Top 10 Books for Selfish Citizens, 2nd Quarter 2013

July 6, 2013

The following are the top 10 books for April – June 2013 as identified by the readers of Selfish Citizenship.

  1. A Turn for DeWurst by Sydney Kendall | Related post: A Turn for DeWurst, an alternative to the state of education in America
  2. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 – 1964 by William MacArthur | Related post: President Truman vs. General MacArthur: Six Lessons for Today
  3. The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure: Why Pure Capitalism is the World Economy’s Only Hope by John A. Allison | Related post: John Allison, Capitalist of the Year 2012
  4. The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West Are Going Out by Leonard Peikoff | Related post: Understanding Terrorist Organizations and The DIM Hypothesis
  5. The Aristotle Adventure: A Guide to the Greek, Arabic, & Latin Scholars Who Transmitted Aristotle’s Logic to the Renaissance by Burgess Laughlin
  6. Black & White World III by Cox & Forkum
  7. The Head of Athena (The Cyrus Skeen Series) by Edward Cline
  8. Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind, edited by Walter Reich | Related post: Plato’s Laws – Tradition vs. Innovation
  9. Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea by C. Bradley Thompson | Related post: Thank LBJ and Altruism for Our Federal Deficit and Debt
  10. Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Empire, 1767-1821. Vol. 1 by Robert V. Remini | Related post: How to Learn American History

What are you reading? Tell us in a comment.

The top 10 posts on Selfish Citizenship for that period were:

  1. Obama Attacks Free Speech Again
  2. Thanks for the cheap train ride…Suckers!
  3. Obama Using Accounting Cheat to Hide $761.5 Billion in Deficit Spending
  4. Obama Recording Oval Office Conversations, Presidential Taping Continues
  5. Question 9: Why be a selfish citizen?
  6. Question #7: Should we modify the Bill of Rights by repealing the 2nd Amendment?
  7. President Truman vs. General MacArthur: Unprincipled Policies Lead to Serial SNAFUs
  8. Understanding Terrorist Organizations and The DIM Hypothesis
  9. IRS’ 401k Early Withdrawal Penalties vs. Americans in Reality
  10. When a cop gives you a traffic ticket, is that money in his pocket? In Georgia, yes.

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A Turn for DeWurst, an alternative to the state of education in America

June 16, 2013

One of the personally most important books that I have read is Sydney Kendall’s novel A Turn for DeWurst. I read it with my youngest daughter; its theme, plot, and character helped establish a solid foundation for real fact based dialogue between my daughter and I on the value and methods of education.

The drama of the novel brings uncomfortable facts about public education to the forefront in a way that they can neither be evaded nor accepted as in the best interest of the child. Unfortunately, these facts are well known to parents from their own experience in public schools and the experience of current students, but for the most part parents and children are not openly and honestly talking to each other about them.

In addition, as a work of romantic fiction, the novel through its characters and their choices demonstrate a correction, not a reform, to the cause underlying the problems in today’s public schools. Yet, throughout, the book is full of benevolent passion and love for education and the developing lives of children.

In general, the novel is a wonderful story of many rich characters confronted with challenges and making choices. The young reader will see dramatized how some of the choices foster life and others corrupt it. The novel includes both children and adults who act as heroes in normal real life circumstances of school, but also both children and adults who choose to act as villains.

While I have purchased more copies of this book than any other and given them as gifts, the best testimonial for this book comes from my youngest daughter now grown. Many years after we had read the book together, my daughter told me that she wanted to name a future daughter Astrid specifically after the main character of A Turn for DeWurst ; what a wonderful legacy of a heroine to give to the next generation.

Extra Point

Fifteen books that I have read that will always stick with me

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Top 10 Books for Selfish Citizens, 1st Quarter 2013

April 3, 2013

The following are the top 10 books for January – March 2013 as identified by the readers of Selfish Citizenship.

  1. The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure: Why Pure Capitalism is the World Economy’s Only Hope by John A. Allison
  2. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 – 1964 by William Manchester
  3. The Head of Athena (The Cyrus Skeen Series) by Edward Cline
  4. Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Empire, 1767-1821. Vol. 1 by Robert V. Remini
  5. Truman and MacArthur: Policy, Politics, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown by Michael D. Pearlman
  6. Jefferson the Virginian (Jefferson & His Time) by Dumas Malone
  7. Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea by C. Bradley Thompson
  8. Black & White World III by Cox & Forkum
  9. The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H. W. Brands
  10. The Aristotle Adventure: A Guide to the Greek, Arabic, & Latin Scholars Who Transmitted Aristotle’s Logic to the Renaissance by Burgess Laughlin

What are you reading? Tell us in a comment.

The top 10 posts on Selfish Citizenship for that period were:

  1. Obama Attacks Free Speech Again
  2. A Tale of Two Homeless Men
  3. Obama Using Accounting Cheat to Hide $761.5 Billion in Deficit Spending
  4. Obama Plans More Rapes (a satire)
  5. Obama is the Wiz, a Pretender President
  6. Question #6: Why is altruism bad?
  7. IRS’ 401k Early Withdrawal Penalties vs. Americans in Reality
  8. Chewing an Echo of What Passes for Thought on ObamaCare
  9. George Washington’s First State of the Union Address
  10. Dakota Meyer (Medal of Honor Recipient, Afghanistan) and the State of Our Military

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Top Posts in 2012

January 1, 2013

The top 10 posts on Selfish Citizenship in 2012 were:

  1. Open Letter to Gary Johnson
  2. On Foreign Policy, American Founders vs. Ron Paul
  3. 6 Causes of India’s Mega-Blackout, Lessons for US
  4. Bipartisan Deal – Status Quo Continuing Resolution for FY 2013
  5. Top Three Reasons to Vote Obama for President
  6. Top Three Reasons to Vote Romney for President
  7. Angry Libertarians
  8. Cannibal Culture
  9. Not an Emergency, but a Suicide Attempt
  10. The Last Goode Democrat

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Adding a YouTube Vid as a Blog Commercial

August 4, 2012

I am trying something new using something old to attract some additional traffic to my new political blog.

I have an existing subscriber base on a YouTube channel, where I have not been active recently.  So this morning, I created a 60 second video commercial for my political blog to upload to that existing YouTube channel.

The ad has three purposes:

  1. Try to convert some of those YouTube subscribers to the blog,
  2. Serve as a no additional cost commercial on YouTube for the blog by leveraging YouTube’s internal search and related videos traffic to attract new eyes, and
  3. Become a video element on the blog’s sidebar to increase conversions from referral and search traffic into subscribers.

From Mixergy, an interview podcast featuring lessons learned from successful entrepreneurs, I understand that YouTube videos are one of the most successful methods for attracting traffic that will convert.  In addition, one of the ads often running at the beginning of Mixergy interviews touts the A/B tested benefit of video embedded on a site for increasing conversions.

I created it as a draft quality piece because something is better than nothing and I can polish after testing with the draft.  For the script, I just took the content from my blog’s About page and abbreviated it down to identifying the problem and the solution plus a call to action.

While I would have liked to get the video down to 30 seconds, I am pleased enough with the 60 seconds run time given the length of my typical You Tube videos.  For my narrated part, I had to speak at about twice my normal (aka slow) rate to get the commercial down to a minute.

Given that selfishness is part of the branding for the blog, the commercial starts with a short video of Obama saying “You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness.”

If you have tried something like this, what lessons learned do you have?

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uU7Juh6T1U"]

 

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Writing Better Headlines?

August 2, 2012

Search traffic to my new blog has NOT been happening.  Yesterday, I was surprised when I started getting search hits from Bing and Yahoo on the term “FY 2013 Continuing Resolution”.  This was exciting because: (1) I was seeing search referrals, (2) I had just posted the piece in the morning, and (3) I found that it had the #1 position for those terms on those search engines.  Meanwhile, I was nowhere for those terms on Google.

While I think about search engine optimization (SEO) as something that I ought to think to do, I don’t really try to study the best practices and apply them when I edit, if I edit a post.  But this difference in search position in Bing, Yahoo, and Google raised my curiosity, are headlines really much more important to Bing and Yahoo for search results?  While Google is bigger, what if I did something small as a test to target these other search engines?  I might actually get more search referrals just by putting a little more thought into my post titles; just as I had been testing with my posts to Reddit.

According to Adam Bauthues, I am actually seeing Bing credit the keywords in my post’s URL, which is auto generated by WordPress to match my headline.

Included in a post full of blog writing tips,  Annabel Candy shared some specific ways to write better headlines, which really focus on the theme of making headlines more useful and informative for potential readers considering your post from a long list of other options…be explicit about your post’s value to them.

She also recommends breaking up a long post with subheading to make the post easier for readers to scan quickly and highlight the value available by reading all that text.  I do recall a solicitation for SEO consulting services that shared the tip that such subheadings, using header tags in HTML, increase the visibility of our writing on search engines.

I have noticed that successful channels on YouTube often change the headline for their videos, which I assume is to increase visibility and attractiveness.  Have you tried changing your headline on posts with disappointment traffic?  If so, what did you find from your effort?

In doing an autopsy on my least successful posts in attracting traffic, I have tested them by gauging general interest for the topic using simple Google searches, or getting metrics for those ideas using Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool.  In addition to identifying alternative terms with better metrics, I have sometimes found that there was not much interest in those ideas.  Do you perform any such testing either before or after you post?  If so, what did you learn?

Personally, I am going to give a bit more thought to my post headlines and test the results.  It is a small first step that is not too difficult to implement.

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Nine Lessons Learned from Using Reddit

July 29, 2012

Starting a new blog focused on politics, I decided to try reddit as a source to kickstart some traffic.  As reddit referrals are now 50% of my traffic, I think that the experiment has had a successful start, so let me share some of my lessons learned.

  1. Self-promoting blog content on reddit is easy and without significant friction.
  2. The reddit post title attracts the interest as that is what the users primarily will see, so experiment and test.
  3. Reddit’s system for voting and comments are used actively and provide insightful metrics when feedback is not being left on a new blog.
  4. Older evergreen blog posts that are not attracting traffic can be resurrected with a reddit post.
  5. Subreddits are great for doing segmentation testing as you can target specific communities and tailor titles to that community.
  6. Posting the same post to different subreddits on different days can keep posts active overtime and allow for easy differentiation of traffic from different subreddits for results tracking.
  7. Subreddits have their own personalities and can sometimes respond differently than their name would suggest.
  8. Controversy resulting from matching a post with a subreddit can help traffic to your site even if it is not helping your link karma.  Highly recommended.
  9. Reddit offers a good opportunity to reach new potential readers from outside your usual circles of communication.

If you have not been using Reddit to promote your own blog content, using the above lessons learned, I have a suggestion for how to start with a test using the traffic stats already tracked for your blog.

  1. Start by picking seven of your posts that you think deserve more eyes.  In doing so, do not ignore older posts that still have timely information.
  2. Brainstorm types of people that you think would be interested in each specific post.
  3. Use the search feature on reddit to find subreddits that are a community for those types of people.
  4. Throughout the week, submit links for your posts to various subreddits and track the results using your own blog’s traffic stats.
  5. At the end of the week, review your own lessons learned and plan how you could use reddit to promote your blog content.

You can check out reddit’s FAQ for how-to details.

If you try this experiment, please share your own lessons learned.

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Our Declaration of Independence

July 4, 2012

On this Independence Day, consider the virtue of independence in your own personal life.

Great American, and Russia-born, author Ayn Rand expressed the essence of independence at such a personal level, when she wrote in For the New Intellectual:

“Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it—that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life—that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and your existence.” – “Galt’s Speech,” p. 128; via Lexicon.

In that context, including your life, and in light of the present conditions within the United States, listen again to The Declaration of Independence, and in particular the violations of individual rights committed by the English King.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETroXvRFoKY]

Reposted from Selfish Citizenship

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Initial Thoughts on SCOTUS ObamaCare Ruling

June 30, 2012

Now, that I can discuss Chief Justice John Roberts’ recent publication without the punctuation of salty expletives, I thought that I would share a few initial thoughts.

I’m not surprised that the individual mandate was ruled to be a tax as I recall that description of it going back before ObamaCare’s passage; however, I am shocked that it was viewed to be constitutional as a tax.  Frankly, Roberts’ ill formed opinion has declared deuces wild with the Congress’ tax power.

I made a list of legislative obscenities that the ruling would permit under the doctrine of misnaming them a tax.  After posting several to Facebook as a test, I found the following to get the most reaction, so I will repeat it:

“I observe that the House Republican reaction to the ObamaCare decision could be to impose a federal financial penalty on all single parents and call it a tax, while hailing federally mandated marriage as a cure to social ills. Justice Roberts and the four court libs would uphold this abuse of the tax power.”

This is not an arbitrary assertion as it is founded in Republican talking points about promoting two parent families as a cure to all sorts of social dysfunctions that increase social welfare costs for the government.  Previously, Congress would authorize tax benefits for those that both paid taxes and lived congressionally approved lifestyles; now, Justice Roberts has rubberstamped the Congress punishing, without due process of law and other essential constitutional right guarantees, those who make life choices different than the preferences of the Congress-of-the-moment without regard to constitutional limits upon congressional powers.

Imagine what could be considered necessary and proper for the collection of this federally mandated marriage tax.  For example, all single males could be required to provide DNA to the government to prove that they do not owe a tax for having unknowingly co-created the fatherless child of an unmarried mother.

While I could go on and on about specific legislative abominations violating individual rights through Chief Justice Roberts’ expansive view of the tax power, I don’t want to give the vile Republicans too many ideas; so, let me focus on key understandings that should limit Congress’ tax power.

Before the ruling, I had drafted some thoughts on voluntary government financing versus problems under the current federal tax system.  The purpose of a tax is to raise revenue to pay for legitimate government expenses.  In that context, Congress has already been abusing its tax power to, amongst other issues: (1) punish successful Americans for the crime of being financial successful, while depriving them of the constitutional rights of the accused, and (2) expanding the domain of the federal government beyond its specific constitutional limits as if the tax power gave the federal government general police powers to nudge individual behavior.

This opinion by Roberts’ affirmed those abuses, while explicitly endorsing without court scrutiny, an expanded use of punitive taxes to nudge Americans into compliance with majority opinion; for example: would a congressional afterlife insurance mandate upon atheists be subject to strict scrutiny or not according to Roberts, who apparently failed to think his opinion through?  Roberts’ opinion is a total assault upon individual rights and President Thomas Jefferson’s view that the federal courts should protect individuals from government trampling upon their individual rights.

For those currently reflexively lambasting Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion, they should consider the consequences if he had ruled correctly on the limits upon Congress’ tax power.  There are many popular tax deductions and credits that would be correctly ruled unconstitutional as a dangerous expansion of the congressional policy domain.  While I think that Chief Justice Roberts should have had the integrity to rule in favor of limited congressional authority, Roberts is probably aware that he is too much of an unprincipled coward to have done so.  Ask yourself, do you have the integrity to impose limits upon transient majority opinion using tax policy to violate individual rights with a nudge?

Extra Point:  Fictional future Congressman Eric Cartman has declared that “soulless Gingers should be penalized with a punitive federal tax,” if they fail to dye their red hair into compliance with the judgment of others.  Chief Justice Roberts and the four liberal justices of the Supreme Court agree that this tax would be constitutional.

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The Republican Hydra

May 6, 2012

This year’s Republican nomination process was interesting, because the candidates who contested through the process represented distinct ideological perspectives.  Thus, they are proxies for the relative strength of contesting ideas within the Republican Party.

The ability of candidates with these clear distinctions to maintain the contest as long as they did may be attributed to an increase in protection of free speech rights from the Citizens United decision (see post “Super PACs: Shedding the Bad Rap” by Ray La Raja on Riding the Tiger).

In order of their relative electoral strength, the candidates and their ideas were as follows:

Mitt Romney, the victor, is the standard bearer for pragmatic stewardship, which is the dominate ideology of the Republican Party.

Rick Santorum evangelized for the religion right.  His electoral failure demonstrates the weakness of the theocrat faction.  For all their huffing and puffing, they are a minority within the party.

Newt Gingrich’s government reform platform expressed the agenda of the neoconservatives.  Republicans proclaimed him the candidate of ideas, and most Republicans don’t like ideas.

Ron Paul was followed by the ‘libertarians’.  While I disagree that Ron Paul is an advocate for freedom and limited government, his mistaken and passionate supporters label him so.  Based upon his supporters’ narrative, Paul’s showing demonstrates the electoral weakness of advocates of limited government within the Republican ranks.

A relevant mention is merited for Rick Perry, who championed the neoconfederates and was quickly booted from contention by the party of Lincoln.

Given the results on the primaries and caucuses, the Republicans have demonstrated themselves to be primarily a pragmatic party, not a conservative party.  This supports my frequent contention that those that complain loudest about RINOs as not really Republicans, but they hope that they can pretend to be the dominate voice in the party without being challenged for their fraud.

Because pragmatists oppose principles on principles, Romney’s policies will be implanted in his mind by those who do express ideas.  The changes brought into being during his potential Administration will be big government reforms from the neoconservatives, who will give empty promises that big government will be changed into better big government.  Meanwhile, the religious right will be thrown sufficient policy concessions to keep them obedient within the Republican coalition.  However, those that advocate limited government will be given rhetoric without implementing policies.

For an examination of the neoconservatives as the ideological bastard love children of Leon Trotsky and Plato, I recommend C. Bradley Thompson’s book Neoconservativism: An Obituary for an Idea.

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