Told We Need the Bailout Right Now

2008-Sep-23

Mr. Paulson said in prepared remarks to the Senate Banking Committee:

We need to build upon this spirit to enact this bill quickly and cleanly, and avoid slowing it down with other provisions that are unrelated or don’t have broad support.”

FDR: The First Inagural Address:

Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

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Employees as Commodities

2008-Sep-22

In an otherwise “standard normal” article about American workers being replaced by guestworkers and forced to train their replacements, one quote struck me:

“Any individual employee in the macro sense is no better than any other employee,” Habib said in his office.

Habib’s quote is important, not because he is being unusually obtuse in seeing workers as a commodity rather than as unique human beings with unique skills and talents, but because he is uttering the “new normalcy”. Managers truly believe that their workers are just as much a commodity as the computers on their desks, and can be swapped out and replaced as easily as keyboards.

I was dumfounded last year as I talked with my borker (contract broker), when he told me that contract agencies are getting pressured to offer commodity pricing on contract programmers:

They want us to charge them the same rate for all our contractors, the same rate for a novice Visual Basic programmer as for someone with ten years of SAP or Java. They don’t see why there should be so much of a difference as there is.

I’ve been around a while. I can remember when managers were competent, when most of them at the Fortune 500 level received training in management theory and practice, and were hired and promoted on the basis of their ability to manage people rather than their ability to run Microsoft Project or one of its bastard progeny and get the projected numbers to come out right. I actually was a project manager for years, but I got out and went back to programming when they no longer cared that every project I managed came out on time, under budget, and of higher quality than they expected, but instead they only wanted to see actuals (faked final numbers) align with projections (faked predicted numbers). I remember getting dinged on an annual appraisal when my intrapreneurship got a profit higher than I had been asked for. That’s when I saw the handwriting on the wall and knew that competence was no longer an asset for a manager of a company in this country.

Sometime several decades ago things went out of whack. Those who ran companies decided that people were widgets. They decided that only they themselves at the top were humans and to be allowed freedom and dignity, while the rest of us were “resources” to be exploited. It looks like it is all about to come crashing down. Unfortunately, too many of us allowed ourselves to be commodities to be exploited and we will be the ones to suffer most as the edifice topples into rubble.


Bailout: Heads You Win–Tails We Lose

2008-Sep-21

The Great Bailout means we will be paying for the losses of the rich.

The stock market is a legalized gambling arena. It is not investing. Only buying into IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) is investing. Everything after that is just gambling whether prices will rise or fall.

And in the last few decades the market has created ways of gambling to allow rich people to gamble even more than they own, lately called “derivatives” which are ways to leverage bets so you can bet more than you own. Well, the high rollers gambled trillions of dollars, and they are now losing.

What happens when we gamble and lose? We lost everything. What happens when they gamble and lose? They ask the government to make us pay for their losses. When they won, and made billions of dollars for themselves, did we get any of that? Now that they are losing, are we going to make them use their winnings to cover their losses?

Don’t you wish you could gamble money you don’t own, and when you win you keep it, but when you lose then just make someone else cover your losses?

And we are going to let the people we voted into office do it to us.


The Surge or Ethnic Cleansing?

2008-Sep-21

Juan Cole, who knows more about the Middle East than most of us, doesn’t think it was the Surge:

Satellite imaging that shows Sunni Arab neighborhoods in Baghdad dark gives evidence that the ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis by Shiite militias accounts for the fall in violence in Baghdad, not the extra troops Bush sent, called the ‘surge.’