What is America’s Place in Today’s World?

Today in the Washington Post there was an article about how it was easier for women to commit suicide than seek divorce in Afghanistan; as heart breaking as that is its not an uncommon story that we hear from the Middle East. You hear about public stonings, rape victims being put to death for infidelity; women not allowed to leave their homes. These are just a few examples but there are many many more; they also include Egypt after the Arab Spring having someone try to be a new dictator; chaos in the government, army and police in Afghanistan; similar situations in Iraq. Full out Civil war in Syria. Iran who represses its citizens, has public stonings as well and is trying to obtain a nuclear weapon. And of course the never ending violence surrounding Israel and its right for existence.

My questions is what can the United States of America do about any of this. We have tried for a peace deal for Israel since the states inception. We have been in Afghanistan for over 11 years trying to help them build a better society but its not working. We tried in Iraq, we toppled a brutal dictator and tried to help establish an Iraqi democracy. Results there are tentative at best. But, we cant change everything. Condoleezza Rice wrote an interesting op ed piece in the Washington Post a few weeks ago; she discussed what America’s place in the world should be. That is a great question for all Americans; what place do we want in the world? Do we want to be the world’s police, get ourselves involved in every battle every insurgency? Or do we want to focus on our protection, like the war against terror and using drones.

These questions of course are extremely difficult to answer. Can anything we do change the hatred for thousands of years with the Sunni and Shia? Can we modernize societies that cut peoples hands off for stealing? Our being in Afghanistan should teach us that we cant change another country’s culture. Sure, maybe if we had a couple million troops there for 40 years we might be able to, but we would also be seen as occupying the country which would in turn make for even more fighting.

Its my belief that change will come only when those involved want it. The surge didnt make Iraq stable, the Sunni Awakening did. These people all have to want a better, safer, freer life. There are things we can do however. Number one is for us to get our act together. For us to act as a united country; no matter who is president we stand behind them. Right now we look like a mockery of what we once used to be. We have partisan bickering over the words Susan Rice said; when the real issue is what happened, why wasnt their security. We as a country need to come together. Our GOP and DEMS are acting like the Sunni and Shia; in constant battle. Obama meeting Romney for lunch today could be such a great uniting act; but I am doubtful it will be. So, first is have politicians here all on the same page, all with the same goals, making our country better. That would set a huge example to the world. Second we should create or help to create some sort of Arab Muslim UN of sorts where new democracies in the Mid East can go to for help. Turkey is a democracy that could help other countries learn to govern, protect themselves and be free. Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria, Libya they could all use guidance. Their peers should try to help them. Also America should always let it be known we stand for peace and freedom for all people and will help in anyway we can; without going to war.

There are things we can do to help around the world, the policies we have been pursuing are not working. We should rethink them using some of my suggestions above. But we need to get our house in order first, and our financial house too. We should be that Shining City on the Hill that everyone wants to live in and we should help others achieve it.

John Ross Ewing II

When I read about Larry Hagman’s death the other day it was sad. He has brought so much fun into the world with his work on TV, especially with Dallas; but also I Dream of Jeannie. They showed a clip of Jeannie the other day, it was funny hearing Barbara Eden call him Master. I dont think that would fly in today’s politically correct world, a woman calling a man her master. But it was fun seeing that clip too; the vivid colors, the 60s hair. I watched that show a lot in syndication, it was on in the afternoons I think. It was really Dallas that Larry Hagman excelled at. I cant tell you the number of hours of entertainment he brought me on that show, and I know many people feel the same way.

I came to watch Dallas in a way thats different from most people; I was too young when it started to watch or probably to understand what was going on. I started with watching an episode of Knots Landing. I happened to be flipping through the channels (back when there werent very many) and I put Knots on. That episode blew me away, literally. It was the episode where Sid was in the hospital and wanted to have surgery, Karen didnt want him to but he was insistent on having it. It was somewhat dramatic but I knew from many years of TV he would be fine. Then a scene came on, you could see from a distance, the doctor telling Karen and the 3 kids the results of the surgery. The audience couldnt hear what was being said, but you could tell Sid had died. I had never seen that before, a main character being killed off. Plus the way they did it, without words, was over the top fabulous. Knots was a spin off of Dallas but was actually written before Dallas was. The producers at CBS didnt want a show about middle class people like Knots, they wanted a show about rich oil Texans. Most people dont know that Dallas was originally supposed to be all about Pam and Bobby. Rich boy marries poor girl and what would ensue from that situation. Bobby was actually supposed to die after the first season and Pam was to be the rich woman butting heads with the much richer Ewings.

But something unexpected happened. The audience fell in love with JR and Sue Ellen. In the first episode Sue Ellen had one line, something like, please pass the sugar. But it was Larry’s depth that made that show and made countless imitators. He wasnt your typical one dimensional villain, he turned JR into a complex character. You could see and feel how much he wanted his father’s approval. But Jock, who was also great, was a tough man not used to giving out compliments or love. JR also always respected and wanted to please Mama, Miss Ellie. It was genius the way JR would be ruthless in business, screwing over his closest allies but yet he was incredibly vulnerable to his parents. And was motivated by seeking their approval. Linda Gray was also fantastic as Sue Ellen. She and JR were a perfect match. Their fights, their relationship was so fun to watch, JR being so evil, Sue Ellen’s eyes could  tell an entire story without a word spoken. I do have to thank Larry for bringing fun on TV. Dallas was a must watch show for many years. The ‘Who shot JR’ was one of the most watched episodes in history. When they spun off Knots Landing it was JR’s brother Gary who was the main character. Knots had many many great moments; Abby being another fun character.

Dallas started in 1978 and went to 1991. Dallas, Knots, Dynasty were all staples of 80s must watch TV. All of this was possible because of Larry Hagman and his ability to take a character and make him so interesting you just had to find out what was going to happen next.

Larry, you will be missed and you brought many hours of happiness to many people around the world.

No, Greed Is Not Good

All of the political talk the last few years has been disturbing. I am talking specifically about taxes, stimulus and doing whatever it takes to get our economy back on track and also to balance the budget and pay down our debt. The GOP mantra of no tax increases is absurd. The fact they actually signed a pledge that was anything but doing whats best for our country is nothing short of criminal. All of this current talk about not raising taxes but eliminating loopholes is just semantics. Watching all of this is nothing short of watching the decline of our country. And, what everyone, the markets, the world community are looking for is that the US government can actually govern. We are seen around the world as a joke, our politicians fighting and bickering like children in a sandbox. We have an immediate fiscal crisis coming up that could have cataclysmic side effects if not handled properly; we have a longterm unemployment crisis; we have a debt that could lead to the end of the American Empire; and what are we doing about it? Who is leading a solution? What are we as citizens being told about the details of some sort of grand bargain? Nothing is the word that can answer all of those questions.

Let me start by talking about taxes. No one likes taxes, thats a given. However the thought that people who earn more should pay a higher percentage in taxes is a completely fair way of establishing a tax code. If you step back and look at economics in general you will see some people do better than others. For some people they did better because they had opportunities other people didnt have. Maybe they, or their family, knew someone that gave them a break in their careers. Maybe they were born into a wealthy family. The thought that people who have been more fortunate dont want to pay a little more is just unacceptable to me. If you have an advantage in life that others don’t, dont you want to give back? Dont you want to help someone who has been less fortunate. The fact that this thought is so foreign to most people is really sad. I am not talking about any kind of income redistribution or taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor. But just the basic thought that you are more privileged and dont want to give more is a very sad commentary on our society. I know this from personal experience. I was born into a family that had a lot more than other families. I dont know what its like to go hungry or have had to save for college or not have had the nicest things around. Because of that I am always sure to be sensitive to others who didn’t grow up the way I did. I recently asked my mother what she and my father thought about paying higher taxes in the 80s and 90s when they both had very successful businesses, ie they were paying the highest Clinton rate of 39% or whatever it was. She said that neither she nor my father ever minded that. Their view, which I inherited, was that people who earn more should pay more to help society. When I was working I also did quite well, I remember thinking in 2000 that Bush cutting taxes was wrong; people like me didnt need the relief, and neither did people who were doing a lot better than I was. I think that as a society those who have more should give more. And I dont mean we should all pay the same tax rate, I mean their should be tiered taxes.

We have things that need to be done, police, teachers, firefighters; they all need to get paid. We count on them in case of emergencies. Its time for people who earn more to pay higher tax rates. Our country is in a terrible mess now, and we need revenue to move forward, put more people back to work, stimulate the economy, pay down our debt. This is not the time to be bickering about pennies, which is exactly what a 2% tax increase will be on higher income earners. Now is the time for people to step up and to want to help our country out of the mess we are in. The more advantages in life you are given, the more is expected from you.

Have You Ever Wondered What It Feels Like to be Unemployed

Over the last year or so I have had the opportunity to talk with many people about their unemployment. I’ve talked to people who are recent college grads, mid careers and 50 and over; I’ve also talked to people ranging from assistant to COO and CEOs of companies. Being unemployed is an extremely difficult time to describe. There are many different emotions, life changes, and other things that immediately change your life. I am going to give a few examples of what people have told me; some are very similar, some very different. Just like people themselves; how you handle a crisis will be different for everyone:

  • At first I really liked it; was great to not have to go in to work. It had become such a miserable place to be that being let go was almost a relief. I took a few weeks off then started working with my network, sending out resumes and going on multiple interviews. As time wore on and rejection was part of everyday life I started to withdrawal more; stopped doing the things I liked and pretty much stopped looking for work. After 3 years I now have little hope that I will ever find a job.
  • When I was let go from being a CEO of a major company I was devastated; I had never been fired or let go before so it was a totally new experience for me. I figured with my previous successes in business world I would land a job pretty easily. Thats not what I found. After going to many CEO executive search firms and many interviews I kept hearing the same thing; your experience is in media, this job is non-media so it wont be a fit. Knowing full well that the talents I have would be easily transferable to another Industry. I was ruled out of most positions. It was like HR didnt want to hire anyone that didnt have the exact same experience as the job that needed to be filled. I decided at that point to start my own consulting business. Luckily the business is going well and I am actually earning more than I had been. But, its much more stressful to work for yourself  and have to bring in business. I am one of the lucky ones.
  • I graduated college in May of 2012, I was a straight A student and excelled at most of the things I tried. I have been on so many interviews I have lost count. I have been interviewing for just about any job, from working for a non profit to working as a receptionist at a gym. I do wonder why I went to college because it certainly isnt helping me now with  my search. I try to stay up beat and try to go to the gym but  that doesnt always work. I will keep looking until I find something.

These are just a few examples of what people have told me. In general the longer people are unemployed the worse things get for them. The less likely they are to send out resumes or network. If you havent been unemployed that might sound counter intuitive but its not. It goes directly to human behavior. The more rejection you have the less likely you are to try harder. Many become depressed. I spoke to many many people who started drinking heavily after a year or so of unemployment. Thats the only way they can deal with life is by drinking, taking meds or other mind altering substances. Many many people have also given up looking. After 2, 3, 4 years can you blame them? I also heard a lot of people say having no place to go and nothing to do are amongst the hardest parts of being unemployed. One woman told me that when she looks out her window and sees people walking by it makes her sad; she feels like she is the only person in the world with no place to go. Nothing to do and nothing to look forward to. When people are this down they dont tend to do the proven things to lift depression; like exercise or volunteer somewhere. They are too despondent for that. This can lead to a cycle of being more depressed, drinking more, and just get deeper and deeper.

The main thing I got from talking to these people is that what they all want is a job. There are 5 million longterm unemployed people in the United States. They dont want handouts, they want to re-enter society.