A couple of climate clues

I am reading a great book called “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn. She focuses her attention on people in these professions (plus a few others) and how they work the earth and its waterways. They see what is happening with climate change and environmental degradation and have adapted over time what they do to continue their livelihood. The book has a subtitle of “Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland.”

A quote from a mentor to Justin Knopf, the farmer, is compelling. “Dr. Gary Pierzynski, head of the Kansas State University agronomy department describes…‘We have no doubt that climate change is happening. But we recognize that talking directly about it raises issues with some of our elected officials, who remain unconvinced and don’t support investing state resources to study it. So we emphasize our focus on challenges like extending the life of the Ogallala aquifer; we don’t disguise it but take away the climate change message.'”

It should not be lost on anyone that this man is about as far away from the coast as possible, but speaks of the impact on climate change on the agro economy and water sources. As an example, Knopf has used his experience to realize that using “no-till” farming is ideally suited for growing wheat and other products in his neck of the woods. When tilled, more of the topsoil is washed and blown away. When untilled, the ground keeps more of the creatures that naturally fertilize and break down the soil. It also aborbs more carbon.

He notes farmers continually experiment and share ideas, so what works there may be less suited elsewhere. I will write more on the book later, but what is fascinating is how these folks see what is happening first hand and adapt over time. Sometimes what they try fails and often it takes a few seasons for changes to fully be realized.Their livelihoods depend on it, so it is done with seriousness of purpose and observation.

On a different note, I saw a news report about Kodiak Island in Alaska. They are close to 100% renewable energy powered, using hydro and wind energy with battery storage. They switched when the diesel fuel got too expensive to shore up the hydro power when the demands increased. Also, a creative solution was used in the ship docks where they send and receive freight. Using a fly wheel concept, as one of the freight containers is lowered by the crane, it creates energy that is stored and used to lift the next container. The process continues as the containers are loaded and unloaded.

It should be noted the fly wheel concept is getting a lot of attention due to its elegance. In computer vernacular, elegance means the simplest and most effective solution. It also should be noted the cost of energy for the Island is more predictable and is lower than it was ten years ago. I highlight this cost statement as this is the new norm for renewable energy versus fossil fuel energy. The city of Georgetown, Texas came to the same conclusion when they signed a twenty-five contract for wind and solar energy rather than a shorter fossil fuel contract.

On the ground, local leaders, farmers, ranchers and fisherman are seeing what is happening first hand. They are making informed decisions that impact their future. It would be nice if our President, EPA director, Energy director and Congressional Republican leadership would make informed decisions. We could use their help and not their obstinance. The world is passing them by and they are not allowed to notice it.

Some needed humor

America is in need of some humor. With such an unnerving man at the helm, it seems we could run aground so easily. Here are a few thoughts, which I hope will bring a smile.

The President says he is for the little guys, but we did not realize he actually meant short billionnaires.

The President wants to MAGA, but we did not realize “great” was spelled “grate” as we are getting on the nerves of our allies.

The President threw a lawn party in May for the House Republicans when they passed an ACA repeal and replace bill. His staff did not have the heart to tell him it needed to go through the Senate. “Aw, we have to go through this again?”

After Hurricane Maria, the President visited  the US Virgin Islands. Later he said he had a terrific meeting with the President of the Virgin Islands. Ahem, excuse me sir, but aren’t you the President of the US Virgin Islands?

Have you noticed a trend that the President likes to grade his efforts? I think I got a ten on my handling of Puerto Rico. None of my predecessors have done as good a job at reaching out to families of our deceased military. Maybe students should try this after a test.

There is an old line that when your boss says you are doing a great job to the media, you better get your resume ready. When the President holds a press conference to tell everyone you and he have a terrific relationship with you standing there, watch your back. You may be Brutus, but this Caesar has the knife.

That is all for now. I hope some of this brought you a smile. Have a great week.

 

 

Great leaders make everyone around them better

Thomas Friedman, the award winning author (“The World is Flat” and “That Used to be Us”), made an important observation in an interview with Charlie Rose. A great leader makes everyone around them better – think Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky or, if you are older, Bill Russell. Donald Trump makes everyone around him worse.

This is a powerful observation. Defending this immoral man requires his people to go to a bad place in their nature. They must lower themselves and lie like he does. General Kelly harmed his reputation by lying about a Congresswoman. Sarah Huckabee-Sanders is not worth listening to as she defends the indefensible with inconsistent and nonsensical statements.

Trump values loyalty over competence, so the tendency to become a sycophant is rewarded. While he does have some competent people, they are fewer in number and the depth of talent is not as much as needed. Many experienced people could have helped him, but they either did not pass the loyalty test or chose not to work with such a narcissistic man. His team is not deep and they are very distracted trying to keep Trump between the white lines, so they cannot focus on global trends, issues and strategy.

On the flip side, I think of great leaders like Paul O’Neill, who turned around Alcoa by opening communication channels which improved productivity and safety. I think about my former boss whose mantra was hire good people and have them go see our clients. He kept senior leadership off your back and empowered you to work with others to serve.

Let me close with a story about Bill Russell, the NBA Hall of Famer with the Boston Celtics. He did all the heavy lifting (rebounding, defense, passing, blocked shots) letting his teammates do most of the scoring. His Celtics won eleven championships, his college team won two NCAA championships and he was on a Gold Medal Olympic team.

Great leaders make everyone around them better.

A few odds and ends

Happy Hump Day. May the rest of your week be enjoyable and productive. Here are a few odds and ends to ponder.

One of the flaws of the President is he defines everything transactionally, with winners and losers. Two comments. Winning does not make you right, it just means you won. He is telling folks to discount Senators Flake and Corker because they will retire next year because they were going to lose. Yet, one thing the President needs to realize is they are dead-on accurate in their concerns.

The President has a difficult time with multilateral agreements, preferring bilateral where one side can win and the other lose. But, if we are seeking long term relationships everyone must benefit. The Nobel Economics Prize winner John Nash developed what is now called the Nash Equilibrium for multilateral agreements – simply if each partner seeks the best gain for the whole, more economic gain will occur. This runs in direct contrast to Trump’s zero-sum game approach. It should be noted there is a business alliance of car makers and others telling him to not ditch NAFTA, a multilateral agreement.

Climate change continues to increase the magnitude of hurricanes, forest fires and droughts. The GAO noted the costs of catastrophic events are escalating as a result to the tune of $300 Billion, not counting the events of the last two months. These costs will likely get worse given the rising sea levels, temperatures and amounts of rain that melt away snow and expose the terrain to these intense forest fires.

On the positive side, renewables continue there double-digit per annum growth and are more affordable long term. The Mayor of Greensburg, Texas signed a twenty-five year contract for wind energy as the numbers were more compelling. Texas leads the country in wind energy with 16% of their energy portfolio and Iowa has almost a third of its energy by wind. It should be noted that irrespective of pulling the Clean Power Plan, America will blow past the requirements in carbon reductions based on the work of several states and market forces. Folks like Trump, Pruitt and Perry are less relevant in this conversation and need to stay out of the way.

That is all I have for now. Your thoughts are welcome.

The lone constant

Please indulge me a few questions. It won’t take too long.

If you worked with someone who repeatedly was in verbal, text, email and twitter fights with other people, what would be your observation?

If the other people who had dust ups with this person included customers, colleagues, third parties, and the media, what would you conclude?

If you spoke with previous employers and found the same was true at their locations, what might you ascertain?

If you investigated further and found out the stories keep changing when new information is revealed, does that paint a better picture of the person?

If the person was found to be less than truthful on many more than a few occasions, would that help you understand the situation? What if it was apparent the lying was more routine?

If the person repeatedly failed to admit when he wronged someone and it was never his fault, does that convince you of something?

The key conclusion is there seems to be a lone constant in these equations. It would appear the person is of little character and is hard to get along with.

If you were his colleague, you would choose to limit contact with this person and you would document everything for verification. An email saying “this is what you agreed to” would help in that regard.

If you were a customer, you would request a new contact or change providers of service.

If you were a third party, a senior person at your firm might call a senior person at his firm to register concerns.

If you were the media, you would get information from a better, more reliable source.

If you were his boss, you would have long ago put him on an improvement plan, perhaps several. At some point, you would ask him to leave or get him to leave. My guess is his ego would be bruised by the first improvement plan and he would leave. He would tell his new employer that his previous one did not appreciate him enough.

The person who I am obviously talking about is in the position of the President of the United States. He is being investigated for collusion with the Russians, which may lead to his demise. More than a few psychiatrists think he may be unfit for office. In the interim, we are stuck with his actions noted above. Maybe the first step is a censure, which would be Congress’ performance improvement plan.

A survey reports that 42% of Americans want this man impeached and 15% want him censured. That is an absolutely amazing statement that 57% feel he is worthy of some formal repudiation, with almost half saying he should be removed.

 

 

When is the right time?

We should mourn the loss of innocent American lives at the hands of one shooter. We should offer our prayers, thoughts and support to the victims, injured, caregivers and their families and friends. And, we should demand from our lawmakers to act like parents and grandparents and to stiffen our gun governance.

NRA funded politicians, who unfortunately include the leaders of the two chambers of Congress and the White House, say now is not the time to discuss gun control. When is the time? The NRA is likely horse whispering in their ears to stiff arm the gun control proponents until the crisis abates. Then, lip service will be given to the subject as it is defeated once again, given the NRA’s ability to highly mobilize its confederation of zealous followers, even though they are small in number.

Speaker Paul Ryan has noted that it is more than a gun issue, it is a mental health issue. Two comments – it is a mental health issue, but make no mistake about it, access to guns is an issue. As an aside, there is an obvious disconnect between saying it is a mental health issue and supporting legislation that would kick twenty million Americans off their health plans, which include mental health benefits.

Now is the time to address better gun governance. It is actually passed time. Gun homicide deaths per capita in the US dwarf that of other western and non-western countries. When suicides are factored in, we look even worse.

I have written multiple posts over the years about better gun governance. Before summarizing them yet again, let me add what I have mentioned before – it is a mental health issue, it is a civil discourse issue, it is a safe gun storage issue, it is a violent entertainment issue and it is a drug crime issue which has infiltrated places of poverty. On the gun control side:

– background checks on all weapon purchases are essential,

– elongated waiting periods are also key, as this will help with suicide prevention and give time for authorities to track purchases – the Las Vegas shooter bought 33 highly lethal weapons in one year,

– finger printed trigger mechanisms (or the like) would prevent accidental deaths by kids and teens,

– ammunition needs to be coded so that bullets used in crimes can be traced, and

– like the expired Brady Law (another NRA victory), automatic assault weapons (and devices to convert semi-automatic weapons) have no place in non-miiitary settings.

The sad truth is the significant majority of Americans want the first two items to occur. Yet, nothing happens. Not only that, actions have been taken to make it easier to buy guns (if mental health is a concern, why did this Congress take people on Social Security disability for mental health reasons off the watch list for gun purchases?).

Now is the time. And, when you hear people say “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” the response is no “people with access to guns kill people. No gun, no gun death. No automatic weapon, fewer multiple gun deaths.

Respect our Flag and Country

Note to the Man in the White House. Please respect our flag and country. The national anthem and flag represent far more than a song and a banner. We need you to do the following:

– start telling the truth, at the very least more often than you do not;

– start acting like a leader and not bullying people, picking fights with citizens or allies, and denigrating the efforts of your staff – your Secretary of State should not be belittled for being diplomatic with North Korea, e.g.

– start calling out groups of people who demean the civil rights of others – follow the lead of the head of the Air Force Academy whose admonition of those who treated people unfairly went viral saying if you can’t treat people of all races and ethnic groups with respect, then get out;

– start doing more homework and seek input from those who know the subject matter – I understand your craving for loyalty, but complex issues need competence;

– start acknowledging when criticism has merit and stop attacking the critic – given how much you misrepresent issues and possible solutions. criticism may be warranted; and

– start acting like a leader we expect in the President.

If you continue to act like a man-child who cannot treat people with dignity and respect, then using the words of the Air Force Academy leader, get out. We have real problems and do not need you making them worse with your behavior and lack of due diligence.

Rule of Law is a weak anti-DACA Argument

I read a letter to the editor on Wednesday that spoke to me about the President’s decision on eliminating the Dreamer’s program referred to as DACA, short for Deferred Action for Children Arrivals. I won’t cite her name, as I don’t have permission, but the letter quite succinctly and forcefully addresses those who are saying DACA is not a law as it was passed by executive action and therefore must be eliminated.

“Slavery: rule of law. Women, blacks have no vote: rule of law. Married women can’t own property: rule of law. Japanese-internment camps: rule of law. Jim Crow: rule of law. Children as young as 6 can work 12 hour days: rule of law. No requirements for child restraints in cars: rule of law. Gays can’t marry: rule of law. Anti-DACA people: Find another excuse for your cruelty.”

For those not familiar with DACA, it was executed by President Obama when Congress failed to act. It allows children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the US legally. These approximate 800,000 children, who know not the country they came from, are now at risk.

Let me be frank. President Trump can talk all he wants about “loving dreamers,” but don’t pee on their head and tell them it is raining. These folks add value through intellectual capital and revenue to our country. They came forward to sign up as they love our country and embody the true spirit of America. I agree Congress should pass laws to take care of them, but screwing these kids as a lever is not the way to do that. This is on your shoulders Mr. President. You did this.

Strange Fruit is the Monument we need to guard against

The question on whether to remove monuments built to honor Confederate leaders is a distraction from the real issue that unfortunately lingers on. The real issue is those who feel that other citizens who look, act or worship differently do not have the same rights in our country. These white supremacists are perpetuating bigotry and hatred that ran amok during the Jim Crow era. Sadly, this Jim Crow-like   oppression has resurfaced in the eyes of too many.

The real monuments we need to remember and guard against are captured in the song “Strange Fruit*” powerfully and mournfully sung by Billie Holiday. The monuments that should scare us are young black bodies swaying in the wind hanging from trees. As Holiday sings, this “strange fruit” is a painful reminder of what bigotry and hatred can do.

“Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.”

White supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK must be condemned for their bigotry and hatred. It is that simple. We should not have tolerated it then and we must not tolerate it now. And, since the President won’t condemn such behavior and his past and current words have emboldened these white supremacists, we Americans must take up that mantle and say this is not right.

* Written by Lewis Allan, Maurice Pearl, Dwayne P Wiggins

Rainy Days and Mondays

One of the sweetest voices came out of Karen Carpenter, especially as she sang “rainy days and Monday’s always get me down.” The Mooch is feeling pretty down on this Monday and even Karen’s voice cannot make him feel better.

You may have heard that the President’s “gotta have” strategic communication director, Anthony Scaramucci, has left the building after only ten days of tumult and profanity. General Kelly, the new Chief of Staff, must have rightfully had a condition of his acceptance to get rid of this grossly negligent hiring mistake.

Not that I am a fan of Sean Spicer, but in a Shakespearean plot twist, Spicer was asked to prepare the communication for Scaramucci’s departure. So, the plot has come full circle in such a short time.

The irony of all this is the cause of all of this chaos and incompetence remains. Everyone is saying the White House needs more discipline, but the person who needs it most is the one at the top. Kelly will do what he can and has already made a necessary move, but his mission is difficult.

The President just completed the worst week of his Presidency. But, to be truthful many weeks before have been given that title only to see the President sink lower.

Now, the President wants to defund insurance companies of the ACA subsidies not fully realizing that he is hurting Americans in need. Or, maybe he does know and just doesn’t care.

Folks, it is well past the bewitching hour on this President. He won’t resign as his ego won’t let him, but he desperately needs to for the good of the country. Because as Scarlett O’Hara used to say, “Tomorrow is another day,” and under this President seven tomorrow’s make a new worst week in his Presidency.