It’s About the Outrage Game

So this is now how we do things in America…

A lunatic goes into a school and kills fourteen students and three adults. The country is horrified. And rightfully so.

A group of young articulate students from this tragedy emerge to protest the gun situation in this country and get backing from mostly undisclosed sources that have influence and power. The students are very poised, impressive. How could they not be? They’ve went through things that none of us could imagine. Now, they’ve become the face of a movement…a movement that those same sources behind them, the ones that have power and influence seem to prevent any involvement from other student advocates who have dissenting views on gun control.

The mainstream media — which are largely composed of highly educated left leaning white people from urban areas and on the west coast — eat this up. The vast majority of the news and cultural media are heavily for gun control. All of this helps the anti-gun cause.

It’s been perfectly orchestrated. As, in many ways, it should have been.

Some on the right start start going after these students in ways that hard core partisans can be. Viscous, classless. Attacking teenagers who saw other teenagers get gunned down. Teens who very likely had that youthful innocence and enthusiasm. Many others on the right cowardly defend this.

A few of the students, while being overall poised, start to go a little too far. Meaning, their stridency is causing them to lose their effectiveness as they seem arrogant. That’s because, at least one, David Hogg IS arrogant. He’s likely caught in the moment. He’s been put on a pedestal. And he’s instantly become a national spokesman. Every comment, every tweet, every THING he does is going to by examined by some on the right who want to attack him. The left (of course) doesn’t realize this because they want to trash the right and those who are strongly for gun rights. The adoring media starts to realize this but the student’s “handlers” don’t because they may well be would-be left wing autocrats. And hard left advocates watching are too caught up in their own hate to temper their own stridency.

So Hogg goes on and on and — to no surprise — right wing talking heads like Laura Ingraham start attacking him in classless ways because that’s what we do now in this country. We shy away from talking about issues an go after people personally. In fact, most of us prefer that. Why bother having civil debate?

Hogg is doing this as well. He no long talks. He makes announcements.

One of those announcements is a call for a boycott of Ingraham’s sponsors. So sponsors bolt her show. They don’t need this. They have to protect their brand. I get that. I’m in advertising and PR.

Ingraham sees this as well and tries to sanctimoniously fall back onto Holy Week to get out of the situation. Oops, I apologize because I don’t want to lose money and…in honor of Jesus. But Jesus didn’t call for us to be nice for only one week of the year.

In the meantime, Hogg, whose head in now the size of Trump’s, continues.

All this does is create more division and, ironically, more diversion from the issues that Hogg and his backers hold dear. We’re now lobbing bombs at one another about a battle between a second rate right wing pundit and a traumatized teenager who can push too hard in some directions as he struggles to handle the spotlight.

And it shows me two things:

1) I can’t stand hard right wing talking heads.

2) I’m leery of left wing would be autocrats who seek to prevent dissent from their views from becoming legitimate.

You could switch the above ideologies. They just fit this situation.

This is how we do it in this country. It’s no longer about 17 dead people. Or how we deal with mental health. Or the availability of guns. Or school safety. Or the principles behind the second amendment.

Or, most importantly in my book: why some people want to kill and what we could do to address that.

But nope. It’s not about any of that. That’s why we don’t really address issues in this country.

It’s about the outrage game.


My take on AR/VR for 2018. I need to know this because my startup depends on it.

On Facebook, Shel Israel, one of the leading thinkers on how digital affects the way we live, work, and play put forward the following question regarding what 2018 holds for augmented reality:

What is your assessment of how AR changed in 2017? What is your prediction for AR and business in 2018?

I thought about this because my vantage point is that I’m putting together a start up that has a focus on using immersive technology for healthcare and medical training. So, I’m looking as how it affects an industry analysts are saying will be among the most impacted. I’ve become an enthusiast with a heavy dose of realism. And maybe some skepticism.

It’s not that I’m letting that skepticism hold me down. On the contrary, I’m banking on immersive to move forward. But I’ve seen how “irrational exuberance” can lead the pioneers to convince themselves that it’s a revolution and not an evolution. This happens, quite often, because they only talk among themselves and never really listen or get to understand their prospective client base.

In 2018 (and probably 2019), we won’t see significant adoption of immersive technology. People within healthcare have started to hear whispers that it’s coming. But that’s not enough because — and this is especially important for medical practitioners — the standard that they care about is evidence-based best practices. Not the oohs an ahs that can accompany someone’s first journey to another setting when they put a headset on. Great ideas, solid ideas can be as worthless as pie-in-the-sky ideas.

To be sure, the whispers will get louder this year and into next. I see 2020 when things really start to change. Right now, it may be mostly certain niches that get the investments and the subsequent action. My partners and I have gotten our niche. Now it’s our challenge to get partners on the outside. A hospital system. A medical society dedicated to our niche practice. A medical school that’s associated with a hospital.

One thing I have to point out is that the methodologies and the metrics for all of this have yet to be developed. Most discussions take place in AR/VR forums, conferences, etc. Those doing the talking are people like me. It’s not being done at medical conferences. Sure, there may be a speaker here and there. Or even a panel. But overall, just like social media was 10–12 years ago, most of the players in the space talk among themselves. Most “leading companies” have a website, some sort of prototype, a kickass client (if they’re lucky) to give them credibility…and that’s it.

I think the answer in the midterm will be education. Would-be entrepreneurs have to educate themselves about the sectors within the medical professions that they want to target. They need to know what hospital systems are the most innovative. They need to know how decision makers think, from hospital administrators to medical school research officials, to influential types in medical associations and societies who will publish, edit, and read medical journals that produce studies on evidence based best practices. Getting press attention in TechCrunch or Mashable is awesome. But that’s not likely the publications that the decision makers read.

We also have to think as to how we will educate our future clients. That means speaking on THEIR terms in ways that they can relate to how they practice medicine, or purchase equipment, lead their hospital, administrate their medical and nursing schools.

So, to me, I think this will be a learning year for those who seek to enter the field. We’ll see smaller, targeted projects geared toward actual needs where the education may be elementary as opposed to the creation of breakthrough medical procedures that have yet to get full adoption. It will be this way for the next 2–3 years. At that point, key decision makers will really start to come on board.

That’s the route we’re taking. Go in assertively, but humbly. It’s time to learn…so when the industry takes off, we’ll have enough intellectual capital coupled with hands on experience to lead the way.

Check Your Hatred at the Door

The statement itself wasn’t necessarily a big deal, but a couple of days ago I logged out of Facebook on my laptop and shut off the app on my phone. The reason: politics in this country has become a hate fest and not only on my newsfeed, but also on the comments on the posts I was making.

Politics is second nature to me. I’ve lived in the DC area for over 30 years. I’ve worked on political campaigns from senate to presidential. I’ve worked as a grassroots lobbyist. I’m what best can be called a diehard independent centrist. I don’t think in terms of political party. I don’t follow anyone else’s pre-formulated political philosophy. People on the left call me a “reasonable” conservative; people on the right call me a “reasonable” liberal. While I often try to find the good in people and their politics, today I’m almost solely seeing the bad.

In the past few weeks I’ve made posts that, while not directly calling for unity, at the very least calling for civility in these times. The resulting responses soon turned into a mutual hate fest between left and right. Hateful shit spreading out over several sub-threads. People attacking one another and anyone who’s on the other side of the spectrum. I started getting defriended by people, not because anything I wrote, but because they’re being attacked by others who are filled with hatred. Now I have to repair relationships.
It’s my fault though. I post about politics. I just do. And because I’m in several political discussion groups and because I’m a centrist, I’ve cultivated a ton of people from across the political spectrum over the years. That should be cool. I don’t have, like some who have more polarizing politics, a bevy of like-minded people who agree with everything I say. With that, I used to host some great political discussions.

Not anymore.

But the political situation in this country has gotten out of hand. This past week, we had an attempted political assassination in the United States. An act of terrorism. Make no mistake about it. Yes. An assassination attempt. Yes, that’s terrorism. Right in my old neighborhood. For seventeen years I lived near the ball field where US Rep. Steve Scalise and others were shot. It was that very same ballfield that I used to play pick up games. It was next to the YMCA that I taught my son how to swim. Across the street I used to buy groceries.
So right now we’ve got a US Congressman lying in a hospital in critical condition with a bunch of bones broken, a bunch of internal organs torn apart, and a tremendous loss of blood. He’ll likely pull through, but, yeah, he could die. The doctor who performed surgery on Rep. Scalise said that when the Congressman arrived at the hospital, he was “in imminent risk of death”. I don’t give a shit what political party he’s in, how he stands on this issue or that one or if they match mine. He’s a human being. We’ve also got another man — a young man named Matt Mika- also in critical condition. Shot in the chest.

Yes, most were appalled. But soon I saw something that I’ve now come to expect.

Instead of expressing concern about their lives, sympathy for all of those injured, and outrage that it all happened…I kept on seeing some not giving a shit that we had an attempted political assassination because they were more concerned about Rep. Scalise’s voting record. They immediately began to try to put the shooting in “context”…saying it was no doubt definitely wrong, but the anger behind it…was justified. Because of this vote and that stance. Justified. Not the actual shooting — no, we don’t want that, but that anger behind it. Someone may be about to die and, yeah, while his getting shot shouldn’t have happened, the anger behind it was, you know, understandable. If you’re a conservative or a Republican then, a little violence against you could be in order.

That’s what we’ve come to.

This was preceded by many on the right justifying conservative Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body slamming a “liberal” reporter to the ground because…the reporter asked the candidate a question. Some of those justifying the action position themselves as “values voters”. When the news media then asked some voters on their way to voting if the assault that affected their vote. No, said many. They still liked Gianforte. It was also the reporter’s fault. So, if you’re a liberal or a Democrat, or a member of the press (remember Trump’s attacks on the press), a little violence against you could be in order.

That’s what we’ve come to.

All this a week or two after Kathy Griffin’s gross attempt at being funny…which was followed by her pathetic attempt to position herself as a victim. Then there’s the ongoing attempt to shut down free speech by left wing campus radicals. People getting sprayed with mace in the face for simply wanting to listen to a speaker. Or battles between alt-right types with Antifa types. The murders of two brave souls in Portland by the deranged white supremacist whose politics were revealed to be both alt-left and alt-right at the same time.

Earlier we had the fake news story of “Pizzagate” pedophilia rings passed on by gullible right wing idiots — or willing right-wing idiots — that almost resulted in many deaths because yet another idiot showed up at a pizza place to take things into his own hands.

Before that, Trump rallies became scenes of violence, some of which were started by Trump supporters, some of which was started by left wing agitators brought in secretly by Democratic operatives.

It ain’t really new. For the entire time Obama was in office, I saw dozens of photos of fake lynchings of the president, dozens of portrayals of a wonderful First Lady as a gorilla. America’s leader, an inspiration to about 40 million African Americans. And millions of others. I saw people delighted that Trayvon Martin, a seventeen year old returning from a convenience store, had been killed. I can still see that hatred today.

I keep on seeing people tell me that — take your pick — conservative and Republicans or liberals and Democrats hate America. How they’re fascists.

Little critical thinking, relying on completely biased sources, resisting any information that may contradict what you thing. And by all means, deflect.

If that’s how you think, I don’t respect you. I think you’re an idiot or an asshole. Or both.

Yeah, I know. Blame the other side. Come up with solid examples (all true) while ignore or explain away your side. Blah, blah, blah. Focus on their hatred. How about focus on YOUR hatred or indifference if it doesn’t bother you some who share your politics are more intent on putting all of this in context in a way that partially justifies all this. How about trying to reach out to someone who you may disagree with on issues, but someone that you may find…is a decent human being? Perish the thought that you may find out that someone who you disagree with is human.

I’ll just say it. I think left and right are just as bad right now with their hatred of one another, with their attempts to demonize one another. Everyone is too busy trying to position how much better, much smarter, much more moral, more patriotic your side is and how much worse, less intelligent, less moral, less patriotic, the other side is. Bullshit.

The night of the assassination attempt, my son and I went down to the Mall in DC. We walked from the Lincoln Memorial, past the WWII Memorial and then by the Washington Monument, all the way to the US Capitol. Then all the way back. Six miles. It’s a beautiful walk, seeing those national monuments and memorials and those American flags all lit up, flapping in the night wind.

One of the things I like most about it is that when you go down there, you see people from all over the country. Or from all over the world. Many of them young people. There were a bunch of blond haired, blue eyed kids from the Midwest in their FFA (Future Farmers of America) uniforms. There were African American high school students wearing yellow t-shirts about the immersion program at their MLK High School. Gay couples were walking hand and hand by a group of Christian students visiting form Alabama. Over to an performance stage in another area, there was an group of what I think was Bolivian American students practicing, perfectly synchronized, a cultural dance.

I dunno. That’s my America. That’s why I love this country. Our diversity. There are no American last names.

Pass through the Vietnam Memorial. Two very long panels. It’s not divided with dead left-wingers on one panel and dead right-wingers on the other. Head over to Arlington National Cemetery. There aren’t separate plots for Democrats and Republicans. In the future, we may have to do that.

In the meantime, fight for your values, but check your hatred. Embrace what we have here in America while you’re trying to make it better for future generations. Right now, they’re learning hate is the answer.

Innocence betrayed and the price children pay for our failure

Has humanity lost its collective soul?  Did we ever have one to begin with?

I posted the story of this little boy on Facebook last night.  His name is Omran Daqneesh.  He’s five years old.  His home in Aleppo, Syria was bombed – presumably by the Assad regime.  Seeing his reaction completely got to me.  He’s dazed, his life is all but destroyed, but he’s so much in shock it looks as if he could be patiently sitting in a waiting room to for a regular checkup at the doctor’s office.  It was the look on his innocent face, the blood covering a third of it, his drooping eye, two little legs that can’t even bend down to the floor, the matted hair, those beautiful little features that we adults should value and treasure across ANY culture.  It all got to me.

We adults.  Yes.  We adults.  We adults cause this shit.  We adults cause concentration camps, we cause refugees, we cause genocide, death squads, and mass graves.  We cause wars and the famines that often follow wars.  We cause hatred and greed and death.  And we cause little boys – and little girls – to lose whatever internal sense of innocence and wonder that they have and so desperately need.  We often cause this to maintain or expand power.  We don’t protect children.  We fail them.

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
  — Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

The news report here pointed out that an estimated 4500 children have died in that city alone.  How many more in the rest of Syria?  In Iraq?  In Libya?  In the Congo?  In the Holocaust?  In our own inner cities?  How many children have to die, to suffer, to be victims because adults are too power hungry or filled with hatred for those who don’t look like them or worship the same God?  When will we learn that maintaining a sense of humanity is not so much for us but more for those who come after us?

“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”
  — Mahatma Gandhi, Indian political and spiritual leader

When I think of all of this, I go back to my mom and dad and I then realize how fortunate I was to have two parents than not only loved me but who through their actions and their beliefs showed me how much they valued and loved children as a whole.  Not just me, their only child.  But all children.  I like to think that it got ingrained in me.  And I’m forever grateful to them for that.  I was able to keep an innocence while building an internal strength.  I only hope that I’ve done the same for my son.  But why is it that so many who say they love children show no sense of that outside of their own front door or their own kind or their own cause?  Why can’t we see the harm that we inflict?

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
  — Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and statesman

I caught shit for posting this story.  I caught shit from someone who seemed to think that my posting of this was somehow disrespectful toward our brave servicemen and servicewomen because I didn’t post something about them instead…which I have done plenty of times in the past.  I don’t know.  My only guess is that since it is highly likely this child is Muslim, and we in the US have fought a war in that region (which resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocents) and we have long been dealing with radical fanatics of that faith, that somehow my posting of this was some sort of statement of betrayal.  Or a lack of appreciation.  I won’t attack her as she has suffered an unspeakable tragedy in her own life, but it was as if fault was found in basic human compassion that, frankly, I think most of us instinctively have when watching such a story.  It’s tied into a coarseness that now envelopes our society, our political discourse, our lives.  It’s too common.

Matthew 18 2-6
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.
3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

I can’t say I expect anything to change.  Memes will pop up.  A few inspirational videos will come an go.  And bombs will rein down and the innocent will die.   I’ll go back to living my semi-boring life of planning out the next digital campaign for work, checking out Red Sox box scores, and trying to figure out how to best pay for my son’s college tuition.  Omran’s full name will escape my memory at some point.  Each day will be like they have been for the past few years – or is perhaps forever? There will be a several dozen Omrans throughout the world who end up suffering as much or will meet a worse fate.  That trend will continue for no doubt.  We will continue to fail our children.

I just hope that we could use episodes like this to curb our own hatred, to see the value in all, and to realize that our greatest responsibility that we have while we are fortunate enough to grace this earth is not to ourselves but to the innocents around us and to those follow.  We owe them no less.

“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.”
  — Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali polymath