Thursday, January 31, 2013

Message #26 - Get Your Priorities Straight!

If I ask what your priorities are, most of you would give me a list that looks something like this:
            My Family
            My Children
            Taking Care of Myself/My Health
            Making Sure My Financial Future is Secure
            Taking Time to Travel/Relax/Play
            Being True to My Faith (if applicable)

If I then ask whether you’ve organized your life to make sure you’re spending enough time on your priorities, what do you think you’d say?

You get the point, right?  There’s a disconnect between what you say is important to you and the actions you take or don’t take to foster and nurture your priorities.

Get Your Priorities Straight!

Or at least tell the truth about it.  Hey, the truth may be that while in theory you want to spend more time with your family and children, it doesn’t happen.  You’re too consumed with your work and career (or something else that has your attention), and there’s just not enough time.

You remember the old question about whether when you’re on your deathbed you’ll bemoan the fact that you didn’t spend more time in the office.  On the face of it it’s ridiculous.  Who would possibly say ‘yes?’  But that’s not how you live your life.

You make excuses for not being true to what you say (pretend?) are your real priorities.  You put off the vacation you were going to take.  You are too busy to make more than a token appearance at your kid’s birthday party.  You break promises you make to your loved ones.

I’m not thinking only about men, by the way.  You women are just as guilty as the men folk when it comes to saying one thing and doing another.  And all of you have wonderful excuses.  So plausible.  So believable.  Who could possibly challenge such a well-meaning person?  He means well.  She’ll do better next time.  Please – spare me the platitudes.

Just tell the truth.  That’s all one can expect.  It would be great if you lived up to the lofty priorities that you know are the ones that really matter.  But if you aren’t going to walk your talk just say so.  Your candor will be appreciated.  And your personal integrity will be intact.

Ideally, of course, you’ll Get Your Priorities Straight and then deliver on them.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Good News!

Let’s highlight some good news for a change:

California has a balanced budget.  Jerry Brown is a hero.

Rhode Island will soon make gay marriage legal.

Women can now serve in military combat roles.

Immigration reform has generated bipartisan support.

The economy is moving in the right direction.  Jobless claims are down.  Home prices are up.

Catholic leaders in L.A. have been accused of covering up sex abuses.

Hillary Clinton stands her ground at the Senate and House Benghazi hearings.

Niners are 3½ point favorites over the Ravens.

Brentford, Oldham, MK Dons and Leeds did well in F.A. Cup games against Premier League teams.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Second Term!

Most of the post-Inaugural talk is focused on how Obama strongly endorsed a progressive agenda.  It’s hard to find anything important that he left out.  Climate change, gay rights, equality for women, immigration, gun control, the middle class, and more.  It’s all there, and should be.

However, it is possible that what will be most noteworthy about Obama’s second term will not be what happens with these issues.  It’s possible that something unforeseen will overshadow them all.  An assassination.  An act of terrorism.  A crisis overseas that is a real threat to the United States, not simply a civil war or other problem that has a local impact.

Where might such a crisis happen?  There are many candidates:  Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Iran, Russia, China, India, even in the European Union should the crisis be economic, not military.

That the world is unpredictable is not a secret known to a few.  I remember my former boss and mentor, Chester Bowles, saying that we would be wise to think of the ten least likely events that could happen in the next ten years.  Why?  Because one or two of them will probably happen.  He meant positive as well as negative events, so we are not limited only to doomsday scenarios.

The second term is off to a good start.  But be prepared.  The unforeseen is lurking.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Status Report!

What has or hasn’t my attention these days:

Not Lance Armstrong.  His soap opera doesn’t interest me.

Not Manti Te’o.  His soap opera doesn’t interest me.

The latest trouble spot(s) in Africa interest me.  It is blowing up all over the place.  Mali.  Algeria.  Sudan – still.  Congo – still.  Guinea Bissau.  There’s no end to it.

I’m bored by the pissing match between Obama and the Republicans over the debt ceiling and all the rest. 

I’m happy there has been positive movement on gun control.  However, I’m not confident that in the end meaningful legislation will pass.  Big business is threatened and with big bucks will oppose what should be done.

I’m surprised and impressed that Jerry Brown has managed to present a gimmick-free budget that is balanced and promises surpluses.  Go California!

I’m resigned to the reality that Israel’s election on Tuesday will further demonstrate their drift to the right.  They deserve what they get – disapproval from almost the entire world and further isolation.  At best, some here in the U.S. will wring their hands in despair, but our leaders don’t have the guts to do anything about it.  Soon, we won’t be able to influence them even if we want to.

What else am I resigned will or will not happen?

Will: Further deterioration of the environment.  And no positive steps on climate issues.

Will not: A reduction in the cost of health care in the foreseeable future.

Will not: Politicians who are more interested in the country’s future than in getting reelected.

Will not: Money having less influence on politics.

 Will: More and more terrorism everywhere.

That’s enough.  If I continue I could get depressed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Hopeless in Afghanistan!

I’ve been reading “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor,” by Jake Tapper.  It’s an unsparing, brutal tale about what happened in northeast Afghanistan when soldiers were told to hold and defend an indefensible hellhole.  These brave men paid a horrific price in a misguided, pigheaded attempt to win an unwinnable war.  They never should have been there in the first place.

The story begins in 2006, when Iraq was the focus of the U.S. military.  We were in Afghanistan almost as an afterthought – under equipped and undermanned.  It would have been nice if, when Iraq wound down and more resources and attention were directed at Afghanistan, common sense had prevailed.  But it didn’t.  It was still a “We’re going to win this thing no matter what it takes,” attitude, at least on the part of the civilian and military leadership who were nowhere near where the battles were being fought.  Regrettably, it was the soldiers on the ground who would be counted on to do the winning.

Yesterday, I came across an article in The New Republic titled “The Last Men.”  Even though it is a story happening years later than “The Outpost,” it is the same story.  Change a few names and villages and it could be a chapter in “The Outpost.”  Nothing has changed.  Nothing has been learned.  It takes a unique form of American arrogance to ignore thousands of years of history about what happens to foreigners in Afghanistan.  The Persians couldn’t win.  Alexander couldn’t win.  Nor could the Sassanids or the Kushans or (later) the Mongols or the British or the Soviets.  Like it or not, we aren’t going to be the first.

“The Last Men” ends on a plaintive note.  Luke Mogelson, who wrote the piece, is talking with one of his heroes, a Major Roy Rogers, who has tried his best to mentor Afghan police and soldiers to prepare them for the U.S. withdrawal.  Victory for us would be to have the good guys prevail after we leave.  He tells Rogers that the Americans had pulled out of the area in which Rogers had served.  “They can’t survive there on their own,” Rogers said.  “They absolutely cannot survive.”

If that were true, Mogelson asks him, what had it all been for?  “I’m a little confused by it,” Rogers said.

And that sums it up.  When we think about it at all, we are confused.  These days most of the talk is about fiscal cliffs and debt ceilings and gun control.  Not much is said about Afghanistan.  Yet, ostensibly on our behalf, a few of us continue to carry the load – and pay the price – for a hopeless cause.  It is heartbreaking.