January 13, 2018

I am re-posting this blog from 16 months ago. 

How could I not after hearing Trump's assault on African nations and Haiti?  


SEPTEMBER 17, 2016

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never fully gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency?"
Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy, June 9, 1954
These were the words which went through my mind yesterday as I heard Donald Trump acknowledge that President Obama was born in the United States after years of fueling the Birther movement with no apology or explanation. Not only that he went on to blame Hillary Clinton for starting the rumor and claimed that he had ended it. Such outrageous disregard for the truth is mind-boggling. 
But that wasn't all. On the same day he recklessly incites a crowd saying that Hillary Clinton wants to get rid of all guns (of course a lie) and goes on to ask bombastically -- why doesn't she take away all the guns from her security guards and we'll see what happens to her. 
Mr. Trump: have you no sense of decency? No regard for the truth?


Any corporate executive saying what Trump has said would be fired. 


December 28, 2017

On Christmas day, I found myself re-reading this from my favorite author,  Marilynne Robinson: 

 “Cultural pessimism is always fashionable and, since we’re human, there are always grounds for it.  It has the negative consequence of depressing the level of aspiration, the sense of the possible.  And, from time to time, it has the extremely negative consequence of encouraging a kind of somber panic, the collective dream-state in which recourse to terrible remedies is inspired by delusions of mortal threat.”  

Still, as Robinson continues, “It is easy to forget that there are always as good grounds for optimism as for pessimism—exactly the same ground, in fact—that is, because we are human.  We still have every potential for good we’ve ever had and the same presumptive claim to respect, our own respect and one another’s.  We are still creatures of singular interest and value, agile a soul as we have always been and as we will continue to be, even despite our errors and depredations, for as long as we abide on earth.  To value one another is our greatest safety, and to indulge in fear and contempt is our greatest error.”

She continues in much the same vein, “History has shown us a thousand variations on the temptations that come with tribalism, the excitements that stir when certain lines are seen as important because they can be rather clearly drawn.  This is old humankind going about its mad business as if it simply cannot remember the harm it did itself yesterday.”

We must never forget the reality—a reality “greater than the markets”—and this is the reality that our planet is fragile, and peace among nations, where it exists, is also fragile.  We live on a knife edge.

“The greatest tests ever made of human wisdom and decency may very well come to this generation or the next one.  We must teach and learn broadly and seriously, dealing with one another with deep respect and the best good faith” Robinson concludes.



Lenin:  The Man, The Dictator and the Master of Terror by Victor Sebestyen

A well-drawn biography, bringing to life not only the life and not only the facts of what happened but the personality and ethos of the driven and cruel leader.  I think it’s clear the Bolshevik Revolution never would have happened the way it did without his incredible drive and focus and ability to overcome the views of others by rhetoric or by force when necessary.  Yet, he never would have reached the position he did if it weren’t for some terrible weaknesses on the part of the Czar as a leader, and the decision to go into and continue participation in World War I.  Lenin’s greatest fear was that the Social Democrats and then the Menshiviks would leave the war.  

In fact, the Menshiviks were far stronger numerically than the Bolsheviks right up until October, but they didn’t have the force of the leader in Kerensky which Lenin represented.

Talk about unintended consequences.  The U.S. and Britain and France worked hard to keep Russia in World War I.  Little did they know the consequence of that temporary “success.”  Germany, on the other hand, funneled a huge amount of money to the Bolsheviks and transported Lenin from Switzerland , where he had been in exile, to St. Petersburg on the eve of the October Revolution in order to help ensure Russia got out of the war, which they in quick order did, though not, of course, to Germany’s ultimate  advantage since they lost anyway. Indeed, they lost both wars in a real sense since they had long been dedicated opponents of communism. 

So much for the idea of one country’s  interfering in a another country’s political affairs, so much in the news today. It has long been part of history. Just think of Iran in the 1950s or Nicaragua, 

The depth of cruelty of man to man was never more evident than in this history.  The way the Czar and his family were slaughtered, the reprisals against the attempted assassination of Lenin, which saw hundreds and thousands of people killed.  One shakes their head at my age (or at any age) how people can be so cruel.  


There are several graphic descriptions of Lenin which are so timeless that I wanted to cite them here:

“The public Lenin adopted a highly populist style of politics that would be recognizable—and imitated by many a rabble-rouser—a hundred years later, even in long-established, sophisticated democracies.  He offered simple solutions to complex problems.  He lied unashamedly.  He was never a sparkling orator but he was brilliant at presenting a case in direct, straightforward language that anyone could understand.  In explaining how the world could be changed if only people would listen to him…”

He spoke against the establishment, e.g., “The peasants must seize the estates from their former landowner masters.  They must be masters now.”

“First, we must seize power.  Then we decide what to do with it,” Lenin said to Trotsky in October 1917.  He wanted power for its own sake, as egotists do.  But he genuinely believed that he was going to use it to improve the lives of the majority of people.  That is how he justified the lies and terror that followed.

Above all, the author writes, “Lenin was lucky in his enemy.  In contrast to the Bolsheviks’ united leadership, the ‘whites’ were fragmented.”  Their three armies were separated, their leaders refused to talk to each other.  Here was a case where sheer willpower and the willingness to endorse any means, including mass murder, to achieve the outcome won the day.


December 3, 2017

I posted this blog 21 months ago concerning Donald Trump's campaign.

After  his election, I hoped he would mature; that he would accommodate and honor the position of the presidency.

Unfortunately, dangerously, he has doubled-down on the same characteristics that made his pursuit of the presidency so concerning.

We Have to Walk Away From This Road Show”
These are among the words with which Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson concludes her book, “Mother Country.”  It was published in 1989.  She was writing about a somewhat different challenge then.  She described it as a “decline in national self-esteem.”  But in a way, it wasn’t different.  In a way, we are facing much the same challenge today.  I describe it as a “decline in confidence in our institutions.”  
Because of this, we are witnessing a campaign by a candidate for the presidency of the United States by Donald Trump unlike any other we have witnessed in my lifetime.  A campaign that relishes in sweeping, categorical defamation of other people, such as Muslims and immigrants.  A campaign that takes delight in pushing the boundaries of outrageous pronouncements, whether that be in vilifying an entire group of people or accusing a former president of the United States of “lying.”  We are perversely taken by Trump’s authenticity, his fearlessness and his complete and utter rejection of political correctness.
Trump is feeding off a space filled with the potent mixture of boredom, frustration, hopelessness and anger and the all-too-present human attraction to witness, and indeed even revel, in the bizarre.  His impact is fueled by a media frenzy producing unending coverage and the inability of even the most seasoned, tough-minded interviewer to overcome his steamrolling, self-guided verbosity.
Without articulating any policy much beyond “building a big wall, which we’ll have Mexico pay for” and “making America great again” in ways weakly defined, he emphatically says, “Trust me.  I’m great at making deals.”  
He has the insidious talent of demeaning, indeed trashing, “others,” while making those he is addressing feel special, valued, even “loved.”  He gets away with this in no small measure because he is so obviously delivering what he says with gay abandon.  He is really enjoying himself.  
All of what I’ve written here has been easy to write.  But what is not easy and has never been easy in times of challenge of the kind we face today is to find and support the leader who can bring us together, who can offer a vision for the future and plans to support it that realistically offer an improved life for all and to find a role for our country in the world which advances as far as possible the peace we need while avoiding nuclear disaster and the threat of terrorism.
Returning to Ms. Robinson, she closes her book with words I resonate to:  “My greatest hope is that we will at last find the courage to make ourselves rational and morally autonomous adults, secure enough in the faith that life is good and to be preserved, and to recognize the greatest forms of evil and name them and confront them.”  
Paraphrasing her conclusion, we have to walk away from this road show which Donald Trump’s campaign represents.  We need to “consult with our souls, and find the courage in ourselves, to see and perceive and hear and understand.”



December 2, 2017

Of the defects in the just-passed tax legislation by the Senate, the most destructive by far in my option is the removal of the individual mandate for health insurance. Not that the mandate could not have been reshaped or improved but its removal is forecast, per the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to result in:

 " Without the mandate, health insurance premiums would rise 10 percent in most years over the next decade on the individual market and 13 million people would lose coverage by 2027, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a report last month". 

So what in heavens name is the justification to vote for this?  "High-minded" legislators will say they want to give the public the right to choose. Others, being honest, note the "savings" because the need for government subsidies are reduced.
But costs won't be reduced globally because those without health insurance will not only risk their own health (and perhaps life) but will depend on the very high cost of emergency rooms for treatment. 

Can you imagine if social security as a means to provide a financial basis for retirement were proposed today? You would probably hear the argument that people should have the freedom to opt in or out of social security. Young healthy people might well say, "I don't need it." They would choose to wait until they got much older. The accumulated life time savings that accrue with our current all-in system wouldn't occur and the system would fail.  Many would be left close to destitute as they aged. They would live in deep poverty or become wards of the State. Would we argue that would be a better state for our Nation than where we are today?

Universal coverage for health care is standard fare for all developed Nations other than our own. The removal of the individual mandate will be looked back on as a grievous error. One that in time will need to be reversed. The negative consequences of this action will become apparent sooner than those voting for this legislation may expect. 


November 7, 2017

(Compiled by my former P&G colleague and good friend, Eugen Mihai)

“Life isn’t always pretty, but you have to put up with ugliness sometimes to get a big job done; and it only happens when very competent people believe in something deeply and act with all their might to make it happen.”

“Tell me what you think and act on what you believe to be true”

“Life is funny. It’s made up of dots that somehow connect”

“My wife and children have been my constant and underlying source of joy, energy and emotional stability and comfort in my life”

“You are making differences in people’s lives today you don’t even know you are making”

 “Everyone counts!”

“When I go to church the one thing I pray for is the wisdom to know the right thing to do and the courage and perseverance to do it”

“None of us are saints. All I can do and what I must do is do my best to fulfill our responsibilities and help other people whose lives we touch do the same”

“Everybody combines self-centered instincts and noble instincts”

“The greatest thing we will leave behind is the influence that we have on others; most importantly, on our family”

“It is MY choice: do I approach this new day positively or not?”

“Don’t stop pushing for an idea if you really believe in it”

“My two most important mandates: to be of service to others and stand out for what I believe is right”

“My three North Stars are: service, leadership and growth”

“Make sure you take vacation and long week-ends because the best ideas will come when you have some free space”

“The qualities of the best leaders I have met are:
-       Empowering vision and their commitment to it. They simply won’t give up
-       Laser-like strategy
-       A maniacal commitment to executional excellence
-       They build great teams.  They help people grow.
-       Character; integrity and courage.  Perseverance; they don’t give up.  They do what they think is right. 
-       They always look for a better way
-       They love what they do
-       They have respect for themselves and for others
-       They are genuine: what you see is what you get
-       They have an incredible zest to continue to learn”

“I want to be anywhere my wife and children are. That’s where I want to be. Nowhere else!”

“A good strategy is:
-        Based on capability (deliverable)
-        Truly choiceful (differentiating)
-        The basis for sustained advantage vs. competition
-        Robust”

“Be on somebody’s ‘If it weren’t for them’ list. It means you did make a difference in that person’s life”

“Be choiceful, strategic and principled in deciding what to do and how to do it”

“Accept yourself as you are even as you work to improve”

“Remember – God will help you if you trust in Him”

“Don’t worry about things you can’t affect”

“Respect, not popularity is what matters”

“We have a life to live – do it fully and authentically”

“Be true to your purpose and values”

“Let us never forget that we are in business to improve the lives of consumers by offering them better performing and better value brands and by giving them information that enables them to make the best use of these brands”

“Our success depends on our personal leadership in all those things that produce accelerated growth in our business and strengthen organizational capability”

“View navigating change as a growth opportunity, not a burdensome challenge (though at times it will seem and be that). Avoid negativism and grousing. Don’t get discouraged”

“Never give up on something you believe in strongly”

“Insist on quality with maniacal commitment”

“Ask what you can do to serve those to whom you owe service”

“Listen carefully and pay attention to your spouse. Keep having ‘first dates’ as years go on”

“Remember: family comes first!”

“Personal leadership makes things happen”

“Effective leadership grows out of LOVE. Love for what you are doing, so you become passionate.  Love takes you out of yourself and makes you focus on the purpose and the people of your organization”

“Our trust and respect are the greatest gifts we give one another.  They can’t be forced.”

“Life is all about relationships”

“Give people the benefit of the doubt”

“Intimacy with the consumer is critical if we are to perceive the true consumer need which we can fill”

“Creating holistic and highly integrated innovation and marketing strategies that make a brand more appealing and harder to imitate is increasingly important today”

“We need to be alert and responsive to changing situations, anchored to only one commitment – doing the right thing to provide superior consumer value”

“We must never give consumers a reason to switch from our brand”

“We are in business to serve all the world’s consumers, not just the rich ones”

“We need to be first and we need to be better in delivering what appeals to consumers and produces greater total satisfaction for them”


October 23, 2017

Anatoly Chernyaev was perhaps Mikhail Gorbachev’s closest confident from 1986 onward.  He was his principal foreign policy advisor.  
In what follows, I want to make it clear.  I am not equating President Trump to Stalin, in the way he thinks let alone what he did.
In reading William Taubman’s excellent new biography of Gorbachev:  His Life and Times, one reads this on Page 260:
Chernyaev’s family was particularly cultivated; he received music lessons, learned French and German from private teachers and fell in love with Gogol and Shakespeare in school.  He studied history at Moscow University in the late ‘30s, fought heroically in World War II (part of the time on skis in an Alpine battalion), then got a Candidate’s Degree (roughly equivalent to an American PhD), writing his dissertation on the topic, “Britain’s Role During the First Years After World War I.”  Unlike so many of his generation, he never worshipped Stalin.  It wasn’t the repressions, he said, “about which we didn’t know much and which we thought might have been mistakes or even justified” or “the terrible losses early in World War II” or “in a revulsion against policies like the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact.”  For Chernyaev, it was the sense that “a crude, ignorant, completely alien force” was ruling over a culture that cherished Tolstoy and Chekhov and admired foreign writers like Shakespeare and Anatole France.”
So it is for me:  My revulsion against Trump rests on his lack of values and his disrespect for other people, his lack of kindness, empathy and his disregard for the truth. He stands in opposition to the very values which, using his own term, have made America great. 
These are the qualities of this man which have repelled me from the start.  We should not stop calling them out, but nor can we afford to wallow in them with a sense of superiority.  Worse yet, we cannot fall into the trap of believing that our denunciation of Trump’s behaviors is sufficient to carry out our responsibility. We must also act proactively and positively in our own world, in our own way to live those values we hold dear and improve the lives of those whom we can touch.