Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Dam has Burst

I guess it was inevitable.  Sooner or later I was going to offer some commentary about the avalanche of claims of sexual harassment against prominent men.  The problem is that it seems that they just keep coming so it's difficult to characterize where we are in this sordid mess.  But we're far enough in that it's likely not going away and will probably get worse.  So there's really no reason not to jump in.

As I was out walking the pup this morning I was trying to think of all the people who have been accused.  It's a long list.  Trump, Clinton, Conyers, Franken, Rose, Halperin, Weinstein, other Hollywood types, Washington DC swamp types, media stars, etc, etc.  Just tonight there was another name from Pixar who is in deep shit.  It seems that the Harvey Weinstein accusations started the snowball down the hill.  And the accusations were real doozy's.  I've written previously that in my opinion all you had to do was look at this guy and it wouldn't be difficult to characterize him as a slime ball.

During our 6 years living in the Washington DC area, I came in contact with many who worked on the hill.  Some were friends and colleagues.  It was no secret that there was a big sexual component in the environment.  Lots of pressure, long hours, many away from home, plenty of alcohol, and most importantly, power, all contributed.  I heard somewhere today that our government has spent $17 million of taxpayer money over the last 20 years funding sexual harassment settlements aimed at members of Congress and their employees.  If true, that is pretty disturbing.  Probably not much we can do about it, but it needs to stop!

Let me state clearly that I don't think this whole issue is about sex as much as it is about power.  Quite simply, it's a bunch of guys abusing women because of one reason.  Because they can.  They are jerks of the first order and I'm happy they are getting called out.  And as a subjective assessment of these guys, where did they get the idea that they could do some of the things that they are alleged to have done?  I mean, most of these guys are not God's gift to women.  They actions they supposedly took, the way they treated women, the blatant and flagrant flouting of what I can only characterize (because I've photos of them) as old and fat men, is frankly disgusting.  I mean, they must have egos as big as a house.

But there are some questions to ask and some issues to ponder as we confront this new paradigm.

In my most cynical mood I wonder if a lot of this isn't some big diversion.  The hate for Trump is so deep and pervasive, that I wonder if some aren't trying to push this abuse narrative to open the old allegations against him.  Maybe not.  But it causes me to wonder.

As we watch the news and hear the revelations, this sordid mess is causing us as a populace to think about and deal with things that are really smarmy.  Not that they are unserious, but in comparison to the world's problems, they are fundamentally third or fourth order in importance, if that high.  And because of the attention, they have risen to the top.  And I wonder how that affects our people.  And our kids.

These folks, both the abusers and the abused, have a fair amount of the hypocrite in them.  These abusers are the first to call for human rights and then abuse women.  They are also the ones who decry global warming while driving in their limousines and flying in their private jets.  And they campaign for affordable housing while living in gated mansions.  Or they are passionate about open borders while employing immigrants at slave wages.  They are also the ones who don't want tax reform while maintaining their wealth in offshore accounts.  And the women have some accounting to do.  I will go easy on them because they have been on the receiving end of some really terrible actions, but why is the damn breaking just now?   Maybe it's because it's just that simple.  A few came forward and more and more and more felt empowered to do so.  Okay.  So be it.  But it's difficult to figure out why they stayed silent for so long.  If something like that were happening to someone I loved, I would be terribly disappointed if they stayed silent, no matter the consequences.  And I'd be disappointed because they didn't come to me or someone they trust to help.

I also wonder about when the abuse occurred.  The judge in Alabama has charges from 40 years ago. 40 years.  Really?  That's a tough one.  But most are more recent so they need to be taken at face value.  I've also heard it said by more than one person that if anyone commits this kind of crime is should be the death penalty as far as public service is concerned.  Okay.  But I wonder if someone can be rehabilitated in 10 years?  20 years?  40 years?

It's also interesting to see the reactions.  Some give excuses.  Some apologize.  Some deny.  I don't know if any of these strategies work.  There doesn't seem to be anything that they can do but recede from the public eye and hope for the best.

This kind of crime fundamentally comes down to he said, she said.  But we have defaulted to total belief of the woman.  Okay.  So be it.  But...there could be some real consequences with this reaction.

I'm sure that there will be other revelations as the days and weeks unfold.  And they will be probably be just as bad as what we've heard to now.  And it will cause further circling of the wagons and attempts to deflect and blame someone else.  My sense is that strategy is becoming problematic.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Leadership Decision Matrix

There are a lot of ways to select people to work for you or to work with.  Most modern analysis revolves around qualificatiions, eduction, training, experience, personality and timing.  But there are other ways.  Here's one from the German Army.  A bit cynical...but not too bad!  Sad to say, I've seen all these types.
General Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord, the present chief of the German Army, has a method of selecting officers which strikes us as being highly original and peculiarly un-­Prussian. According to Exchange, a Berlin newspaper has printed the following as his answer to a query as to how he judged his officers: “I divide my officers into four classes as follows: The clever, the industrious, the lazy, and the stupid. Each officer always possesses two of these qualities.
Those who are clever and industrious I appoint to the General Staff. Use can under certain circumstances be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy qualifies for the highest leadership posts. He has the requisite nerves and the mental clarity for difficult decisions. But whoever is stupid and industrious must be got rid of, for he is too dangerous.”

American Scripture

154 years ago today Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.  It is one of the most revered speeches  in our history.  It is easily one of the best speeches by an American President.  The battle had taken place in early July, 1863.  Lincoln had been invited to Gettysburg to participate in a commemoration of the battle and to dedicate the hallowed ground.  He was not even the featured speaker of the day.  But his words ring soundly down through the decades as a rallying cry for our country.  It's only about 260 words.  Not long.  Do yourself a favor and read.  Then go to a quiet place and re-read it.  And take just a few minutes to ponder what it meant then and what we can take from it today.  God knows...we need all the help we can get!

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Motivation Monday

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Book Recommendations

I don't usually give book recommendations.  I read a lot and like a lot of different kinds of books.  I tend to gravitate to historical novels, mystery novels, biographies, and history books.  My thinking is that people like different things and my recommendation may or may not be relevant to their interests.  Something I like someone might thing is not very good at all.

But I've read several books lately that I've really liked and since this is my blog, what the hell.  I'll just put them out there and let the reader decide.  Now let me emphasize that these are just three books among many that I've read over the last several months, but they are standouts.  They are also a bit more consequential than the latest Lee Childs or John Sandford mystery.  If you're interested in what I like in those genres, I can provide if you shoot me a note.

Anyway, here are three books that I've recently read and really liked.  You might check them out.  If you like them, great.  If not, well then you and I don't have the same tastes.  Different strokes for different folks!

1.  Churchill:  A Life 
     by Martin Gilbert
Written by master historian and authorized Churchill biographer Martin Gilbert, this masterful single-volume work weaves together the detailed research from the author’s eight-volume biography of the elder statesman, and features new information unavailable at the time of the original work’s publication. Spanning Churchill’s youth, education and early military career, his journalistic work, and the arc of his political leadership, Churchill: A Life details the great man’s indelible contribution to Britain’s foreign policy and internal social reform.
Offering eyewitness accounts and interviews with Churchill’s contemporaries, including friends, family members, and career adversaries, this book provides a revealing picture of the personal life, character, ambitions, and drives of one of the world’s most influential and remarkable leaders.
2.   Hillbilly Elegy:  A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crises
      by J. D. Vance
From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class through the author’s own story of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of poor, white Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for over forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck.
The Vance family story began with hope in postwar America. J.D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
3.  This Kind of War:  The Classic Military history of the Korean War
     by T. R. Fehrenbach 
I saw this book listed on Secretary Mattis' required reading list and thought I'd try it.  You can't find a better book that details the horror, the futility, and the craziness of war.  Updated with maps, photographs, and battlefield diagrams, this special fiftieth anniversary edition of the classic history of the Korean War is a dramatic and hard-hitting account of the conflict written from the perspective of those who fought it. Partly drawn from official records, operations journals, and histories, it is based largely on the compelling personal narratives of the small-unit commanders and their troops. Unlike any other work on the Korean War, it provides both a clear panoramic overview and a sharply drawn "you were there" account of American troops in fierce combat against the North Korean and Chinese communist invaders. As Americans and North Koreans continue to face each other across the 38th Parallel, This Kind of War commemorates the past and offers vital lessons for the future.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Friday Funnies

Political Crises

Dan Henninger writes for the WSJ and is one of the writers on today's scene that I almost always admire.  His column, Wonderland, is almost always spot on regarding commentary of the issues of the day.  Now I know he's a conservative, but I say that with a small c.  He is more of a pragmatist and offers something that I value above almost everything else.  Logic.  Below is today's column.  It is as spot on as anything I've seen regarding the rat hole that we're spiraling down.  Read it, consider it, live it.  We've got to start being nicer to each other, people.  "Time to sober up"!

Bonfire of the Prosecutors
Political animosities are pushing the U.S. toward a significant political crisis.

By Daniel Henninger
Nov. 15, 2017

"American politics has become an endless fox hunt. The hounds’ heads jerked up this week on news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, responding to a request from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, had asked the Justice Department’s career lawyers to look into the possibility of appointing a second special prosecutor, to investigate Hillary Clinton.

Set aside for a moment what the precise meaning of “investigate” might be. The day doesn’t pass anymore without a demand, from the Oval Office or the ozone, that someone should “look into” some political malefaction. Theoretically, we could have public officials being led to the executioner’s block weekly in Washington.

Indeed, the movement to name a second special prosecutor flows from the fact that the Washington press corps in January decided en masse to “look into” the notion that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia to defeat Mrs. Clinton, a thought dropped into the water by the departing Obama administration.

What followed was a river of stories purporting Trump-Russian collusion. Months later, it remains true that the federal code recognizes no crime called “collusion.” Eventually the river of collusion stories joined with Oval Office mania over them to produce special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

A fiction exists that Mr. Mueller represents the “rule of law.” In truth, Mr. Mueller looks about as relevant as a lawyer wandering around the smoking battlefield at Gettysburg. We are in the midst of a multifront political war—between Republicans and Democrats, and President Trump and the Beltway media.

The central, contested issue in this war is the acceptability of Mr. Trump’s presidency. The Trump opposition believes that a Trump presidency remains unthinkable and abhorrent, so opposing it is a moral imperative. But however intense the imperative, it’s nothing more than that, because the formal politics are moot. Mr. Trump received more Electoral College votes than Mrs. Clinton.

But so deep is the antipathy to the existence of a Trump presidency—forget that someone has to deal with North Korea’s nuclear-armed missiles, the Middle East or the U.S. economy—that the opposition has spent nearly a year hoping just one more Russian collusion story would . . . do what? Make Mr. Trump evaporate?

So there is a kind of delicious temptation to embrace the idea of a second special prosecutor to “investigate” the Clintons. Why not? A lot of people on the right and left have been spoiling for a street fight over the 2016 election, so let’s have it out. Light the torch and set off a bonfire of special prosecutors.

The people who brought us the Trump-Russia collusion narrative are now weeping crocodile tears that the appointment of a second prosecutor would mean that President Trump is politicizing and weaponizing the Justice Department. Oh my. They should have thought of that before they approved how the nation’s security agencies weaponized the press last January.

Time to sober up. A self-indulgent American political class, reveling in perpetual tumult, is pushing the U.S. toward a significant crisis. The appointment of a second special prosecutor would bring that crisis closer.

Primary U.S. institutions are already on thin ice with the American people. Start with the malperformance of institutions once thought trustworthy, whether the unprecedented collusion leaks from the intelligence agencies or James Comey’s ham-handed and too-public tenure at the FBI.

Mr. Mueller’s team of prosecutors represents a rebuke of the Justice Department’s credibility and standing. His first act, the Paul Manafort indictment, was a pre-existing case that Justice offloaded to Mr. Mueller. If Mike Flynn or anyone else has violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, Justice should prosecute, not the deus ex machina of a special prosecutor.

Political accountability remains crucial in a system as open as ours, and historically the press has provided much of that oversight. That’s changed. The media’s referee role has morphed into relentless political tendentiousness.

The media dresses up its collusion stories with insinuations that something illegal has occurred. In fact, the criminal law’s traditionally high bar of proof is being replaced by a weaker, more volatile standard from prehistory. In short, where’s there’s smoke, there must be guilt, so erect a special prosecutor to concoct indictments. This is a formula for creating unappeasable political resentments. Pressure builds; the system blows.

If you want to hate Donald Trump, feel free. But a sane world would have dropped the Russia stuff months ago, just as a sane world would get over Hillary’s crimes so that what’s left of the country’s institutions could get back to normal governing.

It won’t happen. Politics as a permanent bonfire has become both a thrill ride and a business model. But let me wonder who benefits from this scenario:

The day that the Trump Justice Department names a Clinton special prosecutor will be the day Mr. Trump’s impeachment is guaranteed, if the Democrats take the House in 2018. After that, let ’er rip."

Appeared in the November 16, 2017, print edition as 'Bonfire of the Prosecutors.'

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Reasonable Solution?

I heard today an interesting idea.  The solution to the Roy Moore mess in Alabama is Jeff Sessions.  Hmmmmm...intriguing.  Would certainly solve several problems.  Keep tuned in...

The People in the Second Row

We've come to a time in the national discourse where the cable news channels (I use the term 'news' lightly) have a overblown and almost hysterical reaction to almost every event that happens.  When I say every event, I mean every event that will rile up people and get them all pissed off at the other side from their own political views.  It's also all about a ratings calculations.  If they think whatever they are showing will result in more people watching, then it continues.  Relevance and importance don't seem to be in the calculation.  Now don't get me wrong.  When there is a disaster or some sort of atrocity or some international event, then it's proper to cover it.  Of course, at some point the coverage becomes 'over the top'.  And they usually don't cover events in some place that Americans don't think or care about.  When there are dozens of people killed by a suicide bomber or shooter in a remote African or Middle Eastern country, they don't give a shit.  

I was struck this morning by the continuous coverage by all the cable news channels of Attorney General Sessions testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.  My perspective is that this was just more plowing of the same ground.  More asked and answered confrontations.  More attempts at gotchas by the Democrats and more attempts at vindication by the Republicans.  More 'we need to investigate Trump collusion with Russia' by the Dems and more 'we need to investigate crooked Hillary' by the Reps.  Blah, Blah, Blah.  But beyond the rhetoric I continue to be stunned by people (not just members of Congress) who would impugn the integrity, patriotism and honesty of this man who has a 40 year history as a private attorney, a State Attorney General, a U.S. Attorney, a Senator, and Attorney General.  He is a good and decent man who is being unfairly maligned and mistreated because of political calculations.  I think it's pretty shameful.  Of course, the other side will say that treating Hillary badly is shameful.  Please...

But as I watched before embarking on the day, I was reminded of the people in the second row.  They are the ones sitting against the wall behind the members of Congress.  As I watched the Representatives, some pretty attuned and cognizant of the issues and some clueless (I'm talking to you Rep Conyers) I hearkened back to some of the hearings that I attended while a student at National War College in Washington, DC.  We did quite a bit of studying our government, to include Congress.  That study included attending various hearings and events to get a feel for how the Congress works.  It struck me then and again today as I watched, that the people in the second row were really pulling the strings.  They are the staffers, the lawyers, the political hacks, the PR people, even the Interns who do the research, write the papers, and persuade their Members that their position should be his or her position.  Now I'm not saying that many aren't in agreement, but many (most?) members just don't have the background or knowledge to spout some of the nonsense that they do.  So what are they doing?  They are dancing to the tune of their party and their leaders.  Cross the party and you won't be there very long.  And here's the other thing.  The K Street lobbyists aren't sitting in the second row, but they might as well be.  Their influence is deeply felt throughout the room.  There is no doubt about it.  

So I watched this circus and it was distressing.  When I hear the provocative accusations, the ignorant speculation, and the outright disrespect I am disheartened at how inculcated the swamp is in our political process.  And I'm not sure it can be fixed.  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Interesting and Provocative Political Questions

1.  What will the Republicans credibility be if they screw up tax reform?  Or more importantly, how big will their losses be?

2.  How will the Republicans handle Roy Moore if he wins?  (Hint:  no good options)

3.  Will the new Majority Leader, Chuck Shumer, be able to get anything done?  Or more precisely, will he want to get anything done?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Something to Ponder

Amongst all the things going on today, a Senate race in Alabama is likely not something that most pay much attention to.  But with the razor thin majority that seems to be omnipresent in the Senate, no matter who occupies the White House, every race seems to take on national importance these days.

The Alabama race was interesting a month or so ago when the Republican primary took place.  Trump and McConnell endorsed the guy who had been appointed to replace Jeff Sessions after Sessions became the AG.  His name is Strange.  I know...not a great name for a politician.  His opponent was a character named Judge Roy Moore.  Moore was endorsed by all the far right wing loonies.  He was the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court in Alabama.  But he's been thrown off the bench...twice.  Once for ignoring a Federal court ruling to remove a plaque of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial Building.  And again because he instructed State judges to ignore the US Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage.

Now whatever I think about Ten Commandment plaques or same sex marriage, the fact that the Chief Justice of a State Court defied Federal Law should be disqualifying.  At least I think it should.  And this guy is clearly a little right of Attila the Hun.  He shouldn't get anywhere near the US Senate.  But of course...he won.  And whoever wins the Republican Primary is likely to win the seat.  Like...overwhelmingly likely.  Sort of like a Democrat running in California.  It's a lock.

But now some pretty unsavory accusations have surfaced about him dating young teenage girls back when he was in his 30's.  Nothing illegal.  At least it doesn't sound illegal.  But pretty smarmy.  Sort of like a lot of the 'holier than thou' types who get caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  And he's blaming everyone else but himself.  There is a pretty good article about it here.  Frank Bruni is a writer I sometimes like and sometimes hate.  But I think he got this one pretty right.

So we'll see what happens.  The Democrats are salivating.  The Republicans are running scared.  The progressives are outraged.  The conservatives are hunkering down.  But not sure how the voters are thinking.  I don't like to think that the Republicans are going to wind up with their already thin majority even thinner.  But personally, I don't want this guy in the Senate.

Motivation Monday

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Friday Funnies

Dilbert never fails to crack me up.  Since I was in Marketing (sorta) these two hit close to home!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Something to Ponder

Which is worse?  
Who deserves more sympathy?  
Who deserves more condemnation?  

A starlet victim of Hollywood mogul sex creeps?
  A mogul victim of starlet golddiggers?

Or are they both pretty irrelevant? 

Monday, October 30, 2017

New Depths

Have you seen the new ad put up by something called the Latino Victory Fund against the Republican challenger for Governor in Virginia?  I've seen some pretty despicable political ads as we are divided even further by those desparately trying to win power.  But this sinks to new depths.  It makes me wonder when people are sitting around a room deciding how to put a message together if they really believe this crap.  And then it makes me wonder when people are sitting around a room deciding whether or not they should actually air this terribly devisive ad, that they go ahead with not much concern.  I don't know if this is the worst that we'll see as the political class decides they can do and say anything to win power, but I hope it is.  Because this is bad enough.