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An absolutely necessary part of a writer's equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts on himself.
-- Irwin Shaw



Blog Posts for February 2009

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Identity

 

A few months ago, I partitioned my web site into private and public content. It was a tough decision for me, but never being fearful of falling full on my face, I decided to do so.

I'm done with that. I'm also gonna go back to making political cartoons as I was during the election. There's simply too much fodder in Washington to ignore the opportunity of ridiculing our ridiculous political class. The government sucks and deserves to be skewered. A lot. And often.

Sometime in the next two days, I'll unpartition the web site.

In celebration of my decision, here's a repost of one of my toons, which seems appropriate to the pork-loaded stimulus bill guaranteed to bankrupt your children and grandchildren:

 

1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 2/3/2009 3:12:49 PM
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Chernobyl

 

A guy where I consult referred me to the web site of a person who traveled to Chernobyl on motorcycle and took pictures.

Ghost Town is a modern Pompeii. The Soviet era is preserved here - in the radiation, for 18 years.
It's a pretty interesting tour.

In light of North Korea's and Iran's latest accomplishments, I'd say it's important to remember the damage that nuclear materials can cause.

 

2 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 2/3/2009 11:33:55 PM
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Governing (aka, Controlling)

 

Government money is all fun and games until the government starts telling you how to live your life.

Don't take the dime if you want say in how you spend your time...

Personally, I think this idea of capping retreats and capping executive pay is brilliant. Short-sighted companies will take the government's bailout money and give up their freedom and allow the politicians and bureaucrats to start calling the shots. Smart companies will tell the government to keep its money and butt out and enjoy control over how they run their own company and reward their own people.

Principle at work: Choose freedom and believe in yourself enough to figure it out.

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 2/4/2009 10:56:01 AM
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Spunk

 

For the first time in a long time, I will be without client starting Wednesday. That's not to say that I'll be idle. I've been helping a local non-profit re-brand, partnering with two other companies to re-introduce 247Toolset (which is going well), and I'll be catching up on some study that I'd wanted to do on productivity.

Also, there's a mortgage industry idea that I'd had a while back that's getting some traction, and hopefully within the next few weeks, I'll be able to talk more about that.

On Thursday, we attended my grandfather's funeral, and I wanted to say a hearty "Thank you!" to those who extended their warm thoughts my way here on the site and in person. It helped. One of the good things that has come of this tragedy is that my grandmother, Nana, whom I adore, was able to come to our house yesterday with my parents and family friend, BJ, and we all had lunch and played games through the afternoon. It was such a good time :)

As they were leaving, Tamara noticed the smudges from our dogs on the entry way window and took some Windex to it. Nana stepped through the door, then turned around to mischievously jab her fingers into the clean glass, winking at a surprised and laughing Tamara who was on the other side of the glass, and then made her getaway to the waiting van. My mom noticed the whole episode, and mouthed to me that she hadn't seen Nana so full of life in quite some time. Family helps to restore in a time of loss, and to see Nana be playful and young was nourishing to us all.

There are plans that she will move from Illinois to live with my folks in Ames, a short drive from here. I think yesterday worked some fixative into those plans. Tamara and I would love to spend more time with the firebrand that is my 81-year-old grandmother.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/8/2009 12:54:49 PM
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Ten Alternative Ways to Stimulate the Economy

 

Obama and the Democrat congress aren't serious at all about stimulating the economy. Instead, they're selfishly giving money to their donors and allies at the expense of us and our kids' future earnings. Jason Lewis says it best when he explains it this way: Politicians who invest taxpayer money don't do so for the maximum financial return on investment, but invest money instead for the maximum political return on investment. Theirs is a political motive, not a profit motive. Theirs is self-interest, not your interest.

So here are my ten alternatives to stimulate the economy, all of which run rings around the proposals of Obama/Pelosi/Reid. Instead of $800 billion given to the never-solvent Amtrak, the reduction of the hazard of lead-based paint, and stop smoking campaigns - none of which helps the unemployed or tanking homeowner - how about these proposals for the $800 billion:

  1. For the next year, freeze all federal and social security taxes on any hours worked beyond 30 for per hour workers to provide incentive for people to work more.
  2. Freeze all federal and social security taxes on any person in default on their home mortgage.
  3. Provide money to allow homeowners to defer payments on their mortgage if they lose their income.
  4. Provide $10,000 start-up capital for anyone who comes forward with a viable business plan.
  5. Provide full/partial scholarships to public colleges/universities for young entrepeneurs with a viable business plan.
  6. For those who have started a small business in the last two years, freeze all federal and social security taxes.
  7. Double the tax credits given to those who donate to non-profits that help those in need.
  8. Provide tuition assistance to students who attend colleges/universities who create expedited training programs for unemployed workers.
  9. Charge the Department of Commerce with amplifying the success stories of those small businesses who make a profit and can provide a "lessons learned."
  10. Resolve to veto any legislation with politician-supplied earmarks - because frivolous spending will only worsen things in the long-term.
The difference between my approach and those of Obama/Pelosi/Reid is that mine focuses on creating jobs and helping people maintain their wealth (their home). Relatively little in the Obama/Pelosi/Redit approach has any concern whatsoever with actual people in need - because, in truth, they don't care about actual people in need.

Here's what Massachussettes' embarrassment had to say about giving the little people stimulus money:

If you put a tax cut into the hands of a business or family, there's no guarantee that they're going to invest that or invest it in America.

They're free to go invest anywhere that they want if they choose to invest.

So there you go, America. You're just not smart enough to know what to do with your money. Instead, trust politicians with your money.

There are a bunch of idiots in Washington who've never had to worry about money or make a payroll. They are irresponsible and they need to hear from you about it.

ETC: Just a bit of further explanation. An economy is driven by the velocity of money. What stops the velocity of money is uncertainty.

So I'll ask you this - what will put the brakes on the economy more: people being unemployed or people not having more information about quitting smoking? People losing their homes to foreclosure or Amtrak having another bad year?

Which causes more uncertainty in our nation's economy: the hazards of lead-paint or small businesses going under?

Look at where the politicians are spending the stimulus money. They're doing almost nothing to allay uncertainty in the marketplace, and in fact by spending so much money so wastefully, they're only increasing the uncertainty in the marketplace. That's why these "leaders" of ours are completely clueless and can't be trusted.

Geez... I spent twenty minutes thinking up my little list, and I didn't even graduate from college. Surrounded by so much brainpower in Washington and for his much touted Harvard education, that's all Obama's got? That's it? Pelosi and Reid can't do any better than that puny list?

And the real crime - the shame - is that the press corps can't muster an honest critique for all its doe-eyed adoration of our president.

Hope? You have got to be kidding...

 

1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 2/8/2009 2:30:44 PM
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How to Achieve World Peace

 

Why do wars happen? Because either someone wants territory/possessions that someone else has (land grab), or because someone wants to control the behavior of someone else (power grab).

In both cases, it begins with a lack of respect for the sovereignty of others. Every individual and every state has the right to its own things and to determine its own destiny. Peace happens when people and nations are respected to be left to themselves to enjoy what's theirs and to make their own decisions.

The most curious thing to me is that a good number of those who call for "world peace" are the ones who least want to respect the property and decisions of others. They want access to the money of the rich via overbearing taxation and they want to coerce behavior into their vision of how it ought to be. Neither of which they have a right to do. Taking what doesn't belong to them and restricting the freedom of others to choose their own way angers people. And it should. Theft and coercion are wrong - evil, even.

Want world peace? As Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Leave others alone to keep what they earn and to live their own lives. Funny, but that's pretty much what was written into our country's Declaration of Independence.

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.
When those who call for world peace preach a respect for the unalienable right of liberty and self-determinmation for everyone, I'll take them seriously. Otherwise, they're just despots in miniature, trying to grab what isn't theirs and bringing about anything but peace in the process.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/10/2009 9:16:28 AM
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Jumbled

 

I've moved web servers, so a few things here on the site might be a bit jumbled, like the order of my art and photos in the gallery. I've checked most of the pages and I think things are okay.

The move will allow me to do more with my other domains and segregate their respective databases better, which is cool.

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 2/15/2009 12:44:16 PM
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Hating on Prosperity

 

I'm re-reading Atlas Shrugged, and just a few pages into it, I find this:

When [Eddie Willers] came to Fifth Avenue, he kept his eyes on the windows of the stores he passed. There was nothing he needed or wished to buy but he liked to see the display of goods, any goods, objects made by men, to be used by men. He enjoyed the sight of a prosperous street...
What does it say that our political class - starting with this president - can't stand up for and set an expectation of success and achievement in America? Why play figurehead to the derision of some for prosperity and wealth?

I look forward to the day when our politicians enjoy the sight of a prosperous street, take pride in it, and again showcase the successful as an example to all.

 

1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 2/18/2009 2:35:56 PM
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Nana

 

Earlier this week, I visited my grandmother and took her to Panera. It was the first time she had ever been there.

I love her smile. She ate a pecan braid... and discovered that she likes caramel latte.

 

1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 2/19/2009 4:40:56 PM
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Ramping Up

 

I've been spending a lot of time on web site work lately. The new server allows me to create as many web sites as I have domains. So one of the sites is a dedicated guvsux.com. It has my political cartoons, and as soon as my work settles into a groove, I'll get back to cartooning and more art.

I'm not done with guvsux... I want to put comments and such on it, but I wanted the look of it to be irreverant and rebellious. It's enough for right now...

I've also created forwardynamics.com, which is the more business side of me.

My original blog, Opinion Paper, is revived a bit. It's missing some parts, but the gist of it is there. It was my first big web site effort. Kind of fun to revisit it.

A couple of others are being shown for commercial purposes... let's see how it goes :)

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 2/24/2009 12:25:08 AM
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Cracking Myself Up

 

A little lunchtime fun today...

(If you're wondering why "trauma" is misspelled, it's because Barack's tenure in the White House is so not about U.)

ETC: Bought the domain and changed the graphic a bit...

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/24/2009 3:47:57 PM
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Messiahs

 

I've been reading with interest the recent threads over at conservative blog, HotAir, regarding Joe Wurzelbacher - aka Joe the Plumber - and his semi-celebrity status. Evidently, some in the Republican party, such as McCain supporter and Internet guy Patrick Ruffini, don't like the fact that Joe has been elevated to some sort of "spokesperson" status. He's on news shows and delivers his comments, he wrote a book, and he recently became a news correspondent for Pajamas Media.

The problem I have with this critique is that those who lend it are also critical of Palin's folksy manner, hoot over Jindal's wooden reply to Obama's speech, and otherwise faint at the mere whiff of some conservative performance that the Big Media folks won't accept and praise.

While I agree that it's always best to have an excellent speech delivered with a smooth Reaganesque efficiency, I think that there's room for many voices at the table. I mean really... are we looking for a single person to front the conservative perspective? If so, isn't that a bit messianic, the very criticism we give so many on the left who raise Obama to heights undeserved?

I rather prefer the Army of Davids approach.

Can we get rid of the central planning/messianic expectation? Because it's not helping this country become better...

 

2 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 2/27/2009 10:42:56 AM
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Your Wallet

 

A friend of mine sent this to me:

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 2/27/2009 11:05:22 AM
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Nana at 27

 

Had breakfast with my mom today and she had a portrait photo of my grandmother at age 27, so I took a picture of it with my cell phone:

Pretty cool.

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 2/27/2009 12:37:35 PM
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Productivity

 

Productivity has been on my mind a lot these days.

At this moment, I am gainfully unemployed. I say "gainfully" because while I have no paying clients, I'm busier than I've been in quite a while. I have no less than six initiatives keeping me occupied. None of them are paying me yet, but they're generating a lot of activity and buzz.

As I've been doing this for the last three weeks, I've been forming up a concept that has been on my mind for a couple of months. If you could think of all of the industries where disruptive innovation is oh-so-ripe, what would it be?

The oldest institution/industry I can think of that has had no real disruptive innovation for hundreds of years is:

Higher education.

I ask: why does it make sense for the person who ambitions to be a social worker to rack up $60,000 to $80,000 in debt for a $20,000 a year job?

Most of college is reading books. Does it take several hundred dollars per credit hour to read a book and test on it?

I get that some professors really work hard to be great instructors, but in my college experience at Iowa State University, there were just as many who outsourced it to TA's. In fact, when I was there, I worked briefly for the Iowa State Daily. I was to attend then-president Martin Jischke's press conference, during which he awarded teacher of the year awards. They went to TA's. I asked him, what does it say about the quality of ISU's professors that the teacher of the year awards went to TA's, and not tenured professors? He said it meant that ISU had great TA's.

It's no secret that universities are bastions of liberal thought. A conservative professor unafraid to teach conservative views? It's unheard of. But liberal professors who aren't shy about pushing their liberal opinions? That's pretty much par for the course.

So yes, I think the university experience is overripe for disruptive innovation. And I have some ideas about that... and they begin with this thought:

Colleges don't teach people productivity. And I could argue - successfully, I think - that productivity is what really matters about whatever we do. So what would an education centered on productivity look like?

And from that, what does a fiscally responsible, affordable, self-motivated adventure in curiosity and self-improvement look like?

Hint: it doesn't look much like a university.

Our real lives don't look anything like the university experience because the university experience doesn't have much to do with real life. And isn't life training supposed to be the purpose of the university experience?

Enter disruptive innovation...

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 2/28/2009 9:55:53 AM
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Definition of Productivity

 

By the way, as a definition for productivity, here's mine:

Productivity is the proportion at which an entity converts resources into goods and services that others esteem to purchase.
Take the artist in his basement cranking out art... he might be making a lot of art, but if nobody wants what he's making, then he is unproductive. Busy, but unproductive.

Or the woman working the drive-thru lane at Wendy's. If she is busy texting her friends while on the job, she isn't very efficient at converting her resources into goods and services, even though people are lined up at the drive-thru lane and want the goods. She too is unproductive.

The nation's economy is only as strong as the number of people working to maximize their productivity.

I see relatively little that our government is doing to increase productivity. I see a lot that our government is doing to insure its permanency.

That too is highly unproductive. But then, by the definition I've given here, government can hardly be a model of productivity, though it can certainly inhibit the productivity of others...

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 2/28/2009 12:05:47 PM
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Cookie Jar Mentality

 

Liberals make the mistake of attacking those with money because they misunderstand the economy. So here's a simple primer.

Liberals believe that the rich are not "fair" to others because they have more money than others. Liberals see the economy as a fixed amount of money, like dollar bills in a cookie jar. The rich, as they see it, grab more of the money in the jar and crowd others out.

If that were true, it would be unfair. But the economy is not a fixed pot of money where everyone gets a share.

If there are four people - a therapist, a mechanic, a grocer, and a truck driver - and between them they collectively have $1,000, the economy instead works like this:

  • The grocer pays the truck driver $100 for the food delivered to the store.
  • The truck driver pays the mechanic $125 for maintenance for the truck.
  • The mechanic pays the therapist $75 for marriage counseling.
  • The therpist buys groceries at the grocery store for $100.
And let's say that this happens once a month.

At the end of the year, collectively, their total income is nearly $5,000, which far exceeds the total amount of money in the system.

How fair is this system? In this system, there is really no limit to the amount of money you earn.

So I ask you: which model better represents real life? The system I describe above? Or Obama's model that he presented in a campaign speech last fall:

I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Unfortunately, our president believes that the economy is most simply and truly explained as dividing up a PBJ sandwich - of which there is only so much, like money in a cookie jar.

From my example above, socialism says that each person should get $250. That's "fair."

Capitalism says that each person has an income of anywhere from $900 to $1,500. Who exactly is on the short end of the stick in this system?

Which system sounds more attractive to you?

Kindergarten... I mean I know that capitalism requires just a bit of sophistication to understand it, but didn't this guy go to Harvard? Maybe he didn't take any economics courses. Which is too bad - for all of us.

ETC: What I illustrate above is exactly why Liberals can't fathom how lowering tax rates can actually increase revenue to the government. How? Because taxation in America is based on income... the greater the income, the more can be taxed. Therefore the greater the velocity of money, the more revenue is collected.

If Liberals were really interested in fairness, they would not go after income for taxation, but wealth. The problem with that for them is that there are too many Liberals with old money and accumulated wealth for that to even be considered, so they invent the straw man of the "rich" being those with the highest income. Which is how John Kerry was welcomed as a man of the people by the Left in 2004.

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 2/28/2009 1:05:23 PM
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