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Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Time Event
12:39p
The Deregulation Lie
One of the things we continually hear from conservative candidates is that they will “work to reduce government regulation” to “get the government off business’s back” , as though this was an unalloyed good idea. However, they never say WHAT regulations they intend to delete.

Since the great financial deregulation of the Reagan era, we’ve had the savings and loan meltdown, market manipulation scandals, massive Ponzi schemes, and the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. Can you say, “Silverado”? “Enron”? “Madoff”? “Lehman Brothers”? We’ve seen how well THAT works. Do we want more of it? Bankers and brokers are lobbying hard for the right to continue to play blind poker with our money.

It’s more than a hundred years since the publication of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, yet we are still finding tainted meat, bad eggs, and contaminated vegetables in our food supply, not to mention poisonous toys and deadly drugs. Which regulations here should be repealed?

Coal miners and oil rig workers are still being killed on the job, while their employers are cited for violation after violation and get only taps on the wrist if that. When I heard the head of Massey Energy state that “we never put profits before safety,” I laughed out loud. He thinks we are stupid. Of course his company puts profits before safety. EVERY business puts profits before safety. Without profits, there is no business. With no or minimal attention to safety, you can do business perfectly well. Balancing this is the cold, capitalist, equation. The trouble with our present system is that industry lobbyists have been writing the regulations that they nevertheless complain about and evade, using the criteria of “as cheap as possible and minimally safe,” instead of “as safe as feasible and reasonably cheap.”

Given this track record, which regulations would you repeal? I could understand trying to prune out needless or pointless regs, but in fact, we need some that are more effective and have more teeth. The cry of “less regulation overall” is only motivated by the desire to further increase profits (already tax free for many companies) at the expense of workers and consumers.
This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/173290.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
2:49p
"Get Motivated" Seminar, Milwaukee, September 14th.

I’d been curious about the “Get Motivated” seminars which come through Milwaukee every year or so. They take out a lot of full page newspaper ads listing an impressive array of speakers and advertise that you can attend for merely $4.95, or take your whole office (no matter how many) for $19.95. This year, the seminar fell on Sept. 14th, which I had as a vacation day, so I decided to check it out.

Turns out you really CAN go for just $4.95, which reserves you a seat (although not a particular seat) in the upper tier of the Bradley Center, which is where they were this time. I also laid out an additional $5.00 for the workbook, which contains some interesting articles. Alerted by an article in the Milwaukee paper, I was prepared when a representative called to “confirm” my reservation, and attempted to upsell me to better seats, which I resisted. In fact, since the speakers were projected on the Center’s Jumbotron video screens, my seat was just as good as anyones. Quite a few people evidently did opt to upgrade, as, by the time the show was well underway, most of the expensive seats were filled.

I suppose one shouldn’t be surprised that a goodly bit of patriotism and hoopla is on display at this sort of thing, and starting with the national anthem is fine, but I did not think that igniting indoor fireworks on “the rocket’s red glare” was either dignified or appropriate. (Each new speaker also got welcomed with a burst of fireworks, so I suppose they thought they couldn’t slight the “Star-Spangled Banner”--.)

The first speaker was Dr. Robert Schuler, of “The Hour of Power”. Schuler gave a brief and good humored warm up on his frequent theme, “You need to cut the word impossible out of your dictionary!”

Schuler was followed by publisher and some-time presidential candidate Steve Forbes, whose advice ran to: don’t be afraid to take risks and lay it on the line. In a technological environment, you don’t have to be a scientist if you can innovate on and market what’s being invented. Forbes did take time to argue that a weak dollar is slowing economic recovery, took the rather questionable position that Federal Reserve monetary policy was responsible for the mortgage crisis, and touted the idea of the flat tax, one of his past major campaign planks.

Laura Bush came next, and gave a mildly amusing, but insubstantial reminiscence of her time as First Lady. I was hoping that she would make a strong case for literacy programs, but she did not other than making the simple statement that everyone should learn to read.

Krish Dahnam was next up. Dahnam is a professional motivational speaker and author, and comes with the comparatively unusual background of being an immigrant, having come to the U.S.A. with his family when a child. He was quite upbeat, emphasizing that America is still a desirable place to live.

Dahnam was followed by Bob Kotell, who was one of the two pitchmen on the program. Kotell really gave a very informative talk about using currently available online tools for stock analysis, which made the class his group was offering seem very attractive, judging by the number of people who went to sign up during the break.

After the lunch break, the first speaker was Tom Hopkins, who gave a good talk about dealing with failure and learning from it--. Not bad, but did ignore the possibility of absolute, crash-and-burn failures--. He talked a bit about closing the sale using questions, which struck me as an elementary and easily avoided tactic, but perhaps I am too cynical about things of that nature.

Zig Zigler, who essentially created the business of Motivational Speaking, was one of the headliners, so I was a bit surprised to find that Zigler suffered traumatic brain injury, resulting in profound short-term memory loss, from a fall some three years ago. These days, he appears with his daughter/manager, who gently interviews him about his career, followed by a video of some of his classic “bits”. It was rather sad, actually, seeing the once-dynamic speaker repeat statements he obviously didn’t recall having made two minutes earlier, and one wonders why he hasn’t retired.

Next up was four-time Superbowl winning quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Bradshaw is actually quite funny, essentially doing a stand-up routine which touched on motivation in his overcoming his very inauspicious school career, but included poking fun at his “cracker” background, and some wicked takeoffs on his fellow football players. (Bradshaw got quite a few laughs when he urged the audience not to be hard on Brett Farve, saying after all, what’s wrong with making $20 million a year?)

James Smith was the other commercial representative on the program. Also quite funny in an edgy style (claiming to be the “anti-motivational speaker”) , Smith laid down some tough home truths while making his case that there is still money to be made in this real estate market, which is the subject of the course he was offering. (I’m sure that’s true, but the wonderful investment opportunities in buying tax liens, while no doubt real, smack a bit of foreclosing on the orphanage to me--.)

Colin Powell was the last speaker I stayed for. Powell looks great, and is still vigorous, sharp, and engaged in a number of projects. He had some amusing remarks about the differences between having been Secretary of State, and returning to being a private citizen (for example, the Secretary of State has a dedicated jet plane on call; today, he is an ordinary commercial traveler, dealing with the security systems he himself helped set up in the wake of 9/11--). He did have some things to say about leadership, including that you should know and understand what your lowest echelons are doing. He related praising the people who cleaned his office, noting that their performance reflected on the prestige of the United States, and thus that they were an important part of his organization. He also described an episode in which he shed his security detail and went down to inspect the State Department’s underground garage because he was curious about how the attendants did their job.

Since it was getting late for me, I didn’t stay to hear Rudoph Giuliani, although I’m sure he gave a good talk as well.

On analysis, if you are interested in seeing some notable people give some fairly entertaining and interesting talks, it’s a really good deal. Even the salesman were upfront and gave what seemed to me to good and potentially useful advice, although I can’t recall anything I heard that was either deathless or really inspiring.

 

This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/173326.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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