A Statement: Abide No Hatred

This post was inevitable. It is impossible to be a thinking person today without being aware of, and disturbed by, the stark divide in the American polity. This is not new, our Republic has always been deeply divided. Yawning canyons separating Americans into their disparate tribes make the “melting pot” more of a lumpy stew. Their steep walls were carved by centuries of class warfare, hate merchants, disinformation, intentionally divisive populists, and worst of all, apathy from the willfully ignorant masses. While divisions have always existed they have not threatened to explode into the national consciousness, and into the highest offices since the mid-1800s.

Just to be clear, these are my views and no one else’s. Why do I imagine I can, or even should, speak to this situation today? One, because this is my platform and I can say whatever I want to say. Two, I have some credibility I think. I have:

  • Lived to reach “level fifty-nine” so I have seen a few things, including a serious cancer diagnosis at forty-seven. The top specialist in the world told me I had less than a 1-in-3 chance of living more than forty months, thirteen years ago. Cancer has been by best teacher by far.
  • Graduated from a four-year college with an old-school Liberal Arts Degree in Foreign Policy. That meant I had to become proficient in four subjects, with a dive deep into one of them, plus complete study abroad. The four disciplines were History, Political Science, Economics, and Language, I chose Russian and took six years.
  • Been to twenty-four countries and studied for a semester at the London School of Economics including classes in International Law, Political Pressures on the now-former Warsaw Pact, and Trade Policies of the then-new European Union. 
  • Started six companies in software, hospitality, real estate development, and advertising. Sold two, one for 5X Gross Revenue, closed some, and in the process hired around 170 people, including five new Americans through the H1B Visa Program.  These businesses licensed about $200 million in SAAS sales, became national competitors, and are still operating under their original brands. 
  • Started non-profits to benefit marginalized communities, and served on the Board for others.
  • Was Board Chair of a leading K-12 Independent School, and helped fund a $23 million expansion to a new campus. 
  • Helped found a non-profit focused on four-year-olds through College Admission and Graduation, modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone in NYC.
  • Married to my high school sweetheart, and managed to stay married still, almost 40 years. 
  • And survived raising two daughters, one is now a Doctor, the other, a new Mom and a successful media executive.

So those are my qualifications. I also attempt forty books every year, you can see my list to the right of this post in my Goodreads list. Listening to far-left or far-right media is not good, so I try not to do that, which is not hard since it’s so offensive. The American Justice system is messy but I believe it ultimately works, eventually. I think I am a moderate, centrist, normal American, and I find both sides of our political culture to be corrupt and broken.

Both sides. 

But I think one side is clearly worse than the other side. If we are comparing broken things, one side is missing some parts, like a doll with her eyes loved off. The other side is more existentially broken, barbed wire caught in a bush hog. Loud, spinning wildly like some medieval torture device, about to wrap hot death around anything that comes too close. America is too close to that hazard.

I believe in America and consider myself a patriot. Having studied the writings of Hamilton, Adams, Madison, Franklin, and Washington carefully, I think I know something about the character exhibited by the Founding Fathers. The writings of De Tocqueville, Samuel Clemens, Wendell Berry, and other great commentators on the American Experience speak to her strengths and her stark weaknesses. America has great promise and worthy critics but, like me, all of these believed in the Aspirational America. The Statue of Liberty America. The New Colossus America.

Emma Lazurus’ poem, The New Colossus, was written to help fundraise the completion of the platform needed to place the new statue at America’s front door. If one believes in the reality of America, as well as her promise, it is necessary to acknowledge those weaknesses if they are ever to be addressed. Mythology surrounds and obscures so much of the actual historical experiences of people in the past and today. We think of these words as quintessentially American but they did not describe policy as it was, but as some wished it was. 

Emma was a young Jewish woman who died of cancer only four years later at 38. Her death was not caused by her religion, but it was not easy to be Jewish in NYC in 1883. Waves of immigrants were fleeing pogroms and arriving in New York and Boston in their thousands. The pressure on established Americans, as now, caused conflicts. In addition to just being European, Jews were not welcome in social settings, some schools, and businesses, and Emma wrote in support of those marginalized people. 

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me…

Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus 1883

Those are beautiful words, a sonnet, and an even more lovely sentiment. In the minds of newcomers, America could well afford to be magnanimous; her gifts manifold and apparently limitless. Compared certainly to the cramped villages and cities in the old country, buffeted as they were by conflict, plagues, hunger, and oppression, America represented salvation. To Jews from Poland, Germany, The Netherlands, and all over Europe, determined to save their families and themselves and find a way to live on, America was a beacon. Survival. As it is still for so many.

But Americans did not believe that at the time, our immigration policy favored not the “tired and the weak”, but rather the “rich and the white”. One of the key pieces of legislation from this era was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. This Act specifically prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers, who were often poor and came to the U.S. seeking work, particularly in the West Coast industries and railroads.

Additionally, the Immigration Act of 1882 imposed a head tax of fifty cents on each immigrant and barred certain classes of people from entering the U.S., including “convicts” and “any person unable to take care of him or herself without becoming a public charge.” This latter clause allowed officials to exclude individuals who were likely to require public assistance, which often disproportionately affected the poor.

These policies reflect a period in U.S. history when immigration laws began to tighten in response to economic concerns and cultural fears about the impacts of foreign-born populations on American society. The emphasis was often on protecting American jobs and maintaining social order, rather than on providing opportunities for poor immigrants.

Today, those those strife-torn European countries that Emma Lazarus had in mind have elected governments, an established Rule of Law, and stable Civil Societies, meeting that formal definition (yes there is a formal definition). So, Jewish people live and thrive in lands from which their people were once, to use a terrible but accurate phrase for this, cleansed. 

Today, immigrants are coming from other countries with newer problems no less brutal in their effects. For the most part, families and young people come across our southern border and quickly assimilate once over. As a rule, they commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans1. See, those are examples of facts, data points, events, and documents that can be verified by independent arbiters interested only in the truth. Objective reality. Unless we are all anesthetized or hallucinating objective reality still exists and can be known by diligently applying the scientific method. I learned that much in my long and still evolving education. 

One side of the political spectrum is particularly loud about the immigration issues and the troubling conditions at the border. I wrote a post a while ago about how inhumane it is. I was once a Conservative, I even have my picture with Dick Chaney at some fundraiser back in the day. I went to see W speak in DC another time. Then life happened, we spent years working with homeless people and then operated the Thrift Store for years in a very troubled place. We got to know people who really were trying to live better lives but had so much pulling them down, it was too much for so many. People telling them to “get a job”, lift themselves up by the bootstraps, all that Horatio Alger stuff, it did not apply to a kid who was never taught to read or to value reading, or academic achievement on any level. A kid who was taught they were stupid, an accident, not wanted, disposable. My friends tried to focus only on projects that benefited poor people’s lives—transportation, housing, education, jobs, eyeglasses, dental work, tutors, real-life stuff.

Poor people everywhere have much in common. Constrained resources almost always coexist with conflict and violence, domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, vigilante gangs, corruption, and crime.  People fled Eastern Europe for the same reasons and now so are many from failed and failing Central American countries and others from around the world. It’s a problem and we need a solution that lets the neediest and most deserving cases in first. I do not see how we can accomplish that without an orderly process. Today, it’s a deadly Obstacle Course with hazards and integral illegality. 

But while it needs fixing, one side of the political spectrum is using White Supremacist tropes to dehumanize these desperate people. Imagine Jesus of Nazareth saying this. Imagine being a Christian and saying this hateful, racist, dangerous thing. The candidate on the Right is a White Supremacist and an ugly bully. He has incited violence, is a felon and a liar, a cheat, and a man I would never leave alone with my daughter or anyone else’s. The worst part, to me, is that good people follow him and excuse his essential rottenness.

So I cannot and do not support every policy of the Democrats, and I do not call myself one, but there is no way I could ever support this hate-filled person.  

Again, the worst part is that so many good people have been persuaded by this person that the Ends Justify the Means. Most Trump supporters find many of the things he does deplorable, but just as many explain it away insisting that stacking the Supreme Court was worth it. Or they perceive the economy will do better under Trump. Or they hate being told that behavior aberrant in their belief system is to be tolerated in culture and schools. Or they hate that languages once-foreign are now commonly heard in their small towns and shop signs. But this sentiment is essential to being a conservative, to want to conserve traditional ways of life with their unwritten social rules. And conservatism is not confined to the United States.  

Across Europe, far-right and anti-immigrant sentiments have been prominent in political parties and movements such as France’s National Rally (formerly National Front), Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD), and the UK’s UK Independence Party (UKIP). Rural French people hate immigrants from North Africa, making tiny French villages less French. The French Right points to Trump’s rhetoric and it empowers them. Rural Hungarian people hate immigrants from The Lavant, making rural Hungarian villages less Hungarian. Trump loves Victor Orban, they have a bromance like Trump and the murderer Putin. He seems attracted to Dictators, which should be more disturbing than it is to his supporters.

In the Americas, particularly in the United States and Canada, similar movements also exist. In the U.S., there have been increasing anti-immigrant sentiments within certain segments of the political spectrum, especially on the far-right. Movements and groups often emphasize strong border control, reducing immigration, and protecting American jobs. They sometimes also express fears about the changing demographics of the country. Notable political figures and organizations have advocated for building walls and other stringent measures to curb immigration.

That’s my ultimate takeaway and thought as I write this. Hate is a thread that runs through Trump’s messages. The angry red color. The scowl. People say that love is a great cord that binds, that it’s easy to love people who love the same things, or people, that you love. But hate is also a strong emotion. If someone you love truly hates someone else, or something else, as a way to show how much you love that person, you hate them too. You hate with them. Trump hates the people coming across the border so much he cannot even acknowledge them as people.  

Reference:

  1. A 2015 study by the American Immigration Council titled “The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States” reports that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to be behind bars and have lower crime rates. This study draws on data from the Census and other sources to analyze incarceration rates by nativity, ethnicity, and gender.
    Research by the Cato Institute in 2019 analyzed criminal conviction data in Texas and found that the criminal conviction and arrest rates for immigrants were well below those of native-born Americans. The study also showed that undocumented immigrants had lower conviction rates than native-born Americans and legal immigrants.
    A comprehensive study published in the journal Criminology in 2018 led by Michael Light and Ty Miller examined whether increases in the undocumented immigrant population between 1990 and 2014 were associated with violent crime (like homicide) or property crime. The study found no significant effect of increases in undocumented immigration on either type of crime.
    The National Academy of Sciences published a report in 2015 which reviewed numerous studies examining the impact of immigration on crime. Their findings consistently showed lower crime rates among immigrants than among native-born Americans.
    These studies provide robust evidence against the notion that immigrants increase crime rates in the United States. They instead contribute to a body of research indicating that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than their native-born counterparts. ↩︎

Buffalo in Greenland and Lifelong Learning

Photo of Birmingham-Southern College

I graduated from college many (many) years ago and only studied science a little. My Bachelor of Arts Degree from the recently embattled Birmingham-Southern College, pictured above, was in Foreign Service with an emphasis on Economics. It was, is, a combination of four minors designed for just one other person before me. Not surprisingly my advisor tried to talk me out of it. The degree was intended to prepare young people for the Foreign Service exam, the entrance test given by the US State Department to prospective foreign service officers. The science requirement for this degree was only one semester, just four months, and I chose Astronomy because someone told me the only math required was plotting the path of the Moon. It was in inauspicious beginning to an interest in science that would become more important.

Later, too much later, I learned that the Foreign Service was only hiring people with native language skills plus usually a Ph.D. So 24 years old at graduation, I had been to Russia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Ukraine, and had studied at the State Department, and the UN. I had studied the Russian Language for six years (don’t judge) but could not find a job immediately. It took a long time to accept the fact that the learning was the point, the reason to do it. Not because it would lead to a vocation. In hindsight, I wanted to learn Russian because I didn’t know what else it would teach me.

During a brief attempt at graduate school when I still thought the diplomatic or consular corps might be an option, I wrote a long history paper about the intersection of science and magic. It was such a fascinating period, just before and just after the era known as The Age of Enlightenment. It was when Western people began to become more certain about the world around them. I am hugely oversimplifying the whole thing, but it’s when Western civilization accepted that some questions could be answered by observing, by watching the world around them. Copernicus, an OG Polish thought leader from the 1500s pointed out that the actual position of bodies in the sky matched his plots better when he put the Sun in the middle. It was not just close, it matched exactly and made unnecessary the complex adjustments required to make the current established Ptolemaic version match his observations. It was the kind of perfect symmetry that God would produce in His celestial greatness so Copernicus knew he had it right. It clicked.

There were ancient Greeks who thought the Earth might not be the center of the Universe three thousand years before but they were drowned out by Ptolemy and Aristotle. Those two promoted the Earth-centric version of cosmology and won the day for hundreds of years. The Church liked the idea of Earth in the middle too and banned Copernicus’s ideas. These guys were priests, but they were the original lifelong learners, not content to accept what everyone told them was true when it did not match their careful observations. 

Famously Galileo looked through his new lens and saw mountains on the moon. Johannes Kepler noticed that his complex charts tracking the movement of the Sun, stars, and the other celestial bodies worked better if Earth’s orbit was elliptical. If he used an ellipse, his charts perfectly matched his observations. When he figured it out, he could predict where Orion, and Venus, would be months or years ahead. To the people of the time, mostly illiterate except for clergy, knowing where planets are going to be before they get there is magic—big time.

Kepler and Galileo were both priests, they learned from books written long ago and believed those books to be authoritative, the storehouse of all knowledge. They and their colleagues were certain that every answer lay in these writings. If someone had a question, they need only to seek the answer in scripture. But Bread making, beer making, measuring the passage of the Sun and Moon to mark the seasons, masonry, and bridge building all require careful record keeping. Men, mostly, being careful not to waste, making calendars, counting out parcels of goods and grain, all of the machinations of an ordered life. These tasks taught what would later be called chemistry, anatomy, astronomy, and all of that. But in these early days, the work meant cutting things open so you could figure out how the heart worked. People looking into the close, smelly rooms that William Harvey used as a lab might well suspect dark magic. He used stray dogs and other living animals and probably upset all of his neighbors, but he also is recognized as a father of Anatomy.

So I learned about The Enlightenment in High School and College. And since I am from Huntsville AL many of my friends and family work on science-related projects. SLS, Hudson-Alpha, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and lots of companies most people have never heard of have done some amazing science in Huntsville and it’s captivating to watch. Also working with engineers as the CEO of a software company for 20 years exposed me to interesting projects and people. My Sister-in-Law worked at NASA for decades, like her Dad, and was involved in a project that helped test and further prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Another friend worked on Hubble, another on James Webb, another on drones for the British Military, another started a company to clone yeast for craft breweries, so it’s easy to be fascinated. Those SpaceX rockets landing themselves would have truly blown my Father-in-Law’s mind.

I was also part of a Board of Directors for a while that was led by a gifted educator. He talked about Lifelong Learning all the time and I fell in love with the concept. That experience caused me to read books I had not considered reading, then to more, and more. As of March 2024, I am still trying to write a book about my family’s story. Most threads of the line run to Western Europe and at least a dozen came from Ireland, England, Scotland, but also France, and Denmark according to my research and my DNA. One of the 23&Me reports went into detail describing the way the African Diaspora can be tracked through DNA. As humans left Africa they went East, around the Mediterranean, and also across Arabia into present-day Iran and Iraq: The fertile crescent. 

One of the coolest discoveries in the last few decades is Ötzi, known as “The Iceman”. He was just a regular guy, walking on a trail in the Alps when he was killed, probably murdered, and left for dead about 3300-3100 BCE. That’s 190 generations go. Iceman’s mom carried mitochondrial DNA that she passed to him and was still detectable in his cells so well preserved were they under the pristine Alpine ice for more than five thousand years. He even had intact blood cells from which researchers were able to extract enough DNA to see that his mtDNA was K1, an ancient marker arising in Western Asia or the Near East about 30,000 years ago. That is interesting but it became even more interesting when I learned that my wife, daughters, and new granddaughter carry the same K1 marker. They are related to Ötzi, he’s their GG(X187)Grandfather! How wild is that? We just went to Switzerland and got within about 200 miles from where he was found. I told Julie she was home! 

So, where are the buffalo? Another cool DNA find recently (to me) was the discovery of a buffalo hide wrapped around a Viking! Hair retains the minerals contained in the feed ingested by the animal, all animals, during their lives. So, the hair on a buffalo has material from the grass it ate while it was still alive. Using finely tuned equipment, scientists can measure these materials and understand where in the world these minerals are found. The Viking, a man from Denmark living in Greenland in about 900 CE, was found wrapped in a buffalo hide blanket cut from an animal that must have lived on North America’s broad plains about 2200 miles from the grave. There is so little evidence, we have to infer how that could have happened.

A native American, the Norsemen called them the “Skræling”, must have owned this blanket. He would have traded something valuable for it, maybe seal ivory, with another native American who traded it with someone who must have been as far west as The Dakotas. Maybe the Norseman gave the Skræling something for it, there is evidence for trade. Or maybe he just killed him and took it, there is evidence of that as well. But we do know he valued it enough to be buried in it when he was returned by his clan to the frozen Earth. We will never know very much about 900 BC, much less 5300 BCE, but maybe there is hope that we can know more. 

When I was in school, all those years ago, we celebrated Columbus’s “discovery” of the “New World”. We now know there was a settlement 500 years before poor lost Columbus thought he found India.  

When I was born, Geologists did not generally accept plate tectonics (!).

So much has been learned since I graduated. If you stop reading, if you stop learning, you will not know that. Worse, you will not know that the world has moved on from your old prejudices. Things you were sure were true, well, it’s not rare for things to change if you take the trouble to look around.

Manipulated Americans: Don’t be a Tool

There was a rash of news stories this week showing MAGA Republicans at a rally voicing support for Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One lady said, referring to the Russian leader, “he’s just taking back what’s his, I don’t see the problem with it.” Similar sentiments regarding support for Russian advances in Crimea and that troubled region were also made at the recent CPAC meeting. Held annually the gathering always produces some hyperbole but in an election year the content is usually especially spicy and this year was extra hot, given the nature of the contest before us this Fall. So, why am I writing a post about an obscure, and quite dead Welshman beneath an early impressionist painting? Because the Welshman saw something that MAGA lady almost certainly has never heard of, people dying of hunger on the richest farmland in the world. People were arrested or even killed for picking leftover grain, gleaning, from harvested fields. Maybe, who knows, if the MAGA lady knew the whole story it might be a foothold on reality for her. Until then she’s another manipulated American basing her views on Kremlin propaganda, again.

We have to start somewhere to get back to the truth.

How about we start with Peter the Great? Or his spiritual successor Catherine the Great? Peter expanded the Russian Empire and dramatically westernized his country in still visible cultural and other changes. He won wars against the Swedes, the Turks, and the Austrians assisted significantly by the Cossacks, natives of the Zaporiga Region in Ukraine and Russia. Culturally the Cossacks built a reputation as fierce defenders of their territory so often tested by invaders from across the ancient world. Later they were allies and mercenaries for armies who sought their expertise and numbers. But they were separate. Peter made deals with them, and so did Catherine. Their language comes from the same ancient Eastern Slavic tradition but it’s different. The people know which is which and they will tell you if you ask, or maybe if you don’t.

They know they are different, ask them.

“I don’t speak Russian” is one of the first things anyone said to me when I went to Kyiv in 1984. The college I went to had a focus on international experiences and I was there with a group of Economics and Finance Professors as their student researchers. The idea was to familiarize a group of students currently forming their opinions and deciding on careers in business with the realities of a Planned Economy. It was an interesting idea and we did manage to learn even with the dramatic amounts of vodka with which we were presented. Vodka in water glasses with fresh oranges. We were studying Russian Language and trying hard to use our words and the kind Ukrainians helped us, of course. But they corrected us anytime we said they spoke Russian. They know Russian, and they can speak Russian, but they do not as a people speak or understand Russian or Russians.

Picture of Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

So who is the Welshman? Bet you thought I had forgotten the Welshman. Gareth Richard Vaughan Jones (13 August 1905 – 12 August 1935) was a Welsh journalist who in March 1933 first reported in the Western world, without equivocation and under his own name, the existence of the Soviet famine of 1932–1933, now known broadly as The Holodomor. See, the Russians have for generations asserted ownership of lands between the Southern Provinces and The Black Sea. Crimea was sought by Peter that long ago. Putin is just the latest to treat that Sea as a Russian Lake. Stalin asserted State ownership over millions of acres of Ukrainian farmland during his disastrous klepto-communist reign. That’s what Gareth Jones stumbled on while traveling in the area during this period.

Garth Jones spoke Truth, the NYT published Russian propaganda

Jones was a young man, in his twenties, but when he wrote of his experiences and gave a news conference in Berlin, the world took some notice of him. He reported that Stalin’s policies were killing thousands of people. Of course, it turned out to be much worse, certainly millions of people starved in the Holodomor, a word that means “murder by hunger”. Stalin’s policies asserted that The State owned all production from agriculture so all crops were seized from all harvests. Inspectors swept through barns and houses and lofts, caves, hollow trees, and even graveyards with long sticks to find hollow caches of precious grain. Even “gleaning” was outlawed. Gleaners were arrested and summarily executed in the field, for picking up leftovers once primarily food for gulls. French painter Jean-François Millet painted the painting at the top of the page in 1857, lovingly depicting poor peasants picking from the fields. It was controversial with high society when it was released in Paris. Modern Parisians did not like to be reminded that they were vastly outnumbered by masses of subsistence farmers, some close to starvation and desperate. Around the time of Jones’ visit, maybe a million native Ukrainian people died because of a Russian Land Use Policy directed from Moscow, Stalin’s Five Year Plan. And it was only a hundred years ago. (The photo is of a painting called “The Gleaners” at Musee d’Orsay in Paris).

Fake News (again)!

But wait, there’s more! So I know about Gareth, but there is a pattern here that’s more important than this one Welsh guy, as important as Gareth turned out to be. The real issue is not that most people don’t know about Gareth, that MAGA lady certainly doesn’t, it’s really about the media, truth, and a guy named Walter Duranty who wrote for the New York Times at the time as our Gareth. See, when Gareth published his articles and had his press conference Duranty was a Moscow-resident American journalist. He had lived in Moscow for a decade and wrote articles that won the Nobel Prize and were later denounced by The Times and everyone except the Moscow authorities. Duranty was a hack and wrote to please the Dictator in the Kremlin. While he was disgraced, the Nobel Committee has so far refused to withdraw the prize. The result for many Americans, as today, might be that those reading only the headlines might be tricked into believing a foreign power’s successful attempt to cover up their nasty. Stalin certainly did that successfully with the New York Times and the Kremlin mouthpiece Duranty.

If you were Ukrainian, you do not have an affinity in your heart for Russia. I’ve been there. I know Ukrainians find one and ask them if you don’t believe. They want to Westernize, like most modern Europeans. They want self-determination. They want their borders to stick and to work their differences out with their neighbors through the actions of a modern Civil Society. Drone wars. Indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets, hospitals, and nuclear power facilities do not indicate the presence of now widely accepted rules of civil order. Putin violated those rules and continues to press any advantage, including attacking the soft right flank of the American electorate. Fake news, modern Durantys, are out there today convincing lightly-educated Americans that Russia has some historical right to the homes of other people. They are not historians so I can only assume they got this from Talk Radio or Ticker Carlson or some other promoter of the fringe.

Please, if you value peace, truth, and freedom, push back on the merchants of hate and doom who push these sick ideas. They are only trying to manipulate Americans into believing their lies as a tool to erode support for the people of Ukraine. Don’t be a tool.

PS: Read more about fake news, the Kuwaiti Ambassador’s daughter who testified about things she’d never seen to encourage the US to defend her country. here.

MLS Olympics

What a crazy idea, right? What if all the MLSs competed every four years to see who was the best? A race for the gold! Some friends are setting up a new Olympic Sport and I am following their progress, watching how that’s done. It’s an interesting process. It starts with a World Championship series on all five continents where the best in each country compete to be the best on their continent. That happens every four years during the Olympic Off Years and is the feeder process for picking the Olympic team. So there is a huge infrastructure of people, buildings, rules, marketing; all the things.

For MLSs, what if we took the regions in the nine regions, as defined by the Oracle of Swanepoel. Each region would host competitions in the approved “Olympic Sports”. The regional winners form the Olympic Team from each country, and they move up to compete in the Olympics. I love it. The big question for me is:

What are the MLS Olympic Sports? The real Olympics have these criteria:

  1. International Popularity: The sport should have global appeal with widespread participation and fanbase.
  2. History and Tradition: The sport should have a significant level of history and tradition, indicating a solid foundation.
  3. Governance and Organization: The sport should be governed by an international federation complying with the Olympic Charter, demonstrating effective organization, anti-doping efforts, and ethical practices.
  4. Athlete Representation: The sport should provide equal opportunities for both male and female athletes, promoting gender equality.
  5. Technical Requirements: The sport should have standardized rules, a well-defined competition format, and suitable facilities.
  6. Appeal to Youth: The sport should attract the younger generation, keeping the Olympic program dynamic.
  7. Media Coverage and Public Interest: The sport should generate sufficient media coverage and public interest globally.
  8. Anti-Doping Compliance: The International Federation of the sport must adhere to anti-doping regulations and ensure a clean and fair competition environment.

Given those criteria, we can put together some ideas:

  1. Data Downhill (syndication):
    • Definition: A prime function of any MLS is distributing our Subscriber’s data to the various websites that display the listings. There are literally hundreds of them from Zillow to the smallest Mom & Pop IDX vendor.
    • Competition: A draft listing is prepared and, at the whistle, is added to the competitor’s system. Auditors from Accenture and the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) measure how many microseconds it takes for all accounts to receive, and display, the new listing, with attachments and media.
  2. Sharpshooting (accuracy):
    • Definition: The center of confidence and integrity, data accuracy is a feature of any MLS system and without it nothing else matters.
    • Competition: Auditors from Accenture analyze a sample of listing data using a carefully guarded randomized selection formula (alphabetize by street number and pick the last 30 odd-numbered MLS numbers). Check the address against CASS, the price against an AVM, the lat/long against the GeoCode, required fields against known datasets, etc. The winner has the highest composite score.
  3. Prose (remarks):
    • Definition: The description of the property for sale is a rare opportunity for creativity. From Haribo Sugar-Free Gummy Bears to Three Wolf Moon t-shirts, Amazon reviews are rich sources for creative writing. Realtors have few chances to add value in the rapid-fire process of marketing a house. Public Remarks is a rare example.
    • Competition: Professional copyrighters (or ChatGPT) review a carefully selected (#2) cohort of Public Remarks are selected and analyzed for 72, or a number that can be factored into 72, elements of style. The winner has the highest composite score.
  4. Aesthetics (media):
    • Definition: Photos, videos, virtual tours, are the data elements that get all the attention. The quality of the media probably matters more than anything, besides the price, when marketing a property.
    • Competition: AI photo tools line up to do their best. A Jury of Visual Artists scores all media for beautifulness. The winner has the highest composite score.

What else? This is fun. I want to do it now, maybe in Salt Lake City or Lake Placid like the Winter Olympics.

2023 Spotify List

The list is always kind of, what, a little surprising I guess. Weathervanes came out this year so I expected wall-to-wall Jason Isbell. I could have told you King of Oklahoma would be the top song. The Pop playlist got more airtime than I thought, how about that Harry Styles next to Taylor Swift. Olivia Rodrigo almost made the top ten, love her energy. And one song from The Greatest Showman soundtrack and some atmospheric tracks down the list, Theivery Corporation, Nirvana, Simon and Garfunkel from back in the day, closed out at 100 by Tempted from Squeeze. Kind of a fun list really!

Impatience is an Argument with Reality

My new friend Bernie Koehrsen posted this the other day. He ran across it reading a book about patience. In the book, there was this quote:

“Impatience is an argument with reality”

Several people responded to that, and felt a connection. I assume these people have been frustrated, and later learned that the “rock” they were pushing uphill, the thing that frustrated them, turned out to be the Universe and not some person, or rule. In hindsight, it was never something they could have influenced.

Stay with me… I bet some of the salmon swimming upstream are really frustrated by those waterfalls. while others are having fun. Some of them are probably competition-Salmon, trying to outdo each other, to see which one does the best leap. 20% are griping about the whole thing. Likely talking about the old days when the falls were higher or the water was colder. When bears were bears and fish were men, or something.

Arguing with reality reminds me of the futility of griping. If your lot is to swim, you should learn to love the leaping.

Personally, I think cancer taught me this lesson. I know that seems like a tangent but, again, stay with me.

Sitting in an exam room on the 14th floor of a hospital in downtown Philadelphia, an intensely earnest genetic counselor shared with me, and my wife, that my cancer was likely “terminal”, her word. She showed me a scatterplot diagram illustrating the disease outcomes for a thousand or so patients in my cohort, people with the same type tumor according to the tumor’s DNA . The dots were all deaths, dates on the chart indicating how long after diagnosis.

In the moment, the dots looked like a murmuration, where birds fly in a tight group all together, with a leading edge and a stream of dots tapering off. Not many people died right away so, left to right, there were only a few dots on the left but they grew in density moving to the right, sort of like the pattern the birds make. Before twelve months, on the chart, there were only a few. Twelve to twenty-four months, there were dozens. Twenty-four to thirty-six months, the dots melt together into clumps. Thirty-six to Forty-eight months still dense but starting to taper off. Then, four years and out, there are fewer dots than in the first year.

The counsellor struggled to tell me that meant, based on the experience of the people in the cohort, I was not going to live more than about forty months, most likely less. Things changed for me and my family that day, but it took months of therapy to make sense of it.

In 2008, after ten years in business, the other founding partner at my company retired and I became CEO as well as President. So, in 2011, I had been in charge for three years and my company had just launched a new software product. It was a huge deal and cost millions to execute. I had speaking engagements all over the country on the schedule including a high-profile panel discussion at the Clareity MLS Executive Conference in Scottsdale AZ. Plus, my wife was scheduled to go with me. Since we were going to be empty nesters in the fall when our second daughter went to college, there were big plans.

But, life had other plans. After the diagnosis, I went back to the hotel and started making calls to my team telling them I could not make it. I suggested we push back our release plans and cancel the trips. My daughter called and said she was reconsidering going off for college and staying home.

Instead of cancelling everything, my team stepped in and did all the work stuff with confidence and ability. Several stepped into senior roles, maybe a little early, and are still killing it out there in the world, including my brother. Amazing, good things came of it.

I had to focus on setting my family up for success after I was gone, and maybe even surviving although the odds were very low. I went on to get two kinds of chemo, plaque radiation behind the eye, lots of lasers, three surgeries; basically everything they could throw at it and I lived. And the kid went to college and, so far at least, everyone lived happily.

I did not learn patience easily, and I still struggle. But I did learn this huge take-away: the universe does not care about my expectations. After all of this, I made a list of things that are most important to me. When I was finished, I found that I personally did not make the list. Everything on the list was about someone else and all of it is more important than me: my wife’s happiness, even her future relationships if I don’t make it. My daughters’ futures, my granddaughter’s happiness, leaving the place better than I found it, supporting people who need a hand, I mean, those things will last and I won’t. None of us will.

What should an MLS subscription cost?

In the old paradym there is one system and one price for all members of the MLS, generally referred to as “subscribers”. Associations have “Members”, MLSs have “Subscribers”. The price is negotiated by the MLS Committee or Board of Directors in each city with the assistance their staff and counsel. MLSs vendors generally bundle services such as Tax Data, Statistics, Showing Scheduling, and the like into the price which ends up being presented to the MLS Committee/BoD as a Price Per Member per Month. The bigger the MLS, the smaller the price per subscriber, because all Subscribers pay whether they ever actually login or not. That’s called a Site License and it’s how almost all MLSs operate today, so that’s what it cost today. But what should MLS cost? Let’s think about what MLS-Next might look like without the one-size-fits-all nonsense.

What Should MLS Cost?

So, for illustration purposes, a 1,000 member MLS is paying $10/subscriber/month for their MLS software. That comes with an input form to collect the data encoded with the MLS’s specific business rules so the data complies with MLS Rules & Regs as well as other data integrity rules. For example, the price can’t be zero, the listing agent ID has to be a valid, the closed date can’t be prior to the list date, and literally hundreds of others. In addition to capturing the data, the software will also include rule-based change forms, automated processes that expire listings based on dates and business rules. Also reporting from Consumer Reports to CMAs and Multi-property flyers, there are dozens of those and most also include a Report Builder so Subscribers can create unlimited styles and options for their clients. The MLS will also include support for a handful of integrations with Tax Data, Rental Data, outside reporting services, and integrations. All that for $10,000/month or about $120,000/year on a 3-5 year contract.

In the standard environment the 1,000 users all have to use the same software to both manage their listing inventory and also their customers. A core function of the MLS is of course to capture the data in an organized way, as we described above, but then most Subscribers also use the MLS to send updates to their clients. Subscribers use the MLS to describe the parameters a buyer is looking for in a new house, and to send them an email when something new comes on the market or something changes. This drip marketing function is a core service delivered by the Subscriber to their clients and most, according to a recent survey, use their MLS for this. So the emails every customer in the market are receiving from their Agents are, the same.

Fast forward to 2023, November 29th to be specific, and the 16,000 Subscribers in the Triangle MLS will find that the data, the listings that we capture with our rule-based forms, has been separated from that second part. The software Triangle users decide to license to talk to their clients will be up to them, not me and my staff at the MLS. And, to begin with, there will be three: Paragon, the one all 16,000 use now, plus two of the other national leaders in the MLS space: FBS and CoreLogic. Its a goal I have had for a long time, and not just me, it’s a goal our industry has been working towards for at least a decade. To push the purchase decision out of the MLS Board Room and into the offices of our Brokers and Agents.

Maybe it’s a little like IDX software in our industry. The MLS does not dictate who our Brokers can use to power listing search on their websites. They have to sign a Third Party License Agreement since they will be holding MLS data on behalf of the Broker, but we know how to make that easy. We support thousands of those sites from hundreds, certainly dozens, of IDX vendors. Its an active marketplace with a wide universe of prices from free to thousands of dollars a month.

So, what should MLS cost?

Who knows. Thankfully in America we mostly still believe in the power of the market to answer questions like that. At launch in November all options will cost the same. Base MLS membership costs $X and comes with the ability to add and edit the listings plus one of the three MLS systems. To add a second system it costs an additional $Y, a third is the same, $Y. So, to be clear that’s $X a month for one, $X+Y for two, and $X+$Y+$Y) for three. In dollars, say X=$50 and Y=$25 so $50 for one, $75 for two, and $100 for three. Those prices are subject to change of course and likely will change. I think it’s strange that they are the same. Like if you went to a restaurant and everything on the menu was $39. That would be strange, and would mean there was some funky math happening back in the kitchen.

That means the answer to our question, what should MLS cost, depends on who you are. Right now the options cost the same to make the transition easier for our 16,000 subscribers for whom all of this is new and confusing. But that’s the only reason they cost the same and that will always be the reality of the marketplace, it almost can’t. Those conversations have lead to some really fun questions. So, if Brokers get to choose whatever options the MLS software companies can work onto the Dashboard, what would a product look like that cost $250? Or $2500? What if a team could choose a complete customer engagement system from 1000 Watt or Agency McKenna? The MLS could automate the property and license data sets and provide programatic access to everything through our shiny new API.

On the other end of that spectrum we already anticipate a $50 option that does not come with an MLS system. Brokers and Agents working for certain tech-heavy national brands do not want or need to use Paragon or Matrix or any of those platforms because they have their own. Soon, when can receive as well as send data through a rules-based API, Brokers with the right tech will submit listings from their own platforms and never need to use MLS software at all. Their people can work entirely within the firms branded environment and never leave. That’s optimal for any business. So, when they signup in the future, they will pick a new API-Key-Only Option which still includes full MLS membership but no software, since they don’t need it.

Either way, whether it’s $25 or $2 or $2,500, the MLS of the future will support them all, but we won’t compel the use of any of them. That seems like a decision best left to the real estate professionals themselves.

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Be Collegial

Triangle MLS: Innovating through Close Collaboration

At Triangle MLS, we believe that collegiality is essential to success. That’s why we’re committed to working with vendors who share our values of cooperation, collaboration, and innovation.

We recently made the decision to give our Subscribers the choice of which MLS software they use. This was a bold move, but it was the right one for our community. It means that our Subscribers have the freedom to choose the software that best meets their needs, without being locked into a long-term contract.

We know that this new approach will challenge some of the traditional ways of doing business in the real estate industry. But we’re confident that it will ultimately lead to better outcomes for everyone involved.

Here are some of the benefits of our new approach:

  • More choice for Subscribers: Our Subscribers now have the freedom to choose the MLS software that best meets their needs, without being locked into a long-term contract. This means that they can get the most out of their MLS investment and avoid paying for features that they don’t need.
  • More innovation from vendors: When vendors are competing for business, they have a greater incentive to innovate. This means that our Subscribers can expect to see new and innovative MLS software products and services in the future.
  • A stronger MLS community: When vendors and MLSs work together, they can create a more cohesive and supportive MLS community. This benefits everyone involved, from Subscribers to vendors to MLS staff.

We’re excited to see what the future holds for Triangle MLS and the real estate industry as a whole. We believe that our new approach to vendor selection is a step in the right direction, and we’re committed to working with our vendors to create a better experience for our Subscribers.

To our vendors:

We encourage you to embrace the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that is at the heart of our new approach. If you have confidence in your product or service, you should be happy to compete in a marketplace where Subscribers have the freedom to choose.

Here are some tips for succeeding in the Triangle MLS ecosystem:

  • Be open to collaboration and integration. We want to work with vendors who are willing to work together to create a seamless experience for our Subscribers.
  • Be innovative. We are always looking for new and innovative MLS software products and services.
  • Be committed to customer service. We want to work with vendors who are committed to providing excellent customer service to our Subscribers.

We look forward to working with you to create a better future for the real estate industry.

Getting MLS Out of The Way

Standard Operating Procedure for MLSs has, admittedly, been bad for innovation. Terrible, really.

For my thirty years in the business, there has been one way to enter listings, and one way to work with them: through whatever MLS software some Board committee picked. Then, every Realtor and appraiser in the market was forced to use that software for everything. For three to five years until, just when everyone gets accustomed to using it, the committee votes to switch again. It’s great. People love that.

To make things worse, the person leading the MLS is usually also the CEO of the Association of Realtors that usually owns and operates the MLS. Not always, there are some big ones that have their own leadership but in most places, the MLS Director is also the Association CEO. These folks usually come up through the Association as Government Affairs, Finance, or Membership Directors, often Legal. And, they are some of my closest friends and a big reason why the industry has been so fun and rewarding. But they are not, as a rule, Subject Matter Experts when it comes to technology.

So, that creates a situation where a non-technical management person is leading a group of non-technical real estate people making what are fundamentally technical decisions. An unfortunate but not terribly surprising outcome of this dynamic is a general over-reliance on the vendors to do, well, everything.

Black Knight, CoreLogic, and Flexmls, and to a lesser extent, Rapattoni, DynaConnections, SEI, and, back in the day, Solid Earth have dominated the MLS-tech space for decades. These are all very good companies run by friends that I trust and respect. No. Seriously, I mean that. I won’t even start to try and name them all, they know who they are, and they know those relationships mean a great deal to me. Despite my personal affinity and respect for them, in my new role I now see how this is underserving most MLSs. The vendors have too much power and control, their agendas dominate strategy, and they sometimes forget, the companies not the people, who owns this information in the first place. I am thinking of some mortgage giants looking at MLS as a source of leads. Just because MLS Subscribers use Software A to store their leads, does not mean the publishers of Software A have any access or rights to use or even see the confidential information stored inside Software A.

If I store my tax returns in a mini storage warehouse, the owner of the warehouse does not have the right to access, see, or use any information inside the leased space. This is no different, and TMLS will never sign a License Agreement that challenges the ownership of our Subscriber’s confidential information. So, before we get to the architecture of “getting out of the way”, let’s pause for a moment to remind ourselves that we are talking about protecting someone else’s valuable property left with us for safekeeping.

Like an original song, painting, or movie, the creator of those works owns them. In our context, the Intellectual Property, or IP, is centered around the listing agreement. Thats the contract between the Listing Brokerage hired by the owner to sell their, house, farm, condo, or whatever, and the Owner. The broker owns the contract, and usually the Exclusive Right to Sell the property in question. She owns the photos she took, or a license to them if she hired a photographer, and most documents she uploaded describing the property. She uploaded this material to our website, entrusting it to us, the MLS, to share it with authorized real estate professionals solely for the purpose of marketing and selling the property. It is her intellectual property that, when added to all the others, creates the critical mass, the positive network effect that defines the collective and creates the MLS’s core value.

So, at the MLS, our job is to build and maintain that list. And to add to it where we can, and to constantly check the records for errors, potential fraud, inequity, or other undesirable economic outcomes. Our job is not to build or even think too much about the software our Subscribers use in their own businesses. As we’ve described, almost all MLSs choose one system for an exclusive contract term. All listings must be entered through that platform, and all searches and prospecting, statistics, public records access, CMAs, drip marketing happen there too. Unless the Realtor or their Broker has heavily invested in their own tech, most Subscribers rely almost exclusively on the MLS software to operate their businesses.

But what if we changed all of that.

The particular software platform a Subscriber chooses to use the information in the MLS is less important to us. Mainly, we don’t want to be a roadblock to any novel way an innovator my find to incorporate the information into their businesses. Forcing people to use one interface feels like monoculture. Like it’s anti-choice, anti-diversity, anti-openness. We don’t want to be any of those things.

For the last several years in The Triangle region, as most places, to enter a listing there was one option: Black Knight‘s Paragon system. Lack of choice is not the only issue here, what if Paragon was down for days or weeks like Rapattoni’s MLS system in August 2023? If that was the only way to manipulate the listings we would be down. That is an unacceptable business risk.

TMLS Network Diagram September 2023

Because system architecture is one of those things I needed to understand as a software CEO, I spent considerable time studying, attending seminars, and interviewing technical experts to try and learn what an “optimal” configuration might be. Engineers and our friends at RESO have been futurecasting the optimal future MLS for years and, happily, the answer is not new, and does not require new inventions to make it real. Other industries have figured this out and built systems that effectively communicate in a rule-based way so that related systems can work together and scale through automation, like the one illustrated in the TMLS Network Diagram from Sept ’23.

What are the building blocks?

  1. Standard Data: It starts with data that is similar enough to be shared across boundaries without unnecessary and inefficient ETL processes. RESO originally reported over 500 types of “status” and more than 400 existed in only one MLS. It’s really hard to share listings when the “threads” don’t line up. Triangle Data is compliant with RESO’s latest Data Dictionary, version 2.0.
  2. Standard Rules: If rules are different it produces a race to the bottom, meaning the MLS with the least rules weaken the viability for everyone and make the whole dataset less or even unreliable. All five Triangle Stakeholders abide by the same rules.
  3. Open Data Policy: For Subscribers, Triangle makes data available in multiple ways including all three major MLS interfaces from Black Knight, CoreLogic, and FBS, as well as high-availability, RESTful APIs for Subscribers requiring only data. This Front-End-of-Choice was made possible because of the years of work at RESO normalizing hundreds of disparate datasets.
  4. Enriching the Data: When a Subscriber enters a listing into the system, Triangle checks other trusted databases for things like green energy features that may be registered at the address, or whether fiber internet is available. The TMLS system adds these fields to the information provided by the Listing Broker to make it easy for her to provide those choices to her clients.
  5. Compliance and Auditing: We can check to see if the property described by the Listing brokerage matches trusted data sources from Government and other places. Artificial intelligence routines constantly scan the images and documents uploaded along with the listings tagging aspects of the information. Missing and conflicting information is reported to the Listing Brokerage who is prompted to improve the accuracy of the listing and the system by confirming or challenging the alert. The result is a dataset that is more reliable and more complete than other sources of real estate information.

So for all of those reasons, coming this fall, Triangle MLS is going to be MLS agnostic, Front-End-of-Choice, or just “Choice”. All three of the major MLS platforms will be available to Subscribers of TMLS. Black Knight‘s Paragon system used now by all 15,000+ members will remain the default MLS platform for all users and will continue to work as normal. But if the Subscriber prefers CoreLogic Matrix or FBS’s Flexmls, or they have their own platform, they can choose none, one, two, or all three. Triangle’s job will be about ensuring the data is accurate and complete in all supported interfaces. The days of steering Subscribers to one platform or another are over in the Triangle.

Multiple ways to look at weather data.

That configuration is something like apps on a phone. I have three weather apps that do slightly different things. All three use the same National Weather Service data to produce their displays (by accessing an API), but one has a cooler radar, another has better alerts, and another has nicer hurricane maps. I bounce back and forth between them during severe weather. Maybe MLS will be like that in the future. Instead of being married to one for years, the Subscribers get to compare and move around if they want to, or use one for some things and another for something else.

Spreading the data around also reduces single points of failure. If there are multiple ways to get to the data, one or more of them could be offline and there would still be a way to do business. The benefits of this architecture are many, and the costs are present but manageable. It means that all three will be more expensive on a per unit basis, since no one gets an exclusive. But that also means that we will never tell Black Knight to uninstall Paragon. Never. Can other Black Knight customers say that? As long as my Subscribers want to use Paragon, we will support it. That changes the relationship in a material way, in a positive way. Yet another reason to change the way we do things and, finally, get out of the way of innovation. Its part of becoming the best MLS in the business.

Interested in PropTech stuff? Watch for more on Triangle’s social feeds and occasionally on this site. Also, come out to PropTechSouth.com, the South’s Premier Property Technology event of the year.

Office Culture, when conversations turn toxic

When we updated our Employee Manual to adjust for Remote Work, we added a section called “Professional Interpersonal Communication”. The section is our attempt to define what we mean by unprofessional communication between people in the workplace. There are several good articles on workplace culture and what some have called Triangulation. Linked has this post from an HR coach and I also found this definition:

Triangulation occurs when two or more people get together and talk negatively about or plot against a third person or group. (reference)

In the break room, Chris says to Lori:

“Were you on that Slack call with Bob? Does he even know how to use a computer?”

or,

“Wow, that new ‘marketing plan’ (air quotes) is genius, that will be an epic fail.”

or,

“I know what she said, but you know they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Those are examples of “office gossip” or a “culture of griping” that we have all been around at one time or another. Humans, some humans anyway, create coalitions naturally as part of group behavior. People have friends, and friends talk about their other friends, and people who are not their friends. That’s normal. But when it is directed against someone, or against a team or project, it’s not good. In fact it’s toxic. It’s the fastest way for teams to split or spin apart.

The line between normal human conversation and a comment that is bad for the team can be hard to understand, and no doubt people cross it all time unintentionally as well as intentionally. My point is this: when you are in that environment and someone says something negative about another person, or about a company initiative, ask yourself a question:

Am I in a position to do anything about this person’s complaint? If you are not, then why is this person telling me this?

If you are not, then the reason they are griping is to get you to agree. Then the two of you are a team against the thing you are both now complaining about. But that’s the point. By engaging you join the splitters, not the people trying to pull the team together.

This is the section from the new Employee Manual:

TMLS is committed to maintaining a productive workplace in which all employees are treated with respect and the organization receives feedback in an appropriate manner. We depend on employees to communicate professionally with coworkers, subscribers, and all stakeholders so that TMLS runs as effectively as possible.


Every employee’s feedback is valued, and necessary for the Company to be successful. You are encouraged to share your feedback with those who are in a position to act so that solutions are reached instead of sharing with those who cannot act and creating acrimony and conflict. In accordance with our Open Door policy, all employees are expected to share concerns about a coworker, Company initiative, or project with their manager or supervisor.


Nothing in this policy shall or is intended to interfere or in any way restrain employees from exercising their rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. For examples and guidance regarding this policy, speak with your manager or supervisor.

TMLS Employee Manual – Updated August 2023

Like explosives; a little is useful, too much is dangerous

A friend once wrote that inequality was like dynamite your basement. A little is useful, to use on a farm or ranch or whatever, to blow up dams and, I don’t know. Farm stuff. Too much of it and it would not be safe to live there. I don’t know how smart it is to keep even small amounts of TNT in your house but the allegory still works. The gap between people with resources and people without cannot continue to expand indefinitely. To have a Civil Society, every human needs a sustainable lifeway. Rational policy has to recognize the lay of the green, so to speak, and develop policies that could affect measurable improvement.

Wealth inequality in North Carolina is a growing problem. The Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, was 0.474 in 2021, which is higher than the national average of 0.467. This means that wealth is more concentrated in the hands of a few people in North Carolina than it is in the United States as a whole.

There are a number of factors that contribute to wealth inequality in North Carolina. These factors include:

  • The concentration of wealth in urban areas: The wealthiest counties in North Carolina are all located in urban areas, such as Wake County, Mecklenburg County, and Guilford County. This is due to a number of factors, including the concentration of jobs and businesses in urban areas, as well as the higher cost of living in urban areas.
  • The decline of manufacturing: Manufacturing was once a major source of jobs in North Carolina, but the industry has declined in recent years. This has led to job losses and a decline in wages for many workers.
  • The rise of the gig economy: The gig economy is a growing trend in North Carolina, as it is in the United States as a whole. This trend has led to a decline in traditional full-time jobs, which has made it more difficult for people to build wealth.

Wealth inequality has a number of negative consequences for North Carolina. These consequences include:

  • Reduced economic mobility: Wealth inequality makes it more difficult for people to move up the economic ladder. This is because people from low-income families have less access to education, healthcare, and other resources that can help them build wealth.
  • Increased poverty: Wealth inequality can lead to increased poverty. This is because people who are poor have less access to resources and opportunities, which can make it difficult for them to escape poverty.
  • Increased social unrest: Wealth inequality can lead to increased social unrest. This is because people who are poor are more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives, which can lead to protests and other forms of social unrest.

There are a number of things that can be done to address wealth inequality in North Carolina. These things include:

  • Investing in education: Investing in education is one of the most important things that can be done to address wealth inequality. This is because education can help people from low-income families build the skills and knowledge they need to get good jobs and earn higher incomes.
  • Expanding access to healthcare: Expanding access to healthcare is another important thing that can be done to address wealth inequality. This is because healthcare can help people stay healthy and productive, which can help them earn higher incomes.
  • Raising the minimum wage: Raising the minimum wage is another important step that can be taken to address wealth inequality. This is because it will help people who are working low-wage jobs earn a living wage.

Addressing wealth inequality is a complex challenge, but it is one that must be addressed if North Carolina is to achieve a more just and equitable society.

Freedom v Liberty

The concepts of freedom and liberty are closely related but have slightly different nuances in their meanings. While they are often used interchangeably, their distinctions can vary based on historical and philosophical contexts. Here’s a general explanation of their differences:

Freedom: Freedom refers to the state or quality of being free from external restrictions, oppression, or control. It emphasizes the absence of constraints or limitations on one’s actions, choices, or beliefs. It implies the ability to act and think independently, without interference from others or oppressive forces. Freedom is often associated with personal autonomy, self-determination, and the absence of coercion.

Liberty: Liberty, on the other hand, is a broader concept that encompasses freedom but also includes the idea of responsible and ethical conduct within a society. It emphasizes the exercise of freedom in a manner that respects the rights and well-being of others. Liberty involves not only the absence of external constraints but also the presence of a framework of laws, rules, and moral principles that enable individuals to coexist harmoniously. It recognizes that one’s freedom should not infringe upon the freedom and rights of others.

In summary, freedom focuses on the absence of constraints and external control, whereas liberty incorporates the responsible exercise of freedom within the bounds of a societal framework that promotes the well-being and rights of all individuals. The specific meanings and interpretations of these concepts can vary depending on cultural, political, and philosophical contexts.

So, when someone says they are celebrating “freedom” this week, ask them if they really mean “liberty”. If they disagree, you could ask to do something creative like plant a garden in their front yard, or marry a Doberman, that should be fine, since we are all “free”. Liberty is better. Liberty is natural. Liberty means living in harmony with our tribe, as humans have been trying to do for myriad generations. That means there are limits, there must be, for civil societies to emerge. Trust, confidence, stability, predictability, all flow from ones willingness to temper the sharp edge of freedom with the worthy rights of others. No one can have everything they want, but working together more of us can live a better life.

Moving to North Carolina

My wife and I moved to Wilmington last summer for no reason other than we like the area, the water, and the proximity to our daughter in Durham. After 50+ years living in and around Huntsville, Alabama, we decided to trade freshwater for salt, river for the ocean. We bought a house near Wrightsville Beach without going in it. We just trusted our Realtor to walk through and FaceTime the important stuff. We asked him to smell under the sink and in the bathrooms. Was there a litter box? A smoker? Mold? There was not and he gave us the All Clear. Thankfully, we loved the place when we got there a few days later. We like the neighborhood too and have already made new friends. Nancy, the walker of Odie the rescue dog, and Vinny, the semi-retired music producer. Wilmington is a nice little town and is everything we were looking for.

Wrightsville Beach

Then, in the early fall, an old friend called looking for ideas for a corporate search he had been hired to do for the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors. They hired him to find a new CEO and to create and fill a new position to run their 16,000-member MLS. I gave him some names for both positions and, in a few weeks, he called back to discuss it. He was having trouble finding someone for CEO and understood it would be hard to fill the MLS position with an open CEO. After thinking about it, I told him that I might be interested in the MLS position as long as he did not hire an asshole for CEO! He suggested that I come up for an interview anyway, which I did, just to see what I thought of the people and the opportunity.

A few weeks later, he called back and said that he was thinking of taking the CEO job himself. With that, I told him I would take the MLS position if they offered it to me. They did, and I did, and I started December 1. So, in the last three years, I have worked for three companies. That is remarkable because in the previous twenty years I have worked for two, both started by me. In January 2018 I sold Solid Earth to FBS after running it for 20 years. Then, FBS decided to spin the Solid Earth assets off to another company in 2021 and I went with them, to TRIBUS. TRIBUS is a bespoke Brokerage software vendor of CRM and websites and is owned by close friends Eric Stegemann and Katie Ragusa. They were very interested in the Spring project and created an MLS division for the product, and the team, to live and grow. After a few big wins at TRIBUS, the Spring project and team is safe and poised for growth.

Downtown Durham

With Spring safe, I was able to think carefully and comfortably accept the offer to run the MLS in Raleigh. The MLS is called Triangle MLS and covers the Raleigh Association, the Durham Association, Chapel Hill, which is called the Orange and Chatham County Association, plus the Johnston County Association in Smithfield. Altogether, that is 16 counties in north-central North Carolina. My primary goals are to: develop better relationships with the stakeholder associations, build a culture of transparency at the MLS, and develop a rational data sharing agreement with all the large MLSs in the region so that Triangle members never have to operate two systems to accomplish their work.

I will try to chronicle some of this as we go through the year. It should be an exciting time!