Again: Motivation 101 – How NOT to

October 18, 2013

This is an encore post, mostly.

“A Swift Kick in the Butt $1.00,” A daily strip of the cartoon series “Calvin and Hobbes,” by Bill Watterson. Watterson appears to have an instinctual understanding of what motivation is not. It’s a topic he returned to with some frequency.

Educators don’t know beans about motivation I think. I still see courses offered on “how to motivate” students to do X, or Y, or Z — or how to motivate faculty members to motivate students to do X.

This view of motivation is all wrong, the industrial psychologists and experience say. A student must motivate herself.

A teacher can remove barriers to motivation, or help a student find motivation. But motivation cannot be external to the person acting.

Frederick Herzberg wrote a classic article for The Harvard Business Review several years back: “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” Herzberg would get a group of managers together and ask them, “If I have six week-old puppy, and I want it to move, how do I get it to move?” Inevitably, one of the wizened managers of people would say, “Kick him in the ass!” Is that motivation? Herzberg would ask? Managers would nod “yes.”

Frederick Herzberg, 1923-2000

Frederick Herzberg, 1923-2000

Then, Herzberg would ask what about dealing with the pup six months later. To get the older pup to move, he’d offer a doggie yum, and the dog would come. “Is that motivation?” Herzberg would ask. Again, the managers would agree that it was motivation. (At AMR’s Committing to Leadership sessions, we tried this exercise several hundred times, with roughly the same results. PETA has changed sensitivities a bit, and managers are fearful of saying they want to kick puppies, but they’ll say it in different words.)

Herzberg called this “Kick In The Ass” theory, or KITA, to avoid profanity and shorten the phrase.

Herzberg would then chastise the managers. Neither case was motivation, he’d say. One was violence, a mugging; the other was a bribe. In neither case did the dog want to move, in neither case was the dog motivated. In both cases, it was the manager who was motivated to make the dog move.

Motivation is the desire to do something, the desire and drive to get something done.

Motivating employees is getting them to share the urgency a manager feels to do a task, to go out and do it on their own without being told how to do each and every step along the way.

Motivation is not simply coercing someone else to do what you want, on threat of pain, virtual or real.

Herzberg verified his theories with research involving several thousands of employees over a couple of decades. His pamphlet for HBR sold over a million copies.

Education is wholly ignorant of Herzberg’s work, so far as I can tell. How do I know?

See this, at TexasEd Spectator:

Death threat as a motivation technique

May 23rd, 2008
Education | MySanAntonio.com

The sad part about this is that I bet if a mere, ordinary teacher were to have made some similar statement, he or she would be treated more like the student rather than the principle.

Now imagine if some student at the school had said something along the same lines in a writing assignment. We would be hearing about zero tolerance all over the place. The student would be out of the regular classroom so fast it would make your head spin.

No charges will be brought against New Braunfels Middle School Principal John Burks for allegedly threatening to kill a group of science teachers if their students’ standardized test scores failed to improve, although all four teachers at the meeting told police investigators Burks made the statement.

Kick in the ass, knife in the back, knife in the heart — that ain’t motivation.

As God is my witness, you can’t make this stuff up.

I’m not sure who deserves more disgust, the principal who made the threat and probably didn’t know anything else to do, or the teachers who didn’t see it as a joke, or treat it that way to save the principal’s dignity — or a system where such things are regarded as normal.

Bill Watterson returned to the

Bill Watterson returned to the “Swift Kick in the Butt, $1.00″ strip, but this time with the more lively Hobbes Calvin interacted with most often. What would motivate a cartoonist to do that? Watterson is said to have observed, “People will pay for what they want, but not what they need.” Can school administrators even figure out what teachers and students need?  Which version do you prefer? Which one motivates you?

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Remember when business leaders supported civil rights?

August 16, 2013

Remember civil discussion?

June 4, 1963:  Business leaders listening to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, with President John F. Kennedy, in the White House.  Photo from the Kennedy Library, public domain

June 4, 1963: Business leaders listening to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, with President John F. Kennedy, in the White House. Photo from the Kennedy Library, public domain

Could one get such a meeting on an issue today?  Probably — and wouldn’t it be nice to see more of them?

President John F. Kennedy invited top business leaders of the nation to the White House on June 4, 1963, to talk about civil rights.  This photo captures the early moments of the late afternoon meeting in the East Room of the White House, with Vice President Lyndon Johnson addressing the group, and President Kennedy waiting to speak.

According to the Kennedy Library, these are people in in the photo:

Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (at podium, with back to camera) speaks to a group of business executives with establishments in southern cities, at a civil rights meeting conducted by President John F. Kennedy (seated at far right), Vice President Johnson, and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (not pictured). Those pictured include: Milton L. Elsberg, President of Drug Fair Inc.; Carling L. Dinkler, Jr., President of Dinkler Hotel Corporation; Lucien E. Oliver, Vice President of Sears, Roebuck & Company; Louis C. Lustenberger, President of W. T. Grant Company; William B. Thalhimer, Jr., President of Thalhimer Brothers, Inc.; G. Stockton Strawbridge, President of Strawbridge & Clothier; Bruce A. Gimbel, President of Gimbel Brothers, Inc.; and E. D. Martin, President of Martin Theatres of Georgia, Inc. East Room, White House, Washington, D.C.

Few of those companies exist today; those that do are in much changed form.  Just fifty years ago.

The Kennedy Presidential Library in Massachusetts makes this photo available with hundreds of others at its on-line site.


Ted Cruz shows off his ignorance of free enterprise history with bad joke on garage startups

July 22, 2013

Oh, come on, Ted Cruz!

It’s a snarky enough Tweet — and it would even produce a smile from me — if it weren’t so inaccurate, historically.

Robert Scoble Leads the Way into the HP Garage

Robert Scoble Leads the Way into the HP Garage in Palo Alto, California (Photo credit: bragadocchio) Could Ted Cruz find Palo Alto?

Businesses starting in garages?

It’s too early to tell, but the past five years probably haven’t been great for garage startups.  Not for lack of Obama’s trying, mind you.  But there’s no demand.

On the other hand, Reagan didn’t do anything to push garage startups, either.

The two most famous garage startups are probably Hewlett Packard, and Apple.  H-P got started in 1939 — FDR’s administration (how’s that for being 180 degrees wrong, Ted?)  Apple got going late in 1976, in the last months of the Ford administration.  It did well enough in the Carter years to be a player by 1980, the year before Reagan took office.

So Reagan had nothing to do with those two.

Other startups?

An odd little site ambitiously titled Retire @21 lists ten garage startups — both Apple, and H-P, and eight others; as listed at that site, in alphabetical order:

  1. Amazon — Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in his garage in Bellevue, Washington, in 1994, the Clinton administration.
  2. Apple — 1976 founding in Los Altos, California, by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs — Ford and Carter administrations.
  3. Disney — 1923 in Los Angeles by Walt and Roy Disney; Warren G. Harding was president until  his death on August 2, 1923; he was succeeded by his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge.
  4. Google — “As Stanford Graduate students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin started what’s now known as Google from Susan Wojcicki’s garage in September 1998.”  Clinton administration.
  5. Harley-Davidson — Founded in a garage in north Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1903, by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson — Teddy Roosevelt’s first term.
  6. Hewlett-Packard — “In 1939, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded HP in Packard’s garage with an initial investment of $538.  Their first product was an audio oscillator and one of their first customers was Walt Disney, who purchased eight oscillators to develop the sound system for the movie Fantasia.”  Franklin Roosevelt’s second term.
  7. Lotus Cars — “In 1948, at the age of 20, Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman started Lotus Cars by building the first Lotus racing car in stables behind The Railway Hotel in Hornsey, North London. Chapman used a 1930s Austin Seven and a power drill to build the Lotus Mark I.”  In London — Truman in the U.S., but more rationally, Clement Attlee was Prime Minister in England, the Labour Party’s standard bearer.
  8. Maglite — Tony Maglica, a Croation who emigrated to the U.S. in 1950, made precision metal machines parts in Los Angeles, incorporated Mag Instrument in 1974 and released his first, signature flashlight in 1979.  Nixon and Ford were presidents in 1974; Jimmy Carter was president in 1979.
  9. Mattel — Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler incorporated in 1945, selling picture frames out of a garage somewhere in Southern California.  They used scraps from the frames to make doll houses, and found a whole new business.  FDR was president until April 12, 1945; Harry Truman succeeded to the office when FDR died.
  10. Yankee Candle Company — Michael Kittredge started making candles in his mother’s garage in South Hadley, Massachusetts, before he graduated from high school, in 1969, during the Nixon administration.  He moved out sometime in 1974.

Ten of the most famous garage startups — none of them starting in the Reagan administration.  Can Ted Cruz name a garage entrepreneur who started out in the Reagan years?  I doubt it.

Maybe more to the point, can he describe what the Reagan administration did that would have made the climate better for entrepreneurs?  Reagan’s administration was particularly lackadaisical about small business and entrepreneurs, on the best days, and outright hostile on the worst.  When Reagan’s first head of the Small Business Administration announced he was resigning and moving on, SBA staff held a massive going away party, without inviting the guy — he was that much disliked by the small business advocates.

I imagine these past five years have not been happy ones for small business startups.  Banks aren’t lending money, and investors want bigger ponds to fish in.  But there’s absolutely no accuracy to the comparison Cruz made in his Tweet.  Especially on the Ronald Reagan side, the Reagan years were good for General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin, and other defense contractors, but not particularly good for garage entrepreneurial startups, as the list of the top such startups show.  They weren’t Reagan-era miracles.

Cruz probably doesn’t remember.  He was ten years old when Ronald Reagan assumed office.

Sen. Ted Cruz at a May 9, 2013, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration - New York Times photo by Doug Mills

Sen. Ted Cruz at a May 9, 2013, Senate Judiciary Committee markup on immigration reform — showing the same attitude he has shown to funding aid for small businesses and garage startups. New York Times photo by Doug Mills, via Dallas Morning News. During the markup the committee rejected Cruz’s proposal to make it tougher for immigrants to become citizens.

Please don’t forget it was Ronald Reagan who tried to kill ARPANET, and was stopped by young Congressman Al Gore, who argued it could someday be an “information superhighway.”  Cruz wasn’t out of high school, then.  Al Gore sneezes better business ideas and  better support for business startups than Ted Cruz ever will.

Starting out in a garage to build a giant company is a great concept, the later-20th century Horatio Alger story — but unrealistic, as Watts Martin explained at Coyote Tracks:

The romantic notion is the unknown garage startup, the Apple of 1977, but garage startups only succeed in industries that are garage-sized when they start. Once they do succeed, they’re not going to be mad enough to bet everything on futuristic visions—after all, now they have something to lose. You wouldn’t have caught HP or Dell or Microsoft announcing the iPad. After it was announced, Apple was roundly mocked in the press for it.

And the fact is, Republicans especially in this current Congress — including Ted Cruz — have been hostile to almost anything that would help a garage startup in a new field.  Bad economies do not produce a plethora of entrepreneurial success.  Only the tough survive.

Ted Cruz never meets an up escalator that he doesn't think about how to stop.

Ted Cruz never meets an up escalator that he doesn’t think about how to stop. Getty Images via NBCLatino

For example, Cruz has voted against almost every bill with a beneficial small business impact to come before the Senate since he was sworn in.  He’s voted against student loan relief — startups have relied on highly-educated and technically educated  new graduates for years.  Cruz voted against confirmation of small business advocate Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.  Cruz voted to sustain the money sequestering that cut Small Business Administration loans and other aid to small businesses across the government.  Cruz voted against the Agriculture bill, with aid to small farmers.  Yeah, I know — he’s against regulation.  Can you name any garage startup that’s been stopped by the Dodd-Frank Act, or any EPA regulation?  No, they don’t exist.

The Tweet?  Not only does Cruz get the history dead wrong, it suggests he supports small business — and there’s no evidence of that on the record.  It’s a toss-away punch line for a stump speech — but in less than 140 characters it gets history wrong at both ends, and makes a mockery of small business and entrepreneur support from the federal government.

Ronald Reagan’s presidency wasn’t all that good for small, entrepreneurial startups; Obama’s hasn’t been that bad, especially if we subtract the anti-business actions of the GOP (odd as that is).  Cruz doesn’t remember, probably never knew, and he’s no big friend of entrepreneurs, either.

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Time to raise the minimum wage

June 21, 2013

Illustration for Bloomberg News by Rand Renfrow: $15 Minimum Wage

Illustration for Bloomberg News by Rand Renfrow: $15 Minimum Wage

Robert Reich put it succinctly at his Facebook site [links added here]:

Nick Hanauer, one of the nation’s most successful businessmen, proposed yesterday that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour. But wouldn’t that cause employers not to hire workers who were “worth” less, and thereby lead to higher unemployment? No, says Hanauer. By putting more money into the hands of more people, it would stimulate more buying — which would generate more jobs than any jobs that might be lost. Hanauer understands that the basic reason the economy is still limping along is workers are consumers, and workers continue to get shafted, which means consumers lack the purchasing power to get the economy off the ground. A minimum wage of $15 an hour, combined with basic worker standards such as paid sick leave and a minimum of 3 weeks paid vacation per year, should all be in a national campaign for better jobs and a better economy in the 2014 election.

That’s the case, in brief.

Last March Reich said raising the minimum wage to $9/hour was a “no brainer.”

Alas, he didn’t account enough for the anti-brain lobby.

What do you think?

More:

Also good, an update:


Quote of the moment: Reorganization creates illusion of progress, and demoralization – Charlton Ogburn

May 31, 2013

Historian and birder Charlton Ogburn, right.

Historian and birder Charlton Ogburn, right.

We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that, perhaps because we are so good at organizing, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.

This quotation is often misattributed to one Greek philosopher or another, or to the Roman Petronius.

Cover of "The Marauders"

Cover of The Marauders

Ogburn’s magazine article became the basis for his book, The Marauders. In turn, that was the basis for a movie, Merrill’s Marauders.  In the book, the quote is different:

As a result, I suppose, of high-level changes of mind about how we were to be used, we went though several reorganizations. Perhaps because Americans as a nation have a gift for organizing, we tend to meet any new situation by reorganization, and a wonderful method it is for creating the illusion of progress at the mere cost of confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.

  • The Marauders (1959), chapter 2, page 60 (attributed)

My old friend Frank Hewlett had been a correspondent in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, including Burma, during World War II.  Frank told me that he had been the first to call the American group “Merrill’s Marauders” in a war news dispatch on the progress the group made.  He did not get any credit for the book or movie title, but he said it was great that any group of soldiers that worked that well got popular attention for their work.  I’ve never found Hewlett’s dispatches from that period, but I’ve never found anything else he told me to be inaccurate.

In serious corporate reorganizations, or in corporate culture change operations, this quote is usually trotted out in opposition to whatever the proposed change may be.  Generally reorganizers will dismiss the thing as fictional, in at least one case claiming that renegade corporate leader Bob Townsend made it up.

In our work at Committing to Leadership at American Airlines, CEO Bob Crandall actually read the full quote (misattributed at the time), and observed that it was probably true — but not a good reason to stop a needed reorganization.  Crandall pointed to the last sentence, and said that a good manager’s job is to make sure that reorganization creates real success, not just an illusion of action, and that any good manager will recognize that reorganizations offer the danger of demoralization and confusion.  Those are problems to be managed, Crandall said, not fates that cannot be avoided.

Do you find Ogburn’s snippet of wisdom to be true? So what?

More:

Merrill's Marauders (film)

Advertising poster for Merrill’s Marauders; Wikipedia image


No more than 3 points in your presentation!

February 28, 2013

Interesting video from Ethos3, a company that works on presentations and helping others make better presentations.

Um, no, I don’t think they aim at teachers and educators — it’s a for-profit group, not a charity.

That’s also one of my concerns.  Here’s one of a series of short videos Ethos3 prepared, to help you with your next presentation or, you hope, the woman or man who will be making that presentation you have to watch next Wednesday morning at Rotary Club, or at Scout leader training next Saturday, or kicking off the budget planning exercise next Monday (at 7:00 — coffee provided so don’t be late!):

98 views

Generally, I’d agree.

But what about teachers, who have to slog through 150 specific items for the state test?

Observations:

365 Project - Day 29 - I *hate* Powerpoint

Borrowed caption: “365 Project – Day 29 – I *hate* Powerpoint (Photo credit: mike_zellers)”

  1. Teachers could benefit greatly from learning presentation secrets, and making their in-class presentations much more effective.
  2. No school district in America, public, charter, parochial, or homeschool, will give you time to put together such an effective presentation.
  3. Most teachers get no coaching on presentation effectiveness, and their students lose out.
  4. Just because the administrators won’t cut you slack to do it, doesn’t mean a teacher shouldn’t learn about effective presentation techniques, and use them.

In a world of bad bosses, it’s almost impossible to get a really great principal at a school.  Teachers gotta slog on anyway.

You won’t have the time to do the presentation your students deserve, but you should try, anyway.

Dreaming for a minute:  I wish I could get a team like this to help out with designing a curriculum, figuring out where presentation work, how to give them real punch, and where not to use them at all.

What do you think?  Can you tell your story in just three points?  Can you reduce a lecture to three key points that would be memorable, and that spurs students to learn what they need to learn?

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Quote of the moment repeat: Robert C. Lieberman, “Why the Rich Are Getting Richer: American Politics and the Second Gilded Age”

February 20, 2013

What? You missed this, on February 20, 2011? Well, here it is again. Please pay attention this time.

The U.S. economy appears to be coming apart at the seams.  Unemployment remains at nearly ten percent, the highest level in almost 30 years; foreclosures have forced millions of Americans out of their homes; and real incomes have fallen faster and further than at any time since the Great Depression.  Many of those laid off fear that the jobs they have lost — the secure, often unionized, industrial jobs that provided wealth, security and opportunity — will never return.  They are probably right.

Cover of Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson

Cover of Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson

And yet a curious thing has happened in the midst of all this misery.  The wealthiest Americans, among them presumably the very titans of global finance whose misadventures brought about the financial meltdown, got richer.  And not just a little bit richer; a lot richer.  In 2009, the average income of the top five percent of earners went up, while on average everyone else’s income went down.  This was not an anomaly but rather a continuation of a 40-year trend of ballooning incomes at the very top and stagnant incomes in the middle and at the bottom.  The share of total income going to the top one percent has increased from roughly eight percent in the 1960s to more than 20 percent today.

This what the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call the “winner-take-all economy.”  It is not a picture of a healthy society.  Such a level of economic inequality, not seen in the United States since the eve of the Great Depression, bespeaks a political economy in which the financial rewards are increasingly concentrated among a tiny elite and whose risks are borne by an increasingly exposed and unprotected middle class.  Income inequality in the United States is higher than in any other advanced democracy and by conventional measures comparable to that in countries such as Ghana, Nicaragua, and Turkmenistan.

Robert C. Lieberman, reviewing the book Winner-Take-All Politics:  How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Simon and Schuster, 2010, 368 pages.  $27.00.; review appears in Foreign Affairs, January/February 2011, pp. 154-158.

More:

Two years later, even more:


We stopped dreaming: Tyson reprise on science policy and spending

October 18, 2012

A more melodic take on Neil de Grasse Tyson‘s “we stopped dreaming” statement:

“We went to the Moon, and we discovered Earth.”

Description from the YouTube site, by Evan Schuur:

The intention of this project is to stress the importance of advancing the space frontier and is focused on igniting scientific curiosity in the general public.

Sign the petition!: http://www.penny4nasa.org/petition
Follow @Penny4NASA1 and like on Facebook!

Episode 1:
http://youtu.be/CbIZU8cQWXc
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. All copyrighted materials contained herein belong to their respective copyright holders, I do not claim ownership over any of these materials. In no way do I benefit either financially or otherwise from this video.

MUSIC: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/samskeyti-acoustic/id452812943?i=452813003

Credits
The Space Foundation http://www.spacefoundation.org/
NASA TV http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html
HDNET http://www.hd.net/
SpaceX http://www.spacex.com/
When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/nasa/nasa.html
Disneynature: Earth http://disney.go.com/disneynature/earth/
Planet Earth http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/planet-earth/
HOME Project http://www.youtube.com/user/homeproject
User WolfEchoes http://www.youtube.com/user/WolfEchoes?ob=0
European Southern Observatory http://www.eso.org

Is NASA a handout, or an investment?  What do you think?

If a politician tells you that he or she thinks we cannot afford NASA, doesn’t it strike you that the person does not really understand what the United States is all about?  Doesn’t it make you wonder how they ever got to Congress, or why they should stay there?

More: 

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NA...

Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, in Washington, D.C. (Wikipedia photo)


More magic than a cape and red underpants needed to fix economy; but that’s all GOP offers

October 4, 2012

Despite the few details he leaked in the Denver debate — which contradict almost everything he and his campaign had said earlier, not to mention the GOP platform — Mitt Romney offers not much in the realm of a program to do better than President Obama in economics, in pulling the nation out of our economic doldrums.  Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman explains:

Winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, Paul Krugman - Tavis Smiley Productions image

Winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, Paul Krugman – Tavis Smiley Productions image

As many people have noticed, Mr. Romney’s five-point “economic plan” is very nearly substance-free. It vaguely suggests that he will pursue the same goals Republicans always pursue — weaker environmental protection, lower taxes on the wealthy. But it offers neither specifics nor any indication why returning to George W. Bush’s policies would cure a slump that began on Mr. Bush’s watch.

In his Boca Raton meeting with donors, however, Mr. Romney revealed his real plan, which is to rely on magic. “My own view is,” he declared, “if we win on November 6, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see — without actually doing anything — we’ll actually get a boost in the economy.”

Are you feeling reassured?

In fairness to Mr. Romney, his assertion that electing him would spontaneously spark an economic boom is consistent with his party’s current economic dogma. Republican leaders have long insisted that the main thing holding the economy back is the “uncertainty” created by President Obama’s statements — roughly speaking, that businesspeople aren’t investing because Mr. Obama has hurt their feelings. If you believe that, it makes sense to argue that changing presidents would, all by itself, cause an economic revival.

There is, however, no evidence supporting this dogma. Our protracted economic weakness isn’t a mystery; it’s what normally happens after a major financial crisis. Furthermore, business investment has actually recovered fairly strongly since the official recession ended. What’s holding us back is mainly the continued weakness of housing combined with a vast overhang of household debt, the legacy of the Bush-era housing bubble.

By the way, in saying that our prolonged slump was predictable, I’m not saying that it was necessary. We could and should have greatly reduced the pain by combining aggressive fiscal and monetary policies with effective relief for highly indebted homeowners; the fact that we didn’t reflects a combination of timidity on the part of both the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve, and scorched-earth opposition on the part of the G.O.P.

But Mr. Romney, as I said, isn’t offering anything substantive to fight the slump, just a reprise of the usual slogans. And he has denounced the Fed’s belated effort to step up to the plate.

Read more at the New York Times.

Why do I disbelieve?

  1. For more than a year Romney’s been pushing tax cuts as a solution to everything.  It’s rather late to back out of that now.
  2. Tax cuts can’t stimulate the economy — we tried them for 8 solid years, and they crashed the economy.  One can make a great case that the Obama economy is not soaring because he agreed to extend the tax cuts, in return for getting about half of the stimulus we needed.  At some point, people hurting in this economy will realize that they can’t benefit from a tax cut if they aren’t paying huge taxes, and they aren’t paying huge taxes if they are unemployed.
  3. Tax cuts cannot be revenue neutral.  They hurt deficits.  For months Romney’s been talking about defense spending and tax cuts that add between $5 trillion to $7 trillion in to the deficit.  If he wishes to argue that deficits hurt, he’s in trouble.  If Obama argues that deficits should be used to help people, Romney will be unable to make the math work on his plan if he tries to reply.
  4. Economic theory isn’t with Romney.  Can he make that big of a snow job on voters?  Even if he does, the economy won’t take it.

Now’s a good time to beef up on the high school economics most of us took, or the college class we took.  Can you see any way to make an austere, Spain-style economy work in the U.S. without putting us into a death spiral?

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Annals of global warming: Insurance companies note increasing costs of floods, due to climate change

October 1, 2012

Note today in Al Gore’s Journal:

Flooding Costs October 1, 2012 : 10:32 AM

Time cover from April 28, 2008 - how to win war on global warming

Time Magazine cover for April 28, 2008 – How to Win the War On Global Warming

A new report from Swiss Re finds that the financial impact of flooding has doubled in the past decade – climate is a major driver:

“Flood losses are increasing at an alarming rate while the insurability of floods provides unique challenges for the industry, according Swiss Re’s latest report, “Flood – an underestimated risk: Inspect, inform, insure”.” …

“No other natural catastrophe impacts as many people as flooding with an estimated 500 million people affected every year. Insured flood losses are also increasing significantly; 1970′s annual claims were between USD 1–2 billion, whereas insured flood losses amounted to USD 15 billion in 2011. Recent flood events in Thailand, Australia and the Philippines have shown that floods are now rivalling earthquakes and hurricanes in terms of economic losses.” …

“Population growth, demographic change, a higher concentration of assets in exposed areas, greater vulnerability of insured objects and climate change are all contributing to the increasing costs of flood damage. The rising costs of floods are creating challenges for the insurance industry and the economic viability of flood insurance is currently an issue under scrutiny.”

More:


Small business and Obama

July 24, 2012

Makes sense to me, so I’ll pass it along.

I get e-mail from the Obama campaign, from Stephanie Cutter:

Romney claims the President told entrepreneurs they didn’t build their own businesses — an attack the Washington Post called “ridiculous.” If you’ve seen the President’s actual remarks, you know that all the President said was that, together, Americans built the free enterprise system we all benefit from.

President Obama has consistently fought for small businesses and entrepreneurs — he knows the American middle class was built by hardworking people turning ideas into successful businesses. But if the Romney campaign wants a debate about who’ll step up to support small business, we’re ready.

Take a look at this video I recorded to respond to Romney’s distortion, and help make sure people know the truth about President Obama and small businesses:

It’s the Truth Team’s job to push back against smears like this.

President Obama’s record shows his commitment to helping small business owners. His tax plan will extend tax cuts for 97 percent of American small business owners — building on the 18 tax cuts he’s already signed that are helping small businesses grow and create jobs. Romney opposes the President’s plan, and supports a plan that would favor large corporations and give tax breaks to companies that ship American jobs overseas. Check out this blog post comparing the President’s record to Romney’s, then share it with others.

This isn’t the first time the Romney campaign has twisted the President’s words. It won’t be the last. But every time they do this, we need to call them out — and this time is no different.

Here’s the relevant excerpt from President Obama’s speech in Roanoke, Virginia, on July 13:

You may see President Obama’s entire speech on C-SPAN, here.


Paramount logo inspiration: Mt. Ben Lomond, in Utah

July 1, 2012

This is mostly an encore post — a tribute to Paramount Pictures in the company’s centennial year.

There’s a geography exercise and social studies bell ringer in this somewhere [links added]:

Ben Lomond Peak towers above Ogden. The mountain is believed to have inspired the Paramount movie logo, below, in use since 1914. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

From the Deseret News: “Ben Lomond Peak towers above Ogden (Utah). The mountain is believed to have inspired the Paramount movie logo, below, in use since 1914. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

What is the most “paramount” mountain in Utah?

How about Timpanogos Peak, Kings Peak, Mount Nebo, Mount Olympus. Lone Peak or Twin Peaks?

It’s none of the above because one of Hollywood’s most familiar images — the famous Paramount Pictures logo — was inspired by Weber County’s Ben Lomond Peak.

As such, Ben Lomond — not even the highest summit in Weber County — may be the most famous mountain in the Beehive State.

The peak is given credit for prompting creation of the majestic but fictional mountain in the popular Paramount design, based on two histories of the motion-picture company.

According to Leslie Halliwell’s “Mountain of Dreams,” a biography of Paramount, founder William Hodkinson grew up in Ogden and the logo was “a memory of childhood in his home state of Utah.”

Compare it to the Paramount Pictures logo now:

Paramount Pictures logo

Paramount Pictures logo

Teachers may want to hustle over to the Deseret News site to capture the story for classroom use — the online version includes a short set of slides of a hike to the top of the peak (it’s a climb most reasonably healthy people can make in a day – “reasonably healthy” to include acclimated to the altitude).

What other geographic features have become commercial logos? How do images of geography affect our culture?

For my money, I still like Timpanogos better, even if the Osmonds did use it.

Mt. Ben Lomond, in Utah, from a Flickr file

This image of Mt. Ben Lomond looks more like the Paramount logo, some might say.

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Quote Jeremiad of the moment: Sen. Bill Bradley, do the right thing, the moral thing

May 8, 2012

Former Sen. Bill BradleyRhodes Scholar, All-American college basketball player, NBA Champion with the New York Knicks, and all-around good guy — has a book out, We Can All Do Better.  I’m reading it now, and I hope thousands of others will read it before we vote in November.

Did you know Bradley is an Eagle Scout?  If you didn’t know that, you should be able to tell from this excerpt from his book that he shares the values of Eagle Scouts, and works to practice them.

This is excerpted with express permission.

We Can All Do Better

Adapted excerpt from WE CAN ALL DO BETTER, by Bill Bradley. Published in May 2012 by Vanguard Press. 

Just as no one guaranteed that the Greek, Roman, or Ottoman Empires would last forever, no one has guaranteed America its continued dominance in the world. If overreaching abroad and decay at home cause us to falter, the world will be a place with considerably less hope.

America’s idealism, optimism, and spirit of self-reliance — all these have created the unique American character, a character that has inspired people around the globe. But the America of today is in a state of confusion. We don’t see our problems clearly, or if we do, we often — out of inertia, fear, or greed — fail to deal with them. The federal government has amassed an enormous debt in just the last ten years. Many of our state and local governments, have pursued the “free lunch,” spending lavishly on pensions and health care and then handing on the bill to future state administrations. The corporate sector is consumed with the short term, trapped in a financial prison of stock buybacks and quarterly earnings reports, unable to invest or hire in its own long-term interest. Ten years ago, sixty-one U.S. companies had triple-A bond ratings; today there are four.

As long as you act a hair’s width within your lawyer’s definition of the law, you get a pass that exempts you from doing what is not just legal, but also right. I had a friend who worked at the highest levels in three major investment banks over twenty-five years. He told me that once when he refused to work on a deal because he didn’t think it was right, the head of the firm came to him and said, “I know what we’re doing is unethical, even immoral, but I can assure you it’s not illegal.”

Exacerbating these failings is a mass media that champions the superficial, sensational, and extreme view. Only a few major newspapers, all of them under relentless financial pressure and apparently unable to reinvent themselves in order to attain a level of profitability, still attempt to ferret out the truth, but reporting, the craft of going out to discover what isn’t known, too often gives way to opinion pieces.

The losers here are the people, who would like to know: What happened in the city council meeting? Or in the congressional committee room? How was the money for schools spent? How did that special-interest tax break make it into the tax code? Who agreed to the pensions that bankrupted our town? What did corporation X do for the ten thousand workers it just fired? How will the latest technological innovation affect jobs? These are the kinds of questions that rarely get answered, at least on television. If people in power are not held responsible for what they do, it will be easier for them to abuse that power. Without facts to challenge a government official or a CEO, the peoples’ questions and accusations are parried by elementary public relations tactics.

Copyright © 2012 by Bill Bradley

This is a busy, busy month for me.  I hope to finish Bradley’s book and have more to say, soon.  It’s in bookstores now, if you want to get a copy and beat me to it.


Did taxpayers finance Romney’s wealth?

April 14, 2012

Mitt Romney’s fortune comes mostly from his work at Bain Capital Management.

Capital management?  What is capital management, exactly, you ask?

Prof. Robert Reich explained how private equity firms like Bain make their money, and fortunately MoveOn.org had a camera running when he did, “How exactly did Mitt Romney Get So Obscenely Rich? Robert Reich explains The Magic of Private Equity in 8 Easy Steps”:

Any questions?

Oh, I have one:  Prof. Reich, can you explain how Warren Buffett got so obscenely rich, and tell us the differences in the methods Buffett used, from those Romney used?

I have another question, too, but I’m not sure where to direct it:  Romney says he wants to “help out” the U.S. with his budgeting expertise; to whom does he expect to sell the U.S. government once he’s wrung out all the savings?

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Tom Peters’s new book close: Don’t forget why you’re here

December 20, 2011

Tom Peters reminds people to remember their noble intentions

Tom Peters reminds people to remember their noble intentions

Tom Peters offers advice to lawyers, businessmen, politicians, teachers, education administrators, journalists, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, and friends from his book, The Littel BIG Things audio edition; go listen:

Click this headline:  Tom Peters – Don’t forget why you’re here!

Tom Peters logo


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