Thursday, September 28, 2006

I've given lots of thought to the idea of this blog, and blogs in general. Thanks to all of you who took the time to send me an email and to post your comments here.

Here is what I've decided:

1) I'm going to continue to use this as a place to post information I find interesting and useful, for example the Forbes survey of successful entrepreneurs, below.

2) As far as my personal reflections and original writing, I'm going to keep that to short comments on the daily posts and a monthly summary that I'll combine with my monthly When & Where in Denver email. Once a month is all I have time to write, and it is probably more than most want to hear from me.

Denver When and Where will come out the Monday following the last Saturday of each month, which should give me enough time to write something you will find worth the investment of your reading time. Watch for it next Monday.

In the meantime, here is a facinating article from today's online edition of Forbes:

Fourteen self-made members of the vaunted Forbes 400 shared candid, contrarian and even comedic answers to 20 thoughtful questions--ranging from what they eat for breakfast and how they pray to the importance (or lack thereof) of getting an M.B.A. and what advice they would give aspiring entrepreneurs. You can search the list two ways: Read each titan's responses to all 20 questions--or peruse the entire group's answers to each of the 10 most thought-provoking ones. (We will add more names to this list in coming months.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

1540 The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) was recognized by the Pope.

1722 Samuel Adams was born, American revolutionary leader (d. 1803)

1779 John Adams was named to negotiate the Revolutionary War's peace terms with Britain.

1825 The first locomotive to haul a passenger train was operated by George Stephenson in England.

1928 The United States said it was recognizing the Nationalist Chinese government.

1939 Warsaw, Poland, surrendered after weeks of resistance to invading forces from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II.

1942 Glenn Miller and his Orchestra performed together for the last time, at the Central Theater in Passaic, N.J., prior to Miller's entry into the Army.

1954 ''Tonight!'' hosted by Steve Allen, made its debut on NBC-TV.

1994 More than 350 Republican congressional candidates signed the ''Contract with America,'' a 10-point platform they pledged to enact if voters sent a GOP majority to the U.S. House.

1996 The Taliban, a band of former seminary students, drove the government of Afghani President Burhanuddin Rabbani out of Kabul, captured the capital and executed former leader Najibullah.

2001 President George W. Bush announced plans to bolster airline security in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.


A new report of the medical crisis. When are we going to realize that health insurance is a ponzi scheme?

The Choice: A Longer Life or More Stuff
The New York Times

The most authoritative report on the cost of health insurance came out yesterday, and it’s sure to cause some new outrage.

The average cost of a family insurance plan that Americans get through their jobs has risen another 7.7 percent this year, to $11,500, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In only seven years, the cost has doubled, while incomes and company revenue, which pay for health insurance, haven’t risen nearly as much.

These spiraling costs — a phrase that has virtually become a prefix for the words “health care” — are slowly creating a crisis. Many executives have decided that they cannot afford to keep insuring their workers, and the portion of Americans without coverage has jumped 23 percent since 1987.

An industry that once defined the American economy, meanwhile, is sinking in large measure because of the cost of caring for its workers and retirees. For every vehicle that General Motors sells, fully $1,500 of the purchase price goes to pay for medical care. “We must all do more to cut costs,” G.M.’s chief executive, Rick Wagoner, said on Capitol Hill this summer while testifying about health care.

Mr. Wagoner’s argument has become the accepted wisdom about the crisis: the solution lies in restraining costs. Yet it’s wrong. Living in a society that spends a lot of money on medical care creates real problems, but it also has something in common with getting old. It’s better than the alternative.

To understand why, it helps to look back to a time when Americans didn’t worry much about health care costs. In 1950, the country spent less than $100 a year — or $500 in today’s dollars — on the average person’s medical care, compared with almost $6,000 now, notes David M. Cutler, an economist who wrote a wonderful little book in 2004 titled, “Your Money or Your Life.”

Most families in the 1950’s paid their medical bills with ease, but they also didn’t expect much in return. After a century of basic health improvements like indoor plumbing and penicillin, many experts thought that human beings were approaching the limits of longevity. “Modern medicine has little to offer for the prevention or treatment of chronic and degenerative diseases,” the biologist René Dubos wrote in the 1960’s.

But then doctors figured out that high blood pressure and high cholesterol caused heart attacks, and they developed new treatments. Oncologists learned how to attack leukemia, enabling most children who receive a diagnosis of it today to triumph over a disease that was almost inevitably fatal a half-century ago. In the last few years, orphan drugs that combat rare diseases and medical devices like the implantable defibrillator have extended lives. Human longevity still hasn’t hit the wall that was feared 50 years ago.

Instead, a baby born in the United States this year will live to age 78 on average, a decade longer than the average baby born in 1950. People who have already made it to their 40’s can now expect to reach age 80. These gains are probably bigger than the ones the British experienced in the entire millennium leading up to 1800. If you think about this as the return on the investments in medicine, the payoff has been fabulous: Would you prefer spending an extra $5,500 on health care every year — or losing 10 years off your lifespan?

Yet we often imagine that the costs and benefits are unrelated, that we can somehow have 2006 health care at 1950 (or even 1999) prices. We think of health care as if it were gasoline, a product whose price and quality have nothing to do with each other.

There is no question that the American medical system does suffer from a lot of waste, be it insurance industry bureaucracy or expensive procedures that haven’t been proven effective. But the No. 1 cause of the cost increases is still the one you can see at the hospital and in your medicine cabinet — defibrillators, chemotherapy, cholesterol drugs, neonatal care and other treatments that are both expensive and effective.

Not even most forms of preventive care, like keeping diabetes under control, usually save money, despite what many people think. The care itself has some costs, and, more important, patients then live longer than they otherwise would have and rack up medical bills. “When I make this point, people accuse me of wanting people to die earlier. But it’s exactly the opposite,” Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a researcher at Stanford Medical School, told me. “If these expenditures are keeping people alive, it’s money well spent.”

As Dr. Mark R. Chassin of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York says, “You almost always spend money to gain health.” Of course, the opposite is also true: the best way to reduce health care spending is to reduce health care itself.

Which is exactly what we’re starting to do. The growing number of families without health insurance are, in effect, families who have been kicked off the country’s health care rolls. Many will go without available treatment, will get sicker than they need to get — and will thereby save the rest of us money. They are what now passes for a solution to the health care mess.

The current situation is indeed unsustainable, a point that the conventional wisdom has right. The cost of health insurance can’t keep doubling every seven years, and wasteful spending — the brand-name drugs that are no better than generics, the treatments that haven’t been proved to extend lives or improve health — does need to be reined in.

But far too much of the discussion has been centered on this narrow idea. Somehow, going to the mall to buy clothes has come to be seen as a vaguely patriotic way to keep the economy humming, and taking out a risky mortgage is considered to be an investment in one’s future. But medical care? That’s just a cost.

It’s easy to be against high costs, and it will no doubt be hard to come up with a broad health care solution. But the way to start is by acknowledging that an affluent society should devote an ever-growing share of its resources to the health of its citizens. “We have enough of the basics in life,” Mr. Cutler, the economist and author, points out. “What we really want are the time and the quality of life to enjoy them.”


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

There is trivial difference between freshmen and seniors in their knowledge of America's heritage.

16 of 50 schools surveyed exhibited negative learning.

Overall, seniors failed the civic literacy exam with an average score of 53%.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sort of a MySpace for start-ups, site creates entrepreneur network

Andrew Johnson
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 23, 2006 12:00 AM

Greg Baskin said he was too immersed in the minutiae of running the online portion of his family's Anthem jewelry store to think about what he could do to improve the business.

That was before he discovered, an online clearinghouse of articles, tip sheets and other resources geared toward entrepreneurs.

In May, the site's founders introduced a discussion portal that lets business owners create a profile and communicate with other users. It is similar to how social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook work.

Since then, the number of individual visitors to the site has increased more than 45 percent and the number of page views has leaped more than 200 percent, according to Rich Sloan, co-founder and head coach of

"It's definitely an active community, one that seems to be growing while you watch it," said Baskin, director of e-commerce for Gold Mountain Mining Co., which sells jewelry and leather goods. "Honestly, I'm impressed with the quality of the members who seem to sign up on there. It's not a lot of garbage. There seems to be a lot of thought behind the responses that I received to my specific questions."

Sloan and his brother, Jeff, formed in Birmingham, Mich., in 2002 after years of running start-up companies and their own venture capital firm.

The brothers, who wrote a book on entrepreneurship and record a weekly AM radio talk show on the subject, plan to move the business' headquarters to Scottsdale as early as June. The radio show airs in about 50 markets but not in the Valley, though the podcasts are available on the Web site.

In addition to having family in the Valley, the owners consider Scottsdale an attractive business location because it has "young, dynamic, high-energy professional people, who are exactly the culture that StartupNation lives by," Rich Sloan said.

The company employs 18 people, and Sloan said he expects that number to increase to 20 in the next two months. Sloan said the company likely would hire more employees after its move.

He and his brother got the idea for the company after starting the Sloan Fund, a small-seed venture-capital fund. The more entrepreneurs they came in contact with, the more they realized they could help others with lessons they learned from their own endeavors.

"We started to recognize that one of our most valuable forms of currency . . . was our knowledge as entrepreneurs and our passion for entrepreneurship," he said.

Visitors and registered users can access all information on for free, something Rich Sloan said he and his brother were adamant about.

"The core concept was to keep the barriers as low as possible" for potential users, Sloan said. The site makes most of its money from advertisers.

Like many of the business owners, their site aims to help, the Sloan brothers have financed their business primarily through angel investors, or people who invest in a company to help business owners get to the stage of being ready for venture capitalists.

Sloan would not say how much money investors have provided.

"Angel investors provide a perfect combination of qualities to us for the kind of money we need at this stage in our growth," he said.

Robert Sussman, a Paradise Valley resident who is president of New York City-based hedge fund company Bentley Capital Management, has invested more than $500,000 in in the past six months.

Sussman said he was attracted to because of its potential to tap a niche market.

"There's less and less loyalty to big companies, and more and more people want to control their own destiny," he said.

The site's community portal differentiates it from other sites geared toward entrepreneurs, Sussman said.

Sherry Azzarella, vice president of communications for the Arizona Small Business Association in Phoenix, said new entrepreneurs often are so busy trying to get money in the pipeline that they neglect to devise long-term growth strategies.

A site such as can serve as a sounding board for business owners who need an outside perspective.

"There's lots of different scenarios in there for (entrepreneurs) to consider," she said. "I think the thing I appreciate the most as an educator . . . is the details in here and that the examples are so thorough."

"The thing is, when you're swimming in your details and (facing) constant interruptions eight hours a day, sometimes you just need a reality check - someone to wave a white flag in front of you and say, 'Did you think about this?' " Baskin said.

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-8280.


From the Denver Post this morning:

Podcast: Word of year, but a misnomer

By Kim Komando
Gannett News Service

Imagine listening to network news or a fantasy football show without your radio.

You can with podcasts, radiolike programs you download from the Web. You can listen to them whenever and wherever you wish.

Podcast was named the "Word of the Year" in 2005 by New Oxford American Dictionary. Nonetheless, many people haven't a clue about podcasts. The dictionary defines podcast as a "digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player." The word "podcast" is a contraction of iPod and broadcast. Podcasts were originally downloaded to Apple's iPod media player. Today, the name is a misnomer. You don't need an iPod, or any other music player.

You can listen to a podcast on your computer. And the programs aren't broadcast.

Podcasts are typically MP3 files. Technically, they are like music files, which you also can listen to on the computer. They can be transferred to and played on virtually any music player. Or they can be burned to a CD.

File sizes are generally small, even for programs with long running times. It usually takes less than a minute for someone with a broadband connection to download an hour-long program.

Thousands of podcasts are free. They run anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour. New episodes are created hourly, daily, weekly - depending on who creates them.

They are amazingly diverse in both quality and content. You can listen to movie reviews by famous Chicagoans Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper. Or listen to movie reviews by not-so-famous Chicagoans Adam Kempenaar and Sam Hallgren.

Some podcasts are professional. They cover just about any subject.

Others are amateur. You'll recognize these right away. Then, some podcasts are nothing other than infomercials.

Not all podcasts are intended for young ears. Some are explicit. There is no rating system, but explicit podcasts generally are identified as such.

Checking websites daily for new episodes would be tedious. That's why aficionados use podcatchers.

Podcatchers automatically check for new episodes of subscribed podcasts. If a new episode is available, it downloads it.

To use a podcatcher, you must subscribe to a podcast. Subscription instructions are typically on the podcast area of the site. You may download and listen to a podcast without subscribing to it.

Subscribing merely ensures that each episode is automatically downloaded.

Some common podcatchers are iTunes (, Yahoo Music Engine ( and Winpodder ( All are free. Check your favorite website for podcasts. Unfortunately, there's no standard area to look. lists them in the Technology area, in the Extras. Some require a nominal fee, but many are free.

Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about computers and the Internet.

Battle lines drawn on gift ban
Opposition group says ballot item would bar kids from scholarships. Backers of Amendment 41 dispute that the $50 limit extends to the activities of public officials' children.
By Chris Frates
Denver Post Staff Writer

A proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit gifts to public officials could affect everything from little league uniforms to college scholarships for government workers' children, an opposition group said Wednesday.

Proponents, however, called the claims bogus distractions, previewing what promises to become a heated debate over just how much the measure would ban.

Amendment 41 would prohibit cash and gifts of more than $50 to government employees, state elected politicians, other officials and their families.

"It will impact hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who certainly are not corrupt and are certainly not in the position to do favors for lobbyists," said Katy Atkinson, director of the No on 41 campaign that launched Wednesday.

For example, children of government employees probably could not accept college scholarships because it would be considered a gift of more than $50, Atkinson said.

The measure could also prevent businesses from sponsoring little league teams if a government employee's child plays on the team because the purchase of a child's uniform could be viewed as a gift, the group says.

Jenny Flanagan of Colorado Common Cause, an author of the measure, said, "We're not going after people's abilities to go live their lives."

"The opposition are coming up with bogus claims to distract from the real issues of the campaign," Flanagan said, adding that the measure is trying to prevent personal financial gain from public positions.

Atkinson also took aim at the ethics commission the measure would create, saying it would give individual members of the five-member panel subpoena power.

It also would not prevent lobbyists or lawmakers from sitting on the panel, she said, creating "real potential for a kangaroo court."

Shepard Nevel, an Amendment 41 proponent, said the ethics commission would be governed by the amendment and administrative procedures.

"It's simply not true that the commission could act in the manner they say it could," Nevel said. "They are fabricating concerns."

Staff writer Chris Frates can be reached at 303-954-1633 or

From today's

Young Internet Producers, Bankrolled, Are Seeking Act II
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 24 — Silicon Valley is awash in serial entrepreneurs, those who start a company, run it for a while, and then after success, failure or something in between, move on and start again.

Jay Adelson, 36, and Kevin Rose, 29, are parallel entrepreneurs — starting a second company just as the first one is taking off.

In 2004, the two started Digg, a fast-growing Web site that allows users to play editor by submitting links to news accounts around the Internet and collectively deciding which deserve top billing.

Now, while they are still very much involved with Digg, Mr. Adelson and Mr. Rose are preparing to announce that they have turned the Revision3 Corporation, an Internet video production firm they have been running on the side, into a full-fledged company.

Revision3 has close to $1 million in financing from a group of investors that includes Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape, and Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm that has backed the start-ups Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as Digg.

It is trying to capitalize on the rapid growth of Internet video, and its founders hope that their programming formula, a hybrid of the polished shows created for the networks and the amateur videos that populate sites like YouTube, will be the path to commercial success in this medium.

The company is built around a series of Internet television shows, or video podcasts, aimed at a young, technologically savvy audience, one steeped in “geek culture,” as Mr. Adelson, the chief executive of both Digg and Revision3, put it.

The most popular show so far is “Diggnation,” which is already in its 64th weekly episode. Each installment features Mr. Rose and a co-host, Alex Albrecht, 30, sitting on a couch, drinking beer and talking about some of the most popular stories that have turned up on that week. Invariably, most of these are technology-related.

The core audience for “Diggnation” consists of users of Digg, which has more than half a million members and attracted 8.5 million visitors last month, up from 2.3 million in August 2005, according to Mr. Adelson. (That is much higher than the 1.2 million visitors reported for August by comScore Media Metrix, a widely used source of Web traffic data, but it shows a similar growth rate. Mr. Adelson argues that the service does not properly measure the site’s niche audience.)

Digg’s success has made Mr. Rose, 29, an exemplar of sorts in user-generated media, the phenomenon behind the startling growth of YouTube and the popularity of MySpace and Facebook, among other recently minted Internet companies.

The “Diggnation” shows, which are frequently photographed in Mr. Rose’s walk-up apartment in San Francisco, last 45 minutes to an hour and involve a fair amount of banter, off-color jokes and digressions on topics like skateboarding and beer-bottle openers. “A lot of geeks do that, but don’t have a camera,” Mr. Rose said, in explaining what he does and its appeal to fans.

The show is not for everyone, but Digg fans appear to be loyal. Mr. Adelson said that each episode of “Diggnation” was downloaded about 250,000 times, and that all Revision3 shows, including one about hacker culture and a cooking program called “Ctrl-Alt-Chicken,” were downloaded a total of about 1.5 million times each month.

Exact audiences are difficult to measure, especially since video podcast viewers often use software that automatically downloads episodes onto their PC’s, and may not watch all of them.

But “Diggnation” routinely ranks among the most popular shows in the Apple iTunes podcast directory. It is also distributed on its own Web site and through YouTube and other services. By way of comparison, when ABC ran a two-month test and offered free episodes from four hit series on its Web site, including “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and “Alias,” it reported 5.7 million online requests for the shows.

Many of Revision3’s performers and producers, including Mr. Rose and Mr. Albrecht, gained experience on the cable television channel TechTV, so they come to the shows with production skills.

That puts the company on the leading edge of a shift in Internet video from user-generated clips to “a more controlled environment,” said Allen Weiner, a research director at the market research firm Gartner.

Mr. Weiner predicted that the popularity of this kind of programming would surge in the next few months. Whether it will turn into an enduring form of entertainment, let alone a profitable one, is an open question. “Let’s face it, this is an experiment in progress,” Mr. Weiner said.

Indeed, Revision3’s technologically hungry audience represents a subset of MySpace enthusiasts, but it is not clear how large a subset it is. The company has broadened its lineup of shows to embrace alternative music, cooking and comedy. But in doing so, Revision3 may run into the kind of challenges faced by Digg.

In June, Digg expanded beyond technology to include world news, business and other topics. Mr. Adelson said more than half the site was now made up of links to nontechnology news. But on a recent afternoon, the top link in the “world and business” section was an item about whether the movie character Napoleon Dynamite was a nerd or a geek. The six most popular items on the site were technology-related.

“It’s a niche,” said George Zachary, an experienced veteran Silicon Valley investor who is a partner in Charles River Ventures of Waltham, Mass., and Menlo Park, Calif.

Most Internet users have much broader interests, Mr. Zachary said, adding, “If you look at the top search terms of Yahoo and Google, it’s not tech products.”

David Sze of Greylock Partners is bullish about Revision3’s prospects but acknowledges that the appeal beyond its core technology audience is unknown. “How new programs will extend the user base remains to be seen,” Mr. Sze said.

Mr. Zachary applauds the company, saying: “One of the most important things going on in media is that people want an authentic point of view. That’s why things like ‘Diggnation’ are popular.”

At a taping of the show last week in San Francisco, Mr. Rose and Mr. Albrecht settled on a couch — each with a laptop, unshaven and in jeans and a T-shirt. As a camera rolled, they spent five minutes chatting about each of seven top items on Digg that week, including one titled “How Paris Hilton Can Help Your Web Development (seriously).”

Everything about the show, including the ads, is unscripted. It is basically up to Mr. Rose and Mr. Albrecht to say whatever they feel like about their sponsors, which include the Internet domain company and CacheFly, which helps Web sites transmit video.

“It was a bit scary out of the gate,” said Barbara Rechterman, executive vice president for marketing at GoDaddy, which is known for its racy Super Bowl ads. But she added, “It has worked really well for us.”

Mr. Adelson said Revision3 was already profitable and had monthly revenue from “Diggnation” alone ranging from $50,000 to $100,000. While that is modest, it happened without much effort. Advertisers, he said, called him asking to be on “Diggnation.”

With the new funds, Revision3 will be able to put together an advertising sales team, give regular contracts to performers, lease office and studio space and spruce up its Web site.


Thursday: I'm going to start publishing a weekly summary of what I've posted here and a Denver When & Where calendar (email me if you have events you'd like me to include on my calendar and attend.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

F. Scott Fitzgerald, novelist, short story writer and scenarist, (was born on this date in 1896, he died when he was 44 from a heart attack).

Mr. Fitzgerald in his life and writings epitomized "all the sad young men" of the post-war generation. With the skill of a reporter and ability of an artist he captured the essence of a period when flappers and gin and "the beautiful and the damned" were the symbols of the carefree madness of an age.

The best of his books, the critics said, was "The Great Gatsby." When it was published in 1925 this ironic tale of life on Long Island at a time when gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession (according to the exponents of Mr. Fitzgerald's school of writers), it received critical acclaim. In it Mr. Fitzgerald was at his best, which was, according to John Chamberlain, his "ability to catch the flavor of a period, the fragrance of a night, a snatch of old song, in a phrase."

(Characters in his writing) became as much a symbol of Mr. Fitzgerald's own generation as, two years later, Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt was to become a symbol of another facet of American culture.

He lived (the last years of his life) near Baltimore, Md., where he suffered a depression of spirit which kept him from writing. He made several efforts to write but failed, and in an autobiographical article in Esquire likened himself to a "cracked plate."

"Sometimes, though," he wrote, "the cracked plate has to be retained in the pantry, has to be kept in service as a household necessity. It can never be warmed on the stove nor shuffled with the other plates in the dishpan; it will not be brought out for company but it will do to hold crackers late at night or to go into the ice-box with the left overs."

And on this date in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack while he was on vacation here in Denver. In 1968 “60 Minutes” premiered on CBS.
Is this what's gone wrong with the RNC? Sounds a lot like the "Whiz Kids" that pulled LBJ under. Statistics are wonderful servants, terrible masters.

Lost Horizons
New York Times Magazine
September 24, 2006

In an arena that seems to value instinct, bravado, gall and undisciplined excess, Ken Mehlman (chair of the Republican National Committee) is empirical and deliberative. Why should a campaign manager direct resources based on a hunch when there is consumer data that can flush out Republicans living deep in Democratic enclaves? Why guess when you can measure what words will be most persuasive to the middle-class exurbanite voter marching on the StairMaster (watching, no doubt, the Republican ad that the Bush campaign placed on the closed-circuit gym channel after realizing that its voters were no longer at home watching the network news)?

When Mehlman talks about politics, he doesn’t talk about Machiavelli; he talks about “Moneyball,” Michael Lewis’s book about how the Oakland A’s employed statistical modeling to assemble a powerhouse baseball team, sending to pasture the old-line scouts with their years of calling it from their guts. “We are the party of ‘Moneyball!”’ Mehlman proclaimed, practically shouting and bouncing on the balls of his feet, talking to a room of slightly bewildered Republicans in California last year. “They measured everything. We are doing the same thing in politics.”

Tomorrow: A new direction for Wren's eJournal.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

On this day 200 years ago, the Lewis & Clark expedition returned to
St. Louis and civilization after over 3 years in the wild West. Two
day previous they had arrived in St. Charles. This was in the St. Charles
newspaper yesterday:

Lewis and Clark return to St. Charles
By Valerie Schremp Hahn


This case of deja vu reached back 200 years.

Just as the residents of St. Charles did 200 years ago, hundreds of people gathered on the city's Missouri River bank on Thursday afternoon to greet members of the Lewis and Clark Discovery Expedition, back from their journey west.

Just as the crew did back then, they greeted the people with booming cannons. And just as they did back then, they landed their canoes and pirogue at the southern end of the city - a spot now known as Bishop's Landing, outside the Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center.Advertisement
There were differences, of course. Back then, many of the people of St. Charles had given up Lewis and Clark and the crew for dead. On Thursday, plenty knew full well of the arrival. As the boats rounded the river bend and emerged under the Blanchette Bridge, spectators stood on their toes and lifted their digital cameras in a modern-day salute.

"Can you imagine, going out west and not knowing where the river runs?" said Genie Colonna of Florissant.

The expedition crew is made up of more than 200 people, and they take turns traveling on the boat, talking to the public and providing ground support. A few have made the entire trip or most of it; many joined when they could for a few weeks or months.

After watching the crew perform a brief ceremony onshore, the crowd followed behind them through the underbrush for a more formal welcome outside the boathouse.

"It's always a good day in St. Charles. Today is a great day," said St. Charles Mayor Patti York, wearing a period dress and hat topped with fluffy green feathers. "Welcome home, gentlemen. Welcome home."

Crew members mingled with the crowd after the ceremony.

Gary Ulrich, 66, of Affton, traveled nearly the entire journey. He'll remember its extremes: traveling through Montana in mid-May in 4 inches of snow, and slapping at mosquitoes so thick "we could hardly breathe without inhaling them." Lewis and Clark endured the same things.

After the crew's arrival in St. Charles in September 1806, the residents wined and dined them at their homes. And this crew would get similar treatment, this time at a catered dinner Thursday night at the boathouse.

They will make formal arrivals at Fort Belle Fontaine Park in north St. Louis County today and at the St. Louis riverfront on Saturday.

"Then, they'll have to say goodbye," observed Colonna, the woman from Florissant. "And so we'll start the tricentennial." 636-255-7211


Erik Hansen, Tom Peters’ Brand Manager, (recently gave a talk to a group of public speakers and he) had lots of fantastic ideas that he shared with the group. Here is my list of his top tips.

Business Basics and Branding
1. People Love Lists – Use numbered lists as a way of sharing ideas. That’s why I am creating his tips as a list.

2. “Screw Around Vigorously” (SAV) – Have a bias for action and “just do stuff.”

3. Use Rapid Prototyping – Rather than analyze everything to death, take action and learn from your failures. Fail often and fail quickly.

4. Building the Brand Creates the Brand – He quoted John Moore, author of Tribal Knowledge, “Contrary to what you may have heard or thought, Starbucks never sought to create a brand. Instead, the company passionately sought to create appreciation for a better tasting cup of coffee.”

5. Your Brand is “What People Say It Is” – Someone from the audience asked Erik to define a brand in 5 words. The brand is not your logo or marketing materials. It is what the public says it is.

6. Brand You, Not Your Business – There was much discussion on what was more important to brand – you or your business. In the case of speakers, Erik felt that since you are the product, you are the brand. Based on this recommendation, I am going to rework all of my websites (,, and others) into a website. Goal-Free Living, 24/7 Innovation, and my other work are just projects. I am working on an umbrella theme, such as, “Steve Shapiro, the Guy Who Helps You Get Out of Your Own Way.” Or something like that.

7. When Branding You, Find a Common Anchor – Erik talked about how the “!” on Tom Peters’ materials has become his icon that everyone remembers. This did not create the brand, but rather reflected the brand. Find a similar mark and use it on all of your websites, books, presentations, etc.

8. It’s All About Connections and Conversations – Your brand is the conversation that people are having about you and your products/services. And the more you can stimulate these conversation on the internet, the more buzz that gets created.

Content, Conversations, and Connections
9. Blog – Erik said that the five most important steps are, “1) Do good work and lots of it, 2) Blog, 3) Blog, 4) Blog, and 5) Blog” Do you think he likes blogging? He believes this is a great way of generating buzz, links and connections.

10. You Can’t Write Too Much – Tom Peters is known for writing volumes of content on his blog. To date, he has roughly 400,000 words. Given that the average book is 50,000 words, his blog contains as much content as 8 books.

11. Give People a Reason to Visit Your Website – If you don’t have compelling content, no one will visit. And no one will link to your site.

12. Promote Other People – On Tom’s website, he has his “Cool Friends.” This promotes other people in addition to Tom. Of course if you include content other than your own, this gives people more reasons to visit your site. And it gives more people reasons to link to your site. In fact, I am one of Tom Peters’ “Cool Friends.” Here’s the link.

13. Use Guest Bloggers – If you write a blog, get others to also write blog entries. This serves multiple purposes. It creates more content and more reasons for people to visit and to link. And, if you are like most people, you will want to take vacations from your blogging. If people see your blog is not updated regularly, they will stop coming back. Guest bloggers can create content when you don’t want to.

14. Share Everything – Instead of hording your intellectual property, give it away. This attracts more people, more buzz, and convinces buyers that you really know your stuff.

15. Place Comments on Other Blogs – Search for other blogs that might have similar topics. If you write about leadership, search for leadership. Comment on blog entries on other sites and include links back to your site. HINT: Leave comments on my blog; it’s a start.

16. Seek Out People With Similar Interests – Did you read a book on a topic that is related to yours, or maybe just of interest? If so, call them and start a real conversation. These people may become advocates, business partners, or idea generators.

17. Use Link Websites and External Websites – Look into sites such as technorati,, and others that can help bring more links to your site. Also take advantage of YouTube, Flickr, and others places where you can post pictures and videos, with links back to your site.

Other Ideas
18. Google Search Yourself – Go into Google and search for yourself every week. This gives you an idea of what others are saying. It also helps you determine if your marketing efforts are working.

19. People Love Cards – Tom created a number of “flash cards” that he sells and uses in his workshops. One set of cards were designed by IDEO.

20. Try New Things – Go for things you don’t normally go for. Read magazines you don’t normally read. These will give you new and different insights/perspectives.

21. “Aspire to be The Dumbest Person in the Room” – Quoted from Cool Friend Sally Hogshead’s book Radical Careering. Surround yourself with bright people. And, always look for the nuggets in what everyone is saying. There is gold everywhere.

22. Be Controversial – Tom’s book, Re-Imagine, gets 5 star ratings and 1 star ratings. Not much in the middle (personally, I love it). If you try to please everyone, you will please no one. In your speeches, say something provocative as a way of engaging the audience.

23. Minimize Friction – Make it easy as possible for people to get to you and your content.

24. Be Real - Before posting, I asked Erik to review the list. There were 23 tips on the list I sent him. So I suggested that if there were two more tips, it would round to 25. He wrote back, ” I like 23. 23 is a real number, unlike 25, which is a number that everyone would use. If I see that someone has 25 tips, I know that they worked it to come out to 25, meaning that there are some repetitive ideas in there. Whereas 23 is 23. You don’t try to come up with 23 tips. It just so happens that you extracted 23 tips from what I said. Therefore 23 is a lot more real than 25. So, I’d prefer to stay with 23.” And with that last tip, we have 24. Another real number.

Thanks Erik!

Stephen M. Shapiro, Author of
Goal Free Living-- How to Have the Life You Want Now!


A couple of more responses to my question, should I keep doing this blog?

Hi John,

I wanted to reply about your question regarding the blog. I have been
businer than usual lately as I have taken on some new responsibilites. I am
representing a marketing agency that helps small businesses. (small meaning
1 mil minimum annual revenue) I have been interested in the field for years
and studied it in college, but was handed an opportunity in printing and
stayed comfortable in that for many years.

Anyway, explainging why I have not been able to read all of your blogs,
although I did take time to read a couple. I think they are very
interesting, and I think you should continue with them.

Of course, one very large benefit of blogging is the fact that search engine
spiders pick up very easily on keywords you might place in the blog. They
are frequantly on the first page of google if you use unique key words.

It also is obviously a creative outlet, and that is a good thing in many
ways. As opposed to painting (which I have nothing against since I am an
artist) there can be a financial reward to blogging. (You may sell
paintings, but I am not so lucky) With blogging, not only can people find
you through searching, but also it may just help you think of new ideas that
otherwise you would not have developed.

As far as comments, I think if there were some dialoge started it would
domino, I am not sure how to get that rolling though. I will ask around.

I say stick with it!

Tom Huxley

I think we all have information overload. I generally look at very specific industry sites or specific topic sites. Not enough time to do and read everything. Ben Trujillo 303-995-7500

So I'm going to make a decision about what to do tomorrow. My thought now is that I'm going to keep posting the way I have been to keep the "raw date" in front of everyone, including me, and then once a week write a summary that I mail out, possibly with some humor. We'll see.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Insurance Horror Stories
New York Times
September 22, 2006

“When Steve and Leslie Shaeffer’s daughter, Selah, was diagnosed at age 4 with a potentially fatal tumor in her jaw, they figured their health insurance would cover the bulk of her treatment costs.” But “shortly after Selah’s medical bills hit $20,000, Blue Cross stopped covering them and eventually canceled her coverage retroactively.”

So begins a recent report in The Los Angeles Times titled “Sick but Insured? Think Again,” which offers a series of similar horror stories, and suggests that these stories represent a growing trend: more and more health insurers are finding ways to yank your insurance when you get sick.

This trend helps explain something that has been puzzling me: why is the health insurance industry growing rapidly, even as it covers fewer Americans?

Between 2000 and 2005, the number of Americans with private health insurance coverage fell by 1 percent. But over the same period, employment at health insurance companies rose a remarkable 32 percent. What are all those extra employees doing?

Now we know at least part of the answer: they’re working harder than ever at identifying people who really need medical care, and ensuring that they don’t get it. In the past, they mainly concentrated on screening out applicants likely to get sick. Now, it seems, they’re also devoting a lot of effort to finding pretexts for revoking insurance after they’ve already granted it. They typically do this by claiming that they weren’t notified about some pre-existing condition, even if the insured wasn’t aware of that condition when he or she bought the policy.

Welcome to the ugly world of American health care economics.

Health care is poised to become America’s largest industry. Employment in manufacturing, which once dominated the economy, has fallen 18 percent since 2000, to 14.2 million. Meanwhile, employment in the private health services industry has risen 16 percent, to 12.6 million. Another 1.3 million people are employed at government hospitals. So we’re quickly approaching the point at which more Americans will be employed delivering health care than are employed producing manufactured goods.

Yet even as health care becomes the core of the American economy, our system of paying for health care remains sick, and is getting sicker.

Because everyone faces some risk of incurring huge medical costs, only the superrich can afford to be without health insurance. Yet private insurers try to refuse coverage to those most likely to need it, and deny payment whenever they can get away with it.

The point isn’t that they’re evil or greedy (although you do wonder how the people who cut off the Schaeffers can look themselves in the mirror). The fact is that cruelty and injustice are the inevitable result of the current rules of the game. Blue Shield of California is a nonprofit insurance provider, yet as a spokesman put it, if his organization doesn’t follow the for-profit practice of selectively covering only the healthiest people, “we will end up with all the high-risk people.”

Now, before you panic about the state of your own coverage, you should know that the horror stories in The Los Angeles Times article all involve individual insurance; if your coverage comes via your employer, you’re reasonably secure against sudden cancellation.

But employment-based insurance is in rapid decline, as employers balk at the cost and more and more companies adopt Wal-Mart-style minimal-benefit policies. That’s why many people are turning to individual insurance — only to find out, in some cases, that they didn’t get what they thought they paid for.

And here’s the thing: it’s all unnecessary.

Every other wealthy nation manages to provide almost all its citizens with guaranteed health insurance, while spending less on health care than we do. And there’s no mystery why: we’re paying the price for pointless, destructive reliance on private insurers. Medicare, which is a universal health insurance program for older Americans, spends less than 2 cents of every dollar on administrative costs, leaving 98 cents to pay for medical care. By contrast, private insurance companies spend only around 80 cents of each dollar in premiums on medical care; much of the remaining 20 cents is spent denying insurance to those who need it.

If we had a universal system — Medicare for everyone — there would be no more horror stories like those reported by The Los Angeles Times. And we’d almost certainly spend less on health care than we do now.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

John S. Wren, M.B.A.

This is my web page, Link to John S. Wren, M.B.A.

Windows Live

 This is a test.

Link to Windows Live

Windows Live


Link to Windows Live

Yesterday I asked: Should I keep posting to this blog? Are you willing to help turn it into a dialog by posting your comments from time to time?

Thanks to everyone who sent me your comments. If you have any further thoughts today, please post them here as comments or email them to me at Again, I'll be glad to keep what you email me confidential or anonymous if you'll let me know that is what you want.

Saturday I plan on posting any further responses, and to write about my blogging experiement of the last two years and my decision about what to do here in the future.

Here are some of the responses from yesterday, a few others can be seen in the "Comments" at the bottom of yesterday's post.

John: I'm not in to blogging. I appreciate your efforts but it isn't my thing. David

Hi John,
I think you have a very worthwhile blog- certainly the first I've heard of mashups which was very fascinating..

I posted a comment to the David Brooks excerpt, however the only reason I was able to post was because I already have a blogspot account. It might be time consuming and less likely that site visitor's or folks on your e-mail list would set up either a blogspot or Google account in order log in to be able to comment. I would loosen the restrictions on comments and make them unmoderated (i.e. you don't have to approve them). You still can delete anything offensive or unfair (trolls or flamers) while making it easier for your list to dialogue with you.
Harv Bishop

Good morning,
I recieved your e-mail asking my opinion of your
e-journal. For me, it's too much info. My favorite
thing you have done is your weekly newsletter that
just lets people know where you will be and what you
will be doing. Its great to get an e-mail once a week
that lets me about the meetings in a short,
informative way. Its nice to know what you are doing
and where I can meet you if I have the time. The other
is to wordy. If an e-mail takes longer that 3 minutes
to read, or comes too frequently I tend to delete it.
I don't tend to search out blogs. Again, too much info
and too much time to use.
You are doing great work. Do not be weary in well
doing. What you do matters to a lot of people!
I love you! –Regan (my daughter)

My gut feeling is this (take it or leave it):

If you are blogging for others, then you are missing the opportunity for it to be a tool for your own personal advancement. You are SO SMART and have so much knowledge, and the rest of us should be very grateful that you share it with us. But the world is so busy and there are so much input for all directions, that it is often difficult to get to all the things that we should. Your few minutes every morning might be more productive for you if you were journaling for yourself with expectation of only your own comments and in pursuit of your own happiness... It isn't that people don't care about you and what you have to say, and it is not that what you say is a "waste of time." It is only that you are one voice among many.

It has been my opinion for several years now that with all of the "cyber" input, the best way to start a dialogue is face-to-face. That is why I enjoyed your Idea Cafe so much.

Mari Christie

While I may never read your postings or comment on them, I would encourage you to continue on in a fashion that time allows you.

I post a monthly Updates and Musings column to my web site. Don’t know if many read it, or if anyone does (actually, I know a few people do). (

My satisfaction comes from having a forum that is mine. I can speak my mind (to a point, this is after all my business site so I do refrain from getting too political or delving into social issues too much). It’s a place for me, and that I think is important.
John Grein
JAG Computer Service

I have not accessed your blog and probably would not at this time. The quality is quite good and I like your topics, but I have a lot of stuff to respond to online, especially since I am now teaching online for U of Phoenix.

Good luck with whatever decision you make. Your persistence is admirable.




I took a quick look your Blog. My candid answers to your querys:

Q: Should I keep posting to this blog?
A: Keep it if it brings you joy, or serves some other need / function for you. Don't quit or keep it because of what others say or do.

Q: Will you ever come back?
A: Probably not regularly, unless reminded by you in an emial, and only if it routinely helped my life in some way, and then only briefly.

Q: Will you ever comment on the posts so it turns into a dialog?
A: Probably not.

Q: Why or why not?
A: My time is very limited, and it is too time consuming to share my thoughts via keystroking, and I suspect that my entries would serve no purpose.

Sorry, I bet you wanted to hear something else.

You can post my comments on tomorrow's edition or not.

Talk to you soon.


If you aren’t getting the response you desire, then stop 


Keep it current...use infor pertinent to our American Freedoms.

Judy Williams, Liberty Day

John - I applaud your good work. Regrettably, I get so many e-mails every day (business related and non-spam, usually more than 40), I can hardly keep up with the crucial stuff. I rarely seem to have extra time for the interesting stuff that comes my way. I've only looked at your blog once and found it interesting. But, I just don't have time to peruse it on a more regular basis. Sorry. Christine Burtt

Hey, John,
I just don't do any blogs .... I don't have time to prioritize all the stuff I'd like to do, and blogs just didn't make it to the top of my list. I think they're a great idea, especially when surrounding something folks can be passionate about, but in general, I don't know how successful they are.

Whatever you do, I wish you the best of luck with your decision.

On a separate note, the RVC Fall Finance Forum is coming on November 14. I would love it if you could help us get the word out. Here's the link:


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Should I keep posting to this blog? Are you willing to help turn it into a dialog by posting your comments from time to time? I'm sharing a print out of today's entry with a couple of groups, and I've forwarded today's post to my email list. What do you think? Post your comments here online, or email me at Thanks!

On this day in 1878, Upton Sinclair, author of "The Jungle" and passionate crusader for social reform, was born. This is from his obituary in the New York Times:

"The English Queen Mary, who failed to hold the French port of Calais, said that when she died the word 'Calais' would be found written on her heart. I don't know whether anyone will care to examine my heart, but if they do they will find two words there--'Social Justice.' For that is what I have believed in and fought for."
Wherever Mr. Sinclair looked he saw corruption triumphant and virtue a dauntless but battered cause. "The vision of life that had come to me must be made known to the world, in order that men and women might be won from their stupid and wasteful ways of life," he thought. "Long ago my friend Mike Gold wrote me a letter, scolding me severely for what he called my 'Jesus complex'; I answered that the world needs a Jesus more than it needs anything else."

Forbes online discribes a hot business opportunity:

The Mashup Economy

Where (Google is) putting some of brainy Google's best minds, are the smallest things of all: virtual golf games, flight simulators and hotties in a security box.

Such Web candies are three among thousands of examples of "mashups," which blend software from multiple sources and recombine them on the fly to create novel entertainments and services. They will, (Google) figures, transform the business world, and help put Google everywhere... Yahoo! and Microsoft are moving the same way, and companies as diverse as Dell, Chevron and Marriott International are picking up on the trend.

The three search giants, plus Amazon , eBay and others, are all giving away code, offering up computing resources and begging hackers to build with them. Mashups are also moving fast into the corporate world thanks to alliances between the likes of Google and In the next year or two, executives say, there will be thousands more software products to chose from, built from mashups.

"We don't have the resources to build all these," says (Google’s) Schmidt. "We are critically dependent upon the creation of the developer community." The bigger he can make it, he says, the better off and unassailable he makes Google. It is, he says, "the No. 1 goal ... it creates so much good will, so much leverage, so much user traffic, so much benefit."

So much money. Most mashups cash in with Google's advertising engine on their sites, splitting the take with Google. If you have just one page, you don't make much, but some have many more. (Yahoo! has a similar service, called publisher's network, which is less broadly used.) Google also wants to grow the Internet as much as possible--the more interesting things there are, the more people will need Google to find them. And the better it understands what users are doing with a mashup--something that only the owners of the original data see best--the better its search results.

The term "mashup" comes from music, when two or more songs are mixed together to build a new sound. In software, they arise when someone develops a company's online maps, calendars, photos, search engines and other products, usually through relatively small amounts of code that is posted on the Internet. These outside developers take the application to new uses, usually through combining the data of several sites.

Monday, September 18, 2006

On this day in:

1709 Samuel Johnson born (d. 12/13/1784) English critic, biographer, essayist and poet (he must have been an influence on Benjamin Franklin, born 1/17/1706)
1793 President George Washington laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol.
1851 The first edition of The New York Times was published.
1927 The Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System (later CBS)

Check out the first edition of “God’s Politics”--The Blog--a new project done in an exciting partnership between Sojourners and BeliefNet. The God’s Politics Blog will provide fresh conversation about faith, politics, and society--every day-- from “Jim Wallis and friends

What do you think, will "God's Politics" provide a useful source of information and opinion for Christians who want to be good citizens?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

On this day in:
1787 The U.S. Constitution was completed and signed by a majority of delegates attending the constitutional convention in Philadelphia.
1920 The American Professional Football Association - a precursor of the National Football League - was formed in Canton, Ohio.
1972 The comedy series ''M.A.S.H.'' premiered on CBS.
1976 NASA unveiled the space shuttle Enterprise in Palmdale, Calif.


Faith without works is dead, we are told.

Jesus said: Take up your cross. It is not something you go looking for in faraway places. Sooner or later the Lord hands us a cross, and our job is to recognise it. For each of us there are events that made a difference. No two of us experience the same joyful or sorrowful mysteries. Maybe it was a meeting with a friend, a lover or an enemy. Maybe it was a sickness, or a triumph. We try to see our life through the eyes of faith, with a confidence that God in his Providence can draw good out of the most awful and unwelcome happenings as well as the moments of joy. It is not that we have all the answers, but we have enough to sustain our faith and love. Faith is the fruit of love, that is, of darkness. It is based on God's faithfulness.


Last Friday Tracy Aiello shared the moment of her reconversion. She was in mass and the words took on a new meaning. She suddenly realized that there was one source of unconditional love, and accepting that love she was able to take up her cross in a new way.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

On this day in:
1875 J. C. Penney, American business leader, was born. d. 2/12/1971
1893 Settlers took part in a land run in Oklahoma's ''Cherokee Strip.''
1940 President Roosevelt set up the first peacetime military draft in U.S. history
1972 ''The Bob Newhart Show'' premiered on CBS.

One small fragment of the Pope’s comments on the role of religion in the world today has been taken out of context and sensationalized. It is important to read the whole talk, or at least these concluding thoughts that underscore the main point of his University lecture, that all great religions share a common orientation, that they all recognize “there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamed of in your philosophy”:

In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology.

Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought: to philosophy and theology.
For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding.

Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: “It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being - but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss”.

The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time.


New York Times
Capitalism With a Heart

Compassionate conservatism has been an expensive bust in Washington. But an intriguing alternative is emerging around the country: compassionate capitalism.

Tycoons have traditionally discovered their inner saint only after exorcising the inner capitalist. Carnegie, Ford and Gates made their money and then gave it away. But Google’s young founders are already taking on poverty, disease and global warming, and they’re not just dispensing cash. They’ve set up their philanthropy as a for-profit organization.

To many liberals, this sounds dangerously oxymoronic. How can philanthropy be profitable? A robber baron is supposed to cleanse his hands by donating his lucre to a foundation run by enlightened beings untainted by commerce (except for the dividends going into their trust funds).

This new Google venture also makes conservatives suspicious. It sounds like the “corporate social responsibility” mantra used by executives trying to be hip — and impress young trophy wives’ friends — by financing politically correct boondoggles with shareholders’ money.

But to a new generation of entrepreneurs, there’s no conflict between capitalism and compassion. Google’s philanthropy is the logical extension of a doing-well-by-doing-good strategy followed by companies like Ben and Jerry’s, Starbucks and REI. The movement’s philosopher is John Mackey, the co-founder of Whole Foods.
Mackey is a passionate environmentalist, an advocate of animal rights, a promoter of sustainable development — and a self-proclaimed libertarian. Call him a bleeding-heart libertarian. He wants to spread the free-market gospel, but he sees an obstacle.

“Corporations are lifting billions of people out of poverty,” he says. “Why are they so hated?”

Mackey’s answer is that capitalism has a branding problem: its practitioners are experts at marketing everything except their own system. They justify corporate philanthropy, like donating to the United Way, not because it’s virtuous but because it buys public good will and thus contributes to the company’s bottom line. To hard-core free-marketeers, the corporation’s only mission is to generate profits for shareholders.

To Mackey, that’s too narrow a vision. He thinks that socially conscious companies like Whole Foods have flourished because their founders, employees and customers want a corporation to have grander goals than enriching shareholders. Mackey defines his company’s mission as improving the health and well-being of everyone on the planet. Before taking the company public, he told investors that he was going to devote 5 percent of the profits to philanthropy, so they can’t complain now that he’s robbing them.

Nor can Google’s shareholders, because its founders also warned investors of their philanthropic plans. As Katie Hafner reported in The Times, they’ve given $1 billion in seed money to, and set up the philanthropy as a for-profit organization so it can work with venture capitalists, start companies and use any profits to finance further endeavors. One of its first projects is developing a car that gets 100 miles per gallon.

It’s smart of Google’s founders to try using capitalist tools to save the planet; the market’s discipline should keep their philanthropy from backing too many lost causes. Still, whatever accomplishes, I’d bet that it will pale next to the social good accomplished by

The company’s founders may not have set out to help humanity with their search engine, but they have enriched countless lives by spreading ideas and connecting people. Maybe they’re also smart enough to come up with a way to save gasoline, but what do they know about cars that Toyota doesn’t?

If you read Adam Smith’s famous passage about the invisible hand causing capitalists to unwittingly serve the public interest, you might conclude that Google’s founders are better off investing their time and money in improving their core business. As Smith wrote, “I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.”

But I don’t think Smith would have any problem with He also realized that humans are motivated by more than self-interest. He wrote a long book on moral sentiments. If compassionate capitalism is a more appealing brand, if Google and Whole Foods are using philanthropy to strengthen the invisible hand, even Smith would say they’re doing good.

The true entrepreneur, the grassroots capitalist, hears and then acts. Inspiration is converted into effective action.

Luke 6:46-49

Jesus said to the disciples, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house."

The process of doing just that is what we talk about at the IDEA Cafe Meetup:

I- Inspiration
D- Develop Alternatives (keep listening)
E- Evaluated Alternatives (discernment)
A- Act!

At each IDEA Cafe Meetup we hear successful entrepreneurs share their startup experience, and we do brainstorming. If you are starting a new project, a new business, a new career, or a new campaign, join us! We meet the 4th Friday of each month at Panera Bread, 13th & Grant, in Denver, and we hope to help other meetings get started in other cities. Attendance is limited to the first 12 to RSVP at, RSVP "no" to our next meeting to get an early invitation to future meetings.

Friday, September 15, 2006

On this day
1254 - Marco Polo, Italian explorer was born(d. 1324)
1949 - The television series The Lone Ranger premieres on the ABC.
1959 - Nikita Khrushchev becomes the first Soviet leader to visit the United States.
1982 - The first issue of USA Today is published by Gannett.


Any time that OPEC got a little too overzealous in pushing up oil prices back in the 1970’s, the legendary Saudi oil minister Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani was fond of telling his colleagues: Remember, the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.
What he meant was that the Stone Age ended because people invented alternative tools. The oil age is also not going to end because we run out of oil. It will end because the price of oil goes so high that people invent alternatives. Mr. Yamani was warning his colleagues not to get too greedy and stimulate those alternatives.
Too late — oil at $70 a barrel has done just that. One of the most promising of those alternatives is ethanol, an alcohol fuel made from corn, sugar cane or any biomass.

Thomas Friedman, New York Times

Is this just false hope? Yes according to a chemical engineer who visited our Optimist Club last Wednesday. He says biofuels make sense if they are produced from waste products such as Coors operation here in Denver. But there is a net energy loss when biofuels are produced from corn and other crops, according to him.


Consider this: The United States economy is far richer and more productive than it was a generation ago. Statistics on economic growth aside, think of all the technological advances that have made workers more productive over the past generation. In 1973, there were no personal computers, let alone the Internet. Even fax machines were rare, expensive items, and there were no bar-code scanners at checkout counters. Freight containerization was still uncommon. The list goes on and on.

Yet in spite of all this technological progress, which has allowed the average American worker to produce much more, we’re not sure whether there was any rise in the typical worker’s pay. Only those at the upper end of the income distribution saw clear gains — gains that were enormous for the lucky few at the very top.
That’s why the debate over whether the middle class is a bit better off or a bit worse off now than a generation ago misses the point. What we should be debating is why technological and economic progress has done so little for most Americans, and what changes in government policies would spread the benefits of progress more widely.

Paul Krugman, New York Times

I heard Kenneth Boulding say, “The problem is the economists pie chart. There is no pie, just a bunch of damned little tarts.”

The more the government tries to divide the pie evenly, the more problems that are created for the average person. Government at all levels has done a record amount of pie-slicing since 1973. The Great Society is killing the average person. Paul Krugman doesn’t understand this, so he and others keep suggesting more government programs that just dig the hole deeper.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

On this day:
1886 The typewriter ribbon was patented.
1948 Groundbreaking for the United Nations Headquarters in NYC.
1965 Opening of the final sessions of Vatican II.
1940 Larry Brown, basketball coach. Denver Nuggets ’75-79, now New York Knicks.


Labor-starved Wyoming, with its energy boom in coal, oil and natural gas, is vigorously courting workers.


David Brooks in his NYT column today says:
I interview politicians for a living, and every time I brush against Bush I’m reminded that this guy is different. There’s none of that hunger for approval that is common to the breed. This is the most inner-directed man on the globe.
The other striking feature of (Bush) is that he possesses an unusual perception of time. Washington, and modern life in general, encourages people to think in the short term. But Bush, who stands aloof, thinks in long durations.


Why now? Just when rumor has it that blogs are replacing books, the New York Times Best Sellers List has now created a new category for best-selling political books. Here is the most recent with a link at the bottom, I had a hard time finding it in the online edition of the paper:

September 7, 2006
Hardcover Political Best Sellers
1 STATE OF EMERGENCY, by Patrick J. Buchanan. (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's, $24.95). The conservative commentator argues that unchecked immigration means that the American Southwest is being reconquered by Mexico, and offers a border-security plan.
2 FIASCO, by Thomas E. Ricks. (The Penguin Press, $27.95.) How the Bush administration's and the military's failure to understand the developing Iraqi insurgency contributed to its further growth.
3 THE WORLD IS FLAT, by Thomas L. Friedman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.) A columnist for The Times analyzes 21st-century economics and foreign policy.
4 THE LOOMING TOWER, by Lawrence Wright. (Knopf, $27.95.) The road to 9/11 as seen through the lives of terrorist planners and the F.B.I. counter-terrorism chief.
5 DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE, by Anderson Cooper. (HarperCollins, $24.95.) The CNN correspondent describes covering the tsunami in Sri Lanka, the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina.
6 GODLESS, by Ann Coulter. (Crown Forum, $27.95.) The columnist argues that liberalism is a religion with sacraments, a creation myth and a clergy.
7 A HECKUVA JOB, by Calvin Trillin. (Random House, $12.95.) The humorist, essayist and novelist takes on the Bush administration in verse.
8 THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE, by Ron Suskind. (Simon & Schuster, $27.) The role of ideology and personality in the Bush administration's decision to go to war.
9. CONSERVATIVES WITHOUT CONSCIENCE, by John W. Dean. (Viking, $25.95.) The authoritarian character of contemporary conservative beliefs and attitudes.
10 THE SHIA REVIVAL, by Vali Nasr. (Norton, $25.95.) American foreign policy and conflicts in the middle east.
11* WITHOUT PRECEDENT: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE 9/11 COMMISSION, by Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton. The co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission tell the inside story.
12* TAKE THIS JOB AND SHIP IT, by Byron L Dorgan. (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's, $24.95.) The Democratic senator from South Dakota contends that what's good for corporations is not good for the U.S. economy. (dagger)

Rankings reflect aggregated sales for the two weeks ended August 26 and September 3 at almost 4,000 bookstores plus wholesalers serving 50,000 other retailers, statistically weighted to represent all such outlets nationwide. An asterisk (*) indicates that a book's sales are barely distinguishable from those of the book above. A dagger () indicates that some bookstores report receiving bulk orders.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On this date is 1788, the Constitutional Convention set the date for our first national election and named New York City as our temporary National Capitol.

The best business calendar in Denver is now in the Denver Post:

The Post’s business calendar now lists the Denver IDEA Café, so RSVP now if you want one of the 12 seats for next week’s startup workshop.
http:// .


By this time next year, the U.S. economy will face a recession that will drag the Colorado economy down with it in 2008, U.S. Bank regional economist Tucker Hart Adams predicted Tuesday.

I have a friend in corporate sales. Recently I asked him how the economy was affecting his business. His reply: "I refuse to participate in the recession! I've done some of my best work during the worst economic conditions. A poor economy simply gives people a good excuse for failure." He is an example of action, not overthinking. He loves economic slowdowns. "The stock market taking a dive is a good kick in the rear for business. It's a chance to slim down and get rid of the fat that we should have been trimming all along."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving. William Shakespeare

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are. John Wooden


On this day in 1954 the TV show Lassie aired for the first time.


Many small-business applications that fly under the radar, widely unknown to larger businesses. Limited budgets and other priorities mean that a large variety of products do not receive enough attention.

Small Business Internet Tools:

The problem is knowing which tools to pick. I've put off using Constant Contact for over a year because I'm afraid my emails will get screened out more when I mail to my e-newsletter list.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Closing in on the Future of Higher Education

From Institutional Performance:

Secretary Spellings' Commission on the Future of Higher Education recently released its third-draft report (08/03/2006)...The leading sentence in the current report's third recommendation captures succinctly and perfectly the challenge addressed by institutional performance improvement services and the premise of this blog:

"To meet the challenges of the 21st century, higher education must change from a system primarily based on reputation to one based on performance."

Here is the exact quote from the report:

3. To meet the challenges of the 21st century, higher education must change from a
system primarily based on reputation to one based on performance. We urge the
creation of a robust culture of accountability and transparency throughout higher
education. Every one of our goals, from improving access and affordability to
enhancing quality and innovation, will be more easily achieved if higher education
embraces and implements serious accountability measures.
"The point is not who says the words, but whether they are true or not." Plato

The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) is an interdisciplinary network of academicians, professionals, former group members, and families who study and educate the public about social-psychological influence and control, authoritarianism, and zealotry in cultic groups, alternative movements, and other environments. Founded in 1979 as AFF (American Family Foundation), ICSA took on its current name in late 2004 to better reflect the organization's focus and increasingly international and scholarly dimensions.

ICSA, the leading professional organization concerned about cultic groups and psychological manipulation, is known for its professionalism and capacity to respond effectively to families, former and current group members, helping professionals, and scholars.
How to form a cult.

The Harvard Mental Health Letter
Volume 7, Number 8 February 1981,
reprinted in AFF News Vol. 2 No. 5, 1996

Cults represent one aspect of a worldwide epidemic of ideological totalism, or fundamentalism. They tend to be associated with a charismatic leader, thought reform, and exploitation of members. Among the methods of thought reform commonly used by cults are milieu control, mystical manipulation, the demand for purity, a cult of confession, sacred science, loading the language, doctrine over person, and dispensing of existence. The current historical context of dislocation from organizing symbolic structures, decaying belief systems concerning religion, authority, marriage, family, and death, and a "protean style" of continuous psychological experimentation with the self is conducive to the growth of cults. The use of coercion, as in certain forms of "deprogramming," to deal with the restrictions of individual liberty associated with cults is inconsistent with the civil rights tradition. Yet legal intervention may be indicated when specific laws are broken.

Two main concerns should inform our moral and psychological perspective on cults: the dangers of ideological totalism, or what I would also call fundamentalism; and the need to protect civil liberties.

There is now a worldwide epidemic of totalism and fundamentalism in forms that are political, religious or both. Fundamentalism is a particular danger in this age of nuclear weapons, because it often includes a theology of Armageddon--a final battle between good and evil. I have studied Chinese thought reform in the 1950s as well as related practices in McCarthyite American politics and in certain training and educational programs. I have also examined these issues in work with Vietnam veterans, who often movingly rejected war related totalism; and more recently in a study of the psychology of Nazi doctors.

Certain psychological themes which recur in these various historical contexts also arise in the study of cults. Cults can be identified by three characteristics:

a charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power;
a process I call coercive persuasion or thought reform;
economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.
Milieu Control
The first method characteristically used by ideological totalism is milieu control: the control of all communication within a given environment. In such an environment individual autonomy becomes a threat to the group. There is an attempt to manage an individual's inner communication. Milieu control is maintained and expressed by intense group process, continuous psychological pressure, and isolation by geographical distance, unavailability of transportation, or even physical restraint. Often the group creates an increasingly intense sequence of events such as seminars, lectures and encounters which makes leaving extremely difficult, both physically and psychologically. Intense milieu control can contribute to a dramatic change of identity which I call doubling: the formation of a second self which lives side by side with the former one, often for a considerable time. When the milieu control is lifted, elements of the earlier self may be reasserted.

Creating a Pawn
A second characteristic of totalistic environments is mystical manipulation or planned spontaneity. This is a systematic process through which the leadership can create in cult members what I call the psychology of the pawn. The process is managed so that it appears to arise spontaneously; to its objects it rarely feels like manipulation. Religious techniques such as fasting, chanting and limited sleep are used. Manipulation may take on a special intense quality in a cult for which a particular chosen' human being is the only source of salvation. The person of the leader may attract members to the cult, but can also be a source of disillusionment. If members of the Unification Church, for example, come to believe that Sun Myung Moon, its founder, is associated with the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, they may lose their faith. Mystical manipulation may also legitimate deception of outsiders, as in the "heavenly deception" of the Unification Church and analogous practices in other cult environments. Anyone who has not seen the light and therefore lives in the realm of evil can be justifiably deceived for a higher purpose. For instance, collectors of funds may be advised to deny their affiliation with a cult that has a dubious public reputation.

Purity and Confession
Two other features of totalism are a demand for purity and a cult of confession. The demand for purity is a call for radical separation of good and evil within the environment and within oneself. Purification is a continuing process, often institutionalized in the cult of confession, which enforces conformity through guilt and shame evoked by mutual criticism and self-criticism in small groups.

Confessions contain varying mixtures of revelation and concealment. As Albert Camus observed, "Authors of confessions write especially to avoid confession, to tell nothing of what they know." Young cult members confessing the sins of their precultic lives may leave out ideas and feelings that they are not aware of or reluctant to discuss, including a continuing identification with their prior existence. Repetitious confession, especially in required meetings, often expresses an arrogance in the name of humility. As Camus wrote: "I practice the profession of penitence to be able to end up as a judge," and, "The more I accuse myself, the more I have a right to judge you."

Three further aspects of ideological totalism are "sacred science," "loading of the language," and the principle of "doctrine over person." Sacred science is important because a claim of being scientific is often needed to gain plausibility and influence in the modern age. The Unification Church is one example of a contemporary tendency to combine dogmatic religious principles with a claim to special scientific knowledge of human behavior and psychology. The term loading the language' refers to literalism and a tendency to deify words or images. A simplified, cliche-ridden language can exert enormous psychological force reducing every issue in a complicated life to a single set of slogans that are said to embody the truth as a totality. The principle of doctrine over person' is invoked when cult members sense a conflict between what they are experiencing and what dogma says they should experience. The internalized message of the totalistic environment is that one must negate that personal experience on behalf of the truth of the dogma. Contradictions become associated with guilt: doubt indicates one's own deficiency or evil.

Perhaps the most significant characteristic of totalistic movements is what I call "dispensing of existence." Those who have not seen the light and embraced the truth are wedded to evil, tainted, and therefore in some sense, usually metaphorical, lack the right to exist. That is one reason why a cult member threatened with being cast into outer darkness may experience a fear of extinction or collapse. Under particularly malignant conditions, the dispensing of existence is taken literally; in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and elsewhere, people were put to death for alleged doctrinal shortcomings. In the People's Temple mass suicide-murder in Guyana, a cult leader presided over the literal dispensing of existence by means of a suicidal mystique he himself had made a central theme in the group's ideology. The totalistic impulse to draw a sharp line between those who have the right to live and those who do not is especially dangerous in the nuclear age.

Historical Context
Totalism should always be considered within a specific historical context. A significant feature of contemporary life is the historical (or psycho historical) dislocation resulting from a loss of the symbolic structures that organize ritual transitions in the life cycle, and a decay of belief systems concerning religion, authority, marriage, family, and death. One function of cults is to provide a group initiation rite for the transition to early adult life, and the formation of an adult identity outside the family. Cult members have good reasons for seeing attempts by the larger culture to make such provisions as hypocritical or confused.

In providing substitute symbols for young people, cults are both radical and reactionary. They are radical because they suggest rude questions about middle-class family life and American political and religious values in general. They are reactionary because they revive pre-modern structures of authority and sometimes establish fascist patterns of internal organization. Furthermore, in their assault on autonomy and self-definition some cults reject a liberating historical process that has evolved with great struggle and pain in the West since the Renaissance. (Cults must be considered individually in making such judgments. Historical dislocation is one source of what I call the "protean style." This involves a continuous psychological experimentation with the self, a capacity for endorsing contradictory ideas at the same time, and a tendency to change one's ideas, companions and way of life with relative ease. Cults embody a contrary restricted style,' a flight from experimentation and the confusion of a protean world. These contraries are related: groups and individuals can embrace a protean and a restricted style in turn. For instance, the so-called hippie ethos of the 1960s and 1970s has been replaced by the present so-called Yuppie preoccupation with safe jobs and comfortable incomes. For some people, experimentation with a cult is part of the protean search.

The imagery of extinction derived from the con temporary threat of nuclear war influences patterns of totalism and fundamentalism throughout the world. Nuclear war threatens human continuity itself and impairs the symbols of immortality. Cults seize upon this threat to provide immortalizing principles of their own. The cult environment supplies a continuous opportunity for the experience of transcendence -- a mode of symbolic immortality generally suppressed in advanced industrial society.

Role of Psychology
Cults raise serious psychological concerns, and there is a place for psychologists and psychiatrists in understanding and treating cult members. But our powers as mental health professionals are limited, so we should exercise restraint. When helping a young person confused about a cult situation, it is important to maintain a personal therapeutic contract so that one is not working for the cult or for the parents. Totalism begets totalism. What is called deprogramming includes a continuum from intense dialogue on the one hand to physical coercion and kidnapping, with thought-reform-like techniques, on the other. My own position, which I have repeatedly conveyed to parents and others who consult me, is to oppose coercion at either end of the cult process. Cults are primarily a social and cultural rather than a psychiatric or legal problem. But psychological professionals can make important contributions to the public education crucial for dealing with the problem. With greater knowledge about them, people are less susceptible to deception, and for that reason some cults have been finding it more difficult to recruit members.

Yet painful moral dilemmas remain. When laws are violated through fraud or specific harm to recruits, legal intervention is clearly indicated. But what about situations in which behavior is virtually automatized, language reduced to rote and cliche, yet the cult member expresses a certain satisfaction or even happiness? We must continue to seek ways to encourage a social commitment to individual autonomy and avoid coercion and violence.

Robert Jay Lifton, M.D. is Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His most recent book, written with Erik Markuson, is The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocaust and Nuclear Threat (New York, Basic Books, 1990) .

This article was originally published in The Harvard Mental Health Letter, Volume 7, Number 8, February 1981 and was reprinted with permission in AFF News, Vol. 2, No. 5, 1996.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Today is David Packard's birthday, he was born in 1912.

He and his business partner Hewitt were the ultimate entrepreneurs, taking Hewitt-Packard from garage to Fortune 500. The key to their growth, most agree, was the HP Way of treating employees.

They were criticized for the HP Way in the beginning. This is from a very interesting article about them in the newsletter of their Alma Mater, Stanford:

“Somehow, we got into a discussion of the responsibility of management,” Packard later told Peninsula journalist and historian Ward Winslow, ’52. “Holden made the point that management’s responsibility is to the shareholders -- that’s the end of it. And I objected. I said, ‘I think you’re absolutely wrong. Management has a responsibility to its employees, it has a responsibility to its customers, it has a responsibility to the community at large.’ And they almost laughed me out of the room.”

I wonder what David Packard would think of HP today.

Scott Shires, owner of the Campaign Compliance Center spoke to our South Denver Optimist Club yesterday.

Shires told us that 10 wealthy individuals are controlling the political process in Colorado. Today most votes are cast through absentee ballots, so this fall the elections will be decided by October 15. No wonder the grassroots is dieing! Grass roots get out the vote efforts on election day are now nearly useless.

Scott suggests changes to restore the power of the common person: 1) return to voting on one day (Scott suggests April 16, when the sting of paying taxes is fresh) and 2)return to all money going through candidate committees with full disclosure, eliminate the friends of the rich, the special committees that allow then to spend as they please, the "Small" donar committees, the issue committees that push through the pet projects of the powerful, and the 527 committees.

I wonder if it is time for a constitutional convention in Colorado?

This article appeared in this morning's paper. What do you think? Is there a growing problem with the difference in pay between the rich and the poor in this country? This is probably the most important economic question we face in America today. What is the truth?

The Populist Myths on Income Inequality
The New York Times, September 7, 2006

There are two schools of thought on income inequality. Members of the first school — populist politicians and a few economists — say the key issue is economic power.

The haves exercise more power over the have-nots. As a result, corporate profits soar, while wages stagnate. Money-drenched politicians push through shareholder-friendly trade deals that outsource American jobs while job insecurity skyrockets. C.E.O.’s get absurd salaries while the 99 percent of earners enjoy few benefits from productivity gains. Unions are weakened while manufacturing wages tumble and the middle class suffers.

In short, populists argue, the market is broken. The rules are rigged. The reigning ideology in Washington must be upended. Unions must be revived. Globalization needs to be reorganized.

The problem with this narrative is that it doesn’t really fit the facts. First, workers over all are not getting a smaller slice of the pie. Wages and benefits have made up roughly the same share of G.D.P. for 50 years. Second, offshore outsourcing is not decimating employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, outsourcing is responsible for 1.9 percent of layoffs, and the efficiencies it produces create more jobs at better wages than the ones destroyed.

Third, jobs are not more insecure. Workers are just as likely to hold a job for 20 years as they were in 1969. Fourth, workers are not stuck in dead-end jobs. Social mobility is roughly where it was a generation ago.

Fifth, declining unionization has not been the driving force behind inequality. David Card of the University of California, Berkeley, has estimated that de-unionization explains between 10 and 20 percent of the rise in inequality, and that effect was probably strongest decades ago. These days the working class is not falling behind the middle or upper-middle class. Instead, the big rise in inequality is within the office parks, among people who were never unionized. Middle managers are falling behind top executives.

The populists, who usually live in university towns, paint a portrait of unrelieved misery that badly distorts reality. It’s true that middle-class wages are lagging, but as Stephen Rose points out in The American Prospect, over the past 25 years the share of working-age adults in households making over $100,000 has risen by 13 percent while the share of households making less than $75,000 has dropped by 14 percent — after adjusting for inflation. The median household income of people in their prime working years (25-59) is $63,000. More than half of Americans have no credit card debt, and half of those who do owe less than $2,200.

Workers continue to see their wages rise as they age. The typical male worker with some college but no degree has seen his income rise from $34,000 in 2000 to about $40,000 today.

Members of the second and much more persuasive school of thought on inequality say the key issue is skills. Lawrence Katz, formerly of the Clinton administration, now of Harvard, puts it this way: Across many nations, the market increasingly rewards people with high social and customer-service skills.

A contractor who can work with customers, design kitchens and organize jobs may earn five times as much as one of his workers who has identical cabinetry skills. An office worker who is creative, charismatic and really good in fast-changing interactive settings now gets paid much more than a disciplined middle manager who excels at routine tasks.

Katz describes a polarized economy. Wages are rising in the bottom quartile for workers who provide personal services. The middle is lagging. The real rewards are going to the top 10 percent, especially to those relative few who have the skills to transform organizations from the top.

In other words, the market isn’t broken; the meritocracy is working almost too well. It’s rewarding people based on individual talents. Higher education pays off because it provides technical knowledge and because it screens out people who are not organized, self-motivated and socially adept. But even among people with identical education levels, inequality is widening as the economy favors certain abilities.

In short, government policy is not driving inequality and wage stagnation. But government hasn’t done much to effectively address the problem either, even though per-capita education spending has more than quadrupled since 1950. What’s needed is not a populist revolt, which would make everything worse, but a second generation of human capital policies, designed for people as they actually are, to help them get the intangible skills the economy rewards.

What would a set of second-generation human capital policies look like? I’ll come back to that in a few days.