Saturday, December 8, 2018

Seeds and Soil

A few years ago I wrote about my DNA test. I took the basic DNA test, so it didn’t drill down to towns and villages or trace my lineage back to Adam. But it did destroy the story my family had always told that we had Indian blood. That my paternal great-grandfather was ½ Cherokee.
As it turns out, the test showed that I have no Native American DNA. I suppose if I took out a loan and purchased the comprehensive, down to the gnat’s ass DNA test, I might end up with the Elizabeth Warren (aka Pocahontas) version of Indian ancestry. (No thank you).

My actual DNA profile was about ½ of what I expected. I knew there would be plenty of English, Irish and Scottish ancestry. And it is there for sure. Over half of me from those groups. But then there was this big chunk of Scandinavian. Didn’t see that one coming until I realized just how prolific the Vikings had been in British Isles, Scotland in particular. The other surprise came when it said that 15% of my DNA could be traced back to people from the Iberian peninsula . And I had just a bit of “Western European”. Also a surprise, since the Clicks had come to America from Germany. I always figured that I had a lot of German ancestry. Turns out not so much.

Frankly I was baffled by the large Iberian print on my DNA and the lack of Germanic ancestry. I guess it wasn’t that difficult to imagine that somewhere along the way one of my ancestors had been Spanish. There was a good deal of interaction between Spain and Great Britain on the other side of the Atlantic. Some of my family was early into Texas, so maybe one of them married into the Spanish bloodline. Or maybe a Spanish pirate had just jumped on board somewhere along the way.

The lack of Germanic ancestry was curious. I finally concluded that neither my full blooded German ancestor who came to America nor any of his descendants ever married anyone from Germany or anyplace that would qualify as Western European. The boundaries and lines there were constantly moving, In fact, I had read on one ancestry posting that the Clicks had originated from the Alsace region of France which regularly passed back and forth between France and Germany (or The German Confederation or Prussia or whatever name it might have had at any given time.). Regardless, my DNA barely registered any connection to Western Europe.

The Click who came to America was from the village of Dannstadt, Rhineland which is in Southwestern Germany. His name was actually Ludwig Heinrich Gluck. And he arrived in Philadelphia just before the American Revolution. His parents were also from Dannstadt as were his grandparents. But I decided to dig further and finally found evidence that the first Gluck who moved to Dannstadt actually came from a region in far Southwestern France known as Aquitaine. The original inhabitants were tribal people who became known as Aquitani and whose descendents are now the French Basque. The region is bounded on the south by the Pyrenees Mountains and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. It is generally considered to be part of the Iberian Penisula. Bartholomaeus Gluck, Sr was born there in 1617 and died in Dannstadt in 1674. His son Bartholomaeus Gluck, Jr was also born in Aquitaine in 1649. So sometime between 1649 and 1674 the family moved to Dannstadt.

My next question is why did they leave Aquitaine and move to Dannstadt? Best guess is that they were Protestants, French Huguenots most likely. Their persecution by the Catholic church in France began in the late 1500’s. Many fled to Germany and other more Protestant tolerant countries. Those in places like the Aquitaine region stayed longer. But, I suppose the Glucks could see the writing on the wall and ultimately decided to get out and make a better life somewhere else. Most likely others had moved to the Rhineland. And their letters back home persuaded old Bartholomaeus to pack up and join them.

That drive for a better life must have passed through to his great grandson, Ludwig Heinrich Gluck (Lewis Henry Click). He sailed off to America, landed in Philadelphia and became one of the early settlers in Tennessee, stopping in Virginia long enough to start a family that included Malachi who’s son Samuel eventually made it to Texas and is buried in Collin County in what is now some very expensive real estate (McKinney, Frisco, …). Samuel would be my great grandfather’s grandfather.

We Americans are mostly a nation of mutts, mixed breeds. The best and the worst of many. That we fight and fuss with each other is natural. We want more. We expect more. And we are more alike than we are different. I truly believe that. I am more like an African-American, or Latino-American or Asian-American or Muslim-American or Jewish-American; than I am a Scotsman, or an Irishman, or a Scandinavian or a German or an Iberian. Being an American is special. Being a Texan and an American just means that God smiled on me twice.

It’s nice to know where you come from. But, it’s better to be thankful for where you ended up.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Baby It's Crazy Outside (and Inside)

If one looks at the calendar they might think this is the Christmas Season (oops..I meant Holiday Season). And they might be right as long as they consider it is also the season for political correctness.

It seems that traditional Christmas songs, stories and movies have now been identified by the PC Police as violators and line-crossers of “The Code”. “The Code” is don’t say, sing, write or draw anything that might make anyone uncomfortable. Therefore, the 1940’s vintage song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” , is now too “date-rapey” and is not to be played. Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer is somehow racist and homophobic. So long to that Christmas Classic. And the 1980’s movie “A Christmas Story” crosses all kinds of lines: guns/violence, wife/mother stereotyping, homophobia (somehow, doesn’t everything?), consumerism, animal cruelty (one of the Bumpass’ hounds ear being caught in the door), child abuse and eating disorders (meatloaf, beatloaf, I hate meatloaf…).

I’m not sure where this nonsense will end. We’ve already taken Christ out of Christmas and eventually will manage to take most of our traditions and fun out of the holidays. I suppose it’s still acceptable, at least for now, to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Some folks just need to lighten up and get one.

“Political correctness is tyranny with manners.” – Charlton Heston

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Where Have All The Young Men Gone?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my impressions of Great Britain after spending some time over there. One thing I didn’t comment on was the way they remember the World Wars and honor those who served, and certainly those who died.

The reminders of World War One and World War Two are everywhere. The United Kingdom had over 750,000 killed or missing in action in the First World War. And some estimates are closer to 1 million. This from a population of less than 50 million at that time. This is very comparable to the combined losses of the North and South during the American Civil War. (And we still remember that one, except where we don’t. But that’s another conversation.). Virtually every village and hamlet in Great Britain has a memorial with the names of “their boys” who died in that war.

And while the loss of life was actually less for the Brits in World War Two, it is more recent history. Survivors are still alive. They remember the weeks and months of bombing by the Germans, the civilian casualties and coming so close to losing it all at Dunkirk. The never-give-in urgings of Winston Churchill and the mustering of troops for the D-Day invasion. My Dad was there. A teenager in the 101st Airborne, preparing to do what he and the rest of them had to do. Most all them, like my father, just kids. The war games they played were for real.

When Veteran’s Day comes around each year, of course, I think of my father and my uncles and others of that generation who served. It seems to be having an even bigger impact on me this year after the time spent over there. One cannot help but think of those who died and those who came back wounded. Lives were changed forever.

Certainly the people of Great Britain were changed. All of Europe for that matter. Two World Wars tested the faith of Western European Christianity and some would say that the Wars ultimately won that test. While I don’t believe this is the primary reason for the decline of Christianity in Western Europe, they were contributing factors. Many requests to the Almighty were never granted and many questions remained unanswered.

How could a loving God allow such terrible things to happen? That is the question we all ask eventually. And whatever answer you come up with only leads to more questions. Wars and natural disasters and diseases, and just the all around pain and suffering this life has to offer, are enough to make even the most faithful among us have doubts.

I recently re-read C.S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity. It was based on a series of radio broadcasts he gave on the BBC during World War Two. Why do we have wars and pain and suffering? Read Mere Christianity. Then after reading it, ask for forgiveness and try to forgive. That’s the best advice I have on this day, a day of remembering.

“All blood runs red.” ― Phrase painted on the side of the plane flown by Eugene Bullard in World War I, the first black military pilot

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Our Deeds Disguise Us

Riddle me this: What’s Red and Blue, has two tails, one eye, no ears, spins in a circle and craps on the bed?

Answer: The American Two-Party Political System.

It’s not even necessary to run down the list of what’s wrong with our broken system. We all know it and we can’t do much about it because The System controls The Game. The System makes the rules, prints the money and bites the hands that feeds it. You want to change The Game? Change The System. You want to Change The System? Change The Players.

Not that it will ever happen, but I’ve been thinking…what if? What if we could change things? What if the people in the middle, which is most of us, came up with a legitimate Third Party option. Not far right Libertarianism or far left Socialism. Neither of those boats will ever float in this country. But something more fundamentally sound. A party that most of us can get behind because it’s for us, not for itself.

What would it look like? What's “the platform”?

Number One, without question. Term limits. You want to get the American peoples’ attention and support. Start with term limits. Make it a policy that members of this new party can only serve so many terms in office. Politics will not be a lifetime career. A party that embraces term limits has a chance.

Number Two, push legislation to reduce the Federal debt to a manageable level over the next 20 years with a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases (taxes AND tax reform). Just be honest about where we are and what we have to do to fix the problem. It’s OK to carry some debt, a good deal of debt in fact. But, too much of a good thing, becomes a bad thing. Just come clean, admit to the problem and go about fixing it.

Number Three, invest in infrastructure. We need to fix our roads, bridges and ports. We need mass transit systems that move us toward fewer cars on the highway over the next 50 years. It will cost money, it will create jobs; and most of the money will stay in our economy and have a positive multiplier effect.

Number Four, fix our education system to include job training. And this is mostly a state and local issue. It will require national funding help in many cases, but make education and vocational training priorities. Provide up to two years of “free” community college or vocational training. It’s money well-spent.

Number Five, Immigration. Bite the bullet and establish a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Control the borders. “Open borders” is an oxymoron. But we don’t need a wall, not with the technology available today. We do need to control who comes into our country. Most nations in the world do so and we should as well.

Number Six, Healthcare. Good, affordable healthcare is a right, not a privilege. If saying that violates the conservative pledge, then modify the pledge. What we have now is unsustainable. We can fix it. It will cost money and sacrifice. Both of which we are already paying out in abundance and not getting much in return.

Number Seven, International Trade. We need free, but fair, trade. We haven’t always been smart in our dealings with other nations. But you can’t fix it overnight without seriously disrupting our economy and everyone else’s. The current administration’s objectives are on target. But like so many things with this bunch, their approach is too heavy-handed. It will take years to work through the trade issues and using tariffs as the primary weapon is ill-advised.

That’s it. You may ask what about all of the “other issues”, i.e. abortion, LGBT rights, the military , foreign policy, racial discrimination, gun control, global warming/energy/environment, women’s rights, the electoral college, supreme court nominees…the list goes on…and on…and on. No question, these are all very important issues. But, if everything is a priority, nothing is… and nothing ever gets done. Seven priorities is probably four too many, but these are critical. If we put our nation in better position on these seven issues, the majority of Americans would benefit enormously. These seven issues are the cracks in our foundation. Leave these unrepaired, focus on the “other stuff”, and you just end up with an impoverished nation run by professional politicians and special interests groups. In other words, pretty much what we have now.

Our deeds disguise us. People need endless time to try on their deeds, until each knows the proper deeds for him to do. But every day, every hour, rushes by. There is no time. – John Locke

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Four Big Truths About Headhunting and Everything Else

I was speaking with a friend of mine the other day and he asked me “What’s the biggest challenge you face in the headhunting business?”. I replied, “Do you mean right now or all of the time? If you mean right now, it’s the shortage of qualified candidates. If you mean all of the time, it’s TAL...’they all lie’.” He laughed and we moved on to the next topic, probably sports.

Later that evening I thought about my TAL remark. Is it really true? Maybe TAL is itself a lie. But there is something to it. It’s not necessarily that “ALL” are lying. It’s really more that we don’t know what we don’t know. (Remember Donald Rumsfeld in the Bush II administration trying to explain about what we know and what we don’t know and known unknowns and unknown knowns and unknown unknowns? Rumsfeld was not wrong but he forgot his audience and it became one of the all time ‘What the Hell did he just say?’ moments in history.)

There are really Four Big Truths one learns in headhunting:
_You never have all of the facts.
_There are always “hidden decision-makers”.
_Things change over time
_And, yes, sometimes people lie (or they just don’t tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth.)

You never have all of the facts about the job or the candidate. That’s just the way it is. Sometimes you don’t ask the right questions. Sometimes the employer or the candidate doesn’t know the answer or they just make something up and tell you what they think you want to hear or what they want you to hear. Jobs and lives are complicated and sometimes people don’t realize the importance of certain things until it’s brought to their attention.

And there are things you can’t talk about. There are legal restrictions and limitations. Employers and candidates have biases and personal circumstances you can’t ask about, much less explore. And right or wrong, fairly or unfairly, these “unmentionable” realities often determine if a job is offered, or if offered is it accepted.

Then there are those “hidden decision-makers”. Rarely these days does the hiring decision belong to only one or two people. Of course, there is the official “hiring authority”. But, if someone who matters to that hiring authority doesn’t think a person should be hired, they probably aren’t going to be hired. It can be for any number of reasons and may not have anything to do with the specific candidate being considered. It’s the reality of the“consensus hiring” process.

And it’s not just on the employer side. Candidates have their fair share of hidden decision-makers or influencers and, oh the games those people play. Spouses and kids who don’t want to be the ones to say no to a career opportunity involving relocation, but secretly hope that the job offer will never come. And when it does come and relocation becomes a reality, they rise up and say NO. Current employers can become, in effect, hidden decision-makers; rushing in at the last minute with a counter-offer that the candidate just can’t refuse. I’ve even seen an aging parent guilt candidates into turning down a job offer that might involve relocation or increased travel away from home.

And things change as time passes. These days the interview and hiring process can go on for months. It’s not unusual to submit a candidate for an opportunity and the first interview doesn’t happen for two, three or even four weeks. Then it may be another couple of weeks before a second interview. And then a month before everyones schedules line-up for a round of in-person interviews. And then another round perhaps a few weeks later. And a week or so before an offer is made. Anything can happen as the weeks and months drag on. The candidate may get other offers or a promotion. The candidate may just get fed up with the process and withdraw. The client company may change their mind and promote from within. Or someone from “their network” suddenly becomes available and they hire that person.

Lastly, there are those lies or half-truths. It may not be TAL. Certainly everyone doesn't lie all of the time about everything. And we tend to grade ourselves and others on "the curve". If you happen to be more honest, more often than others, and not blatantly dishonest, at least not on something important; you get an 'A'. But it is rare that anyone tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There may or may not be intentional or malicious lies or truth omissions. Sometimes they are unavoidable and tied to necessarily confidential matters. There are things that an employer will not and probably should not disclose about a job, at least not upfront. The same goes for the candidate and even for the search firm.

One might say these aren’t really lies. But, if you’re the one not being told the full story, it pretty much feels like a lie. And it’s the worst part of the headhunting business or any business I suppose. That’s why I titled this entry “The Four Big Truths About Headhunting and Everything Else”. This really is the way life goes. All of our relationships, decisions and actions are at risk. Nothing is certain. People talk about being “transparent”. But who is, really…. when it comes down to it? Who can afford to be and survive in this world? How much would it actually cost to be totally honest?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?- Jeremiah 17:9

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Lowering the Bar

The unemployment rate just reached a low (3.7%) not seen since the late 1960’s. If you’re an employer, let that soak in. If you’re looking to hire “experienced” workers let these numbers soak in:
Unemployment rates for workers age 25 and over:
_With college degree 2.0%
_Some college 3.1%
_High School 3.5%
_Less than High School 4.9%

And that unemployment rate for those with less than a high school degree is down from a peak 17.9% during the last recession. Some employers are now hiring felons who were convicted for non-violent crimes. Some employers have stopped drug-testing. And, some employers are still hiring undocumented immigrants (yes they are…).

Here at High Road Partners we are recruiting experienced management and executive talent for the transportation and logistics industry. And guess what, there isn’t enough experienced management and executive talent to go around. I’ve written about this in the past, warning that we will soon reach the point where certain key positions will go unfilled or be filled by people lacking the requisite qualifications and experience. Well, we have arrived.

We’ve seen companies making adjustments, essentially playing dodge ball with this issue for the last five years. But employers are playing the game at a slow walk while the candidate market is on a dead run and moving farther away. It’s been interesting to watch the de-evolution in hiring practices in this industry. (And it probably holds true for other industries, this just happens to be the one I know.) Take most any hiring criteria and it’s been tweaked:

_Degree required? Not now. Preferred, but not required.
_Specific experience in a market segment? Not necessarily. Transportation or transportation-related will suffice. (Can you spell Logistics? Any clue what it is?)
_Stable work history? Well, who’s really stable these days. As long as the candidate has got good reasons for job changes, we’ll consider them.
_Do not send us any unemployed candidates. I haven’t heard that one in three years.
_Salary range is fixed, period. Today, we’re more likely to hear “we’re open for the right candidate”.
_Benefits, time off, work schedule, relocation..It's company policy. Today, those are negotiable.

These are just a few of the key hiring criteria that are changing. And it’s a matter of degree. Some employers are “adjusting” more than others. Those who aren’t adjusting are falling farther and farther behind. We still have some clients who are trying to use the same standards (and at about the same level of pay) they were using 15 years ago. And, oh by the way, wanting to have half dozen or more candidates to pick from. Ain’t gonna happen. These companies are on the way out of business and they don’t even realize it.

How bad has it gotten? Based on what I’m seeing, pretty bad. Employers are now hiring not just a little “off spec”, but way off spec. Especially if they are unwilling or, for various reasons, unable to meet the compensation levels required to hire more qualified candidates. And these are not candidates we’ve submitted. Usually they are referrals or people from their network who just need a job. Sometimes they decide to do the noble, heroic thing and promote from within. But, there’s nothing noble or heroic about promoting someone to fail. And, increasingly, these same employers are coming back to us within a year admitting that it didn’t work out and need to reopen the search.

We are where we are and it took decades to get here. The driver, mechanic and warehouse labor shortages are getting the headlines, as they should. If you can’t move the freight or keep the trucks on the road, you don’t have a business, period. But, you also need people to manage the business. The right people. At the end of the day, organizations and institutions ultimately die due to a lack of leadership and direction. The survivors are those who can adjust, adapt and overcome without lowering the bar too much. Look around your company and ask yourself, will it be dead or alive in ten years?

Father tell me, we get what we deserve
Oh we get what we deserve
And way down we go
Way down we go.
(from the song by Kaleo)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Next Man (or Woman) Up

Unless you’ve been in a coma, you’ve heard that the nation is on the market for a Supreme Court Judge. You may have also noticed that Democrats think the President’s nominee for the position, Brett Kavanaugh, is not qualified for the position due to questionable behavior toward women back when he was a teenager. (Of course, most on the left don’t think the man who nominated him is qualified for his job either, for many reasons, including questionable behavior toward women back…well..not that far back…and we have it on tape…grab ‘em by the p-----. And we know he’s not saying purse.).

I’m mostly on the Right side of the political divide. Yes, I voted for Trump while agreeing with the Left that he’s not qualified and he probably is a p-----grabber and worse. But that tells you what I thought of the Democratic candidate for POTUS. I’m also inclined to believe that President PG’s nominee for SCOTUS judge probably did something bad or held the flashlight or their beer while his buddies tried to do the nasty to a young woman. That young woman grew up to be a well-spoken, credible accuser and presents a formidable roadblock to Kavanaugh being approved by the Senate. I don’t know and we’ll probably never know if he is guilty or was even in the room or on the block. But something terrible happened to Christine Blasey Ford when she was a teenager, I am convinced of that. And my guess is that Kavanaugh ran with a crowd that was inclined to get “beer-ed up” and young women were put upon in ways all involved now view with shame and regret. And some were probably raped, either over their objections or while unconscious. This is an ugly truth and it has been going on for a long time. Certainly ever since young women started going about without chaperones to watch over them. (And I’m not saying blame the don’t go there. )

Moving on, I don’t like the way Democrats waited until the 23rd hour to play this card. And, I seriously doubt that Dr. Ford’s accusations would hold up in a court of law. It wouldn’t even go to trial. But her story along with less than credible accusations from a couple of others is all it takes to ruin someone. Unless Kavanaugh can prove, and prove more than just beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is innocent; I reckon he will not be approved. And even if he is approved, he will step on the SCOTUS bench with a cloud over him like none other. Clarence Thomas will be glad to see him for sure.

The Democrats seem to think that by zapping Kavanaugh and getting past the mid-term elections where it is likely they will regain a majority in the Senate; they will be in position to determine who gets to be the next SCOTUS judge. That may be true, sort of. The reality is that President PG will be around for at least two more years. I’m sure he already has a plan B and plan C. Next man (or woman) up. And they will be conservatives and the Democrats won’t like them much. But what if they do block every nominee. That might just be the best thing to ever happen for the Republicans. It will galvanize the Republican base, even the never-Trumpers, and move a lot of independents into the “never-Democrat” column.

One of the major reasons conservatives held their noses and voted for Trump was knowing that we had an open SCOTUS slot and would likely have one or even two more during the next President’s term. Conservatives don’t like SCOTUS judges making the law. We tend to be more in favor of constitutionalists judges, such as Judge Neil Gorsuch who said these words:

Judges should instead strive (if humanly and so imperfectly) to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be—not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.

That’s seems reasonable enough to me and should be to most clear thinking Americans. But some want Judges who will re-write the law and effectively legislate from the bench in favor of their political agendas. That’s what we conservatives don’t want and why many of us ended up voting for old PG-er in the first place.

So you Democrats go ahead, tar and feather Brett Kavanaugh and ride him out of town on a rail. Maybe he deserves it. We’ll probably never know. And if he is an innocent man, or even just mostly innocent (who of us could withstand microscopic scrutiny of our teenage years), may God have mercy. And get ready to decide what to do about the next nominee, or the next one, or the next one…..