Locker room talk

A certain Presidential candidate has been dismissive of recorded comments he made that describe sexual harassment and assault and how it is easy to get away with such when you are a star. He did apologize for the remarks, but has belittled them as “locker room talk” as if that makes them OK. As a former athlete and now 58 year-old man, I can assure you that I have not heard this kind of talk in a locker room in my lifetime. Nor, do I hear business people speaking this way, especially ones who are my age which is one year younger than this candidate was at the time of the recording.

But, don’t take my word for it, as I never have been a professional athlete. A group of professional athletes confirm what I say above as a former grade school, junior high and senior high school athlete and one who participated in sports in my 20s and 30s. Per the PBS Newshour article linked to below,CJ McCollum, Jamal Crawford and Jacob Tamme are among current and former professional athletes on social media to criticize Donald Trump’s characterization of his predatory, sexual comments about women from a 2005 video as ‘locker room talk.’

Tamme, a tight end with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, asked that Trump ‘please stop saying locker room talk,’ adding that ‘it’s not normal. And even if it were normal, it’s not right.’”

The candidate has also said that this recording does not describe who he is. I disagree, as based on what I have read about this man, this precisely describes who this candidate is. Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked for him said the candidate bragged on his sexual prowess in the initial interview (see second link below).

To be frank, I was not surprised by the comments made in the video given the number of derogatory comments about women, affairs, marriages, and sexual harassment and assault accusations toward him as well as his narcissistic behavior. Even before, but more true now, I cannot fathom why any woman or father of daughters could vote for this poor excuse of a man.

An open letter to the Aetna CEO

Dear Mark T. Bertolini, Chairman and CEO, Aetna,

As a former actuary, benefits consultant, benefits manager, and a business and personal client of Aetna, I recognize fully the complexity of healthcare delivery and insurance in the US. I understand the meaning of claims loss ratios and the need for Aetna to earn a profit for its shareholders.

With this context, I ask that you please reconsider pulling Aetna out of the Healthcare exchanges in North Carolina and other states. I became an Aetna customer again when Aetna purchased the business of Coventry and integrated the two companies into the Aetna network. On the whole, our service has been good and we appreciate your negotiated discounts with Carolinas Medical Center and its doctor network. Many insureds do not realize the value of these discounts that must be paid by uninsureds.

The Affordable Care Act is still in its early childhood, but it has accomplished increasing coverage to over 20 million people. It has dampened healthcare cost increases, but tools to aid insurers like Aetna with initial years adverse selection, have been strangled by Congress whose majority wants to see the law fail. This added funding, called risk corridors, would have tied Aetna and other insurers over until the adverse selection (people initially overusing the healthcare due to pent up demand) stabilized. This plus the refusal of our state to expand Medicaid and the naysaying of the law, also led to a poorer risk pool than you anticipated.

I recognize Aetna must make money, but the ACA is actually working pretty well in spite of these challenges. And, as an actuary, I know the cost of healthcare is going up in America irrespective of the plan due to our aging society and being the most obese country in the world. We are train wrecks waiting to happen, so the ACA will get folks to see the doctor sooner rather than later which will ameliorate future increases.

Please reconsider your position and bear with us. We need competition in our state and BCBS will be the only insurer left. Also please aggressively discuss with our State Insurance Commissioner about needed increases and our Congress about funding the risk corridors. This will help assure its success. To be frank, if the ACA went away, over 20 million Americans would suffer and we would likely enter a recession with less spending in our economies. Aetna is too good a company and there is a greater good in staying with us. Thank you for considering my request.

Be safe

As Hurricane Matthew inches its way up the Eastern Florida shoreline, coastal areas are being endangered. Please keep these people in your thoughts and prayers.

The danger is heightened by the intensity of this hurricane coupled with its path right along the coast. A climatologist noted that most hurricane damage is from water not wind. With the rising sea levels due to climate change, the hurricane’s impact is elevated. A few years ago with Sandy, a climatologist said it is like dunking a basketball from an elevated court.

I do worry about the wind impacting older or weaker trees. This where additional damage could occur as these trees are uprooted and fall on homes.

So, let’s hope for as little damage as possible and pray for those island residents who lost family members and homes in Matthew’s wake.

False equivalence

My friend Hugh Curtler and others correctly talk about democracy requiring an informed electorate. Our founders saw a key role in the media to keep us more informed and search for the truth. One of challenges today is most of our electorate chooses not to be informed and would rather be entertained. I have written before about the United States of Entertainment.

Of those who do try to be informed, we need to spend time looking for valid sources. And, we need to ask questions when we learn of information from less legitimate sources, such as a Facebook post, Tweet or email. Where did you hear that? That cannot be true, so what is your source?

Even, so-called news outlets often are conflicted or biased, so information has to be taken with a grain of salt, or some cases looked at with a high degree of skepticism. As my boss used to say, “My Daddy told me to believe half of what you read and nothing of what you hear.”

One area that frustrates me is false equivalence. This is when biased news sources try to portray both sides of an issue as 50/50 when the issue is not even weighted in consensus or truth. An easy example is Fox News with its treatment of the issue of climate change has perpetuated a hoax issue for a long time, because of the heavy influence of the fossil fuel industry. It should be noted that Exxon-Mobil is under investigation by three attorney generals for misrepresenting the impact of climate change on its business to its shareholders, which is a crime if true.

The other way false equivalence is used is to say because one politician has made some mistakes, that it negates the mistakes of an opponent who has spent a lifetime of self-interest, not caring much about others. This sentence probably defines our Presidential election as clearly as it can be defined. We have one candidate who has spent a lifetime of service helping people, getting high marks for the jobs she did, but who has made mistakes and is too zealous in protecting her image.

We have another candidate whose lifetime has been one of exploiting others for money and not treating people well along the way, whether it stiffing them, suing them, lying to them, fooling them or just leaving them holding the bag. Getting his share takes precedence over anything and whether others get theirs is less relevant. And, it still does.

The key is to look at people’s real history. What did they do, how did they do it and how did they treat people along the way? That is the best way to judge how they will act in the future.

I believe in you

These are very simple words, but they are extremely powerful when used. “I believe in you” can make a huge difference in performance, whether it is at work, at home or at play. A real life example may help, but I have changed the name of the individual to protect the identity of the person.

Sandy has worked in retail for many years at the same small store. She is a solid contributor, very pleasant to customers and quite loyal. While Sandy is not the best employee in the store, she is very reliable and is often called in when others cannot work their scheduled slot. Only rarely does she say no, as she needs the hours.

Like many retailers, this store is pushing cross-selling at the register. And, like many stores, they also have a phone application where customers can find answers to questions and guideposts on their own. Sandy, hates cross-selling as she knows many of their customers are return ones and don’t need to be invited to buy, but she is obligated to make offers.

Sandy was not performing well under stretch store measures, as the retailer was in financial trouble. The application sales were critical as they provided recurring revenue. The cross-sell push was strong and it made her feel quite uncomfortable. Her manager was stressed and made her stress known to Sandy and others. As a result, Sandy felt threatened and it affected her work, psyche, and health. Her scheduled hours suffered and her boss was hyper-critical of her. She considered other employment.

And, then the stress went away. An old boss who knew Sandy and what she was capable of, replaced the stress-causing boss who was asked to leave. Sandy was not the only one who felt the extra tension. The returning boss “believed in” Sandy and gave her room and opportunity. Sandy sold more of the applications and gained greater comfort in cross-selling without being too intrusive. And, her scheduled hours went up.

The boss who left openly and caustically shared her displeasure with others. Sandy is far from perfect, but the stress causing boss, created the circumstances for less fruitful performance. The returning boss knew how to lead and manage. She believed in her workers even while giving them high goals. This belief enabled Sandy to perform at a much higher level and the results showed.

“I believe in you.” Leaders can make a difference with these words. Not every employee is an “A” employee. Any team is a mixture of different skills and capabilities. A leader will provide the necessary amounts of management and encouragement. They will know when to step on the accelerator or ease off and tap the brakes. Good leaders are few and far between, but each manager can be a little better at leading. The results might be staggering, if they do.