Tag Archive: Organizational Leadership


Shoes

When I lived in New York City, I was flabbergasted at how the city compromises it’s walking environment by dumping garbage on the sidewalks before nightly pick-up. Every day, people must wade around, through or over mountains of waste, dumped on street curbs once reserved for vehicle storage. Anything remaining after pickup is pulverized, ground down by pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Strangely enough, residents are seemingly acceptable to this cyclical motion as the price for city living.

Likewise, as daily bowel movements from the Trump administration gets dumped upon America, we’re seemingly acceptable to the daily, cyclical motion.

Still, there was time, not long ago, when America’s legislature lived for a higher cause. At Gettysburg, Lincoln described America as a nation conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Ronald Reagan loved the United States, both with passion and without apology. During his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Obama described his love for America – qualifying that we did as well and so did John McCain.

Several months prior, in honor of his friend McCain, before Senate peers, Lindsay Graham wept. Maybe in a brief moment of personal grief, he reflected to the nation. Maybe he reflected inward to a deeper soul of life. Maybe both.

“It’s going to be a lonely journey for me for a while. Don’t look to me to replace this man (McCain).”

I bite my lip … I wonder if Graham even tried.

If Graham’s message was internal, the nation will wonder if it truly ever hit home. For whatever ember that toiled in his soul was obviously snuffed out. And ever since, for many a American, it’s been a long, lonely walk.

The lesson America should understand comes from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It’s in the walk. It’s about shoes. Hope is in the sole.

I read Cortez’s campaign shoes are now on loan to the Cornell Costume & Textile Collection exhibition “Women Empowered: Fashions from the Frontline.” Cortez claims to have knocked doors until rainwater came through the soles. 80 percent of her campaign operated out of a paper grocery bag hidden behind a bar. Her campaign was about living life, on the street, every day. Cortez adeptly notes most politicians have forgotten how to connect to others.

Form a Buddhist perspective, you never realize just how different the world is until you knock on doors. And like life, walking home-to-home maybe hit and miss. One door, you’ll get rejected, the next, you might have an amazing conversation. Sometimes, you’ll change a mind. Sometimes, you’ll change yours.

I have no idea how successful Cortez will be. But I suggest you build personal values upon life experiences. If you want to truly successful, wear out a pair of shoes. Stop texting. Put the cell phone away. Walk. Meet neighbors. Meet coworkers. Meet the rich. Meet the poor. Talk. Face-to-face. Works as much in campaigning as it does in business.

Ask yourself a simple question: “How much sole are you willing to give life.”

Shoes. It’s all about ‘shoes.’

Several years ago, while traveling through Florida, my dear friend called with a business dilemma. “How do I handle this ethical problem with a client.”  Sarcastically, I scanned my iPhone and found no app for ‘moral compass.’ Nope. Nada. Didn’t exist.

In essence, business leaders, generals, foreign dignitaries and presidents alike have found can’t simply Google search ethical doctrine, mouth a political sound bite, and appear real. So, I asked, “If everything went south, would she eat the peanut butter?”

Huh?” she replied.

To highlight my intent, I referenced the peanut butter salmonella case.

In 2009, a salmonella outbreak killed nine people. The ninth fatality, an elderly Ohio woman, occurred during a congressional hearing. At one point in the hearing, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) held up a gallon-sized bucket wrapped in yellow crime-scene tape, presumably containing some type of recalled peanut butter product, and asked the business leader whether he would be willing to “take the lid off” and eat any of it.

Sometimes, real leadership is about having to eat the ‘peanut butter.’

Letter 16 was written as a follow-up to that conversation. Unopened since, I found some meaning leaders could use today.


My Dear Friend:

Most business leaders are forever searching for a leadership secret that will vault their company to the stratosphere. Likewise, ever notice how many self-help gurus claim to have the magic bullet for which only they have discovered. At the end today (and every decade) leadership greatness is rare.

In truth, the values that shape what we, as individuals, decide is right or wrong can’t be digested, instantly researched or found in a corporate weekend seminar. The degree to which values and principles arise and again, and the degree to which people accept and live in harmony to those values will either create survival and stability or disintegration and destruction. We see this far too common from political leaders and followers alike willingly and freely accepting disunity.

Lincoln once said “… if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Decisions should not be judged as ‘good politics’ where ‘the path of the least resistance’ has firmly rooted like moss on trees. These types of decisions often lead to ‘peanut butter,’ i.e., a breach of trust.

It’s hard to describe good values. However, the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami offered a glimpse.

Rescue Teams searched for the missing along hundreds of miles of the coast, and thousands of hungry survivors huddled in darkened emergency centers cut off from rescuers and aid. Japanese citizens patiently waited and passed whatever available water there was, to those who needing it first.

Values are written over centuries. They were created over lifetimes. They were challenged during World Wars, renewed on September 11th, revisited during times of economic uncertainty and political fear, and celebrated during annual harvests, reaping leftovers from a drought-ridden field.

Stephen Covey stated we must develop our value system with deep respect for “true north” principles. If you need a hint, ‘true north’ is about people. Love for thy neighbor is unarguable. As such, for all the years I have known and loved you, your principles are proven. They endured and quite often mirror by young mentors.

From a religious perspective, going back to my theological days, the six major world religions all teach the same basic core beliefs – “you reap what you sow” and “actions are more important than words.”  In today’s world, those professing freedom, are men who want crops without plowing, rain without thunder, the of joy Spring without the heat of Summer. They want ocean breezes but not its storms.

Cloak your decisions in love and you’ll weather most storms. Yup. May have to rebuild a roof here and there, bandage a knee, and morn, but your friends, coworkers, employees, community and I all walk with you.

Truth is, that real life … real values … and real love … is about struggle. There is no ‘true north’ without struggle. However, real love overcomes struggle. And that, my love, is what I believe Christ referenced.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Real love is always with us. And like His, my love is always with you.

Don’t have that? Well, prepare to eat ‘peanut butter.’ Ha!

With all my love … W.

A friend called from Chicago to vent.

“I have been working on a PowerPoint presentation for executive management for two weeks. The Vice President for the company sits ten (10) feet from me, but will not talk to me because I am just a Senior Manager. Instead, the Vice President will only accept email from his Director, who works at the regional office in San Francisco, California.

After reviewing the presentation, the Vice President sends the slide deck to his Director in San Francisco. The Director in San Francisco reviews it. However, since he is a Director and feels the work is beneath him, he refuses to change anything and forwards the slide deck to me.

I review the slide deck. Only three words require changing.

I make the changes and send the slide deck back to the Director in San Francisco. The Director reviews and forwards the slide deck back to the Vice President in Chicago.

After an hour, the Vice President decides he wants to change another slide and inserts a “comment” into the slide on page six (6) and returns the slide deck back to the Director in San Francisco. The Director reviews his request, makes no changes and returns the slide deck to me in Chicago.

I review the requested changes. Only two additional two words.

I then return the slide deck to the Director in San Francisco, who in turn, returns the slide deck to the Vice President in Chicago.

Now, wouldn’t this have been easier if the Vice President just came out of the office, walked ten (10) feet to my desk and requested the change?”

“Pretty funny,” I stated.

Well, I hate it,” he replied. “I would rather sit and do nothing.”

Really?

Really!” he said.

I concluded with the following parable.

A crow sat on a tree and did nothing all day.

A rabbit noticed this and asked the crow, “Can I also sit like you and do nothing all day long?”

The crow answered: “Sure, why not?”

So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the crow, and rested.

Shortly after beginning, a fox jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story: To be sitting and doing nothing, better sit very high up.  In other words, rank has privileges.

Prepare? Nah! Probably Not

Flood evacuees

In 2014, Kate Allen wrote a piece in the Independent on Syrian evacuees.

Since the violence erupted in Syria, 2.3 million people have fled the country, more than half of them children. The Syrian refugee crisis has been called “the most pressing humanitarian disaster of our time”, yet the UK government’s reaction has been tentative, to say the least.

I thought of Ms. Allen’s while reflecting on my nine months of FEMA service during the aftermath of Hurricane’s Katrina, Rita and Sandy. William “Brock” Long is charged with fulfilling the Trump Administration’s Hurricane Harvey FEMA effort. And while I sympathize with tactical, geographical and political challenges, I have grown weary of hearing how Hurricane Harvey was “unprecedented” or is a “one in five hundred-year,” no wait, “one in one thousand-year” event.

No. Harvey wasn’t.

All we needed to do was open the history books of Hurricane’s Katrina and Rita. Then, as now, scared and desperate civilians laid in the path of Mother Nature’s middle finger and fled, swam or drowned. CNN, MSNBC and print media filled our senses of vulnerable people: the elderly, unaccompanied children, flood survivors, drowning victims, and abandoned pets.

The Mayor of the City of Houston stated he could not justify evacuating the nation’s fourth largest city. People would die trying to evacuate – which is sort of like saying they’ll die if they try, so might as well die in their homes, terrorized by flooding they cannot outrun. Still, I’m unsure if I can overtly criticize the Mayor. Maybe he’s honest. Maybe he’s a political schmuck representing a broader city council who allowed unchecked regulatory building within a flood-prone area. Regardless, I do, however, note that we’ve been through this before.

Just as Kate Allen described, the European Union’s relocation of Syrian refugees is exhausting, both on an economic and humanitarian level.  Transpose that to Houston, Texas. Image if the U.S. had to relocate 4 million of Houston’s 6 million residents? Where would they go? Dallas-Ft. Worth? San Antonio? Austin? New Orleans?

If many local residents bitch about handling a couple of thousand international refugees, how do we handle the mass relocation of a major metropolitan area? The World Bank defines migration as “a process whereby a community’s housing, assets, and public infrastructure are rebuilt in another location.” Others emphasize other relocation factors as the “permanent (or long-term) movement of a community (or a significant part of it) from one location to another, in which important characteristics of the original community, including its social structures, legal and political systems, cultural characteristics and worldview are retained.”

FEMA is unprepared. In a post-9/11 world, our government’s preparedness for natural disasters takes a back seat to terrorism. 2005 government figures revealed 75 cents of every $1 spent on emergency preparedness went to anti-terrorism programs. A 2015 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) survey found nearly 60 percent of American adults have not practiced what to do in a disaster. Additionally, only 39 percent had developed an emergency plan. This is despite the fact that 80 percent of Americans live in counties that have been hit by a weather-related disaster.

This whole post summarizes the obvious: we suck!

As the nation recovers from Harvey, as of this writing, Hurricane Irma approaches from afar. But wherever Irma hits, it’s already too late. The damage to be incurred was created decades ago by ignorant politicians appealing to their partisan base.

Maybe the U.S. will get serious and prepare for the future?

Nah! Probably not.

Ivanka and JaredThe growing impact of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in America’s governance is perplexing. Ivanka Trump has a clothing, shoe and handbag line in her name. Ivanka hosted the Miss Teen USA pageant and worked on the TV show, “Born Rich,” among others. But she has never held a public-service position, nor is she a scholar of politics, government or history. Kushner is an unelected person with absolutely no governmental experience.

This is the Trump identity. And the Trump identity will have profound impact upon America and American families, including how we find meaning, satisfaction, and support. I am surprised to see how much experience molded me. Accordingly, experiences have obviously molded the Trump family as well. Yet I cannot understand how the Trump world intertwines with real America.

Ivanka Trump’s 2009 self-help book, “The Trump Card,” is a good example of missing interconnectedness. The Trump Card opens with an implausibly:

In business, as in life, nothing is ever handed to you.” Ivanka quickly adds, “Yes, I’ve had the great good fortune to be born into a life of wealth and privilege, with a name to match,” she writes. “Yes, I’ve had every opportunity, every advantage. And yes, I’ve chosen to build my career on a foundation built by my father and grandfather.”

Still, she insists, she and her brothers didn’t attain their positions in their father’s company “by any kind of birthright or foregone conclusion.”

Right. Several pages later …

Did I have an edge, getting started in business? No question. But get over it. And read on.”

The essential element of the “Trump” identity is missing. I cannot name one Trump family member who professed and succeeded with a “can do attitude.” There’s not been one Trump family member ever discussing of having to work their way from the bottom up. Has Ivanka ever had to choose between eating and medicine, going to work or losing a day’s pay caring for a sick child? When the average American gets sick, we either have to heal ourselves, or more often than not, friends and colleagues guilt us by exclaiming we should not have gotten sick.

After nearly 100 days in office, it is clear the Trump identity will not support any of us. Prior to donating $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families, in the 15 years prior to the veterans’ gift, public records show that Trump donated about $2.8 million through a foundation set up to give his money away — less than a third of the pledged amount — and nothing since 2009. Records show Trump has given nothing to his foundation since 2008. Compare that to Bill and Melinda Gates who’ve donated $28 billion via their charitable foundation, more than $8 billion to improve global health.

One might claim that using Trump’s foundation was waterboarded during the campaign, that I’m crying over spilt milk. Yeah, the election is over. Got it. These thoughts are presented to neither bitch nor whine, but to reiterate how Trump’s lack of communal roots will impact our world.

Like it or not, America’s future is being crafted by two mid thirty-something adults. Just as the President himself, history will judge both Jared and Ivanka equally as responsible for selling the President’s agenda, including cuts to childhood education, health and safety enforcement; healthcare repeal; immigration isolation; elimination of funds for family planning and maternal and child health in more than 150 countries; and foreign policy.

It is unclear if the current Trump identity, as presented, will be successful for long-term growth. Accordingly, our sustainability defaults to the adults. America’s survival and ability to prosper is dependent upon the thousands of ordinary Americans, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, who can work to end partisanship while simultaneously forging connections in the community in which they reside.

The question is whether we’re up to the challenge.

MSNBC’s Brian Williams opened his Friday’s show with an interesting comment, “… both Trump and Ryan saved the Affordable Care Act.”  To be fair, Williams claimed the quote wasn’t original, that he acquired the verbiage from the Associated Press or another news media organization. Regardless, the statement was perfect.

Regardless of political view, there are many wonderful lessons for all project managers.

First failure was the lack of vision. All projects require vision and the Project Sponsor must be able to effectively communicate that project. Anti-Affordable Care Act (ACA) proponents had nearly seven years to prepare for and repeal the ACA. Estimates vary on the exact number of repeal efforts, but the current count is well over 60. So one would figure the American Health Care Act (TrumpCare) would have a solid foundation, with critical review and bipartisan support across both political and healthcare professions.

Unfortunately, TrumpCare was conceived in weeks, created from a high-level 6 page outline. TrumpCare was hidden, where one could neither read nor contribute to policy discussion. The White House failed to sell TrumpCare and Americans rejected the plan. Various news reports indicated the lead Project Sponsor (i.e.,the President and shelf promoted dealmaker) failed to break through Washington’s gridlock in his first major policy initiative. There was no education as to how TrumpCare was better than the ACA. In the end, not many thought it was better.

Second failure has to be project staff and advisors vacationing during project delivery. Prseident’s Trump’s key advisors, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were vacationing while TrumpCare flopped. I simply can’t fathom key leadership would allow their principle advisors to leave during implementation week. Of course one could speculate Kushner and Ivanka Trump knew TrumpCare was destined to die and said “Screw it babe! Let’s get outta Dodge.” If you’re part of management, you have to be present during both good and bad.

Third failure. Where was Ivanka Trump during TrumpCare’s development. In January, Ivanka Trump professed a wanton desire to push policies benefiting women and girls. Accordingly, she sought the advice of female executives and media stars and the transition team supposedly courted congressional staff on childcare policies. This was an area Ivanka urged President-elect Donald Trump to prioritize. However, did we read of any single contribution from Ms. Trump during TrumpCare’s formation? Did we hear Ms. Trump promoting the positive benefits of TrumpCare for the working poor, single mothers and children? Maybe Ivanka worked behind the scenes. Still, TrumpCare’s key components were never publicly promoted by either Ryan’s team nor the White House.

Fourth failure. Borrowing Stephen Covey’s second principle from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,”  it’s unclear if anyone began with the end in mind. Did they really understand 20+ million could lose health care as end? Accordingly, TrumpCare would have hit millions of Trump supporters the hardest. And who are those supporters? Older people. People in the west, Midwest, and Appalachia. Technically speaking, political projects are supposed to reward supporters and stick it to enemies — not the other way round.

So what’s the end result? What’s our takeaway?

As someone whose worked in healthcare industry for years, health care policy is extremely complicated. Politicians and project managers over simplifying complexities via grandiose vision fail. There’s always a significant gap between solution and implementation. How well the solution positively impacts your customers is dependent upon the planning. TrumpCare suffered from faulty planning.

Maybe America will benefit in the wake TrumpCare’s failure. Sure the ACA is flawed. Like everything, maintenance is critical. Hopefully leaders from all spectrum of health care will come together and add a little Obama, add smidgen of Ryan, a dab of professional ethics, the heart of clinicians everywhere and the will of all constituents and create something beautiful and wonderful.

We must begin with the end in mind.

img_0007Throughout the day I listened to our Congressional leaders question and answer sessions of Trump’s cabinet candidates. Of all the potential candidates, almost none offered anything indicating how their time in the office would make life better for the average working American. Jeff Sessions and John Kelly offered little, if any, positive proof that the incoming administration has anything more than dreams.

Then again, Trump himself has offered almost zero credibility toward offering anything of value to an unemployed coal miner. And of course, the only thing an unemployed steel worker will get is a “wet dream.”

The direct ability of legislators to offer anything but “stupid” is not uncommon. Michelle Bachmann commented that “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.” Sharon Angle suggested rape victims make rape lemonade. Rick Santorum claimed rape victims should make the best of a bad situation. Of course one could compare Romney’s America against Trump version when Romney spewed “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.”

And while watching today’s low-lights, the New York Times reported another Trump nougat.

President-elect Donald J. Trump demanded on Tuesday that Congress immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act and pass another health law quickly thereafter, issuing a nearly impossible request: replace a health law that took nearly two years to pass with one Republicans would have only weeks to shape.

“We have to get to business,” Mr. Trump told The New York Times in a telephone interview. “Obamacare has been a catastrophic event.”

Today’s statement is counter to thoughts Trump expounded in a 60 Minutes interview,.

Stahl: And there’s going to be a period if you repeal it and before you replace it, when millions of people could lose – no?

Trump: No, we’re going to do it simultaneously. It’ll be just fine. We’re not going to have, like, a two-day period and we’re not going to have a two-year period where there’s nothing. It will be repealed and replaced. And we’ll know. And it’ll be great healthcare for much less money. So it’ll be better healthcare, much better, for less money. Not a bad combination.

Basically, Trump has no healthcare plan. All of his comments were campaign devices.

Many of the above congressional leaders ever offered real relief to the working man, Trump included. And correct me if I’m wrong, but prior to running for election, I never saw Trump having a beer with a laid off steel worker in upstate New York. Nor has one seen Ivanka Trump in a blighted Ohio coal community helping families make ends meet. Better still, has Kushner ever presented a multibillion dollar rehab project in a decimated downtown coal community?

A blogger on “The Loins Roar” captured my thoughts perfectly.

At the end of the day Trump supporters want someone willing to break the rules. I agree that if humanity will survive, we need to think outside the box regarding our current system. But if you think Trump symbolizes something outside the box, you are confusing intentions. He is the box itself. We need someone humble and compassionate enough to think about all of us. That’s the outside-the-box thinking we need. A severe narcissist is incapable of breaking rules for anyone but himself. And that’s my question for Trump supporters: of the thousands of well-documented times that Trump has broken rules or acted like a phony, when did it ever benefit anyone but himself.

Trump’s policies will provide little for those in the greatest of need.

trump-222While Donald Trump has been appointing and the media has been analyzing Trump’s Twitter account posts, the rest of his fan base has been waiting for news about lost jobs. As most of us know, the coal and steel industry has seen tumultuous decades. But saying President Obama and Hillary Clinton were ultimately responsible for every man’s lot in life is simply overstating the world’s economic engine.

Much of the damage occurred long before either Clinton and Obama graced our presence. For instance, experts say the notion of bringing Pittsburgh back to its post-World War II heyday, with large mills supplying tens of thousands of jobs, isn’t going to happen. By 1982, 133,000 steel workers in the area had been laid off. By January 1983, the job losses in the steel industry contributed to a 17.1 percent unemployment rate in the Pittsburgh area.

In upstate New York, the Lackawanna Steel Company was founded in 1840 and existed as an independent company until 1922. In 1922, Bethlehem Steel bought Lackawanna and operated the facility until operations ceased in 1982. Bethlehem filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Ala in all, Lackawanna once employed approximately 20,000.

Inexpensive steel imports and the failure of management to innovate, embrace technology, and improve labor conditions contributed to Bethlehem’s demise.

In a strange reversal of Trump’s fan base, critics in that era claimed protectionist steel trade policies created a lack of competitiveness as American steel producers like Bethlehem were shielded from foreign competition by quotas, voluntary export restraints, minimum price undertakings, and anti-dumping and countervailing duty. These   measures were in effect for 30 years preceding Bethlehem Steel’s collapse.

To return steel and coal industries back to the days of yesteryear, Trump has to overcome several problems.

First problem that few, if any, have discussed is that steel foundries are gone. To put it bluntly, there is no infrastructure to rebuild. The former Bethlehem steel plant is now the site of the Sands Casino and the former Lackawanna Steel Company site is a wind farm.

Secondly, manufacturing jobs haven’t disappeared just because of trade deals, cheap imports and foreign tariffs. Today’s manufacturers use everything from robots to product-tracking systems to trim costs and increase efficiency and quality. That often means fewer jobs than companies needed to do the same work years ago.

Third, it’s well known coal helped drive the steel industry. Yet today, there’s easier coal to get than those in the Appalachian mines. Once mines have closed they don’t reopen when cheaper alternatives exist. For instance, fracking technology has made natural gas an abundantly cheap form of power.

Globalization and opening of world markets; a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing, creating massive over-capacity in its steel plants; a subsequent boom in cheap Chinese exports and a collapse in the global steel price will not be rectified by Trump in 48 months.

Whether or those manufacturing jobs could have been saved doesn’t matter. They aren’t coming back, at least not most of them. How do we know? Because in recent years, factories have been coming back, but jobs haven’t. Factories built today are heavily automated, employing a small fraction of the workers they would have a generation ago.

For those older among us who hold liberal and progressive political views, let’s not forget we survived Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. It wasn’t pleasant but we survived. We will survive Trump. This is not to say that the policies of past presidents weren’t flawed, and that they did not make any lasting impact. They were and they did. Still, we survived. We will survive Trump. As of today, we don’t really know what will happen under Trump because nothing he has said so far means much. He seems not to have much commitment to his own words.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens to a question as she testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in WashingtonLast week I actually listened to the Benghazi hearing. Then, I went watched the fiasco. After eleven hours, I sat for a moment and ponder a most interesting question: “What if the interviewee was either Donald Trump, Ben Carson or Chris Christie?”

Whether you believe Hillary Rodham Clinton or not, commentator Eugene Robinson echoed it correctly when he said Clinton must have been mindful of the old adage that you never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake. Clinton was very presidential. I just cannot see any other Republican candidate looking so presidential.

Chris Christie claimed Clinton was “unaccountable” because she left the Benghazi compound’s security arrangements to be handled by lower-ranking professional. Yet “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson noted Christie gave a similar explanation to exonerate himself in the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Overdosing on his Miss World pageant sound bites, Donald Trump claimed he could unify the world …. A pseudonym for “All I want is for world peace.” Ok, actually he said he could unify congress. A former CIA analyst stated, “What was learned was irrelevant. What was relevant wasn’t discussed.

And here’s why I agree.

Rep. Trey Gowdy told Clinton he understood that people in both parties suggest that this investigation was about her; further stating this investigation was about four people who were killed representing our country on foreign soil. That argument comes across condescending ten minutes into the hearing.

For example, while the Benghazi committee has spent $4.7 million for three hearings, the deaths of two-dozen from a bombed a hospital operated by the charity Doctors Without Borders, in Kunduz, Afghanistan appears particularly uninteresting. Congressional leaders have spent little time investigating why some 30 Americans are being held hostage overseas today. The 2009 suicide bombing at Camp Chapman in Afghanistan did not merit this kind of scrutiny. That was when seven Americans working for the CIA were killed when a man who was supposed to be an informant, invited by American agents to be the base, turned out to be a radical jihadi, a suicide bomber who blew himself up.

The hearing only served to embarrass Republican lawmakers in search of a political crusade. In recent days, some prominent Republicans have even admitted as much. The Republicans are expected to issue a report. May it be the final chapter of a wasteful and counterproductive exercise that accomplished nothing.

Thus, I am left with my opening question. Basically, how presidential would Trump, Carson or Christie be were it them?

imageI spent this past week in Orlando, Florida. Ironically, the American Counseling Association was holding its annual convention here. During my stay, I befriended several counseling professors from a few universities. Although summarized, the following stories were garnered after a few drinks, with names and schools being omitted.

Story One – A Paid Vacation
“I came here for the conference,” the dean said. “I’ve been here three days and have yet to attend one conference seminar. I’ve been at Disney World the whole time.”

“Why haven’t you attended anything?” I queried.

“Well,” she exclaimed. “Others use the conference as vacation for years. So I got tired of it and decided to do it myself. The heck with them.”

“So the university paid for everything: hotel, airfare, car rental, dinning, gasoline and tolls?”

“Yes.”

“Man! Gotta love the cost of education,” I noted.

Story Two – The Grant
“My school has given me the best grant ever,” he pronounced.

“And that would be?” I inquired.

“I received a grant to watch gay pornography and report on possible counseling techniques to counter pornography.”

“Seuiously?”

“Yes. Seriously.” After a brief pause, “Guess what?”

“What,” shaking my head.

“In truth, I am a gay man.”

“So you’re a gay man. And you reccveived a grant from the university to watch gay porn?”

“Yes,” he laughed.

Story Three – The Email Spy
“I came to give a speech on data privacy.”

“Important topic,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “And if you run across anyone needing a software that can read emails, let me know. I built one.”

“You built one?”

“Yes.”

“How does it work?” I asked.

“Well, I own a private security company on the side. I funneled university computer technology student interns to work at my company. Students built the software that I sold back to the university and then to the government. The software tracks and records all emails sent by students or university staff.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah,” he said. “If you send an email through the university system … to Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail … whatever … If I turn the software on, I can copy, track it and read it. And you’d never be the wiser”

“And if the students and faculty ever find out, I’ll bet they’ll be pretty pissed.”

“Oh yeah,” he said.

Somewhere along the line I thought education was to better students, professors were leaders. But apparently, in some cases, it’s all about having students pay for stupid shit.

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