Softpanorama
May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)

Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Slightly Skeptical View on Enterprise Unix Administration

News Unix/Linux Internals Recommended Books Recommended Links SAP/R3 implementation disasters IT Outsourcing/Offshoring Skeptic: Fighting Outsourcing Myths
Obscurantism in the Cloud: Nicholas Carr's "IT Does not Matter" Fallacy and "Everything in the Cloud" Utopia Unix System Monitoring Job schedulers Admin Horror Stories iDRAC7 goes unresponsive - can't connect to iDRAC7 Using HP ILO virtual CDROM
System Activity Reporter (sar) HP Operations Manager Connecting to HP iLO via SSH Nagios in Large Enterprise Environment ALOM Working with serial console
Advanced Linux Administration Red Hat Enterprise Linux Administration SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) Solaris AIX Administration HP-UX Administration
Networking TCP Performance Tuning Redhat Network Configuration Classic Network Utilities Network Troubleshooting Tools TCP/IP Network Troubleshooting
Syslog Configuration and syslog.conf Linux Multipath The Linux Logical Volume Manager (LVM) System Activity Reporter (sar) Authentication Unix config management
Helpdesk software Software Distribution Assets management Project Management Unix to Unix migration Working with Console
Backup Baseliners Classic Unix Tools Perl admintools Software Distribution Performance Tuning
Unix filesystem navigation Bash history and bang commands profile and RC-files Orthodox File Managers SSH for System Administrators Network File System (NFS)
Access Control in Operating Systems Sudoer File Examples  Enterprise System Management Resources Logs Analysis SMTP Mail Social Problem in Enterprise Unix Administration
The Unix Hater’s Handbook IBM Humor Tips History Humor Etc
The KISS rule can be expanded as: Keep It Simple, Sysadmin ;-)

Additional useful material on the topic can also be found in an older article Solaris vs Linux:

Abstract

Introduction

Nine factors framework for comparison of two flavors of Unix in a large enterprise environment

Four major areas of Linux and Solaris deployment

Comparison of internal architecture and key subsystems

Security

Hardware: SPARC vs. X86

Development environment

Solaris as a cultural phenomenon

Using Solaris-Linux enterprise mix as the least toxic Unix mix available

Conclusions

Acknowledgements

Webliography

Here are my notes/reflection of sysadmin problem in strange (and typically pretty toxic) IT departments of large corporations:


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“I appreciate Woody Allen’s humor because one of my safety valves is an appreciation for life’s absurdities. His message is that life isn’t a funeral march to the grave. It’s a polka.”

-- Dennis Kusinich

[Sep 12, 2016] Linux.com CLI Magic Bash complete

Notable quotes:
"... Shashank Sharma is studying for a degree in computer science. He specializes in writing about free and open source software for new users. He is the co-author of Beginning Fedora , published by Apress. ..."
Sep 12, 2016 | www.linux.com

CLI Magic: Bash complete

By Shashank Sharma on May 08, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)


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The auto complete feature of the Bourne Again SHell makes bash one of the most loved and newbie-friendly Linux shells. Just by pressing the Tab key you can complete commands and filenames. Press the Tab key twice and all files in the directory get displayed. But you can do more with autocomplete -- such as associating file types with applications, and automatically designating whether you're looking for directories, text, or MP3 files. With simple commands such as complete and the use of Escape sequences, you can save time and have fun on the command line. You can use the dollar sign ($) , tilde (~) , and at (@) characters along with the Tab key to get quick results in autocomplete.

For instance, if you want to switch to the testing subdirectory of your home directory, you can either type cd /ho[Tab]/tes[Tab] to get there, or use the tilde -- cd ~tes[Tab] . If the partial text -- that is, the portion before you press Tab -- begins with a dollar sign, bash looks for a matching environment variable. The tilde tells bash to look for a matching user name, and the at-sign tells it to look for a matching hostname.

Escaping is good

The Tab key can complete the names of commands, files, directories, users, and hosts. Sometimes, it is overkill to use the Tab key. If you know that you are looking for a file, or only user names, then use the Escape key instead for completion, as it limits bash's completion field.

You can use several Escape key combinations to tell bash what you are looking for. Invoke Escape key combinations by pressing a key while keeping the Escape key pressed. When looking for a file, you can use the Esc-/ (press / along with Escape) key combination. This will attempt filename completion only. If you have one file and one directory beginning with the letter 'i,' you will have to press the Tab key twice to see all the files:

$ less i <tab><tab>
ideas im articles/

When you type less i and press '/' while keeping the Escape key pressed, bash completes the filename to 'ideas.'

While Control key combinations work no matter how long you keep the Ctrl key pressed before pressing the second key, this is not the case with Escape key sequences. The Esc-/ sequence will print out a slash if you delay in pressing the / key after you press the Escape key.

You can also use Escape along with the previously discussed $ , ~ , and @ keys. Esc-$ , for example, completes only variable names. You can use Esc-! when you wish to complete command names. Of course you need to press the Shift key in order to use any of the "upper order" characters.

Wildcard expansion
The asterisk (*), caret (^), and question mark (?) are all wildcard characters. All *nix shells can perform wildcard expansion. Use the asterisk wildcard if you don't wish to view any hidden files. ls * would display all files and directories in the current directory except for those beginning with a dot (hidden).

If you wish to view only files with five-letter names beginning with a given letter, use the question mark wildcard. ls p???? will display only files with names with five letter files starting with 'p.' You can also use the square brackets for filename completion. ls [a-d]* displays all files and directories that begin with any letter between 'a' and 'd.' The caret wildcard excludes files. mv *[^.php] ../ would move all files to the parent directory, exculding those with .php extension.

Even smarter completion

By default, Tab completion is quite dim-witted. This is because when you have already typed cd down before pressing Tab, you'd expect bash to complete only directory names. But bash goes ahead and displays all possible files and directories that begin with 'down.'

You can, however, convert bash into a brilliant command-reading whiz. As root, edit the /etc/bash.bashrc file. Scroll down to the end of the file till you see the section:

# enable bash completion in interactive shells #if [ -f /etc/bash_completion ]; then # . /etc/bash_completion #fi

Uncomment this section and voilà, you have given bash powers far beyond your imagination! Not only is bash now smart enough to know when to complete only directory names, it can also complete man pages and even some command arguments.

Don't despair if you don't have root previleges. Just edit the last section of your ~/.bashrc file.

Associating application with file types

The complete command in bash lets you associate file types with certain applications. If after associating a file type to an application you were to write the name of the application and press Tab, only files with associated file types would be displayed.

complete -G "*.txt" gedit would associate .txt files with gedit. The downfall of using complete is that it overwrites bash's regular completion. That is, if you have two files named invoice.txt and ideas.txt, gedit [Tab][Tab] displays both the files, but gedit inv[Tab] , which should complete to invoice.txt, no longer works.

complete associations last only for the current bash session. If you exit and open a console, gedit will no longer be associated with .txt files. You need to associate file types to applications each time you start a new console session.

For permanent associations, you need to add the command to one of the bash startup scripts, such as ~/.bashrc. Then, whenever you are at the console, gedit will be associated with .txt files.

Shashank Sharma is studying for a degree in computer science. He specializes in writing about free and open source software for new users. Shashank Sharma is studying for a degree in computer science. He specializes in writing about free and open source software for new users. He is the co-author of Beginning Fedora , published by Apress.

[Aug 18, 2016] Neoliberals often argue that people should be glad to lose employment at 50 so that people from other countries can have higher incomes

Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberals often argue that people should be glad to lose employment at 50 so that people from other countries can have higher incomes, and leftists often agree because hey "free movement" and because after all the professional class jobs aren't at risk ..."
"... "I think Trump is afraid the imperial global order presided by the US is about to crash and thinks he will be able to steer the country into a soft landing by accepting that other world powers have interests, by disengaging from costly and humiliating military interventions, by re-negotiating trade deals, and by stopping the mass immigration of poor people." ..."
"... No one has literally argued that people should be glad to lose employment: that part was hyperbole. But the basic argument is often made quite seriously. See e.g. outsource Brad DeLong . ..."
"... To the guy who asked- poor white people keep voting Republican even though it screws them because they genuinely believe that the country is best off when it encourages a culture of "by the bootstraps" self improvement, hard work, and personal responsibility. They view taxing people in order to give the money to the supposedly less fortunate as the anti thesis of this, because it gives people an easy out that let's them avoid having to engage in the hard work needed to live independently. ..."
"... Attempts at repairing historical racial inequity read as cheating in that paradigm, and even as hostile since they can easily observe white people who are just as poor or poorer than those who racial politics focuses upon. ..."
"... The extent to which "poor white people" vote against their alleged economic interests is overblown. To a large extent, they do not vote at all nor is anyone or anything on the ballot to represent their interests. And, yes, they are misinformed systematically by elites out to screw them and they know this, but cannot do much to either clear up their own confusion or fight back. ..."
"... The mirror image problem - of elites manipulating the system to screw the poor and merely middle-class - is daily in the news. Both Presidential candidates have been implicated. So, who do you recommend they vote for? ..."
"... My understanding is trumps support disproportionately comes from the small business owning classes, Ie a demographic similar to the petite bourgeoisie who have often been heavily involved in reactionary movements. This gets oversold as "working class" when class is defined by education level rather than income. ..."
"... Eric Berne, in The Structures and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups, proposed that among the defining characteristics of a coherent group is an explicit boundary which determines whether an individual is a member of the group or not. (If there is no boundary, nothing binds the assemblage together; it is a crowd.) The boundary helps provide social cohesion and is so important that groups will create one if necessary. Clearly, boundaries exclude as well as include, and someone must play the role of outsider. ..."
"... I am somewhat suspicious of leaving dominating elites out of these stories of racism as an organizing principle for political economy or (cultural) community. ..."
"... Racism served the purposes of a slaveholding elite that organized political communities to serve their own interests. (Or, vis a vis the Indians a land-grab or genocide.) ..."
"... Racism serves as an organizing principle. Politically, in an oppressive and stultifying hierarchy like the plantation South, racism not incidentally buys the loyalty of subalterns with ersatz status. ..."
"... For a time, the balkanization of American political communities by race, religion and ethnicity was an effective means to the dominance of an tiny elite with ties to an hegemonic community, but it backfired. Dismantling that balkanization has left the country with a very low level of social affiliation and thus a low capacity to organize resistance to elite depredations. ..."
crookedtimber.org

Rich Puchalsky 08.04.16 at 11:40 am 177

fn: "Of course there is a subtext to these racist hate campaigns that someone else here raised and rich ran with a bit, which is the hatred of the unemployed. I think a lot of people voting leave imagine that the next thing on the agenda is slashing the dole to force poor white people to do the work the Eastern Europeans did. "

Yes, in part. In part, also, people imagine that poor citizens will get jobs that previously were done by migrants. This has a hatred of slackers element that is bad, but as economics, it's pretty well-founded that if you reduce the size of the labor pool relative to the population then unemployment will go down and wages will go up. Neoliberals often argue that people should be glad to lose employment at 50 so that people from other countries can have higher incomes, and leftists often agree because hey "free movement" and because after all the professional class jobs aren't at risk. But strangely enough some people seem to resent this.

Layman 08.04.16 at 11:48 am 178

Lupita: "I think Trump is afraid the imperial global order presided by the US is about to crash and thinks he will be able to steer the country into a soft landing by accepting that other world powers have interests, by disengaging from costly and humiliating military interventions, by re-negotiating trade deals, and by stopping the mass immigration of poor people."

... ... ...

Rich Puchalsky 08.04.16 at 12:03 pm

"I can't recall any particular instance where someone made this argument."

No one has literally argued that people should be glad to lose employment: that part was hyperbole. But the basic argument is often made quite seriously. See e.g. outsource Brad DeLong.

engels 08.04.16 at 12:25 pm

While this may be the effect of some neoliberal policies, I can't recall any particular instance where someone made this argument

Maybe this kind of thing rom Henry Farrell? (There may well be better examples.)

Is some dilution of the traditional European welfare state acceptable, if it substantially increases the wellbeing of current outsiders (i.e. for example, by bringing Turkey into the club). My answer is yes, if European leftwingers are to stick to their core principles on justice, fairness, egalitarianism etc…

http://crookedtimber.org/2005/05/31/talking-turkey-over-welfare/

Lupita 08.04.16 at 2:42 pm

Large numbers of low-income white southern Americans consistently vote against their own economic interests. They vote to award tax breaks to wealthy people and corporations, to cut unemployment benefits, to bust unions, to reward companies for outsourcing jobs, to resist wage increases, to cut funding for health care for the poor, to cut Social Security and Medicare, etc.

The same thing has happened in Mexico with neoliberal government after neoliberal government being elected. There are many democratically elected neoliberal governments around the world.

Why might this be?

In the case of Mexico, because Peña Nieto's wife is a telenovela star. How cool is that? It places Mexico in the same league as 1st world countries, such as France, with Carla Bruni.


Patrick 08.04.16 at 4:32 pm

To the guy who asked- poor white people keep voting Republican even though it screws them because they genuinely believe that the country is best off when it encourages a culture of "by the bootstraps" self improvement, hard work, and personal responsibility. They view taxing people in order to give the money to the supposedly less fortunate as the anti thesis of this, because it gives people an easy out that let's them avoid having to engage in the hard work needed to live independently.

They see it as little different from letting your kid move back on after college and smoke weed in your basement. They don't generally mind people being on unemployment transitionally, but they're supposed to be a little embarrassed about it and get it over with as soon as possible.

They not only worry that increased government social spending will incentivize bad behavior, they worry it will destroy the cultural values they see as vital to Americas past prosperity. They tend to view claims about historic or systemic injustice necessitating collective remedy because they view the world as one in which the vagaries of fate decree that some are born rich or poor, and that success is in improving ones station relative to where one starts.

Attempts at repairing historical racial inequity read as cheating in that paradigm, and even as hostile since they can easily observe white people who are just as poor or poorer than those who racial politics focuses upon. Left wing insistence on borrowing the nastiest rhetoric of libertarians ("this guy is poor because his ancestors couldn't get ahead because of historical racial injustice so we must help him; your family couldn't get ahead either but that must have been your fault so you deserve it") comes across as both antithetical to their values and as downright hostile within the values they see around them.

All of this can be easily learned by just talking to them.

It's not a great world view. It fails to explain quite a lot. For example, they have literally no way of explaining increased unemployment without positing either that everyone is getting too lazy to work, or that the government screwed up the system somehow, possibly by making it too expensive to do business in the US relative to other countries. and given their faith in the power of hard work, they don't even blame sweatshops- they blame taxes and foreign subsidies.

I don't know exactly how to reach out to them, except that I can point to some things people do that repulse them and say "stop doing that."


bruce wilder 08.04.16 at 5:50 pm

The extent to which "poor white people" vote against their alleged economic interests is overblown. To a large extent, they do not vote at all nor is anyone or anything on the ballot to represent their interests. And, yes, they are misinformed systematically by elites out to screw them and they know this, but cannot do much to either clear up their own confusion or fight back.

The mirror image problem - of elites manipulating the system to screw the poor and merely middle-class - is daily in the news. Both Presidential candidates have been implicated. So, who do you recommend they vote for?

There is serious deficit of both trust and information among the poor. Poor whites hardly have a monopoly; black misleadership is epidemic in our era of Cory Booker socialism.


bruce wilder 08.04.16 at 7:05 pm

Politics is founded on the complex social psychology of humans as social animals. We elevate it from its irrational base in emotion to rationalized calculation or philosophy at our peril.


T 08.04.16 at 9:17 pm

@Layman
I think you're missing Patrick's point. These voters are switching from one Republican to another. They've jettisoned Bush et. al. for Trump. These guys despise Bush. They've figured out that the mainstream party is basically 30 years of affinity fraud. So, is your argument is that Trump even more racist? That kind of goes against the whole point of the OP. Not saying that race doesn't matter. Of course it does. But Trump has a 34% advantage in non-college educated white men. It just isn't the South. Why does it have to be just race or just class?


Ronan(rf) 08.04.16 at 10:35 pm

"I generally don't give a shit about polls so I have no "data" to evidence this claim, but my guess is the majority of Trump's support comes from this broad middle"

My understanding is trumps support disproportionately comes from the small business owning classes, Ie a demographic similar to the petite bourgeoisie who have often been heavily involved in reactionary movements. This gets oversold as "working class" when class is defined by education level rather than income.

This would make some sense as they are generally in economically unstable jobs, they tend to be hostile to both big govt (regulations, freeloaders) and big business (unfair competition), and while they (rhetorically at least) tend to value personal autonomy and self sufficiency , they generally sell into smaller, local markets, and so are particularly affected by local demographic and cultural change , and decline. That's my speculation anyway.

T 08.05.16 at 3:12 pm

@patrick @layman

Patrick, you're right about the Trump demographic. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-mythology-of-trumps-working-class-support/

Layman - Why are these voters switching from Bush et al to Trump? Once again, Corey's whole point is that there is very little difference between the racism of Trump and the mainstream party since Nixon. Is Trump just more racist? Or are the policies of Trump resonating differently than Bush for reasons other than race? Are the folks that voted for the other candidates in the primary less racist so Trump supporters are just the most racist among Republicans? Cruz less racist? You have to explain the shift within the Republican party because that's what happened.


Anarcissie 08.06.16 at 3:00 pm

Faustusnotes 08.06.16 at 1:50 pm @ 270 -

Eric Berne, in The Structures and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups, proposed that among the defining characteristics of a coherent group is an explicit boundary which determines whether an individual is a member of the group or not. (If there is no boundary, nothing binds the assemblage together; it is a crowd.) The boundary helps provide social cohesion and is so important that groups will create one if necessary. Clearly, boundaries exclude as well as include, and someone must play the role of outsider. While Berne's theories are a bit too nifty for me to love them, I have observed a lot of the behaviors he predicts. If one wanted to be sociobiological, it is not hard to hypothesize evolutionary pressures which could lead to this sort of behavior being genetically programmed. If a group of humans, a notably combative primate, does not have strong social cohesion, the war of all against all ensues and everybody dies. Common affections alone do not seem to provide enough cohesion.

In an earlier but related theory, in the United States, immigrants from diverse European communities which fought each other for centuries in Europe arrived and managed to now get along because they had a major Other, the Negro, against whom to define themselves (as the White Race) and thus to cohere sufficiently to get on with business. The Negro had the additional advantage of being at first a powerless slave and later, although theoretically freed, was legally, politically, and economically disabled - an outsider who could not fight back very effectively, nor run away. Even so, the US almost split apart and there continue to be important class, ethnic, religious, and regional conflicts. You can see how these two theories resonate.

It may be that we can't have communities without this dark side, although we might be able to mitigate some of its destructive effects.


bruce wilder 08.06.16 at 4:28 pm

I am somewhat suspicious of leaving dominating elites out of these stories of racism as an organizing principle for political economy or (cultural) community.

Racism served the purposes of a slaveholding elite that organized political communities to serve their own interests. (Or, vis a vis the Indians a land-grab or genocide.)

Racism serves as an organizing principle. Politically, in an oppressive and stultifying hierarchy like the plantation South, racism not incidentally buys the loyalty of subalterns with ersatz status. The ugly prejudices and resentful arrogance of working class whites is thus a component of how racism works to organize a political community to serve a hegemonic master class. The business end of racism, though, is the autarkic poverty imposed on the working communities: slaves, sharecroppers, poor blacks, poor whites - bad schools, bad roads, politically disabled communities, predatory institutions and authoritarian governments.

For a time, the balkanization of American political communities by race, religion and ethnicity was an effective means to the dominance of an tiny elite with ties to an hegemonic community, but it backfired. Dismantling that balkanization has left the country with a very low level of social affiliation and thus a low capacity to organize resistance to elite depredations.

engels 08.07.16 at 1:02 am

But how did that slavery happen

Possible short answer: the level of technological development made slavery an efficient way of exploiting labour. At a certain point those conditions changed and slavery became a drag on further development and it was abolished, along with much of the racist ideology that legitimated it.


Lupita 08.07.16 at 3:40 am

But how did that slavery happen

In Mesoamerica, all the natives were enslaved because they were conquered by the Spaniards. Then, Fray Bartolomé de las Casas successfully argued before the Crown that the natives had souls and, therefore, should be Christianized rather than enslaved. As Bruce Wilder states, this did not serve the interests of the slaveholding elite, so the African slave trade began and there was no Fray Bartolomé to argue their case.

It is interesting that while natives were enslaved, the Aztec aristocracy was shipped to Spain to be presented in court and study Latin. This would not have happened if the Mesoamericans were considered inferior (soulless) as a race. Furthermore, the Spaniards needed the local elite to help them out with their empire and the Aztecs were used to slavery and worse. This whole story can be understood without recurring to racism. The logic of empire suffices.

[Jul 14, 2016] mc-4.8.17 released

Notable quotes:
"... Copy & move operations now use an adaptive buffer, just like the corresponding coreutils commands, which will significantly improve the performance (hopefully!) for many of our users. ..."
www.midnight-commander.org

This is a maintenance release that includes bugfixes for a bunch of very annoying bugs that surfaced in the previous version (FISH, patchfs, segfault and tcsh detection on FreeBSD) and brings several new features.

Copy & move operations now use an adaptive buffer, just like the corresponding coreutils commands, which will significantly improve the performance (hopefully!) for many of our users. Move to the new high-level mouse API has not only simplified our code, but also resolved a number of long-standing mouse bugs. Finally, the new panel centered scrolling mode is weird, but fun; try it out!

For a detailed list of changes since the last version, please refer to the release notes.

Download page: http://ftp.midnight-commander.org/?C=N;O=D

Major changes since 4.8.16

Core

VFS

Editor

Misc

[Jul 14, 2016] Maintenance release of MC with LUA support

typo.co.il
A new release of mc^2 is out. It's mainly a maintenance release,
so there aren't many exciting new features.

    http://www.typo.co.il/~mooffie/mc-lua/docs/html/

News:

The C side:

  - The branch is rebased against mc 4.8.17.

The Lua side:

  - A few minor bug fixes.

  - New module: "dynamic skin"

    It lets you change the skin automatically depending on
    the directory you're in.

    So, for example, when you're examining an old backup disk
    you've mounted, or when you're on a remote machine, or when
    you're browsing a panelized or filtered listing, or when
    you're in a read-only directory, you can get a very
    noticeable visual indication reminding you of this.

  - New module: "colon"

    It lets you type :commands :like :these on the
    command-line (or in the editor). Like in 'vi'.
    E.g., you can rename files by typing:

        :s/\.jpe?g/jpg/i

    (This launches Visual Rename, where you can inspect
    the changes before committing them.)

  - The snapshots module can now save/restore panelized listings.
_______________________________________________
mc-devel mailing list
https://mail.gnome.org/mailman/listinfo/mc-devel

[Jun 26, 2016] Hillary Clinton email scandal shines light on specter of shadow IT

Notable quotes:
"... Surely, The State Department had an enterprise-grade email solution in place in 2013. We can only hope that Clinton protected her personal accounts with something more sophisticated than "Chelsea1980". ..."
"... 52% of IT executives said they don't have processes in place to manage outside sources, such as Dropbox in Vision Solutions' 2015 State of Resilience Report . Meanwhile, 70% of employees that use Dropbox do so solely for work, according to a 2013 Forrester report, and shadow IT appeared as a concern for the first time in the 2015 SIM IT Trends Study . ..."
"... Former FBI Director Robert Mueller said in 2012, "There are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked and those that will be." ..."
"... What kind of security risks does shadow IT create for your organisation? What happens when an employee uses the same password for both personal and enterprise accounts and hackers target that person's personal account? ..."
"... Their low-security Google Drive password just created a big headache for your organisation. ..."
"... Sourced from Bob Dvorak, founder and president, ..."
Mar 6, 2015 | Information Age

Consumer-grade and insecure applications can make headlines – and not in a good way

...This revelation should have public and private sector IT pros questioning their policies and practice around shadow IT – those programs outside of the formal control of the information technology department.

The Times wrote: "Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach."

Surely, The State Department had an enterprise-grade email solution in place in 2013. We can only hope that Clinton protected her personal accounts with something more sophisticated than "Chelsea1980".

IT has an important job, and keeping tabs on the personal email accounts of executives or high-ranking officials should be the least of their worries. However, with 783 reported data breaches in 2014, according to The Identity Theft Resources Center, shadow IT is a strategic IT issue that is too important to ignore.

The topic raises an important issue around policy and practice of shadow IT, individual or departmental use of consumer-grade applications, such as personal email accounts, and cloud storage, departmental (or individual) SaaS accounts, even employee social media activity. All fall within this category in an age where the lines between work life and personal life are increasingly blurred.

While there may be individual, departmental or even organisational benefits to some elements of shadow IT, there are both operational and security risks associated with it and professionals' use of consumer grade tools for email, cloud storage and other services. CIOs and IT leaders need to be vigilant in developing, instituting and enforcing corporate IT governance policies and procedures.

52% of IT executives said they don't have processes in place to manage outside sources, such as Dropbox in Vision Solutions' 2015 State of Resilience Report. Meanwhile, 70% of employees that use Dropbox do so solely for work, according to a 2013 Forrester report, and shadow IT appeared as a concern for the first time in the 2015 SIM IT Trends Study.

...Gartner reported in its 2015 CIO Agenda that shadow IT consumes as much as 20% of a company's IT resources and, for the first time, respondents to the SIM IT Trends Study included shadow IT among their list of management concerns.

So what happens when Dropbox experiences downtime, as it did in January of last year? How do businesses react? What happens to the customer data, financial data or important documents they stored there?

When nearly two-thirds of organisations using the cloud reported not having HA or DR solutions for their enterprise applications, according to Vision Solutions, you can imagine how low the number must be for companies actively able to recover from, or are even monitoring, employee activity in the cloud.

The small matter of security

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller said in 2012, "There are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked and those that will be."

What kind of security risks does shadow IT create for your organisation? What happens when an employee uses the same password for both personal and enterprise accounts and hackers target that person's personal account?

Their low-security Google Drive password just created a big headache for your organisation.

You may not face a public records request that brings the specter of shadow IT in your organisation to light, but publicly traded corporations have internal control requirements to consider and private companies are notoriously protective of their intellectual property and confidential information.

All it takes is one instance and your company can be front-page news – and not in a good way.

Sourced from Bob Dvorak, founder and president, KillerIT

[Jun 26, 2016] Hillary Clinton takes shadow IT mainstream

Notable quotes:
"... Now let's strip away all the politics, sniping and legality over Clinton's email practices. What you have is shadow IT for official business and a State Department without the IT clout to stop it. You could argue with all the NSA snooping that Clinton's own email infrastructure was warranted. ..."
"... Security issues often are tossed aside for convenience. For Clinton it was a homemade email server. For the rest of us it's a personal cloud storage account. ..."
"... In the end, the Clinton email flap will play out for months. There will be hearings and non-stop election coverage about it. Just keep in mind what you're witnessing is shadow IT at a grand scale ..."
March 4, 2015 | ZDNet / Between the Lines

Hillary Rodham Clinton is in one big email mess, but if you zoom out and look at her as any other employee you have a leading example of shadow IT at play.

Hillary Rodham Clinton reportedly ran her own email server out of her house and now is in the middle of political firestorm. For our purposes, Clinton has provided us with the most high-profile case of shadow IT practices. And the first lesson of shadow IT is that the techies aren't going to push around the top execs. For the folks in business tech, the concept of shadow IT isn't exactly new. You're the CIO. Your other C-level peers have had their own cloud services provisioned for years. Developers have Amazon's cloud on a corporate Amex. It started with an innocuous printer under a desk. Then went to a server. Then smartphones to cloud services. People bring their own devices, apps and business practices with them to work.

Hell, the poor CIO is just finding out about some of these things.

Enter Clinton. According to the Associated Press, Clinton ran her own email as a Cabinet-level official. Enter records laws and all sorts of concerns. On the bright side, Clinton at least wasn't using a public email server. She at least earns some techie props for that.

Now let's strip away all the politics, sniping and legality over Clinton's email practices. What you have is shadow IT for official business and a State Department without the IT clout to stop it. You could argue with all the NSA snooping that Clinton's own email infrastructure was warranted.

Boil this down to Clinton as an employee and you have the following.

  1. Clinton was a top exec and those folks often get to push IT around. How do you think the iPad and iPhone became an enterprise juggernaut? You guessed it. The CEO wanted one.
  2. The email infrastructure Clinton ran was techie, but how many of you are conducting work on personal accounts? Thought so. You may not have federal records laws, but you're ignoring IT policies almost daily.
  3. Security issues often are tossed aside for convenience. For Clinton it was a homemade email server. For the rest of us it's a personal cloud storage account.

In the end, the Clinton email flap will play out for months. There will be hearings and non-stop election coverage about it. Just keep in mind what you're witnessing is shadow IT at a grand scale

[Jun 26, 2016] Hillary clintons private email account hacked the perils of shadow IT

www.tripwire.com

According to the Washington Post, the worst scenario may have come true when hacker "Guccifer" reportedly released several emails pertaining to Benghazi, which appear to be between Sidney Blumenthal and Hillary Clinton at the "clintonemail.com" domain. The domain was registered January 2009 through Network Solutions.

clintondomain

Looking a bit deeper at the MX records for the domain they map to a service run by McAfee:

clintonemail2

MX Logic was acquired by McAfee in June of 2009 and is now part of McAfee's SaaS offerings. So, it looks like someone knew what they were doing at some level to modify the MX records to use McAfee's service.

However, the risk of this email account being compromised is significant and one wonders who else aside from Guccifer may have had access to sensitive communications.

Before we pick on Hillary Clinton too much, we should evaluate how common this practice is. If the goal is to circumvent a regulatory requirement and is putting communications at risk, these shadow IT practices should be evaluated government-wide.

tonyE

This is a security breakdown at a very high level.

From personal experience I can tell you that any emails that are classified MUST be routed via very specific networks.

For the SecState to use a private network is a breakdown of security at the HIGHEST LEVEL.

She is guilty of a very serious crime, there is simply no way for her to excuse herself.

Also, how about all the people who were communicating with her? Surely they knew they were breaking the law... ( and I&#039m not talking about the records, I&#039m talking about a security breach at the highest level of our nation).

[Jun 25, 2016] Clinton's e-mail scandal another case of the entitled executive syndrome

Notable quotes:
"... And lest we forget, well before Clinton came to the State Department, members of the George W. Bush administration used a private e-mail server (at gwb43.com) run and paid for by the Republican National Committee-at least 88 accounts were set up for Bush administration officials in order to bypass the official White House e-mail system and avoid the regulations around presidential record retention, the Federal Records Act, and the Hatch Act (which bans the use of government e-mail accounts for political purposes, among other things). In the process of using that system, more than 5 million e-mail messages were "lost," which led to the resignation of a number of White House officials, including Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. None of the e-mails for 51 of the 88 accounts was preserved by the RNC. ..."
"... Clinton was well aware of the Bush administration e-mail fiasco before she was nominated and confirmed as Secretary of State. She even told the State Department's assistant secretary for diplomatic security that she "gets it" after being briefed on why there were problems with her using a BlackBerry. ..."
"... Sure, the State Department's IT support is not exactly customer-centric. But its IT department has supported BlackBerry devices for unclassified e-mail in the past, and if Clinton could have dealt with sticking to using a computer while inside the State Department secure compartmented information facility (SCIF) and using a BlackBerry for unclassified e-mail, the State Department could have probably accommodated her. It was purely about Clinton's discomfort about using a PC for e-mail and her desire to use e-mail just like she did while running for office. ..."
"... So, as the State Department Office of the Inspector General reported, she paid a State Department staffer (who had worked for her directly in the past) off the books to create a shadow e-mail service of her own, and she used a personal BlackBerry not configured to State Department security standards to carry out official business. Having had a BlackBerry and the full control offered by private e-mail service during her presidential campaign in 2008, Clinton knew what she wanted, and she was going to have it whether it was approved or not. And she provided the same shadow e-mail service to her core staff as well-taking all of their communications off the grid and out of federal oversight. ..."
"... Besides, Clinton's excuse basically boils down to this: other people broke the rules, so she should have been allowed to as well. It's the entitled executive syndrome writ large. ..."
arstechnica.com

A certain class of executives wants a specific phone supported or special IT support for their chosen staff, and they want it now, rules and regulations be damned. "Yes" is the only answer they ever hear, and they will keep asking until they hear it-either from the IT department or from someone who will do it for them on the side. When I worked in IT, particularly when I moved up to a role as a "director of IT strategy" at a previous employer, these requests for special treatment happened so frequently we started calling it the "entitled executive syndrome." No matter how many times I explained the laws of physics and the limits of our budget and capabilities, I was told to find a way to make it happen… or come up with a creative workaround.

Sure, there's often a reason for dissatisfaction with the organizational norm. But skirting the norm can create all sorts of regulatory and legal headaches-Sarbanes-Oxley-related ones are the most common in the corporate IT world. Looking at the government sector, shadow IT has constantly gotten people in trouble for a host of other reasons: federal records laws, Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) violations, and privacy violations. For example, in 2010, doctors at a Department of Veterans Affairs got caught using Google and Yahoo cloud calendar services to schedule surgeries, breaching the security of health care data. They used it because it was more convenient than the VA's internal shared calendar system.

And lest we forget, well before Clinton came to the State Department, members of the George W. Bush administration used a private e-mail server (at gwb43.com) run and paid for by the Republican National Committee-at least 88 accounts were set up for Bush administration officials in order to bypass the official White House e-mail system and avoid the regulations around presidential record retention, the Federal Records Act, and the Hatch Act (which bans the use of government e-mail accounts for political purposes, among other things). In the process of using that system, more than 5 million e-mail messages were "lost," which led to the resignation of a number of White House officials, including Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. None of the e-mails for 51 of the 88 accounts was preserved by the RNC.

Clinton was well aware of the Bush administration e-mail fiasco before she was nominated and confirmed as Secretary of State. She even told the State Department's assistant secretary for diplomatic security that she "gets it" after being briefed on why there were problems with her using a BlackBerry.

As previous e-mails obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests have shown, Clinton pushed hard to get the State Department's information security officers to approve her use of a mobile device for e-mail and do it from inside the State Department's secure executive suite-largely on the grounds that she was uncomfortable using a PC. The National Security Agency suggested she use an approved secure device capable of doing Secret-level classified e-mail as well as official unclassified e-mail. But the State Department was unprepared for the cost of supporting such a device, and its IT department didn't have the resources (nor, likely, the skills) in-house to support it.

Sure, the State Department's IT support is not exactly customer-centric. But its IT department has supported BlackBerry devices for unclassified e-mail in the past, and if Clinton could have dealt with sticking to using a computer while inside the State Department secure compartmented information facility (SCIF) and using a BlackBerry for unclassified e-mail, the State Department could have probably accommodated her. It was purely about Clinton's discomfort about using a PC for e-mail and her desire to use e-mail just like she did while running for office.

So, as the State Department Office of the Inspector General reported, she paid a State Department staffer (who had worked for her directly in the past) off the books to create a shadow e-mail service of her own, and she used a personal BlackBerry not configured to State Department security standards to carry out official business. Having had a BlackBerry and the full control offered by private e-mail service during her presidential campaign in 2008, Clinton knew what she wanted, and she was going to have it whether it was approved or not. And she provided the same shadow e-mail service to her core staff as well-taking all of their communications off the grid and out of federal oversight.

Clinton's excuse for her decision, which she now calls a mistake, was:

But no other secretary of state before her used e-mail as heavily, and the regulations regarding preserving e-mail records have changed over the past two decades. Condoleezza Rice did not use a personal e-mail account, according to the OIG report; she used a BlackBerry, but it was State Department issued. Madeline Albright never even sent e-mails. And while Colin Powell did use a personal e-mail account, the State Department was just getting Internet-connected e-mail at the time (on a system called OpenNet).

Besides, Clinton's excuse basically boils down to this: other people broke the rules, so she should have been allowed to as well. It's the entitled executive syndrome writ large.

[Jun 25, 2016] Clinton email flap highlights issues of shadow IT

Notable quotes:
"... "The reality is that every organization has a BYOD program - whether they think they do or not," Stevens said. "Now's the time to shore up the systems and enable mobility without sacrificing security." ..."
March 4, 2015 | .federaltimes.com

"I can recall no instance in my time at the National Archives when a high-ranking official at an executive branch agency solely used a personal email account for the transaction of government business," former NARA Director of Litigation Jason Baron told the Times.

While pundits and politicians are debating the ethics and legality of this, it also raises questions about the security of Clinton's communications.

"This news is yet another example of the lines blurring between work and personal lives and should serve as a wake-up call to federal IT departments," said Bob Stevens, vice president of federal systems at Lookout. "This trend towards mobility has clear benefits but it also adds a nuanced layer to not just email security, but all security."

Stevens noted that mobile devices, by their nature, move about and touch multiple networks as they do so. Since some networks are less secure than others, it becomes even more important to use secure programs and services to communicate.

"The reality is that every organization has a BYOD program - whether they think they do or not," Stevens said. "Now's the time to shore up the systems and enable mobility without sacrificing security."

Subsequent reports revealed that Clinton maintained her own server, but whether that server was more or less secure than commercial or federal email offerings is still unknown.

[Jun 25, 2016] The Perils of Shadow IT Your Most Senior Executives Are Doing It

Notable quotes:
"... In fact, according to the survey respondents, the average company already uses 20+ SaaS applications - think about it: Asana, Dropbox, Skype, Basecamp, Apple iCloud, Gmail, LastPass, not to mention your Facebooks and Twitters. But of those 20 or so SaaS platforms, more than 7 are non-approved. So, "…upwards of 35 percent of all SaaS apps in your company are purchased and used without oversight." ..."
"... Instead of losing sleep over perceived risk, companies must develop clear and concise policies governing cloud computing and SaaS usage. And don't stone me for saying it, but IT departments shouldn't exclusively own this exercise. Today, most executive level employees are well versed in SaaS, and they are probably well aware of what systems and platforms their teams are using day to day. ..."
duckduckgo.com
They say any press is good press, and the ruling is still out as to whether or not Hillary Clinton knowingly broke any laws when she used a private, home based email account for official State business as Secretary of State. She admitted on Tuesday that she had made a mistake and should've created two email accounts: a government one and a personal one. Still, one thing is clear: When the story broke last week, the entire world was talking about the latest threat to corporate security: shadow IT.

For those of you heavily immersed in the tech side of running a business, this won't be news to you. But for many business executives and CEOs the idea of classified information being run through outside servers or software can be chilling.

Basically, Shadow IT, also known as Stealth IT, describes solutions and SaaS, specified and deployed by departments other than the organizations own IT department.

As far back as 2012, IT research and advisory company Gartner was predicting that 35 percent of enterprise IT expenditures for most organizations would be managed outside the IT department's budget by 2015. Surely today, based on the innovations in technology which have occurred in 2012, that number's even higher.

And if you think the blame lies with those hipster millennials and their "always on" lifestyle, you would be wrong.

The Enemy Is Us

According to a 2014 study by Stratecast and Frost & Sullivan and based on input from organizations in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, the biggest users of Shadow IT services are IT executives and employees.

Now extrapolate that fact across your organization, to other executives, managers, and employees, and you can see just how quickly those numbers begin to add up.

In fact, according to the survey respondents, the average company already uses 20+ SaaS applications - think about it: Asana, Dropbox, Skype, Basecamp, Apple iCloud, Gmail, LastPass, not to mention your Facebooks and Twitters. But of those 20 or so SaaS platforms, more than 7 are non-approved. So, "…upwards of 35 percent of all SaaS apps in your company are purchased and used without oversight."

So, if you can't blame the millennials, who or what can you blame?

You can blame technology.

Get Off'a My Cloud

More to the point, you can blame the rise of cloud computing. As with most things in life, that which can benefit us the most, can also harm us.

With more and more companies adopting BYOD policies (often also referred to as BYOC, or cloud), it's no surprise that Shadow IT isn't really in the shadows anymore. Which probably isn't news to any of you.

In fact, as the study discovered, Shadow IT is now being perceived as an important step in innovation, opening new channels of development for businesses, and reducing overall costs.

Here's why:

Of course, these are in addition to the direct benefits to a corporate IT department: No monies paid out in development costs, maintenance, testing, upgrades capacity planning, or performance management. Plus, backup and recovery of data and infrastructure is generally also the responsibility of the platform's vendor.

Manage Your Risk

So, where does that leave us? With remote working, job sharing, file sharing, and BYOD policies becoming commonplace, along with the rise of mobile and the ever evolving technological advances happening around us daily, it's a little too late to shut that barn door.

And, contrary to how nefarious the term Shadow IT "feels," it appears most employees who "go rogue" and use unapproved SaaS during work hours are doing so with the best of intentions: They simply want to do their jobs, as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible. What's not to like about that?

They're not doing it just because, either. These are generally speaking a smart group of people who want to get things done. They cite reasons like quickly gaining access to the right tools, overall comfort level with certain apps and platforms, and, perhaps most importantly, the desire to avoid a steep learning curve and the waste of time conquering such a learning curve entails if forced to adopt something new.

I think the responsibility today in handling cloud computing and unregulated corporate SaaS usage lies squarely with each organization. As we need to look inward to see who's really performing this Shadow IT (our own executive, managers, and IT people), we also need to look inward when it comes to corporate policies and guidelines. Because most companies today don't have any.

Instead of losing sleep over perceived risk, companies must develop clear and concise policies governing cloud computing and SaaS usage. And don't stone me for saying it, but IT departments shouldn't exclusively own this exercise. Today, most executive level employees are well versed in SaaS, and they are probably well aware of what systems and platforms their teams are using day to day.

The ideal approach to Shadow IT is to collaborate. We've got to break down silos between IT and the rest of the organization, and involve all areas of your organization to work together to create best practices and help put the right policies in place to minimize corporate risk. Think outside the box. Remain flexible. Be prepared to drop old-school "firewall" thinking. And remember, the end-goal really is to improve business outputs and add to the bottom line of the organization.

Was Clinton breaking the law with her Shadow IT efforts? I don't know. The State Department's email system is known to be vulnerable to hackers. But what I do know is she was leaps and bounds ahead of Romney and Palin, who conducted official business on free email services from Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc.

Sometimes, perspective really is everything.

What do you think? Are you aware of any Shadow IT occurring in your organization? What do you think would be the most important things to include in policies and guidelines supporting SaaS usage? I would love to know your thoughts in the comment section.

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell's thought leadership site PowerMore . Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don't necessarily represent Dell's positions or strategies.

[Jun 25, 2016] Hillary Clinton's Shadow IT Problem

Notable quotes:
"... Again, the point here is not that Clinton should have ditched the secure, government system in order to use her phone of choice. In her circumstances, the security concerns should have outweighed her personal comfort. But for many, the desire to stick with tech that they know and love is often counter to logic, efficiency, security and policy. And most of us work in environments where bucking the system isn't quite as dire as it could be for the nation's top diplomat. ..."
"... " Shadow IT " is technology that users install without company approval because they prefer it to what's offered. What I know is that I can't secure my network if it's packed with technology that my users hate. ..."
March 20, 2016 | Techcafeteria
...Judicial Watch, a conservative foundation looking for evidence that Clinton broke laws in her handling of the email, received some fascinating information in response to a recent FOIA request.

Upon joining the State Department in early 2009, Clinton immediately requested a Blackberry smartphone. Having used one extensively during her 2008 Presidential campaign, she, like almost every attorney in that decade, had fallen in love with her Blackberry, hence the request. After all, Condoleezza Rice, her predecessor as Secretary of State, had used one. President Obama had a special secure one that the NSA had developed for him. But they said no. Even after being called to a high level meeting with Clinton's top aide and five State Department officials, they still said no.The NSA offered Clinton an alternative. But it was based on Windows CE, a dramatically different, less intuitive smartphone operating system. A month later, Clinton started using her own server. Judicial Watch claims that this info proves that Clinton knew that her email was not secure, but I think that she has already admitted that. But it also reveals something much more telling.

As a three plus decade technology Director/CIO (working primarily with Attorneys), I can tell you that people get attached to specific types of technology. I know a few Attorneys who still swear to this day that Wordperfect 5.1 for DOS was the best word processing software ever released. And there are millions who will tell you that their Blackberry was their virtual right arm in the 2000's.

How devoted are people to their favorite applications and devices? I worked for a VP who was only comfortable using Word, so when she did her quarterly reports to the board, she had her assistant export huge amounts of information from our case management system. Then she modified all of it in Word. Once delivered, she had her assistant manually update the case management system in order to incorporate her changes. Efficient? Not at all. But she loved herself some Word. I've seen staff using seven year old laptops because they know them and don't want to have to learn and set up a new one. And it wasn't until the bitter end of 2014 that both my boss and my wife finally gave in and traded up their Blackberries for iPhones.

Again, the point here is not that Clinton should have ditched the secure, government system in order to use her phone of choice. In her circumstances, the security concerns should have outweighed her personal comfort. But for many, the desire to stick with tech that they know and love is often counter to logic, efficiency, security and policy. And most of us work in environments where bucking the system isn't quite as dire as it could be for the nation's top diplomat.

"Shadow IT" is technology that users install without company approval because they prefer it to what's offered. What I know is that I can't secure my network if it's packed with technology that my users hate. Smart people will bypass that security in order to use the tools that work for them. An approach to security that neglects usability and user preference is likely to fail. In most cases, there are compromises that can be made between IT and users that allow secure products to be willingly adopted. In other cases, with proper training, hand-holding, and executive sponsorship, you can win users over. But when we are talking about Blackberries in the last decade, or the iPhone in this one, we have to acknowledge that the popularity of the product is a serious factor in adoption that technologists can't ignore. And if you don't believe me, just ask Hillary Clinton.

[Jun 25, 2016] How to Turn Hillary Clintons Shadow IT Habits into Opportunity

Notable quotes:
"... Hillary Clinton has quickly become the public face of so-called "shadow IT" practices, which already affects almost every organization ..."
"... In other words, shadow IT is the unapproved, unmanaged solution that frustrated employees (and government officials) turn to when official systems don't meet their needs. In Chua's view, it's simply a good idea to take this bull by the horns, identify the pain points people are trying to avoid, and meet those needs through official channels instead. ..."
"... "Heavy-handed approaches are not going to eliminate shadow IT, it'll just go farther underground," ..."
"... In other words, a light touch might do wonders to tame the shadow IT beast even where strict policy edicts fail. And this lesson needs to be absorbed by a very large audience. ..."
The Motley Fool

... there's also a big upside to Clinton's home-brew email solution getting national attention. Hillary Clinton has quickly become the public face of so-called "shadow IT" practices, which already affects almost every organization -- from small and medium businesses to enterprise-class giants, and onward to the government behemoth. It's high time investors and business managers take a closer look at this trend, so let's thank her for opening the debate.

... ... ...

"I think we're at a point in time where companies can no longer ignore shadow IT," Chua said. "They need to put official policies in place, start talking to employees about what they need, make sure that these needs are aligned with the business.

"If they don't, then people can start creating their own solutions and create this whole shadow IT problem."

In other words, shadow IT is the unapproved, unmanaged solution that frustrated employees (and government officials) turn to when official systems don't meet their needs. In Chua's view, it's simply a good idea to take this bull by the horns, identify the pain points people are trying to avoid, and meet those needs through official channels instead.

"This is definitely an opportunity to sit up and take action," Chua explained. "The IT industry is moving away from cookie-cutter solutions with help desk tickets and red tape around everything. This debate gives IT departments a chance to say, 'Hey, different business units have different needs. I'm going to create a baseline framework, but I'll be agile and respond to the various needs of different units.'"

Chua's comments underscore a growing sentiment among IT industry professionals. Talking to the CIO magazine this week, Deputy Chief Technology Officer Steve Riley of data networking specialist Riverbed Technology (NASDAQ:RVBD) expanded on the problem. "Heavy-handed approaches are not going to eliminate shadow IT, it'll just go farther underground," Riley said. "There's no positive outcome for being a disciplinarian about something like this. You might end up with services that are even more dangerous, where people now actively seek to circumvent policies."

How the solutions fit the problem

In other words, a light touch might do wonders to tame the shadow IT beast even where strict policy edicts fail. And this lesson needs to be absorbed by a very large audience.

According to Softchoice's data collection, over 80% of organizations -- businesses, corporations, churches, you name it -- already see some members stepping outside the formal IT structure to enjoy the convenience of cloud-based public services.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is a popular provider with tools including Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) might lose some software license sales to other cloud providers, but its Windows Azure and SkyDrive services are also leaders in their own right.

Sure, some of these service choices already have the official support of the IT department. But one-third of all users in a large Softchoice audit program recently reported employing tools such as SkyDrive or Google Calendar at work -- without so much as notifying the IT department.

The shadow IT market seems to open up a very large business opportunity for software-as-a-service providers such as Google and Microsoft. Managing these tools in a properly approved and budgeted fashion will help in closing boatloads of security and transparency concerns. And that way, they could soak up the demand for unofficial email servers and unapproved data warehouses running in some random employee's garage, beyond the reach of corporate firewalls.

Final words

A flexible approach to systems management can help businesses and government agencies make the most of their resources. There will always be rogue systems and maverick users, but acknowledging this reality can help contain the problem -- and maybe turn it into a strength instead.

Sweeping shadow IT under the rug, on the other hand, only opens up the door to more security leaks and the next Clinton-style transparency scandal.

[May 28, 2016] How Can Older Workers Compete In An Economy That Values Youth

www.zerohedge.com

Zero Hedge

...

Workers of all ages are caught in a vice. Older workers need to keep working longer in an economy which values younger workers (and their cheaper healthcare premiums). Younger workers are caught in the vice of "you don't have enough experience" and "how do I get experience if nobody will hire me?"

Middle-aged workers are caught between the enormous Millennial generation seeking better jobs and the equally numerous baby Boom generation seeking to work a few more years to offset their interest-starved retirement funds. (Thank you, predatory and rapacious Federal Reserve for siphoning all our retirement fund interest to your cronies the Too Big to Fail Banks.)

Workers 55 and older are undeniably working longer. Here is the labor participation rate for 55+ workers:

... And here's why so many workers have to work longer--earned income's share of the GDP has been in a free-fall for decades as Fed-funded financiers and corporations skim an ever greater share of the nation's GDP.

I am 62, very much an older worker with a startling 46 years in the work force (first formal paycheck, 1970 from Dole Pineapple). (Thanks to the Fed's zero-interest rate policy, I should be able to retire at 93 or so--unless the Fed imposes a negative-rate policy on me and the other serfs.)

But I recall with painful clarity the great hardships and difficulties I experienced in the recessions of 1973-74, 1981-82 and 1990-91 when I was in younger demographics. My sympathies are if anything more with younger workers, as it is increasingly difficult to get useful on-the-job experience if you're starting out.

That said, here are some suggestions for 55+ workers seeking to find work in a very competitive job/paid work market.

1. Target sectors that haven't changed much. There's a reason so many older guys find a niche in Home Depot and Lowe's--power saws, lumber, appliances, etc. haven't changed that much (except their quality has declined) for 40 years.

The same can be said of many areas of retail sales, house-cleaning, caring for children, etc.

Everyone knows the young have an advantage in sectors dominated by fast-changing technology, so avoid those sectors and stick to sectors where your knowledge and experience is still applicable and valued by employers.

2. If at all possible, get your healthcare coverage covered by a spouse or plan you pay. Those $2,000/month premiums for older workers are a big reason why employers would rather hire a $200/month premium younger worker, or limit the hours of older workers to part-time so no healthcare coverage is required.

Telling an employer you already have healthcare coverage may have a huge impact on your chances of getting hired.

3. If you have any computer-network-social media skills, you can get paid to help everyone 55+ with fewer skills. Your computer skills may not be up to the same level as a younger person's, but they are probably far more advanced than other 55+ folks. Many older people are paying somebody $35/hour or more to help them set up email, fix their buggy PCs and Macs, get them started on Facebook, etc. It might as well be you.

4. Focus on fields where managerial experience and moxie is decisive. Even highly educated young people have a tough time managing people effectively because they're lacking experience. Applying biz-school case studies to the real world isn't as easy as it looks. (I found apologizing to my older employees necessary and helpful. Do they teach this in biz school? I doubt it.)

The ability to work with (and mentor) a variety of people is an essential skill, and it's one that tends to come with age and experience.

5. Reliability matters. The ability to roll with the punches, show up on time, do what's needed to get the job done, and focus on outcomes rather than process are still core assets in a work force.

Being 55+ doesn't automatically mean someone has those skills, but they tend to come with decades of work.

6. If nobody will hire you, start your own enterprise to fill scarcities and create value in your community. The classic example is a handyperson, as it's very difficult for a young person to acquire the spectrum of experience needed to efficiently assess a wide array of problems and go about fixing them.

#3 above is another example of identifying one's strengths and then seeking a scarcity to fill. Value, profits and high wages flow to scarcity. Don't try to compete in supplying what's abundant; seek out scarcities and work on addressing those in a reliable fashion.

Every age group has its strengths and weaknesses, and the task facing all of us is to 1) identify scarcities we can fill and 2) seek ways to play to our strengths.

Shizzmoney

That's easy: the elitist old people in power will start a war, force the young people into that war, where they will all be killed and the old people get their jobs.

Also, for those young people who protest the war, the government and corporate military security forces will detain and kill them, too.

Problem solved!

Normalcy Bias

Just wait 'til they get a load of our Mighty Morphin Tranny Ranger Battalion!

KnuckleDragger-X

+1000 for that one.... :-))

KnuckleDragger-X

Bob Seger: Ballad of the Yellow Berets


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP6Xt3GBhdQ

Syrin

Exactly. Value youth? Is that why we saddle them with $250,000 worth of student loan debt and a degree in women's studies to find no jobs because we let in illegals and skilled workers with Visas from foreign countries? Seems like we hate our youth. Of course, they deserve it since they have been focused on being social justice fucktards rather than getting any marketable skills and paying attention to what the gov't is doing to their future. Schadenfreude.

deja

No, they are stupid enough to saddle themselves with $250,000 worth of student loan debt for a degree in womens' studies.

cougar_w

The OP doesn't make much sense to me. Most of the work people my age do, the young people either don't want or are not qualified for. Maintaining vital COBOL apps or air traffic controller software from the 70's? Really? And the ones are, they don't mind working with older employees and seem to enjoy our "gravity".

I work in IT so maybe things are a bit different. Grey beards are huge around here and always will be.

But this has been a challenge for centuries, young people have to find their own way and "their way" (being probably a dream from childhood or an inspiration from a college professor) might not be practical at first. They bounce around a little until marriage hits them and then they find something that works for supporting a family. Same as it ever was. The idea that "their way" is some kind of unswerving life's mission is usually part of the corporate "just do it" meme that sells $400 specialty running shoes. Yeah whatever, just figure it out actually, life will tell you what you are supposed to be doing, and who you are supposed to be doing it with.

GeezerGeek

The market for COBOL programmers had a sudden surge around Y2K, but only certain industries still maintain their old COBOL apps. Curiously, a certain computer/software has recently tried pushing a visual version of COBOL, much like Gates did when he came out with Visual Basic back in the early 1990s. I retired after 40 years in IT in 2011, so I am a bit out of touch where COBOL is concerned. Does anyone even teach it anymore in college? Maybe if someone modified it to create phone apps and games it would once again be popular.

Abbie Normal

Then it's a good thing I didn't follow my undergrad English Prof's advice and switch my major from science to arts, because he thought there was some "real intelligence" in my writing style that even his grad students lacked. Maybe I should look him up....

eatthebanksters

I have two buddies, one a 61 year old attonery who has never lost a case and the other a 59 year old facilities director. The lawyer has been seeking work for 6 years and has pretty much given up...he can't even get hired at lesser jobs because he is overqualified and 'will leave when something better comes along'. The facilities director has a great resume and knows his stuff but has been out of work for almost two years. He has come in 'second' more times than I can count. He is working od jobs and living with a friends mother, exchanging work on the house for rent and meals. Welcome to Obama's economy.

N0TaREALmerican

He'd work if he'd accept less money, but he feels "entitled to earn what HE thinks he's worth". Just another lazy old-fart who feels the world owns him something. Welcome to a competitive economy old-fart, nobody said life was fair. Stop bitching and work for less.

mary mary

If you ever need an attorney, you might look for an experienced attorney who worked so hard that he never lost a case.

If you ever inherit a zillion bucks and buy a bunch of properties, you might confer with an experienced facility manager who actually managed a bunch of properties.

I doubt an attorney who never lost a case achieved that record by going around saying, "somebody owes me something".

I doubt a facilities manager who managed a bunch of properties achieved that by going around saying, "somebody owes me something".

Baa baa

What a load of crap. Most will take anything. I know, I am one. Don't lecture me about being "entitled" you punk. Your post reeks of the entitlement generation. Slug through 50 years of working, rearing a family, kids to college... I am beginning to wonder if the hundreds of thousands spent on the education and well-being of your ingrate ass was a misallocation of funds.

corporatewhore

Give credit where credit is due. This inability to find work at an older age has been going on for years and can't be blamed on Obama. Senior buyers at Macy's, older workers at Monsanto or television weather people at KSDK in St Louis all suffer the same fate. Labor cost and benefits are all less for the younger generation no matter what level of experience or capability. We develop a mindset throughout our productive career that we are indispensable and worth it because of our knowledge, contacts and industry wherewithal. It's all an illusion and we are NOT prepared or equipped to face the reality at an older age that we are completely dispensable.

At an older age if you want meaning you have to find it and think out of the paradigm that you've been led to believe is real. No one owes you anything for your experience or wealth of knowledge. Figure it out and rethink yourself as to what you love to do and want to do not what you must do to make money.

At 58 in 2008 I was fucked over by my corporation and wallowed in miserableness and poverty while i worked every contact and firm I knew. Nothing resulted. I had to work 3 part time jobs until I earned 2 full time ones and work over 90 hours per week because I enjoy it. It is work that covers the bills and allows me to create what I want to work on for the future while I still can walk think and breathe.

Best advice to your children: Go in business for yourself because just as it happened to me, it will happen to you when you become 55.

Nobody For President

Thanks for that, corporate whore. That sounds like an honest reprise of an incredibly hard time in your life, and I totally agree. I'm telling all (4) my grandkids, from 7 to 20, to live your life, not someone else's. The oldest one gets it, and I think the other ones will also, if I live long enough, because I walked that walk.

I'm old, and work full time (more or less) and make a living - not a killing, but a living - at it.

nuubee

Good news old people, the economy currently doesn't value anything you can produce, unless you can print money.

Cautiously Pessimistic

You get up every morning
From your 'larm clock's warning
Take the 8:15 into the city
There's a whistle up above
And people pushin', people shovin'
And the girls who try to look pretty
And if your train's on time
You can get to work by nine

... ... ...

mary mary

MSM says Baby Boomers "have stolen everything", but in fact Baby Boomers are having to extend their careers because they're broke. This is the easily foreseeable result of 20+ years of the Fed keeping interest rates artificially low, making Baby Boomers suffer the double-whammy of (1) not having their deferred income (pensions) grow, while (2) inflation in fact continued at 6% annual, thanks also to the Fed keeping interest rates artificially low.

Yes, someone "have stolen everything". That someone is the owners of the Fed.

[May 21, 2016] NetSlaves: True Tales of Working the Web

www.amazon.com
Arthur Lindsey III , April 16, 2003
A 246 Page "Support Group"

Being an unemployed techie myself, I cannot begin to describe what a godsend this book is. NETSLAVES finally reveals the truth about what it is to be part of what is likely the most under-appreciated sect of the working class. The stale stories of "dorm-room success" have been supplanted by the pathetically sad/darkly humorous accounts of those who have been saddled with with million-dollar job titles, bleeding ulcers, and ramen noodle grocery budgets. NETSLAVES is an entertaining and enligtening read, written by two men who have actually been passengers in every sewer pipe that is The new-media industry. This book is a must for every modern library, as it can be considered a "warning shot" for those with IT aspirations, or as a source of vindication for those of us who have been dismissed and trampled on. Bravo!

A customer, November 24, 1999

Handwriting on the Wall

NetSlaves tells it like it is for the millions of us on the business end of the IPO and monopoly screwdrivers. Apply these lessons to the law, publishing, automotive, chemical, airline industries, etc., etc. This book is not just a cerebral and satirical indictment of the internet industry.

It is a comment on upper and middle management corporate business practices in general, and the dismal fate of the vast armies of workers used as cannon fodder since day one for the follies of unscrupulous robber barons; or morons who just happen to find themselves in the right place at the right time to make market killings; or Scrooges who will never learn what it is to have a heart. Baldwin and Lessard are heirs to the muckrakers of the early 20th Century. Corporate E-merica, take heed.

[Apr 30, 2016] My Top 5 Movies About Unemployment

Christianity Today
Erin Brockovich

2000 | Rated R
directed by Steven Soderbergh
Based on the true story of an unemployed mother of three who forced her way into a job as a legal clerk and built an anti-pollution case against a California utility company. Erin Brockovich has become a name for someone with tenacity and perseverance.

The Journey of Natty Gann

1985 | Rated PG
directed by Jeremy Kagan
Disney's family-friendly adventure demonstrates how tough the Great Depression was on kids, namely the teenage girl of the title who journeys across America to reunite with her father. Grounded by strong performances, including a young John Cusack, this gem serves as a fine introduction of a difficult subject to younger viewers.

Tootsie

1982 | Rated PG
directed by Sydney Pollack
This light-hearted, quirky comedy stars Dustin Hoffman as an unemployed actor who pretends to be a woman for a full-time role in a soap opera. Beneath the hilarity is a sobering reminder that landing a job sometimes requires thinking outside the box, to say the least.

Up in the Air

2009 | Rated R
directed by Jason Reitman
George Clooney is stellar as a veteran hatchet man who has lost his ability to form meaningful relationships, living a life on the road. Ultimately this is a poignant drama about identity and what defines us. If we are nothing more than our occupation, what remains when that is gone?

Russ Breimeier, a freelance film critic who lives in Indianapolis, was unemployed for two years until recently landing a part-time job.

[Apr 30, 2016] Over 50, Unemployed, Depressed and Powerless

Notable quotes:
"... I know what it feels like to be marginalized because you're out of work. To be judged by others as if there's something wrong with you. To grow increasingly depressed, demoralized and despairing as three months turns into six months and that goes on for a year or more; as rejection after rejection becomes crushing, humiliating, and leaves you feeling worthless. ..."
"... All money-related impacts aside, you lose confidence. You wear out. You start to give up ..."
Daily Plate of Crazy

Are you over 50, unemployed, depressed and feeling powerless? For that matter, are you any age and feeling hopeless because you can't seem to land a job?

Frustrated Middle Age Man

The recession may be officially over, and for some segments of the population, things are looking up. But too many are still sinking or hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Long-term unemployment or underemployment has become a way of life.

This issue, for me, is personal.

I know what it feels like to be marginalized because you're out of work. To be judged by others as if there's something wrong with you. To grow increasingly depressed, demoralized and despairing as three months turns into six months and that goes on for a year or more; as rejection after rejection becomes crushing, humiliating, and leaves you feeling worthless.

All money-related impacts aside, you lose confidence. You wear out. You start to give up. And you don't even make it into the "statistics." It's been too long since your last employment relationship.

Overqualified, Over-Educated, Over 50

Despite my fancy educational background and shiny corporate career history, for a number of years I was unable to obtain work that was even remotely close to using my skills. Paying me a living wage? Let's not even discuss it. I must have applied to 100 positions over the course of several years, attended the usual networking events, and schmoozed every contact I could come up with.

No go. I suffered from the three O's: Overqualified, Over-educated and Over 50, though I may not have looked it. That last? If you ask me, age was the kicker. Throughout that period, as post-divorce skirmishes continued to flare (further complicating matters), I nonetheless took every project I could eke out of the woodwork, supplemented by debt.

Hello, bank bail-out? How about a few bucks for those of us who foot the bill in tax dollars?

The Borrowing Trap

Now and then, an acquaintance will make an off-hand remark about those who borrow money or live on credit cards. The assumption is that credit purchases are frivolous, or that the person who racks up consumer debt does so out of irresponsibility and poor judgment.

Never assume. Yours truly? I borrowed to put food on the table. I borrowed to pay for school supplies for my kids. I borrowed to enable them to take advantage of academic opportunities that they earned through their own hard work. I also counted my blessings. While I had no family to assist, my kids were healthy and doing well, I was basically healthy despite chronic pain, and I was able to use credit. Borrowing is a double-edged sword of course, especially if it continues for an extended period. But for my little household, debt was the only path to survival. For all I know, it will be again.

Fighting Your Way Back

These days? I still live on a tight budget, I dream of recovering from the years of financial devastation "someday," and I take every gig I can get. Willingly. I've gained new skills along the way and continue to refine them, I'm always looking for another project and thrilled when I nab one, and I'm accustomed to a 12- to 14-hour workday. I put in long hours throughout my corporate career and I have no problem doing so now. In fact, I'm grateful for these workdays and I take none of them for granted. Moreover, I suggest that few of us should take our sources of income as a given.

You know the expression - "There but for the grace of God go I." Misfortune can visit any one of us. Layoff. Accident or illness. Gray divorce. The phone call or email with no warning, saying "you're done" as you're replaced by someone 20 years younger.

And yes, I've internalized the wisdom of this little gem: "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." But I also know it isn't always possible, and the secret to success is not as simple as hard work. It's aided by the assistance of others, not to mention - luck.

Unemployed and Depressed

Forbes reminds us of the clear links between unemployment and depression, which isn't to say that underemployment or hating your job is a picnic.

Forbes staff writer Susan Adams cites a Gallup poll as follows:

The longer that Americans are unemployed, the more likely they are to report signs of poor psychological well-being," says the study. "About one in five Americans who have been unemployed for a year or more say they currently have or are being treated for depression - almost double the rate among those who have been unemployed for five weeks or less.

She goes on to note:

The long-term unemployed, unfortunately, have good reason to be depressed. They suffer plenty of discrimination in the job market. A 2012 study by economist Rand Ghayad found that employers preferred candidates with no relevant experience, but who had been out of work for less than six months, to those with experience who had been job hunting for longer than that.

.... ... ...

How many of you have found yourselves laid off and unable to get another job? How many of you are struggling in midlife to create a career where once you were responsible for taking care of a family?
•How many of you have knocked on doors and connected until your blue in the face, only to give up?
•How many of you have drained away any savings you may have had or incurred crushing debt?
•Have you had more success at creating new ventures for yourself - a business or freelance work?
•Were you able to rely on the assistance of family or friends for a temporary period?
•If you're over 50, have you found it harder? Have you had an experience similar to Cindy's?

I'm certain that many of you have fought your way back; I'm still fighting after years, but I have seen progress. Slower than I'd like, but progress all the same.

If someone helped you out, have you paid it forward by making connections for others?

Please do read this comment from Cindy. I have responded as best I can. I'm sure she would welcome your suggestions.

A Note on Despair

To be in this position - wanting to work, needing to work, knowing you still have much to contribute but never getting a foot in the door - is deeply frustrating, horribly depressing, and leaves us feeling powerless. Add up these elements and you have the formula for despair.

It's brutally hard to fight your way back from despair. But sometimes, an act of compassion can help.

I've been on the receiving end of those incredible kindnesses - from strangers, from readers, and from one friend in particular, herself too long living on the edge.

One small act of compassion can breathe new hope into the worst situation. And here's what I know with 100% certainty. We may be unemployed, we may be depressed… but we aren't powerless if we come together and try to help one another.

... ... ...

[Apr 30, 2016] Over 50 and unemployed Don't panic!

January 3, 2012 | Palmetto Workforce Connections

When you find yourself over 50 and unemployed, the thought of finding another job may seem daunting and hopeless.

It is quite easy to become discouraged because many people fear being stereotyped because of their age, the tough job market, or the prospect of being interviewed by someone half their age. However, there are some things the older unemployed should keep in mind while on the job search. Using the following tips will increase your chances of a short job search and create an overall more pleasant experience.

  1. Quit telling yourself that no one hires older workers. This is simply just not true. In some cases older workers have to exert more effort to overcome discrimination, but this is certainly not the case for every employer. There are even entire websites with jobs posted specifically for older workers, and a quick Google search will render you a list of those websites. Take advantage of such resources!
  2. Take advantage of new technology. Learn to blog and micro-blog, via Twitter, about your profession and interests. You should even create a LinkedIn profile (a website similar to Facebook yet has a more career oriented function) to assist it meeting people in your desired field. All of which will help you stay fine tuned on your skills, while developing new ones. Learning to use social networking will indicate to potential employers that you can adapt to change and learn new things, particularly technology, fairly quickly.
  3. Use all those hard earned contacts. Using contacts, no matter how far in the past they rest, is nothing to be ashamed of! You've probably spent most of your life working, and meeting a lot of people along the way. It is completely acceptable to reach out to former colleagues, class mates, co-workers and employers for job possibilities. Using resources like Facebook or LinkedIn are great ways to find those long lost contacts as well. Chances are they would love to hear from you and help you out if possible.
  4. Don't clutter your resume. Your resume should be tailored to each and every job you apply for. While it is important to showcase your talent and skills, how you present the information is equally important. This means keep it straight to the point and relate your past experience to the skills necessary for the job you are applying for. Essentially, don't do a history dump of every job you've ever had, instead, make each word count!
  5. Don't act superior to the interviewer. It is likely that the people interviewing you will be younger than you. But this does not mean you should look down upon them. Obviously they have earned their position, and if you play your cards right, in due time, you will earn yours! Even if you've worked more years than your interviewer has been alive, it's not okay to tell him or her that you can "teach" them anything. A better idea would be to state your experience working in a multi-generational work place.

Use these tips to help make your job search less stressful and more positive. Whatever you do, don't throw in the towel before you've even tried. Your experience and knowledge will be recognized. All you need is the right employer to identify it.

[Apr 30, 2016] Over 50 and out of work Program seeks to help long-term unemployed

Nov 16 2013 | NBC News
When Bret Lane was laid off from his telecommunications sales job after 16 years, he wasn't worried. He'd never been unemployed for more than a few days since he started working as a teenager. But months passed, and he couldn't find a job. One day, he heard the Purina plant in his Turlock, Calif., neighborhood was hiring janitors for $14 an hour. When he arrived early at 4 a.m., he counted more than 400 people lined up to interview.

"That's when I realized things had gotten serious," said Lane, 53, who called being out of work "pure hell."

Lane's experience is hardly unique. As of September 2013, 4 million people had been unemployed for six months or more. The economy has been slow to regain the 8.7 million jobs lost during the Great Recession, making prospects grim for many of the long-term unemployed.

Older workers like Lane make up a larger percentage of the persistently jobless than ever before. Nearly 40 percent of unemployed workers are over the age of 45 - a 30 percent rise from the 1980s. And for this group, the job hunt can be particularly long and frustrating. Unemployed people aged 45-54 were jobless for 45 weeks on average, and those 55 to 64 were jobless for 57 weeks, according to an October 2013 Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.

Younger workers didn't have such a hard time, perhaps because many employers perceive them to be more energetic or productive than older workers, said Linda Barrington, an economist at Cornell University's Institute for Compensation Studies. Employers "acting on such inaccurate assessments or stereotypes is what benefits younger workers and disadvantages older workers," she said.

Addressing the emotional side of unemployment

An innovative program based in Bridgeport, Conn., is helping to get those who are over 50 and unemployed for long periods back into the market. Platform to Employment started in 2011 when a Connecticut job center called the WorkPlace was overwhelmed by calls from "99ers"-people who had been unemployed for 99 weeks, exhausting their unemployment benefits-many of whom were older workers.

The exact number of 99ers across the country is unknown; the Bureau of Labor Statistics hasn't distinguished between 99ers and those out of work for a year since 2010, an oversight that some say renders this group even more politically invisible. Already, the long-term unemployed face biases in hiring. It's both legal and common for employers to write "unemployed need not apply" on job postings.

There has been virtually no public policy tackling long-term unemployment since the recession hit, said P2E founder Joe Carbone, and his program seeks to fill that gap. "These people have lost access to opportunity, which is a basic American tenet," said Carbone. "We find a way to make them competitive and feel hopeful."

P2E is an intensive, individualized five-week bootcamp that teaches job skills and works to build job-seekers' confidence and emotional health. "We acknowledge that there are serious emotional issues for people who'd been unemployed for that long," Carbone said.

The privately-funded program makes deals with businesses who hire P2E graduates for "internships," a few-week trial period for the would-be employee, whose salary is subsidized by the WorkPlace. Often, it leads to full-time work. According to P2E, 80 percent of their participants have been granted trial periods, and of those, more than 85 percent have been hired by employers.

Accepting a new economic reality

Bret Lane washes out his coffee pot at his home after a shift at a call center in San Diego, Calif., on Oct. 31. Lane was laid off after 16 years as a salesman in telecommunications and was unemployed until he got a job at a call center. Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images for NBC News

The program has spread to 10 other cities across the United States, including San Diego, where Lane, a P2E graduate, has been employed full-time at a call center since May. After a year and nine months of unemployment, Lane sold his two-bedroom house, pared down his possessions to fit in a 5x10 storage unit, and drove to San Diego to live with his sister. That's when he saw an ad in the paper for Platform to Employment.

He learned how to make his online resume more searchable by adding keywords, as well as how to create an impressive LinkedIn profile. "It also occurred to me that I was being discriminated against" because of age, rather than being rejected for not being good enough. Lane now makes about half of his previous salary and still lives with his sister, but he's "happy to be working again."

This acceptance of a new economic reality is at the heart of P2E; the program isn't solving the problems of precarity, real-wage decline, or manufacturing losses so much as doing damage control.

"I'd say 100 percent of the people who went through Platform are making less than they did previously," said Carbone. "We get them prepared for the fact that their standard of living will go down, that they probably have to change careers."

This guidance is necessary, Barrington said. "A lot of [the long-term unemployed] came into the workforce still thinking you could work for the same company for your whole life," she said. "Someone has to sit you down and tell you that's not going to happen."

She added that businesses need to be reminded of the value of older workers, who often bring intangible skills, such as punctuality, responsibility, and "being able to write a memo," that younger employees may not yet have.

Heidi DeWyngaert, President of Bankwell, a holding company of several banks in Connecticut, said one of her banks hired an older worker from P2E who is succeeding on the job precisely for these reasons. "She's mature, reliable and responsible with a great attitude," said DeWyngaert.

The program has gained so much prominence that it's become competitive in its own right. Early last year, after P2E was featured on 60 Minutes, the Bridgeport office was flooded with inquiries. The program routinely gets 1,000 applicants for around 20 spots.

Hoping to spark a national conversation

Vanessa Jackson, 57, saw the segment and kept track of P2E's growth until it expanded to her area in Chicago. Jackson had been unemployed off and on since 2008, when she lost her $100,000 job as a marketing manager during a corporate downsizing. "I thought, of course, I would get another comparable job," she said.

But it didn't happen. She decided to get an MBA to "ride out the recession," but that just landed her more debt. She finally got a part-time job as a deli clerk, until she broke her arm and went on disability for 10 months. Her $300,000 401(k) account dwindled to $60,000. She sold her house in the suburbs and moved in with her boyfriend on the South Side of Chicago.

"It was the most desperate thing in the world," Jackson said. It pained her to remember the days when recruiters would tell her she was one of "the top African-American women in marketing."

P2E "revived my energy," she said. "It lifted the depression that was very much there."

Jackson now works part-time as a project coordinator at a home care service agency for $13 an hour, which she admits is inadequate for her level of education. Still, she almost missed out on the opportunity. When P2E came to Chicago earlier this year, she wasn't selected at first. "It felt like applying for a job in itself," she said. "I beseeched [Chicago program manager Michael Morgan]. He said 'I admire your ambition' and let me in."

Carbone is all too aware of P2E's limited reach. "We've helped hundreds of people, but that doesn't put even a small dent in the amount who need help," he said. Carbone hopes to spark a national conversation and, eventually, get the attention of Washington.

"Let's be clear," Carbone said. "I wouldn't be doing this if there were appropriate and relevant government policies."

[Apr 21, 2016] For Mental Health, Bad Job Worse than No Job

Notable quotes:
"... Unemployed people who found a job that rated well in these areas reported a substantial improvement in their mental health. By contrast, newly employed people who felt overwhelmed, insecure about their employment, underpaid, and micromanaged reported a sharp decline in their mental health, including increased symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even those who couldn't find a job fared better. This last finding was "striking," Butterworth says. "This runs counter to a common belief that any job offers psychological benefits for individuals over the demoralizing effects of unemployment." ..."
"... Policymakers should address the impact that the workplace has on mental - and not just physical - health, Butterworth says. "In the same way that we no longer accept workplaces that are physically unsafe or in which employees are exposed to dangerous or toxic substances, there could be a greater focus on ensuring a more positive psychosocial environment at work." ..."
March 14, 2011 | Health.com

With unemployment still high, job seekers who have been discouraged by a lack of work might be inclined to take the first opportunity they're offered. That will help pay the bills, but it could cause other problems: A new study suggests that some jobs are so demoralizing they're actually worse for mental health than no [...]

With unemployment still high, job seekers who have been discouraged by a lack of work might be inclined to take the first opportunity they're offered. That will help pay the bills, but it could cause other problems: A new study suggests that some jobs are so demoralizing they're actually worse for mental health than not working at all.

The findings add a new wrinkle to the large body of research showing that being out of work is associated with a greater risk of mental health problems. In the study, which followed more than 7,000 Australians over a seven-year period, unemployed people generally reported feeling calmer, happier, less depressed, and less anxious after finding work, but only if their new jobs were rewarding and manageable.

"Moving from unemployment to a poor-quality job offered no mental health benefit, and in fact was more detrimental to mental health than remaining unemployed," says the lead author of the study, Peter Butterworth, PhD, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University, in Canberra.

The study was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Butterworth and his colleagues analyzed data from an annual survey in which participants described their mental state, their employment status, and-for those with a job-details of the working conditions that they enjoyed (or didn't enjoy, as the case may be). The survey respondents were asked how strongly they agreed with statements such as "My job is complex and difficult" and "I worry about the future of my job."

The researchers focused on four job characteristics that are closely linked with mental health: the complexity and demands of the work, job security, compensation, and job control (i.e., the freedom to decide how best to do the job, rather than being ordered around).

Unemployed people who found a job that rated well in these areas reported a substantial improvement in their mental health. By contrast, newly employed people who felt overwhelmed, insecure about their employment, underpaid, and micromanaged reported a sharp decline in their mental health, including increased symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even those who couldn't find a job fared better.

This last finding was "striking," Butterworth says. "This runs counter to a common belief that any job offers psychological benefits for individuals over the demoralizing effects of unemployment."

Although certain types of jobs-such as working in a customer-service call center-are more likely to be downers, the working environment tends to have a greater impact on mental health than the job description itself, Butterworth adds.

Managers are especially important to employee well-being, says Robert Hogan, PhD, an expert on personality in the workplace and a former chair of the department of psychology at the University of Tulsa. "Bad bosses will make anybody unhappy," Hogan says. "Stress comes from bad managers."

Policymakers should address the impact that the workplace has on mental - and not just physical - health, Butterworth says. "In the same way that we no longer accept workplaces that are physically unsafe or in which employees are exposed to dangerous or toxic substances, there could be a greater focus on ensuring a more positive psychosocial environment at work."

[Mar 23, 2016] How to Lay Off An Employee - the Right Way

Their dirty ways: " One day last October, when employees at Cenovus Energy showed up at the office, many discovered that they couldn't access their computer files on the company's internal system. That's how they found out they were being laid off.
Alberta Oil Magazine

How to Lay Off An Employee - the Right Way

Companies that fought to attract and keep staff have been learning the hard way how to shed them in a hurry. But that doesn't mean it can't – and shouldn't – be done right

One day last October, when employees at Cenovus Energy showed up at the office, many discovered that they couldn't access their computer files on the company's internal system. That's how they found out they were being laid off. Two months earlier, employees at Hutchison Ports Australia in Sydney and Brisbane got a text message, then an email in the middle of the night inviting them to a beachside hotel. They, too, were being laid off.

Cenovus called its move a mistake. Hutchison Ports Australia said it had begun its consultations with staff and unions regarding redundancies in June. Whatever the explanation, companies need to start approaching layoffs more carefully. And though everyone in the energy business is hoping the bloodletting is over, if it isn't, there are ways to soften the blow of layoffs, and do them fairly and transparently.

Communication

A company should keep its employees informed of the economic forces acting on the business and their employment prospects, says Martin Birt, president of HRaskme.com and a human resources consultant with 30 years in the business. "Closures…should never, in my view, be a surprise," he says. Neither should layoffs. You can communicate messages with your employees such as how decisions will be made in what Birt calls a "long-game communications plan," a set of HR principles that will be applied should anything be decided regarding the company's long-term employment potential. That way, employees have some context as to what to expect when market circumstances change.

If you choose not to share your long-game communications plan in your employee manual, when speaking to the people you're laying off, at least communicate how, why and when you made the decision, Birt says. Your actions will get back to suppliers, contractors and layoff survivors. And if you've communicated fairly and awarded appropriate compensation and benefits, the external environment will understand what kind of corporate citizen you are.

Listen to Your Experts

Involve the correct teams – operations, human resources and legal – and involve them as early in the decision-making process as possible, says Birt. These teams will protect you as a corporation from any liability associated with a layoff.

Soften the Blow

Henry Hornstein is an assistant professor at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario's Algoma University, specializing in organizational change management. In the early 1990s, he was among the staff let go from Imperial Oil's Strathcona refinery. "It was not pleasant," says Hornstein, "but the way Imperial Oil handled that at the time cushioned the blow." They provided him with a year's worth of salary and benefits, and services with an outplacement firm. These included resumé writing, interview training and networking support. "Rather than treating people as commodities, people are treated compassionately," says Hornstein of the experience. You can provide your employees with psychological support in addition to proper severance, benefits and outplacement services, he says. Consider offering group meetings where people can talk to others about the negative psychological impacts of downsizing that they've experienced. "Downsizing is a significant assault on an individual's self-esteem…Everybody has a story, and when somebody is downsized, the organization can [seem to] take an approach that they don't care what the background story is, they just want to get rid of the people." says Hornstein. Birt agrees, saying companies should be prepared to offer an employee assistance program (EAP), a short-term counseling service for employees in need of support. This can also add a buffer against the company's liability.

Confidentiality

Having said that, to maintain confidentiality, limit the planning group to only those whose participation is necessary, says Birt. Consider using specific project-related confidentiality agreements, as well, and clearly describe the consequences for breaching confidentiality. He also suggests reminding participants with pre-existing confidentiality agreements of the terms of those agreements. If you are a publicly traded company, you should know if you are required to first inform the markets of your actions. If that is the case, managers must be prepared to communicate with employees immediately after informing the markets.

Finalize the Details

Before you deliver the news of layoffs, finalize all the details with human resources and legal, including severance, benefits and pension entitlements, says Birt. You'll be prepared to immediately answer individual questions. Everything you say orally in a termination meeting should be captured in a termination letter as well, he says. However, give terminated employees a few days to review their termination package and ask any questions, says Fraser Johnson, a professor at the Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario. "As soon as you hear the words that you're being laid off, your mind might go blank," he says.

Share the Pain

Rather than targeting employees with layoffs, share the cuts across the corporation, just as Canadian Natural Resources did when all staff pay was cut by up to 10 percent. Or, introduce flexible work arrangements like part-time work, voluntary leaves of absence, or deferred compensation in which an employee can work full-time at 80 percent salary for several years before taking a paid sabbatical.

[Mar 04, 2016] What do you call a 50 year old engineer?

www.nakedcapitalism.com

Synoia , March 3, 2016 at 10:25 am

Q: What do you call a 50 year old engineer?

A: Unemployed.

[Jan 10, 2016] The Death of the Professional Are Doctors, Lawyers and Accountants Becoming Obsolete

Notable quotes:
"... Adapted from the new book The Future of the Professions by Richard Susskind Daniel Susskind (Oxford University Press, 2015).Originally published at Alternet ..."
"... The proof is in how there is one premium cost if the medical provider is on their own and magically it is cheaper if theu are part of a group or hospital.. Same doctor…same practices…lower rates…prima facia evidence of insurance company rate fraud… ..."
"... Re solidarity, you might be surprised. One reason law school enrollments are down is that it is becoming public knowledge that employment for graduates in upwardly mobile career positions is way down … ..."
"... Many are shunted into low level proletarian type legal work, churning out evidence for use in lawsuits owned and managed by large firms. Lawyers who do this earn less then a good paralegal with less job security and no benefits. ..."
"... So much of the 'grunt work' of professions – once the entry and training province of new graduates – is now being done overseas by shops that specialize in legal research, or reading x-rays, or accounting and tax preparation. ..."
"... The 'grunt work' that grounds one in the full knowledge of the profession and how it works is slowly removed from the profession. That omission leaves future practitioners with an incomplete understanding. ..."
"... This loss makes them more reliant on big data as both assistant and excuse/defense, and makes them less master craftsmen (if I may use the term without giving offense) and more the front-end interface of one-size-fits-all processes. Very good for corporate profits. Not so good for the professions or their clients. ..."
"... Long ago, firms started off-shoring basic, tedious, repetitive tasks, generally considered as unrewarding, such as software testing or error correction to India. The idea was to focus on "high added-value" jobs such as system architects or project management, and leave low-level operations, supposedly requiring less qualifications, to cheaper Indian contractors. Decades later, there is a shortage of qualified people for those high-skilled jobs - precisely because fewer and fewer young people have had the possibility ..."
"... The result? It is now necessary to import expensive project managers and system architects from foreign countries. ..."
"... Bottom line: the race to the bottom for wages is "on". ..."
"... Professionals would be the next logical choice of squeezing cost out of work; unions, middle management, big industry, airlines, manufacturing and construction have all paid their price at the alter of the 1%. ..."
"... I also agree with the concept of there being less for the bottom 90% to spend. And as more automation kicks in, there will be even less bad choice jobs for these folks to scramble for. Just waiting for truck drivers to be slowly replaced with auto-drive trucks. ..."
"... "…. Prefer a fence at the top of the cliff to an ambulance at the bottom…" ..."
"... The rich and the truly rich will always have skilled, artistic human professionals to serve their personally tailored bespoke needs. It is the rest of us who will be assigned the doctorobots, the lawyer machines, etc. ..."
"... Part of the "crapification of everything" … except for managers and owners, it is part of their cost cutting plan. ..."
"... First they came for the blue collar workers, and I did nothing? Then they came for the white collar workers, and I did nothing? Now they are coming for the professionals, and they are laughing at my passivity? ..."
"... They have played all the classes, higher than the one they are currently discarding, and the remaining consumers are happy to throw their neighbors under the bus. But your turn will come. Karma. ..."
"... Once corporations start setting guidelines and dictating the drugs you can and can't use for treatment, do you think they'll do it according to what's cost effective and least risky for the patient based on current science or do you think they'll do it based on their own profits? ..."
"... The shift from reactive to proactive ..."
"... Proactive cannibalism ..."
www.nakedcapitalism.com

naked capitalism

Posted on January 9, 2016 by Yves Smith Yves here. Many members of the top 10% regard their role in society as relatively secure, particularly if the are in a niche that serves the capital-deploying 1% or better yet, 0.1%. But a new book suggest their position is not secure. And trends in motion confirm this dour reading, such as the marked decline in law school enrollments, and the trend in the US to force doctors to practice out of hospitals or HMOs, where they are salaried and are required to adhere to corporate care guidelines. For instance, my MD is about to have her practice bought out, and is looking hard as to whether she can establish a concierge practice. Mind you, she appears regularly on TV and writes a monthly column for a national magazine [not that is how I found her or why I use her]. Yet she has real doubts as to whether she can support all the overhead. If someone with a profile can't make a go at it solo in a market like Manhattan, pray tell, who can?

Adapted from the new book The Future of the Professions by Richard Susskind & Daniel Susskind (Oxford University Press, 2015).Originally published at Alternet

The end of the professional era is characterized by four trends: the move from bespoke service; the bypassing of traditional gatekeepers; a shift from a reactive to a proactive approach to professional work; and the more-for-less challenge.

The Move From Bespoke (Custom) Service

For centuries, much professional work has been handled in the manner of a craft. Individual experts and specialists-people who know more than others-have offered an essentially bespoke service ("bespoke" is British for "custom"). In the language of the tailor, their product has been "made-to-measure" rather than "off-the-peg." For each recipient the service has been disposable (used once only), handcrafted ordinarily by a solitary scribe or sole trusted adviser, often in the spirit of an artist who starts each project afresh with a blank canvas.

Our research strongly suggests that bespoke professional work in this vein looks set to fade from prominence, as other crafts (like tailoring and tallow chandlering) have done over the centuries. Significant elements of professional work are being routinized: in checklists, standard form materials, and in various sorts of systems, many of which are available online. Meanwhile, the work that remains for human beings to handle conventionally is often not conducted by individual craftspeople, but collaboratively in teams, sometimes collocated, but more often virtually. And, with the advance of increasingly capable machines, some work may not be conducted by human beings at all.

Just as we witnessed the "death of gentlemanly capitalism" in the banks in the 1980s, we seem to be observing a similar decline in bespoke professionalism.

The Bypassed Gatekeepers

In the past, when in need of expert guidance we turned to the professions. Their members knew things that others did not, and we drew on their knowledge and experience to solve our problems. Each profession acted as a "gatekeeper" of its own, distinct body of practical expertise. Today this set-up is under threat.

We are already seeing some work being wrested from the hands of traditional professions. Some of the competition is coming from within. We observe professionals from different professions doing each other's work. They even speak of "eating one another's lunch." Accountants and consultants, for example, are particularly effective at encroaching on the business of lawyers and actuaries. We also see intra-professional friction, when, for example, nurses take on work that used to be exclusive to doctors, or paralegals are engaged to perform tasks that formerly were the province of lawyers.

But the competition is also advancing from outside the traditional boundaries of the professions-from new people and different institutions. We see a recurring need to draw on people with very different skills, talents, and ways of working. Practicing doctors, priests, teachers, and auditors did not, for example, develop the software that supports the systems that we describe. Stepping forward instead are data scientists, process analysts, knowledge engineers, systems engineers, and many more. Today, professionals still provide much of the content, but in time they may find themselves down-staged by these new specialists. We also see a diverse set of institutions entering the fray-business process outsourcers, retail brands, Internet companies, major software and service vendors, to name a few. What these providers have in common is that they look nothing like twentieth-century doctors, accountants, architects, and the rest.

More than this, human experts in the professions are no longer the only source of practical expertise. There are illustrations of practical expertise being made available by recipients of professional work-in effect, sidestepping the gatekeepers. On various platforms, typically online, people share their past experience and help others to resolve similar problems. These "communities of experience," as we call them, are springing up across many professions (for example, PatientsLikeMe and the WebMD communities in medicine). We say more about them in a moment. More radical still are systems and machines that themselves generate practical expertise. These are underpinned by a variety of advanced techniques, such as Big Data and artificial intelligence. These platforms and systems tend not to be owned and run by the traditional professions. Whether those who do so will in turn become "new gatekeepers" is a subject of some concern.

The keys to the kingdom are changing. Or, if not changing, they are at least being shared with others.

Jim Haygood ,, January 9, 2016 at 8:57 pm

'medium and large corporations are also struggling to deal with increasing regulation'

My claim is that large corporations don't "struggle to deal with" regulation - they write it.

Case in point, Obamacare was drafted by Liz Fowler, formerly of WellPoint.

alex morfesis , January 10, 2016 at 12:05 am

You nailed it on medical professionals…would like to add, that at least here in flori duh there seems to be massive pricing fraud by malpractice and liability insurance providers which state regulators allow to continue to force small or single practitioners to join groups by financial obliteration…at least in floriduh, there is the usual massive distortion suggesting insurance companies are paying out huge amounts when there in fact seems to be collusion amongst insurance companies neglecting the legal requirement to try to settle on good faith and end up forcing people to settle for pennies on the dollar…yet the insurance companies keep picking the pockets of medical professionals

The proof is in how there is one premium cost if the medical provider is on their own and magically it is cheaper if theu are part of a group or hospital.. Same doctor…same practices…lower rates…prima facia evidence of insurance company rate fraud…

jrs , January 9, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Yes some of it is only logical though, if masses of the population see their income declining and yet the costs of medical care keeps increasing eventually noone can afford to see the doctor never mind the ACA etc.. And it can get to be this way with a lot of professional services less urgent and distorted than medical care, like soon noone can afford an accountant, you use turbo tax, a lawyer – no middle class people start to make their own wills. Many professions seek ever further protections of government for their guilds (more and more requirements to practice to try to preserve their privilege) and yet with nothing protecting the income of the other 80% (read: unions, that would be their role) unless they plan to only serve the fellow 20% …

So solidarity? Yea, but making the solidarity argument with many (not all) members of such professions is a waste of time as they instinctively side with the 1s.

Local to Oakland , January 9, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Re solidarity, you might be surprised. One reason law school enrollments are down is that it is becoming public knowledge that employment for graduates in upwardly mobile career positions is way down …

Many are shunted into low level proletarian type legal work, churning out evidence for use in lawsuits owned and managed by large firms. Lawyers who do this earn less then a good paralegal with less job security and no benefits.

ilporcupine , January 9, 2016 at 4:33 pm

It has been said Paralegals are being squeezed out, to make way for the huge increase in law graduates from prior class booms. Why not use cheap lawyers, with better credential, and desperate for employment?

flora , January 9, 2016 at 5:39 pm

So much of the 'grunt work' of professions – once the entry and training province of new graduates – is now being done overseas by shops that specialize in legal research, or reading x-rays, or accounting and tax preparation.

There are 3 downsides to this, in my opinion. New college grads have fewer entry slots. The 'grunt work' that grounds one in the full knowledge of the profession and how it works is slowly removed from the profession. That omission leaves future practitioners with an incomplete understanding.

This loss makes them more reliant on big data as both assistant and excuse/defense, and makes them less master craftsmen (if I may use the term without giving offense) and more the front-end interface of one-size-fits-all processes. Very good for corporate profits. Not so good for the professions or their clients.

guest , January 9, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Big Data is not a solution.

Your first two points (no entry-level jobs for beginners, no acquisition of professional basics) are essential - and their detrimental effects are already painfully felt in some professions.

Case in point: software development.

Long ago, firms started off-shoring basic, tedious, repetitive tasks, generally considered as unrewarding, such as software testing or error correction to India. The idea was to focus on "high added-value" jobs such as system architects or project management, and leave low-level operations, supposedly requiring less qualifications, to cheaper Indian contractors. Decades later, there is a shortage of qualified people for those high-skilled jobs - precisely because fewer and fewer young people have had the possibility to

(a) start in the profession at entry-level positions (when job postings all require qualifications as senior software engineer and five years experience, what do you do?)

(b) learn the ropes and practice the skills from the ground up (the necessary step before rising in the professional hierarchy).

The result? It is now necessary to import expensive project managers and system architects from foreign countries.

From what I read, the UK has been especially hit by this phenomenon, because it was particularly enthusiastic about off-shoring IT to India.

polecat , January 9, 2016 at 8:18 pm

Uhm…..oh wait…uh ..I know….uh…Brondo's got what plants need…..right?

Phil , January 10, 2016 at 2:34 am

Attorney's work is being automated and outsourced. For more on one aspect of outsourcing:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/05/business/global/05legal.html?_r=2

I can't find the cite, but last year I read that some of the Indian companies that American law firms have outsourced to are now moving offices "stateside" to hire American attorneys, here.

Bottom line: the race to the bottom for wages is "on". Add to this job automation that will only get more efficient, over time.
http://www.futuretech.ox.ac.uk/news-release-oxford-martin-school-study-shows-nearly-half-us-jobs-could-be-risk-computerisation

armchair , January 9, 2016 at 5:17 pm

The Washington State Bar has initiated a legal technician program , and I find the timing questionable, even if the premise of the program is good-hearted. As the market is awash in underemployed, licensed attorneys, the Bar is going ahead and turning veteran paralegals into the people to undercut the market even further. It seems like bad timing to let someone who has years of experience, and no law school debt get over on a bunch law school grads who are facing a life of being hounded for their debts. I spoke to someone at the Bar who made a good defense, that the legal technician is like an ARNP. Only later did it occur to me that there are very few out-of-work doctors.

From another perspective, the legal technician answers another problem of the collapsing paralegal market. Much of the collapse has been driven by advances in document management, especially scanning that 'reads' the text and makes it searchable. But hey, here is a shiny new program. Go ahead and set up a parenting plan with your abusive ex for $75! What could go wrong?

The key to really get the legal field de-humanized would be robot judges and robotic juries. I hope someone is already working on it.

polecat , January 9, 2016 at 8:26 pm

Don't worry…what's old is new again. At some point in the future we'll all be scratching glyphs on clay tablets….once the 2nd law of thermodynamics really kicks in………..plenty of work then!

armchair , January 9, 2016 at 9:02 pm

Work! What about George Jetson? The go west value system we are stuck with these days is almost perfectly incompatible with a future that requires very little human labor.

MyWag , January 9, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Professionals would be the next logical choice of squeezing cost out of work; unions, middle management, big industry, airlines, manufacturing and construction have all paid their price at the alter of the 1%.

Public sector unions are hanging on but as the majority of local & state taxpayers have less to give, these wages, benefits and especially pensions will be cut. Those earning less and less will gleefully pull down those public employees who are 'living like kings'.

I also agree with the concept of there being less for the bottom 90% to spend. And as more automation kicks in, there will be even less bad choice jobs for these folks to scramble for. Just waiting for truck drivers to be slowly replaced with auto-drive trucks.

This leads us to an enhanced confrontation at the Federal level on how to go forward. The earned income tax credit, a good concept also under siege, I believe, will have to be supplemented with a minimum guaranteed income.

By this time, 20 years, the DEMs will be the party of business and the GOP will be entirely dependent on fed govt subsidies. Oh the irony.

Brooklin Bridge , January 10, 2016 at 12:00 pm

By this time 20 years, the GOP will be saying, "I told you so", regarding Global Warming.

Ptup , January 9, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Reading Rise of a The Robots right now, and the law and accounting profession have and will continue to be hurt hard by computers armed with big data, and the education and medical profession are next. Has to be. It's already a travesty that education and medical costs continue to rise as incomes stagnate and drop, and that just cannot continue. Well, maybe it can, until all of those guns out there are used by the people as they rise up. Look at the buffoon who many are considering for the Republican nominee, more out of blind, misinformed anger, than anything. Scary.

RBHoughton , January 9, 2016 at 7:31 pm

"…. Prefer a fence at the top of the cliff to an ambulance at the bottom…"

You have a delightful way with words Yves. Many thanks.

different clue , January 9, 2016 at 9:19 pm

The rich and the truly rich will always have skilled, artistic human professionals to serve their personally tailored bespoke needs. It is the rest of us who will be assigned the doctorobots, the lawyer machines, etc.

James Koss , January 10, 2016 at 11:13 am

The French phrase "Everything changes and remains the same" remains true today.

Whereas today the top of society has its professionals to isolate and protect them from the remainder of the population and the rules nobility and the church had its knights, nobles, obedient serfs and peasants to fight and protect "their" nobility. Names and titles changed but the rules remained. Those who have will get those who don't will not.

Inverness , January 10, 2016 at 11:29 am

Correct. The same applies in education. The wealthy know what kinds of schools serve their children best: those with better teacher to student ratios, rich arts curricula, and a progressive approach to instruction. Just see what Obama's kids got at their fancy Quaker school. The rest get standardized lesson plans, big class sizes, deep cuts in music and the arts, and high-stakes testing.

They can privatize their lives; we cannot.

Disturbed Voter , January 9, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Part of the "crapification of everything" … except for managers and owners, it is part of their cost cutting plan.

Why would you trust a medical system run by politicians and insurance companies … a system promoted by those same managers and owners. Like hiring the Three Stooges as your plumber, electrician and roofer. Gullibility will be the death of us … that and malice.

First they came for the blue collar workers, and I did nothing? Then they came for the white collar workers, and I did nothing? Now they are coming for the professionals, and they are laughing at my passivity?

They have played all the classes, higher than the one they are currently discarding, and the remaining consumers are happy to throw their neighbors under the bus. But your turn will come. Karma.

flora , January 10, 2016 at 2:19 am

In Oregon some doctors are unionizing to resist medical assembly line medicine.
From NYTimes:

Doctors Unionize to Resist the Medical Machine

"Dr. Alexander and his colleagues say they are in favor of efficiency gains. It's the particular way the hospital has interpreted this mandate that has left them feeling demoralized. If you talk to them for long enough, you get the distinct feeling it is not just their jobs that hang in the balance, but the loss of something much less tangible - the ability of doctors everywhere to exercise their professional judgment."

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/business/doctors-unionize-to-resist-the-medical-machine.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

digi_owl , January 10, 2016 at 4:12 am

I find myself thinking about an episode of the original Connections series, that was produced in the 70s.

There it was mused about how corporate management would idle their days away waiting for the computer in the basement to crunch the numbers and come up with company decisions they were then to implement.

Instead what happened was that the professional managerial class, the MBAs, dug in while computers instead replaced the laborers via robotics.

Jesper , January 10, 2016 at 6:55 am

Or shorter: The common argument that 'we (by that I mean you) have to become more employable' is about to hit home among the people with long education. Will they recognize the similarity to what has already happened to others and/or will they themselves make themselves more 'employable'?

financial matters , January 10, 2016 at 8:11 am

I think one of the major consequences we are seeing as a result of a misguided professional system is the lack of basic legal services for millions of people. This resulted in people being thrown out of their homes as the result of very obvious fraud and yet having no recourse unless they were able to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees.

I think the popular new series 'Making of a Murderer' emphasizes this problem. I don't think a show that emphasizes the problems that the very poor have with justice from the lack of being able to pay for legal services would have been this popular 10 years ago.

financial matters , January 10, 2016 at 8:17 am

I think this would require a 'single payer' legal system similar to the need for a single payer medical system.

Wade Riddick , January 10, 2016 at 8:53 am

Once corporations start setting guidelines and dictating the drugs you can and can't use for treatment, do you think they'll do it according to what's cost effective and least risky for the patient based on current science or do you think they'll do it based on their own profits?

What happens when they own their own pharmacies – as they're all scrambling to do right now – and try to jack up reimbursement through that unit too? Do you think patients were served when Philidor started (criminally) altering scripts and making substitutions?

For profit healthcare is really sickcare, isn't it? Why cure a disease when treating it brings in more revenue? Why sell cheap human insulin when you can patent a variety on the molecule, jack up the price and carve up the market?

Keep the sucker paying the vig…

These guys aren't adopting better guidelines for treating chronic disease based on the best available science. In fact, as they corporatize they're getting worse. I've talked to these clowns. They're typically ten years behind the state of the art in their field. Patients do the reading and then they stare at us like we're morons. Fifteen years later they swear they knew the truth all along.

If these corporate suits are setting the guidelines for care, how come there's no common national board standard for care, no portfolio investment model approach where they model the disease with the best available experts, determine how to intervene in the various genetic pathways that are perturbed and then pick the simplest, cheapest methods/chemicals to try first?

That sounds like a pretty reasonable, scientific approach to treatment – but, if that's your standard, then these people are in breech of fiduciary duty left and right and it all has to do with that old canard "maximizing shareholder value." What about maximizing customer service? Corporate medicine will lead to tobacco-level deaths. I know doctors who have been personally injured in this system already. Corporations want to avoid risk to their profit – *not* their patient. Imagine what *those* mandatory arbitration clauses are going to look like. Imagine what the sequel to _Merchants of Doubt_ will look like in the era of corporate medicine and Supreme Court decisions that bust doctors' unions.

I'm still burning from Peter Thiel's comments on monopolies in the New York Times this morning. Does he have any clue how bad the service is in regional hospital cartels already and how fast prices are rising?

It's not even a matter of price in the drug markets now. It's basic availability. Aside from the persistent shortages of cheap, effective generics due to the kickback scheme in PMOs/PBMs, we now have explicit regulatory interference. The FDA has been moving to withdraw entire lines of medication from compounding pharmacies even when there's no rival big pharma product competing against them or any indication of patient risk. These are decades-old treatments. (It's the CDC's job to set treatment guidelines, by the way, not the FDA's).

It's just a knee-jerk reaction at this point to protect imaginary future profits, I suppose. You can't make up this stuff. The FDA has even imposed a 30% sales volume rule for "safety." It has nothing to do with purity or contamination of compounded products. If Tesla sold exploding cars, how would restricting 30% of their sales volume to California improve consumer safety? It's clearly a market-rigging reg – and it's because the corporate medicine lobby wants it.

What does this have to do with corporate medicine? Compounding pharmacies in big chain hospitals – which are often pitifully narrow in their professional scope – are all magically exempt (oligopolistic and more expensive too). Isn't that wonderful?

The current corporatization of medicine rests on the notion that the chief challenge faced by those of us with serious illnesses is that we simply don't read enough fine print or fill out enough paperwork.

If you think that corporations have done a fine job handling your retirement investments in this era of lax accounting standards, wait until you see what they do with your actual body.

Brooklin Bridge , January 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Exceptional comment!

Brooklin Bridge , January 10, 2016 at 12:18 pm

This article is based on the faulty perception that this is all normal benign efficiency working it's way out of an antiquated system, perhaps with a few -to be expected- hiccups. It isn't.

What we are experiencing is wholesale greed and corruption on an international scale working it's way into the core of our civilization like mold or cancer, and perverting technology as well as the process of social change and adjustment to that change – for it's exclusive benefit – as it goes. It is unconscionable that we could call this progress or adjustment in anything but the most cruelly ironic sense.

The shift from reactive to proactive my foot! 60 years ago doctors were getting out proactive messages far better than today via education, television, the media and so on. And they gave a damn!!! Today, insurance companies are devising ever new ways to minimize what they spend on your care, maximize what they charge you for it, and call it, "proactive." Proactive theft, or genocide for fun and profit, would be closer to the mark.

Brooklin Bridge , January 10, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Proactive cannibalism also comes to mind…

[Jan 09, 2016] How people survive when economy dies

Notable quotes:
"... His motto (which he shares with me every other day), is, Never throw anything away . And damned if he cant find exactly what I need when I come over to scrounge at what I call, Our Store . ..."
"... We wear our clothes out and watch what we buy. We dont travel by air, and limit trips to local visits with family. In the future, perhaps this will be the norm for most instead of todays extravagent consumption which is thought of as normal for Canadians and a birthright. ..."
"... Perhaps as a group, as a species, it seems as if we never learn and make the same and even greater mistakes over and over. But as individuals we can try to do things better, live better; until we cant go on. That is my plan, and I am sticking with it until I cant go on. ..."
"... the banjo prevailed and damned if it isnt getting better. I am well on the way to mastering (to use that term loosely) an Iris Dement version of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms , I can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash, and I Believe In You by Don Williams. I think I have sub-conciously chosen these songs to combat my own confessions of doom and gloom. ..."
peakoilbarrel.com

aws. , 01/08/2016 at 10:50 pm

Back in early 2012, the Premier of Ontario suggested that the loonie (Canadian dollar) was becoming a petro-dollar. He was slapped down by the Cons, and walked back his comment.
"That has knocked the wind out of Ontario exporters and manufacturing in particular," explained McGuinty.

"The only reason the dollar is high - it's a petro dollar , right? It's been driven by the global demand for oil and gas to be sourced in Western Canada.

"So if I had my preferences, as to whether we have a rapidly growing oil-and-gas sector in the West or a lower dollar benefiting Ontario, I'll tell you where I'd stand - with the lower dollar."

Canadian Dollar's Worst Rout Ever Raises Petro-State Worries

Ari Altstedter, Bloomberg, January 4, 2016

By the middle of 2014, oil's share of Canada's total exports reached 19 percent from about 6 percent a decade earlier. Meanwhile, the Ontario-based auto industry was seeing its share of the export pie fall to to 14 percent from 22 percent. The heavier reliance on crude became an issue in last October's national election, as Harper and his Western-based Conservatives were accused by all their opponents of having favored oil to the detriment of other regions.

In the process, the Canadian dollar had effectively joined the ranks of petro-currencies. The correlation between movements in the price of oil and the loonie has increased five-fold since 2000, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In 2015, while all commodity-exporting countries faced currency pressure, the Canadian dollar was more sensitive to oil price movements than such petro-states as Mexico, Norway and Russia.

I don't actually see low oil prices re-balanacing the Canadian economy. The cure for low oil prices is low oil prices. Would you invest in an export dependent industry in Canada? One can reasonably model a scenario where the price of oil goes up to $100/barrel, the loonie returns to parity with the greenback… and an exporters competitiveness disappears with our petro-loonie's parity with the U.S. dollar.

Being a petro-state makes for a pretty ugly domestic economy.

Paulo , 01/08/2016 at 11:40 pm
AWS (and Ron)

I believe the decline will bring us Canadians back to our roots and strengths. Personally, I have been disgusted with our past 30 year transformation into urban consumers, no matter what part of the country we live in.

I remember my Grandparents playing penny poker on winter evenings. I grew up with stories of the Depression. While I am 60, my good friend down the road is 75. He often tells me about living in our Valley from '46 onwards…..a time of bailing water from the river into a 45 for home supply, canned venison and salmon for winter, oil lamps because Hydro did not arrive until the latter '60s. His Dad built up a sawmill and his folks provided room and board for 'the crew'. His mom washed their clothing by hand on Saturdays and finally got a gas powered ringer washer to make it easier. Nowadays, he scrounges scrap steel (old bedframes and the like) from the recycling bins for our welding projects. He helps me make up power saw chains from scraps and pieces. His motto (which he shares with me every other day), is, "Never throw anything away". And damned if he can't find exactly what I need when I come over to scrounge at what I call, "Our Store".

I don't know what will happen to the Vancouverites or Torontonians when property values dive. I imagine that many will lose everything they think they have, (when their debt bomb blows). I guess then we will see what people are made of. Will they whine? Or will they pick themselves up and make the best of it?

As for Ron's post, it is similar to one last year. I could hardly read that one as well. Yes, there are deserts and sewers made by man, and that will be the best that many can hope for. But what is your sphere of influence and power to change things? I have replanted several thousand trees on our property and let most of it regen into a bramble-filled mixed forest. I have put in a pond that trout have found from the drainage ditches and flooded wetlands next door. I have cut trails for deer and elk crossing routes. We grow our gardens without pesticides and with as much compost as possible. We wear our clothes out and watch what we buy. We don't travel by air, and limit trips to local visits with family. In the future, perhaps this will be the norm for most instead of today's extravagent consumption which is thought of as normal for Canadians and a birthright.

Ron, the facts are glum. Your story is true. I accept that. What I don't accept is allowing it to bring me down and giving up….on myself, my loved ones, and my people. Perhaps as a group, as a species, it seems as if we never learn and make the same and even greater mistakes over and over. But as individuals we can try to do things better, live better; until we can't go on. That is my plan, and I am sticking with it until I can't go on.

I am teaching myself to play the banjo. (My blessed wife is so so patient). Today, the weather was cold and foggy, my lumber is frozen into ice lumps, and I was quite house bound being sick of crunching around my frozen yard trying to be productive. So, the banjo prevailed and damned if it isn't getting better. I am well on the way to mastering (to use that term loosely) an Iris Dement version of "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms", "I can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash, and "I Believe In You" by Don Williams. I think I have sub-conciously chosen these songs to combat my own confessions of doom and gloom. Sometimes, it is all we have. For you post readers, I will provide the Youtube links for a pick-me-up. A nice glass of whiskey makes for a good listening partner.

regards and thanks for your heartfelt honesty and efforts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGbxrNqK4-4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSsqWHtg7Ig
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Biz5kBIAtic

[Jan 09, 2016] Overshoot The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change

www.amazon.com

Amazon.com

By J. Mann on April 8, 2005

Masterpiece, offers solution for THE problem of our time/div> I am astonished at the quality of this book, which is about the eighth book in a personal reading program that included Paul Roberts' The End of Oil, Kenneth Deffeyes' Beyond Oil, Jared Diamon's Collapse, Cottrell's Energy and Society, Michael Klare's Blood and Oil, and others, all extremely good and relevant books. The task this author undertakes is to help readers find a new perspective from which to constructively and usefully interpret inevitable and major changes the world around us. By taking this approach, the author is providing the very essential tool we need to cope with these changes.

The issue is our ecological footprint.

Catton uses the term "Age of Exuberance" to represent the time since 1492 when first a newly discovered hemisphere and then the invention of fossil-fuel-driven machines allowed Old-World humans to escape the constraints imposed by a population roughly at earth's carrying capacity, and instead to grow (and philosophize and emote) expansively. He then reminds us that we are soon to be squeezed by the twin jaws of excessive population and exhausted resources, as our current population is utterly dependent on the mining and burning of fossil energy and its use to exploit earth's resources in general. In spring 2005, the buzz about "the end of cheap energy" is reaching quite a pitch, and when and if the "peak oil" scenario (or other environmental limit-event) is reached, the impact on our social / political world will be enormous. Already the US is brandishing and using its superior weaponry to sieze control of oil assets; this same kind of desperate struggle may well erupt at all levels of society if we don't find a way to identify the problem, anticipate its consequences, and find solutions. Catton offers a perspective based on biology / ecology -- not bad, since we are indeed animals in an ecology and we are indeed subject to the iron laws of nature and physics.

With this perspective we can avoid ending up screaming nonsense at each other when changes begin to get scary. My urgent recommendation is, read this G.D. book and do it now.

[Jan 09, 2016] Even a cursory look at things reveals the overwhelming scope of things and quickly leads to despair

Notable quotes:
"... It has to be explained that Stoics believe that nothing external to the individual is secure, and thus the truly important thing is virtue, based on ethics and moral. ..."
"... Stoicism is the appropriate philosophy for what awaits us. It brings out the best of us and it eases the anguish. The illusion of control is our worst enemy. Matters are completely out of our control and Nature will deal with them as she pleases. ..."
peakoilbarrel.com
Javier , 01/09/2016 at 5:29 am

I wholeheartedly agree that even a cursory look at things reveals the overwhelming scope of things and quickly leads to despair.

It doesn't have to lead to despair. I recommend Stoicism , which is the way Greeks and Romans coped with their own decline.

In the words of Seneca:

"Let Nature deal with matter, which is her own, as she pleases; let us be cheerful and brave in the face of everything, reflecting that it is nothing of our own that perishes." (De Provid. v.8)

It has to be explained that Stoics believe that nothing external to the individual is secure, and thus the truly important thing is virtue, based on ethics and moral. Virtue can not be taken from an individual whatever the circumstances, and helps him deal with adversity. That is what Seneca means with "nothing of our own that perishes" .

Stoicism is the appropriate philosophy for what awaits us. It brings out the best of us and it eases the anguish. The illusion of control is our worst enemy. Matters are completely out of our control and Nature will deal with them as she pleases.

[Dec 26, 2015] BOLD ENDEAVORS Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration

Amazon.com
Britta Sahlgren, October 16, 1999
An intriguing story of human relationships in the extreme.

Bold Endeavors by Jack Stuster proved to be a real page-turner! Since childhood reading about adventures and explorers had been my favorite literature. In this book the persons behind these endeavors came to life. They were of flesh and blood and you as a reader took part of their everyday life, their hardships and personal problems. A thrilling experience. A lesson in the importance of relationships not only among people in isolation A lesson of use at job interviews, schools and even in families. I am thankful for an added knowledge and understanding of the many problems associated with these Endeavors. This book should be a "must" to all young people.

[Dec 26, 2015] Is the Unemployment Rate Tied to the Divorce Rate

Notable quotes:
"... but only before 1980 ..."
"... but only when she had a job. ..."
Science of Relationships
The first study considers government data from all 50 U.S. states between the years 1960 and 2005.1 The researchers predicted that higher unemployment numbers would translate to more divorces among heterosexual married couples. Most of us probably would have predicted this too based on common sense-you would probably expect your partner to be able to hold down a job, right? And indeed, this was the case, but only before 1980. Surprisingly, since then, as joblessness has increased, divorce rates have actually decreased.

How do we explain this counterintuitive finding? We don't know for sure, but the researchers speculate that unemployed people may delay or postpone divorce due to the high costs associated with it. Not only is divorce expensive in terms of legal fees, but afterward, partners need to pay for two houses instead of one. And if they are still living off of one salary at that point, those costs may be prohibitively expensive. For this reason, it is not that uncommon to hear about estranged couples who can't stand each other but are still living under the same roof.

The second study considered data from a national probability sample of over 3,600 heterosexual married couples in the U.S. collected between 1987 and 2002. However, instead of looking at the overall association between unemployment and marital outcomes, they considered how gender and relationship satisfaction factored into the equation. 2

They also looked at marital breakup more generally, focusing on when couples decided to end their relationships (not necessarily if or when they got divorced). Their findings revealed that when men were unemployed, the likelihood that either spouse would leave the marriage increased. What about the woman's employment status? For husbands, whether their wife was employed or not was seemingly unimportant-it was unrelated to their decision to leave the relationship. It did seem to matter for wives, though, but it depended upon how satisfied they were with the marriage.

When women were highly satisfied, they were inclined to stay with their partner regardless of whether they had employment. However, when the wife's satisfaction was low, she was more likely to exit the relationship, but only when she had a job.

[Dec 06, 2015] Bash For Loop Examples

A very nice tutorial by Vivek Gite (created October 31, 2008 last updated June 24, 2015). His mistake is putting new for loop too far inside the tutorial. It should emphazied, not hidden.
June 24, 2015 | cyberciti.biz

... ... ...

Bash v4.0+ has inbuilt support for setting up a step value using {START..END..INCREMENT} syntax:

#!/bin/bash
echo "Bash version ${BASH_VERSION}..."
for i in {0..10..2}
  do
     echo "Welcome $i times"
 done

Sample outputs:

Bash version 4.0.33(0)-release...
Welcome 0 times
Welcome 2 times
Welcome 4 times
Welcome 6 times
Welcome 8 times
Welcome 10 times

... ... ...

Three-expression bash for loops syntax

This type of for loop share a common heritage with the C programming language. It is characterized by a three-parameter loop control expression; consisting of an initializer (EXP1), a loop-test or condition (EXP2), and a counting expression (EXP3).

for (( EXP1; EXP2; EXP3 ))
do
	command1
	command2
	command3
done

A representative three-expression example in bash as follows:

#!/bin/bash
for (( c=1; c<=5; c++ ))
do
   echo "Welcome $c times"
done
... ... ...

Jadu Saikia, November 2, 2008, 3:37 pm

Nice one. All the examples are explained well, thanks Vivek.

seq 1 2 20
output can also be produced using jot

jot – 1 20 2

The infinite loops as everyone knows have the following alternatives.

while(true)
or
while :

//Jadu

Andi Reinbrech, November 18, 2010, 7:42 pm
I know this is an ancient thread, but thought this trick might be helpful to someone:

For the above example with all the cuts, simply do

set `echo $line`

This will split line into positional parameters and you can after the set simply say

F1=$1; F2=$2; F3=$3

I used this a lot many years ago on solaris with "set `date`", it neatly splits the whole date string into variables and saves lots of messy cutting :-)

… no, you can't change the FS, if it's not space, you can't use this method

Peko, July 16, 2009, 6:11 pm
Hi Vivek,
Thanks for this a useful topic.

IMNSHO, there may be something to modify here
=======================
Latest bash version 3.0+ has inbuilt support for setting up a step value:

#!/bin/bash
for i in {1..5}
=======================
1) The increment feature seems to belong to the version 4 of bash.
Reference: http://bash-hackers.org/wiki/doku.php/syntax/expansion/brace
Accordingly, my bash v3.2 does not include this feature.

BTW, where did you read that it was 3.0+ ?
(I ask because you may know some good website of interest on the subject).

2) The syntax is {from..to..step} where from, to, step are 3 integers.
You code is missing the increment.

Note that GNU Bash documentation may be bugged at this time,
because on GNU Bash manual, you will find the syntax {x..y[incr]}
which may be a typo. (missing the second ".." between y and increment).

see http://www.gnu.org/software/bash/manual/bashref.html#Brace-Expansion

The Bash Hackers page
again, see http://bash-hackers.org/wiki/doku.php/syntax/expansion/brace
seeems to be more accurate,
but who knows ? Anyway, at least one of them may be right… ;-)

Keep on the good work of your own,
Thanks a million.

- Peko

Michal Kaut July 22, 2009, 6:12 am
Hello,

is there a simple way to control the number formatting? I use several computers, some of which have non-US settings with comma as a decimal point. This means that
for x in $(seq 0 0.1 1) gives 0 0.1 0.2 … 1 one some machines and 0 0,1 0,2 … 1 on other.
Is there a way to force the first variant, regardless of the language settings? Can I, for example, set the keyboard to US inside the script? Or perhaps some alternative to $x that would convert commas to points?
(I am sending these as parameters to another code and it won't accept numbers with commas…)

The best thing I could think of is adding x=`echo $x | sed s/,/./` as a first line inside the loop, but there should be a better solution? (Interestingly, the sed command does not seem to be upset by me rewriting its variable.)

Thanks,
Michal

Peko July 22, 2009, 7:27 am

To Michal Kaut:

Hi Michal,

Such output format is configured through LOCALE settings.

I tried :

export LC_CTYPE="en_EN.UTF-8″; seq 0 0.1 1

and it works as desired.

You just have to find the exact value for LC_CTYPE that fits to your systems and your needs.

Peko

Peko July 22, 2009, 2:29 pm

To Michal Kaus [2]

Ooops – ;-)
Instead of LC_CTYPE,
LC_NUMERIC should be more appropriate
(Although LC_CTYPE is actually yielding to the same result – I tested both)

By the way, Vivek has already documented the matter : http://www.cyberciti.biz/tips/linux-find-supportable-character-sets.html

Philippe Petrinko October 30, 2009, 8:35 am

To Vivek:
Regarding your last example, that is : running a loop through arguments given to the script on the command line, there is a simplier way of doing this:
# instead of:
# FILES="$@"
# for f in $FILES

# use the following syntax
for arg
do
# whatever you need here – try : echo "$arg"
done

Of course, you can use any variable name, not only "arg".

Philippe Petrinko November 11, 2009, 11:25 am

To tdurden:

Why would'nt you use

1) either a [for] loop
for old in * ; do mv ${old} ${old}.new; done

2) Either the [rename] command ?
excerpt form "man rename" :

RENAME(1) Perl Programmers Reference Guide RENAME(1)

NAME
rename – renames multiple files

SYNOPSIS
rename [ -v ] [ -n ] [ -f ] perlexpr [ files ]

DESCRIPTION
"rename" renames the filenames supplied according to the rule specified
as the first argument. The perlexpr argument is a Perl expression
which is expected to modify the $_ string in Perl for at least some of
the filenames specified. If a given filename is not modified by the
expression, it will not be renamed. If no filenames are given on the
command line, filenames will be read via standard input.

For example, to rename all files matching "*.bak" to strip the
extension, you might say

rename 's/\.bak$//' *.bak

To translate uppercase names to lower, you'd use

rename 'y/A-Z/a-z/' *

- Philippe

Philippe Petrinko November 11, 2009, 9:27 pm

If you set the shell option extglob, Bash understands some more powerful patterns. Here, a is one or more pattern, separated by the pipe-symbol (|).

?() Matches zero or one occurrence of the given patterns
*() Matches zero or more occurrences of the given patterns
+() Matches one or more occurrences of the given patterns
@() Matches one of the given patterns
!() Matches anything except one of the given patterns

source: http://www.bash-hackers.org/wiki/doku.php/syntax/pattern

Philippe Petrinko November 12, 2009, 3:44 pm

To Sean:
Right, the more sharp a knife is, the easier it can cut your fingers…

I mean: There are side-effects to the use of file globbing (like in [ for f in * ] ) , when the globbing expression matches nothing: the globbing expression is not susbtitued.

Then you might want to consider using [ nullglob ] shell extension,
to prevent this.
see: http://www.bash-hackers.org/wiki/doku.php/syntax/expansion/globs#customization

Devil hides in detail ;-)

Dominic January 14, 2010, 10:04 am

There is an interesting difference between the exit value for two different for looping structures (hope this comes out right):
for (( c=1; c<=2; c++ )) do echo -n "inside (( )) loop c is $c, "; done; echo "done (( )) loop c is $c"
for c in {1..2}; do echo -n "inside { } loop c is $c, "; done; echo "done { } loop c is $c"

You see that the first structure does a final increment of c, the second does not. The first is more useful IMO because if you have a conditional break in the for loop, then you can subsequently test the value of $c to see if the for loop was broken or not; with the second structure you can't know whether the loop was broken on the last iteration or continued to completion.

Dominic January 14, 2010, 10:09 am

sorry, my previous post would have been clearer if I had shown the output of my code snippet, which is:
inside (( )) loop c is 1, inside (( )) loop c is 2, done (( )) loop c is 3
inside { } loop c is 1, inside { } loop c is 2, done { } loop c is 2

Philippe Petrinko March 9, 2010, 2:34 pm

@Dmitry

And, again, as stated many times up there, using [seq] is counter productive, because it requires a call to an external program, when you should Keep It Short and Simple, using only bash internals functions:


for ((c=1; c<21; c+=2)); do echo "Welcome $c times" ; done

(and I wonder why Vivek is sticking to that old solution which should be presented only for historical reasons when there was no way of using bash internals.
By the way, this historical recall should be placed only at topic end, and not on top of the topic, which makes newbies sticking to the not-up-to-date technique ;-) )

Sean March 9, 2010, 11:15 pm

I have a comment to add about using the builtin for (( … )) syntax. I would agree the builtin method is cleaner, but from what I've noticed with other builtin functionality, I had to check the speed advantage for myself. I wrote the following files:

builtin_count.sh:

#!/bin/bash
for ((i=1;i<=1000000;i++))
do
echo "Output $i"
done

seq_count.sh:

#!/bin/bash
for i in $(seq 1 1000000)
do
echo "Output $i"
done

And here were the results that I got:
time ./builtin_count.sh
real 0m22.122s
user 0m18.329s
sys 0m3.166s

time ./seq_count.sh
real 0m19.590s
user 0m15.326s
sys 0m2.503s

The performance increase isn't too significant, especially when you are probably going to be doing something a little more interesting inside of the for loop, but it does show that builtin commands are not necessarily faster.

Andi Reinbrech November 18, 2010, 8:35 pm

The reason why the external seq is faster, is because it is executed only once, and returns a huge splurb of space separated integers which need no further processing, apart from the for loop advancing to the next one for the variable substitution.

The internal loop is a nice and clean/readable construct, but it has a lot of overhead. The check expression is re-evaluated on every iteration, and a variable on the interpreter's heap gets incremented, possibly checked for overflow etc. etc.

Note that the check expression cannot be simplified or internally optimised by the interpreter because the value may change inside the loop's body (yes, there are cases where you'd want to do this, however rare and stupid they may seem), hence the variables are volatile and get re-evaluted.

I.e. botom line, the internal one has more overhead, the "seq" version is equivalent to either having 1000000 integers inside the script (hard coded), or reading once from a text file with 1000000 integers with a cat. Point being that it gets executed only once and becomes static.

OK, blah blah fishpaste, past my bed time :-)

Cheers,
Andi

Anthony Thyssen June 4, 2010, 6:53 am

The {1..10} syntax is pretty useful as you can use a variable with it!

limit=10
echo {1..${limit}}
{1..10}

You need to eval it to get it to work!

limit=10
eval "echo {1..${limit}}"
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

'seq' is not avilable on ALL system (MacOSX for example)
and BASH is not available on all systems either.

You are better off either using the old while-expr method for computer compatiblity!

   limit=10; n=1;
   while [ $n -le 10 ]; do
     echo $n;
     n=`expr $n + 1`;
   done

Alternativally use a seq() function replacement…

 # seq_count 10
seq_count() {
  i=1; while [ $i -le $1 ]; do echo $i; i=`expr $i + 1`; done
}
# simple_seq 1 2 10
simple_seq() {
  i=$1; while [ $i -le $3 ]; do echo $i; i=`expr $i + $2`; done
}
seq_integer() {
    if [ "X$1" = "X-f" ]
    then format="$2"; shift; shift
    else format="%d"
    fi
    case $# in
    1) i=1 inc=1 end=$1 ;;
    2) i=$1 inc=1 end=$2 ;;
    *) i=$1 inc=$2 end=$3 ;;
    esac
    while [ $i -le $end ]; do
      printf "$format\n" $i;
      i=`expr $i + $inc`;
    done
  }

Edited: by Admin – added code tags.

TheBonsai June 4, 2010, 9:57 am

The Bash C-style for loop was taken from KSH93, thus I guess it's at least portable towards Korn and Z.

The seq-function above could use i=$((i + inc)), if only POSIX matters. expr is obsolete for those things, even in POSIX.

Philippe Petrinko June 4, 2010, 10:15 am

Right Bonsai,
( http://www.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/009695399/utilities/xcu_chap02.html#tag_02_06_04 )

But FOR C-style does not seem to be POSIXLY-correct…

Read on-line reference issue 6/2004,
Top is here, http://www.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/009695399/mindex.html

and the Shell and Utilities volume (XCU) T.OC. is here
http://www.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/009695399/utilities/toc.html
doc is:
http://www.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/009695399/basedefs/xbd_chap01.html

and FOR command:
http://www.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/009695399/utilities/xcu_chap02.html#tag_02_09_04_03

Anthony Thyssen June 6, 2010, 7:18 am

TheBonsai wrote…. "The seq-function above could use i=$((i + inc)), if only POSIX matters. expr is obsolete for those things, even in POSIX."

I am not certain it is in Posix. It was NOT part of the original Bourne Shell, and on some machines, I deal with Bourne Shell. Not Ksh, Bash, or anything else.

Bourne Shell syntax works everywhere! But as 'expr' is a builtin in more modern shells, then it is not a big loss or slow down.

This is especially important if writing a replacement command, such as for "seq" where you want your "just-paste-it-in" function to work as widely as possible.

I have been shell programming pretty well all the time since 1988, so I know what I am talking about! Believe me.

MacOSX has in this regard been the worse, and a very big backward step in UNIX compatibility. 2 year after it came out, its shell still did not even understand most of the normal 'test' functions. A major pain to write shells scripts that need to also work on this system.

TheBonsai June 6, 2010, 12:35 pm

Yea, the question was if it's POSIX, not if it's 100% portable (which is a difference). The POSIX base more or less is a subset of the Korn features (88, 93), pure Bourne is something "else", I know. Real portability, which means a program can go wherever UNIX went, only in C ;)

Philippe Petrinko November 22, 2010, 8:23 am

And if you want to get rid of double-quotes, use:

one-liner code:
while read; do record=${REPLY}; echo ${record}|while read -d ","; do field="${REPLY#\"}"; field="${field%\"}"; echo ${field}; done; done<data

script code, added of some text to better see record and field breakdown:

#!/bin/bash
while read
do
echo "New record"
record=${REPLY}
echo ${record}|while read -d ,
do
field="${REPLY#\"}"
field="${field%\"}"
echo "Field is :${field}:"
done
done<data

Does it work with your data?

- PP

Philippe Petrinko November 22, 2010, 9:01 am

Of course, all the above code was assuming that your CSV file is named "data".

If you want to use anyname with the script, replace:

done<data

With:

done

And then use your script file (named for instance "myScript") with standard input redirection:

myScript < anyFileNameYouWant

Enjoy!

Philippe Petrinko November 22, 2010, 11:28 am

well no there is a bug, last field of each record is not read – it needs a workout and may be IFS modification ! After all that's what it was built for… :O)

Anthony Thyssen November 22, 2010, 11:31 pm

Another bug is the inner loop is a pipeline, so you can't assign variables for use later in the script. but you can use '<<<' to break the pipeline and avoid the echo.

But this does not help when you have commas within the quotes! Which is why you needed quotes in the first place.

In any case It is a little off topic. Perhaps a new thread for reading CVS files in shell should be created.

Philippe Petrinko November 24, 2010, 6:29 pm

Anthony,
Would you try this one-liner script on your CSV file?

This one-liner assumes that CSV file named [data] has __every__ field double-quoted.


while read; do r="${REPLY#\"}";echo "${r//\",\"/\"}"|while read -d \";do echo "Field is :${REPLY}:";done;done<data

Here is the same code, but for a script file, not a one-liner tweak.


#!/bin/bash
# script csv01.sh
#
# 1) Usage
# This script reads from standard input
# any CSV with double-quoted data fields
# and breaks down each field on standard output
#
# 2) Within each record (line), _every_ field MUST:
# - Be surrounded by double quotes,
# - and be separated from preceeding field by a comma
# (not the first field of course, no comma before the first field)
#
while read
do
echo "New record" # this is not mandatory-just for explanation
#
#
# store REPLY and remove opening double quote
record="${REPLY#\"}"
#
#
# replace every "," by a single double quote
record=${record//\",\"/\"}
#
#
echo ${record}|while read -d \"
do
# store REPLY into variable "field"
field="${REPLY}"
#
#
echo "Field is :${field}:" # just for explanation
done
done

This script named here [cvs01.sh] must be used so:

cvs01.sh < my-cvs-file-with-doublequotes

Philippe Petrinko November 24, 2010, 6:35 pm

@Anthony,

By the way, using [REPLY] in the outer loop _and_ the inner loop is not a bug.
As long as you know what you do, this is not problem, you just have to store [REPLY] value conveniently, as this script shows.

TheBonsai March 8, 2011, 6:26 am
for ((i=1; i<=20; i++)); do printf "%02d\n" "$i"; done

nixCraft March 8, 2011, 6:37 am

+1 for printf due to portability, but you can use bashy .. syntax too

for i in {01..20}; do echo "$i"; done

TheBonsai March 8, 2011, 6:48 am

Well, it isn't portable per se, it makes it portable to pre-4 Bash versions.

I think a more or less "portable" (in terms of POSIX, at least) code would be

i=0
while [ "$((i >= 20))" -eq 0 ]; do
  printf "%02d\n" "$i"
  i=$((i+1))
done

Philip Ratzsch April 20, 2011, 5:53 am

I didn't see this in the article or any of the comments so I thought I'd share. While this is a contrived example, I find that nesting two groups can help squeeze a two-liner (once for each range) into a one-liner:

for num in {{1..10},{15..20}};do echo $num;done

Great reference article!

Philippe Petrinko April 20, 2011, 8:23 am

@Philip
Nice thing to think of, using brace nesting, thanks for sharing.

Philippe Petrinko May 6, 2011, 10:13 am

Hello Sanya,

That would be because brace expansion does not support variables. I have to check this.
Anyway, Keep It Short and Simple: (KISS) here is a simple solution I already gave above:

xstart=1;xend=10;xstep=1
for (( x = $xstart; x <= $xend; x += $xstep)); do echo $x;done

Actually, POSIX compliance allows to forget $ in for quotes, as said before, you could also write:

xstart=1;xend=10;xstep=1
for (( x = xstart; x <= xend; x += xstep)); do echo $x;done

Philippe Petrinko May 6, 2011, 10:48 am

Sanya,

Actually brace expansion happens __before__ $ parameter exapansion, so you cannot use it this way.

Nevertheless, you could overcome this this way:

max=10; for i in $(eval echo {1..$max}); do echo $i; done

Sanya May 6, 2011, 11:42 am

Hello, Philippe

Thanks for your suggestions
You basically confirmed my findings, that bash constructions are not as simple as zsh ones.
But since I don't care about POSIX compliance, and want to keep my scripts "readable" for less experienced people, I would prefer to stick to zsh where my simple for-loop works

Cheers, Sanya

Philippe Petrinko May 6, 2011, 12:07 pm

Sanya,

First, you got it wrong: solutions I gave are not related to POSIX, I just pointed out that POSIX allows not to use $ in for (( )), which is just a little bit more readable – sort of.

Second, why do you see this less readable than your [zsh] [for loop]?

for (( x = start; x <= end; x += step)) do
echo "Loop number ${x}"
done

It is clear that it is a loop, loop increments and limits are clear.

IMNSHO, if anyone cannot read this right, he should not be allowed to code. :-D

BFN

Anthony Thyssen May 8, 2011, 11:30 pm

If you are going to do… $(eval echo {1..$max});
You may as well use "seq" or one of the many other forms.
See all the other comments on doing for loops.

Tom P May 19, 2011, 12:16 pm

I am trying to use the variable I set in the for line on to set another variable with a different extension. Couldn't get this to work and couldnt find it anywhere on the web… Can someone help.

Example:

FILE_TOKEN=`cat /tmp/All_Tokens.txt`
for token in $FILE_TOKEN
do
A1_$token=`grep $A1_token /file/path/file.txt | cut -d ":" -f2`

my goal is to take the values from the ALL Tokens file and set a new variable with A1_ infront of it… This tells be that A1_ is not a command…

[Dec 05, 2015] How to forcefully unmount a Linux disk partition

January 27, 2006 | www.cyberciti.biz

... ... ...

Linux / UNIX will not allow you to unmount a device that is busy. There are many reasons for this (such as program accessing partition or open file) , but the most important one is to prevent the data loss. Try the following command to find out what processes have activities on the device/partition. If your device name is /dev/sdb1, enter the following command as root user:

# lsof | grep '/dev/sda1'
Output:
vi 4453       vivek    3u      BLK        8,1                 8167 /dev/sda1

Above output tells that user vivek has a vi process running that is using /dev/sda1. All you have to do is stop vi process and run umount again. As soon as that program terminates its task, the device will no longer be busy and you can unmount it with the following command:

# umount /dev/sda1
How do I list the users on the file-system /nas01/?

Type the following command:

# fuser -u /nas01/
# fuser -u /var/www/
Sample outputs:
/var/www:             3781rc(root)  3782rc(nginx)  3783rc(nginx)  3784rc(nginx)  3785rc(nginx)  3786rc(nginx)  3787rc(nginx)  3788rc(nginx)  3789rc(nginx)  3790rc(nginx)  3791rc(nginx)  3792rc(nginx)  3793rc(nginx)  3794rc(nginx)  3795rc(nginx)  3796rc(nginx)  3797rc(nginx)  3798rc(nginx)  3800rc(nginx)  3801rc(nginx)  3802rc(nginx)  3803rc(nginx)  3804rc(nginx)  3805rc(nginx)  3807rc(nginx)  3808rc(nginx)  3809rc(nginx)  3810rc(nginx)  3811rc(nginx)  3812rc(nginx)  3813rc(nginx)  3815rc(nginx)  3816rc(nginx)  3817rc(nginx)

The following discussion allows you to unmount device and partition forcefully using mount or fuser Linux commands.

Linux fuser command to forcefully unmount a disk partition

Suppose you have /dev/sda1 mounted on /mnt directory then you can use fuser command as follows:

WARNING! These examples may result into data loss if not executed properly (see "Understanding device error busy error" for more information).

Type the command to unmount /mnt forcefully:

# fuser -km /mnt
Where,

Linux umount command to unmount a disk partition.

You can also try the umount command with –l option on a Linux based system:

# umount -l /mnt
Where,

If you would like to unmount a NFS mount point then try following command:

# umount -f /mnt
Where,

Please note that using these commands or options can cause data loss for open files; programs which access files after the file system has been unmounted will get an error.

See also:

[Nov 23, 2015] Game of musical chairs became more difficult: the US economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs.

Notable quotes:
"... A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction. ..."
"... More than that, it prevents the worst of behaviors that are considered an expression of dysfunction from occurring, as people across all social strata have other things to worry about or keep them busy. Happy people dont bear grudges, or at least they are not on top of their consciousness as long as things are going well. ..."
"... This could be seen time and again in societies with deep and sometimes violent divisions between ethnic groups where in times of relative prosperity (or at least a broadly shared vision for a better future) the conflicts are not removed but put on a backburner, or there is even finally reconciliation, and then when the economy turns south, the old grudges and conflicts come back (often not on their own, but fanned by groups who stand to gain from the divisions, or as a way of scapegoating) ..."
"... backwaters of America, that economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs. ~~Harold Pollack~ ..."
"... Going up through the chairs has become so impossible for those on the slow-track. Not enough slots for all the jokers within our once proud country of opportunities, ..."
"... George Orwell: I doubt, however, whether the unemployed would ultimately benefit if they learned to spend their money more economically. ... If the unemployed learned to be better managers they would be visibly better off, and I fancy it would not be long before the dole was docked correspondingly. ..."
"... Perhaps you are commenting on the aspect that when (enough) job applicants/holders define down their standards and let employers treat them as floor mats, then the quality of many jobs and the labor relations will be adjusted down accordingly, or at the very least expectations what concessions workers will make will be adjusted up. That seems to be the case unfortunately. ..."
economistsview.typepad.com
Avraam Jack Dectis said...
A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction.

A bad economy moves people toward the margins, afflicts those near the margins and kills those at the margins.

This is what policy makers should consider as they pursue policies that do not put the citizen above all else.

cm -> Avraam Jack Dectis...
"A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction."

More than that, it prevents the worst of behaviors that are considered an expression of dysfunction from occurring, as people across all social strata have other things to worry about or keep them busy. Happy people don't bear grudges, or at least they are not on top of their consciousness as long as things are going well.

This could be seen time and again in societies with deep and sometimes violent divisions between ethnic groups where in times of relative prosperity (or at least a broadly shared vision for a better future) the conflicts are not removed but put on a backburner, or there is even "finally" reconciliation, and then when the economy turns south, the old grudges and conflicts come back (often not on their own, but fanned by groups who stand to gain from the divisions, or as a way of scapegoating)

Dune Goon said...

"backwaters of America, that economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs." ~~Harold Pollack~

Going up through the chairs has become so impossible for those on the slow-track. Not enough slots for all the jokers within our once proud country of opportunities, not enough elbow room for Daniel Boone, let alone Jack Daniels! Not enough space in this county to wet a tree when you feel the urge! Every tiny plot of space has been nailed down and fenced off, divided up among gated communities. Why?

Because the 1% has an excessive propensity to reproduce their own kind. They are so uneducated about the responsibilities of birth control and space conservation that they are crowding all of us off the edge of the planet. Worse yet we have begun to *ape our betters*.

"We've only just begun!"
~~The Carpenters~

William said...

"Many of us know people who receive various public benefits, and who might not need to rely on these programs if they made better choices, if they learned how to not talk back at work, if they had a better handle on various self-destructive behaviors, if they were more willing to take that crappy job and forego disability benefits, etc."

George Orwell: "I doubt, however, whether the unemployed would ultimately benefit if they learned to spend their money more economically. ... If the unemployed learned to be better managers they would be visibly better off, and I fancy it would not be long before the dole was docked correspondingly."

cm said in reply to William...

A valid observation, but what you are commenting on is more about getting or keeping a job than managing personal finances.

Perhaps you are commenting on the aspect that when (enough) job applicants/holders define down their standards and let employers treat them as floor mats, then the quality of many jobs and the labor relations will be adjusted down accordingly, or at the very least expectations what concessions workers will make will be adjusted up. That seems to be the case unfortunately.

[Nov 14, 2015] Students across U.S. march over debt, free public college

Neoliberal college is not about education. It is about getting wealthy a head start to enforce and strengthen separation between the elite and the rest. Other can only complain... But that e fact is the many large companies invite for interview for open positions only of Ivy Leagues graduates. Other do not need to apply. So it is mostly about "Class A" and "Class B" citizens. Talent and hard work can buy buy a ticket for vertical mobility (see some stories below), but that was true in any society. Actually mobility in the USA is below average, despite MSM non-stop brainwashing of the USA citizens about "the land of opportunities", the "American Dream", etc. And exorbitant salaries of University brass is a norm now. you can't change that without changing the neoliberal system as a whole. they are no longer bound by academic ethics. Like Wall Streeters, want to get the most of the life, no matter by what means (the end justifies the means mentality). They are masters of the universe. Others (aka suckers) can go to hell.
Notable quotes:
"... Dealing with swiftly mounting student loan debt has been a focus of candidates vying for the White House in 2016. Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders has vowed to make tuition free at public universities and colleges, and has pledged to cut interest rates for student loans. ..."
"... I can see having a low, federally-subsidized interest rate on these loans....which I seem to recall having on some of my loans, but anyone wanting anything for free can take a hike, IMHO. ..."
"... Ever visit a university in a country that has free college education for its' citizens? It's pretty austere. These kids need to think past the clever sound bytes and really consider the effect of what they are asking for. ..."
"... What really needs to be addressed is the skyrocketing cost of college education PERIOD! At the rate it's going up pretty soon only the children of billionaires will be able to afford to go to college. ..."
"... College tuition cannot be allowed to just continue to escalate. ..."
"... If a high school grad can't explain in detail how much cash is needed, and how spending all that cash and time for education is going to provide a positive return on investment, he or she should not be going to college. This should be near the top of things that teens learn in high school. ..."
"... I get really cynical about all graduates claiming they had no idea how much their loans were going to cost them. ..."
"... If you didn't bother to read your loan docs before signing, or research likely monthly payments for your loan, that's your fault! ..."
"... College costs went up far faster than inflation, often because colleges built fancy sports and living facilities...because they figured out these same millennials pick colleges based on those things. ..."
"... The standard tours take students through fancy facilities that have nothing to do with quality of education. Add declining teaching loads that have decreased from 12 class hours to 3 class hours per week for a professor in the past 25 years and the rise in overhead for non-academic administration overhead positions like chief diversity and inclusion officer and you have expensive college. ..."
"... These 'loans' are now almost all, Pell Grant underwritten. Cannot Bankrupt on, co-signers and students can lose their Social Security money if defaulting. 1.5 trillion$ of these loans have been packaged, like Home Loans, derivative. What happens to peoples retirement accounts when their Funds have investments in them, what happens to the Primary Dealers when the derivatives bubble bursts? ..."
"... Where it is free, but only to the select, the performers, most American Students would not qualify in other countries for advanced Ed. ..."
Nov 14, 2015 | news.yahoo.com

Students held rallies on college campuses across the United States on Thursday to protest ballooning student loan debt for higher education and rally for tuition-free public colleges and a minimum wage hike for campus workers.

The demonstrations, dubbed the Million Student March, were planned just two days after thousands of fast-food workers took to the streets in a nationwide day of action pushing for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union rights for the industry.

About 50 students from Boston-area colleges gathered at Northeastern University carrying signs that read "Degrees not receipts" and "Is this a school or a corporation?"

"The student debt crisis is awful. Change starts when people demand it in the street. Not in the White House," said Elan Axelbank, 20, a third year student at Northeastern, who said he was a co-founder of the national action.

... ... ...

"I want to graduate without debt," said Ashley Allison, a 22-year-old student at Boston's Bunker Hill Community College, at the Northeastern rally. "Community college has been kind to me, but if I want to go on, I have to take on debt."

Dealing with swiftly mounting student loan debt has been a focus of candidates vying for the White House in 2016. Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders has vowed to make tuition free at public universities and colleges, and has pledged to cut interest rates for student loans.

... ... ...

Andrew Jackson

Free taxpayer supported public education means more college administrators earning $200,000 or more, more faculty earning $100,000 or more working 8 months a year and more $300 textbooks. Higher education costs are a direct correlation to Federal Student Loans subsiding college bureaucracies, exorbitant salaries for college administrators and faculty.

terrance

What fantasy world do these people live in. There is nothing for free and if you borrow tens of thousands of dollars you can't expect later that someone else will pick up your tab. Pucker up bucky, it is your responsibility.

Furthermore, a lot of this money didn't go to education. I have read where people went back to school so they could borrow money to pay their rent, or even their car payments. As for 15 dollars an hour to sling burgers, grow up.

sjc

Having been out of college for a few years, I am curious. I went to a State University. Tuition was high, I had to take loans, I drove a cheap 10 yr old vehicle, but it didn't kill me. My total debt was about the price of a decent new car back then.

Today, the average student loan debt after graduation is just under $30,000. Around the price of a new car. And these kids are trying to tell us that this is too much of a burden??? Look around any campus these days, and you will see lots of $30,000 cars in the parking lots.

I can see having a low, federally-subsidized interest rate on these loans....which I seem to recall having on some of my loans, but anyone wanting anything for free can take a hike, IMHO.

Meed

Careful what you wish for, kiddies. It's simple math and simple economics (things I learned in school while studying instead of protesting). Every university has a maximum number of students it can support, based on the number and capacity of dorms, classrooms, faculty, etc.

The tuition rates have always closely matched the amount of easily-accessed loans available - the easier the access to loans, the higher tuition is. The simple reason is that the universities raise tuition rates to manage the demand for their limited resources, and can always raise rates when there is more demand than there are openings for incoming students.

Thanks to the windfall from that high tuition, today's universities have student unions, recreation facilities, gyms, pools, and lots of amenities to attract students. Imagine what they will offer when they can't jack up the tuition. Ever visit a university in a country that has "free" college education for its' citizens? It's pretty austere. These kids need to think past the clever sound bytes and really consider the effect of what they are asking for.

matthew

Oddly enough, a majority of these students attend colleges who has sport teams sponsored by Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, or Reebok. So, should theses companies atop providing the uniforms and equipment free of charge and donate the money to make more scholarships available? Then the student athletes can purchase their own gear on their own dime. Where one group attains, another must lose. Let this be debated on college campuses and watch the students divide themselves. We will find out what is most important to them.

JB

What really needs to be addressed is the skyrocketing cost of college education PERIOD! At the rate it's going up pretty soon only the children of billionaires will be able to afford to go to college.

Some junk yard dog investigative journalist needs to dig into the rising cost of college education and identify the cause. Once the cause are understood then something can be done to make college more affordable. College tuition cannot be allowed to just continue to escalate.

just sayin'

Seriously how do we let our children out of high school without enough information to decide if going to college is actually a good investment? If a high school grad can't explain in detail how much cash is needed, and how spending all that cash and time for education is going to provide a positive return on investment, he or she should not be going to college. This should be near the top of things that teens learn in high school.

pcs

I get really cynical about all graduates claiming they had no idea how much their loans were going to cost them. I mean, they had enough math skills to be accepted, then graduate, from college. If you didn't bother to read your loan docs before signing, or research likely monthly payments for your loan, that's your fault!

E

College costs went up far faster than inflation, often because colleges built fancy sports and living facilities...because they figured out these same millennials pick colleges based on those things. If you tour colleges, and I toured many in the past few years with my kids, you don't see a classroom or lab unless you ask.

The standard tours take students through fancy facilities that have nothing to do with quality of education. Add declining teaching loads that have decreased from 12 class hours to 3 class hours per week for a professor in the past 25 years and the rise in overhead for non-academic administration overhead positions like "chief diversity and inclusion officer" and you have expensive college.

If students want a cheap education, go to the junior college for general ed classes then transfer to a four-year school. It is not glamorous but it yields a quality education without a fortune in debt.

Rich

Getting an education is obviously the biggest scam in history!!!! Look at who controls education. Look at all the Universities presidents last names then you will know what they are. I can't say it here on Yahoo because they will take my comments out for speaking the truth. These presidents make millions of $$$$$ a year off of students and parents who are slaves and work hard to pay those tuitions. Not only that but look at the owners last names of the Loan

50 CAL

Universities are money munching machines with no regard for how the students will repay the loans. Universities annually raise tuition rates(much of which is unnecessary) with no regard of how these young minds full of mush are going to repay the crushing debt, nor do they care. Locally one university just opened a 15 million dollar athletic center, which brings up the question, why did they need this? With that kind of cash to throw around, what wasn't at least some used to keep tuitions affordable?

Mike D

These 'loans' are now almost all, Pell Grant underwritten. Cannot Bankrupt on, co-signers and students can lose their Social Security money if defaulting. 1.5 trillion$ of these loans have been packaged, like Home Loans, derivative.

What happens to peoples retirement accounts when their Funds have investments in them, what happens to the Primary Dealers when the derivatives bubble bursts?

How are these loans to be made 'free' if existing loans bear interest? If the student of 'free education' defaults, doesn't graduate, will he owe money-will his parent, or will the 'free school' simply become a dumping ground for the youth without direction, simply housed in college's dorm rooms?
Lots of questions and two things to keep in mind, the Banks and Teaching institutes love the idea of 'free', the students are believing there might be a free ride.. ignoring schools and Banks don't, won't and never do anything for free.

This is not going to turn out well for consumers. Sure, Household payments of Education may drop, but the Institution of Education cannot keep even its slim success rate it has now. I don't know how educators managed to turn education into a purely self gratifying industry, giving anything to purchasers they wished for that Education loan, but never ever ever, has underwriting by the Central improved the quality of business. Complete underwriting of the important system of education at the Fed level will be a disaster.

There will be almost zero accountability for institutes and students, we will have a more expensive system that turns out the worst grads.

Don't try believing that other countries abilities with free Ed can be duplicated here.. not without serious socialism, a condition where qualifying for Ed advancement is determined by the Central.

Where it is free, but only to the select, the performers, most American Students would not qualify in other countries for advanced Ed. Blanket quals are almost a condition here, American Students are in for a serious surprise. They will not be so able to buy/loan their way to college and have to excel to get into college.

The joke is on the American student.

Jim

i was one of seven children- i worked my way through four years of undergrad and three years of grad school with my parents only being able to pay health insurance and car insurance- i worked shelving books, busing tables, delivering pizzas and for the last five years as a parimutuel clerk at dog and horsetracks- i never got to go on spring break, do a semester at sea or take classes in europe- i graduated debt free from public universities- have no sympathy for a bunch of whiny brats who have to drive better cars than their professors and believe they are entitled to special treatment- get a job and quit acting like a bunch of welfare queens who feel they deserve entitlements

Linda

My son is in college. Because grandpa saved his money over the years, he volunteered to pay for college costs. We hope to continue the tradition with our grandchildren and carefully save our money as well. We don't live high or purchase new. He will graduate zero dollars in debt.

My son's college roommate comes from a very wealthy family. They own a plane - two houses - dad works on Wall Street - mom is a Doctor. He has to pay for his own education and gets loans for everything. His parents simply don't have the cash to pay for his education.

It's priorities people! If something is worth it, you'll make it happen.

[Nov 11, 2015] Paul Krugman: Despair, American Style

Notable quotes:
"... In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have "lost the narrative of their lives." That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we're looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true. ..."
"... the truth is that we don't really know why despair appears to be spreading across Middle America. But it clearly is, with troubling consequences for our society... ..."
"... Some people who feel left behind by the American story turn self-destructive; others turn on the elites they feel have betrayed them. ..."
"... What we are seeing is the long term impacts of the Reagan Revolution. ..."
"... The affected cohort here is the first which has lived with the increased financial and employment insecurity that engendered, as well as the impacts of the massive offshoring of good paying union jobs throughout their working lives. Stress has cumulative impacts on health and well-being, which are a big part of what we are seeing here. ..."
"... Lets face it, this Fed is all about goosing up asset prices to generate short term gains in economic activity. Since the early 90s, the Fed has done nothing but make policy based on Wall Streets interests. I can give them a pass on the dot com debacle but not after that. This toxic relationship between wall street and the Fed has to end. ..."
"... You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place. ..."
"... Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices ..."
"... It is not some unstoppable global trend. This is neoliberal oligarchy coup détat. Or as it often called a quite coup . ..."
"... First of all, whether a job can or is offshored has little to do with whether it is low skilled but more with whether the workflow around the job can be organized in such a way that the job can be offshore. This is less a matter of skill level and more volume and immediacy of interaction with adjacent job functions, or movement of material across distances. ..."
"... The reason wages are stuck is that aggregate jobs are not growing, relative to workforce supply. ..."
"... BTW the primary offshore location is India, probably in good part because of good to excellent English language skills, and Indias investment in STEM education and industry (especially software/services and this is even a public stereotype, but for a reason). ..."
"... Very rough figures: half a million Chicago employees may make less than $800 a week -- almost everybody should earn $800 ... ..."
"... Union busting is generally (?) understood as direct interference with the formation and operation of unions or their members. It is probably more common that employers are allowed to just go around the unions - right to work , subcontracting non-union shops or temp/staffing agencies, etc. ..."
"... Why would people join a union and pay dues when the union is largely impotent to deliver, when there are always still enough desperate people who will (have to) take jobs outside the union system? Employers dont have to bring in scabs when they can legally go through unencumbered subcontractors inside or outside the jurisdiction. ..."
"... The anti-knowledge of the elites is worth reading. http://billmoyers.com/2015/11/02/the-anti-knowledge-of-the-elites/ When such herd instinct and institutional overbearance connects with the credibility trap, the results may be impressive. http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2015/11/gold-daily-and-silver-weekly-charts-pop.html ..."
"... Suicide, once thought to be associated with troubled teens and the elderly, is quickly becoming an age-blind statistic. Middle aged Americans are turning to suicide in alarming numbers. The reasons include easily accessible prescription painkillers, the mortgage crisis and most importantly the challenge of a troubled economy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims suicide rates now top the number of deaths due to automobile accidents. ..."
"... The suicide rate for both younger and older Americans remains virtually unchanged, however, the rate has spiked for those in middle age (35 to 64 years old) with a 28 percent increase (link is external) from 1999 to 2010. ..."
"... When few people kill themselves on purpose or die from self-inflicted but probably unintended harms (e.g. organ failure or accidental death caused by substance abuse), it can be shrugged off as problems related to the individual (more elaboration possible but not necessary). ..."
"... When it becomes a statistically significant phenomenon (above-noise percentage of total population or demographically identifiable groups), then one has to ask questions about social causes. My first question would be, what made life suck for those people ? What specific instrument they used to kill themselves would be my second question (it may be the first question for people who are charged with implementing counter measures but not necessarily fixing the causes). ..."
"... Since about the financial crisis (Im not sure about causation or coincidence - not accidental coincidence BTW but causation by the same underlying causes), there has been a disturbing pattern of high school students throwing themselves in front of local trains. At that age, drinking or drugging oneself to death is apparently not the first choice . Performance pressure *related to* (not just and ) a lack of convincing career/life prospects has/have been suspected or named as a cause. I dont think teenagers suddenly started to jump in front of trains that have run the same rail line for decades because of the usual and centuries to millennia old teenage romantic relationship issues. ..."
November 9, 2015 | economistsview.typepad.com

"There is a darkness spreading over part of our society":

Despair, American Style, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: A couple of weeks ago President Obama mocked Republicans who are "down on America," and reinforced his message by doing a pretty good Grumpy Cat impression. He had a point: With job growth at rates not seen since the 1990s, with the percentage of Americans covered by health insurance hitting record highs, the doom-and-gloom predictions of his political enemies look ever more at odds with reality.

Yet there is a darkness spreading over part of our society. ... There has been a lot of comment ... over a new paper by the economists Angus Deaton (who just won a Nobel) and Anne Case, showing that mortality among middle-aged white Americans has been rising since 1999..., while death rates were falling steadily both in other countries and among other groups in our own nation.

Even more striking are the proximate causes of rising mortality. Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves... Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and ... drinking... But what's causing this epidemic of self-destructive behavior?...

In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have "lost the narrative of their lives." That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we're looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true.

That sounds like a plausible hypothesis..., but the truth is that we don't really know why despair appears to be spreading across Middle America. But it clearly is, with troubling consequences for our society...

I know I'm not the only observer who sees a link between the despair reflected in those mortality numbers and the volatility of right-wing politics. Some people who feel left behind by the American story turn self-destructive; others turn on the elites they feel have betrayed them. No, deporting immigrants and wearing baseball caps bearing slogans won't solve their problems, but neither will cutting taxes on capital gains. So you can understand why some voters have rallied around politicians who at least seem to feel their pain.

At this point you probably expect me to offer a solution. But while universal health care, higher minimum wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans in trouble, I'm not sure whether they're enough to cure existential despair.

bakho said...

There are a lot of economic dislocations that the government after the 2001 recession stopped doing much about it. Right after the 2008 crash, the government did more but by 2010, even the Democratic president dropped the ball. and failed to deliver. Probably no region of the country is affected more by technological change that the coal regions of KY and WV. Lying politicians promise a return to the past that cannot be delivered. No one can suggest what the new future will be. The US is due for another round of urbanization as jobs decline in rural areas. Dislocation forces declining values of properties and requires changes in behavior, skills and outlook. Those personal changes do not happen without guidance. The social institutions such as churches and government programs are a backstop, but they are not providing a way forward. There is plenty of work to be done, but our elites are not willing to invest.

DrDick -> bakho...

The problem goes back much further than that. What we are seeing is the long term impacts of the "Reagan Revolution."

The affected cohort here is the first which has lived with the increased financial and employment insecurity that engendered, as well as the impacts of the massive offshoring of good paying union jobs throughout their working lives. Stress has cumulative impacts on health and well-being, which are a big part of what we are seeing here.

ilsm said...

Thuggee doom and gloom is about their fading chance to reinstate the slavocracy.

The fever swamp of right wing ideas is more loony than 1964.

Extremism is the new normal.

bmorejoe -> ilsm...

Yup. The slow death of white supremacy.

Peter K. -> Anonymous...

If it wasn't for monetary policy things would be even worse as the Republicans in Congress forced fiscal austerity on the economy during the "recovery."

sanjait -> Peter K....

That's the painful irony of a comment like that one from Anonymous ... he seems completely unaware that, yes, ZIRP has done a huge amount to prevent the kind of problems described above. He like most ZIRP critics fails to consider what the counterfactual looks like (i.e., something like the Great Depression redux).

Anonymous -> sanjait...

You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place. Because preemptive monetary policy has gone out of fashion completely. And now we are going to repeat the whole process over when the present bubble in stocks and corporate bonds bursts along with the malinvestment in China, commodity exporters etc.

Peter K. -> Anonymous...

"liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate... it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people."

sanjait -> Anonymous...

"You want regulation? I would like to see

1) Reinstate Glass Steagall

2) impose a 10bp trans tax on trading financial instruments."

Great. Two things with zero chance of averting bubbles but make great populist pablum.

This is why we can't have nice things!

"3) Outlaw any Fed person working for a bank/financial firm after they leave office."

This seems like a decent idea. Hard to enforce, as highly intelligent and accomplished people tend not to be accepting of such restrictions, but it could be worth it anyway.

likbez -> sanjait...

" highly intelligent and accomplished people tend not to be accepting of such restrictions, but it could be worth it anyway."

You are forgetting that it depends on a simple fact to whom political power belongs. And that's the key whether "highly intelligent and accomplished people" will accept those restrictions of not.

If the government was not fully captured by financial capital, then I think even limited prosecution of banksters "Stalin's purge style" would do wonders in preventing housing bubble and 2008 financial crush.

Please try to imagine the effect of trial and exile to Alaska for some period just a dozen people involved in Securitization of mortgages boom (and those highly intelligent people can do wonders in improving oil industry in Alaska ;-).

Starting with Mr. Weill, Mr. Greenspan, Mr. Rubin, Mr. Phil Gramm, Dr. Summers and Mr. Clinton.

Anonymous -> Peter K....

"2003-2005 didn't have excess inflation and wage gains."

Monetary policy can not hinge just on inflation or wage gains. Why are wage gains a problem anyway?

Lets face it, this Fed is all about goosing up asset prices to generate short term gains in economic activity. Since the early 90s, the Fed has done nothing but make policy based on Wall Street's interests. I can give them a pass on the dot com debacle but not after that. This toxic relationship between wall street and the Fed has to end.

You want regulation? I would like to see
1) Reinstate Glass Steagall
2) impose a 10bp trans tax on trading financial instruments.
3) Outlaw any Fed person working for a bank/financial firm after they leave office. Bernanke, David Warsh etc included. That includes Mishkin getting paid to shill for failing Iceland banks or Bernanke making paid speeches to hedge funds.


Anonymous -> EMichael...

Fact: there was a housing bubble that most at the Fed (including Bernanke) denied right upto the middle of 2007
Fact: Yellen, to her credit, has admitted multiple times over the years that low rates spur search for yield that blows bubbles
Fact: Bursting of the bubble led to unemployment for millions and U3 that went to 10%

what facts are you referring to?

EMichael -> Anonymous...

That FED rates caused the bubble.

to think this you have to ignore that a 400% Fed Rate increase from 2004 to 2005 had absolutely no effect on mortgage originations.

Then of course, you have to explain why 7 years at zero has not caused another housing bubble.

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FEDFUNDS

Correlation is not causation. Lack of correlation is proof of lack of causation.

pgl -> Anonymous...

"You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place."

You are repeating the John B. Taylor line about interest rates being held "too low and too long". And guess what - most economists have called Taylor's claim for the BS it really is. We should also note we never heard this BS when Taylor was part of the Bush Administration. And do check - Greenspan and later Bernanke were raising interest rates well before any excess demand was generated which is why inflation never took off.

So do keep repeating this intellectual garbage and we keep noting you are just a stupid troll.

anne -> anne...
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/10/29/1518393112

September 17, 2015

Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century
By Anne Case and Angus Deaton

Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.

Abstract

This paper documents a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall. This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. We comment on potential economic causes and consequences of this deterioration.

ilsm -> Sarah...

Murka is different. Noni's plan would work if it were opportune for the slavocracy and the Kochs and ARAMCO don't lose any "growth".

Maybe cost plus climate repair contracts to shipyards fumbling through useless nuclear powered behemoths for war plans made in 1942.

Someone gotta make big money plundering for the public good, in Murka!

CSP said...

The answers to our malaise seem readily apparent to me, and I'm a southern-born white male working in a small, struggling Georgia town.

1. Kill the national war machine
2. Kill the national Wall Street financial fraud machine
3. Get out-of-control mega corporations under control
4. Return savings to Main Street (see #1, #2 and #3)
5. Provide national, universal health insurance to everyone as a right
6. Provide free education to everyone, as much as their academic abilities can earn them
7. Strengthen social security and lower the retirement age to clear the current chronic underemployment of young people

It seems to me that these seven steps would free the American people to pursue their dreams, not the dreams of Washington or Wall Street. Unfortunately, it is readily apparent that true freedom and real individual empowerment are the last things our leaders desire. Shame on them and shame on everyone who helps to make it so.

DeDude -> CSP...

You are right. Problem is that most southern-born white males working in a small, struggling Georgia town would rather die than voting for the one candidate who might institute those changes - Bernie Sanders.

The people who are beginning to realize that the american dream is a mirage, are the same people who vote for GOP candidates who want to give even more to the plutocrats.

kthomas said...

The kids in Seattle had it right when WTO showed up.


Why is anyone suprised by all this?

We exported out jobs. First all the manufacturing. Now all of the Service jobs.


But hey...we helped millions in China and India get out of poverty, only to put outselves into it.


America was sold to highest bidder a long long time ago. A Ken Melvin put it, the chickens came home to roost in 2000.

sanjait -> kthomas...

So you think the problem with America is that we lost our low skilled manufacturing and call center tech support jobs?

I can sort of see why people assume that "we exported out jobs" is the reason for stagnant incomes in the U.S., but it's still tiresome, because it's still just wrong.

Manufacturing employment crashed in the US mostly because it has been declining globally. The world economy is less material based than ever, and machines do more of the work making stuff.

And while some services can be outsourced, the vast majority can't. Period.

Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices. The U.S. has one of the more closed economies in the developed world, so if globalization were the cause, we'd be the most insulated. But we aren't, which should be a pretty good indication that globalization isn't the cause.

cm -> sanjait...

Yes, the loss of "low skilled" jobs is still a loss of jobs. Many people work in "low skilled" jobs because there are not enough "higher skill" jobs to go around, as most work demanded is not of the most fancy type.

We have heard this now for a few decades, that "low skilled" jobs lost will be replaced with "high skill" (and better paid) jobs, and the evidence is somewhat lacking. There has been growth in higher skill jobs in absolute terms, but when you adjust by population growth, it is flat or declining.

When people hypothetically or actually get the "higher skills" recommended to them, into what higher skill jobs are they to move?

I have known a number of anecdotes of people with degrees or who held "skilled" jobs that were forced by circumstances to take commodity jobs or jobs at lower pay grades or "skill levels" due to aggregate loss of "higher skill" jobs or age discrimination, or had to go from employment to temp jobs.

And it is not true that only "lower skill" jobs are outsourced. Initially, yes, as "higher skills" obviously don't exist yet in the outsourcing region. But that doesn't last long, especially if the outsourcers expend resources to train and grow the remote skill base, at the expense of the domestic workforce which is expected to already have experience (which has worked for a while due to workforce overhangs from previous industry "restructuring").

likbez -> sanjait...

"Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices."

It is not some unstoppable global trend. This is neoliberal oligarchy coup d'état. Or as it often called "a quite coup".

sanjait -> cm...

"Yes, the loss of "low skilled" jobs is still a loss of jobs. Many people work in "low skilled" jobs because there are not enough "higher skill" jobs to go around, as most work demanded is not of the most fancy type.

We have heard this now for a few decades, that "low skilled" jobs lost will be replaced with "high skill" (and better paid) jobs, and the evidence is somewhat lacking. "

And that is *exactly my point.*

The lack of wage growth isn't isolated to low skilled domains. It's weak across the board.

What does that tell us?

It tells us that offshoring of low skilled jobs isn't the problem.

"And it is not true that only "lower skill" jobs are outsourced. Initially, yes, as "higher skills" obviously don't exist yet in the outsourcing region."

You could make this argument, but I think (judging by your own hedging) you know this isn't the case. Offshoring of higher skilled jobs does happen but it's a marginal factor in reality. You hypothesize that it may someday become a bigger factor ... but just notice that we've had stagnant wages now for a few decades.

My point is that offshoring IS NOT THE CAUSE of stagnating wages. I'd argue that globalization is a force that can't really be stopped by national policy anyway, but even if you think it could, it's important to realize IT WOULD DO ALMOST NOTHING to alleviate inequality.

cm -> sanjait...

I was responding to your point:

"So you think the problem with America is that we lost our low skilled manufacturing and call center tech support jobs?"

With the follow-on:

"I can sort of see why people assume that "we exported out jobs" is the reason for stagnant incomes in the U.S., but it's still tiresome, because it's still just wrong."

Labor markets are very sensitive to marginal effects. If let's say "normal" or "heightened" turnover is 10% p.a. spread out over the year, then the continued availability (or not) of around 1% vacancies (for the respective skill sets etc.) each month makes a huge difference. There was the argument that the #1 factor is automation and process restructuring, and offshoring is trailing somewhere behind that in job destruction volume.

I didn't research it in detail because I have no reason to doubt it. But it is a compounded effect - every percentage point in open positions (and *better* open positions - few people are looking to take a pay cut) makes a big difference. If let's say the automation losses are replaced with other jobs, offshoring will tip the scale. Due to aggregate effects one cannot say what is the "extra" like with who is causing congestion on a backed up road (basically everybody, not the first or last person to join).

"Manufacturing employment crashed in the US mostly because it has been declining globally. The world economy is less material based than ever, and machines do more of the work making stuff."

Are you kidding me? The world economy is less material based? OK maybe 20 years after the paperless office we are finally printing less, but just because the material turnover, waste, and environmental pollution is not in your face (because of offshoring!), it doesn't mean less stuff is produced or material consumed. If anything, it is market saturation and aggregate demand limitations that lead to lower material and energy consumption (or lower growth rates).

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, several nations (US and Germany among others) had programs to promote new car sales (cash for clunkers etc.) that were based on the idea that people can get credit for their old car, but its engine had to be destroyed and made unrepairable so it cannot enter the used car market and defeat the purpose of the program. I assume the clunkers were then responsibly and sustainably recycled.

cm -> sanjait...

"The lack of wage growth isn't isolated to low skilled domains. It's weak across the board.

What does that tell us?

It tells us taht offshoring of low skilled jobs isn't the problem."

This doesn't follow. First of all, whether a job can or is offshored has little to do with whether it is "low skilled" but more with whether the workflow around the job can be organized in such a way that the job can be offshore. This is less a matter of "skill level" and more volume and immediacy of interaction with adjacent job functions, or movement of material across distances. Also consider that aside from time zone differences (which are of course a big deal between e.g. US and Europe/Asia), there is not much difference whether a job is performed in another country or in a different domestic region, or perhaps just "working from home" 1 mile from the office, for office-type jobs. Of course the other caveat is whether the person can physically attend meetings with little fuss and expense - so remote management/coordination work is naturally not a big thing.

The reason wages are stuck is that aggregate jobs are not growing, relative to workforce supply. When the boomers retire for real in another 5-10 years, that may change. OTOH several tech companies I know have periodic programs where they offer workers over 55 or so packages to leave the company, so they cannot really hurt for talent, though they keep complaining and are busy bringing in young(er) people on work visa. Free agents, it depends on the company. Some companies hire NCGs, but they also "buy out" older workers.

cm -> cm...

Caveat: Based on what I see (outside sectors with strong/early growth), domestic hiring of NCGs/"fresh blood" falls in two categories:

Then there is also the gender split - "technical/engineering" jobs are overweighed in men, except technical jobs in traditionally "non-technical/non-product" departments which have a higher share of women.

All this is of course a matter of top-down hiring preferences, as generally everything is either controlled top-down or tacitly allowed to happen by selective non-interference.

cm -> sanjait...

"You could make this argument, but I think (judging by your own hedging) you know this isn't the case. Offshoring of higher skilled jobs does happen but it's a marginal factor in reality. You hypothesize that it may someday become a bigger factor ... but just notice that we've had stagnant wages now for a few decades."

I've written a lot of text so far but didn't address all points ...

My "hedging" is retrospective. I don't hypothesize what may eventually happen but it is happening here and now. I don't presume to present a representative picture, but in my sphere of experience/observation (mostly a subset of computer software), offshoring of *knowledge work* started in the mid to late 90's (and that's not the earliest it started in general - of course a lot of the early offshoring in the 80's was market/language specific customization, e.g. US tech in Europe etc., and more "local culture expertise" and not offshoring proper). In the late 90's and early 2000's, offshoring was overshadowed by the Y2K/dotcom booms, so that phase didn't get high visibility (among the people "affected" it sure did). Also the internet was not yet ubiquitous - broadband existed only at the corporate level.

Since then there has been little change, it is pretty much a steady state.

BTW the primary offshore location is India, probably in good part because of good to excellent English language skills, and India's investment in STEM education and industry (especially software/services and this is even a public stereotype, but for a reason).

Syaloch -> sanjait...

Whether low skilled jobs were eliminated due to offshoring or automation doesn't really matter. What matters is that the jobs disappeared, replaced by a small number of higher skill jobs paying comparable wages plus a large number of low skill jobs offering lower wages.

The aggregate effect was stagnation and even decline in living standards. Plus any new jobs were not necessarily produced in the same geographic region as those that were lost, leading to concentration of unemployment and despair.

sanjait -> Syaloch...

"Whether low skilled jobs were eliminated due to offshoring or automation doesn't really matter. "

Well, actually it does matter, because we have a whole lot of people (in both political parties) who think the way to fight inequality is to try to reverse globalization.

If they are incorrect, it matters, because they should be applying their votes and their energy to more effective solutions, and rejecting the proposed solutions of both the well-meaning advocates and the outright demagogues who think restricting trade is some kind of answer.

Syaloch -> sanjait...

I meant it doesn't matter in terms of the despair felt by those affected. All that matters to those affected is that they have been obsoleted without either economic or social support to help them.

However, in terms of addressing this problem economically it really doesn't matter that much either. Offshoring is effectively a low-tech form of automation. If companies can't lower labor costs by using cheaper offshore labor they'll find ways to either drive down domestic wages or to use less labor. For the unskilled laborer the end result is the same.

Syaloch -> Syaloch...

See the thought experiment I posted on the links thread, and then add the following:

Suppose the investigative journalist discovered instead that Freedonia itself is a sham, and that rather than being imported from overseas, the clothing was actually coming from an automated factory straight out of Vonnegut's "Player Piano" that was hidden in a remote domestic location. Would the people who were demanding limits on Freedonian exports now say, "Oh well, I guess that's OK" simply because the factory was located within the US?

Dan Kervick -> kthomas...

I enjoyed listening to this talk by Fredrick Reinfeldt at the LSE:

http://www.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=3253

Reinfeldt is a center-right politicians and former Swedish Prime Minister. OF course, what counts as center-right in Sweden seems very different from what counts as center-right in the US.

Perhaps there is some kind of basis here for some bipartisan progress on jobs and full employment.

William said...

I'm sure this isn't caused by any single factor, but has anyone seriously investigated a link between this phenomena and the military?

Veterans probably aren't a large enough cohort to explain the effect in full, but white people from the south are the most likely group to become soldiers, and veterans are the most likely group to have alcohol/drug abuse and suicide problems.

This would also be evidence why we aren't seeing it in other countries, no one else has anywhere near the number of vets we have.

cm -> William...

Vets are surely part of the aggregate problem of lack of career/economic prospects, in fact a lot of people join(ed) the military because of a lack of other jobs to begin with. But as the lack of prospects is aggregate it affects everybody.

Denis Drew said...

" At this point you probably expect me to offer a solution. But while universal health care, higher minimum wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans in trouble, I'm not sure whether they're enough to cure existential despair."


UNOINIZED and (therefore shall we say) politicized: you are in control of your narrative -- win or lose. Can it get any more hopeful than that? And you will probably win.

Winning being defined as labor eeking out EQUALLY emotionally satisfying/dissatisfying market results -- EQUAL that is with the satisfaction of ownership and the consumer. That's what happens when all three interface in the market -- labor interfacing indirectly through collective bargaining.

(Labor's monopoly neutralizes ownership's monopsony -- the consumers' willingness to pay providing the checks and balances on labor's monopoly.)

If you feel you've done well RELATIVE to the standards of your own economic era you will feel you've done well SUBJECTIVELY.

For instance, my generation of (American born) cab drivers earned about $750 for a 60 hour (grueling) work week up to the early 80s. With multiples strip-offs I won't detail here (will on request -- diff for diff cities) that has been reduced to about $500 a week (at best I suspect!) I believe and that is just not enough to get guys like me out there for that grueling work.

Let's take the minimum wage comparison from peak-to-peak instead of from peak-to-trough: $11 and hour in 1968 -- at HALF TODAY'S per capita income (economic output) -- to $7.25 today. How many American born workers are going to show up for $7.25 in the day of SUVs and "up-to-date kitchens" all around us. $8.75 was perfectly enticing for Americans working in 1956 ($8.75 thanks to the "Master of the Senate"). The recent raise to $10 is not good enough for Chicago's 100,000 gang members (out of my estimate 200,000 gang age minority males). Can hustle that much on the street w/o the SUBJECTIVE feeling of wage slavery.

Ditto hiring result for two-tier supermarket contracts after Walmart undercut the unions.

Without effective unions (centralized bargaining is the gold standard: only thing that fends off Walmart type contract muscling. Done that way since 1966 with the Teamsters Union's National Master Freight Agreement; the long practiced law or custom from continental Europe to French Canada to Argentina to Indonesia.

It occurred to me this morning that if the quintessential example of centralized bargaining Germany has 25% or our population and produces 200% more cars than we do, then, Germans produces 8X as many cars per capita than we do!

And thoroughly union organized Germans feel very much in control of the narrative of their lives.

cm -> Denis Drew...

"thoroughly union organized Germans"

No longer thoroughly, with recent labor market reforms the door has likewise been blown open to contingent workforces, staffing agencies, and similar forms of (perma) temp work. And moving work to nations with lower labor standards (e.g. "peripheral" Europe, less so outside Europe) has been going on for decades, for parts, subassembly, and even final assembly.

Denis Drew said...

Very rough figures: half a million Chicago employees may make less than $800 a week -- almost everybody should earn $800 ...

... putative minimum wage? -- might allow some slippage in high labor businesses like fast food restaurants; 33% labor costs! -- sort of like the Teamsters will allow exceptions when needed from Master agreements if you open up your books, they need your working business too, consumer ultimately sets limits.

Average raise of $200 a week -- $10,000 a year equals $5 billion shift in income -- out of a $170 billion Chicago GDP (1% of national) -- not too shabby to bring an end to gang wars and Despair American Style.

Just takes making union busting a felony LIKE EVERY OTHER FORM OF UNFAIR MARKET MUSCLING (even taking a movie in the movies). The body of laws are there -- the issues presumably settled -- the enforcement just needs "dentures."

cm -> Denis Drew...

Union busting is generally (?) understood as direct interference with the formation and operation of unions or their members. It is probably more common that employers are allowed to just go around the unions - "right to work", subcontracting non-union shops or temp/staffing agencies, etc.

cm -> Denis Drew...

Why would people join a union and pay dues when the union is largely impotent to deliver, when there are always still enough desperate people who will (have to) take jobs outside the union system? Employers don't have to bring in scabs when they can legally go through "unencumbered" subcontractors inside or outside the jurisdiction.

cm -> cm...

It comes down to the collective action problem. You can organize people who form a "community" (workers in the same business site, or similar aggregates more or less subject to Dunbar's number or with a strong tribal/ethnic/otherwise cohesion narrative). Beyond that, if you can get a soapbox in the regional press, etc., otherwise good luck. It probably sounds defeatist but I don't have a solution.

When the union management is outed for corruption or other abuses or questioable practices (e.g. itself employing temps or subcontractors), it doesn't help.

Syaloch said...

There was a good discussion of this on last Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl5kFZ-SZq4

Surprisingly, I pretty much agree with David Frum's analysis -- and Maher's comment that Trump, with his recent book, "Crippled America", has his finger on the pulse of this segment of the population. Essentially what we're seeing is the impact of economic stagnation upon a culture whose reserves of social capital have been depleted, as described in Robert Putnam's "Bowling Alone".

When the going gets tough it's a lot harder to manage without a sense of identity and purpose, and without the support of family, friends, churches, and communities. Facebook "friends" are no substitute for the real thing.

Peter K. said...

Jared Bernsetin:

"...since the late 1970s, we've been at full employment only 30 percent of the time (see the data note below for an explanation of how this is measured). For the three decades before that, the job market was at full employment 70 percent of the time."

We need better macro (monetary, fiscal, trade) policy.

Maybe middle-aged blacks and hispanics have better attitudes and health since they made it through a tough youth, have more realistic expectations and race relations are better than the bad old days even if they are far from perfect. The United States is becoming more multicultural.

Jesse said...

Credibility trap, fully engaged.

Jesse said...

The anti-knowledge of the elites is worth reading. http://billmoyers.com/2015/11/02/the-anti-knowledge-of-the-elites/ When such herd instinct and institutional overbearance connects with the credibility trap, the results may be impressive. http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2015/11/gold-daily-and-silver-weekly-charts-pop.html

Fred C. Dobbs said...

White, Middle-Age Suicide In America Skyrockets
Psychology Today - May 6, 2013
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201305/white-middle-age-suicide-in-america-skyrockets

Suicide, once thought to be associated with troubled teens and the elderly, is quickly becoming an age-blind statistic. Middle aged Americans are turning to suicide in alarming numbers. The reasons include easily accessible prescription painkillers, the mortgage crisis and most importantly the challenge of a troubled economy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims suicide rates now top the number of deaths due to automobile accidents.

The suicide rate for both younger and older Americans remains virtually unchanged, however, the rate has spiked for those in middle age (35 to 64 years old) with a 28 percent increase (link is external) from 1999 to 2010. The rate for whites in middle-age jumped an alarming 40 percent during the same time frame. According to the CDC, there were more than 38,000 suicides (link is external) in 2010 making it the tenth leading cause of death in America overall (third leading cause from age 15-24).

The US 2010 Final Data quantifies the US statistics for suicide by race, sex and age. Interestingly, African-American suicides have declined and are considerably lower than whites. Reasons are thought to include better coping skills when negative things occur as well as different cultural norms with respect to taking your own life. Also, Blacks (and Hispanics) tend to have stronger family support, community support and church support to carry them through these rough times.

While money woes definitely contribute to stress and poor mental health, it can be devastating to those already prone to depression -- and depression is indeed still the number one risk factor for suicide. A person with no hope and nowhere to go, can now easily turn to their prescription painkiller and overdose, bringing the pain, stress and worry to an end. In fact, prescription painkillers were the third leading cause of suicide (and rising rapidly) for middle aged Americans in 2010 (guns are still number 1). ...

cm -> Fred C. Dobbs...

When few people kill themselves "on purpose" or die from self-inflicted but probably "unintended" harms (e.g. organ failure or accidental death caused by substance abuse), it can be shrugged off as problems related to the individual (more elaboration possible but not necessary).

When it becomes a statistically significant phenomenon (above-noise percentage of total population or demographically identifiable groups), then one has to ask questions about social causes. My first question would be, "what made life suck for those people"? What specific instrument they used to kill themselves would be my second question (it may be the first question for people who are charged with implementing counter measures but not necessarily fixing the causes).

Since about the financial crisis (I'm not sure about causation or coincidence - not accidental coincidence BTW but causation by the same underlying causes), there has been a disturbing pattern of high school students throwing themselves in front of local trains. At that age, drinking or drugging oneself to death is apparently not the first "choice". Performance pressure *related to* (not just "and") a lack of convincing career/life prospects has/have been suspected or named as a cause. I don't think teenagers suddenly started to jump in front of trains that have run the same rail line for decades because of the "usual" and centuries to millennia old teenage romantic relationship issues.

[Nov 09, 2015] For Profit College, Student Loan Default, and the Economic Impact of Student Loans

We should object to "instumentalization" of education: education as a mean to get nicely paid job.
Notable quotes:
"... It's easy to explain, really. According to the Department of Education ( https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans ) you're going to be paying off that loan at minimum payments for 25 years. Assuming your average bachelor's degree is about $30k if you go all-loans ( http://collegecost.ed.gov/catc/ ) and the average student loan interest rate is a generous 5% ( http://www.direct.ed.gov/calc.html ), you're going to be paying $175 a month for a sizable chunk of your adult life. ..."
"... Majoring in IT or Computer Science would have a been a great move in the late 1990's; however, if you graduated around 2000, you likely would have found yourself facing a tough job market.. Likewise, majoring in petroleum engineering or petroleum geology would have seemed like a good move a couple of years ago; however, now that oil prices are crashing, it's presumably a much tougher job market. ..."
"... To confuse going to college with vocational education is to commit a major category error. I think bright, ambitious high school graduates– who are looking for upward social mobility– would be far better served by a plumbing or carpentry apprenticeship program. A good plumber can earn enough money to send his or her children to Yale to study Dante, Boccaccio, and Chaucer. ..."
"... A bright working class kid who goes off to New Haven, to study medieval lit, will need tremendous luck to overcome the enormous class prejudice she will face in trying to establish herself as a tenure-track academic. If she really loves medieval literature for its own sake, then to study it deeply will be "worth it" even if she finds herself working as a barista or store-clerk. ..."
"... As a middle-aged doctoral student in the humanities you should not even be thinking much about your loans. Write the most brilliant thesis that you can, get a book or some decent articles published from it– and swim carefully in the shark-infested waters of academia until you reach the beautiful island of tenured full-professorship. If that island turns out to be an ever-receding mirage, sell your soul to our corporate overlords and pay back your loans! Alternatively, tune in, drop out, and use your finely tuned research and rhetorical skills to help us overthrow the kleptocratic regime that oppresses us all!! ..."
"... Genuine education should provide one with profound contentment, grateful for the journey taken, and a deep appreciation of life. ..."
"... Instead many of us are left confused – confusing career training (redundant and excessive, as it turned out, unfortunate for the student, though not necessarily bad for those on the supply side, one must begrudgingly admit – oops, there goes one's serenity) with enlightenment. ..."
"... Remember DINKs? Dual Income No Kids. Dual Debt Bad Job No House No Kids doesn't work well for acronyms. Better for an abbreviated hash tag? ..."
"... I graduated law school with $100k+ in debt inclusive of undergrad. I've never missed a loan payment and my credit score is 830. my income has never reached $100k. my payments started out at over $1000 a month and through aggressive payment and refinancing, I've managed to reduce the payments to $500 a month. I come from a lower middle class background and my parents offered what I call 'negative help' throughout college. ..."
"... my unfortunate situation is unique and I wouldn't wish my debt on anyone. it's basically indentured servitude. it's awful, it's affects my life and health in ways no one should have to live, I have all sorts of stress related illnesses. I'm basically 2 months away from default of everything. my savings is negligible and my net worth is still negative 10 years after graduating. ..."
"... My story is very similar to yours, although I haven't had as much success whittling down my loan balances. But yes, it's made me a socialist as well; makes me wonder how many of us, i.e. ppl radicalized by student loans, are out there. Perhaps the elites' grand plan to make us all debt slaves will eventually backfire in more ways than via the obvious economic issues? ..."
Nov 09, 2015 | naked capitalism

It also never ceases to amaze me the number of anti-educational opinions which flare up when the discussion of student loan default arises. There are always those who will prophesize there is no need to attain a higher level of education as anyone could be something else and be successful and not require a higher level of education. Or they come forth with the explanation on how young 18 year-olds and those already struggling should be able to ascertain the risk of higher debt when the cards are already stacked against them legally. In any case during a poor economy, those with more education appear to be employed at a higher rate than those with less education. The issue for those pursuing an education is the ever increasing burden and danger of student loans and associated interest rates which prevent younger people from moving into the economy successfully after graduation, the failure of the government to support higher education and protect students from for-profit fraud, the increased risk of default and becoming indentured to the government, and the increased cost of an education which has surpassed healthcare in rising costs.

There does not appear to be much movement on the part of Congress to reconcile the issues in favor of students as opposed to the non-profit and for profit institutes.

Ranger Rick, November 9, 2015 at 11:34 am

It's easy to explain, really. According to the Department of Education ( https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans ) you're going to be paying off that loan at minimum payments for 25 years. Assuming your average bachelor's degree is about $30k if you go all-loans ( http://collegecost.ed.gov/catc/ ) and the average student loan interest rate is a generous 5% ( http://www.direct.ed.gov/calc.html ), you're going to be paying $175 a month for a sizable chunk of your adult life.

If you're merely hitting the median income of a bachelor's degree after graduation, $55k (http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=77 ), and good luck with that in this economy, you're still paying ~31.5% of that in taxes (http://www.oecd.org/ctp/tax-policy/taxing-wages-20725124.htm ) you're left with $35.5k before any other costs. Out of that, you're going to have to come up with the down payment to buy a house and a car after spending more money than you have left (http://www.bls.gov/cex/csxann13.pdf).

Louis, November 9, 2015 at 12:33 pm

The last paragraph sums it up perfectly, especially the predictable counterarguments. Accurately assessing what job in demand several years down the road is very difficult, if not impossible.

Majoring in IT or Computer Science would have a been a great move in the late 1990's; however, if you graduated around 2000, you likely would have found yourself facing a tough job market.. Likewise, majoring in petroleum engineering or petroleum geology would have seemed like a good move a couple of years ago; however, now that oil prices are crashing, it's presumably a much tougher job market.

Do we blame the computer science majors graduating in 2000 or the graduates struggling to break into the energy industry, now that oil prices have dropped, for majoring in "useless" degrees? It's much easier to create a strawman about useless degrees that accept the fact that there is a element of chance in terms of what the job market will look like upon graduation.

The cost of higher education is absurd and there simply aren't enough good jobs to go around-there are people out there who majored in the "right" fields and have found themselves underemployed or unemployed-so I'm not unsympathetic to the plight of many people in my generation.

At the same time, I do believe in personal responsibility-I'm wary of creating a moral hazard if people can discharge loans in bankruptcy. I've been paying off my student loans (grad school) for a couple of years-I kept the level debt below any realistic starting salary-and will eventually have the loans paid off, though it may be a few more years.

I am really conflicted between believing in personal responsibility but also seeing how this generation has gotten screwed. I really don't know what the right answer is.

Ulysses, November 9, 2015 at 1:47 pm

"The cost of higher education is absurd and there simply aren't enough good jobs to go around-there are people out there who majored in the "right" fields and have found themselves underemployed or unemployed-so I'm not unsympathetic to the plight of many people in my generation."

To confuse going to college with vocational education is to commit a major category error. I think bright, ambitious high school graduates– who are looking for upward social mobility– would be far better served by a plumbing or carpentry apprenticeship program. A good plumber can earn enough money to send his or her children to Yale to study Dante, Boccaccio, and Chaucer.

A bright working class kid who goes off to New Haven, to study medieval lit, will need tremendous luck to overcome the enormous class prejudice she will face in trying to establish herself as a tenure-track academic. If she really loves medieval literature for its own sake, then to study it deeply will be "worth it" even if she finds herself working as a barista or store-clerk.

None of this, of course, excuses the outrageously high tuition charges, administrative salaries, etc. at the "top schools." They are indeed institutions that reinforce class boundaries. My point is that strictly career education is best begun at a less expensive community college. After working in the IT field, for example, a talented associate's degree-holder might well find that her employer will subsidize study at an elite school with an excellent computer science program.

My utopian dream would be a society where all sorts of studies are open to everyone– for free. Everyone would have a basic Job or Income guarantee and could study as little, or as much, as they like!

Ulysses, November 9, 2015 at 2:05 pm

As a middle-aged doctoral student in the humanities you should not even be thinking much about your loans. Write the most brilliant thesis that you can, get a book or some decent articles published from it– and swim carefully in the shark-infested waters of academia until you reach the beautiful island of tenured full-professorship.

If that island turns out to be an ever-receding mirage, sell your soul to our corporate overlords and pay back your loans! Alternatively, tune in, drop out, and use your finely tuned research and rhetorical skills to help us overthrow the kleptocratic regime that oppresses us all!!

subgenius, November 9, 2015 at 3:07 pm

…except (in my experience) the corporate overlords want young meat.

I have 2 masters degrees 2 undergraduate degrees and a host of random diplomas – but at 45, I am variously too old, too qualified, or lacking sufficient recent corporate experience in the field to get hired…

Trying to get enough cash to get a contractor licence seems my best chance at anything other than random day work.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef, November 9, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Genuine education should provide one with profound contentment, grateful for the journey taken, and a deep appreciation of life.

Instead many of us are left confused – confusing career training (redundant and excessive, as it turned out, unfortunate for the student, though not necessarily bad for those on the supply side, one must begrudgingly admit – oops, there goes one's serenity) with enlightenment.

"I would spend another 12 soul-nourishing years pursuing those non-profit degrees' vs 'I can't feed my family with those paper certificates.'

jrs, November 9, 2015 at 2:55 pm

I am anti-education as the solution to our economic woes. We need jobs or a guaranteed income. And we need to stop outsourcing the jobs that exist. And we need a much higher minimum wage. And maybe we need work sharing. I am also against using screwdrivers to pound in a nail. But why are you so anti screwdriver anyway?

And I see calls for more and more education used to make it seem ok to pay people without much education less than a living wage. Because they deserve it for being whatever drop outs. And it's not ok.

I don't actually have anything against the professors (except their overall political cowardice in times demanding radicalism!). Now the administrators, yea I can see the bloat and the waste there. But mostly, I have issues with more and more education being preached as the answer to a jobs and wages crisis.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef -> jrs, November 9, 2015 at 3:50 pm

We all should be against Big Educational-Complex and its certificates-producing factory education that does not put the student's health and happiness up there with co-existing peacefully with Nature.

Kris Alman, November 9, 2015 at 11:11 am

Remember DINKs? Dual Income No Kids. Dual Debt Bad Job No House No Kids doesn't work well for acronyms. Better for an abbreviated hash tag?

debitor serf, November 9, 2015 at 7:17 pm

I graduated law school with $100k+ in debt inclusive of undergrad. I've never missed a loan payment and my credit score is 830. my income has never reached $100k. my payments started out at over $1000 a month and through aggressive payment and refinancing, I've managed to reduce the payments to $500 a month. I come from a lower middle class background and my parents offered what I call 'negative help' throughout college.

my unfortunate situation is unique and I wouldn't wish my debt on anyone. it's basically indentured servitude. it's awful, it's affects my life and health in ways no one should have to live, I have all sorts of stress related illnesses. I'm basically 2 months away from default of everything. my savings is negligible and my net worth is still negative 10 years after graduating.

student loans, combined with a rigged system, turned me into a closeted socialist. I am smart, hard working and resourceful. if I can't make it in this world, heck, then who can? few, because the system is rigged!

I have no problems at all taking all the wealth of the oligarchs and redistributing it. people look at me like I'm crazy. confiscate it all I say, and reset the system from scratch. let them try to make their billions in a system where things are fair and not rigged...

Ramoth, November 9, 2015 at 9:23 pm

My story is very similar to yours, although I haven't had as much success whittling down my loan balances. But yes, it's made me a socialist as well; makes me wonder how many of us, i.e. ppl radicalized by student loans, are out there. Perhaps the elites' grand plan to make us all debt slaves will eventually backfire in more ways than via the obvious economic issues?

[Nov 09, 2015] Thoughts on the Amazon outage

Notable quotes:
"... The 'Cloud' isn't magic, the 'Cloud' isn't fail-proof, the 'Cloud' requires hardware, software, networking, security, support and execution – just like anything else. ..."
"... Putting all of your eggs in one cloud, so to speak, no matter how much redundancy they say they have seems to be short-sighted in my opinion. ..."
"... you need to assume that all vendors will eventually have an issue like this that affects your overall uptime, brand and churn rate. ..."
"... Amazon's downtime is stratospherically high, and their prices are spectacularly inflated. Their ping times are terrible and they offer little that anyone else doesn't offer. Anyone holding them up as a good solution without an explanation has no idea what they're talking about. ..."
"... Nobody who has even a rudimentary best-practice hosting setup has been affected by the Amazon outage in any way other than a speed hit as their resources shift to a secondary center. ..."
"... Stop following the new-media goons around. They don't know what they're doing. There's a reason they're down twice a month and making excuses. ..."
"... Personally, I do not use a server for "mission critical" applications that I cannot physically kick. Failing that, a knowledgeable SysAdmin that I can kick. ..."
nickgeoghegan.net
Disaster Recovery needs to be a primary objective when planning and implementing any IT project, outsourced or not. The 'Cloud' isn't magic, the 'Cloud' isn't fail-proof, the 'Cloud' requires hardware, software, networking, security, support and execution – just like anything else.

All the fancy marketing speak, recommendations and free trials, can't replace the need to do obsessive due diligence before trusting any provider no matter how big and awesome they may seem or what their marketing department promise.

Prepare for the worst, period.

Putting all of your eggs in one cloud, so to speak, no matter how much redundancy they say they have seems to be short-sighted in my opinion. If you are utilizing an MSP, HSP, CSP, IAAS, SAAS, PAAS, et all to attract/increase/fulfill a large percentage of your revenue or all of your revenue like many companies are doing nowadays then you need to assume that all vendors will eventually have an issue like this that affects your overall uptime, brand and churn rate. A blip here and there is tolerable.

Amazon's downtime is stratospherically high, and their prices are spectacularly inflated. Their ping times are terrible and they offer little that anyone else doesn't offer. Anyone holding them up as a good solution without an explanation has no idea what they're talking about.

The same hosting platform, as always, is preferred: dedicated boxes at geographically disparate and redundant locations, managed by different companies. That way when host 1 shits the bed, hosts 2 and 3 keep churning.

Nobody who has even a rudimentary best-practice hosting setup has been affected by the Amazon outage in any way other than a speed hit as their resources shift to a secondary center.

Stop following the new-media goons around. They don't know what they're doing. There's a reason they're down twice a month and making excuses.

Personally, I do not use a server for "mission critical" applications that I cannot physically kick. Failing that, a knowledgeable SysAdmin that I can kick.

[Nov 08, 2015] 2013 Keynote: Dan Quinlan: C++ Use in High Performance Computing Within DOE: Past and Future

At 31 min there is an interesting slide that gives some information about the scale of system in DOE. Current system has 18,700 News system will have 50K to 500K nodes, 32 core per node (power consumption is ~15 MW equal to a small city power consumption). The cost is around $200M
Jun 09, 2013 | YouTube

watch-v=zZGYfM1iM7c

[Nov 08, 2015] The Anti-Java Professor and the Jobless Programmers

Nick Geoghegan

James Maguire's article raises some interesting questions as to why teaching Java to first year CS / IT students is a bad idea. The article mentions both Ada and Pascal – neither of which really "took off" outside of the States, with the former being used mainly by contractors of the US Dept. of Defense.

This is my own, personal, extension to the article – which I agree with – and why first year students should be taught C in first year. I'm biased though, I learned C as my first language and extensively use C or C++ in projects.

Java is a very high level language that has interesting features that make it easier for programmers. The two main points, that I like about Java, are libraries (although libraries exist for C / C++ ) and memory management.

Libraries

Libraries are fantastic. They offer an API and abstract a metric fuck tonne of work that a programmer doesn't care about. I don't care how the library works inside, just that I have a way of putting in input and getting expected output (see my post on abstraction). I've extensively used libraries, even this week, for audio codec decoding. Libraries mean not reinventing the wheel and reusing code (something students are discouraged from doing, as it's plagiarism, yet in the real world you are rewarded). Again, starting with C means that you appreciate the libraries more.

Memory Management

Managing your programs memory manually is a pain in the hole. We all know this after spending countless hours finding memory leaks in our programs. Java's inbuilt memory management tool is great – it saves me from having to do it. However, if I had have learned Java first, I would assume (for a short amount of time) that all languages managed memory for you or that all languages were shite compared to Java because they don't manage memory for you. Going from a "lesser" language like C to Java makes you appreciate the memory manager

What's so great about C?

In the context of a first language to teach students, C is perfect. C is

Java is a complex language that will spoil a first year student. However, as noted, CS / IT courses need to keep student retention rates high. As an example, my first year class was about 60 people, final year was 8. There are ways to keep students, possibly with other, easier, languages in the second semester of first year – so that students don't hate the subject when choosing the next years subject post exams.

Conversely, I could say that you should teach Java in first year and expand on more difficult languages like C or assembler (which should be taught side by side, in my mind) later down the line – keeping retention high in the initial years, and drilling down with each successive semester to more systems level programming.

There's a time and place for Java, which I believe is third year or final year. This will keep Java fresh in the students mind while they are going job hunting after leaving the bosom of academia. This will give them a good head start, as most companies are Java houses in Ireland.

[Nov 08, 2015] Abstraction

nickgeoghegan.net

Filed in Programming No Comments

A few things can confuse programming students, or new people to programming. One of these is abstraction.

Wikipedia says:

In computer science, abstraction is the process by which data and programs are defined with a representation similar to its meaning (semantics), while hiding away the implementation details. Abstraction tries to reduce and factor out details so that the programmer can focus on a few concepts at a time. A system can have several abstraction layers whereby different meanings and amounts of detail are exposed to the programmer. For example, low-level abstraction layers expose details of the hardware where the program is run, while high-level layers deal with the business logic of the program.

That might be a bit too wordy for some people, and not at all clear. Here's my analogy of abstraction.

Abstraction is like a car

A car has a few features that makes it unique.

If someone can drive a Manual transmission car, they can drive any Manual transmission car. Automatic drivers, sadly, cannot drive a Manual transmission drivers without "relearing" the car. That is an aside, we'll assume that all cars are Manual transmission cars – as is the case in Ireland for most cars.

Since I can drive my car, which is a Mitsubishi Pajero, that means that I can drive your car – a Honda Civic, Toyota Yaris, Volkswagen Passat.

All I need to know, in order to drive a car – any car – is how to use the breaks, accelerator, steering wheel, clutch and transmission. Since I already know this in my car, I can abstract away your car and it's controls.

I do not need to know the inner workings of your car in order to drive it, just the controls. I don't need to know how exactly the breaks work in your car, only that they work. I don't need to know, that your car has a turbo charger, only that when I push the accelerator, the car moves. I also don't need to know the exact revs that I should gear up or gear down (although that would be better on the engine!)

Virtually all controls are the same. Standardization means that the clutch, break and accelerator are all in the same place, regardless of the car. This means that I do not need to relearn how a car works. To me, a car is just a car, and is interchangeable with any other car.

Abstraction means not caring

As a programmer, or someone using a third party API (for example), abstraction means not caring how the inner workings of some function works – Linked list data structure, variable names inside the function, the sorting algorithm used, etc – just that I have a standard (preferable unchanging) interface to do whatever I need to do.

Abstraction can be taught of as a black box. For input, you get output. That shouldn't be the case, but often is. We need abstraction so that, as a programmer, we can concentrate on other aspects of the program – this is the corner-stone for large scale, multi developer, software projects.

[Nov 08, 2015] Single command shell accounts

Notable quotes:
"... /etc/ssh/sshd_config ..."
"... /home/restricteduser/.ssh/authorized_keys ..."
nickgeoghegan.net

There are times when you will want a single purpose user account – an account that cannot get a shell, not can it do anything but run a single command. This can come in useful for a few reasons – for me, I use it to force an svn update on machines that can't use user generated crontabs. Others have used this setup to allow multiple users run some arbitrary command, without giving them shell access.

Add the user

Add the user as you'd add any user. You'll need a home directory, as I want to use ssh keys so I don't need a password and it can be scripted from the master server.

 root@slave1# adduser restricteduser
Set the users password

Select a nice strong password. I like using $pwgen 32

 root@slave1# passwd restricteduser
Copy your ssh-key to the server

Some Linux distros don't have the following command, in this case, contact your distro mailing list or Google.

 root@master# ssh-copy-id restricteduser@slave1
Lock out the user

Password lock out the user. This contradicts the above step, but it ensures that restricteduser can't update their password.

 root@slave1# passwd -l restricteduser
Edit the sshd config

Depending on your system, this can be in a number of places. On Debian, it's in /etc/ssh/sshd_config. Put it down the bottom.

 Match User restricteduser
    AllowTCPForwarding no
    X11Forwarding no
    ForceCommand /bin/foobar_command
Restart ssh
 root@slave1# service ssh restart
Add more ssh keys

Add any additional ssh key to /home/restricteduser/.ssh/authorized_keys

[Nov 04, 2015] The Fatal Blindness of Unrealistic Expectations

Notable quotes:
"... As the number of Web sites multiplied, they created a simple directory – really nothing more than a page of bookmarked links – to help them keep track of the growing number. ..."
"... As simple as this directory was, nothing like it existed yet. So word got out, and people started flocking to it in ever-greater numbers. Pretty soon, the founders realized they had a phenomenon happening before their eyes, and they were savvy enough to enlist some seasoned help in structuring a business around it and monetizing it through advertising. ..."
"... What is Yahoo!? ..."
"... Without knowing what its core is, Yahoo! hasnt known where to put its focus. It has tried to do everything, and as a result, its diluted efforts allowed pure-play competitors to claim the dominant position in each of the important verticals that it wanted to win. Google became the dominant player in search (helped along in its early days, ironically, by Yahoo!s patronage). Ebay won auctions. Amazon won online retail. Facebook dominates social media. YouTube cornered the online video space. The list goes on... ..."
"... Yahoo! is a life engine, Yahoo! is the premier digital media company, Yahoo is you. ..."
"... all things to everyone ..."
"... Without this clarity and discipline, Yahoo!s diluted and aimless efforts have resulted in its services becoming less and less relevant as the Web has evolved and matured. ..."
"... Brace yourself. In coming weeks you'll hear there's no serious alternative to cutting Social Security and Medicare, raising taxes on middle class, and decimating what's left of the federal government's discretionary spending on everything from education and job training to highways and basic research. ..."
"... But most of the people who are making this argument are very wealthy or are sponsored by the very wealthy: Wall Street moguls like Pete Peterson and his "Fix the Debt" brigade, the Business Roundtable, well-appointed think tanks and policy centers along the Potomac, members of the Simpson-Bowles commission. ..."
"... America does not have the wealth to meet the entitlements it has promised. Nor can it sustainably meet its operating costs. ..."
"... IMHO we are looking at the death throes of a debt backed, paper money system and it is very similar to playing musical chairs. Reich is fighting for the slower and less coordinated people to get access to some of the chairs. Otherwise, the Predator class naturally ends up with every chair. There is always more money for Defense , more money for Israel, more money for Homeland Security , and if there is another bank issue, there will be more money for that-again. There will always be more money for the well connected and well represented until we hit the wall. ..."
"... Lets pretend we live in a society that is run by sociopaths, whose entire apparent goal is to redirect a good chunk of the tax loot they collect to their friends that run various cartels ..."
"... If we can arrange to have a system that isnt run by sociopaths - somehow - then Id be for some amount of redistribution. That, of course, is the trick. Those pesky sociopaths always seem to float into positions of power. Communism had that issue, if I recall correctly... ..."
October 28, 2015 | Peak Prosperity
We are damned to fail when we avoid hard truths

Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 9:10

I wrote the article below in January 2013, but never published it. The strong response to last week's post on the hubris and hype of Silicon Valley, as well as this recent interview, jogged my memory and inspired me to dig this out of the mothballs. I was pleased to see how relevant it remains 2.5 years later.

My old employer, Yahoo!, has been in the news again of late.

Its latest CEO (and former Googler), Marissa Meyer, is currently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where she has just given her first televised interview detailing her strategy for the beleaguered web giant.

I wish her and the current team at Yahoo! well with their plans, I really do. The saga of Yahoo!'s descent over the past decade was heartbreaking to watch and experience from the inside. I'd love to see the company find a way to become a leader again.

But I don't have faith.

In my opinion, the company can't be "fixed." At least not the way the tech pundits and the past parade of Yahoo! CEOs have touted it can.

Why? Because of a congenital failure to define its identity, paired with a chronic refusal to be honest with itself.

I get asked a lot for my opinion regarding Yahoo!'s fall from grace. I believe the seeds of its failure were sown from the beginning, and I've come up with the following analogy to make it as intuitive as possible. It all starts at the very formation of the company.

The Importance of Clear Vision

First, look at Google. When the founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page first started collaborating, the Internet had been around for a while and they were insightful enough to realize that the data on the Web was growing exponentially. They reasoned that the company who made it possible to sift through all this data and find the most useful content, when needed, would create immense value.

So, they designed the Google platform from Day 1 to optimize around their core goal: "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." This gave them a maniacal focus that enabled them to target talent, refine strategy, and prioritize resources. To this day, while there are many other businesses that Google has become involved in (from alternative energy to self-driving cars), everything revolves around first making sure that the central mission is protected and enhanced, and then leveraging the core platform to do ever more innovative things.

In this way, you can think of Google as the Borg of the Internet, following their mission of technical perfection with a methodical, measured dedication; unwavering in its focus.

Now, look at Yahoo!. Yahoo! is the Internet's Jedd Clampett.

If you don't know the story, the founders Jerry Yang and David Filo shared a trailer while graduate students at Stanford in the early 1990s. (It was literally a trailer. Stanford's graduate campus housing has improved much since then.) The graphical pages of the World Wide Web were just emerging, and as interested computer science students, David and Jerry spent a lot of time exploring them. As the number of Web sites multiplied, they created a simple directory – really nothing more than a page of bookmarked links – to help them keep track of the growing number.

This was the Internet's equivalent of Jedd Clampett missing a varmint with his shotgun, only to find "a-bubblin' crude" spilling out of the earth.

As simple as this directory was, nothing like it existed yet. So word got out, and people started flocking to it in ever-greater numbers. Pretty soon, the founders realized they had a phenomenon happening before their eyes, and they were savvy enough to enlist some seasoned help in structuring a business around it and monetizing it through advertising.

Well, the rest is history. Yahoo! experienced mind-boggling, stratospheric growth over the next several years. For a period of time for most people,Yahoo! WAS the Internet. For everyone else, it was the Internet's front door: occupying the best real estate within the new virtual universe of the World Wide Web.

But the key element to note here is that there was no fundamental vision or guiding mission that preceded Yahoo!'s creation. The company simply sprang into existence; a "happening" created by an unforeseen, rapid and gargantuan transmogrification of the world's analog audience base into digital 'users'.

And it's because of this lack of central identity that Yahoo! has floundered. What is Yahoo!? is a question that has plagued its executives since before I walked in the door in 2001. You would not believe the amount of manpower, brain cycles, and advertising agency dollars that have been thrown at answering this – and yet no enduring answer has emerged.

The Cost of Willful Blindness

Without knowing what its "core" is, Yahoo! hasn't known where to put its focus. It has tried to do everything, and as a result, its diluted efforts allowed pure-play competitors to claim the dominant position in each of the important verticals that it wanted to win. Google became the dominant player in search (helped along in its early days, ironically, by Yahoo!'s patronage). Ebay won auctions. Amazon won online retail. Facebook dominates social media. YouTube cornered the online video space. The list goes on...

As the early 800-lb gorilla, Yahoo! could easily have claimed any or all of these industries. But it didn't. And I know why: Unrealistic expectations.

I personally was involved in several of the never-ending attempts to resolve this need to define Yahoo!. Each one ended up devolving into inaction – or worse, producing some declarative statement of vague pablum that only made folks even more confused. (Examples: Yahoo! is a "life engine," Yahoo! is "the premier digital media company," Yahoo is "you.")

The main reason for the failure to craft a clear vision is that the executive staff was unable to imagine giving up on major existing lines of business, even if there was no clear strategy for why they existed. Because there were so many directions Yahoo! could go in, you could make a compelling reason for why Yahoo! should retain its foothold in any multi-billion-dollar market segment. So again and again, after all the pontificating, theYahoo! executive team would convince itself it could indeed be all things to everyone.

Of course, having a clear identity means you know what you are and you know what you AREN'T. That second part is easily as important as the first. It's what gives you the discipline to say "no." To look at alluring market opportunities and pass on them, knowing that your core competencies aren't a good enough fit. To avoid wasting time and treasure chasing a losing game.

Without this clarity and discipline, Yahoo!s diluted and aimless efforts have resulted in its services becoming less and less relevant as the Web has evolved and matured.

I used to believe very passionately that the company could be turned around. But as time went on, I lost that hope, for two reasons.

First, I witnessed enough changings of the executive guard to conclude that the courage and ruthlessness required is simply not likely to happen. There are business lines at Yahoo! that are like Tolkien's Ring of Power. Every new CEO thinks they can withstand their allure as they unsheathe their cutting sword, and then soon finds themselves jealously protecting their "precious".

The second is that too much time and damage has occurred. Yahoo! has been rotting for years, resulting in unwieldy infrastructure, underperforming talent, poor partner relations, and consumer apathy. If the new CEO was suddenly bestowed from above with the "next big idea" for the Internet, why would you possibly want to saddle that gift with all of the albatrosses around Yahoo!'s neck? She'd be much better off starting a new company from scratch, with the right talent, the right culture, the right platform, and a clean shot at defining the brand.

The Hard Truth

So why am I going on so much about a struggling tech company?

Because I read this today from Robert Reich:

Brace yourself. In coming weeks you'll hear there's no serious alternative to cutting Social Security and Medicare, raising taxes on middle class, and decimating what's left of the federal government's discretionary spending on everything from education and job training to highways and basic research.

"We" must make these sacrifices, it will be said, in order to deal with our mushrooming budget deficit and cumulative debt.

But most of the people who are making this argument are very wealthy or are sponsored by the very wealthy: Wall Street moguls like Pete Peterson and his "Fix the Debt" brigade, the Business Roundtable, well-appointed think tanks and policy centers along the Potomac, members of the Simpson-Bowles commission.

These regressive sentiments are packaged in a mythology that Americans have been living beyond our means: We've been unwilling to pay for what we want government to do for us, and we are now reaching the day of reckoning.

The truth is most Americans have not been living beyond their means. The problem is their means haven't been keeping up with the growth of the economy - which is why most of us need better education, infrastructure, and healthcare, and stronger safety nets.

He goes on to make the argument for a wealth tax on the richest Americans to pay for that education, infrastructure, and healthcare.

I'm not going to tackle the wealth tax concept here (though I have strong opinions). But I want to point out that I see the same blindness to reality, the same unrealistic expectations, in Reich's commentary as I did in Yahoo!.

Reich mentions but then dismisses the only point that matters: America does not have the wealth to meet the entitlements it has promised. Nor can it sustainably meet its operating costs.

Why is that? Because we, as a society, have very much indeed lived beyond our means. By building up such a tremendous amount of debt through our profligacy that a small rise in interest rates would be catastrophic. That our children and children's children will be "paying backwards" for our largess, unless some debt-clearing event transpires (which I think will).

Being unwilling to acknowledge this unpleasant but fundamental truth dooms any attempts to avoid it, via wealth redistribution or any other means. It's the same flavor of willful ignorance that caused Yahoo! to convince itself it could claim all mountaintops until it eventually begrudgingly realized it wasn't summitting any.

There were many times in my years at Yahoo! where I would listen to the "rah rah" all-hands presentations by the executives and walk away disconcerted. Despite the assurances of the great talent within the company and the wonderful ideas currently on the drawing board, it increasingly appeared that they were not admitting the obvious: The strategy was flawed, the company was failing, and radical change was needed if we wanted to succeed again.

That's exactly how I feel when reading Reich's piece. If this is the logic that our country's leaders are using in their decision-making, then Houston, we indeed have a problem. Having seen this movie play out in the smaller Yahoo! microcosm, I have no appetite for watching a sequel at the national level. But I fear that's what we're in store for.

I don't know how much influence Reich has these days, as he's not working in the current Administration as he did for three other Presidents (Ford, Carter and Clinton). But from the current fiscal and monetary policy we're pursuing, it sure seems like his mindset is not that far from those currently in DC.

So I find myself reflecting on how I reacted when I decided Yahoo! wasn't going to change course. I decided I was going to need to change mine, instead.

I invested in self-discovery to identify work that was meaningful for me. Fulfilling work that I'd be happy doing no matter the compensation. I cut the cord, resigning before I knew what I would do next. Staying on would only delay the hard work I'd need to do to create my future. I started developing the skills I'd need for my new chosen profession. And I began to tap the power and goodwill of other people who could help me (and whom, in turn, I could help back).

Seems to me this is good advice for our national predicament.

The ride from here is likely to get bumpy as reality punctures our leaders' unrealistic expectations. But if we, as individuals, invest in living authentically, working hard, and fostering supportive community, we'll enjoy the benefits of a resilient life regardless of what transpires.

Adam,

Understanding Reich

I, for one, am ecstatic that both you and Chris realized "something" was off kilter with our present situation and have done us a tremendous service by escaping the corporate treadmill and then running this site.

You are 100% correct for pointing out that people have unrealistic expectations about future financial directions.

However, I think you need to see another side of this. Reich is representing the lower class vision of the economy. In this regard he is acting as a politician, more than as an economist.

IMHO we are looking at the death throes of a debt backed, paper money system and it is very similar to playing musical chairs. Reich is fighting for the slower and less coordinated people to get access to some of the chairs. Otherwise, the Predator class naturally ends up with every chair. There is always more money for "Defense", more money for Israel, more money for "Homeland Security", and if there is another bank issue, there will be more money for that-again. There will always be more money for the well connected and well represented until we hit the wall.

My point is Reich is providing a little bit of balance in the political spectrum, probably knowing full well that one day this will all end up really ugly. No politician would dare tell people the economic truth, as we see it. If such a politician appeared on the scene, and was taken seriously, he or she would be dealt with as a severe threat to the status quo.

gillbilly

Frankenstein Capitalism

Found this article on Yahoo's finance page. It dovetails nicely with this article.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/frankenstein-capitalism-sucking-life-america-151542600.html;_ylt=AwrC1jHT7jNWjB8A9gmTmYlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTByMDgyYjJiBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMyBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw--

Happy Halloween!

davefairtex

wealth redistribution

why would anyone be against wealth re-distribution?

Ok, I'll bite. Let's pretend we live in a society that is run by sociopaths, whose entire apparent goal is to redirect a good chunk of the tax loot they collect to their friends that run various cartels - let's call them the military industrial complex, TBTF banking, big pharma, big tobacco, industrial sugar & fatty food production, captive media, big energy ... have I missed anything? Yeah anyhow, lets pretend the mechanism of governance is completely captured by this group: sociopaths & cartels.

Only, we don't really need to pretend, do we? Because that's pretty much where we live.

So if you are advocating raising taxes on - pretty much anyone - and handing the money to the sociopaths, I'm going to say that's a bad idea.

Here's the thing. Under your plan, wealth will DEFINITELY be redistributed. I just don't think it will end up in the place you hope it will end up.

If we can arrange to have a system that isn't run by sociopaths - somehow - then I'd be for some amount of redistribution. That, of course, is the trick. Those pesky sociopaths always seem to float into positions of power. Communism had that issue, if I recall correctly...

[Nov 04, 2015] Martin Wolf on the Low Labor Participation as the Result of the Crapification of Jobs

Notable quotes:
"... And as we saw in the widely reported story yesterday, on rising death and morbidity rates in less-educated white men and women aged 45 to 54 , the scarcity of jobs in some parts of the country and the erosion of low-end work conditions and pay is now doing damage on a societal level. And some of this is, as Wolf suggests, not just because candidates can't find jobs, but in many cases, the jobs just aren't good enough (or more accurately, the pay is not good enough; the fundamental rule of neoliberalism is that everything can be solved by prices, and higher pay makes a crappy job more bearable). ..."
"... labor force participation had fallen among prime working age men since the 1960s and have been accompanied by a decline in the participation of women since 2000. ..."
"... Many men, in particular, have decided that low-wage work will not improve their lives, in part because deep changes in American society have made it easier for them to live without working. These changes include the availability of federal disability benefits; the decline of marriage, which means fewer men provide for children; and the rise of the Internet, which has reduced the isolation of unemployment. ..."
"... At the same time, it has become harder for men to find higher-paying jobs. Foreign competition and technological advances have eliminated many of the jobs in which high school graduates like Mr. Walsh once could earn $40 an hour, or more. The poll found that 85 percent of prime-age men without jobs do not have bachelor's degrees. And 34 percent said they had criminal records, making it hard to find any work. ..."
"... This ties into the widely-reported story yesterday, of rising death rates among less-educated whites aged 45 to 54. Recall that the rising mortality and morbidity afflicted both men and women. And remember that work is important not just to provide income, and in the old days, health insurance, but as a way to organize one's time and to see people during the day, some of whom generally become at least social acquaintances. So the "oh I can busy myself on the Internet" may be true short-term, but over the long haul, it's not a substitute for seeing real people. ..."
"... For most unemployed men, life without work is not easy. In follow-up interviews, about two dozen men described days spent mostly at home, chewing through dwindling resources, relying on friends, strangers and the federal government. The poll found that 30 percent had used food stamps, while 33 percent said they had taken food from a nonprofit or religious group. ..."
"... They are unhappy to be out of work and eager to find new jobs. They are struggling both with the loss of income and a loss of dignity. Their mental and physical health is suffering. ..."
"... Profit margins. And short term obsessed managers or executives ( who can be accused of lacking vision past 12 months ). ..."
"... i think the employers "wet" dream is no employees/slaves whatsoever – just "virtual" ones. Robots, small shell scripts and AI to replace us all. How awesome – no pesky unemployment insurance or health care benefits to pay! But as you point out, there is a fly in the ointment – who's left to buy their crapified products? ..."
"... Job crapification ... has been underway for decades. ..."
"... The trend is toward an atomization of life, where each interaction (monetary or otherwise) is targeted at extraction of the last ounce of available assets, or of potential for greater debt. Welcome back to the jungle. ..."
"... Laid off, out of work for almost a year in 2009 (when the SHTF, the first people thrown under the bus are the company airplanes). Hired in as a contractor, which turned into a full time position, at 40% below what various salary surveys say I should be making. Brought this disparity up at my performance review, provided print copies of the various surveys, etc. In the end, I was told "It is what it is, and if you dont like it, feel happy to pursue employment elsewhere" ..."
"... The suits screw employees "because they can" and much like the fable about the turtle and the scorpion, its in their nature. ..."
"... @Jetfxr: your experience is a perfect description of job crapification: you actually do work that is ESSENTIAL to the safety and well-being of the public (not only the flying public, BTW, but all of us on the ground whom you and your colleagues save from being crushed by falling airplanes). And the thanks you receive is to be mis-treated and ill-paid so that some suit who never did a lick of essential work in his life can sneer "It is what it is, and if you don't like it, go elsewhere." ..."
"... My experience has been that employers have taken advantage of employee good will. Good, talented employees have taken on more responsibility without added pay and do most of the training for new employees. But, the mood is different now that the abuse has continued for so long. While not directly refusing the employer demands, saying no can cost you your job, the task is just done poorly. ..."
"... He keeps paying union dues to preserve his shot at a pension, but that also means he can't get nonunion work as an electrician. He says he would like a desk job instead. He used email for the first time last month, and he plans to return to community college in the spring to learn computer skills. ..."
"... Atlas Shrugged ..."
"... The trend seems to be "rewarding" the "creative people" in the "profit centers", while squeezing the turnips who are considered "overhead". This includes everyone who keeps the house of cards infrastructure in this country running ..."
"... The Greek concept of themis is in play here. As social order and fairness falls by the wayside, increasing numbers recognize that playing by the rules is a fools errand. This is what drove Hercules berserk and we see it played out regularly now in mass murder events. ..."
"... I went to the funeral of a 50-ish former co-worker about a year ago. Died of a "accidental drug overdose". Was demoted from his mid-tier management job for cost cutting reasons, then terminated by his new boss, for drinking. Was a licensed mechanic, but that work was demeaning/regressive, eventually fired from several jobs. Last job before he went to the halfway house was wearing a blue vest at Lowe's. ..."
Nov 04, 2015 | naked capitalism

... ... ...

Despite Wolf's bloodless language, he clearly regards the issue as serious. He describes this withdrawal from work as a "dysfunction" and says it demands not just study but action as well.

The underlying pathology is not hard to describe: employers (enabled by the Fed which has since the 1980s been only too wiling to provide for higher levels of unemployment so as to curb labor bargaining power to keep inflation tame) have succeeded in eliminating labor bargaining power. That program has been aided and abetted by the popularization of libertarian ideologies, which encourage many to see themselves as more in charge of their destiny than they are and thus see success and failure as the result of talent and work, as opposed to circumstance. For instance, one group that could have disproportionate power if they chose to use it, tech workers (particularly systems administrators and key support personnel in large systems deployments) have never seemed inclined to find a way to use it.

And as we saw in the widely reported story yesterday, on rising death and morbidity rates in less-educated white men and women aged 45 to 54, the scarcity of jobs in some parts of the country and the erosion of low-end work conditions and pay is now doing damage on a societal level. And some of this is, as Wolf suggests, not just because candidates can't find jobs, but in many cases, the jobs just aren't good enough (or more accurately, the pay is not good enough; the fundamental rule of neoliberalism is that everything can be solved by prices, and higher pay makes a crappy job more bearable).

This is not just armchair theorizing. In 2014, the New York Times reported on the issue of how labor force participation had fallen among prime working age men since the 1960s and have been accompanied by a decline in the participation of women since 2000. The article focused on how some middle aged men were remaining unemployed even though there were jobs they could take because they felt the work didn't pay enough. From the story:

Frank Walsh still pays dues to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, but more than four years have passed since his name was called at the union hall where the few available jobs are distributed. Mr. Walsh, his wife and two children live on her part-time income and a small inheritance from his mother, which is running out…

"I'd work for them, but they're only willing to pay $10 an hour," he said, pointing at a Chick-fil-A that probably pays most of its workers less than that. "I'm 49 with two kids - $10 just isn't going to cut it."

The article relied on a poll by the Times, CBS News, and the Kaiser Foundation. From its findings:

Many men, in particular, have decided that low-wage work will not improve their lives, in part because deep changes in American society have made it easier for them to live without working. These changes include the availability of federal disability benefits; the decline of marriage, which means fewer men provide for children; and the rise of the Internet, which has reduced the isolation of unemployment.

At the same time, it has become harder for men to find higher-paying jobs. Foreign competition and technological advances have eliminated many of the jobs in which high school graduates like Mr. Walsh once could earn $40 an hour, or more. The poll found that 85 percent of prime-age men without jobs do not have bachelor's degrees. And 34 percent said they had criminal records, making it hard to find any work.

This ties into the widely-reported story yesterday, of rising death rates among less-educated whites aged 45 to 54. Recall that the rising mortality and morbidity afflicted both men and women. And remember that work is important not just to provide income, and in the old days, health insurance, but as a way to organize one's time and to see people during the day, some of whom generally become at least social acquaintances. So the "oh I can busy myself on the Internet" may be true short-term, but over the long haul, it's not a substitute for seeing real people.

And these men recognize that they are paying a price for not taking work, yet a significant portion could take a job but can't stomach the pay and other terms of offer:

For most unemployed men, life without work is not easy. In follow-up interviews, about two dozen men described days spent mostly at home, chewing through dwindling resources, relying on friends, strangers and the federal government. The poll found that 30 percent had used food stamps, while 33 percent said they had taken food from a nonprofit or religious group.

They are unhappy to be out of work and eager to find new jobs. They are struggling both with the loss of income and a loss of dignity. Their mental and physical health is suffering.

Yet 44 percent of men in the survey said there were jobs in their area they could get but were not willing to take.

jonboinAR, November 4, 2015 at 8:25 am

It's just unconscionable to pay people less than it takes to live. I understand that a wage minimum might put some kind of distortion or other on the "labor market" (I don't know what, but that's what will be argued by someone of a libertarian bent who chimes in), but so be it!

griffen, November 4, 2015 at 8:25 am

Profit margins. And short term obsessed managers or executives ( who can be accused of lacking vision past 12 months ).

jonboinAR, November 4, 2015 at 8:27 am

Note: I know we have wage minimums already. I'm talking about having meaningful ones like $18/hr or something.

ChrisFromGeorgia, November 4, 2015 at 9:38 am

i think the employers "wet" dream is no employees/slaves whatsoever – just "virtual" ones. Robots, small shell scripts and AI to replace us all. How awesome – no pesky unemployment insurance or health care benefits to pay! But as you point out, there is a fly in the ointment – who's left to buy their crapified products?

Ivy, November 4, 2015 at 9:48 am

Job crapification ... has been underway for decades. When consumers have their demand curves probed continuously through targeted pricing (monetary or otherwise), there is a wear-and-tear effect as lives are worsened.

Extrapolate that probing across all consumers and you see a decline in the societal goodwill that took generations to nurture. The trend is toward an atomization of life, where each interaction (monetary or otherwise) is targeted at extraction of the last ounce of available assets, or of potential for greater debt. Welcome back to the jungle.

Jetfixr in Flyover, November 4, 2015 at 10:21 am

"Non college educated" includes me, an aircraft mechanic with 30 years plus experience, and a page long list of technical training on airframes, engines, and avionics.

My discussion with the CFO of the company I work for is illuminating.

(As the chief mechanic/technician in the flight department, I'm a direct report to the CFO)

Laid off, out of work for almost a year in 2009 (when the SHTF, the first people thrown under the bus are the company airplanes). Hired in as a contractor, which turned into a full time position, at 40% below what various salary surveys say I should be making. Brought this disparity up at my performance review, provided print copies of the various surveys, etc. In the end, I was told "It is what it is, and if you don't like it, feel happy to pursue employment elsewhere"

The suits screw employees "because they can" and much like the fable about the turtle and the scorpion, its in their nature.

And this is supposedly a job where there is a "shortage of qualified people".. Which there is. Mainly due to the fact that they are throwing old, expensive guys under the bus as fast as they can, and replacing them with newbies who are making a lot less money

In my case, I've become a part time contractor that enables me to pull down another $10-20k/ year. But its not lucrative or steady enough work to live on. It did save my azz when I was out of work for almost a year in 2009.

Carla

@Jetfxr: your experience is a perfect description of job crapification: you actually do work that is ESSENTIAL to the safety and well-being of the public (not only the flying public, BTW, but all of us on the ground whom you and your colleagues save from being crushed by falling airplanes). And the thanks you receive is to be mis-treated and ill-paid so that some suit who never did a lick of essential work in his life can sneer "It is what it is, and if you don't like it, go elsewhere."

Well, I would like to say "Thank you" to you, and to all the millions of Americans who perform the essential tasks everyday that keep so many of us safe and relatively comfortable. I wish you were fairly compensated and decently treated, and I wish my current level of safety and comfort extended to everyone else. And I do not take it for granted for a second.

Uahsenaa

And not once will it ever occur to the suit that the 100K bonus he receives (or gives himself) for "keeping costs down" is carved directly out of the salaries of people like this gentleman.

Norb

I wonder if the newbies can be brought in because at least one old guy is left to do the training and the quality control. Amazing that this is done for aircraft maintenance! If only more CEOs and CFOs directly experienced the downside of their actions. My experience has been that employers have taken advantage of employee good will. Good, talented employees have taken on more responsibility without added pay and do most of the training for new employees. But, the mood is different now that the abuse has continued for so long. While not directly refusing the employer demands, saying no can cost you your job, the task is just done poorly.

Sammy Maudlin

He keeps paying union dues to preserve his shot at a pension, but that also means he can't get nonunion work as an electrician. He says he would like a desk job instead. He used email for the first time last month, and he plans to return to community college in the spring to learn computer skills.

Wait, I thought that people like Frank Walsh were supposed to wake up and realize their reliance on the quasi-nanny state of unions and pensions is what is really holding him back. Isn't he supposed to become an entrepreneur? It's almost as if the guy hasn't read Atlas Shrugged.

However, that trip back to community college sounds like a great plan. Lifelong skills developed in one area that are no longer "economically viable," a few classes in computer technology and boom, problem solved! Wonder who gave him such a great idea. Good luck getting rid of that student loan debt!

Jetfixr in Flyover

The trend seems to be "rewarding" the "creative people" in the "profit centers", while squeezing the turnips who are considered "overhead". This includes everyone who keeps the house of cards infrastructure in this country running

Norb

I find it interesting that the monkey in the video who is shortchanged with the cucumber reward throws the cucumber at the researcher on the second go. Also, shakes the cage a bit.

For some time I've been mystified by my fellow citizens reaction to the wealthy elite who have been steeling and lying to them for years. There is a form of respect and reverence that is always extended to them that I just don't get. At the very least, looting elites should be shunned by working class people. Respect is a two way street, and the wealthy do not respect working class people at all. Why should our limited resources and energy be extended to them- in any form. Being forced into an exploitive situation is one thing, willful participation is another.

The larger issue is that the current economic system is rewarding corruption at the cost of long term stability of both businesses and society as a whole. Rebuilding that system from the bottom up based on fairness is the only way to go. When more people turn off their TVs, embrace their poverty with dignity, and dedicate themselves to helping and creatively working with others, maybe there is a chance for a future.

The new frontier is turning ones back, once and for all on the elite worldview of greed and corruption.
Not taking crappy jobs is good thing if you are doing so to rebuild your life in a more dignified manner. Honest employers can hire workers at living wages. Not buying products or services from corporations working on the model of slave labor would send a strong message. Power of the boycott.

TedWa

Like banks that are too big to fail, jail or hang, businesses that should have failed for not supplying jobs with a living wage are being supported to viable status by handouts from the government directly to the CEO's or to their workers so the workers can continue to work at less than livable wages and the CEO's can claim higher and higher bonuses. This corporate welfare state is crapifying everything and people should be horrified – but they're not. We're surrounded by zombies, zombie banks, zombie corporations of nearly every ilk and, like a mad scientist, a government that insists on keeping them alive through direct transfusions from every American citizen – this is the zombie apocalypse.

Barmitt O'Bamney

"DIE QUICKLY!" The Democratic answer to suppressed wages, industrial decline and a stagnant labor market. Older white working class people offing themselves with pills and alcohol – what's not to like? That counts as an all-upside no-downside policy for Blue Team.

flora

Great post. Thank you.

Reading this and yesterday's post on declining life expectancy I wonder who in the EU thinks it a good idea to join the TTIP ? Serious question. If EU countries think joining TTIP will be great because they'll get access to the supposedly rich US consumer market, these to posts ought to wake them up to the fact that the US consumer market has been hollowed out to nothing by neoliberal policies of both parties.

What is has happened in the US would shock even Dickens.

human

The Greek concept of themis is in play here. As social order and fairness falls by the wayside, increasing numbers recognize that playing by the rules is a fools errand. This is what drove Hercules berserk and we see it played out regularly now in mass murder events.

Classic reaction. Millenia old. Mass media promulgates the oligarchic narrative.

Jetfixr in Flyover

I went to the funeral of a 50-ish former co-worker about a year ago. Died of a "accidental drug overdose". Was demoted from his mid-tier management job for cost cutting reasons, then terminated by his new boss, for drinking. Was a licensed mechanic, but that work was demeaning/regressive, eventually fired from several jobs. Last job before he went to the halfway house was wearing a blue vest at Lowe's.

He always acted like manual work was below his station, I suspect his ego would not accept the fall from the rarified heights. There's no such thing as "second chances" anymore, if you are among the "wretched refuse"

[Oct 29, 2015] IBM Discloses SEC Investigation, Plunges to Worst Level since 2010

Notable quotes:
"... When IBM announced earnings last week, it talked about all the great things it was accomplishing to compensate for the fact that revenues had plunged 14% from a year ago to $19.28 billion, and that even "revenues from continuing operations," after accounting for operations it had shed, dropped 1%. It was the 14th quarterly revenue decline in a row. Three-and-a-half years! ..."
"... But turns out, IBM's revenues, as bad as they have been, might have been subject a little more financial engineering than normally allowed. ..."
"... They've been up to the same behavior (the stock buybacks) for 15 years. Gutting the internal employee knowledge base ..."
"... It isn't the first software company to have been tempted by the siren call of financial engineering in an attempt to solve a revenue decline problem and I don't suppose for one singe second it will turn out to be the last. There's one biggie already which is well known for its, ah-hem, "aggressive" culture which already seems particularly stinky to me. ..."
"... As Chris in Paris rightly notes above, if you prod the zombie a little and analysed the reasons why ..."
"... IBM buying The Weather Company reminds me of AOL and Time Warner merging. Can't put my finger on why, but … ..."
"... Once again, life imitates The Onion imitating life… ..."
"... Buybacks increase leverage. It's not surprising that companies shrinking their equity base (often while simultaneously enlarging their debt) outperform in a bull market. ..."
"... Presumably these same companies will get smashed harder when we finally (like Thelma and Louise) drive off the edge of the Permanently High Plateau. ..."
"... Considering the numbahs, Wolf Richter is much too charitable in this piece IMO. Where are the debt rating agencies?… back in the same bars they hung out in back in the day? And does the SEC have authority to investigate beyond accounting treatment of matters like revenue recognition? IBM is far from the only major corporation where this behavior, which also serves to maximize gains under executive stock options, has been occurring. ..."
"... Negative $19 billion tangible net worth and very high debt leverage after massive stock repurchases and high dividend payouts over a period of years. Wonder what will happen if interest rates ever rise? ..."
www.nakedcapitalism.com

Level since 2010, Even Share Buybacks Don't Work Anymore

By Wolf Richter, a San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience. Originally published at Wolf Street.

Financial Engineering bites back

When IBM announced earnings last week, it talked about all the great things it was accomplishing to compensate for the fact that revenues had plunged 14% from a year ago to $19.28 billion, and that even "revenues from continuing operations," after accounting for operations it had shed, dropped 1%. It was the 14th quarterly revenue decline in a row. Three-and-a-half years!

It's not the only American tech company with declining revenues. There are a whole slew of them, mired in the great American revenue recession, including Microsoft, whose revenues plunged 12%. So they – big tech – are in this together.

But turns out, IBM's revenues, as bad as they have been, might have been subject a little more financial engineering than normally allowed.

Today, IBM disclosed that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating how it has accounted for these lousy revenues. The one-sentence disclosure was tucked away in a footnote on page 45 of its SEC Form 10-Q, which it filed today:

In August 2015, IBM learned that the SEC is conducting an investigation relating to revenue recognition with respect to the accounting treatment of certain transactions in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland. The company is cooperating with the SEC in this matter.

"A company spokesperson wasn't immediately available to elaborate on the probe," according to the Wall Street Journal.

As I'm writing this, IBM is down 4% to $138, a new 52-week low:

Chris in Paris October 28, 2015 at 3:23 am

They've been up to the same behavior (the stock buybacks) for 15 years. Gutting the internal employee knowledge base, especially accounting teams, which were impeccable in the past, made a mistake inevitable. Sad.

Clive October 28, 2015 at 4:41 am

It isn't the first software company to have been tempted by the siren call of financial engineering in an attempt to solve a revenue decline problem and I don't suppose for one singe second it will turn out to be the last. There's one biggie already which is well known for its, ah-hem, "aggressive" culture which already seems particularly stinky to me.

As Chris in Paris rightly notes above, if you prod the zombie a little and analysed the reasons why revenue has declined, the reason is that what has now reinvented itself as a Professional Services enterprise lacks the skills and competencies which are essential to actually deliver - IBM is neither professional (amateurish is more like it) nor does it provide much of a service (unless you think the ability to gibber inanely in a heavy and largely incomprehensible Asian/Indian/East European accent is the same thing as providing a service).

Even the stupidest of corporate CIOs (and they are pretty stupid, as a whole, it's only taken them about 10 years to have spotted this decline) eventually realises that people get fired all the time for buying IBM because of the, well, general crapness.

sam s smith October 28, 2015 at 12:57 pm

This isn't even the first time IBM has done something like this.

Back in the late 80's, IBM leased the majority of its mainframes. Someone came up with the bright idea of converting those leases to sales. Income jumped and bonuses were paid for the next 5 years. At that time, there were no more leases to convert and sales plummeted.

Jim Haygood October 28, 2015 at 6:55 am

'Instead of blowing tens of billions of dollars on stock buybacks … IBM should have invested those funds in actual engineering and in people, which might have helped it become great again.'

Stock buybacks aren't necessarily bad. Whether IBM should invest in growth depends on its investment opportunities.

If (as it appears) IBM is basically in long-term liquidation (a la Xerox) as its 20th century mainframe technology fades from the scene, then stock buybacks are a more tax efficient way than dividends to return capital to the shareholders, until it's all gone.

cnchal October 28, 2015 at 8:20 am

. . . then stock buybacks are a more tax efficient way than dividends to return capital to the shareholders, until it's all gone.

Would it be more or less tax efficient if IBM just gave up the ghost, and had a fire sale auction of it's assets instead of waiting till it's all gone?

cdub October 28, 2015 at 8:45 am

But no management team has ever elected to go that course. If just the Board would take action. Snap, back to reality.

Jim Haygood October 28, 2015 at 8:46 am

It's still a $140 billion company in market cap, so the number of potential buyers is limited.

IBM's corporate culture would be a good fit with Microsoft, I reckon.

cnchal October 28, 2015 at 9:37 am

I was thinking more along the lines of say having Ritchie Bros Auctioneers come in and sell the physical assets. There must be some interesting machine tools that IBM is misusing that would be more "productive" in someone else's hands, no?

The service side of the business could be sold off piece by piece. IBM looks like the individual parts are worth more than the whole.

I completely discount the $140 billion market cap as a pure Fed enabled fiction.

Jim Haygood October 28, 2015 at 10:24 am

This just in -

IBM Corp. on Wednesday confirmed the purchase of The Weather Company, which includes the Weather Channel and its related technology platforms and sensors, to enhance its cloud ecosystem.

IBM said the purchase adds to the $3 billion investment IBM committed earlier this year to build out products and services in the Internet of Things.

It's all too likely that a simple semantic error - confusing white puffy clouds with high-tech electronic ones - has led to a tragic misallocation of capital.

Arizona Slim October 28, 2015 at 11:49 am

IBM buying The Weather Company reminds me of AOL and Time Warner merging. Can't put my finger on why, but …

Jason October 28, 2015 at 4:38 pm

Once again, life imitates The Onion imitating life…

http://www.theonion.com/video/hp-offers-that-cloud-thing-everyone-is-talking-abo-28789

sam s smith October 28, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Tata or Wipro would be a better suitor. IBM already has a large number of its employees outside the US.

MikeNY October 28, 2015 at 10:33 am

I remember an academic paper from some years ago demonstrating a negative correlation between share buy-backs and future stock prices. The obvious explanation is that such financial engineering is attractive to management only when all other options (organic growth, attractive acquisitions) have either been tried, and/or are unappealing. In other words, it's usually sick companies that resort to it.

Lil'D October 28, 2015 at 11:27 am

Although the empirical evidence actually show that shares of companies with share buybacks have price return greater than that of the general market. Basis behind TTFS and PKW ETFs. Trim Tabs (which really sounds like a diet pill company) keeps track of float. Of course share price increasing is not the same thing as company value increasing

MikeNY October 28, 2015 at 11:39 am

Well, it probably depends on the time frame and the cohort. If I can dig up that old study I'll post it.

Jim Haygood October 28, 2015 at 1:04 pm

From Bloomberg:

The S&P 500 Buyback Index is up 7.5 percent this year through Oct. 3 compared with the 6.5 percent advance in the S&P 500, after beating it by an average of 9.5 percentage points every year since 2009.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-10-06/s-p-500-companies-spend-almost-all-profits-on-buybacks-payouts

Buybacks increase leverage. It's not surprising that companies shrinking their equity base (often while simultaneously enlarging their debt) outperform in a bull market.

Presumably these same companies will get smashed harder when we finally (like Thelma and Louise) drive off the edge of the Permanently High Plateau.

And the index:

http://us.spindices.com/indices/strategy/sp-500-buyback-index

As S&P points out, there's an ETF for that. Two of em, in fact.

MLS October 28, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Buybacks increase leverage. It's not surprising that companies shrinking their equity base (often while simultaneously enlarging their debt) outperform in a bull market.

Presumably these same companies will get smashed harder when we finally (like Thelma and Louise) drive off the edge of the Permanently High Plateau.

Correct. Buybacks increase the risk of the equity by changing the capital structure. They are helpful to a certain extent to eliminate the dilutive effect of employee stock options, but beyond that they add no long-term value of the company.

MikeNY October 28, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Yes, I agree with you on the effect of shrinking the equity base. It increases equity vol.

participant-observer-observed October 28, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Especially if you are going to live happily ever after on the MIC boondoggle:

Drones, IBM, and the Big Data of Death

IBM could also return to selling CD ROMs of installable SPSS instead of looking for subscription junkies.

Arizona Slim October 28, 2015 at 12:53 pm

I'm typing this comment on a pre-Lenovo IBM ThinkPad. And I'm remembering the days when IBM actually made things that were good to own. Y'know, like this laptop.

participant-observer-observed October 28, 2015 at 12:55 pm

They seem to be in the banality of evil business, keeping the homeland in freedom, etc etc, when not supplying social scientists with data analysis software:

Drones, IBM, and the Big Data of Death

Chauncey Gardiner October 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Considering the numbahs, Wolf Richter is much too charitable in this piece IMO. Where are the debt rating agencies?… back in the same bars they hung out in back in the day? And does the SEC have authority to investigate beyond accounting treatment of matters like revenue recognition? IBM is far from the only major corporation where this behavior, which also serves to maximize gains under executive stock options, has been occurring.

Negative $19 billion tangible net worth and very high debt leverage after massive stock repurchases and high dividend payouts over a period of years. Wonder what will happen if interest rates ever rise?

… Oh, but Look!!… The stock is up this morning! "The Market" has spoken. All is well, people!… Move along.

MLS October 28, 2015 at 1:34 pm

I'm a little confused – on one hand the author is saying that IBM has been "pulling a bag over investor's heads" by tricking them with faulty per-share metrics. One the other hand there's a chart of IBM that shows that the stock is flat since the end of 2010 – a period where the broad market is up over 60%. There was certainly a period where IBM did well in that time, but that was largely on the expectation that they were actually turning the business around and taking steps to, you know, try and grow the thing. When that failed to materialize, the stock rolled over.

I don't disagree with the author that financial engineering in general is hardly the panacea Wall Street makes it out to be, but I think investors as a group deserve more credit for figuring out what's really going on.

Howard Beale IV October 28, 2015 at 8:04 pm

Some of the smaller iSeries shops are more at risk of getting converted over to more modern systems as well as some of the smaller zSeries boxes-but the bigger the systems the higher the risk and cost to do so-IBM released the z13 family earlier this year and got billions in orders and sales. They're still the backbone of just about every major financial corporation in the world (we just got done upgrading all of our boxes last month.)

The real problem is that colleges and universities stopped teaching mainframe technology two decades ago-so now we have to do the education ourselves

[Sep 30, 2015] Are American Schools Making Inequality Worse

Sep 30, 2015 | Economist's View

Education is not the only cause of inequality, but it's part of the problem:

Are American schools making inequality worse?, American Educational Research Association: The answer appears to be yes. Schooling plays a surprisingly large role in short-changing the nation's most economically disadvantaged students of critical math skills, according to a study published today in Educational Researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

Findings from the study indicate that unequal access to rigorous mathematics content is widening the gap in performance on a prominent international math literacy test between low- and high-income students, not only in the United States but in countries worldwide.

Using data from the 2012..., researchers from Michigan State University and OECD confirmed not only that low-income students are more likely to be exposed to weaker math content in schools, but also that a substantial share of the gap in math performance between economically advantaged and disadvantaged students is related to those curricular inequalities. ...

"Our findings support previous research by showing that affluent students are consistently provided with greater opportunity to learn more rigorous content, and that students who are exposed to higher-level math have a better ability to apply it to addressing real-world situations of contemporary adult life, such as calculating interest, discounts, and estimating the required amount of carpeting for a room," said Schmidt, a University Distinguished Professor of Statistics and Education at Michigan State University. "But now we know just how important content inequality is in contributing to performance gaps between privileged and underprivileged students."

In the United States, over one-third of the social class-related gap in student performance on the math literacy test was associated with unequal access to rigorous content. The other two-thirds was associated directly with students' family and community background. ...

"Because of differences in content exposure for low- and high-income students in this country, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer," said Schmidt. "The belief that schools are the great equalizer, helping students overcome the inequalities of poverty, is a myth."

Burroughs, a senior research associate at Michigan State University, noted that the findings have major implications for school officials, given that content exposure is far more subject to school policies than are broader socioeconomic conditions.

Anonymous -> Anonymous...
do you think schools in China/India have funding on the level you are implicitly arguing for? As Eva Maskovich is showing in NYC - it takes better teachers, not more money.

pgl -> Anonymous...

I live in NYC

"According to Success Academy Charter Schools founder and President Eva Moskowitz".

Ah yes - the charter school crowd. As in Mayor Bloomberg's push for privatizing our public education system. They have a lot of really dishonest ads attacking our new mayor. So you are with these privatization freaks? Go figure!


Anonymous -> kthomas...

I am an Asian immigrant who came to the US to pursue the American dream. My education allowed me to run circles around most students at the university. I ended up with triple major and a post grad degree. So, go ahead. call the rigorous schooling horrifying all you want. It is silly to raise kids in an ultra sheltered environment. The jobs are going to go where qualified highly productive people who want less money are. Then they will have to face reality anyway. We can sit here and argue about it all we want. The truth is that kids in Asia can do the job I started with sitting there better for a fraction of the cost here. And this is a job requiring advanced degrees.

Anonymous -> Anonymous...

And you can add Eastern Europe to Asia. The competition is going to degrade our standard of living as it has whether we like it or not.


DrDick -> Anonymous...

Sorry, but this is pure BS. We are talking about the presence of AP, foreign language, and advanced math classes. Having new textbooks and enough textbooks for all students, class sizes, laboratory equipment for science classes, and building maintenance, among many other very significant differences.

https://edtrust.org/press_release/funding-gap-states-shortchange-poor-minority-students-of-education-dollars-2/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2015/03/12/in-23-states-richer-school-districts-get-more-local-funding-than-poorer-districts/

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&ved=0CEYQFjAGahUKEwiglsjRgZ_IAhWJOIgKHQgGAW8&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.schoolfunding.info%2Fnews%2Fpolicy%2FFundingGap2005.pdf&usg=AFQjCNGL7igeCiXrs8pI7cxcwgb0JTKdtg&cad=rja

Anonymous -> DrDick...

yes. they spend on things that count. instead of hockey rinks and olympics standard gyms for toddlers.

DrDick -> Anonymous...

None of which are characteristic of public schools. Have you ever even visited reality? Charter schools suck up a much greater share of available public resources and further starve the schools serving the poor and minorities, as happened in Chicago. Unlike you, I believe in fact based decision making.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/10/15/charter-schools-are-hurting-urban-public-schools-moodys-says/

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CCwQFjACahUKEwiB5ci8rZ_IAhWLRYgKHR5dCgU&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.luc.edu%2Fmedia%2Flucedu%2Flaw%2Fcenters%2Fchildlaw%2Fchilded%2Fpdfs%2F2015studentpapers%2FReyes.pdf&usg=AFQjCNFP1l3BdJ-Hjm0FFv-KDtYMk3E5FA&cad=rja

http://www.progressillinois.com/posts/content/2014/05/20/report-school-closures-charter-expansion-causing-catastrophic-harm-us-minor

EMichael -> Tom aka Rusty...

few anecdotes

geez

" The new school year has been marred for many students all over the country by severe budget cuts, shuttered schools, and decimated staff. Philadelphia, where students went back to school Monday, is seeing some of the most extreme effects of these budget cuts.

Nine thousand students will attend 53 different schools today than they did last fall after 24 were closed down. Class sizes have ballooned in many schools, with parents reporting as many as 48 students in one classroom. Meanwhile, the district laid off 3,859 employees over the summer.

A new policy also eliminates guidance counselors from schools with fewer than 600 students, which is about 60 percent of Philadelphia schools. Now one counselor will be responsible for five or six schools at once. Arts and sports programs have also been sacrificed.

Philly's new barebones regime was implemented after Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and the Republican-dominated legislature cut $961 million from the basic education budget, or 12 percent overall. Federal stimulus funds cushioned schools from state cuts for a couple of years, but they are now dwindling. The district is struggling to fill a $304 million deficit. In order to open schools on time, the state gave an extra $2 million in funding and the city borrowed $50 million. Corbett is also withholding a $45 million state grant until teachers unions agree to concessions of about $133 million in a new labor pact. The district plans to sell 31 shuttered school properties. "

http://thinkprogress.org/education/2013/09/09/2588691/philly-schools-budget-cuts/

pgl -> Anonymous...

I love how the Aussies do the terminology:

"All Australian private schools receive some commonwealth government funding. So they are technically all "Charter" schools although the term is not used in Australia."

Charter schools are precisely what Milton Friedman recommended. He has the integrity to call this privatization. Anonymous does not. Funded by taxpayers but these schools are for profit entities.

Anonymous - have the courage to admit your agenda next time.

ilsm -> pgl...

Charter schools are like privatized arsenals, all cost cutting, profit and no performance.

US privatized the arsenals starting after WW I when a lot of "qui tammers" got to send arms to the Brits.

How long before the charter industry complex has enough unwarranted influence to ruin education?


djb -> Anonymous...

the charter schools cherry pick the best students and they don't deal with problem kids

this I known, they do poorly especially in new York city

as pgl said it is the fact that schools are fund locally that is the problem

to use a favorite right wing phrase

public education is an "unfunded mandate"

it should be paid for by the federal government

then all the mostly right wing politician could use property tax for divide and conquer politics

and funding can go where it is needed

djb -> djb...

then all the mostly right wing politician could NO LONGER use property tax for divide and conquer politics

DrDick -> pgl...

I think this is the primary issue. The schools in my hometown of 30K, national headquarters for Phillips Petroleum with a major research facility at the time, were excellent and most students went to college. Elsewhere in Oklahoma, students from similar sized towns were barely literate when they graduated. The primary reliance on local funding guarantees perpetuation of inequalities and the failure of the poor. This is exacerbated in larger communities by differential funding and resources allocated to schools within the district. When I lived in Chicago, Lincoln Park High School, in an affluent neighborhood, had world class programs. Meanwhile, schools on the predominately black west side and south side were literally falling apart with peeling lead paint and asbestos insulation falling on the students (along with occasional pieces of the cielings).

[Sep 16, 2015] This Is Why Hewlett-Packard Just Fired Another 30,000

"...An era of leadership in computer technology has died, and there is no grave marker, not even a funeral ceremony or eulogy ... Hewlett-Packard, COMPAQ, Digital Equipment Corp, UNIVAC, Sperry-Rand, Data General, Tektronix, ZILOG, Advanced Micro Devices, Sun Microsystems, etc, etc, etc. So much change in so short a time, leaves your mind dizzy."
Zero Hedge

SixIsNinE

yeah thanks Carly ...

HP made bullet-proof products that would last forever..... I still buy HP workstation notebooks, especially now when I can get them for $100 on ebay ....

I sold HP products in the 1990s .... we had HP laserjet IIs that companies would run day & night .... virtually no maintenance ... when PCL5 came around then we had LJ IIIs .... and still companies would call for LJ I's, .... 100 pounds of invincible Printing ! .... this kind of product has no place in the World of Planned-Obsolesence .... I'm currently running an 8510w, 8530w, 2530p, Dell 6420 quad i7, hp printers hp scanners, hp pavilion desktops, .... all for less than what a Laserjet II would have cost in 1994, Total.

Not My Real Name

I still have my HP 15C scientific calculator I bought in 1983 to get me through college for my engineering degree. There is nothing better than a hand held calculator that uses Reverse Polish Notation!

BigJim

HP used to make fantastic products. I remember getting their RPN calculators back in th 80's; built like tanks.

Then they decided to "add value" by removing more and more material from their consumer/"prosumer" products until they became unspeakably flimsy. They stopped holding things together with proper fastenings and starting hot melting/gluing it together, so if it died you had to cut it open to have any chance of fixing it.

I still have one of their Laserjet 4100 printers. I expect it to outlast anything they currently produce, and it must be going on 16+ years old now.

Fuck you, HP. You started selling shit and now you're eating through your seed corn. I just wish the "leaders" who did this to you had to pay some kind of penalty greater than getting $25M in a severance package.

Automatic Choke

+100. The path of HP is everything that is wrong about modern business models. I still have a 5MP laserjet (one of the first), still works great. Also have a number of 42S calculators.....my day-to-day workhorse and several spares. I don't think the present HP could even dream of making these products today.

nope-1004

How well will I profit, as a salesman, if I sell you something that works?

How valuable are you, as a customer in my database, if you never come back?

Confucious say "Buy another one, and if you can't afford it, f'n finance it!"

It's the growing trend. Look at appliances. Nothing works anymore.

Normalcy Bias

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence

Son of Loki

GE to cut Houston jobs as work moves overseas

http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2015/09/15/ge-to-cut-houston-job...

" Yes we can! "

Automatic Choke

hey big brother.... if you are curious, there is a damn good android emulator of the HP42S available (Free42). really it is so good that it made me relax about accumulating more spares. still not quite the same as a real calculator. (the 42S, by the way, is the modernization/simplification of the classic HP41, the real hardcord very-programmable, reconfigurable, hackable unit with all the plug-in-modules that came out in the early 80s.)

Miss Expectations

Imagine working at HP and having to listen to Carly Fiorina bulldoze you...she is like a blow-torch...here are 4 minutes of Carly and Ralph Nader (if you can take it):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC4JDwoRHtk

Miffed Microbiologist

My husband has been a software architect for 30 years at the same company. Never before has he seen the sheer unadulterated panic in the executives. All indices are down and they are planning for the worst. Quality is being sacrificed for " just get some relatively functional piece of shit out the door we can sell". He is fighting because he has always produced a stellar product and refuses to have shit tied to his name ( 90% of competitor benchmarks fail against his projects). They can't afford to lay him off, but the first time in my life I see my husband want to quit...

unplugged

I've been an engineer for 31 years - our managements's unspoken motto at the place I'm at (large company) is: "release it now, we'll put in the quality later". I try to put in as much as possible before the product is shoved out the door without killing myself doing it.

AGuy

Do they even make test equipment anymore?

HP test and measurement was spun off many years ago as Agilent. The electronics part of Agilent was spun off as keysight late last year.

HP basically makes computer equipment (PCs, servers, Printers) and software. Part of the problem is that computer hardware has been commodized. Since PCs are cheap and frequent replacements are need, People just by the cheapest models, expecting to toss it in a couple of years and by a newer model (aka the Flat screen TV model). So there is no justification to use quality components. Same is become true with the Server market. Businesses have switched to virtualization and/or cloud systems. So instead of taking a boat load of time to rebuild a crashed server, the VM is just moved to another host.

HP has also adopted the Computer Associates business model (aka Borg). HP buys up new tech companies and sits on the tech and never improves it. It decays and gets replaced with a system from a competitor. It also has a habit of buying outdated tech companies that never generate the revenues HP thinks it will.

BullyBearish

When Carly was CEO of HP, she instituted a draconian "pay for performance" plan. She ended up leaving with over $146 Million because she was smart enough not to specify "what type" of performance.

GeezerGeek

Regarding your statement "All those engineers choosing to pursue other opportunities", we need to realize that tech in general has been very susceptible to the vagaries of government actions. Now the employment problems are due to things like globalization and H1B programs. Some 50 years ago tech - meaning science and engineering - was hit hard as the US space program wound down. Permit me this retrospective:

I graduated from a quite good school with a BS in Physics in 1968. My timing was not all that great, since that was when they stopped granting draft deferments for graduate school. I joined the Air Force, but as an enlisted airman, not an officer. Following basic training, I was sent to learn to operate PCAM operations. That's Punched Card Accounting Machines. Collators. Sorters. Interpreters. Key punches. I was in a class with nine other enlistees. One had just gotten a Masters degree in something. Eight of us had a BS in one thing or another, but all what would now be called STEM fields. The least educated only had an Associate degree. We all enlisted simply to avoid being drafted into the Marines. (Not that there's anything wrong with the Marines, but all of us proclaimed an allergy to energetic lead projectiles and acted accordingly. Going to Canada, as many did, pretty much ensured never getting a job in STEM fields later in life.) So thanks to government action (fighting in VietNam, in this case) a significant portion of educated Americans found themselves diverted from chosen career paths. (In my case, it worked out fine. I learned to program, etc., and spent a total of over 40 years in what is now called IT. I think it was called EDP when I started the trek. Somewhere along the line it became (where I worked) Management Information Systems. MIS. And finally the department became simply Information Technology. I hung an older sign next to the one saying Information Technology. Somehow MIS-Information Technology seemed appropriate.)

Then I got to my first duty assignment. It was about five months after the first moon landing, and the aerospace industry was facing cuts in government aerospace spending. I picked up a copy of an engineering journal in the base library and found an article about job cuts. There was a cartoon with two janitors, buckets at their feet and mops in their hands, standing before a blackboard filled with equations. Once was saying to the other, pointing to one section, "you can see where he made his mistake right here...". It represented two engineers who had been reduced to menial labor after losing their jobs.

So while I resent all the H1Bs coming into the US - I worked with several for the last four years of my IT career, and was not at all impressed - and despise the politicians who allow it, I know that it is not the first time American STEM grads have been put out of jobs en masse. In some ways that old saying applies: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

If you made it this far, thanks for your patience.


adr

Just like Amazon, HP will supposedly make billions in profit analyzing things in the cloud that nobody looks at and has no use to the real economy, but it makes good fodder for Power Point presentations.

I am amazed how much daily productivity goes into creating fancy charts for meetings that are meaningless to the actual business of the company.

IT'S ALL BULLSHIT!!!!!

I designed more products in one year for the small company I work for than a $15 billion corporation did throughout their entire design department employing hundreds of people. That is because 90% of their workday is spent preparing crap for meetings and they never really get anything meaningful done.

It took me one week to design a product and send it out for production branded for the company I work for, but it took six months to get the same type of product passed through the multi billion dollar corporation we license for. Because it had to pass through layer after layer of bullshit and through every level of management before it could be signed off. Then a month later somebody would change their mind in middle management and the product would need to be changed and go through the cycle all over again.

Their own bag department made six bags last year, I designed 16. Funny how I out produce a department of six people whose only job is to make bags, yet I only get paid the salary of one.

Maybe I'm just an imbecile for working hard.

Bear

You also have to add all the wasted time of employees having to sit through those presentations and the even more wasted time on Ashley Madison

cynicalskeptic

'Computers' cost as much - if not more time than they save, at least in corporate settings. Used to be you'd work up 3 budget projections - expected, worst case and best case, you'd have a meeting, hash it out and decide in a week. Now you have endless alternatives, endless 'tweaking' and changes and decisions take forever, with outrageous amounts of time spent on endless 'analysis' and presentations.

EVERY VP now has an 'Administrative Assistant' whose primary job is to develop powerpoint presentations for the endless meetings that take up time - without any decisions ever being made.

Computers stop people from thinking. In ages past when you used a slide rule you had to know the order of magnitude of the end result. Now people make a mistake and come up with a ridiculous number and take it at face value because 'the computer' produced it.

Any exec worht anythign knew what a given line in their department or the total should be +or a small amount. I can't count the number of times budgets and analyses were WRONG because someone left off a few lines on a spreadsheet total.

Yes computer modeling for advanced tech and engineering is a help, CAD/CAM is great and many other applications in the tech/scientific world are a great help but letting computers loose in corporate and finance has produced endless waste AND - worsde - thigns like HFT (e.g. 'better' more effective ways to manipulate and cheat markets.


khnum

A recent lay off here turned out to be quite embarrassing for Parmalat there was nobody left that knew how to properly run the place they had to rehire many ex employees as consultants-at a costly premium

Anopheles

Consultants don't come at that much of a premium becaue the company doesn't have to pay benefits, vacation, sick days, or payroll taxes, etc. Plus it's really easy and cheap to get rid of consultants.

arrowrod

Obviously, you haven't worked as a consultant. You get paid by the hour.

To clean up a mess. 100 hours a week are not uncommon. (What?, is it possible to work 100 hours a week? Yes, it is, but only for about 3 months.)

RaceToTheBottom

HP Executives are trying hard to bring the company back to its roots:

The ability to fit into one garage...

PrimalScream

ALL THAT Meg Whitman needs to do ...

is to FIRE EVERYBODY !!

Then have all the products made in China, process all the sales orders in Hong Kong, and sub-contract the accounting and tax paperwork to India. Then HP can use all the profits for stock buybacks, except of course for Meg's salary ... which will keep rising astronomically!

Herdee

That's where education gets you in America.The Government sold out America's manufacturing base to Communist China who holds the debt of the USA.Who would ever guess that right-wing neo-cons(neo-nazis) running the government would sell out to communists just to get the money for war? Very weird.

Really20

"Communist"? The Chinese government, like that of the US, never believed in worker ownership of businesses and never believed that the commerical banking system (whether owned by the state, or private corporations which act like a state) should not control money. Both countries believe in centralization of power among a few shareholders, who take the fruits of working people's labor while contributing nothing of value themselves (money being but a token that represents a claim on real capital, not capital itself.)

Management and investors ought to be separate from each other; management should be chosen by workers by universal equal vote, while a complementary investor board should be chosen by investors much as corporate boards are now. Both of these boards should be legally independent but bound organizations; the management board should run the business while the investor board should negotiate with the management board on the terms of equity issuance. No more buybacks, no more layoffs or early retirements, unless workers as a whole see a need for it to maintain the company.

The purpose of investors is to serve the real economy, not the other way round; and in turn, the purpose of the real economy is to serve humanity, not the other way around. Humans should stop being slaves to perpetual growth.

Really20

HP is laying off 80,000 workers or almost a third of its workforce, converting its long-term human capital into short-term gains for rich shareholders at an alarming rate. The reason that product quality has declined is due to the planned obsolescence that spurs needless consumerism, which is necessary to prop up our debt-backed monetary system and the capitalist-owned economy that sits on top of it.

NoWayJose

HP - that company that sells computers and printers made in China and ink cartridges made in Thailand?

Dominus Ludificatio

Another company going down the drain because their focus is short term returns with crappy products.They will also bring down any company they buy as well.

Barnaby

HP is microcosm of what Carly will do to the US: carve it like a pumpkin and leave the shell out to bake in the sun for a few weeks. But she'll make sure and poison the seeds too! Don't want anything growing out of that pesky Palm division...

Dre4dwolf

The world is heading for massive deflation.

Computers have hit the 14 nano-meter lithography zone, the cost to go from 14nm to say 5nm is very high, and the net benefit to computing power is very low, but lets say we go from 14nm to 5nm over the next 4 years.

Going from 5nm to 1nm is not going to net a large boost in computing power and the cost to shrink things down and re-tool will be very high for such an insignificant gain in performance.

What does that mean

1) Computers (atleast non-quantum ones) have hit the point where about 80-90% of the potential for the current science has been tap'd

2) This means that the consumer is not going to be put in the position where they will have to upgrade to faster systems for atleast another 7-8 years.... (because the new computer wont be that much faster than their existing one).

3) If no one is upgrading the only IT sectors of the economy that stand to make any money are software companies (Microsoft, Apple, and other small software developers), most software has not caught up with hardware yet.

4) We are obviously heading for massive deflation, consumer spending levels as a % are probably around where they were in the late 70s - mid 80s, this is a very deflationary environment that is being compounded by a high debt burden (most of everyones income is going to service their debts), that signals monetary tightening is going on... people simply don't have enough discretionary income to spend on new toys.

All that to me screams SELL consumer electronics stocks because profits are GOING TO DECLINE , SALES ARE GOING TO DECLINE.

There is no way , no amount of buy backs will float the stocks of corporations like HP/Dell/IBM etc... it is inevitable that these stocks will be worth 30% less over the next 5 - 8 years

But what do I know? maybe I am missing something.

In anycase a lot of pressure is being put on HP to do all it can at any cost to boost the stock valuations, because so much of its stock is institution owned, they will strip the wallpaper off the walls and sell it to a recycling plant if it would give them more money to boost stock valuations.

That to me signals that most of the people pressuring the board of HP to boost the stock, want them to gut the company as much as they can to boost it some trivial % points so that the majority of shares can be dumped onto muppets.

To me it pretty much also signals something is terribly wrong at HP and no one is talking about it.

PoasterToaster

Other than die shrinks there really hasn't been a lot going on in the CPU world since Intel abandoned its Netburst architecture and went back to its (Israeli created) Pentium 3 style pipeline. After that they gave up on increasing speed and resorted to selling more cores. Now that wall has been hit, they have been selling "green" and "efficient" nonsense in place of increasing power.

x86 just needs to go, but a lot is invested in it not the least of which is that 1-2 punch of forced, contrived obsolesence carried out in a joint operation with Microsoft. 15 years ago you could watch videos with no problem on your old machine using Windows XP. Fast forward to now and their chief bragging point is still "multitasking" and the ability to process datastreams like video. It's a joke.

The future is not in the current CPU paradigm of instructions per second; it will be in terms of variables per second. It will be more along the lines of what GPU manufacturers are creating with their thousands of "engines" or "processing units" per chip, rather than the 4, 6 or 12 core monsters that Intel is pushing. They have nearly given up on their roadmap to push out to 128 cores as it is. x86 just doesn't work with all that.

Dojidog

Another classic "Let’s rape all we can and bail with my golden parachute" corporate leaders setting themselves up. Pile on the string of non-IT CEOs that have been leading the company to ruin. To them it is nothing more than a contest of being even worse than their predecessor. Just look at the billions each has lost before their exit. Compaq, a cluster. Palm Pilot, a dead product they paid millions for and then buried. And many others.

Think the split is going to help? Think again. Rather than taking the opportunity to fix their problems, they have just duplicated and perpetuated them into two separate entities.

HP is a company that is mired in a morass of unmanageable business processes and patchwork of antiquated applications all interconnected to the point they are petrified to try and uncouple them.

Just look at their stock price since January. The insiders know. Want to fix HP? All it would take is a savvy IT based leader with a boatload of common sense. What makes money at HP? Their printers and ink. Not thinking they can provide enterprise solutions to others when they can’t even get their own house in order.

I Write Code

Let's not beat around the bush, they're outsourcing, firing Americans and hiring cheap labor elsewhere:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-15/hewlett-packard-to-cut-up-to-30-000-more-jobs-in-restructuring

It’s also shifting employees to low-cost areas, and hopes to have 60 percent of its workers located in cheaper countries by 2018, Nefkens said.

yogibear

Carly Fiorina: (LOL, leading a tech company with a degree in medieval history and philosophy)

While at ATT she was groomed from the Affirmative Action plan.

Alma Mater: Stanford University (B.A. in medieval history and philosophy);
University of Maryland (MBA); Massachusetts Institute of Technology

==================================================================

Patricia Russo: (Lucent) (Dedree in Political Science).
Another lady elevated through the AA plan
Russo got her bachelor's degree from Georgetown University in political science and history in 1973.
She finished the advanced management program at Harvard Business School in 1989

Both ladies steered their corporations to failure.

Clowns on Acid

It is very straightforward. Replace 45,000 US workers with 100,000 offshore workers and you still save millions of USD ! Use the "savings" to buy back stock, then borrow more $$ at ZIRP to buy more stock back.

You guys don't know nuthin'.

homiegot

HP: one of the worst places you could work. Souless.

Pancho de Villa

Ladies and Gentlemen! Integrity has left the Building!

space junk

I worked there for a while and it was total garbage. There are still some great folks around, but they are getting paid less and less, and having to work longer hours for less pay while reporting to God knows who, often a foreigner with crappy engrish skills, yes likely another 'diversity hire'. People with DEEP knowledge, decades and decades, have either gotten unfairly fired or demoted, made to quit, or if they are lucky, taken some early retirement and GTFO (along with their expertise - whoopsie! who knew? unintended consequences are a bitch aren't they? )....

If you look on a site like LinkedIN, it will always say 'We're hiring!'. YES, HP is hiring.....but not YOU, they want Ganesh Balasubramaniamawapbapalooboopawapbamboomtuttifrutti, so that they can work him as modern day slave labor for ultra cheap. We can thank idiot 'leaders' like Meg Pasty Faced Whitman and Bill 'Forced Vaccinations' Gates for lobbying Congress for decades, against the rights of American workers.

Remember that Meg 'Pasty Faced' Whitman is the person who came up with the idea of a 'lights out' datacenter....that's right, it's the concept of putting all of your computers in a building, in racks, in the dark, and maybe hiring an intern to come in once a month and keep them going. This is what she actually believed. Along with her other statement to the HP workforce which says basically that the future of HP is one of total automation.....TRANSLATION: If you are a smart admin, engineer, project manager, architect, sw tester, etc.....we (HP management) think you are an IDIOT and can be replaced by a robot, a foreigner, or any other cheap worker.

Race to the bottom is like they say a space ship approaching a black hole......after a while the laws of physics and common sense, just don't apply anymore.

InnVestuhrr

An era of leadership in computer technology has died, and there is no grave marker, not even a funeral ceremony or eulogy ... Hewlett-Packard, COMPAQ, Digital Equipment Corp, UNIVAC, Sperry-Rand, Data General, Tektronix, ZILOG, Advanced Micro Devices, Sun Microsystems, etc, etc, etc. So much change in so short a time, leaves your mind dizzy.

[Aug 22, 2015]How Complex Systems Fail

"...This is really a profound observation – things rarely fail in an out-the-blue, unimaginable, catastrophic way. Very often just such as in the MIT article the fault or faults in the system are tolerated. But if they get incrementally worse, then the ad-hoc fixes become the risk (i.e. the real risk isn't the original fault condition, but the application of the fixes)."
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"...It is that cumulative concentration of wealth and power over time which is ultimately destabilizing, producing accepted social norms and customs that lead to fragility in the face of both expected and unexpected shocks. This fragility comes from all sorts of specific consequences of that inequality, from secrecy to group think to brain drain to two-tiered justice to ignoring incompetence and negligence to protecting incumbents necessary to maintain such an unnatural order."
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"...The problem arises with any societal order over time in that corrosive elements in the form of corruptive behavior (not principle based) by decision makers are institutionalized. I may not like Trump as a person but the fact that he seems to unravel and shake the present arrangement and serves as an indicator that the people begin to realize what game is being played, makes me like him in that specific function."
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".... . .but it is also true that the incentives of the capitalist system ensure that there will be more and worse accidents than necessary, as the agents involved in maintaining the system pursue their own personal interests which often conflict with the interests of system stability and safety."
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"...Globalization factors in maximizing the impact of Murphy's Law..."
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"...Operators or engineers controlling or modifying the system are providing feedback. Feedback can push the system past "safe" limits. Once past safe limits, the system can fail catastrophically Such failure happen very quickly, and are always "a surprise"."
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"...Where one can only say: "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do""
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"...The Iron Law of Institutions (agents act in ways that benefit themselves in the context of the institution [system], regardless of the effect those actions have on the larger system) would seem to mitigate against any attempts to correct our many, quickly failing complex social and technological systems."
Aug 21, 2015 | naked capitalism
August 21, 2015 by Yves Smith

Lambert found a short article by Richard Cook that I've embedded at the end of the post. I strongly urge you to read it in full. It discusses how complex systems are prone to catastrophic failure, how that possibility is held at bay through a combination of redundancies and ongoing vigilance, but how, due to the impractical cost of keeping all possible points of failure fully (and even identifying them all) protected, complex systems "always run in degraded mode". Think of the human body. No one is in perfect health. At a minimum, people are growing cancers all the time, virtually all of which recede for reasons not well understood.

The article contends that failures therefore are not the result of single causes. As Clive points out:

This is really a profound observation – things rarely fail in an out-the-blue, unimaginable, catastrophic way. Very often just such as in the MIT article the fault or faults in the system are tolerated. But if they get incrementally worse, then the ad-hoc fixes become the risk (i.e. the real risk isn't the original fault condition, but the application of the fixes). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windscale_fire#Wigner_energy documents how a problem of core instability was a snag, but the disaster was caused by what was done to try to fix it. The plant operators kept applying the fix in ever more extreme does until the bloody thing blew up.

But I wonder about the validity of one of the hidden assumptions of this article. There is a lack of agency in terms of who is responsible for the care and feeding of complex systems (the article eventually identifies "practitioners" but even then, that's comfortably vague). The assumption is that the parties who have influence and responsibility want to preserve the system, and have incentives to do at least an adequate job of that.

There are reasons to doubt that now. Economics has promoted ways of looking at commercial entities that encourage "practitioners" to compromise on safety measures. Mainstream economics has as a core belief that economies have a propensity to equilibrium, and that equilibrium is at full employment. That assumption has served as a wide-spread justification for encouraging businesses and governments to curtail or end pro-stability measures like regulation as unnecessary costs.

To put it more simply, the drift of both economic and business thinking has been to optimize activity for efficiency. But highly efficient systems are fragile. Formula One cars are optimized for speed and can only run one race.

Highly efficient systems also are more likely to suffer from what Richard Bookstaber called "tight coupling." A tightly coupled system in one in which events occur in a sequence that cannot be interrupted. A way to re-characterize a tightly coupled system is a complex system that has been in part reoptimized for efficiency, maybe by accident, maybe at a local level. That strips out some of the redundancies that serve as safeties to prevent positive feedback loops from having things spin out of control.

To use Bookstaber's nomenclature, as opposed to this paper's, in a tightly coupled system, measures to reduce risk directly make things worse. You need to reduce the tight coupling first.

A second way that the economic thinking has arguably increased the propensity of complex systems of all sorts to fail is by encouraging people to see themselves as atomized agents operating in markets. And that's not just an ideology; it's reflected in low attachment to institutions of all sorts, ranging from local communities to employers (yes, employers may insist on all sorts of extreme shows of fealty, but they are ready to throw anyone in the dust bin at a moment's notice). The reality of weak institutional attachments and the societal inculcation of selfish viewpoints means that more and more people regard complex systems as vehicles for personal advancement. And if they see those relationships as short-term or unstable, they don't have much reason to invest in helping to preserving the soundness of that entity. Hence the attitude called "IBY/YBG" ("I'll Be Gone, You'll Be Gone") appears to be becoming more widespread.

I've left comments open because I'd very much enjoy getting reader reactions to this article. Thanks!

James Levy August 21, 2015 at 6:35 am

So many ideas….
Mike Davis argues that in the case of Los Angeles, the key to understanding the city's dysfunction is in the idea of sunk capital – every major investment leads to further investments (no matter how dumb or large) to protect the value of past investments.

Tainter argues that the energy cost (defined broadly) of maintaining the dysfunction eventually overwhelms the ability of the system to generate surpluses to meet the rising needs of maintenance.

Goldsworthy has argued powerfully and persuasively that the Roman Empire in the West was done in by a combination of shrinking revenue base and the subordination of all systemic needs to the needs of individual emperors to stay in power and therefore stay alive. Their answer was endlessly subdividing power and authority below them and using massive bribes to the bureaucrats and the military to try to keep them loyal.

In each case, some elite individual or grouping sees throwing good money after bad as necessary to keeping their power and their positions. Our current sclerotic system seems to fit this description nicely.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 8:15 am

I immediately thought of Tainter's "The Complex of Complex Cultures" when I starting reading this. One point that Tainter made is that collapse is not all bad. He presents evidence that the average well being of people in Italy was probably higher in the sixth century than in the fifth century as the Western Roman Empire died. Somewhat like death being necessary for biological evolution collapse may be the only solution to the problem of excessive complexity.

xxx August 22, 2015 at 4:39 am

Tainter insists culture has nothing to do with collapse, and therefore refuses to consider it, but he then acknowledges that the elites in some societies were able to pull them out of a collapse trajectory. And from the inside, it sure as hell looks like culture, as in a big decay in what is considered to be acceptable conduct by our leaders, and what interests they should be serving (historically, at least the appearance of the greater good, now unabashedly their own ends) sure looks to be playing a big, and arguably the defining role, in the rapid rise of open corruption and related social and political dysfunction.

Praedor August 21, 2015 at 9:19 am

That also sounds like the EU and even Greece's extreme actions to stay in the EU.

jgordon August 21, 2015 at 7:44 am

Then I'll add my two cents: you've left out that when systems scale linearly, the amount of complexity, and points for failure, and therefore instability, that they contain scale exponentially–that is according to the analysis of James Rickards, and supported by the work of people like Joseph Tainter and Jared Diamond.

Ever complex problem that arises in a complex system is fixed with an even more complex "solution" which requires ever more energy to maintain, and eventually the inevitably growing complexity of the system causes the complex system to collapse in on itself. This process requires no malignant agency by humans, only time.

nowhere August 21, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Sounds a lot like JMG and catabolic collapse.

jgordon August 21, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Well, he got his stuff from somewhere too.

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 1:26 pm

There are no linear systems. They are all non-linear because the include a random, non-linear element – people.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Long before there were people the Earth's eco-system was highly complex and highly unstable.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 4:37 pm

The presumption that fixes increase complexity may be incorrect.

Fixes should include awareness of complexity.

That was the beauty of Freedom Club by Kaczinsky, T.

JTMcPhee August 21, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Maybe call the larger entity "meta-stable?" Astro and geo inputs seem to have been big perturbers. Lots of genera were around a very long time before naked apes set off on their romp. But then folks, even these hot, increasingly dry days, brag on their ability to anticipate, and profit from, and even cause, with enough leverage, de- stability. Good thing the macrocosms of our frail, violent, kindly, destructive bodies are blessed with the mechanisms of homeostasis.

Too bad our "higher" functions are not similarly gifted… But that's what we get to chat about, here and in similar meta-spaces…

MikeW August 21, 2015 at 7:52 am

Agree, positive density of ideas, thoughts and implications.

I wonder if the reason that humans don't appreciate the failure of complex systems is that (a) complex systems are constantly trying to correct, or cure as in your cancer example, themselves all the time until they can't at which point they collapse, (b) that things, like cancer leading to death, are not commonly viewed as a complex system failure when in fact that is what it is. Thus, while on a certain scale we do experience complex system failure on one level on a daily basis because we don't interpret it as such, and given that we are hardwired for pattern recognition, we don't address complex systems in the right ways.

This, to my mind, has to be extended to the environment and the likely disaster we are currently trying to instigate. While the system is collapsing at one level, massive species extinctions, while we have experienced record temperatures, while the experts keep warning us, etc., most people to date have experienced climate change as an inconvenience — not the early stages of systemwide failure.

Civilization collapses have been regular, albeit spaced out, occurrences. We seem to think we are immune to them happening again. Yet, it isn't hard to list the near catastrophic system failures that have occurred or are currently occurring (famines, financial markets, genocides, etc.).

And, in most systems that relate to humans with an emphasis on short term gain how does one address system failures?

Brooklin Bridge August 21, 2015 at 9:21 am

Good-For-Me-Who-Effing-Cares-If-It's-Bad-For-You-And-Everyone-Else

would be a GREAT category heading though it's perhaps a little close to "Imperial Collapse"

Whine Country August 21, 2015 at 9:52 am

To paraphrase President Bill Clinton, who I would argue was one of the major inputs that caused the catastrophic failure of our banking system (through the repeal of Glass-Steagall), it all depends on what the definition of WE is.

jrs August 21, 2015 at 10:12 pm

And all that just a 21st century version of "apres moi le deluge", which sounds very likely to be the case.

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 3:55 pm

JT – just go to the Archdruid site. They link it regularly, I suppose for this purpose.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 8:42 am

Civilizational collapse is extremely common in history when one takes a long term view. I'm not sure though that I would describe it as having that much "regularity" and while internal factors are no doubt often important external factors like the Mongol Onslaught are also important. It's usually very hard to know exactly what happened since historical documentation tends to disappear in periods of collapse. In the case of Mycenae the archaeological evidence indicates a near total population decline of 99% in less than a hundred years together with an enormous cultural decline but we don't know what caused it.

As for long term considerations the further one tries to project into the future the more uncertain such projections become so that long term planning far into the future is not likely to be evolutionarily stable. Because much more information is available about present conditions than future conditions organisms are probably selected much more to optimize for the short term rather than for the largely unpredicatble long term.

Gio Bruno August 21, 2015 at 1:51 pm

…it's not in question. Evolution is about responding to the immediate environment. Producing survivable offspring (which requires finding a niche). If the environment changes (Climate?) faster than the production of survivable offspring then extinction (for that specie) ensues.

Now, Homo sapien is supposedly "different" in some respects, but I don't think so.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 2:14 pm

I agree. There's nothing uniquely special about our species. Of course species can often respond to gradual change by migration. The really dangerous things are global catastrophes such as the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous or whatever happened at the Permian-Triassic boundary (gamma ray burst maybe?).

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Interesting that you sit there and type on a world-spanning network batting around ideas from five thousand years ago, or yesterday, and then use your fingers to type that the human species isn't special.

Do you really think humans are unable to think about the future, like a bear hibernating, or perhaps the human mind, and its offspring, human culture and history, can't see ahead?

Why is "Learn the past, or repeat it!" such a popular saying, then?

diptherio August 21, 2015 at 9:24 am

The Iron Law of Institutions (agents act in ways that benefit themselves in the context of the institution [system], regardless of the effect those actions have on the larger system) would seem to mitigate against any attempts to correct our many, quickly failing complex social and technological systems.

jgordon August 21, 2015 at 10:40 am

This would tend to imply that attempts to organize large scale social structures is temporary at best, and largely futile. I agree. The real key is to embrace and ride the wave as it crests and callapses so its possible to manage the fall–not to try to stand against so you get knocked down and drowned. Focus your efforts on something useful instead of wasting them on a hopeless, and worthless, cause.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Civilization is obviously highly unstabe. However it should remembered that even Neolithic cultures are almost all less than 10,000 years old. So there has been little time for evolutionary adaptations to living in complex cultures (although there is evidence that the last 10,000 years has seen very rapid genetic changes in human populations). If civilization can continue indefinitely which of course is not very clear then it would be expected that evolutionary selection would produce humans much better adapted to living in complex cultures so they might become more stable in the distant future. At present mean time to collapse is probably a few hundred years.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 4:50 pm

But perhaps you're not contemplating that too much individual freedom can destabilize society. Is that a part of your vast psychohistorical equation?

washunate August 21, 2015 at 10:34 am

Well said, but something I find intriguing is that the author isn't talking so much about civilizational collapse. The focus is more on various subsystems of civilization (transportation, energy, healthcare, etc.).

These individual components are not inherently particularly dangerous (at a systemic/civilizational level). They have been made that way by purposeful public policy choices, from allowing enormous compensation packages in healthcare to dismantling our passenger rail system to subsidizing fossil fuel energy over wind and solar to creating tax incentives that distort community development. These things are not done for efficiency. They are done to promote inequality, to allow connected insiders and technocratic gatekeepers to expropriate the productive wealth of society. Complexity isn't a byproduct; it is the mechanism of the looting. If MDs in hospital management made similar wages as home health aides, then how would they get rich off the labor of others? And if they couldn't get rich, what would be the point of managing the hospital in the first place? They're not actually trying to provide quality, affordable healthcare to all Americans.

It is that cumulative concentration of wealth and power over time which is ultimately destabilizing, producing accepted social norms and customs that lead to fragility in the face of both expected and unexpected shocks. This fragility comes from all sorts of specific consequences of that inequality, from secrecy to group think to brain drain to two-tiered justice to ignoring incompetence and negligence to protecting incumbents necessary to maintain such an unnatural order.

Linus Huber August 21, 2015 at 7:05 pm

I tend to agree with your point of view.

The problem arises with any societal order over time in that corrosive elements in the form of corruptive behavior (not principle based) by decision makers are institutionalized. I may not like Trump as a person but the fact that he seems to unravel and shake the present arrangement and serves as an indicator that the people begin to realize what game is being played, makes me like him in that specific function. There may be some truth in Thomas Jefferson's quote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." Those presently benefiting greatly from the present arrangement are fighting with all means to retain their position, whether successfully or not, we will see.

animalogic August 22, 2015 at 2:18 am

Well said, washunate. I think an argument could be run that outside economic areas, the has been a drive to de-complexity.
Non economic institutions, bodies which exist for non market/profit reasons are or have been either hollowed out, or co-opted to market purposes. Charities as vast engines of self enrichment for a chain of insiders. Community groups, defunded, or shriveled to an appendix by "market forces". The list goes on…and on.
Reducing the "not-market" to the status of sliced-white-bread makes us all the more dependant on the machinated complexities of "the market"….god help us….

Jay Jay August 21, 2015 at 8:00 am

Joseph Tainter's thesis, set out in "The Collapse of Complex Societies" is simple: as a civilization ages its use of energy becomes less efficient and more costly, until the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in, generates its own momentum and the system grinds to a halt. Perhaps this article describes a late stage of that process. However, it is worth noting that, for the societies Tainter studied, the process was ineluctable. Not so for our society: we have the ability -- and the opportunity -- to switch energy sources.

Moneta August 21, 2015 at 5:48 pm

In my grandmother's youth, they did not burn wood for nothing. Splitting wood was hard work that required calories.

Today, we heat up our patios at night with gas heaters… The amount of economic activity based on burning energy not related to survival is astounding.

A huge percentage of our GDP is based on economies of scale and economic efficiencies but are completely disconnected from environmental efficiencies.

This total loss is control between nature and our lifestyles will be our waterloo .

TG August 21, 2015 at 8:20 am

An interesting article as usual, but here is another take.

Indeed, sometimes complex systems can collapse under the weight of their own complexity (Think: credit default swaps). But sometimes there is a single simple thing that is crushing the system, and the complexity is a desperate attempt to patch things up that is eventually destroyed by brute force.

Consider a forced population explosion: the people are multiplied exponentially. This reduces per capita physical resources, tends to reduce per-capita capital, and limits the amount of time available to adapt: a rapidly growing population puts an economy on a treadmill that gets faster and faster and steeper and steeper until it takes superhuman effort just to maintain the status quo. There is a reason why, for societies without an open frontier, essentially no nation has ever become prosperous with out first moderating the fertility rate.

However, you can adapt. New technologies can be developed. New regulations written to coordinate an ever more complex system. Instead of just pumping water from a reservoir, you need networks of desalinization plants – with their own vast networks of power plants and maintenance supply chains – and recycling plans, and monitors and laws governing water use, and more efficient appliances, etc.etc.

As an extreme, consider how much effort and complexity it takes to keep a single person alive in the space station.

That's why in California cars need to be emissions tested, but in Alabama they don't – and the air is cleaner in Alabama. More people needs more controls and more exotic technology and more rules.

Eventually the whole thing starts to fall apart. But to blame complexity itself, is possibly missing the point.

Steve H. August 21, 2015 at 8:30 am

No system is ever 'the'.

Jim Haygood August 21, 2015 at 11:28 am

Two words, Steve: Soviet Union.

It's gone now. But we're rebuilding it, bigger and better.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 4:54 pm

If, of course, bigger is better.

Facts not in evidence.

Ulysses August 21, 2015 at 8:40 am

"But because system operations are never trouble free, human practitioner adaptations to changing conditions actually create safety from moment to moment. These adaptations often amount to just the selection of a well-rehearsed routine from a store of available responses; sometimes, however, the adaptations are novel combinations or de novo creations of new approaches."

This may just be a rationalization, on my part, for having devoted so much time to historical studies– but it seems to me that historians help civilizations prevent collapse, by preserving for them the largest possible "store of available responses."

aronj August 21, 2015 at 8:41 am

Yves,

Thanks for posting this very interesting piece! As you know, I am a fan Bookstaber's concept of tight coupling. Interestingly, Bookstaber (2007) does not reference Cook's significant work on complex systems.

Before reading this article, I considered the most preventable accidents involve a sequence of events uninterrupted by human intelligence. This needs to be modified by Cook's points 8, 9. 10 and 12.

In using the aircraft landing in the New York river as an example of interrupting a sequence of events, the inevitable accident occurred but no lives were lost. Thus the human intervention was made possible by the unknowable probability of coupling the cause with a possible alternative landing site. A number of aircraft accidents involve failed attempts to find a possible landing site, even though Cook's point #12 was in play.

Thanks for the post!!!!!

Brooklin Bridge August 21, 2015 at 8:47 am

A possible issue with or a misunderstanding of #7. Catastrophic failure can be made up of small failures that tend to follow a critical path or multiple critical paths. While a single point of origin for catastrophic failure may rarely if ever occur in a complex system, it is possible and likely in such a system to have collections of small failures that occur or tend to occur in specific sequences of order. Population explosion (as TG points out) would be a good example of a failure in a complex social system that is part of a critical path to catastrophic failure.

Such sequences, characterized by orders of precedence, are more likely in tightly coupled systems (which as Yves points out can be any system pushed to the max). The point is, they can be identified and isolated at least in situations where a complex system is not being misused or pushed to it's limits or created due to human corruption where such sequences of likelihood may be viewed or baked into the system (such as by propaganda->ideology) as features and not bugs.

Spring Texan August 21, 2015 at 8:53 am

I agree completely that maximum efficiency comes with horrible costs. When hospitals are staffed so that people are normally busy every minute, patients routinely suffer more as often no one has time to treat them like a human being, and when things deviate from the routine, people have injuries and deaths. Same is true in other contexts.

washunate August 21, 2015 at 10:40 am

Agreed, but that's not caused by efficiency. That's caused by inequality. Healthcare has huge dispariaties in wages and working conditions. The point of keeping things tightly staffed is to allow big bucks for the top doctors and administrators.

susan the other August 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Yes. When one efficiency conflicts with and destroys another efficiency. Eq. Your mother juggled a job and a family and ran around in turbo mode but she dropped everything when her kids were in trouble. That is an example of an efficiency that can juggle contradictions and still not fail.

JTMcPhee August 21, 2015 at 11:38 am

Might this nurse observe that in hospitals, there isn't and can't be a "routine" to deviate from, no matter how fondly "managers" wish to try to make it and how happy they may be to take advantage of the decent, empathic impulses of many nurses and/or the need to work to eat of those that are just doing a job. Hence the kindly (sic) practice of "calling nurses off" or sending them home if "the census is down," which always runs aground against a sudden influx of billable bodies or medical crises that the residual staff is expected to just somehow cope with caring for or at least processing, until the idiot frictions in the staffing machinery add a few more person-hours of labor to the mix. The larger the institution, the greater the magnitude and impact (pain, and dead or sicker patients and staff too) of the "excursions from the norm."

It's all about the ruling decisions on what are deemed (as valued by where the money goes) appropriate outcomes of the micro-political economy… In the absence of an organizing principle that values decency and stability and sustainability rather than upward wealth transfer.

Will August 21, 2015 at 8:54 am

I'll join the choir recommending Tainter as a critical source for anybody interested in this stuff.

IBG/YBG is a new concept for me, with at least one famous antecedent. "Après moi, le déluge."

diptherio August 21, 2015 at 9:17 am

The author presents the best-case scenario for complex systems: one in which the practitioners involved are actually concerned with maintaining system integrity. However, as Yves points out, that is far from being case in many of our most complex systems.

For instance, the Silvertip pipeline spill near Billings, MT a few years ago may indeed have been a case of multiple causes leading to unforeseen/unforeseeable failure of an oil pipeline as it crossed the Yellowstone river. However, the failure was made immeasurably worse due to the fact that Exxon had failed to supply that pump-station with a safety manual, so when the alarms started going off the guy in the station had to call around to a bunch of people to figure out what was going on. So while it's possible that the failure would have occurred no matter what, the failure of the management to implement even the most basic of safety procedures made the failure much worse than it otherwise would have been.

And this is a point that the oil company apologists are all too keen to obscure. The argument gets trotted out with some regularity that because these oil/gas transmission systems are so complex, some accidents and mishaps are bound to occur. This is true–but it is also true that the incentives of the capitalist system ensure that there will be more and worse accidents than necessary, as the agents involved in maintaining the system pursue their own personal interests which often conflict with the interests of system stability and safety.

Complex systems have their own built-in instabilities, as the author points out; but we've added a system of un-accountability and irresponsibility on top of our complex systems which ensures that failures will occur more often and with greater fall-out than the best-case scenario imagined by the author.

Brooklin Bridge August 21, 2015 at 9:42 am

As Yves pointed out, there is a lack of agency in the article. A corrupt society will tend to generate corrupt systems just as it tends to generate corrupt technology and corrupt ideology. For instance, we get lots of little cars driving themselves about, profitably to the ideology of consumption, but also with an invisible thumb of control, rather than a useful system of public transportation. We get "abstenence only" population explosion because "groath" rather than any rational assessment of obvious future catastrophe.

washunate August 21, 2015 at 10:06 am

Right on. The primary issue of our time is a failure of management. Complexity is an excuse more often than an explanatory variable.

abynormal August 21, 2015 at 3:28 pm

abynormal
August 21, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Am I the only hearing 9″Nails, March of the Pigs

Aug. 21, 2015 1:54 a.m. ET

A Carlyle Group LP hedge fund that anticipated a sudden currency-policy shift in China gained roughly $100 million in two days last week, a sign of how some bearish bets on the world's second-largest economy are starting to pay off.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/hedge-fund-gains-100-million-in-two-days-on-bearish-china-bet-1440136499?mod=e2tw

oink oink is the sound of system fail

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm

A very important principle:

All systems have a failure rate, including people. We don't get to live in a world where we don't need to lock our doors and banks don't need vaults. (If you find it, be sure to radio back.)

The article is about how we deal with that failure rate. Pointing out that there are failures misses the point.

cnchal August 21, 2015 at 5:05 pm

. . .but it is also true that the incentives of the capitalist system ensure that there will be more and worse accidents than necessary, as the agents involved in maintaining the system pursue their own personal interests which often conflict with the interests of system stability and safety.

How true. A Chinese city exploded. Talk about a black swan. I wonder what the next disaster will be?

hemeantwell August 21, 2015 at 9:32 am

After a skimmy read of the post and reading James' lead-off comment re emperors (Brooklin Bridge comment re misuse is somewhat resonant) it seems to me that a distinguishing feature of systems is not being addressed and therefore being treated as though it's irrelevant.

What about the mandate for a system to have an overarching, empowered regulatory agent, one that could presumably learn from the reflections contained in this post? In much of what is posted here at NC writers give due emphasis to the absence/failure of a range of regulatory functions relevant to this stage of capitalism. These run from SEC corruption to the uncontrolled movement of massive amount of questionably valuable value in off the books transactions between banks, hedge funds etc. This system intentionally has a deliberately weakened control/monitoring function, ideologically rationalized as freedom but practically justified as maximizing accumulation possibilities for the powerful. It is self-lobotomizing, a condition exacerbated by national economic territories (to some degree). I'm not going to now jump up with 3 cheers for socialism as capable of resolving problems posed by capitalism. But, to stay closer to the level of abstraction of the article, doesn't the distinction between distributed opacity + unregulated concentrations of power vs. transparency + some kind of central governing authority matter? Maybe my Enlightenment hubris is riding high after the morning coffee, but this is a kind of self-awareness that assumes its range is limited, even as it posits that limit. Hegel was all over this, which isn't to say he resolved the conundrum, but it's not even identified here.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Think of Trump as the pimple finally coming to a head: he's making the greed so obvious, and pissing off so many people that some useful regulation might occur.

Another thought about world social collapse: if such a thing is likely, (and I'm sure the PTB know if it is, judging from the reports from the Pentagon about how Global Warming being a national security concern) wouldn't it be a good idea to have a huge ability to overpower the rest of the world?

We might be the only nation that survives as a nation, and we might actually have an Empire of the World, previously unattainable. Maybe SkyNet is really USANet. It wouldn't require any real change in the national majority of creepy grabby people.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 9:43 am

Government bureaucrats and politicians pursue their own interests just as businessmen do. Pollution was much worst in the non-capitalist Soviet Union, East Germany and Eastern Europe than it was in the Capitalist West. Chernobyl happened under socialism not capitalism. The present system in China, although not exactly "socialism", certainly involves a massively powerful govenment but a glance at the current news shows that massive governmental power does not necessarily prevent accidents. The agency problem is not unique to or worse in capitalism than in other systems.

Holly August 21, 2015 at 9:51 am

I'd throw in the theory of cognitive dissonance as an integral part of the failure of complex systems. (Example Tarvis and Aronon's recent book: Mistakes Were Made (But Not by me))

We are more apt to justify bad decisions, with bizarre stories, than to accept our own errors (or mistakes of people important to us). It explains (but doesn't make it easier to accept) the complete disconnect between accepted facts and fanciful justifications people use to support their ideas/organization/behavior.

craazymann August 21, 2015 at 10:03 am

I think this one suffers "Metaphysical Foo Foo Syndrome" MFFS. That means use of words to reference realities that are inherently ill-defined and often unobservable leading to untestable theories and deeply personal approaches to epistemological reasoning.

just what is a 'complex system"? A system implies a boundary — there are things part of the system and things outside the system. That's a hard concept to identify — just where the system ends and something else begins. So when 'the system' breaks down, it's hard to tell with any degree of testable objectivity whether the breakdown resulted from "the system" or from something outside the system and the rest was just "an accident that could have happened to anybody'"

maybe the idea is; '"if something breaks down at the worst possible time and in a way that fkks everything up, then it must have been a complex system". But it could also have been a simple system that ran into bad luck. Consider your toilet. Maybe you put too much toilet paper in it, and it clogged. Then it overflowed and ran out into your hallway with your shit everywhere. Then you realized you had an expensive Chinese rug on the floor. oh no! That was bad. you were gonna put tthat rug away as soon as you had a chance to admire it unrolled. Why did you do that? Big fckk up. But it wasn't a complex system. It was just one of those things.

susan the other August 21, 2015 at 12:14 pm

thanks for that, I think…

Gio Bruno August 21, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Actually, it was a system too complex for this individual. S(He) became convinced the plumbing would work as it had previously. But doo to poor maintenance, too much paper, or a stiff BM the "system" didn't work properly. There must have been opportunity to notice something anomalous, but appropriate oversight wasn't applied.

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 3:29 pm

You mean the BM was too tightly coupled?

craazyman August 21, 2015 at 4:22 pm

It coould happen to anybody after enough pizza and red wine

people weren't meant to be efficient. paper towels and duct tape can somettmes help

This ocurred to me: The entire 1960s music revolution would't have happened if anybody had to be efficient about hanging out and jamming. You really have to lay around and do nothing if you want to achieve great things. You need many opportunities to fail and learn before the genius flies. That's why tightly coupled systems are self-defeating. Because they wipe too many people out before they've had a chance to figure out the universe.

JustAnObserver August 21, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Excellent example of tight coupling: Toilet -> Floor -> Hallway -> $$$ Rug

Fix: Apply Break coupling procedure #1: Shut toilet door.
Then: Procedure #2 Jam inexpensive old towels in gap at the bottom.

As with all such measures this buys the most important thing of all – time. In this case to get the $$$Rug out of the way.

IIRC one of Bookstaber's points was that that, in the extreme, tight coupling allows problems to propagate through the system so fast and so widely that we have no chance to mitigate before they escalate to disaster.

washunate August 21, 2015 at 10:03 am

To put it more simply, the drift of both economic and business thinking has been to optimize activity for efficiency.

I think that's an interesting framework. I would say effeciency is achieving the goal in the most effective manner possible. Perhaps that's measured in energy, perhaps labor, perhaps currency units, but whatever the unit of measure, you are minimizing that input cost.

What our economics and business thinking (and most importantly, political thinking) has primarily been doing, I would say, is not optimizing for efficiency. Rather, they are changing the goal being optimized. The will to power has replaced efficiency as the actual outcome.

Unchecked theft, looting, predation, is not efficient. Complexity and its associated secrecy is used to hide the inefficiency, to justify and promote that which would not otherwise stand scrutiny in the light of day.

BigEd August 21, 2015 at 10:11 am

What nonsense. All around us 'complex systems' (airliners, pipelines, coal mines, space stations, etc.) have become steadily LESS prone to failure/disaster over the decades. We are near the stage where the only remaining danger in air travel is human error. We will soon see driverless cars & trucks, and you can be sure accident rates will decline as the human element is taken out of their operation.

tegnost August 21, 2015 at 12:23 pm

see fukushima, lithium batteries spontaneously catching fire, financial engineering leading to collapse unless vast energy is invested in them to re stabilize…Driverless cars and trucks are not that soon, tech buddies say ten years I say malarkey based on several points made in the article, while as brooklyn bridge points out public transit languishes, and washunate points out that trains and other more efficient means of locomotion are starved while more complex methods have more energy thrown at them which could be better applied elsewhere. I think you're missing the point by saying look at all our complex systems, they work fine and then you ramble off a list of things with high failure potential and say look they haven't broken yet, while things that have broken and don't support your view are left out. By this mechanism safety protocols are eroded (that accident you keep avoiding hasn't happened, which means you're being too cautious so your efficiency can be enhanced by not worrying about it until it happens then you can fix it but as pointed out above tightly coupled systems can't react fast enough at which point we all have to hear the whocoodanode justification…)

susan the other August 21, 2015 at 12:34 pm

And the new points of failure will be what?

susan the other August 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm

So here's a question. What is the failure heirarchy. And why don't those crucial nodes of failsafe protect the system. Could it be that we don't know what they are?

Moneta August 22, 2015 at 8:09 am

While 90% of people were producing food a few decades ago, I think a large percentage will be producing energy in a few decades… right now we are still propping up our golf courses and avoiding investing in pipelines and refineries. We are still exploiting the assets of the 50s and 60s to live our hyper material lives. Those investments are what gave us a few decades of consumerism.

Now everyone wants government to spend on infra without even knowing what needs to go and what needs to stay. Maybe half of Californians need to get out of there and forget about building more infra there… just a thought.

America still has a frontier ethos… how in the world can the right investments in infra be made with a collection of such values?

We're going to get city after city imploding. More workers producing energy and less leisure over the next few decades. That's what breakdown is going to look like.

Moneta August 22, 2015 at 8:22 am

Flying might get safer and safer while we get more and more cities imploding.

Just like statues on Easter Island were getting increasingly elaborate as trees were disappearing.

ian August 21, 2015 at 4:02 pm

What you say is true, but only if you have a sufficient number of failures to learn from. A lot of planes had to crash for air travel to be as safe as it is today.

wm.annis August 21, 2015 at 10:19 am

I am surprised to see no reference to John Gall's General Systematics in this discussion, an entire study of systems and how they misbehave. I tend to read it from the standpoint of managing a complex IT infrastructure, but his work starts from human systems (organizations).

The work is organized around aphorisms — Systems tend to oppose their own proper function — The real world is what it is reported to the system — but one or two from this paper should be added to that repertoire. Point 7 seems especially important. From Gall, I have come to especially appreciate the Fail-Safe Theorem: "when a Fail-Safe system fails, it fails by failing to fail safe."

flora August 21, 2015 at 10:32 am

Instead of writing something long and rambling about complex systems being aggregates of smaller, discrete systems, each depending on a functioning and accurate information processing/feedback (not IT) system to maintain its coherence; and upon equally well functioning feedback systems between the parts and the whole — instead of that I'll quote a poem.

" Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; "

-Yates, "The Second Coming"

flora August 21, 2015 at 10:46 am

erm… make that "Yeats", as in W.B.

Steve H. August 21, 2015 at 11:03 am

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.

– Swift

LifelongLib August 21, 2015 at 7:38 pm

IIRC in Robert A. Heinlein's "The Puppet Masters" there's a different version:

Big fleas have little fleas
Upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas
And so, ad infinitum.

Since the story is about humans being parasitized and controlled by alien "slugs" that sit on their backs, and the slugs in turn being destroyed by an epidemic disease started by the surviving humans, the verse has a macabre appropriateness.

LifelongLib August 21, 2015 at 10:14 pm

Original reply got eaten, so I hope not double post. Robert A. Heinlein's (and others?) version:

Big fleas have little fleas
Upon their backs to bite 'em
And little fleas have lesser fleas
And so ad infinitum!

Lambert Strether August 21, 2015 at 10:26 pm

The order Siphonoptera….

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 10:59 pm

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?"

I can't leave that poem without its ending – especially as it becomes ever more relevant.

Oldeguy August 21, 2015 at 11:02 am

Terrific post- just the sort of thing that has made me a NC fan for years.
I'm a bit surprised that the commentators ( thus far ) have not referred to the Financial Crisis of 2008 and the ensuing Great Recession as being an excellent example of Cook's failure analysis.

Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera's

All The Devils Are Here www.amazon.com/All-Devils-Are-Here-Financial/dp/159184438X/

describes beautifully how the erosion of the protective mechanisms in the U.S. financial system, no single one of which would have of itself been deadly in its absence ( Cook's Point 3 ) combined to produce the Perfect Storm.

It brought to mind Garett Hardin's The Tragedy Of The Commons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons . While the explosive growth of debt ( and therefore risk ) obviously jeopardized the entire system, it was very much within the narrow self interest of individual players to keep the growth ( and therefore the danger ) increasing.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Bingo. Failure of the culture to properly train its members. Not so much a lack of morality as a failure to point out that when the temple falls, it falls on Samson.

The next big fix is to use the US military to wall off our entire country, maybe include Canada (language is important in alliances) during the Interregnum.

Why is no one mentioning the Foundation Trilogy and Hari Seldon here?

Deloss August 21, 2015 at 11:29 am

My only personal experience with the crash of a complex, tightly-coupled system was the crash of the trading floor of a very big stock exchange in the early part of this century. The developers were in the computer room, telling the operators NOT to roll back to the previous release, and the operators ignored them and did so anyway. Crash!

In Claus Jensen's fascinating account of the Challenger disaster, NO DOWNLINK, he describes how the managers overrode the engineers' warnings not to fly under existing weather conditions. We all know the result.

Human error was the final cause in both cases.

Now we are undergoing the terrible phenomenon of global warming, which everybody but Republicans, candidates and elected, seems to understand is real and catastrophic. The Republicans have a majority in Congress, and refuse–for ideological and monetary reasons–to admit that the problem exists. I think this is another unfolding disaster that we can ascribe to human error.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 5:17 pm

"Human error" needs unpacking here. In this discussion, it's become a Deus ex Humanitas. Humans do what they do because their cultural experiences impel them to do so. Human plus culture is not the same as human. That's why capitalism doesn't work in a selfish society.

Oldeguy August 21, 2015 at 5:52 pm

" capitalism doesn't work in a selfish society "
Very true, not nearly so widely realized as it should be, and the Irony of Ironies .

BayesianGame August 21, 2015 at 11:48 am

But highly efficient systems are fragile. Formula One cars are optimized for speed and can only run one race.

Another problem with obsessing about (productive or technical) efficiency is that it usually means a narrow focus on the most measured or measurable inputs and outputs, to the detriment of less measurable but no less important aspects. Wages are easier to measure than the costs of turnover, including changes in morale, loss of knowledge and skill, and regard for the organization vs. regard for the individual. You want low cost fish? Well, it might be caught by slaves. Squeeze the measurable margins, and the hidden margins will move.

Donw August 21, 2015 at 3:18 pm

You hint at a couple fallacies.

1) Measuring what is easy instead of what is important.
2) Measuring many things and then optimizing all of them optimizes the whole.

Then, have some linear thinker try to optimize those in a complex system (like any organization involving humans) with multiple hidden and delayed feedback loops, and the result will certainly be unexpected. Whether for good or ill is going to be fairly unpredictable unless someone has actually looked for the feedback loops.

IsabelPS August 21, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Very good.

It's nice to see well spelled out a couple of intuitions I've had for a long time. For example, that we are going in the wrong direction when we try to streamline instead of following the path of biology: redundancies, "dirtiness" and, of course, the king of mechanisms, negative feedback (am I wrong in thinking that the main failure of finance, as opposed to economy, is that it has inbuilt positive feedback instead of negative?). And yes, my professional experience has taught me that when things go really wrong it was never just one mistake, it is a cluster of those.

downunderer August 22, 2015 at 3:52 am

Yes, as you hint here, and I would make forcefully explicit: COMPLEX vs NOT-COMPLEX is a false dichotomy that is misleading from the start.

We ourselves, and all the organisms we must interact with in order to stay alive, are individually among the most complex systems that we know of. And the interactions of all of us that add up to Gaia are yet more complex. And still it moves.

Natural selection built the necessary stability features into our bodily complexity. We even have a word for it: homeostasis. Based on negative feedback loops that can keep the balancing act going. And our bodies are vastly more complex than our societies.

Society's problem right now is not complexity per se, but the exploitation of complexity by system components that want to hog the resources and to hell with the whole, quite exactly parallel to the behavior of cancer cells in our bodies when regulatory systems fail.

In our society's case, it is the intelligent teamwork of the stupidly selfish that has destroyed the regulatory systems. Instead of negative feedback keeping deviations from optimum within tolerable limits, we now have positive feedback so obvious it is trite: the rich get richer.

We not only don't need to de-complexify, we don't dare to. We really need to foster the intelligent teamwork that our society is capable of, or we will fail to survive challenges like climate change and the need to sensibly control the population. The alternative is to let natural selection do the job for us, using the old reliable four horsemen.

We are unlikely to change our own evolved selfishness, and probably shouldn't. But we need to control the monsters that we have created within our society. These monsters have all the selfishness of a human at his worst, plus several natural large advantages, including size, longevity, and the ability to metamorphose and regenerate. And as powerful as they already were, they have recently been granted all the legal rights of human citizens, without appropriate negative feedback controls. Everyone here will already know what I'm talking about, so I'll stop.

Peter Pan August 21, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Formula One cars are optimized for speed and can only run one race.

Actually I believe F1 has rules regarding the number of changes that can be made to a car during the season. This is typically four or five changes (replacements or rebuilds), so a F1 car has to be able to run more than one race or otherwise face penalties.

jo6pac August 21, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Yes, F-1 allows four power planets per-season it has been up dated lately to 5. There isn't anything in the air or ground as complex as a F-1 car power planet. The cars are feeding 30 or more engineers at the track and back home normal in England millions of bit of info per second and no micro-soft is not used but very complex programs watching every system in the car. A pit stop in F-1 is 2.7 seconds anything above 3.5 and your not trying hard enough.

Honda who pride themselves in Engineering has struggled in power planet design this year and admit they have but have put more engineers on the case. The beginning of this Tech engine design the big teams hired over 100 more engineers to solve the problems. Ferrari throw out the first design and did a total rebuild and it working.

This is how the world of F-1 has moved into other designs, long but a fun read.
http://www.wired.com/2015/08/mclaren-applied-technologies-f1/

I'm sure those in F-1 system designs would look at stories like this and would come to the conclusion that these nice people are the gate keepers and not the future. Yes, I'm a long time fan of F-1. Then again what do I know.

The sad thing in F-1 the gate keepers are the owners CVC.

Brooklin Bridge August 21, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Interesting comment! One has to wonder why every complex system can't be treated as the be-all. Damn the torpedos. Spare no expense! Maybe if we just admitted we are all doing absolutely nothing but going around in a big circle at an ever increasing speed, we could get a near perfect complex system to help us along.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 5:21 pm

If the human race were as important as auto racing, maybe. But we know that's not true ;->

jo6pac August 21, 2015 at 5:51 pm

In the link it's the humans of McLaren that make all the decisions on the car and the race on hand. The link is about humans working together either in real race time or designing out problems created by others.

Marsha August 21, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Globalization factors in maximizing the impact of Murphy's Law:

  1. Meltdown potential of a globalized 'too big to fail' financial system associated with trade imbalances and international capital flows, and boom and bust impact of volatile "hot money".
  2. Environmental damage associated with inefficiency of excessive long long supply chains seeking cheap commodities and dirty polluting manufacturing zones.
  3. Military vulnerability of same long tightly coupled 'just in time" supply chains across vast oceans, war zones, choke points that are very easy to attack and nearly impossible to defend.
  4. Consumer product safety threat of manufacturing somewhere offshore out of sight out of mind outside the jurisdiction of the domestic regulatory system.
  5. Geographic concentration and contagion of risk of all kinds – fragile pattern of horizontal integration – manufacturing in China, finance in New York and London, industrialized mono culture agriculture lacking biodiversity (Iowa feeds the world). If all the bulbs on the Christmas tree are wired in series, it takes only one to fail and they all go out.

Globalization is not a weather event, not a thermodynamic process of atoms and molecules, not a principle of Newtonian physics, not water running downhill, but a hyper aggressive top down policy agenda by power hungry politicians and reckless bean counter economists. An agenda hell bent on creating a tightly coupled globally integrated unstable house of cards with a proven capacity for catastrophic (trade) imbalance, global financial meltdown, contagion of bad debt, susceptibility to physical threats of all kinds.

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Any complex system contains non-linear feedback. Management presumes it is their skill that keeps the system working over some limited range, where the behavior approximates linear. Outside those limits, the system can fail catastrophically. What is perceived as operating or management skill is either because the system is kept in "safe" limits, or just happenstance. See chaos theory.

Operators or engineers controlling or modifying the system are providing feedback. Feedback can push the system past "safe" limits. Once past safe limits, the system can fail catastrophically Such failure happen very quickly, and are always "a surprise".

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 1:43 pm

All complex system contain non-linear feedback, and all appear manageable over a small rage of operation, under specific conditions.

These are the systems' safe working limits, and sometimes the limits are known, but in many case the safe working limits are unknown (See Stock Markets).

All systems with non-linear feedback can and will fail, catastrophically.

All predicted by Chaos Theory. Best mathematical filed applicable to the real world of systems.

So I'll repeat. All complex system will fail when operating outside safe limits, change in the system, management induced and stimulus induced, can and will redefine those limits, with spectacular results.

We hope and pray system will remain within safe limits, but greed and complacency lead us humans to test those limits (loosen the controls), or enable greater levels of feedback (increase volumes of transactions). See Crash of 2007, following repeal of Glass-Stegal, etc.

Brooklin Bridge August 21, 2015 at 4:05 pm

It's Ronnie Ray Gun. He redefined it as, "Safe for me but not for thee." Who says you can't isolate the root?

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Ronnie Ray Gun was the classic example of a Manager.

Where one can only say: "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do"

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Three quite different thoughts:

First, I don't think the use of "practitioner" is an evasion of agency. Instead, it reflects the very high level of generality inherent in systems theory. The pitfall is that generality is very close to vagueness. However, the piece does contain an argument against the importance of agency; it argues that the system is more important than the individual practitioners, that since catastrophic failures have multiple causes, individual agency is unimportant. That might not apply to practitioners with overall responsibility or who intentionally wrecked the system; there's a naive assumption that everyone's doing their best. I think the author would argue that control fraud is also a system failure, that there are supposed to be safeguards against malicious operators. Bill Black would probably agree. (Note that I dropped off the high level of generality to a particular example.)

Second, this appears to defy the truism from ecology that more complex systems are more stable. I think that's because ecologies generally are not tightly coupled. There are not only many parts but many pathways (and no "practitioners"). So "coupling" is a key concept not much dealt with in the article. It's about HUMAN systems, even though the concept should apply more widely than that.

Third, Yves mentioned the economists' use of "equilibrium." This keeps coming up; the way the word is used seems to me to badly need definition. It comes from chemistry, where it's used to calculate the production from a reaction. The ideal case is a closed system: for instance, the production of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen in a closed pressure chamber. You can calculate the proportion of ammonia produced from the temperature and pressure of the vessel. It's a fairly fast reaction, so time isn't a big factor.

The Earth is not a closed system, nor are economies. Life is driven by the flow of energy from the Sun (and various other factors, like the steady rain of material from space). In open systems, "equilibrium" is a constantly moving target. In principle, you could calculate the results at any given condition , given long enough for the many reactions to finish. It's as if the potential equilibrium drives the process (actually, the inputs do).

Not only is the target moving, but the whole system is chaotic in the sense that it's highly dependent on variables we can't really measure, like people, so the outcomes aren't actually predictable. That doesn't really mean you can't use the concept of equilibrium, but it has to be used very carefully. Unfortunately, most economists are pretty ignorant of physical science, so ignorant they insistently defy the laws of thermodynamics ("groaf"), so there's a lot of magical thinking going on. It's really ideology, so the misuse of "equilibrium" is just one aspect of the system failure.

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Really?

"equilibrium…from chemistry, where it's used to calculate the production from a reaction"

That is certainly a definition in one scientific field.

There is another definition from physics.

When all the forces that act upon an object are balanced, then the object is said to be in a state of equilibrium.

However objects on a table are considered in equilibrium, until one considers an earthquake.

The condition for an equilibrium need to be carefully defined, and there are few cases, if any, of equilibrium "under all conditions."

nat scientist August 21, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Equilibrium ceases when Chemistry breaks out, dear Physicist.

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 10:19 pm

Equilibrium ceases when Chemistry breaks out

This is only a subset.

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 10:56 pm

I avoided physics, being not so very mathematical, so learned the chemistry version – but I do think it's the one the economists are thinking of.

What I neglected to say: it's an analogy, hence potentially useful but never literally true – especially since there's no actual stopping point, like your table.

John Merryman August 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm

There is much simpler way to look at it, in terms of natural cycles, because the alternative is that at the other extreme, a happy medium is also a flatline on the big heart monitor. So the bigger it builds, the more tension and pressure accumulates. The issue then becomes as to how to leverage the consequences. As they say, a crisis should never be wasted. At its heart, there are two issues, economic overuse of resources and a financial medium in which the rent extraction has overwhelmed its benefits. These actually serve as some sort of balance, in that we are in the process of an economic heart attack, due to the clogging of this monetary circulation system, that will seriously slow economic momentum.

The need then is to reformulate how these relationships function, in order to direct and locate our economic activities within the planetary resources. One idea to take into consideration being that money functions as a social contract, though we treat it as a commodity. So recognizing it is not property to be collected, rather contracts exchanged, then there wouldn't be the logic of basing the entire economy around the creation and accumulation of notational value, to the detriment of actual value. Treating money as a public utility seems like socialism, but it is just an understanding of how it functions. Like a voucher system, simply creating excess notes to keep everyone happy is really, really stupid, big picture wise.

Obviously some parts of the system need more than others, but not simply for ego gratification. Like a truck needs more road than a car, but an expensive car only needs as much road as an economy car. The brain needs more blood than the feet, but it doesn't want the feet rotting off due to poor circulation either.
So basically, yes, complex systems are finite, but we need to recognize and address the particular issues of the system in question.

Bob Stapp August 21, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Perhaps in a too-quick scan of the comments, I overlooked any mention of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book, Antifragile. If so, my apologies. If not, it's a serious omission from this discussion.

Local to Oakland August 21, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Thank you for this.

I first wondered about something related to this theme when I first heard about just in time sourcing of inventory. (Now also staff.) I wondered then whether this was possible because we (middle and upper class US citizens) had been shielded from war and other catastrophic events. We can plan based on everything going right because most of us don't know in our gut that things can always go wrong.

I'm genX, but 3 out of 4 of my grandparents were born during or just after WWI. Their generation built for redundancy, safety, stability. Our generation, well. We take risks and I'm not sure the decision makers have a clue that any of it can bite them.

Jeremy Grimm August 22, 2015 at 4:23 pm

The just-in-time supply of components for manufacturing was described in Barry Lynn's book "Cornered" and identified as creating extreme fragility in the American production system. There have already been natural disasters that shutdown American automobile production in our recent past.

Everything going right wasn't part of the thinking that went into just-in-time parts. Everything going right — long enough — to steal away market share on price-point was the thinking. Decision makers don't worry about any of this biting them. Passing the blame down and golden parachutes assure that.

flora August 21, 2015 at 7:44 pm

This is really a very good paper. My direct comments are:

point 2: yes. provided the safety shields are not discarded for bad reasons like expedience or ignorance or avarice. See Glass-Steagall Act, for example.

point 4: yes. true of all dynamic systems.

point 7: 'root cause' is not the same as 'key factors'. ( And here the doctor's sensitivity to malpractice suits may be guiding his language.) It is important to determine key factors in order to devise better safety shields for the system. Think airplane black boxes and the 1932 Pecora Commission after the 1929 stock market crash.

Jay M August 21, 2015 at 9:01 pm

It's easy, complexity became too complex. And I can't read the small print. We are devolving into a world of happy people with gardens full of flowers that they live in on their cell phones.

Ancaeus August 22, 2015 at 5:22 am

There are a number of counter-examples; engineered and natural systems with a high degree of complexity that are inherently stable and fault-tolerant, nonetheless.

1. Subsumption architecture is a method of controlling robots, invented by Rodney Brooks in the 1980s. This scheme is modeled on the way the nervous systems of animals work. In particular, the parts of the robot exist in a hierarchy of subsystems, e.g., foot, leg, torso, etc. Each of these subsystems is autonomously controlled. Each of the subsystems can override the autonomous control of its constituent subsystems. So, the leg controller can directly control the leg muscle, and can override the foot subsystem. This method of control was remarkably successful at producing walking robots which were not sensitive to unevenness of the surface. In other words, the were not brittle in the sense of Dr. Cook. Of course, subsumption architecture is not a panacea. But it is a demonstrated way to produce very complex engineered systems consisting of many interacting parts that are very stable.

2. The inverted pendulum Suppose you wanted to build a device to balance a pencil on its point. You could imagine a sensor to detect the angle of the pencil, an actuator to move the balance point, and a controller to link the two in a feedback loop. Indeed, this is, very roughly, how a Segway remains upright. However, there is a simpler way to do it, without a sensor or a feedback controller. It turns out that if your device just moves the balance point sinusoidaly (e.g., in a small circle) and if the size of the circle and the rate are within certain ranges, then the pencil will be stable. This is a well-known consequence of the Mathieu equation. The lesson here is that stability (i.e., safety) can be inherent in systems for subtle reasons that defy a straightforward fault/response feedback.

3. Emergent behavior of swarms Large numbers of very simple agents interacting with one another can sometimes exhibit complex, even "intelligent" behavior. Ants are a good example. Each ant has only simple behavior. However, the entire ant colony can act in complex and effective ways that would be hard to predict from the individual ant behaviors. A typical ant colony is highly resistant to disturbances in spite of the primitiveness of its constituent ants.

4. Another example is the mammalian immune system that uses negative selection as one mechanism to avoid attacking the organism itself. Immature B cells are generated in large numbers at random, each one with receptors for specifically configured antigens. During maturation, if they encounter a matching antigen (likely a protein of the organism) then the B cell either dies, or is inactivated. At maturity, what is left is a highly redundant cohort of B cells that only recognize (and neutralize) foreign antigens.

Well, these are just a few examples of systems that exhibit stability (or fault-tolerance) that defies the kind of Cartesian analysis in Dr. Cook's article.

Marsha August 22, 2015 at 11:42 am

Glass-Steagall Act: interactions between unrelated functionality is something to be avoided. Auto recall: honking the horn could stall the engine by shorting out the ignition system. Simple fix is is a bit of insulation.

ADA software language: Former DOD standard for large scale safety critical software development: encapsulation, data hiding, strong typing of data, minimization of dependencies between parts to minimize impact of fixes and changes. Has safety critical software gone the way of the Glass-Steagall Act? Now it is buffer overflows, security holes, and internet protocol in hardware control "critical infrastructure" that can blow things up.

[Jun 29, 2015] College Is Wildly Exploitative Why Aren't Students Raising Hell

"..."Colleges have become a way for the ruling class to launder money into supposed non-profits and use endowments to purchase stocks, bonds, and real estate. ""
"...I read things like this and think about Louis Althusser and his ideas about "Ideological State Apparatuses." While in liberal ideology the education is usually considered to be the space where opportunity to improve one's situation is founded, Althusser reached the complete opposite conclusion. For him, universities are the definitive bourgeois institution, the ideological state apparatus of the modern capitalist state par excellance. The real purpose of the university was not to level the playing field of opportunity but to preserve the advantages of the bourgeoisie and their children, allowing the class system to perpetuate/reproduce itself. "
"...Perhaps some students are afraid to protest for fear of being photographed or videographed and having their face and identity given to every prospective employer throughout America. Perhaps those students are afraid of being blackballed throughout the Great American Workplace if they are caught protesting anything on camera."
"...Many of the best students feel enormous pressure to succeed and have some inkling that their job prospects are growing narrower, but they almost universally accept this as the natural order of things. Their outlook: if there are 10 or 100 applicants for every available job, well, by golly, I just have to work that much harder and be the exceptional one who gets the job."
"...In Chapter One of this book entitled "The Iron law of Liberalism and the Era of Total Bureaucratization" Graeber notes that the US has become the most rigidly credentialised society in the world where "
"...Robert Reich, in his book Supercapitalism, explains that in the past 30 years the two industries with the most excessive increases in prices are health care and higher education."
"...Using student loan loot and tax subsidies backed by its $3.5 billion endowment, New York University has created a new administrative class of aristocratic compensation. The school not only continues to hire more administrators – many of whom the professors indict as having no visible value in improving the education for students bankrupting themselves to register for classes – but shamelessly increases the salaries of the academic administrative class. The top 21 administrators earn a combined total of $23,590,794 per year. The NYU portfolio includes many multi-million-dollar mansions and luxury condos, where deans and vice presidents live rent-free."
"...As the managerial class grows, in size and salary, so does the full time faculty registry shrink. Use of part time instructors has soared to stratospheric heights at NYU. Adjunct instructors, despite having a minimum of a master's degree and often having a Ph.D., receive only miserly pay-per-course compensation for their work, and do not receive benefits. Many part-time college instructors must transform their lives into daily marathons, running from one school to the next, barely able to breathe between commutes and courses. Adjunct pay varies from school to school, but the average rate is $2,900 per course."
"...At a basic level, I think the answer is yes, because on balance, college still provides a lot of privatized value to the individual. Being an exploited student with the College Credential Seal of Approval remains relatively much better than being an exploited non student lacking that all important seal. A college degree, for example, is practically a guarantee of avoiding the more unseemly parts of the US "justice" system."
"...My nephew asked me to help him with his college introductory courses in macroeconomics and accounting. I was disappointed to find out what was going on: no lectures by professors, no discussion sessions with teaching assistants; no team projects–just two automated correspondence courses, with automated computer graded problem sets objective tests – either multiple choice, fill in the blank with a number, or fill in the blank with a form answer. This from a public university that is charging tuition for attendance just as though it were really teaching something. All they're really certifying is that the student can perform exercises is correctly reporting what a couple of textbooks said about subjects of marginal relevance to his degree. My nephew understands exactly that this is going on, but still …."
June 26, 2015 | naked capitalism

Yves here. In May, we wrote up and embedded the report on how NYU exploits students and adjuncts in "The Art of the Gouge": NYU as a Model for Predatory Higher Education. This article below uses that study as a point of departure for for its discussion of how higher education has become extractive.

By David Masciotra, the author of Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky). He has also written for Salon, the Atlantic and the Los Angeles Review of Books. For more information visit www.davidmasciotra.com. Originally published at Alternet

Higher education wears the cloak of liberalism, but in policy and practice, it can be a corrupt and cutthroat system of power and exploitation. It benefits immensely from right-wing McCarthy wannabes, who in an effort to restrict academic freedom and silence political dissent, depict universities as left-wing indoctrination centers.

But the reality is that while college administrators might affix "down with the man" stickers on their office doors, many prop up a system that is severely unfair to American students and professors, a shocking number of whom struggle to make ends meet. Even the most elementary level of political science instructs that politics is about power. Power, in America, is about money: who has it? Who does not have it? Who is accumulating it? Who is losing it? Where is it going?

Four hundred faculty members at New York University, one of the nation's most expensive schools, recently released a report on how their own place of employment, legally a nonprofit institution, has become a predatory business, hardly any different in ethical practice or economic procedure than a sleazy storefront payday loan operator. Its title succinctly summarizes the new intellectual discipline deans and regents have learned to master: "The Art of The Gouge."

The result of their investigation reads as if Charles Dickens and Franz Kafka collaborated on notes for a novel. Administrators not only continue to raise tuition at staggering rates, but they burden their students with inexplicable fees, high cost burdens and expensive requirements like mandatory study abroad programs. When students question the basis of their charges, much of them hidden during the enrollment and registration phases, they find themselves lost in a tornadic swirl of forms, automated answering services and other bureaucratic debris.

Often the additional fees add up to thousands of dollars, and that comes on top of the already hefty tuition, currently $46,000 per academic year, which is more than double its rate of 2001. Tuition at NYU is higher than most colleges, but a bachelor's degree, nearly anywhere else, still comes with a punitive price tag. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014–2015 school year was $31,231 at private colleges, $9,139 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,958 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

Robert Reich, in his book Supercapitalism, explains that in the past 30 years the two industries with the most excessive increases in prices are health care and higher education. Lack of affordable health care is a crime, Reich argues, but at least new medicines, medical technologies, surgeries, surgery techs, and specialists can partially account for inflation. Higher education can claim no costly infrastructural or operational developments to defend its sophisticated swindle of American families. It is a high-tech, multifaceted, but old fashioned transfer of wealth from the poor, working- and middle-classes to the rich.

Using student loan loot and tax subsidies backed by its $3.5 billion endowment, New York University has created a new administrative class of aristocratic compensation. The school not only continues to hire more administrators – many of whom the professors indict as having no visible value in improving the education for students bankrupting themselves to register for classes – but shamelessly increases the salaries of the academic administrative class. The top 21 administrators earn a combined total of $23,590,794 per year. The NYU portfolio includes many multi-million-dollar mansions and luxury condos, where deans and vice presidents live rent-free.

Meanwhile, NYU has spent billions, over the past 20 years, on largely unnecessary real estate projects, buying property and renovating buildings throughout New York. The professors' analysis, NYU's US News and World Report Ranking, and student reviews demonstrate that few of these extravagant projects, aimed mostly at pleasing wealthy donors, attracting media attention, and giving administrators opulent quarters, had any impact on overall educational quality.

As the managerial class grows, in size and salary, so does the full time faculty registry shrink. Use of part time instructors has soared to stratospheric heights at NYU. Adjunct instructors, despite having a minimum of a master's degree and often having a Ph.D., receive only miserly pay-per-course compensation for their work, and do not receive benefits. Many part-time college instructors must transform their lives into daily marathons, running from one school to the next, barely able to breathe between commutes and courses. Adjunct pay varies from school to school, but the average rate is $2,900 per course.

Many schools offer rates far below the average, most especially community colleges paying only $1,000 to $1,500. Even at the best paying schools, adjuncts, as part time employees, are rarely eligible for health insurance and other benefits. Many universities place strict limits on how many courses an instructor can teach. According to a recent study, 25 percent of adjuncts receive government assistance.

The actual scandal of "The Art of the Gouge" is that even if NYU is a particularly egregious offender of basic decency and honesty, most of the report's indictments could apply equally to nearly any American university. From 2003-2013, college tuition increased by a crushing 80 percent. That far outpaces all other inflation. The closest competitor was the cost of medical care, which in the same time period, increased by a rate of 49 percent. On average, tuition in America rises eight percent on an annual basis, placing it far outside the moral universe. Most European universities charge only marginal fees for attendance, and many of them are free. Senator Bernie Sanders recently introduced a bill proposing all public universities offer free education. It received little political support, and almost no media coverage.

In order to obtain an education, students accept the paralytic weight of student debt, the only form of debt not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Before a young person can even think about buying a car, house or starting a family, she leaves college with thousands of dollars in debt: an average of $29,400 in 2012. As colleges continue to suck their students dry of every dime, the US government profits at $41.3 billion per year by collecting interest on that debt. Congress recently cut funding for Pell Grants, yet increased the budget for hiring debt collectors to target delinquent student borrowers.

The university, once an incubator of ideas and entrance into opportunity, has mutated into a tabletop model of America's economic architecture, where the top one percent of income earners now owns 40 percent of the wealth.

"The One Percent at State U," an Institute for Policy Studies report, found that at the 25 public universities with the highest paid presidents, student debt and adjunct faculty increased at dramatically higher rates than at the average state university. Marjorie Wood, the study's co-author, explained told the New York Times that extravagant executive pay is the "tip of a very large iceberg, with universities that have top-heavy executive spending also having more adjuncts, more tuition increases and more administrative spending.

Unfortunately, students seem like passive participants in their own liquidation. An American student protest timeline for 2014-'15, compiled by historian Angus Johnston, reveals that most demonstrations and rallies focused on police violence, and sexism. Those issues should inspire vigilance and activism, but only 10 out of 160 protests targeted tuition hikes for attack, and only two of those 10 events took place outside the state of California.

Class consciousness and solidarity actually exist in Chile, where in 2011 a student movement began to organize, making demands for free college. More than mere theater, high school and college students, along with many of their parental allies, engaged the political system and made specific demands for inexpensive education. The Chilean government announced that in March 2016, it will eliminate all tuition from public universities. Chile's victory for participatory democracy, equality of opportunity and social justice should instruct and inspire Americans. Triumph over extortion and embezzlement is possible.

This seems unlikely to happen in a culture, however, where even most poor Americans view themselves, in the words of John Steinbeck, as "temporarily embarrassed millionaires." The political, educational and economic ruling class of America is comfortable selling out its progeny. In the words of one student quoted in "The Art of the Gouge," "they see me as nothing more than $200,000."

washunate June 26, 2015 at 10:07 am

Awesome question in the headline.

At a basic level, I think the answer is yes, because on balance, college still provides a lot of privatized value to the individual. Being an exploited student with the College Credential Seal of Approval remains relatively much better than being an exploited non student lacking that all important seal. A college degree, for example, is practically a guarantee of avoiding the more unseemly parts of the US "justice" system.

But I think this is changing. The pressure is building from the bottom as academia loses credibility as an institution capable of, never mind interested in, serving the public good rather than simply being another profit center for connected workers. It's actually a pretty exciting time. The kiddos are getting pretty fed up, and the authoritarians at the top of the hierarchy are running out of money with which to buy off younger technocratic enablers and thought leaders and other Serious People.

washunate June 26, 2015 at 10:17 am

P.S., the author in this post demonstrates the very answer to the question. He assumes as true, without any need for support, that the very act of possessing a college degree makes one worthy of a better place in society. That mindset is why colleges can prey upon students. They hold a monopoly on access to resources in American society. My bold:

Adjunct instructors, despite having a minimum of a master's degree and often having a Ph.D., receive only miserly pay-per-course compensation for their work, and do not receive benefits.

What does having a masters degree or PhD have to do with the moral claim of all human beings to a life of dignity and purpose?

flora June 26, 2015 at 11:37 am

There are so many more job seekers per job opening now than, say, 20 or thirty years ago that a degree is used to sort out applications. Now a job that formerly listed a high school degree as a requirement may now list a college degree as a requirement, just to cut down on the number of applications.

So, no, a B.A. or B.S. doesn't confer moral worth, but it does open more job doors than a high school diploma, even if the actual work only requires high school level math, reading, science or technology.

Ben June 26, 2015 at 1:11 pm

I agree a phd often makes someone no more useful in society. However the behaviour of the kids is rational *because* employers demand a masters / phd.

Students are then caught in a trap. Employers demand the paper, often from an expensive institution. The credit is abundant thanks to govt backed loans. They are caught in a situation where as a collective it makes no sense to join in, but as an individual if they opt out they get hurt also.

Same deal for housing. It's a mad world my masters.

What can we do about this? The weak link in the chain seems to me to be employers. Why are they hurting themselves by selecting people who want higher pay but may offer little to no extra value? I work as a programmer and I often think " if we could just 'see' the non-graduate diamonds in the rough".

If employers had perfect knowledge of prospective employees *and* if they saw that a degree would make no difference to their performance universities would crumble overnight.

The state will never stop printing money via student loans. If we can fix recruitment then universities are dead.

washunate June 26, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Why are they hurting themselves by selecting people who want higher pay but may offer little to no extra value?

Yeah, I have thought a lot about that particular question of organizational behavior. It does make sense, conceptually, that somebody would disrupt the system and take people based on ability rather than credentials. Yet we are moving in the opposite direction, toward more rigidity in educational requirements for employment.

For my two cents, I think the bulk of the answer lies in how hiring specifically, and management philosophy more generally, works in practice. The people who make decisions are themselves also subject to someone else's decisions. This is true all up and down the hierarchical ladder, from board members and senior executives to the most junior managers and professionals.

It's true that someone without a degree may offer the same (or better) performance to the company. But they do not offer the same performance to the people making decisions, because those individual people also depend upon their own college degrees to sell their own labor services. To hire significant numbers of employees without degrees into important roles is to sabotage their own personal value.

Very few people are willing to be that kind of martyr. And generally speaking, they tend to self-select away from occupations where they can meaningfully influence decision-making processes in large organizations.

Absolutely, individual business owners can call BS on the whole scam. It is a way that individual people can take action against systemic oppression. Hire workers based upon their fit for the job, not their educational credentials or criminal background or skin color or sexual orientation or all of the other tests we have used. But that's not a systemic solution because the incentives created by public policy are overwhelming at large organizations to restrict who is 'qualified' to fill the good jobs (and increasingly, even the crappy jobs).

Laaughingsong June 26, 2015 at 3:03 pm

I am not so sure that this is so. So many jobs are now crapified. When I was made redundant in 2009, I could not find many jobs that fit my level of experience (just experience! I have no college degree), so I applied for anything that fit my skill set, pretty much regardless of level. I was called Overqualified. I have heard that in the past as well, but never more so during that stretch of job hunting. Remember that's with no degree. Maybe younger people don't hear it as much. But I also think life experience has something to do with it, you need to have something to compare it to. How many times did our parents tell us how different things were when they were kids, how much easier? I didn't take that on board, did y'all?

sam s smith June 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm

I blame HR.

tsk June 27, 2015 at 4:42 pm

For various reasons, people seeking work these days, especially younger job applicants, might not possess the habits of mind and behavior that would make them good employees – i.e., punctuality, the willingness to come to work every day (even when something more fun or interesting comes up, or when one has partied hard the night before), the ability to meet deadlines rather than make excuses for not meeting them, the ability to write competently at a basic level, the ability to read instructions, diagrams, charts, or any other sort of necessary background material, the ability to handle basic computation, the ability to FOLLOW instructions rather than deciding that one will pick and choose which rules and instructions to follow and which to ignore, trainability, etc.

Even if a job applicant's degree is in a totally unrelated field, the fact that he or she has managed to complete an undergraduate degree–or, if relevant, a master's or a doctorate – is often accepted by employers as a sign that the applicant has a sense of personal responsibility, a certain amount of diligence and educability, and a certain level of basic competence in reading, writing, and math.

By the same token, employers often assume that an applicant who didn't bother going to college or who couldn't complete a college degree program is probably not someone to be counted on to be a responsible, trainable, competent employee.

Obviously those who don't go to college, or who go but drop out or flunk out, end up disadvantaged when competing for jobs, which might not be fair at all in individual cases, especially now that college has been priced so far out of the range of so many bright, diligent students from among the poor and and working classes, and now even those from the middle class.

Nevertheless, in general an individual's ability to complete a college degree is not an unreasonable stand-in as evidence of that person's suitability for employment.

Roland June 27, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Nicely put, Ben.

Students are first caught in a trap of "credentials inflation" needed to obtain jobs, then caught by inflation in education costs, then stuck with undischargeable debt. And the more of them who get the credentials, the worse the credentials inflation–a spiral.

It's all fuelled by loose credit. The only beneficiaries are a managerial elite who enjoy palatial facilities.

As for the employers, they're not so bad off. Wages are coming down for credentialled employees due to all the competition. There is such a huge stock of degreed applicants that they can afford to ignore anyone who isn't. The credentials don't cost the employer–they're not spending the money, nor are they lending the money.

Modern money makes it possible for the central authorities to keep this racket going all the way up to the point of general systemic collapse. Why should they stop? Who's going to make them stop?

Bobbo June 26, 2015 at 10:19 am

The only reason the universities can get away with it is easy money. When the time comes that students actually need to pay tuition with real money, money they or their parents have actually saved, then college tuition rates will crash back down to earth. Don't blame the universities. This is the natural and inevitable outcome of easy money.

Jim June 26, 2015 at 10:54 am

Yes, college education in the US is a classic example of the effects of subsidies. Eliminate the subsidies and the whole education bubble would rapidly implode.

washunate June 26, 2015 at 11:03 am

I'm very curious if anyone will disagree with that assessment.

An obvious commonality across higher education, healthcare, housing, criminal justice, and national security is that we spend huge quantities of public money yet hold the workers receiving that money to extremely low standards of accountability for what they do with it.

tegnost June 26, 2015 at 11:38 am

Correct, it's not the universities, it's the culture that contains the universities, but the universities are training grounds for the culture so it is the universities just not only the universities… Been remembering the song from my college days "my futures so bright i gotta wear shades". getting rich was the end in itself, and people who didn't make it didn't deserve anything but a whole lot of student debt,creating perverse incentives. And now we all know what the A in type a stands for…at least among those who self identify as such, so yes it is the universities

Chris in Paris June 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

I don't understand why the ability to accept guaranteed loan money doesn't come with an obligation by the school to cap tuition at a certain percentage over maximum loan amount? Would that be so hard to institute?

Ben June 26, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Student loans are debt issuance. Western states are desperate to issue debt as it's fungible with money and marked down as growth.

Borrow 120K over 3 years and it all gets paid into university coffers and reappears as "profit" now. Let some other president deal with low disposable income due to loan repayments. It's in a different electoral cycle – perfect.

jrd2 June 26, 2015 at 11:50 am

You can try to argue, but it will be hard to refute. If you give mortgages at teaser rates to anybody who can fog a mirror, you get a housing bubble. If you give student loans to any student without regard to the prospects of that student paying back the loan, you get a higher education bubble. Which will include private equity trying to catch as much of this money as they possibly can by investing in for profit educational institutions just barely adequate to benefit from federal student loan funds.

jrs June 26, 2015 at 6:16 pm

A lot of background conditions help. It helps to pump a housing bubble if there's nothing else worth investing in (including saving money at zero interest rates). It helps pump an education bubble if most of the jobs have been outsourced so people are competing more and more for fewer and fewer.

Beans June 26, 2015 at 11:51 am

I don't disagree with the statement that easy money has played the biggest role in jacking up tuition. I do strongly disagree that we shouldn't "blame" the universities. The universities are exactly where we should place the blame. The universities have become job training grounds, and yet continue to droll on and on about the importance of noble things like liberal education, the pursuit of knowledge, the importance of ideas, etc. They cannot have it both ways. Years ago, when tuition rates started escalating faster than inflation, the universities should have been the loudest critics – pointing out the cultural problems that would accompany sending the next generation into the future deeply indebted – namely that all the noble ideas learned at the university would get thrown out the window when financial reality forced recent graduates to chose between noble ideas and survival. If universities truly believed that a liberal education was important; that the pursuit of knowledge benefitted humanity – they should have led the charge to hold down tuition.

washunate June 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm

I took it to mean blame as in what allows the system to function. I heartily agree that highly paid workers at universities bear blame for what they do (and don't do) at a granular level.

It's just that they couldn't do those things without the system handing them gobs of resources, from tax deductability of charitable contributions to ignoring anti-competitive behavior in local real estate ownership to research grants and other direct funding to student loans and other indirect funding.

Jim June 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Regarding blaming "highly paid workers at universities" – If a society creates incentives for dysfunctional behavior such a society will have a lot of dysfunction. Eliminate the subsidies and see how quicly the educational bubble pops.

James Levy June 26, 2015 at 2:45 pm

You are ignoring the way that the rich bid up the cost of everything. 2% of the population will pay whatever the top dozen or so schools will charge so that little Billy or Sue can go to Harvard or Stanford. This leads to cost creep as the next tier ratchet up their prices in lock step with those above them, etc. The same dynamic happens with housing, at least around wealthy metropolitan areas.

daniel June 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Hi to you two,

A European perspective on this: yep, that's true on an international perspective. I belong to the ugly list of those readers of this blog who do not fully share the liberal values of most of you hear. However, may I say that I can agree on a lot of stuff.

US education and health-care are outrageously costly. Every European citizen moving to the states has a question: will he or she be sick whilst there. Every European parent with kids in higher education is aware that having their kids for one closing year in the US is the more they can afford (except if are a banquier d'affaires…). Is the value of the US education good? No doubt! Is is good value for money, of course not. Is the return on the money ok? It will prove disastrous, except if the USD crashed. The main reason? Easy money. As for any kind of investment. Remember that this is indeed a investment plan…

Check the level of revenues of "public sector" teaching staff on both sides of the ponds. The figure for US professionals in these area are available on the Web. They are indeed much more costly than, say, North-of-Europe counterparts, "public sector" professionals in those area. Is higher education in the Netherlands sub-par when compared to the US? Of course not.

Yep financing education via the Fed (directly or not) is not only insanely costly. Just insane. The only decent solution: set up public institutions staffed with service-minded professionals that did not have to pay an insane sum to build up the curriculum themselves.

Are "public services" less efficient than private ones here in those area, health-care and higher education. Yep, most certainly. But, sure, having the fed indirectly finance the educational system just destroy any competitive savings made in building a competitive market-orientated educational system and is one of the worst way to handle your educational system.

Yep, you can do a worst use of the money, subprime or China buildings… But that's all about it.

US should forget about exceptionnalism and pay attention to what North of Europe is doing in this area. Mind you, I am Southerner (of Europe). But of course I understand that trying to run these services on a federal basis is indeed "mission impossible".

Way to big! Hence the indirect Washington-decided Wall-Street-intermediated Fed-and-deficit-driven financing of higher education. Mind you: we have more and more of this bankers meddling in education in Europe and I do not like what I see.

John Zelnicker June 27, 2015 at 1:36 pm

@washunate – 6/26/15, 11:03 am. I know I'm late to the party, but I disagree. It's not the workers, it's the executives and management generally. Just like Wall Street, many of these top administrators have perfected the art of failing upwards.

IMNSHO everyone needs to stop blaming labor and/or the labor unions. It's not the front line workers, teachers, retail clerks, adjunct instructors, all those people who do the actual work rather than managing other people. Those workers have no bargaining power, and the unions have lost most of theirs, in part due to the horrible labor market, as well as other important reasons.

We have demonized virtually all of the government workers who actually do the work that enables us to even have a government (all levels) and to provide the services we demand, such as public safety, education, and infrastructure. These people are our neighbors, relatives and friends; we owe them better than this.

/end of rant

Roland June 27, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Unionized support staff at Canadian universities have had sub-inflation wage increases for nearly 20 years, while tuition has been rising at triple the rate of inflation.

So obviously one can't blame the unions for rising education costs.

Spring Texan June 28, 2015 at 8:03 am

Thanks for your rant! You said a mouthful. And could not be more correct.

Adam Eran June 26, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Omitted from this account: Federal funding for education has declined 55% since 1972. … Part of the Powell memo's agenda.

It's understandable too; one can hardly blame legislators for punishing the educational establishment given the protests of the '60s and early '70s… After all, they were one reason Nixon and Reagan rose to power. How dare they propose real democracy! Harumph!

To add to students' burden, there's the recent revision of bankruptcy law: student loans can no longer be retired by bankruptcy (Thanks Hillary!)…It'll be interesting to see whether Hillary's vote on that bankruptcy revision becomes a campaign issue.

I also wonder whether employers will start to look for people without degrees as an indication they were intelligent enough to sidestep this extractive scam.

washunate June 26, 2015 at 1:54 pm

I'd be curious what you count as federal funding. Pell grants, for example, have expanded both in terms of the number of recipients and the amount of spending over the past 3 – 4 decades.

More generally, federal support for higher ed comes in a variety of forms. The bankruptcy law you mention is itself a form of federal funding. Tax exemption is another. Tax deductabiliity of contributions is another. So are research grants and exemptions from anti-competitive laws and so forth. There are a range of individual tax credits and deductions. The federal government also does not intervene in a lot of state supports, such as licensing practices in law and medicine that make higher ed gatekeepers to various fiefdoms and allowing universities to take fees for administering (sponsoring) charter schools. The Federal Work-Study program is probably one of the clearest specific examples of a program that offers both largely meaningless busy work and terrible wages.

As far as large employers seeking intelligence, I'm not sure that's an issue in the US? Generally speaking, the point of putting a college credential in a job requirement is precisely to find people participating in the 'scam'. If an employer is genuinely looking for intelligence, they don't have minimum educational requirements.

Laughingsong June 26, 2015 at 3:12 pm

I heard that Congress is cutting those:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/12/10/congress-cuts-federal-financial-aid-for-needy-students/

different clue June 28, 2015 at 3:06 am

Why would tuition rates come down when students need to pay with "real money, money they or their parents have actually saved. . . " ? Didn't tuition at state universities begin climbing when state governments began boycotting state universities in terms of embargoing former rates of taxpayer support to them? Leaving the state universities to try making up the difference by raising tuition? If people want to limit or reduce the tuition charged to in-state students of state universities, people will have to resume paying former rates of taxes and elect people to state government to re-target those taxes back to state universities the way they used to do before the reductions in state support to state universities.

Jesper June 26, 2015 at 10:29 am

Protest against exploitation and risk being black-listed by exploitative employers -> Only employers left are the ones who actually do want (not pretend to want) ethical people willing to stand up for what they believe in. Not many of those kind of employers around…. What is the benefit? What are the risks?

Tammy June 27, 2015 at 4:35 pm

What is the benefit? What are the risks?
I am not a progressive, yet, there is always risk for solidary progress.

Andrew June 26, 2015 at 10:53 am

The author misrepresents the nature and demands of Chile's student movement.

Over the past few decades, university enrollment rates for Chileans expanded dramatically in part due to the creation of many private universities. In Chile, public universities lead the pack in terms of academic reputation and entrance is determined via competitive exams. As a result, students from poorer households who attended low-quality secondary schools generally need to look at private universities to get a degree. And these are the students to which the newly created colleges catered to.

According to Chilean legislation, universities can only function as non-profit entities. However, many of these new institutions were only nominally non-profit entities (for example, the owners of the university would also set up a real estate company that would rent the facilities to the college at above market prices) and they were very much lacking in quality. After a series of high-profile cases of universities that were open and shut within a few years leaving its students in limbo and debt, anger mounted over for-profit education.

The widespread support of the student movement was due to generalized anger about and education system that is dearly lacking in quality and to the violation of the spirit of the law regulating education. Once the student movement's demands became more specific and morphed from opposing for profit institutions to demanding free tuition for everyone, the widespread support waned quickly.

And while the government announced free tuition in public universities, there is a widespread consensus that this is a pretty terrible idea as it is regressive and involves large fiscal costs. In particular because most of the students that attend public universities come from relatively wealthy households that can afford tuition. The students that need the tuition assistance will not benefit under the new rules.

I personally benefited from the fantastically generous financial aid systems that some private American universities have set up which award grants and scholarships based on financial need only. And I believe that it is desirable for the State to guarantee that any qualified student has access to college regardless of his or her wealth I think that by romanticizing the Chilean student movement the author reveals himself to be either is dishonest or, at best, ignorant.

RanDomino June 27, 2015 at 12:23 pm

The protests also involved extremely large riots.

The Insider June 26, 2015 at 10:57 am

Students aren't protesting because they don't feel the consequences until they graduate.

One thing that struck me when I applied for a student loan a few years back to help me get through my last year of graduate school – the living expense allocation was surprisingly high. Not "student sharing an apartment with five random dudes while eating ramen and riding the bus", but more "living alone in a nice one-bedroom apartment while eating takeout and driving a car". Apocryphal stories of students using their student loans to buy new cars or take extravagant vacations were not impossible to believe.

The living expense portion of student loans is often so generous that students can live relatively well while going to school, which makes it that much easier for them to push to the backs of their minds the consequences that will come from so much debt when they graduate. Consequently, it isn't the students who are complaining – it's the former students. But by the time they are out of school and the university has their money in its pocket, it's too late for them to try and change the system.

lord koos June 26, 2015 at 11:42 am

I'm sure many students are simply happy to be in college… the ugly truth hits later.

optimader June 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/life/education/compete-students-colleges-roll-out-amenities

Sophomore Noell Conley lives there, too. She shows off the hotel-like room she shares with a roommate.

"As you walk in, to the right you see our granite countertops with two sinks, one for each of the residents," she says.

A partial wall separates the beds. Rather than trek down the hall to shower, they share a bathroom with the room next door.

"That's really nice compared to community bathrooms that I lived in last year," Conley says.

To be fair, granite countertops last longer. Tempur-Pedic is a local company — and gave a big discount. The amenities include classrooms and study space that are part of the dorm. Many of the residents are in the university's Honors program. But do student really need Apple TV in the lounges, or a smartphone app that lets them check their laundry status from afar?

"Demand has been very high," says the university's Penny Cox, who is overseeing the construction of several new residence halls on campus. Before Central Hall's debut in August, the average dorm was almost half a century old, she says. That made it harder to recruit.

"If you visit places like Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama," Cox says, "and you compare what we had with what they have available to offer, we were very far behind."

Today colleges are competing for a more discerning consumer. Students grew up with fewer siblings, in larger homes, Cox says. They expect more privacy than previous generations — and more comforts.

"These days we seem to be bringing kids up to expect a lot of material plenty," says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of the book "Generation Me."

Those students could be in for some disappointment when they graduate, she says.

"When some of these students have all these luxuries and then they get an entry-level job and they can't afford the enormous flat screen and the granite countertops," Twenge says, "then that's going to be a rude awakening."

Some on campus also worry about the divide between students who can afford such luxuries and those who can't. The so-called premium dorms cost about $1,000 more per semester. Freshman Josh Johnson, who grew up in a low-income family and lives in one of the university's 1960s-era buildings, says the traditional dorm is good enough for him.

"I wouldn't pay more just to live in a luxury dorm," he says. "It seems like I could just pay the flat rate and get the dorm I'm in. It's perfectly fine."

In the near future students who want to live on campus won't have a choice. Eventually the university plans to upgrade all of its residence halls.

So I wonder who on average will fair better navigating the post-college lifestyle/job market reality check, Noell or Josh? Personally, I would bet on the Joshes living in the 60's vintage enamel painted ciderblock dorm rooms.

optimader June 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Universities responding to the market

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2012/08/29/10-Public-Colleges-with-Insanely-Luxurious-Dorms

Competition for students who have more sophisticated tastes than in past years is creating the perfect environment for schools to try to outdo each other with ever-more posh on-campus housing. Keeping up in the luxury dorm race is increasingly critical to a school's bottom line: A 2006 study published by the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers found that "poorly maintained or inadequate residential facilities" was the number-one reason students rejected enrolling at institutions.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click Here to See the 10 Schools with Luxury Dorms

Private universities get most of the mentions on lists of schools with great dorms, as recent ratings by the Princeton Review, College Prowler, and Campus Splash make clear. But a few state schools that have invested in brand-new facilities are starting to show up on those reviews, too.

While many schools offer first dibs on the nicest digs to upperclassmen on campus, as the war for student dollars ratchets up even first-year students at public colleges are living in style. Here are 10 on-campus dormitories at state schools that offer students resort-like amenities.

Jerry Denim June 26, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Bingo! They don't get really mad until they're in their early thirties and they are still stuck doing some menial job with no vacation time, no health insurance and a monstrous mountain of debt. Up until that point they're still working hard waiting for their ship to come in and blaming themselves for any lack of success like Steinbeck's 'embarrassed millionaires.' Then one day maybe a decade after they graduate they realize they've been conned but they've got bills to pay and other problems to worry about so they solider on. 18 year-olds are told by their high school guidance councilors, their parents and all of the adults they trust that college while expensive is a good investment and the only way to succeed. Why should they argue? They don't know any better yet.

different clue June 28, 2015 at 3:09 am

Perhaps some students are afraid to protest for fear of being photographed or videographed and having their face and identity given to every prospective employer throughout America. Perhaps those students are afraid of being blackballed throughout the Great American Workplace if they are caught protesting anything on camera.

Today isn't like the sixties when you could drop out in the confidence that you could always drop back in again. Nowadays there are ten limpets for every scar on the rock.

seabos84 June 26, 2015 at 11:16 am

the average is such a worthless number. The Data we need, and which all these parasitic professional managerial types won't provide –
x axis would be family income, by $5000 increments.
y axis would be the median debt level
we could get fancy, and also throw in how many kids are in school in each of those income increments.

BTW – this 55 yr. old troglodyte believes that 1 of the roles (note – I did NOT say "The Role") of education is preparing people to useful to society. 300++ million Americans, 7 billion humans – we ALL need shelter, reliable and safe food, reliable and safe water, sewage disposal, clothing, transportation, education, sick care, power, leisure, … we should ALL have access to family wage jobs and time for BBQs with our various communities several times a year. I know plenty of techno-dweebs here in Seattle who need to learn some of the lessons of 1984, The Prince, and Shakespeare. I know plenty of fuzzies who could be a bit more useful with some rudimentary skills in engineering, or accounting, or finance, or stats, or bio, or chem …
I don't know what the current education system is providing, other than some accidental good things for society at large, and mainly mechanisms for the para$ite cla$$e$ to stay parasites.

rmm.

Adam Eran June 26, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Mao was perfectly content to promote technical education in the new China. What he deprecated (and fought to suppress) was the typical liberal arts notion of critical thinking. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S.

This suppression in China led to an increase in Mao's authority (obviously), but kept him delusional. For example, because China relied on Mao's agricultural advice, an estimated 70 million Chinese died during peacetime. But who else was to be relied upon as an authority?

Back the the U.S.S.A. (the United StateS of America): One Australian says of the American system: "You Yanks don't consult the wisdom of democracy; you enable mobs."

Tammy June 27, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Mao was perfectly content to promote technical education in the new China. What he deprecated (and fought to suppress) was the typical liberal arts notion of critical thinking. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S.

Mao liked chaos because he believed in continuous revolution. I would argue what we're experiencing is nothing comparable to what China experienced. (I hope I've understood you correctly.)

Ted June 26, 2015 at 11:20 am

I am pretty sure a tradition of protest to affect political change in the US is a rather rare bird. Most people "protest" by changing their behavior. As an example, by questioning the value of the 46,000 local private college tuition as opposed the the 15k and 9k tiered state college options. My daughter is entering the freshman class next year, we opted for the cheaper state option because, in the end, a private school degree adds nothing, unless it is to a high name recognition institution.

I think, like housing, a downstream consequence of "the gouge" is not to question — much less understand — class relations, but to assess the value of the lifetyle choice once you are stuck with the price of paying for that lifestyle in the form of inflated debt repayments. Eventually "the folk" figure it out and encourage cheaper alternatives toward the same goal.

Jim June 26, 2015 at 3:18 pm

There's probably little point in engaging in political protest. Most people maximise their chances of success by focusing on variables over which they have some degree of control. The ability of most people to have much effect on the overall political-economic system is slight and any returns from political activity are highly uncertain.

jrs June 26, 2015 at 9:53 pm

How does anyone even expect to maintain cheap available state options without political activity? By wishful thinking I suppose?

The value of a private school might be graduating sooner, state schools are pretty overcrowded, but that may not at all be worth the debt (I doubt it almost ever is on a purely economic basis).

RabidGandhi June 27, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Maybe if we just elect the right people with cool posters and a hopey changey slogan, they'll take care of everything for us and we won't have to be politically active.

jrs June 26, 2015 at 10:04 pm

Of course refusal to engage politically because the returns to oneself by doing so are small really IS the tragedy of the commons. Thus one might say it's ethical to engage politically in order to avoid it. Some ethical action focuses on overcoming tragedy of the commons dilemmas. Of course the U.S. system being what it is I have a hard time blaming anyone for giving up.

chairman June 26, 2015 at 11:37 am

The middle class, working class and poor have no voice in politics or policy at all, and they don't know what's going on until it's too late. They've been pushed by all their high school staff that college is the only acceptable option — and often it is. What else are they going to do out of high school, work a 30 hour a week minimum wage retail job? The upper middle class and rich, who entirely monopolize the media, don't have any reason to care about skyrocketing college tuition — their parents are paying for it anyway. They'd rather write about the hip and trendy issues of the day, like trigger warnings.

Fool June 26, 2015 at 1:17 pm

To the contrary, they're hardly advised by "their high school staff"; nonetheless, subway ads for Phoenix, Monroe, etc. have a significant influence.

Uncle Bruno June 26, 2015 at 11:58 am

They're too busy working

Fool June 26, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Also Tinder.

collegestudent June 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Speaking as one of these college students, I think that a large part of the reason that the vast majority of students are just accepting the tuition rates is because it has become the societal norm. Growing up I can remember people saying "You need to go to college to find a good job." Because a higher education is seen as a necessity for most people, students think of tuition as just another form of taxes, acceptable and inevitable, which we will expect to get a refund on later in life.

Pitchfork June 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm

I teach at a "good" private university. Most of my students don't have a clue as to how they're being exploited. Many of the best students feel enormous pressure to succeed and have some inkling that their job prospects are growing narrower, but they almost universally accept this as the natural order of things. Their outlook: if there are 10 or 100 applicants for every available job, well, by golly, I just have to work that much harder and be the exceptional one who gets the job.

Incoming freshmen were born in the late 90s — they've never known anything but widespread corruption, financial and corporate oligarchy, i-Pads and the Long Recession.

But as other posters note, the moment of realization usually comes after four years of prolonged adolescence, luxury dorm living and excessive debt accumulation.

Tammy June 27, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Most Ph.D.'s don't either. I'd argue there have been times they have attempted to debate that exploitation is a good–for their employer and himself/herself–with linguistic games. Mind numbing… . To be fair, they have a job.

Gottschee June 26, 2015 at 1:34 pm

I have watched the tuition double–double!–at my alma mater in the last eleven years. During this period, administrators have set a goal of increasing enrollment by a third, and from what I hear, they've done so. My question is always this: where is the additional tuition money going? Because as I walk through the campus, I don't really see that many improvements–yes, a new building, but that was supposedly paid for by donations and endowments. I don't see new offices for these high-priced admin people that colleges are hiring, and in fact, what I do see is an increase in the number of part-time faculty and adjuncts. The tenured faculty is not prospering from all this increased revenue, either.

I suspect the tuition is increasing so rapidly simply because the college can get away with it. And that means they are exploiting the students.

While still a student, I once calculated that it cost me $27.00/hour to be in class. (15 weeks x 20 "contact hours" per week =
300 hours/semester, $8000/semester divided by 300 hours = $27.00/hour). A crude calculation, certainly, but a starting point. I did this because I had an instructor who was consistently late to class, and often cancelled class, so much that he wiped out at least $300.00 worth of instruction. I had the gall to ask for a refund of that amount. I'm full of gall. Of course, I was laughed at, not just by the administrators, but also by some students.

Just like medical care, education pricing is "soft," that is, the price is what you are willing to pay. Desirable students get scholarships and stipends, which other students subsidize; similarly, some pre-ACA patients in hospitals were often treated gratis.

Students AND hospital patients alike seem powerless to affect the contract with the provider. Reform will not likely be forthcoming, as students, like patients, are "just passing through."

Martin Finnucane June 26, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Higher education wears the cloak of liberalism, but in policy and practice, it can be a corrupt and cutthroat system of power and exploitation.

I find the "but" in that sentence to be dissonant.

Mark Anderson June 26, 2015 at 3:12 pm

The tuition at most public universities has quadrupled or more over the last 15 to 20 years precisely BECAUSE state government subsidies have been
slashed in the meantime. I was told around 2005 that quadrupled tuition at the University of Minnesota made up for about half of the state money that the legislature had slashed from the university budget over the previous 15 years.

It is on top of that situation that university administrators are building themselves little aristocratic empires, very much modeled on the kingdoms of corporate CEOs
where reducing expenses (cutting faculty) and services to customers (fewer classes, more adjuncts) is seen as the height of responsibility and accountability, perhaps
even the definition of propriety.

Jim June 26, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Everyone should read the introductory chapter to David Graeber's " The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy."

In Chapter One of this book entitled "The Iron law of Liberalism and the Era of Total Bureaucratization" Graeber notes that the US has become the most rigidly credentialised society in the world where

"…in field after field from nurses to art teachers, physical therapists, to foreign policy consultants, careers which used to be considered an art (best learned through doing) now require formal professional training and a certificate of completion."

Graeber, in that same chapter, makes another extremely important point. when he notes that career advancement in may large bureaucratic organizations demands a willingness to play along with the fiction that advancement is based on merit, even though most everyone know that this isn't true.

The structure of modern power in the U.S., in both the merging public and private sectors, is built around the false ideology of a giant credentialized meritorcracy rather than the reality of arbitrary extraction by predatory bureaucratic networks.

armchair June 26, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Anecdote: I was speaking to someone who recently started working at as a law school administrator at my alma mater. Enrollment is actually down at law schools (I believe), because word has spread about the lame legal job market. So, the school administration is watching its pennies, and the new administrator says the administrators aren't getting to go on so many of the all expense paid conferences and junkets that they used to back in the heyday. As I hear this, I am thinking about how many of these awesome conferences in San Diego, New Orleans and New York that I'm paying back. Whatever happened to the metaphorical phrase: "when a pig becomes a hog, it goes to slaughter"?

Another anecdote: I see my undergrad alma mater has demolished the Cold War era dorms on one part of campus and replaced it with tons of slick new student housing.

MaroonBulldog June 26, 2015 at 7:15 pm

No doubt those Cold War era dorms had outlived their planned life. Time for replacement. Hell, they had probably become inhabitable and unsafe.

Meanwhile, has your undergraduate school replaced any of its lecture courses with courses presented same model as on-line traffic school? I have a pending comment below about how my nephew's public university "taught" him introductory courses in accounting and macroeconomics that way. Please be assured that the content of those courses was on a par with best practices in the on-line traffic school industry. It would be hilarious if it weren't so desperately sad.

Roquentin June 26, 2015 at 5:04 pm

I read things like this and think about Louis Althusser and his ideas about "Ideological State Apparatuses." While in liberal ideology the education is usually considered to be the space where opportunity to improve one's situation is founded, Althusser reached the complete opposite conclusion. For him, universities are the definitive bourgeois institution, the ideological state apparatus of the modern capitalist state par excellance. The real purpose of the university was not to level the playing field of opportunity but to preserve the advantages of the bourgeoisie and their children, allowing the class system to perpetuate/reproduce itself.

It certainly would explain a lot. It would explain why trying to send everyone to college won't solve this, because not everyone can have a bourgeois job. Some people actually have to do the work. The whole point of the university as an institution was to act as a sorting/distribution hub for human beings, placing them at certain points within the division of labor. A college degree used to mean more because getting it was like a golden ticket, guaranteeing someone who got it at least a petit-bourgeois lifestyle. The thing is, there are only so many slots in corporate America for this kind of employment. That number is getting smaller too. You could hand every man, woman, and child in America a BS and it wouldn't change this in the slightest.

What has happened instead, for college to preserve its role as the sorting mechanism/preservation of class advantage is what I like to call degree inflation and/or an elite formed within degrees themselves. Now a BS or BA isn't enough, one needs an Master's or PhD to really be distinguished. Now a degree from just any institution won't do, it has to be an Ivy or a Tier 1 school. Until we learn to think realistically about what higher education is as an institution little or nothing will change.

Jim June 26, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Any credential is worthless if everybody has it. All information depends on contrast. It's impossible for everybody to "stand out" from the masses. The more people have college degrees the less value a college degree has.

sid_finster June 26, 2015 at 5:49 pm

When I was half-grown, I heard it said that religion is no longer the opiate of the masses, in that no one believes in God anymore, at least not enough for it to change actual behavior.

Instead, buying on credit is the opiate of the masses.

MaroonBulldog June 26, 2015 at 6:58 pm

My nephew asked me to help him with his college introductory courses in macroeconomics and accounting. I was disappointed to find out what was going on: no lectures by professors, no discussion sessions with teaching assistants; no team projects–just two automated correspondence courses, with automated computer graded problem sets objective tests – either multiple choice, fill in the blank with a number, or fill in the blank with a form answer. This from a public university that is charging tuition for attendance just as though it were really teaching something. All they're really certifying is that the student can perform exercises is correctly reporting what a couple of textbooks said about subjects of marginal relevance to his degree. My nephew understands exactly that this is going on, but still ….

This is how 21st century America treats its young people: it takes people who are poor, in the sense that they have no assets, and makes them poorer, loading them up with student debt, which they incur in order to finance a falsely-so-called course of university study that can't be a good deal, even for the best students among them.

I am not suggesting the correspondence courses have no worth at all. But they do not have the worth that is being charged for them in this bait-and-switch exercise by Ed Business.

MaroonBulldog June 27, 2015 at 1:39 am

After further thought, I'd compare my nephew's two courses to on-line traffic school: Mechanized "learning" – forget it all as soon as the test is over – Critical thinking not required. Except for the kind of "test preparation" critical thinking that teaches one to spot and eliminate the obviously wrong choices in objective answers–that kind of thinking saves time and so is very helpful.

Not only is he paying full tuition to receive this treatment, but his family and mine are paying taxes to support it, too.

Very useful preparation for later life, where we can all expect to attend traffic school a few times. But no preparation for any activity of conceivable use or benefit to any other person.

Spring Texan June 28, 2015 at 8:07 am

Good story. What a horrible rip-off!

P. Fitzsimon June 27, 2015 at 12:26 pm

I read recently that the business establishment viewed the most important contribution of colleges was that they warehoused young people for four years to allow maturing.

Fred Grosso June 27, 2015 at 4:55 pm

Where are the young people in all this? Is anyone going to start organizing to change things? Any ideas? Any interest? Are we going to have some frustrated, emotional person attempt to kill a university president once every ten years? Then education can appeal for support from the government to beef up security. Meanwhile the same old practices will prevail and the rich get richer and the rest of us get screwed.

Come on people step up.

Unorthodoxmarxist June 27, 2015 at 6:22 pm

The reason students accept this has to be the absolutely demobilized political culture of the United States combined with what college represents structurally to students from the middle classes: the only possibility – however remote – of achieving any kind of middle class income.

Really your choices in the United States are, in terms of jobs, to go into the military (and this is really for working class kids, Southern families with a military history and college-educated officer-class material) or to go to college.

The rest, who have no interest in the military, attend college, much like those who wanted to achieve despite of their class background went into the priesthood in the medieval period. There hasn't been a revolt due to the lack of any idea it could function differently and that American families are still somehow willing to pay the exorbitant rates to give their children a piece of paper that still enables them to claim middle class status though fewer and fewer find jobs. $100k in debt seems preferable to no job prospects at all.

Colleges have become a way for the ruling class to launder money into supposed non-profits and use endowments to purchase stocks, bonds, and real estate. College administrators and their lackeys (the extended school bureaucracy) are propping up another part of the financial sector – just take a look at Harvard's $30+ billion endowment, or Yale's $17 billion – these are just the top of a very large heap. They're all deep into the financial sector. Professors and students are simply there as an excuse for the alumni money machine and real estate scams to keep running, but there's less and less of a reason for them to employ professors, and I say this as a PhD with ten years of teaching experience who has seen the market dry up even more than it was when I entered grad school in the early 2000s.

A Real Black Person purple monkey dishwasher June 28, 2015 at 9:13 pm

"Colleges have become a way for the ruling class to launder money into supposed non-profits and use endowments to purchase stocks, bonds, and real estate. "

Unorthodoxmarxist, I thought I was the only person who was coming to that conclusion. I think there's data out there that could support our thesis that college tuition inflation may be affecting real estate prices. After all, justification a college grad gave to someone who was questioning the value of a college degree was that by obtaining a "a degree" and a professional job, an adult could afford to buy a home in major metropolitan hubs. I'm not sure if he was that ignorant, (business majors, despite the math requirement are highly ideological people. They're no where near as objective as they like to portray themselves as) or if he hasn't been in contact with anyone with a degree trying to buy a home in a metropolitan area.

Anyways, if our thesis is true, then if home prices declined in 2009, then college tuition should have declined as well, but it didn't at most trustworthy schools. Prospective students kept lining up to pay more for education that many insiders believe is "getting worse" because of widespread propaganda and a lack of alternatives, especially for "middle class" women.

Pelham June 27, 2015 at 7:04 pm

It's hard to say, but there ought to be a power keg of students here primed to blow. And Bernie Sanders' proposal for free college could be the fuse.

But first he'd have the light the fuse, and maybe he can. He's getting huge audiences and a lot of interest these days. And here's a timely issue. What would happen if Sanders toured colleges and called for an angry, mass and extended student strike across the country to launch on a certain date this fall or next spring to protest these obscene tuitions and maybe call for something else concrete, like a maximum ratio of administrators to faculty for colleges to receive accreditation?

It could ignite not only a long-overdue movement on campuses but also give a big boost to his campaign. He'd have millions of motivated and even furious students on his side as well as a lot of motivated and furious parents of students (my wife and I would be among them) — and these are just the types of people likely to get out and vote in the primaries and general election.

Sanders' consistent message about the middle class is a strong one. But here's a solid, specific but very wide-ranging issue that could bring that message into very sharp relief and really get a broad class of politically engaged people fired up.

I'm not one of those who think Sanders can't win but applaud his candidacy because it will nudge Hillary Clinton. I don't give a fig about Clinton. I think there's a real chance Sanders can win not just the nomination but also the presidency. This country is primed for a sharp political turn. Sanders could well be the right man in the right place and time. And this glaring and ongoing tuition ripoff that EVERYONE agrees on could be the single issue that puts him front-and-center rather than on the sidelines.

Rosario June 28, 2015 at 1:18 am

I finished graduate school about three years ago. During the pre-graduate terms that I paid out of pocket (2005-2009) I saw a near 70 percent increase in tuition (look up KY college tuition 1987-2009 for proof).

Straight bullshit, but remember our school was just following the national (Neoliberal) model.

Though, realize that I was 19-23 years old. Very immature (still immature) and feeling forces beyond my control. I did not protest out of a) fear [?] (I don't know, maybe, just threw that in there) b) the sheepskin be the path to salvation (include social/cultural pressures from parent, etc.).

I was more affected by b). This is the incredible power of our current Capitalist culture. It trains us well. We are always speaking its language, as if a Classic. Appraising its world through its values.

I wished to protest (i.e. Occupy, etc.) but to which master? All of its targets are post modern, all of it, to me, nonsense, and, because of this undead (unable to be destroyed). This coming from a young man, as I said, still immature, though I fear this misdirection, and alienation is affecting us all.

John June 28, 2015 at 10:42 am

NYU can gouge away.

It's filled with Chinese students (spies) who pay full tuition.

[May 28, 2015] 8 Ways Robots Are Taking Over Our Jobs and Our World

"... In the IT world, one can see both the dumbing down of the users, and the dumbing down of the IT staff ..."
"...  IT support is increasingly centralized with fewer and fewer local support people, thanks to more highly skilled specialists at the server farm, but the net-net is fewer people and lower labor costs. ..."
"... That is to say, the Western preoccupation with occupation has perhaps shifted (devolved?) from a dutiful, industrious working out of some sense of calling to some to more material motivation for industriousness purposed toward working out how to keep up with the Joneses, whoever they are.  ..."
"... This confluence of robots, jobs, and profit lead one to wonder, what is a job, what is profit, why do we need to make things at lower cost? There are no satisfying answers, just loops back to creating profit and satisfying some arbitrary need. We have to destroy this 'market' based thinking and instead think about things in terms of the world and its people, or we'll all be screwed, robots or no. ..."
"... Having effective artificial doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers … other than providing labor saving tools for the people already doing those jobs … is based on the AI myth. AI is a con, and unfortunately most people aren't intelligent themselves to see thru it. A back hoe replaces a ditch digger, but there is nothing like a ditch digger to replace a thinking individual. ..."
"... For some jobs that need very high levels of precision like welding car frames or wave-soldering SMT components, robots are used. Some tasks, like mass-producing nails, are so efficiently done by machines that nobody will ever do that by hand no matter how cheap labor gets. But in general, industries are using LESS automation, not more! Nike has its shoes made by hand in Vietnam by disposable workers paid 57 cents an hour – even today we could at least substantially automate that process, but it would require a massive up-front capital investment. For now automation is a red herring, like gay marriage, designed to distract us from the real causes of falling wages. ..."
"... The problem with robotic surgery is that it doesn't give any better results than manual minimally invasive surgical techniques, but is much more expensive – often multiple times the cost of laparoscopic surgery. That could change in the future, but for now demand is driven by direct-to-patient marketing by da Vinci's manufacturer (Intuitive Surgical, which has a monopoly on robotic MIS) as well as hospitals who buy the robots to advertise that they are cutting-edge and then are stuck trying to recoup the purchase cost by increasing volume, since insurance reimburses all forms of minimally invasive surgery the same. ..."
May 27, 2015 | nakedcapitalism.com

Disturbed Voter May 27, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Great post with lots of out-of-box insight.

In the IT world, one can see both the dumbing down of the users, and the dumbing down of the IT staff. Thanks to automatic spell check and copy/paste … the clerical world has pretty much absorbed as much productivity increase as it can … but the people doing the writing on a PC with Word are less skilled than someone with an IBM Selectric was 30 years ago.

This is applied to IT personnel as well … IT support is increasingly centralized with fewer and fewer local support people, thanks to more highly skilled specialists at the server farm, but the net-net is fewer people and lower labor costs. Eventually local IT help will only be able to show users what they could have done for themselves, if only they had read the instructions. This promotes less able users … since they don't have to do this themselves, they can always call up an IT dog's-body to come show them for the Nth time how to do something.

And not only is quality declining, but superfluous quantity is king … particularly with email.

Mark, May 27, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Interesting thesis. One answer about why we work is to live, but another quite separate answer is, to secure the means we need to live the lives we think we ought to live.

That is to say, the Western preoccupation with occupation has perhaps shifted (devolved?) from a dutiful, industrious working out of some sense of calling to some to more material motivation for industriousness purposed toward working out how to keep up with the Joneses, whoever they are. In this, organisational productivity is not unimportant, but perhaps appearances of importance to productivity are more important. As you note, the work that goes into appearing important is often at odds with actually getting a task completed faster, or for less. In this logic, having a certain job is a bit like what it meant to have a title in eras and states where nobility came with real privilege. So people go for these things, big time.

As I think about the ridiculous efforts required to make it in "society" in bygone eras, I'm uncertain whether this decoupling of work and material productivity is a new thing.

Either way, it's a big thing.

subgenius, May 27, 2015 at 4:04 pm

I have actually been fired from a job for "time-wasting"… Thing is, I was so much faster than the surrounding drones that I had completed all my alloted tasks. Apparently appearance is all when working for little napoleon bosses (who, incidentally, have no problem telling you exactly how easy something THEY can't personally do is…)

hunkerdown, May 27, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Ritualized, exactly spot-on. The need for production may have lessened, but the desperate, singular need to take the inferior side of a power relationship that only gets worse… well, it is the English we have to blame for that.

Brooklin Bridge, May 27, 2015 at 10:45 am

In a corrupt society, the devices we invent and the system in which they operate will be corrupted. The rent extraction nature of smart phones, the case of John Deere and GM arguing their vehicles are part of a licensing agreement and are not "owned" by buyers, are good examples. That's the problem I have with technology more than unfair and harmful replacement of human labor.

At some point, assuming we deal with the above, we will have to deal with some sort of basic economic/resource guarantee based simply on being born. Robots and systems will be capable of doing more and more work from basic, to very sophisticated, so yes at some point they will replace more people than they create work for.

Another consideration and one that seems particularly overlooked is that all these things need energy and lots of it. It will be amusing (perhaps more along the lines of tragic) to create a society totally dependent on robots (where people forget how to be auto-mechanics, doctors, lawyers, or mathematicians, or really expensive people such as plumbers only to have it shut down (in some drawn out unplanned manner) due to energy depletion.

Pepsi, May 27, 2015

You're right on and you address what I was going to post.

This confluence of robots, jobs, and profit lead one to wonder, what is a job, what is profit, why do we need to make things at lower cost? There are no satisfying answers, just loops back to creating profit and satisfying some arbitrary need. We have to destroy this 'market' based thinking and instead think about things in terms of the world and its people, or we'll all be screwed, robots or no.

Peter, May 27, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Digby calls it "The Midas Cult." Which I think sums America up quite nicely.

Disturbed Voter, May 27, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Having effective artificial doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers … other than providing labor saving tools for the people already doing those jobs … is based on the AI myth. AI is a con, and unfortunately most people aren't intelligent themselves to see thru it. A back hoe replaces a ditch digger, but there is nothing like a ditch digger to replace a thinking individual.

TG, May 27, 2015 at 10:48 am

The possibility that someday someone might produce a robot that can reliably act as a general purpose maid is of no relevance to TODAYS labor market.

For some jobs that need very high levels of precision like welding car frames or wave-soldering SMT components, robots are used. Some tasks, like mass-producing nails, are so efficiently done by machines that nobody will ever do that by hand no matter how cheap labor gets. But in general, industries are using LESS automation, not more! Nike has its shoes made by hand in Vietnam by disposable workers paid 57 cents an hour – even today we could at least substantially automate that process, but it would require a massive up-front capital investment. For now automation is a red herring, like gay marriage, designed to distract us from the real causes of falling wages.

Today $100,000 can buy you an industrial robot that can sort clothes about as well as a brain-damaged orangutang. Will robots someday be able to perform these tasks at human/human+ levels? Probably, although it could still be a ways off. But even then, how much will these robots cost? Computers are getting cheaper all the time – industrial machinery, not so much. It's not just whether a robot can someday do the job, but what are the total amortized costs and risks? (A sick or excess Vietnamese worker can be fired – a million dollar robot that breaks down or is no longer needed is a big hole in the bottom line of any business that purchased it).

One notes also that automation is generally found in high-wage countries like Japan, not so much in low-wage countries like Mexico or Vietnam. If automation was a major cause of low wages wouldn't you expect the opposite? The bottom line is that automation does not (for now) cause low wages – rather, because it is (for now) generally so expensive, automation is a reaction to high wages, that allows sufficient productivity so that businesses can operate with $40/hour labor costs.

So don't believe your lying eyes when you see pictures of workers jammed into sheds like battery hans assembling iphones by hand – no, believe that it's the evil robots that are taking all our jobs and driving wages down!

craazyboy, May 27, 2015 at 11:01 am

A cynic may even conclude that "capital" knows robots are expensive and offshored labor is cheap!

Santi, May 27, 2015 at 10:50 am

Somehow, the Japanese mean, we should turn Henry Ford's quotation upside down:

"I will build a motor car for the great multitude…constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise…so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one -- and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces."

Instead of building products for the great multitude, nowadays businessmen should aspire to build consumers for their products… No wonder most products from the dot com panoply are free…

Bart Fargo, May 27, 2015 at 12:03 pm

The problem with robotic surgery is that it doesn't give any better results than manual minimally invasive surgical techniques, but is much more expensive – often multiple times the cost of laparoscopic surgery. That could change in the future, but for now demand is driven by direct-to-patient marketing by da Vinci's manufacturer (Intuitive Surgical, which has a monopoly on robotic MIS) as well as hospitals who buy the robots to advertise that they are cutting-edge and then are stuck trying to recoup the purchase cost by increasing volume, since insurance reimburses all forms of minimally invasive surgery the same.

http://www.healthline.com/health-news/is-da-vinci-robotic-surgery-revolution-or-ripoff-021215#5

roadrider, May 27, 2015 at 3:22 pm

The main problem with the results not surpassing traditional procedures is most likely the steep learning curve associated with the surgical "robots" (they're not really robots but are instead remotely operated devices that translate movements of the surgeons hands into more precise movements of the instruments). Once hospitals spend millions to acquire these devices they have quite an incentive to use them as much as possible. That means that patients may unwittingly become part of a surgeon's transition period from traditional procedures during which they may produce no better or even worse results. Trying to get information out of surgeons and hospitals about the experience level and outcomes is a trying exercise at best. This is a big problem in community hospitals trying to make a name for themselves.

I went through this last year when I had a robotic procedure (prostate). I declined to have my community urologist perform the procedure because I had doubts about his experience level about which he could not provide me with adequate reassurance. I ended up having the procedure at a high-volume government/academic medical center to which I had access as part of a clinical study (full disclosure: insurance – or lack of same – issues also figured into this decision). So far, I've been very happy with the results.

My advice: find the best surgeon accessible to you irrespective of the tools he/she chooses to use.

Steven, May 27, 2015 at 12:45 pm

This is a huge issue which I hope will be revisited in much greater depth. When you substitute machines and computers powered from inanimate energy sources for human labor and what Frederick Soddy called "diligence" (i.e. machine tending), it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that less labor will be required to produce what had been regarded as life's essentials. The real economic problem for more than a century has been finding a way to distribute what an advanced industrial economy has been able to produce. Even the 'iron law of wages' is under attack as human labor becomes more and more redundant.

Even in Soddy's day (the 1920s – 50s) our civilization found it easier to address the contradiction between its incessant drive to render human labor redundant and its rigid enforcement of the rule that '(s)he who does not work neither shall (s)he eat' than address more fundamental questions like the definition of wealth and 'how much is enough?' The Keynes / New Deal 'solution' was, along with some much needed investment in public infrastructure from which the bankers and financiers couldn't make enough profit, make-work programs for the public sector and vast subsidies for an 'American lifestyle' built around suburbia, the automobile culture, waste and planned obsolescence for the private sector. Those much vaunted 'services industry' jobs turned out to be mainly MILITARY services.

Some of us are old enough to remember all the talk and the promise of a 'leisure society' in which people had enough time to understand the world around them and perhaps explore the meaning of life, should they so chose. Apparently that is not to be. It must be sacrificed in the interest of a 'full employment for money' program under which profit margins not protected by government cost-plus contracts are allowed and encouraged to extract their required margins with ever more 'efficiency' (read displacement of human labor).

Nancy Pelosi is supposed to have asked "Where did they get all that money?" when informed of the sums involved in the Fed's QE policies. Perhaps the country's (and the world's) political leadership really is that dense when it comes to questions of money and economics. But the rest of us need not be. After 2008 it should be pretty clear by now that all that money was not real 'wealth'. It was – and remains – debt. For people who have more wealth than they could ever consume in several lifetimes, that debt is the real goal – control over the life and labor of present and future generations – of people or at least machines).

Time is running out for the West – if not the world – to order its affairs with by better definition of wealth than the money created by its bankers and financial engineers. Soddy's definition of wealth is a good place to start:

Wealth as a form, product or result of a draft upon the flow of available energy consists of the special forms, products, or results which empower and enable human life.

The keynote of the age is discovery, and life itself is discovery. Once made, countless generations may use it and live by it without conscious apprehension of the nature of it, without further changing their mode of livelihood, and, indeed, deeming it the only possible way to live.

Discovery, Natural Energy and Diligence— the Three Ingredients of Wealth.

Soddy, Frederick M.A., F.R.S.. Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt (Kindle Locations 874-876, 1982-1983, Location 1276 ). Distributed Proofreaders Canada.

Not all of us can be scientists or engineers. But most of us are at least capable of understanding who and what butters our bread. That is a job much more important than raking rocks.

Disturbed Voter, May 27, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Raking rocks is a job you assign to a junior Zen monk. It is the job of the senior Zen monk to contemplate the resulting aesthetic ;-)

fresno dan, May 27, 2015 at 1:52 pm

"I have to differ a little with the cheery, "Better policy will create new/different jobs." What passes for our leadership believes in the mantra of more education and more skilled workers as the answer. In fact, America is going in reverse in this category, as educational attainment has fallen and college and higher education costs rise into the stratosphere. Moreover, the notion that there is a raft of highly technical jobs with lots of unmet demand is a canard. As we've discussed at some length, STEM graduates are finding it hard to obtain work (see confirming evidence in The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage from the Atlantic last year)."

I can't help but reiterate what was pointed out in NC in the past:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/03/google-apple-tech-titans-wage-suppression-conspiracy-estimated-cover-one-million-workers.html

AND

http://www.cnet.com/news/a-shortage-of-tech-workers-not-so-fast/

So whether it is flat out conspiracies to suppress wages, or conspiracies to import workers, it amounts to the same thing. There is a desire at the top to harvest all the gains of society for themselves.

So, let's look at the arguments that more tech will increase productivity, and that rising productivity helps everyone. If that were so, we should all work less and have a higher standard of living. I think the working less is indisputable (maybe just not voluntarily). The higher standard of living…not so much.

Again, I would say that 99% have had stagnating incomes for 40 years. During this time there has been the "tech boom" – Whether its tech or policies that is the cause of the stagnation, it doesn't seem to me that the oligarchy is much inclined to change what is making themselves richer and richer….

[Apr 20, 2015] Colleagues Addicted to Tech

Apr 20, 2015 | NYTimes.com

Discussing Bad Work Situations

I have been in my present position for over 25 years. Five years ago, I was assigned a new boss, who has a reputation in my industry for harassing people in positions such as mine until they quit. I have managed to survive, but it's clear that it's time for me to move along. How should I answer the inevitable interview question: Why would I want to leave after so long? I've heard that speaking badly of a boss is an interview no-no, but it really is the only reason I'm looking to find something new. BROOKLYN

I am unemployed and interviewing for a new job. I have read that when answering interview questions, it's best to keep everything you say about previous work experiences or managers positive.

But what if you've made one or two bad choices in the past: taking jobs because you needed them, figuring you could make it work — then realizing the culture was a bad fit, or you had an arrogant, narcissistic boss?

Nearly everyone has had a bad work situation or boss. I find it refreshing when I read stories about successful people who mention that they were fired at some point, or didn't get along with a past manager. So why is it verboten to discuss this in an interview? How can the subject be addressed without sounding like a complainer, or a bad employee? CHICAGO

As these queries illustrate, the temptation to discuss a negative work situation can be strong among job applicants. But in both of these situations, and in general, criticizing a current or past employer is a risky move. You don't have to paint a fictitiously rosy picture of the past, but dwelling on the negative can backfire. Really, you don't want to get into a detailed explanation of why you have or might quit at all. Instead, you want to talk about why you're such a perfect fit for the gig you're applying for.

So, for instance, a question about leaving a long-held job could be answered by suggesting that the new position offers a chance to contribute more and learn new skills by working with a stronger team. This principle applies in responding to curiosity about jobs that you held for only a short time.

It's fine to acknowledge a misstep. But spin the answer to focus on why this new situation is such an ideal match of your abilities to the employer's needs.

The truth is, even if you're completely right about the past, a prospective employer doesn't really want to hear about the workplace injustices you've suffered, or the failings of your previous employer. A manager may even become concerned that you will one day add his or her name to the list of people who treated you badly. Save your cathartic outpourings for your spouse, your therapist, or, perhaps, the future adoring profile writer canonizing your indisputable success.

Send your workplace conundrums to workologist@nytimes.com, including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld for publication). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.

[Apr 02, 2015] Congressional Budget Plans Get Two-Thirds of Cuts From Programs for People With Low or Moderate Incomes'

March 23, 2015 | Economist's View
The true goal of Republican's "deficit fetishism":
Congressional Budget Plans Get Two-Thirds of Cuts From Programs for People With Low or Moderate Incomes, by Richard Kogan and Isaac Shapiro, CBPP: The budgets adopted on March 19 by the House Budget Committee and the Senate Budget Committee each cut more than $3 trillion over ten years (2016-2025) from programs that serve people of limited means. These deep reductions amount to 69 percent of the cuts to non-defense spending in both the House and Senate plans.

Each budget plan derives more than two-thirds of its non-defense budget cuts from programs for people with low or modest incomes even though these programs constitute less than one-quarter of federal program costs. Moreover, spending on these programs is already scheduled to decline as a share of the economy between now and 2025.[1]

The bipartisan deficit reduction plan that Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles (co-chairs of the National Commission on Federal Policy) issued in 2010 adhered to the basic principle that deficit reduction should not increase poverty or widen inequality. The new Congressional plans chart a radically different course, imposing their most severe cuts on people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. ...

DeDude

What they increase instead of cutting is our absurdly overblown defense spending. It should be turned around with all the cuts in defense and a slight increase in non-defense (as we desperately need to invest in infrastructure.


ilsm said in reply to DeDude...

They cannot cut defense, how will they pay to fix the F-35's they are taking possession of?

Billions a year in contracts because we pay soldiers too much to do combat support services......

Perpetual war is "security", just not the kind that a poor kids food stamps should pay for.

400 ppm CO2 said in reply to ilsm...

"Perpetual war is..."
~~ilsm~

Perpetual war is perpetual refugees. Most of the young kids are fleeing Ukraine as we network. Older folks are glued to their retirement plans which are being taxed to the max.

We need to write to Congressional Creatures and beg for some refugee relief for our cousins now in Ukraine. We need to organize community action. Make a place for some of them here. A daunting task, but somebody has got to do it before even more Ukrainians get maimed and killed.

Russian cousins should also get their shjt together and help relocate some of the refugees. It will be easier for the Живаго-s to extricate victims. Живаго-s are closer than we. It is everyone's responsibility.

Zinsky said...

This is an immoral piece of proposed legislation. The wealthy in the United States are doing just fine, thank you, and don't need another gratuitous tax cut. Especially given the fact that it wouldn't do a thing to stimulate the U.S. economy, all the right-wing rhetoric to the contrary.

The United States is a very wealthy country. We can afford to feed the hungry and help trodden. In fact, if we truly were a Judeo-Christian country, we would be morally obligated to do so. Of course, most conservatives are phony Christians who care not a whit for the poor and broken. Shame on them.

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to Zinsky...

[Yep! Ayn Rand was an atheist.]

[Mar 18, 2015] IT workers' voices heard in the Senate, confidentially

"...the IT industry now fills about two-thirds of its entry-level positions with guest workers."

Mar 18, 2015 | Network World

A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on the H-1B visa offered up a stew of policy arguments, positioning and frustration.

Much of the frustration focused on the IT layoffs at Southern California Edison, which is cutting 500 IT workers after hiring two offshore outsourcing firms. This has become the latest example for critics of the visa program's capacity for abuse.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee chair who has long sought H-1B reforms, said he invited Southern California Edison officials "to join us today" and testify. "I thought they would want to defend their actions and explain why U.S. workers have been left high and dry," said Grassley. "Unfortunately, they declined my invitation."

The hearing, by the people picked to testify, was weighted toward critics of the program, prompting a response by industry groups.

Compete America, the Consumer Electronics Association, FWD.us, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many others submitted a letter to the committee to rebut the "flawed studies" and "non-representative anecdotes used to create myths that suggest immigration harms American and American workers."

The claim that H-1B critics are using "anecdotes" to make their points (which include layoff reports at firms such as Edison) is a naked example of the pot calling the kettle black. The industry musters anecdotal stories in support of its positions readily and often. It makes available to the press and congressional committees people who came to the U.S. on an H-1B visa who started a business or took on a critical role in a start-up. These people are free to share their often compelling and admirable stories.

The voices of the displaced, who may be in fear of losing their homes, are thwarted by severance agreements.

The committee did hear from displaced workers, including some at Southern California Edison. But the communications with these workers are being kept confidential.

"I got the letters here from people, without the names," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). "If they say what they know and think about this, they will lose the buy-outs."

Infosys whistleblower Jay Palmer, who testified, and is familiar with the displacement process, told Sessions said these workers will get sued if they speak out. "That's the fear and intimidation that these people go through - they're blindsided," said Palmer.

Moreover, if IT workers refuse to train their foreign replacement, "they are going to be terminated with cause, which means they won't even get their unemployment insurance," said Ron Hira, an associate professor at Howard University, who also testified. Affected tech workers who speak out publicly and use their names, "will be blackballed from the industry," he said.

While lawmakers voiced either strong support or criticism of the program, there was interest in crafting legislation that impose some restrictions on H-1B use.

"America and American companies need more high-skilled workers - this is an undeniable fact," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "America's high-skilled worker shortage has become a crisis."

Hatch, who is leading the effort to increase the H-1B cap, suggested a willingness to raise wage levels for H-1B dependent employers. They are exempt from U.S. worker protection rules if the H-1B worker is paid at least $60,000 or has a master's degree, a figure that was set in law in 1998. Hatch suggested a wage level of $95,000.

Sen. Dick Durbin, (Dem-Ill.), who has joined with Grassley on legislation to impose some restrictions on H-1B visa use -- particularly in offshoring -- has argued for a rule that would keep large firms from having more than 50% of their workers on the visa. This so-called 50/50 rule, as Durbin has noted, has drawn much criticism from India, where most of the affected companies are located.

"I want to put the H-1B factories out of business," said Durbin.

Durbin got some support for the 50/50 rule from one person testifying in support of expanding the cap, Bjorn Billhardt, the founder and president of Enspire Learning, an Austin-based company. Enspire creates learning development tools; Billhardt came to the U.S. as an exchange student and went from an H-1B visa to a green card to, eventually, citizenship.

"I actually think that's a reasonable provision," said Billhardt of the 50% visa limit. He said it could help, "quite a bit." At the same time, he urged lawmakers to raise the cap to end the lottery system now used to distribute visas once that cap is reached.

Today's hearing went well beyond the impact of H-1B use by outsourcing firms to the displacement of workers overall.

Hal Salzman, a Rutgers University professor who studies STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) workforce issues, told the committee that the IT industry now fills about two-thirds of its entry-level positions with guest workers. "At the same time, IT wages have stagnated for over a decade," he said.

H-1B supporters use demand for the visa - which will exceed the 85,000 cap -- as proof of economic demand. But Salzman argues that U.S. colleges already graduate more scientists and engineers than find employment in those fields, about 200,000 more.

"Asking domestic graduates, both native-born and immigrant, to compete with guest workers on wages is not a winning strategy for strengthening U.S. science, technology and innovation," said Salzman.

See also

[Mar 16, 2015] File Under Improving Economy, Not

If the US is at Full Employment and the Economy is at full steam ( as Obot lackeys keep telling us), then why is the Fed Funds rate still at 0%. Isn't 0% Fed rate an indicator of an Economy On Life Support. Tell me why I'm wrong.
March 14, 2015 | naked capitalism

participant-observer-observed, March 14, 2015 at 5:19 am


This is int'l but insofar as City sleeps with Wall St, it may be relevant to see that City has a new boyfriend, getting front page coverage at the Taipei Times

Beijing yesterday hailed Britain's announcement that it would seek to join a Chinese-led development bank, after Washington voiced caution about the move.

. . . .

London's move drew a cautious response from Washington, a rare note of discord in their "special relationship," which follows criticism from the US about Britain's cuts to defense spending.

China and 20 other countries signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the Beijing-headquartered bank in October.

"We believe any new multilateral institution should incorporate the high standards of the World Bank and the regional development banks," US National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

"Based on many discussions, we have concerns about whether the AIIB will meet these high standards, particularly related to governance, and environmental and social safeguards."

The bank has support from countries including India, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

China's official Xinhua news agency rapped the US for its skepticism, writing in a commentary yesterday that Washington "exhibited nothing but a childish paranoia towards China."

"It seems that the US government needs to be reminded that bias and a deep-rooted strategic distrust towards China are by no means helpful in forging a healthy relationship with the country," Xinhua wrote.

"It's imperative for Washington to change its mindset," it said.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim yesterday also welcomed the setting up of the China-backed bank.

Llewelyn Moss, March 14, 2015 at 8:51 am

If the US is at Full Employment and the Economy is at full steam ( as Obot lackeys keep telling us), then why is the Fed Funds rate still at 0%.

Isn't 0% Fed rate an indicator of an Economy On Life Support. Tell me why I'm wrong.

cassiodorus, March 14, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Employment-population ratio: 59.3%, where it was in July of 2009

Employment-population ratio, 25-54: 77.3%, about where it was at the beginning of 2009

There has, then, been only a limited recovery.

[Mar 12, 2015] Hillary Clinton is now the face of shadow IT CIO

Notable quotes:
"... Usually, employees who decide to engage in shadow IT don't have bad intentions. They do so because what they're getting from corporate IT isn't good enough: Corporate-issued devices and apps are clunky, enterprise security measures ruin the user experience, IT is too slow to respond to requests. ..."
"... Battling on another front, CIOs should reach out to shadow IT vendors with an olive branch. While it's reactionary to slam vendors for bypassing IT, this won't stop them from selling directly to employees. Instead, CIOs should focus on building a relationship with vendors so that their services can spread throughout the organization on a long-term basis rather than sold to individuals and business units on an ad hoc basis, Riley says. ..."
"... Even if the political furor over Clinton's private email system subsides and continued debate shows shadow IT as a common practice -- "Colin Powell, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush used private email" for government business, Riley says -- this doesn't mean there aren't severe consequences. ..."
"... CIOs hope these fears have lasting effects, at least in the workplace. Clinton proved that she wasn't able to get away with her personal email system, and the fallout to her career can be great. Her situation should sound a warning to employees about the dangers of shadow IT. ..."
"... "The message is, if you try to circumvent us, then you're going to cause pain for yourself," Riley says. "But if you work with us, we're more than willing to give you whatever you need." ..."
Mar 12, 2015 | www.cio.com
"Heavy-handed approaches are not going to eliminate shadow IT, it'll just go farther underground," says Deputy CTO Steve Riley at Riverbed, an enterprise software vendor. "There's no positive outcome for being a disciplinarian about something like this. You might end up with services that are even more dangerous, where people now actively seek to circumvent policies."

Usually, employees who decide to engage in shadow IT don't have bad intentions. They do so because what they're getting from corporate IT isn't good enough: Corporate-issued devices and apps are clunky, enterprise security measures ruin the user experience, IT is too slow to respond to requests.

CIOs need to change this perception but not in an antagonistic way. Riley advises CIOs to work with employees in areas where shadow IT tends to start and spread, such as file sharing and instant messaging. It's easier to rein in data from five services than 30, Riley says.

Battling on another front, CIOs should reach out to shadow IT vendors with an olive branch. While it's reactionary to slam vendors for bypassing IT, this won't stop them from selling directly to employees. Instead, CIOs should focus on building a relationship with vendors so that their services can spread throughout the organization on a long-term basis rather than sold to individuals and business units on an ad hoc basis, Riley says.

CIOs can use Clinton case as a teachable moment

Ironically, the Clinton case might help CIOs fight against shadow IT by spurring employees to police themselves. Even if the political furor over Clinton's private email system subsides and continued debate shows shadow IT as a common practice -- "Colin Powell, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush used private email" for government business, Riley says -- this doesn't mean there aren't severe consequences.

There will likely be inquiries about whether or not Clinton broke the law. Her reputation as someone to be trusted has been tarnished. Her peers might think twice about lending their support if she put her political party at risk. If a smoking-gun email surfaces or a national security breach comes to light, Clinton will be under fire.

CIOs hope these fears have lasting effects, at least in the workplace. Clinton proved that she wasn't able to get away with her personal email system, and the fallout to her career can be great. Her situation should sound a warning to employees about the dangers of shadow IT.

"The message is, if you try to circumvent us, then you're going to cause pain for yourself," Riley says. "But if you work with us, we're more than willing to give you whatever you need."

Being 'Laid Off' Leads to a Decade of Distrust

On the costs of unemployment:

Being 'laid off' leads to a decade of distrust, EurekAlert!: People who lose their jobs are less willing to trust others for up to a decade after being laid-off, according to new research from The University of Manchester.

Being made redundant or forced into unemployment can scar trust to such an extent that even after finding new work this distrust persists, according to the new findings of social scientist Dr James Laurence. This means that the large-scale job losses of the recent recession could lead to a worrying level of long-term distrust among the British public and risks having a detrimental effect on the fabric of society.

Dr Laurence ... finds that being made redundant from your job not only makes people less willing to trust others but that this increased distrust and cynicism lasts at least nine years after being forced out of work. It also finds that far from dissipating over time, an individual can remain distrustful of others even after they find a new job. ...

gunste said...

I was laid off many years ago, because my usually correct advice to management bugged them when I was proved right.

Best thing that ever happened to me, because I found that I was able to use the projects that I managed and start my own business. It grew and became known world wide. I provided some QC, accelerated test equipment for my industry that was unique. Since the market was limited, no one else got into it. I thrived for 14 years, when the equipment became obsolescent and retired - very comfortably.
The lesson is, if you have new areas to explore and start your own business based on something you know very, very well, you can make it as your own boss - which is the best boss you will
ever have.

cm said in reply to gunste...

"you can make it as your own boss - which is the best boss you will ever have"

That's only the case if you are in a line of work where somebody else doesn't specify the details of what you have to do (to some level), which is often the case if your work can be described as a "service". But you sound happy so you weren't in that place.

reason said...

gunste
you do realize what the probability of new business succeeding is? It is like winning the lottery, and saying look there is no problem, just go in a lottery.

Because you succeeded, there is no guarantee that anybody else could. And as cm pointed out, you may not have a boss where you work, but your customer is your boss. You are still not fully self directed (and a good boss can give you some room for making you own decisions).

[Feb 08, 2015] How would you turn off IT's always-on culture By Tim Elkins

Feb 04, 2015 | The Enterprisers Project

The press is full of stories about Americans being overstretched and overworked. The U.S. Travel Association reported in August that 40 percent of us will leave paid vacation days unused this year. I know that work-life balance is a challenge because I, along with my colleagues in IT, live it every week. When I recently took my family on a vacation five time zones west of my home base in Dallas, I was excited because I could work in the morning before they got up and shut the computer off when they did.

In retrospect, should I have turned my computer on at all?

In the evenings, I've stopped counting how many times I go look at my phone just to see what’s going on. Rationally I know that if something alarming is going on I'll get a text or a call, but for some reason I still check. And I know it’s not just me, because of all the other people I see responding and working during the evening hours. The point is, you can never truly stay ahead of your email, but so many of us try regardless. We know it's insanity, but for some reason we still do it.

Better culture, less process

At PrimeLending we’re trying to take our out-of-balance lives back again. We call this effort Enhancing Culture. One thing I’m asking everyone on the technology team to do is send me ideas on how to enhance culture.

Another initiative is to reduce process. Here, too, I'm looking for ideas where team members see process is too heavy or unnecessary such that we can eliminate or reduce it. Anything we can do to make people want to work here, to enjoy working here more, is on the table.

Where have we landed thus far? Here are a few of our directions:

Am I satisfied yet? Not really. Part of the difficulty is the mortgage industry, of course, since our employees are meeting with customers in the evening, on weekends, and at their jobs. We don’t really have set business hours. Our corporate office opens and closes 7:00 to 5:30, but the actual folks who are supporting the people in the field across the country have to work. They have to meet with borrowers when it’s convenient for the borrowers, not when it’s convenient for us.

Just as with vacations, though, we need to be able to turn it all off and step away. I know I feel the stress and I know folks on the team feel it. We have conversations all the time about it. When there wasn’t a smartphone, there was a lot more downtime and a lot more conversations with folks. I don’t think we’re handling the smartphone well as a country, to be honest. Just like email, staying on top of your smart phone literally never ends. If I clean out my inbox tonight, it’s going to be filled right back up tomorrow.

We asked some of our Enterprisers to respond to Tim's thoughts, here are their responses:

Sven Gerjets, chief technology officer at Pearson

  1. Define success measures for your employees. Hours spent is the worst way to measure productivity and value. I would never measure the success of my financial planner this way, as an example. I would rather have him spend an hour a day on me and get a 25 percent return than spend 12 hours and get a 10 percent return. Similarly, I think the key to balance is in helping our employees figure out the measure of their success. This is often easier said than done. If they don't understand the KPIs that show they are or are not successful they will burn the midnight oil to earn your approval.
  2. Act on priorities immediately. I think the other thing that erodes productivity and creates waste is our reliance on email and meetings. Well over half of the emails we get are a waste, in my opinion. Burning through these as quickly as possible, if you can't stop them, is critical. For the few important emails you do get, addressing them right away is critical. The longer they sit the more you get and after a while you will have 100 emails that you have to spend time on, which becomes impossible. On the meeting front, I think pushing for agendas and expected outcomes helps guide the time and documented decisions and named action items helps prevent the need for follow up meetings because of misunderstanding and confusion about accountability.

Rajeev Jaswal, director of IT at Red Hat

As you know there is no magic bullet. Five principles we apply in our groups are:

  1. Effective delegation with the ability to check (trust but verify periodically)
  2. Accountability at all levels to avoid the hero syndrome
  3. Rotation into roles that cause disruption of work/life balance (pager duties)
  4. Reward for the right behaviors
  5. Establish clip levels of authorization rather than the funnel approach.

In other words, delegate authority downward into the organization so our associates feel more ownership for change approvals, financial approvals, or project checkpoint approvals. This goes hand-in-hand with accountability.

Tom Soderstrom, IT chief technology officer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

This is a difficult problem. For example, I'm responding to this after 11 p.m. on Sunday, and have worked all weekend, so we're not necessarily there yet. But here are three things we do:

  1. We celebrate successes with awards, get-togethers, lunches, dinners, etc., which include spouses.
  2. We do a 90/80 work schedule, which means seven nine-hour days in a two-week period, one eight-hour day and then a free Friday every other week.
  3. We encourage outdoor meetings and provide outdoor space. We're now creating more open space inside and outside and more creative space.

Peter Buonora, enterprise architect at BJ’s Wholesale Club

Become a business chemistry expert. One of the keys to avoiding team burnout starts with building a team that has a strong chemistry — hiring people that will be driven to succeed together and would ideally spend time together outside of work. The team should enjoy doing things together and be able to bond and make a human connection with each other, almost like an extended family. This becomes an internal support system and I believe these types of teams can conquer just about anything. It is also critical that they have a strong sense of purpose far beyond just what they are working on today, tomorrow or for the next six months.

I am reading a great book called "Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose" by Tony Hsieh – founder of Zappos. I would highly recommend it for new ideas on building a great culture. I believe this is the key to sustaining great team performance and avoiding burnout. Check out the culture book that they put together. Each year they ask team members to describe in 500 words or less what Zappos culture means to them. Whether it is good or bad it goes into their culture book.

Even though teams may have to work long and hard, it is those teams that build a strong bond that will be able to not only endure, but deliver things nobody thought possible and will over-deliver in the of toughest times.

ALSO READ

John McGregor, CTO of Kronos Inc., also has some ideas about how to mitigate the burnout effect on staff. Read his interview, "CIOs should look for the 3 C's: character, collaboration and competence."

Tim Elkins joined PrimeLending in November 2008 as Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer. In October 2012, Tim was promoted to executive vice president, chief information officer, and he is responsible for information security, IT operations, and technology initiatives.

[Oct 08, 2014] IMF warns period of ultra-low interest rates poses fresh financial crisis threat

Quote: "loose monetary policies also prompted investment in high-yield but risky assets and for investors to take bigger bets."... From comments: "I think there are a couple of problems with British Business from my observation. Firstly a lot of senior management lack technical experience in the business sector their business is involved in. When I was at university I worked freelance as a web developer and I noticed that a lot of the MDs of these web development firms had no background in web design or development. Whilst i'd concede that it's not necessary to be an expert web developer to own web development firm i'd say it is necessary to have some technical competency otherwise how do you make appropriate decisions, you end up reliant on other people and usually those people have their own interests at heart not the interest of the business.
The other problem is again senior management not being able to accept responsibility or criticism. They pretend they're open to constructive criticism but as soon as somebody sticks their neck out the axe swings even if the criticism is valid. This is part of the reason I struck out on my own and tried to run my business differently, I got pissed off with not being able to challenge stupid decisions. Being a CEO or MD doesn't mean one is better than anyone else, nor are they infallible and the sooner people realise this the better. "
The Guardian

...José Viñals, the IMF’s financial counsellor, said:

“Policymakers are facing a new global imbalance: not enough economic risk-taking in support of growth, but increasing excesses in financial risk-taking posing stability challenges.”

He added that traditional banks were safer after the injection of additional capital but not strong enough to support economic recovery.

Viñals said the IMF had analysed 300 large banks in advanced economies, making up the bulk of their banking system. It found that institutions representing almost 40% of total assets lacked the financial muscle to supply adequate credit in support of the recovery. In the eurozone, this proportion rose to about 70%.

“And risks are shifting to the shadow banking system in the form of rising market and liquidity risks,” Viñals said. “If left unaddressed, these risks could compromise global financial stability.”

The stability report said low interest rates were “critical” in supporting the economy because they encouraged consumers to spend, and businesses to hire and invest. But it noted that loose monetary policies also prompted investment in high-yield but risky assets and for investors to take bigger bets. One concern is that much of the high-risk investment has taken place in emerging markets, leaving them vulnerable to rising US interest rates.

“Accommodative policies aimed at supporting the recovery and promoting economic risk taking have facilitated greater financial risk taking,” the IMF said. As evidence it pointed to rising asset prices, smaller premiums on riskier investments and the lack of volatility in financial markets. In many cases, the IMF said the behaviour of investors was at odds with the state of the global economy.

“What is unusual about these developments is their synchronicity: they have occurred simultaneously across broad asset classes and across countries in a way that is unprecedented.”

tomsixty1, 08 October 2014 2:30pm

So why do they now recognise that the policies they supported are making what remains of the global economy unstable and unsustainable?

They are preparing us for more bail outs and austerity.

"The primary beneficiaries of these central bank money creation policies have been global very high net worth investors, their financial institutions, and global corporations in general. According to a study in 2013 by Capgemini, a global business consultancy, Very High Net Worth Investors increased their invest-able wealth by $4 trillion in 2012 alone, with projected further asset growth of $4 trillion a year in the coming decade. The primary financial institutions which invest on their behalf, what are called ‘shadow banks’ (i.e. hedge funds, private equity firms, asset management companies, and dozens of other globally unregulated financial institutions) more than doubled their total assets from 2008 to 2013, and now hold more than $71 trillion in invest-able assets globally.

This massive accrual of wealth by global finance capitalists and their institutions occurred in speculating and investing in offshore financial and emerging market opportunities—made possible in the final analysis by the trillions of dollars, pounds, Euros, and Yen provided at little or no cost by central banks’ policies since 2008. That is, until 2014.
That massive tens of trillions of dollars, diverted from the US, Europe and Japan to the so-called ‘Emerging Markets’ and China is now beginning to flow back from the emerging markets to the ‘west’.

Consequently in turn, the locus of the global crisis that first erupted in 2008 in the U.S., then shifted to Europe between 2010-early 2013, is now shifting again, a third time. Financial and economic instability is now emerging and deepening in offshore markets and economies—and growing increasingly likely in China as well." Jack Rasmus February 2014.

Fendercombo -> Elbowpatch , 08 October 2014 11:43pm
Speaking as somebody who actually owns a small manufacturing business I can't say I blame you for not investing in a manufacturing start-up. It's not a safe investment. I was pretty lucky in that i've been building guitar amplifiers and effect pedals since about 14 as a hobby and I kind of grew that hobby into a business. The only investment i've ever taken was a startup loan in 2002 and I paid that back in 2010.

I think there are a couple of problems with British Business from my observation. Firstly a lot of senior management lack technical experience in the business sector their business is involved in. When I was at university I worked freelance as a web developer and I noticed that a lot of the MDs of these web development firms had no background in web design or development. Whilst i'd concede that it's not necessary to be an expert web developer to own web development firm i'd say it is necessary to have some technical competency otherwise how do you make appropriate decisions, you end up reliant on other people and usually those people have their own interests at heart not the interest of the business.

The other problem is again senior management not being able to accept responsibility or criticism. They pretend they're open to constructive criticism but as soon as somebody sticks their neck out the axe swings even if the criticism is valid. This is part of the reason I struck out on my own and tried to run my business differently, I got pissed off with not being able to challenge stupid decisions. Being a CEO or MD doesn't mean one is better than anyone else, nor are they infallible and the sooner people realise this the better.

[Sep 12, 2014] 5 questions to ask before you take a tech job By Mary K. Pratt

Sep 11, 2014 | computerworld.com

Anthony Artois, 1 day ago

This is a "print-and-keep" for the job search folder.

Some interview questions one may ask:

  1. Will I be expected to falsify records ?
  2. Has the person who will be my direct supervisor ever been sued for sexual harassment?
  3. Can you provide any additional details on why the person who held this position last abruptly quit?
  4. Have you ever considered abruptly quitting yourself? What were the associated circumstances?
  5. Has anyone at this company ever attempted suicide while on-premises?

WARNING: Only ask these questions if you are reasonably certain you don't want the job anyway.

[Aug 17, 2014] Engineers are the lifeblood of a country – and the UK doesn’t have enough by

August 16, 2014 | theguardian.com, | Jump to comments (857)

The number of people taking science and maths A-levels is up for the fifth year running. Good, because I need some engineers. Rather a lot, in fact.

Unfazed by complex data and comfortable with technical theory and practice, engineers are a rarefied breed of problem-solvers. Or at least they are here in Britain. In the next six years, nearly 3m engineering jobs will be unfilled. With a shortage of supply, and growing demand, we certainly can’t afford for the brightest minds to be snared by the City’s big bucks.

Today, Dyson has a shortfall of 100 engineers. Next year we begin our £300m expansion, creating thousands of research and development roles in Wiltshire. I like our laboratories to be busy, creative hives buzzing with brain power – rather like a school. I don’t like clinical white-coated silence. And so we need more “brains”. Dyson needs them. Britain needs them. Otherwise we will lose out to China and India – countries that revere engineers – when it comes to developing, patenting and exporting new technology.

Twelve years ago, Dyson stopped assembling vacuums in the UK. One major reason was a failure to secure planning permission for a second factory adjacent to our existing one. Ironically, the factory we mothballed is now the R&D space we are outgrowing. The ironies continue: our new laboratories will rise on the very spot of our never-built second factory.

The closure of our assembly lines was painful, but it meant focusing on developing technology here in the UK. For example, our ultra-high-speed digital motors are conceived and engineered here. We’ve been developing them now for more than 15 years. They use new technology which makes them much smaller and more efficient – a revolution in motor design. I can say that, because I’m not clever enough to invent a motor. But I am lucky enough to work with people who are.

Every six seconds one of these motors rolls off the line. Actually it’s more of a very accurate placing, and it’s all totally automated, in Singapore – close to the lines that make the Airblade hand-dryers and cordless vacuums they are to propel, and close to Singapore’s rapidly growing engineering talent pool.

Somewhere in that tale is a warning. Britain fell out of love with manufacturing, and emerging economies picked up the tools we’d downed. If the encouraging renaissance of science and engineering in schools is a dead cat bounce, we will fall out of love with invention too.

When you crunch the numbers, just 4% of this year’s A-levels were in physics – an essential subject for most engineering courses. A problem. But the problems start even earlier. Research by the Royal Academy of Engineering shows that only half of 16-year-olds in England pass both GCSE maths and at least two sciences, meaning half of our young people are disadvantaged if they wish to pursue engineering.

Yes, science is perceived as hard. But a bigger problem is that young people don’t know what a career in science or engineering offers. An engineer is not a man in greasy overalls or a harebrained oddball (though I have a soft spot for the latter). They are technologists, developing ideas to shape our future. That’s why my foundation works with young people from primary school age to dispel the myths and help them discover what a career in engineering is like.

Science and design and technology in schools must highlight the excitement of developing ideas and experimenting with new materials – carbon fibre, not just cardboard. Learning by doing, failing in the process, and trying again. The classroom must equip young people with the skills to bring these ideas to life, and most importantly the enthusiasm to embark on further study.

We have seen exactly this. For the past two years we have been working with five schools in Bath encouraging students as young as 13 to discover the world of engineering – high-tech equipment working alongside an industry-relevant curriculum. Uptake in design and technology has increased by 200%, and crucially more girls are taking it up too.

I want the biggest discoveries of the future to take place on our soil. We must build on the reputation of our world-class universities. That starts by feeding in the best young people from our schools. If we get it right we will fill our pipeline with highly skilled inventors, develop patentable technology and export it around the world.

patrick111, 16 August 2014 11:07am

Working in City of London is more paying, attractive and respectable than to be an Engineer in Britain. Surely the brightest would go for financial services.

bluejay2011 -> patrick111, 16 August 2014 11:29am

Surely there's an element of satisfaction that could lure "the brightest" back to engineering: being involved in a creative process that changes technology and the the way humans interact with the world.

In the city you may make some temporary money to spend on things others have made, but as an engineer you can (occasionally) change human destiny.

RedLaup -> patrick111, 16 August 2014 11:38am

You do not need to be "bright" to work in the city, let's nail that myth!!!

Billyandbenny, 16 August 2014 11:13am

Well, what do you expect? We allowed the unions to be destroyed, which allowed corporations to offshore most of our industrial production - and our engineering skills. Yes, we need more engineers but there will be no point in training more unless we take concrete steps to reinstate domestic production capacity.

This is a political 'hot potato' - donations - and the tragic irony of it is that the very people who cheered on the decimation of our working class now say that, rather than train our own engineers, we should import them as and when needed. It's all quite treasonous.

bailliegillies -> niko91, 16 August 2014 11:54am

In most cases it was not a matter of the production being placed offshore. It was more a matter that the UK industries could not produce goods as well and as cheaply as other countries.

Yet Germany doesn't have a problem, their goods are expensive and they pay their workers four times as much as British workers get. So no it's not simply about producing goods cheaper and quicker, there's something else at play and it's about profit as there is more money to be made manufacturing the goods in China and Korea than there is in the UK.

mugclass -> Billyandbenny, 16 August 2014 2:15pm

You are contradicting what Dyson is saying. He is stating that his company in the UK does not have a sufficient pool of young engineers, whereas you are saying there's no point training them without jobs available. I work in a manufacturing industry and we are on a continual hunt for young people with potential for engineering, but we also need university graduate engineers - of which there's a massive shortage - civil engineers, mechanical, bio mechanical etc. we've just taken on a 26 year old graduate Mechanical Engineer from Madrid, having failed to find a UK candidate.

He, on the other hand, couldn't find a well paid post in Spain so came to the UK. Remember there's a massive difference between an 'engineer' who mends your washing machine, and a professionally qualified graduate.

ID7776906 -> niko91, 16 August 2014 3:19pm

Yes between that and industrial spying and just improving upon the British and American inventions already in existence. Paying your work force in bags of rice and adding a few basic electric improvements for vanity it was simple for foreign nations to produce manufactured goods more cheaply and ship across the world. Who invented the steam engine ?Who invented the internal combustion engine,Who discovered vulcanized rubber and plastic and injection molding machines?

Michael Faraday and his development of the electric motor?The 1830`s steam carriages that pioneered automobiles? The triple expansion steam engine? I have yet to see any substantial earth shaking development from the Hondas, Toyotas, and Nissans and Tesas and the Korean car firms, it`s all been simple convenient basic tuning of what has already been established by the West, and they took over the market without research and development costs and paying their workers a pittance starvation wages.

NomadEngineer -> bailliegillies, 16 August 2014 6:14pm

German 'workers' earn about the same as UK workers if you are referring to production line workers and technicians.

But Germany values its engineers, and their pay is excellent. A 'Diploma Engineer' has a higher status than lawyers, medics, financiers. That is the reason Germany's manufacturing is so successful.

This problem in the UK is two generations old. As a graduate engineer I worked in Germany around 1970, and could not believe how valued and supported I was, my productivity was three times that in the UK. I had beens seconded by my UK company, but found out I could earn twice my UK salary if I shifted employers.

For personal reasons I returned to the UK, but wish I could have stayed in Germany. It also explains why such a large percentage of scientists and engineers, graduating from our good universities, quit the UK, many for good.

It's better now, but the general public still can't differentiate between a highly qualified engineer and a mechanic.

Putting it briefly, an engineer uses maths where an accounant uses arithmetic, an engineer uses logic where a lawyer uses precedent, and I won't comment on the guesswork that financiers use.

I have since spent a good part of my life working outside the UK, though unlike many of my university compatriots, I have not quit the UK entirely.

bodrules -> theindyisbetter, 16 August 2014 7:29pm

The rot in R&D started waaay before the 80's - look at the machine tool industry (where Germany makes big bucks), that was effectively killed off by the early 70's in the UK - thanks to poor R&D (which UK companies are still poor at) plus they lacked investment into modern capital equipment etc

Just one example, then there's the advent of the petro-pound in the early 90's, the all round R&D debacle, poor industrial relations, poor levels of investment in training, UK consumers being willing to purchase cheap foreign imports, our very open markets, short term rent seeking and profit boosting etc all combine to make today.

thedavegray watersdeep, 16 August 2014 9:16pm

Wrong. Some German companies pay a 13th pay packet but certainly not all of them.

Tax is and the cost of living are higher in Germany too.

Happytravelling Billyandbenny, 16 August 2014 11:38pm

You're obviously not an engineer and you're talking rubbish.

Mismanagement and Destructive employee-employer relations led to the decline in UK mass manufacturing. And that was in part due to unions as well as poor management. You obviously don't remember red Robbo?

But small scale, high end manufacturing is very healthy in the UK.

The reality is, for high volume, low margin manufacturing to be viable in a high wage economy, high productivity and efficiency is essential.

watersdeep thedavegray, 17 August 2014 2:40pm

Wrong. Some German companies pay a 13th pay packet but certainly not all of them.

Tax is and the cost of living are higher in Germany too.

No, tax was about the same (i.e. no lower in the UK, even though the standard of living is lower). Housing is the major outgoing, Germans have a system where they save for a house. but most Germans rent (and the rental market is strictly controlled), and although not all companies may be paying a 13th month salary, most do.

We also received between 2,000 - 3,500€ in bonus once a year shared in the company, which was family run, and a small number of free shares at Christmas time. Now show me the UK company that does the same.


MohammedS chalkandcheese, 16 August 2014 11:53am

I don't think this is world wide. For instance many developing world universities have excellent engineering programmes and the likes of the USA strives to attract and retain engineers as it understands the importance of the sector. Here in the UK we live in a service sector reliant economy and production and design has taken not only a back seat but a space under the spare wheel! Until we have significant shifts in the way we think about our economy we will never attract or retain good engineers. And so fall behind everyone else year upon year.

bailliegillies chalkandcheese, 16 August 2014 12:01pm

No it isn't worldwide, very much a UK problem. When I left the oil industry they were throwing money at the few engineers and experienced people around and bringing in people from abroad. On one of my last contracts I had some from Australia who I had to instruct on the systems. Go take a look at what they're paying engineers offshore now compared to what they paid when I was working. Even taking into account inflation the rates for offshore have risen exponentially.

zeke2u MohammedS, 17 August 2014 11:44am

I think you'll find that the UK is more like the US than differs from it. The US economy is also highly financialised. This statistic says a lot: in Japan, engineers outnumber lawyers 10 to 1. In the US, there's 10 lawyers for every engineer. The steel industry in Japan was financed by US banks in the '60's, while the US was still in a monopoly position. GM, which employs ~300,000 people worldwide, use to employ that many in Detroit alone. The attack against industry in the US was motivated by the same reasons in both countries: that's where union concentration was the highest.

Williamlarge , 16 August 2014 11:32am
James Dyson is a right wing Tory. He off shores employment because it makes him more money not because he has an inherent love for English workers (which is the real reason why we lose out to India and China. Not because they have thousands of engineers, but their labour is cheap). He's always going on and on about engineers every time A level results come out, but you can't force someone to be one can you? I always find it strange how these right wing business men love the idea of social engineering when it comes to their own business, but shout 'socialism' if when there is a whiff of egalitarian politics.
exiledlondoner , 16 August 2014 11:32am

The closure of our assembly lines was painful, but it meant focusing on developing technology here in the UK. For example, our ultra-high-speed digital motors are conceived and engineered here.

"Conceived and engineered here" means "built somewhere else". For all his bollocks about 'pain', James Dyson moved production abroad because it was cheaper - assembly lines do not need hoards of engineering and physics graduates to work on them.

Meanwhile, his rival vacuum cleaner maker, Numatic, continue to make their excellent products in the UK (no gadgets, no gizmos - just really good machines), and actually do contribute to the UK economy, instead of just wrapping themselves in a far-eastern made union jack, and pretending to....

Has anyone seen a builder using a Dyson? In my experience, they all use Numatic 'Henry' machines....

spatterfest -> exiledlondoner, 16 August 2014 11:52am

Indeed.

Dyson's much trumpeted adoration of British engineers is largely garbage.

He likes British engineers in the areas where he can't find cheaper engineers elsewhere.

exiledlondoner theindyisbetter , 16 August 2014 12:23pm

I'm not sure why Dyson gets so much stick in the Guardian comments section.

Because he likes to present himself as something he's not - a patriot who cares about British manufacturing. In reality he's just another corporate suit making more profits by taking advantage of the low-wage, unregulated labour markets in Asia.

As far as I can tell it seems that Dyson employs roughly twice the number of people in the UK than Numatic do, and on better wages presumably (since according a Guardian report a few years ago the majority of Numatic employees are on a basic shop floor wage).

Dyson is a much bigger company - that's to be expected. The difference is that Dyson talks about British manufacturing, while Numatic actually make things here....

I know it does you no good if you were a factory shop floor worker, but as far as I can see Dyson now employs more people in the UK than they did when the factory was here - just doing different things.

He may have finally got back to the employment levels he reached before he sacked his workers and exported their jobs, but this is a south east Asian success story - not a British one. Most of Dyson's employees and his profits are not here.

Dyson are hardly the only company to do this, so why the animosity?

Other foreign companies don't lecture me about how the UK should be run, and how much they care for all the people here they've made redundant to increase their profits.

Dyson is to all intents and purposes a foreign company. James Dyson should lecture the Malaysians and the people of Singapore - not us.

NotForTurning jusi , 16 August 2014 2:48pm

"Engineers are the lifeblood of a country"

Typical case of tunnel vision.

A teacher would say the same of teachers. A politician of politicians. A banker of bankers. But a nurse wouldn't. Really, this is just silly stuff and is the product of a narrowed mind.

And the irony is that in consideration of the heavy, expensive, cumbersome, fragile vaccuum cleaners, he should really be saying that marketing men

RedLaup, 16 August 2014 11:37am

Students perception of engineering is a very valid point. Engineering needs to sell itself! Too many students are bowled over by hyped up media, finance and law careers. Glamorous films and tv series are not set in engineering environments. The whole engineering community needs to get together and present a coordinated PR and educational campaign. I would love my son to go into engineering.

OffensiveUnsuitable RedLaup, 16 August 2014 3:04pm

Too many children are put off maths & science subjects by the curriculums and the way they are taught. Make them more accessible for those who cannot see the point. When I was in graduate school, we had an eminent professor of structural engineering, Mario Salvadori who, twice a week, used to teach teenagers in Harlem an evening class in statics and strengths of structures. He used props: for instance, he had a long piece of foam rubber that he used to demonstrate tension & compression in simply supported beams vs fixed beams and cantilevered beams - oh, and he taught it using no mathematics, because so many people are intimidated by maths.


Maurice Walshe RedLaup, 16 August 2014 4:52pm

As the drifters said its "money honey"

BeastNeedsMoreTorque RedLaup, 16 August 2014 8:20pm

There's a lot of Physics PhD's working in finance.

The astronomical wages in finance have sucked in brains from many fields.

There are and will be consequences from that.

This article is very poor. It trots out the old cliches about why there are shortages of engineers. Yet never mentions the wages of the finance sector as a factor.

WilliamAshbless -> RedLaup, 17 August 2014 9:32am

Glamorous films and tv series are not set in engineering environments.

Who makes these tv series? Arts graduates of course.
Do Arts graduates think engineering glamorous? Clearly not.
But this is, no doubt, the same the world over. Yet Germany and Switzerland they have high wage economies with significant exports and a positive balance of trade. How come? It's not as if their media are engineering propagandists. Likewise the UK, Switzerland has a big finance sector.

I, personally, put it down to the culture of the elites. The elites decide pay grades; and they pay themselves most. UK elite culture goes back decades; if not centuries. How many engineers are MPs? 1, 2, 0? Every single member of the Chinese politburo are engineering PhDs.

WilliamAshbless RedLaup , 17 August 2014 10:39am
Have a look at the Guardian's news front page today:

Interview with Liv Tyler: actress
Interview with Sofie Gråbøl: actress
Interview with Kim Dotcom: hardly an engineer
Interview with Mo Farah: sportsman
Interview with Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike: actors
Interview with Jackie Chan: actor
Tribute to Lauren Bacall: actress

These are the people we want to read about - engineering is, indeed, not glamorous and no amount of propaganda is going to get Guardian journalists to change that. Yet these glamorised people are, by and large, actors. Guardian writers aren't glamorizing lawyers, bankers, dentists, accountants and salespeople. There's quite a lot of media portrayal of police; especially detectives but I don't necessarily see that as glamorizing crime fighting. Accountancy must be just about the most unglamourous job going. Does that explain the status of accounts in the UK w.r.t. engineers? No.

WilliamAshbless WilliamAshbless , 17 August 2014 10:41am

Does that explain the status of accountants in the UK w.r.t. engineers? No.

Arhhh. When will we get an edit button on CiF? It need only last 4 minutes.
PeterS378 , 16 August 2014 11:37am

Engineers are the lifeblood of a country – and the UK doesn’t have enough

Engineering degrees are demanding, and at the end, pay relatively poorly, even at graduate level, let alone after a few years:

Average graduate starting salary, by sector:

Investment Banking £45,000
Law £38,000
Oil and Energy £32,500
Media £32,000
Consulting £31,500
Dentistry £31,000
Banking and Finance £30,000
IT and Telecommunications £30,000
Armed Forces £29,500
Medicine £29,000
Accounting and Professional Services £28,000
Chemical and Pharmaceutical £27,500
Engineering and Industrial £26,500
Retail £24,000
Public Sector £23,000

If you want more engineers, pay them more

PacoFleyas

16 August 2014 11:41am

An engineer is not a man in greasy overalls or a harebrained oddball

Problem is that our political leaders believe just the opposite - and why wouldn't they? Davo's a jumped up PR man and Milbo's a political policy wonk. Ultimate irony though is that the person who destroyed manufacturing in the country was actually a qualified Chemist!

No chance of Engineers being as respected and valued as much here as they are in Germany until we get someone in government who is one. Government advisors on Science & Technology have been completely anonymous - can you even name one?? - and if you can, tell us one thing that

Freeport PacoFleyas

16 August 2014 11:55am

No chance of Engineers being as respected and valued as much here as they are in Germany until we get someone in government who is one.

You mean Dennis Healey, Major in the Royal Engineers and in charge of the landings at Anzio. He realised that wasting time and money keeping dead engineering companies going was a total non-starter, even before Thatcher. The left hated him for telling them the reality.

theindyisbetter PacoFleyas, 16 August 2014 11:59am

the person who destroyed manufacturing in the country was actually a qualified Chemist

Blaming Thatch for everything again. If you actually look at the facts, Brown/Blair were much worse.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/jul/24/can-manufacturing-fill-british-economic-vacuum

Never mind Thatcherism. As McFadden confessed, the former Labour government "came late to the game". Only after the financial collapse did it remember there were still these buildings called factories with owners and workers who deserved to be helped and encouraged. Under Blair and Brown, manufacturing jobs shrank from 4.1m to 2.6m, and manufacturing's share of GDP from 18% to 13%.

ID1298062 , 16 August 2014 1:11pm

In Germany, engineers are respected as much as doctor's and lawyers, it's not the same in the UK. I met a German business graduate and told him I had an engineering degree, he said he wasn't smart enough to be an engineer. Here, business graduates are put on a pedestal above engineers, which puts engineers off. Bean counters are rewarded a lot more than those that produce tangible products.

semyorka, 16 August 2014 1:19pm

I have to say that a part of this is the English maths A level structure. In most countries your maths final year is 1\6th of what you need to learn in England it is 1/3rd or 2/3rds. Too many people are put off maths by it being a difficult subject that you have to immerse yourself in at high school level.

This runs contrary to the mantra from certain universities that we are not educating our school leavers to be good enough for their undergrad maths courses.

But to turn high school maths into little more than a preparatory system for the most elite maths specialists means we are putting off the huge number of mid level grads who have decent maths skills but will not need to be competing for Fields Medals.

pretendname, 16 August 2014 1:25pm

The UK has plenty of engineers. It's just that they end up having to go into other careers because being an Engineer doesn't pay enough.

Corozin, 16 August 2014 1:30pm

I am frankly getting quick sick of reading articles by Dyson bemoning the lack of engineering talent in the UK.

This is, after all, the man who shafted a vast proportion of his workforce only a few years ago when he moved his factory production offshore. The way he bangs the patriotic drum makes me puke.

1789wasAgoodYear, 16 August 2014 1:30pm

How can you say this? Everyone is an engineer these days. We've got Sanitation Engineers, Domestic Engineers, etc..

The problem is many Engineers of the variety you're speaking of have had their jobs and pay downgraded by everyone being an engineer.

ian barton, 16 August 2014 1:38pm

I am an ex toolmaker who had to do a six year apprenticeship, got fed up of getting dirty everyday and of other people who look down on you because you get your hands dirty,

I now work in IT, I get paid more but I still get emails asking if I want a toolmaker contract for about £10 an hour, why? I can stack shelves for this and have no responsibility, and go home at night no thinking what might happen the the cnc machine that I have progrmmed. This counrty was built on manufacturing like Germany,look where Germany is now,they still manufacture and make profit.

all we have are low paid unskilled jobs or highly skilled jobs the uk company's wan't
people for but won't pay to train these youg people incase they leave for more money,why not have a transfer fee like football,if someone whant's to leave for anther company fine but the must pay a fee to the company who paid to train them.

slapmatt ian barton, 16 August 2014 3:02pm

Germany GDP by sector
Agriculture: 0.8%,
Manufacturing: 28%,
services: 71.2%

UK GDP by sector
Agriculture: 0.7%
Manufacturing: 21.5%
Services: 77.8%

Hardly a massive difference between the contributions made by manufacturing in Germany and the UK, despite all the myths.

felixzacat, 16 August 2014 1:42pm

As a software engineer you can build automatic trading software, which will mean city traders will lose their jobs. I think that's a good thing :)

JBigglesworth, 16 August 2014 1:44pm

James, as a Tory fanboy, how do you think Gove and his party and their media cronies' persistent denigration of vocational education in favour of such vital subjects as Ancient Greek and Biblical Hebrew (EBacc subjects that "count"!) promote the development of engineers?

If only so many entry-level engineering jobs hadn't been farmed out to India and China....James, are you listening??

What we need is proper vocational education that is considered as "enabling" as academic subjects, proper career pathways and respect for engineers with appropriate salary levels and an industrial base that means that the few engineers we have don't have to move to India, China and Korea to earn a living.

But that will require putting a brake on off-shoring (I'm sure it truly was the permissive planning regime and absolutely not the ability to make enormous margins that encouraged you to move!), investment in State schools, and the kind of long term plan that costs serious money; all of which are anathema to the Tory-loving, short-termist, quick-buck spivvery that dominates this country. You never know, you might get fewer Chinese copyright infringements then too James!

heringgull, 16 August 2014 1:50pm

PAY IN UK
BROKER 98 000
LAWYER 71 000
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL 70 000

Physicist 49 000
ELECTR. Enginer 43 000
Engineer 40 000 ----- from this is mones 1/2013

any question why there is a shortage of technical experts or researchers ?

epidavros heringgull, 16 August 2014 1:56pm

I left semiconductor physics research because it was woefully paid and had dreadful job security. We do almost none of it now in the UK, and having invented the programmable computer have absolutely no leading companies in the field.

jgharston epidavros, 16 August 2014 3:34pm

ARM?

[Aug 12, 2014] A Good IT Person Needs To Be Half Technologist, Half Psychologist All Tech Considered NPR by Laura Sydell

August 11, 2014 | npr.org

Your doctor and your lawyer may know a lot about you. But in a time when we are using computers to socialize, keep track of finances, do work and store family photos, your IT person probably knows more.

So when computers go down, it can cause intense feelings. There's an entire meme of online videos of frustrated people destroying their computers. Some psychologists have even coined the term "computer rage" to describe these outbursts.

When you're feeling that way, you can pick up a hammer or you can call an IT guy at a firm like Mann Consulting in downtown San Francisco. This is command central for customers in the midst of a crisis.

Co-founder Harold Mann says his office can be like a hospital emergency room. "We have the same challenges where we have to counsel people and comfort them during stressful times while also practicing our craft, which is getting their machines to work," he says.

Getting machines to work is an essential part of the job, but so is making the customer feel better. And tech geeks are famous for not being very good at that.

The British comedy series The IT Crowd gets laughs because it nails that modern-day trope. Two of its main characters, Maurice Moss and Roy Trenneman, answer phone calls from distressed computer users and treat them with disdain or give incoherent technical explanations.

Mann, who has a staff of 16, says those are the kinds of people he doesn't want to hire. "There's no question that pure engineering talents does not make for a great IT person," he says. "We have to do a lot of vetting when we hire people to find people who are kind, not just brilliant."

Many of Mann's clients say they find him kind.

Fred Goldberg, a retired advertising executive, has been working with Mann for two decades. "I always kid him," Goldberg says. "I say, 'What'd you take a lesson on human behavior this morning?' But it's good. I'm sure it gives comfort to a lot of people."

[Apr 08, 2014] The Unix sysadmin's guide to getting along with co-workers By Sandra Henry-Stocker

ITworld

One of the top strategies for managing relationships at work is to always maintain an appropriate level of humor. It doesn't pay to be goofy, but a few running jokes and inside humor can lighten those hard days when you'd otherwise be inclined to beat your head against the wall or cry out in frustration. Keep your sense of humor, even when the going gets rough. Spend a little time away from the office together if you can. Share some personal events. Don’t base your entire relationship on trouble tickets and backups.

Another, perhaps related, tactic is to remember that you are not your job. I've had to remind myself of this time and time again. To a large degree, I often let my career become too big a part of my self-definition. One way around this -- other than having a deeply satisfying personal life (which hasn't always worked for me) -- is to base some part of your professional identity well beyond the walls of the building in which you work. Join professional organizations. Meet people at conferences and stay in touch. Develop and share tutorials on those things you're really good at. Find ways to use your skills that provide you with an independent sense of your worth. And don’t lose track of the fact that your coworkers are not their jobs either.

Try to avoid becoming isolated, even when your work is primarily independent of the work of your coworkers. For several years, I worked for a guy who cut me off from everything else going on in our division. He'd drop by my office once a week to ask what I'd been working on and then disappear for a week while maintaining conspiracy theories about how his boss was intent on making everything we worked on fail. Having connections outside the company -- my writing and part-time teaching -- helped me deal with the isolation, but I don't ever want to work like that again. In retrospect, I should have found some way to better understand and deal with whatever politics were feeding this situation, but I survived and he didn't.

Another lesson -- behave professionally. Make peace with your big disappointments without allowing resentment to build up, leaving you bitter or impacting the quality of your work or your relationships with your coworkers.

[Apr 08, 2014] 7 habits of highly successful Unix admins By Sandra Henry-Stocker

April 05, 2014 | itworld.com

Unix admins generally work a lot of hours, juggle a large set of priorities, get little credit for their work, come across as arrogant by admins of other persuasions, tend to prefer elegant solutions to even the simplest of problems, take great pride in their ability to apply regular expressions to any challenge that comes their way....

You can spend 50-60 hours a week managing your Unix servers and responding to your users' problems and still feel as if you're not getting much done or you can adopt some good work habits that will both make you more successful and prepare you for the next round of problems.

  1. Habit 1: Don't wait for problems to find you. One of the best ways to avoid emergencies that can throw your whole day out of kilter is to be on the alert for problems in their infancy. I have found that installing scripts on the servers that report unusual log entries, check performance and disk space statistics, report application failures or missing processes, and email me reports when anything looks "off" can be of considerable value. The risks are getting so much of this kind of email that you don't actually read it or failing to notice when these messages stop arriving or start landing in your spam folder. Noticing what messages *aren't* arriving is not unlike noticing who from your team of 12 or more people hasn't shown up for a meeting.

    Being proactive, you are likely to spot a number of problems long before they turn into outages and before you users notice the problems or find that they can no longer get their work done. It's also extremely beneficial if you have the resources needed to plan for disaster. Can you fail over a service if one of your primary servers goes down? Can you rely on your backups to rebuild a server environment quickly? Do you test your backups periodically to be sure they are complete and usable? ....

  2. Habit 2: Know your tools and your systems. Probably the best way to recognize that one of your servers is in trouble is to know how that server looks under normal conditions. If a server typically uses 50% of its memory and starts using 99%, you're going to want to know what is different. What process is running now that wasn't before? What application is using more resources than usual?

    ... ... ...

  3. Habit 3: Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Putting first things first is something of a no brainer when it comes to how you organize your work, but sometimes selecting which priority problem qualifies as "first" may be more difficult than it seems. ....
  4. Habit 4: Perform post mortems, but don't get lost in them ...If you do figure out why something broke, not just what happened, it's a good idea to keep some kind of record that you or someone else can find if the same thing happens months or years from now. As much as I'd like to learn from the problems I have run into over the years, I have too many times found myself facing a problem and saying "I've seen this before ..." and yet not remembered the cause or what I had done to resolve the problem. Keeping good notes and putting them in a reliable place can save you hours of time somewhere down the line.
  5. Habit 5: Document your work. In general, Unix admins don't like to document the things that they do, but some things really warrant the time and effort. I have built some complicated tools and enough of them that, without some good notes, I would have to retrace my steps just to remember how one of these processes works. ...In fact, I sometimes have to stop and ask myself "wait a minute; how does this one work?" Some of the best documentation that I have prepared for myself outlines the processes and where each piece is run, displays data samples at each stage in the process and includes details of how and when each process runs.
  6. Habit 6: Fix the problem AND explain. Good Unix admins will always be responsive to the people they are supporting, acknowledge the problems that have been reported and let their users know when they're working on them. If you take the time to acknowledge a problem when it's reported, inform the person reporting the problem when you're actually working on the problem, and let the user know when the problem has been fixed, your users are likely to feel a lot less frustrated and will be more appreciative of the time you are spending helping them....
  7. Habit 7: Make time for yourself. As I've said in other postings, you are not your job. Taking care of yourself is an important part of doing a good job. Don't chain yourself to your desk. Walk around now and then, take mental breaks, and keep learning -- especially things that interest you. If you look after your well being, renew your energy, and step away from your work load for brief periods, you're likely to be both happier and more successful in all aspects of your life.

    Read more of Sandra Henry-Stocker's Unix as a Second Language blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld, Twitter and Facebook.

NSA hacks system administrators, new leak reveals

In its quest to take down suspected terrorists and criminals abroad, the United States National Security Agency has adopted the practice of hacking the system administrators that oversee private computer networks, new documents reveal.

In its quest to take down suspected terrorists and criminals abroad, the United States National Security Agency has adopted the practice of hacking the system administrators that oversee private computer networks, new documents reveal.

The Intercept has published a handful of leaked screenshots taken from an internal NSA message board where one spy agency specialist spoke extensively about compromising not the computers of specific targets, but rather the machines of the system administrators who control entire networks.

Journalist Ryan Gallagher reported that Edward Snowden, a former sys admin for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, provided The Intercept with the internal documents, including one from 2012 that’s bluntly titled “I hunt sys admins.”

According to the posts — some labeled “top secret” — NSA staffers should not shy away from hacking sys admins: a successful offensive mission waged against an IT professional with extensive access to a privileged network could provide the NSA with unfettered capabilities, the analyst acknowledged.

“Who better to target than the person that already has the ‘keys to the kingdom’?” one of the posts reads.

“They were written by an NSA official involved in the agency’s effort to break into foreign network routers, the devices that connect computer networks and transport data across the Internet,” Gallagher wrote for the article published late Thursday. “By infiltrating the computers of system administrators who work for foreign phone and Internet companies, the NSA can gain access to the calls and emails that flow over their networks.”

Since last June, classified NSA materials taken by Snowden and provided to certain journalists have exposed an increasing number of previously-secret surveillance operations that range from purposely degrading international encryption standards and implanting malware in targeted machines, to tapping into fiber-optic cables that transfer internet traffic and even vacuuming up data as its moved into servers in a decrypted state.

The latest leak suggests that some NSA analysts took a much different approach when tasked with trying to collect signals intelligence that otherwise might not be easily available. According to the posts, the author advocated for a technique that involves identifying the IP address used by the network’s sys admin, then scouring other NSA tools to see what online accounts used those addresses to log-in. Then by using a previously-disclosed NSA tool that tricks targets into installing malware by being misdirected to fake Facebook servers, the intelligence analyst can hope that the sys admin’s computer is sufficiently compromised and exploited.

Once the NSA has access to the same machine a sys admin does, American spies can mine for a trove of possibly invaluable information, including maps of entire networks, log-in credentials, lists of customers and other details about how systems are wired. In turn, the NSA has found yet another way to, in theory, watch over all traffic on a targeted network.

“Up front, sys admins generally are not my end target. My end target is the extremist/terrorist or government official that happens to be using the network some admin takes care of,” the NSA employee says in the documents.

When reached for comment by The Intercept, NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines said that, “A key part of the protections that apply to both US persons and citizens of other countries is the mandate that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with US Attorney General-approved procedures to protect privacy rights.”

Coincidentally, outgoing-NSA Director Keith Alexander said last year that he was working on drastically cutting the number of sys admins at that agency by upwards of 90 percent — but didn’t say it was because they could be exploited by similar tactics waged by adversarial intelligence groups. Gen. Alexander’s decision came just weeks after Snowden — previously one of around 1,000 sys admins working on the NSA’s networks, according to Reuters — walked away from his role managing those networks with a trove of classified information.

[Dec 27, 2013] Power-Loss-Protected SSDs Tested Only Intel S3500 Passes

December 27, 2013 | Slashdot
lkcl writes
"After the reports on SSD reliability and after experiencing a costly 50% failure rate on over 200 remote-deployed OCZ Vertex SSDs, a degree of paranoia set in where I work. I was asked to carry out SSD analysis with some very specific criteria: budget below £100, size greater than 16Gbytes and Power-loss protection mandatory. This was almost an impossible task: after months of searching the shortlist was very short indeed. There was only one drive that survived the torturing: the Intel S3500. After more than 6,500 power-cycles over several days of heavy sustained random writes, not a single byte of data was lost. Crucial M4: failed. Toshiba THNSNH060GCS: failed. Innodisk 3MP SATA Slim: failed. OCZ: failed hard.
Only the end-of-lifed Intel 320 and its newer replacement, the S3500, survived unscathed. The conclusion: if you care about data even when power could be unreliable, only buy Intel SSDs."
ssufficool (1836898)
So make the power reliable...

and get a UPS. Why blow more money on a slightly more reliable SSD when a UPS is so much cheaper?

nerdguy0 (101358) <lwalkeraNO@SPAMieee.org>

Re: So make the power reliable... (Score:2)

Or get an m500 which is basically a m4 with capacitor backup and newer NAND.

Dunbal (464142) * on Friday December 27, 2013 @05:01PM (#45800499)

People who have "important data" and fail to make a backup copy - no matter which type of media they are using - deserve to lose their data. Seriously, what you said doesn't only apply to SSD's.

CajunArson (465943)

Consumer grade vs. Enterprise Grade (Score:5, Insightful)

Slightly more seriously than my last post, the S3500 was the only enterprise-grade SSD tested in that batch. Frankly, I have little sympathy for you if you expected consumer-grade SSDs to perform like Enterprise-grade SSDs in a mission-critical application.

Consumer grade drives, even/especially the "high performance" ones that will often benchmark better than the "overpriced" enterprise drives, ain't designed to have perfect data retention. Of course, consumer or enterprise, any drive can fail and appropriate measures including RAID and backup* should always be in place no matter what type of drive you have.

* Yes, RAID != backup, I know, don't bother making that post.

[Aug 10, 2013] Hybrid Hard Drives Just Need 8GB of NAND

August 08, 2013

judgecorp writes

"Research from Seagate suggests that hybrid hard drives in general use are virtually as good as solid state drives if they have just 8GB of solid state memory.

The research found that normal office computers, not running data-centric applications, access just 9.58GB of unique data per day. 8GB is enough to store most of that, and results in a drive which is far cheaper than an all-Flash device.

Seagate is confident enough to ease off on efforts to get data off hard drives quickly, and rely on cacheing instead. It will cease production of 7200 RPM laptop drives at the end of 2013, and just make models running at 5400 RPM."

Brad DeLong Illegitimate and Unfair Larry Summers Bashing The Smart and Thoughtful Matthew Klein Gets One Wrong

GrueBleen

Hmmm. Kinda reminds me of a story I once heard about IBM: that it took a huge amount of data gathering and persuasion to get IBM to adopt a new, or changed, policy/strategy/tactic. But that once adopted, having been through an exhausting process of approval, it was all but impossible to stop it, even when circumstances had significantly changed.

Or, in short, "this was approved and supported by (ex)President, and economics guru Larry Summers, so it must be right for all time".

The price of fiscal success is eternal (and repeated, and systematic) vigilance ?

Microsoft Has 1 Million Servers. So What

July 18, 2013 | Slashdot

dbIII

Since they do mail hosting (Score:2)

Since they do mail hosting that's probably half right and a large proportion of them are mail servers. It probably works well most of the time, but I've only ever been exposed to that side of their business due to an utterly stupid fuckup that took them a week to resolve because that's how long the trouble ticket queue is - that's how little respect they had for their client with more than twenty thousand email accounts.

I wasn't working for that client of theirs but instead trying to contact someone there while their Microsoft hosted email was down for a week.

Decker-Mage

Re:How do you calculate space and power... (Score:2)

While running VMs is more flexible, is there too much overhead in the tradeoff? Especially with a million servers and all.

Which does need some consideration. Supposedly, in a perfect virtualized environment you'd see about 2-3% knocked off, in a headless configuration (no preferred guest OS VM installed on top of the host) and with perfect loading. However it's an imperfect world and no matter how you automagically mix and match loads, assuming it's allowed for those guests (think HIPAA, etc.), you're going to see more inefficiency. How much? No one seems to be releasing real numbers that I know of. It's quite literally a billion dollar question for the host providers and perhaps a trillion dollar question for the world.

-- "The most deadly words for an engineer. 'I have an idea.'"

cusco

Re:How do you calculate space and power... (Score:3)

Not really. Microsoft's Quincy data center started virtualizing servers and they saved so much electricity that they didn't hit Bonneville Power Association's target energy usage to qualify for the huge discount they normally get.

To make up the difference they opened all the vents in the middle of winter, turned the heaters on full blast, and burned $70,000 in electricity in a week. The renegotiated the next year's contract with the BPA so they haven't had to repeat that particular bit of foolishness.

-- "Think about how stupid the average person is. Now, realise that half of them are dumber than that." - George Carlin

Is the Information Technology Revolution Over

June 4, 2013 | Economist's View

Quick one, then I have to figure out how to get to Toulouse (missed connection, in Paris now ... but should be able to get there ... long day so far):

Is the Information Technology Revolution Over?, by David M. Byrne, Stephen D. Oliner, and Daniel E. Sichel, FRB: Abstract: Given the slowdown in labor productivity growth in the mid-2000s, some have argued that the boost to labor productivity from IT may have run its course. This paper contributes three types of evidence to this debate. First, we show that since 2004, IT has continued to make a significant contribution to labor productivity growth in the United States, though it is no longer providing the boost it did during the productivity resurgence from 1995 to 2004. Second, we present evidence that semiconductor technology, a key ingredient of the IT revolution, has continued to advance at a rapid pace and that the BLS price index for microprocesssors may have substantially understated the rate of decline in prices in recent years. Finally, we develop projections of growth in trend labor productivity in the nonfarm business sector. The baseline projection of about 1¾ percent a year is better than recent history but is still below the long-run average of 2¼ percent. However, we see a reasonable prospect--particularly given the ongoing advance in semiconductors--that the pace of labor productivity growth could rise back up to or exceed the long-run average. While the evidence is far from conclusive, we judge that "No, the IT revolution is not over."

Comments

Darryl FKA Ron said...
The pickup reflects ongoing advances in IT and an assumption that those gains and innovations in other sectors spur some improvement in multifactor productivity (MFP) growth outside of the IT sector relative to its tepid pace from 2004 to 2012.5 These developments feed through the economy to provide a modest boost to labor productivity growth.

[Using technology to replace people or make them more productive, generally considered the same thing, is one form of productivity increasing technology integration. Automating accounting functions from producing bills to meter reading or selling your goods on the WWW were examples of the revolution of picking low hanging fruit. Using technology to manage systems in ways that people could not realistically accomplish is another way of increasing productivity. From running power production and distribution, traffic lights, and just in time manufacturing integrated with ERP accounting systems from order entry through to shipping and general ledger were other ways of increasing productivity. The green fields of labor replacement have largely been sewn. The green fields of automated systems management are without end. Economists have a limited lens into operations with metrics that often confuse value and price.]

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to Darryl FKA Ron...
IOW, the MFP is underpriced because its marginal benefits get absorded by price competition.
squidward said in reply to Darryl FKA Ron...
Economists have a limited lens into operations with metrics that often confuse value and price.

That can be very true when looking at it qualitatively. Google or Amazon could be loading your browser with cookies and data mining your online habits to maximize sales. Their increases in revenue don't help the average consumer much other than consume more. It's not quite the same brave new world we had with the advent of online banking, bill paying and 24 hr shopping with home delivery.

I would have to agree that now marginal increases in productivity due to IT aren't giving the same marginal increases in value to the end consumer.

john personna said...
As I understand it, middle class incomes have fallen as productivity has risen. Doesn't that make a productivity centered view much less interesting to compassionate observers?
reason said in reply to john personna...
Not sure, but it makes redistribution more interesting.
Fred C. Dobbs said...

Yesterday I watched three techs work for two hours to get a laser printer going again that had been working fine Friday, but now was down due to 'network problems', so I would have to say, yeah, it could be over.

Julio said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs...
I watched the same scene twenty years ago, and it was a crappy dot-matrix printer that cost ten times as much.

What does it all mean?

john personna said in reply to Julio...
I suspect that techs stretched out a ticket, then and now.
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs...

Such problems, which are infrequent, seem to be invariably network-related. Network support techs
are in short supply so 'everything else' is always tried first, even when that doesn't make much sense.

KJMClark said...

If economists at the FRB are still getting paid to ruminate on whether the IT revolution is over, then the IT revolution is not over. We'll know it's nearly over when we're replacing all but the top level of economists with intelligent software. (The top level will be helping the top-level software developers write the software.) We'll know it's completely over when the politicians decide we've had enough of the experiment of replacing people with machines. Or, rather, when we get the intelligent machines' responses to the politicians saying we're done.

ezra abrams said...

ya know, if u economist ever got outta yr offices, and did some real work...
You would find that the gains yet to be realized from the IT revolution are IMMENSE
People like myself, highly paid and educated PhDs, we can all be dispensed with
or, how about an earpiece that in real time tells a trial lawyer, *while s/he is in court*, what ruling he needs to cite to rebut a just made oral argument...

or CAD software that allows automotive design engineers to shave 10% of the weight of a car in an iteritve fashion (lower the weight of one component; therefore suspension can be less sturdy, in turn you then need less horsepower due to the lower wieght...)

or software that can solve Navier stokes for non laminair flow at high reynolds number

i mean, seriously, the it revolution is over ?
I'm sure they said the same thing about RailRoads and the tansportation revolution in, say 1890

jt said...

Couldn't automation lead to declining gross productivity via underemployment of displaced workers into low productivity jobs (services)? In fact, one could argue that the dual mandate of monetary policy will produce exactly this outcome. Labor income distributions seem to confirm this split in the labor market. The more interesting comparison, is in industry that use a lot of IT, has their productivity improved?

Michael Gamble:

Computer technology with out software is just a paperweight. The technology revolution is stalled but not over. The problem as I see it and it seems to be everywhere is not nearly enough people paying for custom software development done in house.

Every company any bigger than a few employees needs someone on staff who manages software purchases, installation and the creation of custom software to make the bridge between a lot of chimerical software, but no one wants to pay for it.

I don't blame them mind you there has been a lot of over hyping going on by the big players in the industry for years. And looking around you would think your entire business could be run from your phone with all the advertising, technology and hype put in to mobile phones?

Observer said in reply to Michael Gamble...
I used to lead teams that built custom software for internal use. The ROI can be high under the right conditions, but Commercial Off The Shelf is often a better solution. It depends. My off the cuff guess is that custom is hard to justify for a small business, except in very special cases.

Custom software that actually supports business critical processes tends to be quite expensive, with reason.

Another reason to avoid custom software is risk mitigation. A business that relies on software built by one "someone on staff" is running a real risk if/when that someone leaves.

Part of the unwillingness to pay is that people's expectations are influenced by consumer software price points, $0 to a few hundred dollars.

Jerry said...
A secondary inhibiter might be the growing mess in the software patent world. There seems to be an increasing reluctance to make an investment because of the patent toes that might get tweaked.
squidward said in reply to Jerry...

This is very true, the whole tech industry is a mess with antiquated patent law. You have to wonder how many products aren't being brought to market because a smaller company can't afford to get in a heavy weight patent brawl a la Samsung v. Apple.

I'm no expert but I have always wondered why writing code isn't more analogous to copyrighting than inventing and patenting. If we could incentivize more open source we could have more innovation.

Second Best said...

For the US, much of the IT revolution was over after the major carriers killed the internet revolution in its tracks, and it ain't coming back anytime soon.

See 'Captive Audience' by Susan Crawford.

kievite said...

Situation is enterprise datacenters definitely corresponds to definition of stagnation. We see a lot of cost cutting.

Percentage of custom software is small and getting smaller as Observer already noted above. Programmers are disappearing from the enterprise IT departments.

At the same time a new dangerous trend is in place. Some "of-the-shelf" packages on which enterprise depends are problematic with some subsystems close to junk or even harmful (SAP/R3, some IBM products, etc). Moreover there is now a new type of enterprise software vendors who are specializing in selling completely useless or even harmful software on the pure strength of marketing (plus fashion). Vendor which try to capitalize on ignorance of a typical IT management layer.

Like Kolmogorov once said "You can't overestimate the level of ignorance of the audience". That was about different audience, but fully applicable here. So snake oil salesmen in IT are making good money, may be better than honest sailmen.

But the problems with "off-the-shelf" packages are increasing due to their often unwarranted complexity (which serves mainly as barrier of entry for competitors), or just complexity for the sake of complexity.

This and the fact that generally software is a the most complex artifact invented by mankind lead to the level of understanding of existing packages and operating systems that can be called dismal. Even people who "should know" often look like coming from the pages of "The Good Soldier Švejk" or "Catch 22". One Unix group manager in a large company that I used to know for example did not understand the fact that IBM Power servers and Intel servers are based on CPU with two different architectures. When at the meeting I realized that my jaw simply dropped.

People who saw the software evolution from its humble beginning and can understand internals and nature of compromises taken in existing hardware and software are now close to retirement and in the new generation such people are exceedingly rare.

That is true for operating systems such as Linux or Solaris, this is even more true for web-related software such as Apache, MediaWiki, Frontpage, etc. As a result a lot of things are "barely run" and a lot of system are bought just because people have no clue that already bought systems can perform the same functions.

This is also true about Office, especially Excel. One think that I noticed that the level of knowledge of Excel is really dismal across the enterprise. I would agree with "squidward" that for office (but only for office) "I would have to agree that now marginal increases in productivity due to IT aren't giving the same marginal increases in value to the end consumer. ". But that's for office only. Cars, homes, etc are still "terrra incognita".

But while internally everything looks rotten, externally situation looks different: there is unending assault of automation on existing jobs. So JT is on something when he asks the question "The more interesting comparison, is in industry that use a lot of IT, has their productivity improved?" Yes and to the extend that many workforce cuts are permanent and moreover cuts might continue.

As for statement "For the US, much of the IT revolution is over" I doubt it. Computer will continue to eat jobs. The "cutting edge" simply moved elsewhere and one hot area are various robotic systems. Here is one example:

"IBM is using robots based on iRobot Create, a customizable version of the Roomba vacuum cleaner, to measure temperature and humidity in data centers. The robot looks for cold zones (where cold air may be going to waste instead of being directed to the servers) and hotspots (where the air circulation may be breaking down. IBM is putting the robots to commercial use at partners — while EMC is at an early stage on a strikingly similar project."

Both home and datacenter are huge application areas. Even in consumer electronics what we have is still very primitive in comparison with what is possible on the current hardware. That is true for smartphones, tablets and other mass gargets. And it is even more true for home. For example for older people a cutting edge computer technology can probably provide the level of service comparable with the level of service of nursing home. Automated cook who accepts a simple menu and deliver dishes is already feasible automation. Currently the cost will be high but gradually it will drop and quality of service improves. One interesting area is saving energy. How many people here have home network which integrates thermostat, outdoor and indoor lights, and security system. And probably nobody here has computer automated shades on windows.

Autonomous datacenters with robot service are in my opinion an interesting development which in many cases can serve as "distributed cloud".

Sunny Liu said in reply to kievite...

I agree. That was a wonderfully informative post, and thank you for that. I also don't think it's even close to over not just because of robotics but also because of machine learning. The implications for data mining and big data are enormous, and the research being done in those fields are still yet to be fully utilized.

Right now, machine learning and big data are advancing research in biology, but what about the optimizations possible in pharmaceuticals or manufacturing?

geoff

not sure if this qualifies as IT. Not even sure if that is a meaningful distinction, but as a distributor I can't help thinking that 3D printers will have a profound impact on both manufacturing and distribution.

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-05-16/bloomberg-view-why-3d-printing-can-make-the-world-a-better-place

The issue now becomes whether the technology will transform manufacturing more broadly. At the moment, 3D printing is a small part of the economy. The printers are typically slow, and the material they use is expensive and inconsistent. As the industry advances, however, printing on demand could reduce assembly lines, shorten supply chains, and largely erase the need for warehouses for many companies. Cutting back on shipping and eliminating the waste and pollution of traditional manufacturing could be an environmental boon.

Kaleberg

The software revolution is over, just the same way the written word revolution ended in 1900.

Tom Shillock:

Does increased labor productivity increase living standards? What if the products are lower quality and either must be disposed of sooner than if they were of higher quality or incur greater lifecycle service costs than if they were of higher quality? If increased productivity degrades the natural environment (air, water, soil, food) are living standards increased? If productivity numbers increase because more people are unemployed or under employed or suffer stagnant or lower wages from globalization has the standard of living increased?

Looking at aggregate data glosses losers and winners. For the last three decades the winners are relatively fewer in number but grabbing a greater share of GDP, while the loser are vastly greater in number and have fewer opportunities to be winners other than through random luck (marriage, inheritance, connections).

Is IT innovation necessarily good or more productive? The increase in semiconductor performance (pick your metric) at a given price, or even lower price, will not increase productivity if you already have all the IT performance you can use. In some cases, it might reduce productivity. E.g., having larger hard drives means more data will be collected (data collects to fill the space available: Shillock’s Second Law of Storage). Unless one has efficient methods to keep track of it all then searching for it will reduce productivity. Also, access and seek times have not improved linearly with capacity. Another hit to productivity from IT. This is why the Fed’s incorporation of a “hedonic index” for microprocessors into its price index muddies the water (c.f. p. 8)

What if some IT innovation gives a company a competitive edge such as happened in finance? Others are compelled to adopt it ASAP but that does not necessarily make the financial industry more productive. Indeed, it facilitated fraud on a massive scale that caused the Great Recession while leaving insiders vastly wealthier for it. It could be argued that IT innovations have facilitated the increasing and increasingly server financial crises over the past three decades, if only because they create the delusion among users that they know more than they do thereby feeding their hubris.

The Dictatorship of Data http://www.technologyreview.com/news/514591/the-dictatorship-of-data/

Most of the gains to productivity from IT are in two areas. First, is that large financial and reservation systems. These run on IBM mainframes. The second is the application of smaller computers to manufacturing to run tools. The vast amount of PC level IT probably reduces productivity because most people do not know how to use it. Word processors allow more people to take more time making their emails and interoffice memos grammatically better and with fewer spelling errors. Most people have little clue how to use spreadsheets, even Rinehart and Rogoff were challenged. PowerPoint and similar PC apps are great for enabling the incompetent and ignorant to appear otherwise, which accounts for their popularity. They are the lingua franca of IBM. So far Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are a great waste of time for the neurotically self-conscious and self-important.

Economics is a literary genre in which contestants focus only on the numbers and usually those they like then use their imaginations to spin stories about the numbers. Audiences then vote on which story they find most pleasing.

Can You Say “Bubble”?

April 30, 2013 by | 18 Comments By James Kwak

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had an article titled “Foosball over Finance” about how people in finance have been switching to technology startups, for all the predictable reasons: The long hours in finance. “Technology is collaborative. In finance, it’s the opposite.” “The prospect of ‘building something new.’” Jeans. Foosball tables. Or, in the most un-self-conscious, over-engineered, revealing turn of phrase: “The opportunity of my generation did not seem to be in finance.”

We have seen this before. Remember Startup.com? That film documented the travails of a banker who left Goldman to start an online company that would revolutionize the delivery of local government services. It failed, but not before burning through tens of millions of dollars of funding. There was a time, right around 1999, when every second-year associate wanted to bail out of Wall Street and work for an Internet company.

The things that differentiate technology from banking are always the same: the hours (they’re not quite as bad), the work environment, “building something new,” the dress code, and so on. They haven’t changed in the last few years. The only thing that changes are the relative prospects of working in the two industries—or, more importantly, perceptions of those relative prospects.

Wall Street has always attracted a particular kind of person: ambitious but unfocused, interested in success more than any achievements in particular, convinced (not entirely without reason) that they can do anything, and motivated by money largely as a signifier of personal distinction. If those people want to work for technology startups, that means two things.

[Mar 27, 2013] Most IT Admins Have Considered Quitting Due To Stress

Mar 27, 2013 | Slashdot

Posted by Soulskill

Orome1 writes

"The number of IT professionals considering leaving their job due to workplace stress has jumped from 69% last year to 73%. One-third of those surveyed cited dealing with managers as their most stressful job requirement, particularly for IT staff in larger organizations. Handling end user support requests, budget squeeze and tight deadlines were also listed as the main causes of workplace stress for IT managers. Although users are not causing IT staff as much stress as they used to, it isn't stopping them from creating moments that make IT admins want to tear their hair out in frustration. Of great concern is the impact that work stress is having on health and relationships. While a total of 80% of participants revealed that their job had negatively impacted their personal life in some way, the survey discovered some significant personal impact: 18% have suffered stress-related health issues due to their work, and 28% have lost sleep due to work."

Culture20:

Re:IT admins are special (Score:5, Insightful)

lots of jobs really suck, and lots of people are stressed to the point of health impacts and have considered quitting. Many of these jobs pay significantly less than IT wages.

Whenever I get stressed out, I remember the jobs I did before/while I was in college, and I'm happy to be where I am. I can't imagine what today's grads do without any work experience at low-wage McJobs. Consider quitting I guess?

datavirtue:

Re:IT admins are special (Score:4, Insightful)

Admin is just a step up from help desk, hang out too long and it will begin to suck badly. If you fail to increase your skills (most admins) and your ability to add value, then it will start to suck badly after a number of years--it's boring.

How many servers can you provision or user accounts can you setup before pulling your fucking hair out?

Learn to code, become a professional DBA, or acquire some more skills that makes you valuable, like perhaps getting involved with business intelligence.

Admins are a commodity. Yes, it is easy to hang out and collect a paycheck, but don't whine when your value wanes and people direct you around like a monkey boy.

i kan reed

Re:IT admins are special (Score:5, Insightful)

As an software engineer(and thus not an IT admin), IT admins have it much worse than most middle class office workers. They get shit on over the smallest thing, and are the only IT employees who are expected to deliver within minutes of being asked. I don't think it's a stretch to say their stress levels might be higher than yours.

jedidiah

Re:IT admins are special (Score:5, Interesting)

In terms of certain job expectations they are. These include longer hours and working weekends and during the 3rd shift.

A lot of mundanes don't understand this. They hear that you've got some office job and they don't understand why you would be working those kinds of hours.

Clueless spouses can add to the stress level. Even spouses that are part of the workforce can be ignorant and unsympathetic.

jellomizer

Re:IT admins are special (Score:4, Funny)

No your wife will not understand no matter what your job is. She will undoubtedly have worked more then you did, no matter what.

h4rr4r:

That is only $48k. That is terrible pay for sysadmin work.

Shadow99_1

Personally I was supporting Windows, Linux, and Apple... So no, not just windows. I also was not the only one, I worked with admins from a dozen companies from time to time and pay varied from $40k-55k. Those making $55k were in their 50's and had started (often at these companies) during the 70's or at most 80's...

ZaMoose:

Lying liars and the lies they lie about (Score:5, Informative)

Only 73% have considered quitting? The other 27% are lying to you, probably because they're worried that the survey is being snooped on by the corporate Barracuda firewall.

Spy Handler

Rapid change in IT is the problem (Score:3)

When IT and computer/internet field in general settle down and become mature, things will get better.

Right now there's just too many new technolgies and buzzwords and platforms and architecture and paradigms popping up, and pointy-haired managers and VPs all want to implement this and that and oh by the way make it work with our legacy system and nothing better get lost or you're fired.

Yold

Re:Rapid change in IT is the problem (Score:5, Insightful)

It's not a matter of maturity. Many organizations hide behind the disclaimer "we are not an I.T. company", despite having sizable I.T. departments. And despite having this sizable department, which offers mission-critical applications and infrastructure, zero effort is made towards working smarter. Problems are fixed with mandatory overtime, cutting staffing/costs, and "quick-and-dirty" fixes to long standing problems.

I think some companies are starting to understand that their project management methodologies are flawed, but most cannot connect the concepts of "software debt" to decreasing marginal output in their I.T. efforts. An hour of work today is less effective than in the past because you are paying "interest" on your previous bad decisions.

I think that the 27% is reflective of companies that can connect the longevity and cost-effectiveness of I.T. systems to proper project planning, management, and I.T. expertise. Whether or not this is an upper-bound remains to be seen, because a lot of organizations simply don't understand that inventing your own project management ideas dooms you to repeating the same failures that have happened over the last 50 years.

meatspray

Thats why your #1 priority in an interview is: (Score:5, Insightful)

Picking your boss. If you're not up a creek looking for work, that interview is to let you meet your managers, talk to some workers about the managers.

When I started working it was "If I can just get in the door"

When I was in my 20's it was "What cool things will this job do for me"

Now That i'm in my 30's its "Will I be able to work with these people"

Midnight_Falcon

It's about being "Always on" (Score:5, Insightful)

I'm an IT professional and more than once I've thought about quitting, especially when I was doing high-stress consulting. Clients treat you like meat, like "the help." They have no problem waking you up at 5AM with nonsense problems. If you don't answer and do it politely, they call your boss and then your job/livelihood is in jeopardy.

This isn't just a 9-5 thing where, when you leave the office, you're no longer on the hook -- it's always happening. Sometimes, you're at a bar at 10PM and you get an urgent call -- pick it up, and you in your tipsy state are now on the hook to resolve an important issue.

The fear of getting these calls has made me stay home sometimes when I could have been being social, and not travel away on vacation when I knew some action was going on I'd be needed for. It creates a lot of stress to be depended on so much, and now with telecommuting, you're expected to be responsive at all times wherever you are.

It's a lot of stress even in the best setup/most-redundant environments, and the job is not for everyone. And when projects come up that are difficult and highly user-facing, it's hard to avoid this type of a situation.

mjr167

Re:It's about being "Always on" (Score:2)

How is that different from being... a doctor, a fireman, a nuclear plant operator, a plumber, or an electrical line repairman?

Welcome to the world of essential services. When your job is to keep things working, you don't get to pick your hours cause shit happens.

[Mar 26, 2013] Not your father's IBM - I, Cringely

Another Ex-IBMer says:

April 18, 2012 at 9:28 am

The current level of EPS was reached by a combination of two things: (1) offshoring jobs and (2) killing the pension fund (IBM stopped contributing to its pension fund in 2007 – all subsequent benefit dollars have gone into 401k plans). Lots of other shenanigans too of course, documented well in the book “Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers” by Ellen Schultz.

Since (2) has already been done, to redouble EPS again to $20 per share will require an even greater rate of US job elimination than we have seen in the past.

They have also done other little things. Yes, retirees can purchase health insurance through IBM, but retirees are placed into their own insurance pool rather than being co-insured with all employees. Result: (much) higher rates. Result of higher rates: retirees cannot afford health insurance ==> retirees die sooner ==> lower pension costs for IBM ==> higher EPS!

[Dec 06, 2012] If tech is so important, why are IT wages flat

IT salaries have not really kept pace with inflation
Computerworld

Despite the fact that technology plays an increasingly important role in the economy, IT wages remain persistently flat. This may be tech's inconvenient truth.

The still sluggish U.S. economy gets most of the blame for this wage stagnation, but factors such as outsourcing and automation also contribute to the problem, say analysts.

"IT salaries have not really kept pace with inflation," said Victor Janulaitis, the CEO of Janco Associates, which reports on IT wage compensation.

In 2000, the average hourly wage was $37.27 in computer and math occupations for workers with at least a bachelor's degree. In 2011, it was $39.24, adjusted for inflation, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

[Aug 10, 2012] Business Has Killed IT With Overspecialization by Charlie Schluting

April 7, 2010 | Enterprise Networking Planet

What happened to the old "sysadmin" of just a few years ago? We've split what used to be the sysadmin into application teams, server teams, storage teams, and network teams. There were often at least a few people, the holders of knowledge, who knew how everything worked, and I mean everything. Every application, every piece of network gear, and how every server was configured -- these people could save a business in times of disaster.

Now look at what we've done. Knowledge is so decentralized we must invent new roles to act as liaisons between all the IT groups. Architects now hold much of the high-level "how it works" knowledge, but without knowing how any one piece actually does work. In organizations with more than a few hundred IT staff and developers, it becomes nearly impossible for one person to do and know everything. This movement toward specializing in individual areas seems almost natural. That, however, does not provide a free ticket for people to turn a blind eye.

Specialization

You know the story: Company installs new application, nobody understands it yet, so an expert is hired. Often, the person with a certification in using the new application only really knows how to run that application. Perhaps they aren't interested in learning anything else, because their skill is in high demand right now. And besides, everything else in the infrastructure is run by people who specialize in those elements. Everything is taken care of.

Except, how do these teams communicate when changes need to take place? Are the storage administrators teaching the Windows administrators about storage multipathing; or worse logging in and setting it up because it's faster for the storage gurus to do it themselves? A fundamental level of knowledge is often lacking, which makes it very difficult for teams to brainstorm about new ways evolve IT services. The business environment has made it OK for IT staffers to specialize and only learn one thing.

If you hire someone certified in the application, operating system, or network vendor you use, that is precisely what you get. Certifications may be a nice filter to quickly identify who has direct knowledge in the area you're hiring for, but often they indicate specialization or compensation for lack of experience.

Resource Competition

Does your IT department function as a unit? Even 20-person IT shops have turf wars, so the answer is very likely, "no." As teams are split into more and more distinct operating units, grouping occurs. One IT budget gets split between all these groups. Often each group will have a manager who pitches his needs to upper management in hopes they will realize how important the team is.

The "us vs. them" mentality manifests itself at all levels, and it's reinforced by management having to define each team's worth in the form of a budget. One strategy is to illustrate a doomsday scenario. If you paint a bleak enough picture, you may get more funding. Only if you are careful enough to illustrate the failings are due to lack of capital resources, not management or people. A manager of another group may explain that they are not receiving the correct level of service, so they need to duplicate the efforts of another group and just implement something themselves. On and on, the arguments continue.

Most often, I've seen competition between server groups result in horribly inefficient uses of hardware. For example, what happens in your organization when one team needs more server hardware? Assume that another team has five unused servers sitting in a blade chassis. Does the answer change? No, it does not. Even in test environments, sharing doesn't often happen between IT groups.

With virtualization, some aspects of resource competition get better and some remain the same. When first implemented, most groups will be running their own type of virtualization for their platform. The next step, I've most often seen, is for test servers to get virtualized. If a new group is formed to manage the virtualization infrastructure, virtual machines can be allocated to various application and server teams from a central pool and everyone is now sharing. Or, they begin sharing and then demand their own physical hardware to be isolated from others' resource hungry utilization. This is nonetheless a step in the right direction. Auto migration and guaranteed resource policies can go a long way toward making shared infrastructure, even between competing groups, a viable option.

Blamestorming

The most damaging side effect of splitting into too many distinct IT groups is the reinforcement of an "us versus them" mentality. Aside from the notion that specialization creates a lack of knowledge, blamestorming is what this article is really about. When a project is delayed, it is all too easy to blame another group. The SAN people didn't allocate storage on time, so another team was delayed. That is the timeline of the project, so all work halted until that hiccup was restored. Having someone else to blame when things get delayed makes it all too easy to simply stop working for a while.

More related to the initial points at the beginning of this article, perhaps, is the blamestorm that happens after a system outage.

Say an ERP system becomes unresponsive a few times throughout the day. The application team says it's just slowing down, and they don't know why. The network team says everything is fine. The server team says the application is "blocking on IO," which means it's a SAN issue. The SAN team say there is nothing wrong, and other applications on the same devices are fine. You've ran through nearly every team, but without an answer still. The SAN people don't have access to the application servers to help diagnose the problem. The server team doesn't even know how the application runs.

See the problem? Specialized teams are distinct and by nature adversarial. Specialized staffers often relegate themselves into a niche knowing that as long as they continue working at large enough companies, "someone else" will take care of all the other pieces.

I unfortunately don't have an answer to this problem. Maybe rotating employees between departments will help. They gain knowledge and also get to know other people, which should lessen the propensity to view them as outsiders

Continued


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