On March 14th, thousands of students all over the country walked out of class for 17 minutes to protest gun violence in schools. It's certainly easy to empathize with this particular movement. They've had enough. We've all had enough. Everyone wants gun violence in schools eradicated. At the very least, everyone, including both sides of the isle, can get on this train.
Is it possible that no one is talking about the elephant in the room? Nearly every major issue has an elephant in the room, so what is it this time? Be patient with me, and I'll explain exactly what the elephant in the room is. And unfortunately, it's not even in the room yet.
CNN talked to students that participated in the school walk out, and they have reported this summary for what these kids want:
1. Ban assault rifles
2. Require universal background checks on gun purchases
3. Pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.
Now, I realize as soon as you read an itemized list like that you are simultaneously deciding if you are personally okay or agree with each solution listed. Let me take that burden off your shoulders. Don't do that. Whether you agree with those 3 solutions or not doesn't matter. Why? Because if we're talking about gun violence in schools, and I think we are, those 3 solutions don't matter.
Possibly from a lack of clear leadership, this whole movement has grasped onto goals that would have zero impact on the real problem. Why? Because this movement is not addressing the elephant that's not in the room yet.
Here's the elephant: Secure the Venue.
Here's what we know. There are just over 300 million firearms in America. Loosely speaking, just over a third of those are handguns, just over a third are rifles (of all kinds), and just under a third are shotguns. We suffer about 11,000 homicides by firearms each year. Around 360 of those happen by a rifle (of any kind). So while 3% of those gun deaths happen by a rifle of any kind, some smaller piece of that number would be the "assault rifle" deaths. It's tough to really define "assault rifle" since congress judges that based on what the gun looks like rather than the gun's capabilities. I realize that doesn't make any logical sense whatsoever, but we are talking about government here.
The only real numbers you need to remember are 300 million, and 11,000. That's 300 million guns, and 11,000 homicidal gun deaths each year. What impact would the 3 aforementioned solutions have on that 300 million number? The answer is zero impact. Those 3 solutions are a misguided attempt to unpeel an onion that has 300 million layers. You cannot unpeel that onion. It's way too big. It's literally impossible and it's critically important to be realistic here. Even if no more guns are sold ever again, the guns are out there, and they aren't going anywhere. And 11,000 times a year they are used for evil and harm. Understand, the 11,000 number is one we can change; the 300 million number is one we can't.
Gun Laws passed will not solve this problem. The elephant not in the room yet is Secure the Venue. We honestly have way too many people passionately speaking on solutions that will not make even the smallest measurable positive impact. The conversation MUST change from fill in the blank gun law, to "Secure the Venue".
Now, even with misguided goals, the school walkout wasn't totally in vein. But that's over. They're not going to walk out every day, or every week. The event is over, just like this past weekend's march for life in DC, and the conversation will fade to silence. They should print T-Shirts that say "Secure My School" and wear them until they fall apart. T-Shirt business should print those by the thousands and use that money for real solutions for the schools in their area. This is an EASY way to keep the right conversation going.
Secure the Venue
Let me explain why this is so important. We can't change the 300 million guns number. But we can secure the schools. And we don't even need congress to sign a law for that to happen. When 9/11 happened, the airline industry got turned completely upside down. Almost overnight, we secured the venue. We secured the cockpits, we secured the airports, we put armed air marshals on flights, and gave flight attendants new training to help deal with potential deadly situations. That was ONE event, and we, America, turned a ba-zillion dollar industry on its head to fix it, regardless of cost. I wonder where we'd be if we put real solutions in place after Columbine nearly TWENTY years ago.
Secure the Venue
Somewhere along the lines, stadiums got a clue as well. You know what you're not taking into an NFL football stadium? A gun. They've secured the venue, but not just with metal detectors. There are police and security guards everywhere. As a pilot, I can't even fly over a stadium or anywhere near it during a game. It's a security risk. The venue and even the airspace above it has been secured. They decided long ago that crazy isn't going to happen here. Not during a game. Not when there's a whole bunch of people in the same place.
You're not getting into a NBA basketball game with guns either. They've secured that venue too. Even when the basketball arena is being used for concerts or other events, they've secured it. We're emptying out our pockets, walking through metal detectors while bags, keys, watches, and phones are scrutinized. And after you're in, there are security personnel everywhere. They decided long ago they can't change the 300 million guns number, but they sure can...
Secure the Venue
I can't even go to city hall and pay my parking ticket without emptying my pockets, turning my bags over for inspection and walking through a metal detector. It's as if our own government, the slowest acting institution in the holy world decided, "you know, we sure don't want anything crazy playing out here in OUR buildings, or in OUR courts, we should SECURE THE VENUE." Don't miss that. With your money, our government has secured the buildings they work in, the buildings they spend all their time in, but not the building your child goes to school in.
Folks, my church even has plain clothes (and uniformed) officers looking for suspicious bags or activity. They've taken appropriate measures to secure the venue. How is it that we secure so many places, but our schools have been left ignored? My suburban grocery store has more security measures than our schools. Are the people that work at Kroger, or in property records at city hall, more important than our kids in school? Why are our schools not on the list of venues to be secured? And don't tell me it's money. Money is a matter of priority. I've seen schools with multi-million dollar football stadiums. Meanwhile, you could prance right in the front door with a grenade launcher and go completely undetected. Beautiful facility. Completely unsafe.
So why all this talk about banning guns, or even just specific guns? It won't solve anything. Crystal Meth is banned. Meth is totally against the law across the board. It's 100% banned. And it's a good thing too, because banning meth and classifying it as an illegal controlled substance has really curbed its usage. What's that? It hasn't? It's growing in popularity? But how can that be? It's illegal and it's been banned? By the way, 1 in 20 high school students have tried crystal meth, and it's banned. So yes, it's banned, and it's in our high schools every day. Think about that.
Let me be crystal clear. I would sure hate for someone to read all this only to be left in a state of confusion over "what next." This could not be more simple: 1) Less access points. 2) Secure those access points. Yes, entering school may take longer with less access points and secured access points. Just get to school a little earlier. And Yes, it's going to cost money. But let me ask you - what's a student's life worth? What are 17 student's lives worth? What are 130 school lives worth? That's the current number people. At the time of this writing, 130 people have died in school shootings, with hundreds more injured. School districts must find the money to make this happen. Can you get by with less iPads or a smaller stadium? Those are just two examples of many more possibilities. Are more iPads or a bigger stadium more valuable than student's lives? I doubt it.
Secure the Venue people. Stop whining about gun control and laws that will never pass or matter if they did. You want your schools to be safe? Then focus on the actual school and make it safe. We cannot change the reality of 300 million guns. But we sure can change where those guns gain entry. We've done exactly that nearly everywhere else.
Once again, the extremely predictable, semi-annual gun control debate is upon us... and just in time for the holiday season. Fact: each year there are about 11,000 deaths from homicide by firearms (ďgun deathsĒ). This comes out to about 30 gun deaths each and every day. By contrast, there are about 1,060,000 abortions per year. This comes out to 2900 baby deaths per day (96 times more than gun deaths). Furthermore, Alzheimerís kills 84,000 per year, the Flu kills 57,000 per year, suicide takes 41,000 per year, and Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease claims 149,000 per year. I know you saw that one coming.
If you want to talk big numbers, Cancer takes 584,000 per year and Heart Attacks wipe out 611,000 per year. It makes sense why thereís so much government focus on gun control right? I mean, in just the numbers presented so far, gun deaths account for almost half of one percentÖ or 0.4%. But letís introduce the other big killers per year. Tobacco at 529,000 deaths, medical error at 195,000, unintentional injury at 118,000, alcohol at 107,000, car wreck at 34,000, drug abuse at 44,000, falling at 24,000. Yes, falling is more deadly than guns. But far worse than falling, you are more likely to die from your pooper going awry than by a gun. Thatís right, diarrhea claims 1,260,000 lives per year. Even death by HIV is more prevalent than gun deaths. Shall we legislate penis control? As Iíve stated before, we should be fighting for utensil control since obesity kills 300,000 per year (27 times more than guns). Weíve got to stop these forks and spoons while we can. Surely people will stop over eating if they canít get their hands on these deadly utensils, right?
In all seriousness, death by pretty much anything other than guns is more likely than death by guns. But letís put logic aside, and applaud the perception of progress. It feels good to medicate symptoms instead of addressing the root issue. Speaking of medication, RX drug abuse kills 23,000 people per year. Yep, twice that of gun deaths. Back to progress - California has the most stringent gun control laws in the country, and good thing, because itís really changed things. Whatís that? It hasnít? At all? Oh. Never mind, letís just keep fighting for even better more tighter aggressive gun control. You know, hope & change, new & improved gun control 2.0. Thatíll stop evil in its tracks for sure. Take that ISIS, weíre trying to make it harder for US citizens to have guns!
It seems there has been some recent confusion as to what we, the non-celebrity population of America, want from you. Whether you act on stage, on screen, or sing our favorite songsÖ there's really only one thing we want from you. What we want, and why you're paid, is because you entertain. It's show business. You put on the show, and we pay to see the show. In doing so, you provide brief moments of wonderful entertainment. And during those brief moments, we get to escape for that time, and enjoy your talent. We thank you for that.
What we don't want is your political views and lectures on your favorite cause. If that confuses you, let me simplify it a bit further. In the same way you are paid to either act or sing, other Americans are paid to add fries to happy meals, sell cars, work at the mall, or even run multi-billion dollar corporations. In complete fairness, we aren't interested in the political rants or lectures on their favorite cause either. Somewhere along the line, there's been this confusion that the non-celebrity population of America is interested in the political rants & lectures from the celebrity population of America.
How crazy would it be if one of us stopped our mailman in the middle of their route, and asked, "Hey, what side of the political fence do you live on, and what exactly frustrates and offends you about the other side?" That's crazy right? Who would ask their mailman that? See, they provide mail, and you provide entertainment. So in that same crazy line of thinking, who would ask their entertainer that?
The confusion, celebrity, is that many of you operate under the impression that we've asked you that question. It's evident in the way you so often volunteer to answer to that question, when it hasn't been asked. We've now seen it on the Broadway stage, in the middle of concerts, and during your acceptance speeches after winning awards. I've been watching very closely, and no one is asking.
Please understand in no way does this invalidate your strong feelings regarding your favorite cause, or political discontent. Your friends and family are probably very interested in what you have to say. But the lane of legitimate influence ends there. See, I'm not a celebrity. I'm a business owner, and that squarely places me in the non-celebrity population of America. And just like you sell entertainment, I sell software. I wouldn't dare think for two seconds that you or any of my customers are interested in my political rants or most passionate causes. In that same way, celebrity, let's not confuse that your customers are interested in yours.
Now I know, I know, a moment is coming soon when you will be back on stage with the cameras rolling, and your mic will be wired to the masses. You will be tempted into thinking that everyone out there is desperately interested in your political leanings, why you're offended, and the cause that everyone else has forgotten about. Remember, we're not. No one's asking. Just entertain, and stay in your lane. We'll do our job, and you do yours.
Update 4/21/2015: Tidal declared "Failure"
(less than a month after writing this).
My heart goes out to those select artists and celebrities who whine about not making enough money. Artists like Jay-Z, Madonna, Kanye, Rihanna, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Chris Martin, and others backing the Tidal music streaming service... they are just scraping by aren't they? I mean, with pesky little net worths in the tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions, how do they get by? Bless their poor detached hearts.
One of the funniest things that happens when rich people get bored is they get involved in expensive hobbies. They tend to call these activities, "business." It just feels so much better to be in a "start-up" and call it a "business", especially if you are "revolutionizing" something. But what if your business sets out to revolutionize something that doesn't need revolutionizing? Uh oh...
Enter Tidal, yet another music streaming service that is designed to better support the artist. And like any good startup, Tidal doesn't fail us on their focus to diversify themselves in the market place. Setting themselves apart, Tidal provides the listener the unique opportunity to pay double for their music. That's it. That's the angle. Quite an elevator pitch isn't it? Instead of paying something like $0 (ie, Pandora, Grooveshark, etc..), fans now get the incredible opportunity to pay $19.95/month for music streaming via Tidal. After being gouged, they can sleep well knowing they're supporting the artist. It's the "future of streaming" Jay-Z says.
Those calling Tidal a day late and dollar short are being too kind. Tidal is several years late and $19.95 too expensive. And this just in (queue breaking news alert), fans don't really want to pay for music. Wait, what?! I can feel you not exclaiming, "You mean to tell me people want free music?!?! Say it isn't so!"
Let's take a quick trip down memory lane. AllMP3. Napster. Freenet. Kazaa. LimeWire. [fill-in-the-blank].ru. Grooveshark. Pandora. Spotify. Moral of the story? Or should I say immoral of the story (in some cases)? If you give people the opportunity to listen to free music, people will take it. Do we really need to argue this point again? Popular streaming services like Grooveshark are legal, free, & interactive. Ah, that feels good. In fact, free, legal, and interactive feels real good. A bloated $19.95/month for the same thing does not feel good. Charging $240/year to listen and not own anything doesn't feel good at all. It's way too much, and it won't work.
Remember when Lars Ulrich (drummer for Metallica), fought against Napster? "Free music is wrong," he said. "Support the artists," he demanded. The case settled and he was viewed as a hero right? The listening public's love for Lars (and Metallica) grew and grew, launching him on a path to dethrone Julia Roberts, and take over the crown of America's Sweetheart, right? Well, not so much. Sadly, he is the butt of jokes on radio stations nationwide to this day, 15 years later.
So, recording artists of the world, let me share this with you. We (the fans) absolutely support you. We love paying for music... when you're small. We love helping you go from full time food server to full time musician. We tell our friends about you. We show up to your shows. We buy your merch. We are your product evangelist, and we work for free. We eagerly wait to applaud your awards, and watch you launch into super stardom. And then, we endure asinine ticket prices to see you sell out your arena tour. While there, we take a thousand pictures of you and plaster them all over social media. We want you to "make it". We live vicariously through you while you travel the world on private jets with staff and servants in tow. It's a wonderful experience for us. And it's not so bad for you either.
However, once you make it, please do not come whining to us about not making enough money. You want to piss and moan over royalties? Take that sad story to the writers, producers, publishers, and labels. Go back in the studio and add a word and take a third. Own your music. Play it out. Fight your greedy label. Basically, go figure it out. But don't you dare pass your gold plated problems on to the fans.
If you are wondering which Amex card to get to maximize your points usage, this guide is for you. For regular American Express cards like the Green, Gold, or Platinum Amex, your point conversions looks like this:
100 points per $1 when booking airfare through Amex Travel
133 points per $1 when booking hotel through Amex Travel
166 points per $1 when using points to cover purchases already made
200 points per $1 when trading in points for an Amex Gift Card.
^ Lets be real, most of those are pretty awful really.
However, with American Express Blue Sky, your point conversion is MUCH better. You can apply your points towards travel charges that show up on your account for things like airfare, hotel, and rental cars. The point conversion looks like this:
7500 points per $100 credit, or 75 points per $1.
The way to get the most out of these points it to use them to cover parts of a travel related purchase. If my airfare was $375, then I would apply 22,500 points to cover $300 of that charge. I would not apply 30,000 points to cover the whole airfare, because when it's not in even $100 increments, you lose the remainder. In that case, 22,500 would cover $300, but the final 7500 points would cover $75, at a conversion ratio of 100 points per $1 (not as good). Therefore, always apply your blue sky points in even $100 increments to get the most of your point's conversion.
Bottom line, if you want to play the Amex point game to win, use a platinum card to get the preferred airline credits, lounge access, TSA/pre or Global Entry, platinum concierge, or any of the other nice benefits that come with the card. Then try and use the Amex Blue sky for the bulk of your purchases as to accumulate points on the account with the better point's conversion ratio.