Blaming jobs on outsourcing is too easy

The march of technology is relentless and likely has more to do with changes in the job market than China or Mexico. Politicians failing to describe the scope of such changes are scapegoating other countries and failing to deal with what is happening. If you order goods from Amazon, you should already know where many of these jobs are going. You should already understand the reduction in book stores and the announcements of job cuts at Macys, Sears and other department stores. Your local store may have already closed. You and I are the problem. We pay for a Prime account and then have the UPS man deliver the goods we used to purchase at the mall.

We prefer inexpensive goods (often produced elsewhere) and we prefer convenience (online purchases). Companies, if they survive, have found they need fewer employees because of greater use of technology. You can blame technology or free enterprise, but we are not going back. The present isolationism promoted by the new administration is the last gasp of an outdated system. There are many new opportunities here, but there are also new challenges. This is why education is becoming more and more important and will not be something that is ever finished for those willing to adapt.

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Not how higher ed works

People of North Dakota. When it comes to a college education or most anything else, trying to improve yourself by isolating yourself is typically a very bad idea. A big part of the benefit of college is meeting people who are different and have different ideas. North Dakota is far too white and far too rural and tends to have attitudes that are out of synch with the rest of the country and the world. A college experience that includes exposure to different cultures and different attitudes is valuable and prepares your kids for the jobs and the people that don’t live within the confines of your state.

You are also not going to make your universities better by making them smaller. There is a certain matter of efficiency that comes into play and ND institutions are already too small to encourage the diversity that allows for many specialties and to attract the quality faculty members needed to teach and research in these areas.

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Mentoring Trump: Volunteers needed

Mr Trump’s tweeting is a little hard to understand. Here is what I think. There can be significant differences between someone with experience as a boss and someone with experience as an elected leader. It doesn’t have to be this way, but the experiences can be very different. A boss may be used to getting his or her way through firing, buying, bullying, or suing. It cannot work in any of these ways for very long when you are elected.

Most folks can develop skills especially if they have a good mentor; someone to explain how things really work and provide examples. If your primary means of communicating is Twitter how difficult can improving your performance be. I will take my mentoring turn first.

Here is an example. Mr. Trump attacks Congressman John Lewis for responding to a question about whether Trump’s selection as President was legitimate. Trump’s response is included below:

Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to….

See what I mean. A leader would not respond is this way. Ignoring the issue of an argument by switching to a personal attack completing unrelated to your concern with the position of your peer is not particularly impressive. This seems to be Mr. Trump’s go to move, but the strategy is still the mark of an amateur.

Some alternatives:

Don’t respond at all if what you have to say makes you look thin-skinned and probably having some of the same concerns.

Attack the argument and not the person. If you can challenge the position that the late announcement by Comey followed by the even later “never mind” or the Russian release of the stolen emails had no impact on voters, explain how this would work.

I withdraw my second recommendation. I can think of no way to actually sell this position. I think stay off Twitter makes the most sense.

Your turn. Take a tweet and offer suggestions.

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Proof of influence

The proof of influence argument drives me crazy. How, looking back on an historical event, do you proof influence? Given the very strange nature of this past election, the popular vote going to the losing candidate, and the narrow margin of victory, the concerns as to what influenced the decisions leading to the outcome will not go away.

This reminds me of the philosopher’s question regarding whether a tree falling in a forest with no one around makes a sound. Logic would suggest that it does, but it is true that there is no way to know.

Social scientists would likely do some study to determine whether a given variable may have been influential. So, for instance, if you could find naive individuals and divide them into two groups. You could ask one group to rate Mr. Trump on 10 point character scale. You could have the second group read the most recent two-page story describing Mr. Trump’s experience with Russian prostitutes and then have this group rate Mr. Trump’s character. If you found a difference in the ratings would you consider that reading the story had an influence?

Not fair. That story was not true (or at least we do not know it was true). Neither, it turns out were speculations of evidence of wrong-doing that were generated by the late Comey letter regarding Clinton’s email. It does not mean that what turned out to be false was not influential when first released.

Thinking about my thought experiment I must say I am not certain that the ratings of character would change. Given what everyone had already seen and heard in Trump’s own words  I guess I am not certain that adding another story would matter.

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Sometimes character matters even for politicians

I was thinking about the latest Buzzfeed and CNN news regarding soon to be President Trump. I can understand why Mr. Trump and Republicans are quick to challenge these descriptions as unsubstantiated. The situation sounds very much like the trick a foreign government would pull in order to threaten a politician in a Tom Clancy thriller.

I must say I don’t really know what to believe anymore, but I think I understand why these tawdry descriptions are getting so much play. Mr. Trump’s behavior during the campaign and other indisputable revelations that shared his previous behavior led everyone to have to deal with his character flaws. He is sexist, racist, and a bully. I can only conclude that his supporters were willing to ignore such traits because they believed his promises of a rosy and carefree future.

A little thought experiment. Should the Russian prostitute story have featured President Obama as the leading character would anyone have seriously believed what they were reading? I just don’t see this as possible – even among the haters. With Trump, the scenario seems consistent and very believable. It might even seem a thing he would brag about to friends.

This is the thing about character. What others believe about our core values provides a context for interpreting our present and portrayed behaviors. I cannot say the things described by Buzzfeed and CNN happened, but what was described would not seem “out of character”. If you brag about grabbing women in an inappropriate way, descriptions of other sexual perversion do not seem that far fetched.

There is one interesting irony in this situation. Presently, you have Mr. Trump complaining about conspiracy theories portraying him in a negative and exploitable way. This reaction from someone who promoted the theory that Mr Obama was not qualified to be President because he was not born a U.S. citizen, that the father of Ted Cruz was involved in the assassination of JFK or that Hillary Clinton was involved in the killing of Seth Rich.

Remember that experession about sowing and reaping? How did that go again?

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The Russian take

russiantake

We have spent time in Russia (my wife has been there several times) and we have Russian friends who now live here and some who still live in Russia. This was posted to Facebook by one of our friends. I offer it here for a couple of reasons. The notion that we can somehow operate in isolation is foolish. We also know first hand that the opinions of the Russian people are just as diverse as the opinions in this country. I am guessing the Russian are far more reserved about expressing themselves. I purposefully avoid sharing the opinion I am aware of because I am concerned as to how voicing some of these comments would be perceived in Russia.

To my knowledge Facebook does not do translations (I am not a big fan). I have asked our friend to explain how this was perceived in Russia.

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Reading comprehension challenge

Here is the government report on Russian hacking. I encourage you to take the time to read the summary and contrast your understanding with what we have been told by Mr Trump. The key judgments section is pretty clear as to who did this and why. Do you interpret the document in the same way as the president-elect?

I think Mr Trump would do well to avoid Twitter. His tweets make him seem impulsive and thin skinned. I understand that he portrays himself as a different type of leader. If this is telling it like it is, this style seems immature and self-absorbed and a character style not likely to encourage confidence.

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Comments from a random guy at the bar

I obviously struggle with my reactions to the things Mr. Trump says on Twitter. In an effort to explain my reaction to myself, I have spent some time thinking about just what it is that annoys me. Here is what I have decided.

Have you found yourself involved in a conversation with someone who makes simplistic pronouncements you find ridiculous? I am imagining a situation in which I end up sitting next to someone at a bar who wants to make conversation. This person says things I know are erroneous, simplistic, and poorly informed. These are the types of statements made by someone with just enough information to be dangerous. Not wanting to argue or appear elitist I seldom engage to respond.

This is the type of reaction I have to Mr. Trump’s pronouncements about hacking, computers, or climate change. I both think I know more about these topics and I think the true experts on these matters agree with me. Unlike the random guy at the bar, I make the effort to respond in this case because Mr. Trump has an audience that accepts whatever he says. I don’t want such comments to go unchallenged. Twitter makes all of this far worse. The required brevity of a Twitter statement limits what can be said and provides little depth allowing the insights of the author to be evaluated.

Here is what bothers me even more. I doubt Mr. Trump is as uninformed as he seems. Surely, he has handlers who offer him more sophisticated information. What concerns me is that Mr. Trump understands that there are many folks out there who want to believe the things he says. They recognize that “experts” take positions different from Mr. Trump, but he offers them an excuse for rejecting expert opinion as elitist.

All I can suggest is that expert opinions be seriously considered. When Mr. Trump offers comments on building a large building, I would defer to his expertise. When Mr. Trump offers comments on what makes a successful reality TV show, I would defer to his expertise. There are individuals I have far more faith in when it comes to national security, technology, and science.

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Politics cannot Trump Science

There are certain issues in this past election I refuse to get over. I am not one of those who thinks focusing on the positive is the remedy to a bad situation. Ignoring things that are truly wrong is being irresponsible.

The climate change deniers are a group now championed by our next president that must be opposed. I understand that accepting reality is inconvenient in the short run. By ignoring science you can promise that coal miners that they will get their jobs back. You can argue against government regulation in situations when industries find such regulations reduce profits and involve oversight. You can ignore subsidizing new industries when there is opposition from existing industries and when tax money might be involved.

You cannot trump science. You can ignore reality while it is convenient and few are presently impacted by long-term trends, but this self-serving approach only creates a more damaging future others will face.

My most recent political annoyance concerns the Department of Natural Resources in Wisconsin. They have changed their public statement on climate change. I have no illusions when it comes to such state agencies. I worked with Game and Fish in North Dakota for years and learned that such agencies while supposedly basing practice on scientific principles were very responsive to politicians. If political pressure says the science of climate change is not approved, you find a way to hedge or pander and back away from your principles. Now the official position of the Wisconsin DNR is that climate change is a controversial scientific position. I guess they did not bother to ask the scientists.

Just be sure I checked to see what the University of Wisconsin might have to say about climate change. I was heartened to learn that UW is home to the Nelson Institute – Center for Climactic Research. The Center contends”

Out partnership with the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) offers a model example of how university researchers can engage with decision-makers in the public and private sectors.

I wonder if the governor and state legislature know that this is going on.

BTW – reread my title. Get it?

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There is already another app for that

Mr Zuckerberg, this is the other Mark.

What did you think you were creating when you first developed Facebook? I saw the “Social Network”, but I was told it was not true. I am glad you did not steal the Facebook from the Winklevoss twins because that would sour all of those young entrepreneurs out there who thought you were the perfect example of the American Dream. Did you ever graduate? I think people should graduate. I did like your recommended book list from last year. I guess that is a different way to educate yourself. It must be difficult to find time to read with all of the other things you must do. If you need any suggestions for more books, just let me know.

Some people call those of who read a book or two elite. They don’t mean it in a good way. What is up with that? There are ways to get help if you cannot read. I am thinking with all of your money you would even be willing to find a way to help those who struggle with reading. Just a thought. I know you like to be helpful. Maybe audio books would help. You can sometimes get them at your local library if you cannot buy them yourself. What do you think? Did you listen to any of the books on your list? I know getting through a book takes more time, but some people like to listen when they drive. I suppose you don’t have to drive.

I have tried your social service several times and I am having trouble sticking with it. Perhaps you like it just like it is because you evidently have attracted many users. I have one idea I think would help and would allow you to keep those people who like it just the way it is now.

My main issue with your product is that most people really don’t have to think much to add content. Getting people to think is very important to me. Since you take the time to read many books, I conclude it is also important to you. I think it is great that people post pictures for grandma and grandpa. I am one of these people myself and from time to time I like looking at pictures. I get to see my grandkids in person so this service is not nearly as important to me it is to other grandparents. I enjoy a great quote from time to time, but I would still rather have people come up with something interesting themselves.

It is the political stuff I find most annoying. I would really like to talk to people about their political opinions. This is likely a time in our history when this is very important. I think other people have some very crazy and misguided ideas and I would like to discuss our differences of opinion. However, I first want to be certain those other folks have actually thought about what they claim. I cannot be certain because they seldom say much themselves. They mostly just forward things that others have said. This is too easy. If you want to take a stand, you should have to at least explain your position.

Mr Zuckerberg, there is already an app for those with little to say. Twitter is great for forwarding pithy sayings and providing links to the comments or web sites of others. I know that Twitter kind of has the “what that person said” market cornered, but I have faith in your ability to compete. I know you and your minions are gifted programmers so here is my suggestion. Create a feed based on whether a contributor provides more than 140 characters of personal information. The short contributions could be your way to compete with Twitter. You could call it the – “what that person said” feed. The feed with more than 140 characters could be called “my contribution”.

Thanks in advance for considering my proposal. I know you always searching for new and more productive ideas. Congratulations on the success of your startup. Have a great holiday.

The other Mark

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