NO MORE BS: Religion and Politics

Bird of PreyPlease note, if you cannot openly discuss either topic without relying upon emotional hyperbole, feel free to stop reading right here!  I will not allow any discussion that insults, denigrates, derides, or casts insults and aspersions on either topic.  As a Republic, America must be able to openly discuss religion and politics in the public square openly, and the public square includes social media.  I will not suffer snowflakes and idiots; take your emotional hyperactivity elsewhere.  You have been sufficiently warned!

What is Religion?

I have written a post dedicated to supporting atheists, and after some consideration, I felt it was time to tackle theism.  I discussed in the atheist article that the world is not split between atheists and theists; feel free to read that article for more information.  We begin in the same place as we did with the atheists, defining religion properly.  To understand a word, all the definitions and etiology (history) of the word are critical to grasp what is being discussed fully.   According to Webster, religion has three accepted definitions:

Religion Quote 2As a Noun: “The belief in and worship of a superhuman or controlling power, especially a personal god, God or gods.”

A particular system of faith and worship.”

A pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.”

From Latin, Religare meaning “to bind,” and Religio meaning “obligation, bond, reverence.”  From Old French, we have the emergence of the term Religion meaning “life under monastic vows.”  Thus, a person may easily conclude that many things of supreme importance, where faith and worship are attached and is personal as a belief, can be considered a religion, including sports, food, atheists, a car, and so much more.  Consider that neighbor who polishes his car every Sunday as a method of meditating; he can be considered to be worshiping.  The same for that guy glued to the NFL all season, every season, and even between seasons, expressing a bond, an obligation, or a vow to express belief because the NFL is of supreme importance to that person.

Religious ThoughtAre the term and the method of use clear for the term religion; America has many religions and a lot of religious people who might not belong to what a person might consider “normal” religions.  I have met beer worshipers, prostitutes worshiping at the church of the virgin who believe that when taking the sacrament, it returns them to a virgin state, and a lot more, including the church of a purple (Not Barney) dinosaur.  We have the “Church of the Happy Spaghetti Monster,” where the high priest wears a colander on his head.  Lots of religious beliefs, lots of supreme beings, lots of dedicated believers whose personal beliefs are of supreme importance to that individual.

President AdamsI respect their beliefs and will honor their freedoms to believe as they choose.  I will accept no denigration, aspersions, or insults to a person’s honestly held belief structures.  If it is of supreme importance to you, that is your religion; I will support you as long as your beliefs do not infringe upon the life, property, and liberty of another person’s religious beliefs.  I expect the same rights to be extended to me under the US Constitution as amended for the US Bill of Rights.

First Amendment:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances [emphasis mine].

What is Politics?

Politics is too often a word with so much baggage; people become confused and stop listening after hearing the word politics.  According to Webster:

The Duty of AmericansAs a Noun, “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.”

The activities of governments concerning the political relations between countries.”

The academic study of government and the state.”

Activities within an organization that is aimed at improving someone’s status or position and are typically considered to be devious or divisive.”

A particular set of political beliefs or principles.”

The assumptions or principles relating to or inherent in a sphere, theory, or thing, especially when concerned with power and status in a society.”

As a Verb, politic/s is derogatory and is defined as “engaging in political activities.”

From Old French Politique “political,” Latin from Greek Politikos, and Politẽs “citizen” and Polis “city.”  Thus, we have described the term politics in all its glory and inhumanity.  Is the term more understood?  Politics is a descriptive tool used to identify certain human activities where power is sought, and devious means and divisive gestures are employed to obtain that power.  Every action tied to securing power through devious means and divisive gestures is politics or political, which means derogatory.  For those needing more, derogatory is “showing a critical or disrespectful attitude.”Patriotism

Why are these topics important for open discussion?

I do not include the definitions to insult anyone’s intelligence!  The definitions are required to place all of us on the same page of understanding to discuss what is happening and use the terms correctly.  In our world, so many words have been plasticized to encourage tyranny through modular language.

Dont Tread On MeThe tyranny is witnessed in many different means and methods.  The easiest way to see the tyranny is in the lawfare we witness every Christmas by the atheists demanding less Christ and other religions in the traditional winter holidays.  Religion can be politics, and as such, this places your political beliefs into a sacred area.  I will not tell you how to vote or express your political beliefs, nor your religious beliefs.  I expect the same in return!

I demand the ability to discuss both topics openly without moderators, thought police, speech Nazis, trolls, and others giving way to emotion.  Consider something, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to Reverend Ezra Stiles and discussed his beliefs, asking Reverend Stiles, President of Yale College, to keep the letter confidential.  Franklin said, “All sects here [in Philadelphia] have experienced my goodwill in assisting them with subscriptions for building their new places of worship; and as I have never [publicly] opposed any of their doctrines, I hope to go out of the world in peace with all” (p. 65).  I agree with Mr. Franklin; my religious tenets are my own affairs, I do not push religion, and allow all men (and women) the ability to believe as they choose.Apathy

However, I understand precisely what President George Washington said in his final address to the nation about religion.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”  Continuing, Pres. Washington called religion and morality “Pillars of human happiness, and the duty of citizens to uphold.”  Concluding with, “Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation [and morality in society] desert the oaths?  Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Liberty and Freedom are Rooted in Politics and Religion!

As Pres. Thomas Jefferson claimed the French Revolution occurred because of “Kings, nobles, and priests.”  The French Revolution, especially the influence of the church in state affairs, is one reason why President Jefferson was such a stickler for the “Rule of Law” and one of the most important reasons for supporting the First Amendment, which allowed America to keep Church and State separate.  A town supporting a Christmas decoration does not intrude or imply a Christian breach into state affairs.  A violation of church and state affairs, which would be unconstitutional, would be for Pres. Biden to invite the Pope to dictate laws for America.  Is the distinction clear?  The separation of church and state has been a legal quagmire since 1879 SCOTUS decision on Reynolds v. United States.  Bad cases have made bad case law, and bad case law has left everyone scratching their heads and hostile!

Religion QuotePresident Thomas Jefferson wrote,

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”

Morality in society needs strong religious people who place supreme importance on living the tenets of their religion for liberty and freedom to grow and expand.  The Greek philosophers have been so twisted and plasticized that morality through philosophy is impossible.  Politics remains an ugly business, mainly due to the lack of morality lived by the individuals practicing political behavior.  Pick a politician, and we find problems living a moral centered lifestyle—President Clinton, well known, zero moral center.  President Obama had a pornography problem, among other less publicized moral issues.  Rep. Anthony Weiner had a sex problem with young girls.

Image - Politics is DirtyThe problem we have here is not just the lack of moral center in the politicians; it is the twisting of ethics, morals, and politics into a cohesive behavior that is the exact opposite of morality and ethical conduct required for holding public office.  Schools teach “Political Ethics,” “Moral and Political Philosophy,” and other twisted logic classes to excuse private indiscretions due to the politician’s public reputation.  Are the reasons clearer for why the definitions were discussed first?  I read a research report on ethics.  The moral decline in understanding terms became painfully obvious when behavior can be excused in a public official that would be criminal in a private individual.

A “Liberty FIRST Culture” must understand this precious connection.  Religion can be many things to many people.  Politics cannot in any way, shape, or form exist without morally centered religious people.  Liberty and freedom die with the citizen’s moral centeredness, not the politician, even though the politician plays a dynamic role as an example of proper ethical and moral conduct, publicly and privately.

Image - Eagle & FlagReference

Brookhiser, R. (2007). Chapter 4: God and Man. In What would the founders do? Our questions, their answers. New York, NY: Basic Books.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

NO MORE BS: Wanted A Leader – The Leader’s Job Description

cropped-snow-leopard.jpgThe best job descriptions address the common questions of Who, What, When, Where, and How.  The common question ‘Why’ is excluded because it remains self-evident, there is a “something” desired from the job, or the job would not be considered worthwhile.  Since value and rewards are the beholder’s sole facets, ‘Why’ has been excluded as superfluous.  The sum of these points and positions is derived, deduced, and selected from the following resources, and this list is not all-inclusive, Avolio (2008), Boylan (2005), Brady (2005), Carpenter (1868), Chaleff (2003), Lundin (2000), Costa (2008), Hamlin (2008), Hinckley (2000), Oyinlade (2006), Morrow (1935), Sandburg (1926), Wren (1995), and Yukl (2006).

Wanted: a Leader

Literary FiendThe successful leader is morally obligated to embrace loyal opposition.  Loyal opposition is found in those following, taking and giving counsel and guidance to improve plans, implement ideas, and garner the individual buy-in from free agents.  Loyal opposition ensures that integrity, responsibility, and accountability are not lost or forgotten.  The leader is a teacher, and a teacher is a leader.  The cycle for learning and teaching does not become lost or less significant as rank is increased.  The inverse occurs. The greater the position, the higher the responsibility to remain engaged in the learning/teaching cycle.  All Applicants must have the following characteristics:

      • Drive and Determination – This is required as the task is difficult, the work often arduous, and the pay is never sufficient.
      • Education and Experience – Knowledge is good, but a continued thirst for learning must supersede past educational experiences. Experience in applying education is critical.  Without experience in application, academic success is not enough to obtain this position.
      • Willingness to sacrifice – As a leader, the followers need to be trained and supported; this requires a considerable measure of sacrifice in time, resource allocation and demands innovation in thinking and flexibility in approach.
      • The power to delegate – A leader does not have enough time to meet all their responsibilities; if a leader cannot delegate, oversee, and inspire others to action, that leader cannot achieve success and is not a leader but a manager.
      • Willing to follow without sacrificing the need to lead – Leaders can never sever the ties to being a follower, but the leader must act to lead. Above all else, leadership requires balancing between being a follower and leading well.
      • The ability to exude a ‘Quiet Confidence’ – Knowing you know what to do, have the ability to find the answers, and still meet achievement goals is required to inspire confidence and determination in others.

Charismatic people need not apply.  Those possessing ‘Chutzpah’ are always welcome.  Charisma is a potent drug and, when combined with the power of leadership, tends to lend itself to abusing followers.  People possessing ‘Chutzpah,’ e.g., having the backbone to make a stand and remaining standing long after others consider quitting, are always in demand.  Determined ‘Chutzpah’ will be the order of the day to make a change, lead in flux, and drive the change in others while putting followers at ease, delivering praise, and inspiring others to achieve.

quote-mans-inhumanityThe ideal candidate possesses a working and living knowledge of history, politics, sales, marketing, customer service, and a devotion to seeing others succeed.  The ideal candidate must be willing to be an example and remain engaged mentally to the tasks of leadership.  Other qualities an ideal candidate would possess include:

      • Appetite
      • Passion
      • Honesty
      • Forthrightness
      • Morals
      • Ethics
      • Motivation
      • Imagination
      • Understanding of the difference between monitoring and overbearing
      • Emotionally stable
      • Enthusiasm for learning and living

To apply, follow current leaders well, be engaged, be positive, and ask questions.  Shortly leadership positions will develop to begin the leadership training process.  Never forget, being a good follower remains key to being a good leader!  While awaiting your opportunity to become a leader, increase your literacy in general, including fiscal literacy.  Be the best follower possible, even if being a good follower requires you to stand apart from your peers.  Be willing to stand for principles, morals, and ethics without budging or giving way in the face of adversity or temptation.

quote-mans-inhumanity-2Learn that a good leader is a teacher, and a good teacher is a leader, even if all they do is follow well.  Delegation requires teaching; teaching requires knowing and using knowledge to gain experience; hence, volunteer, ask for additional jobs, take on assignments, and open your mouth to offer advice and suggestions.  A good follower and the best leaders speak up, speak out, and reflectively listen to gain mutual understanding in all they do.  Never allow peer pressure to silence you!

References

Avolio, B. J., & Yammarino, F. J. (2008). Transformational and charismatic leadership: The road ahead. Vol 2. Bingley, United Kingdom: JAI Press – Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Boylan, Bob (1995). Get Everyone in Your Boat Rowing in the Same Direction. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble.

Brady, C., & Woodward, O. (2005). Launching a leadership revolution: Mastering the five levels of influence. New York, NY: Business Plus – Hachette Book Group.

Carpenter, F. B. (1868). The inner life of abraham lincoln: Six months at the white house. New York, NY: Hurd and Houghton.

Chaleff, I. (2003). Leader follower dynamics. Innovative leader, 12(8), Retrieved from http://www.winstonbrill.com/bril001/html/article_index/articles/551-600/article582_body.html

Costa, A. L., & Kallick, B. (2008). Learning and leading with habits of mind: 16 essential characteristics for success. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108008/chapters/describing-the-habits-of-mind.aspx

Hamlin, R. G., & Sawyer, J. (2007). Developing effective leadership behaviors: The value of evidence-based management. Business Leadership Review, IV(IV), 1-16. Retrieved from www.mbaworld.com/blr-archive/scholarly/5/index.pdf

Hinckley, G. B. (2000). Standing for something: 10 neglected virtues that will heal our hearts and homes. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Lundin, S. C., H. Paul, and J. Christensen. Fish!, a remarkable way to boost morale and improve results. Hyperion Books, 2000. Print.

Morrow, H. (1935). Great captain: The lincoln trilogy. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company.

Oyinlade, A. (2006). A method of assessing leadership effectiveness: Introducing the essential behavioral leadership qualities approach. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 19(1), 25.

Sandburg, C. (1926). Abraham lincoln: The prairie years. New York, NY: Blue Ribbon Books.

Wren, J. T. (1995). The leader’s companion: Insights on leadership through the ages. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in Organizations. 6th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.
All rights reserved.

August VA-OIG Updates: More SHAMEFUL VA Conduct.

I-CareDue to personal issues with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), specifically the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Phoenix, AZ I fell a little behind in June/July/August of 2020.  As I work to clear the backlog of completed Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports from August, please keep in mind solutions to these problems are available. The failure of leadership to be held accountable, by the elected officials is staggering, and the lack of accountability and responsibility boggles the mind.  Without exception, I know the VA can be improved, developed, and saved.

August 2020 begins with an individual employee making a decision regarding healthcare decisions for a veteran at the Robley Rex VAMC in Louisville, Kentucky.  The VA has a process where individuals can be allowed to be surrogate decision-makers for a veteran who needs additional assistance.  This process works is legal and is a great tool for family and friends of veterans to play a significant role in the healthcare process of the veteran.  In this instance, the process failed, not because the process was bad, but because people did not do their jobs properly.

The VA-OIG assessed an allegation that providers permitted an individual with no legal authority to make medical decisions on behalf of a patient, and a host of other patient rights were trampled as documented.  “The patient experienced a three-week medical and mental health hospitalization with repeated episodes of confusion, agitation, and combative behavior. The patient was transferred to hospice care and died five days later.  The VA-OIG found that facility staff did not take the required appropriate steps to identify and confirm the eligibility of this surrogate.  The VA-OIG determined records did not contain sufficient documentation of physicians’ clinical assessments to support diagnoses and treatment decisions. Clinical communication and collaboration were inconsistent, insufficient, and negatively impacted the patient’s continuity and quality of care. Providers did not consistently document medication monitoring and oversight activities to ensure safe patient care. The patient’s transfer to hospice was completed without fully pursuing other diagnoses and treatment options and staff did not ensure the patient’s rights were upheld regarding involuntary admission and behavioral restraints. Facility leaders did not complete a thorough quality of care review to understand the reasons for the patient’s atypical hospital course and outcome” [Emphasis Mine].

Many times, the VA-OIG reports do not clarify all root causes due to employee privacy; however, from the report, the employees who repeatedly allowed the neighbor to make healthcare decisions were exceeding their legal bounds and made decisions that harmed the patient.  This veteran died and from the report, it is clear the veteran died confused, possibly due to medication changes, and the family was not notified in a timely manner because the neighbor, without legal and written authority, was allowed to make healthcare decisions for the veteran, even though there was written healthcare directives on file for a family member to make these decisions.  Utterly shameful behavior!

PatriotismThe Veteran Integrated Service Network (VISN), is a geographical grouping of VA Healthcare Systems, e.g. hospitals and clinics, under a combined leadership plan.  One of the tools the VA-OIG uses to monitor the quality of patient care inside VISN’s is called a “Comprehensive Healthcare Inspection Program (CHIP).  CHIP covers selected clinical and administrative processes all of which are deemed consistent with promoting quality patient care.  The CHIP occurs on a rotational 3-year periodicity and the focus is shifted slightly each 3-year cycle to, theoretically, encompass all administrative processes over time.  The VA reports the following are the specific areas that lead to quality patient care through administrative practices:

  1. Quality, safety, and value;
  2. Medical staff privileging;
  3. The environment of care;
  4. Medication management (specifically the controlled substances inspection program);
  5. Mental health (focusing on military sexual trauma follow-up and staff training);
  6. Geriatric care (spotlighting antidepressant use for elderly veterans);
  7. Women’s health (particularly abnormal cervical pathology result notification and follow-up); and
  8. High-risk processes (specifically the emergency department and urgent care center operations and management).

All of which is mentioned as an explanation providing details for the following VA-OIG inspection reports of CHIP received in August 2020.  A total of seven CHIP reports were received in August recording performance from inspections carried out.  These reports, while somewhat individualized for the specific VAHCS, reads like a carbon copy.  Repeatedly written procedures for standard operation are missing, staff training is inadequate or antiquated, risk analysis is not able to be competently and correctly conducted, patient safety issues abound, and the proper utilization of management processes remains glaring!

Root Cause AnalysisThe CHIP reports are so repetitive in nature, the VA-OIG recommendations are grouped, conveniently, into the eight administrative areas listed above.  According to proper management techniques, the VA-OIG then “encourages” the leadership team to select one or two areas for improvement and focus their efforts on leading change in those areas.  For example, if the VAHCS wants to improve in risk analysis, the leaders can begin by promoting training on properly conducting risk analysis online, hold meetings to review risk analysis procedures and begin to train and develop staff on improving n this area.

However, here is where reality meets theory, without written standard operating procedures risk analysis cannot be completed properly.  The bureaucracy protects itself and will thwart the implementation of written standard operating procedures as this removes designed incompetence that keeps the bureaucrat in power at the VA.  Thus, the root cause of improving root cause analysis is the lack of written procedures that measure performance against a single written standard.

CHIP Report after CHIP Report the same issues arise, are noted, recommendations from the VA-OIG are documented, and the same response is supplied; this represents the epitome of designed incompetence and the root of the problem the VA is facing.  Recommendations for improvement have been repeatedly provided and change can occur; but, not without dedicated leadership, not management, to thwart the bureaucratic quagmire that the VA has fallen into.

Leadership CartoonAnother regular entry on the CHIP reports is the following: “Employee satisfaction scores revealed opportunities for the Associate Director for Patient Care Services to improve employee attitudes towards senior leaders.”  Here is the problem, how many of the “senior leaders” are less than managers, promoted beyond their maximum level of incompetence, solely because they were the next warm body in line; too many!  When staff training is a repeated issue on CHIP reports, one must ask how employees are being measured?  Where are the written scorecards that reflect a process that was used to measure employee performance fairly and equitably?  Was the employee trained on how to perform their role according to the standards published?  Do the scorecards reflect that all employees have been trained, measured, and reported equally?

Guess what, since staff training remains a consistent problem, the staff leaders are the problem!  A major part of “Quality, Safety, and Value” is “Leadership and Organizational Risks.”  A lack of training in properly, timely, and correctly performing one’s role as hired is both a leadership and an organizational risk.  Failing to train employees is the absolute worst comment a leader should be informed of by a third-party inspection team.  Yet, the training of staff is consistently the root cause after a lack of standardized operating procedures.  Every mid-level supervisor, trainer, manager, director, etc. titled individual at the VA should be embarrassed when told their staff is untrained; but, it appears these same leaders do not care!

The Duty of AmericansHow can a person draw the conclusions that the VA appears to not care about improvement, or that the lack of caring is rampant across the entire VA structure; look no further than the site visit VA-OIG inspection report of the Department of Veterans Affairs – Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).  The deputy undersecretary for field operations expected regional office managers to be aware of issues raised in other regional office site visit reports, but there was no written policy for addressing frequently identified errors.  So, the mid-level regional office managers must be told to investigate internal websites to gather lessons learned and apply those lessons in their regional offices.  What an incredibly inept excuse; shameful conduct by a senior leader, and how much worse does this attitude become as it filters down to the troops?  The behavior that claims a new policy is needed to improve performance is utterly bereft of logic and demonstrates the lackadaisical attitude being discussed.  Then these same leaders wonder why their staff is disengaged, disconnected, and distrusting of leadership; unbelievable!

One of the first lessons I learned in becoming a business professional was, “If you have to write your ethics down, you have already lost.”  The VA policies on ethics, ethical conduct, and ethical behavior are voluminous, trying to cover every detail, every loophole, every issue, and mostly the VA-OIG reports on ethical breaches reflect individual poor judgment at best, and designed incompetence at worst.  Yet, still, the VA tries to implement ethics without a source, moral behavior without a purpose, and the individual employee is left with plenty of excuses for not behaving in a properly ethical manner.  This is the topic of another article; but it must be made clear here and now, ethical lapses continue to abound at the VA.  From the nurse not giving drugs to patients and selling the drugs on the street, to hospital directors not disclosing what appears to be a conflict of interest, the VA remains afloat on a sea of ethical violations.

The remaining reports in August reflected an investigation that the VA-OIG was unable to substantiate due to a lack of reports filed in a timely and proper manner.  More designed incompetence on the part of the VA.  Also included in these final reports were more repetitions of issues discussed where staff training was the root cause for ethical violations, failure to properly perform duties as hired, and staff training was the problem with adherence and compliance issues.

The disconnect is obvious, and the direction forward is clear.  Hospital Directors, write the standard operating procedures, using the resources of how the work is performed currently as the baseline.  Then begin correcting and amending the written procedures over the following year to improve performance to a written standard.  Once the written standard is completed, e.g. the baseline, begin training of staff.  You cannot measure individual performance without standards, and standards cannot be followed without written operating procedures for conducting business.

Behavior-Change© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

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