Thursday, November 29, 2007

Figures Don't Lie, But Liars Do Figure

As a career counselor for the last 17 years, after serving as a CEO of a small industrial company for 18 years, I ask you to be suspicious of figures related to employment, and those who use them.

Those who back their claim with statistics that our economy, and the lives of our people in their world of work, are doing well, use and cherry pick their statistics of choice to support their claims, while conveniently ignoring other statistics which are clear indicators of trouble for our citizens.

In my own work/life, first going from gopher to president of a small company, and more recently as a career,work/life counselor, I've been asked by heads of families, fathers and mothers, recent high school, tech school and college graduates what to expect in today's world of work. These are the people, the families to which today's charlatans declare their commitment to family values but are actually ignoring, if not cynically using, statistics as a tool to cement their power.

They base their glowing claims on employment figures and are quick to use new job statistics to support such claims that we are all doing better. How convenient and cynical. They use figures which do not lie, but they are liars who use figures.

Statistics that reflect the level of employment are likely to be accurate and true to the extent that they are used to report how many people are employed. What they don't report is how much people are earning and what people are doing, compared to what they were earning and what they were doing before they lost their previous jobs.

Some jobs are lost even in the best of times. Some people aren't up to the tasks, or come cropper to conflicts in the work place. There is always a baseline unemployment rate which is difficult to analyze. Something like 3% or so unemployment is considered a full employment economy. It might be the plus or minus margin of error of polls, or it might be that some people do just enough in trying to find a job to stay in the unemployed category, but who are so marginally employable based on what they have to offer that they are likely to be the last employed under any circumstances.

But I'm not talking about these people.

I'm talking about people who have found a job, but a job which pays less than their previous job which was eliminated by their previous employers who, for one or more of many possible reasons, understandable from the point of view of the employer, decided to move their operation to a part of the world, next door or to the other side of the globe, where labor was less expensive.

As a former business executive I understand this.

In the 1890's, the New England textile industry essentially left New England and relocated in the Southeast of our country.

Since then industry after industry moved from their traditional base to places with lower wages; e.g. the shoe industry, steel industry.

As a career and work/life coach, in my attempts to counsel such people, help them understand what they need to learn and what they need to do to find work and income, I am faced with the challenge of re-educating them about today's reality of the world of work, the so-called new paradigm, to use the buzzword which made it's first appearance in the early 1990's.

If they want new jobs, if they hope to be employed again, they are likely to need new skills since those they had counted on in the past did not protect them from being let go. They also need to understand, adapt and decide that they need to look for work, not a job. They need to accept the reality that those who need what they can do, those in the market for their skills, might offer them work as an employee, or a contractor, or as a consultant. They need to understand that it is no longer their father's world, the comforting hymn not withstanding.

The concept of the job, with its benefits, salary or wages has gone the same route to extinction, for now, as the buggy whip. Owners of companies don't want employees, and in fact they don't want to be thought of as employers. They need and want someones or somethings to perform whatever tasks are needed to produce products and services which they have determined from their marketing analyses, will result in sales growth, and by virtue of reducing costs, most of which are associated with levels of employment, will result in increased profits, asset and equity growth.

These people see themselves as owners, not employers, with their focus on the owner's need for capital, investment. That means they need to keep the value of their stock high. They do that by the only two means possible; increasing revenue and reducing cost. Increasing revenue is usually a long term project, unless the fates smile on them by some dramatic change in technology or a sudden windfall which would have been difficult to predict.

Reducing cost can be accomplished more quickly. Reduce payroll by eliminating employees, and/or switch to temporary and contract workers, who receive none of the previously expected benefits; health care and retirement contributions for example. The cost reductions can be almost immediate, though sometimes less immediate due to commitments to severance packages.

However, Wall Street is inclined to reward them immediately by bidding up their share price, anticipating lower costs and the consequent larger profits; as they, the current and future shareholders compete with each other to buy in at the lowest cost they can.

The ownership and managers of profit oriented organizations are rebelling against the values and standards of the former paradigm which was characterized by rewarding loyalty and faithfulness, attributes and values normally associated with so-called family values.

If I were to write a book about this, I could come up with a lot of anecdotal evidence in support of my big picture, paradigm change acknowledgement, forty thousand foot view of today's world of work.

Others have already written those books. One of the best is, Job Shift, written in the early or mid 1990's. I wish I could remember the name of the author. can find it for you.

I take a dim view of folks who only complain and point out the obvious negatives. I have no Cupid magic arrow, nor does anyone else. But let's not focus on the arrow, the shooter, nor even the target.

Let's look at the idea of the shooting range itself. To be successful two things must be in place. The shooter has to be good, and the target has to be stationary, or at least available to the shooter's ability to hit it. This is familiar to many; the 22 rifle range at summer camp and/or the M1 or M14 firing range in boot camp. It was simple; you hit the target or you didn't. You qualified or you didn't. That's a pretty good metaphor for the world of today's job search.

By way of segueing to my next thoughts, here's a personal experience from my Army boot camp days.

At Fort Knox, in 1959, I was assigned to a group of grunts to try out a new gun site for tanks. We were instructed in how to use the background and foreground, left and right controls available to us for giving the tank gunner the target's coordinates.

I was quickly eliminated because I was consistently way off in the fore and aft setting. I since have learned that I have an ocular astigmatism, the solution to which is corrective lenses.

This is not a perfect example of the point I'm trying to make. The Army didn't move the test to another country, and they found other work they assigned me to do.

In fact, had they let me go back to civilian life I would have been thrilled since I had not wanted the job in the first place, but needed to fulfill the military requirement in place at that time.

This story, though, can help us be open to a need to consider the relative merits of the boot strap view of life and the safety net view of life.

In a sense the Army, putting aside motivations and preferences of the employer and the employee, took a safety net view of life in not eliminating my job, but finding another one for me in their organization. That next job resulted in my continual employment with no loss of income. It's not a clean analogy, since I was not an employee who could quit my job, but I hope you grasp the point I'm trying to make.

Some time ago I wrote on another of my blogs an essay entitled, Boot Straps and Safety Nets.

I spent a fair amount of thought and time on that, and if I were to try to summarize it here I would not be effective, nor successful.

Should you be sufficiently interested in this idea, I commend to you "Boot Straps and Safety Nets", at

Please take advantage of the opportunity to respond in any way you'd like, by clicking on the underlined, light blue words, "Comments", which always appear at the end and just below the post you have just read.

Those who write do so for at least one or more of several reasons. Restricting myself to a simple few, I write in the hope that readers ponder something which they might not have considered before, and which they might be open to adding to their personal and particular stone soup recipe of life.

Those who try out their latest recipes on their company, their friends, are always a bit on edge as to whether their guests will like it; but nevertheless they usually are of a sufficiently imaginative and creative temperament to put it out there, hope for the best, and live with, and learn from the results.

At the risk of adding to the maudlin gag response, those of us who write understand that we count on living to write another day.

The title of this web log is A Voice Crying in the Wilderness. That is intentional. Voices come and go, but Wilderness will always be with us.

In Desiderata, the poet wrote, "No doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should".


"Strive to be happy".

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Ultimate Dilemma

What to do when the citizens are wiser than the politicians?

Or more troubling and frightening is the question, what to do when the politicians know that, but ignore the citizens because they can, and so couldn't care less?

When those in power, fall in love with, and are enthralled by that power, they act as rulers, kings, not as one person elected by the citizens to govern for a specified and limited time.

It's been widely reported that Karl Rove's goal and vision was to do what he had to do to keep the GOP, his version of it, in power for years to come.

The Third Reich was to last for a thousand years.

We're talking grandiosity here.

The very and same people who ridicule anyone for invoking the spector of Nazi Germany as a way to get peoples' attention to the serious threat of forces against which they can be overwhelmed, do so to deflect such accusastions from themselves and refocus them on those they fear are on to them.

Such people are quick to focus on the Holocaust of Nazi Germany as it's singular evil and something that can't and won't happen again, as if by promoting that belief, to which all decent people subscribe, they can hide their selfish actions under the radar which is focused on and set to detect the horrors of a Holocaust, but which are not set to detect the less obvious, and in the short term, seemingly less damaging undermining of those values on which our founders staked their lives and reputations.

Statements like this one I just made are too frequently today thought of as quaint.

For now, I will put this out there as an example of
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness.

Please know that I hope that somewhere in the wilderness it will be heard and might even generate a response.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

When Logic Feels Futile

How many lives will be sacrificed, how many billions of dollars will be poured down the rat hole which is Iraq before some kind of citizen coalition gets worked up enough and led well enough to oppose those who promote war, somewhere, anywhere, because it's in their financial interest to do so?

One kiss of death is the use of the word "conspiracy" to describe what's going on and which has a foul odor. That word has been so overused that it has become an indication of just another rant, and considered merely as a Voice Crying in the Wilderness. The clear implication is that the voice is out of touch with reality, and should be dismissed as irrelevant if not actually weird and off the wall. But all people understand the phrase "hidden agenda".

Many of those who might coalesce have not. Perhaps it's because they have continued to want to keep believing that Cheney/Bush deserved the chance to make the surge work because that would give the elected Iraqi government space and time to bring their country together.

Such a view and hope is a credit to us as a people. We really do hope that our leaders, those we elected, share our values, dreams and hopes for us and our children. But, sadly, I can only conclude that they talk that way, but act differently.

Their actions speak loudly that they value promoting aggression, though they speak peace.

Even a superficial look at how they made their money, and who has supported their election projects, brings to light, if one is open to seeing the light, that those they "value", in a rather corrupt connotation of the word, are all about making money; and armed conflict is the requirement because money is made by selling arms and ammunition, often to both sides.

These people, and the organizations they create understand that it's easier to make money by fanning the flames of conflict than to turn and focus their energy on dousing the flames. It's been acknowledged for some time that some of the most successful criminals have brilliant minds. They differ from others of brilliant minds more in their goals than in their genius.

Those in charge today are feeding us the pap, the pablum they know we crave, so that we will give them the benefit of the doubt as they pursue their goal of making money on conflict, conflicts which they, the military/industrial establishment, stir up.

This is not new to our species nor to our own nation. Such people sold guns and ammunition to both the north and the south during our own civil war. These are people who have no allegiance to a people, nation or country. If they have any allegiance it would be to the power of money.

Taylor Caldwell, in the 1970's, wrote a novel, "Captains and the Kings", in which she tried to awaken her readers to the reality and the threat of such people who understand that their success depends on how well they can stir up feelings of nationality and fear.

Lighthouse Keeper

Monday, November 12, 2007

More and More Through the Looking Glass

Up is down, left is right, right is wrong, black is white; and the reverse of all of these dichotimies and more are spun suffiently that they will, by virtue(surely an odd and perverse use of the word) of repetiton come to be accepted as reality, truth and fact.

I'm not all that great at remembering facts and details, but if I have anything of value to offer in the many and varied aspects of life and living it's that in by being exposed to facts and details I seem to percieve a pattern in them, a trend; perhaps from experience or more quickly than those who prefer to focus mostly on what's going on in their lives on a day to day basis.

I've been then and there in the before of life. I've been that person. I've walked in those moccasins. I have experienced the worries, doubts and frustrations piled on as expectations, requirements and needs of being a husband, father and small company president.

Essentially I was in blackout mode during the Vietnam War, to the extent that news of the death of a neighbor's son in Vietnam registered in my mind for a short time, as a fact, though absent of emotion, and was soon burried by my own personal reality; the facts, emotions and frustrations weighing on me then. The breakup of our family through divorce was on the horizon, but not yet acknowledged.

I mention this only by example of what the vast majority of citizens of this country are dealing with every day. Budgets are strained if not broken. Credit card debt is looked to and accepted as a way to supplant the disappearance of income due to loss of jobs, and/or inflation's erosion of incomes.

An individual situation, though supported by fact or detail can be an aberration, an isolated event. Repeated facts and details for some are a continuing string of aberrations and isolated events. For me that stringing together alerts me and triggers a need to step back from what is currently happening and look for a pattern, a trend, which might be eluding us, or which some might not want to recognize for one reason or another, often because offered antidotes threaten those who, right now, for a time, are not suffering.

I speculate that paying attention to the physical age of one who is adamant about a position on this issue can be useful to politcians, economists and those they look to for information and advice. The following story, based on an actual life experience, is just one example of the facts of life which confront those who made what they thought at the time were the best decisions they could, based on the circumstances they faced, but which, due to genuinely unintended and unpredicted circumstances, led to most unfortunate and disagreeable outcomes.

I know a man who, up until the age of fifty, though strapped financially, and whose ex-wife's new husband, a banker, told him that he was de-facto bankrupt, due to the loss of the asset value of his house and home through divorce, and faced with the need and wish to pay for college for four sons, he continued to believe that, if and when he could get himself together, he could restart, and believed that he still had enough time left to work that he could provide for his retirement, after completing the obligations to his children.

He didn't anticipate becoming incapacitated with a back injury. He didn't anticipate a three year long treatment for prostate cancer. He didn't anticipate that his employer would be sold to a firm who told him he was no longer needed. He didn't anticipate that these circumstances would result in his going without income for several years. He was forced to sell his home at a discount before losing it to foreclosure. He applied for Social Security at age 62, rather than waiting till age 65, and a larger monthly check. He did what could with his skills to find occasional work as a consultant. He burned through his savings and ran up credit card debt when he needed to pay for car repairs, new tires and such. When he turned 65 he became elligible for Medicare. He applied for Social Security Disability but quickly learned that anyone drawing Social Security was not elligble.

His closest relatives, a sister and her family, four sons and their families, those who might be expected to offer shelter, care and assistance, are dealing with their own stresses and strains; some with severe health issues, some with financial challenges and some who live far away and in climates which would exacerbate his physical limitations.

In this particular case, he is fortunate and blessed to love and be loved by a widow whose deceased husband had built their retirement home with no mortgage, and with whom he now lives. His love, older than he, still holds down a job to supplement her social security benefits so that she can pay the real estate taxes and insurance premiums on her property which go up every year by more than her social security income.

Some weeks ago I wrote on another blog a piece entitled, Boot Straps and Safety Nets.
In that essay I made a case for Safety Nets, while acknowledging the appeal of Boot Straps. I hope you will take time to read it at:

If you do, I hope you will leave a comment, which you can do very easily by clicking on the blue highlighted word "Comments" at the end of the post.

Or, if you prefer, write to me at

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Frog legs for dinner: The Key to Preparation

Select a pot, large enough to handle the introduction and melting of any and all ingredients. Fill it with water, the most important, essential and natural element of life. Select from a population of living beings (in this case frogs for purposes of example)who are pretty much instinctively pre-occupied by their immediate needs. They likely have no concept of time in the abstract perception of past, present and future, but are limited to the sense, that is to say, what their senses confirm to them of present reality. In this example they experience warmth inititally, and like most beings, as small and gradual rise in temperature actually can feel good to a point. I don't have to draw you a word picture of what finally happens to the frog.

Most psychologists will tell you that many criminals are brilliant, but they use their intellect for dark purposes.

I submit that the Bush/Cheney elected mafia dons are brilliant, and have used their intellects for dark purposes.

They understand the frog thing. They turn up the heat on the burner of fear a little bit at a time until those they know they can fool into thinking that they are safe are overcome by the heat of fear.

It happened in 2003, and many signs indicate that it's happening again.

David Brooks wrote recently that the Bush administration is not going to attack Iran, "(trust me)" was his parenthetical statement.

David Brooks is a columnist of the NY Times, with a Conservative, if not Right Wing, agenda. His previous employer was The Weekly Standard, clearly a voice of the far Right; a house of neo-cons, often associated with red light neighborhoods. (Oops, that was not a politically correct statement). If I really had what one might call an audience, I exsAppologies to Fox News, and in particular Bill O'Reilly's need to expose for his viewership's pleasure, skin and bones,

David Brooks, for me, is easy to like. He's smart, but not smarmy, though occasionally clever. He understands and appreciates the powers of the memes of cultures, has a subtle sense of humor, has the credentials of education and intellect of one worthy of respect, and also projects, if not embodies, many of the views, wishes and values of Americans.

David Brooks' opinions and offerings encourage me that trying to remain independent is an OK stance. That it's not only OK to suspend judgement, that by doing so is not "Waiting for Godo"

I could write, honestly, a similar post about the offerings of George Will.

I could not write, honestly, a similar post about the offerings of Charles Krauthammer or William Kristol.

As one who is easily dismayed, disappointed and disilussioned, if not afraid, that he is just another voice crying in the wilderness, getting any kind of reply, positive or negative, would be received as a great and valuable gift.

As for giving, it's been written, said and credited to God that He loves the cheereful giver.

Let's hear it and give it up for God!.

The Spy Who Wants Israel to Talk

That's the title of a column in Sunday's Washington Post, by David Ignatius.

The credentials of the spy are impressive, and his reputation in Israel is apparently "iconic".

What always troubles this cynical voice is that talk like this assumes that peace is the goal.

The military/industrial establishment can't handle peace.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Will: Unused War Powers

Please read George Will in today's, Sunday, Nov 4, Washington Post.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Andrew Sullivan on Obama

I commend to you Andrew Sullivan's short essay on Barack Obama, found on his blog, The Daily Dish and/or Atlantic Monthly.

It's about Obama being the one who can begin the transformation so urgently needed in this country.