Apple’s 1.9% Income Tax, How Hurricanes Change Political Thinking, Romney’s Water Bill, Scott Brown Goes It Alone, Elizabeth Warren’s Smirk and assorted Election Eve Matters


This post deals with random conversations taking place around me during today’s travels. Most amuse me and I hope you, as well.
Apple paying 1.9% tax on foreign income

Apple’s 1.9% Income Tax

Several recent news items dealt with Apple paying 1.9% tax on foreign income. Two business travelers sitting in an airport bar commented that Apple wasn’t to blame for doing what US tax laws allow it to do. Blame should go to Congress for putting laws into place that allow companies to pay such tax bills.

I agree. Do you blame a child who acts out in public or do you blame the parents for allowing such behavior to exist? If the parents didn’t allow the behavior, the child wouldn’t act out.

How Hurricanes Change Political Thinking

NextStage's Political Reader ToolRegular readers of this blog know about NextStage’s Political Reader tool and how we’ve been monitoring political thinking over the past few weeks (see Politics and Your Mind 9 Oct 2012 (Introducing the NextStage Political Reader), Politics and the Gender Mind 10-12 Oct 2012 (With a Touch of Debate BS and PersonaScoping at the End), Politics and Your Mind 17 Oct 2012 (The Day After the Obama-Romney Hofstra Town Hall Style Debate) and The Fickle Vote (Politics and Your Mind 22 Oct 2012))

23 Oct 2012 was a good day to be undecided, we guessStarting Tuesday, 23 Oct 2012, we started gathering daily political results but didn’t have time to compile and report on them. See that big pinkish purplish piece of the pie in the image on the right? Tuesday, 23 Oct 2012 must have been a good day to be undecided because that’s what that pinkish purplish piece of pie means.

A Republican edgeThe Republicans took the lead on Wednesday, 24 Oct 2012, but evidently a greater percentage of Tuesday’s Undecideds went to the Democrats than went to the Republicans.

And now a big leadAnd on Thursday, 25 Oct 2012, we discovered that Thursday’s child, if Democratic, was full of woe because the Republicans took a big lead. There were more Undecideds than on Wednesday but it cost the Democrats dearly.

The winner would have been Republicans if people voted todayRepublicans continued their surge and would have won the election if voting had occurred on Friday, 26 Oct 2012.

Saturday is National Democrats Day, evidentlyBut on Saturday, the Democrats took the election…if it had occurred. What caused this shift? No idea, only that the shift did occur. Perhaps Democratic thinking shines on Saturdays? More people are out doing errands than working and living a life causes more democrating thinking that doing your job? No idea and we’re open to suggestions.

Back to the RepublicansSunday, though, everything went back to the Republicans.

And this is where it really got interesting…

The 'I Don't Care' vote makes itself knownIt is now Monday, 29 Oct 2012. A barely noticeable black slice of the pie started showing up for real on Monday, 29 Oct 2012. That darkish slice indicates people who simply and truly don’t care about politics at all. It suddenly shows up in the female voting studies and has been around for a few days at 3-7% in the male voting studies.

And on Hurricane Sandy Day nobody gives a rat's patootie about politics at all!This picture on the right covers 24 hours from early morning Monday, 29 Oct 2012 to early morning Tuesday, 29 Oct 2012. Nobody cares about politics at all! Hurricane Sandy is stopping the Eastern US from functioning and the eastern US is pulling the rest of the US with it (one person told me about 23′ waves on the Great Lakes. Whoa!).

One person commented that these images show Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in action. Politics don’t mean much when you’re busy bailing water. People either have a pail or they’re in the way.

People are saying Romney but it's up to the UndecidedsBy the way, today, Monday, 5 Nov 2012, Election Eve, people we’re monitoring are saying Romney but if actually had to vote today? The Undecideds make it truly too close to call.

As of today.

Romney’s Water Bill

Evidently Romney was the last in a long line of Republican Massachusetts governors who didn’t pay New Hampshire an agreed upon amount for flood control dams. The number of times New Hampshirites mention this is amazing (to me).

NH and MA had an agreement going back to the 1950s that required NH to designate property to be used to thwart flood waters from sinking parts of MA. If NH doesn’t control the flood waters, most of MA along the Merrimack River is underwater so MA has a vested interest in having NH do this. But NH’s chief source of revenue is property taxes, hence NH is giving up a considerable chunk of change by turning over much of its south eastern corridor’s real estate to MA’s benefit. In return, MA agreed to pay NH 70% of the lost tax revenue for the properties given over to flood control.

New Hampshirites refer to themselves as the last of the diehard Yankees and this subject bangs against Yankee frugality and good neighborship both. “He only pays his bills when it suits his needs and only then when he has to” and “Do you want to put someone in charge of the country who’s willing to screw his neighbor if it suits him? I’m sure the world’s going to love that” were heard in today’s travels.
Scott Brown's Going Indie!

Scott Brown Goes It Alone

Some of MA Senator Scott Brown’s recent campaign ads close with the statement “Vote the Person. Not the Party.”

This is amusing. There’s not a lot of independent political organizations backing Scott Brown (see any of Scott Brown: Campaign Finance/Money – Top Donors – Senator…, Who Is Funding Scott Brown? , A divide of donors in Senate contest and Financial firms support GOP incumbent in Mass. Senate race).

But who is backing him is not an important question. Nobody does anything above street level politicking these days without lots of financial backing, so he can’t be called on the carpet for that.

“Vote the Person. Not the Party.” presents a fine edge brought on by anxiety, fear, perhaps a little madness and a desire to be so in the middle that nobody can afford not to like you. It’s a wonderful self-realigning statement for a finger-pointing time.

The important question is “How many favors does he need to return?” Remember “If its free then you’re what’s being bought and sold”? Your vote is coming at an incredibly high price for everybody.

Smirky Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren’s Smirk

I laughed when I first saw this. I thought about the time, effort and money that went into either finding or creating that image, then thought “You really want to impress me? Put the snarky face on the left and the smiley face on the right. At least then you’ll be causing people’s brains to register you with goodness rather than “Boy, what a wiseacre smirk he’s got on his face. No wonder she’s pissed off at him!”

But we apply lots of neuroscience to our clients’ marketing efforts here at NextStage.

You’d have to expect a response like that from us, I guess…


Outsourcing Errors

NextStage keeps hearing about Republican hopeful Mitt Romney’s outsourcing jobs when he led Bain Capital. Whether he did or not is still a question (see What was Romney’s role at Bain during outsourcing?). But the talk did cause us to wonder what happens when outsourcing occurs.

Whither Innovation?

Andrew Robinson writes in the journal Nature that local innovation is stifled when countries outsource jobs. Specifically what’s stifled is the need and desire to solve simple problems. It may be cheaper to outsource call centers, for example, but then no one spends any time solving the problems that result in the need for call centers.

Level 1 technical support for most modern conveniences — everything from software to mobiles to automobiles to long distance carries to medical analysis — is typically outsourced. Any business owner or manager understands the need for this. Level 1 support can usually handle the greatest number of customer concerns (high double digits). Level 2 support is only needed for 1-5% of customer concerns and Level 3 for tenths if not hundredths of a percent of customer support calls.

Level 1 call centers handle issues so mundane they typically work from a script. It’s that simple and rote.

But admins, personal assistants and secretaries have long known that if you want a problem solved, make sure the boss has to deal with the problem and usually only once is enough to get the problem solved. Industry is rife with examples of minor problems that were never solved until the boss had to deal with it. One of my favorites involves a boss who wanted to print out an email and learned first hand that the printer had a problem.

The printer had had problems for a few months but when the boss ran into the problem, it was fixed in a day.

So it goes with solving mundane and trivial tech problems. Unless someone with authority and budget needs a solution, it’s not solved. Call centers are cheap but they don’t solve the underlying problems that need to be addressed. Yes, some companies pay attention to call center reports but there’s a big difference between a thousand reports of customer frustration and one, personal, hair-pulling episode with an email client.

Here’s another example of problems being solved when they bother the boss: Movie theaters need to post and inform patrons when a movie actually starts as oppose to when the advertising starts. Such was not always the case and theater goers were infuriated by this for years.

But one day an US Senator decided to go see a movie. Legislation changing the posted start times from advertising to actual movie was filed within weeks. It might even have been days…

Whither Identity?

Shehzad Nadeem, an US based sociologist, has studied how hosting outsourcing centers affects India, “a top outsourcing destination for many Western companies”, in Dead Ringers: How Outsourcing is Changing the Way Indians Understand Themselves and it’s not good.

India has a large population of English-speaking, highly educated talent but that talent isn’t serving India’s best interests because they’re in call centers answering phones rather than working directly to improve India’s own technology base.

Outsourcing may bring a broad technology infrastructure but India’s poverty remains, and between training to speak and think “western” and the time-difference between India and the countries it’s call centers serve, call center employees don’t have much energy left at the end of the day.

Another challenge is that western education often creates western “wants” that cause their own socio-economic conflicts. Two years ago more Indians had cell phones than had modern sanitation by a factor of 3:2.

Whither Diversity?

Whether outsourcing goes to India, Canada or eastern Europe, any time the educated majority of a country is given one specific task and that task isn’t country of origin related, cultural diversity suffers. Nova Scotia based call centers serving the US can draw on a shared language and a much greater shared history than India or eastern European call centers can. Canadians can still be Canadians while serving US businesses. Not so with emerging nations.

The requirement to perform, to make the numbers, requires language skills and cultural knowledge that often replace nationalistic self-concepts and self-identities. The end result is that locally directed productivity suffers because the focus is now on “over there” instead of “right here”.

Summary

Did or didn’t Romney outsource jobs? That history will ultimately be written by the victors, probably.

Is outsourcing good for host or sourcing country? Probably not in the long run. Although economically attractive in the short term, sourcing countries lose the impetus to solve low-level problems and host countries lose internal diversity and wide-spread public growth.

Technology may be the great equalizer but only if what’s being equaled are themselves equal.


An Unpopular Yet Highly Regarded Solution to Threats Against…Anybody (on Love, Crime, Nuclear Deterrence and Terrorist Threats)


First, I’m not promoting this as a viable solution, I’m only recognizing that it is a solution.
Second, it is a solution that has a long history in different societal segments, most recently in the crime world where it seems to work very well.
Third, the crime world is a psychologically unstable world. It also has roots in 20th century nuclear politics.

But I repeat myself.

Okay, so what’s the solution?

A very effective method of insuring that no harm is done against someone is to hold someone else as a ransom for good behavior.

Note, not as a hostage, only as a ransom.

For example, let’s say A and B are in conflict with each other. A wants to begin peace negotiations. A sends an emissary to B and part of the emissary’s commitment to the peace negotiations is to stay with B while B sends their own emissary back to A. When B’s emissary returns safely from A, A’s emissary is released safely from B. Such ransomings often go under the guise of “an act of good will”.

Of course, sometimes these ransomings aren’t quite on the level. Sometimes one of the emissaries isn’t all they’re cracked up to be. A king offers his son — hence the hereditary throne — as a ransom and sends an impostor instead of his son.

This happens a lot, too.

Crime has evolved the concept of ransoming to a “real future threat”.

Here’s how real future threats work: A is being attacked but doesn’t know exactly who is doing the attacking (perhaps the attacks are terrorist or guerilla in nature. There may be groups claiming credit and A doesn’t know if their claim is accurate or opportunistic, and A doesn’t want to punish the stupid, only the guilty.

So we know already that A is thoughtful, not vengeful.

This is also where it starts to get tricky.

A doesn’t know who’s doing the attacking but A does know that B knows who is doing the attacking. This is important, B isn’t doing the attacking, B only knows who is doing the attacking.

Or B has a really (really, really,) good idea.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Modern Crime Offers a Solution to Modern Global ThreatsEnter the modern ransoming: A says to B “I will destroy you if you do not stop the attacks. I will give you what ever support you require to stop the attacks. However, if the attacks do not stop, I will destroy you.”

There are some conditions to this working properly:

  • A must be recognizably more powerful than B
  • B must be recognizably more powerful than whoever’s doing the attacking
  • B, whoever’s doing the attacking and anybody else even remotely involved must know for a fact that A will destroy B if B doesn’t act immediately to stop the attacks. Note that this will work anywhere and with any belief system. Even if person 1 is willing to be a martyr, chances are persons 2-5 aren’t so willing

Obviously, it is now in B’s interest to stop the attacks on A, or to provide A with whatever support it can to insure that the attacks stop.

But this is also where this wonderfully concise solution can fall apart. A hidden requirement is that A and B must be better organized than whoever’s doing the attacking.

Think of it this way…

…(and note that I’m not suggesting this): The US knew who claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. The lives of people everywhere were affected. Now imagine the US going to the countries known to harbor those claiming responsibility and saying,

“You can find out who they are and where they are faster than we can. You have twenty days to bring them to us. If you don’t bring them to us we start bombing your cities on day twenty-one.

“By the way, anything happens to us between now and day twenty-one, we start bombing your cities within twelve hours of whatever happens.”

The key is not caringI’m told it works better if you say this unemotionally, a calm beyond calm, as it were. The best example of this is from Get Shorty where John Travolta’s Chili Palmer character tells Danny Devito’s Martin Weir character the Weir is just a number in a book and Chili has no feelings one way or the other.

This solution, by the way, isn’t taking into account whether or not Americans and America’s allies would be willing to forgo oil for…umm…justice. In the case of 9/11.

So anyway…

…B is now extremely vested in bringing the attackers to A. Also, if B brings the incorrect attackers, A starts bombing. If B brings the correct attackers but others stand up and claim “No, B didn’t bring you the right people. We’re the right people and we’re still out here,” then A attacks because, after all, A can’t be sure.

Now the vested interest quickly spreads. Either B and all sorts of attackers have to unify against A or B and anybody who looks remotely like B or the attackers is going to be bombed.

Solution History

This type of solution is an extreme tit-for-tat that I learned while interviewing career criminals for some research. It’s most familiar examples in popular culture are in The Godfather, Part 1 and in the 1987 film The Untouchables.

In The Godfather, Part 1, Al Pacino’s newly donned Don Corleone orders the killing of all mob bosses who had anything to do with…well, anything. In The Untouchables, Sean Connery’s Jimmy Malone tells Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness that when Capone comes at you with a fist, you go at him with a knife, when he comes at you with a club, you go at him with a gun…or something like that.

A really needs to know, and B really needs to know, and ultimately the real attackers really need to know that A, in the end, has the largest knife, gun or whatever available and is completely willing to use it.

Interviewing career criminals, I talked with one gentleman who had a very long and very successful career. To what did he attribute his success?

He looked at me, his head cocked to one side and slightly down so that his clear blue eyes watched me from under bushy, gray brows. His smile lifted his walrus mustache up on his deeply tanned face. There was a cherry kitchen table between us and he was dressed in navy blue sweats. Not designer sweats, more the kind you’d get at BJs or possibly WalMart.

He was, therefore, a regular guy. There was nothing glamourous or threatening about him. He was a trusted neighbor to many.

The kitchen where we met was in a comfortable suburban home. We each had a cup of coffee in front of us. There was an ashtray on his side although there were no ashes in it and no sign of anything smokable anywhere in the house. His tanned hands were on the table, between his coffee cup and the ashtray as we talked. In his left, he held a pack of common paper matches, no brand affiliation on them other than “Draw Skippy”, and he rotated the pack in strong, thick, laborer’s fingers, the pack held vertically between middle finger and thumb, his index finger rotating it as he spoke, tapping the pack’s edge on the table to emphasize points he was making. His only jewelry was a simple gold wedding band.

He looked at me under those bushy gray brows and asked in return, “What do you love?”

“I’m sorry?”

“You asked me the secret of my success. I asked you, ‘What do you love?'”

“My wife, definitely.”

“Too obvious. Something else.”

I was at a loss as to what he was after. “Animal, vegetable or mineral?”

“Doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it’s deeply important to you.”

“My children. The animals I feed in my backyard.”

He looked at the matches he was rotating. “Yeah…” He tapped them on the table. “Somebody showed me your Facebook page.” He paused, his eyes on the rotating, tapping matchbook in his fingers, then nodded, more to himself than to me. “We’ll use that. You don’t have any kids you care about, though. No grandkids. Grandchildren always work.”

I shook my head, not understanding.

“When someone caused me trouble, I would meet them somewhere they chose. I would tell them as I’m telling you, ‘You will never see your grandchildren again unless you do what I want.’ That was it. I never had to do it. Everybody knew I would, so I never had to. And I never had to leave a horse’s head anywhere, either. You see, you can’t actually kill anybody and show somebody the body because that means there’s closure and you don’t want to give anybody closure.”

“You always want them to hope but you want them to know there’s no hope. That’s how you get people to do things for you, or to leave you alone.”

Now he looked directly at me. He stopped rotating the matches. It seemed he stopped moving. He wasn’t even blinking. He was the most relaxed looking statue I’d ever seen and he said to me, “I will take those animals — something you love, something you’ve placed your energy into, something you’ve placed your passion into — and you will never see them again. Ever. You’ll never know what happened to them.”

He looked at me then said, “No, they don’t matter enough to you. We’ll go with your wife.”

He still didn’t move other than to speak. There was no emotion on his face. It was the ultimate blank slate. Just his clear, blue eyes, unblinking, staring into mine.

And I knew he would. I also felt myself knowing it. I could feel the blood leave my face, my hands go cold, my breathing go shallow.

“You’re a smart man, you know how people show you what they think. So I know I own you now, right?”

I nodded.

“But don’t worry. Don’t be concerned. I don’t do those things. And even if I ever did them, I wouldn’t do them now. Definitely not to a smart fellow like you.” His blank face warmed and broke into a smile as he spoke.

I returned the smile, but somehow I wasn’t comforted.

This practice, he told me later, was pretty common throughout the world. It was also highly effective when one had the necessary organization (both internal-wise and ability-wise).

As I wrote at the start of this post, these tactics are also in national policies. This particular method has been in use since Eisenhower’s SIOP, started in the 1960’s, and in SAC’s military theorizing ever since: “Anybody touches Europe, we’ll blow the hell out of all of you.”

But then again, Europe was never known for its oil reserves.

A Most Effective Game and a Return to the Playground

Such strategies and tactics are analyzed in the field of game theory. I wondered about other effective game theories and what gaming strategy would be most effective should a nation be under threat.

Imagine a schoolyard bully who is suddenly faced with the entire schoolyard mobilizing against that behavior. There is no retribution, no retaliation, only an offensive against the threat. “If you come after any one of us, all of us will come after you.”

Imagine some insurgency or terrorist organization that works worldwide and the countries that harbor them being put on notice by a world body (the UN, perhaps?), “If you come after any one of us, all of us will come after you…and you and you and you.”

As the career criminal said, it depends on internal and external organization.