Voters say… When the going gets tought, make the going tougher.

March 5, 2008

This post falls somewhere between a political commentary, a rant, and a bunch of angry drivel directed at my fellow Ohioans. As I am sure you already know, Hillary Clinton won the Ohio Democratic Primary yesterday.

With that being said…

I have lived in the state for my entire life. My father has also lived here his whole life. Deep down, I would really, truly like to see Ohio and its citizens do well and prosper, but Ohio has been on a progressive downward spiral since about 1995. If you listen to local radio or read the local Ohio newspapers, all you hear or read is about how everyone is sick of the dwindling economy, stagnant wages, and politicians who don’t seem to care to make any real difference. You would really get the impression that the citizens of Ohio really want things to change for the better. There is, however, one huge problem preventing Ohio from making any headway…

Whenever Ohio’s citizens are presented with an opportunity to change things for the better, they completely blow it. It is as if they are all hell-bent on their own destruction.

Yesterday, the voters of Ohio continued this trend.

NAFTA was passed in January of 1994. Prior to this “free trade agreement”, which was actually more like an incentive for domestic businesses to move their production elsewhere, Ohio’s economy was flourishing… Since NAFTA, Ohio’s economy has progressively (maybe “rapidly” would be more fitting) declined. Why? Ohio’s economy has historically been EXTREMELY dependent on manufacturing. Ohio once had flourishing steel mills, auto manufacturing plants providing good jobs to thousands, and machine shops employing the majority of Ohio’s manufacturing base. After NAFTA, this all went to Mexico.

Many politicians still stand behind this failed trade agreement, justifying their support by citing an increase in the number of U.S. jobs and a lower unemployment rate. When closely examined, the effect on Ohio was devastating. Machine shop jobs that payed upwards of $50,000 a year have been replaced by jobs at Wal-Mart paying $7 an hour. It would seem that the average Ohio citizen doesn’t seem to understand that this is the case, and that NAFTA has been extremely harmful to their way of life… but unsurprisingly, most Ohio citizens do understand the impact of NAFTA, as they have been the people who have had to give up their $50,000/yr. jobs for the $7/hr. jobs.

This fact… the idea that the citizens of Ohio do understand the negative impact of NAFTA… brings me to the point of this post.

HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTED NAFTA. HER HUSBAND WAS NAFTA’S CHAMPION.

She has conveniently said in her campaign that she has always been against NAFTA… what a joke! I can hear her now… “Bill, please, please don’t pass NAFTA”. She is a socialist! She has ALWAYS supported free trade!

Does she really think that the voters of Ohio are dumb enough to believe that crap?!

I was hopeful that Ohio’s voters would see through her double-talk…

I am now convinced that I am either surrounded by masochists or complete idiots.

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Series on Leadership Part 2 – Defining Characteristics

February 1, 2008

In Part 1, some questions were posed regarding what leadership is, what makes a good leader, and whether or not an individual can actually develop and improve their leadership skills (as opposed to a leader being ‘born’ rather than ‘made’).

In Part 2, I hope to move closer to defining leadership by taking a look at what characteristics and qualities make a good leader. Perhaps by listing and examining some of these qualities (which are often easy to observe), it will be easier to define the concept of leadership. As the Series on Leadership progresses, we will examine some of these traits in greater detail.

So what traits do excellent leaders usually possess? A fairly large amount of academic research work has been done on the subject, and most researchers agree on a few characteristics.

Daniel Goleman, author, researcher and co-chair of The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligece in Organizations at Rutgers University, has identified five traits that are commonly noted in research papers on the subject of leadership. They include self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. Broadly, I feel that a strong argument can be made that these traits are the basic necessities for good leaders.

This list, however, is very broad in definition and possibly lacks the clarity and detail necessary to truly define what constitutes each of these ideas. For example, what exactly constitutes empathy, and what qualities make someone who is ’empathetic’ different from someone who is not?

The list is also possibly lacking in other traits that may be crucial to the job of ‘leading’. ‘Trbpublising’ commented in yesterday’s post that critical thinking, along with the ability to communicate clearly and effectively, is an extremely important trait. I would tend to agree. Another is the ability to make quick, snap decisions – while it is important to be able to think things through in a logical, thought out sense, many front line leaders (especially in the military) would indicate that taking your time while making decisions is not always an option, so the ability to rapidly make good decisions is extremely important. The ability to motivate and inspire those around you is another trait that frequently makes the list.

It quickly becomes obvious that there is no real consensus on which traits are vital to good leadership and which are not. Now that we have a basic list of traits, over the next few weeks we will take a look at these traits in greater detail. Again, feel free to list traits, concepts, or ideas that you feel may add to our understanding of the topic.


Series on Leadership Part 1 – What is Leadership?

January 31, 2008

Over the next few months I hope to examine, and hopefully with the help of anyone reading, intend to come to a better understanding of leadership in the modern world.

Why examine leadership? Few issues permeate our daily lives to the extent of the concept of leadership. Everyone is certainly aware of the implications of the next presidential election… few would dispute that the country is in need of better leadership (including myself… I did, however, vote for Bush…twice). Leadership not only plays a part in government and politics, but also our daily lives, whether we work at a manufacturing plant, a school, a hospital, a law firm, or even McDonald’s.

We can all certainly point out bad leaders when we work under them or when we observe them from a distance… but can we use these observations to make ourselves better leaders? More importantly, can we even define what leadership is, or what characteristics make a good or effective leader? Is leading the same as managing? Does the type of leadership that is needed vary from situation to situation?

This is a place to begin to think about what leadership is, what effect it has on our lives, and what we can do to improve ourselves as leaders. Over the next few months I hope to gain a clearer understanding of the idea of ‘leadership’. As the series progresses, please feel free to post your thoughts on the subject.


What will you do with your $600?

January 24, 2008

Well, the deal of the century has almost been closed. Congress has moved one step closer to giving us back $600 that we gave to them earlier this year. Of course, this is part of the well publicized ’emergency economic stimulus package’ that the geniuses in our government have devised to help fix up our failing economy.

What will you do with your $600? That almost covers a new Playstation 3 plus tax. Or, you could spend it on some new work clothes. I guess it could cover a car payment or two for those of you with an auto loan. Or maybe it would be better spent by going out and getting hammered every night next week… I think that is exactly what Congress has been up to if they think that this will bail us out of this economic disaster that they have caused.

Here is an idea… write to your congressman (or woman) and ask him what exactly he is smoking. $600? That is a smack in the face. I don’t think the economy is hurting because the government over-billed us on our taxes last year by $600.

In any case, feel free to post what you will be spending your $600 on. Heck, if we buy enough PS3’s, maybe the problems in the housing market will disappear.


Fed Funds? Discount Rate? Huh?

January 22, 2008

If you have looked at the news today, then you already know that the Federal Reserve announced that it is cutting the Federal Funds Rate from 4.25% to 3.5% and the Discount Rate (window) from 4.75% to 4%. As a matter of fact, you can’t visit yahoo.com, msn.com, cnn.com, or any major news TV station without seeing it, which made me wonder… how many people have the slightest idea what this means?

I’ve got to admit… until last year I had no idea what all of this government mumbo-jumbo meant either. Discount rates? Isn’t that what you get at Wal-Mart or Marc’s? Discount window? Isn’t that what that asshole on the info-mercial keeps trying to sell me at 2:30am?

This post is for anyone who is unsure of what the hell all of these terms mean. I by no means intend to cover all of the implications of this crap, but hopefully this will be insightful enough to make at least a little bit of sense.

The Federal Funds rate is simply the rate at which banks borrow money (funds) from other banks. In order to protect depositors (you and me) from banks lending all of our checking accounts and savings accounts out to other people (and hence us bouncing our checks), the Federal Reserve (the head-honcho bank) requires that banks keep a minimum amount of reserve funds at the Federal Reserve (currently 10%). So here is the deal:

If the bank wants to make a loan but doesn’t have enough reserves without going below their reserve requirement, they can borrow money from another bank with excess reserves at the Federal Reserve (the Fed from here on out). The rate that they will pay for the loan is called the Federal Funds Rate. Basically, the lower the Fed Funds Rate, the easier (cheaper) it is for banks to borrow money from each other to make loans, meet reserve requirements, etc… This has the effect of basically adding additional money to the economy (increases the money supply).

The other rate that was lowered was the discount rate or ‘discount window’. This is the rate at which banks can borrow not from other banks but directly from the Federal Reserve. It is usually about a percentage point higher than the Fed Funds Rate (naturally, the Fed doesn’t want to lend its money to banks, so it is cheaper for banks to borrow from each other).

You will hear these rates referred to as monetary targets for open market operations. Open market operations are simply the means by which the Fed controls the supply of money in the economy.

Note:

When these two key interest rates are low, it often signals ‘easy money’, and can lead to inflation. When inflation is high, the Fed usually raises these two key interest rates in an effort to ‘cool’ the overheating economy. When economic growth is low (like what we are seeing in the economy presently), the Fed will lower interest rates in an effort to make funds easier to obtain, hence stimulating a slow economy.

Here is the catch… what do you do if the economy is slow and inflation is high?

Think about it…