Saturday musings

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers. If your father has passed, remember something about him that makes you smile. On the day before Father’s Day, let me offer some random musings.

Amazon is buying Whole Foods. This might be scary to all grocers, especially those who pride themselves on premium products. Distribution of ordered food will have to be well crafted and closer to the consumers to make it work, but my guess is Amazon will do better at it than others.

The City of Houston is the leading US city on renewable energy with over 89% of its electricity produced by renewables. Yet, it has a lot to lose with climate change given its sea level position and porous natural defenses. With the fossil fuel distribution centers in its harbor, it is ironic that the centers are in jeopardy due to sea level rise caused by burning fossil fuels.

Since I cannot pass on a couple news items from the White House, it is reported our Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have been more than just evasive in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He may have perjured himself. When he said he had not met any Russian lobbyists, he failed to recall he had one over to his house for dinner twice. What is equally troubling is this lobbyist wrote a speech for then candidate Trump.

In trying to push the Senate on a repeal and replace of the ACA, the President described the House AHCA Bill as “mean.” Mind you, this is the same bill he celebrated with a party of GOP House members on the White House lawn. That was before the CBO said the AHCA would result in 23 million Americans losing health care coverage. Note to Senators, you may want to get the CBO results before passing anything. The AHCA was “mean” before the party.

Finally, we must remember our tragedies and learn from them. The shooting of Republican congressmen tells us violence is not the answer and we must stop the polarized rhetoric. The tragic fire in London means safety checks mean safety checks.  We must value human life and do everything in our power to make well planned improvements to buildings that meet all standards. And, we cannot forget the Flint lead poisoning in the water piping.  A half a dozen Michigan government have been charged with manslaughter over the death of one man, but the culpability and damage goes further. Leaders ignored reports of the problem after making a cost cutting decision retap the Flint River.

That is all for today. Have a great weekend and be safe.

 

 

We need Dave

One of my favorite movies is called “Dave” starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. Kline plays the title character who is asked to be a puppet President propped up by the Chief of Staff (played by Frank Langella) after the President has a stroke. Dave is tapped due to his close resemblance to the President which he has parlayed into an act for parties.

Yet, Dave turns out to be a surprisingly good President who gets further enabled when the First Lady (Weaver) realizes he is a fraud and her husband (who she loathes  due to his affair) is in a coma on life support. She encourages Dave to be a true people’s President and he flourishes. Unlike the President he replaces, he focuses on jobs and helping people when needed. The best segment is when he asks his accountant, Murray, played by Charles Grodin, to find money in the budget to help disadvantaged kids and then plays his ideas out in front of his cabinet to the fury of the Chief of Staff.

Thinking of the line from Simon and Garfunkel song, “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you,” I would insert Dave’s name for the needed hero. Rather than the man who is President in name only, we need Dave to come to the rescue and take the reins. It cannot be the Vice President who has become chief sycophant to the President agreeing with every inane thing he does. We need a hero who truly cares about people and relationships, values those who serve and inspires others. The “valuing those who serve” is important as our current President shows disrespect to hard working civil servants as well as his staff and due process.

Two key undercurrents of the movie are the relationship Dave has with his Secret Service lead (played by Ving Rhames) and his respect he gains for his Vice President (played by Ben Kingsley). He values them and they show him respect in return.

So, if we could trade out Dave for Donald, we would be in a much better place. And, if he cannot do it, maybe Michael Douglas’   “The American President” could be tapped.

 

The President should heed his own advice

In the middle of all the falderol which is largely created by the President, he has made two observations that bear further scrutiny. He said that his White House needs to change its communication strategy. And, this morning after attributing words to the Muslim Mayor of London after last night’s attack that the Mayor did not say, the President said we need to end  political correctness to solve problems.

I see these two comments as very much related. As many, including his own fans, have noted the President’s worst enemy is the man who looks back in the mirror when he shaves. What he says and tweets gets him into trouble.

So, let’s look at these two recommendations. Yes, the White House should change its communication strategy, but it should consider a new idea. They should start telling the truth. Many things bother me about this President, but his high frequency of lying is probably the worst. Yet, his biographers forewarned us. The five writers all said the President has always had a problem with the truth. Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked with the President, said he lies daily about even inconsequential things.

As for political correctness, I agree that we need to be more frank. With that said, being politically incorrect does not give you license to be a jerk or lie. You can be politically incorrect without both, using doses of diplomacy and civility. So, when the President makes a point that is directionally correct, he offends by being a jerk or adding some untruths.

In this vein, let me offer some constructive advice to the President. Our problems are often complex that simple sounding solutions are not the right remedy. It would help us all for you to be truthful and use verifiable data rather data that has been discredited.

As an example, pulling back from world leadership will be harmful to America and the planet. You may want to study the “Nash Equilibrium” which warranted a Nobel prize in Economics for its creator, John Nash who was portrayed by Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind.” In essence, we all make more money if we try to maximize each other’s profits rather than trying to maximize just our own. This does not mean we should overlook groups that are harmed by change, but we need to be mindful of all reasons that may cause pain.

Finally, being politically incorrect requires the truth. Painting one group as the bogeyman does a disservice to greater problems. Domestic terrorism by one of the 1,000 hate groups in the US dwarfs that of Islamic extremists. Yet, when three Americans are knifed by a white supremacist as they defended two Muslim American women, the President had to be shamed into speaking up. And, when he did, he did not use his more popular tweeting venue which likely has more white supremacist followers. Yet, he will be quickly critical of anything that may be due to Islamic extremist.

I recognize fully the President won’t heed this advice. Lying has worked for him for a long time. He treats the truth as a commodity, tending to only use it when it serves his purpose. We need to hold him accountable when he does not tell the truth or when he treats people poorly, especially when they are our allies.

 

A few thoughts for Thursday

I would be remiss if I did not express my sympathies to the victims of the terrorist bombing at the conclusion of Ariana Grande’s concert. Targeting civilians is bad enough, but targeting young adults and kids is vulgar in its cowardice and an insult to any deity the perpetrators say they worship.

As a needed antithesis, I applaud the many angels who helped the hurt, lost and confused after the attack. They revealed the best of humanity as a direct contrast to the worst shown by the terrorist. Peace be with those angels, survivors and the families of the victims and injured.

In other news of the week, I do want to give credit to the President for his visit to the Middle East to further relationships. And, he has been surprisingly well behaved, which is traceable to him sticking to script and not tweeting his thoughts. Yet, we do need to peel a few layers back and understand that he spoke to a group of autocratic Sunni leaders in Saudi Arabia about dealing with terrorism. It was an important step away from his negative Islamic rhetoric, but terrorists exist because of the corruption of autocratic leaders who cause disenfranchisement.

The other concern is to paint Shia led Iran as THE bad guy, when they just had an election while he was there and elected the moderate Incumbent Rouhani to continue as President. Iran has a median age of 35, so by trading with Iran and treading carefully, we can help break down barriers for the future.

Finally, just yesterday, a Republican candidate for Congress in Montana named Greg Gianforte apparently does not like tough questions. He has been arrested for assaulting Ben Jacobs, a reporter from The Guardian when Jacobs asked him about the CBO scoring of the repeal and replace AHCA bill that would knock 23 million people off insurance. In front of other reporters, Gianforte choked, shoved to the ground and began punching Jacobs.

Let me state the obvious. A leader does not beat up someone for asking questions you don’t like. I am positive entertainers like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh will drum up their fans saying it is OK to beat up a liberal reporter. No, it is not. And, if a wannabe leader has to resort to force, it means you are worse than a name caller and certainly no leader irrespective of the outcome of the election.

Good news for NC voters

Amid the pervasive news out of Washington, the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appellate case that ruled the North Carolina Voter ID unconstitutional. This is excellent news for all voters, but in particular African-American, older and college student voters.

Within the law were highly discriminatory provisions designed with “surgical precision” per the US Court of Appeals in the 4th District to infringe upon African-Americans. It was designed to “kick Democrats butts,” so said a Buncombe County GOP leader on The Daily Show, a tape of which was shown during the court case. It should be noted the leader resigned the next day.

When I made reference to this law as “unconstitutional and Jim Crow-like,” to members of the NC General Assembly before it was passed, one of its authors strongly disagreed. My response was simple, “as a 56 year-old white man and former Republican, we both know what this law is about.”

It also attempted to solve a problem that is not significant. Voting fraud is not pervasive as some would let you believe. Numerous studies do not support the claim of more than very small numbers of voting problems. It should be noted that the attempt to discredit our Presidential election through claims of voter fraud was a key part of Russian meddling in October to create doubt.

And, a final key comment is important. The problem we face in our country is not enough people voting. To be such a significant democracy, we don’t have enough citizens participating in the process. We should be doing everything in our power to encourage not discourage voting. And, if voter fraud is such a concern, why did the NC General Assembly not include absentee voting in the law, where there is more fraud (still not a lot) than at the polling sites? The answer is who tends to vote in larger numbers as absentees.

Right now, my strong advice to the NC General Assembly is to not do what they are thinking about, trying to rework the law. The General Assembly has now had four laws passed in the last few years ruled unconstitutional. The solution is stop passing laws that are unconstitutional, not trying to see what you can sneak through.

Giving makes me feel like I’m living

The above title is a quote offered by Morrie Schwartz, the subject of Mitch Albom’s book “Tuesdays with Morrie.” The book continues to sell with over fifteen million copies sold in 45 countries. It describes Albom’s weekly visits with his favorite teacher and mentor named Morrie.

Albom shared today on CBS This Morning, he was not the only person to routinely visit his mentor. Others went with the goal of cheering up Morrie, but they would leave being comforted as Morrie would invariably ask them about their lives and challenges.

When Albom inquired about this of Morrie, he said “Giving makes me feel like I’m living.” What profound words coming from a teacher. To me, this echoes the term I have used called “psychic income.” Giving to others with your time, ear, support, donations, etc. provides you with a psychic income.

Yet, like with lessons in the book, Morrie’s phrasing of why he gives is much more profound. Albom notes this is the reason his book strikes a chord with so many.

Please honor our teachers, mothers and fathers by paying forward their giving to us. We will also benefit.

Extremely poor form, but not surprising

Rather than focus on the obvious concerns about the timing and reasons given for the firing of FBI Directior James Comey, I want to focus on the absence of common decency exhibited by our President. Firing someone should be hard, but one thing you must do is let the person know before you tell others not involved in the process. Apparently, Comey found out while making a speech across the country after someone saw it on a TV news report.

That is extremely poor form, but not a surprise given our President’s history of taking advantage of people. It should be noted that a White House source said the President kept the firing close to the vest, so the roll out was chaotic, even beyond their normal chaos level.

As a former manager, I have had the misfortune of having to let someone go. Even after vetting the issue to make sure this action was ultimately needed, it still bothered me to have to ask someone to leave and it showed when I did it. The process must be handled with as much grace as possibly can be mustered.

Yet, our President did not take the time to make sure Comey knew beforehand. Comey served our country for many years and deserved better. When a senior person was being let go in my office by the bold line matrix management, I asked if I could sit in to honor the man’s thirty five years of service. We owed him that.

To me, it is very obvious this President is hiding something. The fact he wanted to get the firing announced in time for the evening news is telling. The fact he wanted to do something to respond to Sally Yates saying he knew well before Flynn’s firing that Flynn is trouble is telling. The fact Comey was fired after he wanted to expand the scope of the Russian investigation per several Senators is telling.

But, let’s set that aside. The fact our President fired someone and announced it before the employee acknowledged it is telling. It tells me exactly what kind of leader our President is.