The real replacement practices

This concept of replacement theory where white workers are subject to a planned replacement by black and brown workers has been around for decades. In fact, the fascists in England were using this replacement theory in the early 1960s, of course, blaming Jews for its orchestration. In essence, the theory says white workers’ jobs are being systematically replaced by immigrants and those other people who don’t belong here. Sound familiar? Yet, this replacement theory well preceded the 1960s.

It is all subterfuge to create fear and blame others for your problems. Fear has been used to sell ideas and manipulate people for a long time. Overstating an inflammable cause is one way to do that. The fear of the other overlooks the deeper problems for loss of jobs and disenfranchisement. The key reasons for disenfranchisement are the actual replacement practices that we need to address. These are not some theory, but deployed routinely and recurringly in practice.

There are two key reasons, which impact all workers of all colors:

– technology improvements which reduce the number of workers needed, and

– CEOs chasing cheaper labor to lower the cost of production

The latter cause manifests itself in offshoring, outsourcing, or migration of factories. For example, the textile industry has left a trail of closed plants as the industry moved from England to the United States first in New England and then to southern states. Then in the 1980s, the heavy migration occurred to China and Mexico and eventually to Vietnam and Bangladesh searching for cheaper labor. One company that comes to mind went from 86,000 US employees in 1980 to about 4,000 today, with the rest abroad. That is not an isolated example and it is not just manufacturing work. It is call center, IT, analysis, etc. The US based insurance industry has been shipping claim forms for review to Ireland as the Irish were, on average, more literate than Americans, even before technology made it easier to get the Irish to review them.

The former cause has been occurring routinely as well, but has accelerated once again with the advancement in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Yet, a robot need not look like a humanoid to be effective. Computer driven machines and robotic appendages have evolved over time. I watched a “60 Minutes” episode about ten years ago, which demonstrated a programmable robotic machine that went for the price of a car to be used by small businesses. The tasks need not be complex to improve efficiency, so these cheaper machines could replace a half-dozen workers.

So, when you hear immigration is a problem, that does not address the main issues. Of course, the immigration system could be improved and opportunities to do so were not voted on after some agreement even by some of the most vocal critics. But, there are some industries and municipalities that need more workers. Those workers need to be trained or trainable, so some may come from abroad and some from here.

Where we need to focus our attention is working with new and old industries in transition and community colleges to train new workers. The coal industry has been on the demise for a dozen years, but some politicians have been clinging on to its protection. I have said several times, whether or not you like Senator Bernie Sanders, he was the only presidential candidate in 2016 to stand up in front of coal miners and tell them the truth – your jobs are going away, but here is what I plan to do about it.

In this vein, some towns are dilapidated by closed factories that moved. The forward thinking towns invested in bringing new workers from whereever they could. They developed initiatives to reinvest in the area using the brainpower of the new and old blood mixed together. They developed incentives to draw younger adults to their towns. And, it worked.

The issue of workers needing more opportunity and investment is where we need to focus our attention. This is a good example of a group of PR people coming up with an issue, blowing it way out of proportion as the problem, and putting it on a bumper sticker. “Build a wall” some might say as the panacea. Ironically, when the major proponent of that comment accepted a deal to get $25 billion for this wall in exchange for making DACA law, he was talked out of it. This was his number one issue, but he said no after saying yes. Why? He knew it would not solve the problems and his bluff had been called.

Our problems are complex and have multiple factors. One of the tenets of the book “Built to Last” by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum is most of America’s major problems over time were solved in concert between some combination of government (federal, state and/ or local), venture capital, and private industry or philanthropy investment. We won’t solve our problems unless we identify them and their many causes. We won’t solve them by listening to opinion hosts and candidates who are trying to scare, who really don’t want to solve anything other than getting someone elected.

We will solve them by looking at the facts, coming up with a plan, getting buy-in and funding and making it happen. That is hard to put on a bumper sticker of define in a two-minute sound byte by an opinion host.

Wednesday wanderings in mid-May

We should have another warm day here, so walking may make us “glisten,” a word my wife uses for perspiration. So, as we glisten on our walk about, let me share a few of my wandering thoughts.

The votes from yesterday’s mid-term primaries are being tallied, so I will save commentary for another day, with two exceptions. With almost 100% of the votes counted, it looks like Rep. Madison Cawthorn will be unseated in his first election as an incumbent. His failure to: realize on three occasions a driver needs a driver license, understand he cannot carry a weapon onto a plane on two occasions, appreciate claiming your Republican colleagues are having orgies and coke parties is not the way to make friends, and recognize that not doing much of anything other than abet the former president’s Big Lie and insurrection of Congress is not conducive to good governance. It should be noted Cawthorn lost in the middle of a heavy Republican district, which speaks volumes.

The other exception is Rep. Ted Budd, a non-apologetic Trump sycophant, won the Republican primary to fill the US Senate seat of retiring Richard Burr. That is unfortunate, as we may end up with another strident Senate member who is replacing a more moderate Republican in Burr. He will be running against a very good Democrat candidate in Judge Cheri Beasley’s whose commercials and record are exemplar. I am sure she will be attacked, but she is a far more credible candidate than Budd. I just hope the voters in North Carolina listen to her and what she is saying. And, that there are no termites in the woodwork like with the candidate who was about to beat the junior Senator in 2020 before he did something stupid.

I am certain there will be a mixed bag of results in the Republican primaries due to the support of the former president. When I see or hear the endorser on a TV ad, it truly makes me ill. A person who has divided our country further with his Big Lie because he is not man enough to accept defeat and who instigated an insurrection on a branch of government to stay in power is not someone whose opinion lends itself to credibility. But, with too few Republicans actually pushing back on the bullying and untruthful acting former president, coupled with troubling policies on climate change, gun governance, civil rights, health care access and making rich people richer, it makes it easier to not vote for any Republicans in the general election. The climate change and environmental issues alone are a reason to avoid putting more Republicans in place.

I know I will offend Republicans and conservatives, who will offer “what about” comments. As an Independent and former Republican of twenty plus years and Democrat of five plus years, I disagree on policies with both parties. Yet, I find myself arguing policy issues with Democrats and the truth with Republicans. With too many Republicans listening to sources who parrot disinformation and conspiracy stories makes it difficult to counter arguments that will be heard. And, Republicans are much better than Democrats at PR on focusing attention on issues that are not really as big a deal as portrayed. It is akin to creating an issue that can be carried around like a handbag and hit someone over the head with it.

People laugh when I say this, but in 2010-12 elections, the GOP candidates all spoke of the “failed stimulus” plan, with a mandate that both words be used together. Even Democrats believed it. The problem is the stimulus did not fail and was measured as accretive to GDP growth by six econometric firms. And, it should be noted both a Republican and Democrat president were involved in separate stimulus plans. Yet, the PR campaign was successful.

All I ask is to look at people’s stances on real issues, not contrived ones. What do you plan to do about climate change? What do you plan to do about gun governance? What do you plan to do about the growing white supremacy movement? What will you do to assure health care is available to people? What will you do to preserve the rights of women as the exist today? What do you plan to do about our US debt and deficit? What do you plan to do about inflation, other than just complain about it? And, so on.

Wednesday wanderings on a spring day

It is certainly a great day to wander about, but I think I will mow the grass first. Mowing has always been a chore I don’t mind, as you can see your progress as you go. Plus, freshly cut grass has a fresh smell. Since I have a battery powered mower, I don’t have to worry about inhaling gas fumes.

As I mow or wander, I can do some good thinking. I find myself thinking about past events and friends, since some of the current day issues are puzzling at best. I read a post (it may have been Jill or Joy’s) that some celebrity said “act like a grown up” used to be an admonition to misbehaving children. Now, we have too many grown-ups that act like spoiled toddlers. Of course, when some stand firmly behind one of the biggest acting toddlers as a former and possible future presidential candidate, it truly shows how low we have fallen.

We have too many that forget there is a responsibility that comes with our liberties. When my freedom to do things could be harmful to your freedoms, then we must cease or reconsider those actions. The opposite should be true. It reminds me of the caution to the newly launched Spiderman, when his grandfather said “with great power comes great responsibility.” Our freedoms to do things that are not permissible in some countries is a great power. Yet, we must honor it, nurture it, protect it for all.

Some have taken reaction to actual or perceived offenses to an awful degree. Just because someone disagrees with you, does not entitle you to hurt, threaten or kill the other person. Full stop. Just because you cannot tolerate failure, does not entitle you to turn over the chess board, throw a tantrum, claim cheating or instigate an attack on a branch of government. Full stop. Just because you are in a position of authority does not entitle you to ignore the people you represent. A good leader listens to others. A foolish one does not. Full stop.

There are many old lessons that are getting ignored these days. A key one is if someone has to tell you how great he or she is, then maybe we should look a little deeper as to why he or she is having to tell us such. When a colleague was complaining about being removed from marketing to a prospective client, unsuccessfully over several years, he said “I have known John for twenty years.” The thought running through my head was “And, he has known you.”

Whether you are religious or not, in many religious texts is some variation of Jesus’ golden rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. Let’s be responsible to each other. Let’s be civil in our discourse. Let’s protect their freedoms like they were our own. Let’s try not to be blowhards and listen to each other. Spiderman’s grandpa has a good lesson for us all.

Recent history lessons

After seeing the border wall with Mexico touted by more than a few candidates as a campaign issue, I felt a recent history lesson would help the focus. Both parties have failed to address fixes to our immigration system over the years, but the “build that wall” issue is one touted as the major solution dating back to the famous escalator ride by a former president to announce his candidacy. The following is a letter I sent to my newspaper.

As campaigners speak of the border crisis as a major issue, we should remember our history. In June 2013, a bipartisan group of eight Senators helped pass a pretty good immigration bill in the Senate by a vote of 68-32. Yet, Speaker John Boehner refused to bring it to a vote in the House as not resolving the issue was better politically for his party. This led to President Obama’s executive order on DACA as the House would not act.

A few years later, President Trump agreed to a deal of $25 billion for his wall and to allow DACA to become law one morning with Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin. By that afternoon, Graham and Durbin arrived for the big announcement only to find the more hard core Senators convinced Trump not doing anything would be better politically. Mind you the wall was his #1 issue, but he reneged on his deal.

We can solve problems only if we act instead of beating on our chests saying we will.

Are US hospitals in trouble?

Many hospitals, especially more rural ones, have been in trouble for some time. More on the rural hospitals later.

“More than 33% of all hospitals are operating on negative margins, according to the American Hospital Association,” per Michael Popke of Benefits Pro in a piece called “America’s hospitals facing ‘massive growth in expenses’.” Here are two select paragraphs from the piece that tell the gist of the story.

“Hospital employment is down approximately 100,000 from pre-pandemic levels, while hospital labor expenses per patient through 2021 were more than 19% higher than pre-pandemic levels. A new report from the American Hospital Association highlights the financial and operational toll the pandemic and inflation has taken on hospitals — concluding that more than one-third are operating on negative margins.

‘Hospitals and health systems have been nimble in responding to surges in COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic by expanding treatment capacity, hiring staff to meet demand, acquiring and maintaining adequate supplies and personal protective equipment to protect patients and staff, and ensuring that critical services and programs remain available to the patients and communities they serve,’ notes the nine-page report released this month. ‘However, these and other factors have led to billions of dollars in losses over the last two years for hospitals.’”

Per an article called “The South’s health care system is crumbling under Covid-19. Enter Tennessee” by Daniel Payne of Politico, the demise of heath care in more rural areas has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

“Rural hospital closures have been accelerating, with 181 since 2005 — and over half of those happening since 2015, according to data from the University of North Carolina. But that may be just the beginning. Over 450 rural hospitals are at risk of closure, according to an analysis by the Chartis Group, one of the nation’s largest independent health care advisory firms.”

The rural hospital concerns predate the advent of the Affordable Care Act. Too many hospitals had high percentages of indigent health care costs, meaning people without insurance. If they were not funded by a county, the hospital was at severe risk of closing. Since fourteen states have still not expanded Medicaid under the ACA, the opportunity for getting paid did not increase and many have closed. And, the patients, employees and communities suffer.

Yet, a major part of this cost dilemma existed before COVID-19. The US has the most expensive health care system in the world, but we rank around 38th in health care quality. That is a pretty poor rate of return on one’s spend. Hospitals spent too much on technologies that need to be used. There exists a correlation between the ownership of a technology and its higher frequency of use. Yet, with COVID-19 and its aftermath, fewer elective procedures and tests were done in hospitals.

These issues need to be evaluated outside of the political lens and with data. Yet, that is not bound to happen. It would at least be helpful to see more people covered with full Medicaid expansion, but that has been politicized for zero-sum game reasons, not to actually help people. It would be helpful to see Medicare expanded, at least down to age 62 from 65. As Medicare works reasonably well, I would like to see it go lower, but whatever we do, it should be evaluated on its results, not a politician’s beliefs.

If people think I am unfairly picking on politicians, it would not be a stretch to say most politicians do not know a whole lot about health care. We saw this with the atrocious “throw stuff against the wall” repeal and replace discussion in 2017 by the thirteen Republicans, which came within one vote from passing the Senate. That would have screwed about 20 million Americans. Senator John McCain gave it a thumbs down vote for its lack of veracity and its poor protocols on evaluation.

And, we saw it with the discussions and passing of the ACA, which Republicans refused to vote for which is strange since it has several Republican ideas in it from Romneycare in Massachusetts, when Mitt Romney was governor there. The ACA is not perfect, but at least we should fully implement it and shore up its deficiencies. It is only people’s lives.

The limits of sequential thinking – a reprise

The following post was written a few years ago, but I stumbled upon it today. It stands the test of time regardless of how one tracks progress.

What does sequential thinking mean, you might be asking? Many of us think in a sequential order. Basically, it means I cannot think about a certain thing, because it comes after what I need to do next. Sequential thinking is at odds with a working or living environment that demands a multi-tasking mindset.

When I say multi-tasking, I am not referring to doing more than one thing at one time, although that is its most common description. What I mean is having a list of multiple things to do and balancing the priority and times of when you plan to do them. It is akin to walking while juggling balls in the air. The key is to not drop any balls while you keep walking.

Let me use a few examples to emphasize my point. I may have a list of ten or twenty things to do. I receive information to do one of the items, but that item is not needed for a week. Sequential thinking would push doing that project until later in the week. But, what if you have a hard deadline and the information provided might be incomplete?

The military doctors and nurses coined an apt term called “triage.” So, a multi-tasking way to think of this would be to triage the information for the later project as an earlier step. Then, if it is incomplete, you could ask the sender to clarify or send additional input. Then, you can move onto other things while you wait.

Another example is moving forward with pieces of a project before having all the needed steps complete. One of the best project managers I have ever worked with would apportion a large report out in pieces for earlier completion. She would have folks working on producing the Appendix, Sections 5, 8, 11 and 14, e.g., while the analysis was being done to complete the key findings and recommendations. So, the supporting sections could be completed, so as to reduce the time crunch at the end once the analysis was done.

Although the last paragraph makes so much sense, it is not as widely practiced as you would think. Neither is the triaging concept, except in medical emergency settings. The other thing these two approaches avoid is the bottle-neck created by other projects and demands. And, in so doing, it enables deadlines to be better fulfilled.

As I write this, I recall a very demanding client. She could be a hard-ass on staff, but at the heart of her criticisms often was a legitimate one. If you told her a deadline, she expected you to meet it. The key was to give her a deadline that could be met, not in a vacuum, but in recognition that you had other things to do.

People like to please and hate telling people no. But, having been a consultant and client manager for ages, I would rather someone tell me they were too busy to help, forcing me to find another source, or avoid giving me too aggressive a deadline. This may not surprise people, but many deadlines that are not met are set by the person doing the work, not the client. Managing expectations is vital.

A favorite author, Malcolm Gladwell, confessed in an interview that he writes in an unusual way that works for him. He said he does not do all his research up front, so he outlines the idea, does some research, writes some, does more research, writes some more and so on. Why? Two reasons – he said he would get bored doing all the research, then writing. Plus, the research is fresher in his mind when he writes soon thereafter. He portions out the work in smaller more manageable segments.

Sequential thinking can get in the way of moving forward. I am not suggesting everyone will think like Gladwell or the best project manager I mention above, but think in terms of smaller, earlier steps to move things along.

It is up to us

Since our elected officials seem to be too concerned with zero-sum games where one must win and the other lose in this childish age of tribal politics, it is truly up to us to demand better from them. We need leaders to be among our better angels, not our worse demons. If they cannot tell us the truth, then they need to step aside.

All politicians will lie to embellish their roles in anything good, and blame the other side for anything bad, but they give themselves too much credit for influence. Yet, we have one party, in particular, whom a conservative pundit named Michael Gerson said is in “decay” because it is untethered to the truth and lawfulness. Republicans cannot vilify their truth tellers and exalt their liars and be taken seriously. Democrats are not perfect, but at least they are trying to address real issues and not contrived ones to garner votes.

I am an independent voter who has been a member of both parties. I am long past weary of this BS. Regardless of party, we cannot have a former president perpetuate a lie he has failed miserably at proving and then incite an insurrection on another branch of government. America was already at odds with itself, but the chasm is greater because a person with a fragile ego is not man enough to admit he lost an election. As his niece said, “my uncle will burn it all down to avoid losing the election.” And, people admire the former president? Really?

It used to be believed that a lead buck would lead the pack of deer to where they needed to go. Studies have shown that the pack of deer will actually make decisions to move based on perceived threats or opportunities. The buck will just follow along. We are the deer and politicians are the bucks. We must lead them out of harm’s way, which is a way of saying we need to save them from themselves.

Letter to hometown Florida newspaper

Having grown up in Florida, I still try to keep tabs of the news there. My hometown newspaper was kind enough to print my recent letter to the editor. I was unaware they did so until a friend reached out in agreement. That was nice to hear.

Here is the letter in its entirety:

“I am an xxxx High graduate, class of 1976, now living in North Carolina and a digital Times-Union subscriber. My home state of Florida deserves better leadership than it is getting. To this independent and former Republican, it is embarrassing to see a governor who is more concerned with appealing to the more strident base of voters than actually governing to solve problems.  

Too many issues seem contrived to garner votes and too many fights are picked that are unnecessary. Yet, this is not inconsistent with his behavior before his current position. 

Per my favorite conservative pundit Michael Gerson, my former party is in “decay,” untethered to the truth and needs leaders to help them get on a better path forward. I do not see the Florida governor as one of those people. We need our leaders to be among our better angels, not our worst demons.”

I am positive my letter will be dismissed by some as I no longer live there. And, I am sure my letter will be dismissed by others as I am no longer in the Republican party. Yet, I did not make up what Michael Gerson called my former party, nor will I apologize for saying the GOP needs to get on a better path forward. We need a viable conservative voice in our country, but we currently do not have one. That is unfortunate.

Retiring Republican Congressman shares concerns

In an article in Politico by Nick Niedzwiadek called “Fred Upton: Slim House majority could spell trouble for post-midterms GOP,” the Congressman makes a few key points.

“Outgoing Rep. Fred Upton on Sunday said fellow Republicans may find it difficult to unite the various wings of the party if they prevail in taking back the House in the November midterms….

Upton said that if Republicans only obtain a slim majority, that would give additional leverage to firebrand members like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) who could complicate leadership’s ability to corral votes on key issues such as raising the debt ceiling.”

It should be noted that Upton is one of the more rational Republican legislators having called the former president and his sycophants on the carpet for their lies and misdeeds. I remember calling his office three or four times to compliment his political courage. In this respect it is sad to see him go.

Yet, as a former Republican and Democrat and now Independent voter, I must encourage voters who believe in addressing the real issues of the day, rather than the ones fabricated and created by the Republican party to garner votes, to not vote for any Republican. Per conservative pundit, Michael Gerson, the GOP is in “decay.” In my view, they are adrift untethered to the truth and lawfulness. The real RINOs are those beating on their chest in support of the deceitful, bullying and seditious acting former president. A party cannot denigrate its truth tellers, like Upton, and exalt its liars and those who won’t call out the liars.

Climate change is a huge issue that 70% of Americans believe must be addressed, which would be higher if not for the misinformation and disinformation pushed by the fossil fuel industry through their funded legislators. Better gun governance must be addressed. The attack on civil and voting rights must be addressed. The debt and deficit must be addressed. Health care access is critical to many. Democrats are far from perfect, but at least they are trying to address issues.

All I see from folks like the Texas and Florida governors and others is an invention of social issues that they contend are demonizing the country. Sadly, these fear tactics work. Rewriting history works, as well. The former president lost a fair election, but his ego is too fragile to be man enough to accept it. The former president inherited an economy that was the third longest growth period in our history at 91 consecutive months, with 2 million plus jobs for six straight years and a more than doubled stock market under his predecessor. He did not create that, nor does any president for that matter, but it did continue for thirty more months until the pandemic hit.

Please focus on the issues. There are good Republicans to consider, but they seem to be outgunned or are too silent. I disagree with Rep. Liz Cheney and Senator Mitt Romney on a number of issues, but they at least telling the truth about the decay of the party and the seditious actions of the former president.

I have shared with numerous Senators and Congressional representatives that we need a viable Republican party who can put forth conservative ideas. Right now, we don’t have one, as it has been pirated away by the likes of the former president, those two governors, and a host of strident demonizers, the real RINOs. Unfortunately, fear sells. The fact is too few consider the lack of veritas of the fear peddler. And, too many are willing to go along for the ride as it takes too much political courage not to.

Friday follies and foibles

While I am sick and tired of being sick and tired with tribal politics and traitorous actions, let me offer a veritable potpourri of follies and foibles this Friday. In no particular order:

The Ukraine forces sank a big Russian ship or at least it is submerged. Russians say everything is OK and it is being towed back. I am reminded of the knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” who said after losing yet one more appendage, “It is a flesh wound.”

Republican appointed US District Judge Reggie Walton on Thursday called Donald Trump a threat to democracy, accusing the former president of instigating a mob of “weak-minded” followers to attack the US Capitol on January 6, Politico reported. While Trump did not offer a rebuttal, it is expected that he will call the judge a loser, Trump-hater and/or witch-hunter. It is also expected Trump will make no mention that Walton was appointed by a Republican.

Intel is proceeding with a new computer chip factory in Lorain County Ohio. Yes, that is in the United States, so you read that right. What I also find interesting is the community college started teaching microelectronics about nine years ago creating a workforce that could be drawn upon. Call me crazy, but that sounds like some excellent forward thinking and evidence when politicians stop bitching and moaning and start listening to people, good things can happen.

The Intel example offers a truism. Much change of significance occurs because of people and organizations getting together toward a common cause or idea. So-called leaders are usually followers, not unlike the buck leading herd of deer. People think the buck leads the herd to where they go, but observations reveal the herd will react to threat or noises and move with its leader following.

This is a key reason at the 2016 GOP convention, when the presidential candidate said “I, alone, can solve our problems,” that was just total BS. A good leader knows the best ideas come from those closest to the action, be it the customer or a process. In other words, the buck better listen to the herd or he and others might get eaten by the wolves.

We need to make our concerns and ideas heard by those we elected. And, we need to make sure they hear us. We also need them to tell us the truth and stop the tribal BS. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.