Category Archives: corporations

It’s A Wonderful Miserable Life

There’s been a lot of discussion about the New York Times’s expose on the miserable work life at Amazon.com’s corporate HQ. We’ve long known that working at one of Amazon’s warehouses sucks, but it appears their white collar workers are also overworked, driven to exhaustion, and subjected to sadistic “Hunger Games”-style culling exercises, all of which makes working for Amazon HQ a dehumanizing, demeaning experience:

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

[….]

Even many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends.

This is the kind of stuff that gives Libertarian types such massive hard-ons. It fulfills all of their narcissistic fantasies about success being the undeniable product of hard work and rugged individualism, that everyone gets where they are by these virtues, no one gets a handout from anyone, certainly not the government, yada yada. Except, of course, that this impossible standard a) isn’t true and b) makes for a miserable life.

“One time I didn’t sleep for four days straight,” said Dina Vaccari, who joined in 2008 to sell Amazon gift cards to other companies and once used her own money, without asking for approval, to pay a freelancer in India to enter data so she could get more done. “These businesses were my babies, and I did whatever I could to make them successful.”

Umm, no, honey. These businesses weren’t your babies. They were Jeff Bezos’ babies, you fool. They were Amazon shareholders’ babies. If they were your babies you’d reap 100% of the reward for all of this effort. Instead you spent your personal money to hire someone in India, fer crissakes, to “get more done.” You, my friend, are a class A sucker.

There are numerous horror stories: an employee with thyroid cancer who got a low performance rating after returning from treatment because,

[…] her manager explained that while she was out, her peers were accomplishing a great deal. Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,” she said her boss told her. “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.”

A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals. Their accounts echoed others from workers who had suffered health crises and felt they had also been judged harshly instead of being given time to recover.

Even worse is the modern-day “company store”-coercion Amazon has created to keep what employees do stay on:

Amazon retains new workers in part by requiring them to repay a part of their signing bonus if they leave within a year, and a portion of their hefty relocation fees if they leave within two years. Several fathers said they left or were considering quitting because of pressure from bosses or peers to spend less time with their families. (Many tech companies are racing to top one another’s family leave policies — Netflix just began offering up to a year of paid parental leave. Amazon, though, offers no paid paternity leave.)

This is not an attractive work environment for anyone who is not a masochist, and a stupid masochist, at that. Because while we Americans pride ourselves on our hard work, it’s hard to imagine anyone subjecting themselves to this kind of abuse for someone else’s company. And let’s be clear: nobody is curing cancer here. Or as the Times brutally noted,

For all of the employees who are edged out, many others flee, exhausted or unwilling to further endure the hardships for the cause of delivering swim goggles and rolls of Scotch tape to customers just a little quicker.

Ouch.

I like to compare this with the Danish work culture’s arbejdsglaede (literally, “happiness at work”), as detailed in Helen Russell’s fascinating book, The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country. British journalist Russell relocated to rural Denmark when her husband got a job at toymaker Lego, based in Jutland. In Chapter 2, she tells of her surprise when her husband came home from work at 3:30 pm — and earlier on Fridays:

‘Most people with kids had cleared their desks to go and pick them up from school or daycare by 3pm.’
Three?
‘Uhuh.”
‘Everyone just leaves work really early? No one competes to be the last one at their desk? Or gets takeout to pull an all-nighter?’
He shrugs: ‘Not that I’ve seen.’

In fact, showy displays of an aggressive work ethic are actually frowned upon. Too many late-night or weekend emails and your boss might worry that things aren’t okay at home. Or you’ll be reprimanded for fostering an uncooperative work environment, focusing too much on your own ego and not thinking about the needs of the group. It’s a complete reverse of Amazon’s corporate culture, even if some of the outer trappings look the same (sustainable buildings, healthy cafeteria menu offerings, stand-up desks, etc.) But Danes are a family-oriented people: time spent with children and family is as valued in the Danish culture as time spent at work.

And there it is. The difference is in what you value. If your culture only values material things like profits and high salaries, then Amazon will seem like a great place to emulate. If your culture values things like time spent with family and balancing work with personal life, then Lego is a work culture worth copying.

I used to work in a high-stress corporate job. It wasn’t as cut-throat as Amazon but it was almost as bad. Vacations were seen as a personal weakness. Weekends were for wusses. I remember my boss yelling at me because I couldn’t make it to Clarksville during the February 1994 ice storm because I-24 was closed. I left that job a few months later.

As one gets older they realize that life’s too short for sadistic workplace bullshit. The hypercompetitive self-flagellation places like Amazon demand of their employees might be fine for a recent college grad, but anyone over a certain age has to wonder what’s the point of all these long hours and lack of a personal life. In the service of what — Jeff Bezos’ dream of getting the latest Elsa doll somewhere in 20 minutes? There’s definitely more to life than that.

15 Comments

Filed under corporations

Skepticism

They don’t have to win the argument, they just have to “foster doubt”:

Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.

Fossil-fuel interests have followed this approach for years, but the mechanics of their activities remained largely hidden.

“The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University and the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a book about such campaigns. “Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.”

Environmentalists have long questioned Dr. Soon’s work, and his acceptance of funding from the fossil-fuel industry was previously known. But the full extent of the links was not; the documents show that corporate contributions were tied to specific papers and were not disclosed, as required by modern standards of publishing.

Dr. Soon is yet another of those “ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.” He’s actually an engineer, not a climate scientist, and real climate scientists say his research is “pointless” to their work. But he’s got the veneer of authority, because he is associated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. And corporate shills in Washington (*cough*cough*Sen. James Inhofe*cough*cough*) who think we should be impressed by this pedigree trot him out to promote their “the jury is still out because of this guy here” parlor tricks.

So okay, buh-bye Dr. Soon. You violate scientific ethics, you lose your gig. Soon’s research was funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Southern Company (a utility holding company). And then there’s this:

However, other companies and industry groups that once supported Dr. Soon, including Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute, appear to have eliminated their grants to him in recent years.

As the oil-industry contributions fell, Dr. Soon started receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars through DonorsTrust, an organization based in Alexandria, Va., that accepts money from donors who wish to remain anonymous, then funnels it to various conservative causes.

Um, yeah. So a change in the funnel through which the cash flows. But the source remains the same. This is dirty pool. And I can’t imagine, with the bazillions of dollars spent on these propaganda campaigns and astroturfing and buying of elections, that this all makes financial sense for a corporation in the end. Wouldn’t it just be easier and cheaper to do the right thing from the get-go?

I guess not.

This meme from last year has always cracked me up:

PlotIdea

Last I checked, it’s not 97% — it’s 99%. And for every Dr. Soon exposed as a fraud that percentage grows. But remember, it’s not about “disproving” climate science. It’s about spreading doubt. It’s about perpetuating the false belief that “the jury is still out,” and “the science isn’t decided.”

Clever, but facts will out. This shit never works. Because what you say doesn’t change what is really happening. Sea levels are rising. Droughts are happening. Islands are disappearing. What some wingnut in Oklahoma thinks isn’t going to change that. And pretty soon these chickens will come home to roost on your street. Indeed, they already have.

4 Comments

Filed under climate change, corporate overlords, corporations

Today In Corporate Personhood

What’s that line from the last presidential election? I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one? Yeah, that:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The truck-stop company owned by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam may have put the worst behind it after federal attorneys agreed not to prosecute Pilot Flying J for cheating customers.

In an agreement with prosecutors, the nation’s largest diesel retailer acknowledges that employees cheated trucking companies out of promised fuel rebates and discounts. Prosecutors said Monday that Pilot has agreed to pay a $92 million penalty, which is within the range of what the company would pay if convicted at trial.

Corporations have Constitutional rights like freedom of speech and freedom of religion but they have no responsibilities. Ain’t that just peachy.

4 Comments

Filed under Bill Haslam, corporations, Tennessee

Religion Is Dead

That will be the upshot of today’s completely outrageous Hobby Lobby ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court has effectively killed religion.

I know, it looks the opposite, but what have I said here a gazillion, bajillion times, folks? When religion gets forced on people by government or corporations, religion always dies. People don’t want this shit foisted on them. As I’ve said a thousand times before, the surest way to kill off religious belief is to declare a “state religion.” The bigger religion’s role in the secular aspects of life, the more people run away from it.

And in this ruling SCOTUS said some corporations can impose the beliefs of some religions on some employees, effectively legalizing discrimination against women and certain religions. If you’re a company owned by Jehova’s Witnesses, sorry, you have to pay for blood transfusions. No out for Scientologists who object to psychiatry and psychiatric drugs. Christian Scientists who don’t believe in most healthcare at all still have to pony up. But if you’re a Christian fundiegelical who believes completely erroneously and incorrectly that IUDs cause abortions — even though they don’t! — you can refuse to offer a healthcare plan covering that form of birth control to your female employees. That’s what SCOTUS just ruled.

The debate wasn’t even really about the Hobby Lobby peoples’ religious beliefs, it was about their completely erroneous, counter-factual scientific beliefs cloaked in religion:

Hobby Lobby already covered 16 of the 20 methods of contraception mandated under the Affordable Care Act, but it didn’t cover Plan B One-Step, ella (another brand of emergency contraception) and two forms of intrauterine devices because of aforementioned ideologically driven and not medically based ideas about abortion.

“These medications are there to prevent or delay ovulation,” Dr. Petra Casey, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Mayo Clinic, told the New York Times in a piece on the science behind emergency contraception. “They don’t act after fertilization.” As the Times noted, emergency contraception like Plan B, ella and the hormonal IUD do not work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb. Instead, these methods of birth control delay ovulation 0r thicken cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg, meaning that fertilization never even occurs. That said, when used as a form of emergency contraception, the copper IUD can interrupt implantation, but this still does not mean a pregnancy has occurred.

This ruling was stunningly ham-fisted on so many levels. In a nutshell, in “going narrow” SCOTUS picked a religion — the fundiegelical Christian kind — over the rights of female employees who may not be of that religion, and also over the rights of every other religion out there. This is going to have repercussions, people — and not good ones for the religious folks. It’s gonna get messy, and I think it’s gonna smack religious people on the ass so hard they won’t sit for a month. Stories like this one are going to ripple across the workplace in every state. It’s a ruling that basically legalized gender discrimination and religious discrimination. When it all shakes down it’s not going to be pretty for the people currently doing a happy dance.

In the meantime, folks calling for a Constitutional Convention to repeal corporate personhood just got a little more ammo.

[UPDATE]: ThinkProgress agrees with me.

[UPDATE] 2: Charlie Pierce at Esquire also agrees with me. SCOTUS just perpetrated an act of religious discrimination while professing to do the opposite. WTF is up with that, people?

25 Comments

Filed under birth control, corporations, healthcare, religious fundamentalism, religious right, Supreme Court, women's rights

Money Is The Root Of All Evil & The Rich Are Not Our Betters

Dark money trying to sway our elections, what could possibly go wrong:

WASHINGTON — Well-known corporate chiefs funded illegal “dark money” contributions to groups in the Koch brothers’ political network that were involved in Thursday’s record campaign finance settlement in California, according to settlement documents.

Members of the Fisher family, founders of the Gap clothing chain, plowed more than $8 million into a dark money campaign in California’s 2012 elections, partially redacted documents show. The money went toward defeating Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase, Proposition 30, and supporting the anti-union Proposition 32, according to the documents, which list donors to Americans for Job Security, a group that handled contributions in the campaign.

Those documents also show that Charles Schwab, founder of Charles Schwab Corp., donated $6.4 million through Americans for Job Security. Philanthropist Eli Broad, who publicly backed Brown’s tax increase proposition, made a $500,000 contribution, according to the documents. Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave a combined $500,000. Crossroads GPS, the dark money nonprofit founded by Karl Rove, chipped in $2 million.

Gosh I’m so old, I remember when The Gap was born out of the counterculture movement.

You need to read the whole piece because it’s just one fucking jaw-dropping revelation after another.

Here’s the thing: Prop 30, a ballot measure to increase taxes to fund education, passed. Prop 32, an anti-union measure which would have drastically affected how donations to unions are made, was defeated. All of those millions of dollars spent to defeat or pass ballot measures, wasted. Not to mention all of the millions and millions spent to defeat President Obama and various Congressional races.

If these bazillionaires are supposedly our betters, if their vast wealth supposedly proves how smart they are, and if we’re supposed to just roll over for them, why do they keep wasting millions and millions of dollars on lost causes? Doesn’t the fact that they keep wasting their money on campaigns that are so clearly what the people don’t want evidence of how out of touch they are from the American people?

Be not surprised that notorious California conservative operative/ratfucker Tony Russo is behind this craptacular waste of money:

The contributions were orchestrated by California political consultant Tony Russo to help big donors hide their identities when supporting his campaign against Proposition 30 and for Proposition 32. Those who wanted their contributions to be disclosed could give to the Small Business Action Committee, the group directly running the campaigns for the ballot initiatives. Those who did not want publicity were directed to give to Americans for Job Security, which planned an advertising campaign on the two ballot initiatives.

(Why do donors need to hide their identities? If you aren’t doing anything wrong ….!)

The Republican Party is basically one giant grift machine. Millions and millions of dollars thrown down the toilet. But you know Russo Marsh & Rogers got their fees. Oh, yeah. This system ain’t broken, not for the people who profit off of it.

Kinda makes you wonder what Eli Broad, the Fisher family, and especially notorious lost-cause financier Sheldon Adelson are thinking. Adelson is the idiot who sent $5 million to Newt Gingrich’s obviously sinking campaign. If you guys don’t show better judgement than this, why the hell should we listen to you about anything?

Eagerly await the day when these idiots all go bankrupt.

3 Comments

Filed under campaign finance, corporations

American Morans: Corporate Edition

‘shopped or not? You decide:

BSRR_QmCcAAtqTX

Apparently this was seen on a New York City bus sometime this week (hence, “Big Apple meet …”) Doesn’t look ‘shopped to me, and nothing came up on Snopes. I’ve heard of truth in advertising but this hits new levels for honesty in marketing.

Oh, the irony.

(Original American Moran here, other Morans here.)

20 Comments

Filed under American Morans, corporations

Why I Quit Googling

In case you missed it, a couple weeks ago Google held a fundraiser for notorious climate denier/oil company shill/all around nutbar Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe.

Considering the great lengths Google has gone to present itself as a “green” company, more than a few people consider this a gross display of hypocrisy. You simply can’t claim to have any sort of green ethos while raising money for the Senate’s most vocal and active climate denier.

And no, saying you have a data center in Oklahoma is not sufficient explanation. You don’t get off with that trite “we don’t agree with all of their policies” bullshit. This isn’t just any policy. This is a major policy on which you’ve hinged a whole boatload of your feel-good PR, and Inhofe is probably this country’s most powerful activist working to obstruct any policy action related to climate change.

You do not get a pass on this. This is not, we have a minor disagreement on this one trivial thing but can find common ground elsewhere. This is, we are galaxies apart on a major fundamental issue of cataclysmic proportions. So, fuck you, Google. We’re not that stupid.

There’s simply no excuse for this. I mean, I guess they’re bowing and scraping for some kind of favorable tax treatment or whatever? To which I again say: fuck you. How many bazillions in profits do you people need, anyway? I just don’t get Corporate America, I really don’t. You’re all, oooh we want Americans to love us and feel good about us! but you act like such dicks all the time, spending bazillions of dollars on lobbying and PACs and greenwashing and PR campaigns and fundraising for asshole Republicans and groups like ALEC which support legislation that oppress your customers. Why not just spend all that money on doing the right thing in the first place? Instead of spending money on being assholes and then spending more money on a PR/marketing campaign trying to convince us you’re not assholes?

Wouldn’t that just be easier?

Anyway, comedian Andy Cobb put together a hilarious video clip mocking Google for its hypocrisy. Give it a look-see:

But I have to tell you guys, this isn’t the reason I stopped Googling. I stopped Googling a while ago and here’s why: they started sucking. It’s true!

I use search engines when looking up stories for my weekly gun report, and about six weeks ago I noticed that suddenly a news search for something like, “gun accident, Memphis” would yield a whole string of Daily Caller stories having nothing to do with guns, accidents or even Memphis. Don’t believe me? Look, this is Bing’s search:

Memphis-Bing

And this is Google’s:

Google

If you click on the picture you’ll see that other than CNN’s top story, the rest is some Daily Caller BS that has nothing to do with what I’m searching for. (Daily Caller is that far-right rag Tucker Carlson started which peddles wingnut crack. Notorious for firing and missing, repeatedly, we’ve nicknamed them the “Daily Failure.”)

Anyway, I’m not tech-savvy and I can’t pretend to understand all of the algorithms and other crap which goes into making a search engine do its job. I’ve heard of Google Bombing and all that, so I’m gonna guess the people at Tucker’s Daily Failure embedded some SEO terms in their codes or whatever it is they do to make sure anyone searching for “guns,” “Tennessee” and maybe some other redneck-y sounding terms will land on Tucker’s Little Shoppe Of Internet Rumours.

Anyway, that ain’t working for me so I switched to Bing. So far, no problems.

You know, I’m not naive. Despite Corporate America’s Herculean efforts to put forth a huggsy-wuggsy image and to make sure its Twitter feed is full of Nice Time, I know they’re all evil to some extent, the difference is just in degrees. And I can handle some evil, it’s part of life in America today. But when you become both evil and you stop working? You’re dead to me.

21 Comments

Filed under climate change, corporations, Media