A Governor For All Seasons

A Governor For All Seasons

I have read books on leadership, have participated in a mentor/leadership class, and have been interested in the evolving nature of leadership.

In my own opinion, what we view as leadership today need to be revamped. A large number of elected officials and those who aspire to run for public office have become obsessed with being a “celebrity” first, public servant second, or third, or fourth, depending on what they feel is a bigger priority.

These days, leadership is not about analyzing and understanding all angles of an issue or topic.  It’s all about who shouts the loudest, and gets the biggest attention. Regardless of political affiliation, there are some good leaders and there are some bad leaders, and there are a certain group of leaders that will make anyone stop and go “That is one hell of a leader.”

Ray2
Robert D. Ray served as Iowa’s popular governor from 1969 through 1983.

Robert D. Ray was one of those individuals in the latter group.  A last of the breed of leaders who didn’t let politics, ego, agenda, or personal preferences get in the way of serving the public and evolving with the times.  Ray, who passed away on Sunday at age 89, served as Iowa’s 38th governor from 1969 to 1983.

One book I’ve read currently was “Leading Quietly” by Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. Leading quietly in a noisy world is a tough job. Bob Ray was a quiet leader and an introvert that (surprise!) “did his job”  without pretense.  Ray listened, looked at  situations from all angles, and then brought in key players to come up with a decision or resolution. Ray was successful because he surrounded himself with a staff and individuals who were well-versed in areas that Ray struggled in.

How many lawmakers do you know would have a weekly meeting with the opposing party?  Ray, as a Republican, did that with the Democrats during his 14 years as governor.

I have yet to hear any Democrats or Republicans doing that today.

How many leaders would say “That’s a good idea” to something that is opposite of what her or his political base believed in?  Ray did that. No one else on both sides of the aisle have been willing to do that, no thanks to our obsession to partisanship.

The point I’m making is this: you have to reach out, even to those who may disagree with you. You may never know if someone thinks that your idea is a good idea. Most people today have way too much ego and pride not to swallow it when they agree with something that is not well received within your own base or “tribe”. We are too scared to speak up, for fear of being ostracized by the groups, parties, or bases that support us.

Governor Ray had little time to bunker up and hunker down with stalling on legislation and playing games. He had a job to do: run the daily operations of the state and provide the best service to the citizens through transparency and accountability.

His first term was rocky. Many felt that he was a genial man, but not a strong leader. As time move forward, Ray gained more confidence as governor.

Beyond opening the doors for the Tai Dam community to come to Iowa after the end of the Vietnam War, the bottle bill, and how he handled and allowed the Wadena rock festival to take place in 1970, did you know about the various changes and creations that was done under Governor Ray’s tenure? (courtesy of KCCI-TV)

  • Reformed Iowa’s tax code.
  • Changed the way K-12 education was paid for, having the state pick up a larger portion of the tab.- Made food and prescriptions nontaxable.
  • Created the Iowa Department of Transportation, which became a model for other states.
  • Created the first Energy Policy Council in response to the energy crisis of the 1970s.
  • Gave rise to the Commission of the Status of Women.-
  • Created the Iowa Ombudsman’s Office, where people could turn to if they had problems with state government.
  • Helped form Iowa Public Television.
  • Helped form the Iowa community college system by expanding on the accomplishments of his predecessors.
  • In 1972, he grounded 95 planes and 1,625 vehicles assigned to the Iowa Air and Army National guards until the federal government paid for the damages sustained after two military plane crashed and destroyed the homes of two Iowa farmers.
  • Was approached several times to be either a Vice President or a Cabinet member. He turned those opportunities down. He was a low-key guy, who never wanted the limelight.

Ray’s approach was simple.

Ray once said that his approach to governing was simple: leave politics out of the decision-making process.

“I used to tell the staff, whenever we would talk about something like that, that you don’t start talking about politics at all,” Ray told The Associated Press during an interview in November 2011. “Let’s just decide what the right thing to do is, and then we’ll decide how to promote it.” 

Excerpt from Politico, July 8, 2018

Most millennials and Gen Xers would do a double take and say “There’s no way in hell a Republican would do all of this?” Bob Ray did. You know why?  Ray understood that Iowa had to evolve and get up to speed with the modern era.

HaroldHughes
Harold Hughes served as Governor and U.S. Senator. A recovering alcoholic, he left politics to go into religion and helping those who were recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. 

His predecessor, Harold Hughes, had the same view as well about pulling Iowa forward into the modern age. Hughes, a Democrat, and Ray, a Republican, ushered in a new era for Iowa for which it has been unmatched to this very day.  Hughes was instrumental in one of the most controversial topics in Iowa at that time: the “liquor by the drink” battle.

Ray would have not been elected governor in 1968, had he not survived a plane crash near Mason City while campaigning during the primaries. At that time, Ray was in third place in the primary. His campaign received a huge boost when Des Moines radio deejay Frosty Mitchell joined the campaign and singer Marilyn Maye, a Des Moines native, changed a few lyrics to the song “Step to the Rear” and it became “Let the Leader Lead the Way” a staple of the Ray campaigns.

As he served as governor, Ray reorganized several departments, created the Iowa Department of Transportation, and was accessible to everyone: lawmakers, media, citizens, visitors. During his final week as governor, the media threw a party for him in the press conference room. The media lauded and criticized him during his tenure, but he showed no hostility towards them. They had a job to do, much like he did.

During his fifth term, Ray knew the landscape was changing. The economy was down, the farm crisis was looming, and making painful budget cuts were among other things he had to deal with.  There were strong speculation that Ray would seek a sixth term in 1982. A “Ray watch” percolated, to which the Des Moines Register was convinced in December 1981 that Ray will run again.

Ray, Robert D.
Governor Bob Ray (left) announcing his intention not to seek a sixth term as governor at a press conference in Des Moines. Listening to the governor are from left: his wife Billie, and daughters Vicki and LuAnn. February 18, 1982.

Four days after Valentine’s Day, February 18, 1982, Governor Ray dropped a bombshell during his weekly press conference.  Flanked by his wife Billie and their daughters, Ray calmly said he will not run for a sixth term.

That sent the political world into a tizzy. State and national GOP leaders pleaded with him to run again. Democrats were floored. Everyone assumed that Ray would run again.

Except for Bob and Billie.  They knew it was time to move on. It was time. He never got the chance to know his neighbors, his time was consumed by the job, and he wanted to start a new career.

“In many respects the governor’s job is a lonely job. Most of the time you’re with people, you’re at events, you have a schedule that’s full, and people wonder why anyone could be that lonely. But it does get lonely. You don’t spend time with good friends, you don’t go out for dinner, you don’t go to movies, you don’t do the things that you would do normally in life, cultivate friends.”

-Bob Ray, from “Governor: An Oral Biography of Robert D. Ray” by Jon Bowermaster

After leaving office in January 1983, Ray left to become President and CEO of Life Investors (now AGEON USA). The Rays moved back to Des Moines where he assumed a similar position with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa (now Wellmark). He served in other positions in Des Moines, notably completing the term as Mayor of Des Moines after the death of Arthur Blank, interim President of Drake University his alma mater, and served of many boards.

Bob Ray owned or co-owned several radio stations. One of them included WMT-AM in Cedar Rapids, one of the legendary stations in Iowa. Mitchell got Ray, who was then a trial lawyer in Des Moines, to be his color analyst for Iowa football games on radio for several years in the 50’s and 60’s.

Ray5
Governor Ray on the phone in 1979. (Des Moines Register)

He picked up photography and publish a book. There are two books, one about his career, and his efforts to bring the Vietnamese community to Iowa, where other states, Democrats and Republicans, were hesitant to do it. Sometimes, when you are a person with thoughtful convictions, you are mostly alone in that journey.

He preferred McDonald’s to a fancy upscale restaurant. I would stop at the Grand Avenue McDonald’s for breakfast various times. His wife Billie and him would sit by themselves, or have their kids and grandchildren with them.  Occasionally, someone would stop by and say hello to the Rays.

Running for public office and being elected to serve is a lonely job as Ray noted. There are a few people I know who aspire to run for public office. It may be exciting, but it does come at a cost. You’re so busy with committee meetings, debates, passing bills, running a department, and on and on. You are expected to be in the limelight, answering tough questions, answering to constituents and fellow lawmakers.

You don’t have a life to go home to. You lose touch with friends, neighbors move and new ones move in. Personally, that is what keeps me from politics.  The constant grind, the shouting, the egos, the lack of sensibility these days. I’m not wired for a political life. Similar to Ray, I am a quiet person who prefers to process information, analyze it, and bring stakeholders together to find a solution.

Some will say that politics is not for quiet leaders.  Bob Ray proved that to be false, but in the long run, you have to know when it is time to walk away and reclaim your life. Politics can chew you up and spit you out. Anyone can love politics…but politics does not love anyone back. 

Ray3
Bob Ray, at his inauguration in 1969. 

The usual crying call of “we need leaders like (fill in the name) again” quickly filled the airspace after Ray’s death. Sadly, those calls will go away until Election Day, come right back up, and then go away again.

Truth to be told, there will never be another Harold Hughes or a Bob Ray to grace our presence again.

Ever.

Their leadership and humility doesn’t fit into the puzzle of today’s fractious world. The recent news of public officials calling citizens to harass other public officials, constant backlash via social media, and the public discontent leads to a probable conclusion:  maybe it isn’t really the politicians that have caused most of this mess.

Maybe it’s us, citizens, who need to do a smarter job of electing better candidates who are willing to serve…and not be mesmerized by wannabe political celebrities trying to climb up the career ladder.  We, the citizens, have become more partisan and dismissive of different views. We prefer to cast off those who may slightly disagree with us than ask “how do you see this issue?” and understand their views.

The view of the citizens are reflected in the views of the elected officials we put into office. George Carlin bluntly put it this way about the public and how we behave with regards to politics in this clip.

I will offer one advice for aspiring leaders, whether in business, politics, or where ever you are at:  “The toes you step on while climbing the corporate or political ladder may be attached to the ass you’ll have to kiss on the way down.”

Be humble, be respectful, don’t talk and listen, understand the topics from all sides, and have key people around you to make decisions.  And, don’t burn your bridges. You may them before they need you. That is what a leader does.

Ray4

It was once said that people didn’t ask “who is the Governor of this state?” They would ask “Who is the ‘GovernorRay’ of this state?”

That said a lot about Governor Ray to a generation of Iowans.

In conclusion, the legacy and the life of Bob Ray is multi-fold and vast. It wasn’t always sunshine and flowers as we are prone to paint the narrative.  There was struggles and achievements, situations that were sticky, unpopular decisions, and butting heads with lawmakers and department heads.

Robert D. Ray was a quiet leader who navigated and guided Iowa through an important chapter in the state’s history. An individual who was revered and admired for his leadership, civility, and humility. A governor who wanted his citizens to be proud to be from Iowa, not be embarrassed about being from a place where agriculture and large urban areas can exist.

A decent man who was open to everyone and everything that interested him.

A Governor For All Seasons.

Advertisements

In Need Of…Anger Management

On Wednesday, I pulled up an entry I wrote in December 2012 about America’s mental fascination with guns and violence.

We haven’t a learned a thing about it. When I looked at the stats, a total of 31 people clicked on the blog to read the post.

Thirty-one. Five years since it was written.

Nevertheless, I’ll link this entry again, this time with some added observations below.

It has become unnerving to read the many narratives, the dismissal of narratives, and the over-emotional shaming that people have resorted to on social media about the latest incident in Florida. The listed reasons are plenty.

“It’s a parenting problem.”

“It’s mental illness”

“Gun control”

“Angry white male”

“The boys are not all right (this from the NYT op/ed piece)

I got news for all of you…it’s not one specific thing.

It’s everything.

Parenting, gun control, isolation, disconnection, bullying, labeling, and on and on.

All of the vitriol is a perfect storm. How we behave, think, and view others and the world around us is predicated on how we react.

We are a bunch of angry people, plain and simple. 

The common denominator to all of this is anger.

When I sift through all of the factors, it isn’t too hard to see.

Being angry about anything that sets us off.

Anger didn’t occur when the gunmen were able to get access to guns. It started in the classroom, in the home, the office, where ever.

It started with the kids. There are kids who are bullied, picked on, slighted, and ignored, because they are different

Adults, on a daily basis bully, harass, and demean other adults. At work, in the store, and on the streets. In the bar, at a concert, and in front of the kids. Kids pick up the traits of their parents. If a parent was a bully in school, it’s likely their children will be one. If a parent was picked on at school, their children is likely to emulate their parents, or become bully themselves.

It’s about control and a self-sense of power.

When adults and kids are made fun of, bullied, and rejected, the resentment grows to where there are two ways to resolve it: internalize it, drive themselves out of control, and give up…

…or lash out as a means of revenge. “I’ll show them. No one will laugh/harass/talk about me like that anymore.” The seeds of violence were already planted before the irreversible decision to walk into a hallway and open fire.

MSDFADO EC007
Michael Douglas, as William Foster, in “Falling Down” (1992). (Cineplex)

Anyone remember the movie “Falling Down” starring Michael Douglas? Douglas played William Foster, an unemployed defense worker, on his way to visit to his daughter’s birthday party at his ex-wife’s house. He encounters a series of events, trivial or provocative, that sets him off and he goes on a shooting spree. This is where the “white male anger” narrative got tossed around for the first time.

The “angry white male” narrative, though prevalent, has given way to people of all walks of life feeling like William Foster. The real narrative is that we are angry. Whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, lesbians, straight, man, woman, and child.

Everyone is angry as hell about everything.

Angry about a breakup, being fired, being laughed at, losing a game, facing discrimination. Angry over an election didn’t go their way, a tweet, an opinion…

Everyone’s pissed off about something.

Most of us don’t know how to handle our anger. Some of are not violent, but we go on social media to attack people as a way to unload our anger. The scary part, as sports talk show host Steve Czaban pointed out (48:10 mark), it’s smart educated people with good jobs and lives who turn into monsters behind a keyboard, going apeshit about anything that sets them off daily, small or big.

The “dark side” of social media is an expose of people who feel that they are losing control of the world around them and feel the need to say whatever they want, without filters. They forget that there are consequences with words and actions. It doesn’t matter if they are white or black.

These are the people who have lost all sense of reality. Demeaning those who are not as smart as they are (anti-intellectualism), labeling others for having opinions that are not aligned with theirs, and shaming people for small or egregious mistakes.

This stood out to me in that blog: “We can pass tougher laws, but making it harder to prevent the wrong people from having them isn’t going to stop them.” We can’t stop all wars, robberies, and murders , and we can’t stop all violence, unless we don’t look at how mentally screwed up we are in our actions and behavior.

The above tweet was at the heart of my counseling session this week. I overheard my therapist and the office manager talking about the past week’s events. I felt comfortable enough to tell my therapist my thoughts about all of this. I’ll get to this tweet later on.

Thank goodness I’m not telling this to an irrational emotional angry person who will fly off the handle without giving it an opinion a considerable thought.

In reviewing that 2012 blog, I brought up something that should be of concern: our mental fascination on using guns as a way to resolve our problems. Breakup with your girlfriend? Hunt her down with a gun. Lose your job? Shoot up the workplace. Get bullied and treated like a misfit? Gun down the jocks and the homecoming queen. Someone spill a drink on you at the bar? Walk out to you car, and come back “packing heat.”

How can we be a nation that want gun control, and yet when we go to the movies or watch television, we celebrate and glorify the bad guy who gets shot up or a machine gun takes out a fighter jet? Our need to have a weapon in our hands gives our ego and confidence a boost. 

Which leads me to repost a important scene from the comedy movie “Friday”. Craig (Ice Cube) tells his dad (John Witherspoon) that he is carrying a gun to protect his pal Smokey from being roughed up.  Craig’s dad shakes his head, and tells his son that there is another way to protect himself and to resolve a conflict.

We’re so quick to pick up a gun to resolve problems in this society. When was the last time you witnessed two people squaring up to settle something…with their hands?  “You win some and you lose some, but you live to see another day.”

The tweet above is very important to me. I have battled mental illness for a better part of 25 years. While I do think that there are individuals with mental illness who are likely to commit violent acts, there is a difference between “mental illness” and “mental health.” Mental illness is a condition that a person has that affects them. Mental health, in general, is how we mentally view things and act upon those feelings and actions.

America has a mental health problem with gun violence, and violence in general. We see it as the ONLY way to end a dispute, get revenge, and feel good about it.

All because we are angry about everything. People makes us angry, issues makes us angry, that damn remote control that doesn’t work propels us to hurl that against a wall.

A former colleague posted on Facebook that that he’s tired of being told to “calm” down about the latest school shootings. It took a lot of restraint from me not to reply back. Only because I do not want anyone to tell me that I need to show “anger” about something I can not control. I understand his anguish, but that is not how I deal with a sensitive topic like this one. I need time to process the information, look at it in a calm manner, and then offer a thought.

In which I did by typing this entry. Flesh out what I know to this point, read and understand it, and write my observations.

I don’t know everything. Neither do you.

I am in counseling because I have internalized being slighted, discriminated, and being verbally abused for most of my life. When I was younger, I was prone to losing my temper. Later on in my life, I kept all of that miserable crap to myself. I had no outlet to unload my anger.

I was too afraid that my anger could do harm to myself and others.

I had to find help. I made a choice, as an adult, to get help. Kids are not that lucky.

By hearing the stories my niece tells me about junior high today, I understand why students in today’s schools are stressed, disillusioned, and angry. Many resort to going online to find a community that accepts them for who they are when those in real life (IRL) rejects them. Then when those online starts to reject them, they are faced with “fight or flight”. Some will take their own lives (flight) to end the bullying. Other commit acts of violence against others (fight) to stop it.

The adults experienced those feelings as well. Who uses Facebook or Twitter more?  Adults. Who gets upset more easily? Adults? Who refuses to get help?  Yeah…you got it.

There is no middle ground.

That’s where we need to start at, whether anyone wants to or not.

The middle ground when it comes to understanding how to handle our anger and stop taking it out on others and on ourselves in a destructive manner.

Which is far too often these days.

 

Nobody Won. Stop Acting Like We’ve Won.

I have watched, from afar, the outrage over sexual harassment in America.

And, par for the course, the real message got lost in the silliness.

I have a few things to say and I’ll go back to reading a book about baseball.

First of all, the people who are celebrating Roy Moore’s defeat in Alabama need to remember something….nobody won. Doug Jones may have been elected senator, but there were no winners.

Why?

Because Americans have refused to seriously have a conversation about how we view sexual harassment. Trying to politicize and rationalize sexual harassment is the biggest bunch of bullshit going right now…along with race and gender. No one wants to talk about it….only to use shame and outrage as an easy way to make a statement.

And no, Americans did not do the right thing. Americans did not vote in the Alabama senate race. The people of Alabama did. Take your pontificating heads out of your asses, America.

Sanity did not win, as many on my Facebook were posting.

We still lost.

Republicans and Democrats, and the people who fall on either side have chosen to ignore what is the real issue: how do we address sexual harassment and improper behavior.

We didn’t win shit, folks.

We still lost.

Much ado about a pithy ass election to point fingers. Start pointing the fingers at yourselves, along with me.

The “Creative Class” Ideology Going Backwards

The “Creative Class” Ideology Going Backwards

Last week, there was an editorial that should have had more attention and discussion about race and socioeconomics than marches and statues.

That puts me in the minority, pardon the pun, to rehash this topic again.

The Des Moines Register published an editorial on Sunday, August 13th about the racial gaps that African-Americans continued to face in Des Moines.

This might be a dumb question…did they come up with this conclusion on their own, or did they read this and this, and figured out that a no-name hack (me) knew what the hell he was talking about?

Coincidence? I’ll you figure that out on your own.

I asked this in October 2014, and I will ask this again: why is Des Moines is so “progressive” and “diverse”, and yet continue to ignore the “urban core” of their city?

For a city like Des Moines who will organize a protest to stand down against hate, misogyny, and racism, it feels like the people (progressives) who say they are against “hate” are the same ones who must hate the idea of poor individuals living next door to them and would prefer to have those people shepherded off to a different part of town so that their pristine condos and brick house neighborhoods look attractive to new visitors.

In some circles, the “urban core” is code for “black neighborhoods”, “ghettos”, and run down areas that are ripe for enterprise zones and gentrification. The term gentrification today doesn’t strike fear in Millennials and upwardly mobile individuals. There is little to no objections to “white-washing” former blighted areas with high-priced housing, but plenty of demands to jettison statues for symbolic gestures.

The economic disparities and policies that are affecting the minority populations and the so-called “urban core” is real, not propaganda.

American urban studies theorist Richard Florida recently realized that his “creative class” ideology did not pan out the way he anticipated. The “creative class” he envisioned is homogeneous, upper class, and financially well-off (in layman’s terms…white). It was quite obvious, to this writer, that there is a sentiment that most minorities (African-Americans in particular) are not considered as “creative” and not many are part of the “creative class” that Florida and his legion of followers swore by.

I can’t confirm that assumption, but it sure has the smell of it.

It’s about opportunities and affordability (say it with me here, white and black “privilege”). Many in the urban core do not have both, unless you are an elected official representing those areas. I experienced this myself for several years after the recession of 2009. I was seeking opportunities, but I wasn’t a “fit” for businesses, leaders, and individuals in Des Moines. It wasn’t just that I was black, I stuttered, went to a small college, and I was an introvert who wasn’t for small talk and brown-nosing.

I also could not afford to attend events like the Principal Charity Classic, Winefest, and others, despite my love for golf, wine, and art. I had to be in my 20’s, white, upper class, and be someone who would most likely be groomed as a community or business leader. I wasn’t in any of those categories.

I couldn’t afford to live and work downtown, or own a house, if I was a vice president of a bank and paid my bills on time.

Des Moines and other Midwestern cities have fallen into the trap of trying to be “hip”, “progressive”, and “cool”, to entice the “creative class”, Millennials, and rich empty-nesters to move into these cities. If there was a list of current or new condos being built in Des Moines, how many of those current or new residents are African-American, Hispanic-American, or non-white? And out of that list, how many are above the income median range to live there? Let’s see if the Des Moines Register will work on getting those stats.

If it is less than 5%, we have a problem. It’s not diverse. It’s not progressive. It’s the status quo.

How many citizens can afford a $300,000 + condo when they can hardly keep the lights on in a run-down home in the Drake neighborhood (where students attend a private university that many children living in the neighborhood will never be able to afford to go)?

Our zeal to be progressive has caused unintended consequences that has further progressed the gap between a city and it’s minority residents.

I have plenty of thoughts about the editorial and my previous posts, but I’ll stop here.

I don’t want to disturb you from The Solheim Cup, protesting statues, and blaming Russia for our recent troubles.

 

 

Musings: Comedy as a Teachable Tool

Musings: Comedy as a Teachable Tool

 

Maher.jpg
Is there a line that is crossed when comedians act as “news sources”?  (Washington Post)

Comedy can be a teachable tool.

Bad and vile comedy can cross a line. Good comedy can teach us about something we haven’t thought of.

There are two news pieces that are good cases about how comedy can teach us in different ways.

The brilliant Daniel P. Finney of the Des Moines Register writes a thought-provoking piece about comedians dipping their feet into politics. You can offer a political opinion, but there are consequences when it crosses the line.

It is a stark reminder to me about the role of journalists. Unfortunately, there are a cadre of journalists who continue to blur the lines between “reporting” and “commentary”.

The takeaway quotes are below from Finney’s column:

“When you stake out the moral high ground and say you are the party of inclusion and diversity and the other party is not, you’d better make damn sure the people who are carrying your message are morally sound,” said Rachel Caufield, an associate professor of political science at Drake University who has taught a course on political satire. “Racial slurs and faked decapitated heads are not the way the left are going to reach the center.”

Whether we like it or not — and for the record, I don’t — comedians are now treated as thought leaders and news sources in this country.

And the fake decapitated heads and racial slurs do more than just besmirch the images of a couple of rogue comedians. They undermine the message of liberals and Democrats. 

Daniel P. Finney, “Comedy is killing the political left”, Des Moines Register, June 7, 2017 

The statement underlined is the various reasons I am a small minority of viewers who chose not to watch individuals like Jon Stewart, Colbert, Trevor Noah and others. They are comedians who are treated as “news sources” because viewers do not trust the mainstream media.

Is it wrong to assume that these are the same viewers who feel obligated to “support” the mainstream media that is being “attacked” by the current presidential administration?

Do these viewers support the media and at the same time loathe them enough to get their “news” from Samantha Bee and have her affirm their beliefs?

It is clear that viewers want “affirmation” for their beliefs, not information that they need. That comment comes from (surprise!) noted hot sports take aficionado Colin Cowherd., who has been saying this for a decade.

I need information to learn what is going on. I can form my own opinions privately, without the help of a comedian. Especially unfunny comedians like Maher who has become increasingly bitter and acrimonious because he isn’t the “go-to” guy that Colbert, and Stewart before him, was.


The recent arrest of Reality Winner, or whoever her real name is, for allegedly removing classified information from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet, is  starting to pick up some traction. Attorney Mark Zaid, who represents whistleblowers, said that Winner isn’t a whistleblower. She had grudge against the President and decided to use her grudge as retaliation.

I don’t know much about this story, so I’ll refrain from forming an opinion until I understand more about what took place.

Which leads to this question….

“Do government workers believe in the policies that their elected leaders come up with?”

Government employees are hired to carry out government policies. That should be a simple task, but it’s not. With any change in leadership, policies can fluctuate and change quickly. That puts government employees, regardless of  in a conundrum.

Yes Minister
“Yes Minister” is a great lesson in how government operates, for good and evil. I highly recommend this series. I prefer it over “House of Cards”. Don’t @ me. (Den of Geeks)

This question popped into my head while watching one of my favorite television shows, “Yes Minister”. “Yes Minister” (and its successor “Yes Prime Minister”) details the inner workings of the British government and the comedic attempts by Sir Humphrey Appleby and the Civil Service to thwart (Government) Minister Jim Hacker’s pursuit to enact policies for the public good.

In the episode, “The Whisky Priest”, Hacker is alerted about an illegal sale of arms to an Italian terrorist group. He plans to tell the Prime Minister, but Sir Humphrey attempts to discourage and obstruct Hacker from telling the Prime Minister.

In the pivotal scene in between Humphrey, Hacker, and Bernard Woolley, Humphrey’s dialogue about what his job is and what the role of government paints a picture of what government workers go through on a daily basis when elected officials try to create policies that goes one way or another and then expect government employees to believe in it and enforce those policies.

Sir Humphrey: My job is to carry out government policy.

Hacker: Even if you think it’s wrong?

Sir Humphrey: Well, almost all government policy is wrong, but… frightfully well carried out.

“Yes Minister” unveils several questions about how, and who, actually runs the government.

Do the elected officials run the country or is it the bureaucrats who dictate the daily operations on Capitol Hill, state capitals, and in City Hall?  If citizens do not trust politicians, should we trust bureaucrats and government workers, who clearly has more knowledge about what goes on?

When you finish “The Whisky Priest”, I encourage you to watch several more episodes and ask yourself “Do we really know what is going on in our governments, and do we care to know?”

A Missing “Core”

A Missing “Core”

Two stories in the Des Moines Register recently caught my eye, and it tied into a piece 2014 piece I wrote.

The Brookings Institute published a report on metro areas that has seen economic recovery after the recession. Des Moines was one of the cities that enjoy “inclusive” economic growth that benefited a diverse range of the region’s population, however, Brookings also indicated that also the greater Des Moines economy is leaving some workers behind, namely poor workers.

The second story was a release of a study from The Directors Council, a local non-profit group, on the widening racial disparities in Polk County and Des Moines.

In October 2014, I wrote on how Des Moines is so progressive in many areas and yet ignoring the African-American community within the urban core. Surprisingly, some groups are finally getting around to addressing these issues. The urban core is poor and most of the citizens of this core are African-Americans.

There are a two questions that I have…

  1. I have never heard of this The Directors Council or the affiliations underneath TDC. I had lived in the Des Moines area for 13 years and not one person of color, or anyone else, has mentioned this group to me. For the record, I am African-American. I have been seeking organizations like these as a way to connect to possible mentors or to establish new networks.
  2. What was this group doing when Ako Abdul-Samad told the National Journal in 2014 about his frustration on how Des Moines has viewed and treated its predominantly black urban core?

There is a lack of African-Americans in (political) leadership, in arts and nonprofits, and in the Des Moines business community. The only time I hear of a prominent African-American in Des Moines, that person is in the business world.

I hear of their names, but I never see them in person.

They must be hard to track down. It’s better to not be seen than to have people recognize you, that is my guess. And no, attending the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s diversity receptions do not count as an official appearance.

When I look back at my experience living and working in Des Moines. I continue to question the willingness of Des Moines to address actual problems regarding the socioeconomic disparities within its city borders, without slapping paint on it and say “everything’s fine”.

The new wave of “gentrification” in the downtown area, unemployment rates for African-Americans, safety for those who live in poorer neighborhoods, and food scarcity with regards to affordability to buy fresh food over cheap junk food are vital topics for the urban core, beyond the common topics of race, unemployment, and economics.

I don’t have an answer to how all of this can be fixed. I’m no policy wonk. I do know that in order for Des Moines (not just city leaders, but business leaders especially) to be actively “inclusive”, they need to do a better job of addressing what it means to be “inclusive” and effectively supporting groups and individuals who are disadvantaged from a socioeconmic standpoint.

Beating The Dead Horse Over And Over

Beating The Dead Horse Over And Over

Unless you have been hibernating since fall, the only thing that America and the world can’t stop tweeting, Facebooking, or talking about is the guy who is in charge.

I’ll save you the agony of not mentioning the name. I don’t really care what you think, but there is something to what content marketer and author Christoph Trappe tweeted above.

You can keep telling the same story, but that story will stop resonating to people. You can spin it, recycle it, and add more to it. But at this point, it’s starting to fall on deaf ears.

What is striking is that once people have a narrative that everyone else has or are using, the less relevant it becomes.

When you keep beating the dead horse into the ground, there isn’t anything else to say or do.

Time to get a new narrative.

It becomes an echo chamber that no one wants to leave. We don’t want to give up the narrative.

Let me save you wasting your time with this:  you’re telling me something already know. Tell me a different story. I’m tired of hearing the same thing day in and day out. It has lost its relevance. I’ve moved on.

I’ll leave you with this from Tully Corcoran from The Big Lead. The crux is that everyone is saying the same thing, but we’re not saying much either about what we already know.

Inside the echo chamber, that is. Outside of it, these words barely even register as interesting, much less persuasive.

The rub is not that (name redacted) voters haven’t realized (name redacted) is cynical and selfish. They know that. Every American has known that for 30 years. The rub is that the temperament of the president is not among their political priorities. Neither Gregg Popovich nor anybody else is going to convince them it should be by grumbling it into a set of microphones just so he doesn’t have to answer another stupid question about momentum, no matter how gold the halo the sports media paints over his silver head.

Popovich is shouting into an echo chamber, and he’s not even shouting anything interesting. The president is a jerk. We get it. Now what?  

We get it. Now what? The story is old.

You’re not going to change anyone’s mind about it.

Tell me something new, or stop telling the narrative. That ship sailed months ago.

And I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. You can keep that hot garbage in your pocket.