Two features: The first briefly spotlights the “most-candid US companies” and the least. (Guess which are doing better!). And finally, some thoughts about the vice-presidential possibilities. Lots to cover.
==Feature #1: The Best and Worst of Capitalism==
The insipid/stupid (and French) so-called “left-right political axis” has blighted our thinking far too long. It has let today’s chief destroyers of free-enterprise claim to be its defenders! Meanwhile, liberals let them get away with this, forgetting that Adam Smith was a chief founder of liberalism -- and today he would be an angry-radical democrat.
Now, to illustrate this point, let’s ponder a very informative snippet from Mark Anderson of the Strategic News Service, a leading tech-enterprise pundit: “We all like to think that the CEOs of public companies are being candid and forthright. After all, the whole point of Sarbanes-Oxley was to jail them if they aren’t, eh? What right does some overpaid self-dealer have to take MY money and then lie about where it’s going --- OK, I’ll calm down.
“The annual Rittenhouse Rankings on CEO candor shows that things are far from getting better. The study looked at 100 Fortune 500 companies, and concluded that business leaders are increasingly not able to give honest accountings of company operations. “The survey, which evaluates candor in annual shareholder letters, shows that confusing and misleading statements, or ‘dangerous fog,’ increased 66 percent in the survey up from 39 percent five years ago. According to Rittenhouse, here are the worst and best U.S. performers:”
LEAST CANDID COMPANIES:
4. Estee Lauder
5. News Corp.
6. Student Loan
7. Coca Cola
8. Dow Jones
10. Merrill Lynch
FYI: MOST CANDID COMPANIES:
3. Wells Fargo
7. Williams Companies
9. Charles Schwab
Mark continues: “Dow Jones has always been bad, and is now getting worse, with the purchase by Rupert Murdoch of the Wall Street Journal while he’s busy keeping the No. 5 spot down as well. Let’s reflect: two of the top 10 least-honest companies were two of the top five media companies, and are now both owned by the worse of the two. Hmmm.
“The good-news companies that stand out are Wells Fargo, Target, Toyota, and Schwab. No surprise, they’re all doing well today. Wells Fargo has survived the crunch and, holy smokes, is still making mortgage loans; Target continues to eat Wal-Mart’s lunch; Toyota is doing the same to U.S. carmakers; and Schwab continues its successful comeback, launched by the founder, who seems to stand for – honesty and integrity – in the eyes of its customers....... Hey Rupert, it’s never too late to change --- You could even start using real news, instead of continuing the Goebbels-like, government-fawning propaganda machine you’ve created.”
Wow. Who ever said that believers in real free enterprise can’t notice the crimes against enterprise being committed by Adam Smith’s hated “cronies of the king”?
I just returned from Mark Anderson’s annual Future in Review (FiRe) conference. See the FiRe site about this lively gathering and come back in a couple of months, to see this year’s “Architechs Challenge” in which I dared a bunch of CTOs to solve an important tech problem in just 48 hours!
Return also to see also the keynote by venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who is VERY optimistic about the potential impact of conservation technologies and especially cellulosic biofuels and solar thermal. Oh, and an interview of SF author Bruce Sterling - conducted by my friend, brilliant tech artist and Jesus lookalike Sheldon Brown. (Oh and have a glimpse at the production model Tesla Roadster!)
== Before our second feature: a few comments ==
For a long but worthy and smartly written view of 40 years of American political history. “ Goldwater was to Reagan as McGovern is to Obama.”See: The Fall of Conservatism: Have the Republicans Run out of Ideas? by: George Packer, in The New Yorker.
All right I guess I should comment (belatedly) on Spitzer & Paterson and all that, dang! I guess I can no longer claim that the goppers far outnumber dems, in the area of sex scandals. Still, never to let their lead go challenged for long, here’s a fine defender of family values. Rep. Vito Fossella (N.Y.); the father of three from Staten Island yesterday announced that he has a fourth, a 3-year-old love child with a woman from Virginia . That admission was prompted by his drunken-driving arrest in Virginia... Neither is Boehner likely to be helped by a Senate ethics committee decision yesterday exonerating Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) over his use of the "D.C. Madam's" call girls. The Senate cleared him because the prostitution occurred when he was in the House -- and the House can't punish him because he left for the Senate. The madam, meanwhile, killed herself by hanging last week. (That is the story, at least.)
== Feature #2: Choosing a Vice President ==
Regarding the looming question of the vice presidency, who will Senator Obama select? There’s talk about opting for Senator Clinton. And millions of us praying “no, please!” Give her and Bill 1,000 patroage slots! A Supreme Court appointment, anything. We need her campaigning in liberal strongholds in October, firing up her supporters... not saying provocative things on Fox and firing up the other side. The difference is day vs night.
A gesture to her wing of the democratic melange would be Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, who backed BHO early and who managed to win re election by a landslide in a normally Republican prairie state. She is articulate, persuasive, ad - tho she’s not an HRC supporter herself - would also serve as an excellent offering to those Hillary supporters who have proved themselves to be, well, rather ferociously single-issue. (An aside. Can you believe that feminists would actually utter the self demeaning and brittle phrase: “This may be my one chance to see a woman elected president!” Have any of them seen the new generation of karate-chopping young women out there? A generation that they helped to create? What a horrifically dour and sexist thing to say!)
Sebelius is impressive, but she cannot be first choice. I doubt she can drag the prairie states into Obama’s column. And I doubt BHO needs to choose a woman to appease HRC supporters. (Eventually, Hillary will realize, she must kiss and make up, or die politically.) Moreover, it does the dems no good to be seen as fetishistically diversity-obsessed. They need to reassure the ostriches. And to utterly neutralize McCain’s (illusory) toughness/security advantage. For that, we need somebody who embodies and radiates “solidity.”
The blogger known as “jester” offered this, some time ago: “(Virginia Senator Jim) Webb would almost certainly deliver Virginia. That alone would virtually cinch the election. Moreover, any other year.'Nam vet, Marine, Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, son in Iraq, Southern Senator, author of "Born Fighting -How the Scots-Irish Shaped America" and descended from a family which has served in every American war, married to a Vietnamese-American and speaks Vietnamese, lettered in Boxing at Annapolis, all around Man’s Man, life-long hunter, healthy, handsome but not pretty, smart but not egg-heady, great speaker, feet planted solidly on the ground.”
Added details? Silver star, two bronze stars, two purple hearts, and the Navy Cross. (Let’s just see them try to swiftboat this guys!) From 77-81 he worked pro-bono as a Veterans lawyer. He won an Emmy for his PBS documentary on Marines in Beirut. He opposed the war from the start. He drafted the amendment to the declaration on Iran which stated that the President still had to come back for congressional authority if he wished to attack.
Want to read Webb’s prescient article, back in 2002, criticizing the neocons rush into an Iraq War? Here’s an excerpt: ”America's best military leaders know that they are accountable to history not only for how they fight wars, but also for how they prevent them. The greatest military victory of our time -- bringing an expansionist Soviet Union in from the cold while averting a nuclear holocaust -- was accomplished not by an invasion but through decades of intense maneuvering and continuous operations. With respect to the situation in Iraq , they are conscious of two realities that seem to have been lost in the narrow debate about Saddam Hussein himself. The first reality is that wars often have unintended consequences -- ask the Germans, who in World War I were convinced that they would defeat the French in exactly 42 days. The second is that a long-term occupation of Iraq would beyond doubt require an adjustment of force levels elsewhere, and could eventually diminish American influence in other parts of the world.“
It just doesn't get any better. The question is, has Clinton managed to stir up the Ire of enough women who haven't burned their NOW cards yet to make a female VP mandatory?”
On the Republican side... There is much to consider. Just last night I watched a documentary about Harry Truman, and was reminded that the VP choice is a very serious one. Not only in terms of helping electability... or vs. the chance that the President might pass away... but also because the last two VPs were actually very significant players on the national stage. Indeed, Al Gore will historically be credited (along with Bill Clinton) for dramatically re-inventing the office into one that is no longer the butt of jokes. As “assistant president” Gore was very busy and accomplished. And Dick Cheney took this trend farther, indeed, being sometimes called the true power behind the throne.
So who might McCain choose? Well, there is much talk of Mitt Romney (shudder) and Huckabee. But I think McCain will be smart enough not to go to the crazy right for his veep choice. He must know that will make him seem more useful to certain powerful men in past-tense, than present. I hope he has the savvy not to give them that temptation. Though, on the other hand, if he chooses a mainstreamer, he risks a rebellion on the right.
One thought, though; is it possible that this senior citizen needs, well, adult supervision? Take this horrendously nasty joke McCain made at a 1998 Republican Senate fundraiser. "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?" he asked. "Because her father is Janet Reno." In citing this malignant moment on the Huffington Post, Paul Loeb goes on to point out: Sure, McCain apologized after a flurry of media coverage, but talk of that sort is cheap. It's like his using the excuse that he'd had a long day, after snapping at his own wife at a 1992 campaign event: "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c*nt." That was his public response to her teasing him about his thinning hair. But the Chelsea "joke" was from a prepared text, not accidental. It's a window into McCain's cruel side.
All told, this is going to be a year when these VP choices add significant drama and import to an already dramatic year.
(For comparison, go to the NPR site and skim through the feature “This weekend in 1968.” Dang! Forty years have passed. The year that left us all quivering in exhaustion. I sure hope we are not headed back into such interesting times.)
== Quotation Fest: ==
One of the nicest things about being big is the luxury of thinking little. - Marshall McLuhan
Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. - William Pitt
Oppression, like darkness, does not come upon us suddenly. It creeps upon us step by step virtually unnoticed until suddenly we recognize that twilight has passed and it is nighttime and we are not free. - William O. Douglas
"Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" - Joseph Welch
"Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know." Montaigne
"A strong conviction that somthing must be done is the parent of many bad measures." -Daniel Webster
"The poor have occasionally objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all." - Chesterton
A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood of ideas in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. - John F. Kennedy
Pat Buchanan (paraphrasing the social critic Eric Hoffer): "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket." (Speak for yourself, Pat! If the shoe fits….)
==Transparency and News==
And finally, a transparency-related item and a reminder...
* Learn about last week’s panel at Computers, Freedom and Privacy” commemorating the 10th anniversary of my book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? Quite an honor -- as it’s one of the few public policy books from the 20th Century that is not only still in print but sparking lively discussion, as the issues grow more pressing every day.
* As for the 2008 presidential campaign, well, the lady has yet to sing what we want to hear. Still, looking ahead, I again urge that folks already start taking responsibility for a few “decent republicans” who aren’t trogs, aristos or racists. Sincere conservatives in denial over what’s happened to their movement. Expect stubbornness! Even willingness to follow Fox-generated rationalizations over a lemming-cliff. Still, if you can pull just one “ostrich” out of its hole, you’ll be part of a revolution. And I’ve supplied ammo!
Only, remember, don’t get into a party-line fight! What works is to show that the GOP has betrayed decent conservative values worse than democrats ever could!