CONCEPTUALLY AWKWARD

Posted in Quick Hits on August 25th, 2008 by Ed

This site, like every blog on the planet, is beseiged with 50-100 pieces of spam disguised as fake comments every day. There are trends – one week it's online poker, the next week it's ass porn, and so on. They all contain a fair amount of strategic engrish intended to defeat spam filters with strings of nonsense words. Today my filter caught a post by "Gay Granny Panty Facials".

The mechanics of what that is promising just escape me.

ISMS

Posted in Rants on August 25th, 2008 by Ed

To be completely honest, it pisses me off that outsourcing has become such well-publicized political issue. We may not do dick about it, but it certainly comes up a lot in campaigns these days.

Outsourcing isn't new. "Average Americans" and mainstream politicians caring about it is. Four decades ago the MBAs and CEOs of the world realized how much money they could save by taking an end-around the uppity unions and doing un- or semi-skilled labor in Third World countries for pennies on the dollar. And here's the trick – the top 1% convinced the next 20% that they were on the same side of the game. Outsourcing worked because the upper-middle class – accountants, management types, IT folk, engineers who made instantaneous global communication possible – were told that they were part of the "us" in the game against "them" (the malingering, easily-replaceable slugs who made the widgets and whined for pensions). "Us white-collar management types are virtually irreplaceable," they agreed, "because we were smart enough to acquire valuable skills that the market rewards." This has always been one of Mike's big points – that the guy making $80-$100k in some generic office job has been convinced that he is the one being referred to when people talk about the rich.

Of course we know that outsourcing has become a relevant political issue because the white-collars are getting tossed overboard and the financial industry is the one getting reamed. Here is a great read if you want to see some major-league bond trader and mortgage broker whining. The message between the lines is practically shouted through their dazed comments: the market eliminating jobs en masse was natural and fair when it happened to other people, those useless people. Not us! We're special! Look at our business degrees! It's funny how Wall Street gives fewer rousing speeches about the majesty of the free market now that the MBAs are the ones in the underwhelming, no-benefit jobs.

How did they convince themselves that outsourcing was something they could embrace but personally avoid? My answer involves two -isms: elitism and a dash of racism. The illusion rested on the smug reassurance that those (yellow/Slavic/brown/etc) people can do assembly line work and make shoes, but savages can never master accounting. They can make the semiconductors, but they can't design them. They can answer tech support questions from a script, but they can't run Dell. That kind of work requires specialized skills that only "we" are smart enough to master. Now everyone look surprised when China, India, and others start turning out people willing and able to do white collar work at a cut rate.

When people defend outsourcing, my first question is invariably what they do for a living. Ask Mr. Middle Management, Mr. Computer Whiz, or Mrs. Fund Manager if they honestly believe that their employers can't find an Indonesian person to do their job in the next 10 years. Unless he or she works for the government or provides a service that can't be telecommunicated, the answer is no. The former is one of the great ironies of the Reagan Era – now that the market worshippers have had their way for three decades, the only jobs worth having are on the government teat. They have pensions and health insurance and they aren't likely to be shipped to India. How many professions can say that right now? Yes, we excel at contradictions, which is why you were raised (come on, don't deny it) on a diet of Reagan rhetoric by people who spent their entire adult lives earning government paychecks drawn from everyone else's tax dollars.