Should We Provide Free College Tuition

I’m seeing this topic brought up more and more. College is too expensive and even the middle class can’t afford it anymore. And those who come out of school with a mountain of debt will never be able to own a house, much less have enough discretionary income from the low paying jobs they’ll earn with their degree.

So the easy answer is to make college cheaper – or even provide college for free. It works in countries like Sweden, so could it work here?

Well the 1st thing that would have to happen would be a gigantic increase in taxes. Someone still has to pay the professors, administrators, janitors, etc… who make the school run.

But suppose in the short-term, we had a hybrid model that solves a specific problem for one sector of U.S. Business.

Let’s provide education that is free – but on loan – to people who choose to enter a track specific for math, science, engineering or computer programming. Here’s how it would work.

  1. Test into a program for aptitude or potential ability in the subjects, not existing grades or knowledge. Any age.
  2. Choose a specialized track includes some General Education but really focuses on the technical subject matter.
  3. Like the military, mandate required service time to pay off the loan. One suggestion: within 8 years of graduation, require 2 years of part-time teaching at a community college, high school or workshop level. This will help with the burden that we have a lack of professionals who can teach these subject matters. It also gives graduates a full 6 years to get their career situated and mature as adults who can mentor others.
  4.  If the graduate has made enough money to pay off the loan, they can spend money rather than time in service. That money would be able to hire others who wanted to teach.
  5. The tech companies would be asked to underwrite some portion of the project. You’d want to make the numbers work so that overall, the cost of recruiting technical talent would decrease even after their financial commitment. They’d be investing smart money to grow the labor pool rather than paying premium salaries and recruiting commissions in a battle for scarce resources.

I don’t know how the numbers would net out, but I’m not in government. Maybe someone will read this and see if the math works.

Any other thoughts? Email me.

What We Are Going to Do in 5 Years With All Those Non-Driverless Cars?

I’m not really a car guy. I like when other people have really nice cars, and I could certainly afford to have a nice car, but for some reason I’m wired to be perfectly happy driving the same Acura for the last 16 years. But 16 years is a long time and the reality is that my car will die someday. So I have started looking around for my next automobile.

However, my research hit a snag almost the moment I started. You see, everything I read is that driverless cars are somewhere between 5 and 10 years away. Which begs the question? Why on earth would I buy a regular car today, if no one will want to buy it when the driverless versions start coming out?

And the bigger meta-question is, what the heck will happen to the millions and millions of regular automobiles out there? Here are some options.

  1. Some really smart people are going to figure out how to transform regular cars into driverless ones. Or, I suspect the GM, Ford, Acura, Toyota, etc… will all figure out a way to do it.
  2.  In 3 to 5 years, leasing becomes such an attractive option that there’s just no reason to buy a new car. You’ll have one last regular car for 3-5 years and in your next lease you’ll get a driverless one.
  3. There will be an amazing glut of really nice 5 year old cars on the market.  In 2022, the supply of 2019 BMW’s will so outpace the demand that people who don’t choose a driverless option will be able to get a car that’s nicer than anything they ever thought they could afford.

But the crux of the issue is this. What do I do? Do I just wait until my car dies? Or do I hope it lasts 5 more years and be the first kid on the block with a driverless car? Thoughts?

6 Business Lessons To Learn From Bruce Springsteen

3 hours and 45 minutes. That was the amount of time Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played at Key Arena on Thursday night. What can a musician teach a business person in 4 hours? Here are some simple lessons of which I was reminded.

1) Treat your customer right
How do you get you most ardent fans, all who have seen you play multiple times, to spend hundreds of dollars to see you again? Deliver them something so over the top, that they can’t say no to you. Do something unheard of – like playing “The River” from front to back for 2 hours, and then delivering another hour and 45 minutes of your hits. No intermissions, no fake encores, just turn on the lights and start playing.

2) Deliver consistent product
Once Springsteen hit his groove, he continued to deliver what his audience wanted. Sure, he dabbled here and there with some things like Tunnel of Love, but for the most part he has kept driving updated versions of what his customers were clamoring for. And when he wasn’t producing new material, he was on the road reminding his customers why they loved him.

3) Work with a strong team
Look at the folks he works with, and those who have passed. Solid musicians who do things better than he can. You don’t see him doing a vanity song on the piano or sax to show us he can play any instrument. He has the E Street Band, who are a key part of his storyline, and critical to the customer’s overall experience. Oh – and don’t be afraid to bring on someone like Eddie Vedder for a freelance consultant role.
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4) Let your team discover their own creative outlets
I bet there are fans of Silvio Dante who has no idea he was the lead guitarist for Bruce Springsteen (while even fewer Lilyhammer fans had a clue.) And plenty of Conan O’Brien lovers didn’t know who Max Weinberg was hanging out with on weekends. These were creative outlets where the guys in the shadows could get some spotlight and be known for being more than, “That guy who plays in Bruce’s band.”

5) Work harder than everyone else
Did I mention 3 HOURS AND 45 MINUTES. Without a break. With stage diving. At 66 years old. You don’t just do that. You train for it. You eat right, train better, and have the will to get it done. You practice so that you know exactly how to be the most efficient with your effort. You plan so that you know how to give everyone a couple of minutes here and there to get some water (or whatever they need) to stay on top of their game. This isn’t stumbling onto a stage at Bumbershoot and goofing around for 45 minutes. Any half-ass band or company can fake it for a little while. But that’s why he’s been selling out stadiums for 30 years.
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6) And of course, it’s good to be The Boss.

A Request to the Writers of The Daily Show

Dear Trevor Noah and the rest of The Daily Show writing team,

I have a request for this election season.

Every candidate is busy lining up endorsements from the people they thing will most energize voters. Candidates need endorsements from all the individual politicians, tastemakers and influencers, from President Obama to Jay Inslee to Ed Murray.

But here’s what I would find REALLY interesting. Not who the thought leaders are endorsing. But who the crackpots, weirdos and psychopaths want to see in office. I would learn way more about a candidate by knowing if they are being supported by the craziest of the crazy. After all, candidates can try to hand pick and choreograph the endorsements they get from positive figures. But they’re helpless to defend themselves against endorsements from the “wrong people.”

So Mr. Noah, this is where you come in.

You have the power, the prestige, the connections and the brains to pull together a list of some of the biggest wackos in America AND get them on camera and find out who they are endorsing. You all can dive in and find out why. And as Americans, in some cases we’ll have to reconcile the fact that we support the same candidate as someone we’d never invite over to dinner.

I think the rare combination of ratings winner and public service. Thanks for your consideration.

Your loyal viewer,

Andy

7 Fun Facts About the St Vincent and the Grenadines Soccer Team

The U.S. Men’s National Team starts its World Cup Qualifying run vs St Vincent and the Grenadines tonight. Who the heck is the the St Vincent and the Grenadines soccer team? Well, here are some fun facts.

1) The island is here.

2) The country has 109,373 people. That is approximately 321,905,480 less people than there are in the U.S. For perspective, the United States has 4,186,778 registered soccer players.
3) Assuming the team has a standard 23 players, .021% of the country’s population is on the National team, or 1 out of every 4,750 people.
4) The team is ranked #129 in the world. That’s actually better than Luxembourg (146), New Zealand (159) and India (172).
5) There is an actual St Vincent and the Grenadines Professional Soccer League. It features the Toni Store Jugglers, Prospect United, Avenues United, Fitz Hughes Predators, JG & Sons Stingers, Camdonia Chelsea, System 3, Zodiac Football Club, Nemwil Hope International, Digicel Jebelle, Besco Pastures and K&R Strikers.
6) Two members of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Soccer Team, Myron Samuel and Oalex Anderson, play for Sounders FC 2. Put that in this perspective – the man with the most games played and most goals scored for this country, plays on the minor league version of the Sounders. If Oneil Fisher was from SVG, he could be a starter.
7) In the qualifying round for the 2014 World Cup, they were eliminated in the 2nd round, going 1-2-3 vs Guatemala, Belize and Grenada.

Why do we split young soccer players by gender?

Saturday morning, shortly after my friend Trevor and I had completely our lap around Greenback – at a blistering pace I might add – you could find us relaxing on the deck of our favorite coffee shop, Forza. There, we had the perfect view as parents and 5-8 year olds invaded the soccer fields and set up for their matches.

The games started and we watched with amusement as goalies who would eventually fit into their jersey 5 years from now whiffed on punts, entire packs of kids followed the ball around the field en masse, and 12 year olds ruled the field as referees.

But we noticed something odd. Even though the talent was the same on each field, each team was either all boys or all girls. We asked the question, “When kids are that young, why not have boys and girls play together?”

Yes, I understand that there’s an age where each gender’s bodies start developing at different paces and it makes sense to separate them. But at the very earliest ages, why not instill in kids that being good at what you do has nothing to do with gender?

I have no answer here. Just curious.

A Theory About Donald Trump

Let’s pretend for a moment, that a man worth several billion dollars, who lords over a global real estate empire and produced a popular TV show for nearly a decade, ISN’T a complete moron. For the sake of argument, let’s also assume this mogul is not certifiably crazy.

With that as context, we have to ask, “Why is Donald Trump saying so many dumb and offensive things in a bid to run for President of the United States?”

Here’s one theory that is probably wrong but fun to think about.

We’re pretty sure the man has no real shot at winning. And we know for a fact that he loves loves loves loves being the center of attention. And he’s never cared what anyone thinks of him.

So suppose he’s creating a new benchmark for the rest of the Republican candidates to be measured against? Trump goes out and makes ridiculous, evil, mean and insulting comments, and both the RNC and group of candidates get to say, “Hey, Trump is way out of bounds. He should really stop saying those mean and insensitive things.”

For as long as I’ve been alive, the Democrats have been positioned as the sweet Uncle and Aunt who want to take care of you, while the Republicans have staked out the ground as your evil older brother trying to trick you out of your allowance.

So maybe the Trump train wreck is a purposeful campaign to change this perception. Republicans get to disagree with Trump and look more sympathetic to a key block of voters, without having to actually change any of policies or agree with Democrats. Trump gets to be on TV every day, and the rest of the Republicans build up positive perception by disagreeing with him. It’s basically a “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” political strategy.

One argument against this idea is that Trump is actually leading the field at 17%, implying the strategy is backfiring. But the other way to look at those stats is that in a crowded field of interchangeable and indiscernible candidates, 83% of people think Trump is to be avoided. In that case, the strategy is working.

Just a thought.

Saving Greece and Soccer at the Same Time

In case anyone wonders, this is a completely facetious comment. I don’t honestly believe this is a good idea… But in a make believe world, here’s how you could save Greece and International Soccer at the same time.

Qatar buys Greece.

Think about it. It’s win-win-win-win.

Win 1: Qatar gets the recognition it desires.
Qatar has a ton of money that it can’t spend. They want to change their image and have a larger presence in terms of global awareness. By buying Greece and renaming it “North Qatar,” they get all of the history that comes with it. Just like Gary Payton is somehow the leading scorer in Oklahoma City Thunder history, North Qatar would be where the Olympic games originated. Zeus and the rest of the Qatari gods lives on Mt. Olympus in North Qatar. And where would the world be without the contributions of famous Qataris such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle?

Win 2: Greece pays off its debt.
The banks want to get paid. The Greeks don’t want to pay anyone back. Qatar has dump trucks of cash sitting in gold plated garages. Let’s redistribute some of that cash and keep the country – and Europe – from collapsing.

Win 3: We don’t have to play soccer in 120 degree weather.
The 2022 World Cup can stay in Qatar – it’s just going to be played in North Qatar. (Except they’ll make Germany and the U.S. play their games in South Qatar out of spite.) Tourists will now want to attend the games. And Qatar can send all those poor abused migrant workers home.

Win 4: FIFA moves to North Qatar
Nothing significant in the world can happen without it benefitting Sepp Blatter in some way. This works for him. Qatar can revoke any extradition treaties it has with the U.S. and FIFA can build a 200,000 square fit office complex overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Could it happen? Of course not. Should it? Hmm….

One Human, One Block, One Year: An Idea for Solving Homelessness

So file this under pie in the sky, hopeless ideas that have no chance of coming true.

Unless, that is, one person tries to get it going.

NPR published an interesting article the other day about Homelessness in Seattle. One stat stood out: “According to the latest count, in January, more than 3,700 people live on the streets of King County. The number of people sleeping outside shot up by 20 percent in just the past year.”

3,700.

Via NPR

That number sounds enormous when you are thinking about how a government agency could fix the problem. And the government has proven it can’t do it. Here’s another stat from the article, one that should make you pretty mad. “All told, under a 10-year plan put together a decade ago by a public-private partnership called the Committee to End Homelessness, roughly $1 billion has gone to the cause.”

$1 Billion spent in 10 years. 3,700 homeless. At $100 million spent per year, we could just pay every homeless person an annual salary of $27,000 and just close down whatever services are trying to solve the problem.

But 3,700 is also a really small number.

King County has 2.044 Million people. For every 1 homeless person in Seattle, there are 550 non-homeless. This is the math I use to think there’s an opportunity at fixing this problem.

One Human, One Block, One Year
The idea is simple philosophically. Homelessness stops being a macro issue that we need “leaders” and “organizations” to try to solve. Homeless people need to stop being nameless, anonymous shadows that we can easily ignore on the side of the on ramp.

Let’s make homelessness a neighborhood cause. And not just a neighborhood cause, but a block cause.

I’m going to guess that almost every city block contains the following things:
– A house with an unused shed, mother-in-law attachment, garage or other structure that could be fitted with a simple bathroom. (And if not, a group of 20 people who’d split the rent on an apartment for someone.)
– At least one if not more people who hire part-time help.
– Someone who is or knows a psychologist, therapist or life coach.
– A teacher.
– A retired person willing to occasionally give someone a ride.
– Someone who’d spring for a bus pass.
– Neighbors with extra clothing they can give to a specific human.
– People who will donate money to make sure someone they know is well fed.

When you think of the idea that 550 people working together could help a single person get off the street, it seems almost mathematically insane that we have homeless people in the first place.

Now yes, I know that there are gigantic holes in this idea. Addiction, dementia, stubbornness, safety. These are all issues that would have to be dealt with. Then you’d have to get through the government red tape of permits, zoning, etc…

But doesn’t it seem doable? Doesn’t it seem like if everyone who lived on your block assembled for two hours one Sunday afternoon, you could come up with everything you need to get someone a home, a part-time job, a wardrobe, counseling, a bus pass, some education and tutoring, addiction treatment if necessary, and most of all – friends in a neighborhood. Friends who want to see their guest succeed and move on to successfully re-start their own life in 12 months.

That’s my utopian idea. One human, being helped by one block of neighbors, for one year.

An Open Letter to MLS and the MLSPU

Dear MLS Players and Owners:

With all due respect, you guys are idiots if you allow this season to start with a strike.

I understand both sides of the issue. Your league is experiencing the most growth it’s ever seen. The players feel they should benefit from all their sacrifice, and the owners feel like this is no time to upset the economic model that finally seems to be working.

You are both right. And you are both wrong.

First, I’m going to explain why the players are out of line for risking the health of their league.

Yes, it sucks that some of the guys in you league are making $40,000 a year and have no ability to switch teams. You want free agency and that seem like a fair request. But here’s the thing – you DO have free agency. There are something like 60-80 professional soccer leagues across the globe. You can go to Norway, low level English leagues, Belgium, India, Turkey, etc… Sure it’s hard to bring your wife and kids to Sweden, but that’s not the guys we’re talking about.

The argument is, “Well most of the guys we’re talking about CAN’T get jobs playing abroad so they should have free agency here.” Well, there’s the problem. If there is no demand for your services abroad, then you aren’t really in a good position to demand things here. Not only that, but you need to think long term. Let’s say minimum salaries get bumped up to $80k and there’s MLS free agency. Well the league suddenly became much more attractive for people who play in Norway, low level English leagues, Belgium, India, Turkey, etc… They HAVE demand from multiple leagues. And now your strike has created a financial plan that gives them reason to explore the U.S. as an option. I fear that some of you will be out of jobs.

On the flip side, I want to explain why I think the owners are out of line for risking the health of their league.

Good god people. If 10 years ago someone said you would be at the level of growth, TV revenue and prestige that you are at now, you never would have believed it. Don’t pat yourself on the backs too much, because you got lucky on a lot of levels. No one expected Seattle to become the financial catalyst that’s driving the league’s revenue engine. And then Portland came in and you had a regional rivalry that other rivalries could try to live up to.

Then you got even luckier. At the same time that every broadcast company decided that they needed they own Sports Network, all the Conferences in the NCAA decided they could keep their rights to themselves and start their own channels. Demand for content far exceeded supply and suddenly we had Barclay’s Premier League games on real channels just about every day. We also had TV deals for the MLS. These sports networks needed content and you were there to oblige.

So yea, you can give in a little to the players here. You don’t have to give in all the way, but you can certainly look at how the NBA has slots for player salaries and work that into some sort of restricted free-agency program. Look at how the NFL uses tricks like Franchise Tags to keep some players from driving up the free agent market. Let teams restrict a certain amount of their young guys. Give teams first chance to pluck unprotected players off teams that poach yours. Be creative. Come up with something.

Because here’s the thing. I’m sorry, but you don’t have the juice to survive a strike. MLB, NFL, NBA – they all suffer but survive work stoppages thanks to the 40-100 years they’ve been embedded in our national fabric. Hockey sat out a whole season and is still feeling the effects.

You have 17 home games – mostly weekend games – that my season ticket group has had to schedule our spring, summer and fall around. Do you realize what a pain in the arse it will be if you make us try to readjust our calendars because you couldn’t come to a consensus on how much profit you want to keep for yourselves vs sharing with the players? We’ll make maybe 2/3 of the games. And it will make us think about how many tickets to buy the following year.

So both of you get your act together and come to a compromise. You have some momentum now. You have a chance to say, “No we’re not like other leagues. We can solve problems because the fans are our most important asset.” Realize that you are a growing league, but recognize where you are in both in the U.S. fabric and the International Soccer landscape. This is the time to hit the accelerator, not slam on self-imposed brakes.