Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wages and Profits

Great piece from Bob Reich tonight on Market Place Radio -

"New data from the Commerce Department shows employee pay down to the smallest share of the economy since the government began collecting the data in 1929. And corporate profits, the largest share of the economy since then.

Yet incredibly, some politicians think the best way to restart the nation's job engine is to make corporations even more profitable. That means reducing corporate taxes and cutting back on regulations.
These same politicians want average workers to have even less money. They're against extending the payroll tax cut or unemployment benefits. And they want to make it harder for workers to form unions."

Listen, or read, the commentary HERE

Buy his most recent book by clicking below...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ferriss - 4 Hour Chef

I've alluded to Tim Ferriss before (HERE and HERE and HERE), one of the skills sets he's mastered that is imperative for success in the new economy, (however we define success and/or new economy) is the ability to rapidly learn new skills.. I'm very excited that.his new book will cover that topic -"The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life."

Pre-order by clicking below...  (Buy it for what it teaches, but Tim is a masterful marketer, I can guarantee you there will be some added goodies for all of those that pre-order)

Main Stream Media -

I gave up long ago hoping that the media would follow either of the ideals to which I think they should aspire, which are:
  • Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable and/or
  • Make the important interesting, instead of their current model which is to make the interesting important
But, I don't think it's too much to ask that when someone blatantly lies, especially someone who aspires to be President of the United States, that NBC, CBS, and ABC, at the very least, should ask the candidate about it... a simple, "You're taking X out of context, the entire quote is Y" and then ask for a comment.  But they don't, as Arianna Huffington points out HERE

As the piece points out, "Instead of a national conversation about what sort of person would approve such an ad, what we mostly got was just another "he said/she said" episode."  This is the key, our country has become so divided, thanks to the media, that every single thing is seen as a partisan issue.  The media HAS to call a lie a lie, it really is the least they can do, but the water has been so tainted by Fox, Limbaugh, etc., that 'you're either with us, or against us' has become the rallying cry in the public conversation and the media doesn't want to risk the advertising dollars to challenge the propagandist.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Financial Freedom

Around this time of year there are a flood of pieces about being frugal for the holidays... bake cookies, give your time, re-gift, and make your own, are all extorted as ways to save some money for the holiday season.  All of these ideas follow the formula of the majority of personal finance books which talk about keeping budgets and planning, packing your lunch, making your coffee at home, etc.

I've been thinking of late that such advice is wrong on many levels.  My simple thought on the idea is that where most people screw up their finances are in three places - housing, automobiles, and education - it's the big ticket items that take away our freedom, not the morning latte.

It's, in part, simple math.  The average mortgage payment in the U.S. in 2006 was almost $1700, the average car payment is roughly $400 a month, and the average student loan debt is $25,000 with a monthly payment averaging $275 a month.  Think of what you pay a month in non-income generating mortgage payments.  Instead of paying $1700 a month, what if you paid $850 a month? It would take you about 10 years of not buying latte's for what you'd save in one year of mortgage payments.  Instead of buying a $30,000 car, what if you bought a $5,000 used one?  Well, for that $25,000 in savings you could attend a movie a week with popcorn, drink, and junior mints for the next 24 years.

We've been told that success is a big house and a nice car, it's been ingrained in us from a very young age.  But, what if success is the freedom to do what you want to do when you want to do it?

(only somewhat related, but I liked this exchange in the movie The Tourist between Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie:
Frank Tupelo: Would you rather have me smoking for real?
Elise: I would rather you be a man who did exactly as he pleased.)

We've paid lip service to freedom, but we've bought into servitude and indebtedness.  Students today are leaving college with no option but to take whatever job they can find that pays enough money to pay off the student loans.  If you've got a big mortgage and car payments you can't get fired, you don't have that freedom, how does that affect your behavior and performance?  We complain about how busy we are and the stress, the anxiety of our lives, and the lack of money to go Christmas shopping, but we can't look ourselves in the mirror, and our friends/families/neighbors in the eye, and say - 1500 square feet and four good tires is more than enough, and well worth the price for the freedom it provides.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Buying a Kindle Fire?

Shop Amazon's New Kindle Fire

I'm thinking about getting a Kindle Fire... Thoughts?


Borrowed this picture from Dave Pollard's most recent post (HERE)... it reminds me of this quote from Neitzsche, "Society tames the wolf into a dog. And man is the most domesticated animal of all."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If talent matters...

I've written about this before, nevertheless it's worth repeating... most companies that complain, especially in this environment, about their inability to find talent really mean that they can't find talent within the price point they want to pay.

A very successful businessman I witnessed make this point in a workforce development meeting.  Other business leaders were complaining that they just couldn't find people who could pass the drug test, or who had the work ethic, etc.  After listening to the complaint's for most of the meeting this gentleman spoke up and said, "I never have that problem."  They all turned around and looked at him, one spoke up and said, "Mr. X, explain to us why you don't?"... He replied, "It's easy, I get the best $10 an hour employee in town, I start everybody off at $15."

Four related pieces:
WSJ: Commentary: Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need “…the author has since posted a follow-up  - HERE

Monday, November 14, 2011

Making a few extra bucks...

I'm sure this was a one-time deal, it's not like these Congressmen would do this regularly... jeez louise  Pete Rose is vilified for gambling on baseball and our Congress bets the economy will crash while many are pushing policies to ensures it continues to crash, at least until after the 2012 election.

" The world's greatest deliberative bodies are exempt from insider trading laws, even though its members get quicker access to market-moving information than almost anyone else."..".Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-ALA), then ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, bet against the market as it collapsed in 2008. Schweizer finds "no less than forty options trades" in Bachus's records from July 2008 to November 2008. The trades made him wealthier; almost nobody else had the information he had, and could have made them.

"... What Bachus and his colleagues heard behind closed doors was stunning. As Paulson recounts, “Ben [Bernanke] emphasized how the financial crisis could spill into the real economy. As stocks dropped perhaps a further 20 percent, General Motors would go bankrupt, and unemployment would rise . . . if we did nothing.” The members of Congress around the table were, in Paulson’s words, “ashen-faced.”  Bernanke continued, “It is a matter of days before there is a meltdown in the global financial system.” Bachus was among those who spoke. According to Paulson, he suggested recapitalizing the banks by buying shares.  The meeting broke up. The next day, September 19, Congressman Bachus bought contract options on Proshares Ultra-Short QQQ, an index fund that seeks results that are 200% of the inverse of the Nasdaq 100 index. In other words, he was shorting the market. It was an inexpensive way to bet that the market would fall."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bonus Army/Marchers

In honor of Veteran's Day... A story I didn't know much about, 40+ thousand WWI veteran's who 'occupied' Washington D.C. in 1932 to try and get wages owed to them.  Hero's.   

On NPR: The Bonus Army: How A Protest Led to the GI Bill

Wikipedia- Bonus Army

Thursday, November 10, 2011


A promising approach to public schools being tried in NYC - New York schools enter the iZone -

"The iZone project - or Innovation Zone - is challenging state schools in New York City to rip up the rule book.
They're being told to find new ways to provide a more individualised education, to change the shape of the school day, explore what technology can offer and even ask whether pupils need to be in school at all.
"The challenge we face is nothing less than transforming our schools from assembly-line factories into centres of innovation," said the city's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who warns that the US school system is falling behind international rivals"

Some education reading recommended by Uncollege - iZone's are saying that they understand the lessons of Holt, Gatto, etc.  I hope they are.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Reading List - Zappo's and others

Interesting Reading List from Zappo's -Apparently they make these available to all employees.

Dan Pink wrote "Free Agent Nation", arguing that we're all essentially free agents in the market place, some of these strike me as essential readings in that regard...  There are similarities in the Zappo's list with those at UNCOLLEGE  and at PERSONALMBA 

We're now in the era of winging it...the education system is not effective, the corporations are figuring out how to make monies without the workers, so each individual is going to have to educate themselves and find their own path to create a life of our choosing.  Liberating in a sense, scary as hell in another. 

"Business Strategy
·       The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content.

·        Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow

·        SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

·        The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth

·        Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't

·        Believe Me: Why Your Vision, Brand, and Leadership Need a Bigger Story

·        The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)

·        Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier

·        The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage, and WOW

·        The Method Method: Seven Obsessions That Helped Our Scrappy Start-up Turn an Industry Upside Down

Employee Engagement & Leadership
·        Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

·       Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

·        The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

·        The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

·        Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

·        The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

Happiness Studies
·        Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment

·        The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

·        Stumbling on Happiness

·        Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being

·        Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success

·        Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion

·        Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Personal Development
·        212: The Extra Degree

·        The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life (J-B Warren Bennis Series)

·        Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results

·        Comedy Writing Secrets: The Best-Selling Book on How to Think Funny, Write Funny, Act Funny, And Get Paid For It, 2nd Edition

·        Get Off Your "But": How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself

·        Outliers: The Story of Success

·        What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful

·        Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life

·        You Don't Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our Assumption...

When we see stories like this, our first instinct is to think... what a bright young man, he's extraordinary!  And I think he is, but not as extraordinary as we think he is.... I think the VAST majority of our children can do the same thing, if they can't, perhaps we're in big trouble anyway.

How Students Can Take Charge of Their Education - NYT - HERE

"I am an elementary school dropout. At the end of fifth grade I told my parents I was bored in school. They could have told me to stick it out, that doing so would “build character.” Instead, although my mom was a public school teacher and my dad an engineer – both products of the public school system – they allowed to leave school and try unschooling, the self-directed form of homeschooling.
While my peers sat in class through middle school and high school, I found mentors, took college classes, started businesses, lived in France, worked on political campaigns and helped build a library. I created my education by taking these traditional “extracurricular activities” and turning them into a cohesive academic program."

That DAMN Socialist...

"During Obama’s tenure, Wall Street has roared back, even as the broader economy has struggled.

The largest banks are larger than they were when Obama took office and are nearing the level of profits they were making before the depths of the financial crisis in 2008, according to government data.

Wall Street firms — independent companies and the securities-trading arms of banks — are doing even better. They earned more in the first 21 / 2 years of the Obama administration than they did during the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, industry data show."

Washington Post - HERE

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Year's 7 Most Powerful Idea's

From the founder of TED, Chris Anderson, his list of The Year's 7 Most Powerful Idea's:

#1 Nic Marks, Founder, Centre for Well-being

We’re measuring the wrong success goals. Is the GDP really the best measure of human progress we can come up with? Marks has developed a new measure, called the National Accounts of Well-being, that's not only a more accurate but also a more meaningful assessment of societal progress based on expanded data sets. See Nic speak more about his ideas here.

#2 Daniel H. Pink, Author, A Whole New Mind

Money does not necessarily motivate creativity. If you're offered money as a reward, you'll work better and faster, right? No, says Dan Pink. He's recognized a crucial mismatch between what science knows and corporate 'carrot-and-stick' rewards. What really motivates us is the desire to do things because they matter because they're interesting. Watch Dan speak more on it here.

#3 Salman Khan, Founder, Khan Academy

The classroom flip can revolutionize education. Khan was a hedge fund analyst when he started posting video tutorials online. Now, over 2,000 of his videos are viewed by more than 100,000 students a day around the world. What if teachers used these videos as homework so kids could learn at their own pace, and used classroom time to help if someone gets stuck! See Salman speak more on it here.

#4 Stewart Brand, Founder, The Whole Earth Catalog

Urbanization could save the planet. The world's largest cities are home to over 20 million people each. And contrary to conventional wisdom, they're great for the planet. They promote innovation, reduce our carbon footprint, offer more educational opportunities-- and smaller, urban families can diffuse the population time bomb. See Stewart speak more about his ideas here.

#5 Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder, Acumen Fund

Patient capital is the smart way to tackle poverty. Can philanthropy harness the power of entrepreneurs who want to do good and be successful? Novogratz is alleviating poverty by investing in businesses capable of massive social change and giving them the time and assistance needed to reach profitability. Full disclosure: She is my wife. See Jacqueline speak more about her objectives here.

#6, Philip K. Howard, Chair, Common Good

Too much law is choking us. Law is the foundation for civilization. But too much of it is destructive. Healthcare, education and government have been strangled by impossibly complex legal restrictions. Howard has suggested four ways to simplify and restore trust in the law, in order to release our citizens' powerful energy and passions. Learn about Philips steps here.

#7 Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahneman, Behavioral Economists, Princeton and Duke Universities

Our brains are buggier than we realize. The notion of humans as rational agents has been thoroughly debunked in economics and evolutionary psychology, but that understanding has not yet filtered properly into the political realm. That has to change. Otherwise our lizard-brain choices on the media we watch and the politicians we elect will doom us. Watch TED speakers Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahneman.

Structural Adjustments - applied at home

Immanuel Wallerstein's 'World-System's Theory' talks about the relationship between the Core (ex. United States), Semi-Periphery (ex. Brazil), and Periphery (countries in Africa for example)... this relationship was one of exploitation by the Core of the others.  A piece of this was something called "Structural Adjustments", in which the Core (through groups like the IMF) would loan money to the periphery knowing that they couldn't repay, then we'd loan more (or forgive loans) with certain stipulations... we'll give you more money IF you'll open more markets to international companies, stop paying welfare, do away with common property, etc. 

The general pattern sounds exactly what has been applied now to parts, if not all, of the United States. 

I've written earlier about the US Postal Service (HERE)... the Daily Yonder had a piece this week about the "deal" that's being struck to "save" it HERE.  An excerpt:

"It would allow the Postal Service to tap into a multibillion retirement fund surplus to ease current financial problems. "

"Too many people still rely on the Postal Service for us to sit back and allow it to collapse," said Lieberman, whose committee oversees the Postal Service and plans to debate the bill next week.

"The Postmaster General made it very clear to us that he needs the ability to cut $20 billion from the Postal Service's annual budget. We're giving him and his employees ... the tools to achieve that significant amount of savings," he said."...

"Congress has used postal service retirement fund surpluses to fund normal government operations. The surplus amounts to $15 billion. The proposed bill would allow the postal service to use $7 billion to offer buyouts and retirement incentives to cut the workforce."

Arguing with Fools

Elizabeth Warren was called a "socialist whore" at an event this week... Story HERE @ AlterNet.  Where apparently the tea bagger also questioned the citizenship of the President.

Herman Cain doubled down on his love for his "brothers from another mother" the Koch's.  Also, @ AlterNet HERE

And congressional Republican's are voting on the motto "In God We Trust", which has been around since 1950... which Jon Stewart lampoons HERE

And if you're like me, just go to facebook and see the post of some of your "friends" -  the political and superstitious nonsense that they feel strongly enough about to share with others, is, well, simply nuts.

There's an old saying about arguing with a crazy person, essentially the advice is to not do it, because people watching can't tell which one is the crazy person... It's tempting to engage the loonies on the right, hell this blog does it often, but it can't be healthy or wise.

Friday, November 4, 2011

30 Companies

"A report issued today by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that 78 out of 280 of America’s most profitable companies paid no federal income tax in at least one of the last three years.  Thirty of these companies paid a 'less than zero' rate between 2008 and 2010"
@ Huffington Post HERE

 @ Common Dreams HERE

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Faulkner's guidance

I wonder how those of us who blog can apply the guidance of Faulkner to what we write?

From William Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech-

     "Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
      Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."