Bless his heart or God love him, we are all imperfect

There are two expressions that either precede or follow a phrase where someone’s imperfections are mentioned. A Southern minister once told a group that “Bless his heart” is used to sand over a more offensive indictment. In other parts of the country, “God love him” would fill that role.

“She does not have the sense to get out of her own way, bless her heart,” someone might say. “He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, God love him,” another might add. Invariably, the author of the quote would have their own imperfections.

We are an imperfect lot, all of us. Mark Twain famously said, “Common sense is not all that common.” Having been a manager of people and a HR consultant, one of the observations a colleague made sticks with me. “Every employee thinks they are above average, but that cannot be true.” If you contrast the self-grading performance to that of managers or peers, the self-grading would tend to be higher.

So, maybe we should use “Bless my heart,” when we self-reflect. “I need to do better at giving people the benefit of the doubt, bless my heart.” Or, “I need to not be critical of something I know little about or without knowing the context it was offered, God love me.”

Let me close with a great lesson from Dr. Wayne Dyer, the late, renowned self-improvement speaker. He used a term to “defend the absent.” So, if he was in a conversation which went in a direction of running someone down, he would defend the person’s actions since they were not here to defend themselves. “You know that does not sound like something (that person) might say,” he would interject.

We are all imperfect, bless our hearts. Let’s do better to listen to each other and understand points of view and the context in which they are offered. I am reminded of a Black man who convinced KKK members to turn in their robes – he did so by asking questions and listening to the answers. What a novel idea!

Strange definition of good men

Someone famous has come to the defense of two men, in essence, claiming each is admirable or a good man. While defending people is normally a good quality, choosing to defend these men, and being relatively silent on women they impacted shows a lack of judgment, ethic and empathy. Saying good things only about the accused and not the alleged victims or the issue shows a tone deafness to women who come forward.

These two men are accused of domestic violence against their three ex-wives. Rob Porter had two restraining orders against him from each of his two wives, Colbie Holderman and Jennifer Willoughby. So, two judges thought the claims of the women were valid so as to issue such an order. David Sorenson was accused by his ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, of being verbally and physically abusive. These accusations were shared with the FBI, which is important, as lying to the FBI is a crime.

The fact these two men were still awaiting security clearance to serve in the White House is important. A boss might ask of the FBI, “Why is this taking so long? Is there a problem?” Or, per some news reports, they may have been aware much earlier. But, the story goes beyond these two men and to two other men – John Kelly and this famous man, Donald Trump. They have both botched this mess and, instead of acting as leaders, they are relatively silent on the victims or what the two men are accused of.

The President did not say one word about the victims on Friday or the alleged heinous act of Porter, choosing only to defend Porter and wish him well. Then, even after the rightful push back, he doubled down on Saturday using different words to say the same thing. The closest he got to the victims was to call the accusations “some true and some false.” The other sad story is Kelly’s reaction and concern over when he knew. Kelly is supposed to be the grown-up in the room, but this is yet another time when he has said or done less than thoughtful things, just like his tempestuous boss.

At least the Vice President gave recognition over his concerns over the actions and the victims. One can defend someone, but not condone the actions and support the victims. Domestic violence experts note it is not uncommon for an abuser to make up for (or hide) his heinous actions by being over-the-top pleasant to others in the work place. So, Porter can be a great guy to have on your team, but be a criminal abuser at home. Domestic violence is all about control, so the abuse is not just physical, it is mental.

As for the President, I view this as a proxy for defending himself, as everything goes back to him and his fragile ego. He has been accused by 19 women of sexual misconduct. He has had numerous affairs, one of which he financially settled before the election. His first wife accused him of raping her in divorce court testimony, but later recanted. And, he would be his worst defense if ever put on trial as he has admitted to recurring sexual misconduct on at least three occasions, the most blatant of which is the Access Hollywood tape.

And, in the past few years, here is a summary of whom he has chosen to defend and not defend. He chose to defend Judge Roy Moore accepting his truth over the teenage girls (now women) whom he sexually harassed, stalked and assaulted. He chose to defend former Fox News President Roger Ailes who was alleged of sexual misconduct where settlements were reached and was eventually fired by his Board. The same support was given to Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly, who also settled claims with several women who accused him.

Trump described all of these accused in varying ways as good men. Yet, one man he did not defend was a prisoner of war and Senator, who he denigrated as “not a hero because he was captured.” He did not defend and denigrated two Gold Star parents who lost their child in war as they dared criticize him for not knowing what the constitution was all about. More sadly, I could go on.

Based on this man’s history of sexual misconduct and litigation, I remain incredulous he was elected President of the United States. His five biographers noted before the election, do not think this man will change and all of sudden become Presidential. When he slips up and does something that is such, it is actually newsworthy. Defending people is one thing, but not tolerating what they are accused of and giving credence to the victims’ claims is essential. Porter may be a good guy to you, but two judges thought he had to be restrained from seeing his wives.

Note: In the volunteer work I have done with working homeless families, about 1/3 of our clients lost their home as a result of a domestic violence situation. DV is all about control. If you know of anyone who cannot explain bruises or is missing family events on short notice or confides in you, encourage them to get help and find a way to get out. The abuser will not change, as the success rate of such is low.

Tick, tick, tick – young folks please raise some holy hell on this

Tick, tick tick…the US debt of $20.7 trillion is expected to increase by $10 trillion by 2027 even before the December Tax Bill and last night’s Budget Bill were passed.

Tick, tick, tick…per the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the Tax Bill is projected to increase the US debt by $1.5 trillion or so by 2027.

Tick, tick, tick…last night’s Budget Bill which has now been signed into law is expected to increase the debt by $400 billion over the next two years.

Tick, tick, tick…unless something is done about it, the debt will be close to $33 trillion in 2027. The scarier thought is that might be low.

Tick, tick, tick…the added dilemma we are facing is the interest rates are increasing, since we may have overheated a good economy. That will add further to the annual interest cost on the debt.

If I were in my twenties, I would be raising holy hell about this. I just called several members of the Freedom Caucus, telling them I am an Independent and former Republican voter. While they were right to raise issue with the $400 billion, I said it was hypocritical to vote for a Tax Bill that increases the debt by $1.5 trillion.

Invariably when I called I spoke with a nice young staffer in their twenties, because I asked them if they were. During our conversations I asked them “you do realize we are leaving this problem for you?”

In December, 2010, the US debt was over $13 trillion. The reason this date is important is the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committee presented their findings and recommendations in that month. In essence, they recommended a series of changes that followed a ratio of $2 of spending cuts to every $1 of revenue increases. Since Democrats did not like the former and Republicans the latter, the Committee’s good work was shelved.

Fast forward to today and not only have we not done much about it, we have made the problem worse with these two bills. In Congress, it is both parties’ fault. It is President Obama’s fault for shelving the Simpson-Bowles study and it is President Trump’s fault for not making this an issue and promoting tax cuts. It is President Bush’s fault for passing tax cuts against the advice of his Secretary of the Treasury after being handed the baton on a balanced budget.

Our deficit was $666 billion in the last fiscal year. It will be over $1 trillion at the end of this one. This is not good. Please let your Congressional representatives, Senators and the President know we need to do something about this. We need revenue increases and spending cuts. The math will not work otherwise. Please check out the websites for the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Fix the Debt and The Concord Coalition for more information.

 

 

Thursday Thumbnails

Happy Thursday. With some rambling thoughts, I decided to throw down a few thumbnail comments below for your digestion.

While I am elated that a bipartisan compromise was reached in the US Senate to possibly end these budget kick-the-can exercises, I must confess concerns that it would increase the debt. Yet, it frustrates me just as much to see members of the Freedom Caucus appear high and mighty against the effort after many of them voted for a tax bill to increase the debt by $1.5 trillion. That is what we call hypocrisy. Nonetheless we are avoiding the looming problem as the debt and interest cost build.

I must confess being tickled at the US President for fussing at the stock market saying it is not reacting well to good news. It reminds of a toddler fussing at the tide for washing his sandcastle away. The stock market is reacting to concerns over inflation and rising interest rates, as well as pulling back on some of the euphoria that had been baked in. My guess is the tide will erode a little more of the sandcastle before settling at a lower level. Less funny was the President inviting a government shutdown if Congress does not fund his wall.

I am delighted Chancellor Angela Merkel has reached an agreement to form a government in Germany. A coalition between her Christian Democrstic Union and the Social Democrats would result. The negative is it would leave the Alternative for Germany as the opposition party giving more voice to their zealous nationalism. Her leadership is needed there, but even moreso around the globe with the United States retrenching from its role with its tempestuous leader at the helm. She and Emmanuel Macron will be the leaders of a more global construct.

If you have not seen “The Post,” with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, please do so. The story is about the consternation as to whether The Washington Post should publish articles about The Pentagon Papers after The New York Times was forbidden to do so after its first set of articles. But, the story goes deeper as it is about a female publisher, Kay Graham, who stood up to everyone (all men) telling her she would be a fool for publishing the articles as she took her company public. She supported her editor, Ben Bradlee and they won their Supreme Court case advocating the freedom of the press. The similarities between the demonizing words used by Nixon and Trump against the press are striking. An interesting sidebar is while this debate was going on, a little break-in at The Watergate Hotel occurred.

That is all for this Thursday. I hope our Congress reaches a deal and keeps the government open. Next up DACA.

While we were distracted, look what oozed in through the keyhole

On December 5, 2017, the Department of Labor under the guidance of the self-proclaimed populist President offered proposed regulations that would affect tipped employees. The 60 day comment period just expired, so unless the push back was convincing this proposal may become regulation. The proposal unwinds an Obama regulation which prohibits an employer from garnishing tips from workers who make at least the $7.25 minimum wage.

It should be noted that restaurant workers have a lesser minimum wage of only $2.13 which has been in place for twenty plus years. They can be paid an hourly wage this low, provided their tip income brings their total hourly pay to $7.25. As of May, 2017, the average combined wage and tip income for restaurant workers was $11.82 per hour.

In essence, the proposed regulation would allow an employer to garnish the extra tips above a total wage rate of $7.25. Now, the employer could be altruistic and reallocate this tip income to all workers, such as the cooks and buspeople (those that clean off the tables). This could also include the tipped worker who would receive a reallocated portion, but less than the direct tips garnished.

Yet, a very troubling part of the proposal is the employer could keep the tips and not reallocate them to workers. It is noted therein that the tips could be made for structural improvements or to reduce menu prices. Note, this is a low margin business, so it would not be a leap to see more than a few employers not reallocate all or any of the money. This is especially concerning within an industry where some managers exploit all and harass female workers (note read “Nickeled and Dimed in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich on working in minimum wage jobs that perpetuate poverty).

Per an article in The Washington Post (see link below), “‘There is no way to do a good face estimate and maintain the fiction that this rule isn’t terrible for workers,’ said Heidi Shierholz, who previously served as chief economist for the Labor Department, in a conference call on Thursday arranged by EPI.”

Many things concern me about this. If the employer were made to reallocate the garnished tips to other workers including the affected worker, then it would be more understandable as an employment term. A worker could then decide to work elsewhere if they felt they could make more there. It should be noted that in some cities that are phasing up to a $15.00 per hour minimum, some restaurants are going without any tipping, but that is understood beforehand and communicated to patrons.

The troubling part is the employer being able to choose to keep some or all of the money, provided the below market minimum wage is used. Help me understand how this helps those masses of people who voted for a man to make their lot in life better. Coming on the heels of other changes that have been made to favor Wall Street, such as the Tax Bill, this President does not look very much like a Main Street man.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever worked in a restaurant?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/12/21/the-trump-administration-wants-to-let-employers-control-workers-tips-an-interview-with-heidi-shierholz/?utm_term=.ce1e8158cb54

Two quotes are all you need to know about this infamous memo

A long advertised memo reportedly authored by Representative Devin Nunes has been released from the Republican led House Intelligence Commiittee to the cry of foul by the minority party. The memo was edited after the meeting to approve it without going back for review, which is unethical and in violation of parliamentary procedure. Yet, the claim by the FBI and Democrats on the committee say it left out a lot of facts, while still confirming surveillance had been started off an earlier event which throws water on the larger claim.

But, there are two interesting quotes which tell you all you need to know about the issue.

Per The Hill, “Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Friday admitted that did not personally review the applications for surveillance warrants that provide the basis of the classified memo released earlier in the day.

Nunes said he relied on the review of committee member Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

‘No, I didn’t,’ Nunes told Fox News’ Brett Baier, when asked if he saw the applications.”

In essence, Nunes wrote a paper off a cliff notes without reading the novel. How does he know what he left out if he did not read the document on which the memo is based?

In contrast, here are words Republican Senator John McCain on the Nunes memo.

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

We must heed the words of this man of integrity and let another one, Robert Mueller do his job. If the President is as innocent as he says he is, he should welcome that.

This tells you all you need to know about the veracity of the memo’s author. Conservative pundit David Brooks said Friday on PBS Newshour that the normal way to register concerns would be for the committee to invite the FBI in to ask them questions. I have said before, anytime a legislative body deviates from a normal process, take it to the bank, it is political.

Mr. President, listen to the Department of Defense and CIA

One of the hardest jobs of any employee is managing up when they have a boss who is not very good at his or her role. Business is littered with stories of high performing individuals who fail miserably as managers. The President is not an exception as he has always been a better salesperson than manager as reported by financial reporters and biographers.

The folks working beneath him are doing their darnedest to keep him between the white lines and on message. Too often, he derails an effort by tweeting or being less than truthful or aware of the issues. Yet, there are two consistent messages that are being ignored by the boss from two important groups, which are making us less safe and secure.

First, the Department of Defense reiterated its recurring message that climate change is a key threat to national security due to destabilization and impact on readiness. As reported in Reuters yesterday, the DoD said 1,700 of its bases (about half) are threatened by wild weather patterns due to climate change. Per Reuters, “‘Changes in climate can potentially shape the environment in which we operate and the missions we are required to do,’ said the DoD in a report accompanying the survey.”

Yet, what is the President doing about? He is pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, he has promoted more fossil fuel through words and actions, he has naysayed the climate science and his EPA director has removed climate change intellectual capital from the websites while firing, driving out or repositioning climate scientists.

Second, Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, said on Sunday, not only is there no question the Russians influenced our recent election, but he is certain they will do it again this fall. Yet, what is the President doing about it?

Although our Congress overwhelmingly voted on sanctions on Russia over the summer, the President said this week he would not impose those sanctions saying the threat is enough. And, in response to a request by Congress on the people who might be sanctioned, a cut and paste list was provided by the Treasury department. The term for this is called “phoning it in.” This on top of the President denying the intelligence, lying about his involvement, changing his stories multiple times and trying to undermine the efforts of the FBI and Special Prosecutor. All while the Russians continue their efforts.

These are threats to our national security and democracy, but we are failing to act. I am not alone in this view, but the Russians      have attacked our country though social media and cyber warfare and our Nero fiddles. His own DoD says climate change is a threat, but Nero’s response is to enable the threat, not circumvent it.

So, as the President fails to act, what are we going to do about it?