Wendy Davis missteps, I do not think so.

First, this blog, in general and this specific one, is not about politics and if it were, it would be so out of date. This specific blog is about being ethical in our behavior and being impeccable with our words. Second, notwithstanding my protestations to the contrary, it may seem there really are some political leanings underlying this blog and that I am “picking” on Democrats; I am and I am not. I am because until recently, I was a registered Democrat all my life and so I am attuned to its candidates and leaders and then most disappointed when they do not live up to what I considered to be their potential. It is not because, although I do not remember the names of any specific Republicans except Bob Packwood, I know they have had their fair share of unethical behavior too.

A few of weeks ago I read an article in the Houston Chronicle by a columnist named Peggy Fikac in which she deemed Wendy Davis’ campaign narrative a “misstep.” For those of you who do not know, Wendy Davis is the new “darling” (or as we say down here, darlin’) of the Texas Democratic party and is running for governor. The “misstep” is about Davis’ assertion she was raising her daughters in a mobile home after a divorce, got on her feet again, went on to Harvard Law School, and then “making” something of herself. It has been asserted that there are chronological errors in her story and, while the story maybe be technically true, actually fosters a narrative of a tougher road than she actually encountered.

My interest in this narrative lies only with the wording and the intent or, one might say, lies of commission and omission. Another disclosure, I am a recovering liar. I used to convince myself that I learned to lie to try and give my mother the answer she wanted, both to keep myself out of trouble (mom never had a volume switch when it came to punishment or it was stuck on maximum!) and because I was so codependent that I did not want to disappoint her. Unfortunately, it was a trait I leaned from her and then continued into my adulthood where I was an equal opportunity liar. I made a commitment in my forties to stop, which I did, and then honed my truthfulness in my fifties, eliminating even the possibility that my words could be misconstrued.

In conversation, while thinking on our “feet,” timelines and specifics can easily get muddled; they cannot in a biographical disclosure. So my first issue is with Ms. Fikac’s nomenclature, Ms. Davis’ actions are not a misstep, the campaign may have “misstepped,” but Ms. Davis’ words are a lie. Again, it does not matter if they were intentional or “just” trying to put the best spin on Ms. Davis’ past. I know, I know, it is not deemed appropriate to judge folks these days; I am not judging. Judging is never appropriate, but I find too many people misapply this word these days. Pointing out a lie is not judging, it is observing and naming a falsehood.

To be kind, I guess I might say that Ms. Davis is just sloppy, but do we want a sloppy governor? Also, as I have gotten older, I now know this to be a cop out, we know when we are being unethical, our bodies react in a way to let us know, we just choose not listen to what our bodies are saying most of the time. I could also say she is somewhat a political neophyte, but that would make Ms. Davis incompetent. Does she not know about and did not learn from several of her predecessors, Lena Guerrero and Henry Cisneros, both real up and coming Texas Democratic stars back in their day that got caught lying?

Lies are lies and it does not matter if they are “white” or “black” lies. Every lie erodes our energy, our self-esteem, and our confidence. One of Don Miguel Ruiz’s four agreements from the book of the same name is to be impeccable with your words. He reminds us that words have the power to do both black magic and white magic. This is somewhat a double entendre; words can be used as black magic to hurt others, but they also hurt the speaker and those around us. Ms. Davis has been harmed, and just not politically. I would also offer for her consideration that her children have been harmed. They have now had to endure, at best, reading the opposition using “black magic words” on their mom and, at worst, been the recipients of folks belittling their mom in their presence.

One of Don Miguel Ruiz’s quotes is “Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.” There is no middle ground; there is no wiggle room with our words. We must either consciously and mindfully choose to live ethically and with integrity, in truth and love, or we choose not to do so. Additionally, simply not applying ourselves to this high standard in every waking moment is also a choice, it is passively choosing to not live with integrity.

One final disclosure, I am an eternal optimist that probably borders on fantasyland; I expect my representatives to be honest. Bummer, I seem to be continually living with disappointment.

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Religion and Politics Fifty Years Later

I want to take on another peeve I am still witnessing in the national arena. I am old enough now that this has happened several times in my life and I wonder if others don’t have a functioning memory, are so stupid as to not see history repeating itself, or are simply so egotistical that they don’t think a nonsensical judgement can happen to them. As is usually the case in life, I suspect all three are in play to some extent. The last time this déjà vu happened in politics, it was about four years ago and Mitt Romney was running for president on the Republican side. I am certainly no fan and would not vote for the man, but what struck me as totally asinine were people wondering if he should be elected because he is Mormon? Is the voting public still so bigoted and paranoid about someone who is “different” from them? I thought this argument, at least in the realm of politics, was laid to rest half a century ago.

The presidential election of 1960 was the first election in which I was old enough to be interested. Living in the South where Roman Catholics (I was raised Roman Catholic) were only two steps up from Blacks and Jews, I heard all the OMGs from folks thinking the Pope was going to rule the US through JFK. Conversely, I also had an Aunt that stated she was voting for JFK because he was Catholic. I remember thinking at the time how stupid and myopic both arguments were. I don’t remember thinking the former bigoted, probably because I wasn’t introduced to that idea yet, just stupid. Knowing uncles and other men that were Catholic, even at six I knew they were not the Pope’s lackeys. Reverent and obedient to their faith when practicing their faith, these men (and women) seemed to do their best to live their secular life according to the tenants of their faith, but when it came to the law and life in the United States, they were Americans; I figured JFK would be the same as all the Catholics I knew, even the clergy, were Americans first and Catholic second in their every day affairs.

To even suggest Romney is anything but an American and interested only in bettering America is ludicrous. Further, having known a few Mormons in my life and seeing the love, respect, and drive to succeed they instill in their children, I have to say we could all benefit from learning how they achieve this consistently with all children, regardless of their faith. I would ask those that question how Romney’s religion might play a part in his governance to substitute a few different words into the sentence and see how it sounds. “I’m not sure how good a presidency it will be, remember she’s a woman.” “I’m not sure how good a presidency it will be, remember he’s a Black.” “I’m not sure how good a presidency it will be, remember he’s a cripple.” Geraldine Ferraro, Elizabeth Dole, or Hillary Clinton might not have made good presidents, but I sincerely doubt it would be because of their gender. You might take issue with President Obama, but his successes or failures has nothing to do with his skin color. Likewise, you may think FDR is either a great president or not, but I hardly think his being paraplegic entered into the equation. Isn’t it time we put every form of bigotry behind us and discuss the issues as nonjudgmental adults?

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Twitter Usage by Congress

Wow, what a cornucopia of ideas stemming from the Anthony Weiner fallout to blog about! I will start with a short one. Also, I remember the old adage that one should never talk about politics or religion, however this is just too juicy!

I heard the other day that congressional twitter usage was down by almost 25% and that got me to thinking why? There is a very sacrosanct rule in research about never drawing a conclusion from a correlation. The usual example is that red cars are ticketed the most, so don’t buy a red car. Studies have shown that there is nothing, per se, about the color of the car. However, people that like to drive fast seem to also favor red cars. That is the reason red cars are ticketed the most, not just the color. Without interviewing every representative and senator that Tweets, anything postulated is simply conjecture on my part, but moving fast towards my sixth decade and with my career change into psychology, I have found that common sense, past experience, and psychological tenants can offer some generalizations.

Have you ever noticed while driving on a highway, that when people come upon a law enforcement officer doing ten miles below the speed limit, most everyone slows down? Now a percentage might simply be wondering if their speedometer is off and want to play it safe, however, there is a portion that will feel apprehensive or guilty about their usual tendency to speed and over compensate by slowing down also. Those that know their speedometers are basically accurate and tend to obey traffic laws will simply pass the patrol car at the speed limit without any worries.

This leads me to the question of why has congress’ Twitter usage dropped? Further, and unfortunate as far as I am concerned, the majority of the drop off is by Democrats. It seems to me that if the only information these representatives or senators have been Tweeting are normal, job related Tweets, there would be no concern about continued Tweets and, therefore, no drop in the overall amount of Tweets. If, however, someone is concerned about possible inappropriate Tweets they have posted in the past, well …?!? I know, I know, this is painting every congressman that has reduced her or his tweets with a broad brush, but it is worth pondering.

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Parenting

I was relaxing the other morning, following a string of websites that sprang one from another, when I ended up on a site that offered parenting advice. Further, it had a section for parents and parents to be to ask questions to see how other parents had handled a problem or face a certain situation. Two stood out, one, a dad, asking how to raise a 10 year old “girl child?”. First, what is a “girl child?” I thought they are daughters. Second, I am reminded of a time when I went deep-sea fishing in my twenties and caught a small shark. I only kept it because an acquaintance on the boat said they were good eating. Back at the dock, I asked the old gentleman cleaning my catch how one cooks shark. The fellow looked me in the eyes and said “Likes you do all fish, you fry ’em!” That answer was very humorous, but the one I would give the 10 year old’s dad is more serious, while just as generic for all children, “You love ‘em… deeply, unconditionally, and often!” One of my favorite child therapists, Virginia Satir, has a wonderful quote that I practice daily, and not just with children. “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Being the father of an only child daughter, I wish I had known this as she was growing up, however I can make up for lost time now.

The other letter was from a woman asking how to address a child that bullies her parents. Unfortunately, I find this all the time and, the root cause seems to be so prevalent in this day and age. Looking back when I was growing up, there might have been severe self-esteem problems in adults, but I never saw it. Every adult, no matter how misguided I later found them to be, presented themselves as an authority on whatever matter was being discussed. Now, I am certainly not advocating to go back to the all or nothing days of the “greatest generation,” but a happy medium between their approach and what I see today would really help parents. Nowadays, parents seem to want to be their children’s best friends…. you are not, at least not how it seems to be playing out. You are there to love and teach, in that order. If you are truly your child’s best friend, you will be the mentor they need to thrive, both as a child and then later in life. This involves a delicate balancing act throughout the child’s development, not just when they are very young, and that balancing act is constantly changing. All children, as they learn to differentiate from their parents say hurtful things. In the terrible twos, it is pretty much limited to “I hate you!” since their cognition is so limited and, until 7 to 10, they think only in black and white terms. The next and longer period of differentiation is the teen years when they can now think and really gore you where it hurts. I always remind parents that children are simply little humans. As adults, we do not like doing something we do not want to do and neither do they. While they usually end up obeying, as another psychologist friend of mine likes to say, the least they can do before obeying is to piss you off! Your job is to recognize this, not get pissed off, stay in the loving, and be firm. This is how you truly are their best friend, not being popular with them, but being a wonderful guide. This not only prepares them for life after they leave the nest, but also teaches them how to raise your grandchildren.

There are several effective parenting styles that have been codified into programs, the one I am most familiar with and teach is “Parenting with Love and Logic,” but they all stress love, consistency, and firmness. Righting several years of allowing poor behavior by anyone, including a child, is not easily done, but eminently possible. We are the adults and we need to act like adults, not to go down to a child’s level and be popular or fight with them. As is the case so often, a little hard work initially makes for smooth sailing later. My same psychologist friend likes to say about relationships of all kinds, “Don’t think that you can grow into a better human being and your family and friends will take it laying down!”

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Thoughts on hypocrisy and Congress

When I checked Facebook today, I noticed an advertisement whose headline read, “Repeal THEIR health care!” sponsored by Credo Action. When I checked, Credo Action seems to be a fairly liberal group and the gist of this petition is that the top Republican Senate and Congressional are hypocrites to want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obama Care. As is usually the case these days, in what I see as a deterioration of our ability to effectively communicate, I’m not sure the author truly understands the definition of hypocrisy. Mind you, I would generally agree that most politicians, Democrat or Republican, are hypocritical most of the time, but not in this case. The argument the Republicans are making is that the majority of Americans, depending on how the question is worded (a whole other communication blog!), seem to want the bill repealed and the recent mid-term elections seem to reflect this. Therefore, voting the way their constituents demand while keeping their own government health care is not hypocritical. Unfortunately, and I say this a long term registered Democrat, the name of the bill is definitely hypocritical, even if the intentions were honorable. Further, if Congress’ health care is so great, why can’t we, the voters, receive the exact same deal? Why did the Democrats have to gin up something different? Why reinvent the wheel? Just extent Congress’ health care to the rest of us. As long as I am beating up on my fellow Democrats, Speaker Pelosi’s statement about running the most ethical congress in history and then letting Representative Rangel skate for so long and President’s Obama’s statements regarding transparency and inclusion are more hypocritical than the Republicans wanting to repeal the bill, but keep their own health care. I would term this action more unethical than hypocritical and it pains me to this day that it was Newt Gingrich and his ilk, rather than the decades of Democratic congressional session prior to his becoming the speaker, that actually introduced a bill forbidding Congress from passing a law and exempting itself from having to follow what they were forcing the public to do. Talk about hypocritical! Finally, the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, better known as Card Check, is absolutely hypocritical. Whenever we hear the words “free and fair elections,” secret ballots come to mind. Besides the name being patently false, the hypocrisy comes in because the internal union elections are still by secret ballot. While I have mainly detailed current bills introduced by Democrats, I know that this problem is rampant across party lines; these are simply the latest, and therefore, those example that quickly come to mind. How about both sides stop with spinning words and facts and pledge to be up front, honest, and forthright?

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Boycotting BP

I find it interesting, this call for boycotting that has arisen so often lately; the current focus of punishment is, of course, British Petroleum. In the spirit of full disclosure and credentials, for those that do not know my background, I was in the oil and gas exploration business for 30 years. However, I ran a very small family business that BP, or any other major energy company, could and would squish without even noticing our extinction. So while there is no love loss on my part for a mammoth oil company, I do understand most aspect of the hydrocarbon energy business and I feel I can bring some unbiased thoughts to the situation.

First, I would ask if those of you calling for or actually boycotting BP, have you done any research on whom it will affect, do you know the extent of ramifications, and if, indeed, BP will be hurt? BP has been in the US for over 50 years and is now the biggest producer in the US, having bought out several other companies, but let’s dissect their business.

BP spent over $50 billion in the last 10 years and some would argue that this is just to further their profits. But all that money didn’t just vanish, it ultimately goes to people somewhere down the line. They directly paid salaries for their some 23,000 employees, rented office space and rigs, and purchased oil field and refinery equipment. Indirectly, they paid the salaries of the rig crews and those that built the rigs and refineries, and oil field service and support workers. Further, they paid royalties to federal and state government and to individual property owners, dividends to their stockholders, and some of that money going to pay federal, state, and county taxes.

If the boycott is wildly successful, BP might lose 2% of its global income, but are those at the top really going to see a reduction in their benefit packages? I doubt it. If they are impacted by the boycott, BP may lay off lower level workers, they may rent fewer rigs, and may buy less equipment and supplies. However, I bet they simply cut back on their investment in solar, wind, and bio-fuels, which historically have a lower profit margin. Also, when I hear most people talk about corporations, they seem to think they are an entity unto themselves and their only mission is to make as much money as possible. Legally they are considered a single unit but, notwithstanding what I consider to be obscene salaries at the top, they are owned by regular folks. This is either through direct stock ownership or through market or pension funds. I would bet that investors and pensioners too will lose money before any executive has his or her salary cut.

So how will the boycott manifest and who really gets hurt in a typical boycott these days? About the only way for the public to participate in a boycott will be to stop buying BP’s gasoline. While BP is one of the largest gasoline marketers in the US with almost 12,000 gas stations, do the boycotters know that BP does not actually own any of these stations? They are owned by small entrepreneurs, may of whom are moms and pops that saved up their money to get a piece of the American dream by owning their own business. Ultimately, yes BP does get a few cents on the dollar from every gallon sold, but if a station closes, it is the owners and their 2 – 4 local employees that lose jobs. The state and county loses the taxes no longer paid. Local owners of McDonald, Dominos, and Blockbuster lose business as those out of a job cut back. Hotel owners and others where those now unemployed would have vacationed lose income. Get the picture?

However, I will bet that BP actually does not lose 1¢ in even a “successful” boycott. That is because gasoline supplies remain fairly tight. I find that people are generally very unknowledgeable of almost every aspect of the oil and gas business. If a non-owned BP station closes, corporate BP will simply sell the gasoline that would have been allocated to that station to another company, either through their local distributer or right from the refinery. However, BP wouldn’t probably even have to do that as, unbelievably, there are people boycotting BP stations and, instead, they are buying their gasoline from Amaco and ARCO, both owned by BP!

And this boycott is not really atypical. There was a call to boycott Whole Foods last year after its owner, John Mackey, had, what some deemed, the audacity to propose an alternative to what is now called Obama Care before it was passed. Once again, I found not a single person that knew that Mackey did not receive a salary and hadn’t for many years. So who would have been hurt? Laid off store employees, local distributers, organic farmers, charities, and not-for-profits that Whole Foods support. Wow, talk about throwing out the baby with the bath water.

I understand the impotent feeling the public has over this abominable ecological disaster and the need to strike out. I totally agree that BP needs to be both held accountable and fined, but let’s let President Obama, Congress, state and local governments and regulatory agencies punish BP. If anything, we should be supporting our local BP station owners to help them in this time of recession, not heaping additional torment on them.

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My thoughts on jokes…

After hearing a joke, I often wonder about the nature of jokes. Specifically, most jokes, although seemingly funny, appear to have a real edge to them, if not a downright ugly side. What brought this on was a joke told recently by a colleague that, while fairly benign, nevertheless had a racial tone. It was about asking God if zebras were white with black stripes or vice-versa and was a play on dialect of a racial group. I really only remember one joke at this point that didn’t put down an individual or group. It was about Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy and was very funny. I wonder, however, if Walt would have enjoyed it?

At this point in the blog, I should point out that my wife, Barb, said I should either tell both the jokes or give a different example, but I am respectfully declining. The one told recently to me just isn’t that funny and I don’t want to repeat it. The other has a play on words that some might find offensive. However, if you need to know the jokes to place this blog in context, please e-mail me.

I know one objective of jokes is to release tension around one’s work. Nowhere is this found more prevalent than where I am employed, we sometime joke at the end of the day in our debriefing about a client that was especially taxing. Certainly, that boy or girl is the “butt” of the joke and an outsider would probably be offended and think us insensitive, however, this kind of “gallows” humor is actually therapeutic, cathartic and helps let off steam. Further, it can even be said that jokes about a celebrity that has committed a social gaff or broken the rules the rest of have to follow is a way of processing the transgression, Tiger Woods being the latest target.

The same cannot be said about an unsolicited joke that is directed at an unsuspecting individual or denigrates a group due to their race, religion, or socio-economic status. Why do we humans, with our supposedly superior intellect, still feel the need to verbally wound a fellow traveler or travelers on this journey we call life? Can’t we remember how we felt as the object of a cruel joke? Where is our compassion and empathy for others? And why do we join in the laughter when our guts are telling us, to paraphrase John Bradford, there but for the grace of God go I? Even worse, how much comfort did we feel when the joker tried to appease our feelings with “I was only kidding?”

When are we going to realize that different, and it seems to me that being uncomfortable with anything different, is the main reason for most jokes, is neither good nor bad. It is just different. As Hamlet said, “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” When are we going to start simply being positive to other individuals and events in our thoughts and actions? Finally, can we not comprehend that we are just as different to the one that is on the receiving end of our ridicule and probably figure prominently in their jokes!

Paradoxically, whether we are initiating the joke or partaking of the supposed humor by laughing, we are simply revealing to the world that which we secretly find disturbing in ourselves. How quickly we seem to have lost the peaceful messages of the 60’s. As the Youngbloods said almost 50 years ago, “C’mon people now, Smile on your brother, Ev’rybody get together, Try and love one another right now, Right now. Right now!” (http://lyrics.stlyrics.com/lyrscroll.swf?page=http%3A//www%2Estlyrics%2Ecom/lyrics/easyrider/gettogether%2Ehtm)


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Interesting Dichotomy

As you will learn as I add to this blog over time, I am very interested in the words people choose and pondering what they really meant! Of course, I could always simply ask or I might make a counter statement, but for now I am most comfortable with simply reflecting. The other evening, my wife, daughter and I went out for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner at a wonderful restaurant, The Bay House, in Lincoln City, Oregon. As always at The Bay House, the food and service was excellent and after we finished, our waiter snapped a few pictures of us out in the foyer. After having two pictures taken, I requested a third, but I tied my hair back to make it appear that my hair was shorter. While tying it back, I stated that this picture was for my Dad. As an aside, I have worn my hair very short for the majority of my five decades, but after seeing a picture of Sam Elliot on last year’s December cover of a glossy magazine, Cowboys and Indians, I decided to see if I could look like him! Two other couples from another table were there getting their coats and one of the fellows said something like “You would think at your age you wouldn’t care what your dad thought.”

While realizing that this apparent judgement had everything to do with this gentleman’s relationship with his father and absolutely nothing to do with my relationship, I nevertheless pondered the dual message it sent to me. If he thought I was tying my hair back because I would be intimidated or threatened in any way by what my Dad might say to me, he would have been absolutely wrong. I know my Dad’s comments would be dripping with disapproval and enhanced with colorful language and a derogatory analogy or two. That, however, was not why I chose to tie my hair back. Since he isn’t particularly thrilled with long hair, I gave him the illusion that my hair was once again short for the Christmas picture of his family. It will bring him happiness, if only until he sees me again. So, in truth, I did tie my hair back because of what my Dad would think! My decision had nothing to do with fear and everything to do with love.

Who knows, one day soon I might actually cut my hair just to please him. Or maybe it will be just because I find it fairly annoying (How do people ever get used to wearing what feels like a mop on top of their head!!!). However, that choice, whenever I make it, will be made from love and not a fear based position.

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