Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Kaplan Institute Welcomes Jules and Lisa Knapp and Mike Harshfield

‘Trump’s Going to Get Re-elected, Isn’t He?

‘Trump’s Going to Get Re-elected, Isn’t He?’

Voters have reason to worry.

Opinion Columnist
·         July 16, 2019

I’m struck at how many people have come up to me recently and said, “Trump’s going to get re-elected, isn’t he?” And in each case, when I drilled down to ask why, I bumped into the Democratic presidential debates in June. I think a lot of Americans were shocked by some of the things they heard there. I was.

I was shocked that so many candidates in the party whose nominee I was planning to support want to get rid of the private health insurance covering some 250 million Americans and have “Medicare for all” instead. I think we should strengthen Obamacare and eventually add a public option.

I was shocked that so many were ready to decriminalize illegal entry into our country. I think people should have to ring the doorbell before they enter my house or my country.
I was shocked at all those hands raised in support of providing comprehensive health coverage to undocumented immigrants. I think promises we’ve made to our fellow Americans should take priority, like to veterans in need of better health care.

And I was shocked by how feeble was front-runner Joe Biden’s response to the attack from Kamala Harris — and to the more extreme ideas promoted by those to his left.

So, I wasn’t surprised to hear so many people expressing fear that the racist, divisive, climate-change-denying, woman-abusing jerk who is our president was going to get re-elected, and was even seeing his poll numbers rise.

Dear Democrats: This is not complicated! Just nominate a decent, sane person, one committed to reunifying the country and creating more good jobs, a person who can gain the support of the independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women who abandoned Donald Trump in the midterms and thus swung the House of Representatives to the Democrats and could do the same for the presidency. And that candidate can win!

But please, spare me the revolution! It can wait. Win the presidency, hold the House and narrow the spread in the Senate, and a lot of good things still can be accomplished. “No,” you say, “the left wants a revolution now!” O.K., I’ll give the left a revolution now: four more years of Donald Trump.

That will be a revolution.

Four years of Trump feeling validated in all the crazy stuff he’s done and saidFour years of Trump unburdened by the need to run for re-election and able to amplify his racism, make Ivanka secretary of state, appoint even more crackpots to his cabinet and likely get to name two right-wing Supreme Court justices under the age of 40.

Yes sir, that will be a revolution!

It will be an overthrow of all the norms, values, rules and institutions that we cherish, that made us who we are and that have united us in this common project called the United States of America.

If the fear of that doesn’t motivate the Democratic Party’s base, then shame on those people. Not all elections are equal. Some elections are a vote for great changes — like the Great Society. Others are a vote to save the country. This election is the latter.

That doesn’t mean a Democratic candidate should stand for nothing, just keep it simple: Focus on building national unity and good jobs.

I say national unity because many Americans are terrified and troubled by how bitterly divided, and therefore paralyzed, the country has become. There is an opening for a unifier.
And I say good jobs because when the wealth of the top 1 percent equals that of the bottom 90 percent, we do have to redivide the pie. I favor raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to subsidize universal pre-K education and to reduce the burden of student loans. Let’s give kids a head start and college grads a fresh start.

But I’m disturbed that so few of the Democratic candidates don’t also talk about growing the pie, let alone celebrating American entrepreneurs and risk-takers. Where do they think jobs come from?

The winning message is to double down on redividing the pie in ways that give everyone an opportunity for a slice while also growing the pie sustainably.

Trump is growing the pie by cannibalizing the future. He is creating a growth spurt by building up enormous financial and carbon debts that our kids will pay for.

Democrats should focus on how we create sustainable wealth and good jobs, which is the American public-private partnership model: Government enriches the soil and entrepreneurs grow the companies.

It has always been what’s made us rich, and we’ve drifted away from it: investing in quality education and basic scientific research; promulgating the right laws and regulations to incentivize risk-taking and prevent recklessness and monopolies that can cripple free markets; encouraging legal immigration of both high-energy and high-I.Q. foreigners; and building the world’s best enabling infrastructure — ports, roads, bandwidth and basic social safety nets.

Ask Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island’s governor, and my kind of Democrat. She was just elected in 2018 for a second term. In both her elections she had to win a primary against a more-left Democrat. When Raimondo took office in 2015, Rhode Island had unemployment near 7 percent, and over 20 percent in some of the building trades.

 “When I ran in 2014, there was a temptation to appeal to particular constituencies — gun safety, choice, all things that I believe in,” Raimondo recalled. “I resisted that temptation because I felt the single greatest issue was economic insecurity and people who were afraid, they were never going to get a job. So, I said there are not three or four issues, there’s one issue: jobs.” Unemployment in Rhode Island today is about 3.6 percent.

Raimondo has faced a constant refrain from critics on her left that she is too close to business. “I created an incentive program for companies to get a tax subsidy if they created jobs that pay above our state’s median income or jobs in advanced industries,” she noted. “I have cut small-business taxes two years in a row since 2015. I am not ashamed of any of that.”

Because, she continued, “I listen to people every day, and you hear what they are worried about. People say to me, ‘Governor, I just got a real job.’ And I’d ask them, ‘What is a real job?’ And they’d say, ‘It’s a job where I can support my family with real benefits.’ So I named our state job-training program ‘Real Jobs Rhode Island.’ “It will be impossible to “sustain a vibrant democracy with this level of inequality.”

The right answer is to reinvigorate the key elements of a healthy public-private partnership, said Raimondo: higher taxes on wealthier people, more investments in affordable housing, infrastructure and universal pre-K, and empowering the private sector to create more real jobs — “so that no one who is working full time at any job should have to collect Medicaid and need food stamps to make ends meet.”

Concluded Raimondo: “I am no apologist for a brand of capitalism that leads to unsustainable inequality. But I do believe a more responsible capitalism is necessary for growth. We need to redivide the pie and grow the pie. I am a ‘pro-growth Democrat.’ I am for growing the pie as long as everyone has a shot at getting their slice.”

That’s a simple message that can connect with enough Democrats — as well as independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women — to win the White House.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Loop North News

Loop North News
78 °Light rain
Howard Tullman
The other college admissions outrage

Yes, Hollywood types and high-powered lawyers got caught trying to buy their kids into elite universities. They’ll get theirs – maybe. Meanwhile, other students get accepted by too many schools, denying urgently needed scholarship money to others.

16-Jul-19 – I realize that the film and TV “stars” and other parental crooks who participated in and funded the admission application scams, the test-taking manipulations, and the other outright frauds in order to get their unqualified – but hugely entitled – kids into highly-selective colleges such as USC and Yale were immoral assholes and social cripples. By that I mean, they couldn’t have cared less about the well-qualified and far more deserving kids whose places at these schools were taken by their precious and pampered children.

Hopefully these parents will all get the comeuppance that they so richly deserve and be forever estranged from their offspring who were allegedly, utterly – insert some considerable skepticism here – unaware of their dear folks’ heroic and behind-the-scenes efforts to secure those fraudulent acceptances and awesome test scores on their behalf. Maybe some of the kids really didn’t know. Hard to imagine, but stranger things have occurred.

Adobe StockWhile I’m sure some of the crooked parents may technically escape punishment by claiming they were mere “donors” like so many others, what is inescapable is the fact that they did the deeds and tried to pull off these cheats.

They may think their biggest mistake was getting caught but we know better. A lie may fool other people but it tells the truth about you.

I also understand that the legacy college admission systems still in place at many other schools are just as fraught as they are at USC and Yale. You know, the ones that have the special side doors for jocks. Our elite colleges are rife with compromise and challenges because it’s basically a money talks game as well, but that’s an issue for another day and certainly doesn’t excuse this bad behavior in any case. Sadly though, it is just another bad message for the kids, that who you know is far more important than what you know.

And I think – speaking of the little darlings – that it’s fitting, regardless of their particular state of knowledge, for the kids to be tarred – at least for a while – as well as their parents by the stench and stigma of this latest demonstration that money doesn’t care who makes it or how it gets spent. The parents are clearly beyond salvation, but maybe the kids and others tempted by similar scummy shortcuts will learn some modest lessons about earning and deserving what you get instead of having it handed to you. Or maybe not.

Honestly, it’s all so very Gatsby-esque.
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
– From The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

So, it’s easy to feel superior to these people and to profess concern for the students they displaced and deprived of the opportunity to attend some of these fine – but sloppy and negligent – schools. However, in the end, the actual numbers of students involved in the whole deal are modest. Maybe the whole stinking scam took away a couple of dozen seats in the incoming classes at a few high-visibility schools.

High school students coached to cast wide college admissions nets

I see a much bigger and neglected concern that continues to get worse each year. We’re all complicit in a much more pervasive and damaging problem, which annually impacts thousands of deserving students across the country. And instead of condemning it or even discussing it, we celebrate and encourage the bad behavior and ignore the obvious impact.

I’m talking about the high school guidance counselors and coaches who encourage their best and most needy students to apply to zillions of schools and to seek the maximum amounts of scholarship dollars possible from every one of them. For no good reason and for the worst possible reasons. This fundamentally selfish process is then aided and abetted by seasonal, ceaseless, and stupid media coverage about individual students who heedlessly run up the score and accumulate multiple levels of scholarship offers from many colleges so that they and their high schools can brag about the sheer dollar volumes of overtures that they have secured.

Frankly, it’s just greed of another kind and no one seems to care about the hundreds of other students who are not offered any financial assistance because Bob or Betty has rolled up a few million dollars – literally, millions of dollars – from many colleges and universities they haven’t the slightest intention of attending. This is just about bagging the Benjamins.

Now you might think that it’s not a zero-sum game or that once Bob and Betty pick their schools, all those sucked-up dollars they’ve been hanging on to will magically find their way back to the students who were shut out initially.Adobe Stock

But that’s not the way the world of scholarships works. Because everything happens in real time and simultaneously. It’s true that almost every school puts out more scholarships than they expect to be accepted by matriculating students – just like the airlines oversell seats – and that there’s a lot of discounting, predictive analysis, and yield management in the process. But, say what you will, grabbing for as much of the gold as you can is going to leave a lot of less fortunate students in the lurch.

Choices have to be made, sacrifices and compromises abound, a lot of smart kids end up with their second or third choices because of financial considerations, all so that the papers can run a few stories about the number of schools that made so many offers for big dollars to a couple of hometown heroes. This is nothing to brag about or write home to report. The recognition for a few smart kids is nice, but the grasping this behavior encourages and the greed and selfishness that surrounds it is simply sleazy.

I think this is just as important a lesson for today as what we’re learning from the admissions scams. Our kids need to know when enough is enough, that just because you can doesn’t always mean you should, and that it’s okay in almost every case to leave something on the table for others.

New INC Magazine Blog Post by Kaplan Institute Exec Director Howard Tullman

Snap's Team Letter Shows How Clueless It Is
A missive from CEO Evan Spiegel reveals a struggling company that hasn't learned anything from its mistakes.

Executive director, Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Illinois Institute of Technology

For a company founded and premised on the idea of ephemerality and thereafter sustained by a continual series of mea culpas claiming (as we so often hear these days) that "we were just too busy building" to pay attention to such mundane things as privacy, it doesn't seem to me that things have gotten much better over time for Snap. This outfit is still headed for history's dust bin. Maybe that's what they meant by ephemeral.

If you're a glutton for poor draftsmanship, calculated ignorance, gross redundancy and other self-serving dross, feel free to read the latest "leaked" team letter from Snap's CEO Evan Spiegel.  In it, he attempts in vain (and vainly, as Carly Simon once sang) to catalogue the most recent sins of commission and omission, chart the latest version of the path forward, and wax eloquently about the amazing turnaround we're all soon to witness.

First, the sheer sloppiness of the letter, with typos on almost every page,  fairly reflects the underlying lack of actual concern, commitment or attention to detail that this kind of offhand messaging to his team (and ultimately to the market) really represents. The desperation of the rushed and often incoherent writing shows what happens when there's no one with the power to edit, limit, control or even tell the two main inmates that they're continuing to run the asylum right into the ground.

Yes, Evan, we get that you want to make Snap the fastest way to communicate. But do we really need to see every possible variation of the word "fastest" more than 20 times in this muddled missive?  You sure beat that pony to death.

And yes, Evan, we all know that, according to Warren Buffett, "economic moats" are good things to build and extend, but, little buddy, you've got bupkes in that department. You're screwed in all three of the departments you bragged about: brand, economies of scale and network effects.

As far as brand goes, you've done a great job of trashing it.  Recode's Kara Swisher may think you're still cool and smart, but everyone else thinks the game is over. All the good hair, company planes, and supermodels won't feed the media beast much longer. Even the rats like the Kardashians are leaving the sinking ship.

As far as economies of scale go, your results to date show no such thing. You guys keep spending like sailors with next to nothing to show for the effort. And, it's pretty clear that when your whole premise is that any given Snap user tops out at engaging with his or her best 20 friends, there are no follow-on network effects because no one cares about the next zillion users.  It's the same problem with incremental Uber drivers. Beyond a relatively small number of drivers in a given area, every added driver is bad news for everyone - more congestion, less money per driver, more pollution and no material or appreciated improvement in service or response time.

Your own letter says the same thing - your users got pissed because all the changes you made did nothing more than make it harder and slower for them to find and connect to the few people they cared about. As your own note notes, Snap today runs slower on an iPhone X than your earlier 5.0 version runs on an iPhone 4. One step forward, two steps back. Your engineering is no better than your English. 

And your alleged "moat" reminds me of a paper sailboat floating further and further from the shore and getting soggier by the moment as it drifts toward an eventual demise. You're still the same old Snap. Mouthing the words and using the jargon isn't going to get you anywhere, because saying doesn't make it so. Facebook's the ocean of moats and you're basically a drip. 

But the most frightening part of the Snap story, and the lesson for every entrepreneur to take away because even bad examples can be educational, is that these guys never learn from their mistakes. And because they're so arrogant, they keep doubling down on the most obvious errors. No one ever gets it right all the time. But the best entrepreneurs walk before they run, take what works from prior attempts, avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, and constantly move forward while - at the same time - listening carefully to their customers.

The guys running Snap know it all and don't listen to anyone. The consequences show up every time something new blows up in their faces. Facebook doesn't just test A/B, they constantly use small user segments to test everything from A to Z before they roll out anything major. And they tweak, iterate and improve all the time rather than dumping an untested, unrequested and unworkable set of changes on a massive and unsuspecting group of users as Snap did. Reading the team letter, it's clear that you can expect more of the same.

Snap's Android rewrite is called Mushroom, which is so very Freudian. To grow mushrooms, you cover them with dung and keep them in the dark. Just like Snap's users.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Maureen Dowd

Maureen Dowd


WASHINGTON — I was feeling on edge. Writing a column that sparks an internecine fight among the highest-profile women in the Democratic Party is nerve wracking.

So I went to the gym. Alex Toussaint, the digital Peloton instructor inside the little screen on my spinning bike, had some wisdom for me — the kind of New Age bromide dispensed in spin classes everywhere:
You climb the mountain to see the world. You don’t climb the mountain so the world can see you.
I only wished A.O.C. was cycling alongside me to hear it as well.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ensorcelled me from the start. I loved the bartender-makes-good Cinderella story, the shake-up-the-capital idealistic dreams, the bravado about how the plutocrat president from Queens wouldn’t know how to deal with a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx.

And I imagined the most potent feminist partnership in American history: Nancy Pelosi as sensei, bringing her inside game, and A.O.C., the Karate Kid with a wicked Twitter game.

But instead, the 79-year-old speaker and the 29-year-old freshman are trapped in a generational and ideological tangle that poses a real threat to the Democrats’ ability to beat Donald Trump next year.
Pelosi told me, after the A.O.C. Squad voted against the House’s version of the border bill and trashed the moderates — the very people who provided the Democrats the majority — that the Squad was four people with four votes. She was talking about a legislative reality. If it was a knock, it was for abandoning the party.
A.O.C. should consider the possibility that people who disagree with her do not disagree with her color.

The young lawmaker went further, implying that the speaker was putting the Squad in danger, asking why Pelosi would criticize them, “knowing the amount of death threats” and attention they get. Huh?
A.O.C. pulled back and said she wasn’t calling Pelosi a racist. But once you start that ball rolling, it’s hard to stop. (You know how topsy-turvy the fight is when the biggest defenders of Pelosi, who has endured being a caricature of extreme liberalism for decades, are Trump and the Wall Street Journal editorial board.)
The A.O.C. crew threw down the gauntlet in a recent opinion piece in The Washington Post by The Intercept’s Ryan Grim. He wrote that when Pelosi and other Democratic mandarins try to keep the image of the party centrist, they are crouching in “the defensive posture” they’ve been in since the Reagan revolution.

Corbin Trent, a spokesman for A.O.C. and co-founder of Justice Democrats, the progressive group that helped propel her, told Grim: “The greatest threat to mankind is the cowardice of the Democratic Party,” with the older generation “driven by fear” and “unable to lead.”
Message: Pelosi is past her prime.
Except she’s not.
And then there’s the real instigator, Saikat Chakrabarti, A.O.C.’s 33-year-old chief of staff, who co-founded Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, both of which recruited progressives — including A.O.C. — to run against moderates in Democratic primaries. The former Silicon Valley Bernie Bro assumed he could apply Facebook’s mantra, “Move fast and break things,” to one of the oldest institutions in the country.
But Congress is not a place where you achieve radical progress — certainly not in divided government. It’s a place where you work at it and work at it and don’t get everything you want.
The progressives act as though anyone who dares disagree with them is bad. Not wrong, but bad, guilty of some human failing, some impurity that is a moral evil that justifies their venom.

Chakrabarti sent shock waves through the Democratic caucus when he posted a tweet about the border bill comparing moderate and Blue Dog Democrats — some of whom are black — to Southern segregationists in the ’40s.
Rahm Emanuel told me Chakrabarti is “a snot-nosed punk” who has no idea about the battle scars Pelosi bears from the liberal fights she has led.
“What votes did you get?” Emanuel said, rhetorically challenging A.O.C.’s chief of staff. “You should only be so lucky to learn from somebody like Nancy who has shown incredible courage and who has twice returned the Democratic Party to power.
“We fought for years to create the majorities to get a Democratic president elected and re-elected, and they’re going to dither it away. They have not decided what’s more important: Do they want to beat Trump or do they want to clear the moderate and centrists out of the party? You really think weakening the speaker is the right strategy to try to get rid of Donald Trump and everything he stands for?”
In the age of Trump, there is no more stupid proposition than that Nancy Pelosi is the problem. If A.O.C. and her Pygmalions and acolytes decide that burning down the House is more important than deposing Trump, they will be left with a racist backward president and the emotional satisfaction of their own purity.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Kaplan Institute Welcomes Visitors from ISU


New INC. Magazine Blog Post by Kaplan Institute Exec Director Howard Tullman

Why Entrepreneurs (and Politicians) Should Embrace Complexity
Simple is seductive, but not always smart.

Executive director, Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Illinois Institute of Technology

There's a lot to be said for simplicity. For many years, the rule of Occam's Razor obtained, and it dictated that the simplest answer was most likely to be the best. Short, sweet and to the point. I'm certainly on record as being an advocate of brevity. But this is obviously not the be-all and end-all approach for every situation.

Contrary to the comics, most movies, and public opinion in general, in the real world, not everything in our lives (or every problem) has a clear-cut solution. Some conflicts and situations aren't likely to ever be solved even over substantial periods of time and despite the best-intentioned efforts of many. They're basically facts of life that we're stuck with for better or worse. One thing's for certain though - it's pretty clear that our lives and our choices have become a lot grayer these days and very little in them is black and white.

This modest fact would seem to be especially valuable for our presidents, politicians and sundry media blowhards to remember as they fire off their latest knee-jerk responses to provocative tweets along with their pithy pronouncements and their startlingly "simple" solutions. Watching the latest Presidential debates, you could readily come to believe that there is often a neat and simple answer for any problem, but, in fact, such makeshift solutions (which distract us from addressing the real problems) are also almost always wrong. The truth as far as choices goes is that only Hobson always got it right.

And, for entrepreneurs in particular, exercising at least a little bit of caution is especially critical when you're talking about making tough business choices and complicated decisions. Today, in just about everything we do, we hope to find a quick and straightforward reply to whatever we're being asked and/or a timely and elegant solution for the problems we're facing. This isn't so much a product of sheer laziness or a lack of intellectual curiosity as it is another symptom of the constant time constraints we now live with and the resultant "hurry sickness" that we're all victims of to some extent. It's our "ready, fire, aim" world and it's bad for smart decision-making and really bad for building your business.

Sadly, we've come to believe - especially in the startup world - that almost any response is better than waiting to take action until you've gathered at least some of the critical facts. We hear that research is the old way of doing things - due diligence, homework of any kind, or trying to find the customer's real problem before starting on the solution - is so yesterday. I get that it's hard work, that you can't figure it out sitting on your ass, that it all takes too much time, and that things around you are moving so very fast. But that doesn't justify settling for half an answer or not working the problem as fully as required.

It's so easy to say that it's better to get right out there, be super-lean, launch something, and just start the ball rolling - hopefully downhill. You can always course-correct and iterate along the way. But, just as likely, you can also become roadkill. To be honest, it doesn't really matter how fast you're going if you're on the wrong road and headed in the wrong direction. Looking for the solution without first listening to and understanding the problem is like working blindfolded in the dark. Some things just take time to do right.

And every entrepreneur today is also told that any decision (right or wrong) is better than not making a decision at all. It's all about speed which drives and dictates everything else today. But the real goal isn't to make the fastest decisions; it's to make the correct decisions and sometimes that means holding up a bit and taking the necessary steps to assemble the required information so you can make a thoughtful decision.

There's no job or case analysis that's so simple that it can't be done wrong if you're not careful and a little patient. In our busy lives, there's constant pressure to reduce the consideration sets and to simplify the choices, especially if you're trying to "manage up" to a busy boss, but it's often a bad strategy because you can't reduce every challenge down to a simple "either/or" equation. It would be nice, but the world doesn't work that way today.

With all the data and other resources which we now have, we can dramatically improve the odds of getting to the right answer if we just widen our perspective and take in a few more alternatives. Yes, it's more complicated and, if you overdo it, too many choices (analysis paralysis) will kill any progress at all, but too narrow a field (and a refusal to ever look outside the silo) leads as often as not to the wrong result.

When you're only offered black or white, you'll get it wrong around half the time. But when you look at multiple options, the odds of getting it right move smartly in your favor and you'll be batting .600 plus in no time at all.


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