Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Wow! It's been a while!

I can't believe it's been about 2 years since my last visit with you all. Lots of stuff has gone on during the ensuing days; and I plan on speaking about that in the days to come. 3 marathons run (one PR) and a whole lot of life has gone on. I will be back soon!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Latest Project

While I have heard a lot about this in the media, I am not aware of anyone doing anything about it other than say it's a bad thing. Well, let's throw a wrench in their plans!


Fight Back Against Conservative State Legislation to Suppress the Vote

Since the 2010 elections swept Republicans into the State houses and Legislatures across the country, a concerted effort has been pushed to cement the electoral gains achieved by the recent elections. One way that the state legislatures are protecting their fiefdoms is to limit the ability of people who normally vote for liberals (usually, the poor, students, minorities). This firewall against voting rights comes to us primarily through the form of voter identification laws requiring all people to have local, state photo identification cards to allow them access to the voting booth. New voter identification laws have been recently passed in Idaho, Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Hawaii. These laws have been passed under the guise of “preventing voter fraud”. This is a specious claim, at best, as occasions of accusation of voter fraud are limited to no more than 1% of voting day activity. After further review of the accusations, almost none of them have any substantive grounds. This is purely a ploy to suppress the vote.

Another hurdle

There are many anecdotal instances of people trying to comply with the new laws and being told that they need one more piece of identification before they can obtain their ID. One 86 year old woman, trying to follow the rules brought her birth certificate, her utility bill (to prove residency), a copy of her tax return to the registrar’s office. However, she went by her married name. Even though she outlived 2 husbands, she could not find her marriage certificate and as such, she was denied her voter ID card. Out of state students will be denied access to the voting booth because they do not carry local ID’s. People who recently re-located for a job to a new state will be denied access because they have not updated their driver’s licenses. In South Carolina alone, over 200,000 people will potentially be removed from the voter rolls because they do not carry photo identification. The state has offered to give people rides to the local registrars, but only 22, 22 have taken advantage of the service.


People are being denied their right to have a voice in their democracy. Hurdles like these voter ID laws are tantamount to a poll tax and while many of them will not withstand judicial review, it is clear that the 2012 elections will be run under these laws because right now, no one has been dis-enfranchised as a result of the new requirements. People will need education about the new requirements and assistance in meeting the needs of truly un-just laws because time is not on the voters’ side.


We propose to work with public service agencies and local colleges to reach out to the potentially dis-enfranchised and comply with the laws so that voices will not be silenced. We will provide outlines of the local state requirements detailing documentation needs for compliance with the new regulations to ensure that the ploy of attempting to turn people away at the voting booth blows up in the face of the politicians trying to establish a bought and paid for noble class. Our implementation approach for outreach will include the following:

Reaching out to Senior Citizens

1. Utilize services of Seniors’ organizations such as AARP to get out the information about the new requirements

2. Bulk mailing to all persons on the voting rolls, where available, to advise them of the new law changes

3. Cross-reference voter rolls against DMV records to preliminarily identify persons who may not have driver’s licenses

4. Utilize local volunteers (college students, etc.) to manage phone banks and operate a door to door campaign to reach out to seniors to compile the information needed to obtain the new ID cards

5. Utilize local volunteers, churches and senior service organizations and community centers to provide transportation to locations to obtain ID cards

6. Coordinate with the state government, when possible, to bring local authorities to community locations to generate large numbers of ID cards for registrants

Reaching out to the Community at Large

1. Utilize services of community organizations such as churches, local media to get out the information about the new requirements

2. Bulk mailing to all persons on the voting rolls, where available, to advise them of the new law changes

3. Cross-reference voter rolls against DMV records to preliminarily identify persons who may not have driver’s licenses

4. Utilize local volunteers (college students, etc.) to manage phone banks and operate a door to door campaign to reach out to people to compile the information needed to obtain the new ID cards

5. Utilize local volunteers, churches and other service organizations and community centers to provide transportation to locations to obtain ID cards

6. Coordinate with the state government, when possible, to bring local authorities to community locations to generate large numbers of ID cards for registrants

Reaching out to College Students

1. Utilize services of college media and community message boards to get out the information about the new requirements

2. Utilize local volunteers (college students, etc.) to manage phone banks and operate a door to door campaign to reach out to people to compile the information needed to obtain the new ID cards

3. Utilize local volunteers, churches and other service organizations and community centers to provide transportation to locations to obtain ID cards

4. Coordinate with the state government, when possible, to bring local authorities to college locations to generate large numbers of ID cards for registrants

Financial Needs

This outreach will require substantial financial resources to cover the costs of mailings, transportation, media access and volunteer support. We will seek crowd funding and also small grants from interested organizations. THIS PROGRAM MUST NOT AND WILL NOT ASSOCIATE ITSELF WITH ANY POLITICAL PARTY. WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GET BUY IN FROM PEOPLE WE ARE TRYING TO HELP IF WE SAY THAT WE SUPPORT ANYTHING OTHER THAN PEOPLE HAVING A VOICE IN THEIR COMMUNITY. Although we are assisting people, we are asking folks to jump through hoops that are new; a requirement that is being thrust upon them purely because of who they are. If people think something is in it for us, we will get no buy in.

Program Roll Out

The general election is 13 months from now. We expect to complete registrations before Labor Day 2012. Our program implementation schedule looks as follows:

December 2011 – Complete summarization of local law changes

January 2012 – Engage local Colleges and Universities for student participation

May 2012 – Begin Community marketing and outreach

June – September 2012 – Complete voter re-registration efforts

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stop the Roller Coaster! The Casino is down the road in Atlantic City!

So, how is your neck feeling? Do you have whiplash yet from all of the gyrations in the stock market? We have been up, down and all around over the past several years so much that any picture of economic stability in our financial institutions changes more often than the weather (except in Texas where you can be pretty sure that it never rains anymore). Take a look at these snapshots of performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Over the past 10 years, the DJIA is up 5.96% (610.32 points). This is okay given the economic shocks that we have seen (recession, housing bubble, etc.). But take a closer look inside the ten years and we see that the last 5 years have experienced a drop of 4.66% (530.37 points); the past year has seen an increase of 547.95 points (5.32%) and year to date, the DJIA is down 308.41 points (2.66%). Don’t even get me started on what has happened over the past 2 weeks; starting with the S&P downgrade!!! I don’t think I have enough pepto to keep my breakfast down when I look at all of this. On top of all of this, Gold is down over $100 over the past 2 days!

A lot of this volatility in the markets can be attributed to what I believe is a fundamental change in what the equity markets were formed to do. In their infancy, the equity markets were developed to provide companies with access to capital to GROW THEIR BUSINESSES, enter new markets, develop new products, EMPLOY MORE WORKERS. Investors would look into the fundamental operating and strategic vision of management and their ability to develop and enhance LONG TERM SHAREHOLDER VALUE. Corporate information was analyzed by investment houses, considered along with external economic market conditions and capital raising/investment decisions were based on in depth analysis of the likelihood of long term success. The federal tax code also rewarded long term investment decisions by taxing gains on investments held over a year at lower rates than ordinary income. Management was compensated on long term value enhancement that laid the foundation for constant innovation; not worrying just about the next quarter’s results. Then came the internet…

Do you ever notice that too much information can be a bad thing? Without the discipline to sift through earnings results and market developments, investment decisions can go horribly wrong. But with instant access to the markets, anybody can find the easiest way to make a quick buck. Over the past several years, “trading on technicals” has become the primary investment strategy for individual investors who have access to the internet. They don’t have to understand a company, only follow the money flowing to or from it. Technical trading primarily follows money flows. If the large investment houses are buying or selling large volumes, smaller investors jump on board, taking equity or option positions to leverage the current movement in the stock. It is somewhat like, no, it is exactly like book making at the race track. Race odds get wider if little money is moving toward a particular horse/team and odds get tighter if money is moving toward a team. The odds have no real bearing on who will win, only on how much money is flowing where. Sure, you can say that the smart money knows where to go, but haven’t we seen a lot of upsets and long shots winning lately? Experts, indeed. Also, the large fund complexes have taken advantage of this through bloc computer trading that can move millions of shares from buy to sell in nano-seconds. This volatility leads corporate management to make decisions that may help a company in the short run, but harm long term value creation. If this quarters’ numbers are up due to massive cost cutting that will harm the company in the long run, the short term buyer (maybe a day to two weeks) doesn’t care. The company beat estimates and the stock price will go up and management’s stock options are in the money so here comes that house in the Hamptons! New companies look to going public as a way to cash out their founders’ equity instead of growing the company over the long run. The attention span of the market is in dire need of some Ritalin.

This is where the tax code can help. By taking a larger bite of taxes from trading profits for shares held for a shorter time, fewer trades will happen, less volatility will occur in the marketplace and management will look toward long term value creation because market feedback will be more in tune with longer term investment holds. Overall, I would propose a sliding scale of capital gains taxes that would reward long term capital formation and steady growth. Starting at 40%, capital gains rates would fall by 8% for every year an investment is held until all investments held for at least 5 years would carry ZERO CAPITAL GAINS TAX (40% for positions held less than one year, 32% for 2 years, 24% for 3 years, 16% for 4 years, 8% for 5 years and 0% thereafter). I would also propose direct offsets to income 100% of all realized losses from market trading instead of capping the losses to the extent of gains in the marketplace. This direct offset is necessary from the standpoint that a sale at a loss would have occurred either when investor liquidity needs outweighed a long term hold strategy or if fundamentals at the company warranted taking a loss.

By re-tying management decisions to long term value creation instead of next quarter’s results, investors large and small will take longer term positions, stabilizing the stock market, the employment market and the economy as a whole. The tax code exists to provide economic incentives to the market to make decisions that are in the best interests of the nation as a whole. Remember “E Pluribus, Unum” From the many, one. If you want to gamble on money flows, take the turnpike from Wall Street to Atlantic City. Let’s get the craps tables out of the board rooms.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Updates Since Last We Spoke

It’s been almost 8 months since last I posted and I must say that I am truly disappointed… Disappointed with running, disappointed with some choices I have made and disappointed with our government. The big question becomes “Do I wallow in self pity or do I get my behind end in gear and do something about the things I can control?”. Well, I choose to get my behind in gear, so here it goes…


I participated in both the Redding California Marathon and the Illinois Marathon this past winter and spring. I say that I participated because by no stretch of the imagination can I actually say that I ‘ran” the marathons. Both races were between 35 and 50 minutes behind my PR. I think that the real issue that I have had has been that I “rack disciprine” (to quote Stan Marsh’s karate sensei) in my training. I can blame a lot of it on work or bad weather, but that is the easy way out. In advance of each race, I only went out and tried to cover one, only one 20 mile training run. Runs of 10, 12 and 15 miles were easy to cover, but real training occurs once I get past 17 miles. At the pasta feed dinner before the Illinois Marathon, Olympic champion Frank Shorter said something that really stuck with me. He said that his coach told him that in order to improve his race results, he needed to run more Sunday 20 milers. I am trying to take that to heart and so far, in advance of my next race (Portland marathon on October 9) I have one 19 miler (a week ago yesterday) in the books, a 20 miler yesterday and 2 more 20 milers before the race. My training pace has been around 10:30/mile and I hope to drive that down closer to a training pace of 9:45 for the long runs. I am also adding some half marathon races to the schedule to improve race day approaches. One thing I have found is that I am a climber; I improve my pace as compared to other runners when we are going up-hill. Last Saturday was the Mahomet half and even though my chest started bleeding (EMBARRASSING!!!!!), I finished in a little over 2 hours; which, considering that I had a 20 to do the next day, was pretty good. I still need to shave about 10 minutes of the half marathon pace and I hope to do that in Peoria this weekend or Chicago on the 11th of September.

I got new shoes (Asics Kayanno 17’s) last week and already have over 45 miles on them after retiring my previous pair (over 1,000 miles on those Asics Kayanno 15’s). Right now, I have improved my dedication to my training (I think part of that is that my girlfriend is reminding me that I have training to do, so that helps to keep me committed) and I have improved my diet (probably good that I am increasing the complex carb intake (and lowering (just a little bit) the beer intake, as well)). I am feeling good about the Portland race coming up and expect to finish somewhere close to 4 hours (trying to be realistic).

I am also feeling good about the Portland race because it will give me an opportunity to see old friends again in Redding and Portland. By taking the train along the coast from San Francisco, I plan to take it pretty easy and be in good shape for race day. I will be putting some finishing touches on past relationships out in California and cementing old friendships with people who continue to be dear to me. I am very much looking forward to my upcoming trip to the left coast…


I have been kicking myself lately over a few of the choices I have made since I have returned to Champaign. The funny thing is that those choices revolve around the limits to humility. There is a fine line between to being humble and being walked on. If you show that things that do not go your way do not bother you, you risk being serially taken advantage of and becoming a laughing stock. After being away for a while, I have often bent over backwards to re-build relationships and it has only resulted in me being seen as a sucker; an easy mark. Those choices have prevented me from developing closer relationships here in the Heartland. NO MORE, PEOPLE! I think that part of my own work in re-establishing my self esteem has also been driven by my new commitment to training. I have been re-building self-confidence and I feel pretty good about where I am and where I am going. Case in point, I am back on the blog after a long hiatus.

Anyway, things are getting better, work has its own frustrations, but I am proving my value to the organization. I think that a greater commitment to meditation will also help me (winning the lottery wouldn’t suck, either!). All in all, I am headed in the right direction.


I have some detailed ideas about the current political climate, the struggles in the economy and ways to improve the level of discourse in our capitals. However, I need to put on a few miles to put a little more substance to the thoughts. You will see them later this week.

Till then, remember 3 steps per second. I’ll see you on the road!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's been a while...

It's been a long time since my last post and I have no excuse other than I have a lot to say, but I don't know where to start. I guess I'll go with training today. Politics and other stuff will show up over the next few weeks...

Overall, I would have to say I am confused a bit. My mileage is down to about 30 miles per week and I am seeing better results on my long runs than I did when I was running twice as far per week. I guess going out for 3-5 miles a couple times a week (with the wintry weather we have been having, a lot of the distance has been on the treadmill; which is mind numbing when you are running on a treadmill for an hour) and then loading on the long run (12 miles last week and 15.1 today), I am able to maintain a training pace equal to my marathon pace from my last race. I guess over-training before the last race may have cut performance, but weather and time have put me in this training cycle and so far, it hasn't hurt. We'll see how the New Year's 20 miler goes next week.

My next race is in mid-January in Redding, California. This race also brings other benefits in that I'll be able to visit with friends that I have not seen in over 3 years (other than those I saw 18 months ago). The big challenge for me is not over do it. First, the marathon's first 2.5 miles is on a 6% downhill grade, so I can't start too fast or my quads will be killed. Being in the flatlands, I have had little opportunity to train on similar terrain that I will be experiencing, so there's the first risk. I am getting out to Redding 4 days before the race so I can get a little local training in. Hopefully, the training will help. The second challenge is to not set expectations too high for my visit. The world has gone on for everyone with me being gone, so like I have learned, it is best not to make waves; just ride them.

Anyway, I think this are setting up for a successful run at the race. I am hoping for a time that is sub-4 hours and we will have a really good idea after the New Year's 20 miler. Am getting tired now, so must go. More later in the week!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Laid up a little for a couple of days. I found my soapbox!

I just have a couple of quick thoughts I wanted to get off my chest as I am recovering from an excruciating neck and back of my head injury (not quite sure what it is from, I did feel horrible after my 10 miler Tuesday (got the shakes and all kinds of bad stuff), but it’s been a week and I am really tired of it). But anyway, I have some thoughts about constitutionality and the role of the Federal government.

Why is it that Tea Party “Patriots” all talk about the intrusion of the Federal government and the un-constitutionality of certain programs; especially when it comes to things like Social Security, Medicare and the recently passed Health Care Law? Now, I admit that I am no “credentialed constitutional scholar, but it seems that these folks stop at “We the People” when they read the Constitution. In the Preamble, the Constitution furthers 6 goals of the Federal government; well really five and by performing those five, the sixth comes along with it. “…In order to 1) form a more perfect union, 2) establish justice and 3) ensure domestic tranquility, 4) provide for the common defense, 5) PROMOTE THE GENERAL WELFARE (emphasis mine) and 6) secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. Now Joe Miller, Republican Senatorial candidate from Alaska can see no constitutional standing for Federal entitlement programs in the constitution. By providing a safety net to people who need a hand up (unemployment insurance for folks who are out of work due to no fault of their own, social security for people whose retirement savings were wiped out in the capital markets decline of 2007-2008 and even access to preventative medical care to catch medical problems before they become big medical problems) aren’t we promoting the general welfare. If people can earn a living wage, won’t crime rates fall, neighborhoods be kept safe and won’t our economy expand as workers are now confident that they will be able to keep their jobs and they will again be the drivers of demand in our economy? I spoke about stimulus and such in a previous post. Anyway, when you frame the discussion in the “general welfare” clause of the Preamble, doesn’t that give you constitutional authority?

And now, about Federal income taxes… A progressive income tax is the only way to go here. Everybody in this nation has certain necessities of life that are required just to live. Every working citizen gets taxed at the exact same rate on the income necessary for those basic needs of food, shelter, retirement (social security) and medical care (Medicare/Medicaid). If you make more than the amount necessary to cover those bases, you get taxed, at most, at 39.8% (after expiration of the 2003 tax cuts) only on the income above what you need to live. Economically speaking, the only time you would ever be deterred from making more money is when the marginal income tax rate is greater than 100% (that situation in which it would actually cost you to work more). So, the argument that allowing the tax cuts to expire is a disincentive to business growth is false on its face because you still get to keep over 60% of what make. I also spoke about the false narrative regarding the 2003 tax cuts in a previous post. Now the real question to me is why isn’t anyone else looking at it like this?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You get to think a lot over 20 miles

With all the running I am doing lately, I have had the opportunity to think about possible solutions to moving the nation forward out of the economic quagmire in which we find ourselves. First, I will talk about immediate things to stimulate the economy, how some plans are just plain wrong and finally, a long term solution to properly incent capital formation, stabilize job creation and eventually balance the federal budget. As many of my faithful readers will recall, I am all about teaching people to fish so they can live for a lifetime, not giving them a fish so they can eat today.

Stimulating the Economy

We need to start from an agreed upon premise that the U.S. economy is dependent upon consumer spending. We can make the best widget in the world, but if no one is buying widgets, then we might as well be pissing in the wind while widget inventories go through the roof. In the ‘80’s, the federal government drove consumer spending through a re-tooling of the military industrial complex in a strategy to out-spend the Soviet Union on defense and drive the USSR to the brink of bankruptcy. During the ‘90’s, true economic expansion through productivity gains mostly driven by technological advancements added jobs to the economy and drove per capita Gross Domestic Product at an average annual 4.5% growth rate, balanced the budget and led to federal budget surpluses. During the first decade of the 2000’s, we decided to harvest some of the growth benefits and give tax revenues back to taxpayers, in the hope that they would use those extra dollars to spur additional consumer spending and business investment. Well, under the burden of a terrorist attack, two un-funded wars and an un-funded prescription drug plan all driving federal budget deficits higher and crowding out of investments for business expansion by having cash being driven to safer, more secure investments, per capita GDP only grew at an average rate of 3.45%.

Fiscal discipline not only was thrown out the window by government, but the economy as a whole sought out ways to make a quick buck. By investing and borrowing to invest in financial assets and shortening capital gains holding periods, the markets were no longer places to stimulate capital formation for business growth; they became parachute factories, granting golden, platinum, even diamond parachutes to corporate management whose only concern was this quarter’s earnings number. The markets also gave business owners the opportunity to cash out and leave new shareholders holding the bag with no insight to what made the business marketable to begin with. This resulted in cost cutting being the primary way to drive profits; on the backs of the line employees whose jobs were sold off to cheaper markets. Investment of cut taxes in the markets also drove prices for both equity and debt securities causing the largest pricing bubble for financial assets (including real estate, equities and debt securities) in generations. As we all know, starting in 2007, it all came crashing down. While the markets over-reacted on the way up, they also over-reacted on the way down, losing 8 million jobs over a 13 month period. Businesses are still overly cautious because they have no confidence that the American consumer will come back to spending like they did in the past. In order to get things moving again, we need, yes, a REAL STIMULUS BILL. Almost a WPA for the 21st Century.

The federal government spends billions of dollars in unemployment insurance to provide a safety net to the real victims of this recession. All this spending goes on while roads, bridges, electrical power grids, water, sewer and all types of infrastructure goes un-repaired. BY employing the un and under employed in infrastructure projects, we can kill two birds with one stone. It is not the time for more tax cuts. The last stimulus bill included over $275 billion in tax cuts for people who did not really have any money in the first place. The middle class tax cuts in the ARRA went to people who LOST THEIR JOBS, for the most part. Across the country, we could start on a decade’s worth of work to repair and update the nation’s infrastructure in order to keep hold of our place as the world’s largest and most productive economy. By repairing 20th century infrastructure and building a foundation for the next century (high speed rail, green energy and agricultural advancements), we can also employ millions of workers and have the program PAID FOR with no addition to the long term debt of the nation. For every dollar that goes into unemployment benefits, the economy sees $1.67 in activity. For a 10 year, $5 trillion infrastructure package (structured with loan guarantees, direct funding for public projects and low interest loans to expand domestic material manufacturing), the economy will grow by over $9 trillion; paying for itself with increased tax revenues. These infrastructure investments will also lessen local government burdens of maintenance and will give states the opportunity to re-coup “rainy-day” funds to weather the next economic storm. Like Reagan did in the ‘80’s, we need to have government spur consumption.

Long Term Economic Stability

As I stated above, short term profits came to many Americans at the expense of long term sustainability of the U.S. economy. We need to have the capital markets return to their role as the bastion of capital formation and business expansion. To match the incentives of shareholders and management AND WORKERS, I propose ELIMINATING THE CAPITAL GAINS TAX; with one caveat: As the holding period of an equity security extends, the capital gains tax rate will fall. Starting at a rate of 40% in year one, the rate will fall to zero by the end of year 5. This will help to better stabilize the markets and have companies valued for their acumen and success, rather than just money flows. Management will be more inclined to work towards long term value creation rather than spiking quarterly profits to maximize the current value of their stock options. Also, long term value creation will best serve workers as well, since capital looking for long term returns will flock to those economies that have a strong sense of the rule of law and property rights. Long term value creation and business expansion will lessen the burden of government to provide for those needing a hand up, since they will be working, too. A lessened burden lowers expenditures, a domestic energy program lessens the need to project military power and an expanding economy raises tax revenues; all pointing to a balanced federal budget.

For the short term, let’s fix stuff; it probably should be done every 50 years or so anyway. For the long term, let’s have a long term view; because even though we are each in it for ourselves, we are all in it together.