Thursday, July 21, 2016

Writing In Bernie This Fall? What You Should Know

<What's that saying? One picture's worth a thousand words....>

Bernie Sanders's endorsement of You-Know-Who last week certainly turned some heads among those supporters who couldn't fathom his strategy (if you're charitable) or motivations (if you're not) . And, while I share some of those feelings, I don't plan to spend too much time twisting myself into a pretzel over it. After all....if you weren't voting for Clinton before, why would Bernie's endorsement sway you now?

Endorsements are just the political version of the shtick that kept Ed McMahon off the street for decades. This isn't to suggest that Bernie is little better than Johnny Carson's late second banana (who, if I recall correctly, endorsed over 30 products before leaving this earth in 2009). I'm just putting things in perspective. As far as I'm concerned, people who cash all in their chips based on a newspaper's endorsement -- or some thumbs up from a fellow politico -- probably aren't doing their own homework, anyway.

All jokes apart, last week's announcement has prompted many Sanders supporters to ask themselves: should I write in his name this November? As you'll see, that notion isn't as cut and dried as it looks, since it'll depend on your home state's laws. Then there's also that little matter of perception, since -- aside from U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond (1954), and Ohio Congressman Charlie Wilson (2006) -- the list of major write-in victories isn't a lengthy one. It's more like a damp squib. There's a reason why the mainstream media treats write-ins like the drunken uncle who dances with a lampshade on his head on New Year's Eve....but I digress.

<Will Hllary Clinton show herself as the second coming of FDR and LBJ, combined, if she wins? Hey, look....I think I saw 
a pig flying past my window....check it out!>

However, the challenges of raising money -- and your political profile -- aren't enough in themselves to deter everybody. As the link below indicates, nearly 100 people are taking the write-in plunge, from Buddy The Elf (who lists his home as North Pole, AK -- haw, haw, haw), to Darth Vader (Spokane, WA -- Mr. Lucas's lawyers should be calling any day now), to Soul Bunny (Williams Bay, WI: now there's a name I can get behind, possibly), and Tom Brady Sketch (where else.....but Foxborough, MA).

However, as our friends at indicate, your options depend on what we Americans refer to as "The Geographic Lottery" (It Ain't About What You Think, It's Where You Live, That Matters), so let's roll the tape, as they say, and run the highlights:

If You Live In: Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, or South're SOL, as these states don't permit presidential write-in candidates of any stripe. California, that hotbed of progressive subversion, is the oddity on this list, because it allows write-ins for primaries....but not general elections. Since Bernie came up short there, you can't write him in this fall, either.

If You Live In: Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, or Washington.....under these states' "Sore Loser Laws," candidates who don't secure their party's nomination can't mount write-in campaigns for the office that they "lost" during the primary. Thus, since Bernie won Indiana, Oregon and Washington, you're free to write his name in there, but not the other states on this list....which went to Clinton.

If You Live In: Alabama, Iowa, New Hamphsire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, or Wisconsin....these states will accept Bernie as a write-in, even if he didn't run as one. Presumably, you're free to put his name on your ballot.

But now comes the kicker, the other shoe about to drop, the proverbial fly in the ointment, the spanner in the works, because....

If You Live Anywhere're still SOL, because.your write-in vote won't count if Bernie didn't declare himself along those lines by each state's deadline. (For example, Michigan requires write-ins to file declaration of intent forms by the second Friday before the election. The Democratic primary took place on March 8, so he'd have had to file that form by February 26.)

So, in those 25 states (see link below for the complete list), you're free to write Bernie in, but unless he declared himself by the deadline....your local clerk doesn't have to count the vote. 

So where do we go from here, exactly? There's plenty of time to debate that question, but if nothing can see why major candidates don't mount write-in bids (such as the loss of 44 electoral votes from the states that don't allow them). With scenarios like these, there's a reason why you'll often hear that old saying, "It's complicated"....because, in our nation's geographic lottery, it ain't about what you's where you live, that matters. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Put Down Ozzy Osbourne,
You Couldn't Do Any Worse, Right?): Write-In Candidates (2016): 

The Huffington Post:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Race To The Bottom: The H-1-B Blues

It's a big vision in the first world
But no one's seein' the other connection
Somebody's stuck in the fourth world
And the sun's goin' down in the wrong direction

There's a big vision
There's a big vision
In the fourth world

<Screaming Blue Messiahs:
"Smash The Market Place">

If you live in a town dominated by one large corporate employer, like I do, don't blink too quickly....or you'll miss the funny things going down. Though it's theoretically nice to have one company employing hundreds or thousands at a time, that arrangement also carries big drawbacks. The obvious one, of course, is that they can leave (or go under) as quickly as they've arrived.

And once a company becomes entrenched, it quickly morphs into something less desirable: the 800-pound gorilla (think Consumers Power in Jackson, MI). Before long, the corporate gorillas who never stop thinking of how to benefit off the sweat of other begin to exert an outsized influence, one way out of proportion to their actual numbers.

A good example is the battles that communities are often forced to wage against big box stores seeking to avoid paying their share of taxes via the so-called "dark store" valuation method -- one that forced Marquette Township to refund $755,828 to Lowes, and wound up drastically curtailing the local library's hours (among other blowbacks).

As always, it's the taxpayers who foot the bill, with a giant screw driven through their spine. What else is new? (For a snapshot of how this hustle works, see the link below, although I think the blogger's elation is way premature -- it's not dead until the Michigan Supreme Court, to whom the big boxes will surely appeal, shoots down the practice. With a solid Republican majority dominating the court, the big boxes have no reason to break out into a cold sweat just yet. Trust me on this.)

Of course, with disposable property comes disposable labor. One sign, at least in our little town, are the masses of Indians moving into our complex. Unlike many people I know, they don't seem to be going without: they always seem to drive the latest model cars, and never return home without shopping till they drop. The American Dream seems to be working out pretty well for them. (Ditto for the gas station owner whom I saw stepping out of a massive black Hummer in front of the bank last week.) So what's the discordant note in this homespun picture?

They got a big vision,
big vision in the fourth world
Don't miss the connection, 
'cause the sun's goin' down in the wrong direction.

Smash it into tomorrow
Smash it into spite!

Well, as always, I asked around a little bit, and got the answer. Most of them are here on contracts with our town's mega-employer. The main entry point is the H-!-B visa, which allows U.S. companies to bring foreign workers temporarily. The program dates back to 1990, when President George Bush (The Elder) created it to solve a serious shortage of skilled labor....or so he and his minions said.

However, as an article in the Charlotte Observer suggests, the program has become the latest unsavory vehicle for American companies to undercut their own workers by flooding the nation with cheaper outsourced labor. How cheap, you ask? Well, as longtime advocates like U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren have finally admitted, the going rate for a computer services analyst in her district -- which includes Silicon Valley -- is $52,000 for the H-1-B visa worker, versus $92,000 for his U.S. counterpart.  No wonder CEOs are busting such a collective gut.

What's more, as the Observer details, IT workers are often asked to train their replacements before they're laid off for good -- how's that feel before the door smacks against your nether regions? Still, I wonder why people play along with such a dog and pony show. What's the point of greasing your humiliation if your job's gone up in smoke? (Speaking from experience, I wouldn't, and I haven't.)

When pressed, employers naturally claim that they're lacking the labor to get their work done. Of course, this defense is often a dodge, since much of the work being outsourced doesn't always involve skilled labor. As one of the displaced IT workers told the Observer: "The jobs that we're replacing here aren't rocket science. It's database developers, skills you can learn through a four-year any major American university."

This is only one snapshot behind the phenomenon that fueled Donald Trump's rise during this election cycle. The Donald, of course, has zigzagged on this issue -- promising to crack down against H-1-B abuses, on one hand, while holding out some leeway for certain sectors of the economy, like Silicon Valley, on the other -- so I wouldn't look him for salvation, anymore than his (cough, cough, ahem) Democratic counterpart, Hillary Clinton.

I'm trying to square all of these images and statistics with a more disturbing one: a good friend whom I've paid to step in whenever my computer starts sending coded messages from another galaxy. He charges by the project, not the hour, and has never had to do anything over. He can explain what he does in a way that makes sense (unlike a lot of IT denizens I've encountered).

He's an unassuming guy who's caring for his mom right now, which is one reason why he's not working full-time....but if he ever did, I'm sure any company would find him an asset to their payroll. But I don't see anybody rushing to offer him a contract, let alone the crumb of a temp job, nor anything similar....and therein lies the problem. And why the groundswell, and the popular outcry against such practices, will only continue to grow. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Start Your Race

To The Bottom Right Here):
: Appeals Court Ruling
Brings An End To Big Box Stores 

Ripping Off Local Communities:

Charlotte Observer:
In Charlotte, Foreign Workers
Replace Americans In Tech Roles:

Professor Norm Matloff's H-1-B Web Page:

Screaming Blue Messiahs:
Smash The Market Place:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

YIKES! Creative Industrial Complex Craps Out Another Lame "List" Article

<The Book Of Lists (Original Edition, 1977)> 

If you're a child of the '70s and '80s, you'll remember when tomes like The Book Of Lists, and its related spinoffs (People's Almanac, anyone?) took the publishing world by storm. Like so many millions of others, I spent countless hours devouring the quirky subject matter of these books. From favorite sex positions, to rogue nations and serial killers, you could get lost on any page -- and, of course, memorize nuggets to give you the sheen of being an expert at something, right?

All the original three volumes are long out of print, though there's bound to be a few floating around on eBay, I imagine. Today's digital era, of course, is a different beast. Fewer people, I suspect, would have the time (or stamina) to slog through the 521-page Book Of Lists, let alone its 529-page sequel, The Book Of Lists 2 (or the truly sprawling People's Alamanc 2, weighing in at 1,416 pages).

Nowadays, we've got something more insidious going on -- the "list" article, which sites like have polished to perfection. But the results are often hit and miss, especially if penned by a representative of the Creative Industrial Complex -- such as a best-selling author, big shot remixer, or cranky blogger for hire -- who often doesn't bother disguising the agenda they're grinding.

Case in point? Today's exhibit ("9 Things NOT To Do With Your Next Song Demo") comes via, the CD/DVD duplication and manufacturing company that now owns the online music store, CD Baby. The overall tone, as one of the commenters (see link below) notes, is "drama-king offensive," such as the first finger-wagging tip against overlong intros: "If every song had 45-second intros, that would be 187 minutes spent waiting for the damn songs to start! Think about it."

As that same commentor retorts: "If it’s that bad, please retire or do something else for a living." The same advice, presumably, applies to tip #4, about putting the artist's name that you're pitchig in the subject line: "
The subject line is how the receiver will find a song among so many emails. That’s called common sense." Glad to see that we've cleared up how that big, bad Internet works, eh?

The best part, however, is the total logic implosion that occurs when Tip #2 (don't submit a poorly produced track) collides with Tip #8 (don't overproduce your demo). So, which is it? Are two Dixie cups and a spool of thread sufficient, or should we consider tossing a kitchen sink or two (sonically speaking) into the rough mix?

As commenter Matt McCourt snorts below, "This whole thing reeks of an ADVERT for a book rather any real tips." He then cites some advice from an exec that seems closer to the mark (" is the song...if it is any good, a boom box recording with you and a guitar will show us that"). Of course, these types of articles are often written in the brain-scrambling "compliment sandwich" style that every hipster loves -- just add a "but" after every other clause, and you, too, can speak the language! (As in: "Hey, kid, I love the song,'s sounding a little dated. Can we get a more contempo feel in here?" You get the idea.)

All this bet hedging often plays out over multiple weeks. For example, I've seen many a self-publishing blog that runs a headline like this: "Stop Presses! Print Books Are Dinosaurs! Embrace Your Inner E-Book Warrior!" Come next week, though, you might see a totally opposing banner headline: "Five Reasons Not To Ditch Printed Books Yet."

In the end, I do what jurors probably do when they're confronted with the farce of dueling experts for hire (Defense Expert: "Mr. Jones's toilet training at gunpoint is the primary factor to understanding why he chopped up his entire family."/Prosecution Expert: "Not a single study establishes a correlation between abusive toilet training and mass murder"). With a shrug, I give up trying to figure out who's right, and go with my gut. Works well enough for me.

The main problem with all these insufferable "list" articles -- other than the logic leaps I've cited -- is that they encourage a lot of formulaic thinking, while devaluing the impact of real writing. I remember coming across Elmore Leonard's "10 Rules Of Good Writing" on a literary blog. His first one is: "Never open a book with the weather." To which one of the more perceptive commenters responded: "What about George Orwell's 1984, which starts: 'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen"? I don't think anybody's asked for their money back yet on that one. 

One of my longtime mates put it best, when I told him about my plans to riff on this topic: "Here's the thing with those types of articles....they make it sound like you can mathematize, or rationalize, what's popular, and that's what they play on. the end of the's the public that decides what flies, or what doesn't." Or, in my gut. Works well enough for me. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Take With A Barrel Of Salt, Then):
Discmakers Blog:

The Huffington Post: