Friday, December 23, 2011

The Way Things Start is Usually the Way Things End

Business relationships are usually at their easiest, their friendliest, their lowest friction, in the beginning.

People tend to be on their best behavior then. People are exploring the potential partner's thoughts and beliefs, and know their own are being probed as well. People tend to be focused on what they can gain from the relationship, and what they must give. And they normally do it cautiously.

If there is conflict at this stage, it is a clear warning of what most likely lies ahead.

This lesson was probably most clearly pointed out to me several years ago during the negotiation of a share purchase in another company -- a partnership. The target firm needed cash, and we were looking for geographic expansion -- it looked like a natural fit. We needed the owners to stay with the business, and they were keeping half the stock, so it seemed like the arrangement should work. The first round of discussions went fairly well -- but I got significant push-back when the subject of salaries came up.

When you own your own business, you set your salary. There were two owners in the business, and neither of them had paid themselves very much over the last several years. When I suggested a market-based salary for the both of them, their loss of control over their pay immediately became an issue.

Through several additional meetings, it became clear that "market" to them meant an outrageously high number they heard whispered by the owner of a similar business. I produced data, they resisted. The dispute took the investment agreement to the brink of dissolution.

It should have been a warning. But, alas, I was going to have to learn this lesson the hard way.

Rather than tabling the deal, I pushed forward. I developed counter arguments, more data, and ultimately compromised, giving them most of what they wanted.

It was a mistake.

Over the next ten years, the same pattern was repeated over and over in a tumultuous relationship that ultimately ended up with one owner quitting, one being fired, and the business going into serious decline. The conflict orientation the two owners had shown in those first few meetings played out over and over again on variety of subjects. It was the conflict, more than any other factor, that caused us to fail to make the kinds of improvements originally envisioned when the deal was cut. Conflict that undercut trust.

My advice? If the relationship starts bad, no matter how theoretically attractive the project/deal is, drop it. The way things start is usually the way they end.

If you enjoy my blog posts, check out my novels: Leverage and Incentivize.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't Get Sucked in by that Sexy Idea

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been sucked in by a cool-sounding idea. They tend to float past at just the moment you think you need them. When a brilliant move will extend your already great reputation. Or when their successful implementation will save you from a problem you're struggling with.

Caveat Emptor -- While the idea might not necessarily be bad, your ability to rationally and dispassionately evaluate it probably is.

Yes, I've made this mistake. More than once.

The problem is the "want" and "need" aspect. When we want or need a success, we are pre-disposed to ignore contrary arguments, brush aside risks, listen to advocates, and vilify critics.

Watch particularly for the last category. You'll find yourself saying things like: "She's not a team player." or "He's always so negative." Remember -- it takes guts to oppose. Agreeing is the easier path. When someone criticizes a direction or path, there's usually a good reason for it.

One of my former associates used to say: "I love it when the facts and my pre-conceived notions come together". Just make sure when they do, it isn't wishful thinking, and the seduction of a sexy idea driving the convergence.

If you find my blogs interesting, you might enjoy my novels. Check out Leverage and Incentivize.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How much "New" is too much?

American corporate culture celebrates the new, the radical, and the innovative. In our lifetimes, we've seen some incredibly ambitious projects roll to success -- projects following the "go for broke" theme. Things like the personal computer, the Apollo program, amazing medical advances, and many many more innovations. We love being pleasantly surprised by that new device that rocks our world, and so we love hearing about positive progressive change -- even if we're not personally the type of person to immediately adopt the latest and greatest.

But is going for broke the best way? Or are we focusing on the few winners, and ignoring the many losers in this game? Should we swing for a home run with every pitch, or would it be better to try for singles?

On the broad playing field of countries and cultures, the answer isn't clear. Radical innovation and ambitious projects have served America and American companies well -- resulting in irregular fits and starts in particular firms or industries, but in overall steady progress. The often-sited norm in Japan -- that of smaller, steady, incremental gains, also seems to have allowed their companies to succeed on the world playing field. In some years one process may appear to work better than the other, but over longer time horizons, the approaches seem to be about even.

When we look at the micro level -- at the circumstances surrounding those engaging in the projects -- the picture is radically different. The big-bang method produces a few spectacular successes, but many more failures than the incremental approach. That means if you are an innovator, project leader, or investor in organizations engaged is such projects, your chances of ending up on the losing end of the process is much higher. The hero of my novel, LEVERAGE, plunges into a murder investigation where his experience and skills ill equip him for the work. It is all "new" to him, but he blunders ahead hoping for his "home run". The results are predictable.

I'm not advocating only engaging in small incremental change projects either. They tend to distract you, pull your focus in many different directions, and make life very complicated. And they aren't nearly as fun or as inspiring.

As in many areas of life, there is a golden mean.

My rule of thumb, learned through many experiences of success and failure on projects, is never try to innovate significantly along more than two dimensions. A new product is a great project, it has only one "new" dimension. Make it a new product for a new market -- and you're pushing it. New product, new market, new manufacturing process -- you're courting disaster. You get the picture.

Imagine you have only a ten percent chance of a failure along any of your "new" innovation dimensions. With only one "new" dimension, your chances of success are 90%. If you introduce two "new" dimensions, the chances drop to 81% (90% times 90%). Add another "new" dimension, and the odds of success on the project drop to 73%.

And let's face it, our ability to accurately assess the chances of success at the outset aren't all that great. I've always had a chronic bias to underestimate risks. I suspect most other people do as well.

So spend a little time thinking about the "new" dimensions in your innovative project, and assess the chances of failure along each of these. Then double that estimate to counter your natural bias (or whatever factor your personal history suggests is reasonable). If you're happy with the resulting odds -- go for it. But you just might need to consider a safer and more incremental approach.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Before the Project Becomes Yours

Ever "inherit" a project? Ever inherit one where the expectations seem unrealistic? Or just plain crazy?

Yeah, I've had a few of those, too.

So what do you do? Your boss calls the project as an "opportunity" for you to show your stuff? It's a vote of confidence. Or is it? Could you be the scapegoat being positioned to take the blame for someone else's brain fart?

Or perhaps while the expectations may look high, you agree it's a noble endeavor -- good for the company, that is.

But is it good for you?

Maybe. But maybe not. It all depends on what you do. And what you do never matters more than what you do when you first take the reins.

What are the choices?

You could dive right in and start problem solving -- that's probably your natural reaction. It certainly was mine. The usual rationalization is there's no time to waste, or that you can learn what is going on best by doing, digging, and responding.

You could review status, testing the resource levels versus the targets. Checking to make sure the right people are deployed in the right roles. You could develop a new pathway to a successful project end. This is a useful step, but not where I recommend you start.

Before the project becomes yours, you should review the justification. Review the project documents. The write ups, the financial analysis, the presentations. Test and evaluate the underlying assumptions. There is no more important place to start than here. Why? Because I've observed that the vast majority of projects are already successes or failures BEFORE they are started.

Someone in senior management wants to do something (for example: open a new plant, or maybe close an old one). Do you think they waited for a thorough analysis to support their desired project? Most don't. And even if they do, they, or at least their staffs, already know what the "right" answer is. They often bend and twist the analysis to support their preconceived outcome. I've seen it happen over and over again. Conversely, the number of times I've seen objective analysis drive the decision (without the pre-existing prejudice) could be counted on two hands.

If you're inheriting the project, it probably comes complete with such assumptions -- ones that aren't particularly realistic or well founded. And if you don't raise the red flag early and often, they will become your assumptions. You will own them, too.

So what do you do? Test every assumption, especially the ones that look risky. Bring up your concerns with bosses at every opportunity. Call foul if you can. Better to say -- "This project is never going to pay off" on day two, rather then being assessed as a failure on day two hundred.

Of course, you have to play politics as you do this. If you just inherited your boss'es pet project, and he drove all those crazy assumptions, your hands will be at least partially tied. But do what you can to protect yourself and your reputation from the faulty project

And remember -- silence is viewed as agreement. Always.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Express Concerns until Success is Assured...

I once had a guy who worked for me, say: "This project is the best one we've ever done". He made this statement to our CEO during a review meeting.

I silently cringed when I heard this -- not because the execution of the project hadn't been pretty good up to this point -- but instead, because he was just setting himself up for huge criticism if even the smallest thing went wrong. At the same time was getting very little credit for the brag -- an eye-roll over his stupidity, rather than an 'atta boy.

This incident helped me learn an important work lesson -- it is safer and more prudent to raise issues about any project or activity going on within your area of responsibility, than it is to communicate any certainty of success. There are several reasons for this.
  • Until the project is at its end, unexpected things can happen to derail success. You are better off having people recognize there are risks, than for them to be counting on an easy win. Call it the psychology of disappointment -- it is better to be a last minute hero.
  • If it doesn't look a little bit like a struggle, then you won't get as much credit. Overcoming significant obstacles is more highly valued than cruising across easy finish lines. Perhaps unfair, but definitely human nature.
  • It gives you a platform to show off your thinking and managing skills. Issue -- analysis -- action. Management loves to see this process self-initiated by an employee. Just remember not to stop at the Issue stage.
Yes, there are downsides -- you will often get help you don't want. Sometimes there will be suggestions from higher up that you know won't work. Often, senior intervention will be clever, but the timing will be bad, causing you to back up and redo something already put to bed. There might a resource assigned that will make the task more difficult, rather than easier. You could even lose the project if you overplay your hand. That's why you should use this technique with a light touch. Use it sparingly, but use it. And never, never, ever brag about work still in progress.

So what happened to the guy and his project? He ran into problems from an unexpected angle soon after making this statement. The problems added huge complexity to the project, increasing costs and delaying it significantly. Eventually the project had to be abandoned. And the CEO brought up the statement made in that review meeting regularly until the employee eventually left the company a couple of years later. It was the impression stuck in his head about the employee -- not the impression you want to make...

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Published today 11/13/11.

I published INCENTIVIZE, A Corporate Thriller, today. It is the story of a young auditor who is sent to Africa to validate copper reserves in a corporate mining operation and discovers "Irregularities". The heroine becomes a target, while a corporate attorney continues to investigate what she started.

And what is it that they're up to anyway?

Read Incentivize to find out.

You can find INCENTIVIZE through the book's website at:

or purchase directly at CreateSpace (paperback):
or at Smashwords (various electronic versions):

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Corporate Blues

The recent publication of LEVERAGE has given me an opportunity to meet and talk with quite a few people I haven't connected with in a while. Most of these friends continue to slog away at the corporate grist mills.

But I've sensed a common theme: A lot of pent up frustration.

The current job market -- a hirer's market -- has created some interesting dynamics. Managers realize their subordinates are not as mobile as they were a few years ago, and some are taking advantage of the situation. They are clamping down on liberal work practices, pushing their employees harder, and generally giving a "take it or leave it" message.

In short, they appear to be exercising their power. Perhaps not consciously, but for an increasingly large number of friends, work doesn't appear to be fun anymore. And the impacts are clear on the faces and in the voices of many of the people I talked to. They are unhappy. They are dissatisfied. They are marking time.

When things improve, many will change jobs. A few will change careers.

Not everyone can do what I did and exit the corporate world. It takes a solid safety net, or a lot of guts to do so (I went the safety net route). But I believe there are more disillusioned workers out there than ever, and more people dreaming about getting out. And where there's a will, often a way can be found.

So here's my advice to those restless souls -- the same advice I received.

Spend a few minutes each day thinking about where you want to be in ten or even twenty years. Not with just your career -- with your life. This is needs to be a deep examination, and don't be afraid to say "I don't know". Think about options, opportunities, and alternatives. Keep the blinders off. Consider being a vagabond, fishing guide, counselor, teacher, artist, or anything else you've ever wishfully contemplated. But now give those wishes a real voice.

Write out where you've been, and study it. Is that direction going to get you where you want to go? Or is it the wrong trajectory? What could you do to change it? Or should you just start over on a new one?

If a change makes sense, when could you start? Could you take a year sabbatical to explore your options? How about a month? Even if you have to explore them concurrently with your current job, plan it out and design a real examination -- one where you can really see if the direction makes sense for you.

Just don't consign yourself to living the rest of your work-life as a corporate cog. There are alternatives to the corporate blues.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Fairness Police

Anyone who has been a manager, or the parent to more than one child, has had their turn acting as the "fairness" officer. Over many years of management and parenting, I've come to the conclusion that the concept of "fair" is perhaps our most dangerous concept. This is because "fair" depends on your perspective. "Fair" is subjective. And "fair" is a standard where humans cannot possibly measure up.

Let me just remind us all of something we've heard since childhood -- life isn't fair.

Is it fair that one person has a job and another doesn't? Is it fair that someone was born into wealth, and you weren't? Is it fair that one child gets a pink slinky, while the other has to suffer with a purple one (a current real life example here at home)? It all depends on your perspective.

These issues permeate our culture. You can see it going on in current events right now. Is it fair that half of the population pays no income tax? Is it fair that Warren Buffett pays only 17% income tax? Is it fair that some people get huge bonuses working on Wall Street even as the banking system is falling apart? Is it fair that some people can only get a temp job? Is it fair that you can get any job? Is it fair that the government had to step in and provide funds for TARP? Is it fair the government doesn't provide a free college education to everyone? Or to just citizens?

Remember -- life fundamentally isn't fair.

I submit to you that the fairness argument has no legitimate place in any of these situations. Forget about fair. Your idea of fair is different from the next person's. Fairness leads to unworkable ideas and proposals. Fairness leads to measuring your gains (or losses) against everyone else, looking for the unfavorable (unfair) comparison. Fairness seeking leads to envy, jealousy and unhappiness.

Life isn't fair.

So my proposal -- forget about fairness. Measure your life and circumstances in absolute terms. Do you have what you need? Are you happy with your choices? Can you make things better for yourself or someone you care about? If you're in good shape yourself, can you derive satisfaction from helping someone else? Continually looking for someone who's got it better, easier, etc., will just make you unhappy.

Life isn't fair, and it never will be.

So take joy in your own accomplishments. Strive to be better every day. Make a positive impact on others. Be practical. And stop wasting your time worrying about others who have more/better/easier than you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Illegal Immigration

Generally speaking, I've avoided blogging on political subjects, but this one I can no longer ignore. I read in the paper this morning (yesterday's paper, actually -- current news is sometimes a casualty of country living) that over the weekend both Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann spoke out on the subject of illegal immigration.

Cain wanted to electrify the (mostly non-existent) border fence at a lethal level, potentially killing those attempting to get into the U.S.. Or, he offered as an alternative, the National Guard could just shoot them.

Bachmann railed against the "illegality" of immigrant's entry into the U.S. (an argument I've heard a lot, which usually starts with "What is it about illegal they don't understand..."), and wants to build a "secure double fence", whatever that is.

Folks, I just don't understand the (apparent) conservative position on this subject at all. And I've been a conservative voter all my life!

There are approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Most of these are Hispanic, with the largest group coming from Mexico. Why do they come to the U.S. despite the obvious dangers? Economic opportunity, combined with a sentence of horrible poverty in their home country. If you want to get a sense of the desperation faced by these people, spend a little time in an underdeveloped country. I have, and it is truly eye-opening. These immigrants aren't poor because they're lazy or stupid, and are looking for a "free ride" -- they lack a chance! There are minds equivalent to today's Nobel prize winners trapped in the bush somewhere because they have NO WAY to improve their lot. Most of the European immigrants coming to the United States in prior centuries arrived for similar reasons.

I don't find it odd that these immigrants want to enter the U.S., but it still must be a frightening undertaking. In fact, you might generally characterize illegal immigrants as brave, bold and willing to take a chance to better themselves -- the kind of people we would want in our country. And the legality or illegality of crossing a border, when compared to permanent punishing poverty in their home country probably represents little more than a speed-bump. If you are willing to abandon family, culture, and language (eventually), for opportunity, what does the often flaunted U.S. law on immigration matter? It's just another risk to be dealt with.

I think most illegal immigrants would enter the United States legally, however, if there was ever any hope of them getting a visa to do so. The chances of them obtaining one are about as good as you or I hitting the lottery.

U.S. legal immigration policies are a part of this equation. Over the previous decade, the United States permitted roughly 1 million people to annually enter the country legally -- 700 thousand if you subtract those leaving. That number equals approximately 0.2% population growth per year, hardly a large percentage. Of these, approximately 1/3 are from Hispanic countries. The inflow of illegals is twice this level. This looks like basic economics to me -- unmet demand (a shortage of domestic candidates for low skilled jobs), and artificially constrained supply (not enough legal immigrants allowed to enter the U.S.) creates the temptation for people to enter the United States illegally.

Overall economic impact is hard to assess, when it comes to illegal immigrants. There appear to be opinions across the board ranging from those who tally up only costs (education for children -- many of whom are U.S. born, and rightfully citizens -- government services, and criminal justice), to those who make theoretical arguments that Social Security would be insolvent without the payments of illegal aliens -- payments which will never be claimed in benefits.

I put my stock in the near-consensus opinion of economists. In a 2006 survey by the Wall Street Journal, 46 noted economists were asked if illegal immigrants had an overall positive or negative impact on the U.S. economy. All but two believed the net impact was positive.

Is illegal immigration then a victim-less crime?

Not completely. There are some citizens who will suffer as a result of illegal immigration. A person injured in a car accident where the fault lies with an illegal immigrant. The victim of a crime committed by an illegal immigrant. And there is evidence that the availability of an illegal immigrant workforce does depress wage levels slightly in some low skill job classifications.

But on balance, I don't believe illegal immigrants are the "problem" many people make them out to be. And there are other uglier explanations for anti-immigrant attitudes. Things like fear of loss of political power, concerns over "sharing the pie" (although most economists will tell you population growth causes the pie to get bigger), or perhaps xenophobia.

So what's the solution? Certainly it isn't rounding up 11 million illegal immigrants and shipping them back to their country of origin. That would be inhumane in the extreme, in addition to being completely impractical. How can there be any other solution than to provide a path to eventual citizenship for these people?

As to border control -- I can't support Cain's plan to electrify the (mostly non-existent) fence, and or shoot anyone who wants to enter. I could support tighter border controls, but in conjunction with a more liberal (yikes, did I really use that word?) legal immigration policy which gives those living with the prospect of permanent poverty a realistic chance to enter the U.S.

None of my ideas, however, will counter the potential loss of political power of conservatives. Let's face it, the democratic party has done a good job making themselves the friends of immigrants, something the Republicans should ponder a bit. And it might mean we will continue to see more dual language signs, instructions, and the like -- a small price to pay for economic growth, IMHO. And, there is nothing in my thoughts to pacify outright racism, although I don't believe that motive deserves any pacification.

So, my conservative friends -- let's hear your arguments. Tell me where I've got it wrong.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't rely only on your own observations

Some people can quickly assess others. Some take a long time to get a clear picture. Many more think they can make a quick judgment, but are often wrong.

One place where the chances run particularly high that we will "get it wrong" is during the interview process.

In interviews, the normal reality is for the candidate to be in hardcore sales mode. "Doing your homework" as a job candidate means understanding what the company is looking for, and trying to "morph" your education, experience, and personality into the required mold. If you can make yourself into an ideal candidate, then at least you get to make the call when it comes time to take or reject the job.

Doing this is probably in the best interests of the candidate, and as a result, I don't fault them for trying. The downside is, of course, many people end up in companies and positions that aren't well suited to them.

Why does this happen?

Because candidates don't recognize and/or accept the implicit responsibility they are taking on when "morphing" for interviews -- they don't make good judgments when it comes to fit with the company. By "morphing", the candidate must take responsibility to assess fit. After all, the company can't do it -- you're not really letting them know who you are.

And even when the candidates accept the theoretical responsibility for assessing their fit, the don't execute it very well.

Candidates often see what they want to see, or look only for the things that were missing from their last job. And they systematically rely on their own observations alone, rarely asking for outside opinions or information.

So here's a wild idea -- why don't candidates ask to see references from employers? Why not check social media to find out what their bosses and coworkers will really be like? Why not independently track down former employees and ask them why they left, and what the environment was really like? The companies check candidate's backgrounds of employees, so why not the other way around?

Had I done this, I would have avoided a couple of difficult employers/positions during my career, and the resultant pile of angst, discomfort and agitation. I would have wasted less time, and disrupted the lives of my families a lot less.

So here is a modest proposal -- you as a candidate have as much obligation to check out potential employer, boss and coworkers, as they have to check out you. Perhaps more so, if you are doing the typical "morph" stuff during the interview process. So make sure you do it, and turn down opportunities where there is poor fit.

Friday, September 30, 2011

More Cover Art Conundrums

I've begged for help before on this subject, and have already been rescued on the cover of DELIVERABLES by Tod Foley (see the new cover for that novel near the bottom of this post).

A twitter acquaintance responded with two proposals for the INCENTIVIZE cover. They are shown here:

Just as a reminder, the working cover prior to these was, as the twitter marketing guy said, "more like a report cover than the front of a thriller". It it is shown here:

So which what is the best choice? Please help me decide...

As a reminder, INCENTIVIZE is the story of a young woman who is abducted in a harsh desert area of East Africa and ends up in the hands of mercenaries, and then later, a warlord in Mogadishu, Somalia. I think both new concepts correctly capture this idea -- there are armed men, desert, camels, harsh sunlight, and even a volcanically active area like Yellowstone. My cover only captured the "Yellowstone-esque" concept, but if you just like mine better, feel free to vote for it!

And the new cover for DELIVERABLES is below:
My thanks Tod, this is much better than I what I had before!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Examine the Whole Picture when Job Hopping

This lesson is one I personally learned, rather than something pointed out to me by another or discovered from watching someone else's implosion. Here is the basic concept...

When you change jobs, don't focus exclusively on those items which seemed to be "missing" from your last position. If you do that, you will most likely trade one set of unfavorable characteristics for another.

One of the jobs I worked during my career was with a company which had a very aggressive management style -- one which I grew to despise. The style included screaming and yelling during most meetings with senior management, which didn't fit with my personal beliefs of how to treat or motivate others at all. And as a pretty non-confrontational person, it really stressed me out. Unfortunately, there was no exemption for good performance, just a slight reduction in decibel levels.

So what I inevitably did when moving to my next position was to look for the absence of that aggressiveness. I wanted a place where there was little to no shouting, or any other overt confrontation. And after a little looking around, I found it.

All sounds peachy, right? It didn't turn out that way.

Okay, here is what I missed. One of the things I really appreciated about my old employer (which I didn't fully recognize until I was ensconced in my new position) was the clarity of goals and the analytical approach to setting them and measuring performance. You always knew where you stood.

The new employer had very unclear goals and targets, which seemed to present a constantly moving target. There were many unclear, unspoken criteria for judgment -- known in sarcastically as "management by hinting-around" -- which tended to polarize the staff and make the company exceptionally political for an organization of its size.

Had I been a bit more complete in my strategy, I would have been willing to accept a more aggressive employer in exchange for a less political and more straightforward criteria for judging success and failure.

Admittedly this is an example of hindsight being twenty-twenty. It is definitely difficult to do on two fronts -- first, it is a lot easier to recognize what you don't like than what you do like; and second, understanding likes and dislikes requires a fairly thorough knowledge of self. For me, that understanding didn't come until mid-life, after banging my head against the proverbial wall repeatedly.

I'm sure there are better learners out there than I was, but it seems to me most of the people I meet on the management ladder are much more focused on trying to hammer themselves into the round hole (no matter how many sharp corners they have) than in really finding work and an employer that fit with who they are.

The main protagonist in my novel, LEVERAGE ( goes through this same learning process while in the midst of solving a murder. Ultimately, he discovers that corporate life isn't really for him, a realization many people make late in their careers.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Guest Post - East Africa Famine

Today I have a guest post from a friend of a friend, who is delivering a call to action on the food crisis in East Africa. Please read and lend you support.


Guest Blogger: Sarah Lenssen from #Ask5for5

Family photos by Mike Fiechtner Photography

Thank you Tom and nearly 150 other bloggers from around the world for allowing me to share a story with you today, during Social Media Week.

A hungry child in East Africa can't wait. Her hunger consumes her while we decide if we'll respond and save her life. In Somalia, children are stumbling along for days, even weeks, on dangerous roads and with empty stomachs in search of food and water. Their crops failed for the third year in a row. All their animals died. They lost everything. Thousands are dying along the road before they find help in refugee camps.

At my house, when my three children are hungry, they wait minutes for food, maybe an hour if dinner is approaching. Children affected by the food crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia aren't so lucky. Did you know that the worst drought in 60 years is ravaging whole countries right now, as you read this? Famine, a term not used lightly, has been declared in Somalia. This is the world's first famine in 20 years.12.4 million people are in need of emergency assistance and over 29,000 children have died in the last three months alone. A child is dying every 5 minutes. It it estimated that 750,000 people could die before this famine is over. Take a moment and let that settle in.

The media plays a major role in disasters. They have the power to draw the attention of society to respond--or not. Unfortunately, this horrific disaster has become merely a footnote in most national media outlets. News of the U.S. national debt squabble and the latest celebrity's baby bump dominate headlines. That is why I am thrilled that nearly 150 bloggers from all over the world are joining together today to use the power of social media to make their own headlines; to share the urgent need of the almost forgotten with their blog readers. Humans have the capacity to care deeply for those who are suffering, but in a situation like this when the numbers are too huge to grasp and the people so far away, we often feel like the little we can do will be a drop in the ocean, and don't do anything at all.

When news of the famine first hit the news in late July, I selfishly avoided it. I didn't want to read about it or hear about it because I knew I would feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. I wanted to protect myself. I knew I would need to do something if I knew what was really happening. You see, this food crisis is personal. I have a 4-year-old son and a 1 yr-old daughter who were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought. If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother's hungry child?

My friend and World Vision staffer, Jon Warren, was recently in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya--the largest refugee camp in the world with over 400,000 people. He told me the story of Isnino Siyat, 22, a mother who walked for 10 days and nights with her husband, 1 yr-old-baby, Suleiman, and 4 yr.-old son Adan Hussein, fleeing the drought in Somalia. When she arrived at Dadaab, she built the family a shelter with borrowed materials while carrying her baby on her back. Even her dress is borrowed. As she sat in the shelter on her second night in camp she told Jon, "I left because of hunger. It is a very horrible drought which finished both our livestock and our farm." The family lost their 5 cows and 10 goats one by one over 3 months, as grazing lands dried up. "We don't have enough food now...our food is finished. I am really worried about the future of my children and myself if the situation continues."

Will you help a child like Baby Suleiman? Ask5for5 is a dream built upon the belief that you will.

That something I knew I would need to do became a campaign called #Ask5for5 to raise awareness and funds for famine and drought victims. The concept is simple, give $5 and ask five of your friends to give $5, and then they each ask five of their friends to give $5 and so on--in nine generations of 5x5x5...we could raise $2.4 Million! In one month, over 750 people have donated over $25,000! I set up a fundraiser at See Your Impact and 100% of the funds will go to World Vision, an organization that has been fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa for decades and will continue long after this famine has ended. Donations can multiply up to 5 times in impact by government grants to
help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support,
healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families suffering in the Horn.

I need you to help me save lives. It's so so simple; here's what you need to do:

  1. Donate $5 or more on this page (

  2. Send an email to your friends and ask them to join us.

  3. Share #Ask5for5 on Facebook and Twitter!

I'm looking for another 100 bloggers to share this post on their blogs throughout Social Media Week. Email me at if you're interested in participating this week.

A hungry child doesn't wait. She doesn't wait for us to finish the other things on our to-do list, or get to it next month when we might have a little more money to give. She doesn't wait for us to decide if she's important enough to deserve a response. She will only wait as long as her weakened little body will hold on...please respond now and help save her life. Ask 5 for 5.

Thank you on behalf of all of those who will be helped--you are saving lives and changing history.

p.s. Please don't move on to the next website before you donate and email your friends right now. It only takes 5 minutes and just $5, and if you're life is busy like mine, you probably won't get back to it later. Let's not be a generation that ignores hundreds of thousands of starving people, instead let's leave a legacy of compassion. You have the opportunity to save a life today!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sometimes in business, you have to eat your own children

This piece of advice was offered to me by one of my many bosses. And while the notion "eating our own children" sounds bizarre, or perhaps even a little comical (and knowing this boss, it was meant to be comical), there is wisdom in the underlying message.

The point of this lesson is: We become overly attached to our own ideas, and we have to be willing to let them go, or even be proactive in destroying them in favor of the next great thing.

I remember a book I read a few years ago (years after I learned this lesson) which nicely illustrated an aspect of this idea. The book was Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma". In it, Christensen gave us example after example of companies that became highly attached to specific products, technologies, market channels, and ways of doing things. Those products, technologies, market channels and ways of doing things served the companies well -- sometimes for generations. In a sense, they became the sacred bedrock on which the companies operated. Or, you could think of them as the company's "children".

In more of a micro-cosmic way, the same thing happens with each of us. We become attached to those behaviors which seem to work, and avoid those which don't, getting stuck in our own ruts. Those beliefs become like "children" to us -- magical formulas for success. But like the larger corporation, we often cling to those magic formulas long after they cease to work.

So why "eat your children"? As my former boss used to say -- it is better to eat them yourself, than have them eaten by others.

Discarding old ideas and embracing what is new and innovative launches us into a process of renewal and re-invigoration. If we are on the lookout for the pitfall of becoming comfortable with, or even loving our "children", we can avoid the painful disasters that comes from clinging to outdated ideas, products, technologies or channels.

To find my novels, follow the link below:

To read my blog on Corporate politics, follow the link below:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What were you doing 9/11/01?

I'm sure everyone remembers what they were doing on that fateful day -- just like my parent's generation all remembered what was happening in their lives when they learned of Kennedy's assassination. My story has a surreal element to it, and I thought I would share it after ten years of silence.

I arrived at my office around seven that morning. The day was going to be full -- I had a negotiation scheduled with a board member of our Saudi Arabian Licensee that day, and I expected it to take all morning. John was his name -- an American from Memphis, who was a trusted adviser to the family owning the company we'd partnered with in the Kingdom nearly two decades before.

I was hurrying that morning, trying to take care of apile of issues and items sitting on my desk, before driving over to corporate headquarters and the meeting. But I was running late -- I rushed to get out the door for a twenty-five minute drive, but only had fifteen minutes to get there.

Just before I left my phone rang. I answered, and heard the manager of our IT group, Mike, on the line.

"A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center," he said.
"What?" I asked, not comprehending.

I couldn't quite grasp the situation. For some reason I assumed it was a small private aircraft, which had somehow flown too close to the massive WTC towers. I thanked Mike, hung up the phone, and ran for the door. Driving to corporate headquarters, I didn't give the incident another thought.

When I arrived, however, I found John and several of our company's senior managers sitting in the operations center, watching CNN on the large screen TV as the tragic events of the day unfolded. I saw the second plane smashed into the south tower, saw the aftermath of the crash at the pentagon, and saw -- with horror -- both the twin towers fall.

The news already had information about the suspected terrorists, and even if the finger hadn't already been pointed at Saudi citizens, it would have been impossible for us to conduct the negotiations. We sat glued to the television coverage, our business dealings seeming so small compared to the disaster in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC.

Later that afternoon, I arranged for a car to drive John part way back to Memphis. I stayed at Corporate Headquarters, continuing to watch news coverage, and caught sight of Air Force One as it approached Offutt Air Force base in Nebraska, bringing the president to Strategic Air Command headquarters. It seemed as if the world I had known all my life had suddenly ceased to exist -- or, perhaps, everything up to now had been just an illusion, stripped away in the moments of those horrifying disasters.

A few months later, I traveled to Germany and met with the Saudi partners to try to finish our license renegotiation. I was shocked to hear the elder Saudi brother explain to me how the disaster in New York was nothing but an elaborate Israeli plot to frame-up the Arab world. He stated he had it on good authority that Jewish employees working at the twin towers had all received phone calls that morning, telling them not to go to work. He explained how the media in the west was acting as a servant to Israeli interests and suppressing the truth.

I sat in shock and disbelief. The story was so preposterous -- that thousands of people would successfully conspire to keep something like he described a secret -- it was beyond crazy. The man was a very successful business person -- educated in London -- and well traveled. Yet, I could tell he believed everything he said from the depths of his soul. That was the first time I recognized just how vast the cultural gulf really was.

In the end, we decided to go our separate ways from our licensee, which brought us into conflict even more as they stole our technology and proceeded to compete against us in the marketplace -- but that's a different story.

So, that's my tale of where I was on 9/11. Where were you?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cover Art -- Part 2

I received some good input on my last request, and have narrowed my choices on the INCENTIVIZE Cover to two (neither of the other designs received a single vote!). However, a friend provided an alternative cover design for DELIVERABLES! So now I have two versions of it as well.

Oh, what to do? Again, all opinions welcome.

These are the cover alternatives for INCENTIVIZE:

And now here are the two alternatives for DELIVERABLES:

Details on the subject matter of each novel can be found a couple of posts down, should you wish to consult it.

So which ones? I am completely unsure about which way to go.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Stop Coddling the Super Rich

A couple of weeks ago, Warren Buffett offered up a NY Times Op-ed piece on the tax system titled "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich". If you haven't read it, you can find it here.

Since it's appearance, I've read a lot of harsh comments in the newspapers and online. Class warfare kind of stuff.

As a former corporate employee, a current business owner, and a once middle-class taxpayer who now meets the president's definition of "rich", I feel as qualified as anyone to comment.

First some good points about Buffett's article:
  • We do have a budget problem that is likely to be solved only by a combination of significant spending cuts and increased revenue over a long period of time. The cuts will have to come from entitlements (social security, medicare, medicaid) and military spending -- that where the big dollars are. The revenue has to come primarily from the people with the money -- you can't get blood from a stone.
  • Since billionaires make most of their income from investments -- much of which, when sold, will get long term capital gains treatment -- they do enjoy a very low effective income tax rate. That's the reason Buffett's rate is only a little above 15%. Yes, there are some "loopholes" taken advantage of by people (carried interest, long term treatment for what are really short term gains). These exceptions could be easily eliminated, and probably should.
  • I also agree with Buffett that a higher capital gains rate won't prevent billionaires from investing. It probably adds a little inertia -- if only because they will be a little more likely to defer selling investments to move capital to even better opportunities because there is an immediate tax consequence. But I think that's about all it would do.
  • I'm not against his proposal to raise taxes on those with an annual taxable income above $10M. I think it makes sense to increase rates even on those with a $1M annual taxable income -- as long as the increase is reasonable.
Some negative thoughts:
  • Buffett spins the statistics, just like everybody else does. He focuses on the 400 richest people in the U.S., but then extends his argument to 237,000 who had taxable income of more than $1M. Circumstances are quite different between number 400 and number 237,000.
  • It would be easy to read the article and think an across the board tax increase on capital gains would do the trick. That would be very difficult on those people who retired with a modest nest egg, and need to make that money last the rest of their lives. Erosion due to inflation and an extra 10+% off the gains in taxes might mean the difference between staying retired, and getting another job in their golden years.
  • I don't think Buffett's proposal is enough to dig us out of our debt hole -- just increasing taxes on 0.3% of the taxpayers isn't going to raise enough revenue.
  • Buffett is talking about those making $1M per year and up. President Obama has talked about taxing those making $250K per year and up. Again, there is a big difference between someone making $250K per year and a million. While this group will need to see an increase in taxes too, it shouldn't be the same as what the higher income brackets face.
  • Shouldn't everyone pay some income taxes? Or at least most everyone? It is shocking that nearly half of the population pays no income taxes, and some in that group actually receive a net credit.
Final thought --

Would increasing taxes kill jobs? I doubt it would have a huge impact. Buffett tosses some statistics around in his article about periods of high job loss during low tax eras, and high job creation during high tax eras. The lesson from this -- I think -- is the tax rate impacts job creation/destruction but only weakly. It is easily overwhelmed by other things happening in the economy -- like credit availability (or lack thereof), or wars. But it does feel like we are teetering on the razor's edge of another recessionary dip, so I suppose caution is in order....

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cover Art

I need help.

Okay, not like that, but I know myself well enough to understand some of the things I do well, and others I don't do so well.

Writing, I seem to have a knack for. Art, colors, design -- not so much. Despite that limitation, I've been working on book cover ideas for my first three novels. I love getting the novels printed at CreateSpace -- just as proof copies right now. But I'm struggling with the cover for INCENTIVIZE, so I'm asking for your help picking the best design.

A few basics on covers -- five objectives
  1. Make the subject matter clear.
  2. Communicate one big idea
  3. Emphasize the book's target audience
  4. Entice a potential reader to look further
  5. Communicate how the book will enhance the reader's life (I'm not making that up).
So let's start with the two covers I'm reasonably happy with:

This first cover is for LEVERAGE, a story set in Minnesota about a mid-level corporate manager and recreational runner who gets sucked into an espionage investigation.

I think this cover is good, but not great. Running is important to the main character, and he does actually outrun the bad guys at one point. And that chase does take place through a wooded area on a path.

I had trouble, however, finding an image of someone having their teeth drilled out with a hand drill, which might have been a little more on target to the plot of the book.

Next is DELIVERABLES about the wrecking of a product licensing deal for a world changing battery technology, and how the scheme impacted one particular employee.

I really love this image -- if you look at the picture closely, you can see that bomb-shaped thing, is actually constructed of batteries. It fits the theme of the book perfectly, and is also odd looking enough that you might pause to look closer.

And now for the difficult one -- INCENTIVIZE. This is the story about a young American woman working for an International mining company who comes to East Africa, is kidnapped while visiting the Dallol hot springs, is held captive in Mogadishu, escapes and is arrested as a spy, and then is nearly killed in a huge explosion at a hotel in Addis Ababa. Yeah, a lot of bad stuff happens to her. Anyway, each of the possible covers hits on a different theme from the book.

This is potential cover number 1.

A picture of a fire and it's devastation in an African country, with a man in the foreground getting ready to try to spray it with water.

This could be the hotel after the explosion, or just the disaster which is Mogadishu. It kind of covers both bases, and I like it because of that.

Potential cover number 2.

I'm not sure where this photo is taken, but I think it is a great shot representing the hotel going up in an explosion.

My only problem with it is the surrounding area doesn't look anything like Addis Ababa (too primitive, too "disastered").

On the other hand, it is dramatic.

Potential cover number 3.

This picture is of the Dallol hot springs. Some important action takes place at this location, and the hot springs are dramatic, desolate and eye-catching.

Unfortunately, it doesn't do a great job of grabbing a big idea from the story.

If only there was a group of mercenaries in a truck in the background....

Potential cover number 4.

The plot of this novel revolves around mining, and some bad things that could result if an immoral mining executive managed to have the opportunity.

And, of course, the story is set in Africa.

So, my plea for help -- which of the four covers do you like the best? Give me some much needed guidance!

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Ditch to Die In

This concept I owe to a colleague at one of my more recent employers.

We all love to be right -- in fact, we love it so much that sometimes we lose track of whether being right is actually important. Knowing when to gracefully accept a loss rather than pushing something to its extreme is an important survival skill in business.

Hence, the concept of carefully selecting your "ditch to die in".

The idea: As you cling to unpopular positions on issues -- usually convinced you're right and carrying that I'll show them attitude -- the stakes surrounding the situation continue to rise. It doesn't take long before you are putting your reputation, relationships, and even your career on the line. So select these battles carefully, making sure they are extremely important, and that you are absolutely positively certain that you are on the right side of the issue and can win the battle.

The consequences of failure are high.

Make sure engaging in such battles is the exception, rather than the rule. While you might be bright, driven, perceptive, and right most of the time, there is a whole world of circumstances outside of your ability to control them, which can still deliver a defeat in a seemingly un-lose-able situation. History is filled with such examples.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Completed Work

I've blogged about the negatives and problems of the Corporate world. Meanwhile, some of my recent writing has called to mind the positive I learned during my time in Corporate Life. So I think I'll do a series of posts on some of these lessons -- I hope someone out there in blogdom finds some value in them.

Completed Work:

This tidbit of thought was contributed by a former boss of mine. He originally referred to it as "Admiral Rickover's Theory of Completed Work", but a can't vouch for the reference to the admiral.

The "theory" goes as follows: A person should never bring only a problem to their organizational superior (boss). Instead they should bring the problem, their analysis, the possible ways of solving the problem, and their proposed solution.

Another way I've seen this stated is to never "delegate upward".

Why is this rule important?
Managers are busy, directors busier, VP's...well, you get the idea. No one appreciates having additional work tossed in their laps. I can remember getting "suggestions" from employees and thinking "okay, you've done three percent of the work, and now expect me to do the other ninety-seven". With hundreds of employees, the task of solving these problems rapidly becomes impossible.
Finding a problem is not a credit to you. Analyzing it makes you appear smart (assuming you don't make a huge mistake). Developing alternatives makes you appear smarter. Offering your recommendation shows courage. In a world where the employee has limited opportunity to "show what they've got", completed work is one of the easiest ways to do so.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer's End

Could summer really be coming to an end?

Emily headed back to school on Sunday -- needing to be there to prepare for rush. The younger kids start on August 18/19, only ten days away. Sigh.

Been trying to cram in some last minute summer fun. Today we are off to the water park a Mahoney State Park to let the kids splash and play somewhere other than just the lake. We will try some fishing and maybe some boating this week as well.

I really enjoy summer and hate to see it go.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Awaiting New Exercise Equipment

I've been an avid runner for the last ten years -- ten years of long miles, but also the associated feelings of health and well-being. And running has given me my "outdoor fix" over much of that time -- the time I wanted to spend outside communing with nature.

Unfortunately, I started to develop some persistent injury problems about two years ago. Since then, my mileage has had to be drastically reduced, as I've gone through one bout after another of knee and foot problems. I could get back up to about twenty miles a week, but if I went over, there would be another round of knee issues, or something similar.

As a result of the reduced miles, I started to gain weight, I became slower, and rather than feeling like I was gliding over the ground, my run became more of a grind.

About a month ago, I realized I needed a new strategy.

So last week, I asked for an early birthday present, and order a new elliptical trainer. It delivers today.

I'm looking forward to some serious calorie counting, weight reduction, and a return to feeling fit again. I might even be able to slip a little bit of running back into my routine, if I'm lucky.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back to a Routine

The summer is rapidly approaching it's end (although the extremely hot weather seems like it plans to go on quite a while longer), and because of the adoption this year, summer has seemed like the lost season. Where did the time go, exactly? And why are there still all these jobs and tasks around the house still to do?

I spent a lot of my career avoiding routine. I used to revel in the variations I would experience each day in my work routine -- problem solving, a new project, an interview, travel, etc. It made the day interesting and exciting.

Now, however, I'm looking forward to establishing a new routine. One where I feel like I'm actually making progress against the never ending tide of mechanical and electrical deterioration of the house, and the longer term writing goals I've set (admittedly self-imposed). One which accommodates my family's needs and my own.

It seems a strange turn of events, this routine savoring...

Friday, July 15, 2011

What happened to work?

Prior to the adoption trip, I'd been fervently pursuing my writing career. But since returning, I've been... well... slacking?

At least it seems that way. Today, while Paula was running around on errands in Omaha, I was watching an episode of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy with the kids, feeding them lunch, and afterward swimming for hours in the lake.

If you'd asked me two years ago if I could ever imagine myself spending a goodly portion of my time playing with little kids, and ignoring the my career (regardless of how it had morphed), I would have thought the idea was just crazy.

And yet, I'm having trouble getting back into my writing, which I generally love -- although, I'm in editing mode right now, which isn't my favorite activity.

I guess the lesson to be learned is -- never say never.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ethiopian cooking

I tried my hand for the first time at honest-to-goodness Injera (for the uninitiated, it's the pancake-like bread Ethiopians use to eat their food). I'd heard it was a bit tricky to make, but went at it with supreme confidence.

The Injera is a fermented bread with a taste somewhat like sourdough. Last week, I kicked off the process with a sourdough starter (which made decent sourdough bread, by the way). On Friday, I took a cup of the starter and mixed it with water and flour to get my Injera batter rolling. Yes, I know Ethiopians use Tef (a different kind of flour), but I didn't have any handy.

Today, the mix smelled perfect. While we were in Ethiopia, I watched one of the guest house cooks making the bread, and figured I had it down.

It smelled right, but seemed a bit runny. I didn't want to run out of time if the mixture was off somehow, so I tried cooking one.

Disaster. It was a gelatinized blob. I couldn't even get myself to taste it, the mixture looked so disgusting.

So I tried adding some flour -- you know, to thicken it up a bit.

Another slightly less disgusting disaster. The batter next went down the drain.

Of course, I had a back-up plan of sorts. There is a pseudo-Injera detailed in an old cookbook (Jeff Smith -- Our Immigrant Ancestors) that I've successfully made before. In a rush I mixed up a batch of that batter.

It also didn't work. This time I figured out why, however. It seems bread flour is a poor substitute for self-rising flour. Oops.

On the fourth try I did finally manage to make the back-up pseudo-injera. It went fine with the spicy beef stew and Chick Pea stew I made, and a tasty dinner was had by all.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Expecting the Worst, Hoping for the Best

It is no secret that the twins have been a bit difficult. Heck, after a full two years in our family, we have still been having nearly nightly battles with them over going to bed.

So it shouldn't be surprising that I had some trepidation over adding another child into the mix. I envisioned Paula making multiple meals every night to satisfy their finicky tastes, a higher level of bickering and conflict among three kids, and the nightly bed war extending from one hour to two or more. I'd steeled myself to the greater demands and time commitment. Essentially, I'd been expecting the worst.

But the worst case scenario hasn't played out -- far from it, in fact. Thomas has been mild mannered, happy most of the time, and generally accepting of his place in the family. We thought we'd glimpsed those characteristics when we'd first met him back in March, but it's hard to feel confident in such a judgment based on a few hours together in a manufactured encounter. Now, after ten days together, the early impression appears to be holding.

What has really surprised me, however, is the way his presence has impacted the twins. Their bickering with each other is down by at least fifty percent, and they appear to be taking great pride in showing Thomas how to be good -- including cooperating during the recently altered bedtime ritual. While I'm not optimistic enough to believe all these changes will stick one hundred percent, I'm definitely excited about the direction.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Whoa, I'd forgotten how crazy it gets...

After a year of filling out documents, making plans, and waiting, our adopted son, Feyissa Thomas, is home. We crossed the threshold of our doorstep last night after about thirty hours of combined traveling (and about five hours sleep out of the last forty).

So bright and early at 7:30 this morning he came tromping downstairs from his room with Sarah, and things have been in a mild to major state of chaos since.

When Candace and Sarah first came home, they roamed the house flipping switches, pressing buttons and going through every closet, drawer and cubby they could get to. And since they were five, there were a lot of places they could reach -- either normally, or by climbing or hauling a chair to the needed spot. We used to describe the situation as "toddlers on crack", but a better description might be "first graders without boundaries".

Feyissa Thomas is all they were and more -- he is very nimble and dexterous, and completely lacks any understanding of what he is, and is not, allowed to do. Just a few minutes ago, for instance, I saw him attempting to wrench the door to the under-stairs storage room open, despite it being held fast by a flip-lock. Undoubtedly, we'll next find our video camera disassembled, or the contents of the refrigerator out on the front porch. The only solution seems to be to follow him around, saying "no" a thousand times a day.

I seem to recall it took about two months to teach the twins the basic rules (not that they don't elect to ignore them regularly, but at least they know). Sounds like it may be a tiring remainder of the summer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pass on it!

I spotted the following drivel being passed around on face book today.

"Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401ks, took trillions in taxpayer funded bail outs, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither.... Pass it on."

(sorry, I noted the image didn't fit properly on my blog, so I included the text)
Which inspired the following response:

I don’t either.

I do, however, remember when teachers and public employees captured unreasonable pensions and pay increases from taxpayers through lob-sided union negotiations.

I also seem to recall Planned Parenthood being the focal point of an abortion/murder business.

It seems to me I recall NPR and PBS being politically slanted, yet publically funded entities taking advantage of their taxpayer funded bully pulpit to spread their agenda.

Oh, and I seem to remember the stock market crashed because of loose home mortgage practices encouraged by several administrations and politicians on both sides of the aisle. Oddly enough, I too had money in the same market which also was pummeled during the crash.

And didn’t the billions (not trillions) lent to banks in the height of the crisis actually stop a meltdown of the banking system, and the occurrence of another Great Depression. And I seem to recall the majority of the borrowers have already paid back the money they borrowed.

It seems to me the oil spill in the Gulf, which was indeed tragic, is one of the risks we take to enjoy the benefits of a modern economy. We could all avoid the risks if we just gave up our cars, and other energy gobbling conveniences. I don’t, however, recall BP being happy or flippant about the situation.

Last time I checked, boards and shareholders give corporate employees their bonuses. It seems they have this crazy notion that paying competitively to attract top talent is important to their long term success. If you’re not a shareholder, I’m not sure why you care anyway, other than pure envy. Oh, and bonuses were severely limited while any of the “bailout” funds were still borrowed by the large banks during the crisis.

And what world do you live in where you believe people at the top of the economic pyramid pay no taxes? That’s an urban myth. Wealthy people pay the vast majority of federal income taxes, and plenty of other taxes, too. Sure, some foreign corporations pay little U.S. tax – they pay in their home countries.

The persistent desire people from both sides of the aisle seem to have to communicate in sound bites, and not thoughtfully consider their outlandish statements drives me crazy… Pass on it!