Friday, January 02, 2009

Comes Around

As Barack Obama finishes his first term as President-Elect and gets ready to suit up for the real thing, debate has come up between conservatives and liberals regarding the respect due him. Conservatives cite the constant derision and undeserved insults heaped upon President Bush and say that the Democrat is only getting a dose of what the liberals considered reasonable treatment of the Chief Executive for the last eight years. Liberals respond by saying that they gave Bush a fair chance, and did not being attacking him until he had earned it, that they were not spitting insults before he even began his term.

I do not agree with the deliberate disrespect against Obama, but the liberals are lying to pretend they ever gave President Bush a chance.

Thousands of liberals protested Bush's inauguration, pelting his motorcade with bottles and at least one egg.

Before he even took office, mockery of him was common among liberals.

The fact is simple - liberals refused to show respect at all to President Bush, so while it would be better for conservatives to try to work with Obama and give him a chance to do his job, it is absolutely false for liberals to pretend they have any right to expect it. If Obama never catches a break as President, he can thank his liberal base for poisoning the well.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


My daughter accidentally gave away her kitten today. Normally this would mean finding out where it got to, and arranging for the return the errant feline. In this case, however, my daughter managed to “donate” her kitten on her Nintendo DS game, and so far we have not been able to effectuate its return. We can “buy” a new kitten, but we cannot get the old one back. The game does not have an ‘undo’ feature.

Computer games are impressive these days, but every so often you find a point where Real Life cannot be properly synthesized. I wonder how many of the “new” generation in charge of things, understand that simulations always have such flaws, or will they only find out when their projections fail badly.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Fruitcakewalk

The final week of the 2008 NFL regular season has concluded, and right on cue, teams have begun to fire coaches. Some of the firings were obvious; Rod Marinelli was at the help of the first NFL team to ever go 0-16, so it’s no shock that the Lions cut him loose. Over in Denver, the Broncos decided that it was better to buy out the three years left on Mike Shanahan’s contract, than to let him continue running the team as head coach. Or in any position there. The Jets canned Mangini, while the Dolphins*, Browns, Raiders and Rams all showed their head coach the door. Oddly, the Dallas Cowboys reacted to their worst finish in memory by promising to keep Wade Phillips, but in a token move fired Special Teams coach Bruce Read. In Houston, Gary Kubiak celebrated keeping his job by firing three coaches who worked for him, including his defensive coordinator. In San Francisco, interim head-coach Mike Singletary lost the ‘interim’ tag and began clearing house for new coaches, firing his offensive coordinator and two other assistant coaches, while many other teams are looking closely at their staffs to decide whether to ax someone, for poor performance, to open a slot for someone else, or just because everyone else seems to be doing it. Tis the season of the pink slip, and it happens every year.

What’s really goofy, though, is that these same teams will be looking for replacements for those coaches, and what they want in most cases is NFL experience at that position. So, the NFL being a closed market, a cartel if you will, most of these fired coaches will end up with another team, doing pretty much the same thing for the same money. Change of wardrobe, not much else. There are a few changes that happen; the 49ers got a real steal by signing Singletary, a real talent on the field and on the sidelines who was snubbed for many years for no reason other than he lacked head-coaching experience. And there are always a handful of NCAA head coaches who could be considered for open slots. But mainly, the NFL fraternity continues to take care of its own, promising far more change than ever really happens.

* Cameron was fired for the 2007 season, I mis-recalled.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Just Another Stupid Liar

I used to think rather highly of Mayor Bill White. He showed leadership in a number of high-stress situations during his time in office, but he finally exhibited a crass dishonesty in an area where honesty is in very short supply among politicians; money-making scams by City Hall. A couple years ago, Houston began putting in red light cameras at dozens of intersections around town; 50 cameras at first followed by another 20 soon afterwards. Despite complaints and warnings that other cities had found problems with the cameras, Mayor White assured citizens that the lights would make driving safer and lower accidents.

Well folks, he was wrong. The City of Houston paid for a study on the results of the cameras, which they promptly buried for several months, until a pair of lawyers sued for its release.

As you might have guessed, it turns out that red light cameras in Houston don’t reduce accidents. The study discovered that after installation of red light cameras, accidents at those intersections more than doubled in the next year.

Now, most of us would expect the good mayor to admit that the cameras were a bad idea, maybe try to back off this bad idea. But not Bill White. This guy actually insisted that the cameras were working, claiming that the rest of the city was actually having even more accidents and that putting these cameras in reduced the accidents at those intersections! Remember, the study showed that accidents at those intersections more than doubled, so Mayor White is trying to claim that the entire city has seen accidents skyrocket by even more than that rate. Problem is, there’s not a lick of evidence to support that claim – in fact, the guy who was hired to produce that study for the mayor, Bob Stein, acknowledged that data from the Houston Police Department shows accidents have declined in the city since 2004.

Oops, huh?

White should just admit that he was lying the first time he pushed to have red light cameras installed to bring in more money without paying for more police. Instead he followed it with an even more stupid and obvious lie.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Right Stuff in Business (Monday)

We’re in a recession. OK, you knew that. My point is, if you are looking for a job – or for a better job – you need to know what the people hiring are looking for. Sadly, in many cases the jobs that are available will be parceled out by people who either are not hiring for their own groups (HR in many cases), or by people who do not understand their needs well enough to hire the best-qualified candidate. The good news is, you would not really want those jobs anyway if you had any choice, because those are the dead-end no promotion high-stress jobs we all hate anyway. The bad news is, of course, that in many cases we take those lousy jobs because we have to find work. So, my advice is for the many people who have a job but know they’re not in the right one, so they’re looking.

One thing I really hate about all the job-search books, articles, and guides is this assumption that you have unlimited time to pour into the search. OK, if you’ve been laid off you have some free time, but not the months that these guides say you need to have available, so you’re likely to have to take a temp job or an undesirable position, in which case you will be working and looking. If you are a student just out of school, you also have a short window before you have to start paying back that student loan, and in any case unless your name is Kennedy you will need to pay bills right away. Fact is, almost everyone looking for a job will eventually be looking and working at the same time. This is bad enough, but no one in the employment assistance field seems to grasp this. After all, it’s not easy to ask your current boss off from work so you can go to an interview, and if you don’t tell your current boss you feel dishonest. And it’s not as if you can go on vacation and conveniently schedule a lot of interviews in that space of time, especially if you do well and they call you back a second and third time … over a couple more weeks? Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how to handle this particular problem, except to say how I am dealing with it. My superior is very supportive, and knows that after I finish my MBA I will be seeing what’s out there, and so if I need a short-notice day off he will work with me. Why would he do that? Because he knows that this is a way for my company to show me that they value me, making it less likely that I would leave, especially if they could make a counter-offer (my company likes to promote from within, so obviously that is my first avenue), and it’s also because he’s a good guy, who treats people the way he’d want to be treated. I know that a lot of folks don’t have that option, but if you do have a pretty good boss in a job that’s just not all you need, it may be a good idea to sound out their opinion. Because while it’s a pain to have to replace a good employee, if they’re leaving it’s best if it happens on good terms with no one caught by surprise. That’s also a good test for the new employer, by the way – anyone who expects you to leave your current job without a decent transition, is not likely to respect you once you become their employee.

But that’s sort of missing the topic. The key to getting a good job, the kind that provides career and growth opportunities in a healthy environment, is to be someone they fell they have to have, someone they are not likely to find very easily. To be that person, you need to know enough about the job to know what they need. Do the research, find out everything you can on the company and on the position. If you’re reading this you know the basics of computers, so put some detective skills to work to see how well the company is doing (a growing company pays more for talent, while a company in trouble will be cheap), what skills are needed (be sure you are being hired for something that the next person is not likely to be able to do; nobody pays well for the ordinary skills) or preferred, and why they are hiring now. After you figure that out to some degree, you play ‘turn around’ and imagine what the person doing the hiring is looking for, and make sure you fit that image.

It may seem hokie, but when I interview people for positions, I always consider them on three levels – can they immediately do what needs to be done, can they get along with everyone in the team, and can they grow, maybe show leadership? Strange as it sounds, a lot of folks hurt themselves by not showing how they can help the company, they seem to be hard to fit into a group, or they show no sense of maturity. Your resume must be accomplishment-specific, include a cover letter, and be focused totally on proving you can and will be the perfect fit. If you get interviewed, dress like you are expecting to meet the person two levels above the job you want. Do not chew gum, and make sure you neither smoke nor drink, even if you are invited to do so. There’s a lot of good books out on how to handle interviews, and so a trip to the library is definitely in order, but remember that the more specific information you have on the company, the better you will look compared to the other candidates.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lawyers and Business

I neither like nor trust Barack Obama. I am not saying this at the start in order to attack the man, but to admit that I find him singularly unqualified for the office he has won, his popularity notwithstanding. Given the present set of crises, the nation needs a man who understand how the economy works, and a man who has personal experience with business, especially large-scale business. I agree that President Bush has not accomplished everything that I wanted from him, but at least his MBA from Harvard was evident in many of his actions and decisions. Lawyers, where business is concerned, are best known for a mixed bag – at best they can put much-needed protections in place, but far more often they suck the life out of innovation with red-tape, special-interest bias, and meddling to gain their own advantage. It’s too soon to say which camp President Obama will belong to, but the need for watchdogs on the next White House will be greater than the ones in place now.

On reflection, though, it is inevitable that lawyers will have a lot to say about the mortgage, bank, and automaker crises. Near as I can see, the basic decisions will be as follows:

MORTGAGE: There are three basic types of mortgages in trouble; mortgages where the homeowner simply got into financial trouble which may be blamed at least to some degree on the economy, mortgages which were ill-advised but not fraudulent, where restructuring the terms are likely to improve the repayment of the debt, and deals which frankly should be allowed to fail.

BANKING: Like the mortgages, the key interest should be to protect the innocent. Auditors must determine whether the funds handled were fully disclosed in terms of risk, and what sorts of intervention may be utilized which will effectively improve liquidity and investor confidence while addressing bad debt.

AUTOS: The most simple, yet difficult, mess to sort out. Save the jobs, but do not reward the corruption or the incompetence.

To me, no lawyer can produce the answers needed solely through legal expertise. It will take a successful businessman, or rather the combined wisdom of many successful businessmen to make that happen. It remains to be seen whether President Obama will understand this fact, or whether the image and self-serving rhetoric will continue to be the norm.