Friday, February 6, 2015

Selah, Leadership, and Fallow Ground

Selah… Some people have considered this the most difficult word in the Old Testament to translate, understand, and define. In that sentiment, it shares much with leadership, a term that would be "experts" and professionals have defined and redefined so often that it also lacks any standard definition. Some believe selah means something like "pause and reflect" or "stop and listen." However, it could just as easily represent an instruction to the choir director much like a fermata or the "cut" symbol ('' ). We can also see it in the next to last blessing of the Amidah, one of the most important Jewish prayers (Telushkin, 1991), where selah means "forever." Thirty-one of the thirty-nine Psalms directed "to the choir director" contain the word selah. It appears 71 times in 39 different Psalms and 3 times in Habakkuk. It's most often located at the end of verses. Its root word means "to hang," as in a weighing scale and thus the relation between "weighing God's Word" and stopping or pausing to contemplate or reflect on it.

Blanchard (1996) and others have suggested that leadership consists of doing the right things and that management consists of doing things right. It is seldom easy to do the right things. It is seldom easy to know the best right things to do. However, Scriptures provide some suggestions: "if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him" (James 1:5, RSV); "… for which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it" (Luke 14:28); a man’s steps are ordered by the LORD; how then can man understand his way? It is a snare for a man to say rashly, 'it is holy,' and to reflect only after making his vows" (Proverbs 20:24&25); and "set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2). These, among others, encourage us to pray, contemplate, meditate, and consider what He wants us to do. From a believer's perspective, the true leaders are those who listen for His still, small voice. It is difficult to hear that voice with the noise of constant activity.

Fallow ground… represents that work hardened dirt path on the hearts of individuals, complete with deep furrows from other people marching on and through it. Jeremiah and Hosea suggested that Israel repent and thereby, till up the hardened, non-productive ground that was representative of their nation's relationship with God. They suggested that fallow ground could once again grow crops... signifying the re-establishment of a growing relationship with and in Him. For believers, this is similar to allowing the Holy Spirit to take His place on the thrones of their lives. People cannot do it in their own strength. Their tillers will barely cut through already cultivated soil. In fact, the metaphor probably provides more accuracy with people represented as the tilling tool and God represented as the gardener. He knows the soil that requires the tiller. He knows the depth the blade must achieve to adequately work the soil. He provides the compass direction to achieve maximum effectiveness and efficiency: knowing whether to cut across the lay of the land or to run with it.

People could say this applies to all believers and not just leaders. I would say that it makes all believers leaders. Manz (1986) and Neck, Neck, Manz, and Godwin (1999) discussed the implications of self-leadership and that no requirements exist for leaders to necessarily have followers for them to use leadership or to otherwise lead. Revelation 1:5b-6 says, "to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." Believers are priests with an inheritance. Christ bought us with a price. Based on these, leadership is not the reward… It is the obligation.

References

Blanchard, K. (1996). Turning the organizational pyramid upside down. In F. Hesselbein, M. Goldsmith, & R. Beckhard (Eds.), The Leader of the Future: New Visions, Strategies, and Practices for the New Era. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Manz, C. C. (1986). Self-leadership: Toward an expanded theory of self-influence processes in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 11(3), 585-600.

Neck, C. P., Neck, H. M., Manz, C. C., Godwin, J. (1999). "I think I can; I think I can" A self-leadership perspective toward enhancing entrepreneur thought patterns, self-efficacy, and performance. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 14(6) 477-499.

Telushkin, J. (1991). Jewish literacy: The most important things to know about the Jewish religion, its people, and its history. New York: William Morrow.

 

Copyright © 2015, by G. R. Bud West. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sanctity of Life: A Restatement of the Obvious

Little doubt exists that abortion-on-demand remains one of the most contentious topics of debate, in the United States, today. Coined by the left as a matter of "choice" and representing a foundational platform of the women's rights movement, the values and behaviors associated with the abortion-on-demand meme have seemed disingenuous, if not downright antithetical to the general concept of progressiveness -- at least from a perspective that positions the definition of "progressive" as having something to do with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

However, their position doesn't only appear disingenuous, but it appears confusing, as well. On the one hand, proponents of abortion-on-demand would have their audiences understand that they represent smart, responsible, and well-meaning individuals, only concerned with women's "rights." However, the parts that seem confusing include that a choice to intentionally abort children from wombs doesn't represent any of those. The smart "choices" include abstinence or the use of effective means of birth control. The "responsible" time to select either of those, as one of the correct choices, includes any time before having intimate relations.

Additionally, anything that any groups or legislatures legalize because people "mean well," arguably ought to mean well for everyone involved in the equation and not just the ones who argue the loudest and longest. Notwithstanding the rights of unborn children, whatever people allow to happen to any of the weakest and most vulnerable among them, they allow to happen to their collective selves.

Furthermore, some of those who advocate abortion-on-demand have also argued that viability makes a difference in the argument. Children in the womb either exist as human beings or they don't. Viability is functionally irrelevant. Consider that adults who need life support to exist, for whatever reasons, aren't viable without it; and that care givers wouldn't generally withhold life support from the nominal adult because his or her mother makes a choice. For example, the recent case of Martin Pistorious represents such a case. In case you missed it, back in the 1980s, doctors diagnosed Mr. Pistorious with cryptococci meningitis and he entered into what they called a "vegetative state." He remained in that condition for several years, during which time his mother had reportedly wished him dead. However, he did not die and he later made a dramatic recovery.

So, it seems strange to me (read: it presents as a fallacy) that people who have advocated the right to choose to abort unborn children, have done their best to justify this right and by extension, these choices, by claiming that non-viable fetuses aren't really human beings, at all.

Consider, by April 2012, 38 states had enacted legislation that makes it illegal to kill children in the womb, by violent acts committed against pregnant women. In fact, 23 of these states have enacted "fetal homicide laws" that disregard the age of the children in the womb. That means that in almost half of the states in the United States, in violent acts against pregnant women, prosecutors can charge the killers of womb-bound children with homicide, up to and including murder; regardless of the ages of those children (read: from conception).

I have not read where any people who advocate abortion-on-demand have necessarily argued against these laws. However, on the other hand, those who advocate choice have contended that at least up until the age of viability, pregnant mothers should have the "right" (option/choice) to abort those children, on demand. Bottom line, in the U.S., it's acceptable for mothers to "choose" to kill children in the womb; but it's murder if those same mothers want to keep their children, yet others kill them. So, are children in the womb human beings or not?

Additionally, I don't serve as an apologist for people who take the position that conception from rape serves as a representation of God's perfect will. However, if life begins at conception, do the familial relationships that exist between fathers and mothers (or the lack thereof) or the circumstances surrounding given conceptions, really change the fact that children in wombs are still living human beings? Doesn't killing those children amount to homicide, regardless of the names, sexes, or positions of, or the relationships between the people who make those choices to do the killings?

 

Originally published in ClashDaily at:

http://clashdaily.com/2015/01/sanctity-life-restatement-obvious/

 

Copyright © by G. R. Bud West. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Governance & Leadership: More Than Campaigning and Influence Peddling

Not long ago, a friend of mine asked me why I have taken the position that leadership does not represent the same thing as influence. After all, for a number of years, leadership experts like Warren Bennis, John Maxwell, Jeff Hale and a host of others have both explicitly and implicitly promoted that idea.

On the surface that position seems reasonable. If leadership means something like: "directing change;" and if, through influence, people affect change; then influence and leadership should mean the same thing. However, like so many other things, it's all in the intent. Those who use influence, do so to try to sell a receiver on potential courses of action. On the other hand, those who use leadership, do so to try to direct followers through those courses of action. Therefore, it has seemed to me that influence serves as the cause and leadership serves as the resulting effect. Additionally, influence might serve as a desired outcome of leadership... but that's a different story.

Of course, like most concepts I think about, I wondered how these musings relate to governing and to liberty. I first thought about the administration and then the legislators, at all levels of government. What counts is the influence and what counts as the leadership? Generally speaking, it appears to me that campaigning counts as the influence part. It also appears that governing counts as the leadership (and management) part.

Considering potential presidents of the United States (and any other potential chief executives who requires votes for election) as an example; those people, as candidates, make various promises to their associated constituencies, before their elections. By doing so, they attempt to influence their constituents' behaviors -- in this case, to vote for them. Ideally, upon election, they shift from trying to win votes to trying to govern in the chief executive role. Oh, they might have to revert, from time to time, back into the influencing role, in order to withstand any potential votes of no confidence. However, for all intents and purposes, with the influencing (campaigning) completed, elected officials provide what the electorates hired them to do: they go before them and govern or lead.

The problem is that too many people in the electorate have been lulled into believing that it makes no difference. Stories abound of how those representatives have taken actions that clearly support campaigning and influencing, when they should have been governing and leading. They've done this through acts of cronyism, providing unreasonably large amounts of support for special interests groups, and otherwise, failing to stand up for needed, but otherwise unpopular political positions. Then, rather than taking actions to hold these officials accountable, the majority of the electorate have usually responded by turning their heads to the side and offering rationalizations, like: "they've always done it...," "there's nothing we can do about it...," or even "that's what they're supposed to do..." Huh?!!

The bottom line: if we fail to draw a line between campaigning and governing and a line between influence and leadership, then no one will ever have the ability to know and understand where one stops and the other begins. In other words, people will politicize all of the actions of all the representatives who serve in positions of governance. They will consider all of the actions of all people who serve in roles of leadership as no more than so much propaganda.

Maybe we've already arrived at that point. When George W. Bush served as the President of the United States, it seemed that Republicans generally tended to defend nearly everything he did. On the other hand, Democrats generally tended (and continue) to speak out against nearly everything he did. Consideration for the actual long term (and even short-term) effects of his administration's policy implementations seemed to pale in comparison to the perceptions of the positions on which these observers placed him on the overall political spectrum.

Through the years, people have told me that I incorporate too much idealism in my reasoning. However, I truly believe that a better way exists. I believe that people can work together, regardless of their differing political ideologies. I believe that they can agree on better courses of action, than those that result from crony-influenced compromises. These better courses of action, like an Hegelian dialectic, would require lawmakers to synthesize dissimilar elements of their competing positions. Hard work? Yep. Doable? You bet'cha. But if history proves an accurate indicator, unless we stand up and take notice -- and take action, things will continue to slide toward anarchy in our republic. How about that for a New Year's resolution?

 

Originally published in ClashDaily at: http://bit.ly/1L365mF

 

Copyright © 2015 by GR Bud West. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Leadership Mantle: A Foundation of Responsibility

Anyone can lead. Opportunities for leadership emerge in all walks of life, in all endeavors, and in every organization and society on the planet. Not a day goes by without this proving true. Walk down any street, in any city or town that has a stoplight and you’ll find opportunities for leadership.

Throughout history, however, confusion has resulted on this point, from the use of imprecise language. Specifically, it has caused some people to act like: (a) only those who hold positions of authority count as leaders and like (b) everything those people do counts as leadership. Even though some people might think these have little bearing on the important things in life, I argue that they represent the very foundation of many of the problems that we face today.

In starting my argument, I preface by confessing that many would consider that most people I follow (and who follow me) on Twitter lean to the raucous right. As such, seldom a day goes by that I fail to see that someone has used the term “sheeple,” in a non-flattering context. Of course, in many cases they use this term to describe members of an electorate that has allowed (and has sometimes even encouraged, through their non-participation) their elected representatives to work against their collective, long-term best interests.

Arguably, the Congress of the United States has the lowest approval rating in history. It has maintained that lofty status for several years (decades). Yet the electorate has consistently continued to send at least 80% of the same people back to Congress, during every election cycle, during that same period. If a person continued to do the same things, the same way, over a long period of time; expecting to see different results after each iteration, some would call that person crazy. What should we call it when a whole country does that?

Many factors have contributed to the “sheeple syndrome.” One factor has included politicians who have kowtowed to special interests groups. Members of these groups often have direct and indirect funding from the government. Consequently, they have voted for the person in the party most likely to continue (or increase) their funding, regardless of any other issues or platform items.

Another contributing factor has included members of the electorate who have remained ignorant of the issues or who have otherwise opted out of the political process. For example, during the Bush/Clinton campaign, I asked a 28-year-old, Army veteran, in her third year of nursing school, whom she planned to vote for. When she told me Clinton, I asked her why. She replied: “… because he’s better looking” — and she wasn’t kidding.

It’s easy to put the blame on people like these. It’s easy to say that they should know better or that they should put the interests of the entire country above their own self-interests. It’s also scary to think that someone who’s paid a price of service would attach so little value to one of the most important franchises that she served to protect.

However, even if I do blame them, I don’t blame them the most. The people most responsible, from my perspective, include those who know the difference and have the capabilities, but have refused to pick up the mantle of leadership and make a difference. It’s the ones “in the know,” who have traveled along their ways through life and regularly had discussions with members of special interests, with people who’ve remained ignorant, and with those who’ve opted out; but who’ve never engaged on a deeper, “discipleship” level.

One of my favorite “management” quotes includes: “people won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It might seem cliché. You might think that no one should have to do it (after all these are citizens of the United States of America and don’t they have a responsibility to know these things?). You might even argue that someone else should take on that responsibility (don’t we pay staff members in public schools to do that grunt work?). However, that reasoning and those excuses have repeatedly failed to work in the past; and if we continue to do the same things, in the same ways in which we’ve always done them, should we really expect different outcomes?

Bottom line: just as passing a chest of gold to a baby in a manger and saying “Happy Birthday,” does not necessarily a wise man make; likewise, passing a campaign brochure to an unconscious destroyer of liberty, during daily travels, and saying “please vote,” does not necessarily a patriot make.

 

Originally published in ClashDaily at:

http://clashdaily.com/2014/12/leadership-mantle-foundation-responsibility/

 

Copyright © 2014 by GR Bud West. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Non-Violent Offenses: Is it Time for Change?

I’ve always been pretty much of a standup, law and order type of guy. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse;” “do the crime, do the time;” and similar sentiments have always rang true to me. For example, the police arrested an acquaintance of mine (let’s call him Pete) for growing pot just outside of his trailer, off of the beaten path, in SW Arkansas. In this example, the police had responded, with the fire department, after Pete reported his trailer on fire. The circumstances didn’t stop the police from hauling Pete off to jail, despite the looks of desperation on the faces of his wife and three preschool aged children… oh, I didn’t yet mention that the date was early December, late in the Reagan administration.

It surprised me that in the aftermath, his (Holiness, “never miss a church service”) mother-in-law argued the position that the particular law in question, as well as its application in this context, seemed too rigid. I argued the position that it wasn’t like he didn’t know that it was illegal to grow pot in his front yard — or that he didn’t know of the associated, potential ramifications. As I look back on it now, however, I wonder if the law, the police, and I should have shown more compassion.

Of course, what happened to Eric Garner served as the catalyst that caused me to remember and consider this true story about Pete. Garner died, earlier this year, after a police officer placed him in a choke hold. Garner had resisted arrest after having engaged in a minor, non-violent offence. Like Garner, Pete had broken the law. Also like Garner, Pete had police officers lay hands on him — even though neither of them possessed a weapon. Fortunately, for Pete and his loved ones, he didn’t resist arrest and he wasn’t subsequently killed in the process.

No doubt exists that resisting arrest can result in violence. Many people in U.S. society don’t have a problem with that. In fact, in his Hit & Run blog, on the Reason.com site (4 December 2014), Jesse Walker stated that “… there are other people out there, crawling through hundreds of comment threads, Facebook debates, and twitter wars, all asking variations of the same question: ‘why didn’t he just submit.'”

In that same article, Walker went on to state that: “there are people who think Eric Garner’s resistance means that he’s to blame for how he died.” Similarly, in a recent online conversation, @StitchJonze suggested that: “… when a suspect resists a lawful arrest, the suspect creates the violence and commits a crime.”

Okay, I get it. Resistance equals violence and requires a “hands-on” response. However, if initial offenses don’t constitute violence, do no alternatives exist whereby society can effectively punish offenders? Does the government really have to arrest, convict, and incarcerate people for having participated in conducting nonviolent crimes?

Reportedly, Eric Garner’s initial “crime” in this case, included selling cigarettes on a street corner. He might thereby have cheated the government out of tax revenue on those cigarettes and brought a small part of the income redistribution machine to a grinding halt. He may also have cheated the nearby shop owners out of sales that they might have otherwise made, had Garner not set up shop on the corner. But, do either of those really require arrest; and if so, where does it end?

If he cheated the government, write him a ticket, summon him to court, give him a fine, and garnish his legitimate wages (or seize his assets); but do not arrest or incarcerate him. Those on the left should see this as a more humane (progressive, intelligent, et al.) way to govern. Those on the right should see this as a more economical (conservative, intelligent, et al.) solution; since incarceration of any given individual typically costs between $50,000 and $100,000 per year.

Additionally, in this case, Garner had only cheated the local shopkeepers and thereby put them at a disadvantage, because they had to charge and pay taxes. If no tax existed on the goods he sold, then the affected shopkeepers could also have sold their goods on the corner, right alongside the entrepreneurial Garner.

On the other hand, when I mentioned a solution similar to this to @StitchJonze, he brought up some great questions, like: (a) what violations would require an arrest and (b) since property crime is typically non-violent, if someone steals your car, should the police use force to affect an arrest?

If the accepted premises include that resistance equals use of force and that minimizing the use of force (by all parties involved) represents a desired outcome; then, for theft (of any amount), a possible solution might include: investigate, indict, send a summons, and try the person (in absentia, if s/he failed to appear). If found guilty, send a punishment summons (or preferably, garnish the person’s property or wages, if possible). However, the failure to appear for punishment would equal resistance, and only then might it prove necessarily to employ the use of force to resolve the given situation.

Would this or some similar plan work? I don’t know. However, I do know that putting people in positions where they feel that they have to resist, whenever they encounter the police will result in more, otherwise unnecessary violence. And don’t think for a moment that this problem won’t eventually affect every “civilian” across the country. As the different levels of government continue to geometrically increase the numbers of activities that they criminalize, people will begin to not even realize when they’ve broken the law (after all, who knew that a game warden could arrest a fisherman using the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or that home schooling parents could have their children taken from them, because of keeping a “messy” home?). When they come for any of us, for violating some obscure, arbitrary regulations, it’ll be too late.

Pete was “lucky.” The judge in his case gave him a five-year sentence, then suspended it. Eric Garner didn’t have that chance.

Originally published in ClashDaily (http://clashdaily.com/2014/12/non-violent-offences-time-change/), 8-Dec-2014.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Challenges of Leadership in Governance

Republicans cheered, last Tuesday, as late evening election returns informed all of the watchers and listeners of the imminent transfer of leadership in the U.S. Senate. As a result of these Republican wins, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), victor in his own long and hard fought Senate contest, will likely receive the nod to serve in the position of Senate Majority Leader. Of all of the questions about McConnell’s upcoming ascendance; arguably, the most important question includes: does he have what it takes to lead where we, as a nation, need to go.

Over time, people have come to basically define “leadership” as “… going out ahead and showing the way.” Additionally, for the past several generations, many authors have suggested that a vast array of factors contribute to or otherwise represent leadership. Some of the more popular factors have included concepts such as influence, trustworthiness, and vision. Of course, vision serves as the only one of these three that people have to employ, in order to actually lead. Influence and trustworthiness really represents what politicians or sales people have to do and create, during their campaigns; since the electorate won’t follow anyone or anything to whom or to which they’ve not already bought in. This becomes obvious when, during their tenures, statesmen or other service providers periodically stop leading, while they revert back to the politician or sales role, in order to shore up lagging support for their directions and their overall visions... Read more at: http://bit.ly/1A4DfyC

Friday, November 14, 2014

Forced Redistribution v. Charity

In a recent article in Investors Business Daily (http://bit.ly/1uueEzO), Betsy McCaughey discussed the fact that President Obama has sought emergency funding for Africa, in the amount of $6.2 billion, ostensibly, to combat Ebola. In the article, Dr. McCaughey said, "helping Ebola victims is the right thing to do..." and I agree with her sentiment, at least at some level. However, somehow, it seems that some people have lost sight of the fact that the U.S. government's money does not belong to the U.S. government, per se. It comes out of taxpayers' pockets. Sure, people who make several hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars per year, probably won't miss the few hundreds of dollars per person that it will take to complete this charity work. But, every dollar that the government takes from hard working, lower middle-class workers (too patriot-minded to take government "benefits"), represents a dollar that they could otherwise spend on their own families -- and let there be no doubt that many of those families suffer through their own personal; day-to-day struggles; struggles for which no government, at any level will allocate or distribute funds to relieve. Don't get me wrong: I have no problem with charity and those people who want to contribute, of their own volition, toward completion of the cited efforts, should certainly have that opportunity -- regardless of their financial situations. I just don't think it appropriate for the government to compel people, through threat of violence, to provide charity. For example, Bill and Melinda Gates would be well served to donate $6 billion out of their personal funds, for these efforts. They would thereby receive the praise and adulation they desire; they would demonstrate the real meaning of charity; and they would set an example of philanthropic giving for the rest of the "one percenters," from across the globe.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

On Racism: 22-Oct-2014

When discussing racism, it seems patently unfair to lump all people of any particular party or persuasion (e.g., liberal, conservative, etc.) into a box, and label them as racists. Individuals from across the spectrum bring unique ideologies to the table, in the development of collective political platforms. Any of these individuals might possess racist values or values of inclusiveness -- or, even a combination of both. For example, arguably, some people continue to authentically believe that the repression experienced by blacks in previous generations has affected the country's cultural assumptions, in such ways, so as to require the continuation of affirmative action. They don't believe that individual black people can't succeed on their own merits; but rather, that an unfairly large, cultural obstacle remains in place, even after decades of affirmative action. On the other hand, opponents of affirmative action might argue that almost every subgroup in the country encounters cultural obstacles that limit their upward mobility; or that the obstacles that most hinder upward mobility rest more on socioeconomic starting points than they do on race. In the end, the questions of which group employs more racism really don't matter nearly as much as which groups' policy platforms will achieve greater levels of upward mobility, for all people; without unfairly burdening neighbors, who might already have obstacles just as pressing, in their own lives.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Protection, Tryanny and Gun Control

On gun control in the United States: in the end, whether people either accept or reject the basic conclusion that registration leads to confiscation leads to tyranny, will ultimately define their positions on gun control. However, for them to make an informed decision, it seems likely that people should consider these premises, in order to inform their conclusions.

  • People are basically good.



  • People are basically something other than good.



  • Members of government primarily have their constituents' best interests in mind, when making decisions.



  • Members of government primarily have their own best interests in mind when making decisions.


If people are good and if those in government primarily have their constituents' best interests in mind, then most non-criminal gun buyers / owners would not balk at gun control, in general. Similarly, those who advocate gun control would not really have any reason to hold that position, unless "control" serves as the operative word, since they'd have little rational fear of intentional injury or death. Additionally, if these two premises held true, many current gun owners might never have bought guns in the first place.

Likewise, if people are something other than good and if those in government primarily have their constituents' best interests in mind, then most people would likely still not balk at background checks or gun registration; since gun owners could not legitimately question the government's motives. Gun ownership would likely remain at current levels, in answer to the increased risks (even if the criminals would still not purchase their guns legitimately, anyway). Arguably, gun control advocates would also feel that they had legitimate reasons to hold their position -- since even legitimate gun owners make up a percentage of the population considered "something other than good."

On the other hand, if people are good; but if those in government primarily have their own best interests in mind, then most non-criminal gun buyers / owners would balk at background checks, gun registration, and similar measures. Their reasons would not necessarily include defense against neighbors, but rather, defense against a government that could devolve into tyranny -- on either of the local, state, or national levels. If the successful promotion of self-interests necessarily requires controlling others (thereby sacrificing some amounts of liberty); then gun control advocates must determine how the benefits of background checks, registration, and other such measures weighs against the risks associated with trusting the people within different levels of government to consistently do right by all of their constituents. Even though some who now own guns might not fear tyranny, some gun owners who fear government tyranny have already made that decision and have purchased guns, "off of the books."

Similarly, if people are something other than good and if those in government primarily have their own best interests in mind, then again, most non-criminal gun buyers / owners would balk at background checks, gun registration, and similar measures. Arguably, this represents the condition that many citizens believe presently applies within the United States. Most every day,  the press publishes stories of criminal assaults and homicides; to the point that some who otherwise advocate and argue for gun control also carry guns. Those who have weighed the risks associated with tyranny as greater than the benefits of control (generally) balk at gun control. Moreover, arguably, the United States was founded on the premises that the people could not trust their governments, because governments would control the people, if they could, and that liberty from that control is more important than life, itself.

Arguably, some people within every generation have believed that they served as the most enlightened generation that has ever walked the face of the earth. Most of the countries in which those people reside have fought and continue to fight in wars and extended, warlike instances of "police action," during each of those same generations. These countries have done this, without exception, in order to impose their wills on members of other people groups. Additionally, during the past 500 years, every century has experienced one or more wars, wherein people with political power have tried to impose their wills on the citizens within their own countries (including countries in Europe and the US Civil War). To think that history will not repeat these cycles, because this generation has "finally got it right" and has become more insightful and progressive than any of the previous generations, ostensibly represents denial, naïveté, or the lack of critical thinking. Consequently, based on these conclusions, it appears evident (a priori) that free people must take responsibility for questioning their devotion to any ideology, like gun control, that could ultimately result in their overarching loss of liberty.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Minimum Wage Day 2014

Why not raise the minimum wage to $10.10? After all, as some political pundits have said, "the federal minimum wage hasn't kept up with the cost of basic goods...," "it will allow everyone to achieve economic independence...," and "nobody who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty..." in fact, many folks on Tweeter cited more reasons, but most of those seemed tertiary to these three main premises.

Little doubt exists that, actually, the federal minimum wage has not kept up with the costs of basic goods (look online to find associated charts and graphs). However, arguably, what counts as "basic goods" and the amounts of money required to buy them, differ from person to person and family to family. Additionally, families that consist of more than one person and that have one breadwinner who earns the minimum wage, will likely qualify for and receive public assistance. What will happen to their public assistance when their wages go up? Either way, this premise appears to represent the most comprehensive amount of truth of the three listed.

I seriously question the second premise, though; that making $10.10 per hour will provide financial independence for most people -- if anyone. Sure, it would prove better than making $8 or $9 per hour (with all other things equal, e.g., public assistance, taxes, etc.). However, I have a friend who earns about $12 per hour, who lives by himself (with no governmental assistance), and who has no costly vices. He barely makes ends meet. Additionally, little doubt exists that collectively, business owners will not absorb any more of the associated increases of labor costs, than absolutely necessary. Therefore, if labor increases by about 30% and that 30% increase equals half of what would otherwise go to profits, the answer would include an increase in retail prices of about 15% -- across the board... OR a reduction in the number of hours and full-time positions for minimum-wage workers. Regarding the second possible outcome, I've personally witnessed huge companies lay people off, year after year, in order to maintain their annual, projected profit margins, as required by their shareholders. As morally reprehensible as some might consider the concept of conducting layoffs and firings to increase or maintain profits; the evidence suggests that, like it or not, this will happen.

Of course, some business owners (and others) have also addressed the issue of paying teenagers and other trainees, while they learn to work. Arguably, if they do the work that others do, I would argue that they should receive the same wages as anyone else. However, even if people could actually achieve financial independence by working for $10.10 per hour, does it really make sense to force businesses to pay the full amount of minimum hourly wage to young people who might not have the capacity to provide the full, hourly amount of work?

Finally, I couldn't agree more with the third premise. Indeed, no one who works 40 hours per week should be living in poverty. However, I'll go one step further and posit that no one who works 40 hours per week should settle for only earning the minimum wage; regardless of whether the amount of that minimum wage equals $7 per hour or $10 per hour. Substantial proof exists that, on average, people who obtain increased education reap increased financial rewards. Additionally, all levels of government in the United States provide various opportunities for people who lack education and skills to obtain that education and in many cases, those skills. Certainly, it won't prove easy to acquire these. However, having at one time lived in poverty, I can truthfully testify that, in my case, the results beat whining about the unfairness of it all.

Oh, I know, many people, including the well educated, have argued and will continue to argue that the requirements of time and effort price the acquisition of education and skills far beyond the reach of most people in poverty. Some of these people whisper words like these, back-and-forth, in private conversations: "They can't do it..." "they shouldn't have to do it..." "we, the haves, must take responsibility for the have-nots because we would act unfairly if we chose to require subsequent extra efforts of them, rather than simply ministering to their needs, for the rest of their lives." Even if many of the working poor argued in favor of a lifestyle of receiving public assistance, on ongoing bases; what many in poverty really need includes having opportunities to make friends with people who have "made it," to show them the steps whereby they can also "make it" -- and not necessarily having anything to do with any Federal programs.

Answers to some other specific comments:

@brainwashedur said: Thanks to @ScottWalker the Koch Bros. enjoy record profits while Wisconsinites lose more money working #Minimumwage jobs

My answer: what keeps any "Wisconsinites" from quitting their minimum-wage jobs and starting their own companies, just like the Koch family did at some point in their genealogical history?

Senator Ben Cardin ‏ (@SenatorCardin) asked and answered this question: "In how many states can a full time #MinimumWage worker afford a 2 bedroom at Fair Market Rent? Answer: 0.

My answer: how many 16 or 17-year-old children, living with their parents, and attending high school need to rent a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent prices?

Education Votes ‏ (@edvotes) stated: American families struggle on as Wall Street lives it up. First step to making it right: Raise the Minimum Wage.

My answer: I don't see how forcing everyone in the middle-class pay 15% to 30% more for basic consumer goods (a probable result of increasing the minimum wage by more than 30%) represents a "right" first step. If people in poverty become jealous of employees on Wall Street who "live it up," permission granted for them to go to the library, study, take the series 6 and series 7 exams, go to work for a brokerage, and work their way to Wall Street.

NWLC ‏(@nwlc) said and asked: Raising the minimum wage to $10.10/hr could boost millions of workers' earnings by $5,700. What could that buy?

My answer: quite a lot -- until prices go up to offset the increased costs of labor.

Kirsten Gillibrand ‏(@SenGillibrand) said: 2/3 low wage workers are women. With $10.10, we can pass fair Minimum Wage & help millions of Women Succeed.

My answer: since when have we, as Americans, ever accepted accomplishing the bare minimum as an adequate measure of success? Certainly, I want men and women who work for hourly wages and who perform equal tasks, to receive equal pay. However, rather than focusing any of our efforts on raising the minimum wage to $10.10, for these women, why don't we focus on training them to do jobs with minimum wages at the $20.20 or $30.30 threshold. After all, ours does not represent a zero sum economy.

Please feel free yo comment...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

To Serve and Protect: The Militarization of Police Forces in the U.S.

The re-imaged version of Battlestar Galactica serves as one my favorite TV shows of all time. I appreciate the show for many of the same reasons that many others have stated -- the depth of character and relationship development; the exploration of various responses to complex interests and ideologies; and the ethical dilemmas raised, regarding the responsibilities of people serving in competing roles in civil society. However, this last reason probably intrigues me the most. An exchange between Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) provides a classic example of this. In this scene (Moore & Grabiak, 2005), President Roslin suggested that since the admiral had people under his command who possessed weapons and the knowledge to use them that the military should police the fleet, during their collective journey, across space, in search of a new planetary home. Adama's reply included: "there's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state; the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people."

Of course, two of the basic societal questions that underlie this answer, include: how much freedom do people have to sacrifice for safety and will the sacrifice of freedom actually result in the establishment of more or less safety. For example, people in the United States have seen an increase in the militarization of police forces, across the country, especially since the 9/11 attacks (Horne, 2014; Shackford, 2014). Arguably, people have allowed or even invited this to happen, as a hopeful response, to increase the overall safety within the country. However, journalists have reported, with increasing regularity, about SWAT teams, armed with automatic weapons and dressed in full body armor, who have entered homes, with "no knock" warrants, for transgressions of lesser and lesser magnitude. Certainly, in situations where enemies of the state hide among the citizens of the state, the role of the military becomes clouded; since we need the military (and maybe members of the federal law enforcement establishment) to defend the state from those domestically located enemies. However, if we continue to militarize the police and, as a result, they increasingly view everyday citizens as potential enemies; who will stand with these everyday citizens and serve to protect them, their freedom, and their interests?

References:

Horne, M. (2014, August 14).  USA Today tries to blame Ferguson riots on police militarization. Political Outcast. Retrieved from http://politicaloutcast.com/2014/08/usa-today-tries-blame-ferguson-riots-police-militarization/

Moore, R. D. (Writer), & Grabiak, M. (Director). (2005). Water [Television series episode]. On R. D. Moore and D. Eick (Executive producers), Battlestar Galactica. Universal City, CA: Universal Television.

Shackford, S. (2014, August 14). Obama speaks on Ferguson events; has nothing to say about police militarization. Reason. Retrieved from http://reason.com/blog/2014/08/14/obama-speaks-on-ferguson-events-has-noth

 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 24

In her recent post, Rovaida Kazmion (a connection of mine in LinkedIn) quoted Jim Rohn as having said: "the challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly."

It's great to have leaders who display attributes like strength, kindness, boldness, thoughtfulness, and humility, while holding in check attributes like rudeness, weakness, and bullying. I know that, with all other things equal, I would much prefer to follow "nice leaders" than I would "mean leaders." However, regardless of my preferences, it seems that over the past 50 years, many (dare I say, most) writings on leadership have emphasized the desired attributes, similar to those listed; to the point where some people have actually accepted these types of desired attributes as necessary to include in their collective definition of leadership. One of the problems with this includes that most of the people I've interviewed have suggested that as much as they would like to have leaders who display these desired attributes, if forced to make a choice, they would rather have mean leaders who effectively lead them to their desired destinations, than they would nice leaders who might lead them astray. Additionally, another potential problem emerges, in that, based on differences in experience and values, what some people perceive as displays of desired attributes, other people might perceive as displays of undesired attributes. For example, what might seem like strength or boldness to some people, might appear like bullying or arrogance (respectively) to others.

Furthermore, I propose that these desired attributes actually represent the challenges of humanity, rather than merely the challenges of leadership. Even if we could collectively agree on what behaviors represent desired and undesired attributes, in every context; most people desire for everyone with whom they interact to display strength, kindness, humility, thoughtfulness, and similar behaviors, rather than rudeness, weakness, bullying, etc. And I would further suggest that people don't desire these from their leaders any more than they desire them from their followers or their peers, regardless of rank or station. Bottom line: evaluating leaders based on the standards that we expect of all people might indicate how those leaders measure up as human beings, but it won't necessarily indicate how they measure up as leaders.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July 5

Just because some people describe particular behaviors as good behaviors for leaders to display, doesn't necessarily make those behaviors "good leadership behaviors," any more than breathing, eating, or sleeping count as good leadership behaviors. Typically, those who desire for leaders to display whatever they consider as good behaviors, also desire for followers and everyone else in their given organizations to display them, as well. Arguably, defining good leadership in terms of what people desire of all organizational members, will ultimately result in considering that all members in every organization engage in leadership, every time they apply these behaviors. Maybe... but if all desired behaviors for everyone also represents leadership (with relatively unlimited, desired constructs), then leadership becomes completely contextual and relatively unmeasurable.