Thursday, January 19, 2017

Some interpretations (11:20AM)

First, WaPo has pulled down their paywall through Saturday and I encourage everyone to read this sampling of responses from people invited to tell us why they voted for Trump.

Summary: Because he's more Godly than the Clintons, because of Clinton-fatigue, because the MSM (and the Democratic leadership) took it for granted that Clinton would win, because they really believed MSM stories that implied Hillary Clinton had done something criminal at some point, because they think he cares about farmers, because they think he wants to keep everyone--gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, etc.--safe and happy, and (a recurring theme) because a lot of people mistakenly think this is a country founded on capitalism and that we need a CEO, not a President.

My favorite was the guy who thinks the Supreme Court is an "unelected oligarchy rewriting the Constitution." Gotta love people who have strong opinions on subjects they are clearly unqualified to discuss.

On the same theme, Leon Weiseltier encourages us to Stay angry. As he says (I've said it before, and I'll say it again--told you so), the country is now reaping the harvest of hate that the Republican Party has spent decades cultivating. An interesting read.

:: Comments left behind ::

Thursday, November 17, 2016

On and on I go (11:48AM)

The whole previous post was inspired by this article I read. Specifically, this part:

The undeserving included racial minorities on welfare but it also included lazy urban professionals like me working desk jobs and producing nothing more than ideas.

This comes up more than once in the article. People who work with their brains instead of their hands are "lazy." Which is saying that work of the "body" is of value and work of the "brain" is not.

Having been raised by big believers in the whole Protestant Work Ethic kind of thing, I can empathize with where they are coming from. My parents believed in education, but as an active thing. You walked to school, physically wrote notes, walked home, physically did homework, etc. When you were done with those "activities" then you got up and did something physical, like chores.

Nothing was more likely to get you into trouble than sitting and thinking about something. Or more likely to get you labeled as "lazy."

So I get it. I do. I don't agree. with them, but I get where they're coming from.

However, the interviewees' bias shows in that they have one view of "the good life" and how you're supposed to achieve it, and they are absolutely prejudiced against people who have a different view or who choose a different path. The fact that this seems to be a much larger segment of the country pisses them off.

The world around them has moved. Instead of moving with it, they're planting their feet and screaming, "but it worked for my great-grandfather!

The level of ignorance (not stupidity) of the complexity of modern life on display by the people quoted in the article is a bit frightening, but no one wants to read a digression on that topic. My point is that these particular Trump voters are ignorant and biased, but their bias isn't just a racial thing. It's a social/class sort of thing. They feel they're a minority and they feel disrespected.

A lot of people should be able to empathize with that.

Also, attacking groups seen as "other" when you feel your social identity is, itself, under attack is normal human behavior.

It's not our most attractive characteristic.


If the people conducting polls think they are ignorant, racist sexists, why would they be obligated to answer pollsters’ questions truthfully?

So they lied to the pollsters and placed ignorant votes for a racist, sexist candidate, what? Out of spite?

I'm being unfair, I know, and this is important. What they really seem to have been envisioning was Trump bringing Mayberry back again. Or maybe Big Valley. Simpler places and times where the sweat of a man's brow proved his worth.

Time does not go backward, people. You cannot erase it's effects and any attempt to do so is sure to produce ten times the chaos.

Your perception that you're not getting "your share" in some way is just that. Your perception. That doesn't make it true.

Also? This is Real Life. Real Life is often unfair. If you want things to be more fair, you have to do more than make a protest vote once every four years.


Also, I'm wondering how this ill-prepared, unqualified, conflicted, and half-panicked new president who is rapidly accumulating an absurdist staff of lunatics is going to look to them in a year's time?

It still mystifies me that so many people didn't see what I saw so clearly--that Trump's candidacy was trump de l'oeil.

He wanted the attention and publicity of running. He didn't want or expect to win, and he certainly wasn't prepared for it. His entire strategy for the last month or so has been about laying the groundwork for a massive, years-long, headline-grabbing sulk about how cheated he was.


Seriously, am I just constitutionally incapable of having one thought, following it through to a natural conclusion, and then just shutting up?

It's starting to seem unlikely.

:: Comments left behind ::

The fact that "time does not go backward" is what gives me the most hope nowadays. Too many genies are out of their bottles. The arc of history bending toward justice and all that. That said, it's sure going to be a rough four years...

:: Elayne Riggs November 21, 2016 01:52 PM

Sadly, while time doesn't go backwards, progress is not a smooth arrow upward, either. More of a jagged arc.

I very much fear we're in for a jagged four years.

:: Anne November 22, 2016 09:39 AM

I'm back on Cartesian Dualism (11:05AM)

I disagree with a href="" target="new">the closing paragraph of this description of Cartesian Dualism.

This concept is difficult to accept for those with a secular humanist, materialist, and evolutionist worldview because accepting it is accepting supernaturalism. Consequently, Bible believers accept dualism and people with the opposite worldview find themselves obligated to reject it.

I'm not a Bible believer and have never thought of the concept in religious terms. Nor do I find thinking of my "mind" as an actual thing, separate from my body, a particularly superstitious act.*

Superstition: a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.

I'd say trying to assert that the human mind is completely divorced from "reason" or "knowledge" is absurd. Our minds--thoughts--patently exist. We have knowledge that they exist--the whole cogito ergo sum thing.

The question of a related/associated "soul" of some kind is what's superstition, and the existence of our brains in no way implies that a "soul" exists, but I think there's no question but that "thought" is a real thing. A thought can implement and experience change. It can act upon or be acted upon. That's pretty real.


* I don't think anyone who has ever tried to lose weight or quit smoking would deny that they have a mind and it's not always on the side of what's best for their body.

:: Comments left behind ::

Friday, October 14, 2016

Just appalled (10:15AM)

Trump's crazy supporters are "unfazed" by reports of his sexually assaulting multiple women.

At the same time, they "take umbrage" at reports that Hillary Clinton swears a lot. (And, unsurprisingly, since they don't seem that smart, continue to believe she's some kind of master criminal, in spite of the evidence to the contrary.)

Meanwhile, the infamous Chris Christie tries to persuade voters that anyone is a better presidential choice than a woman.

The level of sexism on display in this campaign is shocking and appalling.


i'm almost sorry I gave up regular politiblogging in favor of having a life. :) I could have had a field day over the last year.

:: Comments left behind ::

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

See? (08:26AM)

Remember what I said about Trump's candidacy being a joke, and that he really did not ever intend to be a major contender for the Oval Office? (here)

Apparently, Michael Moore agrees with me.

And, from what he says, so does Trump.

:: Comments left behind ::

I wish Moore had some evidence to offer. Sarah Kendzior's argument that he's positioning himself for a Fox-style media recreation afterwards seems more plausible at the moment than mere buffoonery.

:: Jonathan Dresner August 17, 2016 10:53 AM

I actually don't think what's driving Trump is "mere buffoonery."

I think that he had no idea he might get this far with his campaign--having undertaken it purely for publicity purposes--and that the publicity has electrified his already-inflated self-esteem. He's lapping up the attention, seeing his name on billboards, yard signs, and all the major news sites. Everyone talks about him--every hour of every day. For a man with his ego, that's got to be intoxicating.

Does he secretly want to be President? I can easily imagine that any common sense he might have is at war with his ego over the subject.

In fact, from the little I've actually paid attention to news reports of him over the last couple of decades, I've always had him pegged as a typical con artist. Always bombastic, huckstering, whitewashing, and moving between projects so quickly that the dust hasn't settled from the last one before he's loudly describing the wonders of his latest scheme.

Have you ever seen, in old Westerns, when the "medicine man" comes to town, with a wagon full of magic "cure-alls" to peddle to the public? He makes his sales, then leaves town fast (usually without paying his outstanding bills), to avoid fall-out from disappointed customers.

That's Trump, in a nutshell. IMO

:: Anne August 17, 2016 01:07 PM

That's not the point.

:: nba 2k17 mt August 27, 2016 12:13 AM

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I told you so (10:40AM)

The G.O.P. Created Donald Trump

Of course they did. I bin sayin' it for years--someday, the Republicans were going to reap the crop of anti-intellectualism (see this The Stupid Party column, which also says things I've been saying for a long time) and hatred they've been sowing for the last half-century. *

This Cohen column seems to accurately describe the condition of the world today, and goes a long way toward explaining what we're seeing.

As a casual student of history, I've read accounts of various kinds of mass hysteria that have gripped various cultures over the years. Sometimes these waves have been political, sometimes not.

(Although, I think the "end of truth" really started when FOX News successfully defended their position that, as a news outlet, they were not legally obligated to print the truth. But, of course, I've said that before. Often.)

Trump has been a political joke for decades, it being generally accepted that his frequent attempts to run for public office were rooted in his ego, a desire to see himself as the center of the world. No one's laughing now, are they? Especially not the party that built his platform.

Bear in mind that if the "hanging chad" debacle taught us nothing else, it reminded us that every vote counts. Mark your ballots clearly in November, people.

(And, if you're one of the unfortunates whose voting precinct uses electronic balloting, vote by mail instead, if you have the option. If you don't, it's not too late to stand up and demand safeguards and accountability for the electronic voting process.)

Never forget that today Trump is saying that Obama is the founder of ISIS and that Hillary Clinton helped. A couple of days ago he suggested that 2nd Amendment supporters might decide to take Hillary Clinton's candidacy into their own hands. This is more stupidity than even the Stupid Right should be able to swallow.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

* I've long thought--and I'm pretty sure I've said this before--that ever since the time of the "Industrial Revolution", the human race has been splitting into two major groups. Those who can cope with "progress" and those who can't.

There are a lot of Can't-ing voices (<--see what I did there? heehee) on the Trump bandwagon. (A similar group was responsible for the U.K.'s bewildering Brexit vote.) People who think they can somehow put the genie back in the bottle.

Reality doesn't work that way. The world has changed. Short of a major natural or man-made global disaster, it's not going back.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear delusional Trump supporters:

No, your kids aren't going to get the highly paid manufacturing jobs you had back in the day. Get over it.

Instead of trying to bring back the '50s, why don't you stand up at a local school board meeting and demand that your kids be given an education that fits them for more than running a forklift or packing auto parts into cardboard boxes for shipping?

Your kids could be engineers. Scientists. Astronauts. Airline pilots. Software designers. Pro ball players (included for those who like that sort of thing) or movie stars. Concert pianists. Surgeons. Archeologists.

Parents are supposed to want better for their kids than what they had.

Embrace the future. It will be here tomorrow.


:: Comments left behind ::

:: heh ::

:: Constantine August 11, 2016 01:01 PM

Write more.

:: Charlie August 12, 2016 05:11 AM

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Well? (01:36PM)

Am I the only one who looks at Trippy Trump's behavior and realizes that he's desperately trying not to get elected?

It's possible that no one's more surprised and alarmed than he is to find himself where he stands today.

He's been "running" for the nomination for years and people have always understood that he was just a very bad joke wrapped in a giant ego. This year, for whatever reason, the media loved him and covered his every move, granting him a legitimacy that nothing in his so-called platform or history deserved. So, you know, maybe no so much with him having self-awareness.

Part of me is smirking--having lived through the meltdown and re-emergence of the Democratic Party, I'm not sorry that the Repubs are getting their turn in the stocks. (The Dems moved toward the middle when they reconstituted themselves. Here's hoping the Repubs do the same.)

But mostly, since politics and politicians have become so much more crazy in the last fifteen or twenty years, I'm fighting the urge to send apology notes to everyone else in the world, promising them we're not as crazy as we look at the moment and that we will, eventually, get our shit back together.


P.S. Our system works people. But it only works if we all vote.

:: Comments left behind ::

There's been a lot of discussion on twitter about whether Trump was really a Clinton supporter, or trying to get out from under his Trump U lawsuits, really. The 'trying to lose' thing sounds like a great movie, but I have the same reaction to that that I have to the "ulterior motive" theories: I don't think he has the character or stamina for a Long Con. He's shown us too much of himself for too long, and as Maya Angelou said, "When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”

:: Jonathan Dresner June 8, 2016 08:34 AM

I don't think he was trying to pull a Long Con. I think he was as surprised as anyone when he started getting traction this time out.

And now, I think he's just hanging on, desperately, saying whatever comes to mind (as he always has), and riding his ego.

He's tapped into that vein of frustration felt by a lot of people in this country who don't understand "what went wrong" and who want a magic bullet solution. These are the people who are willing to believe that all our problems are caused by Someone Else and who think that shoving all the Someone Elses out the door and locking it after them will somehow, magically produce a different reality.

That's long been my annoyance with the modern Right, you know. Their determination to believe that reality is what they want it to be, instead of what it is. It started with Reagan and has been a feature of the Republican Party's platforms ever since.

:: Anne June 8, 2016 10:39 AM

You are very much not the only person who's been thinking this. I've suspected it for some time. He's the epitome of the internet troll, why wouldn't he be trolling the country?

:: Elayne Riggs June 8, 2016 07:24 PM

Monday, March 28, 2016

Children learn what their parents teach them. (03:38PM)


(Found here.)

:: Comments left behind ::

Hooray! Anne's yearly post! Some of us still thrill at seeing you...

:: Elayne ariggs April 3, 2016 07:57 PM


Lovely to hear from you!

:: Anne April 4, 2016 08:56 AM

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sorry, no comments (10:39AM)

Comment spam is overrunning the blog and I've had to shut comments off. My apologies.

Obviously, I'm far overdue for upgrading this blog to new software that isn't so inviting to spammers. I don't post that often and may not bother--but if I decide to start a new blog on a less spam-ridden platform, I'll post a note here. (Assuming I wind up needing to change my domain or something.)

:: Comments left behind ::

Thursday, November 7, 2013

So, I'm thinking with half my brain (10:06AM)

If you lean back and squint just right, recent developments in society worldwide almost seem to form a pattern.

It's like--the human race is splitting into two different species. Homo mos maiorum is linear, cautious, and has their mind fixed on what they might find for dinner. Much as our species (and others) have been throughout the millennia. They seem--not so much unwilling as unable to grasp change in their environment. (I'm not talking about painting the living room blue--I'm talking social events and cultural shifts.)

Large-scale changes in their environment freak them out disproportionately. They have their place in the world and are only comfortable when that place and the other places that help to define theirs, remain constant. They know their role, they know what's expected of them, and they have a fundamental understanding of how to get to their goals. They resent being made to think about these things--and are certainly not prepared to rethink them every couple of years--or every few months. More then resenting it, they seem to lack the perceptual framework that allows them to accept change without undue cognitive dissonance.

This could be set off against, for want of a better phrase, Homo ad astra who not only accept change but welcome it--finds it invigorating and exciting and is always willing to try to adapt and look for new possibilities. When society undergoes a sea-change around them, they find it interesting, not threatening. These are the people who agitate for change when they think they perceive a change that could be for the better.

(Admittedly, they don't always think that deeply. They have the insatiable curiosity of the elephant's child and are generally willing to try something and discard it five minutes later if it doesn't turn out to be an improvement.)

It's not an age thing. I'm elderly (okay, maybe not, but I just had a birthday and I have wrinkles in my neck!), let's say, "not young any more," and I'm certainly not adverse to change. I know people ten or fifteen years younger than I am who are still freaking out about not living in the world their grandparents knew.

Is it a class split? I know people who come from families of comparative wealth who are Homo mos maiorum not because they are worried about finding dinner but because abundance in their youth sheltered them from the necessity of learning to adapt or, indeed, spared them any sense of what it might mean to struggle.* They're simply not prepared for change because they were raised with the kind of day-after-day stability that wealth can provide.

I don't think wealth is a factor, though. At the other end of the social spectrum are the Have-nothings who cling just as tightly to "how things are" for fear that any change will cause them to lose what little security (whether it's social, mental, or economic) they already have.** More than that, they think they understand their place in the world and (whether or not they like that place) can't deal with the idea of that "place" changing.

It's not education. I know people with and without higher education, I've known people who struggled and failed to get through the basic K-12 education the US offers, and all of these groups contain both Homo mos maiorum and Homo ad astra types.

Is it a personality split? Maybe those who are "people-people" are much less comfortable with change--maybe because their "people skills" are founded on their perception of a class/social role structure that is, these days, always in flux? But, no. Because not all of my people-person acquaintances are that way. Some of them adopt change with enthusiasm--treating it as a new way to connect with other people.

It's not a leader-follower thing. I'm not a leader, not by any stretch of the imagination. I'm also not a follower. (That is, I don't follow if someone isn't leading somewhere I want to be.) But I'm--adaptable, when it comes to social/environmental change. So, it's not that Homo ad astra are leaders and Homo mos maiorum are followers. The leader/not leader quality is independent of the two types. We all know that, across society, there are "leaders" who are trying to "lead" people backwards to some idealized version of yesterday. Or at least to "lead" people into freezing the world today until they've all had a chance to get comfortable with it all.***

Meanwhile, today's Homo ad astra are impatiently shaking off tradition and custom, rolling their eyes at the limitations of the past, and trying on new possibilities with the enthusiasm of a kid in a costume store.

Is the divide--the chasm between these two long-standing populations really getting deeper or is the pace of change in contemporary society becoming so fast that these differences are simply highlighted more than ever before?

I have no answers. I'm just avoiding productive work at the moment. And I probably should have read back through this more thoroughly before making it public, but I console myself with the realization that one one reads entries on a long-dormant blog.


* Some of these scions of wealthy families cannot use email. They are not comfortable with technology and are essentially computer-illiterate.

**Maybe it's perceptual. My perception, I mean. Because you couldn't have much less than these Ethiopian children and their families (and here), but something brand-new and unexplored came to them as a fascinating game, not a thing to fear. In fact, they were fearless.

*** My mind keeps floating to the image of the people who settled the planet's frontiers. There's a section of US society these days who like to compare themselves to those "pioneers" and who, in some cases, use pioneer life & society as the measure of how we should be living today.^ (Indoor plumbing aside, one presumes.) This amuses me--because it's inevitably Homo mos maiorum holding the pioneers up as role models for society--but any thought at all will tell you that those pioneers had to be Homo ad astra.

^ (Seriously? Is that what it takes? 200-300 years, and then Homo mos maiorum is ready to accept that where Homo ad astra went was a good place to be?)

:: Comments left behind ::

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Listen To the Generals (04:04PM)

Generals: Get real and cut Pentagon spending

Too often, the Pentagon spending debate is ensnared in the outmoded ideology of past wars and driven by legions of lobbyists for parochial interests in the military-industrial complex.

America's power is more than a massive force structure and numbers of ships, tanks and planes. A national security strategy must be based on current and future threats, not past war doctrines.

In 2008, a National Intelligence Estimate declared the economic crisis, not terrorism, as the greatest threat to national security. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullin, along with other senior military leaders, endorsed that assessment.

The bottom line? An ever-increase stockpile of nukes or yet another super-expensive jet fighter are not what we need and not what the military wants.

:: Comments left behind ::

Monday, October 8, 2012

Don't Reform What Ain't Broken (09:47AM)

My current topic of rant is "reform" math which, no matter what I read about it, convinces me that we're currently raising the worst-educated generation of kids in US history.

See this CBS article or even, this American Thinker" article for info. (The political 'tude in the second one is absurd, of course. There is no 'Progressive' or radical left-wing plot to keep kids from learning.) I can't think highly of any system of teaching math that doesn't teach a kid what 10 - 7 =.

Maybe it's rote to memorize multiplication tables, but it's not terminally boring, and no one ever died of having to learn long division.

Also, calculators in second grade? I guess a child is never too young to learn they don't need to use their own brain for anything, are they?*

Okay--I won't go on. I'll just say that I'm glad I'm childless and don't have to worry about any offspring of mine being educated into stupidity.

Ever since I heard about this "reform math, I've been thinking about The Feeling of Power, a thought-provoking short story by Isaac Asimov (found a link here) that suggests we're not smart enough to use math wisely anyhow.

:: Comments left behind ::

the problem with education is the fear of segregation by intellect, the segregation would leave a disproportionate number of minnorities in the slower clases and though that would be the case it has to be done in the interest of all, all the recent 30 year studies have clearly shown that blacks are 20 iq points behind caucasians, latinos are some 10 iq points behind, accept fact for fact and move on in life, the forced depreciation of education of those more capable because of the asquied notion that somehow we have to make every one equal to another when in reality what is doing is commiting crimes against those that are being cheated out on their right to a quality of education

:: chris October 19, 2012 07:36 PM

On the contrary, recent studies have not (necessarily) shown that non-Caucasians are 'naturally' more intelligent. Reputable studies have shown that there are biases built in to IQ tests--and those biases penalize nonwhite individuals.

Moving past that fallacy, I agree that, in the US, there is a pronounced anti-intellectual bias; a tendency to assume that, since intelligence can't be legislated into a democratic average for all, that superior intellect is suspect and probably dangerous. This bias has been introduced into our society by the Right, who have demonstrated a significant pattern, in the last 30 years, of screaming about the danger of electing people smarter than ourselves to political office. (To be fair, the current crop of Republicans didn't invent anti-intellectualism, but they've certainly institutionalized it.)

:: Anne October 20, 2012 08:41 AM

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In Passing (12:40PM)

Personally, I think that if your marriage stands or falls based on whether or not two other people are allowed to get married? The problem is in your marriage, not theirs.

:: Comments left behind ::

It's not about the vulnerability of a marriage itself, but about the vulnerability of the category "marriage" -- and I know I shouldn't be defending them, but the way you put the question actually clarified something for me -- from what seems to them an overbroad definition. It's a bit like the powerful defensive reaction I have towards Jews for Jesus, or the "are Mormons Christians" question.

That said, I don't see any benefit in trying to legislate restrictions on "Messianic Jews" calling themselves Jewish or taking away Mormon tax exemptions... in fact, I see quite a bit of harm in trying to define these things and restrict them officially. Cognitive dissonance and linguistic chaos are historical realities, often signs of important change.

:: Ahistoricality May 8, 2012 08:58 PM

Sometimes when you read something, it does clarify your own thoughts, yes. I'm glad you had that experience yourself.

As far as your post goes--you're now seeing "marriage" is a category of thing, just as a religion is?

A category of thing--a sort of club that some people feel possessive about and entitled to not only lay claim to but define the rules for and dictate membership in.

What appeared to be just irrational homophobia makes more sense that way, yes.

Sad to say, it doesn't make the objectors sound any more intelligent or mature.

I've belonged to a number of "clubs" in my life--when you define a "club" as a category of activity or lifestyle that you have chosen for yourself. These clubs all evolved over time and not always into something I necessarily approved of. At that point, I had the choice of staying or going.

Regardless of which I chose, I can say that I never made a public move* to block anyone else's access to a club just because they had different beliefs about it than I did.

I mean, that's the sort of thing you'd do when you were eight.

Adults should be a bit more sensible about accepting that life contains many paths and many of us are not sharing the same ones.


* Okay, aside from some bitching and moaning, but that's just me. Mostly I just like to complain about almost anything.

:: Anne May 9, 2012 05:07 PM

Marriage is a lot of things: it's a legal status, an emotional and social relationship, a stage of life (for some people, multiple stages of life), a financial entanglement, a sacramental ritual, a sexual relationship and/or a limitation on sexual relationships.

This is why talking about it is so damned complicated: in any conversation of two or more people, odds are there are several different definitions of marriage at work. And they aren't entirely separate things, either....

But to get back to my main point.... for adherents of the patriarchal family/sex model (I hate to call them "conservatives" or "traditionalists" when neither is really true), there are about three categories of sex acts: sanctioned marital relations; relations that could be sanctioned by marriage, but without sanction; abominations. Same-sex marriage is a huge paradigm shift for people who can't even concieve of legitimating unsanctioned but sanctionable relations.

:: Ahistoricality May 9, 2012 08:27 PM

Yes, this topic is unbelievable tangled. Semantically, the word "marriage" means so many different things, depending on what mouth it's coming out of.

As a liberal, my instinct is to think (which I have done) and then to err on the side of inclusion if in doubt.

At the same time, thanks to this conversation, I can now empathize with the emotional conflict that the "my marriage or no marriage" crowd must be feeling. Any sea-change in what "marriage" includes will require them to redefine their emotional territory, a very tough thing for most of us to do under the best of circumstances.

Also at the same time, I stand by my original post.

It's hard and it hurts, yes, and it's a change individually and for society as a whole, so turmoil on all sides, but making this step--growing in this way--is the right thing to do.

:: Anne May 10, 2012 11:13 AM

Friday, September 30, 2011

Do You Know Peter? (11:01AM)

Reading The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study made me regret that "fashions" in business-think mean this valuable insight is much less familiar to today's workforce than it was to my young one.

This analysis--combining ecology, game theory, and computer science--is a way of looking at the Principle that I don't think was possible thirty or forty years ago. Fascinating.

A lot of scattered thoughts--going nowhere in particular with any of them.

Although the article does a good job of summing up the principle in the Abstract, let me add my own definition: "In traditional corporate structure, any highly competent employee will be promoted into failure."

The part that I'm thinking about today--I never quite looked at it like this before--is the underlying corporate perception that someone who is a good worker will be good at any job. That people who are "good" at something are just, you know, naturally good at things.

It's a very Liberal Arts approach, isn't it?

Hard science says that a molecular biologist--even a brilliant one--is not qualified to work as a nuclear physicist. The Liberal Arts say, "you can do anything if you know how to think."

University business studies programs have always been an attempt to take the Liberal Arts "if think-then do" approach and apply it to a specific set of situations--the corporate world.

This has been good for business and for labor in a number of ways, not the least of which has been the ability of workers to shift or outright change job responsibilities from one company to the next. If you were "good" at your last job, you're more likely to be "good" at this one. This approach has also allowed businesses to widen the pool of candidates for each job opening--and the wider the selection, the more likely they were to find the "perfect" candidate.

In a world where work is becoming increasingly specialized--but where the labor force is becoming increasingly unwilling to be pigeon-holed and filed into categories--how is this going to shake out?

It may become irrelevant--traditional corporate structures could be dying out.

The entrepreneurial push--the drive for all of us, no matter how unfit*, to "be my own boss" is part of the trend. The fact that many of today's most successful corporations are taking a nontraditional approach to hiring and retaining their labor force is another--flexible hours, remote workplaces, independent projects, etc., are virtually eliminating the traditional career ladder.

Of course, the previous generation (mine and the one before me) are still active and many of these people are the ones running today's companies and corporations. They still have OldThink mindsets, so this Principle is still an active factor in today's business world.

(I know this for a fact because I'm desperately fighting against being promoted out of my own area of competence at the moment.

The company (management consisting largely of Old White Guys) wants me to step up their ladder. I'm not interested in their ladder, or that step. I've been there and it was boring and I was bad at it and I have no interest in seeing the view from that ledge again.)

(Thus, we see that the Peter Principle is not, as the article says, unavoidable. If people refuse to be promoted into failure, then it's avoidable.)

(Sadly, not everyone is as aware of their limitations as I am of mine--but I was less aware of mine twenty or thirty years ago, so maybe I'm being unreasonable.)

I wonder if the next generation will be able to break out of this corporate mold when they're the ones at the top? Are they drinking the kool-aid or are they just biding their time, waiting their turn?

Will we someday see IBM with badminton courts in the middle of the corporate office courtyard and employees working to the job--not the clock--and half their staff logging into today's video-meeting from a park, a coffee shop, or a home office 500 miles away?

Will it be the next generation--or the one after that, or the one after that?

Like I said. Random thoughts. Leading nowhere in particular.


* Because I'm cynical and disillusioned, it's my personal guess that 10% or less of the workplace is fit to be their own boss.

Anyone, for instance, who imagines sleeping late every morning, working when their favorite soap opera isn't on or it's too rainy to go golfing, "firing" clients they don't like, and having a lot of free time? Is too clueless to go it alone.

Anyone who, when the boss is out of the office, takes that opportunity to spend three hours chatting with co-workers and anyone who sneaks in four hours of social media updates, personal email and texting, during the average workday--they should not go it alone.

If you don't work when no one is watching you? You'll never make it on your own.

Anyhow. The "American Dream" used to be for people to own a house. Now it's to own their own business. Why can't we dream of world peace, an end to hunger, curing disease, something like that? Sheesh.

:: Comments left behind ::

I cite the Peter Principle frequently enough: it's deeply embedded in the university system, which takes effective teachers and researchers and turns them into managers. Sometimes it works....

But the increasing use of academic day-labor (class-by-class adjunct hires, etc.) means that the Tenure-track faculty -- from which administrators traditionally came -- is shrinking, so it's getting more and more likely that anyone with a pulse will get tagged for administrative duties, and if they show any skill whatsoever, more administrative duties....

:: Ahistoricality September 30, 2011 12:02 PM

Well, according to this new analysis, corporations have a less-disastrous impact on their own productivity if they promote randomly instead of promoting "the best."

Universities might wind up having to hire actual administrators from outside the system--could have an interesting impact.

:: Anne September 30, 2011 01:25 PM

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Long, Little Privacy Rant (11:50AM)

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + - they've all gotten kicked in the teeth recently over the same thing.


Just this week, we found out that LinkedIn had sneaked in permission for themselves to take information from our profiles and use it for their advertising. Many users are leaving in disgust--others are simply fighting their way through the system to the place where they can block the practice.

At the same time, Facebook is getting their tenth (or is it twentieth?) kick in the teeth--this time it's over the issue of harvesting and displaying people's phone numbers.

Notable in the vast majority of the wars over personal privacy in the last year or so is one, simple concept--opt out vs opt in.

Every time a new privacy-violating element is added to these services the companies opt everyone in and it's only thanks to the handful of people who monitor their account settings daily that most of us find out that we need to go and opt out.

I get that websites services are desperate to turn "social media" into a cash cow. There's been so much press and so much hype about how fabulous social media is--how when Brad Putz buys a new vacuum cleaner it will inspire all his friends and relations to rush out and buy the same make and model--that these companies are all starting to believe.

What they don't seem to get is that we refuse to be milked without consent.

Whatever creative way you think your engineers have come up with to monetize your system is fine. Give me the option to opt in to it. Maybe I will and maybe I won't--you have a 50/50 chance.

I promise you, though, that if you opt me in without asking, I will opt out 100% of the time.

Privacy is not, as some seem to think, "just so 20th century."

I'm sure Zuckerberg and others wish it were, but it's not.

Like some politicians, these people make the mistake of thinking that if they wish a thing hard enough, it will become reality, but the ruby slippers only worked in Oz and this is so not Oz.

Privacy is a serious concern for a huge number of people and it becomes a bigger issue every time one of these cases hits the headlines.

*TANSTAAFL, people.*

Now, let me speak to the vast body of users of these "social media" websites.

Nothing's free.

Y'all are sucking down a lot of internet bandwidth. Are you paying your share?

Someone has to pay bills for every website you visit. If you spend a lot of time and use a lot of resources on some site regularly, you should be paying. Information and entertainment cost money--even street performers drop a hat in front of you and ask you to toss something into it. If you're reading the articles or playing games or uploading and watching videos, etc., then you're getting a lot of information and entertainment and you should be willing to pay.

If Facebook is your first stop every day, without fail, you should be willing to pay something for the use you make of the site. If the hundreds of thousands of you sitting in Facebook for ten hours a day were willing to pay a reasonable fee for access to the website & services, maybe the company wouldn't be so desperate to pay the bills that it resorts to what I would characterize as underhanded tricks to harvest private data for ad serving.

If you send and receive 500 Tweets a day, you should be willing to pay for the service. (Also? Shut up already. No one is that interesting.)

Ditto for LinkedIn. A one-off professional listing is one thing but those of you setting up massive numbers of groups, linking to the first 5,000 people you can find, sending out dozens of messages a day, blogging, linking, and loading images, networking across half the user base--how many of you are using the paid version of the program and how many of you are riding for free?

TANSTAAFL - There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Someone's gotta pay the cook. If you don't do it willingly, then you shouldn't be surprised when you find out that he slapped an ad on your back when you weren't paying attention. The cost of your lunch has to be covered, one way or another.


People in Spain are going to court for the "Right To Be Forgotten" -- to get references to themselves removed from public search databases.

It's a bit of a different issue but maybe not. It's all around how internet information is gathered, indexed, and shared.

The recent trend toward harvesting more personal data about individual people is being driven by both social uses and for advertising to Brad Putz & like-minded friends.

Clearly some people--and some countries--object.

The push toward "real names" online is the same thing. (I believe LinkedIn pioneered that one since it made sense in their venue, although naturally Facebook was right in there.)

We're all to have one name so that all we do online is connected to that one name so that our demographic and advertising profile can be as complete as possible.


You know what? I don't really think that a blog post I made when I was nineteen, wherein I admitted to having crazy, drunken sex in a public place, _really_ needs to be connected to my professional business profile ten years later. Nor do I feel that it needs to come up in the SERPS when my daughter idly searches on my name one day just to see what the world says about me.

I don't really think my participation in a serious U2U forum talking about quantum physics really needs to be connected to my silly posts in another forum where I was giggling over some celebrity gossip.

None of those three personas need to be linked to my professional accounts online. None of this is particularly appropriate or necessary data to have linked together

I'm sure both corporations and the government would like us all to live our lives with our full names, our annual incomes, our age brackets, our genders, and our social security numbers tattooed across everything we do but it's not gonna happen.

My right to create a "real name " persona that doesn't intersect with my persona of PutzLuvRH8R and neither of which intersect with my persona of BadMom does no harm.

Contrary to what some people have said, anonymity does not breed contempt and we would not all be more civil if we used "real" names.

Rude people are going to be rude. They'd be rude under any name--real or assumed.

Names do not breed civility. Civilization does.

Society forms social interactions and boundaries.

If you think everyone posting online under an pseudonym is rude, maybe you're just hanging out in really rude spaces?

I hang out in a lot of places all over the internet, and civility is the norm in all those spaces. The names we all post under are our "real" names and the social norms of each space inform and define our behavior.

:: Comments left behind ::

I've thought of a service whereby users could pay $X, and the service would go out and create hundreds of references to the user's name with made-up information so that the information harvesters would get confused.

:: GDad August 12, 2011 05:50 AM

Heh. There's a certain amusement value in that.

But when I stop to think, I decide that adding to the already enormous amount of spam and worthless content on the internet is not an attractive idea.

:: Anne August 12, 2011 07:59 AM

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