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Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to everything. To 'Why am I here?' To uselessness. It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus.
-- Enid Bagnold

Blog Posts for May 2009

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45 Senators Plot to Kill Home Mortgages


Last week, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin put forward a bill that would allow a judge to reduce mortgage principle during bankruptcy proceedings. Thankfully, it failed to gain enough votes, although 45 Senators voted to affirm the measure, including Iowa's Tom Harkin. Much-maligned (deservedly) Chris Dodd co-sponsored this atrocity.

If you don't know how mortgage loans work, it's pretty simple: the bank acts as a broker between investors and and the person seeking the loan. The loan is then sold to investors, who believe that they will make their money on the investment plus interest.

If a judge can arbitrarily reduce the amount due on the mortgage, it means that the investor eats that money, and makes the possibility of a loss on any given mortgage more likely.

Question: What investor would put money into such a low-interest investment? Answer: None.

Which then means that there are no investors for home mortgages. Home lending stops. Completely.

Or, this would raise interest rates to cover the risk of loss on the investment. Which slows the economy greatly. (All of you who miss Carter-era interest rates, raise your hand...)

This is the fastest way to kill the housing industry and the economy. The bill was cutely called "Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009." More accurately it was "Assuring Nobody Can Obtain an Affordable Mortgage in the Future Act of 2009."

Fortunately, 51 senators know enough about these simple economics, but frankly, it's damn frightening that 45 senators thought this was a good idea. All Democrat, I might add.

"Oh, but look at how they care!" says the die-hard Democrat.

Oh but look at what the "good intentions" of fools can do, say I.


by Brett Rogers, 5/3/2009 3:09:53 PM



Via HotAir, I learned today that Joe the Plumber made some disparaging remarks about gays, saying that he wouldn't let them near his children. What an ugly thing to say...

You know, given the increasing fervor on the right for spouting anti-gay bigotry, I'm gonna give the Democrats a second look. At some point, there has to be some fiscal sense within the Democrat party... right?

Why is it that as a citizen of this "free" country, I have to choose between a political party that hates people for their sexual preference and a political party that hates people for their success and productivity?

It's a shame that neither party can claim to be a champion of individual liberty, which was the foundation of this country. How very far we have strayed...


by Brett Rogers, 5/5/2009 9:01:31 AM

Bank Branding


Today, I learn that Ford beat GM in Q1, 2009. That's never happened before.

Does it surprise anyone that Government Motors lost marketshare to the car manufacturer that didn't take the money?

Another thing I learned today: Bank of America sponsored a poll at CNN that showed that 65% of respondents don't trust US banks.

Can you say TARP?

I recently found a list of all of the banks that took TARP money and put it into a spreadsheet with an autofilter. In this way, I could see which banks took money in Iowa.

(Click here for the spreadsheet if you'd like to see it for yourself.)

Yesterday's news release of the so-called bank stress tests indicated that banks need to find $65 billion in capital shortfall. Over half of that is Bank of America alone. Wells Fargo needs $15 billion.

Now it might be me, but when I look at which bank to place my accounts, TARP factors into my decision. I bank at two banks. One is Wells Fargo, with which I'm content, but make no money in interest.

The other is Charles Schwab, which gives me a decent interest rate with no minimum balance and I pay no ATM fees at all. Charles Schwab, which I confirmed today, took no TARP money. Personally, I think that they ought to use that to their competitive advantage and put that in a commercial. "Independent, strong... We're our own bank - let us be your bank."

I'm not sure that banks see this coming yet, but TARP was bad for branding, and this administration and congress are no partners for success.


by Brett Rogers, 5/7/2009 1:38:52 PM

Eminent Domain


Private property isn't really private. It's public, and the government will take it over and put its own people in place. In the public interest, of course...

Enjoy the CEO Graveyard.

Is your company's CEO next?


by Brett Rogers, 5/7/2009 3:46:58 PM

Don't Cause "Emotional Distress"


Representative Braley is a Congressman here in Iowa, representing Iowa's northeast corner. He is a co-sponsor of HR 1966, which is the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act. Megan, a teenager, was tragically bullied online by an adult and finally committed suicide. This legislation seeks to prevent that sort of thing from happening.

But the bill, in its current form, contains this language:

Sec 881 (a):

"Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

The problem with the bill is that the language is loose enough that anyone who leaves a comment on a web site, posts a blog, or writes a difficult opinion online can potentially be punished under the act. In its current form, this is a clear violation of free speech, allowing the courts to decide whether you went too far in what you said.

I'm sure that Rep. Braley means well, and perhaps didn't consider this part of the proposed legislation. But if you feel strongly about this, you might contact the congressman to reconsider his sponsorship and support for the bill or to work to revise the language to protect free speech.

Here is Rep. Braley's web site.

And you can contact his offices, as I did, here:

Washington: (202) 225-2911
Waterloo: (319) 287-3233

Be polite, let his people know that you're watching this. And forward this to whomever you think should know about this.


by Brett Rogers, 5/7/2009 4:36:47 PM

Been There, Done That, Didn't Learn the Lesson


From a great blog on local politics I recently discovered:

This was published in the Chicago Tribune on April 21, 1934. Notice the guy (one of the "young pinkies from Columbia and Harvard") who is drunk on Power.

"Spend! Spend! Spend under the guise of recovery. Bust the government. Blame the capitalists for the failure. Junk the constitution and declare a dictatorship."

I asked a friend of mine a few days ago, what's the tipping point? At what point do people become political activists and get involved? Most people would rather just do polite conversation and suggest that this is all getting out of hand in a wink/wink, nudge/nudge kind of way.

A trillion is a million millions, and Obama and Congress are spending trillions of dollars. Our kids don't have that kind of money. It is immoral to ruin their future with this.

What's your tipping point?


by Brett Rogers, 5/8/2009 7:43:38 AM

Was the US Ever Intended to be a Judeo-Christian Nation?


In probably the most well-written exposition I've seen, no, the US was not established as a Judeo-Christian nation.

In fact, in a treaty signed by 23 senators and President John Adams, you'll find these words:

As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion...
Does it get any clearer than that? And what was the public reaction to these very clear words?
I found the treaty and Adams' statement reprinted in full in three newspapers, two in Philadelphia and one in New York City and, in one case, held the actual newspaper (the Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser for Saturday, 17 June 1797) in my hands. There is no record of any public outcry or complaint in subsequent editions of the papers.
So let's hear it for freedom of religion in this country!

If God himself didn't see fit to coerce anyone into a religion, then it's certainly antithetical to what God himself practices that some people would try to force others into their beliefs. Freedom of will - an oversight by God, or a wise practice?

The nation was founded on individual liberty. Liberty in speech, religion, assembly, property, etc. Therein lies the basis for this nation's morality. Live free, and respect the right of others to live free as well.

If our nation's laws were based on biblical law, well, we're missing quite a few. Where's that "Honor your parents" law? Where's that "Keep the sabbath holy" law? The pentateuch is hardly represented in American law - at any point in history.

Yes, murder is against the law here in the US, and murder is against the commandment of a biblical God. But it's US law not because God said so, but because it robs a man of his liberty. As does stealing. And while a few laws might appear to be based on Judeo-Christian laws, was it because God said so, or was it because that simply looked like best practice and common sense, based upon our nation's foundation of protecting individual liberty?

The words in that treaty were "quite well accepted, only a few years after first the Constitution and then the First Amendment were ratified, that 'the Government of the United States of America was not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.' After a bloody and costly civil war and the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment determined that citizens of the United States cannot have their rights abridged by state or local governments either, religious liberty for all was established. Governmental neutrality in matters of religion remains the enduring basis for that liberty."

A government neutral in matters of religion is the most sound basis for protecting religious freedom. If you choose to believe that government should be used to coerce Christianity into law, then you're no different than the socialist who wants to use government to limit a person's income. You're both statists, and neither of you believe in liberty.

(And for those who trot out the canard about "license," I challenge you to show me where license is discussed in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The country's founding documents are not living documents for you to alter as you wish. They weren't concerned about license, and from a civic perspective, you shouldn't be either. The founding fathers considered liberty to be sacred, and so should you, even if it means that people might choose behaviors that you don't approve. I'll refer back to God's everlasting best practice of giving us freedom of will...)


1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 5/8/2009 8:29:06 AM

Happy Mother's Day


Here are two of my favorite women, Tamara and my mom:

And of course, my grandmother:

One woman who was like a second mother to me was my great-great-aunt, Onie.

If there's a heaven just for rock solid human goodness, she's in it.

And finally, my fantastic mother-in-law, Frances:

It's cool to be surrounded by amazing and loving people.


by Brett Rogers, 5/10/2009 11:30:52 AM



Mike Renzulli writes a good blog. His two latest posts are a great juxtaposition of the reactions of two religious parents to a child being gay.

He gives the stories of Marie Osmond and Alan Keyes. One embraces and celebrates their child, and the other disowned their child.

The faith of both parents castigates homosexuality.

What would you do?


by Brett Rogers, 5/12/2009 11:21:57 AM

Mr. Popular


How long do you keep liking the guy who's spending your money so deeply that he's spending your kids' money as well?

And what will your kids think of you for not fighting for them? I mean really, is it their job to carry America on their back before they're even out of high school?


by Brett Rogers, 5/12/2009 12:25:40 PM

Images from the Past Couple of Days



by Brett Rogers, 5/12/2009 12:36:17 PM

Measuring Sin, Statistically


Geographers from Kansas State University took data and derived sin maps for the infamous Seven Deadly Sins.

The darker a county, the more evil it is. What follows is their methodology:

Greed was calculated by comparing average incomes with the total number of inhabitants living beneath the poverty line.

Envy was calculated using the total number of thefts - robbery, burglary, larceny and stolen cars.

Wrath was calculated by comparing the total number of violent crimes - murder, assault and rape - reported to the FBI per capita.

Lust was calculated by compiling the number of sexually transmitted diseases - HIV, AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea - reported per capita.

Gluttony was calculated by counting the number of fast food restaurants per capita.

Sloth was calculated by comparing expenditures on arts, entertainment and recreation with the rate of employment.

Pride, lastly, is most important. The root of all sins, in this study, is the aggregate of all data. Vought and his Kansas colleagues combined all data from the six other sins and averaged it into an overview of all evil.

Notice how light the midwest is compared to, say, the south. Two lessons to draw from this: don't pick a spouse from Mississippi (see the Lust map and its methodology), and South Carolina is really conflicted.

You might not agree with the reasoning applied, but it's interesting to consider - especially since this is data-driven.

ETC: In the comments, it's suggested that I overlay Indian reservations, so I did that over the pride map, which is the amalgamation of all of the maps.

Yellow marks an Indian reservation. Since there are as many reservations without any correlation to the darker purple as there are with, I'd say the suggestion is a bust.

Some also want to suggest that sin, as measured by the folks in Kansas who assembled the maps, should be indicated by race, but that doesn't explain the darker areas in the upper Midwest or Mountain areas, despite their best efforts in the comments to assert their theory.

I posted this because I thought it was interesting, and while there is a culture in certain parts of the US where danger and crime abound, four of these maps have nothing to do with crime. In short - it's not a race thing. But you can bring your bias toward anything that you do and find some connection if you try hard enough, whether or not the facts merit the connection.


by Brett Rogers, 5/12/2009 3:08:31 PM

Running with Weights



by Brett Rogers, 5/12/2009 3:28:07 PM

Compassionate? Not So Much...


I understand the desire of people who want to increase the tax base to help the needy. The vast majority of people are compassionate and would help folks in need. They believe that those suffering adverse circumstances would get on their own feet if only we gave them a bit of help. Therefore, they look to the government to confiscate the wealth of others to give to those in need.

Our first instinct is self-preservation. And no matter how much you want to help others, that desire ceases when it threatens your own livelihood.

California, likely the most liberal state in the nation, is broke. It misspent its money until there was nothing left, and now it has to find a way to recover the money misspent. There are only two ways to grow the bank account: either reduce your expenses, or increase your income. If you're the government, that means you either reduce services or you raise taxes. At this fork in the road, Californians are clear: cut spending. 73% want to cut spending. That's clearly a majority.

Let's say that they get their way in next Tuesday's ballot on budget initiatives and the clear decision is to cut spending. What happens to the needy?

Those who need a hand look to the strong for help, but when the strong aren't so strong, there's no one there. And the reason is that the "compassionate" spent so much money that the strong no longer feel strong enough to help.

The "compassionate" ended up hurting both groups - which actually isn't very compassionate at all. Because of their thirst for the money of those better off, the "compassionate" have now dried up the pool and there's nothing left to drink.

And until the strong feel strong again, those in need are left without help. That's just the fact of it.

Isn't it better to have a steady source of help, even if it's not enough to solve everyone's problems, than to have nothing at all? Shouldn't we as a society want a reliable resource? Shouldn't we seek to preserve that resource?

The truth is that the "compassionate" are not compassionate at all... they come in two flavors.

The first wants to look good by spending the money of others. Their altruism is built with the efforts of others.

The second group simply hates the "rich." Theirs is a scorched earth policy where everyone will have less, which makes it more equal. Fairness... that's their goal.

Neither is compassionate. One is selfish and the other is jealous, and both are frustrated by personal incompetence to achieve their ends on their own. The inevitable result of this is that no one will be helped for a time. Their intentions are not sustainable, and it's evidence of yet more incompetence that they couldn't see such a logical end.

Creativity requires a lot of energy, and even more to market it successfully and make it sustainable. Government is a parasite on that sustainable strength. If government likes the host body, it needs to maintain the health of the host. No one feeds long off a carcass, and no parasite is self-sustaining.


by Brett Rogers, 5/14/2009 12:00:41 PM

I Agree with Obama


Wonders never cease...

"We can't keep on just borrowing from China," Obama said at a town-hall meeting in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, outside Albuquerque. "We have to pay interest on that debt, and that means we are mortgaging our children's future with more and more debt."
Mortgaging our children's future... buddy, you're singing my song.

So if he really believes that, then when exactly is he doing to reduce the debt? Because so far he is multiplying it - and shows no sign of letting up.

He is the king of fancy words.


by Brett Rogers, 5/15/2009 8:42:47 AM



Earlier, I gave what follows as the opening for my new Internet radio show. Each week, I'll cover a topic on Monday, 2 PM to 3 PM CST. This week's topic was "productivity." (Others are part of this Internet Radio co-op... you'll see them at different times on different days.)

This next hour is the Growth Accelerator, a pro-growth, pro-capitalism, pro-business discussion about moving forward in life, personally and professionally. You can find out more about me, Brett Rogers, at

Each week, I'll choose a principled topic, and break it down in fresh ways and this week's topic is productivity.

Think for a moment about productivity. Your success in life is only as solid as your productivity, and your productivity is only as strong as its value to others. Unless you have a pile of money sitting around with which to pay the bills and afford the niceties in life, your productivity is determined by the value that other people place on it. If you are productive, you are, in some way, adding value to the lives of others in a way that they recognize and appreciate.

When I was growing up, I used to hear the importance of being a "productive member of society." I don't recall the last time that I heard someone say that phrase. How about you? When was the last time you heard someone say that?

My productivity means that I can stand on my own two feet. It means that I am strong enough to be self-sustaining. And so, the more productive I am, the stronger I am. If you think about my place in society, if I'm not productive, then I'm not strong, and I can't stand on my own, and then rather than being an additive force in this world, I require others to take care of me. I become subtractive and I take from others.

My first responsibility to the world and the highest secular moral I can achieve is this: to be as productive as I can be. To be a productive member of society. To be a value add, rather than a drain. The reason is that my life requires me to consume. I need a place to live, I need food, I need clothes and other items. If I live, I am going to consume. Every living creature on the planet consumes. There's nothing wrong with consumption, although some people will tell you it's bad. But it is immoral for me to consume and expect others to provide for my consumption, unless they have agreed to do so willingly. Again, I say, it is immoral.

But if I am productive, then I have the strength to stand on my own. I contribute. I produce something of value to others for which they willingly give me money. And because I am productive, I can consume as I need because I have earned the right to do so. That's moral. I'm a plus, and not a minus in this great big world. And every person in this great big world has the moral obligation to be a productive member of society. And we have the right to expect that of others. That's how society grows and prospers.

I begin with productivity as this first topic because it is the building block upon which everything we do is built. There are two types of productivity: individual and group. Let's take some time to look at individual productivity.

Management guru Tom Peters has a cool little concept he calls Brand You. Brand You. Just like Target has a brand, just like the Olympics has a brand, you have a brand. The opening sentence in Tom's book on Brand You is, "The fundamental unit of the new economy is not the corporation but the individual." Think about that...

Individuals circulate through the economy and look for an assignment - something they can do where they can add value and be paid for it so that they can consume. Their consumption, by the way, seeks value in what others do and pays them for it. The economy works just like that - millions of individuals being productive and consuming the productivity of others. It's an ecosystem of its own, based completely on the freewill choice of each independent individual.

How do you attract the attention of all of those millions of individuals so that they will willingly give you money for your productivity? You can do it on your own. You can partner with others. You can join a company. Somehow, you have to convince others that Brand You is worth the investment of their hard-earned money. You have to convince them that your productivity has value.

Michael Goldhaber of Wired magazine said, "The attention economy is a star system. If there is nothing special about your work, no matter how hard you apply yourself, you won't get noticed. And that increasingly means you won't get paid much either."

You are the star of Brand You. You are the CEO of Brand You. You are the chief marketing officer of Brand You. You are the front office and the back office of Brand You. Today, productivity starts with that realization.

What does Brand You do? What does Brand You do best?

You might recall from the various kids' shows you've seen throughout your life that they sometimes have segments telling children how special and unique they are. While that's a true statement, just being is not distinctive enough to generate a market demand. No animal in the animal kingdom gets away with just being. They have to either go get their food or do something productive that encourages others to bring food to them.

What does Brand You produce that is distinctive and attractive? The quality of your life is largely determined by what you do and how you showcase your productivity.

I want to tell you your job description. You think I don't know you, but I do, and I can tell you your exact job description. My exact job description was told to me long ago, and I've never forgotten it. It was told to me in the middle of a busy evening, in Towson, Maryland. The cold outside the TGI Friday's where I worked was fierce, and people would come through the door into the foyer shaking that deep chill off them, fluffing their coats to invite some heat into their clothing. I was a waiter, and it was two weeks before Christmas, and the TGI Friday's where I worked was on the outside corner of a mall. Shoppers, eager for a break and a bite to eat, were coming in steadily all through the day.

Danny was my manager that shift. He was an affable guy, with some Latino in him somewhere. His easy smile and personal warmth put an instant comfort into those around him. My particular section was swamped - and had been for some time - and I had worked the lunch shift earlier, and now was swinging into a double for the night. I was tired, and he could see it. He came up to me and put his arm around me as I strode into the kitchen and handed an order to the window.

"You know what your job description is?" he asked, his voice rising just enough to be heard above the clamor of dishes and the cooks. "It's the same as mine," he said.

That stopped me mentally and I give him my full attention. "You're a manager. Our job descriptions are nothing alike."

He smiled wider. "They're exactly the same."

He removed his arm and turned to stand in front of me with both hands on my shoulders, looking me squarely in the eyes. "Your job is to instill in our customers not just the desire, but the burning desire, to return to us again and again." He watched my face as what he said sunk in. "And that's my job description too."

Then he patted me on the shoulder with a big ol' grin and spun off to the service bar.

Obviously, I've never forgotten that moment. I'm here to tell you that Brand You has a mission, and that mission is just like he said it then:

"To instill in those around you not just the desire, but the burning desire, to return to you again and again."

Answer the following questions:

  • When you work a job and leave, would they hire you back?
  • When you meet someone, do you give them a compelling reason to want to see you again?
  • When someone creates a team to achieve an objective, how quickly are you chosen to help in the cause?
It's impossible to always be hired back, always have someone you meet to want to see you again, always be chosen for a team. That's not what this is about...

But if you work to instill in them that desire, and you work from that perspective, what a difference that can make. If you work to instill in others - everyone around you - the burning desire to crave your participation again and again, it can dramatically change your quality of life. Danny spoke of it in terms of customers - but really, isn't everyone your customer?

I began today by saying that your productivity is only as strong as its value to others. That puts them in control of what you offer. They can choose to like it, or not like it. They can choose to accept its price - or not. They can choose to part with their hard-earned money and buy it, or walk away from it. Only if they choose to buy what you offer are you productive.

It is all about them. Brand You is only as strong as your ability to sell what you offer, plain and simple. Your continued success is only as vibrant as their burning desire to return to you again and again. Everyone around you gains a perception of what you offer. Their word-of-mouth might be what sells you to your next buyer.

Remember: the quality of your life is largely determined by what you do and how you showcase your productivity.

Next up: team productivity.


by Brett Rogers, 5/18/2009 4:54:46 PM

Team Productivity


I mentioned previously that productivity comes in two varieties: individual and group. I addressed individual productivity. Let's turn to team productivity.

How many of you remember in school when a teacher announced that your class would be broken up into teams to work on an assignment. It would be a group project and the teacher would assign your partner - you couldn't choose. How many of you were excited about that prospect? If your class was like my class, there were groans. You dreaded it.

And yet, we're taught from very early on that teamwork is the best way to get things done. From a fourth-grade standardized test given in Ohio - given to ten-year-olds! - was this question:

When people work together to finish a job, such as building a house, the job will probably:

a) get finished faster
b) take longer to finish
c) not get done

The test scored A as the correct answer. Despite the fact that we wish it were so, and teach our kids that it's so, it's usually not. Teams don't often look like well-coordinated game plans driving the football down the field. They usually look more like a three-legged race, where the more people you add, the more cumbersome it becomes. Those who groaned in your classes when you were assigned group projects knew this by experience.

Yet team productivity is something we encounter often. We encounter it in our marriages, we encounter it in our jobs...

What's the key to team productivity?

It starts with an understanding of what works well for teams and what doesn't.

I'd like you to name for me one fiction novel written by a team that became a bestseller. Can you name one?

How about a team painting? Are there any?

Let's flip that around. Do you know of anyone who built a house with no help from others?

That's why that fourth-grade question shows a bias. It gives you the example of building a house. Nobody constructs a house alone. It requires at least two people. But the bias we're given in the way that the question is phrased is that "when people work together to finish a job, the job will probably get finished faster."

But most of the time the data doesn't support that. Most teams underperform their expectations. And most of the time, it's because of dynamics on the team itself. When the teacher assigned that first group project to elementary school students, the students weren't given any direction on how to work together within a team. They were just thrown to it, as most of us are. Consider that the teacher who assigned that group project works alone. Group teaching in a classroom doesn't happen. Teachers operate alone and independently. They're not trained in team dynamics and how to make them successful, which is why it's not taught to the students, and that's why everyone comes to dread the group project.

Consider any project... there are four main tasks:

  1. You have to set the overall direction. What's the goal? What outcome is expected?
  2. You have to set up the organization to best accomplish it. What roles are needed? Who might be best able to fill those roles?
  3. You have to monitor the progress and ensure that the work being done meets the standards and expectations set.
  4. As the work is completed, you have to turn it loose for its purpose. Sometimes, this is all at once, and sometimes it's released in stages.
Each of these offers a hurdle to teamwork. Can we all agree on the goal? Can we all agree on who is to do what? Can we agree on the expected quality as the work progresses? Can we agree on when it's actually done and ready to release?

This is why the data on team success shows that teams typically underperform their expectations. The more people on a team, the more opportunity there is to get tripped up in one of these areas. When it comes to team productivity, the fewer members, the better.

John Gottman is arguably the leading researcher today on relationships and marriages. Just by watching a couple over the course of a few minutes, he can, with a 90% accuracy, tell you whether that couple will last or fail. That's an astounding feat. It doesn't come to him intuitively. It comes through years of studying what makes a relationship work and not work. He can now recognize in gestures and words and facial expressions the signs of erosion that lead to demise.

Marriage is the quintessential team. It is certainly the most widely recognized and popular team. For most of us, it's the first team we experience as children. Millions of people crave to be on the team called husband and wife, and yet most marriages fail. Why is that?

Gottman writes:

In pursuit of the truth about what tears a marriage apart or binds it together, I have found that much of the conventional wisdom - even among marital therapists - is either misguided or dead wrong. For example, some marital patterns that even professionals often take as a sign of a problem - such as having intense fights or avoiding conflict altogether - I have found can signify highly successful adjustments that will keep a couple together. Fighting, when it airs grievances and complaints, can be one of the healthiest things a couple can do for their relationship.

If there's one lesson I've learned in my years of research into marital relationships, it is that a lasting marriage results from a couple's ability to resolve the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship. Many couples tend to equate a low level of conflict with happiness and believe the claim 'we never fight' is a sign of marital health. But I believe we grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences.

Folks, that's counter-intuitive. He's saying that it's not how well you get along it's how well you disagree. It's easy to get along when you agree on everything. It's a lot tougher when you disagree. And the telltale sign of your ability to last it out comes down to your ability to fight well when you encounter inevitable disagreements.

If the idea that fighting well can lead to marital harmony still seems counter-intuitive, I offer you one term well regarded in marriage: make-up sex. Know what I'm sayin'?

What derails the ability to reconcile differences are what Gottman refer to as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:

  1. Criticism - attacking someone's personality or character and not their behavior - and usually with blame.
  2. Contempt - intention to insult or psychologically abuse someone's sense of self. Disgust is usually the result.
  3. Defensiveness - usually escalates the conflict and keeps us from hearing the other person.
  4. Withdrawal - stonewalling the other person, ignoring them.
Now let's bring this back to team productivity. Recognize any of this behavior during disputes? Teamwork productivity is all about good social processes. Just like in marriage, the team will break down when Gottman's Four Horsemen are allowed to fester. Good management will prevent and stop this derailing behavior. Good management will create conditions that increase the chance that a team will evolve into an effective performing unit.

You begin by focusing on the strengths of the individuals. By recognizing these strengths publicly, within and without the team, you foster respect for each member of the team. Appreciation for each individual's indisputable strengths goes a long way.

Look at how a team leader can act in such a way as to make a team member feel defensive or even prompt them into withdrawal. A great team leader will seek to "instill in the team members not just the desire, but the burning desire, to contribute to the team again and again." You don't do that with public criticism, scorn, mocking, favoritism, disorganization, or a lack of clear goals. You do incite them to look forward to coming to the team by publicly recognizing their contributions and individual productivity, by openly embracing them, by setting clear and attainable standards and helping them to work toward those standards.

Ask yourself the next time you are on a team: how am I helping to resolve the inevitable disputes and bring us closer to our team goals? How am I encouraging others to have the burning desire to return to the team again and again?

Your quality of life is largely determined by what you do and how you showcase your productivity, whether it's your individual productivity or your productivity on a team. Your productivity is only as strong as its value to others. This week, focus on Brand You and how you can increase the value of your stock.


by Brett Rogers, 5/18/2009 5:03:05 PM

Iowa's Spending Addiction


Dynamite fact-based video highlighting Iowa's debt problems from Iowa's state auditor, Dave Vaudt.

Remember: oppose Iowa's Governor, Debt Culver, as much as possible when he wants to spend money.


by Brett Rogers, 5/18/2009 5:10:45 PM



California voters voted for common sense and canceled their politicians' plans to raise their taxes to pay for spendthrift stupidity. Money quote:

Schwarzenegger helped behind the scenes to garner big contributions for the measure's proponents, who raised about $30 million and outspent foes by nearly 10 to 1.

Despite a big advantage in cash and manpower, the campaign failed to gain traction from the start. Polls throughout the race showed all the ballot measures - except Proposition 1F - losing badly, as voters expressed equal parts confusion over the package and disdain for the Sacramento politicians who crafted it.

All the money in the world couldn't sell the hijack of the people's income.

As I wrote last week on Twitter, "Cut spending, don't raise taxes, says California(!) - - omen for US response to Obama's spree."

It's a relief to see that Californians love their kids enough to protect their future. Let's hope that the rest of the country votes accordingly as well.

ETC: Found this comment here:

What has Schwarzenegger done all his life? Pump up the human body beyond its normal limits which cannot be sustained and make fantasy movies to entertain people.

What has Schwarzenegger done since he became governor of CA? Pump up government beyond its normal limits which cannot be sustained and make fantasies for stupid people to believe in.

Amen. Ditto for 85% of all politicians.


by Brett Rogers, 5/20/2009 9:39:51 AM



A recent discovery being hailed as the unearthing of "the missing link" is a wonderful thing. I was listening to Limbaugh yesterday when he said that evolution of species doesn't happen. I thought he referred to chromosomal evolution - where a species mutates into a species that has a different chromosome count. That would be necessary if humans evolved from apes/monkeys.

So can species evolve chromosome count?

Evidently they can.

Przewalski's horses have 66 chromosomes, whereas domestic horses carry only 64! The two can breed and produce offspring that have 65 chromosomes.
Limbaugh was wrong.


by Brett Rogers, 5/20/2009 11:37:20 AM



I absolutely love this, and the music is by Carly Comando.


by Brett Rogers, 5/20/2009 3:08:56 PM

Obama's Shell Game


Feel excited about the new auto standards set by President Obama?

To get there, let's say that we all buy hybrid vehicles. We plug them in at night. Ta da!

You know, all that increase in electricity usage will only have one effect: higher demand = higher cost. Electricity costs go up.

Further, you know how we get electricity? Mostly through fossil fuels burned to turn giant turbines. So what difference does this really make?

If we went nuclear for energy, we could save a ton of money and it might be offset. But because the Super Genius in the White House has no intention of that, his legacy in so many ways will be that he made life less productive and more expensive for you.



by Brett Rogers, 5/20/2009 5:04:32 PM



Check this out:

In January 2004, Mike Duggan took over the Detroit Medical Center, a health care system that had lost $500 million during the previous six years, including $130 million in 2003. The available time to turn the system around was growing short. "We basically had about six months to get the place turned around," Duggan says. "The projection I was handed the day I started was that DMC would be entirely out of cash by May 31 of 2004. That was the very first thing our finance people handed me."
Mike Duggan turned it around. Find out how...


by Brett Rogers, 5/21/2009 12:59:01 PM

Values Shield


I wonder if our values can withstand a nuclear bomb?

Supah Genius...


by Brett Rogers, 5/25/2009 10:29:06 AM

Tax Economics 101


Maryland's Governor, like America's President, doesn't understand economics (via Instapundit).

Maryland couldn't balance its budget last year, so the state tried to close the shortfall by fleecing the wealthy. Politicians in Annapolis created a millionaire tax bracket, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 6.25%. And because cities such as Baltimore and Bethesda also impose income taxes, the state-local tax rate can go as high as 9.45%. Governor Martin O'Malley, a dedicated class warrior, declared that these richest 0.3% of filers were "willing and able to pay their fair share." The Baltimore Sun predicted the rich would "grin and bear it."

One year later, nobody's grinning. One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. In 2008 roughly 3,000 million-dollar income tax returns were filed by the end of April. This year there were 2,000, which the state comptroller's office concedes is a "substantial decline." On those missing returns, the government collects 6.25% of nothing. Instead of the state coffers gaining the extra $106 million the politicians predicted, millionaires paid $100 million less in taxes than they did last year - even at higher rates.

All of this means that the burden of paying for bloated government in Annapolis will fall on the middle class. Thanks to the futility of soaking the rich, these working families will now pay Mr. O'Malley's "fair share."

What a compassionate politician - his efforts to shake down the rich hurt the middle class.

We're led by a class of smug idiots.


by Brett Rogers, 5/26/2009 10:19:58 AM

Austin's Team


This is the opening for my son's Little League team DVD, assembled by David Tetrick of Home Team Video.

This was Austin's first year in Little League, and through his personal effort and the work of his terrific coach, Gerald Johnson, he's had a great and winning season. It's been a great experience for him, and we're all real proud of him. (Great hit in the video!)


by Brett Rogers, 5/26/2009 1:01:08 PM



At first when I read this, I was skeptical. Now? Not so much... check it out:

A tipster alerted me to an interesting assertion. A cursory review by that person showed that many of the Chrysler dealers on the closing list were heavy Republican donors.

To quickly review the situation, I took all dealer owners whose names appeared more than once in the list. And, of those who contributed to political campaigns, every single one had donated almost exclusively to GOP candidates. While this isn't an exhaustive review, it does have some ominous implications if it can be verified.

And it turns out that Chrysler didn't want to close the dealerships - the President's Automotive Task Force pressured the decision.

Obama gave billions of taxpayer money to the car company (and for nothing, apparently, as bankruptcy is certain), interfered with Chrysler's business decisions, threatened to remove its CEO (and will, after the bankruptcy), awarded stock just by speaking it into being while trying to give current bondholders pennies on the dollar, decided that Chrysler needed to drastically cut its advertising budget, and then chose to close dealerships whose owners contributed to Obama's political rivals.

At this point, can anybody craft any argument that suggests that Obama supports business in this country?

Can anyone craft an argument that he isn't a dictator?

Obama is immoral. It's as simple as that. And his supporters are either really ignorant or just as immoral if they're not speaking out against his actions.


by Brett Rogers, 5/27/2009 9:03:29 AM

Today's Beauty



by Brett Rogers, 5/27/2009 12:43:38 PM

You Have a Right to Your Opinion, and I'll Tell You What It Is



by Brett Rogers, 5/27/2009 12:48:38 PM

VAT? Here?


If Obama introduces a VAT tax here in the US, as Rahm Emanuel's brother proposes and Sen. Conrad (D-ND) approves, I'm done buying. My family will buy as little as possible until it's repealed.

Obama is immoral. His supporters are either immoral, like he is, or they are ignorant of what he's doing.


by Brett Rogers, 5/27/2009 5:39:29 PM

When Your Home is Not Your Home


Freedom of assembly? Not in San Diego, where a pastor who holds a regular bible study was threatened with fines if he continued to do so.

15 people - too much for your home?

Broyles said a few days later the couple received a written warning that listed "unlawful use of land" and told them to "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit" - a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Nobody has the right to tell you what you can do in your home, so long as you are not infringing on the freedoms of others.

This fits right in with Nancy Pelosi's statement that "we have so much room for improvement. Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory ... of how we are taking responsibility" for a clean, green environment.

So again, what you do in your home is not really your choice. You have to get approval, see.

Freedom. Liberty. Foreign words to these Gladys Kravitz-government types.

I miss America.


1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 5/28/2009 8:54:39 AM

Call We Talk?


Maggie Thatcher said, "The veneer of civilization is very thin." I've come to believe that civilization is based on respect for individual freedom and respect for private property. If I don't respect your individual freedom, then I might force you to do something you don't want to do. Or I might try to take something that belongs to you. When either of those happens, conflict occurs.

Too many people want to coerce others to do things against their will. Too many people want what others have. Those who do these immoral things will do what they can to attain what they seek - easy access to control of you and possession of your things.

So to you, I say, if you don't realize that these people, who don't have any respect for individual freedom or private property, are now running the United States, then you need to wake the hell up.

And to you, I say, who do see it but you don't think that you need to get dirty in this fight - maybe you're worried about your reputation - then you too need to wake the hell up.

I say this because you are responsible for the America that your children inherit. Today, right now. You are responsible. You are culpable. If Obama and all of these power-hungry and money-hungry politicians and leaders succeed on your watch, and you chose not to fight, then it's your fault. You let it happen.

Personally, I miss the days when life was about pursuing my career and improving my lot and spending time with my family. I could put my head in the sand and do that today. But I am responsible for the America that my children inherit. If it is less free, less prosperous, less strong - and I did nothing to stop it other than step inside a private voting booth every two years and hold an occasional private conversation - then I am to blame.

Wake the hell up. The veneer of America is very thin. Your children need you to fight for their future.


by Brett Rogers, 5/28/2009 10:23:31 AM

Compare and Contrast



President Obama was in a boastful mood Wednesday night, telling a star-studded crowd at a fundraising dinner that he "would put these first four months up against any prior administration since FDR."
Vs. this?
The U.S. [mortgage] delinquency rate jumped to a seasonally adjusted 9.12 percent from 7.88 percent, the biggest-ever increase, and the share of loans entering foreclosure rose to 1.37 percent, the Mortgage Bankers Association said today. Both figures are the highest in records going back to 1972.
As he said in his speech to Hollywood, "You ain't seen nothing yet."


by Brett Rogers, 5/28/2009 12:53:51 PM

Visual Compare and Contrast



by Brett Rogers, 5/28/2009 4:07:25 PM



The USA Today published the graphic you see above.The average consumer debt load per household is on the right. On the left, the half-million your household owes to the government.

Add onto that nationalized health care. Your children will endure the burden above, and more, as Obama spends more and more money.

No adult who supports this can even remotely make the claim to care about children when children grow up into a half-million dollars in debt. More than their house, cars, clothing, college expenses... the government spending, given to the unions and corporate cronies. It's all wealth transfer, from those that don't have wealth - kids.

When children are born into debt like we're accumulating and continue to accumulate, isn't that slavery? What loving parent would want that for their children?

If you support what Obama's doing, don't pretend to love children. You don't.


by Brett Rogers, 5/29/2009 9:29:04 AM



What do people want from government?

While politicians can lie, the numbers can't lie. Eventually the truth of this massive debt load will come to light. You won't be able to ignore it.

You and your children owe $63.8 trillion.

If you paid $1,000 per second toward our nation's debt ever since Christ's birth, you still wouldn't pay this balance in full.

Here's the math:

2009 years * 365 days * 24 hours * 60 minutes * 60 seconds * $1,000 = $63,355,824,000,000

Do you love children?


by Brett Rogers, 5/29/2009 12:24:13 PM

All Persons


Direct from the White House web site, if you don't like the spending, well, Barack Obama wants to silence you. No criticism allowed.

We will expand the restriction on oral communications to cover all persons, not just federally registered lobbyists. For the first time, we will reach contacts not only by registered lobbyists but also by unregistered ones, as well as anyone else exerting influence on the process. We concluded this was necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program.
Like I've said, this isn't America any longer. But I'm still an American, as is everyone in this country. To hell with Obama and his lawyer. (Via HotAir)


by Brett Rogers, 5/30/2009 10:36:47 AM

Dad - or Something Like That


I learned today that my dad died.

It happened in March, 2007.

I have exactly two memories of Danny Arnswald.

The first time, he took me to the Tasty In and Out, on Court Avenue, in Sioux City, Iowa, where I was born. I was probably around 18 months old. I can remember being in the front seat, not being able to see above the dashboard. As we sat and ate, I choked on a french fry. After he patted my back, he pointed to the moon in the sky and told me of the man in the moon.

Some time shortly after that, my mom and Danny split up. It was because he cheated on her with her best friend.

I guess he tried to see me later, but my babysitter was a bit of a redneck. When he came to the door, it was a surprise to her. Later, she learned that it was a surprise to my mom as well. No scheduled visit that day. So Sherry met him at the door with her 12-gauge. I'm told the conversation went something like this:

"You take one step in this house and I will kill you where you stand."

"I want to see my boy."

"Not today."

And so he left.

It was about 12 years later that he reconnected. My mom had, in the interim, married another man, an alcoholic who adopted me and whose last name I carry, and she had divorced him. And she had just married her third husband - a good man this time, to whom she is still married today.

Mom asked if I wanted to meet him, which I did. Because my stepdad had been such a complete asshole during his marriage to her, I figured Danny had to be a step up. I had dreams in my head through the years of him being some scientist for NASA or something cool like that.

"No, Brett. He's a printer in Minneapolis."

Cool... a printer. I was gonna meet my dad.

Mom decided to meet someplace public, and chose my aunt's bar. I remember walking in and seeing him as he sat with his back to me at the bar counter. He was tall. Balding. In front of him were several empty bottles and an ashtray full of discarded cigarettes.

Mom walked up beside him and they talked for a couple of minutes. He wouldn't look at me. When he finally did, he looked me up and down, and then said, "You're ugly."

I didn't know what to do with that. I just grinned, awkwardly. Was it a bad joke?

We moved to the back of the bar and sat at a small round table. He wore kind of a polo shirt, unbuttoned, and and light spring jacket over it.

He asked what my mom had done through the years, and then told her that he knew she still loved him. She told him that she didn't love him and that she was recently remarried. But he was unfazed.

He then turned his attention to me. At the time, I wore a Milwaukee back brace due to lordosis and kyphosis. It protruded through my shirt and its metal collar circled my neck. He asked me if I liked to fight.

"No. I don't like to fight."

"You a pussy?"

"No." I looked at my mom, who was visibly nervous. "I fought a couple of times," I told him.

"You win?"

"Once. In second grade."

Then his eyes kind of looked off in the distance and he told me that he liked fighting. He started recounting that after he was divorced from my mom, he was sent to Viet Nam. He said that he loved killing people, and went into details. Mom told me later that she had heard he'd been wounded in the war and had gotten hooked on morphine.

After he finished his stories, he turned his attention back to my mom, and told her again that she still loved him. At which point I announced that we needed to be going to a doctor's appointment for my back. We didn't, actually, but both she and I just wanted out of there - safely.

He hugged me and wanted to see me again. Mom and I left and she asked me how I was.

"Surprised. I wasn't expecting that."

"Thanks for getting us out of there."

"We both wanted out of there, Mom."

"You'll never see him again."

And at that moment it occurred to me that any hope of a dad who loved me and was interested in me was gone.

"Nope - I'll never see him again."

There's a cool aspect to growing up that way... it's the fervent desire to be the best dad I can be to all of my kids. To give them what I wanted. To give them what every child deserves.

I don't know if it was his nervousness, or the bottles of beer he'd had, or something that broke in him in the war. My first wife's dad had known him growing up, and when he learned who my father was, he laughed out loud.

"Your father is Crazy Danny Arnswald? You gotta be shittin' me... you're nothing like that son of a bitch."

That's probably one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

And so as I have done about every year or so, I googled his name and found Danny Arnswald's deceased record. Today, I feel just that much more my own man, of my own choosing.


by Brett Rogers, 5/30/2009 6:02:47 PM

Tweet Discussion


What follows is a discussion via Twitter, with apparently a New York Times best-selling attorney-turned-novelist, Joe Hilley.

Joe deleted some of his tweets after he typed them out (curious...), so the only fragments of some of his end of the discussion are contained in my quoted replies.

joehilley - If market leaders in US econ can't address disaparity of income/opportunity issues - the government will do it no one will like the result
beatcanvas - joehilley "If market leaders in US econ can't address disaparity of income/opportunity issues..." Me: Your life is your responsibility.
joehilley - beatcanvas Your life is your responsibility - will be the end of Repub/Conserv
beatcanvas - joehilley "Your life is the responsibility of everyone else" will be the end of America.
beatcanvas - joehilley "My success carries an obligation to care 4 others" - Your obligation is to preserve liberty for others, not provide for them.
beatcanvas - joehilley "Define 'preserve liberty'" - legislate for self-determination, not mandatory confiscation and obligation. Choice, not coercion.
beatcanvas - joehilley "The problem with unfettered choice is that Capitalism is brutal" - To the lazy, yes. Capitalism rewards self-improvement.
beatcanvas - joehilley "The issue is bigger than 'those at the bottom are lazy'" - I didn't say those at the bottom are lazy. Self-improvement fixes it.
beatcanvas - joehilley Those who refuse to adapt and self-improve stay at the bottom - where we all start. Our outcome is result of our choices / labor.
beatcanvas - joehilley "Improvement tools to the poorest?" They're already there, Joe. Example: I used to be homeless. Never graduated college.
beatcanvas - joehilley "Why disparity?" We don't teach the benefits of capitalism, but teach dependence. Effort and self-improvement lost liberty too.
beatcanvas - joehilley You can only help people to the degree that you succeed. You don't push to success if you believe others will take care of you.
beatcanvas - joehilley Joe, you play right into Obama's socialist hand. Good intentions, but you don't believe in the freedom of capitalism.
beatcanvas - joehilley Capitalism creates jobs. Isn't job creation taking responsibility? Or is that a loser message for you?
beatcanvas - joehilley "Capitalism doesn't create jobs anymore." So manufacturing is the only true job? Seriously?
joehilley - beatcanvas The focus of US econ is on creation of wealth in ways accessible to fewer and fewer
beatcanvas - joehilley "Can't Day Trade their way out of poverty" Your view of the market is really narrow. So many means of productivity...
beatcanvas - joehilley Charades, like Madoff, get weeded out and are rare. The basis of capitalism is productivity, which creates jobs/opportunity.
joehilley - beatcanvas Basis of mfg econ was jobs/opps - basis of info econ is trading on info - abstract - shuffling stuff from one pile to the next
joehilley - beatcanvas I mean as a policy - I deal in info. I'm a shuffler of info from one spot to another
beatcanvas - joehilley You miss the info economy. Speed and efficiency of info = greater production, which accelerates money. No $$$ in paper-shuffling.
joehilley - beatcanvas If info meant more mfg with greater efficiency, we'd be the mfg center of the world - We aren't - We're the consuming center.
beatcanvas - joehilley Recommend you investigate "velocity of money" and work to understand capitalism's inherent freedom. Otherwise, you're Obama-lite.
joehilley - beatcanvas I understand capitalism freedom And the last election - Repubs will continue to lose if all they can say is "get a job."

And there you have it. The essence is that Joe seems to be a moderate Republican who thinks capitalism is brutal and therefore we, as a nation, have to find some way of helping people obtain access to higher rungs on the ladder.

I asked my son earlier today after this discussion when the last time was that he'd heard the phrase "self-improvement" in public. He replied that it had been years. With access to the Internet, we have more ways to access information toward self-improvement than ever before.

Joe seems like a guy with good intentions, but he doesn't at all understand the damage he can do trying to be responsible for the lives of others.


by Brett Rogers, 5/30/2009 6:56:28 PM

Buying a GM Car is 90% Un-American


Why participate in theft?

"The U.S. Treasury would own 72.5 percent of the new GM coming out of a bankruptcy sale process while a trust affiliated with the United Auto Workers union would own 17.5 percent, GM said in a filing with securities regulators."


by Brett Rogers, 5/31/2009 9:10:51 AM