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The Daily Read

Leadership Freak Rubbing the Genie  Despite the suggestive title, this encapsulates the essence of Dilbert.  “Subordinates tolerate your annoying habits and ignore your poor performance – to your face.”  Rubbing the genie is telling those in power exactly what they want to hear.  That’s just a recursive cycle of suck.  No one wins.  

Leadership Development Seven Disciplines that Make Leadership Development Stick I’ve been in the business classes taught by senior management.  Their teaching and the material are great.  I’m fired up!  We’re refocusing our energy toward success!  Soon though, it’s clear that the book was metaphorically dumped into the trash moments after the class ended.  You wasted days getting the training ready, and I wasted a day listening to unused advice.  Change is hard to sustain but leaders know that the need to keep their team and the organization moving forward.

Zen Habits I Failed Failure sucks.  It hurts.  We have all failed, sometimes spectacularly and publicly.  How you respond to the failure defines the rest of your life.

“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss”

So now, we have the reminder that the United States Government is still spying on us.  It’s all legal.  In the wake of 9/11, the Patriot Act and all its children legally allow the collection of data from people who are not suspected of any crimes.  It’s based on the convenient and fallacious “if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to hide” principle.  George Bush and the Republicans did it.  Barack Obama and the Democrats are doing it.  President 45 will do it too.  Call it “data mining.”  Call it “security.”  Call it a violation of the Fourth Amendment.   Government sanctioned spying on Americans is a bipartisan sport.

It also comes in the wake of the IRS targeting scandal.  One of the worst PR nightmares the Obama Administration has had to face is about to get a fresh injection of paranoid indignation.  Even the most tolerant of people now have to wonder just how much truth there is in that tinfoil hat-speak about government conspiracies.

I’ve given up on Washington from the legislative side.  It’s an institutionalized Hatfields and McCoys perma-feud.  You’re locked into parroting the party line depending on the color of your shirt.  Those not wearing red or blue are not invited.  Independent thinking is discouraged and gridlock is expected.  That’s the level of non-critical thinking that has gotten us here. 

The judicial side is not much better.  Court vacancies are unfilled because of more partisan bickering over who nominated whom and what party everyone belongs to.   The rulings at the federal level are increasingly matching partisan viewpoints, and the Supreme Court epitomizes this. 

Up until now, we had been comforted by the appearance that the Obama White House was different from the Bush White House.  All the partisan excesses in the name of truth and justice, the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, and a few wars were being reversed as of January 20, 2009.  Not anymore. 

Sen. Diane Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, tells us that this is all old news. “As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years.”

I know that this question will never be answered, but has this program been successful?  Here’s the best part:  The answer doesn’t matter.  If it is successful, it will be continued and expanded to find more bad guys.  If it’s been a failure, it will be continued and expanded until we find the bad guys.  This inevitability is only dependent on the right series of circumstances and people coming together.

Benjamin Franklin had something to say about everything.  Now we know that he and the rest of the Founding Fathers have no idea about the internet and digital society but he knew when things were getting out of hand.  “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” However, I’m thinking of something a little different, a quote that appeared in the New York Times on September 12, 1938.  In a world becoming increasingly colored by Nazism and fascism, Halford E. Luccock delivered a sermon at Riverside Church in New York City.  “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism’” 

In Your Face

“The one thing more difficult than following a regimen is not imposing it on others.” Marcel Proust

The first thing that I thought of was about reformed smokers and evangelicals of any stripe.  It is so hard for the newly enlightened to not spread their wisdom to everyone else.  We all do it.  We live the “Amazing Grace” of “I once was lost but now I’m found” though replicating the knowledge in our family and friends.

But the last thing we want to see is someone who knows better than us.  We are doing just fine, thank you.  Begone. Off with you. 

I watched a man standing by the bedside of his dying father.  The father had spent a lifetime smoking and was now reaping the rewards of various chronic and incurable respiratory problems.  As the son stood there watching his father slowly sink away, he said, “I can’t take this.  I need a smoke.” and then left to join the other social pariahs in the outdoor smoker’s lounge. 

To many of us, we are still shaking our heads trying to reconcile those two separate lines of logic.  The reality is that the son was not ready to face the consequences that were clearly and obscenely right in front of him.  It was not until two years later that the son decided to go smoke free and successfully quit smoking.

We all need the wisdom of others who were there before us to guide us successfully, but is the burden of learning on the teacher or the student?  Buddhist teaching tells us, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.  Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, “To everything, there is a season”. 

As the teacher, we have to deliver the initial lesson, but once the lesson is delivered, we have to walk a few steps away and wait.  When the student is ready, they will join the teacher and ask for more.  The teacher cannot interfere in the process of the student becoming ready.  There will be stumbles and mistakes by the student that the teacher could have prevented, “oh, if they had only listened to me…” and parents of adult children know this impotent feeling all too well. But as Milton said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

When is a phone not a phone?

My wife recently jumped into the world of Kindle. I’ve been sending her all of the accumulated links, tips, and tricks that I’ve collected over the past few years and she has been enjoying the learning curve that goes along with any new technology.

We grew up in the pre-digital era when phones lived on walls in our homes and computers existed only in giant mainframe rooms.  Now we can carry our phones and our computers right in our pockets.  We had a serious discussion on what Kindle was:  Is it a book or a computer?  We agreed the answer was “yes”.  And if there was a data plan available for Kindle, would it be a phone too?  Probably, yes again.

I use Waze almost every time I distance drive.  It’s a great way to get real time information on where you’re going and the best way to get there.  More than once, I’ve received an alert of a backup on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and actively searched for alternate routes.  So that’s why when I saw this article about a motorist using their hand held phone/GPS  in the car and running afoul of the California anti-texting law, I couldn’t help but think of myself in the same situation.

To be very clear I do not condone distracted driving, and that includes texting, searching for radio stations, or fumbling with coffee.  I’m sure that all of us have been unexpectedly distracted at one time for another (I know I have been) without harm to myself or other drivers.  We also know of the tragic stories of the unfinished text that the police find in the dead hand of the driver trapped in the wreck.

So what is the dividing line here?  Should the lawmakers have carefully considered the specific language of the law a little better to provide some discretion?  Should the officer have provided a warning that fulfilled the letter of the law while noting that the driver was observing the spirit of the law?  Should the driver just have accepted that it was his turn to wear the dunce cap, ponied up the fine, and vowed to be more careful the next time?

That’s a tough call all the way around.  We’re all “dumb” when it comes to a novel application of an existing thing.  Traffic rules meant to apply to horses only needed to adapt to the motorcar but the rule definitions were slower than the technology.  Wireless technology and the explosion of available apps is continuing to test the transition from the analog world, to the brave new digital world.

There’s also a “zero tolerance” component to many American laws that can usually translate into a “zero intelligence” implementation.  The driver needs to pull over, turn off the engine and get out of the car to check the traffic ahead.  The cop needs to apply the full range of the law to everyone completely.  The judges need to do the same because opening that little exception is the thin end of the wedge and serial distracted texters will be the result.

This is a great example of the extremism that drives America today.  No one can be trusted to act responsibly so explicit and sweeping rules without exception have to exist.

If I were the cop, checking on what the driver was doing was perfectly legitimate.  The driver showing that they were using the map function was equally legitimate.  It really should have stopped there.  But it didn’t.

Once that ticket was issued, I would have been ticked off but probably just paid the fine.  Is the issue that important that a year of my time in and out of court is more valuable than the $160 fine?  Probably not, but every American is guaranteed their day in court.

The various courts could have found that the conviction was merited, that this was not an unreasonable single time use without prejudice, or potentially invalidated sections or the entirety of the law.  The course of least resistance was to affirm the verdict.

So this distracted driving ruling now exists in Fresno, even though it’s clear the vehicle was fully stopped.  Every time I see a driver doing the same thing, and yes, even when I see the police typing into their dash mounted computers, I’ll wonder who is distracted now.

First Thoughts

While I was opining for the umpteenth time on something, I was challenged again: “Start a blog!”  I finally decided I would take on that challenge.  Please be indulgent as a newbie takes his first steps into the blog world.

This is going to be more of a writing exercise for me, but I hope you will find my take on things to be reasonable.  I’m ever so slightly right of center and embrace the prudent and doable over strict doctrine.  Far lefties and righties will not find a lot of encouragement here.  

Reasonable discussion is always encouraged. Respectful strong opinion can be always be shared. Flaming and ad-hominem responses do not have a home here.