Archive for the ‘Questions’ Category

Service of Asking the Right Questions II: It’s not about forgiveness for Anthony Wiener and Eliot Spitzer

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

questions

The media is asking the public if it can forgive Anthony Wiener and Eliot Spitzer who are running for NYC mayor and comptroller respectively. Both had been caught in kinky activity, the former on social media; the latter in a prostitution scandal.

ConfessionalForgiveness is neither the point nor the appropriate question—it’s a distraction. To start, pardon for these actions is not the public’s business or domain—it’s for their families to stomach.

What is the voter’s affair? The candidates’ judgment, behavior and approach to their prior work. As state Attorney General, which he was before being elected Governor, Spitzer landed unsympathetically and severely on perpetrators. His mean approach to the law was hardly forgiving—what he now wants from the public–especially against those in the prostitution business of which he was a beneficiary. This made him the poster child for the Bible quote: “Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone.” I’m for strict adherence to the law; hypocrisy not so much.

Leopard changing spotsSo the question is not about forgiveness but about trust, transformation and whether overly ferocious politicians can change.

In today’s New York Post, columnist Michael Goodwin writes in “Sex pols’ sorry story”: “The issue is not how you spent your time out of office. The question is, how have you changed? How do we know you are not the same person who betrayed the public?”

Later in the column Goodwin continues: “Their final acts did not occur in a vacuum. For Spitzer and Weiner, their undoing was the culmination of years of reckless arrogance. Spitzer was so out of control that I predicted, after only eight months as governor, he would not finish his term. Six months later, he was gone.”

Moments after I heard a radio interview with Goodwin, a newscast on the same station ran the voice of a potential voter who had forgiven Spitzer for his sexual pursuits. The quote was illustrating the news that Spitzer was having trouble accumulating 3,750 signatures of registered Democrats that he needs to be on the ballot. His deadline is tomorrow night.

I discussed the topic with Martha Takayama who inspired the post in the first place. She said, “You have to pound on the idea that their morals are beside the point and that inconsistent application of crime and punishment rules are the issue.” The Boston-based gallery owner of Tepper Takayama Fine Arts, specializing in contemporary photography, is also passionate about politics. A frequent visitor to Manhattan where she has family, she pays more attention to what’s going on here than most locals. Takayama continued: “Spitzer’s case indicates a flaw–not a tragic one because he is not great. He thinks that he is above the law. That rules are not for him! He was a grown man when he manifested that behavior.” 

ColonThe media should help a public, with memory the size of a punctuation mark, by asking the right questions and covering the work-history of the candidates. Goodwin was on the right track. While I don’t always agree with this columnist, we see eye-to-eye on this subject. 

When you watch interviews with candidates, celebrities or others are there questions you’d wish the reporter or on-air host would ask or do they pretty much cover what you want to know? Is forgiveness what it’s about with candidates reemerging after a fall or is it more about belief in the potential for adults to change?

Media interview

Service of Asking the Right Questions

Monday, June 24th, 2013

 

Ask Me questionsI’d like to share a few questions to ask in a range of circumstances that might save you from costly mistakes in time and money. Asking the right questions will serve you far better in evaluating a vendor and ensuring a positive outcome than depending on websites that direct readers to the best ones.

Agency

Marketing StrategyWhen hiring a marketing, PR or advertising agency, ask to speak with four or five former clients. There are countless legitimate reasons a company changes vendors. The test of the character and smarts of the principals can often be found with those with whom they are no longer associated professionally.

You’ll learn if the counsel was sound and the work top quality; if the account people fit the company’s culture and how responsive they were as marketing needs changed. The fact that an agency is still in touch with its former clients—or isn’t–also says a lot.

Contractor 

ContractorHiring a contractor? Ask for contact information for his/her last three to five jobs. You’ll likely have a more accurate picture of the good and the bad when you call these people for recommendations than if you let the contractor make the picks. My first encounter with a contractor was disappointing and shocking because we thought we’d done our due diligence. We’d spoken with the homeowners and visited nine jobs: Three for each contender. But all the choices of jobs were the contractors’.

Hotel

Booking a hotel with a lineup of ballrooms? Ask who is scheduled for the adjacent rooms and what their entertainment plans and schedules are. This became obvious one night when nobody could hear the speakers in our room because the relentlessly earsplitting band next door wouldn’t take a break even though hotel staff and event producers pleaded with this uncooperative neighbor-for-the-night.

hotel ballroomThe cocktail hour at another event took place in the generously proportioned hallway in front of the ballroom. The hotel had proposed this concept to all its clients. Trouble was the women at the event on the way to ours were dressed as southern belles, with huge hoop skirts that took up all the floor space. We had a difficult and uncomfortable time reaching our destination. The hotel should have put the belles at the end of the hallway, not near the elevator. Nobody asked.

Buying or Renting a House

Ask about weather anomalies. In North Dakota I lived on an Air Force base in the last house in a line of two family homes. Wind on our–and on all corners–was so fierce that far more snow piled up in our driveway than in anyone else’s.

I wonder how many of these questions are universal and if they would apply in any culture. Did any of them surprise you? Hope you’ll share your tips for questions to ask in these or other instances.

house in snow

Service of What’s the Question?

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

question-what-is

With $67 billion of student loans in default it appears that some of the borrowers aren’t asking the right questions. Janet Lorin wrote: “Almost two-thirds of U.S. student-loan borrowers misunderstood or were surprised by aspects of their loans or the student-loan process, a study shows.”

She continued, in “Student Borrowers Lack Understanding of Loan Terms,” on Bloomberg.com: “About 20 percent of the respondents in an online survey said the amount of their monthly payments was unexpected, according to the study released today by Young Invicibles, a nonprofit group in Washington that represents the interests of 18-to-34 year-olds. The respondents had an average of $76,000 in student debt.”

college-studentsIn addition, borrowers probably didn’t calculate what their potential salary might be in their chosen field, what the job opportunities are and what the added value would be to attend a private school with its $60,000/year tuition, room and board–taking Georgetown as an example–vs. a state or community college where they can live with relatives. Undergraduate tuition at the City University of New York is $5,130.

How do you Feel?

fever-thermometerMeanwhile, the Justices of the Supreme Court are looking at the legality of Obamacare. What they are considering is if there are limits to Congressional intervention in people’s lives. Talk show pundits refer to this question as “Can Congress make you eat your broccoli?” Wonder what the answer will be.

Hot Topic

I heard an articulate spokesperson make her case about tanning beds in a radio interview. She wanted the legislation in her state to follow California where it’s against the law for teens under 18 to use them. Emma Jones on Limelife.com reported on these findings by the Skin Cancer Foundation: “…indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors. What’s more, across the US each year, 2.3 million of tanning bed users are teens.”

tanning-bedJones also reported:  “California had previously banned minors under the age of 14 from using tanning beds, but allowed those between 14 and 18 years of age to use tanning beds with parental consent. Texas has also banned the use of tanning beds for children under 16, but California’s new bill has made them the first state to set a higher age limit.”

When the MC asked this spokesperson: “How many tanning bed businesses are there in the US and how big a business is it?” she had no clue. Within a minute of hanging up, his producer had the answers. The takeaway: When you are a spokesperson, think of the obvious questions you’ll be asked about the topic you’re covering and keep the answers at hand. It’s so easy to do these days!

How Taxing

On his radio show about money, Ric Edelman was trying to make losers feel better about the outcome of the Mega Millions lottery. He told the audience about a winner of $10 million who divided her winnings: 49 percent for herself, 51 percent for her mother and siblings.

tax-2She lost a court case in which she fought the tax man, ending up paying 90 percent of her winnings to gift taxes.

Before picking up her winnings, she should have asked a whole bunch of questions. She’d have learned that the maximum amount of money she can gift someone without paying a gift tax is $13 thousand a year. She’d have been better off to have picked up the winnings with family members as a group. Ric was being funny when he said she should have hired an accountant and lawyer even before buying the winning ticket.

Have you landed in a spot because you didn’t ask the right question or weren’t prepared with the answers?

 unprepared

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