Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Political Corruption

Posted: July 30, 2016 in history, Leadership

All you have to do is get into the lowest level of elected office to find out there are land-mines in your efforts to be active. I found that out years ago. I was thrust onto the executive board of a local political party’s organization at the legislative district level. I am a precinct committee officer, the lowest level elected office in Washington state. I was asked to replace an elected executive board member, by him, because he had decided to pursue other priorities. I accepted, and was elected the next election.
I was also elected several times without an opponent. Get this clear: precinct committee officer and executive board member are two separate and distinct positions. I ran into problems trying to fulfill my obligations as a PCO. It was the second election caucus, in 2008, which had generated a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm. The results of that was an attendance by my precinct of about 10 times the normal turn-out. Without any real training, just being handed the instructions, I tried to get the job done. To say it didn’t turn out so well is an understatement. I let myself get distracted by a person who was promoting his candidate, and engaged me in a conversation as the caucus got underway. I did some things right, but I also didn’t do some critical things that, in a more formal environment, would have disenfranchised my attendees. Fortunately, the shortcomings were overlooked and I believe our pick for candidate was recorded. The next caucus, for some reason (I can’t remember why) our precinct was conducted by another, more qualified, individual. The last caucus would have been conducted flawlessly because of our very capable county political organization’s chair conducting multiple training sessions. The problem is near the end of another really greatly attended caucus, I became deathly ill and had to leave. One of the participants had been trained, took over, and finished the job. As far as anybody could tell, I had just taken off without a good reason.
Where I really dropped the ball was at a meeting of the legislative district executive board meeting. It was campaign season and campaign buttons were in the offing. I suggested my daughter’s business would be a good choice beings her prices were much better than any other company’s. The board decided to go with the party’s lady’s group’s doing the job with their newly purchased button machine. What I did not think about is the conflict of interest I was guilty of promoting a family member’s business with the party. That’s a no no.It is the way so many politicians have gotten into trouble.
Why this is a very important lesson is in today’s Presidential election where one of the candidates is being roundly criticized by a practice that had been in place by two previous office holders. The practice was ultimately not determined to be a criminal offense, but the head of the investigating body chastised the candidate for sloppy job performance, giving the opponents a big reason to drive this into the ground right up to the election.


Ok. So I’ve only been awake for a little over an hour and I’ve had my first cup of coffee. What I am reading in an article posted from MSN News “1 hour ago” (this being 12:15 PM) is Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavlov is proposing that Syria transfer control of their chemical weapons to international control within Russia for destruction. My immediate reaction is OMG! Then I think is this a ploy by Russia and Syria to delay an attack proposed by the Obama administration; this being advanced by the MSN News article’s author.

As I absorb the ramifications of this development I am just overjoyed at the possibility of sparing Obama the embarrassment of being the first U. S. President to be rebuffed by congress in his attempt to get their approval for a limited attack on a sovereign nation for humanitarian or any other reason.

I am anxious to read or hear other analysts make observations. My views are frequently altered by opinions that seem reasonable.


Posted: September 4, 2012 in Leadership, Personal Growth

Don’t mix bad words with
your bad mood.
You’ll have many opportunities
to change your mood,
but you’ll never get
the opportunity to replace
the words you spoke…

Thoughts About Young Talents

Posted: July 2, 2007 in Leadership

I am sitting here listening to Harry Connick, Jr.; and thinking about a certain young woman who – as far as I can remember – was visiting my classroom when I taught at the Skills Center. I don’t remember anything else about the event except that she said she really liked Harry Connick Jr.

My mind wandered from that day to another when I was attending a high-school jazz band competition at North Kitsap high-school. This was after I had been made aware of the level of talent that was developed by very talented high-school jazz band teachers. Little old Olympic High School’s jazz band had won the U. S. competition and was invited to Montreux, Switzerland prestigious jazz festival. I can remember listening to KPLU on the 4th of July and hearing little old Olympic jazz band playing at the North Sea jazz festival in Holland; on their way to Montreux.

It was then that I came to the realization that incredible talents can be brought out in young people by people with the ability to teach them the disciplines necessary.

I also remember standing on a corner in Poulsbo outside the auditorium where the competition was being held – probably between performances. About 50 yards away was one of the teachers who was a professional jazz musician and taught at one of the high-schools in Seattle. He had three levels of jazz bands and the most accomplished band frequently won the U. S. championship. I can also remember he just stood there observing me. I have come to wonder what was in his thoughts. Was he wondering who I was? I am sorry I didn’t go over and introduce myself and let him know how much I appreciated the music that I was witnessing. 

"If you only speak with those who agree with you, you are consoled. If you speak with those with a different perspective, you grow." With that I respectfully submit the following:


As much as I agree with most of what Mr. Vonnegut say – I consider him a brilliant author, etc. – I am reminded of an old movie I saw in my youth. The name of the movie was "Kill the Umpire." In it, the fool of the movie sat behind the umpire in the baseball game and expressed his disagreement with the umpire’s calls with the old familiar, "Kill the Umpire." Finally, the umpire got sick of hearing it, turned around, took off his mask, and asked the fool, "If you think you could do a better job, why don’t you become an umpire?"


So, he did. He went to umpire school and a good chunk of the movie is spent on the rigors of umpire schooling. When the fool graduated, he was umpiring his first game, when out of the crowd came the all too familiar scream, "Kill the umpire."


You are old enough to remember the actor, William Bendix, who played the fool in "The Life of Riley" on radio and TV. So, if you ever saw him, you will get a mental image of the look on his face, at the end of the movie, as he seemed to say, and actually said, at the end of every episode in the series, “What a revolting development this is."


Of course, without critics to try to force course corrections, this administration would be like Captain Queeg, in the “The Caine Mutiny”. So, in that respect there is a real difference between criticism of government workers and politicians and umpires in a baseball game. Still, those who refuse to or haven’t had the opportunity to step up to the plate should be loath to get too critical of those who do.

Degrees of Certainty

Posted: June 17, 2007 in Leadership

One morning I was having a discussion with my grandson about how late his bus had been getting lately. I noticed the bus was getting later and later lately; and I was concerned whether the children were having enough time to eat breakfast in the lunchroom before they had to go to classes. Rewind to a day last week: I had asked the kids waiting for the bus how many of them ate breakfast at school – one little girl raised her hand and I told her: if she didn’t have enough time to eat breakfast before she went to class she needed to tell someone. A day or so later I asked whether she had been having enough time to eat breakfast, to which she replied that they hadn’t for several days. She was backed up by some of the other kids in line. Why the increase in numbers of kids who ate breakfast at school: I don’t know, but it could be that none of them spoke up the first day because they were reticent to do so because they were shy. I did a follow up by cell phone on the way home; and was told that the bus was leaving on time (even though it was leaving much later than the former bus driver left).

Then I called the school and asked the woman in the office if the bus was there – it was about the time the lady at transportation said the bus was due to arrive. She responded that she couldn’t tell; but she would go down to the lunch room and check. (She said the kids were able to take their breakfasts out of the lunch room and eat them in their classrooms if they ran out of time. This was a surprise to me because I understood that they weren’t supposed to take anything out of the lunch room, period.)

I had decided that the only way I was going to find out for sure whether the kids had enough time to eat breakfast was to go down and see for myself.

Fast forward to this morning: on the way to the bus stop I told my grandson about what the lunch lady told me and he exclaimed, “really?” I quickly asked him if this was consistent with what he understood as lunch-room policy. He said, “No, we aren’t supposed to as far as I know. But the woman in the office is always right!”

“Oh, no, no, no!” I answered. “You never assume what you are being told is right unless you verify it is right if it is not what you understand to be the case. Then I went on to list the many degrees of certainty that I had devised in my mind some months ago: the least certain is suggested by I feel. Next is I think, followed by I believe. Then you can just make a statement about what you are sure of, followed by I am sure, I am certain, I am positive, I am absolutely positive; and, finally: there’s no doubt in my military mind. The next time I tried to review the list I substituted I am really sure for I am certain; which caused me to add another phrase to the list.

Another aside to this mental exercise is the admonition not to think that somebody is lying if there is a discrepancy between two accounts. If it turns out that the office lady is wrong it doesn’t mean she was lying. Lying is telling an intentional untruth. If you say something you believe is true, then it is not lying. There are a lot of people going around saying somebody lied if what they said turns out to be untrue. And it is a common saying to make a correction by saying I lied; when you meant to say I was mistaken. I was also taught to make corrections to people when you find out that what you said before was an untruth.

The point of this exercise was to teach my grandson the value of being skeptical of almost everything you hear, see, read, etc. unless you really trust the source you are getting pronouncements from. I also told him about second-hand and third-hand information; and how every successive hand-information is less reliable. “He-said, she said” is a common way to relate third-hand information – or is it conflicting accounts of an event? AND just what constitutes dishonesty is an important distinction from what constitutes an honest mistake.

Let’s hear it one more time with feeling, “It’s a sin to be cynical; but skepticism is a virtue!”

Forest Fires and Nine Eleven

Posted: March 27, 2007 in Leadership

In my youth, I was on a job with the forest service fighting forest fires. One day I was in a wooded area that was populated by trees about 50’ high. Those trees had most of their foliage near the top; which contributed to a condition rife for a phenomenon called topping out; or crowning out? This occurs when the foliage is so dry and clustered near the top of the trees, and they are close enough together, that fire leaps from one tree to another without coming near the ground. This occurred, typically, at about 40 miles per hour.

I started running in panic. I probably didn’t get a dozen steps before a seasoned fire-fighter yelled, “stop!” I immediately did so.

He took the time to explain to me that I was not just about to outrun that fire; and it became evident that we were in no real danger. The fire never did approach ground level.

What a metaphor for 9/11 this is!

When that terrible disaster happened I was on my way to work on the ferry. Considering the time zones and when it did occur I could not have gotten the word as I commuted.

When I got to work, Tony Lauderdale, one of the collectors in the department, told me about it. We were aghast at the thought that 10’s of thousands of people worked in those buildings. The potential loss of life was unimaginable.

After a brief discussion I went to my station and proceeded to do what I was getting paid for. I scarcely noticed that there was a difference in the way business was being executed except people seemed to be standing around talking more than usual.

Was my ignoring the fire and carnage in that distant place a result of the lesson I got when the forest fire topped out? Logic demanded that I couldn’t do any thing about it and it really didn’t affect my job. That it did have an effect on the conduct of the collectors in the department became evident later when I overheard some of them discussing the flexibility they were told to give to the companies that had occupied the World Trade Center because they had to deal with the emotional experience and finding new quarters from which to do business.

But it was the reaction of our government leaders that was similar to my panic when I ran, in fright, from that roaring (and I do mean “roaring” – the fire was making a deafening sound that added to the horror that made me panic.) Where were the calmer minds, we needed, to prevail in this time of our national tragedy? They were probably there; but they were being ignored by – for a better word for them – the incompetent people in charge.

The reason I compare the attack on 9/11 to the forest fire topping out, is seen in the event that happened some time ago. It seems federal agents created false identities, complete with forged documents, and penetrated the border security between Canada and the U. S. The conclusion that most people make is our borders are as leaky as they were on 9/11. With the billions of dollars and the full weight of the Patriot Act, there have been no improvements. Should we panic in the fear that our borders leak like a sieve? Should we demand better performance by the border guards? Excuse me, but I don’t think so. What this reveals to me is: if terrorists would have wanted to do us harm by now, they would have done it. I can recall exactly one plot, uncovered by agents, to perform another terrorist act. With our government’s track record of deception, can we even believe that account? Remember, I’m not cynical; just skeptical.

Do you see why so many of us have lost confidence in our government? This crisis in confidence is probably why our lawmakers are hesitant to take any real action against this administration. They see the collapse in their constituents’ attitudes towards our government.

We ran in panic when there was no possibility we could outrun the perceived danger from the initial attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon[1]. Our administration’s successful effort to get a majority of Americans to believe a connection between 9/11 and Iraq enabled it to get a resolution adopted in congress to invade Iraq. That ill-conceived operation had the effect that parallels what would have probably happened to me if I had continued to run as that fire panicked me in my ignorance: I would have probably met with an accident, like running into a tree. What made that a possibility was my looking at the fire as I ran.

And the metaphor continues to elucidate issues in the national debate as it is. We have run into a tree in the Middle East and our nation has been harmed greatly. The only way we will ever recover is to withdraw from the tree we’ve run into; and go around it (redeploy), and elect people with the experience and calm demeanor to do the right thing in moments of emergency. It is up to We the People to make that happen. It will only happen when we demand better accountability from those we elect and re-elect.

I encourage everybody to do more than just vote and “get a `D’”; as Howard Dean would say. Get active! Contact your party’s local election office and volunteer to help elect those who come closest to your idea of having sound minds to do the job you are hiring them to do. One other action you can take is run for office. It is an excellent way to get a feel for the experience of public service in politics. At the same time you just might lose a little of that cynicism[2]. What do you have to lose except that most obnoxious of many weaknesses we have.

And write to them often to offer your views. The truly competent leaders will continue to solicit your views and listen to them. I am convinced that the ones I write to are listening. Their responses have been well thought out and reasonable, in my view.

As a result of my experiences I am anything but a cynic. Yes, I am skeptical. I don’t assume anybody is doing their jobs. I pay as much attention to their conduct as I can, within my capacity. We, none of us, have infinite time and ability to study issues enough to be the ones on the front lines. But we can observe, in a calm and thoughtful manner, the events that are going on and offer our perspective to those who will listen.

In conclusion, I offer this as a short guide to contributing to your community, “Lose the fear and hate; get involved.”

[1] Read the excellent account of events on 9/11 in “Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the abuse of America’s intelligence agencies.” by James Bamford.


[2] “It’s a sin to be cynical; but skepticism is a virtue.”

As I ponder the difference in my attitude – at the ripe old age of 66 – with those who I have been in contact with, I have to wonder why I am so self reliant and with a relatively highly developed sense of responsibility. As a young person the person who raised me (my grandmother) didn’t insist on my doing chores. That is the conventional wisdom regarding teaching young people a sense of responsibility. I can remember my grandmother being a pretty good housekeeper and she never complained – that I can remember – about nobody helping out; she just did what was necessary to keep our home up.

Of course all that thinking goes out the window when one considers the saying “When I first got married I had 6 theories about raising children. Now I have 6 children and no theories”. But, the attitudes are caught idea is sound: unless the person who is trying to impart a good attitude is undercut by somebody who denigrates him/her. Even then, with a calm non-responsive-to-verbal-abuse demeanor, the parent figure can influence their children; whether they are actually children, or chronologically – but not actually – adults (i. e. they are still under your influence; that could even include your spouse). I have found that what I do is a lot more influential than what I say.

So, the saying “do as I say, not as I do” falls on deaf ears. This is all part of the general subject: leadership. I’ve always accepted the working definition of politics as being the art (or science) of leadership. I’ve been challenged on that by a political science major – who assumed that politics is a science rather than an art. I can’t help but wonder what his response would have been if I had posed the follow-up question of is politics a science or an art?