#110 Misunderstanding Higher Education (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

This week, I listened to one of the dumbest discussions, ever, on higher education and its costs and benefits. The discussion was on a local public radio show, a show that is usually fairly low-brow. The people involved were all advocates and employees of universities who have been draining millions of dollars from local taxpayers. Of course, there was no alternative argument being presented because people who work for a living are busy working, not creating fanciful statistics to promote not working as an alternative to productivity. Or something like that.

The discussion was about how expensive a public or private college education has become and if that expense is justified. Other than chanting how “expenses” have increased and how those expenses are necessary to provide a quality education experience, absolute no useful or creditable information was given to explain why universities’ expenses have increased far faster than the inflation rate. Mostly, the folks from academia babbled useless statistics about how obtaining a college education will result in higher income over a lifetime.

The fact that 80% of the currently available jobs do not require a college degree and that future projections for jobs in this country anticipate even lower educational requirements didn’t bother the folks from academia. They have this worthless statistic that “proves” that a person with a bachelor’s degree will earn one million dollars more, in a lifetime, than a person with only a high school diploma. If a statistic was ever able to lie outright, that would be one of the most dishonest statements ever made by a human.

Let’s examine a pair of situations that would fall into this statistic. My brother, for example, is an intelligent, hard working person from a middle class background who has been employed since he was 19 and probably represents the average working guy who never went to college. On average, I’d suspect that he is as typical of the upper-middle of the type of person who hasn’t been to college and has been “disadvantaged” by that deficit. He was not a particularly good student in high school. He married young and never had the resources or motivation to pursue further education once he found work and started his adult life. He’s hard working, contributes to his community, and has a small circle of friends and family who depend on him to be steady and reliable. He’s had a steady job working for a salt mine in central Kansas for the last twenty-plus years and has grossed about $600,000-750,000 lifetime income.

George Bush might represent the upper-middle of the type of person who does go to college and obtains a college credential. He’s dumb as a post, lazy, unmotivated, drug and alcohol addicted, and so irresponsible that his parents shipped him to another state so that he wouldn’t embarrass the family when his father was running for the US Senate. He managed to be an embarrassment from half-way across the country, but he still managed to stumble through to a Harvard bachelor’s degree. George failed at every adult enterprise he ever attempted and his parents bailed him out of several criminal adventures with their wealth and power. George’s lifetime income is still on the ascent, but it wouldn’t be impractical to estimate that he’ll attract more than $1,000,000,000 in his lifetime. Using that comparison, you could say that a minimal college degree is worth a billion dollars in a lifetime. After all, what else is different between these two men?

If that kind of logic is the result of higher education, I think we can easily understand why the country is sinking into idiocy. There are at least two kinds of people who attend universities: 1) motivated and intellectually curious people who are hoping to find an intellectually stimulating environment and 2) the spoiled offspring of the ruling elite who have to show minimal intelligence as a rite of passage into the country’s power structure.

Generally, the second group will do a much better job of boosting the economic statistics justifying a college education. The inbred, brain-dead children of families with power are far more likely to have the connections needed to obtain high paying jobs in the Misfortune 500. If, like G.W. Bush, the kids are too foolish to hold a job, the family will invest a few million until they find a niche where Junior can’t possibly fail. In Bush’s case, they found a group of pro baseball investors who wanted a figurehead to front their organization, which sort of implies that they wanted to shield themselves from the public eye. One way or another, the demented and limited offspring of the rich will inherit the family’s massive wealth and they’ll hand it to financial advisors who will continue to add to the family fortune, and Junior’s income statement.

The more inspiring products of higher education are likely to become the financial advisors of the first group. Failing that aspiration, they’ll become doctors, lawyers, engineers, and scientists, most of who don’t generate the income necessary to prove the point that a college education is a terrific financial investment for the children of the middle class. The numbers of liberal arts degree holders who can be found shuffling books at Barnes and Nobel, managing coffee inventories at Starbucks, and reminding pimply illegal aliens to ask if their customers “want fries with that?” is as depressing as it is humorous.

A little while back, Paul Erlich, of The Population Bomb fame, described his experiences as a dean of Stanford University. The financial power in that institution was held by the liberal arts folks, who had plenty of time for politics since their schools were under little-to-no demand from students. The science and engineering instructors are teaching classes, managing research, and publishing or perishing in their competitive fields. Even the deans of those schools are involved in doing productive work, so their representation in political meetings is minimal.

All of that results in liberal arts profs campaigning for salaries commensurate with their scientific contemporaries. The fact that someone with a doctorate in social studies or modern Greek literature would be hustling French fries in the real world has no effect on these discussions. Among many idiocies, this is the main reason that the operating costs of universities are out of control.

The fact that the personalities and capabilities (financial and intellectual) of people who generally obtain a degree are dissimilar to those who don’t hasn’t slowed the higher education propaganda machines. Logic, facts, and economics have no effect on their demand for public financing of what has become a private venture. When the average middle-class person can no longer consider obtaining a college degree because of the cost, state universities have lost their reason for being and, more importantly, the reason they obtain taxpayer financing.


#109 Legal Recreational Drugs (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

The current federal administration and Minnesota's state governor and big fans of Reagan's War on Drugs.  The argument seems to be that any drug that doesn't make a drug company exec (political contributor) rich causes irreparable damage to society.  Once upon a time, I thought the conservatives' anti-drug case was based on the conservative terror that somewhere someone might be having fun.  Not anymore.  As long as the people having fun are rich, old, white and fat, we're likely to promote their case with an advertising campaign.

Today it's obvious that money is the core to the War on Drugs.  Recreational drugs are the hot sellers in several drug companies' product lines.  If Viagra isn't a free-from-social-value recreational drug, marijuana has to be one of the most beneficial medicines ever discovered.  Pfizer's Viagra (and it's recreational buddies Celextra, Lilly's Cialis, Senetek's Invicorp, Bayer's Levitra, Propecia, Alprostadil, Uprima, and the never ending, constantly growing list of male erectile enhancement drugs) have only one function; to help old fat white men get a hard-on so that they can engage in recreational sex.  If that isn't a meaningless recreational drug, I can't imagine what kind of definition you would use for "recreational drugs."  No activity on this planet could be much less critical to the quality of life on this planet than old fat white guys wallowing on top of their trophy wives. 

It's interesting that the Bushies' argument to protect the income of their drug peddler buddies isn't doing the job they claim it will do.  All those profits were supposed to inspire drug companies to create more lifesaving drugs, but new drugs are not happening at the speed that they were developed before the current medicine=money culture.  In fact, the creation of new drugs is slowly coming to a halt in the US.  After an incredibly slow start, European medical-use drug development is cranking up in capacity and quality.  In a few years, American drug companies are going to want to have their new "intellectual property" laws defanged so that they can steal the patented work of their European competitors. 

A few years later, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Korea will join the competition.  Those nations are already providing much of the US manufacturing capacity.  Our lazy, greedy executive class gave away the computer business by "teaching" those countries how to manufacturer, design, and market personal computers.  Those same fools are repeating their mismanagement foolishness with drugs.  The upside is, since US manufacturers have dedicated themselves to creating and selling recreational drugs, we have to hope that the rest of the world will take up their slack and develop drugs for medical purposes.

In the meantime, American dope peddlers are pumping out recreational sex drugs, spending millions on television ads promoting their dope, and spending millions bribing docs and politicians to keep the pipeline open between their dope-peddling docs and the dope-abusing, impotent, fat, old white men.  You have to suspect that the Mafia is getting jealous.  In the past, when the Mob gets jealous they get political and violent (as if there is a difference).  I wonder if we're about to be entertained by gang wars between drug companies and street dope peddlers?  That would be fun. 

What's the beef about recreational drugs?  Don't ask me.  I dislike all of our "victimless crime" laws.  If people want to dope themselves into oblivion, even death, as long as they don't take anyone else down with them, I could care less.  Life is hard, humans are grossly over-represented in the world's animal population, resources are dwindling, and you could make about 4 billion arguments as to why people should be allowed to dope themselves into oblivion.  The world economy is such a mess that most people have two choices, sell themselves to the highest bidder or die.  Prostitution is only a crime when a rich man doesn't make a profit from it.  Employees are prostituting themselves to the employers every day.  Men and women have been sacrificing their health and time to employers for hundreds of years but nobody seems to think that is a moral crime.  It's only a crime when someone makes the sale without an employer middleman taking most of the profit.  The ultimate prostitute is a soldier.  Not only does a soldier offer his own life for money, but he'll take other, often innocent, lives for the same hard cash.  But that well populated with victims occupation is often honored in our cultures.  In our current "war," which is waged to steal the oil resources of North Africa, we're forcing National Guard members (who, mostly, got into the guard as a way to get to play with expensive toys, pretending to be soldiers, for extra cash, as a pointless part-time job) to kill and die for money.  A little recreational drug use, in comparison to that activity, has to be qualified as harmless.

My complaint about the Viagra-strain of recreational drugs is the inconsistency displayed by a culture that allows its ruling class legal access to recreational drugs and turns violent when the working class expects the same courtesy.  The rich can drink and drive without expecting serious consequences when they kill bystanders.  They can have meaningless―and conceptually disgusting―old man sex and have their dope choices sanctified by national televised advertising campaigns.  If someone grows a single marijuana plant in his backyard, federal and state SWAT teams will descend from black, noiseless helicopters to burn the crop, confiscate the grower's property, and imprison everyone in the neighborhood who might have "profited" by the illegal substance.  If we actually set out to create an irrational society with an incomprehensible Through the Looking Glass legal system, we couldn't have done a better job. 


#108 Hard Work? Damn! (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

The first Presidential debate was interesting.  The one thing we know about George W. Bush, other than his nearly-perfected incompetence, is that he is chronically lazy.  The lil' feller has taken the easy way out of every situation in his life.  His first "business success" involved being put into a non-participatory management position in a pro baseball team, using other people's money and other people's talents to actually manage the team.  George's job required him to sit behind the home team's bench and look involved.  He mostly looked confused, when he wasn't napping.  By all accounts, this job tested George's stamina severely.  He had to take a number of vacations to recover from the daily routine at his seat behind the bench.  But he managed it and his partners sold the team and gave him his share in the profits.  It helped that he hadn't had to make an investment, originally, because his parents weren't inclined to loan Georgie any more cash due to his past misadventures with their money. 

From that great success, Georgie went on to vacation at the Texas Governors' mansion.  His tenure in that office was another rousing success.  He managed to turn one of the nation's worst education systems into the clear winner of that contest.  Nobody has a more poorly funded education system, after George's education plan went into action.  Texas kids will be thanking Georgie for decades as they flip burgers and cash their welfare checks.  George worked so hard as governor that nearly half of the time he spent in that office was "working vacation" time.  Texans got their money's worth out of the little rich kid. 

The first debate was clearly a test of the President's strength.  Since he has no character or intelligence, the only personality trait that could be tested was strength.  As the debate went south on him, he began to whine about the "hard work" the Presidency requires.  All these Presidential issues--the mess in Iraq, the economy, criminal  activities among his friends and associates, and the job of being President -- were wearing him down. Little George is used to taking a extended break any time life's complexities begin to wear on his limited capabilities.  He'd done exactly that throughout his first term in office, however, the debate was going to go on with or without him, so he had to stick to it.  George isn't much of a stick-to-it-kind-of-guy.  He was desperately needing a vacation trip to Crawford less than 5 minutes into the debate. 

From that point on, he constantly returned to his whining refrain of how much "hard work" was involved in being President.  If being President were an appointed office, I'd feel sorry for the dumb bastard.  Since he went to great difficulty to corrupt the selection process, including stealing the election from the actual winner, I hope he chokes on the responsibility.  Even more to the point, since I believe that his lies regarding the reasons for the Iraq Invasion were nothing less than treasonous, I'd like to see Georgie put in some serious hard time for his criminal acts.  Busting stones in a hot Texas sun would be an apt punishment for his efforts against the flag.  Ideally, joining him would be his CRAP buddies and, especially, Karl Rove.  Those chubby cheeked draft dodgers would be completely different people after a decade or two behind bars.  They might even develop a bit of character.


#107 An Impossible Dream (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

Bobby Dylan sang, in "Talking World War Three Blues," that "we're all havin' that same dream."  Dylan was talking about being the last person left on earth after the final war.  Management's dream is that execs can screw off and their low paid employees will take up the slack for them.  It's a dream because it doesn't make a lick of sense and, on the rare occasion that it appears to be working, it won't last. Like a good night's sleep, this pipedream comes to an end way too soon.  The simple fact is that corporate motivation is directed top down and when the leadership's flow of activity, energy, and ideas stops flowing, the business is heading for bad times. 

While it's possible to convince people to work harder than their bosses for a short time, it only makes sense that the people receiving the most benefit should do the most work.  When that isn't true, there better be a clear, available, and direct chain of succession or the most productive people will look for other opportunities or put their energies into more interesting activities.  In business, survival of the fittest often looks like rats leaving sinking ships.  There is no low-level fix to inactive management, so anyone with the skills to be somewhere else is likely to start shipping resumes when it becomes obvious that management isn't on a temporary vacation. 

For everyone else, the company becomes a place where the goals are incredibly simple.  If the execs aren't working, they have no effective way to know that no one else is working.  "Looking busy" isn't a difficult task in an organization that has minimal management.  On the rare occasion that management is in the vicinity of activity, it only takes a little ass-kissing and random motion to convince inactive management that something is being done.  It may not be work, but it looks like work to someone who isn't familiar with functional activity.  If you've been employed, you've experienced this traditional American phenomenon.  Most large companies generate much more random activity than directed, functional work.  Unfortunately, way too many small and mid-sized companies sink themselves imitating dysfunctional Misfortune 500 disaster zones. 

As consumers I think we've come to expect lethargy and incompetence from the management of companies with which we do business.  My home town recently acquired a new grocery chain, ALDI, that specializes in low cost, no-name-brand, bulk stock groceries.  The store doesn't accept credit cards or personal checks.  ALDI stores don't even provide free grocery bags, plastic costs 10¢ and paper is 5¢.  The result is that most items in the store cost a fraction of our local "bulk" grocery's prices.  Even more dramatic, though, is the difference between the two store's management styles. 

Recently, I was standing in a long line of ALDI shoppers waiting for my chance to pay money and escape the store.  One of the folks in front of me "discovered" (regardless of dozens of signs all around the store) that his credit card and checkbook weren't going to be accepted at the checkout counter.  The line came to a halt while he meandered toward the ATM.  A light came on next to the register and I began to consider pushing my cart to the side and leaving.  I'm not a great fan of standing in line.  Apparently, the light was a request from the checker for backup.  In a few seconds a manager appeared and opened a second checkout line.  Big surprise, management doing work!

An even bigger surprise was yet to come.  Not only did the manager know how to work the register, he was a lightening fast checker and the folks who'd moved to his line (including me) practically ran through the line with their groceries.  Our local ALDI's checkers are famous for being efficient, but this guy was easily twice as fast as his employees. 

At the other end of the management equation is the Cub Foods management; the other bulk grocery in our neighborhood.  I have never seen Cub's managers run checkout and I'd be amazed if they are capable of doing anything that technical.  I have seen Cub's managers watch, disapprovingly, as their employees struggle with moronic customers and malfunctioning equipment.  They didn't lift a finger to improve the situation, but they do take every opportunity to work on their Scrooge facial expressions.  As a result, the Cub store is consistently filthy, disorganized, and the general attitude of its employees could be summed up with the word "disinterested." 

To take the inactive manager motif to the extreme, you could look to our current Commander in Thief.  G.W. Bush is the laziest, most uninvolved President the nation has seen since Reagan or Eisenhower.  In his first year of office, one of the most catastrophic in the nation's history, GeeWiz was on vacation more often than he was "working."  However, when he's working he's mostly on vacation.  The status of the current executive summaries is something slightly less sophisticated than a series of "where's Waldo" illustrations.  Whether Bush is intellectually incapacitated is unknown, because he's so lazy that his capabilities are completely untested.  Bush has tossed his responsibilities off on a variety of subordinates, none of whom are equipped (technically, ethically, intellectually, or psychologically) to handle the job.  As a result, the nation's national security experienced it's worst failure since WWII and the worst ever failure to protect civilians.  The economy has stumbled from a booming, energetic, and creative high to a malaise nearly equal to the mess that Reagan's corrupt mishandling created for the early Clinton years.  And, maybe worst of all, the nation is practically perfectly polarized; unequalled since the years leading to the Civil War.  We have two, nearly equally populated sides that absolutely, totally hate each other.  Bush and the Neocons have turned the country so completely against itself that we ought to rename ourselves the Disconnected States. 

Typical of what happens when a corporation is experiencing this kind of failure of leadership, many of the nation's best and brightest are contemplating jumping ship.  Fortunately for the world, this happened when Hitler's Germany was misled by a similarly lazy, incompetent, and uninvolved "leader."  Without an intelligent, moral, and aware top executive, the marching morons took charge and drove Germany in so many foolish directions that the nation's energy was misspent far more quickly than it would have been if there had been executive planning and guidance behind the mischief.  Lucky for us.  If Germany had retained its best and brightest, they would have had the atomic bomb years before us and their missile program would have been capable of delivering that bomb to our continent. 

Bush's amoral 30% majority is a similar crowd.  They are mostly out for themselves, taking on an occasional distraction like school vouchers, abortion, and pointless wars against third world nations.  They're uneducated, unscientific, uncreative, and selfish.  In the end, the Bushies will dissipate our national resources, international respect and power, and convince many of the most intelligent and talented citizens that America's time has come and that it's time to move to a more hospitable and dynamic country. 

Uninvolved leadership always self-destructs.  You'd think the free market advocates would be a little concerned about this fact.

#106 The Rat is Disgusted (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

The more I know about what's likely to happen in this coming election, the more disgusted I become. 

Americans have the lowest science and math test scores in the industrialized world and we're demonstrating our incapacity in our political system. 

For example, the folks in charge of the current pitiful excuse for the US government failed to protect the American public in the most incompetent mismanagement of national security in the history of the nation.  Bush and CRAP were so busy packing their pockets and "reforming" the tax code to benefit the scumbags they represent that they were totally surprised by the fact that there are people out there who would love to do major damage to this country.  There were intelligence warnings flying in all directions and the Bushies ignored their job because they were all geared up to rape and pillage the economy, the public education system, and wipe out the middle class. 

The military was equally busy double-dipping, saluting itself, and wasting time and resources and, when it was finally called upon to protect American citizens.  Our military, especially the Air Farce, was so incredibly impotent that the task fell to the passengers of a hijacked airplane to commit suicide to protect Washington DC.  That same military drones failed to put an end to the Taliban in Afghanistan, to find Osama bin Laden, or to make a reasonable effort to secure the nation's boarders from terrorists.  If these folks had been in charge of a corporation's internal security, they would have been fired, blacklisted, and publicly humiliated in the national media.  Being government deadbeats in a nation of sheep, they have distracted the public eye by pretending an invasion of a tiny, starving third world dictatorship has something to do with national security.  That tactic would only work in a country where the public eye is connected to a very tiny public brain. 

After failing miserably at the job they were assigned, Bush and CRAP have dismantled the Constitution and Bill of Rights as quickly as possible.  The very freedoms they pledged to protect are the first freedoms they chose to eliminate.  In the interests of "national security," the folks who couldn't protect a goat from a poodle are turning the United States into a replica of the old Soviet Union.  

With this background, the average American Joe and Joan are telling pollsters that they are going to vote for Bush and CRAP because they think Bush will better protect the country from terrorists.  This is the same logic that says "fight fire with fire."  If you think setting your bedroom on fire to slow down a kitchen fire is a smart tactic, then you are the kind of voter the Republicans are hoping to see at the polls; really dumb voters. 

They are offering us a nancy-boy, cheerleading frat brat who hid behind his daddy's skirts to evade the draft, was overcome by fear at having to fly office flowers in the rich kids' branch of the National Guard.  A twerp so cowardly that he went AWOL to keep from having to flunk a physical because he couldn't disguise the layer of coke dust powdering his nose.  The little feller is totally incapable of providing a strong national security.  Impossibly unlikely.  But dumbass Americans who can't do basic math or comprehend simple logic are unlikely to figure this one out before the rest of the world is unable to tell us from the other bad guys. 

Yeah, I'm disgusted.  This is a pitiful time to be an American.  We're too dumb to breathe and there is no sign that we're likely to get smarter in the next few generations.  I suppose that means we're about to suffocate.