Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Outsiders Buying the Election?

               This was the headline for The Gazette on September 21, 2014.  The Gazette is eastern Iowa’s locally owned newspaper based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  The article claims that special interest groups from outside the state pay for 80% of the TV ads in the U.S. Senate race between Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst. 
                The impact of TV ads can easily negate local grass roots campaigning.  Many of these ads may be technically accurate, but totally misleading.  Some are outright lies with no consequences.  Politicians are obligated to represent the special interests that finance their campaigns.  Why do we allow this to continue?  It means we lose control of the elected officials that are supposed to work in the best interests of the state they represent.
                The easiest way to prevent this problem in any U.S. Senate race is to repeal the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.  This amendment established the direct election of United States Senators by popular vote of the state they represent.  The 17th Amendment was passed on May 13, 1912 and ratified on April 8, 1913.  Electing Senators by popular vote seems to make sense until it is examined closely.  Special interests outside the state can control the election.  
                Prior to this change in the Constitution, U.S. Senators were appointed by the state legislature.   The state always elected representatives to the U.S. House by popular vote, as they do today.  This difference in how Representatives were elected and Senators were appointed to Congress was just one more check and balance our founding fathers build into the Constitution.  How could our founding fathers be so smart and we be dumb enough to change it?
                Some Amendments to the Constitution are a mistake. The 18th Amendment prohibited the manufacturing and sale of alcohol for human consumption in the United States.  This idiocy turned many average citizens into criminals.  Death from alcohol poisoning reached epidemic levels.  At least the country was smart enough to recognize the mistake and the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th.
                The House of Representatives has always been elected by popular vote, and is not affected by the 17th Amendment.   For the House, I would strongly recommend campaign spending reform limiting all campaign donations to only individuals and corporations that reside within the district represented by the elected official.
                This reform should apply to campaign donations at all levels of government.  The biggest problems are at the federal level, but it should apply to the state and local levels as well.  I am a county supervisor for district 4 in our county.  I am sure the people living in district 4 want me representing their interests and not some national special interest group that wants to buy my vote.  
                These changes would give power back to the states and limit the power of special interest groups.  We need to take back our country from the political elite.  The political elite is only concerned with expanding the federal government and increasing their power.  They are not concerned with the working middle class that made this country great.  It is time to fight back.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Great Graphics

                I was raised on a farm in Iowa.  We took good care of our equipment and replaced it only when it could not be repaired, or for new and improved technology.  Everything was serviced regularly, but my dad believed in the statement, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” 
                In today’s high tech society, everything seems to change all the time, and not necessarily for the better.  I regularly use the web sites for three organizations that recently changed their formats.  They all have a new look with great color and graphics.  Unfortunately, none of them are as easy to use as the old sites.  I am sure creating the new web sites was not cheap.  Why spend money to irritate present customers? 
                The Volkswagen beetle was a huge automotive success story.  The car was changed and improved constantly for decades, but never with radical changes.  The customer seldom noticed the changes.  Maybe this philosophy would be a good guideline for website management.
                This obsession for change in business goes beyond web sites.  Companies drop names that have decades of history and image with the public for acronyms and logos that mean nothing to anyone.  Money must then be spent on advertising to give these new acronyms and logos an image for the public.  A name should say what the business does.
                This obsession with graphics even extends to entertainment.  Many motion pictures now feature great graphics and special effects.  The plot and acting may leave a lot to be desired, but the special effects are great.  And, what is this obsession that everything has to be so loud.  I am an old fart and I’m sure my hearing isn’t the best, but I can’t stand to go to a movie theater without earplugs.
                All change and improved technology is not necessarily good for business.  We must think of what is best and most convenient for our present and future customers.  I like the “Keep it Simple Stupid” approach.
 I still do a little coaching and consulting for very select clients.  One of the conditions for how we work together is no texting.  All texting is blocked from my cell phone.  I simply explain that I have time for one e-mail or one phone call, but not a dozen text messages.  Think about it.  It is a true waste of time in most cases.
 If you are thinking about how private business wastes time and money with graphics and acronyms, think about the public sector.  The web site for Obama care is a classic example of wasted tax dollars.  No one in the private sector would expect to keep his or her job with this kind of incompetence.  One individual in the public sector told me that he was in his job for a year before he knew what people were talking about because of the use or misuse of acronyms.
               All of these business considerations and more are addressed in my book Business Fits. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ward Churchill

               I watched Megyn Kelly interview Ward Churchill on The Kelly File last week.  Ward Churchill was a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder from 1990 to 2007.  He is also a political activist, an author, and a Vietnam veteran.
               In the interview, Churchill referred to the terrorists that few the planes into the twin towers and the pentagon as courageous and gallant.  He said the victims of 9/11 deserved to die, and called them “Little Eichmanns”.  He was comparing them to Otto Adolf Eichmann, who was in charge of the techniques and logistics used during the holocaust to eliminate the Jews.
              Churchill admitted to belonging to Students for a Democratic Society.  He also admitted to teaching the Weather Underground how to handle guns and make bombs for the purpose of domestic terrorism.  He did not admit to any personal acts of violence. 
Churchill kept implying that Megyn Kelly was too dumb to understand what he was saying.  Megyn Kelly is certainly not dumb.  In my opinion, Churchill is an arrogant, idiot using the academic arena for his personal ego.   The interview first made me mad and by the time it was over, I felt sick to my stomach.  
Churchill originally made his statements that the victims of 9/11 deserved to die, and called the terrorists courageous and gallant shortly after 9/11/2001.  The academic community endorsed or ignored his statements, and he received no reprimands from the University of Colorado. 
Churchill continued writing and speaking of his views on 9/11.  He eventually started to receive some bad publicity.  In 2005, the University started investigating him for engaging in “research misconduct” and he was fired.  Maybe Churchill was having an adverse effect on alumni donations. 
I don’t have a problem with Churchill speaking his mind.  That is his first amendment right and many people have fought and died to guarantee him that right.  I do have a problem with him being a collage professor and teaching young impressionable minds that garbage. 
I wish he was the only ridiculous example of this, but that is not the case.  Here are a few others:
Kathy Boudin – Columbia University
Bill Ayers – University of Illinois at Chicago
Bernardine Dohrn – Northwestern University of Law
Cathy Wilkerson – High school teacher

Some of these people are murderers, convicted felons, and domestic terrorists.   They may have served their time, but what responsible educational institution would hire them to teach radical ideas to young impressionable students? 
These institutions allow and endorse this left-wing extremism, but fail to teach accurate American history, American government, or the Constitution.  My personal pet peeve is failure to teach the basic principles of insurance and how its correct use is to protect against catastrophic events.  Insurance should not be used as a very expensive and wasteful tool for managing personal finances.  This is what we do with first-dollar-billing medical insurance.
I find this liberal attitude by the academic community totally unacceptable.  We must make a change.  Maybe we need to get the federal government out of education as the Constitution intended.  We must change to give our youth a good work ethic, and give them the tools to succeed in life without government handouts. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Leader or Follower

             The world is made up of both leaders and followers.  It is hard to be both.  A good leader may not be a good follower and a good follower may not be a good leader.  Most careers require that we be both.  Recognizing our strengths and weaknesses can be the key to our success and happiness.  People that can fill the role of both leader and follower are truly unique. 
             I recently did a post on The Peter Principle: Why Things Go Wrong by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull.  The book states; “Good followers do not become good leaders.”  A good follower will probably win many promotions and eventually be promoted to a level of incompetence. 
             The book points out that a good leader may not make a good follower.  The book further points out that in most hierarchies, the employees with the greatest leadership abilities will not have the opportunity to become leaders.  This may present problems to the point of them being fired.  This individual needs to go into business for him or herself.  The individual doing this is called a “self-made man” in the book. 
             Identifying strengths and weaknesses are important to our success.  We have all heard the saying that “Those who can, do, and those that can’t, teach.”  This is probably true in some cases, but some of the best teachers are people who have actually done it.  One individual told me that he liked my book, Business Fits, because it was offered life examples and not just some collage professor talking theory. 
             Does a good salesman make a good sales manager? Can a poor salesman make a good sales manager?  I address these questions in Business Fits.   I think both can be true depending on the individual.  In some cases, a good salesman will be promoted to a level of incompetence as a sales manager. 
              I once had a client who was an outstanding salesman and was a good sales manager, but was frustrated and unhappy in the sales manager role because his sales staff could not perform to his expectations.  We had to find a new opportunity that gave him the personal sales challenges he needed. 
              The key to success is to capitalize on your strengths, and recognize your weaknesses.  Your present job may not give you the opportunity to capitalize on your strengths.  This may mean changing jobs, or finding a self-employment business model that fits you.
             This does not mean looking for a product or service that excites you.  That is often referred to as the Entrepreneurial Myth, and what I call an Outside-In approach.  I recommend an Inside-Out approach in my book.       
            These same problems exist in the public and private sectors of our economy with slight variations.  Elected officials in the public sector present a unique situation where they can neither lead nor follow.  Their only talent is campaigning.  They can raise money and give a good speech, which is referred to as a “General Purpose” speech in The Peter Principle.  Unfortunately, some of these politicians get elected.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


        We just finished the Labor Day weekend.  It marks the end of summer, and used to mean the start of school, but many schools now start earlier.  It is also a good excuse for some retail sales.
        Labor Day is celebrated the first Monday in September to honor the workers that make this country great.  They are the lifeblood of our middle class.  They have a great work ethic, are proud of their work, and they do not ask for any handouts. 
        Labor Day was initially promoted by the labor unions in the United States and Canada.  It was celebrated in thirty states before it became an official federal holiday in 1894.  President Grover Cleveland signed it into law. 
        Labor and management have had many struggles over the years, but our capitalistic system has worked to make this country the most productive in the world.  That is changing and why?  There are many reasons we are not as productive as we should be, and most of them can be directly or indirectly traced back to the growth of our government. 
        Corporations are leaving the country because of a 35% tax rate, which is the highest in the world.  We just heard Berger King is moving to Canada.  Some people say we should boycott them.    I won’t, as I am a parsimonious person and they have one of the best $1.00 cheeseburgers.
A major pharmaceutical company just moved to Ireland, which has a 12½% corporate tax.  Forty-eight companies have moved their headquarters out of the country.  Income and investment from operations out of the country never comes back.  That money never comes back.  This must stop. 
Unrealistic EPA regulations are also causing plants to close and move production to other countries.  Production is being moved out of the country for many reasons.  Most are due to excessive government regulation. 
Unions are losing members.  Personally, I blame that on union leaders not showing enough concern for their workers.  Top union leaders get too involved in partisan politics and the membership doesn’t want their dues spent on campaign donations.  Maybe this is a necessary function of union management due the increase of government regulations and interference.
We have another problem with labor.  There is a shortage of skilled workers.  This sounds ridiculous with the economic recession and unemployment we just went through, but we currently have good jobs in my county with no one to fill them.  Baby boomers make up a large percentage of our skilled workers and they will be retiring so the problem will get worse.
I am on the county Economic Development Board, and another member of the board is from Manpower.  She recently stated she had 60 good paying job openings with no one to fill those jobs.  
                Our education system is not training enough people for these jobs.  We do a better job with liberal education, but we need people with skills that are willing to work in manufacturing jobs.  Not everyone can teach art and music.  Somebody has to produce a product.  
Not everyone should go to college.  Trade schools or on-the-job training can be a great option for young people who are ready and willing to work.  Labor and entrepreneurs in a capitalistic system made this country great and they are also our future.