Can we fast-forward to the part where Trump dies in prison? This maudlin Punch and Judy show has gone on long enough. It has now become clear that our President is on intimate terms with more wacky Muppets than Oscar the Grouch is.
Other than perhaps ending all life as we know it BECAUSE HE CAN, the risks of the Trump presidency seem to be on the downside. At this moment the only real risk Trump poses to the future is that his tactics may be taken up by another politician, that Trumpism and Trump-Like figures could become a mainstay of the American political environment.
The odds are against it. Nixonism, Clintonism, Hooverism never took off, never became a going thing. Reaganism, Jacksonian and Kennedy-esque did. (There was also a craze involving Teddy Roosevelt which even Teddy Roosevelt himself could not successfully harness.) What does and does not stick has more to do with a memorable style than anything else. Like it or not, Trump does have a distinct and memorable style.
Sadly, HATE as a political philosophy will always be with us. This whole gloomy gob of right-wing puss is always looking for a stylish wrapper for its cartoonish slogan “Our problems are all the faults of others.” Adding Mexicans to the mix (thank you Victor Davis Hanson), is Trump’s only recipe augmentation. Evil exists and it will manifest itself anew to meet the times. The good news is that most of this stuff has a shelf life. Tonight our featured correspondent Mister Fun will give his take on bad ideas which are on the way out. In a way they are all tied to each other and, in a way, all of them are heading out the door for the same reason. And in a way, all of these predictions are pipe dreams and magical thinking on the part of Mister Fun himself, which leads us to…
Disclaimer: Mister Fun’s statements, opinions, predictions, run-on sentences, variable verb-noun tense oppositions, rare alliterations (he promised to cut that out), philosophical pronouncements and venting of vendettas are his and his alone and do not represent Hil-Gle Mind-Rot Quality Creative Newsstand Fiction Unit, the Hil-Glea Wonderblog, its ownership, operators, employees, surfs or slaves. (Not saying that Hil-Gle has surfs or slaves, which would be an admission of guilt in certain quarters and something that Hil-Gle, as an aspiring international conglomerate, would never do—that is, admit or confess to anything.) Hil-Gle is a good international citizen, obeying global mores and values as they are found, specifically in Liberia and the Central African Republic, which Hil-Gle may someday own outright—although this should not be construed as a forward looking statement for prospectus purposes. Mister Fun’s words as represented here come to him, as per terms of a one hundred year leasing agreement via undisclosed 3rd parties in the Virgin Islands, often in unmarked brown packages sent media mail. These words are generally found in a hermetically sealed condition and are then removed from their packaging at first with a set of kitchen scissors but eventually with Mister Fun’s teeth. He spits those words and hopefully not also his teeth out for you now.
The Skinny: A belief that the mid 1950s was the apex of American society, that people were far better off in this time period than in those previous or since. It has never been beat, in terms of music (Rock & Roll), manufacturing (1957 Chevy), overall standard of living and position of military power.
The Draw: Like Gay 90s nostalgia, which we have covered, the 1950s had a lot of design and popular arts firepower. It has trends in almost everything other than architecture. In reality, it’s not much of a break with other emergent trends—an extension of Art Decco in design, an offshoot of Rhythm & Blues in music, a continuation in mechanization. The unprecedented break is reverse urbanization, leading to the mass creation of homogenized suburbia. Effectively ‘mass homogenization’ is the buzz word for the era.
Its Flaw: Like all nostalgia, it ages out. People who had first-hand experience of the 1950s are now climbing into their 80s. And many of them may be more nostalgic for the 1960s. What people like about the 1950s was somewhat unequally present in the reality of the times. If you were poor, rural or not white, much of what was attractive about this era may have passed you by. The political paranoia and mass conformity of the era were also not a boon to many.
The Skinny: All of these are various aspects of tribalism or localism and, in an increasingly more interactive and interwoven world, have no real place in the future. All of them tout “A WAY” as a specific ideal end state. Proponents discount or denigrate impediments to reaching that end and squelch debate as to its worthiness. It’s a big version of “I’m right. You’re wrong. Move on.”
The Draw: It would be nice to have a few simple solutions to our many problems. Almost all religions uphold the same ideals. There does seem to be an agreed on set of moral values, virtues, goals. Certainly there is a good and agreed on method. All of these are methods which feel best, which seem like the ways in which we conduct ourselves within our families. It’s time to dispense with the red tape and do what’s right!
Its Flaw: Too numerous to mention, so we will just go with the fatal ones. First, not all ideals are equally valued. Everyone has their own little pyramid. In an effort to enforce a specific ordering of values, the tribal types spend all of their capital scapegoating “the other” or pruning the masses of deviance. Second, red tape exists for a reason. Each rule and regulation has a mountain of human suffering as its parent. You ignore red tape at your peril.
The Skinny: The rich really do suck. There are no honest fortunes. Capitalism seems to only work for the few and the connected. Surely a more egalitarian distribution of the rewards of mechanization can be contrived to supersede the lopsided windfalls afforded to the financial sector.
The Draw: Egalitarian outcomes always sound good. Enforced fairness sounds good. Bankers are just government-backed rich people toadies.
Its Flaw: There are all of three communist regimes left in existence. To the extent that they function, each does so to the extent that they are Capitalist. The most successful of these, China, makes its international living by pimping out its poor masses to foreign capitalist manufacturers. And a great big clique of know-nothing, do nothings (whose only talent is for conformity) gleans the cream of the worker’s labor. All in all, no real improvement over rule by the rich. For bonus points, the ones which still exist are held together by systemic murder. In our only example of a nuclear armed communist state collapsing, Russia, it simply became a totalitarian regime without an ideology. But no one can predict what happens when a nuclear armed communist state in the midst of failure will really act. And all communist regimes have failed. And none are successful by any measure. So sleep soundly, assured that the end of the world is likely to be the result of a nuclear armed Chinese civil war.
The Skinny: A run on sentence, about the length of a candy bar’s list of ingredients, which proports to explain what a business organization’s purpose is, its product or service and the market segment it wishes to operate profitably within. At their best, Mission Statements were both focusing and reassuring, a long-form advertisement in the guise of noble purpose. At their worst, they were gibberish goulash suffering from too many chefs.
The Draw: Putting the superstructure of your business plan front and center is a good way of informing at least your own employees what you are out to do. The idea is to get everyone on the same page. It keeps your mezzanine finance unit from pouncing into online sub-prime auto consumer loans. It’s as close to commissioned poetry as the modern world provides.
Its Flaw: Once contrived, printed, framed and hung prominently, most were never interacted with again. Almost all of them became embarrassments over time. The fact of the matter is that a business’s sweet spot evolves over time. Your Fast Casual restaurant branches out into Drive Through or Fresh Sushi. None of them were honest, otherwise they all would read “We intend to operate profitably until we are bought out, merged or bankrupt. Whichever comes first.”
The Skinny: Your business needs a religion. Why? Because many of your employees don’t seem to have been raised right. It’s a proactive listing of expectations, common virtues and things which will get you fired. Add some glop about how without customers you have no business. Season to taste and post in meeting rooms.
The Draw: This became an absolute obsession with large corporations. The Big Cheeses suddenly all decided that they were philosopher kings, that their positions were attained through some sort of virtuous cycle. Lords of the meritocracy spewed forth with such nasal noises as “Commit to Life-Long Learning” and “Always be growing.” (My own favorite was “Know your place.”) Despite the fact that most of this stuff was rather interchangeable and mundane, it gave the successful a platform from which to crow.
Its Flaw: Ethical lapses on the part of front-line employees have never ruined a company. The ethical lapses that smart are launched from the Executive Suite. Most of these value regimes were thought up after an organization has been busted for a crime. Given that the values almost never apply to management, value statements are viewed as the dual track double stuffed eyewash that they are. Eventually most of these degraded into statements about pretending your mother was watching you.
Six Sigma/Quality First/Accountability
The Skinny: That which gets measured, gets done. You should provide the best product or service that you can. The end results of a process can only be measured on a step by step basis. Improving or removing steps will lead to a better result.
The Draw: An excellent method for sidetracking rivals for management leadership. Created an entire class of people who had oversight responsibility without any actionable authority. Also allows managers the freedom to hide out in their offices reading charts and dashboards, as if they were rocket pilots. Proposed an entire language designed to obscure numbers and facts.
Its Flaw: I am picking on a largely dead horse here. This is a progression of the idea’s degradation. Six Sigma was remedial scientific, with Quality First being its overall goal. Accountability is the state of the idea now—and all it boils down to is blame. Its major flaw was that it is NOT TRUE. Quality is not everything and sometimes it’s not the most important thing. And sometimes quality cannot be measured. That said, parts of the Quality First regime are valid, to the degree that they apply. The sin is in applying its methods to everything or making method a shrine unto itself.
The Skinny: These are ideas in opposition to each other—and yet they are often both attempted simultaneously. Empowerment in the corporate sense is a dust off of the old Management By Objectives. You hire good people, tell them what you expect and then give them the freedom to proceed as they like. Controllership is all about putting baby bumpers and training wheels on things. It’s about assigning dollar values to someone’s authority, about restricting access and withholding information. In Controllership roles are narrowly defined.
The Draw: Optimally these two concepts should work together. You’re guiding someone’s progress, establishing firm goals and boundaries. This pairing is usually not about operational efficiency, but rather an attempt to be attractive to all of an organization’s constituencies. Empowerment helps attract employees. Controllership attracts customers and investors. No one really notices the contradictions.
Its Flaw: It is not functional. All that happens is that you burn out your HR department. And its never uniform, compliance depending entirely on the managers directly above the front line. It’s too much to do and too much effort to make sense of. Every single moment spent mounting screen shots into an SOP is a moment hopelessly wasted.
Rock & Roll:
The Skinny: A splicing of up-tempo Rhythm & Blues and Country Western music forms. Rose in opposition to Champagne Music, a degradation of the Big Band Jazz form. Featured drums, bases, guitar and often a piano. Thrived through a number of periods of musical electrification, which it embraced in all of its nuances. Spawned numerous subgenres all slated at a tween to young adult market. The majority popular musical form in the developed world for several decades.
The Draw: Spoke to the emotional state of young people. Embraced its times.
Its Flaw: Its designed demographic lost much of its market power. Was more dependent on a “Music Industry” for creating interest in new acts than other forms. No new act in this genre has caught on in more than a decade. Largely supplanted by electronica, hip hop. Survives in nostalgia mode.
The Skinny: Live in the moment and contemplate the moment as the moment is here. Remain at an even keel. Represent memory as a resource and not a confinement. Seek the best results for all.
The Draw: Treats stress. Legal. No known withdrawal symptoms.
Its Flaw: It’s Yoga without yoga. Yoga itself is Buddhism minus theology. Mindfulness is Yoga plus something else other than Buddhism which is indistinguishable from Buddhism. There’s nothing wrong with Zen Buddhism. I’m a freaking ZEN MASTER myself. But it has its limits. At the retail level, Mindfulness is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair as a group study. In the let’s meet after class at the Mat Master’s personal dojo version, it’s that religion which is like Judaism that the Yoga Mat people have been attempting to push as a sideline for the past decade or so, only under a new name. I’m not sure that’s what the Yoga Mat Ladies are really up for. If you need something more from Yoga—let us say an actual religion with a worked out cosmology and whatnot—may I suggest something less alien, perplexing and malleable, like Catholicism or its evil twins Lutheranism, Methodism and Church of England. Your chances of being molested or taken are far less with these than with some bearded nonsense speaker who shares storefront space with a potter.
The Skinny: Satanists in the popular guise of secular humanism (so called humanitarians) are out to drive God (in the specific form of the Trinity, but with a carve out for Jews and a weird exclusion for Islam) from the public square and replace the attendant values and structures (primarily the father led nuclear heterosexual family unit) of such with idolatry for homosexual socialist ape people. Actually an outgrowth of invective against Secular Humanism which all Christian churches have been promoting for decades, with an appended extremist superstructure.
The Draw: The advantage here is primarily to the political class, of a specific financial elitist stripe. The Evangelical movement is inherent to the United States, achieving a majority of religious affiliates in suburban, ex urban and rural areas. As a whole, persons of this religious affiliation are a majority in the United States. But they are not a set sect, denomination or organization. Most are mom and pop single church affairs, with a few Mega Church denominations in the low tens of thousands. What little commonality these churches had was that they were largely apolitical, many advancing a “come out of the world” approach to current concerns. Like all Christian churches of the time, most touted the invective against Secular Humanism. Seeking additional voters to tap into, the wealthy water carrier Republican Party politically aligned with this amorphous crusade and its various permutations.
Its Flaw: Several, however we will stick to the fatal ones. The fight against Secular Humanism is illogically extrapolated from Christ’s teachings against materialism and hedonism, comfort and worldly goods. Humanitarian ethos and Christian ethos are identical, one having heavily inspired and influenced the other. The humanitarian ethic is the Be Attitudes reworded, making this a distinction without a difference. As initially construed, Secular Humanism was the churchman’s cudgel for use against psychology—not science, not ration and not modernity in general. Most priests now embrace and even practice psychology today. The extrapolated fights against foreign philosophy, abortion, birth control, woman’s equality and liberalism writ large have not been winners, either for the Republican Party or the churches. Moreover it has enabled literalists, bigots and classical iconoclasts. The modern Evangelical Movement is repellant, losing more voters than it attracts. Thanks to its ascendance we are approaching a non-religious majority in the United States. Good work, guys!
It is what it is
The Skinny: Learned helplessness as a imposed condition. The speaker would like to cut off debate or restrict resources. The net cause of the problem is not to be addressed—or not to be addressed here or by you. Let us surrender to the inevitable and get on with the work around.
The Draw: Not everything is open for freaking debate. Very few business decisions recquire ratification by consensus approval. Some people, especially the dickless, go on and on about crap that either can’t be undone or happened in the distant past. Uttering words are always better than resorting to force and “It is what it is” is a fairly neutral way of acknowledging bad news and setting another direction.
The Flaw: Although the construction does follow the rules found in my HOW TO ACHIEVE GREAT BIG HUGE OPULENCE (found on the HIL-GLE website), the statement suffers from overuse by the overly smug. A few moments of explanation as to why you have eliminated, curtailed, postponed, reversed or bypassed something important are usually in order, even if you are the Old Testament God. Unless fixing the underlying problem does indeed involve the use of a Time Machine, then the expression of this phrase should be avoided.
The Skinny: Something of an outgrowth of Six Sigma, this is an organizational structure which functions without what was once called Middle Management. The structure has limited enterprise-wide departments and functions largely without secretaries. Most flat organizations are centered around specific customers or specific deliverables (products or services). Most operational managers will also have a production oriented role. For example, a factory’s production manager—the person above all of the people working making stuff in the factory—will split this responsibility with a role providing production forecasts.
The Draw: In any downturn, the first employees to be shed in the corporate structure are the Middle Managers, role administrators and purchasing agents. Why operate with them in the first place?
The Flaw: Several. We will focus on the killer two. Human nature has not changed. For every five employees you need a designated shepherd. For every ten employees you need a sheriff. These numbers can be multiplied by 2 to 10 depending on how similar the employee’s roles are. If you have 10 people in a department, all of whom have distinct roles, you need two people who are familiar with all of the roles and one person who can be called on to wield necessary authority. This arithmetic came to us from the Romans—and they probably stole the idea. Violate this math and you are NOT MANAGING. Most flat organizations are controlled by their HR Departments, and not well. As a Six Sigma augmentation, many organizations routinely fire their bottom 10% performers every year. This seldom translates into any type of reality, since most flat organizations cannot retain employees in front line roles.
Flat organizations discourage the type of people you want to retain. A well motivated employee gives something extra to his/her work. For these people work is “their thing”, their primary interest, a part of their identity. While it is wonderful to have people who just show up, do what their told and then pick up checks, any enterprise of note is driven by careerists. Without these people you go nowhere. Such people require encouragement, tokens denoting worth. Flat organizations limit the number of tokens that can be awarded, often causing the careerist to seek another pool to swim in. In point of fact, most flat organizations will inflate over time, creating distinction in roles and manufacturing jobs simply to keep good workers. But the orthodoxy drives a lot of good people away unnecessarily.
The Skinny: Preemptive action generally designed to accomplish a task well ahead of deadline or to ready a contingency strategy in case of a failure in planning or to cut off the cowboys at the pass before they can get to Dodge City and rob the bank. Being engaged in a far-sighted and hyperactive sort of way. Not just prepared, but permanently coiled and ready to strike in any direction at a moment’s notice.
The Draw: Proactive is the fairy dust sprinkled on hedging and options and credit default swaps and other financial instruments. Outside of finance it means you’re really smart and you read up on things and can swoop in whenever your big data finds you a nice juicy fat worm to eat. It also means that you have disaster plans. You are telemetry god!
Its Flaw: The hell you are. Man plans, God laughs. The more you stock up on fire extinguishers, the greater your likelihood is of being hit with a flood. This may come as a shock to some, but PSYCHIC POWERS DO NOT EXIST. Also risk mitigation is profit suppression. Being prepared to navigate around reasonable and known hazards is not a particularly rare talent/skill set. Claiming that you are able to do more than that is horse crap.
The Skinny: This is the Divine Right of Kings in new clothes. The rich, the powerful, the successful and the beautiful would like to inform you that they are equal parts worthy. Achievement within the system is part of an unbiased set of rational measures. We are better than you by a true yardstick. None of us got here by blowing or knowing anyone. We have obtained our status fairly and are the products of an organization capable of exact measurement. Know your place and lick my booties.
The Draw: Fun to say. One of those aspirational ideal ideals. For those in power, a justification for all sorts of unfairness. Related to the once fashionable “It’s like high school with money.”
Its Flaw: To put it mildly, it is an overestimation. It denotes an organization which has entirely overestimated itself and is likely to be dismissive of outside ideas. Many organizations are run by cliques of like-minded people and function perfectly well. But once you’ve determined that you’re perfect, you’re done.