Monday, June 5, 2017


As the Commencement season is coming to a close for college and universities, this writer heard the usual “me, myself, and I” chatter from Commencement speakers. The patting oneself on the back, speaking only about their accomplishments and not speaking to the graduates in the audience: when will many of my generation speak to graduates as intellectual equals and not social media customers?

“No one is doing College students any favors when they intellectually isolate them.” To quote Meg Witman, CEO of HP Enterprise in her Carnegie Mellon University Commencement address of last week.  Link is below: 

Meg Whitman: Carnegie Mellon University Commencement address (21 minutes):

There was a common theme sent to graduates across the country this Commencement season: Truth, Justice and Civility. We must stand for free speech, do not insulate ourselves from all viewpoints. Learn to listen and understand others. Civility in society is the etiquette of democracy. 

Another common theme was future employment opportunities: The jobs figures for May disappointed most analysts. But Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, who built billion-dollar technology companies in two very different areas, see more seismic shifts ahead.

At his Harvard University commencement speech last week, Facebook FB,  chief executive Zuckerberg, had some tough words for the Class of 2017. “Our generation will have to deal with tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation like self-driving cars and trucks,” he said, adding, “When our parents graduated, purpose reliably came from your job, your church, your community,. But today, technology and automation are eliminating many jobs. Membership in communities is declining. Many people feel disconnected and depressed, and are trying to fill a void.”

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft MSFT,  last month, sounded the same warning. Gates said he didn’t want to sound like the guy from “The Graduate,” which celebrates 50 years this year. In that movie, old Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) was given this very famous piece of advice: “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word …Plastics,” And today? That word would likely be “robots.” Gates took his 34.8 million Twitter followers by the virtual shoulder and said “artificial intelligence” would have a huge impact. In other words, why not join the revolution? After all, that’s exactly what Zuckerberg and Gates did with social media and computer software.

But that’s not the only response to the robot revolution. Last February, Gates also said that robots should free up labor “and give graduates an opportunity to focus on jobs that only let us do a better job of reaching out to the elderly, having smaller class sizes, helping kids with special needs. You know, all of those are things where human empathy and understanding are still very, very unique.” Gates said there is a counter-intuitive way of approaching the rise of robots. “So if you can take the labor that used to do the thing automation replaces ...then you’re net ahead.”

Zuckerberg too spoke about finding meaningful jobs and purpose in this new automated economy. “Class of 2017, you are graduating into a world that needs purpose. It’s up to you to create it,” he said, adding, “Taking on big meaningful projects is the first thing we can do to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose. The second is redefining equality to give everyone the freedom they need to pursue purpose. Many of our parents had stable jobs throughout their careers.” Today’s graduates, he said, will need to carve their own path, but have the freedom to fail and to try again.

They’re not wrong: Robots are expected to create 15 million new jobs in the U.S. over the next 10 years, as a direct result of automation and artificial intelligence, equivalent to 10% of the workforce, a recent report by Forrester Research found. The downside: robotics will also kill 25 million jobs over the same period. So in one way Gates is correct. Artificial intelligence and automation is an area undergoing a seismic shift, just like computers did in the 1980s and plastics did 30 years before that, and how people around the world changed how the communicate and share information about themselves (and, yes, data about themselves) 10 years ago.

And what field will be hot 50 years from now? Some 65% of Americans expect that within 50 years robots and computers will “definitely” or “probably” do much of the work currently done by humans, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C. Some 38% of jobs in the U.S. are at “high risk” of being replaced by robots and artificial intelligence over the next 15 years, a separate estimate by consulting and accounting firm PwC found, which is still lower than Germany (35%) and the U.K. (30%).

But for those who don’t want to work in artificial intelligence, there are some “robot-proof” careers, at least for now. They include composers and artists, nurse practitioners, home health aides, elder care specialists, child care workers, engineers, teachers and, finally, human resources executives, a report released earlier this month by careers firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas concluded. What’s more, many traditionally blue-collar jobs will be hard to replace, including carpenters, plumbers, electricians. And, of course, robot engineers will not be replaced by robots.

Low-paying jobs appear most at risk from robots, economists predict. For those who want to avoid being replaced by robots, a college education will likely help. There is an 83% chance that automation will replace a job that pays $20 per hour, according to a White House report released last year. It found that there’s only a 31% chance that robots will take over a job that pays between $30 and $40 per hour, and only a 4% chance that automation will replace jobs with an hourly wage over $40.

Gates also cited biosciences and energy as a good bet for the Class of 2017. Traditional energy and energy efficiency sectors employ around 6.4 million Americans, according to the 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report. These sectors increased in 2016 by around 5% on the previous year and account for roughly 14% of all those created in the country. Jobs in biosciences are increasing at a rate of 10% per year, the latest report on the industry by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization estimated, and employs nearly 1.7 million people in the U.S.

And Zuckerberg also had some words of wisdom for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. “Let me tell you a secret: no one does when they begin. Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started,” he said. “If I had to understand everything about connecting people before I began, I never would have started Facebook. Movies and pop culture get this all wrong. The idea of a single eureka moment is a dangerous lie. It makes us feel inadequate since we haven’t had ours. It prevents people with seeds of good ideas from getting started.”

A NEW ORDER - The opioid epidemic. Stagnating wages. The anti-establishment political wave. All are linked to the start of a new industrial age in which robotics, automation and artificial intelligence are changing the nature of work.

Why it matters: Deaths from opioid use have more than quadrupled since 1999, and addiction costs almost $100 billion annually — all linked, among other social trends, to stagnating income and the loss of jobs. Economists also connect unemployment and low wages with a breakdown of families, including a rise in children born to unmarried mothers and living in single-parent households. This is the beginning of a social, political and economic transformation.

COMMENCEMNT THEY SAID IT - Robert De Niro, at Brown University’s commencement  in Providence, R.I.:

'"When you started school, the country was an inspiring, uplifting drama. ... You are graduating into a tragic, dumbass comedy."

COMMENCEMENT OUT AND ABOUT – Jamie Baker, St. Lawrence ’89, celebrates his daughter Bridget’s graduation from University of Vermont along with his wife Reilly. Jamie was a member of the Skating Saints, and is now a broadcaster for the San Jose Sharks. Daughter Bridget played hockey for the Lady Catamounts.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Gary Bettman (65) Scarsdale, N.Y.; Clint Eastwood (87) Carmel, CA.; Morgan Freeman (80) New Orleans, LA.; David Yoshida ….the pride of Dryden, Ontario.

LET’S DO LUNCH - The U.S. restaurant industry is in a funk. Blame it on lunch. Americans made 433 million fewer trips to restaurants at lunchtime last year than in 2015, resulting in roughly $3.2 billion in lost business for restaurants. It was the lowest level of lunch traffic in at least four decades. Many U.S. workers now see stealing away for an hour in the middle of the day as a luxury. And while restaurants have raised their tabs over the past few years to cope with rising labor costs, the price of food at supermarkets has continued to drop, widening the cost gap between bringing in lunch and eating out. If we’re going to eat lunch at our desks and get rid of open offices, columnist Jason Gay has some retro suggestions for the workplace—namely, cocktails.

LBJ VOLUME V - Robert Caro Nears End Of Research on L.B.J: Those waiting for the fifth and final planned installment of Robert A. Caro's award-winning life of Lyndon B. Johnson might be both heartened and frustrated by the [81-year-old] historian's most recent update on his progress. In an interview ... with C-Span's Brian Lamb, ... Caro said he had most of the research and 400 typed pages of the manuscript for the next book done. But 'one more big thing' remains, he said: A trip to Vietnam. ... The author estimated that less than 5 percent of the material in his research files has made it into the finished books."

AUTO SALES CONTINUE TO SLIDE - U.S. auto sales fell for the fifth straight month in May, bolstering expectations for the first annual sales decline since 2009. Some industry analysts lowered predictions for the year as General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai and Toyota all reported May decreases compared with a year ago. Ford, Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen said their sales were up. The figures added up to just over 1.5 million vehicles sold and a 0.5 percent decrease.

And GM is still scrambling: General Motors Co. is limping into the highly anticipated summer selling season, beaten by Ford Motor Co. as the market's top seller in May and on course for more job cuts at its American factories.

GM, among the world's most profitable auto makers, has been scrambling to adjust production as the U.S. market plateaus. The adjustment reflects a discipline installed by chief executive Mary Barra after decades of stocking dealer lots with more cars and trucks than customer demand warranted.

PHOTO DU JOUR: The Supreme Court justices gather for their first official group portrait to include new Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, top row, far right, on June 1 at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

GOOD READ - Legendary tech journalist Walt Mossberg on May 25 published his final column, on where tech was (intrusive) and where it's heading (invisible).  Here it is.

DIGITAL DIVIDE - While Americans in rural areas have made significant strides in tech adoption over the past decade, they are still less likely to have access to broadband or own a smartphone than urban or suburban adults, according to Pew's latest survey on the digital divide. Rural Americans are also about twice as likely to say they never go online as suburban and urban Americans.

Expanding rural access to broadband has long been a challenge in the U.S. — since internet providers worry they'll never recoup the investment they make in building those networks. That's why it's something to watch if Congress gets around to an infrastructure package that includes incentives for expanded rural broadcast access.

JACK ASS OF THE MONTH - Did Bill Maher just try to take the heat off of Kathy Griffin? His out-of-nowhere use of the N-word on Friday’s “Real Time” brought instant rebukes and calls for him to be fired.

The former “Politically Incorrect” host proved he’s still politically incorrect when Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse jokingly invited him to “work in the fields.”

“Senator, I’m a house n—-a,” Maher said, immediately adding: “It’s a joke.”

Griffin, who was forced to apologize this week after widespread outrage over images of her with a fake decapitated head of President Trump, has been a real-time guest before.

Maher was notably silent on her situation — but his egregious N-word helped her as nothing else could have. At least for a night, it drew national outrage toward him, instead of her. HBO issued a comment, saying, “Bill Maher‘s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless. We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”

Maher said Saturday through a spokesperson, “Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show. Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.”

Welcome to the Jack Ass of the Month Club.

HOUSE  OF CARDS, SEASON FIVE - This season focuses on many of Frank's sins coming back to haunt him.

Netflix's flagship drama is back, and Frank Underwood is more corrupt and less subtle than ever before.

If CNN/Fox News/MSNBC haven't sated your appetite for stories of voter fraud, media distortion, a fragmented electorate, an initialed terrorist group out of the Middle East [ICO] and the potential for Russian interference in our democratic process, House of Cards has you covered.

See Season 5with chapter-by-chapter titles.

A GREAT AMERICAN WRITER, FRANK DEFORD - Literary Storyteller of Sport, who wrote a shelf of books, and whose long profiles were a mainstay of Sports Illustrated in its heyday — dies in Key West at 78.

It was just 25 days after he delivered the last of his weekly "Sweetness and Light" commentaries for NPR's "Morning Edition.”

AP sports columnist Jim Litke: "He dressed up every event he attended."

"He also dressed up in a more literal way, always sharply attired and cutting a debonair figure at 6-foot-4."

N.Y. Times obit for Benjamin Franklin Deford III: "At Sports Illustrated, he became a leader in a form of literary sports journalism."

On NPR, "he spoke to an audience less obsessed with box scores, statistics and injury updates and more interested in the cultural impact of sports and the people behind the games."

NPR's Colin Dwyer: "The Hall of Fame sportswriter was public radio's scholar of sports for some 37 years ... He leaves behind an astonishing 1,656 commentaries for NPR."

Classic Deford quote: "I believe that professional wrestling is clean and everything else in the world is fixed."


The Belmont Stakes; (1) Tapwrit, (2) Epicharis, (3) Irish War Cry

MLB Game of the Week (June 10) – Baltimore Orioles (29-26) vs. New York Yankees (32-22), Yanks are taking control of the American League East, they win 4 – 2.

Season to Date (40 - 17)

DRIVING THE WEEK - Former FBI director James Comey testifies Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Get the popcorn ready ... Congress returns with 31 days in session before the August recess. Lot on deck including the need to lift the debt ceiling ... House expected to vote Thursday on the CHOICE ACT 2.0 which should pass now that it doesn't include Durbin amendment repeal. But it's not going to pass the Senate in its current form ... Trump expected to travel to the Midwest during the week to talk infrastructure and may visit London at the end of the week ... Treasury may release at least some of its recommendations to alter financial regulations ... Trump kicks off his infrastructure week Monday at 11:30 a.m. with an effort to privatize air traffic control ... Productivity on Monday at 8:30 a.m. expected to decline 0.2 percent ... ISM Non-manufacturing Monday at 10:00 a.m. expected to dip to 57.0 from 57.5.

Next Blog: Words of the Month and Dear Rink Rats.

See you on June 12, Adios.

Claremont, California

June 5, 2017

CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Warp, The New Yorker

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