The 1st of Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins: Wealth without Work.

Once upon a time in this great country, a model for attaining wealth and a set of rules to accomplish this objective stemmed from 3 basic beliefs.  These were:

  1. You worked hard, long and industriously.
  2. You attained as much education as you could absorb and afford.
  3. You treated all of your engagements with absolute honesty and scrupulousness.

Somewhere during the later 20th Century these 3 Cardinal beliefs (Above) about attaining great wealth were replaced by the following beliefs:

  1. Wealth can be attained at a gambling casino or by winning a lottery if you are lucky enough.
  2. Wealth can be attained by suing someone and with the help of a lawyer who will thereby gain a percentage of your lawsuit.
  3. Wealth can be attained by finding some means of acquiring a government handout for the remainder of your life.

Admittedly, not all Americans subscribe to the second set of beliefs and fortunately there are many who still subscribe to the first. Nevertheless, I think you would be hard pressed to argue that gambling, casinos, government handouts and lawsuits have not multiplied exponentially over the past fifty years.  The following are some charts which I think illustrate my points rather graphically.

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The nature of human beings is to want things fast and with a minimum of effort.  This is normal and not to be thought of as deviant or unusual.  However, as we age and develop more self-control and wisdom over our daily affairs, we learn to temper our desire for instant gratification with a more mature perspective.  Noted quality guru, Dr. W. E. Deming maintained that people wanted “Instant Pudding.”  For Deming this meant, change without effort, quality without work and cost improvements overnight.  Added together, “Instant Pudding” was Dr. Deming’s metaphor for the desire to obtain results with a minimum investment of time and energy.  Dr. Deming continually warned his clients that there was no “Instant Pudding” and change would take years of hard work and could not be accomplished without continued dedication and focus.

Unfortunately, our media and even schools today seem to emphasize the possibility of achieving success and wealth overnight.  Sports stars are depicted as suddenly being offered incredible contracts.  Movie stars are shown as going from unknown to overnight fame and fortune.  Singers and musicians seem to suddenly achieve fame despite being barely out of their teens and in many cases barely into their teens.  It would appear that everywhere we look fame, fortune and success happen overnight.  All it takes is to be discovered. This might happen if you can get on American Idol or be found by the right booking agent or obtain a guest appearance on a celebrity TV show.  In some cases, all it takes is the right YouTube video to accomplish overnight success.  One day PSI was an unknown Korean musician and in a few short weeks, he was celebrating success by a dinner in the White House and appearing at the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration.  How can anyone dispute that all that is needed for fame and fortune is to be in the right place at the right time?

You may be asking “yes, but what exactly did Gandhi mean by this “sin?”  The M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence gives the following explanation:

“Wealth Without Work: This includes playing the stock market; gambling; sweat-shop slavery; over-estimating one’s worth, like some heads of corporations drawing exorbitant salaries which are not always commensurate with the work they do.  Gandhi’s idea originates from the ancient Indian practice of Tenant Farmers.  The poor were made to slog on the farms while the rich raked in the profits.  With capitalism and materialism spreading so rampantly around the world the grey area between an honest day’s hard work and sitting back and profiting from other people’s labor is growing wider.  To conserve the resources of the world and share these resources equitably with all so that everyone can aspire to a good standard of living, Gandhi believed people should take only as much as they honestly need.  The United States provides a typical example.  The country spends an estimated $200 billion a year on manufacturing cigarettes, alcohol and allied products which harm people’s health.  What the country spends in terms of providing medical and research facilities to provide and find cures for health hazards caused by over-indulgence in tobacco and alcohol is mind-blowing.” ‘There is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed’, Gandhi said.

There is a visual problem here that perhaps underlies much of the current thinking about success.  The media loves to trumpet short success stories that will grab anyone’s attention. We are constantly bombarded with headlines such as:

Each of these sites (click on to hyperlink to the actual site) promises you overnight success or at least success in a much shorter time span than is realistic.  These ads are in the news, checkout stands, on TV and just about anywhere you turn around.  The constant daily bombardment of such ads creates a zeitgeist in which overnight success not only seems to be possible; but it actually seems to be the norm.  If you are not an overnight success, if you cannot become rich in days rather than years, if you contemplate a life of hard work to attain your fame and fortune, than something is wrong with you.  Anyone subscribing to the first 3 sets of beliefs I mentioned in the opening is a peculiar species today.  The most common belief about success in the new millennium can be summed up as:

I don’t have time to wait. I don’t have the patience to wait.  I don’t want to spend my life waiting.  I am entitled to success now.  Why should I have to wait?  I am as good as any of these rich successful people. If only everyone could see how good I really am, I would get the fame and fortune I deserve now.  If you expect me to shut up and work hard, I will leave and go elsewhere.  You need me more than I need you.

I believe that Gandhi and many of my generation would find such ideas very peculiar not to mention that they contradict certain universal principles.  Every time I hear of a new terrorist attack in this country or a new massacre at some workplace, I wonder how much the instigator was influenced by his or her desire for overnight fame and fortune.  In some bizarre out-of-this-world thinking, these maniacs equate their picture on page one of the news with a sort of glory that is accomplished by their bizarre and cruel rampage.  The more they kill or maim, the greater they think their glory will be.  We can look for all the “reasons” why but we will never find any “good” reasons for anyone to take such anti-social actions against others.  The paradox is that often the very people they hate are the ones they wanted attention or recognition from.

Ok, time for questions:

Have you raised your children to believe in hard work?  Are you one of the parents who want to make sure their kids have it easy?  How do you know how much hard work is enough?  Do you think you are entitled to success because you work hard?  What other factors play a role in success?  Is it fair that some people do not seem to have to work hard and yet still reap big rewards?  Do people today have it too easy compared to the immigrants that founded this country?

Life is just beginning.

The Great Divide:  An America Torn Asunder by Divisions

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The number one subject for bestselling non-fiction books in the USA today concerns the chasm that separates Republicans from Democrats.  Rural voters from urban voters.  College Educated people from non-college educated.  Conservatives from liberals.  Fox viewers from CNN viewers.  Your facts from my facts.  Your truths from my truths.  Your lies from my lies.  Your views of reality from my views of reality. 

This divide is decried by all the pundits and experts.  Not one of the writers on this subject has anything good to say about the divide.  Perhaps they harken back to the old saying, “United we stand and divided we fall.”  Or the adage that, “A house divided cannot stand.”  Whatever the reasoning, no one thinks that a USA as divided as it is with nearly 75 million people voting for Donald Trump and 80 million people voting for Joseph Biden is helpful for our nation.  Keep in mind, it is not just the sheer numbers that alarm people, it is the magnitude of the crevasse that scares people.

hate-spesechThe abyss It is so big that there is no bridging it.  None of the sides can see the other side.  None of the sides has any common ground with the other side.  None of the sides understands the language that the other side speaks.  We might as well be earthlings talking to Martians.  There is no lingua franca.  Many of the “well-meaning” experts exhort both sides to try harder to bridge the gap or to work more diligently to listen to the other side.  It seems to be assumed that all it will take to jump the gulf is good intentions.  I cry bullshit on this.  As the old aphorism goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  It will take more than good intentions to heal the wound that infests our country.

Before we can fix what ails America, we must clearly understand what brought this divide about.  What are the causes for this divide, and can they be healed?  I see three main causes for this chasm.  They are: 1. Greed, 2. Demonization, and 3. Media.  Let’s look at each of these three elements and see how they contribute to the divide and what if anything can be done about them. 

Greed:

Corporate greed and materialism have driven a wedge between the haves and the have nots in America.  A larger gap than ever before exists between the rich and the poor.  The number of people seeking free food and standing in line at food banks has only been higher during the Great Depression.  The requirements for a digital elite versus a computer illiterate fuels the growing income gap.  The Opioid Epidemic is only one symptom of this inequality in the USA.  Many people cannot afford medical care or adequate housing as well as food. 

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For years now, materialism has been touted as the backbone of American commerce by corporations and the media.  Inflammatory news events sell advertisements which drive people to the shopping malls, ball parks, restaurants, and performances.  Special events like “Black Friday” abound where people, “shop till they drop.”  There is a vicious spiral to these events since the final outcome is to keep people needy and wanting more.  The theologian Matthew Kelly says you can never satisfy wants only needs.  Pursuing wants will always leave you wanting more.  Eating, sleeping, exercise and love are needs that can be satisfied and will bring you happiness.  You can never be happy pursuing wants.

materialism and spendingThe wants advertised on the TV and in the media are never fulfilling.  We have a nation of brainwashed consumers who mistakenly think that more toys, bigger houses, more guns, and luxury cars will make them happy.  We are a nation on a never-ending treadmill of consumer materialism where like rats we keep spinning the wheel and hoping to find happiness, but happiness never comes, and drugs take its place. 

There is no sanity in our economic system.  It is a zero-sum game.  It is a great deal like the lottery.  Next week there will be 100 million losers, but one winner will get a billion dollars or more.  The value for the lottery keeps going up which entices more and more people to buy lottery tickets, but the number of losers also keeps going up.  Where do the profits for the lotteries go?  Not back to the people, regardless of what they tell you.  Our society is being sold hope where hope is the most elusive product in the marketplace. 

imagesAs the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the tensions in society grow ever more divisive.  We see more road rage, more senseless shootings, more violence between men and women, less loyalty between employers and employees.  The underpinning of society that should be based on human integrity and morality is replaced with an opportunism based on an amoral value system.  Whatever we can get as long as we break no laws is considered to be moral.  We see most politicians that have no commitment to anything except to collect more money so that they can stay in office.   Their highest goal is to help the rich get richer, which of course includes themselves. 

Jesus said that money is not evil, it is the pursuit of money that is evil.  The evil in America comes from a frenzy for more that separates Americans from each other.  Like a horse race where there can only be one winner, there are only going to be a few rich Americans and many more poor people scrambling to be the “King of the Hill.” 

I do not believe that the divide in this country can be erased until we eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor.  It is not simply a matter of conversation or discussion.  It is a matter of inequality.  A poor person cannot talk to a rich person unless they can shout over gated walls and armed security guards.  The biggest divide in America is between the haves and the have nots.  It is between the will haves and the may never haves.  The haves in America expect to have more and probably will get more.  The have nots do not know where their next paycheck will come from or whether they will be able to buy food for tomorrow.  No amount of discussion or listening skills is going to solve this problem.  

Demonization:

Speech-Bubble-Montage_2-1 (1)I am not talking about the devil here or about spirituality.  I am talking about a kind of insidious propaganda that has been spread by many groups and individuals.  In this propaganda, one side of America is labeled as moral, ethical, righteous, and just.  The other side is the opposite.  The other side is everything negative.  The other side is a composite of all the demons and evils that Americans believe in.  The other side are communists, fascists, atheists, anti-democratic, anti-patriotic and un-American.  One side is good.  The other side is evil incarnate.  You cannot talk to evil.  You cannot discuss with the devil why he wants your soul.  You cannot debate with Satan over the values that he has.  Heaven and hell do not have weekly discussion groups.  The language heard today, and what the media publishes drips with hate, innuendo, and disdain.  The language fosters violence.  I doubt the Founding Fathers ever conceived that the First Amendment would protect such speech.  There are three elements that contribute to a hate speech culture that demonizes the other side: 

  1. Malicious Labeling:

freehatespeechMalicious labeling is the name calling that goes on between both sides today wherein each side is labeled.  You can hear it on almost every talk show program in America today.  Name calling and name labeling.  Commie pinko leftists!  Intellectual elites!  Radical socialists!  Racist rednecks!  Fascist dictators!  Politicians, commentators, newscasters, and radio talk show hosts all use malicious labels to insult and demean those they disagree with.  What have we let this country become when we allow such name calling?  This kind of hyperbole demonizes the other side and creates a divide that cannot be overcome by rational conversation.

“I think the political process has degenerated into name-calling and extremism, and I think that that’s unfortunate.” — Bill Bradley

  1. Anti-Government Diatribes:

extremismword_hp111319.1200x0I do not think that the Founding Fathers of our nation believed that Government was evil.  Certainly, they felt that there could be too much government intrusion on the rights of the populace.  They invoked certain safeguards to protect both human rights and states rights.  Nevertheless, they did not demonize government and not a single one of the Fathers ever referred to government as evil.  Edmund Burke, the famous English conservative said, “The government that governs best is the government that governs least.”  He never said, “government was evil.”  It has become common place to hear refrains denigrating the role and necessity of government.  This steady drumbeat of antigovernmental rhetoric has created a group of people that have no value for government and who support the idea that government should be abolished.

“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”  — George Washington

  1. Legal Advocates of Violence

loyal white knights and aryan nations in texas july 2016 from vkdotcom_0A few years ago I began to wonder why groups like the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, Antifa, The Proud Boys and many other such groups advocating violence against the government were not labeled as Terrorist Organizations.  I asked a lawyer this question and he replied, “it is all politics.”  I found that almost all the groups listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “hate groups” were designated as “extremist groups.”  This means that they are not illegal, and they have the right to organize, march, rally and basically spread their hate across America.  In 2019, The SPLC listed 940 hate groups across the USA.  If any of these groups was labeled as a “Terrorist Group,” they would be on the same list as the Taliban, Boko Haram, The Mafia, Mexican Cartels and Al Qaeda.  What is the difference between an extremist group and a terrorist group?  It might surprise you to learn that a terrorist organization is defined as follows:

In the United States of America, terrorism is defined in Title 22 Chapter 38 U.S. Code § 2656f as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents”.

In general, terrorism is classified as:

  • The use of violence or of the threat of violence in the pursuit of political, religious, ideological, or social objectives
  • Acts committed by non-state actors (or by undercover personnel serving on the behalf of their respective governments)
  • Acts reaching more than the immediate target victims and also directed at targets consisting of a larger spectrum of society.

15963If this definition does not apply to the groups that tried to storm the US Capital on January 6th, 2021, I do not know what does.  Just yesterday the Canadian government labeled the Proud Boys as a Terrorist Organization.  This delegitimizes the group and takes their rights away.  For Canada, it is a start.  I am wondering when we are going to get started in the USA on such an effort.  The First Amendment was never construed to allow hate speech and the advocating of violent actions to overthrow the government.  Why do we not have the political will to outlaw these groups?  We seem to have little compunction in penalizing Black groups like the Black Lives Matter Movement or the Black Panthers.  We have a different standard when it comes to White Supremacy groups. 

The Media:

000f25f2-6bf0-11e9-994e-1d1e521ccbf6_image_hires_015902The newspapers, TV and the Internet are today the major carriers for the hate and vituperation that has spread across America.  On one side of the divide, we find the NY Times, the Washington Post and CNN News.  On the other side, we find the NY Post, the Washington Examiner and Fox News.  There are countless other purveyors of extreme and fanatical views.  Each side reeks of headlines supporting nonobjective views and biased reporting.  If objective reporting ever existed in the USA, it has been murdered and buried by the most pervasive media to ever exist.  The media carries the hate and violence that is created by politicians, pundits, radio commentators and hate groups and ensures that it gets widely disseminated.  Without the media, much of the divide would never have occurred.  Hate needs a platform to be spread and the media is more than happy to host anything that it believes will sell itself and its advertising. 

Conclusions:

We are not going to overcome the divide that separates Americans today by platitudes and wishful thinking.  No amount of holding hands or singing kumbaya together is going to unite Americans.  We have a systemic rot in our system that is caused by the extremism in politics and media that has created this divide.  We need to enact reasonable laws to stamp out this rot while also protecting free speech but not hate speech.  There is a difference between hate speech and free speech.  If we cannot figure this difference out, we will never close the divide that exists in America today.  You can defend the First Amendment all you want, but there are limits to everything and that includes so-called Free Speech. 

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Lawyers, Lawyers Everywhere, but Not a Shred of Justice Anywhere

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I am going to make a case here.  My claim is that there are too many lawyers running things in the United States of America.  I will present the facts and arguments.  You be the judge and jury.  If I make a good case, then I will settle for fifty million dollars. 

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury.  This may sound like an extreme case.  I know most of you will have some friends who are lawyers.  Some of you may be thinking “Well, there are good lawyers and there are bad lawyers.”  Some of you may be thinking “Well, how would we run this country without lawyers.”  Please listen to what I have to say.  Then you may render your verdict. 

I will repeat my claim.  We have too many lawyers.  They have created a litigious society that is being run by fear and not by logic or reason.  Lawyers use lawsuits to run things and the number and frivolity of these lawsuits has reached epidemic even pandemic proportions.  We have lawyers running our government.  We have lawyers running our school boards.  We have lawyers running our city, county, state, and federal governments.  Everywhere you look in business, there are lawyers prosecuting lawsuits, making claims for reparations, litigation, and countersuits.  Civil courts have begun to take over justice from legal courts.  Law has replaced justice in America.  Laws are not made of the people, by the people and for the people, but laws made of lawyers, by lawyers and for lawyers.

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For the past two months we have witnessed lawyers running all over the USA with frivolous lawsuits and craftily plied arguments to usurp the will of the people.  Nay, not just to usurp the will of the people but to overthrow the government of the people of the United States of America.  Even as I write these lines, there are still pending threats to the legally elected President and Vice-President Elects of the USA.  These lawsuits and claims are made by men and women without a shred of decency, integrity, or ethics.  The only thing these lawyers care about is power and winning and money.  The destruction of American Democracy means nothing to these vultures.

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Ladies and Gentlemen.  Allow me to present some statistics on lawyers in the USA.

Lawyer Statistics & Facts – 2020 –  https://goremotely.net/blog/lawyer-statistics/

  • The US legal business sector has an estimated $160 billion market share.
  • More than 100 million cases are filed each year in state trial courts, while roughly 400,000 cases are filed in federal trial courts.
  • Only 14.4% of all US lawyers are certified members of ABA. (American Bar Association)
  • Some high-profile attorneys can earn as much as $2,400 hourly ($5 million annually).
  • There are more than 1.35 million lawyers in the US.
  • The number of active lawyers in the United States increased 14.5% over the last decade
  • In China, there is 1 lawyer for every 4,620 inhabitants.
  • In the USA there is 1 lawyer for every 300 inhabitants
  • The percentage of lawyers who are men and women of color (Hispanic, African American, Asian, Native American, and mixed race) grew by a mere 3% over the past decade, increasing from 11.4% in 2010 to 14.1% in 2020.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury.  Please believe me when I say that I am not the only one who thinks that we have too many lawyers in the USA.  Numerous experts can witness and provide testimony that America is one of the most litigious nations in the world.  The amount of litigation has nothing to do with justice.  Lawyers seek out and design strategies to create lawsuits strictly aimed at making money.  How many of you have been notified that you are eligible for some class action lawsuit?  Lawyers actually buy and sell such lawsuits in the hopes of extorting money from organizations that prefer not to have their reputations smeared or waste time in court challenges.  Many organizations simply settle rather than undergo a long and tedious legal process.

Ladies and Gentlemen.  Let me tell you what happens in many of these class action lawsuits.  A company is found with either a potential or tenuous wrongdoing.  Litigants who may have been remotely connected to this perceived wrongdoing are sought out who are offered a monetary reward for their participation.  They may be former customers, clients, or employees.  The case goes to court.  Millions of dollars are sought from the accused.  The lawyers may win or settle out of court.  An award is made.  Let us say that the settlement is made for 50 million dollars.  The lawyers take twenty percent of that for the claimants.  Thus, ten million dollars may be paid out to other people.  The rest of the money, the other 40 million dollars goes to the law firm. 

Frivolous Lawsuit

Ladies and Gentlemen.  I will give you a personal case that I was witness to firsthand and that I will swear to.  A number of years ago, I received three envelopes in the mail.  Upon opening each envelope, I discovered that they were all from eBay.  One had a check for .47 cents.  One had a check for .97 cents.  One had a check for .25 cents.  The postage on the last envelope did not even cover the cost of the check.  Apparently, eBay had lost a class action lawsuit for some overcharging that they were alleged to have done.  I had never, I repeat never signed any documents alleging any wrongdoing or agreeing to any lawsuits against eBay.

Curious, I went online to find out what this was all about.  As I expected, some law firm had brought the lawsuit and won in court.  eBay agreed to pay.  Thousands of people received small checks like I did based on the volume of business they had done with eBay.  The people connected to this alleged crime received pennies while the law firm copped multi-millions for their efforts on our behalf.  I would gladly have refunded my money to eBay since I still do business with them and have never had a problem with their business practices. 

“In April 2018, The New York Times chronicled an even more troubling (albeit related) consequence of TPLF: litigation funders were pushing plaintiff law firms to encourage women to undergo unnecessary surgeries in order to drive up the value of their claims.” — Third Party Litigation Funding

Ladies and Gentlemen.  Did you know that law firms buy and sell lawsuits like you go to the store to buy and sell clothes or merchandise?  (See How To Sell Your Lawsuit)  If a law firm does not think it has the resources or time to prosecute a potentially lucrative lawsuit, it will simply list such suits in a legal newspaper classified ads offering to “sell” the lawsuit to another firm that has the resources to manage the lawsuit. 

“Mighty lends money to plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits. You collect only if they do. Plus, the head of this online electronic investment platform recommends that only personal-injury lawyers, or investors who have such lawyers helping them evaluate cases, plunk down their money at this early stage.”

Does anyone here think that this is about justice or fairness or equity?  The legal profession has become about power and money.  Do you think the lawsuits brought by Trump and his cadre of legal experts had anything to do with justice or democracy?

“President Donald Trump and his allies have filed dozens of lawsuits across the country in an attempt to contest the election results.  Most of them have been shot down or withdrawn, and no court has found even a single instance of fraud.  Of at least 57 cases to have been filed, including some not directly involving Trump but which could nonetheless affect his standing, at least 50 have been denied, dismissed, settled or withdrawn.”

Ladies and Gentlemen.  Please consider that the cases on behalf of Trump were brought by men and women with legal degrees.  These are educated people many of whom went to first class legal colleges.  These are people intelligent enough to get an advanced degree and pass tests that would be impossible for the average person.   Nevertheless, the cupidity of these lawsuits in terms of the damage they have done to our country can only point to a failure of the legal profession to inculcate a sense of ethics and morality in their practitioners.  These lawyers have no interest in supporting the very democratic foundations of a country that allows them to practice their profession.

Ladies and Gentlemen.  Let us look now at the damage that this profession has done to our government.  In no country in the world are there as many lawyers in the Federal government as in the United States of America.  Look at the following statistics:

  • The EPA employs 1,020 lawyers with payroll exceeding $1.1 billion
  • The IRS employs over 1,400 lawyers.
  • There are 10,000 lawyers who are employed by the US Department of Justice.
  • In total, there are 25,060 Lawyers in the Federal government costing taxpayers $26.2 Billion per year.
  • 25 of the 45 presidents of the USA have been lawyers
  • In the 116th Congress of the USA, there are a total of 192 lawyers out of a total congressional body of 537 individuals (Membership of the 116th Congress)

Ladies and Gentlemen.  You may well ask, “Well, what harm can all these lawyers do.”  Let me tell you. Having been around lawyers in many different organizations, I can testify to the limited perspective that the legal profession often has in terms of viewing the reality that confronts the average person.  Many of these “legal” experts have never done a day of hard work in their lives.  Often the sons and daughters of privileged and wealthy parents, they go from school to school until they achieve their legal degrees and then go right into some law firm that snatches them up as soon as they graduate.  Their experience of working people and the rest of the world is narrow, limited, and biased.  Once, in their field they are motivated by money, power, and greed. 

downloadLadies and Gentlemen.   How can you have a government of the people, by the people and for the people when it is a government of the rich by the rich and for the rich?  A government of lawyers, political science majors and corporate people.  An interlocking network of proponents who have a self-interest that nowhere matches the nature and interests of the general public of America. 

In the current Senate, only 19 of the 100 office holders served in the US military.  There is one engineer, four farmers, one rancher, one computer programmer, one accountant, about twenty teachers and the rest are either lawyers or businesspeople.  There are no plumbers, no architects, no scientists, no physicists, no chemists, no carpenters, no brick layers in the Senate.  Three percent of the Senate are African American, Five percent are Hispanic, or Latino and three percent are Asian/Pacific Islanders. Twenty five percent of the Senate are women.  — Congressional Statistics

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In the USA as a whole, the numbers are quite different from the Senate in terms of representation.  (See Census Government)

  • African Americans are 13.4 percent in population versus 3 percent in the Senate
  • Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders are 6.1 percent in population versus 3 percent in the Senate
  • Hispanic or Latino are 18.5 percent in population versus 5 percent in the Senate
  • Women are 50.8 percent in population versus 25 percent in the Senate
  • Veterans are 6 percent in population versus 19 percent in the Senate

Ladies and Gentlemen.  The facts speak for themselves.  But one last fact, if you please, before I do my summation. 

  • The median net worth of an American family is $52,700. The median net worth of members of Congress who filed disclosures last year is just over $1 million. — open secrets

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury.  Let me conclude.  As you can see from the evidence, there is no way that the U.S. Congress represents the American people.  The sad part is that we vote these people in time and time again.  We continue to elect the same people over and over again with the same disastrous results.  We have a so-called democracy which does not represent the American people.  But I have not even touched on perhaps what is the worst of the dangers that lawyers are doing to this country.

In a land where I live called Wisconsin, we have been involved in an ongoing dispute over the siting of what is called a CAFO, or Concentrated Animal Feed Operation.  I have been to many county government meetings and board meetings where arguments have taken place over the jurisprudence and legality of such operations.  In every meeting, there is always a lawyer sitting rather obtrusively near the board members. 

services-featured-civil-litigationMany of the board members in the rural counties are farmers or laborers or educators who have little or no training in the laws that they are sworn to protect.  Thus, they rely heavily on the lawyers that they hire to provide advice and perceived protection from lawsuits.  This renders the board members subject to the legal opinion of the lawyer which is quite often at odds to what the public wants.  The boards are frequently fearful of a lawsuit (often offered by the lawyer as a possibility) and will forego making an informed decision based on evidence that is presented at the hearings. 

I have witnessed this happen at county government meetings over other issues besides the one noted above.  I have also seen business organizations, when I was a management consultant, that relied too heavily on the advice of a lawyer.  This advice, based as it was on the fear of a lawsuit, and not a more probable positive outcome often led to missed business opportunities.  I knew when I had an opinion that differed from the legal opinion that I was going to have an uphill battle to have any positive changes made.  Lawyers thrive on fear and angst. 

download (2)We need less lawyers.  Lawyers and lawsuits are destroying America and Democracy.  We need leaders with more diversity in education.  We need leaders with more ethnic diversity.  We need leaders with more gender diversity.  We need greater representation that reflects the demographics of America.  We need less lawyers.  We need more justice and we need more fairness. 

The Prosecution rests it’s case.

 

A Tale of Two Men

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It is a time of overwhelming greed.  It is a time of underwhelming altruism.  The hoards of poor and destitute and abused are still at the gates but the gates have been replaced by a wall.  The few that have managed to get over the wall or under the wall have found that their dreams of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been replaced by barbed wire fences and security police intent on finding and locking them up in cages.  In truth, there are no streets paved with gold.  The gold has long since been stripped by billionaires and the American dream has been supplanted by a Trickle-Down theory which the billionaires are cynically prophesizing.

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Through the country stride two men.  One man driven by money laden with stocks, bonds, and coupons for a cheap cup of coffee.  The other man driven by compassion with a calendar always full of dates to help someone else out.  One man has plenty of gold, the other man has plenty of time.  No two men could be more different.  One man represents the America that was.  The other man represents the America that could be.  The two men frequently cross paths and to some extent even like each other.  There is no hatred between the two but a mutual inability to understand the other’s motives has always existed.  Each thinks that the other is of unsound mind or to put it another way is “out to lunch.”  This is their story then.  I tell it from a neutral objective.  Strangely, I like both men.

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Tom is a white middle class male in his mid-seventies.  Tom is driven by the almighty dollar.  Hardly a day goes by that Tom is not trading or looking at his stock portfolio.  Tom (everyone agrees) is “all about the money.”  Tom is a Trump supporter.  In many respects, he does not fit the typical demographic for a Trumpist.  Tom has gone to college.  He worked at a white-collar job and he has one of the largest houses in the town.  Tom always dresses well, speaks well and never utters a vernacular word.  Tom has never owned a motorcycle and I doubt he has ever shot anything in his life.  He is the epitome of decorum and propriety.  He has kept himself in good shape and looks physically fit.  Indeed, he looks several years younger than his age.  Tom is soft-spoken and is the last person you could think of who would ever get in an actual fight with anyone.  

Tom prides himself on his frugalness, some would say cheapness.  He will buy a coffee at the local coffee shop and when it is time to pay, he will search the internet with his smart phone to find a coupon that will allow him to get 50 percent or so off the cost of an already low-priced cup of coffee.  But greed cannot be measured by cheap cups of coffee.  In some respects, it is difficult to separate greed from fear.  Many a conversation with Tom, I walked away thinking that it is not so much greed that drives Tom as fear.  Fear that the immigrants might take his house away.  Fear that women will take his job.  Fear that minorities will get his share of the America pie.  Fear that LGBTQ people will gain access to his bathroom.

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If it is true that Trump supporters are driven by fear and greed, then Tom (regardless of demographics) is the quintessential Trump supporter.  Tom defies the category of “Trump Deplorable.”  You can have an intelligent and civil conversation with Tom on many a subject.  Nevertheless, he defends Trump no matter what the issue.  Trump is his God and can do no wrong.  Despite Tom’s penny pinching, he is proud enough of his Trump affiliation that he has spent the money to purchase some Trump paraphernalia.  He proudly wears both a Trump hat and a Trump t-shirt.  This always puzzles me. 

Tom has never suffered poverty.  He lives well and has a beautiful lake front home with a mortgage long paid off.  He drives a luxury car with a brand image.  I am sure that neither NAFTA nor Globalism has ever been of undue stress to his finances.   Quite to the contrary, Tom has undoubtedly benefitted from the good that has come out of these policies.  Unlike the white rural blue-collar worker who saw his job and company go overseas, Tom has prospered in the 21st Century economy. 

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Ron is also a white male in his mid-seventies.  Ron did not go to college.  Ron was a blue-collar electrician until his retirement.  Ron grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.  Ron rides a Harley Davidson and when he was younger went on many a deer and elk hunting trip.  He still proudly has an array of rifles that he seldom now uses.  Ron has even won some rifles and given them away.  Ron can be difficult to talk to.  He is passionate about his position and not always willing to listen to others.  You cannot always describe his discussions with others as civil and polite.  Some people would describe Ron as uncouth.  He cares little about fashion or image.  He usually looks like he needs a good haircut.  If you did not know Ron, you would have no difficulty in putting him down as a Trump supporter.  You would be dead wrong.

Ron is a generous man.  He is one of the most generous persons I know.  Ron is not rich.  He has never purchased a brand-new car and he does not live on a lake.  Ron does not have a great deal of money, but he will often pay for my coffee and the coffee of others at our table.  Ron is most generous with his time.  Never a day goes by that he is not doing a favor for someone.  His generosity extends well beyond his immediate family.  Three years ago. Ron and his wife were given an award as Volunteers of the Year.  If anyone needs something or help with anything, they will call Ron.  I do not think of myself as “ungenerous”, but I am loath to admit that I sometimes think Ron is too generous with his time. 

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Politically, I would describe Ron as an independent thinker.  Ron gets a good pension from his former IBEW union and if there is anything he is proud of and will defend to the nth degree, it is unions.  He despises Trump and the Republican politics of greed and Trickle Down.  However, he does not defend the Democratic party either.  He has said that the Democrats sold too many Americans down the drain with NAFTA and Globalism.  It would have been one thing to pursue these policies if there had been some type of life jacket or safety net for the American workers displaced but the Democrats as well as the Republicans simply ignored the side effects of these policies. 

Ron is no racist, no sexist, no hater of immigrants.  If you talk to Ron about these subjects, you will find a man that is not fearful or belligerent towards others.  Whereas Tom would lock America down, Ron would tear the walls down.  Tom will deplore violent protestors.  Ron will deplore the violence that lead to the protests in the first place.  Ron loves to travel and meet new people.  Tom spends most of his days in the same town that he has always been and traveling the same safe pathways that he has always traveled.  Ron has taken several foreign students into his home on an exchange program and is always eager to hear stories about other people and other places.  Tom has a child who is developmentally disabled that he is a loving and kind father to. 

A tale of two men.  Both men married.  Both with families and children.  Neither man a criminal or drug addict or law breaker.  Both men admired by others in the community.  Both men loved by their families.  Both men with friends who speak and think well of them.  Men who are on opposite sides of any imaginable political spectrum. 

A time in America when the divisions seen to outweigh any points of commonality.  When the divisiveness and polemics drive everyone either right or left.  When disagreement is called evil and rudeness and bullying substitute for politeness and civility.  When you are my enemy if your politics disagree with mine.  When truth is now called a lie and facts are now called fake. 

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Ron and Tom still sit down mornings at the coffee shop and talk to each other.  There is often passionate disagreement.  Ron will storm and foam at the mouth.  Tom will quietly state his position and seem somewhat amused at Ron’s vehemence.  I am not sure who has the most difficulty understanding the other but watching Tom and Ron interact is something like watching a TV sitcom.  Are Tom and Ron following a script that the rest of us do not know about?  Perhaps there is a script written somewhere that we are all following.  

“Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­ as you surely will ­ adjust your lives, not the standards.” ― Ted Koppel

Taking It to Extremes – Part 2 of 5 – Growth versus Development

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Introduction: 

A number of years ago, I wrote an article about the famous “Golden Mean” of Greek philosophy.  The mean was basically a rule that said the best way of living is to balance extremes.  Another way of looking at what this rule implies is that evil or bad things happen when we over do something.  We need to take all things in moderation.  Thus, drugs, smoking, guns, watching TV etc., are not evil or bad in themselves but when we take them to extremes they became dangerous and counterproductive.

Life is an ongoing struggle to find our proper balance.  However, it may never be a question of equal balance because the proper balance can never be static.  There are many dimensions or polarities in life where it is not really a matter of moderation or balance but more a matter of dynamically imposing a temporary order between two extremes.  The concept of Hegelian Dialectics comes to my mind as an aide in thinking about this process.

Dialectical thinking can be described as: “The ability to view issues from multiple perspectives and to arrive at the most economical and reasonable reconciliation of seemingly contradictory information and postures.”  This is a much more complex process than simply balancing extremes.  The more I thought about it the more I decided to add a corollary to the Greek Rule.  Since I think time has easily proved the value of the Golden Mean, a corollary by definition is a proposition that follows from and is appended to one already proved.  My corollary is as follows:

John’s Corollary:

Anytime, one concept in a set of opposing concepts is allowed to dominate the other concept, extreme dysfunction will result.

I want to discuss this more by using five pairs of concepts that I think are critical to our world today.  I want to show you how the distortion created by proponents of each concept is dangerous to life as we know it.  I do not use the word dangerous loosely or frivolously or for effect.  The battle between these ideas is destroying life as we know it on this planet.   The proponents of each side of these polarities seek to destroy the proponents on the other side.

Rather than looking at things from a systems perspective and trying to dynamically adjust the system, opponents are driven to allow one idea to dominate to the exclusion of the other idea.  Witness the name calling between conservatives and liberals today.  Each side demonizes the other side and assumes God is on their side and Satan is on the other side. Liberals are evil to conservatives and conservatives are evil to liberals.

Here are the five pairs of concepts we will look at in the next few weeks.  This week we will look at number two on my list.  We have already discussed the “efficiency versus effectiveness” dimension in part one of this blog series.

  1. Efficiency versus Effectiveness
  2. Growth versus Development
  3. Society versus the Economy
  4. Conservative versus Liberal
  5. Rights of the Individual versus Rights of the Group

2.  Growth versus Development:

I live in two counties in two different states.   The states are about 2000 miles apart.  In Arizona, I live in Pinal County.  In Wisconsin, I live in Polk County.  You would think that these two states could not be much different, but actually they are remarkably similar in many ways.  Weather is not one of them.  The one main way that they are similar is in the greed and stupidity that underlies attitudes towards growth and development.  Both states have politicians and leaders that have no concern with balancing these concepts but instead fight to destroy the other side.  I will give you an example that is now happening in both states and which I have been involved in.  However, first we need to define and understand the difference between growth and development.

Most simply, growth can be defined as getting bigger.  Development can be defined as getting better.  Bigger and better may go hand in hand but they may not.  A child can grow into an adult but if developmentally disabled will not get better in the sense of becoming a mature adult.  The child can grow bigger but will never be and adult.  Conversely, someone can fail to grow physically due to some systemic disease but can nevertheless develop mentally.  My good friend Brian Rogers did not have much physical development but mentally he was a giant.  He was not only brilliant intellectually, but he was kind and compassionate to everyone that he met.  This in my mind is the ultimate development.

The noted scholar Dr. Russell Ackoff discussed these two concepts as they applied to a country.  He described them as follows:

“Growth is an increase in size or number.  Development is an increase in competence, the ability to satisfy ones needs and desires and those of others.  Growth is a matter of earning; development is a matter of learning.  Standard of living is an index of national growth; quality of life is an index of its development.  Development is not a matter of how much one has but how much one can do with whatever one has.  This is why Robinson Crusoe is a better model of development than J. Pierpont Morgan.”

“I hope we can help public policy and decision makers realize that development and growth are not the same thing.  Neither presupposes the other.  Rubbish heaps grow but do not develop.  Einstein continued to develop long after he stopped growing.  Some nations grow larger without developing. and others develop without growing.” —Transforming the Systems Movement, 2004

Dr. Ackoff died in 2009 and I would venture an opinion that he did not live to see his hopes come true.  Too many politicians, real estate developers, business leaders and government officials still do not grasp the fundamental distinctions between growth and development.  Even worse they ignore the balance that must happen between the two concepts that is essential to protecting our society, environment, and our very lives.  Let me give you two examples from my life in Polk and Pinal counties.

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Pinal County, Arizona:

When we bought a house in Arizona City in 2008 and decided to become snow birds upon retirement, we inquired into the issue of water in our area.  Knowing that we were moving into a desert we were concerned about the availability of water.  We were told not to worry.  There was a water plan that would deliver all the water we needed for the next 50 years.  This was pure BS.  There may have been a water plan, albeit not anything that was useful, but there sure as heck was not enough water for another fifty years at the present rate of growth and given the increasingly warm summers and lack of rainfall.

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It is widely accepted that the Southwest is hotter than ever and that drought conditions are widespread.  Both Lake Powell and Lake Mead are near disaster levels in terms of water supply.  Just a year or so ago, the Governor in Arizona sought to comply with a Federal order and mandated a commission to develop a DCP (Drought Contingency Plan).  A group of 30 or so “leaders” selected by the Governor hastened to cobble together a plan in time to meet the Federal order.  I attended one meeting with the Pinal County Economic Development Group to hear about the DCP.  I was surprised and astounded to learn that there was nothing, nada, not a thing in the plan about water conservation.  The majority of the plan was nothing more than a subsidy to local farmers to take less water from the CAP (Central Arizona Project) a pipeline bringing water from Lake Mead and subsidies to dig wells even deeper.  Digging deeper despite the fact that aquifer water is down in many places to below 1000 feet.

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I have since attended many meetings of the Pinal County Economic Development group.  The group is mainly led by and composed of real estate developers and contractors.  Despite their name, they care little about development and are only concerned with growth.  Growth for more real estate in private homes.  Growth for more business development.  Growth for more industry and manufacturing.  They have little interest in water conservation and are not concerned with helping the lives of Arizona citizens to get better.  They are foremost and primarily driven by a greed that is fed by getting bigger and bigger.  More and more houses, more and more businesses, more and more taxes to feed into the political coffers.  More and more money paid to build homes and industries.  These people would build homes on top of homes if they could convince people to buy them.  The fact that Arizona is suffering from higher than ever temperatures and less water than ever before seems to matter little as the dollars signs apparently blind these so-called developers to reality. They should be called “growthers” and not developers since they contribute little or nothing to the development of Pinal County.

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Polk County, Wisconsin:

About a year or so ago, we had just returned from Arizona to our home in Wisconsin.  Upon returning, I learned a new word or acronym.  It was CAFO.  This stood for Concentrated Animal Feed Operation.  I was totally ignorant about anything pertaining to this type of farming operation.  I was soon to learn more than I wanted to know.  A developer representing a large CAFO had come into our area to find a site for a Swine CAFO that would hold upwards of 50,000 hogs.  He had come promising jobs and tax money and income for local farmers as they supplied some of the CAFO needs such as grain and other products used in the operation.

A few of our local community leaders immediately embraced this siting of a CAFO.  Fortunately, many local citizens were aware of some of the potential negative impacts of a CAFO this large.  Possible soil, water and air contamination were potential impacts that had occurred in other areas of the country where CAFOs had been established.  Two sides soon emerged.  One side is highly supportive of CAFOs.  This side is mostly comprised of larger farmers in the county and many of our county supervisors.  The other side is comprised of residents who live locally on lakes that are potential areas to be degraded by a CAFO and just plain citizens who do not see how the county will really benefit from a 50,000 swine CAFO.  I fall into the latter group.  I do not live on a lake.  After learning of the many potential dangers posed by a CAFO to our environment, I am concerned that the CAFO ordinances are not strong enough to protect the county.

Many county board meetings have taken place in the last year.  Signs are up all over the county opposing CAFOs.  Signs say “Stop CAFOs” or “Support Family Farms Not Factory Farms.”  There have been numerous protests outside county board meetings.  At one we attended, over 175 people showed up to urge county supervisors to support a “moratorium” to study the land use ordinances in more depth and to support more research to make stronger ordinances.  Not surprising many of the county supervisors support less effort to control CAFOs.  They argue that state and local ordinances are strong enough already.

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Pigs in a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) barn

County boards always seem to have a lawyer on hand to instruct caution and who drives fear into every meeting with warnings about lawsuits that could be brought against the county board for government overreach.  At the board meeting last week to extend the mortarium, it was voted down 8-7.  A second resolution to pass a weak ordinance in lieu of further study was passed by a vote of 11-4.  Even some on the board opposed to the CAFO voted for the resolution apparently cowed by the board lawyer or under the assumption that any ordinance was better than no ordinance.

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Polk County leaders value growth at the expense of development.  The fact that major negative impacts on our land and quality of life are highly probable matters little to those blinded by the economics of growth.  More money, more revenue, more taxes, more business sales.  All of these “mores” in terms of economic growth blind our leaders and many others to efforts to balance growth with development.  It becomes a war between two opposing camps and not an effort to balance two extremes.  The future is sacrificed to the greed of the present.  A “my way or the highway approach” ensures that my corollary will hold true.

Anytime, one concept in a set of opposing concepts is allowed to dominate the opposing concept, extreme dysfunction will result.

With Global Warming, we have already set in place climate changes that are having profound negative impacts on the world.  How many more times will we resort to extremes that serve only to create more devastation and destruction on the environment?

Thanks for reading.  Please leave any comments or thoughts you might have on my blog site.  Or email me at persico.john@gmail.com

Money! Money! Money! No! I Don’t Have Any More Money to Give You!

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I am sick, sick, sick of being asked to donate money to people running for office.  From Alaska to Hawaii to Maine, every day some incumbent or would-be incumbent is sending me a request for money.  The requests come in various disguises.  From surveys, to matching funds, to desperate pleas for a last-minute donation.  I get requests on email, by phone, in regular mail and often text messages.  I just completed a “survey” and the last question was a hook.  “Are you willing to support the causes that you say you believe in?”  If so, I am supposed to send a small $3 dollar donation off someplace.  I am sick and tired of these click bait requests for money.  I get even sicker when I think I have about 50 days more days to put up with these incessant requests for money, more money and ever more money.

John,

I wish I were emailing with a better update but unfortunately, we missed our goal Saturday night.

We needed to raise $75,000 to fight back against the more than $60 million Mitch McConnell and his allies plan to spend to beat us. But even with the support from this team, we still fell short.

There is an irony here as well.  The Democrats which I am supporting for this election all agree that we need campaign finance reform.  We must get money out of the political process.  Too much money is spent on lobbying, advertising, promoting candidates, media, and media consultants.  And what is the secret to getting money out of politics.  Very Simple My Friend“Just send me $10 dollars today so I can defeat my greedy opponent.” 

A few months ago, my wife and I both received Covid Stimulus checks for $1200 each.  When we received these checks, we had been self-quarantining to avoid contagion with anyone who might be harboring the virus.  As a result of the virus, we had no place to go.  Our auto gas bill was near zero.  Our entertainment expenses were zero.  Our eating out expenses were zero.  We are both semi-retired and I lost some income since I had been doing substitute teaching work which was terminated when the schools all closed.  My wife continued her part-time work as a medical coder working from home and her income did not decline.  All in all though, we were in a better financial place than we had been in years.

Mark’s 72-hour fundraising deadline ends tomorrow, and I know he could use some help to close the gap, which is why I have to ask:

If you are able, will you make a $50 donation to Mark’s people-powered campaign? He can’t afford to fall short of this goal, not when Mitch McConnell and the NRA are spending millions on ads to defeat him.

When the checks came, we realized that many other people were hurting.  Many people needed the money more than we did.  We decided to donate the first check of $1200 dollars to six charities at $200 each charity.  We sent the money to a variety of charities that we thought worthwhile. Subsequently, we sent another $400 dollars from the second stimulus check to a few other charities.  We felt good that we could help others.  During this time period, we also received many requests from politicians.  We decided that we would not send any money to any politicians until after the primaries were over.

John, with our FEC end-of-quarter deadline approaching, we need to raise $41,000 more by September 30 to show that we can win this election.

It’s going to take a lot, but I know we can do it together. Can you contribute today to help us reach this goal and flip this seat blue?

Several months have gone by.  Hundreds of requests for money to support this candidate or that candidate have been received.  No exaggeration here either.  I get between five and ten requests every day to send money to some would-be politician.  Nevertheless, both my wife and I agreed that we would send at least ½ of any further stimulus money received to politicians that we supported.  As time has gone by, we realized that:  1).  Probably, no further stimulus money would be coming and 2).  We needed to send money to candidates that we supported now before it was too late.  Any money sent later would come to late to be of any use.

But look, John, this will still be an uphill battle against Lindsey and his massive fundraising war chest.

We need to raise another $40,599 by midnight tomorrow or we won’t be able to compete.

We decided to take six hundred dollars out of our savings and allocate it among the various candidates.  Using an approach developed in baseball and called the “Money Ball” approach, we selected candidates based on the following priorities:

  1. Defeating Trump for the Presidency
  2. Flipping the U.S. Senate
  3. Supporting three local candidates that we knew

Our money went as follows:

  • $200 to Biden
  • $250 dollars to U.S. Senate candidates (5 candidates at $50 dollars each)
  • $150 dollars to local candidates (3 candidates at $50 dollars each)

We sent the money directly to each candidate via their website donation buttons.  Every candidate now has a prominent place to send money to them via their websites.  We decided that if we received any more stimulus money, we would make a second round of donations.  If not, this was all the money we were sending.  Further pleas, requests, entreaties, appeals, supplications, and petitions for more money would be ignored.  Balancing out our concern for a “Better USA” was our concern for many charities which we would like to support but could not since our extra money was now going to the political arena.  An arena I might mention that is worse than a bottom less pit.  Did you ever wonder where all the campaign money that you give to your candidate goes?  Here is one break-down that I found on Wikipedia:

  • Grassroots fundraising
  • Opposition research
  • Consultation
  • Advertising
  • Canvassing
  • Retail politics
  • Election promises
  • Get out the vote efforts
  • Lawn signs
  • Attack ads
  • Push polls
  • Candidate needs
  • Campaign manager
  • Campaign staff
  • Political portals and websites

I have four political lawn signs that I either bought or gave a donation for.  One of my signs is a Biden sign.  It was stolen about a week ago.  I went on line and purchased two more Biden signs.  The first one lasted about two weeks.  I figure that two more should get me through the election.  After the election, they will either be a souvenir or junk depending on which way the voting goes.

Dear John

In a country devoid of national leadership on this public health crisis known as the COVID-19 pandemic, and devoid of a national health system like Medicare for All that would put the interests of the public over those of greedy commercial profiteers… Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) knows we can do better. Please support our efforts with a donation of $20, $10, or $5.

After we sent our money.  We received one Thank You letter from the Wisconsin Democratic party but not a single acknowledgement from any single candidate on either a national or local level.  What we did receive was at least 5 more requests for money from each of the national candidates.  The Biden campaign alone has sent us more than a dozen requests since they received our $200 dollar donation.  No Thank You message.

John, the first ballots are being cast right now in North Carolina, so I’m emailing you today to ask you to roll up your sleeves and join Joe and me in the fight for what he so rightly calls “the soul of our nation.” Will you split a $10 donation between our Biden-Harris ticket and Democrats nationwide to give our campaigns the important resources necessary to move the needle?

My wife Karen and I were talking about the aggravation we are both experiencing with all of these daily requests for money.  I said I would like to start a “No Money Party”.  She remembered an Andrew Greeley book she read.  It had a candidate running for office who swore that he would never ask or request money for his campaign.  People were so enamored of the idea that he received a great deal of unrequested money.  I want to start a No Money Party.  No candidates running under my party banner would ever request a single penny from anyone.  We might request help in turns of time or volunteering, but we would never request a single penny.  Of course, you are saying “How naive.  Your candidates would never get elected.”  You might be 100% percent right.  However, that is not the point.

The point is that all of these people running for office are clueless.  They all think or at least act like every USA citizen has a printing press in their basement.  They are the most important people in the world.  Their getting elected will cure the Covid-19 Pandemic.  Their getting elected will end Global Warming.  Their getting elected will create an economy like the world has never seen before.  Promises, promises, promises and all you have to do to make these promises come true is to send MORE money.

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Well friends, Romans, and other countrymen.  I am making a promise today.  NO MAS.  No more money.  I am not sending another penny, shilling, drachma, farthing or even an IOU to anyone running for office for the remainder of the 2020 year.  If something happens and I am granted another Corona virus stimulus check before the election, my stimulus money will go to help someone get an education or get needed health care.  I can’t think of any politician really worth sending another centavo to.  Most of them have more money than I will ever see anyway.  I am sure they all eat for free someplace on Capital Hill and laugh at the suckers who keep sending them money to get reelected.

If you agree with me, please don’t sent me any money.  I will only waste it on buying another bottle of Tequila so that I can forget this election and drown my political sorrows.

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3520 – Wednesday, September 11, 2019 — Can We Ever Understand the Trump Phenomenon?

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Pontificating and writing books and articles about what I will call the Trump phenomenon has become (forgive my use of this cliché), a Cottage Industry.  I have three books on my shelf right now in which an author has gone on a quest (to a remote area of America) to find the reason why so much of rural and middle America embraced Trump.  The ostensible goal of these quests is to understand why anyone would vote for a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic bigoted egomaniac.  Fully twenty-eight percent of American voters selected Trump as well as more than 75 percent of the Republican Party.  Most of those on the left, regard it as the proverbial enigma wrapped in a riddle.

Many of these quests endeavor to be “objective” exercises to find out why Americans voted for and in many cases “love” Trump.  Not surprisingly, these authors tend to be on the left of the political spectrum.  I suppose to be objective and qualify as research, each author must show sympathy for the “deplorables” that elected Trump by trying to listen, empathize and gently understand the forces that were at work in their embracing Trump.  In one case, the author assumes that if you can party with the other side, you will better understand their perspective. 

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A few of these books have sold quite well, even if they do very little to shed any real light on the Trump phenomenon.  They all seem to be researched (research to these authors means meeting with rural folks over tea or coffee and talking to them without insulting their intelligence) by a well-meaning liberal.  Usually, the author is an academic who thinks that talking to anyone who would vote for Trump can solve the puzzle and perhaps make America great again.  Reading these books, you will be no doubt be embellished with many narratives that involve a poignant description of a “typical” rural American to show how the other side really lives and how sad some of their lives are.

I find the solution to the enigma much less puzzling and much less difficult to solve.  I did not need to go on a quest to find the solution.  The solution simply involves “looking at rural America.”  Rural America is dying, dying, dying.  Churches are dying.  Restaurants are dying.  Retail stores are dying.  Industries are dying.  Banks are dying.  Resorts are dying.  Jobs are dying.  Small farms are dying.  Rural America is dying, and no one seems to notice.  Even the people living there do not really notice.  It is a case of the fish being the last ones to see the water.  But on many levels, the angst exacts a toll on the citizens of these areas.   Alcoholism, drug addictions and guns are all means of coping in rural communities.  

People who live in many of many of these rural depressed areas have been told to “get retrained.”  “Find employment in the new emerging industries.”  “Join the information age.”  “Learn computer programming.”  “Go back to school.”  “Go where the jobs are.”

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In 1979, I was hired as a DVOP (Disabled Veterans Outreach Person) by the State of Minnesota.  I worked as a job counselor with the DES (Department of Economic Security.)  At about this time in Minnesota, the iron range was shutting down, many foundries in St. Paul were closing and the stock yards were closing.  For years, these industries had provided relatively decent pay and benefits for people more amenable to working with their backs than with their intellects.  As an employment counselor with a Masters in Employment Counseling from the University of Wisconsin Stout, my job was to help them regain financially viable employment.  Here is what this meant.

I had to take a man (most often a man) with twenty or so years working in one industry, a bad back, little or no education beyond high school, responsible for supporting a wife and two or more children and find him or her a job paying twenty or so dollars per hour with benefits.  There were no funds provided by DES for this man to go to school and even if there were, what kind of school could he go to?  Over the years, both Wisconsin and Minnesota had shut down many vocational training schools to emphasize college over vocational education.  Unions seldom provided apprenticeships and even if they did, most would go to younger workers with less physical problems. 

Globalization was hailed as a great concept and as a business person, I would argue it was good for many Americans and much of the world.  But for the man or woman who worked in American industries that were either outsourced, replaced by foreign labor or moved overseas, it was not so good. 

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I continued working as an employment counselor for the DILHR (Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations) in Wisconsin.  I had taken a Wisconsin State test and found work closer to my home in River Falls, Wisconsin.  I became a Manpower Counselor II in charge of an office in Hudson and Ellsworth Wisconsin.  I ran the WIN Program (Work Incentive), IHRAP Program (Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program), LEAP Program (Labor Education Advancement Program) and several programs for veterans and minorities. 

We had minimal funds for people that could qualify for education and we had maintenance funds for eligible job seekers to help support them while they looked for gainful employment.  With respect to education, there was no way anyone could go to school and support a family while they were in school on the available funds.  For job seekers, the maintenance funds could help while they looked for employment but, in many cases, they had little chance of finding employment without further education.  Regulations prohibited many of these “eligible” job seekers from going to school while they received AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), Welfare benefits or unemployment benefits.

Bottom line, both the Democrats and Republicans threw many of the people who lost their jobs because of Globalization under the bus or over the cliff.  “Go get retrained they were told.” 

694940094001_5470675642001_5470650547001-vsThe research that purports to explain the Trump phenomenon almost never goes beyond the “Right Wing” narratives for Trumps election.  These narratives all point to abortion, guns, taxes, small government, immigration and jobs as the key factors in Trumps victory.  Trump blames the Democrats for everything wrong in rural America and the Republicans have provided a compelling set of schemes that have convinced many in rural America that a partial solution to their problems lies in more capitalism. 

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Greed is good is a mantra among Republicans and they have managed to sell desperate people needing desperate measures with faith in the “Trickle Down Theory.”  For those who might question this theory, the fallback narrative is to blame immigrants, Latinos, Blacks and Muslims with usurping the American Dream.  Trump and the Republicans have sold the rest of the solution as “Make America White Again.” 

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Is it any wonder that people are sick of government and politicians?  The vision and mission of most government agencies hardly ever comes close to matching the reality of the policies, laws and regulations that spew forth from these lawyer led entities.   You would be forgiven for not realizing that the citizens of the United States of America are the customers of government rather than the other way around.  Trump is a phenomenon of distrust, disgust and despair.  Trump promised solutions to these problems while the rest of the government slept and slept and slept.

“I’ve always resented the smug statements of politicians, media commentators, corporate executives who talked of how, in America, if you worked hard you would become rich. The meaning of that was if you were poor it was because you hadn’t worked hard enough. I knew this was a lie, about my father and millions of others, men and women who worked harder than anyone, harder than financiers and politicians, harder than anybody if you accept that when you work at an unpleasant job that makes it very hard work indeed.”  ― Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

 

 

 

 

 

What Did Jesus Die For?

The two key principles and the most important tenets of Christianity are that:

1.         Jesus died for our sins

2.         Jesus was God incarnate

I have heard many Christians and priests say that “If Jesus was not raised from the dead and is not the son of God than our religion is a farce.”  I think both premises are faulty and show that most people do not really understand what Jesus died for.  I would like to dispute the first premise that Jesus died for our sins.  Many people have already challenged the second premise. 

Jesus did not die for my sins.  As much as it might hurt your feelings to know this, I seriously doubt that he died for your sins either.  Jesus was born some 2020 years ago.  That is at least 1900 years before either you or I were born.  Jesus did not know either of us.  He did not know me and frankly I can’t really think of any sins that I have committed that would be worth dying for.  However, I can’t speak for you.  But even assuming that you are a serial killer, Jesus would not have had any way to know about your aberrant lifestyle. 

So, what did Jesus die for?

Maybe Jesus died for his naivete.  Did Jesus really think the Scribes and Pharisees and Romans were going to lay down their hatred for each other and commit to a new religion that broke with sacred traditions?  Religious beliefs and protocols that they had been practicing for hundreds of years.  This was an egregious overreach on the part of Jesus, if we assume that he was naive enough to think that he had a chance of changing them.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Maybe Jesus died because he had a martyr complex.  Did Jesus perhaps believe that his only path to the acceptance of his new ideas was by sacrificing himself?  Did Jesus think that once they killed him, his murderers would all suddenly feel compassion and for his precepts?  If he did, then he seriously underestimated the difficulty that people have in accepting new ideas. 

“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Maybe Jesus died because he miscalculated his popularity.  Perhaps Jesus was taken in by the cheering crowds when he entered Jerusalem that Passover weekend.  He may have assumed that they would stage some kind of an uprising or protest to protect their new Messiah.  Instead they chose to save Barabbas and not Jesus.

“And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”

Maybe Jesus died because he trusted his apostles too much.  Much has been made of the perfidy of Judas who sold Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver.  Much has also been made of the cowardice of his 12 apostles who spent the time that Jesus was being interrogated and executed in hiding lest they be crucified with him.  It would be accurate to say that they were not particularly good at having Jesus’s back. 

“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”

So, what did Jesus die for?

Jesus did not die for fame.  The story of his dealing with Satan on the mountain clearly shows that Jesus could not be tempted by fame.

Jesus did not die for glory.  He had no desire to be the Messiah that the Jewish people wanted. He said many times that his kingdom was not of this world.

Jesus did not die for wealth.  Jesus led a life of frugality and poverty.  He believed in giving more to others than he received in return.  Jesus said that if someone sues you and gets your shirt, you should also give them your coat.

Jesus did not die for power.  Jesus believed in giving to Caesar what belonged to Caesar and he never attempted any coups of the power structure that existed among the Jews.  Jesus made it clear that the first should be last and that a leader must be a follower. 

So, what did Jesus die for?

If we accept that Jesus was no fool, there must have been something especially important that Jesus knew was worth dying for.  I believe that there was, and Jesus clearly knew what it was.  By his death, Jesus could show the world the power that was in this idea.  Perhaps the only idea that Jesus would have been willing to die for.  By dying for this idea, he made more changes in the world than could have been brought about by war, famine, disease, or political intrigue.  The measure of his influence can be appreciated in the following verses:

One Solitary Life by James Allan Francis (1926)

He was born in an obscure village, The child of a peasant woman.  He grew up in still another  village where he worked until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book.  He never held an office.  He never had a family or owned a home.  He didn’t go to college.  He never traveled more than 200 miles from the place he was born.

He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness.  He had no credentials but himself; he was only thirty-three when public opinion turned against him.

His friends ran away.  He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.  He was nailed to the cross between two thieves.  While he was dying his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.

When he was dead he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.  Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today he is the central figure of the human race,the leader of mankind’s progress.

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life.

So, what did Jesus die for?

Jesus died for the most elemental force in the universe.  Jesus died for love.  Not a love for things, money, or material goods which our societies are obsessed with today.  Had Jesus loved these things, he would never have died.  He would have been hailed as a hero and honored in the halls and palaces where the rich and famous lived. 

Jesus died because he preached love for humanity.  When Jesus was born, there was no sin in the world for loving things too much.  The same is true today, but Jesus preached that love for things and money was evil and sinful when life revolved around the acquisition of these things.  It was not money itself that was evil but the means that people used to acquire money and fame and power.  Jesus preached that it is not wealth which is sinful but the worship of wealth.  This is a distinction that is ignored and not well understood by many in all religions today.

People could live with a Messiah who preached love for things.  The Prosperity Gospel so popular among televangelists and some Christians preaches that money and wealth are God’s blessings for Christians who do good works.  Even mainstream Christians do not see any evil in piling up hoards of money while the income inequality in our country grows.  Money is viewed as a blessing for hard work and faith in Jesus. 

But Jesus taught that money was the root of all evil.  The sin was in loving money and wealth more than the human beings in your culture.  It was a sin to have so much when others had so little.  It was a sin not to help the poor and the sick and the needy.  But just like now, the people blame the poor for being poor.  “If they are poor, it is their own fault.”  The poor are accused of being lazy or stupid.  The sick are blamed for being sick.  If they get the Covid 19 virus, it is their own fault.

Jesus died because he condemned the mindless and greedy acquisition of money and material goods.  Jesus would have been appalled to hear people say that “I love my car.”  Or “I love my new shoes.”  For Jesus, love was for people not for things.  The very use and associations of the word love today speaks to the values that people hold in our society.  There is more love of things today than there is love for people.

Jesus gave a new commandment to the world when he told his disciples:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus was a radical and radicals never fare well.  Nothing could be more radical in Jesus’s time or our time than to preach that you should:

  • Love the poor
  • Love the sick
  • Love the needy
  • Love the oppressed
  • Love the dispossessed
  • Love those different from you culturally
  • Love all people including people of a different skin color
  • Love the immigrants without a home
  • Love the downtrodden
  • Love the Ex-Felon
  • Love people who have different sexual orientations

2000 years have passed and if Jesus were alive today, he would be tried and found guilty of heresy and executed.   His crime would be “Preaching Love.”

Jesus died because he exhorted others to love all people.

P.S.

I wrote the above blog with thoughts of Father Sthokal in my mind. A man who loved all people. Father Sthokal passed away on August 11, 2020. I attended many retreats when Father Sthokal was Retreat Director at Demontreville. He was 98 years old and a Jesuit for 78 years. He received licentiate degrees in philosophy and theology and a master’s degree in English from St. Louis University. He talked like a common man but had the mind of a genius and the heart of a truly compassionate individual.

It’s the Economy Stupid! The Five Myths of Capitalism – Part 5 of 5

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I stated in parts 1-4, that unless we change our attitudes and policies regarding Corporate Capitalism, it will destroy our country, our way of life, our freedoms, and our environment.  Furthermore, we will undoubtedly take some of the rest of the world along with us.  This is a serious accusation and one I do not take lightly.

I have already described four of the five myths that are largely responsible for the mistaken policies and laws that have allowed Corporate Capitalism to become a dangerous disease.  A disease that is infecting our government and policies in myriad ways and causing untold damage to our country and the world.

In this blog, I will describe Myth #5 and how it contributes to the problems we are now facing.  Myth #5 is:

What’s Good for Corporate America is Good for the USA:

shanghai-gm-monoply-guy-720x340 (1)A version of this myth is the “Too big too fail idea” widely heard during the “Great Recession” and now during the Coronavirus epidemic.  General Motors was one of the first giant corporations in America and even as late as 2019, it was ranked 13th on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.  In 1952 during his nomination hearing for Secretary of Defense, Charles Wilson (former CEO of General Motors) was asked if he could make a decision as Secretary of Defense that ran contrary to the interests of his former company.  He replied with the now infamous remark YES but that he could not conceive of such a situation: “because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.” — Wikipedia

220px-23_Things_They_Don't_Tell_You_About_Capitalism_cover_artThe foregoing belief in the common interests that corporations shared with America came to epitomize the ideology of Corporate America.  American corporations then used the media and astute public relations to convince the majority of US citizens that they are indispensable, and that the welfare of the average person depended on the welfare of the corporation.  To put it another way, the interests of a giant corporation are claimed to be synonymous with the interests of the average person. “What is good for America’s Corporations is good for You.”  “What is good for Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Exxon, Facebook and Pfizer is good for you.

This belief system, that corporate welfare is synonymous with our country’s welfare, is inevitably betrayed by at least two major factors.  These include: Externalities and Short-Term Thinking.

  1. Externalities (Lack of responsibility)

imagesWhen a company makes and sells a product, it is no longer responsible for the effects of that product on either the buyer or the environment.  Unless evidence can be shown that somehow the corporation either lied or had some kind of criminal intent in the sales process, the consumer and society are responsible for the negative effects that a product or service might have.  For instance, oil companies sell gasoline but are not responsible for the effects of polluting the atmosphere by burning gasoline.  Another example is the packaging that many companies use for their products.  Amazon is notorious for over boxing even the smallest products.  The boxes must then be thrown away or recycled in a landfill.  However, the cost of this recycling is not born by Amazon but ultimately by the taxpayer who must pay for the recycling through taxes or direct payments.  Meanwhile, Amazon makes a great profit by being able to take advantage of tax loopholes and escaping any costs.  These costs are called in economic terms: “Externalities.”

“In economics, an externality is the cost or benefit that affects a third party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.”  Wikipedia

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  1. Short-term thinking

Corporations will tell you that consumers benefit from the aforementioned transfers of costs.  The consumer pays a cheaper price for the product than he/she would if the total costs to the environment were factored in.  However, this is only considering short-term costs.  In the long term, the consumer/taxpayer pays a much greater cost.  For instance, the pollution in the atmosphere has caused the overall temperature of the earth to rise resulting in global warming.  This warming has destabilized weather patterns all over the earth resulting in extremes of weather:  more frequent tornadoes, stronger hurricanes, longer droughts, greater rain in many areas resulting in flooding.

The impacts of these weather changes have already cost the world billions of dollars.  One study found that: “Climate change could directly cost the world economy $7.9 trillion by mid-century as increased drought, flooding and crop failures hamper growth and threaten infrastructure.”Climate impacts ‘to cost world $7.9 trillion’ by 2050.  This study does not measure the misery to human beings all over the earth in terms of famine, pestilence and the impact of more and more “natural” disasters.

So, what we have here is the typical example of “Short-Term” thinking on the part of our Corporate Capitalistic economic system.  From worrying about the daily price of their stocks, the quarterly dividend, the monthly financial statements and the quarterly financial reports, corporations are guided by short-term thinking.  They will compete for short-term profits at the cost of destroying our environment, our way of living and ultimately our world.  This is the nature of the beast as it is bred and chartered.

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When I was a store manager at the now defunct W.T. Grant Company, we used to get a report each month which showed us our store ranking in relation to the 200 or so other stores in our division.  Our regional management would send these out every month to motivate us to raise our ranking.  Thus, if we were ranked 76th out of 200 in sales and profits, it would behoove us to try to improve.  However, these rankings were more or less random since some stores would always be in the top rank because of their size or other demographics.  Even without changing a single factor in our operation, the next month might see our ranking go up to 50th.  This could simply mean that our seasonal sales had kicked in before some other store areas.  The following month we might drop to 125th out of 200.

Each month brought a great deal of shifting between stores.  One soon learned that these reports were worthless.  We regarded them as a big joke.  They told us nothing except that management was focused on the short-term and that it could not look longer ahead than a month.  I worked for W.T. Grant for two years and left 4 years before they went bankrupt.  At the time of their bankruptcy, they were the largest American corporation to ever declare bankruptcy.

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A number of years ago, the average lifespan of an American corporation was 60 years.  The first list of Fortune 100 companies published in 1954 showed that less than fifty years later more than ½ of these companies no longer existed.  A corporation which is regarded as a person by such ridiculous decisions as “Citizens United” lives considerably less than the lifespan of an average person.  Even that limited a lifespan for a corporation has dropped.  The average age of an S&P 500 company is now under 20 years, down from 60 years in the 1950s, according to Credit Suisse.

Why? You may well ask.  The answer is simple.  For two reasons:  Greed and Stupidity.  Hardly a corporation in America does not create a “strategic plan.”  I have helped formulate and facilitate many a strategic planning session.  The most difficult part of planning is to get companies to think long-term.  Partially, this is due to the extremely volatile nature of business and the competition that companies face.  An even bigger part of the problem is the nature of management thinking.  There are some notable exceptions to this prevalent thinking:

“In Warren Buffett’s 2010 annual letter to shareholders he mentions the advantage Berkshire Hathaway has because it doesn’t focus on short term results”:

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“At GEICO, for example, we enthusiastically spent $900 million last year on advertising to obtain policyholders who deliver us no immediate profits.  If we could spend twice that amount productively, we would happily do so though short-term results would be further penalized. Many large investments at our railroad and utility operations are also made with an eye to payoffs well down the road.  At Berkshire, managers can focus on running their businesses: They are not subjected to meetings at headquarters nor financing worries nor Wall Street harassment. They simply get a letter from me every two years and call me when they wish.”  — Dr. Deming’s 7 deadly diseases by John Hunter

downloadDr. Deming wrote reams about the failure of management to balance what he called the “Problems of Today” with the “Problems of Tomorrow.”  I would typically hear when beginning a consulting engagement numerous reasons why “it could not be done.”  One of the most common excuses was expressed colloquially as “We are up to our ass in alligators.”  Another excuse was “We have too many fires to put out.”  I was fond of reciting Dr. Deming’s comment that, “Putting out fires is not improvement.  Finding a point out of control, finding the special cause and removing it, is only putting the process back to where it was in the first place. It is not improvement of the process.” — Out of the Crisis,  W. E. Deming

I have already mentioned in Part 2 on the Efficiency Myth that most corporations never really understood the idea of continuous improvement.  The focus of management is for the most part, a focus on quick fixes and short-term thinking that can bring quick profits regardless of the hidden costs and externalities.  Thus, the belief that what is good for a corporation is good for its citizens is not just false but dangerous.  To hold this belief is like trusting a rattlesnake not to bite you.  You might think that the rattlesnake is your friend until the day it bites you.  You are no more a friend to an American corporation than you are a friend to a rattlesnake.

41bf5SeawKL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I have sat in many boardrooms for many planning meetings, and seldom did I ever hear an executive worrying about the environment or the hidden costs of externalities.  The oft assumed legal mandate of a corporation is to make a profit.  However, corporate law states that a company does not have to pursue profit maximization at all costs.  This is idealistic though since the tendency in the marketplace and short-term thinking push corporations to ignore other considerations and pursue profits at all costs.  It is also much easier to measure profits than it is to measure a “good” to the environment or a “good” to the social system.  Thus, generally profits will trump other considerations in running an effective business.

Conclusion:

What is to be done?  How do we restore the proper balance of power to ensure that Corporations serve the country and not that the country serve the corporations?

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I think it will require the following major actions:

  1. We must overturn the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United
  2. We must change corporate law to do the following:
    1. Place size limits on corporations
    2. Place limits on the number of companies a corporation may acquire
    3. Regain citizen control by changing the corporate charter
  3. We must place limits on the exercise of lobbying
  4. We must stop corporate donations to political candidates
  5. We must place limits on the hiring of corporate executives to manage and oversee the government agencies that regulate their industry

There are many other things that can be done if we as citizens recognize that we have the power to take control of corporations.  We have the power to insure that they are acting in the public interest and not the other way around.  Madison Avenue has convinced Americans that what is good for Corporate America is good for the USA.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is time we take back our power.

“Corporate social responsibility is measured in terms of businesses improving conditions for their employees, shareholders, communities, and environment. But moral responsibility goes further, reflecting the need for corporations to address fundamental ethical issues such as inclusion, dignity, and equality.”Klaus Schwab

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This is an excellent report by the Roosevelt Institute.  If you are interested in details on how Corporate power can be reigned in.  You need to read this report.  

https://rooseveltinstitute.org/publications/untamed-corporate-financial-monopoly-power/

 

It’s the Economy Stupid! The Five Myths of Capitalism – Part 3 of 5

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I have stated in my two previous blogs that unless we change our attitudes and policies regarding Corporate Capitalism, it will destroy our country, our way of life, our freedoms, and our environment.  Furthermore, we will undoubtedly take some of the rest of the world along with us.  This is a serious accusation and one I do not take lightly.  I have been a business educator in higher education and a management consultant to some of the top corporations in the world.  My opinion is not based just on theory or observations.  It is based on the in-depth work that I did with over 32 companies during the time I was actively consulting.  There are many good people working in corporate America but as Dr. Deming once said “You put a good person in a bad system and the system will win every time.  There are Five Myths of Capitalism that are largely responsible for the mistaken policies and laws that have allowed Corporate Capitalism to become a dangerous disease infecting our way of life and causing untold damage to our country.

In my previous blogs, I described the first two myths.  In this blog, I will describe Myth #3 and how it contributes to the destruction of our country.  Myth #3 is:

  1. People Run Corporations

It is natural to believe that because people, managers and employees run corporations that they will act as humans might act.  It is supposed that corporations will be or at least should be humane, compassionate, and guided by responsibilities to its employees.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Nothing could be a bigger lie or myth.  People DO NOT run corporations.  I think I can illustrate the point I am trying to make with a few short stories from my own experiences with large corporations.  I am sure that as you read my stories, you will think of many similar experiences you have had.  That is what I want you to remember.

"Before we discuss destroying the competition, screwing our customers, and laughing all the way to the bank, let's begin this meeting with a prayer."

Best Buy Story:

Several years ago I bought a new desk top computer from Best Buy Corporation.  I also purchased a two-year extended warranty.  No sooner had I got the computer set up in my home office when problems started.  The computer would shut down without warning, most of the time right smack in the middle of a paper or presentation that I was preparing.  I was always very diligent at backing up my work, but I would still lose up to 15 minutes’ worth of work which was very annoying.  This happened a number of times and I called their customer service and got to talk to the Geek Squad.  This was originally a group of computer nerds who had their own company and Best Buy bought them up.

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I got a service rep on the line after the usual wait and switching of phone lines. He had me run a series of diagnostics and wanted to know if I had a virus protector.  I told him no, I had not yet installed one.  He informed me that this was my problem.  I had a virus and would need to install a virus protector.  I jotted down the incident number for this report and the date I called Best Buy.  I purchased a McAfee Virus software and installed it.  I was hopeful.  However, even after installing the new software, the same thing happened again and again.  The computer screen would go blank and the computer would shut off.  I called Best Buy tech support again.  I gave them my former incident number, but they opened a new number and gave it to me.  I talked to a tech rep.  He took me through the SAME series of diagnostics as before but could not find any problems.  Then he asked me if I had a virus protector.  I told him “Yes, I had purchased and installed McAfee Anti-Virus software.  He suggested I should switch to Norton Anti-Virus as he was sure that I had an undetected virus.  I said thanks and hung up.  I then went out and purchased a copy of Norton’s software.  I installed the software and you probably have already guessed it.  The computer had the same problem and kept logging off.  I was fed up.

I disconnected the computer.  Took my purchase receipt and took my incident numbers and notes and told Karen that I was taking the damn thing back to Best Buy.  She cautioned me to “Be nice”.  “You catch more flies with sugar than vinegar.”  I promised I would.  When I arrived at the store, with box and computer in tow, I was referred to the Customer Service manager.  He wanted to know the problem and I gave him my history.  He then asked me if I had called the tech group for support.  I said I had.  He requested proof.  I showed him my notes and both incident numbers.  He then said “Well, since you did not purchase this at our store, there is nothing I can do.”  Bingo! I had him, I thought.  I showed him my receipt of purchase at this very same store.  “Well,” he said “We would need an extended warranty for a refund since it has been over six months since you purchased this computer.  I pulled out my 2-year extended warranty and showed it to him.

At this point, he said he would have to go talk to the store manager.

Mr. Customer Service manager came back about fifteen minutes later.  He looked me straight in the eye and said “how sorry he was” but it was “against policy” to take back merchandise.  I had had enough with “being nice.”  I told him I would never shop at Best Buy again and since I was a business education teacher at a local college, I would warn my students about shopping at Best Buy.  He looked blank and said not a word as I left his store.  It has now been over ten years.  I have never entered Best Buy again.  I would not buy a battery there if it were the last place on earth.

The Moral of This Story: 

We are not human beings to the people that work in large corporations.  We are dollar signs.  They have no empathy for us.  They switch off empathy when they join the corporation and aspire to climb the corporate ladder.  They become automatons who obey policy, follow procedures, and screw the customer if it means saving a dime for the corporation.  They will look you right in the face while screwing you and have no pity or compassion.  Remember, “we are only following procedures.”  By the way, this is about as true in large Government bureaucracies as in private for-profit corporations.  Caveat:  There are always decent people out there who are “exceptions”, I repeat “exceptions” to the rule.  However, they are not the norm.

Delta Airlines Story:

A few years ago, my wife and I bought tickets to go to Rhode Island to visit my sister.  We bought the tickets well in advance and looked forward to the visit.  A week or so before our scheduled departure, my brother in law called me up.  “John, I know Jeanine would never ask you to cancel your trip, but she has really not been feeling good.  We had to take her to the clinic, and I think it would be best if you came some other time.”  I told him “no problem”, we would cancel the trip and reschedule at a later date when she felt better.

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I called the airlines up to see about a refund.  I was told that “they were deeply sorry, but sickness was not a reason for a refund.  I said “seriously, you mean if I get sick and cannot make a trip, I cannot get a refund.”  The clerk replied, “If you were sick, it would not be a problem, but you were not sick, it was your sister.”  I could have bit a steel spike in half, but I replied civilly.  “Okay, but what about another booking at a later date?”  “We can manage that he said.  We will put a voucher in for you, but you will have to pay a restocking fee.”  “How the fuck do you restock an e-ticket I asked?”  “Its standard policy”, he replied.  The restocking fees cost about a third of the ticket prices and I remember being out of pocket about $300 dollars.  Three hundred dollars to restock an e-ticket?

The Moral of This Story:

Same as the moral for the Best Buy Story.  You customer.  Me corporate man.  We make billions by screwing people like you.  Sorry, its nothing personal, just business.

Travel Insurance Company Story:

Here we are in the middle of a Global Pandemic.  Karen and I had planned a trip to Paris and Moscow.  We purchased trip insurance to cover a number of costs over nine months ago.  Our two flights there and two flights back have all been cancelled due to the pandemic.  I am confident (Perhaps an unwarranted assumption on my part) that the airlines will either give me a voucher or refund.  Thus, the trip insurance company has not had to shell out one penny yet.  I decided to call the insurance company to see if I could get reimbursed for our Visas to Russia and Belarus that cost us a total of $1000 dollars.  I had already called both embassies and was informed that I would have to reapply for new visas.  The trip insurance agent informed me that Visas are not covered under “Miscellaneous Trip Cancellations” because as the agent said, “Does it say Visas?”  A short time later they sent the following notice by email to all insurance recipients:

If your travel insurance contains Trip Cancellation or Trip Interruption coverage:

Unless you purchased Trip Cancellation for Any Reason coverage, our insurance does not cover fear of travel.

Many of our plans exclude losses due to “any issue or event that could have been reasonably foreseen or expected when you purchased the coverage.” The COVID-19 outbreak is considered a foreseeable event under any plans containing this exclusion purchased on or after January 29, 2020.

I want to make three quick points. 

  1. Do you know anyone in their right mind who would not be afraid of traveling at this time?
  2. How in the name of anything you believe can the Covid-19 outbreak be considered a “foreseeable event” as early as January 29th?
  3. Have you ever seen the fine print and the number of pages on any insurance policy?

The Moral of This Story:

By now, you should know what the moral of this story is.  But just in case.  It is simply this.  If a large corporation can find any way to screw you, give you the shaft or take your money and give you nothing in return, rest assured many if not most of them will.

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Now, I want to return to my main point.  Corporations have no heart.  They have no feelings.  They have no emotions.  They are not sympathy machines or compassionate entities.  The people who are hired by these large corporations soon learn that if push comes to shove, they had better side with the corporation rather than the customer.

Unless, we change the character of corporate law, what it takes for articles of incorporation to be issued and the entire governance structure designed to provide oversight for companies, the stories that I have told above and your own sad tales will continue to reflect the reality of how corporations deal with people.

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Should it be this wayAre profits more important than people?  I fear that we have developed a system where too many people would say yes to both questions.

“How people themselves perceive what they are doing is not a question that interests me. I mean, there are very few people who are going to look into the mirror and say, ‘That person I see is a savage monster’; instead, they make up some construction that justifies what they do. If you ask the CEO of some major corporation what he does he will say, in all honesty, that he is slaving 20 hours a day to provide his customers with the best goods or services he can and creating the best possible working conditions for his employees. But then you take a look at what the corporation does, the effect of its legal structure, the vast inequalities in pay and conditions, and you see the reality is something far different.”  ― Noam Chomsky

Carnival Knew It Had a Problem, but Kept the Party Going

More than 1,500 people on the company’s cruise ships have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and dozens have died.  What were the executives thinking?  BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

 

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