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Saturday, November 24, 2012

From the "No Shit" Department

Saw this headline on Huff Post.  Part of me feels bad that the Walmart strike failed, but the other part of me is thinking, "Well, what'd you expect?"

I'm not going to defend Walmart's business practices, some of which are indefensible and some of which are awesome, but I do think we need to, as a society, recognize there are limits to what standing around holding signs can accomplish.

If it's important to keep order and you're willing to accept glacially slow, gradual change on a generational scale, by all means...hold your signs.  Just know that abortion is still legal, Mumia is still on death row, and the only people willing to give peace a chance are these sign-holding hippies with their good intentions and their activist bullshit.

If you want a sudden, jarring change --like say, a complete revision of Walmart's labor practices-- you gotta bring the pitchforks.

Now I'm not arguing for suicide bombers blowing up Black Friday sales or even roving mobs running through stores smashing merchandise. But if these protesters were harassing shoppers and blocking the doors and slashing tires in the parking lot and throwing rocks at the cops, how many people would be lining up for the cheap TVs at Walmart?

Not many, I'm guessing.

Forget Ghandi.  Forget Martin Luther King.  They were cut down by their enemies, only to come back as ghosts insubstantial as air.  Righteousness didn't save Jesus and he was supposedly a god.

No, remember Brennus the Gaul instead.  He sacked Rome back when it was a Hellenic backwater, and when the Romans complained about their ill treatment, Brennus drew his sword and said "Vae victis."

Woe to the conquered.

The protesters are already familiar with this concept, even if they don't realize they've been conquered.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday

I have no way of proving this, but I suspect that we are being scammed --yet again-- with Black Friday bullshit.  I mean, you can't really convince me that the pent-up demand for low prices that's unleashed in Wal-Marts and Best Buys all over the country is due to seasonal gift-giving. 

Here's an article that found that not all Black Friday "deals" are the year's lowest prices anyway.

Black Friday is a scam, America.  Don't be scammed.

The Unbearable Predictability of Mike Rosen

Mike Rosen, promoter of Ponzi schemes and reliable right-wing radio talker, on "Twinkienomics:"
Hostess had been in financial distress for some time, filing for bankruptcy in 2004 and again in 2009, at which time it was rescued from oblivion by a team of hedge fund and private equity investors. In January 2012, it filed for bankruptcy yet again, citing an operating loss of $341 million, declining market share and increases in uncontrollable costs for ingredients and fuels.

Even more crippling were counterproductive work rules, unsustainable labor costs and $2 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, the consequences of having to deal with no fewer than 12 different unions representing its employees.
Think about that, folks with brains.

Just think about it. Counterproductive work rules were, according to Mike Rosen, Ponzi-scheme promoter, even more crippling than multiple bankruptcies, a nine-figure operating loss, declining market share, and ingredient/fuel costs.

Sadly, the "counterproductive work rules" were part and parcel of the wage cuts demanded in the first bankruptcy. A lot of people have complained that the union drivers were prohibited from unloading their own trucks. At first glance, that sounds stupid.

But consider the circumstances. While Hostess was negotiating for wage cuts for the drivers, the drivers were negotiating with Hostess for work rules. They bargained. "Yes," the drivers said, "I will accept a pay cut, but you will have to get someone else to unload the trucks."

That's not stupid. That's reasonable. So stuff the "counterproductive work rules" nonsense. Hostess asked for them when they asked for a 30% pay cut.

Who wanted that trade-off? Not the unions...

I've already demonstrated in a previous post that the "unsustainable labor costs" stuff is abject nonsense. Hostess themselves created that problem by cutting wages to the point that no one wanted to work for them anymore. I'm sure there are other, better ways of making sure your labor costs are unsustainable, but this is a pretty good method.


You gotta love Rosen's devotion to right wing orthodoxy though.  He concludes with this:
Like so much of our society today, too many unionists have an entitlement mentality regarding their jobs, their pay and their benefits that exceeds the value they add to what they produce. They don't care about consumers, investors, management or taxpayers. Twinkienomics is a reality check.
Consider that, folks with brains.

Expecting to be paid for your labor, expecting your company to keep their promises, this is an "entitlement mentality."  I can't believe the Post continues to print this drivel.  It's not only factually wrong, it's offensive.

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  It's just another 40 hour work week for me, with no sleep and a family get together wedged in there somewhere.  I don't mind too much.  I'm a big boy.

What I mind are the dummies I had to talk to tonight. I spent fifteen minutes trying to help two different people locate a power cable.  My mind reels whenever this happens.  I simply cannot understand how locating a power cable can be difficult.

Reading and interpreting the event logs, configuring the operating system, mapping out the network routing ...that's the complicated stuff.  Unplugging and plugging in a computer?  That's basic, man.  Basic. 

This is precisely why I want a career change.  Someone needs to guide these know-nothings along, but who said it had to be me?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hostess

Last week it was announced that Hostess would shut down and their brands would be liquidated.  Eighteen thousand people would lose their jobs and Twinkies will go away for a while before coming back made by Mexicans working for Bimbo.

It's a sad story, made sadder that this company has been in and out bankruptcy (mostly in) since 2004.  Of course, the usual suspects blamed the unions for rejecting the company's generous(?) offer of a 30% pay cut, this on top of the pay cuts the unions already agreed to.

It's cute and everything, and it fits well with a certain Romnian worldview, but it's wrong.  For one thing, that denies the traditional role between management and labor.  Labor does the work.  Management makes the decisions.  We can't blame the truck drivers and the bread cutters and the Twinkie fillers for management's failure to balance the books after nearly a decade, even with onerous work rules.

But consider this, from Jacobin magazine:
In a piece for Salon, Jake Blumgart interviewed a bakery worker who had been at the company for 14 years. “In 2005, before concessions I made $48,000, last year I made $34,000…. I would make $25,000 in five years if I took their offer. It will be hard to replace the job I had, but it will be easy to replace the job they were trying to give me.

What we have here is a situation where a company offered a wage in the marketplace and couldn’t get any workers to accept it. Consequently, it went out of business. The word “competitive” gets thrown around a lot, often with the murkiest of meanings, but in this case there can be no doubt at all that a company, Hostess, was unable to pay a competitive wage. Ninety-two percent of its workers voted to walk out on their jobs rather than accept its wage, and they stayed out even after they were told it was the company’s final offer.
By all the canons of competitiveness, it was the company that was deluded. Hey, it’s a tough labor market out there. Hostess just couldn’t compete.
So while I can understand why people of a certain ideological bent are eager to blame the union's refusal to accept a pay cut as the final dagger in the heart of a beloved company, it's just not the case.

Fact is, if the company hadn't been able to collectively bargain for the first round of paycuts, their inability to pay their workers would have been apparent much, much earlier. Thanks to the unions, the company got everyone to say yes to a pay cut. If the company had to bargain individually with workers, it's entirely possible --guaranteed, even?-- that a sizable percentage of the workforce would say no and leave the company on their own accord.

So while it sucks that these guys are losing their jobs, there is a huge silver lining. Short-term, they're unemployed right before the holidays.

In the long run, though, they now have the opportunity to seek better employment at well-managed firms, which --and perhaps this doesn't need to be said--is better for their long-term prosperity than taking yet another pay cut to prop up a company run by nincompoops.

As the wise man said, better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fell in Love With A Girl

I fell in love this weekend.

I went to a ranch supply store in Westminster with my brother, niece, and a family friend.  I wanted to look at the Levis, so me and my niece went over to the clothes.  A very attractive employee asked if I needed any help.

I didn't, not really, but like a sitcom character, I decided to pretend to be helpless.  I let her give me a guided tour of the jeans, then we made our way over to the boots.  My niece wanted to try on some "cute shoes," so with the help of this fine store employee, we tried on every boot on the shelf, settling (of course) on the pink ones.

Back to the jeans.  At this point, I had monopolized this girl's time for a good twenty minutes, growing more attracted to her with each passing minute.  The purple feather earrings?  Loved them.  The glasses and slightly crooked teeth?  So endearing.  She had the cutest smile, which came easily at all my jokes.  The way she filled her jeans?  Glorious.

I started to wonder...Does this girl like me?  Is she picking up on the fact like that I like her?  How can I steer this conversation from "How does this whole shrink-to-fit thing work?" to "How would you like to get some dinner?"

Alas, the uncertainty got to me.   I couldn't tell if the girl was giving me a vibe...or just excellent customer service.  (Either way, she was a ten!)   I also suspected that she was young, much too young for this 36 year old.  As it turns out, I did not make a pass at her.

And good call, too.  I looked her up on Facebook when I got home.  (Don't sneer.  That's not creepy.)

She graduated high school last year.  Doh!

Corporations Are People, My Friends

Ezra Klein, making sense on the Papa John's Obamacare strategy:
Businesses try to cut costs. One way they do that is by skimping on employee pay and benefits. The Affordable Care Act, at least in the short-term, will raise costs on businesses that have pursued that particular cost-cutting strategy. 
I love that Klein used the word "skimping" here. Of course, the fast food industry doesn't just skimp on employee pay and bennies.  They skimp on pretty much everything that has to do with their business, with the exception of marketing.  If it weren't for the marketing, Big Macs would have to sell themselves.

Have you ever had a Big Mac?  They do not sell themselves... 
As Slate’s Matt Yglesias has noted, that makes the Affordable Care Act an intervention on a particularly worrying change in the economy. In recent years, corporate profits, measured as a percentage of the U.S. economy have been hitting record highs, even as the share of those profits that go to workers have hit record lows.
Once you understand that, it's a little harder to go along with the "corporations are people" line of argument.  At best, it's a crude oversimplification.  Corporations aren't so much people as they are two distinct classes of people.

You have the makers, who do the work...and the takers, who pocket the profit.  (Rimshot!)  I kid, I kid.

More Klein:
The health-reform law won’t reverse that trend, but for the businesses that are doing the most to drive it — the ones that have cut costs and boosted profits by paying their workers very little and refusing to offer them decent health insurance — the Affordable Care Act will force them to contribute a bit more toward their workers’ health care or raise their prices. And if they choose the latter route, then fine: It levels the playing field between them and their competitors who haven’t taken a low-road approach to paying their workers. That gives pizza companies that do pay their employees well a slightly better position in the marketplace than they have today.

That won’t make Papa John’s feel better, and it shouldn’t. The Affordable Care Act isn’t helpful to their business strategy. Rather, it’s helpful to the business strategies of companies that have sought success by paying their workers good wages, giving them reasonable benefits, and delivering a higher quality product. Which should make us feel better.

Yes! He gets it. The low-pay/crappy product model is a choice, and a not very helpful one. Time to choose a better way, America.

Speaking of...that clown who promised to add a 5% Obamacare surcharge to the customer's of his various Denny's restaurants? He's backing down now after talking to the Denny's CEO.
"While we respect the decision of an independent business owner to speak out on this or other topics and express their personal views, his statements do not capture the respect by Denny’s, the Denny’s Franchisee Association or our franchise community at large for our hardworking employees or for our valued customers," John Miller, CEO of Denny's Corp., said in a statement.
Good call, Mr. Miller.