"The most significant threat to our national security is our debt," Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 27,2010


Friday, May 30, 2014

The Future for Bureaucracies

What makes for a successful organization?  Many, many books, videos, lectures and essays are available if you wish to answer that question.  Just Google “successful organization.”

Can the characteristics of a successful organization find a happy home in a large government bureaucracy?  Probably not.   Can those characteristics be found in a large American federal government bureaucracy?  No, not a chance.
Why is that so?
There are two big reasons; many lesser specific reasons.  What are the two big reasons?
1.     The leader or boss of every large American federal government bureaucracy is a political choice and decision.  That person must be approved by politicians not for his/her knowledge of the bureaucracy’s strengths and weaknesses but for her/his ability to get confirmed first and then avoid problems second.

2.    The employees of every large American federal government bureaucracy are now unionized and that condition exists solely for the advancement of union rules, protections and purposes which are at odds with the bureaucracy’s purposes if they exist at all.
The two reasons stated so clearly above are connected by this characteristic of politics which will ultimately destroy any organization if the politics of choosing a leader and protecting the employees from consequences of incompetence and ineffectiveness prevail over the mission, if known, of the organization.
Can you provide any backup source or knowledgeable reference to support the reasons described above?
Sure, please read the following:
“All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.”
Okay, but who is the author of that statement?
Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States, 1933-1945.
Here is one other commentary that some may find pertinent to the topic at hand – structure and success of large American federal government bureaucracies:

“Certain business leaders may consider "big government" or socialism more of an immediate threat to their interests than communism. Are they allowing themselves to be deluded by their own propaganda to the effect that organized labor in this country is in favor of big government or the nationalization of industry?  

Nothing could be further from the truth. The main function of American trade unions is collective bargaining. It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government. Unions, as well as employers, would vastly prefer to have even Government regulation of labor-management relations reduced to a minimum consistent with the protection of the public welfare...” 

The source of this statement, please?  George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, from 1955-1979.
Here is one more statement:
Shinseki Says Pact Shows “Commitment to Collaboration”
March 18, 2011
“This new agreement reflects VA’s commitment to collaborate with an important labor partner,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The outcome will be a more highly motivated, more effective workforce serving our Nation’s Veterans.”

About 204,000 of VA’s 315,000 employees are eligible for AFGE membership, with another 23,000 employees eligible for membership in four other unions. 

Secretary Shinseki approved the contract on March 15.  The complete labor agreement will be signed soon by Shinseki, AFGE leadership and the VA and AFGE members of the bargaining teams at an internal event that will be broadcast at VA facilities around the country. 

Among the provisions of the contract are:
· Enhanced collaboration with union officials on work-related issues;
· Expansion of teleworking among employees, including clarification of rules governing telework; and
· Increased reliance upon e-mails and new technology in labor-management communications and processes.
Comment:  please note the content of Shinseki’s comments on the contract.  Not a word about the mission of the VA – just nonsense about union issues

A closing comment on this topic:  almost every difficult situation facing America today can be sourced to a combination of compromises and politics designed to accommodate some group or voting bloc or special interest of some form or another.  Leadership usually can find a way to say “no” without destroying the entity in which the conflict occurs.  By “no” we simply mean solving the issue at hand without abandoning basic time tested principles – what we call “fundamentals.”  Not so in government – the accommodations are now so one-sided as to render the surviving entities unmanageable which simply means any corrective remedy involves doing away with what exists; starting over and following the very fundamentals which were previously discarded.  But, as with any solution to any problem, the first step is realization of the problem.
We used to solve problems in America – now we just create them and live with them.

 

Monday, May 26, 2014

In Memoriam

Today is the day of recognition and appreciation.

Whenever America has needed to defend itself, young Americans have arrived.
Wherever America’s allies needed to defend their territory and way of life, young Americans have arrived.
Whenever the tyrant and all his followers needed to be exterminated, young Americans have arrived.
Literally by the hundreds of thousands young Americans have given their lives so that we who were not even born may pursue our lives with self direction tempered by respect for others.
Here is a picture of the American cemetery outside Manila in the Philippines.


This picture does not capture the moment of arrival at the entry to the cemetery and the vision of endless markers for the American dead – as far as the eye and mind can grasp in total view. 
We honor these dead warriors even as we know that more will also need to serve – to arrive – to defend – to fight – to die.  Their gift has been and will be their life for our future.  They gave us today and tomorrow.  We honor them this one day though we owe them every day.

 

 

 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An Exercise for Grandma and Grandpa

How can one even contemplate repaying a debt of this magnitude....

$17,500,000,000,000.00  ?

If you owe this kind of money why not just add a few hundred billion more?  Or a couple of trillion?  No one can even fathom much less wish to think about repaying that much money.  It is an impossibility.  So we don’t think about it – don’t talk about it – and we sure don’t wish to remind our children what we have done to them.  After all some of them may still think we are disciplined adults.
So, let’s just skip the exercise of a parent explaining this financial situation to their children.  Instead let’s move to our grandparents.  Grandparents have the time, experience and wisdom to offer guidance and morality lessons to their grandchildren.  So, all you grandpas and grandmas out there please try this exercise on for size – practice explaining to your grandchildren the merits of leaving them a seventeen and one half trillion dollar debt to repay.  Be specific – no generalities – explain why you are proud of what you have done; what you have to show for it and why these young people should look up to you for this momentous legacy.
Also, prospective grandparents (we are thinking of one specific twosome who loves preaching to us from their overflowing font of experience and wisdom) try this exercise out – who knows, you may even be able to share it with us on the campaign trail in 2016.

Monday, May 19, 2014

#BringBackOurFiscalSanity

Let’s say you were the top guy at an outfit that owed this much money….

$17,500,000,000,000.00

Or maybe you were the wife of the top guy at an outfit that owed that much money.
Or maybe you were the former first lady (wife) of the former top guy at ……
And you were also thinking about becoming the top gal at an outfit…..
Would you be “tweeting” about a situation thousands of miles away about which you have no control and no influence but it sure makes good propaganda for those who are either in the propaganda business or easily influenced by propagandists, or…
…would you address your time and attention and seriousness to a matter close at home over which you do have influence and control?
Why is it so easy to engage in useless forms of electronic gibberish and not so easy to do what is required of you if you either are the top gal/guy at an outfit that owes so much money or you seek to become the top guy/gal at an outfit that owes so much money?
Is there one serious politician in America who grasps the silliness of wasting time and energy on other people’s problems and completely ignoring our own?
Maybe more important, why aren’t they tweeting:

#BRINGBACKOURFISCALSANITY

 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Expanding the golf handicap system

In most sports competitions, skill and performance determine the outcome. 

There is one sport that millions play where skill and performance do not dictate the outcome – amateur golf.  Golf has a handicap system that is designed to let the hacker (fellow/gal who shoots in the 90’s+) to be able to compete with the skilled player (gal/fellow who shoots under 80.)  How can that be? Well, the skilled player has to give strokes to his hacker competitor.  He has to subsidize the lousy player or turning it around, the lousy player is not expected to do as well to win.
At the highest levels of golf – golf professionals – there is no handicap system – winners simply are the best.  This is the expectation; the standard of performance at the top levels of the game. However, in the real world; where, skill, motivation and focus vary widely the outcome of the amateur game is not based on skill, persistence and performance – it is handicapped so that all may participate in the contest.
Are there other places in our world where this idea of a handicap – subsidizing the lousy performers to let them compete with or even beat the good performers – system can be applied?  And who chooses which contests should be handicapped or which contests must belong only to the capable?  Do you want your doctor to be the product of a “handicap” system?  What about your kids teachers?  The cop driving around the neighborhood?  The mechanic working on your car?  That fellow sitting in the cockpit as you and your family board the airplane for a long awaited trip to see Grandma?
There are two great misconceptions at work in America.  They are:
  • The best and brightest rise to the top, in every discipline of import, and
  • We can rely on lawyers and our legal system if they don’t
There is growing evidence that our education system now is a handicap system.  In other words, you can achieve success without performance.
There is growing evidence that the same is occurring in our medical/pharmaceutical system.
There is irrefutable evidence that the best and brightest do not manage the governance affairs of our nation.
Here is the recent headline from the Chicago Tribune – “Illinois’ new school rating system will hold minority students to a different standard"
It is one thing to let a bunch of middle aged guys tromp around a few hundred acres of well manicured grass and trees and sand traps and pretend that a competition is underway.  Little rests on the outcome of such endeavors.  But when a popularity contest determines the fate of the nation by rendering an inexperienced fellow to rule for eight years; or a series of them for 20+ years – or a mediocre teacher survives due to a union rule – or the kid sitting next to you in the classroom is advanced to the next grade with no grasp of the content of the textbooks you studied  – we have left the land of opportunity and settled for a land of make believe – a land of hope and change.
There is no handicap system in Mr. Darwin’s world of survivability of the fittest.  This world does not grasp the concept of “political correctness” or “vote buying” or even simple forms of propaganda.   The winners in this world quickly recognize convenience and turn away from it – they make a commitment to hard work.  No one has found a substitute for hard work and persistence.

 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Stooge

We recently published an essay entitled – “Victimhood.”

That particular post was rattling around for many years and it seemed to be an appropriate time for release given the well embedded American cultural shift from responsibility to victimhood.
One thing we usually do when preparing an essay for release is check out spelling and definitions and other such dreary necessities to avoid obvious errors.  In other words, we try to avoid doing something that would make us look stupid – relying instead on our presentation of the subject matter of the essay to fulfill that mission.
We looked up the dictionary definition of “victim.”  The first category was crime victims described as “a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.”  We  were not writing about that form of victim. 

The second category read as followed:  “a person who is tricked or duped.”  Actually this category didn’t fit either because our version of victimhood had to do with those who willingly and knowingly pursue the path of victimhood – no trickery or duping required.  But we read a bit further and found the list of synonyms – a synonym is a word which has the same meaning or closely matches the definition of the subject word.  Here are the synonyms for “victim:”


Every time Mr. Obama makes one of his vote buying pitches; be it women’s health matters or immigration concessions or raise the minimum wage or extend unemployment benefits or paid leave for parents or spread the wealth around or let the women hire lawyers and file lawsuits if they feel they have been paid less than men – the list of vote buying schemes coming from this one man has been endlessly inventive for over five years now – every time he tries to buy the votes at the expense of America taxpayers he does this one thing – he gathers a stage full of stooges around him, mostly behind him and makes his pitch. And the stooges stand there and smile and nod and applaud and carry on as if they were paid extras in some Hollywood performance who were told when to smile; when to frown (always after a reference to republicans); when to clap; when to appear serious.
Governance is not a Hollywood show – it should not be about vote buying – it is not about rounding up a stage full of stooges to add some fake theatrical drama to one more expensive giveaway program that can be bandied about as if it were a momentous occasion of accomplishment and progress.
We wonder if this act of stacking the audience with stooges; let’s just call it stooging, is an outgrowth of our propaganda culture and governance?  We know that the human condition can descend to low reaches – just watch the manipulation of an audience at a Jerry Springer or Maury Povich show (no we don’t mean watch all 60 minutes; two or three will suffice.)  We also know that American education now shuts out most debate and opposing viewpoints (student stooging.)  We also know that horrible consequences have come out of a governing political party that moves its masses to believe their victimhood is the consequence of someone or some group.
Using stooges to fake leadership is a sorry substitute for direction – for discipline – for priority setting – for growth and improvement.  And it often has dire consequences.  It's also indicative of a weak leader who knows he needs props to support his weak plans, proposals and ideas.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Victimhood

As an essayist, one draws upon quite a wide spectrum of sources for essays.  Sources such as:  research, facts and figures, other opinions/thoughts and, of course, a lifetime of experience, observation and calculation.

Within this essayists latter group of experiences, observations and calculations comes the concept of victimhood which is that human only reaction to circumstances and events forcing one to complain, whine, bitch and otherwise prattle on with excuses, rationalizations and other forms of resourcefulness all directed to the simple act of responsibility avoidance.  How does this play out in this essayists world?  Well, try carrying on with a combination of excuses, rationalizations and other forms of human avoidance and one will receive this reaction from whomever is available to react –
“Oh, you’re a victim.”
These few words can be delivered with a wry grin – perhaps just obvious sarcasm – shrug of the shoulders – or with the quick dismissiveness that flows from someone who is clearly communicating this message – knock it off – if you want to do something about it get off your fanny and do so but quit your complaining.
What is the effect of such unempathetic support?  Well, one knocks it off and is left to face the facts – either live with it or do something about it.
Most of us get 70 or 80 years to learn and do something about it.  Most of us have the health and the brain power to actually use a good part of that time to do something about it.   Most of us also have the good fortune; actually the blessing of knowing that if we don’t do something about it it will forever be on us – try as hard as we may to deflect it elsewhere.
So out of this situation arrives the confluence of doing something about it – aka “taking responsibility” and not doing something about it – aka “victimhood.”

Whichever path one chooses to follow makes quite a difference in how those 70 or 80 years unfold.  Not necessarily in end results but mostly in the act of entering the arena and playing the game.  But asking someone who has chosen the path of “taking responsibility” to have an “honest conversation” or some other such “communication” or sitting down with one who has chosen the path of “victimhood” may in certain circles appear to be constructive but one may as well invite a group of Zionists and Palestinians to discuss equal participation in Israeli governance, culture and society.
In other words sometimes the gap has nothing to do with perception and everything to do with how one chooses to spend those 70 or 80 years.

On the other hand if you are in the business of race baiting for vote purchasing we doubt that the above concept has ever entered your limited focus.  In the meantime,  those years do slip by.  And we have yet to discover anyone who proudly engraves their headstone with the words:  
RIP – victim

.