Thoughts for Thursday

Here are a few random thoughts on a rainy Thursday, with more rain to come in the days ahead.

A retired ambassador said recently, the US strength is more than its military, it is its relationships with allies. What concerns me is we are devaluing our allied relationships. This is echoed by the European Union Chairman Dean Tusk. Tusk said the EU must be more united than ever before to deal with what he called Trump’s “capricious assertiveness”. My question is this how we want to be viewed by our friends?

Another retired ambassador to Israel said while he agreed with the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the US administration made two mistakes. It should have been announced in the context of moving toward a two state solution. In essence, the US placed little obligation on Israel for this move. Also, celebrating the opening on the anniversary of Israel is an insult to Palestinians. This date is not viewed favorably, so the celebration rubbed salt in a wound.

Assuming the role of ambassador for the disenfranchised in the US, a huge opportunity missed occurred during the rushed tax bill which hugely favored companies and the wealthy. I favored some relief on the corporate tax rate, but we went way too far and are negatively impacting our huge and growing debt. The additional opportunity missed I am referencing is not imposing a requirement on companies to provide raises. One way of doing this would have been a concurrent increase in the US minimum wage moving it from $7.25 to a living wage of above $10 per hour. Token one-time bonuses are actually the barest minimum of what could be done with an annual tax break – how about a raise instead? More income to people in need is accretive to the economy.

Finally, I have seen footage of conservative news sources highlighting Venezuela’s problems as an indictment of socialism. While I am a capitalist, I also recognize our country is a mixture of both. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, and bankruptcy laws are all forms of socialism. We also have other restrictions to prevent unfettered capitalism. Venezuela’s problems are due to corruption and mismanagement that can be traced even back to the popular Chavez. His successor, Maduro, has shown a level of incompetence that is quite visible to all.

That is all for this Thursday. Please share your thoughts.

Diplomatic Persistence


I have written several times about the dearth in customer service. For the most part, we must be the navigators of our own customer service. Without our diplomatic persistence, we may fail to be served. But, we do need help.

I have been involved the past few days with an entity trying to resolve an arbitrary decision on the part of an internal department which places a burden on me to recoup money owed to my family. I will spare the details, but to prevent them from doing it again on another set of transactions, we had to enlist the help of a customer service person and her manager as advocates.

The role I am being asked to play here is not new and will happen again with another entity. It may even happen with this one, but I sure hope not. Variations of both words in the title are key – diplomacy and persistence. Being a jerk will solve little and will make it harder to get advocacy. The customer service person I was speaking with was just the messenger. Yet, diplomacy also means tactfully sharing your frustration. You want them to agree with you that you have been wronged and she did.

The persistence is vital as well. I often say in follow-up after a reasonable time, “I apologize for being a pest.” Also, the first answer may be “no” as it was in this case because of internal processes, so asking for further advocacy can help, especially when you are in the right. I understood why they did what they did in general for risk management, but our circumstances were unusual and did not fit their norm. So, the internal department’s action unwound something very easy made it more time-consuming and bureaucratic.

On the positive side, after much pleading and with the manager’s advocacy, we got a yes answer with a caveat. That is all I could ask for. I will still have to remedy with another vendor their first decision, but I hopefully prevented them from repeating the process. I am so very thankful to the two people who advocated for us. They are gems.

Customer service has to be customer centric. This situation was resolving a problem this organization caused by internal processes. The group that caused it was not being customer centric, but more risk averse. My wife pointed out that what about people who do not have an understanding of financial matters and accepted decisions that were not appropriate. Or, in this case, may not know to follow-up with the other vendor. They may end up being shortchanged because of an arbitrary decision by an internal group.

Diplomatic persistence is key, but so is knowing where you may have been wronged. But, without the former two words, your hope of getting resolution is lessened. My fingers are crossed that this remedy will remain holding.