Archive for June, 2008

Ethics within Ethics?

Posted in The Middle Ground on June 27, 2008 by cheappaper

I have a folder of unread RSS items. I poke through it from time to time. So It was that I found a May 23 blog entry by Daniel Altman.

I like Mr. Altman’s blog. I like his insights on globalization. Consequently, I was disappointed with a note he added to the bottom of his article. He blamed his staff for losing a computer file.

Ironically, the May 23 article focused on the value of socially ethical investing, with allusions to Enron. Is not Mr. Altman’s action in blaming his staff the same type of behavior we saw from Enron’s senior executives?

An organization’s culture flows from its top. Whether it is ethical or organizational behavior, the behavior of an organization’s leaders serve as a template for that of the organization’s employees.

I’ll bet that Mr. Altman’s leadership played a role in the loss of the computer file, even if indirectly. I believe it speaks volumes when a leader, such as Mr. Altman, tries to evade responsibility for an error in his organization. Were there similar evasions that took place in his staff?

C’mon Mr. Altman, step up and take some responsibility. Losing a set of blog comments is an embarrassment but not more. Don’t cower behind your staff. If you lead, they will lead too.

In this case, your actions not only shined poorly on you, they served as a sardonic self commentary on your own article.


On Greed

Posted in Zen and Modern Life on June 26, 2008 by cheappaper

I am a lazy lout. If I post two days in a row, I know that I am mulling over things.

I return to my post of yesterday. I have alway been a fan of the old saying:

Greed is not bad, and stupidity is not bad, but greed and stupidity combined are very bad.

Here is another take on greed: it is good until it becomes sociopathic greed.

Sociopathic greed is the sort of greed that gives no consideration to its own survival. It is the parasite that kills the host — and most parasites are too smart to do that.

For example, take football. Each team is greedy. It wants to win. It is good that both teams may knock a few heads, use some elbows, and do whatever below the belt. All part of the sport.

Consider what would happen if one team arrived with firearms and offed the other team. In their own eyes, they would see themselves as the winners. On the other hand, it would not do much for the sport in general. Sooner or later there would be no more football.

I think the same may be said of societies.

The Fall of Rome

Posted in The Middle Ground, Zen and Modern Life on June 25, 2008 by cheappaper

I could enjoy watching flights of hubris if they did not have the nasty habit of landing on top of pedestrians when they return to earth.

I was reading this morning an article on the Bear Stearns debacle. The pundits continue to debate the source of the subprime mess. “Did Bear Stearn’s downfall cause it?,” they ask. “No, it was the other way around,” others contend.

In all the flurry, what caught my eye was a statement attributed to Bear Stearn’s fund manager Ralph Cioffi. Ralph was the manager of one of Bear Stearn’s subprime portfolios. He reportedly earned tens of millions of dollars annually to shepard these monies. When he belatedly realized his funds had failed, he emailed a colleague and stated that he had “effectively washed a 30-year career down the drain.”

A remarkable statement. A man who has just squandered 1.6 billion of other people’s money and his first thought is to his career and, by extension, his pocketbook?

I would guess that if the pundits paused long enough to meditate on Ralph’s statement, they would find in it the answer to their questions. For I would also guess that Ralph is not alone.

Seven Dirty Words

Posted in Tolerance, Violence on June 24, 2008 by cheappaper

George Carlin was one of my favorite comedians. His death got me pondering again his famous (or infamous) Seven Dirty Words. It has always struck me that his seven dirty words all relate to having sex or sitting on the toilet.

As he used to say, all the other words were acceptable for television, right?.

These words include kill, murder, slay, execute, assassinate, terminate, massacre, eradicate, cleanse, call in, dispatch, zap, polish off, ice, kavork, pop, smoke, blow away, do in, take out, postal, swat, bogart, extinguish, annihilate, slaughter, do up, hit, whack, scratch, waste, off, snuff, liquidate, butcher, lynch, dry-gulch, burke, and gank.

Lest we forget, Holocaust, Killing Fields, and Darfur are acceptable too.

I will leave it to the philosophers whether, in a world of scant resources, it is better to kill than to give life.

As I’ve said before, though, the kids will always figure it out. My hunch is that if we showed them more tits and dicks, and less whacks and hits, we might live in a different place.

Rest in peace George. You will be missed.

And then it was Obama

Posted in The Middle Ground, Tolerance on June 4, 2008 by cheappaper

I ride a bicycle. I’m just a weekend warrior, which made the kind comments by New York photographer and bike courier Brian McGloin a special treat. What he does is real cycling.

A few years back, I decided to ride my bicycle over the Going to the Sun Highway. This so-called highway is a two lane road climbing through Glacier National Park in Montana. It goes up to the height of land without a break. On a bicycle and in rough numbers, it is 25 miles of nothing but up hill. For me, this meant hours of pedaling. Just pushing one foot down, then the other.

At times, the road simply ground through miles of trees, with nothing more to see. At other times, the road reached singular points of reward: an arched bridge over an impassible gorge or a stone tunnel through a barrier of granite. There was even a small cliff called the Weeping Wall.

What I found most grueling about the ride was that, for much of it, I could look literally miles ahead and see the road scratched into the mountainside, still climbing toward the pass. For all the sweat I’d put in, all I could see was more hill ahead.

At one point, however, I stopped. Focused on the riding as I had been, I had not looked back at the road behind me. I was moved to see how far I had come. Below me lay valleys and forests as far back as I could see. As others who have traveled the road will tell, it is one of the most spectacular sights in the United States. It caused me to pause and reflect that my efforts had, in fact, had remarkable results.

So I got on my bicycle and started pedaling again.

And so I think it is with hate and bigotry too. Let us pause a moment and reflect on how far we have come. Then, move forward again.

Congratulation Mr. Obama. Congratulations to all African Americans. Congratulations America.