Archive for Ethics

Capitalism Made Me Do It

#45, Donald Trump the Elder is again weeping onto his gold cufflinks. This wee melodrama concerns his (and his daughter Ivanka’s) foreign sourcing. In the midst of his ironically misnamed Made In America Week, the House of Trump source their booze, clothes and tchotchkes typically via Chinese or Pakistani sweatshops.

He, honestly truly, pulled out the basest of disingenuities — he and his daughter are forced, forced they tell us, to use the suppliers who offer the lowest prices. That’s the evil corollary of one of the big lies of fantasy capitalism. That is, the only duty of managers is to maximize profit. Anything else is an abrogation of duty of shareholders, a failure.

Well, kiddies. That’s hooey.

First, if capitalism was its perfect version, if supply-and-demand worked as promised, there would be some justification for such amorality. Alas, we live in a nation of oligopoly and monopoly and government protection of and intervention for corporations.

Businesses in general do not respond to the ideal market forces in timely fashion. They really can’t claim they must do this or that when they have real reasons and choices. Nothing demands they be brutal and vicious to make a profit, much less that maximum short-term profit is the only goal.

Pic Note: Public domain image of a 1913 Ford assembly plant.

Let’s think about a serious capitalist, a certain Henry Ford. He loved his money and made a lot of it. Yet he was much, much smarter than #45.

For example, Unlike textile magnates, railroad builders and mine owners, he took a broad view as well as a narrow one (yes, Ford was savvy enough to look short and long simultaneously).

He pioneered the assembly line, but was not a vampire or monster about it. He paid more than other manufacturing owners…and for good reason. As he put it, he wanted his workers to earn enough to buy the cars they made. And they did, which made him even richer than if he had underpaid and overworked them.

Today, this Trump character claims that because he got a transfer undergraduate degree from a good business school and that he didn’t totally blow his multi-million dollar inheritance, he is the epitome of a capitalist. He also claims that he’ll make America great again while hiring American and buying American.

The latter set is total jive. His companies source overseas from the cheapest, from steel to finished goods to contractors. He seems to get the maximum-profit sliver of capitalism. He misses the broad view that Ford understood well.

So, consider whether any of the Trumps or any business owner at all made a slightly smaller profit margin, while helping their workers, industry, state and nation grow and prosper. The mindless subset of self-proclaimed capitalist may scream that the shareholders would never allow that and would force them out.

Of course in Donald and Ivanka’s cases, that won’t happen. They don’t lead public corporations. Even if they did though, the optics and PR of (pause to allow the Ann Coulter types of retch) the gentle altruism of helping the nation and workers would surely hold the day. The greediest of shareholders might switch their investment to a more parasitic company. Meanwhile, we see that socially responsible companies do quite well, thank you very much, and have no problem attracting cash.

Capitalism has its uses, but hiding behind it simply to exploit does not serve anyone in the supply chain or in this case the nation. I fear #45 does not have the brain power to see the issues, much less to lead the nation in solving them.

 

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Inevitable GOP Grudge

About that cliché of elephants never forgetting, U.S. Republicans truly do not, ever. It happened with Nixon and we are still bearing the aftereffects. It’s about to happen again with Trump.

When Pres. Richard Nixon slithered out of the White House in disgrace, that was a not-to-be-forgotten humiliation, for the party more than for Tricky Dick.  That POTUS hopped about between amoral, immoral and criminal. He snuck away before the Senate could impeach him, and then his VP-becoming-President Gerald Ford pardoned him, so he never faced criminal trials and certainty of prison.

Years later, Nixon was re-imaged as a statesman. In fairness, as terrible as he was domestically and as much as he disdained democracy, our laws and the Constitution, he had foreign-policy credentials — much stronger than any Democratic President since FDR.

In those ways of escaping impeachment, get-out-of-jail-free cards, and rehabilitation, he fared much better than he deserved. Nonetheless, the GOP has never forgotten his disgraced exit.

I have no doubt that is why they so eagerly pursued Bill Clinton’s impeachment, constantly threatened Barack Obama with various legal actions, and did beyond their best to smear and bring bogus charges against Hillary Clinton. They don’t, can’t, won’t forget.

So here we are coming around the flee or take-it bend with Donald Trump. As has been the norm with post-WWII GOP Presidents, his appointees and staff are resigning or facing various charges. That won’t stop.

As it all closes in on this young presidency for an old man/boy, at some point he is likely to realize he’s cooked and facing either absconding or impeachment. I have predicted here that he is most likely to play his usual drama queen, quitting while saying the mean old media and Congress won’t let him do wonderful things and save the nation.

While it is possible he might stick it out and take impeachment, I don’t think that would give him the deniability he so often uses.

When he is forced from office one way or another, the GOP also will not forget. Already, they bait-and-switch with Dem miscreants. Of course Bill Clinton accepted fellatio in the White House, former Rep. Anthony Weiner is a pathetic sexter, and a handful of other Dems have run afoul of laws or social norms. They can’t or won’t consider the huge number of their party who are proven crooks, adulterers and worse. It’s key to pretend here.

The point is when Trump stomps away, that will be the real beginning of the newest GOP feud and grudge fest. They will live and act primarily to pay back Dems for anything that happened with their guys, regardless of how many Republicans joined in calling out and punishing Trump and his minions.

Personal responsibility is not a Republican hallmark.

Of course, for the nation, the big pity is that we have much to accomplish to fix problems and to advance us economically, socially and politically. When Republican office holders are as stupid, malicious and counterproductive as they were with Obama, much less gets done.

Still, let’s get on with it. Dump Trump, and accept that the GOP will play at revenge instead of cleaning their own house. As a group, they just don’t have a culture of advancing the nation.

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Minor Trump Cautionary Tale

What is it about bad guys that makes them think they are so clever? Whether’s a courtroom or police procedural drama, the murderers, thieves, spies and such get their smugness botoxed from their faces when they are undone.

A certain current POTUS has clearly spent too much of his life feeling clever. Perhaps underlings do not unmask him because of his inherited wealth or because of their jobs or deals depend on him is moot. He blusters, lies and deludes himself nonstop.

Those of us who came of age with Perry Mason or Columbo or Watergate hearings know how that invariably ends. The clever are the fools in waiting. Cleverness inevitably falls to real smarts.

Just following Jim Comey’s written and oral testimony in the past few days, we saw taunting, delusional tweeting by Trump and even a cleverness blowup by his private attorney.

#45 asserted that he was completely vindicated. The opposite was true, not even counting what we did not get to hear in closed session. Then bumbling lawyer  Marc Kasowitz turned up the cleverness dial by pretending that Comey had leaked classified and privileged documents and so screwed up the timeline and cause-and-effect that even his leak lie had no punch.

There’s the big lesson we should all learn by observing criminals and politicians. If you think you are being clever, you are not.

Retrace, rethink, and forget that. If you are invested in how an idea and stance fool everyone else, you are the fool.

We saw that in Richard Nixon’s I-am-not-a-crook ploy. At hand, Trump moderately successfully smeared his primary and general election opponents with flaky, dishonest and dishonorable derision. Perhaps worst was corrupt Hillary, while he and his nepotistic administration are proving his lifelong pattern of corruption. The stains he rubs on others end up on his hands.

Numerous good writers have supported the same cliché — if you love a phrase in your work, delete it. That’s the cleverness parallel.

Poor, dumb Donny Jo is not likely to get it. He remains the smart aleck blurting out his embarrassing joke again and again. He awaits the praise of the teacher and students…praise unlikely to come. And the ensuing laughs are not in appreciation.

 

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Trump Kicks Against Goads

Lackaday, Donny Jo. The huge lesson before you will not disappear by neglect or denial. Our incidental POTUS has again chosen to teeter on the most dangerous path — feigning innocence while humming, “Catch me if you can.”

He returned from a disastrous foreign trip, replete with numerous Administration scandals, to assert all are fake news. We can easily understand why someone so dull-witted would rely on the artifice that has worked for him several times. Unfortunately for him (think Dunning-Kruger effect) as so many other dummies and mommy’s boys, he is not aware of the limits of such bluster.

I believe the current set of problems is beyond even his B.S. powers. He is no Mandrake the Magician or Obi-Wan Kenobi. He cannot misdirect the world’s attention from these entanglements.

Take his central premise — detailed, multi-sourced reporting by the likes of the WaPo and NYT are made up because the first wave of articles does not list every source. Each of us uses the internet and knows the stupidity and duplicity of trolls who demand details and links to all sources so that can find nits to pick and then claim everything is a fake, fake news in this case.

His double dog dare to reputable media can only backfire repeatedly and continuously. Only one actor here is a serial, pathological liar. As the evidence mounts and more witnesses are emboldened, his bluster will sound fainter and fainter. As his minions, including his son-in-law, face accusations to charges to trials or pleas, his imagined control will vanish.

Until recently, I bought into the concept that a GOP-dominated Senate would never impeach Trump. Yet, he has overplayed his had so far and given leeway to way too many corrupt buddies, I do not see any clean way out for him.

Were he more noble or driven by grand aims, he might be seen as a tragic figure. This is simply low comedy. The man is too dumb to know how to pick a fight he has a shot at winning.

 

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Trump Doctrine: Olly olly oxen free

Muse for a moment on candidate Donald Trump’s preemptive slurs. Every opponent from any party got a toxic nickname. The overused term irony is apt here. In particular, he repeatedly called his Dem foe corrupt Hillary.

Even before he became POTUS, Trump’s business and legal dealings, ploys and questionable activities made it far too plain who was corrupt here. Smearing another does not absolve him.

Suddenly, as attention-getting as DT’s admitted or accused sexual misdeeds, his stiffing partners and contractors, his blatant self-dealing and conflicts of interest may be the sins of his version of the best and brightest. His cabinet and lower lackeys one after another drop out, are forced out, or operate under clouds worthy of Joe Btfsplk.

Pic Note: From an Al Capp strip via wikipedia. Fair use.

Several dropped out when they were proven dishonorable and liars. A surprising number of candidates seemed to know trouble when it called and did not risk taking a DT job.

Free Passes

More intriguing are the hide-and-see crew. They may hear that kids’ call olly olly oxen free and return without fear of being tagged (or put on trial). The current administration, as you might expect of any corrupt regime, is not shy about giving minions a free pass.

Already called back to base has been Kellyanne Conway. The nominal senior adviser will not face any charges for her egregious shilling of DT’s daughter Ivanka’s clothing line on national TV. The WH Counsel’s Office gave the free pass, claiming her clear violation of federal law was inadvertent.

This indeed is one of the principal definitions of corrupt. Promoting products to benefit the POTUS or his family is illegal for good reason. Doing so is corrupt.

Most recently up in the shame docket is AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. In sworn oral and written testimony to Congress and the FBI, he averred that he had no contact with Russian government officials during DT’s campaign. In fact, we know now that he had multiple meetings with the Russian ambassador and likely several phone conversations with other officials. Now he claims that they didn’t discuss campaign matters.

Do Laws Matter?

Prima facie it appears he violated campaign law, committed perjury several times and perhaps was even treasonous. Can his pro-active (a.k.a. defensive in DT’s case) pardon, like President Gerald Ford’s of disgraced POTUS Richard Milhous Nixon, lag far behind?

Dems in Congress scream for Sessions to resign. Even some Republicans who have any moral and patriotic fibers in their personal covering left are muttering for Sessions to recuse himself from any discussion or action of investigation of DT’s Russian connections.

Here’s betting DT stonewalls this. He’ll claim Sessions is fine and should continue as is. Of course, the rational world then immediately wonders

  • What the hell happened in the election
  • How pervasive and powerful was Russian interference and influence
  • What does Donny hide-my-taxes owe to Russians
  • Was DT blackmailed by Russians
  • Did Sessions act as pimp for DT and Putin politically

If DT calls Sessions home free, that could be a serious error. With the corrupt appointees clinging to free base, all eyes will be on DT. How corrupt was and is he?

The game is afoot, but it’s not as simple as hide and seek.

 

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Conan v. Thumper, a Resist Lesson

Nearly a decade tutorial should be enough. D.C. Republicans channeled Conan the Barbarian, while in their turn, Dems played the well-socialized Thumper.

Here’s the obvious call — Congressional GOP’ers have far overplayed their hand. The Dems have played like UUs, respecting others. Democrats need to be ready to follow the Republican lead, tromping as well as smiling and caressing.

We heard the calumnies of Barack Obama as he campaigned for the POTUS spot and then held it. The incredible hypocrisy of yelling, “Unfair!,” while claiming Dems are trying to delegitimatize Trump’s Presidency goes beyond risible.

Too nasty v. too nice

Let us frame GOP obstructionism and deceit in cinematic terms. Recall Conan’s answer to his general to what is best in life, “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.” This is precisely what the Republican Congress has been doing, continuing into the new administration. It’s scorched earth, regardless of how much it hurts the nation and its citizens.

In contrast, Dems have continued to play by the rules. They seem to be a bunch of UUs, They live out the Seven Principles and continue to hope and even expect Republicans will do likewise. After all, this is how Boomers were raised. In light of lessons from the WWII generation, religion, movies, TV and books, we learned about good and bad behavior, playing fair and civility. Dems are much more like Thumper from Bambi, whose catch-phrase was “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

It’s one-sided respect and fairness.

The GOP is likely to keep control of Congress through 2018. There’s a shot at 2020 or 2022 to flip Congress. The Dems are working hard at the state level, and the current administration’s certain failures to meet promises and goals will catch up. When those who stupidly believe that the media is dishonest and corrupt, not the GOP in D.C. have to accept reality once again, the current destructive bums will go.

That will not be another time for Dems to forgive and forget. Republicans have shown themselves too long in too many ways to be without fairness, graciousness or honor.

While I can’t believe Dems will ever behave as disgracefully as Republicans have, Resist cannot end with a Congress rife with Thumpers.

Dems don’t even need to threaten them with saying, “You’re only getting what you gave us.” There will surely be lamentations of their lawmakers. Yet, that will just be background music. Meanwhile resurgent Dems need to take charge thoroughly. Let the bad guys beg for compromise, which they never gave nor accepted. Then the Dems can consider it.

No more Thumpers.

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:Hillary’s Email (Eek! Mail) Podcast

No free ride for Hillary Clinton. Yes, the FBI cleared her of criminal wrongdoing in its probe of her use of private email servers. Yet, it deemed that doing so was “extremely careless” and in particular did not follow federal protocols for archiving government records.

Those who hated and slandered her before are not about to start publicly apologizing to her or those in their social-media feeds. Plus, the fast majority of us who have been saying for a year or more that this would be the result also haven’t changed our opinion.

My questions were more along the lines of what does this mean to the third to half of the electorate who hadn’t totally made up their minds? I talk through why I think it will be a wash for her. The moderates and independents are likely to be more open to her. She’ll be a bump from the pending Democratic convention. The Hillary and sick-of-Democrats-in-the-White-House types won’t change their minds at all. I bet she’ll get a very modest bump in the polls when this settles.

 

icon for podpress  Hillary's Eek-mail [22:42m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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Responsibility?

A current mean is asking whether something is “still a thing.” Let’s consider personal responsibility in that big pile.

Perhaps the most obvious cases are the far too many caught on video and by witnesses where cops kill unarmed, non-threatening civilians and face zero punishment or even charges. “I felt threatened” seems too often to immediately convince prosecutors and internal-affairs sorts that all is right.

It isn’t. We see in other professions as well (think doctors and financial execs) that self-policing and such oversight are risible. Cultural change is necessary.

The ideas and ideals boomers saw and heard everywhere included being held accountable for bad actions. Books, movies and of course parents and clerics taught that if you did something bad, there were consequences.

The norm now is what tricks can you pull to avoid punishment or even accusation. Bad drivers skate with “unfortunate accident” for their most egregious, fatal sins.

Enough with this.

icon for podpress  Responsibility? [20:31m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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Alex Buck Podcast

Not your usual politician, as Alex Buck describes himself, joined us today to pitch his positions and his aims if he becomes Susan Fargo’s replacement in the MA Senate for 3rd Middlesex. He says he tells voters in his front door speech that’s one of his pluses.

He warned us that his campaign site is almost fleshed out, but won’t get his platform and issues for a few more days. Meanwhile, click below to hear his views and goals on a very wide range, from education to taxes to growing our economy to mass transit to the role of government.

Buck layered a masters in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School on his mechanical engineering bachelors. He talks about his vision for an economy that educates for and enables the likes of life sciences, biotech and clean energy. He is firmly against giving tax breaks to individual companies (comparing that the mere fertilizer when an industry’s entire environment should foster all companies who enter it or expand in it).

He sees education from all-day kindergarten through public support to keep state colleges affordable to workplace education as pivotal to building and expanding these essential industries. Listen in as he addresses why he thinks we are one of the few places in the country that can pull this off.

This was the fourth in the 3rd Middlesex Senate series. Mara Dolan was the first, Mike Barrett the second, and Joe Kearns Goodwin the third.

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Grossman Casinos Podcast

Steve Grossman talked casinos, commissioners, goals, and site awards with us for the law in place to allow three casinos and a single slots parlor in MA. The public wants action — revenue, short and long-term jobs, and other proof that large-scale commercial gambling (euphemistically gaming) beyond the lottery is the right thing to do.

Treasurer and Receiver General Steve Grossman joined Left Ahead today for an abbreviated (20-minute) show focused precisely on the what-now factor. Click the player below to hear what he says about:

  • Selection of the five commissioners to set up and oversee the works
  • What we expect to gain from the operations
  • How fast we ramp up
  • What his concerns are about the commissioner he picks, the two others he co-chooses, and the whole process

Even though he’s the commonwealth’s pivotal money man and financial policy visionary, Grossman is quick to point out that he’s largely a spectator once the commission’s in place and the sites are awarded. He guides at this stage and then has to be hands off. Ideally, he’ll be figuratively counting money from the operational proceeds.

It was just he and I today on this short show. I was plain about my trepidation.

Grossman inspires the obvious observation that he was an Eagle Scout and like most of them largely remains the honest and stalwart fellow. In that vein, he stressed how demanding he will be in his choice of commissioner. The Governor has already chosen the chair, the Attorney General gets a pick, and the three of them agree among themselves on the other two to make five. The process at least on paper/online looks like the qualifications in the description and application will avoid conflicts of interest, guarantee objectivity as much as humanly possible, and bring the proper mix of relevant knowledge and skills. Check the commonwealth site here for the specs and application.

I was also very concerned about the vague and seemingly naive objectives in the law itself. Scroll to lines 138 through 149 for key goals. Pretty much, the lawmakers and governor want new jobs as well as protection and expansion of local business and tourism.

These generalizations are a far cry from what is in the literature about successful implementations of gambling facilities. Most of those are overseas and typically took years of planning and bids that required the investing company to spend tens of millions meeting the governments specifications in elaborate proposals. The clearest case I heard was from casinos expert Prof. William Eadington at a recent Rappaport forum.

While Grossman did not promise that level of smart planning, he did agree with the concepts. Listen in as he describes that meter running. He figures we have one chance to do this right. He wants the commonwealth, in the form of him, the AG, Governor and commission, to apply principles like those he used in his successful business. He does not want anyone rushing and expects high quality instead of speed of implementation.

Likewise, he spoke of trying to capture the revenue that goes to out-of-state casinos and would not promise an effort to attract out-of-state and out-of-U.S. tourists. However, he likes the ideas behind the successful implementations in foreign casinos. Those typically built such attractive tourist resorts that they are true destinations, ones where the wealthy happily bring their families for a week or more, shopping, dining,clubbing, sightseeing, and sure, gambling too. He said that is possible here as well.

He promised updates as the process continues. We intend to take him up on that.

Cross-post:
This also appears at BlueMassGroup.

~Mike

icon for podpress  Steve Grossman [20:32m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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