Senator Graham had a room full of people who didn’t vote for him on Saturday, March 25th, in Columbia. He asked early-on how many people were Democrats. He made a prepared statement and then he listened to questions read off cards people had submitted while waiting in line to enter.

Lots of concern around Russia: Would he propose a special prosecutor to look in to Trump campaign ties to Russia? What does he plan to do about the FBI investigating the Trump administration for ties to Russia? He said he’d let the FBI do its job and the investigation run its course.

Lots of concern about education. He said he supports charter schools as an alternative to the current under-performing public school system. He slipped the word “vouchers” in there which had people booing.

Here’s the thing: he’s not wrong.

The current system has been in place for a century and it’s antiquated and it’s failing our citizens. I’m not convinced charter schools and vouchers are the way to fix it, but we need to try something. Schools are funded on a per-student basis, so their resources will not be totally lost. Schools with failing performances will lose students and close their doors.

The transportation issue is what concerns me. How do lower-income kids get across town to better schools? Like I said, though, we have to try something.

Lots of concern about healthcare and this is where it got ridiculous. Senator Graham asked who in the room would like to see Medicare made available for everyone. Tons of hands went up. Then he said, Well, Medicare doesn’t provide pre-natal care, so it’s not exactly designed for everyone. (not a direct quote, just the gist)

The healthcare debate is not a healthcare debate. It’s an insurance debate. The two camps are those who believe they should have free healthcare and those who know someone has to pay for it. Healthcare is available to anyone who can get to an emergency room. They cannot turn you away. In that sense, it is secured as a “right.” But healthcare is expensive.

Click here for more of my rant  on healthcare.

When Senator Graham asked the room how to pay for things like Medicare expansion, someone shouted, “Tax the rich!”

Since that’s exactly the opposite of what’s going to happen when Trump tax reform goes through, let’s talk about that. For a long time now the Democratic party has run platforms on Robin Hood economics. Take from those that have too much to give to those who have too little.

Robin Hood economics is responsible for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which was put in place in the 70s to catch the top 1% of Americans who were making over $100,000. Every year, the AMT catches more Americans. Middle class people, because we can all admit now that $100,000 really isn’t that much anymore. Congress won’t repeal the AMT because it’s a cash cow.

Robin Hood economics imagines that the rich are sitting on their money like Scrooge McDuck, diving through gold coins as if they were water in a swimming pool. Except they’re not. The rich are investing their money so that it earns money for them. There are three ways to get money: steal it, earn it, and let it earn money for you. The rich are doing the third. Yet, every time we cry, “Tax the rich!” what we mean is find out how they’re getting rich and try to make it harder.

When we make it harder for rich people to invest, they stop investing in us. They put their money elsewhere, in overseas markets for example, where they can make higher returns. What we need is a system that encourages investment because it’s the right thing to do. We should identify the influence investment has on our daily lives and celebrate the buildings and innovations investors are part of.

We need Wall Street reform. Demystify the money-moving and show us how the rich are helping us all out. Then we’re less likely to think of them as Scrooge McDuck and more likely to think of them as partners in progress.

Not all wealthy citizens are benevolent. But forcing them to be never works.

We don’t want to end up like Greece and we’re already well on our way. We spend more than we earn and we borrow more than we lend. Our government is top-heavy and unsustainable. Austerity measures hurt, but we have a wealthy citizenry that can be implored to help if properly motivated. Stealing from them to give to the poor won’t solve the problem long-term. It will only hasten their exit from the system all together.

Democracy requires participation. What’s encouraging about the galvanization of the public that we’ve seen since Trump’s election is that more sides are being heard. What’s concerning is that a lot of the voices are interested in two things: 1) a government solution to everything, and 2) an immediate resolution to these problems.

Senator Graham made a great point when talking about education. He said the reform of our country’s education system is not about us or our children. It’s about the generation after them and the jobs we’re preparing them for. Identifying the skills they’ll need and then equipping them with those skills should be our primary concern.

It’s hard, Senator Graham, to think that far into the future, when today’s uncertainty could mean being out of work, out of insurance, or out of the conversation all together.

Healthcare is NOT a right. It’s too expensive to be guaranteed.

Medical professionals have extensive schooling and loans to pay back. They have malpractice insurance to pay for. And they self-select what specialties they’ll pursue and some specialties are more abundant than others.

Litigators drive up insurance rates with malpractice lawsuits that hold medical professionals responsible for mistakes and negligence as if they were the same thing.

Insurance companies have negotiated rates with care providers and facilities. They set the budgets for care with algorithms and balance sheets, not compassion and logic. Health insurance companies are legalized gambling. They’re betting you won’t get sick and you’re betting you will. You both put money on the board and wait for the dealer to distribute the cards. The companies have done everything they can to hedge their bets: pre-existing conditions, a network of providers, lifetime caps. Not only did they rig the game in their favor, they have lobbied congress and state lawmakers to enable them to do so.

How can regular citizens get affordable care when insurance companies are unwilling to sell affordable insurance?

As long as the insurance companies are hedging their bets and rigging the game, there will be no insurance reform. As long as they can pay lobbyists to influence congress and policy wonks to write bills that protect their interests, there will be no insurance reform.

To frame the insurance reform debate around healthcare was a gross miscalculation by the Democrats as long ago as Bill Clinton’s first term. Healthcare means people are sick and can’t afford treatment. It means they need rescuing and the government is the only entity big enough to do it.

But healthcare is not a right. It’s a business and the care providers deserve to get paid for the professionalism, experience, and compassion they bring to the equation. Insurance companies do not provide care. They provide financing. Like bankers, their role is to take on the risk. Why should they be allowed to minimize their risk at the cost to the common good?

When Paul Ryan said healthcare is complicated, what he meant was that everyone in the debate has a valid position and it’s difficult to broker compromise. What he should have said was the citizens have leverage over the politicians, the insurance companies have leverage over the politicians, and what they want is diametrically opposed.

How can we convince insurance companies that offering coverage to the most expensive, at-risk population is in their best interest?

Saying “it’s the right thing to do,” doesn’t work.

Forcing them to compete in a government-sponsored exchange doesn’t work; many just opted out.

We could tell them that if they don’t participate in the exchange, they will not be allowed to sell insurance in our state at all. We could tell them that if they don’t offer coverage for the least among us, then they can’t offer coverage to anyone else.

But we also have to tell our citizens they should expect to pay for coverage. They should expect to spend some of their money betting they’ll get sick and need coverage. Because taxing people on what they make to fund a healthcare system for people who pay nothing is the worst kind of unsustainable Robin Hood economics.

I don’t think anyone really disagrees with Make America Great. I was raised in the Cold War 80s and we were fed patriotism like fluoride-laced water. To a one, my GenX friends are all fiercely patriotic.

We’ve dutifully served in the military, thanked soldiers for their service, and gotten teary-eyed at post-deployment reunions. We’ve given to the Wounded Warriors and demanded reform at the VA. We think military service is patriotic.

Every two years we anxiously anticipate the Olympics. We learn the athletes’ names, discuss their achievements and uniforms, debate the rules and procedures. We produced the most decorated Olympian of all time. We think the Olympics are patriotic.

We vote. Our Facebook feeds are full of political debate and passive activism. We Rocked the Vote for Clinton and W and we elected the first black President. We carried our babies in chest pouches like kangaroo citizens, waited in line at over-crowded precincts, and thanked poll workers for their patriotic efforts. We think participating in government is patriotic.

I don’t think we disagree with Make America Great.

We’ve been building businesses, volunteering in schools, having birthday parties at fire stations, and teaching our kids to stand still during the National Anthem since they started televising it again after 9/11. We think jobs, volunteering, civil service, and respect are patriotic.

It’s the Again that gets stuck when we say the phrase President Trump trademarked in 2012, the one he used to climb the disorganized Republican ranks.

It’s the Again that made Bill Clinton say the phrase had a racist bend to it.

Let’s unpack “Again.”

Again means to repeat a condition. It means to return to previous circumstances. That condition, in this phrase, is “great”ness. And the real question, when we add “Again” to Make America Great is exactly when was America “great”?

There is not a time in our history during which Great meant prosperity, safety, and opportunity for all Americans. There have been times when some Americans had those things but not all Americans.

So “Again” indicates an intention to return to an era during which African American citizens were in the back of the bus and not welcome at lunch counters. When women were relegated to secretarial work and sexual harassment in the corporate world. When homosexuals and transgender persons were shamed into hiding. Think Mad Men only for real.

When asked if we want to return to that era, the compassionate, literate, and moderate among us would say, “Fuck no.” And so we reject the phrase, the candidate who uses it, and the supporters who rally behind it.

It’s the Again that alienates so many of us.

It’s a nostalgic Babyboomer fantasy. Greatness is so subjective it could be referring to any version of patriotic orgy cooked up for us by the politicians.

Is the intention to return to military greatness? Because we don’t have a Cold War foe to encourage proliferation of arms. Also it’s expensive. Also our military is saturated with incompetent bureaucracy and staggering inefficiencies no amount of funding can fix.

Is the intention to return to economic greatness? Because global enterprise has made us so interdependent that we cannot compete without other nations. The global economic crisis of 2008 made that abundantly clear.

Is the intention to return to a peaceful, pastoral greatness? Because the John Trumball painting depiction of the Founding Fathers is the same idealization as Jefferson’s yeoman farmer economic fantasy and Whitman’s pastoral daydreams. And they’re all bull shit.

Life is messy and the American experiment is, too. It’s full of contradictions and challenges, injustices and disruptions. There can be no “Again” because there was never a Great. There have only ever been the attempts at greatness that each generation constructs.

We get some things right and we get other things so totally fucking wrong.

And then we try again. Not just every four years, but every two years, every season, every day. We try to get better. We try to do better. We renew our commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When we remain committed of securing these inalienable rights for all Americans, our effort is what makes us Great.

Binge Without Shame

Posted: October 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

What normally follows a binge is regret. What did I say? What did I do? Did I offend anyone? Did I smoke cigarettes? Fuck up any important relationships?

Two weeks ago, Charlie and I played golf on a Friday morning and had our neighbors over that afternoon. On Saturday I thought, “Did they all know we were hammered?”

I have often said that while we have friends who are adults, Charlie and I are merely “adulting.” We’re faking it and just hoping Hollie doesn’t figure it out before she’s self-sufficient enough to get over it.

One such symptom of my gross irresponsibility is my reading addiction. I’ve been known to ignore my family for days over a particularly good series and right now I’m in the middle of the second such series since August.

The first was by Juliet Marillier and fell into the epic fantasy category with world-building, mythology, and characters taking long journeys. This one has a few journeys, too, but the journeys aren’t the story. This series, by Deborah Harkness, is literary fantasy. It’s chock full of historical detail (the writer is a history professor) and weaves magical elements in it so convincingly that it could all be true.

Vampires, witches, demons, all of it. Totally true.

My enemy in this binge-reading habit is always time. When I was in graduate school and reading on deadlines, I devised a way to determine how much time I would need to finish the assignment. I’d begin every book by timing how much of it I could read in 10 minutes. Then I’d calculate the time needed to finish the book before the next class meeting.

Now I let my Kindle tell me how many more minutes in the chapter and I reward more productive work with chapters. I use the Audible app for audio books and let it give me segment times. I sit in parking lots upon arrival waiting to finish a segment before getting out of the car.

Binge reading is hardly a fatal addiction. While it may cause some marital discord when I ignore my husband for a good book, there are few real down sides to be a bibliophile. As a writer, binge reading is one of the best habits one can have.

There’s not a successful writer out there who would not recommend “Read” as their best advice for aspiring writers.

A good binge read can solve narration, character, or plot problems in my work. I’m convinced of perspective’s role in storytelling. When I wonder why a perspective has shifted, it reminds me to go back to my own work and reconsider whether the perspective I’m using is the right one.

A good binge read can inspire new stories. When an author takes on a topic I have some thoughts about (as Jojo Moyes did with the right to die in Me Before You or John Green did with cancer kids in The Fault in Our Stars) I’m inspired to respond with my own fictional experience. Or when a writer investigates the untold stories of secondary characters in classic fiction (as Geoffrey Maquire did in Wicked) or re-purposes fairytales (as Marissa Meyer did with The Lunar Chronicles), I’m inspired to tell my own versions of the history we know.

A good binge read can bring us out of the chaos of today and soak us in the fantasy and possibility of fiction. Like a long bath or a long run for working out tense muscles, a binge read can provide the distance we need to recharge.

So here’s what I’ve been binge reading. It’s not a comprehensive list. I’ve taken down 41 fiction titles so far this year and not all of them are recommend-able. Here’s the list in order of unbelievable awesomeness.

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

The writer who brought us Water for Elephants has done it again. I don’t typically like magical realism but when it’s done this beautifully, it’s hard to resist.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

You can’t get bogged down with the history/alchemy/bibliophile nerdiness of this book. Just wade in with optimism and Harkness will reward you.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

This takes a surprising romance-novel-like turn that pays off big time. It’s a great read with more fantasy than romance, compelling main characters that break the mold, and world-building that feels familiar and well-researched.

The best part of an awesome book is finding out there are second, third, and maybe even fourth installments. My top two books of all time:

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Both books caused the worst book hangovers ever. That’s another downfall of the binge read: the book hangover. You know the feeling, when you loved a book so much you can’t believe it’s over and whatever title you pick up next just has no chance of competing?

Book hangover.

One can only hope to slip into another binge, another awesome series, to avoid the inevitable and put off the book hangover for as long as possible.

Because, really, that’s all that’s at stake here.

I don’t hate Hillary and I’m not voting against her.

We really needed her once. We needed her in 2004 when the Bush administration was fucking everything all to hell. The Great Recession wasn’t even a twinkle in Wall Street’s eye but the deregulation of mortgage investing was about to put us all at the mercy of scum and villainy.

We needed someone to say, “What’s happened for the last four years cannot continue. We need a change.”

And the Democrats sent John Kerry to fight that battle. Seriously?

We needed Hillary then. We needed her popularity, the novelty of a woman president, the fierce life-long public servant that wouldn’t put up with Republican shenanigans.

And she failed us. Oh, sure, running against a sitting president is hard. Just ask Bob Dole. But heroes do it. They do the hard stuff because it needs to be done.

We needed her and she didn’t show up.

Someone probably told her the odds were not in her favor. Now she’s here and I don’t think she really wants to be. I think she’s here because the Democrats told her she needed to be. (“It’s your turn, woman-person.” Oh, well, thank you for finally giving me a chance. Assholes.)

There’s a chance she’s done all the public service she really wants to do but just couldn’t resist the lure of the can’t-lose campaign. (“The Republicans are a disaster, we’ll win easily. Queue Hillary.” Thanks for the vote of confidence, assholes.) It’s always been the people around the Clintons who make me queasy.

And there’s a chance she’s being used. Again.

Even if she wins, she’s not a hero. It’s more than likely she’s a puppet. Just like Trump.

The real power is in the Party and the Party doesn’t want a leader. It wants a win.

If one of the two major parties is going to win, they can sure as shit do so without me. Or you. Or that guy who keeps Liking all your Facebook posts telling me I’m wasting my vote.

Fuck you both.

I’m not voting against Hillary. I’m not even voting against Trump.

A Libertarian vote is for a party that doesn’t know it’s a Party. It doesn’t have the corruption of decades of power and entrenchment. It doesn’t have the stench of gerrymandering and election rigging and hanging chads and slanderous emails.

Sure, it’s a long shot. But the chances are better now than they’ve ever been. Better now than they were when I voted Libertarian in 2004 and Michael Badnarik finished fourth behind Ralph Nader, an independent. (Incidentally, Nader ran in 2008, too, and no one accused him of hurting the McCain/Palin ticket’s chances.)

If you really want things to change, you have to actually vote for change. Not change in the same old establishment asshole’s clothing.

Less than 1% of the vote doesn’t seem like much of a difference, still, pundits would have you believe that every vote in the popular election counts. I hear them:

A vote for a third party candidate is a vote for the candidate I hate more. So I should vote for the candidate I hate less and not waste my vote.

Again, fuck you.

Perot earned 18.9% of the popular vote but managed zero electoral college votes. And therein lies the trick: the electoral college will still swing whatever direction the Two Major Parties maneuver it to swing. In most states, the electoral college is winner-take-all.

All votes are created equal and the only one that doesn’t count is the one that isn’t cast.

So, really, your vote against Trump or against Hillary doesn’t really matter any more than my vote for Gary Johnson.

If you want to actually matter, stop your passive social media campaigning and get out there and volunteer: advocate and sacrifice in ways that demonstrate you have some skin in the game. Because though the pundits would have you believe your Likes and Tweets matter, in the end you’re just rallying the same feckless assholes who would vote a straight party ticket no matter who was on the top of the ballot.

Be willing to fight the good fight. Not the easy one.

Consider what life would be like if we weren’t under the hooves donkeys and elephants. Every election cycle Libertarians gain more traction and every gain is a win.

I’ll vote for that.

 

This was written some time ago but not posted. After Prince and the Beastie Boys’ John Berry died, I was reminded of this post and thought to finally share it. 


I’ll admit I didn’t know who it was when I saw the news about Scott Weyland. The name was familiar but I didn’t attach it to the sound I remember so clearly.

Stone Temple Pilots is a mainstay on my iTunes. They’re on my running play list. They create the fabric of sound in my very best memories. And he’s part of that. Forever.

And knowing he is dead I get that River Phoenix feeling. He was one of us, as Natalie Merchant sang. His death showed us how vulnerable we really are.

And Scott Weyland’s death is the same kind of reminder. Someone whose voice is so familiar it’s as if it were our own. Whose struggles mirrored our own. He’s a metaphor for our own lives. Anger and distrust. Exploration and boundary-pushing. A reluctance to grow up. More anger at the requirements of adulthood. A denial that adulthood is really where we live.

And addiction. Softening the impact of life on our psyche.

We all have vices. We all have ways of coping.

The loss and pain of it, crime and the shame of it. No way to save him from himself. Or us from ourselves.

We hear their voices, those who came before us. The ones who sacrificed themselves for us again and again in song and lyrics.

I have that River Phoenix feeling. The sense that we’re not immortal. And though I knew it all along, it’s a reminder that we suffer and some of us die sooner than others.

We’re not unique in this experience. The Boomers lost Hendrix and Belushi and Joplin. And we lost Cobain and Farley and Brittany Murphy and Heath Ledger. We can probably claim Philip Seymour Hoffman, too. Celebrities die just like everyone else. There is no life eternal and the frailty of the human experience is a reality for us all.

I’m not sure we’ve sought everlasting life. Not with our contributions to the casualties of war, our affinity for thrill-seeking, or our emphasis on appreciating the here-and-now. The Millennials call it YOLO (you only live once) but we never needed clever monikers. We simply saw it as the only chance we’d get to do whatever it is we planned to do.

One chance to be a rock star.

One chance to jump from a plane.

One chance for graduate school.

One chance to backpack across Europe living in youth hostels and going days between showers.

One chance to start my own company.

Before we started calling everything historic (thanks, Baby Boomers and Millennials for contextualizing everything as it happens), we thought of everything as arbitrary.

I think we still believe in the arbitrariness of it all.

And Weyland is further evidence of that. Why, in all those other times did he not find the right mix to end it? Why this time?

And how, after so long, did that bright light burn out?

We continue to lose the best among us to war, disease, addiction, and violence. And those of us who remain are left to wonder how we’ll manage to see life the way we did when they were interpreting it for us.

One of my favorite business buzzwords is Convergence.

It describes the interaction of seemingly unrelated industries creating new opportunities, new markets, and new products.

My favorite example is photo copiers. Copiers were traditionally leased by companies through agents that charged by usage. Introduce multi-function printers that are networked and require IT engagement and you have convergence. Copier guys didn’t know about IT stuff and IT guys couldn’t convince libraries to spend $10,000 on a printer/copier combo machine. Convergence in the print market meant an opportunity for lease-pricing models in the IT space.

In every day life, I experience low-level convergence when the most annoying song in the history of the planet plays on the radio in my car, in my doctor’s office, in the restaurant where I’m having lunch, and in the drug store all within a few hours of one another. Seriously, retire the fucking Spin Doctors already.

Higher-level convergence occurs intellectually when seemingly unrelated knowledge links to create a whole new stream of thought.

So that’s what happened yesterday.

First, ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse talked about meeting people who’d read his blog and being treated as if they were friends. His audience had connected with him (even if he hadn’t connected with them) and the intimacy of their exchange was at once unnerving and exciting.

Then, I watched Gerard Adams TV (the Millennial Mentor) talk about leaders creating leaders through mentoring. I stuck with it because 1) it’s true stuff and 2) he interviews his own mentor, GenXer Ryan Blair. The takeaway was Blair’s advice to “Create Value” in whatever you’re doing.

Finally, I heard Chamath Palihapitiya in an interview with Kara Swisher, a veteran tech reporter with the Wall Street Journal on her resume, on the Re/Code Decode podcast. Chamath talked about his company, Social Capital, investing in firms that were working for the greater good. He said there is tremendous value in any company that is working to give people back their time.

Okay — connect with your audience, create value, give back time.

As I’m working through the book proposal for my new work model book, I’m playing around with ideas as to how to promote it. The model itself will give back time and the work I’m doing on it should create value. Connecting with the audience should be straight forward as I want the book to address both business leaders who can change their organizational management structure to adopt a knowledge economy work model and the agents themselves who should demand fair work environments that reward results, not visibility.

Mostly, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about how quintessentially X these three men are. Darren built an online business out of his blog, a unique idea when he began 12 years ago. Ryan is a bestselling author of Nothing to Lose Everything to Gain the story of his rock-bottom-to-multi-millionaire trajectory. Chamath has AOL roots and Silicon Valley pedigree and is now looking to finance companies that have the potential to bring more people to the starting line.

There are two key factors in all of these stories: optimism and hard work. Is there anything more quintessentially X than: “Okay, you believe in yourself. Great. Now put your head down and do the work to make something happen.” ?

I’m crushing big time on Chamath and will have at least one more post just on the Kara Swisher interview. Listening to it yesterday, I went all fan-girl in the car. Sigh.

For now, though, the convergence of thought has inspired me to get back to work.