A Heartfelt Response. Not Your Everyday Astrophysicist. A 17-Year-Old Boy. Tea.

  • Two weeks ago, my take on our Generals from yesteryear generated many responses. In light of some people’s comments, I asked a former U.S. Marine to provide his take on our military leadership, and more importantly his overall thoughts of where we are with the deployment of our men and women. He was originally deployed in 2004, and subsequently served in Iraq. His roles and responsibilities included entry control point operations, where he would inspect cars searching for explosives, weapons, and contraband. I have been careful with my edits in order for all of us to clearly understand his perspective. Thank you to this week’s contributor. Your heartfelt thoughts, and your service to the United States, are greatly appreciated.

OK… So, the issue we are seeing with today’s generals are the same issues we see with a lot of enlisted. Since only 1% of the population serves into today’s all-volunteer force, they are clearly the exception. But in today’s military, some service members mistake exception with exceptional.

In a post 9/11 world, service members were lifted up by the press and by the public (obviously better than what the Vietnam vets got). But now, with social media, people are getting high on their own supply. So, officers become political figures FAR earlier than before. And since it’s an all-volunteer force, the political fallout is FAR less than the later stages of Vietnam where EVERYONE got called up. Now, enlisted can say whatever they want until it goes viral. But by then, they are low-grade celebrities. Officers say whatever they want but are politically protected. So, it’s a toxic mix. Ike (Eisenhower) had to deal with tens of thousands of deaths in a week. Now, three thousand deaths are considered a blunder.

The public also plays a role in this… Service isn’t the same. There isn’t a collective price to pay anymore. If you were an able male in the 1940’s and didn’t go, people judged you. In Vietnam, when CACO (Casualty Assistance Calls Officer) showed up with death notices, they would hit multiple houses on the same street. During the surge in Iraq, the only people who carried the weight were the families of those who deployed… Everyone else went to the mall. So, after a decade plus of war, most of America moved on.

Which meant people overseas felt overlooked, or worse, looked down on. So now we have a real toxic combination. When we had a collective price to pay, the officers understood the burden. A lack of social media meant they couldn’t just say whatever they wanted when they wanted. Even if they felt the same as officers today.
Can you imagine Patton with Twitter? Or Westmoreland after My Lai?
I’m sure we’d be seeing a lot of the same as we’re seeing today.

So short story long, we as a society have allowed too much war for too long and allowed the creation of a warrior caste. Fathers went to war, and in some cases, their sons finished it. Some vets feel superior to the civilian caste. They feel unheard, neglected, and they are ANGRY. This is what I hear directly from a lot of the guys I served with. Gary, I don’t know what is going to fix this. We need a LONG period without conflict to settle things down. We need to invest in the V.A. MANY times over. We need to allow more vets to get care outside of the V.A. to reduce pressure on the system. A lot of anger, a lot of hurt, and a lot of grief. All of that death, and for what?
We gained NOTHING.

The gate I guarded where I picked body parts out of a barbed wire fence? Where I was rocket attacked? Where I dug through cars looking for bombs? Iraqis run it. ISIS is 10 miles away from there. My friend who was in Afghanistan? Lost friends, translators, and his translator was left behind. A generation is realizing that our service didn’t benefit people here. No one here is more or less free. We didn’t liberate concentration camps. We didn’t end Fascism. We didn’t stop the Red Army from crossing the 38th parallel. All we had was each other and the love of our friends and family. Many vets feel used. Many more feel forgotten. I know this may not be what you expected, but the answer is very complex, and SO many things feed into it.

My body is broken. Two torn quads, calcium deposits in my knees, losing my hearing, MANY concussions, and enough bad memories to last a lifetime. I made a choice; I signed the contract. I’m glad I went, because if I’m not there, it’s an 18-year-old getting body parts out of a fence. I did what I had to do. But I’m tired of war. I’m tired of hearing from 25-year-olds who had 6 deployments. And more than anything, I am tired of vets who feel that their opinion is more valuable than a civilian. Because that’s who we serve. We serve the people. Not major corporations, not political parties. We have forgotten that.

  • I had the opportunity (privilege is a better description) of attending a lecture by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. I was obviously concerned that his content would be way over my head, but pleasantly surprised that he has the ability to present very complicated topics in a clear and concise manner. My original concern stemmed from watching the amazing series “Cosmos” – with deGrasse Tyson both hosting and narrating. An amazing series with tremendous writing and spectacular motion graphics, but a good bit of the content did not register with me.

Last Wednesday night, at the beautiful Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando, deGrasse Tyson dumbed-down a great discussion about the perennial mismatch between expectations of why the United States has fallen behind with our space program due to the geopolitical, cultural, and economic realities that limit it. His method of presentation is actually very simple, using his laptop and the theater’s large screen. He gave examples that were both eye-opening and humorous, and received a standing ovation after speaking for over two hours.

deGrasse Tyson spent a good bit of time discussing the U.S. space program, and why, in his opinion, we have failed to progressively enhance space exploration. His comments surrounded our competition in the so-called ‘space race’, with his strong feelings that the United States only benchmarks our programs against other countries. He suggested that the use of space vehicles for military or defense purposes was one way to stimulate the spend for the space program, and then reinforced his thoughts by showing the audience this video, which silenced the sold-out theater:

India has this defense capability in place.

The Prime Minister of India lamenting the fact that his country is now a space power amongst the U.S., Russia, and China, with the ability to destroy targets orbiting the earth. No wonder the United States established the U.S. Space Force, the space service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, the world’s first and currently only independent space force.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Neil deGrasse Tyson lecture, just do it. You will not be disappointed.

  • Politics are energy-draining, self-serving and without a doubt partisan. Kyle Rittenhouse was 17-years-old when he made the decision to participate in a night of civil protest (unrest) in Kenosha, Wisconsin. On Friday, Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges in an incident where he killed two and injured one. Due process was served, and the twelve-person jury made their decision – for whatever their reasons under the circumstances. With all that said, let’s not lose sight of the fact that it was okay for a 17-year-old to place himself in this situation carrying a AR-15. People and their politics divided on the issues surrounding this case, with the real issue being a 17-year-old running down a street with a AR-15. Has the world just gone mad?

  • I’ll end with one of my favorite Ted Lasso quotes. To all my British friends and associates, no harm meant:

Adios, pay if forward, be safe, and have a Funday Sunday!

The Rise And Fall. Five Things.

A Stalwart Of Corporate America Is Forced To Pivot. My Top Of Mind Thoughts.

Founded in 1892, General Electric Company (GE) is a multinational conglomerate that at one time was involved in aviation, power, renewable energy, digital industry, weapons manufacturing, locomotives, and venture capital and finance. GE divested from several areas, and last week announced that the conglomerate was going to be split into three completely separate companies. The three companies will be focused on aviation, healthcare, and energy. The first spinoff of the healthcare division is planned for 2023 and to be followed by the spinoff of the energy division in 2024. In light of this corporate giant deciding to break up, I turned to a friend of mine who spent many years at GE, serving various roles and responsibilities. Thank you, Chris, for taking the time to give all of us your insight about GE.

Given the latest announcement regarding the break-up of GE, I feel a cathartic need to:

  • Provide an ‘insiders’ perspective on GE.
  • What went wrong and why?
  • What the latest announcement might mean to shareholders and employees.
A 1984 GE Management Training Team.

I joined GE on a management training program in 1984, three years after Jack Welch took helm as CEO. At the time, revenues were about $28B. I have stayed in touch with several of my management training class members (I am the young man seated on the right). I stayed with the company for 28 years, some peers left earlier, and one is still there. In the early 2000’s GE was the most valuable company in the world and when I left, revenues had reached almost $147B. What went wrong?

Jack was a great leader. We both hated how hard he drove us and loved the professional and financial rewards he provided. For some of us, it was worth it. He did make one awful decision – promoting Jeff Immelt to CEO. That’s hard for me to say – I worked for Jeff and liked him a lot. But we were taught to be candid, and, in obvious hindsight, Jeff was just the wrong guy to lead GE into the twenty-first century.

Jeff and the Board made many bad investments. Repeatedly, they overpaid for acquisitions and over-levered the company with debt. At the same time, the company lost its focus on costs. The solution was to sell off assets to pay down the debt and meet other obligations. The company needed a leader who was not wedded to its past or paradigms. Investors lost confidence in Jeff and for the first time in the company’s 130+ year history, they turned to an outsider.

Over the last 5 years, GE stock lost 2% of its value each year while the S&P increased 9% on average. The latest announcement by CEO Larry Culp to separate the remaining pieces was a final admission that the company could not achieve necessary returns and was likely not self-sustaining. This move will create some near-term value for current shareholders of GE. If you are one, based on prior divestitures, I expect you will be issued shares in the two new companies as each are spun off (a healthcare company and an energy company – both to be named). Your newly formed company positions will be offset with a re-valued ~ $20B GE (aircraft engine business) at a lower share price.

The above is only my perspective. Others may see if differently. Regardless, in the end, I remain so very grateful to have worked for and learned so much at GE.

Five Things I Think I Think:

  • Kyle Rittenhouse is one mature 18-year-old, or one of the best actors ever.
  • There needs to be a standardized protocol dictating Covid tests and/or vaccinations to enter different venues and facilities. Obviously, this is not an issue for those who are vaccinated.
  • Former NFL coach Jon Gruden’s contract was $10M a year for ten years. He resigned last month after revelations that he had made racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments. He now decides to sue the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Another baseless lawsuit.
  • I am trying to be more cognizant and respectful of the environmental challenges some will face in the future. Automobile companies are betting big on their fleets of electric cars. In fact, various economists predict that U.S. all-electric sales to be 25% to 30% of new vehicles in 2030 and 45% to 50% by 2035. How will this onslaught of electric cars affect the world’s power grids? Maybe my friend T.A. can help us understand how power generation and supply entities are planning on dealing with this issue?
  • Mental health finally is finding its way into the regular and normal thread of healthcare. It is about time that all of us respect the fact that people struggle with a myriad of health issues, and they are not necessarily physical. The pandemic, in my opinion, literally fueled the fire of mental health awareness. The welfare of our friends and family’s mental health is not to be taken lightly.

Speaking of mental health, I leave you with some inspiring words from the one and only Michael Scott, from the television hit, The Office:

Well said, Michael Scott!

Adios, pay it forward, be safe, and have a Funday Sunday!


Not Necessarily Answers.

  • What does Professor Yuval Noah Harari know that we do not? You only need to watch the first three minutes of this 60 Minutes segment. Harari has strong words and feelings that the artificial intelligence craze, fueled by public and private entities’ race to garnering data, will eventually lead to a greater inequality of the human species. He feels that the ability to edit genetic codes and brain interfaces will ultimately lead to non-organic entities…creating biological inequality fueled by money, which will end up being the determining factor to engineering and creating a new being. A new being that relies on intelligence without conscience. Uncomfortable to think about to say the least.
Artificial Intelligence and data harvesting = intelligence without conscience.

As an example, listen to the late General Norman Schwarzkopf explain Rule 14. If a newly-created species is relying on intelligence only, and not their conscience, Schwarzkopf’s Rule 14 goes down the drain:

Rule 14. “Do what’s right.”
  • Do you know what Veterans Day commemorates? The Federal Holiday is celebrated this Thursday, February 11. The holiday honors all who have served in the United States Armed Forces – and is a reminder of the sacrifice made by women and men to protect the United States. Of all days, stand up, give up your seat, shake a veteran’s hand, and above all else thank them for their service. This holiday is not about politics, it is about honor and sacrifice. The very least we can all do is thank our veterans for their service.
  • If Neil can’t explain the dilemma of daylight savings time….no one can. For years I have not been shy with my disdain with daylight savings time ending. Sure, I understand that young children going to school in the morning darkness is troublesome, but who really enjoys darkness before 6PM? I do not and as Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us, he is not a fan of the time changing at all. I know all of you set your clocks back an hour :).
The dilemma of daylight savings time continues…

Where have our powerful and outspoken military leaders gone? Don’t misunderstand what I am asking. I have the utmost respect for our current military leaders, but who has the ultra-personas of Pershing, Patton, MacArthur, Schwarzkopf, and Mattis? Another famous general passed on last week, a leader who overcame many barriers. General Colin Powell was the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. When he walked into a briefing room, similar to the Generals mentioned above, his tremendous presence and ability to clearly communicate had everyone’s attention. RIP, General Colin Powell.

General James “Mad Dog” Mattis was known for his candor and directness with his troops, the enemy and the media. His passion and disdain for the enemy was never addressed better than with one of his many eyebrow-raising quotes: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

  • Is there a more narcissistic, megalomaniac in professional sports than Aaron Rodgers? That question has nothing to do with politics. That question is why would he put himself, his family, and his teammates in a tough situation with the Green Bay Packers and the League? Many people do not like NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but Goodell will earn his pay with mitigating the fallout of Rodgers’ misleading statement regarding his vaccination. To each their own, but misleading your coaching staff and teammates is not acceptable.
  • Where have ABBA been? It has been forty years since this Swedish band broke up, but they are back with original tracks…and they sound similar to their famous hits from yesteryear. There was something always interesting about listening to their music. Here is one from their new Voyage release:
After forty years, ABBA has released their new album, Voyage.

How many diet, meal, and nutrition plans can there really be? I find it amazing how flooded this space continues to be with new ventures popping up every day. There are many different types of plans, with Noom and others leading the way, but how someone determines which plan to take on is beyond me. Then, just when we really dig into Atkins, Keto, and high-protein solutions, the reality of nutrition becomes quite apparent:

Nutrition at its finest.

Adios, pay it forward, stay safe, and have a Funday Sunday!