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Jul. 26 2010 — 10:58 am | 308 views | 1 recommendations | 30 comments

My last True/Slant post

I guess it is now my turn.

The time has come for me to say a temporary ‘so long’ to the readers who have made my time here at True/Slant so enjoyable.

For me, the experience has been nothing short of wonderful. The interaction with the editorial staff has been superb and I want to publicly thank Lewis Dvorkin, Coates Bateman and Michael Roston (who has tolerated my tendency to engage in perfectly awful spelling with far more patience than I deserved) for the opportunity.

I also want to thank all the readers, so many of whom have come to feel like friends over the time we have communicated with one another. I very much hope to see each of you at my next destination for continued discussion, disagreement and all the other interactions that make blogging so much fun.

With regards to that next destination, I am barred from making any announcements regarding the future due to ongoing contract negotiations. However, let me just say that I look forward to joining my new home sometime around the first of September and hope to be reunited with some good friends that I have made here at True/Slant.

Again, it’s been awesome and I hope to reconnect with you all in September.

Jul. 24 2010 — 12:27 pm | 218 views | 1 recommendations | 7 comments

Enough already with the ’teachable moment’

With the drama of Shirley Sherrod having been played out far more quickly than the mainstream media would have liked, the focus has now turned to the question, “What is the teachable moment to be found in this unfortunate experience?”

Let’s answer the question so we can get this over with and move on to Charlie Rangel, the next distraction sure to capture our undivided attention while derailing the White House from focusing on jobs for yet another week or more.

There was no “teachable moment.”

Is there anyone out there who did not already know that Fox News, Breitbart, and others of their ilk would pollute and twist a story in order to better meet their political objectives? Because if this comes as a revelation to you, than you simply haven’t been paying attention and any teachable moment will likely be fully lost on you.

Is there anyone out there who did not know that when it comes to both the right wing agenda and the defensive political stance of this Administration, an intelligent, effective and well-meaning woman like Shirley Sherrod is completely expendable?

Two words  - Van Jones.

When Glenn Beck and company went after Mr. Jones, also an effective and highly capable member of the White House staff, the White House folded like a cheap suit and sent Mr. Jones packing. Obviously, that ‘teachable moment’ didn’t result in any accumulation of knowledge given the Administration’s willingness to throw Ms. Sherrod under the bus. She – like Jones – was politically inconvenient and, thus, completely expendable.  So, exactly what is it that we are to learn from the current experience that we failed to pick up on during the last such event?

Is there anyone out there who did not know that this White House has a tendency to freak out when it comes to issues regarding race and react without all the facts? Two more words – Beer Summit.

Did anything happen this week that revealed something new about race in America and those who would exploit it in the effort to attack –by proxy- the nation’s first black president while, at the same time, revealing this administration’s tendencies to fumble the ball when race is the issue?

A nation polarized by ideological politics has little interest in teachable moments -unless the teacher is an approved source of knowledge and information for your particular way of thinking. If you believe in the truth of Fox News, than you very likely feel exactly the same after Sherrod as you did before Sherrod. If the truth for you comes from the mouth of Keith Olbermann, same result. Nothing will have changed for you having lived through the week that was.

As for those without the commitment to one ideology or the other, let’s face it – most are not listening.

And those who are listening probably already knew to beware of Andrew Breitbart and his propensity for dishonest journalism, the political weakness of this White House when it comes to such issues, the state of race relations in America, and how people will hurt a nice woman in Georgia when these people -whatever side they play for – perceive it to be of benefit to their own personal goals and desires.

I will, however, admit to learning one thing.

CNN’s Kyra Phillips is not very bright.

Phillips’ ‘teachable moment’ led her to the conclusion that bloggers need to be legally regulated, despite the fact that her own cable TV news organization is not.

Appearing on CNN with co-anchor and her husband-to-be, John Roberts, Phillips had this to say –

There’s going to have be a point in time where these people have to be held accountable. How about all these bloggers that blog anonymously? They say rotten things about people and they’re actually given credibility, which is crazy. They’re a bunch of cowards, they’re just people seeking attention.

What is amazing about this comment is that were we to take out the words, “anonymous bloggers”, I would have assumed Phillips was discussing on-air television and radio “news” reporters and talkers such as herself.

Phillips continues-

…there’s going to come a point where something’s going to have to be done legally about anonymous bloggers… There has to be some point where there’s some accountability. And companies, especially in the media have to stop giving these anonymous bloggers credit.
Via Business and Media

Again, take out ‘anonymous blogger’ and insert ‘cable news’. It fits to a tee.

While I too disapprove of bloggers who take shots and don’t put their name on their handy work, I also disapprove of clearly identified bloggers, like Mr. Breitbart, who lie and disparage people unfairly just as I disapprove of TV and radio talkers who do the same. Did Ms. Phillips forget that Nancy Grace works for the same network that employs Ms. Phillips and her fiancé as did Glenn Beck before he was lured away by Fox? Did Ms. Phillips forget her own network’s propensity to spend 45 minutes out of an hour covering such important ‘news’ as Michael Jackson’s troubles du jour, airplanes landing at Atlanta’s airport with a blown tire (a complete non story as they always land without incident) and Phillips’ own memorable broadcast from the bathroom where she trashed her sister-in-law on an open mike during a broadcast?

I suspect that Ms. Sherrod is actively taking a look at her legal opportunities to “regulate” Mr. Breitbart by way of a law suit based on slander. Let him have to pay her a few million bucks and I think he’ll have his teachable moment.

As for Kyra, might I suggest that what she took from this week would be of greater value when applied to her own business and industry. Clean up cable-tv news and then you come and clean up our business. 

Jul. 21 2010 — 12:08 pm | 482 views | 2 recommendations | 23 comments

Obama Administration fails Management 101

Anyone who has ever been responsible for the supervision of others in the workplace knows that there are a few rules that must be followed when terminating an employee.

You never fire an employee – any employee – until you’ve gathered and documented all the facts, making damn sure that every “i” has been dotted and ‘t’ has been crossed before you hand out that pink slip. You do this because you owe it to the individual whose job you are about to take away and because you just never know when you may have to defend your decision in a court of law.

You never fire an employee until you’ve given that person a full opportunity to tell their side of the story.

And, for heaven’s sake, you don’t instruct an employee to pull her car off to the side of the road and then force her resign via her Blackberry without giving that person a moment to consult an advisor, speak with human resources, etc.

This stuff is about as basic as it gets. It’s Management 101 and anyone who doesn’t get it has absolutely no business whatsoever being in a management position – especially when the organization under management is the government of the United States of America.

At this point, it would be hard to find anyone who supports the firing of Shirley Sherrod, the USDA employee forced to resign after a partial clip of her speech before an NAACP group was aired by Fox News and on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government website.

The clip revealed a black woman telling the story of how she had questioned whether she wanted to help a farmer (26 years ago) when she was in a government position that obligated her to provide that help. Her lack of concern for this farmer was based on his being white and the ‘superior attitude’ he adopted when dealing with Ms. Sherrod.

Clearly, the video clip revealed that Ms. Sherrod was treating this man differently because of his skin color. By any definition, it was a clear-cut example of racism.

Except that it wasn’t.

As we now know, the video clip was a serious – and likely intentional – mischaracterization of the story. When the entire speech is viewed, we discover that Ms. Sherrod was documenting her personal growth from bias towards white people (her father had been murdered by a Klansman) to understanding that she needed to help all those in need – whether they be black or white. Her story is a wonderful, inspirational tale of a woman who overcame her racial biases and went on to help many farmers in rural Georgia, regardless of their race. It is a story made all the more poignant by the stepping forward of the white farmer in question who credits Ms. Sherrod with saving his family’s farm and being a good friend.

The Administration would have known the full story and avoided a serious error had they been capable of following the basic rules of employments listed above.

I suspect that things are going to turn out well for Shirley Sherrod now that the country has gotten behind her. I certainly hope so as she got a very raw deal. However, I wonder whether things will turn out well for the rest of us?

While Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, is taking the bullet by claiming he made the decision to fire Ms. Sherrod without checking with the White House, we all know that this is nonsense.  For starters, the deputy Agriculture Secretary who was in communication with Ms. Sherrod in the effort to obtain Sherrod’s quick resignation, flat out told her that this was coming from the White House. And while this matter was not likely one that would make it to the President’s desk, there is no way that Vilsack would have taken such a step without first checking with the Administration where someone instructed the Agriculture Secretary to get rid of Sherrod- and fast.

Sadly, we have a White House that that is building quite a track record when it comes to ineffective and inept management.

Screw-ups will happen. When they do,  you take your lumps and move on – resolved to do a better job in the future. But this White House seems to make the same kind of silly mistakes over and over again in a seemingly endless loop of management ineptitude. Whether it’s flying a plane at low altitude over New York City for a photo opportunity, scaring the hell out of everyone when the White House could have accomplished the same effect using Photoshop, or jumping into a dispute between a police officer and a Harvard professor before having all the facts, the President and his staff have not done well when it comes to avoiding unforced errors.

With a few notable exceptions (Katrina comes to mind), the previous administration was very effective at managing government to accomplish their agenda. Of course, the agenda they pursued was, in my opinion, extremely detrimental and dangerous to the interests of the nation. But they certainly knew how to get where the were going.

This administration has a very different problem. While I might be more sympathetic to the objectives of the Obama presidency, the inability to manage even the simplest of situations reveals that it is hard to imagine this government coming to a happy and successful ending.

Who can forget Obama coming into office promising not to be swayed in his decisions by the 24 hour news cycle? Yet here we are, just eighteen months later, watching this administration fire an employee based on an incomplete film clip and doing so without benefit of a hearing because they wanted her out before Glenn Beck began his show on the day in question.

According to Sherrod, she was given no chance to explain herself. “They asked me to resign. And, in fact, they harassed me,” she said about a series of phone calls from USDA Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook. Sherrod was in the middle of a long road trip, but pulled over after Cook insisted that she write her resignation via Blackberry. She remembers being told, “You’re going to be on Glenn Beck tonight.

Via Huffington Post

This White House has a personnel problem – one that is brought into stark relief by Ms. Sherrod’s situation. And while the firing of a USDA state director may not rise to the importance of health care and bank reform … Afghanistan and Iraq… or any number of critical policy issues that the President must deal with each day, sometimes the smaller things present the largest opportunities. President Obama should take advantage of this latest screw-up to make some management changes in his organization before the Obama White House becomes someone else’s White House.

It’s no secret that I like and admire the President. However, there are many people I like and admire whom I would never consider putting in charge of my business, which brings us to the next rule of good management – surround yourself with top notch people. No boss can be everywhere all the time. If you don’t have competent folks helping to run the store, the store is going to fail.

This president is in bad need of chief operating officer – and he needs to find one quickly because, as much as it pains me to say it, failing a more competent management team in this White House, I can only come to conclusion that Barack Obama may be better cut out for the life of a legislator where we can all benefit from his many talents without burdening him with the responsibilities of management and administration that come with the job of being the nation’s chief executive.

Jul. 20 2010 — 12:39 pm | 404 views | 3 recommendations | 10 comments

Warren nomination now about more than who runs an agency

It seems that every article I read about Elizabeth Warren characterizes her as being “beloved by the left” while despised by the banks. Indeed, so often is Warren described in this manner, one might think it is a conscious ploy on the part of conservative, pro-bank publications to turn middle class conservatives against Ms. Warren.

It’s not.

This descriptor is employed as regularly in left leaning publications – such as The Huffington Post – as it is used by the Wall Street Journal. And it is every bit as ridiculous when suggested by the left as it is when used by the right.

That the financial companies do not like Professor Warren makes infinite sense. It was Warren who first floated the idea of a federal consumer protection bureau and then went on to play a leading role in making it happen. As a result, life will be considerably more difficult for the credit card companies that have long gouged the American middle class and, in no small measure, they have Elizabeth Warren to thank for their troubles. The banks have every reason to believe that Warren will be tough on them and are having the expected allergic reaction to her taking charge of the agency she is largely responsible for creating.

But what’s up with this whole ‘darling of the progressives’ description?

The tag implies that only progressives have been plagued by the unsavory and predatory business practices of those credit card companies and other unscrupulous lenders who have been taking advantage of their customers for so many years.

I cannot imagine a more ridiculous assertion. Warren is not the darling of the left or a favorite of the right. She’s proven herself to be a champion of all the middle class. As such, she has earned the respect of everyone in the middle class who has ever been played by a financial institution.

Nobody should kid themselves. Money in the hands of a conservative is the identical color as money in the hands of a liberal. And when the financial institutions try to separate you from that money through usurious loans and predatory practices, they couldn’t care less about the ideological sway of that money’s previous owner. They have but one concern – making your money become their money.

While there may be few things left in this country where conservatives and progressives can come together, this has got to be one of them. The desire to have someone looking out for the consumer’s interest by protecting the middle class against the powerful financial institutions easily trumps our polarized politics.After all, stopping a credit card company from ripping off a liberal means that the same credit card company will be prevented from ripping off a conservative.

This is precisely why the notion circulating today that suggests that Warren can be – and should be – appointed without a Senate hearing is a terrible idea.

I can’t imagine a better opportunity to discover who in our government stands up for the people who put them there (whether Democrat or GOP) and who stands up for the financial institutions who pay the bills of our politicians.

There is only one possible reason why a United States senator would vote against Elizabeth Warren to run this agency. That would be the banks.

I cannot recall the GOP complaining as Warren emerged as one of the key critics of the Obama Administration’s bailout of the banks. I can understand Secretary of Treasury, Tim Geithner, complaining – as he has -about Elizabeth Warren. She has effectively been serving as the ‘shadow’ Treasury Secretary and making life tough on Geithner in her effort to police the bailouts. But how could this lead to a GOP filibuster against Warren’s appointment to this new agency? She’s been a bigger problem for the Democratic administration than she has ever been to the GOP.

Given that only the banks have a reason to object to her appointment, it will only be those Senators who serve the interests of the financial institutions who can object.

What a moment!  Will there ever be a clearer line of delineation between the politicians (including President Obama) who vote the interest of their constituents – both conservative and liberal- versus those who vote the special interests of the industries that line their pockets with campaign contributions?

It won’t just be GOP senators who have a problem when faced with a vote on Elizabeth Warren. Indeed, Democratic senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn) is already trying to protect his Democratic colleagues in a comment made yesterday suggesting that Warren would not be approved by the Senate.

Dodd, speaking on National Public Radio’s “Diane Rehm Show,” said there were questions over the support for Warren, who chairs a bailout watchdog panel and is considered a top candidate for the post.

“Elizabeth could be a terrific nominee. The question is, ‘Is she confirmable?’ And there’s a serious question about that,” Dodd said.
He declined to specify why he believes Warren might have difficulty winning Senate support, saying, that’s “what I’m picking up.”
Via Reuters

Talk about trying to stick the knife in the back of a nomination.

Elizabeth Warrens don’t come around everyday. The opportunity to put both the Administration and the Senate to the test of exactly who they stand with does not come along everyday.We simply can’t let this moment pass us by.  If Elizabeth Warren is nominated by the Administration by taking advantage of language in the financial reform law that suggests the Treasury Secretary can make an interim appointment to this job without submitting it to Congress, it will only mean that Obama has bailed out the Senate so that they might avoid the wrath of their bank contributors.The good news, of course, would be the appointment of Prof. Warren. The bad news would be another instance of the President passing up another opportunity to show the public who he sides with and who those senators are that are with the special interests.

And if the President fails to nominate Elizabeth Warren? In my opinion, this would be one of his most significant political errors to date.

Jul. 16 2010 — 5:05 pm | 396 views | 3 recommendations | 18 comments

Will the White House cut Elizabeth Warren loose?

Elizabeth Warren

Image via Wikipedia

I can think of no surer way to show the American public that the creation of a Federal Consumer Protection Agency was all spit and no juice than to deny Elizabeth Warrant the role of leading our new consumer protection agency.

Of course her appointment will guarantee a fight on the Hill. The banks know that Warren could spell big trouble for them so it comes as no surprise that the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala), and all the usual suspects, are completely opposed to her nomination.

But isn’t this precisely the fight that the Democrats should be begging for as they head into election season? Isn’t this exactly the type of battle that would expose who actually has the interests of the American public at heart and who is standing up for the monied financial interests that run the nation? continue »

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    About Me

    I am an attorney in Southern California, and a frequent writer, speaker and consultant on health care policy and politics. To that end, I am active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Based in beautiful Santa Monica, California, I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to be a contributing editor to True/Slant. I've recently finished a book designed to make the health care debate understandable to the average reader, and expect it to be out in the next five months or earlier. In my 'spare time', I continue to write for television and, occasionally, for comic books.

    My checkered past includes stints in creative writing and production for television where I did strange things like founding the long running show "Access Hollywood" and serving, for many years, as the president of the Marvel Character Group where I had the distinct pleasure of being one of Spider-man's bosses.

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