#147 Send More Jobs to India (2006)

All Rights Reserved © 2006 Thomas W. Day

This morning, the NPR dill-hole "economic expert" and other similar fools were marveling at the "fact" that most Americans are suspicious of the current "economic upturn."  I put all this crap in quotes, because these terms are being tossed about, in the media, like they have some meaning.  I am regularly amazed at the minimal math skills required to become an "economic expert." 

The United States has become a feudal state, with 1% of the population owning nearly 90% of the country's assets.  The majority of that 1% produces absolutely nothing, contributes nothing of value to the nation's gross national product, and would barely be noticed if they instantly vanished from the planet.  But they are the people for whom the economy is slightly upturning. 

The rest of us are seeing declining wages, rapid inflation, reduced buying power, vanishing middle class jobs, erratic and irrational government attention to the economy, social insecurity, and no sign of anything improving our lot.  So, why is it so difficult to figure out why most of us are not optimistic about the current and future economy of this country? 

Easy.  Managers and their "experts" are fools.  Like Republican politicians, they either think the rest of us are dumb enough to buy what they're crapping out or they are fooled by their own bullshit.  Mostly, though, they are simply inbred, upper-crust idiots.

Which brings me to my current business solution; send more jobs to India.  Here's where that inspiration came from:

I recently wanted to verify some information on my AT&T/Citibank credit card.  I called the 800 number on the back of the card and ended up in India or Pakistan of some damn place where English is spoken with a mouth full of marbles. It's not that the connection was bad, although it was pretty awful considering that AT&T is supposedly a telephone service.  For ten minutes, I asked my question and listened to a collection of random syllables in response.  I'm assuming they were a response, since I have no idea what was being said on the other, distant end of the line.

After a series of non-communicative exchanges, I decided that I didn't really need this credit card and said, "I want to cancel my card.  Please say 'yes' if you understand this request and have closed my account." 

Instead of the response I'd requested, I received another long string of random vowels and I waited it out.  When she had finished talking space alien, I repeated my request.  Another pile of vowels poured through the telephone line, but I interrupted and said, very slowly and, probably, a little forcefully, "I'm not kidding.  I just want to cancel the account.  Please just respond with a single word, 'yes,' if you understand what I said and have closed my account with AT&T/Citibank." 

A long pause followed, clicking noises covered the silence, and, finally, I think I heard her say "yes."  Honestly, I couldn't understand what she was saying, even with a single syllable word, well enough to know for sure that she managed to comprehend what I wanted done.  I cut up the card, posted a note to my credit record describing why I'd cancelled the account and put a note in Outlook to remind me to check on the account in a month to see if it is closed. 

Over the years, I've collected a small pile of credit cards from back in the day when credit card companies simply mailed a card, unrequested, and created a customer.  Like dope pushers, credit card companies are always looking for new addicts and I used to simply drop the new cards either in the trash or in a fireproof safe.  I rarely use credit for anything and think of the cards as more of an emergency fund than an actual financial gadget.  I opened up the safe and took out all of my unused credit cards.  I had two MBNA accounts, another Citibank account, a couple of Chase cards, and a Discover Card.  Suddenly, it seemed like a good time to simply my financial life. 

I called the 800 number for MBNA, got another noisy long line, a series of automated instructions, and, finally, another non-English speaking service person.  After listening to his long, barely intelligible drone touting the great benefits I would realize by consolidating all of my non-existent debt into a six-month, zero-interest loan from MBNA, I slowly repeated my AT&T request, "I want to cancel my account.  Please just respond with a single word, 'yes,' if you understand what I said and have closed my account with MBNA."  Just like my AT&T/Citibank experience, I had to repeat myself about a half-dozen times to get the job done, but I finally heard a simple "yes" from the long end of the line, thanked the fellow, and moved on to the rest of my cards.

It turned out that only Discover Card had either kept telephone service in the US or done one hell of a job of teaching English to the lady with whom I spoke.  So, I reluctantly kept my unused Discover Card. 

Personally, I recommend that we all go through this exercise.  Those US companies that think so little of their US customers that they save a few bucks on service by shipping that service to non-English speaking countries do not deserve out business.  In fact, we ought to be closely watching where our dollars go because the jobs we save are our own.  Some people buy Toyotas instead of Fords or GM cars because it's more likely that the Toyota is built here than the so-called US manufactured cars. 

That said, there are some jobs that could easily, profitably, and practically be moved to India.  Positions that cost far more than they provide in service to customers or to productive employees can be displaced to third world countries.  High paid, non-technical, non-essential positions, which are often held by middle-aged white men who have gravitated to those jobs solely because of longevity and an ability to avoid doing productive work, would be ideally suited for foreign export. 

There is no reason why the nation couldn't export the job done by every single multi-national executive position, every media expert spokesperson, every Fox News talking head, and every government office to India, Pakistan, South Korea, or, even, Iraq.  Once all of those non-essential positions are securely positioned in their tar-paper shanties and grass huts (equipped with cell phones, iMacs, and bug spray) billions of dollars would be saved and our nation's productivity would skyrocket.  Most US corporations would shave 20-40% from their overhead just by trading in their inefficient mismanagement for low-paid, third world executive services.

The best bit I've saved for last, though.  With our wasteful US-based management systems, we have to fritter away precious resources in golden parachute payoffs, executive retirement plans, and all sorts of pointless and unproductive expenditures to be rid of useless executives.  Move those jobs to India and executive downsizing is a simple problem.  When hard times come, as they always do, those same corporations could easily downsize by cutting off the cell phone service to their off-shore executive staff.

With this simple reorganization, service to customers would improved, employee productivity would be enhanced, profitability would explode, and nobody anyone cares about would be harmed.  Couple the corporate efficiency with the improvement in national communications provided by moving the media and government offices offshore and you have the perfect modern social and economic system.

January 2006


#146 When Do You Shoot? (2006)

All Rights Reserved © 2006 Thomas W. Day

I woke up this morning to a news report that a Milwaukee man had been beaten to death by a gang of a dozen or more kids.  Apparently, a pack of parent-less brats were blocking the street and, when this unfortunate man honked his horn to get their attention, they ripped him from his car and assaulted him.  The beating resulted in the death of a 52 year-old man. 

This story caught my attention because a friend, David Santistevan, found himself in a similar situation two years ago.  He wasn't in Milwaukee or another urban armpit.  He was in a small town in Idaho.  He wasn't confronted by a large gang, but by two young men on ATVs in a dark alley behind a bar.  An Idaho court decided that in defending himself from what he perceived to be a threat, he had committed "attempted murder" and sentenced him to 22-45 years in prison. 

I don't know all of the details of the event, other than what I read in local Idaho newspapers and what David has told me.  The newspaper reports were so biased that I found it hard to believe that David could receive a fair trial in that state.  I know that David shot both of the young men and one was critically injured and the other received a minor wound.  I also know that both of the boys were white and David is Hispanic in an often radically-racist, state.  The newspapers and prosecutor regularly called the men "boys" and "kids," but one of the "kids" was six-two and weighed 220 pounds.  David is five-five, 50-years-old, and an overweight guitar player.  I doubt that anyone would imagine an Idaho court returning a similar verdict if a 50-year-old white man had been in a similar situation with two large, young Hispanic men. 

In reading the reports from the trial, I felt the judge clearly spent a lot of time posing as a champion of justice and the Great White American Way.  I suspect his posturing means that judges hold elected offices in Idaho.  In his closing statement, Judge Elgee said, “Mr. Santistevan did all he could do to commit two murders.  This has been a life sentence for the victims. I considered the sentence very carefully when I imposed it and can see no basis to change it.”  Ridiculous.  Doing "all he could" to commit murder would have resulted in two deaths.  David fired two shots in panic, left an easy target on the ground, made no effort to catch the other victim, ran away from the scene, and hid in his home.  He was obviously terrified by every aspect of this event.  Nothing about that set of actions resembles an intent to commit murder.  In all, I felt that David took a ride on a railroad in his trial.

What David did was akin to the old American proverb, "don't bring a knife to a gunfight."  In his case, he brought the gun while his antagonists brought youth and we may never know what else.  There was no effort in the police "investigation" or in the trial to determine what incited the fear that caused David to fire his weapon at the two young men.  As I mentioned before, the local newspapers made no effort at presenting an unbiased report of the incident or, later, David's character.  The Wood River Journal, the local paper, was particularly one-sided, going as far as collecting and printing derogatory character statements before the trial and pronouncing David guilty long before the trial began.

Even with that background, it took the jury 15 hours of deliberation to convict David and, by the newspaper report "None of them looked in the direction of the defendant."  In other words, they couldn't face the man they had convicted.  Who could?  Presented with a half-hearted police investigation, a biased community, a politically motivated judge, and a jury that faced returning to a community that had already convicted David and would have been happy to hang him from the nearest tree, the jury did what they had to do; they found him guilty and ran back to their ordinary lives as quickly as possible. 

In the past couple of decades, Idaho has regularly been a national embarrassment. Idaho has become a dumping ground for slack-jawed losers and idle and addled trust fund babies, often demonstrated by White-Power-Aryan-Nation crap, Scientology-Creationist-Intelligent-Design superstitious jabber, and rich-Californians-turned-small-town-hicks nuttiness. These days, that is less of a character flaw, since the whole country seems to be going to the conservative dogs.  If Idaho has a fault, today, it's that the state is slightly worse than the rest of the country in a time when it would be so easy to be better. 

The only clear message this trial conveys is that Idaho is stuck in the conundrum that haunts the rest of the country; guns are good/bad.  In this case, David defended himself with a gun and that resulted in an attempted murder conviction.  If he were white and his attackers were brown, black, yellow, or red the result would be different.  If he'd have tried to defend himself with a baseball bat, he probably would have been beaten to a pulp but he wouldn't be in prison today.  If he'd have tried to defend himself with a knife, he'd probably be dead.  He successfully used a gun and he's in prison.  The judge tacked on considerable extra time to his sentence because David used a gun in the "crime."  But politicians, everywhere, take thousands and millions of dollars from the gun lobby to make sure criminals have easy access to as many guns as they desire.  Most likely, this Idaho judge and prosecutor will receive political contributions from the Idaho gun industry in their next campaign. 

As a nation, we consistently defend the right to own guns but are less convinced that we have the right to use them in defense.  If anything good can come from this poor excuse for justice, I hope it causes a few people to review their position on handguns and licensing.  A lot of the misery caused by this incident could have been easily prevented with competent law enforcement, before the event, and simple regulation of handguns.  People kill people with guns.  Maybe that's not such a good thing.

January 2006


#145 Too Many Targets (2005)

All Rights Reserved © 2005 Thomas W. Day

Wow!  This has been an incredible month to look through the rat hole into the real world.  Republicans are drizzling ooze in all directions and they're presenting so many targets that writing about them is like shooting catfish in a barrel.  Just as a reference, for those of you who aren't counting:

  • Bush's mole in the last remaining piece of non-right wing media, ex-Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, quit before he was fired by the CPB's board.  The CPB's inspector general had found that Tomlinson had hired lobbyists and contractors, without the board's knowledge, to campaign Congress to restrict public broadcasting's ability to report the news, unless it was favorable to the administration.
  • Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pled guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion and resigned his office.  Cunningham soaked up $2.4 million in graft to while working for a collection of crooked military contractors.  Cunningham, who often promoted his military connection as a former Navy pilot, was one of the few Republicans in office who could actually make any kind of claim to national service.  He's facing 10 years in prison and had to give back some of his booty.  I'm sure he'll receive a sharp slap on the wrist.  Republicans are really into "taking responsibility" when the responsibility can be passed on to someone else.
  • Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his lobbying partner, Michael Scanlon, a former aide to Tommy DeLay, bribed Rep. Bob Ney and a collection of Republican congressmen into making bold statements in favor of gambling casino interests in return for at least $10,000 in contributions to the RNC.  Big surprise, Republicans and the Mafia are connected.  Who'd have thought?  Funny, when cops find drugs on poor person, those drugs are astronomically priced.  When they discover a Republican politician is taking bribes, we're barely talking any money at all.  Raise your hands if you seriously believe that a gambling casino siphoned only $10,000 to the RNC.  Ok, so there are a few really stupid folks still able to breed.  Nature works overtime to populate the species, no matter how dumb a move that may be. 
  • Bush and Cheney are on the road promoting their right to torture captives while the rest of the world wonders what the hell happened to "the land of the free and the home of the brave?"  On the upside, many people (Lawrence Wilkerson, Rep. Norm Dicks, Sen Jack Murtha) are beginning to locate their lost testicles and are speaking out against this abomination and perversion of our national values.
  • Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. has become as interesting as an afternoon soap opera.  He has ruled in favor of investment companies that, incidentally, he had considerable financial interest.  Paragons of propriety, such as Arlon Spector decided, "It is my conclusion that there has been no impropriety on your part," but folks with a conscience and a lick of sense are less convinced.  Alito ruled that a strip search of a 10 year old girl was within the powers of our police state.  Alito has ruled that machine gun ownership is every (mobster) American's right.  And on it goes.  Where do Republicans find these whack jobs?  
  • The new Iraqi Congress resolved that Iraq’s opposition has a “legitimate right'’ to provide resistance to American occupation.  They also asked for a timetable for an American troop withdrawal, something Bush has claimed he'd do the moment Iraq asked us to leave.  Of course, now he's saying it's "premature" (wonder if he knows what that word means?) for us to consider withdrawal while Iraq still has oil and Halliburton hasn't yet extracted all of the gold in Fort Knox. 
  • Senator Tom Delay is sinking further into the Texas court system.  For me, the highpoint of his legal mess has been the difficulty a Texas politician has had in finding a competent, unbiased Texas judge to hear his case.  Bush seemed to think that every damn court in Texas was competent to try death cases, even without a state public defender system, but political corruption is beyond their capacity.  How difficult is it to determine if a Republican is taking bribes?  I'd be surprised if it's any harder than deciding if a politician is lying (are his lips moving?).
  • New Orleans and Katrina are still spilling into Bush's lap.  Corruption and incompetence seem to be the legal tender of this administration's attitude toward domestic issues.  As our weather changes, lots of red states are likely to be experiencing natural disasters.  I'm sure Pat Robertson will be praying for their contributions to his newest castle on a mountain.  One thing for sure, Bush and the Republican wolf pack has made sure none of those damn homeless freeloaders can escape from natural disasters through filing bankruptcy. 
  • Lastly, a collection of "conservative think tanks" (an obvious oxymoron) have been advocating large families as a "solution" to the Social Security crisis.  Their argument is that Social Security was "set up" to be a system that relied on the contributions of new workers to support retiring workers.  This ignores the fact that the original system was a "pay as you go" insurance program that has been grossly mismanaged and liberally robbed from by every Republican President from Eisenhower to Bush II.  Republicans hate "pay as you go," because it requires the people they represent, the grossly rich, to contribute to the nation's expenses.  This idiot "solution" ignores the fact that large families are overwhelmingly the major contributors to poverty, child abuse, illiteracy, and unemployment.  I heard one of the brain-dead "conservative intellectuals" explaining this solution on NPR and nearly hurt myself laughing at his justifications.  Finally, the poor boy had to fall on his sword and admit that there was a religious/superstitious component to the argument that made large families "even more compelling."  Ah, the Corporate God demands "more customers" and who are we to disobey?

The list is much longer and funnier than this.  If it weren't scary beyond belief and dangerous beyond our wildest terrors of the Cold War, it would be a lot more entertaining. 

The most important thing we should have learned from the Cold War was that a national government run by a single party is dumb beyond belief.  Instead, Reagan imported Soviet Union-style politics to the United States and the right has promoted that incompetence to a fine, political art.  There are few signs that the media is going to contribute anything useful to the reform of our political system and our elections have been contaminated beyond simple reform.  Unless individual citizens wise up and rise up against the nuttiness of the right, we're screwed.  For the short term, we're screwed anyway.  Bush and his puppeteers have blown the national budget, decimated our national reputation, and lowered our future standard of living to third world status.  Good thing they're entertaining, otherwise they would be totally worthless. 

November 2005


#144 Religious Organizations and Leaders (2005)

All Rights Reserved © 2005 Thomas W. Day

"Oxymoron: A rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in a deafening silence and a mournful optimist."

  • "Religious: Having or showing belief in and reverence for God or a deity."
  • "Organized: Functioning within a formal structure, as in the coordination and direction of activities."
  • "Leader: One who is in charge or in command of others."

Good 'ole boy, Reverend Pat Robertson, is a leader of modern organized religion.  I have to suspect that claim contains a pair of oxymoronic phrases.  The folks Robertson leads are as scary as the followers that Hitler led into Hell. 

This week, Robertson condemned the citizens of Dover, PA for having the audacity to vote to oppose the insertion of creationist dogma in their local public school science programs (by replacing 8 Creationist school board members with folks who picked science over myth).  Robertson ranted, "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city."  Florida, Louisiana, and most of the deep South are hotbeds of superstitious belief and I haven't noticed any god-given relief provided to those places.  I suspect that Dover won't be any less protected than any other area of the world.  God is spectacularly consistent in his absence in times of natural or unnatural disaster, political upheaval, and personal loss. 

Not content to prove himself mostly arrogant and stupid, Robertson went on to rant, "God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever.  If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them." 

Calling on Darwin will be at least as effective as would be a prayer to Robertson's god.  Both efforts are a waste of time and energy, but superstitious people never run out of time to waste.  At least, if they pay attention to insane freaks and charlatans like Robertson, that would be my best guess.  The lil' fella' has a lot of followers and, based on his fine collection of expensive suits and jewelry and mansions and palaces, I suspect he has collected a bunch of money from those fools with excess time on their hands. 

By the time he was finished with Dover, Robertson had moved himself into the rare territory of the completely arrogant and stupid.  If Robertson is a "religious leader" in "organized religion" he is doing his best to prove that organization and religion and leadership don't mix.  At it's best, religion is a spiritual foundation that provides moral guidance and strength to a believer.

Religion doesn't often function at an optimal level, though.  Most folks inclined toward organized religion are there for the money and/or power.  Folks like Robertson get off on inventing gods and forcing others to bow to their inventions.  This is an ancient, primitive crowd control tactic that has been practiced ever since humans began to hang out in groups.  Some dickwad invents a god or ten, pretends to be in communication with powerful supernatural voices, and comes up with a fanciful list of behaviors that everyone else is forced to imitate or be doomed to eternal discomfort and bad luck.  If Robertson wore a bone in his nose, waved bags of sticks and chicken bits, and painted himself to look like a nasty Bozo the clown, he wouldn't be any less modern than he is today. 

Minnesota's ex-Governor, Jesse Ventura, created a smoke storm of superstitious frenzy during his term in office by stating that "organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers."  He recanted that statement, but he should have simply defined it.  There is no shortage of weak-minded religious people; "weak" as in uneducated, cowardly, crazy, and gullible.  That's all Jesse needed to say. 

Whenever this fact is pointed out, the crutch-leaners always pull up Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and the short list of brave souls who fairly justify the existence of religious faith.  The short list of equally brave souls who did not invoke divine authority for their acts of humanity and courage is rarely considered in the argument. 

Humans, by definition, are a faulty animal.  Society at its best, whether religious or secular, attempts to guide human activity toward what we call "civilized behavior."  Robertson and the Religious Right are not examples of people or organizations with moral or sincere intentions.  Robertson is simply another of a long line of witch doctors acting in his own interests while doing as much damage to his culture as he can manage with his limited abilities. 

What Robertson does represent is the contradiction between the best meaning of "religion" and the reality of either "organized" or "leader."  Spirituality is so individual that intrusion by someone claiming to be "a leader" turns internal spirituality to mere imitation, which removes the possibility of "reverence for God or a deity."  Instead, the hoard are simply revering the human representative of a fanciful idol.  Manipulators like Robertson represent themselves as the "voice of God," which reduces that supernatural being to something easily interpreted, grossly fallible, and an embarrassing mockery of the high standards humans are capable of aspiring.  Instead of rousing heroism and moral behavior, religious leaders lower their followers to "monkey see, monkey do" ritual and cowardly conservatism. 

Organizations, by their nature, repress the creativity and sacrifice required by the very same brave souls those institutions refer to when they attempt to justify their existence.  Every one of our spiritual heroes (secular and non-secular) claimed by religious organizations had to work far outside of religious tradition to accomplish their goals.  Not a one of those organizations claimed a relationship with their own heroes when it would have been useful to those champions.  God's guidance appears to only have hindsight, when it comes to religious organizations.  With that in mind, I suspect the citizens of Dover will do just fine, regardless of Robertson's feeble curses.  At least, they won't do any worse than cities that suffer Robertson's blessing. 

October 2005