Your Inner Hero; Accidental or Otherwise

Your Inner Hero; Accidental or Otherwise

                                                                                                                                                       Scott Ruppert  November 2015

Our world is broken; not because of any environmental theories emanating out of East Anglia University, shifting tectonic plates, or ice cap buildup in Antarctica. The fact is it has always been broken. Broken on a human scale going back as far as, well … Genesis. Don’t hang up yet; this is not a religious appeal but rather a humanitarian one to those willing to stick their necks out to rescue it on behalf of those that either don’t know how or simply lack the ability. This is about first responders for a broken society.

Serious times continue to hang over us with no end in sight. It is unmitigated delusion to think that recent atrocities in Paris will remain on the other side of the Atlantic especially knowing that Americans are the ultimate goal. The reality is that in the diabolical minds of our enemy an attack on a European target is a good scrimmage in preparation for their big game in the US. As good as they are, our military and law enforcement are simply not equipped to cover every contingency available to this enemy and it falls on a cognizant citizenry to step up whenever and wherever they can.

When bad things happen, if the extent of your response is to be a bystander or place a teddy bear and flowers at the scene the following day; there’s always room for comforters after the fact. But somewhere out there we’ll need an army of regular folks like you and me that are willing to step out of their comfort zone and act on the spot. We never have too many heroes and most often their actions alter an outcome in very positive way. It puts into perspective the adage; See Something, Say Something.

Virtually every day we read about professional law enforcement running into harm’s way to save lives or taking some sort of action to limit the fallout from a tragic event. Our military men and women sprint toward a fight and engage our enemies. Healthcare workers refuse to abandon terrible conditions to stay and fight the good fight against deadly diseases. Missionaries in countries you’ve never heard of shield the innocents from evil. These are the citizens of the world that sign up to have a chance at being a hero. Hero was never listed in the job description but they likely knew and accepted the risk when they signed the application.

French Train Heroes

French Train Heroes

And then there are the accidental heroes. Think back to last summer when three friends on vacation in Europe subdued a terrorist gunman on a train and saved countless lives? They became accidental heroes because they saw the need, were willing, and acted on that inner instinct. Remember Todd Beamer and the band of brothers he enlisted aboard United #93 on September 11, 2001 to fight the bad guys while facing slim odds for success?

These are the types of heroes of which I write. My thought is to simply compel some self-examination into whether or not you have it inside of you if the opportunity ever presented itself.

United Airlines 93; Todd Beamer

United Airlines 93; Todd Beamer

When the time came none of the aforementioned people thought about themselves or their own safety; their loved ones maybe – but not themselves. Bravery with a total disregard to the potential for personal pain, an acute sense of right and wrong, and an inner voice that whispers “now is the time … let’s roll” are the only personal requirements to exercise heroism, accidental or otherwise.

One last thought. Because courage and bravery aptly describe the hero, I wretch when hearing them reassigned to describe someone undergoing gender reassignment surgery, the professional golfer staring down a 15 foot putt at The Masters, a politician standing up against his own party, or a celebrity admitting to destructive behavior that led to a fall. Let’s not do to ‘hero’ what we’ve done to ‘awesome’ wherein a stuffed crust pizza now has as much linguistic value as does a sunset, a 3000 year old sequoia tree, or the birth of a baby.

Looking forward, we could use some heroes; accidental or otherwise. It’s okay that not all of us are wired with the same circuits to become one. Some instinctively know however, that they have that capacity while others will realize it only when the time arrives and you become needed in a big way. Don’t hesitate to respond when presented with this honor. If not you, then who?

Calling all heroes, it’s your time.







The Abandonment of Truth

January 2015

The subject matter expert was trotted out by the 24 hour news station to present his opinion. He answered some peripheral questions establishing his credibility and then had the audacity to say he not only didn’t know what caused the plane to crash but wasn’t even willing to speculate until more of the facts had been vetted and examined.

What a relief! He actually gave me reason to believe him because he didn’t know something and wasn’t willing to offer even an opinion. For me, his key phrase was ‘until I have more of the facts to vet and examine’.

But what happens when other experts aren’t as disciplined and spout off an eloquent sounding opinion that makestruth them look good and sounds like it might make sense? Assumptions are presented as fact and form a narrative. The faulty premise becomes the story and judgments are made. Lines become drawn and emotions incited on a mere assumption not based on truth or any real digestion of the facts involved. The media is happy to put it above the fold, devote Op-Ed space, and make it the headline story every half hour on the cable news networks. Why? Because they know you’ll believe it.

Consider the Duke lacrosse team fiasco a few years back or the more recent Rolling Stone Magazine article chronicling a rape culture at the University of Virginia. It made great press, sold tons of copy and gained national attention and invective. Only one problem: both accounts were fictional, pure untruth. Thankfully someone had the energy to discover the real truth and bring it to light; after the damage was done.

Truth: the state of being the case: the body of real things, events, and facts: in accordance with fact or reality: what actually is or was

Pretty amazing in this day and age that a subject as basic as truth has to be defined in order to lay groundwork but we have come to accept so much falsity as truth it has turned our worldview upside down and our sense of reason into disarray.

Truth is one of the main cornerstones of a free and self sustaining society. Without it there can be no trust or system of beliefs among its members. In the end, a leaders is only as trustworthy as his word. When people lose their ability or desire to seek the truth, they turn into gullible flock of sheep willing to follow the shepherd with the loudest voice that pleases their own self interest. Too often we find out after the fact that the shepherd was more than willing not to let the facts spoil a good story.

Where we get our facts makes a huge difference in our frame of reference. Whether it be from the Fox, MSNBC, CNN, elders, friends, educational pursuits, The Daily Show or Facebook; they all require a level of examination that many in our society have either abandoned or never developed. Long ago when elementary and high school curricula traded away developing a students’ critical thinking skills for focusing on test prep and results – our intellectual culture took on a tabloid worldview. Students blindly consumed what was fed to them, never questioning origins and rationale; never mind seeking cause and effect relationships. Learning data is easy but finding and correlating an underlying relationship between data bits is not. A fact became anything said by someone respected.

In Ferguson, Missouri a false narrative was formed by eye witnesses who initially lied about what they saw only to recant their account under oath. Activists stirred the pot while emoting about grand jury deliberations they never privy to. This abandonment of truth and total disregard for inconvenient facts led to senseless violence in the streets.

In the New York City grand jury case, a video suddenly made everyone an expert on police procedure as well as an eyewitness to an event where context was totally ignored. “Never mind anything else, I know what my eyes saw!”. Those eyes made assumptions on everything from police knowledge, intent, and training to the victim’s mindset, motivation, and medical history. In both cases our 24/7 media jumped on the storyline as commentators began choosing sides.

I submit that in neither case did any of the purported experts ever take the extra time to examine and analyze the hidden facts as intently as they did the public video. Truth and facts became secondary.

The media, internet, and the streets aren’t the only places you’ll find the abandonment of truth. The 2016 elections are just around the corner and we’ll be fed doses of rhetoric from those who would like to lead our country. Insincere and grandiloquent language that will pass for fact and truth will emanate as political apparatchiks stray as far from facts as allowed by law (sometime farther). We not only won’t blink an eye but will  accept it as part of the political game. Consider this: A campaign will do whatever it takes to get someone elected and then be expected to do the right thing once they’re in. How’s that for twisted logic?

We would be a much better society if we took the time to get ‘more of the facts to vet and examine’. Don’t abandon truth, it matters.

The New Face of Gamesmanship

December 2014

In 1981 New Zealand was playing Australia in a hotly contested cricket test match. New Zealand had an opportunity to hit six runs off the final ball to tie the score. The Australian captain, Greg Chappell told his brother Trevor to do something strange; bowl it underarm. This act of gamesmanship made it virtually impossible for the New Zealand batsman to hit the required six. Australia won the game and the uproar began. While the maneuver was within the rules albeit through exception, it was seen as so egregious that no less than the Kiwi prime minister publicly denounced the tactic. That was gamesmanship; old school.


1 : the art or practice of winning games by questionable expedients without actually violating the rules

2 : the use of ethically dubious methods to gain an objective

# 1. categorizes the noun as being used to win ‘games’. # 2. focuses on ‘gaining an objective’. In today’s culture neither definition really captures how the mechanism of gamesmanship has evolved.

Corporations have long plied a gamesmanship mentality as part of their strategic maneuvering. Airlines routinely undercut competitors prices in certain markets in order to gain market share. Grocers offer specials and willingly taking losses on select staple products they know you need in order to get you in their store.keep calm

But what happens when gamesmanship tiptoes outside the lines where rules are stretched and ethics redefined. The element of trust in our institutions and heroes is lost. Lance Armstrong got away with his version of gamesmanship for seven Tour de France victories and millions of dollars in sponsorship compensation. His fans were none the wiser as he gamed the system to perfection. In the end he suffered, but all along he played everyone like a piano.

We used to be bystanders to tongue in cheek games of gamesmanship with relatively inconsequential results as they were carried out against an athletic opponent, business competitor, bureaucratic regulator, or a political adversary. Washington has become the new IMAX of gamesmanship and they’ve made us the saps on the receiving end. We used to call it posturing, partisanship, and more benignly, part of the game. One party’s parliamentary maneuvering to thwart the other, one branch flexing it’s perceived constitutional muscle against the other; PACs, consultants, and donors all have stretched the limits of any conceivable ethical standard to advance an agenda.

In politics, gamesmanship and plausible deniability have always gone hand in hand as an accepted means to an end. More often than not it’s a way to buy time or provide cover. Was anyone actually gullible enough to buy the broken IRS computer theory to explain Lois Lerner’s missing email cache? How about the ridiculously exhaustive and repetitive environmental testing to stave off voting on Keystone? Or the parliamentary chicanery that each party in Congress employs to pass or bury bills?

The perpetrators begin by asking this question; How much can we get away with to advance our objective while staying in the general vicinity of boundaries, retain an appearance legitimacy, and not arouse the electorate to start asking questions that will be difficult to answer? They then establish the new boundary and quietly move the goalposts another few feet.

In the past one could shrug it off as politics as normal but even that weak standard has been lowered in the last few years. John Gruber, acknowledged co-architect for the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, recent revelations are prescient. His own words answers a crucial question; Was the Obamacare sales pitch a miscalculation or a strategy?

Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass. Better for the American people to be saddled with a law they dont understand than for them to understand the law and rally against it.”

Is this not the definition of gamesmanship gone wrong? To wit; the use of ethically dubious methods to gain an objective. We were played. This gamesmanship was so good it even got Chief Justice John Roberts to bite.

If not for his candor then for his cynical and arrogant mindset Gruber became the villain du jour. Had he used the word ‘lazy’ instead of ‘stupid’ to describe the American voter he could have helped himself by being a bit less indelicate and a little more accurate. Somehow just being lazy seems a little more palatable than being called stupid.

Regrettably, he was right. At some point too many did get lazy, bought into a sales pitch instead of value, became distracted, and stopped asking questions. He knew the media who are paid to ask objective questions and do the digging were also lazy and had fallen in love with the story and the story tellers to the degree that the content no longer mattered.

As with everything else in pop culture once the genie escapes the bottle he’s not going back in. The new face of gamesmanship is here to stay as new limits of “ethically dubious methods to gain an objective” are tested on us. Pay attention and don’t get played.

Mt. Kilimanjaro; The Backstory

Part 2

No, the trip wasn’t fun. It wasn’t one of those sappy Lifetime Channel dramas about aIMG_0512 dad bonding with his two boys on an awesome adventure. It wasn’t a case where we yucked it up from morning to night and then cried around the campfire to stories of past mistakes and misunderstandings. It was more.

First of all, for a father to be blessed with a skill and a job that provides the resources to take his sons on a 10 day excursion to the other side of the world is incredibly awesome. But to put a challenge at the other end whereby each of us would have to dig daily into our bag of life experiences to pull out solutions and renewed sources of motivation – was quite another thing.

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Mt. Kilimanjaro: Not What I Expected; Part 1

When I initially proposed the idea of knocking off a bucket list item it was to my wife forSummit Day: Made it to the first peak at 5am! 18,815 ft! a world class adventure. We were going to climb Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro. She’s a good athlete and a pretty sturdy soul however one look at the pictures of the bathroom facilities and I was advised to go and have good time. The next call was to our sons knowing they couldn’t care less about where the loo is and what it looks like. A week of father-son bonding; what could be better? Right? Part 2 posted in a week or two will deal with that aspect but first, the nuts and bolts.

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The Perils of Investing in Incumbent Incompetence

We can all relax now. The pundits assure us that the brave men of Congress have putPerils of incompetance the fiscal cliff behind us. The reality however is that its not only behind us but above us as well. We went over it some time ago but simply refused to come to terms with it. This forces us to go through the same charade of pending national insolvency every few months. Right now we’re just bumping through the Class 5 rapids at the bottom of the falls.

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My emotions are as low today as ever I can remember as I work through the tragic12.14.12 news born in Newtown, Connecticut. Another slaughter of innocent lives, this time little children, at the hands of a youth with guns, ammo, a damaged mind and a confused soul.

For me this isn’t like 911. Then I was angry; someone from some far away land was going to have to shoulder the blame and pay for what they did to us. Today, I simply feel lost because we, the American culture, are the ones that must shoulder the blame for what happened and begin paying back.

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Coming to Terms

I firmly believe the three most significant and effective words in our lexicon are; I WASbad situation WRONG. If more executives, politicians, lawyers, activists …. and spouses used these words we would have a more recuperative and stronger civil discourse.

A friend of 50 years chided me recently when he felt that the BasicMan’s recent satirical analysis of the political landscape as derived from A Message from the President was more sour grapes than it was satire. Okay, fair point – criticism accepted. But I learned something and it doesn’t give me comfort to realize that I’m not sure I know who my fellow Americans are these days. My contention that Romney would win the presidency based on my confidence in the American electorate’s discernment and their grasp of reality make me say: I Was Wrong.

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A Word from the President


My fellow Americans,

It’s been a few days since my resounding reelection victory and Michelle reminded me to thank those that helped me receive another four years serving the American people from the Oval Office. The list is quite long so I will attempt to hit the high points. Continue reading

You Are Correct, Sir – It Was Offensive

During Round 2 action of the presidential debates, President Obama aggressivelyangry Obama scolded challenger Romney for suggesting that the president’s actions were inappropriate following the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi that left 4 Americans dead inside the US Embassy. To wit that the President, delivered a prepared statement on the situation in Libya at a brief Rose Garden appearance a few hours after the attack, then boarded Air Force One and went to Las Vegas for a high dollar campaign fundraiser and on to Colorado for more of the same. No big deal, right?

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The 47%

Much has been made about a certain figure – 47% and the supposed gaffe made by percentagepresidential candidate Mitt Romney. That number however has come into play a lot this political season. There’s the 47% of Americans that are excused from paying income taxes, the 47 million citizens collecting food stamps, the 47% that will only vote for Barack Obama, the 47% that will only vote for Mitt Romney, the 47% of the total population that won’t vote for anybody, and finally a political race that is tied at 47%. And all of it is within the pollster’s margin of error (an alibi of mitigation masquerading as a performance bell curve). It’s no wonder confusion reigns.

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Handling the Truth

Do you remember the climactic and contentious exchange between Lt. Daniel KaffeFew Good Men (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson) in the 1992 film, A Few Good Men? I’m beginning to think he was on to something.


Jessep: You want answers?!

Kaffee: I want the truth!

Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!

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What’s Stopping You?

If you could do it all over again and choose what you want to do in life – without regarddreaming to ability, money, education or circumstance – what would you do? This is a conversational question I love to ask grown-ups when the drudgery of small talk and gossip at the dinner table begin to make my skin peel. After years of asking this simple question, the answers these adults give never cease to open the doors to what their dreams were once made of, where they got derailed, and why.

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Romney: “I’ve Got Them Right Where I Want Them”

Sitting 3-4 strokes behind the leaders on Sunday morning, remember the days whenmomentum you said Tiger Woods had the competition right where he wanted them? Whether or not those days will ever return is still in question however one had to take notice of the way he conducted business in such a measured, methodical, timed, and unflappable manner. I sense the same pattern with Mitt Romney and how he has conducted business in his world. In case there’s any doubt; the Woods – Romney analogy stops there.

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7 Habits for Rudderless Young Adults

Stephen Covey died last week. For millions of people he became the voice of7 Habits reason when they couldn’t seem to get things going in their own lives. His book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” steered people in all walks of life to accomplishment using very basic principles. If Covey spoke directly to the habits of adults, who then speaks to the younger generation regarding their issues of squandered opportunity, wasted time, and not being able to function efficiently in today’s society? I wonder sometimes if GenX or the Millenials understand that they now live in the ‘The Real World’; that cold and competitive environment where not everybody gets a trophy for participation and poor performance carries consequences.


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Immersion Therapy: Part 2

Words like ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ used to roll off my tongue as just another figure ofwhy are you here speech. They weren’t laced with anger but retained their measure of derogatory descriptiveness. I’m not sure why that was because I had never known a ‘gay person’. When I allowed myself to open up some old chapters, I was afforded a fresh perspective in retracing my steps … and it was humbling.


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Immersion Therapy: Part 1

It began so simply last November over a cup of coffee and a flyer on the wall of aALC route Starbucks in San Francisco with the slogan “You Belong Here” – ALC11 (AIDS Life Cycle). From San Francisco to Los Angeles; 545 miles over seven days, 2500 cyclists would make their way down the coast to Santa Cruz, sweeping inland through central California wine country and snaking back to the oceanfront at Moro Bay to join the Pacific Coast Highway into Los Angeles. Sounded awesome.

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The Current Tone of the Gay Marriage Dialogue

“What’s your view of gay marriage”? “Well, I think if you love somebody you shouldgay marriage simply be able to marry them – “what’s your opinion”? “Who loves whom is none of my business but redefining marriage for same sex unions is a really complex issue and …..” Hmmm, I never took you for a bigot”.

That’s about how it goes. I know. I’ve tried many, many times.

It is virtually impossible to have a thoughtful hearing on this issue without it going emotionally off the tracks before the end of  opening arguments.  And that is the first problem.

    “Those who demand the most tolerance from others typically exhibit the least tolerance in return”Basicman’s Axiom of Life #6

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Deep in the Rough

Watching Tiger Woods this weekend at the 2012 Masters I am reminded how fragiletiger and fleeting fame and admiration can be. There was a day not too long ago when Mr. Woods commanded every golf course he set foot on, especially Augusta National in the springtime. So much so that he became the catalyst for revered tracks on the tour to change their entire design and length so as to make it more than a pitch and putt for his brand of play. But then December 2009 happened and few things in the world of golf have been the same since.

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Angry, Divided, and Weak

The Set-up – The tragic case of Trayvon Martin has taken on a nationwide Selmadivision ‘65 civil rights fervor.  The  Jackson / Sharpton tag team arrived on cue to stir up racial discontent after the media irresponsibly injected race where it didn’t belong. Juan Williams, cable TV commentator and liberal political analyst wrote a scathing piece in the Wall Street Journal on how misguided Jackson and Sharpton’s action were and how it set back whatever gains had been made in reducing racial polarity that existed back in the days when the ministers could generate some level of compassion…..

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Our Love-Hate Relationships with Presidents

… We, on both sides of the fight, are a sorry mess right now. Rachel Maddow orrams butting heads Rush Limbaugh feed our emotions and the NY Times or the Wall Street Journal provide the talking points. For the sake of civil discourse and a truly rounded perspective of issues – minus the animus associated with a particular ideology or a personality it would be a good idea for us, the smart ones in the crowd – the populace, to take a deep breath and then do more reading and research and less shouting and partisan debasing.

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Paterno and Patton

Phil Knight, CEO of Nike delivered the eulogy for Coach Joe Paterno. In October, TheJo-Pa Basicman Perspective took to task the stone throwing administrative elites for their rush to judgment and repugnant phone dismissal of the coach for his miniscule sliver of the Sandusky mess at Penn State. (JoePa: The King is Dead, Long Live the King) Only now are we getting the exculpatory details of the bigger picture void of self-sanctimonious media spin and defensive finger pointing from PSU’s pathetic administration vainly trying to save face.

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Getting to … The ONE

…. Difficult as it is for republican supporters to watch in 2012, this is the way ourVetting political process is supposed to work. With even a shred of intellectual honesty , the Democrat party and the media would have to admit that had the current effort taken place in 2008, it is more likely that Hillary would be running for reelection and not Barack. For a number of reasons, candidate Obama was never truly vetted across the wide spectrum of salient topics to the degree that he needed to be. 2012 looks to be different as the Republican primary has been brutal for party members to watch.

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Education Pedigrees

A recent dinner with old college friends led to an interesting conversation aboutdipoma education and academic pedigree ….  I said very little.

….My conclusion: an educational pedigree is best served at Happy Hour where most lies are told and curricula vitae are swapped. But when people head for the door are they secretly wondering if you’re really as good as your diploma says you are?


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JoePa: The King is Dead, Long Live the King

… In essence, the institution and profession that Paterno has loved and been loyal toPaterno for close to half a century has issued him something akin to a death sentence. Something inside me believes that Coach Paterno has been dying a slow death since he received his first inkling that Jerry Sandusky had a problem. Quite assuredly now the coach realizes he should have acted more like the coach that annually cut his Division 1 roster to 105 players than the head coach that didn’t blow the whistle on an assistant. He will live with that lapse in judgment for the rest of his life.

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Occupy Reality

Having given the civil dissidents of the ‘Occupation’ a few weeks coverage under the watchful eye of the new media, it seems like a good time to weigh in. I’ve taken the time to read media accounts from all perspectives, listened to participant interviews, and routinely visited (and actually joined) the Occupy Wall Street website. Having tried to discern their specific demands, a sense of ideological structure, a vision of how they intend to legally pursue whatever their desires may be; I have come to a very simple and basic(man) conclusion. Continue reading

A Beautiful Sight

I saw a beautiful thing last night. As the airplane lifted off the runway at JFK just afterFreedom Tower sunset I could see above the buildings of Brooklyn all the way to Manhattan. There in the distance was a tower of light in what has been for the last 10 years – a dark hole.

It was such a wonderful sight that I took the opportunity to bring it to the attention of my 220 passengers aboard the evening flight to Rome.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. All is well and I don’t mean to startle you with an announcement at such a low altitude however I want to share with you a beautiful sight. Looking out of the right side of the airplane in the distance, you’ll notice a large tower of light. That is the first, clearly visible sign of the new Freedom Tower under construction at Ground Zero. For 10 years we’ve missed our old landmark and tonight’s sighting is inspiring. We’ve all been through a lot and I hope it will inspire you as well. Enjoy the flight, get some sleep, and I’ll talk to you before landing in Italy tomorrow morning. Thank you for your attention”.

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Good News for American Politics, Seriously …

Our bitter political partisanship actually has a silver lining as the 2012 presidential2012 campaign approaches. If one can overcome the hyperbole and spin associated with either parties’ ideology as reported by the opposition and dismiss how the talking heads analyze every piece of polling data – the 2012 race will provide the most disparate choice of political philosophies as there has been in decades.

Unlike the 2008 campaign when the nation labored under Bush fatigue (to a certain degree, me included) and needed a fresh face, ideas and personality, the 2012 race will be a referendum on issues and challenges and not personas and images. In this instance there will be a stark difference between the parties, their candidate(s), and the way they will attack the problems we face.

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Mr. Buffett, Enough Already

Is anyone besides me getting a little weary of the unsolicited tax advice coming from Warren Buffett? What a relief to read that some of his contemporaries are. Harvey Golub, former CEO of American Express airs it out in his Wall Street Journal piece as he breaks down the fact and fiction of Buffett’s assertions. One has to wonder if we would have to endure this current ad hominem if the entire tax code were rewritten to broaden the tax base (read: require the lower 45% to “invest” in running this country) reworked the current deduction loopholes that Messrs. Buffet, Soros, Damon, et al enjoy, and truly reformed how Congress appropriates tax revenues. I somehow doubt The Oracle of Omaha would be such a progressive tax shill for The Obama of DC.

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

One would assume that nobody likes the toxic atmosphere our civil discourse haswrong taken, except for media talking heads that make their money throwing fuel on social fires. So, I propose a hypothetical exercise. Since outspoken and important folks from the VP on down have taken to categorizing a certain American political group (read: Tea Party) as terrorists and hostage takers, and since nobody thinks a terrorist is a good thing whether it wears an explosive vest or a Congressional lapel pin, let’s take the liberal side of things and promote all the good stuff they would like to see in America if they just didn’t have to fight the “terrorists”.

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Moving Parts: Another Airline Story

It’s 94 degrees outside, the ship is full of hot people, the air conditioning cannot keepmoving parts up, thunderstorms are moving in and we’re #43 in line for take-off. It’s rush hour at JFK and I’m the Captain taking 172 people non-stop to San Francisco. We have 5 ½ hours of real estate in front of us – after we wait in the runway queue. The folks onboard probably think the toughest part for them is over; TSA security check-points, time constraints and long lines top their lists. Tonight, they are wrong.

We’ve been put in special penalty box until the bad weather has passed along our route of flight. The ATC system is already at capacity and in addition to those 42 airplanes in front of us there are four of them on a similar routing. We each need 20 minutes of spacing between us. Have you done the math yet?

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Frustrated and Fed Up

“Good Morning, Doctor”

… that’s where I am right now – frustrated, upset, and fed up … I’m mad … I’m irkedpsychiatrist … I’m outraged … I’m over … I’m affronted … I’m sick of …

Writing when you’re mad doesn’t usually convey much of anything positive and it surely doesn’t inspire anyone who reads to be anything but, well … mad. Good grief, I feel like Oprah when she figured out a few years back that she had turned into Sally Jesse and Jerry.

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Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom (in that order)

…. In a few hours it will be light and we’ll be able to see the damage. There will betornado damage. The weather forecaster nailed it with his forecast. He told us just four hours ago everything we needed to know to prepare; time, track, intensity and duration. We did. In a coastal New England fishing village like ours the frequency and accuracy of these forecasts is an essential part of our sense of security and planning considerations. We’re the geeks that listen to the weather band on portable radios.

This is a metaphor for the perfect storm coming our way in financial terms.


It’s 3:32 a.m. I can once again hear the clock in the hallway ticking after waking to thunder, lightning and torrential rain at 3:04 a.m. The storm has passed as I can hear it rumble in the distance to the east. In a few hours it will be light and we’ll be able to see the damage. There will be damage.

The weather forecaster nailed it with his forecast He told us just four hours ago everything we needed to know to prepare; time, track, intensity and duration. We did. In a coastal New England fishing village like ours the frequency and accuracy of these forecasts is an essential part of our sense of security and planning considerations. We’re the geeks to whom Radio Shack sells those weather band radios.

This is a metaphor for the mounting storm coming our way in financial terms. At this point it is unavoidable. We’ve seen what happens throughout Europe. We now see it in our country as individual states attempt to come to terms with the financially irresponsible nature of our behavior of the past. Either we heed the warnings and take steps to prepare or simply wait until it’s over to survey the damage. For years we have been warned that the fiscal practices our leaders have exploited for their own political benefit are unsustainable in the long term and there will be a price to pay. The frequently updated forecast that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and a host of other tax financed entitlements are, or soon will be insolvent – has become old news. Instead of battening down the hatches we look for other windows and doors to open as the storm approaches. It makes no sense whatsoever.

Who can’t understand the forecast or recognize the signs? Who looks for reasons to blame the storm on something or somebody else? Who looks into their own empty wallet and the proceeds to order a Big Mac. Fries, and a milk shake?

Who entertains this sort of idiocy?

Regrettably, it’s the ones who have been called the smartest guys in the room. In this category we’ll put many of today’s bickering political wonks, a certain ilk of enlightened Ivy League intellect, the social justice crowd and anyone with their hand out. Is there anybody still out there with the slightest bit of confidence anymore in the medicine that Chairman Bernanke or Secretary Geithner are prescribing?

Add to this group a large portion of our population that couldn’t be bothered, is without access to information, or truly does not understand the totality of the financial mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Into this group we can glom together debt ridden college age kids, senior citizens hopping from doctor to doctor on Medicare’s tab who still revere the days of FDR, or those standing in line at 8:59 a.m. enjoying a cigarette outside the downtown welfare office. Observe those in the Wal-Mart checkout line, singing hymns at the Sunday morning service, sitting next to you in traffic, or waiting to walk through airport TSA screening. How many of those folks comprehend, let alone have given serious thought to the serious financial situation in which we have ensnared ourselves? Most of them think a “bump in the road” like $4 per gallon at the pump is an imposition. Is this an informed electorate?

Much talk is being made about cobbling together a federal budget that will exceed $15 trillion or about raising the debt ceiling. For the average adult on the street what does this even mean? Imagine the response from American Express if you demanded more credit to pay off the interest on your Master Card when your credit score hovers near the Mendoza Line? Do you suppose there is a bona fide understanding of how much a trillion dollars really is (if a billion is the new million, what does that make a trillion?) or how much of what the government takes from those who actually pay taxes goes into the things that are bankrupting us? And finally, how much of what is in our federal budget can we actually pay for – just on tax revenue alone? These are pretty basic questions but it brings us back to the weather forecast metaphor.

We’re broke. Just the interest payments alone are enough to sink our ship if one looks just 10-15 years into the future. For many states it won’t be that long. Our debt won’t magically go away as it does when we routinely forgive other nations for the money they owe us. China isn’t as nice and won’t be forgiving as we are. The accumulated interest won’t get any smaller because we’re a good nation. The snowball just gets bigger.

We are a great nation but we have an attention deficit problem. The things that have the real potential to hurt us have a difficult time keeping our attention; you know, stuff like terrorists, national security, porous borders, and … debt.

What should we be doing?

“With all thy getting, get understanding”

This is the banner under which Forbes editorials have been published since the first issue of the magazine. It’s a translation from Proverbs 4:7. Knowledge leads to understanding which leads to wisdom. There are too many Americans that need an introduction to step one. Having an up to date working knowledge of the financial debate that is currently raging in Washington is essential to sifting through the political canards and hubris. Understanding the conversation, the opposing sides, and the overall implications are essential to joining the debate.

Secondly, put two and two together while watching the news. That legislative ruckus in Wisconsin over the winter, the economic news coming from individual states like California, New York, Illinois, aggressive budget reform measures undertaken by governors, and gaining knowledge of how the federal government tightens the financial noose on states with each unfunded federal mandate can give a pretty good picture of what we’re up against. Next, observe the repercussions of the disastrous European Union financial model and witness how the populations are dealing (not so civilly) with their new reality.

Finally, realize there is no silver bullet to this mess. For some the solution will be more painful than for others. Many won’t understand what is happening because they haven’t done their homework.

They will likely be the most astonished and vocal ones when they survey the damage in the morning.

Being Honorable in the 21st Century

…..Weiner, Spitzer, Woods, Schwarzenegger, and some French guy namedsend-button Strauss-Kahn … imagine the problems we would be wading through now if John Edwards would have found his way to the White House in 2008 … Alas, they all have a common denominator. They are human beings, not only capable of failure but prone to it.

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When Kids Grow Up

The seniors just graduated and received all sorts of congratulations for their (in somegraduation_hat_throw cases) hard earned victories. But parents, don’t expect too much from them; you’ve been the ones spoon feeding life to them up to this point (once again, in some cases). They remain immature, raw, and inexperienced on one hand and full of bravado and book knowledge on the other.

Life has yet to smack them on the side of the head. It will happen, it will hurt, and life seldom apologizes without needed course correction. 

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They Call Him BiBi

In case you missed it, a speech was delivered yesterday by a world leader that willobama-netanyahu-4 join a list of oratories that define leadership. It will be added to Churchill’s – “We shall fight them on the beach …”, Thatcher’s – “autumn of understanding … winter of common sense”, Kennedy’s – “Ask not…”, and Reagan’s – “Tear down this wall …” offerings. It came from a battled hardened statesman and was presented to a grateful audience. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (BiBi) Netanyahu delivered a primer on the icy truths of freedom, democracy, and love of country to the US Congress at a time when those sitting in the leather bound chairs could desperately use some remedial training on such subjects.

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A Bittersweet Victory

My oldest son who assures me weekly that Barack Obama hung the moon owes mebittersweet a cold beer for these words. Its been a bittersweet week having been put in the unusual position of sincerely congratulating the work of President Obama. That work of course, is the leadership he displayed in not only green lighting the mission to take Osama bin Laden but the way in which it was to be accomplished. Big risk, big reward. To be entirely honest this episode spoke more to the work of CIA Director Leon Panetta, the Pentagon apparatus, the quiet professionals of our Special Forces teams and most ironically, those ‘inhumane’ Guantanamo interrogators who extracted such actionable information. One would hope through this experience that President Obama would understand from here out that when one embraces the notion of American exceptionalism and allows it the freedom to operate ….. good things inevitably happen.

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Dozing in the Control Tower: The Rest of the Story

Somebody fell asleep in the control tower and a plane full of women and childrenATC were in peril. “Oh, the humanity”. Relax folks, you were never in danger of losing your life – if the pilots in the cockpit are napping when it’s time to land – then it’s time to worry. Trust me on this one; they won’t be.

The recurring questions I’ve been asked lately surround the spate of incidents where an air traffic controller has been caught dozing on the job. Having been a commercial airline pilot for the last 28 years, my take on issue at hand is a little less impassioned and lot more matter of fact. It goes something like this; yes, they dozed off much the same as you have at some point in your life – while on the job, behind the wheel of your car, or listening to your spouse. Like you, they’re human and at times succumb to the frailties of humanity.

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Fat, Dumb, and Happy

A fat, dumb, and happy man plunks down $8 for a bacon double cheeseburger, large5 Guys fries and a chocolate milkshake at Five Guys Burgers (best burgers east of In ‘N Out territory). The diligent grill crew quickly puts together his 1800 calorie snack but in their haste, four or five french fries fall from the bag. The crew deliberates at length over whether to put them back in the sack. They argue over fairness, company policy, and consumer rights when someone pipes up, “let’s make a deal and put all but one french fry back in the bag so it will be a healthy meal”. This is a metaphor for how Congress is dealing with the problems that make our debt the runaway  train that it is and how the media reports on it.

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Restrepo Awakens Old Emotions

I’m somber today. Actually it’s a blend of introspection, feelings of compassion, andkorengal valley gratitude, with a little confusion mixed in. I watched the movie, Restrepo last night.  It did little to guide me through the complexity and purpose of Afghanistan but it opened up memories of the isolation, solitude, and drudgery that befalls anyone who has served the country in a foreign place, thousands of miles from home where the locals don’t much care for you.

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Wanted: International Leadership, Bring References

Just like a school yard bully, Moammar Gadhaffi tried to call a time-out recognizingUN General Assembly that his fortunes were changing as Europeans and the Arab League prompted stabilizing initiatives in response to his terroristic behavior. Alas, it was too late as it began raining Tomahawks over his forces in Libya.

He still owes Japan a huge debt of gratitude for temporarily distracting a media already known for their short attention span while he caused his own tsunami of death and destruction half a world away. Cable and network news journalists using experts du jour on speed dial evoked Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and picked apart heretofore hidden design flaws of Fukushima Daiichi while a madman hired mercenaries to complement his military in openly murdering his own people.

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A Belated Defense

My liberal friends will likely write me off totally and put me in the category of being abush eyes complete moron – the same one in which they put the subject of this piece. Frankly, my conservative friends may do the same thing. So be it; call me the village idiot. 

But I come to defend 43, President George W Bush, the most reviled man in partisan circles next to Dick Cheney when it comes to the White House.

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Stepping On Some Toes

Some people are about to get their toes stepped on …. We’ve been too nice for too long to too many people over too many issues. Thetoes Mediterranean and a large portion of the Middle East are awash with countries whose populations have grown tired of playing nice with tyrannical leaders who in return serve up nothing more than repression. Over in Europe, leaders once heralded as socially enlightened have publicly proclaimed that the multicultural social experiment has been a miserable failure in spite of their industrious efforts to make the melting pots work. At home, our political leaders face their own comeuppance as citizens have rediscovered the Constitution and demand that it be adhered to. Organized labor groups are finding out that there is only so much money to go around and their collective bargaining windfalls have ‘contracted’ them into a corner. Even President Obama, once immune from second guessers finds himself and his signature domestic policies under intense fiscal scrutiny.

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Middle East Freedom; An American Teaching Moment

Events over the last month in Tunisia, Southern Sudan, and Egypt should cast a brightTahrir Square light on things we tend to take for granted while going about our daily lives in America. It’s certain the citizens of those African countries and millions of others residing elsewhere under repressive rule don’t take freedom and liberty for granted.

The populations of the aforementioned African nations have experienced firsthand a lifetime filled with repression, corruption, and fear where individual freedom is a privilege only granted through the graciousness of government and society.

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Six ‘Shovel Ready Projects’ for Obama’s 2012 Chances

Six ways for Barack Obama to get reelected in 2012 and the soleshovel-ready reason he won’t use any of them.

Dealing effectively with any one of these six areas will play well with American voters that are truly paying attention. An effort to turn things around by turning ones’ self around (ideologically and methodologically) will have a major impact toward securing another four years for the Obama family at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Its that whole redemption concept that Americans love to see played out.

But none of them will ever happen because he is ……

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Repealing DADT

In the eyes of the military Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not a gay issue, a witch hunt, a civilDADT rights or equality issue. Instead, it’s a social issue with far reaching organizational implications. Truth be told, the armed forces don’t care any more about a service member’s sexual orientation than they do about what religion they practice or the color of their skin. As in every other enterprise with critical responsibilities and deep investment in personnel, the focus is on the quality and maturity of the individual, how they do their job, and what their value is to the mission. Period.

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No One Laughs at God

Let’s get the fine print disclaimer out of the way early so I don’t get blamed for spektor proselytizing later on. I‘m one of those nut cases that actually believes there is a God (capital G) and all the baggage that relationship brings with it. With me, it’s personal, not complicated, and based on life experiences of failure and success that have led me to believe that some power, much larger than me, has had my back from the start and seems to know that I have the ability to be a persistent screw-up but worthy of second chances.

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late and their kid’s not back from the party yet

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Hey Dad, Are we going to be okay?

…. The truth is we’ve been here before, more than once. We know the holding handsway out. The question is: Do we, as Americans, still have the guts to make the tough choices and execute the plan knowing that the healing process will be more painful than our current condition, or will we kick the can down the road and leave it for our kids to take care of. Time is of the essence as we have levied some pretty high financial stakes this time around. Recorded history reveals what  prominent figures had to say about the crisis’ that surrounded them. 

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What Are They Teaching Our Kids?

Recently, my adult kids, nephews and nieces have engaged me in separategraduation_cap conversations about how their country works, or rather why their country isn’t working the way they thought it would, or should. The sad part of these dialogues is that I have become painfully aware of what they have and have not been taught. It seems that a large section of our educational curriculum has failed an entire generation that will soon take on positions of leadership. Granted, any conversation with an adult family member that starts with “Why ….”  – or – “How come ….” is so much more enjoyable than one that starts with “Can you, please ….” but lest I digress.

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Don’t Do It, Sarah

Gov. Palin’s prominence is not an indictment of tea party philosophy of smaller,2012 less intrusive government, lower taxes and Constitutional discipline. It is simply that she is not the person that will garner wide enough appeal of that philosophy to take it to the presidential level. As long as she is the face of the Tea Party movement it will struggle to elevate itself past being a political sect or a rogue offshoot of the GOP.

The person who takes the baton from her will be the center of the biggest political story of the next 18 months.

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The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

6 October 2018

You hear this oath every time someone is about to give testimony in a courtroom setting. I could add the rest of it; “so help me, God” but regrettably our culture has long since ceased to use God as a measuring stick for anything. The question then becomes; what version of the truth are we about to hear? The problem is that Truth (capital T) doesn’t have versions; it is absolute much like what happens when you accidentally try to pick up a hot skillet. There are no versions, just reality.

True: in accordance with fact or reality, what actually/really happened

Truth: the quality or state of being true. That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality

Pop culture tells us thatright hand truth is simply your own version of reality. The idea that truth is relative, pliable to meet one’s view of reality, or situational is a sad commentary on the human condition and how reality is perceived and subsequently valued. The absence of truth leads to no rights and wrongs, no true or false, no lies, no facts … no nothing. It becomes the springboard for an ‘anything goes’ society.

As a society we have bastardized the very essence of truth as a core element of civilization wherein laws are enacted, reputations are established, business is conducted, wrongs are adjudicated, information is disseminated, and common discourse is accepted. Our culture seems to have accepted not telling the truth as a normal course of human behavior. What is even worse is that in accepting whatever someone says as being true we exhibit an abject laziness in not seeking what is verifiable and thereby, truly real.

Several years ago I heard of an experiment which I proceeded to try on my own. I was to go about my normal daily activities and then, at lunch, review my conversations from the morning. I was to count the number of times I didn’t tell the whole truth but rather exaggerated, spun the facts, replaced fact with opinion, or flat out lied. I was amazed at how tragically I had failed in just 5 hours by simply not telling the Truth. My epic failure suddenly became a crusade for me. Truth became such a big deal that this introspection exercise became a persistent ritual. With a new perspective on my own behavior, I began developing filters while listening to others who hadn’t experienced their own epic failure.

Our culture has lionized certain figures; athletes, politicians, celebrities, business icons, media personalities. When they say something, we assume it to be grounded in truth. Trump, Obama, Clinton, Nixon, Ted Kennedy, Gen. Petraeus, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Bill O’Reilly, Brian Williams, Martha Stewart, Harvey Weinstein, Andrew McCabe, tobacco industry and big pharma all gave their versions of the truth when it appeared they could get away with it. As it typically does, the real truth eventually emerged and they all paid a significant price of some sort.

The recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Supreme Court nominee Bret Kavanaugh was an embarrassing American spectacle by any definition but especially illustrative where truth and fiction are concerned. No matter which side one took there were conflicts in what turned out to be a ‘he said – she said’ battle of reality. Ironically, we were reminded how far our politics has devolved when an arbiter of truth was Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Dem-CT.). Listening to him lecture Judge Kavanaugh on the subject of truth was rich while remembering he played the lead character in a case of stolen valor.

Credibility and believability cannot become replacements for what is true yet we have reached a point in our culture where that seems to be the case. One has to wonder if we even care about truth anymore. People lie to each other with impunity; on TV and social media, to authorities, even in court under oath. Perjury, slander and libel laws and penalties have been on the books for a long time but indictments and convictions for lying are extremely rare. The reason? They’re very tough to litigate because the legal hurdles of intent, interpretation, and subjectivity swallow up the ‘whole truth and nothing but the truth’.

Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election with a theme of making American great again. He may be able to accomplish this on the economic and foreign policy front but on the social and cultural front, America has all the symptoms of a culture in decline when reality and truth become moving targets.




The New Standard of Critical Thinking

I was having a discussion with house guests over coffee one morning recently and the subject of the economy came up. Because no subject is truly complete these days without bringing politics into it I found it took an interesting turn. All three guests were in their early thirties, graduates from great universities with one of them having completed a masters in economics. Each has been successful in their own right since graduation and were engaged in jobs that would lead to very respectable careers if they so desired.

What became interesting was when the subject of the Trump administration came up in correlation to the economy. While not overtly anti-Trump; I think partially because they were being kind as they felt out my politics, it soon became almost unanimous that the current administration and much of what its policies had done were not responsible for the dramatic economic uptick over the last 18 months. Absent from their memory was the 7 years of status quo fiscal policy and dismal post-recession growth between 2008 and 2015. To them, it seemed simply a matter of normal economic progression over time. In their mind, the robust recovery since 2016 energized by the 2017 tax cuts and deregulation brought to mind a familiar phrase used by former president Barack Obama, …” You didn’t build that.

What followed next was a short dialogue that displayed a rather shallow root structure supporting their positions, surprisingly most evident in the reasoning from the economics specialist. Lost in reasoning was any connection or recognition of administrative policies geared toward corporate deregulation, repatriation of corporate capital held abroad, and tax policy. Much to the contrary these things were refuted as either ineffective or focused on big business and the upper-income earners. There was no connecting the dots between a bigger economy and larger tax receipt yields supported by recent governmental data. (The Corporate Tax Cut Is Paying for Itself, Wall Street Journal; 19 September 2018). All three claimed having never realized any advantage in their personal income taxes from 2017 after thorough examinations of their paycheck stubs and that in their minds all of it was geared to 1%’ers and corporations. This perplexed me as my recollection of being a thirty-something was that I wasn’t very cerebral about the taxes portion of my paycheck stubs at that age; my mind was on other things far from anything fiscal on the federal level.

So how did we get here, what is being lost in discourse, and is this the new normal for depth in terms of critical thinking? These guys were bright, well-schooled, not rookies in the business world, and had a refreshing ability to entertain a cogent conversation. But they seemed unable intellectually to accept some pretty evident realities that were not congruent with either their advanced education or the mainstream media loudspeaker.

Does reworking NAFTA matter? Is our trade imbalance important enough to the health of our domestic economy to try to renegotiate it? Was it not prudent to unleash corporate America from burdensome and mostly feckless governmental regulation? If you actually didn’t see any difference in your paycheck stub based on the advertised tax rate cut is it that it doesn’t exist or did you simply fail to exercise new credit or deduction advantages built into the new tax policy? Was it wrong for the most industrialized country on earth that also employs and produces the most, to also tax those corporations at the highest rate on the globe (OECD countries)? Does lowering that corporate tax rate not carry positives for growth and job creation? Is there an understanding of the impact that the repatriation of overseas corporate earnings does for the front-end health of a corporation that potentially translates to employee paychecks, job creation, and corporate growth?

These were the questions that were never asked. Had there been time I would have loved to peel back the millennial onion further to see their thought process and depth of reasoning on foreign policy, entitlements, immigration, etc.

I’m intrigued and care far more about ‘how and why’ one thinks the way they do than ‘what’ one thinks. Critical thinking is tough these days for anyone not willing to look past the persona of Donald Trump and give a fair assessment of his policies; good and bad. To do so, however, requires one to go past CNN, Twitter, and the water cooler, and not immediately revert to the reflexive reaction – ‘if it’s Trump, it must be bad’.