Who Took The Cheese?

So this is a photo from today in the cafeteria of the mac and cheese. 


What I see without fail, day-in and day-out ,is that the people take the yummy crispy cheese off the top of the mac and cheese. 


The result is that just a few people get all the cheesy cheese from on top and everyone else is left with the noodles underneath.  


So for cheese sake, why do they do it?


– For the Love of Cheese – People simply love melted cheese so much, they’ll do anything to get more of it.


– Because They Can Take Cheese – People take the best part, the crispy cheese on top for themselves, because they can and there is only benefits to themselves and no adverse consequences if they do it. 


– They are Very Hungry for Cheese – People take the cheese because they are so famished, only the cheese on top can satisfy their hunger pains. 


– Sense of Cheese Entitlement – People have a sense of entitlement for themselves, and if there’s cheese to be had, they they are entitled to it.


– Cheese Narcissism – People are innately selfish for cheese and they will take and take and take until there is no cheese on top for anyone else. 


– Anti-social Cheese Behavior – People have anti-social personality cheese disorder, so they can’t help but take all the cheese. 


– Not Enough Cheese to Go Around – People feel their is simply not enough cheese to go around; in other words cheese is a scarce resource, which makes it a valuable cheese commodity to scoop up for themselves. 


What is really funny-sad about this whole cheese situation is that every day the food service seems to put out the same leftover mac and cheese with a fresh topping of the cheesy-cheese on top, only for it all to be taken off again–cheesy day after cheesy day. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Management Is A Privilege

Face.jpg

So some people have this notion about management that is all wrong. 


– Management is not a right or entitlement.


– Management is a wonderful privilege!


The privilege comes with responsibility and is earned by knowing how to manage and treat your people right.


That means:


– Acting with integrity


– Treating people fairly, with dignity, and respect


– Showing you value them


– Helping to develop them


– And of course, achieving results together!


I heard it said well like this:

“If you don’t treat people well 

you won’t be a manager for long.”

Again, it’s a privilege, not a right, to manage and lead others. 


Those who abuse their privilege and people–it’s like the cycle of life. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Attack On Human Rights

Gun Rights

So we’re sitting in the coffee shop and this guy near us has some books on the table. 


He’s reading three things:


– The Holy Bible


– Second Amendment Primer


– The Heller Case (the landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2008 protecting an individual’s right to bear arms for self defense in “federal enclaves”). 


So somebody says jokingly, “You think he’s a Republican?”


It made me think how we get judged by not only our behaviors, but also by our apparent beliefs, politics, and associations. 


Even if we don’t necessary do anything wrong or controversial, people see us, sum us up, and place judgement upon us. 


Moreover, while we may have a legal right to do something, people may still look disparagingly on us for exercising our rights.


Speak you mind freely, practice your religion openly, stand firm on privacy, own a gun in a liberal part of town, and you may find yourself being stared, pointed, or sneered at, whispered about, threatened, harassed, or otherwise disapproved of in small and/or big ways. 


My question is how is something a right if people still can mistreat you for exercising it in appropriate ways?  


I’ve heard people say things like you’re eligible for X, Y, or Z, but your not entitled to it.


They confuse rights as eligibility, rather than entitlement. 


So some people water down our Bill of Rights that way–thinking, saying, and acting in way that you are eligible to do something, BUT only if you ask nicely or do it a certain way that the other person arbitrarily approves of, and not that you are entitled to it as a basic human right!


Yes, of course we all need to behave responsibility and not yell fire in a crowded theater, but that doesn’t mean that human rights are subject to the whim of people’s mood’s, tempers, personal views, and bullying behavior. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Morning Entertainment DC

Banjo
So this morning there was an interesting banjo player in downtown DC.



He was playing and this little dog in the shopping cart behind him was jumping around dancing. 



Sometimes I wonder as I get older:



– Will I remember all these scenes from my day-to-day life?



– Will they seem real or more like a surreal fantasy?



– Will I feel that I stopped “to smell the roses” or simply hurried on by doing all my things?



In each person a soul–but do we see the spirit or just the bodily facade–somebody homeless trying to get by, a simple distraction, street entertainment, fleeting fears of mental illness or other dangers, just an annoyance maybe, or a handout for someone in need. 



Ever wonder who are you and why are you deserving (or not) to have the fancy suit, tie, shoes, and bag, nice haricut, and are going to a cushy job and fat paycheck, while someone else is standing on the corner playing the banjo?  😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

We’re Not Deadbeats

We're Not Deadbeats

Good book review in the Wall Street Journal on America’s Fiscal Constitution by Bill White.

The main idea is that we have gone from a nation where fiscal discipline and paying off ones debts was a valued tradition to one now where excess rules and profligate borrowing runs through our veins.

Both personal and national debt were viewed as a means of last resort and not something to be proud of, but rather as something done out of necessity to get through tough times.

On a personal level, we only borrowed what we needed and we payed it back on time or even early. Poverty was just one step away or even akin to servitude.

Similarly, on a national level, public debt was viewed as a safety net to preserve the union (i.e. war), territorial integrity (e.g. Louisiana Purchase), or in a severe recession (i.e. to maintain the government’s ability to spend in the short term).

The best option was seen as “pay as you go,” with the alternative, under limited circumstances, to “pay as soon as you can.”

However, the value placed on self and national discipline and sufficiency was replaced with elements of entitlement, greed, and waste.

The problem is once you have inequity in the system, then people feel the unfairness of it all, and give up caring about the system itself and just want to get what they see as their fair share.

Some politicians cater to these feelings of relative deprivation and are no longer viewed positively for fiscal constraint and ensuring our economic security, but rather “politicians gain favor by spending money without having to raise unpopular taxes.”

In essence, the government can give people more now, and they don’t have to pay for it until future generations–hence the ability to buy citizen’s political consent and even win elections by increasing the treasure chest even temporarily.

No, this is not China raising the fortunes of the middle class to keep the Communist Party in power, but rather this is us in the U.S. of A racking up tens of trillions of dollars in debt to keep people happy now (forget the future generations, let them fend for themselves).

Shake hands, kiss babies, and hand out dollar bills–give me, give me give me!

What has happened to us fighting hard and driving into the future on our own feet–together in strength and not as a debtor nation getting handouts from anyone that will lend us.

Soon, the Fed will be raising interest rates, and with a greater and greater national deficit to pay on, interest payments have the real potential to spiral out of control and leave our economy in shambles.

Like a credit card with interest payments that eclipse the principle borrowed, soon you are in over your head and there is nowhere to go but Chapter 11.

We’re not an inherently debtor nation, and we sure don’t want to be a deadbeat nation–isn’t it better to have what we really have financially and be who we really are and value?

Let’s leave our children and grandchildren economic and national security and not a towering pile of shameless debt, from mom and dad with love.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Will You Be Missed?

Will You Be Missed?

There’s a question everyone always ask themselves–when they are gone from an organization will they be missed?

We all tell ourselves that we are irreplaceable–when we leave everything will fall apart, that “then they will be sorry,” and maybe they will finally appreciate us.

But when calmer heads prevail, we sort of know the truth that we are all indeed replaceable–there are others just waiting in the wings to swoop in for a chance to do our job and perhaps better than we ourselves did it.

But won’t we be missed? They’ll be a party, cards, well wishes, maybe even gifts, and people will say how much they will miss us, but then when we are gone–24, 48, 72 hours later–does anyone really care?

If we left things in disarray and without a succession plan–we kept it all in our head waiting for the day to show them all–then there will be a period that may not be so pretty for the others taking on the responsibilities we are leaving behind.

However, someone who would do that to the organization and their fellow employees, you may ask what good were they really anyway?

For the most part, when people leave, I think there is a transition period for people to adjust to change–this is normal, and then after that people go on thinking about life afterwards.

– What new opportunities are there for them? In a crude way, some may even think that there is now one less person for them to have to climb over to advance. With someone leaving, one can say even that their power flows back and is dispersed to the others in the organization to “pick up the baton,” influence and lead.

– Some may realize that the problems the person brought to the organization (and everyone brings a mixed bag–both good and bad), have now left with them. Were they entrenched in the current ways of doing things and naysayers to any sort of change? Did they have an ego and a sense of entitlement after serving for years? Had they become stale and fallen behind the times in terms of best practices, new technologies, and so on?

– Others can look forward to new people and “fresh blood” coming in–reinvigorating the organization, bringing in new perspectives, fresh ideas, or as they say, “mix it up a little,” shake the limbs, ask questions of the status quo–of course, you never really know about a new person, until the marriage equivalent of “you wake up with them in the morning”–you see how they actually perform on the job, in the culture, with the people.

Sure, there are some special people that are practically irreplaceable, because they are such visionaries, innovators, and leaders of people–that they are truly one in ten million. Steve Jobs is one of those that come to mind. These are the exceptions, not the rule.

For most people, we give to the organization and provide value–some people thrive for years or decades. It is individualistic and depends on many factors but especially the person to job fir and the person to organization fit. Factors that are in some ways quantifiable based on knowledge, skills, and abilities, but also depends on personality, culture, style, adaptability, motives, and many more things.

When a person is a good or great fit–there is almost nothing better for them and the organization then a long and productive marriage of the two!

But when the fit is bad–then it is bad for the person and the organization–there can be poor productivity, negative interrelationships, and bitter feelings.

Depending on the situation and fit…Often we wished people stayed longer and could keep giving their gift. Sometimes people know when the tea leaves are telling them to move on and the fit is no longer right. And still other times, some people overstay their visit and thereby do more harm then good.

How will people see you when it your time to leave? You want to be missed for all the right reasons. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Bernt Rostad)

An Immigrant’s Message

It was interesting getting out of Washington D.C. this week and talking to people outside the Capital about what they were thinking.
During Presidential campaigns and debates, I always hear the candidates say, “And let me tell me about (whoever) that I met from (wherever) and they told me (whatever).”Usually, when I hear these anecdotes, I wonder what the real meaning of these are, given that they are hand-selected by the candidates to prove their points of view.So I tried it myself in Florida this week to see what people where thinking about Washington and our national predicament—I asked, “What do you think?”Well let me start by saying that I didn’t talk to as many people as a presidential candidate does—that’s for sure—but I also wasn’t looking a tag line for my next rally or speech.

So here are a few things I heard from everyday people, most of them immigrants or children of immigrants.

One person I spoke to was from Haiti and had settled in Florida.  So I asked what his concerns were.  He told me about the suffering back in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and how so little (relatively-speaking) had been rebuilt.  So far, I wasn’t really shocked at anything he said.  But then he went on to tell me how people in the Haitian community believed that the cause of the catastrophe was (no, not mother nature, but rather) that the U.S. government was testing new weapons in the Caribbean (from underwater submarines) and that this (accidentally) triggered the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

I asked what made them think this, and he told me how the people back in Haiti had witnessed U.S. response efforts and how zones were “mysteriously closed off” and the event was handled in tremendous stealth.  I asked was it just him whom thought this?  And he told me that this was a widely held belief by the people there.

Well, this was not like anything I had heard in the any of the candidate speeches during the election.  Maybe this guy was just an oddball, crazy, and telling wives tales about the going-ons in the Beltway, and everyone else was just feeling rosy.

So I spoke to someone else, a cabdriver from Romania living here for nearly 30 years – old enough to remember his country of birth but experienced enough to compare life there and here. He told me that he felt the people in Washington D.C. did not really care about him or others in the country. I asked what he meant by that.  He questioned our leaders of many decades (with the exception of two in the last 40 years—which I won’t name to protect the others), and he said that the others are basically just in it for themselves.

With regards to the “fiscal cliff,” he said, “No one is willing to make the real decisions that the country needs.”  He went on to add, “Unfortunately, politics has become just a profession.” Moreover, he said that “People aren’t even thinking short-term [let alone long-term], they’re just not thinking at all!”

This immigrant said he was worried generally about the future of the country and warned of what he believed was civil unrest to come, because he felt nobody was really dealing with our serious financial problems. He said that he had lived through a thousand-percent inflation back in his home country, literally, and that he felt we were going down the same road. Matter-of-factly he said, “Washington has bankrupted this country.”

Again, this was very different from the spin on most of the news shows these days, where the real estate recovery (however slight), consumer confidence (rising but on the edge with the rest of “the cliff”), and healthy personal and corporate balance sheets are all the rave. “What, me worry?” is the dominant attitude, not only about the “fiscal cliff” and the well known $16 trillion deficit, but also the other $86.8 trillion in national debt for entitlements, which according to the Wall Street Journal (27 November 2012) is not readily discussed.

My wife spent time talking to a woman less about politics, but more about her life predicament. Her husband passed away after 27 years of marriage, and she was just eking out a living primarily on the survivor benefits. She was living in a trailer, and having trouble finding a job. (“There is a lot of age discrimination out there,” she said.) She said she was lonely, despite her boyfriend, and that what mattered to her was just having some nice people in her life to talk with.  Her current plans were to continue monitoring her boyfriend’s activities on dating sites—he didn’t realize she could do that – and visit Bulgaria. There, she would meet the family of her late father, who unbeknownst to her had a child with a mistress that she only learned about upon his passing. She was angry at the doctor who prescribed her hormones, which she is certain gave her breast cancer, and she indicated that if she could do it over again she wouldn’t have listened so unquestioningly to what he said. For her, alternative healing such as attending a “drumming circle” was helpful, especially in calming all “the chatter “and worry on her mind.

While she didn’t talk about the country per se, this lady was clearly having a tough time in life and although she smiled frequently, the pain she felt was clear not only by the stories she told, but by the look on her face.

So, these were some stories that I heard—a little different from campaign fodder—but very telling in a way about what REAL people out there are thinking and feeling—versus the sound bites.

Now, we need to figure out how to dispel the negativity out there and help people and the country get it together.  It’s not enough to bicker, but we need a grand vision, a genuine strategy to get there, and the ability to articulate it to the masses—sacrifice will be needed, it’s time to get down to it and be real for at least the third time in 2 generations. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Either Way A Fiscal Cliff

Dirty_secret
Okay, so here’s the dirtly little secret…
The “Fiscal Cliff” that everyone is supposedly working on to avert–is really unavoidable!Yes, the Sequestration that was put in place that eliminates the broad-based tax cuts from a decade ago and reduces spending across military and domestic government spending–can be replaced by more surgical tax increases and spending cuts.But with a National Debt of more than $16 trillion dollars and one which has been trending up over a trillion dollars a year, we have gorged ourselves and spent beyond our means for too long–and the time to pay up is fast approaching.For example, critical entitlement programs likesocial security and medicare are running out of funds and will not be able to cover benefits by 2033 and 2024, respectively.

What is even worse though is that the money you have been paying into “the system” from yourpayroll taxes for decades hasn’t been put aside in trust for you, but has been spent on other things–sort of like robbing Peter to pay Paul. And now what?

At a time when national competitiveness is suffering, jobs are going overseas, test scores in science and math are trending down, and we have the lowest percentage of Americans working in 30 years, we are saying that we’ve essentially spent our last dime decades ago and have been doubling down with more and more borrowing–that we don’t really know if we can ever pay back.

While we would like to “grow” our way out, by having more people working, earning more, and paying more into the system, our growth projections of slightly more than 2% next year and a historical average from 1947-2012 of just 3.25%–this seems more than wishful thinking.

More likely, as the percent of our national debt to GDP continues to rise and our national credit ratings are are at risk of falling, interest rates will start to rise first slowly and then faster to elevated levels to compensate for the increased borrowing risks, and we will see inflation rear it’s ugly head–it is ugly because inflation will mean your savings are worth less or potentially even virtually worthless.

This will make the $16+ trillion deficit also worth less, so we pay it back through inflation as Germany did with hyperinflation after WWI, and the essential wiping out of our personal savings. Viola, deficit paid down, but pay attention to at what personal costs!

Unfortunately, the fiscal cliff is here and will happen whether spending is cut here or there and taxes go up on some or everyone. This is just the negotiation of how to spread the pain and spin the tale.

And either way the fiscal cliff is going to hurt, because you have to cut spending and increase taxes leaving people with even less money in their shrinking pocketbooks, and if you don’t, the credit agencies will continue cutting our national credit rating leading to higher interest rates on the debt and higher inflation–so either way, our creditors will get their pound of flesh.

In the E.U. now, we are seeing the effects with countries from Greece to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and more reeling from the impact, but this is only the beginning, because the lending spigot instead of being turned off, has been opened up further to kick the can down the road. But who will be the lender of last resort, when there is no one that can reliably pay it back?

In the end, you can’t raises tax or cut your way out of decades of financial mismanagement, overnight. In the corporate sector, we say Chapter 11–what do you say for Western civilization? And what do we tell our children and grandchildren?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Putting Children Above Ourselves

Folk_festival

What a distorted editorial this morning in the Wall Street Journal called “What’s Really Behind the Entitlement Crisis.”

Oh, thank goodness (NOT) that we have these pundit-types to tell us what’s “really” happening and feed us their self-serving “proofs.”

Anyway, the author, Ben Wattenberg, contends that we all are suffering a decline in standard of living because we don’t have enough children.

He actually advocates that we have more children to bear the burden of our waste, fraud, and abuse and inability to live within our means.

The author writes: “Never-born babies are the root cause of the ‘social deficit’ that plagues nations across the world and threaten to break the bank in many.”

Never mind that current world population of over 7 billion people is anticipated to rise above 9 billion by 2050, and we continue to spoil and deplete our world’s limited resources already.

The author selfishly contends that “Declining birth rates mean there are not enough workers to support retirees.”

Unfortunately, the author ignores that if current and prior workers and politicians did not spend down the balances in social security to finance other pork-barrel political initiatives, then each workers savings would still be there to support their retirement, and we would not have to rely on future generations to make up the difference by spending their savings to support our prior excesses and waste.

Wattenberg ends by saying that “The real danger for the future is too few births.”

Like a glutton, he advocates that we eat more in order to keep trying to satiate our insatiable spending needs.

When I was a kid, my father used to joke about eating too much and say we should do some push-ups–push the the table (with all the food) away from us!

No, like teenagers on day time TV shows, who contend that they want to have children because they feel it is their “way out” of their problems and only then they will be loved and be able to love, and the TV show host puts them in a program with a fake baby that cries and makes at all the inconvenient hours of the day and night, does the teenager realize that having (more) children is not the answer to their problems, but actually may only increase their problems.

Having more children as a nation–we already average about 2 per family–in order to finance our retirements and entitlements through the development of another generation of a slave labor pool is completely misguided.

Have children for the right reasons–out of genuine love and a commitment to give–not to receive.

Mr. Wattenberg does not seem to care if children are brought into the world of broken families, poverty, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, molestation and incest, homelessness, and separation and divorce, because Wattenberg’s standard of living is at stake.

Bring children into a world that is giving, loving, and sustainable.

Safeguard life, but don’t recklessly encourage birth.

Birth is a privilege of the young, not an entitlement for the elderly.

(Source Photo: Michelle Blumenthal)

When Free Speech Goes Afoul

Fire_theater

Freedom of speech is one of our most precious rights. 

However, there are limits – times when the right to speak and publish comes up against the principle that one should not cause harm to others
The famous example is that you cannot falsely cry, “Fire!” in a crowded theater
Free speech–yes; harm to others–no. 
This week (11-17, July 2011), a BusinessWeek article called “Set Them Free”  exemplifies what can happen when free speech goes too far.
The article is an argument in favor of illegal immigration.  
The author’s thesis is stated in the form of a rhetorical question: “Laws against illegal immigration make little economic or moral sense. So why punish the brave citizen who break them?”
Certainly, I am sympathetic to newcomers to our land. I come from a family of immigrants, like so many American citizens, and I value the opportunities and freedom this country has provided to me and my family. 
However, in this article, the author openly promotes breaking the law. He supports “illegal” immigration and calls for others to facilitate it.
One can argue about economics and morality of immigration policy, but from my perspective, obviously, no country can have fully open borders. Logically, this helps to ensure safety, security, and social order. Coming up on the 10-year “anniversary” of the events of 9/11, this is a no-brainer.
I therefore have trouble believing that Bloomberg would publish an article essentially calling for an end to border security. Any arguments regarding economic benefit do not detract from the clear negative implications for national security. (Note: all opinions my own.)
Not only does the article ignore this point, but it brazenly calls the laws against illegal immigration “immoral.” 
The author stretches the limits of free speech beyond the breaking point in my view when he recklessly states“When a law itself prohibits doing the right thing, when it is immoral rather than just annoying or inconvenient, and when breaking the law does no great harm to any others, it is justifiable for people of conscience to chose to break that law.”
He literally states that illegal immigration is “the right thing (!)”
How can a mainstream media source publish such extremist rhetoric, even going so far as to compare the U.S. laws to apartheid: “Current, U.S. immigration laws have all the moral standing of pass laws in apartheid South Africa.”
In addition to teaching us that free speech can be misused to spread extremism, hatred, lies, promote civil disobedience, and enable chaos, there are some other unfortunate lessons here.
The first is that one must think critically about what one reads, even if it is in a supposedly “mass media” publication. For immigration is a blessing and a privilege, but not an entitlement. Nobody has the right to enter another country’s borders at will, without restriction.
Second, and more troubling, extremist thinking clearly continues to flourish not only outside our borders, but from fanatics within.
While I agree that we should always be moral, help those in need, and make good economic decisions, this does not negate the importance of maintaining security and social order. Further, it is irresponsible at the very least to promote breaking the law, and offensive to compare illegal immigration as an issue of economic exploitation to the drastic human rights abuses of apartheid South Africa.
(Source Photo: here)