Do You Want The Peaceful Overthrow Of Our Government?

Cheering on my training buddies for the IronMan in Providence

The First Tuesday After The First Monday Of November is this week. Federal Elections in the United States are an opportunity for the peaceful overthrow of our government. If we aren’t happy with things we can make a sweeping change and put new people in charge of our government. Do you think they can do that in Venezuela? or China? or North Korea? or even Cuba? No, they cannot. These can wine and dine with Hollywood elite like Oliver Stone and Sean Penn but their citizens do not have free elections. In fact, their citizens are routinely put in jail or killed for making statements about their government like those made by Messrs. Stone and Penn.

An fact of much concern in our country is jobs. Or lack of them. Currently, unemployment has been at or above 9.5% for fourteen months. This is the longest stretch since the Great Depression. How does that make you feel?

Our national jobs crisis is actually more dire when factoring in the part-time workers who want full time work, the under-employed, and those who have “given up” looking for full time employment. When these groups are included the unemployment rate is reportedly approaching 20% for those making under $75,000.

So, what needs to be done to get people working? My Conservative friends and colleagues believe we need to cut taxes to everyone. Then people can consume more goods (i.e.: spend more money) so businesses will invest in new technologies, or expand, and then will increase their payroll. My Liberal friends and colleagues believe we need to increase government spending via job training programs, which would retrain workers, and government sponsored construction projects which would provide jobs while improving our deteriorating infrastructure. Do you agree with my Liberal friends or my Conservative friends? In two days you can have your voice, and your opinion, be heard this election season.

Peaceful overthrow of our government or a rubber stamp to “stay the course”? Clearly there is quite a bit at stake; President Obama has been out trying to energize his “Base” while Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and others from the Right have been doing the same. It will be interesting to see which side is more energized and who is crying in their beer and who celebrating on Wednesday morning after (presumably) all the election returns are in.

Let us not forget, many young men and women have given their lives and limbs so that we can have the right to vote and maintain our American lifestyle. This is our ONLY VOICE in how our governance is conducted; so let your voice be heard loud and clear.

Happy Halloween:)

Thanks for stopping by.

May You Be Healthy, Wealthy, & Wise

Dancing With The Stars – The Path To Excellence

Much to my surprise, a few seasons ago I started watching Dancing with The Stars on TV. Since then I have witnessed many “Stars” succeed on the Path To Excellence. Initially I watched it out of curiosity; “I wonder how foolish these people are going to look?” To my surprise it was entertaining and I continued to watch every week, and now I watch it quite consistently – which is saying a lot since my TV selections are usually limited to news shows and the History Channel. Looking back over the previous seasons, I have always had a favorite contestant. Usually it is obvious which one or two contestants are not going to last too long, but after that it, it gets interesting. It is often very impressive, and illustrative, to see which contestants improves, and how much, from one week to the next. What I have found is that every season there are one or two contestants who are horrible dancers and who I would have figured would not last to the final weeks – but they prove me wrong. Whether this can be attributed to the Professionals’ coaching ability, the competitive atmosphere or something else I am not sure, but it is truly amazing that some “knucklehead” guy or a woman who does not appear to have a graceful bone in her body, can improve so much and actually be a joy to watch. Additionally, the contestants in the final weeks typically seem to be genuinely “nice” – the ones with bad attitudes having been voted off. Whether it is a professional athlete with the “Bad Guy” reputation or a reality TV star who has never demonstrated any sense of etiquette or class, it is truly impressive to watch them “blossom” into a ballroom dancer with grace and musicality. They do more than learn “the right steps”, they develop a fundamental understanding of the art of ballroom dancing – perhaps the “Zen” of Ballroom. this puts them on the Path To Excellence. Some of the qualities the best contestants embody are courage (to try and dance,) confidence (they can pull it off,) perseverance (to overcome setbacks,) patience (to improve,) and the integrity to win.
The lesson for the rest of us: Many of us are so busy Doing, that we “Miss-The-Boat” when it comes to “attaining enlightenment” in life – the “Zen” of things. Whether it is working at our job, working to be a better parent and provider, or working to improve at a leisure activity – sometimes we need to take a breath, smell the flowers, or just enjoy that which we are doing. Like the best contestants on Dancing With The Stars, we need to find the Path To Excellence in life. We should strive to have the courage to try, the confidence to do it, the perseverance to overcome failure, the patience to persist until we improve, and the integrity to succeed.

Thanks for stopping by.

May You Be Healthy, Wealthy, and WISE

What Do The Heisman Trophy, & Political Primaries Have In Common?

Headlines from the past several weeks have included: 1) Reggie Bush forfeiting the Heisman Trophy after the revelation of his numerous NCAA violations, (which were at the root of an investigation that cost the University of Southern California heavy sanctions.) As of this writing, according to a Chris Dufresne article in Tuesday’s LA Times , Bush still has not offered up any apology. 2) In the little State of Rhode Island, one Primary Candidate for Lt. Governor, an under-funded, relative unknown, was soundly beaten by another under-funded, relative unknown Candidate. Only days after the Primary, the winner dropped out of the race and threw her support to an Independent Candidate for Lt. Governor. However, what is interesting is the silence from the Party officials in the state- it is deafening. 3) In the Great State of Alaska, the loser in a US Senate Primary is embarking on a “write-in” campaign for the General Election because she cannot believe that the people of Alaska don’t want her. 4) In Delaware, The First State, a relative unknown and long-shot, beat an entrenched, well-financed, expected victor who was deemed not to be true to his Party’s Platform. The loser, and many of his Party’s Leaders, have yet to support the Victor.
What do all of these “events” have in common? Duplicity, fraud, hypocrisy – The reader can decide which most aptly fits each. What is unfortunate is that these instances of deception and fraud are being perpetrated on a public that is “innocent”, and occurring in areas of our culture that one would, perhaps naively, think should be immune to such trickery. All too often, people today “pose” to be something they aren’t and with a “wink and a nod” those in power look the other way so the fraud can be perpetrated and those in power can retain their power.
According to the NCAA.org website, the Core Purpose of the NCAA “is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.” In spite of this, college football has become a Big Business; player’s Agents are virtual “King-Makers” and will do what they can to assure their own financial future by way of young athletes’ allegiance and fealty. How did we get from that Core Purpose to Reggie Bush having to forfeit the Heisman Trophy and USC receiving heavy sanctions? When did we exit the path of righteousness?
Public Service is all but absent from politics today; those that have political power, whether they are elected or not, are unwilling to relinquish it. Party name does not matter, once the “outsiders” gain power and are “insiders”, they do not want to relinquish it, even to their own Party. Which is why today, there are bigwigs in a major political party who are cannibalizing newcomers so they can retain their own grip on power. Ideology has nothing to do with what these bigwig politicians say or believe. Even when these newcomers are more closely aligned with the official Party Platform than the individuals they beat, if they are a perceived threat, they are attacked.
Is this what our Founding Fathers had in mind? Is this what we, the “regular people” want? Or, do we want to demand truthfulness, righteousness and honesty from our athletes, politicians, business and civic leaders? After all, Leadership by a good example is what makes Great Teams, Great Movements, Great Companies, Great Cultures and Great Nations.

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May You Be Healthy, Wealthy, and WISE

Public Works Projects: Can Taxpayers Afford To Allow Government To Control Spending Without Accountability?

The “Biggest Little State in the Union” is in the final stages of the relocation of Interstate Route 195. The Iway is a short stretch of highway that passes over the Providence River, and is easing the traffic congestion that plagued commuters between the West Bay and East Bay of the state for years.

Last night, as I was zooming across the new “Iway” bridge, I found myself admiring its design; the internally illuminated concrete piles, the arches (that seem to be the same color as the garages at the house where I grew up,) the suspension cables, and its over-all smooth-ness. There aren’t potholes or big bumps to jar ones passage across the Providence River as had become the norm with the old Providence River Bridge. Perhaps it was my imagination, but even the road surface material seemed to be quieter, surreal.

Alas, that was then this is now. This morning I decided to skip the gym and, while the weather permits, read the ProJo Online with a cup of coffee on my deck. Much to my chagrin, I read that the cost of relocating route 195 is already more than double from initial estimates and the project won’t be completed until 2012. That is a swing from $299 million in 1993 to a whopping $758 million today and the initial estimate accounted for inflation. One would hope that there are people much smarter than I am who cost these things out at the outset. In commercial real estate we use a Pro Forma to determine the feasibility of a project/venture so there aren’t any surprises and the developer/owner doesn’t run out of money. Try to imagine the developer of a housing development, an office building or retail plaza going back to the lending institution every year or so asking for additional funds to complete the initial project. We have all seen enough unfinished housing developments and commercial buildings sitting vacant to know that lending institutions won’t hesitate to kill funding on a poorly managed/executed construction project. It is not so easy with Public Works Projects. We can’t have unfinished bridges, roads, sewers etc because the public welfare and safety depends on these projects.

What can we do? For sure there is no easy answer, but we need to address the fiscal irresponsibily of governments because we are at, or quickly approaching, the “tipping point” where our society just cannot afford more taxes without permanently handicapping the economy at-large. Every dollar that is paid in taxes is one less dollar that can be spent on breakfast in a local coffee shop, or on a bouquet of flowers, or dining out, or attending local theater. The segment of society that “feels it most” could be those that can afford it least – those with lower income. They may not pay income taxes but they pay the onerous gas tax every time they fill-up, and other “sin taxes” when they buy a six-pack of beer, or a pack of cigarettes…and these monies are continually squandered by the politicians who control the purse-strings of government. Why do the Gas Tax and other “road taxes” often go into the General Fund and not remain earmarked for transportation issues? Why aren’t monies received from liquor and cigarette taxes earmarked for healthcare/Medicaid? Monies received from specific sources should be disbursed for corresponding specific uses. This would force our politicians and the bureaucrats to be responsible and accountable with our money. There would be no General Fund “black hole” sucking in these revenues to be lost and only to resurface as some pet project or other pork-barrel spending.

So as we approach the Primary and then the General Election, pay attention to what the candidates say, and what the politicians have done. This is the only time the citizenry has a voice. We need to speak with a voice that is loud and clear: “We are not going to tolerate, nor can we afford wasteful spending.” Don’t forget to vote.

Thanks for stopping by.

May You Be Healthy, Wealthy, and WISE

Double Dip Recession Or Two Scoops Of Optimism?

We have been hearing a lot lately about the possibility of a “Double Dip” recession lately from President Obama on down to local news reports. It seems like Economists, Prognosticators, Politicians (I know, what do they know) Pundits, Talking Heads, and every other “Tom, Dick, and Harry” seem to have an opinion on the status of our Economic Recovery. What I have found, empirically and anecdotally, is that there are multiple “right” answers to the question.

Many “Leading Indicators” foretell a path to recovery, but there are certainly many statistics that one could cite which inidicate that we are at the beginning of a steep, and/or long, decline. What I have observed is that both may be occurring at the same time; it depends on the “when and where factor” when the number measurement was taken and where you are – your perspective. There certainly are indications that our economy is improving – GDP Growth, Industrial Output, and Retail Sales are all up, but Diesel Fuel Sales have stalled1, our National and Trade Defecits are at records levels, and the number of Americans receiving food stamps is expected to rise from 40 to 43.3 million in the next year. Perhaps, what matters is how each one of us individually is impacted. Personally, I know individuals who are doing quite well financially, in a lousy economy in a state with one of the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the country; and others who are unemployed, under-employed, or whose businesses are struggling. Believe me; both groups have a different take on the state of our economy. These are people who work hard, work smart, and are resourceful – but with different outcomes.

Does it matter if the economy is up or down? As I write this I am watching numerous different breeds of birds “attack” bird feeders, fending off rivals to take advantage of an opportunity for an easy meal. If food is scarce or in abundance elsewhere in the neighborhood doesn’t matter. They are all amply fed now, as they have been for years; by the bird feeders. If the bird feeders disappear these little feathered friends will do what’s necessary to survive. Until then, they make sure they eat what they can to remain healthy and strong. Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned from these finches, hummingbirds, woodpeckers and sparrows. Double dip recession or two scoops of optimism? Who cares! Let’s just do what we need to do… and cherish each day as we do it.

1UCLA-Ceridian Pulse of Commerce Index

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May You Be Healthy, Wealthy, & WISE.

Congress Needs To Act To Ease Credit/Lending For Challenged Commercial Markets

Jim Helsel, the Treasurer of the National Association of REALTORS® testified before a House Panel on July 29th. He stated that a strong commercial real estate sector is vital to millions of U.S. jobs and helps keep the national economy afloat. Perhaps the esteemed members will listen to testimony “from the trenches” of small business. Tax credits and assistance to hire employees are of little value if there is no capacity to retain them. Businesses need access to capital when cashflow slows to maintain or increase inventories, acquire other businesses, or for new construction. Small business vitality is what would help “prime the pump” of our economy; it needs to grow from the bottom up, not the top down. Lending institutions are relucant to lend because of the presence of “Big Brother” and restrictive regulations.

Congress has acted to help address the situaton; the Small Business Lending Act of 2010 is greatly appreciated but we need more. We are not asking for money, or tax breaks; rather small businesses need access to capital (which is not a “handout” from the government) for QUALIFIED business borrowers. Hopefully they will hear us and respond positively.

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May you Be Healthy, Wealthy, and WISE.

Happy Monday! How Positive Is Your Attitude?

Welcome! This is my first entry in my new Blog. Hopefully this Blog over time will pique the interest of my friends, colleagues and business associates so that you will continue to stop by to read and perhaps leave comments.

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, we are continually bombarded by information: sound bytes, financial data, news images, and plain old chit-chat from friends, family, and clients. Unfortunatley, much of what we are bombarded with is negative. Politicians complain about the other political party, economists and pundits drone on about the “worst economy in dacades”, friends/family/clients complain about one thing or another.

Yet, in the face of all this, it is important that we remain positive and upbeat. It is challenging, because we all have, or know someone who has, to overcome difficult circumstances. Brian Tracy, the Self-Help author, advises us to avoid the bombardment of negative information. We must stay positive by being positive; and surround ourselves with positive people. According to Mr. Tracy, the most powerful influence n your attitude is what you say to yourself and believe. Personally, I have found this “Self Talk” to be a great first step because it is not dependent on someone or something else; I have complete control over my thoughts and attitudes. Besides, it simply takes too much time and energy to always debate people with a negative outlook. Many people engage in physical activity to stay focused on what’s important; others attend religious services, read or do some combination of the above. I would like to close with a quote from Abraham Lincoln “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be”

What works for you?

Thanks for stopping by.

May you be Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.