Again: Motivation 101 – How NOT to

October 18, 2013

This is an encore post, mostly.

“A Swift Kick in the Butt $1.00,” A daily strip of the cartoon series “Calvin and Hobbes,” by Bill Watterson. Watterson appears to have an instinctual understanding of what motivation is not. It’s a topic he returned to with some frequency.

Educators don’t know beans about motivation I think. I still see courses offered on “how to motivate” students to do X, or Y, or Z — or how to motivate faculty members to motivate students to do X.

This view of motivation is all wrong, the industrial psychologists and experience say. A student must motivate herself.

A teacher can remove barriers to motivation, or help a student find motivation. But motivation cannot be external to the person acting.

Frederick Herzberg wrote a classic article for The Harvard Business Review several years back: “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” Herzberg would get a group of managers together and ask them, “If I have six week-old puppy, and I want it to move, how do I get it to move?” Inevitably, one of the wizened managers of people would say, “Kick him in the ass!” Is that motivation? Herzberg would ask? Managers would nod “yes.”

Frederick Herzberg, 1923-2000

Frederick Herzberg, 1923-2000

Then, Herzberg would ask what about dealing with the pup six months later. To get the older pup to move, he’d offer a doggie yum, and the dog would come. “Is that motivation?” Herzberg would ask. Again, the managers would agree that it was motivation. (At AMR’s Committing to Leadership sessions, we tried this exercise several hundred times, with roughly the same results. PETA has changed sensitivities a bit, and managers are fearful of saying they want to kick puppies, but they’ll say it in different words.)

Herzberg called this “Kick In The Ass” theory, or KITA, to avoid profanity and shorten the phrase.

Herzberg would then chastise the managers. Neither case was motivation, he’d say. One was violence, a mugging; the other was a bribe. In neither case did the dog want to move, in neither case was the dog motivated. In both cases, it was the manager who was motivated to make the dog move.

Motivation is the desire to do something, the desire and drive to get something done.

Motivating employees is getting them to share the urgency a manager feels to do a task, to go out and do it on their own without being told how to do each and every step along the way.

Motivation is not simply coercing someone else to do what you want, on threat of pain, virtual or real.

Herzberg verified his theories with research involving several thousands of employees over a couple of decades. His pamphlet for HBR sold over a million copies.

Education is wholly ignorant of Herzberg’s work, so far as I can tell. How do I know?

See this, at TexasEd Spectator:

Death threat as a motivation technique

May 23rd, 2008
Education | MySanAntonio.com

The sad part about this is that I bet if a mere, ordinary teacher were to have made some similar statement, he or she would be treated more like the student rather than the principle.

Now imagine if some student at the school had said something along the same lines in a writing assignment. We would be hearing about zero tolerance all over the place. The student would be out of the regular classroom so fast it would make your head spin.

No charges will be brought against New Braunfels Middle School Principal John Burks for allegedly threatening to kill a group of science teachers if their students’ standardized test scores failed to improve, although all four teachers at the meeting told police investigators Burks made the statement.

Kick in the ass, knife in the back, knife in the heart — that ain’t motivation.

As God is my witness, you can’t make this stuff up.

I’m not sure who deserves more disgust, the principal who made the threat and probably didn’t know anything else to do, or the teachers who didn’t see it as a joke, or treat it that way to save the principal’s dignity — or a system where such things are regarded as normal.

Bill Watterson returned to the

Bill Watterson returned to the “Swift Kick in the Butt, $1.00″ strip, but this time with the more lively Hobbes Calvin interacted with most often. What would motivate a cartoonist to do that? Watterson is said to have observed, “People will pay for what they want, but not what they need.” Can school administrators even figure out what teachers and students need?  Which version do you prefer? Which one motivates you?

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Time to raise the minimum wage

June 21, 2013

Illustration for Bloomberg News by Rand Renfrow: $15 Minimum Wage

Illustration for Bloomberg News by Rand Renfrow: $15 Minimum Wage

Robert Reich put it succinctly at his Facebook site [links added here]:

Nick Hanauer, one of the nation’s most successful businessmen, proposed yesterday that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour. But wouldn’t that cause employers not to hire workers who were “worth” less, and thereby lead to higher unemployment? No, says Hanauer. By putting more money into the hands of more people, it would stimulate more buying — which would generate more jobs than any jobs that might be lost. Hanauer understands that the basic reason the economy is still limping along is workers are consumers, and workers continue to get shafted, which means consumers lack the purchasing power to get the economy off the ground. A minimum wage of $15 an hour, combined with basic worker standards such as paid sick leave and a minimum of 3 weeks paid vacation per year, should all be in a national campaign for better jobs and a better economy in the 2014 election.

That’s the case, in brief.

Last March Reich said raising the minimum wage to $9/hour was a “no brainer.”

Alas, he didn’t account enough for the anti-brain lobby.

What do you think?

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Also good, an update:


Did taxpayers finance Romney’s wealth?

April 14, 2012

Mitt Romney’s fortune comes mostly from his work at Bain Capital Management.

Capital management?  What is capital management, exactly, you ask?

Prof. Robert Reich explained how private equity firms like Bain make their money, and fortunately MoveOn.org had a camera running when he did, “How exactly did Mitt Romney Get So Obscenely Rich? Robert Reich explains The Magic of Private Equity in 8 Easy Steps”:

Any questions?

Oh, I have one:  Prof. Reich, can you explain how Warren Buffett got so obscenely rich, and tell us the differences in the methods Buffett used, from those Romney used?

I have another question, too, but I’m not sure where to direct it:  Romney says he wants to “help out” the U.S. with his budgeting expertise; to whom does he expect to sell the U.S. government once he’s wrung out all the savings?

More, and Related articles:


Only in small towns, where leaders have time to think . . .

April 7, 2011

Years ago when I staffed a U.S. senator’s office, one of my tasks was to look through all the weekly newspapers in the state.    Back then subscriptions were cheap, and most senators would take out a subscription to these weeklies more to flatter the editors and publishers than to read.  We put them to use, first checking to see whether the clipping services were getting all the clips (mostly), and then on a hunch, to see what issues were raging in the state, well below the radar of the big city daily newspapers and broadcast outlets.

You can learn a lot.

Many of those old weekly newspapers are gone, now, victims to local populations that turn over in every recession, and to electronic news gathering services — and to general alienation:  People are not so sure they want to know what their neighbors are up to, these days.  Heck, many people aren’t sure they want to know their neighbors.

My own electronic news gatherers occasionally pull out something to think about from a minor news outlet.  For example, below is an opinion piece out of the Carrboro Citizen from Dan Coleman, a member of the town council in Carrboro, North Carolina.  I gather from the paper it is rather close to Chapel Hill, the home of the University of North Carolina (I haven’t checked a map).

But look at what this guy says.  He questions the wisdom of Adam Smith.  Adam Smith! It appears Coleman wasn’t led astray by all those Adam Smith neckties that were so popular in the Reagan administration.  He questions the true need for profits from corporations, and he wonders if there isn’t a higher duty for a corporation.

How many others like Dan Coleman are there, out there in America, relatively sane on all other accounts, and thinking?

How many bottom lines do we really need?

April 7, 2011 | Posted in: Opinion | 0 Responses

By Dan Coleman

Did you know that Carrboro’s Town Code incorporates a principle devised by Shell Oil? That’s right, the same Shell Oil that has been accused of human rights violations in Nigeria, including summary execution, crimes against humanity, torture, inhumane treatment and ­collaborating in the execution of Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. The same Shell Oil that has despoiled the Niger delta and was responsible for the largest freshwater oil spill ever.

With a record like this, it is little wonder that Shell came up with one of the corporate world’s more effective public relations concepts of recent years: the Triple Bottom Line (TBL), also known as People, Planet, Profit. It’s as if Shell was saying, sure you can criticize our environmental and humanitarian record but don’t forget, we have to make a profit.

Efforts to value people have dogged profiteering for over a century. The late 19th and early-to-mid-20th centuries were marked by many thousands of strikes by workers, more than 1,400 in the year 1886 alone. Many of these were met by violent strikebreakers backed up at times by military force. This is a struggle that continues in 2011 in Wisconsin and other states.

William Blake, Biography Online

William Blake

Through the efforts of these men and women, much of value was created: the weekend, workplace-safety standards, health care for workers, vacation and sick leave, etc. And each of these was wrested from the one bottom line that corporate America really cares about.

Despite William Blake offering the image of “dark satanic mills” as far back as 1804, the environmental impacts of industrial capitalism began to be understood with Rachel Carson’s 1962 publication of The Silent Spring. Within a decade, there was Earth Day, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act and much more, each a challenge to the profit-focused priorities of capital.

Given the pre-eminent importance of profit-maximization, it is not surprising that corporations touting the Triple Bottom Line often oppose measures to combat global warming, oppose workers’ rights and oppose regulatory mechanisms to protect the health of people and planet.

History has taught us that Adam Smith was wrong when he offered the justification for prioritizing profit that “by pursuing his own interest [the businessman] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.” If Smith were correct, companies like Shell would not have such a devastating impact on society and nature. In part, this impact results from profit being measured in a short timeframe, a year or even a quarter of a year, while sustainability requires a vision spanning, as the Iroquois put it, as much as seven generations.

But Smith was right that profit ought to serve human well-being. Therefore, it must be understood within an ethical system that places people and planet first. This holds true for the vague term “stakeholder value” that some, including Carrboro, use instead of profit. Who are the stakeholders if not people and planet?
The TBL offers nothing to help us navigate the inevitable contradictions between profit on the one hand and people/planet on the other. But, really, why should we have any social or political bottom lines at all?

It was social ecologist Murray Bookchin who bemoaned the cultural turn to the “grubby language” of the market economy, which has “replaced our most hallowed moral and spiritual expressions. We now ‘invest’ in our children, marriages, and relationships. … We live in a world of ‘trade-offs’ and we ask for the ‘bottom line’ of any emotional ‘transaction.’”

There are a variety of frameworks that speak to a more fundamental commitment to the well-being of all life. In an 1854 speech, Chief Seattle offered the notion of a web of life: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

Aldo Leopold, in Arizona

Aldo Leopold, in Arizona, Arizona State Parks image

A century after Chief Seattle, Aldo Leopold articulated his land ethic in Sand County Almanac, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” The biotic community, of course, includes humans.

We need the ability to truly place people and planet first and to reject the false, self-serving homilies offered by those who spread pavement and poverty in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Rather than seek simplistic nostrums, we may have to take the time to look hard at each decision, and bring a clear ethical sensibility, like that of Seattle or Leopold, to bear.

Dan Coleman is a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.

Coleman may want to check the provenance of the Chief Seattle quote — but the thought is solid.

What do you think?


Then and now: Capitalism vs. Labor 1883, and today

April 2, 2011

Alas, it’s almost exactly the same now as then:

F. Graetz cartoon, joust between business and labor, Puck, Aug 1, 1883

"Tournament of Today: A set-to between Labor and Monopoly," Cartoon by Frederick Graetz, Puck Magazine, August 1, 1883 (from files of Georgia State University); click image for a larger view at Georgia State

Information on the cartoon, from SuperITCH: Frederick Graetz, a chromolithograph that was the center spread for Puck Magazine‘s issue of August 1, 1883.  Monopolists portrayed are, from left to right, “businessman, financier and telecommunications pioneer Cyrus Field; railroad tycoon William Vanderbilt; shipbuilding magnate John Roach; financier, railroad mogul, and speculator Jay Gould; and an unknown monopolist.”  Some might say that the “unknown monopolist” bears a striking resemblance to one of the Koch brothers, but that’s fanciful thinking.

Cartoon - Labor vs Monopoly, Graetz, Puck 8-1-1883 (GSU image)

Labor vs Monopoly - click on this image for a larger version of this historic Puck Magazine cartoon

Tip of the old scrub brush to One Penny Sheet’s “condemned to repeat” feature.


Little Hoovers should ask: Are we in a Second Great Depression?

February 23, 2011

Stalking America and haunting the shadows of every capitol building in America today are people who would profess, if asked, that they fashion themselves in the mold of Herbert Hoover.  Little Hoovers, we might call them.  Unlike Hoover, and unlike the friendly “Little Hoover” phrase we might apply to them, the welfare of America is not their concern.  We might worry about that.

President Harry Truman in 1947 appointed former President Herbert Hoover to head a commission on how to reform the federal government.  I do not know of a high school history text that even mentions this effort today.

Herbert Hoover on the cover of Time Magazine, 1925

Herbert Hoover on the cover of Time Magazine, 1925

Hoover’s commission made 273 recommendations that were taken to heart, then taken to Congress.  Many were enacted into law.

Several states followed the example, as in Utah and famously in California. These groups were often called “Little Hoover” commissions.  In no case that I have found did any of these commissions ever recommend stripping union collective bargaining agreements out of any situation.

But again, this history is mostly lost.  Hoover is remembered today for his failure to stop the Great Depression, for his seeming unwillingness to do what was necessary in great enough effort to relieve the nation’s serious hurts.  That’s too bad, really.

Herbert Hoover was not opposed to government action to fix the depression on most counts.  In his correspondence with Franklin Roosevelt, especially after Roosevelt replaced him in the presidency, Hoover often complained that Roosevelt’s actions were in the right vein, but too much.

We should remember this.

Are we in a Great Depression?  Economically, technically, our nation is in “recovery.”

Realistically, our nation is teetering on the brink of great financial disaster.  Sadly, most people ignore the lessons of history, and consequently, actions of many governmental units today seem driven to push the nation over the brink.  Home prices have not recovered.  Millions are out of work — millions of highly-trained workers cannot find jobs with pay adequate to support a family.

We appear not to have learned these lessons that should not have been forgotten:

  • Stimulus from the government creates demand, which fuels manufacturing recovery, and more jobs.  Tax cuts, such as Hoover’s 1932 tax cut for the wealthy, drive us deeper into recession.
  • Labor unions form vital components of a healthy manufacturing segment; they stand up for worker health and safety, for fair pay and work conditions that spur productivity.  When we ignore or fight unions, we damage economic productivity.  When we work with unions, we make progress.
  • Cracking the whip may get a temporary reaction from workers that looks good.  In the long run, if not immediately, such actions damage productivity and creativity.
  • Unions do not make the big financial decisions that cripple industry.  Unions don’t decide the products to be produced.  Unions cannot gamble a company’s future on ill-advised acquisitions or switches in corporate focus, usually.  Union demands for restrooms improve the sanitation and health of our food supplies.  Union demands for limited work hours lead to productive workers, better safety, and better products.
  • In almost every case where foreign corporations compete successfully with U.S. companies on high-tech and high-skill jobs, and take away U.S. jobs, the government of that foreign nation provides health care for all citizens, so that health care costs are not a cost of business.  In the case of most industrial nations, foreign pension laws are much stiffer than U.S. laws, stiffer in protecting generous benefits for pensioners.
  • All workers benefit when unions gain, traditionally.  It wasn’t Andrew Carnegie who invented the two-week vacation.
  • Workers can do more for consumers when they are treated well and listened to by company management.

I’m depressed at the nasty actions in so many places, in so many ways, designed to thwart progress to good ends, and instead drive our nation into mediocrity.  I find it difficult to post when there is so much disaster looming in so many places.

When political movements from the right go after one group with hammer and tongs, we might do well to remember the old, wise words.  With a full-on awareness of Godwin’s Law, we might do well to remember the words attributed to Martin Niemöller,  and the moral of that story:

“Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.”

What has Scott Walker done for anyone who makes less than $500,000 a year, anyway?  So you should ask:  What has Scott Walker ever done for you, or your family?  If the bargaining rights of any union are removed, anywhere in the U.S., who will speak up for your vacation, pension, health care benefits, and job safety?  OSHA?  Are you sure?

Update: It’s not paranoia when they are coming after you with more ill-will than you can imagine — see this Mother Jones update. It appears some people didn’t learn anything from the Tucson shootings.


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Cover of Gordon Lloyd's Two Faces of Liberalism:  How the Hoover-Roosevelt Debates Shape the 21st Century

A book you should buy: Gordon Lloyd's Two Faces of Liberalism: How the Hoover-Roosevelt Debates Shape the 21st Century


Obama’s cabinet: Neal Boortz spreads hoax smear, months after debunking

July 23, 2010

Neal Boortz, the Georgia-based radio broadcaster, goes beyond irresponsible journalism.  After we caught Boortz spreading false tales about Hilary Clinton last year, I proceeded to ignore him.

Traffic links pointed to Boortz this morning — now we find he’s spreading a hoax about Obama’s cabinet’s qualifications, months after the guy who started the false story caught his error and retracted it.  [July 4, 2011 - If that link doesn't work, try this link to Boortz's archive.]

That’s not just irresponsible and sloppy:  Boortz clearly has a grudge and will tell any falsehood to push his agenda of hatred.

Birds of a feather:  Texas deficit champion Rick Perry with Neil Boortz, who tells whoppers about Clinton and Obama

Birds of a feather: Texas deficit champion Rick Perry, who refused to talk about his $18 billion deficit in Texas, with Neil Boortz, who spread a hoax about Hillary Clinton in 2008, and now spreads old hoaxes about President Obama.

Boortz posts this at his site, probably as a warning for what his philosophy of reporting is:

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it.”

Frederic Bastiat

Just before Thanksgiving last year, a J. P. Morgan official wrote a humorous piece of conjecture for his weekly newsletter — a week when most of the markets in the U.S. were closed, and so there was little news.  Michael Cembalest, the chief investment officer for J. P. Morgan, without serious research wrote a piece wondering about what he saw as a lack of private sector experience in Obama’s cabinet in those positions in Cembalest’s view that are concerned most with job creation.

The spin meisters at American Enterprise Institute abused Cembalest’s rank conjectures as a “research report,” created a hoax saying Obama’s cabinet is the least qualified in history, and the thing went viral among otherwise ungainfully-employed bloggers (a lot like Neil Boortz).

Cembalest retracted his piece when he saw, in horror, what had happened (but not before I was too rough on him in poking much-deserved holes in the AEI claim).

Cembalest called me before the end of that week, noting that he’d retracted the piece.

Nearly eight months later, full of vituperation but bereft of information, today Neil Boortz resurrected the hoax story on his blog (on his radio program, too? I’ll wager Boortz is double dipping with his false-tale telling . . .).

Here’s a series of falsehoods Boortz told:

Last year J.P. Morgan thought it might be interesting to look into the private sector experience of Obama’s Cabinet. America, after all, was in the middle of an economic disaster and the thought was that the president might actually look to some people with a record of success in the private sector for advice. So a study is done comparing Obama’s Cabinet to the cabinets of presidents going back to 1900. secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Energy and Housing and Urban Development were included. The J.P Morgan study looked at the percentages of cabinet members with prior private sector experience, and the results were amazing.

The presidential cabinet with the highest percentage of private sector experience was that of Dwight Eisenhower at around 58%. The lowest — until Obama — was Kennedy at about 28%. The average ran between 35% and 40% … until, as I said, Obama. Care to guess what percentage of Obama’s cabinet has prior private sector experience? Try 7%.

Here’s a start at the truth — try 11 times the experience Boortz credits:

All totaled, Obama’s cabinet is one of the certifiably most brainy, most successful and most decorated of any president at any time.  His cabinet brings extensive and extremely successful private sector experience coupled with outstanding and considerable successful experience in government and elective politics.

AEI’s claim that the cabinet lacks private sector experience is astoundingly in error, with 77% of the 22 members showing private sector experience — according to the [standards of the] bizarre chart [from AEI], putting Obama’s cabinet in the premiere levels of private sector experience.  The chart looks more and more like a hoax that AEI fell sucker to — and so did others.

Boortz is eight months late, and the whole truth short.  Shame on him.

Not just false stuff — old, moldy false stuff.   Atlantans, and all Americans, deserve better reporting, even from hack commentators.

_____________

Coda:  Sage advice, but . . .

Boortz includes this warning on his website:

ALWAYS REMEMBER
Don’t believe anything you read on this web page, or, for that matter, anything you hear on The Neal Boortz Show, unless it is consistent with what you already know to be true, or unless you have taken the time to research the matter to prove its accuracy to your satisfaction. This is known as “doing your homework.”

Great advice — but no excuse for sloppy reporting.  He should follow his own rule.  On this piece, Boortz didn’t do his homework in any fashion.  He’s turning in somebody else’s crap, without reading it in advance, it appears.


Texas standards: Students in the dark about “capitalism”

March 19, 2010

Tony Whitson from Curricublog made the killing observation:

BookTV [C-SPAN] this weekend has Steve Forbes talking about his new book,

“How Capitalism Will Save Us.”


With these new Social Studies TEKS, TX students won’t know what such a
book is about.

Small bit of humor from a truly sad situation.  One of the leaders of the Texas State Soviet of Education defended the evisceration and defenestration of social studies standards saying they didn’t need to listen to liberal college professors.

In economics, the professor was a conservative, well-respected economics professor from Texas A&M University, one of the most conservative state universities in the nation (with a Corps of Cadets numbering in the thousands and tradition deeper than Palo Duro Canyon and broader than the Gulf of Mexico).   Calling these people “liberal” is tantamount to complaining about the communism espoused by Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower — that is, it demonstrates a divorce from reality and rationality.

In the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge problem, but it’s more than a trifle.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to fully comprehend market economics in the U.S. without understanding what capitalism is, and how it works.  Teachers will be left to find their own materials to explain “free enterprise” and, if the students ever make it into a real economics course in college, they will discover “free enterprise” is a quaint, political term that is not discussed in serious economics circles.  Texas students will, once again, be pushed to the hindmost by Don McLeroy’s odd views of America and what he doesn’t want Americans to know.

For example, look at the Council for Economic Education — while “capitalism” is not the only word they use for market-based economies, you’ll have a tougher time finding any definition of “free enterprise.”  Or, more telling, look at the Advanced Placement courses, or the International Baccalaureate courses.  AP and IB courses are the most academically rigorous courses offered in American high schools.  The Texas TEKS step away from such rigor, however (while the Texas Education Agency rides Texas schools to add rigor — go figure).  IB courses talk a lot about enterprise, but they don’t censor “capitalism,” nor do they pretend it’s not an important concept.

At the very conservative and very good Library of Economics and Liberty (which every social studies teacher should have bookmarked and should use extensively), a search for “free enterprise” produces 77 entries (today).  “Capitalism” produces almost ten times as much, with more than 750 listings.

Which phrase do you think is more useful in studying American economics, history and politics?

Teachers will deal with it.  It’s one more hurdle to overcome on the path to trying to educate Texas students.  It’s one more roadblock to their learning what they need to keep the freedom in America.

Warren Buffett, Businessweek image

Capitalism - Warren Buffett - BusinessWeek image

Bernie Madoff (photo credit unknown)

Free Enterprise - Bernie Madoff

The real difference?  Literature on capitalism frequently address the issue of moral investments, and the need for some regulation to bolster the Invisible Hand in producing discipline to steer markets from immoral and harmful investments.  The essential history politics economic question of the 20th and 21st centuries is, can economic freedom exist without political freedom, and which one is more crucial to the other?  We know from every period of chaos in history when governments did not function well, but bandits did, that free enterprise can exist without either political freedom or economic freedom.  I think of it like this:

Capitalism

Free Enterprise

Adam Smith Blackbeard the Pirate
Warren Buffett Bernie Madoff
Investing Spending
Building institutions Taking profits
Retail Robbery
Wholesale Extortion
Save for a rainy day debt-equity swap
Antitrust enforcement to keep markets fair Don’t get caught, hope for acquittal
Milton Friedman P. T. Barnum
Ludwig von Mises Charles Ponzi
Friedrich von Hayek Richard Cheney, “deficits  don’t matter”
Paul Krugman Kato Kaelin
Stockholders Victims and suckers

OK Go – copyright, industry change, culture and technology, and great music

March 13, 2010

You’re internet and culture savvy — you probably already know all about this stuff.

OK Go’s music appeals to many.  The appeal convinced a major record label, Capitol/EMI, to sign the band to a deal.  OK Go worked hard to promote the music of the band, including videos.  Capitol looked at the videos, intensely creative works of art on their own, and pulled in the reins.  Okay to show the vids, the label said, but don’t allow downloads . . .

Minor twist on the old band meets label, band wins label story:  OK Go got out of the contract. They lost the label.

Now they’ve got an astounding new video to go viral, one that simply delights younger viewers and brings in older viewers with whispers of “shades of Rube Goldberg!”  (Who was Rube Goldberg?  Younger readers go here.)

NPR explains:

After the overwhelming success of the video for its 2006 song “Here It Goes Again,” in which its four band members execute a tightly choreographed dance routine built around a handful of treadmills, OK Go has lofty standards to live up to. With roughly 50 million views on YouTube, “Here It Goes Again” stands as one of the most popular music videos of the Internet era.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, the band set about constructing a painstakingly executed two-story Rube Goldberg machine, set to trigger in time to the music for its latest video, “This Too Shall Pass.” Although it starts out small, with a toy truck knocking over some dominoes, the contraptions that make up the machine rapidly get larger and much more complex — pianos are dropped, shopping carts come crashing down ramps, and one band member is launched headlong through a wall of boxes. After assembling a team of dozens of engineers to construct the set, more than 60 takes were needed to get everything working just right during filming.

Toughest part?  EMI, parent of Capitol, didn’t want to allow downloads of the music or video.

The band’s label, EMI, didn’t see things the same way. In an effort to maintain some control over the dissemination of the music video, EMI denied listeners the ability to embed it on their own Web sites and blogs. After receiving a deluge of complaints, the band eventually persuaded EMI to enable embedding. Soon afterward, however, OK Go parted ways with EMI to start its own record label, Paracadute.

NPR’s audio story is six minutes of fun, and learning.  Copyright, embedding and download issues — aren’t these the frontlines of new media legal discussion?

Personal quandary: I’m not sure that I don’t like this version of the song, with the Notre Dame marching band, better than the Rube Goldberg version.  What do you think?

Personal confession: Problems of mishearing lyrics abound.  I listened probably a dozen times thinking the refrain was “When the money comes.”  It makes more sense, and is much less cynical and wooish, with the real lyric, “When the morning comes.”

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Al Gore shows how green investing works

November 3, 2009

Among the more amusing about-faces in conservative knee-jerk politics is conservative criticism of Al Gore for being a successful investor.

No, I’m not kidding.

Back in April, Gore testified to a House Energy and Commerce Committee in April — one of the committees where Gore was a shining star when he was a Member — and he ran into a challenge from Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blakburn who tried to play bad cop in grilling Gore about his investment work.  Since leaving politics Gore has worked to put his money where his advocacy is, backing green industries and energy efficiency projects. Blackburn is a Republican representing Tennessee’s 7th District. Blackburn appears not to understand how cross-examination works.

In most discussions I’ve had on warming issues over the past two months, advocates for doing nothing almost always bring up Gore as as “profiteer” for investing in green businesses.

It’s as if conservatives and Republicans have forgotten how business works in a free-enterprise system, and they think that free enterprise is tantamount to communism.

T. Boone Pickens used to be a favorite witness for Republicans to call at Congressional hearings.  Pickens was, and still is, a staunch advocate of free enterprise, and he advocates a lot less regulation than most Democrats want.  Then Pickens’s investments, especially his vulture investments in dying companies where he’d sell off the assets and put the company out of existence, were touted by Republicans as indication that Pickens is a genius.

A hard look at Gore’s investments shows him to be nothing more than a free-enterprise advocate who leads the way in green investments.  He has made huge gambles in businesses that warming skeptics claim won’t work — and his investments have tended to pay off, to the great consternation of warming do-nothings who understand markets.

This story in the New York Times suggests just how well Gore has done, and how much his leadership in investing might benefit us.  It’s worth bookmarking for your next discussion on what we should do about global warming — because you know somebody will try to make it about Al Gore.  It just galls the heck out of conservatives and anti-science folks that Gore is right so often, and that he is such a practitioner of the Scout Law.

Anti-pollution is good business.  Reducing the dumping of poisons into the air and water makes sense, and it makes a better economy in the long run.  Sometimes it makes a better economy in the short run, too.  Gore stepped into the marketplace, a very capitalist act.  His investments paid off, demonstrating that markets do work, and demonstrating that green business is smart business.  What are Republicans and conservatives thinking in taking after Gore’s business success?

Oh — Boone Pickens? He used to have an office in Trammell Crow Tower when our offices at Ernst & Young LLP were a floor or so away.  We shared elevator rides many times, and he is in person as gracious and smart as he appeared in those Congressional hearings years ago.

His money today?  He’s investing in wind power, because he thinks we need to act now to reduce dependency on oil imports.

Maybe Republican anti-green politics is coming home to roost.

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Naomi Oreskes: The lecture Lord Monckton slept through, which he hopes you will not see

October 23, 2009

Here’s another example of where historians show their value in science debates.

Naomi Oreskes delivered this lecture a few years ago on denialism in climate science.  Among other targets of her criticism-by-history is my old friend Robert Jastrow.  I think her history is correct, and her views on the Marshall Institute and denial of climate change informative in the minimum, and correct on the judgment of the facts.

You’ll recognize some of the names:  Jastrow, Frederick Seitz, S. Fred Singer, and William Nierenberg.

Oreskes details the intentional political skewing of science by critics of the serious study of climate warming.  It’s just under an hour long, but well worth watching.  Dr. Oreskes is Professor of History in the Science Studies Program at the University of California at San Diego.  The speech is titled “The American Denial of Global Warming.”

If Oreskes is right — and I invite you to check her references thoroughly, to discover for yourself that her history and science are both solid — Lord Monckton is a hoaxster.  Notice especially the references after the 54 minute mark to the tactic of claiming that scientists are trying to get Americans to give up our sovereignty.

Nothing new under the sun.

“Global warming is here,  and there are almost no communists left,” Oreskes said.

Nudge your neighbor:

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No AT&T phone service for three weeks now . . .

October 3, 2009

I saw a story on the earthquakes in Indonesia yesterday that said in one city they had telephone service back in operation in a few hours.

We’ve gone without AT&T telephone service at our home for three weeks now.  Odd that repair service in Indonesia, with an earthquake, is better than repair service in Dallas, with  . . . rain?  Sunshine?  I’ll bet you can call Padang or Pariaman, Indonesia, before you can call our home in Dallas.  I fear that will be the case.

Worse, it’s almost impossible to telephone AT&T or contact them by e-mail — they ask a lot of information entered that most people won’t have handy before they respond at all (I don’t know the three mystery numbers in some odd corner of our phone bill, for example, and I don’t want to go rummaging through the files just to tell the company that their service doesn’t work, especially since I’ve already told them that three times — if I’m calling from a different phone, the bill isn’t even in the building, okay?).

If the customer can’t complain, AT&T doesn’t have any complaints to worry about, right?

“AT&T phone service held hostage, 21 days.”

How many more?  I wonder if they’ll make ransom demands.


Did AT&T drop off the face of the Earth?

September 26, 2009

How times change.

Two weeks ago, with North Texas soaked thoroughly to the bone, our telephone service went out.  We were scrambling to get James to the airport and off to another year of school in Wisconsin, so there was little we could do when it expired.

Later that Saturday, on a cell phone with a different carrier, I got through to a machine at AT&T that promised someone would come check the problem on the following Tuesday.  Tuesday afternoon at just after 4:00 p.m. we got a note on our door that phone service was restored — and it was for about an hour.

Then it went out again.  And it’s been out since.

After several days of unsatisfying robot answers, I found another number and got to a human who referred me to another human who said they were completely flattened by phone outages in the Dallas area after the recent spate of Noachic storms (we had something over 11 inches in a week — the rain gauge kept topping out).  No, they said, it does not good to call again to complain — they’re working as fast as they can.

To AT&T’s credit, the internet service is fine.  We have alternative telephones to use, though many of our family and friends don’t know the numbers.

But, two weeks in America without telephones?  That could be a problem for many people, still, couldn’t it?

Or is AT&T becoming increasingly irrelevant in their own business?

Who else is having similar problems?


“The GOP used to be the party of business”

September 10, 2009

Santayana’s Ghost notes there’s an 1852 Whiggy smell about the Republican Party these days.

Thomas L. Friedman writes at the New York Times:

The G.O.P. used to be the party of business. Well, to compete and win in a globalized world, no one needs the burden of health insurance shifted from business to government more than American business. No one needs immigration reform — so the world’s best brainpower can come here without restrictions — more than American business. No one needs a push for clean-tech — the world’s next great global manufacturing industry — more than American business. Yet the G.O.P. today resists national health care, immigration reform and wants to just drill, baby, drill.

“Globalization has neutered the Republican Party, leaving it to represent not the have-nots of the recession but the have-nots of globalized America, the people who have been left behind either in reality or in their fears,” said Edward Goldberg, a global trade consultant who teaches at Baruch College. “The need to compete in a globalized world has forced the meritocracy, the multinational corporate manager, the eastern financier and the technology entrepreneur to reconsider what the Republican Party has to offer. In principle, they have left the party, leaving behind not a pragmatic coalition but a group of ideological naysayers.”

Drum up some business:

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Bad guys of Baltimore

August 12, 2009

Or, “How a little study of history can make your visit to a city so much more entertaining and fun.”  At Clio Bluestocking Tales.

Why do visitors leave pennies at this gravesite?  Read the story at Clio Bluestocking Tales

Why do visitors leave pennies at this gravesite? Read the story at Clio Bluestocking Tales

For five weeks, I walked around the streets of Baltimore, or at least the distance between a certain major university known for its doctors, the Inner Harbor, and Fells Point — especially Fells Point — with some diversions elsewhere. As I walked, I began to notice landmarks of some very bad guys who have graced the streets of this interesting city.

Fans of “The Wire” will especially want to read it.  Did you catch the reason Clio is in Baltimore, for the full effect?

It’s not that history tells you how to live your life, or save it; it can make your life worth the living and saving.


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