Monday, December 21, 2009

60-40...The Rope-A-Dope Vote

I stayed up with C-Span last night to watch the closing arguments and the Senate vote on cloture for the Healthcare Reform Bill. I was not surprised, but once again disappointed with the 60-40 vote. I listened to both sides say why the vote had to be 58 Democrats - 2 Independents For and 40 Republicans Against. As best I can tell from my citizen caring and citizen involved vantage point, the Republicans wanted to stall the vote because they believe that most Americans don't want this bill. What is disappointing is that they don't refute or fight on the point that in the entire time the bill has been moving they have offered only four amendments. I am sure there is some good reason for this, but from this vantage point it feels like they are so afraid that if they make contact with the bill that they are going to catch something that makes them sick. I can understand that, I just don't respect it. When in any other part of life you believe in something that strongly, then you are willing to do anything to take care of something you care about. When your child is sick and you can't get a straight answer from the doctor you don't just stop asking, you go get a second opinion and you keep going until you have the answer, even if that means you may get sick yourself. I feel like the Republicans, were afraid of what they were going to catch and gave up on this one and are now wanting to sit in the corner and say, "I told you so.". If that is the case, then what Senator McConnell said last night about this bill changing the course of our nation forever, is correct. If the 40 votes of no last night were being passive aggressive and wanting to sit back and arm-chair quarterback, then this vote may have been the end of the Republican party as we know it. What it seems has failed to dawn on the R's is that the party that I grew up with were Republicans who came with smart, well-thought out, responsible solutions. But even when they didn't have the best solutions, they always brought their ideas to the table, no matter the obstacles, the public ridicule. They were not known for sitting back and letting someone else tell them what to do. Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater didn't know the meaning of sitting back. Something has gone terribly wrong with American politics when the men and women who go to Washington choose to sit back versus fight for what they believe is right. Mr. McConnell, a man I have admired since I was growing up across the river from Louisville, Kentucky took a trick from his and my fellow Kentuckian, Muhammad Ali, and fought this fight with the rope-a-dope, hoping that he and his party have enough stomach strength to take all the punches and wear the other guy out. The problem with this tactic on healthcare is that no matter the cost of the bill, no matter the problems with the pork that resides in the 2000+ pages, no matter the issues that will come up down the road, in the short term it is going to feel like to working people, regular people, that they are feeling the effect of change in Washington and getting much needed healthcare coverage reform. And while, I do agree with the Republicans that there is too much spending, too many side-deals, federal spending on abortion, etc. that are hard to live with, let's also not forget that the bill does not have a public option plan in it and many other concessions that if they had been at the table, instead of under it, they could be talking about what they influenced and what they could still influence going forward. I am afraid, Mr. McConnell, that the 40 Rope-A-Dope Vote this time just won't work for the whole fight.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grounded By Perception

I was talking to a friend the other day who knows a venture capitalist who did well for himself and is now investing in the clean-technology/renewable energy/green space. He has a problem though in that with where he now focuses and the companies and people he works with, he has to be very careful with how he manages his own carbon footprint. That means that the private jet that he and his family used has been grounded. I always felt weird about flying on a corporate or private jet from the money side, but I can certainly see now how the use of a private jet just doesn't fit with being environmentally friendly. I suspect that Al Gore had to rethink his flying choices a long time ago. Most of us don't have to worry about this problem, but the idea that we will have to change our lifestyles due to the perception and the reality of our carbon footprints, I believe will become a real issue in the future. Already we read about the neighbors who look down their noses and nearly shun those in the 'hood who over do it with the holiday lights. When I was investigating going solar for our house one of the selling features was that if we went into negative power usage for the year that we could share our "extras" with the neighbors for community holiday lighting. I actually thought that defeated the purpose, but none the less, I guess it could be a way to be a good neighbor. Sometime in the near future someone is going to challenge each one of us about the car we drive, the light bulbs we use, the windows that need to be replaced, the amount of times we have the grass cut, etc. Of course if you already have kids, you have likely already heard the lecture. Don't fret on that one though, as you now have a much better reason to make sure they turn off the lights when they leave the room and if they don't then you can just ground them. See, we all might get grounded by how we use our energy sometime soon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two "Practical" Healthcare Fixes

Here are two "Practical" ways to fix healthcare.

There is nothing wrong with a public option as long we as taxpayers are not burdened with the cost running the public healthcare. We have a good analogy on how to set up a government agency that is run by the government; everyone uses it, and no taxpayer dollars are used to fund it. It has competition from the private sector and it has been around longer than any of us have been alive. It is called the United States Postal Service. No taxpayer dollars go to fund or run the Postal Service. They make it work on a $0.41 minimum unit price. It is a large infrastructure, that while it may not be the most sophisticated, runs, works, is dependable and is a good alternative choice to FedEx, UPS, etc. It employs lots of people and we all have come to depend on them. So, create a public healthcare program where it pays for itself, is provided and used by government employees, and give me the choice to participate. Create the United Stated Healthcare Insurance Service.

Secondly, make healthcare mandatory for all people. In every state in the U.S. if you are going to drive a car you have to carry car insurance. Of course, there are some people who drive without car insurance, but these are the same people who drive without licenses. When they have an accident, they are penalized, fined and sometimes jailed. It is a law to have car insurance and the same can happen with healthcare insurance. The reason that there is affordable car insurance options is because the insurers have a market where everyone has to have it so it invites competition of service, coverage and price. The same would happen with healthcare insurance. If everyone had to have it then good business people would stratify the market and come up with the minimum coverage required at a price point where those who could afford more would get more and those who can only afford the minimum would be able to buy the minimum coverage affordably. Up and down the supply and service chain, costs would come in line and we would get past all of this arguing.

These are two "practical" ways to think about the problems. We need more "practical" thinking and more "practical" solutions. This plea is directed to all us, including President Obama, Mr. Reid, Mrs. Pelosi, and Mr.McConnell.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Where does The TARP Money Go?

I am amazed and pleased to see that the financial institutions who took the TARP money are paying it back, with interest. The moment I saw the executive pay restrictions added to the loans, I knew that they would somehow magically find a way to pay back the money real soon. Lo and behold, here comes Bank of America ready to wire the money back. But, my question is, where does that money go when it gets repaid? I was listening carefully to the President yesterday as he spoke in Allentown, PA and was answering questions from the town hall audience. When talking about the TARP money he said that we might be surprised that it didn't take all of the money approved to have the program work and that the money being repaid would, after an ahem, "go back to pay off deficits". He said this at 12:25PM EST on 12/4. So, I expect that is what happens, or does it? When Bank of America wires over their $45B next week, we should expect that all of that money will go back and be sent out to some creditor to buy down the debt? Well, not really, he said that it would go back to pay off the deficit, not debt. The deficit is the amount that we keep racking up every year beyond our budget, so the TARP monies will go back into some general account fund to be spent on something else that is over spent. I find it depressing to think that the monies that come from each of us with our hard-earned tax dollars, just continue to fall back into a bucket filled with holes. Just once it would be nice to see someone take the accountability for the use of our money and when something does go right, that it can turn into something better, versus just funding more of the same...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Be The Hero...

Original Post on my Tuesday column on

All stories that we hear are basically the same three act structure, so there is no reason that the interview stories that we are used to hearing or telling should not come in the same three acts:

* Act 1 is the story of the protagonist.
* Act 2 is the story of the barriers/challenges.
* Act 3 is the story of the achievement of the goal.

For the past two weeks we have been exploring how you can get the best attention by being able to tell the “story of you” in the most compelling and unique way so that an interviewer/recruiter walks away with her/his own story to tell about you. As a long time talent recruiter the ones who got the job were the ones where I could sit with a hiring manager and say, “you gotta hear the story of this person.” If I was excited about telling their story to someone else the chances of their getting hired went up exponentially.

Last week we discussed six mini-plots about you that you should have prepared and are ready to go. Have you gotten those down on a piece of paper yet? If not, take the time to do so. Once that is done, then you can wrap those together to create you as the protagonist in the story of your career and you. What makes a protagonist interesting is that we gain just enough detail that offers insights into that person’s history or motivation.

When you think about how you describe yourself when asked, what are those elements of you that are unique and interesting that have propelled your career and the decisions you have made to this point? I typically cringe when I hear, “I was born….”, but many times there is something right there that is the catalyst that creates the story arc of someone very interesting. Without doubt, my interests, goals and overall career have been significantly shaped by the fact that my Father was a radio disc jockey when I was born and did radio, TV and theater while I was growing up. And because, at least at one time, radio and TV people were interesting and intriguing to most people, I have always been able to catch the interest of an interviewer by starting the story of me with “I was born with a Father who was a radio and television personality”. Everyone has their own unique traits that can set a story in motion. Think about yours. Find those unique details that when you string them together give someone else a good picture of who you are and what makes up you. If you need help here, go back through your six mini-plots from last week and make a list of the five to 10 unique attributes of you and start working with that list to create the character that is you.

Some other traits you might want to consider in the ‘Story of You’ include:

* Overachiever
* Ambitious
* Athletic
* Well-educated
* Unique family
* Dreamer
* Entrepreneurial
* Gifted
* Listener
* Reader
* Outgoing
* Driven

Whatever the traits are that make up you, figure out what makes you the protagonist in the ‘Story of You’ and find a way to express them in a unique and interesting way that gives the listener just enough detail to catch their attention and set the story of you into motion.

Next week, we’ll discuss Act II – the Barriers in telling the ‘Story of You’.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Reality of Theater

One night last month, Thursday, October 17th, San Francisco was marking just another night of theater being performed on stages throughout the city and the Bay Area.

On this night the A.C.T. was in an extend run of full houses for the Knee High Theater’s production of Noel Cowards’ “A Brief Encounter”. This fusion piece set in England during World War II told us of unfulfilled love and escape in a tumultuous time. Next door at the Curran Theater the touring company of “RENT” with Anthony Rapp (original Mark) and Adam Pascal (original Roger) was sold out with a raucous crowd to see the La Boehme story told through Jonathon Larson’s characters of the poor, HIV/AIDs infected, starving artists of New York City. They sung of the hope of dying in dignity with others caring about their plight. Across town another war-themed show was turning away people who wanted to see the Lincoln Center Production of “South Pacific”. Another love story set in the islands of the south pacific with war raging all around them. On the other side of the Bay, Berkeley Rep was extended with standing-room-only audiences to see the rock opera; “American Idiot”. Green Day’s musical rant of anti-war, government oppression, big-government mismanagement and societal pressures caught fire and enraptured an audience for 90 minutes of non-stop push. Back in San Francisco, the A.C.T. MFA students, under the direction of Jon Moscone, Artistic Director of Cal Shakes, were presenting the play, “Naked Skin”, about women’s rights and the struggle of suffrage in the United Kingdom. This play was the first by a woman playwright to be presented on London’s National Theater’s Olivier Stage. This moving work reminded us that human rights advancement is a contemporary issue and we still have a long way to go until all are treated equally. Another of the National Theater’s productions was in town this night as well. There was a simulcast screening of their “All’s Well That Ends Well” at the AMC Kabuki film theater. On top of all of the live theater in town on this night, a few hundred people were taking in Shakespeare through the cinema screen, in an effort for the NT to build better relations with the American audience.

I know I have missed at least another half dozen to a dozen other plays that were running on this night as well. There is always much theater in our town on any given night.

But on this night the theater became reality as at the same time that curtains were rising across the Bay Area, just over in Union Square, at the St. Francis Hotel, the first sitting U.S. President to visit San Francisco in nearly a decade was speaking live. President Obama had turned out thousands of supporters to hear him update them on the issues of our time. Issues that were all around him that night in the theaters of the Bay Area; war, healthcare, human rights, the social-class divide, international relations, the economy in context of the financial crisis, and government’s role in all of this. President Obama didn’t need to look much further than the scripts and librettos of the theaters around him that night to find relevant substance for his speeches.

We go to the theater to suspend our disbelief and to experience the stories of others so we can connect and feel. We use the theater to wrestle with the issues that are our own. We sometimes find what is true reality being no further away than just on the stage before us.

On this one night in San Francisco in October of 2009, the theater was as real as it gets.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to get real productivity? Do it right the first time!

This past week, I just took notice of the amount of time that my wife and I spend following up, chasing down mistakes and trying to have them corrected, listening on the phone to on-hold music as we waited for a customer service representative, or their supervisor when we couldn't get the issue resolved. My wife talks about how she loses hours and hours a week just correcting what other people haven't done right in their jobs, and when watching her, she is right. This past week, I took on some of these items and I found a pool guy who didn't come this week, but unless we report it, we will get charged for the visit, which means a preemptive phone call from me and us watching the bill next month. A waiting for a repairman who never showed and then called three days later to schedule something this week instead of last. Dealing with UPS who decided to not deliver a package on time that I needed and having to chase that down, and now wait for the refund and if I don't get it then have to follow up in ten days to ensure that it goes through. Chase down, figure out what is wrong, find out that someone didn't do their job right or thoroughly and take our time to get it all right. I imagine a world where everyone did their work right the first time, there was a belief that customer service was not perfect unless they never had to be called. How different things would be! I suspect that if we could attack this level of productivity loss that we would not only see a big pick up in our ability to manufacture more efficiently, but we would also return to a place where consumers trusted and believed in products. That in itself could impact consumer confidence. It is time to look at this problem. It starts with CEO's and Boards honoring their consumers and customers with a commitment to get it right the first time!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What Has Happened to U.S.?

In the past two weeks we have seen two instances that has made we wonder, "what has happened to us?" First, the President of the United States takes time out of his schedule to speak directly to he kids in our schools about the importance of education, hard work, and focus. And what do we get? We get school districts and parents who politicize the issue and deny their children the opportunity to hear the President deliver a message that could be the one that shapes and motivates their education and eventual career decisions. Don't we want every child in America to sit at their first grade desk knowing with all of their heart that they could someday be the President of they put their hearts and mind to it? So, what is the message we are sending when we keep our children from being exposed to the President? I don't care if you agree with the politics of the President or not, he is the President of the United States and he is owed and has earned, if only through obtaining the office, the respect that when he speaks, we should stop what we are doing and listen. I am far from being a person who has agreed with any President on all things but regardless of their foibles and positions, if my President speaks and/or calls on me, then I listen and respond. A week later we have an elected Congressman, Joe Wilson, from South Carolina, yelling out "You Lie!" in the middle of the President's joint session of Congress. When I heard it live, I thought I had misheard. I rolled back the TIVO and there it was. In that moment, I felt sorry for our country and was just as embarrassed and ashamed for Mr. Wilson. To hear people later support his outburst only hurt more. We are not a government where we call for lack of confidence votes. We have a President, like him/her or not, for four years and it is our responsibility to not always agree, but to support and do what we can to make things better. Calling our President a liar, or denying him access to children, is not constructive in any shape or form. So, tonight I wonder what has happened to us, what has happened to our U.S.?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where The Jobs Are...

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the percent of labor change from December 2007 through June of 2009. The problem with the numbers are the trends and the messages inside the data. The shrinking sectors are dominated by loss of jobs in manufacturing, building and production. All the areas where we "make" anything have been decimated and my belief is that those jobs are gone and not coming back. The auto industry has lost 35% of their jobs from the production of auto vehicles and parts. Do any of us believe those jobs are going to come back? When we start building cars again, the hope is that we will do so with greater efficiency and productivity, which in itself will keep the jobs from coming back. The bigger alarm in the data is the growing sectors being led by home and health care services (+8.6%), oil and gas extraction (+8.6%), Federal Government, except the US Postal Service (+6.5%), Ambulatory health care services (+4.8%), and offices of physicians (+4.1%). This just can't be right. We are gaining and creating jobs in the areas that are the ones that we are already bloated and trying to get back under control; health care, non-renewable energy, and government (read deficit and out of control budgets). This seems to be the worst of the worst, losing jobs where we need to be competitive and creating GNP and instead adding jobs into service and sectors where the cost of doing business is already strangling us. Add more healthcare jobs without understanding efficiencies and it will only take longer to dismantle the problems. I have supported larger government where I felt it was important to meet the needs of those who cannot (truly) take care of themselves. But, an inability to manage costs is not a good enough excuse to add more wood on the woodpile. We better hope that we we see the BLS chart flip upside down in the next 5 years or what was bad will become catastrophic.

Monday, July 20, 2009

When There Were Three..

Last night I watched CBS' tribute to Walter Cronkite. Not only did it remind me of how fast time and technology has moved but it also brought back many emotions from when I was a boy and my Father would gather my brother and me around the TV each night to watch the news together. My Father was in radio and television and we not only got the lessons of what was happening in current affairs but also we were instructed on how to ensure that our southern Indiana twang was eliminated so that we had the same accent as Mr. Cronkite. He represented the middle of the country without having to say that he was from there. With no accent at all he made everyone feel comfortable. It became ritual in our house to be at the TV when he broadcasted. Long before he retired we would handicap who would take his place; which seemed at that time nearly impossible to imagine. Would it be Eric Severeid (too old), Roger Mudd (too stiff), Dan Rather (too much of a field reporter, not an anchor). These were our conversations as we as listened for the nightly body count coming back from Vietnam and wrestled with the messages coming from the anti-war movement and later the Watergate trials. It seemed that we could not trust government so we trusted the media. There were only three people to trust after all and one of them garnered the most trust of all. This was when journalism had a code and you had to report, discern, write and justify to be able to say something. And so, Walter Cronkite became the one person we all could trust. It will never be that way again. There are too many talking heads and anyone can write anything they want and countermand enough to cast doubt on what anyone says. I am sure that there are those now who trust the government more than they trust the media. Scary. Walter Cronkite set a standard to gain his trust. He did this on the shoulders of Edgar R. Murrow and others before him. Today, few have a reason to stand on the shoulders of Walter. The nightly news is not watched by many and the soundbites that we receive are so far from the whole truth that we believe little of what we hear anyway. When there were three I know we didn't get the whole story and I know we didn't see the whole picture. But when there were three we sat at our televisions together and watched and discussed the news as a family and those memories will always make me have positive memories of Walter Cronkite.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Nice To Do's Have To Stop

Late last year and earlier this year we read many accounts of the financial institutions who had received TARP funding, then sending their employees off on what appeared to be unnecessary boondoggle trips. In particular, AIG got slaughtered in the public perception because of an incentive reward trip for their salespeople who exceeded plan. As we all know, perception is reality for many so these things must be managed. But, I do find it curious that from the President on down we point our fingers at what we perceive to be frivolous private sector spending while we spend the taxpayer’s money on all kinds of programs that don’t seem to make sense. When you work inside of a company and you aren’t going to meet your financial plan, you begin cutting costs quickly and you kill unnecessary spending and expenditures. The government doesn’t do this. Today I read about the problems with recent space launch. Since we have gone into this recession I have watched multiple space shuttle launches occur. Can someone please tell me why when we are hemorrhaging money and reaching a trillion dollar deficit that we are continuing to launch the space shuttle? Is it because these space missions are instrumental in solving our priority problems; the economy, education, energy and healthcare? The government needs to start being practical and making some practical decisions that any of us would make if we were running our own business or household finances. We have to be willing to have the courage and resolve to tell the kids that we can’t go to Space Mountain this year, because we just can’t afford it. C’mon Congress. C’mon Mr. President. Let’s be practical for once and put away the impracticalities of launching space missions when we don’t have the money to do so. It’s a nice to do, not a have to do and we can’t afford the nice to do’s….at least not right now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Our Time...1933, 1954, or 2009?

As we were going through some of my Father-in-Law, Aldo Preti's belongings, I ran across his college yearbook from Fordham University; "The Maroon", circa 1954. For fun I thought I would read what the college aged editors had to say about what was happening in the world at that time and how they saw themselves fitting into society. These were the children born in the 1920's growing up in the Great Depression and they wrote about what they had seen in their far. I quote from, "In Our Time" by Maurice R. Berube and John J. Oldfield:

"In the land where the business of government was business, the failure at Wall Street cut short the the wildest spree upon which America had embarked. The boom had busted, flaming youth flickered out and the Great Depression ushered in the Big Hangover. 'For the first time in history', Will Rogers, remarked, 'a nation had the distinction of going to the poorhouse in an automobile'.

-Roosevelt Inaugurated-

The year 1933 marked the beginning of a new era in the growing up of America. The nation for the past four years had suffered the worst peace time catastrophe in its history. The soup line saw the demise of the Republican Party's twelve year rule and the Democrats installed their first President since Wilson. In March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated 32nd President of the United States, and he boldly announced that the only thin America need fear was fear itself.

The soaring rate of unemployment was met by the new Administration with rapid and drastic measures. Forty-eight hours after Roosevelt's inauguration, Congress enacted in its famous 'hundred-day' session to enact far-reaching social and economic reforms. Countless relief agencies and statutes were created to offset the dark shadow of of peril and panic...the W.P.A...P.W.A....T.V.A....C.C.C....A.A.A....N.R.A....gave rise to a new type of 'alphabetical government'.

-The New Deal-

Roosevelt's regime undertook a program of economic planning which it preferred not to call a revolution but a new deal. As Mark Twain had pointed out in the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, 'When six men out of a thousand crack the whip over the other fellows' backs, then what the other nine hundred and ninety-four dupes need is a new deal."

Roosevelt's three 'R's", Relief, Recovery and Reform, took the form of subsidies, guaranties, public works, encouragement of labor unions, and deficit spending. In the planned economy was a new concept which superseded the Jacksonian principle of governmental non-intervention in business. Highly experimental, the New Deal was bound to be controversial. Its harsher critics confused it with Socialism.

About the only thing that drew no fire was the repeal of prohibition. The progression of the New Deal met with with the violent opposition of such extreme programs as the Townsend Plan and Upton Sinclair's Epic Plan.

Amidst the horde of new prophets, the raucous voice of Huey Long was the loudest, with his "Share the Wealth: plan. The immense popularity that the dictator-like Long commanded indicated the desperation of the American people....The Louisiana Kingfish was removed as a threat to democracy by an assassin's bullet on September 8, 1935.

-Returned by a Landslide-

The New Deal retained the public's approval as evidenced by the resounding Rooseveltian victory of 1936 over the Republican's colorless Alf Landon of Kansas. 'Life, Liberty, and Landon' won only two states in the election, prompting James Farley's celebrated comment, 'As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.'

The severest critics of Roosevelt reform work were 'the nine old men in the ivory tower of the Supreme Court', as the president saw them, who systematically nullified the liberal legislation of the New Deal's first phase. Believing he had a mandate from the people in the election of 1936, Roosevelt promptly set about to countermand the court's behavior by championing his famed and most controversial proposal to date...'the court-packing plan.' The proposal lacked Congressional support. The court, nevertheless, was to heed political tradewinds and reverse its stand. The NRA was perhaps the most important law junked by the Court, but it reappeared substantially in the Wagner Act of 1935, which protected the worker's right to organize. Encouraged by the government and stimulated by hard times, the stock of organized labor prospered both in membership and influence. under the leadership of a bushy-browed Pennsylvanian, John L. Lewis, the C.I.O. was created for unskilled workers in mass production industries. It rivaled its parent, the A.F. of L. in membership.

-Social Consciousness-

It was only natural then, for the flavor of the American life in the thirties to be hued with a deep-felt social consciousness...the legitimate offspring of the depression. The credo of such rising young intellectuals as William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, John Steinbeck, James T. Ferrell, and Clifford Odets embodied this acute social sense. Steinbeck's, 'Grapes of Wrath', dealing with the 'Okies' hard-hit by the Dust Bowl, produced a tremor which paved the way for relief. Caldwell's 'Tobacco Road', a novel concerning the depravity and squalor that characterized poor economic conditions, was so popular that its dramatization smashed the previous record for long engagements set by 'Abie's Irish Rose' in the twenties. Even Tin Pan Alley was impressed by the 'forgotten' man's burden and spoofed depression blues with such tunes as 'Brother, Can You Spare a Dime, In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town, and Hallelujah, I'm a Bum."

- Economic Security a Goal -

Hollywood mass produced the gangster film which implied that crime as a by-product of slum conditions. The depression brought home the fact that, in a complex interdependent society, there was need for economic effort. 'No man can go it alone' says Ernest Hemingway's hero in 'To Have and Have Not.'

There was no corner of life in America that did not feel the ramifications of economic wretchedness. Our generation, not yet of the age of reason, saw our parents stamp in our minds the moral that the bluebird of happiness was to be found in economic security.

Although our parents were somber, Hollywood diverted then with Greta Garbo and Clark Gable, while we discovered pert little Shirley Temple, the new edition of America's sweetheart....

...The Great Depression considerably altered the pattern of American life bu forging an indelible imprint on the American psyche. Everyone was socially conscious, and more significantly placed economic security as the Holy Grail to be sought. The instability of our economy ingrained in young America's mind the idea that the only thing to be feared was not fear but future economic collapse."

If you read this far, you should have been struck by the similarities of their time and our time. Does history truly repeat itself? It sure appears to do so.

Post script: Maurice R Berube went on to be a Professor at Old Dominion and an author of nine books. John J. Oldfield became the Vicar of St. John's Church in the Bronx and authored one book.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Look Down...The Moving Sidewalk Is About To End

These past few months have been about spending time with my wife's family as her Father, Aldo Preti, went through a nearly year-long terminal illness and died this past Saturday morning. We bury him today in St. Raymond's cemetery within 10 blocks of the same place he was born, raised, lived his entire life and died. In this day and age, it is a remarkable thing to see this level of consistency and continuity in their lives. As I reach the age where grandparents are gone, some long gone, and parents are now dying, I am reminded of my own mortality and the precious moments that I have that can so easily be taken from me. As I was flying back to NYC this past week after a quick flight home to SFO, I was on a moving sidewalk at JFK and I heard the words of the automated voice speaking to me; "Look down, the moving sidewalk is about to end". As I slowed my step and made sure that I was balanced, I looked down and found that the moving sidewalk was not really ending, but it was surely ending for me. The metaphor of life and death was right there in front of me, and of all places at JFK. I was reminded how important it is to take the time and look down to be sure that relationships are secure and strong, that commitments are steadfast, that friendships are consistent and dependable, that loved ones know that they are loved, that hugs and kisses are plentiful and come with ease, that God is never more than my silent prayer away, that moments, actions and words are deliberate and thought through before taken or spoken, that my mind is open enough for the recognition of beauty, art and emotions of the moment. That today I am making the most of the time I have left on the moving sidewalk of life before it ends for me.

It's Been Awhile...thanks for your patience

I've neglected Bolts of Thinking as I have been focused on my Purposed worKING blog;

But, it is time to revive Bolts of Thinking. Thanks for your patience as I bring it back more regularly. Rusty

Friday, April 24, 2009

Producing for Results

Reprint of a post that I was ask to write for the American Conservatory Theater blog:

American Conservatory Theater Blog -

My wife, Patti, and I have produced or executive produced six A.C.T. productions (A Mother, A Number, The Voysey Inheritance, The Imaginary Invalid, The Rainmaker, and the upcoming Boleros for the Disenchanted). When we were first invited to participate at this level I was not sure what to expect. In the film world, lots of people invest to have their name associated with a movie as a producer or executive producer with no expectations of ever being included in the making the movie. And yes, in most cases, it’s wise not to have people who are neither skilled nor experienced messing around with the creative process. That being said and recognized, the experience of producing at A.C.T. has far exceeded our expectations. Regardless of the medium—whether it be visual or performing arts—for Patti and me, our “thing” is to see the creative process unfold and come to life. What I have learned over the years is that what happens throughout the process—from the first reading of a play by the cast and director (and sometimes in the presence of the playwright, like when we were in the room with David Mamet the first time he heard the reading of his adaptation for A.C.T. of Harley Granville-Barker’s The Voysey Inheritance), to the technical rehearsals, through studio rehearsals, into previews and opening night, and sitting in the booth to hear the stage manager “call the show”—is the creation of magic. What starts as something so rough and raw that it seems unimaginable that it will ever make it successfully to “the big stage” ultimately comes alive and pulls together on opening night, and real magic is created. And as producers we can bask in being a part of that process.

At the annual A.C.T. gala last week someone asked me, “What do you get out of executive producing?” The answer came easy. What we get out of producing is that we receive the intrinsic reward of being “noncreatives” who can, through our contribution to A.C.T., be a part of bringing to life, through the creative process, a production that is unique and special for the audience and the actors. The pride I feel when “it all comes together” is many times overwhelming. But just as important has been the gratification that two people (who are products of the corporate world) feel when we see tangible results from our contributions. When we see the highest level of quality and excellence on the stage, perfection in the acting, and passion in the audience response—from tears to laughter—then we know that we have produced real results. And in this time, when the contribution dollars don’t come as easily and we each are having to evaluate with greater scrutiny where we direct our donations, with A.C.T. we rest assured that real results can be produced.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's Lonely At The Top!

This is a blog I wrote that was posted on, where I regularly contribute:

It’s Lonely At The Top: What Can We Do About Executive Bonuses?
Posted on April 1st, 2009 by Guest Contributor

Bashing the compensation and bonuses of executives has become a household conversation. Seems like everyone has an opinion on the AIG bonuses that were paid last week and the debate over “who and what was right” will rage on for a few more news cycles.

But from it all, there are some lessons in those payments - and the contracts that allowed them — that would be good for all executives to learn about and carry forward:

Everyone is watching. Sumner Redstone of Viacom is well-quoted saying that, “the further the gorilla climbs up the tree the more you can see of his a**“. Welcome to the life of being a senior executive. With the title and perks, there comes a responsibility to act and respond like a leader. That means that everyone is watching what you do and what you receive. Becoming finely tuned to what the rest of the company, including what your shareholders, think has always been part of the business, but it’s more important now than ever. If the rewards don’t match the performance, then you should question whether or not the payments are the right payments and the bonus plan is the right bonus plan.

Delayed gratification. Sometimes it’s better to have a bonus deferred and just wait for “better timing.” Part of the issue with the bonus payments at AIG was that no matter how legal or rationale at this time when the nerves of taxpayers who funded those bonuses are raw, no matter what they paid was going to be scrutinized. The same happens in other corporations where one division of the company may succeed but the overall company is failing. That would be the time to look at deferring payments to some other time. You can’t tell me that in hindsight if AIG had it all over to do again that every one of those executives who are being hounded and hunted in Connecticut wouldn’t have taken a deferred payment versus go through what they have gone through.

One size fits one may be wrong. For too long we have come up with bonus programs that sweep across a job category or group of people by level and title and then we apply a multiplier to a salary and that is the cash bonus payment - paid out on a schedule that everyone follows. It may be time to rethink those one size fits all programs and instead go back to the days of the personalized bonuses that don’t always have to be cash. For example, additional vacation time might be many multiples of value more than cash for some while for others offering equity might be a great incentive. A myriad of things could replace cash compensation that could still recognize performance while not as onerous as large cash payouts in this market.

100% top to bottom buy-in required. Whatever you do, now is the time to ensure that there is true buy-in with the payments and the plan to be delivered. That means the Board, all of Senior Management, the HR team, the external compensation consultants and — in this day and age — your corporate communications/PR team. You need 100% consensus in the program to make sure the right thing is being done. If there are any questions or concerns among your internal stakeholders about the plan, payments or, people then it may be time to totally rethink what you are doing.
Don’t lower the bar - ever! Remember the genesis of bonuses - rewards for performance and work that is “above and beyond.” Too many companies allowed for their bonus payments — or portions of it — to be considered as secure in being paid from year to year, regardless of the results. When bonuses start to become thought of as delayed annual income for people, they become more relied on and people begin to feel entitled to the payment each year. Management - and the Compensation Committee - need to avoid temptation, in the tougher times, to lower the performance bar to make some payments. While good for short term morale, the underlying credibility of the bonus plan is corrupted.

It’s a new era and it requires new thinking - and likely new programs. And, Boards, management and employees at all levels should work to keep the bonus programs open and transparent to ensure the incentives accomplish their objectives.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Supply vs. Demand -The AIG misnomer

Why isn't anyone asking the relevant and pertinent question about the AIG bonuses? Why isn't someone asking what the turnover rate is inside of AIG and what the supply of talent there is to fill the open positions if someone was to leave AIG? The answers would likely tell us that there is no reason to provide these bonus payments right now. If you work in the financial industry and you have a job, you are not giving it up easily. As Mayo said in Officer and a Gentlemen: "I got no where else to go!" Our representatives in government show how much they don't know about business when these types of decisions are made. In that backroom with Senator Dodd cutting the deal for one of his largest contributors (excuse me, don't I remember campaign promises saying that the backroom decisions wouldn't happen anymore?) someone should have piped up and said, "What does it matter if someone threatens to leave, there aren't other jobs for them to go to, and if they do, there is so much financial industry talent available that we could pay for the recruiting fees 50X times and still not scratch the surface on the amount of payments for the bonuses". The other thing that I just don't understand is why if these payments were really about retention that they didn't create deferred income bonuses that each of these people would have had to stick around to a defined time in the future to receive. Those are real retention bonuses. Paying someone $1MM now to stay, makes no sense. Even if they created these 6 months ago, it still doesn't make any sense in that the CEO of AIG is talking about the need to keep people long-term. It is times like these that I cringe at the credentials of the people who are our representatives and I am astounded by the lack of their reaching out to those who could help them understand the issues so they can ask the right questions to get the right answers.

Staying Competitive

This blog of mine was posted today on where I regularly contribute:

Staying Competitive: Tips for Interviewing in Today’s Market
Posted on March 19th, 2009 by Guest Contributor

It doesn’t take a PhD economist to know that supply and demand create all kinds of different outcomes. The job market is no different. We are now in the stage of what I call an “arrogance of supply” - meaning companies are more often looking for “the perfect fit” rather than hiring “the best athlete” who can be trained to become the right fit. When unemployment is low, companies embrace the “best athlete” model of hiring where they will take a chance on a person who is smart, ambitious, accomplished and shares the values of the corporation. Best athletes are people who employers would say, “have all the right stuff, now let’s train them to do what we need them to do.” In times like these with oversupply, companies often lose their progressive thinking and adopt an attitude that each and every person must be “the perfect fit.” This means it is more important than ever to stand out and be unique in a job interviews because if you aren’t a “perfect fit” you aren’t going to get the job.

Here are five ideas for you, beyond the standard advice, that can make you stand out from the rest:

* Come prepared with a solution to a problem. You are a smart person, you can use your functional area of expertise and evaluate the problems of a company and come ready with a plan to help them solve the issues. Example, if you are in marketing and you read from the news or the company website that their customer base is eroding, then you should come with a one page PowerPoint that provides the five ideas you have to stop the erosion. Even if you are wrong, or you misread the problem, you will have done something others won’t.
* Offer to start on a probationary period. Let’s face it; if you are already on the inside, then you have a better chance than someone else on the outside. So offer to work on a temporary/probationary period and allow your confidence in your own abilities and your belief in performance-based rewards to be seen. Offer to start on Monday and sign whatever they would like to be signed that you will leave voluntarily and positively at any time during the “try-out” period for any reason that they ask. This approach might be just what the hiring manager and the HR person needs to get the job filled quickly at a lower risk.
* Use the language of the company. Every company has a lexicon of buzzwords and acronyms that are unique to them. Before the interview, read the company website thoroughly, use sites like Glassdoor to read what employees talk about and how they say it, talk to someone/anyone who has worked at the company before or now and ask them for some of the buzzwords and “language” of the company. We all like people who we think know us and act and sound like us. Knowing and using those buzzwords can create confidence in the interviewer that you are a perfect fit for the culture.
* Know something that the interviewer cares about and then apply yourself to that interest. Most everyone you interview with these days has a LinkedIn profile or some type of web presence. Find just one thing about the interviewer that you can apply your skills/talents to. It could be that you are talking in the interview about how to adapt the company’s offering to Gen Y. You could say, well, imagine if we were to go back to your alma mater, (insert University name here) and do focus groups. These focus groups….” You get the point. It might be that you find that the person coaches AYSO soccer, is involved in their church, reads books like crazy, and does Tai-Chi. It doesn’t matter; just get one conversation thread going that connects you to them in some way.
* Give examples of how you make other people better. In an interview we get plenty of time to talk about ourselves and detail our accomplishments but rarely is there enough time for the interviewer to ask about how well you play in the sandbox. Come prepared with a story to tell her/him on how you have made others better on your team, on other teams, for the company as a whole, whatever it is, but something that leaves them with the impression that you will be a great teammate.

Keep at it. Just because you don’t get one job, doesn’t mean that there isn’t another right one out there for you. And always remember, you are talented!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Sad Third Place...Perfect For Staring

Back in the day, Howard Shultz founded Starbucks and created what he called the "the third place". Starbucks was not to be work or home. It was to be the place in between. For a very long time that worked perfectly, although a lot of people made it their work place like salespeople and free-agents. But, yesterday, I would say that Starbucks has returned to the third place, but it's not the place it once was. In the heyday Starbucks hustled and bustled. It was full of vibrant conversations, business meetings, rendezvous, small groups, etc. It was a great place. No one cared that the coffee was too expensive or the smell of roasted beans was replaced and gone. The place was about the place to hang out. A few days ago I was in a Starbucks in downtown San Francisco, in the financial district. I was between meetings and had about 90 minutes to kill so I went into Starbucks, grabbed one of their pre-made lunch assortments and a Berry-Chai and sat down with my laptop and did some work. After a few minutes, I noticed that something was different. First of all, the store was not as crowded as it would have been a year or a few months ago (or any Starbucks would have been). That is to be expected. The price of a cup of coffee is more discretionary now than ever so less people are paying up. Understandable. But that was not the change. The change was in the spirit and feel of the people who were there. Those who were there together were not the usual "up talkers" where you could normally overhear about "this deal" or that "opportunity" or "the next new thing". Instead, conversations seemed muted and softly spoken. But the real difference I saw were the, and I counted them, five "starers" who were there. They were four men and one woman, all who looked to be in their late 40's to late 50's. These five people, all dressed nicely, each had a cup of coffee or drink in their hand, a briefcase or knapsack with them placed on the floor or in the other seat. Nothing was out of the their packs on the tables, only their drinks were on the the table or in their hands. Each was alone not waiting on anyone else. All five of them sat at their table, with their drinks and just stared into space. This had been going on since before I got there and continued for the 90 minutes I was there. For a moment, as I observed this, I thought maybe this was some sort of psychology experiment that was going on, but after a while, it was clear to me that this was not a test, this was the real thing. What I was watching were people who didn't have anything else to do. These were people who didn't have work to do and didn't have any work that they could find to do. As I projected their stories, I saw men and women who had spent their day trying to network into a new job, had done all they could do for the day, didn't want to go home and instead headed back to the place that they could be most comfortable, their third place. We all migrate back to where we think is comfortable when we feel lost. The third place may not be the hustle and bustle of before, but for some, it looks to have become a refuge. It is a sign of our times.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Start Putting Our Mouth Where Our Money Is...

Anyone who makes an investment, whether personally or professionally, will usually, at least at the onset of the investment, be very positive about the company receiving the investment and the prospects for the future. Now that the U.S. Government has become an investor in the financial, automobile and insurance industries it is time to start hearing that these are good investments and build some confidence that those of us who have paid for those investments will see a return. It seems totally nonsensical to me that we will on one day send taxpayer dollars into an institution and the next day publicly slam those who are receiving the investment. What is going on? If Washington wants to make a difference then they need to go into these investments wholeheartedly and with the same excitement and vigor that any one of who writes a check would do. Let's put our best minds and people to help the banks, the car companies and the insurance companies to not just survive but to grow and prosper. Let's start publicizing the good things that these institutions do and can do and celebrate wins and successes, no matter how small those would be. Let's have the CEO's of bailed out companies post a monthly report on detailing the successes that they are seeing. Let's start putting our mouth where we put our money and talk the same talk out of both sides of our mouths. President Obama is a great motivator and could bring about the confidence change we need. But, he won't do that if he thinks that it is better to bring Congress to their feet by continually beating down the companies and people where he just invested our dollars. I want to hear that we are with them win, lose or tie...not just win or tie. If we aren't then we are wasting precious taxpayer money and our projection of failure will become a reality.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Labor Confidence First

I have listened and read with great interest the debate on the Economic Recovery Act. It seems to me that we have missed the point once again. The Act started as a job stimulus plan and then morphed into lots of other things and now it has so much in it that no one feels good about supporting it. Seems that pragmatism gets lost in bill writing doesn't it? If we would stop for a moment and recognize that consumer confidence actually lags Labor Confidence (the confidence that I will have a secure job over the next 12 months with a wage that meets my expectations) then we would be spending our time and money on creating Labor Confidence first and consumer confidence second. Creating jobs is like motherhood and apple pie. It can't be argued against. We all would support, without a blink of an eye, a plan that for every dollar spent a dollar of wages was created. We might even support that for every three dollars spent a dollar of wage was created. What we have done is lost the line of sight to the issues at hand and then nothing gets done. I am more convinced than ever that we have to solve the labor and jobs issue first and the rest can follow. We can still get infrastructure built, etc. but only through the filter of jobs created. BTW, 4MM jobs created isn't enough. That only brings us up to parity with what we have lost. Our economy demands that we create an additional 1MM plus jobs a year on top of what we had before. We need a serious refocus on the issues. Let TARP monies clean up the bad assets and bad debt. Let's pass a true Job program that creates real jobs. There was a reason that FDR called it the "Works Progress Administration". It started with work that created works. That is how we create Labor us Consumer Confidence as the outcome.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Smell Test

I worked for a CEO who didn't always know exactly what the right thing to always do was, but when in that situation he would ask of himself and all of us on his team, to conduct the "Smell Test". The "Smell Test" was the test that if someone who didn't know why we had made a decision would hear of or see that decision, that person wouldn't say, "I smell something funny going on there". The "Smell Test" was 100% right, every time. This is what President Obama needs to do right now with the decisions he is making with the "exceptions" he is making with his cabinet appointments and the rules that he laid forth for himself and his team. I am disappointed that he feels, in these early, early days that he has to go back on the strictness of the rules he set for himself in the campaign and in his first week. to go back on those now, unfortunately, impedes his credibility as one who "wants to change Washington". These are tough Chief Executive decisions that he has to make. I have been there when I wanted to hire someone who I thought was just great, but in their reference check, there was a "catch" or something that was not right. Faced with the decision of "go forward and I am sure it will all work out" or "make the tough call now and cut bait", the right thing to do is to not go forward. If you do, the others on the team question your credibility and values. If you make the tough call and decline a person's candidacy, then you have raised the bar and set a new standard for everyone else going forward. I am afraid that President Obama is setting himself up for hurting his credibility as a leader. If the Senate has to make the call, then he gets doubly whacked as not being able to get one of his people through the Senate. President Obama, please use the "Smell Test"! From out here, it doesn't smell good on what you are getting ready to do. Of course Tom Daschle is a good guy, but he didn't pay his taxes on something that he should have known better. I can actually give a pass to TG as his tax issues were because of a funky overseas assignment, but for Daschle, these are things that every person who has services performed for them knows. And the people who were lobbyists, don't bend the rules. We are 300 million Americans strong, I suspect that there is someone else out there if you look a little harder to fill these positions who meet your high standards. Please President Obama, stand tall, make the tough call and don't add a new smell to your Presidency.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

United We Stand, Divided We...

Can we really be this divided? The stimulus bill passed the House this afternoon nearly split right down the aisle. Does this sound familiar? Has nothing changed? I watched yesterday as President Obama went to Capitol Hill to rally support for the bill and take time to meet with Republican leaders. Each Republican praised him for making the effort and trying to help bring the bill around to something they may not like, but that they could support. And then today they voted in a block and 100% of them voted "Nay". Let's see, tell me why the next time the President should leave the Oval Office to meet and discuss something before a vote? He did it because he told us in the campaign he would. He did it because maybe he is as tired as we are of the rest of the world seeing us divided on such critical issues. There is an argument that says, "well, there were some Democrats who also voted no, so it wasn't a pure partisan vote". That would be true, but the answer doesn't stop the real question in my mind; "why all the partisan posturing?" This division is far too ingrained in our politics. Even the visible fact that we split the seating in the House and Senate to have sides across an aisle bothers me. Why not seat them alphabetically, or by state so states can work together, or by tenure, or by age so they oldest (and hardest of hearing) can all sit up front? All of this posturing reminds me of that Gilligan's Island episode where the Skipper is trying to get Gilligan to do something and he crosses his arms in front of him and says three times, "You can't make me, you can't make me!, you can't make me!!!" I think I heard that same phrase today on C-Span coming from one side of the aisle. Elected officials, please, please, please remember the words of Aesop, "United we stand, divided we fall"!

Less Is More...Is It?

It is official; not spending has become the hip thing to do. I knew it before, but last week I heard the best one so far. A friend of mine and his wife have a New Year’s Resolution; “No New Clothes in 2009”. I laughed at first when I heard it but as he explained it, it started to make sense. Enough sense that I have been thinking the same. He said that when he looked at his closet and did an inventory of what he had he had enough shirts to not wear the same one twice in 30 days. Enough pants, enough socks, enough tee-shirts, and more than enough shoes. Enough of everything to make it through a year, maybe even more. Unless your wardrobe is all Old Navy (that I swear is manufactured to wear out in one season) most of us could probably say we also have enough current clothes to make it through a year without anything new. Sure, the fashion magazines and runways will tell us that we are out of style but unless you are really vain about it, 12 months is not that far out of style to start with. And if you are me; I have flared jeans, straight leg jeans, and skinny leg jeans in my closet. I have striped shirts, plain shirts and patterned shirts. I have wide belts, thin belts and in between. Net, I have enough of everything. And the question is just how much all of us have already that lots of people will be doing the same and not buying in 2009. Retail has suffered already but I can see more hurt coming. It is clearly becoming harder and harder to find an attitude of spending to just help out. The more we look around at ourselves (in our house) the more we can see that discretionary consumption got ahead of need. And now when the economy needs just the opposite we are feeling that less is more.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Finally...No Excuses

Back in the day, when I was a radio disc-jockey, if someone was having a dispute about a song, a TV show jingle, an actor in a movie, or who was alive or dead, what would happen is that my phone in the studio would ring and the person on the other end of the phone would be in the middle of argument and I would become the definitive source to end the argument or settle the bet. These days, since Google and Wikipedia, there aren't any reasons for those calls to be made (we never knew the answers anyway). But in politics those arguments still happen all the time and what happens is a half-bit of the truth gets spewed out and there had been no good source to defend what really was said or what was written. On January 20th at 12:01PM EST that changed. Have you been to yet? There it is. One place for everything President Obama says, writes, declares, appoints and signs. There is never another reason for any of us to be ill-informed or ignorant of the facts and issues. President Obama has us to take responsbility. The first step in being responsible is being informed. There is now no excuses! Go to the site now. Put in your email address and receive an email each time there is an update. And the next time someone is misinformed don't let them put the monkey on your back...pass it right back over to them and ask them if they read

Monday, January 19, 2009

January 20th, 2009...The Closing of a Circle

Today marks what would have been the 80th birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Tomorrow marks the first inauguration of an African-American President of the United States. While this is an important day for many people in America and around the world it is remarkable for me personally too. You see, I was born in Kentucky and grew up in Southern Indiana during the 60’s and 70’s. Living five minutes from Louisville, Kentucky, I remember my father having a gun permit so he could travel across the Ohio River to work into Louisville as a radio disc jockey during the 70’s race riots. I remember well that busing in Kentucky, when implemented, saw families from both races flocking to Southern Indiana. It was a difficult time for everyone. I grew up around it all and have vivid memories of the hatred and unrest. What I did not know until later in life is that those racial sentiments permeated my household and family. My father would not let me wear blue jeans because Martin Luther King wore blue jeans. That should have been pretty obvious for me, even back then. But, I didn’t realize until years later when I grew up and learned political science stuff that when someone was a supporter of George Wallace and the John Birch Society that those far right ideologies at the time included racial segregation and racist attitudes. I also remember my grandparents using the “n” word freely in public and private and hearing that word in my house from time to time. I grew up with all of this around me and from the earliest days, I knew it was not me to inherit these small and close-minded thoughts. I refused to fall into the pattern. I just refused. And now, 40 years later, I have watched many things come full-circle. I happen to go to church with the son of James Meredith, the man who George Wallace ordered to not be able to attend the University of Mississippi in 1962. And, tomorrow, I will watch Barack Obama be sworn in as the President of the United States, a man I supported for election and will support wholeheartedly as the 44th President of the United States. Tomorrow, I can feel that the circle for many will be completed; the circle of all men created equal. Tomorrow for me sets so much right.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I’ve been hit hard by the death of Jett Travolta. I don’t know anything about him really other than he was not well and that the diagnosis of what was wrong with him was something I had never heard of before him. I probably couldn’t have told you before this past week what his name was and how old he was. I did know that John Travolta and Kelly Preston had two children but I couldn’t have told you their names. Now, in this past week, I have hurt (and cried) for their family. I don’t have children of my own, but when I try and empathize with what it must be like to lose a child, I begin to think I can feel some of their pain. And what a pain it must be. Celebrities get tagged with either being able to not handle it all or being above it all. John Travolta has been a guy who has been able to burst onto the scene and have wild success, disappear for awhile, then come back into the spotlight and find another gear. He did all of this and stayed grounded in his family and his religion. And this past week, he lost some of that grounding. There is nothing I can do for them but I offer my condolences and my prayers to them. What little I can imagine as the pain they are in, I know is only a prick to what the open wound that they must feel right now. May their pain be replaced with happy memories of the time they had with their son.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Spectacle is the Real Deal

I've now watched three of Elvis Costello's Spectacle on the Sundance Channel. I thought the first one with Elton John was brilliant. The second one with Lou Reed not as good until Julian Schnable showing up (listening to him quote Lou was pretty cool). But, the 12/17 episode with Bill Clinton was really something special. President Clinton has always had the ability to talk like a real person, but to listen to him speak about the influence of music on his life and is depth of knowledge about Jazz was extraordinary. I also thought his summary of the four things that a President does was telling. He said the four things are: 1) Following up and trying to keep campaign promises, 2) Dealing with incoming fire and crisis', 3) Listening and dealing with Congress, and 4) Organizing how the White House works. The last one was the one that was most telling. Just like business, who you sit at the table is who/what will get attention. The White House works the same way. He described the people who were in charge of native American affairs and Faith-based organizations. As a consequence of having these senior positions and people, their issues got more attention. Thank you to Elvis Costello, Sundance and the Exec Producers of Spectacle for providing a forum where we can listen, learn and appreciate.