The Arc of Humanity Bends Toward Justice

History was made today.  While yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act was significant, it pales in comparison to the 5-4 decision the highest court in the land brought down today:  Under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, bans on same-sex marriage are illegal.  Huge.  Finally.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since 2004 so it can come as a shock to residents of this great state that so many others have continued to be denied the ability to love freely.  As President Obama just said as I type this, “sometimes progress is incremental, other times it arrives as a thunderbolt.” [Shorthand edits are mine].  We need more thunderbolts.  We need to right more wrongs.

I am proud to be a part of the generation that looks to be moving toward justice faster than any other in history.  Let’s continue to move forward.  To push toward justice.  To bend that arc.

 

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Leadership and Hillary Clinton’s Email Address

A few days ago I gave my prediction for the 2016 Presidential election noting that I had 85% confidence in my choice.  I did that because Hillary Clinton’s own worst enemy is, well, the face looking back at her in the mirror.  Who else could accumulate such power and prestige, but never get to the top of the proverbial mountain?  The US is more than ready for a women President and under slightly different circumstances, she would have coasted right into the office.

Hillary’s problem is one that a lot of leaders face, she doesn’t appear to surround herself with the most talented people available.  The ones that are there, she doesn’t seem to listen to.  This is a huge problem in the corporate world where the leaders of organizations desire that “total control” aspect of power and proceed to appoint those “yes men” that will act as servants.  That may work in a company of 10 people, but a multi-national corporation or the State Department.  No go.

Again, Hillary’s problem is herself.  Whatever you think of Bengahzi, she did not handle that situation well and it blew up in President Obama’s face.  Nothing like making your own boss look incompetent!  With this email situation, it is every bit the same.  She has acted in a “do as I say” capacity where the rules are defined by her, just not followed by her.  Don’t believe that to be accurate?  Hillary fired the US Ambassador to Kenya, Scott Gration, for several managerial missteps, but most notably using his own personal email.

It goes further – and this may be the smoking gun for Hillary – in that she issued a memo in 2011 that employees could not use their personal email addresses for State Department business.  Why on Earth would you send that memo and then proceed to use your personal email for State Department business?  It is like all the “anti-gay” protesters who are later discovered in the 7-11 bathroom learning about a whole new brand of religion.  It is the “do as I say” culture through and through.

At the end of the day, the thing that bothers me the most is that there appears to be no one in her circle that had the testicular fortitude to say to Hillary “hey, this is a really bad idea.”  It would have been impossible for people to not notice either given that her email address was “funkychik69@theclintonfoundation.org.” Okay, you caught me, this is definitely a fabrication.

Joking aside, the questions we will need to ask ourselves are the following:

  1. Is this a leader we can trust to respect the rule of law?
  2. Is Hillary going to put the best people around her?
  3. Is Hillary going to consider her inner circle’s advice in times of crisis?

Those are just the high-level questions that we need to be asking.  I’m not sure that she will be allowed to run at the end of the day – how horrible would that be for the Democrats.  And, really, should she be allowed to run?  If I decided to use a personal email address at PwC, I would be fired.  Not only because it doesn’t make sense, but because it violates the Data Retention Policies, the Independence Policies, and the Corporate Governance Policies that the organization has set up.

Lastly, I realize that Hillary has decided that she wants her emails to be “public,” which is such a frustratingly smug gesture.  She is attempting to manage this issue from in front, but the only message it sends is one of “I am better than you so I will allow you to see my emails to shut you up.”  I said that Hilary Clinton would be the next President of the United States, I think that is still accurate assuming future legal issues do not prevent her from running.  Time will tell.

 

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Election 2016

I know, I know…it is definitely too soon to start talking about the next Presidential election.  Believe me, there is no one who would rather have the next election not feel like the most critical decision we have ever had to make than me.  Yet, here I am.

If you have started to pay attention to the field of candidates then you know we basically already have our next President.  My prediction (with 85% confidence) is: Hilary Clinton.  Score 1 for the political establishment!  Right?  Nothing says “progress” like Clinton vs Bush for 2016.   For those of you that are just tuning in, let me get you up to speed:

1. The Koch brothers have decided to spend $900m on this next election to get someone from the Republican party elected.  They will absolutely destroy Hilary in the media for all the skeletons in her closet, but at the end of the day, the only guy really worth paying attention to on the right side of the aisle has the last name ‘Bush’ and I don’t think $900m is enough money to convince people that he is different.

Although, “Third time’s the charm” is already a catchy saying…

2. Hilary isn’t getting to the promise land without taking a few punches from the blue corner either.  Bernie Sanders has no shot of actually winning the nomination, but he will force dialog on a number of issues.  The Democrats should have some interesting debates about topics worth debating which is good for the country.

3. The Republicans, unfortunately for all of us, are going to be debating a number of fantasy topics and generally horrifying the rest of the world with their “beliefs.”  For some moronic reason, page 1 of the GOP playbook features the line “Totally only care about Evangelical Christian voters – we know they would never vote for Hilary – just trust us.”  That means the center-right Republican candidate we actually may need in this country is going to be staying home.

4. Foreign Policy, the Affordable Care Act and Taxes will dominate the national debates.  Not that there is anything wrong with debating these topics, but our country really needs: education and infrastructure spending, not war spending.  John Oliver can get you up to speed on infrastructure if you are looking for a good laugh while being educated about America’s “kick the can down the road” mentality.

I will be talking about all five of these topics in more depth in the coming months.

5. All this focus on the President only distracts us from the elections that really matter: Congress.  Congress has record lows for approval ratings yet very little turnover.  We really need moderate, level-headed representatives in power and not the current crop of humanoids that claim to represent us.  Keep these guys on your radar.

***

This post will be the first in a series of election thinking points that I do.  I wanted to set the table so that we all know what to expect over the next 18 months.  Election 2016 is going to be insufferable, but please pay attention to it.  We need informed voters that are not acting on emotional cues.  Educate yourself on the issues and hold your elected officials accountable.

 

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Citizens Bank is Failing at Marketing

Nothing screams “disregard our marketing” like an asterisk or a superscript.  Case in point: the Citizen Bank website, right on their homepage.  I had never really noticed this “ad” before, but below the login widget you have this:

Citizens Bank App Ad

Award-winning?  Awesome!  #1?  Awesome!!  Wait…what’s that superscript “1″ for?  That couldn’t possibly mean there was more to the story than meets the eye, right?

Well naturally that’s exactly what it means and when you move all the way to the bottom of the page there is a blurred-out “note” elaborating on this #1 app claim.

Citizens Bank Disclaimer

 

A) That is really difficult to read and given that it is at the very bottom of the page it is likely that no one is going to see it.

B) 12/2013?  With the pace of change in the technology world, this is like saying the following:

The Denver Broncos are the best team in the NFL¹

With the following qualifier:

“¹ Based on the 1998 Super Bowl results”

It just doesn’t make sense to do this.  You are shooting yourself in the foot right out of the gate!  Maybe they should look at the customer reviews and use the app store rating instead.  That would give potential users of the app some great insight into the experiences other banking customers would have.

Well, that’s may be a great theory, but when the most recent review is:

Newest update seems to have broken the app.  Let’s me log in, then nothing happens at all.  No data loads. – 13pj13

Maybe it isn’t actually a great idea.  The original approach is far easier -> rely on an outdated report by a company that no average banking customer has heard of using a secret rating methodology that promotes the business in a way that may not mirror reality.

Business is sweet.

 

 

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Revisiting the 10 Things I thought for 2014

Last year I posted about the 10 things I thought for 2014.  Some of them were reflections while others were observations on where we were going as a society.  I personally like writing, reflecting, and thinking about past thoughts as a way to learn about the future as it moves to the present and then into the past.  2014 was a wild, joyful year for me on a personal level, but we still see a lot of hatred and “arguing for the sake of arguing” in our country.

So let us reflect:

1. Federal Educational Policy – My thought is that we shouldn’t be looking at education in this country from the top down (or in a centralized, Federal manner).  We should instead focus on empowering the State and Local governments to come up with solutions that meet the needs of their constituents.  I still very much believe this is the right approach.  However, 2014 didn’t bring much debate on education at any level.  Bill Nye did debate Ken Ham on creationism vs evolution which was entertaining to watch, but also disturbing that Mr. Ham’s followers consider his performance anything short of a failure on a factual level.  You can also watch Bill Nye’s reaction, if you are so inclined.

2. Food – Always an interesting topic.  I did a lot of reading about food this year and my habits have certainly evolved.  The best book I read on the topic was American Catch by Paul Greenberg - one which I highly recommend if you are interested in eating seafood or the American Seafood industry.  I am still firmly in the camp “we need to eat better as a society” and will continue to be for 2015.

3. Alex Rodriguez – Nothing really needs to be said here.  The guy is planning on being back for the 2015 season and that is a black spot for the MLB.  The NY/NJ media should be fun to watch if today’s article is any indication.

4. The Economy is ImprovingDid it ever!  The economy is growing faster than we expected that it would at this point.  How will it do in 2015?  That all depends on where you believe the fall in oil came from: over supply and an industry that wants to move product or falling demand.  I am trending toward oversupply.  The high price of oil drove a significant  amount of investment which is now flooding the markets, OPEC is trying to throw their weight around to starve out US producers and green energy projects.  I think our 70%+ consumption economy is going to continue to improve.

5. Public Relations – No change here.  There are still too many companies taking the easy way out when it comes to their issues.  Lack of Accountability is a huge issue in our society and underpins a number of other issues.

6. Always Being Offended – Social Justice Warriors (“SJWs”) have essentially made up 5,000 new descriptive words over the past year to describe every sort of ailment, condition, and characteristic possible.  Everyone is offended by everything these days.  One that comes to mind is the Shy Bladder Group which got upset at Rob Lowe’s DirectTV ad.  Really?  The Shy Bladder Group? I don’t think DirectTV or Rob Lowe were concerned about the 6 members of that group when they made the commercial.

7. The Top 40 Countdown – I think this could be an undiscovered contributor to both ADHD and the collapse of the music industry.  How people can listen to these stations, the terrible production quality, or the repetitive nature of the “songs” is beyond my comprehension.  I am a big radio guy too, can’t get enough of a good radio station.

8. Under 30s Should Have a RothIRA – I have mine and I love the tax advantages of it.  Post-tax money that grows tax free (on the investments).  Open one, get a good index fund or a no load, low expense mutual fund and watch your retirement grow if you are concerned about picking individual stocks.  Yes you should do this in addition to your 401k plan.

9. Focus – I’ve been going back and forth on this point because of the nature of the world.  I like disconnecting and focusing on one project at a time, but everyone else is so scattered it makes it really difficult/annoying.  I am going to keep trying, but this may be a losing battle as I can’t control my friends, family, clients, bosses, or colleagues.

10. Keep Reading – I read a significant amount this past year and I am better for it.  I am slowly populating my reading list with what I am taking off the shelf and I hope that you check it out.

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M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy) is awesome

Light pollution and gases in the atmosphere steal our ability to see some pretty amazing stuff with the naked eye.  No example is more impressive than the Andromeda Galaxy (Coded: M31).  This galaxy is considered the sister galaxy to the Milky Way (our Galaxy) because it is the closest spiral galaxy to us (at a mere 2.5 million light years).

If you look at this picture, taken by Ted Van in August 2012, you can see a smudge/large object pretty clearly.  To take this picture, Ted escaped the light pollution of his city by going into the rural woods and used a long exposure setting on his camera.  The result is impressively gorgeous.

Using better equipment and processing software, this is what the galaxy would look like if our eyes were able to take in the light this galaxy gives off with the right amount of resolution. Jaw dropping, isn’t it?

 

Makes you wish we could.

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Procedural Error? $300m Fine. Kill People and Lie? $35m Fine.

Maybe it is just me, but I think the glaring issue between the fine Hyundai Motors got for a procedural issue in calculating MPG (a cool $300 million) and the fine that General Motors received for failing to recall cars that killed people (only $35 million) lay in where each company is from.

Hyundai is a Korean company and General Motors is a US company as well as a darling of the US Government.  It is a sad day when politics and connections trump justice.  I know that the Clean Air Act allows for large punitive damages, but spare me the procedural bullshit, if the US Government wanted justice to prevail, they could have gone after GM with the same force that is typically reserved for users of Napster or the Pirate Bay or, if you’re into it, educational materials.

Cronyism at its finest.  It’s too bad Eric Holder decided to resign as the AG, he was so freaking effective I am not sure how this country will move forward.

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Great Laugh For the Morning

See More on http://xkcd.com/154/

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If you could get rid of one aspect of your job, what would it be and how would you do it?

Putting this question out to the team gets people thinking, almost instantly.  Capture some of the initial ideas, but also ask your team members to thinking about different pain points that they experience on a regular basis and have them bring those issues to the next meeting.  I recommend this because everyone reacts differently and you don’t just want the loud, jump-before-you-say-go types getting all the airtime (as much as people like me, who demonstrate those traits, would prefer it!) so give your more analytically minded team members some time to think.

Once the population and scope of issues is designed, start working through some of the proposed solutions.  Obviously time and money are going to be roadblocks for some issues, but maybe there are other solutions that can be implemented in a more expedited fashion.  The key exercise here is to get your people thinking about being more efficient and more effective with their job responsibilities.  Everything should be on the table when it comes to reducing the low-value activities that your team has to work on.

Important Note:  Formalize these ideas on a tracker and set some deadlines around the creation and implementation of the solutions.  Review these regularly as a manager and in every team meeting.  Hold people accountable and drive results.  Getting these ideas going are great, but if “theory” doesn’t transform into “action,” you won’t make any progress.

With these job improvement projects in flight, look for opportunities to track and reward positive impact.  Always remember that there are two main goals when going through an exercise like this, create long-term capacity without increasing expenses and move individual roles toward higher impact outputs (an away from low-value, mundane responsibilities).

Your team members will benefit from these improvements and look at you, their manager, as the reason their individual job got better.  That is a significant win-win for all parties.

I would love to credit this photo, but it seems everyone is using it without sourcing.  Please let me know @drewthall if you are the owner.

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Ebola and our Hospitals

With the announcement that a second healthcare worker has been diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas and that this same individual was on a flight from Cleveland to Dallas the day before she showed symptoms, I think it is an appropriate time to call for some changes to the way our healthcare system works.  Some simple, common sense would go a long way toward fixes the ills that have begotten this world class institution.

First, healthcare workers need to stop wearing their scrubs on public transportation.  I am not going to go as far as declaring this the stupidest thing I have ever seen, but it is an easy top five in my book.  On what planet does it make sense to subject yourself to the cesspool of disease that is public transportation right before you enter a sterile environment.  I mean, its not like using non-sterile equipment or wearing non-sterile clothing could cause any infections….or it could definitely cause hundreds of thousands of infections a year killing tens of thousands of people.

Second, if a patient has been to West Africa or knows someone from West Africa or can even broadly identify West African countries on a map.  ASSUME they have been exposed to the Ebola virus and take the conservative treatment route.  This disease causes all sorts of horrible things to happen to you, I’m pretty sure no one is going to be angry if you take extra precautions.  I mean shit, we don’t let gay people give blood still, but we are not worried about people who may have a disease that is killing 50-80% of its victims in weeks?

Third, hospitals, why are you not driving awareness?  Why is it even remotely possible that a story can come out claiming 85% of nurses do not feel prepared to deal with Ebola.  We have had months to prepare for this!  Being unprepared is no longer an excuse.  There were only three deaths at the Boston Marathon bombing, in part, because there was a network of doctors prepared to deal with injuries.  Obviously they were not expecting terrorism, but it still worked out really well for a lot of the victims.  Imagine if there weren’t tents of doctors and hospitals close by.  How many more would have perished?

Being prepared and using common sense works.  At this stage, we should be calling for the heads of any Hospital leaders that don’t act.  Sadly, it is us, the everyday citizens that need to do something here.  If the VA is any indication, our government will be unable to hold those who should be ready to help us accountable for their inaction.

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