Reason #10

•November 10, 2008 • 1 Comment

Being a pragmatist, I am just not convinced that bailouts like this, this, and this are a good idea.  Don’t get me wrong, I certainly understand the impact of the business failure of any one of our Big 3 automakers on our economy, but how does a bailout hold them accountable for their failure to respond to the demands of the market?  They have been losing market share because they do not produce the kind of cars that consumers want and they have been exceedingly slow to respond to changing tastes.  Consumers have shifted in favor of higher fuel economy cars for thirty years and the Big Three have lagged by at least five years in providing one or two options per brand rather than the full line-up that our global competitors have offered and expanded upon for over 20 years.  We should not be rewarding obliviousness on the part of the management of these automakers.  You should have seen in the 70’s you weren’t the only choice instead of taking an extended recess and allowing your competition to eat your lunch.

The same view applies to big insurers and, of course, our banking industry.  Thanks to your ego and misguieded priorities, your business model is fundamentally flawed.  You have not used sound judgement or basic management, accounting or finance principles.  You have even managed to circumvent the requirements for earning your bonus away from sound criteria so that even though your business isn’t making money you are getting yours.  Now you want my money too?  NAY! I say!  Nay!

So how do we fix it?  I think any kind of ‘aid package’ should come with some common sense.  All these folks ask for handouts with no strings and I think that needs to stop.  If you want the taxpayers’ money, then the taxpayers have a right to demand that you make fundamental changes to your current operating procedure and fix the things that are fundamentally wrong with your business.  You ask for money, we ask for full disclosure including an external audit of your accounting.  Anything not quite on the up and up… no deal.  If the audit goes well, we still expect full disclosure and sound practices until the taxpayers get their money back.  And Mr. or Ms. Overpaid Chief Executive?  That means you and your entire management team take a pay cut.  How can you prove you’re earning your paycheck if you’ve run your company into the ground and are now panhandling to the Federal Government?


Reason #9

•November 9, 2008 • 2 Comments

We have to bluntly and seriously address the issue of education.  Forgive me but I’ve been reading academic research this morning and getting angry.  The system of education here is rotten from the bottom to the top.  At the top you have academics more concerned with research volume – to the point where nearly 10% of Organizational Psychology Research is focused on statistical methods and another substantial chunk is based on testing parameters – rather than determining and providing the kind of information that current market conditions demand.  In other words, academics get tenure based on research volume and the focus then is on creating that volume.  Phrases like “teaching interferes with research time” and “well, you may have to start at a teaching-focused school but you don’t want to stay there” are common.  Higher Education wants money but they don’t want anyone dictating how they use that money and they’re not necessarily concerned with whether that money generates any kind of return on investment in the form of useful knowledge for practitioners or capable, competent alumni of the institution.    As long as they graduate the university looks good so who cares if they know anything?

This mindset diffuses itself through the rest of our society.  If we are producing college graduates that are not really productive in terms of logical, creative thinking skills and subsequently not capable of adding value to their profession, we perpetuate the cycle of teachers who can’t teach and students who don’t learn either because they don’t know how or because they cannot see the knowledge presented as useful.  We stifle creativity, problem-solving, inquisitiveness and intelligence.  The result is further erosion of our competitive advantage.

We have got to change this cycle.  The emphasis in higher education must shift to a mix of theoretical research – developing new theories – and applied research.  We have to create knowledge that can be used in practical settings to advance our industries.  Research must be more market driven in order to strengthen our economy and our country as a whole.  Contrary to the opinion of a majority of academics, the people providing the funding should have a voice in how it’s spent and teaching is at least as important as research if not more so.  Research should be used to improve teaching quality and subsequently the quality of output – graduates and their capabilities in the work place.

Subsequently, the standards at lower levels of education must also change.  We must provide teachers that can teach in order to improve our odds of getting students that can learn.  Then we put more of the responisbility for learning on the student and the parents.  I understand the whole concept of avoiding responsibility but to place all the onus for learning on the teacher is completely unfair.  In order for little Johnny to learn, Johnny has to want to learn.  Knowledge transfer is a two-way street.  We need to accept that it is okay for kids to fail and teach kids that failure is undesirable. We must teach them that if they fail, it is their fault and they must take responsibility for improvement so they do not repeat the failure.   Competition is not evil and high standards are a good thing at every level of education or we will never regain our competitive advantage.  We also need to put our teachers and administrators in a position where collaboration with parents (willing collaboration by parents) is integral to success.  Parents should not be able to shift full blame to the teacher for their childrens’ performance or lack thereof.  Students who choose to create disciplinary problems will be denied educational opportunity because of their behavior.  Kids won’t leave schools because of bullies.  Bullies will be removed from schools and their subsequent options will not be as desirable.  Parents will be held accountable for their childrens’ behavior until their children reach teh age of majority.  No excuses.  That is what being a parent entails.  If little Johnny’s a bully – it is your fault Mom and Dad.  Trust me on this.  I have never seen it be otherwise.

Our public education system must be redesigned to be superior to each and every other education option.

Failure to view education in terms of its impact on our ability to compete and succeed in the global marketplace is a mistake.  It is imperative that immediate action be taken to reinvent the public school system from pre-K to PhD. to design a system that encourages learning, critical thinking and creates teachers that can teach (leaders that can and do lead!) in every field.  Then we can take the next step and create students who can and do learn and take that learning to the next level which is further research that is applicable in the marketplace and serves to provide, enhance and sustain our global competitive advantage.  The more we diminish the value of competition in the educational setting – where we all spend the majority of our formative years – the more likely it is that we will not regain that competitive urge as adults.  Knowledge builds on knowledge and our foundations are currently crumbling.

Is it too late?  I don’t think so but we must take swift and decisive action.  We must end No Child Left Untested and we must develop national standards for learning at all grade levels including strong math, science and foreign language requirements beginning at the earliest grade levels..   National standards, accreditation and licensure for Pre-K – 12th grade teachers designed to ensure parity in quality of teachers nationwide must be developed and implemented.  There must be a stronger connection at the post-secondary level between teaching quality and funding.  At the very least, academics must recognize the value of research that truly furthers knowledge in the practical setting rather than the theoretical.  We have enough statistical models and testing parameters.  Tell us how to be more effective leaders.  Give us new technology.  Give us some substantial, quantifiable return on our research investment.

Reason #8

•November 8, 2008 • 2 Comments

This national blog post month is getting old.  I’m tired of this blogging already!  Why do I do this to myself.  I want to apologize for yesterday’s post, by the way.  It was just one of the many very long days I’ve had lately and I vented my frustrations on the blog before drowning them in pizza and cabernet.  Yummy…yummy… pizza…. (You’ll never guess who’s back on South Beach, right?)

Anyway, reason number 8 that I should be president is because I think that healthcare reform is essential to our long-term national prosperity.  Everyone should have equal access to and funding for healthcare.  I don’t know whether it is possible to create a working universal healthcare system similar to other countries in the world, but I promise to put the best minds I can find on the task of developing something that somehow levels the playing field for everyone and guarantees each and every American Citizen the health care they need.  I’ll start with JP.  She already works too hard but she’s definitely up to the task of finding the rest of the brain trust to hammer it out.

Reason #7

•November 7, 2008 • 3 Comments

I think I should be President because I’d do a better job at that than I do blogging.  I had hoped this blog theme could be funny but I’m watching my blog stats hit the toilet.  Ask me some policy questions why don’t you?  Oh wait…

No one’s reading.

Reason #6

•November 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I believe in full disclosure.  Yes, I’ve tried marijuana and I’ve inhaled.  Didn’t do a damn thing for me and haven’t even been willing to consider using any since high school.  However, that being said, I favor legalizing marijuana because it’s really no more harmful than other tobacco and, like other tobacco, we could then regulate quality and tax the bejeezus out of it.  Hooray for revenue streams!  ”

On the other hand, I do agree with those who say smokers should pay more for health insurance and be held more accountable for their choices.  You can choose to smoke but that doesn’t obligate me to fund your medical care for smoking-related disease processes.  Thanks!

Reason #5

•November 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I hate pork – in the figurative sense.  I promise I will thoroughly examine every bill that crosses my desk and if one single unrelated thing is contained in the bill I’ll veto it.  If we’re talking roads, let’s talk roads.  If we’re talking defense, let’s talk defense.  If Congress puts one single thing unrelated to the main idea of the bill, I will fail it like an eight grade English paper.  “Failure to stay on topic” = FAIL

Reason #4

•November 4, 2008 • 1 Comment

Shall we talk about Defense?  It’s no secret that I’m a battle-scarred military spouse (but not one of THOSE kind of spouses – no victim, no poor-me here) and I’ve got some strong ideas about our military and how it should be run. 

First I advocate mandatory national public service.  It works so well in so many places around the world – why not try it here?  Too many of our citizens feel like public service is great for other people but not for them and not for their children.  An awesome book on the subject is AWOL:  The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service and How It Hurts Our Country.  Our recruiting challenges have become so severe that the maximum age for enlistment is now 43 for the Army.  Now that is going to get us three types of people in our armed forces, right?  Those with a genuine desire to serve but possibly not optimal physical capability to serve (I use myself as exhibit A).  We may get a few that are truly great soldiers who end up drawn to military service by the money (bonuses and benefits) as a result of current economic conditions but we’re also going to get quite a few that are simply unfit for any service.  You know the type – approaching middle age, no education, no ability to keep a job, possibly misdemeanor convictions or lower-class felonies that the military is willing to overlook because they simply need bodies.  This is a dangerous game.  We end up with a sizeable number of unfit, incapable, mentally unfit for duty service members that put the rest of our military in serious danger.   This danger is related both to the ability to fulfill their mission as well as personal danger as evidenced by the numerous media accounts of violent acts committed by soldiers either against their wives or against other service members due to PTSD and other conditions.

And I don’t think for one second that the military is or should be the only public service option.  But I do think that the military gets the right of first refusal.  After that, options like a Conservation Corps type service to do roadside cleanup, park and recreational area maintenance and clean up, working in public schools, hospitals, etc. would be made available.  The reward for this service would be funding for post-secondary education making college more affordable and accessible for everyone.  If you screw up during your mandatory two-year service obligation, there would be punitive penalties assessed up to and including jail time. 

I know  you’re probably hyperventilating right now.  We got to where we were as a nation eight years ago through the blood, sweat and tears of those who came before us and understood the value of hard work.  As a result of each successive generation trying to make it easier for their descendants, we’ve become collectively fat, dumb and happy about what it takes to have peace, freedom, education and wonderful natural rescources to enjoy.  We need to reinstill that sense of responsibility for maintaining and creating the freedoms and privileges we all enjoy to current and future generations. 

There is also the matter of the right time and place to employ our armed forces.  Their primary purpose is to provide for the safety of the citizens of the United States of America.  Their secodary purpose is to protect our interests abroad.  My position on deployments is that there must be a direct connection to and benefit for the American People to justify putting our military servicemembers in harm’s way.  We’re not going to clean up after natural disasters in Asia (or anywhere else) and we’re certainly not sending our troops into situations at the request of entities not willing to put their own troops on the line.  We’re not interested in being the cowboys in the white hats riding in to save your ass.  And we are certainly going to end the policy of election-buyers and armchair Generals deciding what is the appropriate use of force.  To you folks, I would say that unless your son or daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, mother or father, or you personally, are going in with the troops and the benefit to the citizens and taxpayers of the United States of America is clear, the answer is no.  But you’re welcome to take the thousands of dollars you’d otherwise spend buying an election and use them to support the causes you believe in in parts of the world that are not of interest to the collective good of the American people. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not heartless.  Human Rights atrocities are exactly that and I am appalled and angry that these conditions exist around the world.  I am simply thinking as the wife, mother and friend of servicemembers and maintaining that my husband, son or friend’s life is not worth less than anyone else’s just because they put on the uniform of our Armed Forces every day.  Unless we are a part of a global coalition, we will not send troops to be peace-makers or peace-keepers anywhere in the world under my administration.  Terrorism is a very bad thing.  We have been engaged with opposition forces and terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq for too long already.  However, with regard to this situation, I defer to the soldiers on the ground – the ones that don’t watch the news here or read the newspapers – who believe that we can and should stabilize those regions before we pull out.  But we must enable the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan to rebuild their own countries and begin the transfer of power so that they can also be held accountable for their actions and the actions of their citizens.  If they want us gone, fine.  We will leave.  If they are subsequently invaded by one of their unfriendly neighbors, that’s unfortunate.  The military under my watch will only go back if the rest of the UN goes too.  No more cowboy foreign policy.