Sunday, August 28

Procrastinating The Debt Crisis Issue will get you a D

Team Procrastination
When I was in college I took a Business class that culminated in a group project. The semester’s grade depended on the success of the group project. My friend also took the class and his team was off to a running start. They settled on an outline right away, assigned roles and had regular meetings outside of class. My team couldn’t seem to pull it together. No one could agree on a project plan. Everyone had a different idea and each team member wanted to be the ‘presenter’. The outline was a constant work in progress. Meetings would be planned and half of the team would show up. The only consensus among members was that we would pull it together at the end and cram before the deadline if needed.
Of course that’s exactly what happened, we crammed before the deadline. We worked all weekend and stayed up all night. Since we never properly held team meetings we really didn’t know each other and by the end of the weekend we simply knew too much. Tom typed really loudly and constantly chewed gum. Sara made copious notes but never produced any usable information. Fatigue set in and bickering erupted in the wee hours of the morning. My friend, the one on the team with the solid outline and well-organized team got an A. My team got a D.
I know another group that had a team project that should get a D. They all work for the government – The United States Congress.
Congress had a team project with a clear objective and deadline titled ‘Lower the Debt Ceiling’ and their performance during the project was abysmal. It’s unclear whether all members of congress attended the session where the task of ‘Lower the Debt Ceiling’ was assigned. One thing's for sure there were no assigned roles, no outline and no plan. The group hasn’t demonstrated any of the infamous buzz words of 2011: collaboration, synergy, innovation and my personal favorite – strategic decision making.
I learned two things from that team project in college. First, cramming before a deadline is not a path to success. Second, knowing your teammates and working well with them is as important as the study topic. Apparently members of Congress missed that class. Paralyzed in perpetual conflict, Congress made little forward progress on the ‘Lower the Debt Ceiling’ project and crammed to meet the deadline. Did Congress members learn that active debate can lead one to acquiesce to the majority, for the progress of the team, which is more productive than fighting for individual points at the cost of the project’s success?
The dismal display of professional procrastination and inability to progress toward effective legislation must be remedied. Fire them all.
The new hires must be considered carefully. It is possible that the congress members’ poor performance is not a reflection upon them, but of those that hired them. And ultimately they were hired by us, the voter.
Therefore, I suggest a new formula for assessing an individual’s eligibility for public office. Before each election, all candidates will be sequestered in a large room with uncomfortable chairs and fluorescent lighting. The candidates are then presented with a task, tools and a detailed list of their constituent’s interests.
The task is to make the color grey. The candidates are provided with one black crayon, one white crayon and one white post-it note. Some constituents like the color black, some like white, none of the constituents like grey. By Monday morning, eating nothing but Chinese takeout and pizza, the candidates must produce a plan to make the color grey in order to remain on the electoral ballot.
The candidates would be under constant observation. Their ability to communicate their constituents’ color interests while developing a plan for making the color grey would be assessed and graded. A candidate that can effectively represent - yet forego when needed - the interests of their voters to profit the overall progress of a solid grey color plan is a good hire.
A candidate that cannot work with a small team to develop a solid grey plan in one weekend will definitely not be able to resolve major legislation over a long period of time, in a much larger room with many more people.
The current members of Congress wouldn’t have been able to agree on an order from the Chinese takeout menu much less pass the task. They would never have made it on the electoral ballot.

Wednesday, August 24

Grim Retirement Plans for Muammar Gaddafi or Qaddafi or Qhatafi

Where will dictator and self-appointed Muammar Al Quathafi, Gadhafi, Kadhafi or Qaddafi or whatever his name is go and what will he do? He is quickly running out of options. Sadly, he has proven once again that it is never too early to start planning for retirement even if you are a despot.
Clinging to the idea that he was still in power, last Sunday Gadhafi ‘appeared’ on government TV by telephone. On the call he stated repeatedly that the speech was live, citing the day and time as evidence of his reality TV telephone appearance. I am reminded of the time I went to a party in high school and repeatedly called my parents from the car assuring them that I was in the library citing the exact book I was reading. They didn’t believe me either.
I can’t totally blame Gadhafi for his desperate attempts to remain in power as Libyan dictator. He would be leaving much behind. For example, it’s hard to believe that he would be able to bring his Amazonian Guard in exile. The Amazonian Guard that has protected him at all times for over 25 years consists of a select group of attractive women, all virgins, personally selected by Gadhafi. The guard is trained in weaponry and martial arts. (That’s no joke even I couldn’t make that up.) Also, he would likely have to leave much of his vast wardrobe behind. Gadhafi has many personas and wears an outfit befitting each role. When he is Colonel Gadhafi, he dons his military uniform replete with epaulets and medals worthy of any five star general or hotel doorman. When he plays the role of Gadhafi tribe leader he wears the appropriate robes – as he did on his trip to Paris in 2007 requiring five planes for his Bedouin tent and camels.
Historically, many tyrannical dictators have made the same mistake as Gadhafi, neglected their exit strategy and were ultimately forced to end their life in a miserable retirement. Former tyrants, including Liberian Charles Taylor now reside in an assisted living facility in the Hague. The challenge for these individuals, all members of the Crazy Leaders Club, is that there are so few countries in the world that will tolerate their craziness and permit them residence.
Long-time member of the Crazy leaders Club, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, former president and tyrant of Tunisia, attempted to flee to France with his family and pet tiger. France declined entry and Mr. Ben Ali negotiated with Saudi Arabia and remains there in exile, as did Uganda’s Edi Amin.
On the other hand, Manuel Noriega, dictator of Panama and self-appointed general, readily gained entrance into multiple countries without negotiation. Mr. Noriega recently completed a 17 year jail term in the United States and was then extradited in 2010 to France where he is currently serving a seven year sentence for money laundering. After his sojourn in France he will be extradited to Panama where he was convicted in absentia to a 20 year sentence for human rights violations. Born in 1934, Mr. Noriega will be 102 years old when he is released from his third and final imprisonment.
Ferdinand Marcos, president and despot of the Philippines is arguably a founding member of the Crazy Leaders Club. Mr. Marcos wasn’t seeking retirement so much as he was seeking to extend the vacation that was his life when he sought the advice of the U.S. government in 1986. After much negotiation, he and his well shod wife Imelda Marcos (also a member of the club) fled to Hawaii where they remained in exile.  
Most dictators don’t want to leave their positions as tyrants because their retirement plans just don’t look that good.  Let’s face it -- there are no golf carts in the Hague. It would appear that Gadhafi may be out of exile destinations as all countries on the entire continent of Africa have declined exile negotiations.
For many years Gadhafi funded and armed three significant tribes in Libya to serve as his regime. The tribes now recognize that the leadership of Libya is up for grabs and skirmishes have broken out within Gadhafi’s own regime between the tribes. During the reality TV telephone appearance, Gadhafi begged his supporters to “march by the millions” and fight the Libyan rebel “rats” as a group and not as small groups, obviously referring to the tribal conflicts. Millions aren’t marching and Gadhafi’s authority as Colonel and despot is rapidly dwindling.
Like so many other members of the Crazy leaders Club, Gadhafi’s performance as dictator is now determining his retirement plan. If he escapes rebel forces he will most certainly be enjoying the assisted living center at the Hague.