Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Making Money While Going Green"

I've just listened to a podcast by Gary Hirshberg, founder of the environmentally-friendly yogurt producer Stonyfield Farms; this business is profitable while being committed to measurable, sustainable production, and this talk is remarkable because he is so enthusiastic and he gives so many details, both facts about how they run their business and stories about making such an endeavor successful. His book looks as interesting and informative as this talk, so I've got to get a copy!

Here are the facts I'd like to remember:

  • Before Stonyfield he worked with New Alchemy, where he found we could support 10 people on 1/10 of an acre using solar power and no fossil fuels. (3:30 into podcast)
  • Yoplait is about 14% net revenue bottom-line and Stonyfield is about 13%, but their gross margins are 10 points behind. (I don't know what those mean; must learn.) (6:45 into podcast)
  • They have their own climate footprint methodology, and they look through their P&L to improve it and save money.
  • For our sewage, we typically "dilute with enough water, add oxygen, [and] agitate"; they built an "anaerobic "facility to handle their waste and generate energy and they'll have a net payback of $4-5 million. (11:00 into podcast)
  • With smarter sugar production, they have better soil, water quality, yields, worker health, and wildlife in the area, and now the cost of their sugar is equal to conventional sugar. (13:50 into podcast)
  • Discussed how UPS saved $10 million (per year?) by only making right turns in their trucks.
  • Great stories about advertising and building the business: building loyalty by adopting out cows and thanking and giving out free samples to commuters (18:00-21:00 into podcast)
  • They have their own scoring, where they're only 63% but trying to do better... like IBM who is at 70%. (I'm guessing this is the Climate Counts campaign.) (26:40 into podcast)
  • At birth, we have 287 chemicals in our blood, 188 of which are (or may be) carcinogenic.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Celebrating the two-month anniversary of our financial sector bailout with a status report

Today is the two-month anniversary of the huge emergency bailout that was absolutely critical to avoid imminent catastrophe. However, they have not even used half of it yet, and they have spent the first half mostly in places other than where promised. (And when I say "where promised", I mean "where the law directs".)

As much as I am disappointed by widespread support for government overreach, it is good to hear widespread applause when Cody Willard pointed out the flaws in this whole bailout mess. The best and most informative part is the 2 minutes from 3:30-5:30: "Last weekend we we sent more money to Citigroup, one company, than the entire budget for food stamps in this country every year." I've never heard of Cody before today, but it looks like he is worth watching: in a recent post, he points out how our current government "destroys the rule of law". Very true. And I hope that understanding is spreading.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This ad doesn't convince me that planned communities work.

This article includes a CDC video ad trying to make the case for planned communities. There's just one funny thing that's missing: the people. In any video snippet, there were never more than 4 people enjoying the benefits of these planned areas, and usually there were fewer. This is the whole problem with planned communities: what good are they if people don't use them because they prefer the benefits of purchasing houses in non-planned areas? (There's another article on the topic the next day, but it is made of analysis and references to analysis without any real examples of approaches that actually work.)

I believe there are ways to achieve what you're discussing, and I'd like to hear more, but you'll have to have a different approach than the typical urban planner mandates to get us there. There are bountiful studies and reasons why the traditional government approach doesn't work, so please overcome those obstacles in future attempts to convince me.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Effective Teaching

In this talk, Benjamin Zander doesn't just lecture about the abundance in life, he demonstrates it by teaching a young musician as we all watch. What a great example!

Learn lessons from the pirates

Matt Mason talks about piracy, how it's always going to be with us, and the best approach for everyone is to deal with it creatively and constructively. (It actually reminds me of the story about attitude heard in another talk: two shoe salesmen go to Africa, and the first despairs because nobody wears shoes while the second rejoices at the opportunity!)

He talks about how he was a "pirate DJ" in London, which sounds interesting, but then he discusses how things often start in the pirate network and then move to mainstream. When the "legal" players start to address the problems that create piracy, they become truly powerful and profitable. He uses "Heroes" as a great example of this: they're the most pirated show on the web, but they've made over $50 million on their alternative revenue streams. He also points to a pharmaceutical company Novartis who learned to do something about their piracy problems in Thailand by offering products for free. You cannot buy the kind of goodwill that comes from that type of positive action.

We really are in an age of abundance (at least in my industry), and the long-term successes will be those who learn to build organizational models that share that abundance rather than restrict it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"Breaking the Cycle of Poverty-Related Illness"

Vera Cordeiro Rio tells her story about working for the poorest people whose children are hospitalized repeatedly. She started working without money so she sold her stuff and begged for money from friends, and now she is running a large organization Renascer that even has a profit-making arm Fish Hook. One quote about the non-profit/profit combination:

"Nowadays, if you want to change the world, a non-profit has to have a branch of profit. And also the profit companies, they have to have a branch of [social work]."

support for First Amendment is poor (but improving)

The First Amendment Center published their 2008 survey results about American's knowledge and opinions of the First Amendment.

Beware: they are frightening! People have very little knowledge of their freedoms, but worse of all they are willing to give up many of them. Thankfully, if you look at the numbers for the past few years, the trend seems to be improving (from my 2-minute scan of the data), though the improvement is very slight. This is not very encouraging news.

(Thanks to the Deseret News for their op-ed warning about American's attitudes.)

10-month blog anniversary!

Well, it's now 10 months since I've started writing online, and it's been enjoyable to learn what I want to do as I do it. At this point, I am recommitting myself to something I think I've forgotten: I am trying to publicize all the projects and stories that are making this world a better place, emphasizing those that encourage free association and also identifying where unlimited government is getting in our way. I want to make effective analyses, but I also want to point out every good project I hear. One improvement I'm going to try: I'm going to bookmark ALL the good projects I see, since is still improving and they have a great interface for searching through your tage; then I'll reference my blog entries from there so I can find the ones that are interesting enough to comment about.

Onward and upward!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hey, Feds: solve our problems!

I am more and more disappointed in our federal governmental situation, but only partly because federal politicians seem to think they need to avoid every crisis and solve every problem in society: I see more and more evidence like this "Presidential Challenge" that shows how many people really believe our national government could and should impose it's will to try and fix every injustice. (Disclaimer: the one about bin-Laden really is a valid project.)

All I can do is sigh.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Two news items today showing why the state is not to be trusted:
I never understand why people feel it helps to pass bills with extra safeguards or to set up regulations "the right" way; with the national state as large and unwieldy as it is, there's no way to ensure that things will be done even as promised in writing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Senator Bennett on health care (and the money crisis)

Attended an early-morning health-care speech with Senator Bennett.

First mentioned the money crisis (at someone's request):

  • story about Cannon-Grant and their struggle to get money to avoid bank crash in 1893 money crisis
  • Andrew Jackson destroyed Hamilton's national bank, resulting in a bunch of money panics (eg. 1893), so the Federal Reserve restored our national bank
  • He is in the banking committee; calls to his office were 493 to 1 against the bailout; the 1 call was a car dealer who wouldn't be able to make payroll.

Then talked about a federal bill to address health care:

  • Ron Wyden asked Bennett to co-sponsor Healthy Americans Act (AKA the Noah's Ark bill); core of agreement is that Republicans must give up bias against universal health care ("every American insured"), and Democrats will allow markets to run the system
  • tax code affects this somehow... dictates something about 16(?) % of GDP...
  • person putting up money is different from payer
  • changes tax laws so that payer controls spending: employee can change HMO
  • government will subsidize up to 400% of poverty
  • every individual must have coverage (he says we already do with mandatory emergency service)
  • employer gives money to employee tax-free
  • feds must create a minimum standard of insurance for people to meet; cannot be proscriptive because it won't improve with time (and everyone will want in); plan must be actuarial equivalent to average federal employee plan
  • won't address medicare yet
  • HMO, fee-for-service, concierge plan, whatever; just cannot provide less service than federal plan
  • very poor may benefit since those who help them navigate the bureaucracy could get paid
  • best health care: Seattle, Rochester, SLC
  • greatest cost control factor is quality
  • story: daughter graduated, went to work idealistically at nursing home, called him complaining about medicare manager
  • story: doctor would proscribe wrong procedure so that they could pay for right one
  • story: Michael Leavitt & wife needed colonoscopy; hospital couldn't tell costs until after breakdown; got price easily (at half the cost) in Utah
  • prediction: next president will be a senator (and will know the cloture rule)
  • will give the money to medicaid recipients
  • by CBO, will be revenue neutral for first 2 years and save money after that; other say it'll save 1 trillion in 10 years

This talk was very informative, and I got a sense Senator Bennett is one of those politicians with integrity (though I won't make a final judgement based on one talk :- ).

My own comments:
  • It was interesting to hear about the constant money crises without a national bank. I'll have to see if that's true; it seems to be worse WITH a central bank and national management! Anyway, at least it looks like Senator Bennett has tried to understand the history of the system, and really thinks there is a crisis where government intervention is necessary for our security (rather than totally a knee-jerk reaction to Bernanke et al).
  • He talked about Heber J. Grant's efforts to get money to ensure their bank would not fail, but he seems to miss the fact that his exemplar made things work without even asking for government assistance. He worked hard and almost failed, but succeeded at the last minute with his own creativity and persistence, which is what should be happening. Some will win; many will lose.
  • I still don't like the idea of forcing every American to have health insurance, even if we currently struggle under some emergency laws. It's more government encroachment: suddenly, everyone will be forced to pay a certain amount to the government; nobody will be free to choose where to put their money and how much risk and responsibility to take over their own lives. It's best to roll back some of our current, overly protective laws.

Unfortunately, the way this is presented and the way they're planning, I'm willing to bet that this initiative (or something with a similar universal mandate) will pass. This is the age of government absolutism! It can leap over crises with a single bound! Speak loudly enough and I'm sure it'll be able to fix your problems, too (... for a small fee for everyone else... at least until the next administration...).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Keyhole Gardens

Keyhole gardens are viable gardens for Africa that take up about as little space as you can imagine. (I've got to spend some more time at Send a Cow because it looks like they have a good number of interesting ideas.)

Innovations inspired by third-world needs

Most of the Pop!Tech talks are very good, but I just heard the one about good designs for solutions to poverty by Paul Polack that spoke directly to me; it's funny, because he started speaking slowly, with long pauses, so I felt this would be boring... but I ended up being electrified.

Here are some of his slides:

Finding Simple Solutions to Big Problems
  • Go to where the action is.
  • Talk to the people who have the problem - listen to what they have to say.
  • Learn everything there is to know about the specific context.
The "Don't Bother" Trilogy
  • If you haven't had conversations with at least 25 poor people before you start...
  • If it won't pay for itself in the first year...
  • If you can't sell at least a million of them...
... Don't Bother!

Three Key Features of the Design Revolution "that's needed"
  • Affordability
  • Divisibility
  • ("infinite") Expandability
Three Great Poverty Eradication Myths
  • We can donate people out of poverty (donations are important in emergencies, but people must lift themselves out)
  • We can end poverty through national economic growth (despite what some economists say)
  • Multinationals as they are now will end poverty
Although these lists are interesting, they're just reminders about his high points; you really should listen to hear some of his anecdotes and connections in the modern world. At 2:20 before the end, he explains a very cool product that takes a battery, a pinch of salt, and a thimbleful of water to sterilize a liter of water in 90 seconds. Awesome. Plus he's got a business model to spread it. Then he leaves me on the edge of my seat by mentioning a $15 information device.

BTW, I also enjoyed his website: For example, read his "Ant Arithmetic" on the "Revolutionary Designs" page. This is someone generating good work and fascinating ideas!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Let's act honorably!

Another editorial for you. Actually, this is for us all, including my children someday.

There are troubled times ahead. We're starting a period of economic hardship for almost everyone, and I'm convinced that there will also be massive amounts of political force brought to bear on every aspect of our lives.

What are we going to do as this happens? Since many will lose their livelihoods and some of our physical infrastructure will be affected, people are bound to go hungry; as a result, many will lose their tempers and abandon all sense of morality. We've seen this happen in certain neighborhoods at times of destruction, where lawlessness reigns for a time. Hopefully everyone I know would not stoop to that level.

But even if it doesn't get that bad, I hope we will all act honorably even when things get difficult. If the majority of us act selfishly (in the short-sighted sense of the word), then we will reap anarchy and/or vicious totalitarianism, with repercussions for decades. There is more hope if we don't push others unreasonably, trying to get everything we can; if we give as much as we can to help others around us; and if we demonstrate generosity and kindness in the face of indulgence and anger. This is how a good people would act, and this is the way we maximize our peace and liberty, both for ourselves and for our children.

And this is especially true if you, like me, want to radically change the way our government works; I believe our best happiness and prosperity depend on massively reducing the national government's encroachment into every aspect of our lives. If we were to succeed in any part of what we're attempting, it will cause hardship as society has to adapt to the realities of free, voluntary association and non-interference. We will have to demonstrate patience, generosity, and strength of character in order to keep on track and show others the way to an effective society.

I love the example of my Grandpa Gould in this regard; whether finances were good or bad, he understood the needs of the people in his business, and he would do what he could to work with them while still caring for his own needs (see end of paragraph).

Can we put aside our need for security and dependability, and truly care for each other? Can we value relationships enough that our acts of kindness will overwhelm the insecurity that others around us are feeling? I guess everyone's actions will speak for themselves. Whatever happens in the world around us, this is all that truly matters.

Love is all we need.


The Lives Of Others

Of course our ever-expansive military is going to monitor our lives, and here's how it's begun. It is expected, given the expansive powers they've been granted. But it's worth mentioning, along with the names of the two people who are bringing it to light: Adrienne Kinne and David Murfee Faulk. Thank you both for following your conscience.

And yes, I recommend The Lives Of Others; it's a story that draws you in, it's well done aesthetically and emotionally, and it really makes you think about the impacts in our lives. It's only a matter of time before a department or an individual will use this power improperly. Is this still a good trade-off for our safety? (Hint from the article: "the success stories underscored for her the waste of time spent listening to innocent Americans...")

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Big Bailout Bill

Here is the Library of Congress record of the bailout bill; a search for HR 1424 actually yields 6 versions; I believe this reflects how this bill began as one thing but was then used for more purposes. The White House site announces the bill's signing here, and it has a picture of Pres. Bush signing it. (This picture has it as part of a photo essay, but it keeps moving around.) For more friendly facts and summaries of the bill, you can go to the Open Congress site or site; the latter includes line-by-line comparisons of versions of the bills.

On the sacrifices of our future for some temporary stability

No news this time, just food for thought.

Today a friend of mine mentioned a new business he'd like to start, with some online work involved. I've been talking with some relatives over the past few months about their small business, possibly to the point of getting involved in making it work. Another friend of mine has been working on his new business for a while, and he got his first online customer today.

In my lifetime, the world has shrunk at a dizzying rate and the power of the individual seems to have grown in proportion. As a technology professional and hobbyist, I've fully enjoyed our increased capacity to calculate, inform, and connect. I've also been impressed by the political thoughts and personal character of the American founding fathers. Under these influences, I've been excited as I think about what we humans can do for each other nowadays, and I've anticipated a future where the power of compulsion diminishes (particularly government power) as individuals become more informed and able to produce in a variety of ways for a variety of markets. This would be a world where there still may be some large corporations and organizations who are able to attract the attention of masses of individuals, but there are more of the small-time, local cooperatives because they have many of the same tools at their disposal. The farmer in Nigeria would have as much of a chance to be successful as a CEO in New York. (Of course, we're not close yet! But with all the interest in international development and distributed systems, I don't see any barrier to creating these infrastructures over time.)

But I will not see this kind of world in my lifetime. Whether or not it is the will of the people, those in power will keep attempting things like the Big Bailout Bill whenever they feel there is an crisis to warrant it. They may or may not be justified by the wishes of the people; either way, I feel the leadership we most need is the persuasion and effective government that allows people to build self-sufficiency and make effective contracts with one another. This is the whole idea of limited government. Instead, what we have now is a society where one effective business strategy is to grow to be a massive organization, one so big that it'll make politicians nervous if your business fails. Sure, you might have to put up with more oversight, but you can likely make enough political friends to make sure your future is secure. Today's world is all about what you can get from your politicians, with those furthest away from you having the most power over your life and opportunities.

This situation makes it more difficult to get to my future, where the large, unsustainable organizations are replaced by smaller, more agile, more viable ones. If we want the best for ourselves, we have to accept change. We have to be willing to allow people to take risks and let them fail, even if it causes difficulty; if we really want to avoid catastrophe, we need to have the freedom to evolve our businesses and accept the pain of failure, even big failure, as well as the rewards of success.

I will do all I can to help my friends succeed, despite the emergence of this brave new world.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Supreme Court is assuming unconstitutional steps to affect international relations

Roger Pilon wrote the forward to this past year's Cato Supreme Court Review. The last paragraph is a good summary (supported by the 10 preceding pages): I understand it to mean that the Court's intervention in some recent rulings mean they're taking jurisdiction over laws regarding foreigners in a way that is not authorized by the Constitution. (Furthermore, he says they are making improper rulings about wartime powers, which seems appropriate to me, but I must not understand it all. That part starts at the top of page "13", though it shows as page 7 if you read it in the PDF format from my link.)

two great graphics regarding the federal budget and bailouts

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The annihilation of limited government is upon us.

This is a very sad time for me, and it's a watershed moment for America. After all the problems with large banks, the federal government has stepped in to save some of them and is about to do a whole lot more since last week's volatility. It's incredibly disheartening to see how far we've fallen from the ideals that have kept us free.

I am writing this note to publicly declare that I do not approve of the federal government's actions to save the banks. It realize that there would be catastrophic consequences if they did not, and our whole system as we know it might collapse in a way that could even surpass The Great Depression. That condition could take decades to overcome, and we would be a very poor country in the meantime... meaning that we would learn what true poverty is really like. I would absolutely choose that course because we would come out as strong a nation as we ever were, having kept our individual freedoms and responsibilities and learned valuable lessons about individual security and trustworthiness in the process.

However, what we are choosing instead is to try and ensure safety by subverting the basic rights of individuals to choose their own actions and live through the consequences. We're replacing our old ideals with a system where the government has all power to do as it wishes with any aspect of society. Even if this bailout plan isn't implemented, the fact that it is being seriously considered means that most of our politicians feel they can exert this power over our lives if they perceive a big crisis coming. There are no longer any limits; the only way now to limit what government does is to make front-page news and garner general public outrage so that a majority of politicians are motivated to act. American government has lost its moral compass.

So the future is bleak: our livelihood is subject to the whims of politics; we will be less free to make contracts with one another; and society in general will be much less prosperous and powerful because of the myriad ways that government force can stop associations and limit our range of actions. If people thought there was uncertainty from actions of irresponsible banks and traders, wait to see how much more uncertain will be everyone's future now that we have an all-powerful national government.

I suppose we've been headed this way for a while. It's incredibly sad to watch it happen in front of us, and to know we will have diminished power over our lives starting next week.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

CEAG: a Bountiful (and expanding) government watchdog group

Last night I was introduced to the CEAG, a group watching how the Bountiful and Davis County governments are doing their work. They passed around a letter detailing some of the actions that Bountiful City has taken that were either not public or went directly against their stated plans. (I hope they put that flier up on their website soon; it was very informative.)

In the process of discussing issues, a few other specifics came out, one negative and one positive:
  • Bountiful city council passed a mandatory recycling law without discussing other options, despite the fact they announced they would discuss other options.
  • Davis County worked on funding for a regional theater, and they actually did everything in the proper way.
The discussion centered on how the group wanted to be a watchdog that makes sure everything is done in the right way. There was also discussion about financially supporting specific candidates, but not everyone is comfortable with the idea; endorsing candidates, maybe, but not choosing sides. (That's my personal view as well; I'm interested in a group that gives people good information for their own choices, but I'm not so interested if it is going to pick one specific candidate in each race. Hm... but maybe if there was a pot, divvied up to each candidate as much as they've proven themselves to have integrity, that might be interesting.)

You just can't be too safe nowadays. The Feds won't let you.

This is becoming comical. How can any reasonable person keep a company from spending their own money to be as safe as they want, especially when it helps their business? Another article states another one of their arguments: "If the government does not control the tests, the USDA is worried about beef exporters unilaterally giving consumers false assurance." Can anyone really give a reasonable argument for this?

I find it absolutely amazing that they can do this kind of thing.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Health care summit for Utah

The Utah Intergovernmental Roundtable (a U of U organization) is holding their annual summit next month. The topic this year is health care. What's cool is that they have representatives from national organizations like Cato and The Heritage Foundation, whose priorities I share. The cost is $50 per person.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

How many executive orders have presidents written?

I was curious how many executive orders George Bush has written compared to other presidents. (I got the counts from the "disposition tables" that go back to Hoover.)

There were 5075 up to Hoover; as of June 28 we have 13466.

268 George W. Bush
363 William J. Clinton
165 George Bush
380 Ronald Reagan
319 Jimmy Carter
168 Gerald R. Ford
345 Richard Nixon
323 Lyndon B. Johnson
213 John F. Kennedy
481 Dwight D. Eisenhower
893 Harry S. Truman
3466 Franklin D. Roosevelt
995 Herbert Hoover

PATH delivers new health care technology

"PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology and Health) is a nonprofit organization that is about making sure that the benefits of innovation in science and technology are available to developing countries and remotely located, low-income groups." Dr Christopher Elias discusses some of their work and how they get it out to people in this podcast. As two examples, they have improved the malaria nets (so you don't have to dip them in insecticide as often), and they have come up with an indicator to tell if a dose immunization has lost it's potency due to inadequate refrigeration. It's fun to hear about.

In each case, he also discusses how they have to make sure to work with all the following aspects, because if you miss one area your initiative may end up being ineffective:
  • new technology
  • systems for delivery
  • individual behavior that needs to change

When do you formally evaluate your charitable work?

Alana Connor and others (a successful evaluator and a funder) did a very interesting, informative discussion on how to evaluate a non-profit's effectiveness. In part of it, she explained that "very few" organizations will benefit from an evaluation because they do not meet the following criteria:

  • the program has a clear theory of change
  • the staff are implementing it with fidelity and you know that and you've measured that
  • someone, somewhere wants to replicate it
  • people are proud of the program

They go into detail on why it's good to evaluate (if you can), what kinds of studies and methodologies are useful, and how to work effectively with all the parties involved. I recommend listening if you're even remotely interested in the topic.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Why government should help social entrepreneurs, and why it should not

David Gergen ("advisor to Presidents") gives his views on why our national government should help with innovative social enterprises in this interview; thankfully, it is followed by some commentary that give good arguments why the government should not get involved.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Good approaches to illegal immigration for Utah

I've seen the effects of our onerous immigration system on some coworkers and friends. Someday I'll detail some of the difficult stories in people's lives caused by our bad policies so you can hear individual accounts. Thankfully, others are starting to raise their voices in favor of some better approaches, and not simply in favor of heavy-handed punishments that most people seem to advocate.

The Utah Foundation is a policy research institute for Utah, and they've published a few items about immigration. One is from the Sutherland Institute: it's a philosophical statement (with links to studies about the demographics of illegal immigrants) that describes why we should be compassionate and humane rather than unwelcoming. But there's more: a research brief that gives some quantitative measurements on the benefits and drawbacks of undocumented immigrants in our state; it refers to two studies from Texas, one of which concludes that "strict immigration reforms led to labor shortages, decreased employment, high costs of implementing reforms with little associated return, and high fiscal costs".

Both are very persuasive arguments to be careful and compassionate in the way we handle illegal immigration.

The federal government has frozen our non-profit accounts!

I am part of two organizations that work for communities and not for profit: the Thomas Tolman Family Organization that does genealogy research and archiving, and the Gesundheit! Institute that is trying to create a different kind of hospital and health care. I have been raising money online for each organization; you can find the payment links easily on the Tolman site, and my friends' Gesundheit! donations are collected through The first of these is even a government-registered non-profit organization; the second isn't and probably never will be.  (UPDATE: I initially wrote that the Tolman Organization was not registered as a non-profit.)

A few weeks ago, PayPal restricted each account, meaning that I cannot get any of the money out. Well, that was inconvenient, especially since I was about to make a transfer to the Tolman family for publications that people have ordered. I haven't made extra effort to certify that I am an authorized fund-raiser; I expect that this is understood by people who donate since they either come from the website (for the Tolman family), or they know and trust me (for my friends giving to Gesundheit!). I do not like it, and since I don't get any discount as a charity for using their system, I will likely not do any more business through them because of the difficulties this has caused. I sure do not appreciate the sudden restrictions; we do this work on our free time, and I'm not able to jump and get all their documentation together at the drop of a hat. (Especially with Gesundheit! where Patch only works by snail mail, so it'll take me weeks or months to get any "official" documentation stating that he approves of this.)

However, yesterday I got the real story. I called PayPal again because I got another notice claiming that this would be my "final reminder"; sounds scary, and I certainly don't want to lose the money I've collected! This time I found the real reason our access is restricted: my friendly Department of Homeland Security is making sure I'm collecting money for the right reasons.

I don't know what to say at this point. I'm dumbfounded. I knew things were bad, but I am constantly surprised when I learn how bad things really are... especially, of course, when I am a direct beneficiary! :-0

I hope everyone sees how far we have come down the road toward totalitarianism, where almost every action must first be approved by a government department. No amount of good intentions can justify these attacks on our liberties. Please help get our federal government back to doing only their lawful, Constitutional duties and nothing more.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

lost opportunities to build bridges

The Olympics started this week with a spectacular opening ceremony, and it's been cool to watch how those events bring humanity together. Right now I'm watching Music & The Spoken Word, and they have a choir and an instrumental ensemble of Chinese children; it's fantastic, because their voices, sounds, and faces are so remarkably pure. They're so good that my oldest daughter is cheering after their music.

This past week has been the Bountiful Summerfest, and I blogged about our experience. But we found while there that the Chinese delegation couldn't make it because of visa problems.

Thanks a lot, Feds!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Don't choose McCain! (Or Obama, of course.)

I wrote the following to my siblings, most of whom will probably vote for McCain because they think he's a much better choice than Obama.


John McCain is no saint, you're right about that. I understand that he has shown personal integrity in some areas and deserves respect as a soldier, but that doesn't translate to integrity in the rest of his life, and it definitely doesn't mean he understands anything about good government. I won't address specifics of his personal life; I'll only say that I don't believe he holds the same values as I do when t comes to commitment to families. When it comes to political office, it's all about money for your friends: he was actually reprimanded by the Senate Ethics Committee (as one of "The Keating Five") for manipulating things on behalf of some of his rich friends, and he's still doing things specifically to benefit his corporate contributors. The current mode of "free enterprise" in federal government means that they hire private contractors with our tax money; heck, they've even started calling government departments "corporations", such as the Millenium Challenge Corporation. McCain is a poster-child for this egregious cronyism, and although I'm afraid of more government control in socialist policies, I'm as much (or more afraid) of government passing on government function to corporations. Is corporate socialism better than public socialism? We've already got corporations "investing" in lobbyists because it's a good ROI (see last paragraph); and it's crazy how the biggest recipient group for earmarks isn't local government or public institutions, it's for-profit companies.

But that's not even the worst part about McCain: he has somehow been able to pass the infamous "McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act" which restricts free speech about our politicians. That's right: the FEC is now ruling on cases and saying what people can and cannot say about politicians. The most direct consequence of this is that it keeps incumbents in power; that's why this is also called the "Incumbency Protection Act". Don't expect to see many more decent political leaders like Reagan in this system where people like him are getting into power and subverting basic rights to keep it.

I know, I know: it's all about money to keep your friends' corporations healthy, and then keeping yourself in power so you can keep up the good work. Everybody's doing it! Obama may even be a worse choice than McCain. But in case you feel that McCain at least has the benefit of being closer to your political ideals, beware that he says the same kinds of things when it comes to government control, which is why he's often called a "RhINO" (Republican In Name Only) (google it).

Although Republicans and Democrats present themselves as competing political parties, they are really two squabbling factions of the same political machine when it comes to the national government. If not redirected, they will attain the same kind of state that make us recoil when we think of the USSR or China. Who cares if we live in a two-party, democratic totalitarian state vs. a one-party, communist totalitarian state? We still have one of the best political systems on the earth, and the American people and media are still best equipped to live freely and discover and reject most corruption as it happens. But nowadays, the choice of most people is to go along with the current people in power, voting for the lesser of two evils. I understand the reasoning, and I know how you often have to make compromises on particular issues to get to a better place when working in groups, but that doesn't translate very well to choosing good leaders. I hope to bring more people to my side: we really have to fight the political status quo and change course. Otherwise, I'm afraid our children will have a hard life: they'll not only have a real mess on their hands when it comes to their own livelihood, they'll probably find themselves ruled by some very bad system because we couldn't keep this one going. This year, is our president going to come from one of the two main parties? Yep, and the same will probably happen in 2012. Heck, maybe we can never turn them around. But if there is any chance to avoid further statism, it's going to be by getting large numbers of people to join us and do something other than perpetuate the current system and it's candidates.

Spread the word! :- )

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

my Republican precinct boundaries

I have been voted in as the precinct chair for the Republican party in my area. I believe we're the West Bountiful 2 precinct. The addresses for people in my area stretch:
* from 500 South to 1000 N
* from 560 to 1450 West

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Fed and the Great Depression

It's pretty telling when the current chairman of the Federal Reserve admits (when he was one of the governors) that his organization caused the Great Depression (see the second-to-last paragraph):

"Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry."

But it's OK: he says they won't do it again. I'm sure he can absolutely protect us from that kind of economic problem in the future -- especially if we give the Fed even more authority.

Friday, June 27, 2008

My Federal Congressional Delegation

I found my Senators Hatch and Bennett and Representative Rob Bishop here. For the House of Representatives, I'm in District 1 in Utah (the northernmost of the three).

Here are links to email them my opinion:

Monday, June 23, 2008

democratization of self-realization

In Daniel Pink's talk at Pop!Tech (which I recommend), he discussed how affluence, asia, and automation are the biggest factors changing the landscape of our working world. He quotes Robert William Fogel, winner of the 1993 Nobel :

"[Prosperity] has made it possible to extend the quest for self-realization from a minute fraction of the population to almost the whole of it."

That is exactly the kind of work I want to target, but especially for my own society where I think people (and their children!) need help to bring meaning in their lives.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

growing earmarks in Congress

This story about earmarks in Washington is illuminating, and scary.

"More than 11,000 of those "earmarks," worth nearly $15 billion in all, were slipped into legislation telling the government where to spend taxpayers' money this year", and in spending bills for the 2009 budget year that starts Oct. 1, "the House committee alone has 23,438 earmark requests before it".

Holy cow.

"Rules forbid lawmakers from raising campaign funds from congressional offices, but members and their aides sometimes find ways to skirt them."

Well, duh.

I don't care what anyone says: when you get that much power (and money) flowing through one organization, it's going to be very advantageous for masses of people to work the system any way they can. The article says that "earmarks can do a lot of good"; who cares when you've created a system that pays people very well to twist it for their own ends? Even after we work to make Congress' money transparent (which I highly recommend), we will continue to have a huge organization with all kinds of power that people can trade in ways other than their bank accounts.

Unlimited government is bad government, plain and simple. And we are not limiting the growth of the US government. I believe this is the most important politicial issue of our time in this nation.

Here are 4 government watchdog groups they mention in the article:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Achieving Breakthrough Performance" article

The following principles of non-profits that achieve "breakthrough performance" is from this article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

"Managers of nonprofit organizations should use the following four principles to help make the decisions that lead to breakthrough performance: 1) costs of serving should always decline; 2) market position determines your options; 3) clients and funding pools don’t stand still; and 4) simplicity gets results.

These four principles are derived from the recently published book The Breakthrough Imperative..."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

international financial institutions, eg. the IDB

I just mentioned how Pro Mujer was mostly funded without government help; there is a caveat:
she credits the Inter-American Development Bank with funding for Argentina, and that appears to be a government collaboration. You would never know it from their website; I had to look for them in Wikipedia to find their origins and funding, and they are much like the IMF and World Bank, established by governments. Fortunately, we have organizations like the Bank Information Center that watch these multi-national government organizations carefully with projects such as BICECA for civic engagement for issues in the Andes-Amazon region.


How do we get private institutions to replace these huge government lenders? We have quite a few private foundations; I wonder how their power compares? I have a feeling that private money is more effective and free than government banks; can I back that up with examples?

another example of (mostly) private financial sustainability for the poor

The Pro Mujer organization partners with government organizations, but their funding is not from the government:

"So none of the funding comes from the government?"
"Very, very little of it; very little of our fully financially sustainable institutions. Their funding comes from borrowing, from a diverse portfolio. And in Argentina, we have no money from the government, and that's a startup institution. Their money came from the Inter-American Development Bank, and from a board member who's a president of a local bank."
(Quote is from approx 28:00 to 28:30 of this talk; I thought at one point she said operations in all but one country are fully financially sustainable, but I couldn't find the quote.)

That's impressive.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

unemployment and welfare: government costs and a non-profit approach

Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka in the 80s, reported the following statistics in his short acceptance speech:

"The payroll taxes have gone from 1% of federal revenues to almost 40%...
It costs us about 40 million full-time equivalent jobs. We have about 70 to 80 million full-time people equivalent who would like to work who are not, which is 10 times the official unemployment rate." (More good info here.)

It is so good to find someone of his stature recognizing the drag this creates on our society. (Can you say "wet blanket"?)

Even better, he's chairman of Get America Working, a non-profit aiming at helping all Americans work. Fantastic! (While I'm at it, he also mentioned Youth Venture that is training youth "change-makers".)

a few government pointers from a Latin American non-profit

If you want to hear some good information about the growth of an effective development and health organization, one that really helps individuals by working in local groups, listen to this whole talk by Lynne Patterson of Pro Muher. One piece of it is so touching that I put it in my other blog. But there were a couple of thoughts about working with governments that I feel are worth mentioning:
  • "In Mexico they have very good regulations (for NGOs)." I'll have to look into this; I'm always skeptical of government trying to solve a social problem, so I'd like to see what constitutes "good" regulations.
  • A good principle is to work with governments to create alliances but do not take very much of their money. It's tempting, but governments tend to use that as political leverage, and people aren't as willing to repay if they know the government is the credit source.

(She gives both of those thoughts around minute 27 in her talk.)

students who are getting far better opportunities

I just listened to an interview with Rafael Alvarez about his organization Genesis Works that is helping very low-income students get much better opportunities when they graduate. He gives some good detail about their growth and lessons learned; he includes a few stories... I think you'll like this (4-minute) story about a kid named "German". That impact is what it's all about.

Friday, May 23, 2008

starting micro-finance in the US

Mohammad Yunus is bringing Grameen America to help lift people here in my own country. Hallelujah! In the long term, this is really the only way that families, communities, and our whole nation is going to bring prosperity to more of the poor: by help people help themselves.

One interesting side note: the first effort in Queens, New York shows much of the regulation we have here is a roadblock to their work:

  • "Here, there is more regulation, so a person cannot just set up a cart and sell cakes without a permit."
  • "Rules for setting up a bank are cumbersome for a micro-operation."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

government charity... why not?

Read this story (from Davy Crockett's life as retold in a book quoted by Ron Paul) for reasons why a rule-of-law government should not get involved in charitable pursuits.

PS: I believe in verifying sources; I understand "The Register of Debates (which covers Davy Crockett's first two terms in Congress from 1827-1831) and the Congressional Globe (which covers his last term in Congress from 1833-1835) do not provide verbatim transcripts of speeches made on the House floor", so we cannot be sure, but you can see some support for it on the bottom-right hand side of this congressional record.

Friday, April 11, 2008

history of health insurance in the US

Health Insurance in the United States is one of the best summaries I found for a history of health insurance here.

Interesting tidbit: In 1958, nearly 75 percent of Americans had some form of private health insurance coverage.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

effective savings

Talked with Marci Redding (from The Money Planner) about savings, especially when it comes to teaching children. A few fun details emerged from the conversation:

- I heard on this podcast about Jeroo Billimoria's organization Aflatoun that teaches children financial skills internationally.

- Kevin sent a link to an account at America First with a better savings rate (~4%?) for money that you plan to save for longer periods of time.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

what really changes hearts and minds

It's worthwhile to take on big projects like Oprah's Big Give, and I encourage everyone to try; they sure inspire me. But also pay attention to the small opportunities in everyday life. I firmly believe that it's the small, consistent contributions we make in our day-to-day lives that really change the world for good.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Destitute poverty in America: hunger

The following are from
How Poor Are America's Poor? Examining the "Plague" of Poverty in America from last August. I'll work to get information directly from the US census and other sources, but it was a challenge to find some of the hunger numbers from their poverty section; that information was retrieved from other sources referenced by the article.

  • "There were 37 million poor persons living in this country in 2005"; that's 12.6%. ("This number has varied from 11.3 percent to 15.1 percent of the population over the past 20 years")

OK, fine. I want to help everyone make it out of poverty. But I'm not going too far out of my way and I don't want any government intervention for many of that number:

  • 42% own their own homes
  • 36% own a computer

I grew up without those things; it's not a crisis if you're at that level.

The worst hardships are when it is difficult to keep adequate fo
od, clothing, and shelter. Those are the people with immediate needs that I really want to help with money and direct assistance.

  • No data at all is shown for malnutrition; I'm guessing it's too small for measurement. "The intake of nutriments is very similar for poor and middle-class children and is generally well above the recom­mended daily level. For example, the consumption of protein (a relatively expensive nutriment) among poor children is, on average, between 150 percent and 267 percent of the RDA."
  • "For example, two indicators of undernutrition among the young are "thinness" (low weight for height) and stuntedness (low height for age). These problems are rare to nonexistent among poor American children." "The World Health Organization standards assume that even in a very well-nourished population, 2.3 percent of children will have heights below the "stunted" cut-off levels due to normal genetic factors."
  • We're at 2.6%.
  • "Some 1.8 percent of all households [and 6% of poor] report they "sometimes" did not have enough food to eat during the previous four months, while 0.4 percent [and 1.5% of poor] say they "often" did not have enough food."
  • "13 percent of poor house­holds with children report that their children sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat during the past four months."
  • "For example, across the whole U.S. population, in a given month, one child in three hundred will skip a meal because of the family's lack of money for food. One child in a thousand will go a whole day without eating for the same reason."
I'll have to compile info from clothing and shelter another time.

People need help. It's very sad for kids to skip a whole day of food, and it looks like abut 78,000 go hungry for a day in any month. Sad.

But the story is a far cry from the widespread destitution that some people preach: .1% of kids go a day without food. Think of how far we've come! Don't try and let anyone convince you that our government has to get involved and force their solutions to fix this "emergency".

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Utah legislators

I found my Utah state legislators for my part of West Bountiful:
Representative Roger E. Barrus
Senator Dan R. Eastman

I've just written them emails, thanking them for supporting HB 449, which is a start at rejecting the national Real ID.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Davis county caucus information

I finally found the caucus information for our Davis county political parties, and specifically for the Republican caucuses. It looks like they'll take place at March 25 at 7 PM in a public location (to be accessible to everyone); they should post the location my March 1 on that page. See you there!

Can government do any good?

Yesterday, I implied that government cannot do good, because I really believe that to be true. The reason is that the truly good things in this world are love, peace, forgiveness, genuineness, and good character (to name a few), and these are human-oriented qualities that can only be communicated between individuals.

But I had to think this through yesterday: is it true that government cannot do good in the world? Actually, in a loose sense, it can do good because it can establish peace or lift someone from the pressures of a difficult life or even make fine arts more available, and these are definitely good things.

What I'm really concerned with, though, is those truly good things listed earlier. So let's imagine how a government might make this happen: let's say some benevolent politicians create a program to increase love in people. The only way I can imagine is with some kind of group learning, directed by someone who is known and respected as a loving person. So I suppose it could take action to increase love for the students in that group. Then we have to figure the indirect consequences of setting up such a program: of course, there's the money taken in taxes to pay the teacher (which is always a negative drag), and the overhead of running it (which doesn't directly go toward the result). So is it worth the cost? It may be. So can government do good? Well, even in this example, the government is initiating the program but it is not what is really creating the love: that only comes by way of the teacher(s) through their creativity and example. Government is paving the way, but it requires dedicated individuals to help others get to the destination.

In addition, I maintain that even if such a program were possible, there's no guarantee that it can stay effective due to changes in bureaucratic procedure, social priorities, or funding. But of course the program would still continue. Wouldn't it be better to allow this kind of thing to occur spontaneously by people who are free to create this kind of program and people who choose which of the programs are worthwhile?

But the socialist counter-argument is that there should be a way for everyone to afford to participate in such things. Hm. I cannot see how governments will ever be more effective at providing such life lessons, and indeed it requires effort for us to seek out and learn those lessons; my opponents cannot see how everyone has the best opportunity to learn these lessons in the course of their own lives, regardless of their situation. I can't see how to convince them otherwise. Frustrating!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

US government sets roadblocks for corporate charitable giving

The very first article of the inaugural print edition of Managing & Developing had a very telling story: it showcases, a great effort for many reasons but notably because part of it's business model is to donate 50% of it's net profits to non-profit organizations chosen by it's customers. Well, it appears that the federal government actually makes it difficult to do this kind of thing! They highlight 3 challenges with their business model, and then they say "these challenges are minor compared to the governmental and tax structures that fail to accommodate social ventures." They cite one example: "the corporate limitation on charitable contributions is set at 10%." So they had to be creative to avoid the extra taxation. ("For the moment, we... operate as a subchapter-S corporation, whereby we can take advantage of the individual cap of charitable donations: 50% of adjusted gross income.")

Lovely, isn't it?

Yet another evidence that government just gets in the way when it tries to do good. Government (and any use of force) can only protect and stabilize; it takes the passion and cooperation of free individuals to do accomplish any grand endeavor in this world.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Socially Proactive Investing (SPI) vs Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)

In the latest issue of their magazine (which I cannot find online), MBAs Without Borders describes SPI as a step beyond SRI because it focuses not just on "good" projects but projects that try to be extremely effective by helping people help themselves or really lift people to the next level. Increasing profitability is a good thing. MEDA is spotlighted as an organization with such investment opportunities.

350% increase in annual income from 1950-2008

"The globalization of capitalism from 1950 to the present has increased annual average income in the world to $7,000 from $2,000. Contrary to popular legend, poor countries grew at about the same rate as the rich ones. This growth gave us the greatest mass exit from poverty in world history."

From: Why Bill Gates Hates My Book By William Easterly

Does Bill Gates want top-down capitalism?

According to William Easterly, Bill Gates' "creative capitalism" focuses on corporate-managed charitable projects. These are less effective; the best way to life the base of the pyramid (BOP) is to invest such that people will build profitable enterprises and lift themselves out of poverty permanently.

I must comment that I doubt that Bill Gates really hates his book, and may not even know about it; either way, this is a great job of marketing by Easterly.