What do I want to do when I grow up?

I don’t usually use this forum for work-related stuff, but I put a thread up on Twitter this morning about education, especially PhD education, and it has the kind of geopolitical feel that made me want to echo it, and maybe expand it a little, here. The road to a PhD has always been hard. Mine was considered relatively short, at five years, but it wasn’t easy and it was full of stories of faculty members making me feel like shit, and just generally feeling like shit, but also full of stories of feeling incredibly fulfilled and accomplished. If you spend any time the side of Twitter where academics roam, especially graduate students, you might wonder why anybody would ever even try to get a PhD. How is this geopolitical? Because I think its roots are in classic America-good-and-others-bad propaganda.

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The problem with bluster

The President of the United States is a pretty strange dude. He’s certainly not the only person in the world with the same kind of strangeness, but he seems to be almost completely devoid of humility and modesty. This may be what attracts some people to him, because it could be seen as strength to them, but to me it just makes him look like a really insecure person who is in constant need of validation to counteract his self-loathing. I can’t stand too strongly by that assumption, because I don’t know him. I’ve never talked to him in real life, and even if I had, I don’t have the ability to read his mind and know what he really sees when he looks in the mirror. So in the end, this is much like the missed opportunities that I’ve pondered before (here and here), but it’s amazing to me how much more mileage it seems the president could get by just being accurate, without the exaggeration and bluster.

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Putting on a show

I don’t know why, but I’m still trying to view the Trump administration through rational eyes. Perhaps there are several versions of rational. There really shouldn’t be, but maybe what I think is rational isn’t actually rational. I am saddened by what I see as missed opportunities (see here and here), but I’m starting to accept the fact that it’s never going to happen. I’m starting to accept the fact that we all have things that motivate us, and I think what motivates Trump has more to do with celebrity than anything else. That’s not inconsistent with doing good things for the country, but I’m not convinced that it’s what drives him. I can imagine that he can convince himself that it’s driving him, but I think deep down the things that he embraces are things that feed his celebrity status. I should be clear that I’m not saying that there’s no concern for others in that. I think he enjoys entertaining people. I think he likes it when they’re excited to see him. I think he thrives on that. There’s a level of admirable selflessness in that. Like the comic who stands on stage making fun of himself to make you laugh. On the other hand, it leads to some pretty strange moments when the President of the United States acts that way.

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Some thoughts on jobs

Once again, I have to start with a disclosure: I am not an economist and these thoughts likely shouldn’t be taken seriously by anybody. Of course a lack of expertise hasn’t stopped me from bloviating about ways to fix the world, and not being an expert certainly hasn’t even stopped Donald Trump from becoming president. With that in mind, I have a dream about a program to help get people to work. It has two main ingredients, and I don’t know if it would work, but it’s fun to imagine anyway.

To think about how to fix the jobs problem in the United States, we have to first think about what the problem is, and who is affected. And then it leads me to the solution that’s been in my dreams lately. It’s a great dream, of a bold initiative, with a practical solution to a pressing problem. Something I could imagine being a crux of the Bartlet Democrat platform.

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