves and our elected officials.

Here’s to the hope that we can elevate the conversation.

Book Review: No Hero

Great read.
The author was a member of the SEAL team that took out Bin Laden. His first book (No Easy Day) is an eyewitness retelling of that mission.

In this book, he tells of his other experiences as a SEAL, starting from his desire and drive to be one when he was in high school all the way to his retirement after 14 years of service. He takes you with him onto the rooftops of Baghdad and over the mud walls of compounds in Afghanistan.

The writing is plain and straightforward — you’re not getting Shakespeare, here — and it has all the ‘colorful’ language one would expect of a SEAL who has seen and been through more than one can imagine.

If after reading this you do not feel compelled to at least once drop to your knees and thank God for people like the author, I don’t think you’re entitled to the freedoms they protect for you.

Sorry, Protocol, It’s Not Coming Down

We fly our flag every day. It’s simply become part of the house. And it doesn’t matter if it’s raining or snowing or if the winds are approaching hurricane levels.

I know that bothers some. Official protocol dictates that flags should not be exposed to the elements. My father is one of those people. He and my mom visit a couple times a month and if it is raining or snowing like it has been the last few times they were here, my dad will take down our flag and place it on our porch. I don’t mind. He’s my father and a veteran. He’s earned the right.

As soon as he leaves, though, it goes right back up.

If you know the story behind the national anthem, then you know that the flag is an enduring symbol of freedom. It is a tale of endurance and perseverance as Francis Scott Key watched the flag still flying over Fort McHenry after relentless bombing from the British. I’ve never seen it as a fragile piece of cloth.

When I see the flag being soaked by the rain I am reminded of those Marines slogging through the swamps of Vietnam or enduring the extended campaigns on Guadalcanal. When I see it and its pole coated with snow, I am reminded of Washington’s infantryman enduring the bitter cold and its effects at Valley Forge. At night, I think of the Navy’s midshipmen isolated and staring into the blackness of an open sea as orange tracers from enemy airplanes cut through the black sky. And when the sky is cloudless and perfectly blue, I see an airman flying vulnerable over enemy territory not knowing if he will meet his fate by fire from an enemy plane or from a surface-to-air missle, yet he flies into enemy territory anyway.

Should the winds lift my flag from its holder and toss it to the ground, I will not cease using it. I will not bury or burn it or dispose of it in any way. I will pick it up and place it back in its holder where it belongs.

Speaking of burning, I don’t think the flag needs a freedom-restricting law against burning it. The uneducated, unappreciative, stupid, arrogant and ungrateful in our society need to be exposed for what they are. There’s no better way for them to self-identify as to set fire to the flag.

The flag can take it just like the millions who fought to defend it, us, and freedom itself. As Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa said, “It ain’t about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

So, with apologies to those who adhere to flag care and protection protocol, if you’re driving out my way and pass my house, you will always see our flag being displayed…unless it’s raining and my dad is here.

About That Locker Room Talk…

I’m certainly not going to defend the indefensible. What Trump said goes way beyond the undisciplined from-the-hip comments of an unpolished candidate. But if everyone on the left can put their copies of ’50 Shades of Grey’ down for a moment and dial back your questionable outrage, that would be great.

You don’t like what Trump said? I have some bad news for you. You created Trump. You created the atmosphere that feeds such behavior and makes it acceptable by your failure to hold Bill Clinton accountable.

Clinton, a known serial abuser of women, not only got a pass from the left — including NOW — he was vociferously defended by the very people who are feigning outrage today over Trump’s comments. When conservatives (and even Democrats during the 1992 primaries) pointed to his behavior (note: it was BEHAVIOR not just words) they were called meddling puritans and were told it didn’t matter. It was his private life and it’s none of our business.

When he was caught continuing his ways while serving as president, you defended him, again telling his detractors that it was his private life and it didn’t matter. When the character of his wife was questioned for her role, we were told that their marriage was their business and to stay out of it.

And whither Mr. Clinton’s Lady MacBeth these last 25 years of Bill’s misogyny and abuse? Surely, Hillary was in the best position make things right; to send a message that women will not be treated as sex objects; that victims of rape and sexual assault would be heard and not live in fear of retribution or humiliation. That’s not the message Hillary sent, though. Hillary’s silence, as well as her active destruction of the reputations of all of her husband’s accusers — calling them nothing less than ‘bimbos,’ ‘sluts,’ and ‘lunatics’ — sent a very different message. Hillary’s message was to maintain power at all costs. Her message to young women is never let anything or anyone get in the way of your pursuit of money and power.

By defending Bill Clinton, you codified his behavior and Trump’s words into the laws of acceptable behavior for all candidates and public servants. If you weren’t going to hold a president of the United States accountable, then no one would be held accountable. Trump was simply following your lead.

I don’t talk like Trump and never have, nor have I ever acted like Bill Clinton. Even in my 20’s, I wasn’t nearly as bad as these two. I never understood either behavior. Today, even more so, I certainly don’t want anyone talking about my daughters, wife, sister, mom, or female friends the way these two do.

Now, if you don’t want to vote for Trump, that’s fine. I get it. But pretending that you’re offended by Trump’s words after years of defending Bill Clinton is transparent, hypocritical, and borderline comical. You traded your credibility on this issue for power and pride. Actions have consequences, even those from two decades ago.

Now, when everybody is ready to fire up some brain cells and actually discuss issues and policy, which elections are supposed to be about, I’ll be here and waiting.