Saturday, August 12, 2017

When People Show You Who They Are...Believe Them
The president did not say what many of us wanted our president to say and we should ask about that moving forward. He missed an opportunity to unite us even as he called for unity.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

Condemnation. This is certainly expected and required and appreciated.

Inserting and emphasizing through repetition ‘on many sides’ might be arguably accurate in broad terms (violence and hatred exist across the spectrum), but is grossly inaccurate in the context of today’s hatred, bigotry, and violence.

Missing? Unlike most other leaders, public and private, Republican and Democrat, he chose not to condemn the hatred, bigotry, and violence of white supremacists today. And when a missed opportunity intersects with one's own self-interest (those he chose not to condemn support him) it becomes a profound and cynical failure of leadership.

“We have so many incredible things happening in our country. So when I watch Charlottesville, to me it’s very very sad. Above all else, we must remember this truth: no matter our color, creed, religion, or political party, we are all Americans first.”

This is also good. I only wish his overall tone and policy menu reflected this call to respect all colors, creeds, religions, and political parties. And his choice to leave the condemnation of white supremacy unsaid reinforces with his actions that he does not believe (or fully understand) the words he is speaking (or take the meaning of words seriously).

Then the president recited employment numbers to argue things are going well in America, which was a very odd choice in this context. It sounded like he thought the most important message to send in a time of national emergency was that he has been doing a good job as president. 

Sad and disappointing. Using words expressing a call for unity to advance a message designed to divide us. 


The president is (again) showing us who he is. Believe him. He is about to lead us into an unnecessary nuclear conflict with North Korea and the advisers pushing this hardest, that he brought into the White House, are the (self-declared) white supremacists...that is, on the same team as those whose hatred, bigotry, and violence was on ugly display today.



This article in The Hill reports that several Republican leaders are critical of the president’s failure to name the problem here and call out white supremacists who support him.

Senator Cory Garder (R-Co) said,
"Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.” 

Making similar comments are Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IO), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Tim Scott (R-SC). Good news and a separate source suggests the Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has added his voice.


Breathe
Our granddaughter, Jemma, was born yesterday. Beauty and perfection beyond the imagination.

And the news is filled with tweets from our president taunting one of the few world leaders we can all agree is even more unstable than our president…a leader who, like our president, also has nuclear weapons…and a habit of talking without thinking.

26 million live and work in Seoul. 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea (not to mention those on the two huge military bases in Guam). Massive conventional weapons pointed at Seoul that can be fired in less than one minute. Plus both nuclear and chemical weapons capabilities. NK also has a nuclear submarine.

"Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!" 

In an interview he added that if the NK regime even says anything threatening, we will attack. I would like to criticize the president for drawing a red line that no sane person would cross, but that might encourage him to continue down the insane path he has created.

Al Jazzera reports that China has signaled it will remain neutral if the US retaliates to a NK attack. This is the long-sought ‘more proactive Chinese intervention’ and it has gone largely unnoticed in the US (though likely not unnoticed to the NK leadership).

“A Chinese state-run newspaper…said on Friday that Washington and Pyongyang were playing a ‘reckless game’ that could lead to ‘miscalculations and a strategic war’.
‘China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral,’ the editorial said.
However, it added: ‘If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.’
A more proactive China cuts both ways.

Fox News commentary (written in June to criticize Chinese inaction as well as the inaction of previous presidents) estimates one likely scenario includes tens of millions dead in a (short) second Korean War.

A Business Insider piece (written yesterday and using celebratory language to describe an ‘awesome’ US attack that is largely successful—very detailed piece written almost like a movie scrip) notes that “Mattis himself admitted that that a fight with North Korea would be "more serious in terms of human suffering" than anything since the original Korean War ended in 1953 and "a war that fundamentally we don't want."

“North Korea would most likely destroy some US military installations, lay waste to some small portion of Seoul, and get a handful of missiles fired….
In the end, it would be a brutal, bloody conflict….
Even after a devastating missile attack, some of North Korea's nuclear stockpile would most likely remain hidden. Some element of the remaining North Korean forces could stage a retaliation….”
On Vox a journalist from South Korea argues that “North Korea. Like, the United States owns nuclear weapons, but why is North Korea in the axis of evil that doesn't get to because it's supposed to be the less rational one? I’m just generally afraid of nuclear weapons in general. I’m just as afraid of Trump owning nuclear weapons as Kim Jong Un owning one.
Seoul’s 25.6 million residents are in direct firing range of thousands of pieces of North Korean artillery already lined up along the border. And around 70 percent of North Korea’s ground forces are within 90 miles of the border, ready to move south at a moment’s notice. One war game convened by the Atlantic magazine back in 2005 predicted that a North Korean attack would kill 100,000 people in Seoul in the first few days alone.”
The Washington Post asked several experts if this increase in tension is unlike the many previous times tensions have spiked.

One experts notes that engaging in a ‘childish shouting match’ and ‘irresponsibly throwing out threats of nuclear attack’ do worsen the situation because NK is not suicidal enough to launch a first attack unless it believes it faces a first attack from the US.

A second scholar says the heated rhetoric remains the same as in the past, with both sides saying they are ready to respond if attacked first.

A third notes that “in this kind of brinkmanship the potential for miscalculation is high, particularly relating to the assessment of what constitutes imminent hostile intent by the other side and their likely reaction to a given, potentially escalatory, action.”
A fourth concludes that the rhetorical heat is not that new, but “the turmoil present in the current U.S. administration and apparent lack of restraint in formulating a cohesive response do introduce new challenges to coming back down.”

A former South Korean foreign minister noted that

“The biggest risks in a situation like this one are misunderstanding, misperception and overreaction. It’s crucial to lower the possibility of these three from occurring. 
The fact that both President Trump and Kim Jong Un share a leadership style that values unpredictability raises chances of misunderstanding and/or misperception. It is important that the U.S. does not push North Korea into a dead end so they feel they are left with no options.
During the Cuban missile crisis, former president Kennedy made sure the U.S. didn’t box in Khrushchev in order to maintain peace. It is very concerning that there are divisions inside the Trump administration in policy toward North Korea.”

A sixth agrees that the heat of the rhetoric is not all that new, and that  

“…the probability of conflict actually breaking out remains low. Kim Jong Un is not suicidal.
While the Post’s headline today was “Trump escalates rhetoric,” in truth he went from threatening responses if they said bad things (which they immediately did, re Guam) to if they did bad things against the U.S. or allies (or “anybody that we love”).
That brings him more in line with Mattis and with long-standing U.S. policy, not to initiate hostilities but to respond with great force if attacked.”

And this means, like President Obama with chemical weapons in Syria, President Trump announced a bright red line and has already backed off from allowing its crossing to trigger the response he promised.

I take little comfort in this tit-for-tat analytical angle, however, and continue to worry that Jemma has joined a race on the path to our own destruction.


I do not want to score points by focusing on erased red lines that reinforce my own conclusion that President Trump has been and remains unfit for office. At this point, I want to avoid a nuclear war. And I hope that this brinksmanship experience then results in others in US leadership rallying around constraining or removing this president from office.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Fire & Fury?
Baffling, even after watching Trump's juvenocracy for the past six months. Is he really willing to put our young men and women in harms way (not to mention many Koreans and more) just to boost his plummeting poll numbers?

Rachel Maddow helps us sort this out, pointing out that the new variable is not miniaturized bombs or ballistic missile technology, but that for the first time in the history of this conflict the leader of North Korea no longer stands alone on the altar of crazy and clueless.

We are watching a race.

In lane one, we have an angry and ignorant old man with our nuclear codes on a track to starting a world war to vainly try to boost his own popularity in fear of being seen as a loser.

In lane two, we have largely Republican leaders in Congress, our military, and the president's cabinet who are the only ones who can stop him (25th Amendment) in time. There are signs that some of these have begun to move from 'we can use him without risk' to 'the risk is too great,' but we need more to move, more rapidly, to avoid a war.

If lane one wins, the pain and devastation that will result is difficult to overstate.Avoiding this requires those in lane two to move from an electoral calculation (timeline: by midterms) to a lunatic dictator calculation (timeline: ASAP).

Otherwise, lane one wins and we all suffer not just the daily humiliation that is this tweetocracy but both large loss of life and eight years of an angry ignorant old man as a commander in chief willing to do whatever it takes to boost his own popularity.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Our little piece of heaven 2017



Body surfing is a huge part of summer time fun and here we see Cecelia and Colton fine tuning their timing. Cecelia was particularly good at wave riding this year.




Ceclia is taking violin lessons and was showing Papi (and the rest of us) how to hold it properly to pluck the strings. Very cool.

Who doesn't love the colors here?

And getting to ride waves on top of that...heaven.


Heather, Matt & Harper visited the roundhouse this year. They introduced us to Spikerball, which will now be part of our regular beach activity menu.


Lauren, Philip, Charolotte, Leo and thoughts of Jemma joined us at the roundhouse this year. Wiffle ball and beach time, jenga and cards and more...lots of fun.


We shared Father's Day with Julie's Dad at Dockside Daves...enormous grouper sandwiches were well worth it!

Jim's Dock with the gang while Lori was in town with Tom & Sarah, Amanda & Ray, C&C, M&D.



Mom and I were #1 fans for Ceclia's softball games and Colton's baseball games, continuing Mom's tradition from the days when she was at all of my games, and before that when she was the start of the softball team.

Catching up with Jim at Charle's 90th birthday celebration!

Leaf composting continues to expand. No leaves left the property in the past three years. Now producing enough compost to no longer need to bring in compost to build the piles. Soon will be producing enough to also do all fertilizing on the property.



Bonfire in the yard with hot dogs, hamburgers and marshmallows to roast with Casey and Aeshlin, Philip, Lauren, Charlotte and Leo, Mom and Dad.

Charles (just turned 90) and Joyce. Two of the finest people on the planet.


Minor cabinet painting job with Tom.


Leo, Charlotte and hats.


Wiffle ball on the beach, of course.

We could not love you more, Dad & Mom!


Inside the little big room at the roundhouse.


Amazing shot of an amazing young man!

My roots and wings.

With Brian & Casey at Silver Springs


Expanding the spikerball playing universe with Carolyn, Greg and Giovanni.

In all honesty, I never knew a relationship could be this good. The Summer was filled with work and play, good food and relaxation, and everything good and life-affirming about the Summer and my life in general starts with Julie. xo

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hating Professors
Cleveland.com ran an article about UA considering eliminating Friday classes. Partly to save money and partly as part of a larger effort to create more flexible scheduling options for students who are more likely today to work (or seek experiential learning opportunities).

The idea may or may not work.

The comments following the article are another matter entirely.

The comments are cut and pasted here, in blue, and indented with speakers identified by capital letters.

A: I feel sorry for kids getting an economic degree from a university that can't even manage the outrageous tuition they fleece from kids and their parents.  At least they have that 55 million dollar football stadium, that nobody goes to because their football team sucks so badly.  Akron U sucks.
B: Cut football?
C: The football program is what brings in the money to fund many of these institutions.  They are no longer able to stand as universities because of salary/ pension bloat.  What they have become are actually football schools with a bunch of other faculty there to give non athletes something to do while they don't have their "We are No. 1" foam fingers waving at the stadium on game day. 

Tuition has risen sharply, but analysis after analysis repeatedly shows this is result of dramatic declines in state support, increases in high-paid administrators, and capital projects (usually driven by funding from the state capital) to build facilities often un-related to the academic mission.
Football programs are rarely revenue positive (other than places like Ohio State) and certainly not even close as places like UA.
D: There seems to be a lot of hatred towards college professors.  I don't think "professor" when I think of lucrative fields to go into.  I think "engineer" or "computer programmer" or "financial analyst" -- and who taught those people? Professors.  Ph.D. degrees don't come cheaply or easily. 
I bet if we knew the truth about where the bloat is in college spending, professor salaries would not be a big factor. 
Overall spending on faculty salaries at many colleges is probably down as they rely more on part-time adjunct faculty who get no benefits. The cost increase, like in medicine, is coming mainly from increased numbers of bureaucrats and administrators. 
E: Professors are a big part of the bloat, it comes in the form of pensions and healthcare.  Moreover, professors are the ones that created the adjunct faculty push. They realize that an individual department or college needs cheap educators because most of the funds are going towards extended retirements for faculty and staff. Moreover, the professors often remain teaching for decades even , while collecting pensions and still collect salary (albeit at 80% of original level). This alone, is a major reason that adjuncts get paid so little. 
F: Professors are paid substantially. Moreover, they secure for themselves massive benefits and they actually created the adjunct problem because of their massive salary and benefit packages.   As far as teaching, giving of themselves to create lucrative opportunities for students? Come on!, I am laughing my head off on that one. Most professors teach in disciplines that leave the students with ZERO skills for the modern workforce. Most of them do this because they live outside of the modern economy - the tenure system. The data on this is overwhelming, the majority of faculty actually ruin students lives because they are not honest with them at the outset about career options and future salaries.
Yes, Ph.D. degrees do come easily. There are far too many ,and the standards have dropped substantially. Your thinking about Ph.D. and its impressiveness is an ~40 years old idea. The modern Ph.D. is essentially worth just the sheet of paper its printed on. Many of these people have zero skills to operate anywhere except inside the safety of a tenured faculty job at some Podunk community college. 
Again, the data shows over and over that professor’s salaries do not account for most of the increasing costs to students and their families.
Professors do not ‘secure themselves massive benefits packages.’ Quite the contrary, these packages have been shrinking (and did not start any more massive than pensions provided to public and private sector workers at the time these were negotiated).
The ‘zero skills’ argument has consistently been shown to be wrong (with liberal arts and humanities majors experiencing among the highest lifetime increase in earnings among all majors). The data show that ‘facutly ruin student’s lifes’ is difficult to defend.
G: To save costs, how about cutting the salary of these bloated liberal college professors who only work a few months of the year.
H: There will be plenty of room for a four day week as  student enrollment continues to plummet .  Higher education is a competative business. U of A brain trusts can teach it but cannot practice it. Now they must suffer the consequences of overbuilding and overspending on useless commodities. Don't blame the educators blame the administrators and fools in Columbus. Try a four day class week. If it fails go back to five days. As always the students will be paying the financial consequences of bad management. 
 I: If they were honest about saving money, they would proceed with the following, in order:
1) cut admin staff
2) cut pensions given to lazy old professors who are usually teaching still anyways while collecting pension! It is why there are so many poor adjunct hired with no benefits, because seniority rules and allows pension benefits + 80% of original salary and more!
3) eliminate tenure. Sorry teaching for example environmental sciences should not be a life time position. Rotate in and out fresh new talent!!
4) stop the building and paving frenzy; they spent to much continuously building shiny new structures to impress students and parents.. 
J: Or, what if they stop paying incredible salaries to professors?  This is what's driving the cost of education through the roof.  Ohio U's average full time professor salary is nearly $114k!!  Not a bad gig for literally working 7 months of the year, huh??
K: I'm sorry, could not help but laugh reading your post. 
20 years experience in the Ivory Tower usually equals stale white toast.
Yes, professors "work" 12 months per year. But good luck actually seeing them at work.  
L: 12 months a year sitting on their azz while preaching out of a book.  
M: Excellence is not what you get with a college professor. These are some of the most inept people society produces.
Many of the same inaccurate urban legends being recycled here (adding liberal to bloated, while studies of actual faculty, that include business schools and engineering and other more conservative disciplines) from universities to community colleges show there is no liberal tilt.)
Most professors wish we earned ‘incredible salaries.’
‘Stale white toast’ is hard to respond to, but for those who work in education it is clear and unanimously agreed on (regardless of political persuasion) that experience matters.
Studies repeatedly show that the average professor works more than 60 hours per week.
‘Some of the most inept’ sounds more like a former student who earned a bad grade and has still not learned to take constructive criticism.
N: Another move to string out graduation and make more money on fees.  Maybe they should eliminate morning classes while they're at it, and classes on days beginning with a "T".
O: Education happens in life whether or not you have a bozo professor lecturing you or not.
I love the cancel classes on days beginning with T idea. Funny.
Education does happen outside the classroom, and it is true that some in the academy need to do more to recognize this and integrate this insight into how they teach, but if the suggestion here is that life experience can replace the classroom—no evidence that this is anything other than a crazy idea. Hard to imagine anyone learning their times tables or how to read and write in the process of weeding or operating a factory line.
These comments are nearly all inaccurate. Some appear to be more about being mean than about serious argument.
More importantly, however, these reflect the deep contempt in which some (many?) hold academics and educators, perhaps expertise and a life of the mind in general.
As educators we need to develop a sustained strategy for reversing this trend.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Find a need and fill it
This is a pretty simple idea, and that is one reason I like it.



And it helps me think about social entrepreneurship in a way that does not make me feel like I should be working in the College of Business Administration. (Nothing against my many fantastic colleagues who do work in the CBA--just not my area.)

This way of thinking allows me to focus on the importance of crafting solutions to political, social, economic, cultural problems. Find an actual need, then fill it--solve it or reduce the harm associated with that problem.

Further, while not required, it is likely that many efforts driven by this compass will focus on solving problems for others, or (as another definition I like puts it): empowering ourselves by solving problems for others.

Today, 'find a need and fill it' feels like a way to encapsulate what some might see the characteristic that makes America unique. For me, I wonder about the uniqueness argument, but certainly can embrace that this idea is part of what makes America both possible and desirable.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Responding to Each Tweet is Not a Strategy

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, Nancy MacLean

The author had this to say in a recent edition of The Chronicle:

One thing has really stood out for me. For all the thousands of words that they have written, my critics still fail to engage the central message of the book: Leading libertarian thinkers concluded they could never win over the majority to their agenda. Therefore, they decided to achieve their utopia by attempting to radically change the rules of governance in order to change society.
In their writings, Buchanan and other libertarian thinkers lay out a vision for a certain kind of society. It’s a society where capitalism has free rein and the rights of the wealthy few are protected, while the many are prevented from exercising countervailing power. It’s a society where government is so shrunken as to be unrecognizable. In the country they envision, most protections that benefit average Americans have vanished: Social Security has been abolished, worker and public-health protections are gone, and public schools are shuttered in favor of private education. It’s a country where national parks and water supplies are sold to the highest bidder.
That’s not a country most Americans would recognize. And it’s not a country most of us, from any political party, would want to inhabit. Yet it’s the America Charles Koch and his fellow donors dream of bringing into being by applying Buchanan’s insights. It’s critical to bring this vision out into the open, so we can have honest debate about the kind of country we want. That’s why Buchanan’s vision of enchaining democracy — and the frightening degree to which it has become a reality — is a central focus of my book.”
And a connection the author made in the same interview that hits home for me:
“In the past, publishers and media outlets often assumed "both sides are equally at fault." Those assumptions may have once applied, but in the current context they rarely do. 
We are experiencing what Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann called "asymmetric polarization," in a book aptly titled It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. 
The coarsening of dialogue that we often now see from the radical right is hurting people, norms, and all that enables a society to work. In order to deal with this shift effectively, we need to stop reacting case by case and understand the trouble as systemic. That’s part of the message of my book.”

Related books to consider:
Dark Money: The Hidden History of Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Jane Mayer (2016)

ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Who are the immensely wealthy right-wing ideologues shaping the fate of America today? From the bestselling author of The Dark Side, an electrifying work of investigative journalism that uncovers the agenda of this powerful group.

In her new preface, Jane Mayer discusses the results of the most recent election and Donald Trump’s victory, and how, despite much discussion to the contrary, this was a huge victory for the billionaires who have been pouring money in the American political system.

It’s Even Worse Than it Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein (2004)

Washington Post review of Mann & Ornstein here.

Great analysis by a liberal (Mann from Brookings Institute) and a conservative (Ornstein from American Enterprise Institute)…to counter the BS notion that ‘both sides are doing it’ with a strong and evidence-based demonstration that we are observing ‘asymmetric polarization,’ as also found in the recent Columbia Journalism Review study discussed here, where researchers found evidence that polarization is dominant on Right.

The Republican Noise Machine: Right Wing Media and How it Corrupts Democracy, David Brock (2004).

Brock is a former foot soldier in this noise machine who decided he could no longer stomach the efforts to undermine democracy.

Sound-Bite Saboteur: Public Discourse, Education, and the State of Democratic Deliberation, Julie Drew, William Lyons, and Lance Svehla (2010)