April 26, 2017 | Posted in General
Sometimes when you are looking for something, you find another thing that is more important that what you originally were searching for and with it comes hidden gifts.
I was digging in a Rubbermaid storage box yesterday, looking for a baseball, not just any ball mind you-the one signed by most of the 1969 Chicago Cubs. Just a reminder to put in my line of sight while I work of a time when not everything was about work.
When I opened an old shoe box certain I would find my treasure there, an odd-looking envelope was inside-but no baseball. I opened up the envelope to find a “live saving medal” given to me years ago from the Governor of Wisconsin-but not for my time in United States Coast Guard.
It was for giving the gift of life to my daughter when I donated a kidney to her fifteen years ago this coming July 18th or 5,475 days ago.
I vaguely remember skipping the ceremony for the medal presentation because it seemed ludicrous to me for such an award to be given, as a father there was no question that I would give her a part of myself and surely didn’t need to be recognized for it.
So, it sits in a box in storage…where I had totally forgotten about it. But then it became an important reminder.
This morning as I was about to “rant off” about things like the “virtual reality of politics” and ask the question “Why is the applicator on RoundUp called the “Comfort Wand,” my mind suddenly remembered that April is “Organ Donation Awareness Month.”
So here is my pitch.
First off, my daughter Amanda Lee is fine fifteen years’ post-transplant. She is healthy, brilliant, beautiful, driven and full of life. I will never forget seeing her the day after the transplant at UW Madison Children’s Hospital sitting cross legged on the bed in her room, cheeks flush with color and a light in her eyes that has only grown brighter in the years since that “exchange.” A sharp contrast to the 13-year-old girl that was losing a battle with kidney disease just a couple days before.
Truth of course is that not everyone waiting in line for a life-saving transplant has had our experience.
I could bombard you with statistics but they don’t matter until you become a statistic. Thousands wait for the call, the text or the “buzzer” that gets attached to your hip while on “the list.”
Then we want to know why more hasn’t been done, or why people won’t sign their donor card, or make their wishes known to their family.
As I watch government subsidies and compromises for the Affordable Care Act punted around like a football, I think of the thousands of people who without the protection from the ” pre-existing condition” clause that was standard in the insurance industry for decades and the financial support from the program would really be up shit creek.
For years I pushed hard, using my media presence and stance to contribute to doing what I could to raise awareness and consciousness around organ donation. As the Senior Producer for the Dr. Oz Show on Oprah Radio, I built at least six shows a year around the issue. I scripted and produced PSA spots and guested on half a hundred shows myself talking about the deep need for donation.
The question most asked of me of course was “Why don’t more people become donors?”
Never really could pinpoint one answer.
Could be that the idea of signing that donor card is admitting on some level that you are really going to die someday…or even today… and that scares the shit outta people. Could be that we are just selfish and we would rather “take it with us” instead of “leaving some for others” as a final act of defiance. The cemeteries of the world are like an auto junkyard of spare parts-but unlike a bunch of rusted metal hulks that can be picked over, once we are done-it’s too late.
Health is perhaps the one thing we take most for granted but also the one thing that more than anything else determines our life experience. We can be humming along one day and the next day end up on dialysis…or on a list waiting for someone to give the ultimate gift, like the incredible story of Rod Crew.
“I thought I was totally healthy” says the Hall of Famer. “Then one morning out of nowhere I had a massive heart attack.” After that, Carew was in desperate need of a heart and kidney transplant. Then in December of last year, former NFL tight end Konrad Reuland, an organ donor, died at the age of 29 after suffering a brain aneurysm.
The above paragraph excerpted from Tim Van Vooren at Fox 6 in Milwaukee by the way.
Konrad’s strong heart ended up in the chest of the 71-year-old Carew, and in an amazing twist of fate, Konrad had attended a baseball clinic Carew held when he was only eleven years old. Eight months before the brain aneurysm, Konrad had renewed his driver’s license and opted to be an organ donor.
“It’s a miracle…” insists Rod Carew.
Yes, it is.
Amanda and I don’t talk much about all that transpired when she was just a teenager, her deep beliefs about all that took place are set in stone and she rarely looks back, but I have a father’s eye and “the donor” experience about all that went on, and my singular perspective on the process why I am asking you to be a hero today.
Like Konrad Reuland.
If you are already an organ donor, my deepest thanks and if not, please consider becoming a donor and remember, the life you save won’t be your own.
That my friends is the whole idea.
With Amanda Lee’s permission, this is what “The Gift of Life” looks like fifteen years later.
April 22, 2017 | Posted in General
Earth Day Edition.
I am going to keep this short and to the point, forgoing my usual fifteen hundred words for just a few hundred on this April 22nd, a day set aside to celebrate “the earth.”
On this morning the story of “The Wilderness Warrior” President Theodore Roosevelt comes to mind, when in 1908 pressure was being put on congress to allow strip mining in the Grand Canyon. Roosevelt would have none of it, and declared the massive expanse a national monument, declaring “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”
Without visionary leadership and left to their own devices, there is a segment of society that would strip the earth and any species on it for profit until there is nothing left.
As one who remembers watching the news in 1969 when The Cuyahoga River in Ohio was “burning” because it was so polluted and the subsequent outcry from millions of Americans about the lack of oversight on corporations who had used the waterways and byways of our land as a dumping grounds for over a century. It was that “river of fire” that was perhaps the catalyst for the “environmental movement” as it were, and within a year of that incident, President Richard Nixon created The Environmental Protection Agency and The Clean Water Act was passed.
That was 47 years ago.
As the current administration is led by a man who thinks that Climate Change is a hoax, perpetrated by China, and has signed executive orders dismantling much of what has been put in place to protect the public lands and waters from corporations that can now resume much of their activity unrestricted. Four days ago, April 19th, staffers at the EPA offices in Chicago awaited a meeting with the new EPA Chief Pruitt who was in town. Pruitt was a no show-and declined to even walk through the door at the EPA Region V Headquarters office that is reportedly on the chopping block amid massive proposed staff and budget cuts to his own agency that Pruitt is supporting.
Earlier in the day, Pruitt declined to meet with community members in East Chicago speaking out about the environmental justice crises in their neighborhoods. Pruitt instead reportedly went to a Chicago Cubs baseball game in the middle of the workday.
Much like arguing with someone who smokes and “gets away with it” until they get cancer and then wonders why someone didn’t make them stop or inform them of the toxic effects of the habit, so goes it with climate change and our impact on the planet. The DNA of Denial is deeply embedded in our brains, fed by a stream of information that allows us to disregard our responsibility to the home we share. The ultimate ego statement isn’t that we couldn’t possibly damage the earth, its that we think we are above the systems that sustain life.
Truth is for me, its never been about “saving the earth” because we are merely another species passing through at best.
Countless other life forms have inhabited this “3rd rock from the sun” over the past 4.65 billion years, from a microscopic see through amoeba to the largest of the dinosaurs to the smallest shrew to the gargantuan blue whale and everything that swims, crawls, creeps, walks and flies.
There are five main ingredients in the circle of life. 1) Water in all its forms. 2) The green life in all its forms. 3) The animal life in all its forms 4) The earth itself in all its forms including the atmosphere and then.. 5) Humans.
The first four don’t need us to survive and thrive, but without them we are toast.
Humans depending on who you agree with have been around for about 250,000 years, a mere blip on the cosmic life screen. In the past 500 years our species has decimated the very systems that keep life in balance in the name of progress.
We live in a biosphere suspended in the dark of space, a tiny orb that is the only miracle of its kind in the known solar system. On this tiny planet, to insist that we have dominion over this little blue marble is folly, we are a parasite of sorts that depends on the host being healthy so our species continues.
This being FB, it’s inevitable that some humans will read this and will insist that climate change is some liberal left wing agenda to somehow put the clamps on capitalism and squash profits in the name of tree hugging.
To that I have just four words.
Cuyahoga River… Grand Canyon.
” Our posturing’s, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” Carl Sagan.
April 19, 2017 | Posted in General
The ” too damn early in the morning edition.”
I don’t mind being up at the crack of dawn, but this is ridiculous, but necessary if I am to get any more rest in the next few days.
As I “go to press” its 3:59 am Chicago time, but I have been up for an hour already, looking for the words to untangle the thoughts in my mind. This is what happens to me when I back up against something that will simply not leave me alone until I jackhammer my way though and bust out the foundation of what is chapping my hide.
This morning it’s the realization that I totally messed up my radio career, missing out on millions and millions and millions of dollars by not listening to the advice of insiders that admonished me for taking the “high road” instead of becoming…
“A Performance Artist!”
Over a span of 20 years, (since my first day on the air, August 27th, 1997) I have been told half a dozen times to dump the “inform, entertain and inspire” model that “just won’t sell” and join the ranks of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levine, Michael Savage (real name Michael Weiner) Glenn Beck and the latest yakker to make headlines, Alex Jones and beat the drum of conspiracy, innuendo, conservatism, male superiority and push the envelope of good taste to the point wherein I could finally break through and use “those great pipes” to attract lucrative sponsors thus setting up an ongoing supply and demand parasitic relationship with an insatiable audience that can never get enough fear to feed on.
Nope, I didn’t take their advice. Nor did I take the advice of the agent who told me I would be better off in sports radio, talking about every single, double and triple, over analyzing blocking assignments and digging into the of off field antics of young millionaires who are paid to entertain us.
Missed out on that one too.
Yea, all this “higher ground” stuff for the past two decades has cost me millions of dollars in revenue. The closest platform to the “Big Show” was my time on Oprah Radio listened to by a couple million people which is impressive, but a drop in the bucket compared to the 20 million that devour Limbaugh’s verbal droppings each week.
So, for the record, near as it can be figured, I have hosted over 22,000 hours of radio, produced about 35,000 hours and when you add in the marketing, sales and promotional aspects of my tenure, it’s safe to say that I am an expert in the field. You could drop me off in a studio in Paduach or Pittsburgh or Patagonia, fire up the mic and I am good to go.
So, it is with all that in mind that I was glad to hear the truth come out when it comes to 99.9% of political talk radio hosts and what “insiders” have known for a long time.
It’s all bullshit…and bullshit sells in a big way.
It’s the manure that keeps the paranoia and fear, the division and delusion growing, which keeps an audience tuned in and the biggest part of the equation-the ad revenue-flowing.
This “insider truth” was revealed in court just yesterday as the aforementioned Alex Jones host of ” InfoWars” that reaches millions with the help of his “Info Warriors” that are “breaking down the electronic Berlin Wall of media control from a private bunker in an undisclosed location” is fighting for custody of his kids in divorce proceedings. As his character has been called into question (Sandy Hook was fake, the moon landing was fake, the government has bombs that turn men gay, government was part of the Oklahoma City bombing, Obama wiretapped Trump and that the Syrian gas attack was a hoax just to name a few of his closely guarded truths.)
But when pressed, his lawyer went on record.
“He’s playing a character” and is nothing like his online persona, attorney Randall Wilhite reportedly insisted in a Texas courtroom at a pre-trial hearing ahead of the right-wing radio jock’s custody battle with ex-wife Kelly Jones. Judging Jones by his Infowars performances would be like judging Jack Nicholson by his depiction of “The Joker” on “Batman.”
Jones’ Infowars site was a hub for anti-Clinton conspiracies during the presidential campaign and Trump publicly thanked him for his support. “Your reputation is amazing,” Trump said in December 2015. “I will not let you down.”
A few weeks ago, veteran journalist Ted Koppel was being interviewed by Sean Hannity on Fox News. Koppel maintained that Hannity and his ilk are “bad for America” because “they are very effective at what they do which has attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts.”
Hannity replied that Koppel was “selling the American people short, because they know the difference between opinion driven content and actual news.”
No, they don’t.
If they did, 28-year-old Edgar Maddison wouldn’t have walked into a pizza joint in Washington with an AR-15 to “self-investigate” a false election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her presidential campaign that he heard on “InfoWars.” Edgar fired a warning shot and then went in looking for “the tunnels where Clinton was hiding the children so he could set them free.”
All they have at Comet Ping Pong is pizza…and death threats for their part in “the horrible and despicable child sex slave ring” that only exists in Jones’s mind.
Maddison is awaiting trial.
I am self-editing this as I go along, leaving out major chunks of stuff like the “fire breathing conservative” Tomi Lahren (24 years old, a “rising media star”) who has made a name for herself by reading a teleprompter filled with all the right words that piss of the left, is now suing self-loathing talk host Glenn Beck who hired her to rant on “The Blaze” because she got on “The View” and admitted she was pro-choice when it comes to abortion.
Can’t have that. That doesn’t sell to the advertising base aka “listeners.”
Easy to forget that the grandfather of all this, Rush Limbaugh couldn’t make it as “Rusty Sharpe” or “Jeff Christie” as a DJ so when he got the chance to replace Morton Downey Jr. on the air in San Diego, he became “EL Rushbo” as he would be known to millions, drilled into a previously untapped audience of conservatives and for the past 29 years, he has been feeding them at the trough, while raking in over $500 million…and triple that for Premiere Radio Networks.
He is also a draft evader, recovering drug addict, four times married, kicked off Monday Night Football for racist remarks who “holds the line on morality and American values.” He made the term “Feminazi” part of his show, referring to about two dozen feminists “to whom the most important thing in life is ensuring that as many abortions as possible occur.”
Reluctant “honorable mention” of Howard Stern, who might be the most proficient “Performance Artist” of all time-even though he isn’t a political yakker, was able to morph himself from an overnight disc jockey to a “wild and funny morning guy” to finding his formula for success, which was talking like a high school kid about all the stuff high school boys talk about and earning millions to get a porn star to stick tampons in their nose.
He became the self-professed “King of All Media” and a judge on “America’s Got Talent.”
Net worth for all that high-minded talent?
Forbes estimates $2.7 billion.
So, Alex Jones (according to his attorney) is a character, like “The Joker” which is about the most truthful thing to be made public in a long time. Not fake news, but a real look at the inside of this business where “characters” are making serious coin, acting like they know everything, about everything but hadn’t done much of anything…except talk.
Or just bullshitting their followers for fun and profit.
The biggest joke is on the people that listen, and pump millions into the pockets of their chosen saviors and don’t realize the joke is really on them.
And even if they do…might not care anyway. Affirmation is more important these days than information.
Maybe it’s time to “re-brand” myself, sell out and cash in.
April 12, 2017 | Posted in General
It’s been an interesting week.
So much on my mind, but I am sparing you the “rant” titled “WWJB” that had The Lord being dropped off in the Easter aisle at Wal-Mart and having a conversation with the Easter Bunny about how the impending day of Resurrection ties in with marshmallow “Peeps” and the huge sale on baskets full of diabetes inducing goodies.
“WWJB” translates to “What Would Jesus Buy?”
But I digress…and discernment is often a great, but not easy choice.
So…maybe we can work Jesus in here somewhere, just not battling with a rabbit.
Yesterday I was on the stage with Tom Dreesen, but the interesting thing is that while Dreesen is famous comedian with over 500 appearances on “The Tonight Show” and hung out with “The Chairman of The Board” Francis Albert Sinatra, he wasn’t at all funny yesterday.
He was very serious and so was I, because what we talking about to the gathered Chicago Rotary Club humans is not a laughing matter.
We were talking about dads…actually the absence of them.
A staggering 40 million kids grow up in the USA without a father in the home and that “hole” creates all sorts of ripple effects from drug use, to alcoholism to gang banging to eventual incarceration. We talked about a different time, not that long ago when we had a healthy fear of our dads, that looming figure we had to answer to when we messed up. I shared a story about the time I tried to shoplift a pair of $7 sunglasses and got nabbed, right across the street from the bank my dad worked at. He walked over to the security office, and the look on his face of disappointment was enough to make me leave a life of crime for good.
I was twelve years old.
Later that evening when he got home he talked about honesty and honor and how important those things were…and that I would have plenty of time to think about my actions for the next two weeks while I was grounded except for school.
Dreesen talked about growing up in Harvey, Illinois, back when they preferred the cops instead of having to deal with someone’s dad. That none of the parents in the community would have ever put up with one of them going off the rails even a little, and how in just a couple of generations so much has changed…and not for the better in many ways.
Both of us were invited by David Hirsch, who is the founder of The Illinois Fatherhood Imitative and the guy who for twenty years has been raising the bar for fathers, urging us to not just “be there” for our kids, but for all kids.
I collaborated on the book ” 21st Century Dad’s” and also penned the forward to the volume that came out last Father’s Day and is filled with David’s adventures as he rode a bike from Santa Monica to Chicago, that’s over 2,300 miles…in just 21 days in 2015. Last year in 2016, he rode from Boston to Chicago in 21 days and this year David and a slew of riders will mount up for a 1,000-mile ride around Lake Michigan.
All of his efforts come from the fact that David grew up without his father, and was fearful about imposing the same future on his own children.
As with so many things in life, we are either breaking chains of the past or forging new links in the present that will have to be dealt with by our children.
Over the years, I have done the “Big Brother” program and mentored kids at the high school I attended and later taught at, sought to use every opportunity to connect with young people in search of themselves and a direction in life, many of them growing up without that “rudder” called dad, or a father that had more interest in a bottle than in their kids’ lives.
While the headlines seem to be overwhelming, especially when it comes to the loss of young life at the hands of another “not even old enough to vote” kid, I am heartened by the fact that there are so many lives that are saved because someone stepped up and smack dab in the middle of this event yesterday, a name floated into my head.
Derek runs a boxing program out of his garage in North Lawndale, and was profiled by Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Schmich in the Chicago Tribune last September.
Brown was a gang member at twelve…the same age I was stealing sunglasses…and the same age as the two boys that were shot in a drive by in Old Town two days ago.
Brown eventually became a drug dealer with the nickname of “Shotgun” and did time in prison.
Mary shared in her column… “ Took me 30 years to realize Shotgun was just misguided.” The story continued. “He is 40 now. His boxing program, called Boxing Out Negativity, is his restitution for the kids who followed in his misguided footsteps, who wound up dead or, like his brother, in prison. ‘I helped destroy my little brother,’ he said.”
It was one of the most powerful pieces I have ever read about what is possible when a life is transformed, and the ripple effect for the better begins.
I have spoken in well over two dozen prisons in the past couple of decades, and ran into hundreds of Derek Brown’s but only a few who came out and got out of the drug business and instead was about the business of breaking chains of the past.
I went back and read Mary’s column again just now…I needed something to offset the erosion that takes place every time I hear about another shooting in Chicago, the inevitable prayer vigil and words of “never again.”
As Tom and I were about to close the event, I remembered the words of our mutual friend, the late, great John Powers who shared with me what his grandfather had said to him as a young man, and a message so needed today.
And I passed those words on to our audience and now to you.
” You are truly never an adult until you consider all of the children of the world…yours.”
You know…kinda like Jesus.
Or Derek Brown…or David Hirsch…or John Powers…or Tom Dreesen.
One person can make a world of difference.
Just have to decide that it’s you.
Be The Change…”peeps.”
Huh…worked that in after all.
April 6, 2017 | Posted in General
Due to tech difficulties it’s the Thursday Edition of “The Wednesday Rant.”