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”.