The Gloves, They Go Boom!

Don’t worry if you don’t understand that title. If the majority of people could understand it, chances are Donald Trump wouldn’t be President.

Or maybe he would. Who knows.

Anyway, this post is about Donald Trump as POTUS, President Of The United States. It’s been about a week as I write this. If you’re reading this before the end of January 2017, you’re one of my Patreon supporters. I plan on republishing it on our Politics blog at the end of February 2017 with additional comments, if any.

The timeline for this post starts back in January 2016. I was having lunch with some friends and was asked if I thought Trump had a chance at the Presidency. I was asked because my company, NextStage Evolution, has correctly predicted electoral outcomes and their margins since 2004.

My real concern, I said, was that at some point Trump would realize he really could win and would start putting serious effort into it.

So why did he win? Campaign effort aside, Trump won for the same reason Obama won back in 2008; he’s radically different from everything else out there so he’s got to be better than anything else out there.

Back in 2008, Barack Obama was a young black guy going for an historically white man’s office. He made statements (not sure if I’d qualify them as promises) about hope, prosperity and American values.

Back in 2008, the United States was on the brink of collapse because of the Eight Years of Idiocy it’d just gone through. We were in the eighth year of a war that was suppose to last only six weeks, any common folk who’d made investments witnessed them crash and burn while those who did the crashing and burning were rewarded because things weren’t worse (brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?), our homes were either worthless or too expensive to keep and there were no jobs to be had because companies had moved everything overseas.

Heck, the US military had outsourced packaging MREs for the battlefront!

So now Trump’s in office. Because he’s different from everything else out there. As a nation, we tried one kind of different (Obama) and didn’t get the immediate fix we wanted so let’s go for another kind of different (Trump) and see if that works.

Trump and his policies scare me.

But then I have to wonder, maybe that’s the point? Anybody remember The Tick? A great line from The Tick is “And isn’t sanity really just a one-trick pony, anyway? I mean, all you get is one trick, rational thinking. But when you’re good and crazy, ooh ooh ooh, the sky’s the limit.”

Now put yourself in North Korea’s shoes, in ISIS’ shoes, in Putin’s shoes, in the EU’s shoes, China’s, Mexico’s, take your pick, designer or off the shelf, it doesn’t matter.

The US’s got The Tick in office. You can’t predict what this guy’s going to do. He doesn’t play the game the way everybody else does. And he’s got the biggest ball on the court.

Screw that, he owns the court! And his ball’s not only big, it’s bigger than you, all your players and all your balls and courts put together.

Maybe the Electoral College got it right?

I mean, the gloves, they go boom, right?

I’ll be posting this to the Politics blog at the end of February 2017.

If we’re still here.


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Why #Hillary Won’t Be Getting Our Vote – And No One Else Will, Either

On Wednesday, 7 Jan 2016, I tweeted about some #Hillary campaigners who blew it big time with us.

These were two young people (early 20s, I’d guess). They came to the door, asked for Susan, she wasn’t home, I said that, they said “Thank you”, turned around and walked away.

I said, “That’s it? I’m a guy so my opinion doesn’t matter? My vote doesn’t count?”

The literally shook their heads as if the concept of campaigning to a man was unknown to them, as if they had to shake loose existing ideas to make room for “Man is interested” in their crania.

After a moment’s hesitation and fugue, one said, “Oh, would you like to vote for Hillary Clinton?”

I waved them away, disgusted, shaking my head in disbelief at their lack of training and closed the door.

These people were not prepped and/or trained well, and if they’re what #Hillary is sending around on the eve of the NH Primary, me thinks her camp is in trouble nationally.

But Today (Saturday, 9 Jan 2016)…

A tall, thin, white-haired, mature looking fellow came to our door, #Hillary paraphernalia bedecking his jacket like a tribal chief’s regalia, and asked for Susan.

She was in the living room, sitting on the couch, watching Selma (and if there’s not irony in that, there’s not irony anywhere), and called out “Not interested.”

He took some flyers out of a notebook he was carrying. “Could I leave you these to give to her?”

No, thank you. Not interested.

“Well, then I’ll just leave them in your door,” and he proceeded to ram them into our doorjamb.

I said, “No, please don’t. We’re not interested.”

He looked down at me and said, “I came to see Susan.”

She got up off the couch, walked to the door and said, “We are not interested. I am not interested. You didn’t do what we asked, you belligerent mucus, why should we have any interest in doing what you ask?”

Okay, I edited her response a bit.

But she did close the door in his face. Which was probably lucky for him. This is the woman that horses and other assorted large livestock fear. She doesn’t tolerate much from anything or anybody.

But again, doesn’t anybody train these people on how to negotiate a yes? Or at least leave people with a willingness to talk with a follow-up campaigner walking up the drive?

What we really want to know is…

I also tweeted about a #Trump supporter who didn’t have enough sense to get his nose out of his phone and his body out of the road, running the risk of personal injury and traffic problems.

These folks were merely the latest. What we really want to know is, are the campaigners this year worse than in previous years? It seems so. It definitely seems nobody is training these people properly. Are the stakes that high this year and nobody told us? Or if this is how you go about telling us, is it possible you’re not campaigning for the names on your armbands?

Now that would make sense.

But Back to Susan…

She printed the following out. It’s up on our front door. And I can already hear the doorbell ringing again…


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Sanity Once More

It’s getting to be a habit, a very welcome habit to my tired eyes and ears. The announcement that the US is not only talking to Iran but has actually joined an international partnership to reach a deal which limits the proliferation of nuclear weapons, is a joy to all who value peace, tact, and diplomacy. The announcement follows on the heels of an opening dialogue with Cuba leading to a partial normalization of relations there, too. The trifecta is complete with the announcement from the Hillary Clinton campaign that all Americans should be automatically registered to vote on attaining the age of eighteen and that she will push for such registration. Other progressive actions seem to be surfacing to the benefit of the citizenry and to the relief of minorities. Although there is a long way to go, such moves are so welcome that sanity is seen to emerge.

Elected representatives quickly forget that all of the accusations levelled at Iran can and should equally be levelled at the US. They say Iran can’t be trusted but the Iranians remember how the US was instrumental in usurping Iran’s democratically elected government and installing the Shah, a terrorist puppet regime, in its place. They say Iran is a sponsor of international terrorism by supplying arms and support to some of Israel’s neighbours. Is the US conscience clear in every Central and South American nation on the same topic? The US considers it appropriate to tap into the communications of nations on every continent. The latest known victims are Brazil and Germany. Republican and Democrat spokemen alike castigate Iran for actions that the US has repeatedly modelled. The good news is that Iran has risen above the US paranoia and their people rejoice in the outcome.

When Israel acts as the aggressor, creates apartheid conditions and destroys homes and infrastructure in Gaza, they are praised in the US as freedom fighters. They receive funding and armaments from the parent source and do not discriminate in how those arms are used. On several occasions the UN security council has condemned Israel as war criminals and for crimes against humanity. Yet those resolutions do not see the light of day because the US exercises its veto. Despite three years of negotiations (culminating in the day old agreement to limit Iranian nukes) there is not a peep about putting the same screws to the Israeli stockpile. The hypocrisy continues. When will Russia, China and the US trust each other enough to really show leadership in nuclear disarmament?

The thawing of relations with Cuba has been dealt with elsewhere but the third item regarding voter registration requires an airing. The governor of Wisconsin recently announced his running for president in the 2016 election. Part of his platform was a boast that his state now requires government issued photo ID in order to vote. By so doing he has effectively cut the voter rolls for those who can’t obtain a government issued photo ID. A Student card is not good enough. Neither is utility bills, shopping cards, and any of the other myriad ways usually accepted as proof of identity. He is not alone in imposing such restrictions. It is a measure of insanity to make voter registration and ID difficult in a democracy. That is why Hillary Clinton’s announcement was so welcome. If enacted it would cut across the voter registration and ID fiasco and bring a standard requirement to all states for every election.


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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.


Voting Science


How important is science in the 2012 elections? It gets little mention directly and appears most often as policy statements.

Is it important? Are you reading this post on some ‘net enabled device? Thank science.

Are you reading this post on a mobile or tablet device? Thank science. Does your computer fit in your hand rather than fill a room? Thank science.

Do you get your calls via cellphone more often than landline? Thank science. For that matter, thank science for your landline, too.

You don’t think Science is important?

Science is business. Don’t forget that. And business is economics. Italy is imprisoning six scientists who failed to correctly predict the extent of an earthquake in L’Aquila in 2009. Think of the insurance bills that had to be paid in that city. Italy’s courts have also decided mobile phones cause brain tumors. Think of the medical costs! Think of the caveats mobile phone developers will need to have written into purchase agreements to indemnify them from heretical liability claims!

And in the US? Textbooks are bought and ordered more on what politics are in the largest sales territories. If everybody in a given sales territory thinks Creationism is truer than Evolution, guess what goes in the textbook? Voting with one’s pocketbook is fine but the short-sightedness of that approach is incredible. Vote that way long enough and the US — already losing some of its technological advantage — becomes a scientific backwater relying on other countries for innovation. Lose technological advantage and military strength is not far behind.

And we thought Wikipedia was dangerous?

Who’s for Science? (a view from across the pond)

The following is from the British science journal Nature v490 25 Oct 2012. The full article is High stakes for US science and a worthy read.


In their own words

Barack Obama (blue) and Mitt Romney (red) speak about science issues on the campaign trail.

CLIMATE

Obama: “Climate change is one of the biggest issues… we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.”

Romney: “I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system …Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection.”

The bottom line: Romney opposes all climate regulations. Obama used regulatory powers to push through energy and climate regulations, and subsidies for low-carbon energy technology.

EDUCATION

Obama: “Now I want to hire another hundred thousand new math and science teachers and create two million more slots in our community colleges so that people can get trained for the jobs that are out there right now.”

Romney: “I propose we grade our schools so parents …can take their child to a school that’s being more successful. I don’t want to cut our commitment to education, I want to make it more effective and efficient.”

The bottom line: Obama often emphasizes science education. Romney focuses on streamlining the federal role in education while encouraging school choice and voucher
programmes.

ENERGY

Obama: “I have supported an all-of-the-above energy approach that will allow us to take control of our energy future, one where we safely and responsibly develop America’s many energy resources.”

Romney: “A crucial component of my plan …is to dramatically increase domestic energy production and partner closely with Canada and Mexico to achieve North American energy independence by 2020.”

The bottom line: Romney and Obama have tussled over who supports fossil fuels the most. The difference is that Obama continues to push to develop renewable sources for the long
term.

INNOVATION

Obama: “I am committed to doubling funding for key research agencies to support scientists and entrepreneurs, so that we can preserve America’s place as the world leader in innovation.”

Romney: “The promotion of innovation will begin on Day One, with efforts to simplify the corporate tax code, reform job retraining programmes, reduce regulatory burdens, and protect American intellectual property.”

The bottom line: Obama deployed stimulus money to commercialize new technologies. Romney supports basic research, but leaves innovation and commercialization to the private
sector.

REGULATION

Obama: “Smart rules can save lives and keep us safe, but there are some regulations that don’t make sense and cost too much.”

Romney: “We must reduce the power of unaccountable regulators by requiring that all major regulations receive congressional approval and by imposing a regulatory cap that prevents the addition of new regulatory costs.”

The bottom line: Romney would slow or stop regulation where possible. Obama moved to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens, but also used regulatory powers to further his agenda.

SPACE

Obama: “Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn and operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite.”

Romney: “America has enjoyed a half-century of leadership in space, but now that leadership is eroding …I will bring together all the stakeholders …and define the pathway forward.”

The bottom line: Under Obama, NASA has drifted into budgetary and mission limbo. Romney has underscored the problem but offers few specifics about what he would change.

STEM CELLS

Obama: “We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield.”

Romney: “I have a deep concern about curing disease …but I will not create new embryos through cloning or through embryo farming, because that would be creating life for the purpose of destroying it.”

The bottom line: Obama repealed limits on federal funding of stem-cell research. Romney has not specified his stance, but his religious views may stand in opposition to current policy.


Like your bigscreen TVs, your Facebook and Twitter? Are you a mayor in 4Square or have your family’s highest score in Angry Birds? Do you shop online? Is your refrigerator, computer or car energy efficient? Are you taking medication that keeps in check an illness that killed your grandparents?

Thank science.

What is the cost of undervaluing science? Living Under the China Skies or giving up personal security in ways most people can’t imagine.

Like your life, your gadgets and toys and want more for less at the grocery store and gas pump?

Vote Science.