Friday, June 19, 2015

Back From the Dead?

Haven't posted in ages... can't say I'm going to make this a regular thing (maybe, maybe not). Nonetheless, I recently wrote a comment for the ZDNet website that I though worth sharing here (no it wasn't a post or commentary, just a comment in the comments section of an article, LOL).

In any case, my comment was in response to an article that was discussing layoffs in the tech sector (where I happen to work). Recently two large companies, Con Edison in California and the Disney corporation have dismissed large numbers of IT staff in favor of foreign born replacements brought in under the H1B Visa program, that supposedly is meant to allow companies to hire foreign workers for positions that are difficult to fill with native born workers (who may, for instance, lack the necessary tech skills).

But the actions of Disney and Con Edison make a mockery of this program. How possibly, one might ask, are companies filling difficult to fill positions when they're replacing American born workers who already fill those positions?

That this is even possible, is due many factors, but in no small part to the death of organized labor in this nation. Here is what I wrote:

This is just another example of the woefully uneven power dynamic between employers and their employees that has resulted from and been exacerbated by the slow death of organized labor in this country. A union shop would never have stood by for something like this, watching passively as a large contingent of their co-workers were replaced by cheaper, foreign labor while being forced to train their replacements (shades of digging your own grave). Had these folks been represented by a union, they could have walked off en masse, and paralyzed the company, forcing it to rethink its plans. Instead, these workers can only lament their fate, and train their replacements like dogs with their tails between their legs, begging for whatever scraps might fall off their master's table. They are cowed, and pliant in hopes of a good reference that might allow them to find another job, and a few months severance that might keep them from losing their homes.

The death of the labor movement has been accompanied by huge disparities in wealth and income between the most wealthy (the 1%, if you will) and the rest of us. It is no accident. And with this mounting wealth disparity, the moneyed classes have also gained untold influence in government. A conservative Supreme Court is busy codifying the notion that the wealthy are entitled to an outsized degree of influence in the political process, and acts that one would have been derided as bribery are now enshrined as "free speech" by Judges appointed by politicians who themselves were bought and paid for by billionaires who know a good investment when they see one. What I'm saying is this: don't look to Congress to "fix" the problem of H1B abuse. The whole point of the program is to make the country more "competitive" by driving down wages and producing a more docile work force. What happened at Con Edison and Walt Disney isn't a "bug"... it's a "feature" of the program. It's the whole point of the program. 

The whole notion that U.S. workers, who are chomping at the bit for decent paying jobs, and were reared in the nation with the best higher-education system in the world cannot be trained, and must instead make way for engineers trained in a third world country is simply ludicrous, and the fact that these employees were made to *train their replacements* puts the lie to even that foolishness. This is all about the bottom line, plain and simple. And until IT professionals realize that they are dispensable, disposable pawns, and get over their innate Libertarian ideological tendencies and start seriously contemplating solidarity and mass action, everyone's job is at risk.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

An Election That's About Pure, Undistilled Loathing?

an-email I sent to Andrew Sullivan's blog:
A personal observation on Mitt Romney's likeability problem: I live in Maryland and have yet to see a single Mitt Romney bumper sticker. Oh, don't get me wrong, I see plenty of NObama stickers (often poorly executed designs that appear, on first glance, to be pro-Obama signs, and I suspect are frequently mistaken as such) but I have yet to find myself behind a single vehicle sporting a sticker affirming support for Mitt Romney's presidential run. To be fair, most (but not all) of the Obama stickers I see are from the 2008 campaign, but I have, at least, seen a handful of Obama 2012 signs. It's pretty clear to me that, while many Republicans loathe Obama, they have little regard for Romney (yes, Maryland is a Democratic leaning state, but isn't that where you'd expect to find the greatest support for a moderate Republican?) So then, it would seem that this is a contest that, perhaps more than any previous one, will answer the question: is it possible to defeat a candidate on pure loathing alone, with no positive alternative vision to counter-balance it?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Montana had Ted Kaczinsky, Wyoming has... well... Wyoming.

With Governor Rick Perry in Texas threatening secession on an almost daily basis, Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona announcing that a panel of volunteer investigators have determined that President Barack Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate is a fake, and Newt Gingrich in Georgia promising to build a manned lunar colony in the next eight years (never mind that NASA doesn't even have a vehicle capable of carrying an astronaut into orbit at this time) it takes a lot of effort for a state to stand out from the run-of-the-mill, right-wing, lunatic fringe, clown circus that is today's GOP. But the Montana Legislature may have figured out how to do just that. A new bill has passed the state legislature on a voice vote that would study the ways on which the state would cope with a hypothetical financial and economic collapse of the Federal government:

House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.

The task force would look at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and
an aircraft carrier (emphasis mine).
As far as garden-variety right-wing paranoid krayzee goes, this is all standard stuff... until we reach the bit about Wyoming possibly needing to acquire an aircraft carrier, that is. Then it becomes inspired right-ring nuttiness. Because let's face it: it's not truly inspired right-wing nuttiness until it crosses over into the territory of "stuff that's impossible to parody because it is already its own parody."

And this bill is impossible to parody because --and I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of geography can be sketchy at times (is Uzbekistan to the east or west of Tajikistan?)-- I'm pretty sure I remember learning in 5th grade that Wyoming is a land-locked state:



And as you can see from the above image, I am more or less correct in my recollection.

So why exactly would a land-locked state like Wyoming be studying the feasibility of acquiring an aircraft carrier? I'm not entirely sure, but if I were a member of the legislatures of Idaho or Oregon I might seek to introduce a bill to look into putting together our own standing army just in case the Wyoming's gotten some nutty ideas into its head about westward expansion.

That said, there is reason to question the seriousness with which Wyoming is undertaking this most important investigation. The Wyoming Tribune notes:
The bill must pass two more House votes before it would head to the Senate for consideration. The original bill appropriated $32,000 for the task force, though the Joint Appropriations Committee slashed that number in half earlier this week.
So yeah, Wyoming's task force on surviving financial Armageddon and the complete collapse of Western Civilization is being funded to the tune of $16,000. That's just a few hundred dollars more than what it would cost to walk into a Hyundai dealership and drive a way in a brand new Elantra:

I guess that tells you something about just how pressing the concern is, right now.

Could it be that this bill is simply a way to further rile up the the paranoid, gold hoarding, survival shelter stocking, gun toting, end-of-times believing, loonies who make up the base of the Republican party these days and do so without spending the kind of money that might lead to questions about why the Wyoming legislature is wasting so much money investigating paranoid right-wing fantasies?

Maybe. Probably. OK, surely.

(Hat Tip: Wonkette)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thoughts.

Just a quick couple of thoughts. First I'd like to note my latest posting which is up at Stinque, and which notes the hypocrisy of Mitt Romney's protestations against crossover Democratic voters in Michigan who might potentially cost him a nomination victory in his home state. It seems that for Romney, what's good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander.

Secondly, I'd like to comment on the controversy surrouinding Rick Santorum's recent disparaging comments directed at President Obama's stated desire to see more Americans pursue higher education:



For sheer vulgarity this attack is not easily surpassed. And with unemployment rates for high school educated workers more than twice as high as those of Americans who are possessed of a college degree, Santorum's comments are mystifyingly stupid. And coming from a man who boasts three college degrees of his own, the hypocrisy is glaring. But then, Santorum has demonstrated time and time again that there is no position so knee jerk reactionary that he won't rush to it if he thinks it will help secure him the votes of the Tea Party ignoramuses who make up such a large percentage of GOP primary voters these days.

But as disgusting as Santorum's remarks are, the reaction of the crowd is, to me, equally jarring. Why are these people clapping and cheering? Do they really think it snobbish to promote universal college education? Or are they clapping because Santorum insulted the President, regardless of what it was occasioned the insult. I suspect that many in attendance would have cheered any insul directed at Barack Obama, no matter how incongruous or undeserved. Had Santorum called Obama an "asshole" for preferring boxers to briefs, many in thecrowd would likely have given him a standing ovation.

But what about the ones who cheered the comment, having fully digested it, knowing full and well what Santorum was getting at? Why we they cheering? Do they think Santorum's comments have the ring of truth? That it is "snobbish" to promote a college education as a desirable goal? And more tellingly, how many of those who were cheering Santorum's comments believe that a college education is not right for their children? How many believe that their kids would be better off as plumbers or auto mechanics, rather than striding the halls of a hostpital with stethoscope in hand, or arguing a case before the Supreme Court?

My suspicion is that few of them feel that way about their children. Oh, doubtless there are a couple who have given up on an unruly child who's always getting into some fix or another and seems singularly unintereseted in learning. But I would wager that the significant majority of those who cheered Santorum and have school aged children still harbor high hopes for them and dream of the day their own child walks up the aisle to take the college diploma in hand that he has earned through hard work and long nights of arduous study. To these folks it's only "those other children" who should be thinking about trade school, or an apprenticeship with a master plumber.

So what we have is a group of people who are, themselves, decidedly snobbish, cheering a highly educated Senator who accuses the president of snobbishness for wanting to encourage higher education for as many people as possible.

Welcome to the absurdity and shamefully hypocritical world of GOP politics.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Of Demons and Demagoguery

Maureen Dowd has an excellent Op Ed in the New York Times today in which she reminds us that the same Church that is up in arms about President Obama's mandate that health insurance plans cover contraceptives for women, has recently trained dozens of "Exorcists" to purge possessed souls of their literal demons. In so many ways this is an institution that exemplifies pre-Enlightenment thought. And I might add that, in this absurd sidestepping of psychiatric medicine, they also resemble the cult of Scientology.

It is telling that just days ago, in an interview in Connecticut Magazine, Cardinal Edward Egan, a central figure in the Catholic Church's scandalous cover-up of hundreds of incidents of child sexual abuse and rape by priests recently withdrew the apology he offered on the subject in 2002:

CT Magazine: In 2002, you wrote a letter to parishioners in which you said, “If in hindsight we discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”

EGAN: First of all, I should never have said that. I did say if we did anything wrong, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we did anything wrong. But I hate to go back over this. I think there’s more to life than that one issue, especially when I had no cases


It is truly astonishing that an institution that was guilty of the cover-up of hundreds (if not thousands) of incidents of child rape by hundreds of its top employees could survive such a scandal, let alone rise up a few years later (while the results of these crimes are still making their way through the legal system) and attempt to claim a moral mandate to oppose the practice of contraception. My feeling is that this institution should shut its piehole for the next 50 or so years, butt our of the culture wars, and spend its every waking minute atoning for its sins by ministering exclusively to the poor. Andrew Sullivan has rightly pointed out, on his blog, that the same Catholic Cardinals who raged from the pulpit in righteous fury when President Obama decreed that businesses aligned with the Catholic church should cover contraceptives for their employees, were largely silent when the President was pushing a plan for universal health coverage that would mostly benefit the neediest in society.

In an odd way, I suspect that the fury that greeted the ciontraceptive coverage mandate from the pulpit was a direct result of the priestly child sexual abuse scandal of recent years. What led me to this conclusion was a radio interview I was listening to recently in which a person sympathetic to the church (I've forgotten pretty much all the details of the show, even the name of the show) stated that the church has been battered over the last 10 year's, and this is the last straw. Now, it's common hyperbole (and lies frankly) among Evangelical figures to claim that Obama is mounting a "war on religion", so at first I didn't really give this statement a second thought. But sometime later it dawned on me that the 10 years battering this guest was referring to probably involves the justified criticism the church leadership has endured for its handling of the child sexual abuse scandal.

So I suspect that, as much as anything, the violent reaction we have seen to the health insurance mandate from the Catholic hierarchy is as much a cynical move to put the child sexual abuse behind them by attempting to claim some high ground in the culture wars.

Of course this shallow move has backfired. In their continued opposition to the president's newly modified coverage proposal (where the Church affiliated institutions are no longer required to offer such coverage, but insurers themselves are required to offer it separately and for free) the leadership has demonstrated not just that it opposes being forced to pay for contraceptives, but that it would use its power over employees to demand that they adhere to an outdated, medieval morality that is rejected by even 98% of its own parishioners.

Nothing brings out the Pharisee in men like a desire to cover up the hideousness of their own sins.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Florida debate redux

I've mostly confined my blogging to Stinque, but I thought I'd drop by and share some peronal observations about last night's Florida GOP presidential debate, mostly just to point out what I felt were the event's most risible moments. Haven't been able to find a transcript online yet, so I'll quote from memory.

Hands down, the biggest howler of the evening belongs to Newt Gingrich who, when pressed on his lobbying business with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac insisted that he had not been hired as a lobbyist, but rather as a "historian of Washington." I haven't heard such a hilarious euphemism since South Carolina governor Mark Sanford was said to be "hiking the Appalacchian Trail" when he was, in fact cavorting in Argentina with his mistress. Newt is amazing in his shamelessness and ability to argue that black is white and up is down.

An eye popping moment, for me, at least, came when Mitt Romney, attempting to fend off Newt Gingrich's criticism of the favorable tax treatment he receives under current law noted that under Gingrich's tax plan he, Mitt Romney, would have paid no taxes at all. Not a dime. It's obvious and shouldn't have shaken me, but for some reason it did. Really gets to the essense of just how unfair the tax proposals floated by the GOP really are.

I did enjoy the moment when Brian Williams asked Mitt Romney to predict what people would be talking about "tomorrow" when his tax records were released. Among the things Romney said people would be talking about is just how "complicated" the tax code can be. I suspect that was Romney's way of saying that people will be surprised at the lengths to which his accountants have gone to game the tax code and shelter as much of his wealth from taxation as possible.

Ron Paul's insistence that Iran's threat to block the Straits of Hormuz is merely as response to a previous U.S. act of war (the blockade) shows just how outside the mainstream of the Republican party that guy really is. It's mind blowing to see stuff like that said on the GOP stage. These arguments will be missed when Paul is no longer able to run his Quixotic presidential campaigns (guy's age is starting to show).

Meanwhile, Ron Paul's ludicrous claim that the Community Reinvestment Act caused the 2008 financial meltdown shows just how childish his economic views can be. The CRA as root cause of the crash simply fails the laugh test on every conceivable level. But for a free market absolutist like Paul, everything bad that happens in the economy must be the fault of some "market distorting" government policy somewhere.

OK, that's it for now. I've got much more that could be said, but have run out of time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Activities of Late

Though I have written very little here over the pasy few weeks, I continue to blog for Stinque. To that end, I'd like to direct anyone who might drop by to two of my most recent pieces: here and here.