The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘honesty’

MANAGEMENT AND MS.MANAGEMENT

Ah, to sit at the top of the corporate food chain.  There you are, a middle-aged white male (with or without paunch), showing up occasionally to work in your chauffeured vehicle, taking a few minutes to check the emails that your underpaid assistant has already reviewed, then off to a three martini gourmet lunch followed by a full body in office massage and, noticing that it’s quitting time off you go to the palatial home in which you live thanks to the fact that you are overpaid for being the CEO of your company.  That is the general picture that those who argue against “income inequality”  put forward.

While the picture of a day in the life of the CEO as I just enumerated it is, of course, a gross exaggeration, since most of us are not and will probably never be CEO’s of any major corporation, we simply are not privy to what the CEO actually does. As a result it is not difficult for those who are “anti-corporate” to sell this image.  This resonates particularly well with those who are at the low-end of the corporate ladder and already view themselves as victims of “the system.”

If truth be told, I suspect that a significant number of those who rail against the inequities of corporate America would, were they offered the opportunity, gladly accept the position of CEO of their company complete with a seven-figure salary, stock options and all the perks that accompany that position, quickly forgetting their comrades in arms on the assembly line.  If that analysis is correct, then we can say that it is not the inequities of corporate America toward which people are hostile.  It is merely the fact that they are not the beneficiaries of the positive benefits that those at the top receive.  In other words, their motivation is predicated on one of the ugliest of the deadly sins – envy.

While I have never run a Fortune 500 company, I imagine that my experiences as CEO probably mirrors that of others who ran their own small businesses.  I can assure you that the glamor and prestige which is attributed to being the leader of your business is more than offset by trying to keep the company afloat, making sure that the cash is in the bank to pay your employees (even if that meant skipping your own paycheck) and the sleepless nights – wondering if your plan and your vision will be enough to bring you through a slow patch – well, who would ever trade pacing the floor at three in the morning in favor of a restful night’s sleep?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from viewing the actions of a number of NFL players off the field, it is that if your job requires you to be aggressive and violent, it is sheer folly to believe that removing a helmet and shoulder pads turns you into Mary Poppins.  We are who we have become – both in our place of work and outside the office.

People tend to want to associate with people who are like them.  By that I am not speaking of superficial characteristics such as race, gender, ethnic background or religious views.  At the heart of this desire to associate with others like us is a general outlook on life and the way in which we conduct ourselves with others. That is as true for a CEO as it is for someone on the assembly line.  There is a reason that the term “den of thieves” is part of our vocabulary.  It speaks to the fact that those comprising the “den” all share a common value system – that theft is not only an acceptable way of conducting oneself – it is an underpinning of  their core belief of how they view the world and their role in it.

People, of course, can change.  But let’s think back to the era of light bulb jokes as one of those comes to mind.

“How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Only one.  But the light bulb really has to want to change.”

The fact is that behavior whether it is constructive or destructive seldom changes because miraculously the owner of that behavior has a sudden epiphany.  Normally, the longer we repeat doing the same thing seeing what we believe are positive consequences, the longer we are likely to continue in that same behavior.  The thief who knocks over a convenience store and gets away with the crime, is likely to plan additional convenience store robberies.  Or, he might expand his horizons by considering how to make an even bigger haul by robbing a bank.

As he continues in successful caper after caper there is no reason for him to change his modus vivendi.  The only likelihood that he will abandon his career is if he is apprehended, tried and incarcerated.  And even then, we know the rate of recidivism of convicts is extremely high.

There is a reason that two-thirds of Americans view Hillary Clinton as “dishonest and untrustworthy.”  (I am in that camp).   She has a track record which she has developed over decades for, at the best, being barely inside the furthest edges of what might be considered legal; and at worst, violating the law but escaping the consequences of those misdeeds by virtue of her being well-connected and privileged.

Now the primary argument advanced by Ms. Clinton and her cohorts to dispel all the controversies that have surrounded her and her husband for decades is that, “it is a great right-wing conspiracy to disparage and impugn them.”  I would consider myself on the right side of things politically.  Yet I’ve never in all these years received even one invitation to attend an anti-Hillary conspiracy meeting.  Perhaps I should feel offended by this omission.

In evaluating a candidate for president, I try to employ the same standards that I used in my business life in which I referred executives to our client companies for potential hire.  Does the candidate have the requisite experience to handle the position in an exceptional manner?  That was the primary determining criterion that i used.  But beyond that there was a subjective component to my decision either to refer a particular candidate to my client or to withhold that referral.  Did I like the person?

As subjective as “liking” someone is, I tried to apply objective standards to that decision.  Was the candidate late, on time or early for our scheduled interview?  Did she come to the interview in a crumpled outfit or were her clothes fresh out of the cleaners?  Did the candidate have a good handshake or was it limp and fishy?  How was the candidate’s eye contact and general body language during our interview?  Did the candidate respond to questions in a clear and succinct manner or did she or he talk around the answer?  Did the candidate engage in any activities whether on or off the job that suggested a generous nature and a team spirit?  And perhaps most importantly, after we concluded our interview, did the candidate take the time either to call or send me a note, thanking me for the opportunity to meet and expressing an interest in the position we had discussed?

In essence, I mentally compiled a FICO score of personality for each candidate.  Perhaps it was not quite as scientific or mathematical as those which are put together to determine credit-worthiness.  But it seemed to be pretty effective as more than ninety-five percent of the candidates we referred to our clients and who were hired had long careers with those companies.

Applying those same standards to Ms. Clinton, I would not in good conscience have referred her to a client should the position of CEO be vacant and she had come in to apply for the job.  That decision has nothing to do with our divergent political views.  Rather, it centers around the woman herself.

I lived in the same condo for twenty-seven years and served as president for eight of those and as a board member for eighteen.  Many of the owners were in the building for similar amounts of time – but there was some turnover as people changed jobs and relocated or found other accommodations.  In some cases, I only learned the names of the other owners when, after three or four years, they had sold their apartment and were moving.  The reason for that was simple.  They followed the few rules we had, were good neighbors and gave the board no reason to have to intervene in any disputes in which they and their fellow owners engaged.

But as luck would have it, there were two of the seventy-two units whose owners either would appear before the board’s monthly meetings with regularity to allege a complaint against either management or one of their neighbors or who were the subject of just such a complaint by one of their neighbors.  I remember that when they showed up for a board meeting, the rest of the board’s membership joined me in a collective groan as we knew what was in store.  And it seemed that no amount of negotiating, no amount of pacification, nothing we could do would deter these two people from having another problem in the months that would follow.  Very early on in this process, I believe that we all correctly came to the conclusion that the source and cause of the alleged problems was not the neighbor but the complainants themselves.

It was my experience that the overwhelming majority of my neighbors were kind and courteous people.  They acknowledged their neighbors with a cheery, “Good morning” when we’d run into each other in the lobby and perhaps take a moment for a little chat even if they were on their way to work.  They always thanked the doorman for opening the outer door of the building for them.  On the other hand, the two people who regularly showed up at our meetings to file their complaints were cold and dismissive.  They would seldom say hello to other residents and treated the doorman and the janitorial staff as though they were indentured servants.  On more than one occasion, I apologized to our staff for their rude behavior.

Now consider for a moment that somehow, one of these two people were not only elected to the board but, even worse became president.  What was once a generally well-functioning entity is now being run by people who had demonstrated that they were always at the center of controversy – and because of their actions were the cause of that controversy.  How long would it take for the building’s operations to deteriorate, first into mediocrity and then into chaos?  I suspect not long at all.

Ms. Clinton brings with her candidacy a great deal of baggage that has caused many stirs over the decades.  One might agree with her assertions these are all a function of that vast great right-wing conspiracy.  Or one might argue, the reason for all the controversy surrounding her is that she, through her own actions or inactions, has focused scrutiny on herself.  If the same person is on site every time an arsonous fire is set, it would be foolish to overlook that person’s proximity and not have thoughts of suspicion arise toward them.  Accidents happen fairly infrequently – and coincidences even less often.

Despite her proclamations to the contrary, Ms. Clinton is one of the least transparent political figures in this country.  I cede the award of first place to President Barack Obama, hands down, undisputed, no argument. But Ms. Clinton is running a close second.  She has, through her cohorts in the establishment in the DNC managed to schedule very few debates and most of those were aired at a time when people were absorbed with watching major sporting events or preparing to celebrate the Holidays.  She hasn’t had a press conference for six months, unusual for a candidate for president who logically would want the public to know and understand what her positions are on important issues.

If we remember the premise that people tend to associate with people like themselves, what kind of staff would Ms. Clinton hire should she be successful in her bid for the White House?  Well, we do know what kind of staff and who it was that she hired in the only executive position she has ever held – as Secretary of State.

The Dems in Congress have downplayed Ms. Clinton’s role in what lead to the death of our ambassador in Benghazi and that of three other Americans.  To be candid, we may never know if their deaths were preventable.  We also may never know whether the State Department acted in a prompt manner to attempt a rescue effort.  But we do know that the State Department and President Obama knew the night of the attack that their explanation for the attack, that it was due to “an internet video besmirching the Prophet Mohammed” was a false narrative, repeated over a week’s period of time.

Further, we know that Ms. Clinton clung to this narrative while she “consoled” the families of those who had fallen in Libya – though she now denies that despite the testimony of those family members who heard her speak those words.

We also know that despite the Benghazi Committee’s Democrat members who have and still call this a “witch hunt,” were it not for the committee’s investigations, we might never have known that Ms. Clinton maintained an unsanctioned personal server and communication system nor that she deleted thirty-three thousand “personal” emails.  These, among other matters, are currently the focus of an FBI investigation – not the “security review” that Ms. Clinton speaks of when addressing this issue.

Besides the FBI investigation, a number of organizations including Judicial Watch have filed suit to determine whether Ms. Clinton (and her staff)have violated any Federal statutes.  Under the Freedom of Information Act, one of her senior assistants, Cheryl Mills gave a deposition last week.  Ms. Mills was accompanied to this hearing by no fewer than seven lawyers – three who represented her personally and an additional four from the Justice Department.

While I’m sure that it was Ms. Mills’ intent to be transparent and totally forthcoming in her deposition, apparently she refrained from answering a significant number of questions put to her because it might have “compromised national security.”  How ironic.  That Ms. Mills could so clearly identify issues of “national security” in the questions posed her, yet her boss, Ms. Clinton was so unable to determine that thousands of the emails she received could not be so identified truly amazes me.  I am further startled at the sheer numbers of legal talent that were assembled to advise this woman.  In twenty-six years in business I don’t think I had need to consult with that many attorneys in toto.

Throughout her career, both Ms. Clinton and her spouse have regularly relied on legalistic defenses for their actions.  It is reasonable to expect that should she be elected president, that sort of approach will continue.  Perhaps we will see her put the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe on retainer.

But to my thinking, legal redress in most cases could be avoided by simply doing the right thing in the first place.  That, it seems to me, is one of the fundamental roles that good management brings to the table.

In Ms. Clinton’s case, I am afraid we would see little more than Ms.management. And all of us will end up footing the bill.

IS HILLARY CLINTON RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SAN BERNARDINO MASSACRE?

As most of us who are political junkies know, the slings and arrows and mud throwing of this election cycle promises to be more intense than an extreme martial arts contest.  So without further adieu and not waiting for the actual participants to start the battle, I thought I would stir the pot and get things off on the right foot.  (Pun intended).

The two participants who appear to have emerged as the presumptive standard bearers of their respective parties, Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump, both have a history of flirting with controversy – and if you haven’t heard all the gory details and the sordid particulars, stay tuned because no doubt you will.

There are those BS (that’s Bernie Sanders) supporters who avowedly would never vote for Hillary.  (Although I never considered voting for the man from Vermont who has lived off the public trough his entire life and never accomplished much of anything during that entire period, I must say that my attitude toward HRC is that water boarding and Chinese fingernail torture couldn’t convince me to cast a ballot on her behalf).

Mr. Trump has a similar problem with the most conservative wing of the Republican Party’s constituents.  From day-to-day it is clear or unclear where he stands on anything other than Making America Great Again – an admirable rallying cry and perhaps even an achievable goal – if we ever were blessed to receive some specifics.  However, we are all now getting used to his mercurial stance on positions and can only hope that he puts together a serious cabinet whose members are practical, businesslike and intelligent – something we’ve been sorely missing for nigh on to eight years.

Yes, I have reservations (is that word allowed in the PC lexicon? – well, who cares) about Mr. Trump.  Many of them.  I have on the other hand none about Ms. Clinton who I believe years ago should have traded in her collection of pants suits for an orange jump suit bearing a number.

I have had several conversations with those who advocate Ms. Clinton’s candidacy.  And while I am happy to delve into the many past (and present) controversies which seem inexorably to circle her, I am always greeted with the same rather haggard argument.  “Well, those things were looked into and no charges were ever brought against her.”

My response to that is simple.

According to FBI statistics, since 1990, 211,000 unsolved murders have occurred in the United States.  By unsolved we mean that no one has been arrested, arraigned, tried and convicted of these crimes.  But the fact that our imperfect justice system and law enforcement agencies have been unable to bring these murderers to task doesn’t mean that there are any fewer people who have been murdered.  It simply means that we have not found and punished their killers. The fact that Ms. Clinton has not been held to account as of yet of any misdeeds hardly means that she is not guilty of misdeeds, anymore than O. J. Simpson was not guilty of the death of his wife and Ronald Goldman despite the verdict of acquittal handed down by his jury.

It would be truly surprising if the media treats both candidates equally, given their unarguable left-wing bent.  Perhaps one indication of that is a theoretical question regarding abortion which was recently posed to Mr. Trump by Chris Matthews.  The question hypothesized that Roe v. Wade was overturned by a future Supreme Court decision and a pregnant woman decided to abort her unborn child, despite the fact that doing so was now illegal.  Should she be punished for disobeying the law?

Mr. Trump flailed a bit before responding (and then retracted his answer the next day), but if I were him would have responded as follows:

“You know, Chris, the important question is not about some future event which might or might not happen.  We had a situation that happened recently – a situation that was fact – not possibility – the murder of fourteen innocent people by two Radical Islamic Terrorists in San Bernardino, CA – and whether Hillary Clinton was responsible for this tragedy.  Let me explain.”

“According to FBI Director James Comey, there are open cases in every one of the fifty states – investigations of people who have ties to Islamic Extremism .  Now as we’re all aware, the FBI has been investigating then Secretary of State Clinton’s improper use of a personal, unsecured server exclusively to conduct official government business.  Notwithstanding her protestations that no information ‘either sent or received’ was ‘marked classified’ at the time of its being sent or received, there are at least sixteen separate Federal laws which she might have violated – which are not dependent on those documents being marked with the classified designation.”

“In order to get to the bottom of this mess, brought about for no reason other than Ms. Clinton’s decision to ignore State Department protocol, the FBI has assigned 147 of its agents to the investigation.  So what if, instead of diverting all these individuals from other duties, which might have included monitoring the activities of the San Bernardino murderers, these agents were doing far more important things – like insuring the safety of the American people?  Should we hypothetically hold Ms. Clinton responsible for those untimely and unfortunate deaths?”

“But, of course, that is just hypothetical.  What is absolutely certain is that because Ms. Clinton chose to maintain a private, illegal server, a choice she admits was a bad one, should we, at the least, send her a bill for the salaries of those 147 agents who would have been doing more important things but for her ill-conceived decision?  By my count, that would come to a bill in excess of $10 million.  Perhaps Hillary and Billary could simply call some of their foreign Clinton Foundation donors and explain they are having a tag day to cover this obligation.”

I would have loved to have seen the look on Chris Matthews’ face if Donald Trump had responded in that manner.

Perhaps I have a future as an advisor to him and his campaign.

“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville

BILL CLINTON AND THE DECLINE OF AMERICA

There has been quite a lot of head shaking among my fellow Baby Boomers at the current state of affairs in America both political and cultural as though they are thinking, “How could things ever have reached this low?”  Well, for them I have some good news.  We’ve been there before – about 50 years ago.  And we made a comeback.  Perhaps the core of our problem is that we think of things in a linear manner.  We would be better served if we adopted the Mayan view of time and events and thought of them as circular and recurrent.

That is not to say that as I watch the idiocy, misinformation and shear ignorance that is the stock in trade today of today’s younger generation brought about by an educational system that has largely failed them and turned it’s attention to creating “safe spaces” for these poor, shrinking violets rather than educating them in the classics and history, I do not wring my hands with despair and despondence.  I do.  But then I remember embarking on my college career as the country was highly polarized both by race relations and the Vietnam War – and I think to myself, I’ve seen this movie, well at least the original version if not the remake.

The college at the University of Chicago was left leaning since long before I started there in 1964.  The only place on campus one might find conservatives was at the Business School and, to a lesser degree, the Law School.  But for those of us who were undergraduates, we were generally immersed in a culture of the left – whether we wanted it or not.  Notwithstanding the political orientation of our teachers, we were exposed to a wide variety of thought – often thought which directly conflicted with our instructors’ own political or social viewpoint.

One of the mandatory courses was Sociology 101.  The reading list was extensive, almost unmanageable because of its volume.  But among those books which were required reading were the works of J. J. Rousseau, John Locke, the Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville.  These authors could hardly be described as proponents of the philosophy of the left.  Despite the fact that my professor for this class was a good friend of Saul Alinksy (Rules For Radicals) who dedicated this work, the subject of Hillary Clinton’s 1969 college thesis, to Lucifer, his approach to dealing with this material was to present it and, because he believed he had a superior mental ability either to the authors or his students, attempt to debunk what they had to say.

Consider that last line as a sign post of the difference between then and now because it is crucial.  The material was presented and debated – or at least it was.  Today’s universities do not exercise the same intellectual honesty because they present only one side of the story, pretending that is the only side to be told.  And this manifestation of intellectual dishonesty extends everywhere into the culture where freedom of speech merely means, freedom to speak but only in the manner that the vocal left minority deems appropriate.  The late Chairman Mao would be proud of them – as would have been Adolph Hitler.

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

– Alexis de Tocqueville

De Tocqueville was sent to the fledgling America by the French government to study her prison system and went on to write his classic two volume work, Democracy in America.  There are many profound observations which he made in that work and over the next several posts I will be using several of them to illustrate my point.

But let us move on to the subject of this post with the assistance of another of his quotes:

“The greatness of America lies in the fact that her laws are applied equally to everyone.”

There are two separate but equally important points to be taken from these quotes.

First, de Tocqueville recognized that moral behavior was an absolute thing.  That there was right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood and that God, not man established those things which also gave rise to the Founding Fathers’ exclamation that “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”.  Truth, right and good were ordained as such by God and no matter how man might convolute these to suit his own personal needs, were immutable. There is no clearer expression of this than in our legal system where the person testifying is required to take an oath, pledging to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But to whom is this oath sworn?  To God.  As de Tocqueville points out in the first of these quotes, morality is dependent on faith.  So if we set God aside, then the only concern of a deponent in a jury proceeding is not in testifying truthfully but in testifying in a manner which best serves his purpose if he is confident that he will not get caught lying.  And the sad truth is that there are few cases of perjury which are ever prosecuted – thus reinforcing this self-serving behavior.

During President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial our then Chief Executive clearly lied about his sexual liaisons.  Frankly, I could care less about them and would have had more respect if he had said, “Yes, I had sex with that woman in the Oval Office.  So what?” Clearly there have been other presidents who had dalliances outside their marriages including FDR and Eisenhower to mention just two who come quickly to mind and those relationships didn’t seem to impact their ability to govern.  Instead, Clinton chose to take the low road with a series of legalistic responses to avoid the embarrassment of public revelation about his numerous sexual relationships.  And his punishment for this perjury – a fine and the revocation of his law license.

Second, let’s consider the concept of “the equal application of the law” which de Tocqueville lauds and review the case of Martha Stewart.

On December 27, 2001, Martha Stewart disposed of her interest in Imclone stock based on inside information she had received.  This helped her avoid a loss of about $50,000 as bad news on the company was about to break.  Ms. Stewart was arraigned and her trial took six weeks, resulting in her conviction on nine felony counts.  But the bulk of her penalty – a six month imprisonment followed by five months of electronic monitoring and an additional thirteen months of supervision was the result not of insider trading, for which she paid a fine but because she had lied to the FBI while being interrogated under oath by them.  As an aside, until 2014 when the law was changed, the insider trading activity in which Stewart engaged and which was illegal for any American to participate in – was fully legal if you were a Member of Congress.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons that so many congressmen and women enter the Rotunda poor and emerge as millionaires.

In my view, the penalties meted out to Clinton and Stewart were hardly comparable.  If anything, Clinton’s should have been the more severe because he held the highest of public offices and Stewart merely saved herself some money – an insignificant amount considering her net worth.  But both of them have returned to the limelight in society, their past transgressions forgotten and forgiven.  To this day, Bill Clinton is one of America’s most admired politicians.  And de Tocqueville has an explanation for that in our closing quote:

“Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”

DIVERSITY

It was a late fall day as I waited for the elevator in our apartment building.  Several floors below from the open stairwell,  I could hear two of the tenants having a conversation and I realized that one of them was holding the door open.  If they didn’t finish their confab quickly, I ran the risk of being late for school.  Finally, I heard the door close and the gears begin to move the old elevator – but it was headed down to the lobby.  I would have to wait for its arrival there and then its return up nine floors for me to board.  I looked at my Mickey Mouse watch with the red plastic wrist strap and realized that I would have to hustle if I were going to keep my perfect on time record intact.

When I opened the building’s front door, I could see a gentle snow was falling.   I hadn’t gone two feet when a flake landed on the left lens of my glasses.  It seemed that eyewear was a magnet for snowlakes.  This had happened before – and I learned from an earlier experience that it was better to let the flake melt rather than trying to wipe it off with my sleeve.  So I semi-ran the two blocks to school trusting my familiarity with the route to get me there despite the waterfall through which I was looking.

I opened the school door with three minutes to spare and slowed down to the acceptable pace which we were supposed to use when we were in school and calmly walked up the flight of stairs to my classroom, passing the older kids who were stowing their outerwear in the lockers which were in the hallway.  It would be two years before I would have one of those – with my very own combination lock.  I was looking forward to being in fifth grade with all the priviliges that came with that achievement.

I opened my classroom door and saw that Mrs. Bounds was writing on the chalk board.  She turned and welcomed me with her usual warm, “Good morning.”  So I went to the rear where I hung my coat in the communal locker and took my seat.  We were starting the morning with math – one of my favorite subjects.  I was ready for a busy day of learning.

We had previously learned how to count by ones all the way to one thousand.  That was a heap of counting.  And my father, seeing how much I seemed to enjoy it said, “You know, you can count to one thousand by twos and threes and fours as well.”  I decided to take him up on this tidbit of information and I managed to count myself up to one thousand by twos.  Not to anyone’s surprise but mine, this took only one half as long as doing the same exercise by ones.  So I thought I would try threes.  And when I got finished, although this took even less time than twos, I thought I had done something wrong.  I got to 999 instead of my expected one thousand.  I couldn’t wait for my father to come home so that he could show me what I did wrong.  But then instead of just deciding to speak the numbers, I thought I would write them down to see if that made a difference.  It didn’t.  But I did get an interesting lesson on fractions which gave me a head start when we started learning about them later.  And I also learned that one thousand was not the end of all numbers.  That inspired me to count to two thousand, which I started doing that night.  But I fell asleep well short of my goal.

As Mrs. Bounds took attendance and we raised our hands when our name was called, I noticed that the small flurry of snow I had encountered on my way was growing in intensity.  In fact, it was falling quite hard.

Mrs. Bounds looked out the window and commented, “You know chidren, there are no two snowflakes that have ever fallen that are exactly alike.”  This statement had as much impact on me as learning that one thousand was not the top number.  And I believed Mrs. Bounds because she was originally from Canada where it snowed all the time – or so I believed.  While I was, of course, unfamiliar with the words millions or billions, after all it was third grade, I started thinking about how many snowflakes must have fallen since snow started falling.  And although I couldn’t express that unfathomably large number with a word, my mind reeled as I thought to myself, “That’s probably more snowflakes than there are stars in the sky on a clear night.  Way more.”  I was awestruck.

After one of the  Republican presidential debates, I caught an interview with the Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  I’m not sure if she’s related to the person who invented the Wasserman test to determine if a person is syphilitic, but I’m quite certain that she missed the science class in which she would have learned that standing in a pool of water through which an electric current is flowing is likely to have devestating effects on your coiffure – perhaps even beyond the ability of the finest hair stylist to cure.  If you’ve not already guessed, I’m not a big fan of hers.

Ms. Schultz went on her usual frontal assault about one of the earlier Republican debates, striking what I’m sure to her was the most damning condemnation in her claim that there was “no diversity” among the candidates.  Diversity is a very big talking point for the left.  But I wonder if those who espouse this principle really understand it – or, more importantly, really care about it.

Long before diversity became such a big PC bell ringer, I was introduced to it when I read some literature about how thousands of species were dying off in the South Amerian rainforests every day.  And I already knew that the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon had gone extinct.  Well, of course, so did the dinosaurs.

But do we really want diversity?

Last year there was a huge brouhaha about those parents who did not want their children to receive a measles vaccination.  Rubella is a virus, as are ebola and polio and smallpox and our now most current virus poster child, zika.  Yet, apparently, humans would be very content if all of these viruses passed into oblivion.  Do they, as part of the ecosystem as much as are elephants and puppy dogs and snail darters and humans not have as much right to exist?  Wouldn’t fighting on behalf of these and other harmful viruses be advocating for diversity?

Several millenia ago, Christianity happened upon the scene.  One of the principles of that faith is that each person is unique and special.  I don’t see how you can get more diverse than uniqueness.  And, finally, science has caught up, confirming what religion has taught for centuries.  The proof of that is, of course, the fact that we now use DNA evidence either to exculpate or convict people of criminal activity – relying on our scientific understanding that each person’s DNA is unique. Who says religion and science can’t get along?

If we proceed from that standpoint of uniqueness, why then do we not view diversity within that framework?  Any crime against any other person should, in today’s context, be considered a hate crime or, at the least a crime against diversity.  That is true irrespective of whether either party is male or female, of the same or different races, whatever their religion and irrespective of sexual orientation – or whatever moniker we concoct further to divide, partition and pigeon hole ourselves.

And while we tend to focus on the negative and express real or imagined outrage when people act disrespectfully towards one another in any of the myriad way we express that, it might be useful to consider how our world might benefit if we actually embraced diversity in its truest sense and demonstrated that in simple acts of kindness or charity or, at the very least, in expressions of common courtesy to everyone we encounter.

The latest flare up in the war for diversity stems from North Carolina’s recently passed law regulating who may use which public facilities including bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.  Opponents of the law claim this will disenfranchise those few citizens who are trans-gendered, restricting them to using those facilities designated male or female and requiring them to use those which correspond to their genital equipment rather than their inner emotional sense of identity.  Proponents claim this will protect people from those who might be sexual predators.

Not meaning to sound dismissive of those who are trans-gendered, people with that condition represent, I suspect, a very small percentage, perhaps less than one percent, of our entire population.  Is it reasonable, by any logic, to inconvenience ninety-nine percent of the population to accommodate such a small minority?  And to ask a question, which I have never heard brought up in the debate, does that small minority have a responsibility to respect the vast majority’s concerns?  Isn’t that, after all, what a democracy is about?

It’s interesting to me that with the furor over this issue, I have heard the loudest voices coming from an amorphous collection of left wing people who themselves are not trans-gendered – but nothing from those who are trans-gendered themselves.  On the one hand I suppose one might look at these righteous crusaders as just that – people pursuing a magnanimous quest on behalf of the downtrodden.  On the other hand, one might argue that they believe the trans-gendered don’t have the verve, perspicacity or capability of speaking for themselves.

It always troubles me when there are those who, under the ageis of pure philosophical conviction, take up a cause and point out the injustices in society which are many and pervasive.  They, of course, are not affected themselves by the presumed inequity as they seek to wipe from the face of the earth any malevolent regulations or behavior.  So I thought to myself, what if we were to find a solution that would accommodate every person and see how that worked?

My solution is simple.  Just allow people of either sex to use whatever restroom facilities are handiest, irrespective of gender.  I suspect that within a week or so the outrage would be so loud that this issue would soon be buried in the footnotes of the annals of history.  But that’s just my opinion.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to this coming winter and hoping to catch a glimpse of the unique miracle of the diversity we find in snowflakes.  And, I anticipate just kicking back and chilling out.

Perhaps we might all benefit from that approach to viewing life.

 

 

 

AWOL

It’s been about six months since my last post.  While some of my most loyal readers here locally have been pushing, poking and prodding me to once more tap out some posts, several readers out of state and out of country have written me to see if I had gravitated to a higher plane of existence.  I can assure you that I have neither gotten any more intelligent nor have I shrugged off this mortal coil.  There have been two separate distinct reasons for my recent lack of productivity.

The first of these is purely technical.  A while back, my laptop encountered its mandatory period of planned obsolescence and died, despite all efforts to resuscitate it.  Well, the Vista operating system which ran it was never considered one of Microsoft’s best efforts – but we had come to a rapprochement and were quite comfortable with each other.  The new laptop runs on the latest and greatest operating system, Windows 10 (or so we’re told so that we will purchase whatever is being touted as the latest and greatest as though we are mindless, unthinking and programmable laboratory rats – which many of us are).  Well, latest and greatest, in my experience, usually means, at the least, making many adjustments and at the worst means feeling as though one has a limited cerebral capacity caused by oxygen deprivation while in the womb.  I found my experience with Windows 10 to more closely approximate the second of those two alternatives.

Of course, the very lovely (Microsoft) blog program that I had been using for years is NO LONGER SUPPORTED in Windows 10.  So there was that as well – considering that the new SUPPORTED blogging program is glitchy and a pain in the neck to use with far fewer features and more hoops through which a person must jump.  This is what the left defines as “progress” – hence the misnomer, Progressivism.

It seems to me that complicating what should be something that is otherwise a simple thing to do is at the core of what Progressives consider their job creation plan.  After all, if a task can be accomplished easily by a single individual in a short period of time, how detrimental is that to the economy?  And how much better to so complicate the procedure that it can only be accomplished by involving three or four people, and then getting a questionable result only after a long period of time has elapsed?  That is why we are now teaching children how to do simple math problems involving the addition of two, two digit numbers and require a three page explanation of how this is to be done.  (Frankly, I am not surprised that school kids are in such despair at this convolution that they simply pull out their cell phones, go to the calculator function, input the numbers and get the correct result – never learning how to add those two numbers using only their brains).

Despite the amount of time I have devoted to the technical challenges I encountered which disincentivized my posting for this extended period, this actually was the lesser of the two reasons for my absence.  The greater one is all the blathering noise that we pass off as “news”.

I probably started twenty or more posts during the past six months – yet I never quite completed any of them.  In part that was owing to the technical difficulties enumerated above – but more significantly I attribute this to the fact that before I finished tackling one “news story,” another one of equal triviality diverted my attention from completing it.  And when I say, “trivial” that is my sense of most of what seems to occupy our interest.

We the people seem to be so occupied with identifying the trees that we ignore the fact that there is a massive forest in front of us.  And we have no better ally in this than the news and social media.

While I have no answer to the reason that our news sources act as they do and report as they will in a verbal and visual portrayal of the classic chicken/egg conundrum – that is to say do they shape the viewpoint of their viewers or do their viewers’ viewpoints determine their choice of content in search of ratings – it is remarkable that when any story breaks, the collective “news media” act like a school of piranhas attacking an unfortunate alpaca who is strayed into their feeding grounds.  And when they have finished gorging themselves, they all swim off in search of a new victim.

I can’t help remembering coming home from school after either struggling on a test or being the subject of a classmate’s insult and feeling sorry for myself, spilling my guts to my father and listening to his wise counsel (after he instructed me that if I only had studied harder I would have gotten a better result or explaining that people who made fun of other people were “very small kids” who would, in all likelihood wind up being “very small grownups” and then concluded his lecture with the statement, “What will it all matter in one hundred years.”  The same may be said of most of what we are exposed to and absorb as being “newsworthy”.

My realization that posting on subjects that were absolutely trivial, while it might entertain some, was probably beneath the intellectual level of my readers and would require a forced effort on my part as I find most of it to be exceptionally boring and unimportant.  So I took a sabbatical from which I have now returned.  But if I may express my viewpoint for this period, it might best be described in the first few lines of  John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale,” a poem that I recited for a high school senior public speaking event:

 MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk.

Well, I’ve promised myself that I am going to try to re-establish my former cheery, optimistic self.  But I know that if I am not fully successful, what will it all matter in one hundred years?

HEALTHY SKEPTICISM

It was 1972 and the Democrats had settled on Sen. George McGovern as their nominee for president to face off against former Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  McGovern felt certain that Ted Kennedy or some other well known, prominent Democrat would readily agree to fill out the ticket in the VP spot.  He was surprised that all of those whom he asked declined his invitation.

After culling through other possible Democrats, McGovern was advised by the Massachusetts head of the Democratic Party that he would support the candidacy of Sen. Thomas Eagleton (MO).  The McGovern camp approached Eagleton who agreed to meet with the candidate for an interview.  The two got on well and McGovern settled on his choice for the second slot on the ticket.

Shortly after he became the vice presidential nominee, news leaked that Eagleton had been hospitalized on three separate occasions for depression.  During the course of his hospitalizations he had been given shock treatment to treat his condition.  The prospect that, should he happen to become president, these conditions might impair his judgment as the nation’s chief executive, caused McGovern to remove Eagleton from the ticket, replacing him with Kennedy in-law, Sargent Shriver.

In the Electoral College, the only votes the McGovern/Shriver ticket garnered were cast by the Massachusetts and DC delegations. Remarkably, the senator did not even carry his home state of South Dakota.

There have always been frivolous if not outright deceptive comments made about a presidential candidate which emanate from the other side.  Harry Reid made totally fabricated statements about Mitt Romney’s “non-payment of any taxes for ten years” and when he was confronted with the fact that Romney had delivered copies of his returns showing that he had paid income tax replied, “Well, he didn’t win did he?”  That’s just politics at its slimiest – and who better to engage in that then the senior senator from Nevada.

There are serious matters of character which rightfully should be examined by the voting public.  Naturally, people on one side will try to get maximum mileage out of any gaffe, slip or past indiscretion which they can attribute to the candidate of the other party.  And the hyperbole of electioneering unfortunately allows people to make allegations which simply are untruthful.  That’s why we now have “fact checkers” to correct mis-statements.  But the fact is that while many of us might have seen the untruthful ad containing these assertions, few of us read the story that the information and accusations contained in them were lies.  That’s why most political ads, at least the most effective ones, are negative in nature.

Back in 1972 there was not the immediacy with which information could be communicated.  It was far easier for a candidate to fail to reveal a negative event or trait which was part of his background and hope to escape detection.  That was the route that Eagleton took – failing to disclose his hospitalizations and the reason for them.  But the information came out and that ended Eagleton’s short-lived berth as the number two person on the Democratic ticket.

McGovern acted decisively in having Eagleton step down.  I never agreed with McGovern’s policies, but I do believe that he was a man of integrity.  No doubt, taking Eagleton off the ticket was self-serving, a move which McGovern must have felt would improve his unlikely chance of winning the election.  But I also suspect that he was concerned about the future of the country should something happen to him, Eagleton became the president and then have another of his depressive episodes.

Hillary Clinton is under scrutiny on issues that seem, at their root, to question her honesty and integrity.  That is the case whether the question is about whether she failed to take appropriate steps that might have resulted in a different outcome in Benghazi; why she maintained a private unsecured server and then deleted half of her emails; and whether foreign donors and governments might have bought influence while she was Secretary of State.  Those investigations should be conducted and the facts should be made public without the interjection of partisanship.  The presidency of the United States is too important to hand over to anyone because they make nice speeches or belong to a particular gender.  The past seven years have made that only too clear.

But, as with Eagleton, there is an even more fundamental issue that has been significantly neglected by the press – the question of whether Ms. Clinton is healthy enough to be president.

You may remember that she was to testify before the Benghazi Committee in 2014 but suffered a fall, injuring herself, and was granted a change in date because of this episode.  In his newest book, “Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary,”  prolific political author, Ed Klein asserts that Ms. Clinton has experienced a number of small strokes and, as is not unusual with women her age, might be expected to experience more in the future.  He describes her feeling fatigue as she hits the campaign trail and having bouts with insomnia.

In fairness to Ms. Clinton, Ed Klein could hardly be described as a fan of hers and I’m sure that the book is slanted to open questions into the state of her health.  I would not accept his statements as absolute facts which are beyond dispute.  But on the other hand, I’ve seen enough footage of Ms. Clinton stopping to make speeches and meet voters at small assemblies to have noticed that she does look rather haggard.  That might be understandable were she in a hotly contested primary race – but that simply is not the case.

I would hope that the media would look into the state of Ms. Clinton’s health more thoroughly so that we don’t have another Thomas Eagleton moment on our hands.  The people of this nation deserve a president who is, at the very least, healthy enough to discharge the duties of the office.

Whether Ms. Clinton fits that description – well, at the moment I’m maintaining a healthy skepticism.

FEAR

It was 1960 and time to watch one of what, was to me, one of the most interesting shows on television, The Twilight Zone.  That night’s was the twenty-second episode of the show’s first season, an installment entitled, “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.”  Perhaps you remember this story.  Critics have called it one of the show’s ten best and it is always included in the “marathons” that run every New Year’s Day.  But for those of you who may have missed it, here’s my synopsis of the plot.

On Maple Street, a street in a typical middle class suburb somewhere in America, strange things start to happen.  Suddenly the electricity goes out.  The neighbors come out to see if anyone else is experiencing the same problem or if it is merely a power failure in their home.  But the outage extends throughout the entire block.  They begin discussing their options – whether they should call the power company – but they find their phones are out as well.  They also discover that they can’t start their cars.  Of course, they begin speculating about what could be the cause of all of this.

One teenager says that what is happening to them is just like what he read in a book – about how monsters from outer space came to Earth and disrupted our power – just before they launched an invasion of the planet.  And the scariest part of their invasion plan is that they had disguised themselves to look human and for a long period had planted spies among us.

Suddenly, one if the neighbors who had been working on his car is startled when it suddenly starts by itself.  The others begin probing him as to why his and only his car is now working.  They become suspicious of him, now that they have been seeded with the teen’s story about enemy infiltrators.  And they not only bring him under scrutiny but begin questionning why others of them do what they do, like going out late at night and staring up at the sky.

Rational people are quickly turned into a lynch mob and one of the neighbors who had walked over to the next block to see if their power was out as well returns and in the darkness of night is shot dead by one of his friends.  Their fear of the unknown and the imponderable has overwhelmed their felings of friendship.  Unexpectedly,the lights come back on and they are left with a murder and the realization that their comity is not as deep as they might have believed it to be before it was put to this test.

In the final scene, we learn that there are indeed aliens on the planet and that they were responsible for the power failure.  Their plan to conquer the planet is to allow us to destroy ourselves and then they can mop up the residue that remains.  One of the aliens speaks the last line of the episode, “It’s always the same  – every time, everywhere.”

In 1939 the S. S. St. Louis, a luxury cruise liner, departed Hamburg, Germany.  Aboard were 900 Jews who were fleeing Hitler.  They were bound for Cuba with the ultimate intention of coming to the United States.  But when they reached Cuba, the authorities refused them permission to dock or for any of the passengers to debark.

The captain tried negotiating with the authorities over several days but they were emphatic in their refusal.  So the captin turned the ship northwest toward Miami.  The ship was intercepted before it reached that port and they were again refused permission to dock – this time by the government of the United States.

Direct appeals were made to then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but the ship did not receive permission to land and ultimately the captain had no choice but to turn the ship back around for a return voyage to Europe.  Out of fear and desperation, one of the passengers on board had slit his wrists and thrown himself into the ocean.  Of the remaining passengers, two hundred fifty-four were killed in the death camps.

One might argue that the reason that Hitler’s agression was allowed to grow exponentially as it did was because the other European powers chose to hope that they were dealing with a person who could be pacified by giving away the Sudetenland – a geographic area which was removed from their personal neighborhood and in which people lived to whom they were unrelated by blood.

One might argue that the reason that we have a Syrian refugee crisis today is that as the de facto leader of the free world, Obama has abdicated his and our country’s position of leadership and tolerated the intolerable – a dictator in Syria who regularly gasses his own people and has slaughtered more than 250,000 of them.

When the U. S. turned the S. S. St. Louis away it was four months before Hitler invaded Poland and started WWII.  There was no reason to fear that these refugees were coming here to act as a fifth column.  No open hostilities had yet occurred.  The sole reason for refusing them entry was that Roosevelt was not a fan of Jews in general.  He did consider allowing some of them admittance but wanted to keep them in small numbers and spread them throughout the country so that, “They wouldn’t disrupt our culture.”  This was discrimination and racism in its purest form.

The Syrian situation is very different.  For one thing, while it is apparent that ISIS has declared war against the U. S. and the West, they are not an enemy in the traditional sense.  Their borders are amorphous albeit growing.  The other nations of the world do not recognize them diplomatically.  But they are beginning to look more like a traditional country as western leaders, notably Obama, dawdle in their efforts to defeat them.

They do occupy territory, now the size of the UK.  They have an income stream from black market oil sales, and they have initiated laws which they impose on those who live within their occupied geography.  They have also developed a currency.  All these are characteristics of legitimate governments and countries.  And, to state the all too obvious, they have weapons and are not hesitant to use them.

Two thirds of Americans do not want us to admit any of the Syrian refugees.  But is their opinion formed by the attack in Paris, the Brussels lockdown or is this merely an overreaction owing to the “Maple Street Effect.”  For me, I think the most alarming reason for leaning this way is Obama’s statement that, “We really have nothing to worry about in the U. S.”  The man hasn’t made a truthful statement on any issue of substance during his seven years in office.

At the very least, we ought to take a pause before admitting anyone who might potentially be a terrorist.  That is what the House bill does.  It is sad that partisan politics rather than national security in the guise of Harry Reid may delay or abrogate discussion of this matter in the Senate.  But it is government’s responsibility to keep the country and its citizens as safe as it can within their capabilities.  However this plays out, this is merely a short term deferral of the real problem.

And that real problem is ISIS, its sister organizations and terrorism in general.  And the real solution is for America to get on the Reality Train that Europe is now boarding, make and take real steps to decimate it militarily so that the refugees can return to their homes and start the process of rebuilding their country.

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