Wednesday Night #1494

The changes in the workplace and the increasing multiplicity of skills required is reflected in the evolution of Human Resources as a career, if not a profession.  In the not-too-distant past, Human Resource employees’ skills were largely interpersonal.  In the evolution of the complexity and specialization of today’s workplace,  they are required to focus on the skill base and level of applicants as well as the probability of their fit with and contribution to the increasingly specialized environment that they will be entering.  Two analogies come to mind, one being gaming, or more accurately, simulation in which accurate assessment of a situation is a requisite for success and the other, writing novels.  Like the placement of given individual in a specific work situation, the novelist must calculate the best introduction of characters, the time and mode of their appearance and their interaction with the plot and other characters.  There is a huge market for talent based on market specificity.
Simulation skills and success
Thus, the skills required in hiring the right person to fill the right position are closely related to gaming theory, and simulation.  Considering the ubiquity of computers and other electronics, one tends to forget that the era of the IBM 360 Computer, punch cards, Fortran and Cobol date back only a little over a quarter century and the first commercial personal computers date to 1921.  While some maintain that the current universal availability of electronic programs, including children’s games, have enhanced the ability to simulate actual situations and maximize the probability of success in today’s complex world, others remind us that the computer has yet to master interpretation of the foibles of human nature.

The media, information and news
A recurring WN theme – electronic advances have had a profound effect on the fate of newspapers.  In competition with the electronic media (which the dailies appear to have reluctantly joined), social networks and other sources of news, a large percentage of the established  dailies and weeklies appear to have abandoned the search for accuracy in language and reporting, and competition to satisfy the needs of readers, in favour of satisfying the needs of advertisers.  The era of human copy editors,  typesetters and live reporters whose professional pride as well as personal connections led them to search for accuracy and timeliness is over, with the exception of a very few of the upper-end publications.  There  has been a regrettable shift to easily available, unverified and sensational rumour and gossip, the focus being more to please advertisers, by dumbing down content to a less demanding (broader) readership.  This is more a statement of the evolution than a condemnation of the media, now facing the competition of electronics and social networks  not evident in their golden years. [Editor’s note: depending on who is speaking!]
Although perhaps exaggerated, the fear is expressed by some Wednesday Nighters that the apparent waning professional independence and dedication of the fourth estate might constitute a risk to democracy. The sharply rising level of expense involved in running a quality newspaper today is a world-wide problem.

The aging population and healthcare
Although never proven in the development of a theory, it is evident that there is an inverse relationship between wealth and population growth.  This, and the increasing longevity of the current population raises much concern about the rising percentage of national and provincial budgets being consumed by healthcare, and the ability of the young to support the aging, not only in terms of pensions and related benefits, but especially healthcare.

U.S. mid-term elections
As the U.S. November election looms, it seems the Democrats will no longer claim a majority in the House of Representatives.  This poses a big problem for President Obama, the most recent precedent being Bill Clinton who avoided it by adopting popular portions of the Republican platform.  Any lacunae in the Obama program have been exacerbated by the recent economic crisis, the division on health care legislation and the emerging popularity of the right wing Tea Party.  Ultimately, the U.S. will emerge from the current polarization, but the situation is not unique, polarization being strongly evident in governments of France, Hungary and Canada, among others.  It would appear that a significant part of the population no longer believes that government is acting in its best interest; the trust appears to have been broken, and tribalism is taking over.  Undoubtedly a leader in whom the population can believe and can trust will emerge and democracy will continue to evolve. But the waiting time will no doubt be painful.

The market
Wednesday Night Stock market mavens see the market as needing a rest until the end of October when it will again continue its climb.  Gold is not expected to rise in price for the rest of this year.


As we approach M-Day (for moving), we no longer have the luxury of reflection or the ability to prepare clever, pithy (or not) round-ups of the geopolitical and economic scene, so please forgive us if the invitations (or as Stephen Kinsman calls them – the Prologues) are not of their usual calibre.
But the world is not stopping for us, and there are more intriguing, perplexing – and often grim – developments than ever.
Canadastill licking our wounds over the Security Council vote, with many different explanations of what went wrong and the blame game in full swing, but not much about what to do next.
Chile – the valiant miners are all safe and sound above ground and now the bids are starting for rights to their story(ies) – lucrative book deals/movie rights? Our fears that the story would  soon become tainted have been realized faster than we would have believed. [ See Spiegel online: After Rescue, The Fight for Compensation Begins
“Now that the 33 Chilean miners have been rescued, a top lawyer is preparing to sue for damages. He is unwilling to say how much he will ask for, but he expects it to be an open-and-shut case. In the meantime, he is waiting for things to calm down before he makes his first move.”]
Everyone is offering advice along with freebies ranging from iPads to holidays in Greece. One of the more flagrant PR moves is the news that a replica of the rescue capsule has headed off to the last days of the Shanghai expo at the same time as the media announces that hope is dwindling for the 11 trapped Chinese miners.
Meantime, our friend Jim Heffernan asks Why Can’t We Learn from the Chileans–and the American Engineers who Helped Rescue the Miners?
No sooner were the Commonwealth games over than India’s federal government ordered a high level investigation into allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the run-up to the event. That should be good for everyone’s morale. Canada’s fourth place medal ranking may have been a disappointment to some, but the team’s performance under difficult conditions was outstanding.
We are reminded of the old Kingston Trio “Merry Minuet” that starts: They are rioting in Africa and starving in Spain. Only it is in France (against raising the retirement age to 62) Sarkozy Stands Firm on Pension Reform as Protests Cripple France – and Italy (against cuts to higher education) that they are rioting, while in Greece a labour dispute closed the Acropolis to tourists for three days – the workers were calling for two years of back pay. And in Germany, Angela Merkel has declared that the country’s multiculturalism policy has failed.
In our preoccupation with Asia, Canada and Europe, we rarely refer to Mexico unless in reference to immigration issues. The horrifying drug wars that feed off the rampant corruption among police forces, and engender fearsome retaliation from the military have (wrongly) become routine news items, if indeed they are reported at all in our media.
An item from IPS marking World Food Day (October 16) caught our attention: Ending Africa’s Hunger Means Listening to Farmers
“Now, for the first-time, small African farmers have been properly consulted on how to solve the problem of feeding sub-Saharan Africa. Their answers appear to directly repudiate a massive international effort to launch an African Green Revolution funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Instead of new hybrid seeds, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, family farmers in West Africa said they want to use local seeds, avoid spending precious cash on chemicals and most importantly to direct public agricultural research to meet their needs.” Astonishing! Someone consulted the people who live the problem.
One Wednesday Nighter writes: We have been receiving weekly reports from [family members] in Zimbabwe for many years. Most farms there have been taken over by government supporters and have then been left fallow because no-one has the expertise to use them effectively. Meanwhile the country has to import food…
To our dismay, the mid-term U.S. elections are beginning to look like a rout of the Democrats. See The Guardian’s report Barack Obama fights to avert midterm Republican avalanche … as poll shows 25% of former Obama voters may defect. More frightening, as Frank Rich reminds us, The Rage Won’t End on Election Day – there are some very scary people out there and some of them will be elected.
Whither Global Governance? A Foreign Policy post,  The G-20 becomes the G-whatever, points out the continued expansion of the G20 by host Korea:  “Spain gets an invitation once again as the largest economy not included in the G-20 (the Dutch, who had received invitations to previous summits, are not invited this year). Some observers believe that Spain will be added to the group formally in the coming years.  Singapore has been invited as a kind of loyal opposition; it heads up the Global Governance Group, a collection of states that has emerged as a key critic of the G-20 process and a defender of the prerogatives of smaller nations. Vietnam will have a seat as the current chair of ASEAN. Diminutive Malawi will be at the table as the chair of the African Union.  Finally, Ethiopia has been summoned as the chair of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.” Conclusion:  “There may be advantages to this fit of inclusiveness, but it seems clear that the chance for meaningful informal conversations during the summit is vanishingly small.” Pretty soon the G20 will be nothing more than an official Davos. There is something to be said for Small is Beautiful. How to solve the problem? One wants all the concerned parties at the table, but when they are there, nothing gets done.
Finally, for your consideration, this year’s Massey Lecturer, Douglas Coupland, presents A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years – sometimes entertaining, but too often either frightening or depressing, depending on your viewpoint.

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