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.


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 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:

Center for American Progress:
Center for Budget & Policy:
Human Rights Watch:

The Heritage Foundation:
The Hoover Institution:
American Enterprise Institute:

The Cato Institute:
The Reason Foundation:

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.

We Need To Do Better

I was just in McDonald’s in Mountaintop (I will entertain no lectures or judgements from food/diet nazis).

As I was finishing, a couple sat down at the table across the aisle from me. The man was complaining about a lack of ice in the drink fountain. His mini diatribe was replete with obscenities, including the f-bomb, as well as threats to go to the franchise owner with his complaints and his right to as much ice as he wants. He was unsatisfied with the response that the crew hadn’t had time to check the ice levels.

What he didn’t see was that ten minutes earlier the lines were nearly out the door because a couple truckloads of highway construction workers came in for lunch. The crew did their very best to get the orders processed and move the lines. We all had to wait a bit longer than we normally would have, but the crew did an admirable job while not one of them demonstrated any frustration.

What bothered me most about the guy’s insensitivity was the realization that there was a time in my life when I was that guy. The shame of that struck me today.

In our daily interactions, we really don’t know what the other person has gone through or dealt with up until that moment we meet that person. Always start with patience, understanding, and humility.

(To my wife: this does not apply to people driving in the passing lane and not passing anyone. They are simply evil.)

The Test of Orlando

They were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers. They had plans for the next day, for the following week, and for the rest of their lives. Just like the rest of us.

They left behind loved ones that will mourn, pets that will never understand why they aren’t coming home, and the forever unfilled promise of their future selves. Just like the rest of us would.

They each had a unique DNA, one they had since the very moment they were conceived and one that never existed before them and one that will never exist again. They were babies once, who grew into teenagers and young adults bringing great pride and joy to the parents who sacrificed for them. Just like the rest of us.

Of the ones who died in the Orlando night club this past weekend, the most fortunate were those that never saw it coming; who were shot and died instantly before anyone fully realized what was happening. The rest were trapped and hunted down, fully aware that they were in the final moments of their lives. They spent those final moments coping with the realization that despite their hoped-for grand exits from this life in a very distant future, their lives, instead, were about to end on a dirty rest room floor, or with their hands wrapped around their heads in fear trapped between another victim and a wall, or lying on a dance floor with the taste of their final celebratory drink still in their mouths. Not a single one of them deserved to die that way or to die at all.

For all of them, their final breaths brought a merciful end to the ugliness. For the rest of us, though, a new ugliness was about to begin in a most sickening way.

Before their bodies were cold, social media lit up. First to bring the news, then soon after to bring the attacks. Facebook is never uglier than in the immediate aftermath of these events. It is polluted by those who jump to conclusions or are eager to use them to justify their own political views and attack someone else’s.

Was your first impulse to pray for the grieving families or was it to be right about gun control or terrorism? For atheists, was your first reaction to be self-righteous and politically correct, or was it to be at the very least respectful of those who lost their lives and the forever-scarred who survived it and would be subjected to these posts, by not fueling the anger spewing throughout your friends’ news feeds?

Are we so wrapped up in our politics, so beholden to our chosen party and our pride that we’ve forgotten that we are human beings first? Are we Democrats and Republicans before all else? I get there needs to be discussion, but that’s not what is vomited onto social media in the aftermath of these tragic events. Further, there is a “time to tear down and a time to build.” (Ecclesiastes 3:3) While families wait desperately to hear from potential victims, while the victims’ blood is still streaming from their lifeless bodies, and while families are forced to make plans to bury their loved ones, it is most certainly not the time to tear down.

I don’t understand either the ‘how’ or the ‘why’ we are so quick to argue, especially at times like these. Perhaps it is to distract us from the painful realization that the shooter was just like us, just a more extreme version of ourselves.

Sacrifice Seen & Unseen

I am able to type and post this freely because of the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of men and women who didn’t simply die but willingly put themselves in harm’s way for me, my family and 300 million present-day Americans, as well as every American who was blessed to live in this country since its founding. Saying ‘thank you’ is wholly inadequate but is all I can offer here.

Yes, today we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice — their lives. I ask that we remember some others, as well. My wife is a nursing supervisor at our local VA Medical Center. I’ve lost count of the days she has come home heartbroken over the number of veterans who are coming back home from recent wars as alcoholics, drug addicts or so mentally scarred that they struggle to deal with every day life.

Yes, today we honor those who sacrificed their lives. But to the families of these young men and women who returned from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan they, too, have experienced the loss of their loved ones. While the deaths may not be physical deaths, they lost the loved one they knew before they were sent off to war. The same person did not return. That soldier left the person they were on the battlefield and someone else returned in that soldier’s place. Too often that returning soldier is unrecognizable to their families and friends.

As a country, we war too much. Throughout its history, the United States has been at war more than it has been at peace. I am no pacifist. Sadly, in a fallen world, war can be a necessary last resort. I can’t help but wonder, though, if we have become too thirsty for it. The fervor in the run-up to war runs hot and becomes an emotional reaction just as any other we should temper with cooling discourse and measured response.

Better still, we should ask ourselves if we have the stamina to truly take care of those we put in harm’s way for the rest of their lives. The true cost of war isn’t measured in dollars. A dollar can be regenerated. A unique life cannot. War is properly measured in lives — those lost and those compromised. The great shame of our nation is a single veteran not getting the medical care, help, or support of any kind that he or she needs. They deserve a blank check, just like the one they gave us when they became soldiers.

In Ecclesiastes 3 we learn that there is a ‘time to scatter stones and a time to gather them.’ Perhaps it’s time we start gathering.