K Marx
the Spot!

K Marx The Spot

We are living in a materialist world, and this is a materialist url!

23 May 2006

Philanthropy Made Easy

If you read a recent headline in the Boston Globe, you might be excused for thinking that John Silber was more than your typical self-aggrandizing self-styled maverick academic who was personally responsible for 12 years of Republican governors in Massachusetts. The headline in question read "Silber says he gave BU $2.6m."

That much money is a powerful amount, even given in dribs and drabs. But the amount is still dwarfed by what Boston University paid Silber in 2005 (even though his last year as chancellor was 2003)—some $6.1 million in pay and benefits, including life tenancy in a house in a swanky part of Boston. What a philanthropist. It is too bad that the roughly 30,000 Boston University students had to pay $200 each in Silber surcharges, so that the former dear leader could retire in the style to which he was so accustomed.

But perhaps Silber is good value after all. In 2003, the university managed to squander $1.8 million to buy out Daniel Goldin's contract before he served one day as university president. Compared to Goldin, Silber was excellent value for money.

Posted by Tim W at 5/23/2006 12:15:00 AM

22 May 2006

One Step Forward, but One Back

Even when Jeff Jacoby get s something right, he gets it wrong. His column on Sunday in the Boston Globe was nominally pro-immigrant: he even made the good point that "the 11 million illegal immigrants living within our borders [are hardly] unwelcome and problematic only because they got in the wrong way."

Alas, Jacoby fell back on an old crutch: that immigrants to America are worthy only if that agree to assimilate their culture into the dominant one. He has been consistent on this point—whether writing in 2001 or in 2004 or in 2006. Yes, what seems to scare him is that folks from Latin America will continue to speak Spanish and that us radical leftists, under the guise of multiculturalism, will welcome them and their un-American ways.

Yet, Jacoby's conception of culture has no real concept of religion in it, despite the deep-seated nature of religion in many Americans' lives. Language is instead his great proxy for the assimilation of immigrants. And even sticking to language, the children and grandchildren of immigrants have always been likely to use English as a first language, regardless of their country of origin.

(Indeed, Jacoby is proud of his own religion and what it means for him and his family. Yet, that religion is hardly dominant, hardly assimilated, and hardly even truly understood by many Americans. It is not the radical leftists, of course, who are pushing for a thinly-disguised Christian nation, but Jacoby's political compatriots on the Republican right.)

Indeed, one of Jacoby's book reviews on the Internet is a fascinating exegesis of the trend in many Jewish denominations toward more traditional practices. His approving title? "Assimilation's Retreat." Indeed.

Posted by Tim W at 5/22/2006 12:14:00 AM

21 May 2006

Business Weak

The back page of Business Week has become a more interesting place in recent months, now that Jack and Suzy Welch have started penning a biweekly question-and-answer column. It is more interesting, but in the sense of interesting-tastes-like-chicken.

The first of two questions in the current issue comes from a business owner who finds that being a wage-slaver has its downfalls (link for subscribers only):

I run a 14-person business, and we look after our people very well—parties for birthdays, babies, and marriages, and a real interest in each individual, both personally and professionally. Still, people complain incessantly: too much politics, not enough appreciation, and so on. I'm about to tear my hair out because nothing seems to make them happy.—Anonymous, Cape Town, South Africa

Stop trying. With the best of intentions, you have created a classic entitlement culture in which your people have the deal exactly backwards: They think you work for them.

This phenomenon is not uncommon, although it tends to be more prevalent in small organizations where employees can easily develop casual, familial relationships with their bosses, and bosses often blur professional lines themselves. In the end, such familiarity can backfire, as is happening with you and your moaning, groaning employees.

It's irrelevant how you got yourself into your predicament, though. What matters is that you get out quickly. And the first person you need to get straight is yourself. You are running a company, not a social club or a counseling service. Your No. 1 priority is to win in the marketplace so that you can continue to grow and provide opportunities for your people. Of course, you want your employees to be happy. But their happiness must stem from the company's success, not from their every need being met. When the company does well because of their performance, they will thrive, personally and professionally. Not the other way around.

The online subhead (not in the print edition) is even better:
"Get one thing straight: You're running a company, not a country club."

There are two ironies here, one immediate and one separated by a couple of years. First, the same issue of Business Week has an article about how South African Norman Adami has changed the culture at Miller Brewing headquarters since the takeover by South African Breweries PLC.

It's 5 p.m. on a Friday, and Norman J. Adami is headed for the pub. Like most bars during happy hour, the wood-paneled lounge is packed. It's nearly impossible to find a spot on the oversize leather chairs and couches, and two bartenders scurry to serve patrons, who are three deep. With a pilsner glass in hand, the 5-ft.-9-in., mustachioed Adami makes his way over to a group of women. Taking a drag from a Peter Stuyvesant cigarette, he taps a young blonde on the shoulder to get her attention.

If this were any other bar, some might think the middle-aged, slightly pudgy man in a less-than-stylish blazer was out of his league. But this is the bar Norman built, a 2,700-sq.-ft. pub in the Milwaukee headquarters of Miller Brewing Co. And Norman, a regular here, is president and chief executive.

The four smiling co-workers welcome Adami into their group and he jumps right into the conversation, peppering them with questions. He can't help himself. This is, after all, a man who lugs a laptop to a favorite Milwaukee restaurant, Calderone Club, to get the owners' opinions on new ads. Here in the pub, Adami can't pass up the chance to take an informal poll, looking for feedback on the Miller Lite marketing campaign, comments on the new Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat beer, or odds on an upcoming PGA tournament.

Yes, the article does describe Adami's quest to overhaul the ratings system used at Miller headquarters, and his desire to challenge Anheuser Busch in a slew of market segments. But it is clear that the Chief Executive Officer of a really large South African company has no trouble at all worrying about whether he treats the wage slaves too well.

But the second irony is powerfully delicious. Back in 2004, Business Week itself decried some $2.5 million in annual perks that a certain conglomerate gave to its retiring chief executive, until the public got wind of them. That company was General Electric, and that retiring executive was Jack Welch. While Welch now decries throwing a few birthday parties as running a "country club," when he was the pampered employee, the country club was only the beginning.

The perks that Welch was receiving in retirement came to light when his ex-wife, Jane Welch, filed papers outlining his compensation. The highlights included a perpetual $86,000-per-year consulting contract, use of a luxurious New York apartment, and tickets to sporting events. The full gamut of the services provided to Welch and his ex-wife takes up three pages of fine print on a spreadsheet—from internet connections and cell phones, to flowers at the New York city apartment, to uses of a 737 business jet and a helicopter, to country club dues at four different clubs. The Welches even had their groceries covered at their New York pied-a-terre.

It hardly seems that Welch was going to be happy in retirement only if General Electric did well; indeed, it seems that General Electric was going to do an awful lot to keep Jack Welch happy.

It is perhaps not surprising that Jack Welch is hypocritical enough to decry a country-club atmosphere when he was the exemplar of a country-club lifestyle. But it is even worse for Business Week not to remember how it called Welch out for his avarice.

Posted by Tim W at 5/21/2006 10:54:00 PM

19 May 2006

Fast Food Flackery

The hacks at the American Council for Science and Health—they admit that cigarettes are bad for you but that nothing else is—are at it again. And their target is Eric Schlosser, who wrote Fast Food Nation and now has the temerity to write an expose of fast food restaurants called Chew on This.

Ruth Kava, the director of nutrition for the ACSH, complained to the New York Times that a teenager quoted in a positive article about Schlosser might actually be learning from Schlosser's book.

If Eric Schlosser's book convinces kids that McDonald's is selling bad food, what other choices will they make? The teenager's quote at the end of the story suggests that she'll go to a different fast food restaurant: will that necessarily be an improvement or reduce her risk of eating too many calories? Kids must be educated about making appropriate food choices, no matter where they choose to eat. Just telling them that particular foods or restaurants are bad doesn't help them make those choices.

At the end of the article, Carmen Rios explained that she no longer took eight meals per week at McDonald's but instead sometimes went to Subway. Perhaps she is making poor choices at Subway—but then again, Subway shops do advertise, even prominently, selections that are low in fat and calories. And heaven forfend if teenagers like Carmen Rios actually learn something about the food that they eat!

But when you work as an industry shill, even as "director of nutrition," it is more important to point out the "appropriate food choices" at McDonald's (whatever those may be) rather than point out that most fast food is not really all that good for you.

Indeed, when the ACSH really spoke out about McDonald's, it did so in the comfortable pages of the Washington Times. Executive Director Elizabeth Whelen explained on 6 May that McDonald's food was wholesome food.

Schlosser (who is a journalist, not a doctor) repeatedly argues that the food served at McDonald's and other such restaurants is inherently different, less nutritious, and unsafe. This message is false. The fare served at all reputable outlets of this type is wholesome, basic food served up in a particularly tasty and appealing manner.

Not even McDonald's claims that its food is wholesome. It leaves that level of bogosity to the well-paid flacks.

(Ironically, fast food outlets have a great defense that they would never use. Most restaurant food is loaded with fat and calories. Vegetables are bathed in butter; portions are typically enormous; and sodium and trans fats abound. But to argue that typical fast food is better than some typical restaurant food would only hurt the spin that teenagers have nothing at all to worry about.)

Posted by Tim W at 5/19/2006 11:50:00 PM

American Grandstand

The last several days have been awful if your home is near the Merrimack River in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, and conditions were at their worst in areas of Lawrence, a city that could use a break but rarely gets one.

Alas, earlier this week, the flooding in Lawrence was bad enough that local fire and police and the National Guard evacuated several blocks of the city. And while police were on the lookout for opportunists, the main stories were that (1) there was an awful lot of water; and (2) a lot of house suffered minor to moderate flood damage; but (3) Lawrence and other cities were spared major catastrophe.

If your name is Willard Mitt Romney and you plan to be President by the grace of the married God above you, these set of facts are not good enough. The Boston Herald (of all places) put our dear Governor in his celestial place.

Responding to "Good Morning America" anchor Diane Sawyer's question about the need to rescue people from their homes, Romney said the state National Guard stood at the ready.

"We're continuing to be very, very careful and going through our neighborhoods, securing them, and making sure there is no looting of any kind," Romney added.

The remarks puzzled local officials who reported no incidents of looting in the Bay State, New Hampshire or Maine, and prompted experts to question if Romney was raising red flags for no reason—or for political reasons.

"By and large, (looting) is a disaster myth," said Dr. Steven Rottman, director of UCLAÂ?s Center for Public Health and Disasters. Â"It tends to divert resources from public safety needs."

Tobe Berkowitz, associate dean of Boston University's College of Communication, said the nationally televised remark "was unnecessary and uncalled for."

"It was a mistake at best. If it was a strategy (designed) to show the country that heÂ?s a firm law-and-order governor, then it was a stupid strategy," Berkowitz said.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom noted Romney never said looting was occurring, and said the remark was to ease evacuation efforts. "Sometimes people are reluctant to leave their homes for an evacuation unless they are going to be assured that their homes and their contents are safe," Fehrnstrom said.

I wonder if Romney and his aides decided at the last minute not to mention that the National Guard were also on alert to keep Martians from landing on the roofs of abandoned homes. Not that any Martians has been reported, but you need to reassure the public that it is safe to leave flooded areas!

Surely someone could have reminded the governor that looting after natural disasters generally occurs because there is no other way to get food and necessities after, say, a major hurricane, because the normal channels of commerce are no longer working. After the Merrimack River floods, areas near the river might be in awful shape, but stores nearby are open; the only likely "looters" are those actively in the business of burglary.

If this is how he plans to be God of his own planet someday, he had better start respecting his supplicants, I mean, citizenry, a little bit more.

Posted by Tim W at 5/19/2006 11:23:00 PM

Missed Opportunity

I wonder if a certain ersatz charity in Connecticut gets a cut of the sales of this wee little beastie. I think not, because 322 appears not once in the catalog number.

Posted by Tim W at 5/19/2006 11:20:00 PM

05 May 2006

Freudian Slip

The Associated Press covered Porter Goss's resignation as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency with a decidedly odd turn of phrase:

Goss also had some public blunders. In March 2005, just before Negroponte took over, Goss told an audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library that he was overwhelmed by the many duties of his job, including devoting five hours out of every day to prepare for and deliver the presential briefings [emphasis added].

"Presential" is an old-fashioned word meaning, according to the 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, "Implying actual presence; present, immediate."

Does that mean that Goss was overwhelmed by meeting at which he had to attend or by meeting that Bush had to attend? And why were there meeting that were otherwise? Enquiring minds want to know!

Posted by Tim W at 5/05/2006 03:21:00 PM

Attention K Marx Shoppers

Our greatest hits:


Our Atom Site Feed (RSS) is available to all those who like that sort of thing.

KMarx.com is our permanent address. Feel free to link, bookmark, bend, fold, spindle, or mutilate it.

You can e-mail Paul or Tim if you like.

This weblog works without the use of those horrid tables in any browser, even Netscape 4.76. It looks best in any recent version of a Mozilla or Firefox browser, or in Safari—those browsers take HTML seriously.

© 2003-2008 by Paul Corrigan and Tim Francis-Wright. All original material on this weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons License || Valid HTML 4.01! || Valid CSS! || Powered By Blogger TM || Lefty Blogs || Bugmenot || I stand with al-Jazeera ||


We regularly post longer articles at bear-left.com.

Fellow Travelers:

(For full descriptions, see the Bear Left Link Library.)




In Print