The Shrinking Need for a Workforce: This Time it’s Different

There’s a YouTube video making the rounds of the internet that I highly recommend.  Go ahead and watch.

I’ll wait.

Done?  Good.

For those who will stubbornly refuse to watch the video, this is the synopsis.  Automation over time has made things easier for us since it’s reduced the demand of physical labor, which we’ve benefitted from.  But automation is not only continuing to reduce the number of boring, repetitious jobs, it’s now going after higher end jobs.  An Oxford Study predicted that 47% of US jobs could be lost to automation in 20 years.  Burger flippers and baristas for sure, but also lawyers and doctors are at risk. There is a lot fewer tax preparers now then there were in the days before tax preparation software.  So it’s not just low end drudge jobs that will be going away, it’s upper end jobs that require education that used to provide a lot of middle class and upper middle class incomes.

Previous automation, since the Industrial Age, has often provided a springboard to new industries and new jobs.  In 1870, between 70 and 80 percent of the US workforce was involved in agriculture.  In 2008, it was less than 2%.  But industrialization created vastly more jobs than were lost.  Automation in agriculture didn’t cause widespread unemployment, it freed up millions to work.  Within my lifetime, there has been an explosion of new jobs that just didn’t exist when I graduated high school.  Web Designer anyone?

There are, as a percentage more professional, high paying jobs than there used to be. That’s part (but only part) of the reason for expanding income inequality; more “good jobs” at the upper end. Professional jobs for people with technical BS degrees or graduate level.  But what about the percentage of new unskilled or semiskilled jobs?  Is the economy creating unskilled jobs paying much better than the minimum wage?

So never mind the video and its predictions. We can just look back over the past 50 years and see that the new jobs that are created are for a more highly educated and highly skilled subset. Automation improvements like cash registers becoming easier to operate as they become oversized calculators, are not creating new jobs, they are making already low skilled jobs even more low skilled.  At least until the jobs are automated away all together.

If these trends continue, with more newer jobs being for the more educated class and few new low skilled jobs created, what are we going to do with people who are just not smart enough to get a Phd in Neurolingustics (as an example)? We are improving automation along the lines of Moore’s Law, but there isn’t a Moore’s Law for human intelligence or ability. That is my concern. Not that we hit the Singularity and every human is unemployed and targeted for termination, but that the gradual change in the economy means few jobs for people on left side of the Bell Curve. We’ll have a growing cadre of people permanently unemployable no matter how great the stock market is doing or how much increase in GDP there is.

After watching this video, I had more questions than answers from it.  Frankly I don’t know what to do about the problem of people being rendered permanently unemployable.  Maybe someone should make an app for that…

 

My Post Vacation Links

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

I just drove back from vacation and boy are my…wheels tired.  OK admittedly that’s not exactly a keeper, but hey, I’ve been on vacation. But even on vacation, the learning never stops, so I’ve come across a few articles that I thought were insightful enough to pass on.

First up: ‘Revisiting Snowden’s Hong Kong Getaway’ in the Wall Street Journal.  Yeah I know it’s behind a pay wall but just Google the article title.  Sshh!  Don’t tell The Wall Street Journal this is their secret back door!

Although I try to keep up with the Snowden story, this had some tidbits I wasn’t aware of, such as Snowden vanishing from the time he arrived in Hong Kong on May 20th to the 31st of May.  Where was he?  There are no records of hotel or credit charges during those dates.  Mysterious…

 

English: American author and columnist Jonah G...

English: American author and columnist Jonah Goldberg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jonah Goldberg has a G File that is a testament to how good a writer he is when he can plug something worthwhile into an article that’s meant to be a throw away email newsletter. In, ‘The Importance of the Family,’ Goldberg argues that the family is the State’s biggest competitor and on the political level, Democratic political success is dependent on a disintegrating family unit.

 

 

English: Mark Steyn speaks at CPAC 2008 as Pam...

English: Mark Steyn speaks at CPAC 2008 as Pamela Gellar of Atlas Shrugs looks on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No links post could be complete without something from Mark Steyn.  In ‘Letting the IRS Get Away with it,’ Steyn points out one of the more troubling aspects of the IRS scandal; the release of donor lists of 501(c)3 organizations in order for leftwing activist groups to go after the donors personally.  It’s a chilling free speech issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

English: Bob Newhart in Norfolk, Virginia. Doi...

English: Bob Newhart in Norfolk, Virginia. Doing a personal appearance at a K-Mart store. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

And just for fun, a blog recently posted an old Bob Newhart classic bit, ‘The Driving Instructor.’  Comedy is one of those things that its practitioners can grow out of, either because they’ve worn out their shtick, they’re no longer creative enough to produce new material, or they just get too old period.  In the case of Bob Newhart, based on his recent appearances on ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ he is just as good now as he was over 50 years ago.  In Newhart’s case, his shtick is his delivery.  No other comedian has mastered the art of deadpan delivery as Newhart has.

 

 

Actually Excited About ‘The Last Ship’

Mild spoilers…

With the wave of new shows coming out for the summer, in general I’m somewhat “blah” about the new prospects.  It takes a lot to get my anticipation of a new or returning show up these days.  It has to be on the order of The Walking Dead.  In fact, it pretty much has to be The Walking Dead.  Television just isn’t doing it for me as much anymore. Even if the show concepts are good, the execution usually stumbles.  Defiance came back for season two.  It’s on my DVR.  It was just in the OK category. A new show from Syfy Dominion premiered last week.  Don’t expect a review of it from me.  I’m not a skilled enough writer to fill an entire review with all of the adjectives to describe how stinko that show is.  OK there’s one…stinko.

Falling Skies, Under the Dome… I’ll watch them but I don’t think they’ll get me excited to watch television.  With no Walking Dead and no Game of Thrones on, TV is only just TV.

Or is it?

TNT’s The Last Ship debuted last Sunday night, and sitting down to watch it, I expected just another OK show, but this was more than OK.  This was great!  So great that on the commercial breaks I turned to my wife and said, “This is great!”  My wife, who mainly tuned in for Adam Baldwin, who plays the ship’s executive officer, agreed, “Yes, Adam Baldwin is great.”

The gist of the show is a guided missile destroyer, the USS Nathan James, is sent incommunicado to the Arctic on the twin missions of some Top Secret weapons testing and to ferry along two scientists to study birds.  Now, when you put it like that, it sounds ridiculous.  I can see either having a Top Secret weapons test or having scientists study birds, but not on the same mission. You might think that the Captain should have at least raised that question, but it apparently raises no red flags.  But then, the Captain is there just to look good.  Played by Eric Dane, who formerly played…what, Dr. McCreamy or something?  In some Young-Doctors-In-Love show, he seems to see nothing unusual in combining bird watching and highly classified missile testing.

So after the completion of bird watching/missile testing, the crew is excited to return home and restore contact with the outside world, but a sudden attack by Russian choppers makes them aware of how out of contact they’ve been for the past few months.  The Captain, via teleconference with the President (a different President then when he left) learns that almost 80% of the world population is dead, and that most governments are no longer functioning, including the Russians, and that the two scientists had known the whole time, since they were not there studying birds, but looking for a primordial version of the same virus that was decimating the planet.  With the a ship that has the two scientists who may have the information to make a cure for the virus, the course of the show is set; if they can survive long enough.

So the pilot did a good job of setting up the premise, although I do have a quibble.  The ship comes across a dead in the water Italian cruise ship.  Hoping to loot it for food and fuel (diesel doesn’t grow on trees) they send a small boarding party; who has a member exposed to the virus.  Now I think this plot point could have been handled better.  It would have been a good opportunity to show what sort of skipper the Captain is by how he would handle the situation.  Should he abandon the crewman, kill him, set up quarantine on the ship and bring him back on board?  All of those are tough calls, but instead the crewman decides to shoot himself, sparing the Captain from making any hard decisions. That was a dramatic moment lost in my opinion.  And I would be surprised if that situation doesn’t arise again and again in the series.  Not everyone is going to decide to instantly kill themselves.  Then what do you do?

Anyway, I’m apparently not the only one who liked the show.  The premiere episode garnered 5.3 million viewers, which is big for cable.  Let’s hope the excitement can continue.

 

 

My Netfix Review: Season 2: Orange Is the New Black

Season 2 of OINB dropped into the Netflix queue on Friday, and apparently plenty of people had time to go through all 13 episodes.

Sheesh!

I’m not a binge watcher and I think it’s unfortunate that binge watching has become a thing for our time shifted TV watching.  Frankly, I just don’t see who has the time to actually sit down for that many hours on a weekend to watch an entire television season.  Are there that many people with that much free time?  Or are unemployed hipsters the new must reach TV demographic?

So I’ve only seen three episodes so far, but I think it’s enough to know that I’m going to enjoy the season.  When last we left Piper she was beating the crap out of Pennsatucky in the yard, a season long culmination of evolution from prissy upper class WASP to what she she’s been all season and just hasn’t acknowledged; just another inmate.  Piper, with no knowledge of Pennsatucky’s condition, is roused from solitary confinement and flown via con-air to Chicago, all the while with no idea why she’s been sent there or when if ever, she’s coming back to Litchfield.

Back at Litchfield, things proceed without Piper, with interesting flashbacks on Taystee and Crazy Eyes to see what began their journey that would end up in prison.  And Red confronts a new/old rival who intends to take control of the prison.

One of the things I like about the show is that none of the inmates are who we think they are, including Piper.  Our impressions undergo a convergence.  It’s not that Piper becomes like her fellow inmates, it’s that she already had a part of her that was like them, and it slowly becomes uncovered.  And the other inmates?  They were always more complicated then we gave them credit for.

Any time there is a show with a diverse cast there will be some sort of racial controversy, however  in general, the reviews are fairly positive in that regard too.  The Root has a second season review called, Today’s Best Black Show has a White Star.  NPR’s review is New Faces Keep ‘Orange is the New Black’ Humming in a New Season.  This review is written by Eric Deggans, a man whose racial sensitivity meter is always turned up to 11, also gives a positive review of the show.  In a previous incarnation as writer TV & Media critic for the Tampa Bay Times, Deggans managed to almost single handedly get a syndicated radio show kicked out of the Tampa radio market because it crossed his racial line. So are we supposed to think there is a racial agreement on the merits of the show?

Not quite.

There is the show, and then there’s the image of the show.  One of the many blogs I frequent had, not a review of the show, but a review of billboard advertising of the show.  Particularly Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Uzo Aduba).

The gist being, based on the billboard advertising, Orange is the New Black is a minstrel show that debases and degrades the image of black women.  As Spike Lee might say, it’s “coonery and buffoonery.”  I waded into the discussion with the argument, based on watching the entire first season, that the idea that show degrades black women is a severe misreading of the show.  The intent of the show is exactly the opposite of that; however my knowledge of having watched the entire first season couldn’t counter impressions of the show made by a few images.  Normally I enjoy a good internet argument, but quickly saw that this one was already  doomed based on the way the commenter’s were taking this show personally, felt that feelings supersede actually viewing and knowledge of the show, and was told to stop by the blog owner.

That’s fine, and although I feel I’m correct that the show does the opposite of what those commenters said, the fact is it probably would not have occurred to me to view those images as offensive in any case.  I’m not even attuned to my image and representation being constantly shown in a degraded light by the media; just the opposite.  Of course I have many identities and some of them I am sensitive to their portrayal.  As a dad, I’m well aware that dads have been treated as clueless idiots in TV and movies since the early 1980’s.  It’s the rare TV dad that shows the common sense, wisdom, or maturity of Ward Cleaver or Mike Brady.

I’m also sensitive to the portrayal of military veterans; again because I am one.  Frequently they are shown as damaged goods, crazy, homeless, suicidal.  That’s not the typical story of military veterans in general, but it’s common enough on TV and movies.  Of course the argument could be made (and it has been) that the show really hates men.  All the good men are weak and useless; all of the strong ones are jerks. As a man however, I didn’t really care. I think those portrayals made sense in the context of the show.  Just because a show shows dumb dads, crazed vets, or evil men doesn’t mean I won’t watch the show.

And that’s the difference, I think.  Since my image isn’t generally attacked in media, I don’t view media impressions as a personal attack on me.  Clearly the image of white men in the media is positive.  For every Django Unchained or 12 Years a Slave, there are literally hundreds of other movies in which white guys are the heroes. Even if these white guys get arrested for a crime-they-didn’t-commit, they can be assured of facing a black female judge in court.

 

Memorial Day Links

This is just a collection of interesting reading I’ve come across in the past few days.  They’re not really related to Memorial Day.

The Case for Reparations

This from The Atlantic, and my main surprise is that The Atlantic ran something like this before Salon did.  Written by Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates, the title doesn’t match the article, which instead is about the persistent housing and mortgage discrimination that sabotaged dreams of African American home ownership and achieving the middle class throughout the 20th Century. As a history, the article is extremely well done, but has what to do with reparations exactly?  My gut feeling is that this is a well researched piece that Coates had been working on for a while, and the editors decided to run with the title and the tacked on conclusion about reparations.  My guess is it’s after a call from either the White House, DNC, or whoever is planning election strategy for Democrats for this year.  In case there was any doubt, in the same way that the Democratic strategy for the 2012 election was the “Republican War on Women,” 2014 will be the year of the “Republican War on Blacks.”  In order to generate African American turnout, could this be the year that the Democratic Party begins supporting some sort of reparations?

Charles Murray is his usual controversial self, but he makes some good points with:

Down With the Four Year Degree!

Murray argues that the value of a 4 year college degree, the trusty BA, has dropped over the years as more people over the years as more people have them.  In 2014, does it make sense to tell every High School student who can fog an SAT to go to college, even if you are going for non descript social science or liberal arts field?  And he brings up a really penetrating question, why does it take 4 academic school years to get a BA no matter what is taught?

I’m not into what the kids call tumbler, but I came across this link and it’s eye opening.

Gobing Detroit

This tumbler however, compares street photos of Detroit from 2009 to 2013.  The rapid deterioration of the property is amazing.  Note to Walking Dead producers:  If you want to see how houses and businesses really look after the apocalypse, this will give you the comparative tools to build realistic sets.

No collection of links could be complete without one from Mark Steyn.  The problem is, as always, which one to pick?

Inequality Before the Law

The article compares National Review writer Dinesh D’Souza’s conviction for breaking campaign finance laws, with the Obama campaign disengaging their security for credit card transactions for 2008 and 2012 so anyone, from Adolph Hitler to Mickey Mouse could donate to the Obama campaign, and from anywhere in the world (Hitler donated from “The Reichstag, Germany”).  All a violation of campaign laws of course, but not even an investigation by the FEC.  It was an issue that was well covered in the conservative blogosphere but not at all interesting to the MSM.  This is part of a long term issue Steyn has been discussing of the organs of government being corrupted to serve the ruling party.

Since it is Memorial Day after all, on a military related note:

Army Taps Scorpion to Replace UCP

The Army has officially selected its new camouflage pattern, called Scorpion, to replace its current UCP gray pajamas pattern, the last one I wore before retiring.  It’s very close to, but not quite similar to the Multicams that have been worn for Afghanistan deployment for the past few years.  Why not just multicams?  If I knew the answer to that, I might be smart enough to know why switching from desert camo pattern of the old Battle Dress Uniform to gray greenish digital camo would make sense for the desert.  All I know is that the travesties of US Army camouflage uniforms over the last 12 years deserve a much longer treatment.

 

 

Trolling Feminists

I was being entertained the other day by a buddy of mine who for no discernible reason started trolling one of his feminist Facebook friends.  Now that’s more of a game that I like to play, although usually not on Facebook and usually not with friends.  And it was especially surprising since this particular friend is a very non confrontational sort who more often plays the peacemaker rather than the instigator.   He’s more than once tried to mediate disagreements between friends with a joke or distracting comment. But social media makes jerks of us all, and I guess basic humanity prevented him from being assimilated longer than most.  But the lure of being a smart ass pulls us all in eventually.

The set up is this:  His feminist friend posted a slightly bawdy joke.  As jokes go, it’s it’s mildly amusing to a guy, but to women, for whom the threshold of humor is much lower, it’s Hee-lar-e-us.  If you want the full story, go here.  The gist of it as that an old codger begins signing his credit card with a penis illustration.   Hilarity ensues when the card reader at Wal-Mart doesn’t recognize the penis as his signature and management is called in.  Funny right?  Well not to a feminist; at least usually.  In fact if my friend had posted this joke, he likely would have been subject to quite a bit of written finger wagging from busy body feminists.  But he got the upper hand and by lefty standards, the moral high ground by posting a critique of said joke:

Smart Ass Friend:  “Not funny, what if the cashier had been a victim of sexual assault? Being subjected to the drawing could have been a triggering event for her PTSD. Not to mention the stomping on her civil rights if she was Lesbian or Transgendered, this kind of humor is perpetuated by the hegemonic phallocentric patriarchy that has committed all the evil in the world. I bet you Ted Nugent would have found this hilarious…I’m disappointed in you.”

Extra points for the use of your typical “Wymyn’s Studies” terminology, that’s used nowhere else and serves no useful descriptive purpose.  Therefore feminists love to use it.  So that was all it took to set his feminist friend (although probably by now his former friend) on a tear of foul language, and threats.  After that, all my friend had to do to egg on another tirade of butthurt was to toss in a few lines about a living wage, challenging hetronormative behaviors, gender binaries, and of course the “-isms.”  Leftists in general and feminists in particular love those; racism sexism capitalism, classism and so on.  The thing is, you don’t even have to use them in a coherent sentence, just list them.

The thread proceeds in a predictable manner, screaming incoherence from the feminist, and the arrival of a white knight to defend milady’s honor.  A white knight seems to be an accessory that every feminist needs since she’s incapable of using man tools like “logic” and “reason” herself.  She needs a big strong man to heft those.  Hey, you can’t fight the cisgendered, transphobic patriarchy without a fella can ya?  Am I right gals?

Of course, as dominate as it is in our culture, feminism is a stupid ideology.  It’s the idea that there are no differences between men and women other than genitalia, and now that trans-you-name-it is replacing homosexuality as the next civil rights frontier, genitalia are less and less important to one’s identity.  Even though the stupidity of feminism has become so obvious that now only 23% of women call themselves feminists, it’s still left a damaging mark on our culture.

Oddly enough, the same poll shows that 16% of men call themselves feminists too.

Lest anyone get the idea this is just some misogynic rant, I do support equal rights for women, and love and respect women.  My marriage isn’t about me bossing my wife around and tossing my shirts at her to make sure they get ironed.  It’s an equal partnership, meaning she bosses me around.

And my shirts never get ironed.

From Dusk till Dawn: The Series

“The film was the short story, the series is the novel.”     Robert Rodriquez

 

That quote from Robert Rodriquez is probably the best answer to the question, why make a TV show from the movie From Dusk till Dawn.  The movie, a combination gangster-vampire-martial arts film, had a great cast and as horror movies go, was pretty entertaining.  But I wouldn’t have thought it was ripe material for a TV series.  And I should say, although making TV from movies is a practice going back almost since the dawn of television, its unusual when the TV series takes the movie plot and stretches it out over 10 to 13 episodes.  It’s a much fuller retelling with more detail, more back story, more characters, in fact, more everything.

I was first clued in on this by a post on another blog promoting the show.  The show runs on the El Rey Network, which I confess I’d never heard of.  I did a little research and found out it was a new cable network started by Robert Rodriguez that intended to focus on the type of films that Robert Rodriquez liked:  Grind house, Kung Fu, and cult horror flicks.  I’m not sure if there is a market for Rodriquez’s personal preferences, but part of the uniqueness of the movie From Dusk till Dawn is that it combined all three, so who knows.

As for the From Dusk till Dawn TV show:

 

Having seen a couple of episodes already, I have to say the show is fulfilling its promises.  This is a high quality production with a great cast and I love the gradual movement from crooks on the run to the supernatural elements, with a much deeper look at the peculiarities of Mayan Vampires.

So if you actually have El Rey on your local cable provider, I would recommend giving this show a look.  They are having a back to back marathon of the show starting with the pilot on April 30th, so it’s not too late to catch up.  Set your DVR and enjoy a Vampire show that pretty much has it all.