I want to update you about some exciting changes happening in our Database Meetup group. First, Oliver Kennedy and I are stepping in to help me with some of the tasks associated with managing the group.
We have created a 2016 Survey which asks about what you’d like to see in the group over the next year. We’d also appreciate knowing your preference for meeting night. (There are a couple people who are interested in the group but cannot do Thursday nights, but we don’t want to make a change that will lose anyone.) This survey will be available through the first week of August, but the sooner we get your feedback the better. Please fill it out if you are at all interested.
I had made a resolution to blog regularly in order to limber up my thinking and my writing. That was good for two days; then, life intruded and I fell behind. This blog entry will easily be as disjointed as the daily news; it is clearly a casual blog.
My morning newspaper continues to be a source of never ending wonderment; the daily “blow by blow” reports on this circus called a presidential election campaign is another.
On page 1 of the Buffalo News for May 11, 2016, an article by Mary Jordan from the Washington Post begins with a discussion of highly chauvinistic and sexist radio discussions between Donald Trump and Howard Stern.
Example: “You could have gotten her, right?” Stern asked Trump on-air shortly after Princess Diana’s death in 1997. “You could have nailed her.” “I think I could have,” Trump said.
The article goes on to say that between 1990 and 2005, Trump was cultivating an image of being a Manhattan playboy with so many women that he barely had time to sleep, but these days he is marketing himself in a different way for a different purpose and wants to play down some of the earlier images and statements.
Another article from the New York Times, by Jonathon Martin and Alexander Burns, reprinted in the Buffalo news on May 22, states that many of the usual wealthy Republican donors remain deeply resistant to Mr. Trump and are so far holding back on making contributions.
Michael K. Vlock, a Connecticut investor who has given nearly $5 million to Republicans at the federal level since 2014, said he considers Trump a dangerous person.
“He’s an ignorant. amoral, dishonest and manipulative, misogynistic, philandering, hyper-litigious, isolationist, protectionist blowhard,” Vlock said.
In another article, Trip Gabriel of the NY Times observes that both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are stressing the negatives about each other. I don’t have a reference handy, but I’ve read several places that the Donald has been criticizing Hilary for enabling her husband’s sexual misadventures; unless the stories about Trump’s past adventures and relationships are totally fabricated, this seems to be a clear case of a man who lives in a glass house throwing stones.
Is it any wonder that these two are much more strongly disliked than any other candidates of the last 10 presidential election cycles. See http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/americans-distaste-for-both-trump-and-clinton-is-record-breaking/ for some details complete with charts and diagrams.
Another day, I read that Trump says he has a mandate to be provocative; he is sure successful at this, isn’t he?
Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic has for some time been labeling the Donald as a master hypnotist and persuader: predicting months ago that he had a very good chance to nail the Republican nomination and continuing to predict that there is also a good chance we will have a President Trump. Adams always hastens to add that he does not agree with or support Mr.Trump. I an in sync with him on both points.
Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders seem to be resonating with many Americans who are disturbed with the current state of affairs, sick of politicians who seem to be bought and sold daily, concerned about the future, and looking for an alternative. Trump makes broad promises backed up with little detail; Sanders provides more details, but many seem questionable and impractical; either will need the manipulative skills of Lyndon Johnson or PT Barnum to get his programs through Congress; the Democratic leaders seem as upset with Bernie as the Republicans are with the Donald.
Then there’s Hilary Clinton. I readily admit, I’ve never particularly liked the Clintons. I was turned off when Bill and Al Gore made their acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in 1992 (I think) and have never looked back. Now, I do have to note that the GDP and debt numbers from the Clinton years don’t look all that bad; they are probably better than those for either of his successors; maybe we’ll explore this more carefully another time.
For right now, suffice to say that I don’t see Hillary as our savior. I do think that she is likely to cause less trouble than Donald or Bernie. We do have to hope she isn’t indicted before or after the election. Meanwhile, Trump will be in court over Trump University in November, and you have to wonder why he won’t release his tax returns.
Where do we get our presidential candidates from, anyway? Think about recent history: Romney, McCain, Kerry, Bush, the second, Gore, Dukakis, Reagan, Clinton, … What’s a poor confused voter like me to do? Once in the past, I voted for Ralph Nader; another time, I dragged the lever over without selecting a candidate; this time I feel I have to vote, but I find it very tough to make a choice.
These random thoughts, presented in no particular order, result from reading the morning Newspaper.
According to Charles Krauthammer, “Trump has expressed sympathy for a single-payer system of socialized medicine, far to the left of Obamacare. Trump lists health care as one of the federal government’s three main responsibilities (after national security); Republicans adamantly oppose federal intervention in health care. He also lists education, which Republicans believe should instead be left to the states.” I wonder how my conservative friends who now support him rationalize voting against some of their core beliefs. Maybe they detest Hilary Clinton even more than big government; maybe they feel Trump is the lesser of the evils.
In a NY Times analysis piece, Jennifer Steinhauer tells us that Paul Ryan, “could not bring himself to give even nominal support to Mr. Trump, despite pressure from more conservative House Republicans, after the candidate disparaged various ethnic groups and accused Senator Ted Cruz’s father of conspiring with Lee Harvey Oswald, among other inflammatory comments.” This is more representative of my reasons for having a bad feeling about Trump in the White House.
In another piece reprinted from the Times, Margot Sanger-Katz tells us, “It already looks clear that many Obamacare insurance plans are going to raise their prices significantly.” Before you immediately damn Obama and the concept of health care for all: consider the reasons she cites: the cost of medical care – particularly new medications and new treatments – has been increasing dramatically and is expected to continue to do so; some government programs designed to help the insurance companies make the transition are expiring; insurance companies initially underestimated the cost of this coverage. You might well suspect that costs would be increasing for those with coverage even had there been no Obamacare.
Politifact rates Sanders’ math on minimum wage as mostly false. It is a very bad thing that some people work for some of the disgustingly low wages that are out there, but if the minimum wage is increased, the money will have to come from somewhere; something will have to give. Right now, the government subsidizes employers such as Walmart by providing their employees with food stamps and other benefits. No one can be sure how a mass change will play out. We are already seeing higher restaurant prices and other ramifications as a result of the New York State increase of the minimum wage for tipped workers.
Minimum wage may become a moot point because many low wage jobs are being eliminated by automation. Recently, I ordered some fast food by tapping on a touch screen at a kiosk. Elevator operators and gas pumpers mostly disappeared years ago. In The Second Machine Age , Brynjolfsson and McAfee, two smart guys from MIT suggest lack of employment will become rampant and we’ll be looking a things like: distribute capital – everyone gets dividends; promote man machine partnerships; pay people to do “socially beneficial” tasks; reserve some work for humans; provide vouchers for basic necessities; programs like WPA and CCC. There are some difficult choices coming; I wonder how the choices will be made and what they will be.
That’s more than enough to cause a big headache for today.
©Charlie Wertz 2016
I’ve decided I will try to motivate myself to begin blogging once again; Stay tuned to see if I succeed.
This item is mostly political. Most people believe that as of Tuesday, May 3, Donald Trump has locked up the Republican nomination for the presidency. My thinking aligns with that of Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic (http://blog.dilbert.com/): I don’t think much of his promises and statements, but I have been predicting all along that he had a good chance of clinching the nomination and I believe he has a very good chance of becoming president. He is what Scott Adams calls a master persuader; he’s easily on a par with P.T. Barnum.
Yesterday, the NY Times reported on Mr. Trump’s plans for the first 100 days of his presidency. He will select a Supreme Court nominee, begin charming Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, attend a beautiful gala ball or two, rescind some Obama executive orders, begin threatening business leaders as to how he will punish them if they shift more jobs out of the US, complete the design of the wall between the US and Mexico, implement a ban on immigration by Muslims, begin an audit of the Federal Reserve, and move to repeal Obamacare. I have to agree with the Times’ writer, Patrick Healy, that the Donald will be very very busy trying to accomplish these things; business leaders who get elected to executive offices are usually surprised to learn how difficult it is to move the government to do things. I can safely predict Mr. Trump will issue more executive orders than either Barack Obama or George W. Bush ever thought of.
Today, the Times reports that Paul Ryan is not ready to endorse candidate Trump. Both George Bushes and Jeb have announced they do not support him. The Times reports that many foreign leaders are deeply concerned over his isolationist and trade war threats. Suffice to say this could be one of the most controversial and combative presidencies we’ve seen in a long long time. I am not at this time going to try to convince anyone that either Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will make a better president.
©Charlie Wertz 2016
These are the slides for the talk: I gave at the Buffalo Unconference on April 15, 2016: robo00415
Here, also, are a few words about the general topic:
We are seeing and hearing a lot about jobs in this election season; much of it focuses on globalization and immigration. While these are surely important factors, they are far from the whole story.
From 2009 through the present, US manufacturing increased by roughly 20% while manufacturing employment increased by about 6%. How can this be explained? One example: Hostess Brands once employed 22,000 workers in more than 40 bakeries; thanks to automation, this workforce is now 1,170. According to the Washington Post, this has been achieved by investing $130 million to upgrade three core bakeries. This is just one example of a trend that has been going on for a long long time.
Humans once eked out an existence hunting and gathering; in 1900, 40% of the US workforce was employed in farming; come 2000, that number was 2%. Fifty years ago, a third of us worked in factories; today, about one tenth work in manufacturing while four out of five work in services. Service jobs are also evaporating. How many things do you buy on the internet? Do you cash yourself out at the supermarket? Have you seen any of the ordering kiosks that are beginning to appear in restaurants?
Optimists observe that while technology destroys jobs, it also creates new jobs. Whenever a transformative invention took hold over the past two centuries, businesses would disappear and workers would lose jobs; but new businesses would emerge that employed even more people. Pessimists argue that the speed at which technology is currently destroying jobs is unparalleled. Until recently, machines replaced human brawn but created jobs that required human brains; now machines threaten both. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning threaten everyone from call center workers to middle managers to doctors. The folks displaced by technology rarely have the skills required by the new jobs; service jobs tend to pay a lot less than the old unionized manufacturing jobs. Technology also seems to be making it easier for a few individuals to acquire all the marbles. This is not a problem for US workers only; Chinese manufacturers, for example, are also investing heavily in automation.
No one can be certain what will happen next; if the direct labor content of goods and services continues to decrease, we could all enjoy more leisure and more goods and services or, we could find ourselves living in some dystopian world where few can find gainful employment.
Some academicians and technologists seem to be noticing all this. If any of our politicians are aware we may be heading for a problem, they aren’t talking about it or offering solutions. There are a variety of options we should be exploring. We’d better start thinking; business as usual may not work very well at all.
©Charlie Wertz 2016
Ever since the truck went through our house in June, people have been telling me how lucky we were that neither of us was seriously injured or killed. I’ve been replying that the aftermath has been and continues to be a big big hassle with the result that I’d feel much much luckier had the truck never come down the hill across from our house. The other night, as I was going through this routine at a party with many people I had not seen for a while, it dawned on me that had the truck driver chosen some other route, we would indeed have been very lucky, but we would not have known it. Should I now try to go through life thinking how lucky I am whenever nothing bad happens to me? This seemed profound to me at that moment. Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t.
The slide deck for the presentation I plan to give at Buffalo Barcamp on Febuary 2, 2013 is at https://cjwertz.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/jobs.pdf
Maybe, I’ll get back to this and write something later on. If you look around this blog,you will find several other entries on this general topic.