Saturday, November 30, 2013


When we are really honest with ourselves we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us. So, it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of men we are. It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life." - Cesar Chavez

It is easy to believe that we are powerless to make a difference in the world. They believe only those exceptionally gifted or powerful or wealthy are capable of making a difference. But most belief systems proclaim each of us is in this world to contribute in our own unique way. It need not be anything more than be something done with the intention of ‘doing good’.
We all enter this existence, with the ability to decide for ourselves, exactly who we want to be. If one believes in God, one believes in Judgement Day. Accounts of Near Death Experiences are virtually unanimous on one point. There always is a "life review" of some manner involved. There  has not been one published, that expressed divine damnation for not getting enough money or prestige.

The evidence shows in either example, that we will ultimately be judged (or judge ourselves),by the difference we make in the lives of others, for good or for ill. Even if popular culture animates the belief, that some are more important than others in this world, when its over we all will be in the same place. The only things that will truly endure is how we have used our lives, in relation to the lives of others. 

We can choose to sit on the sidelines and say that one has to be famous or megarich to scratch the surface of the world's ills. But then you see there are millions of people making a difference who are not on any kind of "A-list", except in terms of decency,  courage and selflessness. We all have God-given gifts that can make a difference in the lives of others. Even if one is not a natural motivator, it is possible to be a blessing in the lives of others. There are so many people in the world that need hope, guidance, support and inspiration. And any of can make a difference.

We can make a difference at work as a beginning. Mentor the newbies, and by that act alone, you become the light in the life of someone else. Each and everyday in our personal lives, we meet those struggling to move beyond past obstacles and barriers. Assisting others to achieve their goals and dreams, helps us to feel fulfilled every day, while helping others to live the life they were created to live. Each small ripple in the ocean of hopelessness makes a difference for humanity.

Many who have overcome adversity and tragedy, feel the need to share their message with others. Even in those moments that evoke a painful past, those who have still to survive need to know that there are people out there who have overcome just about any obstacle in life.  Giving people hope,is a very rewarding feeling. The way that we each can make a difference in the lives of others , is to make a decision to simply do something. Whatever that something is may provide the difference between success or even survival for someone else. 

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” 
– Anne Frank

We each have the ability to make the world a better place. Making a difference is the sum of our collective efforts to contribute,  and having the heart to do it. There is not a perfectly defined time to start. We should never wait till there is time to share.  

Little efforts count. The belief that everything has been taken care of by someone else and that one person's contribution does not make much of a difference is infectious. Thankfully not everyone thinks that way. Belief that one is only capable of making small contributions, begs the divine question. What we will end up judging ourselves for, is whether or not we tried. 

"For in the end the love we take is equal to the love we make." - The Beatles

The greatest gifts we give to the world are happiness and love. Too often, we’re too indulged in our own gratifications and forget there are people in this world who are starving for either.  To find more happiness and love in our own lives, the truest path is to creating  the same for others.  

We change the world by helping one person at a time. In this time of danger and uncertainty, many are losing hope and learning desperation. We can help by seeking to empower others, simply by replacing criticism and judgement with encouragement. We add value to the world by helping others to accomplish what their lives are meant to be.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” – Benjamin Disraeli

All good things begin with us. When we try to make a difference, we influence others to attempt to  make a difference as well.   All it takes is simply demonstrating concern and love to the people in our orbit. and starting today. No matter how small and insignificant it seems , the world simply needs each of us to try. 



In the mid-1970s, singer Harry Chapin focused on social activism, raising money to combat hunger in the United States. His daughter Jen says: "He saw hunger and poverty as an insult to America." He co-founded the organization the organization World Hunger Year with radio personality Bill Ayres,  Sales of his concert merchandise were used to support the group.

Chapin's activism often caused friction amongst sidemen. Harry donated an estimated third of his paid concerts to charitable causes, often performing alone with his guitar to reduce costs. as his widow Sandy said,  "only with slight exaggeration" , that "Harry was supporting 17 relatives, 14 associations, seven foundations and 82 charities. Harry wasn't interested in saving money. He always said, 'Money is for people,' so he gave it away." 

In 1987, on what would have been his 45th birthday, Harry Chapin was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his campaigning on hunger around the world and in the United States. He was recognized as a key reason for,  the creation of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1977, and as the only member who attended every meeting. USA for Africa and Hands Across America, were organized by Ken Kragen who had been Chapin's manager. "I felt like Harry had crawled into my body and was making me do it." Kragen once said.  

For The Harry Chapin foundation please visit:


Wednesday, November 27, 2013


"We're a different people from you, and we're a different people partly because of you. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant." - Pierre Trudeau 

One of the interesting aspects of living in Niagara County, NY was that you could watch the television stations from Canada. In 1968, the news was horrible every single day it seemed in the United States. There was the Tet offensive, the murders of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King,  and even in grade school you could sense that things were seeming to fall apart, and the country seemed on the verge of some sort of nervous breakdown. 

At the same time, there was a different energy on the Canadian stations. For the  phenomenon of Trudeau mania was sweeping Canada.  The formerly staid old country, was infatuated with a flashy bachelor, who was modern in dress, a bit of a ladies man, and who in three years went from an obscure law professor to parliament member, to prime minister.  It was not just the rose he wore in his lapel that made him seem refreshingly different, it was the truths he uttered 45 years ago. One famous thought was that "the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation." 

Trudeau's style clashed with the tired and defeated men in Washington. He opposed the Vietnam War and welcomed draft dodgers,  got along with Castro, and had no issues with the Soviet Union.  He established Canada's separate identity as opposed to the  energy sucking neighbor down South. Even at a young age, it was amazing to see him meeting with and hitting it off with John and Yoko. "Did you find him to be a beautiful person?" Lennon was asked. "I think he is," John replied. .

Eventually though, the winds of dissent experienced throughout the world touched Canada. Unlike the situation in the US, where the issue was based on skin color., it was the clash between the dual Anglophone and Francophone cultures , that was centered in the province of Quebec. Domestically Trudeau fought to keep Canada from fracturing. In 1970, he was forced to authorize police raids and the suspension of civil liberties in Quebec, after separatists affiliated withterrorist cells of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) murdered Pierre Laporte, a Quebec provincial minister, and kidnapped The British diplomat, James Cross. This classic soundbite was vintage Trudeau, a man that never backed down from a challenge and had zero tolerance for fools. 

TRUDEAU: There's a lot of bleeding hearts around, who just don't like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is go on and bleed. But it's more important to keep law and order in this society than to be worried about weak- kneed people who don't like the looks of...
CBC REPORTER: At any cost? At any cost? Would you go w? How far would you extend that?
TRUDEAU: Well, just watch me. 

Ten years later, Quebec under the leadership of the Parti Quebecois held a referendum on independence. Led by his great rival, Rene Levesque, Trudeau led the fight against 1980's vote and decisively won. Born of a marriage between a Francophone father and Anglophone mother, his belief was that by attempting to make the nation truly bilingual,  the interests of Quebec were still best served by remaining in Canada. 

Canadians also faced sky-high interest rates as well as "stagflation" and high unemployment in the 1970's, Many blamed Trudeau's economic policies for the issue, and he was often accused of ignoring day to day domestic affairs.  It is hard to conceive, that the Canadian constitution was still under British control until the early 1980's. In the process of "repatriating" the constitution,  he inserted a Canadian bill of rights. Called the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it changed the system into something like the American by strengthening the judiciary. And that made a big impact on minorities, gays and lesbians, native peoples, handicapped, women that all felt their rights enhanced from where they were before.  

Pierre Trudeau was one of the first politicians  to leverage being a celebrity, merging the spotlight of office with popular culture. He leveraged it in a calculated way, and in a way that many would try to imitate after him, at least until his marriage to a woman thirty years younger imploded in a very public way in the late seventies. Those who knew him best, realized that his dating Barbara Streisand, KimCattrall, and Margot Kidder, was only a public persona. It was the mask that he had on for the cameras. For essentially he was an intellectual- a very, very intelligent man.  He attended Harvard and studied with the best minds in political economy of the era. Having studied government for many years before going into politics in his mid forties, he knew what he had to do. He was adept at creating his own imagery, "working the camera" in order to look terrific, such as the iconic shot of him executing a pirouette behind the back of Queen Elizabeth.  He was a complex and always very interesting public figure.

His successor Jean Chrétien summed up his friend's career, " Pierre Trudeau's motto was reason over passion. But it was his passion for Canada that defined him. It was his dream of a just society that captured the imagination of the country and made the entire world sit up and take notice. " He had a tremendous impact on the Canadian consciousness.  He touched his voters, and they connected with his vision of a multicultural, bilingual Canada that had a very generous  social welfare system, a very good country that made them feel proud. 




Monday, November 25, 2013


The Catholic Church is a huge business, spending nearly 200 billion in the US annually. The Church employs nearly one million Americans, not only in the propagation of the faith, as a leading health care and educational provider, and as the manager of huge real estate holdings across the world. The legal issues the Church faces are well documented, and so is the erosion of its membership base. 

When the College of Cardinals elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio, in March, he  walked into a job so difficult, his predecessor became the first Pontiff in centuries to actually retire from a job that came with the understanding that one would die with his boots (actually red slippers) on. And for a pope famously known as  "God's Rottweiler" for his ecclesiastical street fighting skills, it was a wholly unexpected move, that seemed to indicated how damaged a brand his successor inherited.

In the West, it seems the decline began long before the salacious scandals. Those of us who belong to the tail end of the postwar "baby boom" saw an institution in constant turmoil and transition growing up. The rituals that made the Church both majestic and fear inspiring , were replaced by mass in the local vernacular and nuns strumming guitars and priests abandoning their vocations. In a world that was engaged in a cultural revolution in terms of gender equality, the Church seemed trapped in a never ending cycle of debate over birth control and abortion. Where before it was an advantage for change to occur very slowly in a two thousand year old institution, it seemed ridiculous in the modern media age.  

The leadership and certainty of Pope John Paul II, was admirable and inspiring in helping to conclude the Cold War. But as age and infirmity caught up with Karol Wojtyla it became increasingly obvious that this admirable man , had serious deficiencies as a CEO. The Vatican response to the sex scandals was tone deaf in terms of Public Relations, and scandalous in a way that made the Watergate Cover Up seem innocent in comparison.  The sense of entitlement that pollutes political regimes, was an easy virus for the Church to catch. For two centuries of history had elevated the priesthood to a mentality similar to that of Richard Nixon. To paraphrase, it could not be illegal if a priest committed an egregious sin. It was a mindset that seemed especially repugnant coming from an institution increasingly anxious to excommunicate members for perceived doctrinal impurity in matters of sexual morality. 

When the Sacred College elected Pope Francis,  he assumed the leadership of 1.2 billion Catholics, and a brand in steep decline. Months later, it seems hard to recall how damaged the Church was in view of its client base and public opinion. Though its still early in his pontificate, its obvious that there has been a breathtaking change in public perception. There are some very compelling reasons to admire the Pope as a religious figure .The lessons of his tenure as a CEO provide equally compelling lessons for managers to follow.
  •  Leadership by Example
Leadership is about setting the right example. Francis has shown that his example matches his words. He "walks the talk". Rather than cruising about in a  throne carried by eight Swiss Guards, he is seen driving a beat up 1984 Renault with nearly 200,000 miles on the odometer. He carries his own baggage on flights, paid his own hotel bill, and turned down living in the opulent papal apartments. 
  •  Focusing on the Basics
Napoleon spoke of Leaders being "merchants of hope " Francis is not a doctrinal liberal as some claim, but he has returned the focus of the church to its core purpose of providing hope and comfort, "a field hospital for souls." He is returning to the basics of what Jesus would say in response to the modern world, by both actions and message, without confusing Christ's message with centuries of revision by man.
  •  Changing the Story 
Francis has changed the lead paragraph of the Church's story. Rather than continuing a narrative defined by scandals or polarizing positions, the message is about service rather than condemnation. The pope recognizes that the church is there to provide pastoral services, and he has personally adopted a populist and human approach. He has said many things most have thought , whether its tolerance for different lifestyles, or stating that religious fundamentalism is “an illness” that doesn’t serve Jesus Christ, instead “frightening” people and pushing them away from God. We see him taking a human approach whether it's telephoning a pregnant single Italian woman to counsel her, or washing the feet of two women in a youth prison. His message is one of inclusion.
  •  Expanding the Client Base
The numbers speak for themselves. The Church has not only lost many former members, but has lost traction amongst the young.  Without new clients, any business eventually atrophies. Decades of harping on birth control and abortion, has left the church irrelevant to many in terms of speaking in terms of daily life. Francis has recognized the generational implications.of this period of drift, and the irrelevancy of Church teaching to large segments of the population, not only members of the younger generation, but those who are their parents and grandparents. 
  • Restoring Brand Value
Many brands lose their way . A classic example of restoration is Apple, where years of several approaches in both design and marketing took the company to the verge of extinction. The return of Steve Jobs, meant the return of Apple to its roots of cutting edge technology, ease of use, and intelligent product design. The approach Francis has taken is one that seeks to return the Catholic brand to it's basics, based in strong ethics, modesty,  and social justice. Like any troubled brand name, the return of Church teaching to its foundations, promises to restore the Catholic brand's  good name, and it's enduring value. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I am as young as anyone can be, and still have clear memories of November 22, 1963. 

We were not as callous back then, for nobody had murdered a President in 62 years. And though my parent's generation had weathered Pearl Harbor and World War II, there was something about the loss  of Jack Kennedy that caused this most undemonstrative generation to react in ways very similar to the repercussions from Diana's passing 34 years later. It was the first example of the continual coverage of a news event on television. Many believe that the "four dark days" were the beginning of the end for newspapers. In the search for breaking news of the event, it was television that provided the  updates on both the President's progress to Arlington, and the Oswald murder in a crowded police garage, the first real time murder in broadcast history. 

Part of the terror was based on the fear of war. We forget now about how frigid the Cold War really was. Only in recent years did we learn how close the world came to nuclear war the year before. Now we know that each country's generals and hard liners were so anxious to go to war that both Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, lived in utter fear of a coup and in utter terror of an alternative scenario,  which was the most total of wars.  If one parses the list of men who could have been in either chair during October 1962, it's a wonder we are here. Literally. And though some may discuss the legacy of either man in many ways, that fact alone secures their place on the list of great world leaders. Each took the option of nuclear war off the table. But one had passed from the scene violently and suddenly, and memories had not faded from the origins of World War I, which began with an assassination, not quite 50 years before.

That must have been why, the first thing we heard walking out of school that day, was a hysteric woman telling a crowd of traumatized five and six year old children  , that we were going to be vaporized by the coming Russians. There were not many viewing options,  only three or four in most places. All had sworn off advertising revenue for the weekend, until the state funeral on Monday. Though the images on TV showed endless images of grieving adults, the reaction was decidedly different in my parent's house. Though my father was silent about all that happened, my mother was unable to forget her animus towards the Kennedy's, and very pissed off I was not going to be in school on Monday, both for the inconvenience of my presence and the fact it was due to mourning for President Kennedy.  It was not until the Oswald shooting that the subject changed, largely due to the eerie resemblance our neighbor had to Lee Harvey. 

While the daily drama played on in the background, I sat that weekend transfixed by all I saw. Not only did I truly learn of death and its finality, the coverage lit the fire under my lifelong love of history and interest in politics. In a household like that portrayed in the Great Santini, where utter terror and fear of my parents was a daily norm, I was grateful for the brief respite that somehow was afforded me. I made it nearly through a football-less Sunday, (games were played but were not broadcast) before my mother leveraged my father's usual beer intake, to triggeri the usual Sunday ritual, that ended with me backhanded and crying in my room, until my mother came in feigning shock that my father would go so far. Left unsaid was that her unsubtle shadings of truth and badgering were what triggered my November 24th beating.  And it was the next day as my parents enjoyed their morning ritual of breakfast with Wheaties and ridicule of me as I awoke, that I began to understand a truth that defined my life until their passing. That my family truly believed I was defective. With the many frailities I was born with, in the end I was simply and forever more a "f---ing loser." 

As the years went by, it became obvious that something happened that weekend that transcended the usual order of things in my parent's world. As I grew older, it became obvious that whatever else had changed in my family's many moves, my interest in politics and history and reading began that strange and awful weekend. In the terror of my life, it was my search to learn all I could about Jack Kennedy and the Presidency that made it possible to dream that there was a place and time where  there was a promise of joy. Though by the time I was finally safely away in college, it was obvious that our martyred President had some flaws and was imperfect, it never really mattered to the little boy that laid awake that night wishing that President Kennedy had been my daddy. 

Its been fifty years since that awful weekend.  Hours spent watching the endless footage of his life that weekend, made Jack Kennedy my first and most enduring hero. JFK lost his life that weekend in 1963, but in no small measure, his life touched many lives after his passing.  He believed in hope, in things larger than oneself, and in the endless possibilities of tomorrow. Some of that magic rubbed off on many then and even now. He really may have saved our world. His urging and example inspired me , and countless others not even born in 1963. Jack Kennedy once said, "I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battles or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit."  For that reason alone he will never be forgotten.


PS- One of the highlight of 2014 will be a work that the gifted psychic Kae Schrieber is producing of communications with the spirits of many of the great figures of American History. Speaking as one fortunate enough to read her work so far, it is and will be amazing. 

Visit Kae at



Tuesday, November 19, 2013


“When I say that evil has to do with killing, I do not mean to restrict myself to corporeal murder. Evil is that which kills spirit. There are various essential attributes of life -- particularly human life -- such as sentience, mobility, awareness, growth, autonomy, will. It is possible to kill or attempt to kill one of these attributes without actually destroying the body. Thus we may "break" a horse or even a child without harming a hair on its head.” - M. Scott Peck  

With the classic best-selling book The Road Less Traveled, the late Dr. M. Scott Peck introduced millions to the coupling of psychiatry and religion . In People of the Lie, the equally compelling companion volume, Peck utilized the same analysis to discern human evil. Peck's core premise was that people who are evil attack others as opposed to facing their own failures. He demonstrated the havoc “People of the Lie” create in the lives of those in their orbit. These are illustrated by cases encountered in his psychiatric practice, vivid incidents of evil in everyday life. This disturbing and  fascinating book offers a original approach to the issues of human evil.

Evil to many is a question best addressed by religion. But people of faith participate in the same wars on different sides. Atrocities have abounded in “holy wars” with the same frequency as those for treasure and plunder. Define it as the modern day "jihad" or the crusades of less recent vintage, the inhumanity of man towards his fellow man in war blurs any distinction of moral differences. Until Satan holds a press conference , we are left with an abstraction we ultimately cannot prove for certain. In People of the Lie, Peck described the stories of several cases that were resistant to any intervention. He used his experience to describe the characteristics of evil while postulating that evil was an actual psychiatric diagnosis. 

Peck saw evil as a "malignant and extreme function of self-righteousness", accompanied by an "active refusal to tolerate imperfection and sin", with the rejection of guilt as a consequence. The syndrome results in a projection of evil onto innocent victims, particularly children. Peck argued these are the most difficult of all to deal with, and more difficult to identify. Peck detailed one case as typical because of its subtlety - a depressed teenage son of affluent parents. In a series of decisions justified by consistent and subtle shadings of reality, they exhibited a global disregard for their son's feelings, with a demonstrable effort to destroy his growth. With their pretensions disguised as rationality and normality, they vehemently denied they were responsible for his resultant depression, suggesting his condition must be incurable and genetic. In other words “Roger” was simply defective.  

Peck's findings about the state that he defined as "evil", were substantiated by the study of a patient named  Charlene. Though not a threat to others physically, she utterly lacked empathy . To Peck,  these "malignant narcissists" view others as objects to be manipulated for their own purposes or occasional fun. Though “narcissistic personality disorder” has been recognized with much more facility in the three decades since Peck’s work, it still stands that these potential patients too often go unseen seen by psychiatrists, and are famously resistant to treatment. 

Peck’s definition of evil is "militant ignorance". Christian teachings of sin are of a process that leads us to fall short of perfection. While most people are conscious of sin on a certain level, those who are evil utterly refuse to be accept this. Peck describes those affected by evil, as attempting to escape and hide from conscience via deception (“the lie”), and distinguishes this from the apparently similar deficits of conscience evident in sociopaths.

Peck defines an evil person by the following benchmarks: 
  • Consistent self-deception, in order to avoid guilt and to maintain a self-image of perfection.
  • Deception of others as a consequence of their self-deception
  • Projects his or her evils and sins onto very specific targets (scapegoats) while being normal with everyone else 
  • Hates coupled with the pretense of love, for the purposes of self-deception as much as deception of others.
  • Abuse of political or emotional power , "the imposition of one's will upon others by overt or covert coercion" 
  • Preserves an aura of respectability, and lies incessantly in order to accomplish this end.
  • Evil persons are characterized less by the magnitude or scope of their actions, but by the utter consistency of their destructiveness
  • Unable to think from the viewpoint of a victim or scapegoat.
  • Has a covert but malignant intolerance to criticism and other forms of perceived narcissistic injury.
Peck also examined the evil of groups. He postulated that group morality is defined downward from individual morality. Peck explains this to be as largely due to "specialization", which allows people to avoid individual responsibility , in a group dynamic. The decline of group conscience, is notable in cases such as bullying, lynch mobs,  as well as state based terrors.

Explaining Evil has historically been the domain of religion, and one viewpoint that defines Peck’s work is a religious perspective,  while writing in a manner that based his analysis in science. Though authoring a study explaining the specific psychological mechanisms by which evil operates, he also recognized the dangers of a “psychology of evil” being maliciously used for personal and political agendas. As falsely labeling people as "evil" is a defining characteristic of evil itself,  Peck cautions that the diagnosis of evil must begin with commitment to the sanity and safety of victims. He urged considering the possibility that tevil amongst us could actually be cured.  

Western Religous traditions states that evil arises out of free choice and individual agency. Each stands at a fork in the road, with a road leading to God or the devil. Accepting the path to God is both right and is a submission to a higher power. When a person convinces himself and others that he has an utterly free choice, he selects a direction that is inherently wrong , leading to evil. Inevitably this choice leads to belief in God or the choice to follow Satan.  

Peck originally joined with ‘99% of psychiatrists and the majority of clergy’ in belief that the devil was a mythical creation, and questioned the concept of “spiritual evil.” This belief was altered by his treatment of many cases of alleged possession and attendance at two exorcisms. Peck asserted people who are possessed were victims of evil, but not necessarily evil themselves. For while possession is rare, human evil is all too common. Peck's ultimate conclusion, was that a relationship existed between Satan and human evil. whatever its exact nature.  So perhaps the saying that “the devil made me do it,” could actually be right.


Friday, November 8, 2013


The picture came as a shared image on Facebook, courtesy of the  “Official Tea Party” Facebook page. 

It was a picture of Laura Bush with the caption, “Laura Bush – Don’t you miss a real First Lady?” It’s easy to draw a conclusion what the message really meant. Reading the collective social media content of “Susan” , one is left amazed how much venom is spilled on Social Media towards a President that its authors never dream of saying about people else they do not know. We have yet to see Laura Bush or Michelle Obama’s name on a ballot. with the exception of Hillary Clinton, and Eleanor Roosevelt, there have not been many instances of Presidential wives getting deeply involved in the of daily politics. I posted the simple thought that perhaps Michelle and Laura, Sasha and Melia, Jenna and Barbara, and the wives and kids should be “off limits”.

I was prepared for the  response. Just like the Obamas. I hated America. Trying to be a moderate on Facebook, equates to frequent use of the “defriending” button. I see I do  “Susan” as a new “follower” though. I am very happy about that. If you believe that  only things new is history unlearned,   there are some lessons for these troubled times.


Ever hear of “Mad Tom?” There is a memorial on the Tidal Basin to him. The man who has that large monument in the city that bears his name, was called a despot.  Another man with a monument in DC, was termed an ape. And in the 1860's “Something about Mary”, referred to Mary Todd Lincoln. The attacks helped drive her mad. So did the loss of her sons and husband.

Grant was derided as a drunk. The John Birch Society derided Eisenhower as a “conscious agent of the global Communist Conspiracy.” Wilson left office a broken man, accused of giving America away to a world government. Andrew Jackson 's wife died destroyed from attacks on her virtue. Rachel's sin was leaving an abusive marriage. Cleveland was an alleged “wife beater.” McKinley had an epileptic wife, some claimed was demonically possessed. Each President who has succeeded an assassinated predecessor has been said to have been an accomplice. Andrew Jackson was impeached over an unconstitutional law.

In modernity we have Franklin Roosevelt. , alleged to be paralyzed from syphilis, a Jew, a subversive and a list of epithets that goes on for pages. Eleanor was derided for the sin of being homely. Kennedy had alleged plans to rename the Statue of Liberty, "Our Lady of the Harbor." Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush were “wimps.” Reagan was said to be waiting to vaporize the planet. The athletic Jerry Ford was a “klutz”. Bill Clinton was a “draft dodger” when not engaged in some sort of moral depravity. And George W. Bush was alternately accused of possessing an idiots IQ, while committing war crimes across the planet. And then we have  Barack Obama.

There has not been a bad and evil man amongst them. Not a single one. Certainly there have been successes and failures; some have made horrible and tragic mistakes. Four have been murdered. Others died prematurely, or were mentally broken from the strain.

We think in the security of our very private lives, that it must be nice to have a 747 at one's beck and call. “Hail to the Chief” is not a bad lead in. But consider  the burdens that come with making those calls. Try knowing that your decisions can have kill a child as easily as a terrorist.  

Millions can self-publish things no paper would have touched not very long ago. With Social Media married to the 24 hour news cycle, politics becomes ans endless story.whatever choices are made, a President is lucky to escape a 40% approval. Which means 60 % of the populace is   disillusioned or mad.

In a two-party system, there will always be heated rhetoric. In our shared humanity, there are those who simply disagree. And like it or not, no human is perfect. John DeMarchi says on Slate, “the amount of data criticizing the president —and supporting him as well—is truly unprecedented.... More data has been produced in the last three years globally than in all of recorded human history before then. This isn't a Gutenberg Bible sized publishing revolution; this is Gutenberg on HGH.”

We can cast our thoughts across the planet on bandwidth waves. But we share of responsibility if we dislike our government. Because of voter apathy, and because many who arguably might have been great Presidents, do not run. The crisis we see in government service, where endless wasr over confirmations, leaves many Federal Judicial  seats unoccupied for years.  The “Best and the Brightest” are  not to replying to the call of public service. Many choose to do so, not for fear of suffering personal attack. It’s people going after their spouses. Ask Mitch Daniels. And a laundry list of others.

President Obama, as President Bush before him, has governed every as if he received every vote; in  a country split 51-49 . For every American that was thrilled by Obama-Care, or convinced that we had to go after Saddam, there is one convinced these moves were crammed down our collective throats. No wonder we are a divided nation. Congress may try to undo the previous election, and it is easy to understand the venom.  Shame on them all. It  up to us to make things work again.


The Bible commands us to pray for our leaders. Many were taught from Day One to love our country and respect public officials. We have been awfully let down , by Watergate or Vietnam and a laundry list of other sins. Many have had very partisan moments. One author I know well, spent college demonstrating against Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.   I felt very humbled after breaking bread with Ed Nixon, or reading the letters of President Reagan. My anger at the history was overwhelmed by a sense of what Watergate was like for that family, and a sense of gratitude this country was led by such a kind and gentle, gentleman.

We live by 140 character messages, while forgetting the human beings who are being targeted. We forget that George W. Bush made very courageous decisions, or Barack Obama is a man with a wife and two young kids. It seems easy to act as if these men are stars of a reality show,.  In the case of our last three Presidents, each was unmercifully attacked from Day One. Attacks on leaders and their loved ones may have gone on forever. But our keyboards are unedited and this level of voiced anger makes 2013, seem so much worse.

Those who were born in the latter fifties never  forget what happened to John Kennedy. As the 50th anniversary approaches, those of us who were toddlers , remember that horror. It shaped and scarred us. It was the first globally shared event, and was something that had not occurred in 60 years. The entire epoch that has followed has made our society more immune to shock and terror, for violence is part of the endless news cycle. But history teaches that what is seen, read and heard daily does set off sick minds. Crazy people abound, walking the streets, some looking for a reason to claim their place amongst the villains of our time.Though each of us may not have an individual role in the next horror, the atmosphere these last weeks should both pain and scare us all.

To say we must. “tame the savageness of man, and make gentle the life of the world.” sounds like crafted rhetoric. I submit we have no choice. “Act Locally” and “Think Globally “ in our relations with each other. Say a prayer for all the families who have or will set in that White House. They have earned it. . 





Wednesday, November 6, 2013


It was the Energy Crisis of 1979. 

As gas lines stretch for blocks across America. President Jimmy Carter prepares to address the nation on energy. After a call from pollster Pat Caddell, he cancels at the last instant, disappearing from the public eye. Rumors abound of a health crisis, or, that he's losing an emotional crisis. After 10 days pass, he reemerges with a speech to address the energy crisis and economic issues. 

"The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation."  - Jimmy Carter - July 1979

The speech became known as the "malaise speech," though Carter never used that term. It became one of those "Katrina Moments", that marked the beginning of the end for a President's leadership. Writing about the "Malaise Speech" in , "What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?", author Kevin Mattson offers this account:

"The diagnosis he laid out was harsh: 'Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.' He decried how 'two-thirds of our people do not even vote,' how there was a 'growing disrespect for government,' and how 'fragmentation and self-interest' prevented Americans from tackling the energy crisis. It was an indictment of America's civic spirit. Carter used the speech to articulate a realist style of leadership, charged with the warnings about limits and humility. He shared responsibility by confessing his faults. He recognized the wounds left over from Watergate, Vietnam, and the assassinations of the 1960s. At one point, though he didn't have to, he said, 'This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.' "
Initially, the reception to Carter's speech was positive: Approving phone calls poured into the White House, and thousands of messages of support. Like so many events surrounding the luckless Carter Presidency, it was a short lived respite. Days later , Carter fired several members of his cabinet, changing the narrative from prophetic rhetoric to the clumsy staff change that followed. Carter blew a great opportunity.

The Great Recession and its aftershocks have been with us for 5 years. 9/11 is more than a decade in the past. Many feel tired and fatigued by the implications of the events and are simply weary. With so much  energy squandered over the government shutdown, the battles over health care, and with the toxic political landscape, optimism seems in short supply. 

We do have an alternative . We can listen to what our hearts are telling us, and take massive individual and collective action.  We can choose empowerment ,  and say we have had enough of hearing our best days are in the rear view mirror. 

"First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our course. We simply must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this nation. Restoring that faith and that confidence to America is now the most important task we face. It is a true challenge of this generation of Americans." - Jimmy Carter - July 1979

The malaise we face today is driven by disillusionment. But the fading of the mirage of leveraged economic security , is forcing us to figure a way into tomorrow.  It might not seem the best way to have to do so, but in the end our nation will find a way out of today's angst, just like we did in the eighties.

In a phrase that undoubtedly haunts author Rahm Emanuel , a crisis is a horrible thing to waste.  No matter what the bomb throwers say, we do not need a revolution. We only need to believe in life, to believe in why we are here. Tired and full of "malaise" perhaps, we may be not having the greatest day or days. yet, but the future, still is calling. All we have to do is toss our cap over that wall, and lead ourselves and others to follow it.


Sunday, November 3, 2013



We read all the time about Bullies. As I am writing this, there are 3 - 4 retired people, sitting semi circle around a hot tub, who have succeeded in cowing the residents of a 150 plus unit adults only complex. The behaviors are the usual ones we remember from grade school. but with this twist. Nobody including the place's manager can stop them for long. In the long hot Desert Summer,  I learned to appreciate Dr. King's phrase "sweltering with injustice."  The difference is this. In 1963 MLK was speaking about an entire society. I am talking about a communal swimming pool. Amidst the chaos, I discovered a unique solution,  recommended to work. Use another pool. It works.

Even in the adult world, there are Bullies we cannot avoid.  From one internet ad, “ Bullying is a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, the job you once loved. Bullying is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence and, because it is violence and abusive, emotional harm frequently results. You may not be the first person to have noticed that you were bullied. Check to see how many of these indicators match yours...." 

Note the text. Especially the part that says, your health and your career.

We live in a harsh and cruel time. The internet is full of stories of those who have been victimized to the point of physical collapse, by a morally deficient schoolroom culture. or even being bullied out of a job . “Snark” has almost been institutionalized as the new American dialect. With the technologies we have today, any party can sit in a closet somewhere and make a life intolerable. Like many of you, I have had my life , online presence, and identity hacked .  There  are bullies everywhere.

Bullying is not confined to experiences endured in Middle School. Horror stories from work abound. Mine came years ago in school days, working for one of the department stores that have since disappeared. I was the only male manager in this huge operation, a zit-faced one to boot, and had a job overseeing departments such as shoes and electronics that were leased out. For the three years of my life I spent in that store, there was no escaping daily sarcasm and verbal abuse from the store manager. It had happened to my predecessor, and was the result of a protracted war with the merchandise manager that oversaw my areas. 
It never ended. It was the endless ridicule that eroded things most, as being demeaned in front of 100 at store meetings,  seldom made my days at 18. Being the designated scapegoat, brought the realization that open disdain encouraged a crowd . There was a posse of 4-5 friends/ assistants that followed their protector from store to store: whatever store they landed in, ended up becoming the next clearance store. or closing. The deconstruction process accelerated , until one day  my tormentor never returned. from a performance review. The friends were each dispersed to other locations where a common fate ensued. Each ended up leaving for the same causes, treating their new team members like they were not even human. One even tackled and choked a supervisor after a robbery. Sounds like the corporation finally did a good job of diagnosing an issue? Hardly. The outcome was driven by karma and luck and politics. I have never forgotten the experience.  For as they say, your teenage years are impressionable.

Entire communities can be torn apart by bullies,  and destroyed by bullies. Some are even run by bullies. Think of Mayor Filner of San Diego as a recent example. The examples in the world of countries run by bullies are endless, and some believe (on both sides of the fence) that the recent troubles in Congress were part of a culture of bullying by one side or another. The examples of companies brought down  by this kind of culture are legend. The moral of the story is that bullying is ultimately about violence without bullets. The response is up to each of us. ....


In researching this information, I found a great resource called the Workplace Bullying Institute. Their website states,  "More than 50 million Americans have reported being bullied at work at a point in time in their career. Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:”
  • Verbal abuse 
  • Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
  • Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done
The Typical Bully
  • Is driven by perpetrators' need to control the targeted individual(s). 
  • Is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location, and methods.
  • Requires consequences for the targeted individual
  • Escalates to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily or through coercion.
  • Undermines legitimate business interests when bullies' personal agendas take precedence over work itself.
  • Is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll.
Synonyms that reflect the seriousness of bullying:
  • Psychological Violence
  • Psychological Harassment
  • Personal Harassment
  • 'Status-Blind' Harassment
  • Mobbing
  • Emotional Abuse at Work
Euphemisms intended to trivialize bullying and its impact on bullied people:
  • Incivility
  • Disrespect
  • Difficult People 
  • Personality Conflict
  • Negative Conduct
  •  "Ill Treatment "


Words hurt. Not only the cruelties that are uttered, but the refusal to speak that truth to power because of fear. Sadly even a corporate chain may be scared to take these groups on, for the worse offenders often do not go down without a huge fight, perhaps in court. Not defining the term for what it is, "bullying," in order to avoid igniting the behaviors of the bully, is tantamount to writing off oppressed people in your own business, whose jobs and careers, are under constant attack. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once wrote of our tendency to “define deviancy downward”, and to create processes that perpetuate what happens , simply by opting not to define aberrant behaviors for what they actually are.

Too often we collectively see these things go on before us, where somebody ends up being the designated sick one, the others choose to demean. Sometimes we quietly acquiesce , because the consequences could haunt us. It is in the accumulation of those untaught moments, that begins to take an entire business down. Hoteliers, Retailers, and Restaurant Operators in particularly exist in an industry where what makes or breaks a customer interaction, is the sense of arrival, the vibe one feels coming through the door. These crucial moments are driven by contact with the very team members usually most affected by contention, by virtue of their proximity to the places it percolates. Whatever the antecedents and wherever the locale, it creates a division within an operational team, that effects service delivery.


  • Bullies often times belittle others in order to boost their own ego and self-esteem.
  • Bullies may abuse his/her position of power in order to gain control over their victim.
Organizational Culture
  • The morals and values dictating the workplace culture , creates expectations that are accepted as respectable behavior among employees.
  • Being new to the organization or considered "different" among counterparts may cause a person or group to become primary targets of workplace bullying. 
Perceived Threat
  • Bullies may view an individual as a threat both personally and professionally.


Bullying is a process of seeking validation in all the wrong places. Usually it’s a struggle with other personal emotional issues driving that anger. Just remember, it's not about you. Take steps to ensure you do not become the victim. Why should you be harassed from a job you have aptitude for, or even in extreme cases, unemployed for a time, due to the hatred of others.

Defining terms, is the first step. Many are so beaten down, they can never confront their bully due to possible repercussions . Others remain inert, for fear of inviting the same treatment. Often not just raises and reviews are in the balance, and cultures where the behaviors “roll downhill” makes it almost impossible for the oppressed to find a relief. Bullying creates a dynamic where the “Stockholm Syndrome” occurs or an odd attraction to power, creates allies to support his/her claims against the target.

Because no one raises their voices , the cancer goes on and on, those who even whisper a word go unheard and any claims will be dismissed as those of a whiner or malcontent. As the target suffers from the lack of confidence established by the bully. It becomes even harder for the bullied to speak out, Regaining one’s personal power and control over the dynamic is the first step in the coping process. Other steps include:

  • Backing and following up all information and conversations in writing especially verbal conversations!
  • Having information compiled in writing is crucial when bringing claims against a workplace bully.
  • Limit the amount of personal information individuals may know about you throughout the workplace. Remember, that old saying "less is more." The less personal information the bully may know leads to less criticism and allegations.
  • Limit the amount of time you engage in gossip
  • Find someone to vent and discuss the situation with that is not associated with the company. 
Staying silent will not alleviate the situation, but will only make matters worse and heighten the mental and emotional turmoil. Familiarize yourself with any anti-bullying procedures associated with the company handbook. Study the employee handbook to gain a better understanding of the reporting process against the bullies.


Outside of the franchise sign on your building, the defining aspect of an operation has to be begun by encouraging a culture that focuses on the core competencies and values an operation has to employ to succeed. Mini tyrannies where the bullies reside divert energies, corrupt the organizational dynamic in the property, perhaps to where they have the power to make the leaders their next victim. That is where leveraging the first 90 days to identify these matters is so crucial, and to take decisive action. Find the bullies, fix the situation, or find them an exit strategy to go elsewhere.

When we work in service industries it matters even more. It's hard to deliver the promise of superior service to our guests, to our clients, if we do not promote those value in our own house, and to each other.



Saturday, November 2, 2013


Having grown up in Albuquerque, I was always interested in watching "Breaking Bad" I was not planning to write a post touching on the subject, but after reading some of the notes I got back on my post recently about "Finding Compassion" I felt moved to look into the ways we can address the issues of those in our daily lives, "Breaking Bad." There are many books on this subject such as "the Sociopath Next Door " that cover this topic in great detail. The question for us, is to how to respond to evil without responding in kind, damaging our spirits, or feeling pulled into that energy by osmosis. 

 We have all seen these people at work and in life, the one’s willing to do virtually anything to crawl over the other person’s back, like a crab. Occasionally we all have been victimized by one. Even in my own life I have given a person a great opportunity, and then seen kindness met with disloyalty to me and relentless attack upon others before Week One was even over. Judging from the posts I have read in the many Linked in Groups dealing with management and workplace matters, it appears a transitional and uncertain economy has made the ethical conflict between ends and means even more relevant. 

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always..." - Gandhi

With the passage of time, Gandhi believed that is was impossible for mean and evil people to prevail. In the short term, the scotched earth tactics too often appear to work. It’s difficult to feel good about ‘karma” ultimately solving the issues, when a situation cries out the word, “injustice” . Thinking of Sandy Hook, Boston, and all the other evil events that have defined the terms in recent months, its hard to take that long term view in the wider world, especially when "truth and love" seem to be losing all the time. So when we confront the smaller scale injustices in our life, its difficult to believe we are going to see that balance restored. Its easy to advise our peers and children to "take the high road" while in reality things do not change quickly or at all. Especially when for the many it is a defining part of their daily life. 


In our professional lives, most of us in leadership roles, are (hopefully) the type of manager that loathes having to terminate people., even when its obvious there is no alternative. To paraphrase the Disney philosophy, we would all rather "Catch a falling star," in hopes we can make them "twinkle again." We should approach our work that way, we should think long and hard about those choices. The only times I have not agonized greatly , was the rare occasions I have been directed to assist people from the workplace, when they advance themselves at the expense of others.

There should be zero tolerance for people who are dishonest, disloyal, and despicable. Sadly there are those with issues of their own, who lead the cheering section for those who undermine their colleagues for reasons that define petty and venal. It destroys our teams, and introduces the dynamic where people gang up on others who cannot or refuse to play. Part of the genius of "Breaking Bad" was that Walter White's journey was one of ongoing sociopathic manifestation. And given the ongoing cultural thirst for viewing the "Dark Side", its not a shock that to note, that some feel a thrill joining the winning pack Others are afraid to non acquiesce, in what they know is wrong.  

When behaviors are based on insecurity , intermittent social retardation, bitterness or perceived injustice, there is hope of redemption. There are often broader cultural issues at play, that need to be addressed by leaders. For there are reasons these dynamics develop, that are rooted in some unfortunate history. Often the real cause is an unwillingness to confront a person driven by an out sized sense of entitlement, or even craziness and evil. For a time they may appear to be "performers". But to leaders who are observant and concerned about building an engaged, empowered, and better performing teams, the conclusion usually comes quickly.

Those of us addicted to the sports page, know the term, "a Cancer in the Locker Room". And in the saga of  Terrell Owens , Chad Ochocinco and "A Rod",  we see the effect on Team Chemistry. We read of Harry Truman firing the legendarily talented Douglas MacArthur, despite great personal and political cost. and see what the best coaches and leaders realize.  The sooner that "the cancer" is cut from the roster, chances are the team will drastically improves. It worked in the Korean War, and the courageous decision President Bush made in replacing his leadership team for Iraq, in favor of General Petraeus.
The sooner infighting is ended, justice and sanity restored, the sooner that peace returns, even the most troubled dynamics shift energetically. Taking action  is an imperative. The only other alternative, is to allow the reign of drama to prevail. There are some senior executives who famously have believed these conflicts are not only fun to watch, they improve something. The results historically say otherwise. No group of team members can provide superior service in an environment, when the atmosphere is full of drama , intrigue and sanctioned drama. 

In the really unfortunate moments, it's difficult to process that anyone would treat another so hideously. It defines lines we each confront and define between means and ends in our ethical choices. The willingness to sacrifice almost all sense of integrity’s limits for a job, or to wound others to advance, because you are enabled to do so, takes a form of ruthlessness. When that energy controls an organizational dynamic, an asset tanks. It triggers the exodus of those who are talented, work hard and play by the rules. Success comes and goes, but ethical choices last forever.

Was Gandhi right? History shows more often than we realize, The power of a bully in the world ends quickly, the day a line is crossed, and people are no longer shocked. When the truth finally outs, it ALWAYS Manifests in explosive ways. The end of the McCarthy era came when a man named Louis Welch asked one question, “At long last, have you no decency? When people finally compare notes, they cease to be scared, and they are done. Just reviewing the list of minor players recently imploded such as Michael Weiner, Bob Filner, and Paula Deen, testify the laws of cause and effect do work. And there’s the example of Richard Nixon. Losing the Presidency in a conceivably stolen election, created Watergate and the famous dark side. In his final speech he uttered he said it all, But those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.”

We have an inherent disadvantage when dealing with the ethically challenged, as moral outrage and righteousness do not always equate to a victorious street fighting style. In looking back to the Civil Rights Era, the example Dr. King and his Movement set, was all about handling great injustice with grace and integrity. Having the moral high ground allows us to believe that truth does win out - just as Gandhi said. 

It's simply easier to do what is right. Human beings  fail, and with 20/20 hindsight, those moments are remembered as added wisdom comes in later life. And in those times we may each have failed, it is never too late to begin a process of atonement, Apologize. Set the record straight. .Make  restitution. Actually.  Be,  Sorry. And go on , never to sin once more. 

It’s never too late to seek redemption . People are willing to give a sinner a second chance . And we all have needed one.
I have linked a clip of Walter White's outcome. I think the Mahatma was very right.