Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Web Site

A fascinating thing that can result from spending hours on the Internet is the jumping from site to site that often occurs with unpredictable results. Yesterday Paul Krugman’s blog invoked another (by David Roberts) to explore the politics of the nerds and that one led to yet another web site that it recommended highly, with these words:

One of the purest expressions of the nerd spirit is the site Wait But Why, started in 2013 by Tim Urban, a Harvard graduate and co-owner of a tutoring company but really, by his own testimony, just some dude.

Urban is a nerd. He gets interested in some complicated subject, digs into it until he feels like he really understands it, and he explains it. (To get a flavor, start with the one about procrastination and the epic series on artificial intelligence.) It’s a bit like the explanatory journalism that’s so popular these days, but in the case of WBW, it is completely untethered from the web-media demands for speed, volume, and topicality.

Urban originally promised to post twice a week. Then it was “every Tuesday.” Now it’s “every sometimes.” He takes his time. But the posts, when they come, are a delight — 3,000, 8,000, even 26,000 (seriously) words, complete with crude but hilarious illustrations, diagrams, and infographics, written in friendly, nontechnical language that still manages to honor the complexities of the subjects.

I’ve tried Wait but Why and it lives up to that description. You can, if you wish, sign up for emails announcing new topics and I have done so.

Incidentally, Krugman’s blog had a sentence I find quotable: “And in general the modern GOP is basically anti-rational analysis; it’s at war not just with the welfare state but with the Enlightenment.”


That should stop it!

Two senators in Missouri have had to resign recently because of improper sexual behavior with young female interns.  You will be happy to know that the Republican leadership in the  legislature has come up with a solution to such problems in the future.

They have proposed a strict dress code for interns!

Maybe they could try the burqa?

California and the Pioneer Myth

Here below is an excerpt from a New Yorker article by Louis Menand about Joan Didion’s progress from conservative to liberal. It’s a good summary of how some of the myths that underlie much of conservative thought defy reality.

There is mention of an “old Sacrament moment”, which was when she first realized that her connection to Sacramento forebears was a fiction.

“Where I Was From” is the central book in Didion’s career. The subject is American self-deception. The California version has to do with what Didion calls “the crossing story as origin myth.” This is the legend of the pioneers in covered wagons who trekked across the Rockies and settled the state, the men and women who made the desert bloom—Didion’s ancestors. It’s a story about independence, self-reliance, and loyalty to the group. Growing up, Didion had been taught that for the generations that followed the challenge was to keep those virtues alive. There was always a new wave of settlers ready to sell out the pioneer spirit.

After the Old Sacramento moment, Didion came to see the whole pioneer mystique as bogus from the start. The cultivation of California was not the act of rugged pioneers, she decided. It was the act of the federal government, which built the dams and the weirs and the railroads that made the state economically exploitable, public money spent on behalf of private business. Didion called it “the subsidized monopolization” of the state.

Big business had always run California. First, there were the ranches, then the corporate agribusinesses, and then, after the Second World War, the aeronautics industry, Boeing and Douglas, Lockheed and Rockwell. Defense contracts and government-funded infrastructure kept these businesses flush. Everyone else was a pawn in the game, living in a fantasy of hardy individualism and cheering on economic growth that benefitted only a few.

Social stability was a mirage. It lasted only as long as the going was good for business. When conditions got cheaper elsewhere or defense contracts shrank or mergers became appealing, the plants were shut down, workers were laid off, and the middle-class dream vanished in the smog. “This process,” Didion wrote, “one of trading the state to outside owners in exchange for their (it now seems) entirely temporary agreement to enrich us . . . had in fact begun at the time Americans first entered the state, took what they could, and, abetted by the native weakness for boosterism, set about selling the rest.”

Bacevich on the Iran Ageement

Andrew Bacevich has written an op-ed for the LA Times about Obama’s proposed agreement with Iran. I think it’s worth reading.

Republican candidates seem to be trying to make sure they can be characterized as the war party.  Of course that will be combined with an all-out campaign to frighten people about Iran.  Meanwhile Chuck Schumer seems to have decided he is the Senator from Israel. No doubt he will be joined soon by Menendez.

I don’t think Netanyahu really thinks that a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran would be used against Israel, any more than the USSR used its weapons against the US.  I think he believes the issue gives an opportunity  to get the US to attack and weaken Iran. The right wing is just the same here and in Israel.

Who’s #4?

Everyone has agreed that there is no possibility of Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination. The idea is bizarre, just as he is, and most discussion has turned on the likely ill effects of his presence  in the race, not his chances of winning. We’ve been told that he’ll burn out soon.

But now WaPo has consulted with five unnamed but unaligned “senior Republican strategists” to rank order the candidates according to their likelihood of winning the nomination.

The results were:
1. Jeb Bush,
2. Marco Rubio,
3. Scott Walker,
4. Donald Trump!
5. John Kasich,
6. Ted Cruz,
7. Mike Huckabee,
8. Rand Paul.
9. Chris Christie,
10. Ben Carson.
Fourth place is presumably not a high probabilitty, but it isn’t zero either.


And so goes IBM

A friend, a retired IBM employee, sent me this extract from a CWA union newsletter.  A good example of how the H1B visa program, along with conventional off-shoring, is being used by some big corporations to eliminate US jobs. It’s not just manufacturing jobs.

Note: RA is IBM bureaucratese for  “resource actions”, a euphemism for “layoff”.

Last week an unknown number of IBM workers were notified they would lose
their jobs. The common thread in the reports was that their work was
being moved to another country. In the mid 1980’s, the number of IBM
employees in the United States was 230,000. Now it is 71,000, and the
future of employment growth in the US is bleak.

In a relentless, ill conceived drive to cut cost and to increase
earnings per share, IBM executive management put this once great company
on a path of ruin. Business units were sold off and in the case of chip
manufacturing IBM even paid a company to take that segment. Job cuts and
force outs have been the order of the day. Off shoring of work and the
bringing in of foreign workers on guest worker visas have been a slap to
the face of hard working loyal US employees who have lost their jobs to
this insidious business model. Employees of companies IBM bought face a
bleak future as they transition into IBM and then their work gets moved
to another country.

IBM in the 21st century is a shadow of a once great company. It is now a
company selling a myth of greatness.

This didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t go unnoticed by many IBM
employees or the Alliance. It did go unnoticed by many in the country.
The myth of IBM as a great and successful company lived on. But now that
façade is cracking.

After 13 straight quarters of dismal revenue, questions are being raised
about the company leadership. Unfortunately concerns weren’t raised when
IBM embarked on this path and the “Roadmaps”. All is fine and good when
the stock price is up and dividends are paid off. Nobody cared about the
workers losing their jobs or the damage done to their families and

But with the latest job cuts in July and the push to move more work out
of the US, it has to be asked: what is the future for IBM US employees?

Here are some comments from IBM workers caught in the latest job cut:

JobTitle: Project Manager
Location: WAH
CustAcct: MAJOR Communications SO account
BusUnit: GTS
ProdLine: SO
Message: Got call yesterday. 20 year IBM, 2 and 2+ performance. Client
contract with named PMs and penalties to IBM be-damned. Hits across
account = big client saw issue coming = contract renewal may be
affected. My math does NOT show how this RA will resolve 13 quarter
Revenue miss. Welcome to USA ‘landed’ replacements.

JobTitle: Intel Server Admin
Location: Boulder
CustAcct: Multiple
BusUnit: GTS
Message: 21 years with the company. Good reviews. Same as all the
others. Finally got my call this morning for the RA. It’s finally my
turn. My main customer requires US workers, but it hasn’t stopped IBM
from trying to secretly send the work to India before (until the
customer found out). Not sure if they will try again, or if they will
just transfer it to another US team. I know that my team is too
overloaded to be able to pick it up. Last RA hurt us bad; this one will
likely drive my department under. So sad to watch IBM implode like this,
as it used to be such a great company to work for. Looking forward to
what the future holds for me!

JobTitle: IT Architect – Consultant
Location: Charlotte
CustAcct: Multiple
BusUnit: IBM Systems – Middleware (former ISSW)
ProdLine: Software
Message: Got a call from my FLM on Friday to let me know I was RAed. 18
years with the company. Usual severance package. Glad to be making a
boatload of money to be forced out. Massive layoffs will continue to
compensate for the steep decline in revenues. There is just no way
around it. Cloud is already a cheap commodity business but IBM is
willing to bet its shirt on it. We are all witnessing the fall and death
of what used to be a great company… we’ve seen other companies in the
past going that way. No company lasts forever!

I received an unexpected phone call on Thursday. I have always been a 2+
and a 1 rating. Told by a very unfeeling human being jobs were being
lift and shift to India and mine was one of them. I have been with IBM
for 16 years with IT experience of 30 years. This is devastating and
since this is an election year I encourage everyone to reach out to our
lawmakers. I am so tired of Ginni talking about retraining. Has anyone
been offered to be trained for one of the many job openings in WATSON? I
know I haven’t. All you see are positive comments regarding her webcast.
SO proud to be an IBMer, what a bright future, blah, blah, blah. Yeah right.