Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Wise Form of Self-Esteem

A reader of my website emailed me to say that he was proud that "I now realize I am smart."

Here's how I responded:

The art is in feeling you are smart while remaining open to learning from others and not showing off how smart you are.

On rereading that response to him, I thought you might find it helpful. 

Friday, January 30, 2009

Where the Jobs Will Be

Heretofore, businesses sold mainly to consumers (B to B) or to other businesses (B to C.)

Under the new Obama/liberal Congress/liberal media regime, the U.S. is fast moving toward becoming a much more centrally run economy. So the largest or certainly fastest growing segment will be B-to-G: business-to-government. The federal government will be issuing large numbers of requests for proposals from private businesses.

The implications:

1. If you run a business, consider becoming a federally certified contractor. To learn how, click this link and/or this link

Government-contracting opportunities will likely be best in federal, not state or local government because the federal government can print money and has more sources of tax and fee revenues that can be increased. That's why so many states and municipalities are now joining the bailout conga line at the federal government tax-dollar trough.

2. If possible, become a woman-owned or especially a minority-owned business. That will give you priority over white-male-run businesses. So, if you are a white man, consider getting a partner who's a woman or a minority, ideally both. Here's a link to the federal goodies set aside for women. Here's a link to federal goodies set aside for minorities.

3. If you're a job seeker, seek work at such contractors (find your local ones here by searching on your zip code) or for the federal government. The professional-level federal government job titles that are already hot and seem poised for the greatest growth: management analyst, program analyst, budget analyst, , IT management specialist, financial administrator, inspector, investigation and compliance officer.

One cautionary note: This article cites growth in government contracting but reports that profits in such businesses are often not as obscene as the public thinks.

A Wiser Way to Spend $819 Billion

(Update: the estimated size of Obama's spending package now is approaching $1 TRILLION.) 

Former Secretary of Labor nominee Linda Chavez has a great idea in her column today:

President Obama wants to stimulate the economy by having the government take $819 billion of our money and decide how to spend it.

Obama and Friends think it should be spent on bailing out badly run banks and car companies, people who bought more house or assumed more credit card debt than they could comfortably afford, and private-sector-rejected alternative energy schemes.

And let's not forget about the mountain of pork in the legislation--from another Florida theme park to, as the Wall Street Journal reported, "$650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons."

Even worthy projects such as building roads will be done far more expensively and slowly than if the money were left in private hands. A City of San Francisco carpenter said, "We build as slowly as we can, and if someone builds faster, we slit his tires."

As Sen. Tom Coburn said Thursday: "80 percent of this bill is spending with money we don't have on things we don't need, that won't stimulate the economy."

Chavez argues that it would be wiser to let the collective wisdom of the American public decide how to spend that $819 billion. How would she do that? Send every American a debit card for $3,000 that had to be spent in the next 18 months.

Not only would that use the collective decision-making power of 300,000,000 people (rather than a relative handful of politicians and government bureaucrats) to identify the wisest beneficiaries of cash, it would enable all those 300,000,000 people rather than the government to choose the way their $3,000 could most improve their lives.

Here's the link to the full column. And here's a link to all of Linda Chavez's syndicated columns.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

DON'T Do What You Love

Many people insist on careers of "doing what you love," "finding your passion," "loving your work."  

Bob Buford, author of Half Time: Moving from Success to Significance (600,000 copies sold) says they're dead wrong. 
He urges us to recognize that:

It is your duty to do what you're best at, not what you'd love to do.

I can't think of wiser counsel.

Obama Exaggerates Expert Consensus

President Obama claims broad expert agreement with his economic and global warming plans.

Unfortunately, it's untrue. First, let's look at Obama's stimulus plan:

From the
Cato Institute's Fiscal Reality Center:

President Obama says that "economists from across the political spectrum agree" on the need for massive government spending to stimulate the economy.

In fact, hundreds of leading economists disagree including Nobel laureates and other prominent scholars. They have all signed the statement that appears in the Cato Institute's ad in the New York Times and in other national publications.

With regard to the need to spend massively to stop global warming, Obama has appointed only true believers to his science, environment, and energy committees. Yet hundreds of leading climate scientists dissent from the so-called consensus. Indeed, the International Conference of Climate Change to be held this March "calls attention to new research that contradicts claims that the moderate warming during the 20th century was primarily man-made and is a crisis." Speakers will include dozens of eminent scientists including Richard Lindzen .the Alfred P Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT, Willie Soon, physicist at the Solar and Stellar Physics Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and Lord Christopher Monckton, chief policy advisor to Britain's Science and Public Policy Institute and former advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Sure, "economists (and scientists) from across the political spectrum" support Obama's policies but Obama carefully avoids saying whether it's 1 or 1,000 right-of-center experts. Could Obama be taking word-parsing lessons from Bill Clinton? Is IS Is.
Cato Stimulus

Monday, January 26, 2009

Will Obama Help This Defeated White Male

Because I have written about the rampant reverse discrimination in America, I receive many emails of frustration and depression from white males who feel they have been discriminated against.

But few have touched me as much as this man's because he's not the usual white collar guy who tends to write to me. He's one of "the people," the plain folk who Obama claims to care most about. Do you think Obama's "change" will help this man?

Here is this man's letter, unedited.

I am a white male that for many years has been stepped on. But it is not just our jobs that are being taken from us. For white males it iseverything . I am only 29 and I am blamed for every fear that another person has. Look at the law: How many laws protect a white males rights? Not as many as there is for a women or a different colored man.

The only thing a white male is allowed to do is to die . But only if someone else allows it . We are not allowed to say, do, think or even dream of freedom . That's not because of what we have done but for what they say they're afraid we might do .

People of different colors say that they want the same rights that we have . But they already get better than what we have. How is that fair ? Why is it that when a boat is sinking it is women and children first and let the men there to die if there is no room?

Women and different colored people ask us not to say that thay are different but claim that thay are different and are not treated the same . Well I hope that one day all people are treated the same even if all us white males are not here .

A young male is taught not to hit someone weaker or thay will be punished but if someone hits us we are to take it like a man . What ever comes out of our mouths is wrong .

So I say SORRY. Sorry I was born white. Sorry I was born male . Sorry you hate me . Sorry you don't have what you want . Sorry that for the last 29 years. I have
nothing else to give you and them but my life . U can have it . If it will let them be happy. All I have ever done is try to help people .

I'm sorry my skin is not darker . Maybe one day you will forgive me for being different .

Do you think Obama's policies will help this man? Remember that Obama's key labor advisor Robert Reich wants half of the 3-4 million jobs Obama intends to create to be specifically directed away from white males.

Anti-Israel Propaganda Will Not Deter Obama

It's easy to be anti-Israel when one sees Hamas-supplied photos of destroyed Palestinian homes and injured civilians.

It's also easy to buy anti-Israel rhetoric. For example, two days ago, published a hit piece on Israel by Lamis Andoni, a consultant for Al Jazeera. Her summative statement: "A continued American support for Israel will only ensure that the Palestinians are seen as lesser creatures who are not entitled to safety, dignity or freedom."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel has done more than most other countries would have done to protect the citizens of its enemy--Hamas--which is sworn to Israel's destruction.

Hamas embedded its military installations in its residential neighborhoods and around schools (using human shields is a Geneva Convention war crime) to create a no-win situation for Israel: It if leaves them alone, Hamas terrorists can continue to bomb without retaliation or if Israel retaliates, Hamas can obtain PR footage to use as anti-Israel propaganda: "See! Israel is guilty of war crimes!" Obviously it is Hamas, in using civilians as human shields, and another war crime in intentionally aiming its rockets at Israeli civilians, that is guilty of the war crimes.

How did Israel respond to Hamas' firing thousands of rockets into Israel and intentionally at its civilians? Before attempting to defuse terrorist cells in residential neighborhoods, it took all measures (email, cell calls, street loudspeakers) to urge the evacuation of the civilian human shields in that area. Israel provides humanitarian aid to the civilian victims of the military engagement, for example, having to date, delivered more than 300 truckloads of humanitarian aid and facilitated the delivery of 6,500 additional tons of aid into Gaza. The World Food program has informed Israel that it will cease shipment of food to Gaza because warehouses are at full capacity.

Three days ago, as President Obama was urging Hamas to permanently stop its terrorism and renounce its call for the destruction of Israel, the Associated Press issued a video report showing Hamas already readying to violate the cease-fire. It is already rearming by reopening its smuggling tunnels. The New York Times and CNN report that Hamas is shooting supporters of the Palestinian's moderate president, Mahmoud Abbas. Meanwhile, Israel fires not a firecracker and instead, increases its humanitarian aid to the innocent victims of Hamas' embedding their military in civilian areas, and enters diplomacy with President Obama and his new Middle East envoy, George Mitchell.

This is merely the latest in Israel's exercise of restraint in the face of threats that no other country would be asked to ignore. Recall that Israel occupied Gaza mainly to defend against the Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian armies that had massed at the Israeli border. Then, when Israel, as an olive branch, later left every millimeter of Gaza so Palestine could create its own state, what did the Israeli people receive as a thank-you present from Iran-backed Hamas and its sister terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad? 8,000 detonated bombs. The town of Sderot has been nearly obliterated; it is a veritable ghost town.

Meanwhile Iran is sending Hamas ever more powerful rockets, which can reach deep inside Israel to the major cities of Ashkelon and Beersheba. How did Israel respond? After a three-week attack, it threw yet another olive branch to Hamas: Even though Hamas continued to bomb, Israel announced a unilateral cease fire.

And now, Hamas' latest thank-you present: It has reopened its weapons-smuggling tunnels and brags that even if Israel closes them down again, it will find a way to smuggle in the Iran-supported bombs and other weapons.

And today, Hamas detonated a roadside bomb that injured three Israelis and killed one.

Imagine if Mexico fired 8,000 rockets into the U.S and embedded its military in civilian areas. Would we feel our response was disproportionate if more Mexicans were killed as a result? Yet that's what anti-Israel propagandists claim about Israel's response to Hamas's 8,000-rocket assault on Israel.

So, is Hamas' preparation to violate the cease-fire just another round of the seemingly endless cycle of hope-disappointment-hope-disappointment?

At the risk of cockeyed optimism, notwithstanding unfair propaganda from the likes of Al Jazeeera's Andoni that the chose to promulgate, while the positions President Obama advocated in his speech three days ago are not different from those of previous U.S. presidents, there is something to the Obama Magic--Watching and listening to him speak feels more believable, more likely to inspire all parties to peace. Add to that, respected negotiator George Mitchell and Obama's Muslim heritage which increases his credibility in the Muslim world and I find myself betting on the triumph of hope over experience.

It is time for, pardon the expression, change: replacing the Palestinian and Israeli PR gotcha game with passion for the dream of Palestinians living side by side with Israelis, in which, like in Israeli schools, Palestinian children are taught to dream of becoming doctors, teachers, and social workers, not to grow up and blow up.

Isn't it time to replace jihad with jobs, hate with hope and maybe even love?

Obama's Plan Would Have Us Eat Our Seed Corn

It's unfortunate but most people's minds are not changed by intellectual analysis. Most people's opinions are more often changed by metaphor, images, and slogans.

My previous posts have used logical analysis and economic theory to explain my antipathy to Obama's unprecedented trillion-dollar spending package. In this post, I will use metaphor, an image (see right,) and a slogan:

We'd ridicule a farmer who'd eat his seed corn (the corn he uses to plant his crops.) Yet Obama's "stimulus" plan of bailouts for bad companies, overreaching credit card and mortgage holders, and tax increases (Yes, he WILL increase net taxation) would eat America's seed corn: the money that successful businesses use to hire new workers and develop new products, and the money that individuals use to buy things from good companies and to save/invest for their future.

Sure, short-term, Obama's stimulus package will create some jobs but when the seed corn of our tax dollars runs out, the jobs created by our tax dollars will wither away and our economy won't grow--Rather, America will become an ever less arable land.

So, the slogan? Don't Let Obama Eat Our Seed Corn!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama's Stimulus Spending Won't Stimulate Much

In Wednesday's, New York Times, University of Chicago economics professor Casey Mulligan argues that Obama's stimulus package in fact will create few new jobs.

For example, one of Obama's priority spending areas is health care. But there already is near full employment in health care. The U.S. has to import nurses from countries such as the Philippines to meet the current need. Indeed, health care is the one field that has increased employment during every month of the current recession. Spending more taxpayer money on health care will mainly just move health care workers from one employer to another--or result in importing more health care workers. It won't, as Obama promises, create many new jobs

Even in Obama-priority fields in which many jobs have been lost in the recession, for example, infrastructure construction, few jobs will be created by the Obama spending spree. Mulligan points out that many, although certainly not all, the workers laid off from residential construction have already picked up work in commercial construction. Too, much construction work is done by illegal immigrants, for whom Obama has promised to create a path to citizenship within his first 100 days in office. So, ironically, the largest stimulative effect of Obama's infrastructure spending may be to create jobs for illegal immigrants.

Mulligan additionally points out that while the large majority of the recession's job losses have been to men, Obama's economists report that half the jobs Obama will create will be aimed at women (and minorities.) So, many of those unemployed men will remain jobless. That is yet another reason why Obama's stimulus plan will not provide as many new jobs as he promises.

Of course, even more problematic is this question: "Where will the trillion dollars to pay for the unprecedentedly massive (and dubious) spending come from? "It will come from the taxpayers, who if instead, were allowed to keep their money would spend much of it on products and services, which would create real, new, enduring jobs. And of course, the Obama spending spree will also be funded by the tax dollars from successful businesses, which if instead were allowed to keep their money, would use much of it to expand their businesses and hire more people.

Sure, the Obama Spending Spree will yield a short-term boost in the economy by taking taxpayer money to create some (temporary) jobs, prop up badly run banks and car manufacturers, invest in private-sector-rejected alternative energy and other schemes, and bail out people who bought more home or took on more credit card debt than they could comfortably afford. But long term, that won't stimulate the economy. It will kill it.

It's only human to be tempted to bail out the most failing people and businesses but as every triage medic in the battlefield knows, you'll save more lives by using the limited resources to help those most likely to recover, not those who scream the loudest.

That means allowing successful people and businesses to keep their money, not have the government forcibly take it from them to give to the unsuccessful. Real, sustainable, enduring growth comes not from tax increases but from tax cuts.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why Obamanomics Will Fail

This letter was forwarded to me by Jeffrie Givens, a regular reader of this blog. 

I do not know if the letter is real or not but it explains, better than I have on this blog, why Obama's economic spending and taxation plan is likely to make matters worse, much worse.

To All My Valued Employees:

There have been some rumblings around the office about the future of this company, and more specifically, your job. As you know, the economy has changed for the worse and presents many challenges.

However, the good news is this: The economy doesn't pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is the changing political landscape in this country.

Of course, as your employer, I am forbidden to tell you how to think politically- it is against the law to discriminate based on political affiliation, race, creed, religion, etc. Yes, the elections are now over, but as Americans, we still have a powerful voice through letter writing, placing phone calls to Congress, and volunteering our time & effort for causes near & dear to us. After all, they were elected to represent you. Please do (or not do) whatever you think will serve your interests and the interests of the country the best.

However, let me tell you some little tidbits of fact which might help you decide what is in your best interest.

First, while it is easy to spew rhetoric that casts employers against employees, you have to understand that for every business owner there is a back story. This back story is often neglected and overshadowed by what you see and hear. Sure, you see me park my Mercedes outside. You've seen my big home at last year’s Christmas party. I'm sure all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealized thoughts about my life.

However, what you don't see is the back story:

I started this company 12 years ago. At that time, I lived in a 300 square foot studio apartment for 3 years. My entire living apartment was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you. My diet consisted of Ramen Pride noodles because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a defective transmission. I didn't have time to date. Often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business – hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a modest $50K a year and spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. Instead of hitting the Nordstrom's for the latest hot fashion item, I was trolling through the Goodwill store extracting any clothing item that didn't look like it was birthed in the 70's. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford these luxuries my friends supposedly had.

So, while you physically arrive at the office at 9am, mentally check in at about noon, and then leave at 5pm, I don't. There is no "off" button for me. When you leave the
office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have the freedom. I eat, shit, and breathe this company every minute of the day.

There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. Every day this business is attached to my hip like a 1 year old special-needs child. You, of course, only see the fruits of that garden -- the nice house, the Mercedes, the vacations... you never realize the back story and the sacrifices I've made.

Now, the economy is falling apart and I, the guy that made all the right decisions and saved his money, have to bail-out all the people who didn't. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed a decade of my life for.
Yes, business ownership has is benefits but the price I've paid is steep and not without wounds.

Unfortunately, the cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of marginal benefit and let me tell you why: I am being taxed to death and the government thinks I don't pay enough. I have state taxes. Federal taxes. Property taxes. Sales and use taxes. Payroll taxes. Workers compensation taxes. Unemployment taxes. Taxes on taxes. I have to hire a tax man to manage all these taxes and then guess what? I have to pay taxes for employing him. Government mandates and regulations and all the accounting that goes with it, now occupy most of my time. On Oct 15th, I wrote a check to the US Treasury for $288,000 for quarterly taxes. You know what my "stimulus" check was? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

The question I have is this: Who is stimulating the economy? Me, the guy who has provided 14 people good paying jobs and serves over 2,200,000 people per year with a flourishing business? Or, the single mother sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child waiting for her next welfare check? Obviously, government feels the latter is the economic stimulus of this country.

The fact is, if I deducted (Read: Stole) 50% of your paycheck you'd quit and you wouldn't work here. I mean, why should you? That's nuts.

Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, I agree which is why your job is in jeopardy.

Here is what many of you don't understand ... to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Had suddenly government mandated to me that I didn't need to pay taxes, guess what? Instead of depositing that $288,000 into the Washington black-hole, I would have spent it, hired more employees, and generated substantial economic growth. My employees would have enjoyed the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But you can forget it now.

When you have a comatose man on the verge of death, you don't defibrillate and shock his thumb thinking that will bring him back to life, do you? Or, do you defibrillate his heart? Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate it, not kill it. Suddenly, the power brokers in Washington believe the mud of America is the essential drivers of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change you can keep.

So where am I going with all this?

It's quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, my reaction will be swift and simple. I fire you. I fire your co-workers. You can then plead with the government to pay for your mortgage, your SUV, and your child's future. Frankly, it isn't my problem anymore.

Then, I will close this company down, move to another country, and retire. You see, I'm done. I'm done with a country that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, will be my citizenship.

While tax cuts to 95% of America sounds great on paper, don't forget the back story: If there is no job, there is no income to tax. A tax cut on zero dollars is zero.

So, when you make your decision whether to support or fight against the President Obama’s tax & economic plans, ask yourself, who understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn't? Whose policies will endanger your job?

Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of saving your job. While the media wants to tell you "It's the economy stupid" I'm telling you it isn't.

If you lose your job, it won't be at the hands of the economy; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country, steamrolled the constitution, and will have changed its landscape forever. If that happens, you can find me in the South Caribbean sitting on a beach, retired, and with no employees to worry about.

Your Boss

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On Why Big Government Will Fail

Nearly all of what appears on this blog is my own writing but I was impressed with this piece in the Wall Street Journal.It well explains why President-elect Obama's decision to further bloat the size of the government is so likely to devastate America.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Art of Bargaining

You see an item in a department store. The price tag says $100. That's what you'll have to pay. Right?

Not necessarily. What if it has a scratch on it or is shop-worn, or last-year's model? "Speak with the manager, and pointing to the defect say, "I'd be willing to take this if I could get 15% off. Is that fair?"

But what if the product is the current model and is in perfect shape. Are you stuck with having to pay the $100? Ask the cashier, "Is a coupon being offered that could be applied to this purchase?" Often there is. Even if you don't have it, she may have some of those coupons available.

No product defect? No coupon? I might ask, "Do you know if this just came off sale or is going on sale?' Often, they'll give you the sale price now. Or worst case, you can have them hold it for you until it goes on sale whereupon they'll ship it to you.

All those bargaining possibilities are at a supposedly fixed-price department store. Your bargaining opportunities multiply elsewhere.

For example, let's say want to buy something from an independently owned store. If you don't like its price, ask to speak with the manager and say something like, "I really like this but I can only pay (offer 
50 to 75% of the sticker price). Can you do that?" If no, say thank you and start to walk out. The manager may call you back and say yes or counteroffer. If you've made it back out onto the street without being called back, you can come back in and say, "Well I suppose I could pay (insert 85% or 90% of the sticker price.)" Of course, this strategy won't always work but it often will. And you have nothing to lose by trying. At minimum, you'll know that if you ended up paying full price, you could not have gotten that store to sell it to you for less. Of course, so many products are available less expensively if bought on the Internet, both because it's easy to price shop and because there's often no sales tax.

How about a really big purchase like a car? Get the TRUE current dealer cost (NOT the widely available
invoice price) from Consumer Reports. The term for the true dealer cost is "dead cost." Call five dealerships (especially those in low-rent districts) and ask to speak with the new car sales manager. Do not agree to speak with anyone else. Tell that manager the precise car including color and options you want and ask if they have it in stock or are willing to get it for 3% over dead cost. If one dealer says no, politely thank them and call the next dealer. If all five say no, call them again offering 5% over dead cost. If they all say no, offer 8%. You'll end up buying your car for less money than do 99% of customers. Once you and the manager agree on how much you'll pay for the car, don't get hit up for other costs. You should pay only the agreed-on price plus tax and license; that's it. (No dealer prep, advertising, no nothing.) Also, say no to the dealer getting you the financing or insurance--that's a huge profit center for dealers. Get your financing from the best-rate lender you can find on Better yet, don't buy more car than you can afford to pay for in cash. That's key to keeping your costs down without significantly degrading your lifestyle. Comparison-shop for car insurance on

Of course, in all bargaining, you shouldn't be a pig. Remember that the seller is entitled to make a reasonable profit--sellers have to live too. But there's no reason you shouldn't try to get a good deal. That's standard practice in business and there's no reason it shouldn't be for you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Will We Never Learn?

We bailed out Chrysler 20 years and they still produce crappy cars and are begging for more of our money.

We bailed out the likes of insurance giant AIG and superbank Citigroup with an inconceivably large $700 billion and we've seen no benefit.

Indeed the government admits to not being sure where the already spent $350 billion of it went. Outside observers believe it was spent not on adding liquidity but on mergers and acquisitions and to pay employee bonuses.

We're bailing out the automakers when, even the U.S.'s best hope--the $40,000 green Chevy Volt will outsell the $22,000 Toyota Prius seems to this writer like a pipe dream.

And now President-elect Obama wants to spend a trillion (Yes, a trillion) dollars of our money on a bunch of government-mandated projects. (Among proposals on the table: an organized crime museum in Las Vegas--Can't the mafia afford to fund that?) the alternative energy sloppy thousandths that I've previously written about, and lots of mass transit aimed at forcing us out of our cars and into time-wasting, sardined-in public transportation.

And you and I are just going to lie back and take it. Indeed, America will be reveling in Obama's inauguration. They'll gyrate in joy over the promised "change." We'll see how long they revel. Obama will print lots of dollars that will trigger inflation; he'll raise taxes on the middle class (Yes, renege on his promise and raise taxes,) reward the unworthy with money taken from the worthy, and we WILL become a third-world nation.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Capitalizing on China: Specific Suggestions

My radio show today included a 40-minute conversation with Jonathan Woetzel,who's in his 18th year living in China as head of McKinsey's Shanghai operation. In light of that plus the research I did in preparing for the show, I believe these are good bets for capitalizing on China's sunrise while the U.S.'s sun sets in the west. 

Buy raw land in the near suburbs of Beijing, Shanghai, or a slightly smaller but growing city.  Choose property that is slated for light-rail and other major infrastructure development. Hold it until most of the surrounding parcels are developed and then sell to the highest bidder--probably a major Chinese developer, the Chinese government, or a U.S. multinational.

Open a school for entrepreneurs. China is said to be a country of a billion entrepreneur  but because China is new at this capitalism thing, many of those entrepreneurs have a lot to learn. And they're smart enough to realize they can learn from Americans, a people that has been entrepreneuring for 250 years. 

Sell designer-label products (e.g., Calvin Klein) to the major retailers  in 50,000-100,000-person cities. The big U.S. corporations are still busy establishing their distribution chains in larger cities. The opportunity for a little guy is to go where the big.U.S. corps aren't (yet.)

Sell precision manufacturing parts and equipment to small Chinese manufacturers. 

The satisfactory execution of such ideas require one or more trips to China or taking residence there. It requires getting a translator and, critically, local expertise. Start with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce there, but that's just a starting place--you'll have to take the time to build local relationships.

The bad news is that Woetzel said that China is very China-centric. So Americans have one or two strikes against them. And the Chinese have a set of business tactics designed to weaken Americans--for example, they'll stall on agreeing to a deal until just before your return flight to the U.S, when you're most vulnerable to a lowball offer. 

But if you diligently  and intelligently execute on the above, people like Woetzel, the N.Y. Times' Tom Friedman, and a chorus of other folks, including me believe that China and smaller emerging Asian countries offer a far more fertile opportunity for success and wealth than does the U.S. 

If the above strategies seem too daunting, you might do what I'm doing: Buy shares in FXI: an exchange-traded fund consisting of 25 of China's largest companies--the equivalent of the Dow-Jones 30 or GXC, which consists of 150 of China's largest--the equivalent of the U.S.'s S&P 500.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Communication Skills: Crucial and More Difficult Than You Think

Most people think they are better communicators then they in fact are. But use these techniques and your communication skills will be vastly superior to most people's. That, of course, will help you immeasurably in your personal and professional relationships. 

This is the advice I'm offering to mentors on my forthcoming website,, which will, at no cost, match mentors with bright kids (who are so ignored in many of today's public schools, which focus so much on low achievers.) 

  • Rather than launching into what you're interested in, usually it's wiser to identify what your protégé wants to talk about. So, you might, for example, start a conversation with, "So, what would you like to talk about today?"
  • Of course, sometimes, you'll want to share something with your protégé, for example, "I had this amazing experience today. Or I've got a little problem and I could use your advice." (Protégés, not just mentors, can give advice and, in fact, most love to.)
  • A rule of thumb is to talk 30 to 50% of the time and encourage your protégé to talk 50 to 70% of the time.
  • Use the Traffic Light Rule of communication: During the first 30 seconds of an utterance, your light is green. That means your protégé is listening and not thinking you talk too much. During the next 30 seconds, your light is yellow. That means the risk is increasing that your listener is bored, overwhelmed, or dying to respond. After the one-minute mark, your light is red. Yes, occasionally, you can go beyond a minute, for example, when telling an interesting story, but generally you should stop or ask a question. 
  • Really listen to what your protégé is saying and how he's saying it. For example, notice when he changes his tone of voice or body language. (See how communication skills are far from easy.)
  • Reveal some things about yourself, for example, you might explain that you faced a problem similar to the one your protégé is facing.
  • Don't interrupt unless you think it really will benefit the conversation.
  • Many people hate unasked-for advice; others welcome it. To be safe, when tempted to give advice, say something like, "Would you mind if I made a suggestion, would you rather I ask you questions to help you solve the problem, or do you want me to just listen?"
  • When you're not sure you understand, say something like,  "Let me be sure I understand." "Then paraphrase what your protégé said.
  • At least occasionally, initiate conversations about "deep" issues. But keep your antennae up to see if your protégé is finding a topic uncomfortable. If so, back off.
  • When your protégé wants to avoid a topic that you believe is important to discuss, take one shot at getting your protégé to open up, for example, say, "Don't you think it's a good idea that we talk about this?" If he resists, let it go and perhaps bring it up some other time.
  • Criticize infrequently.
  •  To soften the blow of a criticism, couch it gently, for example, "Would you mind if I made a suggestion?" On getting the okay, say something like, "I'm wondering if you might try doing X. What do you think?"
  • Rarely will you feel glad you showed anger to your protégé. So, as soon as you feel yourself getting angry or defensive, the usually wise move is to excuse yourself and walk away, perhaps to the bathroom, take some deep breaths and calm down. If by the next session, you still feel angry, you can bring the issue up. By then, you'll probably do it more calmly.
  • Be aware of your protege getting restless. Many kids do best with short periods of conversation followed by a period of activity--for example, flying a kite, helping with homework, reading aloud a book, doing a science experiment (that doesn't blow up the house.) 

So do you see what I mean when I say that being a good communicator is far from easy?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

America's Energy Plan: Defy Physics

The U.S. is approaching its 50th year  of trying to defy physics and make solar, wind, and biofuel (e.g., ethanol) a cost-effective alternative to oil, gas, coal, and nuclear. Democrat-imposed labyrinthine regulation has extended the time it takes to build a nuclear plant to 15 years.

(Note written after I wrote this post: Commenters asked me to explain the science behind my skepticism about solar. I did so in comment 2.)

China, in contrast, recognizes alternative energy for the politically correct, practically likely-to-be-a-boondoggle it is and so has committed to increase its current 11 nuclear power plants to 100 by 2020 and a six-fold increase in nuclear power usage by 2030.

This is merely one example of the data-defying American agenda that is driving it to its knees. (Others include bailouts, international adventurism, uncontrolled immigration, reverse discrimination hiring and promotion, restrictions on sex education and distribution of birth control, and lifetime-tenured teachers.) 

If America deliberately tried to accelerate its descent into third-world status, it couldn't do a better job.

This Resolution's a Keeper

You know you should get a 360-degree evaluation: asking trusted colleagues for feedback on you. But most people are too scared to get it. Force yourself anyway. It's key to your growing. Besides, better to know the bad news so you can try to improve before it's too late.  And who knows? You may get more praise than you fear. 

Here's a good way to get your feedback: 

1. Use to get anonymous feedback from your board of advisors:  bosses and coworkers you trust.

2. Review their feedback and pick one or two things you want to improve during the next week.

3. Daily, give yourself a letter grade on your progress. Record it on

4. After one to four weeks, ask your Board of Advisors to reevaluate you on Checkster.

5. As desired, repeat steps 1-4. 

Also consider using that process to improve your personal life, perhaps selecting the person(s) you're living with as your board of advisors.