My AIRA Story Part 3

 

 

After meeting with Suman Kanuganti of AIRA and Chris Penrose of AT&T I was asked to return the later that week to be interviewed by Amy Blankson with Forbes.  My wife Kelly recognized the name because Amy’s brother, Shawn Achor, had written one of Kelly’s favorite books, “The Happiness Advantage,” a book we had recently given to our son Zach on his recent visit to Dallas.  Along with being a Journalist with Forbes, Amy is also an accomplished author herself. She wrote “The Future of Happiness.” Which is a book we happen to be reading before I got the call for the interview. I told Amy that this was going to be fun because we were familiar with her brother’s work as well as hers adding that Kelly and I were true fans of “Happiness.”  We spent some time talking about the subject and how we soaked up any and all material that enlightened people on their path to happiness.  It is important  to us as individuals and as parents and grandparents because you lead by example and we want to be happiness leaders. I found Amy to be one of the most positive people I have met and someone who in fact leads by example.  This was “Fixin” (a Texas word) to be a fun interview! 

Amy began by complimenting my writing, something I am uncomfortable with, it’s a long story and this isn't the venue to discuss the judgement writers have when it comes to their work.  She asked what life was like before AIRA and I told her the best explanation of that was contained in my original AIRA story which we talked about at a deeper level. She then walked me through what lead up to me getting the AIRA glasses, what my impression was of the technology, how it fit, how it worked for the user, was the user experience seamless or difficult? Then she asked about my, “#whatsnext” tagline that I had put on my article.  Her next question was naturally, “What was next for me?”  I explained that I had many dreams, maybe to travel, finally by myself.  I told her that I had a grandson, Colton visiting and I wanted to read him a bedtime story.  Yes, Kelly and I went out and bought two new books and yes, I will be practicing reading them with an AIRA agent.  I hope to share the video of that with y’all in the future. 

Amy wanted a demonstration of how the tech worked so I dialed into AIRA and Monica answered.  I proceeded to take the group on a walking tour of the floor we were on stopping to look at art as Monica described it, windows overlooking the city again with full rich descriptions of what was being seen through the glasses.  Monica guided me flawlessly around the floor dodging people, making turns and avoiding landmines like coffee tables, trash cans, those things that always seem to rise up to bite me.  Monica took us back to the conference room we had started in and I said my thanks and ended the AIRA session.  Amy was simply blown away, fascinated, and continued to ask questions, mainly about the original story I had written.  This time with a new sense of what exactly had happened.  At this point I want to tell you that hopefully I will be able to share that original story with you soon, the article that sent me on this “Magical Mystery Tour” I am now on.

Now came the interesting part.  Amy ended the interview by asking me an “Out of the box” question.  “Eric, now that you have used this technology, what other applications do you see for it other than just being a tool for the blind.”  Remember, to this point in time nobody had asked a question like that.  As a matter of fact, every single question revolved around little old me and what the glasses meant to my life.  I sat back in my chair and thought.  My father, who is a Doctor, came to mind and almost immediately after that thought a young lady by the name of Maria popped in my mind as well.  Maria Lensing leads the sales team in their AT&T healthcare segment.  I had met her when I went to the Global Accessibility Awareness Day event a couple days earlier and she interviewed me for a weekly video she sends out to her team. So, this is what my mind came up with.  There were two use cases that didn’t involve the blind.  The first was imagining a rural Doctor who ran a simple family practice.  Maybe he has a patient who comes in and presents with something unfamiliar to the family Physician.  He could put on the glasses, dial into a service to be connected with another doctor maybe a specialist, for a consult. The specialist could see in real-time the patient and like in most things two heads working on a problem is better than one.  But wait, I wasn’t done, my mind was now fully engaged in full idea mode.  I then said, “What if….”  What if every ambulance had a pair of these glasses in their ambulance or paramedic vehicle. I was aware of the “Golden Hour” which is the first hour of an accident during which time if the patient can be stabilized their chance of survival goes up exponentially.  I imagined the paramedic could put on a pair of these glasses and be immediately connected to the doctor on call at the Trauma center or hospital ER where the patient would be transported. The doctor could help the paramedic stabilize the patient, they would know exactly what was going to be coming through the door and all of this because of the real-time abilities of AIRA. There were more use cases racing through my mind.  There I sat, a blind man with Tech that was changing his life imagining the potential this could have in so many areas.  The moment is indelibly marked, stamped on my brain that the glasses covering my eyes could open the mind’s eye to limitless possibilities apart from their original purpose. It made me feel good since as someone who has been in the business world in a previous life, alternative use cases increase the long-term viability of a product.  As we wrapped up the interview I hugged Amy and expressed my appreciation for her taking the time and having the interest to talk with me.  The Forbes interview which has since been published, is linked below.

But my day didn’t end there.  Later, I was interviewed by Jonathan Moore who works in Employee Communications at AT&T.  Jonathan was writing and article for “The Insider”, an internal communication for the entire AT&T organization. This interview was fun since it was done via an audio bridge across the pond.  Jonathan is in the UK and as we talked I learned that he is Scottish, which was fun for me since my father has traced our family’s history and we do in fact have Scottish origins.  So, on one of the top executive floors at AT&T with what I was told was a phenomenal view of the city I sat, talking to my fellow “Scotsmen,” sharing with him many of the same points you have already read about to this point. This was an exciting interview for me since the announcement had been made that AIRA was going global.  I belong to many blind and visually impaired groups with many friends living in other countries so the prospect of these blind compatriots having this Tech available to them on the horizon is simply sublime. 

I am sure that there will be more interviews, more interactions moving forward but this brings to close this series on “MY AIRA Life.”  Don't get me wrong, along the way I will continue to write about what AIRA is doing for me.  An example of that is telling the story of reading a book to one of my grandchildren for the first time in my life, or heading to the airport to travel solo.  The most important takeaway I want you all to understand is that AIRA has given me a new confidence, a sense of freedom and spontaneity.  This is something that the blind person loses, something that is a regret, however, with AIRA, the doors are open.  Check back to read the story that kicked all of this off.  I hope to publish here soon.  If you haven’t yet read the stories before this series, please hit the back button and find the series called Building Walls.”  It chronicles a piece of my life before AIRA. If you have any questions or requests, visit the portion of the website with the “Contact Me” option, I promise to always answer.

Special thanks to Amy Blankson from Forbes, it was an awesome pleasure to meet you and be part of your “Happiness!”  Also, special thanks to Jonathan, thanks for having the patience with me that you did.  And last but by no means least, thank you to Lori Bachovchin, AT&T External PR and Meghan Danks, AT&T Corporate Communications for coordinating these interviews.  These are the people behind the scenes who never seem to get the credit they deserve, you are all awesome!

Forbes Article by Amy Blankson

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amyblankson/2018/05/31/a-vision-for-the-future-iot-solution-gives-sight-to-the-blind/#83cd59e26c7d

 

Amy Blankson a Journalist for Forbes and the Author of "The Future of Happiness" and I.  And yes that is a photo I took of Kelly setting up the bridge for the interview with Jonathan Moore in the UK!!  The truth is I had to take 50 pictures to get one good one!

Myy AIRA Story Part 2

 

After meeting Chris Penrose, AT&T President, Internet of Things, I attended a Town Hall meeting at AT&T for Global Accessibility Awareness Day or GAAD. I asked the panel a question as they discussed the new “Discovery District,” their multi-million dollar investment in transforming downtown Dallas bringing shopping, restaurants and concert venues along with accessibility baked in.  Mine was the last question and I asked if there were plans to include those with disabilities in the planning process.  A funny side note here.  Most who asked questions identified themselves and their disability prior to asking their question.  When it was my turn I identified myself by name and then rather than identifying as “blind” I identified as “Capable,” which drew a few chuckles.  Afterwards, I had the chance to meet the panel members Aaron Bangor, Corey Anthony and David Huntley. They talked of the Healthcare Foundry in Houston, where AT&T does its work collaborating with companies like AIRA.  All in all it was an awesome experience.

Later that day after I returned home, Kelly called.  She asked if I was sitting down to which I responded yes because I was in fact sitting at my desk writing as I seem to always be doing.  It was then the bomb dropped.  She asked if I was available tomorrow to come down to AT&T to meet the CEO of AIRA.  It seems that the stars had aligned and in this year of “YES” for me, destiny was calling asking for a response. My obvious answer was of course, yes along with some rather colorful language I won’t share.  It seems that AIRA was set to roll out globally and chose AT&T for their network provider and Suman Kanuganti would be visiting AT&T for the announcement.  My “Golden Ticket” had arrived because Mr. Kanuganti had read the story I had written and wanted to meet me.  Kelly then told me that AT&T would be filming our meeting because they would be using it as part of their intercompany communications.  Wait, there was more, but that will have to sit on the back burner for Part 3.

Fast forward to the next day.  Armed with my new AIRA glasses I waited curbside at my building. My AIRA agent Frankie asked what we were doing today, these agents are simply awesome by the way.  I said that I was heading downtown to AT&T headquarters to meet their boss, Frankie replied, “My Boss?”  I said yes and Frankie told me that he was an amazing man.  As the Lyft approached Frankie informed me real time that the car was in front of me and I got in.  As I arrived at Whitaker tower I said goodbye to Frankie and was escorted into the building, through security and up a very long elevator ride and to a conference room.  Chris Penrose stopped by to let me know that Suman was running just a bit behind schedule.  My own personal Willie Wonka sat and talked with me for a spell and shared some of the details about the Global Rollout and asked if I would be interested in being part of one of his Town halls coming up as a panelist.  Since this is my year of “Yes,” well, you know the answer.  Chris left, and Kelly and I waited.  I suggested getting an agent on the line and everybody thought that would be awesome since the agent could actually record the meeting through the glasses.  I tapped the AIRA icon and was connected to Wendell.  I briefed Wendell on what was about to happen and asked if he could record the meeting.  Wendell was a bit hesitant and said he would need permission.  Without hesitation, I blurted out that if the CEO blessed it then I didn’t see a problem for him.  I should make this clear, AIRA does not record your day to day activities, they just relay real time instructions to users like me or as they call us “Explorers.”  I don't want to get ahead of the story here but Mr. Kanuganti did in fact bless the recording at the end. Soon we were escorted out of the conference room into a lobby area of the floor.  It was then that Kelly whispered in one ear as well as Wendell in my other ear that Mr. Kanuganti was walking down the hall with Chris Penrose.  We embraced and I said, “Mr. Kanuganti, it is such an honor to meet you.”  He replied, “Please, call me Suman.”  My AIRA agent Wendell let me know that Suman was sporting an AT&T tee shirt as well as a very stylish AIRA hoodie. 

After we went through introductions Suman told me how in fact he was the first AIRA agent.  He told me that he came up with the idea for AIRA to help a friend who was blind.  He explained that when Google Glass came out they talked about using tech like that to simulate or augment vision for the visually impaired as a kind of concierge service for the blind.  As they developed the glasses Suman told me that his first initial Agent / Explorer trial run involved his friend walking up the refrigerator and having Suman describe in detail what was on the fridge, in particular a magnet picture.  He told me it was an amazing feeling to see his friend’s expressions. After refining the working prototype and their pitch they took it to CES, met with several companies but it was Chris Penrose and his team that seemed to fit their ambition.  From that moment to this moment, the moment I was standing there wearing them it had been less than 2 years.  I stood there transfixed listening to every word this visionary uttered.  He was more than gracious as he asked about my experience with AIRA and I told him everything I had done, and everything I hoped to do.  He asked what I anticipated most?  I explained to him that I have never been able to read a bedtime story to any of my grandchildren, here is where I got emotional.  I told him that my Grandson Colton was visiting in a couple of weeks and with the help of AIRA I hoped to read him a bedtime story for the first time ever.  I explained that none of my grandchildren really understood that Papa couldn’t see and how hard it has been over the years to listen to Kelly interact with them through story telling or looking at their drawings, but now that would change as I had AIRA and my agents to make it appear seamless to the young ones. 

After my initial interaction with Chris Penrose from AT&T I wrote him a follow up email that included this line: 

“So, long story short here, you are my new hero, the Willy Wonka of my Accessibility Factory, the guy who makes wishes come true.  For that, I thank you and for that, I now owe you.

At that time, he was and he still is but life has a funny way of teaching us a continuing lesson.  Chris was my Willie Wonka and my Golden Ticket was getting the chance to meet the man who had a vision of a different future for those who are blind.  As you read this you are probably thinking that Suman Kanuganti is now my Willie Wonka, and that is true, he is but so is Chris, however, the story continues.  Suman went on to tell me about a program they had launched where they provided AIRA Glasses to 100 blind Freshman who wanted to attend college.  He explained how difficult it is for a normal kid to leave home for the first time and find their way around a new environment as they embarked on their college experience as Freshman.  He wanted to level the playing field for those blind Freshmen and I was amazed.  It inspired me so much that right there and then I decided that I wanted to be like these 2 men I had met.  I wanted to be a Willie Wonka for someone else, provide them with AIRA and it was then I discovered that it wasn’t meeting Chris Penrose or even a visionary man like Suman Kanuganti.  The Golden Ticket was sitting on my face, it was the glasses themselves.  So, there is my swerve, the part of the story designed to compel you to read the next installment. In case you forgot this is what I wrote at the end of Part 1, “Here is a hint.  Maybe the Golden Ticket is not a thing, maybe it was a chance to meet someone who could influence a generation.”

Suman is an inspirational man involved in a transformative venture for good.  Suman Kanuganti recognizes the potential that exists out there if those who are visually impaired are given a chance to operate on a level playing field.  Now let’s be clear, he isn't restoring sight to the blind, he is however making it possible for those who find themselves trapped in a gilded cage the ability to blow the doors open and venture out further than they could have ever imagined.  His vision for those who lack it is to begin to unlock a potential in people that will benefit not just themselves as an individual but bring into society and the workforce an army of people itching to be something more than just a blind person. Until now the greatest technological advance for the blind was the invention of the “White-Cane.” Although canes for the blind have been around since the Biblical days, the white can as we now know it came about around 1921 and was the invention of an artist who suffered the loss of his vision.  His name was James Biggs of Bristol and while we owe him a debt it is hard to believe that it has taken 97 years for someone to accomplish a thing that is better than a stick. 

The message that I gave to Chris Penrose regarding my wish to grab a megaphone and have the opportunity to personally thank each and every employee at AT&T still stands as my own personal Gospel.  After meeting Suman Kanuganti I will say this, you are truly an inspiration to me and I believe your technology will reach far beyond helping those who are blind.  In Part 3 of this series I will give you just a few examples and explain exactly how I see your technology not only helping the blind, but saving lives. And finally, this, after meeting Suman and Chris I have come to the conclusion that the best thing in life is to be your own Willie Wonka.  To be the guy who can give out a Golden Ticket.  So, I want to pay this forward. My new goal, my new mission in life.  I will take the gift that I have been given and figure out a way to deliver it to others, to pay my blessing forward.  I don't know how, I don't know when, I do know that in this year of YES for me, I refuse to shrink away from saying yes to my social responsibility to leave more than I have been given and my epiphany, my “AH-HA” moment, my Willie Wonka Golden Ticket.  It wasn’t a “Chocolate-River” or a “Never-Ending Gobstopper.”

It was hope, hope in the form of a newfound freedom lived outside the artificial boundaries I had created, it was AIRA!  Come back soon to read Part 3.

Special thanks to the AT&T Media Production Group. Dawn interviewed me and did a wonderful job making me feel at ease while Greg and JB ran the cameras.  

 

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My AIRA Story Part 1

After receiving my new AIRA glasses I used them for a few weeks and wrote a story about my experience.  Someday I hope to share that story with everybody but for now you’ll have to settle for what came next.  After reading my story, my wife asked if I would hold off on sharing or publishing it because she wanted to share it at work.  I guess that I have to back up a bit.  My wife works for AT&T and they collaborated with AIRA to develop the connectivity needed for these glasses.  So, after sharing the story I visited AT&T for a Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) town hall event at Dallas headquarters. As it happened, my AIRA story had made the rounds and Chris Penrose who is the President of IoT or “The Internet of Things” asked if we could meet before the event.  He graciously set aside time on his calendar, we ended up talking far longer than that. As we talked I asked Chris what he did for AT&T and he responded that he headed up the Internet of Things organization. To which I replied, “I am one of your things!”  He loved that and we were off.  He asked how the glasses were working out for me, what I was doing, what I thought of the program.  I spent the next ½ hour explaining what a profound impact they had on my life, retold the story I had written and then took some time to explain a particular message that I had for him.

In my experience having worked in a previous life in corporate America I explained how I wished that I could grab a megaphone and speak to each and every employee at AT&T.  He asked me what I would say? My message is simple, my message is that without the contributions of every employee whether they worked filing in some nowhere office, worked at a call center in Timbuctoo or was one of the worker bees buzzing around the beehive of the headquarters in Dallas, their contribution to the company mattered. Why?  I pointed to the glasses I was wearing and told him that their contribution mattered because these glasses are what allowed me to leave my home, call a Lyft, arrive at the office and be guided through the maze to where I now sat.  I had gained new insight and perspective to “The Employee” and my appreciation to them, not just at AT&T but those employees toiling away at jobs where they feel marginalized, unappreciated like hamsters on a wheel running and running just for a paycheck.  While I can’t speak for every working man or woman out there, for me, the employees at AT&T hold a special place in my heart because the day to day work they do, allows AT&T to be profitable thus affording them the opportunity to do research & development and collaborate in creating technologies that have the potential to change lives and the way they experience life.  It allows impactful philanthropic endeavors and the ability to return something back to the community.  I feel like that message gets lost, that companies get beat on over profits and dividend returns to investors, leaving the working man or woman with the feeling that they are only useful for producing a widget for a paycheck.  Without them, large portions of my life would simply be impossible, however, with them and because of them you can use the exact same letters and all of the sudden I’MPOSSIBLE! Being the marketing guy he is he asked me for a one liner for the what the AIRA and AT&T collaboration held for me moving forward?  I replied simply, “#WHATSNEXT,” which is now my new response when asked how I feel about my AIRA experience. However, I didn’t want the moment to end before emphasizing that simple fact that without the employees, I wouldn’t be possible and the thousands out there wearing this technology and the millions that could eventually wear them giving them a new sense of freedom they lost or never experienced in the first place.  I told him that if I could, I would personally hug each and every one of them. I would thank them and remind them that what they do makes a difference not just for me, but for people they will never know, never have the opportunity to meet.  All of this, because they showed up every day to what they thought was just “A Job,” but the truth is, it is so much more.

Chris liked the message. He appreciated the fact that I recognized what many did not.  He mentioned to me that as the President of the Internet of things he also was responsible for an effort at AT&T called IoT For Good.  I loved that, thinking that there was a company out there looking at the internet as not just simply a digital gumball machine where the only concern is whether or not they had sold their quota of “Digital Gumballs.”  No, their effort stretched beyond pure profit into the realm of corporate social responsibility by using the internet for “Good Things” like bringing freedom to the blind. We finished our talk and Chris asked if I would be at the Town Hall they were holding for the GAAD event.  I said I was sticking around and as I left he asked if I might be available for perhaps some other things?  He wasn’t specific, and I said sure.  Well folks, be careful what you wish for, or accept casually because the next installment of MY AIRA story will truly blow your mind because it certainly blew mine. As I shook hands with Chris there was something in his voice, for whatever the reason, I imagined a wry smile roll over his face reminiscent of Gene Wilder in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Would this chance meeting allow me through the doors of the “Chocolate Factory”?  Like I said, tune in to my next installment to learn if I got the Golden Ticket.  Here is a hint.  Maybe the Golden Ticket is not a thing, maybe it was a chance to meet someone who could influence a generation.

Special thanks to Dewanna Burke and Beverly Ancrum, they are the unsung hero’s behind Chris Penrose and they are awesome ladies.  And a very special thanks to Stacey MCClung who is my guardian angel for reaching out to Scott Manwaring to expedite hooking me up with AIRA.  You all share a special place in my heart and I am so looking forward to #whatsnext

 

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Part 4 of Building Walls

 

This is a conclusion to my series on Bike Sharing Vs. The Blind and Mobility challenged here in Dallas.  As is usual, the solution or end to this story doesn’t come in the form of a bureaucrat Knight riding in to save the day on their government issued white horse.  Nope, not today, today the conclusion of this story comes in the form of an entrepreneur, a visionary who is striving to bring sight to those who lack it.  Suman Kanuganti, founder and CEO of AIRA along with AT&T found their way into my life.  Cue the dramatic musical score, in a move reminiscent of Reagan standing at the Berlin Wall telling his Russian counterpart to “Tear down this wall,” along comes AIRA.  AIRA is tearing down walls that society has built leaving the blind to fight their own cold war.  A lot has happened since that fateful day in December of 2017.  Laying on my back nursing a torn-up knee and ankle I began a journey to implore my local government to take those with mobility challenges to heart as they embarked on ambitious ventures like implementing a “Bike Sharing” program.  In a move that was either just plain stupid or simply lacked any thought we saw some 18,000 plus bikes dumped on the streets of Dallas.  This was done without considering the impact such a program would have on a very large segment of the population.  This program that had no rules, regulations or structure, it was just the Wild West when it came down to it. Those who were blind were left to navigate the minefield, those left in wheelchairs or disabled and on crutches were left without a clear path too life.  All of this because of an ineffective government blind themselves to the struggles of those they serve.

 

Now, over the next several weeks I will be writing about my new life in this year of “YES” for me.  I will share just how AIRA along with AT&T cleared a path, a new path for me in my life.  Special thanks to Matt Howerton at WFAA Channel 8 here in Dallas for coming out to see me and my new “Specs.”  The moral of this story is simple, never surrender to a government that doesn’t see you except when they pander for your vote.  Look beyond government to the visionaries and entrepreneurs who are engaged with companies to solve social issues.  Believe in something greater than the worst that has happened to you and have faith that somewhere out there exists the solution.  This is the year that I decided to say “YES.” To believe that I am the captain of my ship, the author to my life story and for me the glass isn't half full, it is overflowing.

 

 

 

 

Navigating the "Bike Minefield" with AIRA!

Part 3 of Building Walls

Since I began this quest for a resolution to the ill-conceived roll out of a bike sharing program here in Dallas I have reached out to every conceivable entity in the hope that someone would listen and take to heart the impact on the mobility challenged community.  For the most part, the correspondence I have received from city leaders and officials has been disappointing, and that is saying it kindly.  I have been met with platitudes, willful obtuseness and an apathy that kicks me in the gut.  To be fair, the timetable for resolutions seems to have been accelerated a bit with possible fixes promised sometime in May.  Maybe this lone voice coupled with those of you out there who were as offended as I was provided some sense of urgency which if true I want to thank those of you out there who joined me in beating the drum.

However, this is just one battle, one issue that has exposed a problem that is endemic within government and even within business. Through this process I learned that neither the city nor the companies involved in this debacle have someone who is mobility challenged sitting in an advisory role, sitting at the table negotiating, planning or being involved in the process.  I had the chance to share a back and forth with Jared White, a manager for the City of Dallas and someone who has been called the “Mobility and Transportation Czar” of Dallas.  Below is the last email I sent him: 

 

Dear Mr. White:

 First let me say that when I begin these letters to you I feel like I’m quoting a character from a Tarantino movie.  I know that you are a busy man, and my issue may seem trivial and I freely admit that in my last communication I had too much passion and not enough reason.  So, here we go, “Take-2,” Mr. White.

 Frankly I am a bit stunned.  I was hoping to learn that you possibly had someone on staff or in an advisory capacity who is mobility challenged. When you look at just my community, those who are blind or visually impaired and look at the number of Dallas citizens, 150,000, that are served by the Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind it becomes clear that there is a very large and active disabled community.  Active is the key word here.  Our ability to “Be” active is the point that I want to drive home with the city of Dallas and the companies vying for space in the Bike Sharing possibilities of the city.  From the beginning, I have expressed to the print and on-air media that I am not opposed to this program.  In fact, I see the efficacy and value as Dallas is growing at an exponential rate and programs like this can and will ease the traffic concerns experienced by the city.

 That being said, one man’s cure is another’s disease.  This solution represents a problem for the mobility challenged.  Those of us who use the sidewalks as our roads, our path to basic freedom of movement.  My fear is that if you do not include those with disabilities in forming solutions you are creating a new problem.  I say this from personal experience.  I find myself leaving my home solo less often instead relying on others because of the obstacles that have been introduced.  I know there have been more concerns than those you received from me and an individual in a wheelchair.  I have listened to and read many stories of people with guide dogs who are not trained or prepared for this eventuality.  The same is true for those in wheelchairs, those who suffer from muscular degeneration and are forced to walk with crutches.  Not including these people in this process, proactively including them and giving them a voice will force them to retreat from society because of a lack of freedom of movement. 

 You ask me to make some recommendations that might assist you in establishing the rules and regulations. I read an article earlier where you anticipate possible fixes as early as May.  I agree with several of them however you are still missing what I feel is a very key demographic. So, let me offer you this single, simple fix.  Introduce the voice of the disabled to the negotiation table, listen to their concerns and yes even their solutions.  This isn't a foreign subject to us, we have battled for ways to be heard and to be seen as contributing equals to society.  Believe me when I say that you just might be surprised by what it would mean if you extended an olive branch to a community impacted by the direction we are heading.  As you speak with these companies I would also recommend that they also seek advice from the disabled communities they plan to go into.  I believe that both you and these companies will be able to find common ground, a new path and a new direction that isn't reduced to a simple statement like “One man’s cure is another man’s disease.”  Now here comes a little of that passion leaking out of me, I will continue to bang the drum on this until I feel the message is resonating, until rather than being ignored and marginalized we are included as partners helping to shape transportation and mobility issues as full citizens of this great city.  Thank you for reading this, for taking the time and I truly hope it helps.

 Sincerely

 Eric L. Burton

 

The simple fact that these companies as well as the City of Dallas “Did Not” include as a matter of common practice, input from a large section of their respective communities shows where my frustration blooms from. I want everybody to stop for a moment and understand that the reason this is important is because today it is the disabled Vs the government and bike sharing companies in Dallas, tomorrow it could be something in your backyard, an issue in your community that impacts your personal freedom or that of someone you know and love.  My battle, my frustration, my desire to be seen, heard and then treated like a full citizen of my city will be your battle or perhaps it already is.  The point is, change only happens when we grab it, shake it out of the security of its own well-crafted comfortable bubble.  We are responsible for making our voice be part of the conversation as well as part of the solution.  When we sit idly by hoping that others will surely take our situation into consideration then we fall into the old saying repeated to us as children, “When you assume you are just making an ass out of you and me.”  Those who are disabled are not assuming that everybody should accommodate them to the exclusion of everybody else, they just want to be part of the conversation, part of the planning and part of solving issues.  Of course, that is just my take.

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Part 2 of Building walls

In December, I suffered a pretty serious injury as a result of the thoughtless actions of some here in Dallas. I reached out to my local officials, wrote and op-ed and even contacted the news. NBC 5 here in Dallas at least came out to interview me. As of today the interview has not aired but in my communications with them they seem to be interested in airing the story and my plea to the city to step in and solve this problem impacting the disabled.  This is important to me since my contacts with the city, the print media, organizations purporting the support of the disabled and anybody else who would listen have gone largely ignored. 

As an example of how time may change but things tend to remain the same today, having some mobility back, I ventured out only to crash and burn on the same careless landmines left scattered on the sidewalks of Dallas. Dropping my shopping bag and my cane to brace myself from the fall I got back to my feet and thankfully only my ego was bruised. At that moment, a very kind man rushed across the street to see if I was ok. Other than a bruised ego, this time, I was fine. He went on to say that he hated these bikes and I asked that he simply call the city, contact his local representatives. He responded that he had. I do want to thank him, for at least caring enough to see if I was ok.

I am told that there is a meeting today about this issue, has anybody reached out to me or members of my community to listen to our concerns, no. As someone who is blind you exist in a world where we don't see you and apparently you choose not to see us. This story has been told, told in the very first piece I wrote, “Building Walls” and like I have stated shared with everybody. So claiming that you haven’t heard a dissenting opinion or concerns is not believable.  I feel compelled to reiterate that I am not doing this, drawing attention to this as a selfish act or taking the position that I am some aggrieved individual who is bent on ending this program.  To be honest, during my interview with NBC 5 I made the point that mine was merely a cautionary tale offered to raise public awareness.  I do not want to end this program, I want this program to work because I do see it as a benefit to the city, a way to ease traffic congestion and serve the general public.  However, I also want to raise awareness to the fact that when these bikes are parked or dropped in the middle of the sidewalk, discarded casually they represent a clear and present danger for those with mobility issues. This is not about me, it is about those in wheelchairs, on crutches, blind or just simply struggle with mobility.  I will continue to speak out and write about this and I ask that you continue to share this with friends, with folks here in Dallas, with city officials and with the media because public awareness has to be raised. Sorry, I am just at my wits end with this bike sharing freebie program in which apparently there are no regulations, requirements or solutions. As I stated in the op-ed (that was never picked up), walk a mile in my shoes because I can’t ride even 10 feet on your free bike, then see how you like the 18 THOUSAND plus bikes dumped on the streets of Dallas making us the largest repository of landmines for those with mobility challenges. Today this is an issue for the disabled in Dallas, tomorrow it may be the plague visiting your city.

As a post script to this latest piece.  The result of the meeting that I referenced taking place today, the end result was an announcement that they would hold off until the Fall to resolve it.  The Fall, how many disabled or mobility challenged will actually “fall” before eyes are opened?  Here is a link ( http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/dallas-bike-share-regulations-to-wait-until-the-fall-10414712 )  to an article that speaks to the ignorance and arrogance of those sitting in seats of power.  Everybody on that council has heard from me, they have received thousands of complaints about this program.  This begs the question, why?  Why have those charged with serving the public chosen to do nothing, to ignore the challenges of the disabled?  I have my theories, my beliefs on this but rather than launching into a rant I will simply ask that we, the public, continue to raise this issue and force those charged with serving us to make this program work for everyone rather than to take a sit back and wait approach.

 

 

A Statesman in Waiting

You don't have to dig too deep to discover the lure that draws an individual into the world of politics.  Notoriety, power and greed, the promise of easy money has replaced the nobility of becoming an elected representative of the people.  You see it in the laws passed that favor “Them” over us.  Rules and laws that exempt them and protect them from laws designed to punish you and I.  They, as employees, decide when they should get a raise and trust me they see to it that they are paid and paid very well.  Right here in my home state in Texas, a commissioner in Montgomery County earns more than the actual governor of the entire state of Texas.

So, imagine my surprise when I see this ad for a candidate running for a seat on the Commissioners Court in Houston’s Montgomery County.  Gregory Parker while “On Air” declared that if elected, one of his first actions would be to cut his own pay.  Let that sink in, he wants to cut his own potential salary returning the savings back to the taxpayers, back to the community he hopes to serve.  Now Mr. Parkers platform is broad, it covers many issues and if you live in Montgomery County Precinct 2 I would encourage you to check out his platform.  He has common sense reforms for issues like Toll Roads, taxes, budgets, emergency management and response, eminent domain and many more critical issues to voters. However, for now I want to focus on this issue because it represents an attitude missing in public service today. 

From local elected representatives to those sitting in Federal office you can find examples of individuals who went into office with meager savings, businesses limping along or in some cases with no actual job before the election to the seat they now occupy.  Fast forward a few years and you see individuals flush with cash, personal cash.  Take a moment out of your day and look at some of the financial disclosures of those you elect.  What you will find will astound you.  People elected to serve the public are among some of the wealthiest among us.  Ex Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went into office with a few thousand dollars to his name and now has a net worth that exceeds $30 million.  Former House Speaker Denny Hastert, a former wrestling coach before becoming a congressman, just settled lawsuits and paid vast sums to victims of abuse.  Right here in Texas there are examples of this and it isn't a right and left, conservative or liberal phenomenon, it is an endemic reality in our current political structure. The question must be asked, how do individuals, earning a public service salary, grow their nest eggs at a rate that is unfathomable and unavailable to you and I?  It is because the era of statesman, the era of serving the public interest has given way to the era of personal gain at “We the peoples” expense.  Hucksters now proliferate the ballot gaming a system they created.  Good intentions of some are twisted into submission by lobbyists and easy money.  In the end, the price for admission is betraying the public trust. 

So, again, imagine my surprise as I sat and listened to Mr. Parker pledge to work on cutting his pay in favor of returning that money to his community.  It is a simple yet powerful statement that tells me this is someone who understands the role of a public servant, someone elected to office to represent those who voted for them.  Webster’s defines a Statesman as:

 “1: one versed in the principles or art of government; especially: one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government or in shaping its policies

2: a wise, skillful, and respected political leader “

When you picture those sitting in the seats of power at home or serving you federally, ask yourself, do you consider them Wise?  Do you believe they serve your interests?  Do you believe they use their skill to serve you or do you see what I see, individuals serving themselves?  Do the policies they pursue serve the public good? Do you respect them or, like me do you know at your core the system is broken and elected representatives have become distant and disconnected?  Election season is upon us.  Now is the time we look over the menu of candidates seeking to represent us. Those asking We the People to entrust them with not just our hard-earned money but our future as well.  I don't live in Houston’s Montgomery County, I live in Dallas but I can tell you that as I look at those asking for my vote I will refer back to the words and the pledge of Gregory Parker to his constituents as a litmus test of sorts.  I want to elect those who fit the definition of “Statesman” and I believe that if we demand better, if we expect more and if we find those with the values and promises of Mr. Parker, we can turn our collective wayward ships out of the current self-serving storm of personal gain into the calm waters of a new and prosperous future for We the people.  Of course, that is just my take. 

Taking a Knee

When I say, “Taking a knee” what comes to mind?  What image do you see?  I’m blind.  I wasn’t born blind, my blindness is both a curse and a blessing.  A curse because from the time I was around 8 I knew something was different about me.  My parents confirmed that feeling when I was 12.  It was a blessing because as a result of slowly losing my vision I was able to collect a vast library of images, a kind of archive for me to refer to now.  So, when I hear the phrase, taking a knee my mind always inserts the image of George Washington kneeling in the snow next to his horse at Valley Forge. That print hung in my father’s den for as long as I can remember, to this day I imagine. My wife knew that I loved that picture so as a gift one year she presented me with a beautifully framed and matted print that hung in my home for many years.  That print now hangs in the home on the wall of my first-born child, given as a gift to my son in law who as a veteran of the armed services who had admired it.  I hope one day it is passed on to his son, my grandson. 

To me, taking a knee has and always will represent reverence.  It represents a man yearning to be free.  It represents a man willing to lead a nation.  It represented a man Humble enough to believe in something greater than himself, to ask God for strength in battle.  To ask of his Creator safety for his men and for victory over their oppressor, a King who felt they should be subjects rather than a free people. That simple picture of a uniformed man with his head bowed on one knee represents the beginning of our struggle to be here today.  This was a struggle that has left on the field of battle the broken, bloodied and dead of generations willing to pave the way to where we all are right here, right now.  This nation is not perfect.  We carry our imperfections, we learn from our darker moments the lessons many around the world are still subject to. We have come a long way, we still have a good piece of the road ahead before we can rest but right here, right now, we are doing pretty good.  Because of men like George Washington we are a country, because of men like Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and others we have a document that to this day is the basis of our Republic.  A document with the wisdom to stand the test of time because as those before us have lived they have Amended the imperfections to refine the document, the Constitution.  Are we perfect? No.  But do we live in a land where improving our current conflicts can be worked out? Yes.

So, I will ask you the question again, what comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “Taking a knee?”  Maybe if you could see what I see you would find the hope and the promise of a better way.  Maybe you will take the time to really learn about our history, about how we got here and see where it is possible for us to go.  We have had our differences over the years, fought a few wars over those differences but in the end, we lived, and we live in the greatest nation on earth.  We may sit on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to this kneeling thing, but we are all Americans, we all benefit from that one single word, American.  It should be enough to unite us, compel us to resolve the issues that divide us.  I refuse to harbor ill will or harsh feelings over this NFL vs. America argument.  Instead, when I hear the phrase “Taking a knee” I see the picture below and my heart swells with pride, it is filled with love and I believe in the words of the brilliant writer Charles Dickens who in 1841 penned these words in his novel, Barnaby Rudge.

“The thoughts of worldly men are forever regulated by a moral law of gravitation, which, like the physical one, holds them down to earth. The bright glory of day, and the silent wonders of a starlit night, appeal to their minds in vain. There are no signs in the sun, or in the moon, or in the stars, for their reading. They are like some wise men, who, learning to know each planet by its Latin name, have quite forgotten such small heavenly constellations as Charity, Forbearance, Universal Love, and Mercy, although they shine by night and day so brightly that the blind may see them; and who, looking upward at the spangled sky, see nothing there but the reflection of their own great wisdom and book-learning…

It is curious to imagine these people of the world, busy in thought, turning their eyes towards the countless spheres that shine above us, and making them reflect the only images their minds contain…So do the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed.”

Please, read that quote more than once and then look at my vision of taking a knee.  We are all Americans, please don't let the darkness and shadows stand between us and our better Angels.  Of course, that is just my take

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Existential Threat

We have all heard the term “Existential Threat.”  If you watch the talking heads that propagate digital screens large and small like mosquitos after a hearty summer rain in the south or if you listen with any regularity to the pontificating politicians as they spend more time bloviating rather than actually solving problems you’ve heard it.  It is a phrase uttered casually with the aim of inducing maximum fear.  North Korea and the regime of Kim Jung -un, ISIS, Al Qaeda. Iran, Russian meddling into our elections even our President have all been labeled with this life ending apocalyptic end of humanity phrase.  But here is the thing, existential threats are real, they exist but when you cheapen the phrase by calling everything you don't like as the end to everything we know and love then nothing is a threat. 

So, why am I even writing this?  I am writing this because the real existential threat, the one that threatens you, me, our kids and the future generations is not those mentioned above, it isn't some shady group halfway around the world or some rogue regime or some bad actor nations.  The real existential threat are the politicians who like the great Wizard of Oz, sit behind a curtain pulling levers, blasting smoke and noise as a means of distraction rather than action.  They do little to advance our society and everything to divide it.  They Gerrymander safe districts, enrich their own lives while claiming to serve the public.  They play to their individual bases ignoring those who don't serve their thirst for yet more and more of your money as they collaborate to steal more and more of your liberty.  Example, they talk about reducing the deficit, a clever way of convincing you that spending less year to year is somehow not tied inextricably to our national debt.  Most people don't even know nor could they explain the difference between the deficit and our debt. Rather than focusing like a laser on those things that truly threaten us, they utilize a clever three card monte style of distraction to shift your attention away from what matters.   The sad truth is that most Americans suffer from what I call “Battered Citizen Syndrome.”  We have all been beaten so badly that we have retreated to our own safe spaces, a place where we huddle with those who like us, have been beaten into submission.  We feel like the poor soul next to us, we sympathize with one another and speak quietly of our abuse.  We don't invite others in, we protect each other, validate each other and draw some kind of broken weird strength from our fellow survivors, those sitting in our camp.  We huddle around the little fires careful not to let it burn to brightly for fear that we will be discovered by the other camps of abused citizens locked in their version of this collective nightmare.

This is the cleverness of the Wizards of our Oz, they distract and divide and steal from us our freedom, our voice and we let them. We have forgotten that these Wizards were elected to serve us, they are our employees.  The existential threat we should fear has coopted the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of our government.  We have allowed 545 Wizards of our Oz, 435 in congress, 100 in the senate, 9 on the supreme court and one in the white house to subjugate us, 325, 145,963 million Americans. As I write this, polling shows that collectively both Houses of Congress have an approval rating that averages approximately 20%, the President’s approval rating 40% and the Supreme Court’s approval rating is 49%.  The collective Wizards of our Oz share an average approval rating of 36.333%.  Let that sink in for a minute.  We, the people, all 325 million plus have been bamboozled into thinking that somehow this is what our version of democracy looks like.  We accept that our representative republic is just fine humming along with an approval rating of 36%.  So, here is the bottom line, the question that begs for an answer, Who or what is our greatest “Existential Threat?”  Is it some obscure terror group, some third world Tin Pot Dictator?  Does our greatest threat exist outside our borders or is it right here at home where no amount of regulations or some wall can protect us?  Or is our greatest existential threat those we elect to represent us?

Every good story has a hook and then a swerve.  The hook in this story is to present you with a boogeyman, the villain, our collective victimizer and in this case, it was the 545.  Now for the swerve. I have looked deeply into the abyss that is my government and shouted loudly at it and the reflection I saw, the voice that I heard echoing back was mine.  It was said by greater and smarter men than I that “we get the government we deserve” and that “the greatest threat to democracy is an ill informed and ignorant electorate.”  I fear that our greatest existential threat is us.  We are responsible, we are not victims, we are willing participants foolishly handing our power to those we approve of 36% of the time. Where else in life do we accept such low expectations?  Where else would you follow someone who you only approved of 36% of the time?  In the end, the problem is staring back at us when we look in the mirror.  It exists when we surround ourselves in the echo chambers and individualized bubbles of self-reflection.  We buy their version of snake oil in the form of distrusting those who don't look like us, feel like us, believe as we believe.  We sign our duties and responsibilities over because apathy is King, we are either too busy or too bored with managing what we mistakenly view as the minor details of our existence.  The divide will continue to grow, our liberty will continue to shrink and until our expectations are raised to exceed the aspirations of those diligently working to subjugate us we can expect no better than approving a mere 36% of the time.  Of course, that is just my take.

 

 

 

        

Building Walls

With all the talk about building “The Wall” these days, quietly and below the radar a wall has been built right here in Dallas.  This wall doesn’t engender the passions of partisan political activists, it isn't divided along partisan lines and it doesn’t pit the right against the left.  This wall exists as a matter of unintended consequences. It is the result of good and perhaps even noble intentions gone horribly awry. You may not recognize the wall as being a wall, and some call it a necessity and progress, or the wave of the future while others call it trash and unnecessary. If you don't like the building blocks to this wall there are those out there who sneer and call you a troglodyte. They look down their noses from an elitist perch and accuse you of being stuck in the old ways and call you an impediment to progress. Without regard to why I feel the way that I do, without understanding my point of view and rational for my opposition I am left feeling judged from a perch high on the mountain of political correctness by those unaware of the unintended consequences. 

If you have driven the streets of Dallas or walked the sidewalks you’ve all seen the building blocks of this wall and I am sure you have your opinions on the efficacy and wisdom, the void that they fill.  Or perhaps you see them as a nuisance, trash and something that contributes to urban blight.  You see something, I don't because you see, I am blind. The building blocks in the wall that I am speaking of are the legion of bikes that have been deposited on the streets of Dallas, sans regulations, rules or in my opinion any real thought for those who like me, have mobility issues.  The wall that I am speaking of is a result of a population that uses them only to carelessly leave them as landmines for those of us who have mobility challenges. 

I am writing this because I am angry, angry that my freedom, my limited freedom has been thoughtlessly taken from me.  I am angry because two days before the New Year I found myself lying on the ground with a knee and ankle injury because some thoughtless individual decided to park one of these bikes in the middle of the sidewalk.  More often than not it isn't just one bike, attached to this letter is a picture my wife took.  I don't need to tell anybody who takes the time to read this who lives here in Dallas that our streets and sidewalks leave a lot to be desired.  They are uneven, buckled and cracked.  For most people, this isn't that big of a deal, for me it is a very big deal and when you add to the difficulties that exist by littering the sidewalks with bikes you have effectively constructed a wall for those of us who have mobility issues. I have reached out to my city leaders.  My representative, Mr. Kingston has yet to even respond.  I did receive a cookie cutter email from the staff of TC Broadnacx and I was less than impressed.  I have written the editorial boards of the newspapers and contacted the news.  For the most part I have received no acknowledgement other than a contact and interview from NBC 5’s Samantha Chatman.  She was gracious and took the time to talk with me.  Because of her one of the bike companies (VBike) showed up with flowers and candy, they cleaned up the mess in my neighborhood.  Progress, right?  No, within days I found myself once again navigating the landmines frequently tripping, and bumping into bikes left on the ground and parked in the middle of the sidewalk. 

To those who operate the bike sharing companies and to our city leaders, clean this mess up or the next letter the city receives might come from a lawyer suing for injuries incurred. To those of you who use these bikes, keep in mind that outside yourself, there are others out there who need the sidewalk.  And to everybody reading this here is my challenge, walk a mile in my shoes because I can’t ride a mile on your free bike and then tell me how you view this program.

E.L. Burton, I reside in the Bryan Street neighborhood in Dallas

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The Interview

 

What does it mean to elect a President?  In the end it is a job, the candidate is the interviewee and “We the People” conduct the interview.  So s you read this I want you to put on your “Business Owner” cap, put yourself across the table from a prospective employee, someone you are hiring to fill a position in your company. If you have a job to fill then you already know the criteria necessary to fill that job, the qualifications you are looking for.  You have a set of questions ready, questions that will enable you to evaluate whether or not the person you are interviewing has the chops to get the job done.  No think back over your life and over every interview you ever had, remember the bad ones, the great ones, the ones you nailed and the ones you failed.  Close your eyes and picture it and now picture Donald Trump sitting across from you interviewing for a job.  You would begin the interview by asking a very simple open ended question, something like this:

Donald: tell me a little about you.

Donald:  Well, I am awesome, people love me.  I am very smart, very smart.  I’m also rich, very rich.  People love me, especially women, I cherish women and I am very popular with women.  If you hire me I will make great deals for your company. Lets face it, you’re company is run by stupid people getting ripped off by much smarter people

Why do I know this? Because I’m very smart, smart and rich and people like me, obviously you like me because I am here and the person you had sitting here doing this job is a stupid person, I think that this company is being run by very stupid people but I am a winner who can make this company great again.

You:  Donald, what are your qualifications?

Donald: I am very smart, I went to a very prestigious school and in case you didn’t hear me I am very smart. I don't need this job really, seriously I don't but I can tell you this, I believe that I can make this company great again.  Some very stupid people have been running this place and the other guys you are interviewing are low energy not smart people.  And did you see the face on that one lady out there?  Seriously, do you see that face running this company?  And that little crippled guy out there, what is his story, he was captured and held as a prisoner of war, really?  That guy is a loser, I like people who weren’t captured by the enemy.  I was never captured by the enemy I can promise you that.  The bottom line is this, I want to make this company great again, I can do that and I think you should hire me.  And I know what you are thinking and the answer to the question you are going to ask is YES, yes this is actually my real hair, go ahead, touch it, its real, its real and its my hair. 

You:  Donald, let me give you a scenario, we have had a lot of break-ins lately and it is causing an impact to our bottom line.  What would you do to address this problem?

Donald:  I would build a wall around the building, it would be the best wall ever built.  I’m a great builder of things, built many buildings and hired many people.  Did I mention that I am both smart and very rich?  And the wall wouldn’t cost us a penny, not one cent because I would get the criminals to build it and they would pay for it.  The criminals are smart, smarter than you guys, I respect them but guess what, they respect me and I could get a great deal and they would like my deal I can promise you that.

You:  Ok Donald, our biggest competitor is killing us out there, their top guy John Smith has been meeting with Steve Johnson of XYZ Corp and they are working together.  How can you help us get a handle on maintaining our market share.

Donald:  What’s with the gotcha questions, you’re a third rate interviewer. First I know John Smith, he is a friend of mine, he loves me, did I mention I am rich and I know how to make great deals.  Speaking of great deals did you know I wrote a book called “The Art of the Deal?”  Great book, very great book.  I would do exactly what I did when I wrote that book, be awesome.  Then I would call John and this Steve guy whoever he is into my office, did I mention that I had a TV show called “The Apprentice” best show ever on TV, it was really great.  So, I would get these guys into my office and we would do a deal, the best deal ever.  Tis deal would be so amazing, just wait and see, it will be a great deal and this company will be great again, I can promise you that,

You:  What about dealing with our debt to income ratio, how would you resolve lowering our debt and restructuring our company more efficiently?

Donald:  The first day in office I would call everyone in, everyone and then I would say, Your Fired, like I did on my hit TV show “The Apprentice.”  I would fire everyone and then I would hire some amazing people to do amazing things and we will make this country Great again I can promise you that.  I would build such an amazing team that no other company would mess with us.  We would be so strong and so amazing that babies not even born yet will be afraid to start a business that might compete against us.  This company will be so great, so strong so amazing, I can promise you that.

You:  So how would you pay for this?

Donald: I would go after our top customers, these guys are ripping us off and I would charge them more and they would like it, I would make such a great deal with them that they will want to fund anything and everything I propose because I am smart, they are stupid but I respect them and they respect me because I know how to do deals.  I wrote the book on how to do deals. Smart people, me, doing great deals will make this company great again and everyone will prosper I can promise you that.

 

I could go on and on but here is my point.  At the end of the day we are electing not just a president but also a leader of the free world.  These are serious times, our nation is in crisis, debt has ballooned; wages are stagnate at best declining in reality.  The Middle East has fallen apart, it has become a black hole of despair and the lack of anything that resembles leadership has resulted in an explosion of anti-Americanism.  Relationships once tenuous at best have turned hostile, Russia, China, North Korea to name a few.  Here at home we are more divided today than at any point in recent history.  Divided along ideological, racial, economic and cultural lines with no one or nothing on the horizon delivering a uniting message.  Hope is disappearing as battle lines are being drawn between progressives, liberals, conservatives, black, white and brown, gay, straight legal, illegal and every other designation you can dream of.  So what is my point?  Why the interview parody?  To wake up those people who are falling in line with a candidate who says a lot but offers nothing in the way of tangible practical policy, real solutions for very real problems.  Donald Trump has offered nothing in the way of reality for me, this is my country, I love this country and I take very seriously the weight of my vote and the value of that vote.  If Mr. Trump hopes to earn my vote then he needs to offer more than hyperbolic rhetoric and canned phrases.  He needs more substance and less ego. I will be watching the debate tonight to see if the Titanic Trump mans the helm and begins to steer his ship out of the turbulent waters of self centered grandiosity and into the calm waters of real solutions for very real problems.  Of course that is just my take.

 

Natural Gas is the Future

Across the country there are cities and municipalities that are converting fleet vehicles from traditional gas engines into much cleaner burning natural gas vehicles.  Cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York are converting buses and other city vehicles.  Additionally there are power companies converting traditional gas, steam and coal fired plants onto natural gas plants.  In a small town in Gilbert Arizona, Salt River Project (SRP) the states leading energy producer converted an aging plant into a much cleaner burning natural gas facility.  The overall cost of this project was $541 million and created generating capacity of 1193 megawatts while reducing emission substantially (1002 tons).  The expansion created jobs, reduced costs to consumers and maintained an eye towards environmental concerns.  Compare the investment in retrofitting and expanding this plant with the crony capitalism that was Solyndra, the now bankrupt Solar Panel manufacturer.  While solar power or any other alternative energy resource like wind or tide or geothermal are real they are also in their infancy and not the answer today.  What we need right now are jobs and a solution to our energy needs and utilizing an abundant resource like natural gas could accelerate prosperity.  Encouraging our energy producers rather than punishing them is the solution.

I mentioned the Salt River Project plant conversion for a reason, “Natural Gas.”  In recent years we have uncovered a vast amount of this energy resource right here in this country.  In Louisiana alone the Haynesville Shale discovery has revealed 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and some industry officials believe that those are conservative estimates and the find could actually be several times larger.  To put this into perspective that is the equivalent of approximately 33 billion barrels of oil, enough to meet our current demands for 17 plus years.  The story doesn’t end in Louisiana; vast fields have been discovered in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and right here in Texas.  These fields hold and estimated 2,200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  Understand that these discoveries arise as the reality of oil declines.  Most of the oil consumed by America is imported and we already know that our oil suppliers are at best “unfriendly” to America.  Juxtapose that with the fact that 98% of the natural gas consumed in the United States actually comes from this continent, North America.  The exploration, production and distribution of natural gas mean real jobs for Americans.  As I have written about in earlier pieces these jobs inside the industry also create demand for other jobs in the supporting communities in areas like retail, housing and service to name a few.  Energy jobs are sustainable jobs, they are not public works jobs born out of political desperation in tough economies.  These are the jobs that see us through difficult times; they create promise and prosperity for this generation and the next.

Advancing our energy future requires thinking outside the box we find ourselves in, it requires that we don’t settle for the business as usual way of thinking and we begin to explore the intelligent usage of our natural resources.  For far too long we have demonized many of our natural resources.  Across this great nation under our feet exist massive potential for growth and prosperity.  Natural Gas is an abundant treasure whose full potential has yet to be realized.  The sad fact is that rather than embracing a tangible reality we have opted to pursue pipe dreams based on manipulated fear.  Over and over we have heard the steady drumbeat that we are killing our planet and that we must all bow at the altar of “Renewable” energy.  The reality is that renewable energy is simply not ready for prime time and it cannot shoulder the energy needs of this nation.  But that hasn’t stopped the Obama administration and his thugs at the EPA from intimidation and fear mongering.   I hasn’t stopped those right here in our state from pursuing REZ’s, Smart Grids, Smart Meters and the boondoggle of Windmills.   Rather than embracing our natural resources they have decided to mandate change through heavy-handed regulations.  They have decided to fix the game when it comes to their energy agenda and use your money to do it. 

Rather than investing in boondoggles like converting our entire energy sector into the myth that is “Green” perhaps we should begin to invest in the infrastructure that has seen this nation blossom into the industrialized envy of the world.  Imagine that if the Obama administration had invested the $540 million plus that they invested in Solyndra and the countless other “Clean Green” boondoggles that have produced nothing but debt and bankruptcies taken that money and invested it in retrofitting many of the old gas, steam and coal fired plants into natural gas fired power plants, a much cleaner and more efficient method of generating electricity.  Imagine if the billions that were invested right here in the state of Texas, the time and the effort wasted on plotting a Smart Grid to Power Smart Meters that were driven by Windmills to charge their electric car dream where we could be right now when it comes to leading the nation in cleaner burning more efficient natural gas fired plants. 

There are so many alternatives to their “Alternative” perhaps the Obama administration and agencies right here in Texas could have invested in expanding clean coal through processes like gasification and sequestration.  The point is that this current administration and Texas agencies have less interest in advancing energy independence than they do in chasing their ideology.  If the goal was to truly win the future, truly win the jobs of the future then it is time for this administration to explain why the Department of Energy (an agency that our then head of the PUC seems very cozy wit) Loan Guarantee program has backed $36.8 billion on 42 Clean Green power projects.  Of those, 74% of those loans have been in the area of Solar Power.  Why pour so much into something that cannot support our energy needs while ignoring the natural resources that sit untapped beneath our feet?  Natural gas is an abundant, clean and viable source of energy, it is real, it is tangible and it can meet the demands of a nation screaming for jobs and energy independence.  If politicians are going to invest our money then why don’t they start investing it winners rather than losers?

Natural Gas and Energy Independence

Across the country there are cities and municipalities that are converting fleet vehicles from traditional gas engines into much cleaner burning natural gas vehicles.  Cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York are converting buses and other city vehicles.  Additionally there are power companies converting traditional gas, steam and coal fired plants onto natural gas plants.  In a small town in Gilbert Arizona, Salt River Project (SRP) the states leading energy producer converted an aging plant into a much cleaner burning natural gas facility.  The overall cost of this project was $541 million and created generating capacity of 1193 megawatts while reducing emission substantially (1002 tons).  The expansion created jobs, reduced costs to consumers and maintained an eye towards environmental concerns.  Compare the investment in retrofitting and expanding this plant with the crony capitalism that was Solyndra, the now bankrupt Solar Panel manufacturer.  While solar power or any other alternative energy resource like wind or tide or geothermal are real they are also in their infancy and not the answer today.  What we need right now are jobs and a solution to our energy needs and utilizing an abundant resource like natural gas could accelerate prosperity.  Encouraging our energy producers rather than punishing them is the solution.

I mentioned the Salt River Project plant conversion for a reason, “Natural Gas.”  In recent years we have uncovered a vast amount of this energy resource right here in this country.  In Louisiana alone the Haynesville Shale discovery has revealed 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and some industry officials believe that those are conservative estimates and the find could actually be several times larger.  To put this into perspective that is the equivalent of approximately 33 billion barrels of oil, enough to meet our current demands for 17 plus years.  The story doesn’t end in Louisiana; vast fields have been discovered in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and right here in Texas.  These fields hold and estimated 2,200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  Understand that these discoveries arise as the reality of oil declines.  Most of the oil consumed by America is imported and we already know that our oil suppliers are at best “unfriendly” to America.  Juxtapose that with the fact that 98% of the natural gas consumed in the United States actually comes from this continent, North America.  The exploration, production and distribution of natural gas mean real jobs for Americans.  As I have written about in earlier pieces these jobs inside the industry also create demand for other jobs in the supporting communities in areas like retail, housing and service to name a few.  Energy jobs are sustainable jobs, they are not public works jobs born out of political desperation in tough economies.  These are the jobs that see us through difficult times; they create promise and prosperity for this generation and the next.

Advancing our energy future requires thinking outside the box we find ourselves in, it requires that we don’t settle for the business as usual way of thinking and we begin to explore the intelligent usage of our natural resources.  For far too long we have demonized many of our natural resources.  Across this great nation under our feet exist massive potential for growth and prosperity.  Natural Gas is an abundant treasure whose full potential has yet to be realized.  The sad fact is that rather than embracing a tangible reality we have opted to pursue pipe dreams based on manipulated fear.  Over and over we have heard the steady drumbeat that we are killing our planet and that we must all bow at the altar of “Renewable” energy.  The reality is that renewable energy is simply not ready for prime time and it cannot shoulder the energy needs of this nation.  But that hasn’t stopped the Obama administration and his thugs at the EPA from intimidation and fear mongering.  Rather than embracing our natural resources they have decided to mandate change through heavy-handed regulations.  They have decided to fix the game when it comes to their energy agenda and use your money to do it. 

Rather than investing in boondoggles like converting our entire energy sector into the myth that is “Green” perhaps we should begin to invest in the infrastructure that has seen this nation blossom into the industrialized envy of the world.  Imagine that if the Obama administration had invested the $540 million plus that they invested in Solyndra and taken that money and invested it in retrofitting many of the old gas, steam and coal fired plants into natural gas fired power plants, a much cleaner and more efficient method of generating electricity.  Perhaps the administration could have invested in expanding clean coal through processes like gasification and sequestration.  The point is that this current administration has less interest in advancing energy independence than they do in chasing their ideology.  If the goal was to truly win the future, truly win the jobs of the future then it is time for this administration to explain why the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee program has backed $36.8 billion on 42 clean power projects.  Of those, 74% of those loans have been in the area of Solar Power.  Why pour so much into something that cannot support our energy needs while ignoring the natural resources that sit untapped beneath our feet?  Natural gas is an abundant, clean and viable source of energy, it is real, it is tangible and it can meet the demands of a nation screaming for jobs and energy independence.  Mr. President, if you are going to invest our money then why don’t you start investing it winners rather than losers.

EPA Contemplates Slowing Regulation

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Obama Administration is set to ease their enforcement of the new Cross Border Pollution rule that was finalized this past July and was expected to go into full effect in January 2012.  

Make no mistake, this moves comes on the heels of a backlash that started in the homes, plants and factories of energy producing states like Texas.  I have been humbled to be one of those people who have led the fight.  While I am pleased that the administrations move to curb or slow sown enforcing this crippling regulation I want to issue a warming that the fight is not over and the pressure must be continued if we are to see a day when energy independence and sustainable jobs are paramount.  Now is not the time to cease pressuring this or any administration when it comes to securing our future.  My hope continues to be that this is a genuine move forward and not merely a political stunt to curry favor in the upcoming election.   Therefore, I will continue to shine a light on the EPA.  My goal is to see that this step is just the first of many aimed at improving the relationship between our government and the hard working men and women of the energy sector of this great nation.

It is imperative that we do not rest, that we recognize this as a single victory in the context of a much larger war against Texas and other energy producing states.  It is up to each and every one of us to maintain our vigilance as we all strive to build not only a stoner Texas but and even stronger America.  This has been my fight and it will remain my fight until such a time the EPA and its regulatory power and authority favors advancing sustainable jobs, energy independence.

 E. Parker

Current Events In Texas Energy

There are two hunters are out in the woods. One named democrat and the other named economy. They are hunting when economy falls to the ground. Economy doesn't seem to be breathing; his eyes are rolled back in his head. Democrat whips out his cell phone and calls 911. The operator answers: and democrat says, “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator, in a calm soothing voice says, “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure your friend is dead.” Silence, befalls the phone for several minutes. Then a loud gunshot is heard. Democrat’s voice comes back on the line and says: “OK he’s dead, now what?”

Now let me make this clear, I’m not saying that “Democrats” are dumb…but maybe they do lack just a bit of knowledge and ability to utilize relevant information effectively. 

It has been said that Thomas Jefferson once stated: “Information is the currency of democracy.”  I hope that after spending time with you today you have just a little more in the way of information to help bolster your currency in our democracy. 

Despite the fact that the economy is the engine of the United States and despite the fact that energy is the oil that makes that engine run smoothly, there is an all-out assault on the very life blood that makes the US economy pump.  We are faced with many of the same problems that plagued our founding fathers.  Jefferson battled the ideologues that hoarded information, sadly the same is true today.  To refresh your memory a bit it wasn’t all that long ago that President Obama offered this nugget of wisdom to a graduating class at Hampton University: 

"You're coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don't always rank that high on the truth meter….” He continued on, “And with iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation."  

This is an example of using bad information to dissuade you from seeking out relevant information.  Tactics like this are common for the current administration and they have allowed President Obama to create an atmosphere of confusion and doubt.  Nowhere is it more prevalent than when it comes to energy.  This administration has successfully crafted an anti-energy agenda and they are enforcing that agenda with the strong-arm of the EPA.  They are fully engaged in disrupting the fuel that drives America’s economy (oil, gas and coal specifically).

Just like the hunter in the joke I opened with, the administration is using the EPA like a gun to kill the economy. The EPA is churning out new regulations in unprecedented number, speed and cost. The Wall Street Journal has called this EPA regulatory spree “unprecedented in U.S. history.” And according to the deputy secretary of the EPA, they do not take into account job losses when creating and reviewing rules.

The reason I am here speaking to you today is to deliver a very simple message:  When you advance an agenda that is clearly anti-energy you are declaring war on Texas.  Why you may ask?

  1. Texas leads the United States in both crude oil production and refining capacity.
  2. Texas is the Nation’s leading natural gas producer. We produce more than three times the natural gas than any other state.
  3. Texas is a major nuclear power generating State, 
  4. Texas leads the Nation in wind-powered generation capacity, and that substantial new wind generation capacity is under construction
  5. Texas produces a substantial amount of coal from its 18 surface mines, and is the top coal consuming state in the nation.

Now the Obama administration “CLAIMS” that this all out assault on energy as it stands is nothing more than an effort to gain energy independence while at the same time protecting the environment.  They believe that we can wean ourselves from the evil of fossil fuels and replace our entire energy portfolio with the magic that is “RENEWABLE” energy.  All that comes to mind when I contemplate their warped philosophy is REALLY!?!

You cannot obtain energy independence with renewable sources of energy alone and if anyone tells you that, they lie and speak from their ideology and not from reality.  

Now back to the assault on Texas and our abundant resources.

How do they want to stop Texas: 

The shutdown of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Deep Water Horizon incident has resulted in less oil being produced domestically and jobs being moved out of this country. That move killed an estimated 13,000 jobs in the gulf region and 19,000 nationally by imposing that moratorium on drilling in US water. Now even after the moratorium has been lifted the slow pace of permitting is leaving experts estimate 250,000 new jobs in the gulf region of the table.  Now that the cleanup and new regulations have been put into place, removing any excuses for restarting operations, they have begun a fight for a sea horse that needs magnification to see, claiming that it is an endangered species and should be considered as a factor in keeping oil production and exploration closed.

Declare the “Dunes Sagebrush Lizard,” or sand dune lizard an endangered species. If the administration declares this common lizard an endangered species if would effectively shut down oil production in the Permian Basin of West Texas. Costing jobs! The Permian Basin of West Texas produced 268 million barrels of oil in 2010. A friend of mine Jerry Patterson calls it a reptile dysfunction.

Declaring the very breath we exhale be counted as illegal and a pollutant. CO2 is not a pollutant. Global warming alarmists are debating over CO2 levels 320 ppm in the air, and OSHA does not even look at CO2 levels being harmful until it reaches 5,000 ppm. All this while CO2 levels in the US have decreased 79% since 1980. 

All this while the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit was caught manipulating climate data. 

All this while the biologist who claimed that polar bears were drowning because of melting ice from CO2 has been suspended and is being investigated for scientific misconduct. Manipulating data!

All this while NASA’s own satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted. [Explain]

Here is an example of some information you can use as currency when you talk to your ideologically driven friends on the other side, Texas has been using CO2 in enhanced oil recovery for more than 30 years. Here is Texas CO2 is commodity not a calamity.

As I mentioned before Texas is the Nation’s leading natural gas producer, producing more than 6 million cubic feet annually. Most using a now controversial technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” The practice involves blasting water, sand and other chemicals far underground to break up rock and extract gas. 

Now the EPA has set forth new rules to regulate “fracking.”

To address the concerns that the chemicals used are hazardous, the Texas legislature has passed HB-3328 making drilling companies that do hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” disclose the chemicals. Such disclosure would be listed on the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission and the Texas Railroad Commissions websites. I whole hardily support such discloser.  This is an example of allowing the states to address concerns rather than bureaucrats and ideologues on the beltway.  

Speaking of the Texas Railroad Commission. There is a movement afoot to change the name to the Texas Oil & Gas Commission and trim the commission down to one commissioner from three.  [Explain the current state of the bill]. 

One commissioner over the largest oil and gas industry in the nation would amounts to an Oil & Gas Czar.  I don’t need to expand on why creating “CZARS” is entirely un-American.  

Texas is a major nuclear power generating State. Texas has two nuclear plans located near Victoria, Texas and about 80 miles southwest of Dallas. The events in Japan were unfortunate, regrettable and sobering, but it should not stop the nuclear projects in Texas. While public hearings have been conducted and no formal decision has been made, I encourage those communities and the federal officials to move forward with those projects so that Texas can continue to be a major player as well as a role model for other states in how to responsibly advance energy into the future.

Texas also produces a substantial amount of coal from its more than 16 lignite surface coalmines, and is the top coal consuming state in the nation. Texas electricity is powered by coal. The administration and EPA have thru regulation are forcing our electricity providers to shutdown coal fired power plants.  The result of their actions on Texans is the loss of an estimated 3000-mega watts out of the power grid.  Rather than advance the promise of clean coal technologies the administration has decided to indulge in punitive punishments resulting in higher energy cost and again lodging a bullet in the head of the economy.

******************************

Let us not forget the stealth bullet fired from the silenced weapon. An agenda that is moving throughout the federal agencies, state and local governments like a cancer. Agenda 21 seeks to redistribute wealth in the name of Social, Economic and environmental justice. It is clearly nothing more than environmental extremism masquerading as a benign endeavor seeking to erode our constitution in favor of a one world government.

I believe that Texas is a unique state that is rich in energy resources.  Coal, oil and natural gas reserves buried deep beneath the soil will serve as a source of energy for decades to come but only if we stay committed to protecting a balanced approach of utilizing all the tools in the energy toolbox. 

If you don’t know already, I am in the strongest terms considering a run for the Texas Railroad Commission, for the open seat being vacated by EAJ. There will be others that will want to speak to you, others that will want to convince you that they are more qualified with no other qualifications than they are from MIDLAND, or because they were in the Texas House of Reps for 20+ years.I believe in the promise that is Texas, I believe in our potential, in our resources and in our workforce.  I believe that Texas can and will serve as a model for other states and ultimately for the federal government on how to responsibly blend the use of fossil fuels with the promise of renewable energies, but only if we stand together and fight for a better tomorrow.  It is imperative that we continue to expose the ideology of the current administration as flawed.  Make no mistake, the EPA has placed a bulls eye on Texas and as I have discussed here today they will continue their fight to strangle us with regulations.  It is our charge to stand against the forces that unite against us while at the same time understanding our responsibility to lead the way in protecting our natural resources and advancing New Energy Technologies.   I believe that Energy innovation should come in response to technological and entrepreneurial innovation, not in response to government mandates or dooms-day scenarios that will never come to pass.  My challenge to you is to leave here today and continue to arm yourself with the currency of our democracy, KNOWLEDGE” and to begin the process of reclaiming our country.  I want to leave you with the words of Abraham Lincoln as a reminder of why it is time to stand and be heard, time to remind our leaders what our beliefs and values are: “…That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth.”   

Ladies and Gentleman We are Texans, Powering a Brighter Tomorrow

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to you today, God Bless America and God Bless Texas.

Wake up People

While You Were Sleeping

All that is occurring today is the coopting of the “Occupy” model by people with a vested interest in distracting us from what is real.  The occupy movement is the single creation of the progressive movement that they “perceived” to have worked.  Rally the radicals to shift blame from those who are truly responsible for their own life.   If you are poor, blame the banks.  If you’re uneducated, blame republicans.  If your wallet isn’t flush then blame the fat cats on Wall Street.  Shifting focus from what is actually wrong to what you want to be wrong in order to advance an agenda and an ideology, that is the game being played and Americans are the pawns. 

The Zimmerman / Trayvon fiasco is a creation of those hoping to shift your focus.  It is nothing more than the real life version of the Wizard or Oz, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain pulling the levers.  Under this administration and their model for and vision of America we have been fed false story after false story to cover up their unmitigated failures.  The fury being whipped up over tis case is just the latest attempt to distract us from where we find ourselves today.  We have accepted $3.50 a gallon gas as normal.  We have accepted higher taxes and we have accepted the new name change for higher taxes. “Fines.”  We have accepted the never-ending printing of money to sustain a failed economic plan.  We have accepted unemployment rates of over 7%.  We have accepted deficit spending as a very real form of budget control.  We have accepted the idea that creating more energy options in this country is bad.  We have accepted the idea that you can actually “Lead from behind” (I still don’t get that one.)  We have accepted the idea that America and the America dream needs to be fundamentally transformed.  We have accepted entitlements and welfare over hard work and responsibility.  We have accepted bloated government over original intent.  

The list could go on and on, the point I am making is simple.  Rather than talk about what the real cancers are, the cancers killing the America that took generations to build, rather than having an honest discussion we are busy focusing on the latest faux outrage perpetuated by the mainstream media and the political elite.   Wake up America, you are being manipulated to fight a decades old war by a desperate and disingenuous crowd.  They don’t want you asking why unemployment remains unnecessarily high and why unemployment is at never before seen levels for minorities.  They don’t want you asking questions about why we cant fuel our own country with fuel FROM OUR OWN COUNTRY.  They don’t want you to ask why electricity would have to necessarily skyrocket (President Obama’ exact words).  They don’t want you asking why the Arab Spring has put us in more danger today than at any other time.  They don’t want you asking why the NSA needs to store all the meta data for every single phone call made or collect and store your digital footprint just in case they ever “Need” to rule you out as a suspect in case a terrorist accidentally calls or emails you.  They don’t want you asking why the IRS does anything, just that you trust that they have your interest at heart.  They don’t want you asking why our economy hasn’t improved.  They don’t want you asking why healthcare needs to be turned over to the IRS.  They don’t want you asking why the Fed needs to print money to prop up an economy if their plan to spend more and tax more is working.  

They don’t want you asking “Why” to anything other than the pre-packaged predetermined questions that they have baked up to serve to you as the latest distraction from their failures.  This administration has clamped down hard on the philosophy of never letting a good crisis go to waste.  Who cares if the crisis could rip a country in half?  They don’t, they just care that they own the conversation of the day because when they win YOU lose.  Asking why begs an answer, an answer they don’t want to give.  It is not because they don’t have an answer, it is because the answer they have isn’t one that “We The People” would swallow easily or willingly.  Do not be a fool, do not be fooled, this is the latest diversionary tactic co-opted by this administration to distract you from asking WHY.  Of course, that is just my take.

That Guy

On Friday I had one of the most painful experiences one could ever have.  My pain paled in comparison to some of those around me in my life.  There is a mother, sister, brother and an uncle a grandfather and a grandmother and a wife who said goodbye to their American Hero.  Many tears were shed, hearts were heavy with the realization that for the next year and a half that young man would leave the protection of a family that loved him, cherished him. They had to release him into the cold hands of an awesome military machine to help bring freedom to a people who don’t have it and defend the freedom of a people who have become indolent to what being free really means.  

Friday I comforted a young wife who has been married for only a sliver of time but whose emotions and love span the eternities.  She kept saying that there just wasn’t enough time.  My advice seemed hollow, what is a dad supposed to say to his baby girl?  What comfort can a father really give to a daughter whose world has been turned upside down, twisted and then tossed around?  The best thing that any of us can do is to listen, to be compassionate, to be 100% supportive not only of those fine young men and women that we send off to defend this great nation but to those who are left behind to privately mourn time lost and an insecurity of what the future will bring them.  No matter what you think of this war or any war for that matter, the one thing that is universal is that someone has to be “That Guy,” the guy who straps on 80 pounds of gear and leaves everything behind to defend everything you have.  He is the guy who sacrifices everything in his life so that you can enjoy everything in your life.  The guy who will get paid squat to put himself in the middle of some of the most horrible places on earth so that you can live in the comfort of some of the nicest places on earth.  He is the guy who leaves a father and mother, brothers and sisters, grandparents, children and a wife behind while you spend time with yours.  The guy who will sleep wherever he can find a spot to lay down in, eat whatever he has to survive, shower only when and if he finds a place to, watch the sunrise and the sunset through the fog of war while you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock.  

The other side of this coin is those left behind.  They struggle to make their way through the life they had, they wonder how they will survive without someone who meant the world to them, they worry about where their brave soldier is sleeping, what they are eating, if they are safe and ultimately they worry every single second of every single day if they will ever see their loved one again.  That is a heavy burden and a burden that we should all share whenever we can.  So while we are all going on with our banal platitudes about supporting the troops, about how grateful we all are of the sacrifice that they are making, please let us not forget about those left behind who ache every single moment for those we so vociferously claim to support.  The reason that I am so cynical here is that supporting the troops has become more of a bumper sticker slogan to most that an actual reality.  We see it, hear it and mimic it but I am not sure that we fully comprehend or understand how to put it in actions rather than just words.  When we get to the point where we pay the proper respect to our troops through supporting not only them but their mission and their families then we can begin to understand the immense burden that both carry on a day to day basis.  Their burden is one that I am only now coming to fully realize while at the same time recognizing that I can’t know what it truly means or how it really feels.  God bless the brave men and women of our armed services and God bless the families of these fine souls for lending them to us so that we may see in living color what true sacrifice is and what true love of country means.  Of course that is just my take.

Perspective

Amid the cries of injustice and obstinate behavior towards the police these days exists a reality not popular among the high brows of academia, the Political Elite, Race Hustlers, Info-tainers and Celeb-utants, being a cop these days isn’t easy or even appreciated.  Long gone are the days when we celebrated the heroes who were first on the scene, first through the door, first to give their life so that you could live yours.  Instead we turn on the TV and under the guise of News and Journalism we are manipulated and twisted to believe those sworn to protect us, sworn to serve us are nothing more than boot jacked thugs hell bent on racially motivated acts of aggression with the goal of creating a police state.  

So what is the truth? Who is telling the truth?  For me it’s never as easy as turning on the TV and listening to the groomed, coifed idiots that read words from a teleprompter or listening to the agenda driven narcisists that pollute the airways.  I see a problem and I dig in, I try to understand mindsets and motivations.  There is no shortage of coverage or platforms for those protesting the “Police” however there is a massive blackout when it comes to understanding the challenges faced by those who put on the badge.  That is where I decided to focus my attention and here is just a taste of what I found.  It is a dose of perspective and the lens through which an officer approaches their days with.

 1 police officer dies in the line of duty every 58 hours.    According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Funds recently released numbers for the period of 8-1-2013 to 6-1-3024 fatalities for officers rose an astonishing 14%.  Looking back at available statistics show that since 2004 there have been 58,261 assaults resulting in 15,658 serious injuries. Records show that more than 20,000 U.S. Law Enforcement Officers have made the ultimate sacrifice.  The sad truth is that this number is since the first “Recorded” in the line of duty death.  There are more statistics, stats on life expectancy, number of encounters with situations none of us could comprehend or even want to carry with us as a memory but I will be lucky if most people have read even this far.  

I would encourage you however, if you have made it this far, to not just stop here, open a browser and read for yourself, learn about this topic and the impact it has for both the civilian and law enforcement communities.  Don't limit yourself to thinking or believing that you know everything leaving yourself to stand in a stagnate pond of ignorance.  Be part of the solution, work to elect people that will address the real root causes that are sewing the seeds of discontent.  

For me I believe it is important to put a human face on those who have died in the line of duty. There are two sides to every story, and two realities for us to consider as we move to better our society and way of life.  In the end there can only be one solution and that solution can only be realized when we come together, when we are unified in purpose and when we display empathy to the struggles and challenges that we all face.  The day of picking sides and becoming willfully blind must come to an end because if we allow the Race Hustlers, Info-tainers, Celeb-utants or highbrow academics to convince us that the police are our problem, we lose and our representative republic moves away from a democracy and ever closer to an Idiocracy. Of course that is just my take

Fake Wars and Liberal Whores

As I listened to the exchange between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck on Maher’s HBO show Real-Time”, I was not surprised by what I heard out of the mouth of self-aggrandizing liberals assembled. I was more shocked by what I did not hear. I did not hear the LGBT’s drumbeat of equality of marriage, or NOW’s war on women and women’s right. Instead I heard fear by casting blame of others for even questioning Islam. So based on the inane back and forth I have come to the realization that liberals are scared and fearful.  They are fearful of a real fight. Standing and marching in the US screaming “equality of marriage” is ok when the worse that can happen is a court case where you are sure to find and activist judge that will rule in your favor.  Yet, when faced with the hard choice of truly fighting for your so-called enlightened values you run and blame others. 

Example: Al Gore and the Global warming alarmist; when faced with the so called collapse of man-kind due to human CO2 pollution; the best you can do is sue, recycle and blame the the republicans believing that government overreach and freedom killing regulations are the answer. Yet you yourself cannot make the hard choice to stop flying, stop driving, or to give up living in your big mansions. It’s way too tough. 

Now faced with the threat of a homicidal cult that is Islam (yes I said it, and CAIR, do not expect an apology it’s not going to happen!) who at its core epitomizes the very values you claim to despise, you sit silent.  What is your solution?  You run for the hills hiding behind the cloak of racism hoping to fins Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility so that you don't have to see the face of a real threat. Liberals, like it or not, Islam is now in the US front and center and there is a choice to be made, you can wage your fake war on conservatives or you can get real and join the actual war that exists on women, on equality and fairness.  My challenge, C’mon and finish what you started, put you money where your mouth has been for so long.  Stand up and fight for your values. Hell you’re finally on the RIGHT side.  Of course, that is just my take.

Dis-Honoring our Military

If I had a nickel for every time I have heard a politician say that “I support the troops” and another nickel for the times I have heard that same politician talk about “Honoring Them” I would be lunching with Warren Buffet and vacationing with Sir Richard Branson.  The truth, the sad truth is that on the heels of Veteran’s Day America has failed those who serve the cause of liberty.  The greatest nation on Gods green earth has turned a blind eye towards the men and women who took an oath to give everything including their life to protect us so we could live ours.  The greatest military the world has ever known gets nothing but second-class treatment reserved for third world paupers.  Politicians feign love as they ooze patriotism for our warriors.  The Commander and Chief panders to the masses with nothing more than words and ceremony, the lack of action illustrates the level of contempt he holds for those he pretends to praise.  President Obama and the politicians existing beneath his robes ensure their compensation and their benefits but use those they honor as fodder for the petty wars of partisan politics they wage.   Then there is the average American, the phenomenon of this century, those LIV(s) or “Low Information Voters.”  You know, the ones who have elected the new ruling class that has replaced the public servants envisioned and instituted by our founding fathers.  They tune in and listen to the talking heads that permeate the airwaves, the chattering class whose reporting skills and methodology resemble your 6th grade newsletter and the announcements from the principle’s office.  

Do you think I am being a bit harsh? Here are some facts about just how much our anointed leaders, the ruling class care about the men and women who have served us.  At the VA we have seen as many as 751,000 veterans in line to receive the services they paid for with limbs and traumatic brain injuries.  These claims have sat on desks for in some cases over 2 years.  Recently the Obama administration reduced that number to around 457,000 with the goal of wait times of 125 days or fewer.  They are patting themselves on the back because of the progress they have made.  Still almost a half a million veterans, most with less than nothing wait.  Is this honoring their service?  Do your elected representatives really support the troops?

How about this fact, Military members were surveyed in January of this year; these are soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, about their employment situation.  Of the service men and women surveyed more than 16% said that they were unemployed.   Of that 16%, 33.8% are still unemployed.  Are we honoring their sacrifice?  Some of the most disciplined employees available to employers, proven dedicated individuals have an unemployment rate at twice the level of the civilian population.

Lets talk about poverty.  The American service men and women are the single elite fighting force the world has ever known.  These are highly trained and highly motivated and educated people.  So educated in fact that the average level of post high school education exceeds any other group.  Despite their training, education level and dedication to their jobs we learned from the latest census data that almost a million (968,000) veterans between the age of 18 and 64 have experienced poverty.  But lets focus on the here and now, since of course we are officially in the era of publicly thanking our troops for their service every time a microphone is forced in the face of a member of the ruling class.  According to a report issued by Congress, the JEC or Joint Economic Committee and I quote: “…poverty rates among post-9/11 veterans is nearly double the rates following other wars, with over 12 percent of recent veterans now living in poverty. Hardest hit are the youngest vets. Poverty strikes 21 percent of service men and women between the ages of 18 and 24 (who are over 80 percent of post-9/11 vets).”  How is it that the richest country cares so little when it comes to those who defend those riches with their lives?  Is this how were support the troops, honor their sacrifice?

Living in poverty means that you are more than likely homeless.  How is this for a sobering reality, 1 out of 7 homeless adults are veterans and 1.5 million veterans are standing at the edge of a cliff staring into the abyss of homelessness right now due to their dire poverty.   Our service men and women fought, bled, left it all on the field of battle, many paid the ultimate price and we can’t get our collective shit together to make sure they had a roof over their head once the battle was over?  Is this honoring their service, is this how we support the troops?

Finally, there is this sad statistic.  A soldier / Veteran commits suicide approximately every 22 minutes.  The records from 48 states we analyzed and they revealed that among the civilian population there were 14 suicides per 100,000 people.  Among veterans that statistic is more than doubles at 30 per 100,000.  Statistics also show that the rate of suicide has doubled in the year’s 2005 to 2011 according to the most recent data.  Another sobering fact is that more soldiers committed suicide in the last 10 years than were killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  

Our veterans are not show ponies and grand oratory followed by placing a medal on their chest does not repay the debt owed to them.  Honoring our veterans is more than a single day event it is a lifelong commitment.  It is unacceptable to research this and find contained in bits of data the sad news that we have left behind a class of people who have committed to never leave a man behind.    

As you put your flag out on your porch, proudly wear your flag pin and go out into the world believing that you have done everything to support our troops, honor their sacrifice and their memory we have to ask ourselves if that is true?  Or, is that what we say to assuage our guilt, hide our apathy or disdain?  Isn’t it time we really took to heart the sacrifice our men and women suffered for us and hold those accountable few who roam the halls of power.  Hold them accountable for their mistreatment of our greatest treasure.  The President and this congress should be held in contempt.  There is no partisan divide here, no blaming one side over the other, there is only the reality that has been spoken by this President and this congress, the reality that our military members are nothing more than pawns in their petty fight for ultimate control.  I will no longer stand as one who utters the words “Support and Honor.” I will stand in defense of those who have defended me.  I will no longer simply “Trust” the hollow words uttered by our faux leaders and their collective mouthpieces.  Until those who have served the cause of liberty and defended this country are made a priority, the single priority I refuse to accept the “Ruse” of the day.  I could care less who is the next “Real” conservative, the savior of 2016.  I could care less about immigration rights or gay rights or whether pot should be legal.  I want to see action over words when it comes to supporting our troops.  Honor their service by firing the political hacks that have dishonored their service and their memory.  Don’t just read the statistics I have provided and say to yourself, “How sad,” get pissed, get fired up and fight for our veterans as they have fought for you.