Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Service of a US Inauguration: Traditional Passing of the Baton or is it Different This Year?

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Marching band 1

I’ve been weighing for a while what I heard about Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. I drive by often so my ears perked up when the college was in the news a few weeks ago—and not about the results of one of its well-regarded polls.

After applying previously with no success, the college’s 30 year old band was chosen this year to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate the inauguration. The application was submitted in the spring of 2016, long before the election. Even so, some in the Marist College community squawked loudly.

David Yellen, the college’s president, wrote them a memo. An excerpt: “Some critics of the President-Elect, pointing to his controversial or inflammatory statements and policy proposals, view Marist’s participation in his inauguration as either a political statement in support of Mr. Trump, or an ethical lapse for not speaking out against him.”

Noting the college hosted a campaign event for Bernie Sanders, which also didn’t constitute an endorsement, he wrote: “I believe [these concerns] are based on a misunderstanding of the role of a college in a free society….A college community….holding a wide range of political views cannot itself be a political actor by staking a claim to any one position.” He wrote that the college will support students whether or not they participate.

Yellen’s point that–“…participating in the ritual of the United States’ peaceful transition of power [does not] constitute a political statement”–was also made by two other Marching band 2university presidents whose communities objected to their participation in the parade. On insidehighered.com, Scott Jaschik observed that this year is different from others, where before “students and their institutions have boasted about being selected to march in the parade.”

The colleges, some of whose constituents also objected, are Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais Ill. and Talladega College, Talladega, Ala. No Washington DC-based high school band nor Howard University will participate this year. “Several other colleges and universities will also be participating, but are not drawing criticism.” reported Jaschik.

According to him, Billy Hawkins, president of Talladega College, a traditionally black institution, wrote: “We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade. As many of those who chose to participate in the parade have said, we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power.”

Those who were in favor of marching made hay.  According to Paul Resnikoff, in “All-Black Talladega Marching Band Raises $320,000 to Play Trump Inauguration,” they made more than enough to pay all expenses to attend via a Gofundme page.

Marching band 3More than 900 people signed a petition urging Olivet Nazarene to withdraw. “Sadly, President-elect Trump has consistently articulated and advocated policies that undermine the Christian commitments of communities like Olivet,” the petition began, noting sexism, alliances with white supremacists, hostility towards immigrants and refugees as “just a few positions incompatible with Christian teachings in general and the Nazarene message of holiness in particular.” The college president, John Bowling, made the same point as the other two presidents. The parade is “a civic ceremony that provides the students with the opportunity to visit Washington and observe the process of transition firsthand.”

If you were in one of the college bands, would you attend this inauguration? Do you think that the protestors have good reason or don’t they understand the point of the inauguration according to the college presidents? Are you planning to watch the ceremony on TV?

Marching band 4

Service of Lies II

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

lie

After the results of the presidential election it became clearer than ever that people believe what they want to hear. When you peel everything away, it’s often because they don’t know the facts and/or are uninformed.

There are plenty of people in my business—PR and marketing—who make an exemplary living by promising the world—i.e. lying–and it works: They get the business.

A typical conversation:

  • Potential client–“We want an article in The Wall Street Journal.”
  • PR person’s response—“No problem. Some of my best friends are WSJ reporters/columnists.”Used cars

The potential clients are often the smartest in their industries, but they don’t know mine: Even a PR person’s brother-in-law can’t guarantee a story in The Wall Street Journal. Getting a hearing doesn’t automatically translate into coverage, but that doesn’t stop people from promising the moon to win.

Candidates also grab at anything to get elected. Most recently one pledged to bring back manufacturing jobs–this from a person so concerned about jobs here that the goods he sells are manufactured abroad.

Do people similarly believe him because they are uninformed? Do they think that he won’t short-change them as he does his vendors and suppliers?

short changeWe tend to remember when we’ve been lied to. President George H.W. Bush said “read my lips: no new taxes.” Who knows if he meant it or said it to get elected? In the day some familiar with the realities of the economic situation may have known better. We remember the lips bit but not his often repeated phrase about “a thousand points of light” to encourage the public’s participation in community organizations.

However this time many of us hope that the winner does NOT accomplish what he promised from withdrawing from NATO and the recent international environmental agreement to cancelling, rather than tweaking, Obamacare.

We need to get back to business and hope like the dickens that things don’t work out as badly as some of us fear. President Obama is urging us to give the man a chance: We’re all Americans and on the same team.

If a friend, colleague or relative lies to me, I do what my mother used to advise that I’ve often noted here: “Bury the bone but remember where you buried it.” We’ll all be walking on lumpy ground from all those buried bones for a while.

My NYC friends and colleagues who tried to calm my anxieties before the election make clear that we’ve all been shortsighted and gullible. Here in this island cocoon we haven’t a clue of America’s mindset. 

Why do you think people believe what they want to hear?

winning is everything

Service of Deep Breaths: What Do You Do To Relax?

Monday, November 7th, 2016

 Deep Breath

There are so many polls taken and reported these days that I can’t recall which the WOR 710 Radio morning show hosts Len Berman and Todd Schnitt were referring to when they said that only 2 percent of respondents had no opinion about how they felt about this year’s presidential election. The majority were “disgusted.” The bulk are also stressed about the election outcome tomorrow, which was a call-in topic of this morning’s show.

men playing golfSo no surprise when the conversation Friday led to how the hosts and news director Joe Bartlett relax. Bartlett and Berman said by playing golf. Schnitt said scuba diving, skiing and shooting at a range.

Depending on my mood, where I am or the time I have, for me it could be shopping for gifts, walking on a beach late in the afternoon, being absorbed in a great show or movie, reading chapters of a Calvin Trillin book–he’s hilarous–sitting quietly in a place of worship without a service going on or chatting with friends who make me laugh.

What takes your mind off your troubles at work, at home or concerns about the world’s conflicts?

 beach

Service of Bullying on and off the Political Stage

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Photo: bully and the booger baby blog

Photo: bully and the booger baby blog

While the drastic impact and deadly repercussions of children bullying children is sadly so often in the news–a story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal advised what to do if your child is a target–bullies of all shapes, sizes and ages have always existed.

My father didn’t speak much about his military service or later war experiences but one of the few stories he shared was about a bully in his basic training squadron. The fellow lost his terrorist status the morning the troops were lined up to receive an injection. He fainted when it was his turn. Amen.

Photo: wikihow.com

Photo: wikihow.com

Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor, professor and author knows something about being bullied. In a September 9 Facebook posting he wrote: “Because I’m very short, I was always bullied as a kid. I discovered that the best defense against bullies was to taunt them into revealing the weaknesses and insecurities that had made them into bullies.”

Photo: National Bullying Hotline

Photo: National Bullying Hotline

He continued, “After watching him for the past year, I’d guess [Donald] Trump’s weakness and insecurities have to do with his not feeling very intelligent, not feeling respected in the circles in which he craves respect, and not feeling he’s the man his father wanted him to be.”

Reich admits to the guess—his degrees and experience are not in the area of psychiatry. However with on-the-job training as a target he goes on to suggest a way to deflate the presidential candidate who flummoxes even the most high profile, experienced news people to silence when confronted with his bombast. Reich wrote: “Trump isn’t basing his candidacy on policies or facts, which the media are trained to probe. Trump is selling alpha-male strength and power. It’s a hoax, of course. Trump is just a garden-variety bully. But the media aren’t trained to expose this kind of hoax. In fact, the more Trump can bulldoze and belittle his interviewers, as well as Hillary Clinton, the more he appears to show strength and power.”

The solution? Reich suggested: “So questions from the media (and comments from Hillary) that provoke him in these areas will, I believe, cause him to expose the sham of his alpha-male strength and power.”

I’m not sure where Reich came up with his guess about Trump’s relationship with his father but the other two insecurities seem to fit. Do you agree? Have you known/worked with/been to school or lived with bullies? How have you dealt with them?

 

Photo: drawception.com

Photo: drawception.com

Service of Wardrobe and Grooming: Planning Ahead for Women and Men

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Jane sanders

Last week I sent a note to winners attending the Christopher Awards this Thursday to ask them to look for me because I’d like to include them in a group photo that I’ll send media after the event.

It’s always a scramble to gather a good number of people by category–in this case authors of winning books–during the cocktail hour. I like as many as possible to share in the publicity opportunity. It’s awkward and disrespectful to tuck into a group of people happily talking, stare at a name on a badge, and turn away from someone because they aren’t the person you’re looking for so this year I also made myself a sheet with their publicity photos.

To help me find them, two of the women wrote back immediately describing the dress they were going toSarah palin wear—one bright pink; the other a green floral. Both my collaborator on the project, David Reich, and my husband laughed in wonderment that they knew so far in advance what they were going to wear. A third woman, after asking about the dress code, reported she’d wear a long skirt and dressy top.

I related to them: For one thing, I need to determine if what I plan to wear needs to be ironed by me or a dry cleaner. My hair stylist doesn’t work on Thursdays and no matter what I wear, if I’m not happy with how my hair looks, I could be in vintage Chanel and I wouldn’t be happy. However, the wonderful stylist, who understands these things, said she’d come in on Thursday for me.

And I’m wallpaper at this event.

Think of what it must be like for a woman running for office—or the spouse of a man who stands on countless stages in line of the camera’s eye. Men have a big advantage. They only need to decide on necktie color—blue or red—and to be sure the tie has no mayo stain.

Elizabeth warrenEverything about a woman is under scrutiny. You’ve never seen one wear the same favorite day after day, photo after photo. On the contrary, most on the national stage don’t wear the same jacket twice. Bad hair days are out. And makeup? Maybe D. Trump is concerned about the latter two but both are essential for women.

How far ahead do you plan your wardrobe for a special occasion as a guest at a wedding, graduation, baptism, or naming or as part of the team at a product launch, awards, client or fundraising event? Do you agree that most women have this disadvantage?

Hillary clinton

 

Service of More Born Every Minute

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Suckers

Sorry to have to share more scams for suckers but it’s important to get out the word.

Moving right along

Did you hear about the Douglas County, Georgia family that hired a moving company through Craigslist and with the exception of one box, lost all their worldly goods?

Moving van plainThe movers had stolen the U-Haul truck [that the vehicle didn’t have the name of a mover painted on the side would have given me immediate pause]. According to Richard Elliot of WSB TV, after loading the truck the movers “appeared to be heading to the family’s new home in another county. But along the way, the homeowner said, the movers ditched her and vanished.” Estimated loss: $75,000. The box was recovered on a sidewalk by Cobb police two days later.

The homeowner was grateful. She’d said “If I don’t get anything back, I want that box, because it has all of our social security, birth certificates in it. It has death records from my mom and son,” she said, as well as the family Bible. The iPads and phones were missing from the box.

The naïveté of the customers made me sad: Most would have kept small electronic items and personal papers with them or stored them with friends. No wonder they were easy marks. I have to give it to the movers: They cleared the house in four hours. That’s lightening fast. Given my recent experiences in moving, I’d guess they didn’t pack or protect much; they must have tossed the furniture and other belongings in the truck.

Vote by hanging up

Telephone town hallHave you been invited to attend a town hall meeting on the phone with a political candidate? Take care warned Catherine Fredmen on www.Consumerreports.org where she shared intel from David Dewey, director of research at Pindrop Security, a firm that sells anti-fraud detection technology to call centers and others.

If you’re enticed by scammers that take advantage of the season and you give your credit card number to donate to your favorite pol, “Not only have you handed over money to an unknown entity, you have opened the door to identity theft.” She advises if the call is unsolicited, don’t play ball.

Not playing around

V TechWrote Fredmen, “Scammers are after more than your credit card number. Instead, they glean personal information to build detailed profiles that can be used for sophisticated forms of identity theft that may not be immediately obvious.” Her example is VTech, a toymaker. She continued: “For example, scammers could exploit the VTech data breach, which compromised the profiles of 6.4 million kids around the world, to hack identities for years. Because kids have no credit history and their parents generally don’t check their credit reports regularly, the theft might not be noticed until the kids grow up and apply for a credit card or financial aid for college.”

Mobile wallets on the move

“Dewey put the security of mobile wallets to a little test,” such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, Android Pay and PayPal, added Fredmen.  “First, he secretly copied credit card numbers and expiration dates from a few colleagues at Pindrop. A little Google investigating revealed the answers to ‘secure’ identification questions (such as a colleague’s mother’s maiden name) needed to activate the colleague’s card under Dewey’s mobile wallet account. Within minutes, Dewey had strolled over to Whole Foods and bought lunch for the office—paid for by his unwitting colleague. (The colleague was reimbursed.)”

Are you familiar with these scams or potential breaches? Know of others?

Android pay

 

 

 

Service of Gray: Senate and the Supreme Court

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Black, white, gray

I was far stricter when young than I am now [though close friends and family might not agree]. Then I saw life as black and white, wrong and right, with little room for compromise. Today I can live with gray fairly comfortably on many subjects.

That’s why I’m surprised at the intransigence of Republican senators and their refusal to give Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland the courtesy of a hearing. Not all of these women and men are young—haven’t they learned anything in their years on this planet? What happened to the greater good and being strong enough to admit a mistake and change your mind and give the President respect and the judge a chance?

Child tantrumI find this heels-dug-deeply-in-the-ground stance, a child’s tantrum attitude of “we won’t recognize someone” [even if we respect him] conflicts with an easy-peasy nonchalance when it comes to what Supreme Court judges are allowed to do.

In “Scalia Was No. 1 on Court in Paid Trips,” Eric Lipton wrote “Among the court’s members, he was the most frequent traveler, to spots around the globe, on trips paid for by private sponsors.”

According to Lipton in his New York Times article, “Legislation is pending in the House and the Senate that would require the Supreme Court to create a formal ethics system, beyond the Ethics in Government Act, similar to the one that governs actions of all other federal judges. That system is known as the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.”

US Supreme Court in 1930

US Supreme Court in 1930

Lipton continued: “Chief Justice Roberts has argued that the Supreme Court, even though it generally abides by this judicial ethics code, is not obligated to do so. It restricts how much judges can be paid for private travel, and limits other activities outside the court, such as allowing private organizations to use ‘the prestige of judicial office’ for fund-raising purposes.”

Justice Scalia took 258 subsidized trips between 2004 and 2014, according to Lipton, who noted that he gave speeches, participated in moot court events and taught classes in Ireland, Hawaii and Switzerland to name a few places. When he died he was the guest of the owner of a company that had “recently had a matter before the Supreme Court.”

In addition, “Many of the justices are frequent expenses-paid travelers, a practice that some court scholars say is a minor matter, given that many of the trips involve public talks that help demystify the court. But others argue that the trips could potentially create the appearance of a conflict of interest, particularly when the organizations are known for their conservative or liberal views.”

So while the Republican Senators are avoiding the job they are paid to do—to select a Supreme Court Judge—do you think that at the least they should turn their attention to legislation that would require the court to create a formal ethics system?

Code of Conduct

Service of Anger II

Monday, March 7th, 2016

anger

When an elderly friend stood up to get off a public bus last week the driver slammed the back door shut and shoved off and out of the bus stop abruptly before he could exit. Fortunately this passenger, who was carrying a heavy package, was holding on and no harm was done except he had to walk four extra blocks to get home. He said drivers are usually nice to him.

I was fuming, having just heard his story, and mentioned the incident to a lovely very young cashier at an office supply store. She responded, “Anger.”

On a crowded subway also last week a slight man in his late teens was balancing an old person on busenormous box with a sheet cake marked “Happy Birthday Boss” on one arm and hand while he stretched his other arm over others to reach the overhead bar. In a voice I hoped would carry I asked him if anyone had offered him a seat. He smiled and said “no.” Nobody budged as the train lurched on and he tried to stabilize his package. At the next stop a few people got off and he asked me if I wanted one of the seats and after I refused politely and thanked him I shepherded him to one of them ensuring that he sat down. Were the other passengers angry too?

I get anger. I have a bad temper. But I don’t accept anger as an excuse for nasty, cruel behavior on the job or an anesthetized approach to what’s going on around you.

Pundits repeat that anger is the fuel driving support of a wacky candidate running for President. As for voting for a clown whose embarrassing performance is dragging the election back to seventh grade, the relationship of such support to anger is lost on me. And you? When you feel anger, how to you quell it?

 School elections

 

Service of Common Sense

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Common sense

I tell graduate students I mentor to rely on common sense and share a conversation with a former boss I’ve mentioned before on this blog. He was in the hospital with a mystery ailment, suffering countless diagnostic tests. “Could it be phlebitis?” I asked him, remembering he’d had that when I worked for him years before. Turned out that was the problem, not some exotic disease. You didn’t need a medical degree to come up with that obvious conclusion.

Whistle in the Wind

Bernie SandersSo when I heard of Bernie Sanders’ campaign worker who accessed and copied Hilary Clinton’s voter database I thought, “Is this person tone deaf to this candidate’s clean-as-a-whistle persona?” He parked his common sense in some other candidate’s driveway.

Study the Surroundings

Morgan LibraryOn a visit to The Morgan Library this Saturday, I marveled at a 3-story glass wall in the front hall [at the right of this photo]. The view captured the back of a lackluster apartment building and some serviceable, unattractive separations between unimpressive back yards. This view diminished the impact of the architectural achievement and questioned its purpose. 

In addition, a heavy door to the library and Mr. Morgan’s study opens when you push a knob on the right and surprises as it comes at you. For a distracted visitor or one who can’t back up and out of the way quickly enough, it could be dangerous.

Listen to the Expert

frizzy hairMy hair stylist told me of a mutual friend’s folly. The woman is a recent widow who wanted a different look as her birthday approached and she ignored the stylist’s advice and had a permanent. [She lives out of town and has her hair done locally.] The stylist warned her that the procedure would not enhance her wonderful straight, thick hair. The friend compounded the recklessness by immediately dyeing her tresses, burning her hair and achieving a dramatically freaky effect. The only remedy the hair stylist could suggest was to leave mayonnaise on the hair the day of her next appointment with her coiffeur, though she didn’t hold out much hope. Hopefully the rich oils in mayo would act as a super conditioner.

Is it ego that causes employees or consultants to take actions that conflict with the boss’s approach; an architect to design a project that ignores surroundings or a woman to override an expert’s advice? Can you think of other examples?

Big ego

Service of Unintended Consequences II

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Unintended Consequences 2

Have you wondered how the shrinking moderate presence in Washington occurred; how the country has an increasing number of citizens from third world countries and how ISIS happened? Homer Byington, my husband, shares his theories.

In 1965, as part of his “Great Society” Civil Rights initiative, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed by Congress despite the strong opposition of the Southern wing of the Democrat Party, but with the overwhelming support of the Republican minority. Its intent was to give black citizens the same voting rights as white citizens and a proportionate share of representation in legislative bodies such as Congress. It and subsequent court decisions, especially since the 1990s, have led to the re-drawing of State Congressional district lines to create a number of new “black majority districts.” Doing this, obviously, has led to the remaining districts in each state becoming far whiter than they had previously been.

The unintended, and unforeseen, consequence of this was that while there are now far more black and Hispanic congressmen and women than ever before, the number of “safe” seats controlled by extremist white conservatives has also increased even more dramatically. The number of moderates of any political stripe has declined just as dramatically.

President Lyndon B. Johnson

President Lyndon B. Johnson

That same year, again as part of his “Great Society” Civil Rights initiative, President Johnson signed into law the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which was enacted by Congress, despite the strong opposition of the Southern wing of the Democrat Party, but again with the overwhelming support of the Republican minority. Its intent was to replace the existing law, which was discriminatory because it based visa eligibility on the national origin of the immigrant, with a policy that united families. There was no limitation on the number of immediate family members of American citizens that could be admitted.

donkey and elephantThe unintended, and unforeseen, consequence of this has been that the demographic makeup of the country has changed dramatically. Neither President Johnson, nor most others in his administration, and especially the mid-western Republicans, wanted or expected this to happen. They assumed that the vast bulk of immigrants would be family members of existing citizens and, therefore, would continue to be European. Instead, prosperity and declining birthrates there led to, if anything, reverse immigration to, rather than from, particularly Western Europe. Instead, a flood of Third World migrants, taking advantage of a variety of preference categories under the statute on a worldwide quota basis, compounded by the admission of their relatives and, in turn, their relatives, have poured into the country over the past 50 years.

In 2004, the United States invaded Iraq supposedly to fight terrorism and quickly overthrew Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, his Ba’ath Party and army. Perhaps following the example of what the Allies did in Post-war Germany with the Nazis, Hussein was eventually executed, the first tier of Ba’athists and military were prosecuted or jailed and the lower ranks were fired and disenfranchised. The latter, according to Michael Weiss, co-author of ISIS – Inside the Army Of Terror, became the pool of unemployed, unhappy, educated, technologically inclined, skilled Sunni labor from which ISIS sourced the relatively sophisticated team that now staffs its middle and upper-middle management. (Based upon my own experience with Iraqis, I’m inclined to believe Weiss.)

President George W. Bush

President George W. Bush

The unintended, and unforeseen, consequence of this occupation policy was that we and others now have a massive problem dealing with a variety of terrorist attacks by diverse ISIS agents and recruits around the world. President George W. Bush and his advisors may have invaded Iraq with the intention of weakening, and eventually defeating, al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, (although I was not then, and am still not now sure anybody in the government really understood what he was doing at the time), but they certainly did not intend to spawn a new breed of yet more sophisticated Wahhabi Sunni terrorists. However, that seems to be what has happened.

Homer asks: Do you think that there is any way in which we can undo these past unintended consequences? If so, how would you go about fixing what has happened? And, can you think of any actions our leaders are now taking which will unintentionally result in regrettable consequences for all of us?  

 Tangle of yarn

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