Friday, December 30, 2011

another year…..

A while back, I saw “Another Year”, a beautifully written and acted movie about a group of friends and family as they move through the seasons of the year.

Well, this has been another year for me.  I’ve learned more about myself, experienced failure when I expected success, and found success when I never expected it.


My daughter called with the news she is getting married.  As a doting dad, I am very protective of Cortney.  But, as I’ve gotten to know her future husband, I couldn’t be more proud of both of them.  I will be glad to introduce Jimmy as my son-in-law.  And, Cortney never ceases to amaze me with her ability to find her way and make great choices.


Nick was able to stabilize himself on his job at the greenhouse.  I believe he’s found his “thing”, the thing that makes him get up and look forward to each day.  I’m proud of him for the struggles he’s made to become relevant, to reach the great potential he has.


And Alex.  I wish I had the answers for him.  He struggles daily with his demons.  There is progress, good progress, but I would like to see it come faster, and it’s clear the world doesn’t move on my timeline.  He’s now got a job that gets him up in the morning and keeps him going through the day.  But, it’s not his love.  I want him to find that, whatever it is.

As for me, I’m a work in progress.  Professionally, I feel very good about what I do and who I’ve become.  Personally, I think I still step in it from time to time.  I’m learning patience.  I’m learning process.  I guess, I’m just learning.

I’m trying to make my footprint smaller, live in a smaller space, consume less, reduce my wants, understand my needs.  That will be my charge in the coming year.  As the old Volkwagen ads used to say, “Think Small”.

Have a good year, everyone! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

here we go again…..

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

So, we’re here again.  The scabs from the bitter wounds of last winter have been re-opened.  

Opposition teams to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are pounding the pavement to get the requisite 540,000 signatures for a recall election. 

Based on all of the shenanigans going on both sides of the aisle, I can see dirty tricks happening on all fronts.  It’s already started. 

Understanding that fund raising for a recall effort can only start when papers are filed, the Walker camp started a recall effort against its own candidate so they could start fund raising earlier and get the TV ads on earlier than their opposition.  Interesting tactics.

And, on field trips going to the Capitol, protesters have been engaging school children in their chants for “Scott must go!”, hardly the high ground we would hope for in our educators.

With an expected $100 million pouring into the state over the next few months, this could very easily be the most expensive political effort in Wisconsin history, and this is just for the opportunity to hold a new election. 

While I disagree with how Walker handled the labor issues with public employees, and no matter how badly he bungled it, there were plenty of co-conspirators.

I’m getting tired of this.  I’m tired of everyone being an activist.  I’m tired of reading points of view vilifying the other side.  I’m tired of the whiner-take-all approach to government. 

We have elections.  For governor, they happen every four years.  There are winners and there are losers.  And, there are consequences for both sides.

Government used to be about compromise, about reaching a consensus with neither side getting all of what they want.  Government used to be about leadership, about standing in front of the electorate and bringing the best solution. 

Today, it seems to be all about winning, with constituents watching on the sidelines as our elected gangs do battle to control the turf they so badly want. 

That we are in this process just one year after the last election bastardizes the process and the integrity of our government.   

That $100 million going to media outlets could just as easily go to wages, or poverty, or building a railroad.  But, no.  We are getting another election.  What a bargain for everyone involved. 

It’s just what we need, again. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

ignoring the protest…..

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward  Flynn, as reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, "We're not going to fulfill the martyrdom fantasies of people who insist on being arrested while they disrupt the lives of this neighborhood."

Asked about the economic issues in the protest, Flynn told reporters, "If they're angry about the economy, go to Wall Street. There's 35% unemployment in this neighborhood. Who are they disrupting?"

Referring to below-freezing evening temperatures, Flynn said, "They can sit and freeze their butts off, I don't care."

Flynn then pulled police officers from the site and ignored the protest.  

I think I like this guy.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Standard and Poors, the credit reporting agency, “accidentally” downgraded France’s bond rating from AAA to AA.  They regret the error.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

say it ain’t so, Joe….

Chicken Little was right.  The sky is falling. 

Amid the sex scandal surrounding the Penn State football program, and the apparent cover up by university officials, Joe Paterno finds himself in the middle of something that none of us could have imagined.

That one of his coaches, Jerry Sandusky,  was caught in the middle of a sex act with a young boy in the showers of the Penn State football complex, and the reporting of this act up the managerial ladder, including Paterno, exemplifies the hand washing of everyone involved.

Call the police?  That would be embarrassing.

The stench is palpable.  Much like the Catholic Church cover up, officials at Penn State are lawyering up.  They’re  circling the wagons.  They’re setting up protective layers to cocoon what was once a beacon of integrity.

Too bad the kids couldn’t lawyer up while they were being raped.  Too bad the kids couldn’t speak for fear of reprisals.  Too bad, these kids are scarred for life.

I’m not agruing that Paterno was personally involved, but that he turned his head, that he didn’t do enough, that he allowed this act to continue going forward without going to the authorities when it became apparent his superiors didn’t.

Paterno?  Really, Joe Paterno?  He’s the guy who stood for something, who meant what he said, a man you could trust.  He was different. 

Things seem to be upside down.  It’s as if Mount Rushmore turned out to be Hitler, bin Laden, Stalin, and Pol Pot.  What’s good is bad.   Up is down.  In is out.  Black is white. 

second fiddle….

Smokin’ Joe is dead.  A son of South Carolina, Joe Frazier made the bright lights and the big city in Philadelphia his home for the past four plus decades as a fighter and ex-fighter.

Frazier was a great fighter, feared by all.

Forever linked with Mohammed Ali, Frazier played the unwitting boob to Ali’s quick tongue and even quicker hands.  Ali mocked him, berated him, and humiliated him, and eventually, diminished him as a man. 

Frazier’s only sin was beating Ali in 1970 during Ali’s comeback.  The country was divided and Frazier represented the “dumb” establishment, while the cocky, ambitious Ali took up the case of the young, progressive part of society.

To be caught up in that mess was unfair to Frazier.  He was a decent man who was unprepared for what lay in front of him.  Eventually, Frazier found solace in the bottle, and eventually, liver cancer beat him.

Frazier never found the glory of Ali, never walked the steps of Atlanta to light the Olympic flame, never met with leaders of other countries.  And yet, he will always be measured against Ali. 

What a shame.

a time for leadership…..

Each time I listen to Bill Clinton speak, the more I believe we have amateurs running our country.  It feels like the kids from “Our Gang” took over and Spanky’s in charge.

I know Clinton’s been making a fortune making speeches and writing books.  I saw him speak earlier this year.  It was rambling, thoughtful, insightful, and above my head.  But, it was clear he thinks about everything.  His appetite for knowledge is insatiable. 

Change the Constitution and get this guy back in the driver’s seat.  We are a nation in crisis and we need the best.  Today, Clinton is the best.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

a $400 cup of soup, continued…..

You’ll remember me paying $400 for a blender for myself.  And, I actually took one home for my son, who likes to try things in the kitchen. 

That purchase made me think about what I do, the products we make, and the value they bring. 

When we design a sofa, is it about being something that serves it’s owners in a better way?  Can it make our customers, our clients, feel better about their lives?  Can it improve their circumstances like the blender did for me?  Will it help them sleep better?  Will they feel better?  Will they be better?

I paid $400 for a blender.  Can that translate to other products.  Would people be willing to pay $3000 for a mattress?  If you can demonstrate they are buying better sleep, yes!  Just ask the folks at Tempurpedic.

Will I be more comfortable if I buy this recliner?  Yes!  Just ask the folks at La-Z-Boy, who’ve been selling comfort for decades. 

In fact, consumers are willing to pay when given a good reason.  Offering something for 50% off, buy one, get one free, no interest for a million years, is not an argument that leads to a better purchase.  It leads to the bottom.

The next time we offer a click clack sofa for $199, we need to ask ourselves if we’ve done the best we can for the consumer.  When we sell someone a mattress for $199, have we really helped that consumer to a better life? 

We need to do better.  We need not to commoditize everything, but make products that make a difference.  By making price the prevailing reason for purchase is not marketing or selling, but the laziest approach to retail there is.

So, like that blender, we need to remember what it is we’re really selling.  It’s not the blender.  It’s the soup.  And, it’s not really the soup; it’s about better eating.  And, it’s not really about better eating; it’s about quality of life.

And, if you have a product that can sell that, you’ve got something.  It made me pay $400 for a blender. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

a $400 cup of soup…..

I’ve always been a picky eater.  I guess you could say I’m a carnivore’s carnivore.  Meat, meat, meat.  Potatoes, I love potatoes.  Bake ‘em, fry ‘em, mash ‘em, just bring ‘em.  And, I like soups, just about any soup.

Chicken Tortilla Soup (Vita Mix). Photo by PaulaG

But, vegetables have always been difficult for me.  If they’re on the plate, I eat them.  But, they’re not the first thing for me.  If I could hide them under the gravy, I would. 

In any case, I know it’s important to eat a balanced diet.  And now, with me getting into my middle fifties, I know I need to change.  But, how?

A couple of weeks ago, I was going through a Costco, when I came across a demonstration of some high powered blender.  I’m a sucker for any live presentation.  Sort of like how a magician wants to watch another magician do his thing, I like to watch how other products are sold.

So, there I was, in a semi-circle around this guy who’s cutting up some tomatoes, onions, peppers, a little cheese, cilantro, and maybe a few other things.  He adds a little seasoning, water, and a tiny bit of vinegar to this solution in this blender.  “Touch the jar”, he tells me.  I comply.  It’s cold.  “Touch this button”, he says, and I do just that.

In an instant, this machine, with the ferocity of a chain saw, starts emulsifying all of those things, most of which I don’t like to eat by themselves, into something that’s steamy hot.  He adds a few tortilla chips, touches a button for a second and voila.

“Hold your cup out”, he says.  I do.  “This is the best tortilla soup you’ll ever eat”.  He was right. 

Now, blenders are all over the place for under $50, some even under $20.  But, I’ve never run into a blender than did THAT.  I wanted one.  No, I needed one.  And, my son, he’d use something like that as well. 

So, as I left that Costco with two blenders at $400 each, I started wondering if I’d made a wise choice.  Of course I did. 

This purchase wasn’t about the blender, or really the soup, but about my ability to make something that is good for me, that can give me better health, that can change the way I eat, and do it in a way I can do.   In selling me the blender, he sold me the soup, and better health, and eventually, a better life.

to be continued….

Monday, September 5, 2011

God and government…..

Occasionally, I see the God and the Pledge of Allegiance being used as a political football.  Should “under God” be in the Pledge of Allegiance as the “official” pledge of our flag and country?

I’m always suspicious of politicians who use God as their “go to” guy.  In fact, many who have diabolical ideals use God as their secret weapon.  A foundation of the Ku Klux Klan is white supremacy as a God given right.  For some reason, I don’t know that their god is my God.

Those people who crashed planes into the World Trade Center used their god as their reason for killing the infidels in those buildings. 

It makes me nervous when our country endorses God, like he’s some sort of commodity, a tool to be used to make us feel better, something to make us superior to others, something to make us feel righteous.   How does that make us different than other theocracies? 

I think we get confused as a country when these issues arise.  Should God be in our schools?  Should God be in our courts?  Should God be on our currency?  It seems, somehow, if we stamp it on a building or on a piece of paper, it makes it so.

For me, God is in my heart, in my everyday life, in nature, in my relationships.  My government has nothing to do with that, and should have nothing to do with it. 

Do I believe in God?  Absolutely!  But, I don’t want my government telling me anything about God and who I should worship, or even if I should worship.  That is my choice. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

it’s about the cash…..

I heard a statistic recently that caused me to pause.  Over the past few years, 40,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug wars.   Another number, $40 billion a year, the amount of drug trafficked into the United States, which turned into a $150 billion retail trade, is the real reason for the violence.

Violence, and much of all crime is related to mind altering substances.  In many low income areas, the most successful business person is not the insurance agent, or retailer, or manufacturer, but the drug distributor.

Drugs are too available not because they are legal, but because they are illegal.  They require an underground distribution network with a pusher, somebody who is in contact with you, enticing  you with a free hit of whatever it is they are selling.  They aren’t regulated or taxed, but act as free agents interloping between darkness and light.

It’s time we looked at drugs as something other than narcotics.  We need to look at them as an economic business model.  We need to find out how to make that model unattractive.  We need to suck the cash out of the drug business.

We have the perfect historical model.  When we made booze illegal, we invented an entire illegal industry that claimed lives and created unchecked crime.  When Prohibition was lifted, those criminals moved to something else, including drugs.

For those who want to make the puritanical argument that drugs are bad, you are correct.  But, so are polyunsaturated fat, salt, and cigarettes. 

Make drugs legal and tax them so we can pay for the rehabilitation of those who use them.  Put the light of day on the problem to help those who need help to get the care they require without fear of retribution or incarceration.

There are too many casualties for us to ignore.  It’s time.      

Thursday, July 28, 2011

playing politics…….

David Copperfield would have trouble following the sleight of hand going on in the budget debates going on in Washington, D.C. 

With an Armegeddon date of August 2, markets are failing, the dollar is falling, the economy is listing, and people are wondering about their futures, while our “leaders” play political chicken.

So, while our “leaders” are spending all of their time sending messages back home, that they’re very serious about spending cuts, deficit reduction, and taxes, they’re all winking and nodding, knowing the end result will be a debt ceiling extension. 

People are dying in other countries defending our freedom.  People are losing their homes.  People are losing their jobs.  We are losing our respect throughout the world. 

But, the very most important part of this is that our politicians get re-elected, that they can say the fought the good fight, that it’s not their fault, that it’s the other guy who’s the bad guy, that they are worthy of my vote.

Thomas Jefferson must be very proud.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

there’s something wrong with this….

A friend of mine called me the other night. 

I asked him how he was doing.  “Great!”, he said, “I just turned 65.”

He proceeded to tell me he’d just had some cancerous spots removed from his ankle (he plays golf a lot and apparently doesn’t wear socks).  And apparently, he’d been to the doctor for other things for which they gave him pills.

So, why was he doing great with all of this medical stuff going on? 

“It was free!”, he said.  “I didn’t pay a nickel.  I asked how much I owed and they said nothing!  Nothing!”

And there’s the rub.  My friend could pay.  He could pay at least some.  But, our all-or-nothing system doesn’t allow for that.  We have to take it, no matter how much we have.  It’s sort of like the Academy Awards with those little gift bags everywhere. 

It seems when you turn 65 in this country, pills fly like confetti at a parade; all those frowns at the admissions desk turn into smiles.  I wonder if they bake you a cake.

There is something wrong with this system.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

and sometimes I just sits…..

“Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits” –Satchel Paige

It seems Satchel Paige may have had it right.  To sit.  To think.  To relax.  Those are traits we seem to have forgotten.

A good friend of mine told me she loves to go to the bookstore, to feel and smell the books, to sit, to relax, to breath.

The loss of retailers up and down Main Street has left us with less of that, the ability to peruse, to browse, to linger.  Yes, it’s easier to touch the keypad and get it delivered to the door, but the social process of shopping is leaving us.

“What do you think?”, those words heard so often when trying something on, or flipping through greeting cards, are gone.   Who do you ask for approval on that just right purchase?

We’re heading into eternity at warp speed.  Why are we in such a hurry?  Why does it need to be now?  Why can’t we just sit and relax?  Why can we just sits?

I think I’ll do that now.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

the death of a retailer….

So, I went to the going out of business sale of Borders Books yesterday somewhere near Washington, D.C.  I was with my daughter, Cortney and her new fiance Jimmy.  It was hot outside and we were looking for something to do before they dropped me off at the airport.Borders

This is a scene that is happening far too often these days.  As a sort of evolution in retail, the big bad Borders, the book retailer shark that ate the small retail bookstore, was eaten themselves by even bigger sharks like Amazon and all of the dotcoms out there.  It seems we might want to see a new version of “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks’ bookstore being the sympathetic victim.

Any kind of retail is difficult.  But now, with warp speed developments in technology changing how people get information and shop, it is damned near impossible.  Profit, that thing that no consumer wants to pay, but the necessary element of successful retail, is more and more difficult to achieve with ever more transparency.

It used to be that you paid the price of the local merchant, who probably bought his wares from a distributor, who in turn, purchased his stuff directly from the manufacturer.  It was a system that worked well for a long time.

Then, retailers determined they could buy better by forming cooperative groups to buy directly from manufacturers, using the buying power of the group, but still having inflated costs through inefficient logistics.

And then, we started to see the mega retailers (Wal-Mart, Target), who not only purchased from these manufacturers, but delivered enough scale to dictate the terms of the sale.  They decided how much they would pay and it was up to the manufacturer to meet those demands, or they would simply buy from someone else.

You would think it would end there.  But, it won’t.  Information is too prevalent, too available.  Some manufacturers are selling directly to their consumer, controlling the message, the price and the sale from beginning to end.  Ever heard of Apple, the company sitting on a ridiculously crazy $76 billion in cash?

So, as we think of how sad it is to see Borders going down the tubes, it is just a part of retail evolution.  And, one day we will mourn the demise of Apple.   That’s just how things work.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

who’s in charge?……..

A few days ago, I went by a sign that said something about cigarettes being on sale for $6.57 a pack.   Because I’m a non-smoker, I’ve never really thought about cigarettes, what a pack of them costs, and why people continue to smoke.  $6.57! 

Now, I know the vast majority of the cost of those things goes to pay off the settlements with the states that measure in the billions of dollars for each state.  No wonder they need to get $6.57 a pack. 

And, I also know the states really don’t get that money anymore, because all of them were standing at their windows yelling “It’s my money and I want it now!”  So, they all took their structured settlements and went to J.G. Wentworth and settled at pennies on the billions of dollars. 

The city of Chicago sold all of their parking spaces and Illinois sold its toll roads.  They even sold the Skyway.  They must be very smart, selling off all of the revenue producing assets and keeping the ones that produce zippo.  Even Indiana sold its toll road.

What was supposed to be punishment for something that kills people, turned into a revenue drug.  What was supposed to be something that paid off road construction on a user basis, has now been leveraged to the hills.  And those machines that take your money in quarters for the right to squat your car in downtown Chicago now belong to the suits.  Free parking on Wednesday?  Not on your fat wallet.

So, as our state and federal legislators figure out how to pay for the ever burgeoning gap between revenue and expenditures, I’m wondering the same thing.  How are we going to fix this mess?

It seems the people we elect to protect our interests are pretty bad business people. 

And, that got me to thinking.  What if the guys who are able to sell a product that kills you for ten times what it cost a few decades ago, or at least makes you sick, is illegal in most public places, can’t be advertised, and makes you smell bad…What if they were in charge?   

Sunday, June 19, 2011

being there…..

A good friend of mine tells me that success begins with just showing up.

My dad has been showing up for me for all of my 53 years.  I went to see him yesterday.  And, I’ll see him again today with my youngest, Alex.

My sister from Florida was there, so was my aunt, my sister from Two Rivers, my mother, and a cousin.  I showed up, sort of arriving in the middle of a female talkfest.

And there, in this scenario, my dad showed up, cane in hand, feeling his way around to his seat at the head of the table.  The house was noisy, making it impossible for him to hear any single conversation.  But, there he was trying, struggling to keep up with the words flying from every direction he couldn’t see.  Much of it just noise to him. 

In this estrogen filled room, I was watching my dad.  I watched him move his head back and forth, trying to figure out where each voice came from and what they were saying.  I watched him toil to remain relevant, to comment when appropriate, to start a new topic because he wasn’t able to follow the last. 

It would have been easier to leave the room and the verbal chaos created by his lack of vision and hearing.  But then, he would have given up.  It would have been easier to listen to one of his two radios flanking his recliner.  But, that’s not him.  It’s not his way.

You see, in spite of all of his maladies, my dad is relevant.  He’s relevant because he tries.  He’s relevant because he’s not a quitter.  He’s relevant because he’s proud.  He’s relevant because he shows up. 

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

tired of this….

Dear Republican Party of Wisconsin,

You’ve lost me.  Fake candidates?

Dear Democratic party of Wisconsin,

You’ve lost me.  Leaving Wisconsin in a policy dispute?

Dear Republican Party of Wisconsin,

Get out of my bedroom.  Stop spying on me. 

Dear Democratic Party of Wisconsin,

Recall elections should not be used as a club, but a last resort.  Grow up!

We need a new form of government.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

life goes on…..


An icon of my youth is gone.  Schroedl’s Meat Market recently closed its doors.

The Schroedl family has been processing meats for a long time.   My parents, who are 90 and 87 said it's been there as long as they can remember.

I was raised down the road from Schroedl’s, maybe a half mile.  Many of my earliest recollections in involve Schroedl’s. As a five year-old, I used to take a nickel and get a popcicle.  The smell of their meats permeated our home on more nights than not.   More recently, I would go there for the best summer sausage made anywhere.

schroedls3A victim of superstores, Schroedl’s was a humble place with a meat counter, whizzing band saws making all kinds of noise in the back, and banging trays echoing throughout the store.  It was real.  Now it’s gone.

schroedlsmeatsOver the years, the Schroedl family did what they could to modernize their business.  They added a dairy, and then closed it.  I never once felt they gave less than they had.

They were good neighbors.  They are good people.  They were good business people.  And, they sold damn good meat. 

Thank you Schroedl family for making my life just a little bit better.  I’ll miss it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

defending the weiner…..

Look, there are a million puns I could use while writing this piece, and some might leak in inadvertently, but I’ve just got to say this.

If you read me, you know I’m fiscally conservative and socially liberal.  Some might call me Libertarian, but that sort of government really never works, sort of how Communism or Socialism never work. 

In any case, over the years, I’ve come to admire Anthony Weiner’s positions on the liberal side.  I believe he is the finest articulator of the liberal cause, making no apologies for his positions, not parsing his words, standing in front of the crowd, true to his inner McGovern, somebody I could admire without agreeing with almost anything he said.  His is an important voice. 

His language is precise.  His positions concise.  He’s good at what he does.  He has a brilliant legislative mind.  With him, you get reasoned and impassioned arguments.

He doesn’t lay in the weeds, say one thing and mean another, appease those who disagree.  He stands in front of you with his opinion and he dares you to disagree.    These traits will help him as he attempts to regain some form reputation.

Yes, what he did is unfathomable, stupid, reckless, immoral.   Get out the thesaurus and use all the words.  They all apply.  He deserves punishment.  He needs mental help. 

But, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, his voice needs to stay.   As warped as it is, we need his mind.  We need his positions, because the rest of the cowards on Capitol Hill are too wussy to stand in front of the crowd with the truth.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

on a lighter note….

Politics has been such a downer lately.  With Anthony Weiner showing his….well…wiener, or at least the bulge it makes, here we are investigating yet another politician.

US Germany

So, it comes with some relief that we see Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a full belly laugh after seeing a photo of her and her pantsuit wearing sister,  German Chancellor Angela Merkel from the waste down.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

two ideas……

I’m sick of seeing companies pitting communities and states against one another for tax subsidies, with the receiving community offering more than they should to get the jobs, and the home community offering more than they should because they can’t afford to lose the jobs.

Here’s a solution.  If a government body offers incentives to an existing business from someplace else, they will lose federal funds equal to the incentives or tax breaks.  That way, a business and community will make a decision based on the merits of the move and not the incentives involved. 

It’s pretty simple; taxes come from all of us.  So, to use taxes from one community at the expense of another is like us negotiating against ourselves.  That has got to end.

The second is something I’ve talked about before.  We need to think of products coming into our country as tax payers, not objects.  What will it cost to dispose of those products?  What will it cost to house those objects?  And, how much social responsibility should come attached to those objects?

Right now, we have higher taxes associated with goods made in the U.S. than those produced outside.  Each of us is required to pay FICA and Medicare on all wages paid.  That is a tax paid on the labor to make domestic goods.  We have to pay property taxes on our factories and warehouses.  We have to pay income taxes on all goods produced, which are also a tax on the labor to produce goods.

As a guy who has products shipped in from China, I’m in favor of having tariffs on all goods coming in, the higher the better.  Then, we would be forced to work domestically, instead of the current system that forces us to produce offshore. 

Because the U.S. is a consumer dominated society, we have the appetite for goods and services that is unrivaled in the world, with markets and demand already established.  It’s a total no brainer.

And, maybe that’s why it won’t happen.

the dignity of the worker……

With the way the economy  has been over the past few years, I’ve been involved in a lot of conversations with people about work, or more accurately, the lack of work.  Unemployment seems to be as common as employment, or it at least it feels that way.

Many of  the conversations revolve and evolve into discussions as to how people define themselves.  Some who define themselves as carpenters or auto assemblers or welders or furniture makers have seen their livelihoods and their identifications leave.   They are no longer important, no longer viable.

Where can they find the importance in their lives they once enjoyed?  It used to be people did the same things all their lives and they retired, elevated into worker emeritus, someone to be respected for the work they did, the things they built, and the family they supported.

So, here we are, in an economy that reports that one in eleven is not employed, is not economically productive, and is dependent on the State to support themselves and their families. 

The jobs that are available don’t measure up to how they see themselves, that they are somehow better than what is being offered.  And, the jobs that are available, barely cover what they are being paid on unemployment.  Why should a person work when they get paid nearly as much, or less, not to work?

And, there’s the rub.  In an environment where workers have been treated like machines, where they’ve been disposed of like last week’s trash, where economic considerations only put them into this position; we’re asking them to make economic decisions that don’t make sense in a business way.

We’re asking the worker to act differently than the corporation who taught them to think in a “me first” way, taking the tax break, moving offshore.  We’re asking them to work when work is not the best deal for them.

While we feel it’s the corporation or the government who should lead us from the morass we’re in, it’s the worker who must.  We must rebuild our country from the ground up, not the top down.  We must rely on the dignity of the worker to do what sometimes doesn’t make sense.

Because, it’s the person who builds things, who gets dirt under the fingernails, who provides for his or her family who defines this country.  There is dignity in the worker.  There is dignity in work, no matter the task.  Let’s never forget that.

Friday, May 6, 2011

what now…..

Ding dong, the witch is dead!  What now?

I’ve waited a few days to write a post about the assassination of Osama bin Laden.  I think I’m ready now.

I’ve never rooted for anyone to die.  It seems not Christian, like it would make me like him, an evil doer.  But, I can’t help but feel some satisfaction over this, that wounds have been healed and unfinished business resolved.

So, here we are, the great Satan is no longer, but we’re still at war, still watching our own maimed and slain, still watching our own, away from home trying to make things right.

When will it end?  Who is the next Hussein or Osama?  Muammar Gaddafi?  When we kill him, who then?

In a global game of whack a mole, our government seems to stand over governments with oil or strategic geography, hammer in hand, waiting for the next head to bop. 

What happens when we don’t have heads to bop?

It never seems we go after the evil doers in countries that don’t have desired resources or geography.  Sudan?  Nope.  Somalia?  Forget it.  Myanmar?  Really, are you kidding?  Most of us think that is some kind of a shiny balloon fabric.

I’m not advocating we go after every problem in the world.  What I am saying is that I think we can tell the truth when we do go after another leader, that there is something in it for us, that we are working from self interest, not some altruistic vision of ourselves.

So, you can be a bad actor if you don’t have oil.  You can torture your subjects if you don’t have strategic geography.  You can do anything if you have nothing we want.  Because, in those locations, there is nothing for us.  As Edith Ann would say, “and that’s the truth”.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

the fix….

I few months back, I went to see “Restrepo”, a documentary directed by Tim Hetherington.  Hetherington died last week in Libya, a casualty of the wars he covered, just like over 4000 plus soldiers since we decided it was our place to mediate all of the Middle East.

For those who have seen “Restrepo”, the feeling of helplessness can’t be overstated.  Why is it that we feel the need to fix these unfixable places with people whose best interests are not served by the fix?

I’m not sure what the answer is.  But, I do know this.  When somebody drops bombs on my home, threatens my livelihood, and then tries to call himself my friend, I’m skeptical, no matter how noble the cause.  And, that is the role we’ve chosen in Afghanistan.

Hetherington’s movie shows us the difficulty in fighting in such a place.  The enemy and the friend looks the same.  The enemy and the friend make deals for survival.  The enemy and the friend don’t want the war we’ve imposed on them.

He shows us how horrible the war is, and that the scars don’t need to be visible to be real.  He shows us that wars aren’t video games, but life and death realities whose outcomes aren’t about who’s right or wrong, but who’s in front of the bullet when it arrives.  And, in the end, it may be the survivor who’s most injured.

Survival there isn’t about what is right, but who will pay the most.  Does the Taliban have the better deal?  Does Al Qaeda offer cover?  Does the eradication of the poppy fields really mean a better life? 

The people of Afghanistan don’t have TVs, or understand the world situation.  They just want to survive from one day to the next.  The future is an esoteric argument, something to deal with tomorrow by thinkers, not survivors.

So, it is in that light that we fight.  We are just the next in line trying to fix this unfixable place.   And, eventually, we will leave, just like everyone else.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

a misunderstanding…..

I just read a blog of a friend of mine who saw “Waiting for Superman”.  For those of you who have not seen this movie, take the 90 minutes and take a look.

The basis of the movie is how our educational system is broken, the people out there trying to fix it, and running into the traditional roadblocks of unions and poor administration trying to protect their personal interests.

I’ve written several blogs about how I believe unions are bad for education, and really, most public jobs.  I don’t belong, nor would I ever belong to a union, not because I don’t believe in their validity, but because they would restrict my ability to earn to my potential.

I actually believe unions are in place because administrators are lazy, that administrators don’t want to do the hard work of evaluating their employees.  It’s easier to index everyone into one standard, no matter how different the output is.  Oversight is hard work.  And, this is the bargain we’ve made.

So, as I rail against unions, and more specifically teachers’ unions, it’s not about wanting to reduce the pay of teachers.  I don’t like that great and poor teachers are paid the same.  Where is the incentive to be excellent?  Why should that great teacher be paid the same as the poor teacher?  And, why are we even paying a poor teacher?

I’ve always felt that education should be about the kids, not job protection.  Yes, we need to be fair to the teacher, but the only way to do that is to treat them differently, not the same.  The good teacher should be paid more, much more. 

Maybe, with that system, we’ll draw better teachers, instead of people choosing an occupation because it has three months off in the summer with an almost lifetime guarantee, and retirement benefits before the age of 60.

We need to do better.

I’m baaaaaaack……

You might have noticed I’ve slowed down on blogging recently. 

On March 4, I left for a visit to Omaha, Nebraska for a meeting with a company called Hayneedle.  This was the first in what could be called a mega travel month. 

The following day I left for Los Angeles to do a photo shoot for four days, and then China for a week before I made my way to Tijuana, Mexico for a couple of days, then to Seattle for a couple of days, Chicago for a day, Salt Lake City for three days, High Point, North Carolina for five days, Boston for a day and Philadelphia for two days.  Needless to say, my suitcase got a workout. 

While in China, blogging and Facebook are not available, so I kind of get out of the habit.  By the time I was in Mexico, I was getting a little tired.  The time changes and sleep patterns change so much, it’s hard to figure out when to have my eyes open and when to have them closed.

By the time I got to Seattle, I was on autopilot.  That’s not a time for real creative or constructive thought.  My brain mostly thinks about how to get the easiest meal and find the most comfortable pillow, and to seem somewhat competent in my job.

And so it went, city after city.  But, now the crazy travel is over.

So, if you’ve noticed I haven’t visited your blog, I apologize.  I will return, and maybe you’ll be sorry about that.  I will try to sharpen my skills and challenge the thinking that I find so interesting out there in cyber world.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

justice evaded……

Edward Wayne Edwards

In 1980, Tim Hack and Kelly Drew attended a wedding in the town of Concord.  They were never seen alive again.

Decades passed before their killer was found, a now elderly, infirm man named Edward Edwards.  He was in a mood to clear his conscience of these killings, along with others he committed over the years.

He was found guilty in Jefferson County Court and was given life in prison, which in his condition, was little more than a parking ticket.  But, he wanted more.  He wanted to be executed.

So, he was extradited to Ohio, where he confessed to other killings, and where they have the death penalty.  He was found guilty on March 8 of these murders and was given the death penalty.

Edward Edwards died on Friday of natural causes, exactly one month after the conviction that would lead to his death.  So, even in dying, he managed to evade the justice he so rightly deserved.

I’ve never believed in wishing harm on others, or damning someone to Hell.  But, if anyone deserved it…..

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Anger is a very powerful and destructive thing. 

As I’ve watched the events in Madison unfold, it’s been interesting and disconcerting to watch protests, things said and done, and the continued fire that causes people to go out into the cold and voice their position on the budget repair bill, passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Walker on Friday.

The part that bothers me is the desire to injure the opponent.  Now, I don’t mean from a physical standpoint, although there have been random threats, but from an economic or reputation standpoint. 

There seems to be a sentiment of “if i don’t get mine, you can’t have yours.”

I was hoping we could be bigger than that, that those on the “losing” side could pick up and use positive ways to balance the ledger.  Nobody wins when another is torn down.  And, in this case, spending your time in taking away from others is a very negative pursuit. 

I think I’ve made it plain that I believe there is a better way to negotiate pay than is currently done.  And, I believe unions have become barnacles on the hulls of our economy.  They don’t bring value to goods and services, costing hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of doing government business in Wisconsin.

Union leadership doesn’t teach a class, plow a road, mow a lawn, or build anything.  They are lawyers and negotiators who take our money and use it for means that don’t necessarily line up with the interest of the community.

That said, I am impressed by the impassioned protests and the zeal of people who believe otherwise. 

I would hope that those protesting would find ways to use that anger to promote and improve their position instead of tearing another’s down.  That is how good things happen.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Last week, we saw NPR blow up over comments made by their president over the Tea Party and their supporters, a very broad brushed attack on all members.  This is the same organization that didn’t renew Juan Williams contract over comments that could be seen as similar about Muslims.  In my mind, it’s clear that NPR has a political point of view and is somewhat intolerant of others. 

So, why do we fund it?  If we fund that, shouldn’t we fund XM radio, which clearly has a singular national reach, many points of view,  and would be available to anyone, anywhere?  In my mind XM, has a unique platform, offering all kinds of content, not left or right, but all, and is available to anyone with access to the sky.  In my mind, it is a better platform for public funding because of its availability.

In my world, government shouldn’t fund anything like this, either XM or NPR.  Support for NPR could easily be made up privately, and the bulk of their funding comes from private sources anyway.   They’re very good at asking for money, they just should ask for a little more.   I know I’ve supported them, probably more than most of their ardent supporters.

I believe NPR is a legitimate platform for news and opinion.  And, I like the measured way they approach topics, with the ability to parse and nuance.

While valuable, NPR’s time of public funding is past.  It will survive.  And, completely free of government funding, it will be able to say what it wants, without worry.  But, it will have to pay taxes and be subject to the rules of the rest of the world.  What a novel concept.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

we deserve better…..

Have you ever gotten yourself so inside an argument that no longer resembled the argument you started, but just needed to win, no matter how stupid it looks to those on the outside?

I think that’s what happened at the Capitol in Madison last night as the Republican Senate jammed through legislation to curb union negotiating rights.

Now, I’m no friend of unions.  They have their place, but I think they’ve turned into political organizations, not labor organizations.  I believe they inflate the costs of goods and services, not because of payroll, but work rules and pensions.  I believe they cost jobs, not save them.

That said, our state government has acted like the petulant lot they’ve become, more interested in winning the point, than negotiating the proper future.  They need to start representing us, and not the special interest groups that seem to be pulling the strings. 

It was interesting to hear how John Erpenbach, the senator from Waunakee, and now TV star, was completely unaware of the negotiating between the governor’s office and the Senate 14 who fled to Illinois.  His leadership didn’t seem to think it was necessary to brief him with information that might have been helpful in solving this mess.  It seems his leadership was being directed from another venue, and it wasn’t Wisconsin.

And why, exactly, did the Senate 14 find it necessary to legislate from Illinois.  They don’t deserve to be considered if they feel that the proper route is to run our government as a hostage situation. 

And, in listening to the non-debate that occurred last night prior to the bill being passed, the yelling and shouting in the chambers sounded like something you’d be hearing outside the building from protesters, not inside the building where cooler heads should prevail.

Shame on the Republican Party for not allowing some notice to get this done.  An ethical approach would have been to allow a day’s notice.  But, ethics didn’t seem to be important last night.

They had every right to pass this legislation, but they didn’t have to look like thugs doing it.  

You don’t have to like what they did, but you have to respect our laws.  The opportunity will come in two years to reverse this, like any other law.

This has been an embarrassing few weeks for our state.  What used to be held up as a model for clean government has been tarnished in a way that will be difficult to reverse. 

They were all wrong.   And they all deserve their piece of the blame.  We deserve better.

Friday, March 4, 2011


I was in Omaha, Nebraska today for business.  It used to be a weekly thing when I lived in Lincoln, just 45 miles away.

I had a little extra time and decided to take a look at our old neighborhood.  I bought my first house in Lincoln in 1979, when I was just 22.  A few years later, we built a house in the same area.

So, I wanted to see what happened in the thirty years or so since those days.  I pulled into the subdivision, and I really didn’t recognize much.  I did remember the street names, so that helped.

Gradually, I came up to the first house.  I think we paid $51,000 for it back then.  I remember mowing the lawn cross ways like they do in the baseball stadiums.  We planted red and white petunias, lots of them.  We played catch in the yard.  We planted trees.  We knew our neighbors.  We had cookouts. 

It was a dump.  How disappointing, the house I first loved fell into disrepair.  What used to be a cute little neighborhood turned into tract housing with little regard for maintenance or care.  I felt a little defeated, like the part of me that cared for that home meant nothing.

I went to the second house.  Same thing.  We planted these great trees.  I built a wood fence and painted it.  More flowers.  We built a two tiered deck for parties.  It was really nice in a nice neighborhood. 

When I saw graffiti painted on a little shed on the back, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to leave.

I wish I wouldn’t have gone.  I wish my memories of those houses were those of 10:00 this morning instead of 1:00 this afternoon.   

Monday, February 28, 2011

and the winner is…..

I see a lot of  movies.  In fact, I believe I saw every best picture nominee. 

The King's Speech

So, as I sat watching last night, I was hoping a couple of pictures would find their way into the spotlight once again. One was “Animal Kingdom”, and the performance of Jacki Weaver, one of the most diabolical characters seen on the silver screen in some time.  Weaver played the matriarch of her band of small time thugs, with an odd, and sometimes difficult to watch, quasi romantic relationship, with her sons.  You knew when she delivered a full, on the mouth kiss to one of her sons, this was no ordinary  mommy.

But, I applaud the performance of Melissa Leo, the equally diabolical mother in “The Fighter”, whose self-centered, less than sympathetic, always in the center,self appointed victim, inserts herself in every situation to capitalize on her son’s work.  She makes you want to throw a punch at her in this movie of redemption and heart.

The other was “Winter’s Bone” and the performance of Jennifer Lawrence, a movie about a high school aged girl, trying to raise a brother and sister on her own, while trying to find her meth dealing father, knowing he’s dead, with unspeakable grit and composure. 

For me, both the movie and performance are unforgettable, on par with any I’ve seen in recent  years. 

I did see Natalie Portman’s performance in “Black Swan”, the disturbing ballerina who fought off her demons and mental illness.  The performance was very good, but the movie felt so contrived, I couldn’t get past all of the scenes that seemed to be inserted in an unnatural way.  For me, both the movie and the performance didn’t match up to “Winter’s Bone” and Lawrence.

But, it was the King’s year, and well deserved.  

As for the hosts, Anne Hathaway was stunning, bright and beautiful.  I could watch her do her laundry and it would be riveting.  James Franco, on the other hand, mailed it in.  Bring her back.  Leave him at home.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

playing a game they can’t win….

Democratic senators and union leaders have badly misjudged Governor Scott Walker.   Characterized as heartless and even Hitler, Walker is resolute in his desire to see this situation through.  He is in a winning position and he is going to use it.

Walker has already indicated that 1500 pink slips will be delivered to state workers next week, with more on the way if some sort of deal isn’t made.

If they really believe he is the Satan they say he is, it would be wise to take a different approach.  In negotiation, it is important to understand your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.  They are attacking his strength by questioning his resolve.  He will see this through.  His weakness is there are elections next year.

Instead, they should accept his deal and keep the union intact, although in a marginalized way. 

If they continue to butt heads with him, he will continue to turn screws until he wins.  That could, and probably would, include sending pink slips to all teachers in Wisconsin at the end of the school year and then having them reapply for their jobs.  That would break the union.

Right now, there are recall petitions being circulated in the districts of two Democratic senators who are seen to be vulnerable.   The Republicans will win at least one of those recalls.  Then, the Republicans will be able to hold votes with no Democrats present.

With his current offer, the union is damaged, but still intact. 

They will have another shot in two years to reverse whatever changes have been made.  I’m guessing money would pour into Wisconsin in unheard of amounts, showing the world what happens when you mess with a union.

money and power….

As you probably know, I’ve been commenting on the goings on in Madison over the budget debate, the union issues, the tactics, all of it.

One of the things that is curious to me is how money is being described as a bad thing, that money is the root, that money is being extracted from one side to the other, that a person protecting money is a bad thing, that money being given to a person with less is a good thing. 

To me, money represents work, not things.  I don’t think about what I can buy, but how hard I worked to get it.  Am I possessive?  Maybe.  But, I work hard, really hard to earn what I earn.  Forty hours is not in my world.   

And, I use my money to buy things, sometimes for myself, often for others.  I pay bills.  I try not to cheat others.  I try to pave my way through life without being a liability to others.  I try to be a positive in the ledger of life.

So, I resent it a little when somebody on a bullhorn says I’m not paying enough, when somebody compares my thoughts as those of being with Hitler.    I resent the person whose whole focus in life is to take away those hours I worked for in wanting something positive in my life, while not making the same commitment himself in his.  I resent it when I’m told the earnings from my work should go someplace else, for someone else to determine how it should be used.

Now, I’m not saying this about public employees and teachers.  On the contrary, I honor their work.  They earn their money.

But, I don’t honor the people who represent them.  They set up structures that enrich them.  They use the public employees to create a web that ensures their power going forward.   They coerce and demand and ridicule when they don’t get their way.  And, they don’t come up for election every two or four years.  They can outlast any politician or public servant.  Now, that is power.

And, every now and then, somebody comes up to challenge them.  And, they don’t like it.  They tell half truths and print signs and fly people in and protect their status, like Khaddafy in Libya, they’re fighting for their livelihood and salvation.  This isn’t about teachers and public employees, but union funding that comes from the public pantry.

Unions, at the beginning, served their constituents well.  They were noble, well meaning vehicles to help workers gain rights and privileges that made a good life possible. 

When they turned into political power brokers, with the power of the check instead of the power of the idea, they ceased to be relevant for the worker.  They would sell their soul to the highest bidder.

Now, I’m not about to forgive the public officials in this matter.  They all stink.  The Republicans finding their chance at turning the tables have acted like the rank amateurs they are.  They’ve botched this thing with missteps too many to count.

And, the Senate Democrats, fleeing to Illinois have subverted our political process by running away, going MIA.  It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with their position, they have a duty to show up.  Maybe they’ll show up with some bogus doctor’s slip saying they were suffering from stress. 

It’s about time we had somebody who served us, the public, without some narrow view of how they’re going to split up the spoils of victory.  As it stands, we are the losers.

choosing hope……

In October of 2009, Sheila and Jeremy lost their daughter, Donna, to brain cancer.

Before last night, I didn’t know them.  Today, I feel I know them intimately, with shared purpose and conviction to honor Donna, her life and her potential.

Beth, a blogger friend and friend of Angelo, arranged a dinner meeting as an introduction of everyone to each other, and the potential of developing some sort of vehicle to expand fund raising efforts and awareness for “Donna’s Good Things”.

Donna was a toddler when Jeremy and Sheila were told Donna had brain cancer.  A life with cancer was all she knew. 

She was described to me as confident, bright, perceptive, sensitive, and courageous.  After meeting her parents, it’s not difficult to see from where these traits came.

These aren’t powerful or famous people, just two people finding their way after losing the light of their life.  Instead of being bitter, they are thankful for the time they had with Donna and want to deliver on the potential of her life.  They want to deliver the positive message that Donna delivered every day with the courage and optimism she exuded.  They want to provide support to those parents in the same situation, to let them know that life doesn’t end with the death of a child.

During dinner, Sheila pulled out a few postcards with photos of Donna.  What a beautiful girl, with expressive eyes just pulling you in.  Her picture showed everything her parents described.

It’s not often you get to meet people like Jeremy and Sheila, people who are prepared to take on something big in their own, small way. 

I get a sense they are approaching Mount Rushmore with a chisel, encouraged by the progress they make, chip by chip, looking at how much they’ve done, knowing there’s so much more to do.

So, that’s where we start, with the death of a child, with parents who are committed to living, not in the shadow of death, but in the light of the life of Donna.

Thank you for including me. 

To learn more about Donna and Donna’s Good Things, I’ve attached a link to the webiste.

Friday, February 25, 2011

the new Dave…..

Scott Walker’s history shows you he’s a tough guy.  As Milwaukee County Executive, he cleaned up a political and fiscal mess left behind by his corrupt predecessor. 

Prank Koch phone call aside, Walker ran a squeaky clean administration in Milwaukee.  He returned a large portion of his pay and drives a 1998 Saturn.  When Walker talks about fiscal responsibility, he starts at home.  You might say he walks the talk.

When Walker won election, he felt there was more to go after.  And, incorrectly, he has been positioned as being against public employees, and more specifically, teachers.

In a move that would remind you of the movie “Dave”, Walker looked at spending at the state level as a ledger only deal, looking at it line by line, trying to figure out how to save money.

At the heart of the issue is the health insurance premiums being paid on behalf of the teacher’s union.  What most people aren’t being told is that those premiums are being paid to the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s insurance company, not the State of Wisconsin’s or a private insurance company.  Independent audits show that the Wisconsin is overpaying by $73 million for insurance that could be bought privately.

Walker just can’t take his eye off that amount of money, and where that money’s going.  That $73 million is not being used to teach kids, nor is it being used to pay for health care.  It’s being used to pay salaries of union leadership and to fund political activities against people like Walker.

The reason Walker wants to take negotiating rights of the union away from benefits side is that he wants to regain control of runaway spending that is crippling the state.   In Milwaukee, for every $100 spent on a teacher, only $56 of that is being spent in salary.   This isn’t about teacher pay. 

Understanding that health care costs are outstripping the ability of the state to pay, even without the $73 million of overpayments, and the open ended nature of pensions, with benefits being tied to years of service and not years of life, Walker sees this arena as the area that needs to be fixed immediately.  Right now, he’s staring down a $4.9 billion unfunded liability.

Walker’s done a lousy job in the public relations battle.  And, he’s up against politically savvy machines that are entrenched, fighting to save their livelihoods.  They’ve figured out how to distill their disdain in short statements that fit nicely onto placards that make their way on TV.  Before this is over, people will be convinced he killed Bambi.

There are 49 other governors who are secretly rooting for Walker to win this battle.  There are no more stimulus dollars to help them balance their bloated budgets.  This is the Normandy of government spending at the state level.

While I disagree with how he’s done it, I believe what he’s doing is necessary.   

Saturday, February 19, 2011

it’s time to end this…

I've been reading too many personal attacks on the Wisconsin budget bill.  This is a topic where both sides are passionate, and feel they're right.  Each side believes they represent good. 

People aren't stupid or ignorant if they believe one way or the other.  They just believe something different.  Instead of focusing on differences, let's find the common ground and work from there. 

Polarizing attitudes create schisms that will be hard to bridge in the future. 

The Governor vacating contracts unilaterally is unconscionable.  The ends may be correct, but the means are wrong.  He was elected governor, not dictator.   He can and probably should get his way, but he needs to do it in a more collaborative way.

To the senators who "moved" to Illinois, I have some advice.  Win next time.  Elections have consequences.  These are the consequences.  The Wisconsin public has spoken and you now need to suck it up and deal with this governor.

To the teachers who protested during school hours, stay on the job and teach.  I am not proud you walked out on your students.  Quite frankly, putting your students in the middle of this debate shows me that you may not be the people I thought and hoped your were.

And to Jesse Jackson, please learn the damned English language.  

Now, it's time all parties grow up and get in a room, mediate, do whatever is necessary to end this.

Friday, February 18, 2011

the Wisconsin problem….

I'm almost afraid to enter this one.  But, here goes.  The arguments are too personal.

We have a government for which we can't pay.  I don't agree with unilateral moves in negotiated deals like Governor Walker is instituting.  That is wrong.

But, the other option is significant layoffs, which is his option.   I'm guessing if Walker came to the unions and laid out the future, maybe the union could help with ideas.  Before he goes hardball, he needs to see where he can get help.

I believe in budgets, and staying within budgets.  If we have government we can’t afford, we need to elect different officials to make decisions to bring those budgets into line.  It seems that happened in November.

I believe in the current situation, given the choice of a 12% contribution to health insurance and a 5.8% contribution to retirement savings, or 5,000 layoffs, the union would accept the changes to benefits, but in a bi-lateral way.  If Walker can't get consensus from the union, and he is serious, he should deliver pink slips. 

A second layer of negotiations would need to take place that would involve how pensions are taken, work rules, and the like.  We need to rethink how agreements made long ago hold up in today's environment. 

A fully funded retirement at a number of years of service, at 55 or 60 or even 62 is fiscally irresponsible. There are many people today who receive retirement benefits for longer than they worked.  People can retire at any age they want.  They just cannot receive benefits until age 67.  People just live too long.

The answer of raising revenue (taxes) is not an option.  The tax the rich argument will only solve a small percentage of the problem.  This really is a spend side issue with $55 billion being spent at the state and local levels.

This also is not, and should not be an argument of the value of the worker.  I'm sure most people work hard for their money, and I'm sure each has set his or her life around that income stream. 

This is not a time to fight each other, but to come together with solutions, not at the end of pointed fingers, but with real consensus.

There are going to be some casualties this time around.  But, one of them should not be our integrity.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

a math problem….

There are 312,000,000 people in the United States.  Our federal budget is $3,700,000,000,000.00.  Now, with Jethro Bodine’s tutoring, that tells me that my share of the budget is about $12,000.00.  In fact, everyone’s share of the Federal Budget is $12,000,000.

Now, let’s add state, county, local taxes and you have an, with deficits running in each state.  In Wisconsin, our total state and local spending is about $55,000,000,000, or $10,000 per person.  And again, with 9 percent unemployment, those numbers go up.

Now, with approximately 160,000,000 workers, the burden per worker is in the $50,000 range, or almost $25 per hour.  So, if you’re paying less than $25 per hour to taxes, you are not paying your share.  You are a slacker.

Yes, I completely understand money comes from businesses and rich people and hidden taxes and gas taxes and such, but the number is the same, and the dollar responsibility is the same per person, no matter where it comes from. 


a weekend away from home…..

For most of you who know me, I travel a lot.  And, sometimes when I travel, I have some down time away from home.  This week, I’ll have one of those times.

I’ve decided to stay out in San Francisco for the weekend, instead of traveling home.  I have meetings on Monday in Seattle and decided I would just stay on the west coast instead of flying back and forth to the Midwest.

I’m not used to down time, especially away from home, so I’ve decided to plan a sort of mini, solitary vacation for a couple of days in San Francisco.  What to do?  What to do?

San Francisco is one of my favorite cities.  For a city that is not the size of New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, it has a lot going on.  I remember a couple of years ago, I checked the internet for something to do on a Tuesday night.  There were 87 events.  I ended up at a lecture being given by Deepak Chopra in a cathedral.

Other times, I’ve gone to theater, headed up to Napa, gone to Muir Woods, hung out in Sausalito, wandered around the many neighborhoods, and spent hours in City Lights Bookstore.   I think I’ve seen “Beach Blanket Babylon” a dozen times.   I might go again.

I love the North Beach neighborhood, with all of it’s Italian restaurants.  I just like walking up Columbus Street.  Many times I just decide to go into the first restaurant that invites me with a free sample.  I’ve never been disappointed.

But, this trip will involve going to see the Walt Disney Family Museum.  A child of the 60’s, and a frequent visitor to the theme parks named after Disney, this man shaped many memories from my youth, leading up to today.   I’ve checked the reviews of the place and they’re glowing.  I hope I don’t hear “It’s a Small World.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

things your parents never told you…..

I live in an interesting family.  We celebrated my dad’s 90th birthday today.  The photo below shows my mom, who is 87 herself with my dad.  They’ve been married 64 years.


So, as my brother, Doug and I are talking with my dad,  Doug said something about my dad trading with Frank Lloyd Wright.  So, I asked my dad about this.

And, of course, in his matter of fact, no big deal way, he said he traded two peacocks for a bull calf.  Now, only in Wisconsin can this kind of thing happen.


As a youth, I remember thinking how weird happy people were.  I mean, really, can anyone really be that happy? 

And, why were they happy?  I mean, really, people just chose to be happy?  No way.  They must be fakes.

But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned something, that I can choose the direction of my thought.  I can choose to look at situations and determine which way I want to look things.

Now, I know there is mental illness, depression, social disorder and all of that.  And, I know we all probably have some form of mental illness to varying degrees. 

But, I also know that our happiness is not determined by what’s going on outside our bodies, but inside our brains.   We get to choose our perspective.  We get a chance to get it right.

I remember, as a child, reading Ivory Soap is 99.4% pure.  Today’s newspapers might turn that to say Ivory Soap is .6% tainted.  I choose the pure part as my message.

Sometimes it’s work to be happy, because it’s easy to dismiss others happiness with our own jealousy and bitterness, so we can feel better about ourselves.   

It makes it so we don’t have to invest ourselves.  Sometimes it’s difficult to find the good in a bad situation.  But, we need to train ourselves to do it. 

We need to train ourselves to find the bad as an opportunity for change, for good. 

Yes, we can.  Remember that?

I like to think of my brain as sort of a resort hotel.  When I check in, I get to choose a room.  Do I want the cheaper room with the view of dumbsters (spelling intended), or do I choose the ocean view for a few bucks more?  I’ll take the view.

I know it sounds too simple.  But it’s true.  If I don’t invest in my own life and happiness, who will?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

winners all….

Every time I hear somebody talk about bad kids, I think about the kids that perform in show choirs, not because they are bad, but because they are completely the opposite.


We had our own little version of “glee” tonight at Fort Atkinson High School during the 16th annual Fort Showcase.  Twenty show choirs from around the Midwest sang and danced their way into the hearts of the over 1000 people who attended.


The precision and energy of these groups is something to experience.  I can’t explain it except to say that I had goose bumps, more than once, way more than once.


The cool thing about these performers is they root for one another.  They cheer and dance and support each other.  The winning choir’s biggest supporters were from the group that came in second.  Now, how often does that happen?  I’ll give you a hint.  In show choir, all the time.


Congratulations go out to 10th Street Edition of Linn-Mar High School,  Marion, Iowa as champions of this year’s Fort Showcase. 

But, as I watched these performances, there was a feeling that everyone was a champion, that we all win when events and activities such as these are offered. 

reinforcing my faith….

I came upon an accident earlier today on Highway 26, a major two lane highway in southern Wisconsin.  Apparently, the driver hit some black ice and careened across the road into a guard rail and came to rest there.  That is what I know of the accident.

But, there is more.  Upon arriving, and I arrived probably within a minute of the accident, there were six vehicles on the side of the road.  There were people attending to the people inside the vehicle.

And then, one of the people at the scene took it upon himself to direct traffic, since the road was down to one lane, making sure everyone could get by safely.

So there you have it, one minute these people were passengers on the highway, on their way to who knows where, and the next they were taking care of their neighbors.

Thank you neighbors.  Thank you for being the people I know you are.  Thank you for being the best of who we can be.  Thank you for reinforcing my faith in you.  Thank you.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

what a time to live…..

My dad turns 90 on Monday. 

While time has robbed him of his sight and ability to move the way he once did, he’s as lucid as he was 50 years ago, and uses his voice in simple, direct conversation that leaves no doubt where he stands.  That we could all live the life he has would be a gift beyond our wants.

So, that life, that 90 years; what a remarkable time to be alive.  Born in 1921, he’s seen roads turn from dirt to pavement, the depression from a child’s eyes, World War II, Korea, the Cold War and the falling of the Berlin Wall.

He remembers Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama and has opinions on each.

He’s seen a man on the moon, Vietnam, Martin Luther King Jr., The Beatles, Radio, Television, Computers and the Internet.

He’s seen polio almost eradicated and AIDS.  He’s seen x-rays used to size shoes and MRI’s to see inside you.

He’s lived through Albert Einstein and Madam Curie.

He went from the party line phone to the cell phone.

He went from aspirated engines that needed cranking to start to fuel injected engines  that can be started from inside the house.

He went from son, to husband, to father, to grandfather.  His hair went from black to gray to now almost white. 

And, yet, when you talk to him, he says it’s a blur, that life moved so fast that he wonders where it went, like some time lapse photography.

In his lifetime, there has been more change in the world than happened in the entire time of man.

He knows his time is close to an end, but he lives everyday the best he can.  There is one thing that hasn’t changed in my 53 years of being his son.  I’m proud to call him my father, my dad.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious. – Vince Lombardi

Today, a trophy with that man’s name on it will be awarded to the winning team in the Super Bowl.

Lombardi was consumed with excellence.  He was a contradiction, a man who went to mass daily, but was a vicious, tireless competitor, who mowed down anyone in his way.

He believed in preparation, preparing to execute, preparing to survive, preparing to win.

There are only a few who could endure Lombardi, but those who did were prepared, not only for football, but life.  His passion, his zeal, his preparation penetrated anyone who came close.

I had a chance to talk with Willie Davis, the Hall of Fame defensive end and captain to Lombardi’s teams.  He, along with almost anyone else related to the Packers, is grateful, almost reverent when talking of Lombardi.  Like that great teacher, he was able to reveal the greatness in all of his players. 

But, in greatness, there was a great price.  Lombardi’s family suffered his highs and lows.  They suffered in defeat and reveled in victory. 

He alienated his children and destroyed his wife.   He was incapable of separating his family from his work.  His expectations were high in all areas, not just his football team.  In his mind, excellence was excellence.    

In spite of that, for just one minute of my life, I would like to feel the passion of that man, to know what his level of commitment really feels like.   I’m sure it’s a scary place. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

making sense of the Wynn…

I stayed at the Wynn in Las Vegas last week. 

File:Wynn 2 (2).jpg

For those of you who have not been to Las Vegas, the Wynn is the successor to the Bellagio, the next of the super luxury hotels.  In fact, the place was so luxurious, so over the top, it made me feel uncomfortable.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a nice hotel.  I like a good, clean room, a comfortable bed, a good TV, maybe a nice restaurant on site.

What I don’t want is somebody offering me the unattainable, something that is beyond my understanding or wants.

Gold plated faucets and TV’s in the bathroom and matching bathrobes are nice, but they scream “You’re not worthy!”

I really don’t want to think a yogurt parfait and orange juice at $17 is normal.  I don’t want to think a $300 tab for a dinner for four is OK.  I don’t want to lose the value of how hard it is to make money and how easy it is to spend it.

So, next time I go to Vegas, I won’t stay at the Wynn, not because it’s not nice, but because it’s too nice.  Does that make any sense? 

Friday, February 4, 2011

the game…

I’ve loved football all of my life.  As a little kid, I played football everyday.  I played in high school, college, family reunions, Sundays.  It’s been part of me for as long as I remember. 

And, as long as I remember, I’ve been a fan of the Green Bay Packers.  One of my first recollections is buying a gold helmet at a garage sale for a quarter and putting “15” on the back of it, just like the pros.  That was Bart Starr’s number.  I changed it later to “23” for Travis Williams.

Football, especially Packers fans, is not so much about the game as it is about the bonding experience between fathers and sons.  It’s a language we all know.  It’s time we spend together.  It’s something deeper.

The Packers are an organization that reflects the community.  We like to think of ourselves as underdogs, people from a disrespected lot, wearing cheeseheads, eating bratwursts, drinking beer and dancing the polka.  Instead of being insulted, we’ve decided to embrace what others see as unseemly. 
We’re just a little weird.

The Packers play in the smallest community in professional sports, with a whole bunch of trophies, many against those big city teams from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and such.   If ever there were a David and Goliath, Green Bay played the role of David very well.

Now, I’m not a colors-wearing, shirt-off-in-the-cold, painted chest, drinking ‘til I can’t see kind of fan.   I love the game because it’s sort of a chess match with speed and power. 

Games are played by appointment.  TV makes them bigger than life.  Slow motion and close ups takes a game that is played in microseconds by unimaginably large human beings and turns it into a brutal ballet. 

As we all sit on our sofas, we coach and cajole, lean and lurch, feel our hearts race and fall.  It’s a game we feel.

Maybe I’m a Neanderthal.  Maybe I would have watched chariot races or the lions in the Coliseum.  But, there is something compelling about competition, about something that isn’t scripted, with real speed and danger lurking in the background.

So Sunday, I will be watching.  Go Pack!  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

a wake up call…..

I wrote this blog a little over a month ago, but never posted it. 

In the late 1980’s, I had a mobile phone.  It came with a case and kind of looked like a real phone with a real curly cue cord.  It was heavy, sort of like carrying your lunch box with a few meals in it. 

I didn’t know too many people who had one, but I found it to really help in business, so I reluctantly spent the $1100 for the phone, plus the nearly $1 a minute cost to have one.   I kept the calls short, but over the course of an average month, I spent about $1000.

I was in a field where staying in touch was worth real money, so it was worth it to me.  The value of the call was greater than the cost.  It helped to make me money.  To most, it was an unaffordable luxury.   To me, it was a necessity.

Now, in 1989, if you would have gone to the public and said to them, we need $810 million to build cellular towers for these phones that cost lots of money, more money than most people could afford, would you have been in favor  of it?  To most, the answer would be no, because there wasn’t a clear need at the time, and it would only be for the very few.

We just said no to that type of investment in turning down high speed rail.  We’ve got our eyes on the past, with cheap gas and cheap cars compared to the rest of the world.  We are afraid to move forward because of current cost, not understanding the future cost of not reducing our national appetite for cheap gas.

The high speed rail project is not about the 70 or so miles from Milwaukee to Madison.  It’s about connecting the country to a bigger system. 

It’s about not building more runways at airports.  It’s about not building more highways.  It’s about saving fuel, which will become geometrically more expensive as more people from around the world have access to automobiles. 

We benefited in the short term with cheap vehicles and fuel.  Just like the credit bubble, our transportation bubble is the same.  Too many people will not be able to afford the real cost of the automobile. 

I’m writing this blog while I’m in China for business.  I was reading the newspaper today with three different headlines that underscore how different the world is from 21 years ago.

The first headline was about how GE (yes, that GE), was investing $50 million in a Chinese company, not because they were cheaper, but because they had the advanced technology to develop high speed rail in the U.S.  You see, China is the world leader in high speed rail, not the U.S.

The second headline was about how the Chinese had just developed the world’s fastest super computer, not Cray Research, and they were doing engineering projects that used to require days to compute in just hours. 

The third headline noted how the Chinese were on track to sell over 17.5 million new cars this year, breaking all sales records.  One dealership in Beijing sold 15,000 cars in one month.  They are actually implementing measures to slow down sales so they can catch up with their infrastructure.

The Chinese do projects that are unfathomable.  In one province where there are geological issues with earthquakes, they are moving nearly 3 million people to safer places over the next decade.

This is not meant to be an advertisement for China, but a wake up call to us.  We need to do better.  For some reason, we seem to have forgotten John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address that implored us “to not ask what our country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

We need our leaders to step up with hard things, not promises to give us stuff if we vote for them.  We need to think in bigger terms, not always “my” pocketbook.  We need to stop running our country like some sort of ATM.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

a promise….

Last week I went to a dinner with friends, acquaintances and new friends in the furniture and design fields.

We came from everywhere.  We all came with different resumes.  I wrote about this last week, but there is more that I wanted to convey.  This is Las Vegas dinner blog, part two.

It’s interesting to me that people who’ve never met, can find something that ties them together.  Or, maybe, that’s natural, to find something, to search, to find something similar, some common ground.

There is something to be shared in every life.  Even though we came from different corners of the world, we are the same.  Our similarities are greater than our differences.  And on that, we were able to build our bonds.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that all of the time?  So often, we focus on our differences.  We find reasons to be angry, to sling arrows, to throw stones.  We bisect and dissect.  We split and chop.

We watch TV and see dysfunction.  We see Jersey Shore.  We see what’s going on in Egypt.  We see anger.

I’ve always been in the business of bringing people together, making deals.  Success has always been dependent on putting myself in the other person’s shoes and delivering on a promise to improve their situation, not my own.  When I do that, my situation almost always improves.

I think the same is true in relationships.   When you give, you receive even more.  Somehow, being selfless becomes selfish.  Asking for nothing delivers everything.

So that is my message.  Be nice.  Think about the other person.  And by doing that, you will be happy.  I promise.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

snow day…..

We’re having a huge snowstorm.  Winds are wailing away at 30 miles per hour.  Over 15 inches of snow is expected.  Our offices are closed tomorrow.  Snow day you say?  No way.

Technology has made it so work can be done anywhere, anytime.  Each of us has a notebook computer that can patch into the company’s computer.   We all have cell phones with conference capability.   All of our tools are with us everyday.

So, hooky is out of the question. 

In fact, because there is no commute tomorrow, I would imagine productivity could and should go up. 

Snow days used to be a found vacation day, a day to do nothing, a reward for surviving the winter.  Today, the only difference is the drive, and the ability to work without taking a shower, although I think I’ll take one anyway.

Now we hope for power outages.  Is there such a thing as a power outage day?