Monthly Archives: August 2018

ON GOD AND POLITICS

The following is an article written by Robert Levy, an attorney and former chairman of the Cato Institute.

“Last year, I was on a panel discussing a provocative play by Suzanne Bradbeer, The God Game.  The play’s protagonist is Tom, an agnostic-leaning-atheist vice-presidential wannabe who is offered a shot on the ticket if he will falsely affirm his belief in God.  Like most political candidates, Tom is convinced he can do great things for the country—but first he must lie about one of his deep-rooted convictions.  That quandary raises several public-policy questions that might interest” blog “readers.

“First:  Today’s voters seem to accept religious differences.  We’ve had a Catholic president, a Mormon presidential candidate, and a Jewish vice-presidential candidate.   Doesn’t that belie the underlying premise of The God Game—that is, voters will reject a candidate who doesn’t profess a religious belief?  According to a 2012 Gallup poll, the premise is still correct, despite evidence of increasing religious tolerance.  When voters were asked if they would support a well-qualified presidential candidate who was an atheist, 46 percent said ‘No.’”  Comparable percentages of voters who have a problem supporting a qualified presidential candidate who is:  African Americans 4%, Jewish 9%, Gay 31% and Muslin 42%.  “Apparently, voters care less about race, sexual orientation, and minority religious views (Catholic, Jewish, Mormon) than they do about belief in God.  The exception—most likely for geopolitical reasons—is concern about the Muslim faith.  Even that aversion is less than voter antipathy toward atheists.

“Second:  Politicians often dissemble to justify their ends.  Obama said we could keep our health plan; Bush II equivocated about Iraq; Clinton lied about Lewinsky, Nixon about Watergate, and Johnson about Vietnam.  Why should voters be even more hostile when a candidate prevaricates about religion?  My best guess:  Religion is a core value.  Lying about such a value is more serious and reflects more on the candidate’s character than, say, lying about whether health insurance will be canceled.  If the only way to get elected is to falsely claim theism, and if voters discover the deception, the end will not justify the means.

“Third:  Shouldn’t religion be a private matter—that is, none of the public’s business?  Ordinarily yes, but once a person becomes a candidate for national elective office, his private affairs become public.  Voters demand full disclosure about religious beliefs that might have an impact on political decisions.  Suppose, for example, a religion disavowed all medical care or endorsed pacifism, jihadism, racism, sexism, or homophobia.  Surely, voters should know if a candidate embraces that religion and those beliefs.

“Fourth:  Are there constitutional issues related to the precondition in The God Game that Tom must profess religious beliefs?  After all, Article VI states that ‘no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to an Office or public Trust under the United States.’  That question reflects a common misconception about the nature and purpose of our Constitution.  It has two primary objectives:  to secure individual rights and to limit the power of government.  The Constitution does not constrain candidates or political parties or voters; it’s a code of conduct for the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.  Importantly, in The God Game, there are no actions by government that would affect Tom’s decision to run or not.  It’s up to him—shaped of course by his assessment of whether he can win and his willingness to compromise his principles.

“Fifth:  The Declaration speaks of unalienable rights endowed by our creator.  How can that be reconciled with the Constitution’s prohibition on the establishment of religion?  There’s no conflict.  Several of the Framers were deists—meaning they believed in God as creator, not a God who interacts with mankind on an ongoing basis.  For constitutional purposes, however, that belief is irrelevant.  Our constitutional framework does not hinge on the question of whether rights come from God, nature, or some other source.  The key point is, they do not come from the king.  Individuals have rights, independent of and prior to government.  Rights come first; then we secure those rights to delegating limited and enumerated powers to a government bound by a written Constitution.  That document does not separate God from our lives; but it does separate God from government.

“Historically, our political leaders have been theists—not surprisingly, because the overall population is overwhelmingly theist.  But even when those leaders have actually been religious figures, such as Rev. Martin Luther King, the public-policy ends they sought and the justifications they advanced were secular, not religious.  King did not insist that everyone should be a Christian because Christians believe in racial equality.  He insisted that everyone—Christians and non-Christians alike—should believe in racial equality on moral and constitutional grounds.”

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THE EVOLUTION OF CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY

The fundamental and primary purpose, as well as obligation, of any business is to provide a service or products to satisfy customers that will provide employees compensation and job retention commensurate with their skills, as well as remuneration to their investors.  To do all this, the company must make a profit.

That in and of itself is the fulfillment of their responsibility to the community at large.  A company that cannot meet these standards and goes out of business is abrogating its principal social responsibility to its customers, its employees, its investors and the community.

If it can, in addition to its mission as we have outlined it, provide some measure of social responsibility to the community, so much the better.

To whatever extent time and profits allow and are available good business practice recommends contributions to the communities’ needs.  Companies have for many years donated resources and money to this endeavor.

Way back in the 30’s this was called community service.  The Little League baseball parks in all the small towns had its outfield walls covered with ads from local businesses—the gasoline station, cleaners, grocer and drug store.  This paid for the players’ jerseys and the equipment.

By the time we got to the 60’s, this endeavor was called “Public Relations” and went way beyond Little League.  Now there were sponsorships of community-wide events and civic affairs on a large scale, and then became “Community Relations.”

This all grew into the naming of sports venues, big money sponsorship of spelling bees, debate competition, golf tournaments, and all manner of community activities.  Companies do this to help the communities and present a good image.

As we got past the turn of the century, with growing concerns for the environment, all this community outreach expanded into “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR).  How do you define CSR?

CSR programs allow companies to plan the elimination of their waste and have as little impact on the environment as possible.  A positive impact on society may be accomplished through educational and social programs.  The social programs can include charities and using locally-grown products.

The term CSR originated in the 1960s as a term used to explain legal and moral responsibilities of a corporation.

This new paradigm was brought home to me in hearing about Gabriele’s grandson’s immersion in CSR as a business school graduate at the University of Colorado.

Here is a partial description of Nathan’s outline of the CSR educational goals:

“The Six Prime Principles of CSR provide us with a roadmap for how best to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) into management education through the implementation of transformative, issue-centered learning and extensive reflective practice and fieldwork.  Transformative learning involves profoundly understanding oneself in relation to colleagues, communities, ecosystems and their interdependencies.  In the implementation of PRME Principles 2 and 3, individuals undergo a process of introspection, exploring and revising their beliefs, values, behavior, and their unconscious bias.  In issue-centered learning, students apply their values to global issues through a methodological framework that entails a holistic and inclusive perspective of society, the environment and economics.  Issue-centered learning is fundamentally multidisciplinary, adopting a systems approach to problem-solving, which enables future globally responsible leaders to practice complex decision-making processes while maintaining consideration for all aspects of the triple bottom line.  Lastly, reflective practice and fieldwork include a non-textbook approach to education, where students receive invaluable experiential learning.  Internships and project work can substitute for the textbook and give students a hands-on experience of business concepts through practical ventures.  This empirical form of learning coincides with the last three PRME principles of research, partnership, and dialogue.  Future globally responsible leaders develop invaluable connections, tools, and experience to successfully better the world by helping to achieve the SDGs with business knowledge as their weapon.

“The implementation of this roadmap empowers students to become set to deliver immeasurable impact as sustainable entrepreneurs, responsible leaders, and enlightened statesmen capable of reflective awareness.  As sustainable entrepreneurs, they will maintain a visionary and long-term perspective, ensuring that SDGs such as responsible consumption and production and climate action are valued.  As responsible leaders, they will focus on inclusion and promote gender equality and reduce inequalities.”

Heavy stuff…and now he’s successfully practicing this course of action with a firm in San Diego.

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THE MAKING OF A RELATIONSHIP

A friend asked, “How do two strong-willed people—control freaks to boot—manage a successful relationship”?  I chuckled and replied, “That’s a good question.”

I’ve already described in a blog (7/15/15) how we each took responsibility for various elements of our living together.  This question seemed to require a more meaningful answer.

In business, we had each been the number one, the boss, and so we came together with very decided views on a number of things.

Perhaps the best illustration of our success occurred when we agreed to live together some 20 plus years ago.  We were thinking of maintaining our separate domiciles—Gabriele in Santa Monica, me in the Marina—and buying a condo somewhere in Orange County for weekends.  We were both still working so maybe a weekend place somewhere like San Juan Capistrano would be a workable plan.

On a flyer one Saturday afternoon, we went to take a look at a condo in a gated community here in the Marina.  The complex was nicely landscaped, had an attractive pool area and tennis courts.  The unit was on the top floor with two bedrooms and a loft.  It was quite spacious with 2,250 square feet and had lots of windows and light.

The one drawback was how the owner, the V.P. of Saudi American Airlines, had decorated the place.  The living room had pink and aluminum wallpaper floor to 20-foot ceiling with dull dark grey carpet.  The rest of the place was similarly decorated.

The next morning I casually asked Gabriele, “So you want to make an offer on that unit”?  She looked at me a little wild eyed and said, “You’re crazy, it’s horrible.”  I replied that I knew that.  We’d have to gut it down to the barest beginnings and start over.

Gabriele said one other, for her, major problem.  The unit’s kitchen had a right-handed layout and she’s left handed.  I said I didn’t know rooms were left or right handed.  She explained that the dishwasher was on the right side of the sink and she would have trouble reaching down to put the dishes in.  So we really gutted the whole place.

We made an offer, bought the unit, and started dealing with Frank, the contractor from hell.  We had a lot of help from Bonnie Sachs, who had helped me design my previous condo, as well as my office.

Long story, but here’s what I wanted to get to.  Gabriele and I agreed easily on wall colors, furniture, carpet, drapes, and everything Bonnie recommended.

We had one problem.  We didn’t agree on what to put on the walls.  We had very different tastes in that area.  My inclinations were to bold Native American and very modernistic expressions.  Gabriele had an accumulation of very conservative contemporary art.

Having accumulated our own stuff, we worked out an arrangement where we assigned walls to house our individual stuff.  It worked out pretty smoothly.  Over time we also began to acquire art and artifacts in our travels to South Africa, Mendocino, Thailand, Vietnam, Santa Fe and Sedona that we both agreed upon.

We easily agreed that I would do the travel planning and Gabriele would keep the community checkbook and the kitchen.  I got the chores she didn’t want; i.e., emptying the dishwasher and taking out the garbage.

So here was the answer to the friend’s question on how two very directed, opinionated people could make a relationship work.  Find an area of disagreement, like art, and assign walls.

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CURRENT EVENTS – AUGUST, 2018

Support for tariffs, but not trade wars

A UBS poll of 300 business owners shows that 88 percent believe that China engages in unfair trade practices, and 71 percent approve of additional tariffs being imposed on that nation.  But 49 percent think that a full-blown trade war with China will hurt America’s economy.

Another UBS poll of 501 high net worth investors shows that 92 percent think that China engages in unfair trade practices and that 59 percent approve of further tariffs, but 74 percent think a trade war would hurt the U.S. economy.

One way to parse those results:  Business owners and investors think that President Trump’s policies are justified, but require delicacy.

More trade:  Mr. Trump’s truce with Europe means he can double down on China, but Beijing says that pressure won’t work.  And Sono’s I.P.O. reveals a trade war is a new risk to going public.

Enough is enough, Mr. Mueller

The intense ongoing confrontation between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and President Trump is harming the entire country.  People are taking sides and are despising each other, the stock market is wary, and foreign governments are sensing potential weakness.

Mr. Mueller must understand that unless there is demonstrable evidence of serious coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian government agents during the 2016 election, the case is not worth pursuing.  Going after “obstruction” or other after-the-fact allegations is garbage.  Nitpicking or contriving criminal activity at this level does the nation grievous harm.

On the other side, it is only fair to let Mr. Mueller state his case.  To shut down this investigation would be a major mistake and would severely damage the country.  But Robert Mueller should understand that his staff is not a wrecking crew.  He has a responsibility to present strong evidence of serious wrongdoing or walk away with a detailed explanation of his investigation.

If Mr. Mueller is truly a patriot, he will wrap up his now 14-month probe before the midterm election.  If he cannot accomplish that, he should explain why.

Do the right thing.  Don’t hurt the country, Mr. Mueller.

Israel has more to worry about than Hamas

Tom Friedman of the N.Y. Times tells us that the Israeli situation is fraught with the consequences of a three-partner marriage.

Hamas has adopted an intractable, inflexible attitude of protest in the Gaza Strip and Israeli P.M. Bebe Netanyahu has taken the same approach to expanding settlements in the West Bank.

This is where that third person in the marriage comes in:  Mother Nature—i.e., demographics and ecosystem destruction.

In March, Reuters reported from Jerusalem:  “The number of Jews and Arabs between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River is at or near parity, figures cited by Israeli officials show, raising questions whether Israel can remain a democracy if it keeps territory where Palestinians seek a state.”

There are now about 2.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank, 2 million in Gaza, and 1.84 million Israeli Arabs, for a total of about 6.5 million.  That is roughly the same as the number of Jews living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.  If current birthrate trends continue, the Jews will likely become a minority, with all of the negative governing consequences that will entail.

And then there’s this:  Repeated Hamas rocket attacks that led to an Israeli blockade of building supplies, electricity shortages due to intra-Palestinian feuding, and Hamas’ regular use of building material to dig tunnels to penetrate Israel have led to a critical shortage of infrastructure in Gaza, particularly sewage treatment plants.  So Gazans now dump about 100 million liters of raw sewage into the Mediterranean  daily, explained Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East, which promotes peace through environmental collaboration.

Because of the prevailing current, most of that sewage flows northward to the Israeli beach town of Ashkelon, the site of Israeli’s second-biggest desalination plant.  Eighty percent of Israel’s drinking water comes from desalination, with 15 percent of the nation’s drinking water coming from the Ashkelon plant.  But now Gaza’s waste is floating into Ashkelon’s desalination plant, and the plant has had to close several times to clean Gaza’s gunk out of its filters.

“So this idea that we can just get out of Gaza, throw away the key and forget about it is a total illusion,” said Bromberg.

Moreover, the renewable extraction rate for Gaza’s underground aquifer is about 60 million cubic meters of rain water annually, noted Bromberg, but Gazans have been drawing about 200 million cubic meters a year for over a decade, “so the aquifer has gotten drained and seawater has seeped into it, and many people are now drinking water that is both salty and polluted with sewage.”

Gazans now spend 20 to 30 percent of their income trying to buy clean water, he said.

In a few years, the next protest from Gaza will not be organized by Hamas, but by mothers because typhoid and cholera will have spread through the fetid water and Gazans will all have had to stop drinking it.  “Then you could see two million coming to the border fence with Israel with empty buckets, begging for clean water,” said Bromberg.  “We’re heading in that direction.”

The plan to divide fails, now a plan to secede prepares

Tech millionaire Tom Steyer’s plan to divide California into three states got enough signatures for the ballot, but the coast said, “it doesn’t qualify.”

Now a group of Native American activists have been given the go ahead to gather signatures for a ballot measure that would have California secede from the U.S. and establish an independent nation of Native Americans in the central part of the state.

Anyone else have any ideas on what to do with California?

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HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY CRYING

This is an article written by Kenneth Best in UCONN Magazine.  He outlines why making it to the next management level may have a lot more to do with your EQ (emotional intelligence) than your IQ.

“Identifying your managers with the potential to steadily require the skills needed to take on new and increasingly greater job responsibilities is one of the keys to success in every organization.  But the path to acquiring such developmental job experience is paved with challenges that must be faced and overcome.  A new study indicates that whether a young manager is likely to succeed or fail at those challenges is determined less by their intelligence, knowledge, or schooling than by the strength of their emotional intelligence or EQ—the ability to manage one’s own emotions as well as read those of others.

“Taking on new responsibilities that require on-the-job learning can push young managers out of their comfort zones, which is when an individual’s EQ comes into play, says Yuntao Dong, assistant professor of management in the School of Business.  The question becomes whether the manager will find positive ways to meet challenges or fall into a negative mindset and a fear of failure.

“Dong, aided by University of Maryland management professors, studied 214 early-career managers enrolled in a part-time MBA program.  They found that those with high emotional intelligence were better able to cope with the struggles and challenges of new responsibilities, while the same struggles and challenges put those who demonstrated lower EQs at higher risk for leaving their jobs.  Dong recommends that organizations gradually increase the level of new challenges for young managers and also provide more support for them as they encounter difficulty in working through their new responsibilities.

“`If they want to maintain their high potential employees, companies need to have a flexible culture to show them to make mistakes and give them opportunities to make up for their mistakes,’ says Dong, who teaches classes in Managerial and Interpersonal Behavior at UCONN.

“She cites one young manager studied, who was given the responsibility for several elements of a major marketing campaign that required much travel and coordination of the project’s logistics.  The manager became frustrated by the amount of detail involved, said he felt underappreciated by supervisors, and subsequently left the company.

“Another manager studied was assigned to lead a task force team in a government agency with the goal of eliminating operational redundancy and increasing efficiency.  After some initial concerns about the scope of the assignment, this manager asked colleagues for advice and negotiated a change in some other responsibilities with her supervisor that allowed her to successfully complete the project.  She was promoted to a new position as a program director.

“`Young managers with the ability to recognize, understand, and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others handle challenges better,’ says Dong.  ‘If you are developing someone and you think they are promising, you want to develop their emotional intelligence.’

“Among the challenges faced by new managers are unfamiliar responsibilities, implementing change, higher levels of risk attached to new responsibilities, working across supervisory lines with little authority, and leading people across different cultural, racial, gender, or functional backgrounds.

“`We think training will be helpful, particularly for their emotional preparation,’ says Dong.  ‘Even with training, they still can get overwhelmed because they are getting more challenges.’

“This dynamic plays out in other arenas and in group situations, too.  Dong says she often sees examples of varied emotional intelligence in her students when they are assigned to work in small groups of four or five.

“`I’ve seen groups that can’t work together on the simplest tasks,’ she says.  ‘They have little experience solving problems.  I have to teach them that avoiding conflict is never a good way to deal with conflict.  You have to face it, talk about it, and solve it.  I also tell my students they have control over what will happen.  You are the person who appraises the situation.  When you are given autonomy you have to be able to deal with it and the challenges associated with that leadership—and always look for the unexpected outcome and be prepared for it.’”

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