The Monday Memo.

June 5, 2017 | Posted in General

I am pretty sure it was the following email via my website that is the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back.

“You are just another stupid liberal tree hugger that is trying to tear America down and turn it into a liberalist state of chaos. If you were as smart as you prove to be then you would know that climate science is a made up science and not real. This is the home of the free and land of the brave not some experiment that you and your kind think they can just step on and have the way you want it. Glory be to God!”

I rarely read through some of the stuff that comes my way anymore, after two decades in the media, most of it behind a microphone on live talk radio, my skin has gotten pretty thick.

But at this point, I am not on radio and for a few reasons that follow, this email was a gift in disguise.

First, I’m not stupid. I have a degree in Environmental Interpretation and Communication from an accredited four year university. My core competency is to take massive amounts of information, data and trends, then distill it down to bite sized, digestible chunks for public consumption. After creating and producing 300 episodes of “Earth Matters with Bill Kurtis” along with hundreds of research hours,  I have come to the conclusion that we are late in the third quarter when it comes to our involvement in contributing to climate change.

I see what most people miss, because I look in places most people cannot see. Politics and religious beliefs often cause blind spots.

There was a time, not long ago when the hole in the Ozone layer was discovered, a gaping wound in the “sunscreen” protection of the planet that congress and industry acted, CFC propellants were banned (that were a major factor in creating the hole) and the damage has mostly been repaired as the the natural systems began to heal.

The threat was recognized, the cause we determined, actions were taken and more harm to humans was averted.

Those days are long gone for the most part.

Secondly, that “liberal tree hugger” thing. My biggest influence has been Theodore Roosevelt, who despite his many shortcomings epitomized for me the best political stance that can be taken. 110 years ago TR was the reformer that “walked softly and carried a big stick.” He blocked an attempt to allow strip mining in the Grand Canyon and was a visionary when it came to environmental issues.

Today TR would be considered a liberal tree hugger too, so I am good with that.

The rest of that note, climate science not being real, “home of the free and land of the brave” being transposed for effect (I guess) America not being an experiment and somehow the greater glory of the Almighty is exalted by this sort of email is for me a clear sign to get out of the game…

I should really know better by now.

Denial is deeply embedded in our DNA.

To me trying to convince someone that humans are in part responsible for the changing climate is akin to talking with a life long smoker who takes off their oxygen to have a cigarette. Since 1966 there has been a big warning label on the side of the packs since totally ignored by everyone that lights up.

Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous To Your Health.”

One half century later, millions still fire up despite clear warnings, wracking coughs and repeated warnings from their doctors.

The CDC estimates that 430-435,000 people in the United States die each year from smoking related disease.

Self-inflicted death otherwise known as suicide…over a very long period of time.

The tobacco companies spent billions trying to convince their customers that smoking was “healthy” and seeing ads with doctors lighting up was the norm. They created ultimate male in the form of The Marlboro Man who would fire up a ciggy, round up some cows and turn his weathered face into the sunset.

Four of the actors that portrayed “The Marlboro Man” all died from smoking related disease.

I had forgotten that old adage ” To those who believe no more evidence is needed. To those that do not, no evidence could ever be enough.”

As I watch the unending name calling in the face of facts, I am reminded that the way each of us sees the world is basically in place by the time we are ten or twelve. Our core beliefs become galvanized over time, for better or for worse and it takes a some serious maturity to confront the rudder that steers our course, much easier for most to simply say “ You’re stupid.”

Because they are scared and reacting takes no thought.

That email was a serious wake up call for me…a reminder.

I have a terminal condition called “Life.”

With the average age in the USA being 78.6 that equates to about 28,689 days to be alive if I am lucky.

I have already used up 21,170 of my allotted chits.

Remaining balance of 7,519…as of today.

So that “gift” in the form of an email, came at the right time, confirming that its time for me to stay out of the virtual landfill of the internet for an undetermined amount of time.

That time thing.

I have a book project about to begin, mentoring a burgeoning author who at the age of 88, lived through Nazi Germany as a child and wants to tell her story to the world.

I won’t have enough brain space to wade through the landfill looking for something of value buried in all the garbage and build out a book this important at the same time. As I type these very words, the “right” is batting the “left” on a post I wrote two days ago. Humans who are on opposite sides pushing any common ground to the side, creating more cracks in our already fractured spiritual infrastructure.

Might continue with Sacred Sunday Songs on Facebook, which for the most part hasn’t elicited any name calling but after five years of virtual concerts, even that might need to be on hiatus.

I drive past a cemetery near where I live quite often. Sometimes when I need perspective I walk among the headstones, looking for evidence of how important it is to define and divide ourselves along political lines.

Can’t find any.

Never once in all my years of attending funerals was their ever a eulogy mention of how someone voted. Never once standing at a graveside service did I hear about their choice for president and never once in all my wanderings among the dead I have ever seen “Democrat” “Republican” or “Liberal Tree Hugger” etched in stone.

What we think is most important while we are alive turns out to be least important when we die.

Thank you for all your support over the years. Until further notice…

Be well…safe travels.

JSA

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The Saturday Morning Memo.

June 3, 2017 | Posted in General

I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

President Trump did the right thing in deciding to end the USA’s involvement in “The Paris Agreement.”

Finally! An historic event at the White House that President Trump can point to and claim victory and for Americans it’s a rare chance to see a campaign promise fulfilled!

It’s a win that the president needed and one that he alone was able to go the distance on, make a decision on his own without those bumbling congress types, and in doing so bypass the failed attempts on immigration, health care, NAFTA, China, “The Wall” which were the signature items that inserted him into the Oval Orifice.

Just a quick review (In case you were at some theater watching multiple screenings of “Wonder Woman” and missed the announcement,) the United States of America (we might need to take a hard look at that tag line) has pulled out of “The Paris Agreement” on Climate Change, and at least for now, has put “America First! ” into a unique category with a couple of other splitters – “Nicaragua First!” and the “Syria First!” teams. For the record Nicaragua didn’t sign the accord because “it didn’t go far enough to combat climate change” and Syria…well…ask Gary “Aleppo” Johnson about that.

They are a little distracted by a an uncivil war.

For me, the biggest problem with this “accord” is the title.

Terrible!

“The Paris Agreement” sounds like a 1963 movie starring Sophia Loren and Omar Shariff that has them wearing berets and riding a little scooter underneath the Eiffel Tower smoking bad ciggys in a light rain and sucking face every five minutes like Pepe LePew and his girlfriend Penelope Pussycat.

From a marketing standpoint, the thing should have been called something like ” EARTH WARS” or “OCEAN WARS” or “HUMAN EXTINCTION WARS” or “SHIT CREEK WARS” (we like shows with “wars” in the title- “Cupcake Wars” & “Storage Wars” etc.)

“The Paris Agreement” or “CLIMATE CHANGE WARS!”

See the difference?

So, 45 can put a W on the board and as he pointed out ” I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” Shortly thereafter, The Mayor of Pittsburgh reminded 45 via CNN that  ” 80% of the vote in the 2016 election went to Clinton.”

The POTUS speechwriter should have written something like “I have been chosen to represent the citizens of Beattyville, Kentucky….”

Beattyville has the distinction of being dubbed “the poorest white town in America” with 57% of its families on food stamps, 19% without health insurance and where 45 got 81% of the vote…because he promised to “bring back the coal jobs and Make America Great Again.”

The coal began to run out twenty years ago and as other forms of energy, like natural gas,  took its place. The residents are waiting for a resurgence promised to them by the new president. At present, the average income in Beattyville, KY is $7.25 an hour.

If I was POTUS I would have been giving serious tax breaks to American based solar and wind companies to build their plants in coal country and put the hardworking, proud people of Beattyville into new jobs that would move them forward, pay them a great wage, give them healthcare and be part of creating technology that is in growing demand.

But I digress.

Most of what follows can be summed up by Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion ” When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.”

The very moment that 45 made the announcement in the Rose Garden regarding that wimpy “Paris Agreement” an equal and opposite chain reaction began.

In an instant, China went from being seen as one of the worst polluters to the world leader in environmental responsibility…by default. Their efforts on “green” technologies particularly solar have dominated the global market since 2013. With no USA on the document, China becomes #1.

Nicaragua and Syria are now in the same league as the USA on at least this one document…by default. Always good to be on the same list as the country we dropped “The Mother of All Bombs” on last month.

The Mayor of Pittsburgh had the opportunity to remind 45 that 80% of them voted for his opponent on CNN.

One of the most brilliant minds available to Trump (one billionaire to another kinda thing) is Elon Musk who created Tesla. Musk pulled himself off of the elite “Trump Advisory Board” along with a half a dozen hand picked by 45 pals-who disagreed with his decision.

The former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg commits to paying $15 million to UN efforts to tackle climate change.

The President of France Emmanuel Macon (who has a pretty sharp speech writer) stood before the cameras and said ” “I call on you to remain confident. We will succeed, because we are fully committed, because wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility: Make Our Planet Great Again.”

I wonder if they are going to put that “Make Our Planet Great Again” slogan on a nice red beret?

The equal and opposite reaction to Trump’s decision might just be the most important movement since the first Earth Day in 1970, which pushed Nixon to create the EPA as American’s were tired of living with shitty air (like in Pittsburgh) and watching the Cuyahoga River filled with toxic chemicals burn on the six o’clock news. With the EPA now being stripped down and regulations lifted on corporate responsibility when it comes to pollution, this decision from Trump is having a very positive ripple effect.

People who were never involved, are getting involved, (bypassing the diversion of climate deniers to whom 99.9% of scientists still wouldn’t be enough evidence) and are taking action instead of wasting energy arguing.

Ordinary people getting ready to do extraordinary things.

Here is the bottom line.

Climate change has always been taking place on this planet, it’s the rate of increase in the last 150 years that has been induced by human development and progress that is the main culprit. The earth is not in trouble, it will continue on as it has for billions of years. Everything that lives in the biosphere of the planet is connected on some level.

We are no more exempt than any other species.

Without even realizing it (or…maybe he does) By cutting from the accord (which really cannot take place until 2020 anyway) President Trump has put more environmental awareness, protection, action and responsibility back where it belongs.

In our hands.

How do I come to this conclusion?

My research has uncovered a full page ad that ran in The New York Times in 2009 as an open letter calling for then President Barack Obama and members of Congress to push for legislation that would slow global climate change. The ad ran in the days before a summit in Copenhagen where world leaders discussed climate change. The letter was signed by business leaders including now President Trump and his two sons:

“We support your effort to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today. Please don’t postpone the Earth. If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.”

I see what you are up to Mr. President. Good move.

Be well.
JSA

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The TBT/Rant.

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!”

Keep swinging…

The Cubs do not suck…it’s just baseball.

TBT 1993.

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The Wednesday Rant

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.

The reason?

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.”

Be well.

JSA

Mexican migrant Roberto Beristain eats at a migrant shelter after being deported by U.S. immigration authorities, in Ciudad Juarez

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The Wednesday Rant

May 3, 2017 | Posted in General

“For What It’s Worth Edition.”

Greetings.

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.”

Ugh…right?

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.)

Ripoff.

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.

Be well
JSA

PS…Here’s CJ and her $11k ears.

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