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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—September 26, 2009

  • The Daily Echo (United Kingdom): The Daily Echo 10 September 2009. By Sandra Gidley, Member of Parliament for Romsey. Excerpts: So, when the problem of the IBM Pension Scheme hit my desk I wondered what I could do (I am making the assumption at this stage that all IBM's proposals are within the law). In a nutshell the problem is that the scheme was reviewed in 2006 and, at that time, promises were made that the new scheme was for the long term. In July IBM bosses announced that due to profits not meeting forecasts they were consulting on new proposals for the scheme. Needless to say the new proposals are less attractive to the employees.

    Employees, and even MPs, are often sympathetic to changes if a company is struggling - even if they do not personally like them. Sympathy is not appropriate in this case because although IBM did not meet their targets they actually achieved record profits last year.

    It is hard to understand why a company is alienating its staff at a time when it appears to be doing well despite a recession. The plot thickens when you learn that the company had looked at downgrading pension schemes in other European countries but had not been able to because legislation in Germany, for example, protected the workers to a greater extent than in the UK.

    The only explanation appears to be because IBM is doing this because other companies have been making changes to pension schemes recently and because they think they can get away with it.

    Suddenly this becomes less of an internal problem and more of a question about whether British legislation protects workers' pensions to a great enough extent. The sort of people being affected here are those who have done exactly what they have been asked, by successive governments, and have made prudent plans for their retirement. We must ensure that firms are not allowed to use the recession as an excuse to duck their financial and moral obligations to their employees. This is one area where IBM may try to lead but we do not want others to follow.

  • Associated Press, courtesy of Forbes: Ind. welfare chief acknowledges big system problem. By Ken Kusmer. Excerpts: Indiana's human services chief acknowledged Friday one of the biggest criticisms of the state's privatized welfare system, telling lawmakers it does not provide enough face-to-face interaction between caseworkers and welfare recipients. Testifying at length before the State Budget Committee, Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Anne Murphy said a team from IBM Corp. has made improvements to its system by improving its technology and adding staff. But she said the timeliness of processing applications for food stamps, Medicaid and other benefits has not improved, a problem she attributed to too little in-person contact.

    Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services Inc.and their partners are running the state's welfare system under a 10-year, $1.34 billion contract - one of the most lucrative in state history. Critics have complained about lost documents, lengthy approvals for benefits and other problems with the new system, and Murphy has given the contractors until the end of this month to fix a host of problems. Among them, a complaint from both advocates for welfare recipients and lawmakers about a lack of face-to-face contact that largely began when Indiana moved about 1,500 state caseworkers to the IBM team in March 2007. ...

    Murphy said IBM has already been sanctioned about $260,000 for poor performance under the contract. She also said the overall value of the contract hasn't changed, even though the new system has only been rolled out to counties covering a little more than a third of the state's caseload. ...

    Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, was among the lawmakers who questioned whether the state is getting its money's worth from IBM and its partners. Kenley said the budget committee will continue examining the contract through much of the fall. "This is only the beginning of this discussion," Kenley said.

  • The Register (United Kingdom): IBM in £24m battle with UK spooks. UK.gov's secret IT disaster. By Chris Williams. Excerpt: British spymasters are involved in a multimillion-pound wrangle with IBM over a secret intelligence network that was scrapped after years in development because of security fears and missed deadlines. Phase Two of the SCOPE programme - designed to allow wider access and collaboration on intelligence across ten government organisations at home and abroad - was quietly halted last year. The Cabinet Office said this week it had no progress to report on recovering the millions paid out for nothing.

    The Register has confirmed IBM is the "main commercial supplier" whose "failure... to meet key contractual milestones" was blamed in July by minister Tessa Jowell for the missing capability and heavy loss to taxpayers. The total write-down was £24.4m. IBM declined to offer any comment on its involvement in SCOPE Phase Two or say whether it will return the money. The Cabinet Office said it was considering its legal options. It declined to comment on IBM specifically.

  • Harvard Business Publishing: Get Lean on Energy Costs, Not People. By Andrew Winston. Excerpts: This may be hard for anyone below 40 to fathom, but companies didn't always fire people to save money. IBM was famous for "full-time employment," but then its first layoffs in the early 90s changed the game forever. Over the last 20 years it has become (supposedly) good management practice to slash people costs — remember the famous cutters like "Chainsaw" Al Dunlop? A company's stock price rose whenever it announced cuts. ...

    I wish things were different today than in Dunlop's time, but when this downturn began, companies raced to cut people ahead of the coming decline in sales and profits. It didn't seem to occur to anyone that layoffs would accelerate the recession as fired employees — also known as consumers — had no money to spend. As we enter what seems to be a jobless recovery, it's past time for us to realize that layoffs are not always the right answer. ...

    More recently, Fortune reporter Geoff Colvin laid out all the costs of layoffs, which, he points out, companies mistakenly equate with only severance costs. Colvin included brand equity costs, leadership costs, Wall Street costs, rehiring costs, and my personal favorite, morale costs. To stay strong in tight times, to find opportunities to cut costs in smart ways, and to innovate your way to the future, you'll need everyone on board. So undermining morale may not be a great idea right now. You'll also need people with deep knowledge of the business — and mass layoffs ensure that you lose critical perspectives and information. In many cases, there's another way (or two). Some companies, for example, have been paying everyone a bit less rather than resorting to layoffs.

  • Wall Street Journal: Sotomayor Issues Challenge to a Century of Corporate Law. By Jess Bravin. Excerpts: In her maiden Supreme Court appearance last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a provocative comment that probed the foundations of corporate law. During arguments in a campaign-finance case, the court's majority conservatives seemed persuaded that corporations have broad First Amendment rights and that recent precedents upholding limits on corporate political spending should be overruled.

    But Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority might have it all wrong -- and that instead the court should reconsider the 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights flesh-and-blood people have. Judges "created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons," she said. "There could be an argument made that that was the court's error to start with...[imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics." ...

    On today's court, the direction Justice Sotomayor suggested is unlikely to prevail. During arguments, the court's conservative justices seem to view corporate political spending as beneficial to the democratic process. "Corporations have lots of knowledge about environment, transportation issues, and you are silencing them during the election," Justice Anthony Kennedy said during arguments last week. But Justice Sotomayor may have found a like mind in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "A corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights," Justice Ginsburg said, evoking the Declaration of Independence.

  • New York Times editorial: The Rights of Corporations. Excerpts: The question at the heart of one of the biggest Supreme Court cases this year is simple: What constitutional rights should corporations have? To us, as well as many legal scholars, former justices and, indeed, drafters of the Constitution, the answer is that their rights should be quite limited — far less than those of people. This Supreme Court, the John Roberts court, seems to be having trouble with that. It has been on a campaign to increase corporations’ legal rights — based on the conviction of some conservative justices that businesses are, at least legally, not much different than people. ...

    The courts have long treated corporations as persons in limited ways for some legal purposes. They may own property and have limited rights to free speech. They can sue and be sued. They have the right to enter into contracts and advertise their products. But corporations cannot and should not be allowed to vote, run for office or bear arms. Since 1907, Congress has banned them from contributing to federal political campaigns — a ban the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld. ...

    One of the main areas where corporations’ rights have long been limited is politics. Polls suggest that Americans are worried about the influence that corporations already have with elected officials. The drive to give corporations more rights is coming from the court’s conservative bloc — a curious position given their often-proclaimed devotion to the text of the Constitution.

    The founders of this nation knew just what they were doing when they drew a line between legally created economic entities and living, breathing human beings. The court should stick to that line.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 09/19/09: Just got through talking with some PM's through a meeting for PDU's the other night and things just got more interesting. Talked to one who normally is near a GDF and this person told me, they are the only one talking to clients, and all the resources have names with more than 5 syllables. Additionally this person has been told to never let these resources talk too much for fear of alienating the client as well as telling them that these resources are ALL in the US to get compliance; when only 2 in 38 are here. Even their Sametime is changed to reflect this. This person related the story of Program Managers wanting to eat up budget costs by trying to hold out services committed to, in SOW's as extra items so that they can bill. Meant to show as a big improvement in GNP%. Added to that the word about the lower costs for PM's is getting worse, heard AT&T was getting news of IBM efforts and prepare to start seeing the postings for PMs and Snr PMs to go down in rates fast! -IBM UC'd-
    • Comment 09/21/09: Was informed that most face to face IT Specialist full time at large corporate customer accounts will be reduce to one day a week and the remaining 4 days will be covered from India, new IBM strategy will be implemented sometime in 2010 to eliminate a number of IT Specialist in NA by spreading IT Specialist over multiple account one day a week, sure it will be extended to other roles / geo's in the company if this plan works by saving IBM money thru reducing head-counts and using cheaper Global Resource labor to cover corporate America... just a matter of time before I'll be joining the unemployment line... -ZION-
    • Comment 09/22/09: All this talk about a skills assessment reminds me of rumors back in the mass tech layoffs of of 2001 and onwards. Several people on boards I was also on mentioned being canned after being told to list their skill sets to "put into peoplesoft." Not right away, a few months afterwards. I realized with a shock that I had also faced the same request. I think they may be using your own words against you. Most people confronted with such an inventory miss a lot of good about themselves. Anyone already do this and have a report? -barb-
    • Comment 09/23/09: This is my last day at IBM. I was informed of being RA'ed the day I came back from being on IBM short term disability for various medical issues. I sincerely hope no one else has to get RA'ed in this IBM. PLEASE do yourself a favor: do not keep your collective heads in the sand and think your employment in this IBM is safe. YOU can do something to protect yourself. Get some job protection. Get a union contract. If you continue to do nothing, nothing good will happen. My only true regret is I was not able to be an IBM employee in a collective bargaining w/contract unionized IBM. -sby_willie-
    • Comment 09/23/09: AT&T is asking IBM (account by account) for permission to move the jobs of the hundreds of former IBM Network Services employees that went to AT&T be moved to foreign workers. Putting hundreds of AT&T (former IBM employees) in the unemployment line. Judy Miller and John Walsh (former IBM execs)are leading this effort to kill American jobs. -OutsideLookingIn-
    • Comment 09/23/09: Potential RA candidate names were due into IBM/HR on 9/15/09 for the Software Group(SWG). Large (but stealth) cut to commence this Fall after product shipment (GM) and projects completes. -Fact_Jack-
    • Comment 09/23/09: DANGER WILL ROBINSON - spoke to a Level 3 person and some items are coming down in Oct/Nov and rest in Jan after alignments and expirations are done on some accounts. They have already set up Bangalore Resources for take over on many items for most SA's right now and the call centers are going to be transitioned completed out of North America by March 10 to offshore. The 17,000 number for RA'd is set in stone and for the 10Q reports to show better performance going into next year. Also stated that the Philippines call center has been getting higher marks from clients than the Bangalore site and the call center switches are going to be used there for mostly IBM NA support lines. Hope this info helps everyone else still holding down the crazy time at blueworld. -IBM UC'd-
    • Comment 09/24/09: Not only is IBM going to off-shore most of the helpdesks, their next move is to stop people from calling the helpdesk entirely. (Especially US workers). Right now, if you call the ibm-help number and ask for help, you will also receive a nastygram from support. It basically states you are only to call the helpdesk if your workstation is not functioning or have a blue screen, if IT Central is not available or you are offline and have already used MyHelp. They are trying to transition to a web-based support model. Pretty soon, the helpdesk functions will be the modern day equivalent to a sweat-shop. Keep pulling those tickets GR workers. Ensure you make your on-going quotas of tickets pulled per hour. (We don't care if you actually provide a helpful response to the customer, just that you have a certain number of tickets closed per hour), In return, we'll reward you handsomely with an extra cent a week pay increase. -there-has-to-be-something-better-than-this-
    • Comment 09/24/09: I'm an IBM UK employee. Today every at&t employee I know (who were until recently IBM colleagues) were made redundant, tp leave on 31/10/2009. They got an email Tuesday evening saying that some redundancies were due, a letter through the post Wednesday to say they were on a provisional list, and a phone call today (Thursday) telling them they had been made redundant. We have no network people left at our site now, rumour is at&t have outsourced the work (but the the people) to NCR -Anonymous-
    • Comment 09/25/09: Anyone know if the Hardware Remote Support Centers (RSC) are part of the offshoring program? If so, this is going to be disastrous for IBM, the field force and the clients who use these centers for level 1 support. -quimby-
    • Comment 09/25/09: 39 people, moved to AT&T 2008, will be set free this year. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 09/25/09: to Tiel "Comment 09/24/09: Manager scheduled a meeting with no warning. He has never done that before. Wish me luck. 14 years with IBM -Tiel-" That is how it happens. When it happened to me, two other of my office mates received the same meeting invitation. We all started instant messaging, ... when is yours...mine is at 10:30..oh yours is at 10:45 etc. Curious that all of the meetings were 15 minutes long.

      All of the meetings were the manager saying the same thing, probably reading from a script he got from HR. They make a pretense of telling you flaky reasons (needs of the business, etc) but really you just sit there because you get 3 minutes at the end, when they ask "do you have any questions".

      Even if you have questions they won't be answered. Sometimes you are told a date that will be your last date; sometimes you are just told to start looking for work. What really is awful though is at the same time there is usually more work to do than people to do it and they keep hiring offshore. You find this out because you are then told to train these offshore newbies. I used to care a lot about IBM, had lots of pride. They killed it in me. -a GR

  • General Visitor's Comment page
    • Comment 09/19/09: As a former first line manager (recently RAd) I can tell you that managers read this site to find out what the 'drums' are saying. Most first lines get very little info from their managers and many times this site is the only place to get reasonably accurate info - nothing flows down. I am sorry that many folks were humiliated by their managers, I always tried to be as honest as I could and did what I could to help my reports. -former manager-
    • Comment 09/20/09: I've had 1st line and 2nd line managers who were very kind at IBM. The problem is 3rd line and above, all the way to Palmisano. Sammy is as crooked as a 2 headed coin. I don't trust him at all. Support the Alliance and lets get a Union going to have a contract to protect out jobs. -IBMer-
    • Comment 09/21/09: A suggestion for the Alliance. Charge non members for access. If they are afraid to join but find the site informative; 5 dollars a month paid via paypal would be an acceptable donation. Or of course whatever you choose. Subscribing to this site for information purposes is far different from joining. This would also force IBM managers to contribute if they want to hear what the drums are saying. I do so love the irony of that. -Exodus2007- Alliance reply: It is not just the money. We also need to show our parent organization (CWA) that there is growth in membership. We need to show them that IBMers actually care enough about what is going on, by becoming members. It is called ownership. Also, it is illegal for us to accept contributions from management; regardless of the agreed irony ;-) it's illegal for management to even visit this site.
    • Comment 09/22/09: I went to college to study engineering thinking that I would be a treated as a professional like a doctor or lawyer in the real world. That was hardly the case. I was RAed by IBM and treated so poorly that a janitor cleaning the toilets would get more respect. The way IBM has treated engineers has really destroyed the luster of the engineering profession. Engineering is not like the 60's when engineers put a man on the moon. Notice that no one in the younger generation wants to study engineering. Engineering enrollment in the S has been on a steady decline. You can thank IBM and its piss poor attitude towards engineers for that. IBM leadership over the last several decades has been all about greed and short term profits. -disgruntled engineer-
    • Comment 09/22/09: -barb- One person I know basically said "If they don't know what skills I possess now and what I do for the customer on these IBM customer contracts and projects now they (my management) will never know." I know people who are purposely ignoring this latest Talent Inventory or Skills Assessment since they realize nothing good will come of it for themselves. I don't know if this is the best strategy but if you fill out the survey or inventory it is used more against you than for you. It also shows what an overall dismal failure the EDP (Employee Development Plan) is in IBM for most people that are not in ER (executive resources). One would think the EDP develops the skills but really it is not used much at all to grow business and industry skills in IBM. It's almost as bad as that other failed program called the PBC we all just love. -anonymouse2- (moved from job cut reports)
    • Comment 09/23/09: To sby_willie. My best to you & your family going through this ordeal. Know that your colleagues feel your pain. I have read from here and other places people getting terminated right after maternity leave, s.t. disability leave and even just before military leave. I actually wonder how much weight was given to medical cost (number of doctor visits, hospitalizations, etc) in the calculations in the 'patented offshoring' analysis they used to select which employees to terminate. It's pretty obvious age & salary are factors, but I believe there is a whole lot more to it than that. PBCs are just smoke & cover. And you know what they say, where there's smoke, there's fire. -anonymous-
    • Comment 09/24/09: Friends, I hear repeated comments about sheeple, those who do not join are doomed, etc. These comments are all valid. However, from my own experience, if many people are not joining it is because of fear. Once a break happens there will be a flood. I myself is terribly afraid. If one has a huge mortgage are 45 years old, and live from paycheque to paycheque, I think I am not entirely stupid by being afraid. It will help if there are more personal appearances or meeting of the leaders somewhere. I know it is a million dollar question how can a leader come up. Well if a leader is reading at the Toronto Lab you have the answer. This company is only living in the name of what it was. If a union can change it it will be better for all of us. The bean counter Execs only want to line their personal pockets. -IBM Canada-
    • Comment 09/24/09: -anonymouse- A few 1st line managers in my group were around and did wish me well. My 2nd second line and director not even a short e-mail or any acknowledgment. I was also out on disability before returning to be RA'ed and not even a "welcome back. hope you are feeling better" sentiment expressed by 2nd line and above. My manager though treated me with more than respect and I know I was not directly RA'ed by this manager. I reckon my treatment is probably much the same as others have faced. IBM needs to have better and more empathetic middle management. Middle management that cares about their employees instead of using them and treating them as billable, disposable widgets. It's like the 2nd lines and above don't give any thought to anything but themselves with the IBM business. -sby_willie-
  • Pension Comments page
  • Raise and Salary Comments IBM CEO Sam Palmisano: "I am pleased to announce that we will not only be paying bonuses to IBMers worldwide, based on individual performance, but that they'll be funded from a pool of money nearly the same size as last year's. That's significant in this economy -- and especially so, given the size of the 2007 pool. Further, our salary increase plan will continue, covering about 60 percent of our workforce. As always, increases will go to our highest performers and contributors. We should all feel good about the company's ability to invest in people in these very concrete ways."
    • Comment 09/11/09: Salary = $27,456 Per Hour (yes, per hour); #Yrs Since Raise = 0; %Raise = 16%; Band Level = Top; This Yr-PBC = 1+; Job Title = Pres, Ceo, Big Guy; Years Service = I serve nobody; Hours/Week = 60 on the golf course; Div Name = HQ; Location = In the Clouds; Message = I'm really not satisfied with my salary. We've got to get rid of more dead wood and get the EPS way up there. Got to figure out a way to get more of the retirement funds into vapor profits. -Sammy-
    • Comment 09/21/09: Salary = 80k CDN; #Yrs Since Raise = 1; %Raise = 1.2%; Band Level = 7; This Yr-PBC = 2+; Job Title = Advisory Tech; Years Service = 10; Hours/Week = 50; Div Name = Slave Services; Location = Toronto; Message = Was told by my Manager that I should be pleased with my raise since it is more than what my colleagues got!!!! And it includes an adjustment since we won't get O.T paid anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a s*** company ibm is to work for. I have no problem telling all my clients this. -Diverseone-
    • Comment 09/25/09: #Yrs Since Raise = 1; Band Level = 8; This Yr-PBC = 2; Job Title = IT Specialist; Years Service = 4; Hours/Week = More than they deserve; Div Name = STG; Location = EMEA; Message = Just received commission statement for 1H technical incentive bonus plan. What a joke. Based on actual stated targets and splits in the offer letter, if we had been on the plan from 2007, I would have got 65% of commissionable earnings, on the 2008 plan I would have got 50% of commissionable earnings. Actually received 15% of commissionable earning. No better evidence of senior execs driving down salaries. Disgusting. -P Doff-
  • PBC Comments
    • Comment 09/21/09: Band Level = 7; Years Service = 30+; Prior Yr PBC = 2+; This Yr PBC = 2+; This Yr Bonus = 0; Prior Yr Bonus = 0; Message = Anticipate rotten pbc review for 2010. Since IBM Canada has decided to cut out pay for overtime and our department is both under staffed and over loaded working through evenings and weekends was the norm, For 2010 I plan to be available for the 37.5 hours spelled out in my original employment offer and no more. getting job in local quiki mart to make up for the under paying IBM. -Walking Dead-
    • Comment 09/26/09: Band Level = 6; Years Service = 13+; Prior Yr PBC = 2+; This Yr PBC = 3; This Yr Bonus = FA; Prior Yr Bonus = FA; Message = One clever trick that IBM in Europe does is rotate the managers just before the final PBC grade has been completed. This way HR can say that the previous manager has left and the new manager coming in has to rely on the opinion and input of the Team Leader and Old Manager to make an assessment. In the beginning of the year I was assured SAP courses following by Certification to complete my ID, unfortunately they dumped me onto a dead end project which is a complete and utter cockup knowing that this would impact my SAP education - then Landed Resources arrive in droves (supposedly limited to level 1 admin work) now it seems that they are gradually moving onto Level 2 before they return. Seems that IBM globally falls under the "Mushroom Treatment": Kept in dark places and fed Horse Crap -ScrewedAgain-
  • International Comments
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • Huffington Post: Protect Insurance Companies PSA: Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm Speak Out Against The Public Option (video, don't miss it!). In a satiric video from Funny or Die, Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, and other celebs band together to "protect" insurance company profits from the evils of health care reform. "People are saying a lot of mean things about health insurance companies and their executives and it's gotta stop," pleads Thomas Lennon.

    "These great business men are American heroes," says Linda Cardellini. "So why is Obama trying to reform health care when insurance companies are doing just fine making billions of dollars in profit?" Will Ferrell asks.

  • Kaiser Family Foundation: Side-by-Side Comparison of Major Health Care Reform Proposals. Excerpts: Achieving comprehensive health reform has emerged as a leading priority of the President and Congress. President Obama has outlined eight principles for health reform, seeking to address not only the 45 million people who lack health insurance, but also rising health care costs and lack of quality. In Congress, a number of comprehensive reform proposals have been announced as the debate proceeds over how to overhaul the health care system.

    This interactive side-by-side compares the leading comprehensive reform proposals across a number of key characteristics and plan components. Included in this side-by-side are proposals for moving toward universal coverage that have been put forward by the President and Members of Congress. In an effort to capture the most important proposals, we have included those that have been formally introduced as legislation as well as those that have been offered as draft proposals or as policy options. It will be regularly updated to reflect changes in the proposals and to incorporate major new proposals as they are announced. This side-by-side offers a summary of the major components of these proposals; detailed descriptions of provisions relating to the Medicare and Medicaid programs can be found online.

  • Dallas Morning-News: American Airlines to end health plan for non-union retirees. By Terry Maxon. Excerpts: American Airlines Inc. has notified its non-union retirees that the carrier will no longer pay for health insurance coverage for retirees past age 65. "This is not right," said retiree Deanna Soltis, 70, who left her Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport job with American in 1995. "The majority of us have worked 35, 40 years for this company. Yes, we can have Medicare. "But this was part of our retirement package that they shouldn't be able to take away from us," Soltis said.
  • Bloomberg: Canadian Health Care, Even With Queues, Bests U.S. By Pat Wechsler. Excerpts: Opponents of overhauling U.S. health care argue that Canada shows what happens when government gets involved in medicine, saying the country is plagued by inferior treatment, rationing and months-long queues. The allegations are wrong by almost every measure, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and other independent studies published during the past five years. While delays do occur for non-emergency procedures, data indicate that Canada’s system of universal health coverage provides care as good as in the U.S., at a cost 47 percent less for each person.

    “There is an image of Canadians flooding across the border to get care,” said Donald Berwick, a Harvard University health- policy specialist and pediatrician who heads the Boston-based nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement. “That’s just not the case. The public in Canada is far more satisfied with the system than they are in the U.S. and health care is at least as good, with much more contained costs.”

    Canadians live two to three years longer than Americans and are as likely to survive heart attacks, childhood leukemia, and breast and cervical cancer, according to the OECD, the Paris- based coalition of 30 industrialized nations. Deaths considered preventable through health care are less frequent in Canada than in the U.S., according to a January 2008 report in the journal Health Affairs. In the study by British researchers, Canada placed sixth among 19 countries surveyed, with 77 deaths for every 100,000 people. That compared with the last-place finish of the U.S., with 110 deaths. ...

    Yet the Canadian “bogeyman,” as U.S. President Barack Obama called it at an Aug. 11 gathering in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, may have “all but defeated” the idea of a public option in the U.S., said Uwe Reinhardt, a health-care economist at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Democrat from Montana, introduced on Sept. 16 compromise health-care legislation that, unlike other House and Senate bills, omits a government-backed choice for the uninsured living in the U.S. who can’t afford private coverage. ...

    Private insurers, the pharmaceutical industry and the medical profession fear the “market power” of a public plan, Reinhardt said. They “deployed certain think tanks to find horror stories around the world that can be used to persuade Americans a public health plan in the U.S. would bring rationing.” Given that Congress is likely to pass a mandate to cover the uninsured, Americans forced to buy policies will be left with no alternative to coping with “double-digit rate increases” on commercial premiums, Reinhardt said. ...

    Fifty-four percent of chronically ill Americans reported skipping a test or treatment, neglecting to go to a doctor when sick, or failing to fill a prescription because of the cost, according to a 2008 survey by the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that focuses on health care, and pollster Harris Interactive. That was more than twice the number in Canada, data from those New York-based groups showed. ...

    “Canadians value fairness, and they cannot conceive of a system in which someone can’t get health care,” said Wendy Levinson, a Canadian who runs the department of medicine at the University of Toronto and worked in the U.S. from 1979 to 2001.

    The U.S. spent $7,290 on health care for each person in 2007, 87 percent more than Canada’s $3,895, according to the latest OECD data. The U.S. also devoted the highest percentage of gross domestic product to health care, 16 percent, OECD numbers show. Canada’s expenditure was 10.1 percent. ...

    Canadians visited their doctors more frequently: 5.9 visits per person compared with four for those in the U.S., according to 2005 OECD data. ...

    The U.S. leads industrial countries in the portion of the health-care dollar devoted to processing claims and paying providers, the Commonwealth Fund said. Private-insurance administrative costs in the U.S. are 12.7 cents of a dollar, and as high as 18 cents for some companies, said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund. Government plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, spend 5.8 cents excluding costs of private drug plans, she said. In Canada 4.2 cents is spent on administration.

  • Jim Hightower: Health Care Tidbits. Excerpts: Step up and get your tidbits, right here! We've got hot heath-care tidbits for you. The brouhaha over health care reform has produced a generous serving of tidbits – little oddities, facts, and perverse twists that give a glimpse into some of the realities that don't get much coverage.

    For example, insurance corporations are infamous for denying coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition – things like cancer, or that ingrown toenail you had 20 years ago. The National Women's Law Center, however, recently revealed another "condition" that can preclude coverage: domestic violence. Yes, eight states allow insurance giants to categorize "getting beat up by your spouse" as a pre-existing condition!

    Then there are those mythological Obama "death panels" that Republicans have screamed about. While they never did exist in Obama's reform plan – guess where they do exist? In that Republican-led, state of Texas! The Texas Futile Care Law allows a corporate hospital committee to overrule families and pull the plug on granny if the hospital deems any more treatment to be "futile." It was signed into law by – guess who? – Governor George W. Bush.

    And now, three quickies from the Washington Money Game. First, how much clout do health industry lobbyists have in this reform fight? So much that they got a copy of Sen. Max Baucus' draft legislation even before President Obama did. Second, just hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would no longer demand the "public option" that health insurers vehemently opposed, an insurance lobbyist announced a $5,000 per-firm fundraiser for her in his Washington home. And finally, Rep, Joe "You lie!" Wilson, who loudly opposes Obama's reform, has pocketed $240,000 in campaign funds from the industry.

    Sometimes, the real story is in the tidbits.

News and Opinion Concerning the U.S. Financial Crisis
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.

  • MS-NBC: Toxic Assets Still in American Banks (video). Chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee Elizabeth Warren joins a Morning Joe panel to talk about how the TARP funds were spent and why America is not out of the woods yet.
  • Jim Hightower: A Judge Kicks Back at Wall Street Greed. Full excerpt: Even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over – and being kicked. But do you think imperious and obtuse Wall Street bankers would even feel it if they got a kick in the pants?

    Jed Rakoff, a federal judge in New York City, decided to find out. Earlier this year, lawyers for Bank of America and the Securities and Exchange Commission strolled into Judge Rakoff's courtroom asking him to ratify a legal settlement between the bank and the watchdog agency – usually a routine matter. But this case involved the $3.6 billion in executive bonuses that a subsidiary of Bank of America had doled out last year – even as the bank was getting a $45-billion taxpayer bailout.

    Worse, the bankers had lied to their own shareholders about it – a boo-boo that violates SEC rules. But our watchdog had no bite and very little bark. The agency assessed a measly fine of $33 million, which is less than the individual bonuses that some of the bankers had taken.

    To the astonishment of those who made this shameful sweetheart settlement, the judge refused to rubberstamp it. Instead, he demanded the names of each executive responsible for the bonus rip off, saying they should be held personally accountable for their crimes. In two hearings before the judge, the bankers and the SEC bobbed and weaved, shucked and jived, trying to skate free. But Rakoff, was not to be trifled with. Invoking America's notions of morality and fair play, as well as channeling the public's rising anger over Wall Street's greed and Washington's meek complicity in that greed, the judge voided the settlement on September 14.

    Now, Bank of America and the SEC face a public trial over the whole sorry mess they created. At last, a judge has kicked back at some of the financial system's greedheads and incompetents – and, yes, I do think they're feeling it.

  • Jim Hightower: Banker Arrogance Chastised in Court. Full excerpt: If you ever wondered why America needs three branches of government, check out the gumption that some officials in the judicial branch are showing.

    While the executive and legislative branches have sided with the giant banks against millions of hard-hit homeowners, several judges have been standing up to banker arrogance on behalf of regular folks. Take Judge Randolph Haines, a U.S. bankruptcy judge based in Phoenix, who has had the temerity to challenge Wells Fargo.

    This banking powerhouse, which has taken $25 billion in bailout money from us taxpayers, has been notoriously imperious in dealing with its own customers. In a case before Judge Haines, the bank had callously dilly-dallied with the urgent efforts of an out-of-work single mom to keep from losing her home. For months, she had been seeking a loan modification from Wells Fargo, but the bank kept losing her application. "I submitted the paperwork three times," she said, "and nothing happened."

    Meanwhile, she was forced to file for bankruptcy – ending up in Haines' court. Frustrated by this bank's pattern of indifference toward powerless people, Haines summoned one of Wells Fargo's top executives to his his courtroom to answer the complaints of this lowly borrower. The mighty executive, of course, blamed the borrower, claiming she had failed repeatedly to provide a financial worksheet as requested

    However, at Judge Haines' suggestion, the borrower handed a letter to the Wells Fargo chieftain that she had received from the bank, asking him to read it. The chagrined banker had to concede that "[she] is right. The letter did not ask for a financial worksheet." He then added, "Customer communications is something we're taking a look at, your honor."

    They might also look at things like basic competence and honesty. Who knows what'll come of this little courtroom comeuppance, but at least someone in authority is not afraid to confront these BSing big shots.

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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