Pearl's Paradise

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled teams yearning to breath free…"

December 1, 2017
by Steve Pearl

The GOP Tax Plan Will Fail Because it Ignores the Impact of Automation

To everyone who wants to believe the overly-optimistic economic growth assumptions the GOP is using to promote their “1% Welfare” tax plan, consider this tidbit from this morning’s news…

General Motors plans to deploy a fleet of fully autonomous taxis by 2019.

This isn’t sci-fi anymore, friends.  It’s real. Within a decade, as a seismic technological shift hits the transportation industry, tens of thousands of taxi, Uber, and Lyft drivers will lose their jobs. Full-stop. Soon after that, the same shift will hit the trucking and logistics industries and the ripple effect upon low-skill American workers will be even more catastrophic.

Within our lifetimes, human obsolescence will become the norm, not an aberration.

Transportation and logistics are not the only industries where automation will have a profound, job-killing impact.  Robotics are reaching into every aspect of our daily lives.  Soon, naively simplistic campaign platitudes like, “We’ll bring back coal jobs!”, (about 75,000 workers in total in an industry that was already decimated by cheap natural gas), will be utterly meaningless when millions of under-skilled Americans are forced to hit the bricks in search of meaningful employment.

At a time when this country should thoughtfully and wisely prepare for the imminent arrival of such a robotics-heavy future, aggressively mustering visionary social will to invest in education, innovation, and job retraining ahead of the catastrophe, the Republican tax scheme would only make higher education that much less affordable and out of reach for those who need assistance to adapt and innovate.

What do you think large corporations will do with the piles of cash the Republicans will hand them when this tax cut goes through?  Will they suddenly become uncharacteristically magnanimous and hire more employees?  Will they generously hand out big raises to the employees they already have?

Or will major manufacturers and corporations automate further, relentlessly driving down production and supply chain costs by replacing expensive human labor, thereby putting hundreds of thousands of taxpayers out of jobs as they drive up share value, taxpaying Americans upon whose unemployable backs the weight of government funding will fall, all because the GOP tax plan would let corporations off the hook for their historical part of fueling government revenues?

The answer, my friends, is that big companies will not add human labor unless it makes them a profit. The future is clear. The way to increase profit will will not include expanding human labor when every indicator is that self-driving, fully automated everything is the way to slash costs.

Make no mistake, growing the economy and increasing corporate profit will be driven by adoption of automation, not by a significant growth in worker productivity, as the GOP tax plan presupposes.  Many economists believe we have already reached the tipping point at which human productivity cannot increase appreciably beyond its current levels.  Such a bleak scenario, in which human labor becomes fundamentally “obsolete,” does not substantiate the mythic wage growth claims that the GOP is counting on to sell this scheme to middle-class Americans, people who are desperate for high paying jobs.  It is in the GOP’s near-sighted interest, therefore, to ignore this risk altogether and cram through a legislative “win” at all costs before the end of the year.  The GOP’s short-sighted legislative “win” could very well bankrupt our country under crushing national deficits and debt, only to drive us further into the equivalent of economic indentured servitude to debt-holding countries such as China and Saudi Arabia.

November 10, 2011
by Steve Pearl

Analysis: Paterno Pooch Kicks Resignation Statement

Few things in this world are more heinous than sexual abuse of a child by an adult.  It is the ultimate violation of human dignity, a shamelessly evil derailing of human potential before that potential has fully formed.  It pours acid on the heart and soul of the young victim, scarring them deeply for life.  It can often lead the victim into a life of substance abuse, inability to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships, and even suicide.

Which is why Joe Paterno's retirement announcement Wednesday was all the more puzzling.  From the moment the fingers of the writer left the keyboard and clicked "send" it was destined to be Paterno's undoing.

Among words of what appear to be genuine grief and apology, we found this tone-deaf, poorly-worded, note of arrogance:

"That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can."  (Emphasis added.)

Even if we give Paterno the benefit of the doubt – that he was attempting to sound reassuring, not arrogant – whoever edited the final document should have sensed the nuclear potential of such a statement.

Whoever advised Paterno – assuming it was not Paterno himself – misjudged both the furor of the community and the venom of alumni.  In that one, pivotal moment, Paterno believed in his own mythology; that the man who poured millions into the university over the span of decades, could define his own conclusion to a career-ending scandle.

They were sadly mistaken.  As I read those words, I shook my head.  "How could such smart people get it so wrong?"

Click to continue reading “Analysis: Paterno Pooch Kicks Resignation Statement”

July 29, 2010
by Steve Pearl

Where There’s Smoke, It Might Just Be A Smoke Machine – Part II

(Editor's Note: This is Part II of a multi-part series offering a new take on the age old question, “Who do you trust?”  When selfish motives often lurk in the shadows, how can you really know whether spoon-fed “truth” is really “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”?”)

Just the Spin-Free Facts, Ma'am.

Selective truth telling – “spin” – masquerades as trustworthy “fact” with alarming frequency these days.  We see it in White House press briefings, from Republican and Democratic administrations alike.  We see it in those BP oil spill briefings which virtually nobody takes seriously.  We see it in Wall Street financial reports when a company highlights its up-tick in earnings while downplaying the fact that it just laid off 1000 workers to reduce expenses.  We see it every day on C-Span as both sides of the political spectrum bash each other, pretending as if the very solvency of the Union is teetering on the brink of disaster if one ideological slant is not pursued to the exclusion of all others.

Carefully selected snippets of targeted facts and figures are used to bolster this position or that, making one person (or company, or special interest group) look really, really bad while another looks really, really good.  What is thoroughly messed up about all this spin-mongering is that honest, hard-working reporters, pressed by rampant cost-cutting and a general lowering of editorial standards, regurgitate hand-picked “spin” as if it is hard-edged fact.  This new editorial expedience means that people or organizations with narrowly-targeted agendas get away with monopolizing the thought cycle of the day, often to the detriment of exposing deeper, trickier truths that get swept under the rug.

So perhaps it’s the awareness that we increasingly tiptoe through a “spin-controlled” world that gives me a more jaded sensibility about what gets offered up as “truth” these days.

Click to continue reading “Where There’s Smoke, It Might Just Be A Smoke Machine – Part II”

July 28, 2010
by Steve Pearl

Where There’s Smoke… It Might Just Be A Smoke Machine – Part I

(Editor's Note: This is Part I of a multi-part series offering a new take on the age old question, “Who do you trust?”  When selfish motives often lurk in the shadows, how can you really know whether spoon-fed “truth” is really “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”?”)

Help!  I'm Stuck in the “Spin” Cycle!

When you spend the bulk of your adult life working in and around the advertising industry, you tend to absorb a thing or two about the art of “spin.”  Call it effective product positioning, building a memorable brand identity, or whatever you wish.  Understanding your target audience and knowing how to leverage just the right communication mix to reach and motivate that target audience plays an enormous role in bumping up sales, salvaging a damaged reputation, destroying a competitor, or convincing people that eventual rewards outweigh short-term costs.

Or, as the old song goes…

“You gotta ac-cen-tuate the positive…  E-lim-inate the negative.”

Click to continue reading “Where There’s Smoke… It Might Just Be A Smoke Machine – Part I”

June 8, 2010
by Steve Pearl

Ballmer the Emperor Has No Clothes… Or Clue

Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft and heir to the Bill Gates' Windows legacy, is a pretty wealthy guy.  Ballmer's earnings could probably do a decent job of taking a chunk out of the national debt if he really wanted to.

So you would be forgiven for thinking that all his accumulated wealth meant that old Stevie Boy was a really, really smart guy.  And he might in fact be a smart guy. 

He just didn't sound very smart when he whined on petulantly last week about the irrelevance of the Apple iPad.  As you'll see in a moment, Ballmer's characterization of the iPad pretty much screamed, "I'm the one wearing the clothes, I tell you!"

Perhaps you've heard about the iPad?  It's that slick new piece of hardware that everyone wants and that places like Best Buy just can't keep in stock.

Oh yeah…  I almost forgot. 

Microsoft had nothing to do with the iPad's flaming success.

Click to continue reading “Ballmer the Emperor Has No Clothes… Or Clue”

May 20, 2010
by Steve Pearl

Must-have iPad Apps, Most Free, All Cheap

The problem with the world's biggest App Store (200,000+ apps at last count) is that you must often dig through waist-high piles of refuse before finding hidden gems.  Worse yet, Apple has a frustrating policy of not letting you sort applications based on ranking.  You must often flip through page after page after page of apps, most of which are throw-aways, before you accidentally stumble on all-too-infrequent greatness.

So for those of you who just want to get some work done, enjoy the general experience of the iPad touch interface, and occasionally play a game or two along the way, here are my personal favorites. 

Most of these apps are FREE.  Some of them cost a few sheckles, but none more than $10.00. The whole batch will set you back less than $60.00.  Plus, if you have a Costco or Sams Club membership, you can buy $60.00 worth of iTunes cards for a mere $55.00.

Click to continue reading “Must-have iPad Apps, Most Free, All Cheap”

May 19, 2010
by Steve Pearl

NOW You can go Buy Yourself an iPad – The “Spirit” Jailbreak Rocks!

In my earlier commentary on the iPad I cautioned that it was on its way to stardom, but not yet quite perfect.  Now I'm convinced.  The iPad is a star.  Buy one.  Period.  End of story.  Have no fear.  Pearlie said it was safe to go in the water.

What changed my mind?

Click to continue reading “NOW You can go Buy Yourself an iPad – The “Spirit” Jailbreak Rocks!”

May 12, 2010
by Steve Pearl

The Scary Truth About Used Photocopiers and Your Personal Data

A friend forwarded me this link to a story over at the CBS Evening News site.

WARNING: Grab your significant other and a bag of popcorn first. This is a serious horror flick for people who wonder why their personal data keeps getting into the wrong hands.;contentBody

What's even scarier is that I didn't stumble onto this issue myself. As a CIO with about 20 years of experience leading IT operations, (not to mention being a reformed hacker from way back in the day), the thought that valuable company or personal data might have gone out the door with the photocopiers never crossed my mind. Yikes!

In the story, the reporter refers to the data that went out the door with a health insurer's copiers. Social Security Numbers, personally identifying information, phone numbers… Precisely the kind of data leaks HIPAA was designed to stop.

It's time for us to press the copier industry – Congress if necessary – to create protocols to deal with scrubbing such data regardless of manufacturer. In this case, a uniform plan of attack is critical, leaving no manufacturer and no platform behind.

Contact your member of Congress and urge action. Maybe together we can put the kind of pressure on that will effect change.

May 10, 2010
by Steve Pearl

iPhone -vs- Droid Incredible: Different Audiences, Similar Results

After carrying the Droid Incredible around as my primary phone for more than two weeks, I think I can finally give a pretty fair assessment of whether this thing is truly an iPhone killer or whether it is just an "incredible" device that is really intended for a whole different audience.  I am leaning toward the latter for reasons that will become clear in a moment.

First, some background.

Click to continue reading “iPhone -vs- Droid Incredible: Different Audiences, Similar Results”

April 30, 2010
by Steve Pearl

Droid Incredible Update: “Houston, we have a problem…”

After hammering on the Droid Incredible for the better part of an evening I have come to a conclusion.

It's incredible!

As a multi-year iPhone user I can safely say that the HTC Droid Incredible is finally an iPhone killer, a mobile computing platform and phone equally appealing to both novice and power-user alike.  Though I can't speak to the one, central draw for most iPhone users – iPod functionality and integration with iTunes – on every other count the phone is at least the equal, if not the superior to Apple's flagship.  (I am the a-characteristic iPhone user.  I bought it more for the raw computing power and computer-like applications than for its ability to rock my world with deep cuts off the Doobie Brothers Greatest Hits compilation.)

The Droid Incredible, though, has an Achilles heel.  I didn't notice it at first, but after burning about 60 minutes of cell time hither and yon across the countryside, up the PA turnpike and down suburban side streets, I became keenly aware of the flaw.

The HTC Droid Incredible is incredibly radio deaf.

Click to continue reading “Droid Incredible Update: “Houston, we have a problem…””

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