May 18, 2017 | Posted in General
Combining yesterday’s rant with today’s TBT.
Wednesday I started writing about the Chicago Cubs and how they suck.
Stay with me now…don’t throw things.
Here in Chicago the sports talk yakkers and blabber mouths were in full meltdown because the defending World Series Champs were playing .500 baseball (before last night they racked up a W at home against the Reds for two in a row.) I shouldn’t be amazed anymore at how fans of any sport react once they have tasted victory-and after 108 years once is not enough. A bunch of sporties on the radio who couldn’t hit a curve ball if it was served on a platter passing judgement on guys who have one of the most difficult things to do in sports. Find the “sweet spot” on a round bat when hitting a round ball.
It’s May 18th by my calendar and at this time in 2016 the Cubs were like 26-5 and knocking the cover off, but that was last season, and forgotten by most is what it takes to get to the World Series, how long the season is and the basically baseball is a game of failure.
It’s why I like it so much.
You can strike out four times in a row and on the fifth at bat clobber a grand slam and go from zero to hero.
That’s where the rant ends and TBT begins.
Playing in Randy Hundley’s Fantasy Camp back when I was…33 years old…I had already wiffed four times and when I came up to the plate, hit a 90 mile an hour fast ball into the seats with the bases loaded.
I thought I had lost this picture but found it yesterday as a book mark inside “Instant Replay The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer.”
The late, great Gene Oliver (back up catcher to Hundley) was the coach for our team at the Fantasy Camp and was waiting for me at home and the photographer captured the moment.
I needed the reminder that sometimes in life you can strike out over and over and over and over again…but then…
“It might be…it could be…it is!”
The Cubs do not suck…it’s just baseball.
May 10, 2017 | Posted in General
I was watching a CBS 60 Minutes segment this past Sunday that was quite fascinating from a purely human behavior perspective.
One of the campaign promises made by President Trump is that he was going to crack down on illegal immigrants and in the first 100 days he has made good on that promise. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) have arrested 21,000 illegals (undocumented immigrants) which is a huge step towards making America safer. 5,000 of those who were arrested have no criminal record but nonetheless they are on their way back to Mexico.
So, if you voted for DJT because you were tired of a flood of humans from Mexico taking American jobs, committing crimes and putting a burden on our systems, you can rest a little easier today, a serious dent has been made in curtailing the threat. Illegal border crossings are down as well.
That is exactly what a group of Trump supporters in Indiana cited as the reason they voted for him, but now as a friend and neighbor has been deported, they are not sure what to think.
For 20 years, they watched Roberto Beristain, start out as the cook and then become the owner of Eddie’s Steak Shed in Granger, Indiana, where he lived with his wife Helen and their three American-born children.
Beristain however came to the United States illegally to escape the abject poverty of his village in Mexico back in 1998 but eventually was able to legally secure a temporary work permit, social security card and driver’s license. He started out scrubbing pots and pans at the restaurant, worked his way up to being the chef and was eventually able to purchase the restaurant, which employs 23 people. He showed up for work most days with just the shirt on his back and in two decades became a successful business owner.
Six of Roberto’s best customers were being interviewed, all of whom praised him on every level as a business owner, community leader, father and friend. The Mayor of Granger cites him as ” A fine example of The American Dream.”
Four of the six voted for President Trump, two of whom spoke on camera and admitted that “getting rid of the bad hombre’s” was the reason for their vote. “But Roberto was a good hombre‘ ” said one man. “I don’t understand this.”
His wife Helen, who immigrated from Greece eighteen years ago, met Roberto when he was busing tables. While on vacation they made a wrong turn at Niagara Falls and ended up at the Canadian border, unable to provide papers he was given what is called a “Final Order of Removal” and was ordered to leave the country within 60 days.
He didn’t leave. He broke the law.
His wife was a high-risk pregnancy and he wouldn’t leave her side. So, Roberto carried on and for the past sixteen years he and his wife spent over $40,000 on lawyers trying to get him legal in the eyes of the law. After all that time and money, he was given a temporary deferral of the deportation order. All he had to do was check in once a year with ICE, do a background check and he was good to go for another year.
Roberto was certain this would lead to his long-held dream of becoming an American citizen.
On February 6th, Roberto checked in as usual at the ICE office in Indianapolis, Helen waited in the car, but Roberto never came back out. Instead, an ICE officer approached her car, informed her that her husband was being detained as a “fugitive.” Not long before, President Trump had signed an executive order making it easier to deport anyone, even those without a criminal record.
But the kicker for me?
Roberto Baristain’s wife Helen…voted for President Trump.
Not because of his immigration stance, but because she was convinced that he would make their lives easier and more prosperous because of his business prowess. When Roberto said, he was concerned about his future under the new administration, Helen said that getting rid of the bad people would make “America Great Again” and that since Roberto was on his way to being a citizen, he wasn’t not part of the problem.
” I ignored so much and only heard what I wanted to hear” she said. “I thought he was going to deport killers and gang members. I should have listened to the debates more closely I guess.”
To date, Roberto is in Juarez, Mexico where he spends most of his time praying to Our Lady of Guadalupe to reunite him with his family.
The restaurant will never be his again, his three teen age children are stunned beyond measure.
As Helen shreds a constant stream of letters telling her to go back to Mexico (she is from Greece) and death threats against her and the family she is trying to figure out what her next steps are. Spending more money on lawyers is part of the plan, hoping to get the decision reversed, but that can take up to four years.
Much like a fishing boat that casts a large net, catching unintended fish along with the ones they are fishing for, so is the current ICE net that will take “the good hombres’” out with “the bad ones.”
The ripple effect of cherry picking information to suit a narrative and belief, can be devastating. The unintended consequences of “only hearing what we want to hear.”
May 3, 2017 | Posted in General
“For What It’s Worth Edition.”
99.9% of what I write about is a game of connect-a-dots- or perhaps “connect-a-thoughts” as in the fact that all it takes is one utterance by some elected official (or even non-elected unofficial person) an event or occurrence and suddenly I am off to the laptop making notes, looking for clues, digging for information and a healthy way to release the buildup of energy that surrounds whatever it is that tripped my trigger.
This past week was tough to sort out which rubbed my rhubarb the most.
A) #45 revising history with regard to “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson our 7th president, the man who created “The Trail of Tears” with the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that resulted in the deaths of between 2,000 and 5,000 Native Americans and was a slave owner who supported the idea of owning other humans and somehow would have been able to prevent the Civil War that would begin 16 years after he died. #45 sees himself as a modern day “King Mob” (one of Jackson’s nicknames) and I found this quote by Andy J interesting.
“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfish purposes.”
I’ll leave that right there for ya.
B) Madonna showing up at the Met Gala wearing a “shocking” gown made out of camo material, bursting at the seams along with sporting what appeared to be “silver teeth.”
C) #44 getting paid $400,000.00 by “Wall Street” to speak for an hour, thus upsetting millions of former “Obamaites” that feel like he sold out for the cash, and totally went against everything the stood for in “The Oval Orifice.”
Other irritants not warranting a designated spot but still enough to cause a rash, drug commercials with actor portrays of real people, the epidemic of broken turn signals on the expressway, the EPA website being scrubbed away, “storm team fill in the blank guy,” baseball announcers yakking during every second of air time with inane and obvious statements “the tying run is at the plate” and…the former First Lady who ran for POTUS claiming that if the election of 2016 had been held a week earlier…she would be Madam President.
I will get to all of that stuff some other rant.
But today I am going with C) #44 getting paid $400K for an hour of this time. A) has already been dissected more than a frog in freshman year biology so that’s enough of that.
The question that came up for me after “WATCHING THE INTERNET BLOW UP!” over the “BREAKING STORY OF OBAMA SELLING OUT!” was this…
Who decides what something or someone is worth?
This morning it was announced that football coach Nick Saban will be paid $65 million dollars for the term of his new contract at Alabama that runs through the year 2025. He also got a $4 million dollar signing bonus.
The average teacher’s salary in Alabama is $36,000 per year.
Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan total compensation went from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068, a 671 percent increase. During the same period, the company raised EpiPen prices, with the average wholesale price going from $56.64 to $317.82, a 461 percent increase, according to data provided by Connecture. Of course, that was over time, from 2007 until 2016. With no generic alternatives to the EpiPen-Mylan sets the price and profit. Side note- After Mylan acquired EpiPen the company also amped up its lobbying efforts.
In 2008, Mylan’s reported spending on lobbying congress went from $270,000 to $1.2 million.
Theo Epstein has a five-year contract worth $18.5 million and got the Cubs to the World Series. The Chicago School System asks teachers to take unpaid days off and deeper cuts that will affect students because of a $215 million-dollar hole in their budget.
Just about the same amount of money Cub ace Jake Arietta is looking for in free agency after this season-to throw a baseball every five days for on average six innings.
Average teacher salary in Chicago is $71,000 per year (oh yea-the average ticket price at Wrigley has gone up 19.7 % since they broke “the curse of the goat.” $55 bucks for a seat or the same amount of money I have to pay to attend my 40th high school reunion which includes a buffet and music but I gotta pay for the booze.)
Last night on “Antiques Roadshow” a guy brought a painting in for appraisal that his great grandparents bought 80 years ago for less than $1,000 dollars. It’s now worth $800,000 to $1 million clams…painted by some guy named Diego Rivera in 1904. That segment reminded me of my gal pal Candace Jordan, popular columnist of the “Candid Candace” column in the Chicago Tribune and Miss December 1979 along with being featured on eight covers of “Playboy.” Her collection of “Bunny Stuff” including the coveted “Bunny Ears” and…uh…tail along with silver cuffs. CJ was shocked to find out that her collection (in pristine condition along with the “Bunny of The Year” trophy and few other items that have all been sitting in storage) was worth $11,000.00.
Or what it costs for one season ticket to watch the Boston Red Sox.
But back to #44 at that $400,000 “sell out” to Wall Street which turns out to be a health care conference sponsored by Cantor-Fitzgerald, which is also the same firm that took the biggest hit on 9/11, losing 658 of its 960 employees when The Towers were reduced to rubble.
Perhaps the only reason Cantor Fitzgerald’s chief executive Howard W. Lutnick didn’t die during the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center is thanks to his young son. That Tuesday morning happened to be the day his five-year-old son Kyle started kindergarten.
Because the attacks had devastated Cantor Fitzgerald so badly, the firm was not expected to survive. Remarkably, within a week the firm managed to get its trading back online. Lutnick made a commitment to keep Cantor Fitzgerald going, despite the odds and the difficult choices that had to be made.
He also made the controversial decision to cut off the paychecks to employees who were killed.
Instead he gave the victim’s families 25% of the firm’s profits for five years, and 10 years of health insurance.
That is who is writing #44 a check for $400,000-which is about $260,000 after taxes.
Not everyone on Wall Street is bad, not everyone on Main Street is good.
Before he was #45 DJT was paid $1.5 million for an hour of his time to speak at a series of real estate conferences in 2006-2007.
#40 Ronald Reagan was paid $2 million to speak in Japan in 1989.
For $100K you can bring in Al Gore, Richard Branson or Sarah Palin to speak to your troops (How great would that panel be?) For $50K you can secure Ian Bremmer, Marcus Buckingham or Lisa Bodell. No disrespect, but I don’t know who any of those folks are, but apparently enough people do and an hour of their time is just about the same amount a really good Mobile Crane Operator earns in a year.
In full disclosure, when I was basking in the rainbow glow of “The Oprah Effect” and with two successful books on the shelves along with a TED talk on my resume, I have been paid more for an hour of my time than my dad earned in six months when I was a kid (plus expenses of course.)
I have also given “low fee-no fee” talks to more organizations, schools and small groups than I can remember in the past 25 years.
So, for me, being on this side of the platform so to speak (pun intended) it’s not about where I deliver the message or even who is paying for it, it’s about creating a ripple effect of value that last long after the check and the auditorium has cleared.
It’s all perceived value then. What the market will bear, what someone will pay.
Just a it is for winning in Alabama, the stockholders of Mylan, Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein, the Schurz Class of 1977 Reunion Committee, Candace Jordan’s “Bunny Ears”, The Learning Annex that paid Trump to speak, the Japanese company that wrote checks to Reagan, the insurance company that brought me to Trinidad not once, but twice to speak and same holds true for Howard Lutnick that gave 658 families 25% of Cantor Fitzgerald profits and paid for a decade of health insurance and is hosting a health conference that a former president is speaking at.
And finally today…just an hour ago it was announced that #44 has donated $2 million to Chicago summer programs for underprivileged kids.
BTW…I just threw Madonna (who earns $1 million every concert performance) in the mix to even things out. I don’t care about her teeth and I do know who Diego Rivera is.
PS…Here’s CJ and her $11k ears.
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.