Beware of folks – a few quick lessons taught us by the books on the former president

There are many books about the former president, both before, during and after his presidency. Some have been written by excellent authors who have done their homework. There are lessons to be gleaned on how not to act which need to be highlighted.

Beware of folks who claim all criticism is fake news or from sources who just don’t like them. These are a toddler’s response to mom finding her child’s hand in the cookie jar. “Mom, that is fake news.”

Beware of folks who cannot articulate a point of view without name-calling or labeling something. That is like defining the ingredients from the name on the jar. It is a short-cut to arguing and an attempt to mask a lack of understanding.

Beware of folks who take credit for all things good, even if their role was small or nonexistent, and blame others for all things bad, even if they had a heavy hand in things. A leadership consultant used that phrase often to define how to spot a leader.

Beware of folks who need fixers or sycophants to rationalize or make problems go away.

Beware of folks who bully other people into acquiescence. There is a name for people like that. A bully.

Beware of folks who have a hard time with the truth. Start with the base of not believing a word they say and then add back when they actually tell the truth on occasion.

Beware of folks who will blame institutions of people as scapegoats for their failings. Institutions are not perfect, but they tend to be served by hard working people who are more trustworthy than politicians.

Beware of people who refuse to be accountable for their actions. It is my fault or I could have done better will go a long way.

What do these men have in common?

Here are a few names I want you to think about for a few seconds. What do Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Roger Ailes, Jeffrey Epstein, Larry Nassar, Jerry Sandusky, Richard Strauss, Barry Bennett and numerous Catholic priests have in common? There are two things – they have been accused or convicted of sexual assault or misconduct and they have enablers who helped cover up their chronic abuse or infidelity. It is the enablers I want to focus on.

The enablers may have been more focused on protecting the reputation or brand of the entity, such as a university (Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State) or an organization (Catholic church, UK football, or the US Olympic Gymnastics). Yet, they did not step up to uncover what was going on or explained things away. Or, they just did not want to stick their neck out.

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno (lovingly called Joe Pa by fans), apparently knew of accusations of Jerry Sandusky’s predatory sexual tendencies with young boys, but enabled him to continue by not using his considerable gravitas to stop him. Other coaches and university officials were aware and did nothing or not enough.

Similar stories can be found in every sexual assault case involving a university or organization. Even Congressman Jim Jordan denies being told by several wrestlers on his team of Richard Strauss, the Ohio State medical doctor who fondled hundreds of male athletes. Yet, more than a few wrestlers, some who admired Jordan, said they told him. And, the Catholic church covering up for its pedophile priests is in its own league given the volume of priests.

Yet, the enablers who were involved with big name people, the bosses who sexually assaulted women as they had the power to make or break them, are also bothersome. These enablers did not just look the other way, which many also did, but some went out of their way to make the accusers’ stories vanish. The boss and his enablers would threaten people to acquiesce to a non-confidentiality agreement for a monetary settlement.

HBO is airing an excellent documentary on Ronan Farrow’s podcasts where he speaks with the reporters who helped him break the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault story. Weinstein could make or break a rising starlet’s career. Weinstein knew that and wielded that power like a weapon. He would threaten young women into sex or banish and bad mouth them to other studios. What finally broke him after twenty plus years was a few brave women who lost much, but went on the record along with a handful of others who shared their stories anonymously. And, one who kept a recording of him attempting a second assault.

Weinstein is a classic narcissist who bullied people for business or sexual acquiescence. One of the reporters who helped Farrow wrote Weinstein would “rape” business partners over testy financial concessions. He said the term rape was used by the other executives who felt cheated by him. Weinstein is not alone. This was common practice in the entertainment world. Yet, what is more troubling is it happens every day with men who abuse their power from retail store managers to military commanders to customer service center bosses.

And, politicians. Two former presidents are mentioned above. The latest former president in his pre-presidential career has been accused of sexual assault by about two dozen women along with a few consensual extra-marital affairs he did not want made public.He had a fixer who would enable him by making the accusation or story go away through confidential settlement. The other two-term president was a known womanizer who had more than a few extra-marital trysts when he was governor of Arkansas and president. While not accused of assault, his trysts would surface from time to time with the more famous one causing him to lie under oath.

The enablers must cease helping these folks. One of the biggest accused enablers, Ghislaine Maxwell, will be standing trial for “finding” girls (some under age) for her boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual parties for guests. Three people of note that knew Epstein include the two presidents above and Prince Andrew. So, this trial will get much notoriety

These predatory or overbearing men have taken advantage of their positions and power. Yet, the enablers have aided and abetted their efforts. These folks are equally concerning as they should know better.

Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein levels GOP after General Milley book

In an article by Ken Riley of Mediaite called “Carl Bernstein Absolutely Levels GOP for Ignoring Threat Posed By ‘Crazy, Delusional, Authoritarian, Dangerous, Criminal’ Trump,” Riley reports on comments made by Bernstein in an interview on New Day. Excerpts from the article follow, but the entire article can be linked to below.

“Bernstein joined New Day on Thursday to discuss ‘I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year,’ the incoming new book about General Mike Milley from the Washington Post‘s Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. He was specifically asked for his thoughts about how Milley not only compared Trump to Adolf Hitler, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also began to formulate a backup plan in case Trump tried to launch a coup.

Bernstein began by commenting that the report, while ‘extraordinary,’ merely confirmed, ‘what we already knew, that we had a crazy, delusional, authoritarian, dangerous, criminal president of the United States.

His character, his authoritarianism, his recklessness, his homicidal negligence through the pandemic. All of this was known to our leaders, and the party of Trump and the party of McConnell and what we saw in the insurrection. These are all things that were embraced up until the last minute by McConnell and Republican leadership. And they continue to be embraced: Trumpism, in all its derangement, terror and horror.

As the conversation continued to address the full connotations of Milley’s remarks, Bernstein offered his disgust over the likelihood that they will be ‘dismissed immediately’ by the Trump movement. As he mused on Milley directly tying neofascism to Trumpism, Bernstein asked ‘how did we get to a place where the leader of the American military compared the president of the United States to Hitlerian fascism?’”

I truly am tired of writing about the most deceitful and corrupt acting president in my lifetime, which now must include the word seditious to describe his actions. His actions and statements are overt and it puzzles me how so many critics can be so easily dismissed. His followers have shown a desire to stick with a person who is well-documented by numerous resources and people as untruthful.

It may go down in history as one of the biggest con jobs. But, don’t take my word for it, just read some of what the former president’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Or, if you don’t like his comments, the former president’s Secretary of Defense James Mattis said “Donald Trump does not even try to unite us.” Yet, the most all encompassing comment comes from Michael Cohen, the former president’s attorney and fixer (why one needs a fixer is in and of itself a concern), when he said under oath to Congress “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.”

Carl Bernstein Rips Republicans Ignoring Threat From Trump (mediaite.com)

Democrats keep missing a key message

As an Independent and former Republican and Democrat voter, I wish I could have the opportunity to have detailed conversations with MAGA folks. Whether folks like Bernie or not, he is going to take his message to the MAGA world. Some may not like progressive policies, but Bernie tends to speak the truth. To me Democrats have tended to be lousy marketers missing out on a key, data centric message.

Since 1921, there have been thirteen Republican White Houses and going on thirteen Democrat White Houses. Under which White Houses have the most jobs been created? The answer is the Democrat White Houses and it is not even close. I recognize presidents get too much credit and too much blame for the economy, but the data reveals over 2x the number of jobs created in those periods under Democrats. Other measures show the economy and capital markets do better under Democrat White Houses as well.

What is interesting is my anecdotal evidence shows even Democrats think it is the opposite. Democrats should be more aggressive with that message. The former president inherited an economy that was 91 months into consecutive growth with 2 million plus jobs added for six straight years. To the former president’s credit it continued, got a little better for a little while with the sugar rush of the tax cut and then returned to pre-tax cut levels, before the botched handling of COVID-19 by the former president sank it

What still amazes me about the incompetent COVID-19 handling, is the ball was sitting on the tee for the former president to do what he craves, be presidential. But, he whiffed. He proceeded to play up a hoax, endangered his own MAGA followers by holding public events, and then continued to naysay it where many of his followers refuse to consider masks or vaccines. All occurring after he confided in Bob Woodward that he knew of the dangers. And, this is the person some want to return to the White House?

So, Democrats need to seize the message. They are the party of jobs and here is the data. If they don’t, Republicans will paint them with whatever message sells. And, if Democrats don’t believe me, in 2012 Republicans were told in memo form to use the term “failed stimulus” when speaking of Obama’s stimulus package. Even Democrats believed this, but what is funny, the stimulus did not fail. Per six econometric firms included the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus package was accretive to the economy.

What would happen if…

The Mamas and the Papas sang the lamentation “Monday, Monday.” It is the least favorite day of the week, poor Monday. People do not want to go back to work and the snooze delay on the alarm gets a workout. So, let’s brighten this Monday by asking a few what if questions. What would happen if…

  • All the money used to house, protect, garden, compensate and communicate for royal families with no power was instead used to provide scholarships or housing to people in need. Queen Elizabeth, you have been grand, but your role is not really that needed to run the country and being a ceremonial mascot (as my Political Science professor termed it) is an expense we do not need.
  • Legislators, presidents and other elected officials had term limits. OK, will give you senators and presidents two terms, three for Congress members. And, no lobbying immediately following your tenures. If donors knew there is a time limit on their investment, they may be less inclined to fund candidates. With limited time, the candidates may devote more time to doing their jobs – right now two Senator terms counting twelve years amounts to less than eight years of work given the estimated fund raising time.
  • Fact checkers at a press conference are armed with super-soaker water guns and each time the politician lied more than a little, he or she would get soaked. By the end of one of the former president’s press conferences, he would have one wet suit.
  • Politicians who name call or label folks are sent to a corner to sit in time-out. Ted, go back in your corner. Not that one, that one is reserved for Donald. When you can debate without name calling, we will let you back into the discussion Of course, we may need more corners to rooms.
  • Politicians should be like pro golfers and wear their funders’ logos on their shirts and visors. In fact, they should shed the suits, as that gives the appearance of more gravitas than many deserve by their words and actions. We will then see that said politician is funded by these six organizations. And, none of the euphemistic PAC labelling – tell us who really supports you. NRA, Exxon Mobil, Dupont….

That is enough for now. In my view, the world would be a better place if we did any of the above. It would be more fun and truthful, as well.

Shore up the ACA – letter to the editor

My local newspaper ran my following letter to the editor Sunday. I have been preaching the message of improving the Affordable Care Act for seven years offering suggestions. I will link to one of those posts below. What I have never cared for is the naysaying, sabotaging and attempts to repeal it that have been a substitute for debate in the Republican party.

The legislation Republicans almost rammed through in 2017 was ill-conceived, poorly developed and punitive to multiple millions of Americans. These were the key reasons Senator John McCain saved the GOP from itself and voted it down before he died.

“Three times now the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act in the face of Republican attempts to rule it unconstitutional.

Per this retired actuary, benefits consultant and benefits manager, the ACA is not perfect and could use some improvements. But it is helping Americans, including provisions required in employer sponsored plans, which people tend to forget.

What has puzzled me for 10 years is that the law is somewhat based on Republican ideas, the latest being Romneycare in Massachusetts, which at least one Tea Party leader, S.C.. Sen. Jim DeMint, once supported.   

My strong advice to my former party, stop trying to screw Americans by killing the ACA and let’s find ways to shore up its deficiencies.”

Please stabilize the Affordable Care Act NOW to help Americans | musingsofanoldfart (wordpress.com)

Who’s got the monkey? (a revisit to an earlier post)

Henry Ford once said, “Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain.” It reminded me of an article I read about twenty years ago called “Who’s got the monkey?” penned by William Oncken, Jr. and Donald Wass.

In essence, the article is designed to help managers budget their time.* The authors called the delegation of an assignment – the monkey. The manager has passed along the oversight of this task to a member of his or her team. Yet, what often happens the team member will get stumped and bring the problem back and place the monkey on the manager’s shoulders.

The only result of this process is the manager becomes a bottleneck and nothing gets done, as the manager lacks the time. The manager also gets frustrated and stressed. The key theme of this article is for the manager to not accept the monkey back, unless one condition has been met. The monkey comes back with a couple of ideas to solve the impasse. Rather than bringing an unsolved problem back, the subordinate brings a solvable problem that just needs an OK.

So, if a team member just hands the problem back, the manager should not accept the monkey and ask that he or she work through a couple of paths forward. So, Henry Ford quote is very relevant, in my view. The article can be linked to below.

*Note: Management is hard work and often it does not get done as well as it should due to busy schedules or unfamiliarity with what is needed. One of the best pieces of advice came from a staff member of a very busy manager. She helped the manager manage her by making the best use of his time. She asked if she could set-up a fifteen briefing with him a couple of times a week to ask him questions and tell him where she is on various projects. The manager loved the focused time. It was her way of managing up.

https://hbr.org/1999/11/management-time-whos-got-the-monkey

Stop trying to keep your job and start doing your job

Too many legislators and elected incumbents focus on trying to keep their job rather than doing their job. As a result, things do not get done, as every issue becomes a wedge issue rather than one that needs to be solved. I have grown long past weary on this lack of leadership and stewardship.

In my career, I have consulted on and actually been a part of several mergers between organizations, both for-profit and non-profit entities. Effective mergers require due diligence, planning and diplomacy. It should not surprise people, but the majority of mergers fail to be as accretive to the cumulative value of the two separate entities as first envisioned. Some actually are dilutive to that combined value – in other words, they fail.

One of the reasons is people involved tend to focus on keeping their jobs or getting good money to leave. They get overly protective of the way their organization does things, even if they do not know why they do it that way. They worry about keeping their job and less about doing their job. One of my favorite examples is two incumbents in a merger zealously vied for the same job verbally undercutting the efforts of the other. The boss decided to hire neither one of them as both showed their true colors.

Politicians in Washington and other capitols around the world and country tend to do this. They are failing to do their jobs and work together to solve problems. If the other side has an idea, its veracity is less important than the fact it must be defeated as the other side raised it. The fact that neither side owns all of the good ideas and both sides own some bad ones should make a difference.

These people in leadership positions are supposed to solve problems, not bark like a a junkyard dog at the other side. We citizens must insist they work together. Name callers need to be criticized and asked what they do not like about the other side’s ideas. If you do not like something, tell us what you propose and avoid barking at the other side? That serves little purpose and it certainly is not governance or rebuttal argument.

We must tell people in leadership positions to stop trying to keep your job and start doing your job. You owe it to us to do so. If you cannot do this, then resign – it matters not what party you belong to. You could start by stop spending 1/3 of your time or more fundraising and use that time to do the people’s work.

Black Wednesday for three oil companies





It was a bad week for three big oil companies which culminated with news on Wednesday. In an article in The Guardian called
“‘Black Wednesday’ for big oil as courtrooms and boardrooms turn on industry” by Jillian Ambrose, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Chevron all received a message they need to do better in complying with actions to combat climate change.

A link to the article is below. Here are a few select paragraphs that give you the gist.

“The world’s patience with the fossil fuel industry is wearing thin. This was the stark message delivered to major international oil companies this week in an unprecedented day of reckoning for their role in the climate crisis.

In a stunning series of defeats for the oil industry, over the course of less than 24 hours, courtrooms and boardrooms turned on the executives at Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron. Shell was ordered by a court in The Hague to go far further to reduce its climate emissions, while shareholder rebellions in the US imposed emissions targets at Chevron and a boardroom overhaul at Exxon.

‘There is no doubt that this week’s news has been not so much a shot across the bows as a direct hit to the hull of Big Oil,’ says Mark Lewis, the chief sustainability strategist at BNP Paribas Asset Management. ‘They will have to recognise now that no amount of patching up the hole will do; shareholders and society want the vessel completely overhauled.’

‘It was honestly a really emotional moment,’ says Jasper Teulings, the former general counsel for Greenpeace International. The ruling by the Dutch court ordering Shell to cut its emissions by 45% within the next 10 years ‘shifts the debate’ and could influence courtrooms across the globe, he told the Guardian.

‘It makes clear that the onus is on the industry to act, and that it can be held accountable to take very specific steps. It’s very relevant in legal terms because the ruling was very pure in its demand: it’s not about money, it’s about conduct. It was astutely reasonable,’ he says.”

This is a major step forward for those fighting to corral and reverse climate change. The shareholder actions are indicative of a movement that started making strides in 2017 requiring three energy companies to inform shareholders of their progress in addressing climate change.

Let’s hope management is listening. With the removal of a couple of board members, that is a clear sign they better.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/29/black-wednesday-for-big-oil-as-courtrooms-and-boardrooms-turn-on-industry

I am still here





One of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian born to a Jamaican mother and English father. In an interview, he responded to a question about his ability to look from afar at issues close at hand. He noted his bizarre appearance made him an obvious outsider, so he crafted an outside looking in perspective.

One of his books is called “David and Goliath” about how underdogs sometimes are not whom they first appear to be. In one of his examples, he noted the Nazi’s bombing of London during World War II was actually counterproductive. Why?

People did perish and were injured. And, buildings were destroyed. But, the lion’s share of Londoners were not impacted other than being frightened. They were also galvanized with a defiant “I am still here.”

We should not set aside that galvanizing affect as it is crucial to the British resolve. Outside of tacit support from America before December 7, 1941, the British bore the heavy load to fight the Nazis and Italians in the Europe/ Africa campaign. I am still here was a big part of their perseverance, especially after near catastrophe at Dunkirk which may have cost them severe loss of soldiers had it not been for a make-shift volunteer navy.

Standing up against tyrants and bullies requires that kind of perseverance. It is said the tenacious Winston Churchill was the ideal man to lead Great Britain during these times. He saw Adolph Hitler for exactly who he was – a psychopathic tyrant. Churchill’s predecessor tried to appease Hitler, which seems ludicrous in hindsight. You don’t stroke a bully.

The only way to stand up to a bully is with resolve. Please remember that when bullies and liars try to denigrate and gaslight you. The truth is your ally. So, is your conviction. I am still here. And, I know who and what you are.