Nov 052012

A while back, a friend of mine on Facebook re-posted some comments touting Mitt Romney’s past work in business as a reason to vote for him for President. I’ve seen that strain of argument quite frequently, particularly from conservatives. For example, I saw this in my feed just this morning:

These arguments confuse the fact of Romney being a capitalist with his being pro-capitalist. Obviously, a person can be the former without being the latter. That happens because Marx was wrong: ideology is not determined by a person’s role in the economy.

Here’s what I wrote in reply to my friend:

I wish that good businessmen made good politicians. But alas, it’s just not true — in theory or in practice.

Time and again, we’ve seen businessmen fail miserably as politicians. (Bloomberg, anyone?) The problem is that earning profits within a given political system is very, very different from managing that political system. The purpose of the state is to protect rights, not earn profits, and a businessman is no more likely to understand and respect rights than any other random joe on the street.

Hence, “turning a business around” is a wholly different kind of activity than “turning the country around.” A person’s success in business doesn’t suggest in any way, shape, or form that they’ll do good in politics — as Romney’s record as governor shows in spades, particularly in health care. The man is the proud grandfather of ObamaCare.

It’s a bit odd to me that the argument persists, given that we’ve already got so many counter-examples. It’s completely bizarre to use it with a statist like Romney.

If you want to vote for Mittens, by all means, go forth and vote for Mittens. However, I’d recommend doing so based on his track record in politics, not in business.

Oct 292012

I’m currently in the market for a used car — likely, a Toyota 4Runner. It’s a mid-sized SUV, and I could use something slightly larger than my current Mazda Tribute. It’s more utilitarian than luxury, which is good for a farm gal like me. It’s also the only SUV with a roll-down back window, and that would be hugely useful for the dogs, who are often with me.

While perusing reviews of a local Toyota dealership this weekend, I found this gem:

I went to Groove Toyota to look at the Prius C because I value the environment and want to do my part. As I was sitting there, I witnessed multiple employees throw away plastic bottles in a garbage right next to me. This garbage was already full of plastic bottles and other waste. I was then offered a water bottle. It struck me as odd that a company that touts it is environmentally-conscientious and also locally-owned, would not have a recycling program. Something as simple as recycling would help the Denver and global community and show customers who value the environment (and hence are buying hybrid cars) that they have the same values. This was a major turn off for me and disueded me from purchasing my vehicle there. I will support a company that follows through with its purported values, even down to offering recycling to emplyees and customers for plastic bottles.

Let’s just say that I’m not persuaded to go elsewhere after reading that.

Japanese Ode to Joy

 Posted by on 17 October 2012 at 2:00 pm  Art, Business, Culture, Music
Oct 172012

This 2011 Japanese performance of my absolute favorite segment of music — Beethoven’s Ode to Joy — was dedicated to the survivors of the tsunami. I don’t think that the ginormous crowd of singers works well musically — at least not in this recording — yet I still appreciate the power of the performance.

Initially, to see Japanese singers performing in German was a bit strange, but then I realized that such is the fruit of the globalization of culture. Japanese singers and musicians can recognize the beauty and power of a German symphony written in 1824, then perform it spectacularly. Then, I, wholly American, can enjoy it from the comfort of my home in Colorado.

So many people decry the globalization of culture, thinking that it means nothing more than McDonalds and Starbucks on every corner. In fact, that’s good too, for the same reason as this performance. Globalization enables each individual person to pick and choose what he values most from around the world, rather than being limited to the cultural and economic products of his own culture. We might not always agree with other people’s choices, but we’re free to make our own.

Sep 272012

Some people are friendly and considerate as a matter of cultivated character. They’re consistently pleasant and accommodating toward others — absent some good reason for different behavior, such as knowing that the person is a major asshat. They’re that way to everyone, whatever their social position, including to cab drivers, help desk operators, grocery clerks, strangers on the elevator, receptionists, baristas, janitors, neighbors, and more.

Some people, however, are only pleasant and accommodating to people they deem important — usually, people higher up on their idea of the “food chain,” like their boss. Such people aren’t selectively friendly and considerate; they aren’t friendly and considerate at all. They’re just pretending to be so — and then, when they don’t see any benefit from that, the mask falls away, revealing their true character: self-absorbed, scornful, belligerent, and demanding.

Such people — the self-absorbed, scornful, belligerent, and demanding type — should be avoided whenever possible. They’re manipulative and dishonest. They see the world in terms of dog-eat-dog hierarchies of control and domination, not mutually beneficial trade. They trample on the people they see as beneath them, and they suck up to the people they see as above them. They’re always looking to get the better of others, and they’re happy to hurt people as they claw their way to the top. They’re practiced in their ways, and they always play their manipulative games better than honest traders can.

This recent article in the Wall Street JournalThe Receptionist Is Watching You — reminded me of all that.

Want that job? Better be nice to the receptionist.

Job seekers might not know it, but an interview often begins the moment they walk through the door. Candidates usually save their “best behavior” for the hiring manager and assume administrative assistants are automatons whose opinions don’t matter.

But assistants are not only close to the boss, they’re generally sharp observers who can instantly sense whether someone will fit in with company culture, says Karlena Rannals, president of the International Association of Administrative Professionals, which represents 21,000 members.

It’s just one way companies are filtering candidates in a tight labor market where more applicants are vying for fewer openings, experts say.


Administrative assistants aren’t the only ones watching. Sometimes crucial impressions are formed even earlier than the first meeting, if an applicant has been communicating with administrative staff to make logistical arrangements for, say, an in-person meeting or a videoconference.

“Smart recruiters ask for feedback from the travel agent, the driver from the car service that picked you up at the airport, and the admin that walked you around all day,” says Rusty Rueff, who once headed HR at PepsiCo and Electronic Arts and now is a board director at workplace-review site

Remember, if you’re not friendly and considerate to the security guard, the receptionist, and the barista, then you’re not a friendly and considerate — and people will notice. And, if you see that kind of behavior, beware!

Sep 072012

On August 21st, Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress gave the opening keynote at the American Coal Council conference.

I was particularly impressed with his discussion of how to make the positive case for coal, particularly why merely attacking the anti-industry environmentalist critics of coal is insufficient and unpersuasive. The same, obviously, applies to any kind of activism: merely attacking your opponents doesn’t change the minds of critics.

Here’s the talk: How Coal Improves Our Environment:

I’ll be interviewing Alex on this very topic — of how the energy industry improves our lives — on the September 12th episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. I hope that you’ll tune in!

Jul 262012

I support gay marriage wholeheartedly, and I’ve long been appalled by Chick-Fil-A’s support for theocracy. However, I’m just as appalled by the attempt by the Mayor of Boston to exclude Chick-Fil-A from Boston. It is a contemptible violation of rights — including of the proper separation of church and state.

The letter from the mayor reads:

To Mr. Cathy:

In recent days you said Chick fil-A opposes same-sex marriage and said the generation that supports it as an “arrogant attitude.”

Now — incredibly — your company says you are backing out of the same-sex marriage debate. I urge you to back out of your plans to locate in Boston.

You called supporters of gay marriage “prideful.” Here in Boston, to borrow your own words, we are “guilty as charged.” We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people. We are proud that our state and our city have led the way for the country on equal marriage rights.

I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it. When Massachusetts became the first state in the country to recognize equal marriage rights, I personally stood on City Hall Plaza to greet same sex couples here to be married. It would be an insult to them and to our city’s long history of expanding freedom to have a Chick fil-A across the street from that spot.

Sincerely, Thomas M. Menino

Such would be a fabulous letter from a private person, speaking his own personal opinions. From the mayor, however, that letter implies a threat of force, namely that of excluding Chick-Fil-A from Boston. That’s terribly wrong.

At this point, I strongly recommend that people boycott Chick-Fil-A. I discussed that in the 12 February 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, in fact. Here’s my 15-minute answer to the question, “Should people boycott Chick-Fil-A for its hostility to gays?”

You can also download the MP3 Segment.

Oh, and see this post from Eugene Volokh: No Building Permits for Opponent of Same-Sex Marriage. As Eugene explains, it’s a First Amendment violation, plain and simple:

But denying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation. Even when it comes to government contracting — where the government is choosing how to spend government money — the government generally may not discriminate based on the contractor’s speech, see Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996). It is even clearer that the government may not make decisions about how people will be allowed to use their own property based on the speaker’s past speech.

And this is so even if there is no statutory right to a particular kind of building permit (and I don’t know what the rule is under Illinois law). Even if the government may deny permits to people based on various reasons, it may not deny permits to people based on their exercise of his First Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter if the applicant expresses speech that doesn’t share the government officials’ values, or even the values of the majority of local citizens. It doesn’t matter if the applicant’s speech is seen as “disrespect[ful]” of certain groups. The First Amendment generally protects people’s rights to express such views without worrying that the government will deny them business permits as a result. That’s basic First Amendment law — but Alderman Moreno, Mayor Menino, and, apparently, Mayor Emanuel (if his statement is quoted in context), seem to either not know or not care about the law.

Go read the whole thing.


Recently, I learned that the Institute for Justice (IJ) has taken the case of paleo blogger Steve Cooksey. He’s in trouble with North Carolina regulators who wish to suppress his freedom of speech. I couldn’t be more delighted, as the case combines two of my great loves: paleo and free speech.

IJ made an awesome video summarizing the case:

For more information on the case, see this page. The press release says:

Can the government throw you in jail for offering advice on the Internet about what people should buy at the grocery store?

That is exactly the claim made by the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition. And that is why today diabetic blogger Steve Cooksey of Stanley, N.C. has teamed up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a major First Amendment lawsuit against the State Board in federal court.

In December 2011, Steve Cooksey started a Dear Abby-style advice column on his blog to answer reader questions. In January 2012, the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition informed Steve that he could not give readers personal advice on diet, whether for free or for compensation, because doing so constituted the unlicensed, and thus criminal, practice of dietetics.

The State Board also told Steve that his private emails and telephone calls with friends and readers were illegal. The Board also ordered him to shut down his life-coaching service. Violating the North Carolina licensing law can lead to fines, court orders to be silent and even jail.

“You don’t need the government’s permission to give someone ordinary advice,” said IJ Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes. “North Carolina cannot require Steve to be a state-licensed dietitian any more than it can require Dear Abbey to be a state-licensed psychologist.”

This lawsuit seeks to answer one of the most important unresolved questions in First Amendment law: When does the government’s power to license occupations trump free speech?

“Advice is protected speech,” said IJ attorney Paul Sherman. “Just because the government can license certain types of expert professional advice doesn’t mean the government can license every type of advice.”

Steve Cooksey began offering dietary advice because he is concerned about America’s diabetes epidemic. Over 25 million Americans have diabetes, including approximately 800,000 in North Carolina. The human and financial toll is staggering. Diabetes is now a leading cause of stroke, blindness, kidney failure requiring transplantation, and amputation. Because diabetes is a condition of elevated blood sugar, Steve advocates eating foods that keep blood sugar low.

After being diagnosed with Type II diabetes, Steve did research and learned that the high-carb/low-fat diet his doctors recommended to him may not be best for diabetics because carbohydrates raise blood sugar. He adopted the low-carb “Paleolithic” diet of our Stone Age ancestors: fresh veggies, meats, eggs and fish, but no sugars, processed foods or agricultural starches.

Steve lost 78 pounds, freed himself of drugs and doctors, normalized his blood sugar and feels healthier than ever. He believes a low-carb diet is the simplest, cheapest and most effective way to treat diabetes. This goes against the conventional wisdom promoted by licensed dietitians, which advocate a high-carb diet and drugs to lower blood sugar.

“Diabetics need access to information from all points of view, including those that challenge the conventional wisdom,” said IJ client Steve Cooksey. “We cannot let government licensing boards censor the Internet and chill our speech.”

For more on today’s lawsuit, visit Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice is a national public interest law firm that fights for free speech and economic liberty nationwide.

This case has huge implications for every advocate of paleo and other non-standard diets. Yet the principle is broader: every person has a right to express and advocate his own views, even when that person is not licensed by the state.

If you want to contribute to Steve’s fight against these government censors, please support the Institute for Justice by a donation!

May 232012

In late April, I answered the following question on padding your application:

Is doing activities just to pad you application or resumé dishonest? Some people work on mastering playing the violin, competing in tennis tournaments, learning calculus, and other activities – not because they have any interest in them or because they think they might develop an interest once tried, but rather because they think these activities will look good on an application or resumé. Is that dishonest? Is it unwise?

I’ve already given my answer, but Rachel Garrett wrote up the following comments that I thought pretty interesting and worth posting here. She wrote:

My answer is premised on the idea that you have a purpose and a career that you’re serious about. Peter Keating, of course, was merely into architecture to gain social prestige. So he had no problem with the idea of striving to master badminton (“the game of kings and earls”) in order to kiss up to a potential client. If someone is second-handed in choosing a career, of course they will choose second-hand hobbies that will look good to the clients or colleagues whom they seek to please.

By contrast, I have a hard time imagining a career first-hander pursuing any long-term, systematic course of action (including hobbies) for the sake of a mere resumé blurb or interview talking point. Maybe that’s how they account for the origin of their interest, or they semi-joke about it in conversation (“I’m only doing it for my resumé.”) But calculus? Tennis? Violin? Seriously? I can’t see how that’s practical or effective.

“I’m going to spend hours of leisure time every week keeping advanced mathematics fresh in my mind, working problems, and reading math textbooks and journals — not because I actually want to or because the knowledge is required for my chosen career, but because at the intervals every few years when I change jobs, I think there’s a chance that the line about calculus on the Hobbies/Interests section of the second page of my resumé will make a positive impression on the HR admin who’s screening applications. If I’m lucky, maybe the person who interviews me will also notice it and think nice thoughts about me.”

*sigh* “I guess I’ll go practice that Brahms sonata again. I’m getting good at the solo on the second page. Too bad I don’t actually like playing violin. I hope I get an interview at PharmCo. I heard the vice president of the division I want to work in likes classical music. Maybe if I get interviewed, he will see that part about violin on my resumé and get a warm fuzzy. We might even casually chat about it before we get down to the actual business of the interview. Yeah, that would be real nice. Crap, I’d better buy tickets for the symphony concert next week. I hate to go — there’s a violin concerto on the program — but the VP might mention it as we’re chit-chatting, and it would look weird if I claim to be into violin but hadn’t gone to see that famous soloist when they were in town.”

Let me generalize and take the question less literally. You have an objective need to signal your positive qualities to people who will make decisions about whether they want to be your friend, marry you, hire you, etc. Is it ever OK to engage in activities for the sake of sending the right signal to people who you want to befriend, work for, etc.? I already indicated that I thought this was impractical for learning-intensive, lifelong hobbies. But what about ordinary activities that don’t take that kind of investment? Are they legitimate “padding” candidates? Some of the questions you have to answer are:

1) Are you telling the truth? E.g., are you taking on a nonprofit project in order to showcase organizational skills on your resumé, when in fact you have pitiful organizational skills and it’s your professional Achilles’ heel?

2) What’s your motive for wanting the other person to have this information about you? Do you think they really need it in order to make an objective decision? Does it open up the door to conversations about shared interests and values? Or do you merely want to bask in their approval?

3) If you think you have a positive quality, you must already have supporting evidence from your own life. Why can’t you share that evidence with the other person? Why do you have to take the indirect route? You’re proposing doing an activity in order to have evidence suitable to give to someone else about something about yourself that you already know – it’s circituitous. I’m not saying it’s impossible or improper. But you might be overlooking something or making erroneous assumptions about how well the other person can evaluate you based on already-existing evidence.

Sticking to hiring, here are some further considerations. If you are assessing your professional qualifications, and you realize that you’re deficient in some area, it’s not wrong to look for a volunteer activity or hobby to fill that gap. For instance, volunteering at a local nonprofit might result in developing your leadership or project management skills. Maybe the nonprofit will let you run a big project end-to-end, while at work you’re in a junior, coordinating role under a senior project manager.

But if you are really doing it “just for the resumé,” I would question the wisdom of that. If you want to add an activity or project to your resumé, it’s because you want to show potential employers that you have a particular skill or strength. There’s two logical possibilities:

1) If in reality you don’t yet have that skill or strength, or you haven’t reached your desired level, then you want to develop it. Naturally and secondarily, you’d follow up by putting the developmental experiences on your resumé. But if this is the case, you’re not just “doing it for the resumé” – you’re doing it for development.

2) If you do have the skill/strength already, and you feel that you have to go do something extra outside of work so that people will see it, that’s a red flag. It says that here’s a characteristic that you want potential employers to find in you, but you’re not using it in your current job. You need to find or create aspects of your job that would use that skill. Then you can figure out how to frame it on the resumé.

Thank you, Rachel!

Breckenridge Brewery Versus Colorado

 Posted by on 22 May 2012 at 1:00 pm  Business, Colorado, Politics
May 222012

Breckenridge Brewery will take new brewery, jobs to East Coast:

Breckenridge Brewery will look to build its new brewery on the East Coast, taking with it 50 to 75 jobs that otherwise would have been created in the Denver area, because of the Colorado Legislature’s failure to pass a bill that would have changed state law to allow it to expand, its president said Monday.

Ed Cerkovnik said without House Bill 1347 — a bill that passed a House committee unanimously but that House leaders will allow to die without a vote this week because of opposition that mounted to it from several industries — the brewery cannot hold a license to operate several brewpubs at the same time it holds a license to operate a manufacturing plant that produces more than 60,000 barrels a year in Colorado.

Gee thanks, Colorado! We wouldn’t want those jobs created in our state!

Designing the Stop Sign

 Posted by on 14 May 2012 at 2:00 pm  Business, Funny
May 142012

The Process (a.k.a. Designing The Stop Sign Video):

My mother was a graphic designer — and this seems remarkably familiar.

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