Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy and Other Things

As normally, it is still dark outside, the wind has huffed and puffed all night, flooding is abundant and cannot imagine the number of trees and limbs in roads knowing this day has only begun and Sandy is moving West toward us with more rain and wind.  One of the early morning joys I look forward to is scanning my global news media to get a pulse of what is happening in our world. Alas, my first scan this morning was the New York Times where Sandy has been especially violent so assumed would find good stories of heroism, first responders, etc but no, first editorial was about the need for Big Government.  Without even reading it was felt anger rile up in my belly. 
As the storm unfolded moment by moment on the networks yesterday, it was most reminiscent of me watching Katrina unfold and listening to the lady from Louisiana that anchored CNN during that fateful day get so emotionally involved in the events that she left her role as reporting to that of scolder and attacker; it was not pretty in light of all the real life tragedy we were watching. 
Yesterday and into the night I found myself being more angered by the constant insinuated little news comments about linking the Sandy tragedy to the POTUS campaign, how Mr. Obama is acting Presidential which should give him a stronger case with the electorate, how Romney was "forced" to cease campaigning, etc, etc.  Yesterday was NOT a day to thread the campaign through the fabric of a major disaster but that is where we have come in this nation of 24/7 news cycles.  I watched Anderson Cooper later in the evening trying to create a crevice over a comment by Gov. Christie of New Jersey apparently unhappy with the evacuation actions by the Atlantic City Mayor. The Mayor, rightly, diffused Mr. Cooper's attempt to trigger division in the midst of chaos for the sole purpose of ratings. I was very proud of the Atlantic City mayor's professionalism and coolness under fire.
Our world is incendiary and it is made that way I realize more and more by the insatiable hunger for sound bites to fill the airways. People are killed emasse by this power. Governments are overturned by this magnet of discontent and derision.  Mind you, I love news as long as it is objective assuming that is really possible today.  I read once that the news is the first blush of history ... wow, so what will our grandchildren be thinking as that blush turns to print which turns to history for them to seek to understand who we really were?  I find the European media outlets reporting on US events to be what I consider more centrist thus less politically biased.  Der Speigel from Germany, the Economist from the UK, etc are good sources of more objective reporting I have found through the years.  I mean, on the day after Sandy to see an NYT front page editorial on the case for Big Government is really astounding to me but alas, that is where we have come.
Here is what I know! I know that I want Nov 6 to come and go for the noise has turned to dull thumps in my brain.  I know I want the people still being affected in the says ahead to be covered by God's Precious Hand of love. I know my family is safe and happy. I know both of our children are in great marriages with five wonderful grand kids and a grand dog we all love. I know I love to get to sing praises to the God that surpasses all understanding. I know I am happy with my life, my family, my work, my friends.  I know I get to touch peoples' lives in so many ways and in ways I could never have conceived. I know God is good! That is about all I need to know isn't it?
I know what pains me deeply is seeing the mores and values of our nation slandered, demeaned and stomped on. I know that the Scriptures are very blatant and clear on what marriage is and to see the exact opposite seeking to judicially and legislatively be made the norm is, well, wrong.  I know that a marriage is between one man and one woman and nothing will nor could nor should change that. To have a POTUS election where that is central to the ideologies of the candidates is sickening to me. I know there are those that adamantly oppose my views on this matter but wrong is wrong and right is right; it really is just that simple to me. Same sex marriage is Biblically wrong!
I will close by wishing each of you a sincere hope for safety this day with so many millions without power and knowing so much flooding will be terrible in the days ahead. Pray for these people!  Pray for our nation and our leaders. Pray for people that cannot help themselves. Pray for peace.  God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me! Amen?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Economic Forces of Leadership --- an essay


As we approach the November elections for President on our country, we have all been pretty much worn out with all the rhetoric, threats, promises, name calling, claims, blames; just deafening.  When I think of the billions of advertising monies invested in this venture when there is so much more dire need in our nation and our world, I simply shake my head in wonder and disdain.  But looking past all of that, I invested nearly an hour in a class in a class last evening drilling into the tectonic shifting of a nation’s Gross Domestic Product through the maturing evolutionary phases from Agriculture to Industry to Service.  These forces or immutable and much history supports the meandering nature of cutting a pathway many times, most times, unseen nor understood but still a new pathway is cut and cut deeply into the landscape of Man.

I have learned many things in my life but one of the key lessons concerning numbers used to tell a story is to never react to a number but seek to ascertain the validity of the number by view it from a historical evolutionary perspective.  In other words, what was the trajectory and velocity of events and forces that have led to that number. GDP is a great example of this belief.  If you want to understand GDP and its relativity, one must understand economic history for events are the chisel of carve out new architecture that is at times good and at others times horrific.

A solid principle of economics is that nations evolve as they mature from Agriculture to Industry to Service; the three components on the Gross Domestic Product.  Defining GDP is vital and the definition I use is that it is the value of all the goods and all the services produced in a given economy over a given period of time.  The equation that is used to calculate a country’s GDP is:  GDP = C + I + G + (X-M).  That would be the total dollar value of all Consumer spending, plus all Capital investment plus all Government Spending plus the difference in all Exports minus Imports. The US GDP sits today at about $15.4 trillion; the largest in the world with no close second.  In other words, America is still the largest, stronger economy on the face of the earth.

However, the context of my writing is that nations at their origination are powerfully driving, measured in GDP, by Agriculture.  As the factors of production are more effectively and efficiently used, Agriculture begins to produce more than the needs of the nation so there are more foods for sale. That is where exports originate.

As food becomes less of an economic drive and technology and need escalates, economies move into the Industry or Manufacturing economic phase meaning Making Things takes on a more and more influential element of GDP and thus, less of a percentage of GDP influence from Agriculture.   It is at this juncture, when Manufacturing triggers that terms like “Industrial Revolution” ignite as we saw in Europe that led to one in the US leading up and after the American Civil War.  More factories need more workers, more fuel, more food, more housing, more cars, more everything.  As technology of manufacturing improves and efficiencies are realized, cost of manufacturing becomes the primary driver for competitiveness.

A global economy where vast amounts of goods can be produced at the same or better quality but a much lower cost changes the geometry of the Manufacturing component of GDP rapidly and broadly.  To illustrate, much rhetoric in this campaign has been spent on peddling the story that nearly three million manufacturing jobs have been lost / stolen to / by the Chinese in the last fifteen years.  Makes for interesting sound bite but leaves me cold in believing for what is not talked about, as it should be, is the phenomenal number of American jobs created by foreign transplant auto, tire, auto parts manufacturers in the Southeastern United States.  The three million jobs that have left our nation left due to cost to produce in America being globally made a relic.  Then if you factor in the every thickening union rules in the Rust Belt that focus on poor performers thus inefficiencies, then the powerful forces of the global economy become a hammer pounding on the anvil of competitiveness.

The famous three million jobs were not stolen by China but were given away via too globally noncompetitive compensation costs and union-driven inefficiencies.  The three million jobs lost are not lost if they are redirected for the redirection takes us to the reality of the tectonic economic shifts from Manufacturing to Service. America, like West Europe’s economies have matured since WWII to Service and Information.  Our challenge is not to try and return to that “golden” era of 8,000 person steel and tire plants.  Our challenge should be and must be to invest in new technologies and fuels such as wind turbines and maximize our factors of production on those technologies of tomorrow, today.

It is my fundamental belief that there is not going backwards for a national economy for the march forward is always the drumbeat of civilizations.  None of you reading this wish to return to the farms of our grandparents nor to the factories of our parents.  There will always be a place for Agriculture and for Manufacturing as economies mature, a good thing. It is how the maturing economies embrace and utilize the capabilities of the Service and Information Age. We are just on the periphery of this age as China is on her periphery of her Industrial Age.  China has over a billion people still on farms in the western provinces of that vast land with over a million each day moving east to the manufacturing jobs along the Eastern coast of China. That should sound very familiar to use if we could talk with our grandparents and great grandparents that moved to Ohio, Pennsylvania for the factory jobs; the exact same thing China is experiencing today; and that is a great thing I believe.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Harmony in the Midst of Cacophany

Good Saturday morning to you as I sit here in the still darkness of an unbelievably busy Saturday and Sunday of singing but looking forward to all of it. The smell of coffee brewing is wafting gently to that special place of feeling good and comfortable with life even in the midst of, well, so much not good and discomfort.  Last night I felt a remarkable sense of harmony as I watched for two hour a dozen highly talented men and women unfold a piano concert that was, well, simply fabulous.  With all the moving around, the large crowd, seeing old friends and trying to remember names, hearing many warm hearted comments, the cacophony of all of that melted into a real harmony via the music. I was deeply impressed and touched.

I realized watching and listening to the crafts of those men and women being unfurled in the name of our God that loves us that my mind was assessing the craziness of our world, the many issues of my students that I in someway will be touched with and by, the politics of the day, the hurt and disappointments of so many in my portfolio of people, the prisoners.  Through all of that whirling through my brain, the beauty of the music was blatant but the cord that denominated it all was the ever present harmony.  Harmony sounds good and makes us feel good, doesn't it?  We all seek harmony in our lives. We long for that assurance of harmony in relationships.

As this semester now marches toward week eight, there continues to be lesser but still present shadows of disharmony in the machine of Jim, Inc.  Plagiarism, not fulfilling directives of the course, a choice, tardiness, under performance on examinations; all are elements of disharmony and my toleration of it and for it has hit bottom.  Mind you I am only speaking of a very small percentage of poor choosers and there is a heavy price in points for the bad choices but the collateral results is requiring more of my time and the team leaders' time in sorting out and dealing with the ramifications of still Twenty Percent behaviors.  That, frankly by this stage, only angers me at having to  refocus energy from the work ahead and that, for me, is criminal, at this stage of the semester.

Harmony is a gift. It does not just happen for it has to be crafted, sought, achieved through effort, practice and execution. Every athlete knows this. Every musician knows this. We all know it intuitively.  Commit this day anew to bringing harmony into your life and in so doing you bring much needed harmony to so many others.   Again, last night was therapeutic for me to get to witness so much talent in so many ways performing their art that touched me so deeply to develop this blog this morning. I believe there is Divine Purpose for this coming to me as it has.

This will be a weekend filled with singing in different groups and locations and songs and in each, achieving harmony is at the forefront for harmony facilitates loving and praising the name of the One that the music is written about; my Jesus.  That and He is why I sing and I love the challenge.  But never forget, life is about achieving harmony. Yes, it is doable but it takes work, doesn't it?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Plato's Cave 2012

Plato's Cave is an allegory that has been around for a great long time. I do not recall when I first was exposed to its powerful message but all my students know well the story for it is about changed reality.  The thumbnail of the Cave is that people come into this world "chained" to the walls of a reality.  The shadows we see bouncing off the Cave walls and ceiling become our currency of communication via stories, lore, etc. We that are chained to that Cave develop a culture which I define as the sum total of the behaviors of the Cave. We really do, over time, begin to think and act like each other the longer we are in the constraints; it is human behavior. 
The Cave allegory goes on, however, to illustrate fundamental change when one of the Cave dwellers is released or actually unleashed from the constraints.  Plato contends that the newly released dweller must then choose to seek to be re-confined back into the culture OR to seek to exit the Cave in search of determining why and what has been creating the images inside the Cave that has formulated the language of the culture.  After discovery of the cause for the images, a bonfire with natives dancing around the fire, a new reality, the released dweller must then decide to either strip down and join the new reality or does human behavior drive the dweller, armed with this new knowledge, back up to the Cave to spread the new, good news to those still constrained. The answer is that the dweller will do anything to go back to explain to the still constrained dwellers, where life is still good in their common Cave reality, where the images are coming from.
It is here we see the power of the allegory for upon the re-entrace to the Cave filled with new knowledge, the unleashed returning dweller finds himself understanding operationally the term "shooting the messenger" for those still in the comfort of their chained reality really do not wish to hear about the new reality meaning rejection of the newly found knowledge.
In the work I get to do in teaching, I see this allegory play out out all the time which makes it a compelling driven inside me to release as many of these young minds from the Cave of their established reality to experience the cool water of a new reality in hopes they will return again and again to those still held by the chains of laziness, not caring, no drive, no desire to take a new path.  All of this came flooding back to me in the snippets of the VP debate last night for I realized, at sixty-four years old, I was watching the old and the new sparring with each other.  I wish I could avoid personal comments here for that only makes my blog today another "FB post" with political motivation but that is certainly not the case.  Regardless of my political party of choice, it is the ideology I seek to understand and thus choose to embark on a path.
Thus, my take on last night and the previous POTUS debate grounded on several years of personal investment in studying, researching and watching the governmental process via CSPAN is that what we are seeing at the conceptual level is one party hearkening back to the golden days of post WWII when FDR walked on water, history would have us believe, or Reagan and his brilliance as he tip toed on the waters as well.  Yet there is this now much young, intelligent, articulate "force" that would have use to cut loose the chains of constraint to move forward into a very frighting 21st century un-navigated channel of issues.
What I saw last night, certainly unsurprisingly, was a typical cocky, smart mouth, arrogant Biden that, for me, is an icon of exactly what I describe in previous paragraph of wanting to keep adding more chains on the Cave walls for more and more to remain inside the Cave of debt, entitlements and tepid diplomacy.  Biden is mean spirited, cunning and when I think about that one heart beat from POTUS and him residing in the Seat, I quiver and have since he became VP. But in Ryan I saw a freshness, a knowledge of what he was talking about, a family man, a man untarnished in character and reputation; I saw the future and I liked what I saw.
Is the Romney / Ryan ticket perfect? Certainly not for I believe there are many potential candidates that bring more to our nation than these but have chosen to remain in the Cave apparently.  In my heart I honestly cannot see how this nation can withstand another four years of what we have witnessed almost daily.  Dozens of unelected, highly paid czars, inordinate Executive Orders, oexpanding government into every particle of our personal lives, debt we cannot even calculate with trillions more planned; the madness must stop. Never have I been sicker of even now four years into a presidency and the only spoken defense is what was inherited four years ago. No business on earth could or would operate on that defense. You take what you get and make it better; PERIOD! But still the blame and finger pointing at "W" continues and We the People deserve better, much better.
By the way, FDR was certainly not without his ghosts nor was Reagan but history airbrushes out those realities. This nation deserves a great leadership team which I do not believe we have currently and I am very tired of the constant campaigning. I am even more tired of realizing that POTUS electioneering is measured not by policy but by campaign funds flow. Multiple BILLIONS of dollars blown for a $400,000 annual salary position; doesn't that just smell strange to you?  Also, I believe the greater issue resides at the Capitol than at that White House. That is a place that really needs a good cleaning out.
I want my children and my grandchildren to have a chance to succeed; it really is just that simple for me.  Biden simply makes me want to slap him across the mouth and tell him to shut up for that is exactly what he needs but then the army of the political brotherhood that resides behind him in Pelosi, Reed, etc, etc all have that same arrogance. Tearing down an economic class of people that have made their wealth by working for it to pull up a class far too many of which are snared in the entitlement generational cycle is simply wrong. There are abuses in all the camps; I am not naive enough to not believe that. None of this is perfect for We the People are not perfect.  All great empires throughout history were not lost to outside armies but to the weight of implosion on trying to manage and pay government workers and entitlements.
My greatest issue of concern ... why has Americans chosen to continue down the path of marching away from our God whose principles were the foundation of our Nation and our Founding Fathers commitment to that God? I guess all of that really means is that we are getting pretty much what we deserve, right?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Leaves of Autumn

I do so love this time of year especially on early mornings watching the golden leaves rain down through my back windows and see deer gently walking around all of this while reading my Bible; pretty good morning!  Facing a busy day with Christmas cantata practice in a few minutes but I always look forward to that challenge. This week ends another week of challenge, opportunity, concern, joy, disappointment, mystery, mountaintops and valleys; thus life marches on!

This semester continues to stand as an anomaly from the previous dozens I have taught.  There are great numbers of successes and victories but still there are a couple of issues remaining, as we move into our sixth week of the journey, that I simply have not gotten my mind wrapped around yet.  There is something generally different about this semester and the general Student for I am hearing similar expressions of wonder and concern from other professors. Late arrivals, not grasping the work, no initiative, poor writing skills, not embracing the work, not showing up, not caring; and my prayer is that this is not a microcosm of the generation about to embark on life in the world of real adults. 

This week I have seen tears of disappointment. This week I have witnessed great victories as the teams come together into one organism of productivity. I have watched team leaders finally gain their footing and are embracing their role and delivering on a grand scale. I have had absolute validation that the Jim, Inc. concept is valid, viable and provides great synergy in addition to rich learning. I am pleased! But what Jim, Inc surfaces in a boldface manner is the scourge of the 20%ers in being impediments to growth and productivity of the 80%ers and how the 80%ers expect, demand leaders to eradicate the very essence of the Takers called the 20%ers. I love watching that unfold and how knowing that it never lets me shutoff my radar in seeking out any semblance of a 20%er. Yes, there are still a couple but they will self destruct under the weight and force of their team; peer pressure is potent and powerful and I love nurturing that for that is real life and these young minds are getting a laboratory opportunity to develop it as they prepare for their individual launch sequence into their working lives.

With all of that, the rewards, for me, are the eclectic ways the pain of lives find their way to me for that pain are impediments to growth.  I know great numbers of my students have already done things and are in in the present tense they themselves know, KNOW, they should not be and there is always a price to pay for bad choice. We all struggle with that but I have found the true joy of my efforts in teaching really comes from my students having enough respect and confidence in me to involve my prayers and hopes for them in opening up their lives to seek light in their world of darkness and discouragement.  My prayer and my hope is that in every situation presented me that God's Will is what is ushered forth and not some pearl of comment from my internal ego. I hurt when my students hurt as I do when my own family hurts.

I will close but restating what I state often: if you do what you have always done you will always get what you have always gotten.  Additionally, if you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything.  If you consolidate the essence of those two adages, you will smell the aroma of much discouragement, hurt, disgust and disappointment in far too many really great young people.  I do love what I get to do for an array of reasons but today's blog I believe captures what I value most more than just the teaching; it is about touching the future today!