Senator Frank Morse outsourced his speechwriting to India

This would be funny if it weren't so downright bizarre. From the Oregonian:

State Sen. Frank Morse, R-Albany, delivered a speech on globalization to the Friends of the Albany Public Library that was put together by a company in Bangalore, India. ...

Morse was scheduled to talk to the library association last spring about "The World Is Flat," a book on globalization by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Morse didn't know much about the topic but agreed to help out.

While reading the book, Morse found the name of Vivek Kulkarni, a former Indian government employee who started Brickwork India, a company that specializes in researching speeches and preparing PowerPoint presentations for busy executives.

Given the topic, Morse decided to send Kulkarni an e-mail. That was on a Sunday night. The next morning, Morse had a return e-mail from Kulkarni. The two spoke by phone, and Morse agreed to pay $500 out of his own pocket for Kulkarni to deliver data fit for the Albany library association.

It's "a pretty cerebral group, so if you're going to give a speech, it should have some content, not typical political rhetoric," Morse says. "I sent (Kulkarni) an outline of the things I thought would be worthwhile to address.

From the Times of India:

Well, that’s the power of outsourcing, a virtual hammer that beats the fat, round world into a flat platter.

That’s why, Brickwork India’s captain, Vivek Kulkarni, could sit here and put down a well researched speech copy for a United States politician, who is thousands of miles away. Being a technocrat cum entrepreneur, what’s Kulkarni’s expertise to draft a political speech?

"I have written dozens of speeches for former chief minister of Karnataka S M Krishna, who was also the IT minister, when I was the IT secretary. So when senator Morse, who is also a big industrialist, approached us, we knew what to do. We took a couple of weeks to do it, after studying the senator’s earlier speeches to familiarise his style," he said.

Is it really possible that there is no one in Albany qualified to do speechwriting for Senator Morse?


  • BlueNote (unverified)

    Kind of old news.

    My doctor records his chart notes via computer dictation after seeing each patient. His voice files are emailed to India each afternoon for transcription and are emailed back to him in written form the next morning. The error rate is less than 1/3 of what it was using live in office personnel, and the cost is less than 1/4 of live in office personnel.

    Many smaller hospitals in this area contract for middle-of-the-night X-ray reading services via the internet with radiologists in Israel or Australia. Digital X-rays are sent to be read and the report comes back very quickly, usually within minutes. Saves time and money and it is very difficult to get local radiologists to cover graveyard shifts, especially in smaller hospitals.

    I don't know about you but I would not research and nd write a technical speach for $500.00. Sounds like Frank found a more efficient way to do things.

  • Joel H (unverified)
    "I thought, 'I'm going to see just how flat the world really is.' "

    Sounds pretty flat. But wouldn't a speech written in English in India, assuming the workers are fluent, come out sounding sort of British in tone?

    I've never actually hired a speechwriter, so I'm sort of guessing here, but at $500 for a short, fact-heavy speech I think Albany locals can probably remain competitive. I would do that... a 15-minute presentation takes me several hours to write on a topic I know. An hour-long speech - maybe a day and a half?

  • Beaver Believer (unverified)

    OK, so let's give Senator Morse's the benefit of the doubt that there isn't anyone in Albany with the chops to tackle the concept of global trade (sorry for the snub Hasso!)

    And let's just say Senator Morse is demonstrably incapable of figuring out anything about the topic himself (I calls em likes I sees em Frank.)

    But given all that, I'm still unclear about why Sentator Morse couldn't figure out how to do his shoping locally.

    Why couldn't the Senator, in the pursuit of this distant knowledge, have traveled all the way accross to the east bank of the Willamette River to the fair hamlet of Corvallis and reach out to any of the fine luminaries of economics and politics at our very own Oregon State University?

    Are you not a Beaver Believer Senator Morse?

    Are you not confident in any of the 15 PhD faculty members in the Economics department or any the 11 PhD faculty members in the Political Science department right here in Beaver Nation?

    (By the way, am I the only one with the suspicion that this guy supported Measure 40 while arguing that there is no shortage of people qualified for our Oregon's Supreme Court from every nook and cranny in our fair state? Just wondering aloud here.)

  • Joel H (unverified)

    Of course if there were a lot of research involved, that would change things. But these Indians are likely to know something about globalization....

  • (Show?)

    I hate to put a damper on your outsourcing "story" Bluenote however....

    My wife works for a small medical transcription service here that is struggling in Portland to stay afloat because of outsourcing of medical transcription work...

    Her company is a small local outfit that doesn't charge outrageous fees and their error rates are better than Indian transcription services. The reality is most local transcriptionists barely make a living in the USA.

    I've heard just the opposite from many other doctors who say that Indian transcription services, while cheap, are notoriously bad in error rates and many hospitals are now second-guessing themselves about out sourcing their work to India.

    Maybe your doctor has had better luck, but that's not the prevailing tale from what I hear from actual medical transcriptionists.

    I don't know why people keep thinking outsourcing, or offshoring local jobs is a good thing.

    Not everybody can be a stock broker, be a lawyer or doctor, own their own business, or wake up in the morning and peruse their portfolios for a living...

    There's an awful lot of Oregonians that would like to stay employed....

  • (Show?)

    Are people really giving Morse a hard time for contacting one of the principals in the book he was to discuss, and based on that contact having him do what the book explains he does, thus exemplifying the point of the discussion?

    I mean, seriously. It sounds like Morse talked to the guy, liked what he heard, and figured--let's see what the work product looks like in this example.

    And now you want him to check for any speechwriters in Albany, out of some bizarrely misplaced notion of protectionism....! Geez, cut the guy a break.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)

    BlueNote writes: "Many smaller hospitals in this area contract for middle-of-the-night X-ray reading services via the internet with radiologists in Israel or Australia. Digital X-rays are sent to be read and the report comes back very quickly, usually within minutes. Saves time and money and it is very difficult to get local radiologists to cover graveyard shifts, especially in smaller hospitals."

    My wife is a Portland-based radiologist. I would be very afraid if a report came back within minutes. It suggests careless reading. If it is a plain film, a thorough read takes about 3 minutes, followed by a few minutes dictating the report, including the differential diagnosis. I hope the hospitals who contract for this service have very good medical liability insurance. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

    My wife also works for a large 50 radiologist practice in the Portland area. They also contract out nighttime work because the day's workload is so brutal that having radiologists called back in for routine procedures borders on cruel and inhuman punishment. Her hospital contracts for "nighthawk" services from a group in Los Angeles, which provides competent services in all modalities and has reasonable turnaround times. They provide the diagnostic information for the ER doc who needs the information in a hurry. Despite this, local radiologists overread the cases the next morning and are responsible for final dictations and reporting any discrepancies to the attending physician. Her hospital considered, and rapidly rejected, outsourcing this work off-shore. They did considerable research and found that the off-shore groups tend to use computer-assisted diagnosis instead of human reads. In the US, computer-assisted diagnosis is still in its infancy and its false positive rate and false negative rate is way too high for it to be used for anything regularly.

    Bottom line: you get what you pay for.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    My comments about outsourcing are based upon my experience as an attorney. I wrote the contracts I mentioned (with facts appropriately disguised to protect the confidentiality of my clients).

    While there are no doubt quality issues with some outscourced work, the problem of quality control is not limited to foreign workers. Whether local jobs are outsourced to L.A. or India or Ireland is not really the issue. The fact is that local jobs are being lost every day because somebody believes that the same job can be done more efficiently elsewhere.

    We need to improve the Oregon school system, both K-12 and colleges, so that we produce more people who can compete in the global economy. It is going to cost a lot of money, because we need to hire qualified teachers in math and science. Many of those folks can earn two or three times a current teacher's salary working in private industry. A friend is a wonderful English teacher and I tell him that as great as he is, the school system needs to pay him much less than they pay a great scientist or math teacher. Because the world does not need more English majors or social workers or lawyers (unfortunately). The world economy demands more scientists, engineers, computer programmers, math experts, etc.

  • (Show?)

    Why are we talking about radiology?

    This is about a speech for a policymaker. Why would he outsource the development of his ideas, thoughts, and words? (Oh sorry, "research".)

    And even acknowledging that there are certainly times when a speechwriter can be useful, why would you hire one from a company in Bangalore, India?!

    Every speechwriter I know takes a long time to get to know their principal's style, pattern, preferred turns of phrase, words they stumble over, etc.

    Seriously, Frank, a speechwriter from Bangalore?!

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)

    "We need to improve the Oregon school system, both K-12 and colleges, so that we produce more people who can compete in the global economy. It is going to cost a lot of money, because we need to hire qualified teachers in math and science. Many of those folks can earn two or three times a current teacher's salary working in private industry. A friend is a wonderful English teacher and I tell him that as great as he is, the school system needs to pay him much less than they pay a great scientist or math teacher. Because the world does not need more English majors or social workers or lawyers (unfortunately). The world economy demands more scientists, engineers, computer programmers, math experts, etc."

    Today's NY Times has a front-page article on this very topic today. The problem is that people who train for specialized jobs, such as being a doctor, are finding that there is greater remuneration, often 10x as great working on Wall Street. So even if we paid teachers more, how do we overcome the effect that money has in drawing talented people away from the fields in which they train?

    It seems to me that we create many of our own problems. The Indians, the Irish, the Pakistanis, the Israelis can do our jobs better and more efficiently because the cream of our crop leave their professions because they are lured by the prospect of more money doing something tangentially related to their training, but not what they're trained to do. Our problem is more than just our investment in science and technology teachers. Our problem is that we've allowed our society to become consumed by super affluence, and like Willie Sutton used to say, they go where the money is. People worry that doctors are overcompensated and doctors worry that they're undercompensated, and college professors worry they're undercompensated, and business people worry they're undercompensated, and so we create the perfect storm for offshoring jobs.

  • Chris (unverified)


    Equally, why should Frank Morse content himself with researchers and speechwriters from Albany?

    You exaggerate the situation by labeling this episode as bizarre. It's a fact of modern economic life.

    Moreover, it doesn't seem like Morse is all that interested in purchasing a product that caters specifically to his oratorical stylings and rhetoric: just some solid, cerebral data to do his job. Maybe he could use a home-grown employee to better respond to his personal quirks, but is he even in pursuit of that kind of consulting here?

    And come on. $500 from his own pocket. It's a drop in a proverbial bucket. Incidentally, that cash could also be justified as a reasonable expense on the grounds that it so happens to support the arguments that Friedman puts forth in his book.

    And to all my blue-tinged friends, don't let excessive protectionist populism and any latent globophobia commandeer your party's politics!

    (As an aside, it seems surprising to me that more research projects have not been "outsourced," although this may arguably be the result of lackluster intellectual property laws and enforcement in some countries.)

  • (Show?)

    I've argued the free trade side of this issue for a long time but as I've watched what's happened with NAFTA and the world economy I'm coming around to much more of a fair trade position.

    There seems to be a certain amount of misplaced idealism in the whole "world is flat" thing in some circles. I'd recommend Senator Byron Dorgan's book, Take This Job and Ship It for a somewhat less rosy view of globalization as it is currently being practiced.

    When you are talking about global markets what does it mean that slave labor and forced child labor are a lot cheaper than non-slave adult labor? Does it mean that if you aren't a slave working for nothing more than a cot in a dormitory and two inadequate meals a day then you aren't efficient?

    Slave labor is only the most extreme example of "efficiency" in the global economy. Some other things that are "efficient" are: not providing healthcare and not paying people enough to buy it for themselves, not needing to spend money to protect workers from hazards in the work environment and being able to freely pollute the environment where the workers live. As long as there are billions of people in the world it's more "efficient" to treat many workers as expendable supplies. If they die before they are 40 so much the better. "Decrease the surplus population" as the pre-reformation Mr. Scrooge would have it. That idea fell from favor in the West a relatively short time ago and it seems to be making a strong comeback these days. We just dress it up as "globalization" now and pretend that because it is happening in some other part of the globe it has nothing to do with us.

    It's not at all clear that those American scientists and computer programmers are going to be able to find jobs either. The massive outsourcing of tech support jobs to India and the significant outsourcing of programming jobs that have also gone there has not happened because there were not enough Americans who can do the job. The job market for computer programmers in this country has been soft since the dot com bust.

  • JB (unverified)

    Senator Morse rules. I think it is very cool that instead of just writing a speech about the flat world himself he tested the flat world concept, apparently with good results. The flat world concept is much bigger than "outsourcing." Before you criticize Senator Morse, read Thomas Friedman's book, or if you are pressed for time, watch this excellent speech Friedman made about the book at MIT:

    World is Flat

  • ws (unverified)

    Here's am additional comment of Mr. Morse's from th Oregonian article:

    "The senator, who won re-election this month to a second four-year term, said he didn't know his outsourcing decision had been written about recently in The Times of India, one of the country's English-language dailies."

    Gee, tough break! I'll have to say though, he really finessed this one through being so candid with the Oregonian. Something about this method of pulling a speech together seems so phony. Isn't the whole point of electing a local representative supposed to be to attempt to have a locally representative viewpoint presented to higher government? And then they go farm the work off to somebody continents away. What's next? Maybe somebody in India can do Mr. Morse's entire job better than he.

  • Joel H (unverified)

    It seems to me that many people are missing the point completely. This sounds to me like an experiment, not a normal business practice. Of course it's phony. There's no reason to think he doesn't normally write his speeches himself or that he did this to save a few bucks. This is probably just a way for the senator to learn about the process of outsourcing, and it seems like a good idea to me.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    It has been said that 9/11 killed irony.

    Nice to see ol Senator Windbag grab it by its lapels, plant his thin lips on it, and resusitate it back to life.

    Irony, and you thought it was dead.

    Nah, just sleeping, til a clueless Republican rube stumbles by, with his hand out.

  • Levon (unverified)

    Didn't know that blogs have "news holes" that need filling. This is a complete non-story. Who cares?

    Must some Oregonians continue to feed the stereotype that people living here are provincial?

    What kind of car does the Senator drive? Is it made, GASP!, in Japan? Or maybe Germany?

    Does he drink wine from EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeKKKKK France? Is that cheese from the Netherlands that I saw him eat the other day.

    Please......simply because the Oregonian thinks it's newsworthy doesn't make it so. You can do better than this!

  • Scott (unverified)

    I think the quality of the work just depends on who is doing the job. You could get a good job or bad job done whether it's done in Oregon, India, China or anywhere.

    If you have to pay $1.00 for an American worker, and say, $0.25 cents for a foreign worker, who do you go with? If the quality of work is comparable, one is likely to go with the foreign worker. It's not that Americans can't compete in terms of quality and quantity of work done, it's that these foreign currencies aren't worth anything against the US dollar, so they struggle to compete financially.

    So how is this a fair playing field with no favors? It's not.

  • (Show?)

    I find it disturbing that so many of the responses to this blog missed the whole point of what Sen. Morse was doing. This was a nice touch to a speech on globalization for people at the local library. This was not a paid speech for some mega corporation. Do people seriously think that Frank regularly hires people to write his speeches? The only person Frank would hire in Albany to write speeches is himself and the pay at state senate rates is less than $500.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    On the plus side for Morse in this incident: I suppose we have to acknowledge that at least he paid for this out of his own pocket.

    On the negative side, however, .....

    First, were you honest and truthful in how you used whatever work you purchased from another party?

    To avoid assumptions, I would offer that the real questions to Senator Morse here are: Did you actually contract to have a full speech/presentation written for you? Or just research and data to be used in a speech/presentation you gave? If you contracted for a full speech/presentation, did you give that speech/presentation whole or in substantial part without letting your audience know it was not your work? If you just contracted for research and data, did you clearly explain that you did that, and cite the source of any specific facts you used in your speech?

    Second, did the media fail the voters since this speech was given long before the last election?

    Were "journalists" at this talk (and I quote that term in this because clearly this is a failure to behave as true journalists if they were there), and why did they either not, as a matter of course, ask Morse about the sources of his information. Or if they were they and did ask him at the time, why was this not discussed before now, and why did they not ask him at about it during the campaign?

    This is question about Morse's judgement that deserved a full airing of the facts before the election when the voters were supposed to exercise their responsibility to chose leaders who will represent them. Morse had a talented and honest opponent that the media, and the rather inept and petty leadership of the state Democratic party, and Democratic leadership in the Oregon House and Senate, chose to ignore.

    The people deserved the truth then, and they deserve it now.

    The duty of the media now is to ascertain the facts about what Morse actually did and find out where the truth is in the statement: Morse says he wrote the speech. Kulkarni differed on that account, saying Morse "may have modified what we sent.". And while they are it, they should just confirm that a skilled businessman like Morse actually did pay the $500 out of his own pocket since his veracity is now in question.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    By the way, there is a significant irony in this bit from Har's piece:

    Morse discussed the history of globalization, its impact on the U.S. economy and how Oregon can compete -- by investing more in education.

    For students fortunate enough to even get to attend college in Oregon, plagarism --- which includes buying term papers and other work that the students submits as his own work --- is considered to be serious academic misconduct. Punishment can range from failing a class, to expulsion, to having one's degree revoked.

    Even as he talked about supporting education, Morse set a rather poor example of what that means if he did not clearly identify this work as not his own. (That still remains the question for the media to clearly answer).

    Maybe he just means investing in certain types of education for those elite who profit from the colonial model (with us being the colonies) of exporting resources to other countries, and then borrowing money to import high-value finished products for consumption by the majority of folks?

  • Zak J. (unverified)

    Could it possibly be that Morse contacted Kulkarni for quality reasons and not just price? Kulkarni was mentioned in a widely-read, international best seller. How many of those Albany/Salem speechwriters can claim that? Sounds like Morse went to the right source for his speech to me.

  • Thom Asspain (unverified)

    He outsourced this job because, like every one of the imperialist-korporate ass-kissing SCUM who have hijacked our democracy, he HATES this country and the middle class who built it, wants to turn it into a Third-World oligarchy in which he and the contemptible pieces of fecal matter like him can live in abject luxury while the rest of us slave and die to keep them there.

    I will willingly DIE before I will live in that world. Hopefully, we can still stop it from coming to pass - by ridding ourselves of the Korporate filth like "senator" Morse, who is a TRAITOR to the United States of America and should be treated as such.

    At the very least, these turds and blood-suckers should be hod-tied, tarred and feathered, and put on the next plane to China, India or Mexico so they can live among the workers they value so much more than We, The People wh they are supposed to be representing.

  • Chris (unverified)

    Ha ha ha...

    He's a freedom hater!

  • Tina (unverified)
    <h2>Sorry Joel, nice try but this IS Morse's normal business practice and not just an experiment. Turn over one of his campaign buttons (which I am looking at right at this momemt) and you will find MADE IN MEXICO. There are plenty of people and businesses in his district that could use the work and would do an excellent job of manufacturing campaign material or writing speeches. It should have been a campaign issue cause it was known by his opponants but.....? What would be the definition of anti-americanism if not stepping over qualified local business to get it from another country?</h2>
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