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.

 

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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.

Come Monday, it will be alright

Ah, the lyrics from an early Jimmy Buffett hit. It has a down to earth line “I’ve got my Hush Puppies on, I guess I was never meant for glitter rock and roll.” I wish for people who are keeping up with the Jones, to realize that a pair of jeans, comfortable shirt and shoes are a far more preferable outfit.

A friend of mine said when he hit his fifties, he got to the point where he thought far less of what others thought of him. He actually was more colorful in how he defined this realization. So, you would not find him in a tie very often.

Another said when reaching that point, she decided that she would do her best not to suffer fools. So, she started declining offers to attend events or outings with certain insufferable people.

I mention these two examples as people spend far too much time worrying about things that they could avoid or don’t really matter. I am not a person that needs to have the latest and greatest thing. Trust me, you keep your sanity and save a lot more money. So, what if my I-phone is six years old. So, what if my car is eleven years old. They both work, even though they are not the shiniest of toys.

The second example sounds anti-social, but it is not intended to be. We each have high maintenance acquaintances and friends. They tend to require a lot of tolerance, as they are intolerant. Some can be downright overbearing.

Please know that I am far from perfect. My wife would say the same, but she is one of the better listeners I have encountered. As a result, she tends to collect a few friends who need an audience. It should be noted, she must take breaks from these folks as they truly wear her out.

Life is tough enough without trying to have every new thing or using precious time being talked at by someone who needs a listener.

So, let’s grab those Hush Puppies and worry less about the glitter. Glitter is overrated anyway.

Do you have standing?

Do you have standing? What does that mean? It is a legal term that asks whether you are personally impacted by what you perceive as a slight.

Before the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was a protected right, it first ruled on California’s Proposition 8. This state law banned gays and lesbians from marrying. What was interesting is a conservative and liberal attorney joined together to fight this injustice. The key part of their argument was do people who marry have any impact on other people? They argued successfully that other folks do not have standing to prevent such marriage.

If what I do with my life does not impact you whatsoever, even though you may not like it, you do not have standing. And, vice versa. I have no standing in what you do, as long as you are not harming me. If you choose to have multiple affairs, marry a lesbian lover, worship as a Muslim, Evangelical or Universalist, or walk around naked inside your house, that is your business. I do not have standing to take legal action about my complaint. It is only when you harm me, that makes it an issue.

I mention this as people who want their freedoms somehow forget this point when they look to deny yours. This is a human shortcoming we must guard against. My rights cannot be more important than another person’s. This is where religious freedom laws often go a bridge too far. They remind me of when African Americans could not eat in a whites only restaurant. They had to go around back and get a to-go order.

When I see the Supreme Court say it is OK to decline service because of religious freedoms, let’s change the equation around and see if it stands up. Could a Muslim bakery refuse to provide a wedding cake to a wedding between a Muslim and a Baptist or interracial couple as these run counter to their religious beliefs. What about a Catholic bakery that refuses to make a wedding cake for a second marriage? What about a gay baker refusing to serve an Evangelical couple who openly advocated against his rights?

Even though the Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the baker could deny service to a gay couple’s wedding, it was a narrow ruling. Yet, did the baker have standing? He was not harmed by the gay couple. Go back to the previous examples to see the slippery slope.

I write this today as a result of the second anniversary of the Charlottesville riots. While groups have a right to peaceful assembly and protest, there is a subtle but important distinction on standing. A white supremacist who advocates against equal rights for non-whites does not have standing. A Black man’s rights do not impact the White man’s. Yet, someone who is protesting that you are advocating against my equal rights does have standing. A white supremacist is infringing on another’s rights.

We all have equal rights. Mine are no more important than yours. And, vice versa.

 

Don’t mess around with water problems

Many home owners have had an unfortunate history with water problems. Hopefully, the problems were confined or discovered and remedied before major catastrophe. In our extended family, we have had our share of both.

In the past few weeks, we discovered a pooling of water in my 3 1/2  foot crawl space (we have a humidity tarp down under). Was it rain seeping in or a pipe issue? We have remedied both issues in the past three years. In this case, the primary culprit was the degradation in the glued PVC pipes in the Jack-n-Jill bathroom at the front of the house, Two previous issues had been resolved during the past three years.

Yet, in this case, our plumber said the PVC pipes were twisting inside the bathroom, meaning a potential leak into the wood work and more. As he frankly put it, you may have this issue throughout the house as the same plumber did all of the work when the house was built. He said you may want to call your insurance company. It should be noted, he was not looking for revenue as he said a problem this big is beyond his resources.

So, we had the whole house replumbed. And, the plumbers did find two pipes (one from the washing machine) where the glue had disintegrated (but fortunately not leaked). It should be noted this was not a PVC issue that has led to class action lawsuits from homes built before 1990 -those PVC piped cracked and fell apart). The glue was either inferior or insufficiently applied. Now, the glue is primed first which is visible by a purple color left behind. It should be noted, the builder has long been out of business after its founder passed and the housing recession hit.

So, we avoided a catastrophe (knock on wood). We did have a major water issue in a previous house while we were out of the house, which is why we have a healthy respect for water problems. My mother lived in Florida in a house which sat on a concrete slab – the water has nowhere to go when it leaks. She had three separate water problems, the last one being concentrated in a closet causing mold, which is a dangerous exposure issue.

It should be noted insurance companies usually do not pay for plumbing. They pay for loss and restoration of furniture, walls, ceilings, framing, etc. So, the re-plumbing is on our nickel, but well worth it. The insurer  will pay for a certain portion of sheetrocking, respainting, and labor.

Yet, if a major problem occurred, we would have had water everywhere even coming through the ceiling from upstairs. Now, that would have been a huge expense for us and the insurance company.

Hopefully, this does the trick, again knock on wood. If you have a home, you likely have a water story. Feel free to share for newer home owner readers. As you don’t want to mess around with water problems.

What is this 314 Action?

You do not have to be an engineer to know that 314 with a decimal added after the three is Pi. So, it should not be a surprise to learn that 314 Action has something to do with math or science. What it represents is an attempt to get more scientists elected to office. Their mission statement is below.

“314 Action was founded by members of the STEM community, grassroots supporters and political activists who believe in science. We are committed to electing more STEM candidates to office, advocating for evidence-based policy solutions to issues like climate change, and fighting the Trump administration’s attacks on science.

Why ‘314 Action’? Because Pi is everywhere. It’s the most widely known mathematical ratio both inside and out of the scientific community. It is used in virtually everything we encounter in our daily lives — and like Pi, science is all around us. Too often, legislators choose to ignore science in favor of convenient beliefs or intuition. We are committed to electing more leaders who will use their training as STEM professionals to influence policy-making. Evidence-based reasoning should be the foundation of legislation related to issues like climate change, and gun violence.

314 Action is also devoted to aggressively advocating for a pro-science agenda in Washington, D.C. and in local and state legislatures. We will leverage our network of pro-science advocates to organize and effect change in areas where science is being maligned or disputed. As a unified STEM and pro-science community, we can combat the all-too-common attacks on basic scientific understanding.”

It greatly troubles me that our country is in desperate need of more STEM education and professionals. Yet, the current party in power denigrates scientists who are not supportive of their recommendations. That is more than a tad hypocritical. Under Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency has done a great deal to forget the word “Protection” in its name. Several judges have admonished Pruitt’s team efforts for the EPA’s lack of homework and data behind its recommendations. This will likely continue under his successor.

Science matters. Data matters. Scientists endeavor to get it right. They question themselves regarding the veracity of their research and find fault when shortcuts to research were taken. I was listening to NPR earlier this week about the efforts journalists go through to get it right. One said, when you read a source, look how they handle mistakes. Do the admit, correct and make visible the mistakes? If they don’t, find another source. Scientists are like that. I think we could use more than a few in our legislature and other offices.

Below, is a link to their endorsed scientist candidates. This is rather refreshing.

http://www.314action.org/endorsed-candidates-1/

McCain offers words of caution on Putin

I was sharing with Roger how some US Republicans have said they hold Vladimir Putin in higher regard than Nancy Pelosi and other US Democrats. In short, these folks are taking their eye off the ball. If they really feel this way, I have serious concerns around their judgment. Why would I say this?

In addition to his bent for invading or infiltrating former Soviet satellites, Putin has a history of ordering the elimination of his opposition. Either by murder, arrest or both, people who criticize the Russian leader have a habit of disappearing. In John McCain’s biography called “The Restless Wave,” he gives the example of Sergei Magnistky, among others, for whom the Magnitsky Act was passed to sanction Russia.

In short, Magnitsky, an auditor, went to bat for a US businessman who did business in Russia. When the businessman tried to extricate himself, his Russian business and its assets were seized by Putin under false pretenses. For his efforts, Magnitsky was jailed, where he was not treated for illnesses and was severely beaten, eventually dying in prison.

As is his nature, Putin took great offense at  the sanctions and made an executive order to cease US adoptions of Russian children.  Why is this important now? When Donald Trump, Junior and Senior, say the meeting at Trump Tower with the Russians was about adoptions, it is really about the existence of the Magnitsky Act and other sanctions that precipitated Putin’s cessation of adoptions.

Per McCain and other sources he cites, Putin, as a self-possessed strong man, reacts to strength, not weakness. He will keep doing what he is doing until the pain exceeds the gain. The sanctions hurt like hell, which is why he takes great offense when they are used, as he did today. So, unless the US punishes Putin for his cyber attack on America to sway public opinion, it will keep occurring with impunity.

The primary reason we know Putin is involved in the cyber attack is he controls everything in Russia. He pays attention to content of the US version of Russian Television so says former US anchors who left as a result. He pays attention to TV sitcoms to make sure they favor Putin on big items, while allowing some small criticism to avoid being too overt per a former producer of TV sitcoms. So, on the most impactful and cost effective tactic in modern warfare, where he can gain a great deal without ever firing a shot, of course, he is intimately involved in puppeteering the ongoing operation.

Putin is a shrewd man. He knows his stances against LGBT people in Russia, as well as repurposing the church as a center of influence, play well to US evangelicals. So, as he does his part to help break up western alliances and diminish democracies, as he is doing in the US, he is positioning himself as a global statesman.

Finally, there are two cautions from McCain we should heed. First, the source of the Steele Dossier about the Russians potential compromising information on the US President, Christopher Steele is a well-regarded professional, so says Sir Andrew Wood, former UK Ambassador to Russia. Issue has been made that the dossier was paid for as opposition research by first Republican opponents of Trump, but then by Clinton. But, McCain and Wood felt the dossier has enough veracity to get in the hands of the FBI.

Second, Putin views acquiescence as weakness. So, the US President’s fawning over Putin in Helsinki revealed Trump’s weakness. It was so weak, Putin actually walked away with too much (think about the sitcom story above), as it caused a backlash from the US Congress. He would have been better served if Trump appeared tougher towards Putin.

Trump contends there is pushback on his meeting with Putin. Of course, we should talk with other leaders who are at odds with is. I have not heard criticism of two parties talking. The criticism has been over being prepared and not being fooled. Putin, and Kim before him, have studied and prepared for such a meeting. The US President brags on winging it. That is not a good bargaining strategy.