Thursday, June 25, 2009

AZ Needs Leadership

When the Arizona Supreme Court decided to punt Governor Jan Brewer’s suit to have her party surrender the passed budget, a red flag went up in my mind.

This state is in real trouble. Not because we are in a 2 billion dollar budget hole, but because Jan Brewer lost all of her political leverage with that ridiculous lawsuit. What’s worse is that she has to go back to the bargaining table with the stain of being an ineffectual leader.

This state can’t afford to have a bunch of wannabe Barry Goldwaters or Janet Napolitanos to guide us into the future. A new person must take the mantle and the onus of leading this state with clear and definitive goals that make Arizona financially stronger, economically stable, and with a strong and active business community rallied behind that person.

But don’t hold your breath.

The time is now for someone to step up and have a vision for Arizona. As a state, we cannot continue down a current path of electing political heroes that have only live on their mediocre deeds of the past, talk about what needs to be done today and not have any plan for the future.

It’s down right pathetic that renewable energy companies have passed over Arizona time after time. We should be the leader in solar and renewable energy business and yet, places like Canada and Oregon are luring more business than we are. And they think that glowing orange orb in the sky is a UFO, not the sun.

We keep electing people who want to lead by committee, leaving the tough decision up to someone else. As an electorate we have settled, and no one cares. It is more than troubling when our own governor can’t get along with her own party. Political party in-fighting, partisan hackery, whether on the Left or the Right, is kryptonite to the well-being of any party and that toxicity and lack of clear leadership trickles down to us, the voters who care more about the future of this state than our own elected political heroes.

Time is running out for Jan Brewer. I hope she doesn’t run in 2010 because even her own party doesn’t support her – or she doesn’t know how to gather people on the steps of the Capitol, hold a press conference and actually show the people who think her plan for the future of Arizona and the budget is a solid, productive plan.

Nature abhors a vacuum. Let’s hope there is someone who emerges from the political thicket to take Arizona where it needs to be – into a bright and sunny future, not just sticking fingers in the wind and guessing which way the wind blows.

Monday, June 22, 2009

This Isn't About Chris Brown

Singer Chris Brown, who was accused of assaulting fellow singer Rihanna, pled guilty and was sentenced in Los Angeles Criminal Court yesterday.


Under the terms, Brown will serve five years probation and must serve 180 days in jail or the equivalent – which is about 1,400 house of community, labor-intensive service. He must also attend domestic violence classes for a year.

Even better.

But this isn’t about Brown, this is about Rihanna and women like her who think that this kind of relationship won’t and can’t happen to them again. Unfortunately that’s just not the case.

Brown previously pleaded not guilty to one count of assault with intent to harm when he and Rihanna argued in a car in February in Hollywood and we saw the horrific pictures of Rihanna’s battered and bruised face on Internet sites and gossip shows.

Yesterday, Rihanna was in the courtroom, but only after Chris Brown had left. She listened to the judge’s issuance of the “stay away” order that Brown must follow. Shockingly, through her attorney, Rihanna had requested that no such order be put in place.

And that’s the truly sad part of this story. The judge did the right thing in sentencing Chris Brown, but Judge Patricia Schnegg should’ve sentenced Rihanna to court-appointed counseling for her own well-being.

Too many times we have seen victims of physical and verbal abuse repeat the same pattern of behavior. We have seen women fall into bad, abusive relationships with men who are violent and verbally abusive. Countless women, who are victims of abuse, will say that they don’t see the signs until it’s too late or can’t figure out why they can’t find a healthy relationship. It’s not about finding the right person, it’s recognizing why you choose to be with someone who doesn’t respect you and thinks that abuse is acceptable.

If Rihanna doesn’t get the counseling she needs, she will wind up in another abusive relationship and worse; another statistic of violence against women.

What Chris Brown did was horrific and should not be tolerated. He needs mandatory counseling to not only understand, but also un-learn what he thinks is acceptable behavior.

Rihanna needs to un-learn what an unhealthy relationship is before it’s too late.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Retirement? For Many Not Likely

Father’s Day is this Sunday and I was thinking of some advice my father gave me that, sadly, has come to pass.

When I was 23, my father and I had a deep, philosophical discussion about the rest of my life. While we raked leaves into piles in the backyard, I declared that I wanted a career in radio but was unsure of my decision because radio was this wild, untamed business that had huge pitfalls, no guarantee of success, and little job security.

My parents are from the generation that believed security trumped everything else. They raised two children based on the financial mantra of “slow and steady wins the financial race.”

So my declaration of wanting to go into the media circus sideshow that is radio was a major departure from what had been instilled in me.

But my father is an understanding man, so he gave me some prescient advice. He told me to do something that I was passionate about, making sure that I wasn’t being reckless in my choice of careers. “Find what you love,” he said, “and the money will follow.”

Then he said something that I dismissed, didn’t want to think about, but his prediction came true. Before we ended our discussion and went into the house for dinner, he made the comment that, “I think your generation will be the first to not retire.”

Ironically and sadly, it’s looking like that his casual, obtuse prediction will come to pass.

In the past couple of years, and especially in this economy and watching my IRA and 401K both nosedive, I have fully and quietly resigned myself to the fact that I will work for the rest of my life.

Now I am different than most people. I’ve never fully embraced the idea of not working. I don’t picture myself owning a golf cart, puttering around Sun City in a loud Hawaiian shirt, black socks and sandals. I don’t golf and have no plans on making it my hobby when I am older. I want to work – I like to work. I am lucky in that way; I haven’t shunned or dismissed my Puritanical upbringing.

But for many people, retirement was the finish line that you sprinted for, getting there early was the goal, living better than the rest of your peers was the prized gauntlet. That won’t be the case in the next couple of years for many.

For 77 million Boomers, it may be too late. More and more Baby Boomers are putting off retirement with the latest news from Wall Street. According to AARP stats, 24 percent of Boomers are putting off retirement indefinitely.

My father could have retired, but hasn’t. He still works; in fact he has the luxury of only taking jobs he wants and makes good money. You won’t find him on the golf course, or tying flies in the garage. Or fulfilling a life long dream of attending baseball games in every Major League ballpark in America.

I get my work ethic from him. But I am also a realist, fully recognizing that Gen X, as a group, may be the first generation since the Depression to not do as well as their parents. Also, I realized about 10 years ago that Social Security should be utterly bankrupt and completely drained by the time I am 65. Combine that with life expectancies getting longer, along with quality of life, and I’ve decided that there’s no reason to stop working. Period.

Do I want to point an accusatory finger at our elected political twits and say thanks for wasting my (our) money? Sure. But that isn’t in my plans. I am lucky. I have time to watch my nest egg rebuild itself, and I will add to it over the next 20 years.

As I am fortunate, so is my father. He will always be in demand. He has gone from the corporate world to home improvements and repair. As he says, “everyone needs a door hung or a light fixture installed.” So he will be fine.

But for many who find themselves in the eye of our current economic storm, they will have to find new jobs and new ways to earn money, not having the once-guaranteed dream of retirement.

I am lucky, I found something I love and that allows me to earn enough money to put away. But I hate the fact my dad was right about my (and other) generations.

I would’ve liked to visit every major ballpark in the United States. But I will be too busy working.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad; I always appreciate the advice, even when it comes true.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Barack's Unchosen Legacy

If George W. Bush’s legacy is stirring up an international hornets nest after 9/11/01 by starting two wars, Barack Obama’s legacy could be on the same track, but with some subtle differences.

By going to war with Iraq, deposing a dictator, and dividing the country (and the world) on what is a “just” war, there’s no doubt that Dubya made a decision, consciously choosing to take our troops and plant them in a region of the world that has been chaotic and unstable for generations.

But Barack Obama, who has repeatedly stated that his is willing to talk to regimes that have been hostile to us, compromise with nations who threaten nuclear violence and deal with third world punks, cannot avoid the fact that in the next couple of months he will have to make some unpopular decisions.

The first one will be how to deal with a dictator who is hell bent on making sure everyone remembers him when he is gone. Kim Jong Il is not long for this world and when he shuffles off his mortal coil and his son takes over, his decisions on how to leave this world could have dire consequences. He has been saber rattling for years, going all the way back to Bill Clinton’s Administration when he totally pulled the wool over Madelaine Albright’s eyes as they looked eye-to-eye (they’re the same height and both wear heels) and she came back to DC with glowing reviews of a nice man who didn’t want to do anyone or nation harm.

Now he is building a nuclear program and testing short and long-range missiles. Obama has to deal with this. Whether the president decides to embargo goods from the already poor country or take direct action for Il’s constant testing of missiles, action needs to be taken. Ignoring the problem will only embolden Lil’ Kim and his son.

The second hot spot that the president has to deal with is Iran. Elections over the past weekend were a joke, but what do you expect from a leader who comes out and spews hate for Israel, the United States and anyone else that is on his mind that day in a Members Only jacket? Iran’s young people love the West and we should embrace them. But the currently elected (ahem) officials want to wipe Israel off the map and encourage any kind of act of violence against the US of A.

Barack Obama was warmly greeted in the Middle East on his recent visit. He should use this advantage to take down the power of Iran and let the people truly decide what direction they want their country should follow in the 21st century.

The third problem Barack Obama has to face is our increasing division between what to do between the Israelis and the Palestinian settlements. Former President Jimmy Carter, who I wish would just got back to Plains, GA and sit on his front porch and count how many red cars pass by in the afternoon, said something over the weekend that actually made sense to me. Asked by the liberal Haaretz newspaper whether the Jewish state was looking at a "head-on collision" with the United States if it doesn't comply with Washington's demands, Carter said, "Yes."

The Obama Administration has been trying to ease the Muslim world while rankling the Israelis. This could have severe consequences for not only the Obama Administration, but other presidents down the road. Israel has been an important ally for us in the Middle East. If Barack shows too much favoritism to the Muslim world, he will not only make up for the “failed policy of the last eight years,” he could create some new problems that will define and tarnish his legacy.

And I haven’t even gotten to the Pakistan and Taliban problem.

Barack Obama wants to be the International President, but he needs to make sure he prioritizes his objectives and how he deals with certain leaders.

If George W. Bush was vilified for making a decision to go to war, let’s hope Obama isn’t blamed for doing nothing or being ineffectual. That could be substantially direr than what the GWBA ever did.

Monday, June 8, 2009

It's Called Kharma

After watching Bret Michaels of Poison get clothes-lined by a piece of scenery on Youtube for more than a dozen times, only one thing keeps running through my head.

Now I understand two polar opposite but interconnecting things: Schadenfreude and Karma.

Schadenfreude is German, loosely translated into "Taking joy is others pain."

Whereas Karma is the force generated by a person's actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person's next existence.

They may sound like mutually exclusive ideas that cannot and should not be linked, but this notion was proven false during the Tony Awards on Sunday night.

How else do you explain the confounding popularity of Poison back in the 80's, the train wreck of reality television that is Rock of Love show on VH1, and the utterly unfathomable reunion of Poison that performs at the Tony Awards?

You can't. It's a philosophical dilemma wrapped in a syllogism that defies explanation, until at the very end of the video clip, when the band has gathered on that tiny stage and Bret is still on the floor, swaggering in the spotlight, lingering a bit too long, and BAM! You see him get smacked by a cosmic bitch slap.

I am still laughing.

Bret suffered a broken nose and a bruised ego, but for the majority of us who have had to endure Poison, Rock of Love and other annoying projects by Bret, this was God standing up for the little man and saying, "Enough!"

Like the little boy in the scene from the seminal movie Animal House when a Playboy Bunny flies through his window and lands on his bed, I kept looking skyward and repeating, "THANK YOU, GOD!"

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Rest Of Us

Did you ever wonder why there are mall cops? Why are there holding tanks in arenas and stadiums? Why does the IRS have auditors or why do banks chain their pens to the service desk?

When I was 12, I went to my first concert. It was a life altering experience. But not because of the band’s performance or the transformative power of music.

I quickly learned a valuable life lesson after witnessing an entire section of fellow concertgoers get escorted out of their seats because security couldn’t figure out who had a stash of drugs. So instead of ferreting out the nefarious person, or persons, security decided to take everyone out, frisk them, and when they found the person with the stash of pot down his pants, they let everyone else return to their seats.

But it was too late. They missed the drum solo.

It was on that fateful night I came up with a tenant that hasn’t failed me yet. It’s a simple fact that is so pure in it’s form; it’s almost a metaphysical certitude. It goes something like this: five percent of the population ruins it for the rest of us.

Now I know that sounds misanthropic, but hear me out.

The news is full of stupid people who have nothing better to do than ruin it for the rest of us who do the right thing, remain law-abiding, act with some kind of grace and civility, not trying to flip off society with their acts of cretin ignorance, insipid rebellion or alcohol-induced courage (or all of the above), they make it incredibly difficult for the rest of us to just get along.

Case in point: a homeless man got on the Valley Metro light rail the other day with a box of fecal matter. In and of itself, this is a disgusting display, a total violation of all things civil in society. You can carry many things onto a mass transit vehicle, but no reasonable person should be caught carrying a box, bag or any type of container or waste, human or animal. But for some reason this five percenter decided that he would use it as some kind of finger paint, flicking and smearing poop on the floor of the light rail car.

This continued for a couple of stops until police at Washington and 38th Street escorted the demented Jackson Pollack wannabe along with his box of feces off of the light rail.

Luckily, Valley Metro said they have been prepared for a biohazard emergency. Although I don’t think anyone could have come up with this doozy of a crappy situation.

Light Rail spokesperson Hillary Foose commented on the excrement experience by saying, “The comfort and security of our passengers always comes first.” That may be true. But this homeless guy just ruined light rail for the rest of us.

Even though Valley Metro took the car out of service and scrubbed, hosed and sanitized the violated vehicle, the next time anyone steps onto the light rail line, this is the thought that will continuously run through the passenger’s mind. “Am I sitting in the crap car, am I riding the excrement express? Am I on the turd train or poo-poo choo-choo?”

Light rail has forever been tainted by one homeless guy’s penchant for poop. Way to go, homeless guy – you’ve ruined light rail for the rest of us.

Couldn’t you have just performed an air drum solo?