Friday, February 27, 2009

Post No. 91b: What Do You Think of the Octuplets Mom?

Earlier this month, June suggested that we pose some questions to you on a subject, and allow you to tell us what you think. Have we got a doozy for you. Feel free to post anonymously should you feel the need.

The Mother who recently had the premature octuplets is taking quite a bit of heat these days. In addition to Dr. Phil, her own Mother has questioned the propriety of what she did. She has been branded as the poster child for irresponsible parenthood.

However, we are certain that many of you are aware of families which had 10 - 15 kids, and still managed to survive and not become a burden on society, even when one of the parents was absent or otherwise "not engaged."

Why are people so worked up about this situation?

Do you think that people would have been similarly worked up, let's say 5 years ago? 15 years ago? 30 years ago? 60 years ago?

Do you think that the adverse publicity poses a risk to the upbringing and development of the children?

Do you feel that the children should be taken away from the Mother?

Do you feel that the media coverage has been fair, balanced, excessive, or what?

How do Catholics, and others who do not use birth control, deal with this issue?

Let us have your thoughts.

P.S. For those of you with a little "extra time" on your hands, we previously expressed some of our thoughts on parenthood in an earlier post. That was before we began limiting our posts to 750 words.

Post No. 91a: The Logistician's Second Favorite "Short Story"

A man walks up to the bar with an ostrich behind him, and as he sits, the bartender asks for their order.

The man says, "I'll have a beer" and turns to the ostrich. "What's your order?"

"I'll have a beer too," says the ostrich.

The bartender pours the beer and says "That will be $3.40 please," and the man reaches into his pocket and pays with the exact change.

The next day, the man and the ostrich come again, and the man says, "I'll have a beer."

The ostrich says, "I'll have the same."

Once again the man reaches into his pocket and pays with exact change.

This became a routine until late one evening, the two enter again. "The usual?" asks the bartender.

"Well, it's close to last orders, so I'll have a large Scotch" says the man.

"Same for me" says the ostrich.

"That will be $7.20" says the bartender.

Once again, the man pulls the exact change out of his pocket and places it on the bar.

The bartender simply can't hold back his curiosity any longer. "Excuse me, sir. How do you manage to always come up with the exact change out of your pocket every time?"

"Well," says the man, "several years ago I was cleaning the attic and I found this old lamp. When I rubbed it a Genie appeared and offered me two wishes. My first wish was that if I ever needed to pay for anything, I would just put my hand in my pocket and the right amount of money would be there."

"That's brilliant!" says the bartender. "Most people would wish for a million dollars or something, but you'll always be as rich as you want for as long as you live!"

"That's right! Whether it's a gallon of milk, or a Rolls Royce, the exact money is always there," says the man.

"That's fantastic!" says the bartender. "You are a genius! Oh, one other thing sir, what's with the ostrich?"











The man replies, "Oh, my second wish was for a chick with long legs."

The Logistician refers to this type of joke as a “church joke,” namely one which can be told in church, or to grade school children. Knowing this, his friend Gail in Milwaukee regularly feeds him this Pablum. Now it’s your turn. Share with us your latest “short story” or “church joke.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Post No. 91: Tell Us What You Thought

Last evening, we all watched as President Obama delivered a speech to the world. The “talking heads” have had much to say during this relatively brief Obama Administration.

We here at the Institute for Applied Common Sense have no political agenda.

We simply believe that, by encouraging the exchange of ideas in a civil forum, where the views of each person are equally respected and valued, we will ultimately arrive at better solutions through consensus. Through this process, a Common Sense approach will emerge.

We have several questions of you, the American citizen:

1. What did you think of the President’s speech?

2. What are your thoughts about the first 30 days of the Administration?

3. Did the President’s speech make you feel better or worse about the Economic Stimulus Bill which he recently signed?

Go for it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Post No. 90b: The Stranger

Someone sent this to us earlier this year. We do not know the origin of this piece, and we do not claim any intellectual property rights to it. In light of some of the comments responsive to our post about interracial couples on television, we thought that you might find it interesting.

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Texas town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey.
But the stranger... he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries, and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present, and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry.
The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind.

Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home... Not from us, our friends or any visitors.
Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished.
He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.

I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked... And NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents' den today, you will still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
His name?

We just called him 'TV.'

Monday, February 23, 2009

Post No. 90a: Articles of Interest: When Consumers Cut Back: A Lesson from Japan

Much has been made recently about the contraction of credit and the reluctance of consumers to part with their hard earned dollars because of their uncertainty about our economic future. The following article appeared in the February 22, 2009 electronic edition of the New York Times. It is most definitely food for thought. To view it, you need simply click here.

Since the original posting of this article, we came across another article expressing similar concerns about the reluctance on the part of the consumer to spend, albeit with respect to the automotive industry. To review Dave Leggett's article on his blog, Just - Auto, click here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Post No. 90: Making Use of the Current Financial Mess

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Mark Twain observed that if a cat sits on a hot stove, she will never do it again. Unfortunately, she'll probably never sit on a cold stove either.

Everyone has their favorite villain for the current economic collapse. The Logistician sent me a list of 10 ways in which he felt consumers were responsible.

I told him that I did not buy into his premise, but in thinking about it further, I realized that if we only point the finger at the fat cats, we will have learned little. We all bear some responsibility.

We are behaving much like Mr. Twain’s cat. Despite our efforts to revive our financial system, we have little to show for it… yet. We definitely can’t sit at the starting line waiting for the next guy to say, “Go.”

We simply need to use some Common Sense, on which the left and right should be able to agree.

According to the Scientific Method, bad ideas and experiments that don’t work are as valuable as those that do, provided we learn from the experience, and use that knowledge productively.

So, with 2/3rds of our economic well-being based on our own behavior, we would like to suggest a few topics for discussion, the results of which may assist us in finding our way out of this financial wilderness.

1. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

You don’t need a Ph.D. in economics to realize that markets don’t always go up. The observation that a few people are making great sacks of money, and violating the rules of Common Sense, does not relieve us of the obligation of doing our own home work.

If you can’t make the numbers work within your current income, don’t bet on massive increases in the value of your investment to bail you out.

You have a better chance in Vegas than in a financial commodity you do not understand. (And the truth be told, few of us really understand them.)

2. Don’t bet your home on things you don’t need.

Contrary to the Logistician’s mantra, there is nothing wrong with wanting a better, more luxurious life, but not at twenty percent interest. Here there are demons…like bankruptcy…and acid rain falling on your childrens' heads.

Save the money 1st; then buy the Lexus. It’s only Common Sense.

3. Ignore herd instinct.

When everybody agrees on the direction of a market, guess what…?

4. Be careful when building and buying things which are more than you need.

Advertising not withstanding, buying an Escalade won’t make you an NBA star. There is a reason why the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord are the 2 best selling cars in the country.

5. Particularly avoid using credit or going into debt to build or buy things which are more than you need.

We went into debt, both individually and collectively, based on the assumption that the party would never stop.

Pick up any book on history…it always does. And, you don’t want to be the guy playing musical chairs when….

6. Remember that gluttony and greed are 2 of the 7 deadly sins.

Really want to make a 20% return on your income? Pay off your credit cards.

7. Carefully weigh the impact of retirement on an individual and societal level.

The Logistician and I differ on this point. The Logistician feels we got lazy and retired too early. My take is that we took the money and ignored our inherent desire for a more worthwhile job… and after 30 years we couldn’t wait to get out.

With our most experienced workers, although still productive, leaving the workforce early, all of this experience went to waste… and it is experience we can ill afford to waste.

8. Avoid being seduced by the short-term Sirens.

There was a time when we bought things to last. Next time you are in the park, look at the number of people taking pictures with manual focus SLR cameras.

This desire to last drove a subsequent demand for quality… producing a pride of workmanship that represents the essence of “Quality of Life.”

9. Don’t leave the education of your kids to the entertainment industry.

Not wanting to engage them, we abdicated our responsibility to the likes of Nintendo, Disney, and MTV, as long as they didn’t interfere with our pursuit of the “good life.”

If you don’t want children, don’t have them. You can not experience the sense of wonder children project, as they learn about the world via remote control.

You have to be there… and evolution suggests that this is one of the few primal pleasures we have inherited undiminished.

10. Lend a helping hand.

If you know someone in need of a job, through no fault of his own, ask around. Do what you can to help him get re-employed.

Want to raise the “quality of your life,” watch the face of a man or woman you have helped put back to work. Government can’t do that.

You see, we do most of the spending. No income, no spending. No jobs, no income.

Is there anything on this list which defies Common Sense?

After all, we should be smarter than Mr. Twain’s cat.

© 2009, by the Laughingman for the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Post 89a: On the Dead Chimp and Freedom of the Media

Much has been made in the last 24 hours concerning a cartoon depicting the shooting of a chimp, and relating it to the stimulus bill recently enacted by Congress. We recalled a similar furor which erupted following the comments of a radio talk show host not long ago. We thought that we would re-visit our thoughts at that time, since they are equally applicable here. The original post was Post No. 22, "Do We Have Something to Fear Other Than Fear Itself?"

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Radio and television talk show host Don Imus drew attention to himself again last week. Upon hearing his latest controversial statement, one’s response might have been that Imus could not have avoided criticism under any circumstances.

(Disregard, for the time being, whether we truly know him intimately enough to enable us to judge the motives underlying the statement.)

In the future, he might avoid making any statements, which include any race-related words, since various negative assumptions will be made regarding his motives, even if his intent is to make a positive statement.

More disconcerting was the statement by the NFL player whose frequent run-ins with the law were at the center of Imus’ unfortunate expression. Arguably, Imus’ comment could have been viewed as a statement condemning the frequent stopping of African-Americans by law enforcement officials, or justifying it.

However, “Pacman” Jones fairly quickly concluded that Imus “obviously has a problem with African-Americans.”

One can only assume that Jones has some direct link to Imus’ brain and heart, to permit him to make such an unequivocal assessment. Along a similar vein, an argument might be made that Jones “obviously has a problem with the law,” or that he “obviously has a problem disassociating himself from the criminal element.”

George Carlin, considered by some to be an iconic comedian, died last week. It is generally agreed that he expressed the views of the counter-culture element of our society. However, what stood out most significantly was the frequent reference, by those who remembered him, to the “fearless” nature of his comedy.

What did Carlin potentially have to fear? What did he say that posed so significant a potential danger that we needed to be leery of him? Was there a concern that what he said, or might say, could damage or harm a certain segment of our society?

So here we are considering whether it is good for members of society to avoid making certain comments, or discussing certain subjects, in a public setting. (Ignore for now that the statements could be true, and honestly uttered.)

Just to carry our discussion a little further, images are also a form of expression. Some of you may recall the controversy surrounding the pairing of O.J. Simpson and Elizabeth Montgomery, over twenty years ago, in a television murder mystery movie, and the backlash that befell the sponsors. But that was long ago, right?

Recently, while I was listening to, but not watching television, a commercial aired for Cascade, the dishwasher detergent. The voice-over contained an African-American accent.

At first, I couldn’t figure out why that struck me odd. Then, for some unexplained reason, I turned around to see if an African-American face or image would also appear in the commercial.

Let me ask you. When was the last time that you can recall seeing an African-American woman in a commercial associated with cleaning anything – whether it be laundry detergent, floor wax, window cleaner, or garbage bags?

How many years have sponsors avoided projecting certain images to play it safe? The corollary reality is that many of us avoid making certain statements to play it safe, out of concern for offending others.

In light of the risks associated with making certain statements, we obviously have to carefully evaluate the consequences, or perhaps some might say, the “potential punishment,” associated with making statements, though honest they may be.

Furthermore, if we are not entirely clear as to the line between acceptable and unacceptable speech/expression, most of us will steer far wide of the danger zone.

During the course of the development and evolution of this blog, we’ve been surprised at a number of things, particularly in the expression of speech arena. A number of regular readers have suggested that the content makes many uncomfortable.

Many have indicated that although they would like to respond honestly to some of the posts, they feel reluctant to do so. There is a concern that, even using a pseudonym, once their true thoughts are revealed to the public, they might suffer negative consequences.

There is a scene in one of the classic Hollywood movies where the local, irresponsible, rich kid, who is attending medical school, is confronted by a childhood friend. She questions his flippant attitude, and lack of sense of responsibility, considering the talent which she considers him to have.

She notes that he could do so much of a positive nature for so many. She then goes on to say, “Most of us have no choice but to live useless lives.”

This leads one to wonder, “What is a person if not his or her expression?” Is freedom of expression the essence of freedom?

What we should appreciate is that when any talk show host, religious leader, celebrity, politician, or other public figure, manages to generate a following or an audience, they run the risk of saying something controversial. However, that ought to be a good thing, because it causes us to periodically stop and think.

Imagine a world where everything said in the media is uttered within certain prescribed boundaries, where no one is offended, surprised, intrigued, inspired, or in some manner affected.

Imagine where we would be as a society if every utterance was something that we already knew, or accepted, or with which the “expression police” were comfortable.

There is an argument to be made that in this competitive, free market environment that is America, the speech expressed by its citizens ought to be evaluated by the same competitive, free market forces.

A speaker should fail or succeed based on the quality of his content, and whether the citizens are willing to “buy” his or her expression.

We ultimately discard and ignore products of little or no value. Are we afraid to let the market place decide the fate of those making offensive comments, in the same way that we let the market place decide the fate of poor products?

We might discourage someone from expressing a new idea or concept, in the same way that we might discourage someone from developing a new product or service, if we discourage expression on the front end.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle frequently accuse the other of failing to acknowledge the intelligence of the American people. If we are intelligent enough to assess and evaluate other issues and their value, why do we not possess enough intelligence to assess and evaluate (and thus accept or repudiate) personal expression, in whatever form it manifests itself?

There is something else that comes to mind. When we hear the rantings and ravings of callers as they express themselves on talk radio shows, we gain some insight into, and provide a forum for, a segment of our society that otherwise might go unnoticed and unheard.

Some would suggest that we might be a better society if they went unnoticed and unheard. However, isn’t it better for us to know with whom we are really dealing, and have a better appreciation of the issues and concerns of every segment of our society? Or is that something which certain forces do not want?

We are once again reminded of the words of the Laughingman:

“The worst conceivable way to silence one with whom we disagree is to stop him from talking. By doing so, you create a martyr to his similarly warped followers, and take him off the radar screen of the rest of the public. Had we, as a society, a bit thicker skins, we would broadcast these lunacies far and wide, with an appropriate apology to the more sensitive among us, demonstrate a little common sense for our fellow man, and let the fringe element drown in the laughter and public ridicule generated by their own thinking or lack thereof. Along with the right to free speech comes the right to make a public fool of oneself; and like the naked, fools have little or no influence on society.”

That is, of course, unless you are Lady Godiva or Angelina Jolie.

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Post No. 89: The High Price of Stubbing Your Toe

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Owning up to one’s mistakes seems to be one of mortal man’s most difficult acts.

In January 1998, for example, Bill Clinton famously said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky,” though months later, after surviving the ordeal of impeachment, he admitted that his relationship with the young woman had been “wrong” and “not appropriate.”

A cloud of presidential hanky-panky has hung over him ever since, likely diminishing his legacy, though it’s possible that his efforts around the world will offer some degree of redemption.

Lately, a new parade of politicians, celebrities, business people and athletes has come forward to face the white-hot glare of public scrutiny.

The former governor of Illinois, for example, a man seemingly caught red-handed in blatantly illegal activities, stonewalled and attempted to make the case for his innocence on America’s talk shows, at the same time the impeachment machine moved forward unimpeded.

Earlier this month, we saw Michael Phelps admit, without hesitation, that he made a mistake. Despite this, lucrative sponsorship deals that resulted from his eight Olympic gold medals were immediately withdrawn, and law enforcement conducted an investigation to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

Not long ago, another athlete, Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best baseball player of all time, admitted to using performance-enhancement drugs, sullying his past accomplishments and calling into question whether any records he may break in the future will be legitimate achievements.

In Washington, a respected former Senator, Tom Daschle, up for a key cabinet post in the new administration, ran into a buzz saw when it was revealed that he hadn’t paid taxes on benefits he had received in the position he had held prior to his nomination.

Daschle’s mea culpa was “too little, too late,” according to his critics, though the same comments were not levied against Timothy Geithner, now Secretary of the Treasury and head of the IRS, when his nomination was questioned over his back taxes owed.

Later, Geithner, in a pro-active sleight of hand, said that mistakes would be made in the Administration’s effort to stimulate the economy.

Watching all these large and small melodramas unfold – believe us, Michael Phelps’ mistake was a small one in the big picture – it occurred to us that immediate benefits ought to accrue to those who admit fault and accept responsibility.

We admire our new president’s forthright response to the Daschle incident.

“I screwed up,” he said.

And take note. He said, “I,” not “we” or “my people in charge of vetting cabinet nominees.” Like the small placard that sat on Harry Truman’s desk, the one that read “The buck stops here,” he took ownership of the problem.

Unfortunately, public reaction to admissions of culpability suggests that we, as a society, may be at risk of making it more and more difficult for people, as the expression goes, to fess up.

We have become a society that, in many ways, salivates for red meat from the mouths of talk show pundits and late night comedians.

As children, our parents and teachers encouraged us to tell the truth, even if it meant punishment.

As we matured, we appreciated that doing the right thing, while not always rewarded at the time, would ultimately prove to be in our long-term interests.

Somehow, society must create an environment in which citizens, particularly our elected officials, are permitted, even encouraged, to stand up and admit mistakes, with society viewing such admissions, not as signs of weakness but instead, as individual strength.

At some point, we have to change the culture of denial. Revisiting the potential legal liability associated with acknowledging mistakes might be a start.

We applaud the Obama administration for initiating the climate change, however underappreciated the effort may seem.

While the costs to our pride and social standing in the short term may appear to be high, the failure to pay that price up front may have a far greater cost over the long haul.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just plain Common Sense.

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Monday, February 16, 2009

Post No. 88a: Television Show of Interest: American Revolution Compared to Iraqi Resistance

We've been waiting for this one.

Often times, governments and religions have difficulty (or perhaps too much ease), distinguishing their wars, their executions, their human rights activities, and many other practices, from the conduct of others (which might appear to be the same to the casual observer).

We've often wondered whether some one had tried to compare the fight by certain Iraqis against "coalition" forces, to the fight by American revolutionaries against Great Britain. (Apart from the obvious differences which anyone can see.)

Tonight at 10:00 pm EST on C-Span2 Book TV, a retired general will do just that.

The book is Washington's War: The American War of Independence to the Iraqi Insurgency.

We'd be curious as to your thoughts on the subject, BEFORE viewing the broadcast.

This should be interesting.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Post No. 88: Does Everyone Necessarily Have a Point of View? - Revisited

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In July of last year, we generated a piece which asked, “Does everyone necessarily have a point of view?” At that time, we were so tired of hearing everyone take a rigid stand, on one side or the other in the presidential candidate debate, that we were about to scream.

We’ve since concluded that the question need not be directly answered, because the point of view need not always be expressed. Additionally, in a group setting, it need not dictate your effort to contribute to a common goal through collaboration.

How did the discussion of where we are headed as a nation become so acrimonious? Although many say that political campaigns have always been down, dirty, and nasty, for some reason, we feel that more sewage has recently overflowed into our drinking water.

Some years ago, a documentary aired exploring LBJ’s inheritance of the Vietnam War. We mentioned to a colleague that, despite the fact that several of us had served in the Army during that period, we did not fully understand the forces in operation at the time.

Our colleague immediately inquired as to the “point of view” of the film maker.

Since then, we’ve been asking ourselves whether everyone necessarily has a point of view.

We observed this reactionary phenomenon most recently during the debate about the economic stimulus package. In the political arena, party loyalists appear incapable of finding anything good about the positions of the other party.

We initially thought of entitling this piece, “The Dangers Associated with Defining Something by Its Least Liked Component,” Or “Let Me Introduce You to My Ugly Wife.”

Is the recognition of any positive attributes of the opposing party’s position such a fatal thing to do in drafting legislation?

In a previous piece, we presented the views of a fictional citizen and inquired as to whether that individual’s views fell within the range of acceptable positions for either political party.

We raised some rhetorical questions regarding one’s identification with certain political parties, and examined potential positions that might be taken by a third independent party.

One of the positions was that of mandatory service in the armed forces, by all citizens, to defend our nation. Some readers felt that we were advocating a return to slavery, and branded us totalitarian pigs. Some others assumed that we had taken a position in line with Osama bin Laden and that we were not patriotic.

It is not unusual for some of our readers to assume that simply because we mention someone’s name, or quote them on an issue, we support their position.

That experience also highlighted something said by another writer. He noted that in taking a moderate or centrist position, one does not receive some degree of praise from either side. Rather, one has to fend off attacks from both.

Perhaps that’s why we get so little accomplished in the political arena these days, and why partisanship appears to rule.

Every day, negative and outlandish allegations are put out there about virtually every move by every elected official.

This junk is just that; even if it does appeal to our emotional side. We should all be concerned when our innermost “fears” so strongly invade the national discourse, and begin to define who we are.

We have to get beyond our personal issues. We here at the Institute have often said that we do not care where people come out, as long as they engage in a reasoned thought process.

Reason and common sense, not to mention the seriousness of the issue, dictate that all of us be able to find something acceptable in a proposal of this size.

As the professor noted to Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, there are issues bigger than those which we now face, and which have a longer term impact.

So the next time that you read or hear a proposal from someone across the aisle, try to avoid processing it from your point of view. Try to avoid assuming that the writer has a particular point of view.

Simply view it as information.

The next time that you hear something with which you disagree, assume for a short period of time that you misheard it, or that there is a reasonable explanation for the position taken by the speaker. Try to make sense out of it.

Consider the prospect of your brain functioning like a hard disk on a computer. Just take in the information, store it there, and process it later when you have additional information and time to reflect.

When you decide to take action, or express your view, be sure to also ask this question of yourself, “Will what I have to say advance any societal interests in a positive way?”

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Post No. 87: On the Importance of Listening to Others

© 2009, the Institute of Applied Common Sense

In relationships, business being at least one form of relationship, there is nothing more important than listening.

One of The Logistician’s favorite commercials, a United Airlines piece that ran years ago, highlights the concept.

The owner/founder of a company calls a meeting of his employees. He informs them that despite the fact that business with their first client has grown over the years, the client had fired them.

The client informed the company that they had lost touch with it.

The owner/founder of the recently fired company proceeds to hand out a handful of airline tickets to various client locations around the country and across the globe.

He instructs his employees to make sure that they do several things during their visits:

(a) Listen to what the client has to say;

(b) Make sure that the client understands its value to the company; and

(c) Take immediate steps to ensure that the client’s needs and expectations are met.

Asked what he’s going to do, he responds, “Go visit that client that fired us today.”

A number of events occurred over the past 36-hour period, all of which made us relate to the owner of that fictional company.

Watching our federal elected officials wrangle with one another, without truly listening to the positions of those across the aisle, reminded us that asserting a position is only part of the equation if one wants to solve a gnarly problem.

Our new President? He was out in the field chatting it up with citizens.

Since the inception of this blog, a number of our loyal readers have made constructive, positive suggestions regarding its form and content.

Here’s how we plan to meet their thoughtful input. After all, if they didn’t care about our success, they would not have taken the time to make suggestions and express their opinions.

So this is our promise to you going forward:

1. We’ll share with you the point of each one of our pieces in the very first paragraph.

2. We’ll limit our posts to 750 words max, so you can read them quickly and move on. We want you back the next day.

3. We’ll ensure that we avoid “ifs, ands or buts.” Equivocating “on the other hands.” Commentary in which “the headline giveth but the asterisk taketh away.”

4. We’ll make sure that by the end of each and every piece you read, you’ll have a clear, thorough understanding of what we set out to communicate.

5. Above all, we’ll lace the words we write with Common Sense.

These days, given economic reality, we don’t travel as often as we should. Neither do we attend conferences where we can exchange ideas with our peers.

Instead, we exchange e-mails. We talk on the phone. We have teleconferences.

We blog, too.

With any luck, there’s a good bit of listening on both sides of a blog, this one in particular.

Like we said, listening is how relationships are nurtured and success is assured.

© 2009, the Institute of Applied Common Sense

Post No. 86: A Few Thoughts about Corporate Responsibility Elsewhere

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Earlier today, on Public Radio International, we heard an interesting discussion between a public radio talk show host and a New York Times reporter. They were talking about corporate responsibility in Asia.

The broadcast reminded us of how self-righteously myopic Americans can be. We tend to view our way as the right way, believing we’ve attained the right to call ourselves the greatest country in the history of humankind.

We often fail to take into account that our history was preceded by several great empires, many of them strong enough to last hundreds of years.

We suspect that this hubristic attitude may have contributed, at least to some extent, to our current economic difficulties. That is why we frequently suggest that we “step outside of ourselves” in analyzing issues.

We stumbled upon this broadcast after it started, and at a point where the discussion was about corporate responsibility in Japan.

Apparently base Japanese CEO pay is only 15 times that of the average Japanese corporate worker, whereas in America CEO pay is 40 times higher. While sitting CEOs in Japan do receive other benefits, such as company vehicles, there is nothing even remotely close to bonuses in the 20 million dollar range. Moreover, corporate jets are a rarity.

When Japanese CEOs are relieved of power, according to the broadcast, a ritualized script is followed, and it is ceremonial in nature. It is recorded for the citizens to see. The CEO bows and transfers the reins of power. Although formally relieved of responsibility, he or she is kept on as a consultant, never actually leaving the fold. In the background, they continue to be of value to the company.

The reporter told of a Japanese CEO who stepped down last year, after only a couple of months in his exalted position at the top of a company. He had been brought in to turn things around, but was unable to do so in the short time allowed.

While addressing the public in his farewell speech, he began weeping. He asked that some other company take just 1 or 2 of his workers, inasmuch as it was his people who would bear the brunt of the company’s difficulties. The Japanese public noted his sincerity, because his gesture was apparently unprecedented in Japanese corporate circles.

(We recall an earlier PBS program about the differences between businesses in Japan, Germany, and America. It was noted that major Japanese corporations, during the Japanese heyday in the 1980s, continued to acquire loans from Japanese banks, even though they were flush with cash. They wanted to thank the banks for assisting them while they struggled to emerge from the ashes of World War II.)

During the public radio conversation, the reporter switched the discussion to China. He began, “The Chinese, well…” and realizing that he was trying to sugar coat it, simply said, “It’s pretty well acknowledged that they execute CEOs who fail.” He was referring to the executions of CEOs associated with the poorly constructed school buildings, which collapsed during the massive earthquake last year, not to mention the heads of companies who paid for the recent tainted food scandal with their heads.

The reporter noted that South Korean practice was a blend of what we see in America and Japan.

It occurred to us, as we thought about the whole issue of corporate responsibility, that while we here in America think of ourselves as being the best at most things, it’s quite likely that the one thing we may be better at than any other country is pointing our fingers at others. We choose to blame others for what has and is going wrong. It’s always the other guy. The last CEO. The last president. The other political party.

As our regular readers well know, this is not a religious blog. Still, the admonition in Proverbs 26:18 is worth remembering: “Pride goeth before the fall.”

If we weren’t so arrogant, and if we opened our eyes to the world beyond our borders and finally paid more attention to the practices of other cultures, might we not benefit, even just a little?

All systems have limitations. None is perfect. None is or can be all things, to all people, under all circumstances.

All approaches to solving problems have limitations, too. These days, with the world spinning topsy-turvy on so many fronts, and the economy being the most urgent issue on the table, “tried and true” solutions are as valuable as yesterday’s newspaper.

As our leaders go forward, searching for good answers, let’s hope they remain flexible and open to change if and when circumstances warrant it, which they no doubt will. If they wed themselves to rigid philosophy or point their fingers accusingly at the other side in their discussions, we’re all sunk.

That’s only common sense.

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Monday, February 9, 2009

Post No. 85: Why We Suspect, To Our Dismay, That “Whatever” Our Leaders Devise Will Not Work

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Unlike apparently most citizens, we haven't, here at the Institute, read the most recent versions of the economic stimulus bills proposed by the House and the Senate.

Consequently, we are not in a position to competently comment about them.

As a general rule, we try to refrain from judging legislation which we have not personally reviewed.

Additionally, we have not personally viewed all of the “legislative history,” to the extent that any actually exists at this point in time, to determine the specific intent of the writers of specific provisions.

Quite frankly, after all of the, what appears to have been intentional misinformation or false information disseminated by various factions during the presidential campaign, we are not inclined to believe some of the partisan media outlets and organizations, and most of the spin out there.

We realize, as does most of the public, that with most laws, after being enacted in broad terms by a legislative body, some administrative agency (consisting of bureaucrats and not elected officials) actually interprets the goals of the legislation. It writes the rules and regulations applicable thereto, thus generating the details for implementation.

Being aware of that, we are simply not in a position to contest anything which any faction might suggest.

However, we will note this.

If it were all that simple, to come up with the formula, as so many seem to suggest these days, it would have been done by now.

By this we mean that, if society, including the top people in the field of economics, had arrived at some clear consensus about what works under these circumstances (including a true cause and effect relationship), with some degree of certainty, we would have done it by now.

Obviously we haven’t figured out what works, at least not with any degree of certainty.

That's just common sense.

In an emergency, you do what works based on experience, assuming you’ve been there before, or you switch into a common sense survival mode.

However, this is not about common sense, because this is not about the American people as a collective whole. It’s far more complicated than that.

This is significantly about what the politicians can get for their constituents back home, in the various 50 states, and various thousands of counties and cities.

And thus the potential beneficiaries are not similarly situated or interchangeable units.

We’re afraid that this is, quite simply, just another exercise in herding cats.

And lots of them.

Of all different breeds and sizes.

And with different appetites, including some mountain lions, cougars, and panthers.

You can't have this many individual elected officials, each trying to advance their own personal interests and the interests of their constituents, and come up with anything that makes “common” sense.

Apart from the common sense issue, this “effort” defies even the most basic principles of organizational management theory. Keep in mind that governance, in theory, is about management.

Simply put, there is no central, unifying purpose or goal, upon which the citizens have agreed.

Rarely has a nation found that degree of unity in purpose in the absence of war.

Right now, we’re too busy squabbling amongst ourselves, and we will continue to do so, even after a measure is passed.

Just think about it. What is the probability of success of this measure after passage, when some factions will continue to whack and snip away at it?

That’s roughly akin to a marriage where the parents of each spouse spend each day telling their child why he or she should not have entered into the marriage, and why it will not work.

As if they don’t have enough problems with which to deal without the parental involvement.

If we truly viewed this as a broad-sided attack on our survival and ultimate existence economically, we’d all be facing the same direction, with similarly drawn weapons, ready to defend against the oncoming missiles lobbed our way.

Instead, we’re spending the bulk of our time attacking one another.

And with ferocity.

At least we’re a colorful bunch of cats.

We’d like to find someone willing to put a substantial wager down on the probability of success of this team winning the roll of the dice.

Just let us know. We’ve got our money ready.

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Post 84b: Article of Interest: We Still Say a Country Needs to Know Its Limitations

Do you really have any confidence, or even just some hope, that our government has the ability to address serious problems in society? Take a look at this article which appears today in USA Today and let us know what you think after reading it. Does it provide us with an indication as to how the economic stimulus funds might be handled?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Post 84a: Article of Interest re Surprising Auto Sales in a Distant Land

Despite the problems faced by automobile manufacturers world-wide, there's one location where cars are selling like hotcakes. Guess where:

By the way, if that surprises you, although clearlyunrelated, do you recall this article which we posted in August of last year?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Post No. 84: Despite Bad Economy, Welfare Rolls Not Growing (Huh?)

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We call ourselves the Institute for Applied “Common” Sense, and yet we often find ourselves trying to make sense of things.

We believe that instead of being distracted by the superficial symptoms associated with problems, we should “dig deeper” to identify the underlying causes.

Just last week, we discussed the state of the art of various alternative automotive technologies. We noted that the problem is not with the science or the technology, per se.

After all, one could theoretically assemble a group of engineers or scientists to achieve virtually any technological goals, although not necessarily with the desired speed or preferred ease. (More significantly, it’s a timing issue, or simply put, do we have it when we need it, or when we want it, or when we choose to think about it?) Or as the Logistician often notes in his presentations, "whether they were 'sufficiently motivated.'"

In discussing the auto industry, and the government’s involvement (both past and future), we tend to focus on the nature and structure of our governance (management) model in this country, and the limitations associated with it.

The model’s inherent limitations were one of the main reasons that we cautioned against the development a national health care system, at least as currently being discussed. Quite simply, we believe that America does not have a governance model, or mindset (at least not at the present time), to be able to competently run such a system for 300 million subscribers.

Fortunately, we are not alone in our views this time around. This past weekend, C-Span2 Book TV aired a discussion about government’s inability to respond to the needs of its citizens. The title of the program was, “The Next Government of the United States: Why Our Institutions Fail Us and How to Fix Them.”

That is also the name of the book written by Donald Kettl, a leadership and government professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Kettl argues that the government has emerged into “interlocking public-private-nonprofit systems that lack adequate governance, a clear government role, and any central control.”

Hmm, what a radical position.

What should be very clear by now is that we have been using our tax dollars, some three trillion of them in the last 12 months, to fix the wrong things. [Pop quiz: Do you know how many zeros are in a trillion?]

We may all still be sitting around the same Monopoly board, but we are no longer all playing by the same rules.

Wall Street has used at least twenty billion of our money as bonuses because they claim that they “need to keep the best people.” On Wall Street, people are still considered an asset, regardless of their performance.

On the other hand, General Motors and Chrysler are using a good part of the twenty billion they received to get rid of their people (people who, by the way, are building the best quality cars and trucks in automotive industry history), because they think they can find someone who will do the work cheaper.

Does anyone else see a cost versus price problem here?

Is this the new definition of value added?

Apparently, the sense is not “common.”

With tongue only slightly in cheek, Michael Lewis (the author of Liar’s Poker, The New, New Thing, and Moneyball, among others), wrote in the September 5, 2007 edition of Bloomberg News, as follows:

“So, right after the Bear Sterns funds blew up, I had a thought: this is what happens when you lend money to poor people. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing personally against the poor. To my knowledge, I have nothing to do with the poor at all. It’s not personal when a guy cuts your grass; that’s a business. He does what you say; you pay him. But you don’t pay him in advance. That would be finance. And finance is the one thing you should never engage in with the poor. (By poor, I mean anyone who the SEC wouldn’t allow to invest in my hedge fund.)” [Italics added.]

The best and the brightest of our Business Schools have nothing but contempt for Jack Welsh and Steve Jobs. In their view, those poor fools build things, meaning they have to share their income with (and think about) workers, suppliers, and bankers. They are playing Monopoly by the old rules. [Ha, ha, ha.]

You see, to those less sophisticated ones of us, it now appears that the new rules are not about making things, but making money.

The idea apparently is to divert as much money as possible into Free Parking, land on it, and get on to the next game. For some, this must be the new definition of “business relationship."

There is no other way to make a constant 20% on your investments, and a resulting $20 million annual bonus.

If you want to borrow some of the money these new wave financiers (who have slaved and toiled so hard) have under their management, you have to get rid of as many of your workers as possible… to get your future margins up.

That you can’t build anything without workers is beside the point, Watson. They will package your loan and sell it to the Chinese before you exhaust your existing inventory.

The problem is that 18th century steam boat physics proved ultimately (although it was challenged at the time) that when all the passengers and crew run to one side of the boat, you’re “most likely” going to have difficulty “going forward,” as Wall Street likes to say.

And so it was with a great deal of interest that we noted an article entitled “Welfare Aid Isn’t Growing as Economy drops Off” in the February 2, 2009 edition of The New York Times.

BEFORE you read it, stop and consider the most logical explanations for why this might be occurring.

The mere fact that anyone would have to read that article to make sense of it strongly suggests that….

If you think that the welfare situation doesn’t make sense, whether “common” or not, try understanding the opposition by some to the “Buy American” provision in the stimulus bill currently being debated.

We’re not particularly well-versed in either micro or macro economic theory. However, whatever route we chose to reach this point, where it has become problematic for us to suggest that we buy our own goods, should be “revisited” so that we do not venture down that path again.

It obviously wasn’t a straight one.

It may make “economic sense,” at this point in time, to the intellectuals and those who stand to benefit. However, it just seems to us that it defies the “common sense” of the common citizen.

We guess that this is just one more thing that the “common man or woman” does not understand, the silly people that we are, along with derivatives and swaps.

We truly apologize for not understanding those vehicles. Simply color us "unimaginative." Apparently, a lot of our politicians and the politically sophisticated understand them, and we guess that is all that matters.

Imagine a parent being told, “Instead of choosing to focus on taking care of your kids, and buying lemonade from their stand, you should be cautious and continue to purchase the lemonade made by the kids of some distant relatives living abroad, because to do otherwise might come back to haunt you, and, oh by the way, it may actually be in YOUR best interests.”

We, the unsophisticated, suspect that macro economic principles applicable to the global economy are far more complicated than dealing with one’s little family. But try explaining that to the common man or woman whose taxes are paying for the corporate bailouts.

Simply put, addressing societal problems is evidently complex stuff, but even a homeless guy (or perhaps someone on that dreadful welfare) knows that a patchwork of band-aids, applied in haste in the ER, rarely stops the bleeding, although it might allow the attending to send you on your way.

When you get results from an initiative, which are diametrically opposed to what you expect the program to accomplish, you should consider returning to the drawing board.

Finally, to quote that bearded friend of ours from days long past:

“Horatio: He waxes desperate with imagination.

“Marcellus: Let’s follow. ‘Tis not fit for us to obey him.

“Horatio: Have after. To what issue will this come?

“Marcellus: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

“Horatio: Heaven will direct it.

“Marcellus: Nay, let’s follow him. [Exeunt.]”

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Editorial Note: This “whatever” was the product of collaboration between The Laughingman and The Logistician. Believe it or not, we originally thought that we were going to chat about welfare, but it evolved into this. For those of you failing to make “sense” of it –well, we guess that you just had to be there….

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Post No. 83: The Impure Need Not Apply

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Our goal here at the Institute is to assist people in ultimately formulating solutions. We do not care what the solution is, as long as it is reasoned, and advances the long-term goals of our collective society, and not just the interests of certain groups.

Someone once suggested that elected officials, and those seeking appointment to public service positions, be required to generate, for public dissemination, a detailed historical resume, and provide all tax returns and documentation BEFORE filing to run for elected office, or accepting a nomination or an appointment.

Obviously, an extension of this thought process would suggest that all details of their lives and finances, as politicians or government officials, be similarly disclosed on a periodic basis.

Here's another thought. Our nation has obviously reached the point where our elected officials are expected to be without flaws, and to be pristine and pure in those areas which we consider to be “of importance,” such as the avoidance of tapping shoes under public restroom stalls.

It doesn't matter on which side of the aisle they intend to travel. This should be applied uniformly without regard to political party or ideology.

Why not consider having all applicants for public office execute an affidavit to the effect that they have never broken the law (with the types of offenses enumerated), and have done nothing, of which they are aware, which might be regarded as "inappropriate" for a public official.

To address the concerns of the due process extremists, we could have a bi-partisan commission generate a list of indiscretions, based on years of experience with past scofflaws, including utilizing the services of illegal aliens and the improper utilization of cigars and other contrivances.

In conjunction with the execution of the affidavit, we could also require the applicant to put up as collateral, all of his or her assets, to be forfeited, and the social service placement of any minors within their custody, if it is later determined that there has been some failing in their conduct.

That's one approach which we could employ to weed out all of these pretenders, don't you think? We, as a nation, appear to have no interest in people with flaws or who have failed, so let's deal with that on the front end.

And it also appears, as reflected in the recent comments about Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, and Tom Daschle recently, that admitting that you were wrong, and accepting responsibility for your conduct is viewed as a “little too late,” and of little consequence.

(Hmmm. Perhaps the former governor of Illinois is way ahead of us on that one.)

Why not be proactive and do the Barney Fife by “nipping this in the bud” by disqualifying folks BEFORE they run for office or seek an appointment.

It would make admissions of fault and acceptance of responsibility purely gratuitous.

Doesn’t this seem like the proper and efficient thing to do?

Forget talent! Forget experience! Forget other qualifications!

What we really need to lead us back, to the mountaintop of international moral and economic prominence, is to only have the pristine and the pure lead us there. Hallelujah!

Why waste our time with the impure? Simply toss them aside, and use not their services.

Step forward, all of you who are without sin, to lead us!

The impure need not apply.

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Post 82: Some Thoughts on the State of Technology in America

© 2009, the Institute of Applied Common Sense

Previously, in Post No. 79a, we posted an article discussing where we really are at this point in time, in connection with electric car technology. The Free Press article, which we referenced, also mentioned that the auto industry will need the long term cooperation and assistance of government to pull this off.

While we focused, in that post, on the debate between the competing “private enterprise/let the free market determine,” and the “government intervention/ regulation” factions, we later realized that we had failed to focus on the technology factor.

That realization came about when one of our readers, Robert, perfectly framed the issue, and brought some common sense back into the discussion about the state of technology related to batteries used in electric vehicles. We decided to generate this post to highlight the importance of his comment.

Simply put, Robert indicated that the technology is simply not there. Yet. (We invite you to examine it in its entirety toward the end of the comments to Post No. 79a.)

(Tangentially, Robert’s comment (along with its tone) so impressed The Logistician, who has an engineering and science background, that he suggested that we extend an invitation to him to join us here at the Institute for Applied Common Sense.)

We've often wondered, why it is that some "elements" in our society are always complaining about the failure of our nation (whether it be an attack on our educational system or private industry) to come up with technological advances in various areas, when they feel that we need them, or that it suits their purposes?

By "elements," we mean the non-scientific, non-engineer, non-inventor, political science and English majors, and the lawyers who run for elected office. For the most part, the members of these elements have not invented one single thing in their lives (with the possible exception of babies), and yet they have the gumption to preach about technological failures or miscalculations on the part of others.

Michael Crichton, shortly before his death last year, spoke of how we had, in this country, come to politicize science, to such an extent that it hurts our ability to have a realistic conversation about our technological needs and goals.

In a discussion, with a very well-respected scientist and leader in his field of research late last year, we asked this question: Why are we, the “general public,” not privy to scientific views and conclusions viewed as “givens” by the academic, engineering, and scientific communities, which significantly affect our lives and the quality thereof?

The Professor suggested one basic reason: the fear of being “Saganized,” or not being taken seriously because of one’s popular appeal, once the discussion enters the popular arena. (The term was coined in connection with Carl Sagan, who popularized science.)

We submit that there is a second: the fear of attack, from those factions (usually religious, financial, or political in nature) outside of their respective scientific communities, who have agendas unrelated to the advancement of science.

The conversation, at the national level in particular, has become perverted, and, as with many things in life, perversion of the analysis on the front end leads to perversion of the purported solutions on the back end.

If you have 300 cats in your large home or building, and you let them essentially do what they want to do on a daily basis, you can't exactly complain when, at the end of the day, your structure is not in the “condition” in which you would like.

Similarly, when a nation of 300 million lets its adult citizens pursue whatever educational and vocational interests they desire, and industry to pursue whatever legal goals it desires, we can not later legitimately complain about the state of our nation.

We're not saying that we necessarily need to change our current governance model, if it's what the majority of the citizens want. We're just saying that a responsible nation recognizes the consequences of its freedoms (aka actions), acknowledges them, and then figures out how to minimize the negative costs associated with the exercise of those freedoms.

Disingenuously blaming others does not advance that goal, or the long term interests of the nation, in dealing with scientific and technological issues (or any other issues for that matter).

© 2009, the Institute of Applied Common Sense

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Post No. 81: Rear View Mirror: Post - Super Bowl Edition (or How Quickly We Forget)

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We are once again delighted to have a contribution by The Laughingman.

In the summer of 1971, then President Richard M. Nixon introduced the American public to mandatory wage and price controls, pursuant to the Economic Stabilization Act of 1970, setting off a wave of unintended consequences.

(For those of you under the age of 45, we have provided you with some nifty links enabling you to further explore this seemingly ancient history.)

President Nixon's action was largely the result of the cost of America's longest war... and its first defeat.

Both Nixon and his predecessor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, had correctly assumed that support for the conflict would totally evaporate should the American people get any idea of what it was actually costing. Consequently, both men played their economic cost cards very close to their vests.

Wage and price controls had two immediate impacts on both corporations and labor.

For corporations, any reduction in the price of a product to address declining economic circumstances was viewed as suicidal because of the possibility of the corporation becoming locked into that lower price into perpetuity.

For labor, compensation negotiations shifted from current pay to future benefits, effectively moving what the workers earned from pay to future promises of health care and retirement income.

Both groups had one thing in common - neither trusted the federal government.

As both struggled with this new reality, the government went chasing niche interests in hopes of building support for an increasingly unpopular war. Detroit was given a couple of years to make mandatory seat belt/ignition interlocks standard equipment on every car sold in the United States by the 1974 model year.

Our news papers became awash in "coupons" to be submitted to the retailer, or sent directly to the factory to obtain a temporary price reduction on just about anything. As soon as P&G discovered that more than 40% of these coupons were never redeemed, it began to change its strategy, from strength of wholesale sales based on pricing and advertising superiority, to coupons, thus shifting pricing and advertising largely to retailers.

Welcome to the game, Wal-Mart.

Unions came up with ideas like "job banks" to insure that if their workers could not share in economic upturns, at least they would not lose their income when the market turned down.

President Nixon, with new problems of his own, finally pulled American combat troops out of Viet Nam on March 29, 1973, but the cost of the war remained a lingering problem, even as that only class of criminals native to the United States, Congress, debated how the "peace dividend" could best be spent to their individual benefit.

It was a short debate.

The Yom Kippur War only lasted from October 6 to October 26, 1973 (some have advanced it lasted until December 23, 1973), but the Arab Oil Embargo lasted from October, 1973 to March, 1974... temporarily quadrupling the cost of oil.

On January 2, 1974, President Nixon signed the "Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act" into law, basically denying federal highway funds to any state not immediately enacting a 55 mph speed limit.

The United States became the laughing stock of the world-wide automotive community.

The idea was to cut U.S. oil consumption by at least 2.2%. Interestingly, U.S. oil conservation never exceeded 1%... and by most independent analysis never got above .5%... nevertheless, the law remained on the books until 1995.

The laughter only got louder as the American consumer simply refused to buy an automobile equipped with technology that made it impossible to start unless everybody (and every heavy package) in the car was wearing a properly connected seat belt.

Not only did American corporations and labor no longer trust the government, it appeared that the government no longer trusted them.

Not surprisingly, light vehicle sales tanked. 1975 looked as if it would be lucky to reach half of 1973's volume.

On August 8, 1974, during the acoustic segment of a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young concert in Newark, New Jersey, Richard Nixon resigned the presidency.

Six months later, during half-time at Super Bowl IX, Joe Garagiola suggested that the solution to all our economic ills could be solved fairly simply: "Get a car. Get a check."

Five years later, round about January, and on its way to 70 something consecutive monthly sales records, Tom Messner and Barry Vetere produced a $100,000 television commercial for Saab with a visual of empty car haulers driving down various roads.

The voice over ran something along the lines of, "Last year, Saab sold every single car they imported to America...even the 36 neon green ones with the orange interiors, and the rubber floor mats. So, if you want to buy a Saab this year, you might want to hurry."

This was clearly out of step with what had become standard automotive sales procedure, but according to Bob Sinclair...CEO of Saab NA at the time; "If you build cars that people want to buy, and price them accordingly, you don't have to bribe them to buy them."

Now that we’ve gotten beyond the hoopla of this year’s Super Bowl, and the depressing atmosphere at the recent North American International Auto Show, I would sure feel a whole lot better about the future or our automobile industry, if President Obama could find the time to have lunch with Bob, before we begin production of the new Pelosi.

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Post No. 80: The Logistician’s Favorite "Short Story"

A frog walks into a bank, and promptly walks up to the teller, whose name is Patricia Whack.

"Good morning Ms. Whack," says the frog. "My name is Froggy Jagger, my Father is Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, and I'd like to get a loan."

Ms. Whack, taken somewhat aback, inquires as to whether Froggy has any collateral.

Froggy reaches down and pulls up a brown, paper bag, which he promptly opens to reveal a delicate, pink, porcelain elephant.

Ms. Whack provides a polite, "Hmm, let me see," and indicates that she'll be right back.

She then walks into the office of the Branch Manager, Mr. Jones, and hesitantly reveals that, "There's a frog outside, sir, who claims that his Father is Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, and he would like to get a loan, the collateral for which he has provided this porcelain elephant."

The Branch Manager displays a look of irritation for a few seconds, and then with clenched teeth utters:








"It's a knick-knack Patty Whack, give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone."

The Logistician refers to this type of joke as a “church joke,” namely one which can be told in church, or to grade school children. Now it’s your turn. Share with us your “short story” or “church joke.”

"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense Should be a Way of Life"™