Maybe Saul Had This Guy In Mind

By , June 22, 2020 11:38 am

Saul Steinberg was a cartoonist whose work frequently appeared in The New Yorker. My guess is most people know of him because of The New Yorker cover above, dated March 29, 1976. (I’ve always thought it interesting that Utah was one of just four states noted on the map.)

The map came to mind this morning as I was reading a Robert A. George piece in the New York Daily News. In it, George tells the story of a 1983 interview of David Bowie on MTV to illustrate his case that there still is systemic or institutional racism. According to George, “Bowie asks VJ Mark Goodman why the station didn’t play more videos by black artists. Defensively, Goodman tries to explain programming”:

We have to try and do not just what we think New York and Los Angeles will appreciate, but also Poughkeepsie or the Midwest, pick some town in the Midwest that will be scared to death by Prince (who we’re playing) or a string of black faces and black music.

Said who? White fans of Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, and the Four Tops? Fans of Tina Tuner, the Supremes, the Isley Brothers, Shuggie Otis, Buddy Miles, James Brown, and the list goes on? But beyond that, what balderdash is this that Goodman casually blames middle America in order to excuse corporate America’s–corporate rock’s, no less–inability to see anything but its own projection on the west side of the Hudson? Kudos to Bowie, by the way.

I’m not sure how far we’ve come since that 1983 interview; far I think, but not far enough. And I’m not sure how far we have to go; not as far as some think, but far enough to require some effort on everyone’s part.

Friday Links

By , June 5, 2020 6:41 pm

I Must Object: [Glenn C. Loury’s] rebuttal to Brown University’s letter on racism in the United States

Did Trump Say He Hoped George Floyd, Looking Down From Heaven, Is Happy About Job Numbers? Another word salad, but not the salad people are claiming.

What is Fact-Checking without Facts? Andrew McCarthy, always even handed, talks to the Times. FWIW, I don’t agree with Cotton. I’d rather leave it to the governors right now..

Episode 224: What Happened to Concrete Terms? Michael Brendan Dourgherty hits the problem nail very hard on the head. Racism? White Privilege? Fascism? Socialist? Bigot? Pick your term; if it’s not concrete, it’s likely “shut up” masquerading as argument.

Building A Framework For Markets In The Year Of The Rona One of the most insightful writers on the internet is my son, especially on markets and investing. Take a look.

President Nelson Shares Social Post about Racism and Calls for Respect for Human Dignity One of the kindest persons on this planet has some advice for us all.

And with that, I try to jumpstart this blog. Have a great weekend.

“The Image” 50 Years Later

By , February 9, 2020 6:45 pm

My step-son asked me for advice on what a relatively political novice should read for unbiased insights on politics and controversial issues–aren’t they all? I’m not sure “unbiased” exists. No, that’s incorrect. There’s no such thing as unbiased. There are fair-minded people, however, so I thought I’d steer him in that direction. And then I remembered The Image; A Guide to Pseudo Events in America, a short book by Daniel Boorstin published in 1962, a book I read sometime between 1970 and 1973, a book that helped me grow up fast and develop a critical eye almost as quickly, a book I thought would help my stepson develop the critical thinking skills to approach any political “insights” with his thinking cap on.

Briefly, a pseudo-event is an event that is manufactured news. The killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is news, a real event. President Trump reporting that “The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him” is not real news; it’s a pseudo-event, an event manufactured by the White House to give President Trump face time before the American public as he stands in the Diplomatic Reception Room. Think about it: the news of al-Baghdadi’s death could have been delivered on chyron running beneath the talking heads on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC. Instead, we get a presidential statement, we get more of President Trump.

Because my stepson listens to rather than reads books–kids nowadays–I downloaded the book to my Audible account and shared it with him. Having done that, I figured it worth my time to listen again to the book after nearly 50 years of experience. It’s been an interesting experience so far, largely because all the references are so dated. In a discussion of the emphasis on the celebrity rather than the hero, for example, Boorstin uses astronauts Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepherd as proxies for heroes. I smiled when I realized that’s probably all he had to refer to. Gagarin was the first man in space on April 12, 1961, Shepherd the second, less than a month later on May 5, 1961. Boorstin’s book was published less than a year later, barely time to add other astronauts to his example.

Nevertheless, the “re-read” has been worthwhile. Boorstin’s discussion of pseudo-events rings even truer in a time when Tweets–the pseudoest of pseudo-events–make headlines on almost a daily basis. I’m only a chapter or two in, so I won’t report more. I will recommend you read the book. The best defense against the 24-hour news cycle is to know that very little of it is news. I’m not the only one saying this.

OR24 Caucus Report — It Wasn’t Like that at the Caucus I Attended

By , March 23, 2016 12:51 pm

I’ve read reports that ballot stuffers were hard at work last night, sealing the deal for Ted Cruz. How else to account for his resounding win in Utah when next door in Arizona the Donald won? Without going deep on that question, I’ll just say this about the OR24 (Orem 24) caucus last night:

  • There was no ballot stuffing last night.
  • There was no giving people stacks of ballots.
  • Kirby Glad ran the caucus in an orderly and controlled fashion.
  • Multiple people counted ballots in plain view of all in attendance.
  • I know at least four of the people counting ballots. The day they cheat is the day the world ends.

I say this as one who is not a party official. I have been a county delegate before last night–2008 and 2010, IIRC. I was there from start to finish of the voting. There was no hanky panky. And the results of our caucus virtually mirrored the final vote percentages for the state. Just sayin’.

So a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Orem (Caucus)

By , March 23, 2016 12:39 pm

UCRP_2016-03-23_1237Actually, it happened at the Orem, Utah, Precinct 24 Caucus–OR24 for short. I was elected county and state delegate. (A really funny thing did happen, by the way. My son David–bored to tears by the very slow reading of the party platform–volunteered to read. You know those commercials with the speed talkers in them? Got nothing on him. He finished to loud applause.)

Anyway, I’m waiting for some information on my responsibilities from Precinct Chairperson Kirby Glad. I also must attend a training session for officers and delegates–I’ll do this on Saturday morning. My plan is to use my blog to keep people apprised of what I learn about the candidates and issue, so check back.

Berkeley Breathed Has His Say

By , March 11, 2016 1:38 pm

With this.

My How Times Have Changed! Or Is It the Media That Has Changed?

By , March 4, 2016 12:28 pm

I’m interested in what you think about the differences between the debates in these two videos, one from 1960 in West Virginia, the other from Detroit just last night. Not in the content so much–that is the policy proposals–but in the quality and type of questions the media poses.

Humphrey-Kennedy Primary Debate in West Virginia – 1960


Republican Primary Debate in Detroit, Michigan – 2016


My view? The media plays at least as large a part in creating these disasters we call debates nowadays as the candidates–more, much more, in my opinion. Fox, CNN, NBC. Doesn’t make a difference. Chris Wallace’s opening question, for example, is not worthy of a debate that will help decide who we might choose a president. (I won’t comment, for now, on the difference in the quality and type of questions in the Democratic debates, other than to say, there is a difference.)

The Roman Colosseum-like crowds? Don’t get me started.

Mitt vs. The Donald: The Donald Loses

By , March 3, 2016 10:49 am

My View: Utah House Bill 251 – Post-Employment Restrictions Amendments

By , March 3, 2016 9:55 am

Yesterday, I clicked on the Deseret News and discovered a story of intense interest to me, a story about the Utah business community’s reaction to House Bill Scales of Justice251. I’m a businessperson. I work with businesses in my law practice. I’m about as pro-business as they come. And yet, I support this bill.

A little background–a disclosure, if you will: I have some clients who are currently burdened by non-compete agreements, clients who are very talented in their own right and who would like to start their own businesses. And they’re struggling with how to proceed because those non-compete agreements are worded vaguely enough and their former employer is feisty enough, that if they decide to do anything even close to what their former bosses’s company does, they are confident they’ll be sued for breach of contract.

Here’s the problem. They want to do kind of what they did at their previous employer, but using different tools and working with different clients. In other words, they don’t want to violate the non-competes. Problem is the tool they want to use is a “hammer,” and one of the tools their former employer sells is, you guessed it, a “hammer,” albeit a different type of hammer that does different things than my clients’ “hammer.” (By now, you’ve probably guessed that I’ve changed the name of the tool for confidentiality reasons.) Nevertheless, per their non-competes, their former boss could come after them under a contract provision that says the following:

“Competitive Products” means any products or services [the former employer] sells or sold or that are competitive with products or services that [the former employer] sells or sold while [my clients] worked for [the former employer].

Do you see the problem? The employer could call virtually any product/hammer my clients use a “Competitive Product” under this definition. The contract then states:

 . . . for a period of two years after my employment with [the former employer] terminates, I will not (a) design, sell, develop, license, or solicit orders for or sales of Competitive Products, nor will I (b) affiliate with any business, whether as an employee, owner, officer, director, or agent, that performs any of the actions described in (a) for Competitive Products. (emphasis supplied)

You know that they say, or at least should say, “if the vagueness doesn’t kill you, the overbreadth will.” The Deseret News and others apparently think such language is fair. What’s good for business and all that. To wit:

[These agreements] keep employees from taking trade secrets or information about company strategies to competitors. They allow companies to invest in training employees without the worry that a competing company can take advantage of such largesse by luring a trained employee away.

Generally, these agreements include reasonable time limits, after which employees are free to work for whomever they wish. (emphasis supplied) (“In our opinion: Response to bill regulating business contracts suggests House leadership is at odds with business community,” Tuesday, March 1, 2016)

The law firm Michael Best agrees, saying

Non-compete agreements protect the goodwill of a company, which is something that a nonsolicitation and confidentiality agreement cannot entirely do. A company’s protectable interests do not just include its trade secrets and confidential information, but also its goodwill. Goodwill is often associated with the people who work for the company, and customers associate certain names and faces with a particular company. The purpose of non-compete agreements is to allow employers to invest in highly-trained employees and to have them work directly with the community and customers, serving as the face of the employer. Employers invest significant time, money and resources in doing so. Employers should be entitled to protect these investments by not allowing the employees who are associated with a company’s goodwill to leave and immediately work for a direct competitor. (What Utah Employers Should Know about House Bill 251, February 22, 2016)

As one who has, with his clients, looked down the barrel of a 2-year prohibition on future employment in the same industry, I suggest the Deseret News reconsider the term “reasonable time limits.” Hardly. Not when you’re prevented from working an an industry you love, an industry you’ve trained for most of your adult life–and not just at your immediate past employer’s. Riddle me this Batman: After that two-year hiatus, how sharp will that employee’s saw be?

What is a direct competitor by the way? Inquiring minds would like to know before they venture out, only to get swatted down by a rolled-up copy of their non-compete agreement. Until a judge says otherwise, a direct competitor is what the former employer says it is. And if the former employer is a bully? (What’s the saying? “Power corrupts; absolute power coupled with a non-compete corrupts absolutely.”)

As for the attorneys at Michael Best, employers are not the only ones investing significant time, money, and resources in training. So do the employees. Do employers think their employees came to them as blank slates? Heck no. By the time they arrive on an employer’s doorstep, employees have likely done years of schooling, including post-graduate work in many cases. They’ve probably worked for myriad other employers, gaining valuable skills, skills they’ve brought to their new employer’s table. And because they signed a non-compete–probably in a rush, possibly in glee at finally having a new job, likely without understanding fully the contract’s meaning, and surely not comprehending its consequences–an employer, generally a person they barely know, gets to control them for another two years–after they’ve left his or her employ.

You can bet the employer has thought this all through.

The problem, folks, is the playing field is uneven: The employer has the job, the salary, and the benefits. The potential employee needs a job, the money, and health insurance. The employer has thought the non-compete issue through many times. For the potential employee, it’s probably a problem of first impression. It’s car salesperson vs. car buyer. Price negotiation, finance terms, do you want the 2- or 5- year warranty on that doohickey vs. huh? In other words, unfair.

Hey, I get the impulse. I even understand that in some circumstances such agreements make a ton of sense. But not in all. In fact, I’d guess they make sense in very few cases. That said, I’ve just thought of a couple of potential compromises, so the Senate can vote yes on this puppy:

  • If an employer feels strongly enough about requiring employees to sign such agreements, then require the employer to split the cost with the potential employee of one hour with an attorney versed in such agreements.
  • In the alternative: Utah maintains offices throughout the state to deal with workforce issues. Require employers to send potential employees to consult with someone at the Department of Workforce Services about the consequences of signing such a contract–before they sign.
  • Finally, my least favorite, but better-than-nothing option: Require the employer thoroughly disclose the possible consequences of signing a non-compete–again, before the potential employee signs.

In short, if we’re going to allow these agreements in Utah, if we’re going to allow a virtual stranger to have control over an employee for two years after they’ve left a job, let’s give some protection to that employee. Do that so that if and when the employee actually does sign the non-compete, there truly has been a meeting of the minds.

When the Spotlight’s Not So Bright

By , March 1, 2016 8:49 am

Neil Goldschmidt_5629lFor a whiff of why the press is dumping on Trump—as well they should—and not so much on Hillary (and maybe Bernie), you only need read this.

Sunday evening, Spotlight won best picture for its portrayal of the Boston Globe’s coverage of the Catholic Church’s cover up of sex abuse. Abuse such as that should be exposed—and I say this as a fan of the Catholic Church. The light of day prevents rot. So where was the Spotlight in the case of the Mayor of Portland, then Governor of Oregon, Neil Goldschmidt as he cavorted openly with his 14-year old babysitter? Well, some people turned it off because, well, Goldschmidt was such a good governor.

Unless and until we have an equal opportunity Spotlight, things will only get worse. That Trump is leading in the polls is, in part, a response to partisan cover ups like this.

Here’s my take on Trump voters: They’re not responsive to all the well-sourced and factual mud being slung his way because they’ve learned that there’s mud to be slung at the other side, and it’s not being slung. The Spotlight was turned off on Bill Clinton’s shenanigans. Yes, I know the press covered Monica Lewinsky, but grudgingly. But it was all Juanita Broderick who? Kathleen Wiley who? Paula Jones? “If you drag a hundred dollar bill* through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” It’s just sex after all.

And in President Obama’s case, the Spotlight was used only to create a halo at photo ops.**

“So what the hell!” the Trump voter cries, “I’m voting for Trump!”

I’m not. But I know at least one reason why they are.

The Ursula Le Guin reference at the beginning of the second story deserves repeating:

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,’ is set in the ultimate Shining City on a Hill, a place of joy and happiness, full of educated, creative types who spend their days frolicking at festivals and occasionally indulging in (non-habit-forming) drugs that reveal the secrets of the universe while ‘exciting the pleasure of sex beyond all belief.’

There are ‘fast little trains and double-decked trams’ in Omelas. And a farmers’ market.

‘If the child were brought up into the sunlight, … all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed. … The child’s torture is no secret. The good people of Omelas know.’

How great is Omelas that we look the other way? Have a nice day.

*Only just now did I notice Carville’s Freudian slip.

**I won’t bring them up here, but I’m not oblivious to the fact that Right has done its fair share of covering up as well, the only difference being that the media is largely liberal, so such cover ups are less successful.

UPDATE: @MZHemingway_2016-03-01_1244

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