Said-It: People Lifting People Becomes Perpetual Motion

Business Woman Media

The cheerleading squad at Shoreline Junior High took two official team portraits this year. The first photo included Morgyn Arnold, a 14-year-old student with Down syndrome who’d been working as the cheer team manager and knew all the routines by heart. The second photo included all the other girls, but was taken without Arnold, who was noticeably missing from her spot in the front row.

And it was that second picture without her that the school used on social media and in the yearbook. Jordyn Poll, Arnold’s older sister, said Arnold was heartbroken when she flipped through the pages and saw she wasn’t included with the rest of her teammates. Her name wasn’t even mentioned. Poll believes the decision was made because of Arnold’s disability. The Salt Lake Tribune (Courtney Tanner)

Last Saturday, Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Wuthric said he was woken up from a nap by City Council member Darin Mano, who was knocking on doors in a neighborhood as part of his campaign to be elected to the Salt Lake City Council.

Wuthrich then sent an email to Mano filled with expletives and hateful language. “On a nice Saturday afternoon, myself and my wife were downstairs when some mother f***ing ignorant son-of-b**** rang our doorbell and put your piece of s*** unwanted solicitation in our door waking the dogs and waking us and the neighbors with an uproar,” Wuthrich said in the email.

“I will do everything in my power to see you never get elected to any office higher than dog catcher,” Wuthrich added in his email to Mano. “I hate you, I hate your family, I hate your solicitors, I hate your contributors, I hate your sponsors, ” Wuthrich continued to say in the email. “Kindly go to hell and die motherf***er.”

Wuthrich issued a statement apologizing on Tuesday for the email sent to Mano… ABC4 News (Craig Proffer)

Analysis: The last week or so has been a difficult time for some people in the state of Utah (USA) to present their best selves. I’ve always been fascinated by the ability of the human animal to be, well, animals. Certainly, if given the proper environment and circumstances and say, maybe the ability to think things through to their logical conclusion, some people would choose not to come off being jerks. I’m thinking this would especially be the case if they knew their boorish behavior was going to be published in the news.

Invariably, people get it wrong in so many instances. Life really does get in the way and perfect storms are created – the results of which can be horribly embarrassing – and to others, hurtful. Lack of sleep, hunger, anger and frustration, worry, and the undeniable truth that some folks are just social Neanderthals, all contribute to people being jerks to other people. What would cause someone to decide to intentionally leave out a ‘special needs’ girl – a member of the team – in a yearbook team picture? Why would a prominent leader in a community intentionally send an excoriating, vulgar email to another prominent member of the community?

These two situations are unique. They didn’t occur because of people’s spontaneous reaction to something. These people can’t argue they were taken by surprise. No, the actors in both these cases methodically and intentionally set about to diss on other human beings. Sadly, the actors in these cases felt their behavior was justified. And that, to me, is all-telling and what makes these two cases egregious.

But good can and often does result from these types of situations. People changing – individuals transforming, with a renewal of goodness within themselves is miraculous. These two situations that happened in Utah should be a wake-up call to all of us. We can all learn something from these reports. A little kindness, a little understanding, a little compassion, a little love goes a long way in our relationships with others. The essence of our existence lies in our relationships with our fellow humans. Let’s not screw it up. But when we do have lapses in judgement, perhaps we can quickly and sincerely apologize and make it right. People lifting people becomes perpetual motion.      

When the American Dream is Unattainable

The United States averted the most dire predictions about what the pandemic would do to the housing market. An eviction wave never materialized. The share of people behind on mortgages, after falling steadily for months, recently hit its pre-pandemic level.

But a comprehensive report on housing conditions over the past year makes clear that while one crisis is passing, another is growing much worse.

Like the broader economy, the housing market is split on divergent tracks, according to the annual State of the Nation’s Housing Report released on Wednesday by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. While one group of households is rushing to buy homes with savings built during the pandemic, another is being locked out of ownership as prices march upward — and those who bore the brunt of pandemic job losses remain saddled with debt and in danger of losing their homes. The New York Times (By Conor Dougherty and Glenn Thrush)

Analysis: So, what happens when you work two jobs and still can’t afford to own or even rent a home? That seems to be the problem right now in the U.S. housing market. Some people are simply priced right out of the market. And that’s a problem. How can the “American Dream” take shape in people’s lives if they can’t even have a place of their own? Or was the American Dream an illusion all along?

Problem is, in a recession, things turn upside down and prices on normal, everyday things get weird. A recession was predicted; we knew it was coming. You can’t send people home and shut down factories, shops, and businesses without some fallout. Even with the government subsidies to hold things in place, we’re seeing the results of economic shutdown and subsequent start-up. Supply and demand usually keep things balanced, but it takes time for the system to work. If supply is short and demand is high, prices will invariably shoot up.

Problem is wages and salaries have not kept pace with the pricing index on goods and services. Inflation wreaks havoc on people’s bank accounts. And a suitable place to live in a suitable price range is simply not possible for some people – a lot of people – when that happens. That’s where we’re at right now in the United States; it’s the same problem in other developed nations, too. Look for the problem to get worse, much worse, before it gets better.

Biden and Putin to Meet

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have arrived on Wednesday at the lush lakeside Swiss mansion for their highly anticipated summit, a moment of consequential diplomacy at a time when both leaders agree that relations between their countries are at an all-time low.

The two leaders shook hands while appearing briefly before cameras with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, who welcomed them to Switzerland, and then entered the mansion for what is expected to be four or five hours of talks.

For months, they have traded sharp rhetoric. Biden has repeatedly called out Putin for malicious cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers on U.S. interests, a disregard for democracy with the jailing of Russia’s foremost opposition leader, and interference in American elections.

Putin, for his part, has reacted with whatabout-isms and obfuscations — pointing to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to argue that the United States has no business lecturing on democratic norms and insisting that the Russian government hasn’t been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks despite U.S. intelligence showing otherwise. AP News (By Aamer Madhani, Jonathan Lemire and Vladimir Isachenkov

Analysis: Joe and Vladimir have a lot to talk about. Not much will be resolved in this four-to-five hour chat session, but the ice will be broken and the two world leaders, as far as anyone knows, will have talked things over and addressed the issues. And that’s a big deal when it comes to mediating national differences. I can tell you, in all my graduate-level studies in conflict resolution, one thing was clear, the initial hurdle in mediation is getting the combatants to the table.

The January 6 insurrection in the United States erased over 220 years of its democratic superiority on the global stage. We knocked ourselves off the pedestal and with it, the ability to lead by example. Now we’re just like everyone else and people know it! So, Putin is right, the United States has no business lecturing anyone about democratic norms.

Games of semantics take place in these discussions. Putin has been saying for months that his government is not involved in cyberattacks or election interference. He’s right; the cyberattacks and interference were orchestrated by an outside group chosen and supported by the Russian government, but not the government itself. Gotta maintain that level of deniability! It’s the first thing they teach you in ‘global leadership’ classes!

Nothing will be resolved in this summit discussion. But it’s good to see some face-to-face action by the two leaders. Despite losing it’s position on the democratic highroad, the United States’ influence regarding freedom and democracy on the world stage is still pervasive. Joe Biden is doing a decent job restoring what was lost with the last guy. Putin knows there’s a new sheriff in town.    

Meet the New Boss; NOT Same as the Old Boss!

Naftali Bennett (LA Times)

A day after they gained the confidence of the Knesset and were sworn into office, Monday saw the ministers of the newly confirmed government take up their roles at various ministries, where some were treated to handover ceremonies by their predecessors and others were not.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who the night before was ousted from power after 12 years in office by the incoming coalition, gave his replacement, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, less than an hour — according to some reports, just half an hour — for their handover, before publicly declaring that he would swiftly bring down the new government.

The formal transfer of power ended without the traditional ceremony and public good wishes, without a handshake and with no photo-op, an indication of the animus Netanyahu harbors toward Bennett, his own one-time chief of staff. Addressing the heads of the parties, Netanyahu demanded discipline and cohesion in order to make life harder on the coalition and “rescue the people and State of Israel.” The Times of Israel

Analysis: One of the indicators of a leader’s character is the way he/she bows out when defeated. For twelve years, I’ve admired Benjamin Netanyahu for his ‘stand-up’ leadership style. He’s ran a good race; perhaps it’s time for him to move on. Unfortunately, now that he is out of office, he may be facing a trial for corruption soon. Maybe that’s one reason he seems adamant in clinging to power.

The incoming coalition will have its hands full and will need to hit the road running. With the Syrian war a continual problem next door, in addition to the problems in Gaza with Hamas and the continual situation up north dealing with Iranian-supported Hezbollah, astute leadership will be needed.

There will be compromise on some level coming in the Middle East. Iran wants and expects U.S. sanctions loosened in exchange for transparency on its nuclear programs. The resultant agreements through the Abraham Accords will be continuing. Like I’ve maintained, a major portion of that agreement turned out to be nothing more than an ‘arms-for-peace’ deal, with the F-35s thrown in to sweeten the pot. If anyone suggests there will suddenly be peace in the region because of the accords, they have more hope in the system than I do.

The age-old, two-state solution debate between Israel and the Palestinians will continue. The Palestinians will likely never agree to what’s offered by Israel; there are too many deep-rooted differences regarding Jerusalem and the West Bank. And with Bennett in control, I doubt any compromises will take place any time soon.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said Sunday [Associated Press] that the Palestinian position remains “adherence to international legitimacy and the two-state solution by establishing an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.” According to the coalition, discussions regarding this issue will be tabled for the time being.      

Thank the Lord for the Press!

(Journalism)

As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step: Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides, and family members. One was a minor.

All told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, according to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry. Representative Eric Swalwell of California said in an interview Thursday night that he had also been notified that his data had been subpoenaed.

Prosecutors, under the beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, were hunting for the sources behind news media reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators debated whether they had hit a dead end and some even discussed closing the inquiry.

But William P. Barr revived languishing leak investigations after he became attorney general a year later. He moved a trusted prosecutor from New Jersey with little relevant experience to the main Justice Department to work on the Schiff-related case and about a half-dozen others, according to three people with knowledge of his work who did not want to be identified discussing federal investigations. The New York Times (By Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt, and Adam Goldman)

Analysis: Government leaks are as common as snow melting in springtime. Information is power. And some things just need to see the light of day. Remember “Deep Throat?” Remember Watergate?

News papers in general and journalists specifically have a duty to sniff out a story and make sure truth gets published. The news keeps government honest, and to the point, it keeps politicians beholden to their oath to protect and defend the Constitution and represent their constituencies honorably.

Historically, authoritarians hate the press, especially a press protected by a Bill of Rights. Rights of the masses invariably hinder in one way or another an authoritarian’s hunger for more power. Every time I hear a hard-nosed journalist asking tough questions, especially to a politician, I thank the lord I live in a land that constitutionally values and protects the free press and all the privileges associated with it. On the flip side, I shudder when I hear politicians, especially the president of the United States, excoriate the press.

But things get dicey when investigations get underway. The Department of Justice has an obligation to investigate unlawful acts. Leaking classified information could compromise national security, and under the Espionage Act, if found guilty, a person who is found in violation can be sent to prison where they belong.

But what about a citizen’s rights to privacy? At what point do government investigators, given carte blanche authority to subpoena and view private records, overstep their lawful bounds? It’s a fair question to ask, “At what point do the investigators of lawbreaking actually become lawbreakers themselves?”   

And back to the issue of Watergate, where would we be if FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, (Deep Throat) would’ve held back on disclosing information to journalist Bob Woodward?

The constant engagement of citizens living in a free land to hold their government representatives accountable is absolutely necessary as a means to protect against tyranny. Leaking information related to malfeasance is a necessary part of the process in some cases. Otherwise, government officials would only declare their unlawful actions as “top secret” to cover their tracks and bury their misdeeds. The U.S. Federal government and its workers will always be beholden to the people. It’s critical to the continued existence and freedoms of the United States of America that it remains so.    

Who Wants to Be a Billionaire?

ProPublica

ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings, and even the results of audits.

Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year. ProPublica (Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausen and Paul Kiel)

Analysis: ProPublica’s revelation report cast more clouds over some of the U.S. wealthy. We are all used to the financial class (caste) system – the haves and the have-nots. I suppose we should include another level in that stratum and call it the ‘in-betweeners.’ That’s the middle class. I’m middle class; I have just enough to keep me going from paycheck to paycheck, a vacation once in a while, a couple cars, and a house in a decent part of town. And I pay over 35 percent of my income to taxes of one kind or another.    

In the above quote from the ProPublica article, the emphasis should be put on “the wealthiest can – perfectly legally – pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction…” It appears the system is tilted in favor of the rich. There should be no gasps of surprise there. The system has always been tilted in favor of the rich. Perhaps you’ve heard this variation of the ‘Golden Rule, “He who has the most gold makes the rules.”

Many middle- and working-class Americans have suspicioned for years that they pay more in income taxes than many of the extremely wealthy in the country. That was confirmed when it was revealed just how much Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed billionaire, paid in Federal income taxes compared to those workers.

The point always comes down to fairness and the equity associated with everyone paying their share for the benefits received through taxation. Frankly, I get tired of being nickel and dimed to death on taxes, from income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and all the usage fees and dues, which are actually taxes. So, if I had the opportunity to take advantage of the tax-avoidance schemes (legal) that the rich use, I would likely do it without hesitation.

What I am in favor of is a tax system that does not benefit or favor any one class. How about a flat tax system? If you make this much money, you send the U.S. Government 5 percent – no loopholes, tricks, or surprises. That goes for all individuals and incorporeal entities.   

Said-It News: Bitcoin Becomes Legal Tender

(Medium)

El Salvador makes bitcoin legal tender

El Salvador has become the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender after Congress approved President Nayib Bukele’s proposal to embrace the cryptocurrency.

Bukele has touted the use of bitcoin for its potential to help Salvadorans living abroad to send remittances back home, while saying the U.S. dollar will also continue as legal tender.

The use of bitcoin will be optional for individuals and would not bring risks to users, Bukele said. The government will guarantee convertibility to dollars at the time of transaction through a trust created at the country’s development bank BANDESAL. Reuters (Tom Wilson)

Analysis: Bitcoin seems to be the wave of the economic future. The move will provide secure ‘buy and sell’ transactions for El Salvadorans who choose to participate. This will also be a boon to El Salvadorans who work abroad and send their wages home in the form of remittances. The issue could prove to be problematic, however, as bitcoin is more prone to market and other economic fluctuations. Look to other countries to jump on this alternative currency bandwagon.

Africa desperately short of COVID vaccine

In the global race to vaccinate people against COVID-19, Africa is tragically at the back of the pack. In fact, it has barely gotten out of the starting blocks.

The World Health Organization says the continent of 1.3 billion people is facing a severe shortage of vaccine at the same time a new wave of infections is rising across Africa. Vaccine shipments into Africa have ground to a “near halt,” WHO said last week.

“It is extremely concerning and at times frustrating,” said Africa CDC Director Dr. John Nkengasong, a Cameroonian virologist who is trying to ensure some of the world’s poorest nations get a fair share of vaccines in a marketplace where they can’t possibly compete. AP News (Gerald Imray)

Analysis: Vaccines are like most other commodities on the open market; unfortunately, many nations with small economies cannot compete and secure vaccines for their populations. Despite the efforts of rich countries to offer vaccines to poorer nations, the numbers are dismal. African nations face the same fate as India, where COVID spiked resulting in a total of nearly 600,000 deaths, unless a vaccine program is administered quickly.

Nicaraguan government launches mass arrests

President Daniel Ortega’s government has carried out sweeping arrests of his top challengers in the November elections, in a sharp escalation of political repression in Nicaragua.

Two of the presidential hopefuls were arrested on Tuesday — Félix Maradiaga, an academic and political activist, and Juan Sebastián Chamorro, an economist. During the past week, two others, Arturo Cruz and Cristiana Chamorro, were also detained. The Washington Post (Ismael López Ocampo and Mary Beth Sheridan)

Analysis: Daniel Ortega will do what it takes to stay in power. One of the oldest political strategies in the book to maintain power in a democratic government is to remove all competition at the polls. Arresting the opposition is one way to do so. This action is a challenge to the U.S. Biden administration, as Vice President Harris is in the region promoting good governance. Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term in November; polls show his popularity has dropped to its lowest point ever.

One Day, God Rode the Brooklyn Subway

(Sunnyside Post)

Some stories need no introduction. But if there was one, I would say this particular tale restored my faith in humanity.

Marcel Sternberger was a methodical man of nearly 50, with bushy white hair, guileless brown eyes, and the bouncing enthusiasm of a czardas dancer of his native Hungary. He always took the 9:09 Long Island Railroad train from his suburban home to Woodside, N.Y.., where he caught a subway into the city.

On the morning of January 10, 1948, Sternberger boarded the 9:09 as usual. En route, he suddenly decided to visit Laszlo Victor, a Hungarian friend who lived in Brooklyn and was ill.

Accordingly, at Ozone Park, Sternberger changed to the subway for Brooklyn, went to his friend’s house, and stayed until midafternoon. He then boarded a Manhattan-bound subway for his Fifth Avenue office. Here is Marcel’s incredible story:

The car was crowded, and there seemed to be no chance of a seat. But just as I entered, a man sitting by the door suddenly jumped up to leave, and I slipped into the empty place. I’ve been living in New York long enough not to start conversations with strangers. But being a photographer, I have the peculiar habit of analyzing people’s faces, and I was struck by the features of the passenger on my left. He was probably in his late 30s, and when he glanced up, his eyes seemed to have a hurt expression in them. He was reading a Hungarian-language newspaper, and something prompted me to say in Hungarian, “I hope you don’t mind if I glance at your paper.”

The man seemed surprised to be addressed in his native language. But he answered politely, “You may read it now. I’ll have time later on.”

During the half-hour ride to town, we had quite a conversation. He said his name was Bela Paskin. A law student when World War II started, he had been put into a German labor battalion and sent to the Ukraine. Later he was captured by the Russians and put to work burying the German dead. After the war, he covered hundreds of miles on foot until he reached his home in Debrecen, a large city in eastern Hungary.

I myself knew Debrecen quite well, and we talked about it for a while. Then he told me the rest of his story. When he went to the apartment once occupied by his father, mother, brothers and sisters, he found strangers living there. Then he went upstairs to the apartment that he and his wife once had. It also was occupied by strangers. None of them had ever heard of his family.

As he was leaving, full of sadness, a boy ran after him, calling “Paskin bacsi! Paskin bacsi!” That means “Uncle Paskin.” The child was the son of some old neighbors of his. He went to the boy’s home and talked to his parents. “Your whole family is dead,” they told him. “The Nazis took them and your wife to Auschwitz.”

Auschwitz was one of the worst Nazi concentration camps. Paskin gave up all hope. A few days later, too heartsick to remain any longer in Hungary, he set out again on foot, stealing across border after border until he reached Paris. He managed to immigrate to the United States in October 1947, just three months before I met him.

All the time he had been talking, I kept thinking that somehow his story seemed familiar. A young woman whom I had met recently at the home of friends had also been from Debrecen; she had been sent to Auschwitz; from there she had been transferred to work in a German munitions factory. Her relatives had been killed in the gas chambers. Later she was liberated by the Americans and was brought here in the first boatload of displaced persons in 1946.

Her story had moved me so much that I had written down her address and phone number, intending to invite her to meet my family and thus help relieve the terrible emptiness in her life.

It seemed impossible that there could be any connection between these two people, but as I neared my station, I fumbled anxiously in my address book. I asked in what I hoped was a casual voice, “Was your wife’s name Marya?”

He turned pale. “Yes!” he answered. “How did you know?”

He looked as if he were about to faint.

I said, “Let’s get off the train.” I took him by the arm at the next station and led him to a phone booth. He stood there like a man in a trance while I dialed her phone number.

It seemed hours before Marya Paskin answered. (Later I learned her room was alongside the telephone, but she was in the habit of never answering it because she had so few friends and the calls were always for someone else. This time, however, there was no one else at home and, after letting it ring for a while, she responded.)

When I heard her voice at last, I told her who I was and asked her to describe her husband. She seemed surprised at the question, but gave me a description. Then I asked her where she had lived in Debrecen, and she told me the address.

Asking her to hold the line, I turned to Paskin and said, “Did you and your wife live on such-and-such a street?”

“Yes!” Bela exclaimed. He was white as a sheet and trembling.

“Try to be calm,” I urged him. “Something miraculous is about to happen to you. Here, take this telephone and talk to your wife!”

He nodded his head in mute bewilderment, his eyes bright with tears. He took the receiver, listened a moment to his wife’s voice, then suddenly cried, “This is Bela! This is Bela!” and he began to mumble hysterically. Seeing that the poor fellow was so excited he couldn’t talk coherently, I took the receiver from his shaking hands.

“Stay where you are,” I told Marya, who also sounded hysterical. “I am sending your husband to you. We will be there in a few minutes.”

Bela was crying like a baby and saying over and over again. “It is my wife. I go to my wife!”

At first I thought I had better accompany Paskin, lest the man should faint from excitement, but I decided that this was a moment in which no strangers should intrude. Putting Paskin into a taxicab, I directed the driver to take him to Marya’s address, paid the fare, and said goodbye.

Bela Paskin’s reunion with his wife was a moment so poignant, so electric with suddenly released emotion, that afterward neither he nor Marya could recall much about it.

“I remember only that when I left the phone, I walked to the mirror like in a dream to see if maybe my hair had turned gray,” she said later. “The next thing I know, a taxi stops in front of the house, and it is my husband who comes toward me. Details I cannot remember; only this I know—that I was happy for the first time in many years.”

“Even now it is difficult to believe that it happened. We have both suffered so much; I have almost lost the capability to not be afraid. Each time my husband goes from the house, I say to myself, Will anything happen to take him from me again?”

Her husband is confident that no horrible misfortune will ever again befall the two of them. “Providence has brought us together,” he says simply. “It was meant to be.”

Skeptical persons will no doubt attribute the events of that memorable afternoon to mere chance. But was it chance that made Marcel Sternberger suddenly decide to visit his sick friend and hence take a subway line that he had never ridden before? Was it chance that caused the man sitting by the door of the car to rush out just as Sternberger came in? Was it chance that caused Bela Paskin to be sitting beside Sternberger, reading a Hungarian newspaper?

Was it chance—or did God ride the Brooklyn subway that afternoon?

Paul Deutschman, Great Stories Remembered, edited and compiled by Joe L. Wheeler

Think Like a Dog; Reach Self-Actualization!

Maslow

I have always argued that more people should journal; language expressed in writ keeps civilization grounded. You want to know what was going on 200 years ago? Yeah, you could dig out an old newspaper clipping and see what it had to say. You’d likely learn of killings and robberies that happened a couple centuries ago the same as now – same stories, different time. No, speaking of ‘journaling,’ I’m not talking about more people working for the local newspaper, although it would be interesting seeing that many people hungry for a story. I’m talking about more people sitting down at the table before bed and penning out their thoughts and activities for that day. What made them happy; what challenges did they meet; who did they visit; what did they read; what did they think about the day’s current events? Pick up GGG grandpa’s journal from 200 years ago and read what he had to say about those things and you get true, intriguing history. You find out about grandpa, but you also get a taste of the cultural underpinnings of his day.

Check back often to this site and read first-hand my own journalings – the window on my existence. As the big papers proclaim, “You read it here, first!” Everyone wants to be first and best and most profound. I am a professional writer; at work they call me the ‘managing editor.’ I spent just over two years earning a master’s degree in International Relations so I could help produce an eight- to ten-page analysis of global issues that may affect the corporation where I work and its workers throughout the world. Don’t look for the publication in print; it’s proprietary. The only reason I bring it up is to add credibility to my journaling. I see a lot; I know a lot; I read a lot; I write a lot. And most of all, I’m a student of the business. That means I keep my mind sharp by always learning, always seeking to know, always searching for understanding, and then I write that shiz down! Perhaps we can mutually benefit one another in our quest for truth and enlightenment by comparing notes.

Last night, I laid awake longer than usual. Typically, I’m out like a light. Not last night. I stared into the black abyss and wondered how long the world community could keep up with its current pace of self-destruction. Look at the number of conflicts. Division is the order of the day; hating your neighbor seems to have become a social norm. You go next door to borrow a cup of sugar, you might not come back alive!

I got up this morning and showered in the hottest water I could stand. You want to forget about your worries? Take a steaming hot shower, or even better, soak your whole body in hot water. You’ll walk out a new person; your problems literally melted and washed down the drain. Next, I walked the dog. That put the final touches on forgetting my global concerns. Take note what a dog’s concerns are and follow suit! My Golden-Doodle, as she’s called, has three primary worries – sleeping, eating, and walking the neighborhood. That’s her life. Doing all three in the same day catapults her to the highest level on Maslow’s hierarchy. Self-actualization for a dog is a straight line from bed to her morning walk. I should, perhaps, take a page from my dog and view life through her lens of understanding.        

Dilbert Comics Reflect Reality at the Office

The main reason I love Dilbert comics is they reflect reality, and reality is often hilarious, especially in retrospect. The “Dilbert reality” of which I speak is played over and over again in offices and workplaces all across the world. Three characters in the Dilbert comics stand out to me: the main character, Dilbert, the pointy-haired boss, and Wally. All three of those imaginary folks represent some of the people I’ve worked with over the years – and even myself in some cases. In case you are not familiar with him, Dilbert is a ‘loner’ computer engineer who tries to make sense of his work environment but can never quite do so. The pointy-haired boss is a clueless, pencil-pusher, and Wally is a lazy, coffee drinking, gold-bricker.

My mind is often drawn back to the 1980s as I read my latest Dilbert cartoon each day. That’s the decade when I worked for an aero-tech, small military contractor. Every day for the five years I worked for that company, something happened that could’ve been used in a Dilbert episode. Nearly forty years have passed since I walked out of that place for the last time, but I remember the moments – the experiences that taught me ‘what not to do’ as a leader or worker-bee. And yes, I adopted the phrase, worker bee, from my experiences there. I was in middle management; the boss saw me as one of his ‘worker bees. I’d like to reminisce about that place in today’s blog for the cringe factor and for the laughs.

The boss and owner of the company was a short, fat man with red hair. He strutted around the plant like you might envision a king surveying his domain. The Boss never let an opportunity pass to say something condescending to one of his worker bees. To get a vision of his leadership style, you would only need to step into his office. His desk sat on a pedestal, raised approximately eight inches off the main floor. It was a cherry wood desk that glistened as the sun shone through the curtained windows. Behind the desk was a high-back leather reclining office chair with wheels. The rest of the chairs in the office had the legs shortened. The boss was physically and psychologically at an elevated advantage over all others who dared enter his domain.

Speaking of domains, just next door to the boss was the office of the Operations Manager – an ex-full bird colonel from the U.S. Air Force. According to company skuttle-butt, this guy’s last military assignment was a desk job in the Pentagon doing who-knows-what. My belief is, this OM empowered the boss to be the Boss. Together, they were like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

At this point, you might be asking, “What is this blogger writing about something that happened at work nearly 40 years ago?” The answer is, because there are some elements of humor wrapped-up in the details. And if you don’t smile, well then, details might give you something new to ponder on. Sometimes, descriptions and examples of what others do leave a profound impression – perhaps that indelible mind imprint could work into a realization of things to avoid or simply not do.

One day, I walked into the board room for a staff meeting. There were no chairs. “Where are the chairs?” a couple of my associates wondered out loud. A few ladies in the group who were pregnant had deep-furrowed brows showing their concern. Suddenly, the operations manager walked up. It was his meeting, and he had ordered all the chairs be removed. “This is a stand-up meeting,” he declared. “I don’t want people relaxing and yacking and causing this meeting to go overtime.”

All this operations manager’s meetings had a ‘max’ time length. Each subheading on his meeting agenda contained a time limit. Numerous instances, I witnessed him stopping people in mid-sentence and declaring we were all moving on without further discussion. Nothing was ever tabled or put out for small-group discussion. It was just ended – no further discussion. Most of his meetings ended abruptly at the exact time he had established from the start.

As far as time management goes, I learned a thing or two from ‘the colonel’ on meeting agendas. I still refuse to lead a meeting without an agenda containing at least some time constraints. I hate having my time wasted in meetings where productive discussion has ended and prattle has taken over! On the flipside, we should not forget that we are PEOPLE, and people are social creatures. A bit of social discussion about things other than work stuff is healthy.

Because the company was a small, government contractor, a buyer from the U.S. government would show up each week to buy-off that week’s production. The company created a workspace and provided a desk for the buyer; he was offered a smallish desk located in a dark corner of the production floor. He was given a broken, green vinyl office chair that tilted sideways. The set-up was explained to me this way by my manager “We don’t want the buyer getting comfortable and staying long. He needs to get his stuff done and get out of here!”

Producing products to fill U.S. government contracts was an engaging job. As a middle manager in the organization, I had to learn and understand the thousands of government military standards for production and shipping. Each contract had an AQL, or acceptable quality limit, associated with the production output. In layman’s terms, the AQL was the number, usually represented in percentages, of produced items that could be rejected before the entire contract was rejected. For example, if the contract called for 1000 units and the AQL was six percent, then during inspection, up to 60 items could be rejected and the contract still bought-off by the government. Go over 60, and the contract would be rejected.

I always viewed the AQL as ridiculous, even though I fully understood the reasoning behind it, especially during production of a long contract involving thousands of individual items. Human error is always a thing. But as a manager who worked under the “zero defects” principle, I found the AQL to be a distraction.

One time I heard about an Asian company that subcontracted to produce some items. They asked about the AQL and were told what it meant. This was a company that took their zero-defects production ideals seriously. When the items were received back in shipping, the top box contained an exact percentage of items that had been hammered, smashed, and broken. There was a note included with the defective parts, “Not sure why you wanted three percent of the contracted parts to be defective, but here they are. The rest have been produced according to contractual requirements.” That’s how I felt about AQLs, too. I guess it convolutes the phrase, “Made in America” into something completely unacceptable. But contracts need leeway, right?

The unusual and outlandish things we see and experience in the workplace adds to our ‘gee whiz’ files. Most of these Dilbert-esque things are added to our repertoire of funny memories to ponder on, smile, and talk about later. I suppose there are some things we’d all like to forget. But overall, work experiences I think should become part of our personal memoirs – not to publish, but to add to our expansive banks of wisdom gained from experience. And one thing we know for sure, where people are involved, invariably we will have some funny moments – perhaps that could be portrayed in a three-frame comic strip.  

Take Back Your Life

Voice Write Media (Jeff Hicks)

Are you enslaved by daily habits or influences that stifle your productivity? Do you find yourself being plagued with tasks and activities that do not contribute to your personal goals and ideals? Here are a few simple steps to take back your life.

Personal Guiding Principles Statement
Everyone must draw-up and incorporate a few principles that will guide their decisions and activities in life. Nearly every person recognizes their own basic values that are learned from childhood. However, surprisingly, people often don’t construct those values into a fluid structure that will guide their decisions and activities. So, at the moment of decision, those people are not resolute and often get pegged with being wishy-washy, weak, or ineffective. If you are one of those people, you can overcome that weakness by creating a personal guiding principles statement (P-GPS).

Imagine yourself hiking through a thick forest without any distinct trail that will guide you to your destination. The beauty of the forest is magnificent as you bask in the exquisite colors and sounds surrounding you. However, you are troubled because the further you walk into the forest, the more lost you become since there is no defined trail. With the tall trees surrounding you, you are unable to determine your location or direction of travel.

Suddenly, you remember the GPS in your front pocket. After turning it on, you are quickly able to mark your location and the direction of your destination in relation to your surroundings. That is exactly what your P-GPS will do for you personally as you navigate whatever paths you choose in your career and personal life. Your P-GPS distinctly defines your personal “position” in context with your chosen surroundings and environment.

Your P-GPS is a statement containing some broad descriptors that explicitly define you. It’s a good idea to use terms in your statement that are broad and general, in order to cover all the vast expanse that defines your purpose and existence. Here is my P-GPS. Be compassionate and virtuous, honest and ethical, real and present, open minded but solid in my convictions.

You may be asking, “What does a P-GPS have to do with personal and time management?” The answer is your P-GPS is the foundation of principles and values with which your daily life is structured. In fact you may even recognize that the values contained in your P-GPS guided your educational choices, career path, and the other major elements in your life that subsequently dictate what your daily tasks entail.

Core Ideals that Dictate Actions
Every person has a few things with which they “hang their hat.” These ideals dictate a person’s views and actions and usually influence a person’s daily and weekly routine. Here’s an example. Consider all the people you know who follow a strict religious standard of Sunday worship. One of their personal ideals that govern their activities is the belief that Sunday is a day of rest and should be reserved for religious service and worship. Each Sunday, these folks make a conscious decision to be sitting in the pews at church. In contrast, consider your friends who find Sunday solace by visiting nature. Every weekend, they head for the hills to partake of nature’s beauty and serenity. Both of these groups have Sunday ideals but define them differently.

In order to take control of your personal life and manage your time effectively, you must determine what your core ideals are. Take some time, be true and honest with yourself, and define your core ideals. As an example, I’ve listed my core ideals:

  1. happiness and safety of my wife and children
  2. belief in God, daily prayer, Sunday church worship
  3. career for professional growth and income
  4. education

As you confirm your core ideals, you will recognize how they influence the daily and weekly activities in your life. If you are firm in those ideals, you will not allow outside influences on a whim to alter your actions based on those ideals. You will soon be recognized as one resolute in your goals and life’s direction. The actions facilitated by those ideals will define who you are.

Managing the Daily Grind
Everyone on earth has the same amount of time–exactly 24 hours each day to accomplish their goals and tasks. However, we can all stipulate that some folks just seem to accomplish a lot more with that 24-hour allotment than others. It’s a fact; they do. And the reason is they have a game plan.

After you’ve established your Personal Guiding Principles Statement and defined your core ideals, you have a great understanding of who you are and what defines you. You can now plan your days and weeks with purpose. Your planning will now illuminate your personal standards of excellence and draw you towards activities representative of your personal goals.

How often have you found yourself sitting at your computer, your eyes glazed-over, with your fingers methodically clicking your mouse as you surf through the countless images and links on your favorite social networking site? I’ve been there! I recall times that I easily wasted a full day checking out all the cool things my “friends” posted. Connecting with friends and associates via the internet has its place, but we all know that an inordinate amount of time can be lost in the process–time we will never get back!

So, how do we avoid the pitfalls of time wasting? The answer is found in personal discipline and planning. You manage the discipline part and then follow this simple planning sequence for immediate success.

You will need a daily journal recording device or notebook. Years ago, I used a small flip-notebook that easily fit inside my shirt or inside suit breast pocket. Now I use my iPhone. Whatever device you choose, you need to have it with you always and make sure it can easily be written in. Since I always have my phone wherever I go, I prefer to use it. If you like, a rectangular pocket calendar will work just fine.

Now for the “meat and potatoes” of this game plan. At the beginning and end of your day, you must allocate five minutes of quiet time for only yourself. Here is what you will do with this short, but invaluable time:

  • list on your chosen device the tasks that must be completed on this day–record them
  • review yesterday’s list of tasks and bring forward any that still need to be completed
  • rate each task according to importance and expediency
  • list activities that either you are expected to participate in or you desire to participate in
  • establish the time parameters for activities–IE. Internet surfing: 15 minutes, grocery shopping: 60 minutes, staff meeting: 30 minutes
  • record any prudent reminders–IE. Jimmy’s birthday, the visiting VIP’s name is Colonel Zogg
  • Review all your tasks and activities for the day and make a mental note how each contributes to your P-GPS and/or your core ideals
  • Review your task and activity list often throughout the day. Follow it explicitly! When an activity or task is complete, cross it out.
  • At the end of the day, take a moment to record your successes and make notes for the next day’s activities.

As you perform this exercise at the beginning and end of each day, you will soon notice your mind beginning to bend toward personal order and constructive time management. You will draw positive parallels with your tasks and activities in relation with your core ideals and guiding principles. You will gain self-discipline and will no longer find yourself being overtaken by mind-numbing activities that you admit are a complete waste of your valuable time, unless it is specifically planned.

As you incorporate this simple plan, I promise that you will be more productive. Productivity brings happiness. Taking back your life brings happiness!