Saturday, August 21, 2010

Obama Lied About His Religious Affiliation

Because of recent poll findings (reported in Newsweek, for example, with factual errors) that as much as 31% of the public believes that Obama is a Muslim, there has been a spate of publicity concerning an issue that surfaced on my blog during the election campaign: whether then-Senator Obama was lying about his religious affiliation.  The Democratic Party's media refused to ask this question (Newsweek insists, without evidence, that the claim is factually wrong.  Unlike Newsweek, I look for evidence when I claim something to be a fact), and otherwise hard headed analysts such as Mayor Ed Koch happily allowed themselves to be duped.  It seems that party affiliation, political correctness and anger about George W. Bush made many eager to be conned.  The propaganda characteristically part of the Democratic Party's media also played a role.  For instance, Newsweek reports (assuming that they were able to get this straight, which is dubious) that the editors of the Atlanta Constitution now believe that a presidential candidate's religious beliefs ought not to concern the public.  Rather, I would suggest that the Atlanta Constitution's opinions ought not to concern the public. 

Sharad Karkhanis has forwarded Madeline Brooks's Canada Free Press article article to me (see below). For me, the question is not whether he is a Muslim or a Christian but whether he misrepresented his religion as well as his position on Israel, the Middle East and Pakistan-India conflict.  No issue is off limits with respect to a presidential race, and the fact that the Atlanta Constitution's editors think otherwise suggests that they are not an important or useful source of information.   The gullible willingness of many Jews and Hindus as well as Christians to believe the Democratic media's propaganda concerning Obama shows a serious weakness in our educations and in common sense.

Madeline Brooks called Obama's church to learn that, contrary to logic and any possible interpretation of either Christianity or Islam, Jeremiah Wright's church sees no conflict between Islamic and Christian doctrine. Hence, the fact that Obama had produced no evidence of conversion is entirely consistent with his legitimate membership in Wright's church.  He need not have converted to Christianity to belong to Wright's church, and the church says that many members are Muslims.  No one in the Democratic media ever asked Wright's church whether a Muslim could belong.  It turns out a Muslim can belong. Hence, his membership, far from being evidence of Christianity as the flightless birds at Newsweek claim, is actually evidence of his Muslim faith.  Nor is Obama's assertion of Christianity evidence of a thing.

Obama’s Unique Form of ‘Christianity:’ No Baptism Or Renunciation of Islam Required By Madeline Brooks  Saturday, August 21, 2010

New questions arise lately concerning whether President Obama is a Muslim or a Christian, as Mr. Obama gives his partial support to the mosque at Ground Zero. 

We’ve all heard by now that Obama became a Christian mostly to expedite his political career and that the Trinity United Church of Christ he joined, presided over by Reverend Jonathan Wright, was not exactly mainstream.  We’ve heard about Wright’s damning of America and we know that the church was – and might still be - a hot bed of black nationalism.  But what is not as well known is that no baptism is required, nor must Muslims renounce Islam to be accepted as full members in that church.

On a tip from a pastor, which I wrote about here I called the Trinity United Church back in February, 2010 to ask about the requirements of membership.  The church receptionist transferred my call to the Director of Membership, who told me that baptism is optional and that Muslims who believe in the prophet Mohammed can be full members.  In fact, she reassured me cheerfully, they have plenty of Muslim members.

Never mind that this is theologically impossible, except when one makes one’s own rules.  The doctrines of Christianity and Islam are incompatible.  Christianity believes that Jesus Christ is one with the Creator, through the doctrine of the Trinity, and that Jesus died on the cross in order to redeem humanity from its sins.  Islam calls the Trinity ‘idolatry’ because it sees the Trinity’s three parts as separate entities – three distinct gods – instead of one divine being.  Islam also denies Christianity’s claim that Jesus Christ died on the cross, or that he is the unique savior of humanity.

Baptism is central to Christian practices, both as a way to mark the convert’s entrance into a new life and as a washing away of sinful practices from the person’s past.  The core of the new life as a Christian is a renunciation of other religious beliefs.  The World Council of Churches is an umbrella organization for Protestant churches that represents about 550 million Christians throughout more than 120 countries.  It has declared the centrality of baptism for a Christian, and notes that no matter how much churches may differ in other ways, the vast majority of churches agree on the importance of baptism.
 
Why would a Muslim want to join a church that proclaimed these Christian beliefs?  It would be a betrayal of his own convictions.  Besides, the word “Trinity” is in the name of the Trinity United Church of Christ, which should discourage a Muslim who thinks the Christian trinity is blasphemous. What’s going on here?

The Trinity United Church of Christ is affiliated with the mainline United Church of Christ which branched out of Congregationalism, and going back even further, that denomination had its roots in Puritanism.  All these connections are very traditional.  The affirmation of faith of the parent organization, as found in their constitution begins with, “The United Church of Christ acknowledges as its sole Head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior.”  However, when the black pride movement burgeoned in Chicago during the 1960s at the time when Malcolm X made that city the headquarters for the Nation of Islam, the Trinity United Church of Christ appears to have made doctrinal adjustments to accommodate its constituents.  They were African Americans who wanted a veneer of Christianity, which many of them had been raised with, to cover their newly acquired black nationalism and Nation of Islam inspired faith.  At the same time, the church needed new members because church attendance was falling off. 

So a new syncretic religion was born, Muslim Christianity.  Never mind that it makes a mish mash of theology – in order to suit the emotional and cultural needs of the parishioners.  Obama may have been telling the truth when he called himself a Christian, even though he has not apparently spent much time in any church since leaving the tutelage of Rev. Wright.  But for the rest of us, there is confusion, a confusion that is sure to grow as not only the President but possibly many others influenced by him, take the side of Islamic political entities while still calling themselves ‘Christian.’

PSC Bungles Rangel's Tangle

Sharad Karkhanis's Patriot Returns just published my article "PSC Bungles Rangel's Tangle."

The Professional Staff Congress (PSC), a union that purports to represent CUNY's faculty, has allowed City College's (CCNY's) public relations calamity involving the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service to spin out of control without voicing the slightest concern or faculty perspective. CCNY's ethical and public relations breaches are attracting national attention while the PSC pontificates about a litany of dogmatic pieties concerning the Afghan War, the Bush administration, the Iraqi War, the Tea Party and the Republicans' sub-prime lending policies. Likely, the PSC's flower child president, Barbara Bowen, and her New Caucus band of Merry Pranksters find potential ethics breaches at CCNY as too "off the bus" to warrant their time, which they see as best spent praising sociopaths like Hugo Chavez, Syed Hashmi and Sami Al-Arian.

In an August 10th article, Inside Higher Education writes that CCNY exercised questionable ethics with respect to Congressman Rangel's fundraising. Paulette Maehara of the Association of Fundraising Professionals says that "higher education fund-raisers are ethically bound to disclose conflicts of interest and they should also ensure anyone working on their behalf is similarly free of conflict." Not all experts agree. Moreover, the article points out that CUNY's fundraising policies do not prohibit obtaining gifts unethically. But it requires a fetishization of bureaucratic rules and an indifference to bad ethics to claim that a CUNY policy gave former CCNY president Gregory Williams and his staff latitude to entangle the university in Congressman Rangel's corruption. The New York Post began reporting on this story in 2007. It involves use of Congressional letterhead to raise millions of dollars from Verizon, AIG, New York Life and Nabors Industries, all of whom were asking for quid pro quo legislative favors from Mr. Rangel, possibly while CCNY's representatives were in the same room.

Ought not a faculty union provide a moral voice for the faculty it purports to represent? And if so, why is the PSC deafeningly silent about Democratic Congressman Charles B. Rangel's corrupt "monument to himself" at CCNY? Instead of honoring dishonorable politicians who serve in the PSC's partisan clubhouse, the Charles B. Rangel Center and its associated conference centers and libraries ought to be renamed as the Centers for the Study of Ethics in Public Service. As well, CCNY should refuse Mr. Rangel's papers. If Riker's Island has no room for them, perhaps Mr. Rangel can strong arm a donation for a new wing to its jailhouse.

Indymac Boys Get Sweetheart Deal

Jim Crum forwarded this description of how the FDIC (the Obama administration) is directly benefiting George Soros and Goldman Sachs executives via Indymac Bank. 

Town of Olive Republican

I wrote up the first issue of a newsletter for the Town of Olive Republican Committee last night. Here it is in its entirety. Please feel free to offer suggestions or comments.


As a Republican living in the Town of Olive you may be wondering where the Committee has been all these years. It has been intermittently active because of the dominance of the Democrats here. However, several opportunities are opening up. First, the GOP won the county legislature this past year. Second, the Democrats’ self-destructive policies are causing economic decline. The Obama administration has proven itself fiscally irresponsible. Since 1990 Ulster County’s employment has grown at nearly a zero rate. During the same period the nation’s rate of employment has grown 20 percent. The difference is due to the Democrats’ high taxes and heavy handed regulation. Rather than step back and assess the Democrats’ failure here, Congressman Hinchey advocates adding more job-killing environmental regulation, a federal park that will cripple the region’s economy.


Interview with Chet Scofield, Town Republican Chair


Chet Scofield, chairman of the Town of Olive Republican Committee, is a lifelong resident of Olive and owner of Snyder’s Tavern on 28A. He graduated from Onteora High School in 1964 and worked for Rotron and then as an engineer with Ulster County’s Highway Department from 1977 to 2002. He became involved with politics in 2002, when he ran for Highway Superintendant. I cornered Chet during a slow moment at Snyder’s.

Langbert: What got you into politics, Chet?

Scofield: I wasn’t satisfied with the way things were going. I ran for highway superintendant in 2001. I joined the committee at the same time. I wanted a voice as to what was going on in politics. There was some disorganization in those years and the committee has had trouble getting off the ground. The committee was functioning sporadically between 2002 and 2008. We havent run a full slate of candidates in years and we are looking for candidates.

L: What is the role of the Town of Olive Republican Committee?

S: To find and promote viable Town candidates and to work with the County chair in supporting county, state and national level candidates.

L: What have been the problems in finding Republican candidates here in Olive?

S: It hasn’t been easy. The Democrats are dominant here because a sizable number have moved here from New York City. But independents are now the chief force and outnumber both the Democrats and Republicans (note: independents are NOT affiliated with the Independence Party; rather, independents have no party or are not of party, NOP. They represent close to 40 percent of the vote in Olive).

L: How would you describe your political views?

S: Pretty conservative. I dislike taxes. They are a necessary evil but by and large they are overdone.

L: What’s your opinion of Roe v. Wade?

S: Personally, I am not in favor of abortion. But I’m not rigid. I don’t know how I would feel about a candidate who met all of my other criteria as to favoring smaller government but also favored abortion.

L: Should abortion be illegal?

S: Other than for rape, I think it should.

L: What’s your position on the federal deficit?

S: The federal government should stop spending, repeal the health care law and let the private sector create jobs without interference.

L: What is our strategy for rebuilding the Olive GOP?

S: I hope to build a bigger group. We need to collect more people. We need members and ideas. We need to expose the waste in the Olive Town government to bring independents to our way of thinking. According to a reliable Town source Onteora is spending $31,000 per student. In comparison, the national average is $10,259.

L: How open are you to finding new blood to serve on the committee and to run for Town office?

S: Very.

L: Thank you very much, Chet.


Interview with Robin Yess, Executive Director, Ulster County Republican Committee


I met with Robin Yess at her professional office in uptown Kingston. Robin grew up in Dutchess County. She moved to Esopus in 1979. She graduated from New Paltz High School in 1982. She attended Empire State College in the 1990s and is two English credits away from her degree. She also attended the College for Financial Planning from which she obtained a Certified Financial Planning degree. She has passed the prestigious Certified Financial Planning (CFP) certification examination. She is a self-employed financial planner and a divorce financial analyst.


Langbert: What got you into politics, Robin?

Yess: Taxes. Seeing a trend with my clients. Seeing them leave Ulster County because of high taxes and fiscal mismanagement. This was back in 2004. I’ve been involved with the Ulster County Republican Committee since 2007.

L: You ran for Assembly in 2008. Are you thinking of running again?

Y: My skills and abilities are better suited to working within the GOP. It’s even more my calling than being a financial planner, which I’m very good at. I love politics.

L: What do you see as the role of town committees such as the Town of Olive Republican Committee?

Y: There are four areas that are critical. The most important is carrying petitions. Carrying petitions is the most important thing a committee person does. As well, the Town Committee needs to recruit candidates for local offices. Third, the committee needs to work with the county committee to serve as a conduit to the town, in your case the Town of Olive. Fourth, fundraising is important too.

L: What are ways that committees fund raise?

Y: They hold events; barbecues; field trips. There should be a regular schedule of events

L. What do you need to do to get onto the Town Committee?

Y: You need to carry petitions.

L: How many signatures do you need to get?

Y: Five percent of the registered Republicans in the district.

L: When I was petitioning in Olivebridge this year, many Republicans refused to sign petitions. Is that normal?

Y: It’s odd. You need to explain that that’s how candidates get on the ballot. If they don’t sign, there is no two-party system.


L: What is your vision for the Ulster County Committee for the next 5-10 years?

Y: Filling the Ulster County Committee (raising a full committee for every town). There are twenty towns in Ulster County plus the City of Kingston. That’s 21 committees. If the Ulster County committee was full we’d have 328 people but currently we have 179, about 55%. My goal is to get to work filling the seats on the Town Committees.

L: How many are on the Town of Olive Committee?

Y: Two out of 10 seats are filled.

L: How does the GOP determine the number of seats in each town?

Y: It’s based on population. The City of Kingston has 54 while the Town of Kingston has two. Saugerties has 32. But the towns’ votes are weighted by their Republican vote. The City of Kingston has 1446 weighted votes while Saugerties has 1834 weighted votes because their Republican vote is better. Working committee people can increase their town’s voice.

L: What rewards can a committee person expect?

Y: There’s no financial reward. People who want change, who want to support Republican candidates, who want to contribute to the nation’s future, who want smaller government and less taxes have reasons to get involved.

L: Whom do you support for governor?

Y: Whom do I support or who is going to win? Paladino has a better shot. As a taxpayer, I think Paladino is better. Cuomo is too connected politically as a career politician. Lazio is recycled. We need new people. Republicans have sometimes had tunnel vision. The question that should have been asked before the state convention nominated Lazio is “Can Lazio win?” You can’t run for office if you’re lining your pockets as a lobbyist.

L: How would you describe your political views?

Y: I lean toward the libertarian side. I’m a strong fiscal conservative. Smaller government. Less and fewer taxes. Government should not be involved with social issues like abortion. The GOP should not have a position on abortion. Government should not be involved with the marriage situation (gay marriage). I would like to see equal treatment for gays. As a financial planner I have seen gays mistreated. I am in favor of civil unions and believe that everyone should receive equal treatment. The national GOP platform no longer includes abortion. People should be free to worship, etc. as long as they are not harming anybody.

L: Thank you, Robin.


About the Newsletter Author


You may have seen my frequent letters to the Olive Press and my columns in the Lincoln Eagle, the Republican penny saver, which is distributed for free at Shokan Turf and Timber, Al Higgly’s fruit stand, Winchell’s, Russ’s Diner, Snyder’s Tavern, the Phoenicia diner, and the Boiceville gas station. I grew up in New York City. While I was in high school I developed an interest in libertarian politics. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College I worked for the International Nickel Company (now Vale-Inco) and became involved with the Libertarian Party. Libertarians believe in limited government and low taxes. In the 1980s I worked for Johnson and Johnson and City Federal Savings and Loan in employee benefit administration. Between 1976 and 1979 I earned an MBA in insurance at night at the College of Insurance (now St. John’s University School of Risk and Insurance). Then, I attended the UCLA Graduate School of Management, where I obtained an MBA in general management. In 1986 I attended the Columbia Business School, where I earned a Ph.D. in labor relations in 1991. In 1990 I became a Democrat to work on the Carol Bellamy for Comptroller campaign. Although Bellamy lost, I was appointed to the staff of the ways and means committee of the New York State Assembly, where I worked as a Democrat during 1991. Because I released a memorandum advocating cost reduction for Medicaid, I was fired, becoming the only Democratic ways and means staffer to be fired during the previous 25 years. The same year I was appointed to the business faculty of Clarkson University in northern New York, and from then on I have been a registered Republican. I also have taught at Iona College, Dowling College, Troy State University and New York University. I am currently a tenured professor at Brooklyn College, a campus of the City University of New York. I became active in politics again in 2006 and have worked with Candace de Russy, former SUNY trustee, and the National Association of Scholars. My blog, “Mitchell Langbert’s Blog” at http://www.mitchell-langbert.blogspot.com, has had over 230,000 independent visits since March 2008. As well, I have published in such journals as the Journal of Economic Issues, Journal of Labor Research, Academy of Management Learning and Education Journal, Benefits Quarterly, Journal of Business Ethics/Journal of Value-Based Management, the New York Sun, the Times Herald Record, the Yale Economic Review and the Cornell Human Resource management Review. I write a monthly column for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Career Insider Newsletter. Recently, the Canadian Broadcasting Company interviewed me concerning a strike at Vale Inco. I have appeared on NPR, New York One, the Fox Morning Show, CBS radio, and WOR TV. I am married and have lived in West Shokan since 1997, full time since 2009. I joined the Committee in 2009. My first acquaintance with Olive was in 1964, when I was a camper at Camp Hurley in Olivebridge.

Please detach here


Name________________________________________________


Phone number_________________________________________


E-mail_______________________________________________


I would like to


________Serve on the Republican Committee ________Contribute financially



________Run for Office ________Get involved



Please return to Mitchell Langbert, PO Box 130, West Shokan, NY 12494; Or send an e-mail to MLangbert@HVC.RR.com

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Educational Vouchers for the Onteora School District


I just sent this letter to Paul Smart, editor of the Olive Press.
Dear Editor:
A local government official has revealed a shocking statistic to the Town of Olive Republican Committee.  The average cost of education in the Onteora school district is currently $31,000 per enrolled student.  The official who revealed this number compares Onteora's $31,000 per student tuition to a national average of $10,259 per enrolled student and a New York State average of $17,200.  New York's public tuition is the highest in the nation, according to the official, but Onteora's is 44% higher than the state's average.
Assuming the $31,000 per student cost number is accurate, let us see how Onteora's costs compare to private schools'.  Nationally, in 2008 the average private school tuition was $8,549, 27% of Onteora's.  Nonsectarian secondary schools averaged $27,302 while Catholic elementary schools averaged $4,944.  Many of the nonsectarian secondary schools are elite schools that cater to the wealthy.  According to one survey Northfield Mount Herman in Massachusetts is the top ranked private elementary school.  The tuition for day students, according to its website is $31,700, roughly the same as Onteora's cost per student.  The UN International School, one of the best private schools in Manhattan, charges $24,350 per year, 21% less than Onteora.  The Beekman School in Manhattan has tuition of $28,500. The Rudolf Steiner School, with a 1:8 faculty-student ratio charges $29,468. Beekman calls itself "the tutoring school" and offers customized schedules, university-level classes in math, science, humanities and English, an average class size of eight (8), and one-on-one tutoring in concentrated subject areas.  Beekman has a one-on-one college placement program (one guidance counselor to one student) with continuous follow up conferences to refine college choices.  Guidance counselors guide students through the college application process. Specialized classes with three (3) students may be formed if requested, such as for advanced placement.  Tutoring is available once or twice per week. The school provides eight written evaluation reports in addition to four quarterly report cards.   98% of Beekman students go on to college. 
What is the college attendance rate for Onteora High? Given that the three Onteora schools are more expensive than Beekman, do they provide similar services? Are class sizes limited to 8 students? Is there intensive career guidance?  If a student wishes to study acting, is a course set up to cater to them?  If not, where is the $31,000 in teacher jackpot money going? 
It is going to keeping an extra school open. Moreover, the Onteora School district puts students far down on its list of its priorities. The $31,000 per student cost is a pretext to fund teachers' salaries, pensions and administrative bloat.  Teachers are more interested in indoctrinating students ideologically than in teaching the three r's. The Democrats are loyal to the teachers' unions, and could care less about your children. This is because of the dominance of academic certification organizations like the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which could care less about the three 'rs and exclusively emphasize political correctness.
In his book Capitalism and Freedom,  Professor Milton Friedman came up with an ingenious idea.  Give school budgets to parents in the form of vouchers, and let them decide the school to which they send their children. Schools would compete for students just as automobile manufacturers used to compete for customers. Onteora would have to compete with Beekman and the UN School, and provide an education of a comparable standard to Beekman's for the same price.  Since the taxpayers of Olive have magnanimously chosen to spend like a rich person on behalf of the Town's children, it is foolish to squander the money on subsidies to Onteora's unproductive school administrators as the Democrats have chosen to do.  We Republicans believe that if we are spending as much on education Olive's children ought to be given the same educations that rich people's children receive.  It is true that this arrangement would likely mean lower salaries and pension benefits for teachers, less administrative bloat, and fewer make-work jobs, which is why the teachers hate libertarians and the GOP but love the tax-and-spend Democrats.  But there is little doubt that your children would be better educated under a voucher system.  Perhaps it is time to ask the Onteora School district to compete with Northfield Mount Herman, the UN School and Beekman, and to end the festival of waste in the Onteora School District.
Sincerely,


Mitchell Langbert
Town of Olive Republican Committee

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ethics and Creativity in Madmen II

Robert P. George's Clash of Orthodoxies (2001) provides a beautifully articulate defense of natural law.  George's discussion of John Rawls's pro-life arguments are eye opening and raise the abortion debate to a much higher level than one generally encounters.  As well his integration of the natural law and natural rights theories of Aristotle (in Rhetoric), Cicero, Sidney and Locke with current discussions, especially of civil rights, are important and rich with insight.

Chapter nine, "Natural Law and Civil Rights" offers a solution to the questions I raise to my class about the ethics of Madmen's Don Draper's manipulation of the public with respect to consumer goods.  The solution (p. 166) comes from no less a source than Reverend Martin Luther King, whom George quotes as to unjust versus just law and segregation:

"What is the difference between the two?...To put it in the term of St. Thomas Aquinas:  An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.  Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.  All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.  It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority...Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful...I can urge [disobedience to] segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong."

---Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, quoted in Robert P. George, Clash of Orthodoxies, p. 166.

In Madmen, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) aims to engage the public's nostalgia for their children's and their own childhoods and weddings.  Is it ethical to manipulate people's feelings in order to encourage consumerism? One standard parallels King's evaluation of law.  Any business activity that uplifts human personality or improves human life is just. Any business activity that degrades human personality or harms human life is unjust.  There is little to criticize with respect to the Kodak camera or carousel.  Although a degree of manipulation is used in Draper's presentation of his concept or the real-world advertisement, on balance consumers can assess whether the product is to their benefit.  Cameras have improved human existence.  But the same cannot be said for smoking.  It is true that smoking brings pleasure, but the harm done from smoking's health effects outweighs its pleasure.

But the federal law banning advertising of smoking is not justified.  There are other concerns with respect to regulation. Laws which limit economic activity and choice demean the individual. They assert that human beings are incapable of choosing for themselves and therefore are like serfs to a patriarchal state that knows better than they do. Economic regulation limits human creativity and creates an atmosphere of fear whereby activities whose effects are uncertain are discouraged.  This in turn reduces creativity, initiative, progress and achievement.  Therefore, while advertising cigarettes is unjust, that is, it manipulates people into smoking and so harms them, laws against advertising smoking are also unjust because they harm human freedom and dignity, replacing human freedom with violent state power.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ethics and Creativity in Madmen

I teach Introduction to Management at Brooklyn College.  The distance learning software we use nowadays is called "Blackboard" (NYU, Troy State and Brooklyn College have all used it since about 10 years ago).  I just posted a discussion assignment on the course's Blackboard site for this fall's class. One of the subjects in the course is "creativity" and the question I'm raising is whether there are ethical limits to creativity.  I use AMC's TV series Madmen to raise two discussion questions. The links to the Madmen and television advertisement clips are below.

The questions I raise are as follows.

After reading chapter two and after the class discussion on creativity go to blackboard's "external links" folder "Creativity and Ethics in Madmen" (see links below). Watch the five Youtube clips in the folder. The first two are of 1950s Lucky Strike TV commercials. The third is of a 1960s Eastman Kodak camera commercial. The fourth and fifth are from the TV series Madmen. They depict the fictitious creative genius behind the fictitious Sterling Cooper advertising firm, Don Draper (note the allusion to drapes, draping, hiding, the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain). The fourth clip is of Draper creating the Lucky Strike advertising strategy. The fifth is of Draper creating the ad campaign for Eastman Kodak's carousel (a picture slide display device) which is similar to the Eastman Kodak ad shown.

(1) What are the benefits of advertising?  What arguments can be made to justify the ethical foundations of Don Draper's approach to advertising? 


(2) Are there moral limits to emotional manipulation? For example, is a government which uses patriotism to motivate loyalty despite policies which are harmful to the public ethical? Likewise, is a firm which uses love, happiness, freedom and similar virtues to motivate sales of products ethical? If so, what are the limits? If not, is it realistic to expect managers to adhere to strict ethical standards? 

(3) Elaborate on the question of whether Don Draper is ethical in using higher order emotions, happiness and familial love to sell cigarettes that he knows kill and photography supplies given the gains from advertising.
External Links

Lucky Strike ad 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeUAhuSzSDs


Luck Strike ad 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWj_tR64Ti4

1960s Kodak ad, “Turn around”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBWVWjdNWC0

Madmen clip: Lucky Strike: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5rQF7Ofc5w

Comment: AMC's excellent Madmen series is supposed to be about the advertising business in the early 1960s, but as you can see from the above the "It's Toasted" concept was already established in the 1950s and earlier (1917 according to Wikipedia). Also, American Tobacco, founded by James Buchanan Duke (cf: Duke University), owned the Lucky Strike brand and it was not a family run operation by the 1960s (the US Supreme Court broke up American Tobacco, the Tobacco Trust, in 1911). Famed heiress Doris Duke who died in 1993 was Duke's only child.

Nevertheless, this scene gives a cool illustration of a creative process. In the episode, the hero, the brilliant and creative Don Draper (Jon Hamm), is asked to think of an ad campaign for Lucky Strike cigarettes to address the recent findings that cigarettes cause cancer. He thinks about it for weeks but cannot come up with an idea. At the beginning of the meeting with the tobacco executives, he still draws a blank. After consulting a psychologist, he is still speechless. His account exec, Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) quotes the psychologist to fill the gap (Campbell is sneaky and the implication is that he stole the research from Draper's trash can).

Just as the tobacco executives are walking out, Draper's light bulb lights: the cancer finding is a strategic opportunity to appeal to higher order needs like happiness. Lucky Strike is "toasted."

Madmen clip: Kodak carousel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suRDUFpsHus

The Eastman Kodak executives are interviewing ad firms to handle their new product, which they call "the wheel." You put slides in the wheel and then click to turn the wheel to the next slide. They have told Don Draper and his boss, Herman "Duck" Phillips (Mark Moses), media director Harry Crane (Rich Sommer), and art director Salvatore Romano (Bryan Batt) that their firm, Sterling Cooper, is one of four or five they are interviewing.

Draper uses his own wedding pictures, pictures of his wife Betty (January Jones), his children and himself to show that the product should be named the "carousel", not the wheel, because it is reminiscent of childhood and evokes the nostalgia of bringing up children that the "carousel" can capture--the deep feelings the consumer has for his or her own children, the nostalgia for the past and perhaps their own childhoods. "It takes us where we ache to go again. It lets us travel like child. The carousel."

Harry Crane leaves the room as he breaks into tears. The Kodak executives are speechless. Phillips confidently looks at the Eastman Kodak executives and says "Good luck at your next meeting."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lorimer Wilson's Interesting Observation on Kitco

Quoting Jeff Nielson, Lorimer Wilson makes the following observation in his article on Kitco.  It would be funny if it wasn't tragic:

"Nielson pointed out that 'decades of gerrymandering have transformed roughly 80% of U.S. electoral districts into the permanent holdings of one or the other of the two U.S. political parties. As such, the candidates of the favoured party are essentially guaranteed seat for life and this eliminates any incentive for them to produce positive results for their own constituents - other than bringing home the ‘pork’. As a result, partisan politics has taken precedence over any, and all, other considerations in the U.S. and regretfully, the #1 rule of partisan politics is to never allow the party in power to accomplish anything good of significance.
The one exception to this scenario of total indifference is the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) which is not only the largest voting bloc in the U.S., but it is comprised of the only segment of the U.S. electorate which has a consistently high 'turn-out' in every election. Not surprisingly, their two most important issues are Social Security and Medicare - the two social programs which are 100% certain to bankrupt the U.S. economy. Barring a complete 'metamorphosis' of the entire U.S. political system, these 'unfunded liabilities' are essentially carved in stone, since they are the only issues where doing something unpopular could threaten the security of the sitting politician and this leaves current and future U.S. governments with nothing but terrible options.'"

Government's two choices: (one) fund the hot potato boomer entitlements through the Fed's printing press, which will mean massive expansion of the money supply or (two) cut benefits.  So far, inflation has been offset by declining real estate values.  But, Nielson and Wilson argue, the boomers have little saved and lots of real estate, so a trillion dollars of real estate on sale to fund boomers' retirement will submerge already under water real estate markets. Government's response? More printing.  Also, the stock market poses a retirement fiasco as ultra-low interest rates are what's keeping the markets at their current level. The moment interest rates start climbing, what do you think will happen to the S&P 500?

It seems to me that commodities in general are the way to go, even if you think gold is overpriced because of speculation.  Silver, agriculture and general commodities are hedges against inflation as well as gold and they have not been so robust recently.  However, my coin flip method of investing tells me that a crash in all financial markets could occur within two or three years.  Hence, I am waiting for a healthy correction before making a major commitment.  Caution may be the smartest play right now, or rather, be like the fox waiting to spring on the fawn, strike when opportunity bounds.