Who are the real makers and takers?

I have heard a claim from a “ffriend” of mine (yes that’s spelled right. He’s a “Facebook friend,” not an actual friend so I’ll call him a “ffriend”) that the problem with taxes are that they unfairly favor the “takers” over the “makers.” That is, the makers are the ones producing goods and services and the takers are those benefiting from the makers’ hard work and not contributing their fair share. So he thinks our taxation system is unfair to the rich, and it’s the poor’s fault for being poor.

What he failed to recognize is that every massive economic expansion in our nations history was driven through a progressive tax system. There is no such thing as “limitless taxation” – the rich are paying a lower marginal tax rate today than they’ve paid in more than 60 years, with the exception of 1988-1992. The biggest economic expansion we ever saw (Eisenhower years) the rate was at 91%! And guess what – the rich got richer. The poor got richer. The middle class got bigger. People were able to support a family on a single income, they had access to necessary public services, they were able to much more with much less because the government was properly funded.

The reason the overall rate for the wealthy is so low is because of the massive “redistribution of wealth” (he hates that I referenced that!) out of goods and services and into financial instruments – the things created by his “makers” to “take” advantage of the system. More than 50% of our GDP exists in assets held by the 16 largest banks – banks with more than $100B in assets. Those assets are based on derivatives traded in the marketplace and treated as capital gains in the tax system. While the wealth itself is built entirely on false premises (another discussion altogether), there are barely any taxes paid on those gains (15%).

The makers take resources from the takers and take advantage of externalized costs to make their wealth. The makers make off with an unfair percentage of our national wealth while the takers get taken to the bank (with ridiculous interest rates, thankfully limited by the CARD Act).

As a reminder, government is a construct of the people so support the best interests of the entire population, not just the wealthiest 1% makers at the expense of the health of the 99% of us so called takers.

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Saving Electric Vehicles From Utter Failure

Plugging in an EVElectric vehicles (EVs) are a great idea, but they are going to utterly fail unless we make them easier to charge. Imagine this, you get up in the morning, start driving to work but “oh, no” you run out of juice halfway there. What happened? You forgot to plug it in!

Potential EV owners don’t realize it, but they are going to hate having to plug in their car every time they come home and unplug them when they leave.

Currently, there is a standard plug for electric vehicles called the J1772. This will allow EV owners to plug in at home, at the mall or at the airport. While this solves the problem of needing a special charger plug, plugging it in is always going to be a pain.

Wireless chargingWireless charging solves this problem. By installing a special receiver on the car itself and placing another on the garage floor underneath it, the vehicle will be able to start charging without having to plug it in.

People might not know it yet, but wireless charging will be the salvation of electric vehicles.

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Is Consumerism Good?

Herman Miller Celle Chair

Often times the motto of the green revolution is “kill consumerism”. The idea is that buying products destroys the planet, therefore we should limit what we buy. If you dig deeply, someone may point you to this equation:

Total Impact = Unit Impact x Quantity

That is, the total impact that a product will have is equal to the impact of each unit sold multiplied by the quantity that is sold. By showing this equation you can quickly show that to limit the impacts of environmental degradation you must reduce the quantity of things sold. There are two major problems with this frame of thought:

1) We will never reduce the quantity of things sold to zero, therefore if Unit Impact is negative there is no way to be a “green” consumer, and

2) It relies on the assumption that Unit Impact is always negative!

What if you flip things around and Unit Impact becomes positive, does that mean consumerism is good? The equation will now show that the more you buy of something the better impact you are having. We could thing of the examples of critical medications. What about music lessons or wood burning stoves that can improve lives in Africa?

The idea of good consumerism can be seen in the ideas of Cradle to Cradle (C2C). The C2C methodology shows that if we make waste equal to food, and use the its precepts of eco-effectiveness, we can transform our current paradigm of bad consumerism to good consumerism. Of course, not all products are good, so we should be aware of the products we buy. But, maybe one day we will be able change the way we create products to move to a good consumerism society.

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Is Lindsey Graham a game changer on climate debate?


While the immigration standoff between Lindsey Graham and Harry Reid over immigration legislation continues to make headlines,  the future of climate legislation hangs in the balance.  However, Graham’s support of changing America’s energy and climate policy may have already reframed the debate on climate change.

Until Graham’s involvement in America’s energy path, addressing climate change was for the mostly a partisan politcal issue supported by Democrats and protested by Republicans.  Graham has found an area of common interest: restoring America’s energy independence.

In a blog post on Christian Coalition of America, a site that espouses a banner stating “Will you stand with us as we stand against the left?”, a guest author gives strong support to Graham for supporting his energy/climate bill work and striving to get America off its dependence to foreign oil and create jobs at home.  The author also concedes that carbon is causing harm to the environment and that something needs to be done.

Graham has suddenly made it easy, patriotic, and even sexy for conservatives to jump on the clean energy band wagon because he’s speaking in language they understand.  For whatever reason, many conservatives see global warming as an exaggeration of the classic liberal cry that the sky is falling, but Sen. Graham puts the energy in the context of keeping jobs and economic growth at home.  Democrats have made similar links between energy and jobs, but as a symbol of authority in the Republican party, Graham gives conservatives permission to get behind the bill.

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Post Analysis Workshop Time!

OPTION 1

Read 3 Triple Pundit posts just before coming to the workshop since we’ll be discussing and evaluating them in small groups. Here are two to you started. For the third, choose a post with a style you feel is personally aspirational.

1) Post on Microfinance
2) McDonalds Beef vs Seitan Post

OPTION 2

Take a look at these 7 Corporate Blogs — have a look at a few posts and think about the style and effectiveness of what’s being said.  Make one note on each that characterizes how it is unique.

1) Inspired Protagonist
2) McDonalds
3) General Motors
4) Johnson Controls
5) 37 Signals
6) Southwest Airlines
7) Zappos

OPTION 3

Pick someone at the table who has done some writing. Don’t be shy! Lay it on the table and pick it apart. Doesn’t have to be company specific or corporate, can be about your soccer team if you like.

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Crafting Effective Headlines

Hi guys. Take a look at this post from Problogger.net.

Now check out the latest from Jonathan.

Do you think Jonathan’s headline is effective? Why or why not?

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Hello From Berlin

Hi folks, this is Nick, stranded by the volcanic ash in Berlin.  Not a bad place to write a sample blog post from.    Here are a few extra ideas to look at while you’re doing your homework:

This is  copied from a ProBlogger guest post by Michael C from On Violence.

It’s sorta military specific, but i thought it was a pretty thoughtful post that really hammers the basics down:

The Things You Should Learn From the Army

1. Have a Point to Make

First, you need to have a bottom line. Finish this statement: “I contend that…” Bam, that’s your thesis.

It doesn’t even need to be political, it just needs to help your reader. It doesn’t even have to argue something; it just has to have a point. It can be something like, “you need to write well on your blog posts, use these ten tips.” Or you can provide news, like “here is an interesting new SEO development.”

Too many blog posts are aimless. In the Army, we have a point to every operation called the mission statement. It ensures that every patrol has a purpose. Look at this post on TwiTip. The writer isn’t arguing something complex, he just wants to provide 5 new ways to use twitter. This is his point, and it sharpens the whole post.

2. Put Your Bottom Line Up Front, or BLUF

Time constraints force commanders to prioritize the information they see, and they demand the best stuff first. When you are planning a movement of hundreds, or thousands, of men in battle, then seconds can mean the difference between life or death. Generals and Colonels want the point, and they want it up front.

Military planners learn early on to tell their bosses the bottom line up front, or as we call it, BLUF. Take that thesis/point/bottom-line you just determined, and put that in your first or second paragraph.

Use BLUF in your blogging. Look at this recent post by Darren. By the third paragraph, Darren explains what he is going to tell you, and where his post is heading. (Some astute writers will put their point or thesis at the end. If you want to do that, at least give your readers the topic in the beginning. Use this technique sparingly.)

3. Keep Your Writing Clear and Concise

Imagine the stereotypical Army Colonel, chomping on a cigar, and firing off questions to his subordinates. When this boss demands an answer, do you think he wants vague or unclear answers? No, he wants them clear and concise. The Army writing guide specifically asks that writers, “(1) Use short words. Try not to use more than 15 percent over two syllables long. (2) Keep sentences short. The average length of a sentence should be about 15 words.”

Your blogging should be the same way. Instead of embracing the freedom of not having an editor, and putting every word you’re thinking on the page, cut, cut, cut. Take your first draft and cut it by 10%. Then cut some more.

4. Back Up Your Argument

Let’s keep going with my analogy about the Army Colonel. Let’s say that, as one of his intelligence officers, you tell him that you expect an enemy attack in the next 24 hours. With such a bold assertion, he is going to demand one thing: proof.

So after you put out your BLUF, give your evidence. Find links, quote sources, give examples. Tom Ricks was a preeminent war journalist, and now he is one of the biggest milbloggers. In this post, he sets out a bold assertion, then provides several quotes and analysis to prove his points. He puts his BLUF in the first paragraph, then spends the rest of the time backing it up.

5. Plan For Comments and Questions

Most Army Colonels love peppering their staff with questions, so good briefers plan ahead for them. For example, if you say that your men will run out of water, you should be able to answer when and why. The good subordinate plans ahead to counter what his boss will ask.

As a blogger, when your post is finished, ask yourself, what will my detractors say? What will they argue against me? Figure that out, and then counter it in your blog post. In the Army, we call it “war-gaming” and we usually use it against the enemy. Smart planners use it on their boss as well. Your blog won’t please everybody, but you can at least figure what they will argue against you–especially if you have a controversial or political blog.

6. Write Mistake Free Posts

A mistaken order can spell the death of an Army unit, literally. In the “Charge of the Light Brigade,” immortalized in verse by Tennyson, a misheard order resulted in the tragic deaths of over a hundred cavalry men. In the military, accuracy is supreme.

Your blogging will suffer from careless mistakes too. Punctuation errors or typos will make your prose seem amateurish. Even worse, a mis-written title or thesis could rebound around the blogosphere if it doesn’t mean what you think it does.

I have a co-blogger, and we both read everything we put on our blog, and our first major guest post still had a typo in the bio. So embarrassing. If you don’t have a co-blogger, always read everything you publish two or three times.

The Things You Shouldn’t Learn from the Army

7. Don’t Use Acronyms or Jargon

The Army loves acronyms, from DFACs to IEDs to EOD to UAVs to METT-TC and so on. With acronyms and jargon, I can write posts that are virtually unreadable to the average person. Luckily, I have a non-military brother who keeps me in check, but not everyone has this.

As your blog moves from its niche–finance, business, self-help, milblogging, whatever–your writing needs to move away from jargon and technical slang. This will open your blog to new audiences. Also, when guest posting on a new site, use their jargon or style.

8. Short and Concise Does Not Mean Simple

A few points ago, I argued that we could all keep our writing short and concise. Too often, though, the Army mistakes clear and concise for short and simple. The difference is subtle but important. You can keep your arguments clean, but still use complex words. You can keep your writing concise, but still write compound sentences.

Army language suffers, like all bureaucracies, from a lack of creativity. Always look for ways to spice up your language. And if you hail from a bureaucracy, like the US Army, avoid your own bureaucratic instincts. A fellow milblogger, Starbuck, received a safety gram before Halloween warning that children in the Fort Bragg area will be conducting trick-or-treating operations.” Sigh.

9. Avoid an Email Addiction

The military embraces technology, but it embraces some technologies a little too much. Email is one example. A couple years back Darren went over how he kicked his email addiction by reorganizing his inbox. I wish that post were required reading in the military. Whenever possible, avoid email when doing business. If you can call, do so. If you can meet up in person, do that instead. Email is a tool, not a way of life.

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