Institutional Failure and the Healing Power of Key West

What follows is a history of institutionalism in the United States and its impact on the minds of the American people. It is long, so be ready to take your time. But if you stick with it, you might find it very rewarding.

So enjoy.

What do Walt Disney, John D. Rockefeller, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Richard Branson, and Rachel Ray all have in common; none of those people have a college degree. It has always confounded me as to why and how the myth that an institution can give someone the needed components to be successful became such a universally accepted concept.

There is a lot of history on the subject of the progressive movement and its evolution from 1880 to the modern era, so there is no need to lay it all out in this work. The research is there for anyone that wants it. The important thing is to ask, why do some of the most powerful and successful people in the world push formal schooling aside. After all, if parents really wanted their kids to have a good life, why would they steer them in that direction spending tens of thousands of dollars on education per year when some of the most successful people in our history have either not gone to formal schooling, or had to drop out because the institution got in the way of their personal gumption.

The answer is remarkably foolish and I’m going to spell it out here. First we’ll deal with what the problem with college education is, then we’ll deal with the impact it has had on society.

College, and most of our education in general from grade school and up, is just forms of analytic thinking. This thinking is extremely useful for finding out where you’ve been, and it can tell you where you’re going if you can find a way to incorporate it with creative thinking, I’ll explain that in a minute. The successful people mentioned, and many others, realize that while the world outside the class room is going by, the college professors are insisting to freeze time while their class is being conducted to study processes.

In management, I have watched hundreds of college educated, well intentioned souls wrestle with a complicated problem for days, or weeks, only to have someone who works on the floor solve the problem in a matter of hours, which of course is quite insulting to the person with a degree. They are supposed to be smarter, and better equipped to deal with problems. After all, that’s what society told them would happen if they pursued a degree.

What they ended up with was a job, and a decent paying job relatively speaking. Enough money to make a decent living, buy a decent home, drive a decent car, and take a decent vacation. But deep inside most everyone is some silly little form of rot that knows they sold themselves short. They wonder how such uneducated specimens as the laborer could know how to reason anything out or have any ideas of value.

The best example I’ve ever heard of why the process of higher education, which is the parent to analytic thinking, comes from Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. In that fine book, Pirsig paints a picture of this analytic process by referencing a train moving down a long track. The track represents the quality of whatever you’re dealing with, whether it is business, or your personal life. At the front of the train is a locomotive of course, and behind it are box cars of cargo. Within each box car is the history of whatever is behind pulled by the train, he calls this Classic Knowledge. In business, it’s the sales records, inventory variances, staffing requirements, engineering development, etc. In your personal life; it’s much the same, mortgage values, asset management, and livelihood issues. Pirsig made the designation that at the front of the train is a thing called Romantic Knowledge. This is important because on the train tracks of life, seldom does the track just run infinitely off into the horizon, but rather there are many decisions that must be made along the way. And someone has to be at the front of the train to see those changes coming and make the decision to take a different course when those situations present themselves. Romantic Knowledge is what we see and how it relates to the track of life we’re on. The Classic approach is to analyze where the train is and where it’s been to figure out where to go. But in life, the train is always in motion so by strictly using the classic approach, the decisions are often not made in time.

I’ll take this explanation one step further. In my experience, people who swear by the classic approach are often the ones less certain of their course of action, because after all, they did not earn their knowledge, but gained it by assessing data collected. So they tend to rule from the back of the train, in the caboose. I know not many trains have a caboose anymore, but I like cabooses, so I’m going to use it here. Most of the meetings I’ve ever been in, at all levels take place in the caboose.

Why, because life is always a game of hot potato, and nobody wants to be holding the potato when the music stops. We all remember that game from grade school, right. You get the point. And the same holds true from even company presidents, and owners, accountants, engineers, sales people, everyone from the top down. It works this way in business and politics. Those people in the back of the train, drinking tea in luxury in the caboose, with their finger to the wind studying the contents of the train, but at the first sign of trouble, they can jump off the back, or perhaps even detach themselves from rest of the train by pulling the release lever if it is discovered that the train is headed over a cliff.

Meanwhile, at the front of the train is the romantic knowledge person, who is at the complete other end of the train. Those are the people that are most invested and the workhorses that drive the company because if they go over a cliff, they’ll be the first ones to fall. You’ll also find your visionary types up there, at the front with all the workhorses, scanning the countryside for pending trouble. They leave the analytic work to those in the back of the train to deal with the necessary hum drum of business compliance and government regulation, but to them, the real work is at the front.

It takes guts to be at the front of the train. You are essentially on a branch all by yourself, because the structure of every company is of course behind you, but they will abandon you at the first sign of trouble. And the romantic knows this, but stays in that position regardless.

Without realizing why I was doing a lot of things in my life, I ran across Pirsig’s book because it was noticed by many that since I ride motorcycles in the harsh cold of winter, and it is well known that I do many long distance trips by motorcycle, and that I was a different kind of thinker, that I would like the book. It had been out for many years after all. There were two things that came at me in discussions regarding my love of motorcycles. That I should watch the TV series by Ewan McGregor and Charlie Borman called Long Way Round, where they rode a motorcycle all the way around the world, and this book by Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Knowing both items were about long distance motorcycle riding, I wanted to complete a trip to Key West that had been on my mind for a while, so I put them off until I had done that. My decision to make my big trip to Key West came at a time when the company I had been working for had an annual inventory, and was the best time for me to get away for a weeklong trip. And since I had been working in aerospace, there are typically a lot of details that must get covered in an inventory, where just a few weeks prior, we had our annual NADCAP audit, which really slows things down. So a vacation to Key West with my wife on the back of a 1500 cc Suzuki Boulevard was just the right experience.

In sharp contrast to my daily life of rigid rules and very tight production deadlines, life on Duval Street was the polar opposite. Reputedly loose, and known for its gay population, I found it easy to not notice too much of that. Instead, I found the lack of politics on that small island ideal for total relaxation. It was to me the way humans if left to their own devices would create everything, for good and bad. On that island, there wasn’t much discussion of social hierarchy. There wasn’t much desire for status. The goal seemed to be to watch the sunset at Mallory Square, buy drinks from a street vendor, and possibly get naked on the roof top bar of Adam and Eve.

That type of thing is a bit too calm for me, but it did give me insight into the truth of the human condition because as I looked around, I saw a lot of professionals that were there for similar reasons. I’m not a big fan of intoxication, and many of the visitors I saw were, what they shared with me on that visit was a desire to travel to the end of the earth and just get away from the mainland, but still be under the umbrella of the United States, which is a great thing. More on that later.

Anyway, what that has to do with Pirsig, and this whole idea of institutionalism is that I made a point to read that book after my trip there, and was happy to find I had similar thoughts as he did when he made a motorcycle trip with his son across the northern part of the country going from Minnesota to California. I was worried that if I had read the book before I made a big trip of my own, that my own thoughts might have been corrupted somewhat instead of enhanced by a shared experience.

Long trips like that on a motorcycle have a way of putting you in touch with things, and your observations are much keener, because they have to be. There is not protection from the elements. There are no air bags in case of a crash. It’s you, and the road a few inches below your feet rolling by at 70 mph. Rocks, bugs, rain, the rays of the sun, can have devastating effects to your body, and after traveling over 1500 miles one way to get to such a place as Key West on a motorcycle, you find yourself driving down Duval street with your wife in a bathing suit pressed to your back and knowing you traveled a road till it just dropped off into the ocean. And you feel the relief of social convention drop away with each island you travel through down US 1. And when you come to the sign that says “welcome to paradise,” you get the feeling you’ve arrived truly at one of the world’s great places.

For me, and apparently for thousands of others that go to Key West for fishing, snorkeling, or just to visit the drinking establishments on Duval Street, the island is devoid of institutions as much as is possible in organized society. And that is what makes it a paradise.

And it takes stepping away from something sometimes before you can clearly see it, and I had been on a 20 year crusade against institutions without really knowing why, just that I was at the front of the train in every position I had ever held, but I had no explanation as to why some things that came easy for me, were so confusing to others, especially those that insist that analytic data is the only data worth looking at.
I had been to college myself three different times. The first time was right after high school, I did the typical enroll in classes because society says that the best way to get a decent job. I took night classes in economics while I worked full time during the day. But, the professors to me seemed out of touch, and my conclusion was that they taught because they couldn’t practice it in reality. And I really couldn’t see how those classes were going to equate to a good job. I was working at a metal stamping plant at the time, and I identified with the people on the floor more than the people in the front office. On the floor was where the battles were taking place. Out on the shop floor was where people got injured, lost fingers and sometimes worse. The front office was a place I saw little value being done, and the people went home safely every night. That life seemed boring, so why would I want a job up there? So I could make an extra $20,000 a year as a white collar worker?

My wife and I had one car at the time, so I rode a bicycle 8 miles each way to work so she could have the car during the day. And it was a mild excuse for me to bring some adventure to each day with my exposure to the elements. The rides to work by bicycle, and the danger of life on the shop floor was more appealing to me than what the college promised, so I quite after the first year. The late nights staying up and boring classes just didn’t hold much appeal.

I returned to classes a few years later when management at that same company suggested I had the kind of leadership ability they were looking for, and I’d need school to advance. I signed up for the classes, waiting in the lines at the enrolment office at the University of Cincinnati’s Raymond Walters College, and went to the first day of classes. College level English, business math, economics, that kind of stuff. I could not see how this was going to help me, or my family, so after one night, I quit again.
The third time was after several jobs. I had felt the sting of being a floor worker and holding token leadership positions, and having contracts cancelled and job reductions result. I bounced around from several different companies always finding myself in a position of a leader, by default, but not really having job security. I had a couple of kids, and since my wife and I agreed to have her stay home to be available at all times to raise our children, I worked several odd jobs to make supplement income. Some of those odd jobs included grill cooks at McDonalds, and Wendy’s, I did various sales work, I did janitorial work, and I worked as a tree trimmer.

The tree trimming was dangerous work and I liked it most of the time. But it was hard to work all day at a normal punch the time clock type job and have the gumption to climb a tree at the end of the day and remove it piece by piece hanging from a rope. So I lobbied to switch to third shift at my machine rebuilding job at Cincinnati Milacron, which was a pretty good job at the time, and went back to school full time during the day so I could go for a white collar position either at Milacron, or someplace else.
In a couple of weeks of classes, I couldn’t help but see the blank looks on all the students, many were my age, some were coming back to school to get a better job, some were just kids out of high school, doing the college thing because they wanted a good job. But the overall atmosphere was one of decay, and stagnation. The professors had not changed, and why should I expect them to. And I had not changed in the direction needed to complete school. I still had too many questions for the authority in charge, and they could not give me the answers I needed.

Only books could do that, and I read extensively over the years. One powerful quote that came to me from some of Joseph Campbell’s works was that often the reason many stories involve a hero having to leave society in order to find a way to save it is because society is the one in trouble, so they are not equipped to give the hero what he needs. So the answers are often outside the establishment.
So I quite school for the third and last time. And I looked outside society to find answers to some of the problems within it. And that led to many adventures that we will discuss as the chapters progress. But for now, Key West, outside of society in a way, Pirsig’s thoughts on romantic knowledge, which certainly defines my approach and my own long motorcycle trips.

I have had great success in management positions over the years. It has been a routine for me to take over positions from other managers and quickly fix the problems they had been having. What I never did do was look at the fish bones and other charts from the previous managers. I created my own fresh perspective. This of course is not what’s taught. Teamwork and collaboration are the cornerstones of modern business, so says Bill Smith of Motorola and pioneer of its Six Sigma applications in 1986. He died of a heart attack in 1993 at work but not before seeing Motorola receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. GE and Honeywell were two of the first to jump on the Six Sigma bandwagon and used it as a way to find savings they should have always seen, but for the fact that they are huge companies that had huge waste, undetected while they strolled the golf courses of America. Nothing against Mr. Smith, hindsight is 20/20, and he was only trying to get his bosses to listen to reason from pioneers such as Genichi Taguchi who helped Japan reclaim itself after World War II. As it’s turned out though, like many things, good intentions pave the way to hell. Of the 58 large companies that took Six Sigma as a method 91% have trailed the S&P 500 since making that decision. The invisible villain to Six Sigma is it stifles creativity, and ingenuity, and prohibits growth. It saves money by cutting logical waste, but puts everyone in the back of the train leaving nobody up front to make decisions. That is why it is an unmitigated failure to American society.

As you read this, look around at your peers in business and politics. Look at the course of life they are on, and see if they aren’t in for a similar fate as Bill Smith. Organizations such as Six Sigma have gone to great strides, unintentionally, to bring about our lack of competitive advantage currently. And they have worked their way into every aspect of society.

And colleges, like all institutions, have swelled in this later half century because they offer the same thing large companies like GE have bought in to with Six Sigma; a savings of money, and ease of effort, to maximize some proportional return on the investment. But what ends up happening, is a loss of future development while you may show slight profit on paper.

That’s why the answers were always along the road less traveled. While I was on my motorcycle trip in Key West I had to look around at the people packed into Sloppy Joes to listen to a half decent band play while drinking profusely. And I had for them a new understanding to explain their behavior. Escape.

Escape from the world and all its childish institutions. For me, it was a long standing answer to the question I had, why is drinking so prominent in our culture. Adults from 1947 to current that routinely drink alcohol hovers around 64%, and my question has always been why? What makes anyone want to consume a beverage that dehydrates your body, and can make you feel terrible the next day? It is a learned behavior and natural byproduct of going against our natures where we all feel is progressing along without our help or input. So the alcohol provides some needed numbness barrier against that sense of impending doom. And this is a steady and predictable reaction to the slow, eroding conditions institutions place upon our society. College age kids are learning this wherever they are going to school. Every campus has this culture as a natural counter to the mundane diatribe of the college professors.

And for working adults that have to either put up with some company line where the heads of companies force a Six Sigma program on their company whether it’s at the front office level, or the manufacturing floor, it impacts everyone within the organization. For every dollar gained from saved waste, there is always the loss of potential income gained through ingenuity. And everyone at some level feels it, even if they can’t articulate it. And those leaders in those companies typically are at the back of the train looking at powerful companies like GE and they see the report that GE saved 12 billion over a 5 year period and added 1 dollar to their market share, and they allow that information to steer their decision to commit to a program that basically goes against American ingenuity, which is something we have as Americans innate, because we all grew up in a free society. So powerless to stop the avalanche, we turn to the drink, or turn to religion, and many times both.

Six Sigma is not an American idea. It is a concept started in Japan, that Mr. Smith put some new names to, and added a few processes to in order to make a claim to invention. And I’m picking on Six Sigma because it is one of many institutions that are in place in modern business that is prohibitive to what America is naturally good at. And it’s so popular now, that it has name recognition even if the company you do work for isn’t using it.

I’ve personally had to sit through hours of classes in my positions studying this concept and feeling sorry for the instructors, and the owners of the companies I’ve worked for because they are just like fish that bit the hook of a fisherman, with a line in the water. In this case, the Japanese, have a book, actually a couple of books, one is called The Art of War, and the other is The Book of Five Rings which explains in great detail what they are doing to us, and both books will be talked about in further chapters. But in post World War II, we had just bombed their small island with nuclear bombs after a very bitter conflict, and we thought they were just going to go away and be our friends? No, they gave us Six Sigma, a slow poison of which they have immunity to.

The reason they are immune to the effects is because they are not like us. We’re all people with two arms, two legs, a head, hands and feet, and I certainly don’t mean they are inferior, or superior, only how they think is different than us. They are very good at group organizing and incorporating the analytic process. They will work around the clock and not ask for much in return. They live in much smaller living space than the average American, and will often stay with their parents even after they marry. They in many ways understand us more than we understand ourselves. And they knew they could out manufacture us, and what they’ve done as an international business strategy, was to get the world to follow them.

But we can’t be like them without fundamentally changing ourselves and they know that. And to properly do their Six Sigma program, you have to think like a person from the East.

Americans do not like to work together though. We’ll go to the grocery and pass two feet from someone, and not make eye contact with another person. We are one of the few places on earth where we grew up in space, and we like our elbow room. We do not feel compelled to acknowledge another person even if they bump into us. And while the world, that has been jealous of the space we have, points its finger and tells us we are wrong, and we should change, it is probably time that we put some sort of definition on what an American is.

An American isn’t a white homosapien, a Native American, an African-American, a Hispanic American, and Asian American or any of those titles. We are a people that love space, liberties around the clock, and we are a very individualistic group. And we’ve wasted a tremendous amount of time being defensive about that from Europe, and Asia where individualism is not near as important to them because it has not been an option in thousands of years of social development. And it’s time we focus on what we are good at and stop trying to copy everyone else. If you want evidence of this, look at the football played by the rest of the world, and look at the football we play. Our football is a uniquely American idea, and most of the star players are not decedents from Europe. But the concept is all American. The other things to study are who made the last blockbuster film from Tokyo, or Paris? How about London? They all make films, but the films produced are often reflective, by default, of the cultures that produce them. You want to know about a culture, study their art. And studying American art is easy, go to your local video store. Our films are the envy of the world because American culture has so much to say, because we actually think and naturally question authority.

So let’s get back to a guy like Walt Disney, who never went to college. He dropped out of high school at age 16 even, and never came close to entering college. Books by themselves could and have been written about Disney. But the short of it is this, who has been able to replace Disney as a media empire? What foreign company has come close to equally Walt Disney? Don’t you think they would if they could? George Lucas is the closest that comes to my mind, and he uses Disney’s model. And before you say Disney as a company has made more money since the theme parks opened in the 70’s than it did while he was alive, it was that they stayed true to his vision and did not stray. So they’ve kept the quality of his work intact.

After Walt Disney died, the animation division faltered and was not resurrected until the 90’s with when Jeffery Katzenberg took over the animation division. Most of Disney’s modern era animation films, which they are known for, came while Katzenberg was at Disney. Once he and Michael Eisner had a power struggle where Eisner failed to promote Katzenberg to president of the company, Eisner left to found DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg. And before you say that Pixar, a Disney company that still makes great animated films, which was started by George Lucas and bought by Disney, they didn’t develop that on their own.

However, not since Jeffery Katzenberg left Disney’s animation division has Disney been able to recapture the magic, and they are still waiting for that special guy to come and help them make great animated musicals again. The reasons I bring all this up is because consider the power the Disney Corporation has. Consider the reach they have. Think of all the top students at all the universities all across the country that wish to work for Disney. And they have vast resources to develop with, yet why is it so difficult to put out a film like The Little Mermaid again? Because people like Katzenberg, Walt Disney, George Lucas, and those types of people, cannot be duplicated in an institution. No matter how hard they try, no class anywhere can create people who produce at that high level.

If the intention were to teach students to be thinkers at a high level, it would be a different story, and one that I could see would be something of value. But the intention is only to produce some mediocre specimen in a social context. None of my experience at college or even grade school has shown me there is any quest in the student body to find the exceptional among us, except in sports.

There’s nothing wrong if you did go out and pursued a degree, and spent a great deal of money on it. But the degree will not make you the next Walt Disney or Henry Ford, just so long as everyone understands that.

While it’s true that things were different back in the early days of the industrial revolution, and very few people pursued a formal education then, the same rules apply in the modern era. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard. He did find some friends there that helped him work out his thoughts, but what at Harvard was some professor going to do for someone as forward thinking as Gates? He set up a deal with Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems(MITS), after reading a popular science article and told them he and his friends had been working on a BASIC interpreter for the platform. In truth, they had not, but they figured it out in time for a meeting with the MITS president a few weeks later. One thing led to another and pretty soon Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft within a few months.

Steven Spielberg snuck onto the lot of Universal Studios and set up an office and pretended to be important and just sort of hung around as an unpaid intern. He applied three times to USC’s School of Theater but was turned down because of his C average. So he enrolled at California State University at Longbeach. But it was his sneaking onto the lot of Universal that got his career moving. 35 years later, Spielberg did get a degree at USC; I suppose to prove a point, that after he made some of the most successful movies of all time.

What colleges have done is firmly imbed themselves into politics. It is now an expected part of our culture. Parents begin saving for their children’s college before their kids even enter kindergarten. And it is an unfashionable taboo to question the institutional process even though much of the liberal oriented political viewpoints are imposed by professors upon the students at universities. Not necessarily a harmful thing directly, but does become a force to contend with at election time when millions of college age students go to vote. The institution then becomes a political weapon.

No matter what you’re political persuasion is, having an entire age group think in one political manner does not accurately reflect the values of the society at large. As it currently is, higher education is a powerful mechanism for the DNC, and for that type of vote buying power, they should be paying us for the influence they have over our kids. Not us paying them.

Not all students buy into the liberal positions of colleges, and of course not all professors are liberal hippies. But overwhelmingly, the young people between 18 and 22 are likely to believe in gun control, social reforms, and minority rights, as important voting issues in an election. And that makes the institution not just something that will get them a professional position at some company.

Woodrow Wilson went from being president of Princeton University, to governor of New Jersey, then soon after, President of the United States. He is responsible for the League of Nations which paved the way for the United Nations. And while he worked with England and France to divide up the post World War 1 Europe through the Treaty of Versailles. During this wonderful divide, the Middle East was created which led to most of the current troubles in the region today. Iraq was formed due to the Treaty. Germany was forced to pay the reparations of the war completely, which bankrupted them and gave Hitler a platform to rise, and a young Vietnamese bus boy at the Ritz in Paris called Ho Chi Minh begged for a chance to plead for Vietnam’s independence to Wilson, who was ignored because Vietnam was not near the issues of Europe. At that time, Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist, and a fan of the American Revolution. He wanted the same for his county, but when the League of Nations wouldn’t listen he turned to the communists in the Soviet Union which eventually led to the Vietnam War, more on that later. So with all the great intentions Wilson had in forming a massive League of Nations, that stood on the high ground of morality and international good will, he really screwed up. In historical context ninety years isn’t very long, but it exceeds our short memories as Americans. It is difficult to look that far back and see how decisions made then impact now. But they sure did. The Treaty of Versailles caused World War II, The Vietnam War, and the Gulf War, both of them. And that is the model of the current United Nations. With all the current activity going on at the old Palace of Nations in Geneva we can only guess at the many plots boiling there that will impact us twenty, thirty years down the road. But that’s just me talking from the front of the train. All you in the back enjoy the ride.

Wilson is a hero to the progressive movement, and the modern democrats as well as colleges across the country because he was in essence an intellectual, like them, so he is widely followed. But looking at the Treaty of Versailles, even though the intentions were good, turned out to be absolutely devastating to the American way of life.
Institutions whether you’re talking about a typical college, or something like Six Sigma are not American ideas. They are foreign ideas, and should be available under the umbrella of freedom. But of the founding fathers, which Jefferson graduated from the college of William and Mary, Madison from Princeton, and Adams from Harvard, George Washington did not go to any college, and he was the first president, and that says a lot about our character. It wasn’t just the bravery he exhibited, but there was a sense of logic to whatever Washington did. But he wasn’t the only found father that did not attend college. Ben Franklin was never schooled beyond age 10. Come to think of it, Abraham Lincoln never attended a university. He passed the bar exam by reading books on his own, sometimes walking over 12 miles to borrow a book as a kid.
Here’s the bottom line. Using a European model for colleges, and an Asian model for programs like Six Sigma, institutions have within a 200 year span of time, and most rapidly since the industrial revolution, taken over much of what we do and how we do it in America. And it has been a slow poison that has robbed us of our vigor. In our freedom from the shackles the rest of the world has been burdened with whether it is feudal families of Asia, or kingdoms of Europe, we developed truly original ideas that has greatly improved the livelihood of most of earth. And we have been raised with massive corn fields, and farms, and shopping malls, and free press for all of our adult lives. But to us all, the institutions feel wrong, and we know it on an innate level, but feel powerless to question the process because we all need jobs to fuel our personal economies. So when our business leaders, lazily copy off each other, because that’s human nature, and listen without thought to Jack Welch spew on about Six Sigma and how much money they saved, a careful investigator would ask, Jack, why did you need the Japanese to tell you how to create a product with little waste and deliver it on time to a customer? What he really meant to say, but couldn’t is that GE is a huge union company and he needed some program like Six Sigma that is too complicated for union stewards to understand, to sell the idea of actually applying common sense to everyday business practices. But what he did, like the blundering escapade of the Treaty of Versailles is creating more institutional limits to the American Imagination, good intentions gone badly.

So powerless to take in the whole picture, we watch our football games and drink our beer. We talk about going out at night and getting hammered and root for the players on a football field where the rules are simple. Get a first down, score a touchdown.
And that is the real cost of this institutionalized society we’re currently in. At a personal level, we feel it, but in most cases we’re willing to trade a decent wage for some loss of personal input. But on a national level, we’re allowing influences from the outside to define our national identity. When the reality is that no place else in the world has the ingenuity that has come from the United States been shown, why would we be so willing to listen to inferior strategies?

Being a great leader, manager, politician, or even an artist requires vision, and that is something institutions cannot give you. They can help you set goals, and figure out how to get the analytic data. But they cannot give you the vision to see what is coming. Only those that are willing, and bold enough to put themselves out on the cutting edge, and not hide in the safety of the masses, will have the ability to make their vision a reality.

Rich Hoffman!/overmanwarrior

Ross Perot Then, Now and Forever

The talk going on today with people like Glenn Beck and others are not new. I remember being in Dallas, Texas the day before the election in 1992. Ross Perot’s oldest daughter and her husband gave me a neck tie that I wish I still had while in the parking lot of the Perot Headquarters. I thought then Ross Perot was doing some good work, and I did everything I could to help him back then. I’m not new to all this small government stuff.

For the fun of it, I decided to go back and dig through some of his old videos. In hind sight, how right he was. People should have listened.

And he is still at it. Too bad most people want to take the blue pill.

Rich Hoffman!/overmanwarrior

Will Our Community Take it, or Will They Cave?

Anyone with just a small amount of intelligence can see what’s going on here. The school systems have attached lucrative careers to our children. As I’ve looked at the situation with the same eyes that I’ve used to consult business, Lakota could solve its problems by just getting their expenditures down, which they say they’re doing, but the cuts they’re making are purely cosmetic. When the Lakota School Board announced within two weeks of the election, even when the deficit was much less than their original projections for 2010, that they are cutting busing, what we’re seeing is a game being played centered on collective bargaining. The problem is the wages are too high for Lakota. They’re too high for Mason, Little Miami, Fairfield, Springboro, virtually everywhere. When the cost per pupil is over $9,000 it’s too much for a school system to run off property tax dollars, and it’s too much to ask the State of Ohio to properly fund. Ohio needs to deal with the funding model, that’s for certain, and is a whole other fight. But as for now, the financial expectations of educators on what it takes to educate are simply too high.

I put together a collection of the various arguments from the final days of the campaign leading up to the day after the big vote so they could be revisited, and considered.

Real estate agents have attached themselves to the schools in order to sell homes. When 70 percent of the residents do not have children in the district, who are they selling homes too, just the 30%? Why would they instantly throw out the barrage of panic that home values will go down because some panic driven parent is looking for a public school to be their day care facility and might not want to move to Lakota, how does that impact our community? Those are irresponsible and foolish statements. Saying such a thing could create the perception of reality. What good sales person does that? Answer: lazy ones that just want to sit back and let the demographic of such panic driven parents fill their pockets. I couldn’t sell my house now if I wanted. There are a lot of homes in the Lakota district and a lot of competition in a market that isn’t exactly leaping with enthusiasm. The housing bubble burst. The declining home values are because the air is coming out of the balloon. Not because some kid can’t go to band class. Remember, we’re only talking about 30% of the Lakota district having kids in the system. By the grace of the community, the other 70% supply 160 million dollars to educating the needs of that 30%. To complain that Lakota is operating at a high level today, but not tomorrow because we don’t want to exceed that amount is childish, and pathetic.

The fact that these people say you can only cut so much out of a budget is ridiculous and mind numbing. We’re supposed to trust these people with a 160 million dollar budget? They’d cut busing which falls under the category of less than 25% of the cost and ignore the parts that are over 75%. That’s a major problem.

There are these parades of people that say performance is directly attached to money. Those are people that clearly don’t understand how things work. I don’t care if Lakota does more with less. If it was enough then they wouldn’t be asking for more money.

On the No Lakota side, we’re telling Lakota to work within the budget. We are properly funding the school system. But it looks like our community does not want to support collective bargaining. We can’t afford it. We don’t want to afford it. And we don’t want it attached to our children clinging like warts to their very bodies that we are afraid to remove because we don’t want to harm the child.

One rule I have when assessing employees is the 10-80-10 rule.

When I submit a salary increase to the owner of a company, typically those owners will approve my suggestions for the top 10% of my submissions. The 80% will get a typical cost of living increase, and the bottom 10% will get nothing. Those at the bottom are the people I want to see get angry and leave so I can hire someone else to take their place, so why would I give them an increase? Now the trick is that I have to figure out who my top 10% are, because in reality, I may have 15% that are really good. But I have to go through the work of figuring out who gets the good raise and who stays in the 80%. It doesn’t always feel fair, but that’s business. The reason we do this in the private sector is so our wages don’t get out of control and the company ends up in the situation Lakota and other school systems find themselves in, where they have to increase the cost of their service to cover their increased internal costs. Yet those internal costs are completely under their control. Those costs don’t have a life of their own. The fact that 160 million is not enough says that the district has mismanaged the money the community has sent to them.

I will say this much. If one parent has a car accident or one child gets hurt on the way to school because of the irresponsible behavior of school leadership to cut busing as a retaliation that the levy did not pass, when bringing wages under control has not even been explored, I will make sure the school system is held responsible for that action. Because of the cuts in busing there will be a lot more cars traveling the road ways in the morning, and there will be many more opportunities for accidents, especially if more young people are driving than they otherwise would be. The decision is purely extortion designed to protect the collective bargaining agreement established by the LEA.

The question is, will our community take it, or will they cave?

Rich Hoffman!/overmanwarrior

We Are At WAR!

You won’t see tanks driving down your street. You won’t see troops knocking on your door. But you will see your way of life being destroyed in a way that is no different than a military unit cutting off a railroad or other major supply line to a strong opponent. Philosophically, economically, ethically, we are at war.

Another one of my favorite books, which is a book I studied carefully over a period of years because it’s one thing to read the book word for word and gain a basic understanding. But the work of Sun Tzu requires an understanding of eastern philosophy, which is something specifically unique to Japan and China. The following quote is from The Art of War under PLANNING A SIEGE.

Complete victory is when the army does not fight, the city is not besieged, the destruction does not go on long, but in each case the enemy is overcome by strategy. So the rule for use of the military is that if you outnumber the opponent ten to one, then surround them; five to one, attack; two to one, divide. If you are equal, then fight if you are able. If you are fewer, then keep away if you are able. If you are not as good, then flee if you are able. This advice applies to the case where all else is equal. If your forces are orderly while theirs are chaotic, if you are excited and they are sluggish, then even if they are more numerous you can do battle. If your soldiers, strength, strategy, and courage are all less than that of the opponent, then you should retreat and watch for an opening. Therefore if the smaller side is stubborn, it becomes the captive of the larger side.

There are five ways of knowing who will win. Those who know when to fight ad when not to fight are victorious. Those who discern when to use many or few troops are victorious. Those whose upper and lower ranks have the same desire are victorious. Those whose generals are able and are not constrained by their governments are victorious. These five are the ways to know who will win.
This section is under FORMATION:

To perceive victory when it is known to all is not really skillful. Everyone calls victory in battle good, but it is not really good. Everyone says victory in battle is good, but if you see the subtle and notice the hidden so as to seize victory where there is no form, this is really good. It does not take much strength to lift a hair, it does not take sharp eyes to see the sun and moon, it does not take sharp ears to hear a thunderclap. What everyone knows is not called wisdom. Victory over others by forced battle is not considered good. In ancient times those known as good warriors prevailed when it was easy to prevail. If you are only able to ensure victory after engaging an opponent in armed conflict, that victory is a hard one. If you see the subtle and notice the hidden, breaking through before formation, that victory is an easy one. Therefore the victories of good warriors are not noted for cleverness or bravery. Therefore their victories in battle are not flukes. Their victories are not flukes because they position themselves where they will surely win, prevailing over those who have already lost.

Great wisdom is not obvious, great merit is not advertised. When you see the subtle it is easy to win—what has it to do with bravery or cleverness? When trouble is solved before it forms who call that clever? When there is victory without battle, who talks about bravery?

For those who will say that I am over exaggerating or that I am seeing what I want to see in the matter, you are part of the problem. The information is in books. Sun Tzu to the Chinese is probably revered more highly than George Washington is to the United States. Chairman Mao used The Art of War to defeat Chiang Kai-shek. I was a big fan of Kai-shek. My favorite modern military figure is Claire Lee Chennault leader of the Flying Tigers. Chennault worked closely with Kai-shek to hold off communism in China, but weak US policy after World War II lead to Mao taking over the country in 1949. Chennault warned of the possibility of future war with China in his WONDERFUL book Way of the Fighter published in 1949. In that book, that is now considered a rare book, Chennault predicted the trouble with Korea and Vietnam years before they occurred. It was a shame that nobody listened then.

Starting on page 505 of Joseph Campbell’s masterpiece called Oriental Mythology, published in 1962 and was part of four books he spent 12 years writing; he chronicles the beginning of communism in China quite startlingly. While China was showing propaganda pictures to the world such as a family sitting at the table under a picture of Mao, the following events occurred. Keep in mind this is just one account of many.

A man, aged twenty-two from Doi-Dura in th Amdo region was told by the Chinese that he required treatment to make him more intelligent. The Chinese at the time were telling Tibetans that they were a stupid inferior race and would have to be sup-planted by Russians and Chinese. They took blood tests of this man, his wife, and many others, and there are a number of corresponding reports from different parts of Tibet detailing the sort of operation to which this young man and his wife were the next day forced to submit. They were both taken to the hospital. “He was completely undressed, placed on a chair and his genital organs were examined. Then a digital rectal examination was carried out and the finger was agitated. He then ejaculated a whitish fluid and one or more drops fell on a glass slide which was taken away. After this a long pointed instrument with handles like those of scissors was inserted inside the urethra and he fainted with pain. When he came round the doctors gave him a white tablet which they said would give him strength. Then he received an injection at the base of the penis where it joins the scrotum. The needle itself hurt but the injection did not. He felt momentarily numb in the region until the needle was removed. He stayed ten days in the hospital and then a month in be at home….he had been married for only two years and prior to this treatment had very strong sexual feelings…Afterwards he had no sexual desire at all….”

Meanwhile, his wife “was undressed and tied down. Her legs were raised and outstretched. Something very odd which became painful was inserted inside the vagina. She saw a kind of rubber balloon with a rubber tube attached, the end of which was inserted inside the vagina. The balloon was squeezed and his wife felt something very cold inside her. This caused no pain and only the tube and not the balloon was inserted. She remained conscious throughout. Then she was taken to bed. The same procedure was carried on every day for about a week. Then she went home and stayed in bed for about three weeks,” and thereafter she had neither sexual feeling nor menstruation.

There will always be the types of individuals on this planet that seek to control others. And with the United States having the most advanced war weapons on the face of the planet, enemies of the United States will not attack us directly, because they can’t. But they will undermine us from within. They will use propaganda to divide our nation. They will use our movie stars to perpetuate their message. They will seek to wreck our economy, our life style. They will seek to get our politicians moving in a direction that is not of the people’s wishes. And they will be patient and strike when they are sure to win.
Don’t kid yourself. We are at war right now.

And if you don’t watch any of the above, watch this one.

This is extremely serious. Pay attention and understand what’s happening. That’s the first step to turning this around.
Nothing is impossible. For inspiration I look to our AMERICAN games. If we get our minds in the game, this could be our a nation instead of just a game from my favorite sports team. I look to this game as a metaphor that nothing is ever lost until the clock runs out of time. Here is Matt Bryant’s 62 yard field goal against the Eagles in the final seconds of the game. In theory, a kick from mid-field should be impossible.

Here is the view from the stands, under the Pirate ship, where I like to sit.

And the box seats.

And leaving the stadium after the big kick.

America needs a victory like this. We need to get our currency strong again, and to regain our strength on the world stage. It’s not too late.

Rich Hoffman

Butler County Sales Tax: A small step in the absolutely wrong direction

Butler County Sales Tax: A small step in the absolutely wrong direction

Listening to the arguments for the sales tax from Sheriff Jones, whom I like quite a bit, he did a great video with a group that I worked on with him, and I think he is completely sincere in his endeavors. I completely support his desire to sue the country of Mexico for the impact illegal immigration has had on the State of Ohio. I am willing to help him in any capacity to go after Mexico. That is a fight worth fighting.

But unfortunately, to support a sales tax is not the proper way to go. While it’s true that Butler County has its share of pools and golf courses, as Bill Cunningham professed on his WLW show on November 23rd, 2010. I do agree that the projected 7 million dollar shortfall in 2011 was caused by many years of uncontrolled spending. But to throw $10 million dollars more at the situation is not the embodiment of fiscal responsibility.

The comment of Donald Dixon proclaiming that we need to fix this problem before the state declares a fiscal emergency is eerily similar to Mike Taylor saying the same thing in the Lakota School system. What we have are two separate issues proclaiming similar end results. And what both issues share in common is a perception of what level of service the people of Butler County require and how much are the tax payers of the communities of the county are willing to spend on those services. Because if you look at some of the big budget hitters there is a reason so many employees of the sheriff’s office were at that meeting.

The police and fire departments are in much the same situation as the teachers in our schools. They are well compensated, and as the debate of public versus private sector positions, there is an extreme discrepancy. It brings to question how much we really need to spend for those services.

I can speak for myself; the only time I’d call a police officer would be to take a statement for court. If a villain stops by my place to threaten my family, or my property, I’ll take care of it. When Bill Cunningham suggested that if there was a threat of assailants putting a knife to the resident’s throats and that was the reason we need police coverage that was within 5 minutes from a 911 call, I don’t think that’s a feasible option. It is far more reasonable to rely on the 2nd Amendment to do the job it’s designed to do, and send the officer out to take pictures and testify to the situation in a court of law. Anything otherwise I would say is a convenience that we may not be able to afford. That’s my personal opinion.

I would go so far to say that the function of militias is to not only protect the country from foreign enemies, but domestic ones, and who is to say that such groups couldn’t be organized in each county or township. And the same with volunteer firemen, it has been my understanding that typically a community has such people that step up and fill those rolls, and are on call, and do it for the love of their communities. I am personally the type of person that would go to my neighbor’s house and eliminate a threat if they called me, and I could be there in minutes. Then it becomes an issue of training. Teachers use the same reasoning, yet it is proven that home schooled kids perform better than public educated kids from professional teachers.

Now I may be an extreme example. Many proponents of big government ideas would say that I want to live in the Wild West. I’m a guy that made sure my kids were driven to school by their mother most of their lives so they wouldn’t have to ride the bus. And when the school system imposed things upon my children I didn’t like, namely in sex education, my wife and I took them out for a year and home schooled them. That’s the way I think, so I can only toss the idea out there from my perspective which involves a tremendous amount of self-reliance which to me is the solution to everything. If people did for themselves and helped their immediate neighbor’s, the country would be a much stronger and better place. It’s all this collectivism that causes the trouble with budgets, when people want services that they should do themselves. Of course that costs money.

Some aspects of service are better hired out. With the Sheriff’s department, operating the jail, embarking on drug busts, and heavy duty organized crime are things we certainly need and should staff for those levels. And with Fire departments, there needs to be some professional staff that could train volunteers and provide urgent care.

But it is not acceptable to initiate any kind of tax. We have the taxes we currently do, and I’d argue that those are too high. But deal with budget we currently have. Don’t even consider increasing that budget with a tax increase. If we need to pay off loans, we’ll have to take money that is currently going to other services to pay down those debts. Just like a household that is trying to pay off their credit cards might skip going out to Chili’s for dinner and instead have a hot dog on the grill to save the money to be applied to credit card debt. That is how you deal with our budget deficit and how we make up the 10 million needed, with cutting out the excess. You still eat, but it’s the type of the meal that you deal with. Will it be painful? Yes. But is it more painful to impose a sales tax on a community that is buying products at Walmart, Kroger, every restaurant, Home Depot, and even pizza establishments? Especially when there is a serious risk of inflation devaluing the US dollar dramatically in 2011 and 2012 which will further impact sales in Butler County?

In Forest Park sits the Cincinnati Mills Mall, a beautiful building full of massive potential. And down the road is Tri County Mall. The local economy obviously cannot support two large malls. Tri County did the better job in the 90’s of adjusting to the economic climate. They built a second story and remarketed themselves. And to this day, they basically put Cincinnati Mills out of business.

One of the advantages in Butler County, and the reason the homes are nice, and there are pools in the yards, are because people can live there without the needless taxes. Businesses want to come to Butler County because it is affordable to do business. Even though this sales tax is small, the philosophy is going in the wrong direction. And we should not even consider traveling down that road.

It would be far more profitable to get the money out of Mexico than to take it from the people who come to Butler County to do their business.

And Mr. Jones, I’m serious. Just give me a call when you want to head to the border next so that story can be exposed. I want to see our Sheriff’s department sue the Mexican government for the trouble they’ve brought us through illegal immigration. You could generate a lot more than 10 million dollars for the impact to our community if you did that and Butler County would be much better for it.

Rich Hoffman

How To Make Government Smaller: Look to Nature

The discussion that TSA employees were thinking of organizing under a union occurred during the week leading up to the weekend of November 20th. Also during the week Rep Charlie Rangel of the house was found guilty of 11 ethics violations. There was a lot of discussion in the news as to whether or not the house would extend the Bush tax cuts. All this was on my mind while I was rappelling in the mountains with my family.

During one particular decent on a particular rock face that was covered with algae, some apparent similarities became very obvious to me in relation to politics. Algae is a unique form of plant life in that it is a photosynthetic organism that mainly lives in water, and is similar to seaweed. Algae differ from other plants in that they don’t have true leaves, roots or stems. That description sort of reminds me of the typical politician.

If you want to make government smaller, or get control of the out of control costs of your school system, all you have to do is cut the funding that is feeding those systems. It’s that simple. Your tax dollars are the water that feeds the parasites that cling to the rock face of our countries foundations. And the growth of these prevents the kind of sure-footing we all need in running our country.

In school system politics, we’ve seen how schools all across Ohio have developed trouble for themselves. Their collective bargaining has put teaching wages too high, at an unsustainable level. And the teacher’s unions refuse to take steps back now that it is obvious that the wage levels are simply too high. Their wages in some cases rival the wages of those in congress and governing of states. Schools are a good model for the rest of government, because we still have some control over the spending levels in schools. So as I was thinking of all this rappelling down the rock, it came to me that the reason the algae grows is because the sun shines on it intensely as that particular cliff faced south, and water ran pretty freely down that portion of the rock face, giving the algae the opportunity to grow.

Forget the protests, the signs, and the letters to legislatures for more laws. If you want to get control of the out-of-control government spending that we are seeing, cut the funding that allows the government to grow. Nature will force government to become smaller and more manageable. Cut the money that feeds the growth of the politician. And deny the attention from society toward the panicky politicians that seek the funding.

Metaphor KEY:

Algae = Political motivations and political body of government
Sun Light = The public attention on a given political topic.

Sum of the two = Control both aspects, and government will be forced to become smaller as a by-product.

If you want the answers to life’s complicated problems, nature always provides it.

And that is precisely why John Locke used so many natural comparisons in his Second Treaties of Government, which deeply inspired Thomas Jefferson and the Anti-Federalist movement of the 1780’s.

I would argue that just such a position is much-needed with the current problems populating our news broadcasts. What they all have in common is the need for your tax dollars to fund their activity. Cut their funding, and they will have to find some other rock to grow on, preferably in some other country.

Rich Hoffman

Doc Thompson makes a case for Education Reform

It was good to hear Doc Thompson cover the issue of needed education reform causing so much trouble in Ohio politics. The problem is a twofold issue. On one hand, the tendency of the state of Ohio to lean on property taxes to supply the funding for schools has allowed for politicians to ignore their constitutional mandate to supply adequate funding for schools within the state. The other problem is that staff wages and benefits have migrated too high to properly sustain, a fact that can no longer be overlooked. Case in point, Kevin Bright, superintendent of Mason Schools makes over $218,000 a year which is more than the governor of California makes. In fact, that’s more than any governor in the entire United States. Yet, somehow Mr. Bright believes that the work he’s doing in education has more value than the governor of a state. Kevin has been an instructor at Levy University at the OSBA’s Capital Conference and Trade Show, which school board members and superintendents all over Ohio attend each November to learn how to pass levies. Cutting busing is one of the strategies. I’ve been meeting with current and former school board members from multiple districts who have given me a step by step analysis of what goes on at that conference.

Currently, the amount of property tax that is paid in the Lakota School district is $11.29 per thousand dollars of home. So a home valued at 200,000 will pay around $2,258. So when the kid from Ohio State made a comment that the cost of the proposed levy would only cost $20 per 100,000 dollar per house, you would have to add $40 to the above figure, which is a lot.

One of the most ridiculous statements many people made toward me, and the rest of the No Lakota Levy group, and continue to make by the way, is that teachers deserve to make over $65,000 per year because they have master’s degrees, and are educating our future. And that those wages are on par with the rest of West Chester, and Liberty Twp. The problem is the wages really aren’t. West Chester is considered affluent with a household income of $73, 826. That means in most cases a husband and a wife are bringing home about $36,913 each to support that household. So in the case of the Lakota School System, we know that Lakota is spending over $31 million dollars a year on staff making over $65,000 per year each. That is almost twice the amount of the average resident taken individually.So it is quite an insult to the community for Lakota, and other school systems, to openly lie to the community and tell us that busing which only costs 2.8 million per year, or electives must be cut, when we have people that don’t work for the school system looking at these numbers and see the shell game for what it is.

It is with great relief that Doc Thompson joined The Big One recently, and took up the issue of these school levies particularly with Lakota, because as goes Lakota, so goes most of southern Ohio. Below, listen to Doc addressing this issue on the 18th and 19th of November, 2010. I didn’t contact him and ask him to do so. He did it on his own, the same with Darryl Parks and Scott Sloan. In many cases we’re all people who know a scam when we see it, and if any venture has formed between us, it is out of shared annoyance at the arrogance of school officials that are openly taking advantage of the tax payers. And Doc came here and saw this situation for himself, and his opinion is his own. He has not been influenced by anyone from the No Lakota group. And WLW is not bought and paid for by the republican party of Southern Ohio. I can personally proclaim the truth of that. But what we all have in common is that we do have conservative, and libertarian values whether it be as businessmen, entertainers, or radio personalities and we don’t like what we see. That’s why it was very refreshing to hear the fresh opinions of Doc Thompson coming to the immediate conclusion that reform needs to happen, and the unions need to get out of the way, quick.

Doc, is a native of the Buckeye State, growing up in a small town in Ohio. He spent most of his career in Cleveland but has also worked full-time in Lincoln, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque. He is a 5 time Marconi Award (the Academy Award of radio) winner for radio excellence. I’d like to welcome Doc and his Marconi’s to Cincinnati. I’ve listened to him for several weeks now. It was difficult at first because I was getting used to Scott Sloan in that 9 to 12 slot, and since Scott and I shared many ideas on what needs to happen in education it is only natural that you build a sense of loyalty. Doc has clearly earned my respect. In his discussion on education, he wasn’t shy about taking the complete education issues directly, and that is addressing phasing out the teachers unions, which is a conclusion I’ve come to realize is essential before true reform of education can be implemented. And besides, anyone that is on the radar of ThinkProgress, is a man who is good in my book. Listen to the clips in these articles, and be thankful that the Doc is in Cincinnati.

Such a task will take more than just ground troops and yard signs. These school systems have controlled for years newspapers, local politics, real estate firms, and television media, because in television there isn’t time to dig too deeply. A school like Lakota has direct access to over 18,000 students and their parents, so fliers sent home go directly to a potential voter. So it is extremely difficult to fight these types of tax initiatives.A radio station like WLW though and conservative radio in general is about ideas. It doesn’t have the luxury of relying on visual images to make their point. It’s only the voice behind the microphone and the idea behind the voice that can give weight to a concept. So the voice behind the microphone tends to be a person of great thought to start with, and such people are not easy to fool.

Welcome to Cincinnati, Doc. It’s great to hear that there is a great mind behind the microphone and that the power of the Big One can loom over these school districts and prevent the kind of manipulation that they are accustomed to. Because I am personally committed to holding off all of the levies, not just in Lakota but Little Miami, Mason, Talawanda, Fairfield, Lebanon, and Springboro, and forcing proper legislation committed to funding schools in Ohio.

I say that because leaders from all those districts have been meeting now, since the election, and we are forming a group called tentatively Educate Ohio. It will be a force to be reckoned with in 2011. And we will need allies at all levels to undo the destructive network that has formed under collective bargaining.

Rich Hoffman