Saturday, January 25, 2014

Innovation is key, but the Old Rules work fine too

Major players in Silicon Valley may have colluded to keep down employees' wages by entering secret non-recruitment pacts with each other, according to a class action lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice and reported by PandoDaily.

Emails uncovered by the DOJ show that top executives at Apple, Google and others entered allegedly illegal agreements to stifle wage growth and save their companies' margins. The suit claims that the arrangements succeeded in artificially lowering wages and have in effect stolen an estimated $9 billion from over 100,000 tech employees. The class-action lawsuit got final approval from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week, despite attempts by Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe to have it thrown out.

Tech blog PandoDaily goes into great depth about the suit.

Late Apple founder Steve Jobs was not subtle in threats to competing companies that they should not poach Apple talent. After pressing Google executive Eric Schmidt to agree to keep his company's hands off Apple employees, he went after Adobe for trying to recruit a low-level worker. Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen replied in an email exchange that first appeared on Pando:
I thought we agreed not to recruit any senior level employees.... I would propose we keep it that way. Open to discuss. It would be good to agree.

To which Jobs responded:
OK, I'll tell our recruiters they are free to approach any Adobe employee who is not a Sr. Director or VP. Am I understanding your position correctly?

Chizen promptly yielded:
I'd rather agree NOT to actively solicit any employee from either company ..... If you are in agreement, I will let my folks know.

At least one tech magnate seemed to know this was illegal. In 2005, Schmidt instructed a Google business executive to keep the agreement secret and only discuss it "verbally, since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later," reported Pando.

The wage-theft ring goes as far back as 1986. The lawsuit also implicates Lucasfilm and Pixar (eventually sold to Apple), citing a philosophy adopted by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

On work, money, alpha, and social capital, Part 1

The first incarnation of this blog (lost to the ether as far as I can tell) grew out of my initial fascination with Survivalism. I was way ahead of the game on the housing crash and subsequent recession we find ourselves mired in.

I read all the survival guys, and eagerly stockpiled a few weapons, some food, trash bags, matches, blankets, all the usual stuff. It was an upper-middle class game, storing lots of nonsense that cost me at least a few thousand dollars.

I was a clever one too. I picked up a laminating machine, a hardhat and a few other "I'm part of the rescue crew so let me through the barricade," type items. Kept about $10K on hand in mixed denominations, and always had extra gas and a 55 gallon drum of water tucked away on my golf course home.

Of course, to this day I find the idea of modest personal protection, food for a few weeks or months, extra clothes and medical gear, and enough tarps and blankets to survive a large earthquake incredibly sensible. If you can spend <1% of your annual income on "alpha" level insurance, you are probably an idiot not to.

As I read more, thought about the moral and social implications of this hobby, and seriously contemplated likely outcomes, I realized most of it was just silly adventure-porn for a bored privileged person.

So I evolved. I started reading JMG regularly, realized nothing happens as fast or as thematically as you anticipate, and that social capital and people skills were by far the best way to not only survive the apocalypse, but thrive in any scenario, zombie-NWO-nuke attack or otherwise.

I'm convinced there will be no crash. Oh sure, a long descent may be underway, but even within a long slide there are decades and centuries of growth and you just never know where you are in the cycle.

The best thing to come out of my silly hobby was a new prism to view value and the irrational human mind.

I began my love of elemental metal collecting from this examination of true value. Scarcity has almost no bearing on economic value. It's true. An abundance of money (medium of exchange) allows a market for scarce things with no utility. A scarcity of money (gold anyone?) means the money itself is worthless, since it has no utility to enable trade. This is why gold is something rich people buy with money. It's too scarce to be money itself, but is also rare enough that excess money seeks it.

Worrying about the future is the luxury of well-off people. Taking action to change the future seems to be the hobby of the extremely wealthy. Hence, millionaire Saudi's blowing up the parts of the world they don't like, and millionaire Congresscritters doing the same. Both, of course, attempt to shove women back into a box. On this one, I have to give the Saudi's the points.

Maslow did a good job on the first three levels of his pyramid, but I am not so sure about the top two. Self -esteem, respect, and confidence strike me as arising from building the base layers of the pyramid yourself, something denied to almost everyone, and probably 100% of the people enabled to read this blog. If you wake up on the third floor, you will have trouble getting to the next level.

I might have to go back to quoting others, writing stuff myself is surprisingly exhausting.

More another day.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

When I am addressed by strangers anxious about the fate of their country, I try to reply patiently. They hear my American accent, but this in itself does not dissuade them, for I belong to a different category of foreigner. I am not read as an “immigrant,” but rather as an “expatriate,” here for voluntary and probably frivolous reasons, rather than out of economic necessity or fear for my own survival or freedom. This division is not just a street-level prejudice: it is also written into the procedure at French immigration offices, where all foreigners must go to obtain their residence permits, but where the Malians and Congolese are taken into one room, and Americans and Swedes into another...

Even if the numbers of immigrants in Europe were much higher, it would be an illusion to suppose that the immigrants are mounting a concerted effort to change the character of the place to which they have come. Talk of “overrunning” and “invasion” is analogical, and in fact describes much more accurately the earlier motion of European states into their former colonies, a motion which, again, is a crucial part of the account of patterns of migration toward Europe today...

...European cultural identity too is a product of longstanding networks of global exchange. These networks have tended to function for the enrichment of Europe and to the detriment of the rest of the world for the past several centuries, and it is this imbalance that in large part explains current patterns of immigration. Europe has never been self-contained, and its role in the world has both made it rich and left it with a unique legacy of responsibility to the great bulk of the world from which this wealth came.