Archive for April, 2013

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ENTITLEMENTS

April 30, 2013

Remember Romney’s disdain for the “47%” he could do nothing about?  I am equally concerned about the 53%.  Check out the Hood Family – originally from Louisiana- that moved to Minnesota after Katrina:

  • The family had a net worth of $11 million and a set of triplets – two of whom were special needs children with severe disabilities..
  • They moved from Louisiana to Minnesota to “take advantage of heath care and educational resources” available to their children.
  • When they arrived in Minnesota, the mother claimed a need for assistance – although they bought a home in North Oaks for $865,000 cash.
  • The mother claimed she was the sole legal guardian, and had only $1400 in the bank.
  • In reality, between mother and father, they owned another home in Louisiana, a farm in Iowa and had EIGHTY-FOUR separate bank accounts.
  • Their combined INTEREST income when they moved was $183,000.
  • Since they moved to Minnesota, the state paid her between $200,000-250,000 in salary to take care of her children and financed a $30,000 wheelchair accessible elevator in their new home.
  • They continued to receive $19,000 a year in state and federal agricultural payments for the farm.
  • For three years after they moved, they continued to collect money from Louisiana as well as Minnesota to support their children.
  • And when they were finally caught?  They were able to pay out another $484,312 as part of a plea agreement.

This is what I call entitlement.  Yes, of course, it is an extreme.  Yes, of course, they finally got caught and she will serve a prison term under “house arrest” as she continues to care for their children in their home.

But let’s be honest…this is not the only example of “those that can” taking advantage. When one looks at general economic gains of end of 20th century all “pooling” at the top, one has to realistically question the “walk on water” attitude of those that find themselves in that top category.  A century ago, we called those people the “robber-barons”, and we were taught in school to beware.

Being classified as part of the “wealthy” does not a good person make.  There are bad apples scattered through-out; but those that feel they are entitled to what they have need to look in the mirror before they point fingers elsewhere.

 

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THE SECOND GUESSING CONTINUES….

April 27, 2013

In the latest Syria issue – chemical weapons – I, for one, applaud the Obama Administration in holding firm on the need to gather facts, establish chain of custody, link use of evidence to specific incidents and certainly in refusing to be held to a time line or specific action to be taken until we have those answers.

THAT is what a Responsible Leader of our country should do.

Better to move slowly than to be responsible for a similar travesty of the last decade…even Bush himself dared not mention “Iraq” during his re-invention at the opening of his Presidential Library.

But once again, angry old birds are voicing their displeasure loud and clear.  What about the Iraq War, its loss of life and mass destruction -all for not much gain – do they not understand? 

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THE NEW US GOVERNMENT CHECKING ACCOUNT SCANDAL….

April 25, 2013

I am bracing myself for a new round of “shock and horror” accompanied by Repo demands for yet another investigation of this administration.

An article in the STRIB today reported almost $1 million is spent by the US Government on “nothing”.

Apparently, when a grant is made, a banking account is established from which the recipient can draw funds.  And over the years, as grants expired or were cancelled, these bank accounts have not been cancelled.  So the banks continue to charge the government maintenance fees for empty inactive accounts; and the government continues to pay. 

This practice of paying bank fees on expired grant accounts has been described as “one of the oldest spending habits in Washington….”

From my perspective, rather than blaming this administration, kudos should go to them.  Last year, they became the first administration ever apparently to take up the battle to get this under control.  At the time, they had discovered this was costing $2.1 million annually spread over 28000 accounts. 

This past year, that has been REDUCED to a remaining 13,712 open accounts and yes, that means $890,000 of unneeded expenses as the headline broadcast this morning.

From my perspective, I say finding and closing 51% of the accounts at issue and yielding a dollar savings of 58%  is a step in the right direction and should be applauded – not subject to more foolish time- and money-wasting hearing in Congress! 

And it raises a question – one more time – what responsibility do our financial institutions have in this practice?  The bank bailout at the end of the Bush Administration was not an obligation of government, but a prudent thing to do in terms of the country.  Shouldn’t we expect that the least the banks could do in return is to flag the government accounts at the local bank level that have seen no activity for some-predetermined amount of time? 

I know that is foolish of me to expect.  After all, making money at ANY costs to the country is an accepted practice.

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OPENING OF George W’s PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY

April 25, 2013

As the new Bush Presidential Library opens today, I hope we are all reminded of the two reasons for the Iraqi Wars: Weapons of Mass Destruction AND  Sectarian Warfare within the country.

We quickly learned there were no weapons of mass destruction and headlines today still are talking about Sunni vs Shiite warfare within the country.

So tell me again, what great world problems did we “FIX” with the Bush Wars?

Only if you look at it from US enemy perspectives can you find any answers and those are pretty sad:  it killed a lot of people including Americans and amassed crippling debt for the US government..

That’s what George W defined in Sunday’s Parade interview as “leadership”.

I know it’s George W’s library; I know it is designed, like all Presidential Libraries, to capture history and show the great “leadership of the President for whom it is named…but I had a hard time reading about it in the Sunday paper – mostly because it brought back so many BAD memories of a man this country elected as President who most of the time, simply did not have a clue.

Again, a nice man, but not a leader…his only saving grace in recent days is that he finally has given up the pretense of how great his cohort Cheney was.  The fact he describes the relationship as “cordial” is pretty telling!  The dependence upon the neo-cons is over and I am happy for that.

In contract, I am estatic that with rumors of Syria using chemical warfare, the current administration is demanding proof- including soil samples- before reacting too quickly. That, not immediate panic and war, is what I consider leadership.

 

 

 

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THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING

April 23, 2013

Like most Americans, I watched in horror as the bombings in Boston unfolded…then followed the story all week as progress was made, and one of the perpetrators was captured.  Brian Williams and Pete Williams did a great job of keeping us informed – without too much personal emotion and constant blather…which is more than I can say for MSNBC anchors and some other channel anchors.  As the week passed, I grew increasingly irritated with our press coverage…doing little more than chattering away to hear themselves talk – a side effect I had not expected. But as they droned on, I could not make myself turn off the TV – nor stop the memories of too many times I have found myself glued to the screen in the wake of shocking tragedies from JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King and right on through to Oklahoma City, Waco, 9-11 and now Boston.

The spirit of the Bostonians, out in the streets cheering on their police and first responders as the capture unfolded before us, along with the emerging attitude of “Boston Strong” helped me immensely to deal with what had just transpired.  This is where the United States was born, and all these years later, this is where the country witnessed the best of US citizens in times of tragedy – and set a new model for us all in how to deal with and conquer tragedy.

So it is especially hard to see another phenomenon unfolding.  As this awful incident and the efforts to triumph over evil unfold in Boston, it appears the situation has brought out the WORST in many of our legislators and others.

Those who should know better have been far too quick to judge…or is it sadly, just too quick to hope for political advantage?  Before the facts are all known, we have loud charges of intelligence “Failure”; hints at yet another manufactured Bengazi- all seemingly to discredit the Obama Administration.  Have these people no shame?  In retrospect, it makes me even prouder of support BOTH parties showed toward the Bush administration in the early days of 9-11.  

What a travesty this would be if the end result is the failure of long-needed immigration reform. I can only ask – what about the facts we know so far about the Boston bombers don’t Rand Paul, Grassley, and others not understand?  These two terrorists were not radicalized when they emigrated from Chechnia and began their pathway to citizenship.  They became so once they were here. 

And it appears not to be just a political issue, as the ACLU was also heard from – waiving its flag and declaring the government out of line for telling people to stay in their homes for safety on the day that ended the hunt.  Again, no one was arrested if they went out; they were encouraged to return to their homes and safety until the police had completed the search of the 20 square blocks being searched.  But to some, the government was infringing on one’s personal rights to endanger themselves and interfere with a manhunt if they wanted to do so.  Did that also include their personal right to die if they had come in contact with this killer?  I doubt it- were that to have happened, it would be the government’s fault for not protecting the person.   It absolutely makes no sense.

And again, nothing but complaints about how the surviving victim has been handled…we should treat him as enemy combatant; we should read him Miranda Rights immediately; we should…we should…we should.  And then came the cries, oh no…reviewing surveillance tapes and citizen cell phone pix  gave the government what was needed to capture this guy…but it violated my personal freedom and privacy!

I especially think it interesting that those from the right are those who were calling for ignoring US citizens rights and treating this guy as an enemy combatant.  Excuse me?  That seems incongruous in light of others from that same party that fear their OWN constituents so much, that they vote no to background checks for guns.  What about radical US citizen gun owners do they not understand?

 From my perspective, we should shut up and let those that have the facts do their job.  Once it is all under control, there will be sufficient time to second-guess and point fingers.  We absolutely cannot let special interests use this incident to twist facts and spread fear in order to divert thinking and support to minor causes.

Please, let’s get through this together, celebrate the strength of the Bostonians, support them in their grief, and learn from them.  Save your complaints…there will be time in the long process that will lead to justice to raise legitimate concerns based on actual facts revealed.  Indeed, we should expect a review of what happened so that we can move forward, together, taking steps to improve.  But let’s please leave the grand-standing behind. 

 

 

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COLLABORATIVE PRINCIPLES

April 15, 2013

I often refer to the world of the 21st century as the world of collaboration-rather than the world of hierarchies we knew and understood in the 20th century.  Within my own world of events, we have been experimenting with the collaborative process for almost a decade now, and many of us are convinced that although it is “messy”, it yields better results for our clients because we pool all perspectives to come up with a single vision and action plan to move forward to accomplish the client’s defined goals.  Working together, listening, challenging, and gaining consensus on an action plan has served us well-whether we are addressing desired outcomes, design, production, communication, learning applications or a social media plan within each event.

Meanwhile, slowly but surely, “collaboration” is being kidnapped by the technology world, as its definition has been applied to the emerging world of technology and social media.  When one sees “collaboration”, one can expect to hear/read about how best to integrate social media into an organization.  So I often find myself scanning an article quickly, but a recent article in Tech Republic entitled “The 12 Habits of Highly Collaborate Organizations” caught my eye.

The author, Jacob Morgan of Chess Media Group and author of The Collaborative Organization outlined several principles that I think are applicable in any situation-not just when building a social media platform to facilitate better communication and collaboration within a specific group.  I offer them here as food for thought.  Note that I have used the term “employee” as Morgan did, but I think this is applicable for customers, vendors and partners as well.

  • ·         Individual benefit is just as important as the overall corporate benefit (if not more important):  Don’t focus on why this is important to your organization; focus on what the employee is looking for-how will this make their jobs and lives easier.
  • ·         Strategy before Technology:  Although this is self-explanatory I think, I also know how often we jump from a problem to a popular solution-technology or other-without taking the time to clearly think it through, develop a strategy, and THEN select a best solution that can be monitored and refined through-out the process.
  • ·         Listen to the voice of the employee:  Make employees a part of the decision making process from the beginning.  Listen to their ideas, their needs, and their suggestions and integrate their feedback into your strategy.
  • ·         Learn to get out of the way:  Learn to empower and support your employees and then get of of their way.  “Managers need to follow from the front.”
  • ·         Lead by example:  Leaders can facilitate change and encourage desired results if they are visibly part of the process.
  • ·         Integrate into the flow of work:  Collaboration becomes the process; not an additional step to accomplish work.
  • ·         Create a supportive environment:  Recognize and reward collaboration, not just individual efforts.
  • ·         Measure what matters:  Try to measure engagement-how connected and passionate an employee feels about the company and the work they do.
  • ·         Persistence:  Making collaboration work isn’t AN option, it is THE option.
  • ·         Adapt and evolve:  Collaboration is a perpetual process, not a one-time exercise.  We need to adapt and evolve as things change; keep a pulse on the industry; and innovate and anticipate.
  • ·         Employee collaboration also benefits the customer:  Employees are able to provide a better experience and superior support by being able to tap into internal experts, information, and resources which can be used to help customers.
  • ·         Collaboration can make the world a better place:  Yes, it provides better solutions for our clients, but it also allows those who collaborate to feel more connected, reduces stress at the workplace, makes the job easier, allows for more work freedom, and in general makes us happier people.

This all makes good sense no matter where you are collaborating or with whom.  I’ve condensed and paraphrased the twelve habits, but if you wish to read the full article and check out a great and simple graphic illustration, see http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/tech-manager/the-12-habits-of-highly-collaborative-organizations.

 

 

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GOOD NEWS TODAY FROM ROME….

April 14, 2013

Pope Francis’ picks for his advisory team include only ONE current Vatican official.  He now has a team that represents the diversity of the world.  The move reflects he heard the cry to reform the Vatican bureaucracy…and tucked in amidst the new group’s mission was a hint that they will study a revision of the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus on the Roman Curia.  Just maybe this pope will pull the Catholic Church into the 21st century.  And just maybe, that might help pull some of our own Congressional leaders to do the same…but I am not holding my breath!  At any rate, representation of all peoples of the world is a promising first step.

GUN LAWS

Despite the extreme difficulty, a big THANK YOU to the parents of Sandy Hook!  Just MAYBE they touched enough of our legislators to help change the course of the outcome on background checks and existing gun laws. 

As Americans, we should all be ashamed that we have allowed money, profits, power, fear and a gun lobby to trump the VOICE of the people.  When there is any doubt that any bill supported by 80-90% of the American citizens will be passed because of THREAT to livelihoods of any legislators, we need to STEP BACK and RETHINK what that broadcasts to the world.

And when this all is over one way or another, we need to address the deeper issue.  What other than the gun lobby makes some American citizens FEAR our government and what can we do about it?

I’d like to just succumb to the easy answer and suggest that if they fear for their lives and need guns to protect themselves from the government, perhaps they should emigrate elsewhere; but it is more than that.  Too many cowboy and Indian movies?  Victims for too long of this money-motivated ruthless brutal campaign?  When did it become okay to think that the SECOND amendment trumps all other rights guaranteed by the Constitution?  Why is it okay that although I am afraid of them-I simply must get over it and adjust; but not okay that the same can be demanded of them?  So many questions and no one is answering.

UPCOMING IRAQI ELECTIONS

The Bushies and Neo-Cons should keep their fingers crossed on this one…Iraqi elections scheduled for April 20 will be a good indication of the “success” of the Iraqi War and so far, it does not look good.

Process delays, assassinations of a dozen candidates and lots of bombings already mark the road to the voting polls…I’d say by May 1 we will be able to put to bed the outlandish theory that WAR brings democracy. 

We cannot hold guns to people’s heads as a learning tool; nor can we expect the spOILs of war to pay the bills. What has transpired in Iraq since 2002 should discredit these theories once and for all.

These guys have been promoting this nonsense since the 80s…with excuse after excuse for failure after failure.  When will we all stop listening to them?  It is time for the neo-cons to fade to black.

AUGIE’S

The next time you pass Augies and think WHY is it still there…now you will know.  We’ve been waiting for the publication of Neal Karlen’s “Augies Secrets:  The Minneapolis Mob and the King of the Hennepin Strip” and now it’s here.  The first book launch is scheduled for Mill City Museum on April 18.  Those who read it will never call Minneapolis boring again.  Now perhaps we need to determine how we preserve this place on Hennepin we wrinkle our noses at!

And speaking of Augie’s, University Press will have a new entrant in June to keep tongues wagging…Penny Peterson’s new book will be out then.  I read an early draft of this one a few years back; and cannot wait to re-read it in its final form…it will start a few conversations about the Mill District, the move of an “industry” across the river to Main Street in 1896 to support that first GOP Convention at Exposition Hall, our city fathers, and their varied interests.   

THE SNOW

What’s with this craziness?!!  It is coming down so fast and swirling around so swiftly that I cannot even see the 35W bridge or the University campus right now.  Enough, already!