Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How to Get Smarter

Intelligence--the ability to reason rigorously, generate good ideas fluently, and learn rapidly--is no guarantor of career and life success, but it sure helps.

While intelligence is partly hard-wired, not all is. My latest AOL piece takes a shot at helping you figure out if you're optimizing your brainpower and, if not, what to do about it.

"Peace and Goodwill to ALL?" Bah humbug!

Christmas sentiments such as "peace and goodwill to all," are, at best sappy and at worst, silly. So, in my latest piece in US News, I try to strike a balance between the pre-and-post-ghost-visited Scrooge. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Holidays May be the BEST Time to Look for a Job

This is a time-sensitive post.

My clients have long found that the Holidays--contrary to conventional wisdom--may be year's best time to job-hunt.

Of course, as the legal disclaimers in weight-loss ads say, "Your experience may vary," but I believe the idea is worth your consideration. I make the case in my latest US News article, which also just got picked up by Yahoo!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why the School and Workplace Shootings

Why have school and workplace shootings, virtually unknown until the late '60s, been proliferating, with the Sandy Hook, Newtown Connecticut shootings, perhaps the most horrible yet.

Of course, many things have changed in the past 50 years that could have contributed. 

Some claim that video games are partly responsible because they're more interactive than are TV shows. But kids have been playing with toy guns since toys were invented yet it wasn't until the late '60s when school and workplace shootings started proliferating.

Others argue that the dissolution of the two-parent family is contributory. But most of the school and workplace shooters have come from two-parent families.

Still others blame the greater pressure that teens and young adults face. Possibly.

But one senses that the core causality doesn't fully reside there.

Then there's this more controversial question: Why have most such massacres been committed by white men when non-white men have a much higher violent-crime rate?

I believe an answer to both of those questions lies in an undiscussed important partial cause: Since the civil rights/feminist movement began in the late 60s, white men have been subjected to an unrelenting, indeed accelerating, message that they are bad. In sitcoms, commercials, and movies, the white male is disproportionately portrayed as evil, sleazy, or foolish, shown up by a wise women and/or minority. That unfairness extends to news media coverage and even school curriculum, where the accomplishments of women and minorities and the failings of white males are accentuated. And the schools, colleges, and media diminish white men's contributions by insisting they're heavily the result of white male privilege, the legacy of slavery, and institutional racism.

Previous generations of poorly adjusted, unsuccessful white males were comforted by the world's telling them that people of their race and gender are okay. That started changing in the '60s and is accelerating through today.

So here, I propose a model for explaining the causes of massacres such as the Newtown shootings, and, in turn, a new idea for reducing their proliferation:

1. The person is unbalanced
2. The person has experienced much painful failure.
3. He sees the world pervasively denigrate his sex and race. No comfort here.
That's a perfect storm for his lashing out.
4. When he experiences a particularly angering event, he's pushed over the edge.

The new piece in this formula, of course, is #3: failed white men being made to feel their race and gender are inferior. How to address it? When Blacks and women were sometimes portrayed negatively in the media, activists screamed that those portrayals had unfair negative effects on women's and minorities' self-esteem and behavior. As a result, the schools, colleges, and media dramatically changed. Yet when the opposite is true, that white males, for decades now, are treated unfairly, we don't hear a peep. In the many articles and TV segments on the Newtown shootings that I've reviewed, I've never once heard that mentioned as one of the causes. Rather, we hear only politically correct explanations:

There are calls to ban automatic weapons. Yet following the sunset of the assault weapons ban, contrary to gun control advocates' fears, the violent crime rate has declined. I fear that even if all private ownership of guns were banned, it would not deter those planful, often intelligent assailants. The Internet is rife with a panoply of frighteningly easy ways to wreak havoc.

There are calls for increased mental health services. Alas, the psychology profession does not offer a magic pill. Already, because of the Mental Health Parity Act, people are covered for mental health to the same extent as for physical health and the schools and workplaces have long been on high-alert for incipient mental problems. But the fields of psychodiagnosis, psychotherapy, and psychopharmacology are, alas, still in their relative infancy and suffer from failure rates too high to place sufficient confidence that the solution will heavily reside there.

Until we view problems in full dimension, not censoring ideas that are politically incorrect, we are unlikely to develop the best solutions not just to mass shootings, but to most societal problems.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advanced Networking; The Art of Making Deep Connection...Fast

Networking fails for many job seekers because it usually takes so long to work that the person has given up or is homeless before it works.

My latest AOL.com article is how to network in such a way that it can create deep-enough connection quickly. HERE is the link.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

An Advanced Approach to Resume Writing

When it rains, it pours.

Monday, the first post in my weekly career blog at U.S.News was published: Job Market Predictions for 2013 and Beyond.

That day, I got a call from Pam Kruger, editor-in-chief of AOL's job channel asking if I'd write a separate weekly career blog for AOL. My first post there, on an advanced approach to resume writing, was just published as the main article on AOL's job channel.  If by the time you click on it, it's no longer the main story, here's the permalink.

I'll be posting on U.S. News every Monday and on AOL every Tuesday. For your convenience, I'll post a link to each week's post here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Fresh Idea for Executive Training

As part of my own professional development, I joined a LinkedIn discussion group on heartfelt leadership. Their core belief is the wise leader strives to balance the three sorts of accomplishment: profits, people, and planet.

To this point, the discussion group has shared atomistic ideas whereas my sense is that they need a major initiative. I'm writing this blog post to develop a proposal for what it might be.

I like the model of a TED conference: luminaries sharing their best ideas concisely, using visuals as appropriate. But perhaps it could be taken a step further. I'm wondering if it would be best if presenters give only a few-minute mini-lecture supplemented by a potentially transformative activity. Presenters thus would be selected on their ability to do both at a high level and that their content is crucial yet not obvious. 

A useful target audience might be the many executives who have been laid off or fired and are disheartened. Perhaps adding heartfeltness to their skill set might reinvigorate them as well as make them more marketable, at least marketable to the kinds of organizations that a heartfelt leader might want to work for.

I can picture the Heartfelt Leadership Intensive being a one-day event, perhaps on a Saturday, which would consist of the following:

An introductory talk by luminary executive, an exemplar of a heartfelt leader. He or she would explain how s/he incorporated heartfelt leadership into every aspect of work: hiring and firing, budgeting, goal setting, managing, etc.

Then there would be four one-hour blocks, each commandeered by one of the aforementioned presenters.  For the group activities, participants would be divided at random or using the results of a personality inventory such as the SCID-II executive personality inventory. 

The final two hours would be a job-search bootcamp for executives, in which each participant walked away with an individualized action plan for landing a job as an executive, ideally a position that valued heartfelt leadership.

Participants would be invited to, after the Intensive, continue conversations with attendees and/or sign up for ongoing coaching with a top executive coach.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Job Market Predictions for 2013

HERE is my inaugural weekly contribution to U.S. News.

It's Part I of My Job Market Predictions for 2013 and Beyond.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Parenting Your Gifted Child






Guiding Your Gifted Child
 by Marty Nemko
(Originally appeared in the Mensa publication, The Intelligencer)

The government incentivizes schools and teachers to improve low-performing students' achievement. As a result, too often, bright and gifted kids' needs shortchanged.
What's the parent or other caring relative of a gifted child to do?

Choosing a School
One option is to try to get your child admitted to a school with a large percentage of high-ability and/or high achieving kids: a school in your district or an inter-district transfer.

Whether or not such options are available to you, as the new school year or semester approaches, find out if there's a teacher of your child's grade who would be much better with kids like yours than would the other teachers. If so, ask the principal or counselor if your child might be placed in that class. You'll be on safer ground if you couch it as, "I visited the classes my child might be in next year and it really seems that Ms. X would be the best fit for his needs. Might you be willing to place him there?" You can't request that too often but do it once or twice during your child's stint at that school and you can make a big difference in her education without undue effort.

Skip a Grade or Four?
Consider acceleration, grade-skipping. Especially with today's focus on low-achieving students, acceleration works better for many kids than does badgering the on-grade teacher to accommodate to your child's needs. Often, despite incessant tactful requests from the parent, above-average kids sit stultified in today's mixed-ability classes. And if a kid is active, s/he gets in trouble and too often put on a Ritalin leash...at a ratio of eight boys for every one girl.

Many parents worry that the academic benefits of grade-skipping will be outweighed by social mismatch but generally, if the receiving teacher is enthusiastic and has the child sit next to a supportive, respected student, the result is superior to the aforementioned badgering.

If the idea of grade-skipping appeals, schedule a meeting with the principal in which you don't blame teacher or the school. Couch your request as simply trying to get an appropriate-level education for your child. Support your case by showing a portfolio of the child's work in and out of school, test scores, and a supporting letter(s) from the child's teacher, head of the district's gifted program, and/or a private educational consultant.  

After School
While we parents like to think we're most important to our child's development, recent research suggests that peers may have more influence. That means that one of our most potent interventions is to facilitate good friendships. If you don't know which kids to invite to your home or on trips, etc., visit your child's class and watch the kids not only in the classroom but at recess. Of course, ask your child who s/he'd like to befriend.

Parents of gifted kids tend to overschedule their kids after school. Be selective. Not every kid needs exposure to soccer,  flute lessons, religious school, and community service. Gifted kids are still kids, and they, like all of us, can use down time. Some of my happiest childhood memories are simply of watching clouds, or snowflakes land on the window. That all said, some supplementation of course is wise. Hoagie's Gifted (www.hoagiesgifted.org) is a portal to an amazing range of options for gifted kids and their parents and teachers, from ten-minute activities to summer programs.

Emotions
Even some well-adjusted gifted kids suffer emotionally. Especially if they're in a school with few intellectual peers, they may suffer from the Hobson's choice of being disliked or dumbing themselves down, for example, by not raising their hand often. Even though it's contrary to today's egalitarian ethos, I think it's wise to often remind your child that s/he is intellectually superior. Of course, that doesn't justify their being obnoxious to others, but quietly recognizing their superiority can balm against the slings and arrows.

Don't assume that because a child is intellectually advanced, s/he's not below average in some emotional or social area. Despite having a Ph.D. in educational psychology and a school psychology credential, except in severe cases, I'm not a big fan of therapy. If my child were mildly depressed, socially anxious, or simply socially clueless, I'd focus on simple behavioral strategies: giving gentle feedback on their behavior, modeling the desired behavior, encouraging them to work to their strengths rather than focusing much on weaknesses, and encouraging some non-academic area that feeds them: in the arts, sports, helping others, whatever.  

Of course, significant dyslexia, spectrum disorder, bipolar, etc usually require professional assistance. Severe hyperactive (ADHD) kids may benefit from Ritalin, Adderal, etc. 

I know I'm preaching to the choir here but I believe that a high-ability child is one of society's greatest treasures. I wish they were more valued by today's schools but they're not. That leaves it to us. It may be some of our most important work.

Dr. Nemko is an education and career adviser to people young and old. His seven books include How to Get Your Child a Private School Education in a Public School and How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School. Reach him at mnemko@comcast.net.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How We Select Our Leaders, Reinvented


Here is my next column in Mensa's The Intelligencer. 


The Life Well-Led
by Marty Nemko

How We Select Our Leaders, Reinvented

Is the the lying and deceptions of both presidential candidates disgusting you? How about that they and their SuperPACS will have spent $2 billion, heavily to pay for truth-obfuscating commercials, slick ads that clutter your e-mail and snail mailbox, not to mention telemarketing get-out-the-vote phone calls interrupting your dinner?

And the future bodes worse: The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision means that they can raise money without limits to manipulate us into voting for them.

Indeed, today, nearly every sentence spoken by major politicians is dial focus-group tested by Madison-Avenue-inspired "messaging teams."  Sometimes it seems we're not voting for the best candidate but for the best propaganda machine.

As troubling, those special interests wouldn't be pouring billions into campaigns unless they were confident it would make politicians do their bidding rather than what's best for the nation.

Perhaps worst of all, the need to run a four-year-long press-the-fat-cat's flesh campaign deters many of the most worthy people from running.

I believe that the following two approaches would ensure we elect better and less-corrupted leaders:

The Two-Week Publicly-Funded Campaign

  • All campaigns would be 100% publicly-funded. That has been proposed and rejected in the past as a denial of free speech. I believe that abridgment is far outweighed by the benefit to society
  • All campaigns would be just two weeks long. That would control cost and only minimally reduce voter knowledge: By the time most voters vote, they've forgotten what they heard  weeks ago.
  • The campaigns would consist only of one or two broadcast debates. Those would be followed by a job simulation: running a meeting.
  • A neutral body such as C-Span or Consumers Union would post each major candidate's biographical highlights, voting record, and platform on key issues. 
Such a system would reduce candidates' corruptibility while increasing the quality of information voters would have about the candidates. As important, better candidates would run, knowing they needn't run an endless, expensive, beholden-to-special-interests campaign.  

Alas, this problem does create a thorny problem: Who participates? The best solution I can come up with is that the Democrats, Republicans, Socialists/Greens, and Libertarians would each have the option to present a candidate.

An even more different approach: Don't Elect. Select.

In Don't Elect. Select, our government officials would be selected, not by voting but using passive criteria. For example, the Senate might consist of the most newly retired of the 10 largest nonprofits, a randomly selected CEO of the S&P Midcap 400, the Police Officer of America's Cop of the Year, the National Teacher of the Year, the most award-winning scientist under age 30, a randomly selected Harvard visual/performing arts instructor, plus random citizens.  To ensure sufficient but not excessive continuity, the senators would every four years, anonymously rate each others' job performance, and the top 25% would retain their job for the next four years and the other 75% would be selected using the passive criteria mentioned in this paragraph.

The benefits of this system:


  • We’d have a more worthy and ideationally diverse group of leaders.
  • Because there would be no campaigns, our leaders would not be beholden to big donors.
  • The public would view such a leadership with more respect than they have for our elected candidates.
  • The absence of campaigns would save the public a fortune. Just our income tax form’s $3-per-person check-off box to political campaigns is projected to, over the next 10 years, cost the taxpayer $617 million[i].

Of course, one might argue that the incumbent politicians would never allow it. After all, the foxes are guarding the hen house. But I believe the media, equally eager to see better leaders, would urge the electorate to support candidates who would vote for a fairer selection system. And politicians, concerned about their place in history, would feel pressure to support the change. History would view politicians that voted themselves out of a job for the good of the nation as heroes, while no-voting politicians would be seen as self-serving obstructionists.

Another objection is that Don’t Elect. Select would require a Constitutional amendment, which is no easy task, but the Constitution has already been amended 27 times. I can’t think of a more worthy reason for number 28.



This is an adapted excerpt from from my just-published seventh book: What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Are We Sure Enough that Democracy is Best?

Most people accept, as an article of faith, that democracy is better than dictatorship. Indeed, the U.S. spends billions trying to convert dictatorships to democracies...except, of course, the dictatorships the U.S. likes.

But is there sufficient evidence that democracy, net, is superior to dictatorship, to what Voltaire advocated: benevolent despotism? (He called it, "enlightened absolutism.")

Examples: King Frederick the Great and Empress Catherine II of Russia  incorporated many ideas of enlightened philosophies and were great advocates of tolerance and of the arts. 

Of course, we can point to dictatorships that were a huge net negative: for example, Hitler, Idi Amin, Stalin, and Robert Mugabe. But many democracies also do poorly, although they're less likely to yield extreme failures because of democracy's self-regulating nature.

The question is whether we should accept as an unquestioned postulate that democracy is so superior to dictatorship/benevolent despotism that there is no better way for the U.S. to spend the billions of our tax dollars it spends every year trying to convert dictatorships into democracies, often unsuccessfully.

Certainly, democracy has advantages: The citizenry is more likely to feel buy-in, ownership in the country's laws and mores. There's the stability that accrues from democracy's self-regulatory nature. There's the cosmic justice that leaders are selected based on the collective decision-making of the electorate  And the decision to elect a person represents a lot of collective wisdom: the entire electorate's. That's crowdsourcing on a massive scale.

That said, democracy has serious liabilities:

The electorate is manipulated by ever more sophisticated "messaging teams" so that who we vote for is heavily based, not on who'd be best at running the country, but on which candidate has the most effective propaganda machine.

The people who run for democratically elected office must run a constant four-year press-the-flesh campaign, thereby deterring many top people for considering becoming a government leader.

Democratically-derived legislation leads to tepid compromise that has been ironed out over months and years rather than bold decisions made quickly. Yes, often, compromise, deliberateness, and moderation are optimal, but sometimes bold, individually derived initiatives would be wiser. Those are difficult to come by in a democracy. 

This list of democracy's and dictatorship's pros and cons is not meant to be exhaustive but only to justify the worthiness of considering this question: Are we too blithely assuming that democracy is such a net good that, in these tight budget times, that there is no better use of the billions of dollars we taxpayers spend every year trying to get other countries to change their "misguided" ways?  

 I truly am not sure but am interested in your thoughts. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Upcoming US News Blog and Speaking Engagements

The start date for my weekly U.S. News career blog is Dec. 3. My first post will be Workplace/Career Predictions and Trends for 2013. 

As mentioned in a previous post, my contract with U.S. News requires my posts be original to U.S. News, but I can re-post them here a week later. So, my next career post here will be Dec 10, when I will re-post that Predictions and Trends piece.

For those of you'd like my current career advice now, here are options:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How to Be Smart in a Stupid World

  • Before making a decision, even a small one, ask yourself, "What's the risk/reward or cost/benefit of each option?"
  • Draw your political perspectives from the likes of Tom Friedman, David Gergen, and Charles Krauthammer not from entertainers, for example, Jon Stewart, Dennis Miller, or Stephen Colbert, let alone Angelina Jolie, Adam Sandler, or Bono.
  • Patronize The Economist, The PBS News Hour, CSpan, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal rather than TimeThe Daily Beast, Cable Network TV News, or the Huffington Post, let alone floggers (no it's not a typo) such as the Daily Kos or Daily Caller
  • Prefer people who have developed intelligently derived views from both liberal and conservative perspectives rather than people who are liberal or conservative on everything.
  • Draw your beliefs more from non-fiction, for example, good biographies or books on leadership than from fiction: novels, movies, and plays. Fiction creators are artists. I don't believe it's wise to form one's views based disproportionately on artists' input.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

To Find a Job, Break the Rules

Standard job-search techniques aren't working well.

My clients are having more success using the strategies I describe in To Find a Job, Break the Rules. It's published in the current issue of Bottom Line Personal.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Which Colleges or Graduate Schools Should You Apply To?

This time of year, many people are choosing the colleges and graduate schools to apply to.

You'll likely create a wiser list if you ask an admissions person the questions among these that are relevant to your situation:
  • For a student with my grades and test scores, what's the average freshman-to-senior growth in reading  writing, etc? (If you're told that the institution doesn't collect that data, it suggests they don't care enough about student growth to do so.)
  • What percentage of freshmen with my grades, test scores, and planned major, graduate within four years? Five years?  If it's a graduate program, what is the average, not the expected, time it takes to complete the degree?
  • My family makes $X a year and has, not counting their home, has $Y in assets. My GPA is Z and my SAT/GRE etc is Q.  Approximately, how much am I likely to end up paying in cash and how much loan will I be expected to take? And what will my package look like in years 2-4? Year 5 and beyond?
  • In your institution's most recent accreditation review, did it receive a full ten-year term? What did the accreditation's visiting team report cite as your institution's greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses? 
  • Would you email me a copy of the results of the most recent student or alumni satisfaction survey?
  • What percentage of graduates in my planned major are professionally employed within a year of graduation?

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Most Anti-Capitalist Scene Ever?

Some days, I lean capitalist, other days more socialist. This scene from Death of a Salesman pushes me leftward.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Sampler from the One-Woman Show I Co-Wrote and Piano-Accompanied

Here's a six-minute sampler from the one-woman show I co-wrote and piano-accompanied, Big, Black, and Shy. 

It starts with the performer, Jeffrie Givens, recreating an incident as a preschooler that reveals her extreme shyness. It includes a cameo appearance by my doggie Einstein.

At 1;04, there's the first snippet of her remarkable singing/performing ability.

That's followed by the improbable (and funny) true story of how I helped her go from being so shy to someone who performs in front of thousands of people.

At 3:45, she ends her show with a song the lyrics of which embed a lesson we all could probably benefit from.

As you'll see, she got a standing ovation, as she has every time she's performed the show.


 

My Approach to Being a Talk Show Host and Producer


Today, I entered my 24th year as producer and host of Work with Marty Nemko. So I figure it's not a bad time to tell you a bit about how I do it.

These ideas might be instructive not just for talk show producers and hosts but more broadly.

I choose guests with little regard to how much media experience they have. I care mainly that their mind is fertile, their content fresh and important, and they can think on their feet--I pre-interview most guests.

To help compensate for their lacking media experience, I embed these tips in the email I send them confirming their appearance:
Guests often ask me, "What makes a successful interview on your show?" Of course, it varies with the topic, but generally speaking, a good guest offers non-obvious but important information, entertainingly dispensed, for example, with a good anecdote.

My guests have also found the following tip helpful. Follow "The Traffic Light" rule of thumb: During the first 30 seconds of an utterance, your imaginary "light" is green: your audience is paying attention. During the next 30 seconds, your light is yellow: Some people are starting to space out and/or think you're long-winded. After the 60-second mark, your light is red. Yes, there are occasional times you want to run a red light, for example, when you're telling a clearly interesting story or when an answer requires a bit more than 60 seconds, but generally you should stop. If more info is warranted, I'll ask a follow-up question. Using the traffic-light rule of thumb ensures the change of voices that makes an interview more of a vibrant exchange than a series of lecturettes. 
I strive to be authentic. For example, some talk show hosts use a "radio talk show voice." I speak naturally, conversationally. My career counseling clients that have heard me on the radio say I sound exactly the same. My favorite radio host, This American Life's Ira Glass has made the same choice. His voice could win an award for least likely to be a radio host yet his show is one of the most celebrated in radio history.

I sometimes script my introductions, other times not. There's an authenticity that comes from a non-scripted introduction but I've learned how to read a script so it doesn't sound scripted: I paraphrase and/or add a bit to the script, ad-lib.

For my typical half-hour interview, I usually prepare six to eight questions. I put them in a planned order but after asking the first question, I listen carefully to the answer so I can decide whether to comment, ask an unplanned follow-up question, or go to one of my planned questions. Listening well is very important and very underrated.

I send my planned questions to my guest in advance. My goal is not to stump him or her; it's to elicit the most thoughtful, rich answers s/he can generate.

Some listeners decide whether to keep listening based on the guest's answer to my first question so that question is usually the one I think will most interest my listeners and that my guest is likely to answer wonderfully. 

If there's a really tough question I want to ask, for example, one that invites a candid admission, I ask it right after s/he's given a great answer and is feeling relaxed. An example of when that worked particularly well  was when I interviewed Los Angeles Dodger great, Maury Wills. At the right moment, I asked, "Hall-of-Famer Don Sutton was always suspected of doctoring the baseball so it would do weird curves when pitched. How'd he do it?" Wills responded, "Oh, I kept a bit of emery cloth in my glove and when the ball was thrown around the infield after an out, I'd rub the ball against the emery and throw it back to the pitcher." For those of you who aren't baseball cognoscenti, he admitted committing an offense serious enough to warrant a suspension from baseball and maybe even get Sutton's Hall of Fame status asterisked. 

While I try to be kind to my guests, my main obligation is to my listeners. So when necessary, I will probe and be tough on guests if it will better serve my listeners. Similarly, during the show's call-in segment, while I try as hard as I can to help each caller, if I feel the air-time will be better spent if I interrupt, I do so even though it may seem rude.

While I try to err on the side of being encouraging to callers, I'm not afraid to be discouraging. For example, today, a caller asked what I thought of her business idea of having play-centric workshops for dog owners: creating Halloween costumes for dogs, how your doggie can help you deal with winter's cabin fever, etc. My response was that I don't believe people would pay enough money to make that more than a hobby. I suggested instead that she, who has lots of experience with dogs, dog owners, and their psychology, offer petology counseling: pet bereavement counseling or how to deal with being told, for example, that their pet has cancer requiring expensive treatment, which the owner can't afford. The caller was disappointed I didn't like her idea but I believe that she and the listeners were better served by my straight shooting. 

I must admit to occasionally and reluctantly pulling punches in areas of political correctness. Dare an idea of mine veer right of center even occasionally, I engender such anger from the supposedly tolerant liberal NPR audience that they often contact the station demanding I be taken off the air. It's hard to make myself continue to endure such opprobrium. So, increasingly, I've found myself skirting such issues. 

Often now, when I want to tackle a controversial topic I do it by moderating a debate between two equally-skilled protagonists. Or I might debate myself: I first do the best I can advocating for one side then the best I can in taking the other side and finally inviting callers to weigh in. Perhaps most fun, my wife and occasional co-conspirator on the show, Barbara Nemko, and I are the debaters and, in the middle, we switch sides. That way, the listeners can choose the side they find most persuasive, unaffected by which debater is better.

Producing and hosting Work with Marty Nemko has been one of my life's most rewarding activities. If you have a fertile mind and can think on your feet, you might want to try it but don't expect it to be remunerative. Even if it's not, it's still worth doing. And if you do it without expecting pay, it's relatively easy to broadcast your show, for example, by podcasting, or on a public-access television station or campus radio station.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Muslim Employment and Marketing

The Muslim population is growing rapidly worldwide. In the U.S, it's expected to double by 2030 to 6.2 million.

Here are some thoughts regarding careers for and serving Muslims and marketing to Muslims:

Sensitivity to Muslim employees' needs
  • Observant Muslims pray five times a day. In many if not most situations, it seems to me reasonable for an employer to offer Muslim employers flexible hours. Of course, s/he must get as much work done as a non-Muslim employee.
  • Just as employers have appropriately become more tolerant of employees that wear nose rings and tattoos, even in customer-facing positions, I believe employers should not be biased against job candidates that wear a hijab and burka (veil and modest outfit,) even in customer-facing positions. That said, as of now, it may be easier for Muslims to find professional-level work in such fields as accounting, engineering, and writing, for example, technical writing.
Attracting Muslim consumers
  • Observant Muslims value sexual modesty, religiosity, and family. Advertising that reflects that will be more effective.
  • Clothiers expecting to appeal to Muslim women should, in addition to hijabs and burkas, American-style dresses and skirts, but of longer length, even in the summer months.
  • Consider an advertising campaign around Eid, which is a gift-giving holiday.
  • Muslims are forbidden to touch alcohol or pork. Much makeup uses alcohol and pork fats. To attract Muslim consumers, vendors should sell makeup with neither. 
FYI: You might ask, "Why would someone with veil-covered face care to wear makeup?" Answer: She is allowed to remove the veil at home.
Employment and Self-Employment Opportunities Serving Muslims
  • Observant Muslim women will not disrobe for medical examinations and treatments if the practitioner is a man. More female health care providers are needed, especially those speaking Arabic and/or Farsi.
  • Muslims eat Halal meat, in which animals are slaughtered in, let's just say a different, way. Muslims also eat more goat than do other groups. Halal meat farmers and distributors should thrive.
  • Muslims are not allowed to charge interest on loans. There are workarounds. Financiers who specialize in Sukuk, bonds, where the lender takes part-ownership, should do well.
  • Halal-friendly tourism: tours offering Halal food, hotels with sex-segregated pools and that do not serve alcohol, schedules that allow five prayer periods a day, include Mosque visits, etc. 
  • Halal personal chefs
  • Islamic studies programs are burgeoning at universities. While in most fields, PhDs have trouble landing a professorship, it may be easier for PhDs in Islamic Studies.
  • The CIA and related agencies seek candidates competent in one or more Middle Eastern languages and cultures. 
  • Muslim psychologists, especially "matrimonial counselors." While there is a growing Muslim feminist movement, most Muslim relationships are different from typical Americans'. Psychologists and other counselors who understand and respect the Muslim approach to relationships may flourish. 
  • Teachers in Muslim schools. Muslim schools in the U.S. are increasing.  
  • In business development or sales, you may want to develop a plan to tap the worldwide Arab market: 350,000,000 consumers, not just in the Middle East but in Africa, and in countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

In Praise of Music Posted Online

Musical performances on YouTube represent humankind at its finest: gifted musicians spending a lifetime mastering their instrument, coming together to coordinate a masterwork, and then through the miracle of technology, making it available for all of us to see and hear, for free.

Susan Boyle's audition on Britain's Got Talent. This is the most inspirational thing I have ever seen on the Internet. And I suspect that many of the 104 million other people who have watched that video feel the same way. 

This is a close second. It's The Hallullejah Chorus as it's never been done before or since.

And this is a close third. You really have to listen to this: Charlotte and Jonathan, also auditioning for Britain's got Talent: 

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Arturo Toscanini conducting

Hit the Ground Running, Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band. I normally don't like jazz solos but listen to Eric Marienthal's sax solo on this. 

The Overture to the iconic 1994 Barbra Streisand concert. I believe that overtures are underrated music.

Debussy's Clair de Lune, David Oistraikh, violin, Frida Bauer, piano.

High Iron Mama, Tom Brigham and his band. This is just an audio sample but I really like it and it's very different from everything else in this post, so I decided to include it.

He's the Greatest.  John P. Kee and the New Life Choir. I'm an atheist but I find music like this to be an antidepressant...and it has no side-effects.

The Way You Look Tonight, Beegie Adair trio. It's easy to dismiss easy-listening music. I don't. This is a good example of why.

Chopin's Polonaise (Heroic): Evgeny Kissin, piano.

A Few Good Men: Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band.  This contains another amazing solo: Karl Verheyen on guitar. It starts at 1:47.

Beethoven's Piano Trio Op.70 (The Ghost): Emanuel Ax, piano;, Isaac Stern, violin;, Yo-Yo Ma, cello.

Overture to the Fantasticks

The Aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations: Glenn Gould, piano. I think this is the music I'd want playing on my deathbed.

By the way, I highly recommend Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 computer speakers: about $75 used on Amazon.

Friday, September 28, 2012

How to Cold-Contact Employers...Even If You're Cold-Call Reluctant

The most potent way to land a job is cold contact. Here are my thoughts on how to do it and to overcome cold-call reluctance.

How to Network: An advanced lesson in networking for naturals and introverts alike

Here's my current thinking on the art of networking. It contains fresh ideas that should be of value both to natural networkers and for others.

Should You Be Living With More Integrity?

Is this too sanctimonious?

 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Slacker Jobs

For most people, the career holy grail is influence, money, power, and/or security.

But others' main priority is that their work be easy. This post is for you.

Of course any job can be easy or hard depending on how demanding your boss is, but these jobs, on average, are slacker-friendly.

Note: If you're in one of these jobs and you find it harder than I think, do let me know.

Some require little training or education, others a lot. Some pay little, others quite well.

Accent neutralization tutor.  I have an executive client from France who pays someone $20 an hour just to converse with him and correct his pronunciation. He simply, on a digital recorder, records his mispronunciation and her correct pronunciation. Then he practices.


Fitting-room clerk.  You just count items and hand out tags with numbers of them. When people bring the clothes out, you count 'em to make sure they're not wearing one under their clothes. On weekdays, business is usually slow, so you could probably write War and Peace between customers.

Process server. Drive around saying, "Joe Jones?" He says yes and you hand her his court summons or whatever. If he starts to runs away, just drop it at his feet.

Optician. Helping people pick eyeglass frames, adjusting them to fit.

Signature gatherer. A large number of signatures are needed to get people or initiatives on the ballot. A caller to my radio show said he earns $50 to $100 an hour doing it.



Health educator. Teach people the joys of broccoli instead of bacon cheeseburgers, exercise instead of couch potatoing. Easy to explain, harder to get people to change.

Security guard for office building/TV station, etc., especially the night shift. One wrote, "I work overnight in a warehouse and play on my laptop and Nintendo all night long." Another wrote, "I wrote a fair chunk of my last novel on a building site, sitting in half-finished luxury apartments, surrounded by coffee and sweets."

Political sign placer and remover. Especially as we enter election season, candidates from school board member to President of the United States want to post a zillion signs. Sad because all those signs do is boost name recognition--hardly a valid basis for choosing our leaders. The law requires that the signs be removed after the election.

Big-ticket item salesperson: Flog boats, yachts, RVs, planes, pianos, etc. Every time I go into a piano store, the sales guy is sitting around, chatting, or playing the piano. With big-ticket items you make a few sales a month and you're solvent.

A low-level job in the government. For example, when I'm driving, there so often are three or four CalTrans workers standing around watching one work. Or when I went to the palatial Federal office building in Oakland, there were desk after desk, perfectly clean with admins "working" for agencies no one has ever heard of, literally or figuratively polishing their nails, surfing the net, or reading a fashion magazine. I had a client who worked for BART who proudly reported that she gets away with working only one hour a day to get her $90,000 salary.

College student adviser.  You tell students what courses they still need to take and maybe help them pick a major. If they have a serious problem, your job is only to refer them elsewhere.

Food sampler.  These are the folks that give you a free meatball at Costco in hopes of enticing you to buy ten pounds worth.

Window glass replacer.  Without having to work too hard, you get a lot of grateful customers.

Retail store merchandiser. You put out the stuff out so it looks pretty. You might also put "sale" signs in the window, coupons on the counter, etc.

Flyer distributor. Despite this being the Facebook Age, many event promoters still like to paper the locale with flyers. Great for people who like traipsing around the city.

Real estate sign post placer, remover. When a piece of real estate is for sale, a for-sale sign on a 4x4 post often is planted and is removed after it's sold--or these days, often pulled off the market.

Line sitter. When the iPhone 5 came out, some people earned as much as $1,500 holding the place in line for a busy person.  More often, line sitters wait in line for the opening of a hot movie, game console, etc. Some lawyers hire (or could be convinced to hire) a line sitter to wait in line for filings, hearings, etc.

Auctioneer. It's easy, especially if you're entertaining. Great gig for out-of-work comedians. It's not hard to learn to talk fast enough and use that auctioneer pattern. I know. I do it, as a volunteer, for charity auctions.

Personal shopper. They don't work only for snooty department stores. They're hired by corporations and individuals, often to buy gifts or for fundraisers.

Mystery shopper. Pretend you're a shopper, write a little report. Eazy, peazy.

Driver. Personal driver, valet parker, cab driver, delivery driver, fork lift driver, courier. I drove a cab and enjoyed the conversations, listening to radio, and driving around.  And no education required. Just need a drivers license.

Admin or library job at a college. These are often cushier than you might imagine. Plus, you're working in a pleasant, stimulating environment.

Hotel night auditor. Reconciles the books each night. A caller to my radio show says he works a half hour a night and can do what he wants the rest of the night--I'm guessing, including sleeping.

Night shift bellhop. Few people check in or out after 10 pm.

Hotel front desk clerk. The night shift is better for slackers.

Tutor.  Teaching Johnny how to subtract or Mary to read for $20-70 an hour doesn't sound bad to me. To get clients, I'd put an ad in a upscale school's PTA newsletter--those parents can afford to hire tutors. Or in low-income areas, schools often offer free tutoring. I'd see if the school would hire me. And if I were a college or grad student, I'd get my tutoring gig there--colleges hire lots of students as tutors.

Cosmetologist. Put makeup on people at a department store, TV studio, etc.

Building inspector.  Every time a property gets a significant renovation or expansion, someone's gotta approve it. And every time a piece of real estate gets sold, one or more inspectors are hired to say what's wrong with the property.

Image coach.  "You're a 'Winter," so you should wear these colors."  "I think an A-line skirt is flattering." "Hey, let's go shopping."

Neon sign maker. Bending glass into signs that say Bud Light or whatever.

Trend spotter.  Corporations send you out to the mall to see what the teens are buzzing about.

Copier or ATM repairperson.  They generally seem relaxed on the job and I'm guessing they make good money.

Sell and/or arrange flowers at a flower stand or cart.

Park police/ranger. I hike around the Lafayette Reservoir every day and it is amazing how many EBMUD employees and East Bay Regional Parks Police patrol that utterly safe area. I''d guess that if it was  completely self-run by the patrons, it would be just fine and taxpayer would save zillions. Mainly the park employees stand around chatting with each other or the patrons or, okay, occasionally picking up trash. And I'd bet that as government employees, they're paid quite well, with lots of benes, paid holidays and sick days. But with a job like that, no one would need a "mental health day."

Statistician. Yeah, I understand that it requires lots of schooling but once you have it, it's usually a pretty kick-back job that pays well. Mainly you tell folks, "Okay, use analysis of variance." Or "give me your raw data in this form and I'll enter it into the computer and email you the results."

Bartender/budtender. Even if you're working a busy bar, it ain't rocket science, it's fun, and tips are good . But it's not a job for addictive types.

Bouncer. Yeah, occasionally, things aren't so calm, but usually, you're just watching the hotties, listening to music, and looking intimidating.

Sex worker. True, some hate it but others find it a pleasurable, easy way to make a ridiculous amount of money per hour.

Exotic dancer.  While many guys look like they're having a root canal on the dance floor, some women look like they're having an orgasm. If you're in the latter category, exotic dancing is probably the most likely way to get paid to dance.

And of course, the iconic slacker job:

Wal-Mart greeter. It's not only easy, Wal-Mart actually gives good benes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

US Spending and Debt Truly Threatens Us


I rarely post others' work but this Wall Street Journal article on the magnitude of our financial crisis, so hidden by our Obama-protective media, presents it magnificently, albeit frighteningly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Things That Are a Mystery to Me

I think that every one of my 957 previous blog posts presents something I know or believe.

So I thought it would be fun to write a post listing what I don't know, some things that are a mystery to me:
  • There is no God, so what created the first particle? How did the amazing wonders of nature and of birth come about?  Evolutionary theory doesn't, for me, come close to explaining it. Or do we simply call the currently unexplainable scientific phenomena, "God?"
  • Why are some people so kind and others so cruel?
  • How could I become a professional pianist with virtually no practice yet I draw horribly no matter how hard I try?
  • Why do so many people trust an entertainer's political opinions more than an intellectual's'?
  • How can peaceful music so calm us, cheery music so uplift us?
  • How did Google, SmartPhones, YouTube, even television get invented? They are true manmade miracles.
  • How can "greedy" corporations make a profit when their products cost us so little. Just a few examples: a can of Del Monte peaches: $1. A gallon of corporate-farmed milk: $3.00. A pair of Hanes socks: $2. A Foster Farms fresh chicken: $1 a pound. A gallon of Exxon or other gas $4. A pound of corporate-farmed apples: $1.  2 1/2 pounds of Quaker oatmeal: $5. A can of Bumble Bee tuna: $1. A bountiful, healthy buffet at Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes restaurants: $10.  An Oral-B toothbrush: $2. 2 pounds of Best Foods mayonnaise: $4. A bottle of Two Buck Chuck wine for $2.49. A safety pin: a penny. I can't even see how they can produce the product and ship it for that, with no profit for the manufacturer or retailer. But obviously, they can and do.
What's a mystery to you?

My Speech and Introduction of the Libertarian Presidential Candidate, Gary Johnson

I had the privilege today of giving a speech that introduced the Libertarian candidate for President of the United States at a well-attended rally at U.C. Berkeley.

While I ad-libbed the talk, here's a slightly longer version of what I said.

I am moved to be here, not just because Sproul Plaza is one of America's launchpads of social change but because I've spent years here at Cal getting my PhD. 

And you can't spend years at Cal without hearing so much rhetoric that makes you resonate with President Obama's core beliefs in bigger government, which is symbolized by his focus-group tested words, "Change" and now, "Forward." After all, who would want to go backward?

And indeed, part of me is sympathetic to the idea of having government provide for society's have nots, here and around the world. But I've become convinced that big government actually is a net negative and encouraging America's decline and fall. Can anyone honestly believe that a $16 trillion debt now growing at $3 billion a DAY is good?

To pay even our interest, we have to keep printing more dollars, a form of which the Democrats hide by calling it "Quantitative Easing." That means that each of our dollars will buy ever less. And because so much of our debt is to foreign countries, if we're unable to pay our debt, our government, our nation, our future, especially that of our children and grandchildren, is in true jeopardy.

What we need now is not a leader who's like a kid in the candy store, who wants his parents (that is, the taxpayer) to buy everything that looks good without regard to whether it bankrupts his parents. What we need is a president who will pull on ropes of restraint and be the responsible adult who will lead us to live within our means. Governor Gary Johnson is that responsible adult.

President Obama claims to have, with $60 billion of our taxpayer dollars, "saved" GM, a company notorious for making cars far inferior to Japanese ones. In fact,you and I were forced to buy that $60 billion in stock at 34. President Obama assured us we'd at least break even, which would be at $53. It's now $23. You and I lost $16 billion trying to save an inferior car company. A President Gary Johnson would not have bailed GM out. He is the responsible adult.

Gary Johnson is calling for an immediate end to the War in Afghanistan. America's military adventurism in the Middle East has been a failure: Iraq, Afghanistan, IranLibya, Syria. It has not only been a wildly profligate waste of billions of taxpayer dollars, not to mention death, mayhem, the mass murder of innocents, destroying lives, families, and neighborhoods. The Democrats and Republicans military adventurism shows a hubristic ignoring of history. From Alexander the Great who met his downfall in Persia, through Churchill's time. Churchill was one of the great military leaders and politicians yet when he took the allies into the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Middle East, the Allies lost a terrible defeat: 140,000 men killed. And now our recent string of Middle East boondoggles that mainly has made us millions of Muslim enemies. Throughout history, Western efforts to change the Middle East have failed. A President Gary Johnson would not have demonstrated such hubris. Gary Johnson is the responsible adult.


Gary Johnson is also the responsible adult regarding our freedoms. Unlike Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson realizes that a woman, not the government, should determine when she wants to have a child. Unlike Mitt Romney, a president Gary Johnson would not prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying. Unlike Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, a President Gary Johnson would not prohibit a person in irreversible severe pain from choosing to end his suffering. Gary Johnson is the Responsible Adult.

Governor Johnson is the responsible adult on education. I've been a consultant to 15 college presidents and that helped me realize the boondoggle of increasing financial aid. You think that benefits you the students? Hardly. Every time the government takes more of your and your parents' tax dollars to increase financial aid, behind those Ivy-covered walls, college administrators are saying, "Good. Now students have more money so we can raise tuition more." So that increase in financial aid doesn't mainly help you; it mainly lines the pockets of college administrators or allows them to replace old but functional buildings with  opulent ones, monuments to themselves. The increase in taxpayer-funded student aid is a reason colleges have increased what they charge you well beyond the inflation rate. Gary Johnson would not fall for that. He's the responsible adult.

Governor Johnson is the responsible adult when it comes to jobs. You students work so hard, spend so much, borrow so much, and reasonably would expect a decent  job--And Gary Johnson is the most likely candidate to build the three-legged stool that's the foundation of creating jobs: lower taxes, fewer regulations, and a pet idea of mine: more entrepreneurship education. Our taxpayer-funded education seems to emphasize everything but entrepreneurship. And as a career counselor, I can't tell you how many people say they couldn't start businesses or went out of business at least in part because of the truly onerous burdens on business: There's the paperwork, especially and ironically if a business wants to hire someone. And then there are the financial disincentives for businesses to create jobs--everything from the much abused Workers Comp to the much abused Paid Family Leave and now ObamaCare. And that's not counting business taxes!  Nor does it count the regulations. Let me give you just one example of how over-regulation can kill jobs: A client of mine wanted to open a wine bar and she felt it could only make an acceptable profit if it also served paninis--sandwiches made on a simple little grill, like a George Foreman griller. Alas, to make those paninis in her wine bar, the government is requiring her to have a full commercial grill, two sinks, and the ceiling which had a beautiful 1/8" raised pattern had to be replaced with a completely flat ceiling because the pattern theoretically might attract dust and if it wasn't dusted every few weeks and a dust mote might conceivably drop into someone's food  And she's been waiting six months now for the government's Alcohol and Beverage Commission to grant her a permit. The cost of regulations are so onerous that she's now unsure she can open her wine bar. Many jobs would be lost and she'll stay unemployed. Gary Johnson would take a hard look at the cost-benefit of regulations. After all, he's the responsible adult. 

I want to tell you the story that made me, instead of someone likely to be a liberal--a Jewish child of immigrants and who went to Berkeley--someone who leans libertarian. My father, like countless other Holocaust survivors who immigrated to America, never took a penny of government money. He arrived in New York City without a penny to his name, with no English, no family, no money, no education, only the scars of the Holocaust tortures. But he felt no job was beneath him, so he sewed shirts in a factory in Harlem for a few dollars an hour, 10 hours a day. And on Saturdays he bought the shirts he had sewn for $1 and sold them for $1.50 out of a cardboard box on the streets of Harlem. And what did he do with the money? He saved up for the first and last month's rent on the only store he could afford--the worst imaginable location: 105 Moore St in Brooklyn. That enabled my dad to make enough money to move my mom, my sister and I from the Bronx tenement we lived for my first five years, with the elevated train roaring 24/7, to the bottom half of the  duplex in blue-collar Flushing Queens where I grew up. The punch line of this story is that my father was not unusual. I got to know dozens of Holocaust survivors and not one took a dime of government money and every one of them made a living on their own. Indeed, I believe that they would have been worse off if they had been on government programs--it would have been disempowering, creating a sense of dependency, the well-documented welfare mentality. And their children wouldn't have had the can-do role models that helped them become today's doctors, lawyers, teachers, and businesspeople

So it is my great pleasure to give you the presidential candidate who would make possible the most success stories like my dad, the Responsible Adult, the person I believe most likely to truly move America forward, the Libertarian candidate for President of the United States, Governor, Gary Johnson. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

How I Learned to Play the Piano by Ear

Many people take piano lessons in hopes of being able to entertain folks with a song, perhaps a sing-a-long, maybe even take requests.

Key to that is being able to play by ear, to play, in full arrangement, any song you can hum. I can do that. Here's how I learned.

Ironically, it's because I can't read music well at all. You see, when you play from sheet music, it goes from your eyes to your fingers, no ears required. Your ear never develops.

Instead of learning a song by reading music, I started, by trial and error, trying to plunk out, with one finger, a tune I could hum: Chopsticks. That trial-and-error process developed my ear. Each note I played gave me feedback: "Whoops, that's not what that note should sound like" or "Yes, that's what it should sound like." After learning to plunk a very few songs, I developed a sense of how far up or down on the keyboard the next note should be.

When that got a little boring, I added one harmony note to the melody, again by trial and error. I induced how far away the note from the melody would likely make a nice harmony note.

I simply kept building on that, adding more notes to the harmony of those songs and adding new songs. That constantly developed my ear further until I was able to play any song I can hum in full arrangement. It really was as simple as that.

Here's me playing a few things, all by ear. I've never seen the sheet music for any of it..

"Disparate Impact" Has Bad Impact on Society

Disparate Impact is yet another example of a well-intentioned government  initiative whose side effects are more damaging than its main effects are beneficial.

The Disparate Impact theory of law, being aggressively used by the Obama Administration's Dept of Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC,) asserts that even if intentional discrimination is not found, if a racial or gender group is underrrepresented, it's prima facie evidence of discrimination.

For instance, the EEOC and Department of Justice are arguing that employers may be discriminatory if they use credit checks or criminal record as a hiring criterion. For example, Pepsi recently had to pay more than $3 million plus offer jobs and training mainly to African-Americans because Pepsi's background checks would not give full-time employment to applicants with a pending criminal prosecution.

Disparate Impact's intent is reasonable: Because racism is often unconscious and no employer would admit to being racist, the theory says, "Let the proof be in the pudding." For example, let's say 30% of the African-American local population meets the basic requirements to become a manager but only 15% of the hired managers are African-American, that's evidence that the employer is guilty of racial discrimination unless the employer can prove the validity of his hiring criteria.

The problem is that it's very easy for a plaintiff to prove he's underrepresented--the EEOC requires all but the smallest employers to collect and make public those statistics. In contrast, it's very difficult and expensive for an employer to prove that all its employee selection criteria for all positions are predictive of job performance. For reasons too complicated to explain here (restricted range and sample size, for example) it would require a team of expensive psychometricians  to develop instruments sufficiently valid to hold up in court. And without such custom-validated instruments, the employer risks being sued, That's true even if the instrument is a highly validated national test of reasoning (e.g., SAT, LSAT, IQ, etc.) Even though reasoning is critical to all but menial jobs, plaintiffs have been able to argue that tests of cognitive ability are insufficiently related to the job to allow their use if, as there almost is, an adverse impact on underrepresented minorities.

Making employers' burden of proof even more onerous, Roger Clegg, president and chief counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, points out that the employer can prevail only if he can prove a “business necessity” for the practice and even then can still lose if the plaintiff can show an alternative with less disparate impact.

Plus, a lawsuit would have to (expensively) resolve such questions as "What constitutes the pool of qualified applicants?" For example, let's say I run a business in Oakland, CA, where I live. Oakland's population is 35% Black,  15% Latino. Using the government's 4/5 rule, if I had fewer than 30% Black executives or 12% Latinos, the EEOC could make me prove my selection criteria were valid. I'd likely respond, "But wait. The pool of people that are qualified are graduates of highly selective institutions such as Stanford or Harvard, and there are fewer minorities in that pool." The EEOC or court could deem that discriminatory unless I proved that that level of employee really was necessary and  that it would be an undue hardship to have to use all the other criteria needed to find people of Ivy caliber and that there was no more race-neutral such screening device. Months or years of expensive, stressful legal arguing could be spent merely on that.

In fact, few Disparate Impact lawsuits are filed, and most of those are won by the employer. But the fear of such lawsuits is significant and increasing because of the Obama Administration's recent actions. So employers are ever more likely to move merit toward the back seat in favor of selection criteria that are less predictive of job performance but that don't reduce the percentage of Blacks or Latinos selected in favor of whites and Asians.

Net, of course, when less predictive hiring criteria are used, we get worse employees and, in turn, worse products and services for all of us. That is hardly a formula for American success in an ever more competitive global economy.

Alas, the Obama Administration is extending Disparate Impact's use well beyond employment. For example, the U.S. Office of Education's Civil Rights division is investigating school districts in which African-American students are disproportionately disciplined. While  it's possible that racial discrimination is causal, it's more likely that, because of, for example, historical, cultural, and socioeconomic factors, African-American kids simply misbehave more often.  But because school districts fear having to defend an expensive and difficult burden-of-proof lawsuit, they're ever more likely to establish racial "targets" for discipline thus having to discipline more White and Asian students than they would have and/or to discipline fewer African-American students. Even more likely, they'll keep in school African-American students who deserved suspension or expulsion to protect innocent students from violence. They'll also reallocate yet more resources from the students with the greatest potential to profit to those students, in the form of yet more counseling and other programs. It seems clear to me that, as in employment, the Disparate Impact theory applied to the schools, will, net, do more harm than good.

As I've written before, decisions should more often be made on a cost-benefit basis, considering all the likely short- and long-term outcomes. I believe that if we did that, most of the redistributive "justice" laws and policies would be rejected or modified in favor of policies that distributed resources more purely on merit.