Pay the Coast Guard

As we complete a full month of the longest shut down in American history, we’re hearing about the outrage of our US Coast Guard men and women not being paid.  We’re told that the reason that we need to build a wall is to keep drugs out of the country.  THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THE COAST GUARD DOES!  On a regular basis, they put their lives on the line seizing drugs and contraband on the open seas.  The fact that they’re not being paid is unacceptable!

Last week, Speaker Pelosi wrote to President Trump suggesting that the State of the Union Address be posponed.  President Trump responded by cancelling the plane that Speaker Pelosi was goint to use for a trip to Afganastan.  While President Trump is responsible for the start of the shutdown,  it has turned into a pissing contest that all three players are responsible for.  President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Schumer have broken the cardinal rule of negotiation by making their demands so rigid,  there is no room to negotiate.  There is no desire to allow the other side to save face.  Whether a union is negotiating with management,  a buyer and seller are making a deal on a home, or a couple is working something out in a marriage,  there has to be a way for both sides to save face.  The fact that our US Coast Guard is paying the price is unacctable.

What can we do?  We can do things to alleviate this suffering that are tangible and intangible.  First, I would suggest donations to The Coast Guard Foundation;  https://coastguardfoundation.org/coast-guard-support  This could give the families much needed help.  Secondly, I would encourage you to show your support for our Coast Guard Families.  In 1979, when the hostages were taken in Iran, Americans showed our support by wearing yellow ribbons.  We continuted that tradition when our troops have been depolyed oveseas.  I ordered a Coast Guard pin that can be found on amazon.com that should be arriving soon.

Please do what is right for you to show our love to our Coast Guard Heros.

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Dabo Swinney

Big congratulations to the Dabo Swinney and his Clemson Tigers on taking down Alabama and winning the National Championship.  The Tigers were fantastic and Dabo made some great post game remaks.  That said, he acted like he didn’t know where he was, saying “wherever the Hell we are in California.”

Dabo.  I love you but let me help you out.  You’re in Silicon Valley!  For over 25 years, Silicon Valley has driven the world economy.  Silicon Valley has driven the economy so much that it saved the Clinton Presidency.  Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992 because the economy was bad. Voters thought his ideas to bring the economy back were better than George Bush’s.  During his first two years in office, the voters became so dissatisfied that he lost Congress.  For the first time in 40 years, the Republicans were control of Congress.

Over the next two years, the economy improved so much, Clinton’s popularity improved enought that he defeated Bob Dole in the 1996 election.  Two years later, the economy was so good, Clinton remained popular despite the fact that he was impeached. President Clinton left office after the 2000 election one of the most popular presidents in history.

Now I’m not trying to criticize President Clinton.  I wish he were president today.  I just believe he benefited from a great economy.   He was in the right place at the right time.

  • If Dabo Swinney were president in the ’90s, the economy would have been good.
  • If Nick Saben were president in the ’90s, the economy would have been good.
  • If Pack 12 Commisioner Larry Scott were president in the ’90s, the economy would have been good.

Debo, you’re in Silicon Valley, the area that drives the economy and the area that saved the Clinton Presidency.

People Out There Looking for Common Ground

Have  you ever googled “common ground,?” It’s amazing.  On Saturday, I googled finding common ground on gun control and found a gold mine.  We’re coming to a time where people are getting fed up with the animosity between the left and the right, to the point where they just want to have constructive conversations.

There was a great Time Magazine piece, October 25, 2018, Guns in America, The search for common ground begins with listening—to everyone, Abigail Abrams, Melissa Chan, Karl Vick.  The artist  JR Assembled the mural that is the cover https://amp.timeinc.net/time/5433987/guns-common-ground

The article begins with the stories of Maryland women:

  • Deborah Wallace; Baltimore teacher. In the past 15 months, seven of her students have been shot and killed.  She sees guns as a plague to be eradicated.
  • Cindy Chester; Lives in New Carrollton, MD. Regrets that she did not have a gun available when her ex-boyfriend shot her.  She lost her leg and unborn child.  She’s a firm believer in the 2nd

The one thing they both agree on is they want innocent people safe.  They disagree on the method. While I have my own opinions on gun laws, since I’ve never experience anything close to what Wallace and Chester have, I’m not equipped to argue with either one.  Our views on any subject come from our experiences and prospective.  Many put a lot of thoughts in their opinions. and everyone has their own stories.  When challenged most will either defend their views when challenged or just clam up.

  • Colin Goddard, a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting said, “Guns are a symbol for a lot of people, and they mean different things. I think the symbol to some Americans is of tradition, of family, of history. And others I think view it as a symbol of death, fear, destruction. And when you have such different values and feelings associated with one symbol like that, I think it helps explain why this issue and guns is so difficult to talk about.”

Have you ever been in a social situation where there was a political conversation that had both sides finishing the other person’s sentence?  They were putting words in their mouths?  Both participants think they’re going to prove the other  wrong in a 10-minute un-winnable cocktail party argument.  My suggestion is since the argument is un-winnable, what if we just listened  and maybe asked questions.  You might find that somewhere in the maze of an issue that’s dividing the country, there’s a path to agreement on small part of the issue that can further the conversation.

That happened in Sunnyvale, CA when City Council Woman Nancy Smith & NRA member Rayna Ritchie gave it a try, San Jose Mercury News, July 24, 2018, Opinion: Summit Offers Hope for Finding Common Ground on Guns

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/07/24/opinion-summit-offers-hope-for-finding-common-ground-on-guns/

Smith and Ritchie hosted the summit that included table topic discussions and exercises with attendees who consisted of “conservatives and liberals, with  diversity in ethnicity, age, and income.”

I highly recommend both articles, there’s something in it for everyone whether you’re for or against new gun laws.

Let’s bring the temperature down and concentrate more on what we have in common and less on our disagreement.  We’ll be happier, healthier, and more productive.  As we enter the Holiday Season, I wish all of you much happiness and hope 2019 is a year that our country takes some steps to find common ground.

 

Rest in Peace Mr. President

With the passing of President Bush, we lost another from America’s Greatest Generation.  While some grew up in privilege like President Bush and some grew up like my dad, helping their family scrape through the Great Depression, they all had the same sense of duty.  If they had ever met, Vern Taddei and President Bush would have formed a bond.  We all know about his service as a torpedo bomber pilot in World War II and the most consistent theme this week has been the memories people are sharing about the dignity that he brought to the Presidency.  My number one memory of President Bush is that stayed true to the mission of the first Gulf War, Operation Desert Strom.  “A military operation to expel occupying Iraqi forces from Kuwait, which Iraq had invaded and annexed months earlier.”  Whether you agreed with the operation or not, that was the mission, no more, no less.  The war began on January 17, 1991 and Saddam Hussein ordered the retreat from Kuwait on February 27.

At the time, public opinion leaned toward having our troops move into Iraq to take Saddam out. There was a lot of criticism that “he didn’t finish the job.” Last Friday, Carlos Lazada wrote Washington Post column called, “The memoir I wish President H.W. Bush Had Written.”  Lazada quotes President Bush’s book, “A World Transformed,” he worried about embarking upon “an unwinnable urban guerrilla war that could only plunge that part of the world into greater instability.”  He also noted a diary entry from the fall of 1990 where Bush noted that “my wartime experience does not condition me as a commander-in-chief and makes me cautious.”  We found out he was right when Bush #43 attacked Iraq, taking Saddam out, only to plunge that part of the world into greater instability.  It wasn’t the first time a baby boomer found out his dad was right after he did something stupid. It was just the most tragic.  I’d love to live in a world where we hadn’t gone into Iraq in 2003.

Rest in peace Mr. President

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/book-party/wp/2018/12/01/feature/the-memoir-i-wish-george-h-w-bush-had-written/?utm_term=.9556e3f04940

It’s Not a Zero Sum Game

Kathryn and I are basking in the joy of a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends, followed up with the joy of decorating our Fratellanza Italian Club for Christmas.  In this week following the fires, we count our blessings of a home that’s safe,  warm, and send our love and prayers to those who had losses.

As the lives are put back together, there is no break from the polarization. The President of the United States argued for better forest management.  Environmentalists cited climate change and argued for their ideas to be implemented.  Both sides hold the other in disdain.

I’m here to argue that neither side can survive without the other.  The forest management people can’t survive without the environmentalists and the environmentalists can’t survive without the forest management people.

As I wrote in last week’s blog post, everything circles back to sports.  Particularly baseball.  As much as I have a disdain for the Los Angeles Dodgers, I can’t imagine a baseball without the Giants don’t battling with a good Dodger team.  There would also be a major void in the lives of Red Sox and Yankee fans if they didn’t compete.

In the same way, California functions better when both the Republicans and Democrats are viable and being heard.  California also functions better when the forest management people and the environmentalist are both being heard.

What do I mean by that?  With the growth in our population and the housing crisis, we need material to build housing.  The loggers and the truckers are vital to providing that material.  They’re also vital to the economy.  On the other hand, during the past week of fires, Northern California officially had the worst air in the world.  Every citizen in California, including the loggers, truckers, and the construction workers who build homes, breathe that air and get sick when it’s bad.  Since you can’t build houses if you can’t breathe, what’s the answer?

I suggest we put the logging representatives and environmental representatives in the same room.  You can even lock the damn doors and turn up the heat to motivate them to come to an agreement.  The number one rule is that neither side gets everything they want.  The loggers can argue for what they need with the understanding there are things that they can live without.  The environmentalists can argue for what they need with the understanding that there are things that they can live without. FOR GOD SAKE, LET THE OTHER SIDE SAVE FACE!   After all the environmentalists can’t live without the loggers and the loggers can’t live without the loggers.  Most Californians think that we have clean air AND have some loggers keep their jobs?

I want to live in a state where forest management and environmentalism wasn’t a zero sum game.

It All Circles Back to Sports

Conflict sells.  Whether it political conflict, the Brovo Channel, TMZ, or championship sports teams.  Conflict brings listeners to podcasts and radio talk shows, conflict brings readers to blogs, and conflict brings viewers to cable TV shows.  The Golden State Warriors have a good one going now.  With the reputation of having the best team culture in sports.  They’ve won championships three out of the last four years, barley missing two years ago.  On Monday, one month into the new season, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant got into a conflict that has dominated sports talk.  Everyone agrees it was bad, everyone agrees that inappropriate things were said, and everyone wants to dissect it.  In a region where the Forty Niners are not very good, the Raiders are horrible, with one foot out the door, while Warrior Championships are fun, talking about discord in the organization is more interesting than talking about their great culture.  Conflict sells.

I’m currently reading a book about Major League Baseball in the 1970s, called, “Big Hair and Plastic Grass,” by Dan Epstein. His stories about the Championship Oakland A’s teams are epic:

  • The A’s won the World Series three years in a row. The first year John Odom and Vida Blue got in a fight while they were celebrating their American League Championship.  The second year, the players threatened to forfeit Game 3 of the World Series because Owner Charley Finley tried to get rid of Mike Andrews who had made critical errors in the previous game.  During the third year, Ray Fosse shattered two vertebrae in his neck while breaking up a fight with Reggie Jackson and Billy North.

We’ve also seen conflicts with other teams that were successful in the Bay Area:

  • The 49ers won four Super Bowls in the 1980s and one in the ‘90s. As Joe Montana was starting to have serious injuries, Coach Bill Walsh acquired Steve Young.  Montana didn’t like Young and left the team after the 1991 season.
  • The San Francisco Giants won 103 games after signing Barry Bonds in 1993. Bonds and Will Clark didn’t get along and Clark left the team after the ’94 season.  After appearing in the 2002 World Series, Jeff Kent left the Giants because he and Bonds didn’t get along.

While the A’s managed to win the three Championships, the Dynasty ended when Catfish Hunter bolted to New York after a contract dispute with Finley.  The 49ers dynasty continued after Montana left the team.  The Giants had rough times after Clark left,  got good again the year Kent arrived but had eight rough years after making the playoffs the year after Kent left.

So how’s the Warrior saga going to work out?  The podcast, blog, radio, and cable people have a vested interest in the feud or any other complication.  If not financially, it’s making their jobs more interesting.  Heck it gave me something to write about today.

How’s it going to work out for Warrior fans like my mom?  I believe that the Warrior culture has a lot in common with the 49ers culture of the ‘80s & ‘90s and will continue to thrive.  That said, my advice to Draymond and KD; neither of you will ever be in a better situation than what you are now with the Golden State Warriors.  FindCommonGround and HugItOut!

The Workshop

Are you traveling for Thanksgiving dinner?  As it gets closer are nervous about that one relative who’s over the top on their political views?  This past Sunday I participated in a skills workshop that was put on by Better Angels and hosted by Twin Towers United Methodist Church.

Twenty two people attended, a mixture of liberals and conservatives from all parts of the political spectrum. While for most of us were talking about a Holiday event that would take place on one afternoon or evening, others were anxious because they were going to spend an extended period of time or a vacation with someone with whom they disagree.  Our facilitator, Leslie navigated through three drills, we were paired up with a partner.  The exercises involved listening and speaking skills. The leading take home advice was to approach conversations and people with respect and a willingness to learn rather than a cross-examination. For me, this is actually liberating.  It helped me realize that it’s not necessary for me to win an argument.  I can actually enjoy the gathering without the pressure of having to prove myself right on all of the issues.

The Better Angels workshop was a productive 2 ½ hour session that led me to look further into this subject.  It led me to two articles that I highly recommend. The first, by Krista Tippett titled “Generous Listening and Asking the Right Questions.”  Tippet talks about a vulnerability, willingness to be surprised, and letting go of assumptions.  I believe that generous listening opens the door to actually growing from the conversation rather than  winning or losing an argument.

https://fs.blog/2017/01/krista-tippett-listening-questions/

The second is by Olga Khazan, “Why Families Fight During the Holidays.”  Khazen cited a theory that Sigmund Freud called “The Narcissism of Small Differences.”  We may have so much in common with a relative and then find ourselves polarized on a political or social issue.  We’re shocked that blood relatives from the same branch of our family tree see issues so differently.  We’re shocked that our favorite sibling who loves us married someone who looks at the world so differently.

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/12/why-families-fight-during-holidays/282584/

My passion for helping people find common ground led me to joining Better Angels, a national organization that was formed in 2016 with the goal of de-polarizing America.  I encourage you to take a look at their website, www.better-angels.org.  If you like what you see, please get involved, there’s a place to join.  Also, please enjoy your Thanksgiving.  There are parades to watch.  There are football to watch, and footballs to throw.  There’s great food to eat and above all, family and friends to love.  There are also wondrful organizations helping the less fortunate who would welcome our generousity.  Please celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving, and let’s keep searching for that common ground.

 

 

It Begins With Us

In July of 2016 as I began serving as Director of Toastmasters District 57, I was struck by the fact that I was involved in the largest communication and leadership organization in the world and while serving as an officer, we were in the midst of the most uncivilized presidential campaign in memory. Part of my message that year was to encourage fellow members to work to find common ground while understanding there would be differences of opinion.

Now, two years removed from that presidential campaign, the communication in our nation has deteriorated to the point where angry people are sending pipe bombs to leaders they disagree with and killing people they don’t know, who are engaging in peacefully worship. The time has come when it’s no longer effective to blame “the other side” for our troubles. Now is the time where good people from all political persuasions need to demand that the violence stops.

As our nation has been working through the devastation and pain from the shooting at the Pittsburgh Synagogue, I decided to issue a challenge to my two senators and representative in Congress. The challenge goes beyond partisan politics and any policy dispute the democrats and republicans are having on any given day. If you like the challenge, I encourage you to issue it to your representatives.

On Monday I sent an email to Representative Barbara Lee, Senators Feinstein, and Harris challenging them to encourage the House and Senate to do two things.

  1. As a show of unity and respect to the deceased members of the Synagogue, everyone involved in a campaign for the November 6th election should take one day off. All candidates should suspend campaigning of any kind for one day.

  2. Representatives Ryan & Pelosi and Senators McConnell & Schumer come together in one room. I challenge them so speak as one, encouraging Americans to vote their conscience on November 6 and whichever way the election turns out, come together in respect as citizens who share our our beautiful country.

For many years, many have held the false belief that our countries problems were caused by the “other side.” The time has come to look within ourselves. Let’s take the examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King and embrace non-violence.

Please have a peaceful week and look for common ground. It begins with us.

The Better Angel Workshop

The Better Angels Workshop

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of co-organizing a Better Angels workshop with my friend, Joe LoParo. Six conservatives sat around a table with six liberals for a conversation that was facilitated by two non-partisan moderators. Among other things, participants got the chance to talk about how they feel they’re stereo-typed by the other side. They were also asked to self-evaluate how the way that they present their views might contribute to that stereo-typing. There were some amazing moments as everyone had a chance to be heard:

  • One of the conservative men identified himself a conservative because of his passion for capitalism. As much as he believed in capitalism, he drew the line at what he called “crony capitalism,” where large corporations get inappropriate help from the government. He felt that liberals misunderstood conservatives when they characterize them as racist or sexist. He expressed love for his wife and daughter, wants the best for all women, and believes that with capitalism, opportunity is open to all regardless of race or gender.

  • A female liberal, also identified herself as a capitalist, with the understanding that there were some areas such as healthcare and the environment that required some government oversite. As an environmentalist, she believes that working to have a clean environment is good for business. At the end of the day when asked what stood out for her, she said that she was struck by the sincerity of the conservative who was truly hurt by being considered a racist/sexist.

  • That led to a conservative woman who identified herself as a libertarian expressing her hurt when other women are shocked that she voted for Trump.

  • A libertarian who wanted to be considered a liberal, lamented the fact that while republicans say they want small government, the programs they like such as the military tend to grow. He said that “democrats love the government that they want, republicans love the government that they want.”

The common theme was nuances in the beliefs. Four capitalists—two called themselves, two called themselves liberals. Two libertarians—one called herself a conservative, one called himself a liberal. Although they all agree on capitalism, they all come at it from a different angle. They can choose to dwell on where they differ or celebrate what they have in common. Today they agreed to celebrate what they have in common. All 12 agreed, that we identify the same problems but attack them with different solutions.

How do we build the common ground? It has to start with the citizens. Sunday on 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley interviewed Senators Flake and Coons. Pelley noting that Flake was not running for re-election in November asked if he would have been able to ask for the FBI investigation if he was. He said he would not have been able to. “Flake added that “there’s no value in reaching across the aisle.”

Friends, since that’s what the culture is in Washington, we have no choice but to take this on ourselves. As we take it on ourselves we have the freedom of critically thinking through our views without the burden of adhering to the party we’ve aligned with. We can reach across our own aisles in our own communities to build alliances with our neighbors. We can continue to meet one small group at a time as we realize there is more we have in common than what separates us.

Let’s keep looking for that common ground!!!