Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Lamplighter

In days of yore there were men who were employed as Lamplighters in their cities. The street lamps of the day were either candles, oil lamps, or some other wick based lights. Each night the lamplighter would walk into the night and light the way for others. Everyone would be able to see their way due to that lamplighter's illumination.

In the late seventies I attended a convention where one of the speakers challenged each attendee to live their lives as lamplighters showing the way for others to follow. To be the person who didn't hide their light under a basket, who didn't live in the light, but hide it for your own purposes. The challenge was to light the way for others who you saw following, and for others who you may never know you lit their way as well.

This imagery burned into my mind, I knew that I wanted to always live as a lamplighter for those who I could reach out to assist in lighting their ways, and hopefully for many more than I may never know. Through the years I have learned that I am most happy when I am doing just that. If it is trying to show the light for others politically, showing people how to improve their professional situations, or most importantly to see the true Light of the World. It is lighting those lamps that warms the heart.

May I challenge you to light the lamps as you go through life to show the way for others to follow? To be a Lamplighter.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why It Is So Hard To Have A Reasonable Diaologue

Have you noticed how difficult it is to have a discussion politically today that actually has any depth? What is normally found is nothing more than people throwing talking points back and forth. Frankly, if you turn on the television so called experts, that is what they do as well. Little substance ever comes to the surface. Why? I have found in debating that I will put forth a blog that I had written from a deep dive study reading several books by several authors on the topic, but it is dismissed out of hand since I wrote it. Yet they counter it with an opinion piece from the media, not even an investigative article, or with a Wikipedia post. People Wiki is fine if you know nothing about a topic and want a quick overview, but please do not take it as a factual account because you never know how accurate it might be.

I believe it is caused by several things, but nothing more so than the lack of quality education in our school systems going back into the 50s when we as a nation quit teaching our children history, economics, philosophy, and civics well. There was, starting then an assault on our history revising what those Progressives who took over our education system wanted us to learn. It truly began with the five volume American History written by President Woodrow Wilson in 1902. Wilson, a devoted racist, erased the stories of all the African American heroes of the Revolutionary and Civil War, as well as those who were early Congressmen after Reconstruction. It wasn't until recently some have been reinstated.

One of the most quoted books about American History by historians is Alexis de Tocqueville "Democracy In America," written during the Andrew Jackson administration. This book was reedited in 1956 and this "new" edition was reduced from the 804 pages plus another 166 pages of Appendix and became only 317 pages, removing every mention of the vital importance faith in God and religion had in the American system of government and every day life. One of the most important books, and if you read it published after 1956 you only read 35% of what Tocqueville wrote.

Our history has been taught in the most boring, irrelevant, and most forgettable way possible. History is rife with stories of daring adventure, bravery, selflessness, good and evil, men and women who did extraordinary things against all odds. It is edge of your seat compelling stories, that our schools make as dry as dust, where dates are more important than what happened and why. Could this be on purpose so people will not "like" history and never learn it? If it was done intentionally it couldn't have been more effective and destroying a nation of its heritage. I am not sure it wasn't intentional.

Our news media has been bought and paid for by political parties starting in the early 1800s. By 1840 partisan concerns linked the post office branches and the party-controlled newspapers by reducing the cost of distribution through the mails. From 1800 to 1840, the number of newspapers transmitted through the mails rose from 2 million to almost 140 million at far cheaper rates than other printed matter. Postal historian Richard John estimated that if newspapers had paid the same rate as other mails, the transmission costs would have been 700 times higher.

"The new party system with its media partnerships, by 1840, had compromised the independence of the mails and a large part of the print media with no small consequences. Among other defects, the subsidies created incentives to read newspapers, rather than books. This democratization of the news produced a population of people who thought they knew a great deal about current events, but who lacked the theoretical grounding in history, philosophy, or politics to properly ground their opinions." Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen.

If that was true in 1840, how much more so today with the 24/7 news cycle. We are bombarded nonstop with news on the Internet, Television networks, cable, radio, and print. However, without the depth of understanding of history, economics, civics, and philosophy people are tossed too and fro like a bobber on the never ending waves of the news reports.

We need to embrace our history, we need to learn it, understand who we are by understanding where we came from. Our schools won't teach it, so it is up to you to learn it and then to make sure that you kids learn it from you. Better yet, learn it together with your kids. Your Republic depends on it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

James Madison Had A Dream

The summer of 1787 changed the world when a group of men came to Philadelphia to take a look at the weaknesses that had been exposed in the Articles of Confederation. Uprisings such as Shay's Rebellion, a group of farmers who were threatening to overthrow the local governments,and courts to stop foreclosure proceedings on their farms.

The Convention was called, and it carried enough weight to actually see the states to assemble their representatives, probably due to learning that George Washington himself endorsed it and would himself attend. Obviously the General by his very presence and reputation made him a key player without saying hardly a word in session. Washington was a strong believer in throwing the Articles of Confederation out and creating a more robust document that gave much more power to a central government. He believed that the Union hung in the balance of just that. In his own experience of fighting the Revolutionary War he knew the destructive flaws in the Articles of Confederation and it's weakness to override the states by the central government when needed. His army starved and froze and was often understaffed due to states not contributing their promised provisions and recruits unless the battle was near them and threatening their own interests.

Another attendee whose very name and reputation was key to the eventual outcome and to the seriousness of the Convention was Philadelphia's own Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Franklin had spent twenty five of the previous thirty years before the Convention overseas. His experience during the decade following independence had convinced him of the need for a central government with the requisite "energy." He had learned that American diplomats abroad operated in a world of fierce rivalries and struggles for dominance. France and Spain, though nominally America's allies in the struggle for independence, were ultimately guided by their sense of national self-interest. Franklin came to realize that the new American nation would have to present a united front if it were to hold its own in the treacherous world of European diplomacy.

The youngest delegate, at 28, James Madison was the scholar. He had been working in the Congress under the Articles of Confederation and knew of its weaknesses and was the major driving force for throwing it out and starting all over with a new Constitution. He believed that those weaknesses posed at least an equal threat to liberty and, equally important, American unity. He watched frustrated as many of the independent state governments thwarted efforts to give the Confederation government the power to levy taxes or regulate commerce. In the spring of 1786, he began making extensive notes on the history of "ancient and modern confederacies," a project that led him across more than three thousand years of history, from ancient Greece to the cantons of Switzerland. In April 1787, he composed a private memorandum - thought one he obviously intended to circulate to others, which he titled,"The Vices of the Political System of the United States." It laid out in systematic fashion both his assessment of the weaknesses of the existing American governments, state and confederated, and his thoughts on the best remedies for those weaknesses. It was this writing that moved Washington to attend the convention after Madison had mailed him a copy. Washington wasn't interested in attending a convention of half-measures of trying to "fix" the current government, he wanted an entirely new one as did Madison.

Madison identified a dozen "vices" he believed to be fatal to the health of the republic. Several of those vices lay in the ways the newly independent states had overreacted to prior abuses of power by British royal governors. It wasn't surprising that state constitution makers deprived their new governors of the power to dissolve assemblies or to exercise and absolute veto over legislation, but Madison believed they had gone too far. Most of the new state constitutions vested the legislatures with the power to elect governors and most denied the chief executive even a limited veto. The result, in Madison's view, was that states frequently enacted "vicious legislation," too often prompted by the whims of public opinion rather than sober reflection. He was horrified by the irresponsible actions of the Rhode Island legislature, which allowed its citizens to pay off their debts in depreciated state currency.

The problem didn't lie with irresponsibility of state legislatures alone. Much of Madison's analysis focused on weaknesses in the Confederation government that allowed the self-interests of any one state to overwhelm the public interest of the nation. He chronicled the instances to which states had ignored their obligations to the union. He spoke of the many times that states wouldn't support their financial obligations to the war effort. "This evil, has been so fully experienced both during the war and since the peace," that he believed it could well be "fatal" to the very existence of the union. Equally upsetting to him were frequent instances in which the states encroached on the authority of the continental government,as in the case of Georgia's brutal war against the Creek Indians, waged without the Confederation government's consent. There were routine cases of individual states violating the terms of the Treaty of Peace with England, as in continued persecution of Loyalists, when it suited their interests.

Madison was also troubled by the tendency of "courtiers of popularity" - men like Patrick Henry, who possessed all the oratory skills that Madison lacked, to please their local constituencies while at the same time pursuing policies harmful to the broader interests of the Confederacy. Madison accepted the inevitability that citizens would work to promote their interests at the expense of others. However, contrary to the widely accepted view that liberty could best be protected in republics of limited geographic size, Madison argued that only in a large republic, where "society becomes broken into a greater variety of interests, of pursuit of passions, which check each other," could one prevent the provincialism and attendant injustice that afflicted states like Rhode Island, where Madison believed, a small faction of self-interested politicians had gained control of the legislator and subverted the public good. Only a shift in power from smaller state governments to a larger and stronger federal government would "render {government} sufficiently neutral between the different interests and factions, to controul on part of society from invading the rights of another, and at the same time {remain} sufficiently controuled itself, from setting up an interest adverse to that of the whole society." He believed that this shift of power was essential if America was to become a unified nation rather than a chaotic assemblage of quarrelsome states.

Madison's acknowledgement of the existence of "interests" in society and his desire to create a large, energetic government designed to neutralize - but not eliminate - those interests pointed in an entirely new direction. In Madison's conception, governments were designed not to embody virtue and the public good, but, rather, to mediate among the various interests in society and, in the process, allow the public good to be served. However, in other ways his vision of the virtues of an extended republic was distinctly traditional, reflecting classical republican attitudes about the importance of selecting virtuous political leaders. Voters who selected their leaders from larger districts would be choosing from a much wider pool of talent, a circumstance that would encourage the voters to select only "the purest and noblest characters," thereby ensuring that their representatives would be more likely to rise above purely provincial concerns and petty self-interest, and to represent the concerns of all the people.

Madison's "Vices of the Political System" ended on that conservative note. Never an optimist about human nature, he nonetheless hoped that he could persuade the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention, who, after all, were more likely to resemble to the pure and noble characters he hoped would govern the extended American republic, that it was time to transform a weak confederation into a strong unified nation.

Wouldn't you love to see those values come back again? Wouldn't be nice to have men and women of "the purest and noblest characters?"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Cost Perfection

As we watch the ongoing debates and campaign cycle for the 2012 GOP nomination the standard so many set for their candidate makes it impossible for a human to attain without either being the single most boring person to live, or a liar.

The "conservative" voters are the most guilty of having no political savvy. They eat their own, the candidate has to be perfect, has to have 100% purity on conservative values throughout the entirety of their lives. No room for any indiscretions or change in thinking, once a flaw is found, scorched earth is used.

With these standards far too many of the political neophytes who populate the Tea Party movement and make up nearly all of the Libertarian population, would not support Ronald Reagan today even as they hold him us as a marble statue. I loved Ronald Reagan, worked on his campaign barnstorming from Indiana through Oklahoma and Texas for his campaign in 1980. However, Ronald Reagan wasn't perfect. For today's "conservative" voter, the fact that he was a lifelong Liberal Democrat voting for FDR four times would disqualify him for suspicion of RINOism. His being a president of a labor union, in Hollywood no less would be sure of it. If that wasn't enough, he was divorced and remarried Heaven forbid.

For that matter I am not sure which one of he Founding Fathers would pass today's standards. George Washington, married for money, was involved in some very shady land deals, was single handed responsible for the French Indian War. As a General he lost every battle but two Trenton on a surprise attack on Christmas 1776, and the final battle in Yorktown. Rumors ran rampant of his potential womanizing, including his favorite General Nathan Green's wife Kitty. Who always seem to show up in camp at the same time Washington would send the General on the road. Did they or didn't they, who knows? Is that why Martha burned all Washington's letters and papers at his death?

John Adams was known for his violent temper, and many feared he was a monarchist wanting to bring back hereditary royalty to America.

Thomas Jefferson, ran for the hills abandoning his role as Governor of Virginia for fear of the British. He likely fathered children out of wedlock with his slave, was thought to have had an affair with the wife of a friend in Paris. He paid James Cavander to write yellow journalism to destroy the political careers of one of Jefferson's best friends, John Adams, and of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was able to side step the accusations of Cavander by confessing he was not paying bribes to his post as Secretary of the Treasury, but in fact was paying bribes to the husband of a woman he was having an affair with. When Jefferson didn't pay off Cavander with a job in his administration it was Cavander who broke the story of Sally Hemmings.

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, partnered with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to write the Federalist Papers to sell the Constitution ratification. He then turned on them and was the pen to attack them for his mentor Jefferson. Was he the first flip flopper, or was it Jefferson who has the uncanny ability of holding passionate beliefs for and against almost any subject of the day at the same time.

We can go on, Benjamin Franklin and his opiate habit, all night forays with women married and single. His son born out of wedlock and more.

I am not bashing any of the founders, I adore them one and all. However, they were men, not granite or marble. As men, they were not perfect. All of their decisions were not perfect, but their collaboration was miraculous.

So when I hear that Newt Gingrich is the most brilliant, most experienced, BUT, he has flaws, I want to scream.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Practices Change Principles Never Do.

In the many years I have been in sales I have often heard that "those old sales techniques don't work anymore with today's buyers." I heard that in the 70s, I heard it in the 80's, the 90's, the new Millennium, and today. It reminds me of the comments that "In our area," "In our market," that doesn't work. These are the two most consistent things I have heard for the last thirty five years. My answer has been and is, Practices Change Principle Never Do.

The principles of people skills stay fast no matter the practices that technology and social mores dictate. In my own career I have seen the beginning of the use of car phones, voice mail, faxes, pagers, email, text, instant messaging, and the explosion of social media. Each of these new "conveniences" seem to add hours to my day as I practice the principle of communicating with clients in their favorite method.

The argument that people have changed always makes me think of the story of Moses. This story will show you that people haven't fundamentally changed in centuries, it matters not where they were born.

Moses was out watching his flock when he saw a fire on the hillside. Being a good steward of his flock he had to go check it out before it spread and burned up his pasture. When he got there it was a single bush that was burning. He stayed to see if it would burn out when it consumed the bush of if it started to spread and he would need to put it out. It kept burning for the longest time, it didn't consume the bush, and it didn't spread, after a while he started wondering what kind of deal was this anyway. Keep in mind Moses was a busy guy, he had the flock of sheep and goats, he was married, had kids, had a father in law he was working for, he didn't have time to sit and watch a bush burn forever. Finally he asked "God is that you?" God answered "Yes, thanks for coming Moses, I had something I wanted to talk to you about so I used this bush to get your attention." (excuse the paraphrasing)

Moses, asked God, "Haven't you heard the cries of the Israelites, haven't you seen their suffering enslaved to the Egyptians?" "Why don't you do something about it God?" God answered, "I am doing something about it, I am sending you." That is when Moses panicked and starting making excuses. "But God, I can't do it, I am so busy right now, I have my father in law busting my backside taking care of the flocks, my wife has a Honey Do list that never ends. The kids are on traveling teams, call me again after the holidays and we can see if things lighten up. Just burn another bush or something then we can talk." God paid no attention to his "I'm Busy" excuse and kept closing on Moses going to Egypt and leading his people out of bondage. So Moses came up with his next excuse, "But God, I don't have any credibility there, I left there in the middle of the night to avoid being charged with murder, you need someone who has solid contacts there." God's answer to Moses, "Don't worry about your credibility, use mine, just say 'God Sent Me!" Finally Moses tried his final excuse, "God, if you think I can get up in front of people and give speeches you are out of your mind." Actually the scripture said, Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." God finally got frustrated and told him to just take your brother Aaron so he can talk for you.

You can see that Moses wasn't the same as Charleston Heston played him, he was a man who had fears, had excuses, had a low self-image, yet God used him to change the world. Did you recognize those excuses? If you tried to recruit someone to do a big project today you would hear, "I don't have time," "I don't know the right people," and "I am not comfortable speaking to groups." People haven't changed, not at a real personal level.

When I was 19 years old I was at a convention where Zig Ziglar was speaking. He changed my life that day with a comment that shook me to my core. Zig said that "if you are an outstanding salesperson you can manipulate people into almost anything." I was thinking darn right, that is how I got through school. Then he hit me between the eyes with, "If you are very good at sales you should never ever do that."
He then explained the difference between manipulation and motivation. They may actually involve the exact same set of people skills, but the difference is in your heart. If you are moving people to a decision for your own best interest and not theirs, that is manipulation. If however, you are moving people to a decision for their best interest that is motivation. Zig's signature saying of "If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want," is the natural outcropping of that.

The people skills and sales training I gained from reading Frank Bettger who wrote his book in the 1920s, or Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, and more of the greats who shoulders and industry has stood for decades are just as relevant today as at any time. The principles they taught have never changed, in fact the best sales training book ever written was the book of Proverbs. I challenge anyone to read a chapter of Proverbs every day for a year, there are 31 chapters so you read them almost every month. I promise you it will change your business and your life. The basic principles are found in those, it is the practices we have to adjust to. The key is learning out to change practices without losing the core principles passed down through the ages.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Should We Reward or Punish Our Companies?

Parents when you are raising your children have you noticed that if you punish a behavior you do so to get less of that behavior, and conversely if you want to encourage the behavior you reward it? Do you think that by reversing the action and punishing the behavior it would lead to an increase? It seems that the Obama Administration does.

One of the onerous taxes in the Obamacare legislation is an increased excise tax of 2.3% on medical devices to help pay for Obamacare. Companies like The Cook Group of Bloomington, IN are quite concerned about the impact it will have on their bottom line and business. The Cook Group President, Ken Hawkins, estimates that the tax will slice $17 million from its yearly revenues starting in 2013. This has already caused Cook to stop cut back its U.S. spending now. Except for one Canton, Illinois, plant that Cook has committed to build in the home town of its founder, Bill Cook, "I've had to put all other small manufacturing plant plans are on hold as a result of this tax." Hawkins said. "It's the wrong kind of tax at the wrong time, on the wrong industry, and I think for the wrong reasons."

The device industry fought and won a reduction of the increased tax from 4.6% to 2.3% on everything from knee implants, heart stints, slings, walkers, hearing aids and more. A new industry sponsored study done by the Hudson Institute sponsored by AdvaMed, concludes that even the reduced rate will damage the industry as if it had a mild stroke. The study projects that the tax will nearly double the corporate tax rate on the medical device industry, causing it to shift 10% of its production to low tax offshore sites and shrink its U.S. employment by 11% or 45,700 workers.

The conclusion of a liberal think tank Families USA president, Kathleen Stoll, believes that most medical device companies should be able to offset the taxed-away revenues by reducing profits, CEO salaries, and shareholder returns. I wonder if she ever studied a single business class.

One of the largest U.S. device manufacturers, Boston Scientific Corp., said it would eliminate up to 1,400 jobs in the next two years and hire 1,000 new workers in China. Ray Elliott, CEO of Boston Scientific said it "discourages job creation, investment, and economic growth by limiting available R&D funds." Cook;s Hawkins said companies, such as his, will drop, or not develop, products with less profit potential. Today Cook stocks 15,000 different products, and many are marginally profitable. If new taxes cut incomes to the innovation-oriented device business he said "Those kind of niche products are going to never be done. And no one would ever know what products we never invent."

Wouldn't it make more sense to cut taxes to U.S.Companies, one of the highest corporate taxed countries in the world today, rather than punishing them? Who pays for these taxes? Each and every one of us. Through increased product cost, through lost jobs, lost revenue from those lost employees, and through lower standards of living without the miracle engine of innovation and discovery stripped by punishing those innovators. If we want to start standing in lines like Old Moscow for whatever the state produced that week, this is a step in that direction.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Separation of Church and State.

Where or where is that famous phrase we all know by heart "Separation of Church and State" found in our founding documents? Surely it is in the Constitution, within the Bill of Rights, isn't it? We are told it is in the 1st Amendment, is it really there?

1st Amendment
"Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion or
prohibit the free exercise there of."

It never says anything about separation of church and state.

Just where did the "separation of church and state" begin? How did it become
part of our national vernacular?

In 1801 the Danbury Baptist Association of Danbury Connecticut heard a
rumor that the Congregational Denomination was about to be made the National
Denomination and it worried them greatly. It was only a rumor, but they
wrote to brand new President, Thomas Jefferson. He wrote them back on
January 1st 1802 and said:
"The First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between Church and
State. They need not fear a National Denomination."

We never hear Jefferson's words in context or intent anymore. Here is that letter, you can see it for yourself in the Jefferson room upstairs in the Library of Congress.

Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists
The Final Letter, as Sent
To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802.

Then how did we come to believe it is in the Constitution?

In 1958 the Supreme Court discussed their interpretation of the Separation of Church and State.

1958 Baer v Kolmorger
"Continuing to talk about the separation of church and state will make
people think that it was part of the Constitution."

This constant refrain has caused us to add it to our National vernacular.

Consider the warning of Dr. William James;

"There is nothing so absurd but that you repeat it often enough people will
believe it true."

Today, if you ask most Americans if Separation of Church and State is in our Constitution, and I will bet you that 90% will say that it is. It is not now, nor has it ever been. The only place it was ever mentioned was in that private letter to the Danbury Baptists telling them that the State would never force them to follow a national prescribed religious sect.

The facts are there is no Constitutional mandate for a separation of church and state. There is a mandate to protect the church from being imposed on by the State. There is a mandate to protect people of faith from being oppressed in any forum private or public by the State.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Cost Of Leadership

In our world today we see so many so called leaders in business and politics who are all about themselves, their own benefits, their own rewards, their own egos. It makes it hard for people to understand that what they are showing is the antithesis of leadership. True leadership is built on sacrifice.

Sacrifice is a constant in leadership. It is an ongoing process, not a one-time payment. Many times the cost of moving forward in leadership is often financial, there is usually a temporary step back in income when you take on a new challenge of leadership. If you do your job right the finances will come, never hesitate to make a sacrifice when you know the step is right.

Leaders who want to rise have to do more than take an occasional cut in pay. They have to give up their rights. When you become a leader, you lose the right to think for yourself. Dexter Yager says "If you have a decision to make, you can never go wrong choosing the option that is best for your people over what is best for you personally." For every person, the nature of the sacrifice may be different. For example, Lee Iaccoca's sacrifice came late in his career to save Chrysler. Former South African president F. W. de Klerk, who worked to dismantle apartheid in his country sacrificing his own career. The circumstances change from person to person, but the principle doesn't. Leadership means sacrifice.

Leaders give up to go up. That is true of every leader regardless of profession. Talk to any leader, and you will find that he has made repeated sacrifices. Usually the higher that leader has climbed, the greater the sacrifices he or she has made. Effective leaders sacrifice much that is good to dedicate themselves to what is best. Robert Palmer said in and interview, "In my model of management, there is very little wiggle room. If you want a management job, they you have to accept the responsibility and accountability that goes with it." He is really talking not about management but the cost of leadership.

If leaders have to give up to go up, then they have to give up even more to stay up. Have you ever considered how infrequently teams have back-to-back champion seasons? The reason is simple: If a leader can take a team to the championship game and win it, he often assumes he can duplicate the results the next year without making changes. He becomes reluctant to make additional sacrifices in the off-season. But what gets a team to the top isn't what keeps it there. The only way to stay up is give up even more. Leadership success requires continual change, improvement, and sacrifice. "For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something." Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Sacrifice is the rule of leadership, yet nothing is more rewarding that leadership. Helping others follow a vision, helping them realize more than they ever could have dreamed of without your leadership is priceless. Of course leadership is rewarding financially in the end, it isn't what you get out of it, it is about who you become.

It's too bad so many of our leaders in name or title only have it all backwards.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How to Create a List of 1,000 Names

If you are just getting started in a sales career, or restarting one, one of the first things you need to do is make a list. The purpose of a list is to get as many names written down as possible, this will accomplish many things for you. One it gives you confidence to see all the people who might need your services.

There are many schools of thought on the contact list. Some say the more the merrier, others say to only put enough names that you can really invest the time to cultivate the relationships. Personally I say both, make a huge list, get as many with contact information as possible, then score them into "A", "B", and "C" names depending on the level of activity you choose to give them. You only will be investing money on mail or marketing for them maybe once before you choose which ones you invest in, and which ones you market electronically only.

Let's start showing you how to build a big list. Anyone can create a list of a thousand names with enough effort. Keep in mind that there are many names who are not going to be the meat of your list. In this exercise the most important thing is not to prequalify the names, don't decide for them if they should or shouldn't be on your list, don't leave off those who you would be intimidated to call, if you are too intimidated you won't call them anyway so there is nothing to be afraid of putting them down on your list.

Today it is so much easier to build a big list than it used to be due to the Social Media phenomenon. If they are on your Facebook, Myspace, Linked in, or any other Social media site, put them on your list.

Who went to your wedding? The average wedding has two hundred guests, put them down. Your Christmas card list, you Church Directory, who do you work with, have you worked with at each place you have worked, your bowling league, your high school friends, your civic organizations, your clubs, your extended family, put them down. Go through your address books as well on paper, and in your phone and computers.

Some tricks, don't just try to think of people, think of them in groups. If you sit down and try to think of people you will draw a blank, if you think who was in our softball team all their faces appear in your mind. Think of them in context of places and groups and you will find them popping into your head.

Once you exhaust the lists above now is the fun part. Sit down with someone who will help lead you through this part. This is kind of a free association type of exercise. Have your partner take a Yellow Pages and you sit opposite them at the table with a pad of paper and pen. Have them start with the A's like Accountants and you write down everyone you know who is an accountant, or are reminded of by the word. Then one by one, go through every listing of jobs and businesses types from A to Z. So you should have Ambassadors to Zoo Keepers. Again don't prejudge these names, just write them down. Keep in mind, the names on your list may never be a client for you, but might know someone who would.

Once you have your list start working on putting contact information with them. Those from your social media and from your address books should have it already, put it down as you are filling those out. However, on the free association part, don't stop to get the contact information until you have finished the process of creating the names on the list. You don't want the distraction at that point. Fill in the blanks later.

Now that you have the list, you will start looking at it with a more critical eye as to who you want to start contacting and start adjusting the grading on the names. However, it is wise to get word out to as many as you have contact information on to let them know that you are in business, and how they can get with you. I would request an email in hopes at least some would return your outreach with an email to you. You can then capture theirs as well.

When you have a list, it is time to start contacting them. That will be the topic for another blog. However, one of the most important reasons you need a big list is that if you only have a list in your head, or a list of say a dozen people, you will become frozen if you get a handful of noes in a row when you start calling your list. You will naturally start looking at your list and see it half gone and fear if you call more you will be out of business before you start. If however, you get a handful of noes in a row and see hundreds of names still on it you don't care as much. With that said, if you get a handful of noes in a row, I would call a mentor to see if you are saying something wrong and tweak it.

So, get started on a BIG list.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Spirit Of 1776

July Fourth Seventeen Seventy Six was the publish date of the book on free market capitalism in Scotland. This book became the core of the thinking of our own founders who too were busy rewriting the world that same week in America. This book was "The Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith. Today we find ourselves in dire need of returning to the wisdom of Smith and cast aside the mistakes of John Maynard Keynes.

Rather than trying to do a deep dive into the mind of Smith let's take a look at the core belief that the rest was built around. Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" that guides business in a free market has been misunderstood, and misrepresented for now more than two centuries from those who are against a free market system.

What is the Invisible Hand? In a word greed. It's a burning desire for gain, and a fear of loss that ultimately guides human nature in a free market. There are many people who will try to tell you that if not for government regulations or unions protecting us from business people we will be treated unfairly and oppressed. However, that simply isn't true.

The examples they will use is the abuses in the factories of the industrial revolution. If there wasn't a crony system with the local governments at the time, they wouldn't have been needed. If someone tried to strong arm, do bodily harm, or even kill anyone who resisted laws would have been broken and if not condoned by local politicians and police it would have ended.

The Invisible Hand is based on personal self-interest and desire for profit. Here is how it would work in a true free market system. If I was a tyrant of an employer and treated my employees horribly, underpaid them, abused them, and was a bad guy, someone would start a company to compete with me and would take away my best employees, leaving me with the most unproductive ones, dooming me to failure.

If I, as a businessman, abused my customers, treated them badly, sold them an over priced, poor quality product and wouldn't stand by it when it failed, someone would compete with me. When they sold a better product at a better price and stood behind it they would cause me to lose my business. I would only have two choices with either story above. One is to keep doing what I was doing and go broke, or to change, improve how I treat my employees and customers to try to compete.

So in my own selfish best interest, I would be forced to be fair, forced to treat customers and employees well for the simple motive that I want to profit. If you read Ayn Rand's book "Atlas Shrugged" that is the core of it's message as well.

When anything interferes with the free market with government regulations or union meddling, or crony capitalism at the local, state, or federal level, it ties the Invisible Hand and takes away it's power to guide the process. When it is tied, the results are always less than it should be, higher prices, lower service. If you want to see how bad it can get look at our health care system in America. It has been so highly regulated for so long there is no way it could be affordable. Rather than a government take over, we would be wise to let the Invisible Hand control it to see what would happen.

Two recent examples of the destroying effect of government intervention are happening right now. One is in Arizona where the state of Arizona is protecting those who pay them dues in the Cosmetology Board to shut down eyebrow threading businesses. They are demanding that these businesses take 600 hours of courses on Cosmetology School for about ten thousand dollars to get a license to practice. However, if you consider that not one minute of those six hundred hours will teach eyebrow threading, it appears that they are simply stopping competition from coming into the market.

In Louisiana right now there is a battle going on with Florists. The State is requiring a four and a half hour test to get a florist license. The judges who test the candidates are competing florists, the results are that the failure rate on the Florist test is twice as high as the bar exam for Louisiana. Once again allowing the competition to use the power of government to keep others from entering the market.

We see crony capitalism from the smallest to largest government entity. Maybe it is time we go back to the Spirit of 76 in both small government Republic and the Invisible Hand.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Courage of Conviction

Conventional wisdom tells us that we should not talk about money, religion, or politics in polite company. That message is even more ramped up when it comes to business. It is foolish to burn bridges with potential customers taking a position on these controversial things and turning someone off who may not do business with us because of it.

During the entirety of my career I followed this thought process with a passion. I took it to the extreme and wouldn't tell anyone I followed Purdue sports to not turn off any Hoosier fans. I wouldn't wear facial hair because there is a certain part of the population this turns off. Vanilla and safe were the goal.

Why today, have I thrown that completely out the window? Because there is a huge difference between having integrity, character, conviction, and courage.

We should always strive to have integrity, we should teach our children to as well. Integrity is not doing something wrong, not cheating, stealing, or misdealing. We should all have integrity. For instance if we saw three big guys beating up someone, we can have integrity just by not taking advantage of this situation. However this isn't enough. We need to step up and show character and stand up and do right. Character will require us to get involved. Character requires courage, courage to take a stand, to take a personal risk. Character could cause pain to come to you because you had the courage to step into the fray. But it requires that you do what is right, not just know what is right.

When you see something happening that you believe is wrong, something that you find yourself under conviction to stand up against it. Then it requires that you have the courage to take the risk of personal harm, be it nothing more than financial harm, to show your true character and step into the fray, to say "this is wrong!" To do something about it.

If you are reading this, like many I know, you cheer from the sidelines, you watch others speaking out, and are glad they do, but fear what might happen to you if you joined in the chorus. Let me ask you to consider moving from integrity to character through courage. Take the risk, step out, follow the example of our founders and become a leader in your sphere of influence. You may lose some "friends", you may have some question you and chastise you, but you will feel good knowing that you are a person of conviction with the courage to speak out, and make a difference.

In my opinion, our freedoms and liberties, and those of our children and grandchildren hang in the balance. Let's roll!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Conning of The American Economy and Liberty

As a people we discuss politics, we talk about the economy, the Federal Reserve, inflation, money, and more, however, do we know how we got to where we are? Do we know what decisions were made, and by who, and for what? If we do not know, how can we hope to ever make a change?

America, you have been conned. Let's discuss the history of money and see how we have arrived where we are. It isn't so much that we as Americans do not know a lot about our economy, our history, and our government, it is just that like Ronald Reagan once said about liberals, we just know so much that isn't true.

Money was, and has always been, something we have agreed upon to be money. Early on it could have been shells or stones or sheep, later we started using precious metals, like gold, silver, copper and others, mostly gold. This was the basic means of exchange for around six thousand years until 1971 when our money was taken off the gold standard.

When we used gold, there were businessmen known as goldsmiths. These goldsmiths were the bankers of their day, so you wouldn't be in danger of being robbed of your gold, you could deposit it with a goldsmith who would issue you paper receipts or scripts to be able to come back and redeem your gold as you needed it. This evolved to a point where the goldsmith's scripts could be exchanged for purchase and the person you gave it to could redeem it. Soon the goldsmiths realized that only a fraction of the gold they held on deposit ever was redeemed at any given time, so they started printing more scripts against that deposited gold than their was gold held on reserve. This was known as fractional reserve banking, we are still using that same program in our banks today.

Genghis Khan came to the decision that he wanted to use paper money, he had the most powerful and ruthless army on the planet so he enforced that what he said was money was, if you disagreed you died. When Marco Polo explored Asia he came back with stories of this Khan money.

Then in 1715-1720 we saw the impact John Law had on money. A Scot, and son of a banker, John Law was famous for his talents with the ladies. This ended with Law killing a jealous husband in self-defense. He had to leave England and went to France. There at the death of King Louis the 14th, the heir a seven year old Louis the XV inherited the three billion livres of the old king. The currency was devalued by 20% which did no good, those who were accused of hoarding were arrested. John Law showed up with an idea of Fiat money. It was paper money issued by the government secured by land and Royal revenues. He wasn't done yet, he started issuing paper money against land in France's holdings in America, capitalizing on the speculative frenzy the New World held. This created a massive boom the French saw their standard of living escalate as never before known. Many no longer worked, they became full time speculators buying and selling this new paper. Then an angry Prince de Conti arrived and brought wagon loads of this paper and wanted to cash it in for gold. When he did, they gave him his gold, but it caused others to do the same, crashing the bubble.

Law gambling his remaining authority he abolished coin as a medium of exchange, and then in February 1720 declared it illegal to own more than the tiniest of sums in gold in any form. Then he closed the borders, and sent instructions to all coach-houses to refuse fresh horses to anyone travelling to foreign lands until an inspector had examined their baggage. The substantial fines imposed were shared with the public spirited individual who filed the report.

By August of that year it was all over, and John Law was the most hated man in France. Fortunately he was living in Venice. Like all good gamblers he had gone on to the next game, by which means he continued his existence for another 9 years. Much of the money he won at this time would have been that which had earlier escaped him in the capital flight which he had outlawed.

This is truly a story of Booms and Busts, or otherwise known as Inflation and Deflation.

Inflation is not, as most believe, rising prices, demand can cause prices to rise. It is when the money supply is increased too large for demand. It causes prices to go up two ways, one by lowering the value of the money you are using. The other is that those selling goods see an opportunity to raise prices when people have a lot of money in their pockets.

Inflation is actually a secret tax, governments love inflation, and do it intentionally. Inflation is a tax on the people that is hidden, it is actually a reverse graduated tax because it hits the poor and middle class harder as a much higher percentage of their money is used for consumption. It shrinks the buying power of your savings, and as Americans have had repeated attacks on the value of their money for most of their lives it has trained them to not save money.

However, again governments love it, they get to see increased exporting of goods since foreign currencies can buy our goods cheaper than we can. Further it allows them to pay back the massive government debt with cheaper devalued dollars. If wages increase, it will push people into higher tax brackets again raising taxes without the political hit of a tax increase.

Deflation is the opposite, this is the thing governments fear the most. It is caused with the shrinking of money supplies and causes real prices to drop. If you lost your job and then had your one hundred thousand dollar home foreclosed where it resold for fifty thousand, what happened to the other fifty thousand dollars? It is simply gone, it is out of the economy, and the economy was deflated of that purchasing power. Prices going down is good for buying food and energy, but bad if you bought something speculating it would go up in value.

Today the value of the dollar is imaginary and in the hands of the Federal Reserve who manipulates it by pouring money into the market or not. We no longer have a stable money tied to gold or anything else.

How did we get here?

Our founders gave Congress the power to declare what money would be, they only gave the states the power to coin money. The founders had already had an experiment with paper fiat money called the Continental. They printed this paper money to help pay for the war, it wasn't tied to anything of value other than the new government said it was money. It devalued so much that no one would take it, even today we sometimes hear the phrase "It isn't worth a Continental" used.

We then went to a Gold/Silver standard and the nation's money was stable for years. Then another expensive war came about with the Civil War, and we printed money again to pay for it. We also had an Income Tax imposed and a way of collecting in with the IRS in 1862. The income tax was declared Un-Constitutional in 1894, but the IRS remained.

Then the Panic of 1907 came about. Speculation still contends it was done intentionally by a group of big bankers did it on purpose to cause panic and give them and the government the opportunity to "fix it." What we do know is that it started with a failed attempt to corner the copper market. The stock market crashed by 50% in a year, and banks across America failed. It was likely it would have been much worse if not for J.P. Morgan pledging vasts sums of his own money to shore up the banking system. At the time America didn't have a central banking system to shore up the system in crisis. We had two National Banks earlier both highly unpopular with the American people. The last one was the singular purpose of Andrew Jackson to remove. Senator Nelson Aldredge was given the task to find a way to "fix this."

In 1910 there was a meeting on Jekyll Island Club off the coast of Georgia. Aldrich convened a secret conference with a number of the nation's leading financiers to discuss monetary policy and the banking system. Aldrich and A. P. Andrew (Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Department), Paul Warburg (representing Kuhn, Loeb & Co.), Frank A. Vanderlip (James Stillman's successor as president of the National City Bank of New York), Henry P. Davison (senior partner of J. P. Morgan Company), Charles D. Norton (president of the Morgan-dominated First National Bank of New York), and Benjamin Strong (representing J. P. Morgan), produced a design for a "National Reserve Bank".

Forbes magazine founder B. C. Forbes wrote several years later:

Picture a party of the nation’s greatest bankers stealing out of New York on a private railroad car under cover of darkness, stealthily riding hundreds of miles South, embarking on a mysterious launch, sneaking onto an island deserted by all but a few servants, living there a full week under such rigid secrecy that the names of not one of them was once mentioned, lest the servants learn the identity and disclose to the world this strangest, most secret expedition in the history of American finance. I am not romancing; I am giving to the world, for the first time, the real story of how the famous Aldrich currency report, the foundation of our new currency system, was written.

The final report of the National Monetary Commission was published on January 11, 1911. For nearly two years legislators debated the proposal and it was not until December 22, 1913, that Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act. President Woodrow Wilson signed the legislation immediately and the legislation was enacted on the same day, December 22, 1913, creating the Federal Reserve System. At the time it was a secret national bank.

The Federal Reserve is not Federal and it has no reserves.

1913 was maybe the most pivotal year in our economic and Republic's history since it's founding. Also in 1913 the Income tax was brought back, even after it had been found Un-Constitutional twenty years earlier. The government needed to pay the 6% interest to the Federal Reserve. One congressman filibustered on the floor of the House trying to stop the income tax, he said that there could come a time when it would be as high as 20%, the other congressmen laughed him off the floor as a radical an extremist, and an alarmist.

Now the government doesn't take need to take away liberty and freedoms by force, they know that they only have to get the camel's nose into the tent. 1913 was that year. Another gem brought to us in 1913 was the 17th Amendment where unlike the Founder's intent of the Senators being selected by the State representatives of each state to represent the state's interest, they became popularly elected making them part of that buying the constituency vote as well as the House.

1913 was the Birth of an Empire and death of the Republic.

Now, we hear a lot about the Federal Reserve, but do you know how it works?
Basically it is like this. The government sells a bond to the Federal Reserve, the Reserve hands a check to the government written on an account that doesn't exist. The government then deposits that check into an electronic account and the money appears out of thin air, and the Federal Reserve holds the Bond. Every time the Reserve buys bonds from the government money flows out and increases the supply causing inflation and lowering interest rates.

Wars are expensive, they are golden opportunities for government to print more money. W.W.I comes along, Wilson and the Fed pumps money into the supply, inflation and devaluation come right with it. After the war, the soldiers come home, need to find jobs, war machines are no longer being made, and we see a recession. France is demanding gold to pay back our debt to them, so what do we do? Pump more money into the system creating inflation, and the Roaring 20s, everyone had money, life was good, people started speculating in the market that was booming until... Herbert Hoover was hinting about something called the Smoot Hawley Tariff. Just the talk about it caused businessmen to start pulling in their resources, this caused the stock market to crash.

Of course you have heard about the stock market crash, how the market crashed, people committed suicide, and no one had any money for a long time, right? Wrong.
Very few committed suicide, just one year after the crash the market was back where it was before. (Sound familiar) However, this was a perfect crisis for the government to "do something" and they did.

The reason the market crashed is that when businessmen heard, and believed, the government was going to impose tariffs they knew it would be destructive to business and they pulled in their capital.

The government did something:

1932 the Smoot Hawley Tariffs were imposed creating a trade war pushing the recession into the Great Depression.

1934 the Gold Reserve Act made it illegal for any American to own gold, this lasted until the mid 70s.

1935 the Wagner Act gave us unions and collective bargaining. While some of this was needed at the time, we see today how it has become a destructive monster to our Republic and our freedom along with our economy.

1935 the Unemployment Act brings us unemployment insurance.

1937 the Social Security Act, the largest Ponzi scheme in history. This is nothing but a giant pyramid scheme and would be illegal if not run by the government. There was never any money set in reserves in it.

1938 brought us Fannie Mae, the government took started carrying the notes on our mortgages.

If 1913 under Wilson the Camel's nose got under the tent of our freedom and Republic, in the 30s the camel got inside. If our Republic died in 1913 and the Empire was born, the Empire was wearing big boy pants now.

Of course the event that brought us out of the Great Depression was W.W.II. What happens during war? We pump more money into the system devalue the dollar with inflation, and away we went. Then in 1944 there was a conference held called the Brenton Woods Conference. This was the birth of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, even though it didn't become fully operational until 1959. This was just the ticket for the Fed and the government, the U.S. Dollar became the reserve currency for world financial markets. This way the U.S. government could dump trillions of dollars into the IMF and the world without causing the massive inflation it would have caused if dumped in the United States economy. This system has worked for years, but have you heard recently that there i growing talk of removing the dollar as the reserve currency? If that happens, and it is actually very possible, the Housing Bubble Pop will look like a blip on the economy compared to the Dollar bubble pop that would surely follow.

Have you heard about government's Guns and Butter Programs?

What were they? They were 1. The Kennedy Space Race, 2. LBJ's Great Society, and 3. Vietnam. All very expensive, all great opportunities for government to pump more money out.

In 1965 we added Medicare and Medicaid along with Freddie Mac in 1970.

With our government's habit of manipulating the money supply to keep driving down the value of our dollar to pay back debt cheaper, the Arab Oil states revolted at selling us oil with dollars that gave them less than they bargained for. Now we have skyrocketing prices as they would no longer sell to us, we would buy it through other countries who bought Arab oil and resold to us taking out middleman pricing.

American voters said "Do Something" Nixon wanted to be reelected he did something. He gave us price controls, this created shortages and producers refuse to produce if they can't make a profit. So to fix this let's add tariffs, they worked as well this time as before.

Now in 1974 we add the ERISA laws, this is where our retirement plans were changed from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans or IRAs, 401ks, and other deferred tax plans. What we did was take the little guy and put him in the stock market. Of course we didn't teach him what to do when there. Now the big banking system not only got to create our money, they now held our savings as well. The little guy got slaughtered.

In 1979 we got a short reprieve. Paul Volker started pulling money out of the system and brought back some value to our dollar. Then Ronald Reagan dramatically cut taxes, and between those two things it created the greatest economic boom we have seen and sustained longer than any in any of our lifetimes.

However, Alan Greenspan took over the Fed in 86 changing our monetary policy once again. Then in the 90s we had the technology boom, money was flowing, people started day trading, Wall Street was rewarding short term profits not long term manufacturing gains, this drove our manufacturing base out of America. Then it turned to 2000 and Pop goes the Tech Bubble.

When the Tech bubble burst the herd starting looking for the next big thing, the next fix, the next easy short team profit. It found Real Estate. Boom Baby, off they went buying, flipping, refinancing, using their home like a ATM machine to buy cars, jewelry, electronics, vacations, and more Real Estate to flip. The hot market towns in the Sun belt had entire subdivisions purchased by those who had no intention of ever living in the home, but just flipping it. When the bubble burst we heard the sad stories of the people losing their homes, but the media didn't talk much of the novice speculators who took out 125% loans on their homes to buy several others to flip and then lost them all after the bubble burst in 2008.

Okay, now we know how we got here. What do we do about it?

There is a three step process we must do to save things.
1. We need Stable Money, be it back to the Gold standard or something else, it must be stable.

2. We need to lower taxes, we must reward, not punish the producers. Last year 50% of Americans did not pay Federal Income taxes. When that number reaches 51% the game is over.

3. We must deregulate, reduce the amount of laws and rules on businesses.

Government will kick and scream about those three ideas. They now have an entire herd of camels in the tent, they are not going to willingly give up their power. When it comes to inflation and deflation by government and the FED, you must remember that Ben Bernanke has said that he will not allow deflation to occur if it means he would have to throw money out of helicopters. That is a frightening thought that the man in charge of our money value believes this.

There is a storm coming that will make this last few years look like the good old days if we don't regain control over our government's spending habits. I believe we have this next election to either save our nation, or it's over as we know it.

Government's role passed onto us by our founders was to protect us from a big government foreign or domestic. Our founders wrote our Constitution in fear of government, and terrified of democracies. That is why they gave us a Republic. Democracies are mob rule.

James Madison said, "Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions." Federalist No. 10

We have a chance of turning this around, but it will depend upon us to do so. Then if we do, to educate our children, and ourselves what got us here, to make sure we don't do it again.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Let's Not ReWrite The History of Our Constitution.

The Tea Party Movement is a force to be reckoned with, it will be a major player in who will be nominated to office as well as win in the fall of 12. This is a wonderful change from the apathy that has plagued most Americans about the political world going on around them for decades.

I do have some concerns though. One of them is that, while I am thrilled with the new embrace of history, our founding, and our Constitution that is burning like wild-fire through the Tea Partiers, I am concerned about who is teaching them. Or at least who they might be hearing explain it. Most people do not read for themselves, the average American man reads less than one book a year. That means they "learn" from being told by others, who likely learned from being told by others, and on and on, like looking into a old barbershop mirror.

When this is the method of disseminating information, it can be twisted, and perverted to the point of destroying that they hope to protect. Have you ever played the telephone game? A friend of mine, who was a surveyor, explained it to me this way. If you are surveying land, you start at the known point and then measure to where you are going. If you get off just a hair at the beginning your final measure can be off by miles. That is exactly what is happening with so many factions in the movement. One of which is the Ron Paul following who are, like so many others, trying to co-op the movement for their own purposes.

Ron Paul's teaching of the Constitution is close, but then veers off to the point that it doesn't even resemble the original document or intent of our founders. Listening to Ron Paul reminds me of the speeches of Clement Vallandigham, one of the main Copperheads during the Civil War.

The more I think about what I am hearing from the Paul followers, and far too many of the Tea Partiers is a strictly Jeffersonian version of the founding. While Thomas Jefferson was one of the great leaders and key players in our founding, he was not the only voice heard. The Constitution is not reflective of the Jeffersonian view, in fact Thomas Jefferson was anything but a fan of the Constitution he thought it was tyranny. He advocated a revolution every twenty years, than no generation should be bound by the former generation's laws.

The Constitution was probably not 100% loved by any of the founders who fought and debated throughout that hot summer in 1787. The final product wasn't any one man's, but a truly compromised document to get while not total support by any, enough support by all to pass it. The result of this Melting Pot of ideas was a recipe for the greatest nation in the history of mankind.

When I hear the Ron Paul followers, and some of the Tea Party folks, parroting the purity of Jefferson and the evil of Adams, and Hamilton it is scary. Thank God, we don't have a nation designed exclusively by any of them, but a compromise of those different views.

For a point of order, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were no where near the writing of the Constitution. Both were overseas that summer, Jefferson as ambassador of France, Adams as same for England. Alexander Hamilton was not happy with the Constitution he wanted a much stronger document, but realized quickly it was the best he could hope for at the time and became head salesman of it writing most of the Federalist Papers, along with James Madison, and John Jay.

There were very many different views, different understandings, different experiences that were involved in that room creating this magnificent document. It was those differences that made it great. We were blessed by God that these brilliant men, the most educated men who may have yet ever filled our representatives, were able to work past those differences to create our Republic. Two of the most key men in getting this done were Benjamin Franklin, who didn't write much, debate much, but was able through the respect the others held for him to get them back on track when needed. The key was the presence of George Washington, the least educated man in the room, but whose larger than life presence and perfected leadership skills, and quiet demeanor was able to keep all the competing factions working toward a common goal.

We do not want to re-write the Constitution in Jefferson's image as Ron Paul and his followers do, we don't want Hamilton's, or any one's, we had the greatest mastermind meeting in history, why just take one.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obama's Easter Sermon, What Was He Learning?

On Easter Sunday the Obama family went to church at Shiloh Baptist Church to hear a sermon by Pastor Wallace Charles Smith. Pastor Smith has a record of pushing a very race baited agenda. During his sermon, Smith chose to attack the original Constitution of the United States, and our founders. He spoke of the 3/5th person classification in the Constitution for slaves.

One of the biggest problems we have in trying to learn our American history is the lack of knowledge and understanding of the broader story surrounding the topic. This one issue has been lifted out by so many with agendas to promote. Most people know very little about what actually happened in any historical context.

Let's take a look at this one issue, but let's not look back with our own current understanding and experiences and try to project them on those debating the draft of that Constitution that hot summer of 1787. The slave debate was already between the North and the South was already under way, it had been 168 years since slavery began in America in 1619. Keep in mind it was deeply entrenched long before the idea of a free Republic was even dreamed of.

Frankly it was a miracle that the many diverse interests in that room were able to create a brand new nation, birthed the most successful Republic in the history of man that summer. There were large states and small, heavily populated and sparsely populated, there were business driven states, and agrarian driven, and of course slave states and free states, all who demanded that their interests were considered and protected.

The Senate was created with two Senators who would be chosen by the States to represent their own interests. Since these men would be chosen by the States and appointed to the Senate, they knew that they would be men of means and stature in their states. So the Senate was designed to give the small states equal say since all would have two votes. It was also created as a voice for the wealthy of the nation.

The House was created with a representative for up to thirty thousand citizens. So this was a nod to the large or heavily populated states since they would dominate the votes in the House. Each state was only guaranteed one Congressman for those small states. The House was generally considered a place for those who were not necessarily of wealth, thus the People's House.

Now at first glance the idea of only classifying men and women as only 3/5ths of a person sounds like the result of glaring racism. However, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. Why did this 3/5ths rule come about?

The Southern, slave holding states, wanted to have each slave counted as a person. This was because at that time there were more slaves in the South than there were free men. By counting the slaves for the House Districting would guarantee the South would dominate the House of Representatives and would be able to push through whatever agenda they wanted.

Most of those from the North in that room were either outright anti-slavery, or leaning strongly that way. What they didn't want was giving the South a free hand in being able to vote every new state that would be added later as a slave state. They hoped to limit the growth of slavery, or even eliminate it. The hostility between the representatives from the North and South during this debate was so hot that they realized it was going to kill the Constitution before it began. To keep the Constitution alive they had to actually write a rule that the very word "slavery" would not be allowed to be spoken during the rest of the Constitutional Convention or in the House or Senate for the next twenty years. They were terrified that if it was spoken the debate would get so hot that the South would pull out and no longer join the new Republic.

The 3/5 rule was a final compromise to keep the Southern Slave states from forever controlling the House, but it gave them a dominant position at first, creating a situation where the Southern States would actually ratify the Constitution and make The United States of America a reality.

The irony, what appears to cast the U. S. Constitution a racist document by classifying African Americans as 3/5ths of a person was actually designed to ultimately keep slavery from spreading and growing in America. Those who held slaves, wanted to continue and grow it as an institution wanted each slave counted as a full person. It was those who wanted to end slavery and curtail it's growth didn't want to count them at all, but settled on 3/5ths.

For us to understand our history, we need to learn more about it than the headlines.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Can You Believe The Federal Government Turning Down Money?

It is hard to believe that there could have ever been a fight about the Federal Government accepting a gift of money, but here is a story of one of those times. Of course in the end they did take it, and anyone who has ever gone to Washington has benefited from it.

A British chemist died in 1835 and willed his fortune to the United States government to "increase the knowledge among men." This estate came from James Smithson, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Northumberland. Smithson's legacy was about a half million dollars, the equivalent of more than ten million dollars today.

President Andrew Jackson and many other American politicians were not in favor of accepting a gift from the son of a British nobleman. It was less than twenty years since the British army had burned Washington D.C. during the War of 1812. The Star Spangled Banner war. Senator John Calhoun spoke for many when he said is was "beneath the dignity of the United States to receive presents of this kind."

However, there was one very prominent American statesman who stood up to advocate acceptance of the gift. Former President John Quincy Adams, son of second President John Adams. He was currently serving as a Congressman from Massachusetts. Through much of his career, Adams had advocated government support of the arts and sciences. He said the country had "an imperious and indispensable obligation" to put Smithson's money to good use. Adams eventually convinced a reluctant Congress to accept the grant, and spent years making sure it was put to good purpose.

After the money was accepted it there was a nearly ten year battle over how to spend it. During that time the government invested it in a shady Arkansas land deal, much of the money was lost, but Adams forced the Congress to replace the fund, thus preserving Smithson's request.

John Quincy Adams may have been the most prepared man to ever fill a post in the government. For those who say that the founders didn't believe in career politics, even looking past that every one of the founders continued in the service of government most of the rest of their lives, no one more so than John Quincy Adams. he started his career in public service at 14 when he was his father's secretary in Paris, then again in Holland. From Holland he was hired away from his father by the Ambassador of Russia and became his secretary. Of course he was the first son of a former president to follow in his father's footstep into the White House. He later came back as a Congressman until he fell to a stroke on the floor of the House. But maybe his greatest legacy is his stewarding of James Smithson's gift, The Smithsonian. You can see James Smithson's tomb today inside the Castle of the Smithsonian on the National Mall.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Each Election Has Long Term Impact.

As we suffer through one of the worst presidents and administrations in generations, if not ever, we hold out hope to throw them out in 2012. I recall conservative friends of mine who didn't believe Obama could cause much damage in one term. I wonder how many think that now?

Each election has consequences, presidential elections have long term consequences long after new administrations have taken their place. Let's look back to Jimmy Carter and his administration that lasted from 1977 through January of 1981.

Jimmy Carter's deficit spending caused the Fed to have to monetize (print) 13% more money to cover it. That 13% when velocitized (put in the market) created 12% inflation, a very high number in American history. This caused Paul Volcker to raise interest rates to 21% to stagnate the economy, pull that extra money out of the marketplace and slow down the inflation. This was all part of the term stagflation where inflation sucked up your buying power while people were out of work or incomes remained flat at best.

During Carter's years the very fabric of life for American families changed forever. Just look at housing prices. In 1975 the average price home in America was about 25,000.00 just slightly higher than they had been since 1960. From 1975 until 1980 the average price went from 25,000.00 to about 50,000.00. The price increases have not slowed down until 2008. Game changer. Let me ask you a question, did the price of real estate skyrocket, or did the value of money shrink? For those who didn't buy and ride the inflation train it was devastating to their net worth. For those who did, they were able to keep more value to their earnings. Just in the last twelve years statistics show that the average homeowner has between 31% and 46% more net worth than does the average renter. Further it is cheaper to own than rent like homes in three quarters of all American cities. So those who didn't own and didn't have that vehicle to stay even with inflation took huge economic hits.

When you have inflation your cost of living skyrockets. To combat this families changed their lifestyles. Mothers who had children at home who went to work to help support their families went from 37% in 1975 to over 70% in 1980. After factoring in the costs of supporting another person working outside of the home, child care, auto costs, clothing, etc. most of the income went to pay the increased taxes on the family. The percentage went as high as 77% but dropped for the first time in 2004 to 73%.

So now we have most children in day care, parents schedules stressed, to pay for more expensive housing along with everything else. If you run studies of pricing, you will see that most of America's inflation started during Carter's years, and we are still paying for it.

Now we have Barack Obama and his Administration, who have increased deficit spending during the first 18 months that has required the Fed to monetize (print) 120% more money, it is just now starting to velocitize to the market place, and we are all seeing almost all of our commodity purchases skyrocketing in price. Who knows were it will go. I have no idea what to tell you do to hedge against this coming inflation, other than if it repeats Carter's history housing might be the best hedge long term.

The best news from the Carter years is that he wasn't able to appoint any Supreme Court Justices, because those judges push agendas for decades to come. Unfortunately Obama has already put in two highly politically active judges to promote his ideology for at least a generation or two. Just one more area of great damage we will have to over come.

If nothing else, hopefully, more Americans will start to understand that Presidential politics are not only for four years, but for generations each.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What's Truly At Stake On Budget Battle

As the politicians in D.C. debate budgets, fighting over a few billion here and there, we here from one side that anything more than a ten billion dollar reduction would cause starvation and draconian consequences. The other is trying for one hundred billion reduction. Both are silly, inconsequential numbers against our 1.7 trillion dollar deficit for just this year.

We are hearing from the Republicans that we will be seeing real deep reductions across the board, not just in discretionary spending in their new budget they will be proposing yet this month. We better hope that they are serious. One thing or sure the Democrats and Unions will be going full court press fighting every dime planned to be reduced.

It is past time for a drastic life saving diet for our Federal government. The patient is critical and without a massive change may well be terminal.

Where are we financially? Is it our national debt, or entitlements that are about to kill us?

Federal Debt: 9.1 Trillion.

Unfunded Social Security: 7.9 Trillion.

Unfunded Medicare: 22.8 Trillion.

Medicaid: 35.3 Trillion.

75% of the budget is non-discretionary and entitlement based.

Just with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security we have $1 trillion deficits. Once dominated by defense spending, these three categories now account for 44% of total Federal spending and are steadily rising. Even after defense and interest payments on the national debt are excluded, remaining discretionary expenses for education, infrastructure, agriculture and housing constitute at most 25% of the 2011 fiscal year federal spending budget of $4 trillion. You could eliminate it all and still wind up with a deficit of nearly $700 billion! The only chance of recapturing our budget is through entitlement reform.

If we pretend that the $65 trillion of entitlement liabilities were fully funded in a “lockbox,” much like Social Security is falsely thought to be. Actually,then the interest expense on the $75 trillion total debt would equal $2.6 trillion, close to the current level of entitlement spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. What do we pay now in interest? About $250 billion. Our annual “lockbox” tab would rise by $2.35 trillion and our deficit would be close to 15% of GDP!

The assumption that we can grow our way out of this debt burden, might be possible if it was only the $9.1 trillion in Federal debt. That would be 65% of GDP and well within reasonable ranges for national debt burdens. However others such as Pete Peterson of the Blackstone Group and Mary Meeker, have shown, the true but unrecorded debt of the U.S. Treasury is not $9.1 trillion or even $11-12 trillion when Agency and Student Loan liabilities are thrown in, but $65 trillion more! This country appears to have an off-balance-sheet, unrecorded debt burden of close to 500%of GDP!

In an article titled "USA Inc" by Mary Meeker, and recommend by Paul Volcker and Michael Bloomberg, said if the USA were a corporation, then it would probably have a negative net worth of $35-40 trillion once our “assets” were properly accounted for. However closely estimated that number might be, no lender would lend to such a corporation. Because if that company had a printing press much like the U.S. to print more money at will, that lender/saver would have to know that unless there were massive entitlement cuts that the loan would be defaulted in at least one of these ways:
1) outright default.
2) By accelerating higher inflation.
3) By a declining dollar, which is happening in front of our eyes.
4) By manipulating policy rates and Treasury yields far below historical levels.

William Gross, founder and manager of PIMCO who manages over 1 trillion dollars in securities has advice for Americans below.

“I sit before you as a representative of a $1.2 trillion money manager, historically bond oriented, that has been selling Treasuries because they have little value within the context of a $75 trillion total debt burden.
Unless entitlements are substantially reformed, I am confident that this country will default on its debt; not in conventional ways, but by picking the pocket of savers via a combination of less observable, yet historically verifiable policies – inflation, currency devaluation and low to negative real interest rates. Our clients, who represent unions, cities, U.S. and global pension funds, foundations, as well as Main Street citizens, do not want to be shortchanged or have their pockets picked. It is incumbent, therefore, in order to preserve the integrity of the U.S. Treasury market along with its favorable global interest rates, and to promote a stable U.S. economy, that entitlement spending be reduced, and that future liabilities be addressed in terms of healthcare and Social Security cost containment. You must attack entitlements and make ‘debt’ a four-letter word.”

William H. Gross

The Republicans promise us that they are going to be serious in reducing or entitlement spending on the budget we will see next month. First of all, let's pray that they are serious. Second, we must all get behind them and help champion these cuts to everyone we know, family, friends, and coworkers, because everyone will have things removed that they want to keep. If the Republicans are defeated, or frighted off from trying to gain control of our deficit spending, our out of control budget, then all will be lost.

This is going to be our generations American Revolution, we are fighting a monster who wants to eat us, we must defeat it and push the debt down.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Should Parents Be Prosecuted If Their Kids Break Laws?

Today, I found that I was compelled to call into a radio talk show. There was a guest host on Carl Brizzi's Crime beat. I normally don't listen to this show, but was out meeting a client and was driving quite a while today. The topic was the shooting at the Middle School in Martinsville, IN yesterday, and if the shooter's parents should be criminally charged for the kid having access to a gun. The overt stupidity of most of the callers enraged me.

Even the so called supporters of gun rights, and personal accountability of the kid, were easily led to a point of prosecuting his parents by the host. It was as if even as a voice over the radio they were terrified of not being politically correct.

First of all, I want to be clear that I do not know the details of this shooting. From what I have heard on the news clips I have heard that a 15 year old boy shot a schoolmate over an ongoing argument. From what I have heard is we don't know for sure where the gun came from. We have heard that another student went to the principle of the school a few days ago warning of talk of this action by the shooter, but was ignored. We have heard that Martinsville School System was made aware of the threat on Facebook, but took steps to protect the High School but not the Jr. High. Who knows which, or if any of this is accurate.

This shooting, just like any, is tragic and frightening to anyone who has kids in school. This blog is in no way diminishing this act of violence. However, the questions being asked and fingers of blame are being directed in the wrong direction.
When I called in my comment was to even discuss charges against the parents is absurd, unless his parents gave him the gun and a pep-talk on attacking another student, they had nothing to do with a willful act by this 15 year old kid.

If you are to hold them accountable for his actions with a gun taken from his parents without permission or their knowledge, then what would we have to do if the weapon of choice was a steak knife out of the kitchen drawer, or a hammer, an awl, or a hand axe out of the garage tool box? The gun is a tool, no different that the above it is the use there of that makes all the difference.

Of course those who want to strip Americans of their 2nd Amendment Rights always parasite onto sad stories like this to try to move their agenda forward. They see these children, both shooter and victim, as pawns to be played to get their way.

Wouldn't it make more sense to look to why the kid devalued human life so that he thought he could resolve their teen issues by killing his rival? Shouldn't we ask the principle if in fact she was warned of this a few days ago and just thought it was kids being kids saying silly stuff? Granted how many of us haven't used the words, "I'm going to kill" so and so? However, in her job of leading a school, it would make sense to call the child who was accused of making such statements and asking some questions at least to find out if he seemed fine and in control of his emotions and thoughts and was just spouting off.

Maybe we should look at our society's constant erosion on the sanctity of human life. Roe v Wade started a slippery slope were human life becomes expendable to convenience. There was another caller who spoke of Mike Pence running for governor of Indiana, but disqualified him by making fun of Mike's belief in a God Created world. Once again, there is a difference when we believe that everyone we look at is one of God's children created in His image, or just an accident of nature of slime morphing into monkeys into your classmate.

John Adams said that our system of government is designed for a religious and moral people, it is completely inadequate for any other kind.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

History Repeating?

We have lost seven trillion dollars of value in our nation's real estate values in the last three years. Banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions have had to be propped up with tax payer money as their portfolios have taken the value hits. Yet we have had 347 banks close since 2008 with 700 more at high risk, while only 11 failed from 2002-2007.

Why? Is it all because people were allowed to buy houses they couldn't afford? Yes and No. Yes, that is what lit the fire, but that was just the kindling, the fire is an accounting system put in place by Congress in 2007 called Mark to Market. In my opinion it took a bubble burst that should have set us back for maybe an eighteen month mild recession and created the second great Depression economically.

It artificially deflated values and continues to drive them down further and further. This started with the foreclosure rates going up 100% due to sub-prime loans. However, keep in mind that 100% represented changing our normal foreclosure rate of 2.5% to 5%. How can an extra 2.5% foreclosure rate create a complete crash of our economy? It was due to Mark to Market that pretends that a financial institution's assets are valued at what they could sell them for that day. When a new price comes in that becomes the new standard. Let's say you live in a stable neighborhood that all homes are valued about 400,000.00 but a neighbor has a gambling problem takes out a 125% mortgage on his home and then blows it in Vegas. The home sells at Sheriff sale for 200,000.00, in the real world it would be an anomaly and no factor in how other homes were valued, but in a Mark to Market world it would set all the others at 200k, at least in the bank's portfolio.

This artificial devaluation is what caused the Toxic Asset cancer that destroyed banks and insurance companies. They have to keep a prescribed balance between outstanding loans, assets, and cash on hand, if they get out of balance the Feds shut them down. Once their asset column took an artificial hit they had to add cash on hand to stay open. At first banks would sell their assets at even further reduced rates to other banks trying to raise cash. Then, because of Mark to Market that new lower price reduced the assets of both banks by setting it as the new mark. Thus Toxic Assets. This caused banks to quit buying each other's assets, shutting down trade. The TARP money that we wondered why the banks were not lending was used to build up their cash on hand to keep the Feds from closing them. The sad part is this was all make believe numbers.

At the beginning it was the sub-prime loans that shouldn't have been made that started it. However, today, that is long past. It is good solid loans that are falling due to the borrowers loss of jobs, loss of equity, loss of incomes even if they still have a job. We are dealing with a real unemployment rate of about 18% when you factor in the number of people who have been unemployed so long as to no longer qualify for unemployment checks. Today, the loss of jobs and loss of equity are what is holding us down.

Since we are in the situation we are in today from our government following the pattern that Franklin Roosevelt used to drive us into a deeper and longer Depression, why not continue to follow his idea of removing us from Mark to Market as he did in 1938 when he came to realize that it was a major factor in the Great Depression and holding us in it. Yes, the last time we used Mark to Market was from the late 20s through 1938, ironic isn't it?

How about this, why not change to a Rolling 5 year average as our mandated accounting system for our financial systems where short term anomalies will not create free falls in the banks? Why are we not at least looking into this?

For more on Mark to Market this is a blog I wrote a couple years ago.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Life Is Too Short To Live Without Passion.

What are you passionate about? Can you define your dream in a sentence? Do you know why you are doing what you are doing every day? Are you excited about what your day holds? Or are you going through the motions, working for Friday, watching the clock, and just working for a paycheck?

Are you working your job or business, or Chasing your Dream? The difference in the two is the magic of life.

Our Creator designed us to be dreamers, "Without a Dream my people perish."

It has always been that most people do not have a dream, or purpose to their lives. Ben Franklin once said that "Most men die at 25 only to be buried at 65." Thoreau said, "Most men live lives of quiet desperation." Most people long ago gave up on their dreams of childhood, maybe because so many people told them to grow up.

I was thinking of this the other day in a conversation with a friend who was talking about trying to find the passion in her kids, trying to find that thing that would light them up. Wanting to get them around other kids of passion who they could feed off of to keep their own fires burning. Of course this makes sense, but as we were speaking the question is don't adults need this association with winners every bit as much? At what age are we no longer influenced positively or negatively by those we associate? As Zig Ziglar calls it SNIOPed, "Susceptible to the Negative Influences of Other People." Of course that answer is we never grow out of this, we are always influenced by those we choose to hang around.

This became even more clear to me as I am rereading "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. While it is a political thriller, that clearly shows the dangers of an overarching government, and a compliant population, it also shows the distinction from the dreamers and drones.

We may believe that we can lift them out of negativity, and into our passion, but in most cases unless you have others who share your passion you will see your own diminish rather than lift the others up.

One log doesn't make a fire. If you take one log and try to light it, you won't have much success. If you build a stack of logs and then build a fire even the biggest log will burn. Once you have a hot fire you can even put a wet log and it will dry and catch fire. However, if you take a log that is burning red hot and take it out of the fire to let it burn by itself it will soon go out.

Find a Dream, find a passion, then nurture it. Find others who are following a similar passion and feed off each other. In the economic climate we have been experiencing far too many people and companies are imitating the turtle pulling back into their shells trying to ride out the danger. They are hunkering down, holding back, hanging on, surviving, hiding in fear, not attacking with passion. It can very much become a habit, how many times have you heard sports analogies where they question if a team can "turn it on," after a lackluster performance.
Zig Ziglar speaks of a lesson he learned as a kid when he went to the neighbor's to see if he could get something to eat from their family's cook. When she brought the pan of biscuits out of the oven they were all flat and burnt. He asked her what happened, her response was "It looks like they squatted to rise, then got cooked in the squat." How many of our friends and associates are those biscuits?

My own journey through this economic malaise was dealing with company after company that was hanging on, some surviving, some not. But there was no talk of "not participating" in the recession. There was no thought of how to thrive instead of just survive. I hated every second of it. That has never been my way of thinking.

When my current employer contacted me, we sat down for lunch, his timing was terrible from a financial point of view. He was offering much less in the short term than where I was, and that was still much less than I was used to, or needed. However, I accepted immediately because it was the first time I had heard someone with a dream, a passion, and a plan in years. I had been telling everyone that there was a historic opportunity available to someone who had the vision and willingness to take the risk. His dream was that very opportunity I had been speaking of for three years. Now once again I can say without hesitation that I am chasing my Dream, and not working my business.

There is nothing more exciting than spending every day seeking those who get excited about getting better, chasing their own visions, being part of a bonfire of passion, and helping them lay out plans to achieve this. This is now my daily world, I can truly say I never work but chase my dream of helping other chase theirs!

Find yours, find like minded people, build a fire of passion in your life and chase that Dream. If you are in a place where dreams have died around you, start looking for an escape. You can do it, you can live the dream.