Friday, August 31, 2012

What I Read Today - Friday August 31, 2012

From: The New York Times
August 30, 2012

Party of Strivers


America was built by materialistic and sometimes superficial strivers. It was built by pioneers who voluntarily subjected themselves to stone-age conditions on the frontier fired by dreams of riches. It was built by immigrants who crammed themselves into hellish tenements because they thought it would lead, for their children, to big houses, big cars and big lives.

America has always been defined by this ferocious commercial energy, this zealotry for self-transformation, which leads its citizens to vacation less, work longer, consume more and invent more.

Many Americans, and many foreign observers, are ambivalent about or offended by this driving material ambition. Read “The Great Gatsby.” Read D.H. Lawrence on Benjamin Franklin.

But today’s Republican Party unabashedly celebrates this ambition and definition of success. Speaker after speaker at the convention in Tampa, Fla., celebrated the striver, who started small, struggled hard, looked within and became wealthy. Speaker after speaker argued that this ideal of success is under assault by Democrats who look down on strivers, who undermine self-reliance with government dependency, who smother ambition under regulations.

Republicans promised to get government out of the way. Reduce the burden of debt. Offer Americans an open field and a fair chance to let their ambition run.

If you believe, as I do, that American institutions are hitting a creaky middle age, then you have a lot of time for this argument. If you believe that there has been a hardening of the national arteries caused by a labyrinthine tax code, an unsustainable Medicare program and a suicidal addiction to deficits, then you appreciate this streamlining agenda, even if you don’t buy into the whole Ayn Rand-influenced gospel of wealth.

On the one hand, you see the Republicans taking the initiative, offering rejuvenating reform. On the other hand, you see an exhausted Democratic Party, which says: We don’t have an agenda, but we really don’t like theirs. Given these options, the choice is pretty clear.

But there is a flaw in the vision the Republicans offered in Tampa. It is contained in its rampant hyperindividualism. Speaker after speaker celebrated the solitary and heroic individual. There was almost no talk of community and compassionate conservatism. There was certainly no conservatism as Edmund Burke understood it, in which individuals are embedded in webs of customs, traditions, habits and governing institutions.

Today’s Republicans strongly believe that individuals determine their own fates. In a Pew Research Center poll, for example, 57 percent of Republicans believe people are poor because they don’t work hard. Only 28 percent believe people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control. These Republicans believe that if only government gets out of the way, then people’s innate qualities will enable them to flourish.

But there’s a problem. I see what the G.O.P. is offering the engineering major from Purdue or the business major from Arizona State. The party is offering skilled people the freedom to run their race. I don’t see what the party is offering the waitress with two kids, or the warehouse worker whose wages have stagnated for a decade, or the factory worker whose skills are now obsolete.

The fact is our destinies are shaped by social forces much more than the current G.O.P. is willing to admit. The skills that enable people to flourish are not innate but constructed by circumstances.

Government does not always undermine initiative. Some government programs, like the G.I. Bill, inflame ambition. Others depress it. What matters is not whether a program is public or private but its effect on character. Today’s Republicans, who see every government program as a step on the road to serfdom, are often blind to that. They celebrate the race to success but don’t know how to give everyone access to that race.

The wisest speech departed from the prevailing story line. It was delivered by Condoleezza Rice. It echoed an older, less libertarian conservatism, which harkens back to Washington, Tocqueville and Lincoln. The powerful words in her speech were not “I” and “me” — the heroic individual. They were “we” and “us” — citizens who emerge out of and exist as participants in a great national project.

Rice celebrated material striving but also larger national goals — the long national struggle to extend benefits and mobilize all human potential. She subtly emphasized how our individual destinies are dependent upon the social fabric and upon public institutions like schools, just laws and our mission in the world. She put less emphasis on commerce and more on citizenship.

Today’s Republican Party may be able to perform useful tasks with its current hyperindividualistic mentality. But its commercial soul is too narrow. It won’t be a worthy governing party until it treads the course Lincoln trod: starting with individual ambition but ascending to a larger vision and creating a national environment that arouses ambition and nurtures success.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What I Read Today - Thursday August 16, 2012

From: Forbes Magazine

Some Presidential Words On Federal Income Taxes

Peter J Reilly


Julian Block is back, this time with a collection of thoughts by Presidents and Presidential candidates on taxation.

Some Presidential Words On Federal Income Taxes

Income taxes are such a pervasive and everyday part of our financial lives—and such a central issue in presidential campaigns — that they seem to have been around forever. They have not. Their debut is relatively recent.

Abraham Lincoln created the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the predecessor of today’s Internal Revenue Service, and introduced the first U.S. income taxes in 1862 to pay for the North’s Civil War expenses. The Confederacy also imposed income taxes. After all, military wars, especially big ones, have to be paid for; at least, that used to be a fact of life.

Mr. Lincoln’s levies fell mainly on the well-to-do. There was an exemption from taxes for the first $600 of income. Once beyond that amount, the maximum rate topped off at five percent. The taxes were temporary, not becoming permanent until the ratification in 1913 of the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In an 1864 address to the 164th Ohio Regiment, Mr. Lincoln said “I apologize for the inequities in the practical applications of the tax, but if we should wait before collecting a tax to adjust the taxes upon each man in exact proportion with every other, we shall never collect any tax at all.”

Another Republican understandably went out of his way not to poke fun at the tax collectors. Richard Milhous Nixon, caught up in the struggle to avoid impeachment and stay in office, informed the nation that “The President, when the IRS is concerned, I assure you, is just another citizen and even more so.” Time magazine waited until the issue that coincided with the tax filing deadline of April 15, 1974, to note Mr. Nixon “offered that wry observation exactly one month ago, when advance warnings had been posted that he might owe half a million dollars in back taxes.” He resigned on August 9.

Ronald Wilson Reagan stood out for his ability to make complicated subjects understandable. Mr. Reagan particularly liked to poke fun at the shortcomings of our modern tax system. For instance, he alerted future taxpayers to what awaited them in a talk to students at Northside High School in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 6, 1985: “If our current tax structure were a TV show, it would either be `Foul-ups, Bleeps and Blunders,’ or `Gimme a Break.’ If it were a record album, it would be `Gimme Shelter.’ If it were a movie, it would be `Revenge of the Nerds’ or maybe `Take the Money and Run.’ And if the IRS ever wants a theme song, maybe they’ll get Sting to do `Every breath you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you.’ ”

Mr. Reagan stayed on message at a joint session of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa on March 11, 1981: “The American taxing structure, the purpose of which was to serve the people, began instead to serve the insatiable appetite of government. If you will forgive me, you know someone has once likened government to a baby. It is an alimentary canal with an appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”

Mr. Reagan’s vice president, George Herbert Walker Bush, had sewn up the nomination for president when delegates at the Republican convention in 1988 cheered his famous pledge of “Read my lips—no new taxes!” However, as president, the elder George Bush had to deal with a Democratic Congress and to be more conciliatory, unlike his son. So despite his vow and because he knew it was helpful for the economy, President Bush crafted a deal with Congressional Democrats to raise new taxes in 1990, a decision that contributed to his re-election defeat in 1992 by William Jefferson Clinton.

President Clinton easily won again in 1996, notwithstanding tax increases in 1993, becoming the first Democrat to be re-elected since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As Mr. Clinton recalled, “There’s a lot of evidence you can sell people on tax increases if they think it’s an investment.” Of course, tremendous growth in the 1990’s also made it easier to sell increases.

Mr. Clinton’s other 1992 opponent was H. Ross Perot, a super-wealthy, third-party candidate making his first run for the office. Like Time magazine with its Nixon revelation, Mr. Perot waited until the filing deadline to reveal that “I’m delighted to pay big taxes. Big taxes mean big income.”

During Mr. Clinton’s first term, a key element of his legislative efforts was to attack the welfare system and promise to end welfare as we know it. In 1996, Republican candidate and Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole of Kansas invoked the same oratorical flourish when he declared that “I will eliminate the IRS as we know it.” Mr. Dole attempted to tap into anti-IRS sentiment abroad in the land. Among other things, he promised a simpler system “that will allow Americans to file their tax returns without the help of a lawyer or accountant, or both,” yet another of the countless proposals for simplification that never get anywhere.

Mr. Clinton was the first Democrat in the White House since James Earl Carter, a president who characterized “the federal tax system” as “a disgrace to the human race,” an assessment decidedly less upbeat than those of other Democratic chief executives.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, in an address to Congress on April 20, 1961, declared that “One of the major characteristics of our tax system, and one in which we can take a great deal of pride, is that it operates primarily through individual self-assessment. The integrity of such a system depends upon the continued willingness of the people honestly and accurately to discharge this annual price of citizenship. To the extent that some people are dishonest or careless in their dealings with the government, the majority is forced to carry a heavier tax burden.”

While President Roosevelt was campaigning for a second term, he told a gathering in Worcester, Massachusetts, on October 31, 1936, that “One sure way to determine the social conscience of a Government is to examine the way taxes are collected and how they are spent. And one sure way to determine the social conscience of an individual is to get his tax-reaction. Taxes, after all, are the dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.”

William Jennings Bryan campaigned unsuccessfully three times as the Democratic presidential candidate. During his famous acceptance speech at the party’s National Convention in Chicago, on July 8, 1896, he declared that “The income tax is just. It simply intends to put the burdens of government justly upon the backs of the people. I am in favor of an income tax. When I find a man who is not willing to bear his share of the burdens of the government which protects him, I find a man who is unworthy to enjoy the blessings of a government like ours.”

Long before the introduction of income taxes, Andrew Jackson took a resigned view of all taxes. “The wisdom of man never yet contrived a system of taxation that operates with perfect equality.”


Julian Block is an attorney and author based in Larchmont, N.Y. He has been cited as: “a leading tax professional” (New York Times); ”an accomplished writer on taxes” (Wall Street Journal); and “an authority on tax planning” (Financial Planning Magazine). Information about his books is at


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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What I Read Today - Wednesday August 15, 2012

From:  Success Magazine

Modern Marketing: Why go 2x when you can go 10x?

The advantages of "10x thinking"

Dan Sullivan April 10, 2012

If you could grow something that’s important to you by 10 times and end up with a simpler, easier-to-manage, more enjoyable business than you have now, would you do it?

It could be something obvious, like taking profits or sales tenfold, or perhaps something more creative, such as doubling your results with one-fifth the clientele or having 10 times more time off. What it looks like is totally up to you, as long as it amounts to a 10x greater result in some area of your entrepreneurial life.

Now what if I were to tell you that your chosen 10x goal was not an end unto itself? Rather it would just be the means by which you could develop and hone a new set of capabilities to enable you to go 10x in any area you choose in the future. Sound appealing?

This is essentially the challenge I’ve been offering to my most advanced clients—all highly successful, growth-focused entrepreneurs—over the past year and a half, and not surprisingly, almost all of them have taken me up on it.

Nonetheless, some entrepreneurs still think that 10x is too daunting or overwhelming to think about, and I understand how that might be the case, especially for those struggling with the complexity of the day-to-day in a tough economy. For those people, even growth by 2x may seem like a stretch.

My commitment to 10x thinking comes from my conviction that 10x is the only guaranteed way that entrepreneurs can ensure their continued freedom and success in a world where change happens at an exponential rate, led by technology. Incremental growth simply isn’t enough to stay ahead of the curve anymore. You and your team have to be able to think in terms of 10x improvements, 10x growth and 10x innovation in order to continually thrive. The future belongs to 10x companies. The good news is that growing one is probably much easier and more enjoyable than you think.

One reason is that 10x thinking immediately takes you out of the box of your current limitations and obstacles. The rewards of 10x thinking and 10x learning, driven by 10x goals, are immense and often surprising. Here are some of our observations so far from going through the process, as 150-plus top entrepreneurs from more than 50 industries have done.

1. As soon as you start thinking 10x, everything automatically speeds up.

Thinking 10x has a wonderful way of creating clarity that allows you to make greater progress more quickly. This happens because a 10x goal is a powerful filter for decision-making and action.

It immediately sorts out what parts of your business are or aren’t in alignment, and makes it clearer and easier to make decisions about what belongs in the future versus the past. You begin to ask yourself, “Does this relationship, this project, this activity have 10x potential?” or, “Is this process going to take us 10x?” or even, “Is this how I want to be spending my time to go 10x?”

Think for a moment: What would you have to stop doing to go 10x? There’s a 25 to 50 percent productivity increase just from stopping certain things that aren’t supporting your future growth. As you start to filter your activities, decisions and relationships through 10x, you can quickly begin to transform everything in your life that doesn’t support exponential growth, and create and attract everything that does.

2. Thinking 10x moves you into purely entrepreneurial decision-making, creativity, risk-taking and teamwork.

Bureaucracy is like kryptonite to entrepreneurs. Because there’s nothing bureaucratic about 10x thinking, it becomes a kind of protective shield: Any bureaucratic thinking, structures or processes that may have crept into your business can’t survive for long when you’re committed to 10x.

The reason for this is that 10x requires innovation, risk-taking and a level of entrepreneurial teamwork. Everyone on your team has to be creative on the spot and has to innovate and make continual improvements. This is the essence of what entrepreneurs do. A 10x company makes the ability to grow 10x part of its DNA. Its approach is always 10x, its systems and structures are built to create and support 10x growth, and its team members share its leaders’ 10x thinking. In such a company, if a new opportunity doesn’t have 10x potential, it’s likely to get rejected as a game not worth winning.

3. With 10x progress in mind, you start seeing an increasing number of 10x factors that can contribute to that progress.

Have you ever noticed that the eyes only see and the ears only hear what the mind is looking for? It’s just like when you buy a car, and at first you think you’re the only one with that model of car, and then you start noticing it everywhere. There are all kinds of 10x opportunities within and surrounding your business, but you have to look for them to see them, and then, all of a sudden, they’re obvious.

Great people with incredibly useful capabilities, strategic relationships, unique technologies and innovative shortcuts surround you. They’re what you need to go 10x, and your mind should see the project clearly to find them and put them to use.

4. As your team gets involved in 10x progress, leadership emerges, relationships strengthen and creativity increases.

Many entrepreneurs don’t love being in charge of developing, training, managing and motivating their teams. But when you focus your team on a 10x goal, all of these things become much easier. In fact, you may see much of it happening without any extra effort on your part.

Growth-oriented people, the ones you want on your team, are energized by big goals, and 10x gives them a big project on which they can work together. On the other hand, anyone who’s just there to collect a paycheck is likely to opt out. In a 10x company, every team member is always looking for things they can do 10x faster, easier, cheaper or bigger in their own areas of responsibility and knowledge. Adding up these small and perhaps big 10x improvements, the whole company eventually goes 10x. Think of it like a pot of water heating up on a stove. Each 10x innovation represents one of the small bubbles that eventually combine with others to bring the whole thing to a rolling boil.

5. Striving for 10x progress is faster, easier and cheaper—and is far more enjoyable and satisfying—than striving for 2x progress.

The statement above may seem counterintuitive, but going 2x is something that can happen without actually changing much of what you’re already doing. When we think about doubling our progress, we often just try to leverage our current capabilities, whereas going 10x engages a different level of creativity, energy and excitement.

Going 10x requires real change—leaps in value creation, in efficiency, in resourcefulness and in productivity. It can also put you at the forefront of change, driving it rather than struggling to keep up with constant, unpleasant surprises. Evolving technology is going to change you anyway, so why not say, “I’m going to adopt a level of thinking right up front that makes it a profitable, enjoyable trip.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What I Read Today - Wednesday August 8, 2012

From: The New York Times

Average Is Over, Part II

A big mismatch exists today between how U.S. C.E.O.’s look at the world and how many American politicians and parents look at the world — and it may be preventing us from taking our education challenge as seriously as we must.
For many politicians, “outsourcing” is a four-letter word because it involves jobs leaving “here” and going “there.” But for many C.E.O.’s, outsourcing is over. In today’s seamlessly connected world, there is no “out” and no “in” anymore. There is only the “good,” “better” and “best” places to get work done, and if they don’t tap into the best, most cost-efficient venue wherever that is, their competition will.
For politicians, it’s all about “made in America,” but, for C.E.O.’s, it is increasingly about “made in the world” — a world where more and more products are now imagined everywhere, designed everywhere, manufactured everywhere in global supply chains and sold everywhere. American politicians are still citizens of our states and cities, while C.E.O.’s are increasingly citizens of the world, with mixed loyalties. For politicians, all their customers are here; for C.E.O.’s, 90 percent of their new customers are abroad. The credo of the politician today is: “Why are you not hiring more people here?” The credo of the C.E.O. today is: “You only hire someone — anywhere — if you absolutely have to,” if a smarter machine, robot or computer program is not available.
Yes, this is a simplification, but the trend is accurate. The trend is that for more and more jobs, average is over. Thanks to the merger of, and advances in, globalization and the information technology revolution, every boss now has cheaper, easier access to more above-average software, automation, robotics, cheap labor and cheap genius than ever before. So just doing a job in an average way will not return an average lifestyle any longer. Yes, I know, that’s what they said about the Japanese “threat” in the 1980s. But Japan, alas, challenged just two American industries — cars and consumer electronics — and just one American town, Detroit. Globalization and the Internet/telecom/computing revolution together challenge every town, worker and job. There is no good job today that does not require more and better education to get it, hold it or advance in it.
Which is why it is disturbing when more studies show that American K-12 schools continue to lag behind other major industrialized countries on the international education tests. Like politicians, too many parents think if their kid’s school is doing better than the one next door, they’re fine.
Well, a dose of reality is on the way thanks to Andreas Schleicher and his team at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which coordinates the Program for International Student Assessment, known as the PISA test. Every three years, the O.E.C.D. has been giving the PISA test to a sample of 15-year-olds, now in 70 countries, to evaluate reading, math and science skills. The U.S. does not stand out. It’s just average, but many parents are sure their kid is above average. With help from several foundations in the U.S., Schleicher has just finished a pilot study of 100 American schools to enable principals, teachers and parents to see not just how America stacks up against China, but how their own school stacks up against similar schools in the best-educated countries, like Finland and Singapore.
“The entry ticket to the middle class today is a postsecondary education of some kind,” but too many kids are not coming out of K-12 prepared for that, and too many parents don’t get it, says Jon Schnur, the chairman of America Achieves, which is partnering with the O.E.C.D. on this project as part of an effort to help every American understand the connection between educational attainment at their school — for all age groups — and what will be required to perform the jobs of the future.
“Imagine, in a few years, you could sign onto a Web site and see this is how my school compares with a similar school anywhere in the world,” says Schleicher. “And then you take this information to your local superintendent and ask: ‘Why are we not doing as well as schools in China or Finland?’ ”
Schleicher’s team is assessing all their test results — and socioeconomic profiles of each school — to make sure they have a proper data set for making global comparisons. They hope to have the comparison platform available early next year.
Says Schleicher: “If parents do not know, they will not demand, as consumers, a high quality of educational service. They will just say the school my kids are going to is as good as the school I went to.” If this comparison platform can be built at this micro scale, he says, it could “lead to empowerment at the really decisive level” of parents, principals and teachers demanding something better.
“This is not about threatening schools,” he adds. It is about giving each of them “the levers to effect change” and a window into the pace of change that is possible when every stakeholder in a school has the data and can say: Look at those who have made dramatic improvements around the world. Why can’t we?

Monday, August 6, 2012

What I Read Today - Monday August 6, 2012

From:  The New York Times

August 5, 2012

To Increase Learning Time, Some Schools Add Days to Academic Year


PHOENIX — It was the last Sunday in July, and Bethany and Garvin Phillips were pulling price tags off brand-new backpacks and stuffing them with binders and pencils.

While other children around the country readied for beach vacations or the last weeks of summer camp, Bethany, 11, and Garvin, 9, were preparing for the first day of the new school year at Griffith Elementary, just six weeks after the start of their summer vacation.

Griffith, one of five schools in the Balsz Elementary School District here, is one of a handful of public schools across the country that has lengthened the school year in an effort to increase learning time.

A typical public school calendar is 180 days, but the Balsz district, where 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, is in session for 200 days, adding about a month to the academic year.

According to the National Center on Time and Learning, a nonprofit research group in Boston, about 170 schools — more than 140 of them charter schools — across the country have extended their calendars in recent years to 190 days or longer.

Neither Bethany, who plans to run for student council president, nor Garvin, who was excited about his fourth-grade teacher, seemed bothered by the change. “The kids’ education is more important than all of these breaks that we have,” said their mother, Debra Phillips.

A growing group of education advocates is agitating for more time in schools, arguing that low-income children in particular need more time to catch up as schools face increasing pressure to improve student test scores.

“It’s not as simple as ‘Oh, if we just went 12 hours every kid would be Einstein,’ ” said Chris Gabrieli, chairman of the Boston group. “On the other hand, the more time you spend practicing or preparing to do something, the better you get at it.”

Education advocates have been calling for more school time at least since the 1983 “Nation at Risk” report presented an apocalyptic vision of American education.

Teachers’ unions, parents who want to preserve summers for family vacations and those who worry that children already come under too much academic stress argue that extended school time is not the answer. Research on longer school days or years also shows mixed results.

But studies also show that during the summer break, students — particularly those from low-income families — tend to forget what they learned in the school year. Getting back to school early, supporters of a longer calendar say, is one of the best ways to narrow an achievement gap between rich and poor students.

Many charter schools, including those in the academically successful KIPP network, attribute their achievement in part to longer days and calendars. President Obama has repeatedly promoted expanded school time, even inspiring “Saturday Night Live” to poke fun, with Seth Meyers saying in his Weekend Update segment that only “Catherine, the fifth grader nobody likes,” would support such a proposal.

Within the last two years, both the Ford Foundation and the Wallace Foundation have made multimillion dollar commitments to help nonprofit groups work with school districts to restructure the school day and year.

Advocates of longer school years say that the 180-day school year is an outdated artifact.

“The fact that our calendar has been based on the agrarian economy when almost none of our kids work in the field anymore,” said Arne Duncan, secretary of education, “doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.”

Yet several recent efforts to lengthen the school calendar have foundered. The Woodland Hills Academy in Pittsburgh extended its school year to 195 days in 2009, but this year it will return to the traditional 180-day calendar because of state budget cuts. Similarly, Parkside Elementary in Coral Springs, Fla., tried a 200-day calendar for one year before abandoning it because of insufficient financing.

Last year, legislators in Arkansas and New Mexico introduced bills to institute a 200-day school calendar, but both stalled. In Iowa, after Gov. Terry E. Branstad discussed the possibility of lengthening the school year at several town-hall-style meetings, protesters prompted the state to convene a study group to examine the issue.

Critics say that with so many schools already failing, giving them more time would do little to help students.

“It is true that we have an unfair society, and it is true that kids who are coming from the poorer backgrounds and whose parents don’t do a lot of reading are losing reading skills over the summer,” said Peter Gray, research professor of psychology at Boston College. “But let’s look at other solutions.” He added, “Whatever job we give to the school system, they ruin it.”

Advocates say that schools need to plan carefully how they will use the extra time. Some say that adding the kinds of art, music and other activities that more affluent students typically get outside school is as important as beefing up academics. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the teachers’ union have been battling over his plan to lengthen the school day; an agreement was reached last month when the school district agreed to hire back teachers for more enrichment programs rather than simply forcing classroom teachers to work longer hours.

“Better is as important as the more,” said Jeannie Oakes, director of educational opportunity and scholarship programs at the Ford Foundation.

When Jeffrey Smith, superintendent of the Balsz district, arrived in 2008, he inherited a district where two of the five schools had been rated underperforming for several years running and the district was at risk of being taken over by the state.

With the recession pinching state and local budgets, Mr. Smith seized on an Arizona law that gave an additional 5 percent of state financing to districts that added 20 days to the school year.

While many parents supported the initiative, some teachers resisted, worried that they would not receive enough extra pay to compensate for the additional time. The school board voted in 2009 to extend the year, and with the additional state financing and a local property tax increase, the district raised teacher salaries by 9 percent.

Since the district transitioned to the longer calendar, the proportion of students passing state reading tests has gone to 65 percent from 51 percent, and math scores are also improving.

Some teachers say that it is a new curriculum, targeted tutoring and two hours of professional development a week, as much as the extra days, that have helped raise achievement.

“Quantity is great, if you have the quality to back it up,” said Kathleen Puryear, a 20-year veteran fourth-grade teacher.

The district has lost several teachers since the longer school year began. At Griffith, Alexis Wilson, the principal, said 10 out of 23 classroom teachers retired or resigned last year, some citing the 200-day schedule.

Given the choice, many children would also rather be out playing than sitting behind a desk. But Riziki Gloria, a fifth grader at David Crockett Elementary, a Balsz school that serves many refugees and homeless children, said that she was keen to get back to school. “Sometimes summer is really boring,” she said. “We just sit there and watch TV.”

Outside Griffith Elementary early last Monday morning, children and their parents arrived early, eager to start. Sheena Padia said she had chosen to send her sons Isaiah and Elias Mercado to Griffith even though they live outside the district, in part because of the 200-day calendar.

“I love it because it is more education for them,” said Ms. Padia, as Isaiah, 7, showed off new black-and-white Adidas sneakers and Elias, 5, brandished a mechanical pencil.

The shorter summer break seemed to help the students adjust quickly to being back in school. After the morning Pledge of Allegiance, Ms. Puryear’s fourth graders easily recited the school’s mantra: “No one has the right to interfere with the learning, safety or well-being of others.”

Down the hall, Sarah Ravel used the morning to review school disciplinary codes, and she played get-to-know-you games with her new sixth graders. By afternoon, it was down to schoolwork as she handed out a math review sheet.

Ms. Ravel sat at the front of the class, her left hand magnified to several times its size as she projected the work sheet onto a digital white board. Hands shot into the air, waving urgently. The class had hit a tricky problem: subtract 2 hours and 45 minutes from 5 hours and 20 minutes. Ms. Ravel carefully explained how to work out the solution.

“If you are not comfortable with that, know that we are going to do one of those every day for the next 200 days,” she said. “I guess I should say the next 199 days,” she amended. “So we are going to get really comfortable.”

Saturday, August 4, 2012

What I Read Today - Saturday August 4, 2012

Psalm 55 (New International Version)

Psalm 55

New International Version (NIV)

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil[b] of David.

1 Listen to my prayer, O God,

do not ignore my plea;

2 hear me and answer me.

My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught

3 because of what my enemy is saying,

because of the threats of the wicked;

for they bring down suffering on me

and assail me in their anger.

4 My heart is in anguish within me;

the terrors of death have fallen on me.

5 Fear and trembling have beset me;

horror has overwhelmed me.

6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest.

7 I would flee far away

and stay in the desert;[c]

8 I would hurry to my place of shelter,

far from the tempest and storm. ”

9 Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words,

for I see violence and strife in the city.

10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;

malice and abuse are within it.

11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;

threats and lies never leave its streets.

12 If an enemy were insulting me,

I could endure it;

if a foe were rising against me,

I could hide.

13 But it is you, a man like myself,

my companion, my close friend,

14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship

at the house of God,

as we walked about

among the worshipers.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;

let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,

for evil finds lodging among them.

16 As for me, I call to God,

and the Lord saves me.

17 Evening, morning and noon

I cry out in distress,

and he hears my voice.

18 He rescues me unharmed

from the battle waged against me,

even though many oppose me.

19 God, who is enthroned from of old,

who does not change—

he will hear them and humble them,

because they have no fear of God.

20 My companion attacks his friends;

he violates his covenant.

21 His talk is smooth as butter,

yet war is in his heart;

his words are more soothing than oil,

yet they are drawn swords.

22 Cast your cares on the Lord

and he will sustain you;

he will never let

the righteous be shaken.

23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked

into the pit of decay;

the bloodthirsty and deceitful

will not live out half their days.

But as for me, I trust in you.


a.Psalm 55:1 In Hebrew texts 55:1-23 is numbered 55:2-24.

b.Psalm 55:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term

c.Psalm 55:7 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here and in the middle of verse 19.

Cross references:Psalm 55:1 : Ps 27:9; La 3:56Psalm 55:2 : Ps 4:1Psalm 55:2 : 1Sa 1:15-16; Ps 77:3; 86:6-7; 142:2Psalm 55:3 : S 2Sa 16:6-8; Ps 17:9; 143:3Psalm 55:3 : S Ps 44:16Psalm 55:3 : Ps 71:11Psalm 55:4 : S Ps 6:3Psalm 55:4 : S Job 18:11Psalm 55:5 : S Job 4:14; S 2Co 7:15Psalm 55:5 : Dt 28:67; Isa 21:4; Jer 46:5; 49:5; Eze 7:18Psalm 55:7 : 1Sa 23:14Psalm 55:8 : Ps 31:20Psalm 55:8 : Ps 77:18; Isa 4:6; 25:4; 28:2; 29:6; 32:2Psalm 55:9 : Ge 11:9; Ac 2:4Psalm 55:9 : Ps 11:5; Isa 59:6; Jer 6:7; Eze 7:11; Hab 1:3Psalm 55:9 : Ge 4:17Psalm 55:10 : 1Pe 5:8Psalm 55:11 : Ps 5:9Psalm 55:11 : Ps 10:7Psalm 55:13 : S 2Sa 15:12Psalm 55:14 : Ac 1:16-17Psalm 55:14 : Ps 42:4Psalm 55:15 : Ps 64:7; Pr 6:15; Isa 29:5; 47:9, 11; 1Th 5:3Psalm 55:15 : S Ps 49:14Psalm 55:17 : Ps 141:2; Ac 3:1; 10:3, 30Psalm 55:17 : Ps 5:3; 88:13; 92:2Psalm 55:17 : Ac 10:9Psalm 55:19 : S Ex 15:18; Dt 33:27; Ps 29:10Psalm 55:19 : Ps 78:59Psalm 55:19 : Ps 36:1; 64:4Psalm 55:20 : Ps 7:4Psalm 55:20 : S Ps 41:9Psalm 55:21 : Ps 12:2Psalm 55:21 : Pr 5:3; 6:24Psalm 55:21 : Ps 57:4; 59:7; 64:3; Pr 12:18; Rev 1:16Psalm 55:22 : S Ps 18:35; Mt 6:25-34; 1Pe 5:7Psalm 55:22 : Ps 15:5; 21:7; 37:24; 112:6Psalm 55:23 : Ps 9:15; S 30:3; 73:18; 94:13; Isa 14:15; Eze 28:8; S Lk 8:31Psalm 55:23 : Ps 5:6Psalm 55:23 : S Job 15:32Psalm 55:23 : Ps 11:1; 25:2; 56:3



New International Version (NIV)

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What I Read Today - Saturday August 4, 2012

From: The New York Times - Friday - August 3

Congress Goes Postal


Congress is gone. Yeah, I miss them, too.

All the members are off on a five-week recess, after which they’ll return for a few days, then go away again, then hobble back as lame ducks. This is going to do terrible things to the Congressional approval rating, which had climbed all the way up to 17 percent at one point this year. Now it’s sunk to BP oil spill level, and it’s only a matter of time before we’re back to the point where poll respondents say they have a more favorable attitude toward “the U.S. becoming communist.”

You are probably wondering what your elected officials have been up to. Well, the best news is that House and Senate leaders worked out a plan to avoid a government shutdown for six more months by agreeing to just keep doing whatever it is we’re doing now.

This is known as “kicking the can down the road.” Failure to kick the can down the road can lead to “falling off the fiscal cliff.” There are so many of these crises looming that falling off a cliff should be reclassified as an Olympic event.

Just this week, Congress failed to protect the Postal Service from tumbling, and the service defaulted on a $5.5 billion payment for future retiree health benefits. It was the first time that the U.S. mail system failed to meet a financial obligation since Benjamin Franklin invented it.

The Postal Service has multiple financial problems, and, earlier this year, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to deal with them. It would not have fixed everything, or even resolved the question of whether the strapped agency would be allowed to discontinue Saturday mail delivery as a cost-savings measure. “It’s not perfect,” admitted Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, one of the sponsors.

At this point, the American public has been so beaten down by Congressional gridlock that “it’s not perfect” sounds fine. In fact, we’d generally be willing to settle for “it’s pretty terrible, but at least it’s something.”

The Senate plan would have definitely been preferable to the Postal Service default, which could be followed by an all-purpose running-out-of-cash later this fall. Carper was pretty confident that if the House passed a postal bill of any stripe, the two sides could work out a compromise during the long August vacation. That would presumably be a watered-down version of imperfection, which, as I said, is exactly what we’re currently dreaming about.

But the House leadership wouldn’t bring anything up for a vote. Speaker John Boehner never said why. Perhaps he was afraid voters would blame his members for the closing of underused post offices. There is nothing Congress cares more about than post offices, 38 of which the House has passed bills to rename over the past 18 months.

So, no Postal Service bill. You can’t deal with every single thing, and the House had a lot on its to-do list, such as voting to repeal the Obama health care law on 33 separate occasions.

Meanwhile, the national farm program was teetering on the cliff.

The farm bill has long been a classic Congressional compromise, combining aid to agriculture with the food stamp program, so there’s pretty much something for everybody. The Senate recently voted 64 to 35 to approve a new five-year authorization, which reformed some of the most egregious bad practices, like paying farmers not to grow crops. It was, I hardly need mention, not perfect.

Then, the House Agriculture Committee passed a bipartisan farm bill itself. Yes! In the House, people! Everybody was on board!

Then, the House leadership refused to allow it to go up for a vote. Boehner told reporters, “no decision has been made” about what to do next, without giving any hint as to when said decision might be coming along.

The problem appears to be Tea Party hatred for the food stamp program. But who knows? Boehner isn’t saying. Maybe his members want the power to rename the farms.

The House Agriculture Committee chairman, Frank Lucas, just kept making sad little noises. Lucas is from Oklahoma. His state is having a terrible drought. It’s been more than 100 degrees there forever. As a gesture of appeasement, the leadership did allow passage of a narrow bill providing disaster relief to cattle and sheep ranchers. The Senate dismissed it as too little, too late.

Meanwhile, several attempts to get a bill passed on cybersecurity for the nation’s power grid, water supply and financial systems failed entirely.

Maybe Congress will pick up the ball when it comes back to town for a couple of weeks this fall before the election. But it already has a full agenda of futile, symbolic votes plus the crucial kicking the can down the road.

Maybe it’s possible to have a negative approval rating.

Friday, August 3, 2012

What I Read Today - Friday August 3, 2012

I am posting a reply to David Brook's column in today's NY Times.   It is a good column but not worthy of a repost here on my blog.   It is titled The Credit Illusion and is actually his August 2 column.  I am sure you can find it on the internet if you want to read the article.   What caught my eye was a comment someone posted in reply to the column.   Here it is:

We are all caught in the wind... the best we can hope for is to stick by our rudder to guide the direction.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What I Read Today - Wednesday August 1, 2012

From: The Huffington Post

My 10 Dumbest Money Moves -- And How You Can Avoid Them

Posted: 07/31/2012 6:38 pm

Most of what I've learned about money I didn't learn in books, or by being a CPA, stock broker, or financial reporter. I learned it the hard way -- by making stupid decisions and missing major opportunities. Here are mistakes I've made and you should avoid.

My 28-year-old niece and I were recently talking about money. She's (finally!) become interested in accumulating more and spending less, and because I've been in the personal finance business in one capacity or another since before she was born, she logically assumed that I've always done everything right and know exactly what to do at all times.

Confession time: I've blown it big on more occasions than I care to mention. In fact, most of what I've learned about money I didn't learn in books or by being a CPA, stock broker, or financial reporter. I learned it the hard way -- by making stupid decisions and missing opportunities.

So for her sake, and maybe yours, I've put together the following list of 10 mistakes -- most of which I've made -- that you really should try to avoid.

1. Not having a goal
Whether sitting in your car or standing at the airport, you'd never start a trip without a destination in mind. The same logic applies to money. You should decide exactly what it is you'd like to accomplish, then remind yourself of that goal early and often. Are you trying to buy a house? Become self-employed? Save for your kid's college education? Retire in your 50s? Whatever it is, write it down, picture it and share it with anyone else who you're counting on to help you accomplish it. Your goal isn't money -- money's paper. Create goals -- both short-term and long-term -- then decide how much money you'll need to reach them. Take it from someone who wandered aimlessly for years: goals work.

2. Not having a spending plan
If you have a job of any kind, you can bet that your employer tracks every dime they make and every dime they spend. Granted, they have an incentive to do so -- both income and expenses affect their income taxes -- but it's only logical to want to know where your money is coming from and where it's going.

Tracking and categorizing your expenses with a budget -- or spending plan, as I prefer to call it -- is the single greatest tool you have to accomplish your money-related goals. A plan that includes what you intend to spend on things like entertainment, food, housing, etc., vs. what you actually spend allows you to fine-tune your finances and find places to save. Not doing this is like driving with your eyes half-closed: You might reach your destination, but you're certainly going to take more time getting there.

If you're not writing down every penny of money coming in and money going out, go to this page and download one of many free budgeting worksheets we link to there. Then read 4 Reasons Budgets Fail and How to Create One That Won't.

3. Attempting to derive self-esteem from possessions
Although we all know that money doesn't buy happiness, very few of us act that way. Instead, we seem to go out of our way to appear successful by driving the right car, living in the right house, and wearing the right clothes. Nothing wrong with nice things -- if you can afford them. But here's something that life has taught me. It's a quote from my most recent book, Life or Debt 2010: You can either look rich or be rich, but you probably won't live long enough to accomplish both.

Attempting to derive self-esteem from possessions is dumb on two counts. First, it's expensive. More important? It doesn't work.

4. Doing what everyone else is doing
One of the world's wealthiest men, Warren Buffet, said, "Be fearful when others are greedy; be greedy when others are fearful."

During the recession-induced stock market rout that began in the summer of 2008 and bottomed in March of 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged all the way from 10,000 to 6,600. It was at that time that I bought most of the stocks I now own in my online portfolio. I didn't buy then because somebody on TV told me to -- the "experts" were as fearful as everybody else. I bought then because I'd missed similar opportunities in similar downturns before, and I was determined to learn from that mistake this time.

Likewise, when the housing bubble was at its zenith, many of my friends were buying as many houses as they could possibly borrow for, even though it should have been apparent that prices were over-inflated. Now they're broke -- and I'm shopping for real estate. Again, not because I'm smart, but because I've also missed that opportunity before. Hence this recent story Why You Should Buy Stocks and Houses Now.

It's common knowledge that the economy runs in cycles of boom and bust -- yet when times are good, everyone seems to believe that trees grow to the sky. When they're tough -- like they are now -- the same people stand like a deer in the headlights.

If you're convinced the economy is going to zero, buy guns and canned goods. But if you can reasonably expect a recovery someday, invest -- even if that day is a long way away, and even if it's possible things could get worse before they get better.

5. Starting to save large and late rather than small and soon
If you're 25 and you save just five bucks every day -- call it $150 a month -- and earn 10 percent, by the time you're 55 you'll have $340,000. If you wait till you're 45 to start accumulating that same 340 grand, you'll have to save $1,700 every month for 10 years. True, you can't earn 10 percent today, at least without risk. But over time and by taking a measured amount of risk, you can.

6. Paying interest to buy things that drop in value
There are only two situations where paying interest makes sense, at least mathematically. The first is when the purchase goes up in value at a rate greater than the rate of interest you're paying to finance it. Example: You borrow money at 5 percent to finance real estate that you think might return 8 percent on your overall investment. Other examples might include a business loan or a student loan -- in other words, something that's going to return more (at least potentially) than it costs in interest payments.

The other situation where paying interest makes sense is when you can earn more on your cash than you're paying in interest. Example: After taxes, I'm only paying about 3.5 percent to finance my house. Since I think can make more than 3.5 percent after-tax in the stock market, I'll forgo paying off the mortgage, even though I have the cash.

Obviously there are times when we have no choice but to borrow. The point is that unless the math works out, the less you borrow, the better.

7. Turning down free money
If your employer is offering matching money when you participate in your company's 401k or other retirement plan, and you're not participating to the extent necessary to get the full match you're literally refusing free money, not to mention ignoring an opportunity to get a tax deduction and grow your retirement savings tax-deferred.

There are only two kinds of people who turn down free money: people who really, truly can't afford to put up the money to get the match, and people who aren't thinking it through. And yes, I've been one of those people.

8. Buying a new car
Everyone knows that cars drop 15-25 percent before you get them home from the showroom. Which makes it odd that so many people continue to buy one. My girlfriend just bought a 2009 BMW that still smells new for $26,000 -- about $7,000 less than a new one would cost, and they look pretty much identical. This is one mistake I can happily say I haven't made -- I've never spent even that much on a car, or owned one that new.

If you're buying a car for transportation, it doesn't have to be either new or fancy. Cars are depreciating assets: the less you spend on one the better, especially if you're borrowing money to do it.

9. Buying more house than you need or can afford
It's practically gospel: spend 25 percent of your gross income on a mortgage, regardless of what size house you really need. While spending the maximum possible amount you can afford will make real estate agents happy, will it make you happy? When you buy more square feet than you're going to actually live in, you're required to insure them, furnish them, clean them, heat them, and cool them. All of that costs money, time and stress.

Buying a big house makes sense if you're trying to make a leveraged bet on the future of housing prices -- or if you're trying to impress your friends. If you're not doing either, buy what you need and put the money you save into more productive things, like meeting your financial goals.

10. Not protecting your good credit
Credit is like lots of things in life: simple to screw up, a bear to fix. And even though you may think it doesn't matter, some day it might, and probably will. If you've already messed up your credit, take the time and steps necessary to fix it - here's a recent story on the basics -- and then keep in good shape.

That was my list of dumb moves to avoid, but I'll bet there are plenty of things that you could add. So let's hear it!

What I Read Today - Wednesday August 1, 2012

From: The Harvard Business Review

Ten Reasons Winners Keep Winning, Aside from Skill

by Rosabeth Moss Kanter
7:00 AM August 1, 2012

Whether the game involves competing every four years in the Olympics or every day in a business, winning brings advantages that make it easier to keep winning.

To understand sustainable success, I compared perpetual winners with long-term losers in professional and amateur sports and then matched the findings to business case studies for my book Confidence. The sports were a comprehensive mix including women's soccer, men's and women's college basketball, major league baseball, U.S. football, international cricket, and North American ice hockey.

I found that winners gain ten important advantages as a result of victory — and that smart leaders can cultivate and build on these advantages to make the next success possible.

1. Good mood. Clearly everyone feels good about winning, while emotions sag at failure. Emotions affect performance. Positive moods produce physical energy and the resilience to persist after setbacks. While losers use any excuse to stop, winners sometimes play on even while injured, lifted by a kind of winners' high. Moreover, psychologists find that moods are contagious. Winners' exhilaration is infectious. Losers' gloom can be toxic.

2. Attractive situation. Whether at children's soccer games or in the office, losers go home early. Winners stick around. My studies show that there is less absenteeism or tardiness in organizations known for their successes. There is also more solidarity, because people spend more time together feeling good about what they can accomplish. More time together brings more chances for information-sharing and mentoring.

3. Learning. Losers get defensive and don't want to hear about their many failings, so they avoid feedback. Winners are more likely to voluntarily discuss mistakes and accept negative feedback, because they are comfortable that they can win. Because they are confident about the possibility of winning, they see practicing as a route to a positive outcome, not as a punishment. For athletes, practice matters. Winning is often found in mastery of the details. As a former student found in studies of swimmers who did and didn't qualify for the Olympics, excellence consists of examining and improving many small processes and routines.

4. Freedom to focus. As every golfer and tennis player knows, you must keep your eye on the ball. Losers often punish themselves in their heads. Winners have fewer distractions. Golf pro Tiger Woods won nearly every championship until hit with personal problems of his own making, which was followed by loses on the golf course.

5. Positive culture of mutual respect. For anyone who plays on a team, winning makes it easier to respect and listen to one another, because after all, if you win together, then the presumption is that everyone is a good player. Winners can maintain high aspirations and act generously toward others. Losers are more likely to blame others and disdain them as mediocre, creating a culture of finger-pointing and infighting.

6. Solid support system. Behind every high performance athlete or team is a cadre of coaches, friends, and fans that fuel motivation. Winning enlarges the circle of backers. Losing erodes support. For instance, the cheerleaders for one perpetually losing college football team used to leave the stadium at half-time. When even their cheerleaders feel they won't win, how can athletes gear up for the next try?

7. Better press. It's not just the buzz at time of victory that separates winners from losers, it's also the more favorable story about the past and future. Winning provides a halo that makes everything seem to glow. Losing causes observers and analysts to probe for reasons in a rewritten version of the past that makes continuing losses seem inevitable.

8. Invitations to the best parties. Really. Winners get invited to the White House, Buckingham Palace, key conferences or exhibitions. They gain access to networks and relationships that confer benefits that maintain winners' momentum, such as early information or better deals. Who invites the losers?

9. Self-determination. Winners have more control over their own destiny. "Why tamper with success?" we often say. Winners are left alone, getting a free pass on reviews (occasionally tragically, as at Penn State, where locker room abuse went uninvestigated). Losers get attention of the negative kind. They are encumbered with "help" — special committees, audits, reviews, frequent visitors. Enough of that, and losers spend their time in meetings instead of practicing and improving performance.

10. Continuity. Lose too often, and heads roll. New coaches, new strategies — like HP's lurching between hardware and software or Yahoo's parade of exiting CEOs. High turnover consumes time and attention. More time spent getting people on board leaves little time to fully execute any particular game plan. It's hard to start winning again until the situation stabilizes. Winners have the luxury implementing long-term strategies and planning for orderly succession.

Winning streaks eventually end because winners can get over-confident, slipping into arrogance or complacency, or because the competition gets better. But leaders can build on the advantages of winners to encourage a positive spirit, disciplined focus, mutual respect, lots of practice on the details, and lasting support systems that can make successes and comebacks more likely.

Editors note: Tony Schwartz thinks our culture has an unhealthy obsession with winning. Do you agree? Read his post and let us know what you think.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of Confidence and SuperCorp. Her 2011 HBR article, "How Great Companies Think Differently," won a McKinsey Award for best article. Connect with her

on Facebook or at

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What I Read Today - Wednesday August 1, 2012

From: The New York Times - Tuesday July  31, 2012

Dullest Campaign Ever


A few weeks ago, Peggy Noonan wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal that perfectly captures my attitude toward this presidential campaign: It’s incredibly consequential and incredibly boring all at the same time.

Since then, I’ve come up with a number of reasons for why it is so dull. First, intellectual stagnation. This race is the latest iteration of the same debate we’ve been having since 1964. Mitt Romney is calling President Obama a big-government liberal who wants to crush business. Obama is calling Romney a corporate tool who wants to take away grandma’s health care.

American politics went through tremendous changes between 1900 and 1936, and then again between 1940 and 1976. But our big government/small government debate is back where it was a generation ago. Candidates don’t even have to rehearse the arguments anymore; they just find the gaffes that will help them pin their opponent to the standard bogyman clichés.

Second, lack of any hint of intellectual innovation. Candidates used to start their campaigns by giving serious policy addresses at universities and think tanks to lay out their distinct philosophies. Bill Clinton was a New Democrat. George W. Bush was a Compassionate Conservative.

But the ideological climate has ossified. Candidates know that they’d be punished for saying something unexpected — by the rich, elderly donors and by the hyperorthodox talk-show hosts. Instead of saying something new, now they just try to boost turnout within their own demographic niches and suppress turnout in the other guy’s niches.

Third, increased focus on the uninformed. Four years ago, Barack Obama gave a sophisticated major speech on race. Mitt Romney did one on religion. This year, the candidates do not feel compelled to give major speeches. The prevailing view is that anybody who would pay attention to such a speech is already committed to a candidate. It’s more efficient to focus on the undecided voters, who don’t really follow politics or the news.

Fourth, lack of serious policy proposals. Has there ever been a campaign with so few major plans on the table? President Obama’s proposals are small and medium-size retreads, while Mitt Romney has run the closest thing to a policy-free race as any candidate in my lifetime. Republicans spend their days fleshing out proposals, which Romney decides not to champion.

Fifth, negative passion. Both parties are driven more by hatred than by love. Both sides feel it would be a disaster for the country if the other side had power during the next four years. Neither side is propelled by much positive enthusiasm for their own side.

Many Democratic politicians think Obama looks down on them as a bunch of lowlife hacks. As Noonan wrote in that column, he sometimes seems to regard politics as a weary duty on his path to greatness. The Republican coolness toward Romney is such that he’s having trouble recruiting people to work on the campaign.

Sixth, no enactment strategy. To avert catastrophe, the next president will have to rally bipartisan majorities around a budget deal and many other things. That will require personal and relationship skills neither has demonstrated. The polarizing, negative tactics the candidates use to get elected will make it impossible to succeed after one of them wins.

Seventh, ad budget myopia. Both campaigns fervently believe that more spending leads to more votes. They also believe that if they can carpet bomb swing voters with enough negative ads, then eventually the sheer weight of the barrage will produce movement in their direction. There’s little evidence that these prejudices are true. But the campaigns are like World War I generals. If something isn’t working, the answer must be to try more of it.

Eighth, technology is making campaigns dumber. BlackBerrys and iPhones mean that campaigns can respond to their opponents minute by minute and hour by hour. The campaigns get lost in tit-for-tat minutiae that nobody outside the bubble cares about. Meanwhile, use of the Internet means that Web videos overshadow candidate speeches and appearances. Video replaces verbal. Tactics eclipse vision.

Finally, dishonesty numbs. A few years ago, newspapers and nonprofits set up fact-checking squads, rating campaign statements with Pinocchios and such. The hope was that if nonpartisan outfits exposed campaign deception, the campaigns would be too ashamed to lie so much.

This hope was naïve. As John Dickerson of Slate has said, the campaigns want the Pinocchios. They want to show how tough they are. But the result is a credibility vacuum. It’s impossible to take ads seriously. They are the jackhammer noise in the background of life.

This is the paradox. As campaigns get more sophisticated, everything begins to look more homogenized, less effective and indescribably soporific.