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Attribution

The stuffed white shirts have nothing to do with the movement. Per @MJGerson:

“The strong, moral commitment to the dignity of women and children recently asserting itself in our common life has mainly come from feminism, not the ‘family values’ movement. In this case, religious conservatives have largely been bystanders or obstacles.”

See: Falwell, Jerry Jr.

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Here come the Confidence Fairies

By now we’ve experienced enough slight of hand by the Republican Congress to know that every proposal needs to be seriously questioned.  Since going 0-fer-2 on ACA Repeal, Republicans are now keen on rolling out their fantastical new Tax Reform package that’s reportedly going to make everyone rich!  Tax cuts around the horn!  But the devil is in the details.  Just because a party would like to see 4% GDP growth doesn’t make it possible.  Leading experts say that tax cuts do in fact spurn growth, but what gets returned to the economy is about 1/3 of what was lost in revenue. That leads to the concern that the tax cuts around the horn strategy is going to lead us down the path of insolvency sooner rather than later, but it’s worse than that.

Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman goes into pretty good detail in a New York Times article Trump’s Rosy Scenario breaks it down pretty well – detailing why Trump’s 4% goal is a lot of wishful thinking.  Below are the highlights.

Krugman:

Real GDP grew 3-4% annually under Reagan;  it grew 3.7% annually under Clinton.  But there are fundamental reasons to believe that such growth is unlikely to happen now.

First, demography: Reagan took office with baby boomers — and women – still entering the workforce; these days baby boomers are leaving.   Here’s the UN data on a 5-year growth rate of the population aged 20-64, a rough proxy for those likely to seek work:

021817krugman3-tmagArticle.png

Just on demography alone then, you’d expect growth to be around a percentage point lower than it was under Reagan.

Furthermore, while Trump did not in fact, inherit a mess, both Reagan and Clinton did — in the narrow sense that both came into office amid depressed economies, with unemployment above 7 percent.

So even if you (wrongly) give Reagan policies credit for the business cycle recovery after 1982, and believe (wrongly) that Trumponomics is going to do wonderful things for incentives a la Reagan, you should still be expecting growth of 2 percent or under.

Cut taxes, grow the economy!  Sounds good but the data doesn’t support it.  As George Bush #41 aptly stated, this is “voodoo economics” at its best.

 

 

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Fox and the Far Right

Conservatives like to point out that when liberals look down their noses at them as imbeciles, this is exactly the reason Republicans won the 2016 election. It was perceived snobby elites vs. the lunch bucket crowd and this time around, the lunch bucket crowd bought the Make America Great Again sales pitch, such as it is.

I’m no literary genius as most of you are keenly aware, so full disclosure up front. I’m a life-long 3.1 student who underachieved in the interest of being a well rounded person with other things to do besides just read books.

I say this because the main theme of this post has to do with just how dumb average Joe Republican has become, but I don’t want to sound like an elitist, because I’m average IQ at best. I just think I’ve given these issues more serious mind-share than most Republicans have and am sharing some observations from my own personal experiences.

The best example of mindless followers are the evangelicals. These people give the pastor full reign over their brains to the point where he can stand at the pulpit and literally say “And the Egyptians used the pyramids for grain silos” while the faithful shake their heads in unison with agreement. There are some highly educated people in this crowd too, so go figure. But when it comes to once they get inside the chapel doors, all critical thinking goes out the window and they morph into sheep.

Fox News is a master exploiter of this level of blind faith / ignorance that exists in the evangelical community. They cater their message in the same way the paster’s do and the sheep get in line.

In the 2016 election, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity should have been credited with an assist for the election victory. Hannity just spews vitriol for 60 minutes and is not a serious journalist but he does have a following and they eat it up. O’Reilly would literally try to use his on-air time to ‘coach’ Trump into managing his campaign in ways that would benefit him. He was not interested in a deep policy probe, it was all about helping frame a strategy that would beat Hillary Clinton. To his credit – and our detriment – he was successful. After today’s news of his unexpected departure from Fox, it’s too little too late. The damage is done.

But my main point is that there is a lack of critical thinking that goes on, especially in the Republican party. I know some pretty smart Republicans and they vote GOP for their own reasons, but they are in the minority. The vast majority are people who are easily fooled into voting against their own self interests. Things like tax cuts for the rich / trick down economics. The American Health Care Act ( Paul Ryan’s baby ). Climate change. Military spending. Women’s health issues. Even though all of these things have been debunked by the experts and will hurt them personally, the Duck Dynasty crowd likes to back the candidate with the GOP moniker. I haven’t been able to figure out other than to resign myself to the dumbing down of America. I ain’t no Robert Reich with a PhD, but I listen to him as well as Dr. Krugman to try to learn from truly smart people. That’s why I can’t get into debating the Duck Dynasty crowd. Colossal waste of time.

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Soapbox to the Tualatin Times circa 1996

The Tualatin Times afforded readers the opportunity to chime in with a Soapbox article — up to 800 words if you were so inclined.  It was basically a format for those who wanted to address a hot topic that warranted more than a “Letter to the Editor”, of which I had written many.  I’ve written a dozen or so Soapbox articles for The Times, but this is one of my better efforts and I would date it back to about 1996 or so.   At the time it was in response to a Letter to the Editor by a frequent conservative member of the community who often wrote bitter, close-minded opinions and I let her have it with both barrels.  I believe there was a reply the next week but I don’t recall it being very convincing.

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A wise man once said “Be careful about what you wish for, it could come true.” A recent letter to the editor “God needed in school more than a survey” suggests that our kids would be better off if only we could revert to the days when God was ever present in our classrooms.

 

Of course the first question is, which God? God as in the Jewish God of Abraham? God as in the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? God as described by the prophet Joseph Smith? The “Jehovah” I’ve read about in The WatchTower? Allah as experienced by the prophet Mohammed?

 

In her best selling book A History of God, respected historian and former Catholic nun Karen Armstrong talks about how man’s idea of God has evolved from a pluralistic form to the modern day monotheistic God at the time of Abraham and Jacob. Jacob, ever a pragmatist, cut a deal with the God “El”. In exchange for much needed protection, Jacob agreed to worship El as the one and only God that mattered. Is this the God we’re talking about?

 

We have a cross section of all of these belief systems right here in Tualatin. Surely someone who would suggest God be re-instated back into the classroom would want to be inclusive of their neighbor’s belief system.   How do we do this? About the closest I’ve seen to a common denominator is the term Higher Power, but I suspect few would be satisfied with this watered down description of God.

 

Since the very definition of God it is a hard question, I’m in favor of using a little class time to explore what each of us means when we say the word God. In fact, while we’re at it let’s expose our kids to the concepts behind a variety of belief systems so they can make an informed choice.

 

There would be many benefits to a comparative religion study in public classrooms. Jews, Muslims and Christians might gain an appreciation for each other’s point of view and stop killing each other.

 

Kids would get the opportunity to do some critical thinking as they form their own belief system. As a parent of 3 kids, above all else I value giving my kids honest answers to their questions. They’ve come up with some whoppers over the years that are tough for me to deal with because I have more questions than answers myself. If God set up the universe as an experiment, and then gave us free will so he could then reward the faithful, couldn’t he have chosen an experiment that didn’t include so much human suffering?   If God is all powerful and all knowing, then he has both the knowledge that there will be suffering and the power to prevent it but chooses not to. Why is this? Eve takes a bite of the forbidden fruit and the price imposed by God is a human sacrifice? Sounds like sort of a vindictive God to me. Are you sure this whole thing isn’t just a cruel joke to get me to behave the way you want?

 

Talking serpents, plural marriage, child sacrifices, Jonah inside the belly of a whale for 3 days and living to tell about it? Virgin births, rising from the dead, purgatory, life beyond the grave, cannibalistic themes like “eat his body, drink his blood”? The salacious story of Sodom and Gamorrah. I’m having a hard time telling the difference between the Old Testament, a Stephen King novel, and Greek mythology.

 

Should the knowledge of the 1st century be considered the infallible truth of the 21st? Didn’t Nicolas Copernicus teach us anything about questioning the puerile beliefs of our time?

 

I see it as a dangerous practice to ascribe literal truth to a compendium of writings drafted over many centuries by scores of different authors with vastly different agendas and perspectives. I find it ironic that those who hold that God belongs in the classroom are usually the same people trying to keep Harry Potter out of the school library.

 

It’s clear a lot of good has occurred in this world due by people who have a strong faith in God. Unfortunately, history also has recorded the atrocities of The Crusades, the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the IRA in Northern Ireland, and Al Qaeda to name a few, all in the name of God.

 

When kids ask hard questions about God, instead of giving the usual hand wave answers (my favorite eye roller is “God didn’t want us to be robots so he gave us free will”), sometimes I find the best answer I can come up with is “That’s a great question but a tough question, so I won’t pretend to have the answer for you at this time.”   Being a parent does not somehow make me an authority figure on God. But I do get to decide if my approach will be rationalism, which seeks to reach the heart through the head, or theology, which seeks to reach the head through the heart.

 

Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us inherited our belief system from our families. We did no study of belief systems followed by the process of making an objective choice. Someone we trusted made that choice, and in many cases, at infancy. Growing up we were allowed to ask a few questions, but as the questions got harder to answer, instead of admitting they don’t really know, the people responsible for our faith development fell back on that age old tactic that gets ‘em every time: Fear of eternal damnation.

 

When you’re an impressionable grade schooler, the idea of eternity in a place like hell is a tough thing to get past. Perhaps this is why many children just adopt the belief system that’s been brow beaten into their psyche and move on.

 

I admire many people who have a strong faith in God, especially those who walk the talk. But it’s been my observation that those in favor of re-instating God back in public schools are the same ones who would be marching down to the principal’s office if teachers were to engage kids in a conversation about God and find out the teacher’s definition of God doesn’t match theirs precisely. Perhaps this is why public schools avoid the issue altogether. They can’t win no matter what they do.

 

In any case, spending classroom time on the subject of God is fine by me.

 

Bill Toner

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Fair and Balanced

salon.com writer Simon Maloy recently submitted some eloquent prose about Fox’s bias.  I couldn’t stop laughing reading about how Trump went in for the “Deluxe Hannitization Package” to explain away his outbursts against Judge Curiel for not giving him a free pass on the Trump University investigation.

It doesn’t seem to matter which show you watch, the format is the same.  The moderator hack invites two guests on for a debate.  It rages on for about 5 minutes 2 on 1.

Fair and Balanced.  They even have it trademarked.

 

 

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Managing Uncertainty

The vast majority of company training I’ve taken over my 36 year career has been a pretty big waste of time.  However, every once in a while you run across a teacher you connect with and the take-aways really stick.

One such class was a an all day management class required by Tektronix by Dr. Ralph Katz.  It’s been so many years ago, I don’t recall what the name of the class, but he basically took us through the main points of his book The Human Side of Managing Technical Innovation.

Dr. Katz’s main points were all centered around managing uncertainty where;

uncertainty == bad

This point resonated with me personally, especially as it related to my years in the High Tech Industry prior to management.  High Tech is cyclical.  Today’s Google is tomorrow’s AOL.  You are never ‘set’ because change is happening so fast.  Combine this general trend with being in aerospace and printers while trying to provide stability for a family of 5, and  what you get is a fairly stressful situation because you’re always looking over your shoulder for the next round of cuts – wondering if you should’ve signed up for that 30 year mortgage or not.   Sleepless nights and overtime are a way of life.

I was a new manager at the time I took this class.  I was eager to try to be a good one in the sense of understanding the human side of the job and getting the most out of people because they were motivated as a team, not because of fear tactics.

When people are worried about their jobs on a daily basis and uncertainty is a way of life, some powers that be seem to think this is a good thing as far as squeezing more productivity out of people.  So what if they are scared, we got more done and met our goals.  What I’ve experienced is the opposite.

For 12 years at Xerox from 2000-20012, we were under constant pressure of cuts.  This is not the fault of management.  It had more to do with industry trends and decline of the printed page, but it was the hand we were dealt.  Senior management did make some horrendous mistakes along the way, but in general, it was just being in the wrong industry at the wrong time.

Be that as it may, Xerox is a big company.  They are spread over multiple continents and management chose a ‘distributed’ model for software development, which brings its own set of challenges.  In my role I had to collaborate with teams in Rochester, NY as well as Welwyn Garden City, UK, as well as 2 sites in India.  Apart of the time-zone challenges, the biggest challenges was, as Dr. Katz so adeptly pointed out in his book, managing uncertainty across these sites.

What management failed to recognize was that ‘team’ collaboration across sites in different organization was a recipe for territorial battles.  And we had them in spades.  Because of the back-drop of uncertainty in the workplace, peoples’ actions aligned first with protecting their site, and second towards team.  Oftentimes this was hidden in very subtle ways, but nevertheless, it explained a lot of behaviors I saw.

Here’s where Dr. Katz’s message could have been employed for much better results, but it was not.  Management failed to recognize the very existence of the territorial battles because they were worried about them themselves.  I often wondered what different results would have been possible had a Sr. Manager sent one email , genuine in nature, that set peoples’ minds at ease on the uncertainty question, and motivated everyone to work as a true team without the worry of territorial loss.

I do not think this was asking management to promise people that their jobs were certain.  Everyone knew they were not.  But a simple e-mail to let everyone know that hey, we need you to get these 3 things done as soon as possible, and nobody is going anywhere for the next 6 months for sure.  Let’s work hard together and get it done.  It’s not a message of relaxation, or promising things not possible.

Instead the rumor mill was always in full force, often at times when there was nothing to worry about.  This is not when people able to be their most productive selves.

I remember one time in particular when a rumor mill was hot for 3 months about an upcoming layoff.  The rumor was true, but at the end of the day they only laid off 10 people from our site of 1500 people.  That’s less than 1%.  There didn’t need to be that much fear and loathing over a < 1% cut.  I’m actually of the belief that most companies should go through and trim out the bottom 5% of performers as a matter of course, just to get rid of the dead weight.  Addition by subtraction and it’s good for business and morale.  But because they chose to be poor communicators and run a major clandestine operation of much-ado-about-nothing, a bunch of people ran scared who didn’t need to.

Another of Dr. Katz’s messages had to do with ‘what goes around comes around’.  For the better part of the last 2 decades, a poor economy has given corporations the upper hand when it comes to employee retention.  It’s not like we had a ton of options to move around for higher salaries, so attrition has remained relatively low.  That’s how it is right now, but it’s not always that way.

I remember in the 1990’s having an extremely difficult time getting the right people hired. They simply had too many offers on the table.  In my 36 years at this, I’ve only was one time in the late 1990’s where the management team had to huddle up with HR and have a serious discussion about retention.  People were leaving for startups and the impact was large.  Schedules were being missed. But it can happen and the tides may be shifting.  I’m starting to see more movement now than in previous years and funny enough, it’s not always about money.  A big factor is work environment and indirectly, level of certainty.

I exited management about 3 1/2 years ago and I do not miss it.  My favorite aspect of it for the 15 years I was in it was college recruiting, and there’s so little hiring that even that is not much of an attraction to get back in.  But I can’t help but remember Dr. Katz’s message as I see managers attempt to rule by intimidation and employ fear tactics.

At the end of the day, high tech workers don’t like to be treated like employees of U.S. Steele.  Often times when we do, what management gets is clock-punchers who aren’t motivated to care about their project beyond work hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doubling down on bigotry

I have this friend Mike, who aligns himself with conservatives.  Good guy, just has different ideas than I do about what will work in politics.  A while back I made a sarcastic post on Facebook – something to do with the GOP and he replied “Don’t be a hater!”

You see that a lot of comments like this on web from both sides.  “Haters suck.”  Well, he’s right, they do.

I got him back today when he posted a comment about how entertaining it will be to watch Hillary get prosecuted.  Touché.  I only mention this because this post isn’t intended to be about hating on Republicans.  Nah, haters suck.  I agree.

This is more of a general observation about logic that escapes me.

I must admit one of my favorite television viewing experiences was right after the 2012 election when the pundits who predicted a GOP landslide were caught with their pants down on live TV.  As a result, some aren’t even welcome to opine on Fox anymore.  Dick Morris for example, has moved on to history documentaries and is nowhere to be seen.  Karl Rove’s “…but, but, but, it’s not over yet in Ohio” while Megyn Kelly held the microphone in his face was well, just too much entertainment to ask for.  I believe the word for this is schadenfreude.  Not one of my better traits, but at least I’m honest about it.

After a week or so came the GOP post-mortem.  I remember it clearly.  The failure to attract a higher percentage of the Latino vote was key to Romney’s loss.  Obama won the Latino vote 71% to 27% and worse for the GOP, this is a growing demographic they have to deal with in future elections.

We heard a lot of talk about “making a wider tent” and having policies that will attract Latinos to the Republican party as the strategy that will be addressed for 2016.

Well, that didn’t last long.

Enter the increasing influence of talk radio on the electorate.  Hosts like Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are inside the Tea Partiers’ heads.  The post-mortem strategy lasted about 5 minutes before the rally cries for deporting 14 million illegals back to Mexico!  That should play well with Latinos.

Now the top 2 delegate winners in Iowa are non-establishment candidates who signed on to this philosophy.  The establishment is cringing because Rove and Priebus both know that this is a disaster waiting to happen and there’s nothing they can do about it.  The religious right and tea partiers have hijacked the Republican party.

Perhaps the best part is, it doesn’t stop there.  Donald Trump throws insults at women and Muslims as if he can win the general election with the white-male vote.  How does someone who is so poor at math become a billionaire?  Curious minds want to know.

As far as I can tell, the adjusted strategy, instead of luring the Latino vote, the GOP is now focused on placing tighter restrictions on voter registration and gerrymandering.  We’ll see how this turns out.

I became an Independent right after we entered the first Gulf War and I witnessed the US and Iraqi governments rounding up Baath party members for a visit to the slammer ( or worse ).  After that I decided, who needs a party?   I don’t want my name on that card.  What if the guy ( or gal ) does something really stupid?  Like drop an atomic bomb on a foreign county?  Guilty by association?  Maybe.

I say this because I, like a lot of people have grown weary from the political dynasties of Clinton and Bush.  Apart from their legal troubles which I opined on here, I like Hillary as a candidate.  She’s a very smart woman.  And I think she’d fight for the middle class far more than anyone on the GOP side would.  But she’s too cozy with the super pac donors and I think that taints any candidate.  That’s why I’m rooting for Bernie Sanders in this election.  The biggest selling point for me is the average donation of $27, and not taking money from super pacs.

Bernie is seen as about as far left as you can get, but just because I support his candidacy doesn’t mean that I endorse massive government spending.  On the contrary.  I’d like to see all departments reviewed annually for places to tighten up.  There’s a ton of wasteful spending, there’s no doubt about that.  There’s plenty of blame to go around for this on both sides of the aisle.  Democrats for allowing too many handouts unchecked, and Republicans for not closing loop-holes that ensure the rich get richer while the rest of us battle for the crumbs.

I’m not hating on Republicans here, just pointing out the irony of the post-mortem analysis from 2012 and wondering where it went.

 

 

 

 

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