Category Archives: opinion

Facilitation is the New Plastics

Remember that great line from the film “The Graduate”?  If you forgot, I have embedded the scene below. Enjoy!

The core idea from that scene is that connecting to a single product or service (plastics) would guarantee a great future to an ambitious  young man. The irony, of course, is that the young man in question (Ben) was not ambitious in the traditional sense. He was ambitous in a totally new sense that the older generatoindid not understand.

But if you think about it, plastics have been an amazing growth industry. While this is not great for the environment, and perhaps not even for our health, plastics are everywhere. We live in a plastic world.

Which leads me to a question. Is there a new key niche that might define value added in our current period? I think there is. The word is facilitation. It is not a physical thing. But facilitation is the magic sauce for reducing “friction” in markets and accelerating innovation.

Need an example of how this affects markets? Consider the market growth of “urban warehouses”. These facilitate “just in time” “last mile” delivery.

Here is another example. IT used to be a tool that enabled managers to better track business performance. IT is now a facilitator to develop new business models.

Got it? Now enjoy Dustin Hoffman!

Trump’s Tipping Point

Something has changed.

Before, Donald Trump could claim that he was a political force. He could claim that his opinions mattered. You might disagree with him, but you had to pay attention to him.

Then came the congressional fiasco over repealing and replacing Obamacare. In that period, it became obvious to political insiders that Trump had no clue what he was doing or talking about. He was caught out as useless in the debate.

Then came Charlottesville. Trump failed to realize that his reaction to the violence would be a test of whether he was out of touch with the national mood. He failed that test.

And now he is getting roasted alive in the media.

Unlike earlier criticism, this roasting is affecting Trump’s core support. In other words, we are watching Trump disintegrate as a political phenomenon. In my view, it is just a matter of time now when he exits the stage. That may be by resignation, by impeachment, or by withdrawal from public view. But his involvement in political debate is basically over. He is politically toxic.

So, we are in the third and final act of the Trump melodrama. Let’s hope that when the play ends, we can move on to something more constructive. And it will end soon.

The Ordeal of Being Bannon

Steve Bannon was just booted from the Trump White House, which of course, raises the question, how a person like Bannon ever got his foot in the front door there in the first place.  It could only have happened with a Trump presidency.

Perhaps the most peculiar aspect of this episode is the argument that Bannon allegedly brought coherence to the Trump campaign – making Trump’s hard right message into a policy platform of sorts. The messaging has been peculiar, and the idea that it is coherent in some way is equally peculiar.

So where did that come from?

Consider that before Trump brought Bannon into his campaign, few had ever heard of Bannon or his web based mouthpiece “Breitbart.com”. Bannon’s involvement in the campaign and then the presidency has changed that. He is now a public figure. But has that refined his message or thinking in any way? Taking a look at Breitbart, you quickly understand that this has not and is not going to happen. Here is one of today’s headlines

Rush Limbaugh: We are on the cusp of a second civil war

Sorry Rush. We are not on the cusp of a second civil war. But Bannon et al have to believe this, which at the end of the day is their mental cage.

Bannon has said that he will now return to Breitbart and “go to war” for the Trump Administration. Yes, that would be the Trump Administration that just gave him the boot. What does this mean? It means that Bannon will continue doing what he has always done — try to stir folks up with a lot of BS. And when they are stirred up and  engage in meaningless, violent gestures? Then Bannon et al can claim that they were merely reporting on anger that was always there. In other words, Bannon will continue in his role as rabble rouser.

Before you begin to think of this as a potential career path, take note of the problem that Bannon and his sort face. The problem is that folks don’t stay riled up forever. At some point, they want to move on. So Bannon is trying to blow up a balloon that has a hole in it.  How long can he keep puffing? My best guess is he will rage on for a few years.  At that point, his zillionaire backer will get bored with him.

What do you think?

Getting Beyond Trump

Ever since last November, I have been spewing forth venom upon the thing we call Trump. I do not apoplogize. I do not regret. But I do look forward when the word Trump leaves my vocabulary. Like the way Bush left my vocabulary a while back.

What does that world look like? It might look a bit like Oregon! HuffPo has an interesting profile on what politicans (democrats) are doing there to expand healthcare, etc.

Will this be a harbinger of a changed national mood? We will find out quite a bit in the 2018 elections. – perhaps th emost important elections that we have seen in quite a whie.

The other day, Rachel Maddow brought out an interesting factoid. A year before the 2010 elections — you might recall that  that is when the Tea Party stormed into Washington — there was a blip in registrations of Republican Party canddiates seeking to run who had a base level of financing. Rachel argued that this correlates with Republicans taking back the House a year later in 2010.  So how are candidate registrations looking now? Registrations of Democratic Party candidates are more than 2 times larger than the Republcan candidate blip in 2009.  If Rachel is right, we might be in for some surprises.

Interesting!

Kelly to Scaramucci, “And Shut the Door on the Way Out”

Clearly there was a deal. John Kelly would take the most miserable job on the planet as Trump’s chief of staff, but he demanded things in return. And one of those things was that Anthony Scaramucci be shown the door immediately, if not sooner.

Kelly got what he wanted there. But we don’t really know the extent of the deal that he made with Trump. It was — and remains — in Kelly’s interest that Trump delegate authorites to him so that he can manage affairs that the Whtie House. And btw, I would argue that it is in the country’s interest as well that we have some assurance that there is at least one adult in the room at the White House at all times. But the Donald is not a great delegator. So who knows how this will play out.

Meanwhile, does anyone have anything nice to say about Mr. Scaramucci?  Don’t all shout at once.

Flake Speaks Truth to Somebody

Republican Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona, and is up for re-election in 2018. He recently unleashed a broadside against the Republican Party in a Politico article. Here is a peek

“Who could blame the people who felt abandoned and ignored by the major parties for reaching in despair for a candidate who offered oversimplified answers to infinitely complex questions and managed to entertain them in the process,” he wrote. “With hindsight, it is clear that we all but ensured the rise of Donald Trump.”

“I will let the liberals answer for their own sins in this regard. (There are many.) But we conservatives mocked Barack Obama’s failure to deliver on his pledge to change the tone in Washington even as we worked to assist with that failure,” he continued. “It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our number-one priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president — the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime.”

He said conservatives were “largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us.”

“It was we conservatives who rightly and robustly asserted our constitutional prerogatives as a coequal branch of government when a Democrat was in the White House but who, despite solemn vows to do the same in the event of a Trump presidency, have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued,” he continued. “To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial.”

So is anyone listening?

Apparenlty Ezra Klein at Vox was listening. He applauds Flake for recognizing the problem, but is not overly impressed by Flake’s proposed actions. Why not enact legislation (1) forcing Trump to turn over his tax returns, and (2) empowering Mueller?

Trump Vetoes the Truth

Put yourself in this situation.

You are in a position of importance. Lots of people rely on you. You are supposed to be a leader.

A year before, your son was involved in a questionable event.

People want to know what happened.

Your staff advises you to issue a truthful statement about what happened. One that could not be contradicted later as more information comes out.

You veto that advice, and craft a different statement, word for word. That different statement sets forth a lie about what happened.

Later on, you say that you knew nothing about what happened until the media reported it.

Who me? Did I do that? Fake news! Investigate Hillary! Yes, you got the idea. The “you” in the above scenario is in reality, Donald Trump. Sorry if playing the role of Trump above grossed you out!

But you get the idea. The dude in the White House cannot be trusted farther than an ant could carry him on its shoulders.