Nice Job, Glenn!

March 14, 2008

If you read this blog regularly, you have probably noticed a recurring theme: That I am ashamed of the lack of personal accountability shown by my fellow citizens of the United States.

Having said that, here is a really good article by Glenn Beck from “Headline News”:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/03/14/beckfloridamichigan/index.html

It is nicely written and makes some really excellent points… Nice Job, Glenn!

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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.


Lazy, lazy, lazy…

February 26, 2008

By now you have probably noticed that I hardly post anymore… I apologize. Here come the excuses:

1. My dog ate my keyboard.

2. I forgot I had a blog.

3. It is almost that time of the month (hey, if women can use this one, so can I, although I’m not sure what time of the month I would be referring to since I am a guy).

4. Barack Obama’s campaign is dependant on me not posting (hence why I am not posting).

5. Blogs have become very “trendy” and cliche… I am trendsetting by NOT maintaining a blog.

6. My coyote died (this probably only makes sense if you read “The Daily Coyote”).

7. Between writing research papers, case studies, and reading textbooks I simply have too much going on while taking six upper-level graduate classes to post as much as I would like to. < THE REAL REASON >

I hope to get back to the grind once things slow down a little. ‘Til then my posts will be sporadic, at best (kinda like intelligent thoughts from Hillary Clinton).


Is this a joke?

February 1, 2008

Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the city of Akron’s law regarding the ‘cop-in-a-box’ speeding cameras is not unconstitutional. Basically, the law says that if one of these cameras catches you speeding, you are definitely, absolutely going to get a ticket. Anyone ever heard of ‘due-process’?

It gets better:

It doesn’t matter if you were driving… just that it was your car (parents, don’t let your kids drive your car).

Here is a quote from their opinion:

“While the state statute punishes the driver of the vehicle directly, the Akron ordinance imposes a fine on a vehicle’s owner, who may or may not be the driver at the time of the violation. Ultimately regardless of the actor who performs it, the actual conduct prohibited — exceeding speed limits — is the same. When a municipal ordinance does nothing more than prohibit the same conduct prohibited by state statute, there is no conflict between the two.”

You’ve got to be kidding me. If someone steals my car and goes whizzing down the road, I can get a ticket? This almost has to be a joke. What if my girlfriend (or parents) takes my car to the grocery store and speeds past one of these things?

I am dumbfounded by this one. Clearly the ordinance was enacted to make a few bucks off of people who are speeding, and the Supreme Court has no issue with it.

Unreal.

(see the full opinion here http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/Communications_Office/summaries/2008/0131/062265.asp)


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.


The Next Big Credit Crunch

January 25, 2008

Contrary to what the mass media would have you believe, Generation Y has more on its agenda than obsessing over Britney Spears, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Paris Hilton, and Facebook. As a matter of fact, most members of Generation Y in the U.S. will attend college, and many will graduate. Many may even continue on to pursue degrees in medicine, law, or other advanced degrees. Along the way, they will develop their understanding of the world around them, make new friends, and possibly even have a good time while doing it. If they are like most other modern college students, they will also rack up a massive amount of debt.

The Expense

College has become somewhat of a necessity for the modern American youth. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when only the most wealthy, driven, or inquisitive people continued their education following high school, but now almost every child from the ‘middle class’ feels compelled to go to college or risk having no real chance at wealth and the ever foggier definition of ‘success’.

But what is the real value of a college education? Does it guarantee a lucrative job offer? Does it truly improve your earning potential over the duration of your career? If so, how much debt does it justify accruing?

Here are the facts:

The average bachelor’s degree recipient will graduate with between $19,000 and $40,000 in debt. The average graduate student will graduate with an additional $31,700 in debt beyond what they accrued during their undergraduate studies. Law and medical students will graduate with $91,700 in debt on average.

At a local State University, the current tuition rate for a full time undergrad student is $4200 a semester. Add to this the expense of a dorm room and meal plan, and you can add an additional $8000 per year. This totals $16400 per year over an average of 5 years for a total cost of $82000. Ouch. You better hope that the lucrative job offer comes through… but will it?

Law students are an excellent case in point. Many, if not most, will graduate with about $100,000 worth of student loans. Payed back over the course of 25 years at an interest rate of 8%, this amounts to a monthly payment of $771.82 a month… no problem for a newly minted lawyer, right?

Wrong.

The average starting salary for a first year law associate is roughly $46,000 a year. Take out taxes and a 401k contribution and a new lawyer is taking home about $2500 a month. If they plan on starting a family, this could be a real problem. For students who rack up this kind of debt and graduate with a degree in a field like education or the liberal arts, they are screwed.

The Next Credit Meltdown

This all sounds real scary, but most college students aren’t in this position, right?

Wrong again. Look at the facts.

This could be the foundation for an economic crisis larger than the housing crisis that we have been feeling the effects of lately. With so much debt, many of these students will have two options: pay off their student loans and live in an apartment until they are 50, or try to buy a house and start a family. If they go with the latter option, it seems obvious that either the house or the student loans will go into default, and you can bet that both the student loan provider and the bank who owns the mortgage will want their money. Will the government step in with another plan to help Generation Y save their homes? I imagine we will find out in another 10 to 15 years.

‘Ethics’ and ‘Student Loan Provider‘ – Two phrases that don’t belong in the same sentence.

Why hasn’t this issue already been addressed? Because both the schools and the student loan providers stand to benefit from taking advantage of the students.

In mid-2007, a huge scandal involving numerous student loan providers and school officials was exposed. The situation basically involved the student loan providers offering incentives to school financial aid officers for ‘selling’ their loans to students. JPMorgan Chase spent $74,000 wining and dining more than 200 school officials on a cruise ship. They also employed five college student loan officers at the bank while they were still employed at the university. At Columbia University in New York, the head of financial aid was suspended (yes, suspended, not fired) when it was discovered that he had earned $100,000 on stock in a loan company that he regularly recommended to students. The government took measures to ensure that this would be discouraged in the future and to prohibit student loan officers from accepting ‘gifts’ from banks for selling student loans, but the damage had already been done to the countless number of students who had already been sold into loans that they may not have understood or needed. Who are the schools really looking out for, anyway? Shouldn’t they be looking out for what is in the best interest of their students?

In any case, what is done is done. It seems that the legislation that was passed in 2007 was enough to ‘smooth things over’ and get everyone to turn their heads while the future generations of the U.S. are duped into an over-priced education by banks and corrupt university officials looking to make a quick buck. Our politicians will continue to argue about the merits of universal health care and ‘the war against terror’ while Generation Y digs itself into a hole of debt from which there is no escape. Eventually, the misfortune of America’s youth will be the misfortune of America’s economy. Our leaders had better take notice.