Archive for June, 2013

h1

YES, I AM RANTING…

June 29, 2013

…This time about all the post it notes I have around me mostly about one Republican irritation or another.  So fair warning…..you may not want to take the time to read this today!

MORE REPUBLICAN BULLYING

As the strategy firms up to attempt to overcome a Republican block of the Immigration Bill in the House, the usual dissenting Repos – Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn “issued a stern warning to sports organizations (NFL) not to partner with the Administration on Healthcare law – calling it “an issue marked by such divisiveness and persistent unpopularity”.

Meanwhile, they are writing their own Immigration Bill and don’t care when it gets done; they are still blocking all of the four reasonable points on Gun Control laws; they surely have been too busy with all the scandal manufacturing to come up with good reasons why environmental issues should not be addressed, and still, they have time to threaten sports organizations about a law that will be implemented shortly and preparation for that implementation is well under way?

To object to the Healthcare bill is one thing; to dislike it after it becomes law is still ok, to threaten organizations not to be cooperative in its implementation is truly another.  To that I say, they took a step too far and a direct campaign to reach the people (fans) is in order now!  A little boycotting , maybe?

MICHELLE IN THE NEWS…ONE MORE TIME

Hmmm.  The Bachman suit may be settled  (but to be safe, we better check to make sure campaign funds weren’t used in a buy-off)  but the “case which remains under investigation by Des Moines police, the FBI, the Office of Congressional Ethics, and the Federal Election Committee” continues to move forward according to the STIB this morning.  The best thing that could happen for MN is that they all keep pushing until she goes underground and is neither sighted nor heard from again. I know, it’s just a matter of months before she is out of office….but I am not sure I can take anymore of her nonsense.

AND A RELIGIOUS ISSUE THAT IS NOT REPUBLICAN-BASED, for a change:

This time it’s the Vatican again.  Another scandal; this time it is another charge about the Vatican Bank despite Popes Frances and Benedict’s attempts to correct the problem. 

What about Jesus’ cleansing the temple of money changers because it had become a den of thieves do these people not understand?

Or more important, what about Paul’s letters to Timothy which specifically outline the expected and responsible behaviors of pastors of the church including the “Qualifications of the Overseers” known as the Bishops?  If a man desires the position of a bishop, he cannot be “greedy for money… for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

Of course, my brain- already irritated by the Republicans- immediately jumps to the Christian Conservatives of the Republican Party; but I will try to exercise some control and not go there today. I am sure I will have another chance soon, as they misinterpret and misuse their religious freedom on a nearly daily basis.

 

h1

THE NEW DIGITAL AGE-CH 2; The Future of Identity, Citizenship and Reporting

June 29, 2013

By 2025, the world’s virtual population will outnumber the population of Earth because each of us have chosen multiple online methods that have resulted in “vibrant and active communities of interlocking interests that reflect and enrich our world”…the data revolution that empowers us all.

But that same data revolution strips us of much of our control over our personal information in the virtual world causing significant consequences in the physical world.

All that food for thought in the first paragraph of chapter 2… and it immediately  brought to mind a current very contentious and emotional debate as we recognize what we think little about in our own virtual world raises much emotion and controversy as we find evidence of the same thing in our physical world –i.e., PRISM and NSA data capture.  Yes, this is the chapter I referred to on June 9 that scared me to death!

The authors, Schmidt and Cohen, paint a picture of our future where our identities in every day life could be defined by our virtual activities and associations.  Our very documented pasts will impact future prospects; our ability to influence/control how we are perceived will decrease dramatically.  The potential for others to access, share, or manipulate parts of our virtual identities will increase…especially as the use of cloud-based data storage grows.

The authors assure us the technical world is working on this vulnerability-looking for creative ways to mitigate risks through multi-factor authentication and strong encryption methods.  Access to your data may require something you know (e.g. password); something you have (e.g. mobile device) and something you are (e.g. thumbprint).  Our identity online in the future is not likely to be a simple Facebook page, but “a constellation of profiles, from every on-line activity, that will be verified and perhaps even regulated by government.”

As the authors point out, the shift from having one’s identity shaped offline and projected online to an identity that is fashioned online and experienced offline will have implications for citizens, states and companies as we all navigate the emerging digital world.

And then, for the next 50 pages they explore what full connectivity will mean to citizens in the future, how they will react to it and what consequences it will have for dictators and democrats alike.

An era of critical thinking will emerge; commerce, education, healthcare and the judicial system will be more efficient, transparent and inclusive; myths about religion, culture, ethnicity will struggle “amid a sea of newly  informed listeners”; governments will find it more difficult to maneuver; documents cannot be destroyed; history can’t be rewritten; parents will have a new role teaching children privacy and security; classes about each will be taught in schools-right along with sex education; businesses specializing in privacy will proliferate; on line identities will “become such a powerful currency” they will be sold online.

The narrative continues through whistleblower sites, wikileaks, “agents of chaos”, the emerging “Reporting Crisis” as mainstream media face significant challenges and to survive will adjust goals, methods and organizational structures from what we know today; and then the authors leave us hanging as they sum up the issue by telling us the end result remains to be seen.

Through the narrative, I learned “delete” is a figment of our imagination even today for several reasons. “Data remanence” and back- up systems guarantee this is the first “generation of humans to have an indelible record”.  Further, try as we may, new solutions will not keep us private.

After discussion of several additional consequences, the authors maintain that the power of the new information revolution is “for every negative, there will be a counter response that has the potential to be a substantial positive”.  For instance, connectivity enhances state’s power but also constricts the state’s ability to control the news cycle.

Eventually, the authors  offer the reader a series of coping strategies before launching into the closing 7-8 pages of the chapter that cover Police States 2.0, Biometric Data and finally ends with:

“What seem like debates today over security and privacy will broaden to questions of who controls and influences virtual identities and thus the citizens themselves…These changes will spur new behaviors and progressive laws but given the sophistication of the technology involved, in most cases, citizens stand to lose many of the protections they feel and rely upon today.”

As I said on June 8, this chapter scared me but also reinforces what I said then.  The daily “scandals” out of Washington today are irrelevant.  We need to stop, learn, discuss, and set new guidelines in terms of security and privacy issues of the 21st century….and 19th and 20th century attitudes and knowledge will not be the guiding forces that shape this new world we ALREADY ARE IN.

h1

THE NEW DIGITAL AGE; Our Future Selves

June 25, 2013

First, the good news from Schmidt and Cohen:  before long “everyone on Earth will be connected”.   As we progress from 2 billion to 7 billion people experiencing digital connectivity, we all will see the benefits in “productivity, health, education, quality of life for everyone.”

But that connectivity will mean different things to different people -depending upon point of view and problems to be solved.  Everyone will benefit but not equally, and those differences become the focus of Chapter One of this thought-provoking book.

The authors take us through the positives improvements: increased efficiency, effective uses of time, more innovation, more opportunity, growth of globalization, new levels of collaborations and cross pollination, growth of the open-source movement, a better quality of life, advances in health and medicine, and- a personal interest of mine-the positive changes in education.

Schools are and will continue to integrate technology into lesson plans and in some cases, replace traditional lectures with interactive workshops.  Education will become a more flexible experience “adapting” to children’s learning styles and pace instead of the other way around.”  There will be more use of on-line short videos as the “flipping“ trend continues.  Homework means watching a video – no need for parents help with that; the classroom focuses on applications of what was learned.

Those who follow my blog or have listened to me talk about adult learning applications in today’s world certainly recognize much of this.  However, a key difference evolving in schools is that “critical thinking and problem-solving skills” will be the focus as memorized learning will decrease.  After all, we have the knowledge of the world at our fingertips with our smart mobile devices, so why fill the brain with things you may never need to know?

Although connectivity benefits us all, it does not benefit us equally.  “Those who have none, will benefit some and those who have a lot will have even more”.  The authors’ description of a day in the life of a young urban professional living in an American city in a couple decades created a lot of conflict for me.  I hope I live to see some of it; and at the same time, I hope I don’t live to witness all – as I am not so sure I will make a good adjustment!

But the advance of connectivity will have impacts far beyond a personal level and the authors’ position that how the physical worlds coexist, collide and complement each other will strongly impact how citizens and states behave.

“Each individual, state, and organization will have to discover its own formula, and those that can best navigate this multidimensional world will find themselves ahead in the future.”

The first 21st century reality of that may already be playing out before us as the almost 250 year old quest to find balance and to reconcile differences between individual freedoms and security of the whole is front and center right now – thanks to Snowden.

 

h1

IRS SCANDAL-a non issue; DARRELL ISSA-a very scary issue

June 25, 2013

More is revealed in the “IRS Scandal”.  Other groups including many Democratic “Progressive” groups were also included in the key word search….but were just not included in the Republican complaints.

Seems to me we have TWO issues here.  The first is the need to alter the wording of the non-profit regulations so that to qualify for tax exempt status one is prohibited from all political activity- as outlined in the original law passed.  That was changed in a looser Congressional amendment to require instead, that political activity cannot be the “primary” activity of these non-profits.  And therein is the rub.  Define primary.  Define based not only on measurable dollars expended, but time expended as well.  Define how to measure that without bias.  You have now just joined the IRS agent in the world of opinion and doubt. 

FIX the Law; return it to its original state…not only will the US benefit by a lot more tax revenue, but lives of the agents at the IRS will be significantly simplified – especially in view the exceedingly high number of  requests for tax-exempt status were requested in 2012.   Some “influencers” will lose a free ride.  So be it.

But the second issue is probably more serious.  Republican “witch-hunting” seemingly led by Issa.

As a child in the 50s, I was more afraid of Senator McCarthy than the communists he was accusing everyone of being.  All through my school years, he remained my choice of topics for term papers, research papers and similar as I struggled to understand how we as a country could have been so influenced by a crazy man’s rantings and irrational fears.  The long arm of McCarthy went way beyond the government as he attacked every public figure he didn’t like including a great many of the Hollywood crowd.  Not long ago, I went to a play at the Guthrie that focused on this very issue.  It rattled me as much as it did as a child and a student.

And, as much as Congressman Darrell  Issa rattles me today.

 

h1

COULD WHITE BEAR LAKE BECOME A “LEARNING LAB”?

June 24, 2013

White Bear Lake-potentially a perfect case study to illustrate what happens when we disregard suggestions and warnings of how to better protect our natural resources…but is the drawdown of the aquifer the only contributing factor to this long painful death of the lake?

White Bear Lake Restoration Assn. is suing the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on the aquifer issue.  The Chair, Greg McNeely laments the 30-40% decline in property values [Ed:  All examples given were for $1 million+ homes]; complains he has not been able to put his own dock in the water for four years and had to stop his daily swims; mourns of the changing culture around the river as the recreational use of the lake dropped 70%; and explains the lawsuit is not about property value damage:

“It’s about protecting our watershed and preserving a valuable natural resource for all of us-not just a few people who live on the lake.”

While Nero fiddled, Rome burned; and in White Bear, while citizens played and polluted, the lake died  because of the DNR.  For now, I choose to take him at his word. 

Because for me, this is a wakeup call and a perfect opportunity to thoroughly examine ALL uses and habits that have contributed to this decline and slow death.  If we honestly identify causes; tie cause to impact and point out visible proof of the effects of our actions that resulted- perhaps we have before us a larger positive.

Of course, this is a tragic natural resource disaster but that does not mean we should not learn from it.

Minnesota could adopt it as a Learning and Teaching lab.  Once the effects are clearly identified and visual, we have a better chance to test prevention and restorative theories, preserve evidence of damage and renewal, and ultimately the disaster could emerge as a LEARNING LAB for the state and for the country.

Please let us consider a PROACTIVE plan that benefits us all.  After all, we have the perfect example of passive destruction and death of the Colorado River; we do not need to make White Bear Lake the Second great man-made disaster caused by misuse of natural resources!

We watched the demise of the Colorado River…we watched the abuse of the great southwestern US water supply; in Arizona we watched that sick river struggle; and we now we have watched it Dry Up and die- leaving a large population of US citizens with no water source and a massive ugly river bed and empty mouth on the West Coast…all because either we did not believe conservation experts and government officials or because “we the people” have our rights, you know, and no government is going to tell us what to do.  And so, to support the expanding populations of immigrant snow birds and others, Arizona allowed acres and acres of green grass oases to be created…and while doing so, diverted the water from the Colorado and from their neighbors to the west.  

Do we really want to prove we can kill all 10,000 lakes because we refuse to accept warnings and change over personal and commerecial desires and habits?

Between the dead Colorado do-nothing evidence, and a potential learning lab at White Bear Lake, perhaps we can change habits and stop this devastating trend of humans destroying irreparable natural resources.

 

h1

THOUGHTS ON NEWS OF THE DAY

June 24, 2013

I missed Meet the Press today so I was in a much better mood all morning; I caught a taped Chris Matthews show that was a compilation of the last 11 seasons and featured how well his changing group of panelists predicted outcomes to news of the day, and, although it brought back TOO MANY memories  of the George W. era, it was a kinder, gentler program than the live one is these days – even Chris Matthews was civil.

Nevertheless, there was news other than the storms and the electrical outages, and the fact it will take Xcel working as fast as they can with a crew of 1000 until possibly Wednesday to get the last 99,000 persons back on the grid.  How lucky I have been here…no trees to clean up, no house repairs….no cleaning out of food from freezers and refrigerators and no reading by flashlight!

The Brodkorb Story

So my news day started with irritation over the Brodkorb story making Section A “above the fold” status as if it were equal to not just the storm, but the medical research so severely impacted by budget cuts.  Both Koch and Brodkorb were out of line but in the last 50 years, if anyone’s misdeeds would have traditionally been overlooked, it would have been those of the “boss”.

Generally, the one in the power position (usually the man) and usually the initiator escapes unscathed – often to repeat again and again.  The one with a lessor position of power (usually the woman) –often participating- fearing loss of job asretribution if she did not- generally lost her job in the aftermath anyway.

This time around because of the official role reversals, the female power position was terminated, as was the male direct report.

Were I Koch, holding the historically untouchable power position, I might have been justified to think it was discrimination to be removed from office because I was a woman.  After all, men in the power position are not dismissed for the same offence.

But that is not how it played out.  After all, Brodkorb had had several “incidents” with others before Koch, and although he was male, in this case, he was the direct report so following tradition, he just had to go-no discrimination there – they overlooked he was the male.  

So because of the role reversal, two were removed, and Brodkorb got a taste of what women all over the United States feared for years and years  even though he was a male. And surprise!  It made him mad- obviously, what had been good for the goose, was not so good for the gander so HE is the one suing for discrimination because of his (oft-repeated) unacceptable behavior.

I am really hoping this case is settled quickly and he loses. Nothing would be better than part of the settlement would include financially making payment back to us, the citizens of Minnesota for $200,000 and counting of state expenses this nonsense is costing us!

Young American Indian Women and the Opiate Problem

For all of those who would prefer to deny it, one more time, we read this morning there has been a 3695% increase in abuse of opiates and heroin between 1998 -2011 in the American Indian Community. (Yes, three thousand six hundred and ninety-five percent).

In Minnesota, the Midwest American Indian Advisory Council representing 11 Minnesota reservations has initiated discussions with chemical addiction counselors and public health officials to determine WHY and how to help.

Of particular concern-very young American Indian women addicted; often pregnant.  Suzanne Koepplinger, Executive Director of MN Indian Women’s Resource Center says “self-medicating often is a response to sexual violence…they are trying to cope with the deep pain.”

We cannot always fix problems-often originating with us, with white man prejudices and solutions. We need to find a better way to address this.  So I particularly applaud the idea of tapping into “sacred medicines, traditional values and the wisdom of the American Indian elders” rather than relying on that of the white man.

“Lidar” Technology and Mahendraparvata

“Lidar” technology gave me the shivers this morning.  How long ago was it that a young Linda Zurfleih –in awe- shared with me the “discovery” of the now famous Angkor Wat temples complex in Cambodia…and today we learn lidar laser technology used from an airplane has created a 3-d map of a buried lost city of Mahendraparvata – 145 miles from Angkor Wat.  Amazing!

Bio-Medical Research  

If I am not experiencing enough “cultural shock” as I work my way through my latest read – “The New Digital Age”, today in the Strib, I learned much more about tissue engineering and the Big Brain atlas – a 3D virtual brain and I am both in awe and totally freaked out!

At the same time, it was a nice reinforcement to read I have made the right choices as I rejected pain meds and even Tylenol to help with all the residual effects and pain of that awful fall now eleven years ago.

But neither story helped soften the impact of the main one – medical research budgets.

Research for Alzheimer’s and other “cascading medical challenges of an aging population is slowing…we cannot train the next generation of scientists…current scientists are leaving the field – all because of funding cuts to medical research over the last decade.

Does this make sense?

Our greatest cost in upcoming years is the aging population and their health issues so we cut funding that targets that very problem to a point that we are now spending less as a percentage of GDP than Israel, Japan, Korea, Sweden and Switzerland.  China increased their budget 26% last year and will spend $300 billion on biotechnology research over the next 5 years.

Biomedical research spending increased from 2-20+% last year in India, China, Brazil, S. Korea, Japan, Germany, Australia, and the UK.  As for the US, we cut 5% and seem to be ok with qualified scientists working without staff; some working full time on partial salaries themselves; and at least one exists only through the help of food stamps.

Hopefully since these troubles were aired at a Klobuchar discussion meant to discuss a new initiative to map the neurons of the human brain, our good Senator will be able to call attention to the issue and start a discussion in DCA on the damage these funding decisions are doing to not only our state, but also our country.

Of course, it did occur to me that the only way the angry old birds can be right in all their complaints about Obamacare is to stop funding in the short term for discoveries and treatments that would minimize the impact of medical costs of an aging population. 

After all, it is low risk to them, I believe-if I remember right, as members of the Legislature, they receive health care for life. (Oh dear, how bad am I to be that suspicious of these guys?)

 

 

 

 

Opps- sorry for this highlighting here- not sure how it happened, but cannot get it to undo – I am blaming it on the storms and electrical problems in Mpls rather than deleting the whole entry and redoing. Good night!

h1

THE COST OF A COLLEGE EDUCATION

June 23, 2013

This morning I give a big YES to Chris Farrell!

Over and over, we hear the “sad” story of student loans.  And over and over, to get buy-in or at least sympathy from the general public, we are told about the $100,000-$200,000 debt a student is carrying upon graduation.

“Hold on.” Farrell wrote this morning as he reminded us 98.7% of students do NOT fall into this category.  In fact, 0.5% owe $200,000; [ED:  I expect that includes advanced degrees above a BA- but that was not clarified.]  further, only 3.1% of all students incur $100,000 in total debt.

Yes indeed.  As of December, 2012, the AVERAGE debt for four years of school is $24,699; the MEDIAN debt for the same four years is $13,924.

And with that I feel exonerated as I say over and over again…..what is the difference from when I went to school?   When I graduated from the University in 1967, I owed $5500 in student loans. I started my third job in December, 1970, with a salary of $4,000.   – [ED: Sorry, I cannot remember what I made at the jobs immediately out of school employed as a travel agent, but I do remember starting at BI in 1970 was a definite STEP-UP.]

So why I am wrong when I say, what is the big deal/crisis in today’s world?  Does the AVERAGE first job today pay a comparable 20% less than debt owed or about $20,000?  Does the MEDIAN first job today pay a comparable 20% less than debt owed or about $11,000?  For the most part, I do not think so-but I am certainly open to being proven wrong!

Of course, there were some differences, I expect.  I worked my way through school.  I paid all my expenses for the first two years, but of course, I had the benefit of living at home.   In my Junior Year, I had a small scholarship from the City of Rochester, so with that exception, I paid all my school expenses including living expenses because I worked.  My senior year, I had a student loan, some help from my brother and $600 from my mom which allowed me a little flexibility so I did NOT work but was able to finish my BA with enough graduate course credits that I recall I had only 5 classroom credits left to earn for my Masters.  And since I graduated with a double major -History/City Planning- I had completed the “Senior Paper “ that provided the groundwork for the Masters.  No, I did not expand it as planned as part of the Masters program;  I went to work full time.

How was I able to accomplish that?

By doing exactly what Chris Farrell suggested: I went to colleges I could afford.  I worked so I only had one year of federal loans to pay back.

Yes, I know you are thinking as you read this that if “my kid” goes to a prestigious school, he will get not only a good education but a better start in life.

And really, I think that is a myth born in the ‘80s by other Boomers like me- Boomers who as concerned parents, wanted to make life EASIER for their children that it was for them- and that is understandable.

Unfortunately what is forgotten in that wish are lessons learned from “hard times” also contribute to one’s success….and so a myth was invented that soon became gospel.  We all recognize it:  “Prestigious schools yield relationships and connections that will make your entry in the real world easier.”

There is some truth to that, of course.  But really, is it worth the debt burden?

All these many years alter I will tell you I LEARNED the most right there at Rochester Junior College.  Because I worked, I had to set priorities and learn time management.  I was also a social person involved in “everything” so although time management skills helped, I had to learn another very important thing at one point in my sophomore year when I wanted to drop being Editor of the College Newspaper in order to stay involved in theatre.

The Dean of Students suggested that the roles I was playing as a Freshman Counselor, the Echo Editor, and Theater along with all those Delta Psi, Gamma Rho, and whatever social clubs I had joined  were teaching me something more important than academics – they were teaching me leadership skills. He also told me that business world out there that I was preparing for valued a degree, but could care less about my GPA and I would get a lot further in business with leadership skills than I would with a 4.0 GPA.  

(Of course, being the stubborn person I am, I escaped from the RJC Echo anyway but I have never forgotten his advice and frankly, he was right!)

So I went to school; I met a lot of people still friends today; I went to work; I played a lot and I learned. But was I successful?

  • I did well as a worker; I progressed from supervisor to manager to Director to Vice President in the corporate world; and for the last 20 years to Owner of a small business.
  • For most of my career, I have interacted with good results with CEOs and senior executives of most Fortune 500 companies.
  • I have traveled around the world from the Americas to Europe; from the Middle East to China, Tahiti, and the Phillipines; and from Australia to a little bit of Africa.
  • For many years, I have been able to add considerable volunteer work in areas of interest from Taste of the Nation to the first ever Taste of NFL at Superbowl ’92 to  the Central Riverfront  and urbanization efforts in Minneapolis.
  • And through it all, I have earned more than my fair share of awards and recognition.

Are those measurements of success? For a woman entering the business world in the late 1960s, when women were expected to be happy in the role of secretaries and clerks, I would say yes.

And along that long pathway, I have YET to be asked what school I graduated from, what my degree was or what grades I earned.

Yes, I know there are graduates today that are not gainfully employed using their degree [ED: nor have I ever been employed as a historian, or city planner]…partly the Great Recession is to blame; partly the expectations of what one will accept as a first job and a first salary are to blame. And I know connections open doors of course; but who you are as a person and life’s lessons learned along the way mold you and make the real difference.