Resource Management

2006-Dec-30

I’m finally employed again (at least for a few months) after two years of unemployment. For the last six years all of my jobs have been short term as the corporations find they can pay 30% less if they bring someone here from offshore, or save 70% if they move the whole job offshore.

The money they save does not go into lower prices for you or higher wages for employees or even higher stock prices or dividends for stockholders. It goes into higher salaries and golden parachutes for the top executives. Because only the top executives are human beings whose lives and futures matter.

It can be difficult to sit in a meeting listening to my boss discuss which “resource” they will bring in after I’m gone. But that’s life for a contractor. We are not employees we are not human beings, we are “resources”, we are entries on a spreadsheet. If you fire a human being you feel some moral responsibility if as a result of your choices they go bankrupt, lose their house, have to take their kids out of college because they can no longer afford tuition, or even die ten years earlier because they couldn’t go to a doctor in time because they lost their health insurance. It would be unconscionable to do that to a fellow human being…

But we are not human beings. We are “resources”. And resources can be “managed” without the slightest thought that there are human consequences.

But it’s not just us contractors…the day I came to the company on my previous contract with them, I got there the same day that hundreds of permanent employees had to decide whether they would take a layoff or take a job with the Indian contract agency which could, if it felt like it lay them off without a moment’s notice. Because permenent employees are not human beings either, they too are merely “resources”.

I sit here in “H1B row”, a boiler room where ancient, battered desks are piled together as tightly as they can be, no privacy, so space, not even the tissue-thin partitions that they have upstairs in the cube farm where the “permanent” (snicker) employees sit and ponder how it came to be that they no longer have any career path and will be stuck in their jobs until they too are replaced by guest workers.

And I guess the H1B guestworkers are somehow even less than less than human. They guy next to me from India was told if he lasted two weeks he could expect to stay out his contract, so after two weeks he signed a lease on an apartment. The next day at three o’clock in the afternoon they dumped him.

But no matter. What happens to us has no moral consequences. Not as if we were humans to be treated with concern and dignity. We are commodities, to be traded across borders like so much meat on the hoof.

And whether you realize it yet or not, your turn is coming. The elite at the top, the top one tenth of one percent, are the only humans, the only ones whose lives matter. The rest of us are merely “collateral damage” along the path to corporate profits.

Enjoy your holidays while they last.

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Which Side Are You On?

2006-Dec-18

As the Democratic Party tries to find its way and which values it promotes, one symbolically important controversy is whether Barack Obama is one of us or will he betray us and sell out to The Man? As noted by Jo Etta, David Sirota and Archpundit have been sparring over the issue. Mostly they are just throwing up paragraphs from his books and his speeches. Words don’t do it for me. Politicians are paid to be masters of words and quickly learn how to speak much and say nothing that will reveal their true values.

But actions are harder to conceal. Which is why I became very disenchanted with Obama when I kept getting emails from my dear Senator Jim Talent telling me about how he and Obama were cosponsoring another E85 ethanol bill whose main purpose (real, not stated) was to funnel our tax dollars into the coffers of Archer, Daniels, Midland (“We don’t make the food you eat. We make the food you eat more expensive!”), Cargill, and the factory farmers who are putting the small farmers out of business. I’m not impressed.

You’re gonna need to know how to sort out who is who. Don’t just listen to their words, watch their actions. Then, realize that everything they do will show whether they are pushing for the People…or for the Power. Mammon is a jealous god, and you can’t worship power and wealth and have any devotion left over for any other values. Obama and any number of supposed supporters of our values will have to show us where they stand. By their fruits we shall know them.

Which Side Are You On?
by Florence Reese

Come all of you good workers
Good news to you I'll tell
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell

      (Chorus)
      Which side are you on?
      Which side are you on?
      Which side are you on?
      Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner
And I'm a miner's son
And I'll stick with the union
Till every battle's won

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You'll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair

Oh, workers can you stand it?
Oh, tell me how you can
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

Don't scab for the bosses
Don't listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven't got a chance
Unless we organize.

The Neos and the Naughts

2006-Dec-16

For most of human history we practiced equality. Then we became “civilized” and developed the split between those few who leveraged minor advantages into total control, and the rest who are left with little but their labor and the crumbs that fall from their masters’ tables (or whatever else trinkles down on them from above)…

Since “civilization” happened, human conflict has centered on the question whether the many would fight for equality or whether they would turn on each other to curry favor with their masters. Many of us wonder why people would surrender their own self interests and give what little power they have to those who already possess more power and wealth than they could ever deserve by any measure. In my own cynicism, I think that maybe most folks really and truly want to be slaves as long as they can avoid the official job title, and only the tiniest few actually fight against it. Maybe we are like dogs with a top dog and all the rest content to be a part of the pack.

But occasionally the pack starts growling at the leader. This last election the Republicans, the official party of the wealth and power elite, found that their followers finally got fed up enough to stay home on election day. Not much of a revolt, but at least a start.

The inherent class conflict in the Republican Party could not be more clear than the sight of the Republican middle and working classes giving not only their jobs and savings but even sacrificing the lives of their children for the greater profits of Halliburton. And ever so slowly it is beginning to dawn on them how badly they are being had. The Neo-Conservatives, working directly for the interests of the elite may finally start finding opposition from their loyal followers.

Democrats will be much slower in realizing how badly they are being screwed by their leaders. Democrats were supposedly the party of the people, so when they too act as the party of the power elite, it takes a long time for their followers to feel the pain sufficiently to see the light.

The Democrats have had a very hard time seeing the difference between a Liberal and a Neo-Liberal. It’s just not that hard. The Neo-Liberals, just like their Republican Neo-Conservative counterparts, are the toadies, sycophants, and suckups to those with money and power. And, just like the Republicans, they are given their power by the gullible. The gullible Republican voters vote themselves into poverty and vote for the Neos because the Neos promise to protect them from the horrible possibility that a couple gay guys might want to get married and have an abortion. And likewise the gullible Democrats vote themselves into poverty as long as their Neos promise they WILL allow gay guys to get married and have abortions. Clear?

Simply look at any controversy among Democrats and you will see the same issue: How can the elite persuade the people to willingly give up their inherent equality and give everything they possess to the elite in exchange for empty promises to take up sides in an eternal war over religious and social values.

So just how stupid and gullibe are you? And it just doesn’t matter which side of the political fence you are on on this one. Is winning a war over whether some gay guys should be able to have abortions a sufficiently good reason for you to give up your jobs, your healthcare, your retirement, and your children’s future? Isn’t it just possible that maybe we should put certain issues aside for a little while and ask each other whether it isn’t about time to start realizing who our real enemies are? No matter which party label they pretend to wear?


Power Down

2006-Dec-12

My power was down for over a week. They keep on telling us that it was the worst storm in decades. Bullshit. There were worse storms a few years ago, but no mass power outage.

I lived in Chicago for twenty years. We had worse storms all the time, but we didn’t have power outages. Before that I lived in Pennsylvania for twenty years. We had worse storms every few weeks during the winter, but never a power outage in all that time.

So what is different here? Greed. For decades, corporations have been buying each other up, laying off all the dedicated, experienced workers, replacing them (if at all) with younger, lower-skiiled but cheaper workers, often from offshore. Milking the corporations dry, and milking the customers dry.

Typically, a third of a company’s budget goes to employee wages. If you can save 30% on wages, profits go way up. That money could go into lower prices…but it doesn’t. It could go to the stockholders…but it doesn’t. It could go into employee wages, or into keeping more employed instead of laying them off…but it never does. It goes into the salaries of the top level executives. Or bonuses. Or their pensions. Or their golden parachutes. But not to the employees, the customers, or the stockholders.

It’s not over, and it’s not just the electric company.