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We are all Entrepreneurs

Work vs Life
Work vs Life

Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or a business executive, we are all running a small business, which is called our life.

Damn Asians (Chinese? Japanese? Korean? Indian? Turks? Uzbeks?)!

Stop Asian Hate

The recent reports of increased violence against Asian-Americans are troubling, but nothing new.  The history of Asians in the U.S. is marked by negative actions against this group by U.S. citizens and the U.S. Government. 

The current focus on Asian-Americans or Chinese-Americans may be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and how politicians have pointed a finger at China for our misery.  This, in turn, has seemingly given citizens an excuse for their violence against U.S. citizens of Asian descent. 

Every time the term “Asian-Americans” is used, it begs the question whether Americans can look at a world map and point out the actual size of that continent and the many countries that make up Asia.  Given the current wave of “anti-Asian” violence, it is easy to conclude that those targeted “look” Asian as opposed to those Asians who have the physical look of Europeans.

If one looks back to recent history, Japan was a favorite target for the ills of the U.S. auto industry and how it was seemingly dominating other manufacturing sectors such as home entertainment equipment.  South Korea’s rise is evident in autos and high-tech areas while Taiwan companies moved into computer chip production areas.

During the past few decades, some of the animosity toward Asians or Asian-Americans is, frankly, because of their success.  Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are small countries in actual territory and their populations are small as a percentage of the U.S. population, yet, they have become global economic powers.  The anger and resentment toward Asians are easily manifested in violence since Asians are easy to identify within the U.S. population.    

For the Asian-Americans who are U.S. citizens, a great number are here due to generations having worked hard and succeeded in the U.S.  The Chinese who arrived in the 1850s and later worked in factories and in agriculture and contributed significantly to the railroad industry.  As the number of Chinese workers increased, this prompted anti-Chinese sentiment in the U.S.  The growth of the Chinese communities along the west coast prompted efforts to limit the number of Chinese immigrants.

The increased level of anti-Chinese sentiment in the U.S. resulted in a treaty between the U.S. and China.  Ultimately, the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, and it was signed into law in 1882.  This Act limited Chinese immigration to the U.S. and, for a decade, suspended Chinese immigration. 

For Japanese and Koreans, the Hawaiian plantations played a major role in their immigration.  The need for labor to work plantations in Hawaii facilitated the immigration for workers.  Japanese began arriving in Hawaii in the latter part of the 1800s and Koreans the first years of the 1900s.  Eventually, they would arrive on the U.S. mainland.

Historically, some have written that the Immigration Act of 1924 (also referred to as the Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924) was “to preserve the ideal of U.S. homogeneity.”  In effect, this law prohibited Asian immigrants. 

It is one thing to prevent people entry into the U.S. and quite another to imprison U.S. citizens.  Americans of Japanese descent endured the loss of their freedom, businesses and homes during World War Two for simply being of Japanese descent. 

Yet, despite the treatment of Japanese-Americans during the war, an Army unit made up of second-generation Japanese-Americans (442nd Regimental Combat Team) is still the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of the U.S. military.

Given today’s national environment, it is important to be aware of the fact that for over 150 years U.S. citizens of Asian descent have contributed significantly to U.S. society in all of the country’s endeavors.

While many may not necessarily like the result, the current U.S. Vice-President can point to her Asian (Indian) ancestry.  The newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative is Chinese-American. 

Throughout U.S. history, one thing has been proven time and again and that is that one’s ancestry has nothing to do with a person’s devotion to serve and protect the United States.  Americans of Asian descent prove this every day.

**The writer is of Japanese-European descent.

Borders, Bureaucrats and Blame

Immigrant Crisis

The headlines and newscasts are raising the issue of the U.S. southern border, again.  Reports of thousands of unaccompanied minors are in the news.  The political parties will verbally battle over the issue endlessly, but the odds are that little or nothing substantive will get done to address the issue in the near term.

What is often ignored or superficially addressed is why are conditions in Central America causing the march northward.  It begs the question, why, after touting a major agreement with Central America, the migration northward continues. 

The U.S. concluded a free trade agreement with several small economies of Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic).  In view of the continuing exodus of people from their home countries, what are we doing (or not doing) to improve these economies so that people stay in their home countries?

Negotiating the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) began in 2002 and by 2009 the agreement was in effect with all these countries.  Given the different levels of economic development, these countries were given different periods of time to fully implement the agreement. 

There are numerous chapters in the agreement that impose obligations on issues such as labor, environment, electronic commerce, financial services, telecommunication services, intellectual property and more.  A part of the goal was to lift these economies to higher levels.  Supposedly, CAFTA would improve economic conditions. 

The U.S. negotiated favorable provisions to benefit U.S. exporters.  According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, CAFTA eliminated all tariffs on U.S. consumer and industrial goods exported to these Central American countries.  Tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports to these countries were significantly eliminated by 2020.

On the surface, it appears that U.S. negotiators were successful in concluding an agreement that overwhelmingly favored U.S. commercial interests.  But, did CAFTA do anything to address the underlying weaknesses of these countries that cause the “export” of its population to the U.S. and is a constant controversial issue here? 

By obtaining concessions from these small countries, has U.S. dominance in trade weakened these economies and caused more economic harm or instability?  The continuing northward march from some of these CAFTA countries is a symptom of some fundamental issues that should be examined and addressed. 

It may be argued that these countries were never good candidates for a free trade agreement because their economies were not sufficiently developed.  The final CAFTA text recognizes this point in a minor way by including “transition” periods allowing these countries to take additional years to fully implement the agreement.  However, even this is often inadequate.  The U.S. blames shortfalls on implementation on the country that fails to meet its obligations.  Regarding our agreements with developing countries, the U.S. rarely, if ever, provides sufficient education and training to help the trading partners that are deemed to be “violating” the terms of the agreement.  Often, the developing countries that lag in implementation do so because of a lack of skills and/or expertise in the areas that need the most attention for improvement.

While the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s website informs us as to the great success of CAFTA, the arrival of thousands at our border may signify a different reality.  What is needed is a deep-dive assessment of the underlying economic and political deficiencies that cause this northward migration.

Is CAFTA improving economic opportunities (jobs, pay, etc.) with our CAFTA trading partners?  Do CAFTA partners need training and education for them to fulfill their obligations under the agreement?  Has the U.S. simply concluded an agreement and now hopes all will be better at some point in the future without doing the hard work necessary for CAFTA to have benefits in these countries?

The overall situation should require U.S. embassies in these countries to provide assessments about the progress or lack thereof under the agreement and outline the deficiencies.  Hopefully, our career bureaucrats are permitted to provide the bad news as well as the good news.  Career U.S. diplomats and federal government officials in various agencies responsible for monitoring progress need to identify how the U.S. can contribute to improvements in these countries if CAFTA is to deliver benefits to all countries party to the agreement. 

One thing that is clear is that U.S. taxpayers will pay for the deficiencies of the agreement.  Either U.S. taxpayers will be paying for thousands of Central Americans coming to the U.S. or the money will be spent to try and improve the plight of these people in their home countries. 

There are many instances where U.S. trade agreements, once concluded, fail to deliver for all the parties involved because of a lack of honest assessments and due to an inability to recognize the fact that our trading partner is unable to meet its obligations.

The arrival of people at our southern border and the illegal crossing into the U.S. reflects a combination of many shortcomings.  While U.S. government websites may gloss over shortcomings and emphasize the positives by pointing to supporting statistics, the issue of thousands from Central America making their way to the U.S. and attempting to enter illegally will remain in the headlines. Politicians will continue arguing and manipulating the situation for their political ends.  Unfortunately, none of the headline grabbing soundbites will do anything to address the underlying problems.  What is needed is a serious examination into whether the U.S. wants to engage in the hard work necessary to make CAFTA deliver the economic benefits to the people of the countries that signed the agreement.

American Soldier: His Final Rest

Arlington National Cemetery

The gently sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery overlook the nation’s capital.  From this vantage point, thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines look across the Potomac River in formation.  It is as if in their passing, they continue to look over us and the country because it is their legacy. 

Here, colonels are among corporals and privates among generals.  Alas, they have come together for their final rest.  Some served for a short time while others did so for a lifetime.  But now, time is irrelevant as we salute them, pay respect to their deeds forever as they have arrived for their final rest. 

Overwhelmingly, those who rest here are unknown but to their loved ones and the brothers and sisters in arms with whom they served.  Often, their heroic actions are unknown to their parents, spouses, children, and grandchildren.  For the family, the only way they may know is through a written citation that accompanies the awarding of a medal.  Or, if they have met those with whom their loved one served.  Those heroic deeds are known only to those who, in their most life-threatening moments, served at their side to keep each other alive to see another dawn.

Today, March 5, my father’s ashes will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery for his final rest.  Officially, the documents inform us that Emerson “Top” Trainer retired from the Army after over 21 years of active duty.  Those years spanned the period from November 1949 to March 1971.  He was seventeen when he enlisted and found himself in Korea a few months after his eighteenth birthday and just weeks after the outbreak of the Korean War.  He was seriously wounded in January 1951. 

He kept re-enlisting.  He knew the risks, but he had also found a “home”.  While he didn’t excel in school, he was very good at soldiering.  From the ice and cold of Korea in the 1950s, the heat and humidity of Vietnam greeted him in the 1960s.  As he rose through the ranks to become a First Sergeant in a rifle company in Vietnam, his experience and contribution to the lives of his young soldiers were not unnoticed.

Retired General McCaffrey, my father’s company commander in 1968, wrote in the Foreword of The Fortunate Son: Top, Through the Eyes of Others that “He gave a sense of being the ‘father’ of these young soldiers. Absolutely fearless. Quiet. Dignified. A teacher. Very gentle way of dealing with people. He was a natural leader. He expected to be obeyed.”  As a young captain and company commander, General McCaffrey added that “I considered him to be the co-commander of the company. He was a rock. The soldiers loved him. He was one of them.” 

After two combat tours of duty in Vietnam and another Purple Heart, the Army was clear that its losses of combat-experienced senior non-commissioned officers dictated that he be placed back on orders for Vietnam after recuperating from burns he suffered.  He reluctantly retired from his Army family.   

Though he no longer wore the uniform, he was never anything but a soldier in mind and spirit.  As the years passed, the young soldiers he had helped get through their combat tours in Vietnam sought him out, and he relished being with them at reunions and other gatherings.  He liked being with other soldiers.  He was in his element.  He understood them, and they understood him.  He made life-long bonds as evidenced by the fact that half a century after serving together in Vietnam, he regularly attended reunions, weekend gatherings, and spoke often to his former soldiers.

For him and so many who are at eternal rest in Arlington, so much about who they were and what kind of soldiers they were is told by what appears on the uniform they wore.  Luckily for my family, there is a group of men who wanted to express their respect for their “Top” (their First Sergeant).  In The Fortunate Son, they described publicly their Vietnam experience and the impact that Top had on their lives so that he would know what he meant to them. 

We are fortunate.  Over the years, we have spent time with many of the men who served with our soldier.  While tears may be shed on this day that he is interred, we celebrate his life and the many positive effects he had on the lives of his brothers in arms and their families.    

If you find yourself in the nation’s capital, look west across the national mall to the rolling hills beyond the Lincoln Memorial.  You may see those who have watched over the country still in perfect formation and wonder if we continue to be worthy of their service and sacrifice.    

Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself (Hulu)

Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself

Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself is a film I can’t explain. I believe it is one of the most poignant, emotionally moving, and challenging minutes I have spent. I have watched it three times in its entirety. Each time I go away feeling something inside of me has changed. And it has. I just can’t explain it. I would encourage you to take that journey yourself. Turn your cell phone off and any other distractions. Turn off your inner dialogue and let the film flow to you.

Here is what Hulu says about its original film: “In & Of Itself tells the story of a man fighting to see through the illusion of his own identity, only to discover that identity itself is an illusion. An intimate and powerful exploration of what it means to be and be seen, the film chronicles Derek DelGaudio’s attempt to answer one deceptively simple question, “Who am I?” His personal journey expands to a collective experience that forces us to confront the boundaries of our own identities.”

In one of the opening scenes, members of the audience are looking at a large board with “I Am” cards to pick from. Some are very contemplative, others less so. Some are smiling, others are very serious. But each one has to make a decision before sitting down. Carrying in their hand a slip of paper identifying who they believe they are . . . at least at that moment.

In the background, you hear Derek DelGaudio.

They ask you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Later they ask, “What do you do?” which means “What have you become?”

It is not enough to have a name. They need something to call you. So, you search. You look at the roles the world offers you, trying to find the one that reflects who you are.

Only a lucky few get to play the role they want. The rest settles for what’s left or struggle with what they have been handed. Then we all learn to embrace our illusions of identity.

I did. I thought I knew my role. Then I met a man who told me who I really was.

And I knew he was right. I just didn’t know why.

From that scene in the film and on, I will not spoil the journey for you. As I said, I can’t really explain it. You just have to watch it yourself.

In & Of Itself is a Hulu Original and was a one-of-a-kind theater experience, created by Derek DelGaudio and directed by Frank Oz. The show had its World Premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles on May 3, 2016, where it saw several extensions before moving to the Daryl Roth Theater in New York City. It opened Off-Broadway to critical acclaim and once more quickly extended its initial 10-week engagement, selling out its intimate 150-seat house, night after night. The show continued extending its run, again and again, until DelGaudio decided (somewhat controversially) to end the show at the height of its success, stating, “I feel like I’ve said what I wanted to say.” After 72 weeks, 560 performances, and grossing over $7 million at the box-office, In & Of Itself closed as one of the most successful shows in off-Broadway history.

The Center for Creative Entrepreneurship


The Center for Creative Entrepreneurship began in February 2020. In the year of a global pandemic, CCE shifted their programs virtually. As an educational hub, they want every creative in the world to have access to the resources they need to become successful entrepreneurs.

Located within the 160,000 square feet B2B creative industry ecosystem of Fort Knox Studios, 2112 is Chicago’s first business incubator focused on the development of entrepreneurs in music, film/video and creative industry-focused technologies.

Through community, educational opportunities and access to capital, 2112 creates a truly fertile ground for the professional development and acceleration of its members.

U.S. Supply Chain Security

Supply Chain Security

President Biden’s February 24th Executive Order is, to some extent, an extension of past efforts that recognized vulnerabilities in supply chains.  What has changed during the past year is the degree to which the US experienced its vulnerabilities in critical areas during this national emergency.

The past year exposed us to the problems arising from shortages of medical products.  But, the issue of supply chain security and integrity should not be viewed from the perspective of our vulnerabilities during national emergencies.  Supply chain security is a 24/7 issue. 

Whether it is shortages of critical products or everyday products, supply chain security is a constant issue and has been for an extremely long time.  Substandard goods entering the supply chain or outright bogus (counterfeit) products competing with genuine goods, has been and continues to be a challenge for both government and non-government commercial enterprises.

The gaps and vulnerabilities in supply chains was and continues to be a serious issue for the US Department of Defense.   For example, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act included provisions that imposed a duty on defense contractors to take affirmative steps to prevent fake electronic components from entering US defense systems.  Under the 2012 Act, defense contractors and subcontractors were obligated to establish and maintain counterfeit electronic part detection and avoidance systems. 

What is important to note is that the enactment of laws and executive orders do not stop or eliminate threats and vulnerabilities.  Despite the emphasis on supply chain integrity and ensuring that defense related items meet the requisite standards, instances of counterfeit items sold to the US Department of Defense continues. 

For example, in 2014, two businessmen pled guilty for selling counterfeit and modified computer equipment to the Army.  In 2017, a major corporation agreed to pay over a million dollars to settle a claim that involved one of its subcontractors installing substandard microprocessors in military helicopter control systems.   

When one considers the combination of the number of sophisticated component parts needed in medical and military equipment and money involved, it is not difficult to conclude that there are individuals and businesses willing to take risks in using substandard and fake parts to win lucrative contracts. 

The industries prioritized in the Executive Order include those that have long and extensive supply chains.  With the thousands of components in vehicles, medical equipment and products, and military systems, there are hundreds or more contractors and subcontractors.  Thus, the monitoring and policing to ensure supply chain security and integrity is a complicated process that itself requires the latest technologies to authenticate parts and products.

For industry and government, supply chain security is a significant challenge.  What technologies are contractors and subcontractors using to authenticate parts and products?  How many different authentication technologies are involved in any one final product given the number of components involved?  These and many other questions need to be addressed.

As noted above, there are legal liability issues.  What are the civil and criminal provisions that may apply when a person or business is found to have violated established rules or laws? 

One example of criminal liability that explicitly carves out higher fines and terms of imprisonment for trading in military goods or counterfeit drugs is the federal law provision on trafficking in counterfeit goods.  This federal criminal provision raises the stakes for those found guilty of trafficking in “counterfeit military good or service or drug that uses a counterfeit mark”.

Ultimately, supply chain security and integrity will continue to be a daunting challenge when there are many who will seek to exploit commercial opportunities for their own financial benefit and with disregard for the safety and welfare of others.  And, because supply chains cover long distances, there are many points along the chain where substandard and fake components may be inserted.  Active vigilance will be necessary to reduce the risk to the consuming public.

Black History Month: Reflecting

Torch icon on black background

A quick search indicates that slaves may have been brought to North America in the 1500s.  Other sources point to the early 1600s.  It is safe to say that slaves were brought to North America over 400 years ago.

As Black History month nears its end, we should all think about how patient, tolerant, and forgiving the African-American community has been toward this country and its political leaders throughout this country’s history.   

Black history was not taught in schools when I was growing up.  Perhaps the biggest U.S. historical event taught in schools relating to African-Americans was the U.S. Civil War.  President Lincoln issued his final Proclamation Emancipation on January 1, 1863, which freed all persons held as slaves.

Though not taught in school, my “education” about black history was through television news broadcasts during the 1960s.  The images of fire hoses, dogs, and beatings of African-Americans seeking to get the same rights as white citizens.  Indeed, there were also images of violence during the summer riots of the 1960s. 

The idea of all-white or all-black schools was foreign to me.  Most of my schooling occurred on military posts where integration was taken for granted. 

During the 158 years since January 1, 1863, we have come to accept that we do not enslave African-American citizens today.  It is also true that a significant number of white Americans accept African-American citizens as equals. 

But, there are some harsher truths that must still be addressed.  For those of a certain age, we remember the outrage caused by two African-American athletes on the podium during the 1968 Mexico Olympics raising their fists, bringing attention to the treatment of African-Americans.  This non-violent way of promoting black power was unacceptable to many Americans.

More recently, the reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee to underscore the continuing unequal treatment of African-Americans caused outrage and threats.  The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has also received its share of criticism and hostile reaction because of BLM’s advocacy for scrutiny of police conduct and overall social injustice.

In late 2020 and early 2021, it must be acknowledged that there is a significant segment of the U.S. population that engages in and continues to support efforts to prevent our African-American citizens from participating fully in our democracy.  The history of efforts to disenfranchise minority groups or people of color continues.  In the wake of the November 2020 presidential elections, a wave of efforts to change voting laws is targeting the African-American community. 

It is interesting that, after a secure election where evidence of fraud was scarce, states are racing to introduce and change voting laws.  Thus, we see a 21st century effort that continues the horrible traditions of the past to disenfranchise specific segments of the voting public.

The patience, tolerance, and forgiving nature of the African-American citizenry became more strikingly clear in January 2021.  Our African-American citizenry has never attacked or stormed the U.S. Capitol despite enduring hundreds of years of injustice and because of continued mistreatment by law enforcement. 

They have not stormed state capitols where majority white legislators actively work to limit their vote or to disenfranchise them.  Yet, we did watch the U.S. Capitol get stormed by a predominant white insurrectionist mob because of an election that saw one old white man lose to another old white man. 

Upon reflection, we should be thankful that the overwhelming majority of our African American citizenry continues to cling to the hope that by working within the democratic system we will move forward.  Despite the passage of time, there is evidence of much work that must be done. 

COVID-19: Beware Criminal Profiteering

COVID Hacker

The life-threatening Covid-19 virus began its global march a little over a year ago.  As it spread around the world, governments began taking steps to try to slow its spread in view of the absence of a cure.  The virus spread unchecked given the lack of effective treatments in the early going. 

The combination of fear, lack of protective equipment, and the need for any concrete measures to attack the virus provided, as usual, a business opportunity for those who seek to profit in times like these. 

In March 2020, INTERPOL reported the results of its PANGEA XIII operation that was conducted during the week of March 3-10, 2020.  The global operation had the participation of police, customs, and health regulatory authorities from 90 countries.  INTERPOL warned that the virus “has offered an opportunity for fast cash, as criminals take advantage of the high market demand for personal protection and hygiene products.”  The operation’s results included the seizure of counterfeit masks, testing kits, and surgical instruments.  In addition, government authorities seized counterfeit and substandard medical products.

It’s worth noting that PANGEA XIII was conducted in March, during the early months of the global pandemic.  As 2020 progressed without a cure or vaccine, the stresses among governments and their populations increased.  Lockdowns and resistance to lockdowns provided continued opportunities for those who were exploiting the situation.  And, this prompted reactions from organizations attempting to protect the global consuming public. 

The World Customs Organization (WCO) reported in October 2020 that it, too, had conducted a global operation.  Through its various global regional offices, the WCO conducted Operation STOP from May 11 to July 12.  This operation resulted in preventing over 300 million units of medicines, as well as more than 47 million units of medical supplies (masks, gloves, COVID-19 test kits, thermometers, and gowns) and approximately 2.8 million liters of hand sanitizer gel from entering the global stream of commerce.

News of vaccine availability at the end of 2020 and entering into 2021 caused INTERPOL to issue an alert to all its member countries.  INTERPOL’s December 2020 Orange Notice outlined potential criminal activity in relation to the falsification, theft, and illegal advertising of COVID-19 vaccines.  INTERPOL’s concerns also underscored the need for the traveling public to be more aware of possible threats.  As international travel gradually resumes “it is likely that testing for the virus will become of greater importance, resulting in a parallel production and distribution of unauthorized and falsified testing kits,” INTERPOL warned.

With the virus continuing to be a threat and months before significant numbers of people are vaccinated, it is worth noting the continued efforts by the illicit profiteers to exploit fear and continue their efforts.  Hong Kong is one of the busiest container ports in the world.  On January 14, 2021, its Customs and Excise authorities seized 330,000 suspected counterfeit medical-grade masks that were being shipped through its port.  While the ultimate destination was not disclosed, this is a snapshot of one day’s activity.  It begs the question as to the actual quantity of illicit, substandard goods being shipped around the world to unsuspecting consumers. 

In the US, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a warning in December that it expects “criminal networks will try to illegally introduce and sell counterfeit vaccines and medical treatments that could endanger lives of U.S. consumers.”

As we approach a year of mask wearing, lockdowns, home-schooling, and other obstacles to normal life, it is important to be aware of the fact that, as consumers, we must be vigilant to prevent ourselves from being victimized by those who seek to spread illness and, potentially, death, through illicit and substandard medical products and equipment.   

Tech is Enabling the New Normal


We are entering a new era where technology has become an integral part of our daily life, the “new normal.” At CES 2021, this was one of prevalent messages. Our lives are going to change forever…and if you believe the hype, which we do, for the better.