Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
The nation needs a workforce with a range of capabilities, but there are minimum standards that should be attained when a person graduates high school. Everyone should be able to read a newspaper and comprehend what was written. Everyone should be able to read and understand instructions for the common things they will encounter in their lives: cars, refrigerators, computers… They must have a basic understanding of math. Arithmetic should be second nature, with the ability to spot an obvious mistake. Everyone should have some grounding in algebra and geometry. Some understanding of statistics is important, at least so they can understand what they read, hear and see in the media. They should be able to speak and write grammatically correct English. Lastly, they must be as comfortable with computers as possible. This is the minimum necessary for economic competitiveness; I do feel more is necessary to make people good citizens – but not much more.
Post-high-school education should consist of two tracks. One track should teach the technical skills necessary to teach people how to grow, make and fix things. The other track (which today seems like the only track, or the only “desirable” track) should train people for the professions: engineering, law, medicine… As I’ve said in many other posts, we need more people who can figure out how to grow things, make things and move things than we do MBAs, lawyers, game programmers, YouTube video contributors, and – dare I say it – creative writers.
However, education is not the silver bullet to increasing American competitiveness. It is necessary, but not sufficient. Other countries have plenty of smart people – and in the case of China and India, way more of them.
Next post: American Competitiveness: A Sound Infrastructure
Friday, December 4, 2009
The concept is that there will be an aircraft (I couldn't tell from the article if this was a drone or a manned aircraft) filming virtually everything in the town - 24 / 7. Is this what we are moving to? Is this what we want? Our every move monitored? Our cell phones can track our movements. Our iPass can record where we've been and how fast we got there. Our credit and debit card transactions leave a trail of our whereabouts and actions. And now, we're being filmed from the sky. If this becomes the norm, will this still be the "the land of the free and the home of the brave"?
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Be ready for a long term commitmentThere is more valuable information in this post. If you want to read the entire article, here's the link: http://www.toprankblog.com/2009/11/how-to-social-media-pr/
Tactics = fast, strategy = slow
If you’re able to execute on something that resonates, engaging in the social web with the goal of generating PR can see results fast. But don’t make the mistake of thinking a single tactical success is all it takes to see sustainable growth. You need to engage in continued tactics over a long period of time – and the truth is as many of them will fail as will succeed. But if your strategy is sound, in time, it will pay off and provide increasing returns.
Need to become referential
A social media PR strategy needs to be designed to position the company a referential brand. When the brand or company identity becomes referential, your work will start to get easier. As you contribute more, people will start to notice and your content will spawn organic reactions and discussions external of the original source. Additionally, the industry will start to recognize you as a go-to source, and you’ll start to get referenced by virtue of your presence. Find a way to become referential and your efforts will multiply themselves.
Push through “the dip”
To get to the point of seeing PR returns at scale for your social web participation, you’ll need to push through “the dip”. In other words, outlast others who aren’t as serious or committed as you are. I’m still relatively new to the TopRank team, but am honored to publish content at Online Marketing Blog, where the first post dates back to 2003. Well over 2,000 posts have been made here, consistently, and that commitment has paid off: This blog generates 10-20+ organic PR placements each month (equal to about a $10K/month PR budget). Reaching the point where publicity is generated as a by-product of participation should be an end objective of social media for PR.
Monday, November 23, 2009
From the article:
Detroit was the arsenal of democracy in World War II and the incubator of the American middle class. It was the city that taught mass production to the rest of the world. It was a place that made cars, trucks and other tangible products, not derivatives.I can hear my friends on the right now: government should not be picking winners and losers, BUT we need a industrial policy in this country that promotes making things here over shipping jobs and manufacturing expertise overseas. Perhaps we can start by NOT giving corporations tax breaks to open up shop in foreign countries. Give us something to keep, and create, jobs here.
“We’ve been living with the illusion that manufacturing — making things — is so 20th century,” said Mr. Shaiken, “and that we could succeed by concentrating, for example, on complex financial instruments while abandoning the industrial base that sustained so many American families.”
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
My rants against business are aimed at big giant corporations and the gigantic "too-big-to-fail" financial firms on Wall Street. I don't understand the big corporations that make millions or billions in profits, yet still lay off thousands. Why can't they bite the bullet for the good of the economy and make less money? Don’t they see the connection between unemployment and lower sales? I don't understand the thinking behind the huge bonuses on Wall Street, when it's the taxpayers that kept those businesses afloat. If they really earned those bonuses, why did we have to shell out almost a trillion dollars to keep them solvent? It is socialism! Socialism for the rich.
Yet, some of our local businesses here have been hiring! I know of a couple in my town of Batavia that have hired employees recently. I see people volunteering to help in my local community. I see people from "Main Street" USA trying to help the situation. I see very little of that same attitude from Wall Street or other big corporations. Why is that?
Support your local businesses. In the aggregate, they employ a lot of people. If there's innovation or a future high-flier, there is a good chance it will come from a struggling local business. Who would have thought a few geeks in an office in Albuquerque would turn out to be Microsoft and create thousands of jobs? And that one of those geeks would become the richest man on the planet?
Sunday, November 1, 2009
It seems we're in a vicious circle here! Which "side" is going to blink first? There was a time when the business world realized that people had to work, had to have an income in order to afford the stuff they make and sell. Now it seems the business community wants us to just run up a pile of debt again to buy the stuff they make and sell. They need to do their part, show some cojones and start hiring again. Quit expecting the government to continually bail you out!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
We were about 40 miles west of Los Alamos, New Mexico. We had driven for hours in the pouring rain. The sky was dark gray at noon. The 30 mile an hour gusts shoved my rig toward the gravel shoulder of the road. The drive required my constant attention and I was bone tired.
I was driving with Moira, a woman I met at a bar in Austin called Jake’s. She seemed like she was in trouble and I was always a sucker for a great looking woman with a bowie knife strapped to her leg. She asked me for a ride and I said yes. It didn’t seem to matter too much which direction I was headed.
The cab was cozy, bathed in gentle light from the monitors. Moria had her reading light on. She had laid her book on her lap and I could see an inverted pentagram on the worn leather cover. I would never have guessed she was into that sort of thing – crystals and witchcraft. But, I was often misled by first impressions.
“I can influence the weather,” Moira said.
“I wish you’d hurry up and get around to it then. I could use a break from this wind,” I replied, “According to my weather radar I should be clear of this storm…well…never.” Weather was just one of the things that had turned odd since the Takeover.
“Thanks for taking the back roads. I know you’d have an easier time on the toll roads,” she said.
“I got the impression at Jake’s that you were in some sort of trouble.” All the toll roads were privately owned now, and heavily monitored. We were on the old state roads – two lanes, narrow, not the best choice for a rig this size.
I looked over at her, but she was staring out the window, looking out at the gray, barren New Mexico high desert. “It might help if I knew what kind of trouble.”
I had to strain to hear her response over the soft piano of Thelonius Monk. “I saw something and I shouldn’t have.”
A gust hit the rig hard and almost blew me into the gravel shoulder. I fought the wheel and brought it back into the road. Normally I would stop in these driving conditions, nap in the bunk in the back and wait out a storm like this. But, my gut told me I had better keep moving.
“And now… you’re on the run? From who?”
“I’m not sure. Sometimes I’m sure I’ve lost them, but they seem to always find me.”
“Maybe I should have asked a few more questions before agreeing to haul you west.”
I saw her smile reflected in her window. I also noticed headlights in the passenger side mirror. Out of habit, I reached down on my left and felt the comfort of cold steel. Be prepared – I learned that as a scout. And, if there’s trouble coming, a Mossberg 590 Persuader is pretty good preparation.
Friday, October 23, 2009
When I first started investing in mutual funds, the mantra was "more risk, more reward". If you had an appetite for risk, you could invest in a more aggressive mutual fund and possibly reap greater rewards. Of course, you also had to be aware that you could lose more when things turn bad. I understood that.
Now, fast forward 30 years. I no longer have the same appetite for risk and have invested less aggressively. However, it hardly mattered. Because others chose to take on enormous risk, my accounts suffered an almost 50% decline when those esoteric derivative investments tanked! I didn't sign up for that risk! But I sure participated in the losses.Did I receive the enormous gains when those derivatives were doing well? Some may argue I was a beneficiary of the good times, but not to the extent I declined when things turned bad. A relative handful of people made huge profits (plus the bankers who made millions in bonuses), but all of us suffered when those same investments turned bad.
The administration is trying to set compensation rules to restrict pay in the financial sector to reduce the incentive to take such outsized risks. Philosophically, I'm against government getting this involved in business. But, I sure would like to see them find a way to restrict the losses inherent in such risky ventures to the people that knowingly signed up for that amount of risk. Privatized gains; socialized losses - it's just not fair.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
"What is this stuff?" Ben asked the bartender.
"It's some moonshine from Arkansas. We might get some beer in from St. Louis next week, if the deliveryman makes it through."
Ben understood. A deliveryman himself, he knew the route west from Missouri was dangerous. The only secure driving was from Arizona to the coast where the ChiMex had more patrols on the main highways.
"What are you hauling this week?"
"I have a load of golf balls for some resort in the California desert. The Chinese do love to golf."
The door opened, letting in a blast of Texas heat. A car engine roared and the sound of gravel spitting from the tires overpowered the sound of an old Hank Williams tune playing on the jukebox. Ben noticed the bartender's eyebrows shoot up and he swiveled on the stool to see who walked in. She was solid, not skinny - short brown hair with some gray, tight jeans, a black Harley-Davidson t-shirt, and a beautiful stag and leather handled bowie knife strapped to her leg. She walked over to the bar and took the stool on my left.
"That your rig out there?" she asked.
"Where are you headed?"
"I'm delivering a load of golf balls to Palm Springs."
"I need transport. Do you have room?"
Ben stared down at his shot glass. He took a slow sip. He turned to face her.
"What's in it for me?” he asked.
Friday, September 25, 2009
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Fewer foreign-born people are in the U.S., census says -- chicagotribune.com
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Sunday, September 20, 2009
The universe is not against you. It just does not care. It knows nothing about you, your desires or your plans. This applies to everything in the universe: natural forces, man-made forces, and other people.
If you expect a certain outcome, positive or negative, that guarantees some degree of unhappiness.
If you always expect positive outcomes, you will be disappointed when they do not happen that way. Optimism, taken to an extreme, can result in a feeling of entitlement – and then disappointment turns to anger when things do not turn out as expected.
If you are a pessimist, you may not be disappointed as often, but your constant negative expectations will turn off those around you. Pessimism, taken to the extreme, can certainly result in depression if you never experience happiness, but only relief that the negative outcome you imagined did not occur.
It is better to not have any expectations at all. But, how can we accomplish this?
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Chuck sat up in the recliner and swiveled his body toward his wife. "Her red hair lit the wall? What the hell are you talking about now?" he shouted. He turned his attention back to "Dancing with the Stars" and settled back into the recliner.
She got up from the couch and walked into the kitchen.
"Where are you going?" Chuck asked.
"To put hearing aid batteries on the shopping list," she replied.
"Enroll in a photography class at the Arboretum? I just don't understand you anymore."
I read an article by Paul Krugman. He is an economist who writes for the New York Times. The article is pretty long by today's standards, but if you're interested in economics, it's worth reading. You can read it yourself here:
(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/magazine/06Economic-t.html) The article is entitled "How Did Economists Get it So Wrong?". Here's the first few lines:
"As I see it, the economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth. Until the Great Depression most economists clung to a vision of capitalism as a perfect or nearly perfect system. That vision wasn’t sustainable in the face of mass unemployment, but as memories of the Depression faded, economists fell back in love with the old, idealized vision of an economy in which rational individuals interact in perfect markets, this time gussied up with fancy equations."
After reading it, I did not feel so stupid. The neo-classical camp of economists have been running the show since at least the 1980s. This is the "free market does no wrong" crowd. Now their little theories are proving to be a bunch of BS.
I knew that in college.
First, how can a mathematical model take into account all the variables in something as complex as the economy? It amuses me that the same crowd that thinks climate is too complex to predict apparently thinks that free-market economists are infallible in something as complex as our economy.
Second, the assumption that we're all rational and act in our best interests is a bunch of crap too. Everyone knows we make economic decisions based on emotions that are far from rational. The assumption in economics is that no one wishes to deceive us, so that we enter transactions with "prefect knowledge" - which is obviously wrong. People get ripped off every day. Buyer beware!
Lastly, why do we assume that what is in my best interest is in the best interest of society as a whole? Or even in one other person's best interest? If I hoard all the food in a small town and then sell it at enormous profit to the townspeople, that is clearly in my best financial interest. But, not so much for everyone else.
Now there's a new thing called "behavioral economics". Maybe it's better - I don't know much about it yet, but I'm going to try and learn.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
"Blue Cross and Blue Shield will make the decision whether hospitalization or other health care services or supplies were not Medically Necessary and therefore not eligible for payment under the terms of your Policy. In most instances this decision is made by Blue Cross and Blue Shield AFTER YOU HAVE BEEN HOSPITALIZED OR HAVE RECEIVED OTHER HEALTH CARE SERVICES OR SUPPLIES AND AFTER A CLAIM FOR PAYMENT HAS BEEN SUBMITTED.”
I've read in the Chicago Tribune that some people have had claims denied even after going through the proper pre-approval procedure. The policy isn't 100% clear on that, but this clause sure seems to say that even if I get the proper pre-approval they could deny my claim if they deem the procedure "medically unnecessary! No wonder people with insurance still end up declaring bankruptcy!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
“Remember that your Blue Cross and Blue Shield Policy does not cover the cost of hospitalization or any health care services and supplies that are not Medically Necessary. The fact that your Physician or another health care Provider may prescribe, order, recommend or approve an Inpatient admission or continued Inpatient hospitalization beyond the length of stay authorized by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Physician does not of itself make such an Inpatient Hospital stay Medically Necessary. Even if your Physician prescribes, orders, recommends, approves or views an Inpatient admission or continued Inpatient hospitalization beyond the length of stay assigned by the MSA as Medically Necessary, Blue Cross and Blue Shield will not pay for an Inpatient admission or continued hospitalization which exceeds the assigned length of stay if the MSA and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Physician decide an extension of the assigned length of stay is not Medically Necessary.”
My policy is not all that unique - yours probably has this clause too. In effect, the decisions that you and your doctor make may be deemed "medically unnecessary" by the free-market insurance bureaucracy.
I am no more comfortable with a free-market, profit oriented bureaucracy interfering with my doctor's recommendations than I am with a government bureaucrat doing the same thing. Something needs to change.
Next post: the clause that drives insured people to bankruptcy.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
My previous post outlined how insurance works. The insurance industry needs more payers than collectors. The less collectors they have, the more profit they make. Why would they be interested in taking on guaranteed collectors? People over 65 are guaranteed to collect in a relatively short time! Plus, it is currently reported that the end-of-life costs (your stay in the intensive care unit at the end) tends to be the most expensive hospital stay you will ever have. Why not hand those people over to the taxpayers?
So, the insurance industry gets billions in profit by insuring relatively healthy people and the taxpayers get ever more red ink from insuring people guaranteed to cost more. Sounds, yet again, like privatized profit - socialized risk.
Monday, August 31, 2009
The insurance industry needs a large pool of people to pay and pay, to subsidize the minority who collect and collect. "From each according to his ability; To each according to their need." Sounds like free market socialism to me!
Take auto insurance, for example. The majority of us pay, year after year, our auto insurance and rarely make a claim. I have made 3 claims (all relatively small) in 30 years. I have paid way more in premiums over those years than I have collected in claims. I am subsidizing the careless or chronically unlucky minority of drivers who have multiple claims - for far more money. That is how insurance works.
It works for auto and homeowners insurance though - for the most part. Why? Because everyone is required to have insurance. Auto insurance is required by law (in most, if not all, states). Therefore, even if I were inclined to take a chance and go without insurance because I'm a safe driver, I am not allowed to by law. Therefore, the insurance companies are guaranteed a large pool of payers to cover the collectors. Same with homeowner's insurance. The majority of us have a mortgage and are required to have homeowner's insurance. Once again, the insurance companies have a large pool of payers to cover the relatively small number of collectors. And if the collectors become too large a number, they simply deny those folks insurance - like homeowners on the Florida or Gulf coasts.
This is why the insurance lobby likes the proposal to make health insurance mandatory - it increases the pool of relatively healthy payers to cover the more sickly collectors.
Next post: why the free-market insurance wants nothing to do with insuring seniors.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
The cab pulled up the hotel driveway. I got in on the driver’s side.
“Where to?” the driver asked.
I gave him the address. He pulled out of the driveway. I took another sip of coffee.
“Where is this place?” he asked.
“Don’t know. First time here,” I said.
“Dammit!” He hit the steering wheel hard with his right hand.
I jumped. Coffee spilled and burned my hand.
“I expect my fares to know where the hell they’re going.”
I slid to the passenger side of the cab to look at the driver. He was a big guy with long brown hair, maybe in his thirties.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” I said, “Do you have a map?”
“You’re a smartass. You’re from South Dakota. I’ll bet anything. I hate people from South Dakota. You hicks come here in your Sears suits thinking you’re better than the rest of us.”
“Uh…I’m from Chicago,” I said.
He angled his body toward the dashboard. I heard a click.
“I don’t think you are. I think you’re an asshole from South Dakota.”
I looked out the window. We were on an expressway. We had been moving this whole time. He knew where he was going. He was just messing with me.
I felt a searing hot pain on my left thigh. Faster than I thought possible, he had reached around and pushed the cigarette lighter into my leg.
“Damn”, I yelled.
I grabbed his hand, but he kept pushing down. He was very strong. The pain was incredible. A hole had burned in my pants. Smoke was rising from my leg. I was in shock – unable to move.
Instinctively, I made a fist and swung with all my might at his head. I just kept hitting in a blind rage, slamming his head into the doorjamb. His hand left my thigh, but the pain did not stop.
I heard horns, screeching tires, an incredibly large sound. Then blackness – nothing.
All that happened twenty years ago. I still glance at the scar on my thigh where the lighter burned me.
Monday, August 17, 2009
I searched the PDF version of the bill and did not find a hit for: "malpractice", "lawsuit", or "tort". It seems to me that we should address the issue of lawsuits and malpractice insurance in any discussion about healthcare reforms.
I also searched "death panel" - didn't find it.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
- SEC. 246. NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS.Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal paymentsfor affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.
I'm not sure what this really refers to, but it's good to know that it has the words "NO", "PAYMENTS", and "UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS" all in the same sentence!
I really do not think we should be passing laws that are 1018 pages long. That just seems like a bad idea to me. The current IRS code is 3.4 millions words, 7500 pages (http://www.fourmilab.ch/uscode/26usc/) and we all know how simple paying taxes is. In general, it seems that laws this complicated are doomed to create an immense bureaucracy to adminster them. Surely we can consider other alternatives.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
- Legislators have heard pleas to not let government take over Medicare, which they like. That level of ignorance is astounding.
- Rationing? Doctor choice? Have these people ever read their current insurance policies? Every health insurance policy I've ever had (including my current one, which is not through an employer because I'm self-employed) includes:
- A list of in-network doctors I am allowed to use. I'm free to go elsewhere, but at far higher cost.
- Pages of excluded treatments.
- Pre-existing conditions - in my case I paid all of my own doctor bills for the first year and not a penny of that went toward my deductible.
- "Death-panels"? Insurance companies deny treatment approval all the time. 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan, a leukemia patient from Glendale, Calif., died in December 2007 while her parents, her doctors and their insurance company (Cigna) were arguing about the procedure. It's rare, but it has already happened.
I'd bet many of us would love to know who insures these protesters who seem to have insurance that allows them to see any doctor on the planet and never denies them treatment approval or claims. I want some of that!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The Chicago Tribune reported that the watchdog overseeing the federal government financial bailout says the government's maximum exposure to financial institutions since 2007 could total nearly $24 trillion, or about $80,000 for every American.
That's $80,000 for every man, woman, and child!
- Surely this staggering figure is not just the result of giving mortgages to minorities that could not afford it.
- I still can't believe that not one of the Wall Street wizards responsible for a mess this huge has been held accountable. In fact, Goldman Sachs is doling out big bonuses ($700,000, on average) to many of the very people who made our country poor!
Where's the outrage?
Thursday, July 16, 2009
1. Sheep are judged in a couple of categories: for the quality of their wool and in a category called "meat". Farmers are very matter-of-fact about the sources of our food.
2. Goats can be cute. Plus, some of them have rectangular (horizontally oriented) eye pupils that make them look like creatures from another planet. I was told that the ones at the show are quite friendly because they tend to be bottle-raised. And, they were.
3. There are some really beautiful chickens. Plus, roosters make way too much noise.
4. Cows can be really large. Enough said.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
We are currently suffering under socialized medicine. I do agree that the technically correct definition of “socialized” would mean controlled by a government bureaucracy, but our medical system is under the control of a private, profit-oriented insurance bureaucracy and the effect on our lives is virtually the same, perhaps worse.
- Our individual choices are limited by insurance company bureaucrats.
- Doctors have large administrative overhead to deal with the insurance company bureaucracy.
- The true costs of medical care are both hidden and amplified by the insurance smoke screen.
There are those who argue that it would be worse if the government ran health care. Perhaps. I consistently read that Medicare is far less costly to administer than private insurance, but I don’t know who to believe any more.
However, why not consider a system that REALLY uses the free market? Eliminate the insurance middleman! Make medical pricing, direct from the providers, transparent. Open up true competition between providers of medical services rather than providers of insurance. Take a chunk of the cost out of the health care system by reducing all the overhead imposed by insurance programs. Where is it written that only insurance companies should pay medical bills on our behalf?
What we all really need is access to health care, not access to health insurance.
Monday, June 1, 2009
"We have heard a lot in the twenty-first century to date, not least from your
outgoing president, about a grand global struggle between good and evil. I'm as
certain as I can be that no such dispute is occurring. The universal human
conflict is, as it ever was, between the smart and the stupid. In general, I'm
still betting on the smart, even if it does often seem that the stupid have the
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
No. But, my friend and business partner has started this site because she is into quilting and she has come up with a good idea. You can design your quilt online and print your quilt pattern, including fabric requirements.
So, if you are into quilting, check her site out.
"You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter" - Dick Cheney, 2002, to soon-to-be fired Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill who tried to warn the Bush Administration about looming budget deficits.
The reason that the GOP has lost its luster is not due to its stance on social issues. In my opinion, they haven't really taken a broad enough stance on social issues, but the reality is they can only do so much about them anyway. Economic issues and small government, on the other hand, is an area where they could have made an impact but chose not to. Even during the 6 years they controlled the executive branch and had majorities in the House and Senate (though not fillibuster-proof majorities) they did not do the things they told us they would: cut spending, reduce the size of government, and reduce the involvement of government in our lives. Let's not lose sight of the fact that the Bush administration initiated the first $700 billion bailout of the financial industry - an investment that now no one can account for.
Who can small government, fiscal conseratives vote for now? Where are our choices?