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Legalized Corruption

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014


I rarely write about politics, but it’s that time of year; I live on the border between two states and have to listen to political ads from both. So please, if this post offends you accept my apologies and wield your delete key.

My feelings are driven by the smugness I see across the political spectrum irregardless of parties and beliefs.

Smugness regarding the rarity of corruption in the US vs. its prevalence in other countries.

The way I see it, corruption in the US is rare primarily because it’s been legalized in the form of lobbying and PACs.

Lobbying has long influenced legislation, but as of 2010, when the Supreme Court effectively eliminated restrictions on outside groups, elections themselves went up for sale.

If you doubt me look no farther than the Americans for Prosperity, owned and run by the Koch brothers, which will spend at least $125 million this year, and the growth of super PACs overall.

In 2000, outside groups spent $52 million on campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By 2012, that number had increased to $1 billion. (…) In 2014, as of early October, when the campaigns

had yet to do their big final pushes, overall spending was already more than $444 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Roughly $231 million was from the parties and their congressional committees, the rest from outside spending. The biggest chunk of that by far came from super PACs — more than $196 million.

What each of these wealthy individuals have in common is passion, but unbridled passion is the hallmark of the fanatic—and fanaticism paves the road to a closed mind—one that is evidenced by fear, hate and bigotry.

Legal corruption or not, voting is important—if for no other reason than not voting precludes your right to complain.

Or, as my mom used to say when faced with two bad choices, just “hold your nose” and vote against X as opposed to for Y.

And you can avoid the corruption by ignoring ads, whether pro or con, and evaluating candidates and issues in a holistic and pragmatic way that looks at what makes the most long-term sense.

Flickr image credit: DonkeyHotey

If the Shoe Fits: How Much Profit is Too Much?

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mDecades ago computer manufactures, such as IBM and DEC, created closed systems that wouldn’t/couldn’t talk to each other.

Apple chose to keep a closed system for years.

While closed systems seemed to enhance profitability, in the long-run the strategy failed to protect the companies from competition.

What closed systems did do was cost customers millions when, for business reasons, they had to be made to communicate.

Closed systems are back again only this time forcing compatibility is costing billions.

And it is you and I who will end up footing the cost.


Because this time the incompatibility is in the proprietary electronic medical records (EMR) systems that are mandated under the Affordable Care Act and, far more importantly, are an imperative for the health of the entire population.

The money in play is substantial; privately held Epic is one of the largest suppliers and its founder, Judith R. Faulkner, is supposed to be worth around $2.3 billion.

When you’re making that kind of money who worries about lives ruined or lost because of EMR incompatibility?

While the companies building incompatible systems are doing just fine, those who have to buy the systems aren’t—although size does make a difference.

The University of California Davis Health System has 22 specialists installing the technology so that doctors can share patient data between its Epic system and other internal systems, like the hemodynamic monitors in its critical care unit, or with some non-Epic systems outside the hospital. “We’re a huge organization, so we can absorb those costs,” said Michael Minear, the chief information officer at the U.C. Davis Health System. “Small clinics and physician offices are going to have a harder time.” (…) “The systems can’t communicate, and that becomes my problem because I cannot send what is required and I’m going to have a 1 percent penalty from Medicare,” Dr. Raghuvir B. Gelot said. “They’re asking me to do something I can’t control.”

What about regulators?

Regulators responded that interoperability was a “top priority” and that they recently set out a 10-year vision and agenda to achieve it, in an emailed statement from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The office’s spokesman added that achieving interoperability “requires stakeholders to come together and agree on policy-related issues like who can access information and for what purpose.”

So much for regulators.

Perhaps Congress… No; that’s a really stupid thought.

I guess the only sure things in all this is that the entrepreneurs who created the incompatible systems will increase their net worth, US medical costs will continue to skyrocket and you and I will pay the bills.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Do Words Matter?

Monday, October 28th, 2013


Have you ever take a step backwards from the point you are adamantly arguing and looked objectively at the end results of the two positions?

Ask the true believers of any question and they will assure you that the end result of their approach is vastly different from that of their verbal/ideological/actual opponent.

But is it really different?

Consider, for example, Malcolm Berko’s acerbic explanation of capitalism and socialism.

In a capitalist society, man exploits man, whereas in a socialist society, it’s the other way around.

Basically, the difference between the two is just a matter of degree. Russian politicians, with the approval of the government, rip off state-owned businesses and become millionaires or billionaires. In the process, the Russian citizen gets screwed.

In the U.S., JPMorgan Chase, Enron, Countrywide Financial, the United Auto Workers, the Teamsters, MCI WorldCom, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America rip off the consumer, and in the process, the politicians become wealthy and the American public gets screwed.

In actuality, the same actions yield the same results; only the terms used have changed.

But try telling that to someone who is passionately for or against.

Words equal spin and spin can suck you in; a good thing to remember considering everything going on, not to mention the upcoming elections.

Flickr image credit: moonrat42

Blog Action Day: Human Rights

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

kg_charles-harrisHuman Rights – something that is often talked about but little is done to define or uphold.

What is human rights?  It seems so right yet appears such a fable.   Most of the time we hear about human rights from some government official speaking about how some other government is negligent.  Yet it is never defined.

Is it privacy rights?  The right to use the internet without being monitored?  Is it the right to healthcare and education?  Is it having food, shelter, safety from violence?  Or is it to uphold human dignity?

We never quite know since it is never defined properly, or has so many definitions as to become worthless.  Is it the right for poor African Americans to be treated fairly under the law?  Male African Americans?  Why does the US with ¼ of the population of China have more than three times the amount of persons incarcerated?  Mostly black and Latino males?  Is this human rights?

Confusion is maybe the name of the game – as long as we don’t know what it is, it is a useful tool for controlling our thoughts and actions.  Who is it that want to make us act without thinking?  Who is it that defines another human being as an enemy and want us to take hostile action towards him/her?

Are there universal human desires?  For such things as food, safety, love, nurture, communion?  If there are, why are they not fulfilled?  Why do we allow ourselves to be derailed from attaining these and passing them on to others?  Is there any doubt that today we can easily feed the world and no one needs to go hungry?  Or that we can eradicate most of the common diseases that kill children?

We choose not to.

Isn’t there a gift in giving?  Why does it suit us to hoard “things” – money, land, items and safety?  If we recognize the universal desires and needs of our fellow humans, why don’t we work to get and give?  What is it that prevents us?

Ultimately, we want to receive from others, but need to be aware that giving is also receiving.  Can we reasonably expect to receive without being generous?  What is the origin of our selfishness?  Don’t we know better?

Neglecting to provide food to the hungry, clothing to the naked and safety to the threatened is antisocial behavior and lack of empathy.  Which of us have any remorse about this behavior?

Our conduct is very similar to the definition of psychopathy – “a personality trait or disorder characterized partly by enduring antisocial behavior, a diminished capacity for empathy or remorse, and poor behavioral controls” (Wikipedia).  All wealthy people and governments have the possibility to address the needs of human rights.  I define almost all of us living in North America and Europe as relatively wealthy, as well as large, affluent, segments of the developing world.

For whatever reason, we choose to exhibit this behavior.

Is there such a thing as human rights?

To psychopaths?

KG Charles-Harris is CEO of Emanio and a special contributor to MAPping Company Success.


Equality of Stupid

Monday, November 12th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/traftery/4439969563/If you follow any form of news you know that sexual foible has once again reared its immortal head and laid several leaders low.

This time, one of the high-flyers who fell was a woman.

David Petraeus, retired four-star general and director of the CIA, resigned, while Christopher Kubasik, destined to become Lockheed Martin CEO on January 1, was fired.

Their downfall was to be expected; every guy who has been caught playing around has watched his career sink in the harsh glare of the media spotlight.

The difference is that this time one of the women involved is being treated to that same spotlight.

Up to now Paula Broadwell has had the kind of career that positioned her for a stellar path over the next 25 years.

Her biography on the Penguin Speakers Bureau Web site says that she is a research associate at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. She received a master’s in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. A self-described “soccer mom” and an ironman triathelete…

40 is young to have your career cut short, but the American public is unforgiving when it comes to anything that involves sex—especially true in our wired world.

I’ve always found it amusing to hear it claimed that “a woman wouldn’t [X], they are different.”

I think women are capable of being just as arrogant, just as stupid and just as conniving as any male out there.

The difference lies more in their survival instinct, which has been honed by several thousand years of pure necessity.

So even as the coercion eases the instinct has stayed strong.

Additionally, it’s a numbers game.

There are far more high-profile males than high-profile females, so the number of men who act out and get stupid is significantly greater than the women who do the same thing.

Flickr image credit: Tom Raftery

Election Results Early

Monday, November 5th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/2312435878/In January, 2008, when I was writing Leadership Turn, I wrote that politicians aren’t leaders.

We have no leaders, let alone statesmen, just ideologues, elected by like-minded ideologues, who care only about getting reelected, bringing government money back to their constituency and making lucrative connections in the event they aren’t reelected or are caught by term limits.

The following month I considered the difference between politicians and statesmen.

Politicians talk it — Statesmen walk it
Politicians run to win — Statesmen run to serve
Politicians are ideologues — Statesmen are open-minded
Politicians, “it’s all about me” — Statesmen, “it’s all about them”
Politicians focus on the next election — Statesmen focus on the future

In 2010 I reprised parts from them in another post about the idiocy of ideology.

Einstein also said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Americans must be insane; we will go to the polls flip the party in charge and expect different results.
Based on the past, what we will get is a different ideology that screws up differently, not better results.

Sadly, nothing much has changed in the intervening years; a notion that will be proved tomorrow.

Please note that much of the interest and value in these posts is found in the comments and discussion they generated.

Flickr image credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Quotable Quotes: Campaigns of the Founding Fathers

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/2866174300/Are you as disgusted with political campaigning as I am?

The lies and slurs are tiresome no matter who you like, because, as we all know, the other side always lies.

Some feel the lies and attacks are far worse than ever before and long to return to a more civilized political era, such as that of our founding fathers.

The good news is that the lies and attacks aren’t worse, just more frequent.

The bad news is that our founding fathers were as bad if not worse.

And the prime mud, then as now, involved race and religion.

In 1796 and 1800 John Adams supporters accused Thomas Jefferson of being “godless” as well as sleeping with a slave.

“God and a religious president, or Jefferson and no God!” (…) Jefferson versus Adams may also have the dubious distinction of being the first time the so-called race card was played.

The information comes from a fascinating article that provides the rest of today’s quotes, along with excellent commentary and a sample of political cartoons that are markedly harsher than today’s.

As is frequently the case when it comes to politics, our perceptions about political election history are more a function of misconceptions colored by wishful thinking.

Flickr image credit: By Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Quotable Quotes: I Hate Politics 4

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

2344967308_a5409437aa_qHere is the fourth installment of comments about politics; if you missed the previous ones you may find them here 1, 2, and 3. You’ll notice I named the third one “I Hate Politics 3,” which was actually an error, but one I like, so I’m going to continue using it.

Politicians come from varied backgrounds; in times past most were lawyers, but these days they are truly anything; or, as Robert Louis Stevenson so aptly puts it, Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.

Gore Vidal adds a telling comment to that with which I totally agree, Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so.

As campaigns heat up the zingers always fly thicker and faster; one of the best came from Adlai Stevenson, in a 1952 campaign speech, I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.

Some lies never die (even when they should) and some of the nastiest seem to hang around forever (BTW, nasty isn’t a new trend as some seem to think, but more on that another week.) Our old friend Anonymous made a good point when he said, Why pay money to have your family tree traced; go into politics and your opponents will do it for you.

It’s hard to argue with the wisdom of Will Rogers, especially this little gem, If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these  acceptance speeches there wouldn’t be any inducement to go to heaven.

Have a great rest-of-the-weekend and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Flickr image credit:

I Hate Politics 3

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

2344967308_a5409437aa_qThe conventions may be over, but the rhetoric is still going strong. Did you know it’s a requirement for politicians to have a PhD—which stands for ‘piled higher and deeper’—and that’s no bull. Adams and Lincoln never qualified as politicians, but both made it as statesmen.

Ambrose Bierce starts us out with a wonderful definition of politics, just so we’re all on the same page. “Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

Over the years I’ve read many descriptions of politicians and Congress, but John Adams provided my favorite when he said, “In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress”

The next quote is from Lincoln, “Republicans are for both the man and the dollar, but in case of conflict the man before the dollar,” but times have changed and it would be more accurate to say, “Republicans are for both the man and the dollar, but in case of conflict the dollar before the man.” Of course, it applies just as easily to Democrats.

Andy Borowitz offers our final insight today. I don’t know for sure when he said it, but it’s been applicable since before I could vote, “It would be nice to spend billions on schools and roads, but right now that money is desperately needed for political ads.”

(Did you miss the first two I Hate Politics? You can see them here and here.)

Image credit: Jack

Hate, Intolerance and Responsibility

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Anyone reading the news—local, national or global—knows that hate and intolerance are increasing at an alarming rate everywhere.

Also, because there have been/will be so many elections around the world this year ‘leadership’ is in the news even more so than usual.

What responsibility do leaders—business, political, religious, community—bear in fostering hate and intolerance?

A lot.

Not just the age old race and gender intolerance, but the I’m/we’re-RIGHT-so-you-should-do/think-our-way-or-else.

The ‘we’re right/you’re wrong’ attitude is as old as humanity and probably won’t ever change, but it’s the ‘do-it-our-way-or-else’ that shows the intolerance for what it really is.

And leaders aren’t helping; in fact, they are making it worse.

During my adult life (I missed being a Boomer by a hair) I’ve watched as hate and intolerance spread across the country masked by religion, a façade of political correctness or a mea culpa that is supposed to make everything OK, but doesn’t.

Various business, political, religious and community leaders give passionate, fiery talks to their followers and then express surprise and dismay when some of those same followers steal trade secrets, plant bombs, and kill individuals—whose only error was following their own beliefs.

We are no longer entitled to the pursuit of happiness if our happiness offends someone next door, the other end of the country, or the far side of the globe.

I remember Ann Rand saying in an interview that she believed that she had the right to be totally selfish, where upon the interviewer said that would give her freedom to kill.

Rand said absolutely not, in fact the reverse was true, since her selfishness couldn’t impinge anyone else’s right to be selfish.

Leaders aren’t responsible; we are because we go along with it—as did the Germans when Hitler led them down the hate and intolerance path.

That about sums up my attitude

What’s yours?

Image credit: Street Sign Generator

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