The Whistleblower

People seem shocked that the Republicans are calling for the exposure of whistleblower that started the current impeachment investigation. I’m not. People hate those who blow the whistle on their team. I know this because I’ve blown a whistle or two in my lifetime. It never went well for me.

The idea that this whistleblower is some sort of a rat, or a troublemaker, or a liar, is outrageous. I think this person is a hero. Anyone who sees something that’s morally, ethically or legally suspect, and speaks up about it despite all possible repercussions, is admirable. It takes courage.

And make no mistake, this person is not dictating what happens with the information he or she put forward. That person simply identified a situation that seemed wrong, brought it to the proper authorities, and those authorities are now in charge of investigating those allegations. It’s that simple.

That the Republicans are trying to imply that keeping this person’s identity a secret is some nefarious conspiracy by the Democrats is absurd. It’s. The. LAW. And for good reason. If you start exposing whistleblowers, then no one will have the courage to speak up when they see things that they feel are wrong.

And, lest we forget, just about every allegation that the whistleblower has made has been corroborated by other witnesses. So what’s the point in exposing the whistleblower?

I’ll tell you the point. The Republicans are anxious to have a scapegoat to deflect attention from the questionable behavior of Trump. They can’t afford to have us look at Trump too closely at the moment. We might notice that the emperor has no clothes.

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Defining Moments

I had never heard of John Feeley until this week. Now I’d like to shake his hand. It’s refreshing to hear of someone in the public sector who actually has integrity.

Mr. Feeley is resigning as the US Ambassador to Panama, effective March 9th, because he doesn’t feel he can impartially serve President Trump any longer. A lesser man would have just kept his head down and continued to draw a paycheck. (“Just following orders…”) But not this guy. He took a stand. He decided to do the right thing rather than the easy thing or the self-serving thing, and I’m sure it is going to have a long-lasting impact on his life.

I wish more public servants were like this. I wish no one in congress would show up for the State of the Union address. That would send a strong message to the world that we don’t agree that other countries are shitholes. We don’t agree that it’s okay to grab women. This is not who we are.

When the world asks who we are, I want to tell them that we are John Feeley, and also Walter Shaub, who resigned as the Office of Government Ethics chief last year. I want to tell them that we are every American who marched against Trump and his destructive, hateful policies. I want to tell them that we are every reporter who has brought us the truth in the face of all Trumps threats and lies.

I hope that when the next president is elected, if he or she isn’t another total nut job, the first official act will be to re-hire Feeley and Shaub. We need people with integrity serving the public. We need to demonstrate that ethics still matter in this country.

Thank you, gentlemen, for restoring my faith in human decency at a time when examples of this are awfully thin on the ground.

integrity

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Inherited Wealth

Recently, on my online newsfeed, I saw an article that asked the readers if it is ethical to pass your wealth on to your children. I confess, I didn’t read it. Why would I? It’s not a problem that I’ll ever have. My parents didn’t have much money to pass on to me, and I don’t have any children. Problem solved.

But I did think about the issue from a philosophical standpoint during my next long commute. Naturally, Donald Trump sprang to mind. I’m convinced that the only reason he has money today is because daddy gave him obscene amounts of money to begin with. Donald Trump is barely literate and has no people skills whatsoever, and how many times has he declared bankruptcy? There’s no way he’d have been a self-made millionaire. The world would be a much safer and healthier place if his father hadn’t given him that leg up.

But on the other hand, it’s the average parent’s instinct to try to make his or her children’s lives better than the preceding generation’s. Who are we to deny them that? It’s their wealth. (Well… it is and it isn’t. I’ll save that particular rant for another day.) They can do with it whatever they choose.

Having said that, though, I feel the need to point out that with wealth comes power. If you’re giving your child power that that child hasn’t earned, then you bear a responsibility to make sure your kid is worthy of that power. (Trump’s father never did that, and now we are all paying the price. Lucky us.)

It’s every parent’s duty to instill a strong moral compass in children. They need to grasp laws and ethics and morals. They should understand the need for, and frequently practice, philanthropy. They must possess a certain level of compassion and kindness. Above all, they should have respect for others. With such an unequal balance of power being presented to them on a silver platter, they must be taught to avoid the impulse to grab things (or people) that don’t belong to them.

If little rich kids don’t have these qualities (and unfortunately many do not), then giving them an enormous nest egg on which to lounge is a disservice to the human race. Sheltering them from the real world, and coddling them from life, only produces cruel, dangerous, psychopathic individuals. The last thing these warped individuals need is for you to throw power, in the form of big sweaty wads of cash, into the mix. It creates a toxic stew.

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Human Brick Walls

99 percent of all the Washingtonians I’ve met are really, really nice, unbelievably cooperative, and helpful. Because of that, they make the other 1 percent seem like the world’s biggest jerks. I have never seen anything like the bureaucratic brick walls that get thrown in front of you out here, and there’s no getting around them. None. It makes you feel like you’re in an insane asylum.

  • Someone was stealing my mail, so I had to get a locked mailbox. This caused the post office to stop delivering my mail. When I finally got through the red tape far enough to actually talk to someone local, they said they stopped delivering it because the shape of my mailbox is unacceptable to them, and because the postman would have to alter the angle of his hand by a few degrees to slip the mail in the slot, they would no longer deliver to that box. “Fine. I’ll eat the 45 dollars I spent on the damned box and get another one. Now will you deliver the two weeks’ worth of mail you are holding?” “No. You have to come and get it.” “But I work all the hours you are open.” “I don’t know what to tell you, ma’am.” So I guess my mail is being held hostage.
  • The property management company that handled the year’s lease on my rental place was more than happy to take my money, but after doing so, knowing that I was about to drive 3100 miles, they would not arrange for me to get the key on a Sunday unless I forked over another 150 dollars. Over my dead body. Fortunately someone was kind enough to let me camp out that night at their house or I would have had to sleep in the driveway.
  • My dogs needed heartworm medication for next month. The vet here would accept my Florida vet records as proof that I had gotten all the required vaccinations for the dogs. No problem. But when it came to proof that they were getting a certain monthly dose of heartworm meds, something they could easily sell me, no, they had to actually see and examine the dogs. Which cost me 250.00. Not a single shot, mind you. Just a look at the dogs and the sale of the pills. What, did they think I’d be selling Trifexis on the black market?
  • A sailing vessel captain offered to give local Bridge Operators a boat ride. We were all excited. But then the bureaucracy said it would be unethical. What kind of quid pro quo did they think the captain was looking for? That the bridge be raised up 30 seconds faster? Honestly.

It’s these human brick walls, these rigid people who refuse to be the least bit flexible or reasonable who leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth. I don’t understand the utter lack of consideration and douchebaggery. It stuff like this that almost makes me wish I were back in Florida. Almost.

I think I need ice cream.

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The Man Who Has Everything

I know a millionaire. He’s a good businessman; in fact, he’s hyper-successful. He came from humble beginnings and has had to hustle to get to the top, but hustle he did. No one can say he hasn’t worked very hard to get where he is.

He knows how to read people. A charming fellow, he’s the kind of guy you’d expect to be a motivational speaker. His catch phrase is “Change your story.” He will be the first to tell you that it’s your attitude and your way of looking at things that will make you either a success or a failure in life. In other words, your life is what you make it. After a few minutes in his presence you are sort of hypnotized by his force of personality, and you start to believe that anyone can be like him. Anyone can have the nice car and the gorgeous house and the boat and the vacations in the Caribbean, if only they think positively.

I think of this man every day, even though I’m sure he thinks of me rarely, if at all. The reason he’s in the forefront of my mind is that for one brief shining moment, I had money from the sale of my house and I didn’t want it to just sit and gather dust. I wanted it to work for me. Who better to ask for financial advice than a millionaire? I’ll regret that decision for the rest of my life.

I told him I’d need this money back in a year, but in the meantime I’d like to invest it, and he told me about a privately held stock that would most likely make me a fortune, and either way I could get my money out of it in a year. They usually didn’t entertain small investors like me, but he had an in with these guys. He’d make it happen for me.

That was a couple years ago, and the company is doing so badly now that no one wants the stock, and it hasn’t made me any money. In fact, I’d be shocked if I ever see my money again. Because of this, I teeter on the brink of homelessness.

I wake up from a sound sleep in a cold, clammy sweat on a regular basis, wondering how I’m going to keep my dogs if I have to live in my car. Every purchase I make has to be complete necessity. I add rice to the most unlikely things to stretch my groceries as far as I can. My life is in financial ruins, and I’ll probably have to work until I drop dead. The retirement cupboard is not only bare, it’s moldy and covered with cobwebs. That’s a terrifying position to be in when you’re 48.

Do I blame this guy? He didn’t hold a gun to my head. I made this stupid investment myself. I’m a grown woman who trusted someone I shouldn’t have. I actually assumed his motivations were pure. That’s on me.

Unfortunately, I’ve since learned that this guy has placed several other people in similar situations. And these were friends he went to high school with who are no longer speaking to him. That makes the situation a little more scary, and more than a little bit questionable. It was his shares of stock that he sold me. Did he genuinely think he was helping me out, or did he see the vultures circling and want to unload as much of it as he could before they started devouring the corpse of the corporation? I’ll never know his motivations for sure. All I know is the damage that has been done to my life.

The frustrating thing is that he could easily buy his stock back and change my life entirely. The amount in question is chump change to him. And he has said that he would do so, or find a buyer for it, but I’ve yet to see any actual action on his part.

Recently I e-mailed him, telling him exactly how devastated my life is now, practically begging him for help, and he responded that he feels my pain. But later that day I noticed several new Caribbean photos on his Facebook page. He must be feeling my pain from the deck of a luxury yacht.

I’ve learned a lot from this man. I’ve learned that it’s easy for people to hover along the fringes of acceptable behavior in their pursuit of cold, hard cash. I’ve learned that your ethics and morality can be compromised, subtly at first, when you are in the throes of the pursuit of success. I believe that once the devil starts to whisper in your ear you’re bound to make bad decisions regardless of how decent you may be when you start your life’s journey.

I believe that the man who has everything has everything to lose, and so it goes with him. I’ve watched his life unravel as his morality has become more questionable. Oh, he still looks like a shiny new apple on the surface. He still has the nice cars and houses and boats, he still flies here and there when I can’t even afford a greyhound bus. But the apple is rotting from the inside.

He is in the midst of a divorce. He’s becoming estranged from friends and family. He no longer responds to e-mails. He tries to behave as if he’s happy, but he isn’t. He binge drinks to a shocking degree and despite his charm and his bank account, he’s all alone. If he doesn’t do right by people, if he doesn’t “change his story” by getting his priorities straight, at the end of his life all that anyone will be able to say about him is that he’s the richest guy in the cemetery. And that makes me sad.

Things fall apart, the center does not hold.

If you look at my bank account and my gullibility, you might see me as a failure. But I am loved. And I may lose sleep from worry, but I never lose sleep from having a guilty conscience. When I look in the mirror, I may not have a 300 dollar haircut, but I can look myself in the eye. So which one of us is truly richer?

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Learning your Lessons

Every one of us has certain lessons to learn throughout his or her life. Some lessons we are doomed to repeat over and over again. Other lessons impact us on such fundamental levels that it only takes one time to get the message. It doesn’t always feel very good when we get schooled, but like it or not, it’s always a valuable experience.

Learning from our mistakes when we are young can be particularly humiliating. We are already in a phase in which we feel we know it all and are utterly self-conscious about the ways we are perceived by others, so when we receive a moral or ethical smack-down it particularly stings. In hindsight one can accept that lessons learned when young are the most valuable of all because we benefit from them for the rest of our lives, but at the time it feels as if it’s an exercise in torture.

Here’s a lesson I learned when young. Friends who are cruel to others will eventually direct their cruelty toward you as well. It might be fun in high school when there are cliques and insecurities and pecking orders are being established with a vengeance, but in the wider world, bullies are less accepted and can be even more destructive. Take a stand and defend those who are being attacked. Do not tolerate aggressive people. Pit Bulls turn on their masters every day.

Take a moment to appreciate the lessons you have learned in life. They have made you a much better person. They are gifts.

The Definition of Integrity

The dictionary defines it thus:

in·teg·ri·ty [in-teg-ri-tee]

noun

1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

It is the quality I admire most in a human being, and when I see a lack of this quality I’m always shocked and horrified. It takes courage to stand up for what you know is right at that crucial moment when most people would look the other way and let someone else handle it. My nephew Ryan showed an amazing amount of integrity the other night, and I couldn’t be prouder.

It was his 24th birthday, and he was at a bar celebrating with his friend Nancy. As the evening wore on this group showed up, and one of the guys kept calling this girl a wh***, sl** and b***h. So Ryan walked over to her and told her she was an amazing person and didn’t deserve to be talked to that way. Then he returned to his table.

The guy’s friend came up to Ryan and said that he could talk to his wife however he wanted and that there was nothing some faggot could do about it. So Ryan stood up and told him that he might be a fag but that he was more of a man then they will ever be because he knows how to talk to a woman. The guy punched Ryan in the face. He fell back into Nancy’s lap, but he kept getting back up to fight back (not exactly successfully, he says) until the bouncer threw that group out. For the rest of the night Ryan got drinks and anything else for free from the bar and other patrons (including a big bag of ice for his fat lip). So, he says, “I didn’t win the war (I might not even have won the battle) but I’m holding my head high this morning knowing that I stood (and kept standing back up) for that woman and any woman who had ever been treated like that.”

There are several things I love about this story:

  • I don’t condone violence, but Ryan did not go over there to start a fight. He went over there to tell the girl she was amazing and deserved better. I suspect that no one had ever done that for her before. I hope it sinks in, because if her husband is treating her like this in public, heaven only knows what happens in private.
  • Even after he realized that standing up for what he believed in was going to equal personal pain, he continued to stand up.
  • Although he did not “win” the fight, he came away feeling proud of the person that he has become, and every patron in that bar reinforced that.

The only thing I do NOT like about this story is that the police weren’t called and the guy wasn’t charged with assault. Without that sort of legal paper trail, people like that will never be held accountable for their actions, and will never have the opportunity to learn that wives are not property that can be abused by the very fact of “ownership”.

But another thing happened with the telling of this story—I was reminded that my nephew has turned into a fine young man. My late sister would be so proud.

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(Me and my favorite nephew, 2006)