Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Year of Mud and Squealing

I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals. –Winston Churchill

Once again it’s time to grade my predictions for 2018 and look ahead to 2019. On the Chinese calendar, 2018 was the year of the Dog. 2019 is the year of the Pig. I was born in a Rabbit year and that means I should get along quite well with Dogs and Pigs. 2018 was a good year for this Rabbit, so I’m optimistic about 2019. I mean if you can’t trust the Chinese, who can you trust?

The 2018 Prediction Results and the Grades

1.I went with Alabama again to win the Natty.

Grade: A. It was close, but ‘Bama did it.

2. I predicted that GDP growth tails off in the second half of the year. A shortage of workers and the mid-term election cycle put a damper on the economy.

Grade: A-. I got the call right and the labor shortage as well as the mid-term elections contributed. But, the Trump tariffs, the on-going chaos in his administration and the Fed’s rate increases are probably doing more to slow down the economy than anything else.

3. I thought The Post would win Best Picture

Grade: F. The Shape of Water won it. I could write an entire blog about what I actually think of this movie.

4. I thought oil prices would just bump along at current levels, maybe down a bit.

Grade: C. For most of the year I was right, but oil prices are down more than just a bit.

5. Said that China would handle N. Korea.

Grade: B-. The jury is still out on N. Korea, but my sense is that China has played a role in toning things down there. We’ll see.

6. Figured that the Democrats would win big in the mid-terms.

Grade: B+. I think the Dems won big. But I really expected it to be even more lop-sided. So relative to my expectations, I can’t give myself an A on this one.

7. Thought we would finally pass an infrastructure spending bill.

Grade: F. Well, I should have known we can’t get anything done in Washington. Ridiculous.

8. Predicted that The Mueller Investigation goes nowhere, but keeps on going.

Grade: C+. This one is tough to judge. But, more has happened here than I expected. Clearly, several of The Donald’s inner circle were up to some shenanigans. How far this will reach remains to be seen.

9. Guessed there would be big news on the UFO question.

Grade: F. There’s always news about UFOs, but not the biggie I predicted.

10. Said that The Dodgers would meet the Astros again in the World Series. Dodgers win. (And, of course, picked New England to win the Super Bowl.)

Grade: C-. The Patriots got to the Super Bowl and the Dodgers got to the Series. So I’m not taking an F on this one.


Now for the 2019 Predictions:

_1. Alabama wins another National Title.

_2. The economy continues to slowdown, but we don’t go into a recession until 2020. The tariff wars cool off which helps stabilize the economy for now.

_3. Oil prices remain relatively low.

_4. The Democrats will spend most of their time investigating Trump and Trump’s associates, but they won’t pursue impeachment. They will talk about it a lot, but it’s not a battle they can win. (Unless of course Trump does something really crazy…which is always a possibility.)

_5. Trump gets to fill another Supreme Court seat. Get your popcorn ready.

_6. LA Rams beat the LA Chargers in the Super Bowl. Super Bowl television ratings are in the toilet.

_7. Red Sox and Dodgers meet again in the World Series. This time the Dodgers win.

_8. I think we will get an infrastructure bill and immigration reform passed this year. Both parties realize that they have to get something done with the 2020 election coming up. I know it’s hard to imagine anything getting done in Washington, but it might just happen this year. Whatever gets passed it won’t be great, but maybe a step or two in the right direction.

_9. Russia will continue to push the boundaries in the effort to expand its influence in the Middle East. They will take advantage of the lack of leadership in the West.

_10. The Best Movie award will go to another movie I have not watched, nor will I ever. (Unless it goes to Crazy Rich Asians…really good movie, two thumbs up)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Peace on Earth?

We see it on Christmas cards. It’s even still acceptable to say or display the phrase without offending too many people:

“Peace on earth. Good will toward men.”

Of course, the critics note that these words are preceded by the exclamation of Glory to God in the highest and in our secular culture that is a big no-no for sure. But I have good news for those who want no part of the Bible or Christianity to diminish the Holiday Season for those of other faiths or those of no faith at all. The King James Bible translation may read “Peace on earth. Good will toward men”. But that’s not really how the earliest Bible manuscripts read. It’s an issue between the Greek word eudokia and eudokias. That one letter,’ s’, makes all the difference.

What the oldest Greek manuscripts really say is something more like:

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”

And most of the newer translations, do not say “Peace on earth. Good will toward men.” But for the Christmas season we like to stay with our traditions and the King James Bible is tradition with a capital T.

This translation issue is a pretty significant difference though. It certainly clears up some of the confusion regarding Jesus saying he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. That sword, of course, is The Word or The Logos…Divine Reason.

You see this time of year we like to get all warm and fuzzy with Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men. Some of us even say or sing such things as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” or “God bless us one and all.” Time to come together and “We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet…”

And then we’ll go back to tearing each other apart. Even if the Bible did actually say and mean "Good will toward men", perhaps even all men; a lot of it would be left up to us and we know how well that's worked out over the centuries. Perhaps for those with whom God is pleased, there will be some small measure of peace for their souls. But there will be no lasting Peace On Earth and no universal Good Will toward all men. At least not until The Logos returns.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Seeds and Soil

A few years ago I wrote about my DNA test. I took the basic DNA test, so it didn’t drill down to towns and villages or trace my lineage back to Adam. But it did destroy the story my family had always told that we had Indian blood. That my paternal great-grandfather was ½ Cherokee.
As it turns out, the test showed that I have no Native American DNA. I suppose if I took out a loan and purchased the comprehensive, down to the gnat’s ass DNA test, I might end up with the Elizabeth Warren (aka Pocahontas) version of Indian ancestry. (No thank you).

My actual DNA profile was about ½ of what I expected. I knew there would be plenty of English, Irish and Scottish ancestry. And it is there for sure. Over half of me from those groups. But then there was this big chunk of Scandinavian. Didn’t see that one coming until I realized just how prolific the Vikings had been in the British Isles, Scotland in particular. The other surprise came when it said that 15% of my DNA could be traced back to people from the Iberian peninsula . And I had just a bit of “Western European”. Also a surprise, since the Clicks came to America from Germany. I always figured that I had a lot of German ancestry. Turns out not so much.

Frankly I was baffled by the large Iberian print on my DNA and the lack of Germanic ancestry. I guess it wasn’t that difficult to imagine that somewhere along the way one of my ancestors had been Spanish. There was a good deal of interaction between Spain and Great Britain on the other side of the Atlantic. Some of my family was early into Texas, so maybe one of them married into the Spanish bloodline. Or maybe a Spanish pirate had just jumped on board somewhere along the way.

The lack of Germanic ancestry was curious. I finally concluded that neither my full blooded German ancestor who came to America nor any of his descendants ever married anyone from Germany or anyplace that would qualify as Western European. The boundaries and lines there were constantly moving, In fact, I had read on one ancestry posting that the Clicks had originated from the Alsace region of France which regularly passed back and forth between France and Germany (or The German Confederation or Prussia or whatever name it might have had at any given time.). Regardless, my DNA barely registered any connection to Western Europe.

The Click who came to America was from the village of Dannstadt, Rhineland which is in Southwestern Germany. His name was actually Ludwig Heinrich Gluck. And he arrived in Philadelphia just before the American Revolution. His parents were also from Dannstadt as were his grandparents. But I decided to dig further and finally found evidence that the first Gluck who moved to Dannstadt actually came from a region in far Southwestern France known as Aquitaine. The original inhabitants were tribal people who became known as Aquitani and whose descendents are now the French Basque. The region is bounded on the south by the Pyrenees Mountains and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. It is generally considered to be part of the Iberian Penisula. Bartholomaeus Gluck, Sr was born there in 1617 and died in Dannstadt in 1674. His son Bartholomaeus Gluck, Jr was also born in Aquitaine in 1649. So sometime between 1649 and 1674 the family moved to Dannstadt.

My next question is why did they leave Aquitaine and move to Dannstadt? Best guess is that they were Protestants, French Huguenots most likely. Their persecution by the Catholic church in France began in the late 1500’s. Many fled to Germany and other more Protestant tolerant countries. Those in places like the Aquitaine region stayed longer. But, I suppose the Glucks could see the writing on the wall and ultimately decided to get out and make a better life somewhere else. Most likely others had moved to the Rhineland. And their letters back home persuaded old Bartholomaeus to pack up and join them.

That drive for a better life must have passed through to his great grandson, Ludwig Heinrich Gluck (Lewis Henry Click). He sailed off to America, landed in Philadelphia and became one of the early settlers in Tennessee, stopping in Virginia long enough to start a family that included Malachi who’s son Samuel eventually made it to Texas and is buried in Collin County in what is now some very expensive real estate (McKinney, Frisco, …). Samuel would be my great grandfather’s grandfather.

We Americans are mostly a nation of mutts, mixed breeds. The best and the worst of many. That we fight and fuss with each other is natural. We want more. We expect more. And we are more alike than we are different. I truly believe that. I am more like an African-American, or Latino-American or Asian-American or Muslim-American or Jewish-American; than I am a Scotsman, or an Irishman, or a Scandinavian or a German or an Iberian. Being an American is special. Being a Texan and an American just means that God smiled on me twice.

It’s nice to know where you come from. But, it’s better to be thankful for where you ended up.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Baby It's Crazy Outside (and Inside)

If one looks at the calendar they might think this is the Christmas Season (oops..I meant Holiday Season). And they might be right as long as they consider it is also the season for political correctness.

It seems that traditional Christmas songs, stories and movies have now been identified by the PC Police as violators and line-crossers of “The Code”. “The Code” is don’t say, sing, write or draw anything that might make anyone uncomfortable. Therefore, the 1940’s vintage song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” , is now too “date-rapey” and is not to be played. Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer is somehow racist and homophobic. So long to that Christmas Classic. And the 1980’s movie “A Christmas Story” crosses all kinds of lines: guns/violence, wife/mother stereotyping, homophobia (somehow, doesn’t everything?), consumerism, animal cruelty (one of the Bumpass’ hounds ear being caught in the door), child abuse and eating disorders (meatloaf, beatloaf, I hate meatloaf…).

I’m not sure where this nonsense will end. We’ve already taken Christ out of Christmas and eventually will manage to take most of our traditions and fun out of the holidays. I suppose it’s still acceptable, at least for now, to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Some folks just need to lighten up and get one.

“Political correctness is tyranny with manners.” – Charlton Heston

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Where Have All The Young Men Gone?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my impressions of Great Britain after spending some time over there. One thing I didn’t comment on was the way they remember the World Wars and honor those who served, and certainly those who died.

The reminders of World War One and World War Two are everywhere. The United Kingdom had over 750,000 killed or missing in action in the First World War. And some estimates are closer to 1 million. This from a population of less than 50 million at that time. This is very comparable to the combined losses of the North and South during the American Civil War. (And we still remember that one, except where we don’t. But that’s another conversation.). Virtually every village and hamlet in Great Britain has a memorial with the names of “their boys” who died in that war.

And while the loss of life was actually less for the Brits in World War Two, it is more recent history. Survivors are still alive. They remember the weeks and months of bombing by the Germans, the civilian casualties and coming so close to losing it all at Dunkirk. The never-give-in urgings of Winston Churchill and the mustering of troops for the D-Day invasion. My Dad was there. A teenager in the 101st Airborne, preparing to do what he and the rest of them had to do. Most all them, like my father, just kids. The war games they played were for real.

When Veteran’s Day comes around each year, of course, I think of my father and my uncles and others of that generation who served. It seems to be having an even bigger impact on me this year after the time spent over there. One cannot help but think of those who died and those who came back wounded. Lives were changed forever.

Certainly the people of Great Britain were changed. All of Europe for that matter. Two World Wars tested the faith of Western European Christianity and some would say that the Wars ultimately won that test. While I don’t believe this is the primary reason for the decline of Christianity in Western Europe, they were contributing factors. Many requests to the Almighty were never granted and many questions remained unanswered.

How could a loving God allow such terrible things to happen? That is the question we all ask eventually. And whatever answer you come up with only leads to more questions. Wars and natural disasters and diseases, and just the all around pain and suffering this life has to offer, are enough to make even the most faithful among us have doubts.

I recently re-read C.S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity. It was based on a series of radio broadcasts he gave on the BBC during World War Two. Why do we have wars and pain and suffering? Read Mere Christianity. Then after reading it, ask for forgiveness and try to forgive. That’s the best advice I have on this day, a day of remembering.

“All blood runs red.” ― Phrase painted on the side of the plane flown by Eugene Bullard in World War I, the first black military pilot

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Our Deeds Disguise Us

Riddle me this: What’s Red and Blue, has two tails, one eye, no ears, spins in a circle and craps on the bed?

Answer: The American Two-Party Political System.

It’s not even necessary to run down the list of what’s wrong with our broken system. We all know it and we can’t do much about it because The System controls The Game. The System makes the rules, prints the money and bites the hands that feeds it. You want to change The Game? Change The System. You want to Change The System? Change The Players.

Not that it will ever happen, but I’ve been thinking…what if? What if we could change things? What if the people in the middle, which is most of us, came up with a legitimate Third Party option. Not far right Libertarianism or far left Socialism. Neither of those boats will ever float in this country. But something more fundamentally sound. A party that most of us can get behind because it’s for us, not for itself.

What would it look like? What's “the platform”?

Number One, without question. Term limits. You want to get the American peoples’ attention and support. Start with term limits. Make it a policy that members of this new party can only serve so many terms in office. Politics will not be a lifetime career. A party that embraces term limits has a chance.

Number Two, push legislation to reduce the Federal debt to a manageable level over the next 20 years with a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases (taxes AND tax reform). Just be honest about where we are and what we have to do to fix the problem. It’s OK to carry some debt, a good deal of debt in fact. But, too much of a good thing, becomes a bad thing. Just come clean, admit to the problem and go about fixing it.

Number Three, invest in infrastructure. We need to fix our roads, bridges and ports. We need mass transit systems that move us toward fewer cars on the highway over the next 50 years. It will cost money, it will create jobs; and most of the money will stay in our economy and have a positive multiplier effect.

Number Four, fix our education system to include job training. And this is mostly a state and local issue. It will require national funding help in many cases, but make education and vocational training priorities. Provide up to two years of “free” community college or vocational training. It’s money well-spent.

Number Five, Immigration. Bite the bullet and establish a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Control the borders. “Open borders” is an oxymoron. But we don’t need a wall, not with the technology available today. We do need to control who comes into our country. Most nations in the world do so and we should as well.

Number Six, Healthcare. Good, affordable healthcare is a right, not a privilege. If saying that violates the conservative pledge, then modify the pledge. What we have now is unsustainable. We can fix it. It will cost money and sacrifice. Both of which we are already paying out in abundance and not getting much in return.

Number Seven, International Trade. We need free, but fair, trade. We haven’t always been smart in our dealings with other nations. But you can’t fix it overnight without seriously disrupting our economy and everyone else’s. The current administration’s objectives are on target. But like so many things with this bunch, their approach is too heavy-handed. It will take years to work through the trade issues and using tariffs as the primary weapon is ill-advised.

That’s it. You may ask what about all of the “other issues”, i.e. abortion, LGBT rights, the military , foreign policy, racial discrimination, gun control, global warming/energy/environment, women’s rights, the electoral college, supreme court nominees…the list goes on…and on…and on. No question, these are all very important issues. But, if everything is a priority, nothing is… and nothing ever gets done. Seven priorities is probably four too many, but these are critical. If we put our nation in better position on these seven issues, the majority of Americans would benefit enormously. These seven issues are the cracks in our foundation. Leave these unrepaired, focus on the “other stuff”, and you just end up with an impoverished nation run by professional politicians and special interests groups. In other words, pretty much what we have now.

Our deeds disguise us. People need endless time to try on their deeds, until each knows the proper deeds for him to do. But every day, every hour, rushes by. There is no time. – John Locke

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Four Big Truths About Headhunting and Everything Else

I was speaking with a friend of mine the other day and he asked me “What’s the biggest challenge you face in the headhunting business?”. I replied, “Do you mean right now or all of the time? If you mean right now, it’s the shortage of qualified candidates. If you mean all of the time, it’s TAL...’they all lie’.” He laughed and we moved on to the next topic, probably sports.

Later that evening I thought about my TAL remark. Is it really true? Maybe TAL is itself a lie. But there is something to it. It’s not necessarily that “ALL” are lying. It’s really more that we don’t know what we don’t know. (Remember Donald Rumsfeld in the Bush II administration trying to explain about what we know and what we don’t know and known unknowns and unknown knowns and unknown unknowns? Rumsfeld was not wrong but he forgot his audience and it became one of the all time ‘What the Hell did he just say?’ moments in history.)

There are really Four Big Truths one learns in headhunting:
_You never have all of the facts.
_There are always “hidden decision-makers”.
_Things change over time
_And, yes, sometimes people lie (or they just don’t tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth.)

You never have all of the facts about the job or the candidate. That’s just the way it is. Sometimes you don’t ask the right questions. Sometimes the employer or the candidate doesn’t know the answer or they just make something up and tell you what they think you want to hear or what they want you to hear. Jobs and lives are complicated and sometimes people don’t realize the importance of certain things until it’s brought to their attention.

And there are things you can’t talk about. There are legal restrictions and limitations. Employers and candidates have biases and personal circumstances you can’t ask about, much less explore. And right or wrong, fairly or unfairly, these “unmentionable” realities often determine if a job is offered, or if offered is it accepted.

Then there are those “hidden decision-makers”. Rarely these days does the hiring decision belong to only one or two people. Of course, there is the official “hiring authority”. But, if someone who matters to that hiring authority doesn’t think a person should be hired, they probably aren’t going to be hired. It can be for any number of reasons and may not have anything to do with the specific candidate being considered. It’s the reality of the“consensus hiring” process.

And it’s not just on the employer side. Candidates have their fair share of hidden decision-makers or influencers and, oh the games those people play. Spouses and kids who don’t want to be the ones to say no to a career opportunity involving relocation, but secretly hope that the job offer will never come. And when it does come and relocation becomes a reality, they rise up and say NO. Current employers can become, in effect, hidden decision-makers; rushing in at the last minute with a counter-offer that the candidate just can’t refuse. I’ve even seen an aging parent guilt candidates into turning down a job offer that might involve relocation or increased travel away from home.

And things change as time passes. These days the interview and hiring process can go on for months. It’s not unusual to submit a candidate for an opportunity and the first interview doesn’t happen for two, three or even four weeks. Then it may be another couple of weeks before a second interview. And then a month before everyones schedules line-up for a round of in-person interviews. And then another round perhaps a few weeks later. And a week or so before an offer is made. Anything can happen as the weeks and months drag on. The candidate may get other offers or a promotion. The candidate may just get fed up with the process and withdraw. The client company may change their mind and promote from within. Or someone from “their network” suddenly becomes available and they hire that person.

Lastly, there are those lies or half-truths. It may not be TAL. Certainly everyone doesn't lie all of the time about everything. And we tend to grade ourselves and others on "the curve". If you happen to be more honest, more often than others, and not blatantly dishonest, at least not on something important; you get an 'A'. But it is rare that anyone tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There may or may not be intentional or malicious lies or truth omissions. Sometimes they are unavoidable and tied to necessarily confidential matters. There are things that an employer will not and probably should not disclose about a job, at least not upfront. The same goes for the candidate and even for the search firm.

One might say these aren’t really lies. But, if you’re the one not being told the full story, it pretty much feels like a lie. And it’s the worst part of the headhunting business or any business I suppose. That’s why I titled this entry “The Four Big Truths About Headhunting and Everything Else”. This really is the way life goes. All of our relationships, decisions and actions are at risk. Nothing is certain. People talk about being “transparent”. But who is, really…. when it comes down to it? Who can afford to be and survive in this world? How much would it actually cost to be totally honest?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?- Jeremiah 17:9

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Lowering the Bar

The unemployment rate just reached a low (3.7%) not seen since the late 1960’s. If you’re an employer, let that soak in. If you’re looking to hire “experienced” workers let these numbers soak in:
Unemployment rates for workers age 25 and over:
_With college degree 2.0%
_Some college 3.1%
_High School 3.5%
_Less than High School 4.9%

And that unemployment rate for those with less than a high school degree is down from a peak 17.9% during the last recession. Some employers are now hiring felons who were convicted for non-violent crimes. Some employers have stopped drug-testing. And, some employers are still hiring undocumented immigrants (yes they are…).

Here at High Road Partners we are recruiting experienced management and executive talent for the transportation and logistics industry. And guess what, there isn’t enough experienced management and executive talent to go around. I’ve written about this in the past, warning that we will soon reach the point where certain key positions will go unfilled or be filled by people lacking the requisite qualifications and experience. Well, we have arrived.

We’ve seen companies making adjustments, essentially playing dodge ball with this issue for the last five years. But employers are playing the game at a slow walk while the candidate market is on a dead run and moving farther away. It’s been interesting to watch the de-evolution in hiring practices in this industry. (And it probably holds true for other industries, this just happens to be the one I know.) Take most any hiring criteria and it’s been tweaked:

_Degree required? Not now. Preferred, but not required.
_Specific experience in a market segment? Not necessarily. Transportation or transportation-related will suffice. (Can you spell Logistics? Any clue what it is?)
_Stable work history? Well, who’s really stable these days. As long as the candidate has got good reasons for job changes, we’ll consider them.
_Do not send us any unemployed candidates. I haven’t heard that one in three years.
_Salary range is fixed, period. Today, we’re more likely to hear “we’re open for the right candidate”.
_Benefits, time off, work schedule, relocation..It's company policy. Today, those are negotiable.

These are just a few of the key hiring criteria that are changing. And it’s a matter of degree. Some employers are “adjusting” more than others. Those who aren’t adjusting are falling farther and farther behind. We still have some clients who are trying to use the same standards (and at about the same level of pay) they were using 15 years ago. And, oh by the way, wanting to have half dozen or more candidates to pick from. Ain’t gonna happen. These companies are on the way out of business and they don’t even realize it.

How bad has it gotten? Based on what I’m seeing, pretty bad. Employers are now hiring not just a little “off spec”, but way off spec. Especially if they are unwilling or, for various reasons, unable to meet the compensation levels required to hire more qualified candidates. And these are not candidates we’ve submitted. Usually they are referrals or people from their network who just need a job. Sometimes they decide to do the noble, heroic thing and promote from within. But, there’s nothing noble or heroic about promoting someone to fail. And, increasingly, these same employers are coming back to us within a year admitting that it didn’t work out and need to reopen the search.

We are where we are and it took decades to get here. The driver, mechanic and warehouse labor shortages are getting the headlines, as they should. If you can’t move the freight or keep the trucks on the road, you don’t have a business, period. But, you also need people to manage the business. The right people. At the end of the day, organizations and institutions ultimately die due to a lack of leadership and direction. The survivors are those who can adjust, adapt and overcome without lowering the bar too much. Look around your company and ask yourself, will it be dead or alive in ten years?

Father tell me, we get what we deserve
Oh we get what we deserve
And way down we go
Way down we go.
(from the song by Kaleo)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Next Man (or Woman) Up

Unless you’ve been in a coma, you’ve heard that the nation is on the market for a Supreme Court Judge. You may have also noticed that Democrats think the President’s nominee for the position, Brett Kavanaugh, is not qualified for the position due to questionable behavior toward women back when he was a teenager. (Of course, most on the left don’t think the man who nominated him is qualified for his job either, for many reasons, including questionable behavior toward women back…well..not that far back…and we have it on tape…grab ‘em by the p-----. And we know he’s not saying purse.).

I’m mostly on the Right side of the political divide. Yes, I voted for Trump while agreeing with the Left that he’s not qualified and he probably is a p-----grabber and worse. But that tells you what I thought of the Democratic candidate for POTUS. I’m also inclined to believe that President PG’s nominee for SCOTUS judge probably did something bad or held the flashlight or their beer while his buddies tried to do the nasty to a young woman. That young woman grew up to be a well-spoken, credible accuser and presents a formidable roadblock to Kavanaugh being approved by the Senate. I don’t know and we’ll probably never know if he is guilty or was even in the room or on the block. But something terrible happened to Christine Blasey Ford when she was a teenager, I am convinced of that. And my guess is that Kavanaugh ran with a crowd that was inclined to get “beer-ed up” and young women were put upon in ways all involved now view with shame and regret. And some were probably raped, either over their objections or while unconscious. This is an ugly truth and it has been going on for a long time. Certainly ever since young women started going about without chaperones to watch over them. (And I’m not saying blame the don’t go there. )

Moving on, I don’t like the way Democrats waited until the 23rd hour to play this card. And, I seriously doubt that Dr. Ford’s accusations would hold up in a court of law. It wouldn’t even go to trial. But her story along with less than credible accusations from a couple of others is all it takes to ruin someone. Unless Kavanaugh can prove, and prove more than just beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is innocent; I reckon he will not be approved. And even if he is approved, he will step on the SCOTUS bench with a cloud over him like none other. Clarence Thomas will be glad to see him for sure.

The Democrats seem to think that by zapping Kavanaugh and getting past the mid-term elections where it is likely they will regain a majority in the Senate; they will be in position to determine who gets to be the next SCOTUS judge. That may be true, sort of. The reality is that President PG will be around for at least two more years. I’m sure he already has a plan B and plan C. Next man (or woman) up. And they will be conservatives and the Democrats won’t like them much. But what if they do block every nominee. That might just be the best thing to ever happen for the Republicans. It will galvanize the Republican base, even the never-Trumpers, and move a lot of independents into the “never-Democrat” column.

One of the major reasons conservatives held their noses and voted for Trump was knowing that we had an open SCOTUS slot and would likely have one or even two more during the next President’s term. Conservatives don’t like SCOTUS judges making the law. We tend to be more in favor of constitutionalists judges, such as Judge Neil Gorsuch who said these words:

Judges should instead strive (if humanly and so imperfectly) to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be—not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.

That’s seems reasonable enough to me and should be to most clear thinking Americans. But some want Judges who will re-write the law and effectively legislate from the bench in favor of their political agendas. That’s what we conservatives don’t want and why many of us ended up voting for old PG-er in the first place.

So you Democrats go ahead, tar and feather Brett Kavanaugh and ride him out of town on a rail. Maybe he deserves it. We’ll probably never know. And if he is an innocent man, or even just mostly innocent (who of us could withstand microscopic scrutiny of our teenage years), may God have mercy. And get ready to decide what to do about the next nominee, or the next one, or the next one…..

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Once There Was A Way

My wife and I just spent two weeks in Great Britain visiting both Scotland and England. We had never taken a long vacation. A week at most and usually less. Always in the States or Canada. Mostly in the mountains. And we really hadn’t done one of those in several years. Life just kept getting in the way until my wife said earlier this year…enough already. We’re going somewhere and you’re not working.

So we went to Great Britain. Both of us can trace family roots back to Scotland and England (among other places) and we decided it would be a good option for Neal’s first international trip. I’m a homer…been to every state in the lower 48 as well as Puerto Rico. I’ve also been to Mexico and Canada. But that’s it. My wife has been to Germany and Italy, so she sort of knows her way around.

No one really cares about the details of someone else’s vacation. So I won’t even go there other than to say it was a good trip and if you ever need something to put you to sleep, we can go over the 1000 photos my wife took and I can tell you all about the history of Scotland and England going back to the Ice Age. So there’s that.

But I will summarize my impressions and observations of Great Britain:

_For the most part the people are nice and friendly. Especially toward Americans and even more so toward Texans. It’s complicated and economics are involved, but the people, even the Londoners, seemed very nice and accommodating. Not as edgy and pissed off as most Americans seem to be these days.

_Most of England looks like the Mid-Atlantic or Midwest…even North or Northeastern Texas. The eastern half of England is still very dry from the hot summer and lack of rain. I woke from a nap on the train down from Edinburgh to London and south of York looked like North Texas in August.

_Edinburgh, Scotland is awesome. It is the best of Boston and Vancouver BC in one place. And the Scottish highlands are like Montana. I can see why some of the wealthy Scots ended up investing in Montana and Wyoming land back in the day.

_You don’t see as many fat people in Great Britain. While they seem to be fretting over the health of their people…. eating too much, drinking too much, lack of exercise, etc…what I saw were fewer fat bodies and people were moving around, moving around on their own two feet. It’s not hard to spot an American tourist…fat, wearing a baseball cap and eating something…and probably waiting for a ride. (If they aren’t wearing a ball cap, they might be Germans).

_I met and spoke with a lot of people. In preparation for the visit, I got off “THE Wagon” some months ago and started drinking a few beers to get in pub shape. I wasn’t in late night pub shape, but I was definitely ready for afternoons and happy hour. I also chatted up waiters, taxi drivers and strangers on the train. The people love to hear Texans talk and are fascinated by our gun culture. They will even buy you beer if you keep talking to them.

There is definitely a conservative-liberal divide over there. But my sense is that their conservatives are not as far to the right as the hard-core Trumpers and Tea-Partiers in the States. Not really a surprise. But, to my surprise, the liberals do not seem to be as far to the left as they are in the States. They don’t need to be.

While the Conservative-Liberal divide there is real, it’s not like what we see here. And I think there are several reasons. First and foremost, many of the big hot-button issues that divide the left and right in the States have been settled over there. Essentially, the left won the battles or the battles were never really fought that much, if at all.

Gun Control is a non-issue. It is what it is. And most everyone likes it that way. I ran into one guy, a biker from Wales who envied our gun culture and thought that’s how things should be. Otherwise, everyone else is comfortable with their gun situation.

Sex-related issues are not up for discussion. No one is debating matters related to LGBTQ…X,Y,Z and so on.

Healthcare is settled. Don’t touch National Healthcare. It’s not perfect and it has it has its problems. But tell any Brit how our health systems works and what it costs and they look at you incredulously and respond with words like “daft” and “madness”.

The church doesn’t matter much over there. You really don’t have the votes of evangelical conservatives pulling one party further to the right. Abortion…settled. Move on. (The Catholic Church still matters in Ireland, but I’m talking here about Great Britain).

When it comes to Global Warming, the people over there have been up against it for generations when it comes to energy. So most everyone has bought into human caused global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions. No battleground there. (Perhaps a few up around Aberdeen Scotland and the North Sea oil, but barely a spark of resistance remains.)

The conservative-liberal divide in Great Britain is really about immigration and being a sovereign nation. More than once I heard Londoners say things like, “this is not the London I grew up in”…or “this is not the England my dad (or my granddad) fought for (or died for).” And out in the English countryside, you hear things like, “Have you been to London? That’s where we’re headed if we don’t do something”.

I don’t know enough about it to have any idea as to whether or not Great Britain can make Brexit work. And if they do, what about the Scottish independence movement and what's their plan? But, I do know that nations reach a point where they can’t go back. You can’t Exit or Secede from Reality. Dogs bark, but the caravan moves on. I think that’s where Great Britain is…as is the rest of the world, including the United States of America.

Once there was a way
To get back homeward
Once there was a way
To get back home
Sleep, pretty darling
Do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby.

-Golden Slumbers, The Beatles

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Aretha Franklin was and will remain one of my all-time favorite singers. The best Soul singer (male or female) ever. I love me some Patti LaBelle and Al Green, but Aretha was something more than special and beyond unique. She’s one of only two singers I can think of whom everyone loves. I mean as great as Elvis was, not everyone thought he was all that great. (I have to admit that I have none of his music recorded and to me he was a great entertainer, but not a great singer. Sorry Elvis fans, just call them like I see them.) Not everyone likes the Beatles, or the Eagles, or Willie Nelson. Whitney Houston comes close. But for me there are only two singers I can think of that everyone likes: Patsy Cline and Aretha Franklin.

For this old country boy to put Aretha Franklin on the pedestal with Patsy Cline says it all. And Aretha goes up just a little higher. If you ever heard Aretha sing “How Great Thou Art”, it changed your life. Her voice just came from a different place and it was one of those that helped change America for the better. We still have our racial divides and all is not perfect, but thank God we aren’t where we were 50 years ago. Aretha Franklin’s was one of those voices crying in the wilderness, perhaps the most beautiful voice . She taught us how to spell R-E-S-P-E-C-T and challenged us to THINK. Not only when it comes to race, but even more so when it comes to how we treat women. I expect about now she is singing for the angels and they are standing up. Like us, they know greatness, when they hear it.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Repeating Myself

Coming up with something to write about without repeating myself is becoming increasingly difficult. Maybe this is why old people keep telling the same stories over and over again…it’s all they got. The stuff I’m inclined to write about tends to fall into certain categories: business/economic, political/social, , religion, history, sports or something entirely personal that I have the audacity to think someone else might actually find interesting. While there is more than enough fresh material out there; it takes work to dig in, read, study, analyze, synthesize and then write about any of it in a way that is meaningful and relevant.

So I find myself going to the same old well of ideas and experiences. I repeat myself. Whether writing this blog or just having a conversation. I now preface my comments with “I may have told you this before, but…..” . Most people are too polite to cut you off and tell you that you’ve already told them something. Even if you tell them in advance that it’s ok to cut you off. And some people are just mean-spirited enough to let you ramble on and keep track of how many times you’ve told them that same story or some version of it.

Jordan Peterson makes this interesting observation in his book, 12 Rules For Life (which I have referenced before, am in the process of re-reading and continue to rank as one of the best book I’ve ever read):

“Researchers have recently discovered that new genes in the central nervous system turn themselves on when an organism is placed (or places itself) in a new situation. These genes code for new proteins. The proteins are the building blocks for new structures in the brain. This means that a lot of you is still nascent, in the most physical of senses, and will not be called forth by stasis. You have to say something, go somewhere and do things to get turned on. And, if not….you remain incomplete, and life is too hard for anyone incomplete.”

Am I in a rut? Is that why I find myself repeating myself? Is that why I find it increasingly difficult to come up with something new to say or write about? I think it probably is. Add to this the “PC Factor” in that you have to be careful in what you say about almost everyone and everything. Plowing new ground is dangerous.

So I suppose I’ll keep repeating myself in one way or the other. Sort of like television shows and movies, the same stories over and over. One of these days I’ll get tired of it and decide to either quit writing or buck up and plow new ground. Or maybe I’ll just try writing fiction and let people wonder if it’s really fiction.

Did I mention that coming up with something to write about without repeating myself is becoming increasingly difficult?...

“I am not young enough to know everything-Oscar Wilde”

Saturday, July 28, 2018

I Can See Clearly Now

I remember when I got my first “big” television back in the late 90’s. It was the size of a small refrigerator and weighed over two hundred pounds. But it was a big step up from the standard 27” inch screens I’d grown accustomed to. And it was great.

Then in the late 2000’s I made the jump to an even bigger flat screen DLP, 56 inches. Wow, who knew this is what those actors really looked like. Then a couple of years later I bought an even bigger plasma flat screen. More wrinkles and pores. Those stars are not perfect after all.

Then two weeks ago I went to the next step with a 4K UHD LED television. And it’s just weird. I like it…I actually love it. But, it’s weird. It’s like you’re actually there. Not watching something that’s been recorded or even being televised. You’re actually watching it as though you are there except you can’t look around. You can only see what you see on the screen. And that’s worth repeating and remembering…you can only see what you see on the screen. So it’s not real, but it is entertaining. Perhaps a good way of describing much of our modern world.

I’m sure I’ll get used to it soon enough and begin to take it for granted. But when I think back to my childhood and the little black and white TV we watched, and enjoyed watching probably as much or more than we now enjoy watching these images on a ginormous flat screen, I wonder when will enough be enough. When will we run out of entertainment experience upgrades? Can we ever be satisfied? Of course, the answer is no to both questions. Virtual reality and artificially intelligent attendants await us somewhere in the future. And we’ll be wowed again, at least for awhile.

But eventually this will all come to an end. Certainly for each of us when our time comes and ultimately for all of us and all that is or ever was. The plug will be pulled and it will be over. And then we will see even more clearly and, at last, be seen for what and who we really are. It will definitely be the ultimate reality show.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Blistering Heat

So we’re in the middle of another Texas heatwave. They come along every few years when conditions are just right. 110+ degree temperatures and it can get dangerous. I remember the historic 1980 heatwave that went on for weeks. The last one in these parts was 2011. And it lasted awhile. But we didn’t get over 110. This one won’t last long. Folks who moved to North Texas and have only gone through a couple of summers are getting a real taste of just how bad it can be. Those of us who grew up here know that it just comes with the territory.

As a boy, I spent a good part of my summers with my grandparents on their farm down in Hood County. It was a great place and I loved going there. But, they did NOT have air-conditioning. Their house was on an elevation and got a good breeze, but not that good. Not when it was a 105 during the day and still 90+ inside the house at bedtime. My grandparents had a sleeping porch that was screened all-around and it wasn’t too bad there. I had the option of sweating in my bed, moving to their sleeping porch and bedding down on the floor listening to Papaw’s snoring or sleeping outside. I always opted for outside.

They had an old metal bed frame in the backyard with a bare mattress spring on it. (You might be a redneck if___). We’d cover it with a quilt and I’d go out there and sleep. The bed was under a chinaberry tree, but you could still look up and see the stars. There was usually a breeze and by morning I’d be rolled up in the quilt when the chickens and cows started their wake-up calls. Sometimes I’d wake up with little blisters on a leg or arm where gray blister beetles had visited me during the night. That sounds pretty creepy now, but back then it was no big deal. Just the price you paid for a good night’s sleep.

One of my uncles lived down the road from Papaw’s place and he didn’t have air-conditioning either. I’d stay there sometimes with my cousins, but if it was really hot I made sure to go back to Papaw’s before bedtime so I could sleep outside. I can still hear my uncle giving his opinion on air-conditioning. He theorized that it made people soft and unable to handle the heat. For folks who had to work outside most of the time, he believed that you were just better off to avoid air-conditioning all together. He finally relented in his old age and got an air-conditioner. He admitted that it was really nice, but still thought that folks who worked out in the heat should stay away from it.

I try to remain somewhat heat resistant. I spend a lot of time outside and I can tolerate the heat pretty well. But I couldn’t do it all day, every day. Now I live in a big stone house with central heat and air. At night I turn it down to 68 degrees and turn on the ceiling fan above my bed. I sleep under a blanket year round. I can’t look up and see the stars. And, I don’t wake up to the sound of chickens and cows and the fresh smell of a country morning. But, I don’t have blisters either. Texas summers just aren’t what they used to be. And, that’s ok with me.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Little Houses On The Prairie

“People who own property feel a sense of ownership in their future and their society. They study, save, work, strive and vote. And people trapped in a culture of tenancy do not.” – Henry Louis Gates

Recent data published by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the ratio of median new home sale prices to median household income reached an all-time high value of 5.45 this year, which is to say that the typical new home sold in the U.S. cost nearly 5 and a half times the annual income earned by a typical American household. And of course, with new home prices going ever upward, used home prices follow. Rental prices also go up as demand increases and the cost to build new apartments goes up, up, up. Land, materials, taxes and labor are all contributing to the cost pressure. Tariffs and restrictions on immigrant labor will only put more pressure on the cost to build.

It has been estimated that over 40% of American households actually cannot afford to live where they are currently living. Whether it’s a house payment or rent, they are paying way more than 30% of their household income to put a roof over their heads. 30% has been the standard for a number of years. I’m old enough to remember when it was 25%, but that was given up long ago. Now many American families are paying 40% or even 50% of their income for housing.

This issue is complicated. There are a lot of factors which have put us in this place. As already noted, the cost to build is going up. Especially in growing urban areas where the jobs are. I live over 70 miles from Dallas but only 35 miles from the heart of Collin County (McKinney, Frisco, Plano). Land values here are going up rapidly. Houses are being built. Relatively affordable houses. But it’s taking twice as long to build due to labor shortages. Land, labor and time to build all add to the cost. And there will be those who move up here failing to appreciate how much it will cost to commute to the city, not just gas, but wear and tear on their car and themselves.

Often overlooked in the housing affordability discussion is how much housing has changed over the past 50 years. I don’t think we are ready to return to the 1950’s, but let’s be clear…there is no comparison between housing then and today. Houses back then might have been better built (perhaps), but there is no argument that the houses we have today are bigger and have more features.

I grew up in a small working class neighborhood in northwest Tarrant County, Texas (Fort Worth). Our house was average, if not a bit nicer. Just under 1000 sf, 2 BR, 1 Bath with a detached 1 car garage. No central heat and air. No built-in appliances, no fence, no sprinkler system, no security system, no place for a washer and dryer (but a screened in porch on the back for a “ringer” washer and clothes lines out back for a dryer.) It was a well-built frame house on a pier and beam foundation that still stands today, has a had a few upgrades and remains a home for some family, most likely much further down on the economic ladder than we were (and we weren’t up there very far.)

The first home I owned was a small (1100 sf) brick house. 2 BR, 1 bath, 1 car (attached) garage. A little space between the garage and the kitchen for a washer and dryer. Central heat and air. It was a major upgrade for me.

Over the years my houses have gotten bigger and nicer with more built-ins, more and better comfort systems, irrigation and security. Bigger garages, bigger utility rooms, more and bigger bathrooms, nicer kitchens, a fireplace (or two) of course. Starter homes today are larger and have more features than the first new “custom” home I purchased.

These days to find a house in a decent neighborhood with good schools usually means buying at least a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 car garage with all the extras. That’s a minimum. More than likely you’ll end up in a 4 bedroom, 3 ½ bath, 3 car garage and in these parts, you must have a pool to be really happy. And the differences in neighborhood, build quality and features can account for a $50-100 per square foot price differential on top of the base cost to build.

Housing in North Texas is considered “affordable”. And up here where I live in small town Sherman-Denison one can still get a good house in a decent neighborhood for $125,000. But for the houses most people want these days, you jump quickly over $200,000. Go further south toward DFW and the price per square foot seems to go up at the rate of about $1 per mile.

If your annual household income is under $75,000 you’ll be hard-pressed to buy a house that you’d want to live in. Here in Grayson County, the median household income is $51,000. Just to the south, in Collin County (one of the wealthiest in the state) that number is just over $90,000. But drop down to Dallas and Tarrant counties and the numbers are $54,000 and $61,000 respectively. Bottom-line, a lot of people can’t afford to own or even rent the size and quality of living space we have grown to expect. And as interest rates creep up, affordability becomes an even bigger problem.

There are no easy solutions and there are certainly no quick solutions. The market is making some adjustments. After years of bigger is better, the houses are getting smaller (as are families, which will lead to other problems down the road). Smaller houses on less land cost less money. More young couples and families are living in apartments for longer periods of time. Nice apartments aren’t cheap, but usually more affordable than that “dream home”. And the trend is very noticeable around DFW. More and more high-end apartment complexes are being built in the suburbs with the better schools (and being built earlier in the development of the area before established home owners can push back on apartment-dwellers invading their villages.)

In North Texas, where there is still plenty of cheap land, we’re just spreading out. And that’s a viable option IF we can find ways to transport people and products more affordably. When one considers what a long-distance commuter’s life is like in DFW, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles or Atlanta; it becomes quickly evident that this model of affordable housing is not the ultimate solution. This only becomes manageable with better, faster mass transit service and for some reason we here in America just won’t give up our cars. The freedom and independence of the automobile is considerably diminished when one considers the gridlock our urban freeways have become. We need high-speed commuter trains and we needed them yesterday but will settle for them as soon as possible.

The other options are “stack and pack” or “strip down”. “Stack and pack” means more apartments and condos. More people living in urban areas, close to their work. It’s the trend in many parts of the world and we’re starting to see it here in some major urban areas. Texas not so much yet, but it’s coming.

The “strip down” has been around these parts for years and here it’s called the “mobile home”. It comes with a stigma and I don’t see it as the ultimate solution, but it’s one answer for some people in some places where there is still space. The other “strip down” is the tiny house phenomenon. This feels like a millennial cry for help and/or attention and I don’t see it as the answer either. But I guess it will serve its purpose for a few for awhile.

The ultimate “strip down” is going back to the basics. Plain vanilla housing. Probably not wood frame, but some sort of affordable, recycled composite material. Built in a factory and assembled on sight. Fewer built-ins, smaller kitchens and bathrooms. Different ways of heating and cooling that cost less to install and operate (there are options, especially in smaller, energy efficient houses). No garages or at best smaller ones. Lawns and landscaping that need minimal water and maintenance. If this somehow becomes “a thing” and is considered cool and “green” it might actually work.

In the mean time, a lot of people are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to housing. And that has far reaching consequences. Put the American Dream out of reach for enough people and they won’t be inclined to put much effort toward making a America great again. They will decide it’s just not worth it and try something else. What that looks like, and who decides, are at the core of our political debate. One way or the other, change is coming.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Game Over

Donald Trump is arguably the most polarizing figure to ever occupy the oval office. I have confessed my sins and admitted voting for him. (I rationalize it by saying I voted against HRC, not for DJT). So far he’s done some good things: reducing regulations, appointing a conservative to the Supreme Court, opening a dialogue with North Korea, supporting our military and law enforcement. He’s done some not so good things: constantly tweeting and exhibiting language and behavior that is way beneath the office he is holding; picking fights with the media, starting a trade war, behaving erratically and inconsistently with his cabinet..basically just being the Donald Trump that we hoped he might leave at the curb when he moved into the White House.

But now he’s crossed a line from which he cannot recover. He’s taken crying children out of their parents’ arms. No matter that they came here illegally. No matter that these parents put their children at great risk during the journey to get here. No matter that we are following the letter of the law.

There are some things you just can’t do and we did it. Trump did it. And even though he scrambled around to “un-did it”, this one will leave a mark that won’t go away. Only the hardest of his hardcore base will stand by him at this point. Those in the big middle who voted just enough for him to win have abandoned him. Trump is finished and the Republican party is in critical condition. By inflicting what most are considering cruel and unnecessary hardship and trauma on children, Trump has committed the unpardonable sin. Game over.

“Never work with animals or children” – W.C. Fields

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Ending It

The recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have us talking about suicide again. It’s not a new epidemic. I reckon it’s been around since the beginning when the first man realized that he was sentenced to a life of working the cursed soil that would only bring forth thistles and thorns. And women would have an even tougher life bearing children, having periods, then menopause and putting up with men. And that’s before they started shaving their legs and wearing high heels.

So people have always had good reasons to seek a way out of the pain and misery of this life. And when celebrities, who seem to have it all, opt for suicide; two questions come to mind. The obvious first question everyone ask is why, why did these people do this? The second question is out there but seldom asked: why more of us don’t punch our own tickets?

The truth is that a lot of us do punch that ticket. Around the world there are over 800,000 suicides each year (World Health Organization). And even though women have it tougher, they commit suicides at less than half the rate of men. That fact seems to hold true everywhere on earth except in Southeast Asia where the women are apparently as miserable as the men and just as inclined to put an end to it on their own. Southeast Asia and Europe (especially eastern Europe) have the highest suicide rates. The United States isn’t the most suicidal nation on earth, ranking 48th out of 183 nations but we’re moving up the charts.

So, back to the questions, why some do and why more people don’t? The underlying reasons are complicated and specific to each individual. But that said, depression seems to be the common denominator when it comes to suicide. Why most depressed people do NOT commit suicide is the real question. Depression may take a person to the threshold of suicide, but what makes them take that final, fatal step or, perhaps more importantly, keeps them from taking it?

For some people it’s religious belief. All of the world’s great religions oppose suicide. Some oppose it more than others. Even within religions some groups oppose it more than others, i.e. Catholics more so than Protestants. Buddhism seems to have a more tolerant view of suicide and perhaps that contributes to the higher suicide rate in Southeast Asia. And, in heavily Catholic Italy, the suicide rate is one of the lowest. So, what one believes about the eternal consequences of suicide is a factor.

Some people stop short of taking that final step because they know it will hurt others, those left behind. Some suicidal people have even credited pets with keeping them from going all the way.

But, the number one reason for not going through with it has to be fear. Fear is part of the religious barrier to suicide. What happens to my soul if I do this? And even for non-religious people there is the uncertainty of what lies beyond. But the hereafter can also be a motivator toward suicide. Whatever is out there is likely to be better, so let’s get on with it. Still fear is a deterrent. Fear of the pain. Fear of the experience of death. Even people who have faith and are not afraid of leaving this world usually have a fear of the process. How much does dying really hurt when you’re dying?

People take their own lives because it seems to be the best option at the moment. They are not happy in this life. Success that didn’t satisfy or failure that seems final. Hopes that are gone or a hopeless future. Lost loves or lost fortunes. The end of the beginning or the beginning of the end or just the end period, depending on your eternal perspective.

My own mother committed suicide late in life. Shot herself. She was depressed off and on and severely for most of her life. She attempted suicide when I was a child. Tried to hang herself, but somehow failed. At age 70, loaded up on anti-depressants and assorted drugs prescribed by different doctors; she sat down on her back porch, put a .38 to her chest, pulled the trigger and with a shot through the heart was gone. I can only guess that, in the final moment of decision, she could find no good reason not to.

Why should those who suffer ever be born?
Why should life be given to those whose spirits are bitter?
Why is life given to those who long for death that doesn’t come?
Why is it given to those who would rather search for death than for hidden treasure?
Why is life given to those who are actually happy and glad when they reach the grave?

The Book of Job 3: 20-22

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Supply and Demand

I'm in the middle
The middle of life
I'm a boy and I'm a man
I'm eighteen and I like it.

Lyrics from the Alice Cooper song, “I’m Eighteen”

In the past I’ve commented on the truck driver shortage. I’ve even said that one possible solution would be to lower the age for interstate truck drivers from 21 to 18. But, I never said it was a good idea for the trucking industry. It may be a good idea for shippers and therefore for consumers (as long as the younger truck drivers don’t run over too many folks). But, I question why the trucking industry would want this.

There is now a bill being proposed in congress that would lower the age for interstate truck drivers to 18. There are restrictions designed to make it safer for these young newbies to drive trucks all over the country. On the surface it sounds like a good idea. We have a shortage of truck drivers, so increase the pool of available drivers and problem solved right? Well, that depends on the problem you’re trying to solve and the unintended consequences that are likely to accompany your solution.

When it comes to the truck driver shortage, it’s more of a supply problem than a demand problem. Yes the economy is growing and so is the population. So there is more freight. But, the population has grown enough that, all things equal (which they never are), we should have enough truck drivers. Especially given the way trailer sizes have increased over the last 40 years, the expansion of containerized intermodal transportation and the reduced size and improved packaging of freight.

But since the industry was deregulated in 1980, truck driver wages have declined dramatically. When adjusted for inflation, a driver today would need to earn over $100K per year to be on par with the drivers in 1980. Add in increased regulations and traffic congestion and the job is just not worth it anymore. Capable people who can pass a drug screen and are willing to work can find better things to do.

So over the past year we’ve seen driver wages and freight rates accelerate dramatically. They still have a long way to go, but they are trending in the right direction. And carriers are making more money which is not a bad thing if we want them to survive. But trucking companies are notorious for shooting themselves in the foot. Creating more capacity with an influx of 18-20 year old drivers may be doing just that. It will create some additional driving capacity in the short run, but with that additional capacity and the likelihood that the economy will slowdown in 2019 or 2020, we might well see freight rates drop and driver pay increases hit the skids.

We do need an entry point for 18, 19, 20 year old drivers. That should be AND IS intrastate driving. The intrastate restrictions do create some anomalies where a driver can drive hundreds of miles across the state, but not across the state line next door. Given that a lot of our major markets, especially in the eastern half of the country, are located near state lines this needs to be addressed. With today’s technology it would be easy enough to simply restrict younger drivers to a distance radius from their domicile. And that might vary by geography. A 300 mile radius for a young driver based in DFW might be just fine, but not so good for one based based in Pittsburgh. And maybe it’s 500 miles for a young driver in Billings, Montana.

But the industry should think twice about opening the doors too much in their efforts to increase the driver pool. To build a safe, sustainable population of drivers the compensation has to make sense. Get the freight rates where they need to be in order to do that. And then if you still have a shortage of drivers….raise the rates some more.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mamaw Was Right

A few weeks ago I wrote about Choices. The pursuit of Freedom and Happiness versus accepting Responsibility and fulfilling your Commitments. This isn’t something that just popped into my head. It’s always there, for all of us, whether we want to face it or not.

I closed that blog entry with a quote from Jordan Peterson: “If you fulfill your obligations everyday you don't need to worry about the future.” If you haven’t read or listened to Jordan Peterson, I recommend him highly. His book, 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos, is one of the best of its kind I’ve ever read. It certainly makes my short-list of books I’ll read more than once. Another one on that list is David Brooks’ “The Road To Character”. You should read that one too.

Here are just a few quotes from these two books:

“Humility is the awareness that there’s a lot you don’t know and that a lot of what you think you know is distorted or wrong.”- David Brooks

“The better ambitions have to do with the development of character and ability, rather than status and power. Status you can lose. You carry character with you wherever you go, and it allows you to prevail against adversity.” – Jordan Peterson

“Recovering from suffering is not like recovering from a disease. Many people don’t come out healed; they come out different.”- David Brooks

“In a crisis, the inevitable suffering that life entails can rapidly make a mockery of the idea that happiness is the proper pursuit of the individual.” – Jordan Peterson

“Sin is not some demonic thing. It’s just our perverse tendency to fuck things up, to favor the short term over the long term, the lower over the higher. Sin, when it is committed over and over again, hardens into loyalty to a lower love.”- David Brooks

“But the story of the golden calf also reminds us that without rules we quickly become slaves to our passions—and there’s nothing freeing about that.” – Jordan Peterson

“Change your behavior and eventually you rewire your brain.”- David Brooks

“What you aim at determines what you see.” - Jordan Peterson

And interestingly enough, both Brooks and Peterson include this quote in their books: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart.”- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I have been thinking a lot about what Brooks and Peterson have to say in these books and why I am so inclined to agree with them. And I keep coming back to Mamaw, my maternal grandmother. Mamaw had a rough life. One of 11 children growing up on a hard-scrabble farm southwest of Fort Worth. And then a farmer's wife until the day she died. She worked from dawn to dusk and beyond everyday of her life. She focused on her family. She took care of everybody. Raised her kids and then just about raised her grandkids. She had a good husband, my Papaw. He was as good as they come. But she was the rock. Tough as nails and knew that this life was no picnic.

She also knew that prayers often go unanswered, or you don’t get the answer you want. She also knew that cursing God and shaking your fist at Him would only make things worse, not for Him but for you. She had faith in the future, not in this life, but in the next. And she believed that it was her job to make a positive difference in the here and now because the here and now needs all the help it can get.

Jordan Peterson talks a lot about the suffering that comes with living life in these bodies on this planet. He also says that the purpose of life is finding the largest burden you can bear and bearing it. Take up your cross, that sort of thing. It’s a hard message, but it’s the truth. Mamaw was right.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Another School Shooting

Yesterday a 17 year old student in Santa Fe, Texas killed fellow students and teachers, 10 in all. It would have been more had he been armed with semi-automatic weapons. In this case the killing was done with a .38 revolver and a shotgun. So the gun control debate will expand and become only more heated.

I am on the record as being for a ban on high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons. Certainly assault rifles at minimum. Tighter regulations and more enforcement of existing laws would be good things. But it wouldn’t have stopped this event. (Unless it would have kept this shooter’s father from owning a revolver and a shotgun. And even then, my bet is that this young man would have found other ways to wipe out his tormentors. Perhaps not as effective or perhaps much worse).

If stricter gun regulations are not enough, what else and what now? We can tighten security at our schools and public gathering places. It might help and it probably doesn’t hurt. But those with a strong motivation to kill people will find a way. Establish security check points and a killer will target those waiting to go through security. Protect the buildings, but be prepared to pick up the dead in the parking lot.

Do all you can do to protect people and limit the death toll. More gun control and better security. These are givens. Just do it. But understand that “the virus” is out there ready to infect anyone who feels mistreated, disrespected or dismissed. And like any virus it will adapt and continue to spread. And there seems to be no cure. Cain killed his brother Abel and it’s been all downhill from there.

These days those with an ax to grind have plenty of options and more than enough examples of how to “get even”. We can limit those options and take more stringent security measures. But in a world that increasingly believes all truth is relative, that right and wrong depend on your perspective; and personal responsibility is something you only have to consider when it’s your fault, and it’s never your fault; our stories will all too often be written in blood.

Saturday, May 5, 2018


“If you want any one thing too badly, it's likely to turn out to be a disappointment.” – Gus McCrae, from Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

I’m an old guy. Old enough to remember my family telling stories of the real old days. Old enough to have heard first-hand stories from family members about the dust bowl and the depression. Old enough to have had a father and uncles who fought in WWII. Old enough to remember how we lived without central heat and air, or more than one bathroom, or color TV (much less 200 channels), or cell phones, or the internet, or hip and knee replacements. Old enough to remember when divorce was rare and few children were born out of wedlock. I grew up in a time where kids were free to wander all over the place until after dark and neighbors knew who you were. Experienced the cultural revolution of the 60’s & 70’s, the “greed is good” era of the 80’s and 90’s and now the digital age and the battle for social justice and equality.

So I have lived some life and gained a bit of perspective. And I have learned. Mostly learned the hard way by making bad choices and suffering the consequences. What I have learned is that life often comes down to choices between Commitment and Responsibility versus Freedom and Happiness. Most of the pain in my life has resulted from decisions to pursue Freedom and Happiness at the expense of Commitment and Responsibility.

I think it’s fair to say that since the end of WWII, our country has pretty much gone down that same path. Where Freedom and Happiness too often take precedence over Commitment and Responsibility, societies breakdown. Certainly the desire for Freedom and Happiness has been a positive factor in the advance of civilization. Fire, the wheel, the remote control, Viagra…all in the pursuit of Freedom and Happiness. So Freedom and Happiness are not bad things.

America itself was born out of an innate human desire for Freedom and Happiness. And when Freedom and Happiness are balanced with Commitment and Responsibility, the outcomes tend to be very positive. Are they perfect? Of course not. We can all point to abuses and oppression thrust upon groups of people under the guise of Commitment and Responsibility. There just has to be a balance.

Today, in America, the pendulum has swung way too far in the direction of Freedom and Happiness. Forsake Commitment and Responsibility for Freedom and Happiness and you end up with too many divorces, too many children born out of wedlock or raised by single parents, or a relative or a stranger. Make Freedom and Happiness a priority in education and you end up with a lot of people unprepared to live or make a living on their own. Make Freedom and Happiness a priority and those in power pass laws and establish policies to benefit those in power and those whom they need on their side in order to remain in power. Make Freedom and Happiness a priority and the rich will get richer until the poor have had enough. (And we are getting there, if not there already). Make Freedom and Happiness a priority and you will vote for Hope and Change or to Make America Great Again even if the person you’re voting for is unqualified.

My sense is that we are close to a tipping point. While Millennials are often criticized for being spoiled and pampered or too wrapped up in social justice causes, I think a lot of them have learned from the mistakes of their parents and grandparents. Maybe buying all of the house you can afford, isn’t such a good idea. Maybe putting your career ahead of your family isn’t the best life strategy. Perhaps spending a Saturday on a community service project instead of on the golf course will make you and your community better. Some are going back to church or at least thinking about it. Some of them are even listening to us old guys who have made the mistake of pursuing Happiness and Freedom at the expense of Commitment and Responsibility.

“If you fulfill your obligations everyday you don't need to worry about the future.”
― Jordan B. Peterson

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Is Anybody Out There?

The ratio of unemployed persons to job openings is now down to 1.1, meaning there are 1.1 unemployed people per job opening. There are currently over 6 million job openings in this country. Just as a point of reference there were less than 2.2 million in July 2009. Now you can pick at the data noting that we’re not counting all of the potential workforce. That we have a lot of drop-outs. Or that the “job opening” data is questionable. That many of these openings are not really “open”, that some companies are always looking for certain types of people, but that doesn’t mean they will hire.

OK, so the data isn’t perfect. But it is relative and going from 2.2 million job openings to over 6.0 million means something. Back in July 2009 when we had just under 2.2 million job openings, there were over 14.5 million unemployed people looking for work, a 6.6 to 1 ratio. Today’s ratio of 1.1 to 1 tells us there are around 6.6 million people looking for work. In July 2009 the number of employed people was just over 139 million. Today that number is 155 million. So we’ve covered 9 million of the “out of work and looking” from July 2009 and added another 7 million to the employment roles. What’s even more interesting is that the labor participation rate hasn’t changed much. In July 2009 59.3% of the population was employed. Today it’s 60.4%. The “civilian” labor force participation rate in July 2009 was actually higher (65.5%) that it is today (63.0%).

Slice it anyway you want to and the message is the same, we don’t have enough qualified workers to fill all of the jobs that need to be filled. Unemployment is still personal and if you are among the unemployed, especially the long-term unemployed, all of these “job openings” aren’t doing you much good. There are a lot of reasons why some folks can’t get a job. Some can be overcome, some cannot and some are against the law. Life isn’t fair and neither is the job market even when we pass laws to make it so. It is a competition and when you are unable to compete or are not allowed to compete, the result is the same…unemployment. But that aside, the reality is that there are simply not enough “employable” people for the jobs that need to be filled where they need to be filled.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that the generation on the way up is significantly larger than the generation on the way out: 150 million Gen X and Gen Z replacing 80 million Baby Boomers. This will make a positive difference in some job markets. But we are still likely to face significant shortages in skilled trades and the no-collar/blue-color labor market. In the mean time, employers will be forced to adjust: increase compensation, substitute capital (technology) for labor, re-design jobs to make them more attractive or move the work to where the workers are. Things will change. They must.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Easter 2018

Easter hasn’t always been the most important holiday for me. Even though I grew up in and around the church and “got saved” when I was only ten years old, Easter didn’t win, place or show when it came to holidays. Christmas was THE number one, by a wide margin. Second was the 4th of July. I loved fireworks. Still do. Fireworks, watermelon and homemade ice cream. Doesn’t get much better than that. And in my heavy drinking days, lots of cold beer. Then there was Thanksgiving. Football, great food, cocktails and falling asleep in the recliner. And New Year’s Day. More football and as I got older, more drinking. Just living the American dream.

Easter was always there, of course, bringing up the rear. Running neck and neck with Labor Day. As a little kid, the whole Easter Bunny/Candy Egg deal got my attention. As I grew older and started to understand what Easter was really all about, it became sort of depressing. Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed. Woo-hoo…now can we get back to living life? I didn’t say that. I probably didn’t even think that. But that’s how it turned out. Easter was always a time when this wayward backslider would say he was going to clean up his act and go back to church. But, then life would get in the way and nothing changed. Just another year older and farther away.

Most people don’t want to talk about “religion”. For years I would be the first one to change the subject. Religion never worked for me. I tried it and failed. But, for some reason I never could let go of the idea that there really is a God. And, more importantly, for some reason God never let go of me. I don’t know why I believe, other than it’s by the grace of God. If it were left up to me, I’d just be “spiritual” and hope that the “universe” was grading on the curve and everything would work itself out to my eternal benefit somehow.

But God had a different plan. And now, for me, Easter is the most important holiday. Because Christ is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed. That Easter falls on April 1 this year makes it only more special for me. If I am a fool for believing, so be it.

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” I Corinthians 15: 17-19

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Five Smooth Stones

Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:40

I always have extra batteries available in March. For the remote control. For March Madness. Especially for the first round of March Madness. I record some of the “more significant” games and then find myself channel flipping as the others are played. Last night I flipped the channel and saw that UMBC had a double-digit lead over top-ranked Virginia…in the second half.

It was early in the second half, so my money was still on Virginia to wake up and pull away. So I flipped the channel again to TCU-Syracuse. But that UMBC-Virginia score was showing at the top of the screen and UMBC was still hanging on to a sizeable lead. I had to flip back to that game.

My wife was sitting there surfing on her iPad, glancing at the television from time to time. Making conversation she looked up and asked, “Is that TCU in the white jerseys?”.

I slowly replied, sort of Jimmy Stewart-ish, “Uh No….no..uh..that’s Virginia…and they are losing to UMBC”.

“Who’s UMBC?”, her eyes turning back to her iPAd.

Sports nut that I am, I am supposed to know these things.

My wife began to speculate. Are they from Missouri? Michigan? British Columbia? British Columbia…seriously?

I clicked on the “info” button and discovered that UMBC was the University of Maryland- Baltimore County. I then answered her question as though this was common knowledge that every sports fan should know. She looked up just before I exited the information pop-up screen and called me out for cheating.

I have to admit it. I had no clue who UMBC was. I pay no attention to 16 seeded teams unless they are from one of the many places I have lived in my wandering life. I’ve never lived in Maryland. Apparently the University of Virginia Men’s basketball team was not paying attention either.

As I watched UMBC, The Retrievers, pull away and beat mighty Virginia 74-54; the story of David and Goliath immediately came to my mind. And I’m sure that story will be attached to UMBC by many writers, bloggers and tweeters. But, the complete story as reported in the Seventeenth Chapter of 1 Samuel notes that David chose “five smooth stones” for his confrontation with Goliath.

UMBC had five smooth stones plus some guys on the bench and a pretty good coach. Jarius Lyles was the smoothest of the stones and the one that really brought down Goliath with 28 points, 23 in the second half. (And, interestingly enough, Jarius gives us another Bible reference. Jesus brought his daughter back to life. This is all just too good, isn’t it?)

But some stories really are too good to not be true. I feel bad for UVA, but UMBC’s monumental upset, the first time a 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed, is a classic feel good story. With all of the NCAA cheating scandals, paying players under the table, shoe deals and other shenanigans; for this one night five smooth stones from an unexpected and mostly unknown place made college sports history and in a good way. The Retrievers brought us back to the best college sports has to offer. And it was glorious.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Free Trade

President Trump’s proposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum is a bad idea. Tariffs have never been a great idea and usually bad things happen in the global economy when a super power starts playing games with tariffs. In today’s global economy, it’s an even worse idea.

If we want to fix our balance of trade, we need to take the long-term view. Investments in infrastructure and education will make us better and more competitive in the global economy. We talk about bringing jobs back to America. We don’t have enough qualified people to fill those jobs. We don’t have an unemployment problem. We have an “unemployable” people problem. So we need to educate, train AND motivate our workforce in order to get over that hump. (And that “motivate” part is a whole other subject.)

I predict that cooler heads will prevail and Trump will change his mind as he so often does. He’ll say that the threat has gotten concessions from our global competitors and his bluff worked. The art of the deal strikes again. Of course, it will be total nonsense and we’ll just move on to the next issue.

Trump has done some good things. The tax bill, his Supreme Court pick and reducing regulations on businesses are all winners. And he may even get something worked out with North Korea. There may be a method to Trump’s madness. But the problem is that when you’re the leader of the free world, you can’t afford to be wrong on the big stuff. That’s how wars get started.

“I love free trade, but we need great leadership to have real free trade. And we don't have good leadership. We have leadership that doesn't know what it's doing.” – Donald J. Trump.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Provide For The Common Defense

In the past I’ve commented about guns, gun violence and mass shootings. For the record:
_I’m not a member of the NRA
_I do own quite a few guns including a couple of semi-automatic handguns.
_I do not own an AR-15 or similar type of weapon (nor do I have plans to own one).
_I do have a concealed carry license. But I rarely carry a gun.
_I do have a pistol in my vehicle
_I have never shot at anyone, don’t want to and hope I never will.
_I live out in the country and I am my own protection. I have a gun at both ends of the house and out back in my office. I believe it’s better to have a gun and not need it, than to need one and not have it.
_Since I’ve been old enough to vote, I’ve voted for both Democrats and Republicans. Right now Republicans hold a 60-40 edge. And the older I get, the more I lean that direction. Pretty common for old white guys, even those who used to have long-hair and protest everything.

We have a serious problem in this country. And it’s not just guns, but guns are certainly part of the problem. It’s time to face up to the fact that any place where two or more are gathered there is a chance that someone will attack them. That someone can attack them with an AR-15 using high-capacity magazine fire power makes the problem even worse. So take the AR-15’s away or at least reduce firepower (and then figure out how to enforce it…good luck with that).

Fine. Now what? Little Johnny’s meds aren’t working so he takes daddy’s shotgun and kills 2 or 3 of his classmates instead of 15 or 20. Are we going to have a parade? Or do we just ramp up the gun ban conversation?

And when Little Johnny can’t get a gun what will he do? If he can drive, he’ll just run over a bunch of kids. He watches the news. Or he’ll go online and learn how to make a bomb. He may be crazy, but he’s not stupid. Or maybe he just torches the place or poisons the sloppy joes in the cafeteria.

I don’t think there is one right answer. But I think there are a number of steps in the right direction. In my opinion they include the following:
_ Armed protection wherever people are gathered. (Effective armed protection, not a deputy hiding outside waiting for help.) We have better protection at my little church on Sunday mornings for less than 100 people than those kids had down in Florida. (I don’t carry my gun, but we have a couple of law enforcement members who do. And if they weren’t there, I would be carrying mine.)
_Raise the age limit to 21 for the purchase of semi-automatic weapons ( handguns or rifles) and require stricter background checks…maybe it’s double or triple checks and a longer waiting period.
_Make fixing the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) a priority. There is no excuse for there being any gaps here other than the usual government incompetence. My guess is they’ve spent millions with some consulting firm that has milked this project for all it’s worth.
_And I’m ok with a national gun registry. I know there are plenty of people who see this as an invasion of privacy and the first step to gun confiscation. But guns are something we need to keep up with. Where are they and who has them?
_When kids are at risk, get them some help and keep an eye on them. “The Village” failed Nikolas Cruz and he declared war on it. He even warned them. No one listened.

I’ll let Andrew Pollack wrap this up. His daughter was shot and killed at Parkland. If you haven’t seen or listened to this…it’s well worth 4 minutes of your time.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Next Decade...and Beyond

With those wild swings in the stock market we tend to worry about the right now. How much money did I lose last week? How much will I lose next week? Where are interest rates going? What about inflation? Is our government going to implode?

But perhaps we should think longer term. What does the bigger picture look like? Now nine years into the second decade of the 21st Century (yes 2018 is the 9th year of this decade), it’s not too soon to give serious thought about the next decade, the 2020’s. In fact, as a business person if you have not been thinking about it, it may be too late. I don’t have a crystal ball and I’m not one of those 160 IQ futurists who have the next 100 years all figured out. But, I am paying attention. There’s a lot of information out there and one can drown in data. One can also find numbers that support just about any position on any subject. But occasionally you get hit with numbers that only point in one direction.

Now I will admit that there is a chance these could turn out to be wrong, but as far as I can tell they are pretty accurate. It’s basic math. In the United States, 80 million Baby Boomers are riding off into the sunset. 150 million Gen X-ers and Gen Z-ers are in or will soon be in the marketplace. While their purchasing power as well their purchasing habits may be more muted than those of the Baby Boomer generation, these 150 million are still going to need some place to live, things to sit on and sleep on, clothes to wear and food to eat. They will need products and services to cook, clean, repair and sanitize themselves and their stuff. They will need to be entertained, transported, doctored and lawyered. They will need to house, care for and eventually bury their elders. And they will try to find the answers to life’s big questions. That means they will probably spend a lot of money until they figure out that is not the answer.

By 2030, the United States is projected to have a population of over 350,000,000. That is up from around 320,000,000 in 2015. The global population is projected to be over 8.5 Billion! The fastest growth areas are Africa, India, Indonesia and Mexico. The United States population growth will be very dependent on immigration and given the policy debates surrounding that issue, it’s a wild card. But if anything, I could see us ending up with even more than 350 million people here by 2030. Compared to the rest of the world, we have the best deal going. Even the Republicans and Democrats can’t screw it up totally. (Well, maybe they can. There is that “debt” issue. But we can always print more money, right? Not to worry.)

So the good news for business owners is that there is going to be plenty of demand out there. People will need AND want lots of stuff and services. The challenges will be adapting to a changing work force and disruptive technologies. Those businesses that can adapt, adjust and overcome, AND do so quickly and frequently, are going to win and win big. Those that cannot will be eaten by those that can. The 2020’s…the decade of opportunity and eat or be eaten.

“I think there's every reason this 21st century will be much happier.”- Dalai Lama

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Shadows of Truth

So the “Nunes Memo” appears on Ground Hog Day. And just like Punxsutawney Phil, the Truth saw it’s shadow. Phil’s shadow means six more weeks of hard winter. Even though the groundhog’s forecasts are wrong more than 50% of the time, literally a coin flip predicts weather more accurately than Phil, we all pay attention to Phil and his shadow. And yesterday the world paid attention to the “the Memo”. And now the debate rages on as to what it really means. I think it’s fair to say there are shadows of truth here. Many on The Right are touting it as the “nail in the coffin” for Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion. While The Left cries foul and claims it to be just more Trump-ublican chicanery designed to deflect and divert attention.

As with most things, especially political things, the truth is probably somewhere in between. But we are not likely to get to the middle anytime soon. We are living in the shadows of truth these days. We know it’s there somewhere because we see it’s shadow. Like a cloud passing over the earth. But when we look up, the cloud has moved and changed its shape. Even its shadow is different.

Twenty-five years ago the movie “Ground Hog Day” came out. As you may recall, Bill Murray plays the role of an arrogant, jaded weatherman from Pittsburgh who is forced to go out to Punxsutawney and cover Ground Hog Day. He ends up in a looping time-warp reliving Ground Hog Day while indulging in all sorts of bad behavior and dying in various ways only to re-awake again on Ground Hog Day. Rinse and repeat. Ultimately he is forced to stop and think about his life and his priorities and his values.

If feels like we too are living in a looping time-warp. We get up every day and listen to the same competing, totally biased narratives. We occasionally catch a glimpse of shadows that appear to be those of the truth. But then they are blown away by the next wave of accusation, innuendo and opinion. With mid-term elections coming up the battle will rage on. And after the mid-terms the battle will continue to rage, because…gee whiz…the Presidential election is just around the corner. And the loop will just keep on looping.

“There is no way that this winter is ever going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow.” Phil Connors (Bill Murray), from the movie “Ground Hog Day”.