Merry Christmas, now here’s your layoff notice

December 13, 2012 on 2:12 pm | In Christmas, daily life, economics, employment, family, unemployment | No Comments

Here’s an employer-generated email (to which I have added illuminating commentary in italics) which you do not want to receive at any time, but especially not two weeks before Christmas:

To L——- A——– Company [aka The Company That Shall Remain Nameless, henceforth TCTSRN]:

Due to continued [a list of industry-specific conditions any reasonably well managed company would have anticipated and planned upon] many companies have been reluctant to enter the market.  Once we sign up our next client company, it will take a minimum of two years before we will be at full capacity for the size of our current workforce.  [We only have one client. And since there is no "next client company" waiting to be signed, and no plan as to how to obtain one, hell may freeze over before we need "the size of our current workforce."]

It is, therefore, with great disappointment that we must reduce staff once again. [The previous layoff including our entire IT department was not enough.]  We need to trim our workforce by approximately 25%, which will occur in two phases, as set forth below.

Phase One

In phase one of the layoff, we are asking employees who wish to be considered for layoff to submit their own names in accordance with the instructions below. [Please volunteer to go before we have to tell you to go.] Depending upon the needs of the Company, layoffs of certain employees may be delayed or denied by Senior Management, within the Company’s sole discretion. [But just because you volunteer doesn't mean we'll let you go until we are ready to kick you to the curb. Our interests are the focus here, not yours.] Employees who submit their own names and who are confirmed by the Company for layoff will receive the following severance package, conditioned upon signing a separation agreement:

· 2 weeks of regular pay per year of service (less payroll taxes), paid bi-weekly
· An additional 4 weeks of regular pay (less payroll taxes), paid bi-weekly
· COBRA reimbursement for 6 months, not to exceed the maximum cost of medical HMO premium based upon the employee’s current covered family members
· Outplacement assistance

Should you wish to be considered for phase one layoff,you must submit your request via email to J– S——, VP HR, and to your Department Head by December 28, 2012. You are invited to discuss this matter with your Department Head in advance of submitting your email request. You will be notified via email by HR on January 4, 2013 if you are confirmed for layoff and, if confirmed, your last day of employment will be January 11, 2013, unless a different date is agreed upon. [So, you have to think about this through Christmas,  and we'll keep you waiting until after New Year's Day to find out your fate.]

Phase Two

In order to achieve a total workforce reduction of 25%, it is possible that there will be a phase two of the layoff, which will take place in mid-February. In phase two, Company management will identify employees to be laid off. [If we didn't get enough volunteers, or they weren't the Right Volunteers, we'll be picking more people to kick to the curb. Think about that during the holidays.]  These employees will receive the following severance package, conditioned upon signing a separation agreement:

· 2 weeks of regular pay per year of service (less payroll taxes), paid bi-weekly
· Outplacement assistance

[So, you poor fools who didn't volunteer, or volunteered but were told "No, you can't leave until we say so," you won't be getting an extra four weeks pay, or COBRA health insurance reimbursement. Think about THAT during the holidays, suckers.]

For those of you who are laid off, we know this situation is difficult.  We appreciate your dedicated service to the Company. For those of you who remain at [TCTSRN], we appreciate your continued efforts during these challenging times. [Our hearts bleed for you. Really they do. We expect you to keep up the hard work every day on behalf of TCTSRN even though you're probably doomed too; there is no new business, we have no plans to gain new business, and we're basically circling the drain here. But we execs are certainly not giving up our annual bonus, which is scheduled to be payed out in April, after the upcoming unpleasantness.]

We will continue to focus on growing our business in a profitable manner, while controlling expenses. We anticipate that [TCTSRN] will continue to be profitable, with both surplus and assets growing next year and beyond. [Because we made a very healthy profit this year and last year too, as you all know. That has nothing to do with your employment. There is nothing to see here, move along.]

If you have questions, please contact your Department Head or J– S—— x2395.

J– G——-

The above (without my commentary) was received by Mr. Random Thoughts on Tuesday. He is going to volunteer for the layoff. Then we get to wait through the holidays to find out whether he’ll be able to get the maximum severance package, or have to endure another month of waiting for less of a package. Meanwhile, he’s using up as many of his banked sick days (he has twenty of them) as possible.

It could be worse. At least our house is worth more than the loans upon it. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

Casting the vote

November 5, 2012 on 11:39 pm | In 2012 election, economics, Obama, politics | No Comments

Well, by the time I visit this blog again the election will be over, and we will have a new president. Or not. I’d prefer not to think about the possibility of not.

As I told Youngest Son though, sometimes we get what we deserve. He said “What did I ever do to deserve Obama?” My response was, “Perhaps our current government is a case of ‘visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation’.”

In other words, he and his generation are paying for the foolish choices of their ancestors.

The only comfort I could offer him was the fact that governments–all governments–are temporary. God is eternal. And He’s ultimately the boss of us, not whomever resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

All that being said, I hope we elect what we need tomorrow, not what we might deserve.

I’ll be working at a local precinct as poll inspector, a roll I filled in 2008. Roughly half the registered voters in the Master Roster I was given are voting by mail this year. So I don’t expect the polling place to be too busy. And from all I’ve seen, read and heard, I don’t expect an influx of newly registered clueless voters who are there because they’re wanting to do something historic (i.e. voting for the first black president).

If there is an influx of newly registered voters this year, I hope they’re anything but clueless, and vote with far more wisdom than their predecessors.

Occupy merchandising

June 14, 2012 on 12:50 am | In daily life, economics, lunacy, made in China, travel, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s an unusually lovely sunny morning in June, and I’m standing in front of a vendor’s stall at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, but I can’t quite get my mind around the utter illogic of what I see being sold there.

I should mention first that it’s not a stall one of the many wonderful flower sellers,

nor one of the incredible produce providers (oh the fruit and vegetables this time of year are so enticing–cherries the size of walnuts, English peas picked mere hours ago, and fresh morel mushrooms–but I digress)

nor is it one of the spectacular seafood merchants. Those people are focused on selling what they have brought to the market-what has been picked, gathered or caught through their hard labor or that of their employees. They are under no illusion that business needs to be transacted today,or the rent won’t be paid, it’ll be mac and cheese again for dinner (and that from Kraft, not Beecher’s), and baby will not get a new pair of shoes.

No, this vendor was one of the tacky import sellers, and I can’t figure out why they take up space in the Market in the first place. They aren’t farmers nor craftspeople of any sort. This particular merchant sells Asian trinkets, cheap dyed jade pendants on nylon cords, small stuffed animals, and mass produced t-shirts, but not the ones with clever line drawings of  “Pike Place Market. No, these t-shirts are borderline inappropriate, with images of scantily clad cowgirls and awkward not-quite-witty sayings such as “Not your mama’s potholders.”

If the market had been less crowded I would have ignored the booth entirely. As it was, the congestion of tourists brought me to a standstill right in front of the booth and its aforementioned t-shirts. Which is when I noticed the glossy round sticker affixed to each shirt.

 

Okay, let me get this straight…You are selling mass produced t-shirts made in China (of course I checked) to tourists visiting Seattle. The sale of these shirts is absolutely utterly and incontrovertibly an exercise in capitalism. Nowhere is there a sign stating that the proceeds go to charity; they don’t, they pay the daily fee for that Pike Place Market stall and put money in the stall renter’s pocket.

How does this fit in with the entire Occupy ethos? The anti-capitalist, embracing of socialism philosophy that has driven your local colleagues to break storefront windows and terrorize store employees?

If I refuse to buy a shirt and instead throw paint on your stall I’d be more in line with Occupy Seattle than your sticker-enhanced t-shirt marketing ploy.

After a few moments which seemed like an eternity, the crowd thinned enough that I could move away from the vendor and make my way out of the market, though I still wonder what might have occurred if I’d asked the obvious question, “What does that sticker mean, on a Chinese-made t-shirt that you are selling for $25?”

And then they escort you from the building…

April 25, 2012 on 1:10 pm | In daily life, economics, employment, unemployment | No Comments

An office email you don’t want to find in your inbox first thing in the morning:

From: S—- N—–
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 8:14 AM
To: S—- N—–; A—– N—-; L—– T——; G— M–; D—– S——-
Subject: Team Meeting
When: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 12:00 PM-12:30 PM (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada).
Where: My Office

All,

Sorry to have to book this during lunch, but we need to meet, and this is the first available opportunity to do so.  We may not need the entire thirty minutes.  Details will follow.  Please let me know if you have any scheduling conflicts with this time.

Thanks much,

S—-

An email you REALLY don’t want to receive just before the aforementioned meeting:

From: J– P—–
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 11:58 AM
To: L——- A——– Company
Subject: Company-Wide Meeting Today

All Employees,

There will be a company- wide meeting on the 16th floor in the open area between accounting and actuarial at 1:30 today.  J– G——-, our CEO, will give some information with respect to the events today and his perspective on L——-’s future. He will be available for any questions that you may have after that.

I encourage you to attend.  Remote employees may call 8**-8**-**** to attend via telephone.

J–

The “events today?” Layoffs. They’ve been going on at his workplace since shortly after Mr. Random Thoughts received the first email this morning. In a typically high tech heartless manner, the name of the axed employee disappears from the company directory at about the same time he or she is called into the Human Resources office to be fired. Meanwhile, the remaining staff are hitting “refresh” on their computers, hoping that their name does not suddenly disappear.

So far, Mr. Random Thought’s name is still visible. As I type, he’s in one of the two meetings, being told how “today’s events” directly affect him.

The last time we went through this scenario (1993), he was told he would not be laid off (they called it a “survivor’s meeting”) only to be told it was a mistake, and that he was laid off after all. Not an experience either of us care to repeat.

No, we did not see this coming, though I am not surprised. We may not be in a double dip recession, but it sure feels like it around here.

Occupying and Jesus

November 8, 2011 on 10:56 am | In Christianity, crime, economics, faith, homeless, jobs, lunacy, morality, racism, religion, unemployment, unions | 5 Comments

As seen yesterday on Facebook:

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers… He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Jesus was the leader of Occupy Jerusalem, and was the Supreme First Occupier.

When I read this, my first reaction was to snort in disbelief. And then I felt a bit angry.

Equating Jesus’ behavior in Matthew 21 with that of the Occupy Wall Street crowd? Seriously? Equating his purpose with theirs? Seriously?!

Not being a timid sort, I expressed my disagreement, politely of course.

And the response was predictable:

[The negative stories about the Occupy movement] is corporate propaganda. They don’t like religion or Jesus. They just want your vote. Anybody who thinks Jesus would take no issue with Wall Street today hasn’t read the Bible. Jesus stood with the beggars, the lepers, and the prostitutes. Jesus would not have rung the Wall Street bell. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25. The “prosperity Gospel” has impoverished the soul of our country much like it did in India before Gandhi. The tea party movement along with radical environmentalists, abortion clinic bombers and occupy wall street all have their idiots…We all need to look at what folks are angry about and to look closely at those aspects.

My only response to that was to back away slowly, because there’s no rational discussion with someone who sees only what they want to see. And that’s a big problem with the entire Occupy movement.

You want it to be an anti-banking movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be an environmentalist movement? Or an animal rights movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be a help the homeless movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be a pro-communism movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be a “Christian” movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be an anti-Semitic movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be a business opportunity? Okay, it is.

It can be whatever you think it is, because in reality, it’s all of those and none of those things. It’s so unfocused the only way to interpret it is through each person’s own individual desires. And that’s why the Facebook poster truly believes Jesus would be part of–no, would lead–Occupy Wall Street.

Which is where my anger came in. To my mind, there’s little difference between a KKK member or a Nazi skinhead proclaiming that Jesus would be on his side, and an Occupy supporter proclaiming Jesus would back his movement. Both make God a tool of their agenda.

I hate that.

Believe whatever you want about the way our society should work, but don’t try to validate your beliefs by insisting God is behind them, or alongside them, or leading them. Just don’t.

The juxtaposition between Jesus response to those wanting him to stand up to the government and this:

is so stark that it’s mind boggling. Parenthetically, as one who works in a non-union grocery store (and no, I do not think it’s coincidental that non-union Whole Foods was targeted rather than Vons or Ralphs or any union grocery), I find this truly chilling. I don’t want to imagine the fear of the employees trapped inside as that mob attacked their building.

The Occupy crowd does not represent the average citizen, nor the unemployed.

It’s hateful and it’s violent.

Its protesting of “economic injustice” (i.e. capitalism) includes theft and vandalism. Even among their own.

The incidents are not random and few, they are many and growing.

What would Jesus do? Not this.

Elsewhere, Joel Griffith thoughtfully rejects the idea of a OWS Jesus

Would Jesus be camping with the protesters in the city park? Would he be leading an occupy “assembly”, singing solidarity choruses, and heralding the demise of capitalism?  If one takes the time to honestly review the stories in the four gospels, the only possible answer is a resounding, “NO!” Jesus lived under Roman rule.  The Romans oppressed Jesus’ fellow Jews, stationed military in Jewish homes and cities, and exercised political power over Jewish territory, interfered with Jewish religious life, and siphoned off Jewish wealth through tribute.

Though living under such conditions, Jesus never advocated revolution or political upheaval.

Read the entire piece, and if you still think Jesus was an Occupier, perhaps you need to ask yourself why. It may have far more to do with yourself and your own wants, than with the reality of God. You might want to go through the 4 steps Dr. Lina recommends as you consider how your belief in Jesus fits with supporting a protest like Occupy Wall Street.

 

Occupy yourself

November 6, 2011 on 10:04 pm | In daily life, economics, education, employment, jobs, lunacy, politics, unemployment | 1 Comment

I’ve been trying to figure out the Occupy Wall Street/Los Angeles/Seattle/Insert-City-Here thing ever since they set up tents in downtown Los Angeles. Not because I ever go to downtown Los Angeles; they could erect a tent city there and it wouldn’t affect me one bit. Nor would it surprise me, but that’s another story.

It just seemed more local to me than Wall Street, and I wondered if anyone would bother occupying some park in my own city. Not likely, as our parks are surrounded by trees, obscured from and in most cases remote from any substantial car or foot traffic. That’s what the Occupy people seem to want: high visibility, and they’re not going to get it in my city’s larger parks.

With some surprise I actually happened across a handful of protesters last week, not in a park, but on a high visibility grassy corner across from my city’s mall. Near a major freeway off ramp, it’s the only sizable grassy area that can be seen by a large number of passing cars.

The weirdness is, it’s not near any of the many banks in my city. It’s not near the mammoth biotech corporation that basically ate up the city next to mine. No, it’s across from a shopping mall. And I would bet real money that the protesters all have and do shop at that mall from time to time. I’d also bet that they purchased the obviously new camp chairs several of them were seated in at a large retail corporation–perhaps the Target a few blocks away, or the Costco or the Walmart on the other side of town.

Based on those…ironies?…and the fact that Occupy mobs fully embrace using cell phones and cameras produced by corporations like Apple, Samsung, LG, and others, as well as cardboard for their signs which is also produced by corporations, and they are wearing clothing they didn’t make themselves but bought at corporate run stores, I’m gathering that the protest against corporate greed is a little…skewed? Or maybe they just don’t get how much their own protest–much less their daily life–depends on corporate products.

Maybe they think that Steve Jobs would still have come up with the i-Phone if he’d never made more than $26,000 a year at Apple. Or if his wealth had been distributed to “the 99%” instead of amassed by himself.

Somehow I doubt that. I’ve read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, and I can say with some certainty that “corporate greed” helped create all the cool technology the Occupy mobs use so eagerly.

Never mind Jobs, just look at Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg. He’s still amassing wealth from his creation, and still finding ways to improve  its profitability. The Occupy mobs use Facebook extensively. Do they have any idea of the “corporate greed” behind it? I’d bet real money they don’t and they don’t care.

I’m not the only one pondering this blatant hypocrisy.

I’m left wondering just what the “corporate greed” is that the Occupy folks hate so much. I’m thinking it’s not a substantial, quantifiable, identifiable target. They just don’t like the fact that some people make a lot of money doing what they do for a living. And they think those people should be…what? Fired? Kicked out of the country? Killed? Eaten? It’s hard to tell based on their rhetoric.

I’ve been reading a number of wise bloggers thoughts on this issue, and they make a lot more sense than the Occupy chanting and drums. Charlie at Another Think points out that envy is at the core of this mob effort:

Inciting anger towards corporations and the rich is a way of diverting attention from the inconvenient truth that Washington has long been a slobbering drunk when it comes to spending. And, what’s worse, it owns the keys to the booze cabinet.

All this careless rhetoric against the wealthy has elevated envy to a virtue. The Occupy Wall Street movement is rooted in envy, one of the deadliest of human sins. After all, the goal of OWS, and the deranged children it has spawned in Oakland, DC and elsewhere, is to tear down capitalism (a greed-based system) and remake society around an envy based system instead. These young idealists and anarchists imagine a society where everyone gets a piece of what everybody else has, where no one will ever be allowed to stand higher than the next guy.

Capitalism succeeds because it allows someone with good ideas and a strong work ethic to rise above the average. It appeals to the competitive desire in most of us to improve, to do better.

By comparison, OWS-style egalitarianism can only succeed if we all agree to pull down those high achievers and make certain that everyone is merely average.

In that, the OWS movement shares an alarming amount of DNA with the French Revolution, and is attempting to live out its high-sounding creed in the streets: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

How long will it be before they start lopping off the heads of the wealthy in Zuccotti Park?

The always erudite Victor Davis Hanson–himself a university professor–blames the unrest on the unrealistic expectations of today’s university educated youth:

Apparently, most middle-class and upper-middle class liberals—many of them (at least from videos) young and white—are angry at the “system.” And so they are occupying (at least until it gets really cold and wet) financial districts, downtowns, and other areas of commerce across the well-reported urban landscape. As yet there is no definable grievance other than anger that others are doing too well, and the protestors themselves are not doing at all well, and the one has something to do with the other. I am not suggesting union members and the unemployed poor are not present, only that the tip of the spear seems to be furious young middle class kids of college age and bearing, who mope around stunned, as in “what went wrong?”

…Students rarely graduate in four years, but scrape together parental support and, in the bargain, often bed, laundry, and breakfast, federal and state loans and grants, and part-time minimum wage jobs to “go to college.” By traditional rubrics—living at home, having the car insurance paid by dad and mom, meals cooked by someone else—many are still youths. But by our new standards—sexually active, familiar with drugs or alcohol, widely traveled and experienced—many are said to be adults.

Debt mounts. Jobs are few. For the vast majority who are not business majors, engineers, or vocational technicians, there are few jobs or opportunities other than more debt in grad or law school. In the old days, an English or history degree was a certificate of inductive thinking, broad knowledge, writing skills, and a good background for business, teaching, or professionalism. Not now. The watered down curriculum and politically-correct instruction ensure a certain glibness without real skills, thought, or judgment. Most employers are no longer impressed.

Students with such high opinions of themselves are angry that others less aware—young bond traders, computer geeks, even skilled truck drivers—make far more money. Does a music degree from Brown, a sociology BA in progress from San Francisco State, two years of anthropology at UC Riverside count for anything?

So they’re petulant, they’re angry, they’re unemployed and unemployable, and they’re determined to be heard. In the meantime, they’re also starting to emulate the greed they protest.

…T-shirts, coffee mugs and other merchandise emblazoned with Occupy locations and slogans are being offered online and amid the camp sites that have sprung up in cities across the country. A number of merchandise vendors, clothing designers and others are making plans to market a wide-variety of goods for a wide-variety of reasons even as some protesters decry the business plans as directly counter to the demonstrations’ goals.

And that does not surprise me at all. Capitalism, after all, works.

The educational excellence of poor white farmers

October 21, 2011 on 11:29 am | In children, economics, education, parenting, public school, teaching | 1 Comment

You just have to love the irony. A handful of schools in the middle of Kansas filled mostly with children of poor white farmers are academically superior to almost every other school in not just the United States, but 20 countries.

The average student at the Waconda school district of 385 kids scores better than 90 percent of students in 20 developed countries on math and reading tests, according to The Global Report Card, published in the journal Education Next. In fact, Waconda is the second highest performing school district in math in the country, after Pelham, Massachusetts, an affluent community that is home to Amherst College.

How can this be? How can Waconda School District with its  2011 budget of $5,543,606 and which spends $11,239 per student massively outperform any of the schools in oh, say, the Los Angeles Unified School District?  After all, Los Angeles USD has a 2011 budget of $6.5 billion (that’s $6,500,000,000) though it spends basically the same amount as Waconda per kid: $11,357.

Obviously it’s not the money. The reasons for Waconda’s outstanding academic success ought to be clear:

  • …The community expects its students to excel. Most years…no one drops out of high school. “It’s a tradition now, and they expect themselves to do well,” Travis said. “Like a ball team that continues to win because of a tradition, we have an academic tradition.”
  • No kids need English language learning classes.
  • High parental involvement…Almost every parent shows up for parent-teacher conferences at the elementary school level…and participation stays high in the older grades as well.
  • The district’s commitment to keeping its pre-kindergarten to third grade classes very small. Only 12 to 15 kids are placed in each class, so that “we get to a lot of problems quickly and early in child development.”
  • The district created an assessment card for each student that follows him or her from grade to grade. The card lists skills the state expects each child to master in each subject–and teachers update them continuously.
  • The district doesn’t follow education trends. “We don’t believe in the next biggest thing or the next biggest theory. We’ve not made any major changes,” Travis said.

High expectations. Parental involvement. Small classes for very young students. Ignoring the latest education fads.  Speaking, reading and writing English. That’s what it takes to excel.

It’s not rocket science, but Waconda’s students just might become rocket scientists. LAUSD’s students? Not so much.

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