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Blog Posts for August 2007

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Obama Proves Hillary Right! Let's Invade Pakistan!

 

UPDATED!

Hillary Clinton said that Barack Obama was naive on foreign policy. And obviously out to prove her point for her, he suggests that we might unilaterally invade Pakistan.

Pakistan is an ally. Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

That's the end of Obama's rookie campaign. Sure, there will be backpedalling big time, but not fast enough. He's done.

ETC: Pale Ride says rightly in the comments, "Don't forget Edwards was talkin' tough about Saudia Arabia last week. So let's see, some Democrats want to piss off the few islamic allies we have, yet open dialog with those who hate us (Iran, North Korea, etc). To quote the wise and all knowing Wile E. Coyote, 'I'm such a genius!'"

MORE ETC: And then this thoughtful exchange

"I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance," Obama said, with a pause, "-involving civilians." Then he quickly added, "Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."
His remarks show that he hasn't really considered the idea that as president he'll have at his disposal the use of nuclear weapons. For all his yik-yak about Bush and the war, you'd think that he's had plenty of time to consider his position on this. It's kind of important.

This guy is such a wet-behind-the-ears rookie. I don't think Hillary needs to do much more campaigning. She'll be the one left standing at this rate for the Democrats.

My thoughts about the use of nuclear weapons: of course there are circumstances that warrant the use of a nuclear weapon - even in the case of civilians. I'll give one:

  • AQ unleashes a lethal biological weapon that poisons a town with a highly contagious pathogen. The choice is either to nuke the place or to allow it to spread planet-wide.
There are probably others. Fortunately, the state of our technology allows us to avoid the use of such massive weaponry. We have precision missiles that can hit just about anything squarely, so why go deer hunting with a canon when we can use a rifle?

No one who aims to be president should take our assets off the table - in any circumstance.

 

12 Comments
Tags: politics | terrorism
by Brett Rogers, 8/1/2007 10:34:06 AM
Permalink


Weighed in the Scales of Justice and Found Wanting

 

In the continuing saga of the DC judge who tried to sue the pants off his dry cleaners, Roy Pearson will likely lose his job.

Within the commission, the discussion about Pearson's future has focused on when and whether it is right to measure a judge's performance by his behavior outside the courtroom. The panel looked specifically at whether Pearson's extraordinary zeal in pursuing the case against the Chungs was so frivolous and embarrassing to the judicial system that it should be taken as evidence of his lack of judicial temperment. "A judge has a right to bring a lawsuit like any other citizen," said a source close to the commission, "but he doesn't have a First Amendment right to bring a frivolous lawsuit."

The commission is expected to address the Chung case specifically in its letter to Pearson, pointing out that his no-holds-barred pursuit of mega-millions in a case stemming from a $10.50 alteration on a pair of suit pants raises serious questions about his judicial temperment and raises public questions about judicial ethics and standards. Following receipt of the letter, Pearson would then have the right to a hearing before the commission. Only after that hearing would the commission formally move to end Pearson's tenure as a judge. Pearson has not been sitting as a judge since the end of April, when his first term on the bench expired. Rather, he is now technically considered an "attorney advisor" to the Office of Administrative Hearings. Asked what Pearson does in that position, a high-ranking city official said, "Zippo."

And even if he loses his job, the Chungs probably won't have to look for an unemployed Pearson to help them recover the legal fees since they recently received donations to help offset the costs.

It's nice to see justice happening in this case. It's restoring my faith in the legal system.

 

0 Comments
Tags: legal reform
by Brett Rogers, 8/2/2007 11:56:02 PM
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Funny Comedy Sketch

 

This is worth watching, like, you know, four or five times, if you haven't seen it.

 

1 Comment
Tags: comedy
by Brett Rogers, 8/3/2007 1:29:19 AM
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Bridges to Somewhere

 

You know, instead of funding a Bridge to Nowhere, why not fund Bridges to Somewhere? Because 70,000 bridges in the US are rated as deficient. Replication of the horrible tragedy of the Minnesota bridge collapse can be avoided, I think, if we drop the stupid earmark / pork spending and fund rightful improvements.

ETC: This money could have gone toward something useful, like - you know - infrastructure repair. (Via Glenn Reynolds)

(Why does John Murtha have any credibility at all with anyone?)

 

0 Comments
Tags: politics
by Brett Rogers, 8/3/2007 10:00:59 AM
Permalink


My America: Self-Sufficiency - The Bedrock of Democracy

 

If I could sum up in a single sentence what I think the foundational principle of America is, it would be this:

America is a place where each person is free to live their own life without adversely impacting the lives of others.
What do you think of that? Agree? Disagree?

The founding fathers said it in their own way:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
It's important to note the less-quoted part of this opening phrase in the Declaration of Independence:
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
Emphasis mine. They're saying, quite openly, that anytyhing that interferes with a man's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is worthy of partial or total rebellion.

Earlier this week, I received something from a friend of mine, quoted from Garrison Keillor.

This is Democratic bedrock: we don't let people lie in the ditch and drive past and pretend not to see them dying. Here on the frozen tundra of Minnesota, if your neighbor's car won't start, you put on your parka and get the jumper cables out and deliver the Sacred Spark that starts their car. Everybody knows this. The logical extension of this spirit is social welfare and the myriad government programs with long dry names all very uninteresting to you until you suddenly need one and then you turn into a Democrat. A liberal is a conservative who's been through treatment.
This is like a volleyball setup and spike: (Setup) You wouldn't drive by someone lying in the ditch, right? (Setup) You wouldn't avoid helping your neighbor get their car out of the snow, would you? (Spike!) Then obviously you agree with myriad goverment programs, right?

Paraphrased: if you're a good neighbor and a good person, you espouse social welfare. Right?

If I compare the two statements of Garrison Keillor and Thomas Jefferson, I don't think they're much the same. One says that people should be free to live their own lives and the government has no right to interfere with that, and the other says that people ought to help others live via myriad government programs.

Keillor's words are democratic bedrock? Not at all. They're socialist bedrock. I'll stick with Jefferson, thank you very much, who helped author the documents of democracy.

Between John Edwards' economic "tax-the-rich" populism and Hillary Clinton's "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good," what American principle are they following? They're in lock-step with Garrison Keillor, but not with John Adams, Ben Franklin, or Thomas Jefferson. It's not the government's right to take money from people to give to others. Nor is it the right of anyone to take money from anyone else. Jefferson viewed government as a "dangerous necessity" for this very reason, and felt that the federal government should have its powers circumscribed.

Freedom is the fundamental concept of this country. The limitation of government to intrude on the lives of its citizens is a very close second. The Bill of Rights isn't a declaration of freedoms allowed to us, so much as a declaration of limitations on the government:

  1. Congress shall make no law...
  2. ...shall not be infringed
  3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner...
  4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects...shall not be violated...
  5. No person shall be held to answer...
  6. [Exception]
  7. [Exception]
  8. Excessive bail shall not be required...
  9. ...shall not be construed to deny or disparage...
  10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
All of these but two expressly limit government. And the other two give rights to people held for trial.

In My America, this country is a place where each person is free to live their own life without adversely impacting the lives of others. It's a place where each person has a social obligation not to provide welfare, but to live on their own, provide for themselves, and provide for those for whom they are responsible.

Occasionally, some will stumble. I'll save that for another day.

 

1 Comment
Tags: my america | politics
by Brett Rogers, 8/4/2007 1:53:53 PM
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Weekends and Evenings

 

Painting will be sparse in the next month or two as I shift toward left-brained activity (hence, the more analytical, political posts these days... that and the campaign and congressional stupidity is too good to pass up...) I've signed on to do a super-secret project in my spare time and I'll be cooking on that for the next few months.

I'll post up photos and highlight other artists in the interim.

 

0 Comments
Tags: my life
by Brett Rogers, 8/5/2007 1:13:25 PM
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Wasting Money

 

A week ago, I said that Barack Obama's campaign is over due to his serious foreign policy gaffes.

Today, news of exactly this, as Hillary Clinton holds not just a double-digit lead over Obama, but a 22% lead. Clinton is too smart to blow a lead that big with her own gaffe. I mean, even if her husband had, you know, like an affair or something, it wouldn't change anything.

UPDATED: As if on cue, there's this today: "I have it on very, very good authority that major opposition research has already been conducted on Bill Clinton, and it's going to be a massive smear campaign against him," he says. A group of former intelligence officers, he says, is "going to try to cripple Hillary through Bill." - I don't think this will stop her nomination.
Now granted, Obama has money:
Plouffe also pointed to Obama's prowess at raising money from 258,000 individual donors as a sign of his strength. Obama raised about $5 million more than Clinton during the second quarter.
And you can spend more money than the competition for marketing, but if the product is bad, it's wasted money.

He'll learn and he'll come back later and be smarter. Maybe his supporters can look at this as an investment in the future.

So if Hillary's the nominee, who's it for the Republicans?

It ain't McCain. He blew that with McCain-Feingold's chokehold on free speech and his support for amnesty.

Thompson? Maybe. Let's how he runs once he's actually in the dang thing.

Giuliani? I would love to see Giuliani get it, just to tweak the religious right. And I believe that any enemy who would try to hurt us would suffer in hell for it because he wouldn't put up with any crap. But I have no idea how he'll govern.

Romney? I think he's the most qualified executive running. A very impressive guy. Can he get enough traction? Here in Iowa, he got into a row with a local rude talk-show host, Jan Mickelson. I watched this video, and Romney handles the incessant interruptions really well.

(I've listened to Jan's show in the past, and I like Jan, but he was utterly pompous in this "interview." Bad form.)

I can't guage who the Republican nominee might be. I'd say that Giuliani and Romney have equal chance, with Thompson as a dark horse, and I think that in his own way, Newt Gingrich will factor into this somehow - though I think he has no chance whatsoever of getting the nomination.

 

1 Comment
Tags: politics
by Brett Rogers, 8/7/2007 9:30:56 AM
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Name Suffix

 

Some people get real addicted to the string of letters that follow their name. These are each called a Name Suffix. You can be utterly booksmart and never accomplish squat. Professional suffixes be damned.

A guy with whom I once worked and I used to joke about this, and we came up with our own desgination: GSD. It stood for "Gets Shit Done." All the pretense in the world can't save you from an inability to make it happen. Ultimately, that's all that counts.

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 8/9/2007 9:29:28 AM
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Newt and Mitt

 

On Saturday, Tamara, Nick, and I went to Ames, Iowa, to volunteer at Newt Gingrich's American Solutions tent.

That's Tamara greeting a smiling Newt as he exits his van.

The straw poll was cool. As we drove there, we saw lots of Ron Paul signs littering the interstate shoulders. Iowa State troopers were tediously pulling them from the roadside. I had to laugh at one point though - under one Ron Paul sign was someone else's custom sign, asking the important question: "Who is Ron Paul?"

Indeed.

We stayed around long enough to listen to Mitt Romney's speech. He's easily the most media-friendly politician for the Republicans. The three of us voted for Mitt. He floated the idea of having zero tax on capital gains. He contrasted that with Edwards' idea of leaving the first $250 as tax-free. "$250?" Mitt quipped. "That wouldn't even pay for John Edwards' haircut."

He also proposed forcing computer manufacturers to install a "porn-free" button that would begin to filter out porn. Serious faux pas on several levels.

  1. Who decides what porn is?
  2. If he believes that government should be smaller, how does this infiltration into the private sector demonstrate that?
  3. The technology would never work. Unless images can be screened for content - which they can't - there is no filtering of porn. Any image can be named anything we like and still posted, hosted, and sent by email. He's blitheringly naive to suggest this. But I suppose it makes for great soundbite...
That said, I still think he's the most capable executive and media-savvy candidate in the race. That's why I voted for him. He also showed an knack for turning out voters. Yeah, people might poo-poo his methods. I don't think that matters. He achieved what he needed to achieve, and at the end of the day, that's what matters for any candidate - or president.

Back to Newt...

I like Newt. I think he's a very smart guy. He proposes that instead of soundbites and short-form debates, the candidates give lengthy speeches that outline the what and the how of their future administration. I love that.

He also insisted that we bring Congress into an emergency three-day session to pass simple legislation.

Under a new immigration bill, Gingrich wants the Department of Homeland Security to outsource the creation of a secure, accurate system to quickly check legal status of people who commit serious crimes. He wants the bill to require that anyone arrested for a felony be checked for legal status. Lastly, he stipulates that any city, county or state that refuses to do so would lose all federal funding.
What sane American would disagree with that? Good for him.

ETC: And more pictures with Newt from the Iowa Straw Poll...

 

2 Comments
Tags: politics | mitt romney
by Brett Rogers, 8/13/2007 11:47:04 AM
Permalink


Meme-On-A-Stick

 

Tagged by Janet, I'm asked for my favorite Iowa State Fair memory. I'm that rare bird from Iowa - I've been to the fair only three times in my life.

The first time I attended, and perhaps the most memorable one, was not to attend the fair, but a concert. I think it was in 1981. Triumph, 38 Special, and a few other bands were playing. Back then, I owned a certified hippie vehicle: a flower-curtained, powder blue with white top Volkswagen Minibus. I'd purchased it like a week earlier. My best buddy, Jim, drove the six of us there. I had no idea how to drive a stick yet and didn't have my license (long story there...)

The concert was fine. Rik Emmett was awesome, and that's all that mattered. It was the ride home that proved memorable.

The concert ended late in the night, and we all got into the van. Jim drove home. As we headed back for my home town of Sioux City, Iowa, everyone in the back of the van passed the bong pipe and Jim and I sat in the front seats.

Somewhere just north of where 680 joins 29, Jim told me that he was too tired to drive. A quick survey of the group in back found them too stoned to drive. Me - and typically for me - I was wired and wide awake. So Jim pulled over to the side of the road and he and I swapped seats. Now, if you've ever driven a minibus, it has a stick about two feet tall coming up off the floor of the van. Jim tried to coach me into how to maneuver the clutch and stick, but lessons taught at 1 AM on the shoulder of the interstate aren't always fruitful.

So Jim took over again. But about 10 minutes into the drive, he started to nod off, and I caught him, and he righted himself. So he proposed that he and I switch seats - while he was driving.

Donna from the back shouted, "You've got to be kidding. You're get us killed if you try that."

Carl, in his tyipcal Carl way, said, "This is gonna be excellent."

The other two were half-asleep.

Jim lifted himself from his seat, I slid in behind him. Then the van started to lurch as it slowed down.

Jim looked over his shoulder at me. "You'll have to put your foot on the gas pedal or we'll kill our speed." And with that, he stepped on the gas pedal again and we were back to 55 mph.

"You guys are going to get in a wreck," said Donna.

"This is choice," said Carl.

I worked my foot underneath Jim's and floored it. There was no finessing the pedal in the position I was in. Fortunately for me, my van topped out at 65 mph. I worked my way up into the driver's seat and Jim stepped over the stick while holding onto the wheel. Amazingly, the van didn't swerve much during the exchange. A moment later, I took over the steering wheel.

Jim looked at me from the passenger seat, smiling. "You got it?"

"I'm good!" I replied, beaming.

Carl: "That was awesome."

Donna: "No, that was scary."

The rest of the drive was uneventful. When we got to Sioux City, I took my foot off the gas and then moved the stick into neutral until we coasted to a stop and them Jim took over again and dropped everyone off.

Donna didn't speak to me for a week.

 

2 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 8/14/2007 8:55:01 AM
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Caught

 

We live in a fishbowl world, where our actions can be photographed, filmed, and recorded by just about anyone.

A friend of mine sends me a link to the story of a guy who sent his girlfriend flowers via 1-800-FLOWERS, and as is their custom, they send a thank you note for doing business with them. Except that his wife intercepted the note, and then got a fax of the transaction.

This YouTube video has its audio/video poorly synched, but listen anyway...

I guess they were separated at the time. But if that's true, then how is it that the Thank You note went to his wife's address and not his own? That's his fault, not theirs.

Either way, more frivolous lawsuits...

 

0 Comments
Tags: legal reform
by Brett Rogers, 8/14/2007 9:57:19 AM
Permalink


Gnawing on the Olive Branch

 

The Chungs, who own the dry cleaners that was sued for a bazillion dollars by a DC administrative judge over a pair of lost pants, have withdrawn their motion to have court loser Roy Pearson pay for the $83,000 they chalked up in legal fees.

All the Chungs "want to do is make this case go away" so they can return to their lives, and they hope by "offering this olive branch" that Pearson won't appeal.
Any hope that Pearson might not file an appeal has grown slimmer...

After universal condemnation, an initial loss, and potentially losing his job over this, why would Roy Pearson continue?

 

0 Comments
Read the whole story of "The Pants Lawsuit"
Tags: legal reform
by Brett Rogers, 8/15/2007 11:42:03 AM
Permalink


Lori McKenna

 

A couple of years ago, I found Lori McKenna's song "Never Die Young" as a free download on GarageBand.com. I love that song.

I recently saw her on Oprah because Faith Hill has covered Lori's song, "Fireflies." Pretty cool.

I've been listening to all of Lori's songs through YahooMusic lately and her songwriting is amazing. Here's the video of her song, "Unglamorous."

It's good to see her get discovered and receive well-deserved attention.

 

0 Comments
Tags: music
by Brett Rogers, 8/16/2007 11:09:30 AM
Permalink


Looking Up

 

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 8/22/2007 7:20:29 AM
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A Spouse Online

 

I drove yesterday to pick up my sons, and listened to Deace in the Afternoon, but the host, Steve Deace, was gone and in his place was local blogger, Janet Green. (UPDATED: Janet emails me to say that it wasn't her! Oops! So I call the show and it was Jen Miller. Hmmm... doesn't sounds much the same - I need to get my ears cleaned!)

Her question for her audience was: if you, married, go into a game like SecondLife and hook up your avatar with someone else's avatar, is it adultery?

Her context for this was that there are people who spend hours and hours playing "life" online. If you're having virtual sex with others, is it cheating?

An example of this is from this guy:

I feel guilty. My wife would not be happy (understatement of the young century) if she knew of my SL activities. And I hate lying to my wife. Yet, at the same time, I'm having so much fun - I am exploring fantasies I never could in real life.
Here's a clue - when you're lying to your wife and you feel guilty and your wife would not be happy, it's wrong. I mean, duh.

Some who called in to Jen's show labeled it cheating; some callers said it was not. One had an interesting perspective: if a guy who spends hours in SecondLife mashing up with hot babes virtually, how is that any different from the woman who spends hours in fantasy reading Harlequin romance novels?

Jen then gave the intro from the book Every Woman's Battle, where it starts out by saying, "At one time I was having extramarital affairs with five different men." The author then goes on to say that none of these had any physical love involved, but declared it to be an emotional or mental affair.

My memories of my romantic relationship with Ray, my fascination with Tom's wit, Mark's maturity, and Scott's verbal talents affected my marriage in a way just as damaging as a sexual affair would have been. I was overlooking all of the many wonderful things about my husband because I was either focusing on the positive attributes of one of these other men, or focusing on my husband's negative attributes.
No touching doesn't mean that there's no problem. Sex is as much or more a mental act as it is a physical act. Is allowing for mental excitement with someone else cheating? I say it is.

Thanks, Jen, for the provocative discussion.

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 8/22/2007 8:15:29 AM
Permalink


My Résumé

 

I've put my résumé up online at beatcanvas.

And here's a picture for today:

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 8/23/2007 9:15:20 AM
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The Ultimate Road Trip Bike

 

Or, how to ride for hours on end... so to speak.

 

1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 8/23/2007 10:27:21 AM
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Not So Much

 

So, I'm reading how Mark Cuban, the dramatic ex-Internet entrepreneur who owns the Dallas Mavericks and who also hired Dan Rather to host a news show for Mr. Cuban's fledgling HDNet, said that the Internet is "dead and boring."

In the comments of the "dead and boring" story, someone correctly says, "Anyone who hires Dan Rather these days can definitely be ruled out as a visionary."

:)

 

3 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 8/24/2007 7:43:41 AM
Permalink


   

Three Tiers of FICO Score

 

I work for a really large mortgage company, and as I watch the news of late about defaults rising and home sales stagnating and subprime lending cease as we've known it, I have a judgment, and then suggestions.

I think the means by which we measure a person's credit rating is broken. We use this thing called a FICO score, which is managed by the companies Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. Frankly, they do a lousy job. A review of anyone's credit report will generally find inaccuracies, redundant entries, and in my view, an incomplete picture. In the year 2007, it seems to me that there's a better way. Technology allows for that, and a person's FICO score is the backbone of individual financial prowess. Something so important shouldn't be so carelessly managed. Indeed, a cottage industry has sprung up to help people monitor their credit report.

My suggestions:

1) Vendors today who wish to sell goods in the marketplace have to get a barcode. It doesn't cost a lot of money to get one, and it does a good job of making each item in a store unique and easily traceable. Why don't vendors who bill anything that might appear on our credit report get a unique ID to easily identify and trace them, and then whenever an item appears on our credit, it shows the vendor's unique ID and our account number with that vendor. That should get rid of the problem of duplicate entries.

2) Why do we have a single FICO score? That's dumb. All that any vendor cares about at the end of the day is that a consumer pays the money they owe. If you get a loan, make your payments. If you have a credit card, make your payments. If you go to the doctor, pay the bill. That's all they care about.

But here's the truth: how a person performs in paying off their house has no relevance at all to how they pay their dentist.

So why do mortgage lenders take into account how a person pays the dentist when sizing up their ability to make a mortgage payment?

Answer: because it's the only system we have.
Subanswer: maybe because it allows them to charge more money for the loan in interest.

But in a time of tightening credit and better technology, the market will find a way around this. People still need homes.

I think there should be three tiers of credit scoring.

Tier #1 is your home. It's either your rent or your house payment. Rent isn't tracked like a house payment, but it should be. It indicates how you would pay for a home loan. I think that utility bills should also be stacked up in this tier. You're more of a risk of not paying your home loan as expected if you let the lights go out.

Tier #2 is voluntary credit. Credit cards, student loans, car loans - anything where you fill out an application and apply for credit with a vendor.

Tier #3 is involuntary credit. Doctor and medical bills, parking fines, library late fees that you forget to pay. You didn't seek out these bills - they just happened to you.

This is a more complete picture of how we pay our bills. When getting credit, let's compare apples to apples. I also think that a better system would greatly speed up the mortgage process. Many lenders today - especially those who do/did subprime lending - waste time looking at the merge of the Experian-Equifax-Transunion credit report. If credit scoring was split into three tiers, there would be no need for that. And for those that have never applied for a home loan, their rental history provides the information and is demonstrated through their Tier 1 scoring. That doesn't happen today.

That's my two cents...

 

2 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 8/28/2007 9:14:46 AM
Permalink

   

Green by Example - Or Not

 

This morning I read of two headlines: one about Leonardo DiCaprio's new environmental movie, 11th Hour - the tagline of which is "Consume Less, Live More" - and a headline about John Edwards' insistance that Americans chuck their SUV's.

Tell you what... when nannyish people like these guys stop buying carbon offsets to support their lavish lifestyle and they start living in a way that shows they take everything they say seriously, I'll believe that they're worth listening to.

Here's Leonardo DiCaprio's house:

So much for consuming less...

And here's John Edwards exiting his SUV at a campaign stop in Texas:

You first, buddy.

I see literally none of these environmetal activists hypocrites living in a truly green way. Do they live off-grid? Nope - not a chance. Do they live chemical-free? Nah - gotta have them well-manicured lawns. And I wonder how much water it takes to keep those lawns all tropical-looking... Do they stop flying gas-guzzling private jets? Oh mercy, no.

Then nothing they preach to us about saving the earth has any weight or significance whatsoever. Tangerine taboos be damned.

ETC: This hilarious take, forwarded to me from my friend, Kelly.

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 8/29/2007 10:51:24 AM
Permalink


Listen Well Interview: Cory Garrison

 

I recently interviewed Cory Garrison of R.E.L. for my Listen Well series.

Cory comes to listening from a sales and relationships perspective, and he and his company, as Doug predicted, had some interesting perspectives and methods that you might enjoy.

You can read what follows, or you can listen online.

Brett: Hi Cory.
Cory: Hi, how are ya?
Brett: I'm here today to talk to you about listening. I was handed off to you and I heard that you have a unique perspective on the whole thing.
Cory: Okay... well, I hope so!
Brett: Well, you know... so in your job, and you work for REL-
Cory: R.E.L.
Brett: R.E.L. - right - okay. By the way, is that owners' initials?
Cory: It actually is. Rod, Eric, and Larry are the original founders of the company.
Brett: You are...
Cory: My title is Client Development Consultant.
Brett: And your job is to go get new business.
Cory: In a nutshell, yeah. It's to build awareness about who we are and what we do and to drive new business through the door, and also to manage that business once a new client has started working with us.
Brett: Sure. And you guys have a blog too, right?
Cory: Yes, we do.
Brett: But it's more of a company blog, not just an individual blog.
Cory: It is a company blog.
Brett: Because I've noticed that all of you will contribute articles to that. So did that start with you or did that start before you?
Cory: You know, it actually started before me. The blog did itself. Mark True, who is our Brand Warrior, had his own blog, and it was called "A Little Bit of Mark," I believe is what it was called at the time. That's over a year ago now, and he was primarily - he did all the writing on that. But it was all tied to what we do, which is help clients tell their story. We're storytellers. About seven, eight, nine months ago, we actually turned it into a company blog, the title of which is "Stories by R.E.L." Again, because the idea is to help clients tell their stories.
Brett: Sure. That's great, then if you guys are storytellers, then I'm assuming that before you can tell the story you have to hear the story.
Cory: Absolutely.
Brett: How do you do that?
Cory: Well, it starts - every client starts with what we call the Brand Discernment process. We use that word "discernment" a lot. And I think the word, discernment, that word in itself, I think, lends itself - I don't know how to describe this - but it sort of lends itself to - what you're talking about - about listening. We have to allow - we have to give our clients an opportunity to tell their story. We have to listen to very specific details about their story and ask very important questions. We ask hard, difficult questions. We have to make our clients really think about what they're telling us. The idea, ultimately, is to create a story, but it's to help tell their story in a way that is what we call D.I.R.T.Y.

D.I.R.T.Y. is an acronym for Different, Inviting, Relevant, Truthful, and Yours - they have to own it. They have to believe in it. And that takes a lot of listening, a lot of deep listening, a lot of thinking, and a lot of difficult asking of questions.
Brett: So do you ever have clients come to you who are reluctant?
Cory: Yes. Most of the time.
Brett: How do you deal with that?
Cory: Once our clients begin the process, usually they come to us for one very specific reason and it's because there's pain. They're stuck - in one way or another. Whether it be through they're just not driving enough revenue into their organization, which is typically - I would say that's probably the most common problem. They're having growing pains. They're having a lot of turnover issues. Whatever it may be, it's usually an organization that is stuck and they're having trouble moving forward. When you start asking question about who they are and what makes them different, inviting, relevant, most of those companies have a really tough time answering that question.
Brett: Is that because they're too close to it to see it? Or...
Cory: That's a pretty good analysis. I think so, because we argue that there is something about every organization, just like every person - every human being - there's something that is different and inviting about them. Maybe they're afraid to express it. Maybe they haven't taken the time to figure out what that is. It could be a number of different things. Maybe they started in doing business in a way that was different, inviting, and relevant, but through growth and through not staying on task - you know, it's very easy to start in one direction and follow opportunities - becoming opportunistic in the way you do business. And pretty soon, you're doing things you don't know how to do, you don't want to be doing, and maybe it's not really your bread and butter, and you find your organization in an entirely different place than where you started.
Brett: You know, that's an interesting concept - the idea that opportunities could be misleading, away from your true calling.
Cory: Absolutely.
Brett: That's absolutely true though.
Cory: It's true. And what happens is that you're having a bad month, or you don't really have anything on the docket, and an opportunity is standing in front of you, and there's money involved.
Brett: Right. And we can keep the business afloat this way.
Cory: That's right. If we just do this, and then we'll get back on track.
Brett: ...and then that leads to...
Cory: We know this isn't who we are or what we do. We challenge our clients, once they really understand what it is that makes their brand D.I.R.T.Y., to use that to make their decisions. When you have an opportunity like that in front of you, [they can ask], "Does it match up with our brand? Is it who we are?" You can use that for new business. You can use that when you're talking about hiring new employees. I think it's a big big part of your brand. I was in recruiting for many years, and I can't tell you how many companies are just desperate to fill seats, but they don't really take the time to make sure that somebody really matches, not just a skillset, but from a personality set - "Is this a really good fit for us?"
Brett: Because every business is just the sum of its employees, ultimately.
Cory: It really is. Ultimately, it is.
Brett: If you bring in a bunch of people who are not a fit for your company's culture or mission-
Cory: -oh yeah. And not even a bunch. It can happen with one person.
Brett: That's true.
Cory: If you have a small organization and you bring in the wrong individual, it can really cloud the water. If you understand who you are as an organization, what your DNA is, and the kind of people that make up that organization, then you can make certain decisions from a recruiting standpoint that will help attract the same kind of people. But if you're just opening the door and saying, "Hey - we need to fill some seats," well, you could get lucky, and fill those seats with people that fit, but the odds aren't very good and that's what creates turnover and turnover's very expensive. And that leads you down a whole different road of problems and issues.
Brett: Sure. You know, I'm thinking about this opportunities leading people astray from their mission... I think that's personally true too, not just corporately true.
Cory: No question about it. It's sort of, in some sense maybe, a new way of looking at things. I think that there was a time where really it was about just going and doing a good job and getting your paycheck. But now people, it seems to me, oftentimes need to be more connected to the kind of work they do. And some sort of passion, and I think that's okay.
Brett: Yeah, I think people want meaningful work that will stretch them in the direction that they want to go.
Cory: Sure, and I think people ignore their passion a lot. It's very easy to do. You gotta pay your bills, but you don't... or you think that something is too far out of reach. And I think an organization could think that way too.
Brett: So we talked about whether or not sometimes your clients might be reluctant. Or maybe they might be ignorant really of where some of these things are. So how do you pull that out of them?
Cory: The Brand Discernment process that I talked about is led by Mark True, our Brand Warrior. Mark has an uncanny ability to listen to what people are saying. And he has a way to decipher the truthfulness in that. You know, we take these organizations through your typical SWOT analysis. We actually start with the aspiration. "Where do you wanna be? Where do you wanna be when you grow up?" And then we go back to the beginning. Tell us about your history, what's worked, what hasn't worked, what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses. Take everybody through a SWOT analysis and we just compile all of that information then. Once it's all done, it can take a full day, sometimes it can take a couple of days to get through this process. And then we begin to break that down. We put it in a document format. And what happens then is we begin to see some of the patterns and some of the things that, some of the decisions they've made, but typically what you really get out of that is their story. Okay, who are these guys and what makes them good at what they do. And we begin to see things that make them different, that make them inviting, and that make them relevant. And once we've done that, we can decipher where they need to focus their attention, depending on what they really want to aspire to. Once we've done that, we begin to design strategies that are gonna help them get there. See, usually, people start with the tactic. "We need people to know who we are, so let's advertise." And they go spend a bunch of money advertising. That's not necessarily - it may be a good decision and it may not. At that point, really, you're guessing. What we identify from that Brand Discernment process are their critical issues. These are two, three, or four things that are really prohibiting you from moving forward. This is why you're stuck - 1, 2, 3, 4 - these are your critical issues. We take those critical issues, and we build strategies around those critical issues - strategies to address the critical issues. From those strategies come certain tactics. And now we're down to the tactical level, which is maybe there's gonna be some money put into advertising. But again - we're not guessing about that. We've figured out that we need to reach an audience, but it's become very purposeful. We're not guessing.
Brett: So you started out as a video company, but you also do business consulting.
Cory: The way we've described it sometimes is that we look a little bit like an advertising agency, a little bit like a therapist's office. You know, all kind of mixed into one. Necessity is the mother of invention, right?
Brett: Right.
Cory: They just got tired of being order takers, and being, you know, video and web producers. They had the video production going and there was some opportunity to add some web development, so they did. There was some opportunity to add some graphic design, so they did. Again, they were growing in a very opportunistic way - the way most companies do, without any real plan. And I think that really they just got tired of taking the orders - and I think that they felt like they were doing a lot of this work without any kind of knowledge about what it was going to do for the client. Okay, we're gonna make a lot of money off of it, but what does this do for them? How do you know you need a web page?
Brett: Well, it's what they asked for, so we'll just do that.
Cory: Right, right. That's exactly it. How do you know you need video? How do you know?
Brett: How is it that you find vendors, customers, people like that - how do you get in there and start talking to them about the company to get a better picture.
Cory: Well, you know, it's like this. [gesturing at the two of us sitting down to talk] It really is.
Brett: So do you go to the company and say, "Can I have your vendor list? Who can I talk to?" What do you do?
Cory: No. You know what? Every bit of business that I've brought in has been through relationships that I built outside of the organization. Every time. So it's through somebody that I know. When I sit down and start talking to people about their business, we'll meet over coffee. It's always just a "Hey - let's get to know each other, let's get to know our businesses," and see if there's any synergy there for whatever reason. We do not have a very typical sales model. It really is about just sharing of information. Tell me about you, tell me about your organization. What's great about your organization. What's holding you guys back? All of those things. And you can spend enough time just... and I don't - I never try to size somebody up to say, you know, have this first impression whether or not they're going to fit my organization or not - could they be a client. It always comes in time. Because oftentimes, you just know that they're not gonna be, but inevitably there's always someone else that I can introduce them to. "You know who you should meet? You should meet so-and-so." Or if you're telling me about the issues your organization's having, then I might have a solution. Or I might know somebody that has a solution. And that's what I like to do. I think organizations are like, you know, nearly all have a certain level of dysfunction to them. If there's a lot of dysfunction, ultimately, that's going to catch up to you, and you're going to have some unhappy employees, or people are going to end up leaving, or something's going to happen to throw a cog into that wheel. Is cog the right word?
Brett: A wrench in the works.
Cory: A stick through the spokes. Whatever it is. So just by conversation you begin to learn about organizations and how you might be able to play a role into getting them on the right track. And really, what I've noticed thus far in the year that I've been here is when I start to tell people about R.E.L., and what we do and how we do it, it strikes a chord with people. We have a different way of doing business. When I tell people what we do and how we do it, they really begin to pay attention. And it's kind of like that... there's almost like a sense of, "Oh my god, that's what we need!" And there's not many organizations who don't. Some are in more pain than others. But I really believe we can alleviate a lot of that pain. So that's how the conversation always starts. It's primarily I want to know about that person, about their role and about their organization. And if I have an opportunity, if they ask, to tell them about us, then I'll do so. And that usually happens at some point. But really it's about relationship building. And it's about listening and offering suggestions. The best sales book I've ever read - and I've only read like two good sales books ever - and I'm a reader! - but the best sales book I've ever read is by a guy named Mahan Khalsa. He runs the sales and business development practice area for Franklin Covey. He wrote a book called "Let's Get Real or Let's Not Play." Part of his theory is "Start anywhere, go anywhere." It's about just sitting down and just letting the conversation happen. You go in with these preconceived notions, and you're gonna walk out disappointed. If you walk in, and your goal is to get this sale or close this deal... sales in general is a very dysfunctional occupation.
Brett: It's very funneled, how it tries to channel things.
Cory: Completely. It's a silly silly thing. And that's why I love being at R.E.L. so much. They buy into Mahan's theory of start anywhere go anywhere - you don't force anything. You let the conversations happen. The opportunity will present itself somewhere along the way. But for me and primarily my role is to be building that relationship and to be networking and getting to know more people and what's happening is that eventually somebody will say - you know people are always talking about their businesses and talking about their problems - "Have you talked to Cory Garrison over at R.E.L.?" And I get a phone call, or I meet somebody: "Oh, I've been meaning to call you." Or I'm introduced to somebody and I get the opportunity to tell them what we do, but I'm never trying to force anybody into coming in and taking part the Brand Discernment process. You know, it's like somebody who has a drinking problem. "I'm fine. I can handle it."
Brett: I don't need any help.
Cory: And if you think about it, entrepreneurs - Hey I built it myself - bootstrap mentality. I don't need any help - we can fix it on our own. We get a lot of those people.
Brett: So when you guys diagnose - maybe that's a poor word - when you guys determine what the problems are - when you've discerned the different things that need to be done... you've got quite a bank of talent here: the graphic designers, video production, the other things... do you have like organizational psychologists here too? Because actually what's interesting to me is that from the outside, when I came in, [R.E.L.] started out as a video place, right? Here's our graphic designers and our web guys and everything else. And yet, I find that most of the stuff we've talked about so far really gets into the realm of, like you said, therapy and organizational psychology and trying to fix the dysfunction within an organization. How does that translate into video? But how does that also - what do you do in house to help steer those things and are the companies you work with really prepared for that part of what you do?
Cory: Sometimes they are and sometimes they're not. Again, keep in mind that the idea here is to help organizations tell their story. And that's really what all of that is designed around. Great design, great web sites, video production. These are the things that are going to help you tell your story. Building a great blog, whatever that may be. But before you can tell that story, you've kind of gotta clear out all the minutiae. You gotta, you know, use the mental floss and clear everything out. And understanding who you are - remember when we were talking a little while ago if you know and understand your brand you can make better decisions. You can make more purposeful decisions that make sense for the organization. That's all in sort of building that storytelling. You start with understanding what you brand is, and understanding who you are, and once you sort of talk through all this stuff, you really start to see people nodding their heads. Yes, that's right - that's true. It's sort of like reigniting or helping people remember, you know, why did we start this in the first place? Why are we doing this when it's not even in our skillset? Why are we ignoring this when that is our core? And that's the therapy part of it - helping them bring all that to the surface. One thing you asked earlier that I never addressed is you asked me if we, do we talk to other people. You know, you might three or four other people in this room, how do you find out the truth? And that's part of it.
Brett: Because my opinion of myself is not correct.
Cory: That's exactly it. Or at least it's going to be - that's one person's opinion, but you have all these other people looking at you. In our Brand Discernment process, we have a spot in there we call the Reality Check. And that Reality Checking - it looks, it can look different depending on the situation, but oftentimes it's doing a survey, an employee survey. We've gone a sat down and interviewed employees of our clients before and just asked them questions and gotten some really really interesting responses.
Brett: I suppose.
Cory: Oftentimes, it's very accurate. Sometimes, it's not so accurate. You know, you can tell some of the employees - we did this with one of our clients, and we took them through the Brand Discernment process about a year ago. When we went through and did a Reality Check with their employees, there was one employee in particular that had a different story than everybody else did. In other words, the owners, the employees really seemed to be on the same page. But they really didn't know how to communicate who they were, and they were taking on a lot of business opportunistically also because they didn't know how to get out and tell their story in a meaningful way. We helped them do that, but there was one individual who was really telling a different story than everybody else. And you knew that that person was not going to be around very long. You just knew it. They really didn't buy in to who the organization was. They weren't a fit, and you knew it and the guy's not there any more. I could have predicted it. I saw it back then - he's a short-timer. And you just knew it. But yeah, we've done surveys with customers, employees, and you really get a lot of good feedback from that. That's the Reality Check, and it's very very helpful.
Brett: That's cool.
Cory: Yeah.
Brett: So how would you define listening?
Cory: That's actually - that's a tough question. You have to remove the selfishness. When you sit down with somebody, it can't be, "What are you gonna do for me?" I try to look at it from the opposite way as "What is it that I can do to help this person?" It's not always about, "Can this guy's company be a client of mine?" You know, we may get there sometime, but what I love to do, and this I guess is from all my years in executive recruiting, was helping people make connections. That's really about - that's really what I love to do is help people make connections that's going to somehow help them move forward. And you can't do that unless you really pay attention. And it's not just about - this is really cliché, right? - but hearing and listening... it goes beyond... you sort of have to read between the lines when people arte talking and telling you something because there's... I guess it's about being selfless and engaging and figuring out what it is you can do to help move somebody forward. When I think of listening, especially in a business environment, that's what I think about. And sometimes it's just being a sounding board. I've learned that the hard way - in marriage mostly. People don't always want an answer.
Brett: Right. Sometimes it's just talking stuff out. And people always move better and more passionately on something if they come up with it themselves or if they realize it for themselves - even if you give them the beginning of it, for them to make it their own and then move forward with it, as opposed to just advice advice advice.
Cory: Well that's exactly right. If you're asking questions along the way that are meaningful, and that make sense, to help somebody kind of get to that point and sometimes you can see that on their face when they come to that realization: "I know exactly what the answer is." You don't have to give them advice. But then you can ultimately help somebody - again I'm thinking back to a business environment which is to help you with your issue or your problem or your frustration. Maybe I got you closer. And I think ultimately if you're doing that - if you're engaging and you're actively listening and participating in that conversation... I mean, ultimately in some way it's going to come back to you.
Brett: If I could encapsulate the whole thing... it's not always important to be the sole solution at the end of the day... instead, more being a conduit toward the solution because then people realize, people then will value what you do and what you have to offer, not because you gave them the answer, but because you helped them get to the answer, whatever journey that led them on. What I'm hearing you say - whether I'm giving you the whole solution or just help you along the way, if I'm selflessly hearing what you're saying, in a way that I can help you, then you're going to have the desire to come back to me again and again because I am a solution provider. I act as a conduit toward solutions.
Cory: I couldn't have said it better myself.
Brett: I just paraphrased. So I was gonna ask you then, who would be a really good person for me to talk to who might have an interesting perspective on listening?
Cory: That's Mike Wagner. I don't know if he's been referred to you yet or not. Mike, in my opinion, is one of the most amazing people I've met since I moved to Des Moines. The other guy, and I'll get you his number, he's a guy that I've never spoken to directly, but we've had conversation via our blogs, and his name is Steve Harper. He is in Austin, Texas. He's written a book and his blog and his business are all - it's called The Ripple Effect. And it is all about making a rippling effect on the environment and the community and the people around you. It's about networking. It's about listening. It's about creating. And he really comes off to me as a brilliant guy.
Brett: Thanks Cory.
Cory: Thank you very much.

 

1 Comment
Tags: relationships | listening | interview
by Brett Rogers, 8/30/2007 12:25:38 AM
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The Left's Broad Brush

 

Okay... so I read today that director Brian De Palma is releasing Redacted, a movie about a single and despicable act of rape and killing by a few soldiers in Iraq.

Mr. De Palma says this:

"The movie is an attempt to bring the reality of what is happening in Iraq to the American people," he told reporters after a press screening.
I have to jump in here and correct him. Properly phrased, he should have said, "The movie is an attempt to bring the reality of what happened a single time in Iraq." But he didn't. He thinks an act like this is par for the course and happens all the time. Note his use of present tense.

Then he says:

"The pictures are what will stop the war. One only hopes that these images will get the public incensed enough to motivate their Congressmen to vote against this war," he said.
Ah, he has an agenda. See - he's not out to tell the truth about what's happening - present tense - in Iraq. He picked a really ugly incident that happened - past tense - once and uses that to paint our guys with a broad brush.

Relatively nobody in America will see this movie.

Distributor Magnolia has planned a limited U.S. release for later this year, and the film may be easier to sell to European audiences rather than to the American public.
Brian De Palma last directed The Black Dahlia, a really good book that Brian screwed up when bringing it to the big screen. (See the comment "De Palma Falters with So-So Take on Film Noir" at the link.) He's like the Ed Wood of his generation.

But here's the thing... as the left tries to tar and feather our soldiers in Iraq, they forget that our soldiers - the oh so vast majority of them - are really good people. Who have familes back home. Who have relatives and friends. And all of these people get the side of the story from our soldiers and from journalists like Michael Yon, who is actually out there reporting from the front lines with the troops. Meanwhile these armchair delusionists try to tell us a different story.

As a nation, we're smarter than that. We won't put up with folks who lie about the troops.

De Palma thinks he's doing a good thing, but he's only looking the fool in doing this. While Redacted addresses a real event, it's not even close to the real day-in and day-out story, which very few in the media want to tell. Good news doesn't make them money.

 

3 Comments
Tags: politics
by Brett Rogers, 8/31/2007 11:36:18 AM
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