Saturday, May 29, 2010

Charlie Daniels on Illegal Immigration

Well, this is a first: The first time I've ever posted a column written by a country-western singer. In fact, it's one of the few times I've ever posted anything written by someone but me. But despite its plain-folk language, I believe his words are worth considering. It certainly takes some guts to say what he said. Perhaps it's because in January, he had a mild stroke. Facing one's mortality makes many people decide to be more honest, even if it offends some people.

I don't know how everybody else feels about it, but to me I think Hispanic people in this country, legally or illegally, made a huge public relations mistake with their recent demonstrations.

I don't blame anybody in the world for wanting to come to the United States of America, as it is a truly wonderful place.

But when the first thing you do when you set foot on American soil is illegal, it is flat out wrong, and I don't care how many lala land left heads come out of the woodwork and start trying to give me sensitivity lessons.

I don't need sensitivity lessons, in fact I don't have any-thing against Mexicans! I just have something against criminals and anybody who comes into this country illegally is a criminal, and if you don't believe it try coming into America from a foreign country without a passport and see how far you get. What disturbs me about the demonstrations is that it's tantamount to saying, "I am going to come into your country even if it means breaking your laws and there's nothing you can do about it."

It's an "in your face" action and speaking just for me, I don't like it one little bit and if there were a half dozen pairs of gonads in Washington bigger than English peas, it wouldn't be happening.

Where are you, you bunch of lily-livered, pantywaist, forked-tongued, sorry excuses for defenders of The Constitution? Have you been drinking the water out of the Potomac again?

And even if you pass a bill on immigration, it will probably be so pork laden and watered down that it won't mean anything anyway! Besides, what good is another law going to do when you won't enforce the ones on the books now?

And what ever happened to the polls, guys? I thought you folks were the quintessential finger-wetters. Well, you sure ain't paying any attention to the polls this time because somewhere around eighty percent of Americans want something done about this mess, and mess it is, and getting bigger everyday.

This is no longer a problem, it is a dilemma and headed for being a tragedy. Do you honestly think that what happened in France with the Muslims can't happen here when the businesses who hire these people finally run out of jobs and a few million disillusioned Hispanics take to the streets?

If you, Mr. President, Congressmen and Senators, knuckle under on this and refuse to do something meaningful, it means that you care nothing for the kind of country your children and grandchildren will inherit. But I guess that doesn't matter as long as you get re-elected.

Shame on you.

One of the big problems in America today is that if you have the nerve to say anything derogatory about any group of people (except Christians), you are going to be screamed at by the media and called a racist, a bigot and anything else they can think of to call you.

Well, I've been pounded by the media before, and I'm still rockin' and rollin', and when it comes to speaking the truth, I fear not.

And the truth is that the gutless, gonadless, milksop politicians are just about to sell out the United States of America because they don't have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to face reality.

And reality is that we would never allow any other group of people to have 12 million illegals in this country and turn around and say, "Oh it's ok, ya'll can stay here if you'll just allow us to slap your wrist."

And I know that some of you who read this column are saying "Well what's wrong with that?" I'll tell you what's wrong with it. These people could be from Mars as far as we know. We don't know who they are, where they are, or what they're up to, and the way the Congress is going, we're not going to.

Does this make sense? Labor force you say? We already subsidize corporate agriculture as it is, must we subsidize their labor as well?

If these people were from Haiti would we be so fast to turn a blind eye to them or if they were from Somalia or Afghanistan ?

I think not.

All the media shows us are pictures of hard-working Hispanics who have crossed the border just to try to better their life. They don't show you pictures of the Feds rounding up members of MS-13, the violent gang who came across the same way the decent folks did. They don't tell you about the living conditions of the Mexican illegal some fat cat hired to pick his crop.

I want to make two predictions.

No. 1: This situation is going to grow and fester until it erupts in violence on our streets while the wimps in Washington drag their toes in the dirt and try to figure how many tons of political hay they can make to the acre.

No 2: Somebody is going to cross that border with some kind of weapon of mass destruction and set it off in a major American city, after which there will be a backlash such as this country has never experienced, and the Capitol building in Washington will probably tilt as Congressmen and Senators rush to the other side of the issue.

I don't know about you, but I would love to see just one major politician stand up and say, "I don't care who I make mad, and I don't care how many votes I lose, this is a desperate situation and I'm going to lead the fight to get it straightened out."

I don't blame anybody for wanting to come to America , but if you don't respect our immigration laws, why should you respect any others?

And by the way, this is America and our flag has stars and stripes. Please get that other one out of my face.

Charlie Daniels

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Will Obama Finally Take On the Teacher's Unions?

This article in the New York Times reports that the U.S. spends more money per student than any country in the world yet its achievement is in the bottom 1/3 of developed nations.

Not all of the blame can be laid at the teacher's feet. Some of it, for example, is the result of America's insistence on putting students of all abilities in the same class and forcing ever more of them to read Shakespeare even if they're reading on the 5th grade level and to solve quadratic equations when they can't do simple arithmetic in their heads.

But certainly some blame must go to the teachers' unions who, because the Democrats so fear their political power, have managed to continue to get contracts which give teachers virtual lifetime job security after just two or three years--even if a teacher burns out and her/his students learn less than similar students in other classes. In another blow against quality teaching, teachers get paid exactly the same whether they're excellent or poor.

The article suggests that President Obama may be willing to try to convince Democrats to take a stand. If anyone has the ability to persuade, it's him. Let's hope he succeeds.

Yet Another Example of African-American Racism

I received a press release titled, "Bay Area Welcomes 'Buy Black Only' Experiment"

That press release announced a promotional tour by a top-university-educated couple (pictured, right) who, for an entire year, pledged to shop only at African-American-owned businesses.

In other words, they were proudly proclaiming their essentially boycotting all businesses owned by Asians, Latinos, Whites, and Native Americans.

I find the racism of that troubling.

A goal of their promotional tour is to solicit sponsors to expand their efforts.

When I queried the PR firm (Flowers Communications, which cites among its clients, Sears, Wells Fargo, McDonald's, Honda, and the Chicago White Sox) that issued the press release, I found the response from its vice president, Ronald E. Childs (pictured, center) equally racist:
"Welcome to America. Jewish people advocate patronizing their own business community first, before venturing outside their own, as do Asians, Hispanics, Italians, the Irish, Polish and people of virtually every other culture."
Mr. Childs additionally attempted to justify "Buy Black Only" by citing Jim Crow and lynchings.

Dear readers, your thoughts?

Keys to Productivity

People often ask me how I accomplish so much. My key principles:
  • Before making most decisions, whether it's to support amnesty for illegals or whether I should see a movie, I consciously assess the risk-reward ratio of doing it, including the opportunity costs. In assessing that," I usually think broadly: "What are the risks and rewards for the world?" But I do that thinking very quickly, which leads me to my next principle:
  • I rarely ruminate; I take low-risk actions. I usually learn more by trying something than by more-than-brief thinking about it.
  • With every task I'm doing, I ask myself, NOT is this the fastest way, NOT is this the best way, but is this the most time- and cost-effective way? So, for example, I am aware that this post would have been better if I took the time to provide an excellent example for each bullet but, especially because I'm so busy these days, rather than not post it at all, I wrote this in the most time-effective way possible.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Our Growing Glut of College Graduates

I've long warned against justifying going to college because of the GROSSLY misleading statistic that you earn much more with a college degree. See my previous writings on the topic, for example, this, which first appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

But now, college degrees are becoming an ever WORSE value:
  • The ever-higher percentage of high school graduates going to college forces professors to dumb down classes. That's a key reason why the percentage of college GRADUATES with good literacy skills is declining (from 40% to 31% in the last decade alone.)
  • The glut of college graduates. As the quality of college graduates declines while their supply goes up, employers are loathe to hire them, not just because their supply is high and quality is low, but because government-mandated costs of hiring Americans continues to escalate: social security, workers comp, unemployment insurance, mandated diversity and sexual harassment training, etc. The latest, of course, is the ObamaCare requirement that employers provide health care for not only employees but an extra percentage tacked on to pay for low-income people who don't work for the employer. Ever more, it makes sense for employers to automate or offshore, and to hire what Americans it needs, part-time, temp.
  • The price tag of a college education continues to soar, far in excess of the inflation rate. The published sticker price for four years at many brand-name private college is $200,000. And MOST students do not graduate in four years. Indeed, when you look at the 200,000 college freshmen that graduated in the bottom 40% of their high school class, 3/4 of them don't graduate even if given 8 1/2 years! And even if they defy the odds, they usually have attended a third-tier college with an easy major such as sociology, neither of which moves many employers to pay them more than they could have earned straight out of high school. And if such students hadn't gone to college, not only would they not have accumulated all that debt, they wouldn't have had to endure years of boring, too-difficult-for-them courses, and the resulting non-stop assault to their self-esteem.
Well,, I've said much of that in previous posts. What's the most recent data show about college graduates:

ATThe just released national poll of employers is titled: "College Graduate Hiring Declines." The report states, for example, "55% of companies said that 2010 graduates are in a less advantageous position than other job seekers – and the top two reasons are the economic climate and their lack of qualifications."

And this from Bloomberg: College Grads Flood U.S. Labor Market With Diminished Prospects.


WhWhen will prospective college students and especially the parents of not academically oriented high school students and their counselors realize that for many students, a wiser post-high-school path is an apprenticeship, on-the-job-training, or career training in the military.

The Most and Least Trusted Professionals

A survey found that the least trusted profession is--no surprise--politician, followed by salesperson (especially car salespersons) financial services "account executives,") and lawyers.

I'd add these to the list:
  • clergy. Whether or not they're seducing underage parishioners, they're selling snake oil--trying to convince people to place faith in a God who allows billions of people, including newborn babies to die of agonizing diseases such as cancer.
  • chiropractors. Studies not funded by the chiropractic industry show generally low efficacy yet chiropractors market themselves relentlessly, often beyond what they can responsibly claim to cure. The only area that NIH studies find chiropractors helpful for is lower back pain and even there, no more efficacy than treatment by a physician.
  • journalists. I have the most disdain for that profession because it has so much power to change society and uses that power so irresponsibly. Although most journalists have experience at nothing other than writing, they have the hubris to believe they know what's best for the world and are so sure of it that they abandon their nearly sacred obligation to present issues in full dimension, fairly, and instead, manipulate readers into believing what they believe and censor or destroy those who dare disagree. Instead of being wise stewards of the marketplace of ideas, they are the Barbarians at its gate.
The professionals I most trust:
  • Librarians. I find them trustworthy and helpful. (Of course, they have little incentive to be untrustworthy.)
  • Nurse practitioners and salaried physicians (e.g., those employed by Kaiser). Too many physicians who are paid per patient and per procedure are tempted by financial reward to prescribe treatments that yield them more money, even when not necessarily in the patient's best interests. And because physicians' training is so long, hard, and expensive, they feel entitled.
  • Philosophers. I think the world would be better run if led by an ideologically diverse tribunal of philosophers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The First Honest Resume

The standard resume helps neither the candidate nor employer to find the right match:
  • Job seekers, often with the help of a resume-writing whore, excise or put makeup on their warts and pad their accomplishments more than a flat-chested hooker pads her bra.
  • Employers are routinely deceived by resumes and at minimum learn little about what the candidate is really like. That's also true of job interviews but I'll save that for another post.
Wouldn't a candidate be more likely to be hooked up with his or her right employer if, for example:
  • She said she's not a "team player who delights in exceeding customer expectations." Rather, she's motivated by meaningful projects that require her to work by herself, and her resume included a quote from her last performance appraisal that indicates that.
  • Rather than saying how fascinated he is with the company's widget, he said he doesn't care either way about the widget. He cares mainly that he's working with smart, ethical people and that he gets moderately difficult projects in moderate quantity.
  • Rather than saying she left her position because the company changed direction, she said she got fired from her job because she couldn't stand her boss who insisted on micromanaging her even though he had half her IQ. She included a quote from her co-worker that attests to that.
  • Rather than saying, "I'm open to new opportunities," he said, "After three years of sitting in front of a computer all day I've had enough of that, I'm eager to use my people skills."
  • Instead of filling her resume's employment gap with a series of BS consulting assignments, she said she took two years off to care for her new baby. (Bosses unsympathetic to hiring mommy-track employees will rarely give parents the flexibility and lower workload that involved parents often want.)
  • Rather than hiding that he's 60 years old and weighs 300 pounds, he includes a current photo with his application. If the employer doesn't want an old fatty, s/he won't give him the job anyway. The employer would have wasted his time and an interview slot and the job seeker will have wasted the time and energy to prep, go to and through the interview. The right employer will be impressed with that applicant's integrity.
I am well aware that many employers will reject an honest resume but if you send out enough of them, the right employer for you will be more interested in you than someone who falsely claims to be a "team player and a dynamic self-starter who delights in exceeding customer expectations."

I'm Looking for a Mind I Can Fully Respect

Last night, I had dinner with some high-powered people including a multi-Emmy-award-winning writer and one of the world's leading experts on gender issues.

I came away, as I usually do from such gatherings, feeling that I don't fully respect their minds. Of course, that could be my own limitations precluding my appreciating them, but in my judgment, they are NOT great minds. They are wildly controlled by their apriori biases, shortsighted thinking, uninformed gut instincts, selective review of data, and fears of candor. And/or they are sophists who entertain more than enlighten, let alone be brilliant, wise, and circumspect enough to have a realistic chance of solving society's major problems.

It saddens me that lightweight thinking artists, from cartoonists to screenwriters to comedians (read Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bono, Sean Penn, and Angelina Jolie) have become greater influencers of thought and public policy than are our Philosopher Kings, e.g., Christopher Hitchens, pictured above, or David D. Friedman. or our great scientific and entrepreneurial minds, e.g. Craig Venter. Especially outside the sciences, the media anoints people as experts more because of their ideology (you almost have to be a liberal) and entertainment value than their brilliance.

Last night reminded me of my desire for probing exchanges with such people, as I've had on my NPR-San Francisco radio show, where I have done hour-long interviews of the likes of Venter, Noam Chomsky, Walter Isaacson, and Alan Dershowitz. The closest I've come in my personal life is my doctoral advisor Michael Scriven, a Renaissance man with particular expertise in program evaluation--a very important and underappreciated discipline.

Of course, such people may consider my own mind unworthy, but is there anyone you suggest I reach out to for an email exchange or interview on my radio show? Last I checked, the likes of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ron Paul, Goethe, Jeremy Bentham, or Ben Franklin aren't available.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting Organized

Here are tips on getting organized from Linda Samuels, who runs
  • Picture the benefits. Will being more organized make you calmer? More efficient? Improve a relationship? Allow you to entertain? Make you seem more professional?
  • To get rid of "important" stuff, say goodbye to everything you haven't used in a year, especially if, on the off chance you really need it, you could replace it. Take a picture of your emotionally important items and put them in a scrapbook. Find a new home for your items: e.g., have a garage sale. If you've inherited a bunch of stuff from a loved one, keep just one or two as a keepsake.
  • Commit to a sacrosanct 10 minutes a day to declutter. Listen to upbeat music as you clean up. Monitor your self-talk: Say "This will help me live the life I want to lead," not "I hate doing this, and it's a waste of time."
  • If needed, get an organizing buddy--"I'll help declutter you if you help declutter me."

"IntelligentChoice:" My Most Make-a-Difference Idea for a Start-Up

I'm thinking of creating a biotech startup. I call it IntelligentChoice. Its goal would be to develop a gene therapy that would offer prospective parents the option of ensuring that their child will have the above-average physiological prerequisites for intelligence: high ability to learn, abstract, and remember. These physiological prerequisites might include, for example, high prefrontal neuronal density, fast intersynaptic transmission, etc. ( (Of course, intelligence is also a function of an enriched environment.)

Ethics would be fully as important as the science. To that end, for example, we'd work with the government (e.g., NIH, FDA) to help ensure that the IntelligentChoice procedure would be viewed as ethical as well as likely to be covered under MediCal and other health programs for the poor. That would reduce the likelihood of the IntelligentChoice procedure exacerbating the gap between society's haves and have-nots. We'd also make all efforts to reduce the probability of the use of IntelligentChoice coercively. It's essential is that its use be an uncoerced decision made by the prospective parents.

I am aware that despite all due precautions, there's potential for abuse--e.g., an individual physician pressuring a prospective parent to use IntelligentChoice. Such is true of all treatments, for example, abortion. But IntelligentChoice's potential benefits are so great: In today's society, being of low cognitive ability nearly preordains a child to school failure and life failure, for example, inability to earn a living wage. It restricts their career and personal options and dramatically increases their likelihood of turning to crime and/or drug abuse. For example, our prisons are filled overwhelmingly by people with IQs under 90.

On the positive side, no doubt many parents would elect to have their baby start out life with the benefit of a brain predisposing the child to high intelligence. The result would be a world of people with far greater potential to cure cancer, solve societal problems, etc.

Of course, as with all technological advances--from nuclear energy to the Internet--there is potential for IntelligentChoice to be used improperly, even if inadvertently. But rather than adopt the so-called "Precautionary Principle" and stifle innovation, it's wiser to pursue innovations such as IntelligentChoice but to, upfront, consider--with government, private sector scientist and ethicist help--the risks and to impose the restrictions that maximize the risk/reward ratio of pursuing such innovations.

At this point, IntelligentChoice is merely an idea. After getting your feedback and that of others, if it still seems viable, my next step would be to have an email exchange and conference call(s) with some of the world's leading scientists in this area to assess its technical feasibility and likely costs. If its profit potential seems low but its technical feasibility seems high, we would consider writing a grant proposal to various funding sources.

Even better, I'd love it if someone else with greater expertise and more time available would jump on the idea of IntelligentChoice, perhaps using me only as a consultant to the project. Anyone interested?

A Blueprint for Reinventing Education

A Blueprint for Reinventing Education

Notes for a presentation to the Marin Philosophical Society, May 17, 2010 by Marty Nemko

Here are the blueprint's core components:

SuperTeachers. Nation's-best teachers would, in collaboration with an expert on online education, create highly immersive, interactive courses, to be available online. An inferior approach for improving the status quo: live teachers trained by master K-12 teachers rather than by professors who are rarely master K-12 teachers.

Criticality-selected curriculum.
We should ensure that kids graduate with the knowledge needed by most before we try to teach them knowledge needed by few. Examples of proposed substitutions: risk/reward analysis would replace geometry, learning how to design experiments and critique research designs would replace algebra, practical one-on-one and group conflict prevention and resolution would replace detailed study of historical events, scientific method would replace chemical reaction analysis, ethical entrepreneurship would replace foreign-language study.

More big projects.
Students are minimally motivated by assignments such as worksheets, book chapters, and doing the math problems 24-96, the evens--or the odds. Students are far more likely to be motivated to read, write, think, and collaborate when participating in a play to be performed for the entire school, to create a student newspaper, build a robot for an interschool competition, etc.

Ability-grouped classes.
Logic and metaevaluations indicate that mixed-ability, nondifferentiated classes are a vivid manifestation of politics trumping pedagogy. For a balanced review of the metaanalyses, see: But the logic, which must be given primacy when so many covariates exist, incontrovertibly favors the heavy use of ability-grouped classes.

A high-quality non-college-bound path for students who are not academically oriented.
Contrary to the trend to one-size-fits-all, everyone-to-college education, there should be high-quality junior high school and high school paths for those not academically oriented. Such students are far more likely to derive personal and career success in a path preparing them for a good career straight out of high school (e.g., robotics repair) than being one of the 200,000 students each year who graduated in the bottom 40% of their high school class who go to so-called four-year colleges. Of those, 3/4 of those never graduate, even if given 8 1/2 years. Yesterday's New York Times reports similar findings.

Mentor-centric curriculum.Transformative change is most likely to occur one-on-one. Students, K-20, would be given far greater opportunities for peer and adult mentoring (e.g., a MentorMatch website.)

Use scaled-down high school campuses: only for extracurricular activities. Most academic work would be done at home, with interactivity provided by videoconferencing software, bulletin boards, and email exchanges with students and local tutors. Teachers' homes would be used for some instruction.

A College Report Card:
All colleges would be required to prominently post on their website: four- and five-year graduation rates, and average freshman-to-senior growth in critical thinking, reading, mathematical reasoning, writing, public speaking, etc. These would be disaggregated by high school grades and SAT scores.

To make college affordable: a minimal campus.
Courses would usually be taught online or in professors' homes. Major recreation facilities (e.g., gyms, pools) would be shared with community facilities. Administration would be minimal. No country-club-like lush-lawn-filled campuses. Substance not shrubs.

A separate track for teaching faculty, with a separate sub-track for instructors of pre-professional courses.
All teaching faculty would be required to complete a teaching boot camp followed by peer observations, video reviews, and master-teacher evaluations. Teaching faculty would be hired and promoted on the quality of their teaching not their research.

How realistic is this blueprint? I believe that the relentlessly politically correct media and even the intelligensia fearing even unfounded charges of racism will ensure that politics will always trump pedagogy.

Would it make a big difference? I'm not sure. We have not seen evidence that any educational intervention, no matter how extensive or long-lasting, is a game-changer.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Excerpts from "The Best Commencement Speeches of All Time"

CNBC assembled what it believes are the 10 Best Graduation Speeches of all time. Here, I've selected excerpts.

Michael Dell, CEO, Dell Computers, at University of Texas, Austin, 2003. He founded Dell Computers with $1,000 and the idea to sell computers directly to customers. He says, "Don't spend so much time trying to choose the perfect opportunity that you miss the right opportunity...You will learn from your mistakes."

Will Ferrell, Actor and comedian, at Harvard, 2003. “One of you, specifically John Lee, will spend most of your time just hanging out in your car eating nachos. You will all come back from time to time to this beautiful campus for reunions, and ask the question, ‘Does anyone ever know what happened to John Lee?’ At that point, he will invariably pop out from the bushes and yell, ‘Nachos anyone?!’"

Bill Gates, CEO, Microsoft, at Harvard, 2007.
Bill Gates shows just how level the playing field can be: After dropping out of Harvard, he went on to found Microsoft and become one of the wealthiest men in the world. “We must help more people learn how to make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities."

Stephen Colbert, “The Colbert Report” at Knox College, 2006. He admits that he’s not sure if he graduated from college. "They are playing for KEEPS out there, folks. My God, I couldn't wait to get here today just so I could take a breather from the real world. I don't know if they told you what's happened while you've matriculated here for the past four years. The world is waiting for you people with a club. … “If someone does offer you a job, say ‘yes.’ You can always quit later. Then at least you'll be one of the unemployed as opposed to one of the never-employed. Nothing looks worse on a resume than nothing.”

Bono, Rock Star, at the University of Pensylvania, 2004. "So, my question I suppose is: What's the big idea? What's your big idea? What are you willing to spend your moral capital, your intellectual capital, your cash, your sweat equity in pursuing outside of the walls of the University? The world is more malleable than you think and it's waiting for you to hammer it into shape.”

Winston Churchill, at Harrow, 1941. “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

Woody Hayes, Ohio State football coach, at Ohio State, 1986. “Make sure you don't beat yourself."

Charlie Munger,Warren Buffett’s long-time partner and VP of Berkshire Hathaway at USC, 2007. : “You want to deliver to the world what you would buy if you were on the other end. …
“You’re going to advance in life by what you’re going to learn after you leave this university.”

Mary Schmich, columnist Chicago Tribune. Perhaps one of the most famous commencement speeches wasn’t a commencement speech at all, but a column by Mary Schmich, titled “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young.” “Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now. … “Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded.”

Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple. at Stanford, 2005, after his 2004 cancer diagnosis. “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now, the new is you. But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic but it’s quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. Your inner voice somehow already knows what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary… Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Public School Teacher Speaks at UCLA about Illegal Immigration

Little mentioned in the debate about illegal immigration are the many Mexicans and Mexican immigrants to the U.S. who are violently anti-American and believe the 40 million Latinos have the right to immigrate to the United States, legally or not.

That is not merely the view of marginalized people. Here is a five-minute video of a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher, Ron Gochez, speaking at a rally for The National Council of La Raza (America's largest Hispanic Advocacy Organization) at UCLA, where Mr. Gochez received his teacher training and master's degree.

Gochez points to an army of professionals who hold similar views. The first minute is relatively innocuous. The rest isn't and I believe is worth your taking the five minutes to watch.

Would you want Mr. Gochez teaching your child? How do you feel about your tax dollars going to paying his salary so he can teach classful after classful?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Predictions for the Coming Decade

Tomorrow evening, I'll be giving a talk at the University of California, Berkeley: My Predictions for The Coming Decade.

Here are my notes for that talk. Your comments are welcome--I will see them before my presentation and will revise as appropriate.

The Biotech Breakthrough Decade--including cancer, heart disease, depression, retardation. Global partnerships will create the breakthroughs. Longshot prediction: By 2020, it will be possible to enhance intelligence.

Virtualization Decade: meetings, supervision, companies. Longshot prediction: By 2020: virtual trips will be seen as a vacation alternative.

The Decade of The Incredible Shrinking Job: part-time, temp, automate, offshore. Longshot prediction: A tax will be imposed on a company for each job it offshores.

The End of Conservative Media: Fox News fades, talk radio shrinks. The networks cut news budgets. CNN and NY Times (which may merge) dominates. All of this would impose great cost to society's hearing diverse perspectives. Longshot prediction: By 2020, Fox News dies and then covers only business news. Talk radio becomes predominantly liberal.

The Decade of Thrift: We'll see further housing price decline until a household with $100,000 total income can comfortably afford the mortgage payment. We'll see modular mixed-use housing.

Companies will spend more on collections.

We'll more often repair, not replace. B-to-B biz opp: Buy a successful small commercial/industrial equipment repair business from a retiring boomer.

More of the middle class will be childless. That combined with the continued high birthrate among the poor will not help America's global competitiveness.

We'll see a boom in mini-cars as in Europe (e.g., SmartCar). 2020 longshot prediction: The most popular car will be a plug-in electric Toyota that will get 125 mpg and be fully chargeable in a few hours.

The E-commerce Decade. Despite the slow economy, online spending will continue to rise while and bricks-and-mortar spending will decline. Barcode-enabled smartphones (See this video) will hurt bricks-and-mortar businesses: consumers will shop at stores, bar code their item and buy it cheaper on the Net. Longshot prediction: By 2020, the number of malls will have shrunk by 80% from current levels. Many chains--e.g., Macy's, Cost Plus, Barnes & Noble, will have gone completely online.

The Declining Marriage Decade: The trend was boosted decades ago by Murphy Brown but now, media/school/college-induced disdain for males, decline in the # of women who feel parenthood is a necessary box to check in life, unemployable men, increase in gays/lesbians, increased economic viability of women (unmarried women in their 20s earn 116% of what unmarried men earn) and anti-male divorce and child custody laws will reduce marriage rates. Longshot prediction: Only 50% of people the nation's households are made up of married couples. By 2020, it will be only 33%-including gays, whom I am confident will have the right to marry in all 50 states.

The Decade of Campus Decline/Online is Fine. People won't or be able to pay for fancy campuses. The only reason this trend has been slow to accelerate is that govt. so heavily subsidizes the high tuition with financial aid. The more the govt. gives, the more the campuses raise their tuition and fees. Degree proliferation: the master's is the new bachelor's. Longshot prediction: By 2020, many universities, including major publics, will offer a completely online bachelor's degree.

The SinglePayer Decade: Businesses that, under the Obama Plan, will be required to pay not only for their workers but a share of the poor, will have programs (including cash incentives) for weight loss, blood pressure and diabetes control. But the already overtaxed health care system will collapse resulting in a single-payer approach being adopted. Truly longshot prediction (more of a hope:) a return to fee-for-service + catastrophic insurance + a safety net for the truly needy.

The Pot Decade. The slow economy combined with medical marijuana (Already, there are more legal pot dispensaries in SF than Starbucks.) will bring increased pot abuse. Longshot prediction: By 2020, pot is legalized in California but it's repealed by 2025 when pot use among teens soars.

Capitalism's Decline Decade: Ever more GDP will be transferred from the private to the public sector, and from the haves to have-nots, Higher taxes would generate too much protest from the middle class so the govt will use more subtle ways to increase net taxes received: a recent example: L.A imposing $100 fine for a barking dog. Using environmental benefit as a balming explanation, we will be subject to ever increasing tolls at bridges, tunnels, and roads (that were supposed to expire when those bridges were paid for.) The average American pays 48 cents per gallon in gasoline tax. Municipalities are replacing parking meters with kiosks that issue receipts so you'll never again be able to pull into a meter with time left on it. Cameras at traffic lights are proliferating, with $300-$500 fines for red light runners. Even a stop sign violation, where I live, costs $250. (Alas, I learned that from first-hand experience.) San Francisco has just installed hundreds of additional crosswalks, and if a driver fails to yield to a pedestrian, the fine is $500. The IRS budget and its technology will increase. Jobs should be plentiful for government employees and contractors involved in "revenue enhancement." Longshot prediction: The U.S. elects an officially Socialist president in 2020.

The Decade of War Miniaturization: suitcase nukes, cyberattacks, bioweapons. Longshot prediction: By 2020, a terrorist will have successfully detonated a suitcase nuclear bomb or poured a bioweapon into the a small city's (e.g., Peoria) water supply.

The Nuclear Decade: Nuclear energy will burgeon. Longshot prediction: By 2020, solar and wind energy will have been fads that faded when the delimiting physics will become clearer.

The Islamo-Latinization of America. Both groups have high rates of immigration and births. Increasing numbers of African-Americans are converting to Islam. Despite promises of border enforcement and a high-tech 2,000-mile wall, it will fail: the government admits it can't stop enough trucks. Our prioritization of "civil liberties," our celebration of diversity, and fear of being even unfairly called racist will preclude our seriously enforcing borders. Example: Even the modest Arizona illegal-immigrant law has, in the mainstream media--e.g., Time magazine, been called: "police state, apartheid, racist, Nazi--'Papers!')." There will be amnesty with token fine (no return to Mexico required before legally returning.). Latino USA (the name of an NPR radio program) is apt. Latino but not Islamic immigration is worrisome because it is the first large wave of immigrants that is unscreened for health or criminal records, and to immigrate, may need no more ability to plan or delay gratification than to hide in the bottom of a truck for the brief ride from Tijuana to San Diego. Also different is that many Latino and Islam advocates are insisting their people not assimilate but retain their native culture. So the U.S. will ever less have a unifying culture--Optimists call that a salad bowl in which the total is greater than the sum of its parts; pessimists call it balkanization that will lead to cross-cultural enmity, civil unrest, and terrorism. Longshot 2020 prediction: As with the Indian reservations, the U.S. will cede part of New Mexico to Mexican sovereignty. Longershot prediction: Mexico becomes America's 52nd state. (Puerto Rico will be the 51st.)

The Decade of Asia's Sunrise and America's Sunset. America does retain strengths: women and minorities have opportunity, entrepreneurial culture, freedom of speech, universities while profoundly needing reinvention still attract smart people from around the world, and the U.S. remains for now the centers for finance and for high-tech and biotech innovation. But as society gets ever more tech-centric/knowledge-centric, the majority of Americans will suffer an ever larger achievement gap compared with the average Chinese or Indian national. And our politics of so-called "redistributive justice," while well-intentioned, will make the U.S. ever less able to create a competitive workforce--Example: mixed-ability classes. Another disadvantage: China has a more balanced approach to environmentalism. Here we'll spend enormously to preserve a snail darter or spotted owl, let alone a Louisiana swamp--oops, I mean "wetland." Liberal "kindness," which redistributes from those with the greatest potential to create jobs to those with the least will ever more be fueled by a media more interested in liberal activism than fair reporting--with GoogleSearch and GoogleNews the dominant players, manifested by Obama's election--The National Journal ranked Obama the #1 most liberal senator. Longshot prediction: Over the coming decade, the investment return on China's equivalent of the Dow 30 (stock symbol FXI) will be twice that of the Dow. I've moved much of my savings from Vanguard S&P 500 fund to FXI.

Final point: Humankind has always figured out a way to make progress and will continue to do so. In balance, the world will be better in 2020 than in 2010.

Monday, May 3, 2010

How to Stop Your Alcohol Abuse, Drug Abuse

I've thought a fair amount about how to get people to stop abusing drugs and alcohol: I used to be a drug counselor and in my 25 years as a career and life coach, I've had many clients with substance abuse problems. Here's my current thinking:

  • For some abusers, the goal should be moderation, for others, stopping completely. Some people can be functional alcohol/drug users--if they have the discipline to keep it moderate. Others cannot function well-enough using drugs/alcohol even modestly--either because their job or life requires high-level functioning or because they lack the discipline to keep their use moderate.
Dr. Michael Edelstein, a San Francisco cognitive therapist who works with addiction problems ( says, "Successful moderation usually requires abstinence for months, then moving to moderation, and defining in advance what moderation will consist of: e.g., only one drink per hour when out socially and none when alone."
  • Twelve-step programs help some people. Most likely to be helped are those who need structure, group support, aren't particularly intellectual, and consider themselves religious or spiritual.
  • Other people may be more likely to stop with cognitive therapy: correcting their erroneous thinking: e.g., "I'm more creative or likable when I'm high, "It so helps me cope with life that it outweighs drug use's liabilities," "My kids won't be affected," and most often and powerful: "I must satisfy my urge to feel good right now."

To find a non-12-step self-help group, you might try SmartRecovery.

  • Sometimes, a physician can prescribe medication to help you stop. To find one that specializes in helping people with addictions: click HERE
Note: That is merely an unscreened list of members of the American Society for Addiction Medicine. As in choosing any important health care provider, I recommend Googling prospective physicians' names plus the word reviews, for example, "Timmen Cermak" reviews. (He's a recent president of the California Society for Addiction Medicine, who, in my Google search, yielded good but not great reviews.) Then call your top three choices and ask the receptionist for the names of other excellent addiction medicine specialists. The doc most often named is usually a fine bet for a first appointment. Then use your intuition to decide whether to see that physician again or try a different one.
  • Keep front-and-center the ways your life would be better if you stopped, and the price you've paid for your substance abuse. Edelstein recommends going further: "Five times daily, without fail, vividly read and write the pros and cons of kicking. Don't stop this discipline when you're doing better."
  • Some people stop only because of a relationship: for example, they fall in love, get pregnant, or their sibling stopped using drugs and the abuser didn't want to be the only family member with a substance abuse problem.
  • Alas, some people stop only when they've hit rock bottom: they're so exhausted from the toll of living the addict lifestyle, that they just are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Edelstein urges, "Refuse to give up. You can succeed on the 100th try."

    At the risk of sounding like a goody two-shoes, there really are ways to get high on life without drugs. For example, I get real pleasure from helping my clients, writing, hosting my radio show, playing in the garden, or walking my doggie, Einstein.

    How could you fill your life with enjoyable activities that don't have negative side effects?

  • Nuggets You Probably Won't See

    I find myself needing to turn to ever more right-leaning publications to find articles that make sense to me. Either that means I'm getting awfully conservative (I don't believe I am) or the "mainstream" media is getting so leftist that their positions defy reason or empiricism.

    Here are two articles in Forbes magazine that make eminent sense to me that would never appear in the "mainstream" media--e.g., the New York Times, CNN.

    The Great College Hoax, includes, for example, this statement: ""There are a lot of aspects of selling education that are tinged with consumer fraud," (UCLA law professor Richard) Sander says."

    Gender Bias Bunk by Christina Hoff Sommers. Here's a quote:
    Over the past decade the National Science Foundation has funneled $135 million into a "gender bias" program called Advance. Its stated purpose: to advance women in science. In practice it does little to help women, but its potential to inflict lasting damage on fields that drive the American economy--engineering, physics and computer technology--is enormous...The Gender Equity project sponsors workshops aimed at transforming American laboratory culture. According to Valian, the compulsive work habits, single-minded dedication and "intense desire for achievement" that typify elite scientists not only marginalize women but also compromise good science. She says, "If we continue to emphasize and reward always being on the job, we will never find out whether leading a balanced life leads to equally good or better scientific work."
    A world where women (and resocialized men) earn Nobel Prizes on flextime has no basis in reality. But the Advance program is not about reality nor a reality we should aspire to...if our priority is to cure cancer, solve our energy problems, etc. Instead of pathologizing them as "workaholics," we should honor the people who work 70 hours a week in hopes of creating a breakthrough. We certainly should not be subjecting aspiring scientists to a re-education program that brainwashes them into the absurd belief that everyone, even world-class scientists would be better off if they only worked modest work hours.