Travel Day

Sunday was my travel day back to Seattle, then I have Monday here, and then early Tuesday morning I’m off to Panama City. That means not only a turnaround of laundry, but a completely different wardrobe to account for going from a cold to a hot climate. And my umbrella needs to go in my bag.

I’ll be happy to be back in Seattle just before Thanksgiving, for some requisite R&R and in time to put up a small Christmas tree. I will have two small helpers for decorating assistance. 🙂

Trump is in a Bad Mood

Trump is reportedly in a snarky mood, which is why he was unwilling to honor American dead in France by standing in the rain at the cemetery where our dead soldiers were being honored. God forbid he should put himself out in any way.

He’s apparently going to spend most of his time between now and January at Mar a Lago, which he likes better than Washington, D.C. He doesn’t seem to work much when he’s in the White House, with large blocks of his calendar devoted to “executive time.” That means he’s in the residence watching cable TV and talking to friends on his unsecured cell phone and eating. At least at Mar a Lago he can play golf.

One wonders what his ardent supporters do with their time. Watch reality TV, talk on their cell phones, and eat in front of the tube, I’d guess. I’ll bet most of them don’t have a private golf course, but it’s a difference they don’t seem to mind.

Panama 2018: Jari and Joel’s Baby

Here are the latest pics of Jari and Joel’s baby Brittney, courtesy of my sister Wendy who is on Facebook. Just to reiterate the family line, which is of interest to some of you, Brittney’s mother Jari is #2 of Ita’s four Jari’s [Janelys, Jarelys, Jarinelys and Jarineilys], and Ita is Minga’s daughter. Brittney is Minga’s great-granddaughter, #19 at least.

As Tia Phyllis says, it’s like the begats in the bible. 🙂

Brittney has a big brother Joelito, who is about 2 1/2. She’s about three months old. She’s wearing a tiny pollera, which I’m sure one of her aunts hand-made for her.

The Retreat

During my active consulting years I led so many programs I used to joke that you could wake me up at 2am, put me in front of a group, give me the topic, and I’d pull it off just fine.

That’s no longer true. I’m a little rusty. But, I’m happy to say the retreat went well. The energy in the room was great, we were on target and on time, and we made real progress.

Someone asked me why I do pro bono work at this stage of my life, and I responded that I share with my late husband Jerry a sense of tikkun olam, or the call to heal a broken world. Where I can still contribute, I shall — not casually or willy nilly, but when and where it can make a difference.

I’m glad to have the opportunity to stretch myself back into that professional role.

Minneapolis in November

When I told my friend Emily that I’d do a board retreat for the non-profit where she serves as board chair, I said I’d gladly come to Minneapolis but not in the dead of winter.

The temperature on Saturday morning as we set out early was 15 degrees. The day never got above 21 degrees.  Ice on the roads and walks. Snow showers, that fine hard bits kind of snow that happens when it’s very cold.

Felt like dead of winter to me. 🙂

Panama is going to be 85 degrees, a swing of 70 points. Seattle is somewhere in between, with a range of 35-50 degrees throughout the day.

Snow in Minneapolis

I had checked the Minneapolis weather and so knew it was going to be cold, but snow never occurred to me. Happily it’s just what we in Rochester would have called “a dusting”. Cars are slipping and sliding — there was an accident on the street adjacent to my friends’ home. That used to happen in Rochester too, with a first snow. People initially forget how to drive when the roads are slick.

I don’t have boots with me, and truth to tell I don’t any more have footwear that fits — I haven’t lived in snow country for eight years. That’s another weird bit about aging: your feet can get bigger. Arches fall or something.

The board retreat starts on Friday, with a visit to the offices of the non-profit for whom I’m conducting the program, and a supper meeting with the design team from board and staff who have helped me plan. Saturday is the full-participation event, with people from the board, staff, and affiliate agencies.

Strategic Planning: A Difficult Topic

We have a poisonous political climate, and that makes it difficult to talk about the effects of the recent tax cuts without triggering pro-Trump or anti-Trump passions. But talk about it we must, because strategic planning is about looking for a path forward within the larger political and economic context.

I found during Jerry’s and my years in the financial planning business that our educational systems doesn’t do a very good job of educating people on how the economy works — even well educated people often fail to make the connection between federal tax policy and the individual fortunes of a family, a non-profit, or a business.

The Trump administration has pushed through a major tax cut whose benefits go primarily to wealthy people and corporations. Less money will be available in the federal budget for things like mental health care, which is the focus of the non-profit for whom I’m working. The next 3-5 years aren’t about arguing or negotiating about how to divide the pot. Rather, the issue is a much smaller overall pot.

The three biggest drivers of the federal budget are middle class entitlements like Medicare and Social Security, defense, and interest on the debt. We don’t have a choice about paying interest on the federal debt, which is held primarily by countries with large sovereign wealth funds like China and Saudi Arabia. The current administration is all-in with increasing the defense budget. There is a strong constituency among older white American voters to support Medicare and Social Security. That means dramatic cuts in the small slice of the budget that remains, which includes federally funded mental health programs.

All non-profits who depend on federal dollars will have to contend with reduced funding, and develop a plan to increase individual donations in significant ways.

Crisis in America’s Small Towns

My father grew up in Mark, Iowa — a town so small it’s just a point on a map, a crossroads. Back in the day there used to be a gas station and a small general store, but both have fallen into disrepair. Now there is just the intersection of two rural roads.  The people who lived there when my father grew up were small farmers, the kind who can no longer make a living any more and largely no longer exist as a demographic category.

My mother grew up in Kearny, New Jersey, town of about 40,000 people now, or about 35,000 people in 1990. When my mother lived there, or when my sisters and I grew up  in the 1950’s, the town was much smaller. We had one big employer, DuPont, known as “the plant”. My father worked there, and most families had at least one family member with a job at the plant. There were also jobs for policemen, firemen, teachers, and reporters at the local newspaper, The Observer. When I lived in Kearny the town was mostly white. Now, Portuguese families who’ve attained a middle class lifestyle have relocated in large numbers from nearby Newark. They’ve opened restaurants and small grocery stores and after-work bars where Portuguese is mainly spoken. My mother would have considered it an invasion.

There are no jobs to speak of in Mark, Iowa these days, although Bloomfield, the Davis County seat, is near enough for people to move there and perhaps find work. There are jobs in Kearny, and it’s a commuter town for Manhattan. Quite improbably, The Observer still publishes a weekly edition, 131 years running.

Much of small town and rural America is in crisis: few if any jobs, the opioid crisis, fear of cultural change and of a diverse and browning country. Those voters support Republicans in large numbers, and they cheer Trump’s retrograde message of making America white again.

Democrats win large cities, and in this last election, the educated suburbs. Republicans are winning the rest, and because of the structure of the Senate and the Electoral College, hold political sway to a degree far larger than their beliefs would suggest should be the case.

It doesn’t bode well for the legitimacy of our democracy.

Stacey Abrams: A Brilliant, Out of the Box Idea

The Dems should make her Speaker of the House. Contrary to common belief, the Speaker does not have to be a House member. Abrams lost, but it’s hard to argue that the voting process in Georgia is remotely fair. I like Nancy Pelosi and think she is one of the great House Speakers — the ACA success was largely due to her political skill with her caucus. And I’m not influenced by Trump and Republicans demonizing her. They will demonize any strong woman who opposed them.

Abrams is the fresh new face that Dems need. Pelosi acknowledges that even if she does win the Speaker gavel, she will be a transitional leader. That diminishes her power somewhat, right out of the gate.

Abrams is smart, hard working, could benefit a lot from  having Pelosi as a mentor, and most importantly, represents the face of the highly diverse Democratic party. Would her elevation drive the Make America White Again cult over the edge? Probably. But that can’t be the driver here either.

Dems need the best person for the Speaker role, and right now Abrams has claim on at least being considered.