NRA success and jobs with fastest aging populations

When I listened on the radio to the NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, speaking at his press conference addressing the Sandy Hook school shootings, I missed the newscaster’s introduction so I initially had no idea what I was listening to. After the first few minutes I thought I was listening to a farce. As I turned my attention to listening intently, I realized this was supposed to be a serious address, and I was stunned. Listening to LaPierre’s reasoning about the need for guns in schools I felt I was living in some bizzaro world.

His argument was the ultimate denial: we don’t need gun control, we need more guns, and we need them in schools. You know, good people with guns to stop the bad people. He even has the perfect tag line for creating gun-toting moms and dads (making the idea of the soccer moms and dads passé).

The whole conference seemed like such a parody that I searched for the words to create a satire describing the conference. However, the mighty New York Times was on the job. In Babe in Arms Bill Keller’s opinion piece is a memo from NRA president, David Keene, to Wayne LaPierre, and it satirizes LaPierre’s news conference  in the form of congratulating LaPierre on its success.

The truth isn’t far from fiction.  As the Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins said, and which I agree with, LaPierre’s performance was a success for reasons he intended. Linkins said, “Wayne LaPierre went out in front of reporters…to leverage the Sandy Hook shooting into a unique, sales-boosting opportunity for the industry he represents.” That he did.

Some highlights from Keller’s piece:

The next phase of the NRA’s plan is called A.O.K., Arm Our Kids; “a comprehensive K-12 carry program”.

Logic and research show that AOK would be a job-creation program, creating “demand for trainers, shooting-range operators, engineers to develop new lines of weapons for little fingers”.

Planning will cover the following needs:

a spokesman;

a curriculum (on this the NRA could rely on former presidential candidate candidate Rick Perry to “happily tell the Texas State Board of Education to work with us on a line of animated textbooks” that will work “issues like caliber and muzzle velocity into the math curriculum”;

merchandising: Cub Scouts can expand from BB-gun skills “into pistols and rifles, perhaps with a Good Guy merit badge; for girls there can be “bulletproof backpacks, including a Disney Princess line”

military tie-in:  can use the army of kids who’ve already done that type of work in that country in Africa, “Sergio Leone”

Moving on… As I watch the U.S. congress in action, it’s noticeable how old the leadership is. It amazes me the number of stories I’ve heard about age discrimination in the private sector especially, and how tough life is for workers after a certain age. However, if you have the occasion to grow old, Congress seems to be immune to the blight that is ageism and therefore if one can deal with complete workplace dysfunction, that may be the place to be. With these thoughts I read with interest an article on MSN that covered categories that address: the fastest aging fields (lawmaker wasn’t listed);  jobs with the highest proportion of retirement aged workers; states with the highest/lowest proportion of retirement-age workers.

The top five fields that has the highest number of workers 65 or older are the following, according to Anthony Balderrama of CareerBuilder in his article, “A snapshot of retirement-aged American workers”:

  1. Embalmers  (83.5 percent)
  2. Funeral attendants (78.9 percent)
  3. Motor vehicle operators (54 percent)
  4. Crossing guards (36.6 percent)
  5. Music directors and composers (35.3 percent)

More gun control versus leave my guns alone…

The gun-control, we-need-more-guns debate continues as we know it will for a long time. And it’s a debate that needs to happen so both sides can have their say.

The other side of the debate has continued to nag me. I feel empathy for people who feel that they have their right to defend themselves. There are lots of law abiding citizens who truly want to keep a gun for their and their families’ protection.

What do we do as a society when reasonable, law abiding citizens feel that they need to protect themselves because they don’t trust their government to protect them. (Not talking about those who see government as the enemy.)

A couple of experiences have contributed to this empathy for the gun-for-protection argument.

One of my first jobs was as a Medical Assistant. There was an older gentleman, maybe in his early 60s who never failed to come for his doctor’s visit with his gun which I could see peeking out from its holster every time he reached in his jacket for his insurance card.

During one visit I asked him out of sheer curiosity why he carried a gun. Up until then he seemed to be a mild-mannered, jokey guy. After I asked about the gun I saw him fired up for the first time. He told my coworkers and me that he had been mugged three times over the years in the Boston area and at least one of the muggers aimed a gun at him.  It so frightened him that he got himself a gun so that he would never be left defenseless again.  I never forgot that conversation because I could see how agitated and likely pained he was by those muggings.

Many years ago I read this book called Not An Easy Target by Paxton Quigley. Quigley had never been a gun activist, until one night a close friend called her to come over because someone had broken into her house.  The police officers on the scene told Quigley that her friend had been assaulted and Quigley determined that would never happen to her.  She bought herself a gun, and became a nationally known safety expert appearing on network shows and other media.  She voiced an argument also voiced by a segment of the pro-gun faction: People are afraid of becoming victims and [are] angry that nothing is being done to make their streets safe.

These two stories, the older man and Quigley brought home people’s anxiety about violence to me because they had lived or had proximity to personal violence.

Here is some of the conversation I’ve tuned into, via the national media, that continues to drive the debate from both sides.

In “Consider guns for school officials” online news site Politico reports that on Tuesday Virginia’s Governor, Bob McDonnell said that Sandy Hook’s principal Dawn Hochsprung could possibly have stopped the gunman if she had been armed and trained. The key word is trained. I can see where this is going with others who are on his side of the argument. I think we’ll be hearing more about more people needing to be armed in order for us to be safer, but that they need to be trained on gun safety. I’m predicting that’s the compromise toward which pro-gun activists will attempt to move the debate: Give people more guns, focus on training and gun safety.

Dan Elliott and Steven Paulson of the AP reported on a shooting this week in Longmont Colorado, a murder-suicide where a man who had been released from jail hours before (having been sent to jail for kidnapping his girlfriend) made his way to his girlfriend, shot and killed her, his girlfriend’s sister and her sister’s husband, then killed himself.  This is one argument for gun control. Most gun deaths don’t occur through massacres, but through violence between people who know each other.

Today, the New York Times opinion page talked about studies from the Harvard School of Public Health’s date from 26 developed countries that show “wherever there are more firearms, there are more homicides”.  The piece goes on to say that the American murder rate is roughly 15 times that of other wealthy countries with tough gun ownership laws.

What’s interesting to me about this piece is to read what Australia and Scotland did after their experience with mass murder by gun.  They managed to decrease murder involving guns.

Thinking about the other side of the argument, I suspect that those who want a gun for personal safety reasons would say, I don’t want to die before my time, period, by knife or otherwise. If someone attacks me with a knife, I’d rather have a gun to take care of the problem.  Or, as Marymount University philosophy professor, Michael Boylan, says in his piece in the New York Times, The Weapons Continuum, “weapons advocates [think], the bad guys will have more powerful weapons and so must I in order to defend myself.”

Those who are bent on maximum destruction will find a way. Do we want to try to out gun the bad guy, match fire power for fire power. Where will it end?

The worst school massacre in American history took place 80 years ago in 1927 in a place called Bath, Michigan at an elementary school.  A school board member upset over a property tax blew up the building, killing 45 people, 38 of those were children.

Andrew Kehoe killed his wife, destroyed is farm, drove to the school, and detonated the bomb while talking to the superintendent thus killing himself, the superintendent and others.  Investigators found out later that Kehoe had “more than 500 pounds of dynamite and several sacks of gunpowder” that didn’t detonate because of a mistake the killer made.

One of the survivors, now in their 90s, told a reporter, “you look after one another differently, because you know that the absolute unthinkable can happen, even going to school.”

This is from a report. Read the enter story here.

Mass murderers who target the vulnerable will continue to look for soft targets. We really need to have a sober, civil debate about whether we want to arm the entire country, every single public space in order to feel safe.

There is hope:

Joe Nocera of The New York Times talks about how after her daughter was killed by a repeat drunk driver, Candy Lightner co-founded M.A.D.D.  The key is that she forced an issue that politicians had avoided, drunk driving.  Nocera says M.A.D.D. got President Regan to make the drinking age 21 and older and got tougher penalties for drunk driving passed. No longer was drunk driving socially acceptable.

Nocera also uses Australia as an example of tougher gun regulation emerging from a mass shooting. Furthermore, there is still lots of hunting going on in Australia, he says, but there hasn’t been a mass killing since that massacre in 1996 due to tightening of the gun laws.

Most ironic, he talks about how crime-ridden post-Apartheid South Africa was so crime-ridden that more people bought guns for self-protection. Except, gun ownership was so abundant that “guns became an incentive for criminals” to break into homes, hold the occupants hostage and demand access to the guns.   I don’t think the gun owners planned for that.

Should we talk about guns, or should we talk about pathology?

After the Friday massacre in Newtown, Connecticut conversations have hit the airwaves about schools becoming armed, arming our teachers.  There is an argument out there that more people in and around the Sandy Hook elementary school should have been armed with guns.  Had the teachers or other civilians been armed, then the shooter could have been stopped, goes the argument.

Depending on where you stand, that argument could seem counter-intuitive in which case you’ll say more guns, more violence, obviously.  Except that today I heard an angle from WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook during his program On Point of which today’s topic was Gun Control, that really gave me pause about immediately dismissing the “more arms in society is a good idea” argument.

The guest made the point that several mass killings in recent history occurred in areas that were designated gun-free zones:  the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooter, the Columbine shooters, and this most recent Newtown shooter, A.L. The guest’s point is that these mass killers target the defenseless. To be fair one of his points about this is that there shouldn’t be broad advertisements that people are defenseless. This sets up targets as sitting ducks for those who mean harm. I think we can all agree that advertising ourselves as sitting ducks is not advisable.  The example this guest used  goes something like this:  if someone has a stalker, that person doesn’t then advertise that their home is a weapon-free house.

Alex Seitz-Waltz in a Salon piece, The answer is not more guns, says that the “country’s most prominent researchers into gun violence” talked with him about “what they saw as an ignorance of the overwhelming body of social science research that shows unequivocally that more guns equals more deaths.”

Furthermore, Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told Seitz-Waltz, “if you want to argue that we have so many mass shootings and a homicide rate about seven times higher than other developed countries because we don’t allow enough concealed carry of firearms, the data just don’t bear that out.”

I can’t imagine going to work armed with a gun. Imagine studying to be an educator and knowing that part of the deal will be the requirement to be armed.  What if that were a requirement for all professions: psychiatric inpatient personnel; accountants; university professors; car mechanics.

It turns out that on the same day of the Sandy Hook massacre, there was a knife attack at an elementary school in China’s Henan province.  News site posted a Global Post report that 23 children were wounded in that attack. I wonder how many people in China are giving the parallel argument to our more guns argument, saying this teacher should have been armed with a knife, as should the other administrators at the school.

Finally, the New York Times published a piece by Adam Lankford, a criminal justice assistant professor at the University of Alabama. In his piece Lankford talks about the similarities between American mass murderers and Middle Eastern suicide bombers. He has done extensive research on this topic and authored The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters and Other Self-Destructive Killers. What he had to say was fascinating: 

Over the last three years, I have examined interviews, case studies, suicide notes, martyrdom videos and witness statements and found that suicide terrorists are indeed suicidal in the clinical sense — which contradicts what many psychologists and political scientists have long asserted. Although suicide terrorists may share the same beliefs as the organizations whose propaganda they spout, they are primarily motivated by the desire to kill and be killed — just like most rampage shooters. In fact, we should think of many rampage shooters as nonideological suicide terrorists.

You can read the entire piece here: What Drives  Suicidal Mass Killers.

Meet Professor David Yamada

David Yamada Suffolk U. Law Professor with choral music

If you haven’t heard of David Yamada, professor at Suffolk University School of Law, chances are you will some time soon. In addition to his work as a legal professor, he is also the director of the New Workplace Institute, which has a WordPress blog of the same name. Through the institute Professor Yamada raises public and institutional awareness about workplace bullying.

The Workplace Bullying Institute defines bullying as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of the bully’s target. This mistreatment can include verbal abuse; offensive behavior, verbal or non-verbal, that is threatening, humiliating or intimidating; work sabotage which prevents work from being accomplished.

Bullying has particular resonance in Massachusetts, where in 2010 a high-profile case of teenage bullying led 15-year-old Phoebe Prince to commit suicide after sustained harassment by classmates at her high school with little if any intervention by school authorities.

While we know the perils of high school with its particular brand of tormentors, there is another kind — the bully who grew up and moved on from high school and is now a workplace bully. It is this kind of bully that Yamada’s work seeks to defang.

When he first started out, Yamada thought he wanted to practice public-interest law, although he wasn’t quite sure what that involved.  After receiving his JD from New York University School of Law he practiced at the New York Attorney General’s Office and the Legal Aid Society of New York City.

Jonathan Margolis is a partner with the law firm of Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz. He credits Professor Yamada with sticking with the issue of bullying.

“I respect David for having stuck to this issue,” Margolis said. “It’s an issue that I think is very difficult, because how do you define workplace bullying? What’s the difference between a boss who’s tough and one who goes over the line in a way that society wants to define and make illegal?”

Yamada has even written a proposed law to deal with workplace bullying that he first introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature in 2009. He hopes that the bill, which has also been introduced in other states, will spread across the country once it has been passed by one state.

The professor’s blog itself covers a wide spectrum of topics. His categories include economics, diversity, social justice and aging, all with an aspect related to the workplace. Some of his blog post titles (with categories) are the following:

In addition to his blog, Professor Yamada started a podcast series this year on iTunes, “The New Workplace Institute at Suffolk Law Podcast Series.” Yamada’s blogroll includes Civility in the Workplace (Iowa State University’s resources for civility and communication), Defending the Digital Workplace (resources related to digital communications for workplace principals), Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Blog (information on the Healthy Workplace Bill), among many others.

Asked how the Workplace Institute would be different without his blog, Professor Yamada said it’s likely that he would likely rely on old means of communicating with his audience, such as a newsletter by email. This would limit his ability to communicate as quickly and responsively as he is able to now. The argument can be made that this would likely limit the institute’s reach, and possibly its effectiveness.

Beth Myers, an associate at Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz, agrees that communication by electronic or digital means serves efficiency in legal practice. She said that the amount of information she can gather in a short amount of time is worth it to get information in that way.

In his down time, which seems to be not extravagant judging by the extent of his academic activities, his writing and the demands on his time, Professor Yamada sings in a choir, which creates a reflective space from which to be removed from the difficult topics he deals with in his work.

Like many of us he enjoys simple activities like reading (particularly mysteries) and watching good movies. But he has one other pursuit that others might find terrifying — following storm chasers. Professor Yamada said that he developed this interest around the same time that he started his blog. Now, every summer for the past four years he has spent a week with a tour group, Tempest Tours, learning about how real-life storm chasers plot down and chase storms.

In one way this choice of activity isn’t surprising when you consider that it takes tremendous fortitude to take on such a complex and psychically damaging issue as bullying. A look at the book titles on one of his bookshelves reveals the depths to which this topic can descend: “The Sociopath Next Door”; “Workplace and Cardiovascular Disease”; “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander”; “Abuse in the Workplace.”

Reinventing The News Final Project Slideshow

David Yamada Suffolk U. Law Professor with choral musicJon Margolis Partner at Rodgers, Powers and  SchwartzBeth Myers Associate at Rodgers, Myers and SchwartzJon Margolis, Partner and Beth Myers Associate - Rodgers, Powers, and SchwartzIMG_0409Books in library of David Yamada Suffolk Law Prof.

Via Flickr:
Employment Law Attorneys

What makes for great employers


While good benefits that take care of workers’ and their family’s welfare are appealing when an employer provides them, what people really seem to respond to is that they are able to do stimulating work, and be treated as adults.

Here are some examples I’ve found of employers that seem to get the mix right.

First up is a sample from Baltimore Magazine’s issue of 2012 Best Places to Work in Baltimore.

  • National Financial Legacy Group – does financial and estate planning: “Expect employees to have a life out of work.” The office closes every Friday at 3:30 pm.
  • Moodlerooms  – this software company provides education software for online learning:  Managers directly encourage employees’ career growth.
  • BTS – telecommunications provider: CEO Sean Lane puts it best “We don’t play games with compensation. It’s very cut and dry; we pay for your health care, tuition and vest on day one”.  So, yes this is a benefit-related positive. However, the company enables workers to move up in the company easily.

Great Place To Work® has a graphic that provides a visual of the benefit of being a great place to work. Note that this is based on their research about voluntary turn over (not firings or other types of termination).



Once again, the technology industry, which tops many of the best-of-work lists I’ve provided, comes out on top for a low turnover rate.

Next: More exploration on what makes a Best Of workplace.

Where everyone wants to work


Published under a Creative Commons License


Who knew that there are “employer branding firms”?  One of these, Universum, after surveying “thousands of business students” globally has come up with a listing for 2012 of the companies most of these students would like to earn their paycheck.

The company surveyed students in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, the UK and the US.

The Website 24/7 Wall Street lists these countries as the largest economies.

Getting to the point, the top 10 most desirable global companies for 2012 according to Universum are:

  1. Google
  2. KPMG
  3. Procter & Gamble
  4. Microsoft
  5. Deloitte
  6. Ernst & Young
  7. PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers)
  8. JP Morgan Chase
  9. Coca-Cola
  10. Goldman Sachs

What’s interesting to me about this list is in one of my recent posts, most of the top desirable companies listed by LinkedIn’s top 10 desirable places to work were IT companies. In this list, Google is still number one (Apple is number 11), but most of the other companies are based in finance. That’s likely because this survey targeted specifically business students. That said, 247/Wall Street says the top companies have “highly regarded” workplace environments.  Another appealing trait of these companies is that they brand themselves as innovative, appealing to a generation interested in cutting edge technology.

Here are some other items of note from the Universum survey.

In the list from Nordic countries, the top five desirable companies (for business) are:

  1. Ernst & Young
  2. PwC
  3. McKinsey & Company
  4. KPMG
  5. Loreal

Microsoft is eighth, and IKEA is tenth.

In the Universum’s European survey of the MBA students, the top five are:

  1. Google
  2. McKinsey & Company
  3. Apple
  4. The Boston Consulting Group
  5. Bain & Company

The Asia top five are:

  1. Google
  2. KPMG
  3. Proctor & Gamble
  4. Univlever
  5. Mcrosoft

IBM and Apple are sixth and seventh, respectively.

In the US the top five companies are:

  1. Google
  2. Apple
  3. Walt Disney Company
  4. Ernst & Young
  5. Deloitte

Facebook comes in at number 12.

My goal for my next postings is to find out what these companies do exceptionally well in their workplace practices, particularly the perception of how they treat their employees.