Category Archives: poly-ticks

Tech Unions Now

"Contracting" in tech is a bullshit arrangement almost entirely skewed to favor the employer.

A true (independent) contractor arrangement requires tons of freedom on the contractor side — for example, they can't tell you where you work from, or what hours — only what they need done and to what standards.

Real "contracting" is also a *negotiated contract* that usually includes things like agreements about how much notice will be given in the case of termination — completely different from that BS they call an "at will" arrangement.

Since the IRS requires that level of freedom if you're paying your own taxes, employers get around this by taxing you as an employee but putting you "on a contract" that you usually get no say in negotiating, which gives them all the benefits of having an employee without you getting any of the benefits of actual employment.

In essence, you're yolked like an employee — required to work times and durations that make job-hunting nearly impossible, chained to one location unless you can beg for some WFH time as a "perk", etc. — except you get the (often) lesser benefits and total lack of job-security that contractors get (and worse IMO, since a real independent contractor can line up other work while they're employed much more easily than someone stuck on 9-5).

Plus you're making employee pay, not contractor pay, which is always higher to compensate for the lack of stability and fringe benefits. Fringe benefits which, of course, are less and less meaningful every year — we're all paying more for health care, getting less (if anything) for bonuses and retirement, and never mind cushy things like transportation, leaves of absence or meals (which may sound luxurious for tech now, but weren't all that uncommon for office-workers decades ago).

And while *technically* your status as a "contractor" lets you terminate your employment at-will, with no notice etc., the professional expectation you work under is that of an employee — if you did just walk and leave everyone hanging, it would reflect very badly on you professionally if it got around.  Whereas, of course, the company gets the full benefit of at-will:  they could lock you out of the building after you leave today for no reason and with no notice, and suffer not a whit. So even where the arrangement is "fair on paper", it's not in reality, because employers have gotten such amazing free reign to cherry-pick which parts of the employee and contractor arrangements they like.

(Whew.  I've wanted to say those things for *years*, and it finally occurred to me that I can now.  And that I'm sick of seeing my friends get screwed, and my home profession gutted by bean-counters.)

Do Not Miss “Secrets and Lies of the Bailout”

Isn't it funny how citizens of the US have heard almost nothing but bland reassurances about how that whole cost-of-an-entire-war-to-bail-out-the-banks thing worked out?

Yes, well. One of our country's greatest remaining investigative journalists has some news for you…the whole thing is an amazingly good read, but here's an important taste:

…On paper, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was simple: Treasury would buy $700 billion of troubled mortgages from the banks and then modify them to help struggling homeowners. Section 109 of the act, in fact, specifically empowered the Treasury secretary to "facilitate loan modifications to prevent avoidable foreclosures." With that promise on the table, wary Democrats finally approved the bailout on October 3rd, 2008. "That provision," says Barofsky, "is what got the bill passed."

But within days of passage, the Fed and the Treasury unilaterally decided to abandon the planned purchase of toxic assets in favor of direct injections of billions in cash into companies like Goldman and Citigroup. Overnight, Section 109 was unceremoniously ditched, and what was pitched as a bailout of both banks and homeowners instantly became a bank-only operation – marking the first in a long series of moves in which bailout officials either casually ignored or openly defied their own promises with regard to TARP.

In fact, the amount of money that eventually got spent on homeowner aid now stands as a kind of grotesque joke compared to the Himalayan mountain range of cash that got moved onto the balance sheets of the big banks more or less instantly in the first months of the bailouts. At the start, $50 billion of TARP funds were earmarked for HAMP. In 2010, the size of the program was cut to $30 billion. As of November of last year, a mere $4 billion total has been spent for loan modifications and other homeowner aid.

So what exactly did the bailout accomplish? It built a banking system that discriminates against community banks, makes Too Big to Fail banks even Too Bigger to Failier, increases risk, discourages sound business lending and punishes savings by making it even easier and more profitable to chase high-yield investments than to compete for small depositors. The bailout has also made lying on behalf of our biggest and most corrupt banks the official policy of the United States government. And if any one of those banks fails, it will cause another financial crisis, meaning we're essentially wedded to that policy for the rest of eternity – or at least until the markets call our bluff, which could happen any minute now.

- via Secrets and Lies of the Bailout | Politics News | Rolling Stone.

The TSA: actually *worse* than you thought

Completely awesome infographic:

Image Source: FloorGem

…And two things to say about it:

1.  When people get frothy about "government spending", wastefulness, and inefficiency, why do they never seem to be talking about things like the TSA?  Why is it almost always things that support our civil rights (like universal health care and social safety-nets), or fix known problems (green energy, research programs, infrastructure initiatives) that are the targets of fiscal-conservative rage, while vastly more expensive and inefficient things that suppress rights (TSA, unnecessary foreign wars) or make problems worse (corporate welfare, oil subsidies) get a strangely free pass?  WTF???

2.  The "infographic" is such a strange animal, isn't it?  The concept that truth should be well-designed strikes me as equal parts hopeful and eerie.  It also makes me edgily excited to see what's next in the evolution of human self-education.  I do heartily approve how many/most of them seem to include a bibliography, too.

No More Forced Pregnancies

This is kind of a big post for me:  I'm coming out of the closet, as it were, with my stance on a big issue.  I also intend this post to be a jumping-off point from which I do more with this issue, because I really feel that more needs to be done.

The issue is forced pregnancy.  And my stance on it is that I think it exists, in most societies including the modern American ones, and I'm sick of seeing it, and I'm sick of it not being called out for what it is.

I started to mentally identify forced pregnancy as an overarching issue some years ago, but I wasn't comfortable speaking up about it, especially in such loaded terms.  But having given it considerable thought, I believe that:

  • Many smaller societal issues are in fact part of this larger picture; and
  • People need to start pointing at the bigger picture and calling it what it is, because recognizing what it is will be key to gathering the motivation to fix it.

And I'm willing to do that now, scary or not.

I'll make more arguments, and in more detail, later — probably, I think, as part of a new section of the site, as there's a whopping amount to talk about and I don't want to confuse the already arguably pretty eclectic webpage I've got going here.  Here are some of the basics of what I'm thinking and where I'm going with this, though:

  • The core assumption of sexism, that women are lesser than men, is most directly and forcefully denied by womankind's ability to bear children (or more pertinently to the warlike mentality in play here, womankind's ability to end the fucking human race in one generation if we chose to not bear children).
  • The only way that sexist people can feel safe, therefore, is by ensuring that "the spice must flow", as it were — by ensuring that reproduction continues and continues to be as controlled by not-women* as possible.
    • You might expect these people to be more interested in using science to remove women from the childbearing equation, then, but there are several reasons to not go about it this way:
      • It's hella difficult and expensive to do.
      • Someone then has to raise those children, an incredibly time-consuming (life-consuming, in fact) and expensive process itself, and one for which no substitute for actual motherhood has been or is likely to be found.
      • Bearing children is itself a great repressor of women:  Childbearing women spend nine months physically vulnerable; undergo a major surgery for which the complication and mortality rates are fairly high; and then feel mortally obligated to sacrifice their goals, careers, health, and finances for the rest of their lives to care for those children.
      • As a result of the above, women with children are far, far less politically and socially dangerous than women without them.  So if your goal is to keep women oppressed in society, then ensuring that they have children, and especially that not much exists in the way of social and financial help for them in having and raising those children, is a great tool for you.
  • Therefore, the vast majority of all sexist activities are in fact some version of the same story:  Get as many women as possible to become pregnant as often as possible.
    • So if you've ever wondered why the more overtly sexist branches of society are staunchly against all forms of birth control, no matter how safe, and no matter how much knowledge they have of the glaring overpopulation problem the human race faces…now you know.

And there's a lot more to it than that:  I've seen nuances so layered and sneaky that it'll make your guts churn — television shows, modes of dress, turns of phrase, everything; a whole societyful of physical, political and psychological manipulation to make and keep women pregnant — details that would make Margaret Atwood's head explode.  And I intend to talk about them all, and loudly, because in all seriousness I have had it with this truth hiding under everyone's noses and nobody saying it.  

Nobody (that I've heard**) says "that's forced pregnancy" when a state limits or outlaws abortion, or when a major religion flexes its political muscle to keep women from having access to birth control.  

Nobody talks openly about what a nightmarish concept forced pregnancy IS and how unforgivable it is that our first-world society is still doing it and still acting like it's somehow OK.

But from now on, *I* will say so.  It probably won't make me popular.  I don't care.  Readers of my site, whom I love dearly and have no wish to piss off, are entirely free to skip the posts on this topic if they really don't want to hear about it.

But I hope they won't.  Because it's true, and it's important.

No peace without justice, and no justice without truth.

Thank you.


*I'll use phrases like not-women (instead of just saying "men") now and again, and though it may seem silly to you at first, please bear with me; I have a reason.  The relevant polarization in issues like this is between those who are sexist (who believe that women should be subjugated as part of how the human race works) and those who are not.  We live in a sexist world, where over 90% of all possible societies we could grow up in are sexist and have been sexist for as many generations back as we could count.  Therefore, due to upbringing, tradition, and culture, many women are sexist.  (I used to be, so I know this firsthand.)  Also, of course, just to complicate things, there are men in the world who are not sexist (just like there are white people who are not racist; just because you benefit from oppression doesn't necessarily mean you're in favor of it (though it does make it harder to understand why you shouldn't be, of course.)  Because of these factors, I hate referring to the conflict of sexism as one between "women" and "men", because it isn't.  It's between a large oppressed portion of the population, and their oppressors.  I don't think that the people fighting to end this centuries-long, globe-spanning oppression can really afford to lose the support of the men who are with them, or to ignore the damage done by the women who are not, by framing their battle as a "battle of the sexes".  It isn't a battle between the sexes.  It's a battle against discrimination and really horrible treatment based on sex, and what side you're on depends on what you believe and how you act, not what's in your pants.  So I apologize if my language-bending to keep that point clear gets annoying to anyone.

**It feels important to say right in this first piece that I'm not any kind of scholar or expert on women's studies — quite the opposite, in fact, as I have a degree in Super Logical Western Analytical Dead White Guy Philosophy.  So when I say things like "Nobody's saying this!", I'm referring to society and the media, at large and how I encounter them, with my only-slightly-deeper-than-average penetration into things International, fringe, feminist and forward-thinking.  It's extremely likely that people working in the trenches and typewriters of the sexist battle have been crying "forced pregnancy" for years or decades or even longer — and as part of my pledge to start crying it where I see it too, I'll be doing more reading on that as well.  But please don't take my enjoinders on the society I live in to be commentary on the body of work produced by feminism, women's studies, or trench-fighting anti-sexists, because I've had very little (more in recent years, but still relatively skimpy) contact with those groups and their writings.  This project is something I came to myself, gradually, and decided recently was something I had to do and say, regardless of what else others have done (because obviously more needs to be done, and having recognized that and recognized that I'm probably a capable person to pitch in, I feel that I have to).  

Oh yay, I don’t really have to say it after all

Awesome author and thinker Cat Valente takes care of writing The Osama Is Dead Post for me.

The long-and-short-of-it:

Well, I don't know. Seems like one more corpse on the pile to me. Sorry, but this war, this decade of war has made me cynical. It's made me not believe in just government on any level, and made me wary and gunshy of my fellow citizens' glee. If we're dancing in the streets either the Lakers won or someone's dead. I was told immediately after posting that it felt like a Pyrrhic victory to me, and tasted like ash, that I was in the minority and that for ALL servicemen and their families, ALL 9/11 and rescue workers families this is joy and closure and relief.

(The rest of her post is totally worth reading too.  As are all the other ones.) 

Well, I'm in that minority too.  Yaaay, after killing thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians, torturing others on both sides, and shooting our civil rights in the face at sunrise, we've finally killed the one guy we were most publicly mad at.  Gee, good for us.  I'm also completely in agreement with my netfriend en_ki:

I would like to hear that we are a strong, free country again; that the nation of cowards who, in the face of this man and a tiny gang of thugs like him, threw out the rule of law and begged our secret police to save us, to snoop and grope and torture and murder with impunity, was some other people in some other time.

Politically, unless this deflates the crazy power-bubble our own government has used the war to build against its own people, I can't really see it doing much good…the people we're fighting in the Middle East haven't been followers of bin Laden for a long time; mostly they're just people who want us to put our guns away and go the eff home.  They'll probably calm down when we do so, and not really before.  (And would you, if there were tanks in your streets?)  I guess the American democrats might gain some bragging-rights, but considering who with and how awful they generally are at controlling messages, I bet that's a wash at the end of the day too.

…Also, just as a philosophical point, can I say that throwing parties because you killed someone is really creepy?

The End.  ;)

The Crucial Morals Underlying Policy

Lord, I love Truth-Out.

Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don't think government should help its citizens. That is, they don't think citizens should help each other. The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have 174 bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual responsibility.

But where does that view of individual responsibility alone come from?

The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family by winning competitions in the marketplace, and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And what of people who are not prosperous? They don't have discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping others takes away their discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on their own and function morally.

via What Conservatives Really Want.

Skeet shooting bullshit with numbers: Wisconsin edition

In Michigan as well as elsewhere, I've heard the attempted anti-union argument that "teachers make too much money anyway".  Now, I know a few teachers (experienced, in difficult subjects like science) and they do pretty well, so it's easy to see how some people might find that argument (i.e. "teachers make too much money, so there's something wrong with unions") at least a little convincing.

Thanks to my iFriend zentiger (via kataplexis), today I can kill it dead for good.  Behold, simple high-school math:

Suppose that teachers are making too much money. OK, that's fine. Let's treat them like babysitters, and pay them less than minimum wage. Say, $3/hour. The conversation wandered from there, but I decided to put some numbers on it and see what happens.

Now, teachers don't work full-time; around 180 days a year for around six and a half hours a day. (Lunch? No, you don't get paid for lunch. Or grading. Or planning.) On the other hand, teachers deal with ~30 students at a time, so that's something — your average babysitter deals with one, or maybe two, at a time. Let's call it 1.5.

Now let's do some math. $3/hour/1.5 kids is, shockingly enough, equal to $2/hour/child. And each day is, as we know, 6.5 hours, so it looks like we should have (in a given day), $13/child. Multiply that by the (sadly small estimate of class size) 30 kids each teacher deals with, and we're at $390/day. $390/day * 180 days/year = $70,200/year. That seems like a reasonable introductory salary for a schoolteacher, no? If not, where did I go wrong in my math? I mean, I'm doing this all in my head, so I might have screwed up somewhere.

This result is especially interesting given that, according to (I don't actually know if this is a good source), the median salary of a high school teacher is $53,558. If that website is accurate, it looks like we're paying our teachers, on average, $20,000 per year less than we'd pay a 14-year-old for the same service. Oh, and the teachers also, y'know, educate our children. So that's a plus.

What the hell, America?

It appears I owe Joe Biden a solid

Feminism and the 2008 US Vice Presidential race

For the first time in a long time, an honest feminist ran for Vice President of the United States. No, not her; ironically, perhaps, it was the man running for the position, Joe Biden. Biden has already spent 20 years fighting for women's rights. He fought to make marital rape as heinous a crime as non-spousal rape; when he found out that his home state treated date rape as a lesser offense, he fought that; and he worked his ass off on the Violence Against Women Act, specifically the section on Civil Rights for women.[8] Biden's victory makes him arguably the most politically-powerful women's rights advocate in American history.

via Feminism – RationalWiki.

Wow.  Who knew?