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    • The Flynn Pardon Is The Right Thing To Do + Mishandling Russia
      So, Michael Flynn has been pardoned by Trump. His crime was lying to the FBI about talking to the Russians before Trump was inaugurated. Even a man like Trump can do the right thing occasionally, usually for the wrong reasons. It is entirely reasonable and routine for a President-elect’s advisors to talk to foreign governments. […]
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American business is flying into a mountain

Do you remember the 70’s PBS series Connections?  Each week, James Burke showed how politics, obscure history, necessity, science and opportunity lead to the technological advances we now take for granted.  You never know where you’ll find connections.  So, I’m intrigued when I think I spot one.  See if you agree.

In one of his recent books, Outliers, the Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell relates the story of the crash of Korean Air Lines Flight 801 into a mountain in Guam.  There were a number of factors that contributed to the crash, including that the glide path signal was taken out of service for a 2 month overhaul, the landing beacon that was supposed to be located a the end of the runway was relocated 5 kilometers from it and that the low altitude warning system was reconfigured to prevent the air traffic controllers from being annoyed by false positive alarms.

But the air crash investigators found another problem on the black boxes and cockpit voice recorders.  The pilot was exhausted and the co-pilot was reluctant to override him until the crash seemed imminent.  The problem seems to be a function of the culture where those people in charge are not questioned.  Malcolm cites research that shows that countries where questioning authority is forbidden or discouraged have bigger barriers to cross when introducing new ideas and preventing catastrophes.  The more hierarchical the structure of the society, the less likely innovation is to be nurtured.

Flash forward to 2010.  Derek Lowe at In The Pipeline posted this letter from a pharmabot in a corporate setting regarding the perils of outsourcing.  Here’s the money quotes:

in a recent edition (25th Oct 2010 “The Grand Experiment”) you state that Merck &Co targets 25% external R&D and that AstraZeneca is striving for 40%. I recently talked to all the project managers which oversee our current collaborations. The stories of naivety, incompetence and missed deadlines by the outsource companies were legion. The managers I talked to mostly used in-house resource and expertise to paper over the cracks. Why?When asked whether they had reported these problems up the chain of command, the answer was always no. The reasons?

1 “If we have four collaborations and mine is the only one reporting problems, which three project managers do you think will get a bonus?”

2 “They won’t believe me, they will just think I am trying to protect jobs here”.

3. “You can’t swim against the tide”.

4 “When it goes bad here, I might be able to get a job with the collaborator”.

5 “My next job will be outside chemistry as a project manager. The last thing I need is any negative vibes around this collaboration”.

6. “I want to be the out-sourcing manager when that is all that there is left here. Do you think I want any trouble to become visible”

So, as far as senior management know, it is all going very well.

Unfortunately I can’t attach my name and organization. I need a job too and telling the truth is not always that popular, as many out-sourcing managers will have experienced. . .

This isn’t really surprising and isn’t exclusive to R&D industries.  But the whole R&D apparatus in particular is scared sh&*less by layoffs and outsourcing.  No one wants to be the one to break the bad news to upper management that some outsourcing collaborations or periodic business management rearranging of the deck chairs restructuring is making our jobs harder and less productive.  As Derek sums up:
Just as with internal efforts, Something Upper Management Wants can too easily turn into Something Upper Management Is Going To Do No Matter What. And with outsourcing, the problems can be both harder to detect and potentially more severe. Because what you don’t want is Something Upper Management Will Be Told Is Going Great, if it’s really not.
But how do you break the news to the guys in charge without getting fired?
And then I read this article recommended in the comments section of today’s news post about the fading fortunes of America’s middle class.  In Class Dismissed: Why middle income jobs are not coming back, this paragraph caught my attention:
From 1979-2009, there was a nearly 12% drop in the four “middle-skill” occupations: sales, office/administrative workers, production workers, operators. Meanwhile, people in the top 20% of the economy earning $100,000 or more a year, says Peter Francese, demographer at Ogilvy & Mather, “have barely been touched by this recession.” They average an unemployment rate between 3% and 4%, the lowest in the nation. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 14% increase in low-education service jobs between 2008-2018. “The only major occupational category with greater projected growth,” Autor writes, “is professional occupations, which are predicted to add 5.2 million jobs, or 17%.” These sectors include medicine, law and middle- and upper-management.
Yes, that’s right.  Middle and upper management is now considered a “profession” right along side doctors and lawyers.  Hold that thought for a moment.
A couple of years ago, I ran into one of my daughter’s friend’s parents in a movie theater lobby.  Here’s how her side of the conversation went:
Oh, hi, what’s up?  Oh, I didn’t know you work for yadayadaco?   No, I work for blahco.  Yes, my job is very exciting.  I graduated from Wharton.  Which school did you go to?  Oh, really?  Well, my last project was very ambitious.  Yeah, we just corrected the labeling on the bottle of *insert famous over the counter medication here*.  And you do what?  What does that mean, I mean, I don’t know what that is.  Oh, it must be very interesting.  Well, gotta go.  Bye!
Readers, she’s bringing in the big money in her family.  Her husband’s career is more like a hobby.  They live very well, very well indeed.  Nice big house.  Expensive cars.  Lavish vacations.
And she changes the labels on over the counter drugs.  Now, I’m not saying this is not a very important thing to do but do you really need an MBA for that?  I mean, wouldn’t any one with sufficiently well developed communication and planning skills be able to read the documentation provided by the FDA and make the appropriate changes?  Sure, you have to coordinate with other departments but this is something the labrats do on a daily basis in addition to solving science problems.  Yeah, we have to read contracts, negotiate with vendors, make spreadsheets, call meetings, coordinate with other departments, prepare budgets and do every thing else that the Wharton MBA does.  But we do it for much, much less in salary and other benefits.  Moving from the lab to the corporate building always comes with a generous increase in salary regardless of company.
They think very well of themselves, those MBAs.  I doubt that any of them have a clue what we do and I don’t expect that any of them want to find out.  I’ve seen well respected PhDs in biology dressed down in a training session by some snooty woman from purchasing in her business suit because he had the temerity to ask about the application they were forcing on us.  It’s typical.  The condescension is palpable any time a labrat has to deal with the administrative side of the business.  You get the impression they think of us as dirty nuisances, an unpleasant and expensive necessity and we are stupid idiots for not immediately understanding their obscure bureaucratic procedures for getting even the simplest things accomplished in a time sensitive manner.  Yes, they waste our time and they aren’t nice about it.
But the fear we face is that the MBAs don’t want to hear this even if it is in the best interests of the shareholders.  We fear that they don’t want to hear that  they are sometimes wrong and that they will kill the messenger.  So, we just try to adapt and keep doing our best even when the alarms are all flashing danger.  No one wants to be the first one to raise their voices and get cut down by the higher ups.  We’ll keep our heads down and brace for the impact into that mountain.

Nuclear nightmare scenario: Guam determines nominee

It could happen.

The votes were close in IN and not so close in NC. But we all know why this is. Indiana was an open primary. We don’t yet know how many crossover votes there were to make havoc. Plus, Obama *should* have had a major geographical advantage and Chicago media market spillover. It *should* have been a blow out for him in Indiana as well. It doesn’t look like his urban-youth-DINK-Republican crossover vote was enough though. Most of those Republican votes will not be staying with us for the general, of course. He won urban areas where African-American votes are highest. He did the same in NC where he won the middle of the state where 2/3 of the population lives. And 35% of the state is African-American.

I think what we’re seeing here is a real racial divide. It was engineered, deliberately, by Obama’s campaign in order to separate African Americans from the Clintons. It has worked spectacularly well. Obama consistently wins urban and southern AA voters, by lopsided margins. It didn’t have to be this way. There was no reason for the African-American community to spurn Clinton. But in this America, in 2008, color is everything. It seems like the civil rights movement of the 60’s was just a dream. As long as you are the right color, you’re golden. Color masks a multitude of deficiencies- experience, knowledge base, earned coalitions, even interest. Obama has not reached out to the working class, to women, to the elderly, the loyal base of the Democratic party. But he has managed to exacerbate the fault line in the party when it comes to race. There’s no doubt about that now.

Winning NC does not make me like him more nor do I have an elevated desire to vote for him. Let me dispel the notion that he and his supporters have about me voting for him in the fall: unless Florida and Michigan are seated and have an impact on the nomination, I will not consider the nomination legitimate. That doesn’t mean I’ll vote for John McCain. It just means that I don’t know what I’ll do when I stand in front of that button. And don’t hang this on Hillary. If it comes to that, I’m sure she would do her best to GOTV. It has nothing to do with her. It has to do with how deeply offended I am by how Obama has split my party on racial lines and pitted race against their regular party members, as if there was a real split there to begin with. As if I were the enemy. He has pitted Dem against Dem. I am insulted that Howard Dean and Donna Brazile have put their thumbs on the scales for Obama instead of encouraging him to agree to revotes in FL and MI. The thought of voting for him under these circumstances fills me with revulsion. And there’s no amount of cheerleading that Hillary can do to make me change my mind. It’s not her. It’s him.

A win is a win and we will gladly take it and whip his butt in WV and KY and maybe even Oregon. But don’t expect me to support the guy who won with Guam at the expense of Florida and Michigan. I don’t care how tropical it is.

Breaking: Obama wins in Guam by smaller margin than he lost in FL!

Obama pulls off a huge victory in Guam less than two weeks after his humiliating defeat in Pennsylvania. However, the result will not be certified until the Democratic Party of Guam can conduct a recount of the ballots, including some 500 spoiled ballots in Dededo. The recount will be overseen at least by Obama’s campaign and Clinton’s as well, providing her representatives aren’t diverted to Midway for a tour of the atoll.

Confluence Senior US Territory Election Analyst, RonkSeattle says, “This long, drawn-out counting process can’t be good for the Party. They should both just give up their Guam delegates.”

Obama’s margin of victory in Guam was 7 votes out of an estimated 4000 participants at the caucuses. He lost in Florida by 17 points in a turnout of 1.7 million voters at a primary. For comparison, the 17 points represent more people in Florida than all of the inhabitants of Guam. (Population of Guam is 173,456)

Once certified, Guam’s half delegates and full superdelgates will be seated at the DNC convention in Denver and will have the honor of casting their votes for the their nominee while Florida’s delegation will be told to take an old, cold tater and wait.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Guam? We’re stressing over GUAM?!

Here’s what I know about Guam: It’s a tiny rock in the middle of nowhere near the Mariana trench, It was the island where the Enola Gay was refitted for Little Boy’s fly over Hiroshima, it has a problem with brown tree snakes and when my dad was temporarily stationed there during the Vietnam war, he said is was less smelly than Subic Bay in the Phillipines but really boring. When I lived in Hawaii as a kid and one of the other Navy brat’s parents got stationed there or Midway, we thought it was a frickin’ death sentence, like being shipped to Siberia.

And here we are, dozens of bloggers and media outfits, all breathlessly awaiting word from 3000 voters half a world away. Oh, don’t get me wrong. They’re voters and their votes are valuable. But is it going to change the direction of the race? Can a butterfly that small create waves back on the mainland? Call me skeptical. Unless Obama does far worse there than everyone thought, in which case we will be covering it relentlessly until Tuesday. 😉

Here’s a round up of Guam(?) posts:

Obama leading Guam caucuses
: Todd Beeton keeps score. Apparently, it’s come down to one township. Whoop-de-doo!

At TalkLeft, Big Tent Democrat is covering the throngs */snort* at the Guam Caucuses with not one but FIVE updates. According to BTD, Hillary had better informational material in Guam than Obama did. Let’s hope he didn’t spend too much time dweling on their concerns over the Great Lakes for this one.

CNN Political Ticker has someone on the scene taking the hardship assignment. Their understated title, Showdown in Dededo says it all.

The New York Times is also reporting regularly in The Early Word: Guam, Which Counts, Is Counting
There is a HUGE turnout in Guam. By Golly, people are pushing and shoving to get to the caucuses. Well, you just have to read it for yourself:

Officials noted unusually high turnout, continuing the trend apparent throughout the primary season among locals unaccustomed to having a say in the primaries. Normally, the Pacific Daily News reports, about 1,000 people cast ballots in the caucuses, but about four times that were expected to show up.

Damn! If only Florida or Michigan could have turned out as many dedicated and interested citizens who took their voting reponsibilities as seriously. Maybe they *too* could have had votes that counted.