Archive for the ‘Politicians’ Category

Service of Because They Can Though Maybe They Shouldn’t

Monday, July 10th, 2017

The world seems to be divided between those who do anything they want because they can and those who factor in others. Since I wrote, last week, about the executives who don’t blink at charging exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs my mind continues in that track.

The driver of a supersized SUV turning into 45th Street from First Avenue didn’t take his foot off the pedal for one second and almost ran me over. Why? Because he could—nobody stopped him and even if he’d hit me, he’d have been off and running for the same reason. The light was fully in my favor [as in the photo above] and I was crossing at just the right place [unusual for some New Yorkers].

The driver felt big, important and on a mission. I was an irritating pedestrian in his way, slowing progress. This scene happens countless times a day to thousands all over the city. Over the weekend we were in a cab that missed being slammed by a zigzagging driver who treated Lexington Avenue as though it was a super highway. Sometimes the threatening vehicles are bicycles driven by thoughtless, entitled individuals.

Photo: pinterest

The SUV incident happened two days after NJ Governor Christie sunned himself on Island Beach State Park in front of the state-owned summer house [photo right]. This beach—and all state parks in the Garden State–were closed to other citizens June 30-July 3 because of the second government shutdown in that state’s history. Christie’s beach time wasn’t illegal—the house has access to the beach—though when he and the family were captured on camera by a news helicopter, it didn’t look good [no pun intended]. As Christie put it at a news conference in which he was criticized: “Run for governor, and you can have a residence there,” according to nj.com.

Island Beach State Park, NJ

He claimed that he’d promised his son that he would celebrate his birthday at the beach. But just because he could didn’t mean he should when his constituents had to cancel their picnic, swimming and sunning plans. “Do as I say, not as I do,” doesn’t set well with most. In fact, his selfishness may have ruined it for future governors. There’s talk about selling the house or renting it to generate income for the state.

For the most part, the people I know and work with are thoughtful, caring, empathetic, courteous and cordial—because they choose to be. The men at the transfer station in Millbrook, NY were so gentle and understanding when I showed up on a recent Saturday with a car filled with garbage, paper and bottles. I was wringing my hands because I didn’t have my ticket [the first time ever]. I felt overwhelmed by their kind, understanding response. “Not to worry,” they said, “We’ll get you next time,” and they grabbed for the bags and bottles and moved them to join like refuse in the three separate sections. Wet garbage costs $5/bag.

In your life, are there more SUV drivers and Christie-like characters or more people like the men at the transfer station?

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 Unexpected Consequences

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Decisions

Many of my posts have to do with the impact of decisions. A colleague mentioned some New Jersey citizens’ regret about voting for Chris Christie for Governor. They’d done so not because they thought he was the best candidate but because an opponent had made fun of his weight and they felt sorry for him. They then had to live with their choice based on irrelevant considerations.

RealityI wonder about people who voted for the president elect and are counting on him to bring them jobs, protect them from foreign invaders and lower the cost of their health insurance. Are they braced for reality? And what about those in the UK who voted for Brexit—did they think through the potential impact of their actions on themselves?

Does anyone suffer consequences after trashing a political opponent? Not here and not these days. Neither do past candidates and other political figures flinch before dashing to shake the hand of a person they once censured and deplored.

electric carPoliticians aren’t the only ones going in one direction who must change course. Auto manufacturers have worked hard to make engines speak in whispers to quell noise pollution. But their success led to another challenge which Andrew J. Hawkins covered in “Electric Cars are now required to make noise at low speeds so they don’t sneak up and kill us.” This new US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rule applies also to hybrid-fuel cars, to “prevent these vehicles from injuring pedestrians, especially people who are blind or are visually impaired,” he wrote in The Verge.

Have you ever voted for someone for extraneous reasons—such as you both share the same religion or background—or because you fell for what the candidate promised and were misled? Do you think that auto manufacturers, who were trying to do good by reducing potential noise, are surprised that now they must ramp up engine racket? Have you made decisions only to be surprised by the subsequent repercussions?

Change direction 2

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 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 Word Choice: dictionary.com Has The Answers

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

definition

Are you familiar with fracking, incarceration and incendiary? These were words used by presidential candidates for which dictionary.com recorded brisk activity during debates for president.

Some words that President Obama used recently were “incontrovertible and overt.” The President “continues to influence word searches,” according to Rebekah Otto, director of content at the word website wrote Charles Bethea in his New Yorker article “Stumped.” Grace “trended” when the President sang “Amazing Grace” during his eulogy for Reverend Pinckney.

fool“Dictionary.com has a feature called Word of the Day; its lexicographers send vocabulary words to a subscriber list of nineteen million,” wrote Bethea. “Sometimes the linguists appear to be editorializing. Last Friday, after two more town halls, the site offered ‘ninnyhammer’ (‘a fool or simpleton’). Other recent selections, following primaries and caucuses: ‘rabble-rouser’ (‘Our users love agent nouns like this,’ Otto said), ‘rodomontade’ (‘vainglorious boasting or bragging’), and ‘skulduggery’ (‘dishonorable proceedings’).”

The content director loves it when words are misused such as when, in her speech endorsing D. Trump, Sarah Palin spoke of “squirmishes.” Otto described the word as “an unintentional portmanteau marrying squirm and skirmish.” She confirmed that bigly is a word, if little used. Trump chose it when he announced his candidacy.

Photo: cnn

One of the most intriguing aspects of Bethea’s column was Otto’s analysis of words most used by candidates during recent debates. Because unscripted they are more telling–“exploring each candidate’s linguistic essence.” Otto listed: “Clinton: systemic, children, seller. Sanders: speculation, tuition-free, cease-fire. Cruz: utterly, whatsoever, booming. Kasich: blue-collar, surplus, formula. Trump: nasty, sudden, tremendous.” Otto noted that the two Democrats use “concrete language” vs. the Republicans who use “descriptive language,” adding “with the possible exception of Kasich.”

Bet you can guess which candidate made which quote when Clinton and Trump addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee–AIPAC:

  • “If we look at the broader regional context, converging interests between Israel and key Arab states could make it possible to promote progress.”  
  • “What kind of demented minds write that in Hebrew?”

Were you familiar with all the words that Bethea reported generated vigorous searches on dictionary.com or that the staff selected for its Word of the Day? I didn’t know either ninnyhammer or rodomontade. What can you tell about a candidate by his/her word choice? What about the citizens who look up the words—are they curious or uneducated?

Curious George 2

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 Freebies

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

free

In one of my first real jobs after college the policy was clear: If you interview someone who works for a match manufacturer, don’t let anyone even light your cigarette and don’t accept a book of them. I subscribe to this philosophy for myself today although I’m not always book of matchesas strict when observing others’ behavior.

Standing in line at a service station to pay for milk and a lotto ticket last week the cashier waved at a State Trooper, who’d made himself a cup of coffee, and called out, “Go on!” He did, without paying. Didn’t bother me. My husband thought he should have paid.

In “P.R. pros evaluate mayor’s free rides,” on crainsny.com, Andrew J. Hawkins reported that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio doesn’t pay for his subway rides. I don’t think that police staff or MTA workers do either. So that didn’t bother me.

ItalyWhat did was when I read Michael Howard Saul’s article in The Wall Street Journal that taxpayers covered the cost of his white Mercedes and driver during his vacation in Italy, [his spokesperson wouldn’t tell Saul what it cost]; his travel expenses to a family funeral in Massachusetts last weekend and to Atlantic City for non-work related reasons in May.

I thought of the matches when I read earlier that his children were given coveted City Hall internships–a leg up on any young person’s resume even if unpaid. The Mayor got the OK from the conflict of interest board. Legality isn’t the issue.

Back to Hawkins who wrote: “Other elected officials said they reimbursed the city for non-official travel, but the mayor’s office pointed to a ruling that allows him to travel on the public’s dime.” I wonder if employers/clients would welcome taxi/car rental charges from employees/consultant’s vacations on expense/out of pocket reports? Sure it happens. But should it? Remember the matches.

Where do you draw the line? Should public officials be models of behavior? Am I too straight-laced on the subject?

draw the line

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