Successes from 2016 Inform Policy Priorities for 2017

Although I “took off” from blog posting in 2016 — barring an opportune “No-Future, Mad Grads Fashion” post on the Zazzle Designs and Observation Blog — I was -extremely- busy year-round!

-Accomplishments from 2016-
In order of magnitude, I did the following throughout 2016:

1) Establish, write content for, and produce the WPR Rebuttal call-in Internet radio show (live podcast). This was a new challenge, as previously most of my mass communication had been written / typed / keyboarded.

Speaking around a set of talking points, in real-time and without the luxury of a call screener or post-production editing, improved my ability to improvise with focus. I also reduced verbal pauses and increased the clarity of my speaking voice, mostly by adjusting prosody and inflection.

2) Write op-eds — and get them published! The Capitol Times published two of my op-eds in 2016: One critiquing the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation’s ineptitude; the other reminding aspiring college students to be skeptical when nonprofit universities portray themselves as success-breeding grounds.

3) Test the extent to which my ongoing work experience has improved my occupational prestige, by (unsuccessfully) applying for positions in my industry that would utilize my college degree. It’s been over 5 years with my terminal degree, and -nothing- yet resembling a “knowledge-worker” job has been conferred to me. Ergo, this formula:

Degree + Experience = Bust, even for the most persistent among “unwanted” grads. -Don’t- believe that earning another degree will change -anything!-

-Plans for 2017-
1) Write my higher-education skepticism book. Because if I don’t write it, seemingly -no one- will!

2) Write more often: Not only to progress on the book, but also to keep these blogs “alive” and active with fresh content.

3) Get on more radio shows. Even before I’ve finished the book, my public education and outreach objectives remain in full force — which means getting onto established platforms to express my message.

-One Abandoned Goal-
Writing posts in response to Internet forum topics: Although this would somewhat suit my mass-communications goal, it would not do enough to fulfill that goal, due to the cloistered nature of certain Internet forums.

Of course, such forum activity would take away time from posting to both this blog and my AJV Blog, so don’t expect to see me rouse the forums until I’ve finished my book. (My primary forum-going goal will be to promote the book.)

-Fitting Blogging Into All This-
You know how you get paid to work a “Palooka job,” whereas you do -not- get paid, on the balance, to earn a degree?

Well, it’s -almost- the same thing with blogging: It can quite a lot of work for little-to-no-pay; but unlike a college degree, you do -not- pay thousands of dollars every year to “enjoy” the privilege!

However, I’ve breached the “critical threshold” for media exposure relating to my cause of higher-education reform. Blogging was just the beginning — and now that I’m on radio shows and debating the “experts” on their own turf, I’ve plenty of timely news on the Higher Education Accountability Movement.

I’ve garnered unparalleled attention to my crusade to make nonprofit universities more candid and numerically complete about the potential student’s individual likelihood of under-employment. Skeptics are warming to the idea of surveying recent graduates en masse for each campus and student characteristic — which shall soon become commonplace practice.

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Ho Ho Hoax: The Santa Claus Lie Exposed

Santa Claus has long been exposed as a modern myth that no longer passes the enhanced scrutiny made possible with surveillance devices and the information-sharing power of the Internet. The Claus is a generic marketing machine with no spiritual basis.

Although loosely based on Saint Nicholas, the Santa Claus derivatives of each country were begotten as engineered thought abstractions — mere words of creative writers — and then gradually given visual form by painters, graphic artists, and costumers.

It is all a hoax to claim this “Santa Claus” is any more real than a J.R. Tolkien creature! The Claus caught on in mainstream society because it is a psychodramatic ritual intended to make children believe an overlord of elves is somehow responsible for the materialistic sharing and goodwill that actually comes directly from our fellow humans.

Yes, dear reader: Santa Claus is a mental representation of our friends, family, coworkers, and those strangers who donate to such give-away programs as Toys for Tots. The physical Santa does not exist, except for people who dress up like him!

Toys for Tots as Santa Substitute

If you’re from a poor family and Santa didn’t bring you enough of what you wanted, all it means is that the Toys for Tots donation drive didn’t receive enough bling to hand out.

(Remember, only new donations are accepted — to disguise the second-hand nature of these playthings. But I don’t understand why not, for being poor is -not- a huge shame in this day and age!)

Or you could criticize your ‘rents for not showing up early enough in the waiting line for the welfare toys; which I don’t recommend, lest they tell -you- to wait in the Toys for Tots queue or stop going altogether!

Also, make sure to thank the Marine Corps. They’re the ones running Toys for Tots! Santa is but a fabricated figurehead who keeps naïve kids from figuring out their wealthier neighbors (or folks across the river or railroad tracks) gave the very toys they’re holding.

Santa as Social Justice Whinger Warrior

A donation remains a donation; but the source is obscured. You might not know which ones gave, so be nice to all!

And if you’re not nice, chances are the police will hunt you down to arrest for disorderly conduct and possibly make up some misleading narrative as, “We have a smartphone camera photograph of you threatening to throw something at this person. What are you holding in this picture?”

(The wisest answer is, “Nothing; and I demand to see my lawyer,” even if you don’t know any lawyers. They should book and release you, so that you can plead “not guilty” and at least have a chance at getting the charge dismissed — as opposed to doing the easy “plea bargain” that will automatically convict you.)

So, how to handle Santa? He’s just a stand-in for the constant surveillance done on us by the rest of society. Smartphones have become cheapened to the point where even the poorer among us have the ability to record immediate events, which means we all need to be alert and self-restrained.

Just be reasonably polite, not deferential. There’s no need to hold open a door for someone if he or she is being cranky towards you; and if someone rudely accosts you, there’s no need to call him or her “Mr. / Ms. / Sir / Ma’am” or whatever honorific prefix they might feel entitled to while disrespecting you.

Definitely don’t bother returning someone’s shopping cart (for someone who’s not your parent) if they’re making such demands on the basis that they’re “old and entitled” to being served by any young people nearby! You don’t need to be confrontational; just pretend you don’t hear, and briskly walk away.

What if these intrusive people get in your face? “Santa” won’t mind you telling such folks to “get lost” — because he doesn’t exist! (Don’t get any ruder than “get lost,” though; the police will care!)

False Witnesses to Santa Claus: NORAD and Google Maps

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) “Santa Tracker” is technically limited in its estimations because there’s no actual Santa beacon to monitor; only an imagined Ho-Ho-Hoax route that appears to be loosely agreed upon by the engineers at Google Maps.

No one can verify a Santa sighting at those coordinates — as one would an airplane — because Santa is entirely in the mind, much as you might play with action figures or dress up as characters from Star Wars, Spider-Man, Power Rangers, or other franchise.

Santa Claus is his own franchise, but in the public domain! This means anyone can appropriate his likeness as they see fit.

Speaking of which, I’ll have a humorous animation made from a few Google Maps Santa Claus banners. It will be family-friendly but funny; I just need more time to piece it together because writing this article took me much more time than I intended.

Santa: Ho! Ho! Ho! I don't exist! --- Reverse Santa: He's (absolutely) right! You were (totally) lied to!

The NORAD Santa Timer counts down from midnight on the U.S. eastern coast to the late evening hours on the U.S. western coast. This calculation of time is entirely dependent on which time zone you send to the NORAD server!

In the late 1990s, NORAD relied upon the site visitor to click a button (8:00 p.m.; 9:00 p.m.; 10:00 p.m.; and 11:00 p.m.) to indicate his or her time zone. There was no midnight option because that would mean, according to NORAD, Santa was already at your house.

That assumption would prove demonstrably bogus when you looked out the window for an hour straight and noticed, that despite the Claus delivering to your entire time zone (and therefore your neighborhood) during your wakeful watch, neither you nor your neighbor’s roof saw any Santa action.

Not Even Authoritative Collusion Makes a Myth Demonstrable

Nowadays, your computer or mobile device can automatically send your time zone (or even your GPS coordinates) to NORAD (and any other website wanting to know). This means you no longer need to click a button; but it underscores this fact:

Santa’s location should not depend on your time zone! Either he’s at a particular place in the world; or he’s not!

Changing your time zone, whether via the buttons in the 1990s Santa Tracker or a Clock application change to time zone on your machine, should not warp Santa to another location but it does in these hokey “Santa flight tracking” apps.

Yes; that is how the old NORAD Santa Tracker worked. Newer versions copied Google Maps, which tried to iron-out this logical fallacy by creating a predetermined Ho-Ho-Hoax route that more or less mirrors the route taken by the Olympic torch relay.

Although comparing the Google Santa route with the Olympic relay route for each country would require more time than I have — barely finishing this article before Christmas, and having other articles in the queue — the announced relay route for Brazil practically mimics the circuitous route Google Santa is alleged to have taken.

Santa as Technological Simulation

PhotoShop has made mash-ups possible; CGI has made video simulations possible; and virtual reality will mean someday someone will write a program that projects a first-person perspective of sight, sound, and touch from an imagined Santa Claus trip around the world.

But rest assured, no one has genuine photos of a flying Santa; airborne reindeer; or the magical sack of gifts that pours out whatever is needed from Hammer Space.

Until you’re in a flying sled pulled by air-walking reindeer at such speed sufficient to deliver gifts to all children’s homes at a NORAD-approximated rate of one time zone (more than half a million homes and apartment units in the larger time zones) per hour, you can safely refute that rendition of Santa as a misrepresentation: Impossible under the universal laws of physics; and unsound in terms of spiritual doctrine.

Covering as much area an as an entire U.S. time zone every hour provides a mathematical proof against the globe-trotting, sled-in-the-sky Santa Claus. Multi-location is not part of the Santa mythos. Although some saints are purported to have done such a feat of being several places at once, it was probably a hallucination from too much penitential fasting.

Being only one place at once requires a would-be Santa to zip around at the speed of light, which create sonic booms and kill anyone moving at such speed! Too much whiplash from gravitational forces; zipping through chimneys and houses that don’t have chimneys; handling the presents at speeds that would rip the wrapping paper clean off!

Logistically impossible, even for a poltergeist or other spirit, as the material goods delivered would need to remain intact. It the gifts are teleported in, then why has no one developed that technology on a mass scale to reduce our carbon footprint? Why not at least depict Santa as a teleporting guru instead of someone who relies upon reindeer and a sled?

Serious, sober adults who promote this stuff as being possible should re-evaluate themselves. Do they want to be seen as jokers for this one exception to their no-nonsense policy?

Philosophical Excuses for Saint Nick

It is typically at this point that Santa defenders play the philosophy card and admit Santa might not be true as a stand-alone entity, but that he’s a thought-form, a concept, a cluster of pro-social human traits that is communicated via Santa-as-symbol.

That’s all nice and idealistic, except it does not excuse having lied to children about this! If something is just a symbolic representation of something on which its meaning is contingent, then say so!

Just as the word “chair” should not be misconstrued as referring to a table, the name “Santa Claus” should not be presented as anything beyond the superficial depiction of what cultural leaders believe a good human should be.

“But what, isn’t that Jesus Christ?” No; Santa was never identified as Son of God; and Santa neither died in substitution of our sins nor rose from the dead!

Many commercialists would like you to confuse Santa with Jesus, or even to displace the Christ with the Claus. However, this article ensures you shall not be fooled!

There is no scriptural basis for Santa Claus. This disqualification separates the fabrication of world-traveling gift giver from the more somber religious traditions practiced by sober adults.

Testing for Yourself

Unlike one who tests an inobedient God for miracles, those who spy on the Christmas tree throughout the night from December 24 into the early hours of December 25 will indeed see a sign!

Either of the following shall be observed:

1) Their parents, telling them to get back in bed before Santa comes! (if caught by their parents)

2) Their parents, putting presents beneath the tree! (if they don’t see you first)

If you stumble into Situation 1, then you pretty much have to obey or face punishment. To balk at this stage, right before receiving the payload of presents, might motivate your parents to remove a gift (which they will probably blame on Santa, rather than take personal responsibility).

If you’re stealthy enough to happen upon Situation 2, then you can either:
A) Confront your parents on the spot for their lies about Santa being the one to deliver the gifts — to which your folks might respond, “Santa just handed these off to us just now!”; or

B) Attempt to covertly record their gift laying, which is quite difficult in the dark. But don’t turn on the light, because that would throw you into Option A!

[Legal Disclaimer:] I take no responsibility for any spankings, groundings, or other punishments doled out in response to you daring to question your parents’ dishonesty during their attempted cover-up. They’re tired and will probably be grumpy at their kid disrupting their plans, so act uncooperatively at your peril.

And if you’re a parent looking to punish me for having a frank public discussion in an open forum (an Internet blog) about the falsities of the Santa Claus myth and the social dynamics concealed by its traditions, then blame yourselves for not being forthright; turn your outstretched finger against yourself when you excessively punish your kid for having the gall to act on inferences he or she drew from reading this article. [/Legal Disclaimer]

Option A: Confront While Gifts are Being Placed

This approach is incredibly risky because you might startle your parents into thinking you’re a burglar and/or otherwise inflame their anger at being foiled in their plans. You could turn on a light to assuage their fear of an intruder, but that would be too bright for everyone. Bring a flashlight instead!

Either way, it’s kind of like catching the Watergate crooks during the break-in — except it’s a heist-in-reverse; and you’ll be in for some vaguely threatening, potentially unlawful punishment if you catch temperamental parents doing their best to trick you.

Your folks ought to be proud that you were smart enough and sufficiently daring to evade detection and properly time your “honesty sting” to eliminate all doubt that they, and not Santa, had put “gifts supposedly from Santa” beneath the tree! (The whole “hand-off from Santa” line is bogus, because you were watching a long time before your folks crept to the tree.)

However, parents also have egos. This means that when you claim to hold a moral high ground, your folks might disregard or adversely react to your moral stance (no matter how right you might be) because it is an insult to them — indignantly intolerable — for the one they’re raising to have somehow developed a more enhanced moral intelligence than they!

To summarize the possibility of confrontation: Because parents are imperfect people and prone to emotional outbursts like any stranger would be, I advise you limit your Santa subversion activities to intelligent discussions with those questioning their Santa beliefs and by secretly recording those pretending to give gifts on behalf of Santa.

Again, being detected (seen, heard, smelled, or whatnot) puts you at risk for being punished. Your parents’ mood at this time will largely determine what happens.

Remember, they’re sinners like anyone else and can act like bad people! Will they blame Santa for your disappointment, pain, and grief?

Option B: Covert Footage of Santa Substitutes

This approach is less hazardous to your personal well-being or health as a family unit, but it does pose technically challenging unless you’ve the luxury of both infrared imaging technology -and- something to record those infrared images.

I hope you had the forethought of buying some type of deer camera or comparable low-light security imaging device, or else all you accomplished by hiding a video camera stuck on “record” mode is a bunch of dark frames where nothing is visible!

Back-up (hyphenated because it’s a verb) the footage — make a copy of it — to a thumb drive or other media you can hide so that your secret footage of gift placement is not sitting around on the hard drive for any family member or visiting friend to see and possibly destroy.

Once you’ve made a backup (written as one non-hyphenated word because it’s a noun), wait until your parents are in their best mood the next day to show them the original footage. (But say nothing about the backup copy, in case they get angry and delete your on-device movie file showing their nocturnal gift dropping.)

Thoughtful parents will respect your genius at having documented the situation without getting in the way; and they will applaud how to did not interfere or otherwise involve yourself in a potentially contentious situation where tempers could have flared.

(They might even recommend you train to become a news videographer , but make sure you find a school that gives you statistics for how their videography graduates are faring in the labor market. And less education is better, because it frees you to work full-time sooner! That means more money for you!)

Critical Thinking About Kris Kringle

I encourage young ones to print this article and to share it with peers, parents, and teachers alike. Note who responds with which arguments; and record who agrees and disagrees.

If your parents are upset for you trying to blow their cover as the real Santa Claus, then calm their nerves by showing them this is an educational article!

Promoting insightful discussion is an educator’s goal. The following are critical-thinking exercises about society’s promotion of the Santa Claus myth:

Observation 1) People of similar social standing tend to hold more similar opinions than those of unequal socioeconomic power. This association of ideology might be stronger on some issues (economic policy) than it is for others (whether Santa Claus should be discarded as a dishonest urban myth).

Question 1) Ask your friends, parents, and teachers why adults say Santa Claus is real, despite knowing better that he is a made-up commercial character based on an otherwise forgotten Catholic saint. Write down their responses. What are some common themes? In other words, which ideas were communicated by at least a few people?

[Write notes and then type them up into a response paper. Look back at your findings a few years from now to evaluate how your understanding of Santa-as-ideal-society has evolved.]

Observation 2) Friends of varying social standing (those who voluntarily associate with you) might agree upon the need to discontinue societal uses of Santa Claus, but for different reasons; Mom and Dad (domestic authority figures) might disagree on some points but agree on others; and teachers (school authority figures) might refuse to give an opinion because they’re fearful of parental backlash. (In which case, ask for a different teacher who has some guts!)

Question 2) What does your parent, teacher, or friend gain or preserve — morally, emotionally, or otherwise — from either agreeing or disagreeing with the anti-Santa stance taken in this article?

[Write notes and then type them up into a response paper. These can be consolidated within the same response paper file from above; but make sure you hit the “return” or “enter” key -below the existing text- a few times and then paste so that you’re not overwriting, if you’re copying from one file into another.]

Global warming?!? My ice floes are fine... Instead, sign this other petition! http://goo.gl/nYDjrU

Time Management Snafu Causes 8-Month Hiatus

I chose this title for its frankness and for its click-bait quality. Most readers would have expected the word “issues” after “time management,” but I wrote “snafu!” What a well-thought-out swerve…

Anyway, this title is probably not something a human resources person wants to see after asking you the interview question, “How do you manage your time to deal with conflicting deadlines?”

However, I’ve since resolved the issues by finishing the most challenging tasks first so that I can sleep-walk through some of the easier duties. Namely, finding a steady line of work that doesn’t require a long commute! Blogging took a backseat.

Of course, I would not reference “sleep walking” into any task if part of a job interview response, but my point is that most mental and emotional resources should be spent on the most important goals. (These should be the most challenging, but not always.)

Nonetheless, I’ve noticed the older I get, the more difficult time management becomes. And I haven’t even had my first full-time job yet, just a few part-time jobs, some of which are only seasonal!

So, how can anyone who’s only responsible for feeding and housing himself — and doesn’t watch TV, play video games, or aimlessly web surf — spend so much time and accomplish so little?

My primary problem is that I’m too ambitious in scope and have to switch off among projects to finish one while leaving the others to collect dust while I take notes on life experiences; get enough sleep to be alert and quick for work; and of course, actually perform paid work outside the home.

It is therefore clear that I’m not “wasting time” in the traditional sense of “slacker who sits around mentally idle.” Rather, I’ve been laying the groundwork for big things in 2016. To quote Frank Sinatra, “The best is yet to come,” but it requires much planning and proper implementation.

For example, on December 11, 2015, I launched the world’s first petition calling for occupational outcomes of the prior year’s cohort of program graduates (not just a few hand-picked “superstars”) to be announced publicly prior to disbursement of Title IV funds (financial aid) to any particular university.

A lengthier article on the petition is forthcoming — but for now, I’m finishing certain confidential commitments and will post once more before year’s end. Just remember: The sooner you prioritize full-time work, even the lower-waged jobs from any field that won’t reasonably kill or maim you (although some brave souls thrust themselves into such dangerous jobs), the sooner you can have a steady income schedule and thereby be free of the difficulty of how to monetize your spare time.

That is, you won’t have much more free time other than to sleep, but you’ll end up wasting less money — such as by avoiding the grave error of “sheltering in academia” — and be in an urgent frame of mind that forces you to prioritize, as opposed to attempting everything and end up failing miserably at time management.

To quote and rebut the Masser & Jennings song made famous by Whitney Houston, “Didn’t we almost have it all?!?” No. Why not?

You and the others merely focused upon a subset among the infinite domain of possibilities. To “almost have it all” implies approaching the real limit of these possibilities, which in reality not even the best mortal manager of time can do! It would take eons to “almost have it all!”

Well, I’m signing off before I take more tours into tangents. A lot of this is pure SEO bait, anyway. Why search engine optimization? To point to my petition! (One link per page is enough, however, lest a search penalty be applied.)

Global warming?!? My ice floes are fine... Instead, sign this other petition! http://goo.gl/nYDjrU

Calculatedly Candid Open Letter to the United Council of UW Students, Inc.

Donate to Educational Reformer Joseph Ohler, Jr.!

The purpose of this piece is not to disturb the peace — although I cannot control how sensitive types will misinterpret and perhaps internalize this organizational critique as a personal putdown — but rather, to explain why United Council (UC) has struggled in recent years.

UC needs to move beyond its normal operations. Leadership, rank, and file must do more than the usual United Council routine, which proves ineffectual in practical policy outcomes:

1) Why spend so much time trying to save its own skin — time made by ducking phone calls from alumni, because staff are preoccupied and meeting internally about their own woes — by presenting to a small slice of SGA leaders on campus to pitch an affirmative fundraiser referendum and sell another year of membership, without so much as showing concern for the opinions of the non-SGA-official student plebeians? Gotta be home by your curfew, eh?

2) Why stop at electing members to leadership positions, which don’t carry any cachet outside the extremely niche field of student government? Look out for the interests of non-leaders, too.

We can’t all be grassroots organizers or attain employment in Student Affairs. Even fewer of us can launch into politics (unless sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, which indirectly dictates our national policy and therefore the type of leaders we get, in undemocratic fashion, via institutional positioning and media priming).

3) Why talk about unconscious victimization of certain groups, when we’re all blatantly victimized by declining job prospects — or at least know someone who is — irrespective of UC’s head-in-the-sand attitude towards this?

To be certain, some students pine for the verbal nectar you give their itching ears: They want to feel as if they’re changing the world by attending meetings about internal UC business (to contrive stuff to do that looks good on a resume); making it easier for newer students to graduate (and therefore compete with them for jobs they might not even qualify for anyway); and fruitlessly lobbying for UW funding (of which $250 million in cuts were finalized, thanks in part to my grassroots organizing as the anti-UC).

Those are the activities that comprise the inner workings and visible doings of UC. So, how does United Council improve life for actual students? Let us examine some possibilities:

1) The tuition freeze on 2-year colleges? Not UC’s doing!

Governor Scott Walker — the very antithesis of everything UC purports to represent — proposed the tuition lock! UC cannot claim credit for what is politically inevitable.

I’m surprised United Council does not take credit for desirable weather in the Madison area! Such grandiosity would suit UC’s self-importance.

2) Sending UC staff to campus to explain what UC does? NOT helping students! It is merely self-serving promotional activity paid for by the very same students’ UC membership fees.

“Pay us, because we do important things for you, such as persuade you we’re important.” Hah!

3) Enhance the job prospects of students? No; United Council has never concerned itself with the job prospects of UW students generally, which is a damned shame and totally dismissing a valid motivation for thousands of student members.

Board members are too cowardly to challenge the UW System or professional programs at member campuses to produce job placement rates or 1-year post hoc occupational outcomes for those who recently earned their degree. It’s not that difficult to measure, but weak-kneed UC lacks the political will to fight that much-needed regulatory battle.

The only way to promote action on this underserved issue of school-to-work accountability within the UW System is to shame officials into responsive policymaking via blog articles.

Although this piece has posted United Council into the steel for its inaction on the matter, that is galvanize student leaders into utilizing UC’s core competence grassroots organizing into holding UW regents, chancellors, and their underlings at each campus accountable for how well their respective schools’ promise of “career development” has panned out in terms of wage premium (or the lack thereof) for some quantified plurality (or non-majority) of graduates.

By doing nothing, United Council is content that the UW System continues its exploitation of those students aspiring to become gainfully employed professionals. The knowledgeable bystander becomes an accomplice!

Even among “soft sciences” majors, you’ll find this attribute of career orientation applies to MOST students! I doubt few attendees of UC General Assemblies would say having a decent-paying job after college is NOT important. With that said…

…WHY isn’t United Council being directed to work on this?! Are student leaders so arrogantly self-assured that they’ll “have theirs” after degree conferral?

Dream on — we need collective action on this issue: If not for self-preservation of your own career track, then in altruistic solidarity. (That’s your lingo; those are your shibboleths. This SHOULD resonate, unless you’re being contrarian for contrary’s sake.)

The Bright Side of Missing 13 Percent of the UW System Budget

Donate to Educational Reformer Joseph Ohler, Jr.!

05-29-2015 UPDATE: Thanks to concerted grassroots lobbying efforts from disgruntled alumni and dissatisfied citizen-consumers, the Wisconsin legislature has mostly agreed with Governor Walker’s retrenchment of the UW System.

Only $50 million was restored, leaving 83.3 percent of the reductions in place. That’s great news for the University Accountability Movement! This has been a good year so far, on that dimension.

04-16-2015 UPDATE: In a rare case of insulated administrators acknowledging economic realities, UW-Madison has agreed to leave 400 positions unfilled; to indefinitely shutter over 320 Letters & Sciences courses; and to divert $3.5 million from the athletics department within Fiscal Biennium 2015-2017.

Good! That is but the beginning of fiscal retrenchment if UW-Madison doesn’t lead by example in proving its worth in as-of-yet unquantified employment rates and wage premiums of job-seeking alumni.

Students need this data to decide whether they even want to be students, when job prospects remain dismal despite conferral of one, two, or however many degrees. Risk management, people!

02-16-2015 ORIGINAL: Many have fretted over the imminent cuts to the University of Wisconsin (UW) System budget. Less for the state university means more for much-needed transportation projects, so what’s the big deal?

Most of those complaining about fiscal retrenchment are, of course, those on the UW payroll (the higher education hucksters and their nine-to-five, don’t-give-a-care-about-graduate-job-outcomes, support staff).

Some of those concerned are students, naïve people who somehow believe their future relies upon an educational institution with a mediocre track record for alumni career success — and if not mediocre, then why not publish some aggregate statistics, beyond hand-selected anecdotes?

Many more students are apathetic towards the budget cuts because they understand the following:

The university always cries wolf whenever it doesn’t get what it wants. Yet, life goes on despite the UW babies not getting all the candy they demand.

Neither university staff nor the system generally cares about their post-student success, so these well-informed students conserve mental and emotional energy by focusing on #1 instead of being sidetracked by those who would conscript them into a cause that mostly benefits UW employees.

Even if a student has such great relations with staff that they are invited to interview for USPA or whatnot, budget cuts that result in the cancellation of positions they want are a necessary introduction to economic reality. Call this “School of Hard Knocks Lite,” as there is always H2A migrant work on which to fall back — and you’ll get priority for selection as a U.S. citizen, unless you’ve never worked on a farm.

(That’s how I was disqualified from an H2A recruitment for which I went out of my way to apply. !No lo puede creer! Estoy un graduado sin futuro.)

Satellite Campuses Need Retrenchment, Too

UW-Madison is clearly in the best position to shoulder the lion’s share of budget reductions, because it receives the plurality of General Purpose Revenue (GPR): about 40 percent! But what about the satellite campuses, those so-called directional schools that comprise the majority of the UW student population?

I’ll use UW-Milwaukee as an example because it recruits heavily in the local Greater Milwaukee Area. Nowhere being a heavyweight on national rankings for any its programs, UWM nonetheless markets itself as a good school for career-oriented people — as opposed to those dreamers at UW-Madison, I suppose, who nonetheless wind up running circles around UWM grads in the labor market due to their proximity to startups and state government offices.

The Madison market is still glutted, though perhaps not as much as Milwaukee’s!

We hear of UWM’s handful of new graduate career successes every May — a dozen or so out of thousands of job-seeking grads; not even a reliable sample size — but what about its failures? The taxpaying public deserves an accounting of graduate occupational outcomes.

Here’s an up-close-and-personal example of such education-induced ruination: I bill myself as an educational consultant, but my primary means of income is packaging boxes for $10 hourly through a temp agency. That’s the best job offer I’ve received following 4 years of a full-time job search after I earned my master’s degree in public administration from UWM in 2010 (and I was pursuing positions each hour I wasn’t studying, working, or sleeping in grad school).

I know that I cannot possibly be an isolated outlier! There must be another 10, 20 percent of students generally who wash out in the labor market, i.e. work a job a GED or diploma holder could do; and this number is probably closer to 60 percent in some UWM departments / academic programs.

Who knows this, without hard data? Universities *don’t* want to know!

Duplicitous Universities Wash Their Hands of Alumni Woes; Demand Funding to Victimize More

The longer a university “has no substantial evidence” of economically ruined graduates, the longer it can play the denial card so common in public relations. Never mind how people such as me ARE substantive in their career woes that stem directly from dedicating their time, effort, and money to the stinking UW System!

Here’s why that systemic lack of information is deleterious — persistently harmful — to the public welfare:

Potential students (and parents, politicians, etc.) deserve to know what the median and mode earnings and nature of the job worked by graduates of each program are (salaried, FT hourly, PT hourly, involuntarily unemployed) for each year’s graduating (exiting senior) cohort following 1 year of degree conferral.

Surveys of (highly optimistic) expectations for employment at the time of graduation don’t communicate job outcomes; they don’t reflect reality!

Make restoration of that 13 percent contingent upon UWM and the other campuses coughing up class-wide data on actual employment outcomes for those alumni who have been either employed or seeking jobs approximately 1 year after degree conferral.

They won’t, unless forced to by the legislature. This underscores why it is better to slash an ineffective training system than to pump more money into it and expect change!

Pain Precedes Progress

This budget cut is painful for many UW workers and wanna-be UW workers — but needs to happen, so that my aforementioned accountability measures may be passed into law. That pain is but a fraction of the turmoil chronically under- and unemployed graduates endure for dedicating their time, effort, and money to the crummy UW System!

Just because these school-to-work accountability ideas are coming from a grossly under-employed holder of an advanced degree — with zero post-college wage premium and no *apparent* political standing — doesn’t mean everyone influential ignores the possibilities inherent within these ideas.

If every campus within the University of Wisconsin System would only provide solid data to show by what margins its program graduates are attaining employment — lest administrators fear otherwise (fraidy cats!) — then legislators and citizens alike would better operationalize the extent to which this vague notion of career preparation comes to fruition — or does not (ha!) — by investment in the UW.

This is my institutional legacy; my gift to higher education: Not settling for merely being a guy who wasn’t allowed by circumstantial consensus to earn what some graduates make — although that certainly informs my social views — but being the one to propose these tremendous reforms!

The $10 hourly manual labor job that I went to school to avoid, has inescapably become my highest-paying occupation. College wage premium = $0 for Joe Ohler!

And yet, I’m far from alone in this predicament, despite aspiring state college students’ collective delusion they’ll somehow fare better than someone who graduated college with an above-average GPA and student government administrative experience.

(I will someday publish an autobiography, at which point those interested may learn precisely what my GPA and pastimes were at various stages of my life. If that sounds boring, then consider all the people with whom I’ve interacted during my first 30 years alone. It gets wild!)

Anyway, I take the side opposite of the UW spin doctors: Consider that 13 percent budget cut as the institutional receipt for churning out so many graduates with poor job prospects!

BONUS: A New Day for UW

Recent news about UW leaving 400 jobs indefinitely vacant, and concomitant cancellation of marginally useful classes, has made many mucky-mucks morph into mopey-mopes.

However, I’m here to invert your grimace! Karaoke, you say? Indeed!
Let us all sing this song together, in grandiose celebration of a new day for the UW System. A one; a two — a 1-2-3!

“College Under Thumb” – Parody by SenatorJPO – 01:01 (1.40 MB)

[—Click above to download; lyrics are below—]

Under my thumb, that UW / That had pushed me around /

Under my thumb, now defunded / What had gone now comes around /

Glad it’s not me / I’m glad it’s not meUnder my thumb, demanding classes / That had jerked me around /

Under my thumb, now they’re canceled / Fewer students to be found /

Glad it’s not me / I’m glad it’s not me

Under my thumb, master’s program / That had promised me the world /

Under my thumb, now it’s shuttered / Its deceptions now unfurled /

Glad it’s not me / I’m glad it’s not me

6 Highly Effective Tactics of Protest for Political Influence (and Marching Isn’t One of Them)

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Demonstrators have wondered how they can effect change without publicly begging or screaming for attention in the streets in a way that causes decision makers to respect them even LESS!

“If protesters are only causing themselves trouble by congregating in the streets, then what should they do instead to influence policy?”

Mercifully for the uneducated and the misinformed, I hereby enumerate respectable public thoroughfares by which to communicate. If you want change, then use these avenues judiciously.

A peaceful and overall effective protest would consist of behaviors that I call the:


Six Tactics of Effective Protest

1) Write and mail articulate letters to elected officials — no page limit or word count is specified, and snail mail gets you a physical acknowledgement letter (usually a policy position template);

2) Submit timely comments at local hearings and via the Regulations.gov portal;

3) Send op-eds and letters to the editor to as many newspapers as you can — no acknowledgement is given unless your op-ed is published, so stick with email to save postage;

4) Author and publicize well-researched blog posts about facts and misconceptions pertaining to your cause — unlike letters to the editor, you can guarantee yourself publication and yammer on as long as you want;

5) Make polite, yet urgent phone calls to legislative district offices to explain why a public need exists for whichever cause you support (or why a certain cause is deleterious to the public welfare); and

6) Purchase advertising through channels that include at least some of your target audience. Because concision is everything in advertising, summarizing your policy position in a 30-second radio spot may prove more difficult than writing a well-reasoned letter to the editor.


Honorary Mentions

A) Vote. This has limited communicative ability because it implies you support ALL of a candidate’s political opinions, when in reality you might think all the candidates are unsympathetic to your causes.

This dilemma stems predominantly from causes that precede primaries and the cognitive inertia for most voters to trust only Republican and Democrat ballot choices.

Also, voting is only effective once every 2 years for representatives; 4 years for president, mayors, and some municipal council or town board seats; and every 6 years for senators. Voting is nonetheless useful if you truly support a particular candidate or ballot initiative — or even if you want to block an exceptionally bad candidate or defeat a referendum.

B) Boycott. This is more likely to get corporations’ attention that a mere street protest because it directly reduces their bottom line, except in case of a whiplash sentiment in the positive direction by that company’s most loyal customers!

Besides boycotts backfiring unpredictably, they simply don’t work against governmental units. Although a person might “vote with their feet” by relocating to another jurisdiction, that costs much more money than many protesters have. Ergo, the resources spent on a boycott are better spent lobbying government officials.


“Wow; that seems like a lot of writing!”

Yes, but writing is how laws are proposed, passed, and changed. You cannot expect anything outside the realm of official letters to make official impact; because officials do not recognize disturbances as legitimate policy inputs. Emergencies to be quelled with forceful detainment? Yes. Reasons to change the law? No!

Only campaign money; lots of constituent correspondence; and the occasional constitutional court case — not a criminal case for disturbing the peace, mind you — has ever brought or will ever bring any politician towards proposing or voting for a law change.

I know that sounds boring, but officials are more responsive to those who communicate in ways similar to how legislators communicate, i.e. professionally via institutionally legitimate means. The few “professional protesters” who exist are actually event monitors and intelligence agents disguised as run-of-the-mill demonstrators. Their social pedigree and income are far above that of those who’ve reason to protest!

Like any tool, constituent correspondence and publicly readable opinions must be used accurately to have their intended effect. It is particularly paramount to be not only accurate in your views but also precise enough to eliminate unwanted connotations and to minimize opportunities for incorrect interpretations of your words.

This especially rings true for contentious topics; the range of ideas explicitly expressed and implicitly implied must be something for which you take responsibility! Some further observations are therefore warranted about efficacious communication.

I prefer to write letters and to leave voice mails so that I can elaborate on specifics without having to repeat myself to whichever staffer is taking notes. This also ensures details are preserved, as otherwise an aide might paraphrase a well-articulated argument into over-simplistic talking points.

On the bureaucratic side, it is also easier for staff to photocopy a received letter or to transcribe a replay-able voice recording than it is to jot everything down during a live phone call, i.e. one real-time pass-through of the information within the statement.

Even if you’re not deaf, sending written remarks is the least ambiguous way to communicate complex policy positions. Comments are the best option for maximizing clarity if you have a speech impediment.

You have a better chance of acknowledgement for your political opinion, rather than for alleged criminal activity, when you lobby because the interactions are one-on-one. This is much better for being recognized as an informed, concerned constituent who is likely to vote than you would signal as part of a vaguely identified mob of unknown geographic voting constituency.

Email is also one-on-one if you remember to address one email per legislator and to personalize the greeting. If you send an obvious group email, then legislators and aides will feel less pressure to respond, lest your message allegedly “got caught in the spam trap.”

To create the impression that many constituents are independently reaching the same conclusion(s) on a policy object, don’t copy a phone script or message template given to you by some organization.
Interest groups — such as the conference-and-meeting factory known as United Council of UW Students — understand their members lack the intelligence and critical thinking to customize their boilerplate copy without losing the gist of the prose, but you can do better.

The fact that you’re reading my blog sets you above the pedestrian political pawn! It also implies you have the independent will and the inquisitive mind for cleverness to express policy problems and solutions in your own terms.

Time-Wasting Protesters Not Unique to Low-Information Ferguson

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In my previous article, I explained why demonstrating is more dangerous to the participants than to policy makers. This present piece examines how protesting is a waste of time.

In contrast to institutionally legitimate means of communication, marching in the streets — no matter how organized — in the vain hope of influencing decision makers, means you’re incompetent at learning how to use the intended tools to express your political views outside the ballot box.

Yes, protesters immediately identify themselves as having a long learning curve on how to function in society. Austerity protests I can understand to the extent official avenues for public input are shut down due to budget cuts.

But throwing a hissy fit over a grand jury deciding insufficient evidence exists to pursue a prosecution, is just as immature as claiming all the forensic evidence against O.J. Simpson was somehow tampered with any more than the evidence that put away Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, and Greenwood Attorneys at Law.

These ineffectual individuals are living proof that poor people screw themselves over, most notably by having children.

When the economically handicapped become disenchanted enough with their chances at a better life to the point of futile demonstrations, they should not produce offspring, for their children will be subjected to the same economic constraints and learn the same pessimistic outlook that ultimately leads to self-marginalization.

And even with an idealistic attitude that all you need for some measure of success is to conform long enough to receive you reward, zero-sum reality dictates a critical mass of poverty — around 30 percent of a local population, according to studies — results in a situation where unemployment remains high.

This wage scarcity keeps familial income low, further straining social services and encouraging higher-income people to move into lower-tax locales. Why bring children into such an unforgiving social milieu that is stacked against their financial success and wellbeing?

Desiring to raise a family when poor might seem noble and traditionalist. In fact, some aging parents encourage, henpeck, and lobby their adult children to produce grandchildren for entirely selfish reasons. Such an approach of “give me grandkids at any cost” spells economic doom for already impoverished adult children because their offspring are bred into an unwinnable situation of too few jobs for too many consumers.

In this perpetual scarcity scenario, acting irrationally, i.e. street protesting, seems like the most sensible choice — but it’s not, as demonstrated by the illegality of public exuberance and when compared to institutionally accepted means of lawful influence. (Read more about six legitimate means of influencing policy.)

Civil rights marchers did not cause Brown v. Board of Education or any other judicial interpretation of constitutional protections; only the plaintiffs and Supreme Court judges influenced the outcome.

Similarly, opponents of purported police brutality flood the streets in hopes that enough grand jury members will see their painful emotional appeals and be moved to presume guilt against the cop who killed in self-defense during a perpetrator’s commission of a felony, i.e. see a justified homicide performed in the line of duty as somehow illegal, because a bunch of uneducated, under-employed protesters said so!

Demonstrations are an instance in which the “wisdom of the crowd” is really folly. If you want to make an impact, then file a court case, launch a boycott, comment to regulatory agencies about notices of proposed regulations; and/or lobby elected officials. Anything else does you a disservice.

That sounds rather depressing, no? But the means of change are within grasp — and that “grasp” is not a clenched fist; a Molotov cocktail; or stolen goods!

Legally permissible means of change are — surprise! — those which enumerate specific problems with statutory and regulatory language and those that communicate solutions in terms of legal modifications.

Yet, that is too much to ask from a bunch of immature protesters — for they lack the capacity to think clearly most days and need their sensational fixes through drugs, music, television, and movies. Education for these people happens predominantly when they are stuck in a classroom or learning an illicit, unlawful trade from acquaintances.

The sidewalk blockers are therefore a bunch of intellectual cattle, who rely on figureheads to speak coherently for the incoherent masses that have no destiny but that which is selected for them — because they lack the level-headedness and intelligence to exploit politically feasible avenues for legal change, rather than waste their (empirically worthless) time protesting and demonstrating to absolutely no politician’s concern.

Calling and writing Congress, state government, and your common council does not take any more money than inviting your friends to a protest! You may as well host a legislative action party instead of fooling around with confrontations-gone-wrong.

As for a demonstrators’ economic prospects? Unless you’re already a member of a professional union, marching is a lower-class behavior that designates you as unhireable for white-collar positions. Even if you aspire to be a grassroots organizer, you have plenty of cutthroat competition from your fellow ideologues — and they’re probably not letting you into the organization that hires them, due to defensive self-interest.

Don’t enroll at a university by any stretch — unless for a particular managerial or technical certificate your supervisor says you “need” before s/he can promote you — but explore some low-cost training such as teaching yourself graphical design and writing for the sake of clarifying and informing.

Why do people protest instead of make themselves useful? Emotional contagion from collective learned helplessness.

This is what happens when people protest unwinnable issues: They invest emotionally into a course of action (protesting) without first verifying the potential efficacy of that plan of action (no one will decide things differently after the protest).

Their learned helplessness is from a consistently poor living situation, no matter how many job applications sent forth (no one’s interested) or wages saved (rent increases eat up emergency savings).

Emotional contagion from “Generation Frustration” and similar demographics spreads within their social circles, such that cathartically making a boisterous scene is more appealing — provides “greater economic utility,” as the Ivory Tower academics would put it — than writing an articulate letter or speaking calmly with a legislative aide.

And yes, this means a few bad apples or agent provocateurs in a group can cause mass rioting — the effects of emotional contagion are that predictable!

The textbook example for ineffectual collective action is every demonstration ever for a pending court decision: Courts do NOT listen to public sentiment when handing down verdicts! They rely upon legal precedent and the facts of the case — nothing else!

Ergo, attempts to influence courts and grand juries are inconsequential for them as court officials and perhaps injurious to you as an individual. Either you file an amicus curie brief like the legislators and state attorneys general do, or you effectively say nothing at all!

Trying to reach court personnel via the media is pointless because — even if you’re allowed on camera or are quoted in articles — your messages will NOT be heard by the judiciary: Judges and jury members are not allowed to consume news about their ongoing cases!

That’s a really simple principle, but the Ferguson demonstrators didn’t care. It literally took a police crackdown to persuade protesters they would have nothing to gain by continuing their demonstration, except to look like dummies.

They subsequently feel not only helpless but also forcibly oppressed — acknowledged for the WRONG reasons! — whereas writing letters and speaking with official staffers would have only resulted in helplessness at worst, without anyone to intervene in their non-violent communications or to entice them into illegal activity.

You have a better chance of acknowledgement for your political opinion, rather than for alleged criminal activity, when you lobby because the interactions are within an institutionally welcomed communications channel. This is true whether you call, write, or visit the offices of legislators.