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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Optimism, The Young Folks Have My Vote

Why I am optimistic about the youth of Our Nation.

Back in the 80s, I was a contracting officer for the Military District of Washington (MDW). MDW is the Army's major military command charged with the protection of our Nation's capital. Since Washington D.C. isn't in imminent threat from foreign powers, MWD has mostly a ceremonial mission. The Old Guard provides the best of our young servicemen for these ceremonial duties. These young men rise to the honor with the greatest of professionalism.

One of those duties is guarding the Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers. There is an uniformed soldier walking that post 24 hours a day every day of the year, rain, snow, ice or shine. 21 perfectly executed steps, an about face, 21 perfectly executed steps no matter if it is 2:00 PM or 2:00 AM. This has been the case from the installation of the 1st Tomb.

As contracting office I procured the equipment and services used to keep this time honored tradition operating to the level of support such professional dedication deserved. One day I received a heart braking request to install observation cameras at the Tombs. They were needed to protect the young men walking their post.

Seems some poorly raised juveniles decided it would be fun to brake the continuous flow of the guard by going into Arlington Cemetery in the dead of night, wait for the Tomb Guard to walk with his back to them, then run out of the black surroundings and tackle him then run off into the pitch black night. In every case the guard would recover and shake off his injuries and resume walking his post.

The cameras were needed to surveil the surroundings to prevent anyone sneaking up on the guards.

Through history moments of stupidity have struck without warning. Men and women have always failed to see the consequences of their actions at one time or another. We all can look back and feel shame for some of our actions. But there are always those who set the example and give themselves to a higher cause. As few as they may seem, I feel it is with in all of us, just not all the time. We have to cross a line at times to fully understand the flaws of our actions. But there are always those to give us a hand to get back. That hand is often just their dedication to a higher purpose.

I have seen it many time and this little recounting is just one example.

During my days at MDW.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It Is Not Good To Look In Your Friends Undies Drawers


From the NY Times.  Looks like our complacency with our relationship with our allies is catching up with us.  Our arrogance is so blatant it shames me.  We demand our interest take front stage on world affairs and don't care who we walk over to see that they do.  1984 mentality is growing day by day.  Just because we have the technology doesn't mean we have to use it.   It is looking like Edward J. Snowden did the citizenry a service in exposing a Government Agency gone wild tether than betrayed us.

Anger Growing Among U.S. Allies Over Surveillance
By Allison Smale

BERLIN — Leaders and citizens in Germany, one of America’s closest allies, simmered with barely contained fury on Thursday over reports that America intelligence had tapped into Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, the latest diplomatic fallout from the documents harvested by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. 

Ms. Merkel herself angrily demanded assurances from President Obama that her cellphone was not the target of an American intelligence tap as soon as suspicions surfaced on Wednesday. Washington hastily pledged that her calls were not being monitored and would not be in future but conspicuously said nothing about the past. 

While the chancellor kept quiet before heading to Brussels for a European summit on Thursday, one of her closest allies, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, gave full voice to the shock expressed by politicians and citizens. 

“If that is true, what we hear, then that would be really bad,” Mr. de Maizière told ARD, Germany’s leading state television channel. America is Germany’s best friend, he noted, adding: “It really can’t work like this.” 

He suggested that there would be consequences. “We can’t simply go back to business as usual,” he said. 

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, the leader of the Greens, shared the indignation, noting that America is a close ally but that normal business could not be conducted “if we go about suspecting one another.” 

Her consternation was mixed with an element of “we told you so.” The Greens had argued since the first disclosures last summer of mass American surveillance that Ms. Merkel needed to be more vigorous and not simply accept American assurances that no German laws had been broken. 

That was also a strong strand in online comments pouring into German media Web sites. 
Ms. Merkel’s angry call to President Obama was the second time in 48 hours – after a similar furor in France prompted Mr. Obama to call President François Hollande — that the president found himself on the phone with a close European ally to argue that continuing revelations of invasive U.S. intelligence gathering should not undermine decades of hard-won trans-Atlantic trust. 

Both episodes illustrated the diplomatic challenge to the United States posed by the cache of documents that Mr. Snowden handed to the journalist Glenn Greenwald. Last week, Mr. Greenwald concluded a deal with the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar to build a new media platform that aims in part to publicize other revelations from the data Mr. Greenwald now possesses. 

The damage to core American relationships continues to mount. Last month, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil postponed a state visit to the United States after Brazilian news media reports — fed by material from Mr. Greenwald — that the N.S.A. had intercepted messages from Ms. Rousseff, her aides and the state oil company, Petrobras. Recently, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which has said it has a stack of Snowden documents, suggested that United States intelligence had gained access to communications to and from President Felipe Calderón of Mexico while he was still in office. 

Secretary of State John Kerry had barely landed in France on Monday when the newspaper Le Monde disclosed what it said was the mass surveillance of French citizens, as well as spying on French diplomats. Furious, the French summoned the United States ambassador, Charles H. Rivkin, and Mr. Hollande expressed “extreme reprobation” for the reported collection of 70 million digital communications from Dec. 10, 2012, to Jan. 8, 2013. 

In a statement published online, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, disputed some aspects of Le Monde’s reporting, calling it misleading and inaccurate in unspecified ways. 

He did not address another report by Le Monde that monitoring by the United States had extended to “French diplomatic interests” at the United Nations and in Washington. Information garnered by the N.S.A. played a significant part in a United Nations vote on June 9, 2010, in favor of sanctions against Iran, Le Monde said. 

Two senior administration officials — from the State Department and the National Security Council — had arrived in Berlin only hours before the German government disclosed on Wednesday that it had received unspecified information that Ms. Merkel’s cellphone was under surveillance. 

If confirmed, that is “completely unacceptable,” said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert. The accusations followed Der Spiegel’s disclosures in June of widespread American surveillance of German communications, which struck an especially unsettling chord in a country scarred by the surveillance undertaken by Nazi and Communist governments in its past. 

Mr. Seibert quoted the chancellor, who was raised in Communist East Germany, as telling Mr. Obama that “between close friends and partners, which the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America have been for decades, there should be no such surveillance of the communications of a head of government.” 

“That would be a grave breach of trust,” Mr. Seibert quoted her as saying. “Such practices must cease immediately.” 

The government statement did not disclose the source or nature of its suspicions. But Der Spiegel said on its Web site that Ms. Merkel acted after it submitted a reporting inquiry to the government. “Apparently, after an examination by the Federal Intelligence Service and the Federal Office for Security in Information Technology, the government found sufficient plausible grounds to confront the U.S. government,” Der Spiegel wrote. 

ARD, Germany’s premier state television channel, said without naming its sources that the supposed monitoring had targeted Ms. Merkel’s official cellphone, not her private one. 
About an hour after the news broke in Berlin, Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, appeared before news media in Washington, reporting the Obama-Merkel phone call and saying that “the president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring, and will not monitor, the communications of the chancellor.” 

Mr. Obama pledged, as he had to Mr. Hollande, and to Mexico and Brazil, that intelligence operations were under scrutiny and that he was aware of the need to balance security against privacy. 

The first disclosures from Der Spiegel in June almost soured the long-planned meeting between Mr. Obama and Ms. Merkel in her capital, which the president visited as a candidate in 2008, delivering a speech before an estimated 200,000 people. 
In June, there were far fewer, carefully screened and invited Germans and Americans on hand to hear Mr. Obama at the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of Berlin’s unity and freedom since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. 

Shortly beforehand, Mr. Obama and Ms. Merkel stood side by side in her chancellery, fielding questions about American surveillance of foreigners’ phone and e-mail traffic. Pressed personally by Ms. Merkel, the president said that terrorist threats in Germany were among those foiled by intelligence operations around the world, and Ms. Merkel concurred. 
Senior intelligence officials have since made plain that cooperation between the United States and Germany in the field is essential to tracking what they view as potential terrorist threats. 

But if indeed American intelligence was listening to Ms. Merkel’s phone, or registering calls made and received, the trust between Berlin and Washington could be severely damaged. Since June, even senior officials in the German government have voiced more caution about cooperating with the United States and wondered in private about the extent to which any information gleaned was shared with, for example, business rivals of German companies. 
The German government said it had been assured that German laws were not broken, but the issue remains politically fragile. 

In July, Ms. Merkel joked with television interviewers who asked about the situation, “I know of no case where I was listened to.” 

At a separate news conference that month, she signaled on a more serious note that she understood the importance, for all Western allies, of collecting intelligence. But she also emphasized that German or European laws should not be violated. 

The alarm of Americans — and, indeed, their allies — after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was understandable, Ms. Merkel said then, but “the aim does not justify the means. Not everything which is technically doable should be done. The question of relative means must always be answered: What relation is there between the danger and the means we choose, also and especially with regard to preserving the basic rights contained in our Basic Law?”
Melissa Eddy contributed reporting from Berlin, Dan Bilefsky from Paris, and Jackie Calmes from Washington.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Is Your Coworker a Jerk...or Just Mentally Ill?

Is Your Coworker a Jerk...or Just Mentally Ill?

Most Americans spend the bulk of their waking hours at work. Some say that Americans’ “best” hours are given to their employers. If workers like their jobs and/or workplace, they can accept that reality without a fight. Yet, when employees find themselves working with really difficult people, life at work can be extra trying or downright exasperating!
Why certain people are “really difficult” isn’t always clear. It’s true that some people are simply annoying or interpersonally inept. However, some difficult coworkers may be legitimately mentally ill and in need of professional intervention.

Consider that, according to the National Association of Mental Health, incidences of mental illness in the workplace are not uncommon. The NAMH reports that an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. For example, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a mental illness that can be well managed when treated properly, occurs in 4% of American adults and mood disorders including Major Depression, Mania and Bi Polar Disorder occur in 9.5% of American adults, all of which can trigger undesirable behaviors in workers. Likewise, certain Personality Disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), can cause the sufferers to demonstrate symptoms remarkably similar to the personal traits of someone who is simply obnoxious.

Based on the statistics above, it’s not at all unlikely that at some point we may find ourselves working side by side with a person who is clinically mentally ill. Differentiating between clinical symptoms and personal traits can be tricky; only a licensed therapist or a medical doctor should be diagnosing mental illness. Recognizing the difference between people with legitimate Personality Disorders and people with chronic “Jerk-itis” is a bit tougher; you have to know what you’re looking for.
How can workers tell the difference between someone who needs mental help and a garden variety jerk?

ADHD can cause sufferers to be irritable, careless, hyper, forgetful, disorganized, extremely talkative and distractible. A non-ADHD “jerk,” however, would not necessarily demonstrate all these symptoms simultaneously. She may talk your ear off when you need to get back to work. She may “forget” to do certain tasks because she’s lazy, rather than careless. She might keep her desk a mess because it doesn’t bother her to have it messy.

Mood Disorders
A mood-disordered individual with Major Depression, for example, may demonstrate excessive lethargy that is chronic and changes little from day to day. A non-Mood-Disordered jerk might just be a slacker and feign low-energy to get out of doing her fair share of work.

Borderline Personality Disorder
People with BPD struggle to maintain stable relationships, including relationships with coworkers. They vacillate between idealizing their coworkers and demonizing them. Borderlines are highly defensive and tend to demonize those who criticize them. Ultimately, they see themselves through the eyes of others and have a very weak sense of self, which facilitates the development of unstable relationships across all relationship sectors. Obnoxious coworkers don’t necessarily have unstable relationships in all realms of their lives. They may take more credit for accomplishments than they deserve; they may brag about their successes. But, once again, those things just make for obnoxious coworkers. It’s important to note that BPD affects a very small portion of the population (approximately 6% per the Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV) so bear in mind that your extremely annoying coworker may not be mentally ill.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder
A person with NPD is different from a coworker who is conceited and selfish. A clinically diagnosed narcissist knowingly exploits others for his own personal gain without remorse because he sees it as necessary to get what he wants. He is miserably unhappy when the spotlight is removed from him. He feels entitled to special treatment and is obsessed with his “wonderfulness.” A non-NPD jerk doesn’t exploit others without guilt or internal conflict. He would typically feel some remorse and shame for exploitive behavior and might even apologize. Narcissists rarely (i.e., never) apologize. A jerk can be fair. He may grumble about certain parameters, but he typically follows the rules. He may brag about himself but doesn’t go out of his way to elicit compliments from others, as would a narcissist. Furthermore, he is not devastated when excessive praise does not come his way. And NPD is fairly rare; only 6.2% of Americans are clinically diagnosed with the disorder as per the Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV.

It’s important to note that other medical problems can cause coworkers to behave in ways that are unusual and concerning or annoying and obnoxious. Brain tumors, head injuries, medication side-effects, hormonal imbalances, and stress can all trigger troublesome behaviors. So it’s important that employers and employees alike not jump to conclusions when suspecting a fellow worker is suffering from a mental illness. If, however, you suspect mental illness in a coworker, subordinate or supervisor, you need to determine if you can or want to handle the challenges presented when working with that person. Keep in mind the following:
  • A. If a coworker is the problem, it’s best to take suspicions to a supervisor rather than confronting the coworker directly.
  • B. If a subordinate is the cause of the workplace disturbance, deal with it directly but with sensitivity. Be observational in a non-confrontational way. For example, don’t say “You clearly have a personality disorder” say “I’ve noticed that your attitudes and behaviors change significantly from day to day and I’d like to talk to you about that privately.” Be relaxed when addressing the issue. If a supervisor is relaxed and approachable, suffering staffers are more likely to open up.
If the employee acknowledges that there is a problem, help him or her make a plan for recovery and/or symptom management. Talk about some job-related goals the employee can tackle once the disorder is under control. When a troubled employee has something to look forward to, he or she is more likely to follow through on getting necessary treatment.
  • C. If it’s a really difficult supervisor employees are working with, they may need to consider all their options, up to and including transferring, changing positions or leaving the company entirely.
One last thought workers may want to ponder: if one is currently sane but working in a crazy environment, it may only be a matter of time before he himself becomes mentally ill, or quite possibly, becomes a jerk! It’s better to face the problem head on than expect it to go away on its own because, without help, mental illness gets progressively worse over time. And of course, left unchecked, jerk-like behavior will continue to serve as an energy vacuum in your workplace.

Barbara Jaurequi, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Nationally Certified Master Addiction Counselor, speaks on a variety of personal and professional topics and is the author of A.C.E.S. – Adult-Child Entitlement Syndrome, available on Amazon and other online booksellers. A.C.E.S. teaches parents of adult-children how to compassionately launch their adult-children into the world of personal responsibility in a straight-forward step-by-step approach.

Taken from Government Executive

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Don't Destroy Your Credibility With Blind Hate

It is amazing that in a country that cherishes free speech, so many are willing to publicly blatantly lie.  It is a shame that such allegations are so readily accepted as factual.  Facts and truth seem to be defined differently when we use then for political purposes.  

Here is what is posted on Snopes.

Origins:   The text quoted above is just one example of several similar items that have been circulated during or since the 2008 U.S. presidential election, all suggesting (without evidence) that Barack and Michelle Obama, both of whom obtained licenses to practice law in Illinois, gave up those licenses for questionable reasons. Such claims are based on misreadings of information about license status and erroneous interpretations and assumptions about such information:

I saw a note slide across the #TCOT feed on Twitter last night that mentioned Michelle Obama had no law license. This struck me as odd, since (a) she went to school to be a lawyer, and (b) she just recently held a position with the University of Chicago Hospitals as legal counsel — and that's a pretty hard job to qualify for without a law license.

This lead-in is wrong on two counts: Michelle Obama does in fact have a license to practice law in Illinois (it is currently on inactive status), and she did not hold a position as legal counsel with the University of Chicago Hospitals (she worked at that institution as Executive Director for Community Affairs and then Vice President for Community and External Affairs). None of her job duties at the University of Chicago Hospitals required her to have an active law license.

She "voluntarily surrendered" her license in 1993. Let me explain what that means. A "Voluntary Surrender" is not something where you decide "Gee, a license is not really something I need anymore, is it?" and forget to renew your license. No, a "Voluntary Surrender" is something you do when you've been accused of something, and you "voluntarily surrender" you license five seconds before the state suspends you.

This passage is also wrong: Michelle Obama did not "voluntarily surrender" her law license; she voluntarily requested that her license be placed on "inactive" status. The difference is crucial: a lawyer who has surrendered his law license has given it up and therefore no longer has a license; a lawyer who has gone on inactive status still holds a valid law license but is not currently engaged in any professional activities that require it to be active.

At various times in my 28 years of nursing I've done other things when I got burned out; most notably a few years as a limousine driver; even an Amway salesman at one point. I always, always renewed my nursing license — simply because it's easier to send the state $49.00 a month than to pay the $200, take a test, wait six weeks, etc., etc. I've worked (recently) in a Nursing Home where there was an 88 year old lawyer and a 95 year old physician. Both of them still had current licensures as well. They would never DREAM of letting their licenses lapse.

A lawyer's holding active status can entail a number of obligations (financial and otherwise): paying bar association fees, carrying malpractice insurance, taking continuing legal education classes, etc. Therefore, lawyers who are not in practice (i.e., do not appear in court or counsel clients) and do not expect to return to practice in the near future will commonly request that their licenses be placed on inactive status in order to avoid these ongoing obligations. 

Reactivating an inactive law license is a fairly easy procedure, as noted in the Volokh group blog for law professors:

The fact that someone who doesn't actually practice law, and is unlikely to practice law, voluntarily retires is hardly a sinister signal: It costs money to be a member of the bar, and if you're not going to practice, it may make sense to retire. Nor does this somehow undermine claims that he's a lawyer; a retired lawyer is still commonly called a lawyer — as an indication of what he has studied, and his general professional field — even if he is no longer a member of the bar. 

The bar record says that [Michelle Obama] is "Voluntarily inactive." This is even more common for lawyers who don't need a bar card, such as many lawyers who don't appear in court or counsel clients other than employer. Being an active status lawyer costs more money than being inactive, and it requires one to do Continuing Legal Education classes, unless one is in certain jobs for which the CLE requirements are waived. The difference in bar fees, for instance, is why I myself was inactive in 2001. Moreover, it's pretty easy to switch back to active status should one need to do that.

The following passage includes the erroneous implication that Barack Obama gave up his law license to avoid disciplinary action:

"Voluntarily retired" — what does that mean? Bill Clinton hung onto his law license until he was convicted of making a false statement in the Lewinsky case and had to "Voluntarily Surrender" his license too. President Barack Obama, former editor of the Harvard Law Review, is no longer a "lawyer". He surrendered his license back in 2008 possibly to escape charges that he "fibbed" on his bar application.

This is incorrect: Barack Obama did not "surrender" his law license. Like Michelle, Barack Obama had no need for an active law license for the work in which he was engaged, so he chose not to maintain it (but unlike his wife, he "voluntarily retired" rather than going on "voluntarily inactive" status). Neither of the Obamas was irrevocably stripped of their law licenses through the action of "surrendering" them.
Something else odd; while the Search feature brings up the names, any searches for the Disciplinary actions ends quickly. 

As in, Too Quickly. Less than a half-second quickly on a Search Engine that can take five seconds to Search for anything. As in, "there's a block on that information" kind of thing.

Not true. Information about the statuses of both Barack and Michelle Obama's licenses is readily retrievable, both show no record of any disciplinary actions or pending proceedings, and the elapsed time for searches we performed on their information was comparable to that for searches on information about other names in the Illinois ARDC database. 

(The "Malpractice Insurance" section of Michelle Obama's license information which includes a notation about her being on "court ordered inactive status" is not, as commonly misinterpreted, an indication of any wrongdoing on her part. That terminology is used simply because prior to the end of 1999, the Illinois ARDC rules required "a proceeding in the Court for any voluntary transfer to inactive status, whether because of some incapacitating condition or solely as a matter of the lawyer's preference because the lawyer would not be practicing law.")
So we have the first Lawyer President and First Lady — who don't actually have licenses to practice law.

This is hardly remarkable or suspicious: neither of the Obamas holds a currently active law license because neither President of the United States nor First Lady is a position that requires one. It's also inaccurate in referring to the Obamas as the "first Lawyer President and First Lady," as both Bill and Hillary Clinton held law degrees and engaged in legal work prior to the former's election to the presidency. 

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Best Form of Flattery

"Composing a fine art photograph is not about redoing what someone else has done before.  If tempted to redo an image you have seen, just buy the postcard, the book or the poster. You cannot be someone else, therefore you cannot take the same photographs as someone else. You will waste time trying to do so."

While I agree with the above statement, I take a bit of exception to it in one regard.  If I may rely on a clique, "Imitation is the best form of flattery."  

Hmmm, how do I bring this together? 

We are always students of our art form.  When someone has impressed us with their skills, figuring out how they did it then replicating it, expands our skill set.  So just duplicating a well done composition should not be the objective, gaining knowledge should be.  Grasping how something is done allows us to experiment and morph it into our style.  

So, yes taking someone else's composition and using it only to replicate it; yea, you might as well buy the postcard.  But if you work at recreating it to discover what it took to capture it and throughly examine all the elements that went into making it what you loved about it, you will grow exponentially.

BTW  What I left out of the above quote really makes the author's point, which I (shamefully) bent to my own needs.

"Instead, start to create your own images right away."

Tired of entertainment standards.

Two trains of though this morning (that's a record low for me). 

1)  So much music these days has stupid, short line lyrics.  How many times do we hear love and pain in song all day long.  I'd like to suggest vocalist stop using language and start using their voice as an accompanying musical instrument.  I see two benefits at least.  The end of boring catch phrases that pick from five words over and over (I, love, you, hurt, me) and the freedom to bring a personal interpretation to the music.

2). It's interesting that militarily the worlds armies always see each other as a threat and the worlds Scientists see each other as collaborative partners.  Granted there are exception but right now China's Military is pounding its chest at us over some useless islands while its scientists are collaborating with us in the development of sensory arrays that could lead the way to improved artificial skin.  How is it we can work through intellectual endeavors but trip over the artificial concept of ownership?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Look At The TIme

I haven't posted in a very long time.  The world has sped by with all sorts of artificial news events, mostly centering around the U.S. Government.   Social media has reached the point where its possibilities for me and my interest are very positive but it is being influenced by a bunch of self-centered opinionist who do exactly what they say they don't want done to themselves.  Then you have the changing advertising world who is trying to capitalize on this new road into our lives.  Scary but I'm still optimistic. 

At 62 I'm too young to retire in the sense that I need to sit on the porch checking to make sure my grass grows and the moles don't invade.  But I do believe it is time to change what I spend most of my day doing.  Work is not a bad four letter word.  But it can be an exercise in frustration such that there comes a time to let someone else handle that task and move on to where I can be more productive and a positive influence to those closer to me and my interest.  That is where I am now. 

Sometimes I amaze myself because I tend to work my way toward change that I'm not really putting that much thought into.  Like there is a second personality in my head that works behind the scene silently prepping me for a new direction.  Only after I've started doing things in a concrete way do I realize I'm moving on.  That is cool.

While I love my work, I've found myself working with a group of people that are beyond me to bring together in purpose.  This is strange because our purpose is really the same for all of us.  However, each person I work with seems to think the processes are theirs to bend, break or ignore.  This makes getting to completion a real struggle.  We've always made it but its never been pretty with this group.  I'm not putting them down, I'm saying it is time for me to move on and find those I enjoy working toward success with.

One last thing.  My life at 62 is nothing like I ever imagined it would be.  That is neither good nor bad.  It is just you never know what life will bring and while some folks can bend outcomes to their wishes, I'm finding my wishes feel short of how good it really can be.