Economy continues improvement

New economic news today indicates that the economy under the Obama administration continues to improve and the unemployment rate is lower now than before the housing bubble burst in 2007/2008. This is likely confusing news for those who voted based on their perception that Obama had done a poor job with the economy. These indicators should not be a surprise as the economy has been steadily improving.

There is a negative trend if you look closer. The manufacturing sector continues to lose jobs and this trend in the “rust belt” was the focus of the Trump campaign. The recent Trump claim that he had orchestrated the salvage of Carrier manufacturing jobs has been offered as proof of a strategy to reverse this loss of manufacturing jobs and seems to appear as a demonstrate of what Trump has in mind during his future presidency.

Here is the thing about manufacturing jobs. These jobs have been steadily declining for years. Improving technology is partly responsible. As companies have rebounded from the downturn following 2008, they have rehired fewer workers in certain areas. In part, the companies have improved profit margins by doing so.

Keeping manufacturing jobs in the U.S. through a combination of incentives (corporate welfare) and sanctions may save some jobs. However, it will also increase the cost of goods for the American consumer and for international customers buying American goods. The long-term impact on the economy is yet to be determined. Goods will cost more. The subsidies (lower taxes) offered to companies to keep jobs here must be offset in other ways (fewer services or increase taxes in other sectors). Subsidies to businesses have a way of benefitting the companies (owners and investors) as much or more than the line workers (note the results of the banking bailout).

As president-elect Trump has been saying – this is the way business works. Clearly, some will benefit. However, at the level of what is best for the country, any given outcome is part of a much larger system both internal to this country and internationally. I would not be willing to bet on trickle down. It has not worked before and the increased efficiencies provided by technology make it even less likely it will work this time.


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Liberal watchlist

Do I have the right to speak on topics for which I have some expertise or not? For educators, this can be a real question. I don’t feel the need to comment on issues such as the economy or maybe fracking with my students, but I do have things to say about net neutrality and school funding and charter schools. It seems fair that if the next President can consider putting someone in a cabinet position with limited general knowledge of the field and a pre-existing stance against public education, I should be able to speak and write on the topics I study. I do not work with impressionable 4th graders. I work with adult professional – graduate students who can think for themselves and have a responsibility to use the best data available to take positions on issues related to education. Educators at all levels need to take public positions on the field in which they work.Whether they involve students should be a matter of common sense. Be willing to take on the variables making the biggest difference.

Professor Watchlist is a site allowing anyone to turn in professors for being overly liberal and I suppose trying to corrupt students.  This may be the backlash attempting to remedy the education gap in the voting pattern of the past election.

I found that only one professor from UND, a recent winner of the top academic recognition given to UND professors, is the only UND prof listed on the site. I suppose you cannot nominate yourself to this database and I admit I do not have the credentials of the professor now listed, but I thought I would nominate myself. I submitted this blog of evidence of my liberal positions. No word so far.


This should be great and give me ideas for a least a month of posts. Elect Mark as a liberal.

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Speak for yourself

The prevalence of fake news and hate speech that became apparent in the run-up to the election has generated serious problems for social media. Facebook has received the most attention for this problem. It was not so much the problem of the fake news itself as it was the mindless reposting of this content by those who thought they had found a statement or story that captured their own position. The solutions to these issues will not be easy and are likely not possible as long as we endorse free speech. I do feel each individual has the right to express his or her position. I believe much of the problem occurs because of the convenient reposting of positions easily attributed to “others”. Remember the convenient references to what “others” are saying made by at least one candidate during the election.
Those of us who promote social media activity as a learning activity promote personal public statements for several reasons. Generating content yourself requires that you give some thought to your message and thought provides an opportunity for issue analysis and learning. Generating content requires effort and is a sign of commitment. How strongly do you endorse a position you are unwilling to spend a few minutes explaining? Generating content also takes time and offers the opportunity to consider whether you really want to say what you intend to say.
Social media can serve many purposes. Reposting recipes is great. Social media offers a perfect way to share pictures and messages with family. However, Facebook also offers the opportunity for serious discussion. Facebook allows longer statements with an easy mechanism for follow-up and interaction. Take advantage of these opportunities to offer your own insights and evidence.
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Elitist or Idealist

The post performance comments of the cast of Hamilton directed at Mr. Pence brought some interesting reactions. Mr. Pence responded by assuring the public that the new administration will have a place for everyone. Mr. Trump responded more quickly and demanded an apology.
My immediate interpretation was biased by a personal stereotype. I assume that “the arts” are populated by more individuals with minority sexual orientations and I know that Mr. Pence has views of those with different sexual orientations that are archaic and with related behavioral treatment approaches that are scientifically unsubstantiated. Any frustration with this Pence bias was but a very small part of what was said.
I am guessing that many did not listen to or read the comments from the Hamilton cast. I would challenge anyone to clearly explain just what about the comments themselves could have been objectionable. I suppose some might suggest that this amounted to “lecturing” Pence that his job was to uphold the expectations of the constitution and that this commitment should be assumed. I keep reading that such behavior is presumptuous and elitist.
I wish someone would make the effort to define elitism as used in this context. I assume whatever the term implies it must not be a good thing. Is it a reference to education level as the vote within certain categories of voters did break along a line defined by the amount of education? Why should being more education be regarded as a liability? Note, for example, that the Harvard or Yale pedigree of cabinet nominees seems always to be mentioned. There are a couple of areas in which I think education matters. The position of Mr. Trump on climate change and Mr. Pence on sexual orientation simply do not reflect the accepted positions of the scientific community. Put me down as a fan of this type of elitism.
It think it very possible some confuse elitism and idealism. The rejection of sexism, racism and scientific ignorance is not what I would label elitism. It is possible the assumption that such values are now uncommon may be idealistic and many are coming to grips with this reality,
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Whoops – no plant was saved

I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great State of Kentucky for their confidence in me!

Mr. Trump tweeted this morning suggesting that policy changes had prevented a Kentucky Ford plant from moving to Mexico. Not much information was provided but Twitter does only allow 140 characters. Mr. Trump had specifically used Ford Motors as an example during the campaign claiming that if Ford decided to outsource manufacturing he would politely contact Ford and explain that he would levy a 35% fee should Ford try to bring the autos back into the U.S. I am guessing you remember this claim and if you also read today’s tweet put two and two together.

It might be assumed that this quiet diplomacy has worked. Of course, this is not what actually happened. The Kentucky Ford plant was manufacturing two types of vehicles. Responsibility for one of these vehicles will now be shifted to Mexico. However, the plant will stay open, no one will be fired and the plant will increase production of the second vehicle. This was intended before the gentle persuasion (threats) of the campaign.

I can’t say that purposeful deception was involved. One would have to parse the tweet carefully and I suppose the “that is not what I meant” always works as an explanation for brief statements. It is possible Mr. Trump was impulsive in generating the tweet and did so making assumptions about what had happened. Impulse control has been an issue. It is likely those buying into the Trump campaign rhetoric did not search for additional information and came away satisfied that their faith had been justified.

I have long been a supporter of the potential of social media for giving all citizens a voice. I was mostly focused on production and not consumption. Clearly, there are some serious problems in the implementation of greater participation. Responsibility for careful and thorough research must be accepted. Critical thinking must be applied. It is now obvious that we even need to figure out how to address purposeful falsehoods offered and defended by the protection of free speech. There are some very practical issues to address.

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Campaign rhetoric as clickbait

I have had another thought about the recent election. This thought is less serious than the message in my previous posts, but I want to try it out on people nonetheless.

Weeks before the election itself I became interested in the connection between the Trump campaign and Breitbart News. I try to investigate things myself rather than rely on what other people have to say and this priority is easy enough to act on when the source is available online. Give it a try yourself (Breitbart News).

My first reaction was that the Breitbart site appeared very similar to the “papers” I notice but never purchase when waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store. I assume you recognize the type of periodical I am describing. These are the papers with garish colors and pictures, salacious and tempting titles, topics that tend to emphasize sex, divorce, and betrayal, the failures of Hollywood stars and other celebrities, or startling conspiracy theories.  I usually conclude the stores put this stuff in the check out line not because anyone will actually buy the papers, but because the papers distract the customers from complaining about slow service. Someone check to see if there are actually stories on the inside pages. I cannot tell you for certain.

 My initial exploration of Breitbart News, the role played by Steve Bannon during the campaign, and some of the catch phrases used during the campaign (lock her up, drain the swamp, make America great AGAIN) has led me to this new insight. It was all just clickbait.

Clickbait is a term used in the world of online media to describe the titles used to attract attention and draw readers to view other pages. Typically the titles labelled in this way are inflammatory or crude and most readers end up disappointed when they actually get to the page of content associated with the title. It is called clickbait because the entire purpose is designed to encourage mouse clicks that generate ad revenue. The titles can attract attention both from those likely to agree with what can be inferred from the title or from those who are likely to object strongly to the content but just have to see what is on the linked page.

The use of clickbait is a successful but despised technique. It is a method that preys on biases and human weaknesses. It is a method for attracting attention when what you have to say lacks substance.

My last post proposed that there is little reason to consider the advice of pundits, the words and video of the candidates was provided to us in abundance. I suggested what we saw is what we will get.

The clickbait hypothesis is a little different. This idea suggests that what we saw offers little insight into what we might get. The actual substance revealed by these political clicks will take months and even years to be revealed. Worse yet, the low level motives that encourage clicks distract an audience from spending their time on more serious matters. This could have been an opportunity for a consideration of serious issues that the nation needs to address. The process was wasted on distractions and the serious issues still lack serious consideration.

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What you saw is what you get?

In the aftermath of the election, many are stunned and attempting to understand what happened. There is this common suggestion that we are surprised because we have been misled by our choice of media.

I cannot buy this explanation. I am not naive and understand that events are spun in different ways by different media outlets. However, this spin is still applied to something. The interesting thing about our digital capabilities is that we often have plenty of data to interpret. We can allow others to interpret these data for us, but typically we still have the data to interpret for ourselves.

Given I assume everyone had access to the same data I read, heard, or viewed (the tweets, debates and speeches, recorded behavior) and I assume others have the ability to think for themselves in evaluating these inputs despite whatever we were told about this content, I cannot understand how any thinking that followed could have resulted in the voting behavior that is now a matter of record.

My assumptions in interpreting Trump behavior:

  • If you reject the science of climate change, I would normally assume you are ignorant. If I doubt you are that ignorant, I conclude you are manipulative for personal gain.
  • If you say and do the things you claim to do to women, I conclude you are a pervert.
  • If your comments frequently focus on the physical characteristics of women, I conclude you are shallow and a sexist.
  • If you assume a US judge will treat you unfairly because of the location of the origin of his ancestors, I assume you are racist.
  • If you assume that those entering the US through Mexico are frequently rapists and criminals, I assume you are either misinformed or a racist.
  • If you assume the US is consistently taken advantage of by other nations without considering the behavior of the US by similar standards, you lack a realistic understanding of the historical behavior of the country you think you can lead.
  • If you blame the behavior of protestors on the inflammatory rhetoric of a biased media and fail to acknowledge your own tweets following the re-election of President Obama, you either have a failing memory or are a hypocrite.

There now seems to be an effort to normalize the speech and behavior of candidate Trump. To explain that what was said was campaign rhetoric and I should now not accept this speech at face value is bewildering. (I assume this does not include the video of Trump boasting about the ways in which he has taken advantage of women.) Just what is this supposed to mean. If an unknown is trying to convince me of his suitability as the POTUS, all I have to go on is what I can see of his behavior and his speech. So, the racism, sexism, anti-globalism, and misogyny was some weird form of campaign rhetoric? How was I to know this was not behavior I could use to interpret in order to assess the candidate’s personal values and character?

If you are a parent, what have you said about what your children have seen? If you are a teacher, what have you said to your students? Don’t mind him, that was campaign rhetoric. Did you tell them Trump not really mean it when he said that a woman ate like a pig or that he was able to grab them as he said he did? Did you tell them that those from Mexico are not really rapists like candidate Trump claimed? Did you leave them struggling to interpret Mr Trump’s behavior on their own? Did you allow them to accept such speech as acceptable and the statements made as accurate?

I can’t agree with “explanations” for this behavior. I think what you say is what you get.

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I can’t endorse hypocrites

Someone must have let our future President have has cell phone back. Last night he was tweeting again. First, he speculated that the protesters were being paid and were responding to the media.

You probably should not say stuff like this unless you actually know it to be true. Maybe he has been informed by the secret service. I don’t know, but I doubt many protesters and probably no protesters are being paid. I have also watched several news programs and found no one encouraging protests and violence. I admit I did not check Fox or Breitbart.

Someone may have been allowed to speak to Mr Trump and reminded him that making these kinds of claims is not very presidential and about that free speech thing. He later did tweet that he admired the passion of the protesters.

We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!

Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.

These are the kind of tweets that encourage outrage and may incite violence. While I am obviously upset, I would not say something like this. Unfortunately, there are folks out there who feel this is their right.

These were a couple of tweets following the re-election of President Obama in 2012. They were authored by Donald Trump (Trump Tweet storm). The thing about modern technology is that it does not allow you to disavow what you say and do. It lets people see the comments you make about women and it lets them read what you said about a President you did not like.

The orchestrated effort to block anything our President attempted to do was in place once he was reelected. The open comments are easily located. It is also easy to locate the role Donald Trump played in attempting to discredit a great leader.

Hypocrites drive me crazy. I don’t consider this my character fault. I do have a few, but pointing to the truth can’t be one of them.

I don’t know if the present protests will turn violent and result in property damage or injury. It is unfortunate that others may suffer in attempting to control this public show of anger. So if you despise those who act in this way or encourage them, try not to be a hypocrite in those who you are willing to condemn.

hypocrite – a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.

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Searching for the true Trump

KellyAnn Conway’s suggestion that protesters should focus on what Mr. Trump said last night is kind of a stretch. After listening for a year or more, protestors are likely unable to determine which message was purposeful manipulation and which reflects the real character of the candidate.  Understanding how the process works and who won aside, many of the pre-vote comments were unacceptable public statements at any time in history. Are these comments somehow now acceptable or nonexistence because the candidate is now saying things that are more traditional political rhetoric?

The record of statements made has been recorded and can easily be accessed. The changes made to the Trump web site have already been saved by others and cannot be live on as part of the public record. We are past the time when inappropriate behavior fades into obscurity. This is the reality under which we all function. This is why we explain that future teachers should be careful about what they post on Facebook. This is why bragging you can get away with physical aggression against women because you are famous will always be there as a context to shape present day interpretation of his disparaging comments about women.

Mr Trump can criticize “political correctness” all he wants. The alternative does not allow purposefully racist, sexist, and ugly comments.

After contrasting the pre and post election Trump, I cannot decide if Mr Trump is a narcissistic sociopath or decided to “play one on TV” in order to generate buzz among many of those who voted for him. As I think about this distinction, I guess I have concluded both versions of Trump are pretty much the same thing.

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The question of character

If I were the President, I am not sure I could be as classy in meeting with anyone, especially someone who assumed he was my appropriate replacement, to question my legitimacy. Without cause, questioning the authority of someone on the claim that he was not really a citizen, seems a core character flaw of the accuser. Why extend respect to anyone who assumes he or she is above showing respect?

I am trying to imagine the quality of character this takes. The closest I can come would be imagining someone claiming that it is not necessary to recognize that I hold a doctorate. I did not display my degree and. I am not sure I bothered to ever frame this credential. However, I would take it as a sign of disrespect if I was expected to produce this piece of paper and was publicly challenged me to do this.

President Obama is such an example for us all.

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