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Highlights—October 4, 2008

  • eWeek: H-1B Visa Debate Rages Like U.S. Economic Debate. Excerpts: Brian Watson over at CIO Insight has a nice little debate going on H-1B visas. H-1B visas are probably the single most hotly debated subjects in IT careers-land because of the perceived shrinkage of job opportunities and affect on IT salaries that H-1Bs create for domestic IT workers and the IT space. The crux of the debate in Watson's post centers on one reader's view that he stands behind his hiring of H1-Bs for reasons many of you are not going to want to hear: They work harder for less dough.

    That is obviously one person's managerial experience speaking and is entirely a valid thing to say (since it's his experience). The key is that U.S. businesses of all sizes want H-1B visas because the economics make sense, but does that make it right?

    The paradox to me is that it feels like we are saying as a country that when knowledge workers become too pricey, then we need a way to lower the cost and market rates of IT jobs. Isn't the market supposed to bare this out? IT systems and IT labor can be costly. Skilled systems require skilled jobs that attract higher-paying salaries. ...

    Also, for a look at how one organization is consistently fighting the proponents of H-1B visas, read the Programmer's Guild blog. To see the proponents view, check out Compete America.

  • eWeek: Developers: Free Trip to Interview in Boulder. Excerpts: Mork calling Orson... Come in, Orson. I may date myself with this reference, but here goes... Haven't you always wanted to go to the town that Mork from Ork lived in? Ok, that is a silly Mork & Mindy (Robin Williams/Pam Dawber) TV show reference, I know, but that's about all I know about Boulder.

    Apparently it's this technology mecca, or at least that's what 20 start ups are willing to tell you about the seemingly pretty Colorado town. They are willing to fly 100 developers for a free trip to interview for potential developer jobs, see the town and soak in the Rocky Mountain glory. It appears to be for 3 days, from October 27 through the 31st.

  • Workforce Management: U.S. Economic Slowdown Affecting Hiring in India. Excerpt: Rising inflation and the downturn in the U.S. economy are forcing Indian employers to slow hiring, freeze wages and fire underperformers to maintain profit margins. “Efficiency and output delivery will be the core mantras at play,” said brand consultant Harish Bijoor. The slowdown is tangible, as the number of information technology and business process outsourcing deals dropped to 78 in the first quarter of 2008 from 109 in the first quarter of 2007, according to India-based research firm Value Notes. By the second quarter of 2008, according to Value Notes CEO Arun Jethmalani, the number of deals slid to 58, down from 101 a year earlier.
  • MarketWatch: Baby Boomers Pursue Encore Careers. Excerpts: With the economy in flux and 401-K plans losing value every day, more and more baby boomers realize that they will need to continue working much longer than they ever expected, and they're rethinking how they want to spend those years, according to Joan Strewler-Carter and Stephen Carter, co-founders of the Life Options Institute, an organization dedicated to helping people plan for life after age 50. ...

    David Fouts, Kennebunkport, ME, took early retirement from IBM, where he was an engineer, and then forged a new career as an artist. Along the way, he discovered that some habits from his first career are hard to leave behind. So, instead of fighting the past, he has carried disciplines from the office into the studio. Unlike his previous office, his studio is just outside his back door.

  • Washington Post: Microsoft, Washington State Sue Scareware Purveyors. By Brian Krebs. Excerpt: Microsoft Corp. and the state of Washington this week filed lawsuits against a slew of "scareware" purveyors, scam artists who use fake security alerts to frighten consumers into paying for worthless computer security software. The case filed by the Washington attorney general's office names Texas-based Branch Software and its owner James Reed McCreary IV, alleging that McCreary's company caused targeted PCs to pop up misleading security alerts about security threats on the victims' computers. The alerts warned users that their systems were "damaged and corrupted" and instructed them to visit a Web site to purchase a copy of Registry Cleaner XP for $39.95.
  • Washington Post: Outsourcing aids many data thefts, Verizon says. The reliance of restaurant chains and retail stores on outside companies to handle credit-card processing and other information-technology functions is partly to blame for a rash of consumer data breaches over the last few years, according to data sleuths at Verizon Communications Inc. Even a chain with thousands of restaurants might have only 100 employees in information technology, so it uses outside vendors for many IT functions, said Bryan Sartin, director of the investigative response team at Verizon Business. "What happens is there's a lack of accountability on the third party," Sartin said. ...

    Organized data-stealing gangs "go to the call centers, the Web development companies, the content development companies, the business partners, the people who pick up the backup tapes," Sartin said. "They say ... if you hate your boss and you're in financial straits, we're your solution. Give us access to your customers. Better yet, give us your data."

News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • New York Times editorial: Whose Best Interest? Excerpts: Two drug companies have announced that they will publicly disclose some of their payments to doctors starting next year. But the two companies fell short of complete disclosure, and the industry as a whole lags far behind. Legislation to establish a wide-ranging nationwide reporting system is still needed.

    Patients need to know that doctors are prescribing particular drugs for sound medical reasons — not because drug companies have bought their doctors’ loyalty. The companies certainly spend large amounts of money plying doctors with gifts, hosting them at plush resorts where drug products are promoted, and paying them to deliver or attend lectures or for consulting or research. Some of the payments are for legitimate services, others look like improper inducements, and all have a potential to influence a doctor’s prescribing habits.

  • The Commonwealth Fund: The 2008 Presidential Candidates' Health Reform Proposals: Choices For America. Excerpt: See an interactive Web feature comparing the two plans by clicking on the image at left. Introduction: With the 2008 presidential election just weeks away, health care reform is at the top of the nation's domestic policy agenda. The soaring costs of health care, along with a faltering economy and lackluster wage growth, are leaving many working families without insurance or with medical expenses that consume a large share of their incomes. A recent Commonwealth Fund study found that nearly two-thirds of working-age adults—an estimated 116 million people—either were uninsured for a time during 2007, were insured but had such high medical costs compared with their incomes that they were underinsured, reported a problem paying medical bills, or did not get needed care because of its cost. Over the past seven years, such problems have crept up the income scale among people with and without health insurance. Consequently, voters are calling for change: eight of 10 adults said in a May survey that the health care system is in need of a major overhaul or fundamental reform.
News and Opinion Concerning the U.S. Financial Crisis
  • The Guardian (United Kingdom): Banking crisis: Merrill Lynch top brass set to share $200m Even by Wall Street standards, the sums are unusually high for such a short period of employment. By Andrew Clark. Excerpts: Merrill Lynch's newly recruited chief executive, John Thain, stands to share a $200m (£111.4m) payout with two senior lieutenants for less than a year's work which culminated this week in the bank surrendering its 94-year-old independence. The Wall Street bank known as the "thundering herd" agreed to a $50bn takeover by Bank of America on Monday after a hasty 48 hours of negotiation. The talks were prompted by fears over banking stability arising from the collapse of Lehman Brothers. ...

    Two former Goldman Sachs executives hired by Thain are likely to do even better. Merrill's head of global trading, Thomas Montag, who joined in August, has already received a $39m bonus. Together with stock options accelerated by a buyout, he could end the year with $76m. The bank's head of strategy, Peter Kraus, was given a $95m package including bonuses and stock awards to replace his generous compensation at Goldman when he joined in May, according to figures obtained by Bloomberg News. ...

    Thain, 53, is a leading fundraiser for the Republican presidential candidate John McCain. A doctor's son, he is an amateur beekeeper who used to keep hives in his back garden. He bought a two-bedroom apartment on New York's Park Avenue two years ago which had an asking price of $27.5m. He was hired by Merrill to steady the ship after huge losses on the credit markets which were run up under the leadership of ousted chief executive Stan O'Neal. ...

    Defenders of Wall Street's controversial pay packages generally argue that although bankers do well during good times, they hold insecure jobs which are vulnerable during downturns. "What we do see is that when times get tough, people lose their jobs — and that's the ultimate in pay cuts," said Hall.

  • Associated Press, courtesy of the Washington Post: Stock Losses Take Heavy Toll on Retirement Savings. Excerpts: More than half of people surveyed in an Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday said they worry that they will have to work longer because the value of their retirement savings has declined. Denise Edwards, 62, now expects to work for at least another decade selling condominiums because of the damage to her and her husband John's retirement savings. ...

    The meltdown in the markets comes as pensions are being eliminated. The burden is increasingly on individuals to manage their own 401(k) plans and invest in the market. In 1980, 60 percent of workers were covered by defined-benefit pension plans and just 17 percent relied on defined-contribution plans, such as a 401(k), according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. By 2004, the numbers had changed dramatically: 11 percent of workers were covered by defined-benefit plans and 61 percent were covered by defined-contribution plans.

    ''I think what this catastrophe in the financial markets highlights is how vulnerable this approach to retirement makes people,'' said Alicia Munnell, director of the center. ''Their welfare depends on market gyrations. They can be very responsible and still end up being hurt.'' ...

    Cherie Miller, 55, of Crawfordville, Fla., retired a month ago after 35 years in a secretarial job at Florida State University. But she will start a new job next week, working in an elementary school cafeteria, to make ends meet. Her pension pays about $1,200 a month. But because she's too young for Medicare, and because her husband Robert, 57, is a self-employed golf course equipment repairman, she needs to spend about $1,100 monthly for health insurance. ''That insurance is so high that I'm going to have to continue to work just so I have insurance,'' she said. ''And just the way the stock market is going right now, it's kind of scary.''

  • New York Times opinion: Green the Bailout. By Thomas L. Friedman. Excerpts: Many things make me weep about the current economic crisis, but none more than this brief economic history: In the 19th century, America had a railroad boom, bubble and bust. Some people made money; many lost money. But even when that bubble burst, it left America with an infrastructure of railroads that made transcontinental travel and shipping dramatically easier and cheaper

    The late 20th century saw an Internet boom, bubble and bust. Some people made money; many people lost money, but that dot-com bubble left us with an Internet highway system that helped Microsoft, I.B.M. and Google to spearhead the I.T. revolution.

    The early 21st century saw a boom, bubble and now a bust around financial services. But I fear all it will leave behind are a bunch of empty Florida condos that never should have been built, used private jets that the wealthy can no longer afford and dead derivative contracts that no one can understand.

    Worse, we borrowed the money for this bubble from China, and now we have to pay it back — with interest and without any lasting benefit.

    Yes, this bailout is necessary. This is a credit crisis, and credit crises involve a breakdown in confidence that leads to no one lending to anyone. You don’t fool around with a credit crisis. You have to overwhelm it with capital. Unfortunately, some people who don’t deserve it will be rescued. But, more importantly, those who had nothing to do with it will be spared devastation. You have to save the system.

    But that is not the point of this column. The point is, we don’t just need a bailout. We need a buildup. We need to get back to making stuff, based on real engineering not just financial engineering. We need to get back to a world where people are able to realize the American Dream — a house with a yard — because they have built something with their hands, not because they got a “liar loan” from an underregulated bank with no money down and nothing to pay for two years. The American Dream is an aspiration, not an entitlement.

  • New York Times editorial: Don’t Blame the New Deal. Excerpts: This year’s serial bailouts are proof of a colossal regulatory failure. But it is not “the system” that failed, as President Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and others who are complicit in the calamity would like Americans to believe. People failed. For decades now, antiregulation disciples of the Reagan Revolution have eliminated vital laws, blocked the enactment of much-needed new regulations, or simply refused to exercise their legal authority. ...

    But the failures that have landed us in the mess we are in today are not mainly structural. To assert that they are masks deeper failings and sets false terms for the upcoming debate on regulatory reform. Under a law passed in 1994, for example, the Federal Reserve was obligated to regulate banks and nonbank lenders to curb unfair, deceptive and predatory lending. Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, ignored his responsibility, even as junk mortgage lending proliferated in plain sight.

    Mr. Greenspan later said the law defined “unfair” and “deceptive” too vaguely. If so, he should have asked Congress for clarification. Instead, he did nothing — and the Republican-led Congress did not question him. When Ben Bernanke took over as Fed chairman in early 2006, the negligence continued. It was not until mid-2007, after the housing bubble had begun to burst, that federal regulators offered guidelines for subprime lending. The systematic dismantling of laws that called for regulation also contributed to the current crisis.

    In 1995, Congress passed a law that restricted the ability of investors to sue companies, securities firms and accounting firms for misstatements and pie-in-the-sky projections. That helped inflate the dot-com bubble and contributed to the Enron debacle. It also engendered a sense of impunity that helped to foster the excessive risk-taking so prevalent in the mortgage mess.

    Then, in 1999, Congress dismantled the Glass- Steagall Act, a pillar of the New Deal, which separated commercial and investment banking. That enormous change was undertaken with no thought or effort — or desire — to regulate the world that it would help to create. Now we know that an entire “shadow banking system” has grown up, without rules or transparency, but with the ability to topple the financial system itself.

  • New York Times: In Financial Food Chains, Little Guys Can’t Win. By Ben Stein. Excerpts: Imagine, if you will, that a man who had much to do with creating the present credit crisis now says he is the man to fix this giant problem, and that his work is so important that he will need a trillion dollars or so of your money. Then add that this man thinks he is so indispensable that he wants Congress to forbid any judicial or administrative questioning of anything he does with your dollars.

    You might think of a latter-day Lenin or Fidel Castro, but you would be far afield. Instead, you should be thinking of Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and the rapidly disintegrating United States of America, right here and now. ...

    The current negativity occurred because of wild, casino-type operations of big finance players, creating liabilities way beyond anything we could have reasonably expected. This looks a lot like theft on a spectacular scale — of our wallets, our peace of mind, our futures. Second, according to what I hear from my betters in the world of finance, the most serious problems are not with the bundles of subprime mortgages themselves — a large but not lethal quantum as far as I can tell — but with derivatives contracts tied to subprime and other dicey debt. These contracts are superficially an attempt to “insure” against risks of default, hence the name “credit-default swaps.” In fact, they are an immense wager — which anyone with lots of money or borrowing ability can enter — about how mortgage-backed bonds, leveraged loan bonds, student loan bonds, credit card bonds and the like will perform.

    These wagers entail amounts many times larger than the total of subprime loans. In fact, there are roughly $62 trillion in credit-default swap derivatives out there, compared with about $1 trillion of subprime mortgages. These derivatives are “weapons of financial mass destruction,” in the prophetic words of Warren E. Buffett. (Apparently believing that the worst is over, at least for one big investment bank, Mr. Buffett is now investing in Goldman Sachs.) ...

    The people whose conduct got us into this catastrophe have not only taken our money, hopes and peace of mind, but they apparently also want a trillion or so more dollars to put into their Wall Street Buddy System Fund. This may be the most dangerous attack on the law in my lifetime. What anarchists even dared consider this plan? Thank heaven that minds more devoted to the Constitution on Capitol Hill are questioning this shocking request.

  • New York Times: Wall Street, R.I.P.: The End of an Era, Even at Goldman. By Julie Creswell and Ben White. Excerpt: In search of ever-higher returns — and larger yachts, faster cars and pricier art collections for their top executives — Wall Street firms bulked up their trading desks and hired pointy-headed quantum physicists to develop foolproof programs. Hedge funds placed markers on red (the Danish krone goes up) or black (the G.D.P. of Thailand falls). And private equity firms amassed giant funds and went on a shopping spree, snapping up companies as if they were second wives buying Jimmy Choo shoes on sale. That world is largely coming to an end.
  • New York Times: Greenwich Time. By Tom Wolfe. Excerpts: Be aware that your correspondent is merely bringing you the news when he reports how many people have besieged the author of “The Bonfire of the Vanities” over the past week with the question, “Where does this leave the Masters of the Universe now?”

    “This” refers to the current credit panic. The Masters of the Universe is a phrase from that book referring to ambitious young men (there were no women) who, starting with the 1980s, began racking up millions every year — millions! — in performance bonuses at investment banks like Salomon Brothers, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. The first three no longer exist. The fourth is about to be absorbed by Bank of America. The last two are being converted into plain-vanilla Our Town banks with A.T.M.’s in the lobby and, instead of Masters of the Universe, marginally adult female cashiers with wages in the mid-three figures per week, stocked with bags of exploding dye to hand the robbers along with the cash. American investment banking, the entire industry, sank without a trace in the last few days. ...

    Shed no tears for the Masters of the Universe, however, not that your correspondent actually thought you might. Most of the young Masters already have their own personal nut free and clear. “Nut” is the term for the amount of money you need salted away in weather-proof investments in order to generate enough interest to live comfortably in Greenwich on Round Hill Road, Pecksland Road or Field Point Road in a house built before the First World War in an enchanting European style, preferably made of stone featuring the odd turret, with a minimum of five acres around it and big enough to be called a manor. Every Master of the Universe knows the number.

  • eWeek: Why the Mighty Financial Companies Have Fallen. By Eric Lundquist. Excerpts: Here are my considered guesses as to what happened. The smokescreen of “alignment of business and technology.” Ask any CIO what his or her job is, and chances are you will hear about business and technology alignment. But what happens when the real business of the company isn’t the one marched out in board meetings and PowerPoint presentations? I doubt that any of the companies now shaking the financial foundations of Wall Street and beyond ever said, “Our business is to invest in ever-more-arcane financial derivatives tied to a real estate bubble until we get to the point where we don’t know where our money is, the risks involved or what will happen to us when this foolish bubble bursts.” You won’t see that investment objective engraved in marble, and no one was trying to align his or her technology to that statement of purpose, but the real company strategy was the one that brought down these financial giants. Ask any CIO what his or her job is, and chances are you will hear about business and technology alignment. But what happens when the real business of the company isn’t the one marched out in board meetings and PowerPoint presentations? I doubt that any of the companies now shaking the financial foundations of Wall Street and beyond ever said, “Our business is to invest in ever-more-arcane financial derivatives tied to a real estate bubble until we get to the point where we don’t know where our money is, the risks involved or what will happen to us when this foolish bubble bursts.” You won’t see that investment objective engraved in marble, and no one was trying to align his or her technology to that statement of purpose, but the real company strategy was the one that brought down these financial giants.

    Outsourcing. This is a touchy subject. The best financial technology systems are the ones that are flexible, robust and secure, and that have an interface and user capability where you don’t need a programmer to perform every what-if scenario. A good financial business intelligence system would have been able to alert its users that things were getting mighty shaky in a world built on splintered financial instruments traded in the dark. Outsourcing works best when you can precisely define what operations you want to hand over to an outsourcer, and then you don’t make a whole lot of changes in those definitions. I think Wall Street’s infatuation with outsourcing led it to save a lot of IT dollars and lose its ability to build new IT systems for new financial environments. Dumb move.

  • Boulder Daily Camera: Udall issues statement on bailout 'no' vote. Excerpts: “My first responsibility is to the people of Colorado and to our nation's taxpayers. I take very seriously the warnings about how conditions in the credit markets could affect the overall economy. But, the cost of this bailout was too high and the return far too uncertain for the American families who were being asked to bear the burden. “And I cannot ignore that many of the people sounding the alarm are the same ones who recently said things were under control, that risk was being nearly managed out of the system, and that stronger government oversight was unnecessary and counterproductive.

    “Although this legislation represents an improvement over the initial blank check sought by the Administration, it is still a bare framework that contains too few measures for real accountability. It ultimately lays the costs of the greed, bad decisions, and lack of oversight on Wall Street squarely on the shoulders of taxpayers in Colorado and the nation. ...

    “Just as importantly, this legislation does nothing to begin the fundamental reform that is needed to fix the broken financial system that led us to this crisis. Washington is painfully slow to make fundamental reforms except in times of extreme duress and real public outrage. For this debacle to count for something good, I believe it must lead to real, deep, durable reforms to the laws governing our markets, financial institutions, and their regulation.

  • New York Times: When Madmen Reign. By Bob Herbert. Excerpts: I’m not holding my breath, but I would like to see the self-proclaimed conservative, small government, anti-regulation, free-market zealots step up and take responsibility for wrecking the American economy and bringing about the worst financial crisis since the Depression. ...

    George H.W. Bush warned us about “voodoo economics” in 1980, but the ideologues clamped a gag on him and put him on the Gipper’s ticket. For much of the time since then, the madmen of the right have carried the day. They were freed of their remaining few restraints with the ascendance of George W. Bush in 2000.

    These were the reckless clowns who led us into the foolish multitrillion-dollar debacle in Iraq and who crafted tax policies that enormously benefited millionaires and billionaires while at the same time ran up staggering amounts of government debt. This is the crowd that contributed mightily to the greatest disparities in wealth in the U.S. since the gilded age.

    This was the crowd that cut the cords of corporate and financial regulations and in myriad other ways gleefully hacked away at the best interests of the United States. Now we’re looking into the abyss. ...

    He should have said that he, along with his irresponsible Republican colleagues and their running buddies in the corporate and financial sectors, put the entire economy in danger. John McCain and his economic main man, Phil (“this is a mental recession”) Gramm, were right there running with them. Credit markets have frozen almost solid, banks are toppling like dominoes and brokerage houses are vanishing like props in a magic act. And who was one of the paramount leaders of the manic anti-regulatory charge that led to this sorry state of affairs? None other than Mr. Gramm himself, a former chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

    Where is Mr. Gramm now? Would you believe that he’s the vice chairman of UBS Securities, the investment banking arm of the Swiss bank UBS? Of course you would. A New York Times article last spring noted that the “elite private bankers” of UBS “built a lucrative business in recent years by discreetly tending the fortunes of American millionaires and billionaires.”

    Toadying to the rich while sabotaging the interests of working people was always Mr. Gramm’s specialty. He was considered a likely choice to be treasury secretary in a McCain administration until he made his impolitic “mental recession” comment. He also said the U.S. was a “nation of whiners.” ...

    The inescapable disconnect between rhetoric and reality is often stark. Senator McCain has been ranting recently about the excessive pay and “bloated golden parachutes” of failed corporate executives. And yet one of his closest advisers on economic matters is Carly Fiorina, who was forced out as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard. Her golden parachute was an estimated $42 million.

  • Huffington Post: Wrecking, Wrecking, Wrecked. By Thomas Frank. Excerpts: The great fear that hung over the business community in the 1970s was death by regulation, and the great goal of the conservative movement, as it rose to triumph in the 1980s, was to remove that threat--to keep OSHA, the EPA, and the FTC from choking off entrepreneurship with their infernal meddling in the marketplace.

    Defunding those agencies was one way to stop the killer bureaucrats; another was to stuff them full of business-friendly personnel who would go easy on regulated. The signature conservative regulatory idea became "voluntary enforcement", because everyone now knew that efficient markets regulated themselves. Bad practices or tainted products drove away consumers; therefore firms had an incentive to behave, an incentive far more powerful than some top-down scheme in which big brother told them what to do.

    Whether people ever truly believed this nonsense or not, its application over the years makes up the basic story of conservative governance as I tell it in my book, The Wrecking Crew. This is the philosophy by which conservatives gutted the EPA and the Labor Department, turned over the Interior Department and the FDA to the industries they were supposed to regulate, let the CEO of Enron advise the vice president on energy policy, and generally came to regard business, not the public, as government's "customer" (a word that crops up with disturbing frequency in conservative regulatory history).

    But it is only now, as we watch the financial system crumble around us, that we can really see the devastating consequences of this folly. It turns out the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which was responsible for regulating investment banks, did a significant part of its job through a voluntary program which firms could participate in or not as they saw fit. As the New York Times told the story on Saturday, this system had--of course--been pushed for by the investment banks themselves, who wanted it in order to avoid the stricter rules from European governments that they would otherwise have had to obey. ...

    As you watch the world crumble, try taking your Armageddon with this sprinkling of irony: Over the last three decades, business has got virtually everything it wanted, and its doomsday scenario from the 1970s has come true because of it. The regulators have indeed killed the regulated--not by intrusive meddling but by doing nothing, by taking a nap while the financial sector puffed up the bubble and blew itself to pieces.

  • New York Times op-ed: Save the Fat Cats. By Nicholas Kristof. Excerpts: Just as in the U.S. today, most Japanese did not initially appreciate how devastating a banking crisis could be to the real economy. Banks and real estate tycoons in Japan were corrupt, profligate and unsympathetic figures, and no one wanted to help them. On corporate expense accounts, they sipped coffee with gold leaf and patronized “no-panties shabu-shabu” restaurants, which had mirrored floors and miniskirted waitresses. In short, the businessmen involved were jerks. And, whether in Japan or the U.S., it’s challenging for politicians to frame a bailout with the slogan: Save the jerks! ...

    All this said, critics of the bailout have reason to be furious. It is profoundly unfair that working-class American families lose their homes, their jobs, their savings, while plutocrats who caused the problem get rescued.

    If the Congressional critics of the bailout want to do some lasting good, they should come back in January — after approving the bailout now — with a series of tough measures to improve governance and inject more fairness in the economy. A starting point would be to remove tax subsidies on executive pay and allow courts to restructure mortgages as they do other kinds of debt. The Institute for Policy Studies in Washington estimates that U.S. taxpayers every year provide more than $20 billion in tax subsidies for executive pay.

    Among the strongest critics of inflated executive pay have been Warren Buffett and the late management guru, Peter Drucker, who argued that C.E.O. salaries should peak at no more than 20 or 25 times those of the average worker. (Last year, C.E.O.’s got an average of 344 times the wages of the typical worker.)

    The truth is that with the complicity of boards of directors, C.E.O.’s hijack shareholder wealth in ways that are unconscionable. As The Wall Street Journal reported in June, if Eugene Isenberg, the 78-year-old C.E.O. of Nabors Industries, were to drop dead one of these days, his estate would be entitled to a “severance payment” of at least $263 million — more than the firm’s first-quarter net earnings.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Spotlight: BTV, POK and East Fishkill Manufacturing Workers UNITE Against pay cuts and FOR a union contract! Union representation authorization form here. Authorization form is Union confidential. IBM will not see it.
  • Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 9/28/08: I have heard from multiple 2nd line managers that I still communicate with that the debanding of the SA's has totally backfired! Upper management, in the ivory towers, had ZERO clue to the actual amount of hours that folks were putting in. There is now case after case after case where SA's are making more on OT than their regular checks! I am hearing grumblings from more than one manager who wants to go back to being a tech, because the pay difference is HUGE! Save those dollars while you can.

      IBM assumed this would be a pay decrease. They are now ramping plans to get more folks into the regions centers (Fishkill - Boulder) and off shore ASAP.. The money wont last, but please stick them for what ever you can get! Pay down your debts so when you do get axed, which you will, your in better shape that you are today.

      Much more grumbling on the PM's I have posted that they would be screwed more than a year ago. This has come to fruition. All 300 of the contractors were axed. They are using freshers from India to do the PM work. These guys are PMI - PMP, but most lack common IT experience (Picture the paper MCSE - Same thing) IBM is pushing to the same model as TCS (TaTa) where they will have a skeleton staff on US soil with the core team in low cost GR's.. sad but true. TCS is eating ibm's lunch.. they cannot compete cost wise and customers don't care anymore.. if they can save 50% by going offshore.. they will.

      The good news is some companies are actually insisting on US based jobs.. lets hope that more and more boards become patriotic and realize that they are on screwing the US by offshoring all of their work. Killing off the middle class of America, thru offshoring, will have a negative effect.. lets hope the boards of these companies realize that.

      Good luck to all.. especially the 08A family.. your targeted and forced attrition / corporate snipers have you in their sites. SDM's are being target in the near future as well. Cringley's 350,000 job loss was accurate!... ibm has been back peddling and redoing the plan because of all of the attention. as long as you realize ibm is no longer a career, but a sweatshop to gain experience, your fine. Don't bleed blue... unless you can get a union contract in place. -ExIBM'er-

    • Comment 9/29/08: there is a revolution brewing in this country. It is incubating. We all can feel it. I don't sense it as violent; but as a social attack on the greedy, evil. If you evil, greedy, plastic, fat, phony, not too smart, pretentious, selfishly assuming entitled, night of the living dead, spread sheet humping, no clue about day to day, absentee parents, think you will go unpunished, I'll bet my 401k account you burn in hell -dubious-
    • Comment 10/01/08: Rumored IBM pending large scale US layoffs in Global Services. If anyone has info please post. -another IBM serial#-
    • Comment 10/01/08: If I hear one more time that approving this $700 billion dollar bail-out will keep jobs, I am going to barf. I say let it sink. I am already training my Indian replacements, and considered personal bankruptcy. All the money in the world will not stop greedy corporations from sending all the jobs overseas. This is something that needs to stop! You see it everyday, don't you. -On Borrowed Time-
    • Comment 10/01/08: To -another IBM serial#- yes, October is the month. Lots of PMs, administrative folks (what's left of them), S/As and other techies slated to get the ax. I hear upwards of a thousand or so. These are just rumors that are floating around in my dept, but you know how those rumors go. They usually turn out to be correct. Off-shoring is continuing. We're reaching the end of the year, and IGS is behind on their target of 80 - 85% offshored US workers by years end. -miss understanding-
    • Comment 10/01/08: I'm hearing from a VERY good source that IBM India will lay-off 11,000 people ..... yup, you read right, IBM India. Also, albeit smaller, BTV will shrink down to 3800 employees in November and many BEOL operations being moved to Fishkill and Bromont .... and BTV will be focused on some large customers, like Intersil -TheyDoNotCare-
    • Comment 10/01/08: Rumored large layoff coming to the Rational brand of SWG, too. -irRational-
    • Comment 10/01/08: Some incredibly intelligent manager left a printout of a RA package in a common printer room. Thumbed through it...this RA will be large. The list of impacted employees broken down by Title, Band, etc. (which is standard for the package materials those who are cut will receive) was VERY extensive. I was RA'd in the past - my package printout was probably around 60 pages (2001), but this one is much larger - at least 3X the size of the list. This was a GTS printout - so I am sure it doesn't cover all affected org's. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 10/02/08: Yep, India is too expensive for this blue pig. That's why even they are not immune from the ravages of IBM's "globalization" . You'll not hear any layoffs in China. Sammy loves kissing commies. That's why Gerstner who was in infatuated with Red China gave him his job. -anonymous-
    • Comment 10/02/08: Latest news is that after the PM's and contractors were released last month is that a really bright idea came from a level 4 exec to change ST addresses on people out of India to data center locations so that they wont get problems with contracts that require no overseas work (SARBANES OXLEY/HIPPA). They did it, start noticing people based in Boulder, St Louis and Lexington with really long names are really in Bangalore. Start noticing that this is a trend more and more - GUESS WHY!?!?!? -IBM'r under cover-
    • Comment 10/03/08: IBM is in a big move to show figures before the 16th when the reports go out to stockholders; and looking for anything to scramble cut, even if tactically necessary for completion. Two full time PM's had to be let go for a part time (32 hr a week PM from Bangalore) and to cover up the fact that some replacements from India on Sametime are having their addresses changed to local data centers (Boulder, Denver, St Louis, Lexington, Schaumberg) instead of India so as the clients won't panic. Many of these client facing accounts have explicit instructions never to be offshored due to Sarbanes Oxley, HIPPA, USC 16 laws (credit protection laws including FDCRA) and even on several accounts with HS (Homeland Security) and even NSA out of Ft. Meade as well as other State (Penn, CA, MN and TX as well as GA big time) and many Federal accounts. PO's for servers are being sent out as secondhand units often with parts missing (RSA cards, etc.) to fill LPAR requests. Yet this is being done for quick cash infusion and could cause big problems. They are talking about rehiring back in January-March, but getting people back as contractors at a MUCH lower rate. I figured you would like the news from the inside. -IBM UC'd-
  • General Visitor's Comment page
  • Pension Comments page
  • Raise and Salary Comments
    • Comment 10/01/08: Salary = 65k (salary plus overtime); Band Level = 4; Job Title = SSR; Years Service = 10; Hours/Week = 45; Div Name = 48; Location = Texas; Message = SDM's already heavily engaged in cost cutting of expenses. -Texas Two Step- -TimeAboutUp-
  • PBC Comments
    • Comment 10/1/08: If they are telling you, you will be a 3, go get your job now. I was marked a 3 and highly skilled. No one would offer me a job. I managed to bring the evaluation up the following year, but that is not the typical mode of operation. They give one 3 then give the second 3. Once a 3 is on record and they have any HC reduction, within a 3 year period, the person with the 3 is out the door. We have no one looking out for us and all kinds of things are quietly happening to people, especially older workers. I get the feeling they make people managers who are not honest and just want to move up the corporate steps. (the female mgrs have bought the corp. package - they are the worst) I urge you to move quickly to find a job if mgt is talking about 3 evaluation. Right now, before the 3 is printed on your evaluation is your only chance to get a job. Once they print that 3, everything changes and you're at high risk. You do not have anyone to fight for you, that is reason I joined the union. Even people who know things are not right, will not speak a word because they are afraid for themselves. -none-
    • Comment 10/01/08: USA market and economy in turmoil. No matter how well it does, you will suffer. Expect a lower GDP this year no matter what. IBM will feed you anything and you dumb sheep will take it. Bah Bah! -anonymous-
    • Comment 10/02/08: Geez: Your management had their Team Based Decision Making meeting to identify the 1 and 3 performers. This meeting was conducted in September by your second line manager with the first line managers to identify the top “1” and lowest performers “3” based on relative contribution. You came out of this meeting as a 3 performer for 2008. This decision is not negotiable nor will it be changed. IBM provides guidance to senior management on the distribution of ratings. Even if you were to get another job, your old manager rates you if you are in that job as of October 1. At least your manager told you where you stand. Suggest looking for another job before the 3 is on your record. It is very difficult to get a job once you have a 3 performance rating. Most managers will not hire you with a 3 performance rating as they would have to fight with their manager to do this and managers usually choose not to fight with their boss. Also consider looking for work outside of IBM. You may consider landing a good job outside of IBM to be the best thing that happened to you and the lemon turned to lemonade. -Anonymous-
  • International Comments
Vault Message Board Posts

Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. Some sample posts follow:

  • "IBM stress workshop over subscribed" by "Toa". Full excerpt: An employee stress workshop was organized in Australia; they had to move it as it was over subscribed and the room they had booked wasn't large enough. Do you think the blue pig will learn anything thing from this?
If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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