Saturday, April 28, 2007

MLP Round 015

Game Scores:

T Roosevelt at Kennedy, 32-31 JFK
Cleveland at Washington, 36-31 Washington
Ford at L Johnson, 33-21 Ford
B Harrison at McKinley, 37-23 McKinley
Madison at Jefferson, 34-24 Jefferson
GW Bush at F Roosevelt, 35-33 GW Bush
Van Buren at Lincoln, 37-26 Lincoln
Carter at Monroe, 30-20 Monroe
Reagan at Nixon, 37-30 Reagan
Fillmore at Taft, 31-30 Fillmore
Truman at Taylor, 31-30 Taylor
Hoover at Polk, 32-23 Polk
J Adams at Wilson, 31-25 J Adams
Jackson at Clinton, 32-23 Jackson
JQ Adams at Hayes, 29-28 JQA
Garfield at GH Bush, 28-27 GH Bush
Tyler at Eisenhower, 30-29 Ike
Arthur at Coolidge, 29-22 Arthur
W Harrison at Harding, 29-27 W Harrison
Buchanan at A Johnson, 20-19 Buchanan
Pierce at Grant, 25-21 Grant

No President remains undefeated, another 6 have one loss, another 1 has one win, and 3 Presidents are winless.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Stupidity As A Way of Life: Why The Democrats Will Lose In 2008

Humorist Dave Barry once guessed that there was a huge, secret “stupid ray” beamed at the White House. Barry said this, because throughout recent history, while the men who have attained the Oval Office have all been intelligent, thoughtful men, at some point all of them have said or done moronic things, so often that one begins to wonder about the cause. If such a beam exists, however, it would appear that its scope has increased. My case for today is that the Democrats, having regained control of both the House and Senate and enjoying good prospects for the Presidential race in 2008, appear to have arranged a meeting, wherein they agreed to compel their candidates to abandon reasoned debate and constructive planning, in favor of screeching hate speech and mindlessly rehashing of long-dead feuds. Having done their utmost to defeat our troops fighting in Iraq, the Democrats appear to be embracing defeatism in every aspect of their decisions.

It may come as a shock to Democrats to learn that President George W. Bush will not, in fact, be running again in 2008. I should not be surprised that the Democrats’ comprehension of the U.S. Constitution is so poor, given their illucid interpretation on what sort of rights Americans enjoy, indeed even who should be considered an American. Yet even so, it is remarkably thick-headed to establish the base issue of your campaign against the one person you know will not be an opponent. The utter hysteria of Bush-Hate which pervades every major campaign among Democrats, will prove in the end to be a waste of attention and noise, and drives away more reasonable voters than it gains by appeasing the vicious extremists on the Left. Not merely because the Democrats have forgotten that 62 million voters supported Bush in the 2004 election, but also because most Americans have an innate sense of balance, and when a major political party adopts the stance of its most vicious fanatics a lot of folks are going to balk.

The next point is Iraq. Democrats have a bad habit of lying, you know. They say they support the troops (Don’t question their patriotism!), but they won’t let them do their job. They had the same information as President Bush and in large numbers voted to approve military action in Iraq, yet they now want to pretend they were “misled”. They agreed, almost to a man, that a specific timetable for withdrawal from Iraq would only help the terrorists win, yet that is precisely what they voted for this week. So it should come as no surprise, that Democrats have also been lying to themselves about Iraq. They have told themselves that abandoning Iraq will somehow improve our allies’ confidence in our commitment and responsibilities. They have told themselves that the most outrageous lies screamed by Leftist extremists are somehow the national sentiment. They have told themselves that the 2004 election they lost was not about Iraq, while the 2006 election they won was clearly a referendum on Iraq. And now they believe that attacking America’s goals and work in the war in Iraq is somehow going to impress the mainstream voter in America, and that vicious attacks on Republican candidates because of Iraq will be the way to gain the public trust. This particular conceit is a bad decision, for many reasons, but the obvious fact lost on the Democrats is that conditions in Iraq a year from now, and the relevance of that issue to the 2008 election will be very different then than it is now. The Democrats’ plan to focus attention to Iraq is therefore desperate and ill-considered, since it is unlikely that conditions will gravitate towards an optimal result by chance. If things in Iraq succeed, Democrats may suffer from their obvious attempts to derail U.S. efforts now. If things in Iraq fail, however, the current defeatism by the Left may also come back to haunt them. This is not to say that Republicans are doing everything right or that Iraq will not present problems for them as well politically, but the Republicans have not set Iraq as their base issue, nor are the leading 2008 candidates other than McCain seen as directly linked to the Iraq war. The Democrats have signed on, therefore, to a high-risk-low-yield gamble.

Up next, poor math skills. The two leading Democrats in the ‘I Wanna Be President’ rally, 2008 edition, are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The reasons these two lead the pack are varied, but one important reason often cited by “strategists” is that Hillary and Barack hail from states with large Electoral Vote counts. This is true, but really, does anyone expect the Democrats to lose either New York or Illinois? If not, why emphasize those states when the last several elections have shown that other states, specifically those in the Midwest and South, are often more critical battlegrounds. Yet we see Hillary and Barack continue to push as if they would win the nation by winning their “home” states, even though it should be obvious that what sells in New York may fail in Florida, that what people in Illinois find right on the mark, may not be anywhere close to what people in Missouri expect. For all the best evidence that winning the election comes down to winning the 270 Electoral Votes threshold, there is scant attention in the Left to battlegrounds of historical significance. At first glance, the Republican candidates may appear to be making the same mistake, yet all of the GOP candidates seem to me to have noted salient issues on more levels than the Democrats have cared to do. And the field of Republicans in the race is far more varied in state size and regional source than the Democrats can claim.

That’s not to say, of course, that the Republicans have locked up the 2008 election. Republicans have said and done any number of stupid, venal things (yes McCain, that includes you!), and it’s likely that more than one leading Republican will destroy his POTUS chances through sheer arrogance (yes McCain, even you), but in the main it appears that the Democrats have been working far more feverishly at trying to lose. The “leadership” we have seen from Pelosi, Reid, and Dean, the absolute ignorance of Middle America by the likes of Clinton and Edwards, and the spirit of Class Warfare embraced by the core decision-makers at the DNC, combine to make it all too simple for any reasonable person to reject the Jackass in ’08, even if that means accepting a certain amount of pachyderm poop (yes McCain, that includes you).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

HR – Hell’s Little Gift to the Working Man

I enjoy reading my weekly issue of BusinessWeek, although from time to time they present a story which displays obvious bias, poor investigation, or which simply makes one wonder what universe the writer inhabits. All three traits showed up in a recent article gushing with praise for Bill Conaty at GE. The article was a strange and perverse mix of self-praise, hypocrisy, and flatulently unctuous pontification. In short, the article was an accidentally useful guide – on things to avoid if you want your company to find and keep the best people.

The first warning sign in the article was a loud and obvious one; Conaty praised himself almost non-stop. Conaty presented himself as some kind of wise, all-knowing sage, without once considering the universal facts that no one knows everything, we all make mistakes, and no organization is built by just one person’s effort. The BW article seemed to just take Conaty’s perspective as Gospel, without a single criticism of even obvious errors and contradictions.

One of those contradictions, was Conaty’s admonition not to get too close to the CEO; “Don’t Be Friends With the Boss”, he warns in bold print. Yet the only two specific sources noted in the article besides Conaty, were CEOs, and quite obviously close buddies of Conaty. Conaty did not just break his own rule; he completely ignored it, then tried to pretend he was some kind of ‘Working Man’s Friend’.

Enough about Conaty, he’s frankly just one more overpaid narcissist. But his arrogance highlights a major problem in American Business; how the heck do you find, train, reward, and keep the best people? And if you are a regular employee, how do you deal with workplace questions and situations, without getting labeled as a troublemaker? The problem is based in employment law, in poor training of managers in many businesses, and in the arrogance of the Boardroom. The solution begins with those companies willing to scrap what does not work, and who rebuild an effective employee development program with a functional and realistic approach.

The development of the Human Resources department came about initially, as a way to standardize employee hiring, development, and transition. This provided a legal defense against claims of personal bias or subjective treatment, allowed – in theory – operations managers to focus on running their departments, and provided company executives with performance metrics and costs. However, as time passed the process became increasingly bureaucratic and ossified, and a cult of empire-building within a company’s HR department also became a common problem. The HR managers found they could influence, even control, the hiring and development of staff in other departments. Operations Managers were denied participation in the recruiting and selection of key employees. The HR department in many businesses became obsessed with documentation, with detailed requirements for even routine requests, and the cumbersome process delayed and even derailed key projects. The close cooperation between HR and the top executives generated mistrust of company motives by employees, and the actual process of cutbacks and layoffs were often performed in a manner which disrespected loyal and hardworking employees, making the remaining staff even more cynical and suspicious of intentions, preventing effective cooperation. In many companies, the brightest and most effective employees deliberately avoid any contact whatsoever with HR, and many effective managers deliberately circumvent HR practices when they seek out new talent or have to address a personnel issue. I must emphasize that after a quarter-century working low-to-middle management, my experience tells me that in the heavy majority of cases, the problem begins and lives with HR, which generally refuses to acknowledge its responsibility, much less work to reform. Operations must exist in the real world, while HR usually exists in a completely artificial construction.

I want to stop here and make clear, the very great difference between Human Resource professionals and the monster which HR as a whole has become. An HR professional would be that person who seeks to simplify processes, to meet the needs of operations departments and advance the company’s goals and ideals, and who understands the need to sometimes stay out of situations unless asked for assistance. And who understands that assisting people is not the same thing as taking over. When I mentioned earlier that companies often fail to train their managers for some of their duties, that includes HR managers who learn rigidity instead of flexibility, who become unwilling to understand where their own authority and expertise ends and they must trust other people’s professional standards and experience, and who cannot adjust their perspective to see the different needs of separate departments.

So, what to do? My answer is admittedly radical, yet I think it would work well, given effective planning and cooperation. First, get rid of the HR department, per se. That doesn’t mean get rid of the HR people, though, but that they should be given orientation and then assigned to work as Administrative people, physically located in their departments of responsibility. Doing so would accomplish three key goals:

- HR people would have direct contact with the people who are affected by their decisions, and they could be approached informally for minor questions;
- HR people would have direct access to and control of all relevant documentation;
- HR people would, through discussions and ordinary course of work, learn the priorities and needs of the department long before an issue came to need attention.

That ordinary course of work for HR people would also allow them a key advantage they do not know enjoy; they would be more able to coach managers in the skills needed to avoid the sorts of problems which vex companies the most. That is, direct and regular communication with floor personnel and the direct management would help provide early consensus on how many employees need to be hired, what qualities should be sought, and in what time-frame. Managers could be taught and reminded how to effectively document employee performance, exemplary recognition and disciplinary actions, training, career development, and – when necessary – exit interviews and department resource allocation. The physical location of an HR officer in each department would also prevent the appearance/reality of too close contact with high executives, would equip HR managers to report accurate working conditions to the Board when necessary, and would encourage employees to treat HR as an ally rather than an enemy.

I have a lot of ideas, actually, on how HR should be reformed to better serve the needs of the company and the employees. But each case is distinct and unique, and unlike Bill Conaty, I know to stop when I reach the limit of my knowledge.

MLP Round 014

Game Scores:

Harding at T Roosevelt, 33-24 TR
Tyler at Washington, 36-27 Washington
Nixon at Ford, 35-25 Ford
McKinley at Hoover, 33-23 McKinley
Jefferson at Carter, 35-26 Jefferson
Polk at GW Bush, 36-33 Dubya
Pierce at Lincoln, 37-19 Lincoln
Monroe at GH Bush, 31-28 Monroe
Kennedy at Reagan, 31-29 Reagan
A Johnson at Fillmore, 31-21 Fillmore
Truman at W Harrison, 32-25 Truman
Taft at Taylor, 30-28 Taylor
F Roosevelt at Wilson, 30-25 FDR
J Adams at Coolidge, 31-22 J Adams
Jackson at Eisenhower, 32-30 Jackson
Cleveland at Grant, 29-25 Cleveland
Van Buren at Hayes, 28-26 Hayes
B Harrison at Garfield, 29-25 Garfield
L Johnson at Madison, 25-22 Madison
JQ Adams at Buchanan, 269-20 JQA
Arthur at Clinton, 29-23 Arthur

1 President remains undefeated, another 5 have one loss, another 1 has one win, and 3 Presidents are winless.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Harry Reid School of “Governance”

(some of this article taken from my original post under the title, “Smart Alek or Wise Guy?” on 11/22/04)

Some years back, I was talking about intelligence with my wife, who was unhappy because I said she was “smart". You see, she thought I was patronizing her, saying things I didn’t mean to make her feel better. I finally helped her see what I was saying; that there are different classes of intelligence and ability. The gourmet chef uses different skills and knowledge than a courtroom lawyer or a retail executive or a musician or anyone else. A person should not be considered ‘below’ someone else, because they are not accomplished in one particular area. It occurs to me, that the Democratic Party has yet to learn this critical lesson.

John Kerry’s facade in 2004 was the epitome of the Potemkin Village, all image and no substance. For a time, I worried that voters might buy into the lie, and miss the man as he really measures. Now I know, Americans are generally able and willing to spot out the fakes and reject them, especially when they have the genuine article for comparison. While President Bush had his own issues of false persona to address, they were not nearly as egregious as Kerry’s, and Americans recognized that fact.
It struck me as strange, for all of that, that the Democrats would not have recognized how thin Kerry’s image was, or that a critical number of voters would see through it. But seeing the reactions to the election from the likes of Edwards and Daschle, Pelosi and Dowd, Gore and Rather, I also realize that the Democrats’ leadership had blocked out any focus but their own narrow vision, so that corrective advice was pre-emptively rejected.

The Democrats grabbed control of Congress in 2006, in part because they continue to dominate minorities with scare tactics and demagoguery. The Democrats continue to control most of the major cities in the United States, where excessive bureaucracy and taxation are accepted without the rebellion which occurs in most of the nation. This means that the Liberal message (speaking connotatively) will continue for the forseeable future, and Democrats will continue to get elected wherever Socialism and Class Warfare are considered reasonable positions.

The Democrats have rejected any strategy which relies on common sense and a unified America. They rely on factions, hoping to prevail on the activism of select portions of the voters, while the Republicans try to apply broader, national, messages. The 2006 election resulted, in part, from the GOP trying to copy the Democrats’ tactics while ignoring voter worries and questions. The GOP failed to deliver a consistent message, and so lost control of the agenda. But this is, if history continues as it has for the past five decades, an aberration in the tide. The Democrats are rigidly controlled by their leadership, their consensus is more difficult to develop and continue; it’s one of the reasons why Democrats accomplish small victories in a long period of time, while Republicans tend to win large battles, but intermittently - since the GOP allows for dissent and debate within its ranks, Democrats can use this debate to break consensus and kill legislation. Americans have seen this, no matter how it was hidden, and taken note.

Now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made a number of regrettable statements. Not only that any decent American would regret such sentiments, but that at some point in the future I believe the Democrats will be quite sorry Harry got hold of a microphone. For now, however, the extremists in the Democratic Party have hijacked the war and are doing their worst to drive the campaign to the nearest hole. It may be plainly said that the Democrats seriously intend to bring about U.S. casualties in Iraq by encouraging terrorist resistance, in the hope that they can use the slaughter for their personal political gain. The voice from the Left has gone full course from supporting the war and the men fighting it, to spiteful hate against everyone trying to win in Iraq or finish the job begun in 2003. There is no honorable debate among Democrats anymore on this point – they have established the defeat of the United States as their primary objective. What Democrats of honor remain, such as Senator Joe Lieberman, are silenced and suppressed, made outcasts and warned not to interfere with party objectives. Scarcely in human history has a major political party hoped such vile desires against its soldiers, and schemed such traitorous plots against the nation of their birth and heritage.

The Democrats will continue to exist as a major political party for decades to come. But by their own hand, they are committing themselves to second-tier status. Americans understand and respect traditional liberal values, but they won’t tear down their moral values to advance liberal ideals. Democrats continue to misunderstand what those moral values are; values which transcend part, which the voters expect, frankly, any serious candidate to embrace, like not undermining authority in wartime, or sticking to the issues in an election and eschewing personal attacks by the candidate or his staff, or recognizing the honor in a candidate, even an opponent. It seems that when a candidate displays these qualities, Democrats regard it as a sign of weakness rather than strength, and this badly mis-judges the American sense of honor.

MLP Round 013

Game Scores:

T Roosevelt at Truman, 33-32 TR
GW Bush at McKinley, 38-37 McKinley
Ford at Kennedy, 33-32 Ford
Washington at Jackson, 37-28 Washington
GH Bush at Jefferson, 34-26 Jefferson
Lincoln at Cleveland, 33-31 Lincoln
Garfield at Monroe, 30-26 Monroe
Wilson at Polk, 32-21 Polk
Harding at Reagan, 31-28 Reagan
Fillmore at JQ Adams, 31-27 Fillmore
Taylor at A Johnson, 28-19 Taylor
Coolidge at F Roosevelt, 33-23 FDR
Clinton at J Adams, 30-25 J Adams
Nixon at Madison, 25-24 Madison
Eisenhower at Arthur, 32-26 Ike
W Harrison at Taft, 30-25 Taft
Carter at L Johnson, 22-21 LBJ
Hayes at Pierce, 25-18 Hayes
Tyler at Grant, 29-25 Tyler
Hoover at B Harrison, 25-22 Hoover
Buchanan at Van Buren, 27-23 Buchanan

1 President remains undefeated, another 5 have one loss, another 1 has one win, and 3 Presidents are winless.

Monday, April 23, 2007

MLP Round 012

** Note - BLOGGER is not allowing new posts on my site, so I am forced to create new posts by editing old posts with new dates and information. **

Game Scores:

Jefferson at Monroe, 30-28 Monroe
Taft at T Roosevelt, 33-28 TR
B Harrison at GW Bush, 36-23 Dubya
Arthur at Washington, 36-25 Washington
Truman at Reagan, 32-31 Truman
Harding at Ford, 35-23 Ford
McKinley at Wilson, 33-21 McKinley
Tyler at Lincoln, 37-26 Lincoln
Kennedy at Madison, 33-25 JFK
Polk at Coolidge, 30-22 Polk
JQ Adams at Taylor, 30-27 Taylor
Van Buren at Fillmore, 31-25 Fillmore
Cleveland at Hayes, 32-28 Cleveland
Jackson at Grant, 32-25 Jackson
F Roosevelt at Clinton, 30-23 FDR
Nixon at Carter, 26-24 Carter
J Adams at Eisenhower, 31-30 J Adams
A Johnson at W Harrison, 25-23 W Harrison
Hoover at Garfield, 29-25 Garfield
L Johnson at GH Bush, 28-22 GH Bush
Pierce at Buchanan, 20-19 Buchanan

2 Presidents remain undefeated, another 4 have one loss, another 2 have one win, and 3 Presidents are winless.

The new Rankings are as follows:

After Twelve Rounds

.1. Teddy Roosevelt (12-0) beats Van Buren, JQA, A Johnson, Taft
.2. GW Bush (12-0) beats Wilson, Garfield, Hoover, B Harrison
.3. Washington (11-1) beats Polk, FDR, J Adams, Arthur
.4. Ford (11-1) beats A Johnson, Taft, Truman, Harding
.5. McKinley (11-1) beats Eisenhower, Clinton, Coolidge, Wilson
.6. Jefferson (11-1) beats Nixon, LBJ, Nixon, loses to Monroe
.7. Lincoln (10-2) beats J Adams, Arthur, Jackson, Tyler
.8. Kennedy (10-2) beats Monroe, GH Bush, Carter, Madison
.9. Polk (9-3) beats Eisen, Clinton, Coolidge, loses to Washington
.10. Monroe (9-3) beats Nixon, LBJ, Jefferson, loses to JFK

.11. Truman (10-2) beats Carter, Madison, Reagan, loses to Ford
.12. Reagan (10-2) beats JQA, A Johnson, Taft, loses to Truman
.13. Fillmore (8-4) beats Tyler, Pierce, Van Buren, loses to Cleveland
.14. Taylor (7-5) beats Cleveland, Pierce, Van Buren, JQA
.15. Cleveland (7-5) Beats Fillmore, Buchanan, Hayes, loses to Taylor
.16. Jackson (7-5) beats Buchanan, Hayes, Grant, loses to Lincoln
.17. FDR (7-5) beats Grant, Eisenhower, Clinton, loses to Washington
.18. John Adams (8-4) beats Grant, Eisen, loses to Lincoln, Wash
.19. Nixon (7-5) beats GH Bush, loses to Jefferson, Monroe, Carter
.20. Garfield (6-6) beats LBJ, Hoover, loses to GW Bush, Jefferson

.21. Eisenhower (6-6) loses to McKinley, Polk, FDR, J Adams
.22. Taft (5-7) beats Madison, loses to Ford, Reagan, TR
.23. Harding (4-8) beats GH Bush, Carter, Madison, loses to Ford
.24. Wilson (4-8) beats Hoover, B Harr, loses to GW Bush, McKinley
.25. Carter (5-7) beats Nixon, loses to Truman, Harding, JFK
.26. W Harrison (4-8) beats Pierce, Van Buren, JQA, A Johnson
.27. Hayes (5-7) beats Arthur, Tyler, loses to Jackson, Cleveland
.28. GH Bush (5-7) beats LBJ, loses to Harding, JFK, Nixon
.29. Arthur (4-8) beats Grant, loses to Hayes, Lincoln, Washington
.30. Madison (4-8) loses to Taft, Truman, Harding, JFK

.31. Tyler (4-8) beats Buchanan, loses to Fillmore, Hayes, Lincoln
.32. Grant (4-8) loses to FDR, J Adams, Arthur, Jackson
.33. Quincy Adams (4-8) loses to Reagan, TR, W Harrison, Taylor
.34. Clinton (3-8) beats B Harrison, loses to McKinley, Polk, FDR
.35. Buchanan (2-10) beats Pierce, loses to Jackson, Tyler, Cleveland
.36. B Harrison (2-10) beats Coolidge, loses to Clinton, Wilson, W Bush
.37. Coolidge (1-11) beats Hoover, loses to B Harrison, McKinley, Polk
.38. Hoover (1-11) loses to Coolidge, Wilson, GW Bush, Garfield
.39. LBJ (2-10) loses to Garfield, Jefferson, Monroe, GH Bush
.40. Van Buren (0-12) loses to T Roosevelt, W Harr, Taylor, Fillmore
.41. Pierce (0-12) loses to W Harrison, Taylor, Fillmore, Buchanan
.42. A Johnson (0-12) loses to Ford, Reagan, TR, W Harrison

Sunday, April 22, 2007

On Death

Yesterday, I went to the funeral of my old church choir director, the sort of man who achieved greatness the old-fashioned way; he changed the lives of countless people around him by helping them find character strengths and skills they did not know they possessed, and he helped them grow from uncertain youth to a more confident adulthood. Today also happens to be the one-year anniversary of the death of my father. Also, in the past year I have been diagnosed with Cancer, been to several other funerals, and had some unpleasantly direct experience with how the present media culture treats the families of violent crime, so I am a bit more aware of death in my thoughts and ponderings than normal.

We live, we die. These are immutable facts in the human condition. I could make some profound religious or philosophical observation on what happens after we die, I suppose, but it would likely not be original, even if it was worth the effort. And it would be poor, cold comfort to the people left behind to mourn the loss. It’s nice to be told that our loved ones are happy and doing well on the other side of the grave, and we might even take some comfort in the hope that we can believe in something more after the death of the body, but in the present we all have to face that death is right here, everywhere all the time. Dying means pain, the grotesque internment of the body as garbage, and the undesired change in reality for everyone connected to the deceased. C.S. Lewis, the Oxford Don and famous as a great apologist for Christianity in the modern age, wrote about the pain he endured when his wife Joy died from Cancer. It was, he felt, grossly unfair and painful to everyone, and it also seemed that everything someone said to him showed how little they understood the situation. If so great an optimist as Lewis felt this way during the passing of his wife, we should not be surprised that anyone else would feel the same suffering.

Yet for all of that, I cannot accept the notion that death should be the focus of a person’s life. We are born and we must die, yes, but all that happens in between those events is of tremendous importance. Indeed, all of History comes down to men and women choosing ways to use their opportunities to act in ways that change Reality. Even when they sometimes had to die to do so. And many times, the people who changed the world the most, were far more than they seemed on the outside.

It’s no great wisdom to say it, but I think it’s a good idea to repeat the fact that living matters more than dying. Anyone can die, and we all get there eventually. Living, and living to a good end, is much much harder and significant. People mourn a person’s death, specifically because the way they lived mattered.