Native Americans: The Forgotten Minority

I have to say my summer reading has been transforming. Spending time with Jesus in the gospels is incredible. His love and power continues to amaze me and challenge me to stand in the gap between a righteous God and those who are poor of spirit and marginalized. Tolstoy had a wonderful short story demonstrating how caring for the poor and marginalized is caring for Christ. Action seems to be the demonstrative word.

Jim Wallis in his book “On God’s Side,” argues this reality well. However, there is a section discussing American Exceptionalism that caught my eye this morning. I don’t believe in American Exceptionalism, in other words, America has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. I don’t buy that, nor will I ever, but I believe in America and what it stands for: Democracy and freedom for all.

Wallis discusses why he loves America and what embarrasses him about America. He loves patriotism, how beautiful our country is, and our values. “I especially love our best national values: freedom, opportunity, community, justice, human rights, and equality under the law for all of our citizens of every race, creed, culture, and gender, not just for the rich and powerful.” I agree with this, and stand with Wallis on this statement.

He then states what he doesn’t love about this country. “What I don’t love is when my country violates its values and ideals and behaves badly, as when we supported the white South African government for far too long, as well as too many other dictatorships around the world. I don’t love when my country acts out of greed and only for power, or with blatant hypocrisy, or like an empire.” I also agree with this statement. Wallis continues by discussing civil rights, “I also love our American social movements: abolitionists who fought to end slavery, civil rights activists, suffragettes, labor organizers, human rights campaigners – these are my heroes.” Although I agree with him here, he leaves out a group that has been sentenced to concentration camps for over 150 years, Native Americans.

There are Indian activists, but where is the active dialog on what to do with reservations? Years ago there was a termination movement for eliminating rez’s across the US. Is that what needs to be accomplished? Where are the multifaceted leaders, like the civil rights movement of the 60’s, that can stand up for dealing with the atrocities that are inflicted by the government on the Native Americans, and the horrible acts occurring as Indian on Indian violence? Alcohol, Rape, meth, heroin, and gangs are prevalent on reservations, which are nothing more than ghettos, yet we don’t see a national debate on what to do with the Native American.

I agree with Vine Deloria when he identifies Indian Affairs as a relationship between the US government, Tribal government, and the community. But I think he stops to soon, at least in regards to how he defines community. The community is not just the Native community, but white and red. There needs to be a new dialog, one that brings together the stakeholders to deal with this horrific exploitation of people. As Paolo Freire recognizes in the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” there needs to be a humanizing dialog between the US oppressor and the oppressed, the Native, both have been dehumanized by the process of oppression.

We don’t see Jesus in the gospels sitting down with the Roman government to come to an agreement on how to deal with the Jewish issue. That was not his purpose. However, He did tell us how we are to act as the church. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall called the children of God.”

And that is my thought for the day!


The Road To Serfdom: Lessons In Chinese Politics

Yesterday I played golf with another Boeing retiree, one who is still working for Boeing, and a fourth who works for PGE in Portland. We had a great time, and I actually played pretty well for a change. However, in light of an article in the paper this morning, a comment that one of my playing partners made yesterday stands out. John has just returned from mainland China, and his main observation was the amount of money the people had. Our conclusion was the more money people have the more they travel. Everywhere John went he saw a lot of people. Prosperity has hit China, and I can tell you this prosperity did not emerge from a centrally planned economy, but one that is resulting from more freedom, which hopefully the Chinese will not lose.

Yang Jisheng is a Chinese historian who is in New York to receive the Manhattan Institute’s Hayek prize for his book “Tombstone.” It is a book about the Chinese famine that occurred from 1958 to 1962 where 36 million Chinese people died from starvation. “It would take years more for him to realize that the source of all the suffering was not nature: There were no major droughts or floods in China in the famine years. Rather the cause was man, and one man in particular: Mao Zedong, the great Helmsman, whose visage still stares down on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.”

Yang’s father died from starvation during this time, and the event has had a profound impact on Yang. However, Yang has identified a particular book as having had an important directional influence on him. Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” was originally translated into Chinese in 1962, and Yang who was a journalist had the opportunity to read it. “Mr. Yang quickly saw that in Hayek’s warnings about the dangers of economic centralization lay both the ultimate explanation for the tragedies of his youth – and the predicaments of China’s present.” Hayek states, “In a country where the sole employer is the state, opposition means death by slow starvation.”

During Mao’s reign, he had complete control over what was produced and what was eaten. “Peasants were forced to work intolerable hours to meet impossible grain quotas, often employing disastrous agricultural methods inspired by the quack soviet agronomist Trofim Lysendko.” The grain was then shipped to cities and exported to other countries, leaving very little for the peasants who worked the fields. “Cannibalism, including parents eating their children, became commonplace.”

All of this happened while many in my generation extolled the positive events of Mao’s reign. I remember many of my friends carrying Mao’s red book, thinking it was cool, not recognizing the horror’s associated with Chinese leadership. According to the WSJ, “The power of Mr. Yang’s book lies in its hauntingly precise descriptions of the cruelty of party officials, the suffering of the peasants, the pervasive dread of being called a right deviationist for telling the truth that quotas weren’t being met and millions were being starved to death.”

But Yang doesn’t stop here; he writes about the power structure of China today. “The conventional notion that the modern Chinese system combines political authoritarianism with economic liberalism is mistaken: A more accurate description of the recipe is dictatorship and cronyism, with the results showing up in rampant corruption, environmental degradation and wide inequalities between the politically well-connected and everyone else.”

Collectivist philosophy leading to wide inequalities or Capitalism leading to wide inequalities; I don’t think the problem of inequality is an economic issue as much as it is a human issue between the oppressor and the oppressed. It is a power issue, where those that have power take advantage of those who don’t. Maybe Paulo Freire is right when he says that it is time to create a new pedagogy, one that is created by a dialog between the oppressed and oppressor? However, I think Jesus has already laid out this pedagogy for us in the Sermon on the Mount.

My summer reading includes: The Gospels, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, The Road to Serfdom, and Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. Who know who I will be by the end of this summer.

And that is my thought for the day!

Who Is Responsible For Employee Actions?

I continue to question the motives and abilities of large government. Our latest scandal involves the IRS. The Internal, or Infernal as some would describe it, Revenue Service is under fire for its targeting of conservative groups for added scrutiny. According to the WSJ this morning there are emails, oh those emails, which surfaced in 2011 describing decisions made by certain people within the IRS in 2010. Government transparency is once again an issue.  The head of the IRS is pleading the 5th although she has stated that she has done nothing wrong.

The emails are very clear about criteria used to select organizations applying for nonprofit status for additional screening. In a June, 2011 email, John Schafer, a screening manager in Cincinnati, “outlined the criteria the group was using to select applications for extra review. They included references in the case file to tea party, patriots, or 9/12 project; issues such as government spending, debt and taxes, advocacy or legislative activity to make America a better place to live; and statements in the case file that are critical of how the country is being run.” This does remind me of Richard Nixon.

Is this really big government gone wild, as Daniel Henninger argues in his editorial this morning? Henninger focuses on a comment by David Axelrod, an advisor to President Clinton and currently the senior advisor to President Obama, “Part of being President is that there’s so much beneath you that you can’t know, because the government is so vast.” Henninger goes on to argue, “Under Mr. Axelrod’s Spock like logic, the Federal government has become a Milky Way of incomprehensibility, and so it follows that the IRS scandal could have originated with a few federal Klingons in faraway Cincinnati.”

Although many pundits are trying to tie this to President Obama, the fact is in all organizations there are underlings that make dumb decisions. The CEO who’s underlings made the stupid decision, have the responsibility to hold accountable the people responsible for said dumb decision. The managers and perpetrators should be dealt with. It is when we hide actions to attempt to minimize the exposure that trouble occurs.

President Obama is not the first President to use the IRS to address an enemy. Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, and others have all used this mechanism for striking fear into the heart of an opponent. However, now that it is exposed, it is best to deal with the situation in an open and honest, at least as much as possible, way. On NPR yesterday I heard people using the impeachment word for President Obama. However, I am not convinced this is warranted.

The fact is government in the United States has been designed to enhance transparency and accountability. But that does not exclude our responsibility in the evolution of our country. We need to pay attention and vote. We must be involved in the process of government. And we must pray. Pray that our leaders perform their jobs well, and that God expose those things that should not be done.

I don’t care whether we are government leaders, leaders in our community, or leaders of our families, when we do sneaky things, thinking no one will see them, we get ourselves in trouble. Henninger makes a good points when he says, “It isn’t just these scandals [discussing the IRS, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank events]. Rather than delivering good, smart and transparent government, the Obama policy squads are doing what happens after they realize the good model isn’t working as they planned. Then we get what’s coming to light right now – government that coerces people or pushes past the laws limits. This is government gone wild.” This is not a government we want, no matter which party is in control.

We need to pay attention, if not we will get what we deserve, no matter who is in power.

And that is my thought for the day!

Company Creativity

Why are some companies creative and innovative, while others say they are creative but really aren’t? Justin Brady discussed this today in the WSJ. I found the article interesting and accurate. Creativity occurs in organizations that are well led.

Brady stated that he had “observed many different strategies that leaders employ, hoping to spark creativity in the workplace.” He continued, “I’ve had discussions with Ma and Pa shops and Fortune 500 executives. Some leaders inspired creativity, others didn’t. But the education or experience of their teams, the hiring of individuals known for their creativity, and the company’s size or its pay scale had nothing to do with it.” In my experience that truly is the case. The creativity of a company is based on the culture which is fostered by good leadership.

Brady argues this point well. He argues that “creative output of any company always comes out of leadership that exhibits one very basic principle,” cultivation by leaders that believe in shared creativity.

The way these leaders cultivate shared creativity is by listening, empathizing, and trusting. By listening Brady means more than just hearing. It means keeping eye contact, “and strain to find meaning.” The verbiage he using is more like strong dialog; dialog that creates a shared meaning.

Empathize is nothing more than caring. “People who empathize not only put themselves in others shoes, but they make it a priority to find truth in their words. This is how a manager demonstrates care for an employee.

The last element of a creative culture involves trust. In Patrick Lencioni’s book, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he notes that trust is the foundation of a solid and high performing team. The absence of trust is detrimental to the future of an organization. “Listening and empathizing are useless if you can’t trust another individual.” Trust is the foundation of a creative and innovative environment.

Good leaders have the capability of fostering an environment that allows the employee to feel they can be successful and creative. The employee feels like they can make a difference. As a result the organization performs at a higher level, and the customer is better served. This type of culture does not just happen it is developed by leadership.

And that is my thought for the day!

My New Goal In Life!

I just returned from a week in South Dakota. Every year I take students to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and meet people. I wouldn’t call it a short-term mission trip, I would call it a meet and greet event. Our purpose is very simple, we travel together as a group, which means we learn about each other; we meet people who are different than us; and we serve. We try to help the little church we stay at; and we review the history of the area, which is extensive. We visit Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Fort Robinson, and other areas to learn about the historical relationship of white and red people in the Midwest. I enjoy this tip because of what we learn, how we help, and the fact I get to see Ed Breeden. Ed is our guide who takes us on our journey.

This year was a little different than normal. We did not have as many service jobs and the church had a problem earlier this year, which has hurt the attendance of adults. We did not know what to expect when we arrived, but we were flexible. We did accomplish very good service job, which involved installing a safety fence to protect the children from falling into a fire pit.

All of the above was nice, but I had an epiphany about poverty. My moment of illumination involved the fact that poverty is not defeated by big government handouts, but by hard work and initiative. If poverty could be eliminated by handouts; then the reservation would be a place of affluence. But Pine Ridge is not an area of affluence but one of extreme poverty accompanied by everything usually experienced in a ghetto setting.

Instead of handouts, the Charlie’s, Reuben’s, David’s, Clarissa’s, Maria’s, and Hazel’s need the opportunity to work. Each of these people are real people who have a story. Work in this area is hard to find, so maybe entrepreneurship could help? But I don’t think one could just start small businesses in Pine Ridge, I think there needs to be a lot of education done first. More than what could be done in a week. The question is how does one do this long distance, in preparation for starting a small business?

This has become my new goal in life. I want to establish a process, or system if you will, that can be replicated in other poor areas, that can help communities start small businesses based on the assets of the community.  This summer I intend to figure this out. I will be working and writing, putting together this process. Rather than continue handouts to the Lakota, I think there needs to be a weaning off of the welfare and partnerships with the business community and tribe to provide opportunities for people to work and become productive.

Now is the time to make a difference, not create a larger welfare state.

And that is my thought for the day!

The Checks And Balances Of Government

Last night I watched the County Commissioner meeting. The beginning of the meeting did not disappoint me. Madore and Mielke tag teamed Stuart to change the agenda to the meeting. All discussion concerning the appointment of Benton as environmental manager was moved to the end, and according to the paper, the meeting lasted to around 11pm. I did not watch it until the end. Stuart did say he was filing an ethics violation today.

President Obama gave the commencement address at Ohio State University and chose citizenship as his topic. President Obama rightly stated that citizenship is an awesome responsibility. Obama said, “the idea at the heart of our founding – that as Americans, we are blessed with God-given and inalienable rights, but with those rights come responsibilities – to ourselves, to one another, and to future generations.” In this statement we see both the privilege and responsibility that comes with being an American citizen. The interpretation that Roger Philon had of the Obama event is quite interesting.

In his article in the WSJ this morning he notes that President Obama’s purpose within his address was to emphasize the unbounded authority of government. Obama, according to Philon, dismissed individual ambition and replaced it with accomplishments that can only come through big government. Instead of having a government that administers justice in a manner that allows for both individual and collective attainment, Philon argues that Obama is declaring that the only way to press forward into the future is through large government actions. I did not hear Obama’s speech, so I cannot dismiss or agree with Philon’s comments, but in light of what Clark County just experienced, I understand why political process is in place.

Philon stated this morning that the founders “distrusted us, at least in our collective capacity. That’s why they wrote a constitution that set clear limits on what we , as citizens, could do through government.” The checks and balances designed within our federal government are critical to a system that protects the people of our country.  Similar county processes are designed in a manner to ensure governmental due process. The founders of this country recognized the fallen nature of humankind and our ability to mess things up. Thus the checks and balances at the federal level.  Similarly, county processes are in place to mitigate our human abilities to oppress the other for the elites benefit. Of the thirty people who spoke last night, 27 were against the Benton appointment and 3 were for.

Wow, so many lessons this week, just from one event. Yet, we can also see how the lessons are relevant at the national level too.

And that is my thought for the day!



Clarkistan: Comparing Madore, Mielke, and Benton To Vladimir Putin

I have studied leadership for twenty years, and as a workforce participant for over forty years I have experienced both good and bad leadership. I have seen people hired into important positions that had absolutely no technical skill required to accomplish the job. On top of that they did not have the necessary people skills to influence people to accomplish goals associated with required tasks.

Research has shown that certain behaviors are associated with good leadership, and other behaviors create a reduced organizational performance. When leadership attempts to bolster “individual desire” versus “organizational good” it can result in something less than stellar.

Where this is clearly seen is in the public forum, when an individual’s desire becomes prominent, leading to the negation of good public leadership. Vladimir Putin is a classic example of how good leadership can evolve into bad when personal agendas are viewed as what is best for civic life.

Several years ago Putin enjoy the highest popularity ratings in the world but things have changed. Monday evening thousands of protestors hit the bricks in Moscow, Russia to protest to demand an end to the rule of Putin and the release of political prisoners. According to this morning’s Wall Street Journal as many as 20,000 protestors were voicing their opinion. They chanted “Russia will be free,” and “Russia without Putin.” There were no incidents, but leaders of the protest movement warned they are in for a long fight. Putin, who is an ex-KGB officer, and his government, have been suspected of murdering or arresting opposition leaders.

Comparing Putin with Madore, Mielke and Benton is very extreme, I know that, but when government oversteps its role, free people have the right to speak up; thus my reason for comparing the cronyism of Madore, Mielke and Benton to the Russian government.

I wasn’t going to write about this event again, until I saw the paper this morning and Benton was pictured going to work this morning, acting as if nothing was wrong. On top of that you have Madore trying to pass the blame to Barron for not changing the job description which infuriated me. It reminded me of a Clint Eastwood movie named “Absolute Power.” In that movie the President has an affair with the wife of the man who helped him win the Presidency, and during a rough sexual encounter between the wife and the President the Secret Service shoot the woman. During a press conference the President, played by Gene Hackman tells the very rich man, played by E.G. Marshall, how sorry he was for the death of his wife and that he was like a father to him. This is when Clint Eastwood’s character, who watched the press conference and was appalled at the lie, decides to take the President down, and expose him because of his duplicity.

But the morning’s paper got me to thinking about the event again and the similarities of Putin’s government and ours in Clarkistan. Putin’s cronyism is well documented. In Putin’s government there is a “ubiquitous and open merging of business and civil service, with a healthy dose of relatives in high places.” The dynamic duo of Clarkistan seem to be following the same play book as Putin.

Putin is trying to eliminate any healthy and democratic debate. He is doing this by shutting down journalistic investigation, and arresting opposition. Madore and Mielke just fire employees they want to replace with their friends.

I know people might say this is an extreme comparison, and I probably am reaching a bit. But the fact is, the best leadership encourages debate and discussion, maybe even a devil’s advocate who states something is wrong, instead of a groupthink when no one questions process.

Madore is a businessman that probably runs his business just like he wants to run county business. Madore’s business is not a democracy, he is the owner and has the right to run his business anyway he wants. If I don’t like it then I can quit and go to work some place else. But when it comes to county politics, the commissioners cannot ignore policy for their own purpose. Policy is put in place to protect the people to ensure we get the best political outcomes possible.

When political leaders ignore process, and we don’t step up and say something, then we will get a Putin, and end up a Clarkistan, which I don’t think any of us want. Tonight at 6pm there is a public meeting with the commissioners. I am sure it will be a packed house.

And that is my thought for the day!