Rise of the Machines

I posted about this on Facebook and wanted to discuss a little bit more. I thought the possibility of having humanoid robots save people’s lives in extremely dangerous environments could be a huge stepping stone to success. It would be helpful in protecting the lives of police officers, fire fighters, and even military personnel. I believe a bright future lies ahead in the robotic world.

Reflection-Public Financial Management: Government Shutdown

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The latest government shutdown happened in October of 2013. I didn’t entirely feel affected by the shutdown at the time, but a vast majority of the population did including my boyfriend. As I was discussing with him what I had learned in class he mentioned he thought he was going to lose his job. I would like to share his story.

My boyfriend is a black belt jiu-jitsu instructor who teaches mixed martial arts to the United States Army. He has a yearly contract with the Army. As September of 2013 was approaching and the contract needed to be signed for another year, the Sergeant in charge of the mixed martial arts program approached him and told him he wasn’t sure if they would have the funds to continue with the program for another year. Having given up his law career in Brazil to follow his dreams in the United States, he felt like his dream wasn’t going to come true after all.

I remember we had discussed if it would be better to continue working for free until the contract got released or if he should cancel classes until then. There was a possibility that if he continued working for free he might still not be able to get the contract released. My boyfriend pondered a lot and came to the conclusion that it would be best to continue working until the contract “hopefully” released. Luckily, the contract did end up getting released and he was able to sign for another year.

Situations like these will test your values. What are you looking for in your career? Is it money, pleasure or the satisfaction of helping others? It is an important question to ask ourselves. We need to know what exactly we want out of life so we can make better choices with confidence and certainty.

Movie Review

NYC: Tornado Terror-Movie Review

Tornado Terror is a disaster film about global warming causing destruction in New York City. Dr. Cassie Lawrence is in charge of the weather forecast for the city. She tries to prevent the twisters from forming into bigger and stronger electrically charged tornadoes, which ultimately could lead to mass destruction. Deputy Mayor John Lawrence is Dr. Cassie’s husband. He is Mayor Leonardo’s right hand. He goes above and beyond to save the population of New York.

The government is portrayed as a bad bureaucracy. Dr. Cassie said to NASA’s agent, “It is one size fits all with government work” as NASA ignored Mayor Leonardo’s recommendation following Dr. Cassie’s advice to use silver iodide on the atmosphere instead of NASA’s recommendation of dry ice (CO2). Dr. Cassie and Deputy Mayor John view the government as a broken system. They did not understand why the government was trying to enforce a plan that was contrary to the survival of the population. Dr. Cassie and Deputy Mayor John were extremely upset and realized they would have to take matters into their own hands.

The government’s behavior was arrogant. The NASA agent said to Mayor Leonardo, “The sky is national property, therefore national security. I am here to inform you what we will do”. Although the mayor didn’t agree with NASA’s recommendations, he did not have the authority to follow Dr. Cassie’s recommendations. NASA did not care to provide an explanation of why they didn’t want to follow Dr. Cassie’s plan, they simply responded with authority that they were in control of the situation.

The movie demonstrates an example of poor intergovernmental relations. The state and federal agents were not able to work together to develop the best alternative for the population. Certain behaviors displayed by the federal agent and the state politician were unnecessary and inappropriate to the level of authority they possessed over the population. There was lack of communication between government bureaucrats and public servants. There were many instances of power struggles that ultimately led to service inefficiency.

The federal government was not accommodating to the state’s needs. They had differing interests and clearly prioritized each organization’s needs instead of the ultimate need of the city’s survival. NASA displayed dominance and arrogance. While NASA was aiming to play it safe, the city’s administration was technologically innovative.

NASA, known for its leading technological advances and capabilities, did not consider innovation. In a situation where technology is the most important factor in determining the survival of the city of New York, NASA failed to try to rescue the citizens of New York adequately. In this movie, NASA is perceived as a barrier to achieving success. It is perceived as an agency incapable of trying the latest technology to work with emergency situations. NASA did not want to endure negative consequences.

Technology is an important means of survival in the movie. While the twisters were destroying the city, the atmosphere let out electrical charges that were electrocuting citizens. Deputy Mayor John advised the citizens they could not use any electrical equipment that would be hooked to an outlet. Dr. Cassie was not able to depend on modern technology or else she could die electrocuted. Therefore, the only way to communicate with the Garden State Spaceport would be to call them through the old telephone exchange system.

Dr. Cassie and Deputy Mayor John strategically managed the environment by using specific tactics to achieve their objective. They discussed their SWOT analysis. Dr. Cassie researched on how to save the city and realized the only person who would be able to help was a scientist from the Garden State Spaceport. The Garden State Spaceport had been closed because they weren’t conforming to the new rules of the city’s administration. Dr. Cassie and Deputy Mayor John negotiated with the scientist in order to agree to work together.

Although Dr. Cassie was not authorized to launch the rockets with silver iodide, she still launched them and the tornadoes were forced to shift east, saving the city of New York. Dr. Cassie and Deputy Mayor John displayed a great amount of leadership. They risked their lives to save the lives of the population. They reached above and beyond their duties with honor, responsibility, and integrity. They persisted in what they thought was right and ended up finding a solution for the city of New York. They were heroes.

Dr. Cassie and Deputy John were transformational leaders. They created a new vision for the city. They were innovative. They solved the problem with optimism and intelligence. They did not let Mayor Leonardo or NASA limit their knowledge and intelligence. They were highly qualified in emergency management. More importantly, they were able to interact positively with everyone in times of despair.

Mayor Leonardo, on the other hand, started off refusing to pay attention to the phenomenon. He initially said to his administration, “I don’t care what you do. I just don’t want this breathing down my neck.” Mayor Leonardo was worried about reelections. He displayed lack of ethics, honor and accountability. He put his needs before the needs of the population. He was the “typical politician” worried about votes and popularity.

As time progressed, Mayor Leonardo realized the size of the problem. He asked the United States Air Force for assistance; however he was turned down and was told everything would clear out in 12 hours. Mayor Leonardo asked assistance from NASA and was offered assistance in their terms and conditions. He was limited to what he could do. The movie suggests it was the first time he had to experience an emergency situation that would risk the lives of the entire population of New York.

Mayor Leonardo did not demonstrate effective leadership. He had limited knowledge on properly leading an emergency crisis. He was not capable of commanding the appropriate authorities as needed. The Contingency Approach states that managers are stress carriers, creating high levels of stress for the entire administration (Shafritz et all, p.366). That is exactly what Mayor Leonardo did. He always frightened his employees. He displayed negative characteristics and behaviors.

The movie reveals two important themes. First is the negative view of bureaucracy in America. The government wants to hire people who are qualified and will make a positive impact on the population. Many times they fail. The reality is that there are limitations that go far beyond their control. They have to comply with a series of rules and regulations. It is conflicting and almost seems like the government is aiming for the contrary of the good. However, if the government reduced bureaucracy then many responsibilities could end up the in the hands of the private sector, which could be chaotic.

The second theme is reaction to disaster. There was lack of preparedness and responsibility in all levels of public service. It seemed as if the city did not have an emergency infrastructure. Mayor Leonardo did not reach out to FEMA. U.S. Air Force was not cooperative. NASA displayed little cooperation. Mayor Leonardo was totally lost. Disasters happen with little to no warning and the city has to be prepared for anything.

Overall, NYC: Tornado Terror was a good disaster movie that highlighted some major points of concern. It makes us think about what could be changed within our public administration system. Communication and positive interaction are key elements to a successful response team. Emergency plans should always be implemented and public servants need to have competency to follow the plans.

Government Behavior: How the U.S. Uses Globalization to Cheat Poor Countries

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John Perkins wrote Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, published in 2004, a book describing his life as an economic hit man, helping the U.S. cheat poor countries by lending them more money than they could repay with the intent of taking over their economies. John Perkins was a Chief Economist for an international consulting firm. He advised United Nations, World Bank, IMF, U.S. Treasury Department, Fortune 500 corporations and countries around the globe. John Perkins describes his operations of international corruption.

John Perkins stated, “The book was to be dedicated to the presidents of two countries, men who had been his clients whom I respected and thought of as kindred spirits–Jaime Roldós, president of Ecuador, and Omar Torrijos, president of Panama. Both had just died in fiery crashes. Their deaths were not accidental. They were assassinated because they opposed that fraternity of corporate, government, and banking heads whose goal is global empire. We Economic Hit Men failed to bring Roldós and Torrijos around, and the other type of hit men, the CIA-sanctioned jackals who were always right behind us, stepped in”.

John Perkins added: “I was persuaded to stop writing that book. I started it four more times during the next twenty years. On each occasion, my decision to begin again was influenced by current world events: the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1980, the first Gulf War, Somalia, and the rise of Osama bin Laden. However, threats or bribes always convinced me to stop.”

International and national corruption is inevitable. According to Shafritz et al in Introducing Public Administration, in the year 1990 there were 583 cases of public corruption under federal law for federal officials, 79 offenses for state officials and 225 offenses for local officials. The calculated estimates are not entirely accurate since it is difficult to estimate the real number of offenses since not all have been reported. In 2008 there were 458 offenses for federal officials, 123 for state officials, and 246 for local officials.

Bribery and threats are common in governments and happens quite often. These unethical acts are destructive to our government and are against what our government portrays to its citizens. Public officials need to be accountable for their acts. They need to present responsibility, integrity and loyalty.

On a positive note, John is a changed man and has lectured at over 50 universities worldwide. He is the founder of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance. These nonprofit organizations focus on creating a better world.

 

For more information about John Perkins please visit www.johnperkins.org.

 

Reflection-Government Behavior: Local Corruption in Brazil

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Elite Squad is a Brazilian film released in 2007 about government corruption in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The police and drug lords of Rio de Janeiro cooperate to make money on drug trafficking. The movie displays the reality of the current corruption and briberies between public officials. The movie is provoking to public officials, more specifically, to police officers and politicians of Brazil. I highly recommend this movie and the sequel, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within released in 2010.

Having been born in a third world country with so much potential for economic growth, it is extremely unfortunate to know Brazil is limited due to its poor government behaviors. Corruption, bribery and lack of ethics is common in all levels of public service. I don’t believe any government can be free of corruption. In the “perfect world” all public service employees should care for the welfare of the citizens, but unfortunately many, if not the majority, don’t have that mentality.

Police officers are not perceived as loyal members of society.  The justice system is not fair. Offenders are put through inhumane conditions in jails and there is really no rehabilitation system functioning. The reality is there is so little that can be changed over time. The ideal government seems very unattainable when the President of Brazil, Dilma, is also part of the corruption and is actually making Brazil a worse country to live in.

Intergovernmental Relations

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The Forgotten displayed a difficult relationship between the different levels of government. An interesting topic, intergovernmental relations are procedures interplayed between different levels of government assisting a common geographical area (Shafritz et Al, 2013). Agent Puller, a federal employee, was working on a personal investigation that had not been assigned to him. He didn’t have permission to be working on his aunt’s case. He arrived to Paradise trying to solve all of the local crimes without permission. He killed and saved lives. It was the job of the local law enforcement to protect the citizens of Paradise. Although the local police had been inefficient and incapable of solving crimes, they were responsible to solve them. Initially the city of Paradise was not thrilled with Agent Puller’s initiatives, but they came together to solve the human trafficking bust.

Leadership Styles

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Army Special Agent John Puller is known to investigate the toughest crimes for the U.S. Army. Puller displayed innate qualities and characteristics that made him an effective leader. Puller’s many traits included intelligence, self-confidence, determination and integrity. Puller’s traits differed from General Carson’s. According to the Trait Approach, specific traits influence leadership qualities. I will discuss the leadership styles of General Carson and Agent Puller.

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In Peter Northouse’s book Leadership, researcher Stogdill analyzed more than 124 trait studies conducted between 1904 and 1947 and came up with 10 main characteristics positively associated with leadership: 1. Drive for responsibility and task completion. Puller never gave up until the task was completed. 2. Vigor and persistence in pursuit of goals. Although Puller couldn’t find evidence, he persisted until he solved the mystery. 3. Risk taking and originality in problem solving. Puller risked his life in order to solve his aunt’s murder. 4. Drive to exercise initiative in social situations. Puller was ready for combat and knew how to react in any situation. 5. Self-confidence and sense of personal identity. Puller was aware of his qualities and skills and knew he was well capable of resolving his aunt’s murder case and the human trafficking case. 6. Willingness to accept consequences of decision and action. Puller always thought ahead trying to prevent from negative consequences; therefore he accepted consequences as products of his behaviors. 7. Readiness to absorb interpersonal stress. Puller dealt with surprisingly stressful situations and never got discouraged. 8. Willingness to tolerate frustration and delay. Puller didn’t get along with Officer Hooper, but he respected authority and tolerated the situations as best as he could. 9. Ability to influence other people’s behaviors. 10. Capacity to structure social interaction systems to the purpose at hand. Puller was so knowledgeable that he was able to influence General Carson, Officer Landry, Mecho and Ryon to do what he thought was best (Northouse, 2013, pp. 20).

General Julie Carson is a very intelligent leader who knew how to supervise Agent Puller throughout the investigation. Carson was aware of her limitations as she did not possess all the required skills to be in the front line, but recognized Agent Puller was an expert in investigations. She was able to confidently follow the lead. Carson admitted; “The best leaders let their people do what they do best” (The Forgotten, pp. 378).

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I consider the Skills Approach and Contingency Approach more suitable to Carson’s leadership style. The Skills Approach (Three-Skill Approach) emphasizes on skills and abilities that can be learned and developed. The three skills are human, conceptual and technical. Human skill is the ability to work with people. Conceptual skill is the ability to work with ideas and concepts. Lastly, Technical skill is the knowledge about a specific type of work. According to the Skills Approach, top management requires high human and conceptual skills, and low technical skills (Northouse, 2013). Carson displayed high human and conceptual skills. She was well spoken and was well rounded; however, Carson displayed low technical skills. She allowed Agent Puller to direct the operations.

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The Contingency Approach matches leaders to appropriate situations (Shafritz et al, 2013). Certain styles of leadership are effective in certain situations. General Carson changed her leadership style according to different situations. For instance, in the oil platform Carson followed Agent Puller’s plan. She allowed him to take control of the situation. When Carson made her first phone call to Puller asking when she was going to hear from him, he replied “Just been a little busy, General Carson”, and she immediately questioned, “General Carson? I thought we had moved to Julie” (The Forgotten, pp. 225). General Carson changed her behaviors depending on the situations she encountered.

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