While my guitar gently weeps

George Harrison of The Beatles was overshadowed by the prolific song writing duo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Yet, he was an excellent song writer as well. One of his best songs he wrote paired him with Eric Clapton – “While my guitar gently weeps.”

I use this song as a metaphor as many of us are exhausted by the US President and his daily lying and bullying, that we just feel like weeping. But, while we weep, important things are not getting done and some things that should not be are occurring. So, while our collective guitars gently weep;

– our planet continues to heat up and wildfires become more prolific, drought areas become more parched, farms are more at risk, and our coastal cities have many more days of sunny day flooding;

– our oceans have islands of plastic both above and below the surface, landfills are teeming with plastic, especially after China stopped taking plastic shipments at the first of the year and our coral reefs are dying due to a multitude of factors;

– our US debt has passed an unhealthy level of $22 trillion and is expected to grow to over $33 trillion by 2027, with this fiscal year deficit getting closer to $1 trillion, likely exceeding it next year (this is on annual budget of $4 trillion);

– our allies no longer trust the US and its bullying President, so we will continue to suffer as other countries and companies therein seek other avenues for their supplies and products looking for market stability – they will deal with us, of course, but are finding other sources, as well; and

– our democracy is under threat by a regal minded and thin-skinned man who lives in the White House who denigrates any person or entity that does not adequately genuflect to his greatness, which is far more perception than reality.

There is, of course, many other reasons to weep. We need to address real problems and not cause other ones. We are exhausted by the focus on one man 24×7. It is truly all about The Donald.

I sure wish to hear George and Eric playing this song and make it all better.

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Stories floating in the air

Between the US President and his three prominent spokes people, Sean Hannity, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Rudy Guiliani, there are numerous stories about what happened, what was said, what was tweeted, etc. floating around in the air. The mercurial President lives news cycle to news cycle, having the attention span of a child. So, he is prone to say or tweet something that changes a bad news paradigm. The truth is less relevant. Which is germane, as he tells stories like a child. “But, mom what about Joey or Susie. They did it too.”

Trump changes his stories so much, to me the stories are floating around in the air like comic strip bubbles. So, it is truly hard to keep track of his lies. He simply wears people out that they get numb to his prolific lying. He denied it then and denies it now, but of course he was aware about payoffs to women to keep them quiet about his many indiscretions. He, of course, knows about those indiscretions which he also denies. We just need to believe he was giving them money to keep them quiet about something that he said did not happen.

And, he of course, knew everything about Junior’s meeting with the Russians in a building that Trump owns about getting dirt on someone. Throwing dirt is Trump’s modus operandi. I was tickled to see how Sanders defended Trump who has been accused of using animal terms or lack of intellectual prowess to denigrate his African-American critics as racist tactics. Her defense is Trump is an equal opportunity attacker of critics, not using those precise words. In other words, he is jerk to people of all races.

Guiliani says now Trump never talked to James Comey about Michael Flynn. Really? I guess next he will say Flynn never talked to the Russians about a back channel or eliminating the sanctions. Or, Flynn never lied to Mike Pence about so doing, which was the stated reason he was fired. I am still trying to figure out what this doppelganger did with the old Rudy. Rudy used to be well thought of, now he is a barking dog that has a hard time keeping track of the floating stories.

At that might be the best analogy. Trump lies and changes stories so much, it is hard for him and his spokespeople to keep track of the floating stories. To me, that is sad to say about the President of our country. He lies so much, he cannot remember when he has lied and what he said earlier.

To be frank, I do not mind people being more conservative than I am on certain issues (I am actually fiscally conservative, but socially progressive). What I do mind is that conservative people try to rationalize this President, when it is quite apparent that he lies more than he tells the truth. I do mind when they accept as facts whatever Trump says, when he admits to not liking to do homework to know the facts. But, this belief in less than accurate news is precedes Trump, which is a key reason he was able to win them over.

So, my advice is to stick with good news sources. They are the ones that print retractions when they get it wrong and admit to it. Also, start from the following basis point. Do not believe a word the President says and take with a large grain of salt anything anyone on his team says. You will be more right than wrong if you do. As Omarosa said, “in Trump world, everyone lies.” That may be the truest thing she ever said, and she would know.

 

America’s Top 40 – 40% turnover that is

Every Sunday for many years, Casey Kasem would play America’s Top 40 pop songs. Earlier this week, NPR reported another, but ignominious top 40. The current White House has experienced an unheard of turnover rate of 40%. In other words, four out of ten staffers who were on the payroll a year ago have departed.

To add some seasoning to this, two of the most difficult jobs to keep people are customer service representatives and bank tellers, which often see turnover rates at or above 40%. So, to see similar turnover is alarming. But, how does this rank to other White Houses?

Earlier this year, an article appeared in the Brookings Institute webpages called “Why is Trump’s staff turnover higher than the five most recent Presidents?” by Kathryn Dunn Tenpans. She focused on A team turnover, but the turnover problem is pervasive. Per the article, “President Trump’s A team turnover is record setting – double the previous leader, Reagan, and more than triple his immediate predecessor, Obama.”

Why is this important? There is a huge loss of productivity in those that leave as  well as those who replace them, as they get up to speed. Plus, there is downtime for the managers as they backfill and take time to interview, hire and coach. In some of my previous work in HR for a large bank, i used average productivity ratios and turnover by group to estimate the cost of turnover at roughly 1 1/2 times the compensation expense of the departed people.

Per the Brookings article, “while some turnover is expected and possibly beneficial, excessive turnover portends a problem.” This data is relevant with more than a few stories about the low morale in the White House. Several sources have cited feuding factions and jealousies as well as a leader who perpetuates and accentuates a highly toxic environment.

When people are not productive in jobs of import, it is harmful to their efforts. It is also harmful to our country. The President has been covered extensively over the years by financial reporters and biographers. His sales skills are envied, but the same cannot be said for his management skills. Trump has said on more than one occasion that he likes to pit  people against each other and does not mind the chaos. Well, that is an absolutely horrible management approach. And, the inconsistent messaging from the White House reveals as much, as well as its turnover.

Tuesday’s gone with the wind (and context)

One of my favorite songs from the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd is “Tuesday’s Gone,” written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zandt. Here is the first stanza:

“Train roll on, on down the line,
Won’t you please take me far away?
Now I feel the wind blow outside my door,
Means I’m leaving my woman behind.
Tuesday’s gone with the wind.
My woman’s gone with the wind.”

This song is a quick lesson in context. If you listen to the song, you get the impression the singer is doing the leaving in the relationship. Yet, there is one simple line that reveals the context of why he is on that train.

“Tuesday, you see, she had to be free.”

The woman did the leaving. And, the man decided to leave town to escape the source of his blues.

Many things in life and in politics are heard or read without knowing the full context. Context matters to enlightened understanding. We are told that immigration is a huge problem and immigrants are taking American jobs. Immigration is a concern, but it is not as big a problem as portayed and the jobs being taken tend to be those which Americans don’t flock to. If immigration was stifled, certain industries would be in a heap of hurt.

We are told we must place tariffs on China, but why are we placing them on our friends? What we are not told, is there are mechanisms we could tap with the World Trade Organization with the support of our allies to gain concessions from China. Economists note that we are forgoing working together as a unified front. But, a key contextual item is collaboration is hard work, where the collective group gains.

Context matters. Songs, poems and stories can reveal context in a subtle matter. But, it is important for us to ascertain the context. Otherwise, we may solve the wrong problem in the wrong way.

A simple economic question

As the US President seeks to close our borders and retrench from global markets, there is a simple question to ask. Let’s set aside what’s right or wrong from a humanity and safety standpoint. Let’s focus on a simple economic one.

Do we grow our economy more by letting people bring their ideas, work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit to our country and making it easier to do business with us, or do we accomplish more economic growth by closing our borders and forcing other countries and businesses therein to look to other markets for sales and supplies?

This thought struck me Sunday morning as I caught the Women’s Open Championship in the UK. What struck me is there were not any American golfers among the top two pages of the leader board. Thinking back to the World Cup in Russia last month, the American team was not present for this global event.

I recognize these are sporting events, but they are metaphors. If you don’t keep up, the world will move on. But, not keeping up does hit our economy, as well. In the US, unemployment is low, but we are having a hard time filling higher tech manufacturing jobs. US customer service jobs abound in Asia and the Philippines. And, many of our IT jobs are being done by people in India or who have moved here from such locations.

The first book which spoke to this is The World is Flat,” by Thomas Friedman. We live in a global economy with a global workforce. Employers need the best, cheapest talent they can find. The more commoditized the job, the pendulum swings to cheapest. The less commoditized, the pendulum swings to best. If we cannot fill the jobs here, they will be filled elsewhere. And, it should be noted that companies are leasing robots for $18 an hour, if they cannot fill the job.

We must be mindful of a key data point, immigration is accretive to our economy. Since Innovation is portable, new talent coming here brings more innovation. And, jobs are created around the Innovation. So, we need to be welcoming with better governance over immigration.

We also need to be easier to work with than we have become. When an entity makes it more difficult and less profitable to partner with, its trading partners look to other sources of sales and supplies. This has been happening for the last several months. And, as one farmer said, a subsidy won’t help if the customers go away.

Sadly, this issue has now been politicized, with fear and over-emphasis of causes. As I briefly noted above, the key reasons some areas are suffering are due to chasing cheaper labor and technology. The last issue is the larger concern as a CFO noted  in the book “The Rich and the Rest of Us,” by Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, “employers would do without employees if they could.”

So, look back at the simple economic question. What kind of country do we want to be? Then, add in the seasonings of doing the right thing and being safer. Global commerce actually makes the world safer, as you are less likely to go to war with your trading partners.

 

Thoughts for Thursday – Conspiracies abound

Water, water everywhere. While the wildfires burn out west and in Greece, I live on the east coast of the United States and we are inundated daily with heavy rain. It feels like a wet version of “Groundhog’s Day,” where Bill Murray’s character relives the same day.

Here are a few random soggy thoughts for Thursday.

Conspiracy theories abound on the web. Yet, every once in awhile justice may be served. Alex Jones of Infowars is trying to stop a trial where he is rightfully accused of spreading a false story that the Sandy Hook shooting story is a hoax. As a result, these poor families who lost a child or adult relative, have to be taunted and harassed by Jones’ followers. This is far worse than the Westboro church that picketed military funerals because of the nation’s stance on allowing LGBT people join the military. Jones is touting free speech, but this man has caused mental anguish because of his blatant misuse of his voice and disregard of any common decency.

The US President continues to claim the Mueller investigation is a “witchhunt,” the same term that President Richard Nixon used to decry the Watergate investigation. So the day after President Trump says collusion is not a crime after repeatedly saying he did not collude, he wants to end the Mueller probe. Help me understand how a thin-skinned man was not aware of a meeting in a building with his name on it where he works and lives, attended by his son, son-in-law and campaign manager to get dirt to throw at his opponent, a favorite tactic of his? After his Putin fawning performance in Helsinki, I am 100% convinced POTUS is guilty of more than just obstruction of justice. This is certainly no witch hunt, says this former Republican and Independent voter.

Speaking of conspiracies, a bona fide real one was captured in the “Pentagon Papers.” While Nixon did his level best to prevent The Washington Post and The Nee York Times from publishing these stories, this conspiracy involved Nixon and his two predecessors (LBJ and Kennedy) fighting a battle started by Eisenhower. These Presidents knew the Vietnam War was unwinnable, but kept fighting it to avoid the disgrace of losing. Tens of thousands of Americans (and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people) died after we knew the cause was lost. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were fighting for their country, while we fought for a corrupt leader sympathetic to the US. It was not in the Pentagon Papers, but years later it was discovered Presidential candidate Nixon secretely waylaid a peace deal underway, saying he could get better terms. Four years later and after more deaths, peace was brokered. Nixon denied this, but his voice was caught on tape as the South Vietnamese leader was being surveilled.

It should be noted that LBJ knew of Nixon’s “treason” as he called it, but chose not to bring it out, so as not to sway the election. It should be noted that Obama did the same thing when he knew the Russians were trying to influence the election in Trump’s favor. Both LBJ and Obama were wrong. However, while Trump tries to blame Obama for inaction, he was already touting the election was rigged. He was right – it was rigged to favor Trump.

That is all for this Thursday. Conspiracy theories abound. Most are only that. Yet, when they are true, they are whoppers. Usually the greater the effort to squelch them indicates their veracity.

A few puzzling questions in the summer of 2018

A few years back, there was a wonderfully nostalgic movie called “The Summer of ’42.” It was about a friendship between a  teen boy who befriended an older woman (played by Jennifer O’Neill) whose husband was a soldier fighting in WWII. Using the nostalgia of this movie and summer season, let me ask a few puzzling questions.

After witnessing Richard Nixon’s criminal actions and cover-up of Watergate, why is it difficult for some people to believe that the current President may be equally corrupt?

Having seen politicians get caught lying why do so many still do it? When you dig your own hole, at some point you need to stop digging. It amazes me how politicians forget that things are recorded.

Do you remember how embarassed we were that a senior KKK member named David Duke ran for office? Now, there are at least seven White supremacists running for office.

Do you remember when significant numbers of Senators and Congresspeople served in rhe military? That has waned, but we have a chance to remedy that this fall. These folks know what duty and service mean, as opposed to false bravado. There is an old saying of beware of the quiet guy. The trash talker should  be ignored.

Do you remember the quote that I paraphrase as it is better to let people think you are a fool, than to open your mouth (or Twitter account) and remove all doubt? Just because you think it, does not mean you should say it.

Do you remember when people thought so highly of the Mayor of New York as he brought people together after 9/11? What happened to that guy? Now, he has a doppelgänger parading around spewing utter nonsense to defend a man who would throw him under the bus if he had to.

Our name is our most important asset. We should protect and have people remember it well. Being truthful, honorable and accountable are vital. Barking like a dog at people who disagree with you is not a good path forward.